Jesus doesn’t want us to deceive ourselves, missing how serious are the challenges of following him and the rewards that accompany our life with him.
Yet, I often find it difficult to fully my Christian life amid the layers of American society’s norms, ideals and standards for “success.” We are saturated with advertising, political propaganda, false assumptions of what gives us security and happiness.
Sorting all these messages and measuring them against the Sermon on the Mount is what Jesus is asking us to do in this passage from Matthew’ Gospel. It comes at the end of the challenging Sermon, when Jesus lays out God’s will for us.
Matthew makes a dig at the ruling Jewish class in two verses omitted at the end of this chapter: “And it happened that when Jesus finished these words, the crowds were astonished at his teaching. For he was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.”
Implied is that the scribes…the intellectual, religious and political elites…are the ones attempting closeness to God by saying, “Lord, lord!” and following specific legal prescriptions to guarantee sanctity. Their ways are not The Way, just like American status seeking, consumerism, exploitation of the environment, militarism and economic disparity are not God’s Way.
Jesus’ words are radically demanding. They must penetrate to our bones and transform us. They insure we will be different from the crowd. They insure we will suffer. But they also insure we will experience deep peace and radiant joy.
Will I take a chance on Jesus?
Jim Wayne is a board member of the Passionists Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Office, state legislator, and author of The Unfinished Man. He lives in Louisville, Kentucky.