Remember those Russian nesting dolls? Matryoshka dolls, one inside the other, smaller and smaller, but each containing the whole doll. In terms of Jesus’ teaching, the Bible is like this: open the Bible and find the New Testament, and inside that, the gospel of Matthew. Inside Matthew is the Sermon on the Mount, and inside the Sermon, the Lord’s Prayer. Each one smaller, but containing the whole.
If you were stranded on the proverbial desert island with just the Sermon on the Mount, you’d have not only all of Jesus’ teaching, but the core of all the prophets before him. The first Jewish followers understood the Sermon as the foundation of the Way of Jesus and of theirs as well. Used it as a catechism, memorized it, internalized it, passed it on by oral tradition for thirty to fifty years until finally written down in Matthew.
The Sermon hasn’t changed since Matthew, but our view has. The church hasn’t known what to do with the Sermon for some sixteen hundred years, since we stopped looking at it in the way it was first delivered. If we’re willing, it can be our foundation again, clarifying and focusing again in a way so needed today as more and more people needlessly leave Jesus in search of authentic spirituality…because the church doesn’t know what to do with the Sermon.
The Sermon can reclaim its proper place in our lives if we’re willing to see it again through the eyes of poet Jesus: not defining literal truth as much as evoking a life of radical change, as a balance between knowing and loving, unlearning enough to know how to love enough to see what is uncontained in words.
The Sermon only makes sense within the context of the Kingdom of Heaven, the reign of God’s unity right herenow, the quality of life of someone who has become Kingdom—not a code of conduct to obey, but the gradual acceptance of a gift we could never give ourselves. We don’t enter or possess this Kingdom, that is poet-speak for realizing Kingdom in ourselves as we intentionally live our Way into seeing life through Father’s eyes.