And seeing the multitudes, He went up into a mountain: and when He was set, His disciples came unto Him: and He opened His mouth, and taught them…
These words in the Gospel according to Matthew introduce us to what has been called the Sermon on the Mount. It’s clear that the multitudes as well as the disciples had followed Jesus up the mountain, for we read at the end of the sermon that “the multitudes were astonished at His teaching” (Mt. 7:28). But it was primarily to His disciples that Jesus was speaking. The word disciple means, simply, learner. He was the Teacher, the Rabbi, they the learners.
What is it that He was teaching them? What were they to learn? The answer to that question is to be found in asking the better question, “Who is it that they were to learn?”
For, when He opened His mouth and taught them, it was Himself that He was revealing to them—Himself—the Life of the ages. John the beloved was there at that time, and no doubt it was this scene on the mount, among many others, that he had in mind when many years later he wrote of the Word of life that they had heard and seen and looked upon and their hands had handled, the Life eternal that had been with the Father, and was manifested to them. One cannot help seeing Him seated there on that beautiful day with His disciples around Him sitting or reclining in the grass, the flowers of the field blooming round about them, the birds of the air flying above.
It was the One now seated before them who had created it all, object lessons of Himself, and, perhaps with a motion of His arm He draws their attention upward, then downward.
Behold the fowls of the air… Consider the lilies of the field…
The context of these words is about two kinds of slavery—the slavery of Mammon and the slavery of God. Mammon originally meant “that in which one puts his trust, his confidence” and came eventually to mean (is it any wonder in this materialistic world?) “money, possessions, material prosperity.”
Jesus is teaching His disciples the Life that is not slavery to Mammon, is not anxious nor burdened with its own security, but rather trusts in the faithfulness of a heavenly Father to provide all that is necessary, both earthly and spiritual, while being bondslaves to Him. It seems an incongruous thought—slavery to God? But that is the word Jesus uses. “Ye cannot serve-as-bondslaves God and Mammon.”
And so He tells them, “Therefore…” What a precious place to find that word. Let us heed it. “Therefore, be not anxious for your life…” That’s what being a bondslave of the living God is like. It is the Life that is free from care, unburdened with the cares of this life.
Therefore, be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than food, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air…
What about the fowls of the air? This. They are not sowing and reaping and gathering into barns, intent upon making sure they have in hand what tomorrow will need. What then? What resource do they have? “Your heavenly Father feedeth them.”
Remember that old poem?
Said the robin to the sparrow,
“I would really like to know
Why those anxious human beings
rush around and worry so.”
Said the sparrow to the robin,
“Friend, I think that it must be
That they have no Heavenly Father
such as cares for you and me.”
It’s meant, of course, to remind us that we do have. And note that Jesus has said, “Your heavenly Father feedeth them.” Not their heavenly Father. The robin and the sparrow cannot call Him Father. The disciples of Jesus can. And will not this Father who feeds the fowls of the air feed His own children, and care for all their needs, whether earthly or spiritual? It is thus that they grow, not by “taking thought,” not by anxious care; they cannot by anxious care add so much as one cubit to their stature.
And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow…
This is where Jesus calls His disciples to become disciples of the lilies of the field. The word consider comes from the same Greek root that the word disciple comes from. Consider also has the prefix kata, which is an intensifier, which is why Young’s Literal Translation has, “Consider well.” Thayer says it means “to learn thoroughly, to examine carefully, to consider well.”
Kata also has the idea down in it. This is likely why Halton’s Expanded Translation has:
Humble yourself, get right down on your elbows in the grass, and become a disciple of the lowly lilies of the field: recline at their feet, and learn from them, learn well from them, the secret of spiritual growth, the secret of the life that toils not, nor spins, yet because of that wondrous law of life within, they grow with a beauty that by comparison, Solomon in all His glory was not arrayed like one of these.
Now Jesus’ next word. “Wherefore…” Let us heed this one too:
Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
Much more? Wondrous words we are invited to trust, to believe. The lily in all its glory is clothed with a beautiful array that it does not spin for itself, does not toil to produce. It is God who so clothes it, putting within it a law of life that brings into being that beautiful raiment as the lily simply obeys that law of life. This is how it grows—simply by letting that law of life have its way, and trusting in its Creator to provide the needed sunlight, and water, and nutrients from the soil. Thus the lowly lily brings forth and displays an inimitable beauty that glorifies God, who created it for this very purpose—to glorify Him.
Shall He not much more clothe us, to the praise of His glory?
Help us, Jesus, help us to be no longer of little faith, but to fully believe you, and follow through on your counsel, and become disciples of the lily.