The Mount of Beatitudes rises above the ruins on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee. This revered hill offers an awe-inspiring view of virtually the entire shoreline of the Sea of Galilee.
A narrow access road branches from the Tiberias highway and leads up the hill to the stately Church of the Beatitudes and adjoining hospice. Built in 1936, both facilities are now cared for by the Franciscan Sisters.
The renowned architect Barluzzi designed the distinctive octagonal-shaped church, utilizing the plentiful local basalt stone for the edifice and white stone from Nazareth to produce the unadorned, graceful arches surrounding the church’s veranda. Each of the sanctuary’s eight walls commemorates one of the Beatitudes pronounced at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. A lofty, elegant central dome symbolizes the ninth Beatitude. It reminds every believer that blessed (happy) are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
It is the concave southeastern slope, however, that makes this hill one of the most hallowed Christian sites in the Holy Land. Since the fourth century, Christians have identified this verdant crest as the place where Jesus escaped the pressing multitude to teach His disciples. He retreated from the large crowds that had followed Him and led His disciples to this secluded natural amphitheater, sat down and taught them. His subsequent summary of basic gospel themes is known as the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).
It is important to note that on this occasion Jesus sat down to teach. When a Rabbi was formally teaching, or when the subject matter was of utmost importance, he sat down. The fact that Jesus sat down to teach His disciples indicates that what He was about to say was essential, fundamental and, in the paramount sense of the word, official.
The Mount of Beatitudes is also the traditional spot where Jesus chose His twelve disciples (Luke 6:12-16). The Sermon on the Mount, according to Luke’s narrative, immediately follows the choosing of the Twelve. The Master’s instructions may best be understood as an ordination address to the twelve apostles He had recently selected.
Jesus here introduces and summarizes guidelines and instruction for life and ministry that are unique, unprecedented and revolutionary. The Sermon on the Mount is, in fact, a distillation of the whole gospel message.
William Francis, The Stones Cry Out