It is important to think for a minute about the context of the Sermon on the Mount. Let’s focus today on the political context. The Jewish nation has been under the authority of other nations for many years leading up to Jesus’ incarnation. At the time of the first century, their land was occupied by Rome. And the Jewish people were not happy about it. This time of history is full of rebellion and conflict. The Jewish people want to be “free”. And then Jesus shows up. Jesus heals the sick….some people believe that He practically wiped out disease in the area of Palestine where He lived. Jesus does incredible miracles; showing power over nature and the power to multiply food (how I wouldn’t like that power when my ice cream carton is almost empty!) The Sermon on the Mount is given after Jesus has been doing these things for over a year. No doubt “Messiah Talk” was prevalent.
Some people were wondering if Jesus was the Messiah. The Jewish understanding of the Messiah is that he would be a political deliverer and a spiritual deliverer. Probably in the majority of the minds of the people, the political part was more important. A Messiah would get rid of these Roman invaders. A Messiah would establish a kingdom on earth like no one had ever seen. And then Jesus gives this sermon; a sermon filled with love and forgiveness and “turning the other cheek”. This wasn’t what many people wanted to hear. For many people, “Blessed are those who kill the Romans” is what they wanted to hear but Jesus didn’t say that.
As we read these chapters and are amazed at what we read, let’s remember that Jesus’ audience at that time was even more amazed at what He was saying, I imagine a lot of them were saying, “Say What?” or at least however that translates into Hebrew. Jesus Christ is constantly challenging our preconceived notions…He does that all of the time. Yet, Jesus enables us to live the way He challenges us to live. If you find yourself saying or thinking, “Say What?” as you read these chapters, please understand that you are not alone.