The Sermon on the Mount, as recorded by Matthew is a summary of Jesus’ teachings (Matthew chapter 5 to 7) on christians’ real attitude and concept of life. It also contains the ‘beatitudes’, that is, lives that evoke happiness, joy, comfort or blessing.
It is worthy of mention here that these teachings came soon after Jesus chose his disciples and he needed to equip them with the necessary attitudes to life. In this chapter, these teachings (the Sermon on the Mount) will be grouped under two headings: what the kingdom of God demands of us, as well as our attitude towards worldly possession. The Sermon on the Mount embodies a summary of all the attitudes which Jesus demands of his disciples, one, to equip them for the task ahead, and to separate them as heirs of God’s kingdom.
The student is hereby warned that the account of these teachings are inexhaustive and cannot therefore be concluded in this text. The student is advised to refer to the Holy Bible for the total exposition of the great Sermon.
The Demands of The Kingdom -Matthew 5; 6:1-18, 7:1-27
The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12)
Beatitude is a Latin word meaning happiness and success. The beatitude explains the state of minds of people based on the spiritual advancement. Beatitudes therefore means – the ways of life that bring happiness, joy, comfort and blessing which christians should follow. Below are the beatitudes and their explanations.
- Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God: The poor in spirit are those who desire to do the will of God and live righteously but they are spiritually weak. There is no amount of effort they put in, they fail. Jesus encourages such people to seek the kingdom of God. If they do this, the Holy Spirit which is the spirit of righteousness will enter into their lives and by this, they will be able to do the will of God.
- Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted: People referred to here are those who have gone through a lot of
- problems, disappointment, persecutions, disgrace etc. because of their faith in Christ. Jesus is assuring this category of people that they will be comforted by God. It is important to note here that God is concerned about their welfare.
- Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth: The meek are those who are humble and gentle in character. What this is teaching us is that while people are praying and trusting God to see them through in the problems they may be facing, they should be humble and gentle with fellow human beings and also work hard. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be satisfied: Reference is made here to people who are eager to see the righteousness of God established. They are contributing a lot to the work of the Lord and therefore want the will of God to be established everywhere in the world.
- Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy: The people Jesus Christ is referring to here are those who are showing mercy; kindness and sympathy to fellow human beings. Jesus is saying here that such people shall be blessed because if peradventure they hurt others, God will show them mercy and they will be forgiven.
- Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God: These are the people who whole-heartedly seek God.
- Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God: The peacemakers are the people who spend their time and energy in ensuring that there is peace on earth by settling disputes and reconciling people. According to Jesus, such people shall be called sons of God because the nature of God is in them.
- Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake for theirs is the kingdom of God: Jesus is referring to Christians who are always speaking against the evils going on in the society. As a result of this, they are faced with harassment, punishment persecution of various types and sometimes death. Jesus said the kingdom of God belongs to such people since they have strived to do the will of God not minding what it will cost them.
The lesson learnt from the beatitude is that when people do the will of God, they will be happy. Christians should therefore try to seek God’s ways in order to enjoy the blessings of God in full.
Christians As Salt and Light
Christians as salt and the light of the world: By this, Christ meant that as salt is useful for preservation and improvement of food taste, christians should endeavour to be sincere. They should also help in improving the moral and the spiritual standard of the society. In addition, light cannot be hidden, it shines for people to see, christians should allow their light to shine for the rest of the society to see and follow.
Old Testament Laws Reviewed
The statement Jesus made was; “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. According to Jesus, the law and the prophets represented the old testament. Jesus was saying that he came to give a clearer meaning of the laws so that people will understand it properly. To avoid murder, christians should guard against anger (5:21-22). To avoid fornication, christians should purge themselves of lust (5:27-28).
Christians are not to divorce at all for whatever reason as this could give rise to adultery. In other words, marriage is supposed to be a life-long affair. Christians should not swear at all. Instead, their ‘yes’ should be yes’ and their ‘no’ should be ‘no’ (5:33-37). Furthermore, the law on revenge was abrogated by Jesus. That law which recommended ‘tit for tat’ or ‘eye for an eye’ is no longer meaningful to christians. They should not avenge themselves at all (5:38).
Jesus gave some teachings on the moral and spiritual qualities a true christian must possess while still alive as a means for inheriting the kingdom of God.
Below is the summary of the qualities of a true christian:
- Christians should not judge each other because only God is omniscient and therefore only him can judge.
- Christians when asking from God, should ask in faith and believe. that God has answered.
- Christians should be considerate.
- They should do unto others only what they will like others to do to them.
- Christians should not only be eager to hear the word but should strive to do it.
- They should not be hypocrites.
- They should be disciplined, avoid greed and inordinate ambition.
- They should be contented with what they have.
- They should be humble in character, honest, diligent and persevering.
- Christians should be obedient and sensitive to things of the spirit.
Emphasis On Piety, Prayer, Fasting And Almsgiving
Jesus’ teaching goes to illustrate that we must go beyond outward acts and appearances, especially on issues bordering on morals but should concern ourselves with the inner, motivating factors. Christians should not be pious just to impress men (6:1) neither should they give alms publicly to receive man’s praise. (6.2-4).
As for prayer, christians should not concern themselves with eloquence but should be very intimate with God during prayer (6:515). While praying, repetitions are unnecessary. Again, christians should be open-minded, having no grudges against anyone. During fasting, christians should not let everyone know they are fasting. It should be a secret affair with God.
Worldly Possessions -Matthew 6:19-34
In this section, we shall outline the teachings of Jesus on what christians’ attitude to wealth should be. The Pharisees saw wealth as a gift from God to people he loves and as something one should accumulate as much as possible. But the teaching of Jesus is for christians to store their wealth in heaven where moths and rust cannot destroy it.
This implies that the affection and delight of the christian man should be in heaven. He should strive to build a strong union with God so when he dies, he goes to heaven where he will stay forever. Christians who store their riches here on earth run the risk of the wealth being destroyed by moth and rust as well as being stolen by thieves.
On the other hand, heaven is secure and permanent. By implication, people should dwell their minds on heavenly things, not earthly things because this earth is billed for destruction with fire. This should be the right christian attitude to the kingdom.
Furthermore, Jesus advises christians not to be anxious about the basic needs of life such as food and clothing. Instead, they should trust God, the great provider. If God could provide for the birds and the Jilies, then why not man, his own creation. All that christians should concern themselves with is the kingdom of God and how to enter it.
The most important point about Jesus’ teaching is that Christians should not place too much emphasis on material things because they will disturb their spiritual and moral growth. If man’s attention is on materialism, he will have little or no time for things of God.
- Essentially, the implication of the Sermon on the Mount was that the kingdom of God was at hand, hence, people should get ready for it.
- There are some requirements for people who want to enter the kingdom of God and these requirements are contained in the Sermon on the Mount.
- They border on the beatitude, good moral conduct, piety, meaningful prayer, fasting, almsgiving, approach to worldly possession, among many others.