Overview of The Sermon on the Mount

Explore Jesus core teachings in the world's most famous sermon.

The Sermon of Jesus on the mount. Fresco by Franz Xaver Kirchebner in the Parish church of St. Ulrich in Gröden-it:Ortisei build in the late 18th century.
Wolfgang Moroder/Public Domain

The Sermon on the Mount is recorded in chapters 5-7 in the Book of Matthew. Jesus delivered this message near the beginning of His ministry and it is the longest of Jesus' sermons recorded in the New Testament.

Keep in mind that Jesus wasn't a pastor of a church, so this "sermon" was different than the kind of religious messages we hear today. Jesus attracted a large group of followers even early in His ministry -- sometimes numbering several thousand people.

He also had a smaller group of dedicated disciples who remained with Him all the time and were committed to learning and applying His teaching.

So, one day while He was traveling near the Sea of Galilee, Jesus decided to speak with His disciples about what it means to follow Him. Jesus "went up on a mountainside" (5:1) and gathered His core disciples around Him. The rest of the crowd found places along the side of the hill and at the level place near the bottom in order to hear what Jesus taught His closest followers.

The exact location where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount is unknown -- the Gospels don't make it clear. Tradition names the location as a large hill known as Karn Hattin, located near Capernaum along the Sea of Galilee. There is a modern church nearby called the Church of the Beatitudes.

The Message

The Sermon on the Mount is by far Jesus' longest explanation of what it looks like to live as His follower and to serve as a member of God's Kingdom.

In many ways, Jesus' teachings during the Sermon on the Mount represent the major ideals of the Christian life.

For example, Jesus taught about subjects such as prayer, justice, care for the needy, handling religious law, divorce, fasting, judging other people, salvation, and much more. The Sermon on the Mount also contains both the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) and the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13).

Jesus' words are practical and concise; He was truly a master orator.

In the end, Jesus made it clear that His followers should live in a noticeably different way than other people because His followers should hold to a much higher standard of conduct -- the standard of love and selflessness that Jesus Himself would embody when He died on the cross for our sins.

It's interesting that many of Jesus' teachings are commands for His followers to do better than what society allows or expects. For example:

You have heard that it was said, "You shall not commit adultery." But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:27-28, NIV).

Famous Passages of Scripture Contained Within the Sermon on the Mount:

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth (5:5).

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (5:14-16).

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 anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also (5:38-39).

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (6:19-21).

No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money (6:24).

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you (7:7).

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it (7:13-14).