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Showing posts from October, 2014

Matthew 25-28

These four chapters cover an amazing depth and breadth of truly crucial events in a short space. Here we have…
The final teachings of JesusThe anointing at BethanyThe Last SupperThe prayer in GethsemanePeter’s denialJudas’ betrayal and subsequent suicideJesus’ arrest, trial, and beatingJesus’ journey to Golgotha, crucifixion, death, and burialJesus’ resurrectionThe Great Commission

Reading four chapters in the Old Testament could, in one sense, take us through a greater span of history, covering hundreds or even thousands or, in the case of the opening chapters of Genesis, millions of years. However, here, in these closing four chapters of Matthew, we have the sense that we are peering into the very center, the crux, of history.
Perhaps the reason why we get this feeling in reading of these last events of the life of Jesus of Nazareth is because in him, as St. Irenaeus said, we have the human story recapitulated. C. S. Lewis puts it this way in Letter VIII of Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly …

Matthew 21-24

In reading this section of Matthew’s Gospel, I was struck once again by the originality, even cleverness, of so many of the sayings of Jesus. It is often asked, “How do we know that Jesus spoke the words attributed to him in the Gospels?” Well, I do not know how one can prove, categorically, that Jesus spoke all the words attributed to him in the Gospels. After all, there were no iPhones, video cameras, or even tape recorders to catch whatever he said verbatim. However, what would be the result if one simply tried to create a character out of whole cloth that says all the types of things Jesus says in the Gospels. I doubt even the best writers of fiction alive today could do it. Why do I say that? Because some of the things Jesus says are so shrewd, and spoken off the cuff, like: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” As Joseph Sobran wrote many years ago, if the Gospel writers made this stuff up, then maybe we should be w…

Matthew 17-20

The story that stood out to me the most in today’s reading was that of the two blind men sitting by the roadside in Jericho. When they heard that Jesus was passing by, they shouted, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” The crowd ordered them to be quiet. Crowds do not often like people who are demonstratively religious. However, this did not stop the two blind men. They shouted even more loudly, “Have mercy on us, Lord, Son of David!”
This is a wonderful prayer. This is a prayer that we can pray every day, and at many moments throughout the day, either silently or out loud. It is very similar to the Jesus Prayer taught and practiced in the Eastern Orthodox Church: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Or we can pray even more simply: “Lord, have mercy.”
The example of the blind men leads me to wonder: how badly, how desperately, do we want healing from Jesus? Do we care more about what others think of us? Or do we care most about getting close to Jesus and rece…

Matthew 13-16

In this section of Matthew’s Gospel we come to his third book of the new Torah, his third large block of teaching from Jesus, or what Perrin and Duling call…
13:1-52 The Third Book of the New Revelation: the Parables of the Kingdom. Like Mark, Matthew has a collection of parables, but he increases their number and makes special use of them. He has just called attention to the true family of Jesus as those who accept his revelation. Now Jesus addresses the parables of the Sower, the Weeds, the Mustard Seed, and the Leaven to “the crowds” (13:1-33). Matthew concludes this half of his parable chapter with a formula quotation (13:34-35). Jesus then turns to the “disciples,” the true family, and gives them the explanation of the Weeds and the parables of the Pearl and the Net….
13:53-58 The climactic rejection. 13:53 contains the formula to the end of the third book of the new revelation. Matthew ends his third revelatory discourse with the theme that Jesus is not onored “in his own country …

Matthew 9-12

Perrin and Duling, in their book, The New Testament: An Introduction, provide a helpful overview of the Gospel of Matthew. Here is what they have to say about this section….
8:1-9:34 The miracles of Jesus. Matthew characteristically arranges his material in blocks. He follows his first revelatory discourse with a block of ten miracle stories interwoven with teaching on discipleship. In 4:23 and 9:35 the summaries of the characteristic activity of Jesus’ ministry stress healing, and nine of the ten miracles are healing miracles. The collection of ten miracles perhaps recalls the ten plagues of Moses in Egypt (Ex 7:8-11:10). In general, Matthew transforms the miracles by introducing or expanding dialogues….
9:35-38 Summary of the characteristic activity of the ministry. Matthew has inherited from Mark 6:6b-11 an account of a teaching journey by Jesus, followed by the commissioning of “the twelve” for a missionary journey. The teaching journey further summarizes the activities characterist…

Matthew 5-8

A number of years ago a movie was made about the first pilots who broke the sound barrier. Up until that time no airplane had ever flown faster than the speed of sound. A lot of people didn’t believe it could happen. It was thought that an airplane might disintegrate under the pressure. In fact, in the movie, that is exactly what happened to a number of pilots who tried it. The controls of the plane refused to work properly once they came close to breaking the speed of sound.

The climax of the movie came when one pilot had a hunch. “Maybe when a plane breaks the sound barrier the controls will work in reverse.” So at the all-important moment, when the plane approached the sound barrier the pilot pushed the stick forward, which would normally send the plane into a nosedive. But it didn’t. The nose went up and the plane flew on, faster than any plane had ever flown before.

Chuck Yeager, the first pilot to break the sound barrier in real life, insisted that it didn’t happen exactly as it w…

Matthew 1-4

The Inspiration of St. Matthew by Caravaggio
Providing an adequate introduction to the Gospel of Matthew in a single blog post is an impossible task. However, I do want to give you some idea of where I think Matthew fits with the other Gospels, who the author is, and so on.
In order to accomplish this as succinctly and hopefully as accurately as possible, I turn to Michael Green’s commentary on the Gospel of Matthew in the Bible Speaks Today series published by InterVarsity Press. Here are some excerpts from Green’s introduction….
We do not know who wrote the Gospel. Like all the others, it is anonymous. The coming of Jesus sparked off an entirely new literary form, the ‘Gospel’. It is not biography, though it contains it. It is not history, though it reflects it. A Gospel is the proclamation of good news: the good news of salvation which had long been looked for in Judaism, and which Christians were persuaded had burst upon the world in Jesus of Nazareth. The Gospels are utterly captiva…

Malachi

Today we come to the end of our study of the Old Testament before continuing with the New. Lawrence Boadt’s Reading the Old Testament has been our companion for much of this journey. Therefore, we will listen to some final words from him before moving on….
The prophet Malachi is the last book in the canon of the Old Testament. It is not dated, and the author is unknown. Its present title comes from the opening words of chapter 3, “My messenger” (in Hebrew, malachi). It is certainly post-exilic and may come from almost any period between the rebuilding of the temple in 516 B.C. and the end of the Persian period about 330 B.C. From its contents, it can probably be best placed just about the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. Malachi roundly condemns many abuses in Israel that Ezra worked to reform. The priests perform imperfect and careless service in this temple. The people are marrying pagans with ease and taking divorce lightly. They fail to pay the tithes and offerings which they owe to God.…

Zechariah 9-14

Here is what Lawrence Boadt has to say about these chapters….
Second Zechariah in chapters 9-14 reveals an entirely different spirit. There are no visions, no concern for the temple, no further hopes for Zerubbabel, and no Davidic restoration dreams. It is poetry instead of prose, and stresses God as a divine warrior who will fight to deliver Jerusalem from the power of foreign nations. It especially develops several themes found in Ezekiel, especially those of God as the true shepherd of his people, and the coming day of the Lord.
Second Zechariah treats the theme of the shepherd in Zechariah 9:16-17, 11:1-17, and 13:7-9. In the final passage he proclaims that God will shepherd Israel….
Compare this with the great climax of Ezekiel’s oracle on God as the good shepherd… in Ezekiel 34:30-31.
He also intensifies the hopes of a great day of the Lord. God will not only restore Israel but transform the people and the land into a new paradise…. (Zec 14:6-7)
There is a sense of a delayed coming o…