Matthewby Mike Raiter
Most people I meet love the Sermon on the Mount and praise its teachings. There are others, however, who find its commands too unrealistic and unattainable. A man once said to me, ″I can't do these things and I get really angry at Jesus when He tells me to.″
We must remember that the Lord Jesus is a demanding teacher and master, but also a tender pastor and shepherd. He makes no demand without providing the grace to fulfil it, and gives no command without the promise of forgiveness when we fail. Every single command in this sermon, if practised, will profoundly deepen our joy and immeasurably improve the quality of our community life as fellow believers.
One of the great temptations for those who seek to keep Jesus' commands is to be judgmental of others. Therefore, Jesus warns us not to judge (v. 1). He does not say that we should not discern or discipline, only that we should not assume a prerogative which belongs to God alone, which is the pronouncement of the final judgment. We should warn the ungodly and assure the saints, but God alone is the judge of each person's life (1 Corinthians 4:4; James 4:12).
On the other hand, we must avoid the opposite danger of being too naive or undiscerning about whom we share the pearls of the gospel. Jesus spoke in parables so that those whose hearts were set against Him would not understand (Matthew 13:13).
All these things can sometimes be difficult for us to do, and so our demanding Lord reveals that He is also the gentle pastor, and reminds us to pray. He bids us simply to ask (v. 7). That is the essence of prayer. We are to keep on asking, seeking, and knocking.
Our relationship with God is not primarily about giving. No, He is the Giver, and what a good Giver He is (v. 11). His good gifts are the very things we have been reading about in this sermon: the power to forgive, to be generous, to be trusting and not anxious, and to be merciful and not judgmental. Yes, the demands can be hard, but with our Lord there is superabundant grace, power, and forgiveness.
How can we fall into the temptation of seeing the splinter in someone else's eye and missing the plank in our own (vv. 3-5)? What steps can we take to ensure we do not behave like this?
I have heard it said, ″Don't bring your shopping list of requests to God,″ yet Jesus bids us to keep on asking Him for things. Can we reconcile these two statements?