Did you know that not all the scriptures started out written? Some were only written down after they had been oral tradition. And did you know that the new testament was written in a form of common Greek, but in the documents we still have, there are no spaces, no lowercase letters, and no punctuation?
I mean, can you imagine?
Let's eat Grandma.
Let's eat, Grandma.
Like the t-shirt says, punctuation saves lives.
So too with context. Context is a big deal. Without context, we are left to interpret things however we feel. So when I notice the mountains that Matthew uses in his account of Jesus' life and ministry, I should start paying attention. The details are important.
Mountains, for the Hebrews, were focal points. Throughout Israel's history, all the important stuff happened on mountains. Abraham's son Isaac was spared on Mount Moriah. Moses received the ten commandments and the Law from God on Mount Sinai. David encountered an angel on a threshing floor on the peak of a mountain. Mountains are woven into the fabric of Hebrew culture. So when we read that Jesus went up onto the side of a mountain in Matthew 5, we should pay close attention to what he's about to say.
Because, for the Hebrews, mountains ("the high places") were where God revealed Himself to His people.
In Genesis 22, God reveals himself to be nothing like the gods of the surrounding culture by providing a substitute sacrifice for Isaac; He is a god who will not forsake His people. In Exodus 20, God reveals that He cares about the welfare of His people, that they rest, that they not take advantage of others, that they respect the lives and property of their neighbors.
There are at least five mountains mentioned in Matthew's gospel; where he feeds four thousand, the mount of transfiguration, Golgotha, the mountain of the great commission ... and of course, this other time, Jesus walks up on a mountain; the one who John calls the Word Incarnate; the one who Matthew calls "God with us." And He begins to teach.
Matthew's saying, Jesus is about to say something important,
So pay attention.
So pay attention.