“Sitting on the Mountainside” Studies in The Sermon on the Mount

Day 1: “Crowds” 08.01.18

Matthew 5:1-2 (NIV) 1 Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them…

This makes perfect sense. Why were crowds following Jesus? Why would you follow him if you lived in the first century AD? Let’s pretend to be some of those people in the crowd for a few minutes before proceeding. Ok. We have no health care. No Medicare and no supplemental insurance. There are no real doctors or antibiotics. If we twist our backs there are no chiropractors. Dentists? Forget that. We must find someone to pull that tooth! Life is primitive and inconvenient and we’re lucky to live to be forty. Thus, we are probably not thinking about the great spiritual themes that so occupy the church then and now. Frankly, we are hurting.

I had a back injury early this year that lingered for three months. At one point I could not sleep for many nights. The pain meds gave me crazy dreams. I stopped them and just gutted it out. But I noticed something. In all that pain and brain scramble I had no interest in the Word of God and I could hardly pray. I was quite distracted by the pain. In fact, I could really relate to the Psalmist who said: “Psalm 13:1 (NIV) How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” But at least I had Ibuprofen!
These folks we are reading about? Many of them lived in borderline misery and pain and need much of the time. Therefore, before we sit on the mountainside with Jesus, we need to consider what happened in their lives. Just before Jesus began his great sermon.

Let’s read this text from Matthew Four preceding the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 4:23-25 (NIV) 23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 24 News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them. 25 Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.

Jesus was teaching for sure… but the weight of this passage is on the physical miracles that he was performing. Again, no modern doctors or pharmacies or healthcare. Desperate suffering. Severe pain and seizures and demonic activity. Wholesale misery! So, they followed Jesus. I would too. I would be looking for healing. I would be hoping that he would see me in the crowd and touch me and heal me. I would be willing to get all jammed in with others.

We need to grasp this scene of brokenness that drew the Son of God as he went thru Galilee. Those seeking healing may have been in the thousands. “Large crowds” was the Greek “polose othlos” a construction meaning huge numbers with the “othlos” word implying “rabble.” That’s interesting. What does that tell us about Jesus? I mean, he might never see most of these people again. How many of them would eventually be saved? All those people. He healed them. He healed many, many among the “rabble.” Not necessarily their souls but certainly their bodies.

I once had a man who insisted he was a Christian but he had a complaint about the church. He was angry that we provided housing at times for the homeless. He called them the “scum of the earth.” I was spiritually embarrassed for him. I wondered what might Jesus have said to him? Anyway, we usually think of the Jesus giving us three chapters of the richest spiritual food in the Sermon on the Mount. And that is true. But the Gospel that tends to the Spirit but not the physical and emotional person is only a truncated Gospel.

Moving on…let’s go back to Chapter 5: 1-2. After caring for all of these sick people, we read:

Matthew 5:1-4 (NIV) 1 Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them, saying…

Why go up on the mountainside? Jesus has no microphone or amplifier. The hills probably made a sort of basin for speech to be heard. For the same reason, when near a lake Jesus would go out onto the water so his words would carry. More importantly, we must notice this: JESUS TENDED TO MANY WHO MAY HAVE NEVER EVEN SAID “THANK YOU” BUT NOW HE TENDED TO HIS OWN.

This is critical. Who came to him? His disciples! “HE BEGAN TO TEACH THEM!” That word, disciple, cannot be over-emphasized! It appears 257 times in the NIV New Testament and means “student” or “pupil.” “Mathay-tais.”  Disciple=Student!

Anyway, if we are really after Jesus, following him hard and closely, we must be his “students!” He had many things to say specifically to those who would be his students/disciples. Almost as if he was saying “Be careful. I’ll tell you what my real disciples will look like! You need to hear this! ”

In summary: Jesus demonstrated his Lordship thru the miraculous healings. Now he’s about to demonstrate his Lordship thru his teachings. Who would have taken him seriously unless they first saw his power?

When I was a new Christian, I went to an outdoor gathering where guys with guitars were singing praise songs. I learned this tune “I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back. No turning back.” I can say with certainty that I had no idea what that meant. It was just easy to sing. Hmmm…am I ready…are we ready to sit on the side of the mountain and listen not as part of the crowd but as disciples?

Peace. Pastor Alberta


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9 responses to ““Sitting on the Mountainside” Studies in The Sermon on the Mount

  1. Sue Ellen Buyers

    Very interesting, and i look forward to the continuation of the study.
    P.S. Sorry about your back. Must have been awful. S.E.

  2. Sue Ellen Buyers

    Pastor, would you put Scott on this blog. It’s

  3. Carlene Meyer

    I have a friend who says when we are unable to pray due to our life circumstance (death, sickness) the Holy Spirit is interceding for us. What do you think of that idea? I find it to be very comforting. Thanks!

  4. Pat Brandsen

    AMEN! A bunch of Blessings to you ,Pastor Alberta

  5. Steve Pichan

    Thanks Pastor Alberta. Good message today and you can count me in on the study.
    Steve Pichan



  7. Jennifer Traub

    I love this. Gives good perspective from the time it was written. Beautiful and thought provoking!

  8. Kevin Alder

    I know that feeling in my life when health issues seem to distract me from my time with God. I am ready to listen.

  9. A disciple/student is called. It is a privilege — God’s favor given to some, not all. No turning back, why would I want to? Grateful for your teaching, Pastor Alberta.

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