7th June 2020

Note the Details

“When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him.”
Matthew 5:1 (NRSV)

Any good literature class teaches us to look at details. The professor will draw our attention to rhyme and metre, as well as word choice and atmosphere. But we’re not used to treating scripture as literature. Even though the Bible tells us about history, the authors do so with thematic and artistic elements which are easily overlooked.

Take for example the way Matthew and Luke introduce Jesus’ most famous sermon. Look at the subtle difference between two gospel writers’ accounts. Matthew’s is reproduced above. Now read Luke’s: “And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people” (Luke 6:17).

Both go on to tell about Jesus giving a sermon very alike in substance. No doubt Jesus reused material in his itinerant preaching over three years, sometimes even giving the same sermon twice. But here these details seem small, almost insignificant, until you look at the themes of these gospels. Matthew wrote to a Jewish audience to prove that Jesus is the prophesied new Moses who brings good news of God to his people. As Moses went up the mountain to receive and deliver commandments, so Jesus gives the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew. Luke wrote about Jesus coming to call all people to himself equally, emphasizing that we are all equal royalty in his kingdom. So he records the Sermon on the Plain.

The Sermon on the Mount and the sermon on the plain—the same sermon given twice. But here the difference of venue is important. The underlying message is the same: Jesus is changing everything. Jesus gives the new law from the mountain, and gives the new social order from the plain. His message was a surprise to many:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:3-5).

Where would Jesus speak this good news to us today? And would we listen?

Eternal Father, the words you give us are each of great importance. Help us to hear and then to heed. In Jesus’ name we pray.

Study presented by Greg Williams

About the Presenter:
The Day by Day each Sunday is taken from ‘Speaking of Life,’ (https://www.gci.org/videos/media-speaking-of-life/), a public resource video on the USA website of Grace Communion International. Greg Williams is President of Grace Communion International and lives in North Carolina, USA.

Local Congregation:
You are welcome to attend one of our local Church congregations located throughout the UK and Ireland. For details of your nearest local congregation, check on our website, www.gracecom.church under the ‘Churches’ tab, or ring +44 (0)1858 437099.

Email: admin@daybyday.org.uk

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