WHY WAS THE GREATEST SERMON EVER GIVEN TO JUST TWELVE PEOPLE?
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
- Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
- Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Matthew 5:1–5 (ESV)
Thus begins the greatest sermon ever.
It raises two questions…
- Why did Jesus leave the crowd?
- Why did Jesus go to a mountain?
I can tell you that climbing a mountain is a good deal of trouble. Why bother? Maybe, it doesn’t mean anything. In Luke we read that Jesus gave a similar talk on a plain. Still, there is something about a mountain.
The mountain gives you perspective. The mountain causes you to see things as you have not seen them before. Things look different from the mountain top.
The mountain was a visual of Jesus’s teaching. This teaching would give perspective. This teaching would cause people to see thing as they had not seen before. Things look different after this teaching. Indeed, the world has never been the same.
Over and over Jesus said, “You have heard… but I say…” That is perspective language. Jesus was saying He wants us to look at things in a new way–like we do on the top of a mountain.
But, there is a bigger question…
WHY DID JESUS LEAVE THE CROWD?
If I were about to preach the greatest sermon ever, I wouldn’t leave the crowd. I wouldn’t teach to a small group. I would find a stadium and try to fill it. I would do some advertising–a lot of advertising. I would preach to the biggest group I could find. There on the mountain, Jesus had a different perspective.
Jesus knew that life-change happens by grappling with the truth in a small group. Limited life-change happens while setting in rows passively listening to a sermon. As Andy Stanley says it, circles are better than rows. As Johnny Hunt said so often, “If you can only attend one hour of church, don’t attend my preaching. Be with your group.”
Robert Coleman said:
It all started by Jesus calling a few men to follow him. This revealed immediately the direction his evangelistic strategy would take. His concern was not with programs to reach the multitudes, but with men whom the multitudes would follow. Remarkable as it may seem, Jesus started to gather these men before he ever organized an evangelistic campaign or even preached a sermon in public. Men were to be his method of winning the world to God.
Having called his men, Jesus made a practice of being with them. This was the essence of his training program—just letting his disciples follow him.
When one stops to think of it, this was an incredibly simple way of doing it. Jesus had no formal school, no seminaries, no outlined course of study, no periodic membership classes in which he enrolled his followers. None of these highly organized procedures considered so necessary today entered into his ministry. Amazing as it may seem, all Jesus did to teach these men his way was to draw them close to himself. He was his own school and curriculum.
The natural informality of this teaching method of Jesus stood in striking contrast to the formal, almost scholastic procedures of the scribes. These religious teachers insisted on their disciples adhering strictly to certain rituals and formulas of knowledge which distinguished them from others; whereas Jesus asked only that his disciples follow him. Knowledge was not communicated by the Master in terms of laws and dogmas, but in the living personality of One who walked among them. His disciples were distinguished, not by outward conformity to certain rituals, but by being with him, and thereby participating in his doctrine (John 18:19).
Jesus taught the greatest sermon ever to give a new perspective on life.
He taught it to a small group because life-change happens in small groups. This leads to a conclusion.
I want to invite you to study the greatest sermon ever in a group.
If you are already in a group, download the lessons on the right and study them with your group.
If you are not in a group, I’d like to invite you to start one. Grab two or three friends and agree to meet for 13 weeks. I have written ready-to-use discussion questions to help guide your discussion. You might take turns leading unless one person is really good at leading. Answers are provided in the form of quotes from well known authors.
I will close with a promise. If you will spend thirteen weeks discussion the greatest sermon ever you life will never be the same. History is littered with the stories of people who have been changed by Jesus life-changing teaching. You will not be the first exception.
I pray that God will richly bless you as you study His life-changing teaching.
We have just completed a Bible study on the Greatest Sermon Ever–the Sermon on the Mount. It consists of 13 lessons with ready-to-use questions suitable for groups. It can be purchased on Amazon and is also available as part of Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service.
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