The Sermon on the Mount is the backbone to the principles we are called to live by as Christians. This is the longest running sermon recorded in the Bible from Jesus and happened early in His ministry. He had been baptized by John the Baptist, was tempted in the wilderness, began drawing crowds by his preaching in Galilee, and started calling the men who would become His disciples.
We see in Matthew 4:19 that these first four men (Simon called Peter, Andrew, James, and John), once fishermen by trade, would soon help Jesus fish for men and women instead. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”
Jesus healed the sick and proclaimed the good news of our Father. Word traveled throughout Syria and people flocked to Jesus for healing and spiritual nourishment. People knew Jesus because of His words and His actions. It’s because of His outward display of love that people began to listen to Him. As He saw the multitudes, He went up to a mountainside and sat down, followed by His disciples, and began to teach. As His continual crowd, let’s listen together, paying attention to these 10 things to glean from this important sermon.
1. Encouragement for the Lowly
At the beginning of Jesus’ sermon, He reached out and grabbed the hearts of the people around Him. He was surrounded by everyday fishermen, people who were sick and hurting, and those hungry for something more than this world can offer. He reached out and spoke to the meek, the poor in spirit, those hungering for righteousness, and called them blessed. He knew anyone following Him would, like himself, face rejection. He reminded them that they will be blessed if people insult and persecute them because of Him, just as the prophets before them, since their reward in heaven will be great.
2. Striving to Be the Difference
To be a difference in the world means to be different. Here, Jesus calls believers the salt of the Earth. Being careful not to lose our “saltiness” is a call to our everyday living. Lukewarm faith is equivalent to a bland meal. In the same vein, we are to be lights of Christ, not hidden or ashamed or our differences, but boldly standing for all to see the good works He does through us for His glory.
3. The Importance of the Word
Jesus makes it clear that He came not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it. Matthew 5:18 reminds us of this fact: “For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” He reminds us of the importance to teach and practice the commands given as well as not swearing by an oath for any decisions. “All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37).
4. Uncovering the Hearts of Men
At this time committing murder, adultery, and divorce was a physical act. It is here at this point of the sermon that a radical change is made. Not only are the physical acts forbidden but Jesus teaches his listeners that the acts of the heart, mind, and eye are just as sinful. It’s here that the secret sins – things we think are innocent that no one would know – are uncovered and all are held accountable. Uncovering the silent sins of anger, resentment, judgement, and lust is a step in a direction that wasn’t common, and still to this day, is harder to control than we would like. This reminds us all that the condition of the heart and soul is more important than outward appearances of sanctified living.
5. How to Love Hard and Love Well
I’d say that this verse is one of the most popular: “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” (Matthew 5:39) What a lesson there. If someone mistreats you, instead of wanting revenge or running away in anger, we are to love, be available to them, forgive them. Matthew 5:46 emphasizes the importance of loving the “unlovable”: “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?”
I can imagine an audible gasp as Jesus was teaching these precious words. Little did his listeners know that, in time, Jesus himself would be the ultimate example of loving enemies, taking the slap, and loving us sinners who can never repay such a sacrifice. His request of us? Love others. Pray for them. Strive to be as our Father in Heaven is. It’s the least we can do.
6. Sacrificing in Secret
So much of what we do now is documented somewhere – whether it’s on a blog, a text message, in an Instagram story, or a Facebook post. Funny how none of that was on the radar back when Jesus spoke these words…but I dare say they are more relevant now than ever. Matthew 6:1 confirms Jesus’ view on our motives, “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.”
Of course, showing someone what you’ve been able to do in a service project or praying for a group of friends aloud is not bad in any means, but what really matters here is our motive. Are we using lofty words to appear closer to God or are we documenting service project to let people know how “giving” we are? Who are we really trying to glorify? If our aim is to hear a “good job” from people, well, that’ll be the only one we hear. So if you have the thought (as I know we all feel from time to time) that if you don’t post it, it won’t really matter, remember this, “…then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:6)
7. Knowing Where Your True Treasure Is
So much of what we strive for in our labor is to receive payment. Paychecks equal housing, food, clothes, vacations, etc. It is not wrong to desire these things in and of themselves. It’s when they become idols in our minds that we can be in trouble. Do you crave “more” or are you content with what you have. Do you feel that the next best car or pair of shoes will give you fulfillment to last a lifetime? Truth is, Jesus knew then that our human hearts would always seek immediate gratification, but those things are not lasting like our reward and treasures in heaven.
“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:20). Where do you focus your energy? In relationships, acknowledgement, raises, certificates, new homes? Our hearts can be easily swayed. Focus your heart’s joy on heaven and you will begin recognizing heaven here on earth.
8. Letting Go of Worry
This one is a hard one. It’s important to note that Jesus is not telling us there won’t be hard times or hardships. As He says in Matthew 6:34, “Each day has enough trouble of its own.” He knew that hard times would come, but worrying about something in our minds would not change anything about it. We are reminded that God takes care of His children just as He takes care of His creation. What we don’t have is something He knows we don’t need…for today. Worrying about whether or not we will get what we desire has more to do with making sure our desires match up with His ultimate will for us than what we can do to get it.
9. Learning to See the Speck in Our Own Eyes
It’s amazing how big someone else’s flaws can look to us and yet, we just don’t see ourselves exemplifying the same behavior (or choosing not to). Do you judge people’s motives, their hearts, their actions, or their looks? Would you like someone to do the same to you? “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:2). We are all guilty of this, but constantly remembering to love the other person and letting God be the ultimate judge will save us a lot of hypocrisy…and painful eye doctor visits.
10. Taking the Narrow Path
It’s easy to love those who love us. Just so, judging, or wanting to “get even” comes naturally to us as well. But what Jesus teaches us in this sermon goes against the grain. Love our enemies, look at ourselves before judging someone else, and “turning the cheek.” We are called to treat others as we would want them to treat us even when they don’t reciprocate…especially then. Ask God what you should do. Seek His face, knock at His door and He will answer. The authority and power of Christ’s words stand true to this day. Will you take the narrow path with me? He has already paved the way.