“Sermon on the Mount” Responses

The Beatitudes, Bible Hub, pg.57, up to Mt. 5:20

What is Jesus trying to say in Mt.5:17?  – he is taking a position as a good Jew, recognising the value of the tradition and vowing to uphold it and fulfil it.

What differences do you note between Mt. & Lk in this section?  – 3rd person vs. 2nd person; different order; Lk has “woe” statements (Doc.L); vv.17-20 in Mt are specific to his Jewish audience

Which of Luke’s categories do you find hardest to bless? (note the first that comes to mind)

Who were “salt” (Mt, v.13) and “light” (Mt, v.14) before Jesus spoke these words? – prophets, pharisees, priests

Ways to the Kingdom from Mt. 5:20ff

Look at the beginnings of Mt. 5: 21,27,33,38 & 43. What is common? – “You have heard…but I say…”

What are they about?  the Jewish law

What is common in the examples given in Mt. 6:2-4, 5-6 & 7-8?  – ‘When you…do not do as…’  

What quality is required? humility

Look at Mt. 6: 34 and 7:1, 3-5, 6 & 12. What are these about? – how to behave

Look at Mt. 7: 13-14 & 24-27.  What kind of statements are these? – give alternatives, choice

In Mt.7:13-14, what are the contrasting pairs? -Narrow/wide, life/destruction, many/few, narrow/wide

What are the choices of outcomes? – life or destruction

What are the process to get to each? wide path or straitened way.  Note strait means restricted; it definitely not straight.

What does the passage not tell you about them? – How to find 

Which outcome is mentioned first? destruction  Give synonyms  death, wreckage, ruination, devastation, termination, annihilation, elimination, eradication

Give synonyms for the alternative outcome? – existence, being, animation, creation

Which is your choice?  (your personal response)

What are you willing to pay?  (your personal response)

Describe your image of the wide gate; the broad way. – multi-lane superhighway, brightly lit, lots of traffic, smooth, fast, unrestricted, no speed limits, easy to find 

What is most seductive about it?comfort? accessibility? popularity? security? 

Describe your image of the narrow gate; the straitened way. – entrance hidden by foliage, no signs, cannot see very far along the way, slow, no one else around, no directions of signage, constricted so that one has to crawl and squeeze through narrow openings, dark 

Why do few find it? – it is not visible to the casual gaze, too easy to take the broad way, so they don’t look for it; the narrow gate looks too challenging

When does this life begin? immediately upon entering the narrow gate

In Mt. 7:24-27, what are the contrasts? – rock/sand; stand/fall

What are the outcome alternatives? – stand or fall

What does it mean to build your house on rock? – for a clue, go back to Jesus’ ‘foundation’ during the temptations in the wilderness:  ‘the word of God’.

Note the physical relationship between rock and sand – it is the same material; the ‘rock’ has been eroded and reduced to ‘sand’.

What do the storms represent? – the vicissitudes/trials/temptations of life,

Look at Mt. 7:21 and parallel. What is difference between Lk & Mt? – in Mt, Jesus calls people to do God’s will, in Lk, he calls them to do what he tells them.  

Which is sounds more like Jesus? Matthew’s version; typically, Jesus did not point to himself.

What is the desired ‘outcome’?Kingdom of Heaven/God

What is it that makes this a desirable outcome?  – this is the focus of the people’s yearning for a messiah and the central subject of Jesus’s preaching. 

What are some synonyms for this kingdom? – peace, Nirvana, liberty, security, eternal life

What is not the way to this kingdom?  calling Jesus ‘Lord’

What are the implications of this? What is he saying about himself? – Jesus can’t get you to the kingdom

Who is responsible, i.e. who has sole authority in this matter?God

What does this statement say about God?God has a will, has authority

Recall that you took some time in a previous section to list some other words for God.  Refer to them now.  Write down the one that is most meaningful to you at this time. (Great Cry, the unfolding pattern of the universe, the Nothing that wants to become Something, etc…)

What are some synonyms for ‘will’?intent, purpose, desire, desperate yearning, command

Choose one and put it with your word for God so that you get a new way of saying, “the will of God”  the desperate yearning of the Nothing that wants to become Something; the purpose of the unfolding pattern of the universe; the command of the Great Cry, etc…

Where does one find it? for the Jews, it is in history

Where does it confront you? – perhaps among the urges and challenges you most resist?

To do the will of God, what is the first step? discerning it? doing it? be willing? commitment to it? What is difference between being willing and committing; which is more objective?  

Do you discern the will and then do it or do you commit to it and do whatever it is that comes? The answer is critical! – Responses were mixed.  If, by the will of God, people understand good works, eg. for justice and peace, then it is possible to gain understanding and commitment during the process of doing.  It is also possible to discern the will first and then do it. But if the will is understood as becoming “perfect”, i.e. whole or complete, then this process first requires commitment in order to do it.

Standards of Righteousness

Go back to Mt. 5:21, what is the old law? – You shall not kill/ commit murder

What does Jesus add?  – he adds anyone who is angry…

What exactly does he say about anger? – it’s dangerous, powerful

How is anger expressed?loud voice, foul language, physical violence, silent treatment

How do you express it? 

Note: anger is not a primary emotion; it is a secondary reaction to primary emotions.  What do you think are examples of primary emotions? pain, fear, guilt, anxiety, love, hate

What happens if anger is not dealt with?it is suppressed, it simmers 

Where does one remember anger (v. 23)? the ‘altar’

What is the ‘altar’ for Jews of Jesus’ time? – place of covenant, atonement, sacrifice, awe

What is the altar for you? (i.e. where do you go to meet God?) (your personal response)

What gift would you offer at the ‘altar’? – my service, my money, my talents, my time

What is remembered there? – that someone bears a grudge against me

What attitude would one have to have to remember anger? – unforgiving, begrudging, guilty

What prayer is required?repentant request for forgiveness and ability to forgive

What does it suggest about the initiative for reconciliation? – with the one who remembers, with oneself.

What do you do next? – leave the gift before getting to the altar

What difference does it make leaving the gift at the altar? represents a commitment to do the task and return

What are the elements required for the work of reconciliation?courage, acceptance, forgiveness, honesty, repentance, willingness to express anger rationally

How might the gift left at the altar be different when you return? – the giver has been unburdened, right within self, and thus more free to give; more presentable to God for the giver is more able to bring their whole self, undistracted by guilt or unresolved anger.

In Mt. 5:27 what is the law?you shall not commit adultery

What does Jesus add? – you shall not lust

What is lust? sexual desire, specifically, but can be an unhealthy passionate desire for anything

What does it do?objectifies people, i.e. it dehumanises

What does it do to sexuality? animalises it, ignores the spiritual/emotional aspects

What does Jesus say to do?  pluck out your eye, etc.

What does this say about Jesus?   the language is clearly hyperbole, but serves to demonstrate he considers lust particularly dangerous to a person’s well-being

What value does Jesus place on sexuality?of great spiritual value

What are some examples of sexual lust in our society? – pornography, using sex in advertising, reality TV such as “The Bachelor”, unnecessary cosmetic surgery, topless venues, lap-dancing, 

In Mt, v.38, what is the law? – an eye for an eye

Put it in your own words. – the punishment fits the crime, tit for tat

What is the value of this law, found in almost every ancient code of justice?  Why was it considered to be an advance on what preceded it? it moderated the common law of retribution, under which any kind of revenge for a wrong was permitted

What kind of shift is Jesus making in vv. 39-41? What is he doing with the old law? – he is replacing it entirely.

Why?  What is wrong with the old law? – it continues the pain, and instead of one person being hurt, when the law is enacted, there are now two, and nothing has been done to ease the pain of the one who is hurt first.  If the initial act is considered wrong, then so must the reprisal be wrong, and, as the saying goes, ‘two wrongs don’t make a right.’  With each punishment, evil is given new life and is perpetuated.

What do we usually do with our evil?resist it, repress it, hide it

What forms do our resistance take? denial, give it another name, justification/rationalisation, projection onto others, repression

Why do we resist it? – fear; we recognise its potential for damage/pain; moral teaching (thou shalt nots)

What is Jesus’ lesson? – face it, don’t get sucked in, embrace it, dance with it, wrestle with it

Why might evil want to be resisted not? – it gets power from resistance, as a fire is fed by throwing fuel on it.

Carl Jung said, “What we most lack is imagination in evil.” What does he mean? – we don’t do very well in coming up with practical ways to incorporate that part of us we might label as evil into a useful aspect of our personality.

How could we imagine evil more? e.g. we might take our instinctual fear of otherness and use it to learn about the other instead of allowing it to manifest itself as racism; or accept our own homosexual tendencies instead of repressing them so that they appear in homophobic attitudes toward gay people; 

What happens if we resist evil?evil is empowered and manifests itself in unexplainable behaviour; it takes on a life of its own in our unconscious acts, because we are not including it in our conscious lives; it is part of us that we do not love; therefore it reacts negatively as one that is unloved and may jump out to ‘bite’ us at inopportune times.

Mime:      

  • 1) repress or contain evil – (people often find this like trying to contain yeast-enlivened dough on a hot day)
  • 2) Act it out – (can feel violent)
  • 3) Project it onto another – (it is then easy to turn ones back on, or hate, the other who wears the projection)
  • 4) Move toward it in a corridor – (can be scary, but often the ‘evil’ is discovered to be harmless, presenting as a baby or small creature)

Which was most striking and why? (your personal response)

Defilement

According to Mk.7:20-23 and parallel, what really defiles a person? what “comes out of a man”

What other words could be used to replace ‘defile’? sully, dirty, contaminate, rot, debase, tarnish, mar, degrade, destroy

How do you react to this statement?   it makes sense to a modern person, but in Jesus’ time much emphasis was placed on the various cleanliness laws and rituals of Jewish tradition.

Where does the defilement come from, according to Jesus? – the heart

Which form of defilement listed here leaps out as yours? (your personal response)

Quote: “It is more important in today’s world to be non-infectious than creative.” What is Neumann saying here? by not dealing with our own ‘shadow’ side, the contents of our unconscious spill out into the outer world, often in ways we would consider evil, and contaminate/ defile it. If everyone would only become non-infectious, that is, embrace the whole of themselves in their consciousness, the evil in the world would, and we would not need creative solutions.

Returning to the Sermon on the Mount, in Lk. 6:45 and parallels, what does the word “treasure” add? – it suggests the content of the heart, both good and evil, is a most valuable resource for gaining self-awareness and thus finding life in the Kingdom, and that we should seek to know it and embrace it.

If one is defiled, what comes before purification?  So what is the value of looking at your defilement? one must be aware of the source of contamination so that one can identify what we needs to be purified; i.e. identify the stain, so that we know where to spray the ‘Preen’, and know what causes the stain so as to know what removes it.

Given that we are to ‘resist not’ evil, what are we to do with this abundance of treasure?embrace it, befriend it, understand it, incorporate it into our consciousness

Referring again to Lk.10:27, what does it mean to love God with all your heart, knowing it is the source of defilement? bring all of ourselves to God, even the bits we would normally be ashamed of or try to hide.

How does that challenge you about your idea of God? – if one still has a God who is like a parent, then all of those parental ‘shoulds’ and ‘should-nots’ may get in the way of a relationship.  God wants all of you. 

In Mt.5:43, what is the law? – Love your neighbour and hate your enemies

Is Jesus promulgating a new law in v.44?  – no, the idea is essentially present in the Hebrew Scriptures

What does he keep and what does he change? – he keeps “love your neighbour” but gets rid of the “hate your enemies” part

Who are your enemies? (your personal response)

In v.45, why should one love one’s enemies? to be children of God 

What does God bring? an even-handed treatment of just and unjust

What does v.48 say about the nature of God?  – universally accepting; is not satisfied with a part of you, even the best part;

Write what it might mean for you to be all-inclusive or whole. I would be totally conscious, and would love and accept all of me, just as God does

Put Mt.6:1 in your own words. – ‘strutting your stuff gets you nowhere with God and no closer to the Kingdom.’

Note: vv. 1, 4 & 6 communicate the same message.  What is the result of proper practice and attitude? God’s reward

What kind of recompense do you imagine will be provided? life in all its fullness, peace, contentment

Take a few moments to make a list of the things that you find most annoying, irritating, repugnant in people; the kind of people you would normally choose to avoid spending time with, that rub you the wrong way, with traits, which if your children were to exhibit, you would find intolerable. – your personal response might include extreme sociopaths such as drug dealers, paedophiles, but also those you are more likely to encounter, such as impatient drivers, people who talk too much, critical people, racists, etc.

What is Jesus saying about judgment in Mt. 7:1? Put in other words. you are liable to be judged according to how you judge others

What happens when we judge others? We endanger relationships with those others if we are not careful how we judge

Is he saying, “Don’t judge?”No, we must be able to discern good from bad; just be careful how we do it.

What is he warning about when we judge others? We establish criteria to judge self; we expose ourselves and our views, thus becoming more vulnerable.

What is the difference between creative and non-creative judgments? creative judgments are useful in helping to improve a situation. They do not cast aspersions on others, merely offer potential to improve their ‘performance’, and done in a way that can be heard by the other without causing offence. Non-creative judgments make qualitative statements on the value (or lack of value) of others; they evoke negative emotions and resistance in others.

When are judgments negative/uncreative? – when they attack or criticise people.

How do you feel when you are the object of an uncreative judgment?   angry, offended, victimised

How do such judgments affect relationships?  they damage relationships

What would be characteristics of a positive or creative judgment? – it contributes to improvement; it focusses only on performance, not on the character of the person.

How do you feel when you are the object of a creative judgment?valued, grateful, motivated, cared about

If you brought only creative judgments to your relationships, what would happen? I would make a practical positive difference to the lives of the people with whom I come in contact. There would be more openness and honesty between us, and greater intimacy would be made possible.

What prevents us from doing this? fear, lack of understanding, unconscious motives

In what situations are we more likely to make uncreative judgements. when we are angry, anxious/insecure, lack understanding of the other, projecting (see next section below)

In vv.3-4, what is a log? What is a speck? a log is something that seems large and important, and speck is something that seems tiny or trivial.

What is it that Jesus says people are prone to do?   magnify the imperfections we see in others, while trivialising or ignoring our own.

What is this in psychological terms? projection. In a motion picture projector, a small image on the film is seen on the screen as very large. People don’t see the content of their own unconscious (because, by definition, it is outside the view of consciousness), but they see it magnified when it is projected upon another person.

Where do projections come from?the unconscious mind

Return to your list of annoying qualities that you made earlier, and put your name at the top. How many are true of you?  Tendencies that you try hard to squash? (your personal response)

We tend to project the unlikeable, unacceptably content of ourselves on others where we can see it and hate it, and also the loveable aspects of ourselves we haven’t yet discovered are projected onto others where we can see and love them.  What kind of things get projected?authority, fears, ambitions, sexuality, needs of the shadow, the golden life we haven’t lived, anima/animus, yearnings, talents, inner resources

Why do projections happen?   it might be only way to see something important, because it is otherwise buried in the unconscious mind.

What is the positive value of projection? – we can use it to gain self-awareness

What should we do with them to get this positive value? – recognise projection when it happens and use the knowledge to bring unconscious aspects of ourselves to consciousness.

Where do Christians project the ‘saviour’? – onto Jesus.   (the ‘saviour’ is an archetypal resource in the human psyche)

How do we know when we are projecting?   we have an unexplainable emotional reaction; eg. love at first sight or unexpected admiration, or we take a dislike to someone upon meeting them for no obvious reason.

How could we work with them in a positive way? identify what aspect of the other we are reacting to, positively or negatively, and then accept that it may be part of ourselves that we have not previously recognised; thus making something previously unconscious conscious.

What is the effect on a relationship if we stay in projection? – it makes a real relationship very difficult, because we are relating to a projection, i.e. ourselves.

What does Jesus say to do in vv.4-5? – ‘take the log out of your eye’

What effect does this have? when you have ‘owned’ the projection, you then see the other clearly, without your projection getting in the way

What can enemies do that no one else can? – given that you see the ‘bad’ in those whom you call ‘enemy, suggests the possibility of projection, and thus they  can be the ‘mirrors’ in which you can see something of yourself not yet made conscious

What does v.12 say about how to get what we want? – do for others what you want for yourself

How do we usually expect this law to work?we usual treat others as they have treated us, and also we do what we think they want.

What do we need to know in order to work on this law? – what we need or want for ourselves

What would happen if we treated others this way? – not only would we be more fulfilled, but our relationships would grow in intimacy because we would constantly be evaluating our wants and needs and communicating this knowledge to others through what we do for them.

Write how you would apply this to a really difficult current relationship? (your personal response)

Return to “Sermon on the Mount”