Great Expectations

Intro: I am an avid photographer. Not a good one, but an avid one. I often judge an occasion by the opportunity to capture it in pictures. I love the challenge of catching a unique perspective, or reproducing with a camera the beauty that is captured by the eye. I have been impressed with the advent of drone photography. Getting up high and looking at something from above. Seeing the big picture. There is a place for drone Bible study. Seeing the whole picture.

I. The Sermon on the Mount: The words of Jesus’ sermon in Matthew 5-7 paint a composite portrait of true spirituality. We often isolate Jesus statements and dissect each verse independently. But we may do well to take a broader view and consider Jesus’ words as a composite and comprehensive lesson on the character of God’s people.

In this sermon Jesus is in essence saying, “This is what a Christian looks like”. It was such a different and compelling picture for His audience that they were astonished at His teaching; “for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” (Matt 7:29).This concluding observation tells us that the people recognized that Jesus was expecting them to be obedient to His words. At the heart of this great sermon (as in all good preaching) is a call to action. Jesus’ words present a view of God’s expectations for His people, presented, not through individual didactic commands, but through a broader view of who God’s people are, and what they look like in comparison to the world.

A. An Expectation of Happiness: (5:1-12) God wants us to be happy. In Jesus’ paradoxical statements here known as the beatitudes, He teaches that blessedness (happiness) is not the product of human achievements or self-gratification, as most people assume. Jesus says true happiness is found in places where few seek it:

1. Blessed (happy) are those who are humble, contrite, meek, merciful, pure, peaceful, joyful, and thirsty for God’s words and ways. Blessed are those who suffer for the sake of God and His cause. These are blessed because God responds favorably to them, providing what they seek and need.

B. An Expectation of Influence: (5:13-16) We also see God’s expectations for us in the call to be a positive and godly influence in the world. Rather than passively going with the flow, we are light and salt, disseminating the character and words of Jesus to others. Jesus expects us to let our light shine, not lose out distinctive saltiness to worldliness or hypocrisy.

C. An Expectation of Obedience: (v. 17-19) Thirdly, Jesus told us in no uncertain terms, that we must keep all the commandments, never diminishing the authority of His words as we teach others. Unlike many today who disparage the need for obedience and law, God’s people strive to be obedient in all things.

D. An Expectation of Greater Righteousness: Jesus often contrasted the hypocritical and superficial righteousness of the Pharisees and the true, sincere righteousness of His people. In the face of such hypocrisy, Jesus never expected less, but always more. Matthew 5:2020 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. This call to an exceeding righteousness flows through the rest of Jesus’ sermon. But what did it mean to exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees? Was Jesus calling on them to say more prayers, or fast more often, or wear more phylacteries?

1. The religion of the Pharisees was missing something. The Pharisee concept of righteousness did not include a dependence upon God, but rested in one’s ability to keep the outward elements of the law. Viewing themselves as righteous through their own doing, they did not seek for forgiveness or exhibit repentance. They were not driven by a desire to please God above all else. They were “self-righteous”, meaning that their righteousness was based on their own assessments and efforts. In this they easily dismissed others as outsiders.

2. Jesus also consistently condemned the hypocrite who demanded more of others, but less of himself. They expected more of others than they expected of themselves. They judged others with a critical eye and lacked compassion. They marginalized God’s law through the imposition of their own traditions. They were inconsistent in their applications of God’s words. Jesus willingly pointed out all of these serious deficiencies in Pharisaical righteousness.

a. The Pharisees also defined righteousness as outward conformity to God’s law and gave little attention to their attitudes or motivations. We might say their religion lacked “heart”. Jesus provides examples of such a distinction. In these words He indicates a greater expectation:

i. (Matthew 5:27-28) Murder and adultery (two sins of the body) are defined by more than just the acts themselves, but rather the attitude and condition of heart that precedes the act. (27) “You have heard that it was said to those of old, `You shall not commit adultery.’ (28) “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. What’s the point? True righteousness demands more. Jesus expects us to monitor our minds and confront sin where it begins. We must look deeper and demand more of ourselves; even to the point of plucking out our eyes to avoid being cast into hell for our disobedience. (“Jesus accepted all people, and so do we”) Did Jesus demand people to repent of sin?

ii. (5:31-32) The marriage law was more than a contract to be dissolved on a whim. It was a divinely created union. When one divorced without a just cause, the sin of adultery ensued. God demands more than what the culture in which we live. Are we being judgmental or hateful to expect what Jesus expected concerning marriage and morality?

iii. (6:1-18) Giving to the poor, fasting, and praying (three commandments performed outwardly) are worthless acts if they are performed to be seen by others, rather than done sincerely to please God. (you have no reward from your Father in heaven – 6:1) True righteousness demands more. Jesus expects us to do what we do for the right reasons; to please God alone. We must look to Him to bless us.

iv. (6:19-24) There is no more disseminating characteristic of God’s people vs. the world than how we relate to our things and our money. Do not lay up treasure on this earth. Do more. Lay up treasure in heaven. Do not allow your eyes to control your life, always looking for something else. Do not follow the rest of the world into envy and discontent.

What are we to learn from Jesus’ clear contrast in righteousness and His compelling expectations?

II. Jesus Expects More. Do you believe that Jesus expects more of you? The Pharisees, through their own traditions, erected a minimum requirement righteousness and used this standard to judge others as unacceptable. (washing hands, etc.)

A. At times even his own disciples, asked Jesus to provide a minimum requirement by which they could judge their level of righteousness. Matt 18:21-22Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. Jesus’ answer to Peter clearly indicated that the disciple is expected to do more than a minimum. Jesus goes on to tell a parable wherein God Himself becomes the standard – You must not stop forgiving until you match what He has done for you.

1. We often ask the questions that reveal our desire for a minimum standard of righteousness.

a. Do I have to come on Sunday and Wednesday night?

b. How much do I have to give when the contribution plate is passed around?

c. How much do I have to pray? (at every meal?)

d. We may also play this game when it comes to avoiding sin. How close can I come to the world and its pleasures and still please God? (socially drink, use some foul language?)

B. Read the last verses of Matthew 5 – Matt 5:38-48 – How would you characterize Jesus’ expectations in these words? There is an implied standard by which others judge themselves as righteous – good, but just good enough. Jesus expects the second mile and love where others will only hate.

C. In verse 47 Jesus asks a challenging question that is the force of our lesson this morning: “what do you do more than others?” Are you striving to do more?

1. Notice again that Jesus places God Himself as the standard of holiness– “that you may be sons of your Father”…“you shall be perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect”)

D. Jesus’ great expectation is at the heart of the N.T. message to us, as God’s people. We are called to abound and excel – not just get by.

• I Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

• Colossians 2:7 Rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.

• 2 Corinthians 8:7 But as you abound in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us – see that you abound in this grace also.

• 1 Thess. 4:1 Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; 10 – and indeed you do so toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, that you increase more and more;

E. Many Christians are like King Amaziah in the O.T. 2 Chronicles 25:1-2 Amaziah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Jehoaddan of Jerusalem. 2 He did right in the sight of the LORD, yet not with a whole heart. (NASU) This is a sad commentary on a person’s spiritual life. Amaziah ruled 29 years, but he just got by. He yawned his way through 3 decades of life. He punched in at 9:00 and out at 5:00 and not much happened in between. He’d say it’s not my job or its good enough.

1. Matthew Henry characterizes Amaziah as a “cool and indifferent friend to piety”. Was his mediocre response to God’s expectations complicit in his later apostasy? Amaziah eventually became an idol worshipper 2 Chron 25:14 Now after Amaziah came from slaughtering the Edomites, he brought the gods of the sons of Seir, set them up as his gods, bowed down before them and burned incense to them.” (the gods of the people he had just defeated through Jehovah’s power)

a. The alternate account in 2 Kings 14 says that Amaziah “did what was right in the sight of the Lord, yet not like his father David; he did everything as his father Joash had done.” It is interesting to note that David is described as “a man after God’s own heart”. God requires more than just doing the right things. We must do them with a whole heart.

F. God’s blessings are tied to our willingness to do more and strive to be more spiritual. Mark 12:41-44 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny. 43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything-all she had to live on.” (NIV) Jesus said she did more than others. It was an exercise of her faith. It is not judged in physical quantities, but a willingness to do more.

What are you going to do more than others, more than you have done before?

Conclusion: Near the end of His sermon Jesus boldly proclaimed, “Not everyone who says to Me,’Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matt 7:21-23)

A call to do more is not a denial of God’s grace. Jesus’ demand for true, from the heart, service, does not rule out the necessity of obedience to God’s commands. It does not diminish the conditions of salvation, nor deny that Jesus’ atonement is the source of our redemption. We are saved by grace.

Notice Paul’s assessment: I Corinthians 15:10 – But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.