We are going to link up with the Bearwood Chapel Sunday teaching over the next couple of weeks and go into some more detail looking at the Sermon on the Mount together. Some people will tell you that they are not much into religion and don’t care for worshipping Jesus as God but they do like the idea of Jesus as a moral teacher, particularly agreeing with the Sermon on the Mount. However, whilst we may like the general idea associated with the Sermon, quite often people are not really aware of its content beyond the Beatitudes (and even then there is a risk of mixing up the actual words with bits of The Life of Brian).
The sermon gets its name from Matthew 5, where in his retelling of the account, Jesus goes up a mountain with his disciples where he is followed by a great crowd. He preaches to them there. In Luke’s account, (Luke 6:17ff) we are told that Jesus stands on a plain or level place. It is possible that Jesus is saying similar words from a different context, however the overlaps and the significance of the event suggest that both Gospels are recounting the same happenings. We do not need to worry about a supposed contradiction here, it is likely that if Jesus was speaking in the hill country, he would have found a level place where the crowd could gather up in the mountains and there he would have taught them.
Another difference between the two accounts is that Luke talks simply in terms of those who are poor and those who are hungry whereas Matthew expands to describe them as poor in spirit and hungering for righteousness. It is possible that either Luke has summarised and shortened the statements for space or that Matthew has expanded on the words to explain their meaning. Both approaches would have been an acceptable way of reporting speech in their time -and in fact that’s still the case today providing we are reporting speech indirectly rather than quoting directly.
The setting of the sermon on a mountain fits in Matthew’s telling of events with the narrative he is developing of Jesus recapitulating the history of Israel and the Exodus. Jesus has come out of Egypt, been taken through water and then led into the wilderness to be tested. Now he climbs a mountain in order to deliver the Law. Just as the Old Testament Torah becomes Israel’s constitution setting out the terms of life under God’s rule and reign, so, this sermon sets out a new law for life in the Spirit as God’s New Covenant people. Just as the Deuteronomic Law is shaped by the covenant blessings and curses (benefits to those who stay within its terms and curses to those who rebel against it), so too, Christ’s covenant law with his people is marked by the blessings of the beatitudes and the woes or curses that are proclaimed against those who refuse the Gospel (Luke 6:24-26).
The whole sermon therefore can be seen as a new treaty with God’s people showing them how to live happy or blessed lives in the presence of the God who has made his dwelling place amongst them. I hope you enjoy looking at it in more detail with us.