The Beatitudes: Building a City on a Hill


The beatitudes are among the best loved and least understood of Jesus’ sayings. Up to this point, Matthew has laid the foundation for his overarching theme: Jesus is true Israel. In his life and ministry, Jesus is reliving the story of Israel, succeeding everywhere she failed, thus fulfilling her calling and destiny. As Israel was called out of Egypt, Jesus was called out of Egypt; as Israel was tempted in the wilderness, so Jesus was tempted in the wilderness; as Moses was on the mountain forty days without food or water, so Jesus was forty days without food or water. And now, just as Moses gave the law to Israel at Mt Sinai, so Jesus will give the law to his disciples at a mountain, and hence it is called the sermon on the mount. In this sermon, Jesus combines elements of Mt Sinai and of Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy means “second law,” and it is where Moses taught the law to Israel in a series of sermons, explaining exactly what the law meant, what God was really looking for, as well as the blessings that would come if Israel kept the law and the curses that would come if she did not. Even so, Jesus here preaches a sermon in which he explains the law, what it really means, what God is really looking for, as well as the blessings and curses that would attend obedience and disobedience. Jesus opens the way Moses did, by emphasizing the blessings God promises to his children. God’s children under God’s blessing before the watching world. Jesus is building a glorious city on a hill. That is what the beatitudes are all about. I hope you enjoy the sermon. Thanks for listening. –Alan Burrow

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