The Background of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 4:23-5:2)
The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12)
To be Salt and Light of the World (Matthew 5:13-16)
The Six Antitheses (1) (Matthew 5:17-48)
The Six Antitheses (2) (Matthew 5:17-48)
Emphasis on True Piety (Matthew 6:1-18)
Attitude towards Life (1): Riches in Heaven (Matthew 6:19-24)
Attitude towards Life (2): Do not Worry about Life (Matthew 6:25-34)
The Golden Rule (Matthew 7:1-12)
Three Warnings (Matthew 7:13-29)
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
Biblical reference: Matthew 4:23-5: 2
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.
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.
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
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
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.