Three Wrong Ways To Read The Sermon On The Mount
The Sermon on the Mount is probably the most famous sermon ever preached, and for good reason. Its speaker is the Lord Jesus Christ its location on a hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee is unique and its language is both beautiful and profound. Even non-believers are familiar with many of the words Jesus spoke in this sermon.
Yet, for as well-known as the Sermon is, it is often misunderstand and misused. Therefore, as we begin to study this passage of Scripture, we should look at three common, but misguided ways to approach the sermon.
1. The Liberal Way
Now, the word liberal used in this context is not a political term, but a theological term. Liberal theology is an approach to Christian doctrine and especially the Bible and the person of Christ, which denies the miraculous, rejects the supernatural claims of the Bible, and explains away the full deity of Christto list only a few credentials of Protestant Liberalism.
With respect to the Sermon on the Mount, therefore, a liberal approach extracts this passage from the rest of Matthews Gospel. It sees Jesus as a great teacher, but only as a teacher or rabbi. It fails to see how the Gospels present Jesus as Gods Son, and how Matthew shapes his Gospel to highlight the humanity and deity of Christ.
2. The Legalistic Way
In response to this sort of legalism and the rewards based on such Christian works-righteousness, we find a third way to read the SM, which is theologically better but also misguided.
Why Is The Sermon On The Mount So Important
William Barclay summarized many views of the importance of the Sermon on the Mount:
One great scholar called the Sermon on the Mount The Ordination Address to the Twelve. Just as a young minister has his task set out before him, when he is called to his first charge, so the Twelve received from Jesus their ordination address before they went out to their task. It is for that reason that other scholars have given other titles to the Sermon on the Mount. It has been called The Compendium of Christs Doctrine,The Magna Charta of the Kingdom,The Manifesto of the King. All are agreed that in the Sermon on the Mount we have the essence of the teaching of Jesus to the inner circle of his chosen men .
But it was not just for the 12 disciples or the audience who first heard the message. God inspired Matthew to record the powerful and memorable words of Jesus Sermon on the Mount for Christians throughout the ages and for us today.
The Wise And Foolish Builders
24 Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.
28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching,29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.
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Blessed Are The Peacemakers For They Will Be Called Sons Of God
The Bible says we have peace with God through Jesus Christ. Reconciliation through Christ brings restored fellowship with God. 2 Corinthians 5:19-20 says God entrusts us with this same message of reconciliation to take to others.
Paraphrase:“Blessed are those who have been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ and bring this same message of reconciliation to others. All who have peace with God are his children.”
Significance Of The Sermon On The Mount
Opinion has been much divided concerning the design, scope, and application of the Sermon on the Mount. Most commentators have seen in it an exposition of Christian ethics. Some have regarded it as the setting forth of a “golden rule” for all men to live by. Others have dwelt upon its dispensational bearings, insisting that it belongs not to the saints of the present age but to believers within a future millennium. Two inspired statements, however, reveal its true scope. In Matthew 5:1-2, we learn that Christ was here teaching His disciples. From Matthew 7:28-29, it is clear that He was also addressing a great multitude of the people. Thus, it is evident that this address of our Lord contains instruction both for believers and unbelievers alike.
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What Is Jesus Doing In The Sermon On The Mount
“In my mind’s eye, I can see Jesus sitting on a still with all these people surrounding him overlooking the sea of Galilee and preaching his most famous sermon, the sermon on the mount. But at the heart of that sermon is an even more famous sermonette. It’s a sermonette of the beatitudes. And almost every Christian, almost every culture of the world understands the beatitudes, “Blessed are the…” Or as you say here in the Southern United States, “Blessed are those who…”
But what does it actually mean? It’s one thing to say, “Blessed are those who…” in the ceremonial, ritualistic, everybody knows it since, but actually we all want to be blessed, right? Actually, the word blessed could be translated from the Greek to the word happy. Jesus is saying, he’s speaking to the universal language of every person that has ever lived on planet earth. He’s answering a question that is as relevant today as it was 2000 years ago.
It’s as relevant to the person in the corner office in New York City as it was relevant to the villager that stumbled upon that Hill that day. Jesus says, “Do you want to be happy? Well, here’s how you can be happy. You will be blessed if…” And that’s what the beatitudes answers for us. How can we be happy?”
Excerpt adapted from The Beatitudes, Introduction, by A.W. Pink.
Learning Activities And Crafts:
- Children can take turns sitting on the same elevated position to say the memory verse.
- Ask the children to share different places where they have heard sermons. Ask if they remember special things they might have heard in sermons. Share some of your own experiences.
- Before class cut paper into small cards. Use a crayon or glitter to draw a gold dot in the centre of some of the cards. Leave the others blank. Blue-tac the cards under the chairs before the children come to class. For this activity describe a situation and ask a child to reach under his/her chair to see which kind of card they have. If the card has a gold dot then they should tell what should be done in the situation according to the golden rule. If their card is blank then the child should say what a person might do if they did not follow the golden rule.
- Write the memory verse on a white/chalk board. Ask the class to repeat the verse with you a few times. Erase one word and say the verse together again. Each time you repeat the verse erase another word. Soon all the words are erased and the children know the verse by heart.
- Puppet Skit for Pre-schoolers: Try using simple finger puppets or soft toys for this cute application Loving one another Puppet Skit which was submitted by Jenny Ancell, Australia. Youll just need to change the names of the brands and stores/shops to adapt to your situation.
Check the Teaching Ideas page on this website for ideas that are adaptable to any lesson.
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Iii The Kingdom Of God
But lets talk for a moment about this kingdom which Matthew has introduced to us here in his gospel. As an aside, I will mention that while Matthew primarily uses the term kingdom of heaven and other gospel writers prefer the term kingdom of God, it is clear that these two expressions mean exactly the same thing . In the past some have tried to maintain a distinction between the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of God 361 however, the vast majority of theologians today recognize the terms as synonymous,362 and I therefore use the terms interchangeably.
The word translated kingdom has two elements. It refers first to the kings reign and rule, and secondly to the kings realm.363 The Kingdom of God, then, is primarily the reign and rule of God, the expression of His gracious sovereign will. In an ultimate sense, God sovereignly rules over all things, and His realm is therefore all creation. But that is not the kingdom in focus here. Here we are talking about the kingdom of God among men, that kingdom anticipated by the Old Testament prophets, that kingdom to be mediated through the coming Messiah. You will note that Matthew has spent the first four chapters of his gospel confirming to us that this Jesus is the Messiah, the one with the right to the throne, the coming King. As one commentator put it, with the coming of Jesus Christ the new age had dawned, and the rule of God had broken into history.364
Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit For Theirs Is The Kingdom Of Heaven
The phrase “poor in spirit” speaks of a spiritual condition of poverty. It describes the person who recognizes his or her need for God. “The kingdom of heaven” refers to people who acknowledge God as King. One who is poor in spirit knows he or she is spiritually bankrupt apart from Jesus Christ.
Paraphrase:“Blessed are those who humbly recognize their need for God, for they will enter into his kingdom.”
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Quotes About The Sermon On The Mount
- If any one will piously and soberly consider the sermon which our Lord Jesus Christ spoke on the mount, as we read it in the Gospel according to Matthew, I think that he will find in it, so far as regards the highest morals, a perfect standard of the Christian life: and this we do not rashly venture to promise, but gather it from the very words of the Lord Himself. For the sermon itself is brought to a close in such a way, that it is clear there are in it all the precepts which go to mould the life. â¦ He has sufficiently indicated, as I think, that these sayings which He uttered on the mount so perfectly guide the life of those who may be willing to live according to them, that they may justly be compared to one building upon a rock.
- , in On the Sermon on the Mount, as translated by William Findlay , Book I, Ch. 1
- I believe blindly in those words of Christ that I clearly understand and still more in those that were expressed by Him in the Sermon on the Mount for I find them literally repeated in the Buddhist sermons of Gautama, in the Dhammapada and in the Sastras of Siddhartha Buddha, as well as the Egyptian Book of the Dead.
- H.P. Blavatsky, The Letters of H. P. Blavatsky: Volume 1 1861-1879, ISBN-13: 978-0835608367
- Frederick B. Tolles, in his address “Quakerism and Politics”
Jesus Teachings About Gods Law
The Bible relates how some of the people who came to hear Jesus give sermons feared that he was opposed to the teachings in the Old Testament, which people had been following for a long time. However, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explained that he had not come to overturn Gods laws but to make sure they were upheld.
Jesus expanded on the Old Testament teachings, explaining that God had ever higher expectations of how people should behave towards each other:
|Old Testament teaching||Jesus explanation in the Sermon on the Mount|
|Do not murder||Do not even be angry with another person or insult them. Try to forgive people and mend broken relationships.|
|Do not commit adultery||If a married person even looks at another person lustfully, they are guilty of adultery in their heart.|
|Divorce is allowed||Divorce is still allowed but only on the grounds of sexual immorality. Anyone who divorces and re-marries is committing adultery with their new partner they are not really married at all.|
|Love your neighbour||You must also love your enemies and pray for people who persecute you.|
However, Jesus did have different ideas from those in the Old Testament when it came to the subject of revenge. He told his followers that their love for one another must be unconditional and that they must never seek revenge, even though the Old Testament allows it:
An eye for an eye
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Sermon On The Mount: Conclusion
I had a pretty bad day today, and you may be having a bad day, too. But just think, we have a God who spent two whole chapters in Matthew giving us rest, comfort, and a better way to live our lives. I challenge you to read the Sermon on the Mount for yourself and let Jesus show you what He means when He says His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
Sonya Downing is a novelist, freelance writer, and content editor with a bachelors degree in professional writing. Her freelance work has been published in Focus on the Familys teen girl magazine Brio, The Evangelical Church Library Association, and The Secret Place quarterly magazine. She has also blogged for IlluminateYA Publishing and edited for Mountain Brook Ink. You can follow her on , , , and .
Does The Sermon On The Mount Present Impossible Demands And Harsh Penalties
Q. Ive seen it written that the Sermon on the Mount can be thought of as a job description for Christians. Im thankful that God has given us one! Yet I find some of its passages confusing at best and very difficult, if not impossible, to carry out. It also seems that Jesus is outlining some harsh judgements for us when we fail, which it seems most of us will. So I then question, What about Gods grace?
Whats known as the Sermon on the Mount is the first extended collection of Jesus teachings found in the gospel of Matthew.
Matthew divides his account of Jesus life into five thematic sections. Each one begins with a series of narrative episodes, followed by a discourse made up of Jesus collected teachings. The narrative and the discourse explore a common theme in each case. The first section, whose discourse is the Sermon on the Mount, is about the foundations of the kingdom, which are in an inward righteousness, not in external conformity to the law. The concept of righteous/ness is introduced in the preceding narrative episodes , and the term appears in a key location in each section of the Sermon on the Mount:
Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them.Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.And so forth.
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Things You Didnt Know About The Sermon On The Mount
It has been a great joy for me to devote a lot of mental energy to studying, teaching, and writing about the Sermon on the Mount. Even though Im done writing my new book on the sermon, this famous biblical text continues to teach me new things every day.
Here are three things Ive learned about the sermon that most people probably dont know.
The Sermon On The Mount: A Brief Overview
- M.A., Christian Studies, Union University
- B.A., English Literature, Wheaton College
The Sermon on the Mount is recorded in chapters 5-7 in the Book of Matthew. Jesus delivered this message near the beginning of His ministry and it is the longest of Jesus’ sermons recorded in the New Testament.
Keep in mind that Jesus wasn’t a pastor of a church, so this “sermon” was different than the kind of religious messages we hear today. Jesus attracted a large group of followers even early in His ministry — sometimes numbering several thousand people. He also had a smaller group of dedicated disciples who remained with Him all the time and were committed to learning and applying His teaching.
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Blessed Are Those Who Are Persecuted Because Of Righteousness For Theirs Is The Kingdom Of Heaven
Just as Jesus faced persecution, so will his followers. Those who endure by faith rather than hide their faith to avoid persecution are genuine followers of Christ.
Paraphrase:“Blessed are those daring enough to openly live for Christ and suffer persecution, for they will receive the kingdom of heaven.”
How To Be A Christian
Jesus Christ taught that His disciples were to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. They were commanded, Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven . Christians examples are to reflect Gods righteousness to the world around them and by doing so, their actions would shine like lights.
For more on these passages, see The Salt of the Earth and Light of the World.
Following this admonition is a statement that is vital to understand, but often misunderstood: Christ said that He did not come to destroy the Law or the Prophets .
In this verse, He emphasized: I did not come to destroy but to fulfillwhich is the opposite of destroying. Jesus further stated that whoever does and teaches them , he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven .
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