Jesus, on what it means to follow Him
Anyone familiar with the teachings of Jesus has read the Sermon on the Mount. It has been the subject of countless study guides, sermons, and books. Yet it remains one of the least understood passages in the Bible. We appreciate Jesus’s instructions on how to pray, and we are encouraged by his promises to take care of us, but we are bewildered by statements like, “love your enemies” and “be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
Below is a harmonized version of the gospels of Matthew and Luke. In the coming weeks we will look at Jesus’s sermon verse by verse to better understand his message, but I would encourage you to start by slowly reading through the entire sermon without the aid of commentaries or study bible notes–just the text alone. It can be read in a few minutes, but take your time. Read it slowly and reflect on Jesus’s words about what it means to follow him.
The Sermon on the Mount
A harmony of Matthew 5–7 and Luke 6:20–26
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 those who show mercy, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called God’s children.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others hate you and exclude you and insult you and persecute you and make all sorts of false accusations against you because of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy! Great is your reward in heaven, for that is how their ancestors persecuted the prophets who came before you.
But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your consolation in full.
Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you will hunger.
Woe to you who are laughing now, for you will mourn and weep.
Woe to you when all people speak well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.
You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt becomes flavorless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket–they put it on the lamp stand so that it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others so that they can see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
Do not suppose that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you truly, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or slightest stroke of the pen will pass away from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore, whoever sets aside one of the smallest of these commandments and teaches others to disregard them will be called the least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness goes far beyond that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder,” and that whoever commits murder will be liable to judgment. But I tell you that everyone who is angry with his brother or sister without cause will be liable to judgment, whoever calls his brother or sister “worthless” will be liable to a court trial, and whoever calls them “fool” will be liable to the fires of hell.
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar–go first and be reconciled with your brother or sister–then come offer your gift.
Reconcile quickly with your opponent in a lawsuit–while the two of you are still on the way to court–otherwise your accuser will hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown in prison. I tell you truly, you won’t get out until you have repaid the last penny.
You have heard that it was said, “Do not commit adultery,” but I tell you that every man who looks at a woman who is not his wife and wants to have sex with her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, tear it out and throw it away–you’re better off losing one part of your body than having your whole body thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away–you’re better off losing one part of your body than having your whole body go to hell.
It was said, “Whoever divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce,” but I tell you that everyone who divorces his wife for any reason except sexual unfaithfulness makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman himself commits adultery.
Again, you have heard that it was said to people long ago, “Do not swear falsely,” and “Carry out the oaths you made to the Lord,” but I tell you, do not swear at all–neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne, nor by the earth, for it is His footstool, nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great king. And do not swear by your own head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black. Let what you say be simply “Yes” or “No.” Anything more than that comes from evil.
You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” but I tell you, do not resist an evil person. Instead, if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn the other cheek to him as well. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your tunic, give him your cloak as well. And if anyone conscripts you as his porter for one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. If anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.
You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy,” but I tell you who are listening: love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you, so that you may show yourselves to be true children of your Father who is in heaven, for He makes His sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the just and the unjust. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Don’t even tax collectors do as much? And if you welcome only those of your own circle, what more are you doing than others? Don’t even Gentiles do as much? Therefore, be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of other people in order to be noticed by them, otherwise you have no reward from your Father, who is in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and the streets so that they will be esteemed by others. I tell you truly, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your almsgiving is in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
And when you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners so that people will notice them. I tell you truly, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your most private room, shut the door, and pray to your Father, who is in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will repay you.
And when you pray, don’t babble on like the Gentiles do–they think they will be heard because of their many words. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. This, then, is how you should pray: “Our Father, who is in heaven, may Your name be held in reverence. May Your kingdom come. May Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today the bread we need for the coming day. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And let us not be brought into temptation but rescue us from the evil one.
For if you forgive others for their offenses, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well, but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your offenses.
And when you fast, don’t put on a gloomy face like the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that everyone will notice they are fasting. I tell you truly, they have received their reward. But as for you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that others can’t see that you are fasting, but only your Father, who is in secret, can. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will repay you.
Do not store up treasures for yourselves on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. Instead, store up treasures for yourselves in heaven, where neither moth nor rust can ruin them, and no thieves can break in and steal them. For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.
The eye is the lamp of the body, so if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. So if the light that is in you is darkness, how deep that darkness is!
No one can be the slave of two masters–either he will hate the one and love the other or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon.
That’s why I tell you to not worry about the food and drink you need to live or about the clothes you need for your body. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? Take a good look at the wild birds–they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth more than birds? And who among you can add a single hour to his life by worrying?
And why worry about clothing? Learn a lesson from the wildflowers and how they grow–they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not do much more for you, O you of little faith?
So don’t be anxious, saying, “What are we to eat?” or “What are we to drink?” or “What are we to wear?”–all these things the Gentiles strive for–your heavenly Father already knows that you need them. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So don’t worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s troubles are enough for today.
Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Judge not, and you will not be judged. Condemn not, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure–pressed down, shaken together, running over–will be put into your lap. You will be judged by the same standard by which you judge others, and the measure you give will be the measure you get back.
Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? An apprentice is not above his teacher, but when he’s fully trained, he will be like his teacher.
Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye but fail to notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a log in your own eye? You hypocrite–first take the log out of your own eye, then you will see clearly enough to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye.
Don’t give what is holy to dogs, and don’t throw your pearls in front of pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and then turn and tear you to pieces.
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives, and everyone who seeks, finds, and to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Who is there among you who, if his son asks for a loaf of bread, will give him a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will he give him a snake? So if you, bad as you are, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!
So whatever you would like others to do to you, do also to them, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
Enter through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. But narrow is the gate and hard is the road that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
Watch out for false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are savage wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Every tree is known by the fruit it bears. Grapes aren’t gathered from thorn bushes or figs from thistles, are they? In the same way, every healthy tree produces good fruit, but the diseased tree produces bad fruit. A healthy tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a diseased tree can’t produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. The good person from the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person from his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
Why do you call me “Lord, Lord,” and not do what I say? Not everyone who says to me, “‘Lord! Lord!” will enter the kingdom of heaven but only the person who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day, many will say to me, “Lord! Lord! Did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” Then will I declare to them, “I never knew you–depart from me, you evildoers.”
Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice will be like a wise man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on solid rock. The rain fell and the rivers flooded and the winds blew and beat against that house but could not shake it because it was built upon the rock. But everyone who hears my words and does not put them into practice will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell and the rivers flooded and the winds blew and beat against that house, and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.
Next: The good and beautiful life