Series: Sermon on the Mount
July 29, 2018
Rev. Sandy Johnson
Prayer: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.
This morning’s sermon is the last in our series on the sermon on the mount. Next week we will be starting a new series called “The Outsiders” where we will be considering what it feels to be on the outside, looking in and being on the inside, isolated and wishing for more.
The Gospel of Luke chronicles Jesus’ ministry with those on the so-called “outside.” We will spend seven weeks learning what we can from those stories and follow Jesus’ call to the bring the inside out and the outside in.
But first…we must complete the sermon Jesus preached to the multitudes one sunny afternoon along the Sea of Galilee. We begin with the Golden Rule. You know the one? Whoever has the gold makes the rules? No, that’s not it.
It’s “In everything do to others as you would have them to do you; for this is the law and the prophets.” This is probably one of the most well-known sayings of Jesus. Some call it the “capstone of the whole discourse,” or “the topmost peak of social ethics, and “the Everest of all ethical teaching!”
I would argue that the Golden Rule is the one teaching of Jesus that we likely put into practice every day. When we are called upon to make decisions, apply the Golden Rule and your answer will be made know immediately to you. It is quite simple, but it isn’t always easy. It should be our default position in all our moral decision making.
Let’s say I found a wallet on the ground outside of Albertsons. I look inside to see if I can see who it belongs to. Let’s also say that there is no ID, but there are a dozen $100.00 bills inside. I could argue that there isn’t any name, so it doesn’t belong to anyone and take the money. After all, “finders keepers,” right?
Well, what if I considered for a moment that the money was my rent money and I had lost it in the parking lot at Albertsons. What if I was relying on the compassion of a stranger to return it to the store. From the lens of the Golden Rule, it is a simple decision, right? Now, that doesn’t mean you don’t leave your name and phone number and ask that if no one claims it they could call you. But it may mean that you also contact the police to see if someone had reported the money missing. I guess the point is what would you want someone else to do to make every effort to get your money back to you? Then, that is what you do!
The last section of Jesus’ sermon deals with how we will know our fellow Christians, and how we can know that we are moving in the right direction in our walk with Christ. First, Jesus explains that the road that we will be asked to travel as His disciple, is the one “less” traveled, it is the one that is looks and is more difficult. It reminds me of the story I heard about an old man and his dog. They were walking down a hot, dusty road that was lined with some beautiful white fences. As they traveled they became thirsty and needed a rest.
Pretty soon they came to a gate and on the other side was a beautiful grassy area and a pool of clear fresh water. As they began to go through the gate they noticed a sign, “No Dogs Allowed.” A little further they met a man in flowing white robes, they asked him if they could come in to get a drink. The old man explained they were hot and tired and had been traveling all day. The man in the white robes told the old man that he was welcome to get a cool refreshing drink, but his dog will have to stay outside.
Then he went on to explain that they were in heaven and dogs just weren’t allowed. Discouraged, the old man told him that if his dog wasn’t welcomed, he’d just keep going. He wasn’t going to go anywhere without his faithful companion. The man in the robes warned the old man that the devil was on the road and that he would try to sweet talk him to get him into his place. “He’ll promise you anything, but dogs aren’t allowed in hell either.”
The old man said he’d take his chances so, they continued down the road and he noticed that the beautiful white fence gave way to a rundown fence until they came to a spot where the boards were rotted away and there was a gap in the fence. Inside the gap was another man, this one dressed in old, ragged clothes. He was sitting under the tree and greeted the old man and his dog.
“‘Scuse me Sir,” said the old man, “My dog and I have been on this road all day. Mind if we come in and sit in the shade for a while?” “Of course!” The man said. “Come on in and rest. There’s some cold water here under the tree. Make yourself comfortable.”
The old man paused, “but what about my dog? Can he can come in, too? The man up the road said dogs weren’t allowed here, and they had to stay on the road.” The other man answered, “Well, you look pretty tired and thirsty. Would you come in here and rest if you had to leave that dog?”
“No sir!” the old man replied, “A glass of cold water and some shade would be mighty fine right about now, but I won’t come in if my buddy here can’t come too. I didn’t go to Heaven back a ways, because my dog couldn’t come with me, so I sure as how ain’t about to go to Hell without him neither.”
The man smiled and said, “Welcome to Heaven, and bring your dog!” The narrow gate is for us. The road to life is hard and few will find it. I love this part of Robert Frost’s poem:
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
Next Jesus gives us a horticulture lesson in verse 15 and makes the same point. How will we be known as Christ’s followers? First, we will treat other people as we want to be treated, then we will take the narrow gate, then he said, we will be known by the fruit that is produced. It will be easy to spot us because our words and actions will be aligned. What we say we are as Christians will be demonstrated by the decisions we make, the way we behave – both in public and private.
This also gives us insight into others, people who we choose to be friends with, do business with and people who are our leaders and influencers. We must look beyond their words, we must evaluate their actions and how they are treating others, what decisions they make and see if their fruit matches their tree. “Good cannot grow from evil any more than a fig can come from an olive tree.”
“If the way is difficult and the gate is so narrow that it is hard to find, then we must be very careful to get ourselves teachers who will help us to find our way, and not teachers who will lure us away from God. The basic fault of the false prophet is self-interest. The true shepherd cares for the flock more than they care for their own life; the wolf cares for nothing but to satisfy his own gluttony and his own greed. The false prophet is in the business of teaching, not for what he can give to others, but for what he can get to himself.”
We will know followers of Christ by their fruits, their deeds, their way of living that brings honor and glory to God.
Then Jesus cautions the listeners that not everyone will enter the kingdom of heaven. Just because we say we know Christ doesn’t mean that he recognizes us as his followers. There are many who say they know who Christ is, but they don’t follow his teachings. Jesus says here in verse 21 that “only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” will enter the kingdom of God.
How do we know what the will of God is for our lives? Discernment, prayer, bible study, talks with your pastor, being able to listen, really listen to the ever-present voice of God that is inside each of us. You see, Jesus is expecting us to behave like the wise folks, those that hear his words and act on them, those people who build their homes on the rock, not on sand.
Jesus teachings were strange for those 1st century followers. He said things that were new and different. He took their status quo and turned it upside down, and they were astounded. No one had spoken with such authority and they were thirsty, thirstier than they ever knew. Jesus had sparked something within them that made sense. It was the answer they had been seeking, there before them, a gentle Rabbi teaching them the meaning of life.
“Imagine the astonishment of the world today if we were to embody the words of the Sermon on the Mount.” The challenges that we face, personally, corporately, as members of the local church and as a nation, part of the world’s economy, would disappear if we would follow Christ as he has instructed. Will you commit to being a disciple of Jesus Christ? Will you do all in your power to bring Jesus words to life in all that you do?
Let us pray: Christ Jesus, preacher of this amazing sermon, let us hear your voice through this lesson that will encourage us to stand up for you. To be not only called a disciple, but to be known by our actions as a Disciple of Jesus Christ, transforming the world! Amen.
 Matthew 7:12
 Barclay, William. The Daily Study Bible Study Series. The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1. Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1975. Page 273
a href=”#_ftnref5″ name=”_ftn5″> Barclay, page 283.
 Barclay, page 284.