Clearing a Path to the Sermon on the Mount

Tales of a Rotten Tree, by Ellise Rottenwood

John, the one who baptized people, including Jesus, was a prophet. John dressed like Elijah, but he was referred to as “the Elijah that was to come” more for his message than his appearance.

Elijah challenged those who had the lineage of Abraham, including the rooted reminder that being be blessed was a call to be a blessing to all others. Where hypocrisy and corruption showed up Elijah spoke up. Where faith in God’s graciousness was expressed he shared blessings, both given and received. John does the same.

Come Out and Clean Up

“Change your hearts; for the Kingdom of the heavens has drawn near.” — John the Baptizer (Mt. 3:1)

People went into the water as a response to his call. They confessed their sins as they expressed their faith in this Kingdom of the heavens. The exodus of so many people from where they were to this wilderness caught the attention of the teachers of Torah. They came out as well, but John did not receive them as graciously; he called them a bunch of poisonous serpents.

Can People Be Bad?

A Fruitless Life Is not Good

“So every good tree produces good fruits, but the diseased tree produces bad fruits.” — Jesus (Mt. 7:17)

The question of whether something is a good one of those, or not, depends on what something is intended to do. A good orchard is one filled with trees that produce good fruit. A good person, we will find out in increasing detail, is someone who produces gracious acts out of their character which is fed by God’s graciousness.

So, how do I figure out if I am a good… tree?

“If Jesus was to tell another parable like that of the Good Samaritan using me as one of the characters, would that character be a warning or an encouragement?”

The likely answer, at least the healthy-sounding answer, is that I am not as sure about that as I’d like to be. Such is the kind of posture the people who came out to get cleaned up had; a posture of humility infused with hope. We look to our shortcomings not to despise ourselves, but to find fresh ways to be renewed and to flourish. That is what John wanted for those who heard him, and that is why Matthew included him this way in the build-up to Jesus’ most foundational teaching. We are now following their lead.

Crown Heart World will meet by zoom at 3:30 CST to discuss these ideas more in preparation for a deep dive into the practical and productive use of the Sermon on the Mount.

More about the Tree metaphor for life:

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