The Sermon on the Mount

When Jesus first started preaching, he spoke from a mountainside in front of a large crowd. This speech is known as the Sermon on the Mount.

In this sermon, Jesus taught his followers the Lord’s Prayer and told them the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The sermon also contained the Beatitudes and Jesus’ teachings about God’s laws, which he expected his followers to uphold.

A stained glass window in St Gummarus Church in Belgium depicts the Sermon on the Mount

The Beatitudes

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explains to his followers what kinds of human lives are blessed by God. The statements he made are known as the Beatitudes.

According to Jesus, God gives his blessing to:

  • the meek – meaning humble people
  • those who make peace
  • those who show mercy to others

Jesus also mentioned that people who are persecuted because of their faith will be blessed and find reward in Heaven (Matthew 5:3–11).

Jesus’ teachings about God’s law

The Bible relates how some of the people who came to hear Jesus give sermons feared that he was opposed to the teachings in the Old Testament, which people had been following for a long time. However, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explained that he had not come to overturn God’s laws but to make sure they were upheld.

Jesus expanded on the Old Testament teachings, explaining that God had ever higher expectations of how people should behave towards each other:

Old Testament teachingJesus’ explanation in the Sermon on the Mount
Do not murderDo not even be angry with another person or insult them. Try to forgive people and mend broken relationships.
Do not commit adulteryIf a married person even looks at another person lustfully, they are guilty of adultery in their heart.
Divorce is allowedDivorce is still allowed but only on the grounds of ‘sexual immorality’. Anyone who divorces and re-marries is committing adultery with their new partner – they are not really married at all.
Love your neighbourYou must also love your enemies and pray for people who persecute you.

However, Jesus did have different ideas from those in the Old Testament when it came to the subject of revenge. He told his followers that their love for one another must be unconditional and that they must never seek revenge, even though the Old Testament allows it: An eye for an eye (Exodus 21:24)

Jesus told his followers: You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also (Matthew 5:38–9)

Some other important teachings

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus summed up almost all of his teachings. Christians find the following important lessons in this sermon:

  • Possessions on Earth are not important. Meaningful spiritual ‘treasures’ will be found by good people in Heaven.
  • People should not worry because God will take care of them.
  • People should not judge each other. It is hypocritical to do so, and only God can sit in judgement.
  • God will help people who seek his help.
  • The way to Heaven is difficult to pass through – like a narrow gate – but getting to Hell is easy, like a wide gateway.

What are the Beatitudes?

The Beatitudes are proverb-like blessings that Jesus explained to his followers during the Sermon on the Mount. In these, he described the sorts of characteristics people should have in order to be blessed by God.