Christ’s most famous sermon was his first – the Sermon on the Mount, which included the beatitudes or blessings. His first sermon presented the people with the heart of the kingdom of God. Taking the letter of the Law and giving it a heart and spirit. Then Jesus summed up the whole in what we call the Golden Rule:
“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you,
do ye even so to them:
for this is the law and the prophets.”
Then He admonished the people in entering the kingdom of God.
- “Enter ye in at the strait gate:
- for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction,
- and many there be which go in thereat:
- Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life,
- and few there be that find it.” Matthew 7:13-14
He warns them to be careful who they follow by leaving them with this question.
“Can the blind lead the blind? Shall they not both fall into the ditch?”
Fast forward three years and we hear Jesus’s last public sermon. In this message, He gives birth to a saying I’m sure many of us have said or alluded to: “Do as I say, not as I do.”
Jesus has entered Jerusalem hailed as King. He has cleansed the temple, healed a few blind and lame. A day or two has passed. Passover draws nearer. The cross is in view. To read the whole of his last message to the multitude see Matthew 23. Below are a few of his points addressed to those who are leading others into the ditch – those who have –
“shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.” Matthew 23:13
They are the scribes and Pharisees who –
“sit in Moses’ seat: Jesus says,
“All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do;
but, do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.”
Jesus describes them by their works.
- They lay heavy burdens on the people but won’t, “move them with one of their fingers.”
- They do to be seen of others.
- They desire the honor of being called rabbi, master, father.
In contrast, Christ makes us one with one Master and one Father:
- “all ye are brethren …
- call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.
- Neither be ye called masters for one is your Master, even Christ.
- But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant.
- And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased,
- and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.”
We are of the kingdom of heaven serving one another in brotherly love. We are those who have entered the narrow way.
Next He addresses those walking in the kingdom of this world, the scribes and Pharisees. His comments are harsh, pointed, and steeped in sadness. His first warning came because they knew better but chose the worst.
“therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.”
He then explains why.
- “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!
- For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith:
- these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.
- Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel…
- for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward,
- but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.
- Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men,
- but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.”
These have a heritage of killing the prophets and will continue to do so. Jesus will be the next Prophet they kill. They will cry for his blood to be on their hands. He cries for what could have been.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem,
thou that killest the prophets,
and stonest them which are sent unto thee,
how often would I have gathered thy children together,
even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings,
and ye would not!”
There are no sadder words to hear after been given the opportunity to enter the kingdom of God than, “and ye would not!”
If you haven’t already now is the time to –
“Enter ye in at the strait gate…
Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way,
which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”
Are you among the few who have found the way? Jesus is the way, the only way to the Father. Or are you one who will hear, “And ye would not!”
What message would you want to speak if you knew this was your last opportunity ?