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New Testament

Matthew's Gospel

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In scripture, mountains are of immense symbolic significance as places of encounter with God. One of the chief purposes of the gospel of Matthew is not only to show how Jesus fulfils the prophecies and longings of Israel but also to show how he transcends all national and religious boundaries. 

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus, ‘the new Moses’ gives his followers a new Law which fulfils and completes the Mosaic Law. In the final words of Matthew’s gospel, again on a mountain top, claiming all authority in heaven and on earth, he sends his disciples out to the whole world to preach and teach all that he has taught them. 

Between these two mountains, his followers, both then and now, learn discipleship.

As well as these crucial moments, there are other mountain experiences in Matthew which are noteworthy. They mark some significant occasions in the life of Jesus and in the lives of his hearers; they clarify Jesus’ identity and mission and carry the gospel narrative forward. Beneath the screen below are ideas for discussing the following visual introduction to Matthew's Gospel.

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USING THE RESource ‘RICH TEXT’ INTRODUCTIONS TO THE SYNOPTIC GOSPELS

A brief word about the Gospels
The gospels themselves are inspired interpretations of the meaning of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ arising from the earliest experiences of believers in Jesus Christ. Through all ages of the Church they stand as documents which Christians will read, study, pray over and apply to their own lives and situations, and through which God will speak to them. As such they are rightly called ‘the Word of God’. As foundational documents of the Church they also stand as a reference point against which Christians may judge the authenticity of their lives as Christians and the extent to which the Church is fulfilling its call.

The Gospel Introductions in RESource
The visual introductions to the gospels on RESource are brief interpretations
(not inspired) of each gospel presented to get you started on a closer study of each particular gospel.

• First of all you might like to consider the advantages and disadvantages of trying represent the gospels in images at all? (While Christianity has generally been at ease with the use of sacred images, Judaism and Islam avoid the use of images in conveying holy truths.)

• How do you feel about the cartoon technique used by the artists in this particular introduction. What is helpful what is distracting? In what way are they presenting stereotypical images? Is this how you yourself imagine Jesus, the disciples, First Century Palestine? What influences how we imagine these things?

• Consider your own image of Jesus. Could you easily convey this visually or in other way? Why or why not?

• Do the gospel introductions in RESource tend to suggest or reinforce the idea of Jesus as a ‘fantasy’ figure rather than as a ‘real’ figure? How close can we get to the ‘real’ Jesus?

• What about other representations of Jesus in art or filmor even at the Sydney WYD Stations of the Cross. Which ones attract you? Which are less helpful for you? Can you explain why?

The RESource Introduction to the Gospel of Matthew
The visual introduction to Matthew invites you to focus on the mountain motif in Matthew in introducing its main themes. Matthew was interesting in revealing Jesus as the new Moses and the longed for Messiah.
Why or why not is the mountain theme a helpful approach to the exploration of Matthew’s gospel?
What other approaches are possible?

Visual 1- the Mountain of Temptation: Matthew 4:1-11
How does the representation of Satan work in this frame?
If evil was so obvious and unattractive would anyone ever be tempted or is there something glamorous about this Satan? Is he every human being’s dark side? How might you have drawn this scene? Would you choose to personify evil or convey its reality in a different way? Explain how or make your own representation.

Visual 2 – the Mountain of the Beatitudes: Matthew 5:1-12 
Matthew situates the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ exposition of his ‘new Law’ on a mountain as a counterpoint to Moses reception of the Law on Sinai.
Does this illustration suggest any relationship between the two mountains? What are the contrasts between the scene on Mt Sinai and the scene of the sermon on the Mount?

Visual 3 – the Mountain of Encounter with God: Matthew: 14:22-24
How is the interior movement to prayer suggested in this screen?
Are the details of Jesus’ facial features, hair, beard etc, a help or a hindrance to an appreciation of how Jesus encountered to God in prayer? What does the darkening sky suggest to you?

Visual 4 -  the Mountain of the Healing and Feeding of the Multitude: Matthew 15:29-39
The Old Testament counterpoint to this mountain is the prophecy in Isaiah that on a mountain, a great feast will be laid out and every tear wiped away. Is this vision suggested at all in this visual interpretation? What is the function of the landscape and panorama here?

Visual 5 – the Mountain of the Transfiguration: Matthew 17:1-8
This is a very literal interpretation of Matthew’s text. You might compare it with this theological interpretation from the icons of the Eastern Church or this abstract response. Which is most meaningful for you? In most depictions Christ himself is the source of light but in this Christ receives then reflects the divine light. Which is truer to Matthew’s account of the Transfiguration?

Visual 6 – the Mountain of the Betrayal: Matthew 26:30-50
Despite the tradition surrounding ‘Mount’ Calvary, Matthew’s gospel does not describe the place of Jesus’ crucifixion as a mountain, but Jesus’ betrayal does take place in Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. How are stereotypes at work (or undercut) in this illustration? How does it confront or confirm your interior image of this scene?

Visual 7 – the Mountain of the Great Commission: Matthew 28:16-20
How do the setting sun and the sunset colours work in this screen to suggest the coming to an end of a mode of Christ’s presence with his disciples? Does the scene suggest the future also. What other ways are there to interpret this moment?

Having viewed these introductory screens what are some of your expectations of Matthew’s gospel?