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 sermon on the mount (Mt 5:1-5:2)

“Jesus saw the crowds.

He went up the mountain.

After he sat down,

His disciples came to him.

He began to speak.

He taught them.”

 

δὼν δὲ τοὺς ὄχλους ἀνέβη εἰς τὸ ὄρος· καὶ καθίσαντος αὐτοῦ προσῆλθαν αὐτῷ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ

καὶ ἀνοίξας τὸ στόμα αὐτοῦ ἐδίδασκεν αὐτοὺς λέγων

 

This Sermon on the Mount contains the main themes of Jesus’ teaching.  There is an equivalent in Luke, chapter 6:20-26, but there is nothing like this in Mark or John.  This sermon is one of the great examples of the common Q source.  How did Luke and Matthew use this source differently?  Matthew has 8 blessings, but Luke has 4 blessings and 4 curses.  Matthew continued with his theme about large crowds.  Jesus saw that he had a large crowd (δὼν δὲ τοὺς ὄχλους).  What exactly is a large crowd?  Jesus went up to a mountain (ἀνέβη εἰς τὸ ὄρος), probably some rolling hill near Capernaum.  Matthew has another echo of Moses, as someone who escaped death as a child, left Egypt, went into the wilderness for 40 days, and now goes up the mountain.  In Luke, Jesus was on a level plain.  Right from the start, there are two different perspectives.  Jesus sat down (καὶ καθίσαντος αὐτοῦ), which was the common position of Jewish teaching rabbis.  Of course, his followers or disciples came to him (προσῆλθαν αὐτῷ οἱ μαθηταὶ αὐτοῦ).  Obviously, there were now more than the two sets of two brothers.  Jesus then opened his mouth (καὶ ἀνοίξας τὸ στόμα αὐτοῦ) to teach them with his words (ἐδίδασκεν αὐτοὺς λέγων).  If he was seated, in order to be heard, the crowd could not have been more than a couple of hundred people, if that, maybe even less than 100.