I remember my first formal sermon. It was on being ready for the final judgment. I still have the original notes, written in pen on the back of old style computer paper.
But if I had it to do over again, I’d preach from the beatitudes.
Because in the first formal sermon we have of Jesus, that’s what he began with. I do not think they are Jesus’ attempt to present some light opening comments. In those eight verses he would turn the world on its ear. It is quite evident those opening verses shocked his audience. It wasn’t the kind of sermon material they were used to hearing. They very likely thought it was a most “unscriptural” beginning. Perhaps that’s why Jesus followed up with: “Don’t think that I have come to get rid of the law and the prophets. I have come to fulfill them.” In essence, Jesus was saying: “These are what the law is really about.”
Dependence on God (poverty of spirit).
Seeing sin and the plight it brings (mourning).
Self-control and putting others first (meekness). Wanting to stand in God’s favor. Mercy, purity of heart, peacemaking – these are all the opening focus of Jesus’ sermon. They are really the foundation on which the rest of the sermon sits.
My second morning in Galilee found me at the traditional site of that sermon, now referred to as the “Mount of Beatitudes.” It’s a beautiful place overlooking the Sea of Galilee. As a slight breeze moved through the trees, I imagined myself sitting with the crowd as Jesus began this most significant of lessons. When Matthew began the first of what would be five teaching sections in his book, this is where he began. Those words remain the foundation for all Christian living.