The Mount of Beatitudes. What was once a hill filled with 5000 people listening to the words of Jesus is now a banana grove. A highway runs right through the mountain and few, if any, tour groups can be seen on the site. This was quite a contrast from virtually every other historical location we’ve seen in Israel because of its relative emptiness!
But it was on this unassuming hill that Jesus gave one of the most famous sermons of all time: the Sermon on the Mount. And as we sat to listen to one of our group members elegantly read this sermon, it dawned on me that I’d never read through the Sermon on the Mount in one sitting.
Most of us, when we hear Jesus’ sermon, hear it in chunks. A pastor might preach on adultery, or anger, or divorce. However, we must read the sermon in its entirety, because each and every little section only makes sense when we understand the thrust of His entire sermon. Through the first half of the sermon, Jesus describes the type of righteousness required to get into the kingdom of heaven. That righteousness is one that exceeds even that of the scribes and Pharisees! For example, one who is angry has already committed murder (5:21-26), one who lusts in their heart has already committed adultery (5:27-30). Jesus breaks all the paradigms of righteousness and calls his believers to uphold them.
Which is what makes chapter 7 so important! At a pivotal point in the sermon Jesus says, “Everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:8). It’s significant because Jesus is providing the means by which we can attain the righteousness required in the preceding section. Yes, God calls us to perfection. But we attain it by asking Jesus to step into our place as our substitute. We can’t hope to be perfect, but we can put our faith and trust in the Lord who is.
I couldn’t help but put myself in the shoes of a 1st century villager, listening to the words of Jesus. Sure some of them might have been overwhelmed by what Jesus was saying. There’s no possible way they could keep from getting angry at someone or lusting somebody else. I’m sure they must have thought in their heads, “Look Jesus, I’m not a Pharisee or scribe, I’m a simple fisherman! I can’t keep these commandments!” But Jesus teaches us all that no matter who we are, we will be righteous if we simply ask, seek, and knock.