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RE:QUEST

A space for resources to help RE teachers and their students explore the Christian faith

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The Sermon on the Mount

A summary of the greatest sermon ever...

The Sermon on the Mount is recorded in the gospel of Matthew Similar teaching can also be found in Luke’s gospel. Both gospel accounts record this teaching as occurring early in Jesus’ public ministry. It contains some of his best-known teaching and instruction for living.

Some people regard the Sermon on the Mount as “Jesus’ manifesto”. It is often summarised as “Do to others what you would have them do to you.” Much of what Jesus taught here is about personal relationships and how people behave towards one another.

There is some discussion about whether Jesus said all of these sayings at the same time. Some scholars think that they were just remembered and put together as one sermon by the early Church.

Matthew’s gospel states that Jesus preached the sermon on a mountain, whereas Luke’s gospel has Jesus coming down from a mountain and addressing a crowd of people on flat land.

Others suggest that Matthew’s gospel is aimed at a Jewish audience: in order to get Jews thinking about how the Old Testament laws and the teaching of Jesus applied to each other, he may have set the scene on a mountain. Just like in the Old Testament, when Moses received the 10 Commandments on Mount Sinai, some think this is the reason for the mountain setting.

In contrast, it is thought that Luke’s gospel was aimed at a gentile (non-Jewish) audience and the action was set on flat land with all the people listening. Whatever the explanation, both accounts contain the same teaching.

The Sermon on the Mount contains key teachings that Jesus himself demonstrated through the way he lived and in what he taught throughout his ministry. It starts with the Beatitudes (short sayings about who is blessed) and ends with the story of the wise man who built his house upon the rock, and includes other well-known sayings along the way.

The Sermon on the Mount covers teaching on the Jewish law, anger, adultery, divorce and re-marriage, vows, revenge and love of enemies, charity, prayer and fasting, riches and possessions, and judging others. Jesus frequently uses examples from the Jewish law to build his teaching upon and explains that he himself is the fulfillment of the law.

The Sermon on the Mount in a Nutshell

The Sermon on the Mount is a summary of how Christians should live: before God and also in relation to each other. Jesus was speaking to an audience in first-century Israel, which was completely different from our society today. They thought and did things very differently. However, it is clear that the way people treated one another and how they behaved hasn’t changed one bit.

Much of the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount can be summarised in the Golden Rule: ‘Do to others as you would have them do to you.’

At another time in Jesus’ ministry, he was asked what he thought the greatest command was. He replied:

‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength; and … love your neighbour as yourself.’ (Matthew 22:37-39)

In many ways, the Sermon on the Mount shows what this looks like in practice.

Do to others what you would have them do to you Matthew 7:12