Sermon on the Mount Curriculum Now Online

I have finally finished writing our curriculum for the Sermon on the Mount series we have been teaching in our men’s and women’s Wednesday night classes. I am adding it to the Bible class archive and posting a link here. It is 12 sessions in 51 pages. I think there is a good balance in these lessons between getting into the text and making application. Feel free to use this, print this, etc free of charge!

Sermon on the Mount Curriculum

That puts the Bible class archive near 500 lessons, over 40 different series with nearly 2000 pages of free curriculum! Good job guys. If you have any lessons you want to submit that you have written please email them to me.

Does Matthew’s Structure Parallel the Torah?

Over the last few months I have been writing curriculum on the Sermon on the Mount for our men’s and women’s classes. I have heard several other people begin to study this as well in recent weeks and months and everyone who I have talked to keeps saying they are doing so because it is so relevant for our day and age. I agree. In studying the wise and foolish builders (the conclusion of the sermon) I ran across something pretty obscure but potentially very relevant in N.T. Wright’s book Matthew for Everyone. He notes that Matthew uses a similar phrase five times to section off Jesus’ teaching into five blocks and concludes each section with a phrase like “when Jesus had finished teaching…” Here are the five occurrences of that phrase (or one very similar)

  1. 7:28 – concludes the sermon on the mount
  2. 11:1 – concludes teaching his disciples
  3. 13:53 – concludes a section of parables
  4. 19:1 – concluding a chapter of parables/teachings
  5. 26:1 – concluding a section of teachings from 23-25 but also seems to serve as the close of the final section “when Jesus had finished all these words…”

What else had five sections? The Torah. Where was the Torah delivered? On a mountain. He makes a good case that Jesus is teaching with more power and authority than Moses (See Deut 18:14-21). You do see that in the sermon on the mount especially…”you have heard it said but I tell you…” Where had they heard most of that said? The Torah. I had never heard anyone make that point before but it is kind of fascinating.

Eye For An Eye and Jesus’ Savvy

I never competed in a spelling bee but it was news to me that savvy had two v’s. Anyway, Matthew 5:38-42 is so chocked full of savvy that it isn’t even funny.

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[h] 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

First, he teaches that if someone slaps you that you turn the other cheek and see if they will slap you twice. What makes that savvy is that the first slap on the right cheek is probably a backhanded slap, which was a very degrading and shaming type of slap in their culture. A slap with the open hand was the slap given to someone your equal. So Jesus is saying if someone dishonors you with a backhand to the face, turn the other cheek and send the message that you have more worth than they first recognized, making you their equal (see this post for more info on that). So you aren’t resisting them or intensifying the situation but you are sending a clear message that should help resolve the situation peacefully.

Then in verse 40 Jesus says if someone wants to sue you for your shirt, give them your outer cloak as well. Pretty savvy. These guys only wore two pieces of clothing so Jesus is teaching that if someone wants to sue the shirt right off of you, hand them the rest of your clothes too and walk out of court naked. What effect would that have on the situation? It would show that you were unfairly treated and bring bad PR to the one suing you.

Last in verse 41 Jesus tells them to walk two miles if someone asks them to go one. This is almost certainly in reference to the Roman practice of requiring someone to carry the pack of a soldier one mile if requested. What Jesus is doing here is teaching his people to go beyond what was required but a bi-product of that was to potentially bring scrutiny on the soldier who made the request because you went beyond your legal obligation and in doing so actually put him in the position of violating your rights under the law.

In each of these instances, Jesus is asking his followers to release their rights and to live lives of self-sacrifice but in each case there is also a lesson toward the offending party that might help them understand that there is a better way to live and that taking advantage of people has consequences, all without Jesus’ disciples having to do anything ungodly or out of character. These verses remind me of what Paul said in Romans 12:19-21,

“Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[e]

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

More Free Bible Studies

I try to make it a habit to post the studies I write here on the blog from time to time. I haven’t done that in a while and it is time to add some more material.

The first is a series that we are wrapping up called “Growing God’s Family.” This series talks about how we are God’s family and, through a house analogy, uses different rooms in a house to describe different components of our faith (how the bedroom/intimacy is different from the kitchen/service, etc). This pdf is lacking the last two lessons as they still need some work. I will update those within the next 1-2 weeks. Growing God’s Family

The second is the beginning of a series we are starting tonight at Northwest on the Sermon on the Mount. I will eventually upload it here but for now I am going to give you a link to where it can be found on our church website. Each week the next lesson will be uploaded. Here is that link – The Sermon on the Mount

For more free Bible studies have a look at the Bible Class Archive that is hosted on this blog. There are hundreds of free, quality Bible lessons at that link.

Blessed are the…

One of the things that strikes me first about the Sermon on the Mount is the way it begins. “Blessed are the…” He must have really thought it was important because he says it nine times! Anything Jesus says nine times in a row ought to get our attention. The beattitudes, as we call them, starts off one of the most powerful sermons ever delivered with the foundation that there is a connection between God and mankind that results in blessing. This blessing is not some feel good thing or psychological well being (although those could be biproducts). Jesus starts off this sermon reminding us that those who are seeking God actually do receive something directly from God (comfort, mercy, filling, etc). We have God’s attention and God reaches down and does something favorable in our lives.

Isn’t it great to know God cares and that he is willing to make a difference in our lives in times we need him the most. I hope today you are able to recognize God’s blessings in your lives. It is not unusual for God to bless us, we often just aren’t looking for them in the right places.

What Does it Mean to Turn the Other Cheek?

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says these familiar words, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Mtt 5:38-39)

Honor and Shame in the New Testament

We normally associate these verses with pacifism but there is a little more to it than that. These verses were spoken in a culture where honor and shame were culturally significant. deSilva explains it this way,

Honor refers to the public acknowledgment of a person’s worth, granted on the basis of how full that individual embodies qualities and behaviors valued by the group. First-century Mediterranean people were oriented from early childhood to seek honor and avoid disgrace, meaning that they would be sensitive to public recognition or reproach. (Dictionary of New Testament Background, 518-522).

A slap in the face was viewed as degrading and was an effort to lower someone’s status as they were publicly shamed.

Mishnah

What does this have to do with the right cheek and then the left cheek? For the answer we have to turn to the Mishnah, which is a collection of legal regulations from 3rd century AD rabbinic Judaism. We have to be a little careful here as the Mishnah was written 200+ years after the New Testament. Yet it can provide some clues that illuminate what we find in the New Testament.

In the Mishnah penalties and compensation are prescribed that are due as punishments for various infractions. There was a difference in slapping someone with the back of the hand versus the palm of the hand. When Jesus says, “If someone strikes you on the right cheek,” he is talking about a slap with the back of the hand as most people are right-handed. The Mishnah lays out compensation for those who experience such a shaming action. A slap with the palm of the hand carried a penalty twice as much as a slap with the back of the hand (Mishnah, B. Ḳ. viii. 6). Why would it contain a higher fine? Because to be struck on the right cheek, with the back of the hand, would be more degrading and shameful than to be struck on the left cheek with the palm of the hand. In effect, Jesus is saying, if someone degrades or shames you greatly by a backhanded slap on the right cheek, turn your left cheek to him and see if he is willing to say you are closer to his equal than the initial slap indicated. Of course, this also would inflict more compensatory damage to the one doing the slapping.

This verse does not say as much about pacifism as it has to say about the culture of honor and shame that they lived in. They heard these words totally different than we hear them today.