Sermon on the Mount, First

Okay, I spent a decent amount of time looking at Revelation, a book that is difficult to understand and pretty light on calls to action (aside from be faithful). Also, I don’t see a book like Revelation as very authoritative. I don’t know much about its author, and I feel pretty free to discount themes I find unhelpful, like the revenge idea.

So, now I’d like to do something a little more challenging. The Sermon on the Mount may or may not have been delivered as a single sermon by Jesus, but it certainly establishes the bedrock tenants of Christianity that go beyond Love God and Love Others as Yourself.

The sermon starts with the Beatitudes:

Now when he 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.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:1-12. Compare the Sermon on the Plain in Luke.

It seems to me that the first four are not intended to be goals, but as comfort. The second half reminds me of the basics. Be merciful and pure. Make peace and be faithful. So far so good. (BTW, if you follow the link to Luke it is much harsher. For example it blesses the poor and curses the rich. I’m pretty sure I’m the second one.)

6 thoughts on “Sermon on the Mount, First”

  1. You interpret John as a book about the Romans getting theirs, if I read you right. Do you read Jesus’s preaching to be about the poor and ill favored in general, throughout time and space, or do you think he also was talking about the Romans and his downtrodden Jewish brethren?

  2. I think Jesus’s message was more general that John’s in Revelation. The reason I think that is that John was using very specific metaphors that suched the city of Rome an the emporeror Nero.

    By contrast, Jesus talks about the poor, the meet, those who mourn. These seem like general categories.

    That said, there is a generalized message to take from Revelation–>eventually God will destroy the enemies of the church. The generalized message from this passage of the Sermon on the Mount is that the ill favored will find happiness or comfort or fulfillment.

    This difference is probably more significant to me, than how specific or general the two messages are.

  3. I read something in the introduction to Edith Hamilton’s _Mythology_, last night, that made me think of this. It was about the changing nature of the Greek gods, over time. I don’t have the exact quote with me, but it went something like,

    The great and bitter pain of the poor reached up to heaven and transformed the gods from champions of the strong, to defenders of the weak.

  4. Josh, that is an amazing quote/idea. One of my ‘Other Links’ is to the Center for Process Theology. The whole idea of process theology is that God evolves with us, and indeed is changed by us, just as we are changed by God.

    When we talk about Greek gods it is easier (Not lack of capitalization) to perceive this as transforming a mythology–or the super important cultural stories. It can be uncomfortable to think about our religion in the same terms. (Which is why you will see very little about Process Theology on the 700 Club.)

  5. Lovin your dialogue. I think Jesus spoke from within the socio-political context in which he lived — preaching to living folks who shared that context, so definitely he was talking about the Romans & Jews. The remarkable thing about his teachings that were so specific to his context is that their truths are universal and transcend history. That may be why it’s so easy to forget that he wasn’t talking to us. That said, I totally agree that his message is general — one of his skills was speaking with enough ambiguity to allow for breadth of interpretation and application.

    Love the quote, Josh — it does reflect process ideas about God with a big G, Jim. So if you can find the actual quote, I’d like that.

    You touched on an important thing, Jim — it is a little hard to think of our religious beliefs as myth — but that’s only if we think myth implys absence of truth — only if we need “literal” in order to be “truth.” This whole Jesus thing is my myth, or the myth (story) on which my faith is based.

    Write on.

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