Jesus’ Sermon on the Hillside
1One day Jesus saw a vast crowd of people gathering to hear him, so he went up the slope of a hill and sat down. With his followers and disciples spread over the hillside, 2Jesus began to teach them: # 5:2 It should be noted that Matt. 5–7, commonly known as the Sermon on the Mount, is the messianic Torah (law or teaching) and the Constitution of the kingdom of heaven. Jesus begins with giving his followers a superior way to live than the Ten Commandments of Moses. It is a superior version of all that God expects and provides for those who yield to him. Jesus gives us more than laws; he gives us promises of power to fulfill all that he asks of us. The emphasis is not on outward duty but on the inward transformation of our hearts by grace. God’s kingdom is offered to those who will learn the ways of Christ and offer themselves to him in full surrender.
3“What happiness comes to you # 5:3 Or, “Blessed are they.” The Aramaic word toowayhon means “enriched, happy, fortunate, delighted, blissful, content, blessed.” Our English word blessed can indeed fit here, but toowayhon implies more—great happiness, prosperity, abundant goodness, and delight! The word bliss captures all of this meaning. Toowayhon means to have the capacity to enjoy union and communion with God. Because the meaning of the word goes beyond merely being “blessed,” this translation uses different phrases for each of the Beatitudes. Verses 3–10 are presented with third-person pronouns; however, it is not abstract truth, but spoken directly to Jesus’ disciples. This is why the translation is in the second person. The implication of this verse is that the poor in spirit have only one remedy, and that is trusting in God. This total reliance upon God is the doorway into the kingdom realm. Notice the obvious parallel between Isa. 61:1–2 and these “beatitudes.” when you feel your spiritual poverty! # 5:3 Or, “humble in spirit,” or, “poor in spirit,” which means to be humble and totally dependent upon God for everything. It is synonymous with “pious” or “saintly,” not just in the sense of those who possess nothing. It could be translated “Delighted are those who have surrendered completely to God and trust only in him.” See also Isa. 41:17; 57:15; 66:2. For yours is the realm of heaven’s kingdom.
4“What delight comes to you when you wait upon the Lord! # 5:4 As translated from the Hebrew Matthew. (See also Ps. 27:14.) The Greek is “mourn (grieve).” The Hebrew word for “wait” and for “mourn” is almost identical. For you will find what you long for. # 5:4 As translated from the Aramaic word for comfort, nethbayoon, which can mean “to see the face of what (or who) you long for.” The Greek is “They shall be comforted.”
5“What blessing comes to you when gentleness # 5:5 Or “meekness.” Jesus is saying that when you claim nothing as yours, everything will be given to you. The Aramaic word, makeekheh, implies being both gentle and flexible. lives in you! For you will inherit the earth. # 5:5 See Pss. 37:11; 149:4.
6“How enriched you are when you crave righteousness! # 5:6 Or “goodness” or “justice.” For you will be satisfied. # 5:6 See Ps. 11:3–7; Zeph. 2:3.
7“How blessed you are when you demonstrate tender mercy! # 5:7 Or “merciful to forgive.” The Hebraic and Aramaic concept of mercy is that it comes from our innermost being. The root word for “mercy” is the root word for “womb.” See 2 Sam. 22:26; Ps. 18:25; Prov. 14:21; James 2:13. For tender mercy will be demonstrated to you.
8“What bliss you experience when your heart is pure! # 5:8 Or “when your heart is full of innocence.” See Pss. 15:1–2; 24:4; 51:10. For then your eyes will open to see more and more of God. # 5:8 The Aramaic word used for “see” is nahzon and can be translated either in the present tense (“They see God”) or the future tense (“They will see God”). The Greek is “They will progressively see God.” See also Ps. 17:15.
9“How joyful you are when you make peace! For then you will be recognized as a true child of God. # 5:9 See Pss. 72:3–7; 122:8–9; Isa. 26:12.
10“How enriched you are when persecuted # 5:10 The Aramaic is “being rejected.” for doing what is right! # 5:10 See Ps. 38:20; Isa. 66:5; Acts 5:41; 1 Peter 3:14. The Hebrew Matthew is “for the Righteous One.” For then you experience the realm of heaven’s kingdom.
11“How blessed you are when people insult # 5:11 The Aramaic is “criticize you” (1 Peter 3:14; Acts 5:41). The Hebrew Matthew is “for the Righteous One.” and persecute you and speak all kinds of cruel lies about you because of your love for me! # 5:11 See Ps. 119:85–87. We are to live in such a way that people have to lie when they speak evil of a believer in Christ. 12So leap for joy—since your heavenly reward is great. For you are being rejected the same way the prophets were before you.
13“Your lives are like salt among the people. But if you, like salt, become bland, how can your ‘saltiness’ be restored? Flavorless salt is good for nothing # 5:13 Or “Salt that has lost its flavor is foolish.” Both Greek and Aramaic use a word that can mean either “good for nothing” or “foolish.” If salt that has lost its flavor is foolish, then salt that keeps its flavor is wise. Rabbinical literature equates salt with wisdom. After speaking of salt, Jesus speaks of lighting a lamp. It was a common practice in the time of Jesus to put salt on the wick of a lamp to increase its brightness. The “salt” of wisdom will make our lights shine even brighter. (Eduard Schweizer, The Good News According to Matthew, Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1975. W. A. Elwell and P. W. Comfort, Tyndale Bible Dictionary, Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House, Tyndale reference library, 2001, Lamp, Lampstand. 797–8.) and will be thrown out and trampled on by others.
14“Your lives light up the world. For how can you hide a city that stands on a hilltop? # 5:14 See Isa. 49:6. 15And who would light a lamp and then hide it in an obscure place? # 5:15 Or “under a basket.” Instead, it’s placed where everyone in the house can benefit from its light. 16So don’t hide your light! # 5:16 The Aramaic word for “light” (noohra) is often used as a metaphor for teachings that bring enlightenment and revelation into the hearts of men. Light can also represent the presence of God (“the light of his countenance”). Jesus is the light of God within us. Let it shine brightly before others, so that your commendable works # 5:16 Light and works are intertwined. We need the light of Christ in order to do good works. Our good works are like light shining upon their hearts. will shine as light upon them, and then they will give their praise to your Father in heaven.”
Fulfillment of the Law
17“If you think I’ve come to set aside the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets, you’re mistaken. I have come to bring to perfection all that has been written. 18Indeed, I assure you, as long as heaven and earth endure, not even the smallest detail # 5:18 Or “not even one letter or even a part of the letter of the law.” of the Law will be done away with until its purpose is complete. # 5:18 Or “All its teachings come true.” 19So whoever violates # 5:19 Or “whoever loosens” (diminishes). even the least important of the commandments, # 5:19 Or “these implanted goals.” and teaches others to do so, will be called least in heaven’s kingdom. But whoever obeys them and teaches their truths to others will be called great in heaven’s kingdom. 20For I tell you, unless your lives are more pure and full of integrity # 5:20 Or “your deeds of righteousness.” than the religious scholars # 5:20 Or “scribes,” who were considered to be the expert theologians of the Scriptures. and the Pharisees, you will never enter heaven’s kingdom.”
21“You’re familiar with the commandment taught to those of old: ‘Do not murder or you will be judged.’ # 5:21 See Ex. 20:13; Deut. 5:17. 22But I’m telling you, if you hold anger in your heart # 5:22 Some manuscripts add, “without a cause.” See 1 John 3:15. Both Aramaic and Hebrew Matthew read “if you provoke a fellow believer to anger,” or “if you cause offense to the spirit of your brother.” toward a fellow believer, you are subject to judgment. # 5:22 The implication is that you would be judged as a murderer. Anger and murder are equally odious in God’s eyes. Angry words kill. And whoever demeans and insults # 5:22 The Aramaic is raca and can mean “spittle” or “lunatic.” It is a word that could imply calling a fellow believer demon-possessed. The Greek is “worthless fool, imbecile.” a fellow believer is answerable to the congregation. # 5:22 Or “council” (Sanhedrin). And whoever calls down curses upon a fellow believer # 5:22 Or “whoever calls him a worthless fool.” It is a word that could imply calling a fellow believer demon-possessed. is in danger of being sent to a fiery hell. # 5:22 Or “the Gehenna of fire.” Gehenna, which was an actual place where garbage was burned outside of Jerusalem, became a figure of speech for hell in the days of Jesus. It used to be the site of child sacrifice to the god Molech. See 2 Chron. 33:6.
23“So then, if you are presenting a gift before the altar and suddenly you remember a quarrel you have with a fellow believer, 24leave your gift there in front of the altar and go at once to apologize to the one who is offended. Then, after you have reconciled, # 5:24 A true heart of repentance means attempting to heal severed relationships, not just empty words. come to the altar and present your gift. 25It is always better to come to terms with the one who wants to sue you before you go to trial, or you may be found guilty by the judge, and he will hand you over to the officers, who will throw you into prison. 26Believe me, you won’t get out of prison until you have paid the full amount!”
27“Your ancestors have been taught, ‘Never commit adultery.’ # 5:27 See Ex. 20:14. 28However, I say to you, if you look with lust in your eyes at a woman who is not your wife, you’ve already committed adultery in your heart. # 5:28 The Aramaic is speaking of more than adultery with a married woman; it uses the word for any sex act outside of marriage. Jesus elevates the standard of righteousness. He is holy, and when he comes to live within the believer, his holiness is the fulfillment of what God requires of us. 29If your right eye seduces you to fall into sin, # 5:29 The Greek word skandalizo means to “entice to sin,” “offend,” or “set a trap.” then go blind in your right eye! # 5:29 Or “pluck out your eye and throw it away.” For you’re better off losing sight in one eye than to have your whole body thrown into hell. 30And if your right hand entices you to sin, let it go limp and useless! # 5:30 Or “cut it off and throw it away.” Verses 29 and 30 use obvious hyperbole to help us understand how intent we must be to guard our lives from sin. For you’re better off losing a part of your body than to have it all thrown into hell. # 5:30 Jesus is using an obvious figure of speech when he instructs us to “pluck out” our eyes or “cut off” our hands. The metaphor is clear: we are to end every evil habit that will lead us to destruction.
31“It has been said, ‘Whoever divorces # 5:31 In this verse and in v. 32 the Greek word for divorce (apolyo) can also mean “to loose,” “to dismiss,” “to send away.” his wife must give her legal divorce papers.’ # 5:31 See Deut. 24:1. By serving her divorce papers, a husband was required to return his wife’s dowry. The divorced woman would then leave his house and receive back her dowry. 32However, I say to you, if anyone divorces his wife for any reason, except for infidelity, he causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced # 5:32 The Aramaic can be translated “whoever marries a woman who is separated and not divorced.” woman commits adultery.”
33“Again, your ancestors were taught, ‘Never swear an oath that you don’t intend to keep, # 5:33 That is, don’t perjure yourself. but keep your vows to the Lord God.’ # 5:33 See Lev. 19:12; Isa. 66:1. 34However, I say to you, don’t bind yourself by taking an oath at all. Don’t swear by heaven, for heaven is where God’s throne is placed. # 5:34 In the days of Jesus and in the Middle Eastern cultural setting of Israel, taking oaths and swearing by something greater than oneself was a common practice. Jesus’ words trump culture and our bondage to doing things according to the expected norms of society. He instructs us to be faithful and true with our words. 35Don’t swear an oath by the earth, because it is the rug under God’s feet, # 5:35 As translated from the Aramaic. The Greek is “his footstool.” and not by Jerusalem, because it is the city of the Great King. # 5:35 See Ps. 48:2. 36And why would you swear by your own head, because it’s not in your power to turn a single hair white or black? But just let your words ring true. # 5:36 Our words must be fulfilled by actions. All four things Jesus mentioned were considered sacred to the Jewish people—heaven, earth, Jerusalem, and a person’s head. But Jesus teaches us that words of truth make our lives sacred. See James 5:12. 37A simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ will suffice. Anything beyond this springs from a deceiver. # 5:37 As translated from the Aramaic. See Eccl. 5:4–7.
38“Your ancestors have also been taught, ‘Take an eye in exchange for an eye and a tooth in exchange for a tooth.’ # 5:38 See Ex. 21:24. 39However, I say to you, don’t repay an evil act with another evil act. # 5:39 As translated from Hebrew Matthew. The Greek is “Do not resist evil (or evil doer).” But whoever insults you by slapping you on the right cheek, turn the other to him as well. # 5:39 That is, simply stand and take it without responding in return with violence. In the cultural setting of the days of Jesus, to slap someone was the greatest insulting physical blow you could give a person. It is better to respond with kindness. This robs the oppressor of his ability to humiliate. See Prov. 15:1; 24:29; Isa. 50:6; Lam. 3:30. 40If someone is determined to sue you for your coat, give him the shirt off your back as a gift in return. 41And should people in authority take advantage of you, do more than what they demand. # 5:41 “If someone forces you to go a mile with him, go two.” This is in reference to the Roman authorities, who often compelled the Jewish men to carry their heavy items for them. In v. 40 we are challenged to give up our rights, in v. 41 to surrender our freedom, and in v. 42 to surrender our prosperity. 42Learn to generously share what you have with those who ask for help, and don’t close your heart to the one who comes to borrow from you.” # 5:42 The Aramaic can be “If someone wants to benefit from you, do not stop him.” In the agrapha sayings of Jesus, as quoted by early church fathers, an additional line is found here that reads, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” See also Acts 20:35.
Love Your Enemies
43“Your ancestors have also been taught ‘Love your neighbors # 5:43 The Aramaic is “your relatives.” This phrase is found in the Torah; the following phrase is from oral tradition. See Lev. 19:18. and hate the one who hates you.’ 44However, I say to you, love your enemy, bless the one who curses you, do something wonderful for the one who hates you, # 5:44 As translated from the Aramaic. The previous two clauses are not found in some reliable Greek manuscripts. and respond to the very ones who persecute you by praying for them. 45For that will reveal your identity as children of your heavenly Father. He is kind to all by bringing the sunrise to warm and rainfall to refresh whether a person does what is good or evil. 46What reward do you deserve if you only love the loveable? Don’t even the tax collectors # 5:46 The Hebrew Matthew is “transgressors.” do that? 47How are you any different from others if you limit your kindness # 5:47 Or “ask for the peace of your brothers” (Hebrew Matthew and Aramaic). only to your friends? Don’t even the ungodly # 5:47 Or “gentiles” (who worship other gods). do that? 48Since you are children of a perfect Father in heaven, become perfect # 5:48 The Greek and Aramaic words for “perfect” can also mean “whole, complete, fully mature, lacking nothing, all-inclusive, well rounded, and spiritually mature.” like him.”