Divine Insights – ‘Thinking Over’ the Sermon on the Mount

Divine Insights Thinking Over the Sermon on the Mount

The Gospel of Matthew recounts Jesus teaching a large crowd while sitting on a mountainside, which was common practice among teachers before providing instructions regarding law, as noted by the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible.

The Sermon on the Mount (recorded in Matthew 5-7) begins with beatitudes, which echo Israel’s prayers of thanksgiving after conquering their new homeland. This was no accident.

The Audience

The Sermon on the Mount was Jesus Christ’s most profound and extensive teaching, recorded in Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7. Although Luke 6 also contains teachings that may or may not belong to this sermon.

As the name implies, Jesus delivered these teachings on a mountaintop. At first His immediate audience was comprised of disciples; but by the end of His sermon crowds had gathered around Him as described in Matthew 7:28.

Ibn Arabi understood by “disciples” not only members of Jesus’ twelve apostles, but those who regularly followed Him as well. Such followers could develop a deep sense of divine filiation – understanding God as their father, understanding real friendship with Jesus, and an internalized devotion for Mary His mother – as a result they had the resources to accept and live Christ’s sermon, not due to its style or content but rather because their belief was powerful enough to fulfill the law itself.

The Context

Jesus packed key tenets of his ethical teaching into this brief discourse. His words challenged first century Judaism, provided the early church with moral direction, and have left an indelible mark over two millennia; helping guide substantial portions of humanity along their path to goodness.

Jesus calls His disciples to live lives that embody love and spread it; know peace and help others find it; renounce vengeance and retribution, and renounce revenge and retaliation. It is a call to spirituality centered around God as fatherhood, divine filiation and identification through Christ’s Cross; as well as deep devotion towards Mary.

This sermon spans chapters 5-7 in Matthew’s Gospel and marks one of Jesus’ longest sermons ever recorded in the New Testament. While He addressed a large crowd of people at once, He most likely intended what He said for His core disciples alone – echoing Old Testament teaching when He stated ‘blessed are the meek: they shall inherit the earth’ (Matthew 5:5).

The Content

The Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ lengthy explanation of what it means to follow him, offering teachings on prayer, justice, caring for the poor, rejecting evil, dealing with anger and swearing, money concerns and worrying; along with prayers on renouncing evil as well as other topics. These teachings encompass many of Christianity’s fundamental ideals that should be embraced by Christians everywhere.

McArthur suggests four approaches to understanding sermon ethics: 1) as a means of EARNING entry to God’s Kingdom; 2) as an aid to BECOMING a disciple; 3) as advice to Christian communities or 4) as directives for Christian perfection. The first view combines Jesus’ gospel of salvation with his ethical teachings in one sermon.

The second view sees Jesus’ Sermon as an authoritative statement for his followers before the Messiah appeared, combining gospel of salvation with precepts concerning an idealised ‘eucharistic’ community – this perspective is often taken by Protestants.

The Conclusion

Jesus concluded His sermon by emphasizing the importance of refraining from judging others harshly, reminding his listeners that any judgment made would ultimately come back on them from God.

He reminded His listeners that their true hope lies not in material possessions or social connections, but in God.

Jesus taught that the kingdom of heaven is an entirely new righteousness that exceeds that established by Mosaic Law, and to achieve it one must be filled with the Holy Spirit, who provides divine insight into reality and enables you to know how best to fulfill your purpose for God’s glory. Additionally, He encouraged people to seek Him with all their hearts as this was an effective strategy to convince people to journey towards righteousness – just like lawyers or salesmen know that their efforts won’t pay off unless their closing arguments can convince an audience and push them towards making decisions then all their efforts go unrewarded.

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