Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

7.1 The Radicalization of the Torah: Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount

7.1.1 Introduction

On the Format of the Sermon on the Mount:

The Gospel comes before the law:

*You are…

The Beatitudes  (The Gospel)

Salt and Light 

*I am…

The fulfillment of the law: Mt 5:17

*You should/should not… (“Antitheses”)

-kill (Ethics)

-commit adultery

-give oaths


-love your enemies

Giving alms (Piety)

Prayer (Our Father)



-judge (Ethics)

Prayer (piety) 



Golden Rule as a summary (Ethics)

False Prophets

Doing God’s will rather than just talking (Ethics)


The Sermon on the Mount goes beyond the Ten Commandments in 4 primary ways: 

  1. Jesus full authority: But I say unto you….
  2. Radicalization: Even when you only (look, anger, etc)
  3. God’s Original Will rather than the atomization of the Torah
  4. Fulfilment of the Torah (Mt 5:17)

Jesus radicalizes unbelievably: 5:21 on the topic of killing: who isn’t a murder under those criteria?

5:27: on adultery: who isn’t an adulterer under this formulation?

5:33: on oaths: who isn’t an oathbreaker?


Out of the easy “fence of freedom” Jesus makes the unfulfillable will of God, but differentiates between the sin, which he condemns, and the sinner, who he affirms. 

Many evangelical churches see the ban on divorce as being unfulfillable. The catholic church regards it as being valid and in force. However one decides: we are all dependent on forgiveness. 

The cause of this incredible radicalization is the recourse to the original will of God: “but it was not this way from the beginning.” (Matt 19:8). The Son is closer to the heart of the Father than the custodians of the law and Jesus teaches with incredible authority (Matt 7:28 and following). The recourse to the original intent God can in contrast also lead to a liberalization of the Torah: “The Sabbath was made for man.” (Mark 2:27). 

Quite different is the end of the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 7:12) when Jesus cites the Golden Rule as a popular summary of ethics. However, be cautious with drawing conclusions about Jesus! He seems to have been quoting a well known saying as an ethical minimal consensus rather than summarizing his demands for us. 


On individual Commandments:



Jesus goes far beyond the 7th commandment. Jesus forbids all swearing, not just false oaths

A Because of the holiness of God’s name 

B Because the oath implies that one’s normal word may not be trustworthy

Jesus calls for honesty in daily life. 

A paradoxical situation has been created here: a Christian minister can be recognized because they conclude their legal or ministerial oaths with “so God help me.” Should he even be using the word “God” in this context?!


Children are often unintentionally trained to lie when parents immediately punish the honest answer to the question “did you do that?” The learning effect here is obvious: honesty is punished. Next time, the child will lie more cleverly. 

Honesty at the Sickbed: 

The supposed conflict between honesty and being loving at the bedside of a severely ill person is in reality, only a mock conflict. The sick person often knows, deep down, far more than we think they do. The lesson that person would learn from an untrue statement by their pastor would be: even the pastor lies to me or talks around the truth. It is vital to stick with the truth but always to leave space for hope. Giving up hope is also silly from a medical perspective: there are some examples of people recovering even though all doctors had given up. 

Truth is emphasized even more heavily in John’s gospel: truth is more than just being right or a platonic idea. Jesus himself is the truth. We either belong to the sphere of truth or to the sphere of lies (the sphere of the bad). There is no middle way here: whoever lies distances themselves from Jesus and moves to the sphere of bad. 

16:4 I am the way, the truth, and the light 

8:32 You will know the truth and the truth will set you free. 

3:21 Whoever lives by the truth comes into the light 

18:37 Everyone on the side of truth listens to me 

17:17 Sanctify them by the truth: your word is truth 


Subproblem: Secrecy

One might think “better too much secrecy than too little!” Especially in “living” churches, the walls are thin and there is a lot of chatter. The Seal of the Confessional is the inner circle of secrecy and is sacrosanct. It is protected legally in most countries. 

Avoiding gossip or excessive chattiness is one of the best practices in this regard. It was one of the major themes of the Desert Fathers. 

Additionally, it is important to add unburdening practices for pastoral care teams carrying the weight of other people’s confessions.

For example, at the end of a team prayer, symbolically laying them down at the altar or the cross. 


Ban on Retribution: Matt 5:38-42

The ban on retribution is closely associated with the 

Ban on Judging Matt 7:1-

Reason: God alone is the Judge who judges and hands down a verdict John 8:1-10