Why is the Sermon on the Mount different?

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By BibleAsk Team


The Sermon on the Mount – Matthew and Luke

In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ discussed the nature of His kingdom. He also contested wrong ideas about the Messiah’s kingdom that had been instilled in the minds of the people by the Jewish religious leaders (Matthew 3:2; 4:17). The Sermon on the Mount teaches in clear contrast the nature of Christianity and that of Judaism at Christ’s time.

The Sermon on the Mount, found in the Gospels of Matthew (Chapters 5-7) and Luke (Chapter 6), is one of the most famous teachings of Jesus Christ. While the core message remains consistent across both accounts, there are notable differences in the presentation, context, and emphasis between Matthew’s and Luke’s versions of the Sermon on the Mount. By examining these differences, we can gain a deeper understanding of the unique perspectives and theological themes conveyed in each Gospel.

Contextual Differences

One difference between Matthew’s and Luke’s accounts of the Sermon on the Mount is the contextual setting in which the teachings are presented. In Matthew’s Gospel, the Sermon on the Mount is depicted as taking place on a mountain or beside a mountain, with Jesus delivering His teachings to His disciples and a large crowd of people who had gathered to hear Him (Matthew 5:1-2). This setting lends a sense of grandeur and authority to Jesus’ words, emphasizing His role as the authoritative teacher and interpreter of the law.

In contrast, Luke’s Gospel presents a similar but distinct teaching on a level place (Luke 6:17-49), where He addresses His disciples and a great multitude of people from all over Judea, Jerusalem, and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon (Luke 6:17-18). The setting of a level place suggests a more accessible and inclusive environment, where Jesus interacts with people from diverse backgrounds and social strata.

Structural Differences

Another difference between Matthew’s and Luke’s accounts of the Sermon on the Mount lies in the structure and organization of the teachings. Mathew’s report on the Sermon of the Mound is different than Luke’s in that Matthew’s report is practically three times as long as that of Luke. While both Gospels contain similar themes and teachings, Matthew’s version is more extensive and detailed covering a wide range of topics, including the Beatitudes, the ethical teachings of Jesus, prayer, fasting, and the kingdom of God. This is because Matthew was focusing on the teachings of Jesus whereas Luke focused on the historical story of Jesus.

It should be noted that numerous other sections of the Sermon on the Mount as given in Matthew appear in different places throughout the Gospel of Luke as Christ must have repeated these same teachings on different occasions during His ministry. Also, the opening statement to the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew starts with the phrase Jesus “opened his mouth” (Matthew 5:2), whereas Luke notices that Jesus “lifted up his eyes” (Luke 6:20) as He began to teach.

Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Plain is more concise and focused, covering many of the same themes but with fewer details and elaborations. Luke’s account contains fewer Beatitudes (four instead of nine) and a shorter list of woes (four instead of eight) compared to Matthew’s version. Additionally, Luke’s presentation of the Lord’s Prayer is shorter and more abbreviated than Matthew’s (compare Matthew 6:9-13 with Luke 11:2-4).

Theological Emphases:

Despite these differences, both Matthew’s and Luke’s accounts of the Sermon on the Mount share common theological emphases. Both Gospels emphasize the ethical teachings of Jesus, including love for enemies, forgiveness, humility, and generosity. The Beatitudes, found in both accounts, highlight the spiritual values of poverty of spirit, meekness, righteousness, mercy, and peacemaking.

However, each Gospel writer also brings out unique theological emphases in their presentation of the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew’s Gospel, there is a strong emphasis on the fulfillment of the Old Testament law and the kingdom of heaven. Jesus declares, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17).

In Luke’s Gospel, on the other hand, there is an emphasis on social justice, compassion for the poor and marginalized, and the reversal of social values. Jesus pronounces blessings on the poor, the hungry, the sorrowful, and the persecuted, while warning of woes to the rich, the full, the laughing, and those who are well spoken of (Luke 6:20-26). Luke’s presentation of the Sermon reflects his concern for the downtrodden and his message of radical inclusivity and social transformation.

Conclusion

In conclusion, while Matthew’s and Luke’s accounts of the Sermon on the Mount share common themes and teachings, there are few differences in context, structure, and theological emphasis. Matthew’s version emphasizes the fulfillment of the Old Testament law and the coming of the kingdom of heaven, while Luke’s version highlights social justice, compassion for the poor, and the reversal of social values. Both accounts provide valuable insights into the teachings of Jesus and offer unique perspectives on the ethical and spiritual principles of the Christian faith.

In spite of the few differences in the reports of the sermon by Matthew and Luke, it is very clear that the similarities in the two accounts surpass the differences. The reports are not exclusive, but complementary to each other as the writers were moved by the Holy Spirit to give the readers of the Bible a more complete picture of what Jesus was teaching “for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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