And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)When Jesus had ended these sayings.—The words again point to the conclusion that the Evangelist believed that he had been recording one continuous discourse.
The people were astonished at his doctrine.—Better, at his teaching; with greater prominence given, as the words that follow show, to its manner than to its substance.
THE CHRIST OF THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT
Matthew 7:28 - Matthew 7:29.
It appears, then, from these words, that the first impression made on the masses by the Sermon on the Mount was not so much an appreciation of its high morality, as a feeling of the personal authority with which Christ spoke. Had the scribes, then, no authority? They ruled the whole life of the nation with tyrannical power. They sat in Moses’ seat, and claimed all manner of sway and control. And yet when people listened to Jesus, they heard something ringing in His voice that they missed in the rabbis. They only set themselves up, in their highest claims, as being commentators upon, and the expositors of, the Law. Their language was ‘Moses commanded’; ‘Rabbi this said so-and-so; Rabbi that said such-and-such.’ But as even the crowd that listened to Him detected, Jesus Christ, in these great laws of His kingdom, adduced no authority but His own; stood forth as a Legislator, not as a commentator; and commanded, and prohibited, and repealed, and promised, on His own bare word. That is a characteristic of all Christ’s teaching; and, as we see from my text, to the apprehension of the first auditors, it was deeply stamped on the Sermon on the Mount.
I purpose to turn to that Sermon now, and try if we can make out the points in it which impressed these people, who first heard it, with the sense that they were in the presence of an autocratic Voice that had a right to speak, and which did speak, with absolute and unexampled authority.
And I do that the more readily because I dare say you have all heard people that said ‘Oh! I do not care about the dogmas of Christianity; give me the Sermon on the Mount and its sublime morality; that is Christianity enough for me.’ Well, I should be disposed to say so pretty nearly too, if you will take all the Sermon on the Mount, and not go picking and choosing bits out of it. For I am sure that if you will take the whole of its teaching you will find yourself next door to, if not in the very inmost chamber of, the mysticism of the Gospel of John and the theology of Paul.
I. I ask you, then, to note that the Sermon claims for Jesus Christ the authority of supremacy above all former revelation and revealers.
‘Think not,’ says He, ‘that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.’ And then He goes on, in five cases, to illustrate, in a very remarkable way, the authority that He claimed over the former Law, moulding it according to His will.
Now I do not propose to do more than suggest, in a sentence, two points that I think of importance. Observe that remarkable form of speech, ‘I am come.’ May we not fairly say that it implies that He existed before birth, and that His appearance among men was the result of His own act? Does it not imply that He was not merely born, but came, choosing to be born just as He chose to die? In what sense can we understand the Apostle’s view that it was an infinite and stupendous act of condescension in Christ to ‘be found in fashion as a man,’ unless we believe that by His own will and act He came forth from the Father and entered into the world, just as by His own will and act He left the world and went unto the Father?
But I do not dwell upon that, nor upon another very important consideration. Why was it that Jesus Christ, at the very beginning of His mission, felt Himself bound to disclaim any intention of destroying the law or the prophets? Must not the people have begun to feel that there was something revolutionary and novel about His teaching, and that it was threatening to disturb what had been consecrated by ages? So that it was needful that He should begin His career with this disclaimer of the intention of destruction. Strange for a divine messenger, if He simply stood as one in the line and sequence of divine revelation, to begin His work by saying, ‘Now, I do not mean to annihilate all that is behind Me!’ The question arises how anybody should have supposed that He did, and why it should ever have been needful for Him to say that He did not.
But I pass by all that, and ask you to think how much lies in these words of our Lord: ‘I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.’ They imply a claim that His life was a complete embodiment of God’s law. Here is a man beginning His ministry as a religious teacher, with the assertion, stupendous, and, upon any other lips but His, insane arrogance, that He had come to do everything which God demanded, and to set forth before the world a living Pattern of the whole obedience of a human nature to the whole law of God. Who is He that said that? And how do we account for the fact that nineteen centuries have passed, and, excepting in the case of here and there a bitter foe whose hostility had robbed him of his common sense, no lip has ventured to say that He claimed too much for Himself when He said, ‘I am come to fulfil the law’; or that He falsely read the facts of His own experience and consciousness when He declared, ‘I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do.’
Still further, here our Lord claims specifically and expressly to fulfil not only law but prophets. That is to say, He sets Himself forth as the Reality which had filled the imaginations and the hearts of a whole nation for centuries; as the living Reality which had been meant by all those lofty words of seers and prophets in the past. He declares that all those rapturous forecastings, all those dim anticipations, all those triumphant promises, were not left to swing in vacuo, or to float about unfulfilled, but that He stood there, the actual Realisation of them all; and in Him, wrapped up as in a seed, the Kingdom of Heaven was among men.
And still further, He claims not only personal purity and completeness, and the fulfilment of all prior and prophetic anticipation, but also He claims to have, and He exercises, the power of moulding, expanding, interpreting, and in some cases brushing aside, laws which He and they alike knew to be the laws of God. I do not need to specify in detail the instances which are contained in this Sermon on the Mount. But I simply ask you to consider the formula with which our Lord introduces each of His references to that subject. ‘Ye have heard that it hath been said to them of old time’ so-and-so,-and then follows a command of the Mosaic law; but ‘I say unto you’ so-and-so,-and then follows a deepening or a modification or a repeal, of statutes acknowledged by Him and His hearers to be divine. He certainly claims to speak with the same right and authority as the old Law did. He as certainly claims to speak with incomparably higher authority than Moses did, for the latter never professed to give precepts of his own. He was not the Lawgiver, as he is often called, but only the messenger of the Lawgiver. But Christ is Himself the fountain of the laws of His Kingdom. Nor only so, but He puts Himself without apology or explanation in front of Moses and asserts power to modify, to set aside, or to re-enact with new stringency, the precepts of the divine law.
One supposition alone accounts for Christ’s attitude to law and prophets in this Sermon, and that is that the Eternal Wisdom and Personal Word of God, which at sundry times and in ‘divers manners’ spake to the old world by Moses, itself at last, in human form and personal guise, came here on earth and spake to us men. It is the same Voice that breathed through the prophets of old, and that spake on the lips of the Christ of Nazareth; the same Eternal Word who manifested Himself in a ‘fiery law’ on Sinai, and in words of no less majesty and of deepened gentleness, when He gathered the people round about Him, and said to them, ‘It hath been said to them of old time, . . . but I say unto you . . . ‘
Here is the sum and climax of all revelation, the last word of the divine mind and will and heart, to the world. Moses and Elias stand beside Him on the Mount of Transfiguration, witnesses of His superiority and servants at His feet, and they vanish into mist and darkness, and leave there, erect, white-robed, solitary, the unique figure of the One Lawgiver and the perfect Revealer of God to men.
And this is the authority which struck even on the unsusceptible hearts of the listening crowds.
II. Still further, let me ask you to consider how, in this same great Sermon, He claims the authority of One who is unique in His relation to the Father.
You will find that in it there occurs very frequently the expression, ‘your Father which is in Heaven’; or sometimes with the variation, ‘thy Father which is in Heaven,’ or, ‘which seeth in secret.’ But you will also find that whilst our Lord speaks about ‘My Father which is in Heaven,’ He never says ‘our Father’; excepting in the exception which proves the rule when He is putting into the lips of His disciples the great formula of prayer which we call the ‘Lord’s Prayer’; and there speaking as through their consciousness, and teaching them their lesson, He says ‘Our Father,’ not as if He Himself were praying, but as if He were telling them how to pray. But when He speaks out of His own consciousness He speaks of ‘My Father’ and ‘your Father,’ never of ‘our Father.’
And that corresponds with other phenomena in Scripture in our Lord’s own language where you find that always He draws this broad distinction. He never associates Himself with us in His Sonship. He ever asserts that He is the Son of God. Even when He wishes to speak with the utmost tenderness, He bids the weeping Mary hear the message, ‘I go unto My Father and your Father.’ This doctrine is thought by many to be one of those which they get rid of by professing the Christianity of the Sermon on the Mount. But it is there as plainly as in other parts of Scripture. If we accept all which it teaches, we cannot escape from the belief that He is the only begotten and well-beloved Son of the Father; and also that through Him and in Him we, too, may receive the adoption of sons.
Dear friends, I press this upon you as no mere piece of hard theological doctrine, but as containing in it the very essentials of all spiritual life for each of us, that all our spiritual life must come by participation in Christ, and that we enter into an altogether new and blessed relation to God when, laying our humble and penitent hands on the head of that dear Sacrifice that died on the Cross for as, we through Him cease to be children of wrath and become heirs of God. ‘To as many as received Him, to them gave He authority to become the children of God, even to them that believe in His name,’ but His Sonship stands unique and unapproachable, though it is the foundation from which flows all the sonship of the whole family in heaven and in earth. Moses and the prophets, teachers and guides, Apostles and Helpers, they are all but the servants of the family; this is the Son through whom we receive the adoption of sons.
III. We have in this great discourse the authority of One who is absolute Lord and Master over men.
‘Not every one that saith unto me, Lord! Lord! shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord! Lord! have we not prophesied in Thy name, and in Thy name done many wonderful works?’ ‘Whoso heareth these sayings of Mine, and doeth them, I will liken him to a wise man, which built his house upon a rock.’
Jesus Christ here comes before the whole race, and claims an absolute submission. His word is to control, with authoritative and all-comprehensive scrutiny and power, every aim of our lives, and every action. In His name we may be strong, in His name we may cast out devils, in His name we may do many wonderful works. If we build upon Him we build upon a rock; if we build anywhere else we build upon the sand.
Strange, outrageous claims for a man to make! ‘Give me the Sermon on the Mount, and keep your doctrinal theology,’ say people. But I want to know what kind of morality it is that is all traceable up to this-’Do as I bid you, My will is your law; My smile is your reward; to obey Me is perfection.’ I think that takes you a good long way into ‘theology.’ I think that the Man who said that-and you all know that He said it-must he either a good deal more or a good deal less than a perfect man. If He is only that He is not that; for if He is only that, He has no business to tell me to obey Him. He has no business to substitute His will for every other law; and you have no business-and it will be at the peril of your manhood if you do-to take any man, the Man Christ or any other, as an absolute example and pattern and master.
My brethren, Christ’s claim to absolute obedience rests upon His divine nature and on His redeeming work. He has delivered us from our enemies, and therefore He commands us. He has given Himself for us, and therefore He has a right to say, ‘Give yourselves to Me.’ He is God manifest in the flesh, and therefore absolute power becomes His lips, and utter submission is our dignity. To say to Him ‘Lord, Lord,’ carries us whole universes beyond saying to Him, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’
IV. And now, lastly, we have in this great discourse the authority of our Lord set forth as being the authority of Him who is to be the Judge of the world.
‘Then will I profess unto you I never knew you; depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.’ He, the meek, the humble, who never claimed for Himself anything except what His consciousness compelled Him to assert, who desired only that men should know Him for what He was, because it was their life so to know Him, here declares that the whole world is to be judged by Him, that He has such knowledge of men as will pierce beneath the surface of professions and will be undazzled by the most stupendous miracles, and beneath the eloquent words of many a preacher and the wonderful works of many a so-called Christian philanthropist, will see the hidden rottenness that they never saw, and, tearing down the veil, will reveal men at the last to themselves.
That is no human function, that is no work that belongs to a mere teacher, pattern, martyr, sage, philosopher, or saint. That is a divine work; and the authority of Him whose final word to each of us will settle beyond appeal our fate, and reveal beyond cavil our character, is a divine authority. He has a right to command because He is going to judge; and the lips that declare the law are the lips that will read the sentence.
So, my brethren, do you take the whole Christ for yours, the Son of God, the crown and end of revelation, the sinless and the perfect, who died on the Cross for our salvation, and loves and pities, and is ready to help every one of us; who, therefore, commands us with an absolute authority, and who one day comes to be our Judge? If you turn to Him and ask Him, ‘Art Thou He that should come?’ let Him speak for Himself, and He will answer you: ‘I that speak unto thee am He.’ When He asks each of us, as He does now, ‘Whom sayest thou that I am?’ oh that we may all answer, with the assent of our understandings, with the love of our hearts, with the submission of our wills, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’Matthew 7:28-29. And the people were astonished at his doctrine — Struck with wonder, having never heard such doctrine before, nor any doctrine on religious subjects, delivered with such solemnity and sweetness, or with such force and energy. Christ’s words, it appears, made a wonderful impression on their minds. For he taught them as one having authority — With a dignity and majesty peculiar to himself, as the great lawgiver, and with the demonstration and power of the Spirit; and not as the scribes — Their established teachers, “whose lectures, for the most part, were absolutely trifling; being drawn from tradition, or from the comments of other doctors, which these ignorant and corrupt teachers substituted in the place of Scripture, reason, and truth.” — Macknight.
As one having authority, and not as the scribes - The scribes were the learned people and teachers of the Jewish nation, and were principally Pharisees. They taught chiefly the sentiments of their Rabbis, and the traditions which had been delivered; they consumed much of their time in useless disputes and "vain jangling." Jesus was open, plain, grave, useful, delivering truth as "became" the oracles of God; not spending his time in trifling disputes and debating questions of no importance, but confirming his doctrine by miracles and argument; teaching "as having power," as it is in the original, and not in the vain and foolish manner of the Jewish doctors. He showed that he had authority to explain, to enforce, and to "change" the ceremonial laws of the Jews. He came with authority such as no "man" could have, and it is not remarkable that his explanations astonished them. From this chapter we may learn,
1. The evil of censorious judging, Matthew 7:1-5. We cannot see the heart. We have ourselves possibly greater faults than the persons that we condemn. They may possibly be of a different kind; but it is nevertheless not uncommon for persons to he very censorious toward faults in others, which they have to much greater extent themselves.
2. We see how we are to treat people who are opposers of the gospel, Matthew 7:6. We are not to present it to them when we know they will despise it and abuse us. We should, however, be cautious in forming that opinion of them. Many people may be far more ready to hear the gospel than we imagine, and a word seasonably and kindly spoken may be the means of saving them, Proverbs 25:11; Ecclesiastes 11:6. We should not meet violent and wicked opposers of the gospel with a harsh, overbearing, and lordly spirit - a spirit of dogmatizing and anger; nor should we violate the laws of social contact under the idea of "faithfulness." Religion gains nothing by outraging the established laws of social life, 1 Peter 3:8. If people will not hear us when we speak to them kindly and respectfully, we may be sure they will not when we abuse them and become angry. We harden them against the truth, and confirm them in the opinion that religion is of no value. Our Saviour was always mild and kind, "and in not a single instance did he do violence to the laws of social intercourse, or fail in the respect due from one man to another." When with harshness people speak to their superiors; when they abuse them with unkind words, coarse epithets, and unfeeling denunciations; when children and youth forget their station, and speak in harsh, authoritative tones to the aged, they are violating the very first principles of the gospel - meekness, respect, and love. Give honor to whom honor is due, and be kind, be courteous.
3. Christ gives special encouragement to prayer, Matthew 7:7-11. Especially his remarks apply to the young. What child is there that would not go to his parent and ask him for things which were necessary? What child doubts the willingness of a kind parent to give what he thinks will be best for him? But God is more willing to give than the best parent. We need of "him" gifts of far more importance than we ever can of an earthly father. None but God can forgive, enlighten, sanctify, and save us. How strange that many ask favors of an "earthly" parent daily and hourly, and never ask of the Great Universal Father a single blessing for time or eternity!
4. There is danger of losing the soul, Matthew 7:13-14. The way to ruin is broad; the path to heaven is narrow. People naturally and readily go in the former; they never go in the latter without design. When we enter on the journey of life, we naturally fall into the broad and thronged way to ruin. Our original propensity, our native depravity, our disinclination to God and religion, lead us to that, and we never leave it without effort. How much more natural to tread in a way in which multitudes go, than in one where there are few travelers, and which requires an effort to find it! And how much danger is there that we shall continue to walk in that way until it terminates in our ruin! No one is saved without effort. No one enters on the narrow way without design; no one by following his natural inclination and propensities. And yet how indisposed we are to effort! how unwilling to listen to the exhortations which would call us from the broad path to a narrower and less frequented course! How prone are people to feel that they are safe if they are with the many, and that the multitude that attend them constitute a safeguard from danger!
"Encompassed by a throng,
On 'numbers' they depend;
They say so many can't be wrong,
And miss a happy end."
Yet did God ever spare a guilty city because it was large? Did he save the army of Sennacherib from the destroying angel because it was mighty? Does he hesitate to cut people down by the plague, the pestilence, and by famine, because they are numerous? Is he deterred from consigning people to the grave because they swarm upon the earth, and because a mighty throng is going to death? So in the way to hell. Not numbers, nor power, nor might, nor talent will make that way safe; nor will the path to heaven be a dangerous road because few are seen traveling there. The Saviour knew and felt that people are in danger; and hence, with much solemnity, he warned them when he lived, and now warns us, to strive to enter in at the narrow gate.
5. Sincerity is necessary in religion, Matthew 7:15-23. Profession is of no value without it. God sees the heart, and the day is near when He will cut down and destroy all those who do not bring forth the fruits of righteousness in their lives. If in anything we should be honest and sincere, surely it should be in the things of religion. God is never deceived Galatians 6:7, and the things of eternity are of too much consequence, to be lost by deluding ourselves or others. We may deceive our fellowmen, but we do not deceive our Maker; and soon He will strip off our thin covering, and show us as we are to the universe. If anything is of prominent value in religion, it is "honesty" - honesty to ourselves, to our fellow-men, and to God. Be willing to know the worst of your case. Be willing to be thought of, by God and people, "as you are." Assume nothing which you do not possess, and pretend to nothing which you have not. Judge of yourselves as you do of others - not by words and promises, but by the life. Judge of yourselves as you do of trees; not by leaves and flowers, but by the fruit.
6. We may learn the importance of building our hopes of heaven on a firm foundation, Matthew 7:24-27. No other foundation can any man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ, 1 Corinthians 3:11. He is the tried Corner Stone, 1 Peter 2:6; Ephesians 2:20. On an edifice raised on that foundation the storms of persecution and calamity will beat in vain. Hopes thus reared will sustain us in every adversity, will remain unshaken by the terrors of death, and will secure us from the tempests of wrath that shall beat upon the guilty. How awful, in the day of judgment, will it be to have been deceived! How dreadful the shock to find then that the house has been built on the sand! How dreadful the emotions, to see our hopes totter on the brink of ruin; to see sand after sand washed away, and the dwelling reel over the heaving deep, and fall into the abyss to rise no more! Ruin, awful and eternal ruin, awaits those who thus deceive themselves, and who trust to a name to live, while they are dead.
7. Under what obligations are we for this "Sermon on the Mount!" In all languages there is not a discourse to be found that can be compared with it for purity, and truth, and beauty, and dignity. Were there no other evidence of the divine mission of Christ, this alone would be sufficient to prove that he was sent from God. Were these doctrines obeyed and loved, how pure and peaceful would be the world! How would hypocrisy be abashed and confounded! How would impurity hang its head! How would peace reign in every family and nation! How would anger and wrath flee! And how would the race - the lost and benighted tribes of people, the poor, and needy, and sorrowful - bend themselves before their common Father, and seek peace and eternal life at the hands of a merciful and faithful God!See Poole on "Matthew 7:29".
The people were astonished at his doctrine; it being something new, and unheard of, what they had not been used to; and coming in the demonstration of the Spirit, and of power, it carried its own evidence along with it, wrought conviction in their minds, and obliged them to acknowledge the truth of it.And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine:
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Matthew 7:28. Καὶ ἐγένετο] וַיְהִי. Winer, p. 565 [E. T. 760].
ἐπί] as throughout the New Testament. In classical Greek the usual construction is with the dat., sometimes with the acc., and more rarely with ἐπί (Xen. Cyrop. i. 4. 27; Polyb. v. 48. 3, ii. 3. 3, al.). The discourse, which has been listened to with deep and unwearied attention, having now been brought to a close, there follows an outburst of astonishment, “quod nova quaedam majestas et insueta hominum mentes ad se raperet,” Calvin. This in answer to Köstlin, p. 77, Holtzmann, who regard this statement as borrowed from Mark 1:22.Matthew 7:28. Concluding statement as to the impression made by the discourse. A similar statement occurs in Mark 1:22; Mark 1:27, whence it may have been transferred by Matthew. It may be assumed that so unique a teacher as Jesus made a profound impression the very first time He spoke in public, and that the people would express their feelings of surprise and admiration at once. The words Mark puts into the mouth of the audience in the synagogue of Capernaum are to the life (vide comments there). They saw, and said that Christ’s way of speaking was new, not like that of the scribes to which they had been accustomed. Both evangelists make the point of difference consist in “authority”.Matthew 7:28. Συνετέλεσεν, concluded) The Lord did nothing abruptly: see ch. Matthew 11:1, Matthew 19:1, Matthew 26:1.—ἐξεπλήσσοντο, were astonished) The attractions of true teaching are genuine; those of profane, futile. You may wonder, perhaps, why our Lord did not in this discourse speak more clearly concerning His own Person. But (1) He explained His teaching so excellently, that from thence His auditors might judge of the excellence of the Prophet who thus taught; (2) His person had been already sufficiently declared; (3) in the discourse itself, He sufficiently intimates who He is, namely, “He that cometh,” i.e., the Son of God, the Judge of all; see ch. Matthew 5:11; Matthew 5:17; Matthew 5:22, Matthew 7:21-27.
 e.g. Matthew 3:17.—(I. B.)
 See ch. Matthew 11:3.—(I. B.)Verses 28, 29. - The impression produced on the multitudes. With the exception of the formula, "It came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings" (cf. Matthew 11:1, note), the words are almost identical with Mark 1:22 (Luke 4:31, 32), but the time is, as it seems, later. The oral statement of an impression which was probably often produced is affirmed of slightly different times. Verse 28. - Sayings; Revised Version, words (ver. 24, note). The people; Revised Version, the multitudes (οἱ ὄχλοι). In contrust to the scribes and ruling classes. Were astonished (cf. Acts 13:12). At his doctrine; at his teaching (Revised Version).
From ἐκ, out of, and πλήσσω, to strike. Often to drive one out of His senses by a sudden shock, and therefore here of amazement. They were astounded. We have a similar expression, though not so strong: "I was struck with this or that remarkable thing."
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