25 The Sermon on the Mount

Much of Jesus’ teaching was brought together when, seated on a hillside, he spoke to his disciples about life in the kingdom of God. He taught that true happiness comes from having the right attitudes. Those who are humble, concerned about the world’s sinfulness, gentle, devoted to goodness, merciful, single-minded in God’s service, and peace-lovers will be blessed by God. Those of his followers who are persecuted in this world should rejoice, because they will have a rich reward in the next.

Jesus emphasised that he had not come to destroy the moral demands of the Jewish Law but to fulfil them. He taught that it is not enough not to commit murder; the anger which can lead to murder must be set aside too. It is not enough not to commit adultery; lustful thoughts must be set aside too. It is not enough to keep only our solemn promises; we should always mean what we say.

The Jewish Law taught that retaliation should be proportionate to the harm done - an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth - but Jesus taught that we should love our enemies and that we should return good for evil, turning the other cheek when others attack us.

He went on to say that ostentatious piety and charitable giving are wrong; both piety and giving should be between ourselves and God. No-one can serve two masters; it is impossible to serve both God and money. God knows what people’s needs are and will supply them, in the same way as he provides food for birds and glorious clothing for flowers; we should not be anxious but should trust him. We should not judge others; for we shall be judged to the degree we judge. It is difficult to find the way to the kingdom of heaven and there will be those who will try to mislead us. We should assess others by the moral and spiritual quality of their lives.

He summarised the whole moral teaching of the Old Testament in the command to treat others as you would like them to treat you.

Jesus said that anyone who acts on his words is like a wise man who built his house on a rock. When storms came the house stood firm. But anyone who does not act on his words is like a man who built his house on sand. When storms came the house fell, and the ensuing devastation was great.

Matthew 5 - 7