Over the next nine weeks, we will be reading and studying Jen Wilkin’s study, Sermon on the Mount. The text for this study is found in the gospel of Matthew. Ms. Wilkin has generously included the text in the back of the participant’s guide. If you would like to use your own Bible rather than the text in the guide, she recommends these two versions: the English Standard Version and the New International Version. Ordering information for the participant’s workbook can be found by clicking here.
Ms. Wilkin challenges us as participants to use good study habits. She wants us to refrain from looking for the quick answer by going to a commentary or by using text notes found below the passage in a study bible. Instead, she asks that we approach the scripture readings by asking a series of questions. The first question we will ask after the assigned reading is “What does the text say?”. By asking this question, we will guarantee that we understood what we just read. Next, we will ask ourselves, “What does the text mean?”. This part is all about the interpretation of the text. Lastly, we will ask ourselves this question, “How does this passage apply to me?”. This one will let us explore what we learn about God and about ourselves as well as how we respond to what we’ve discovered.
Ms. Wilkin also emphasizes that we don’t have to have an answer for every question. I agree with her. If you’re like me, you will find that sometimes you don’t know the answer or fully comprehend what you just read. You also might find that the question doesn’t apply to you or your circumstances and that is okay!! What you put into learning and studying Scripture never goes unwasted. At some point in your life, the portions you didn’t understand or find applicable to you will make sense and possibly apply to the very situation you are in. God is always at work and knows the future before we do. He will take every opportunity to build and strengthen in us the very things we will need to honor and serve Him.
“Jesus went throughout Galilee teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, … Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.” Matthew 4:23-25
Jesus began his ministry on his home turf of Galilee, a fertile region located in Northern Israel. Some of the people in this region were farmers and traders but many earned their living as fishermen on the Sea of Galilee [also referred to as the Sea of Chinnereth, Lake Gennesaret, and the Sea of Tiberias in Scripture]. Galilee was a place on the way to everywhere. This crossroad had a heavy influx of various cultures so the Galilean people were more independently minded and open to new ideas and different ways of thinking. God, strategically, used this region as the birthplace of His Son’s ministry because He knew that a spark would ignite and turn into a flame.
“Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them, …” Matthew 5:1,2
The people came from all over the region to hear Jesus speak. Some came from short distances and others from far away. They came for a message from God, a word to encourage, and the possibility of a healing for their afflicted loved ones. I imagine the people were milling about like they do at any outdoor event. Some would have been talking among themselves while others were finding the right spot to sit down. The mothers would have been chasing after their little ones or instructing the older ones not to wander off. All, however, would have known that Jesus was about to teach when they saw him go up the mountainside and sit down. Like all followers, they knew that when the rabbi sat the teaching was about to begin. He seized this moment as his opportunity to teach a revolutionary message. The longest one recorded of Jesus found in Matthew 5-7 on this hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee.
This week, you will work the Week 1 lesson plan beginning on page 16. Plan a little extra time for your first lesson so that you will be able to complete the reading assignment of the entire Sermon on the Mount. Next Monday, I will give a synopsis of the Week 1 lesson. If you’re interested in viewing the Week 1 video that accompanies the study, the video can be purchased for download by clicking here. I’m unable to offer the video online due to copyright laws.