Questions and the Sermon on the Mount

This year our Sunday School is studying the New Testament, and last week the lesson covered Matthew 5.

As we started getting in to the lesson, I was saddened by how we blew through all of the verses. We read them, we made the standard comments, and we moved on. There was no depth to the discussion. There was no searching. And, as such, there was no learning.

I pulled up the verses on my seerstone and started reading them. And instead of trying to see what they meant, I started asking myself questions. I tried to think of all the questions I could, and I wrote them down.

In 40 minutes of asking questions and thinking about them, I barely made it 5 verses in to the chapter, but it was wonderful! I pondered ideas I had never heard before, and asked things I had never questioned.

  1. “And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him”
    • Why are these multitudes following him?
    • He goes up in to the mountain. He’s about to participate in a temple experience.
    • Would that be a general thing? Or would the audience be more selective?
    • Not everyone is prepared to receive the patterns of the universe from the mouth of God.
    • Only his disciples came to him: not the multitude.
    • And the Luke account points out that he’s speaking to his disciples, and not the multitude (Luke 6:20).
    • The disciples didn’t come up until “he was set”. How did they know?
    • Why wouldn’t they have just walked up with Him?
  2. “And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,”
    • Them = the disciples
    • This is a small crowd!
    • Why do we always picture this hillside covered with people? It sounds like it wasn’t more than a dozen or two.
  3. “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
    • What does it mean to be poor in spirit?
    • Is there such a thing as “rich in spirit”?
    • What is the kingdom of heaven?
    • How is it possible to possess it?
    • This is in the present tense (“theirs is”). All the others are in the future tense (“they shall”).
    • Is this significant?
    • Why the difference?
  4. “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.”
    • What sort of comfort is this talking about?
    • What kind of comforters does Jesus teach about?
    • How does mourning qualify us for those comforters?
    • Does it?
    • Is this talking about the first and second comforters?
    • Or is he just talking about helping you feel better?
    • What kind of mourning is this?
    • Is this the mourning of “I’m sad this happened” or “I’m sad my friend died”, or what?
    • Is this related to the mourning mentioned in Isaiah 61:1-3?
    • Does this mourning/comforting pair contradict what Alma taught at the Waters of Mormon about mourning with those who mourn and comforting those who need comfort?
    • How do we know when those who mourn need comfort vs collaborative mourning?
    • Is mourning related to godly sorrow?
  5. “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.”
    • What is meekness?
    • Receiving an inheritance implies that someone has died or has moved on. Who owns the Earth now? Where are they going?
    • How can multiple people inherit the same thing?
    • What sort of inheritance is this?
    • Is this talking about the planet we live on?
    • Does “earth” mean anything else? (Dirt? Generally habitable places/planets?)
    • Why are all of these verses in the 3rd person? Do the disciples not qualify for any of this?

If one person can think up these questions and be edified by asking them, why do we skim over these verses? Why do we believe that we have learned all there is to learn? We believe the Atonement was infinite (2 Nephi 9:7), so doesn’t that imply that what we can learn about it is also infinite? Why are we content with the same superficial pap that we’ve been spoon-feeding ourselves for generations?

Here’s an interesting challenge: imagine that you have been asked to give a talk in Sacrament Meeting. Write one, but don’t write a single declarative sentence. Do nothing but ask questions. What questions would you ask?

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