A Commentary by John Stott

Matthew 7:28-29. Conclusion: who is this preacher?

4. Jesus’ authority as the Saviour.

It is plain in the Sermon that Jesus knew the way of salvation and taught it. He was able to declare who was blessed and who was not. He could point to the narrow gate which led on to the hard way which ended in life. And he was quite clear which kind of house would survive the storms of judgement, and which would founder.

But if we penetrate more deeply into his message, we find that he not only taught salvation; he actually bestowed it. Even in the beatitudes he appears in the role of one who virtually himself distributes blessedness and gives the kingdom. Professor Jeremias thus quotes with approval J.Schniewind’s insistence ‘that the beatitudes are concealed testimonies by Jesus to himself as the saviour of the poor, the sorrowing etc.’

Or consider how Jesus appointed his hearers, that little group of peasants, ‘the salt of the earth’ and ‘the light of the world’. How could they possibly have a restraining and enlightening influence in the world? Only because they followed Jesus. It is because he himself was not ‘evil’ as he described the rest of mankind (7:11) that he could impart to them some of his goodness and make them ‘salt’. It is because he did not share in the universal darkness but was himself ‘the light of the world’ (Jn.8:12), that he could impart light to them and make them shine.

It is further significant that in Matthew’s Gospel the Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7), representative of Jesus’ words, is followed by an account of his practical ministry (chapters 8 and 9), representative of his works. For here we see him claiming authority to forgive sins and actually bestowing forgiveness on a paralysed man (9:2-6), and then likening himself as the saviour of sinners to a physician of the sick (9:12).

5. Jesus’ authority as the Judge.

The whole Sermon on the Mount was preached against the sombre background of the coming day of judgement. Jesus knew it was a reality and desired it to be a reality in the minds and lives of his followers. So he declared the conditions of salvation and warned of the causes of destruction, especially in his graphic portrayal of the two ways and their two destinations.

Much more striking than this emphasis on the certainty of future judgment was his claim that he himself would be the Judge (7:22,23). The self-centredness of the scene he described is quite extraordinary. Three times he used the personal pronouns ‘I’ and ‘me’. First, he would himself be the Judge, hearing the evidence and passing the sentence. For on that solemn day, he said, ‘many will say to *me* “Lord, Lord” … and then *I* will declare to them …’ Thus the accused will address their case to him, and he will be the one to answer them. No-one but he will decide and declare their destiny. Secondly, he will be himself the criterion of the judgement. People will bring forward as evidence their use of his name in their ministry, but this will be inadmissible as evidence. ‘*I* never knew you,’ he will say to them. The destiny of human beings will depend not on their knowledge and use of his name, but on their knowledge of him personally. Not service for Christ, but relationship to Christ will be the issue. Thirdly, the sentence he pronounces will be concerned with him also: ‘Depart from *me*, you evildoers.’ The terribleness of the ‘destruction’ (Mt.7:13) and of the ‘ruin’ (Mt.7:27) which he predicted is that it will involve banishment from his presence. No worse fate could be envisaged, he implied, than eternal separation from himself.

Thus did the carpenter of Nazareth make himself the central figure of the judgment day. He will himself assume the role of Judge (and later in Matthew’s Gospel he describes in greater detail how he will ‘sit on the glorious throne’ to judge mankind 25:31 ff). Further, the basis of the judgment will be people’s attitude to him, and the nature of the judgment will be exclusion from his presence. It would be hard to exaggerate the staggering egocentricity of these claims.
Tomorrow: 6). Jesus’ authority as the Son of God.

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.