(Sermon preached at Leytonstone, 18/9/16)
Did Jesus really come from God, as he claimed – he says in v 29, “I know him because I am from him and he sent me.” Can we believe that he is the one that God has appointed to be the Messiah, the Lord of all, whose kingdom shall never end? Can we trust him to do what the angel said before he was born, “he will save his people from their sins”? If Jesus is indeed who he claims to be, then his teaching has to be believed: he claimed to speak the truth about God and about what God was doing in the world, and how God wants us to behave. The sermon on the mount contains some very challenging teaching – was this really from God, or was Jesus just speaking on his own? How can we know?
v17: ‘If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.’
That’s interesting. Jesus doesn’t argue his case, he doesn’t defend his teaching, he doesn’t do a miracle to prove it all. What is important is not how clever we are, how good at theology, how well we know the Bible, how much we know about all the alternative views there are in the world. What matters is simply this: do we want to do God’s will? Or do we simply want a debate, or to satisfy our curiosity, knowing that in the end we will go our own way, living in whatever way we decide is best for us?
When I was a curate I went on a mission with a retired army officer, Major Bill Batt. He used to run missions in universities, towns and villages. He told the story of a mission in one university where a student kept on arguing with everything he said. Eventually he pointed out this verse to him: Jesus said, ‘if anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.’ Then Bill asked him, ‘If God exists, would you do his will?’ ‘Yes, I would.’ ‘Then I suggest you put him to the test. Say into the air, ‘God, if you exist, I want to do your will. Let me know whether Jesus comes from God or not.’ ‘Right, I’ll do that, no more discussion is needed.’ And off he went. Next evening he was back – ‘It worked! I’m convinced.’ He ended up becoming a bishop!
If Jesus’ teaching is from God, how does that matter to us? The answer is obvious – if his teaching is God’s teaching, then God wants us to pay attention, and to do what he says. But is that what we do? Do we know what Jesus teaches? Are we willing to put that teaching into practice, even when it is difficult or we feel we’d look silly or we’d have to change some parts of our lives or views? For instance, Do we forgive those who trespass against us? Do we love God with all our heart? Do we love our neighbours as ourselves? Do we love other Christians as Jesus loves us? Do we believe God loves us? Do we trust our heavenly Father to look after us when we make his kingdom and his righteousness our priority? Do we trust Jesus to put us right with God, to be our shepherd, guiding and looking after us? Do we believe that through Jesus we have eternal life? If we do, that’s great! But if not, let’s take time this evening, before we go to sleep tonight, to sort things out with God.