Have you ever heard a great sermon and thought, “That is so right, and I’m going to do better next time”? Maybe you have even made promises to God only to find yourself later breaking them.
Israel responded that way many times, “All that the LORD has spoken, we will do!” (Exodus 19:8; 24:3), yet they rarely followed through with their promises. Is the Bible asking from us more than Israel’s response?
Consider a text in Matthew. The Sermon on the Mount has such force and beauty, but its call seems impossible. Jesus states mid-sermon, “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). Jesus here expounds the statements in Deuteronomy 18:13 and its parallel text in Leviticus 19:2.
Matthew saw the requirements of the law, and those requirements revealed his spiritual bankruptcy. He wanted to be perfect, but how?
The very next event in Matthew’s narrative is Jesus cleansing the leper (Matthew 8:2). Jackson Gravitt, a recent Bryan graduate, points out that this leper could not cure himself, so he came in his helplessness to Jesus. Matthew is connecting the impossible call of the Sermon and Jesus’s mercy to those who cannot cure themselves.
Jesus often tells people to do the impossible. He commands the rich young ruler, “Go sell all that you have . . . and come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21). When the disciples heard this they asked, “Who then can be saved” (19:25). Jesus acknowledges , “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (19:26). Elsewhere, Jesus affirms, “I am the vine; you are the branches, . . . apart from me, you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
Matthew was in the audience when Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount. That is why Matthew alone records almost 3 whole chapters of Jesus’s teaching that day. Notice carefully that the sermon was before Jesus called Matthew to be a disciple (Matthew 9:9).
Jesus saw God’s work in Matthew’s life. That is why he was willing to call him.
Jesus is the one who fulfills God’s law. He never sinned in thought, word or deed. Jesus loved His neighbor as Himself. Jesus loved God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength. The result is Jesus alone has earned the covenant blessings, and He freely gives those blessings to those coming helplessly to Him.
Jesus wants us to feel the conviction of sin, but He also wants us to know that He is the one who can cleanse us. He is the one who finds us and makes us men and women of whom the cosmos is not worthy.
May we ever hear the convicting word and come to Jesus.