The Sermon on the Mount

The title “Sermon on the Mount” was apparently first given to Matthew 5-7 by Augustine of Hippo, but the specialness of this discourse was realized from the beginning and largely accounts for the popularity of this gospel in the early church.  It is the first of five such discourses into which Matthew gathers the teachings of Jesus topically, the others being: Counsels on Mission (chapter 10), Teaching in Parables about the Kingdom of God (chapter 13), Church Relationships (chapter 18), and Last Things (chapters 23-25). Each discourse is marked at the end by words such as “When Jesus had finished these sayings …”

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

The Sermon was actually the Action Plan of Jesus. “Not one jot or tittle shall pass away until all shall be fulfilled”. Jesus kept the Law perfectly then in closing invites us each and all to build upon that rock. He not only kept the law every jot and tittle but paid in full the penalty that we deserve., It is finished, the law was made perfect and the slate was wiped clean. let us trust in that redeeming act of life, death, and resurrection. We have a High Priest, Praise God from Whom all blessings flow. tom Z


1,000 :thumbsup:, Tom Z.


While I enjoyed this homily, and agree with the perspective that Matthew pulls the themes together in the appeal to the works-centric Jewish believers, I wince a bit at the dismissive way Robert Johnston handles Luke’s use of the material. Implied, intentionally or not, is that Matthew is the authoritative account of the sermon. It may have been authoritative to the Jewish audience that Matthew had in mind to teach “righteousness” or ethical behavior. But Luke is not a digested version of Matthew’s perspective. Luke is a radically different perspective.

When the sermon is viewed through the lens of Luke-Acts (& arguably Hebrews) the sermon takes on a very different message. Luke’s systems view was designed to document the birth and growth of the kingdom movement that became Christianity. Luke’s positioning of the Mark & Q source materials, defies the oversimplification that “Both accounts are really versions of the same sermon” Luke was focused on the present reality of the kingdom and Luke defines it as more than the sum total of the ethical behavior of individuals (Matthew’s perspective). Luke teaches that Christ ushered in a new era, the era of God’s kingdom. Luke’s thesis is found Luke 4:16-21 where Christ reinterpreted the Isaiah kingdom message from one of dominance to one of community. “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing,”

Luke’s presentation of the Sermon of the Plain is not simply an abstracting of the key points of Matthew’s representation of the Sermon on the Mount. Arguably the accounts of Luke and Matthew were written without any reference to each other (presumably both writers depended on Mark and the Q source materials). Luke uses the circulating precepts of Christ’s teachings and uses it not to define ethical behavior as much as to define what the kingdom that Christ ushered in looks like. Indeed Luke in his portrayal of the sermon materials is defining the new kingdom rather than defining behavioral aspirations. Luke represents Christ as saying to all believers, “if you are choosing to step into the new Kingdom ; you are stepping into the here and now that is based on equity, social justice, contentment, restoration, and community.” That kingdom was dimly perceived until Pentecost where read in Acts 2:43-47

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers and awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.

Matthew may portray the Sermon on the Mount as individualistic Christian Duty (which is a safe works-leaning SDA teaching). Luke is a little more daring in applying the Sermon teachings to the Kingdom values. One is not right and the other wrong. My point is simply that we loose much when we treat the gospels as a one-dimensional self-referencing document.


Taking the “Sermon” out from behind the microscope of scholars, and into the hands of the layperson, the paradox merely alluded to, becomes a big deal. As a reminder, the paradox is in Jesus’ words when He says He came “not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it,” juxtaposed to, Jesus’ opposition to the “Mosaic tradition”, which is explained as the “scribal understanding of the Law” - and that is further explained as being a righteousness for merit and a “manipulation of the rules” to manipulate reputation. All that needs another microscopic examination - but later.

First, we need to deal with this “paradox” from an Adventist perspective. This becomes uniquely Adventist issue because of the word “fulfill” - as in, I did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. As commandment-keeping Adventist, this bolsters all that Adventism stands for - the NT Sinai moment. That is only if we nuance the word,“fulfill” to comply with our established views on the subject, which is - the supremacy of “keeping all the commandments”.

As it turns out, the word “fulfill” (in Matt. 5) is numbered 4137 in Strong’s Concordance, and has a number of English meanings - you pick: make full - complete - ended - accomplish - expired - perfect. The purely Adventist pick would be perfect, which makes this paradox a paradox. If, on the other hand, we pick complete - or ended - or expired, we do away with the paradox. No longer is Jesus’ mission of “fulfilling the law” counter to his “opposition to Scribal understanding of Law”. He is no longer here to make us “better law-keepers”, but rather, He gives us a new relationship to the law - as described in Hebrews 8:10 and 2Cor. 3:3 - placing the law “not on tables of stone, but into our minds and write them on our hearts.”

This new relationship also brings new people to the table - all those who know their own need and are marginalized by those Scribes of the Law. The “Sermon” is directly followed by lepers coming for cleansing; and a centurion (totally outside the inner sanctum of OT holiness), and a host of others, coming for healing.

Remembering discussions on the subject in Ottilie Stafford’s Biblical literature class, the lingering question was, “did Jesus really intend for us to pluck out our eyes and cut off our hands?” Acknowledging the superlative nature of those statements, to an Adventist mind in the sixties, it was a real issue. After all, Jesus did say it.

But Jesus didn’t just reiterate and re-establish the Ten Commandments (as well as a number of Hebrew civil laws) in the NT. His “Sermon” on this mount, points out the impossibility of our being able to live according to the law of perfection by merely following the rules. This impossible situation makes us all “lepers” in need of healing - makes our “righteousness by law-keeping” as filthy rags. The “good news” is that Jesus did “fulfill” the requirements of the law, and by His merits we are healed - and the paradox goes away.


I am not so sure that Jesus was at odds with “scribal understanding of the law,” instead he was at odds with the majority of law itself (most of the writing of Moses were considered the Law). He failed to mention significant elements that were foundational to the Jewish faith for thousands of years.

Gone: Is the importance of circumcision, foods and female functions that create uncleanness, nation favorite status as Abraham’s descendants and proud ethnic differences that condemned pagans.

Gone are the directions of Moses: temple worship, feast days, and priesthood. The words of God in Leviticus and Numbers are outright deniable and voided.

Gone is Deuteronomy’s call to keep “all these commandments” for blessings to follow. Instead, “the pure in heart,” the innocent, sweet and honest are promised, “to see God.” No Moses Torah needed. The God of Moses was gutted.

What Jesus put in its place was but a skeleton of centuries of prophet, priest and king’s instructions as what customs made one a Jewish believer. If Jewish customs had remained, Christianity would have been a footnote in history. I think Jesus knew that.

Sinai was designed to install Yahweh as not just a true “god,” but the only God (First four commandments) it seems to me. What follows in the next five are behavioral prescriptions for any group of people who follow Yahweh. When “covetousness” surfaces in the last commandment, it is a hint at where Yahweh wants his people to go–change your desires, you inner beings, as well as your behavior. Jesus, interestingly, linked the 10th commandment to the Young Ruler who could not give up his wealth and believed he kept “all the commandments.” He missed the inner life of generosity that Yahweh wished for his people.

In Matthew 5-7 Jesus moves five of the last six commandments (by implication, if not straightforwardly) to the inner life of anger, lust, etc., making clear that there is no freedom in forced, external, behavioral obedience. Freedom comes from “doing” what you “love” to do which means the gospel is both giving you the “righteousness of God” because of your faith-relationship, and giving you the heart of God to love the divine and one’s neighbor as oneself. We are changed in our status before God in a moment, and we learn to grow in love and truth over a lifetime.


Thanks Sirje, this is so seldom mentioned: Christ “fufilled” the Law just as we who have a duty to pay our taxes and obey all our governmental laws: they have been “fulfilled”. If we owe a debt and have paid in full, we have “fulfilled” the requirements.

It is all a matter of choosing the definition and the official church’s teaching has always been that while Christ has done his part by fulfilling the requirements of the law by dying in our behalf, we must complete it by perfectly keeping the Law. The NASB: "not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law until all is accomplished."

How can anyone say that Christ did not fully accomplish the Plan of Salvation? Who can charge Him with not accomplishing that plan just because some will refuse to accept it?

The Law as used throughout the Hebrew Bible meant the entire body of Law given the Israelites; it was never separated into different parts. And when used in the Gospels it also was one entity; it was never dubbed “ceremonial” and “moral” which is a much later Christian separation.

Both Christ and Paul gave a “new law” “that you love one another” which “accomplishes” and fulfills the Law. That is the only law that a Christian needs.


Why did Jesus start out His sermon the way He did with several “blessed” (makarios) intros?
Why the emphasis on happy, fortunate, benefited, well off??
What was his goal, purpose, and agenda? Great speakers use an attention getter for their speech/sermon opener. Who was a better speaker than Jesus?

Matthew 7:28 And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine:
another support:
John 7:46 The officers answered, Never man spake like this man.

Jesus knew, like any perceptive person…that
"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." Henry David Thoreau

Here is a group of people, in His audience, who are oppressed by Romans, tax collectors, Pharisees and other clergy; who have dysfunctional family/neighbor relationships,; who are unhealthy and therefore …unhappy.

Jesus presents principles that when embraced/ implemented promote righteousness /holiness with a byproduct of joy, peace, contentment and happiness.

An example-- …notice how many times He talks about “worry” Can one be happy worrying about the future?
Can anyone be happy as they hate their enemy?
The system of the world and warped Christianity does not promote this and so people substitute amusements, fun, entertainment, pleasure, thrills and euphoria.

When Christianity is irrelevant, superficial, shallow and obscure with continual parroted clichés at church, attenders lapse back into the cheap thrill mode.

The flesh is fed and the spiritual nature is starved and so people do not have an appreciation or interest in spiritual principles and transition to theoretical theology or bail out becoming a passive weekend warrior.

People who are sad sick medicate themselves with dope, booze, smoking, TV

I challenge any reader to get any happy/satisfaction survey taken at your local church.

Laodiceans are not happy.

Who wants to reach out and invite someone, who is sad, to another sad group?
An anger management seminar would be more beneficial.

Jesus dealt with the here and now issues by addressing attitude, behavior and character. By doing so he promoted what is necessary to inherit eternal life as well.

“Tis love that makes us happy…”