A Commentary: The Sermon on the Mount

Sermon on the Mount
Kylan Booser
All Scripture NIV (2008)

Matthew chapters five through seven record what is known as the Sermon on the Mount. It is the longest continuous teaching of Jesus recorded in Scripture. Jesus says at the end of chapter 7, “Therefore anyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like the wise man who built his house on the rock.” The direct context of that statement is the words of the Sermon on the Mount. These words of Jesus are not simply stand alone teachings to make a better person, but flowing out of the coming new birth, are ground points to live a life within the kingdom and, in turn, be its expression in the world. In other words, it could be said that this is what the kingdom of God looks like while we await all things to be made new. A few years ago I was drawn to what is known as the Beatitudes, the proclamations of blessings that open the Sermon on the Mount as recorded at the beginning of chapter 5. “Blessed are…”. I found that the majority of the things Jesus said we are blessed for are not ever really associated with what are thought of as blessing. Through this, and being drawn past the Beatitudes to the whole passage of the Sermon, I spent the next year and half reading Matthew chapters five through seven nearly every day in different translations. Even now, as a practice of habit and meditation, I begin each week with reading the Sermon on the Mount. It can be rather easy to believe in Jesus. It may be quite much harder to believe, and do, the things that he says and build your house on the rock.

Chapter 5 
1 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, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called sons of God.
10 
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

To be blessed is to be within, a part of, what God is doing. What He is doing is making all things new. It is to vibrantly live what is the kingdom life. That kingdom life is counter to the ways of a fallen world. To be blessed is to be within, and to the natural way of living, an outward expression. It is the living and working out newness within a world that needs to be made new. It is what God is up to right now and you are a part of it. That is to be blessed. The Beatitudes are not explanations, they are not a bunch of formulas, but are announcements and calls to a way of life. These are rooted in the counterintuitive wisdom of God. These blessings are a strong mixture of what is of the now and what is of the later. The tension of a kingdom now and a kingdom yet to come, the tension of all things being made new and that all things will be made new. It is the favor of God. You are blessed if…

You are blessed if you are poor in spirit…if you are bankrupt spiritually and, in some way, or maybe many ways, you know it. Maybe you find find that you are not good a being spiritual, it doesn’t come easy. You feel ordinary, maybe substandard. Good news, the Kingdom of Heaven, what God is doing and what He will do, is for you. This is a proclamation that the kingdom has come for those who are like you, those who are left out and marginalized by those who consider themselves religious. It is a call to those, like the parable tells, who will stand far off, not even look up to heaven, but beat their breast and place themself into the forgiveness of God (1). It is the echo of Isaiah 61. It is a call, for the physician comes to those who need healed (2). The kingdom of heaven is yours. This Beatitude is the inaugural proclamation from which the rest of this sermon flows.

You are blessed if you mourn…if you see the world around you and it grieves you as it is lost, dying, deceived, decaying. You grieve because the state of this world has touched you personally. You don’t run from it, deny it. You are not comfortably numb. You are aware of the evil that harms this world, and it bothers you, it eats at you. Your mourning is a protest that this is not right. Good news, you will be comforted. God will comfort you now, he will meet you there, and will bring a deep comfort to you in what He is doing. Your mourning will allow the great capacity for joy at the making of all things new.

You are blessed if you are meek…you don’t play the game as the world does. You do not try to gain the world by greed, violence, using others, putting yourself first. You are not out for yourself to get yours. You are humble. You are not prideful in what you feel is your spiritual position, for as the parable also tells, you will not be justified before God in your pride (3). You are not calling down fire from heaven to burn up you enemies, for that is of the wrong spirit (4). You do not have to take, for you will inherit. In meekness, you may find yourself at a disadvantage. Good news, though you may not gain the world now, you will inherit it later.

You are blessed if you hunger and thirst for righteousness…you deeply desire things to be made right. Personally, the world around you. You mourn that it is not right. You have hope that Jesus is working to make things right. You participate in it. You are a harvester among the harvest that is plentiful (5). You feed the hungry, satisfy the thirsty, invite in the stranger, take care of the sick, clothe the naked, visit the prisoner (6). You stand, strongly, for things that promote life, for what is anti-christ is anti-life. Good news, you will be filled with satisfaction that the kingdom is working itself ‘through the dough.’

You are blessed if you are merciful…you show kind treatment to one who could be treated harshly, you help the one who finds themself in a bad situation. You give mercy as you have received it, as you need it. You forgive as you have been forgiven (7). You are wary to judge, you are aware of the plank in your own eye (8). This is a fallen, angry, accusing world that lacks the human decency of mercy. You are never more like Satan, the accuser, when you accuse. You are never more like God than when you extend mercy. You will reap what you sow. Merciful? Good news, you will receive mercy for you.

You are blessed if you are pure in heart…you work to rid yourself of hypocrisy, pride, judgmentalism. You are sure to keep working out your salvation (9). Your heart remains unmixed, your motives are under review. You put yourself before God and ask him to search you, test you, and show you if there is any offensive way in you and to lead you in the way everlasting (10). Good news, you will continue in knowing God, discerning Him, seeing Him even when others do not. You will then, also, be able to see what He is doing and to participate in it. 

You are blessed if you are a peacemaker…you work to produce peace in what you do. Peace is a marked word of the new creation after the resurrection of Jesus (11). You promote reconciliation with God, peace is made there. How you live your life, you are not an agitator, stirring up offense and division. You offer peace, because you have it, and to those who receive from you are blessed by it. As a peacemaker, you are a son of God, because the Son of God is the Prince of Peace (12) .    

You are blessed if you are persecuted…wherever the Kingdom of God breaks forth, there is always persecution. Those who have gone before you have been persecuted. You will be persecuted. Jesus was persecuted and you are not greater than your master (13). From slandered reputation to martyrdom, you are persecuted because of “right-ness” in a sinful world. You are persecuted for Jesus, for believing and following. Good news. The kingdom of Heaven is yours. Great is your reward there. Endure, in fact, rejoice and be glad, because in your persecution, if you look up, you will see the Son of Man standing at the right hand of the Father in all his glory (14).

1. Luke 18:13
2. Matthew 9:12
3. Luke 18:9-14
4. Luke 9:51-56
5. Matthew 9:37
6. Matthew 25:31-46
7. Colossians 3:13
8. Matthew 7:1-5
9. Philippians 2:12
10. Psalm 139:23-24
11. John 20:19
12. Isaiah 9:6 
13. John 15:18-21
14. Acts 7:55-56

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Salt is a preserver. Those who belong to Christ Jesus are the preservation of the kingdom of God in this world, keeping a foothold in conjunction with the work of God that is happening around us. If we lose that preservation, if we are swayed into losing what marks us out as citizens of this kingdom that proclaims and lives the kingdom, we have lost our saltiness and are no good for the preservation of the kingdom. We are then no longer part of the subversiveness of the kingdom. 

Light versus darkness is a reoccurring theme of the Christian Faith. The people in darkness have seen a great light (15). That light is Jesus. We, in turn, are to be a light to those in the darkness, the kind of light that shines ever brightly in a dark and lost world. It is like a shining city, whitewashed and reflecting the sun by day and by it’s fires lit by night. In a dark world, the follower of Jesus shines bright in a reflection of the brightness of Christ himself. This is a light that should not be hidden, and if not, then cannot be hidden. It is to be put on its stand. When it is not hidden, it shines for all to see. The worldwide body of Christ, His Church, bring a collaboration of light that shines bright throughout the whole world. As we are in the light, we are to live as children of the light (16).

The deeds, the acts of everyday life, that come forth from the Christian life are those that bring praise and glory to God. His way is even permeating how we treat one another and what we do for one another. These deeds do not replace the proclamation of the Gospel, but are hand in hand with what the Gospel will do to a person’s life. These good deeds are part of being salt and light. They are part of your light shining. They are in keeping with the command to love your neighbor as yourself (17). We love our neighbor because we have been saved ourselves. These deeds are no-strings-attached outworking of that love. They are the outworking of the Fruit of the Spirit (18) and the Gifts of the Spirit (19). The sharing of the Gospel. The prayer for the sick. The care of the widow and orphan. It is the looking after of the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the sick, the naked, the prisoner. The outworking of patience and kindness and gentleness, and the Beatitiudes. It is the giving of mercy and forgiveness. All of these things are the good deeds that mark the follower of Christ. These deeds will cause a glorification of God, eyes and hearts turned towards him.

15. Isaiah 9:2
16. Ephesians 5:8
17. Matthew 22:37-40
18. Galatians 5:22-23
19. 1 Corinthians 12:4-11

17 “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. 18 I tell you the truth, 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. 19 Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 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.

The Law and the Prophets marked out a people belonging to God. Called forth by him, then shaped and formed by him. The Law was set to establish a properly worshipping and just society, brought out to be separate, marking sacred and secular, the clean and unclean. The Prophets were reminders of the Law, particularly where the people fell in idolatry away from God and injustice toward their neighbor. Jesus, in what he did and what he said, did not abolish the Law and the message of the Prophets, but is the great fulfillment of them. They point towards him. The Law and the Prophets hold firm until all things are accomplished, when all things are made new. In the Transfiguration, Moses (the Law) and Elijah (the Prophets) along with Peter, James and John (the Church), are told by God the Father to listen to Jesus- he is the fulfillment and the one to bring it to completion (20). Jesus brings to completion what the Law could not do on its own and what the Prophets, as sign posts, could not do for the people. These are not set aside. We continue to hold to, and teach, what the Law and the Prophets teach us as they find their fulfillment in Christ. In this, Jesus gets to the heart of the Law and the Prophets. The righteousness of the follower of Christ must surpass those who think they find their salvation in adherence to rules that the Law sets forth, rather than to find their salvation in the one who is the fulfillment of the Law that was set forth and what it means to follow him.

20.  Matthew 17:1-6

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,’is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still with him on the way, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 I tell you the truth, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

Jesus here begins what leads to six examples of getting to the heart of the Law and the Prophets. The phrase “You heard it was said…but I say…” is used by Jesus to re-orient the listeners away from the letter of the law to the heart of it. To the listener this discourse will be shocking. Only God himself can in any way change the Law. Here, Jesus, though not really changing it, is challenging the understanding and application of the Law. 

You shall not murder, one of the ten commandments (21). Jesus strips murder down to anger. Jesus puts anger that leads to murder and anger that leads to name calling and labeling in the same boat. “Raca” and “fool” are strong derogatory terms. Judgment to the one who name calls out of anger. In your anger, be in self control and do not sin (22). Taken a step further, to practical terms, your tongue is to be a source of life, not of death (23). Your words are to build up, not tear down. You must not kill someone with your words. 

When you are in efforts to be reconciled to God, check yourself, who are you not reconciled to? Who has something against you? We are to forgive those as we are forgiven. Who has unforgiveness towards you? Can you reconcile that situation? Peacemaking is found in this way of living. If something can be done, let it be done. The kingdom can be found where there is peace between those who have been at odds. These kind of things are of primary importance, as when you do these things you will in turn find an unresisting path to being reconciled with God. 

Even in legal issues, settle the issue quickly as possible. The ability to admit mistakes and be reconciled is of the kingdom also.  Who knows, you may be able to avoid a just penalty. Forgiveness often works this way. In the same way you would seek mercy and forgiveness when one has a case against you, give mercy and forgiveness to the one you have a case against. Are lawsuits unscriptural? No, but when it is possible and capable, reconciliation for many matters is the higher way.       

21. Exodus 20:13 
22. Ephesians 4:26
23. Proverbs 18:21

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. 31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.

Adultery, sexual relations with one other than your spouse, is forbidden in the Ten Commandments (24). Jesus goes beyond the sexual act to the issue of the heart and mind: lust. Lust is to have sexual desire. As anger leads to murder, lust leads to adultery. As anger  unchecked itself is sin, so lust unchecked itself is sin. One must learn, in self-control and goodness, to not allow lust to be in feelings and in the thoughts and imaginations of the mind towards one who is not your spouse. In an ever increasing world of sexual persuasion, guard against what the mind is fed by what it is exposed to. Guard against improper relationships. Not just no adultery, but no want of adultery. Jesus goes on to an extreme example of gouging out your eye or cutting off your hand if either causes you to stumble in sin. Is he really saying to do this? No, but the example is to bring a strong warning to controlling yourself inwardly and outwardly in a world where sexual perversion is rampant. For, as he says, it is better to be without the part of your body that causes you to sin than for your whole being to be thrown into hell. Judgment for sin is real. Jesus then moves from adultery and lust to divorce. Here may be one of the trickier parts of the Sermon. 

The certificate of divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1) was given for, and this became used very loosely and wrongly in some circles among the Israelites, what became unpleasing to the man, finding something indecent about his wife. A patriarchal dominated society allowed a man to do away with his wife for most anything, putting her at a disadvantage. Outside of the unfaithfulness of adultery, there are more reasons for divorce in proper but it is not the point here, Jesus put the onus on the man that unmerited divorce meant adultery. Two becoming one, that man should not separate, was not to be taken lightly. As in Matthew 19 and Mark 10, Jesus states in the Sermon that adultery is committed in remarriage when prior divorce is unmerited (25). The onus is put on the man, as unmerited divorce was permitted because their hearts became hard, because in these cases it is mostly the man who is having his way. “(He) causes her…” The woman will carry the stigma. In this way Jesus is critiquing the patriarchal system in place. The husband must love his wife as Christ loves the church (26). If this is the case, unmerited divorce will melt away. 

24. Exodus 20:14
25. Matthew 19:3-8, Mark 10:2-12
26. Ephesians 5:25

33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

From the topic is divorce, Jesus now turns to the oaths people make, as marriage itself is an oath between two people and to God. In the Old Testament, people are forbade against using the name of the Lord lightly and irreverently, committing to oaths and vows with his name and not keeping them (27). The way of the Kingdom is to be of integrity to your word. Using anything beyond your word to trump up your oath can turn into deceit and manipulation. Letting your “yes be yes” and your “no be no” is to stand on who you are as one who follows Christ. It is a testimony to the faithfulness of who you are. As Christ is faithful to keep his word to us, we are faithful in keeping our word to others. 

27. Exodus 20:7, Leviticus 19:12, Numbers 30:2, Deuteronomy 23:21

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

From our faithfulness of our commitments, now, to how we respond when mistreated. If the Sermon has not been found too difficult to this point, it is in the next of the teachings of the Sermon that many people stumble. To follow Christ is to give up all your rights and take on his way. We must believe his way is the best way even when it it beyond our understanding and the practical ways of a fallen world. We are to love our neighbor. What happens when that neighbor mistreats us? What happens when our neighbor is our enemy? Israel was occupied by Rome. They enemy was right there. Israel had always been bordered by the threat of enemies. The prevailing idea of the Messiah was one of deliverance. The nation of Israel, free and independent. Through that, the name of the Lord would be proclaimed through all the earth. They were in need of a warrior king to set them free. The son of David who was like David. This was the hope. Jesus, the long awaited Messiah, comes to bring freedom but in a different way.  His way. The best way. It is shown in a striking way in how to respond and treat those who mistreat you, those who are your enemies. 

Exodus 21:23-25, “But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.” This was the Law given way of reprimanding wrongs (28). Show no pity. It was given to stop escalating retaliation. Give back what was given, end there. Jesus continues to strike at the heart of the kingdom. For the first time in the Sermon, he seems to change the Law. No more eye for an eye, but turning the other cheek. No revenge for insult. Someone goes after you in court, go beyond what is legally required. If you are forced to help someone and carry their load, as was the custom of Roman solider to the Israeli citizen, do not show spite but go further than expected. Freely give and do not expect interest. Hard words to take. Are the followers of Christ to be push overs? Are they to be defenseless? Are they to be easily used and manipulated? To all these, no. The better way of seeing this is to look at it this way: the cycle of evil, the using of others and revenge, must be broken. This is the kingdom. This is how Jesus brings freedom and new life. It can only be broken by someone doing for someone what they do not deserve. Meekness shows here. Mercy shows here. Hunger and thirsting for righteousness shows here. Peacemaking shows here. The way of Jesus, the best way, was to die on a cross, forgiving those who crucified him without vengeful retaliation. He is teaching that here. We must first see the world now through this lens. Turning the other cheek to giving freely. What seem to be disadvantages by the way of the fallen world are the ways of a kingdom that will come in fullness and bring its reward with it. How much do we believe in the life to come to live it to its greatest extent now, even if we must turn the other cheek?  

28. Leviticus 24:17-20, Deuteronomy 19:21

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.   

To love your neighbor was found in the teaching of the Law (29). To hate your enemy was a way of life with the assumption that God hated your enemy too. It was accepted to hate the Samaritan and the Roman as it was accepted to hate the Philistine. But Jesus said to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect. This is often pulled out of its context to push a morally perfect life, but in its direct context, to be perfect as the Father is perfect is to love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you. Do this and you are children of your Father in heaven. Peacemakers will be called sons of God. You can pray for those who persecute you when you are reminded that you are blessed when you are persecuted. In direct contrast to what is seemingly taught, for example in the war passages of the Old Testament, God does good to those who are evil (for contrast see the story of the healing of Naaman in 2 Kings 5). The evil have the sun and have the rain. Jesus dies for us while we are yet sinners (30). This is not to say there is no judgment, but mercy always comes first. As a follower of Christ, loving those who love you is only part. Non-believers do the same. The test case of loving your neighbor is loving your enemy. Do this, and here is found the heart of the kingdom. Jesus puts a stamp on how we treat our enemies when asked “who is my neighbor?”, an attempt to justify choosing who to love and who not to love, with the parable of the Good Samaritan (31). It is the enemy of the Israelite, the Samaritan, who is most like God when he helps the one in need, above the religious Israelites who pass by. There is no justifying who can be cut out from your love and the actions thereof. 

29. Leviticus 19:18
30. Romans 5:8  
31. Luke 10:25-37

Chapter 6
1“Be careful not to do your ‘acts righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

The acts of righteousness are postures and actions of the life of believers because they follow Jesus. They are acts of faith. They do not make one a believer, but are the outflowing of belief. In the Sermon, Jesus highlights three of them, though certainly not an all inclusive list. He sees these three, giving to ones in need, prayer, and fasting, as ones that pride had crept into. Again, as in the parable, taking pride in what you do leaves you unjustified before God (32). The humblebrag gets you nowhere. In all of these, Jesus contrasts doing things to be seen by others versus what you do in secret. We do not live our life for the applause of men and back slaps of others. If this is what we want, to shine our own star, then the only reward you will receive is the applause and back slaps of men. To be seen by others is another way as to want to been known as “spiritual”. Puffed up and better than others. To look down on the ones who do not do these things as you do. This has no eternal reward. We are not to use the acts of the kingdom for personal gain. You are left mired in your pride. Jesus takes what the righteous do and purposefully defuses pride. The acts of righteousness should flow from a humble and meek heart. Jesus is still getting down to the heart of each matter. It is not just murder, but the anger that begets murder. It is not just adultery but the lust that begets adultery. With the “righteous act”, where does the act proceed from? It is what is done in secret, when no one notices and no one knows but God, that God rewards these acts of righteousness. When God sees your acts, done in humility, He is able to act upon your acts. What is the reward? God’s response. God’s action. Treasure in heaven, as Jesus goes on to teach about soon in the Sermon. These acts of righteousness are assumed. “When you” is how Jesus begins each of these. Those who are followers of Jesus will produce action from their life. Again, these are not done to gain God’s approval, but to be action points of ushering in the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. 

When you give to the needy…we are always to remember the least of these and put action to the remembrance of them. The Law set forth that those in need, the poor, the foreigner, the widow, are top be taken care of (33). In a reading of the prophets, such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, God chastises and judges for not doing so, even to the way of oppressing those in need and not just the lack of taking care of them (34). The good deeds that are evidence of living as a light are in part deeds to be a help to those in need. When these good deeds are done, such as giving to the needy, we are not to do it in such a way to bring attention to ourselves, announcing it with trumpets, brash and open. As we have seen before in the Sermon, Jesus uses an extreme example to bring his point across: “do not let you left hand know what your right hand is doing.” Be sure that you are not brining any attention to yourself that even one part of your body is not aware of what another part of your body is doing. We often think the need to advertise our good deeds helps to bring a good light on our efforts and so then the Gospel, possibly adding to the Church in such a way. Jesus teaches us that the way of reward for giving to the poor is to be in secret where only He is glorified by it. Does this conflict with letting “your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven?”. No. This comes back to the state and motivation of the heart. For even if your good deeds, in proper motivation, are seen and escape the secret, God is glorified and man is not.    

32. Luke 18:9-14
33. Examples: Leviticus 19:10,  Leviticus 23:22, Leviticus 25:35
34. Examples: Isaiah 3:14-15, Jeremiah 5:28, Ezekiel 16:49 

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’
14 For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

When you pray…our communion with God through prayer should be a foundation of our life with Him. Setting apart time to go into our room and close the door in a focused, uninterrupted time of prayer is essential. Not taking time here to go through what prayer is itself, Jesus again takes aim at the state and motivation of the heart in prayer. You do not pray better than the state of your heart. If you are prideful, your prayer is prideful and done in a prideful way. When your prayer is in secret, from a place of humility before God, not in front of others or in a loud way in order that others hear, God rewards it. The reward is His action and response to it. God hears and responds to the prayers of the humble heart. Does this mean we are not to pray corporately together? No, but the basis of our life of prayer is to be with God and God alone. Along with this, Jesus shows us that the length of our prayers are not the key to a response from God. Many words, babbling on like those who do not know Him, do not cause God to hear you. God knows our needs before we even ask. Prayer is our action of faith to God about those needs. This prayer invites God in to our lives and allows Him to do as He wills.  In keeping with what rabbis do, Jesus teaches those listening how to pray. Is it the only prayer? No. It is a prayer rooted in Scripture that is a basis for our prayers today. Prayer is always to be rooted in Scripture. 

Our Father in heaven, hallowed by your name…God who is the Father of all things, who resides in the place of authority, His name is holy and is to be revered and stood in awe of. Prayer is not a trivial action but invokes the one God of all things.

your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…the continuing work of all things being made right and new again is captured in this part of the prayer. God’s kingdom, His will, to be advanced throughout the earth as it is in authority in heaven. It invokes our participation, in our own lives and through our lives.

Give us today our daily bread…it is the basic asking of provision from God who is our provider. To not be in lack, and where we are in abundance, to share that abundance with others.

And forgive us our debts, as we have also forgiven our debtors…The forgiveness of sins is the righting of our lives in God. He forgives freely. After our initial justification, we must stay in a place of repentance as we continue to live our lives in Him. But as we have been forgiven, we must also forgive others. We are forgiven in the same way we forgive others. We are to be agents of the kingdom as forgiveness is a foundation it is built upon. 

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one…lead us not to place of temptation as Jesus himself was lead to the wilderness and tempted there. Deliver us from evil and of the evil one, satan. Strengthen us, provide a way out, show us in wisdom what to do. Help us overcome.

Jesus then highlights a part of the prayer he had just taught, returning again to forgiveness. Forgiveness is another result of a heart that is being made right. We are to forgive others as the Lord has forgiven us (35). Jesus was asked how many times one should forgive another. He responded with a parable (36). As in the parable, if you withhold what has been graciously awarded to you, if you do not have mercy on another as the Lord has mercy on you, you will be judged. 

35. Colossians 3:13   
36. Matthew 18:21-35

16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

When you fast…fasting is another act of righteousness, a consistent part of the life of one who follows Jesus. It is another action of communion with God. We see abstaining from food as a communal practice in the Day of Atonement (37), plus many other examples in both the Testaments. Fasts were appointed, personal fasts were beyond that. The practice and reasons of fasting will be not be explained here, but Jesus, once again, focuses on the heart. As the disciples did not fast while Jesus was with them, the fasts would begin after his ascension rooted in the anticipation of his return (38). The hypocrite, the one who acts one way but is truly another, will be sure to let others know they are fasting. They purposely look haggard and unkept. They let others know how hungry they are or how long they are fasting. Their reward is others thinking they are ‘spiritual’ when really they are not. To do this for others to notice is to look for their applause and the prideful positioning of oneself above others. This is not to say that public fasts should not be declared and participated in, but the practice of fasting beyond that is to be in secret. When it is in secret, outgrowing from a humble heart, God will respond to the fast, draw near, and act accordingly. The fast of a humble heart has no outward appearance to draw attention.

37. Leviticus 23:32
38. Mark 2:18-19  

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

24 “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

Accumulation is not to be the goal of life. Anything that can be be destroyed naturally or stolen is not ultimately worth anything of value. The body will be redeemed with resurrection, the earth made new, but possessions will not be among them. Jesus, when remarking about having things, says that life does not consist of the abundance of possessions (39). He says you must be rich towards God and not accumulate, building more space to put ‘things’. Your life will be called into account for such a way of living (40). Are possessions wrong? In a word, no. But the over-emphasis of possessions, the chasing of possessions, and reliance on possessions are the issue of the heart. Jesus is pushing back against greed. Jesus is pushing back against keeping your abundance versus giving to those in need. If your treasure is possessions and accumulation, that is the place your heart resides. From where your heart resides comes the actions of your life. The storing of treasure in heaven, that never fades away, falls apart, or can be taken from you happens from the living of the Christian life, the kingdom life, on earth as it is in heaven. That treasure is the riches of the glory of God in our eternal relationship and dwelling with him in the coming new heaven and new earth. All things will be made new and we will reside in the fullness of that.  If your treasure is there, you will live like it here. You will be participating, as Jesus taught to pray, to bring the kingdom of heaven and the will of God here on earth as it is in heaven. Jesus uses the example of the eye being the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy and unclouded, if you see things as you should see them, if you see things through the lens of the kingdom, you will be full of light. That light overcomes the darkness. But if the light you have is actual darkness, how great will that darkness be in you. That darkness will overshadow everything you do as the goal of what you do is to gain. Paul later writes that godliness is not for financial gain (41). We cannot keep greed and simply name God as the means to appease it. The intermixing of the Gospel and accumulation is a great danger. In the Parable of the Sower, one way to look at the thorns of life that choke the seed and growth of the word is the deceitfulness of wealth (42). Jesus is explicit in saying it is hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven (43). Riches and their pursuit can cloud the heart with darkness. Within that, you cannot serve two masters. These ‘masters’ vie for allegiance. One will become subservient to the other. The service of one will overtake the service of the other, loving one and hating the other, devoted to one despising the other because these two masters are at odds with one another. You cannot serve both God and money, God and material possession. Serving money and possessions will be the root of all kinds of evil on one’s life, opening the path of wandering from the faith (44).    

39. Luke 12:15
40. Luke 12:16-21
41. 1 Timothy 6:5 
42. Matthew 13:22
43. Matthew 19:23
44. 1 Timothy 6:10

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

At this point, Jesus transitions from putting the issue of what a life should build towards, and if it is not accumulation of possession, to not worrying about being provided for. Do not worry about the things of life that worry those who do not know God and know Him as provider. Do not worry about food, drink, or clothes. As Jesus taught us to pray, give us our daily bread, He will answer that prayer and be our provider. God provides for His creation. The birds are provided for. Aren’t we, the crown of his creation, more valuable to Him than the birds of the air? If the flowers of the field and the grass that grows are clothed in the wonder and beauty that is God’s creation, which is even much greater than anything the riches of Solomon could muster up, will He not clothe you and keep you warm? To be of little faith is to be distracted from who God is and what His word has said. God is our provider. He will be who He is and do what He will do. There is not need of worry and anxiousness that causes one to fully chase after the things of provision and accumulation. The ones who do not know God as provider chase these things. They are worried too much about having and it becomes the focus of their lives. God our Father knows we need these things and He will provide. This is the provision of the multiplied loaves and fish (45). We must work with our hands and do all things unto the Lord (46). God honors that. Instead of seeking these kind of things first, Jesus challenges those listening to seek first the kingdom of God (the reign and rule of God) and his righteousness (the making right of all things). This is a hunger and a thirst for righteousness. This is pursuing of building treasure in heaven. If you do so, you will be provided for as He will add to you the things that you need. Do not worry about anything that is coming. Today may have worry of its own. Much of our worry is about provision. Seek God, His kingdom, and His righteousness first, and He will work in a way that will alleviate the worry of today.

45. Matthew 14:15-21, Matthew 15:32-38
46. 2 Thessalonians 3:10, Colossians 3:23 

Chapter 7
1“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

The heart is the issue when judging others. Jesus states firmly, “Do not judge.” This is hard to follow in our fallen human nature. It is easy to judge others, to put yourself above and look down upon. When you judge, you play God. It is God’s job to be judge. When you do judge, you yourself will be judged. How you judge, it will come back the same way to you. Sowing judgment will reap judgment. The better path is mercy. Be merciful, you will reap mercy. In judging others we are left blind to our own issues, to the planks in our own eyes. It is easy to judge others who have a different kind of speck in their eye as opposed the kind of plank in your own eye. Can you be perfect in your judgment as God is (47)? Can you judge without your own conscience getting in the way (49)? Jesus uses the strong word ‘hypocrite’ to describe those who judge others while leaving their own issues unattended. We must first deal with the planks in our eyes, then we may see clearly to help another. The issue here is, at what point do we know that the plank is really removed from our eye to see clearly enough to help another? This is why we must err on the side of mercy, if we err on any side. To help one another is scriptural. Paul writes that we are not the judge of those outside the church but raises the question of judging those inside (48). He also writes that we should stop passing judgment on our brothers and sisters (50). What to make of this? The difference is how we admonish those in the church. It is the issue of the motivation of the heart. Does our judgment stem from any sort of pride? Is it rooted in what one thinks versus what is scripturally clear? Are we puffing ourself up, putting ourself over another in some sort of ‘spiritual pride’? Are we helping another in a way that uplifts them? Speaking truth in love, and helping, is not the same as sitting in judgment over. Paul writes, as recorded in Romans 14, that we must make every effort to do what leads to mutual edification (51). In this way we will admonish properly. Jesus goes from here to sacred and pearls, dogs and pigs. The sacred and the pearls can be seen as truth and wisdom. Even in the midst of our own messiness, we can discern truth and wisdom and live by it. For the dogs and pigs, those who do not follow Jesus and are opposed to his way, trying to give truth and wisdom to them may result in their mocking what you give and yourself also. Does that mean we should not let our light shine to the lost with our words? No. It means that we are not to try to force or reason someone into what must come by faith and revelation.

47. Romans 2:1-4
48. Romans 14 
49. 1 Corinthians 5:12
50. Romans 14:10,13
51. Romans 14:19

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Asking and seeking and knocking. These are all faith actions. The righteous live by faith (52). It is a faith that accesses the grace that brings our salvation and justification, it is then a way of life. These actions of faith are persistent and sincere. They are part of the work of bringing the kingdom and the will of God on earth as it is in heaven. The purpose of the asking and seeking and knocking must be formed by what has been earlier taught in the sermon. It is not for self gain and bigger barns full of stuff. It is for the kingdom life within you and around you. This is to be in the blessings of God, to be within and a part of what God is doing. It is to live vibrantly and abundantly in the kingdom life. When you live in the faith of asking and seeking and knocking, you will receive and you will find and the door will be opened. God responds to our faith when our motivations are right. He is a good God. You will not ask for bread or a fish and get something opposite. As much as we, in our imperfections, give good things to our own children, and always long to do more, how much more will our gift-giving Father in heaven, much more perfect than we are, give good gifts to the ones who ask. Then, as Jesus always does, he turns something that is a benefit to us outward to others. This checks the motives of our hearts. If you desire that God responds to your asking and seeking and knocking, if you desire that when you ask for bread, you receive bread and not a stone, then be that same way to others. However you want to be treated, treat others that way. Whatever you want others to do for you, do those things for others. Life is not others centering around you, but you centering around others then seeing that kind of reaping in your own life. As Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, to be like him in our regard to others, is the sum of the Law and the Prophets. As God is the good God, and Jesus is the Good Shepherd, we are to be good to others in the same way. As Jesus responds as to what the greatest commandment is, to love God and, the one like it, to love neighbors, what the Law and the Prophets hang on(53). The whole Sermon takes us towards those commands.  

52. Romans 1:17
53. Matthew 22:34-40

13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Jesus finishes the Sermon with four warnings. The first warning is this: There are two gates in which people can go through. Two choices. One is narrow and small, one is wide. The narrow gate is Jesus himself (54). For he is the way, the truth, and the life and no one can be reconciled back to the Father except by him (55). The wide gate seems to open to the way of a good life, a life that pleases a person. The good it seems to offer is a masquerade. It is really a life that is lost and leads to destruction. It is a life without God and without living on his way. Many, too many, enter through that gate and walk on that road. But if we enter through Jesus, salvation and subsequent citizenship in the kingdom, we are opened to the narrow road. This narrow road is the best way even when the wide road may seem more appealing. This narrow road may at times be hard, but the way of true life. To be in God’s blessing does not always mean it is easy. Living on the narrow road is to live according to the teaching of Jesus, the teaching of the Sermon, to live as His disciple. The gate, salvation, puts you there. But you must now walk the road. The invitation of the narrow gate and the narrow road is open to all. Only a few find it. Most will enter the wide gate and walk the broad road. Do you believe the narrow gate and the narrow road is the best way? The difference will be life and destruction.    

54. John 10:7-10
55. John 14:6

15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

The second warning is to be alert to false prophets. Wherever there is truth, there will be a falseness that masquerades as right-ness. Prophets proclaim the message of the kingdom, exposing the heart of God with revelation. Their message and words awaken hope and draw back to God and to Scripture, to the way of the kingdom. The words of the prophet will ultimately point to Jesus, His way and His teaching, as He is their fulfillment. Anything other than this is not of God and is false. The false prophet may be in sheep’s clothing, hiding their true nature. That nature is of the ferocious wolf, who left amid the sheep will bring destruction. That destruction starts with being led astray. To stay on the narrow road needs the discernment to not be led astray by false voices. How can we know? By the fruit of their lives. Are their words in keeping with Scripture? Do they point back to Jesus and His way? Is their lifestyle of what is worthy of the calling of a prophet? A good tree produces good fruit. A bad tree produces bad fruit. A tree cannot hide the kind of fruit it produces. A tree is always ultimately exposed by the fruit it produces. One who does not bear good fruit will be judged, cut down and thrown into the fire. 

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ 

The third warning is to those who claim to do things in the name of the Lord, even if those things are signs and wonders, but are truly not known by Him. Signs and wonders are signposts of the kingdom, pointing towards Jesus and what is to come. But even the things that are assumed to be of the kingdom can seemingly be wrought by those who are not of the kingdom. This is closely tied to the previous warnings of the false prophet. A prophet who seems to be of God, those who do things supposedly in the name of the Lord: Do not just follow anyone. What is their fruit? Are they doing the will of the Father? All things hang on, are summed up in, loving God and loving neighbor. All things of the kingdom flow from this. This is the will of God. Is this the evidence of their life? On the day of reconciling, many will stand before God and tell of what they have done. But is what they have done in the will of God? Does it come from Him? Even at the end of the Sermon, Jesus is still after the heart. In the same way prideful giving to the poor and prayer and fasting have no reward with God, outward signs can be void of Him also. Outward signs are no good if the heart is not center in His will. If it is not, He will not know you and you will be put away as an evil doer.   

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

The fourth warning is of the wise and the foolish builders. Everyone builds a house. A house of life, how one lives the life that he has. The wise man builds his house on the words of Jesus. The  Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding (56). Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, has given wisdom. The wise man hears it and puts into practice in how he build his life. The words of Jesus, directly in context here, are the words recorded in Matthew chapters five through seven. If life becomes like a storm, flooding, winds that beat a house, the ones who build their house on these words will have house that stands. It stands in a way that may not be seen by those who do not have eyes to see. It stands with its foundation on the rock, Jesus himself (57). Great is the reward who house is built upon that rock. But the foolish hear these words and think there is a better way. The reject the narrow gate and the narrow road and enter the wide gate and walk on the wide road. They build the house of their life on the sand. Ever shifting, soft, unstable. When the storms of life come, flooding and blowing wind, their house falls and great is the destruction of that crash. The fool says in their heart there is no God (58). Foolish hearts know God but do not glorify him (59). Wisdom is proved right by her deeds (60). 

56. Proverbs 2:6
57. 1 Peter 2:4-8
58. Psalm 14:1
59. Romans 1:21
60. Matthew 11:19

28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

The one who had authority has set the foundation for life in the kingdom. The life in the kingdom is countercultural to the ways of a fallen world. They are not conventional. The call to come out and be separate (61) is often accomplished by living by way of walking the narrow road. As the Law and the Prophets were to mark out a people of and for God, Jesus, as the fulfillment, marks out a people of and for God. He is the gate. His teaching set Jesus apart from the religious leaders of the day, whitewashed on the outside but full of bones on the inside, those who did acts that were seemingly righteous but had no reward in God (62). For those who continued to follow Jesus after the Sermon, the words that He said, the parables that He told, the miracles that He did, His death on the cross, were all rooted on some way to this Sermon. May we all heed these words and build our house on the rock. 

61. 2 Corinthians 6:17
62. Matthew 23:27-28