The Sermon on the Mount

Day 3

The Sermon on the Mount. How can you describe it other than…THE GREATEST SERMON EVER PREACHED! But it’s not really a sermon…it’s more like a whole catalog of sermons. As I read the 107 verses that make up the Sermon on the Mount I count more than 80 sermon topics. You might describe the Sermon on the Mount as the manifesto of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Jesus begins His great sermon by announcing that the Kingdom of Heaven is now open and available to everyone — even to those who had always been left out and shut out from all the good things: the mournful, the meek and the poor in spirit. Now they can be comforted, made heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven and inherit the earth.

One of the most amazing things about the preaching ministry of Jesus is its breadth of appeal. The teachings of Jesus are rich enough to occupy the greatest minds for a lifetime, yet they are accessible to illiterate peasants. Imagine the challenge of preaching a sermon to a group of Nobel laureates and Third World illiterates at the same time and being able to, not only hold the attention of both groups, but be able to speak with equal effectiveness to both groups. It would seem an impossible task, yet this is exactly what Jesus accomplishes in the Sermon on the Mount. It’s sheer genius. It’s divine genius.

Last week as I was speaking three times a day to 4,000 pastors and Christian leaders in the Indian tribal state of Orissa, I experienced the challenge of trying to communicate effectively to people from a vastly different cultural, linguistic and educational background. What I discovered was, the more I relied on the words, parables, stories and illustrations used by Jesus, the more I was able to effectively communicate to these people. Jesus is not only the greatest miracle worker, He is also the greatest communicator.

One of the things I noticed as I sat on the green slopes of the Galilean mountain and listened to Jesus preach this sermon (remember, we’re not just reading the Gospels, we’re living them), is that Jesus is obviously inaugurating a New Kingdom — a New Israel. Instead of an imposing mountain in the Sinai desert, this New Kingdom is given its manifesto from a pastoral mountain in Galilee. Instead of founding it upon twelve tribes, Jesus founds His New Kingdom upon twelve apostles. Instead of the Ten Commandments and a myriad of Levitical laws, this New Kingdom is built upon two great twin commandments: Loving God and loving your neighbor.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the Sermon on the Mount (and it’s the thing that astounded the original hearers — see the last two verses of chapter 7) is that Jesus initiated these radical changes on the basis of His own authority. Over and over Jesus says, “You have heard it said…but I say.” Jesus was asserting that His authority was greater than Moses’ and that He had authority to establish a New Kingdom founded upon new laws. Then Jesus invites us to build our lives upon the rock of His words and He promises that if we do so, we will survive every storm of life.


At the beginning of this blog I mentioned that in one sense the Sermon on the Mount is a whole catalog of sermons. It sort of reminds me Bob Dylan’s A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall. Written in 1963, Dylan has described it a song where each line could be a separate song. A sort of song of songs.

A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall

by Bob Dylan

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?
I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains,
I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways,
I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests,
I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans,
I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard,
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard,
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.

Oh, what did you see, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what did you see, my darling young one?
I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it,
I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin’,
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin’,
I saw a white ladder all covered with water,
I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken,
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children,
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard,
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.

And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you hear, my darling young one?
I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin’,
Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world,
Heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin’,
Heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’,
Heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin’,
Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter,
Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley,
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard,
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.

Oh, who did you meet, my blue-eyed son?
Who did you meet, my darling young one?
I met a young child beside a dead pony,
I met a white man who walked a black dog,
I met a young woman whose body was burning,
I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow,
I met one man who was wounded in love,
I met another man who was wounded with hatred,
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard,
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.

Oh, what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what’ll you do now, my darling young one?
I’m a-goin’ back out ‘fore the rain starts a-fallin’,
I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest,
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty,
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters,
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison,
Where the executioner’s face is always well hidden,
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten,
Where black is the color, where none is the number,
And I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it,
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it,
Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’,
But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’,
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard,
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.