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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Sermon on the Mount, Day 1 of 40: Introduction

For Christians, the season of Lent is a time of sacrifice, honoring Christ's sacrifice for us, and remembering his time in the wilderness where he suffered thirst, hunger and temptation.  It is a time for reflection and self-examination; a time to ask ourselves if we have been living in the way that Christ taught and modeled.

During this Lenten season, I will be studying and writing each day about Christ's teachings as revealed in his Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew, chapters 5-7.

So, let's get started.

The Sermon on the Mount is the most lengthy teaching of Jesus found in the gospels and is also one of the most widely quoted.  In it are found the major principles of Christian discipleship.

The exact site of this sermon is unknown. But for 1600 years, a site, now called the Mount of the Beatitudes (also known as Mt. Eremos) on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee, has been seen as the place where Jesus spoke these words.

Many scholars believe that the Sermon on the Mount is not one sermon but is actually a summary of Christ's teachings, compiled and condensed into one sermon.  Regardless, I have no doubt that Jesus did deliver sermons such as this on mountains, on plains, by the oceans and the seas; to one person, to twelve people and to multitudes.

It appears that the location of the sermon was not planned.  Matthew states that "when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down.  His disciples came to him and he began to teach."  So, he was either fleeing the crowd or he went to a place that would accommodate the crowd.  I believe verse 28 in chapter 7 indicates the latter, since it states that the crowds were amazed at his teaching.  This also tells us that his teaching was meant to be heard not just by his disciples but for the crowds that attended.

The Sermon on the Mount, then, is a sermon not solely for a select group of spiritual insiders, but it is also a sermon for you and me.

Tomorrow, we begin our study of the beatitudes.

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