You will find an introduction to the “Gospel According to Matthew” and an outline, here.
A prayer from the Book of Common Worship, to use before your reading,
Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles, “Peace I give to you; my own peace I leave with you:” Regard not our sins, but the faith of your Church, and give to us the peace and unity of that heavenly city, where with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, now and forever. Amen.
III. Responses to Jesus’ Ministry:Israel’s Repudiation of Jesus 11:2-16:20
D. Ministry in a Hostile Environment 13:54-16:20
16:1-4 Testing Jesus: Requesting a Sign: Once again the religious leaders ask for a sign as a way to test/tempt Jesus. The same verb (test/tempt) was used in ch 4 when the devil tempts Jesus. Do the Pharisees and Sadducees doubt Jesus’ ability to perform a sign, or are they (like the devil) interested in Jesus’ allegiance? Does Jesus do the will of God or the will of the religious elite?
16:5-12 The Disciples Understand ?: Leaven of the Pharisees and in the Sadducees: Read this section with verses 1-4. Where else were the disciples described as having “little faith”?
16:13-20 Confession of Peter: Summary of the Third Narrative Block: Now from “little faith” to Peter’s confession. Notice where Jesus and the disciples are, Ceasarea Philippi. The name reflects the presence of the Roman Empire. There was a temple there built by King Herod in honor of Augustus. The question, “Who do you say that I am?” is the central question. The “you” is plural, Jesus asks all the disciples and Peter answers for all the disciples.
Verse 18 What other people in Scripture were re named? What does re naming signifiy? What is “the rock”? Peter as representative of all Christians? Peter’s faith/confession? Christ? Peter as representative bishop? The word “church” is ekklesia, and means “called out” or “duly summoned”. The word was used in the Septuagint to mean the assembled people of God but the word was also used, in common usage, to mean a variety of meetings, including political and civic meetings of citizens. Why, do you think, is this word used, rather than synagogue?
Verse 19 “Keys” denote access and authority. On “Binding” and “loosing”, “Scholars debate whether these terms refer to excluding/including people in the community (see 18:18) or, more commonly, to interpreting and teaching what God’s will or law (the scriptures) forbids or permits as an expression of God’s reign (see 5:19). Both meanings have some support from rabbinic Judaism. And both tasks are related in that they have to do with discerning an appropriate way for life shaped by God’s empire.” (Carter, 336)
IV Journey to Jerusalem: Jesus Will be Crucified and Raised 16:21-20:34
A. Looking Toward Cross and Glory 16:21-17:27 “From that time on…” introduces a new section of the gospel. The focus is now on Jesus’ instruction of the disciples and the journey to Jerusalem.
16:21-28 The Way of the Cross for Jesus and Disciples (First Passion Prediction) Peter has confessed Jesus as Messiah in 16:16 but does not understand what that means.
Verse 23″Get behind me” recalls Jesus words to Satan (4:10) but also recalls 4:19 when Peter is called to follow behind/after me. “Behind” is the position of a disciple, following. The “rock” upon which the new community will be built also, as Satan did earlier, suggests a disruption of, a temptation to depart from God’s plan.
Verse 24 The NIV’s translation is preferred, “If anyone would come after me…”.
Verse 28 Does Jesus mean the transfiguration, the resurrection, Pentecost, or the Parousia?
17:1-13 The Transfiguration: (Cf. Mark 9:2-13, Luke 9:28-36) Recall how mountains function in scripture. “Transfigured” literally means “metamorphosed” metamorphomai.This changed appearance was in Jewish tradition also believe to have happened to Adam, Abraham and others. In the Old Testament, God appears in a cloud (at Sinai and when present in the tabernacle and Temple). There are echos of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments (Exodus 24,34) The voice says the same words as at Jesus’ baptism. Moses and Elijah both encountered God on Mt. Sinai and Jewish tradition held neither died. ( so says Josephus, despite Deut 34:7) As they descend down the mountain, the transfiguration is linked both to Jesus’ Resurrection and the parousea. Jesus’ use of the word “vision” doesn’t mean, as it might for modern people, that this event did not actually happen. Rather it highlights the revelatory and apocalyptic nature of the event.
17:14-21 A Difficult Exorcism of an Epileptic Boy: Notice the father calls Jesus “Lord”. Verse 17 societies disbelief appears to have affected the disciples as well. Their “little faith” (6:30;8:26;14:31;16:8) is smaller than a mustard seed.
17:22-23 Jesus’ Second Passion Prediction: The disciples now are grieved rather than not believing.
17:24-27 Payment of the Temple Tax: There was a pre-70 Temple tax and also a post 70 tax for the temple to Jupiter in Rome imposed by the Roman government on Jews (and Jewish Christians). Since Matthew’s gospel was written after 70, either tax may have been the subject of this pericope. Some scholars believe that this story is about how the community is to live in relation to others, i.e. using their freedom as Christians responsibly with respect to the state or to other people. Some think this story is about giving as a voluntary action. People in the ancient world believed that the emperor’s power extended to birds, animals and fish. In this story, the fish is not under the emperor’s control but God’s – as is the money in the fish’s mouth.
B. The Community Discourse: A Community of Sustaining Relationships and Practices 18:1-35 Jesus fourth discourse about life in community. Watch for repeated words and themes.
18:1-5 Who is the Greatest? Like a Child: the reversal of values. Why do the disciples ask this question? Children were marginal, insignificant, vulnerable and unpredictable (until they learned how to behave in Roman society). Humility, in this usage is not about personal character traits but about status (low) in society. Verse 5, is “one such child” a actual child or is Jesus referring to the disciples?
18:6-14 Concern for Little Ones: In Jewish tradition, angels watched over the nations. Here they watch over the most vulnerable. Images of sheep and shepherds are common in the Old Testament. Is this parable about pastoral care or evangelism?
18:15-20 Communal Reproof and Restoration: This is instruction for the community. How does Jesus tell his disciples to treat tax collectors and Gentiles in the rest of the gospel?
18:21-35 A Community of Repeated Forgiveness:The parable that begins at verse 23 is difficult. If the king is God, this portrayal of God is not consistent with how God has been portrayed earlier in the gospel.The basic point of the parable seems to be that God requires disciples to forgive each other. Not forgiving brings terrible consequences. One commentator writes, “While God is not like this king in one aspect, and one aspect only, God is like the king. Like the king, God gets justifiably angry when the divine will is constantly ignored and severely punishes the one who does not forgive (“so my heavenly father will do to you”). The king is and is not God.” (Carter 371).
Another commentator writes, “In the Matthean story, the problem remains that the king (“God”) went back on his forgiveness. It is better to let the story remain unallegorized, so that it is an earthly king who reneges on his original gracious forgiveness, and let it illustrate, in an analogous way, the awfulness of failing to forgive as God forgives.” (Boring, 383)
What do you think?
C. Jesus Travels to Jerusalem 19:1-20:34 As they travel to Jerusalem, Jesus instructs the disciples. In the ancient Roman world, the household was believed to be the foundational unit of society and reflected the structure of society. It was patriarchal and heirarchical. The male (husband,father, master) controlled (ruled over) the household (wife, children, slaves).
19:1-2 Transition: Jesus Travels to Judea: Notice Jesus continues to heal “large crowds”.
19:3-12 Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage: Jesus description of husband and wife as “one flesh” as designed by God, refutes the cultural idea (both Jewish and Roman) that the husband had power over the wife. Marriage is not a social contract or construct but is a God given relationship. Moses command (V 7) is not actually a command but a concession. Verse 9- men do not have unrestricted power and the right to divorce for any reason. Verse 12- eunuchs were marginal people who did not “fit” into standard society yet participated in society.
19:13-15 Disciples are Children: Children were powerless and had no value except for what they would become when adults. They were vulnerable, considered ignorant and lacking in reason. Verse 13b- the disciples accept societies status quo.
19:16-30 Discipleship, Wealth, and Privilege: In the ancient world wealth mean power and social status. It also was believed to represent a person’s virtue and divine favor. Verse 16- the man calls Jesus “teacher”. Verse 21- “perfect” does not mean sinless but rather “whole”, “undivided”, “mature” , “have eternal life”.
20:1-16 Parable of the Householder: What does this parable say about fairness, justice and resentment? “Those who worked all day begin not by objecting to the grace others had received, but by expecting that they themselves will receive more (V10). When they receive the just fulfillment of their contract, they object not to what they have in fact received, but that others have been made “equal” to them. They have what they have by justice; others have been made equal by grace. It it this last resentment that they find unbearable.” (Boring, 394)
20:17-28 It Shall Not Be So Among You (Third Passion Prediction) Jerusalem is named as the place of Jesus’ death in 16:21. Now Jesus tells the disciples they are on the way there. Beginning at verse 20, the disciples do not understand what will happen and what life in the kingdom of God is like.
Verse 28-“Ransom” suggests rescue, deliverance, redemption, liberation.
20:29-34 Jesus Heals Two Blind Men: The blind men call Jesus “Lord” three times. This is the last story of healing particular people in this gospel. The next chapter (21) begins the triumphal entry/passion story)Why does Matthew “sum up” the gospel with this healing?
Read More About It:
Boring, M. Eugene, “The Gospel of Matthew: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections” in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VIII, Leander E. Keck,ed. (Nashville, Abingdon Press)1994.
Carter, Warren, Matthew and the Margins: A Sociopolitical and Religious Reading (Maryknoll,New York: Orbis Books) 2001.
Johnson, Luke Timothy, The Writings of the New Testament: An Interpretation, rev. ed. (Minneapolis:Fortress Press) 1999. Chapter 8 “The Gospel of Matthew”.
Powell, Mark Allan, “Matthew” in HarperCollins Bible Commentary, rev. ed.James L Mays, ed. (New York: Society of Bible Literature) 2000.
Tilden, Elwyn E., Bruce M. Metzger, “Matthew” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Bruce M. Metzger, Roland E. Murphy eds. (New York: Oxford University Press) 1994.