Called "The greatest sermon ever preached," Jesus' Sermon on the Mount has also launched many great sermons. Preaching a great series of sermons on the Sermon on the Mount is my goal as 2016 begins. You can add to your appreciation of the Sermon on the Mount by doing some introductory reading.
Basic Facts about the Sermon on the Mount
Short by typical sermon standards, Jesus' Sermon on the Mount consists of just three chapters in Matthew (5, 6, and 7; some of the material is repeated in Luke 6:17-49, known as the Sermon on the Plain; Jesus repeated many of the themes elsewhere in his preaching and teaching ). Even though it is relatively brief, the Sermon on the Mount is Jesus' longest recorded teaching.
Reading and rereading the Sermon on the Mount takes very few minutes. Recall the Bible study rule of thumb to first read quickly and for pleasure before reading deliberately for understanding. Recall, too, that reading and rereading in different versions aids understanding. GOOGLE "Sermon on the Mount" to find interesting articles and commentaries.
Outline of the Sermon on the Mount
- Matthew 5:3-12 contain The Beatitudes, a series of "Blessed art thou..." statements that challenge Christians to rearrange their attitudes. How can we "love life and see good days?" Jesus gives us nine essential keys.
- Matthew 5:13-16 introduce "salt" and "light" as figures of speech describing the influence of those who have been influenced by Him.
- Matthew 5:17-48 is Jesus' reinterpretation and reapplication of the moral codes of the Law of Moses.
- In Matthew 6:1-18, Jesus challenges the tendency to do good works for superficial reasons. Included is His model prayer (6:9-13).
- In the latter half of Matthew 6, Jesus also condemns a superficial, materialistic approach to life. Instead of looking out for our three favorite people (me, myself, and I), Jesus teaches that the greatest satisfactions come when we seeks "God's kingdom and His righteousness" first.
- Matthew 7:1-6 is Jesus condemnation of judging.
- In Matthew 7:7-29, Jesus concludes the Sermon on the Mount by warning about false teachers and false teaching. Included are famous references to "The Golden Rule" (Mt. 7:12) and "The Straight and Narrow Path" (Mt. 7:13).
No One Gets Off Easy
Not a cool collection of platitudes, Jesus' Sermon on the Mount challenges everyone. Those who want to prevent God from taking over their hearts are challenged by The Beatitudes to yield their innermost thoughts and motives. Those who attempt to satisfy true religion with superficial ritual are challenged to check their motives - while continuing to obey.
Aimed at a Jewish audience, Jesus challenges limited applications of the Law of Moses. Instead of eliminating Moses' moral teachings, Jesus deepens and expands concepts like "Thou shalt not kill." His religion would continue to insist that we "not kill," and would also insist that the evil condition of heart that mutates into murder also be corrected.
"What makes a good work good?" is the challenging question of the early verses of Matthew 6. Combining the obedience of hands with internal intentions, Jesus teaches that good is a quality determined by the inside out.
Modern American culture seems particularly vulnerable to the last half of Matthew 6. Focused so intently on junk and stuff and things, we sell our souls for "things that perish with the using." Jesus teaches us that life consist of more than the stuff and junk and things of materialism.
Perhaps most challenging of all is Jesus' intent warning about false teachers and false teaching. After spending so much time addressing the conditions of hearts, the Sermon on the Mount concludes with a very cerebral focus. Christians is also defined by correct teachings and practices. "By their fruit you shall know them."
For the first several months of 2016, every other Sunday AM sermon will be based on the Sermon on the Mount. This foundational sermon about Christ's will and ways is worthy of our time. I hope you will take the extra time to read and study the Sermon on the Mount on your own.