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Jesus - A Gospel Blending - Ch. 9 - The Sermon on the Mount
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The sermon on the mount.


A great crowd had gathered. Jesus stood for a while looking out at them, then he turned, climbed a hill3, sat down, gathered the disciples around him, and began to teach.

"Happy are those who have made themselves poor," he said, "the kingdom of heaven belongs to them. Happy, too, are those who sorrow because they'll be comforted. Happy are the humble; they'll be given the whole world. Happy are those who long for God's justice: their longing will be satisfied. Happy are those who show mercy: mercy will be shown to them. Happy are the guileless: they shall see God. Happy are those who work for peace; they'll be known as 'the Children of God.' Happy are those who are persecuted because they're good: the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

"And happy are you when, because of your loyalty to me, you're ostracized and persecuted and slandered. When that happens, exult and leap for joy. You're in good company- the ancestors of your persecutors treated the prophets the same way. What a reward is waiting for you in heaven!

"How happy to own nothing in this world but to own God's kingdom; how sad to be rich and to have had all the comforts you'll ever get. How happy to be hungry and know that your hunger will be satisfied; how sad to be sated and know that you're going to hunger. How happy in your sorrow to know the time is coming when you'll laugh; how sad to laugh in the knowledge that sorrow and weeping lie ahead.

"You are to be the world's salt. But remember when the flavor goes from salt it is gone forever, and there is nothing to do but to throw it out.

"You are to be the world's light. But remember, you don't try to hide a city built on the top of a hill nor do you turn on a lamp only to cover it. Instead, you put the lamp on a table so that everyone in the room can see. So it must be with the light that is your life; let it shine! And when people see the good you do they'll praise your heavenly Father.

"Listen to me carefully. I am not here to abolish the Law of Moses or the teaching of the prophets. On the contrary, I've come to bring them to full flower. Let there be no misunderstanding, until the end of time, not an 'i' or the dot over an 'i' is going to be deleted until the Law's purpose has been accomplished. If someone softens even the smallest injunction and so instructs others, that person will rank low in the kingdom. But those who not only teach the Law but practice it will be ranked among the great. And let's get this straight, unless your goodness goes beyond the common practice of the scribes and the Pharisees you won't even get into the kingdom.

"In the Mosaic Law men are told, 'Don't murder.' They are also told that a murderer must stand trial, that if a man shows extreme contempt for a brother he will be accountable to the Council of Elders and that the man who calls down a curse on his brother is liable to the fires of hell. But here is my teaching: I say that if a man is so much as angry at his brother he is in danger of God's judgement. So, if you happen to be in the sanctuary, praying, and remember a grievance someone has against you, postpone your praying and go and get things settled peacefully. Then, back to your worship.

"If you're due in court to answer a complaint, settle out of court as soon as you can. If you don't you may find that the plaintiff has brought you before the judge, and the judge has sentenced you, and the jailer has put you behind bars. You may be sure that you won't get out until you've paid your debt to the last penny.

"In the Law men are told, 'Don't commit adultery.' But here is my teaching: adultery isn't simply a physical act: to lust for a woman is to commit adultery with her in your mind.

"If your right eye leads you astray, get rid of it. If your right hand is the cause, get rid of it. It's better to live with a part of your body missing than to have whole body thrown into hell.

"In the Law men are told that if a man wants to divorce his wife he must give her a certificate to that effect. But here is my teaching: to divorce a woman on any grounds other than unfaithfulness is to make her an adulteress. Not only that, any man who marries a divorced woman is an adulterer.

"In the Law men are told, 'Don't swear falsely in taking an oath and if you swear an oath to God, carry it out.' But here is my teaching: don't swear an oath of any kind. For instance, don't say 'I swear by the earth' -because the earth is God's footstool. Don't say 'I swear by Jerusalem' - because Jerusalem is the City of the Great King. Nor should you swear 'by my head,' because you haven't the power to change the color of a single hair. When you assert something, let your yes be a simple 'yes' and your no a simple 'no.' Anything beyond that has the taint of falsehood.

"In the Law men were told, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But here is my teaching: don't even resist an enemy. If someone hits you on one cheek, present the other. If someone sues you for your shirt, give it to him- and your jacket, too. If someone forces you to go a mile with him, go two. If someone demands something of yours, give it to him. If he wants to borrow from you let him, and if he doesn't return it, don't ask for it.

"In the Law men are told, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But here is my teaching: love your enemies. Be kind to those who hate you and pray for your persecutors. That's the kind of behavior that distinguishes God's family. Doesn't God let his sun shine equally on good and evil men and doesn't he let the rain fall indiscriminately on the honest and the dishonest? Treat others the way you'd like them to treat you. If you love only those who love you, what's commendable about that? Scoundrels do that. If you're only friendly with your friends, what is exceptional about that? The pagans do that. If you lend money only to those who are a good risk, how is that to your credit? The wicked do that. You are to be different. You are to love your enemies, to be good to them, and to lend them money without any assurance that you'll get it back. Do that and what a reward you'll get! Best of all, you'll be sons of the Most High. You see, in the same way that your heavenly Father is perfect you're to be perfect. In the same way that he's merciful you're to be merciful. Your Father is kind even to ingrates and to the grasping.

"Take care not to do your good deeds in such a way as to draw attention to yourself; you could lose the reward your Father has for you. When you help people, do it without fanfare, without that ostentation hypocrites employ to get the admiration of others. The truth is, they've already had all the reward they're going to get. That way is not for you. When you help someone, don't let your left hand know what your right is doing. Keep it secret, and your Father who knows all secrets will reward you.

"Similarly, when you pray, avoid being like the hypocrites who deliberately pray where they'll be conspicuous - standing up in a synagogue and out on the street corner.

The truth is, public attention is all the reward they'll get. That way is not for you. When you pray go into your room, close the door, and pray privately. Keep it secret, and your Father who knows all secrets will reward you.

"When you pray don't repeat an endless stream of mindless phrases. That's what the pagans do. They have the idea that the more they rattle on the better the prayer. That way is not for you. Keep in mind that God is your Father and that he knows what you need before you ask. Pray like this:

Father in heaven,
May your name be revered.
We ask that your kingdom may come
And that your will may be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Grant us what we need for today.
Forgive us the wrongs we've done
Even as we forgive those who have wronged us.
Do not put us to the test,
And save us from the evil one.

"If you forgive others their wrongs," he added, "your heavenly Father will forgive yours. Don't, and he won't.

"Now in the matter of fasting; don't do as the hypocrites do. What a picture of suffering they present, how woebegone they look. It's all to draw attention to the fact that they're fasting, of course, and you can be sure that's all the reward they'll ever get. When you fast, none of that. Wash your face, comb your hair, and keep what you're doing to yourself. Your Father will know, though, and he'll reward you.

"Don't put away your valuables for your old age; moths may get at them, they could rust or be stolen. Things like that don't happen in heaven, so build your fortune there. The things you value most will determine the direction of your life.

"The eye is the lens of the body and if the lens is clear your body will be flooded with light. But if your eye is clouded with greed, the light won't be able to pass through. If where there should be light there is darkness, what a darkness it will be!

"No one can be equally loyal to two masters; his loyalties will conflict. Nor can you live for both almighty God and the almighty dollar. That's why I say, don't spend your time worrying about what you're going to put in your stomach or on your back. Surely there's more to life than food and clothing. Learn something from the birds. Do you see them planting, harvesting, and storing food? But your heavenly Father feeds them doesn't he, and aren't you far more important to him than they are? What's more, fretting won't add one second to your life's span. If you can't manage even that, what's the point of worrying about other things like clothes? Learn from the flowers - those field lilies, for instance. Without effort or skill they're better dressed than King Solomon was, and you know how magnificently dressed he was. If God looks after plant life that well - things that are here today and gone tomorrow - won't he take care of you? How little faith you have!

"So don't waste your time worrying about food and drink and clothing- that's pagan behavior. Your heavenly Father knows full well what you need. Let your primary objective be his kingdom and his goodness, and the other things will come as a matter of course. Don't borrow tomorrow's troubles - deal with tomorrow tomorrow. Today's troubles are trouble enough.

"Don't criticize others and you won't be criticized. Don't condemn others and you won't be. Overlook their faults and you'll be treated in the same manner. God will judge you by the standards you apply to others. Give and you'll get in return, full measure and then some."

Jesus then shifted to teaching through parables. "Can one blind man lead another blind man?" he asked. "Won't they both end up in the ditch? Does a student know more than his teacher? No, but if he completes the course he may know as much. Why are you so concerned about a speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and unconcerned about the plank in your own? The nerve of you, saying to your brother, 'Let me help you get that speck out of your eye,' and there - in your own - is a plank! Hypocrite! Look to yourself first then perhaps you can help others.

"Don't give sacred things to dogs, they'll only turn and attack you. Don't give pearls to pigs, they'll only trample them into the ground.

"Ask and you'll get, search and you'll find, knock and the door will open. The asker will receive, the searcher will find, and the door will open to the man who knocks. I put it to you, you who are fathers: if your son asked you for a piece of bread would you give him a stone? If he said, 'Father, may I have some fish?' would you hand him a snake? Or, let's say he asked you for an egg, would you hand him a scorpion? Well then, if you, sinful as you are, give your children what they ask for, how much more likely that your heavenly Father will give you the Holy Spirit for the asking.

"Let me reduce everything in the Law and the teaching of the prophets to a single sentence. It is this: treat others as you'd like to be treated.

"The gateway to destruction is wide and the road leading to it is broad and thronged with people. The gateway to life is narrow, as is the road leading to it, and not many make it. Go in that way.

"Be on your guard against the teachers of falsehood. You may easily mistake them for sheep when in fact they're ravenous wolves. What gives them away? The way they live. You don't get grapes from a thornbush, nor do you find figs on thistles. You pick good fruit from a good tree; you cut down an unproductive tree and chop it up for firewood. You can tell a good man or a good tree by what each produces.

"Why do you call me 'Lord' and then disobey me? Let it be understood that everybody who calls me 'Lord' isn't necessarily going to heaven. It's a matter of whether or not they obey my father. When the day of judgment comes, all kinds of people will say, 'Didn't we preach about you, sir? Didn't we perform miracles and drive out devils in your name?' And I'll say to them before the entire assembly, 'Go away. You are strangers to me. You’ve been on the side of evil.'

"Let me illustrate the difference between those who live by my teaching and those who don't. Those who practice what I preach show the same kind of sense as the man who excavated until he struck rock and then laid the foundation for his house on that rock. Later, a violent storm came up, and although the flood waters swept against the house and the winds howled about it, it stood unshaken. It had been well built on a solid foundation. Those who pay no attention to what I say are as foolish as the man who was indifferent to the need for a solid foundation and built his house on sand. When the storm came, his house was swept away and wrecked."

When he finished, the crowd stood about in awe because, unlike the teaching of the scribes, his words had the ring of authority.

When Jesus came down the mountain he was followed by an enormous crowd. A man, grotesque with leprosy, ran to him and fell to his knees in front of him.

"Sir," he said, "if you want to you can heal me." Jesus reached out and put a hand on him. "I want to," he said. "You’re healed."

In a flash the disease was gone. Jesus spoke to him very firmly. "You're to leave now," he said, "and you're to tell nobody what's happened. One exception: go to the priest and make the offering Moses prescribed as a proof to the people. Away you go now."

The man left but he paid no attention to what he had been told. He talked about his cure to everyone he met. As a consequence it became virtually impossible for Jesus to go into a town. Even though he stayed out in the country, his growing fame caused people to flock to him from everywhere in the area, and he could only find the privacy to pray by going to the desert.

(3)   In Luke's account, the place is described as a plain, or "a level place."

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