2 February 2020Matthew 5:1-12
When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them ... (vs. 1-2)
Psalm: Psalm 15
There’s something very powerful about our sense of place. Words said in one place appear to carry much more weight than if they’re said somewhere else.
If the Prime Minister has a significant statement to make, it happens in Downing Street right in front of the door of Number 10. The intent is clear: this matters. In my favourite TV programme – The West Wing – we see how the authority of the President of the United States is emphasised: “I am speaking to you from the Oval Office in the White House …”
A little word in this intro to the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) gives us a clear indication that Matthew intends us to weigh Jesus’ words very carefully. We read: “he went up the mountain” (v. 1). Not 'a' mountain but ‘the’.
For Matthew, who was writing a Gospel for the Jews, this was the trigger to take them back to the moment when Moses stood on Mount Sinai and gave the law. Matthew wants us to understand it’s not just Jesus’ words that supercede Moses’s declaration; it is that Jesus is greater than Moses.
Jesus is, after all, inaugurating God’s new kingdom and begins with an outline of the character of those who will choose to become a part of it: people who persist in God-ness will be the blessed ones. The whole of the following three chapters are laying out of how the kingdom will shape communities through those who follow Jesus.
The mountain is the location for a manifesto of hope – just as the Gospel will end (Matthew 28) with another mountain episode we call the Great Commission. At that point, the disciples are told to go and live out everything they have heard from Jesus and seen him do.
- How does a sense of place help us pass on the good news of Jesus? What places can we use as trigger points?
- What character trait from the Beatitudes (vs. 3-12) are we called to emphasise in our fractured society?