Popular Sermons Through Time Part I: The Sermon on the Mount

From the inception of Christianity, reading and listening to the word of God has been part of the most important disciplines for believers to grow. While the tradition of learning religious teachings from a revered teacher is not uncommon throughout ancient cultures, there is a marked distinction in the reaction of the listeners who heard Jesus deliver His first sermon. Matthew 7: 28-29 says: And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. This same testimony has been echoed through generations of preachers that have preached from the word of God. Today we will explore the key themes of the Sermon on the Mount and how it has transformed believers through the centuries.

Matthew 5 records Jesus’ first public sermon. The exact location of where this took place wasn’t recorded in the Bible but it is widely agreed that it was on a large hill known as Karn Hattin, located near Capernaum along the Sea of Galilee. The worker of miracles had garnered a large group of followers due to the working of miracles He had done and the multitude was eager to hear Him. For three chapters, Jesus laid down a couple of themes that went entirely against the accepted norms of the time and still go against the generally accepted values of our time. Through three chapters of the Bible, Jesus teaches essential lessons and guidelines, emphasizing the transformation of one’s heart and mindset. The key points in His sermon can be outlined as follows:

The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12):

A profound and counter-cultural set of teachings, wherein Jesus highlights the blessedness of the meek, the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the persecuted and the peacemakers, challenging societal values and emphasizing the importance of humility, compassion, and righteousness. Jesus tells these groups of people to rejoice because they gain something infinitely better beyond the treasures of this world.

The Role of Believers (Matthew 5:13-16):

Jesus underscores the importance of believers to be “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world,” by positively influencing others and radiating love. Jesus talks about how the believer should live in a way that men will give glory to God.

Interpretation of the Law (Matthew 5:17-48):

Jesus expounded on the actual standards of the law showing His listeners how it will be futile to keep God’s actual standards apart from the help of the Spirit. Jesus mentioned that He didn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfil it. It’s because Jesus fulfilled the dictates of the law that the believer can now rest in the finished work of Christ. He concludes this section by calling the listeners to a higher level of perfection – be ye perfect as your Father in heaven.

Spiritual Disciplines (Matthew 6:1-18):

Jesus provides guidance on practising authentic faith, addressing three key spiritual disciplines: giving to the needy, prayer, and fasting. He emphasizes the importance of sincerity and genuine devotion, encouraging believers to focus on their relationship with God rather than seeking attention or approval from others.

Treasures in Heaven (Matthew 6:19-34):

In this section, Jesus speaks about the true treasures and priorities in life. He warns against the dangers of materialism, instructing His followers to seek God’s kingdom above all else and trust in His provision. Jesus talks about the futility of worry and turns the eyes of His listeners towards where true riches flow from. He does this by emphasizing God as their Father.

Judging Others (Matthew 7:1-6):

Jesus cautions against passing judgment on others hypocritically and without self-reflection. He urges humility and self-awareness before attempting to address the faults of others.

Ask, Seek, Knock (Matthew 7:7-12):

Jesus encourages His disciples to persistently seek God because God is their Father. By drawing comparisons between earthly fathers, He shows how God who is infinitely more loving will give to those who trust in His providence the good things that they need.

The Two Foundations (Matthew 7:13-29):

Jesus concludes the sermon by illustrating the importance of building one’s life on a solid foundation. He presents a contrast between two types of builders: one who builds on the rock (hearing and doing His teachings) and another who builds on the sand (ignoring His teachings). He stresses the need for obedience and warns of the consequences of ignoring His words. Jesus shows that the way to a solid life is by listening to His words and continuing therein in them.

By emphasizing the inward transformation of the heart, the Sermon on the Mount has influenced Christian thought, ethics and spirituality throughout history. The core teachings of Jesus which centred around love and giving glory to God are expounded upon in this sermon laying down the guidelines of how a believer is supposed to live in this world. This sermon was and is still countercultural because it goes against self, calling the believer to live a life marked by radical love, forgiveness, and selflessness.






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