A Christian Guide to Luke by R. David Pogge

Chapter 5

The Sermon on the Mount

Luke 6

The Sermon on the Mount is found in Luke 6:20-49 and Matthew chapters 5 through 7.

Section 5.1 - Two Reports of One Sermon

Since Matthew was a disciple, he no doubt heard the sermon first-hand. Luke heard the sermon second-hand. Luke was a Gentile who was probably converted by Paul on the Third Missionary Journey. Luke wrote his Gospel based on what he heard from Paul and others years later.

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. [Luke 1:1-4]

Luke says he “carefully investigated everything.” During that investigation, he discovered what other people who heard The Sermon on the Mount remembered about it.

Luke’s version of The Sermon on the Mount is important for two reasons. First, it confirms the accuracy of Matthew’s report. Even though Luke gave a second-hand report years later of what Jesus said, there are no significant differences between Luke’s second-hand version and Matthew’s first-hand version.

Second, it tells us which parts of the sermon had the greatest impact on the audience. If you ask someone, “What did the preacher say in the sermon this morning?” he can't tell you everything the preacher said in just a few words. He will tell you what he thought was the main point of the sermon. The parts of The Sermon on the Mount that were passed down to Luke tell us which parts of the sermon were most memorable at the time.

Section 5.2 - The Beatitudes

The Sermon on the Mount began with a section commonly called, "The Beautitudes." Here is a color-coded, side-by-side comparison of both versions, with Matthew's version rearranged to match Luke's order, as much as possible.

Luke 6:20-26Matthew 5:3-12
20 Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
21 a Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
21 b Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
22 Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
24 But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
25 a Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
25 b Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
26 Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

They aren’t identical, but they are substantially the same. Luke records four blessings, a judgment reference, and four curses. Matthew records eight blessings (nine if you don’t count the duplication) and a judgment reference. In both cases, the blessings acknowledge the fact that even though things may be bad now for the righteous, they will be better after the judgment.

Compared to Matthew’s version, Luke includes four woes and omits four blessings. Taken out of context this way, it would appear that Matthew reports that Jesus motivated people exclusively with carrots; but Luke says that in addition to a carrot, Jesus used a stick. There are plenty of sticks later in Matthew’s version of The Sermon on the Mount, so one should not base the entire analysis of how Jesus preached using Matthew's version of the Beatitudes alone.

Luke’s version of the Beatitudes contains blessings and curses. Perhaps surprisingly, the curses are for things that aren’t generally considered to be wrong. There isn’t really anything wrong with being rich, well-fed, happy, and popular—and yet Jesus said woe to them. Perhaps the key to why Jesus pronounced these curses on people who became rich, well-fed, happy, and popular is found in the last part of the last sentence. “…for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.” They became rich, well-fed, happy, and popular by living according to the teaching of false prophets—not God.

Section 5.3 - Love Your Enemies

Luke seems to have skipped everything recorded in Matthew 5:13-42, in which Jesus chided his listeners for not being salty and not being a light on a hill—but what Matthew included as part of a sermon, Luke included as teachings told on other occasions. So, that discrepancy is simply a difference in presentation, not a difference in substance.

Jesus told his listeners that He did not come to abolish the law, but to make it stricter. He expanded the commandment against murder to include hate, and the commandment against adultery to include obsession. He condemned divorce, breaking oaths, and seeking revenge. Luke skipped all that and resumed the sermon at Matthew 5:43.

Luke 6:27-36Matthew 5:43-48

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor 1 and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Jesus said you must LOVE your enemies—but He didn’t say you have to LIKE them. The love He talked about has to do with actions—not feeling. Jesus talked about “doing good” to others—not having good feelings towards others.

Section 5.4 - How do I Love Thee?

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. [Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnet 43]

For those of you who are keeping score, the word "love" appeared six times in Luke 6:27-36 above. Let's ponder the significance of that.

There are 30,442 verses in the Bible. Whenever someone tries to convince me he has discovered a new biblical truth, and that new truth is supported by just one verse, and that one verse has to be from a particular translation (usually the King James), I come to one of these two conclusions: Either the doctrine isn’t true; or it is true—but not very important. The important doctrines are repeated over and over throughout the Bible. Important doctrines are never hidden in a single obscure verse.

There are some preachers who are one-trick ponies. Every sermon they preach is the same. What they preach might be true; but when one doctrine is preached to the exclusion of everything else, their overall message is unbalanced and distorted.

The way to avoid having an unbalanced faith is to read the entire Bible. If you read the entire Bible you will read the most important doctrines the most times because they are repeated the most often.

It is natural for some people to focus on certain passages because they reinforce a personal bias. These few favorite passages say what that person wants to hear, to the exclusion of other moderating doctrines. Selective reading of the Bible leads to fanaticism.

For example, 1 Corinthians 13 is known as the “Love Chapter.” Have you ever wondered why? It is because 1 Corinthians 13 is THE love chapter. It is the go-to chapter on love because there are so few chapters about love in the Bible to choose from.

On the other hand, which is the “Second Coming Chapter?” That’s hard to say because there are too many to choose from. Despite this, you’ve probably heard a lot more sermons about love than about Jesus’ return. That’s because most people would rather think about love than judgment.

Here’s some hard data. Since this book is A Christian Guide to Luke, let’s just see how much emphasis Luke gives to love using word-frequency analysis. Please don’t read the next paragraph until you have guessed the total number of verses in Luke in which the word, “love,” appears. (Hint: there are 24 chapters in Luke, totaling1150 verses.)

Have you guessed yet? OK. The complete list of verses is in this footnote. 2 The footnote includes one irrelevant verse about a centurion who “loves our nation and has built our synagogue” and four verses about Pharisees who “love” money and honor, but don’t love God. So, there are really only nine relevant verses in Luke about loving God or man. By comparison, there are 25 verses in Luke which contain the word, “demon.” 3 Luke devoted more than twice as many verses to demon possession than he did to love. To be more precise, 0.8% of the verses in Luke deal with love, and 2.2% deal with demons.

The few verses about love in The Sermon on the Mount command you to be generous to enemies and treat them better than they deserve; they are not about how much God loves you. Treating enemies well is a valid Christian teaching—but it is a relatively minor teaching, and should be given no more, and no less, emphasis than it deserves. Nor should the command to love your enemies be twisted to mean that your heart should go pitter-pat at the sight of an enemy.

I suspect that more than 0.8% of the sermons preached in modern churches are about love, and I suspect that is because most modern congregations would rather comfort themselves thinking about how much God loves them than thinking about being judged for what they do when Jesus returns, or how much influence demons have in our modern world.

Just to be clear—God is love. That is a valid teaching; but when it is over-emphasized to the exclusion of all other doctrines, it becomes a perversion of the Gospel. Don’t settle for a tiny fraction of God’s word. Read the whole Bible to get the whole, balanced message.

Section 5.5 - Judging Others

Luke omitted the parts of the sermon about caring for the needy, praying, fasting, materialism, and worrying. He went straight to the part about judging others.

Luke 6:37-42Matthew 7:1-6

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

He also told them this parable: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”

This part of The Sermon on the Mount is widely misunderstood because people tend not to read past the first sentence. “Judge not!” is all they hear. Whether you read Luke or Matthew, it is clear that Jesus said you should judge. You must take the plank out of your own eye so that you are not blind and can see clearly. Then you must help your brother get the speck out of his eye. It is the same advice you get from the airline flight attendant. Put your mask on first so you will have enough oxygen to get the mask on your hysterical child. Don’t try to put the mask on your child first.

Luke omitted the part about judging whether or not your brother is a hopeless case. In Matthew’s version it is clear there are some times when trying to help a friend, it is just as futile as putting lipstick (or pearls) on a pig. In those cases, you are excused from trying to help. Apparently, that part of the sermon never was passed along to Luke.

Section 5.6 - The Lord's Prayer

In Matthew's account of The Sermon on the Mount, Matthew inserted The Lord's Prayer here. Luke included Jesus’ exact same words later as part of another discussion, which we will address later when examining Jesus’ teachings about prayer.

Section 5.7 - The Narrow Door

Matthew continued with Jesus’ warning about how hard it is to be saved. Luke waited until Chapter 13 of his Gospel to relate the same thing.

Luke 13:22-30 Matthew 7:7-12, 15-23

Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”

He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’

“But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’

“Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’

“But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’

“There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. People will come from east and westand north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

...

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

The two passages certainly aren’t word-for-word; but both contain the same dire warning. Lots of people who think they are going to be saved will be surprised to discover they are lost.

I heard a preacher a few years back whose one-note-samba was, “It is hard to be lost!” In every sermon he proclaimed that God loves everyone so much that He doesn’t want anyone to be lost. That much is true. God doesn’t want anyone to be lost. But then he went on to claim that you had to actually choose to be lost. He said that if you didn’t positively reject Christ, you would be saved. Salvation, according to him, is the default option.

That teaching directly contradicts the clear words of Jesus. There are lots of people who go to church, call themselves Christians, and think they are saved, who will be lost because their actions did not match their profession of faith. It isn’t enough to say you are a Christian. You have to be a Christian.

A different preacher (I don't remember who) explained it correctly this way: Suppose the time comes when it becomes illegal to practice Christianity. Suppose being a Christian is punishable by death. If you were put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

Whether or not Christianity is outlawed, at the Second Coming you are going to be put on trial. Will there be enough evidence for you to be saved?

Section 5.8 - Fruit Inspection

How do you tell true prophets from false teachers? Jesus says you have to become a fruit inspector.

Luke 6:43-45 Matthew 7:13-14

“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”

This is objectionable to some modern Christians for two reasons. First, it is judgmental. Christians who have not understood what Jesus said about judging think that being judgmental is bad. Judging isn’t bad. It is necessary to be judgmental. It is true you can’t judge motives, or what is in someone’s heart, or whether or not they will be saved, but you can—and you must—judge actions by comparing them to the Bible’s standards of right and wrong.

Second, some people think judging based on works is too, well, “worksy.” Christians have been taught they should not depend upon works for their salvation—and that is true. You cannot do enough good works to earn salvation. The price is far too high for anyone to pay by anything he can do. Salvation is a gift from God. Gifts cannot be earned.

Jesus decides who gets the gift of salvation. Jesus said again and again that His decision is based on what you do. He just said it in the previous section about the Narrow Door. We will hear the necessity of living according to God's laws repeated again and again as we continue to read Luke (and the rest of the New Testament, too).

Section 5.9 - Where to Build

Here's the big finish to The Sermon on the Mount:

Luke 6:46-49 Matthew 7:24-27

“Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

Hearing the message doesn’t do any good if you don’t act according to what you have heard. There are plenty of false prophets in Christian churches today telling you that you can build on nice, soft, comfortable sand. They tell you that if you just accept Jesus you will “have a relationship with Him” and be saved. Nothing else is required. It was all done at the cross. If you obey God’s commandments, it shows you are a legalist who is trying to earn salvation on your own, and have rejected the grace of Christ. Those false prophets are lying to you.

Don’t let the false prophets convince you to build your house on the sand. Don't call Jesus, “Lord, Lord,” and not do what He says. Build your house on the solid rock, and you will be safe on Judgment Day.

Back to Chapter 4 Table of Contents On to Chapter 6

Footnotes:

1 Leviticus 19:18
2 There are 14 verses containing the word “love” in the NIV translation of the Gospel of Luke: Luke 3:22, Luke 6:27, Luke 6:32, Luke 6:35, Luke 7:5, Luke 7:42, Luke 7:47, Luke 10:27, Luke 11:42, Luke 11:43, Luke 16:13, Luke 16:14, Luke 20:13, Luke 20:46
3 There are 25 verses containing the word “demon” (or “demons”) in the NIV translation of the Gospel of Luke: Luke 4:33, Luke 4:35, Luke 4:41, Luke 7:33, Luke 8:2, Luke 8:26, Luke 8:27, Luke 8:29, Luke 8:30, Luke 8:32, Luke 8:33, Luke 8:35, Luke 8:36, Luke 8:38, Luke 9:1, Luke 9:37, Luke 9:42, Luke 9:49, Luke 10:17, Luke 11:14, Luke 11:15, Luke 11:18, Luke 11:19, Luke 11:20, Luke 13:32