Sermon On The Mount Devotional Blog 3

Sermon On The Mount Devotional

The Posture of a Rabbi

Read Matthew 5:1-12 (focusing on vv. 1-2) (ESV)

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying…”

Do you know any famous people? If you don’t, with whom might you like to meet and talk with? A president, a writer, a singer or perhaps an actor? I wonder, if you could follow this person around for a day, what would be their habits, practices and where would they go? If it were a famous person from the movies, perhaps you would see them on a movie lot, preparing themselves for a shoot in the afternoon. You might see them in their trailer, having makeup put on, their hair fixed or rehearsing their lines. Perhaps you might even get to rub shoulders with other famous actors who are also connected with their current shoot. 

As we begin to look into the Sermon on the Mount, we get a glimpse into a day or days of Jesus Christ and His practices and habits. Matthew 4:24 tells us that, “his fame spread throughout all Syria, and people came in large numbers bringing their sick to be healed.” Because of Jesus’ growing fame, Christ had to, “escape, not just to secure for himself the opportunity to be quiet and to pray, but also to give more concentrated instruction to his disciples.” (Stott, pg. 20) Another writer said, “the miracles made Jesus popular… but Jesus wanted disciples, not crowds, so He called a few men to himself.” (Sermon on the Mount by Dan Doriani)

Jesus was a wonderful healer of the sick, having compassion on many who were in need but healing the sick was not His main reason for coming to the earth. Whenever Jesus healed, it was to show His power over sin and death and decay, on the way to showing people their far deeper and more eternal need, reconciliation with a Holy God.

At the beginning of this section that we know of as the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus once again has the multitudes coming to Him and so He chose a prominent hill from which to teach. Jesus would often teach to the masses at large but this particular time He would spend describing what life in the Kingdom was to be like and this was primarily for those who were already His disciples. The term disciple does not just refer to the limited number of the twelve apostles/disciples, that intimate inner circle, but is extended to include that larger number of people who willingly followed Him from town to town. 

Now when Jesus begins to teach He does so by sitting down before His disciples which was a customary teaching posture of a rabbi. We can see in other places that Jesus would often have His followers sitting at his feet or around a table as he taught. One of the most well know instances of this was when He entered the house of Mary and Martha recorded for us in the Gospel of Luke. We are told that Jesus taught with Mary sitting at His feet, an occurrence that greatly vexed her sister, Martha. Martha was busying herself with the food preparations. This was a necessary and right thing for Martha to do but she became increasingly frustrated by the lack of assistance being offered by her sister Mary. I can imagine Martha in the kitchen, flour streaking her face, hair tussled, an apron tied about her waist. As she moved from pot to pot, the fire to the table, perhaps she would steal a quick glance into the main room where Jesus, the disciples and Mary all sat, talking and listening. Perhaps in her anxious, distracted and frustrated busyness, she would lean around the corner hoping to catch the eye of Jesus or her sister Mary. “Why won’t that lazy sister of mine get up and come and give me a hand? She knows how much work there is to do to provide a lavish meal for our guests,” Martha might have mused. Martha’s frustration grew to such a fevered point that she interrupted the Lord, finally saying, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” There, it was out and she had said it! “Maybe now Jesus will condemn Mary for her laziness and commend me for my hard work!” Though she might have thought this, it was not the way that Jesus saw things. Jesus replied to her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42)

Was Martha’s chosen path a bad one? Was she sinning? No, not really. What Martha did in seeking to take care of the needs of her guests was right and proper but the way she went about it might have been less than right. Mary was taking the time to sit at the feet of her Master and Rabbi, learning and growing under His care. What she chose was best. Food had to be prepared but perhaps Martha was going overboard. Perhaps she could have brought out food, a simple meal and also sat at Jesus’ feet to listen and to learn but the implication is that her efforts and energies were more than were necessary. She chose what was good over what was best. 

There will be many different things that you can spend your time doing today. Many will be good and right and necessary. We all have jobs and tasks that we are called to and that we must accomplish. We are to do these things with excellence, energy and effort. But we must, with wisdom, choose how long we will spend on these tasks. We must balance these efforts with the other callings on us. Students are called to study and learn but must also live and eat and relate to family and friends. They cannot spend all of their time and energies in study, otherwise other important things will suffer. Those who have jobs must labor with energy and excellence but work must not so totally consume us that we neglect our loved ones. We are called to live in this world, laboring at our tasks and callings but let us not be so consumed by these things that we neglect our spiritual hearts and minds. Let us not push aside time spent with the Lord in prayer and Scripture that we cause our spirits to be starved while filling our physical bellies. 

So, What Now?

With all of the choices before us, will we choose what is best? Will we put ourselves at the feet of Jesus? Will we make time each day to sit at His feet through His Word, the Holy Scriptures, soaking up His teachings? If so we too will be commended for choosing what is supremely best over what is merrily good.