What’s the deal with all those yellow books in a lawyer’s office? Those collections of “case law,” decisions and precedents established by judges over many years, carry a lot of weight in how a new case gets decided. A lawyer refers to those precedents to back up his case in a trial. That is how the Bible was taught in Jesus’ day. A priest or teacher might have said, “A long time ago, Rabbi So and So gave this passage this particular interpretation and so I tell you, based on Rabbi So and So’s reputation as a wise man, this is what it means today.”
But not Jesus. Over and over again, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said… But I tell you…” It is hard for us to hear how blasphemous or heretical such a simple phrase sounded in those days.
“When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. “ (Matthew 7:28-29)
In effect, Jesus said, “All these opinions about what the Scripture means, all this human tradition you’ve been hearing, is misguided and weakened by ignorance. I speak directly for God!”
He still does.
That’s why the Sermon on the Mount retains its power after 2000 years. It comes to us directly from God. These words still challenge us, trouble us and shake us up. They also give us hope in the midst of life’s chaos and our own weakness.
Listen to Jesus’ teaching. Be amazed! Be humbled. Be drawn to Jesus.