Sermon on the Mount

Discourse #1

In this lesson we review the five main topics discussed by Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount.
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I hope you are getting used to our approach of study for the gospel of Matthew. In this chapter we will look at discourse number one that includes the Sermon on the Mount, so named because of the introductory verses in Matthew 5.

Sermon on the Mount

1When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. 2He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying,
- Matthew 5:1-2

The Sermon on the Mount is a collection of topics that Jesus addressed at this occasion and partially mentioned by other gospel writers (Luke 6:17). The setting is a hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee. There is a chapel there at the moment and you can see the hillside where this took place. This was near the town of Capernaum where both Jesus and Peter lived as adults. Matthew says that after Jesus finished this sermon/teaching He came down, and after healing several people from the crowd, He went into Peter's house and healed his mother-in-law (Matthew 8:14-17).

The sermon deals with five major subjects:

  • The Beatitudes - 5:1-16
  • The Law - 5:17-48
  • Relationship with God - 6:1-34
  • Relationship with others - 7:1-12
  • The way of life - 7:13-29

The Beatitudes

3"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5"Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
6"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
8"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10"Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11"Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
13"You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.
14"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
- Matthew 5:3-16

The word beatitude does not appear in the New Testament. It is a translation from the Latin word, "beatitudo" that means blessed, happy or joyful.

There are nine mentioned and they follow the same progression: each begin with a promise, deal with spiritual things and are directed at people in the kingdom of God. They make no sense to people who are not Christians. With the Beatitudes, Jesus was using a style of teaching that Jewish Rabbis usually had in introducing their lessons with a question or a paradox. The Beatitudes were contradictions that challenged the pre-conceived notions of life and philosophy (i.e. the spiritually poor will attain the riches of heaven; mourners will be comforted; the gentle will gain the earth and not the warriors; the thirsty will be satisfied).

In the Beatitudes Jesus gives insight into the spiritual reality that operates in the kingdom of heaven. These are spiritual principles by which we, in the kingdom, operate. For example, those who bear persecution in the name of Christ will rejoice; this is not the normal reaction for those who are persecuted. People treated in this way usually experience fear, anger and desire for revenge, but in the kingdom the spiritual laws work in such a way that those who suffer for Christ rejoice in this.

Disciples of Jesus who are influenced by these principles become distinctive, like salt as a flavor and light to the eye is distinctive. The distinctiveness of the disciples, characterized by the principles set forth in the Beatitudes, is what makes them stand apart from others, and what characterizes the kingdom, like the saltiness of salt and the lightness of light. This distinctiveness, ultimately perceived in good lives and good works, not only characterizes the kingdom but also reveals the true nature of God to fallen man. In the Beatitudes we see man as he is in the regenerated state, not as he was, lost without Christ.

The Law

17"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
20"For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
21"You have heard that the ancients were told, 'You shall not commit murder' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.' 22But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. 23Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. 25Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. 26Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent.
27"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery'; 28but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.
31"It was said, 'Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce'; 32but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
33"Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, 'You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.' 34But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37But let your statement be, 'Yes, yes' or 'No, no'; anything beyond these is of evil.
38"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' 39But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. 41Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.
43"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
- Matthew 5:17-48

The key verse in this discourse is verse 20, and it reveals that the higher righteousness of the disciples is the quality that distinguishes them and makes them useful in the kingdom.

This section from 5:17-48 makes a series of comparisons putting forth what they had been taught about the law by their teachers, "... you have heard that it was said..." and laying beside these teachings the essence and spirit of the Law given by the one who originally gave the law to Moses, Jesus Himself (I Corinthians 10:4).

Jesus comments on five areas of teaching in the Law of Moses that they had received from their teachers, and compares these with the true essence of that teaching given by Himself.

  1. Murder (verse 21): That unjustified taking of life was wrong. Jesus pegs the crime at the beginnings of anger and resentment towards others, and that keeping the Law meant a conscious effort at reconciliation, not just avoiding murder, the extreme.
  2. Adultery (verse 27): They had been taught to manipulate the Law in order to justify their adultery with easy divorce. As long as I give my wife a "bill of divorce" I am not sinning when I divorce her. Jesus again situates the true sin as impurity of heart and the keeping of the Law as an effort to control one's body, not manipulation of the Law on marriage and divorce. He is explaining where the true sin is and what keeping the Law really meant.
  3. Vows (verse 33): The Jews had learned a complex manner of making selective vows that they felt they could break when inconvenient. Jesus reveals that vows are not necessary when one has an honest heart. The Law required an honest heart, not loopholes to avoid keeping one's word.
  4. Justice (verse 38): Their system relied on the Law as a tool for restitution and a cover for revenge. Jesus taught them that the higher principle of the Law was mercy, not simply exacting justice or revenge.
  5. Nationalism (verse 43): They used the Law to build a wall around themselves and keep others out. Jesus showed them that one purpose of the Law was to reveal God's goodness to men, that to be like God meant mercy and justice to strangers.

Relationship with God

1"Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.
2"So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 3But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
5"When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
7"And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. 8So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.
9"Pray, then, in this way:
'Our Father who is in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
10'Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
11'Give us this day our daily bread.
12'And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13'And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.']
14For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.
16"Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 17But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face 18so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
19"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22"The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. 23But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
24"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
25"For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? 28And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 31Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' 32For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
34"So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
- Matthew 6:1-34

He teaches them how to have a proper relationship with God in heaven.

  • Verses 1-4: Practice your goodness towards God with a view of pleasing God, not men.
  • Verses 5-18: Pray to God in order to communicate with Him, not to impress others with your piety.
  • Verses 19-34: Trust in God to provide for all your physical and spiritual needs, one day at a time.

He encourages them in understanding the nature of the kingdom by teaching them through the Beatitudes. He is telling them that the quality of life that they should strive for is as salt and light of the earth (this is the essence of the Law), and now He guides them into the practical ways of how to have a meaningful relationship with God.

Relationship with Others

1"Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 3Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.
6"Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.
7"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? 11If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!
12"In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
- Matthew 7:1-12

The elements of a proper relationship with God are followed by the key ways to a blessed relationship between people in the kingdom.

Verse 12: Upon this principle is based all the teaching in the Law and Prophets on how we must treat each other in order to bless ourselves and please God.

The Way of Life

13"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
15"Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20So then, you will know them by their fruits.
21"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' 23And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'
24"Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. 26Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell-and great was its fall."
28When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; 29for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.
- Matthew 7-13-28

Having set forth the parameters of the kingdom and its inner workings, Jesus explains the way to enter into the relationship with the Father in the kingdom of heaven:

  1. Enter by the narrow gate of Christ. Later on, at His crucifixion, the disciples will understand just how narrow and difficult this gate is. Jesus is the only gate, and faith is the only way (why it is so narrow).
  2. Beware of false prophets who produce neither the teachings nor the fruit of the kingdom of Christ. That is how you know them, neither the fruit nor the teachings. True prophets have the fruit and the teachings. Judge Christianity or any religion by the fruit produced through its teachings.
  3. Do not just hear the words of Christ, act upon them in order to enter in. Many are called but few are chosen (verses 28-29). Many heard all of what He said that day and were amazed, but few entered through the narrow gate of faith in Him.
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