The Sermon on the Mount as a call to action

Bible experts tell us that the Sermon on the Mount is the gospel in short form. There is certainly quite a lot of substance to it! In the space of very few pages, Jesus Christ describes what really matters for Christians: trusting in God and becoming a witness of His love!

“And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matthew 7: 28 –29). It was on the basis of this interesting Bible text that Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider preached in the congregation of Karlsruhe in Germany on Sunday 10 January 2021.

At the end of this great sermon of Jesus His listeners were “astonished”. “They were astonished at how He preached and amazed because this was something completely different. In terms of content, His sermon was completely new to the people. Many traditional ideas were reinterpreted, and the usual thought patterns were re-evaluated,” the Chief Apostle said as he described the historical record. For believing Jews, for example, it was a common notion that obedience went hand in hand with blessing. “If you are obedient, God will bless you. Then you will be rich and healthy, and you will prosper.” And then Jesus came along and turned all of those ideas on their head! He explained that it was impossible to measure God’s love for people by their lot in life or their circumstances, but rather by the salvation He has granted them. Jesus Christ described the poor, the small, and even those who suffer as “blessed”. This would have been something completely new for the Jewish population.

Imparting new values

But as the Chief Apostle confirmed, Jesus also interpreted the law differently. In the Sermon on the Mount we repeatedly find the construct: “You have heard that it was said… But I say to you…” He thus turned around the traditional understanding of the law, and in so doing explained to the people the most important law of all, namely to love God and one’s neighbour. For Jesus, it was all about the attitude of heart, not only one’s deeds, not only the rules. For Him the focus was on love for God and love for one’s neighbour.

A man of charisma

In his sermon Chief Apostle Schneider emphasised that Jesus must have been a man of great charisma, and then went on to inquire as to the source of this charisma. “First of all, it was rooted in His intimate relationship with God. He had absolute trust in God. This impressed the people, this special relationship with God, this uncomplicated and unconditional trust in God.” “Another thing that impressed them was His love for human beings,” he added. Just imagine: “Here is a man hanging from a cross. He is in suffering and about to die, and still He prays for His tormentors! He even cares about the fate of the evildoer hanging from the cross beside Him!” This was true love for His neighbour, and this impressed the people.

Jesus’ sense of mission was also impressive, noted the Chief Apostle. Again and again, He told the people, “I have been sent! I must fulfil my mission.” This demonstrates that His mission was more important to Him than His own person. This special charisma always amazed and overwhelmed the people.

What does all of this mean for us?

Toward the end of his sermon, Chief Apostle Schneider drew a comparison to the present day, and emphasised: “Let us believe and trust in the authority of Jesus Christ. We believe that we cannot measure God’s love for us by our fate, by our lot in life, or by our circumstances, but rather by the salvation He grants us. No matter the situation in which we happen to find ourselves, whether we are great or small, healthy or ill, rich or poor, no matter what: He grants us salvation! This is the true expression of His love. This is what we believe!”

“Such a faith will also be visible in our own charisma,” interjected the Chief Apostle. “Our lives revolve around God. We always align ourselves with Jesus Christ. Even in difficult times, He remains our example, our role model, and our reference.” Especially in our day, when things have become more difficult, one can feel how people react to this. “Already in the way they express themselves, many people have become more aggressive, and I ask myself whether a Christian should react like that.” Instead, we are supposed to love our neighbour. “This is also part of our own charisma. This too will be noticed by others.” Christians have been sent to bear witness of Jesus Christ: “Whether I happen to be seriously ill or in great need, or whether things are going well for me and I am very successful, I have been sent. I have a mission to fulfil. I am to be a witness for Jesus Christ.”

Article info


Peter Johanning
Chief Apostle, Divine service