High Level Sermon on the Mount Summary
The sermon on the mount is a famous section in Jesus’ ministry in Matthew 5-7 where his teachings are consolidated into one sermon. It is one of my favorite things to read over and over again.
What is the message and summary of the sermon on the mount?
They key is in verse 1:
Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to himMatthew 5:1
He has just called his first few disciples in Matthew 4. As he is about to begin a broader movement of his ministry, his disciples join him in the top of the mountain.
As his disciples join him at the top of the moment, consider the visual pedagogy of the spectacle.
He is making a spectacle of those who he has called to him. With every command, as the people are listening from down below, as his disciples are seated right below him, he is almost in effect saying: “These people will evince the life I imagined”
The sermon on the mount is therefore a collection of spiritual and moral principles that Jesus expects those who follow him to strive towards. They are inherently counter-cultural, impossible to do without his presence in our lives, yet yield the happiest life a human being can experience.
The beginning of Jesus’ sermon famously starts off with the blessings. In doing so, with the visual element of his disciples directly below him, he is opening an invitation for anyone else lower on the mountain to come receive the blessing.
And then he continues with the epic sermon, listing out commandments, expectations, and changes in perspectives of how to live a life that pleases God.
He finishes the sandwich with chapter 7 which serves as warning that it isn’t the hearers of this message that will reap the rewards. Rather it is the doers of the message.
Ch 5:1-11 Blessed Are The…
TLDR: People who live like Jesus are the absolute happiest.
Jesus starts off his grand sermon full of “blessed” sayings. A new English translation properly translates this is “happy are the…”. These serve as an invitation for hearers and readers to partake in the blessedness of the lifestyle of the kingdom. The following commandments, then, are not meant to weigh anyone down, but they are meant to give life to all who are willing to live such a radical lifestyle.
In other words, there is a promise of blessing for those who live like Jesus. Those who live like Jesus are the happiest on earth. It sets up all the remaining commandments not as burdens but as invitations.
Ch 5:13-16 Salt and Light
TLDR: As followers of Jesus, your life helps others see God and how awesome he is.
Jesus gives readers two identity pieces. They are the “light of the world” and the “salt of the earth.” They are saying similar things, and of all the sermon on the mount, this one heavily focuses on the identity of his hearers.
Do they realize that by taking up this kingdom lifestyle, they become the way the world sees God (hence they are the “light of the world”), and the way the world is transformed around them (hence they are the “salt of the earth”)?
Ch 5:17-20 Jesus as the Fulfillment of the Law
TLDR: Jesus sets the standard of righteous and establishes himself and all who follow him not as lawbreakers, but law-abiders.
Jesus connects lawful living with righteousness, a status he desires all to have. Jesus’ point here: Kingdom citizens obey all the laws of God, no matter how small they are, not because they will be perfectionists like the scribes and Pharisees (although they are not perfect), but in that pursuit of righteous perfection, they grow closer in intimacy with God.
In addition, Jesus answers a crucial question: “How does Jesus’ entrance change the Jewish’ people understanding of ‘the law'”?
Ch 5:21-26 Don’t be Angry with People
TLDR: Don’t be angry with people, but always seek to reconcile with people.
Reconciliation is the way of the kingdom because Jesus is into long-term relationships and without reconciliation, there are no long-term relationships. To be a kingdom citizen is to learn to forgive and to be a gracious person.
Ch 5:27-30 Don’t Commit Sexual Immorality
TLDR: Don’t commit adultery (have sexual interactions with someone not your spouse).
As a matter of fact, don’t even look at a woman (or man) lustfully, cutting down to the core of a person’s desires and intentions. The reason is because all sexual sins are serious, serious to the point that you should do whatever you can within your power to avoid sexual sins. The temple of the Holy Spirit is extremely extremely precious.
Ch 5:31-32 Divorce
TLDR: Jesus wants us to honor marriage by not divorcing.
Jesus sets the standard for romantic relationships by establishing man and woman’s lifelong covenant as the centerfold. When this is center, divorce is not allowed. We learn later that marriage is important to God because it mirrors the relationship he desires with the church.
Ch 5:33-37 Oaths
Jesus wants us to to be people who honor our commitments by doing what we’ll say we’ll do. (let our yes be YES!).
Ch 5:38-42 Retaliation
TLDR: Do not operate in an evil spirit by adding to cycles of revenge and retaliation.
Operate in the opposite spirit by loving when someone hates, blessing when someone curses, and turning the cheek when someone hits. This is one of the most obvious ways that Christians are set apart (yet very poorly demonstrated in an American society of “rights”).
Ch 5:43-48 Love Your Enemies
TLDR: Pray for your enemies because God loves them too.
This is the ultimate test of divine love. Anyone can love their friends; even wicked people. Rather the evidence of God’s love in us is our ability to even love those who hate us.
Ch 6:1-4 Giving to the Needy
Give and be generous to the needy. But don’t do it to boast before others. God loves just living with an audience of one.
Read about what the poor man taught me.
Ch 6:5-14 The Lord’s Prayer
Pray to God like you actually have a loving relationship with him, because…you do.
Ch 6:16-18 Fasting
Fast regularly. And like giving, don’t do it to boast before others.
Ch 6:19-24 Lay Up Treasures in Heaven
Kingdom citizens have kingdom perspectives on value, and that means not valuing things we purchase on earth, but valuing eternal fruit. So don’t horde, but invest in eternal things of value. Oh, and give up the idolatry of money, because chances are, you have it.
Ch 6:25-34 Do Not Be Anxious
Lots of people worry about their lives; Kingdom citizens are not, because they recognize that their loving Father will take care of all their needs if they ask. Focus on more important things like “seeking first the kingdom of God.”
Ch 7:1-5 Judging Others
TLDR: Don’t be a hypocrite, but always judge yourself first before you help others find God.
The starting point of criticism is always looking at ourselves first. Oh, and don’t give holy things to people who don’t understand it.
Ch 7:7-11 Ask, and It Will Be Given
TLDR: If you need something from God, ask; he’ll always hear.
This is a reminder of God’s character. As a good, good Father, he hears every prayer and answers accordingly.
Ch 7:12-13 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
This is the great commandment which, in Jesus’ words, sums up all the commands. All the commandments here can be subsumed within this.
Ch 7:13-14 Enter the way to eternal life because many people don’t enter it.
TLDR: Jesus is not looking for fans; he’s looking for devoted followers.
Jesus’ teachings come with a warning: not everyone will listen and be able to receive the fullness of what God wants them to receive. There will always people who think they “are in” with Jesus but really are standing on the outside looking in.
Ch 7:15-20 A Tree and Its Fruit
TLDR: True Christians demonstrate their Christianity by the fruit of their actions.
Don’t be a talker, but a doer of righteous things. There will always be “religious” people who are culturally religious, who say the right things. But Jesus loves the fruit of our lives as the measurement of our walk with God.
Ch 7:21-23 I Never Knew You
TLDR: The most important thing about being a kingdom citizen is knowing God intimately.
Even if you do lots of great kingdom things, but you don’t have that, you missed the point completely.
Ch 7:24-27 Build Your House on the Rock
TLDR: A true Christian listens and obeys what God says.
After everything that Jesus said, it’s not those who listen, go “ah hah” and walk away unchanged who actually live the blessed life. It’s those who listen and apply his words into their lives. Action, not knowledge nor experience, is the only assurance of blessedness.
Read about how the foundation of the Christian life is obedience
My joy and the aim of this site is to help readers go deeper in their Christian faith.
I hope to live my life based on Jesus’ teachings and I hope this summary was helpful for you to do so as well.
As I just shared, the sermon on the mount is an invitation to deeper discipleship with Jesus. If you’re interested in some of my resources on learning what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and how to make disciples, make sure to check out my list of best discipleship books.
Also I believe Bonhoeffer’s treatment on the subject (Link to Amazon) is unparalleled.