Psalms 41, 52 * 44; Exodus 32:1-20; Colossians 3:18-4:6(7-18); Matthew 5:1-10.
Our selection from Matthew today begins with Jesus seeing the crowds, and without explanation going up the mountain and sitting down. In Matthew, the passage just before our selection today has Jesus calling Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, as well and James and John to be his followers: and they go throughout Galilee teaching and healing and having huge throngs of people following him, coming to him, seeking him out. In Matthew generally, Jesus goes "up the mountain" when he needs to pray, or to be alone. One last bit of info: when Jesus sits down that means he is going to teach, as that is what the great rabbinic teachers do, they sit down amongst the people they have charge over and they speak/teach/make those followers think.
I can imagine Jesus, having just completed a strenuous circuit of healing and teaching, turning around, seeing more crowds, more people in need, and sighing....and going up the mountain. He didn't go alone this time, his newly appointed disciples were with him. He needed to rest from those efforts throughout Syria, but he also needed to tell his disciples some very important things: what are known as the beatitudes, which are part of today's lectionary reading.
In the midst of exhaustion, of not wanting to deal with the crowds, Jesus imparts truth about the kingdom: difficult truths to comprehend let alone make part of one's life, but truths none the less, spoken at a time of exhaustion. Important insights can be achieved even in the depths of tiredness, allowing for a different kind of rest to come to our soul.
Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer