A Tale of Two Mountains                

Matthew 5-7; Exodus 19-23

(see also Luke 6:12-49; Deuteronomy 4-6:9)

And so I find myself in yet another episode of How Did I Miss It?

The guide who led me on this journey of revelation was Amy-Jill Levine, Professor of New Testament Studies Emerita at Vanderbilt Divinity. I always remind that she is also a practicing Orthodox Jew, which comes to bear in almost all of her teaching.

What a gift she has been to me.

She was expounding on Jesus’ teaching which we generally refer to as the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), or alternatively as the abbreviated Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:12-49). She observed, “This would have been very familiar to his Jewish hearers. They well knew of Moses on Mount Sinai.” She then shared several of the parallels.

Both involved direct encounters with God, which resulted in laws for living. Moses climbed to the summit of Mount Sinai where God provided him the tablets containing the Ten Commandments, as well as the Oral Law contained in the 613 Jewish laws. These were the rules by which governed Jewish life.

Similarly, Jesus gathered his disciples on a mountain and shared with them rules for successful living – the Beatitudes, “You’ve heard it said… but I say to you…,” love your enemies, don’t judge, build on solid ground and so much more. When I step back and take in the sermon this sermon in its entirety as well as the component parts, Jesus takes the instructions Moses brought down from Mount Sinai and expanded them in new ways which directed the disciples (and those who would hear them) into new ways of living, in the ways that lead to the life more abundant.

As I ruminated on the similarities of the two mountain teachings, I was reminded how the short hop from there to Jesus as the fulfillment of the Jewish promises and prophecies. As Paul implored his listeners and readers to embrace Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. He didn’t come to replace the Torah, but rather to fulfill it.

Once again, I see with new eyes. The Old Testament foretells of the New Testament glory and the New Testament is replete with echoes of the Old Testament. God’s story is incomplete without both.

Reveling in the glory of both testaments,

Robert