With Jesus having finished his sermon on the mount, Matthew adds these words to let us know the immediate effect the Jesus great talk had on those who heard him.
“And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.” Matthew 7:28-29 ESV.
No one had ever heard teaching like this before. “You have heard it said…but I say…” was Jesus’ letting all who would hear him know that he indeed had authority, the authority to override and expand upon the teachings of Moses, the teaching that had guided the Hebrew people during, through and since the Exodus. All the scribes and teachers before him could do was cite, or recite, the teachings of others who had come before them. But Jesus came boldly, declaring the kingdom of God had arrived in their midst. He was in effect saying “Watch and see that what I say is true. See for yourself the the reign and rule of God has come among ordinary human beings.”
Even during his earthly ministry, during his life as we know it, the decision for or against the rule of God hung together with the decision for or against himself. The presence of the logic, the logos, the incarnation and presence of Jesus among his creation, before and after his death and resurrection, means that God’s reign and rule is here now. The immediate expectation of the kingdom of God had (and still has) been fulfilled. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 ESV
For those hearing Jesus speak his sermon, the true son of God was present with them. Just as he is present with us. “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20 ESV. As C.S. Lewis puts it “The real Son of God is at your side. He is beginning to turn you into the same kind of thing as Himself. He is beginning, so to speak, to ‘inject’ His kind of life and thought, His Zoe [life], into you; beginning to turn the tin soldier into the live man. The part of you that does not like it is the part that is still tin.”
Jesus’ words and presence gave (and continues to give) many of his hearers faith to see that when he acted, God also acted. The rule of God was coming into play, the kingdom of God was at hand. They were aware of the invisible presence of God acting within the visible reality and action of Jesus. Not all who heard, or hear, believed. Not everyone will be aware of this invisible presence acting through our visible realities. As Jesus told Nicodemus that late night, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3 ESV. Not a physical birth, but a spiritual birth. The ability to see the world again as a child. ”Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 19:14 ESV. “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.” Luke 10:21 ESV.
Sometimes we’ve just become so wise and so smart that we just can’t see the kingdom of God. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” Colossians 1:15 ESV. “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,” Hebrews 1:3 ESV. The image of the invisible God, the exact imprint of his nature. When we see Jesus, we see God. We think we know so much, but we can’t even see his work in our own lives. He seems so far away to us, being seated at the right hand of the father, that we think he just can’t be with us always.
But the thing we miss is that, yes, Jesus is both at the right hand of the Father, having power and dominion over all the nations, and is with you always, to the end of the age. Because heaven is not a far away destination to which we are going. Heaven is not some place out there, “turn right at the Hubble telescope, take the left at the second moon of Saturn, and just fly straight to the fifth galaxy, and you’ve come to the kingdom of heaven!” No, the kingdom of heaven is at hand. I don’t understand it, it is beyond all my powers of comprehension. I am not meant to understand it. The only way for me to perceive it at all is to be born again and see it as one of the little children. Because God, creator of the universe, is the creator. He made creation, he is immersed in creation. But he is not a part of his creation. This is why we will never, empirically, be able to prove or disprove the existence of God. Because just as we might create a swimming pool, and immerse ourselves in that pool, we will never be a part of that pool. So it is with God, and Jesus His only son. They created, but they are not part of creation. This us the profundity of the incarnation of Christ, that he came and joined us, joined in his creation, became a part of us.
The kingdom of heaven is at hand. He is seated at the right hand of the father, and is with you always. Yes, he is both, at the same time, right here and right now. We will never be able to prove, He can not be measured as part of creation. He is creator, not created. He is the one who was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. The one with all authority under heaven and on earth.
“And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.”
Matthew 7:28-29 ESV