What was it like to see the carefully-designed structure of the Sermon on the Mount laid out in the video? What thoughts or questions did this experience prompt?
As you consider the Sermon of the Mount's design, do any of your observations help you think more deeply or better understand its message?
At the end of the video, Jon gives a summary of the Sermon on the Mount. In your own words, how would you articulate a similar big-picture summary? What do you see as the most important points of the sermon?
Take some time to reflect on any other themes or ideas that stood out to you from the video.
Jon: The Gospel of Matthew is one of the earliest accounts of Jesus of Nazareth.
Tim: And in chapters 5-7, we find a collection of Jesus’ most well-known teachings, often called the Sermon on the Mount. Here, we learn what Jesus means when he announces that "the Kingdom of the Skies has come near,” and what it looks like to participate in God’s Kingdom.
Tim: The whole sermon has been given a three-part shape. There’s the introduction, then the large main body, and then the conclusion. The introduction1 announces the surprising, counter-intuitive identity of those who are part of God’s Kingdom. Then comes the main body of teaching2, where Jesus explores what he means when he calls his followers to be “righteous.”
Jon: What does he mean by righteousness?
Tim: Righteousness is about living in right relationship with God and with others. It’s a character trait that creates justice and peace in the world. And the body of the sermon is like Jesus’ manifesto on righteousness, examined from three angles in three big parts: how this righteousness relates to the Torah3, how this righteousness relates to religious practices of his day4, and how this righteousness is expressed in our relationships with God and with neighbor.5
Finally, Jesus concludes the sermon6 by calling people to make a choice about how they’re going to respond.
Jon: Okay, I see it. Three main parts of this whole sermon, and then the middle part itself has three parts.
Tim: Right! And then, every one of these parts itself has three parts. There is a lot of design in the structure of the Sermon on the Mount, and we’re going to go over all of it.
Matthew 5:3-16: The Three Identities [01:36-02:42]
Tim: In the introduction, Jesus offers a surprise announcement to the people standing in front of him. They are invited to experience the good life of God’s Kingdom. He first offers nine sayings that redefine who is experiencing the good life, commonly called The Beatitudes. Here, we learn that those entering God’s Kingdom first are the lowly outsiders who hunger for righteousness and suffer as peacemakers.
Jon: Next, Jesus calls his followers “salt of the land.”7 What’s this all about?
Tim: In the Hebrew scriptures, salt is a symbol of God’s long-lasting covenant relationship with Israel. So Jesus is claiming that he and his followers are carrying Israel’s covenant relationship to its fulfillment.
Jon: Next, Jesus calls them “the light of the world” and “a city set up on a mountain.”8
Tim: Jesus is referencing here a promise from the prophet Isaiah—that one day, the inhabitants of Jerusalem would reflect God’s light and peace and blessing out to all the world.9
Jon: So Jesus is saying that he and his followers are fulfilling that promise.
Tim: Right! And how they go about doing that is what the rest of the Sermon on the Mount is all about.
Matthew 5:17-48: Righteousness and the Torah [02:43-04:01]
Jon: Now, in the main body of the sermon, Jesus calls his followers to do righteousness.
Tim: Righteousness means living in right relationship with God and with others. And Jesus explores his vision of righteousness from three perspectives, resulting in three big parts to the main body of the sermon.
Jon: The first perspective is that his teachings about righteousness fulfill the Torah and Prophets. What does this mean?
Tim: Well, the Torah and Prophets refer to the Hebrew scriptures. And this big idea that Jesus fulfills them, it’s unpacked in three parts. First, Jesus claims that he’s not setting aside the laws of the Torah. Rather, he’s bringing Israel’s story and all of its laws to their completion.10 Next, Jesus offers six case studies of how his righteousness fulfills the Torah. He explores the topics of anger, lust, divorce, telling the truth, revenge, and enemy love.11 Finally, Jesus sums up this way of life as “teleios,” a Greek word that means “complete” or “whole.”12 The purpose of the Torah is to teach people God’s wisdom, so they can become mature, whole people who spread God’s blessing to the world. And this call to become whole or complete links back to this section’s beginning, where Jesus claims that living by his teachings will “fulfill” the Torah and the Prophets.13
Matthew 6:1-21: Righteousness and Religious Practices [04:02-05:11]
Jon: Next, Jesus looks at how his righteousness relates to the religious practices of his day. Now this section has three parts.
Tim: Right! In the first part, Jesus claims that living in right relationship with God and others results in a reward. But be careful, Jesus says, because if you’re doing your righteousness to get public praise, then you’ll miss out on the real reward that God has in store.
Jon: Next, Jesus gives three examples of how religious devotion can go sideways. His examples are generosity to the poor14, prayer15, and fasting.16
Tim: In each of these, Jesus challenges his followers to express their devotion to God in subtle ways that don’t attract attention. Then, he completes this section by teaching about what the real reward is.
Jon: Yeah. He says, “Don’t store up for yourself treasure on the land, but store up for yourself treasure in the sky.” So what is this sky treasure?
Tim: Well, this idea of treasure links back to Jesus’ opening claim that true righteousness brings a reward. The greatest treasure is not admiration from people; rather, the real reward is knowing and being known by the loving God of the universe.
Matthew 6:19-7:12: Righteousness and Relationships [05:12-07:22]
Jon: And that leaves this third and final perspective—how doing righteousness affects our relationships with God and neighbor.
Tim: Now, this section itself has three parts. First, Jesus talks about money and possessions.17
Jon: Why start with money?
Tim: Well, our stuff tends to claim our allegiance—and causes us to worry. And so our relationship to our stuff can be one of the biggest obstacles to healthy relationships with God and with other people.
Jon: Jesus teaches, “Don’t store up your stuff on the land; rather, store up treasure in the sky.”
Tim: Then, Jesus gives two parables. One is about two kinds of eyes you can have—a healthy, generous eye or an evil, stingy eye. The second parable focuses on two masters you can serve, God or money. Then, Jesus gives a beautiful homily about worry.18 Why chase after security from things that are ultimately insecure? Jesus invites us to trust the generous God of creation who cares about us more than we can imagine.
Jon: That’s the first part. Next, Jesus directly addresses our relationships with God and neighbor.19
Tim: Yeah. This section begins with, “Do not judge others, or you too will be judged.”20 Then come two more parables21—another about eyes, how you shouldn’t try to remove a speck out of someone else’s eye …
Jon: … When you have a log in your own.
Tim: Then comes a parable about not tossing holy pearls to pigs and dogs. It’s a riddle with multiple meanings, but essentially, it’s about using discernment when we try to help and correct others. Then, because relationships are so complex, Jesus encourages his disciples to ask God for the wisdom they need—ask, seek, and knock, and the door will be opened for you.
Jon: This section of the Sermon on the Mount ends with the Golden Rule. “Do to others what you want them to do to you.”22
Tim: Jesus says that this simple teaching is what the Torah and Prophets are all about. And so the Golden Rule concludes the third perspective on doing righteousness. And it also links us back to the opening of the main body of the sermon, where Jesus said he came to bring the Torah and Prophets to their completion.
Matthew 7:13-27: The Three Choices [07:23-08:44]
Jon: Finally, we’re going to look at the last major section of the sermon, the conclusion.
Tim: Here, Jesus places a choice in front of his listeners about how they’re going to live their lives.
Jon: Now this section has three parts.
Tim: And each one illustrates this choice with a different image. The first image is about two paths with two different gates—one leads to life and the other to ruin.23 Second is about discerning between two kinds of leaders who claim to represent God. They’re like two kinds of trees—one good and one bad. Not everyone who says they speak for God really does, but Jesus says you will know a tree by its fruit.24 The last image is about two types of houses you can build. If you ignore Jesus and build your house by your own wisdom, it’s like building on sand—and good luck when the storm comes. But if you listen to him and build your house with Jesus’ wisdom, you are building your house on a rock.25 And with that, the Sermon on the Mount comes to a close.
Jon: Okay, so let’s review the whole sermon. It begins with the surprise announcement about how the good life of God’s Kingdom has come to the least likely people. And then, in the main body, Jesus teaches how to do right by God and others. And finally, the conclusion calls for a decision. In light of everything Jesus has said, what choice will you make?
Tim: That’s a great summary! Now it’s time to read—and then reread and reread again—the Sermon on the Mount.