Epistles to the Cyberchurch - Su Min

To: All
From: Su Min
Subject: Jesus Ministers

Dear friends,
let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not loves does not know God because God is love. This is how God showed his love for us: he sent his one and only son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:7-10)

And indeed it was this compassionate selfless love that Jesus demonstrated as he went through Galilee, teaching in the synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing the sick (Matt 4:23). This was to be the modus operandi of the itinerant teacher for the next three years, travelling about the countryside mainly on foot, teaching in the synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing the sick.

The account of his Galilean ministry stretches from Matt 4:12 to Matt 18:35. In Matt 19:1 we read Jesus left Galilee and went to the region of Judea, on the other side of the Jordan, on a journey to Jerusalem (Matt 20:17), passing through Jericho (Matt 20:29) where he healed two blind men, before his triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Matt 21:1-11). His teachings in Jerusalem are recorded in Matt 21:12- Matt 25:46. His betrayal, crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection are recorded in Matt 26:1- Matt 28:10. Matthew ends his gospel with the great commission where Jesus instructs his followers to spread the good news, to make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:16-20). Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples which are not recorded in this book (John 20:30). John in the last verse of his gospel states "Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. (John 21: 25)"

So Matt 4:23 begins the record of the peripatetic ministry of Jesus as he went through Galilee, teaching in the synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing the sick. News about him spread all over Syria (whose border lay 25 miles NE of Capernaum), and the people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those who were suffering severe pain, the demon possessed, the epileptics, the paralytics, and he healed them (Matt 4:24).

Large crowds came from near and far: Galilee, the immediate surrounding: the Decapalos, a federation of ten independent Greek cities occupying a large territory South of the sea of Galilee, East to the Jordan, under the protection of Syria: Jerusalem, 80 miles to the South of Capernaum: Judea, the country surrounding Jerusalem, and from the other side [the east] of Jordan, and the people followed him (Matt 4:25).

The Sermon on the Mount records a teaching session that goes on from Matt 5:1- Matt 7.29. It begins with Jesus seeing the crowds and going up a mountainside: after he had completed his teaching when he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him (Matt 8:1).

The actual location and mountain where the sermon took place remain indistinct. No one named mountain has been identified. But a picturesque hillside near Capernaum has a monastery dating back to 700 AD erected at a likely site over looking the sea of Galilee with the hill dropping way like a natural amphitheatre where thousands could have stood or sat to hear the rabbi teach. We were brought to this site during our Holy Land Pilgrimage 1994. It could well have been the site of the Sermon on the Mount. It might not have been. Nonetheless, either way it does not reduce by one jot the power of his teaching.

Jesus was a good teacher. He often used parables, hyperbole, to express profound truths. Being a good teacher, he must have repeated often what he taught to his disciples and to the peoples. His Sermon on the Mount must have been one great example of teaching that stuck in the mind of Matthew, who committed words to papyrus only some 30 years later. The "Sermon on the Plain" as recorded in Luke 6:17- 49 would with a similar setting, similar beginning and similar ending, probably be the same great session, seen from a different angle. Each gospel writer records the events as was important to them. No additional material would have been added in, but some teaching may have been left out from the documentation, based on the perspective of the gospel writer. On the other hand, there is no doubt that Jesus repeated various sections of his teachings over and over again at different times at different locations to same and to different listeners.

Who were his students, his audience, for the Sermon on the Mount? His disciples came to him and he began to teach them... (Matt 5:1-2) Looking at (a large crowd of) his disciples, he said...(Luke 6:20). The focus of his teaching was for his disciple: firstly, his 12 designated apostles (Luke 6:13) but also to a large crowd of other disciples (Luke 6:17), and then to a great number of people from all over Judea, Jerusalem, Sidon & Tyre the Decapolis & Perea, East of Jordan (Luke 6:17, Matt 5:24-25): more contemporarily, we must also consider every subsequent bible reader who has read the text of the Sermon on the Mount as an audience for Jesus as he went up the mountainside, sat down, and began to teaches: and even you, dear friend, connected to the Sermon on the Mount through an email link through cyberspace.

And what does Jesus say to his disciples, to the crowds and to you in the Sermon on the Mount? Four sections may be noted

  1. The Beatitudes: blessings of those who walk with God: Matt 5:3-16.
  2. Jesus teaches on the fulfilment of the law: Matt 5:17-48
  3. Practical instructions for saintly living: Matt 6:1- 7: 23
  4. A summary of his teaching and the response of those who heard: Matt 7:24-28.
We will end today by looking at the first beatitude as rendered in the Amplified: Jesus came to preach the need for repentance. He came to teach the danger of self pride. If we felt that we were spiritually rich we would feel no need to depend on God. If we recognised our sinfulness, our actual spiritual poverty, then Jesus say we will be blessed: happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous, with life joy and satisfaction in God's favour and salvation, regardless of our outward conditions, because God will honour our confession, he will fill our spiritual emptiness with the Holy Spirit. If we depend on our own strength, we are like the foolish man who built his house on the sands: the rain came down, the streams rose, the winds beat against the house and the house fell down with a great crash. If we are totally depend on God, He will not fail.

If we admit that we are poor in spirit God will bless us and admit us into the kingdom of heaven. This is God's word. And God's word is always true, yesterday, today and forever.

Let us pray.

For any comments or enquiries please write to Dr. Lim Su Min

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