The Sermon on the Mount
After choosing the apostles, Jesus Christ came down with them from the mountain heights to a level place. There, numerous disciples waited for Him and a multitude of people gathered from every corner of Israel and neighboring places. They came to listen to Him and to be healed of their sicknesses. They all sought to touch the Saviour because power flowed from Him, and He healed everyone.
Seeing the multitudes before Him, Jesus Christ, surrounded by His disciples, went up into a mountain and sat there to teach the people.
At first, the Lord indicated His disciples, that is, all Christians must be like. How they must fulfill the law of God in order to receive blessed (that is, joyful and blissful in the highest degree) eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven. For this, He gave nine commandments of blessedness or Beatitudes. Then, the Lord gave teachings on the providence of God, on not judging others, on the power of prayer, on charity and on many others. This sermon of Jesus Christ is called the Sermon on the Mount.
Thus, during a clear spring day, in a gentle, refreshing breeze from the Sea of Galilee, on the slope of a mountain covered with greenery and flowers, the Saviour gave to the people the New Testament law of love.
In the Old Testament, the Lord gave the Law in the uninhabited wilderness on Mt. Sinai. Then, a menacing, dark cloud covered the summit of the mountain; thunder rumbled, lightning flashed and the sound of trumpets blared. No one dared to approach the mountain, except Moses to whom the Lord handed the ten commandments of the Law.
Now, the Lord was open to the crowded throng of people. All were trying to draw closer to Him to touch Him or even the hem of His robe only and to receive from Him beneficial strength. No one went away from Him without being comforted.
The Old Testament law is the law of strict righteousness, and the New Testament law of Christ is the law of divine love and grace, which gives to people the strength to fulfill God’s law. Jesus Christ Himself said, "I am not come to destroy (the law) but to fulfill" (Matt. 5:17).
The Beatitudes — Commandments of Blessedness.
Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, as a loving Father shows us the way by which people may enter the Kingdom of Heaven, the Kingdom of God. To all who fulfil His laws Christ as King of Heaven and earth promises eternal blessedness (great joy, the highest happiness) in the future eternal life. Therefore, such people, He calls blessed.
1. Blessed are the poor in spirit (humble), for theirs is (that is, given to them) the Kingdom of Heaven.
Poor in spirit refers to those people who feel and acknowledge their sins and spiritual unworthiness. They keep in mind that without God’s help, by themselves, they are not able to do good, and therefore, neither they accept praise for anything nor they are proud either before God or before people. These people are humble.
2. Blessed are those who mourn (over their sins), for they shall be comforted.
Those who mourn are people who grieve and shed tears over their sins and spiritual unworthiness. God forgives their sins. He gives them comfort even here, on earth, and the eternal joy in Heaven.
3. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
The meek are people who patiently endure all misfortune without becoming obdurate, without grumbling at God and humbly bear all unpleasantness and offenses from people not growing angry at anyone. They will receive possession of the heavenly dwelling place, that is, the renewed land in the Kingdom of Heaven.
4. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.
Those who hunger and thirst after righteousness are people who fervently seek righteousness as sincerely as they strive after food. They pray that God will supply water with which to cleanse them of their sins and help them live righteously (they wish to set themselves right with God). The desire of these people will be fulfilled, they will be satisfied and justified.
5. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
The merciful are people having good hearts, who are charitable and compassionate toward all as much as they are able. Such people will be pardoned by God. To them, special mercy by God will be revealed.
6. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
The pure in heart people are not only avoid bad deeds but strive to keep their souls pure to guard them against evil thoughts and desires. They are close to God (their souls always sense Him); and in the future life in the Kingdom of Heaven, they will be with God eternally. They will see Him.
7. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.
The peacemakers are people who dislike any kind of quarrel. They themselves try to live with everyone peacefully and amicably and to reconcile one to another. They become like the Son of God, Who came to earth to reconcile sinful mankind with the righteous God. Such people will be called sons or children of God and will be especially close to God.
8. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Those persecuted for righteousness’ sake are people who love to live righteously according to the law of God, who suffer and endure for this righteousness all kinds of persecution, deprivation, and hardship but do not change because of them. For this, they will receive the Kingdom of Heaven.
9. Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on My account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in Heaven.
Here the Lord says that, if they defame you (scoff at you, attack you, disgrace you), oppress you, and falsely speak evil of you (slander or unjustly accuse you), and you endure all this because of your faith in Him, then do not grieve but rejoice and be glad because the greatest reward awaits you in Heaven, that is, the highest degree of eternal blessedness.
The Providence of God.
Jesus Christ taught that God provides and cares for all His creation but especially provides for people. The Lord cares for us more and better than the most good and intelligent father for his children. He gives help in everything that is necessary for our lives and for that, which is truly useful for us.
"Take no thought for your life, what you shall eat, or what you shall drink, nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on," said the Saviour. "Behold the birds of the air, for they sow not, neither do they reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value that they? Consider the lilies of the field how they grow. They neither toil nor spin. Yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown in the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O men of little faith? Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well."
On Not Judging One’s Neighbors.
Jesus Christ gave us an order not to judge other people. He said, "Judge not that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce, you will be judged (if you are lenient toward the actions of other people, then God will be merciful in His judgment of you). And the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye but do not notice the beam that is in your own eye? (This means: why do you love to notice in others insignificant sins and shortcomings when in yourself you do not wish to see large sins and vices?) Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye’ when there is the log in your own eye? You are hypocrite! First take the log out of your own eye (try first of all to correct yourself); and then, you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye (then you will be able to correct a sin in another without insulting or humiliating him)."
On Forgiving One’s Neighbor.
"Forgive, and you will be forgiven," said Jesus Christ. "For if you forgive them their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
On Love for One’s Neighbor.
Jesus Christ commanded us to love not only our neighbours but all people, even those who offend us and are malicious towards us, that is, our enemies. He said, "You have heard that it was said (by your teachers — the scribes and the Pharisees), ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and bless those who abuse you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father Who is in Heaven. For He makes His sun rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust."
For if you love only those who love you or do good only to those who do good to you and help only those from whom you hope to receive something, for what is God to reward you? Do not even the sinners do the same? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
Therefore, be merciful even as your Father is merciful; be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.
How to Treat One’s Neighbors.
As to how we must treat our neighbours always, under all circumstances, Jesus Christ gave us the rule: "As you wish that men would do to you (and we, of course, wish that all people would love us, treat us well, and forgive us) do so to them likewise." Do not do to others that which you would not like to have done to you.
The Power of Prayer.
If we will sincerely pray to God and ask His help, then God will do everything that will serve for our true well-being. Jesus Christ said concerning this, "Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it will be opened to you. Is there among you such a man who, when his son asks him for bread, would give him a stone? And when he asks for fish, would give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give good to those who ask Him!"
Every good work we do, we must do not to gain praise from people, not to show off before others, not for rewards from people, but for the love of God and neighbour. Jesus Christ said, "Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father Who is in Heaven. Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you (do not broadcast it as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men). Truly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Do not pride yourself on the good that you have done, forget about it, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father Who sees in secret all that you do for the sake of your soul will reward you openly" — if not immediately, then at His last judgment.
The Necessity of Good Works.
So that people would know that to enter the Kingdom of God it is not sufficient to simply have good feelings and wishes, but it is also necessary to have good works, Jesus Christ said, "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of My Father Who is in Heaven;" — that is, it is not enough to be only believing and devout, but it is also necessary to do whatever good deed the Lord expects of us.
When Jesus Christ finished His sayings, the crowds were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one Who had authority and not as the scribes and Pharisees. When He came down from the mountain, great crowds followed Him; and by His great mercy, He performed great miracles.
Note: See the Gospels of Matthew, chapters. 5, 6 and 7; and Luke 6:12-41.