Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Sermon on the Mount

Designating a series of moralistic lessons said to have been preached by Jesus in the vicinity of Capernaum alongside the Sea of Galilee, the evangelist Matthew invented what came to be known as the Sermon on the Mount : no doubt the most novel and awesome presentation of moral philosophy and intense love in the history of human thought.

I had the chance to find myself at this unique spot on Friday 16 December 1988, after a coach trip to the Arab town of Nazareth, during my first trip to Israel. This was a chance for me to realize fully that everything I had ever imagined about Christianity was summed up exclusively in that extraordinary Sermon on the Mount, which seemed to have been conceived spontaneously in the middle of the countryside. Above all, these lessons went against the grain of everything that rich people, tyrants and evil men might have ever imagined.

These days, whenever inspired folk start trying to tell me how we might welcome Islamic believers into our societies, I wonder instantly: Have Muslims ever grasped what the Sermon on the Mount is all about? I have no reason to suppose that they've ever even heard of it, let alone been inspired by its fabulous messages.

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