“the crowds were amazed at his teaching” Matthew 7:28b
With the words of Jesus completed, Matthew now reflects on the reaction of the crowds he had just been speaking to. Quite simply, they were amazed. There were probably a number of reasons, but the one singled out is their sense of his authority, which contrasted sharply to the way that their religious teachers regularly taught them. They knew that he was different, that there was a weightiness to his teaching, and they couldn’t help but marvel.
In the sermon, Jesus had words for the hypocrisy of religious leaders, and throughout Matthew’s gospel the teachers of the law are not depicted favorably, especially as they partnered with the Pharisees and others to test Jesus and ultimately put him to death. But we don’t even need to see them mentioned here as nefarious—certainly many of these teachers of the law were diligent, faithful men, who wanted to honor God. What Matthew wants us to see, and what the crowds saw, was that Jesus wasn’t just different than pious hypocrites, he was also teaching qualitatively differently than even good men.
Now that you have reached the end of this journey through the Sermon, take note of your own impressions. Maybe this is the very first time you’ve read it all the way through: what did you learn? Did anything surprise you? Or perhaps you’ve encountered these words many times. Was there any teaching or aspect that struck you in a new way?
It’s especially important for us to reflect on the person of Jesus. Though his words are full of wisdom, and his ethics are worth writing volumes about, to only sift through the teachings and wonder at them is to miss the point. You can do all that without having a relationship with him, without opening your heart to him and knowing him as a friend. This would be a deep sadness, a falling into some of the same hypocrisy Jesus so expertly exposed.
It’s telling that though these crowds marvel, we don’t get an indication that they entered into true discipleship. Later in Matthew, it is similar crowds who cheer Jesus into Jerusalem, and a few days later shout to have him crucified. The emotion of amazement isn’t worthless, unless it is divorced from a resolve to take Jesus at his word by trusting him for salvation and stepping forward into affectionate obedience.
He is worthy of your trust, and worthy of following every day. At the end of this devotional journey, it’s time to ask, what are the next steps? If you have trusted in Jesus for salvation, perhaps a good next stop is learning more about the presence of the Holy Spirit and how he empowers us to live this ethic. Perhaps God is calling you to take more seriously sharing with your peers about what you’ve learned about Jesus and giving them a chance to respond. No matter what, invite others in with you, to be a community of Christ-followers speaking the truth in love to each other.
If you have not yet decided to follow Jesus, list out what is blocking you. Pray and ask God to help you move forward, and don’t delay in seeking out help from others in this great and most important task. Don’t give up, read and reread the words of God, and know that he longs to welcome you through the narrow gate.