Posts Tagged ‘Matthew’

Reading the Gospels: Matthew, Chapters 25-28

Friday, April 8th, 2011 by JEL

This is the last post for the Gospel of Matthew. Last Friday, we left Jesus at the end of Chapter 24 in the middle of a speech. Chapter 25 picks up right where we left off and He continues His description to the disciples of the sign of His coming and the “end of the age.”

Chapter 26

When Jesus wraps up the speech, he turns to his disciples and says,

“You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.”

The elders and chief priests are plotting how to take and kill Jesus, but decide to wait until after the feast to prevent a riot. Jesus goes to the house of Simon in Bethany where a woman pours very expensive oil on his head. The disciples are angry at the waste, but Jesus tells them to calm down, that the woman has “done a good work for me…shed did it to prepare me for burial.”

Judas Iscariot then goes to the chief priests and says,

“What are you willing to give me, that I should deliver him to you?”

The chief priests give him 30 pieces of silver. From the moment the silver hits his hands, Judas is looking for the right opportunity to betray Him.

The 12 disciples and Jesus then go to a house to eat the Passover. As they are eating in the evening, Jesus drops the bombshell:

“Most certainly I tell you that one of you will betray me.”

All the disciples are sorrowful and ask in turn, “it isn’t me, is it, Lord?” Even Judas asks, “it isn’t me, is it, Rabbi?” And Jesus replies “You said it.” You’ll note that the other 11 disciples address Jesus as “Lord,” and Judas addresses Him as “Rabbi.”

As they’re eating, Jesus gives his disciples bread and says,

“Take, eat; this is my body.”

And then passes the cup and says,

“All of you drink it, for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the remission of sins.”

They sing a hymn and the head out to the Mount of Olives. Jesus tells them that they will stumble because of Him and that after He is raised up, he will go before them into Galilee. Peter states that he will never stumble and Jesus answers:

“Most certainly I tell you that tonight, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.”

Jesus then goes to Gethsemane and is troubled. He asks Peter and others to watch over Him as He prays:

“My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here, and watch with me.”

As Jesus prays, he sees the disciple-lookouts asleep. He goes, prays, and returns three times and each time the disciples are sleeping. Finally he says:

“Sleep on now, and take your rest. Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Arise, let’s be going. Behold, he who betrays me is at hand.”

Judas appears with a huge crowd holding swords and clubs. He tells them “Whoever I kiss, he is the one. Seize him.” He then goes up to Jesus with a “Hail, Rabbi!” and kisses him. The crowd comes and takes Jesus. One of those with Jesus pulls out a sword and cuts off the ear of the high priest’s servant. Jesus tells him to put the sword away. The disciples then all take off.

Jesus is then taken away to Calaphas, the high priest. The scribes and elders are all gathered together. Peter follows at a distance and then sits to watch. The priests seek false testimony against Jesus. False witnesses come and go. Finally one says, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.’” The priests ask Jesus to reply, but He holds His peace. They ask him whether He is Christ, the Son of God. Jesus answers:

“You have said it. Nevertheless, I tell you, after this you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of the sky.”

The high priest goes nuts, tears his clothing and cries “blasphemy.” The others believe this blasphemy is “worthy of death.” Then they spit in Jesus’ face, and beat Him with their fists. Outside, Peter is hearing and watching. Three times, people come up to him and ask him if he was with Jesus, and three times Peter says,

“I don’t know the man!”

The rooster crows. And Peter weeps bitterly.

Chapter 27

In the morning, the chief priests decide to put Jesus to death. They bind him and take him to Pontius Pilate, the governor. Judas feels remorse and returns the 30 pieces of silver, departs, and hangs himself. The priests take the silver and buy the potter’s field to bury strangers in. That field is known for evermore as “The Field of Blood.”

The governor asks Jesus if He is the King of the Jews. Jesus answers,

“So you say.”

When the priests and elders accuse him, He says nothing. Pilate marvels. It is a custom during the feast for a governor to release one prisoner to the multitude. The choice is between Jesus and Barabbas. While the judgement is still in question, Pilate’s wife says,

“Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.”

The priests persuade the crowd to ask for Barabbas’s release. Pilate asks what he should do with Jesus, and the crowd yells, “Let him be crucified!” Pilate is troubled. He washes his hands before the multitude and says,

“I am innocent of the blood of this righteous person. You see to it.”

The people answer:

“May his blood be on us, and on our children.”

Jesus gets flogged. They strip Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. They braid a crown of thorns and put it on His head. Then they kneel down before Him and mock, “Hail, King of the Jews!” before spitting on Him and hitting Him with a reed.

They then take Jesus to Golgotha (“the place of a skull”) and give him sour wine to drink mixed with gall. Then they crucify Him. They divide up His clothing and sit and watch. They put a sign up over his head that says, “THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS”. Two robbers were also crucified, one on His left and one on His right. People walk by and mock Him:

“He saved others, but he can’t save himself. If he is the King of Israel, let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe him.”

The robbers on either side also mock Jesus. At the ninth hour, Jesus cries out:

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

One of the watchers takes a sponge, fills it with vinegar, and puts it on a reed for Jesus to drink. Jesus cries again and yields up His spirit. Immediately, the veil of the temple is torn, and an earthquake begins, opening up rocks and tombs–many of the bodies of the saints were raised. The centurion on watch is terrified and says,

“Truly this was the Son of God.”

Many women watched, including Mary Magdalene. Joseph goes to Pilate and asks for Jesus’ body. Joseph takes the body, wraps it in clean linen, and lays it in a new tomb which had been cut out of solid rock. He rolls a big stone across the door of the tomb and departs.

The priests then gather together in front of Pilate and say,

“Sir, we remember what that deceiver said while he was still alive: ‘After three days I will rise again.’”

They ask that the tomb be guarded so that Jesus’ disciples can’t steal the body and claim that Jesus rose–the “last deception will be worse than the first.” So they go with a guard and seal the tomb.

Chapter 28

On the third morning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary go to visit the tomb. When they arrive, an earthquake shakes and rolls the stone away from the door. An angel of the Lord descends from the sky and sits on the stone. The guards are petrified. The angel tells the two women:

“Don’t be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus, who has been crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, just like he said. Come, see the place where the Lord was lying. Go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has risen from the dead, and behold, he goes before you into Galilee; there you will see him.’ Behold I have told you.”

The women run off to tell the disciples and Jesus meets them. He says,

“Don’t be afraid, Go tell my brothers that they should go into Galilee, and there they will see me.”

The elders hear what happen and bribe some soldiers with silver into saying that Jesus’ disciples came and stole him away while everyone slept. The soldiers take the money and do as they’re told.

The 11 remaining disciples then go to Galilee and see Jesus. They bow down to him, but some are still doubtful. Jesus says to them:

“All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

And that’s the end of the Gospel of Matthew.

We’ll take a break next week and then tackle the first four chapters of Mark the following week.

Reading the Gospels: Matthew, Chapters 17-20

Friday, March 25th, 2011 by JEL

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?

Reading the Gospels: Matthew, Chapters 9-12

Friday, March 11th, 2011 by JEL

In chapter 9, Jesus continues his travels, preaching and healing along the way. He heals a paralyzed man and tells him his sins are forgiven. Some nearby scribes say to themselves, “He blasphemes” but Jesus quickly shuts them down and tells them He has the authority to forgive sins. He then has lunch with some tax collectors and sinners, which bewilders the Pharisees. Jesus calmly answers, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

Verses 9:15-17 I don’t understand. John’s disciples ask why they and the Pharisees fast, but His disciples don’t. Jesus replies with three metaphors (bridegroom, patched garment, wineskin) that I have read a dozen times. Is the “food” Jesus’ teaching and only new teaching can go into a new wineskin (like a disciple that has been cleansed, baptized and ready to receive it)? Please help here by posting in the comments.

Then there’s more healing. On his way to bring back from the dead a ruler’s daughter, a woman touches his clothes. Immediately her 12-year “issue of blood” stops. Jesus then touches the ruler’s daughter’s hand and she rises. Onlookers are amazed and go spread the word of what they have just seen. Two blind men get their site restored and despite Jesus’ request for secrecy, they blab about it anyway. A man has his demon cast out. News of Jesus’ deeds is spreading far and wide, and you have a sense that things are building to a crescendo.

Chapter 10

In this chapter, he calls together his twelve disciples and gives them the power to cast out unclean spirits and heal every disease and sickness. He sends them off with quite a speech. Some highlights:

  • 10:8 – “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, and cast out demons. Freely you received, so freely give.”
  • 10:16 – “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”
  • 10:22 – “You will be hated by all men for my name’s sake, but he who endures to the end will be saved.”
  • 10:34 – “Don’t think that I came to send peace on the earth. I didn’t come to send peace, but a sword.” This quote has always bothered me as a direct contradiction to all of the other quotes concerning peace. What happened to “Blessed are the peacemakers”?
  • 10:37-38 – “He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me isn’t worthy of me. He who doesn’t take his cross and follow after me, isn’t worthy of me.” This section feels like an abrupt shift in tone to me. Less humble, less forgiving, and less tolerant.

Chapter 11

John the Baptist, in prison, hears of Jesus’ works. He sends two of his disciples to ask Jesus if He really is the one. Jesus lists His accomplishments, praises John the Baptist, and says “If you are willing to receive it, this is Elijah, who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Then some bitterness creeps in as he talks about the cities where he did his healing, yet little repentance occurred. Finally, he wraps up his speech, wearily, with “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Amazing the shift in tones from commanding to angry to boastful to critical and then back to calm, gentle and loving.

Chapter 12

On the Sabbath, Jesus and his disciples go walking through some fields of grain. The disciples are hungry, so they pluck some grain to eat. The Pharisees, who apparently follow them everywhere, complain that plucking the grain “is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” Jesus gives the Pharisees an earful.

Jesus then healed a man with a withered hand, saying “it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath day.” The Pharisees begin to plan how to destroy him. Jesus continues his healing, and commands the multitudes to “not make him known.” The multitudes are amazed and say, “Can this be the son of David?” The Pharisees, of course, say He does not cast out demons “except by Beelzebul.” Jesus replies with his “house divided” speech. “He who is not with me is against me, and he who doesn’t gather with me, scatters.”

At the end of the chapter, while he is speaking to the crowd, his mother and brothers appear and want to speak with him. He answers, a little harshly, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” and then gestures toward his disciples and says, “Behold, my mother and brothers!”


Monday, March 8th, 2010 by JEL

Ethnic violence between the Muslim North and Christian South in Nigeria broke out over the weekend with 500 deaths, many of them women and children driven from their homes by fire and then killed by machetes. This time the attackers were Muslim herdsmen and the victims were Christian. The attack was apparently launched to avenge January’s violence, when Christians did the killing.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you, that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:43-45