The Sermon on the Mount


This is the lesson I wrote for my small group for August 7, 2011. They are a great group of people and they tolerate my perpetual typos and the way we inevitably wander off course in our discussions. They are family and I look forward to seeing them each week.

Introduction
The Sermon on the Mount (Mark 5-7) is the longest collection of the teachings of Jesus in the Bible. The sermon takes place early in the public ministry of Jesus. Some scholars compare it to the sermon on the plain (Luke 6:17-40). Some suggest that it is the same sermon because it is at about the same point in the narrative. Others suggest that Jesus spoke on this theme often.

The Beatitudes
The word Beatitude comes from the Greek word “beatus” which means happy, fortunate or blissful. It is often translated as “blessed.” In this section of the sermon, Jesus describes the current condition and the resulting spiritual reward. There are 8 “blessings” in the sermon. In Luke, there are 4 blessings and 4 woes.

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 filled”
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy”
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God”

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

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”

Discussion
What does it mean to be “poor in spirit?” If a person is physically poor, they know specifically what they need (money, food, clothing, a job, etc). Therefore, if a person is spiritually poor, it does not mean that they lack faith it means they understand they need God to provide for them.

What does it mean when Jesus says the “meek” shall inherit the earth? Many people confuse meek to mean poor, but it means humble, submissive, gentle. Discuss how this can relate to the lesson of turning the other cheek, being slow to anger or quick to forgive.

After the last beatitude, Jesus speaks directly to his followers and warns “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Did you notice that he included the conditional phrase “because of me?” You should have noticed since I put it in bold. Do you ever feel persecuted for your faith?

The Parables – Salt and Light
After the Beatitudes, Jesus speaks a few brief parables to illustrate his message. Parables can be short sayings or somewhat longer stories with a moral message. They are not literal, but illustrate a greater point.

You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”

How is a Christian life like salt?

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

How can we be a light unto the world without being in conflict with what Jesus says later in the sermon? Matthew 6:1 says “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”

The Rest of the Story
The Sermon contains many other lessons after the beatitudes. These all expounded on the teachings of the Law being taught in the temple. Jesus elevates the Law to a higher standard. He tells us to avoid anger, lust, divorce, swearing oaths, seeking revenge and more.

These lessons of The Sermon on the Mount focus on love, grace, and forgiveness. Jesus speaks also on The Law and says that it shall not disappear. Clearly, there are many things in the law that we do not do. Read Matthew 5:17-20. What do you think he means when he says “accomplished?” Read Galatians 3:23 and see if that helps you understand the relationship between Law and Grace.

Playing Church
The Pharisees often made a public display of their religion. Jesus warns against such things in The Sermon on the Mount.

Secret Giving
“When you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Secret Prayer
“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Secret Fasting
“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Discuss ways we can give to others without making a public display of our deeds. What can we do for the kingdom?

The Sermon on the Mount can take on deeper meaning every time you study it. I cannot do it justice here and we could never discuss it long enough. Read it again and again. Make it a regular stopping point in your study. You won’t regret it.

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