Expository Sermon on Matthew 5 – 7
by Maylan Schurch
Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church 6/20/2020
©2020 by Maylan Schurch

(To watch the YouTube presentation of the entire worship service, click the link just below. The sermon starts at the 53:10 mark)

Please open your Bibles to Matthew chapter 5.

Before we go any further, I would like to show you a photo which is very important to me.

This is the only photo I have of dad and me together when I was a preschooler. I don’t know exactly, but I must have been one or two years old at this time. Dad was probably 29 or 30. At that time, he worked at a grain mill downtown, and we lived in a small two-story house on First Street East in Redfield, South Dakota.

My folks were still attending the Wesleyan Methodist Church a few blocks away, where Dad was the treasurer and Mom the youth leader. Mom was teaching kindergarten at the public school.

Dad was one of those post-World War II workaholic fathers who had earnestly and subconsciously vowed that their kids would never have to suffer the poverty they had gone through in the Great Depression. He had only attended high school for one week, and then had gone back to help on the farm, so he didn’t even have a high school diploma. He always felt greatly inferior because of that.

But he was a wonderful dad. He and mom both spent a lot of time in prayer. They were not religious freaks by any means, but both tried to be Christlike not only to people outside the house but to their own family. They would go on to have three more children – another boy and two girls – and we had very happy childhoods. Whatever happened at school, whatever bully might threaten me, I always knew that our home was a sanctuary, where mom and dad loved me. I never had to escape from my home to find comfort and understanding. It was right there.

If we had printed a church bulletin today, and if you are the kind of person who hunts up the sermon title and tries to guess what it might be about, you would see that today’s title is Jesus’ Parental Pronouns.”

As you might remember from English class, a pronoun is a word which stands for a noun. Instead of saying, “Joe swung the bat. Joe hit ball. Joe ran around the bases,” you would mix things up a bit by saying, “Joe swung his bat, he hit the ball, and he ran around the bases.” And instead of saying, “Joe swung Joe’s bat,” you’d say “Joe swung his bat.”

Anyway, we’re going to see some pronouns in today’s sermon. If you’re like me, you probably know Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount fairly well, at least the ideas that are contained in it. But this week as I was reading through it again, it struck me that there is an extremely powerful sub-message which is going on behind these Beatitudes and salt and light stories. And that’s sub-message is told mainly with the pronouns.

Let me show you what I mean. Let’s just start right off at the top.

Matthew 5:1 – 7 [NKJV]: And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.

So far, so good. All very familiar. But I hadn’t realized until this week what a jolt the next verse might have given your average Jewish listener to that sermon. Watch this.

Verse 8: Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.

When you’re a little kid memorizing the Beatitudes – as I did a few years after the photo you saw – you singsong your way through those Beatitudes without really thinking about how shocking they are. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see . . . God?

I wonder if people turned to each other in that first Sermon on the Mount audience, and I wonder if they whispered, “Is He sure about that? Is seeing God really something that would be good for me? I thought that nobody could look upon God and live.”

And then they would miss hearing the next couple of Beatitudes as they were remembering how God appeared at the top of Mount Sinai, and how when Moses descended from that mountain after talking with God, his face glowed with a brilliant light.

And later, on the Amount of Transfiguration, Jesus would meet with Moses and Elijah on another mountaintop, and Jesus’ own clothes would glow with the glory of God.

So here’s where Jesus’ teachings get very interesting and maybe even unsettling. Jesus is not talking about a God we will contemplate from a safe distance, a God of the mind only, a God we can take off the shelf to study for a while, and then close the covers and put Him back.

No, Jesus insists that the people who are pure in heart will eventually see God face-to-face. And the next verse contains a shocker too.

Verse 9: Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.

And of course “daughters of God.” “Children of God” is the way the New Revised Standard Version translates it.

I believe that one of the things Jesus was doing in this sermon was planting the idea that it is a good thing for God to come close to us. It shouldn’t be scary, it shouldn’t be worrisome.

A few verses later, Jesus introduces a pronoun. And when we get to this particular verse, we are going to slow ‘way down. We need to try to forget the quick little singsongy way we memorized these verses, and really read them again, maybe for the first time!

In the next few verses, Jesus talks about rejoicing when you are persecuted for Jesus’ sake, about being the salt of the earth, and the light of the world. And then comes verse 16.

Verse 16: Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify . . . .

Here comes Jesus’ next step in drawing us closer to God. Who is He going to tell everybody to “glorify” by letting their light shine?

He could’ve simply said “that they may see your good works and glorify God.” That would have met the case. Or Jesus could have used one of the many wonderful and meaningful names of God in the Old Testament, such as Elohim, El Elyon (Most High God), Adonai (Lord, Master), El Shaddai, El Olam (the Everlasting God), Jehovah Jireh (the Lord will provide), Jehovah Shalom, Jehovah Sabaoth (the Lord of Hosts), — all deeply reverent names of God.

There are many more, and they all have deep significance — and those who were listening Him that day on the mountain probably knew them all.

But Jesus sets aside all those names, and uses one which is far more familiar.

Verse 16: Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father . . . .

You might have noticed that I just jumped over a pronoun. We’ll come back to it. But in the Greek, the noun often comes first, and the adjective follows it, just as in some other languages, such as Spanish. Jesus literally says “glorify Father your.”

I wonder what happened when Jesus called God “Father”? Did little children turn their faces up, and look questioningly into their dads’ eyes?

Did the fathers feel a tingle of amazement behind their sternums as they learned a breathtaking insight about God? God is like a Father? God is something like me? Does God really care for His children the same way I care for mine? Does He worry about us?

Actually, the idea of God being a Father wasn’t new to people who knew their Old Testament. In First Chronicles 29:10, King David has just finished gathering supplies so that his son Solomon can eventually build God a temple. David offers a prayer, and it starts like this: “Blessed are You, LORD God of Israel, our Father, forever and ever.”

In Psalm 68:5, David said this: “A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, Is God in His holy habitation.”

Sadly, the Pharisees and many of the other religious leaders had created a cavernous distance between God and humanity. They seem to have deemphasized the love of God, and magnified His wrath and anger, an anger which could only be appeased by everybody carefully following all the legalistic rules.

Right now, let’s lay down the first sermon point here. Even before we get to the first pronoun, what is Jesus saying about God?

Jesus is saying, “God isn’t an alien! He’s a Dad!”

And that, of course, is glorious good news, not only to the fathers, but to the mothers and to everyone else.

And by the way, as you know, no father is perfect. Some people have a hard time thinking of God as a father because of what their own fathers may have done to them, or not done for them. This is a good time to mention another of David’s Psalm-verses, Psalm 27:10: “When my father and my mother forsake me, Then the LORD will take care of me.”

Some of you might remember this in the old King James version: “When my father and my mother forsake me, and the Lord will take me up.” I got a happy surprise when I looked at the New Revised Standard Version– it translates this verse and almost exactly the same way: “If my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will take me up.”

So if your earthly father seemed to forsake you, you have a Heavenly Father who never will. Let’s let our loving God redefine fatherhood for us.

Well, I promised you pronouns, and now, here comes the first one. Remember, in the Greek it goes like this: Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify Father your . . . .

I was raised on the King James version of the Bible. The Revised Standard Version was around, but nobody read it much, because it seemed to change things from the King James. Back in those days earnest Christians didn’t really appreciate their Bible language being freshened up.

Nowadays, of course, we understand that it’s a good thing to have careful Bible translations in contemporary English rather than 400-year-old English. You might be surprised to learn that even back when it was translated, King James English was not what the average person on the street spoke.

If you want to know what the average person on the street spoke quite, read one of Shakespeare’s plays and find where the clown shows up, or the Jester, or in the case of Hamlet, the two gravediggers. They talk very much the way you and I do – but not like the King James Bible.

Anyway, why do I bring up the King James? Because it is very valuable as you read pronouns in the Sermon on the Mount. In modern English, the word “your” can be either singular or plural. If you say to somebody, “Can I borrow your pen?” it’s singular. You’re talking to an individual person. But upstairs in the Fellowship Hall, when I say in a loud voice, “May I have your attention, please?” the “your” is plural. I’m talking to a lot of people, and I mean them all.

But if you’re reading King James, you can easily tell what’s plural and what’s singular. If I were using King James English, I would say, “May I borrow thy pen?” “Thy” is singular. But if I were up in the Fellowship Hall and I said, in King James English, “May I borrow your pen?” everybody would look around at me and feel in their shirt pockets, because “your” is plural.

Anyway, this word “your” is plural. (The New King James Bible doesn’t distinguish between singular and plural pronouns the way the old King James did.)

So why do I bring this up? Jesus spoke to all these people about “your Father.” In the South, you might say, “Y’all’s Father.” It’s plural.

In other words, God isn’t just Maylan Schurch’s father. He’s the Father of all of us.

In fact, let’s make that Sermon Point Two.

Jesus is not only saying, “God isn’t an alien! He’s a Dad!” He’s also saying, “God is a Father to all of you.”

So why is that so important? One reason it’s so important is that I need to be careful that I don’t judge people who believe differently than I do. The Baptist Church down the street believes the Bible in a slightly different way than the Adventist church does. The Neighborhood Church up the street has some slightly different beliefs from both Adventist and Baptist. The Mormon church about six blocks east of here has still different beliefs. And right beside the Mormon church is the site of the Islamic prayer center which will eventually be rebuilt right there.

Now I would never leave the Seventh-day Adventist church to become a Baptist, or a member of the Neighborhood Church, or a Mormon, or a Muslim.

And I need to hold myself ready to introduce these people, or anyone else, to the wonderful joys of the Sabbath, the wonderful joys of knowing what happens when you die, the wonderful joys of being a good steward of your body and mind, and so on.

But I must remember that God is the father of these people as well. His Holy Spirit is working on their hearts the way he is on mine. We need to pray for ourselves and everyone else that we will come to know the Lord more clearly.

And of course, that’s one of the things Jesus was trying to do in the sermon on the Mount—teach us about the Heavenly Father and how His kingdom works.

And now let’s look at maybe the most powerful pronoun Jesus ever used. He gives us strong hints, especially in the book of John, that this pronoun might have been one of His favorites.

So far we’ve looked at the pronoun “your.” Throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus will often talk about “your Father in heaven.”

But now let’s look at the famous prayer He taught us to use as a prayer model. It’s in Matthew 6, and Jesus leads up to it by insisting that we should not pray in a showing-off way. We don’t need to use a lot of words, and we don’t need to pray using exalted language. And what may have been Jesus’ favorite pronoun shows up in the first two words of the Lord’s Prayer.

Matthew 6:9: In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven . . . .

The pronoun “our” means “yours and mine.” This is our church. It’s not my church alone, or your church, or the conference’s church, but our church.

Why do I think this might have been Jesus’ favorite pronoun? Because He lived it out every day of His earthly life. He lived it out in heaven before He came to earth. When He said “Our Father,” He wasn’t saying, “Human family, God is your Father.” He was including Himself in the pronoun “our.”

And when you and I pray “Our Father,” we are automatically including more than just us, more than just me, in our prayers.
Some of the greatest Old Testament patriarchs knew how to pray “our” prayers. Listen to the first part of Daniel’s prayer of intercession for the Jewish nation, in Daniel 9:

Daniel 9:3 – 5: Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. And I prayed to the Lord my God, and made confession, and said, “O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments.

And Daniel’s prayer goes on, along those lines, for over half the chapter. It’s an “our” prayer. Even though Daniel himself stayed true to God, and didn’t cave in to the temptations he is confessing, he was praying an “our” prayer—he had his nation on his heart.

Nehemiah prayed exactly the same kind of “our” prayer in Nehemiah 1. In verse 7, he prays, “We have acted very corruptly against You, and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses.”

After all, Jesus took our sins upon Himself—the ultimate “our” action. “He was wounded for our transgression. He was bruised for our iniquities.”

So when we pray, we need to remember to pray “our” prayers. The entire Lord’s Prayer is an “our” prayer—“Forgive us our debts . . . Give us this day our daily bread. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

How do you pray an “our” prayer? Just remember to bring other people into it rather than just yourself. Rather than just pray that you yourself will have patience as we work through the pandemic, pray for other people too—your neighborhood, your work companions, your relatives. Always keep widening your prayer focus. And pray that the Holy Spirit will give you energy to do this.

Because one of the main themes of Jesus’ longer, out-loud prayer in John 17 is His joyous desire that we all come into unity, unity which includes heaven and earth.

Let’s turn to the last part of that great prayer, John 17, starting with verse 20. This is where Jesus is praying not for Himself, not for the 12 disciples. He’s already prayed those prayers.

Now, literally, He prays for us. And remember, as He prays this prayer, He is minutes from Gethsemane, just an hour or two from His capture, and less than nine hours from His death by crucifixion.

And notice all the pronouns—“they,” “I,” “you,” “we,” “us.” This is the prayer of the One who loves you more than anyone else—literally loved you to death.

John 17:20 – 26: “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”

Isn’t that the ultimate “our” prayer, the ultimate “us” prayer?

And don’t you want to do what you can, pray what you can, to help answer Jesus’ prayer?