Posted by Roberta Grimes • August 15, 2020 • 36 Comments
Jesus, The Teachings of Jesus
And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree
There will be an answer, let it be
For though they may be parted, there is still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be
– Paul McCartney, from “Let It Be” (1970)
The Lord’s Sermon on the Mount is the beautiful center and sum of His transformative teachings. It fills three chapters of the Book of Matthew, but it seems to be only Chapter Five that causes people trouble. Their problem is in part the persistence over centuries of an archaic word-choice, and in part the intrusion of Christian dogmas that came along a few centuries later. The start of Matthew’s Chapter 5 is the Beatitudes, where Jesus seems to be requiring us to adhere to rules for living that would be even stricter than all those Old Testament laws that He is replacing with God’s Law of Love. Worse, He seems to be telling us that unless we have been blessed with certain personal characteristics, for us to achieve much spiritual progress probably won’t be possible. To believe the literal words of the Beatitudes in an English translation is to despair! I think, though, that what Jesus really means to do here is to complete the process of freeing us from religious rules. He is making our rapid spiritual growth even easier to attain. And He does it in the Beatitudes in a beautiful, wise, and powerful way.
The key to understanding the Beatitudes is to know that transformation cannot be accomplished with rules, no matter how well we follow them. At best, rules can only shape our behavior, forming new habits through repetition; but since rules must be enforced through fear, once the fear is gone the habit degrades. No behavioral rule can transform you spiritually, even if you follow it for your whole life. Transformation must first happen within! If it is to be lasting, the behavior mandated by any rule can be nothing more than the fruit of your wondrous internal spiritual transformation.
Let’s first read the Beatitudes without comment, enjoying the flow of the words; and then let’s consider how each of the Lord’s statements here relates to His overall message:
“When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying,
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
‘Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.
‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
‘Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you’” (MT 5:1-12).
The word “beatitudes” means “supreme blessings.” These exalted characteristics therefore seem to many English speakers to be rare and unmerited gifts. As I began to write this week’s post, I discussed the Beatitudes with a knowledgeable friend who was dismissive of them. She said, “If you are not naturally ‘pure in heart’, Jesus is saying you won’t get to see God.” It does look as if Jesus is ordering us to behave in certain exalted ways that seem so unattainable that we despair of ever measuring up. But Jesus is not insisting here that we meet arbitrary, impossible standards. Instead, He is giving us in the Beatitudes a list of the primary characteristics of those who have completed their earthly spiritual development. He is giving us a track to run on. The Greek word that was long ago first translated as “blessed” could also mean “fortunate,” “rich,” or even just “happy.” So none of the characteristics listed in the Beatitudes should be seen as a mere unmerited “blessing.” They are all earned spiritual wealth that can be attained by anyone. He says elsewhere in His Sermon on the Mount, “You will know them by their fruits” (MT 7:16). And here He actually lists the fruits of genuine spiritual growth. The Beatitudes together describe the wondrous condition of those who have faithfully followed the Lord’s teachings and raised their personal consciousness vibrations to the point where by the end of this earth-lifetime they are ready to enter the kingdom of God.
Jesus has given us the method. Now here He gives us the measuring-stick.
Let’s look at each of these stated characteristics specifically. The words in parentheses are translation alternatives that have been suggested in Biblical footnotes:
When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain (or hill); and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying,
On Thursday morning someone pointed me to a Christian forum where my work was under discussion. A newcomer there had naively said, “Hello, My name is Jason, and I am new here. Recently, I was forwarded a video of Roberta Grimes, a business attorney in the US who also studied early Christian history. I don’t know if I should post the link of her YouTube videos here but you can do a search of her name on YouTube and find her videos. My question is, what do you think about her videos? Any thoughts?” He had received a few answers when I read the thread. The one I liked best was, “I watched some of her videos after your initial post. In some ways, she reminds me of Thomas Jefferson and Tolstoy. She wants us to embrace the moral teachings of Jesus, and reject everything else as a perversion of the institution of ‘Christianity’.” Every other response was from the judgmental perspective of traditional Christian dogmas. Not one of them considered the possibility that Jesus might have had a different agenda from the fear-based human ideas of people who lived more recently than He did. Then finally came the response that made me smile. Someone’s whole comment was, “She is a whack job.”
Wow! That last Beatitude may be the hardest to attain, since it requires that someone else take the trouble of insulting you because you stand up for Jesus. And being called a “whack job” for the Lord could be considered persecution, wouldn’t you say? Perhaps it is time to talk about what some of us might be asked to endure as we risk sharing the Gospel truths. First, though, we will tackle the beautiful and comforting balance of His Sermon on the Mount….
And when the night is cloudy there is still a light that shines on me
Shine until tomorrow, let it be
I wake up to the sound of music, Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
Let it be, let it be, let it be, yeah, let it be
There will be an answer, let it be
– Paul McCartney, from “Let It Be” (1970)
36 thoughts on “Sermon on the Mount (Part I)”
Roberta, the work you do to spread Jesus’ message of love is so very critica at this time in the worldl. Personally, I cant get enough of your writings and look forward to Sunday mornings with great joy. There will be those people who cannot understand your message and will call you names, but please carry on. Your work is very much appreciated.
Dear Dawn, thank you for sharing such lovely thoughts here! It delights me more than you can imagine to know that you are happy to receive these posts, and I feel privileged to be able to share them with you. Amazingly, I even get to claim them as my own work! Even though of course they are primarily the work of my beautiful spirit guide. You are praising my friend Thomas here, dear Dawn, and I am grateful to you for doing that!
It would be easy to take credit for all our work. And Thomas doesn’t care about the credit – he just wants to share the truth. But the only time in my life anymore when I ever feel a twinge of guilt is when I neglect to mention him, so thank you for giving me a chance to do that! Each week as I am answering comments about the post just published, I wonder whether we can somehow keep this up – next Sunday is just a week away! – and each week by Monday I have our new topic from him, and I generally think it’s a great one. But then I usually flounder all week until each Friday morning, when he steps in and gets it done.
I have come to think that probably all prolific writers are being guided this way. To be able to write this much and this well would make me feel like a genius, if only I hadn’t actually met Thomas and been given a peek behind the curtain. The literary word is “muse.” Great writers often talk about having a muse, but that muse is a lot more than just a little bird on the shoulder; and I know that, because whenever I try to write something that doesn’t have a spirit guide behind it (I have two for writing), I cannot produce a coherent sentence.
Dear Dawn, I apologize for babbling, but I am especially grateful for our unseen friends today. Thank you for giving me the chance to say that!
Thank you Roberta,
I am new here and for a few weeks, I have been reading your writings and trying to digest what you say. I do not believe in fear based religion either. My spiritual encounters with God have been very gentle, generous, and joyous. He encourages me to trust him. I have not once felt any fury with the mistakes I have made along my life’s path. I am harder on myself at times than he has been on me. Thank you for reinforcing and adding to what I feel is the truth about Jesus and God. The gospels remind us of the best way to live our lives on earth. I hope I will make it!
Dear Jennifer Lee, welcome and it is lovely to meet you! The words “gentle, generous, and joyous” are a perfect description of the godhead, so thank you for sharing them here. The way that I most commonly envision the relationship is as one of a doting father-mother who has long craved this child who is now playing in the living room, pulling books off shelves and spilling milk on the carpet. The Parent smiles and laughs at such toddler antics of a best-beloved child who is growing, who is making mistakes now but who is beautiful and brilliant and is growing as the joy of that Parent’s heart. And I am that child. Each one of us is! God is that Parent.
That is how much we are loved, and how much God is happy to overlook our mistakes because God truly knows us and far-beyond-perfectly loves us. It is only religions that make us fear God, and in that they have no choice because no one would bother with religions unless they had the fears that it religions instill so they will need the antidotes to fear that each religion peddles. But I am being told now, and forcefully, that our task is not to battle Christianity, but simply to serve those who feel as you do, who have outgrown those religious fears.
Dear Jennifer Lee, not only are you going to make it, but you are going to triumph!
Hi Roberta, hi everybody! This is an important discussion of what is easily among the best known and the most misunderstood collection of His sayings. As you note, the word “blessed” in modern Western versions of Christianity—as well as in secular usage—has so many meanings that it makes everyone nervous.
Looking at these important invitations to spiritual growth within the context of His teachings provides us with a very different understanding. Most important, everyone is invited to “seek” the Way.
Thank you, dear Mike! I slap my head repeatedly in doing this work, and when Thomas proposed the Beatitudes as a topic I did it again. Of course! I thought it would be a stand-alone topic, but then halfway through the week he said, “Um, but what about the rest of Chapter Five?” Then, “What about the rest of the Sermon on the Mount?” The thing about the Sermon is that we tend not to think of it as a whole, since it encompasses so much! But Thomas is showing me now how important it is that we see it as a whole. As the Gospels are the heart of the Christian Bible, so the Sermon on the Mount is the heart of the Gospels, and the literal handbook for those who are seeking to ever more perfectly follow the Lord’s Way. So now this is a series. And I am eager for what comes next!
I am an English major not a biblical scholar, but because I am I did a little quick research on the etymology of the word “blessed.” Interestingly and not surprisingly there were all kinds of references to and citations of religious connotations.
But those don’t apply for obvious reasons to Jesus’ meaning in his invitation to follow the Way. Most references to the ancient Greek, which would have been close to Aramaic, traced to “happy.”
One etymology I found traced to an ancient Greek root meaning bliss.
Thank you, dear Mike, for a great contribution! I also think that what Jesus meant to say was something like “happy” or “blissful.” And both words would certainly apply to someone who had achieved the level of the kingdom of God!
Thank you for clarification, especially of the notion of poverty of spirit. And for the beautiful garden photos. You have emphasized exactly those words of Jesus in which I have found the most hope and the greatest source of strength to carry on to the best of my ability.
I see nothing negative at all about Jesus’ message or the word “blessed.” I think his message is beautiful and uplifting but the problem lies in the interpretation of the word “blessed.” Due to the insistence of making everything Jesus said to be fear based, it is easy to see how the word “blessed” could be twisted to mean “special” or “favored” and would result in a sense of unworthiness in most individuals. However, in the context of his other messages and the examples he gave by the way he lived, it was clearly not his intention to make anyone feel unworthy or frightened. In order to truly understand the teachings of Jesus, we must eliminate any fear based interpretations of what he said.
Dear Lola, that is precisely the problem. Nothing that Jesus ever actually said is in any way fear-based at all, but the Council of Nicaea in 325 incorporated into the Gospels some church-building notions that are fear-based, including end-time nonsense and sheep-and-goats ideas that were then current. What Nicaea added suggests that not everybody is going to heaven, and even provides some grounding for the horrific Calvinistic idea that some people are predestined to be saved while others are predestined for hell and there is no way that either group can change the outcome. Against that background, the word “blessed” can even be read to refer to the idea that if you don’t have the right characteristics, then too bad, hellfire is your destiny.
The whole long history of Christian thought really has so little to do with the Christ!
Dear Sha’alah, the term “poor in spirit” in the Beatitudes used to bother me, too, especially as I was learning the importance of spiritual growth. I mean, aren’t we supposed to become RICH in spirit?? Isn’t that the entire point? So yes, it has been lovely to find Biblical footnotes that make it all clearer. The problem with even a modern English translation of the Bible is that word-usage changes over the centuries, and meanwhile the old phrasing is so familiar that we can have trouble even recognizing a fresh, new translation of some familiar phrase. So translators have to thread a needle, keeping most of those familiar words while always being aware of the need to make the meaning cleaarer and more accurate in modern terms. Thank God for footnotes!
And I’m glad you are enjoying the garden pictures.The one at the top is a view from the home of a dear friend. It’s lovely, and the actual view from that veranda is even more amazing!
Dear Sha’alah, I’m very glad about that! I think all of us feel as you do, that the Beatitudes feel like an inspirational gift that keeps us moving forward.
The work you are doing to unravel and de-mystify the life-changing, earth-changing messages of Jesus could not be more important or more needed than at this time in our history. You are a beacon of light on a very stormy coast. Please keep on shining as I feel there are many more who will find you and be guided safely to the harbor. Thanks for your great effort.
Oh dear Jeffrey, thank you for this! What a beautiful image, and really just precisely what I want to do now. I am being told that my primary mission is to help Christians who have become disaffected by what are some very negative dogmas, but who love Jesus and want to follow just Him; and as you know, at this point there are so many people in this position. I am hearing from them every day! For them, there really is a harbor that is safe and more beautiful than they can imagine; so our job is just to try to make our light brighter. Thank you!
Dr King’s famous speech (1963, March for Jobs)
‘I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal…’
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood…
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice…
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.’
This seems to me to be a continuation of what Jesus said as a ‘mission statement’ in the blessings; not meaning to judge people but give them something to aim for as you suggest Roberta. God bless you. Please keep on writing. It really does help the rest of us!!
(Here is More of His Speech)
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, that one day right down in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exhalted [sic], every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith that I will go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning, “My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrims’ pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania. Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California. But not only that; let freedom ring from the Stone Mountain of Georgia. Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee. Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
Dear Prasanna, we will talk about Dr. King and his approach to nonviolence in just a few weeks. Such an extraordinary human being!
Just a quick observation here. There is a description of insanity attributed to Albert Einstein that goes: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”
The same people push the same old dogmatic, fear based Christianity over and over again – and parishioners are still leaving the churches in droves. (The leavers cite fear, guilt and harsh judgment as what they are getting away from.) Yet the traditional dogmatists claim to be about bringing people to the Lord.
Who then, are the whack jobs ?! ❣️🧐🌅
Dear Efrem, I have heard from people who thought I was troubled about having been called a “whack job,” but actually the opposite is true. I saw it as a sign that I might be having an impact! It might even make a good title for a future blog post, maybe several weeks hence….
Go for it!😉
Well, as you know, whether we write about that – or about anything – is up to my dear Thomas. But it does seem to be quite true that those who work to advance the Lord’s way will be vilified. Horrifying, but true indeed, since it is alarming for Christians to think that perhaps giving them that Get Out of Hell Free Card was not the point of the Lord’s work on earth.
Dear Roberta. Your story about the encounter on Thursday with Christian forum people reflects what has been on my mind recently. What you are doing requires a great deal of intellectual preparation and “intestinal fortitude,” and bless you for that. I wonder, when the rubber hits the road, if I could actually live up to your example of bravery. I’m sure original followers
of The Way had similar dilemmas. But more to the point, in light of all the violent religious extremism in the world today, I hope you will be very wary of those who might want to do more than just call you a “whack job,” but actually try to come and do you physical harm. That is something that worries me a lot, so please be carefull.❤🙏
Oh my dear Scott, you are so sweet! But please don’t worry about me. Quick story: it was going on five years ago now that Thomas wanted me to get a gun and learn how to use it for my own defense. So I tried. My husband bought me a small handgun (he himself is well armed), and I took some lessons in shooting. But I soon realized that I would be unable to shoot a human being, even if it was my life or his. I discussed this problem with Thomas quite frankly; I said, “I can’t kill someone and debase my vibrations to that extent. Sorry. I can never shoot anyone!” So at that point, they seemed to change their plans. They slowed the rollout of these events by years, and they respected my insistence that if I ever need protection, it will be theirs to provide. So, here we are!
Sounds, Roberta, like you have the “spiritual secret service” looking after you. That is very comforting. 😁
Dear Scott, my Thomas knows very well that I won’t at all mind going home early. I think he finds the need to protect me as his useful tool because I am not likely to protect myself to be a tad frustrating, but he is accepting it; after all, the Lord Himself told us we should “turn the other cheek,” right?
But stick around long enough to finish the series!😀
This week’s blog post was truly a revelation for me. Thomas and your good self have have been superlative regarding the opening up of the Beatitudes.
What an amazing thing: the Gospels are the heart of the Christian Bible and the Sermon on the Mount is the heart of the Gospels! I mean, once you look at this idea closely you can see it!
And our Jesus, who came to us straight from the Divine teaches of Love Eternal. We find that essentially Love is transformative. And it gives the greatest delight to realize that He invites and inspires us to transform; to grow in Spirit.
You know I thought about it. I realized that physical desire gives you fever. Romantic love is intoxicating and it may change you and become life giving with time. But ‘Agape’ (Love of the Spirit) is eternal and truly transforms you to become one with the Divine. So Jesus who comes from the heart of Love, wishes to give us the All. What greater love is there than this ?!
This is wonderful. And if one sees things this way it is not possible to misunderstand and look at the Beatitudes as unreachable high standards, where most people fail to make the grade. Jesus is not like that; Love is not like that.
It is the nature of Love to include all of us.
Thank you dear Roberta for this amazing blog. 😊🙏🏼❣️🌅
And dear Efrem, thank you for sharing your wonderful insights here! What those who have gone on ahead tell us about the predominance of agape-love there is deeply beautiful, and some of them talk about how they could have made loving a much bigger priority here, and they would have had less catching-up to do. Whatever the question, love really is the answer!
A wonderful inspirational article, and Paul McCartneys’ lyrics in this context sound even more powerful. Also some truly wonderful replies as well. Thank you very much for all your work ( and Thomas’s input 😉 ) Roberta, it is greatly appreciated.
Dear Kenneth, thank you for this! I love doing this work with Thomas. Actually, I love it more since I am reminded almost daily in big and little ways that I couldn’t do it on my own, which makes the fun of it so much greater! And hearing from so many people, both here and by email, who are resonating with the work we are doing makes me happier than you can possibly know. Thank you!!
This week’s blog reminded me of what my therapist of yore, the late Dr. Ted Lewis who was an Episcopal priest and a psychologist said about the Beatitudes as a whole. He said they are the greatest recipe for mental health ever written. I do think as you wrote, “The whole process of spiritual growth consists in rooting out everything about ourselves that is not-God, so we can spiritually raise ourselves enough to approach the vibratory level of the Godhead.” that we are meant to aspire to these teachings and are not expected to attain perfection which a quick reading might suggest.
I do have a couple of qualms about refering to Ted as the late Ted when we all know he is still very much alive in one form or another. How about the transitioned Ted? The other qualm is that I left his sessions hurriedly, not conforming to an agreement, and so I say that I’m sorry and ask forgiveness. Please forgive me Ted.
Dear Cookie, I have come to prefer the term “transitioned” as well. And I’m sure that Ted now forgives you! It’s wonderful to see how differently those now in bodies treat all the disappointments and petty slights of their lives just ended. They love us, and they always forgive us! From there, this whole time they spent on earth looks no more important than an afternoon’s trek through a very dark wood, or maybe a golf game where a few players took unacceptable mulligans so we lost. None of it really matters at all – it is only how much we loved while here that matters to us at all when we are there!
I know we’re on the verge of the next installment, so perhaps I should save this comment. But, Roberta and Cookie, you have touched on one of the key factors that bog us down in the process of creativity we call spiritual growth: regret, and our own inability to forgive—not so much others but—ourselves for our lessons learned the “hard way.” We each have our personal version of this impediment.
Dear Mike, well said and so true. I suspect this is the primary reason why Jesus made such a big thing of forgiveness; this, and the fact that after death each of us will be our own afterlife judge. And forgiving ourselves after death is so much harder! But as you say, each of us has done things that we now regret and for which we find it difficult to forgive ourselves. This is a universal battle!
Dear Roberta, I love reading your posts….I have a slightly different take on some idea’s but basically, I agree with you on many things. I had an NDE in my twenties, and I am now going to be 59, on November 4th. I was actually revived, and remember that special time, and feeling of being immersed and lifted in Love, and the Angels that carried me. While I don’t claim to be an expert on the Bible, knowing the bits I know of the Bible, I would have to say that it was man’s best try, at interpreting Jesus thoughts, influenced by society, at that time and place in history. I know that they did not grasp all his thoughts as he intended, in each word of the Bible, for a fact. For very simple and private reasons, it was very apparent to me from the message given to me, while in the arms of the Angels, that our God is so loving. The Bible is simply man’s best try, to convey what they interpreted his word and thoughts to be, at that time. As for “the human condition,” this is how we were created, not perfect, but hopefully as evolving beings. I always equate our lives to the caterpillar, growing and evolving, until it sheds one body and is born into another. It is my true belief that we are here to grow spiritually, and that our passing is just that, passing on into new life, shedding our earthly trappings, so we can be born again into a more realistic world, where you’re only seen for what’s inside your soul, not our physical presence. Have a Blessed day. Susan
Hello Susan! NDEs are truly wonderful experiences that stay with experiencers all their lives. Please understand, however, that the messages people are given during NDEs are meant for their recipients alone, so you needn’t stress about a need to share what was said to you more broadly; I assume that is a relief! And in the case of the Gospel messages, the truth is rather complicated. I have talked about the process of passing down the words of Jesus at considerable length, both in these blog posts and in books, so I won’t rehash all of that here. But we are abundantly told by those not now in bodies and communicating from the higher levels that the very simple messages that survive in the Gospels are indeed very close to what Jesus came to earth to tell us. To emphasize that point, He edited His Gospel words in Liberating Jesus. And we do indeed come into repeated earth-lives to grow spiritually! I think you will be amused to see what the being who once was Thomas Jefferson said about his return home when he spoke through Leslie Flint in 1960. Thank you for sharing your thoughts here!