Sermon on the Mount: Why According to Jesus the Law is Impossible to Follow


Jesus is a flower picking, daisy-in-the-barrel-of-a-gun peace ambassador to the world. In the ilk of Martin Luther King and Gandhi, Jesus skipped and laughed as his hippie tie-dye clothes swayed back and forth. And when he preached, he spoke only of puppy dog tails, bubbles, and love. At least, this is the picture some have gotten while reading the Sermon on the Mount.

Countless professors and students across the country pick up this singular series of teachings and lament the corrupt evils of the rich and religious and praise the social justice, peace, love, and harmony of which Jesus speaks for the poor and forgotten. And they have it all wrong.

Rick Warren recently tweeted: “Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount will guide you but only his Suffering on the Mount will save you.”

Regarding this, a major debate between myself and a friend on Twitter (@willgrandy). Warren points to this very phenomenon in which some moralist Jesus philosophers point to the sermon on the mount and laud his wonderful teachings. Their praise is almost something out of a monte python movie. In The Life of Brian, one sees the sermon on the mount and the Beatitudes being expounded upon. “The Meek shall inherit the earth!” In response, a listener tells his companion. “oh, that’s nice. The meek never get anything.”

Warren implies that, while these people who look to the Sermon on the Mount are right in pointing to the moral teachings of Christ, these moral teachings will do nothing to save. It is only through the blood of Jesus Christ spilled on another mountain that will true save. It is this element of Christ, the very purpose of why he came, that we should discuss with those who only see a moral and “good” teacher.

Warren does not go into the sermon on the mount, however. And this sermon is vitally important. It has been misconstrued and misinterpreted many times over—especially by those who love this great and “good” man.

The sermon on the mount was radical. It was convicting. It was earth shattering. It destroyed all reality and established order. It flipped all that was true and trustworthy on it’s head. Only one inevitable conclusion could have been drawn from Jesus’ listeners:

We are screwed.

When one looks that what Jesus taught, we too must be in awe. For the Jew, the holiness and righteousness of God was beyond even comprehension. One could not even mention his name because of how holy he is. One would have to bathe before writing his name. And a central claim from Jesus must have been shocking—if you what to get into heaven, your righteousness must be far greater than the Pharisees! “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48)

Mouths must have hit the floor.

There is no way that I can be that holy.

The Pharisees had built all kinds of interpretations and traditions which were already a mill stone around their neck. It already seemed impossible to follow them. And Jesus responds, “you have heard it said…”, but it is worse!

Adultery, punishable by death, was quite stringent. Such an “affair” is not as we consider it, having only to do with sexual intercourse of some kind. No, the jewish conception was that if you are even alone or even touch or kiss another woman, this is sex! This is adultery! And Jesus says, hey guys, it’s even worse. If you even look at a woman with lust, you have committed adultery—that is, you should be stoned to death according to the law!

The Sermon on the Mount, over and over, is a massive mirror in which the perfection of God and the law demonstrates the jewish inability to be righteous or to enter heaven through Moses and the law. This is the message we need to teach to moralist, hippie-Jesus lovers. There are no good people!

Being a good person is not good enough. The cross and blood of Jesus Christ saves “good people” and this is what Jesus is setting up at the Sermon on the Mount.

It is our tendency to look to religion and law to make us good, but the reality is Jesus Christ blood is the only thing that will ever make us perfect—the standard by which all will be judged.

Are there any people you have met who see Jesus as just a “good teacher”?

What views have you held toward the Sermon on the Mount?

What do you think the implications are for the Sermon on the Mount for the Christian who is already forgiven?

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  • Kurtormsby

    As our LDS peeps would say…amen brother Keck! Convicting my friend. You can’t help but be overwhelmed by Gods grace.  Jesus taking the commandments to a whole new level. Not adultery but even the thought of adultery condemns us. The commandments simply showing us how far away we are from Gods standards and Jesus reminding us no matter how hard we try we will always fall short.
    Im reading through Numbers right now and it is such a powerful reminder of what happens when sin is before a perfectly righteous  and holy God . . . He must judge! Even Moses could not escape Gods wrath. A seemingly insignificant strike of the staff and sorry Moses you will not see the promised land.
    I think you should go a little deeper into this one my friend. It is at the very core of why it is a relationship not a religion. And Jesus draws a line in the sand.

  • Well Said Kurt. I never really thought of the Sermon on the Mount in this way prior to studying it this last week. I now see where Paul was coming from in Romans….Awesome! Thanks for reading and commenting! You’re a champ man!

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