Jesus, Man of Letters? – 2

Rieu’s theory of Jesus as a ‘man of letters’ is borne out by the structure of the Sermon on the Mount. As with many of the prophets, His “book” begins with a preamble that follows the themes of Israel’s 7 feasts in Leviticus 23.

Jesus begins with the Sabbath rest of those who have a humble spirit, works through those who mourn for their sins at Passover, and ends with the Atonement covering of the blood of those who would be persecuted yet to be shed on the Land. And at Tabernacles, their reward is in heaven.

The next cycle follows the seven speeches of God concerning the construction of the Tabernacle (Exodus 25-31), which in turn follow the seven days of the Creation week. He begins with the saints as salt (which is symbolically solid fire) and Light. He deals with anger, lust and reconciliation before God in the firmament (the Holy Place between the veil and the Laver). He gives us the Lord’s prayer at the Altar (the Land), and speaks about the eye being the Lamp (governing lights) of the body. Flocks of birds and fields of lilies and grass are clouds of Incense (I know it sounds a bit odd but there is much more Old Testament background to this one. Israel’s armies, as the Lord’s enrobing church, were summoned at Trumpets.) The saints are to be wise, self-examining judges, as Adam the High Priest, and not waste the truth on unclean animals - dogs (faithless Jews) and pigs (faithless Gentiles) who would return to attack both Jesus and the church. Finally, at Tabernacles, Jesus speaks about fruitless trees and thornbushes being cut down and incinerated. True rest would come to the believing Jews and Gentiles united at the fulfilment of this feast.

All of which supports a great deal of preparation – and of course the inspiration of the Spirit – in Jesus’ role as prophet, the living, walking Word of God.

(Also note that Jesus’ “woes” upon the Pharisees follow the same pattern, but in a negative sense.)

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