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Intro to the Sermon on the Mount

The Sermon on the Mount is a collection of Jesus' most famous teachings in the Bible. Learn about its meaning and purpose in this series introduction.

Sermon on the Mount Jan 1, 2024
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  1. Jesus opens his sermon with descriptions of people who are already experiencing the good life of God's Kingdom. What might this tell us about God's nature?
  2. Rather than speaking from the temple to the most powerful Israelites in Jerusalem, Jesus heads into rural Galilee to speak with oppressed, powerless people. Why might he have chosen this location and these people?
  3. Take some time to reflect on any themes or ideas that stood out to you from the video.

Scripture References

Matthew 5-7 Matthew 6:9-13 Matthew 5 Matthew 5:3-16


Introduction [01:02-01:36]

Tim: If you’ve ever heard of Jesus of Nazareth, you probably know he was a famous teacher. And his most well-known words have shaped the lives of billions of people throughout history.

Jon: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”1 “Do to others what you would have them do to you.”2

Tim: Now, those sayings come from a collection of Jesus’ teaching that’s sometimes called The Sermon on the Mount. It’s only three chapters long, but its ideas and images have endured throughout time.

Jon: “You are the salt of the earth.”3 “You can’t serve both God and money.”4 “Take the plank out of your eye before you take the speck out of another’s.”5

Tim: In this sermon are some really challenging teachings.

Jon: “If anyone strikes you on the cheek, turn and offer him the other cheek.”6 “Love your enemy and bless those who persecute you.”7

Tim: And there are also some really puzzling teachings.

Jon: “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it … off?”8

The Literary Design of the Sermon on the Mount [01:02-01:36]

Tim: But the Sermon on the Mount is not a random collection of Jesus’ teachings. They’ve been organized in a beautiful way so that it’s easier to remember and meditate on. There are three main parts of the sermon, the middle of which has three parts. And then each of those middle parts themselves have three parts.

Jon: Wow! This sermon has been carefully designed.

Tim: Yes. And right at the center of the center is the famous prayer that Jesus taught his followers.

Jon: “Our Father in Heaven, may your name be treated as holy. May your Kingdom come. May your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.”9

God’s Kingdom in the Story of the Bible [01:37-02:37]

Jon: Well what does that mean, for God’s Kingdom to come on Earth?

Tim: Well, we have to remember that Jesus was Jewish. And he grew up meditating on the Hebrew Bible, the sacred Scriptures of Israel. And they told the story of God and all humanity.

Jon: How God created a well-ordered world and appointed humans to rule it on his behalf.10

Tim: And when humans rule with God’s wisdom and love, and when justice and peace prevail and there’s enough for everyone, that is God’s Kingdom and God’s will being done here on Earth as it is in Heaven.

Jon: And that’s no easy task. Humans foolishly rebel and start building their own kingdoms by their own wisdom.11

Tim: And so God chose one family, the Israelites, and he offered them his wisdom.12 It was called the Torah, which in Hebrew means “the teaching.” And beginning with Moses on Mount Sinai, God entered into a sacred covenant with them.13

Jon: Why only select one family?

Tim: Well, the goal was for the Israelites to be transformed by God’s wisdom so that they could represent God’s Kingdom before all the nations.14

Waiting for God’s Kingdom [02:38-03:37]

Jon: But in Jesus’ day, God’s Kingdom was nowhere to be seen. In fact, Israel was under the thumb of Roman oppressors. So what happened? Why isn’t God’s Kingdom coming?

Tim: Well, many religious leaders, like the scribes and the Pharisees, they thought it wasn’t coming because Israel wasn’t being faithful enough to the Torah. Other leaders, called the Sadducees, thought it would be best if Israel found a way to cooperate with Rome, and so they became the power brokers of Jesus’ day.

Jon: Some ran for the hills to become freedom fighters against Rome.

Tim: They’re known as “the zealots.”

Jon: And still others withdrew to the desert, waiting for God to use them to start a new Israel.

Tim: But walk around the hill country of Israel, like Jesus did, and you’ll mostly find normal people figuring out their lives as best they can. Most were barely hanging on—lots of poor and sick people. Many had lost their land to the Roman occupiers and were struggling to pay the heavy taxes.

Jon: They were powerless and hopeless.

Jesus Announces the Kingdom’s Arrival [03:38-04:30]

Tim: And so Jesus went to these people, healing the sick and announcing that God’s Kingdom was arriving.15 People gathered from all over to hear his teachings. And one day, Jesus went up to a tall hill and said the arrival of God’s Kingdom was starting here and now with them.

Jon: You mean, with the powerless? The weak? The nobodies? God’s Kingdom begins here?

Tim: Yes! This is why the very first line of the sermon on the mount is, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”16

In other words, where can you go and see God’s presence and blessings springing to life? Among the rich? Among the powerful? No, Jesus says. Look where people are poor, where they feel crushed and defeated. God’s Kingdom is beginning with the people standing right here.


Literary Design of Sermon on Mount and What’s Next [04:59-05:09]

Jon: The Sermon on the Mount has an intentional design. It begins with Jesus pronouncing several blessings on his listeners.

Tim: And those blessings are what we’re going to look at next.

1. Mark 12:31
2. Matthew 7:12
3. Matthew 5:13
4. Matthew 6:24
5. Matthew 7:5
6. Matthew 5:39
7. Matthew 5:44
8. Matthew 5:30
9. Matthew 6:9-10
10. Genesis 1
11. Genesis 3, 4, 11
12. Genesis 12:1-8
13. Exodus 19-20
14. Exodus 19:3-6
15. Matthew 4:23-25
16. Matthew 5:3
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