The Sermon on the Mount

Posted by Roberta Grimes • February 10, 2024 • 6 Comments
Jesus, The Teachings of Jesus

I am weak but Thou art strong.
Jesus, keep me from all wrong!
I’ll be satisfied as long
As I walk, let me walk close to Thee.

 Just a closer walk with Thee.
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea!
Daily walking close to Thee.
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.
Traditional, from “Just a Closer Walk with Thee,” 19th Cen.

Jesus taught many truths so rich in meaning that just to read them can fill our hearts with joy. And His Sermon on the Mount (MT 5:1-48) is such glorious spiritual food that ideally we will study it at least once, and perhaps two or three times each year. Simply open your red-letter modern translation of the Bible, and read it slowly. Savor it. Enjoy even the slightly alarming parts. “What, Jesus? Pluck out my eye, if it might cause me to offend God? Or cut off my hand? Surely You don’t mean that?” But you know Jesus pretty well by now, and you know that sometimes He will say such things for dramatic effect, so you share a smile with Him, and you read on. You can feel the drama building in the latter part of His sermon, as like any good preacher, Jesus builds toward His finish.  And of course, the place where He is going is where you were sure that He would be going. He is always headed toward unlimited love. And He begins, too, as any good preacher would begin. First of all, before this crowd of many thousands of people, He praises and encourages His twelve close Disciples. The Sermon on the Mount begins with what are called The Beatitudes. Which are the nine ways that Jesus tells His Disciples that they are richly blessed, even though people may oppress them in His name.

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. And 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 will be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in this same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by people.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Your light must shine before people in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

17 “Do not presume that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. 18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke of a letter shall pass from the Law, until all is accomplished! 19 Therefore, whoever nullifies one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

20 “For I say to you that unless your righteousness far surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

21 “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not murder,’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be answerable to the court.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be answerable to the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be answerable to the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into Gehenna. 23 Therefore, if you are presenting your gift at the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift here before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your gift. 25Come to good terms with your accuser quickly, while you are with him on the way to court, so that your accuser will not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you will not be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last penny.

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; 28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 Now if your right eye is causing you to sin, tear it out and throw it away from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into Gehenna. 30 And if your right hand is causing you to sin, cut it off and throw it away from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into Gehenna.

31 “Now it was said, ‘Whoever sends his wife away is to give her a certificate of divorce’; 32 but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

33 “Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, take no oath at all, neither by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 nor by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you take an oath by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black. 37 But make sure your statement is, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil origin.

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, do not show opposition against an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other toward him also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may prove yourselves to be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Even the tax collectors, do they not do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Even the Gentiles, do they not do the same? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (MT 5:1-48)

Wow. All right. Now let’s together analyze Jesus’s greatest sermon! At another time we might devote a whole blog post separately to just the Beatitudes, which are those nine introductory blessings at MT 5:3-11, where Jesus orients his Disciples to the finer points of their place in the world. But today I would like to look at what I think of as Jesus’s view of the big spiritual picture as He gave it to all those thousands of His followers. In Jesus’s time on earth, salt was important as a flavoring and a preservative, and it was so valuable that it could be used as a medium of exchange. And a lamp, or a candle, also was of great value, since it could be used to extend the daylight for an entire house. And similarly, we ourselves are of great value! At MT 5:13-16, Jesus begins by telling that entire hillside, every one of His listeners, that each of them is extraordinarily precious. We are the salt and the light of the world.

Then Jesus says the first thing that brings us up short. At MT 5:17-20 He says that He did not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them. The Law and the Prophets is what the Jews of Jesus’s day called the Old Testament, and it seems to me that if they have indeed been fulfilled, then we don’t have to study them anymore, right? And what does “until all is accomplished” mean here? Isn’t Jesus actually accomplishing them in His lifetime on earth? My goodness, how I have puzzled over this passage at MT 5:17-19! At length, I have come to think that MT 5:20 is really the key to this section. Jesus is repeatedly exasperated throughout the Gospels by the form-over-substance lack of love-based spiritual merit of the clergymen of His day. I think that what He may be doing here is reinforcing our need to shift our attention away from the clergy’s mere parroting of rules, and toward our need to establish a deeper relationship with the spiritual substance of the Law. What the Law is meant to create and support for us spiritually is what matters, while the mere words of the Law themselves do not matter at all. The words alone mean nothing! Recall here, too, that the Kingdom of Heaven is the Sixth Level of the afterlife, that high level which is just below the Seventh, or Source Level, which is the Godhead level.

And of course, as we continue to read on, we see that this is precisely what the whole next six paragraphs are about! Jesus is quite literally transforming our entire relationship with the Old Testament Law from a shallow, black-letter, minimalist sort of what we students in law school used to call hornbook law, where we just have to obey the technical letter of the law, into a deeper, entirely spiritual sort of love-based law that lives within us. The letters themselves are entirely gone, and now the meaning is written in words of love upon our deepest hearts.

Wow, this is extraordinary. It gives me chills! Look at the passage that begins with MT 5:21. Now it is all about making amends with everyone in order to create our own absolute spiritual purity. And then, as Jesus gets really warmed up, beginning at MT 5:27, He starts talking about cutting off parts of our own bodies, for heaven’s sake, rather than letting those misguided parts lead us astray. Of course, we know that He doesn’t mean that literally. But as with what follows here, He is demanding of us that we demand of ourselves the complete and joyous spiritual unity with God that can only come from such a thorough and ecstatic love that we can never again be satisfied with just a scribe’s measly and minimalist parsing of religious words! Jesus really was bothered by the clergy’s shallow and self-important shows of piety.

And the same is true of making vows.Instead of swearing big, flowery vows that make you sound like a hypocrite, just always simply make good on your word. Yes means yes and no means no. Clearly, it especially bothered Jesus when these professional religious folks swore their vows in God’s sacred name!

In this company, Jesus’s insistence that we always turn the other cheek makes so much sense (MT 5:38). First, of course, Jesus’s supposition is that someone who hits you must be “an evil person.” Which therefore means that if you were to hit him back, you would be lowering yourself to his same evil level. And you cannot do that. “An eye for an eye” makes the whole world blind. So you accept his abuse without retaliation, out of God’s love for him and for you, whether it might be a slap on the cheek or a lawsuit or having been compelled to walk a mile with him, or whatever it might be. You never retaliate! Instead, you simply accept, you forgive, and then in kindness and love you move on with him from there.

And you love. (MT 5:43-48) Always, always with Jesus it is always all about love! Read that final paragraph of the Sermon on the Mount again. And know that in Jesus’s mind, our goal is always nothing less than God’s entirely love-based level of spiritual perfection.

Learning to love with our whole hearts even those who are most unlovable is the entire reason why we enter these lifetimes! And knowing how perfectly true that is makes all the fear- and negativity-based distractions of this life, and the fact that mainstream Christianity actually fosters negativity as if it were a virtue, so frustrating. But we do have our beloved Jesus. His guidance is loving, His wisdom is sure, and His teachings are the certain truth. Even two thousand years after He was last on earth, He speaks to us as if He still walks close beside us to this day.  

When my feeble life is o’er,
Time for me will be no more.
Guide me gently, safely o’er
To Thy kingdom’s shore, to Thy shore.

 Just a closer walk with Thee,
Grant it, Jesus, is my plea!
Daily walking close to Thee.
Let it be, dear Lord, let it be.
Traditional, from “Just a Closer Walk with Thee,” 19th Cen.


Roberta Grimes
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6 thoughts on “The Sermon on the Mount

  1. Oh Roberta,

    How wonderful it would have been to sit at Jesus’s feet and to have heard this sermon! He was teaching a higher law to be more loving and forgiving and thankful for our blessings.

    I would have left very early to be on the “front row” to hear His teaching of a new way to live and relate to God and others.

    Thank you for reminding me His teaching. Blessings to you and all our friends who come here.

    David D.

    1. Oh my dear David D., I feel just as you do. When I was much younger, back when I used to read the Bible from cover to cover and over and over, I found this Sermon somewhat intimidating, as actually I found quite a few things that Jesus said intimidating. But in time, I grew into it. He really is not suggesting that we pop an eye out! But you come to see, as He talks, how big and how beautiful His teachings really are. Oh yes, my dear one. To be able to have sat at His feet and actually heard Him speak would have been glorious!!

  2. Dear Roberta–Wow. If only just this writing about what Jesus told us were taught to all school children, this world would be at peace.

    1. Ah yes, my dear beloved Jack! And even to adults!! But the churches don’t generally teach the whole Sermon, it astonishes me to have to say. Not even the Protestant churches do. And I am not sure why, when it is so positive, except that it shifts so much responsibility to the individual, where Jesus tells us that it belongs. But that means cutting out the church, doesn’t it? And if you don’t need the church, then maybe your tithes will stop coming…?

  3. Dearest Roberta,
    Ihave read — I don’t know where–that the beatitudes go a long way towards demonstrating why they are the best Psychological advice there is. If so, I thoroughly agree.


    1. Yes, my sweet friend Cookie. And I will write about them soon. I skipped them only because I think they may have been given at a different time, and anyway to have included them here would have made this blog post too long. But I agree – they are quite wonderful!

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