Week 8: The Absurd Teacher?

A Year With Jesus: Matthew 5:1-16

Many people today will say that Jesus was a good teacher.

And many Christians who hear that will quickly reply with, “He wasn’t just a teacher!”

Well, that’s true. He was much more than a teacher. But he wasn’t anything less. And Matthew, perhaps more than any gospel writer, wanted his (primarily Jewish) audience to know that the man who called Himself the Messiah was a skilled rabbi.

The next 3 chapters in Matthew contain what is commonly referred to as the Sermon on the Mount. Why? Because Jesus gave a sermon on a mount(aintop). 🙂 And while we may call Jesus a good teacher now, the people who heard Jesus that day may have walked away thinking he was an absurd teacher.

True (and embarrassing!) story: Many years ago, when I was in college, I prided myself in believing all of the Bible’s truths… The problem was I didn’t know a whole lot of what was in the Bible. A friend of mine was working on a paper about the Sermon on the Mount. (Now I’m curious what class it was for.) They asked me what the Sermon on the Mount was about. I had no clue where it even was in the Bible. So I took an educated guess. “God’s love,” I replied. (In my defense, I was 90% convinced I was right. Everything in the Bible is either about God’s love or God’s wrath, right???)

Is the Sermon on the Mount about God’s love? Sure, you can make a case for that. But I think it’s primarily about a new way of living.

The people of Jesus’ day were guided by the Law (the rules of the Old Testament). Your “goodness”, if you will, was all based on how you acted. I think with this sermon, Jesus wanted to get beyond the outward appearance and move to people’s hearts. In many ways, the teachings He gives are way more challenging than the Law. But if followed, they are also more life-giving than the Law could ever be. That’s why I think people (especially the Pharisees, who were teachers of this sacred Law) may have found Jesus’ new way of looking at things more than a little absurd.

He begins with a series of blessings called the Beatitudes. But the people he blesses are not the people who fit the descriptions of a blessed person. Who does he consider blessed? Sad people. People who cry tears. People who are broken in spirit. Yes, Jesus says it’s okay to be sad. The church can learn a lot from this.

My favorite Beatitude might just be, “Blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty for what is right. They will be filled.” I’m sure this can be interpreted in quite a few ways. Here’s one way I look at it:

Blessed are those who feel defeated by their mistakes again and again, but get back up when they stumble. Blessed are those who desire to live rightly before God. Blessed are those who sincerely want to follow God, but don’t always get it right…

God is with you.

Questions to Ponder:

Would you consider Jesus to be a “good teacher”?

Which one of the Beatitudes (verses 3-11) do you feel most drawn to? How would you paraphrase it?

Please feel free to leave a comment!


Author: Michael Murray

I like steak. I like bacon. And I want to follow Jesus the best I can.

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