Tonight, at New Bridge Church, we will launch into a new Summer sermon series which will unpack Jesus’ longest recorded sermon, commonly referred to as The Sermon on the Mount. I have called the series Fit For A King. This singular message from Jesus is amazingly counter-cultural and deeply challenging for all believers. Before we actually get into the words of the sermon itself, tonight I plan to set the table surrounding the timing of this sermon which the Son of God released. As I was preparing, I felt prompted by the Holy Spirit to post a few things in the blog which would be good for all of us to consider about our own hearts, our ministries and the local churches to which we belong. Here is what Matthew recorded right before Jesus preached His most famous sermon:
“He went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. His fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought Him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and He healed them. And great crowds followed Him…” – Matthew 4:23-25
We are told that Jesus was frequently teaching in the synagogues and preaching the Kingdom. When it says that Jesus was teaching, it refers to His practice of expounding the Hebrew scriptures. Jesus would often unpack the scriptures which would have been familiar to most of the Jews living at this time. In our day, there is an unsettling trend of people who have become bored with the Bible. Jesus would never endorse a movement or ministry that did not include faithfulness to the written Word. He quoted scripture regularly and would often accept opportunities to expound the Word of God in the gatherings which took place in the synagogues. Imagine the revelation that the people would experience as God the Son gave them perfect doctrine as He explained and applied the words of the bible to them! Slightly different from His teaching would have been His practice of preaching the good news of the Kingdom of God. This second means of using His voice is how Jesus called people to a course of action. While teaching the Scriptures is more detailed and methodical, preaching almost always involves a summons for the listeners to commit themselves to what they have heard from the preacher. In proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God, Jesus was signaling them that the time had arrived for them to acknowledge their Messiah. Jesus taught the Bible and proclaimed the Kingdom, offering people the opportunity to think, believe and commit themselves. That is a far cry from the modern trends of 25-minute talks that require nothing but an applause from the audience before they are dismissed.
We are then told some details about Jesus’ healing and deliverance ministry. Matthew is intentional here to be clear that Jesus prioritized physical healings as part of His ministry. In a culture where there was nearly no medical development, people could (and did) easily die from sicknesses that are cured in modern times with simple antibiotics. There were very few channels of hopeful assistance for those with debilitating disease. Jesus went to these sick and afflicted people and proved His divine mastery over sickness, injury and disease. While physical sickness is different from demonic possessions, Scripture also reveals that some demons inflicted pain, sickness and torment on their victims. Not only was Jesus revealing His power over sickness, He was demonstrating His authority over the forces of hell by freeing people from their physical debilitation. There is no reason why modern-day believers should expect less from Him! Nothing in Scripture tells us that healings from God should not be sought by us today. In fact, there are many passages that compel us to seek God for breakthrough in the areas of sickness, disease and injury. Jesus has not changed. He still heals. The Church serves as His hands today to heal.
It is time for the present-day Church to do an assessment of the nature of the ministries that we present. It is entirely possible for us to be connected to “successful” ministries that do none of the things that Jesus prioritized in His own ministry. Teaching the Bible, preparing people for the Kingdom, healing the sick and ministering deliverance to those who are demonized are all activities which much of the Church ignores or even refutes as being inaccessible to modern Christians. Most churches pick and choose from these priorities. Entire denominations explain away the ministries of healing and deliverance. Should we not be alarmed that it is entirely possible to present a ministry that does none of the things that Jesus did while He was upon earth? Many Christians, churches and ministries have abandoned the teaching of the Scriptures even though Jesus prioritized that priceless activity. Fewer and fewer are participating in the public preaching of the Kingdom of God, calling people to decision and action concerning where they currently stand in relation to the eternal King. More flagrant is the absence of power in the modern Church. Do we heal the sick? Do we cast out demons from those tormented by them? Do we operate in supernatural power that reverses the effects of disabilities which plague people in our own generation? We should be alarmed that we can witness growing ministries today which seemingly do little or none of the things which Jesus prioritized while He walked on earth. Should we not be grieved with me over this?
Friends, we need a fresh and widescale repentance that leads to a release of divine power. The reason why His forthcoming Sermon on the Mount would hold such credibility with those who originally heard Him is because Jesus first demonstrated a love for people and supernatural authority that set the captives free. Those who would be granted repentance would believe more strongly in what He said with His mouth when they witnessed all that He did with His heart and hands.
Father, please let us become increasingly uncomfortable with the absence of what Jesus offered in our churches. We humbly confess that we have been content to live with these gaping holes in who we are and what we do. Help us to know how to pursue You in ways that result in Your love and power moving through us. Jesus, we want to be an accurate representation of Your heart to our generation. Holy Spirit, we need You in was that we cannot articulate. We trust you, Lord, to do what is necessary to re-form the Body of Christ to operate in synchrony with its Head.