This is a continuation of my personal commentary on the book of Matthew.
In chapter 4 Jesus began his ministry. He called the disciples and began preaching and healing people from their sicknesses. Those who were following John the Baptist shifted their worship to Jesus, just like what John encouraged them to do. The crowd got larger and seemed to be constantly anticipating for what Jesus had to say. By tradition the Jews tell stories to their children and family for that matter. Every Jew has heard the stories about Abraham, Moses, and all their forefathers and their sojourn in the wilderness with God. This time the crowd sensed that Jesus offered a twist from what they've been used to hearing. His style also evoked authority which is unlike the other rabbis they've listened to. Beyond his stories and manner of speaking, He also healed the sick. All these fueled their curiosity even further. They might have wondered, "Who is this man?" There was no doubt this crowd was ready to absorb any announcement that Jesus would tell them.
He Saw the Crowds
Jerusalem at this point in time, has been under the oppressive rule of the Roman Empire. If you remember when Jesus was born, King Herod, knowing that he was not the legitimate king of the Jews, was threatened when the Magi said that the true King has been born. If we start calculating from a milestone that we all are familiar with - the birth of Jesus, and given that Jesus is now a teacher himself, were talking more than thirty years of not having a ruler of their own. They've heard about the coming of their king and Jesus appears to be the one who has been prophesied to come and save them. Now they are all ears to Him.
"Now when he saw the crowds..." Jesus saw the crowds. Have you ever wondered what He saw in the crowds of people who were following Him? These were people who had a taste of Jesus' preaching and healing. They were people from various walks of life. Jesus, aware of this diversity in His audience, decided to address the people's plight to prepare them to listen to the rest of what he had to say.
Most of the people following Him were in what one would consider a dead end situation. They must have been in such predicament for their lives with no hope of change in sight. In the crowd were teachers of the law and scribes who looked forward to the day when the political situation is reversed. They hoped that they would have dominion over their Roman enemies. They longed to have control over the economy of their own land. Some of them were poor with nothing, fishermen, or carpenters, etc. who hoped that someday their social status would be elevated. Their minds were full of thoughts of abundant food, life of ease and comfortable homes as the mansions that their conquerors lived in. Maybe they even thought of having a different outfit for the day other than their one and only robe which they used as comforter at night. In their minds was a picture of themselves in costly robes as they've seen their Roman conquerors were wearing. There were those who were mourning having lost family from whatever cause. Christian artist, Jason Gray, calls them in his song, "All the Lovely Losers." They were people who were poor in spirit, mourning, meek, hungry and thirsty for righteousness. Some of them are those who were helping those in need: merciful; pure in heart; peacemakers and those who are persecuted for righteousness. Jesus saw these in the crowd a picture of hopeful people longing for change.
He Went Up On a Mountain Side...
What did Jesus do when He saw the crowd? "He went up on a mountain side..." Jesus made Himself visible to everyone so that they would hear Him. This was very important, He had a message. His message was not predictable. Everyone had to have the chance to hear Him carefully. In these days this would be translated as having stood on a stage or platform equipped with a top-of-the-line sound system. Without instructions given, all phones were silenced. Everyone looked up to Him with anticipation.
...and He Sat Down
After seeing everything, He positioned Himself to address them. What was striking here is that He did not just spoke to them as a teacher but someone who was one of them. Jesus joined the people where they are. This I would think is an expression of His deep compassion for the people. He was not going to stand there and teach the people. His feelings dictated his actions to take a different course..."and He sat down." Remember that this event happened in a place where the Jews considered it self-defiling to walk the road the Samaritans walked. However, Jesus from the very beginning was already different and this was not the time to be a slave to tradition. He sat with the people just like a friend to a friend, His hands on their shoulders saying, "I see you and I'm here for you."
Jesus was very deliberate with His actions and manners. He came as an expression of God's love to His people and He lived that way.