The Gospel of Matthew is known as one of the synoptic gospels because of similarities which it shares with Mark and Luke. However, each of the gospels has an individual purpose and a specific audience which it speaks to.
For the gospel according to Matthew, the intended audience is the Jews, and Matthew’s purpose was to connect Jesus to the history of Israel. The gospel writer’s style of writing included using quotes from the Old Testament and connecting them to Jesus, while declaring to the people of Israel that Jesus is the Messiah, the one promised by God. Hence, acknowledge and follow him. Throughout Matthew’s gospel, Jesus constantly spoke about the kingdom of God. He implored the Jews to understand what the kingdom of God is all about, and that he, Jesus, is the leader of that kingdom, and God is using him to reveal the fullness of that kingdom. The ministry of Jesus was very specific.
In the Sermon on the Mount, it is evident that human beings were just as stubborn, obnoxious, indifferent to change ad hypocritical back then as they are now. The Jews had developed an ideology of what their Messiah would be like and what he would do when he came among them. However, Jesus did not live up to those standards. Nevertheless, he preached and taught them, calling them to an understanding of who they were to be. This behaviour shocked the Jews, many of whom remained hard of heart.
Jesus showed authority. He spoke with authority and command. He talked the talk and walked the walk. He continuously described what true people of God looked like. He made it known to the Jews that the assumptions they had about the kingdom of God was wrong. The Jews were centred on the law, the Torah. Jesus made it known that he is the fulfilment of the law. Everything is summed up into him. He is the interpreter of the law. He is Lord and the one who follow him will walk in an intimate relationship with God.
Jesus is the New Moses, presenting a new Torah on a new Sinai. The Sermon on the Mount is a portrait of Christian living, Christian discipleship. It describes the ways in which the followers of Jesus are to behave in living their lives. How well they do so will determine if they are accepted into God’s kingdom.
In Scripture the poor are those individuals who can stand before God with no illusions of self-righteousness or self-sufficiency. We on the other hand think poor refers to those who are economically deprived only. To mourn is to grieve over the sun and evil stifling the world. Those who are meek are considered lowly and powerless and their only hope is God. To hunger and thirst for righteousness is to yearn for the salvation which can only be effected by God. Those who are merciful eschew judgment and forgiveness. The pure in heart are undivided in their allegiance to God. To be peacemakers means to work for wholeness for our broken world which is the will of God. Lastly, to be persecuted for righteousness’ sake is to endure tribulation as disciples of Jesus serving God.
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