“And seeing the crowds, he went up onto the mountain, and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. And opening his mouth he taught them.”
Up to this point in Matthew’s gospel, readers have encountered a lot of information about Jesus, but haven't really heard from him. They have encountered his ancient lineage, his miraculous conception, the opposition to his emergence into the world, and his blessing and empowering for ministry, all preparing for his teaching. If you haven’t read Matthew 1-4, now would be a great time!
Many were interested in him—we see that Jesus saw the crowds. It was this seeing that spurred Jesus up on the mountain to take the seated position of a teacher. Matthew mentions that it was the disciples who came to him, and this suggests that the teaching was directed to those who came up the mountain with him, not the totality of the crowds he had seen.
Today, as always, opinions on Jesus are diverse, though most people feel positively toward what they know about Jesus, even if not toward his followers. On campus you’ve perhaps heard people express that Jesus was a good moral teacher, or an inspiring radical. But rarely do these people draw near to take a closer look, to investigate Jesus for themselves at a deeper, more personal level.
Perhaps this describes you. But no matter where you’re coming from, you can follow Jesus up to sit and hear his teaching. There’s no prerequisite for learning from him, no need to clean yourself up before you come. Pray that you would come with an open mind, and a heart ready to receive challenge and comfort. Prayer is talking with God—if you’re not sure how to do this, ask a friend who follows Jesus for help! Even if you’re acquainted with prayer, consider approaching this sermon in community—as we see, he was speaking to a collection of people, not an individual. God bless you on your journey through this marvelous teaching.