KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” (Matthew 7:28-29)
After hearing of the imprisonment of John the Baptist, Jesus left Nazareth and went to the area of Galilee. He made His residence in Capernaum — a city located on the northwestern end of the Sea of Galilee, a large lake that was also at times called the Lake of Gennesaret, Lake of Tiberias, and the Sea of Tiberias.
It was at this time that Jesus began to preach the message of repentance. Along the shoreline of Galilee, He called four fishermen, Andrew, Peter, James, and John to be His disciples. He healed the sick, preached the Gospel, and taught in the synagogues. The word synagogue comes from the Greek words syn which means “together” and ago, which means “to collect.” During the time of Jesus’ ministry, there were numerous synagogues in Israel; the number in Jerusalem alone was thought to be as high as 480.
It was on a hillside rather than in a synagogue that Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount to His disciples and the multitude. The fame of Jesus’ miracles had spread throughout the area and great numbers of people followed Him from Galilee, Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond Jordan. Decapolis was a region east of Jordan, containing ten cities, primarily inhabited by Greek settlers. People from Perea inhabited the area “beyond Jordan.” Jesus used this opportunity to teach on a mountain by the Sea of Galilee. The topography of the region provided a natural amphitheater, so His voice would have projected well. Tradition maintains that a sixty-foot hill once called the Horns of Hattin, square-shaped with two tops, is the location of the Sermon on the Mount. The location is now commonly called the Mount of the Beatitudes.
Jesus’ discourse began with the Beatitudes: nine blessings that result from proper attitudes of the heart. Next, He used salt and light to illustrate the effect His disciples should have in the world. He then taught about murder and anger, temptation, divorce, oaths, forgiveness, loving one’s enemies, giving, praying, fasting, obtaining treasures in Heaven, and worrying.
He concluded the sermon by encouraging His listeners not to judge others, and instructing them on how to ask and receive from God. Jesus described the way to Heaven as a “strait [narrow] gate” and the way to destruction as a “wide gate.” After warning about false prophets, He closed the sermon by describing people who would build on rock or sand, using this visualization to illustrate the importance of not merely hearing, but hearing and then obeying.
Chapters 8 and 9 record several of Jesus’ miracles: healing a leper, calming a stormy sea, casting the devils out of two men, and restoring sight and speech.
Jesus then called twelve men to be His disciples, giving them power to cast out unclean spirits and to heal every type of disease and illness. It was at this time that they began to be called Apostles.
The Lord desires for us to build our lives on the foundation of His Word. As we apply the Word in daily living, we will exhibit the true Christian character that will draw others to Christ.