Breaking it Down: The Sermon on the Mount Part 1

By Jenna Walmer

Week 1: The Beatitudes

“Now Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down.  His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.  He said:  ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.  Blessed are the merciful, for they will be show mercy.  Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.  Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.  Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’”

The challenge was set for us… have you been living up to it? I know I haven’t been living up to the call fully.  I’ve been putting some time in here and there to delve into the Sermon on the Mount, but now I have decided to study the message in its entirety. Throughout the Sermon, Jesus asserted his feelings toward the law of his era. He also expresses the unimportance of money, authority, and status in the heavenly kingdom. Instead, being faithful to the Lord and having an obedient heart is what matters, which is why Jesus repudiates and challenges the leaders of the day.

In my current studies, Clarence Jordan has sparked my interest for many reasons, but one idea caught my eye during my readings: he based his theology on the Sermon on the Mount.  Clarence Jordan is the focal point for my year-round research project for a history class.  He has written a few books, and has also re-written a majority of the New Testament in terms of Georgia during the Civil Rights Era.  He even wrote a book titled, Sermon on the Mount, which details his perspective of the teachings.  Jordan started Koinonia Farm, an interracial community that began in 1942, survived the Civil Rights violence of the Ku Klux Klan, and is still alive today.  His radical ideas of having a common purse, challenging authority in peaceful ways, and living in community with anyone despite what the public thinks, always leaves me thinking about Dunker Punks.

In Jordan’s Sermon on the Mount, he transferred the last two verses of the Beatitudes to, “You are all God’s people when others call you names, and harass you and tell all kinds of false tales on you just because you follow me.  Be cheerful and good-humored, because your spiritual advantage is great. For that’s the way they treated men of conscience in the past.” Also, Blessed are the Peacemakers was translated to “Men of peace and good will are God’s people, for they will be known throughout the land of his children.” These two verses reflect the era that Jordan was living. Despite all the harassment the community was being dealt, he returned their hate with peace and continued to love his neighbors.

So what are the Beatitudes telling us to do?  This first section of the Sermon of the Mount starts us off with certain people shall be blessed and will receive such and such.  The first three verses even seem to contradict themselves! People who wouldn’t live by the Sermon on the Mount would think, why should the poor in spirit receive the kingdom in heaven?  To be precise, God’s teachings usually contradict what the world assumes, similar to when we love when others hate. These statements that contradict the world’s views exemplify how we are to serve others.

Next, we are to take the Beatitudes as a whole, not choose one or two to follow, but follow every one of them, because it is Christ’s description of how we are to be as followers. Since Christ wants us to build up our treasures in heaven, some of the verses show the contrast between kingdom values and worldly values; it portrays what is temporary versus what is eternal. The Beatitudes is the preamble to the Sermon of the Mount, so we should take it in one swallow, not in baby bites.

Also, the Beatitudes teach us how one qualifies, per say, to be in God’s kingdom.  It describes what we are to seek.  For example, we are NOT to seek earthly possessions, such as money, authority, and power.  However, seeking different ideas such as humility and righteous behaviors will reflect attitudes of Kingdom seekers.

Lastly, and the hardest of them all, Jesus wants us to rejoice when we are persecuted. Rejoice when we are mistreated?  This is beneficial because it takes us away from earthly rewards and strengthens our faith.  Our attitude to serve also grows!  Leaders and prophets in the Bible have been persecuted because of their beliefs; be strong in faith and people will notice.  If you are going unnoticed that is a sign of weak faith.

The Sermon of the Mount is a long passage to study deeply and to understand thoroughly, let alone memorize.  As I go through and read what Clarence Jordan has to say about the Sermon on the Mount and study it myself, I challenge you to do the same and understand it in your own terms.  Maybe rewrite it, or start memorizing it! Be bold in your faith and challenge yourself! You never know what you can to until you try.

Jenna Walmer - Palmyra COB, Altantic Northeast DistrictJenna Walmer is from Lancaster County and is currently in 12th grade. In school, she loves to research historical events. If she were to live in a specific time period, she would want to be a hippie and live in the 60s or 70s. Her favorite past times are swimming and playing her trombone. If you want to know more about her random life, follow her on twitter: @jaymarie2100
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