Who did Jesus speak to in the Sermon on the Mount? Why does he bring this crowd together? What can we infer that he applies to us today?
Normally, when I think of a crowd, I think of an impersonal mass of people. In this case however, I believe Jesus has something completely different in mind that he delivers to a crowd for a very intentional purpose.
Matthew records that Jesus taught both this crowd of people and his disciples. Looking back at Matthew 4:18-25, describes the people following Jesus in more detail. Who are these people? How might they have received Jesus’ words?
- People came from all over Galilee. (4:23)
- Jesus taught in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom. (4:23)
- They were people in the synagogues that he healed from diseases and sicknesses. (4:23)
- They came from Syria. (4:24)
- People brought “all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them.” (4:24)
- Large crowds came from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and the region across the Jordan. (4:25)
The answer seems to be that it was likely that Jesus could have spoken to everyone in the region: people from all the cultures, religions, and geographical locations. Matthew indicates that Jesus was drawing people from Greek, Roman, Syrian, and Jewish areas, people in the synagogues and people outside, the rich and the poor, the healthy and the sick, the ruling Romans, the conquered Judeans, people who had never met Jesus and his chosen disciples.
Given this description, it’s clear that the sermon on the mount is for everyone, religious and non religious, healthy and sick, rich and poor, from every area and every culture, those who already follow Jesus and those who are curious. There is no inner group in this crowd — all come equally at the feet of Jesus to learn from him.
What is the purpose of speaking to this vast and diverse crowd? To me, it shows that learning what Jesus has to teach us is not like scaling a ladder in a hierarchy of achievement, or becoming the star student. There is something for everyone in the sermon on the mount, but no one can master it entirely. I believe Jesus brought together this crowd to remind people of their shared humanity. He shows us that he doesn’t fixate on exclusionary, gated communities or walled off nations; he comes for all of us, and we all have something to learn. His disciples and those he healed did not become object lessons or stand out characters — everyone mingled together. Jesus is the center who brings everyone together in himself.The purpose of the sermon on the mount is for healing, both physically and spiritually.
How does seeing yourself as part of the diverse crowd that Jesus speaks to affect the way you enter this series?
For today’s exercise, meditate on the section of his Sermon on the Mount known as The Lord’s Prayer:
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,
but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:9-15 ESV