Character Portraits

Chic Broersma

READ : Matthew 5:1-12

Do not be like them. (Matt. 6:8)

What’s your favorite image of Jesus? A shepherd carrying a lamb? Jesus surrounded by children? I like those too. To understand the Sermon on the Mount, however, we’ll do ourselves a favor by viewing other scenes as well. Picture Jesus overturning the tables of the moneychangers, chasing them out of the temple. Listen to Jesus, in Matthew 23, calling the religious leaders blind guides, serpents, and white-washed tombs. The powerful feared Jesus. He had no fear of them. Imagine Jesus as a Marine commander barking orders to his troops: Go! Preach! Heal! The Beatitudes are not platitudes. They are character portraits of battle-tested followers of Christ.

“Don’t be like them” (scribes and Pharisees) is a key interpretive verse. Thus, be “countercultural.” Be salt in a decaying world, light in a darkening world. Preserve what’s valuable. Add gusto to goodness. Let your light shine. Living out his Sermon will enable the way of living that Christ commands. It’s behavior that seems to have gone AWOL in our society.

Pretend you’re on the Mount. It’s time for Jesus’ sermon. How to understand it? Is it only for Mother Teresa types? No. Jesus intends we live out his message. We will fall short repeatedly. We must get up. Dust off. Carry on. Jesus perfectly lived his sermon in character and deed. The more we lean on him, the more his sermon will take on flesh and blood in us. It won’t happen overnight; no magic here. It will take discipline and empowering by the Holy Spirit.


Empower me, Lord.