“Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:” (Matthew 5:1-2 ESV)
One of the characteristics of Matthew’s Gospel was his attention to the teachings of Jesus. The apostle recorded Jesus’ teaching on discipleship and mission (Ch. 10), parables concerning the kingdom of heaven (Ch. 13), relationships in the church (Ch. 18), condemnation of legalists (Ch. 23), and the end times (Ch. 24-25). In Matthew 5-7, Jesus shared the ethics of the kingdom. The Sermon on the Mount is the first of the great blocks of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew.
Within the immediate context, Jesus is ministering in the region of Galilee (Matt. 4:23-25). He has been teaching in the Jewish synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of heaven, and healing people of disease. Consequently, His fame spread throughout the entire region, including the Gentile country of Syria, the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea. This is amazing when you consider that there was no mass media at that time. However, word of mouth proved pretty effective.
During that period and on a certain day, Jesus saw the crowds who were following Him. Today’s text says that He went up on the mountain. As God gave commandments to Moses while on a mountain (Ex. 19-20), Jesus’ ascent is reminiscent of the scene on Mount Sinai. The location of Jesus’ sermon is unknown. However, we can be sure it occurred in the Galilean area, perhaps on the northwest coast; which has a natural uphill slope ideal for preaching and hearing.
It is interesting to note that Jesus sat down. While this is rather uncommon in our day when publicly speaking, it was the norm for Jewish Rabbi’s to sit when teaching (Luke 4:16-20).
It was this moment that Jesus’ disciples came to Him. These individuals were not just the twelve, but all the people who were literally following Jesus. Jesus then began to teach the crowd.
“This is the first of five major discourses in Matthew (Chs. 5–7; 10; 13; 18–20; 24–25). Speaking to his disciples (5:1), Jesus expounds the reality of discipleship lived in the presence and power of the kingdom of God but within the everyday world. Some interpreters have thought the purpose of this sermon was to describe a moral standard so impossibly high that it is relevant only for a future millennial kingdom. Others have thought its primary purpose was to portray the absoluteness of God’s moral perfection and thereby to drive people to despair of their own righteousness, so they will trust in the imputed righteousness of Christ. Both views fail to recognize that these teachings, rightly understood, form a challenging but practical ethic that Jesus expects his followers to live by in this present age,” explains Dr. John MacArthur.
I encourage you to read the Sermon on the Mount in one sitting. Ask the Lord to impress upon you the importance of kingdom living. Have a blessed day in Christ.
Soli deo Gloria!