I was not here for this meeting. I will report on my comments of it later on.
Again we see Matthew building the case of Jesus as the long awaited Messiah. In this chapter, Matthew is using John the Baptist as the springboard for Jesus. Jesus casts John’s role as that of preparing the way for Jesus. Although the Jews think of the last prophet as Malichi, Jesus says John is a prophet who comes to proclaim Jesus as the Son of God and the long promised Messiah. However, John thought that Jesus would come as to head a physical reign and deliver the Jews from their foreign captors, namely the Romans. Therefore, John sent disciples to Jesus asking who he was, and Jesus said, can’t you tell by the works that I am doing?
Later on, Jesus casts himself in the tradition of John’s call for people to repent by calling for the cities where he had done most of his work, such as Capernaum, to repent. He compared them unfavorable to the city of Sodom and said that the people of Sodom would have a better standing in the day of judgment than the people of the several cities which he named which included Capernaum. As usual, Jesus railed against the arrogant people and said that the meek would have a better chance on Judgment day. He offered his frustration at the leaders who castigated John for his fasting and ascetic ways, but at the same time depicted Jesus for eating and drinking to excess. Jesus said they can’t have it both ways.
Jesus concludes with the oft repeated verses saying “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; For I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
I think that the book of Matthew is a collection of snippets from Jesus’ life that resembles a piece of modern art. The individual pieces sometimes don’t make sense, but the whole piece has a point and you have to look at its entirety to see that. You also have to put it into historical perspective that the author had a strong reaction to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 by Titus, the son of Emperor Vespasian. This was a terrible siege and a ferocious battle, so it made a tremendous mark on anyone involved and the memory of this horrible event affected people for generations.
This chapter has warlike settings somewhat like what was happening with a lot of the zealots roaming around who were sometimes very violent. Jesus was sometimes seen merely as another of these zealots who were proclaiming themselves to be the Messiah. There seems to be a lot of aggression on Jesus’ part in this chapter. Jesus seems to speak for the peacemakers in other parts of Matthew, like the Sermon on the Mount, but yet here he speaks for the sword. He speaks about setting father against son and mother against daughter. Does God just change His mind, or is this another aspect of God that we just don’t understand? It seems that God must have to change his mind, or else our world has already been totally determined, and we just have to accept that there is no free will. God may respond to the circumstances and the times that exist. Certainly we have evidence of that happening before. Abraham was told to kill Isaac as a sacrifice and then when all was prepared and Abraham showed willingness to do God’s will, God provided an animal to sacrifice in place of Isaac. Pastor Jennifer used the term absurd to describe the gospel Sunday from Matthew. Here is an interesting link to one person’s thoughts about why Matthew wrote the gospel in the way he did. http://www.jesusneverexisted.com/matthew.htm
There is a whole variety of experiences here. We start with him taking a ship to his city and being brought a man sick of the palsy. Jesus healed him by saying your sins are forgiven. Then Jesus enters into a discussion of the difference between saying your sickness is healed and your sins are forgiven. Then he recruits Matthew, a tax collector, to become one of his disciples. He then told the Pharisees that the Publicans and sinners had more need for him and his healing than they, the Pharisees, did. Then there was a conversation with John’s disciples about fasting. Jesus said that you don’t fast while the bridegroom is with you, but the implication was that they would fast when he left them. Next, there was a little piece about not putting new wine into old wineskins, or new cloth as a patch on old garments. A ruler wanted him to come and raise his daughter from the dead. On his way to see her, a woman touched the hem of his robe and was healed. He said that her faith had made her whole. When he arrived at the ruler’s house, he said she was only sleeping and he awakened her. Then he cast out a devil from a dumb man. The Pharisees said that he was casting out devils in the name of the devil. He then went about the area teaching, preaching, and healing. He said there was much to be done and few to do it.
One wonders what the relationship is between healing from sickness and forgiving sins. This has been an ancient controversy as to whether sickness comes because of sin. If so, then why to good people suffer from sicknesses and bad people don’t? What would we do today if Jesus showed up and asked us to follow him? I expect we would be too busy to follow. If you are serious about your faith will you evangelize to your friends? Do you look as death as merely a deep sleep? Was this part of the belief at that time that Jesus would go into heaven and then have come back to wake the people who had fallen asleep (or died) in the faith? After all, this was written a number of years after Jesus’ death.
One might also wonder why of all the leaders that had been sent to the Israelites, that Jesus didn’t come as a mighty person who led armies or had vast resources at his disposal. It is a real change and one can understand why the Israelites didn’t believe he was really the Messiah.
Do we worship the wealthy today and rail at the poor because they don’t do better with their lives? Who is more likely to be arrested, a poor black person who takes drugs or a wealthy young man who takes drugs? I think we all know the answer. If we see two women buying soda in a grocery store, one with food stamps and another with a check. Who do we think is the lazy irresponsible one?
It is difficult to figure out what Matthew’s purpose in this assortment of stories that are told here. What are we to make of this discussion of healing from sickness and sin? What is the difference in Jesus’ mind?