Jesus’ ‘Sermon on the Mount’, Matthew chapters 5-7, is given as a single literary structure. It lies within two small passages that act as bookends/inclusio (4:25-5:2) and (7:28-8:1) . The main body of the sermon (5:17-7:12) comprises of Jesus’ moral teachings and commandments.
This is preceded by a prologue of blessings (5:3-16) and followed by an epilogue of warnings (7:13-27). Both prologue and epilogue deal with the mutual theme of ‘works’. Jesus begins with a list of those who are blessed for carrying out the works of the kingdom of heaven and then, instructing his followers to be the salt of the earth and a light to the world, he proceeds in revealing these ‘good works’ to be the works of our Father in heaven. Moreover in the epilogue the warning against false prophets is centred in identifying their works or fruit – they are those that work iniquity.
The main body of the sermon is introduced by a passage (5:17-20) in which Jesus teaches he has come to fulfil the law and the prophets, explaining this means exceeding the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. The sermon concludes with a final reference to the law and the prophets (7:12). The main body is divided up into three sections; the first section (5:21-48) is on exceeding the teaching of the scribes; the second section (6:1-18) is on exceeding the practices of the scribes; the third section (6:19-7:11) deals with seeking the righteousness of the Kingdom of God. We find that as we move through the sermon there is a progression of spirituality, from understanding the laws of morality, to the manner in which a person should practice righteousness and then concluding with seeking the righteousness of the kingdom and total dedication of ones life and well-being to God.