INSIGHTS FROM BONHOEFFER AND LEWIS ON THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT
Introduction to the Study:
Too few people, including conservative evangelical Christians, especially conservative evangelical Christians, understand what Christianity is really all about. Too often when you eaves drop in on a Christian's conversation about Christianity, they talk mainly about God: "God this...", "God that..." That is so unfortunate because the same conversation for all practical purposes could have been uttered by a Jew or a Muslim or a Unitarian, members of groups no one would confuse with Christianity.
What then is the essence of CHRISTianity? The first six letters of the word alone inform us about its major content, the person of CHRIST Himself. As we look at the introduction to this study, we will see that Christ is not simply the Savior of the world. Jesus didn't just come to save us. According to Luke 9:23 He has also called us to do what?
Before we look at the teachings of Christ in the Sermon on the Mount, we need first to nail down in our minds just who Jesus is and what His significance is for our lives. This look at the person of Christ will make the claims of Christ upon our lives in the Sermon much more significant.
THE PROLOGUE TO THE GOSPEL OF JOHN (John 1:1-18)
The first verse in the Gospel of John focuses on a certain concept, theme, thing, or person. According to John 1:1, what is the focal point of the Prologue to John (John 1:1-18): "In the beginning was the ___________ and the ______________ was with God and the ______________ was God"? This is the focal point of these first 18 verses in John 1.
The Identity of the Word
Two Reasons Jesus is Identified as the Word
Why, then, would John call Jesus "the Word"? Two reasons. First, According to John 1:3 what came THROUGH Jesus, the Word?
By this John is indicating that Jesus was the Agent of creation (John 1 is actually the Christian interpretation of Gen. 1). Now look at Gen. 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24. According to these verses what did God do in order to create the world?
According to John, Jesus is the word God spoke to create the universe. By this John means that Jesus is the AGENT of creation, that is, God the Father was the Architect who designed creation and Jesus, God the Son, was the Agent God used to do the actual creating. He was like our modern-day foreman or contractor who makes real the plans the architect draws up.
According to John, though, Jesus did not finish with creation once He finished creating. According to John 1:12, what does Jesus do for those who receive Him?
In other words, at the beginning of time, God spoke through Jesus and created all things; now in these last days He is speaking once again in Jesus and is re-creating all things. At first we were nothing more than mere creatures; now when we receive Christ, He transforms us into sons and daughters of God.
Lewis highlights this aspect in his writings. In the sixth book of The Chronicles of Narnia, he tells of a horse (Fledge) which was transported from our world into the new Narnia where Aslan (Jesus) dwells. When Fledge encounters Aslan, he is transformed from a mere horse into a winged horse which can now fly like the wind. In The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, Aslan breathes upon stone statues and turns them into fully-alive real men. "And that is Christianity is about. This world is a great sculptor's shop. We are the statues and there is a rumor going round the shop that some of us are some day going to come to life" (last paragraph, MC, Bk 4, Chapter 1).
The Sermon on the Mount is the list of instructions Jesus gives us to help us be transformed from mere horses into winged horses, from stone statues to real breathing people, from mere creatures into sons and daughters of God.
Jesus is not merely the Creator/Re-creator. According to John what else is the Word/Jesus doing: "In Him was life and the ________________ was the _____________ of men; and the Light _____________ in the darkness" (John 1:4-5a)?
As the Word, Jesus then communicates God to us. This we can understand and appreciate because we use words daily in order to communicate our thoughts and ourselves to other people. Jesus by His life, manner, and character communicated God perfectly to us.
Once we leave John 1:1-18 we never see Jesus spoken of as the Word, that is, as the way to express the thought that Jesus is God's communication of Himself to mankind. Instead, according to Karl Barth (Dietrich Bonhoeffer's mentor), John uses the word Jesus Himself used to label Himself as the revelation of God, "Son of God." As God's Son, He is the perfect revelation of God the Father because He is the spitting image of the Father Himself.
Two passages in particular illustrate this. In John 8 Jesus is debating with the Jewish religious leaders about His claims. The Jews claim that they are "children" of Abraham. Now Jesus does not deny that they are physically descended from Abraham; however, He does deny that they are true "spiritual children" of Abraham. What were they doing which shows that they are NOT true spiritual children of Abraham (John 8:39-40)?
Just how important was Jesus to Abraham?
Just how important was Jesus to Abraham?
Instead of Abraham being the true spiritual father of the Jewish leaders, who is their true spiritual father according to Jesus (John 8:44)?
What claim is Jesus making here? He is claiming that children are just like their parents. We know this by experience. Whenever a child does something bad, we claim that they are acting just like the other parent (not us)! We look at their facial, physical features and detect resemblances between them and one of their parents or grandparents, etc. This does not surprise us in the physical realm. It should even less surprise us in the spiritual realm. Look at a person's actions, Jesus claims, and you will be able to detect who their true spiritual father is: God the Father or Satan. Jesus as God's Son, as the ultimate child of God, is just like His Father.
Another instance in which Jesus links His sonship with His being the perfect revelation of God is found in John 14. After Philip asks Jesus to show them the Father just once, how does Jesus respond to Philip (14:9)?
As a result, because Jesus is the Word of God, the Son of God, the perfect and complete revelation of God, our response to Jesus is nothing less than our response to whom?
Please, do NOT confuse Jesus though with God the Father. They are NOT one and the same person. There are THREE persons in the Godhead, not one. Their oneness is not based upon them being one and the same person. In fact, there is something about Jesus which distinguishes Him today completely from the Father and the Spirit. What do you think that is?
Instead, their oneness is based upon a unity within the Godhead. We see traces of this kind of unity in people. In 2008 it looked like the Democratic Party was going to tear itself apart during the primary contest between Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama. Once Obama won the Democratic nomination, though, the Democratic Party came together and became "One" in their opposition to John McCain. That is the essence of Oneness in the Godhead, not there being only one person in the Godhead. (Another example of this can be found in John 10:27-30: unity based upon common, united function and goal.)
This is so important to remember because many times when we approach the Bible, we change the wonderful Protestant principle FROM "we are responsible for the way we interpret the Bible" TO "we can interpret it any way we want." This is where Dietrich Bonhoeffer kicks in: