Mount of Beatitudes - Jesus Most Famous Teaching


   Sea of Galilee

During the years that the Bagby Family lived in La Ceiba Honduras, we became close friends with the Montoya Family, who owned Casa Del Estudiante, the bookstore where we purchased school supplies for our project on the Kruta and Coco Rivers in Miskitia, (a three hour flight in our Piper Pacer from La Ceiba). I walked most mornings with Nelson around the golf course near his home, and Belinda often invited us over for Sunday lunch. When their daughter Maria Belinda graduated from high school, she wanted to learn English before she began university and dental school. She became our intern, and lived with us in Auka, the refugee community on the Kruta River.

Life in Auka was very basic. We had no running water, except when I ran down to the well and filled up our five gallon buckets, and no electricity, except for flashlights. We slept under mosquito nets, as the bugs were fierce, and sometimes snakes slithered across our bedroom floor at night. We had a spider monkey as our pet- his name was Oogly. He was a cute guy, and often Laura suggests that he looked a lot like me.

Michael and Oogly

One day Maria Belinda was holding Oogly and she moved suddenly to drop him on the ground. Oogly bit here on the right forearm, and ran off. Blood was gushing out of the wound, and Maria Belinda was crying. I grabbed a napkin while Laura got a bandage, and as I was holding pressure on the wound, I could see that Maria Belinda was very upset, with tears flowing down her cheeks.

In my attempt to comfort her, I said “Maria Belinda, tienes mierda?

Suddenly Maria Belinda stopped crying and began laughing. She said, “Yes Mike, I have poop.”

I immediately realized that I had used the wrong Spanish word. I meant to say miedo - fear. “Are you afraid?” Instead, I asked if she had poop. Just a few letters different between the two words, caused a grand misunderstanding, which unintentionally triggered the fear to vanish and calm was restored.

Maria has been a dentist in La Ceiba for the past 20 years, and we see her often when we are in La Ceiba. She still has a scar on her forearm, and when I see her after a long absence, she will step close to me, smile, and say softly, “Mike, I still have poop.”

Next to the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem is a cave where a scholar named Jerome came in 385 A.D. to translate the Bible into Latin. His translation is called the Vulgate, and is still the official Latin Bible for the Roman Church.

Jerome at the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem

Jerome's cave where he translated the Vulgate.

Jerome did an incredible work. According to Augustine, he translated directly from the Hebrew texts. The Vulgate is a good rendition of the original language Scriptures. However there is one passage where Jerome chose a word that caused a major change in the way we see Moses. It is in Exodus 34, when Moses comes down off the mountain after spending time in God’s presence.

   So when Aaron and all the sons of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him.                       Exodus 34:30                                                                                                                             

The word in the Hebrew for “shine” is the word קָרַן qā·rǎn. The Dictionary of Biblical Languages With Semantic Domains: Hebrew defines qaran as: to be radiant, emit light rays, i.e., a shining appearance due to glow of a face that supernaturally beams light.  The next word in the Dictionary listing is קֶרֶן qě·rěn which means: horn, i.e., a bony growth on the heads of some mammals, with an associative meanings of status, strength, and ability[1].

These two Hebrew words are so close in spelling and can be translated either way, depending on how you view the dots that represent the vowels.  Jerome chose to use the translation “horns”. This choice has changed the way many view this Biblical character Moses.

A few years ago we were in the San Pietro in Vincoli church in Rome, where Michelangelo built a very elaborate tomb for Pope Julius II.

He carved a statue of Moses, and most of the visitors are surprised to see the horns coming out of Moses’s head.

Michelangelo was being true to the Biblical text as he knew it, and our view of a Biblical hero is forever altered.


How does our translation of words from Hebrew and Greek into English shape our view of Biblical characters, events or doctrines?

Jesus gave one of His most famous teachings on a hillside on the northwest side of the Sea of Galilee. The hills around this section of the lake are formed by balsaltic rock, which has excellent sound attenuation qualities. Randy Smith told us that an American company placed microphones along the hillside and determined that people sitting at the top could hear the normal voice of someone speaking at the bottom, over 400 yards away. .Our friend Roy Kendall told me that there is a hotel at the top of the hill above this site that he and his wife Mary stayed at and could not sleep because of the loud noise of cars and trucks going up and down the road that zigs up from the shoreline to the top.

This area is remembered as the Mount of The Beatitudes. It is a very idyllic setting overlooking the lake. The hillside was just trees and grass when I first saw it in 1997, but for the past 15 years has been a large banana plantation.

  It is easy to imagine Jesus sitting here and his disciples, friends, friends of friends, and curious locals gathering to listen to one of the most profound and often misunderstood teachings recorded in the Scriptures. Let’s join this group and hear through their ears, the most profound message. As we listen to Jesus, knowing some of the key Greek words that Matthew records, and understanding the customs and culture of those times, we will hear Him tell us:

1) What is the process to become a true follower of Jesus;

2) How we are to interact with those around us;

3) The importance of the Hebrew Scriptures and how we are to understand them;

4) That we are to grow up spiritually, become mature in our thoughts and actions;

5) How we are to relate and communicate with our Heavenly Father;

6) What our attitude should be toward material possessions;

7) How to avoid anxiety;

8) The proper manner to deal with personal issues;

9) How to discern false prophets and teachers;

10) The criteria for entering the Kingdom of Heaven.

These are all critical to the proper relationship of a disciple and the King!

It begins with The Beatitudes, each sentence beginning with “Blessed are…”

1When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. 2He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying,

3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

5“Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

6“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

7“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

8“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

9“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Matthew 5:1-9

1) The Process of becoming a true follower of Jesus

As we read it in English, we often come away with a feeling that Jesus has just described some personal characteristics that are far from a normal human experience, on a higher level of inner peace and understanding than most of us could ever attain. At least that is how I first read it. It seemed as if these words were a high bar for me to leap over if I was really going to be a true follower of Jesus. I would almost have to withdrawn myself from the frantic chaos of the world to an isolate island or cave, as many hermit monks did in the Fifth Century to places like Meteora in Greece. Yet the hermit monastic movement was a failure, as it ignored the Great Commission mandate to reach out to the rest of the world.

A monastery on top of a column of rock in Meteora Greece

Thankfuly there are a few keywords in the original Greek language that help us understand the passage as Jesus’ audience received it. According to Dr. Spiros Zodhiates, the a native of Cyprus and author of the two volume work “The Complete Word Study of the Bible”, and  “The Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible” and a native born Greek, author of over 200 book (half of them in the Greek language),  these keywords build upon each other and must be viewed in a “progressive” sense.  Spiros is an excellent source of Greek grammar and translation.

Let’s now place ourselves in Jesus’ audience, and hear what the crowd heard.

The word “Blessed” is “makarioi”, which is a poetic word that gives a sense of a “transcendent happiness of a life beyond care, labour and death” (The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament) and indicates qualities of God. This word refers to the joy that is experienced by having a relationship with God and inclusion in His Kingdom.

Poor in Spirit” is “ptochoes” which refers to a helpless person, who has no physical resources, and is unable to help himself. This is the first step in “Blessedness”.  It usually results after an encounter with God where we truly experience Him, but we go on living our lives for ourselves. We experience the contrast of these two lifestyles: The glow of God’s touch in our lives, followed by the shallowness of self-centered living. After cycles of living with God, and then living for ourselves,  we recognize our own brokenness and realize where we belong, but our inability to get there through our own power.  This is “ptochoes” in the spiritual sense. It is brokenness and humility. It is the first step to a complete surrender of our lives to God.

Those Who Mourn” is “hoi penthoutes” which in this context means to lament and have sorrow for one’s sins as well as the sins of others. 

Gentle” is “prautes”, which according to Aristotle, is the position between getting angry without reason, and not getting angry at all. In this context, prautes means “having anger at sin”.  One who is physically and spiritually bankrupt, and who has suffered the consequences of sin, and who mourns the effect of sin on his life and the lives of those around him, becomes angry at sin, and decides that it is time for a change.

Hunger and Thirst” is “peinao” and “dipsao”, and according to Strong’s Lexicon means to crave ardently, to seek with eager desire and those who are said to thirst who painfully feel their want of, and eagerly long for, those things by which the soul is refreshed, supported, strengthened, which in this case is dikaiosyne or Righteousness. Strong’s defines dikaiosyne as integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, correctness of thinking feeling, and acting. Having recognized our own spiritual brokenness, and mourning the affects of sin in our lives, with a sudden anger at sin and a desire for a change, we now seek God’s ways of thinking and acting at a very basic level.

Merciful is eleēmōn, which translates kindness and goodwill toward those afflicted by sin, and indicates a desire to help. This is the attitude of one who has personally felt the affects of sin, is sorry for it, has become angered by it, and is now living his life in an active personal campaign against it.  “Eleos” (mercy) allows Christians to have compassion on the sinful, unsaved people around them, with a willingness to help them.  It is the heart of a missionary.

Pure of Heart is “katharos  kardia”, and indicates a purification by fire or the condition of a vine that has been pruned and is ready to bear fruit.  It is the result of this process of recognizing one’s own spiritual helplessness, and the sorrow for sin and anger at the effects of sin, combined with the desire to live a righteous life and having compassion for those caught up in sin.

Peacemakers” (eirēnopoios) are not just those who stop fights, but rather those who bring the peace of God that they have experienced to those around who have yet to receive it.

 Understanding these characteristics of disciples in the context of the original language gives us a more realistic view of our own experience with God, as He opens our eyes to our own process of having God’s character become our character.

Principle: The “Beatitudes” are not a “high bar” that none of us can jump over! It is an accurate portrait of those of us who have truly decided to follow Jesus by first understanding our brokenness, and God’s personal solution to transform us.  It is the starting point for true discipleship. It is a description of True Humility!

  Anyone who pretends to be a follower of Jesus without this realization of his own brokenness, his sorrow for his sin, his decision to live life God’s way, his empathy for those around him who are also affected by sin, and a desire to bring true relationship with God to all he encounters, will soon realize that this is not a “pretend” game.   It is a very personal experience that begins at the depths of our humanness and takes us to the heights of godliness.

It is the beginning of True Discipleship!

  You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.  You do not want a burnt offering.  The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.        Psalm 51:16-17 NLT

 Understanding the meaning of Greek words and grammar help us realized the true meaning that Jesus was saying, and it is a profoundly personal message.

2)  The next area that Jesus addresses is our relationships with those around us.

 “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it useful again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.”  “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;  nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.                                                           Matthew 5:12-16

In our North American culture we have salt on the table and use it to flavor our food. We might think that Jesus is telling us to be the ‘flavor enhancers’ of our culture. My friends on the Coco River in Nicaragua where there is no electricity use salt to preserve their fish and meat. They might think that Jesus was commanding them to be the preservatives of their cultural values. This is exactly what happened in Jerusalem in 1997 when we took the three Miskito leaders of our school project on a study tour with Dr Randall Smith. He pointed out how we view the Scriptures through our own cultural lenses and come up with different understandings as a result. The four of us from Maui nodded our heads at ‘flavor enhancer’. The three Miskito Indians from Nicaragua nodded their heads on the ‘preservative’ understanding. Then Randy told us what salt means in Biblical culture.

God made a salt covenant with the Levites in Numbers 18:19

19  All the offerings of the holy gifts, which the sons of Israel offer to the LORD, I have given to you and your sons and your daughters with you, as a perpetual allotment. It is an everlasting covenant of salt before the LORD to you and your descendants with you.”                                                                                                                       Numbers 18:19

 God instructed the people to sprinkle salt on their offerings in Leviticus 2 as a sign of their eternal relationship.

Every grain offering of yours, moreover, you shall season with salt, so that the salt of the covenant of your God shall not be lacking from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt.                 Leviticus 2:13


Mikaela collecting salt by the Dead Sea- 2000

Salt had a special significance to Bible-time people. You can dissolve salt in water and then evaporate it and it returns to the same crystalline structure. You can try to burn it but it doesn’t burn.

It was used for flavoring food and for “salting” fish and other meats to prolong their shelf life. If you go into a Bedouin tent today, you will find a bowl with salt often clumped together with dirt on the table. You reach with your hand, crumble the salt, and then sprinkle it over your food. When there becomes more dirt in the bowl than salt, the woman of the tent comes over, takes the bowl, and throws the contents out of the tent. Then she brings a fresh clump of salt to the table. Archeologists often identify the streets of ancient communities by the salt content of the soil.

Lukas and Mikaela collecting clumps of salt by the Dead Sea

Salt has a deeper meaning to Middle Eastern people. In a modern Bedouin marriage ceremony, salt is placed between the hands of the bride and groom as they are pronounced husband and wife. To the Bible-time person, as well as the modern Middle Eastern, salt has the significance of loyalty and fidelity. Friends are people who “have salt between them.”

“Salt is good for seasoning. But if it loses its flavor, how do you make it salty again? You must have the qualities of salt among yourselves and live in peace with each other.”              Mark 9:50

Jesus was instructing His disciples to be known by their loyalty to their friends and family. This is consistent to other biblical teaching about relationships, gossip, and disunity. Paul instructed the believers in Colossae to:

Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.                                                                                                       Colossians 4:6

  When Leonardo DaVinci painted his famous Last Supper, he depicts the moment that Jesus announces that one of his disciples is going to betray him. They all react: “Who?”

Notice the third man on Jesus’ right, holding the money bag. It is Judas, and with his right wrist he has knocked over the salt container and it has spilled out on the table. Leonardo wants us to identify the traitor through this Biblical understanding of salt. There is no more loyalty between Judas and Jesus.


Then we are to let our light shine, by doing ‘good works’ for others, that will allow them to see our Heavenly Father through us.

Salt and Light: Faithful, loyal, caring friends who do random acts of kindness and service for others. Jesus says that if we are true disciples, this will be our lifestyle and the first effective step in true evangelism. Understanding Biblical culture helps us get the message Jesus was communicating.

 3) Next, Jesus turns to how we are to understand the Scriptures.

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.20 “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.                            Matthew 5:17-20

 “What a minute! I am a New Testament Christian, and I am under Grace, not the Law!”

These are words often spoken when it comes to study of the Hebrew Scriptures, that they are ‘Old Testament’, obsolete, and out of date. Often Hebrew 8:13 gets quoted:

When He said, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.                                                         Hebrews 8:13

 The letter to the Hebrews was written to ‘Hebrews’ who were still going to the Temple to offer their sacrifices to cover their sins. The author very eloquently expresses that Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins on the cross is the one and only sacrifice that will cover our sins, and the rituals in the Hebrew Scriptures were only object lessons that we need a Savior, which Jesus was. “You don’t need to go to the Temple and participate in sacrifices. They are obsolete and no longer necessary. Jesus did it all for you on the cross.’  This is the message of Hebrews. Titus came with his Roman Legions a few years later in 70 AD and destroyed the Temple, and there have been no more sacrifices for sins.

A crushed shopping area on the western side of the Temple Mount with the stones from the Temple push from the top by Titus's Legionnaires

The key word to understand this often-confusing statement is the word ‘plero’o, which is often translated ‘fulfill’ in verse 17. According to the Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains, in Matthew 5:17,

plēroō, πληρόομαι. give true meaning;

Jesus tells the audience (and us) that the Hebrew Scriptures:

1) Have permanent validity to everyone in the Kingdom of God; and

2) Should be taught and obeyed by the children of the Kingdom; and that

3) Entrance into Heaven is dependent on an inner state of righteousness reflected in the teaching of the Hebrew Scriptures.


Now Jesus begins to ‘give true meaning’ to the Law, in the next 27 verses.

You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before  the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the  fiery hell. Matthew 5:21-22

The word translated ‘good-for -nothing’ or sometimes ‘fool’ is ‘rhaka” -A word of contempt meaning empty, worthless, foolish.

Jesus explains that the intent of this law not to murder includes murdering someone with your words or even your thoughts. If you treat someone as worthless, you are violating God’s standards. Now we are getting behind the letters of the Law to the intent of the heart.

 Principle: Murder with your words or thoughts are often just a lethal as physical murder.


You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; 28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into  hell. 30 If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into  hell. Matthew 5:27-30

 Again, Jesus takes us behind the Law and into our hearts. What are we thinking? This is the point- heart issues. Lust that leads to adultery usually begins with a look or a touch. Jesus uses a hyperbole to say “tear it out, cut it off!”. Remember that all body parts were required to get into the Temple. “It is better that you don’t go worship God if your mind is thinking these things.” Jesus later explains:

17 Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? 18 But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. 20 These are the things which defile the man;             Matthew 15:17-20

 Principle: Outward actions reflect inward thoughts, which are just as unrighteous as the outward action.


31 “It was said, ‘WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE’; 32 but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Matthew 5:31-32

 Spiros Zodhiates helps us interpret the Greek words here. Understanding the Greek verb tenses are important to correctly translating this into English.

“And it was said ‘Whosoever dismisses his wife except for reason of Fornication (while she is his wife) make her to be considered has having adultery committed against her, and whosoever marries one who is unjustifiably dismisses is considered as committing adultery.”

 During Jesus’ time, men were leaving their original wives for younger women, and leaving them without support or the ability to start another relationship that would provide care, security and love. Some rabbis said you could legally divorce your wife for many reasons- things like overcooking your food. Jesus said leaving your wife was only allowed for infidelity on her part. Divorce was never God’s intention as His design for humanity was the family unit of husband/father, wife/mother, and children in a committed relationship. God’s heart is for the innocent victim of a man’s lust for a younger woman, and that is why Moses gave permission to officially divorce, so that the offended woman would be able to move on into a new husband/wife relationship.

Here is how Jesus explains it.

 3 Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” 4 And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, 5 and said, ‘FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH’? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” 7 They *said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND her AWAY?” 8 He *said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. 9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” Matthew 19:3-9

 Principle: Divorce should not be part of the Kingdom of God, but because of mankind’s unrighteous, it happens. We should always protect the innocent party in a divorce and allow them to move on into a new relationship.


33 “Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘ YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULFILL YOUR VOWS TO THE LORD.’ 34 But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING. 36 Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil. Matthew 5:33-37

 It was customary in Jesus’ time for men to make oaths and seal the oath by saying something like “I swear on my grave,” or “I swear to God.” These oaths became elaborate to the point of varying degrees of sanctified things that It was hard to tell if the oath was going to be upheld.

Principle: Don’t try to deceive others by making vows like “I swear on my mother’s grave!”. Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no be  ‘no.’


38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ 39 But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. 41 Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. Matthew 5:38-42

 The “Eye for an eye” command is not saying to pluck out a person’s or knock out a tooth, but rather that the punishment should compensate the crime:

23 But if there is further injury, the punishment must match the injury: a life for a life, 24 an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot, 25 a burn for a burn, a wound for a wound, a bruise for a bruise.
26 “If a man hits his male or female slave in the eye and the eye is blinded, he must let the slave go free to compensate for the eye. 27 And if a man knocks out the tooth of his male or female slave, he must let the slave go free to compensate for the tooth. Exodus 21:23-27

  According to the customs of that era, a slap on the cheek is not a lethal blow, it is merely an insult. We do not have the right to revenge. This is not a command to let others run over you, but in fact to be a giver to those who have needs.

 Principle: We should be just in our judicial system. We don’t have the right to revenge. We should not respond to insults, but rather let them slide off. Finally, we should be givers to those in need.


43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven Matthew 5:43-45

How will a person experience God’s love? Probably the best way is through us. When we return good for evil, that often will be a starting point for that ‘enemy’ to understand God’s love for them. Our good deeds given in a hostile situation may bring shame and repentance on those who despise us. This is our calling as ambassadors for Christ.

  If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat. If they are thirsty, give them water to drink. You will heap burning coals of shame on their heads, and the LORD will reward you.             Proverbs 25:21-22

 Harboring grudges hinders your work for the Kingdom.  Jesus says we should remember from where we came, have mercy, and treat our enemies as if they are our friends. This may be the only witness they have to God’s love for them and will be a formidable argument against the lies of the enemy.

Patience can persuade a prince, and soft speech can break bones. Proverbs 25:15

 Principle: Gentle arguments will turn even the most stubborn minds around.

 Principle: We are always to remember we are God’s ambassadors here on Earth and we must treat others with dignity and respect, doing our best to meet their needs, so they will experience God’s love for them through us.

4) Jesus finishes this portion by telling us that that we are to grow up spiritually, become mature in our thoughts and actions.

Therefore  you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48

 ‘Perfect’ is a difficult word when it comes to human behavior. We are constantly missing the mark of God’s righteousness. In fact, the most often Greek word for sin in the New Testament is ‘harmatia’- an archery term meaning ‘missing the mark or target’. The Greek word here for perfect is ‘teleios’.

téleios; goal, purpose. finished, that which has reached its end, term, limit; hence, complete, full, wanting in nothing. perfect: Specifically of persons meaning full age, adulthood, full-grown, of persons, meaning full-grown in mind and understanding, mature.

Jesus tells us to be diligent in understanding God’s Word so that we may grow up and be mature.

Principle: We are to always be growing in our understanding of God and His ways and acquiring His characteristics through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, becoming more like Him, spiritually mature.


The Sea of Galilee is over 600 ft below sea level.

Peter, who had his moments of brokenness when he denied that he even knew Jesus three times, understood this process of maturity, and the ramifications in our lives and lives of others.

 3 By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. 4 And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.

5 In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.
8 The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But those who fail to develop in this way are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins.
10 So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away. 11 Then God will give you a grand entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1:3-11

Maturity is the goal-sharing in His Divine Nature.  What an invitation!


Chapter 6 - With help from some Ancient Commentators.

5) Jesus teaches us how we are to relate and communicate with our Heavenly Father.

1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.

ORIGEN: Just as water always conflicts with fire and fire with water and such things can never dwell together simultaneously, so likewise egotism and virtue are opposed to each other and can never easily coexist in one and the same soul. Therefore egotism is to be expelled from our souls, and we must abide in Christ’s commandments.

2 “So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

CHRYSOSTOM: Jesus is not talking about literal left and right hands. Rather, he speaks spiritually with intentional exaggeration. “If it is possible,” he says, “for you to remain unaware, let this be your goal. The result, if it be possible, is that your giving be concealed from the very hands that serve.

5 “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners  so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

AUGUSTINE: Enter into your inner chamber. Do not let the door stand open to the boisterous, through whom the things that are outside profanely rush in and assail the inner self. Outside the inner chamber are all things in time and space, which knock on the door. Through our bodily senses they clamor to interrupt our prayer, so that prayer is invaded with a crowd of vain phantoms. This is why you must shut the door. The senses of the body are resisted, that the spirit of prayer may be directed to the Father. This occurs in the inmost heart, where prayer is offered to the Father in secret.

7 “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. 8 So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.

CHROMATIUS: We have an example of just how great a distance there is between the wordy and the humble and simple prayer in the story of the Pharisee and the publican. The prayer of the Pharisee vaunting himself in his abundance of words was rejected. The humble and contrite publican, on the other hand, asking forgiveness for his sins, came away more justified than the self-boasting Pharisee. In this we find fulfilled what was written: “The prayer of the humble penetrates the clouds,” reaching God who is ready to hear the request of the one who prays.


9 “Pray, then, in this way:  ‘Our Father who is in heaven,

 We are to acknowledge our personal and intimate relationship with Yahweh.

Hallowed be Your name.   

hagiázō; holy. To make holy, sanctify.  To regard and venerate as holy,

10 ‘Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.

 We are to invite God to take control of our personal lives, freely giving Him our time and resources.

11 ‘Give us this day our daily bread.

epioúsios; adj. from epí, for or into, and ousía , being, substance. Daily, used as an adj.

The Greek Church Father, Chrysostom, explains the epioúsion árton  as that bread which is needed for our daily support of life. It is that bread which is needful to the ousía, substance, of our being, that will sustain us.

We are to freely ask God to provide all that we need to do the things He is leading us to do, for our personal needs as well as the resources to help others.

12 ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. 6  If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8  If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10  If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.                   1 John 1:5-10

13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from  evil.

Parallels with ancient Jewish prayers, and possibly the Aramaic wording behind this verse, suggest that the first line means: “Let us not sin when we are tested”-rather than “Let us not be tested.”  IVP Background Bible Commentary New Testament Commentary

TERTULLIAN: To complete the prayer that was so well arranged, Christ added that we should pray not only that our sins be forgiven but also that they be resisted completely: “Lead us not into temptation,” that is, do not allow us to be led by the tempter. God forbid that our Lord should seem to be the tempter, as if he were not aware of one’s faith or were eager to upset it! That weakness and spitefulness belongs to the devil.

[For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’]
14 For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.

AUGUSTINE: And certainly we should not heedlessly neglect to call attention to the fact that of all the pronouncements in which the Lord has ordered us to pray, he has deliberately attached a very special commendation to the pronouncement that deals with the forgiving of sins. In this pronouncement he wished us to be merciful because that is the only prescribed means of avoiding miseries.

Principle: God wants to have regular conversations with us, and He has let us know what the important elements of these conversations are. We are not to just recite memorized words, hoping they will have some magical effect on our situation. God wants genuine conversation with us. He wants to hear our hearts; He wants us to acknowledge the relationship, just as saying “I love you” to a family member or friend acknowledges that relationship.

He desires to hear our invitation to allow Him to control our day, directing it as He desires. He also knows or needs before we even ask, but as a father likes to hear his children having the freedom to ask for those needed things, He gives us permission to ask Him.

He also wants us to keep the slate clean between us, Him, and the others He has placed around us. There should be nothing like offenses that hinder our relationships. He knows the enemy is after us on a daily basis, so we should acknowledge our need for His assistance in these spiritual battles.



 16 “Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.

17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face 18 so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

Principle: Fasting is beneficial for taking our mind off our earthly needs and placing our focus on God and receiving our needs from Him. The Key words are “Whenever you fast” and “But you, when you fast.” It also takes our mind off materialism, as we look to God for our sustenance.


6) What should our attitude be toward material possessions?

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

What do we think about when we have idle time? Sitting in traffic, waiting in an office, at the beach? Our job? Our wealth? Our last vacation or the next? Our lover? Our disappointments? Where our thoughts originate is from the heart, and that indicates what and where our source of satisfaction is.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

Clear: haplóos; translated single, i.e., not complex, easy, used of the eye as not seeing double as when it is diseased. When the eye accomplishes its purpose of seeing things as they are, then it is haploús, single, healthy, perfect.

Bad: ponērós;  labor, sorrow, pain. Evil in a moral or spiritual sense, wicked, malicious, mischievous. Of things, such as the eye, an evil eye referring to envy; evil thoughts.

24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

Principle: Getting our focus off of God and onto our material possession often produces pride, fear and anxiety.

 7) How we are to avoid anxiety.

25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? 28 And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!

31 Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.

33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
34So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Principle: The solution for anxiety: Remember God and His promises, and how He has provided for you in the past. Position yourself to experience His presence, and begin the function as a member of the Kingdom, serving those around you, instead of envying their status and possessions which often causes us to look unfavorably toward others and criticize and judge them.


8) Here is the proper manner to deal with personal issues;

 ​1 “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2 For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

6 “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

7 “ Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!
12 “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Verse 1 and verse 12 ties this passage together as a whole. What can we learn about dealing with issues?

  • Obviously this section deals with how we judge others and work out our own issues ourselves.
  • We all have issues that God is working on. Remember that as you notice and react to the issues of those close to you. We are to actively deal with our issues first, so that we can gain understanding as we help others work through theirs.
  • Be careful to offer unsolicited advice to those not ready or willing to receive it, as they not only reject your counsel but sometimes will turn and attack you.
  • Ask God for His insight to your own issues. He wants to open these doors that have been blocking you from truly abundant life with Him.

But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8 being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. James 1:5-8

  • Remember as you find freedom through God’s wisdom and power to break down stronghold of wrong thinking, habitual behavior, and dissolve trigger points, treat others that God will bring across your path with empathy, compassion, tenderness, and long suffering.

 According to Jesus, here is how we are to confront those brothers and sisters who have strayed off the path:

If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.
19 “Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. 20 For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”                                                                             Matthew 18:15-20


The walk of a disciple is a narrow road defined by God’s wishes for an intimate relationship with us. Think of the relationships that you value most, and how you become very ‘other’s centered’ doing what pleases them and what is best for that relationship. Taking our freedoms to serve ourselves often lead us off the path of ‘optimum relationship’ with others. Jesus uses an illustration that all his listeners will understand.

13 “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Along our journey we will meet spiritual people who will often impresses us with their spiritual gifts and popularity, often causing envy on our parts. They will offer us advice on how we are to relate to God, with an emphasis on ‘us’ rather than ‘Him’. Jesus says that we will know them by the kind of fruit their ministry bears.


 9) How to discern false prophets and teachers;

15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will  know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, you will know them by their fruits.


 10) The criteria for entering the Kingdom of Heaven.

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

What is Jesus’ criteria for entrance into the Kingdom? Obedience to God because of the intimate relationship we who have experienced the Grace of God have with Him. That intimacy is a compelling force within us to please Him in all we say and do.

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. 26 Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”

‘What are you building your life on?’ asks Jesus. Religion or Relationship? Seeking things from God without valuing a relationship with Him? Are we like the Prodigal Son and his Elder Brother, desiring the possession of their father without regard for an intimate relationship with him?

28   When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; 29 for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes. Matthew 6:1 - 7:29


What did Jesus’s audience think about this sermon? No one had ever heard this kind of teaching.

Was it a presentation of a philosophy of life? Was it a guide to finding God? There have been many opinions express over the years.

The famous Indian Politician Mahatma Gandhi considered Jesus to be one of the world’s greatest teachers and said that the Sermon on the Mount ‘lived in his heart’, but he didn’t accept the things Jesus said about himself pointing to his Divinity. How can you be a great teacher and then claim to be God, if that was not true? You are either a liar or a lunatic, but certainly not just a great teacher.

Because of the Resurrection, Jesus proved himself to be God in the flesh, as John describes in Chapter 1:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2  He was in the beginning with God. 3  All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4  In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5  The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John 1:1-5

And the Word became flesh, and  dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. ..17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. 18  No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. John 1:1-5, 14,17-18

Christians accept the Divinity of Jesus, therefore the Sermon on the Mount is much more than a philosophy of life. It is an explanation of our hearts, the process where we recognized our need for God, God’s incredible invitation to be an intimate part of His family, and how He empowers us to live our lives in a manner pleasing to Him.

The Bagby Family by the Sea of Galilee 2006

Ancient Commentators

Origen of Alexandria (b. 185; fl. c. 200–254). Influential exegete and systematic theologian. He was condemned (perhaps unfairly) for maintaining the preexistence of souls while purportedly denying the resurrection of the body. His extensive works of exegesis focus on the spiritual meaning of the text.

John Chrysostom (344/354–407; fl. 386–407). Bishop of Constantinople who was noted for his orthodoxy, his eloquence and his attacks on Christian laxity in high places.

Augustine of Hippo (354–430). Bishop of Hippo and a voluminous writer on philosophical, exegetical, theological and ecclesiological topics. He formulated the Western doctrines of predestination and original sin in his writings against the Pelagians.

Tertullian of Carthage (c. 155/160–225/250; fl. c. 197–222). Brilliant Carthaginian apologist and polemicist who laid the foundations of Christology and trinitarian orthodoxy in the West, though he himself was later estranged from the catholic tradition due to its laxity.

Chromatius (fl. 400). Bishop of Aquilea,


[1] Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.


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Unless otherwise noted, all photographs are by Michael Bagby with a few by study tour associates Ben Massenburg, Tim Walsh, Dottie Smith, Craig Englert, and Luke Broadhurst.


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