Sermon on the Mount Study Questions
Blaine Robison, M.A.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms Tanakh (Old Testament), Besekh (New Testament), Torah (Law), Yeshua (Jesus), and Messiah (Christ).
The questions below may be used by small group leaders or anyone who may elect to complete the study privately.
Basic questions for interpreting a passage:
What does it say? What does it not say?
What is its straightforward meaning?
What does the passage actually assert vs. what may be inferred?
What message does the passage have for me to apply to my life?
Matthew 4:12-25: The Jewish Context
The ministry of Yeshua was conducted in context of Jewish culture. When he taught he spoke in Hebrew, not Greek. There were about 30 different groups or denominations within first century Judaism. Rabbis were the leading figures in culture, the more famous attracting many student-disciples. Rabbis interpreted Torah, both written and oral, and debated the same issues addressed by Yeshua in his teaching.
● What major Jewish groups are mentioned or alluded to in the New Testament? What were their key beliefs?
● Some scholars believe John the Immerser had belonged to the Essenes? Who were they and what were their beliefs?
● Read Deuteronomy 17:15-20. What sort of king did God want for his people? How did Yeshua fulfill this expectation?
● How did Yeshua function as a rabbi? How would becoming the disciple of a rabbi change a man's life?
Matthew 5:1-12: The Ten Blessings
Just as God gave Moses ten commandments (literally "words" or "messages," Deut 4:13), as foundational for his reign as king of Israel, so Yeshua gives ten blessings to his disciples that function as core values and characterize life in his kingdom.
First Blessing - the kingdom for the poor
● How is the Hebrew concept of blessedness different from the idea of happiness?
● What does the term "kingdom of heaven" mean?
● Why is being poor in spirit an indispensable condition for receiving the kingdom?
● Why is it so difficult to admit one’s spiritual poverty?
Second Blessing - comfort for the grieving
● How does this blessing reflect the mission of the Messiah? (cf. Isaiah 61:1-3)
● How does God comfort in this life while we wait for the ultimate comfort in heaven?
Third Blessing - land for the humble
● How is Yeshua reaffirming the promise of Psalm 37:11, which refers to the Land of Israel?
● Why has the world and even the Church had difficulty accepting the promise God made to Israel about the Land?
● How can Gentiles experience this blessing?
Fourth Blessing - justice for the hungry
● Cf. Isaiah 51:5. What does the Hebrew concept of righteousness include?
● What forms might the craving for righteousness take?
● What should a disciple do to cultivate this craving?
Fifth Blessing - mercy for the merciful
● What is the essence of being merciful?
● Why does Yeshua connect receiving mercy from God to offering mercy to others?
● What would it mean for Yeshua's disciples live by this value?
Sixth Blessing - God's presence for the pure
● What is the biblical definition of "pure in heart"? (cf. Psalm 24:3-5; James 1:8)
● What does it mean to "see God?"
● Why would the promise of seeing God be reserved for the pure in heart?
Seventh Blessing - like father like son
● The word "peace" reflects the Hebrew concept of shalom. Can one receive the blessing by being only a shalom-lover?
● How can we be peacemakers in our homes, churches, and communities?
● What does it mean to be "called" a son of God? How can women be sons of God?
Eighth Blessing - reward for suffering
● Does this blessing assume there is some religious merit in being persecuted?
● Are disciples being encouraged to seek persecution?
● What does the phrase "for the sake of" suggest about the cause of the persecution?
● Who in Israel's history suffered for the sake of righteousness?
Ninth Blessing - identification with the Messiah
● Why did Yeshua become personal with his disciples in this blessing?
● What was the threat his disciples would face?
Tenth Blessing - rejoice and be glad
● How does Yeshua challenge his disciples to offer b'rakhah, that is to bless God?
● Why do disciples bless God in bad times?
Matthew 5:13-16: Preserving and Illuminating
|Yeshua used the contrasting and paradoxical metaphors of salt and light to describe how disciples should view their role in the Kingdom of Heaven.|
● Considering that Yeshua likely meant "Land" instead of "earth" as in the third blessing, what was his expectation of his disciples?
● What is the significance of the covenant of salt (Lev 2:13; 2 Chron 13:5) in understanding the commission to be salt?
● What spiritual values does salt represent? (Consider Exodus 30:25; 2 Kings 2:19-23; Luke 14:26-33; Col 4:6.)
● What are some practical ways disciples can be salt today?
● What would it mean for a disciple to become "unsalty?" What consequences would follow?
● What is the function of light? How is it different from salt? How are these roles complementary?
● What is the significance of the contrast between "basket" and "house?"
● What is a good work? (Consider John 10:32; 1 Tim 5:10.)
● What does Yeshua mean by saying that "they will glorify" God? Who are "they" and what form would "glorifying" take?
Matthew 5:17-20: Respecting God's Instruction
|Yeshua answers his critics that the purpose of his ministry was to cancel the Torah, but instead he intended to make the Torah clear and demonstrate how to live by it.|
● What do "the Law and the Prophets" consist of in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament)?
● How did Jews use the term "Torah?" Did they view the Torah as negative or positive?
● Yeshua implies someone had accused him of misinterpreting Scripture. When did this happen before the Sermon on the Mount?
● Why would anyone think Yeshua intended to abolish the Law and the Prophets? (Heb 10:28)
● Did Yeshua have the authority to abolish the Torah? What would abolishing the Torah imply about God?
● What did the promise of the New Covenant make in regards to the Torah? (Jer 31:33; Ezek 36:27)
● What would Yeshua becoming bar mitzvah ("son of the commandment") at age 13 say about his attitude toward the Torah?
● How did Yeshua demonstrate his support of Torah during his life on earth?
● What are the purposes of Torah?
● How did Yeshua fulfill the Torah?
● How does Yeshua describe the durability and longevity of the Torah?
● What does Yeshua mean by a least (light) commandment? Conversely, what would be a heavy commandment?
● What did righteousness mean to the Pharisees? Is it possible to be more righteous than them?
● How should Torah be applied in the life of Christians today?
Matthew 5:21-26: Confronting Anger
|Yeshua begins the pattern of comparing "light" commandments with "heavy" commandments to demonstrate that guarding one's heart is as important as guarding one's conduct.|
● Who are the "ancients" Yeshua refers to?
● Where is the first instruction against murder in the Bible?
● Is Yeshua providing a theological rationale for pacifism?
● What types of killing were authorized in the Torah?
● What is the significance of the gradual increase in accountability from court, to supreme court (Sanhedrin) to hell?
● Read Matthew 12:36. How seriously does God treat our words?
● Of the five types of offerings prescribed in the Torah what kind of offering might Yeshua have had in mind in verse 23 and 24?
● What does it mean to reconcile with someone?
● What do verses 25-26 say about avoiding litigation?
● If God forgives, does he still require restitution?
Matthew 5:27-32: Keeping Faith
|Yeshua weighs in on the rabbinic debate over grounds for divorce and provides a unique and challenging perspective.|
● How did Yeshua change the definition of adultery?
● What do the drastic measures of physical maiming represent about preventing sin?
● What is the purpose of a certificate of divorce?
● How does Deuteronomy 24:1-4 pertain to the teaching of Yeshua here?
● What grounds for divorce does God seem to allow in the Old Testament? (Consider Gen 21:9-14; Ezra 9:2; 10:3; Isa 50:1; Jer 3:8)
● Is Yeshua giving grounds for divorce or grounds for remarriage?
● How does a man make his wife commit adultery by divorcing her?
● What is the spiritual significance of grounds for divorce? Are there any spiritual consequences for having the wrong grounds?
● What should the church's response be to those who have been divorced?
Matthew 5:33-37: Honoring Words
|Yeshua offers a scathing critique of the practice of vows and oath-making among first century Jews.|
● What is the difference between a vow and an oath?
● How were vows and oaths used in Israelite society?
● What regulation of vows does the Torah provide?
● How did Rabbinic Judaism change the Torah emphasis on honoring vows?
● Did Yeshua forbid all vows?
● Why did Yeshua criticize swearing?
● What does it mean to take God's name in vain?
● What did God swear to do?
● What does the use of vows and oaths say about the importance of truth?
Matthew 5:38-48: Responding to Mistreatment
|Yeshua offers several "hard sayings" to illustrate how to love the unlovable.|
● What was the purpose of the "eye for eye" rule in the Torah?
● What sort of resistance to an evil person is Yeshua forbidding?
● Why is the disciple being slapped?
● What does it mean to "turn the other cheek?"
● Is Yeshua advocating complete surrender of personal possessions on the request of someone else?
● Is Yeshua saying that a disciple should never be concerned about his legal rights?
● Is there any biblical justification for hating enemies?
● What does it mean to go the "second mile?"
● How is a disciple supposed to respond to mistreatment?
● Did Yeshua intend for his disciples to be lenders?
● How is a disciple to love an enemy?
● What would identify a "son of the Father?"
● What is Yeshua's assessment of loving those that love you?
● What is the point of mentioning tax collectors? Did Jewish tax collectors really deserve to be hated?
● What does it mean to be perfect like God?
Matthew 6:1-8: Righteousness of Giving and Prayer
|Abstract: Yeshua weighs in on the three forms of righteousness valued by devout Jews.|
● What was the popular definition of righteousness?
● How important was almsgiving among the Jews?
● Is there a contradiction in Yeshua's instruction in verse 1 and 5:16 where he told his disciples to "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works?"
● What’s wrong with wanting others to know that you’re committed to righteousness?
● What would be a modern equivalent of “sounding a trumpet?"
● What does it mean to give in secret?
● What reward might a disciple expect from the Father for giving to the needy?
● What was wrong with the way the hypocrites prayed?
● How important was prayer in the life of the Jewish people?
● Does Yeshua intend that all praying be done in secret?
● If God knows what we need before praying, why pray?
Matthew 6:9-15: Kingdom Praying
|Yeshua answers the disciples' question of how to pray.|
● Why did Yeshua provide this prayer to his disciples?
● How much did Yeshua intend his disciples to use this prayer?
● Should this prayer be used as is or used as a topical guideline for prayer?
● What does the Old Testament reveal about God as Father?
● What is significant about the Father being in heaven?
● What does it mean to hallow God's name?
● Since Yeshua had already announced that the kingdom had come in his person (Matt 4:17; 12:28), why is he now telling his disciples to pray “Your kingdom come?”
● What are we really asking when we pray for his kingdom to come?
● How is the expression "will of God" used in Scripture?
● What would it mean for God's will to be done on earth as it is in heaven?
● Why does Yeshua use the plural pronoun "us" in the latter part of the prayer instead of "me?"
● Why is praying for "bread" daily so important?
● What bearing does the Torah requirement to forgive debts every seven years have on this prayer for forgiveness?
● In what ways might other people become debtors to us? to God?
● What are we asking God to do when we ask him to forgive us?
● Why do disciples of Yeshua need to pray regularly if not daily for forgiveness?
● Does forgiving others earn the right to be forgiven by God?
● If God forgave us to the same degree as we forgive others, how forgiven would we be?
● If God cannot tempt us and trials are beneficial (James 1:2, 13), why pray to avoid temptation?
● What does the prayer suggest about the reality of contending with evil in our lives?
Matthew 6:16-18: Righteousness of Fasting
|Yeshua weighs in on the third form of righteousness valued by devout Jews.|
● How important was fasting in Jewish religious life?
● Considering biblical history what purpose did fasting serve?
● What fault does Yeshua find with the fasting of hypocrites?
● Does Yeshua expect his disciples to fast? How should fasting be done?
● What reward may one expect from fasting?
Matthew 6:19-34: Seeking True Treasure
|Yeshua teaches his disciples about the snare of wealth and the defenses against worry.|
● Is Yeshua against savings, life insurance and investments?
● What were the three most valued treasures to which Yeshua alludes?
● How can one store up treasure in heaven?
● How does what you do with your resources reveal your character?
● What do the idioms of a "clear eye" and a "bad eye" refer to? (consider the context)
● What does generosity or stinginess have to do with light and darkness?
● How can wealth become a master?
● List the seven principles or perspectives Yeshua gives in vv 25-34 to live worry-free.
● Why are we foolish to worry over material needs?
● What does Yeshua mean by saying that life is more than what you eat or wear?
● What can birds teach us about God's provision?
● How do flowers reveal God's care for us?
● Is Yeshua promising that his disciples will never lack for clothing or have the best clothing?
● How does worry reveal a lack of trust in God and ultimately faithfulness to God?
● Why and how are our ambitions to be different from unbelievers?
● As an act of discipleship what does it mean to seek His kingdom and his righteousness?
● What are the all things that will be added?
● What does Yeshua imply will happen if we don't reorder our priorities?
● What is the value of the final reality check that Yeshua offers?
Matthew 7:1-12: Guidelines for Judging and Justice
|Yeshua warns his disciples against improper judging and offers principles for building relationships.|
● What does Yeshua mean by judging? Are disciples forbidden to ever assess behavior?
● What forms of approved judging are given in the Bible?
● What principles or standards should guide our judging of others? (Consider 1 Cor 13)
● What form might wrongful judging take? Give examples of wrongful judging.
● What warning did Yeshua give concerning wrongful judging?
● What makes human judgment faulty?
● What does the permission for speck removal imply?
● What do the metaphors of "holy" and "pearls" refer to in verse 6?
● What kinds of people do the metaphors of "dogs" and "swine" refer to?
● How should the strong saying of verse 6 be interpreted and applied?
● What challenge and promise does Yeshua offer in verse 7?
● What does Yeshua affirm about the character of God in verses 9-11?
● In what sense does the Golden Rule sum up the Torah and the Prophets?
● Is there any substantive difference in living by the Golden Rule as an active principle and living by it as a passive principle?
Matthew 7:13-28: The Two Ways
|Yeshua instructs his disciples about the two ways, contained in the word pictures of the two gates, the two roads, the two trees and the two kinds of fruit, and the two foundations. Yeshua is giving his disciples the same choice given to Israel through Moses, Joshua and the prophets.|
● What are the narrow and broad gates that Yeshua speaks of?
● What are the two ways?
● What are the key differences between the two ways?
● What is the difference between the narrow way and legalism?
● Why do few find the narrow way? What should this reality check mean for evangelism?
● What characterizes a false prophet?
● How is a false prophet like a wolf or a thorn bush?
● How is the warning about false prophets related to the teaching on the broad way?
● What false prophets or messages have occurred in modern times?
● What does the metaphor "fruit" refer to? What is good fruit and what is bad fruit?
● Why aren't the people mentioned in vv. 21-23 accepted if they prophesied and performed miracles in Yeshua's name?
● What is Yeshua saying about the importance of living by God's law versus doing great things for God?
● Why is it often difficult to tell the difference between true and false disciples?
● What is the implied warning about storms in vv. 24-27?
● What is the point of the analogy of the two kinds of foundations?
● What would the metaphors of the rock and the sand represent?
● Why were the people amazed at Yeshua's teaching?
● In what ways did Yeshua manifest his unique authority throughout his ministry?
● What difference did it make that Yeshua taught with authority?
Copyright © 2008-2012 Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.