The Sermon on the Mount

Matthew had 3 chapters devoted to Jesus and his preaching on the mount or hill.  This Sermon on the Mount is a collection of sayings and teachings of Jesus that emphasize his moral teaching, the first of his 5 discourses. early in the ministry of Jesus.  Luke had something similar in his sermon on the plain.  This sermon is the longest continuous section of Jesus speaking in the New Testament, containing the central tenets of Christian discipleship.  Thus, it had become the most widely quoted and best known of the teachings of Jesus, with the Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer.  These Jesus sayings echo the highest ideals of Jesus’ teachings on spirituality and compassion with acts of mercy, providing both temporal and spiritual benefits.  Jesus also used many metaphors in his sermon.  He reinterpreted the Ten Commandments, particularly about lying, killing and adultery.  The teachings of this sermon have been a key element of Christian ethics with its demanding high moral standards.  Christians were to be perfect with a Christian righteousness.  There have been many different interpretations of this demanding ethical life.  Was this only for clergy and monks?  Is it only an impossible ideal?  Should we take this literally?  Is this only an interim ethic or a future ethic?  Is this the basis of the social gospel and Christian existentialism?  What value do these ideals have for our lives today?

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The authority of Jesus (Mt 7:29-7:29)

“Jesus taught them,

As one who had authority,

Not as their scribes”

 

ἦν γὰρ διδάσκων αὐτοὺς ὡς ἐξουσίαν ἔχων, καὶ οὐχ ὡς οἱ γραμματεῖς αὐτῶν.

 

Matthew spoke about the authority of Jesus, that also was in Luke, chapter 4:32, as well as Mark, chapter 1:22.  What was this authority that Jesus had?  He was not like one of the scribes (καὶ οὐχ ὡς οἱ γραμματεῖς αὐτῶν).  The scribes were religious experts who determined the traditions to be followed.  These scribes were professional copiers of manuscript documents, although they had a wider role in Jewish society.  They might have been the forerunners of the rabbinic class that was developing at that time.  Perhaps, the author of this gospel might have been a Jewish scribe himself because he was very familiar with Hebrew scriptures.  Jesus taught on his own authority (ἦν γὰρ διδάσκων αὐτοὺς ὡς ἐξουσίαν ἔχων) without referring to tradition.

The crowds were astonished (Mt 7:28-7:28)

“When Jesus had finished

These sayings,

The crowds were astonished

At his teaching,”

 

Καὶ ἐγένετο ὅτε ἐτέλεσεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς τοὺς λόγους τούτους, ἐξεπλήσσοντο οἱ ὄχλοι ἐπὶ τῇ διδαχῇ αὐτοῦ

 

Matthew has a transition phrase, that also was in Luke, chapter 7:1.  Mark also has something like in chapter 1:21.  Jesus seems to have finished these sayings (Καὶ ἐγένετο ὅτε ἐτέλεσεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς τοὺς λόγους τούτους) or the sermon on the Mount.  The crowds of people were astonished or amazed (ἐξεπλήσσοντο οἱ ὄχλοι) at his teaching (ἐπὶ τῇ διδαχῇ αὐτοῦ).  Clearly, Jesus made a big impression.

The foolish ones with a sand foundation (Mt 7:26-7:27)

“Everyone

Who hears

My words,

But does not act

On them,

Will be

Like a foolish man.

The foolish man

Built his house

On sand.

The rains fell.

The floods came.

The winds blew.

They beat

Against that house.

It fell.

Great was its fall.”

 

καὶ πᾶς ὁ ἀκούων μου τοὺς λόγους τούτους καὶ μὴ ποιῶν αὐτοὺς ὁμοιωθήσεται ἀνδρὶ μωρῷ, ὅστις ᾠκοδόμησεν αὐτοῦ τὴν οἰκίαν ἐπὶ τὴν ἄμμον.

καὶ κατέβη ἡ βροχὴ καὶ ἦλθον οἱ ποταμοὶ καὶ ἔπνευσαν οἱ ἄνεμοι καὶ προσέκοψαν τῇ οἰκίᾳ ἐκείνῃ, καὶ ἔπεσεν, καὶ ἦν ἡ πτῶσις αὐτῆς μεγάλη

 

These verses are just like Luke, chapter 6:49, which might indicate a Q source.  The opposite of the preceding verses is present here.  Everyone who heard these words of Jesus (καὶ πᾶς ὁ ἀκούων μου τοὺς λόγους τούτους) but did nothing about them (καὶ μὴ ποιῶν αὐτοὺς), as opposed to those who acted upon them, were like a foolish or stupid man (ὁμοιωθήσεται ἀνδρὶ μωρῷ).  These foolish people built a house on a sand foundation or sandy ground (ὅστις ᾠκοδόμησεν αὐτοῦ τὴν οἰκίαν ἐπὶ τὴν ἄμμον), not a rock foundation.  It is interesting to note that these must have been former followers of Jesus, since they had heard his words, not people who had never heard about Jesus, indicating a rift among the followers of Jesus.  The rains fell (καὶ κατέβη ἡ βροχὴ) and the floods came (καὶ ἦλθον οἱ ποταμοὶ), just as the preceding verses.  Winds would blow (καὶ ἔπνευσαν οἱ ἄνεμοι) and beat against this house also (καὶ προσέπεσαν τῇ οἰκίᾳ ἐκείνῃ).  However, there was a different result here.  The house fell (καὶ ἔπεσεν) because it was built on a sand foundation.  The rock foundation was those who had followed the words of Jesus.  The sand foundation was those who heard the words of Jesus but did not follow it.  Their house would suffer not just a fall, but a great fall (καὶ ἦν ἡ πτῶσις αὐτῆς μεγάλη).  It was not good enough to hear the words of Jesus, you had to act on them.

Wise men on a rock foundation (Mt 7:24-7:25)

“Everyone

Who hears

My words,

Then does them,

Will be

Like a wise man.

The wise man

Builds his house

On a rock.

The rains fell.

The floods came.

The winds blew.

They beat on that house.

But it did not fall,

Because it had been founded

On a rock.”

 

Πᾶς οὖν ὅστις ἀκούει μου τοὺς λόγους τούτους καὶ ποιεῖ αὐτούς, ὁμοιωθήσεται ἀνδρὶ φρονίμῳ, ὅστις ᾠκοδόμησεν αὐτοῦ τὴν οἰκίαν ἐπὶ τὴν πέτραν.

καὶ κατέβη ἡ βροχὴ καὶ ἦλθον οἱ ποταμοὶ καὶ ἔπνευσαν οἱ ἄνεμοι καὶ προσέπεσαν τῇ οἰκίᾳ ἐκείνῃ, καὶ οὐκ ἔπεσεν· τεθεμελίωτο γὰρ ἐπὶ τὴν πέτραν.

 

These verses are just like Luke, chapter 6:47-48, which might indicate a Q source.  Jesus said that everyone who heard his words (Πᾶς οὖν ὅστις ἀκούει μου τοὺς λόγους τούτους) and actually did and followed them (καὶ ποιεῖ αὐτούς), were like wise men (ὁμοιωθήσεται ἀνδρὶ φρονίμῳ).  These wise people built a house on a rock foundation or solid rocky ground (ὅστις ᾠκοδόμησεν αὐτοῦ τὴν οἰκίαν ἐπὶ τὴν πέτραν.).  The rains fell (καὶ κατέβη ἡ βροχὴ and the floods came (καὶ ἦλθον οἱ ποταμοὶ).  Winds would blow (καὶ ἔπνευσαν οἱ ἄνεμοι) and beat against this house (καὶ προσέπεσαν τῇ οἰκίᾳ ἐκείνῃ), but it did not fall (καὶ οὐκ ἔπεσεν), because it was built on a strong rock foundation (τεθεμελίωτο γὰρ ἐπὶ τὴν πέτραν).  This rock foundation was the words of Jesus carried out in daily life.  The fairy tale story of the 3 pigs with the brick, straw, and grass houses is similar to this saying about the stone foundation that could not be destroyed.

Evildoers (Mt 7:22-7:23)

“On that day,

Many will say to me.

‘Lord!

Lord!

Did we not prophesy

In your name?

Did we not cast out demons

In your name?

Did we not do many marvelous works

In your name?’

Then I will declare

To them.

‘I never knew you!

Go away from me!

You evildoers!’”

 

πολλοὶ ἐροῦσίν μοι ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ Κύριε, οὐ τῷ σῷ ὀνόματι ἐπροφητεύσαμεν, καὶ τῷ σῷ ὀνόματι δαιμόνια ἐξεβάλομεν, καὶ τῷ σῷ ὀνόματι δυνάμεις πολλὰς ἐποιήσαμεν;

καὶ τότε ὁμολογήσω αὐτοῖς ὅτι Οὐδέποτε ἔγνων ὑμᾶς· ἀποχωρεῖτε ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ οἱ ἐργαζόμενοι τὴν ἀνομίαν

 

This verse is somewhat similar to Luke, chapter 13:26-27.  Matthew has Jesus say that on that day (ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ), the judgment day, many would say to him (πολλοὶ ἐροῦσίν μοι), Lord! Lord (Κύριε Κύριε)!  Did we not prophesize in your name (οὐ τῷ σῷ ὀνόματι ἐπροφητεύσαμεν)?  Did we not cast out demons in your name (καὶ τῷ σῷ ὀνόματι δαιμόνια ἐξεβάλομεν)?  Did we not do many great marvelous works in your name (καὶ τῷ σῷ ὀνόματι δυνάμεις πολλὰς ἐποιήσαμεν)?  Then Jesus was going to declare to them (καὶ τότε ὁμολογήσω αὐτοῖς) that he never knew them (καὶ τότε ὁμολογήσω αὐτοῖς), because they were evildoers.  Just as David had told the evildoers to depart in Psalm 6:13, Jesus wanted these evildoers (οἱ ἐργαζόμενοι τὴν ἀνομίαν) to leave him alone (ἀποχωρεῖτε ἀπ’ ἐμοῦ).  Who are these evil doers?  They seem like disciples of Jesus, since they prophesized, cast out demons, and did marvelous works in the name of Jesus.  What evil had they done to make them unworthy on the final judgment day?  This text is not clear.

The kingdom of heaven (Mt 7:21-7:21)

“Not everyone

Who says to me.

‘Lord!

Lord!’

Will enter

The kingdom of heaven.

But only the one

Who does the will

Of my Father

In heaven.”

 

Οὐ πᾶς ὁ λέγων μοι Κύριε, εἰσελεύσεται εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν, ἀλλ’ ὁ ποιῶν τὸ θέλημα τοῦ Πατρός μου τοῦ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς.

 

This verse is somewhat similar to Luke, chapter 6:46.  Matthew has Jesus say that not everyone who called Jesus Lord! Lord! (Οὐ πᾶς ὁ λέγων μοι Κύριε Κύριε) would enter the kingdom of heaven (εἰσελεύσεται εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν).  Only those who did the will of his Father in heaven (ἀλλ’ ὁ ποιῶν τὸ θέλημα τοῦ Πατρός μου τοῦ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς) would enter the kingdom of heavens.  It was not good enough to simply call Jesus the Lord, but you had to do the will of his Father to enter the heavenly kingdom,