Intro to Sermon on the Mount

Matthew 5-7

This passage is one of the most well-known, while at the same time, it isn’t known very well. That is to say, if you mention Sermon on the Mount to most (church) people, they will know what you are talking about, but following up with any question – when/where/why, or what is in it, what is he saying, and I don’t think you’d get much of a reaction. There are number of ‘famous’ passages within it – the beatitudes (blessed are…) and the Lord’s Prayer probably being the most known, but there are other passages such as His words on Lust/Adultery and Hate/Murder. Really, the simplest way to state it is that the Sermon is a collection of all of the teachings of Jesus found in Matthew, which are not parables.

What exactly was the Sermon? I’m torn on whether I want to get into some of the deeper academic disputes. Was he actually on a mountain? If so, which one? Where there any in the area? Some commentators break this down a bit and say well, it was probably just a hillside, and in kind of a red-neck way, say that the translation could read the sermon up in the hills. Some people were also concerned that it doesn’t align with Luke’s sermon on the plain, and wonder if the Mount is really more of a plateau, but I think all that is beyond what I want to look at and discuss.

For me, there are a few things that matter, one is Jesus probably gave this sermon or message a number of times. It wasn’t uncommon for itinerate teachers (Rabbis) to go around to different towns and villages repeating their message. Luke focused on only a few ‘blesseds’ whereas Matthew had more and left off the ‘woes’. I also think that is why he puts it at the beginning of the his Gospel.

Finally, there is significance to placing it at the Mount (whether it was actually the first instance or not). Matthew is written for a mostly Jewish audience, and they would have seen the connection between Jesus giving the sermon (expanding and explaining the law) and Moses coming down from Mount Sinai with the original Law (the 10 commandments). If that wasn’t clear, Jesus Himself draws the connection when He later explains lust and adultery, and hate and murder.

The entire intro Matthew gives us is just two verses (5:1-2), which basically says, people were around, so Jesus started His sermon.

Next week I’ll start going through the beatitudes, but for now, what is exactly are beatitudes? We get with word from the Latin word Beatus which means blessed, which is obviously taken form the start of each verse – ‘blessed are…’. So, what does blessed mean? There are two words typically used in the Greek – Makarious and Ealogetos. The latter is word used when someone is blessed by God that most people think of when they hear bless. The word used is actually the former, it means more something of along the lines of happiness, fortunate, or even congratulate (as the tense is accusative).

This is one reason for wide array of translations for the word, but it makes the sense of the phrase confusing in the English. He isn’t saying that God will bless those who are poor in spirit, He is saying something more along the lines of consider fortunate those who are poor in spirit (on famous sermon even used the translation ‘congratulate those…).

I hope that helps as a basic introduction, next week I’ll started on the Beatitudes and hopefully continue you on through the whole sermon.


Commentaries used in this series:
Sermon on the Mount (The Story of God Bible Commentary)
The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7 : Christian Counter-Culture)
Studies in the Sermon on the Mount
Matthew (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament)
The Expositor’s Bible commentary : Matthew, Mark, Luke, with the New international version of the Holy Bible (Expositor’s Bible commentary, Vol.8)
Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries)
New Bible Commentary

May Biblical Studies Carnival

Jeff Carter has the Carnival up, though he is calling it Biblioblog Carnival. Maybe the name changed. Try searching biblioblog if you are having trouble finding it, or just click the link above. When I searched Biblical Studies Carnival, I only came up with Zwinglius Dedivivus’s post. I may have to check in with the godfather of the carnival to see if things have changed. Anyway, enjoy.


Book Review: The Imperfect Disciple

The Imperfect Disciple: Grace for People Who Can’t Get Their Act Together

My Rate – Must Read

Level – Fairly easy, short to moderate length.

A book about how to be a disciple written by someone who apparently isn’t very good at it. As usual, I don’t have a very good summary of what this book is about. The best summary of the books is right there as the subtitle – grace for people who can’t get their act together. I don’t know how to add to that. There are 10 chapters (20ish pages each) with a short introduction and even shorter conclusion.

My Thoughts
This is what a book about discipleship should be. This might be the best book I’ve read this year, certainly the best ‘Christian’ book of the year, probably the best in a while. I was given a copy of this book to review, but I may actually go buy a few more to hand out. So, what makes it so good? Was there anything revolutionary in this book for me? Honestly, no. There was almost nothing new and different for me, other than a growing jealously of his writing style.

Why would I want more copies of this book then? Because it is the best book to give out to people who ‘try’ hard to be ‘good’. I resonated deeply with his background, in the fundamentalist/moralistic sects of the baptist world. It probably took me until my 20’s to really understand Grace and the Gospel. To his subtitle, I already know I don’t have together and never will, and understand that this is the need for grace. However, there are so many people who don’t yet know this. Wilson is a master at saying what needs to be said in a way that will be heard by those who need to hear. He writes with the obliviously well worn heart of a pastor who has seen people burn themselves out or tear themselves down.

Buy this book for a new believer. Buy this book for the old believer you know who is always trying to ‘be’ better and is confused as to why they can’t. Buy this book if you disciple anyone, or lead any small group. Buy this book if you work with youth or college students. Buy this book for anyone new to the Biblical concept of Grace. Finally, go ahead and get if for yourself. It is a fun, enlightening read. I just pulled up amazon and it is less than $9. Admit it to yourself, that is less than you spent last time you went to one of those weight your ice cream places.

I rarely ever hold pages, or underline/make notes in non-academic books (things other than commentaries or systematics), but I just flipped back through this and found 15 dogeared pages. Maybe the most surprising is how broad they are, everything from what it means to be a disciple with examples from Isaiah, to issues with American Christianity and consumerism, to depression and struggling with your faith, and coincidentally to me as I am studying this right now – some good teaching from the Sermon on the Mount.

This book really is a go to book for what it means to be a disciple and a must read for anyone interested in the topic of being a follower of Jesus. The depth of the theology and pastoral messaging was incredible, while at the same time the book was funny and honest. He writes the way a non-pretend theologian blogger would write if he were to write a book.

* I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Music Friday – Broken Bones

I haven’t done it in a while, so here is another Wolves at the Gate song, from their latest CD Types & Shadows. I’m torn on the videos for this whole CD. I like that they decided to put all the words up, because the words in these songs are incredible. On the other hand, with the exception of ‘The Fountain’, all of the videos look like ice cream and sprinkles.

Check out the words, though, I really like the line here where he says

“Don’t be nervous to face the truth that you’re not fine, you never were,
So don’t be frightened to see the Light when you open up your eyes”

Book Review: Mile Marker Zero

Mile Marker Zero: The Moveable Feast of Key West — William McKeen

My Rating – Put It On The List

Level – Short to moderate in length, but reads longer, easy to moderate read

I’m torn on the summary. It can be summed up in a basic sentence, or it would take a whole page to do justice to the craziness of this book. essentially, it is about Key West, way back when. When Key West wasn’t a tourist trap, when it was the wild west of modern America. This is post landbarron, like Flager, and celebrity, like Hemingway, but pre-over commercialization. There were as-yet unknown writers like Corcoran, McGuane, and Buffet. Hunter S. Thompson among others makes an appearance.

All to say, if you grew up with the legends of the Conch Republic, read this book, if you’ve never heard the stories of the way things were, it will either be dull or incredibly fascinating.

My Thoughts
So, I did grow up the stories of Key West, especially from my dad, who visited more often in his lost years. In fact, we took a pilgrimage, driving the 800+ plus miles from Atlanta, when I was maybe 12 or so. In a somewhat odd coincidence my dad actually grew up next to where Vaughn Cochran, proprietor of the Black Fly and secondary character in these Key West chronicles, spent his summers. Actually, it was my dad who loaned me this book.

Anyway, this book is a lot of fun. If you’ve spent time in Mallory Square or read the autobiographies of Jimmy Buffett or Hunter S. Thompson, you’ll get a lot out of this. It is all the craziness you’d expect and then some. Plus, some somewhat odd and data funny parts, like the little crew down there getting members only jackets with fake name to wear as the walked around getting drunk and partying.

There is a just an interesting mix of writers, musicians, and artist, you have to wonder why it never really got the popularity of some of the other historical places for such people. Maybe because it was at the bottom of the country, inhabited by nomadic Southerners so forgotten than the US Army once accidentally invaded the island; but probably mostly the commercialization tha followed. Ironically, Buffet’s own Parrot Head/Margaritaville and Cheeseburger in Paradise stores are currently part of the problem, a victim of his success.