Another Sermon on the Mount?
Are there really two?
I bet that most of us who are fans of the Bible (whatever that really means) are unaware that the Master delivered not just one sermon on the mount, but two.
The Physician Luke records what some have come to refer to as “The Sermon on the Plain.” This much shorter version of the most well known “Sermon on the Mount that the Apostle Matthew recorded. Despite what Christianity teaches, there were at least two-sermons delivered by the Master to a throng of would-be disciples. Yes, I said disciples. The teachings of the Church have all but discarded any concept of discipleship, which was paramount to the Master’s ministry here on earth. Discipleship is what we as believers of Messiah are supposed to be. We’re not supposed to be Christians, Baptists, Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans, or any one of the 30,000 denominations that current exist in world. No. We are called to be disciples of the Master. Being a disciple of the Master implies that we are beholden to no one nor organization. Instead, we belong to the One who redeemed us through His sacrificial work on the execution stake. So when someone inquiries as to your religious status, think about who and what you are. Are you a card-carrying member of the Church or a sold-out, hard-and-fast disciple of the Father’s chosen One? Only you can answer that question. We must never allow people to box us into a denomination or religion. The Master in part came to deliver us from religion. And yes, being in a religious organization is bondage.
Deliverance from religion, now that’s a sticky wicket isn’t it? What does it mean to be delivered from religion? Most people think of a deliverance from religion when an unfortunate individual finds him or herself in some form of dangerous cult. These individuals in most cases are in severe bondage and in the most extreme cases, the outcome isn’t a good one for the unfortunate cultist.
The Sermons on the Mount and Plain demonstrate what I mean–deliverance from religion. Seldom has this message been taught and delivered to and in the Church. Why? Because delivering such a message could potentially cut off the flow of people and funds to the church in question. Those who lead our various churches and denominations are dependent upon their membership to keep them employed and to keep the lights on. I do not believe that Father nor our Master ever intended for the True Faith once delivered to devolve into church–on the contrary.
The Sermon on the Plain, found in Luke 6:17-49, reveals the essence of freedom not only from sin, but freedom from the leaven of the Pharisees, which today for most of us, translates into freedom from denonminationalism and religion. Simply read through this passage, not through the lenses of our denomination, but through the lenses of one who would have lived during the time this sermon was delivered. Think about all that the disciples who were following the Master had to endure and the religious construct that dominated and ran their lives. It was not an easy life by no stretch of the imagination, especially when one factors in having to endure oppression of Roman occupation, pervasive poverty and high-mortality rates as a result of illnesses that today could be easily cured simply by taking certain medications or undergoing non-invasive surgical procedures. These folks had it hard. Yet we who profess “Christ” today, especially in the west, will often complain about how hard it seems to be. There are, however, thousands of our brothers and sisters living under repressive regimes and government and social systems throughout the world, who are forced to practice their faith in secret out of a real fear of being persecuted and killed.
The Master began his sermon (term chosen by those who arranged or formatted our Bibles) by touching upon those who were there in His presence, seeking something–be it healing, deliverance or a word of encouragement. These were the poor (verse 20)–in the Greek “ptochos”–one who is dependent on others for support. These, according to the various and sundry Greek-English Lexicons on our respective bookshelves, describe those who would be “ptochos” as having a special need for the Father’s help. Figuratively, these individuals in Y’shua’s time, were deemed as having little value to society. These were deemed as being worthless, powerless and beggars. (cf. Gal. 4:9) Of the several Lexicons I have access to, the Thayers provided the most profound insight on the issue concerning the poor from the Sermon on the Plain perspective. According to Thayer, ptochos referred to those who are thoroughly frightened. These were known to cower down and hide in fear in the society of their day. “Hence, ptochos, properly, is one who slinks and crotches–roving about in wretchedness.” These types were the throw aways of society, much as they are now. We want them as far away from us as we can get them. When they encroach upon our space, we recoil and become dismissive of them. Yet these were the type who came to the Master as He addressed His disciples. These came looking for a blessing of some type. These did not come with pedigree or with means. These were helpless, frightened, rejected of society.
In the great “Sermon on the Mount,” Master spoke of those who were “poor in spirit.” Who would these be? A clue is provided, I believe, in the Homilies of St. John Chrysostom, who described the poor in spirit as those of humble character, who possessed a contrite mind. Those who came to Master in both events/incidents, were not of humble character or of a contrite mind by choice. No indeed. These were humble in their character and demeanor and contrite of mind because of their circumstances. These were by their personal circumstances, humble and contrite. (Consider Isa. 66:2; Psa. 5019; Dan. 3:39 in the LXX) These were the ones that especially caught the Master’s attention. Was it simply because of these individuals’ social status (or lack there of) that separated them from all the rest? I don’t believe so. I believe that these were the one’s who came because they were at their end. These came because they had no one else to turn to. These came because they needed a touch from the Master in order to make it in life.
I don’t necessarily equate the poor that the Master was addressing with all those who are poor today. Certainly, many who are poor in our society today are angry, bitter, proud, violent and just plain ole mean. These often wear their poverty as a badge of honor and a reason to rail against society by whatever means they can. Yet there are some who because they have lost everything (if indeed they ever had anything), despite their attempts to pull themselves out of their impoverished state, they seek help. They don’t languish in their poverty and blame society. These have come to a point in their lives where they have a contrite (i.e., a felling of remorse or penitence that may be affected by guilt) mind and humble spirit. These are the ones the Master has given first right of refusal to as it relates to the true Gospel of the Kingdom. There is no place in the kingdom for those impoverished souls who are angry and seek to make society pay and who seek to take advantage of those who would be unwary prey for them. No, the poor that Master was addressing are humble and contrite. This is where we must find ourselves if we are to inherit the kingdom, for according to Master, the kingdom will be given to those who are poor–the humble and contrite of mind. Later on in the Sermon on the Plain, Master rails against the rich, the full and the jovial. These are likely in no position to be of a humble spirit or demeanor, nor of a contrite mind. These will have a difficult if not impossible time receiving the kingdom of God. I firmly believe that it’s not until we are broken and destitute; essentially we become poor (humble and contrite of mind)–not because of some carnal vow of poverty as some in Catholicism take or assume in the service of the church–so that we are open to receive the Kingdom. The cares and things of life prevent such a transference–that is receiving the Kingdom. It’s not until we are able to abandon those things as being of prime importance in our lives, then we are ready to receive that which the Master has for us.
I believe that people are leaving the Church in droves today because the Church has failed to teach how to become a disciple for Jesus Christ (aka-Y’shua haMashiyach). We have been taught throughout the decades to come to Jesus just as we are. What does that really mean? It means, simply bring whatever baggage, lifestyle and mindset you haveand set it before the Master. The problem is that the Church fails to finish filling the prescription. After coming to Master, we must give everything up for Him and conform to His teachings; His way of living; His instructions. That stuff that we bring to the altar must be factored out of our lives. I’m not talking about giving everything materially we’ve accumulated away and becoming impoverished. Indeed, all that serves to do is to make us dependent upon others to provide for our needs. On the contrary, I’m talking about giving up the importance the material things have in and over our lives. Thus, the focus is shifted from ourselves over to Him and His Father. We must become poor so that we may become rich. Otherwise, we’ll just be spinning our wheels as so many former Christians who are leaving the church in record numbers have come to understand for themselves.
I’ve taken on a spiritual vow of poverty. I once valued my job/career, my material possessions and my aspirations above all. I had this Christian thing as a plug-in, that served only to satisfy my interest and occasional hunger for spiritual things. But at the end of the day, my earthly, carnal, personal life ruled over that of my spiritual life. I had not become poor so that I could become rich. I figured I could make it work on my own terms. But Paul taught that we are not our own any longer–that we’ve been purchased at a very precious and valuable price. (Ref. 1 Cor. 6:19,20) In order for that to happen, we have to become poor–humble of spirit and contrite of mind. It’s the only way.
Blessings to you–until next time–fellow saints in training.