5 Things You Didn't Know about the Sermon on the Mount

Meg Bucher

Artistic rendering of three crosses on a hill Tuesday, September 15, 2020

The Sermon on the Mount, recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, includes some of the most well-known teachings of Jesus. Christ Jesus didn’t come to replace Jewish law, but to fulfill it. Our Savior spoke in a way all could understand, but in this sermon, He pulled His disciples closer. Every word was intentional, and full of wisdom to live by, not just rules to religiously follow.

Jonathan Pennington wrote for The Gospel Coalition that “Jesus’s message in the sermon is that God is our Father who sees and cares about the heart, not just external righteous deeds and religion.” 

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Artistic rendering of three crosses on a hill

What Is the Sermon on the Mount?

“No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (John 1:18).

The tone and teachings of the Sermon on the Mount fell radically upon the ears of His disciples, who gathered to hear Him speak as He sat down on a mountain side. This was the typical posture a senior teacher would take before explaining the law, explains the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible.

“Here Jesus stands at the height of his popularity. Although his ministry touched the masses, he saw the need to teach his ‘disciples’ closely,” says the Expositor’s Bible Commentary. His words are just as applicable for Christ followers today as they were when they rolled off of His divine tongue as the Son of God briefly wrapped in humanity on this earth. “Those who especially wanted to attach themselves to him, Jesus takes aside to instruct,” writes the Expositor’s Bible Commentary.

It’s possible Jesus spoke for days, rather than hours. 

Jesus was intentional about everything He did and said. Exodus 19:3 says, “while Moses went up to God, The LORD called him out of the mountain, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel.” Some scholars suggest this is why Jesus chose a mountainside. John Piper wrote, “…six times in Matthew 5, Jesus stunningly confronted Scripture and tradition with his supremely authoritative words, ‘But I say to you’ (Matthew 5:22, 28, 32, 39, 44). The overarching purpose of the Sermon on the Mount was to bring the old law into New Covenant light.”

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Artistic rendering of three crosses on a hill

5 Things You Didn't Know about the Sermon on the Mount

1. Jesus did not audibly command the crowd to come and listen to Him.

“Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them” (Matthew 5:1-2).

When Jesus sat down to teach His disciples, He didn’t yell for their attention. He simply sat down, and opened His mouth. Jesus wasn’t a self-righteous teacher who in any way fit the description of the other teachers of the day. He was God walking among them! When He sat down to teach, the supernatural divinity of the Son of God spoke to the disciples.

I think sometimes when we think of this sermon, we ready our pens and take pretty notes. We mark up our Bibles and prepare to internalize as much as we can. But at the moment Jesus sat down on the mountainside to speak, His disciples were void of highlighters, journals and sticky notes. He sat down and began to teach, and they listened intently.

2. Jesus’ teaching is not a collection of religious rules to follow.

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet” (Matthew 5:13).

God has always been after our hearts. No matter what we do, how many religious rules we follow or good deeds we accomplish, the assurance Paul gave to the Roman church is applicable to us today: we all fall short of the glory of God. There is no plausible or possible way to earn God’s love, His salvation, and His grace. These are gifts given to us by our Father in heaven

Jesus sat down to teach His disciples what it truly meant to be blessed (The Beatitudes), how to pray (The Lord’s Prayer), and live their daily lives in harmony with the Creator of their hearts. “The Sermon on the Mount is not simply a list of rules to follow, it is an invitation to live under grace and experience blessings and rewards from living Christ-like,” explains this Bible Study Tools article. The supernatural grace of our Savior enables us to live the way He spoke of. Without Him, we do nothing good. It’s all about who Jesus is, and Whose we are.

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Artistic rendering of three crosses on a hill

3. Jesus did not replace any of the old laws.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17).

The Old Testament and the New Testament combined provide the complete story of our salvation. Jesus’ teaching seemed radical to the listening disciples, but He wasn’t re-inventing the proverbial wheel.

They were missing so much of the complete picture, it was hard for them to wrap their minds around what Jesus was saying. They were used to religion, and all of the rules they had learned to follow their entire lives in order to be counted worthy of God. Now Jesus was adding the rest of the story …and it may have seemed too good to be true!

“The words of this sermon,” wrote John Foster for Life, Hope and Truth, “are as relevant today as they were when Christ spoke them!” We submit the authority of our lives to Christ and let His goodness and love flow through us. In Christ we become new creations. 

4. Jesus spoke directly to our anxious hearts.

“Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25).

True form to the Author of our hearts, Jesus must have sensed the level of panic amidst His listeners. No one could live up to these standards! And that was His point. “He points his followers beyond the basics of human existence that can consume the natural mind, especially when food and drink and clothing become scarce,” wrote David Mathis for Desiring God. “However, if we know the Father, we know how he cares for his creatures and, all the more, his image-bearers.”

In addition, regarding the things we worry about and compare our lives to at times – our looks and our stuff, and even the more basic necessities like food and shelter – He instructs us not to worry about these things.

When we follow Jesus, we put our trust in who He is, not what we are capable of. God is our Provider, Defender, and Creator. He is faithful and compassionate. There is nothing we could ever do could lose His love. 

5. The Sermon on the Mount revealed Jesus’ authority.

“And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes” (Matthew 7:28-29).

Jesus, God made flesh to dwell among us, undeniably revealed more of His identity as He preached the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew Henry explained in his commentary “The multitudes were astonished at the wisdom and power of Christ’s doctrine. And this sermon, ever so often read over, is always new. Every word proves its Author to be Divine.”

Jesus spoke with an authority they had not previously witnessed. And to this day, when we hear or read this sermon, we can feel the authority by which Christ spoke, not just to those who sat in immediate proximity to Him at the time, but for generations to come. He spoke for us, too, rich wisdom to ease our minds and motivate our souls to action for the glory of God the Father. Christ, Himself, lived in obedience to the Father, to bring glory to the Father. We are created and purposed to do the same. 

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Artistic rendering of three crosses on a hill

Why Is the Sermon on the Mount So Important?

“For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).

The authority of God blanketed the hillside by the Sea of Galilee as Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount. This piece of Scripture is important because it solidifies Christ’s identity, and ours in Him. “Some build their hopes upon worldly prosperity; others upon an outward profession of religion,” Matthew Henry explains in his commentary. “Upon these they venture; but they are all sand, too weak to bear such a faring as our hopes of heaven.”

Our hope is not in this world, or anything it could offer us. Our joy and peace in Christ are eternal. Life on earth will be hard, painful, and unfair at times. But nothing this world can throw at us can ever trump the love of Christ residing in our very souls. We are sealed, His forever, and forever free because of His sacrifice for our salvation. 

When we memorize pieces of Scripture, it filters throughout hearts and minds in a way we will never be fully able to understand. A diligent and daily study of God’s Word prepares us and refines us. We grow in wisdom as we look to the Word of God.

The Sermon on the Mount encourages and convicts us! But the most incredible thing we glean from this passage is a better picture of Jesus, His authority, and a deeper appreciation for the supernatural divinity residing in each Christ follower. It is He, flowing through us, that accomplishes anything “good” we do.

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Meg writes about everyday life within the love of Christ as an author, freelance writer, and blogger at Sunny&80. Her first book, “Friends with Everyone,”  is available on amazon.com. She earned a Marketing/PR degree from Ashland University but stepped out of the business world to stay at home and raise her two daughters. Besides writing, she leads a Bible Study for Women and serves as a Youth Ministry leader in her community. She lives in Northern Ohio with her husband, Jim, and two daughters.

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