Chapter 5 begins the Sermon on the Mount (and continues through chapters 6 and 7). The Sermon is the collective ethical teachings of Jesus- it describes the Way of Life a disciple of Jesus is called and challenged to live. There sermon uses metaphors and adages to articulate and explain the teachings of Jesus. Chapter 5 begins with perhaps the most famous of all New Testament writings: the Beatitudes (vv. 1-11). There are 9 Beatitudes and as Jesus would say in verse 17-20, the Beatitudes, along with the rest of the Sermon on the Mount bring to fulfillment the 10 Commandments and the other 600-some odd laws that are given in the Old Testament.
Here’s a fancy word for you: supererogatory. The Sermon on the Mount is all about a supererogatory life. Notice the pattern in Jesus’s sermon; look at verse 21. Jesus says, “You have heard it said…” And then he gives the Old Testament commandment. Then Jesus says, “But I tell you…” Then Jesus gives the New Testament commandment- the total fulfillment of that Old Testament commandment. The one that Jesus gives is supererogatory: a higher way of living; a higher way of being. Jesus is saying, “Not only do I not want you kill; I don’t want you to even be angry with your neighbor, which may give you cause to kill.” That challenge to root our anger in our hearts is supererogatory- it’s a higher way of living, a higher way of being. It’s what makes us saints: to strive for this higher way of living and being. We call this higher way of living and being holiness.
No doubt, in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is laying out for us the challenging call to holiness. But as a professor of mine was said: “He would not have brought it up, if he didn’t think it were possible.”
(For some great spiritual reading on the Beatitudes, I recommend, Living the Beatitudes: A Journey to Life in Christ by Father J. Brian Bransfield. Available on amazon.com.)
Point for Prayer
If you could pick one Beatitude to work on, to really pour you’re energies into, which one would it be? And what would you have to do, to either sacrifice or add to your life, to really achieve this level of holiness?