Sermon for Saturday

And seeing the multitudes, He went up into a mountain, and when He was set, His disciples came unto Him. Matthew 5:1

One of my sisters was memorizing the Beatitudes, the first section of Matthew 5, so all we heard from her for weeks was her recital of today’s text and a few of the following verses. Over and over she practiced aloud, until everybody in the house knew this verse as well as Mary did. I can’t read this text without thinking of Mary. This is what is referred to as the primacy effect: we remember the most clearly what we hear first. That’s why you think the only right way for a song to be sung is the way you first heard it. For me, this verse has a powerful primacy effect. Are there any Bible verses that stand out for you in this way?

In our early Christian experience, we sometimes encounter a portion of scripture that makes a significant impression on us, so that we recall that impression for many years. This can occur if we hear someone giving a word of ministry, such as a message I heard from Lloyd Cain on Hebrews 12:12 more than 55 years ago in Oxford. Scripture is particularly important for the primacy effect, as the Holy Spirit helps us to recall information and details that become a permanent part of our knowledge of the Word of God. That is why it is so important for young Christians to not only study the Word themselves, but to listen to those who teach it. We will never remember it all, but we will remember some, and some will make its lasting impression on us.

Our text is an introduction to what is very likely the greatest ministry sermon ever preached on this planet. Jesus had a message to deliver to His disciples, some very important doctrine regarding His kingdom, and some powerful guiding principles for His people today. He chose a mountainside for His cathedral, and possibly a rock for His pulpit, and the Galilean songbirds for His special music. How vastly different from the ornate and elaborate settings for the great orations of men! Those of us who enjoy the outdoors would appreciate the beauty of the setting. But it wouldn’t mean much to those who crave the fancy trimmings. And yet the echoes of the great speeches of men have long since fallen silent while the dynamic power of the Sermon on the Mount continues to provide strength to the Lord’s people and will never cease to do so.

Just as I continue to recall Mary’s memorization project from our childhood, so you can benefit from the primacy effect of a deep and passionate study of this great sermon. -Jim MacIntosh

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