by Bishop Alexander (Mileant); Translated by Seraphim Larin/ Nicolas and Natalie Semyanko
The significance of the sermon on the mount
The Savior’s Sermon on the
Mount is remarkable in that it appears a distillation of the Gospel in its
entirety, condensing all that is important and essential for every Christian to
know and to do. The Evangelist St. Matthew recorded what appears to be the
entirety of the sermon, in the 5th, 6th, and 7th chapters of his Gospel, and
the Evangelist Luke gives several parts of the sermon in the 6th chapter of his
Gospel. The Lord preached the Sermon on the Mount in his first year of public
service, on a small mountain located on the northern shore of the Sea
of Galilee, near the town of Capernaum.
The Lord begins the Sermon on the Mount with the nine beatitudes, which set
forth the New Testament law of spiritual rebirth. He then speaks of the
beneficial influence Christians have on the society they live in, and of the
fact that His teachings do not negate the Old Testament laws, but rather
supplements them. The Lord teaches us to overcome malice, to be chaste, to
remain faithful to one’s word, to forgive all, to love even our enemies and to
strive for perfection here.
In the next part of His sermon, the Savior teaches that it is necessary to
strive for true righteousness, which is found in the heart of a person, in
contrast to the ostentatious Judaic righteousness prevalent in those times. By
examples, the Lord explains how one must show mercy, pray and fast in order to
please God. Further, He urges people not to hoard wealth but to hope in God.
In the last part of His sermon, the Lord teaches us not to judge others, to
safeguard what is holy from desecration, and to be consistent in good works.
Concluding his sermon, the Lord shows the difference between the
"wide" and "narrow paths," warns against false prophets,
and explains how to fortify ourselves for overcoming the inevitable trials of
The Lord Jesus Christ characterized the teaching which He brought to all
mankind from His Heavenly Father in this way: "Heaven and earth
shall pass away: but My words shall not pass away"(Mark ). Truly,
the eternal, heavenly truth — which does not deteriorate with time, and which
applies equally to people of all races and cultures — is given in the Sermon on
the Mount. The conditions of life and people’s understandings of
morality change, but the Laws of God are immutable. For this reason,
Christians, striving for eternal life, should first of all master the eternal
laws of goodness laid out in the Sermon on the Mount, and construct their life
on them. We will now discuss these eternal laws.