A Commentary by John Stott
Matthew 7:28-29. Conclusion: who is this preacher?
If he did not teach like the scribes, he did not teach like the Old Testament prophets either. They did not share the scribes addiction to the past. They lived in the present. For they claimed to be speaking in the name of Jehovah, so that the living voice of the living God was heard through their lips. Jesus also insisted that his words were God’s words: ‘My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me’ (Jn.7:16). Yet there was a difference. The commonest formula with which the prophets introduced their oracles, namely ‘Thus says the Lord’, is one Jesus never used. Instead, he would begin ‘Truly, truly I say to you’, thus daring to speak in his own name and with his own authority, which he knew to be identical with the Father’s. (cf.Jn.14:8-11). This ‘Truly, I say to you’ (*amen lego humin*) or ‘I tell you’ (*lego humin*) occurs six times in the Sermon on the Mount (5:18; 6:2, 5, 16, 25, 29). On six more occasions, namely in the six antitheses of chapter 5, we find the even stronger assertion with its emphatic *ego*, ‘But *I* say to you’ (*ego de lego humin*). Not that he was contradicting Moses, as we have seen, but rather the scribal corruptions of Moses. Yet in doing this he was challenging the inherited tradition of the centuries and claiming to replace it with his own accurate and authoritative interpretation of God’s law. He thus ‘stood forth as a legislator, not as a commentator, and commanded and prohibited, and repealed, and promised, on his own bare word’
So certain was he of the truth and validity of his teaching that he said human wisdom and human folly were to be assessed by people’s reaction to it. The only wise people there are, he implied, are those who build their lives on his words by obeying them. All others by rejecting his teaching are fools. He may even have been applying to himself those words of personified wisdom which occur in Proverbs 1:33, ‘He who listens to me will dwell secure.’ It is by paying heed to him who is the wisdom of God that man learns to be wise.
2. Jesus’ authority as the Christ.
There is evidence in the Sermon on the Mount, as in many other parts of his teaching, that Jesus knew that he had come into the world on a mission. ‘I have come,’ he could say, (5:17; cf.9:13;10:34; 11:3,19; 20:28), just as elsewhere in Matthew’s gospel he referred to himself as having been ‘sent’. (10:40; 15:24; 21:37). In particular, he had not come, he insisted, ‘to abolish the law and the prophets’, but he had come ‘to fulfil (*plerosai*) them’.
The claim sounds innocent enough until one reflects on its implications. What he is asserting is that all the adumbrations and predictions of both law and prophets found their fulfilment in him, and that therefore all the lines of the Old Testament witness converged on himself. He did not think of himself as another prophet or even as the greatest of the prophets, but rather as the fulfilment of all prophesy. This belief that the days of expectation were now over and that he had ushered in the time of fulfilment was deeply imbedded in the consciousness of Jesus. The first recorded words of his public ministry were: ‘The time is fulfilled (*peplerotai*), and the kingdom of God is at hand’ (Mk.1:15;cf. Mt.4:17). In the Sermon on the Mount there are five direct references to God’s kingdom. (5:3,10;6:10,33;7:21) They imply – though with varying degrees of clarity – that he himself had inaugurated it, and that he had authority to admit people into it and to bestow on them its blessings. All this means, in a word, that Jesus knew himself to be the Christ, God’s Messiah of Old Testament expectations.
Tomorrow: 3. Jesus’ authority as the Lord.
|The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of the Sermon on the Mount. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.|