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Category Archives: Matthew

Matthew 28 – Appearances and Disappearances

You have to admire the courage of the women who went to look at the tomb.  Mark’s Gospel includes the detail that they went to anoint Jesus’ body, but Matthew simply says they went to look at the tomb.  You have to remember that when Jesus was arrested by a contingent of Temple guards, the Apostles scattered into the night.  When Jesus was testifying before the Sanhedrin, Peter is denying him left and right for fear of being associated with Jesus.  After the crucifixion, they are all huddle together in a room trying to decide what to do and hoping they don’t end up on crosses too.  Meanwhile, the women head right down to the guards who were guarding Jesus’ tomb.  They don’t shy away.  They won’t run from these Roman guards.  They aren’t worried about a stone in the way of the seal placed upon the tomb.  They simply know that what they intend to do is right and that it must be done. It’s no surprise that this kind of courageous faith is rewarded with the first appearance of Jesus after his Resurrection.  Truly this is a great example of faith that we see in these women in this story.

The text then tells us about the guards reporting what had happened to the chief priests.  This is pretty remarkable.  Keep in mind that in about 80 days, Peter and John are going to be standing before this same group of men, testifying that they killed the Messiah and that Jesus then rose from the grave three days later.  This testimony matches that of the Roman guards who saw the angel and the empty tomb.  Not only do the Jewish leaders know that an angel brought Jesus out of the tomb and initiate a cover-up of this fact, but when the Apostles start telling the story they begin to persecute the Apostles.  They even go so far as to pay off the Roman guards and assure them that they can take care of the governor if he hears of their failure.  These are some pretty serious allegations.  This kind of conspiracy makes Watergate look like child’s play.

Finally, Matthew ends his Gospel with the Great Commission, “All authority on heaven and earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  Surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.”  This passage is especially important to me as a minister and also as Northwest gets ready to gear up for our March for Missions effort to raise money to do exactly what Jesus challenges us with right before his Ascension.

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2013 in Matthew

 

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Matthew 27 – The Servant King Gives His Life

There is so much in this chapter to take in that I think I’m going to do my best to just hit some key things that I haven’t really focused on before. If you have questions that aren’t addressed, I’d love to have some dialogue.

The question of Judas’ repentance is an interesting one. What was the real motivation behind what Judas did? He had followed Jesus for 2-3 years at this point. Was 30 pieces of silver really worth having him killed? At the point that Judas saw that Jesus was condemned to die he was filled with remorse. I tend to lean in the direction that Judas really did see Jesus as the Messiah but his understanding of Jesus as the Messiah was way off. He wanted the warrior king who would rise up against Rome instead of the servant king. By turning Jesus over, Judas thinks (in how I see it) that Jesus will have to come to action and rise up. Judas is trying to get the ball rolling for Jesus to take power by forcing his hand. The implications of his actions were unexpected by him. Was Judas saved by his repentance? What he did is not beyond the forgiveness enacted on the cross. The question we need to ask ourselves is in what ways do we try to force Jesus’ hand in being the Messiah he didn’t come to be? Do we pray or do certain things so that we will then be bless monetarily? Continue to read the Gospels and get to know Jesus so you don’t make the same mistake Judas makes.

Pilate’s name is important here. He is a real person who connects the real Jesus to the real world. Pilate’s role is to keep some kind of control over an ever troublesome group, the Jews. He is a state official and he wants to know if Jesus is a rival to Herod. What he doesn’t even think to question is whether or not Jesus is a rival to Caesar. When Christians profess that Jesus is Lord they are emphatically saying that Caesar is not.

Pilate does everything he can to set Jesus free but ultimately he has to appease the crowed to keep peace. Rome doesn’t care too much about the things Jesus has claimed about himself or even what others have claimed about him. Rome simply wants order.

Jesus is silent before his accusers because he is the new order of peace standing in the face of the old order of lies and injustice. He is willing to be wronged when he could use power to be right. He is the model for how we should approach a world of evil.

If Pilate saw Jesus as an innocent man, why did he have him flogged? In order to execute someone in the horrible way of crucifixion they must be dehumanized. They beat him and then mock him. The soldiers were doing what they do. They were going about business as usual. They had no idea they had God in the flesh before them.

With Jesus on the cross, he is faced with the same temptations that were before him in the wilderness. This time the desire to give into those temptations are much greater. “If you are the Son of God…” prove it. Not only did they mock Jesus but they also mocked God, calling God out to save Jesus if he really is his father.

The question has come up throughout history as to who actually killed Jesus. Matthew’s gospel has often been used to justify calling Jews “Christ Killers” bringing about (or justifying) persecution of the Jews. Did the Romans kill Jesus? Pilate? Me? Humanity? Matthew’s gospel emphasizes that Jesus gave up his spirit. He willingly died for the creation.

Matthew points out who of Jesus’ disciples were actually there by his side. The disciples had fled but the women stayed. Joseph of Arimathea plays a significant role in the passion story. With Jesus’ comments in the Gospel of Matthew about the rich, it is interesting that Matthew points out that Joseph was a rich man. He made a bold move in asking for Jesus’ body. This could have gotten him thrown in prison or even killed but Pilate ordered that Jesus’ body be given to him. Using his own tomb, Joseph gives Jesus a proper burial because he was fully human and fully died.

Mary and the other Mary seem to be the only followers of Jesus who listened to Jesus that he was going to resurrect from the dead…though they seemed to miss the three days part. They sat faithfully across from Jesus’ tomb being the examples of what it looks like to fully follow Jesus.

Not only did Mary (x2) remember that Jesus said he was going to resurrect from the dead but the chief priests and the Pharisees remembered as well and asked for a guard to be posted. Sixteen men post guard anticipating the disciples and build our anticipating for what will happen tomorrow.

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2013 in Bible Blog, Matthew

 

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Matthew 26 – Why Did Judas Do It?

The seventy-five verses in Matthew 26 are some of the most important in all of Scripture.  They recount Jesus’ final conversations with his Apostles before his death, the implementation of the Lord’s Supper, his prayers in the garden, his arrest, and his betrayal by Judas, and to some extent Peter.  It’s a very heavy chapter.

There are many scenes in movies and literature where a character has received a death sentence or a fatal blow, but they still have some time to say something to the people they care about the most.  Every work is gripping and filled with importance.  Moments remain to say what matters most.  It is in this moment that the events of Matthew 26 take place.  As the readers of the story, we know what’s coming and the text draws us in.  If you read any of this chapter outside of that seriousness, then you are missing much of what’s going on.

In light of the vast content of the chapter, I want to focus on a single element, and one we often overlook.  I want to explore Judas’ betrayal.  Judas is one of the most infamous villains in history, often known simply as “the betrayer.”  He is hated and despised throughout art and history.  Perhaps what bothers us the most is the question, “How can you see what he saw, hear what he heard, know what he knew, and then sell Jesus into the hands of his enemies?”  We don’t know.  Complicating the matter further is that the only real descriptions we have of Judas come from a group of men who were best friends with the man Judas betrayed.  (When I read about Judas in John’s Gospel, I can almost imagine John spitting every time he says Judas’ name.)

But what could possibly motivate somebody to do what Judas did?  This is clearly an exercise in imaginative reading, but I think it’s important that we are always willing to try to see beyond the text and so I want to make several suggestions for what might have led Judas to betray Jesus.

  1. Money.  The standard idea is that Judas was greedy (an idea reinforced by John who says Judas stole from the money bag intended for the poor).  It’s certainly a plausible argument, but there are some holes in the story.  For example, certainly Judas could have negotiated for a higher price if money was his primary interest.  And why throw the money away later?  And he couldn’t have been stealing too much money or somebody would have noticed earlier, right?
  2. A caveat in the money theory is that perhaps he thought he had an ace up his sleeve.  After all, he could turn Jesus over to the Pharisees and if Jesus didn’t want to get crucified he could simply walk through an angry crowd, call ten-thousand angels, or escape in a whirlwind.  And, Judas turns a profit in the process.
  3. The Devil made him do it.  Luke seems to suggest this in 22:3.  This is a troubling idea for many reasons, but would explain how Judas was with Jesus for years, then betrayed him, then was racked with such guilt and remorse that he killed himself.
  4. Judas wanted to “force Jesus’ hand.”  Earlier in Matthew, Satan tempted Jesus to throw himself off of the Temple and let the angels catch him.  Surely this would have caused all of those present at the Temple to declare Jesus Messiah at that very moment, King of Israel.  Perhaps Judas is trying to create a similar dynamic where Jesus would have to start a revolution to save his own life and finally become the Messiah that Judas wanted him to be.  This feels like a stretch  to me, but is historically/culturally plausible.
  5. Jesus told him to.  After all, how many times did Jesus tell the Apostles he was going to Jerusalem to be handed over to the Jewish leaders?  And then Jesus tells Judas at the Lord’s Supper, “It’s you.”  Could Judas have thought he was being instructed?

Ultimately, we don’t know.  And the reality is, that Judas was a real person with real thoughts and real emotions.  It could very easily have been some combination of these motivations or something else entirely.  What we do know is that the guilt consumed him and he tried to give back the money, but even that wasn’t enough and he killed himself.  It’s a dark story and a difficult one.  We cannot imagine how he did it.  I cannot imagine how he felt when Jesus looked at him that night in the garden as the soldiers led Jesus away and the other Apostles, his former friends, scattered into the night.  Did he watch the crucifixion?  Did he live long enough to know of the resurrection?  Would it have mattered?

It’s not a happy story, but it is a real story and it’s part of Jesus’ story.  The Bible is not naive to the pain and darkness of this world.  The Bible never tries to hide that things aren’t the way they should be.  Christians shouldn’t either.  People today often ask how the world can be so bad if God is good and God is in control. The Bible acknowledges all of those things to be true but doesn’t have a problem with it.  But it does put forth an answer to all of the darkness and pain, an antidote to all that is wrong and broken…

…and we will cover that next week when we get to Matthew 27-28.

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2013 in Matthew

 

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Matthew 25 – The World is Going to End! How Should You Live?

The question of the end of time is not answered in any way really. As usual, Jesus answers the question that needs to be asked and isn’t being asked. The question was how to interpret the end times but Jesus gives us a cue that this question isn’t as important as we think it is. People have spent way too much time trying to predict the end of time. A major war breaks out and they think Jesus is about to return. The real focus of Jesus’ comments is that after he leaves we will not know when he will return but we should be ready. What do we do in the meantime? That is the question Jesus really answers.

In chapter 24 there is the parable of the two slaves and Jesus doesn’t explain it. Instead, Jesus tells two more parables in order to explain what the first parable was talking about: the ten virgins and the talents. These two parables together emphasize the necessity to be both watchful and the work necessary those who watch. Jesus uses the familiar formula of “The kingdom of heaven will be like this,” but this time he uses “Then” signifying to the disciples how they must learn to live in light of his death and resurrection. While Jesus is away, he calls us to live as he did in this world.

Jesus connects the parable of the ten virgins with the phrase, “for it as if.” The preparation of the five is associated with the money that has been entrusted to the three slaves. The parable of the talents is possibly one of the most misused parables. Jesus is not using this parable to recommend that we should work hard (not that working hard is  a bad thing). Stanley Hauerwas says that, “The parable of the talents is a clear judgment against those who think they deserve what they have earned, as well as those who do not know how precious is the gift they have been given.”

The servant who received only one talent feared losing what he had been given and turned it into a possession. The contrast is the other two recognized that to try to secure the gifts they had been given would mean they would certainly lose it. They understood the joy of the banquet, the joy that comes from learning to receive a gift without regret.

These two parables are commentaries on the slave who continued to work, to feed his fellow slaves, until the master returns. The climax of Jesus’ response to his disciple’s question is the Son of Man coming in his glory. Jesus will come as king but like the triumphal entry, Jesus isn’t the king like everyone expected. He is the servant king and in this case, he is the shepherd-king. He will separate the sheep and the goats. The question here is while the king was away; did you continue to do what he was doing? Were you a proper representative of him in this world? Did you continue to do what he started as the Kingdom of God?

It is significant that the righteous have not known that when they ministered in these ways that they did all of this for Jesus. It was simply in the fabric of who they had become. They were so in tune with Jesus that they naturally continued to do what he did. The second group also had no idea that these people they ignored were Jesus. Had they known, they would have served them. The difference between those who follow Jesus and those who do not know Jesus is that those who have seen Jesus no longer have any excuse to avoid the “least of these” because this is exactly what Jesus was about. As Christians, we should naturally continue Jesus’ ministry in everything we do. Who are the “least of these” in our society? We tend to look to the list that Jesus gave and just minister to them because he has told us that when we minister to them we are actually taking care of him. Jesus died for all people. He died for the least of these. He died for those who are despicable in our society. Who are these people? How can we serve them?

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2013 in Bible Blog, Matthew

 

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Matthew 24 – Already or Not Yet?

Jesus and the Apostles were walking by the Temple when they said, “Jesus, look at all these beautiful buildings and structures.”  Jesus responds, “They will all be torn down. Completely torn down.”  Can you imagine if the Apostles had been American?  “Jesus, look at our founding documents and their inclusion of faith.  Look at our courts with the 10 Commandments above the doors.  Look at our confession of faith on our money.”  If Jesus simply said, “It’s all going to be destroyed.”  Can you imagine that shock.  That surprise exists in ways we can’t even imagine in between verse two and three.  Then the Apostles want all the gaps filled in…”What are you talking about?”

What was Jesus talking about?  He tells us some things directly and gives us clues to the rest.  He is talking about the destruction of Jerusalem, which we know from history happens around 70 AD at the hands of Rome.  The Temple was utterly destroyed and the siege of Jerusalem fits the horrific description contained in Matthew 24.  Jesus uses the Apocalyptic language of Daniel (verse 15 tells us that this is what’s going on) to paint a graphic picture of what is coming.  Verse 35 says, “This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.”

It’s generally accepted that this first part of Matthew 24 is referring to the Fall of Jerusalem.  However, starting with verse 35 or 36 there either is or isn’t a transition into a number of prophecies and parables that continue through the next chapter even.  It’s difficult to tell whether Jesus is continuing to talk about the Fall of Jerusalem or the Final Judgment Day return of Jesus.  Let’s examine this a bit further.  Here are the opening phrases from each section:

  • But about that day…
  • At that time…
  • Again, it will be like…
  • When the Son of Man comes…

All of these introductions would seem to indicate that Jesus is continuing on the same topic and that he is connecting each story to the preceding stories.

Finally, chapter 26 begins with “When Jesus had finished saying all these things…”  This phrase is the first one that definitively ends that discourse and begins something new.  Although, common understandings of many of these passages assume that Jesus has already transitioned to talking about end times as early as verse 35 and almost universally by the beginning of chapter 25.  Adding further confusion to this is the ending to the parable of the Sheep and the Goats which says, “Then they will go into eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”  This very much sounds like the end times judgment day.

This is how I felt writing this blog…hopefully it’s not how you feel reading it.

So what’s the answer?  Well it can certainly mean both.  If Jesus is describing to his Apostles the need to be constantly prepared and living with an awareness that Jesus will come in judgment of Israel and Jerusalem and that they must live like every day might be the last…isn’t that also true for us since we also know Jesus can come back in a big end-of-the-world kind of judgment at any time.  One of the advantages of speaking in parables is that it provides room to apply to many people in many situations and many times.

Is it possible that Jesus transitions earlier in the text to speaking of end times?  Yes.  Is it possible he never does transition to end times?  I can’t make myself believe that based on 25:46.  Can all of it be about the end times?  The time constraints that Jesus places on 24:1-34 make me think that it’s not all about end times.

So what?  So Jesus may come back tonight, tomorrow, next Thursday or in 1,343 years.  This should prevent apathy.  This should eliminate procrastination among God’s people.  This should affect how we prioritize and plan.  You and I should live every day as if tomorrow is Jesus’ (and our) homecoming.

 

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2013 in Matthew

 

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Matthew 23 – Blinded By Hypocrisy

For the most part, Jesus allows those who are questioning him to set the agenda. He is now making it clear that he is not there for discussion. His unrelenting concern for holiness is made clear in his severe attacks on the scribes and Pharisees. He calls them to task and doesn’t hold back many punches. Jesus is making it clear that the scribes and Pharisees cannot acknowledge that he is the Messiah because the do not live by the very law they advocate. Their hypocrisy blinds them from seeing Jesus for who he really is.

I’ve grown up hearing that we are not to call anyone “father” because we only have one Father. This almost was always in reference to the catholic use of “father.” I’ve always scratched my head about this because Paul implies that he is Timothy’s “father in the faith” and even refers to himself as the father in Christ to the Christians in Corinth (1 Cor 4:15). How literally should we take this command? Should we call anyone teacher or instructor? Jesus seems to be addressing the power structure that was in place at the time. When these titles (rabbi, father, instructor) are used in order to justify power over others they should not be used. When these titles are being abused in order to make them do things that are not of God they are to remember who their true rabbi, father, and instructors are.

The passion of the scribes and Pharisees for saving the lost is impressive. They would cross see and land just to make a convert. But their hypocrisy and the weight they place on others makes their converts “twice as much a child of hell” as themselves. This might be one of the harsher things that have been said.

The woes Jesus gives here are not unique in Israel’s life. I’m going to lean on my friend Stanley Hauerwas’ comments on this section. “Rather, they are a continuation of the prophets’ condemnation of the misuse of Israel’s gifts. Isaiah 5 is one long harangue against those who have misused the vineyard given by the Lord. Those who make iniquitous decrees, write oppressive statutes, and turn aside the needy from justice are condemned in Isa. 10. Jeremiah 13:27 condemns the abominations and adulteries of Jerusalem, and Amos 5:18-24 famously mocks those who desire the day of the Lord. Jesus stands in a long line of God’s prophets who in the name of God’s gift of the law to Israel pronounced judgment on those who have betrayed Israel. Jesus is not standing outside Israel when he pronounces the woes on the Pharisees and scribes, but rather his judgments are the judgments of Israel against herself.”

After pronouncing the same judgments of the Prophets’ before him, he laments for Jerusalem because he knows his fate, and their fate, is the same as before. He will be rejected and killed just like the prophets before him. We see Jesus’ passion in the end of this chapter. His motherly instinct to cover those he loves with his protection. The image of the hen gathering her brood is a powerful one. If fire were to come, the hen would gather them under her wings to provide protection, sacrificing her own life in order to save theirs. Jesus is the only way to salvation but they are not willing to gather under his protection. We too often live in a way where we look to ourselves to provide our own protection when Jesus calls us to simply gather under him. Set aside your arrogance, your pride, and gather under his wings.

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2013 in Bible Blog, Matthew

 

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Matthew 22 – Impossible Questions

The task of blogging about everything contained in this chapter is a little daunting, so if I seem brief it is in an attempt to cover some of all of it.

The chapter begins with a parable that is unique in many ways.  Most often with parables, you need to focus on the main point.  If you get into multiple lessons from minor details you are probably inventing those yourself and reading them into the parable.  This one is different because it feels like it ends three times and each time has a different main point.  Personally, I think this is a valuable tool in helping us deal with the inclusive or exclusive nature of the Kingdom of God.

The parable begins with a crowd who has been invited to a feast but ultimately decline.  It doesn’t take much imagination to imagine the people of Israel, especially the religious leaders, as this crowd.  They have been invited to the coronation of the Messiah and reject him.  The rejected him first in Galilee, now in Jerusalem, and this rejection will ultimately lead to the Messiah’s death.  Those who rejected the invitation will now be destroyed (ending number one).  So now the Master will send his messengers into all of the “bad parts of town” inviting in the people who weren’t invited before.  Those people will flock to the feast and be welcomed.  Again, we understand the inclusive nature of the Kingdom of God that welcomes even the most unlovable of people (ending number two).  But if you come to the feast and choose to not dress correctly you will be thrown out.  Even though the invitation is for all, it doesn’t mean there are no standards.  Those who wish to be part of God’s Kingdom must clothe themselves in a way that is fitting of God’s presence or they will be cast out (ending number three).  Most churches/Christians tend to function on one end of the pendulum, being either too exclusive or too inclusive.  This parable explores that pendulum and encourages a more balanced approach that invites and welcomes all while holding people who accept the invitation to God’s standards.

As if cued, those who reject the invitation enter and begin trying to question and trap Jesus.  It’s tough to capture the ambiguity and cleverness of Jesus’ responses in our language and context, but I want to play with these a little bit.  So here is my best understanding of these riddles:

Q1: So Rome came in and conquered us, took our land, made us subservient to them, and now charges us taxes.  Some years back many faithful Jews led a rebellion against this and were crucified across the land.  How about you?  Do you think we should pay this tax to Caesar?

A1: I assume you have some of Caesar’s vile coinage with you…might I see one?  See here is Caesar’s face and the inscription, “Son of God.”  Why don’t you pay Caesar back in his own coin?  And pay God back in his own coin…

Jesus speaks only what is lawful under Roman rule, but the phrase feels revolutionary, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.”  Additionally, it’s implied that they aren’t giving to God what rightly belongs to God.  Powerful stuff.

Q2: What about a woman who lawfully marries seven men, one after the other, and then goes to the afterlife?  Is she married to all seven?  Clearly there can be no resurrection.

A2:  First of all, there is no need for a family name to be passed on any more since all will be one family.  Secondly, you don’t understand the resurrection.  The reason for marriage was always to be fruitful and multiply.  Without death, that need ends so people will no longer have sexual desires, or a need to be united to a single person in that way.  But clearly there IS a resurrection since God IS the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob….not WAS the God…clearly they are still alive.

Check and mate.

Q3: Whats the greatest command?

A3:  Love the Lord your God.  Also, love your neighbor as yourself.  The rest of the law can easily fall under these two commands.

Then Jesus takes a turn and becomes the riddler:

Q4:  Whose son is the Messiah?  The son of David?  How then can the Psalm say that the Messiah is both the son of David and the Lord of David?

A4:  No response….total befuddlement.

The reason they can’t answer this riddle is because the answer is standing in front of them in the flesh.  Their entire goal was the bring questions to discredit Jesus as the Messiah and they failed.  With a single question of his own Jesus validates himself as the Messiah and leaves their jaws flapping in the wind.

 

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2013 in Matthew

 

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Matthew 20 – Last will be First

I am sure if James and John, the sons of Zebedee, had any editorial input on this chapter they would have preferred that this parable not be so closely connected to the two stories that proceed it.  My assumption is that Matthew was more upset about this incident than Mark, since Mark at least left out the details about James and John’s mom coming and asking Jesus to exalt them.

The parable here is pretty plain, but also functions on several levels.  First, it is for the Jews who have labored and struggled in their role as the chosen people of God for thousands of years.  They are certainly not going to rejoice when Gentiles, the late comers to the harvest, are able to join without penalty and share in the same reward.  Second, for those who have lived piously (in Jesus’ audience and our context today) there is often a reluctance to let those dirty prodigal sinners come back into the church without some form of penance or at least a reduced role in the church.  Jesus does not want this to be the case in his Kingdom.  Finally, there could be some subtle lesson here for the Apostles.  While I don’t know that it was Jesus’ primary focus in telling this parable, Matthew at least seems to draw a connection.  The Apostles were the first ones to begin serving Jesus and might have thought themselves entitled to a greater share of the Kingdom to come.  Jesus puts that idea to rest by showing that all who serve will share an equal reward.

Then, to drive the point home, Jesus reminds them that even he, the King of Kings, the Messiah, the Son of God is going to make the ultimate sacrifice by giving his life in Jerusalem.  Now, this is the third and final time that Jesus predicts that he will be crucified in the presence of the Apostles.  The first time is the famous incident where Peter corrects Jesus and Jesus replies, “Get behind me Satan.”  The second time is immediately followed by an argument along the road about which Apostle was the greatest (this detail is found in Mark 9).  And finally, the third prediction is followed by this request by James and John (or more specifically their mother in Matthew’s account).  What is abundantly clear is that this prediction is one of the most important things Jesus tries to communicate to the Apostles and they not only don’t believe him, but they can’t even comprehend what this might mean for them and the Kingdom.  They completely miss it.

Which brings us to the sons of Zebedee’s wife.  My first week in high school they had a parents’ open

“Mom…stop…you’re embarrassing us in front of our friends!”

house night at school.  Almost nobody’s parents went.  After all…it’s high school.  However, that did not keep Mom and Grandma from both going.  I told them that it really wasn’t necessary, but they insisted.  I did not go.  The next day at school, suddenly every teacher knew my name and said hello.  Come to find out later, Mom and Grandma were almost the only people there and went from class to class asking what my teachers thought about me.  Again, this was after two days of class with over 100 students.  They couldn’t believe that my teachers didn’t know me and so proceeded to pull out pictures and say, “He’s this one…” and then tell my teachers things they needed to know about me.  I was in shock.

This is not what Jesus meant…

I am always reminded of that moment when Zebedee’s wife walks up to Jesus and says, “I want to ask you about my sons…”  Keep in mind that people expect the Messiah to sit forever on the throne of David.  And this is a King without sons, so there is no heir to the Kingdom.  The Apostles (and their moms apparently) are posturing for where they will sit in the royal court.  They are reminded of Solomon’s advisers, David’s mighty men, the Royal priests, and the rulers of men.  And Jesus simply replies, “You can’t drink from the cup I drink from.”  He is metaphorically speaking of suffering and sacrificing for others and for the Kingdom of God.  They, as always, hear Jesus literally speaking of a golden tablet at a royal feast.  They completely miss it again.

“Instead, whoever wants to be great must become your servant, whoever wants to be first must be your slave — just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2013 in Matthew

 

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Matthew 19 – What Must I Do to Inherit Eternal Life? With Man This is Impossible…

We as a culture like to know what we must do or not do in order to receive the things we want. In a lot of ways, we go about this in a way that shows we want to do just enough to get by. Our motivations are often poor because of this. We rarely want to do something well because that is just what you are supposed to do. When do actually do a good action for others, we do some with poor motivation. We expect a “thank you” or something done in return. We are soured when some level of gratitude is not returned for our good action. On a spiritual level, we often act in a way where we thing we put God in a position of owing us something, specifically eternal life. In America we have developed a “health and wealth gospel” proclaiming that if we do all of the right stuff God will bless us richly.

Because we want to know what we must do to be saved, sometimes we take things Jesus says and misread them as though he has given us a formula for salvation. The Rich Young Man comes along and wants to know what he can do to inherit eternal life. Remember this question, “What must I do…” Jesus then asks him about keeping the commandments. He’s flawless. He then tells him to sell everything and follow him. He doesn’t. Let me play with the story for a minute to help make the point I think Jesus is making. What if the Rich Young Man looked at Jesus and said, “okay!” and went and sold everything. He then returned to Jesus and said, “Now, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” I think Jesus would give the same response, “Go…get rid of whatever it is that is hindering you from fully being dedicated to me…and come follow me.” I’ve read a lot of books where the author has made the point that Jesus wants everyone to sell everything they have and follow him. I don’t think this is a bad thing but I don’t know if we see if throughout the New Testament. The early church met in people’s homes. Who would have a home big enough to house 40-60 people if they have all sold everything? You can sell everything and give it to the poor but if you’re doing it in order to receive salvation than you are doing it with the wrong motivation. When Jesus’ disciples see the man’s great wealth they ask Jesus if it is possible for anyone to receive salvation. Jesus’ reply here is key! “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Throughout Matthew, Jesus has given some very difficult teachings. The Sermon on the Mount seems to be something impossible for anyone to really live out…but it is possible with God.

Our salvation, praise God, is not in our hands. It is something we cannot do this on our own. It is Christ who has done it for us. So does this mean that we do not have to worry about the way we live or how seriously we take Jesus? We live in response to what Christ has done for us. We live in response of gratitude not in a way where we feel God is indebted to us.

In regards to selling everything we have to follow Jesus, we need to constantly evaluate our lives and see what needs to be put on the cross that has been hindering us from following Jesus. It might be that you need to sell everything.

I know I haven’t focused at all on the divorce section. I do want to point out something that is often neglected in this section. We often glorify marriage in a way to where those who are unmarried are often looked at as though they are broken, empty, or only half a person. I promise I’m not venting my frustrations here but I have been on the receiving end of people’s well-intended sentiments. As much as I would love to be a loving husband and a father, I am a complete person because of my relationship with God. I have considered at times that maybe God has called me to be fully dedicated to His work and so I’m not as concerned if there is “someone out there fore me.” When I express this to people they often look at me like I am crazy. In this passage on divorce Jesus ends with something we often overlook, “others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.” I in no way think everyone is called to this. There have been movements within Christianity that have proclaimed this teaching as though it were for everyone. Naturally…those movements didn’t last long since no one was procreating.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2013 in Bible Blog, Matthew

 

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Matthew 18 – Kids, Confrontation, and Forgiveness

It’s not very surprising in America today to say that children are important.  Families in our culture sacrifice everything in order to make sure their kids get the best.  That hasn’t always been true.  In fact, in the world Jesus is speaking in, children were considered secondary citizens.  The family did not work it’s decisions or schedules around what would work best for the kids.  So to us, Jesus’ words about children confirm what we already believe to be true: children should be treated well and not hindered.  But to his audience, Jesus was saying, even these little ones that you often push to the side must be brought in and treated well.  You must not hinder even children from the Gospel.  This is not happy-go-lucky children’s ministry promotional stuff.  This is a bold extension of Jesus’ ministry to the most disenfranchised and overlooked in the community.  His message is one of ultimate inclusion.

The text shifts here to talking about confronting those who are living in sin.  Begin by confronting them in a manner that is discreet and respectful.  Don’t begin with gossip or building coalitions against them.  Rather, go to them and lovingly address their sin issue.  If you can resolve it there then you have found a solution that is best for both of you and the community of believers.  However, if they still won’t listen, slowly escalate to include a few other reliable witnesses who can confront them about their problem.  If that doesn’t work, then the community of believers must be brought in.  This is not intended as punishment, but to show that the family of Christ takes a unified stand against sin and that it won’t tolerate disobedience.  This is done first to bring about repentance in the sinful brother or sister and second to make sure that the church does not become casual about sin in its midst.

Finally, this chapter shifts to talking about forgiveness.  It is no accident that the passage about confronting

sin is followed by a teaching on forgiving.  At a later time Paul will instruct the Corinthian church to follow Jesus’ instructions for confronting sin and actually disfellowship a sinful brother.  Later, when he repents of his sin and desires to be back in the church, the church is reluctant to forgive him.  Jesus recognizes that successful confrontation of sin must lead to forgiveness rather that judgment or self-righteousness.  The parable ends with the potentially alarming statement that God will forgive us and treat us as we forgive and treat those who owe us a debt.  That’s a pretty humbling concept.

So the questions at the end of this chapter are: Who is the person of little value who Jesus wants you to include in his family?  Who needs you to lovingly confront their sin?  Who has changed or apologized and is still hoping for your eventual forgiveness?  Surely all of us have one of these questions we need to stop and prayerfully consider.

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2013 in Matthew

 

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