It helps our appreciation of what the Sermon on the Mount is all about to put it in the larger context of Jesus’ earthly ministry.
The Sermon on the Mount took place around the area of the Sea of Galilee, in the Northeast of Israel, and in fact in some areas that today are part of Lebanon. Isaiah had prophesied, and Mathew recounts in 4:16 that 16 The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light, And those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, Upon them a Light dawned.”
Verse 12 tells us that this was also during the time when Jesus heard that John the Baptist had been arrested. John’s message was for everyone to repent, to turn back from their evil ways, so that they would be able to receive Jesus when He came. (Mathew 3:1-2). What is Jesus’ Message? Mathew 4:17 tells us: 17 From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The exact same message! The word for repent is the Greek verb metanoeó. (met-an-o-eh’-o), which means to change one’s mind or purpose, to “think differently afterwards”, to make a u-turn in the direction of one’s life.
Baptism is symbolic of the old life of sinfulness being over and a commitment to walk in newness of life. In Mathew 28:19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” emphasizes the importance of making disciples, but also the importance of this public declaration as a witness to others and as an event commemorating the new birth in Christ.
Repentance must come first, then the baptism. So, we see this consistency in the message of John the Baptist, and from Jesus and the Apostles.
In other words, Jesus’ ministry was to speak the words that God had for men about the Good News of salvation found in belief in Jesus as Lord and Savior, and trust in Jesus for eternal life.
God’s sovereign rule extends everywhere. But Earth is in rebellion.
It’s not exaggerating to say that the Kingdom of God was the heart of Jesus’ message in preaching.
The Pharisees were looking for future signs of the Kingdom of God coming, when Jesus was doing miracles all around them demonstrating that His coming was the coming of the Kingdom of God. Jesus is our perfect example of what living as a citizen of the Kingdom looks like, and He teaches us through His life, teachings, death, resurrection and revelation throughout the New Testament what it means to live as a follower in Christ, a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Jesus’ earthly ministry was directed toward telling people the Good News of the Gospel, that there WAS a way to be reconciled to God, and in teaching His disciples what it meant to be the recipients of this reconciliation–citizens of the Kingdom of God
The Sermon on the Mount is about Jesus, who said “You must be Born Again”, telling people what this new life in Christ looks like.
5 When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. 2 He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying, He’s up on a mountain and His disciples came to him and he’s directing this entire sermon toward His disciples. Now that they are chosen, Jesus must teach them what it means to be His followers, what it means to live their lives as Christians and what message that they are to teach others later. This is the first among the five discourses of Jesus, or sermons listed in Mathew. The Sermon on the Mount is foundational to what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. It exhorts us to apply His teachings to our lives, so that we can be rooted more deeply into our Foundation—God.