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A space for resources to help RE teachers and their students explore the Christian faith
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Sermon on the Mount: The Law

Ever listened to a lecture or a speech, or even a sermon? What was it like? Did you enjoy it?

When we read 'The Sermon on the Mount' at first glance, it can seem like a long sermon or lecture. And yet this was like no other sermon ever before. To the listening audience, this teaching was radical: what Jesus taught tipped Jewish religious ideas, and how to live, on their head.

This is why Jesus got into so much trouble with the Pharisees and the Romans at the time. His ideas were so radical, they threatened to overthrow the order of the day, causing the leaders of his day to feel they might lose control of the people.

Imagine the scene: You are in the crowd excitedly awaiting Jesus, the young new Rabbi (teacher) from Galilee. You’ve heard the rumours about his interpretation of the Jewish law and some of his teachings about how we should live, even the way he lives himself. Now you’ve come to hear him. You see Jesus approaching as he makes his way down the mountainside and a hush descends… What will he say this time?

Jesus’ Teaching on The Law

It’s really important to Jesus that respect is shown to the Law of Moses and he refuses point blank to ridicule or remove any aspect of it. Instead, he tells people that he is the fulfillment of the law, that is he has come to make the teachings of the law complete. He is the living example of how the law should be lived out in everyday life.

Jesus teaches that the Commandments are meant to be kept but just as important as the actions is the motivation behind them. Jesus talks about the state of a person’s heart that makes them “clean” or “unclean”. At one point in Jesus’ teaching on murder, he makes the amazing declaration that even thinking badly about a person is the equivalent of murder.

Jesus is saying that the law must go beyond outward appearances and needs to be in people’s hearts, minds and consciences. He said:

“I have not come to do away with them, but to fulfill them.” Matthew 5:17.

Christians understand Jesus as the one who fulfilled the law of Moses by living a life in full obedience to it but at the same time emphasising that love is the reason for these laws; love should be at the heart of how life is lived and how the law is lived out.

Find out more about what Jesus has to say about the law in The Greatest Commandment.

Find out more on other key topics in the Sermon on the Mount: Prayer, forgiveness and charity.

  ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. 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. 'Therefore, anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practises and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.'  Matthew 5:17-20
  Image reproduced with kind permission of Free Bible Images.