The Sermon on the Mount—Magna Carta of the Christian Life[a]The Beatitudes.[b] When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on the mountain. After he was seated, his disciples gathered around him. 2 Then he began to teach them as follows:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice,
for they will have their fill.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted in the cause of justice,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and utter all kinds of calumnies against you for my sake. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. In the same manner, they persecuted the prophets who preceded you.
13 Salt of the Earth and Light of the World.[c]“You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, what can be done to make it salty once again? It is no longer good for anything, and thus it is cast out and trampled underfoot.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city built upon a mountain cannot be hidden. 15 Nor would someone light a lamp and then put it under a basket; rather, it is placed upon a lampstand so that it may afford light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, your light must shine so that it can be seen by others; this will enable them to observe your good works and give praise to your Father in heaven.
The New Law[d]
17 The Fulfillment of the Law.“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill them. 18 Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not a single letter,[e] not even a tiny portion of a letter, will disappear from the Law until all things have been accomplished. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks even one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be considered least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever observes these commandments and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 I tell you, if your righteousness does not exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
21 Anger.[f]“You have heard that your ancestors were told: ‘You shall not kill, and anyone who kills will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I say this to you: Anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment, and whoever addresses his brother in an insulting way will answer for it before the Sanhedrin, and whoever calls his brother a fool will be liable to the fires of Gehenna.[g]
23 “Therefore, when offering your gift at the altar, if you should remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there at the altar and first go to be reconciled with your brother. Then return and offer your gift.
25 “Come to terms quickly with your opponent while you are on the way to court with him. If you fail to do so, he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge will put you in the custody of the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 Believe the truth of what I tell you: you will not be given your freedom until you have paid your debt down to the last penny.[h]
27 Adultery.[i]“You have heard that it was said of old: ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that anyone who looks with lust at a woman has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is preferable for you to lose one part of your body than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is preferable for you to lose one of your limbs than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna.
31 Divorce.“It has also been said: ‘Whoever divorces his wife shall give her a certificate of dismissal.’ 32 But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except if the marriage was unlawful, causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
33 Oaths.[j]“Again, you have heard that our ancestors were told: ‘Do not swear falsely, but fulfill the vows you have made to the Lord.’ 34 But what I tell you is this: Do not swear at all, either by heaven, since it is God’s throne, 35 or by earth, since that is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, since that is the city of the great King. 36 Nor should you swear by your head, for you cannot turn one hair of it white or black. 37 All you need to do is to say ‘Yes’ if you mean ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ if you mean ‘No.’ Anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
38 Retaliation.[k]“You have heard that it was said: ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you: Offer no resistance to someone who is wicked. If someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn and offer him the other cheek as well. 40 If anyone wishes to sue you to gain possession of your tunic, give him your cloak as well. 41 If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him for a second mile. 42 Give to anyone who begs from you, and do not turn your back on anyone who wishes to borrow from you.
43 Love for Enemies.[l]“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 This will make you children of your heavenly Father. For he causes his sun to rise on evil people as well as on those who are good, and his rain falls on both the righteous and the wicked. 46 If you love only those who love you, what reward will you receive? Do not even tax collectors[m] do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brethren, what about that is so extraordinary? Even the pagans do as much.
48 Perfection.[n]“Therefore, strive to be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.
- Matthew 5:1 The Sermon on the Mount is the first of five great discourses in this Gospel (chs. 5–7; 10; 13; 18; 24–25). The Lucan parallel is the “Sermon on the Plain” (Lk 6:20-49), although some of the sayings in the “Sermon on the Mount” have parallels in other parts of Luke. Matthew’s Sermon contains beatitudes or declarations of blessedness (5:1-12), admonitions (5:13-20; 6:1-7, 23), and contrasts between Jesus’ moral teaching and Jewish legislative traditions (5:21-48).
Matthew here presents a catechism of Christian initiation and opposes it to the Jewish religious ideal. The ensemble of moral, social, religious, cultural, general, and collective requirements that holds good for the whole People of God was received by Moses on Mount Sinai. Jesus presents a new charter that he gives “on the Mount” (5:1) as if on a new Sinai. It does not take anything away from the Law but goes to the root of human conduct. Good intentions are not to replace act and obedience, but all that takes place in the heart and spirit of persons, their plans and their intentions, are already acts.
- Matthew 5:1 The Beatitudes have been rightly termed “Eight Words for Eternity.” If we read them carefully, we will realize that the happiness proclaimed by Jesus is poles apart from what we habitually think, say, and do. In the first three Beatitudes are listed the faults that must be corrected if human beings are to be perfect—spiritual arrogance, pride, and desire for pleasure. In the next three Beatitudes are found the virtues that must regulate our relations with God, our neighbor, and ourselves—justice, mercy, and purity. In the last two Beatitudes, Christ urges his followers to be zealous in spreading the Gospel and peace, and he promises that they will be rewarded with honor and power in the kingdom of God for all that they have had to suffer for him.
- Matthew 5:13 Only the certitude that God comes into our very midst can open up a horizon to our human condition. But where can we read the testimony of such a coming if not in the experience of the disciples? We cannot receive Jesus or discern the Father unless we strive to lead better lives.
- Matthew 5:17 The Gospel of Matthew wants to stress the point that Jesus has no contempt for “the Law or the Prophets” (= the Old Testament); on the contrary, he takes them very seriously. But throughout his life he felt free to proclaim the true meaning of the Law by placing himself above even Moses. In his view, the Law is good, and there is nothing to discuss. In contrast to the commonly accepted rules, Jesus does not deal with secondary details; the essentials, on the other hand, cause no problem; therefore he does not discuss the Law. Instead, he goes farther and deeper, down into the human heart.
- Matthew 5:18 Single letter: literally, iota (Greek) = Hebrew yod, the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Tiny portion of a letter: literally, the apex or tip of a letter, the bit that distinguishes similar letters.
- Matthew 5:21 Murderers must appear before the highest Jewish judicial body, the Sanhedrin, and they deserve death and the fire, symbolized by Gehenna, the valley southwest of Jerusalem that was the center for an idolatrous cult during the monarchy in which children were offered in sacrifice (see 2 Ki 23:10; Jer 7:31). To embrace the kingdom of God is to become a person of reconciliation, to free oneself of all murderous desires. Indeed, even when they suffer offenses but are innocent, the disciples of Jesus must have the courage to take the first step toward establishing peace.
- Matthew 5:22 Gehenna: a little valley southwest of Jerusalem and a popular image of hell because of the refuse that burned there continually.
- Matthew 5:26 Penny: the smallest Roman copper coin.
- Matthew 5:27 At this period, the laws on divorce were tolerant for husbands, intransigent for wives. Jesus rejects this inequality and confronts husbands with their responsibilities by radically condemning divorce. Matthew’s text contains the clause, “except if the marriage was unlawful,” which is lacking in the parallel passages of Luke and Mark, but occurs again in Mt 19:9. The Greek word porneia, “unchastity,” is generic and so has given rise to much discussion. The widely accepted opinion among scholars today is that it was a technical term used by the Jewish Christian community to signify a degree of relationship that constituted an impediment to marriage according to the Law (Lev 18:6-18; Acts 15:29).
- Matthew 5:33 What good is multiplying oaths between God and human beings? Is this not a sign that lying and unbelief have perverted human realities? In the kingdom of God, the dialogue between persons will rediscover its truth and its loyalty.
- Matthew 5:38 The Old Testament commandment of an eye for an eye (see Lev 24:20) was intended to moderate vengeance—seeking to ensure that the punishment not exceed the injury done. Jesus calls for further moderation and liberality by giving suggestions for breaking the infernal circle of hatred and disputation.
- Matthew 5:43 Just as God invites the unrighteous to respond to him through the evidence of his love, so the disciples of Jesus must bear the same love toward their enemies.
- Matthew 5:46 Tax collectors: those who collected taxes on behalf of the occupying authorities; for this reason, and also because they engaged in fraud, they were regarded as public sinners.
- Matthew 5:48 The life of the kingdom is that of children of God; therein lies its secret and its demands (see Lev 11:43; Deut 18:13).