Topic 6: The Sermon On The Mount




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Topic 6: The Sermon On The Mount
The Sermon on the Mount 2-1

Lesson Time: 10 periods (1 hour each)


Main Points:

  1. The Background of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 4:23-5:2)

  2. The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12)

  3. To be Salt and Light of the World (Matthew 5:13-16)

  4. The Six Antitheses (1) (Matthew 5:17-48)

  5. The Six Antitheses (2) (Matthew 5:17-48)

  6. Emphasis on True Piety (Matthew 6:1-18)

  7. Attitude towards Life (1): Riches in Heaven (Matthew 6:19-24)

  8. Attitude towards Life (2): Do not Worry about Life (Matthew 6:25-34)

  9. The Golden Rule (Matthew 7:1-12)

  10. Three Warnings (Matthew 7:13-29)

Text Interpretation:


When Jesus began his ministry, he aimed to remind people to be alert and to renew themselves. So he preached and told people to turn away from sins because the Kingdom of Heaven was near. After that, in his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explained to people about the life of the Kingdom of heaven, the kind of life with God as the centre.
The Sermon on the Mount referred to Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 5-7, in which Jesus made a brief explanation of the meaning of Kingdom of heaven and the qualities and lives of its people. According to the descriptions in Matthew, the time Jesus preached the Sermon should be within the first half of his ministry in Galilee, or in the first year of his three-year ministry. At that time, Jesus no longer confined himself to teach in the synagogues, but went around preaching. Meanwhile, the hostility of the Jewish religious leaders towards Jesus had not risen yet.

The Sermon on the Mount 2-2


In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus introduced a God-centred model of living. Some Jewish religious leaders at Jesus’ times advocated strict yet superficial compliance to the Mosaic Law. In contrast, Jesus taught that happiness could neither be attained by acquiring wealth or status nor by being pious. Even if one offered help to the poor ones and practised the rituals, he/she would be considered self-centred if he/she followed the Law just to avoid being punished and to receive praises.

The key to true happiness is to live a life with God being the centre of it. People should have faith in God that He will provide us what we need and will make plans for us. They should also pursue spiritual qualities, such as compassion, endurance and humbleness etc. Jesus called those who lived a God-centred life as the salt and light of the world. They would contribute themselves as the salt preserving the world and as the light vitalising people. They would learn to follow God and love others as themselves according to the Golden Rule.



In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus emphasised that his preaching aimed not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it. While the Law concerned more about people’s religious behaviour on the outside, the people of the Kingdom of Heaven concerned about the spirit of the Law. It is a new requirement for the people to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
At last, Jesus encouraged people to practise what he preached and reminded people that the path to eternal life would be narrow. People had to endure sufferings, opposition and persecution to attain true happiness.
The Background of the Sermon on the Mount Teacher’s Guide 2-1



  1. Biblical reference: Matthew 4:23-5: 2




  1. Objectives:

  • To learn about the political, social and religious life situations of the Jews in Jesus’ times, so as to understand the different expectations of happy life cherished by different Jewish sects.

  • To contrast the expectations of happy life of different Jewish sects with that of Jesus.

  • To build a framework based on the background information learnt in this period, for understanding Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount.

  1. Teaching strategies

Introduction

  • During Jesus’ times, the Jews lost control over political and religious matters because their country was defeated and they were ruled by foreign powers for several hundreds years. The Jews understood that their hope for happy life hinged on the coming of the Messiah sent by God. Only the promised Messiah would overturn the foreign rule, helping them regain their autonomy and rebuilding their own country.

Issues for Explorations

  • What is a happy life?

Enquiry Questions


  • What is a happy life?

  • What were the expectations of a happy life among different Jewish sects during Jesus’ times?

  • How did Jesus interpret a happy life? How was his interpretation different from those of the Jewish sects?

Learning Activities


  • By reading the mottos of some famous people and the policy platforms for the Chief Executive Election, explore the qualities of the happy life that people pursue nowadays.

  • By learning about the political, social and religious situations of the Jews during Jesus’ times, analyse the expectations of a happy life of different Jewish sects.

The Background of the Sermon on the Mount Teacher’s Guide 2-2







  • Through group discussion, contrast the expectations of a happy life of different Jewish sects with that of Jesus.

Key Concepts

  • Happy life

Generic Skills, Values and Attitudes involved

  • Refer to the ‘Generic Skills, Values and Attitudes’ tables included in the corresponding activities.

High-order Questions

  • What would a happy life be under religious guidance?

Extended Activities

  • Understand and analyse the expectations of a happy life among various social classes and organisations in Hong Kong.

The Background of the Sermon on the Mount Activity One 2-1


Activity One




Enquiry Questions

Generic Skills

Values and Attitudes

What is a happy life?

Creativity, critical thinking skills, collaboration skills, communication skills, problem solving skills

Truth, liberty, human dignity, common good


Teaching Steps:

Step 1: Teacher asks:

  • Teacher discusses with students: What is a happy life?

  • Teacher shows PowerPoint 1 (What is happiness? Quotations from Celebrities)

  • Teacher asks students to choose a quotation they agree or disagree the most and share their views.


Step 2: Teacher carries out the “Life with 100% Happiness” activity with students. Let them explore Hong Kong people’s expectations of a happy life:

  • Teacher shows PowerPoint 2 (Life with 100% Happiness?) and distributes the policy platform of Alan Leong (http://www.competitionforce.hk/policy_eng.php). Briefly introduce Alan Leong’s policy platform for the Chief Executive Election.

  • Teacher asks: What are Hong Kong people’s expectations of a happy life as revealed in the policy platform of Alan Leong?

  • Teacher divides students into groups of four and asks each group to draft a simple policy platform introducing ways to bring Hong Kong people a happy life.

  • Ask each group to report their platform to the whole class. Teacher may summarise students’ understanding of Hong Kong people’s expectations of a happy life from their drafts.


Step 3: Teacher goes further to discuss with students:

  • Is happiness a kind of luck or something that has to be pursuit or one will never get it?

  • Is happiness determined by inner spirituality or easily affected by external factors such as power forces and social traditions?

  • During the process of pursuing happiness, what and who will you concern about?

The Background of the Sermon on the Mount Activity One 2-2
Step 4: Teacher summarises:

  • People with various cultural backgrounds in different times have diverse understandings of happiness and so do Hong Kong people.

  • What were the Jews’ expectations of a happy life in Jesus’ times?


The Background of the Sermon on the Mount Activity Two 2-1




Activity Two




Enquiry Questions

Generic Skills

Values and Attitudes

What were the expectations of a happy life among different Jewish sects during Jesus’ times?

Creativity, critical thinking skills, collaboration skills, communication skills, problem solving skills

Truth, liberty, human dignity, common good


Teaching Steps:

Step 1: Teacher shows PowerPoint 3 (Political, Social and Religious Situations of the Jews in Jesus’ Times), or distributes Students’ Reference: Material 1 (Political, Social and Religious Situations of the Jews in Jesus’ Times) to help students understand the background of Jesus’ times.
Step 2: Teacher points out:

  • The Jews had been under foreign rule for a long time. In Jesus’ times, the Jews under the rule of Romans had different expectations of a happy life.


Step 3: Teacher carries out ‘The Jews’ Expectations of Happy Life’ activity with students:

  • Teacher divides students into groups of four, and distributes Students’ Reference: Material 2 (Expectations of Happy Life among Different Jewish Sects in Jesus’ Times) to let students have a basic understanding of the contents.

  • Teacher hands out Worksheet 1 (Understanding of Happy Life among Different Jewish Sects in Jesus’ Times) to the groups. Based on the information on Students’ Reference: Material 2, guide students to deduce (1) who was supposed to be happy according to different Jewish sects, and (2) their ways of achieving happiness.

  • After students finish Worksheet 1, teacher invites students to present their ideas. Teacher then briefly explains the answers on Teachers’ Reference: Appendix 1 [Suggested Answers for Worksheet 1 (Understanding of Happy Life among Different Jewish Sects in Jesus’ Times)] and wraps up the activity.


Step 4: Teacher goes further to discuss with students:

  • If you lived in Jesus’ times, what kind of life would the Jews expect you to live? Explain.

The Background of the Sermon on the Mount Activity Two 2-2


  • Among the different expectations of happy life of the Jews, which of them were worth pursuing? Why?

  • Among the different ways of pursuing happiness suggested by the Jews, which of them were worth learning? What were the merits of these ways?


Step 5: Teacher summarises:

  • The Jews had experienced the downfall of their country and had been taken captive for around 400 years. Since the Jews were ruled by foreign powers during that period, they longed for liberty and independence.

  • The Jews’ expectations of a happy life were closely related to the political, social, and religious background at that time.

  • Different Jewish sects had diverse expectations of happiness due to their distinct social positions. Each of these Jewish sects pursued distinctive satisfaction in political and religious life under the Roman rule.

The Background of the Sermon on the Mount Activity Three 2-1




Activity Three




Enquiry Questions

Generic Skills

Values and Attitudes

How did Jesus interpret a happy life? How was his interpretation different from those of the Jewish sects?

Creativity, critical thinking skills, collaboration skills, communication skills, problem solving skills

Truth, liberty, human dignity, common good, caring


Teaching Steps:

Step 1: Teacher points out:

  • Different Jewish sects had diverse expectations and understandings of happiness.

  • Similarly, Jesus had his own understanding of happiness.


Step 2: Teacher asks:

  • How did Jesus interpret a happy life? What are the differences between the expectations of a happy life at Jesus’ times and at present?


Step 3: Teacher carries out the ‘Different to Each Other’ activity. Ask students to compare and contrast Jesus’ understandings of a happy life with that of the Jews at that time.

  • Teacher hands out Students’ Reference: Material 3 (Jesus’ Understanding of a Happy Life) and introduces Jesus’ understanding of a happy life to students.

  • Teacher divides students into groups of four and hands out Worksheet 2 (Compare and Contrast Jesus’ Understanding of a Happy Life with that of the Jews). Ask the groups to compare the contents of Students’ Reference: Material 2 with those of Material 3 and to finish Worksheet 2. Let students discuss the differences of the understanding of a happy life among Jesus and different Jewish sects.

  • Teacher invites students to present their views. Refer to and briefly explains Teachers’ Reference: Appendix 2 [Suggested Answers for Worksheet 2 (Compare and Contrast Jesus’ Understanding of a Happy Life with that of the Jews)], and wraps up the activity.


Step 4: Teacher goes further to discuss with students:

  • Is happiness a kind of luck or something that has to be pursuit or one will never get it?

  • Is happiness determined by inner spirituality or easily affected by external factors such as power forces and social traditions?

The Background of the Sermon on the Mount Activity Three 2-2




  • Is happiness more about the interests of a community or the interests of the entire mankind?

  • How would you comment on Jesus’ understanding of a happy life?


Step 5: Teacher summarises:

  • In the past, Jesus taught the disciples on a mount and preached about living a happy life. It was known as ‘the Sermon on the Mount’. Jesus wished the Jews could improve their religious life and the relationship with God, so as to enjoy freedom and live a happy life.

  • Jesus believed that people should take the initiative to pursuit a happy life, which was a matter of spiritual contentment that could benefit the entire mankind.

  • We will study the Sermon on the Mount in details in the coming lessons. We will try to understand the specific contents of a happy life according to Jesus and find out the values of Jesus’ teachings to people nowadays.




The Background of the Sermon on the Mount Extended Activities


Extended Activities:


  1. Teacher asks students to read some newspapers and magazines and to look for different kind of a happy lives expected by the following social classes and organisations in Hong Kong:

    1. The working class

    2. The middle class

    3. The upper class

    4. A religious organisation




  1. With reference to Worksheet 2, teacher asks students to use the three guidelines [(1) whether happiness is affected by the environment/pursued by oneself; (2) whether happiness is affected by external factor such as power and social traditions/ spirituality; (3) whether happiness should concern more about national interests/the interests of the entire mankind] to analyse and organise the contents of happy life they have pursued.



The Background of the Sermon on the Mount Teacher’s References Material 1 2-1


Material 1: The Kingdom of Heaven and the Kingdom of God


  1. The Kingdom of Heaven(the Kingdom of God):

The Kingdom of Heaven is also called the Kingdom of God, meaning the place where God’s power is manifested. The term ‘the Kingdom of Heaven’ was used in the Gospel of Matthew since its target readers, the Jews, were used to this term. ‘The Kingdom of God’ was used in the Gospels of Mark and Luke since Jews were not the primary readers of these two gospels.
2. Comparison between Jesus’ and the Jewish ideas of the Kingdom of Heaven:

Jesus’ idea of the Kingdom of Heaven

The Jewish idea of the Kingdom of Heaven

    • The Kingdom of Heaven is a territory where God has sovereignty. It is spiritual;

    • The Kingdom of heaven is the grace of God. People can enter it for free;

    • The Kingdom of Heaven is a gift to all people, including both good and bad people, the Jews and the Gentiles, the despised and the sinners. People can decide whether they want to accept it;

    • To enter the Kingdom of heaven is the most important thing in one’s life.

    • At that time, the Jews believed that God would send the Messiah to rescue the Israelites from foreign rule. Therefore, the Jewish idea of the Kingdom of Heaven:

    • It was a political issue;

    • Only those who observed God’s laws and lived a holy and righteous life would be elected to be its members.

3. Comparison between Jesus’ and John the Baptist’s ideas of the Kingdom of Heaven:



Jesus’ idea of

the Kingdom of Heaven



John the Baptist’s idea of

the Kingdom of heaven



    • Jesus highlighted that the Kingdom of Heaven means God’s salvation.

    • Jesus preached that the Kingdom of Heaven is not something that will appear in the future. Rather, it had already been manifested in him and his works.

    • John the Baptist preached, ‘the Kingdom of Heaven is near’. He emphasised that God’s judgment is coming, and the axe is already at the root of the trees.

    • God will come in as King. He will cleanse, screen, choose and judge all people. Nobody can escape from His judgment.

The Background of the Sermon on the Mount Teacher’s References Material 1 2-2


  1. Jesus’ message of the Kingdom of Heaven can be interpreted in the following ways:

    • The Kingdom of Heaven has already come to earth:

Jesus preached, ‘The Kingdom of God is near!’ (Mark 1:15) He took up the ministry, lived according to God’s will, and resisted temptations and defeated the devil successfully. He had proven to people that the Kingdom of Heaven has come to earth.

Jesus used the Parable of the Mustard Seed to describe the characteristics of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed scattered on the ground. At first, it is hidden and cannot be seen. But it will sprout and grow unknowingly, and become a fruitful tree eventually. (Mark 4:26-29; 30-34)

    • The Kingdom of heaven has not completely come:

Jesus’ followers tried hard to follow God’s will and be the salt and light of the world. They encouraged others to do the same as well. Yet the Kingdom of Heaven has not completely come to earth. Thus, good and evil, justice and injustice, freedom and bondage still coexist in this world.

    • The Kingdom of Heaven will only be completely realised in the future:

The Kingdom of Heaven will be completely realised on earth when Jesus returns. At that time, all people will no longer be sinful and they will follow God’s will. All goodness on earth will then be restored. (Mark14:22-25).


References:

  1. 吳羅瑜編:《聖經新辭典,上冊》,(香港:天道書樓,1997),(頁10-11)。

  2. 馬潔萍、譚美兒、廖凱怡(1994)︰《同創新天地︰基督的使命─第四冊學生本》,(香港:宗教教育出版社),(頁72)。

  3. “Kingdom of God,” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. (http://www.studylight.org/enc/isb/)

The Background of the Sermon on the Mount Teacher’s References Material 2
Material 2: Jesus’ Understanding of Happy Life
Jesus’ understanding of a happy life:

    • People who can enjoy happiness: the entire mankind.

    • Spiritual renewal:

    • To rebuild the relationship with God;

    • To desire for the change of heart by God,

    • To act according to God’s will.

    • The way to achieve happiness:

    • To regard God as the centre of our life;

    • To rebuild the relationship with God;

    • To follow the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount;

    • To believe in God’s care; love and respect others.

The Background of the Sermon on the Mount Teacher’s References Material 3 2-1

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