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THE STORY OF THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT

Among the Jews there was one class of men hated and despised by the
people more than any other. That was “the publicans.” These were the men
who took from the people the tax which the Roman rulers had laid upon
the land. Many of these publicans were selfish, grasping, and cruel.
They robbed the people, taking more than was right. Some of them were
honest men, dealing fairly, and taking no more for the tax than was
needful; but because so many were wicked, all the publicans were hated
alike; and they were called “sinners” by the people.

One day, when Jesus was going out of Capernaum, to the seaside, followed
by a great crowd of people, he passed a publican, or tax-gatherer, who
was seated at his table taking money from the people who came to pay
their taxes. This man was named Matthew, or Levi; for many Jews had two
names. Jesus could look into the hearts of men, and he saw that Matthew
was one who might help him as one of his disciples. He looked upon
Matthew, and said:

“Follow me!”

At once, the publican rose up from his table, and left it to go with
Jesus. All the people wondered, as they saw one of the hated publicans
among the disciples, with Peter, and John, and the rest. But Jesus
believed that there is good in all kinds of people. Most of the men who
followed him were poor fishermen. None of them, so far as we know, was
rich. And when he called Matthew he saw a man with a true and loving
heart, whose rising up to follow Jesus just as soon as he was called
showed what a brave and faithful friend he would be. The first of the
four books about Jesus bears Matthew’s name.

A little while after Jesus called him, Matthew made a great feast for
Jesus at his house; and to the feast he invited many publicans, and
others whom the Jews called sinners. The Pharisees saw Jesus sitting
among these people, and they said with scorn to his disciples:

“Why does your Master sit at the table with publicans and sinners?”

Jesus heard of what these men had said, and he said:

“Those that are well do not need a doctor to cure them, but those that
are sick do need one. I go to these people because they know that they
are sinners and need to be saved. I came not to call those who think
themselves to be good, but those who wish to be made better.”

One evening Jesus went alone to a mountain not far from Capernaum. A
crowd of people and his disciples followed him; but Jesus left them all,
and went up to the top of the mountain, where he could be alone. There
he stayed all night, praying to God, his Father and our Father. In the
morning, out of all his followers, he chose twelve men who should walk
with him and listen to his words, so that they might be able to teach
others in turn. Some of these men he had called before; but now he
called them again, and others with them. They were called “The Twelve,”
or “the disciples”; and after Jesus went to heaven, they were called
“The Apostles,” a word which means “those who were sent out,” because
Jesus sent them out to preach the gospel to the world.

The names of the twelve disciples, or apostles, were these: Simon Peter
and his brother Andrew; James and John, the two sons of Zebedee; Philip
of Bethsaida, and Nathanael, who was also called Bartholomew, a name
which means “the son of Tholmai”; Thomas, who was also called Didymus, a
name which means “a twin,” and Matthew the publican, or tax-gatherer;
another James, the son of Alpheus, who was called “James the Less,” to
keep his name apart from the first James, the brother of John; and
Lebbeus, who was also called Thaddeus. Lebbeus was also called Judas,
but he was a different man from another Judas, whose name is always
given last. The eleventh name was another Simon, who was called “the
Cananean” or “Simon Zelotes”; and the last name was Judas Iscariot, who
was afterward the traitor. We know very little about most of these men,
but some of them in later days did a great work. Simon Peter was a
leader among them, but most of them were common sort of men of whom the
best we know is that they loved Jesus and followed him to the end. Some
died for him, and some served him in distant and dangerous places.

[Illustration: _Then, on the mountain, he preached_]

Before all the people who had come to hear him, Jesus called these
twelve men to stand by his side. Then, on the mountain, he preached to
these disciples and to the great company of people. The disciples stood
beside him, and the great crowd of people stood in front, while Jesus
spoke. What he said on that day is called “The Sermon on the Mount.”
Matthew wrote it down, and you can read it in his gospel, in the fifth,
sixth, and seventh chapters. Jesus began with these words to his
disciples:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for
they shall be filled.

“Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of
God.

“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for
theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are ye when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall
say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

“Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad: for great is your reward in heaven:
for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savor,
wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to
be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be
hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a
candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let
your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and
glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

It was in this Sermon on the Mount that Jesus told the people how they
should pray, and he gave them the prayer which we all know as the Lord’s
Prayer.

And this was the end of the Sermon:

“Therefore, whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I
will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:

“And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and
beat upon that house; and it fell not; for it was founded upon a rock.

“And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not,
shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the
sand:

“And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and
beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.”

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