Matthew 5:1 & Jesus as the Greater Moses

As we begin considering the content of the Sermon on the Mount, we’ll quickly notice that every verse is packed with meaning, including the very first one. Matthew 5:1 reads, “Seeing the crowds, he [Jesus]went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.” In this verse, Matthew begins to reveal Jesus as the greater Moses. How? By the little phrase, “he went up on the mountain.”[1]

In Exodus 19:3, Moses “went up on the mountain” to receive God’s law and deliver it to the people of Israel. In the Greek Old Testament (The Septuagint), which Matthew was undoubtedly familiar with, the phrase describing Moses’ ascent reads, “ἀνέβη εἰς τὸ ὄρος.” Even if you can’t read Greek, you can see the identical nature of Matthew 5:1, which reads, “ἀνέβη εἰς τὸ ὄρος.” This phrase is used only three times in the Septuagint, each referring to Moses’ ascent to Sinai (Ex 19:3, 24:18, 34:4). This limited use makes the argument for Matthew’s intentional quotation compelling. He clearly wants his readers to note the connection and realize that Jesus was ascending the mountain to teach God’s people just like Moses did.

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Four Reasons the Sermon on the Mount is Relevant Today

In January, I started studying and writing on the Sermon on the Mount. A family wide bout of Covid-19 delayed my study for a little bit. But alas, God has allowed me to return to it! This week I want to share something I read from Martyn Lloyd-Jones on the Sermon. I am summarizing his comments under the title, “Four Reasons the Sermon on the Mount is Relevant Today.” Here they are:

1. Jesus died to enable us to live the Sermon on the Mount.

As I argued in my previous blog, the Sermon on the Mount is a description of the Christian life. Thus, Jesus died for us to be able to live out the principles of the Sermon. He died to “purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14). The principles contained in the Sermon are a part of these “good works.” In fact, God has planned from eternity past for us to walk in them (Eph 2:10). Because of Jesus’ death and the new life it has brought us, we can be zealous for doing the good works He expounds in the Sermon

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Sermon on the Mount (Pt. 1- Interpretation)

While in seminary, I attended a doctoral colloquium where Dr. Charles Quarles described the Sermon on the Mount as a kind of New Covenant Torah. By this, he meant that the Sermon on the Mount is the standard of life that will characterize the members of the New Covenant (Jesus’ followers). Ever since that talk, I have desired to take the time to study the most famous message ever preached.  As I study, I am going to write what I am learning on my blog. This will allow me an opportunity to synthesize what I am learning, and I hope that it will be beneficial to some of you as well![1]

The SM begins in Matthew 5, after Jesus ascends a mountain and begins to teach. He describes the nature of those who will be recipients of His blessings. He proclaims an upside-down kingdom in which the least are the greatest. And He presents a way of life rooted in a pure heart that loves God supremely and serves others sacrificially. His words have been regarded as the “manifesto” of the Christian faith and are well-respected by those inside and outside the church (see Mahatma Gandhi and the Sermon on the Mount, for example[2]).

In today’s post I want to consider the proper interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount. As I began my study, I was surprised to see how many different ways that the SM is interpreted. For those outside the faith, the SM is primarily interpreted as a description of the Christian life. This is not entirely incorrect, but it is often viewed as the primary substance of Christ’s message, which it is not. One must also account for and synthesize many other truths that Jesus taught, such as Him being the Son of God who would save His people via His death and resurrection, to understand the true substance of Christianity.

Inside the faith, interpretations are primarily concerned with understanding the purpose of the SM. Is it meant to be a law that exposes sin and drives people to the grace of God in Christ? Is it a code of ethic that will only be realized in heaven? Is it a way of life for elite Christians only?[3] Or is it a description of the kind of life that God progressively creates in His people by His Spirit?

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