Sunday 22th February – 9am Worship
Sermon Series: Walking the Way of Jesus
Theme: Jesus – Teacher Disrupter
Bible Readings: Matthew 5:21-24, 38-48
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
LThis is our third Sunday exploring what it means to walk in the way of Jesus. Over the six weeks of Lent we are preparing for Easter by looking at some of the different aspects of Jesus life and how we are called to follow Jesus example, to walk in the way that Jesus has shown because that way leads to life.
Some weeks the aspects of Jesus that we will ponder will be encouraging and uplifting – like last week when we explored how Jesus has a compassionate and servant heart and is willing to help people in need – including us. And how Jesus is also a saviour – someone who can bring real change to people’s life and situations – Jesus can and does save us. That was a great encouraging, uplifting message!
But some weeks I think that the aspect of Jesus we will ponder will be very challenging or hard. It might push against our current thinking and make us comfortable. I have a feeling that today is going to be more this type than the encouraging, uplifting type. Kobie (Qui-bee) asked the question on our Facebook page – “Phil, Should we be slightly nervous about Sunday’s sermon?” I think the answer is yes.
So – are you ready for this?
Today we are pondering Jesus as teacher. Just by looking through the gospels we find that large portion of Jesus ministry was teaching. And today I cannot not even summarise the breadth and profoundness of this teaching in one sermon. There is just too much of it. We spend years exploring different parts of Jesus teaching in sermons, there is no chance that I can do it in one sermon today.
For example – the gospels include a lot of teaching from Jesus about the “The Kingdom of God” – what this kingdom looks like and how people can get closer to the kingdom or even enter the kingdom of God.
Another aspect of Jesus teaching is his Parables… the creative way that Jesus uses everyday illustrations which have a deeper spiritual meaning.
Or we could look at how Jesus often taught through conversation – he would answer a question with a question.
Or how Jesus didn’t shy away from teaching on current day issues – things that people were struggling with – like money, or taxes, or workers rights or seeking justice or understanding current day tragedies.
Or we could look at Jesus revolutionary teaching on Love and forgiveness and acceptance and grace.
Or how … in the words of our sermon series … Jesus taught us the way that leads to life.
As I said – I cannot cover the breadth of Jesus teaching this morning so rather I am going to suggest that we focus on one small part of Jesus teaching (but arguably the most famous teaching) – the Sermon on the Mount … and through this look at question of how we are to respond to Jesus teaching. We have this wealth of teaching from Jesus – but how do we … as people who are committed to walking in Jesus way … incorporate this teaching into our life? Sound like a plan???
Sermon on the mount is a sermon that goes for 3 chapters in the gospel of Matthew. Preached to Jesus disciples, followers and others who were listening on afternoon on a hillside … hence, Sermon on the Mount.
Sermon on the mount in 75 seconds…
Matt 5:1-2 Jesus saw the crowds, went up the mountainside and started to teach.
Matt 5:3-12 You need to think differently about what it means to be blessed
Matt 5:13-16 You are to be salt and light in the world
Matt 5:17-20 Jesus did not come to abolish the law but to fulfil the law
Matt 5:21-26 You have been taught this but now I say… Anger = Murder
Matt 5:27-30 Lust = adultery
Matt 5:31-32 Divorce is not good with exceptions
Matt 5:33-37 Don’t make vows just keep your word
Matt 5:38-42 Turn the other check, give your shirts as well, go the extra mile
Matt 5:43-47 Love your enemies
Matt 5:48 Be perfect – as God is perfect
Matt 6:1-4 Don’t give to be noticed but give in secret
Matt 6:5-13 This, then, is how you should pray
Matt 6:14-15 God will forgive you in the same way as you forgive other people
Matt 6:16-18 Don’t be showy about your fasting, it is between you and God
Matt 6:19-24 What do you treasure in your heart? You can’t serve both God and money
Matt 6:25-34 Don’t get so anxious about life or clothes or food … but seek first the kingdom of God.
Matt 7:1-6 Do not judge others or you will be judged
Matt 7:7-12 Ask and you will receive, Seek and you will find, Knock and the door will be opened … because God is good
Matt 7:13-14 Find the road in life that is life-giving and follow it
Matt 7:15-20 Watch out for deceivers … they are shown by the fruit of their actions
Matt 7:21-23 Not everyone who sounds like my follower is part of the kingdom
Matt 7:24-27 Hear these words and put them into action and you will cope with whatever comes your way
Matt 7:28 And when Jesus finished these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching.
If I was to summarise the SotM in 3 dot points
• Here is a different way of thinking/understanding
• 5:48 – Be perfect just as God is perfect.
• Put these words into action.
Let’s be honest … who finds Jesus words in our bible reading we had today a little extreme?
Looking lustfully after a woman is the same as an affair?
Calling someone a fool is the same as murder?
This is harsh, uncompromising stuff.
A teacher at a Christian school asked her senior students to write a response to this long passage of Scripture and was surprised with the response. Her student wrote things like:
• This teaching is too strict
• It was hard to read and made me feel like I had to be perfect but no one is perfect
• This teaching is absurd. To look at a woman is adultery? That is the most extreme, stupid, unhuman statement I have ever heard.
I think that these strong reactions would have been no different to the reactions of the original listeners on the side of the mountain 2000 years ago. It is offensive and severe.
They thought that the Pharisees were tough … Jesus took the law and in this teaching pushed it further than any other Rabbi or teacher had pushed it before. The implications seem absurd. Jesus basically made the law impossible for us to keep and then told us to keep it.
How do we respond to this? Is this really what Jesus meant?
How are we to follow Jesus if this teaching is crazily hard?
We are not the first people to wrestle with the question. So how have others answered them? Rather than give you word answers, I thought I will give you object or picture answers to how we might understand or respond to the teaching of Jesus:
• Backpack – Jesus gives us so much teaching that we have all the answers we need right here. We can carry this teaching around with us and whenever we need an answer we can call on it … which is wonderful but the teaching can feel burdensome – which Jesus said it was not supposed to be … “my yoke is easy and light”
• High jump – Jesus teaching sets the bar high … it gives us something to aim for … but many find it impossible to achieve.
• Flashlight – Jesus teaching is something to show us the way – thy word is a lamp unto my feel and a light unto my path. But is it more than just a guide?
• Black light – this is one I thought of this week … less of a light but rather it highlights stuff that is hidden … that we may or may not want to see
I am not sure if these images are helpful … but they do touch on what I think is at the heart of Jesus being a teacher. Jesus teaching is great and full of wisdom and helpful in life but it is also hard and uncompromising and if we read it seriously … it makes us uncomfortable.
The word that I used in the title of this sermon … Jesus teaching is disruptive. Jesus as teacher was a disrupter.
The sermon on the mount is an example of how Jesus challenged the accepted teaching of his day. Six times during the sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “”You have heard it said… but now I tell you…”. Jesus teaching often pushed against the status quo, questioned the institutionalised power and challenged people to consider a “new way” of thinking or doing.
“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.
Is Jesus really equating murder with anger? I let you debate that but I know that this teaching pulls us up and challenges us. Rather than staying in the safe zone of condemning murderers and adulterers or our evil enemies … Jesus turns the blacklight on us and highlights our “blindspots” and says things like anger or lust or unforgiveness or prejudice is just as big of a problem.
Rev Tim Costello did this during the week – he was asked about American’s inability to tackle the gun problem and he responded that it was like our pokie problem in Australia. Everyone knows there is a problem but no-one wants to fix it.
That is a disruptive statement. It pulls us up and challenges us … and Jesus as teacher was an expert at it. Think about things like the Good Samaratian … making the hero of the story a member of a nation who hated … it disrupts you.
But we need this type of teaching – especially in our safe, wealthy western world we live in. It is just too easy to go along with the status quo or to believe that things won’t change … so we don’t rock the boat. We just gentlely go on…
But as the young students from Parkland school in the US (where they had the gun massacre) have been showing us … we need people to believe that we can make a difference, that things might change. Have you been following this story? It is quite extraordinary. These young kids are asking the questions that the adults have stopped asking. As one reporter put it…
That the Parkland kids don’t share our generation’s defeatism on gun control was evident. It was powerful to hear these young people stand up to the status quo, to see adults challenged by young, frustrated people who haven’t yet learned that’s the way things are. Their wrenchingly unassuming questions breathed new life into a debate that gun-control advocates have mostly convinced themselves they’ve lost.
What are you hearing in this reporter’s statement? He is being disturbed, stirred up … but there is also … hope?
And I think that this is the key to Jesus teaching. Jesus teaching can be wonderful and encouraging and insightful AND sometimes it can be hard and challenging and pushes us out of our comfort zone … but it always brings hope and life.
This is best summed up in John chapter 6. In John chapter 5 and 6 Jesus does some spectacular and encouraging healings, teachings and miracles – including the feeding of the 5000. This resulted in a huge crowd of disciples following him and learning from his teaching. But then form verse 22 in John chapter 6, Jesus begin to teach about himself and about life.
Have a read of it later – John 6:22-71. There is some tough teaching in there. Jesus claims to be true bread from heaven that gives eternal life – that unless you eat of his flesh and drink of his blood, you will not have life in you.
In verse 60 & 66 we read, many of his disciples (the bible said disciples … people who had committed to following Jesus) said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” and many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
Jesus turned to the 12 and asked – What about you … do you want to leave too? Peter’s answer was so real. He admitted that they too were struggling, this was really hard … but no, they would not leave. “Where would we go? You have the words to eternal life”.
Yes Jesus the teacher can be hard, uncompromising, challenging, pushing us out into areas we are uncomfortable … but Jesus the teach also gives us the words that bring us life … both now and forever.
So … in terms of Kobie’s question about being slightly nervous about Sunday’s sermon … or slightly nervous about Jesus teaching?” I think the answer is still yes. But this sort of challenging, disruptive teaching is what we need – it is what the world needs.
In C.S.Lewis Narnia book “the Lion, the witch and the Wardrobe”, Lucy is talking to Mr Beaver about Aslan the Lion (who is the Christ-figure). Lucy is feeling rather nervous about meeting a Lion and asks the question of whether Aslan is safe.
Mr Beaver replies, “Safe? Of Course he isn’t safe. But he is good.”
Jesus teaching isn’t safe but it is good.
Following Jesus comes with risks but it brings life.
Embracing the teaching of Jesus comes with challenges
and will make us uncomfortable and might push us into places we don’t want to go… but it brings us life.
May we embrace this teaching of Jesus,
and may we say together with conviction…
I have decided to follow Jesus.
No turning back.
No turning back.