Proposal: Structure of Matthew’s gospel

Here is one man’s proposed structure of Matthew’s Gospel, based on Matthew’s citations from Isaiah:

  1. 1:1-2:23 – ‘The virgin shall bear a son’ [Mt 1:23 = Isa 9:6]
  2. 3:1-4:11 – ‘The way of the Lord in the wilderness’ [Mt 3:3 = Isa 40:3]
  3. 4:12-7:29 – ‘A great light in Galilee’ [Mt 4:15-16 = Isa 9:1-2]
  4. 8:1-10:42 – ‘He carried away our diseases’ [Mt 8:17 = Isa 53:4]
  5. 11:1-12:45 – ‘Bruised reeds & Gentile judgement’ [Mt 12:17-21 = Isa 42:1-4]
  6. 12:46-13:58 – ‘Hearing and understanding’ [Mt 13:14-15 = Isa 6:9-10]
  7. 14:1-16:12 – ‘Teaching the traditions of men’ [Mt 15:8-9 = Isa 29:13]
  8. 16:13-21:11 – ‘The King coming to Zion, gentle’ [Mt 21:5 = Isa 62:11 & Zec 9:9]
  9. 21:12-25:46 – ‘House of prayer’ or ‘robbers’ den’ [Mt 21:13 = Isa 56:7 & Jer 7:11]
  10. 26:1-28:20 – ‘Shepherd and sheep’ (& Galilee) [Mt 26:31 = Zec 13:7 & Isa 53:4-6]

Taken from Matthew’s Gospel structure: a Messianic reflection on Isaiah. At the link are explanations of each section.

Whether or not Matthew thought about the structure (a proposal worthy of study), it would make a good outline for a Bible school study.

They took the money

Love of moneyEvery man has his price. So says the cynic. And there are enough people like the soldiers at Jesus’ tomb to give him reason for his affirmation.

So they took the money and did as they were instructed.
Matthew 28:15 NET

The guards at the tomb had seen a horrifying angel. They knew about the resurrection of the Crucified One. They saw up close the power of God.

Even at that, they accepted the bribe and lied about the facts.

Throughout his gospel, Matthew says much about money. In the Sermon on the Mount, he cites Jesus’ words, “You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24b).

For whoever serves money has his price.

No disciple found to carry the cross

DiscipleshipDuring his ministry, Jesus found people to call as disciples. In the parable of the banquet, the servants were sent to go out in the streets “and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet” (Matthew 22:9, 10 NET).

Jesus also told, shortly before his death, the parable of the good and bad servants, and pronounced this blessing, “Blessed is that slave whom the master finds at work when he comes” (Matthew 24:46).

But when the moment came to carry Jesus’ cross, no one among his followers is found.

As they were going out, they found a man from Cyrene named Simon, whom they forced to carry his cross.
Matthew 27:32 Continue reading “No disciple found to carry the cross”

Truth at the service of wickedness

MotivationsTruth without sincerity is at the mercy of wickedness. Sincerity without truth wanders without direction, driven by personal desires of the moment. In the first case, we have a sad example in the Pharisees’ attack on Jesus.

Then the Pharisees went out and planned together to entrap him with his own words. They sent to him their disciples along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are truthful, and teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You do not court anyone’s favor because you show no partiality.
Matthew 22:15-16 NET

What they said was true, but they lacked sincerity. In this case, truth becomes an instrument of evil. Spiritual motivations are fundamental to the correct use of the truth.

The same abuse of truth is seen today, at times, among God’s people, when someone wants to grab power and wield influence.

In order that the truth might be liberating, a spiritual tool in the kingdom of God, we must repent of our ambitions and place each act and thought under the command of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The truth itself must be set free of our impure motives.

Nothing impossible for us

Times are we start qualifying Jesus’ sayings so much, surrounding them with restrictions and explanations, that they lose their impact. One of them is found in this verse:

Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why couldn’t we cast it out?” 20  He told them, “It was because of your little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; nothing will be impossible for you.”
Matthew 17:19-20 NET

Our problem is not in thinking that we can do everything, but in thinking we can do little. To such people Christ speaks. Continue reading “Nothing impossible for us”

Signs of the times

Today, religious leaders prefer fiction above truth, and people like to see something fantastic (Americans call it “awesome”) and to feel chills, tingles, and goosebumps, instead of thinking on God’s wonders.

You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.
Matthew 16:3 ESV Continue reading “Signs of the times”

When a parable is not a parable

When Christ’s word doesn’t agree with our idea, we immediately conclude that it must mean something else. After all, our idea is right!

But Peter said to him, “Explain this parable to us.”
Matthew 15:15 NET

In chapter 13 Jesus explained everything to the crowds by parables, without which he taught nothing. Now, the Lord makes a clear and direct statement. Peter, however, doesn’t understand it, because it contradicts everything that he has learned. He thinks that, if it disagrees with his opinion, it must then be a parable, with a meaning besides the obvious.

This is why he asks the Lord to explain the “parable,” when it is no such thing.

We do the same. When Christ’s word doesn’t fit our theology, it then must be a figure of speech, or limited to that age, or an insertion by later disciples and therefore not genuine.

Anything besides a word that contradicts us!

That’s just your (wrong) interpretation!

Bible TeachingIn order to justify their error, many people like to think that the Bible permits a wide range of interpretations. When they see evidence that contradicts their opinion, they come out with, “That’s just your interpretation!”

But when the Pharisees saw this they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is against the law to do on the Sabbath.”
Matthew 12:2 NET

Answering this accusation with two examples from Scripture (David and the priests) and another citation about the divine priorities (mercy over sacrifice), the Lord Jesus demonstrates that the Pharisees’ interpretation of the law was wrong. Continue reading “That’s just your (wrong) interpretation!”

The Son decides

Jesus made shocking statements. Again and again he affirmed his special role in the divine project. He is the key person for knowing God.

All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son decides to reveal him.
Matthew 11:27 NET

This declaration of Christ’s precedes the famous invitation of Matthew 11:28-30, to come to Christ. It suggests that the knowledge of the Father, which implies his presence and blessing, comes only to him who is willing to deliver up to the Lord the burdens of this life in order to receive his yoke.

The invitation is open to all, but the relief and the knowledge of the Father are pre-determined. That is, they are conditional to our willingness to leave our burden in order to accept the direction (Lordship) of Christ.

Why then have we cut this verse when citing the invitation that follows? Would it be to separate the demand from the promise, the restriction from the invitation?