Mountains in Matthew

September 12, 2013

Matthew associated notable events in the ministry of Jesus with mountains. His references to mountains are listed in the following table.

1. Jesus’ temptation Matthew 4:8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;
2. The Sermon on the Mount Matthew 5:1 And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: and he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
3. After praying on a mountain, Jesus walked on the water Matthew 14:23 And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone. But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.
4. Jesus healed people on a mountain Matthew 15:29 And Jesus departed from thence, and came nigh unto the sea of Galilee; and went up into a mountain, and sat down there. And great multitudes came unto him, having with them those that were lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and cast them down at Jesus’ feet; and he healed them:
5 Jesus was transfigured on a mountain Matthew 17:1 And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.
6. Removing mountains Matthew 17:19-20 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.
7. Seeking lost sheep in the mountains Matthew 18:12 How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?
8. Mountains cast into the sea Matthew 21:21 Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.
9. The mount of Olives Matthew 24:3 And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
10. Flee to the mountains Matthew 24:15-17 When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) then let them which be in Judæa flee into the mountains; let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house:
11. Jesus betrayed and arrested Matthew 26:30-31 And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives. Then saith Jesus unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.
12. The great commission Matthew 28:16-20 Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

In Matthew, Jesus taught the things contained in the Sermon on the Mount to the disciples on a mountain. Each of the Beatitudes at the beginning of the Sermon is a promise.

Mountains were symbolic of God’s promises and blessings in the O.T. When Jacob blessed his son Joseph, he said: “the blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren.” [Gen. 49:26]

The high mountains correspond to the high and lofty spiritual nature of the promises and blessings Jacob referred to. Mountains are also durable, which corresponds to the fact that God’s promises endure forever.

Matthew contrasts Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount with the Ten commandments given at Sinai.

Luke’s account says that Jesus taught very similar things, but on a plain.

Luke 6:20-23
And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh. Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.

Luke 6:15 shows that Jesus taught these things on a plain. The previous night, Jesus spent praying upon a mountain.

In Item 4, Jesus healed people who were lame, blind, dumb, and maimed, on a mountain. This associates mountains with healing. These people were healed on a mountain, not because it was the most convenient place for them to come to Jesus, as depending on how high up the mountain Jesus was located, it would have been hard work for those who were carrying the lame to Jesus to be healed. Obviously there was another reason why a mountain was mentioned as the location: mountains represent God’s promises, and blessings, as Jacob showed when he blessed Joseph.

In Item 5, the transfiguration of Jesus, and the appearance of Moses and Elijah, another symbolic meaning of mountains is illustrated. They are symbols of God’s revelations, and are often  connected with visions, and prophecies. [Ezek. 40:2; Rev. 21:10]

In Item 9, the Olivet discourse was given to the disciples on the mount of Olives. The prophecy Jesus gave on the mount of Olives in Matthew 24-25 applies to the whole time of the church, not merely to the first century as preterists believe, or to the last seven years as dispensationalists claim. This prophecy of Jesus is represented by the mount of Olives, in Zechariah’s prophecy about the mount of Olives being cleaved in the midst, and one half moving to the north, and the other half moving towards the south, forming a wide valley to which he said the saints should flee. [Zech. 14:4] Preterist and Futurist interpretations of the Olivet Discourse are opposite, and contradictory, and each of these theories displaces the prophecy in two opposite directions, and both obscure its proper application. To flee to the valley between the two halves of the mount of Olives means apply the Olivet Discourse of Jesus to the present age of the church, rather than to ethnic Jews in the first century, or to ethnic Jews in a future seven year tribulation.

In Item 10, Jesus said, “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) then let them which be in Judæa flee into the mountains.” Jesus did not mean flee to save your life, as he also taught, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” [Matt. 6:25] Jesus did not contradict himself when he said “flee to the mountains;” he meant flee to God’s promises, which the mountains represent.

Matthew’s references to mountains in the ministry of Jesus confirm that the mountains represent God’s promises and blessings and revelations.

In Item 12, the great commission to preach the gospel in all the world was given to the disciples, after Jesus’ resurrection, upon a mountain in Galilee. This was also accompanied by a promise: “lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”

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