Reading the Gospels: Matthew, Chapters 17-20

Chapter 17 begins with Jesus taking Peter, James, and John to a mountain. Before their very eyes, Jesus becomes transformed, His face shining like the sun and His clothes bright white. Moses and Elijah appear and talk with Jesus. A voice then calls out of a bright cloud overhead:

“This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.”

This causes the disciples to fall on their faces and tremble with fear, but Jesus calms them down and tells them to keep quiet about all they have seen until “the Son of Man has risen from the dead.”

They then go back to the crowds where a man asks for his epileptic son to be healed. The man apparently tried the disciples first, but they couldn’t cure him. You can hear the frustration in Jesus’ voice:

“Faithless and perverse generation! How long will I be with you? How long will I bear with you? Bring him here to me.”

The disciples wonder why they couldn’t heal the boy, and Jesus answers “Because of your unbelief…” He then tells them:

“The Son of Man is about to be delivered up into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and the third day he will be raised up.”

The chapter ends with a tax/toll collector in Capernaum looking for Jesus’ payment. Jesus tells Peter to go fishing and that in the mouth of the first fish he catches will be a stater coin.

Chapter 18

The first of two long speeches begins with a question from the disciples asking who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus beckons a small child over and says:

“Whoever therefore humbles himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Whoever receives one such little child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him that a huge millstone should be hung around his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depths of the sea.”

Peter prompts the second speech by asking “how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Until seven times?” Jesus says:

“I don’t tell you until seven times, but, until seventy times seven.”

He then tells the story of a king who is trying to collect the debts of his servants. One servant owes the king ten-thousand talents, but has no money. The king orders the servant and his family to be sold into slavery but compassionately relents and forgives the debt when the servant begs for mercy. The servant then goes out and finds another servant who owes him money and demands payment. When the second servant begs for mercy, the first servant throws him into prison. The king finds out about this and is angry:

“Shouldn’t you also have had mercy on your fellow servant, even as I had mercy on you?”

…and throws him into prison, too. Jesus finishes the story with:

“So my heavenly father will also do to you, if you don’t each forgive your brother from your hearts for his misdeeds.”

Chapter 19

Jesus leaves Galilee and goes to the borders of Judea where Pharisees started testing him again. They ask him whether it’s lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason, to which Jesus replies:

“What therefore God has joined together, don’t let man tear apart.”

A man then comes up and asks what he has to do to gain eternal life. Jesus answers that he needs to follow these commandments:

“‘You shall not murder.’ ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ ‘You shall not steal.’ ‘You shall not offer false testimony.’ ‘Honor your father and mother.’ And, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”

The man says he’s done all those things. Jesus then tells him to go sell what he has and give it to the poor. This makes the man sad, because he’s loaded. Jesus sees the woe in the man’s eyes and says to his disciples:

“Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God.”

Chapter 20

Jesus tells the story of a landowner hiring laborers to work in his vineyards. He hires some in the morning for an agreed-upon denarius a day. He then hires others throughout the day who are idle with nothing to do. The last are hired at the 11th hour. When pay time comes, those hired last get a denarius, which makes the ones who worked all day think they’ll get more. They don’t and they get angry. The landowner says:

“‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Didn’t you agree with me for a denarius? Take that which is yours, and go your way. It is my desire to give to this last just as much as to you. Isn’t it lawful for me to do what I want to with what I own? Or is your eye evil, because I am good?’”

Jesus then heads up to Jerusalem and pulls his disciples aside to tell them what is about to happen to Him. A woman then comes up to him and asks that her two sons be able to sit on His left and right in His Kingdom. Jesus says that’s a wish he cannot grant.

The chapter ends with two blind men pleading with Jesus “that our eyes may be opened.” Jesus, feeling compassion, touches their eyes and their site is restored.

Next week: Matthew, chapters 21-24

How’s it going so far? Not so hard if you read it a little at a time and you have the easiest book around to read the Gospels, eh?

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