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by Peter Pett
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The Gospel of Matthew is clearly divided into sections by five major discourses, each of which ends with a similar formula. These contain:
a The reorientation and fuller explanation of the Law and of how to enter the Kingly Rule of Heaven (Matthew 5-7).
b Jesus’ instructions for evangelism and warning of future persecution as they go out to proclaim the Kingly Rule of Heaven (Matthew 9:37 to Matthew 11:1).
c An exposition of the ‘secrets’ of the Kingly Rule of Heaven in parables (Matthew 13:1-52).
b Jesus’ teachings concerning the establishment of the new community under the Kingly Rule of Heaven (Matthew 18:1 to Matthew 19:1).
a Condemnation of the Scribes and Pharisees for their wrong attitude to the Law, and His declaration of judgment on them, and on the Temple, followed by a description of coming devastations, which will be the result of the rejection of the Kingly Rule of Heaven, combined with a promise of the evangelism of the world and the Second Coming (Matthew 23:1 to Matthew 26:1).
It will be noted that in ‘a’ the Law is expanded on and requires being taken seriously, or otherwise their house will fall, and this is accompanied by ‘seven blessings’, and in the parallel the Scribes and Pharisees are seen as not taking the Law seriously, but distorting it, and this is accompanied by seven ‘woes’, with the consequence being the destruction of Jerusalem and devastating judgment (their houses will fall). In ‘b’ He instructs His disciples concerning evangelisation and in the parallel He instructs them concerning the establishing of the new community that will result from that evangelism. And centrally in ‘c’ He proclaims to them the secrets of the Kingly Rule of Heaven.
Some therefore see chapter 13 as the central point of the Gospel, giving the Kingly Rule of Heaven a central position in His teaching (see Introduction). And while we may consider that in fact Matthew’s Gospel has a number of pivots (including the confession at Caesarea, with its emphasis on His Messiahship, followed by a new emphasis on His coming death and resurrection, and the story of the Canaanite woman, with its emphasis on a new turning towards the Gentiles, and followed by a new emphasis on Jesus’ activity in Gentile territory), we certainly cannot deny the centrality of the Kingly Rule of Heaven in Jesus’ teaching or in Matthew’s Gospel.
For it was to proclaim the Kingly Rule of Heaven that Jesus came (Matthew 4:17). Thus He opens His ministry with the words ‘the Kingly Rule of Heaven is at hand’ (Matthew 4:17; Matthew 4:23 compare Matthew 3:2), and He closes it with the command to ‘go and make disciples of all nations’ (Matthew 28:19) because He has ‘received all authority in Heaven and earth’. By this Matthew indicates how the Kingly Rule of Heaven, already secure in Heaven, is now to be established on earth as a result of the fact that Jesus has taken up His throne in Heaven ‘with all authority in Heaven and earth’ (Matthew 28:18), while at the same time assuring them that He will accompany them invisibly wherever they go (Matthew 28:20).
We can compare with this how Luke also commences in a similar way with Jesus preaching the Kingly Rule of God from the beginning of His ministry (Luke 4:43 as explained in Luke 4:18), while Acts (the continuation of Luke) ends with Paul proclaiming the Kingly Rule of God in Rome, something which is then interpreted in terms of ‘all things pertaining to the Lord Jesus Christ’ (Acts 28:23; Acts 28:31). John similarly indicates at the commencement of his Gospel that He came offering ‘life’ (Matthew 1:4), the ‘life of the coming age’ (John 3:16; John 3:36) and ends with the description of how men may find that life through His Name (John 20:31).
In between these five major discourse sections of Matthew are a number of combined narrative and teaching sections, and in each case these lead up to the discourse section. Thus we find:
o A section revealing Jesus as the Coming King (Matthew 1:18 to Matthew 4:25), which has led up to the proclamation of the need for repentance and response to the Good News of the Kingly Rule of Heaven (Matthew 4:17; Matthew 4:23), and this is followed by 5-7, words which are spoken to those who have responded, and explains how they are to behave under that Kingly Rule of Heaven, and who can enter it. Note that 5-7 are specifically stated to be addressed to ‘His disciples’ who are the result of that proclamation, and have themselves responded to the Good News.
o A section in which the significance of Jesus as the Coming One and Servant of the Lord is revealed (Matthew 8:1 to Matthew 9:36), so that His Kingly Rule now needs to be proclaimed, which is followed by the evangelisation address in Matthew 9:37 to Matthew 11:1 that will result in such a proclamation.
o A section (Matthew 11:2 to Matthew 12:50) which describes different responses to Jesus, both positive and negative, with regard to His Messiahship, and again brings out that He is the Servant of the Lord, which is then followed by the proclaiming of the Kingly Rule of Heaven in parables as found in Matthew 13:1-52, so that those with eyes that have been opened might see, while others might remain blind.
o A section on the beginnings of the establishment of the new community (Matthew 14:1 to Matthew 17:27), which is followed by a discourse concerning the entering into, and regulating of, the new community, in Matthew 18:1 to Matthew 19:1.
o A section on Jesus’ manifestation to Jerusalem and controversies with the authorities (Matthew 19:2 to Matthew 22:46), which is followed by the condemnation of the Scribes and Pharisees and warning of coming judgments, including the destruction of Jerusalem (Matthew 23:1 to Matthew 26:1).
That being so we may therefore divide up the Gospel as follows (discourses in italics). The initial letters indicate the parallels in what is in the form of a chiasmus (i.e. has the form a b c d c b a).
a Introduction. Jesus Is The Messiah, The Son Of David (THE King - Matthew 1:6), And The Son of Abraham (through whom all nations are to be blessed - Genesis 12:3) (Matthew 1:1-17).
b From Jesus’ Birth to the Commencement of the Proclamation of the Good News, Which Results in Crowds of Followers (Matthew 1:18 to Matthew 4:25). Jesus Is the Son of God (Matthew 2:15; Matthew 3:17; Matthew 4:3; Matthew 4:6).
c The Renewal and Expansion of the Law Taught To Those Who Have Become His Disciples, Which Reveals A Righteousness That Is Above That Of The Scribes And Pharisees. His Disciples Are Thus To Be The Light Of The World, And Warnings Are Given Of Judgment ‘In That Day’ On Those Who Do Not Truly Respond, For In The End All Will Have To Give Account To Him As Lord. Note the seven ‘blessings’ in this passage which contrast with the seven ‘woes in chapter 23 (Matthew 5:1 to Matthew 7:29 ).
d The Threefold Revelation of Jesus as Lord, Followed By The Revelation Of Him Through His Words and Actions as Son of Man, as Son of God and as Son of David. In Contrast The Pharisees Accuse Him Of Being in League With The Prince of Darkness (Matthew 8:1 to Matthew 9:36).
e The Commissioning of the Apostles To Proclaim And Reveal The Kingly Rule of Heaven, And Instructions Concerning Future Evangelism And Warnings Of Future Persecution. He Proclaims Their Oneness With Him (Matthew 9:37 to Matthew 11:1 ).
f Jesus Confirms His Credentials As Messiah To John, Condemns Those Who Have Rejected His Credentials, Reveals His Close Relationship Of Sonship With His Father, And Offers Rest To Those Who Have Accepted Him. He Is Lord Of The Sabbath, The Servant of The Lord With A Ministry Which Includes The Gentiles, The Son of David, The Vanquisher of Satan, The One Who Refuses To Give Signs But Who Will Rise Again From the Heart of The Earth, And Indicates That His New Family Has Replaced The Old (Matthew 11:2 to Matthew 12:50).
g The Proclamation Of The Expansion of the Kingly Rule of Heaven In Parabolic Form And Warning of Judgment On Those Who Fail To Respond To It (Matthew 13:1-53 ).
f Jesus Is Rejected By His Own And Begins To Establish His New Community In The Messianic Feeding Of The Crowd of Dedicated Followers, Widens His Ministry To Include Gentile Territory And Refuses To Give Signs. His Messiahship Is Openly Acknowledged by the Disciples And He Then Begins To Prepare His Disciples For His Approaching Death And Resurrection. His Glory Is Revealed On The High Mountain After Which He Casts Out A Powerful Evil Spirit And Confirms His Unique Sonship To Peter (Matthew 13:54 to Matthew 17:27).
e Jesus Expands On And Provides Guidance For The New Community That Is Being Formed (Matthew 18:1 to Matthew 19:1 ).
d Ministry In Judea On The Way To Jerusalem to Die. He Is Son Of Man And Son Of David. Jesus Enters Jerusalem, Reveals Himself as The Unique Son and Lord, And Deals With Those Who Seek To Test Him, Including the Scribes and the Pharisees (Matthew 19:1 to Matthew 22:46).
c Jesus Reveals The Barrenness of The Scribes and The Pharisees And Warns of the Consequences, Which Will Result in The Destruction of Jerusalem, The Evangelism of The World By The New Community, and Then In Final Judgment At His Second Coming (Matthew 23:1 to Matthew 26:1 ). Note the seven Woes which parallel the seven blessings in Matthew 5:3-9 .
b Jesus’ Final Hours Leading Up To His Death, Jesus Suffers As The Christ (Matthew 26:63-64; Matthew 26:68; Matthew 27:17; Matthew 27:22); The Son of Man (Matthew 26:64); The King of The Jews (Matthew 27:11; Matthew 27:29; Matthew 27:37); and The Son of God (Matthew 26:63-64; Matthew 27:40; Matthew 27:43; Matthew 27:54).
a Jesus’ Resurrection And Enthronement. He Is Described As The Lord by the Angel And Is Revealed By Himself As Sharing The Name of The Triune God. The Eleven Are Commissioned To Make Disciples Of All Nations (Matthew 28:1-20).
The Filling Full of the Scriptures In Jesus.
But there is another important fact about Matthew’s Gospel which we must not overlook, and that is that he has connected it throughout with the idea of the ‘filling full’ in Him of all that the Old Testament has promised. He sees Jesus’ coming, not just as that of another bright star which rises, shines and then ceases to shine, but as the One to Whom all that has gone before has pointed. He is the ultimate Sun of Righteousness (Malachi 4:2), the final fulfilment of God’s promises.
By this the whole revelation of God as given to Israel, is seen as coming to its culmination in Jesus Christ. And this is made abundantly evident by Matthew’s citation of Scripture at crucial points in the narrative, Scriptures that reveal the purpose of His coming. And yet the interesting thing is that they have been included in such a way as not to alter the narrative, which can stand on its own without them. The narrative has not been shaped by the quotations. What they do is buttress the narrative and bring out what it is revealing.
He commences with a cluster of Scriptures which ‘prepare the way’. The opening two sections of the genealogy are mainly a citation of Scripture, in which it is brought out that Jesus the Messiah sums up both Abraham and David (Matthew 1:1-12), and in the third section this idea is then filled in from genealogies available to him (Matthew 1:13-18).
This is then followed by Scriptures given in quick succession which point:
· To His miraculous birth as the ‘Coming King’ of Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 9:1-7 (see Matthew 1:25; compare Matthew 4:15-16).
· To His coming forth as Israel’s Ruler from Bethlehem, the home of the house of David (Matthew 2:6; compare Micah 5:2).
· To His going into exile as Representative of His people (Matthew 2:14), and His being called out of Egypt as God’s Son, (as Israel had been, but had failed to fully respond - Hosea 11:1-12) in order to bring about their deliverance from all that Egypt stood for (Matthew 2:15).
· To His mission as being established on the back of the sufferings of Himself and of His people (Matthew 2:18; compare Jeremiah 31:15).
· To He Himself as treading the way of lowliness, as one Who is called ‘a Nazarene’, the lowest of the low (Matthew 2:23; compare John 1:46).
And this is all revealed as being in accordance with Scripture. It should be noted that in this first phase of the Gospel Matthew’s prophetic model is Jeremiah who is the only named prophet (Matthew 2:17).
But from Matthew 3:1 onwards the searchlight turns on Isaiah and his prophecies, which from now on are, significantly, clearly named (in contrast to Matthew 1:25).
· He has come as a light into darkness in accordance with Isaiah 9:1-2 (as the child Who is born and the Son Who is given - Isaiah 9:6) to proclaim the Kingly Rule of Heaven (Matthew 4:15-17).
· Following His giving of the renewed and expanded Law of the Kingly Rule of Heaven in chapters 5-7, His ministry is that of ‘taking our infirmities and bearing our sicknesses’, in accordance with Isaiah 53:4 (Matthew 8:17).
· Following His message on the evangelism of the lost sheep of the house of Israel (chapter 10) His ministry continues in the power of the Spirit as the Spirit-inspired Servant of the Lord Who has come to declare justice to the Gentiles and to gently lead and restore His people in accordance with Isaiah 42:1-4 (Matthew 12:18-21).
· His proclamation of the Kingly Rule of Heaven in parables is accompanied with the reminder that their lack of reception by the majority results from the hardness of heart, deafness and blindness of His hearers which is in accordance with Isaiah 6:9-10 (Matthew 13:13-14). And even His teaching in parables is in accordance with Scripture (Matthew 13:35, compare Psalms 78:2).
· This is then followed up with a declaration of the hypocrisy of their leaders in line with Isaiah 29:13 (Matthew 15:7).
· In view of this we are not therefore surprised when in His subsequent ministry He begins to encompass the Gentiles (Matthew 15:21-28), with His itinerary that follows taking place largely in Gentile territory, (Matthew 12:18; Matthew 12:21 - compare Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:6, although attention is not specifically drawn to these). And it is at this point that He is acknowledged by His disciples as the Messiah, and promises the establishment of a new congregation (of an expanded Israel) (Matthew 16:16-18), and it is from this point onwards that He emphasises that He has come into the world to suffer, die and rise again (Matthew 16:21). Thus His fulfilment of the Isaianic prophecies must come to its necessary fruition. This is then followed by the discourse on the new congregation and what will be required from it (chapter 18), which is again followed by His description of Himself as the Servant Who has come to give His life a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28).
This second phase is clearly built around the prophecies of Isaiah.
Now the Servant phase closes and attention is turned back to Jesus’ kingship, (partly already taken into account in Matthew 18:23-34).
· He enters Jerusalem as its King as the Scriptures had demanded (Matthew 21:5, compare Zechariah 9:9).
· He reveals that the people’s acknowledgement of Him as son of David is in accordance with the tenor of Scripture (Matthew 21:16; compare Psalms 8:2), and declares Himself to be the only Son (Matthew 21:37-38), and that the Scripture concerning the rejected stone that became the head of the corner applies to Him (Matthew 21:42, compare Psalms 118:22-23).
· He then sums this up in His revelation that the Coming King is greater than David, being David’s Lord, as the Scripture has made clear (Matthew 22:42-44 compare Psalms 110:1). That is then followed by His discourses condemning the Scribes and Pharisees and outlining the future which will follow until His coming as the King in glory at His second coming. The Scriptures are directly cited only in Matthew 23:39; Matthew 24:15 but they lie behind much of what is said (chapters 23-25).
· Now the prophecies become dark ones. The Shepherd is to be smitten and the sheep scattered (Matthew 26:31, compare Zechariah 13:7). The dark hours of Gethsemane and all that is involved are in accordance with Scripture (“How then should the Scriptures be fulfilled that thus it must be?” (Matthew 26:54)). And in that hour Jesus says to the crowds who have come to arrest Him multitudes, “Are you come out as against a robber with swords and staves to seize me? I sat daily in the temple teaching, and you took me not. But all this is come about, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him, and fled’ (Matthew 26:55-56).
· All this is summed up in the name of Jeremiah, the only prophet named in this last section, (which is where we began in the first phase), drawing attention to his prophecies concerning the field and the potter (Jeremiah 27:10, compare Jeremiah 19:1-3; Jeremiah 19:11 together with Jeremiah 32:6-15, and linked with Zechariah 11:12-13), a message of both gloom and hope. And finally the King comes into His own, receiving all authority in Heaven and earth (compareIsaiah 9:6-7; Isaiah 9:6-7; Daniel 7:14; Psalms 2:7-9).
But what should be noted here again is that while Matthew’s quotations buttress the narrative and reveal that it is filling to the full the revelation of the Old Testament and capping it off, rather than determining the course of the narrative, which could equally exist without them, they root it firmly and imbed it within the purposes of God. What they accomplish is to give Matthew the added significance that in his Gospel all that the Scriptures have said are being brought to completion.
Jesus Has Come As The Representative Of Israel.
One further theme that should be borne in mind is that Jesus has come as the Representative Head of Israel. He is the True Vine (John 15:1-6). He recapitualtes the experiences of Moses and Israel in His own life. Thus:
· He is born amidst the slaughter of infants (Matthew 2:16-18).
· He comes out of exile in Egypt (Matthew 2:14-15).
· He comes through water as the representative head of Israel (Matthew 3:13-17; compare 1 Corinthians 10:2).
· He goes into the wilderness to be tested (Matthew 4:1-11).
· He proclaims the Law of God on the mountain (Matthew 5-7).
· He is transfigured on the Mountain reveaing the glory of God (Matthew 17:1-8; compare also how Moses face shone).
· He miraculously feeds the people giving them bread from Heaven (Matthew 14:13-21; Matthew 15:32-39; compare the Manna).
· The shout of a King is among them (Matthew 21:1-11; compare Numbers 23:21; Deuteronomy 33:5).
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18