XIII. Chapter 4 of Jesus of Nazareth is a lengthy survey of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. As Jesus describes the Kingdom of God more extensively, Matthew presents Him as the new Moses, poised to lead the People of God on a new Exodus from slavery to freedom – not enslavement to Pharoah, but to sin; not freedom from servitude but from the power of death; not a promised land in an adjacent territory but a place in the Father’s house.
Climbing the mountain so He is visible to the crowds, and sitting down as a gesture of authority, Jesus teaches them. This foreshadows climbing the hill of Calvary; Roman crucifixions were intended to display criminals – to make them visible – as a deterrent to the crowds. After His death, He does not sit down but is taken down and buried, the full humility and self-emptying of the Cross now complete, the authority of Christ crucified that overpowers even death.
Further, this “mountain” invokes Mount Sinai, a mountain where Moses revealed God’s law as Jesus is proclaiming the new Covenant here; where Moses, like Jesus, prays in hidden communion with God; where Elijah encountered God not in storm or quake or fire, but in a voice, just as the Voice of God speaks here in the person of the Son, a human being Who is also God. The Israelites are frightened by the earthquake and storm that surrounded Sinai in Exodus 20, and say to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we shall die.” As Pope Benedict points out, this is exactly true: when God speaks to us, we must die to ourselves in order to be redeemed, precisely what Baptism both symbolizes and makes real in our lives.