Why the Sermon on the Mount Matters

By Dr. Darrell Bock- Dallas Theological Seminary

Imagine the pressure of walking into church knowing you must follow hundreds of rules perfectly. During Jesus’ time, God’s people lived according to a collection of 613 mandates extracted from Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The religious leaders of the time defined their faith by how perfectly they could keep the minute details of each law, even adding stipulations to increase their perceived righteousness. 

Today, we may be free from many of these stipulations. But, just like those religious leaders, we’re often tempted to measure our righteousness by our rule-following.   

For many of us, biblical teachings can represent countless opportunities to fail or fall short. We’re either tempted to ignore God’s standards, knowing we can never measure up, or we cling to them, trying to earn the favor of God and men. 

Jesus, however, challenges both extremes. In the famous Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, He offers a path forward that holds onto high standards without tying our status to them. 

Rather than a presentation of a new list of rules to follow, the Sermon on the Mount is an invitation into the very heart of God. Jesus gently moves us from a shallow reading of what we should do to the true fulfillment of the law — who we should be. This transforms our understanding of blessing and identity from external indicators to an internal and eternal perspective.  

Blessing Redefined

Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines “blessing” as “a thing conducive to happiness or welfare.” 

With that definition in mind, we’re tempted to think of relationships, finances, or hobbies, just as the religious leaders were tempted to think of position and influence.  

Jesus presents a radically different definition of blessings. His blessings are not about external comforts. Instead, He promises the kingdom of heaven, mercy, and to call His followers children of God. The one who is blessed is full of internal traits drawn by the grace of God:  

the poor in spirit 

those who mourn,  

the meek,  

those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,  

merciful,  

pure in heart,  

peacemakers,  

persecuted,  

and those insulted because of Jesus.  

These are all characteristics of the heart — internals, not externals. 

Jesus does not promise “theirs is financial security, they will be shown job promotions, or they will be called popular.” His is the promise of being part of the kingdom both now and yet to come. 

In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus teaches: 

“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.” 

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus forces us to examine our idea of “treasure” and “blessing.” We are challenged to ask, “Where is my heart?”  

When we humbly go before Him, confessing our sin with a hunger and thirst for righteousness, we receive an eternal blessing that is far richer than anything we could possess on earth.  

Identity Established 

In Jesus’ time and in Roman culture, Jewish believers were easy to recognize. Their clothes, their holidays, and their eating habits clearly established their religious identity. Our identity as Christians isn’t always as visible, but in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus clearly tells His followers  we are to be distinct. 

So, what sets us apart from our neighbors? 

In Matthew 5:13-16, Jesus establishes our identity as salt and light. This is the true purpose of our good actions — through our heart for others, we show God’s heart for them. A true fulfillment of the law is not about our own status, but about our purity of heart and our representation of God as His people.  

We are a people who understand that murder comes from anger, adultery from lust, and divorce from a broken commitment. We don’t need to make oaths, because our word is good. We value forgiveness over revenge. 

Jesus calls us to be different because He is different. We are transformed because He transforms us. We ask what the Father desires of us, and we prioritize what is precious to Him. 

When our daily lives reflect the teachings of Jesus, we reflect the light of Christ. We are not defined by the commands we keep, but by a heart that seeks to keep them. 

“In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). 

Want to learn more about Jesus’ teaching in Matthew? Check out our blog archive for more posts like this one.

Dr. Darrell Bock

Dallas Theological Seminary

Dr. Darrell Bock is senior research professor of New Testament and executive director for cultural engagement at Dallas Theological Seminary. He hosts The Table Podcast, leading discussions related to God, Christianity and culture.

What is God teaching you?

Dr. Bock shared his insights from the Sermon the Mount. We want to hear yours! In the form below, share how God has been working through His Word this year.

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249 Comments

  1. Before the death of my husband, the Lord has held me in his arms. First with comforting me so I wouldn’t freak out. Even though his passing took a long time at home with his battle with cancer. The Lord made sure I learned and grew a lot. My growth allowed me to want to help others in need. He showed me it was time to sell the home we had together with everything in it, which was another hard trial to go through. The Lord did that to show me how strong I could be. The Lord held me with the move I was able to make with our son. The Lord even made a place for us to live that we could afford with ease and love. I see and know I am in the hands of my heavenly father now and forever.

    Reply
  2. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?
    Matthew 7:7‭-‬11 KJV
    https://bible.com/bible/1/mat.7.7-11.KJV

    I feel God is calling me to prayer. I think the passage above is beautiful, and I am so glad it is all true. I just need to live like I believe it.

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  3. Matthew 5:5 ” Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth.” I have been dealing with an issue that I knew involved my pride; but this morning the Holy Spirit revealed just how I was making the issue about me and not about God’s will. This came to me as I was reading how the centurion humbled himself before Jesus in Matthew 8:8. I felt God’s peace envelop my heart as I prayed a prayer of submission to my Father’s good and perfect will.

    Reply
  4. The sermon on the mount showed me I had unresolved issues with anger toward a supervisor from 7 years back. I finally forgave her and reached out to say I was sorry for the things I said to her and any actions of retribution I caused. I stated I forgave her for her actions. I don’t know her address and she had unfriended me from Facebook, so I messaged her husband with the words of forgiveness and sorrow. I have not heard back, but the weight on my heart has lifted and Jesus has forgiven me. I have more joy in my heart and life. I see the world in a different manner, one of love, forgiveness and faith.

    Reply
  5. I have felt closer to God since starting BSF. Being in a group helps me understand that other people have or have had some of the same problems I have. They have taught bible verses to help me pray and get closer to Jesus. I look forward to our meetings when before I just sat in the house and prayed to God to show me what to do. He led me to BSF. The lectures help be closer to the Lord and closer to others.

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    • Valerie, I totally agree with you. God is filling our heart with love. God Bless.

      Reply
  6. I’m really enjoying studying the book of Matthew. The main thing that the Lord seems to be telling me is that its the heart that He is concerned with rather than all the works that we may do for Him. Not everyone has the opportunity to “do” many works, some people are rather limited, but everyone can humbly submit their heart and motives asking Him to purify this area of our lives. I am blessed to know that.

    Reply
  7. That my heart should reflect the love, the attitude, and the commitment to the Father’s work and will, just as Jesus’ did in His time on earth. If I am so privileged to declare that it indeed does, then I am also justified to claim that I am truly blessed.

    Reply
  8. Fasten your seatbelts… The fact that I’m NOT wearing an orange jumpsuit and writing this from behind bars is due to my trust in God to fix what’s wrong in my life.

    Reply
  9. My Faith is increasing Romans 10:17

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  10. The sermon on the mount lessons have great impact on me. Jesus has taught , encouraged and transformed me.
    I now yield to Him completely.
    I give my all to Him and by His grace I purpose to shine out for His glory and for my good.
    Teachings on beatitudes,
    Murder, divorce, being sensitive to others , not to judge others, discernment and making right choices have changed the way of thinking. Going forward I pray that I live God’s word and this way I will please my God. Amen.

    Reply
  11. I have become highly aware of my shortcomings of being richteous in the eyes of God. The sermon on the mount holds a mirror up to me. Its a magnifying mirror! Its an absolute need for me. So i can recognize & own up to my sins. Having that done, its a whole lot easier to sincerely repent & become more obedient from my growth in my trust & faith. I WANT to know my Savior much better, as He so desires so much! That being said, im in progress of becoming more like Him. The results are amazing. My attitudes are more positive therefore my family relationships are on the mend as needed so much! Im so very grateful & thankful that i praise Him much more than i ever have.Not only that, i now volunteer in my community to help families of domestic violence (same as my own childhood years experience.) I feel compelled to do this in obedience of God’s Will for me.

    Reply
    • Praise to God for His work through you!!

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  12. I feel so much closer to God with this Matthew study.

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  13. The Matthew lessons are impacting our lives in Ghana. The favorite Matthew verse to share is 6:33, “But seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
    The hymnist Nahum Tate (1652-1715) says it all encouragingly in the last stanza of his hymn/lyrics:
    “Fear Him, ye saints, and you will then
    Have nothing else to fear;
    Make you His service your delight,
    He’ll make your wants His care.”

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  14. I am blessed to be in Bsf

    Reply
  15. I have been going through a rough season with my adult son. God has been teaching me to always pray before and after any interaction with my son. Pray that God will protect him and it is in God’s hands and time when my son will decide to either come back into my life or finally decide to tell me he doesn’t want anything to do with me since he has not contacted me and doesn’t respond to me reaching out to him.

    Reply
    • Jessica, praying with you and for you!

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    • I pray Lord God that You will watch over him and protect him and dear Father God, bring him back to his mom ready for a fresh start. I pray for his freedom in whatever he is going through in You alone. In Jesus’ name. Thank You Father! Amen

      Reply
  16. Have just realised that God is the audience of my prayer sessions and not the many prayer partners l often have yearn for.

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    • Samson, thank you for sharing this. Such an amazing reminder!

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    • Wow! That’s a very enlightening realization. I’m glad you shared this.

      Reply
  17. I love when the Lord makes an old lesson new! I’ve read Matthew 7:7-8 so many times and have probably even taught the concept of Ask, Seek and Knock a few times.

    Today, the first portion of verse 8 really hit me in a fresh way – “For everyone who asks receives”.

    Granted, I must do my part as an asker, seeker, and knocker, but y’all, I’m one of those EVERY! Not some, not a few chosen, but every.

    Today, I’m so thankful for serving a Savior who will provide answers when I ask, show me when I seek and open doors when I knock. #HisWordisthebestinvestmentofmyday

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    • The word of God should have an impact in our life and we should not imitate the world we may be worthless,we should not blend with all but have a positive effect.

      Reply
  18. To pray the Pattern (Our Father) plus ASK (Ask, Seek, Knock). In that order so the the Father guides & inspires the very prayers He delights to answer.
    Expanded: To not belabor the details of what I need since my Father knows what I need before I ask & use the patter of the Our Father, learning to trust my perfect heavenly Father Who knows what’s best. To start with focus on Him & let Him lead in simple prayer after praise & shift to HIS will be done (the prayer that never fails) while unburdening as led in simple ASK (Ask, Seek, Knock), knowing He’s promised to answer.

    Reply
  19. In my home church we are taught that you can’t beat God’s giving. When I came to BSF it was after I started learning to surrender my life to Christ. I had been through baptism long ago, I had pledged my life to Christ long ago but it’s only been within the last two years of my 39 years journey with Christ have I learned to truly surrender and say ,”Lord whatever you want for my life , is what I want for my life.” That doesn’t mean I’m perfect or that I do everything that I should do but as this teaching said I have a heart to do what I should according to the fruits of the Spirit. I’m learning daily I’m not what I have been but I am becoming what God calls me and qualifies me to be in JESUS name. Amen

    Reply
  20. Blessed are the peace makers for they shall be called the children of God. Matt 5:9

    When I was a child I chose peace to avoid the persecution of my peers(go along to get along). Today I strive to be a peace maker in spite of the persecutions of the world all around me because He is worthy of all of our praises.

    Reply
  21. What would humanity look like if we really tried hard to love our enemies…more like His kingdom.

    Reply
  22. This is my eighth year attending BSF. I have gone full circle now beginning with Matthew and studying Matthew again and I feel so blessed to study Matthew again. I never get enough of the words of Jesus. The Sermon on the Mount reaffirms to me how much Jesus loves us and instructs us on how to live and love. This study is so good for such a time as this.

    Reply
  23. You need to return this program to it’s roots. It’s become very emotional, and has almost NO biblical content instruction compared to the program of yester-year. Years ago, BSF was like free seminary for women. We’d learn and then enjoy each others company from deep discussion and studies. Now, the superficiality is distracting. You can’t create intimacy which is what the apparent attempts are. The group therapy aspects of “what do you think?” or “How’s that make you feel?” is just disgraceful. In short, you’re trying to hard to be in the world and you’ve removed the biblical content and the programs’ previous rules that provided the quality order and experience of the program.

    Reply
  24. Matthew 7:7 is the ASK/GIVEN, SEEK/FIND, KNOCK/OPENED promise from Jesus to His followers. I am a woman who from birth to adulthood had parents who showed me how to have a family of abuse, alcoholism, poverty, dysfunction and little to no nurturing. My Mom was a believer but came from a troubled family also. When I started 7th grade my Mom fled Appalachia with six kids and came to Cleveland. At 12 years old I was realized I was pretty much “on my own” “fight or flight”. I prayed and gave God my wish like rubbing a magic lamp and my exact request would be answered by God because I knew He loved me and if I asked I trusted he would magically grant my request. Ultimately I have learned that God did give, He helped me find and He opened many doors. In many UNEXPECTED ways Gods has proven He is wiser than my magic lamp wish. I could share a book of how God has worked everything in my life for His glory and my good in UNEXPECTED ways. I am still learning to TRUST but the sweet gift of His faithfulness is priceless.

    Reply
  25. The verse Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth”, will always be a special verse to me because it is how the Lord spoke to me 40 years ago when I was in college. I had one foot in the world and one in my belief in God, but not really living for Him. I was convicted of my sins and gave my heart and life to Jesus shortly after this encounter with God and His Word and have never been the same!

    Reply

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