“And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:1-3). “And it came to pass when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matthew 7:28-29).
Chapters 5-7 of Matthew essentially outline the fundamental principles for Christian discipleship – and include the Beatitudes, such as “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 4:5), as well as specifics regarding the higher law of the gospel. As part of His directives, Jesus advises His faithful to: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). He instructs them regarding the Lord’s Prayer, counsels “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21), and warns “No man can serve two masters…” (Matthew 6:24). He cautions about false prophets and also admonishes to “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). He concludes his address with the reassurance that “Whosever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock” (Matthew 7:24).
Two scholars made the following observations about this artwork: “Bloch’s inclusion of an array of believers who have gathered to hear Jesus’ words allows us to view this religious event through a contemporary lens. The humble and poor look on in adoration; some clasp their hands in hope. Their daily tasks are forgotten as they lay aside their baskets, water jugs, and staffs. Some look interested but skeptical. The bearded man behind the figure of Christ who appears to consider and reflect on His words may well be a self-portrait of Bloch… Christ sits on a rock above the crowd and raises His hand in a traditional gesture of speech. The impact of His message is seen in the faces of the people, who listen attentively… Jesus is portrayed in the red robe and blue mantle, symbolizing His sacrifice and His divinity.” (footnote: Pheysey, Dawn C., and Richard Neitzel Holzapfel. The Master’s Hand: The Art of Carl Heinrich Bloch. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2010.)
Additional reading: “The Sermon on the Mount”
More information on the artist: “The Life of Christ Painted by Carl Heinrich Bloch”