Who is it that is giving this sermon? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
In looking at eschatology in the Gospels, one thing to establish is Jesus’s view of Himself as the king of Israel and yet also as the priest of Israel. I said last time that we would be looking at the Sermon on the Mount. Today, I am going to really start off by looking at that sermon.
Now the question of who gave it sounds like a no-brainer. Jesus gave it. If that’s all we’re really asking by the question, then this blog is pretty much done. The question though is more how did the person who gave it see Himself and also how is Matthew presenting Him?
Matthew constantly presents Jesus in a style that is very Jewish. His book is laid out in a fivefold format much like the Pentateuch would have been seen in. It’s split between teaching and acting. At the start, we have Jesus going to John the Baptist to be baptized going under the water. After going through the water, He enters the wilderness for 40 days and nights to be tempted.
Does this sound like any story a Jew would know? Definitely. It sounds like Israel passing through the waters of the Red Sea (In a miraculous way, of course) and then going into the wilderness where they were tempted for forty years. What comes in all of that? The giving of the Law. Lo and behold, what do we find in chapter five?
Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
It might seem like a given to say He opened His mouth to teach them. What else is He going to do? Sign language? However, Matthew chose to point this out for a reason. What is that? To make us think about the Law coming from the mouth of YHWH in the Old Testament.
Jesus then gets up and He starts expounding the Law. He starts explaining what is meant by it. We can say this is consistent with Jesus because one thing historical Jesus scholars note about Him is that He never really pointed to anyone else’s authority aside from God Himself. Jesus did not need to address any other rabbis. If all you had was the Gospels, you wouldn’t even know other rabbis existed.
Jesus is treading on sacred ground. He is handling the Law and saying that He alone has the authority. He alone can go up on the mountain and deliver the law to the people. He is the new Moses leading His people. He is the new priest. He is the new king.
He will also speak as what He says has divine authority and if He really thinks that, then how does He see Himself? You could say that any prophet in the Old Testament would do the same, but Jesus never goes “Thus sayeth the Lord.” He says quite the opposite. He says “You have heard it was said…., but I say to you.” The prophets didn’t speak like that.
So as we go through the sermon, let’s remember this is the priest telling us how to live and this is the king looking at His subjects saying this is how my reign is going to be. What will it be like? Looking at the sermon in future installments will tell us.