The Mount of Beatitudes is believed to be the setting of Jesus’ famous Sermon On The Mount, found in Matthew Chapters 5 through 7, and there is also a short version in Luke 6: 17 – 26. This is Jesus’ longest recorded sermon, and it describes the traits He was looking for in His followers. Each beatitude is in direct contrast to qualities admired by society. Christ even goes so far as to tell us that as we make serious efforts to develop these traits, we will find opposition everywhere, Matthew 5: 11 & 12.
The “amphitheater” where Christ stood as He delivered the Sermon on the Mount is set on Mount Eremos. This is also understood to be the site where Jesus met His Apostles after His resurrection and commissioned them to “make disciples of all nations,” in Matthew 28: 16. It is here that we find a beautiful chapel built to commemorate Jesus’ sermon to His followers. Franciscan sisters built the chapel in 1938, and its eight sides symbolize the eight “beatitudes” that began His sermon. 1) Blessed are the poor in spirit. 2) Blessed are those that mourn. 3) Blessed are the meek. 4) Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. 5) Blessed are the merciful. 6) Blessed are the pure in heart. 7) Blessed are the peacemakers. 8) Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.
Matthew Chapter 6
The beautiful views found at the Mount of Beatitudes, the hillsides and lake, offer more than just photo opportunities. While those abound in and around the grounds, the Mount of Beatitudes offers a place to “consider the truth taught there by Jesus, the author of all truth.” Jesus drew on the splendor and beauty of the slope and surrounding area to illustrate His sermon points. Matthew 6: 28 – 31, “and why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, He will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?” “Jesus spoke the words to the “worriers” of the first century.” By comparing flowers to people, Jesus sought to comfort those listening that day, who just like us, worry about tomorrow, and rue what happened yesterday.
More Than A Picture Opportunity
From the Mount of Beatitudes you can see all the way across the Sea of Galilee, 13 miles, and to put it all in perspective, as we take in that spectacular, peaceful sight, it is more than a picturesque view. It is a lesson in living with Christ as the center of your life. If you can leave your worries behind, and develop the character of Christ you will see much further than thirteen miles.
Pilgrims have commemorated Jesus’ sermon here since the 4th century. The ruins of a small Byzantine church dated to the late 4th century (300 – 400 AD) have been discovered downhill from the present chapel. It has a rock-cut cistern beneath it and the remains of a little monastery to the south. Part of the mosaic floor was recovered and is now on display in Capernaum – where we will be able to view it.
Egeria and Queen Helena
During this era two women undertook trips to the Holyland, a Spanish nun named Egeria and Constantine’s mother Queen Helena. Egeria spent three years traveling through Palestine and her writings confirm many of the Holy sites in and around the Galilee region including the Mount of Beatitudes.
Helena is reputed to have had the greatest impact on what we see today in the Holyland. Between 326 and 328 AD, Helena left Rome and traveled to Palestine. Some accounts have her traveling with a large Roman entourage befitting a royal traveler; some accounts have that entourage as the 10th Roman Legion whose jurisdiction was Palestine and Jerusalem. Whatever or whoever she traveled with, she did visit many sites in the Galilee region, Jerusalem and even Mount Sinai in the Sinai Peninsula where a chapel at Saint Catherine’s Monastery—often referred to as the Chapel of Saint Helen—is dated to the year 330 AD. As she traveled throughout Palestine she ordered churches to be built on sites described by locals as places where Jesus taught and ministered. Queen Helena visited these sites connected with the earthly life of the Savior, reportedly building more
than eighty churches, including one on the Mount of Olives where the Lord ascended to Heaven; and one at Gethsemane where the Savior prayed before His sufferings. Helena visited provinces, peoples and cities, where she was presumably received with the ceremony due her stature. Helena, just like other royal travelers, bestowed gifts on the inhabitants of cities, presented donations to the troops, sponsored the construction of public buildings (i.e. churches), and adorned the existing sanctuaries where she visited. It has been said that wherever she decided to build a church, she would leave a contingent of soldiers to carry out her wishes, so today, even though we are looking at more modern buildings than the Byzantine churches Helena had constructed, we can at least thank her for identifying the sites.