Sermon on the Mount–Jesus’ Standard of Righteousness

Written by Pastor James Dorman

Matthew 5:1-2; Luke 6:17-19

1. Thoughts from Mark and Luke:

Matthew 5:1-2 (NIV84): “Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2and he began to teach them, saying:

Luke 6:17-19 (NIV84): “He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coast of Tyre and Sidon, 18 who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by evil spirits were cured, 19 and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.” 

2. Passage Outline

Sermon on the Mount–Jesus’ Standard of Righteousness
Matthew 5:1-2; Luke 6:17-19

I. Location: The Side of a Mountain (Matthew 5:1a; Luke 6:17a)

II. The Teacher Begins to Instruct (Matthew 5:2)

III. Composition of the Listeners (Matthew 5:1b; Luke 6:17b)

IV. Those Needing Healing are Healed (Luke 6:17c-10)

3. Information to Consider

Matthew 5:1–2 “Matthew is setting the stage for the first of five significant sermons (or discourses) by Jesus in his account. Matthew’s purpose is to present Jesus as the long-awaited king. Because the coming kingdom is so central to the book, he inserts the Sermon on the Mount up front. This is the king’s manifesto—his statement of the kingdom’s moral principles. These are the guiding principles of the king’s teaching, truths that he repeated many times. And they form the message which Israel’s leaders reject in Matthew 8–12 which, in turn, leads to Jesus’ second major discourse in Matthew 13 on the mysteries of the kingdom and the age between the king’s two advents.

It is important to note the audience. When Jesus saw the crowds, he slipped away from them to the mountain. But his disciples came to him away from the multitudes, and Jesus sat down to speak directly to his own. This is an oft-repeated pattern (see 10:1; 11:1; 13:10). Sometimes it is very deliberate and direct (8:18). Apparently during this discourse others found them, joined the crowd (cf. 7:28) and listened in, but Jesus’ intention was to sit down, much as Moses did in the interpretation of the Law in Deuteronomy, to instruct his disciples.

A. B. Bruce was right on target in his classic The Training of the Twelve. Matthew’s entire gospel is discipleship training. The crowds were there tagging along, but Christ was always training “the Twelve,” who were marked for leadership in the kingdom (cf. Matt. 19:28; Rev. 21:14).

Throughout the Gospels, there were at least three different concentric circles of followers with Jesus, and he dealt with each of them differently. First, and most centrally, there were the Twelve, sometimes referred to simply as the disciples. The term is a translation of the Greek verb meaning, “to learn” and to do so particularly by actual experience and doing. It is instructive to read through the Gospels assuming that almost everything Jesus did and said was for the purpose of training his twelve disciples. This assumption sheds new light on many of his otherwise puzzling statements and actions.

Jesus was wise in knowing that one man (even the God-Man) was limited in the number of lives he could directly influence. Modern sociological experts say that a person is limited to twelve truly significant relationships at a time, and only a maximum of three of these at most can go to the deepest levels of intimacy. (Note Jesus’ even closer circle of three: Peter, James, and John. Jesus maximized the potential of his human nature by carefully choosing twelve men who would not in themselves be dead-end products, but who would learn from his teaching and example and then reproduce themselves in others (2 Tim. 2:2).

Robert Coleman expands on this theme in his classic The Master Plan of Evangelism. It was the Twelve that Jesus trained and sent out to do his ministry in chapter 10. It was the Twelve to whom Jesus privately explained his parables (e.g., 13:10–23). And from the turning point of 16:21 on, Jesus’ ministry focused even more exclusively on the Twelve, preparing them for his impending suffering and victory.

The second circle outwardly was also sometimes called “disciples” and included those who were serious followers of Jesus, but who were not among the Twelve. These likely numbered in the hundreds and may be part of the circle of followers mentioned in 5:1. We see clear glimpses of this circle in Acts 1:15, where 120 people hid in the upper room, expecting persecution because of their commitment to Christ. There were also the women who constantly ministered to the physical needs of Jesus and his disciples. However, ever these followers had their limits and probably did not pass all the tests Jesus subjected them to (see John 6:66).

And third came the crowds. These comprised a cross section of all levels of faith and disbelief. These people kept their distance emotionally, either because they were genuinely curious but cautious, or because they were critical and simply watching for an opportunity to ambush Jesus. Sometimes Jesus addressed the multitudes (e.g., Matt. 23), and sometimes he huddled with his more committed followers (e.g., Matt. 5:1), where the multitudes would gradually collect (7:28). Primarily, Jesus’ teaching focused on those who were serious about the kingdom.

4. Questions to Ponder

a. Discuss whether the sermon recorded in Luke 6:17-49 is the same sermon found in Matthew 5-7.

b. What is recognized as the traditional site of the Sermon of the Mount?

c.  To whom was this sermon addressed directly? (Matthew 5:1)

5. Author’s Comments

Matthew 5-7 is considered one of the most significant passages of instruction by Jesus during His time here on Earth. As He was beginning to unleash His revelations to the people who were most interested in learning about the Kingdom of God, Jesus paused on a mountainside to instruct His inner circle of followers and those who gathered and overheard His teachings.

Within these three chapters, Matthew records key components of Jesus’ manifesto. Over our next few Harmony lessons, we will discover what Jesus deemed most important for His followers to hear, understand and implement in their lives.

As we review and study these insights, I pray they become cornerstones of our Christian foundation and guides for our Christian existence here on Earth.

6. Closing Prayer


Good morning! As I was driving to Prescott this morning, I marveled at the nature of Your Creation.

From the dark, billowing clouds comprising the thunderous nature and which provided a downpour of moisture to the gorgeous landscapes that make up our Northern Arizona terrain, Your creative had was so evident.

As we are provided the opportunity to grow in our knowledge of You, may we also marvel at the reality of Your revelations we are able to read, study, comprehend and follow.

In Jesus’ Name, AMEN

7. Answers to “Questions to Ponder”

a. The question often arises from the vast difference in the material recorded in these two passages. As Matthew was an eyewitness, he had the ability to remember the vast amount of the content Jesus provided through His instruction. Luke, on the other hand, was limited to the content provided by witnesses he could interview. After reviewing the reasoning from both camps, I hold the position both authors are referring to the same event – “The Sermon on the Mount!”

b. On a mountain side, with a great level plateau, near Capernaum.

c. The sermon was directed to the disciples of Jesus and then to the multitudes surrounding them.

[1] Weber, S. K. (2000). Matthew (Vol. 1, pp. 56–57). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.