Our Thursday posts focus on material from the New Testament. As part of our fourfold priority of history, integrity, truth, and Scripture we consider it important to read and review significant scholarly work with both the Old and New Testaments. Dr. Scaer’s analysis places the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew 5-7 in the first discourse of the Gospel. Here, the author introduces the themes to be developed later throughout the text.
Scaer, David P. Discourses in Matthew: Jesus Teaches the Church. St. Louis: Concordia, 2004. Kindle Electronic Edition.
Chapter 7, “The First Discourse: The Sermon on the Mount (5:1-7:28a)” Loc. 4315-5005.
Scaer briefly traces the history of interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount. “As the first of Matthew’s Five Discourses, the Sermon on the Mount has received more attention than any other comparably sized section of the Scriptures” (Scaer 2004, Loc. 4315). Interpreters often use it to prove their own points of view regardless of its context. It has often been viewed catechetically as a guide to Christian living (Scaer 2004, Loc. 4320). The demands have generally been seen as impossible, often contrasted to Paul’s Gospel-rich message, normally seen as bringing people to repentance (Scaer 2004, Loc. 4328). Scaer’s conclusion is that the Sermon on the Mount is too rich to be categorized narrowly. Therefore, he looks at the way the Sermon fits into the apparent catechetical structure that Matthew seems to have (Scaer 2004, Loc. 4349).
Scaer sees the Sermon as giving the catechumen a very specific Christology (Scaer 2004, Loc. 4372). The teachings which may appear impossible or moralistic turn out as descriptions of Jesus. The Sermon also “sets forth themes that are developed in the Gospel’s four remaining discourses and finally come to full expression in the Passion Narrative (Scaer 2004, Loc. 4384).
Scaer moves on to discuss the Beatitudes, from the opening of Matthew 5 (Scaer 2004, Loc. 4405). The lack of connecting vowels in the Beatitudes suggests to Scaer that they are indicative, not imperative, and would describe blessings which Christians could expect (Scaer 2004, Loc. 4415). Further, Jesus meets all the descriptions in the Beatitudes, so they can be seen as teaching on Christology (Scaer 2004, Loc. 4415). In the persecution to come, the Christians along with Christ serve as light and will face opposition (Scaer 2004, Loc. 4439). Jesus shows himself to be the one who fulfills the Old Testament, giving himself as a reference through whom we can understand the world (Scaer 204, oc. 4451). He then goes on to speak of the peace he makes between God and man, which Christians reflect in their peaceful relations (Scaer 2004, Loc. 4474). Jesus continues with various miscellaneous statements. These are unified by the impossible standards. We can never keep God’s standards adequately so we turn to him for forgiveness (Scaer 2004, Loc. 4497). In Matthew 5:38 Jesus turns back to the idea of reconciliation and mercy, which foreshadows his own work (Scaer 2004, Loc. 4520). As regards the instructions for worship in Matthew 6, Scaer reminds the reader that Matthew’s Gospel was read in the context of worship services. The teaching about worship and prayer seems right at home (Scaer 2004, Loc. 4543). The second half of Matthew 6 may be seen as Jesus’ exhortation to make converts and view life biblically bringing God’s will and kingdom on earth (Scaer 2004, Loc. 4590). Scaer identifies Matthew 6:25-34 as “The Little Sermon within the Sermon” (Scer 2004, Loc. 4625). This passage encourages believers that Jesus will care for them regardless of their strength or weakness. Scaer sees the last part of the Sermon, beginning at Matthew 7:1, as a collection of themes which have been stated or will be stated in the future (Scare 2004, oc. 4659). Scaer observes that many of the situations mentioned may well allude to the need to pursue discipline and order within the Church (Scaer 2004, Loc. 4670). In his comments on Matthew 7:12, Scaer observes that unlike similar statements in other religions which urge followers to refrain from evil, Jesus actually commands his followers to do the good they would like to receive (Scaer 2004, Loc. 4715). The Sermon concludes with a condemnation of false teaching and instruction to trust God’s lasting truth (Scaer 2004, Loc. 4728). This required close evaluation of messages, as Matthew 7:15-20 warns against false teachers who would deceive Jesus’ followers (Scaer 2004, Loc. 4762). Jesus’ warning to his followers is quite stern, especially in Matthew 7:21-23 (Scaer 2004, Loc. 4796). They must hear and do Jesus’ words. Those who claim authority on their own terms are cast out (Scaer 2004, Loc. 4715). In the end of the Sermon, Scaer compares the terminology of a “rock” and a “house” as well as the concept of building to other uses in Matthew (Scaer 2004, Loc. 4851). He concludes that the earliest readers would recognize this as an instruction not only for their personal lives but for the corporate life of the Church.
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