The kingdom manifesto — an exploration of the Sermon on the Mount
EP Books, 240 pages, £9.99
ISBN: 13: 978-0-85234-826-0
Star Rating : 4
The kingdom manifesto is a scholarly but intensely practical explanation of what Jesus’ hillside teaching means for today’s disciples.
Steve Wilmshurst has brought to this thorough but readable book many skills and insights from his varied background in nuclear physics, New Testament studies and urban church work. If his aim was to provide modern Christians with a well reasoned guide to living out the Sermon on the Mount in their everyday lives, then he certainly hits the target.
The author’s dual passions for the Word of God and for practical pastoral teaching are evident throughout the book, which is simply structured by closely following the text of Matthew 5:1–7:29.
However, this is much more than just a commentary on a Bible passage, as the author rigorously applies the message to Christians and non-Christians alike, using an accessible sermon-like style. Wilmhurst’s material is always relevant and his illustrations are consistently engaging and helpful, with believable scenarios fleshing out Jesus’ meaning.
‘You can’t judge the fruit on a tree from half a mile away; you have to get close enough to smell it!’ is typical of the author’s arresting language. Throughout the book, there were moments when I was really gripped and convicted.
He is hard hitting in key ‘thought life’ areas, such as anger, lust and pride. For example, on others becoming aware of our fasting, ‘you will also find people believing you are some kind of super-saint — and then, if you’re not careful, you will find yourself agreeing with them!’
The author shows commendable attention to detail, but some sections contain more material than absolutely necessary. For example, in order to demonstrate first century Jewish attitudes, extensive quotes from the Talmud might have been overkill in a book targeted at everyday believers.
The scope of this book is so huge that any one section, e.g. the Lord’s Prayer, could easily fill a book in its own right, so a more ruthless ‘leaving out’ would have improved the flow.
Furthermore, whilst there is a place for deliberate repetition, I sometimes found myself thinking, ‘You’ve already convinced me of that’, as several points are regularly re-visited. That said, Wilmhurst certainly gets the message of the Sermon on the Mount across with great conviction and force.
I would thoroughly recommend this book to all who wish to understand what Jesus really meant and, having understood it, to plead with God to help them live lives that demonstrate their inclusion in the kingdom of which this sermon is the ultimate manifesto.