The Feast of St. Matthew

Today is the Feast day of St. Matthew, Apostle and evangelist of the Gospel of Matthew. He is identified as a tax collector for the Roman authorities (Mt 9:9 and 10:3) In passages parallel to Matthew 9:9, both Mark 2:14 and Luke 5:27 describe Jesus’ calling of the tax collector Levi, the son of Alphaeus, but Mark and Luke never explicitly equate this Levi with the Matthew named as one of the twelve. As a tax collector, his fellow Jews would have despised him for what was seen as collaborating with the Roman occupation force. The Pharisees lumped them with “sinners” (Mt 9:11-13) He is noted as being a witness to the Ascension, otherwise, he is unnamed among the accounts of the gospel that often only mention a select few of the Apostles by name. Continue reading

The Gospel of Matthew

If the post this morning left you wanting to know more about the genealogy or even the whole Gospel of Matthew – but you want the “big picture?”  Then I have two great videos for you – both from the amazing folks at The Bible Project. As an introduction the two videos are great. The layout the design, the flow, the purpose Matthew had in mind – and it all points to Jesus. The first video is about 8 minutes, the second about 7 minutes. Invest 15 minutes in building up your faith!

Ram, father of who?

The gospel for today is the genealogy from Matthew. I have proclaimed this gospel for many years, and truth be told, I can see eyes glaze over a bit, people yawn, shift in their seats. It is certainly not an action-packed narrative. We are familiar with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but “Ram the father of Amminadab” – not so much.  There are 40 names over 27 generations. I think most people might know 6 or 7 of the folks. If you know 10 names, you’re doing very good! If you know more, you should be leading Bible Study at your church!!

And Matthew starts out his narrative with the genealogy: Matthew 1:1-17. If this were a text, I think most people are going to “swipe left” and move on. Clearly, he did not have a modern publisher.

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Being Perfect: context

BePerfectMatthew 5:38-48  38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on (your) right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. 40 If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. 41 Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? 48 So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Context. This week’s gospel continues the movement through the first of the Matthean discourses, commonly known as the “Sermon on the Mount” begun on the 4th Sunday of Ordinary Time with the Beatitudes. At a broad stroke, Matthew 5-7 are an expose of Jesus’ authoritative teaching; Chapters 8-9 are pericopes of his authoritative deeds.

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Calling Disciples: the kingdom of heaven

Calling disciplesThe Kingdom of Heaven. 21 He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them, 22 and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him. 23 He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people.

“The kingdom of heaven” is uniquely Matthew’s phrase. He often uses it in place of Mark’s “kingdom of God.” Perhaps, if we assume a Jewish background for Matthew, it is a way of avoiding saying and thus possibly misusing the name of God.

Basileia can refer to the area ruled by a king; or it can refer to the power or authority to rule as king. We probably shouldn’t interpret the “kingdom of heaven” as a place — such as the place we go when we die; but as the ruling power that emanates from heaven. One commentator translates the phrase: “heaven rules”. Continue reading

Calling Disciples: command and promise

Calling disciplesFishing. 18 As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen.

Clearly Jesus is calling the disciples to a life with him. But every “calling to” is by default a “calling from” in some sense. Fishing was not as easy as getting a boat and having at it. Fishing was controlled by the “powers that be” in two ways. (1) Commercial fishermen worked for the royal family or wealthy landlords who contracted with them to provide a specific amount of fish at a certain time. They were paid either with cash or with fish. (2) Fishermen leased their fishing rights from persons called “toll collectors” in the NT for a percentage of the catch. The “tax” could be as much as 40% (see Malina & Rohrbach, Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, p. 44). Continue reading

Calling Disciples: fulfillment and calling

Calling disciplesAfter being identified as the Son of God in the baptism account (3:13–17) and after proving what kind of Son of God he is (4:1–11), Jesus journeys from Judea to Galilee in order to begin his public ministry (4:12–17). In the course of this journey Jesus will call his core disciples (vv.18-22) and witness to his proclamation with powerful deeds (vv.23-25). His journey will cover the wilderness of Judea and the towns of Galilee.

But all this begins with the barest of comments: “When he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee.” (v.12) The word used for arrest (paradidomi) almost becomes the technical term for Jesus’ “betrayal”. There are parallels between the fates of John and Jesus. At this point we do not know why John was arrested or by whom until (cf. 14:1-12.) Yet, his arrest strongly suggests that the powers from Jerusalem reacted negatively to his practice of baptism, his call for repentance, and the proclamation that the kingdom was upon them. The authorities must have not have shared the hope of the kingdom’s coming but that rather viewed it all as a threat. Jesus’ proclamation (v. 17) is exactly the same as John’s (3:2). It is not likely to go well for Jesus. Continue reading

Calling Disciples: a context

Calling disciplesThird Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 4:12-23(25) 

12 When he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled: 15 “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, 16 the people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death light has arisen.” 17 From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 18 As he was walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; they were fishermen. 19 He said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him. 21 He walked along from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat, with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. He called them, 22 and immediately they left their boat and their father and followed him. 23 He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people. Continue reading

Baptism of the Lord: meaning

English: Baptism of JesusMatthew 3: 13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. 14 John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” 15 Jesus said to him in reply, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed him. 16 After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened (for him), and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove (and) coming upon him. 17 And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

The First Temptation of Christ. Brian Stoffregen has an interesting insight about righteousness as “do, perform” what God requires of us.

John, by trying to prevent the baptism, tempts Jesus not to do all that God requires of him. He tempts Jesus to assume his proper position now: to be the more powerful one; to baptize with the judgmental Holy Spirit and fire; to meet John’s need. I don’t think that these are too dissimilar to the devil’s temptations that occur immediately after the baptism (4:1-11) — temptations for Jesus to use his power now, for his own glory; and avoid his emptying and eventually the pain and suffering of the cross.

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Baptism of the Lord: fulfillment

Baptism of Christ. Jesus is baptized in the Jo...Matthew 3: 13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. 14 John tried to prevent him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?” 15 Jesus said to him in reply, “Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed him. 16 After Jesus was baptized, he came up from the water and behold, the heavens were opened (for him), and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove (and) coming upon him. 17 And a voice came from the heavens, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

John and Jesus in Dialogue.  As John the Baptist mysteriously appeared in the wilderness, so too Jesus. John appeared proclaiming: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (3:2).  It was a very public appeal to which people responded: “Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins” (3:5–6.) Jesus appears on the scene and Matthew makes it clear that Jesus’ purpose is to be baptized by John (v.13). Continue reading