I Kings 17.7-16; Psalm 4; Matthew 5.13-16
St Matthew’s Gospel is organised around five great blocks of teaching, possibly in imitation of the five books of Moses, the first five books of the Old Testament. The first of these is conventionally known as the Sermon on the Mount, from the very first words of chapter 5: ‘Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up the hill. There he sat down and was joined by his disciples.’
A rabbi sat to teach. For Matthew the chief paradigm for understanding Jesus is Moses, the primordial teacher and law-giver of Israel. [cf Exodus 19.3-8] His disciples here are not the Twelve—they will only be appointed in chapter 10—but all those willing to be taught by him. They draw near because he sits down. They recognise his authority.
What he teaches is noteworthy. He doesn’t offer a theological disquisition on the nature of God; in contrast to St John’s Gospel he doesn’t give a series of ‘I am’ statements about himself. Instead the focus is on the disciples who have drawn near to hear him. ‘You are the light of the world’ he declares to them, and the substance of this first teaching is on the way they must live. If the kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor in spirit, Jesus has come to teach those prepared to listen how they should conduct themselves on earth.