Matthew 5: The Sermon on the Mount <abbr> (Part 1)

Even non-Christians have heard of the Sermon on the Mount. Christians hear many sermons, but there are sections that are difficult to understand and therefore can not be used properly in life.

John Stott put it this way:
"The Sermon on the Mount is probably the best-known part of the teachings of Jesus, but it is also probably the least understood and certainly the least followed" (The message of the Sermon on the Mount, pulsmedien Worms 2010, page 11). Let's study the Sermon on the Mount again. Maybe we will find new treasures and remember the old ones again.

The Beatitudes

"When he saw [Jesus] the people, he went up a mountain and sat down; and his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth, taught her, and said » (Matthew 5,1: 2). As is so often the case, the crowd has probably followed. The sermon was not just for the disciples. So Jesus instructed the disciples to spread his teachings around the world, and Matthew wrote them down so that over a billion people could read them. His teachings are intended for anyone who is willing to listen to them.

«Blessed are those who are spiritually poor there; because theirs is the kingdom of heaven » (V.3). What does it mean to be "mentally poor"? Have low self-confidence, hardly be interested in spiritual things? Not necessarily. Many Jews referred to themselves as "the poor" because they were often poor and they relied on God to take care of their daily needs. So Jesus may have meant the faithful. But being "spiritually poor" suggests more. Poor people know that they lack the bare essentials. The spiritually poor know that they need God; they feel a lack in their life. They don't think of themselves as doing God a favor by serving Him. Jesus says the kingdom of heaven will be given to such people as they are. It is the humble, the addicted to whom the kingdom of heaven is given. You only trust in God's mercy.

«Blessed are those who suffer there; because they should be comforted » (V.4). This statement contains a certain irony, because the word "blessed" can also mean "happy". The sad are happy, Jesus says, because at least it consoles them to know that their needs are not permanent. Everything will be straightened out. Note that the Beatitudes are not commandments - Jesus does not say that suffering is spiritually beneficial. Many people are already suffering in this world and Jesus says that they should be comforted - probably when the Kingdom of Heaven comes.

«Blessed are the meek; because they will own the soil » (V.5). In ancient societies, the country was often taken away from the meek. But God's way of doing it will also fix it.

"Blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty for justice; because they should be full » (V.6). Those who yearn for justice and justice (the Greek word means both) are preserved as they request. Those who suffer from evil and want things to be straightened out should be rewarded. In this age, God's people suffer from injustice; we long for justice. Jesus assures us that our hopes will not be in vain.

«Blessed are the merciful; because they will have mercy » (V.7). We need mercy on the Day of Judgment. Jesus says that this is why we should be compassionate at this time. This is contrary to the behavior of those who demand justice and defraud others or who demand mercy, but who are relentless themselves. If we want to have a good life, we have to act accordingly.

«Blessed are those who are pure in heart; because they will see God » (V.9). A pure heart has only one desire. Those who seek God alone will be sure to find him. Our desire will be rewarded.

«Blessed are the peaceful ones; for they will be called God's children » (V.9). The poor will not enforce their rights by force. God's children rely on God. We should show mercy and compassion, not anger and discord. We cannot live in the realm of justice by acting unjustly. Since we want peace in the kingdom of God, we should treat each other in a peaceful manner.

«Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of justice; because theirs is the kingdom of heaven » (V.10). People who behave correctly sometimes have to suffer because they are good. Gentle people like to be exploited. There are those who even get angry about those who do good because their good example makes bad people look all the worse. Sometimes the righteous succeed in helping the oppressed by weakening social customs and rules that have given power to the unjust. We do not seek to be persecuted, but the righteous are often persecuted by bad people. Be of good cheer, says Jesus. Hold on. The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who experience it.

Then Jesus turns directly to his disciples and speaks to them with the word "you" in the second person plural: "Blessed are you when people revile you for my sake and persecute you and speak all sorts of evil against you if you lie with it. Be happy and confident; you will be richly rewarded in heaven. Because they also persecuted the prophets who were before you » (Vv. 11-12).

There is an important passage in this verse: "for my sake". Jesus expects his disciples to be persecuted not only because of their good lifestyle, but also because of their connection to Jesus. Therefore, be happy and confident when you are being followed - at least your actions should be enough to be noticed. You make a difference in this world and you can be sure it will be rewarded.

Make a difference

Jesus also used a few short metaphorical phrases to describe how His followers should influence the world: “You are the salt of the earth. If the salt is no longer salted, what should you salt with? It is of no more use than to throw it away and let people crush it » (V.13).

If salt loses its flavor, it would be useless because its taste gives it its value. Salt is so good just because it tastes different than other things. Likewise, the disciples of Jesus are scattered in the world - but if they are equal to the world, they are of no use.

"You are the light of the world. The city lying on a mountain cannot be hidden. You don't light a light and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; so it shines for all who are in the house » (Vv. 14-15). The disciples should not hide - they should be visible. Your example is part of your message.

«So let your light shine in front of people, so that they can see your good works and praise your Heavenly Father» (V.16). Later, Jesus criticized the Pharisees for wanting to be seen for the sake of their works (Mt
6,1).
Good works should already be seen, but for the glory of God, not for our own.

Better justice

How should the disciples live? Jesus talks about it in verses 21 through 48. It begins with a warning: If you hear what I say, you may wonder if I'm trying to break up the Scriptures. I do not do that. I do and teach exactly what the scriptures dictate to me. What I'm going to say will surprise you, but please, do not get me wrong.

"You shall not think that I have come to dissolve the law or the prophets; I have not come to dissolve, but to fulfill » (V.17). Many people focus here on the law and assume that it is a question of whether Jesus wants to take away the laws of the Old Testament. This makes it very difficult to interpret the verses because everyone agrees that Jesus Christ, as part of his mission, fulfilled some laws that made it unnecessary. You may argue about how many laws are affected, but everyone agrees that Jesus came to repeal at least some of them.

Jesus doesn't talk about laws (Plural!) But about the law (Singular!) - That means about the Torah, the first five books of the Holy Scriptures. He also speaks about the Prophets, another major section of the Bible. This verse is not about individual laws, but the Old Testament books as a whole. Jesus did not come to abolish Scripture, but to fulfill it.

Of course, obedience played a role, but it was about more. God wants his children to do more than follow the rules. When Jesus fulfilled the Torah, it was not just a matter of obedience. He finished everything the Torah had ever hinted at. He did what Israel was unable to do as a nation.

Then Jesus said: "For truly, I say to you: until heaven and earth pass, the smallest letter will not pass even the icing on the cake until everything happens" (V.18). But Christians do not have to have their children circumcised, do not build leaf huts, and do not wear blue threads in tassels. Everyone agrees that we don't have to keep these laws. So what does Jesus mean when he said that none of the laws would be broken? Isn't it the case that in practice these laws have disappeared?

There are three basic considerations for this. First, we can see that these laws have not disappeared. They are still listed in the Torah, but that doesn't mean we have to follow them. That's right, but it doesn't seem to be what Jesus wanted to say here. Second, one could say that Christians keep these laws, and believe in Christ. We keep the law of circumcision in our hearts (Romans 2,29) and we keep all ritual laws through faith. That is also correct, but it should not be exactly what Jesus was saying here.

Third, it should be noted that 1. none of the laws can become obsolete before everything is fulfilled and 2. everyone agrees that at least some of the laws are no longer valid. So we conclude 3. that everything has been fulfilled. Jesus fulfilled his mission and the law of the old covenant is no longer valid. However, why should Jesus say "until heaven and earth pass"?

Did he just say it to emphasize the certainty of what he said? Why did he use the word "to" twice if only one of them was relevant? I dont know. But I know that there are many Old Testament laws that Christians don't have to keep, and verses 17-20 don't tell us which ones are affected. If we only quote verses because certain laws suit us, we misuse those verses. They do not teach us that all laws are valid forever, as this does not apply to all laws.

These commandments - what are they?

Jesus continues: "Whoever looses one of these smallest commandments and teaches people that way will be called the smallest in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does it and teaches it will be raised in the kingdom of heaven » (V.19). What are “these” commandments? Does Jesus refer to the commandments in the law of Moses or to his own instructions that he will give shortly afterwards? We need to be aware of the fact that verse 19 begins with the word "therefore." (instead of «now» in the).

There is a logical connection between the verses 18 and 19. Does that mean that the law will remain, should these commandments be taught? That would involve Jesus talking about the law. But there are commandments in the Torah that are outdated and should no longer be taught as law. Therefore, Jesus can not have spoken of teaching all the laws of the Old Testament. That would be in contrast to the rest of the New Testament.

It is very likely that the logical connection between verses 18 and 19 is different and focuses more on the closing part "until everything happens". This consideration would mean the following: the whole law will stay until everything happens and "therefore" (since Jesus fulfilled everything), we should teach these laws (the laws of Jesus, which we will read shortly) instead of the old laws that he criticizes. This makes more sense when you look at it in the context of the sermon and the New Testament. Jesus' commandments are to be taught (Matthew 7,24:28,20;). Jesus explains the why: "For I say to you: If your righteousness is not better than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not come to the kingdom of heaven" (V.20).

The Pharisees were known for their strict obedience; they even tithed their herbs and spices. But true justice is a matter of the heart, the character of a person, not the observance of certain rules. Jesus does not say that our obedience to these laws must be better, but obedience must be to better laws, which he will explain shortly afterwards, because we know what he means.

But we are not as fair as we should be. We all need mercy and we do not come to the kingdom of heaven because of our righteousness, but in a different way, as Jesus said in the verses 3-10. Paul called it the gift of righteousness, justification by faith, the perfect righteousness of Jesus, in which we partake when we are united with him by faith. But Jesus does not explain everything here.

In short, do not think that Jesus came to abolish the Old Testament scriptures. He came to do what the scriptures had foretold. Every law remained in force until Jesus fulfilled all that he was sent to do. He is now giving us a new standard of justice to live by and teach.

by Michael Morrison


pdf Matthew 5: The Sermon on the Mount (Part 1)