The Sermon on the Mount was the longest sermon given by Jesus Christ and it was among Mahatma Gandhi’s favourite religious texts. What is amazing is that Gandhiji was influenced and inspired by what a wandering Jewish healer and preacher said in far off Palestine, two thousand years ago.
History talks of many preachers and healers but only a few are remembered like Gautama Buddha, Confucius, Jesus Christ or Guru Nanak. It is because of what they said and that is the power of the words of Jesus. His religious philosophy is thoughtful and compassionate and it is encapsulated in exquisite phrases and illuminating stories called parables that reach out and touch our hearts.
Jesus was a historical person who was born in Bethlehem, lived in Nazareth and was crucified in Jerusalem, the capital of Palestine. Today pilgrims walk along the path he trod from the Sea of Galilee, the Garden of Gethsemane and the hill of Calvary; praying at ancient churches that commemorate the extraordinary life of a man of peace and charity.
Jesus faced the violence of crucifixion but he only spoke of positive emotions – love thy neighbour; forgive your enemies; turn the other cheek. Also be kind to everyone; give in charity; take care of the poor and the weak. Nowhere does he say, pick up your sword and kill the nonbeliever. Anger, revenge, violence are never a part of the teachings of this great teacher.
Like Gautama Buddha, Jesus Christ was trying to create a kinder, more humane and civilized society. He is a guide for people in their moments of sorrow and adversity offering them a path to gaining peace of mind. He shows us a way to be better human beings and create a society that is based on charity and compassion.
Reading the Sermon on the Mount one could think, what is new here; this is what all teachers say. However if you read and think deeply about what Jesus is asking us to do, you realise that it is not such an easy path. Like the Eight Fold Path of the Buddha, it requires a lifelong dedication to being a good human being and that is not as easy as you think.
The Sermon promises the kingdom of heaven to people Jesus calls “Blessed”. He says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” It is asking us to be kind to the weak and the poor and showing humility. Most of us do not think often of the poor or help them.
Another line says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” It tells us that in our moment of sorrow that this too shall pass and we will gain the strength to go on.
Jesus spoke often about forgiveness – one of the hardest things to do. We often forget the kindness of people but we hold on to the grief they have caused us. Jesus asks us to forgive those who have sinned against us because he understood that to hold on to the negative emotions – anger, envy and wishing for revenge – it just means that you are hurting yourself and losing your peace of mind.
For all those who feel that they have to impose their religious beliefs on others through violence, Jesus says, “All who take the sword, will perish by the sword.” Instead this great prophet of love and peace talks of atonement. For Jesus hatred, envy and anger are the ways to a greater sorrow.
If we could just listen and think about what this wise, humane and gentle saviour was saying, this world would be a much better place. He asked us to pray for guidance and think of others and suggested wisely, “Do unto others what you would have them do unto you.”
Jesus Christ still lives among us because of his unforgettable words.