When I think of the Sermon on the Mount, two incidents quickly come to mind. One is still painful; the other pleasant.
When I was a youngster, I was assigned to read a passage of scripture for our Sunday School class the next time we met. I forgot about it. When I was called on for the reading, I briefly panicked but then remembered the Beatitudes. I was sure they were in Matthew 1, so I announced the scripture, opened my Bible, and began reading. As you undoubtedly know, the Beatitudes are in Matthew 5, not Matthew 1, which contains the genealogy of Jesus.
Momentarily undeterred, I kept reading, with increasing difficulty and embarrassment. I mispronounced Amminadab, Abijah, Jeconiah, Shealtiel, Abihud, Eliakim, Elihud, Matthan. At some point, I could no longer see the words. I had a kind teacher who tried to help me. After that, I took more seriously my Sunday School assignments, and I have never forgotten the exact chapter in Matthew that contains the Beatitudes.
The other incident occurred many years later. The preacher in our church began his sermon by admitting that he’d borrowed parts of some sermons from other preachers. In fact, he said he had just plain plagiarized a few that he thought were particularly good. But he said that he was taking plagiarism to a new level that morning. He then proceeded to preach the Sermon on the Mount as it’s recorded in Matthew.
It was wonderful — the emphasis he placed on certain words, the inflection in his voice, a pause here and there. I doubt that he preached it the way Jesus did, but hearing it preached instead of reading it gave me new insight into Jesus’ most famous sermon in scripture.
Sometimes, our memories of scripture are almost as important as the scripture itself.