The Sermon on the Mount is familiar to all who have read the Gospels of Matthew (5-7) and Luke (6:17-49). Many books have been written and sermons preached on it since the early days of Christianity. What can we expect to find in yet another book on this famous sermon?
Bishop Emeritus Dr Robert Solomon, a Biblical scholar and medical doctor, has just published his latest treatise titled The Sermon of Jesus. He has used this title for two reasons: Firstly, to draw our attention to the speaker, Jesus, making the point that the sermon comes from Jesus’ mouth rather than being the writings of Matthew or the concoction of Luke. Secondly, it removes focus from the location of the sermon, which is disputed.
This book takes the perspective shared by many church fathers, Reformers and evangelical scholars: that the sermon is meant to show how Christians can live under the rule of Jesus Christ. Every generation needs to hear this sermon expounded afresh and to apply it in their lives. Each of the 23 chapters in this book ends with questions for reflection and discussion, many of which are thought-provoking.
Bishop Emeritus Dr Solomon’s exegesis on this famous sermon shows great scholarship, clarity and candour.
In his first chapter, he describes how Jesus’ teachings come as a redeeming light in the “thick Darwinian jungle” of “survival of the fittest” mentality. He gave examples of how the Darwinian jungle exists in Singapore today – diners at buffets snatching the choicest food, shoppers competing to buy the latest gadgets on launch day, countries spending huge chunks of their budgets on modern vessels and weaponry, and workers using all means to advance their careers at the expense of their colleagues.
Jesus taught, however, that the man who is truly blessed (and ultimately and truly successful) is not the man who claws his way through life, grabbing everything and in the process doing much evil. The truly successful and happy man is the one who fears God and delights in the ways of God. He pursues God rather than what the world assumes works in the Darwinian jungle.
With justification he has flung some barbs, interspersed with nuanced discourses, on certain practices in some churches. In reference to the second Beatitude (“Blessed are those who mourn”), Bishop Emeritus Dr Solomon specified that mourning refers firstly to the godly sorrow that comes from a person recognising his spiritual bankruptcy, sinfulness and helplessness; and secondly to the sorrow in seeing the effects of human sin over families, nations and the world.
The author bemoans the loss of real biblical mourning in church. He observed that some worship services have become nothing more than platforms for entertaining and loud music where the crowd is kept “deliriously happy”.
I recommend getting a copy of Bishop Emeritus Dr Solomon’s book to read and re-read his profound and insightful discourses on this well-known sermon. Having read seven other books authored or edited by him, I’ve found this book to be the “crème de la crème”. I found his expositions very applicable to modern life as well as to the church.
I have also begun to ponder and reflect on Jesus’ teachings. Where have I fallen short? Having read The Sermon of Jesus twice over, I shall pray that God will give me the will to believe, understand and let the teachings of Jesus take root so that I can be transformed.
Every generation needs to hear this sermon expounded afresh and to apply it in their lives.
Background picture by Aepsilon/Bigstock.com
Dr Tong Hoo Ing is a volunteer contributor and worships at Wesley Methodist Church. A retired neurologist, he also volunteers with Bethany Methodist Nursing Home.