Introduction to Matthew

By James M. Rochford

Authorship

Who Wrote the Four Gospels? Critics contend that we do not know who really wrote the gospels. In fact, it is argued that the standard titles of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John weren’t added until a century later to give these documents apostolic authority. Does the evidence support the authorship of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John?

Did Matthew originally write his gospel in Hebrew?

Scholars wonder if Matthew originally wrote in Hebrew based on a solitary passage mentioned by Papias (AD 140). The passage from Papias says this:

Matthew synetaxeto [composed? compiled? arranged?] the logia [sayings? Gospel?] in hebraïdi dialektō [in the Hebrew (Aramaic?) language? in the Hebrew (Aramaic?) style?]; and everyone hērmēneusen [interpreted? translated? transmitted?] them as he was able [contextually, who is ‘interpreting’ what?].[1]

There are a number of reasons for being skeptical of his claim from Papias:

First, Matthew’s gospel cites from the Septuagint—the Greek translation of the OT. But if Matthew was originally written in Hebrew, why then would he quote a Greek translation?

Second, Matthew’s gospel cites from Mark. But if Matthew was originally written in Hebrew, why then would he quote a Greek manuscript like Mark?

Third, Matthew’s gospel doesn’t read like a translation. Carson and Moo write, “The Greek text of Matthew does not read like translation Greek.” A translator would need to be excellent to translate Matthew in such a fluid way.

Date

Evidence for an Early Dating of the Four Gospels: Many historians and commentators date the Gospels between AD 70 and AD 100. This subject is surely up for debate. However, based on the manuscript evidence, the citation from the Church Fathers, the dating of the Book of Acts, and the early citations from Paul, we think there is good evidence for an early dating of the Gospels.

Bibliography

D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984).

R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Vol. 1, p. 78). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985.

Commentary on Matthew

Unless otherwise stated, all citations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

Matthew 1

 

Matthew 1:1-17 (Genealogy of Jesus)

[The parallel passage is in Luke 3:23-38.]

Why is this genealogy important? Many Bible readers skip over this section in Matthew. Genealogies aren’t important to us in our democratic context, where we elect leaders based on a popular vote. But ancient Israel was not this way. They recognized leaders based on their ancestry. This might be comparable to being considered for the throne in Great Britain: You needed to be from the right household—the right bloodline. Matthew opens his gospel by connecting Jesus with the two central ancestors in the Jewish line: Abraham and David (v.1). In order for Jesus to be the Jewish King, he needed to come from Abraham (the father of the Jews) and David (the father of the Kings).

Notice the four women whom Matthew cites. This is odd for a genealogy. The Jews were a patriarchal society (following bloodlines through the father—not the mother). But Matthew mentions five women in his genealogy: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary—all of whom had checkered backgrounds. By including these women in his genealogy, Matthew is showing that Jesus came from sinful people to save sinful people.

This isn’t even to mention the men! The story of these men is just as bad as the women (and probably worse).

(Mt. 1:1-17) Do Matthew and Luke’s genealogies contradict each other? (cf. Lk. 3:23-38)

(1:1) The “record of the genealogy” (biblos geneseōs) is identical to Genesis 2:4 and Genesis 5:1 in the LXX.[2] Matthew’s use of the word genesis could imply a new beginning through Jesus.

“Messiah” (Christos) is the Greek translation of the Hebrew “Anointed” (mashiach). The OT used this term for a variety of people including priests (Lev. 4:3; 6:22), kings (1 Sam. 16:13; 24:10; 2 Sam. 19:21; Lam. 4:20), the patriarchs (Ps. 105:15), and even the bloodthirsty, pagan king Cyrus (Isa. 45:1)! However, it was also used synonymously with the “king” of Israel (1 Sam. 2:10), and specifically a future king (2 Sam. 7:12-16; Ps. 2:2; 105:15). Matthew’s use of “Messiah” alongside of “son of David” makes it clear that he has the Messiah in view.

(1:2) Jesus identified with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the twelve patriarchs. Judah, of course, was the patriarch through whom the Messiah would come (Gen. 49:10).

Four unlikely women

OT genealogies had some precedent for mentioning mothers alongside fathers (1 Chronicles 1:32; 2:17-21, 24, 26, etc.). However, these four women whom Matthew mentions are striking. First, they are all non-Jewish by ethnicity. Second, they were looked down upon in their original culture. Third, they each had “at least suspicions of some form of marital irregularity, though all four were in fact vindicated by God’s subsequent blessing.”[3] R.T. France argues that this sets the stage for Jesus’ birth through Mary—a virgin who was likely mocked and ridiculed.

(v.3) Tamar tricked her father-in-law into impregnating her (Gen. 38). She was likely not Jewish, but a Canaanite, because she was local to her region (Gen. 38:11, 13-14).

(v.5) Rahab was a Canaanite prostitute (Josh. 2).

(v.5) Ruth was a Moabitess (Ruth 1).

(v.6) Bathsheba was also most likely not Jewish, because she had originally married Uriah, a Hittite (2 Sam. 11:3; 23:39). Moreover, she was an adulteress.

This shows that God was going to fulfill his promise to Abraham to bless all nations—not just the Jewish people (Gen. 12:3).

(1:3-5) Perez and Zerah were twins (Gen. 38:27). The rest of these figures appear in 1 Chronicles 2, but we don’t know much about them.

(1:6) David’s title of being the “king” would bring back “nostalgia”[4] to readers, who would long to be back in such times. But Matthew is showing the fulfillment of someone who is even greater than David. After all, Matthew records that David was an adulterer (“Bathsheba… had been the wife of Uriah”).

(1:7-10) These are taken from 1 Chronicles 3:10-14. This is a mixture of good and evil kings. This mixture made up the Messiah’s line.[5]

(1:8) 1 Chronicles 3:11-12 records: “Joram his son, Ahaziah his son, Joash his son, Amaziah his son, Azariah [Uzziah] his son…” However, Matthew skips these three generations (e.g. Ahaziah, Joash, Amaziah) in his genealogy. In fact, Matthew records that Joram is the father of Uzziah—not Ahaziah (Mt. 1:8). Well, which is it? Was Joram the father or the great-great grandfather of Uzziah? Clearly, these genealogies weren’t intended to claim either. Lemke writes, “[Father] does not necessarily mean immediate parentage but rather direct descent.”[6] These are probably omitted to keep the number at fourteen (see comments on verse 17).

(1:11) This picks up the final fourteen generations from the Exile under Jeconiah to the time of Jesus.

(Mt. 1:12) How could Jesus be the Messiah, if God cursed the descendants of King Jehoiachin (Jer. 22:30)?

(Mt. 1:12) Who is Shealtiel’s father? Jeconiah or Neri? (cf. Lk. 3:27)

(1:13-15) The names from Abihud to Jacob “are not otherwise known to us today.”[7] Matthew may have had these records in his day that tracked the genealogies from this point to his present moment.

(1:16) Luke states that Eli was Joseph’s father (Lk. 3:23). France speculates that “Jacob” was the “adoptive father” or a relative of some kind who carried the family line.[8]

This verse has a conspicuous omission. The rest of the genealogy states that each man “fathered” their offspring. Here, Joseph isn’t the father of Jesus. Instead, we read, “Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born.” This presupposes the virgin birth (1:23). The word “whom” is feminine and in the passive voice. France writes, “The genealogy is thus clearly intended to be that of Jesus’ ‘legal’ ancestry, not of his physical descent.”[9]

(Mt. 1:17) Why does Matthew emphasize 14 generations?

Conclusions

The genealogy of Jesus shows that he came from sinful ancestors. This includes both the men and the women in his ancestry. This shows the condescension of Jesus that he would enter a family tree that was this dysfunctional.

The birth of Jesus was the culmination of a new era in salvation history—greater than Abraham or David. He is the true King.

Matthew 1:18-25 (Jesus’ virgin birth)

[Matthew skips Luke’s material in Luke 1:5-80. Since Luke probably interviewed Mary directly, he contains more information than Matthew.]

This account of the Virgin Birth (or more accurately, the “virginal conception”) centers on Joseph’s perspective (Mt. 2:13-23), while Luke focuses on Mary’s perspective. In other words, Matthew must’ve interviewed people close to Joseph, while Luke likely interviewed Mary herself.

(1:18) “Birth” (genesis) is the same Greek word used for “genealogy” in verse 1. It refers to the “birth” or “origins” of Jesus’ human nature—obviously not his divine nature.[10]

What was betrothal? In our culture, engagement commonly is a long period where the couple is in a pseudo-commitment to each other. Breaking off an engagement is serious, but nothing like divorce. Jewish betrothal was much more committed—more like marriage. But it was worse: no sex! And it lasted for about a year! Carson writes, “The pledge to be married was legally binding. Only a divorce writ could break it, and infidelity at that stage was considered adultery (cf. Deut 22:23-24; Moore, Judaism, 2:121-22). The marriage itself took place when the groom (already called “husband,” Mt 1:19) ceremoniously took the bride home (see on 25:1-13).”[11]

“She was found to be with child.” This doesn’t necessarily mean that she was hiding the unborn baby, and she was discovered or “found out.” Rather, this most likely means that it became obvious that she was pregnant, and she was showing.

(1:19) Joseph didn’t believe Mary’s account. He wasn’t a pre-scientific fool, as some skeptics claim today. He knew enough about human embryology to know that women don’t just become pregnant!

Yet he was a “righteous man.” He cared for his fiancée. Instead of calling the authorities to show that Mary had been unfaithful, he was going to divorce her “secretly.” The Jewish people could divorce with only two witnesses (Mishnah, Sotah 1:1, 5).

In OT law, the punishment for adultery was stoning (Deut. 22:13-14). However, this was not enforced in Jesus’ day, and divorce was the solution—not death.[12] Notice that Joseph was worried about “disgracing” Mary—not seeing her face capital punishment.

(1:20) Imagine being Joseph. One day, your life is going well: you have a loving fiancée and a wedding on the horizon. The next day, your fiancée shows up pregnant, claiming, “God did it.” He must have been emotionally wrecked!

Since the angel tells Joseph not to be “afraid,” this implies that he was scared of the consequences. At the very least, his future had been indelibly changed. He may have been afraid for his own future, or for Mary’s, or for both.

Joseph probably needed an angel to tell him that Mary’s story was actually true. Of course, this happened “in a dream.” Joseph could’ve rationalized this away. He could’ve continued with his plan. Instead, he was open to correction from God.

Joseph is called “son of David,” which connects him to the messianic genealogy shown earlier… God’s plan is coming to fruition.

(Mt. 1:20) Did God commit adultery with Mary? Did God break his own commandment?

(1:21) Far from having his life ruined, Joseph would be the father of the long-awaited Jewish Messiah. What God had seem to take away from Joseph actually was given back—only far, far more!

“Jesus” (Iēsous) is the Greek form of the Hebrew name “Joshua” (yehôšuaʿ or yēšûaʿ). It means either “Yahweh is salvation” (yehôšuaʿ) or “Yahweh saves” (yēšûaʿ).

(1:22-23) Why did Jesus need to be born of a virgin? This may be because Matthew is showing how different Jesus would be from his sinful ancestors (vv.1-17). He came from them, but he was also different from them.

While this passage doesn’t prove the deity of Christ, it surely supports this concept (“God with us”). Indeed, this could be an inclusio with the end of the Gospel, where Jesus states, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mt. 28:20; cf. Mt. 18:20).

(Mt. 1:23) Did Isaiah really predict a virgin birth?

(1:24) Like his wife, Joseph was a faithful man, being willing to take a scary step of faith in following God’s plan.

(Mt. 1:24) When did Joseph take Mary as his wife? (Lk. 2:5)

(1:25) Roman Catholic theologians hold that this implies the perpetual virginity of Mary. But look at the grammar: “[Joseph] kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son.” After Jesus’ birth, Joseph and Mary had other children. This expression “would normally suggest that intercourse did take place after the end of this period.”[13] This is also why Jesus had other siblings (Mt. 12:46; 13:55).

Eight days after Jesus’ birth, Joseph had the baby circumcised (Lk. 2:21), and he publicly named him “Jesus.”

Conclusions

Who made a bigger step of faith? Mary or Joseph? It’s hard to say.

Mary agreed with God’s plan of the virgin birth. She told the angel, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said” (Lk. 1:38 NIV). She would’ve faced scorn, ridicule, and potential divorce.

Joseph would’ve looked like a desperate wimp. In this culture, a man did not marry a woman who cheated on him. In fact, this was one of the clearest grounds for divorce. By staying with her, Joseph would have also carried the scorn and ridicule of the people.

How did they do this? They made this enormous step of faith based off of God’s word to them through an angelic messenger. While we don’t have personal messages from God’s word today, the Holy Spirit will bring personal application through his word and direct us. The author of Hebrews writes, “The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). What step of faith has God called you to take in his word lately?

Matthew 2

Matthew 2:1-23 (Hiding from Herod)

[Matthew skips over Luke’s mention of Caesar Augustus’ census, returning to Bethlehem, Jesus’ birth, the shepherds and angels, Jesus’ circumcision, and Jesus’ presentation. See Luke 2:1-38.]

(2:1) Matthew simply picks up after Jesus’ birth, whereas Luke includes more detail on this (Lk. 2:1-38). Matthew opens with after Jesus was born…” Later, he is called a “child” (v.9, 11), not a “baby” (Lk. 2:12, 16). Furthermore, Herod kills all children under the age of two, which means that Jesus could’ve been alive for some time (v.16), perhaps even two years.

Bethlehem was the place where Jacob buried his wife Rachel (Gen. 35:19), where Ruth met Boaz (Ruth 1:22ff), and where David was born.

The main antagonist of this chapter is King Herod. Herod was born in 73 BC, and by the age of 33, the Roman Senate named him as the king of Judea. Herod probably died around 4 BC, so this event must have occurred before then.[14] History tells us that Herod was a paranoid maniac (cf. v.3). He killed three of his own sons (Josephus, Antiquities 16.392-394; 17.182-187), suspected conspirators (Antiquities 16.393-394; 17.42-44, 167), and even one of their families! (Antiquities 15.289-290)

Why doesn’t anyone else mention this mass infanticide of baby boys? Bethlehem was a small city/town. Its population was likely only 1,000 people (?), and so the amount of boys killed would be small in number.[15]

Why don’t our calendars line up with Jesus’ actual birth? Lemke writes, “Dionysius Exiguus, the sixth century monk, did not know that when he established the first Christian calendar.”[16]

Who were the Magi? These were Pagans—probably Zoroastrians—who were seeking the God of the Bible. Carson writes, “The ‘Magi’ (magoi) are not easily identified with precision. Several centuries earlier the term was used for a priestly caste of Medes who enjoyed special power to interpret dreams.”[17] While the Bible certainly forbids astrologers (Isa. 47:13-15; Dan. 1:20; 2:27; 4:7; 5:7) and astrology (Jer. 10:1-2), God somehow reached these men through general revelation. Carson argues that these men probably studied the Scriptures in Babylon, because there was a large Jewish contingent leftover there after the Exile.

They came “from the east.” Their gifts (v.11) imply an Arabian or Babylonian origin.[18]

(2:2) The magi were there for the wrong reasons. They were likely Zoroastrians who were there because they thought that they were reading astronomical signs accurately. Yet God worked through this to bring them to Jesus. Others think that the Jewish population in Babylon could have led some of them to read the Hebrew Scriptures.[19]

What was the star of Bethlehem? Various explanations have been offered including the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter (7 BC), Halley’s Comet (12 BC), or a supernova. The difficulty with all of these natural explanations is that the star is said to have rested over their place of residence (v.9), implying that it signified a specific location. We simply aren’t sure if God used a material cause, or if this was purely a supernatural miracle.

Why did they go to Jerusalem? Because they expected a king, they only thought it natural to go to the capital city to find him. Little did they know that this king would be born in the tiny backwater town of Nazareth.

(2:3) Why was Herod “troubled” by this? Surely, Herod felt threatened by this announcement of the King of the Jews, and he took this as an affront to his power. If this was truly the Messiah, then he would have a lot to answer for, and he would need to hand over the keys of power to this little baby someday. If even these Pagan, Zoroastrian magi were coming to “worship” him, then how powerful would this little baby become?

Why were “all Jerusalem” also troubled? This is likely because they were afraid of how Herod would react to this news. They probably knew that Herod would react in a paranoid and maniacal way, which turned out to be true! (v.16)

(2:4-6) Matthew is arguing that the interpreters of his day understood Micah 5:2 to be messianic.

Critics argue that Luke invented the Augustus/Quirinius census (Lk. 2:1-2), so that he could place Jesus in Bethlehem, where the Messiah needed to be born. If he didn’t invent this census, then Jesus wouldn’t have been able to fulfill the prediction of Micah 5:2. But view doesn’t hold up to careful scrutiny. After all, Luke mentions the census, but he never mentions the prophecy of Micah 5:2. Likewise, Matthew mentions the prophecy of Micah 5:2, but never mentions the census. Therefore, far from being evidence against the integrity of the Gospels, it actually offers an example of “interlocking” or an “undesigned coincidence” that demonstrates the credibility of the authors (see “Interlocking in the Gospels”).

(Mt. 2:6) Did Micah predict the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem or not?

(2:7) Why is the timing of the star significant? We agree with Carson who states that Herod “had already schemed to kill the small boys of Bethlehem (cf: v. 16).”[20] By learning the time of the star’s origin, he could date Jesus’ birth and thus his age.

(2:8) Since the magi have already come this far, Herod is betting that they can eventually find Jesus. He sends them out as ad hoc spies to find the baby, rather than sending soldiers.

Do the Magi suspect that something is wrong with Herod’s suggestion? They may have believed him, because later God sends them a dream to scare them away from going back to Herod (2:12).

(2:9) How could a star move over the top of a person’s house? The text says that it rested over the general “place” where Jesus was—not the specific house. The expression “came and stood” can “mean only that the star itself moved to guide the Magi.”[21]

(2:10) God must have revealed a sign that they could understand. They burst into joy at seeing the sign.

(2:11) This scene is not the Christmas scene of the newborn baby Jesus asleep in his manger. This scene occurs “after” Jesus was born (2:1), and Mary is living in a “house,” rather than a “manger” (Lk. 2:7). Herod ordered the genocide of all baby boys “two years old and under” (2:16). This means that a year or two might’ve passed. Otherwise, Herod would’ve only killed the babies—not the toddlers.

The text does not say that there were “three wise men.” Sunday school classes probably infer this from the fact that there are three gifts given to him (e.g. gold, frankincense, and myrrh), but this is only an inference.

Gold (Ps. 72:15), frankincense (Ps. 60:6), and myrrh (Ps. 45:8) are gifts fit for a king (cf. 1 Kin. 10:2). Frankincense is a “glittering, odorous gum obtained by making incisions in the bark of several trees.”[22] Myrrh was “a much-valued spice and perfume.”[23]

(2:12) God is working to protect his Son. In addition, God used this dream to protect the magi. In Babylon, dreams were thought of as a way for the gods to communicate to humans. God spoke to them in ways with which they were familiar.

Flight to Egypt

(2:13) God sends another dream to Joseph (Mt. 1:20). Egypt was “safely outside Herod’s jurisdiction,”[24] so it would have been a good location to flee for asylum. It was also 75 miles away, which would put considerable distance between Herod and Jesus’ family.

“Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.” Herod was a “seeker” of Jesus, but in a far different way than the Magi! He was seeking Jesus to kill him—not worship him.

(2:14-15) Originally, God took his people out of Egypt to spare them from a genocidal, totalitarian ruler, who was killing the young boys by throwing them in the Nile River. Now God is sending Jesus into Egypt for protection from a genocidal, totalitarian ruler, who is killing young boys who are younger than two years of age (v.16).

(Mt. 2:14-15) How could Matthew quote Hosea as a “fulfillment” of Jesus, when Hosea was referring to the nation of Israel?

(2:16) Critics argue that this story was fabricated, because we have no extrabiblical record of this brutal edict from Herod. However, the problem here is our expectations. Bethlehem was not a thriving metropolis with hundreds of thousands of people. This little town could’ve only been filled with 500 people. We simply don’t know. However, we do know that this mania fits with Herod the Great’s general character. He was a cruel and vicious man.

(Mt. 2:16) Did Herod really commit a mass genocide of babies?

(Mt. 2:17-18) Does Matthew quote Jeremiah 31:15 out of context?

(2:19) God keeps speaking to Joseph through dreams. This is now the third time Joseph had a dream like this, giving specifics about how to lead his family in survival.

(2:20-21) The pathway was clear to return. This would be like waiting for a mob boss to die before you were allowed back into a specific part of the city. This language is very similar to Exodus 4:19, which refers to Moses.

(2:22) Why was Joseph afraid to go to Judea in 4 BC? This verse lines up quite well with extrabiblical history. Herod the Great died in 4 BC, and his son Herod Archelaus took over Judea as its ruler or “ethnarch” for nine years (4 BC-AD 6).[25] Right after his father’s death, a seditious group challenged him, and he ordered a massive massacre. His horsemen alone “slew three thousand men,”[26] and Archelaus sent everyone home, cancelling the festival of the Passover. Archelaus was such a “barbarous and tyrannical” leader that the Jewish people protested to Augustus Caesar in Rome.[27] Consequently, Caesar removed Archelaus from power in AD 6. Herod the Great’s other son (Herod Antipas) took over in Judea.[28]

Joseph was returning to Jerusalem for Passover in 4 BC, when the people would’ve been fleeing the massacre. On the road, it isn’t unlikely to imagine Joseph asking, “Where is everyone going?” To which the people would’ve replied, “Didn’t you hear about Archelaus? He slaughtered thousands of people, Passover is cancelled!” Consequently, we can see why Joseph was “afraid” and decided to reroute to Galilee, instead of Judea.

(2:23) This was Jesus’ original hometown (Lk. 1:26; 2:4).is parallel with Luke 2:39.

(Mt. 2:23) Why does Matthew say this is from the Old Testament, when the Old Testament NEVER mentions “Nazareth” or “being a Nazarene?”

Conclusions

We see four main characters in this account. Each teach us valuable spiritual lessons.

(1) God. Even as a toddler, God sent magi to bring his son gifts, and he sent dreams to Joseph to keep Herod from killing his Son. God the Father sovereignly protected his son, Joseph, Mary, and the Magi. While Herod was a baby-killer and overall maniac, nothing could stop God’s plan of bringing about his Son into the world! Herod was a terror and a threat to the people, but no more than a pesky insect compared to the power of God (cf. Ps. 2:2).

(2) Herod. Matthew contrasts the eagerness of the pagan magi seeking Jesus with the apathy of Herod (and the religious leaders). Herod and the scribes actually had more specific revelation than the Magi (Mic. 5:2), and they lived far closer to Jesus than the magi (only 10 miles away from Bethlehem!). Yet, neither Herod nor the religious leaders would take the time to travel to meet Jesus.

(3) The magi. Even though they were pagan astrologers, God worked through their false conventions to reach them and lead them to Jesus. God often condescends to our false views to lead us to the truth. This does not mean that God compromises truth, or that spiritual reality is relative. Instead, God worked through their errant views as a means of leading them to Jesus. Truly God is able to reach people—even in unorthodox and bizarre ways. The magi were Zoroastrian astrologers, but still found Christ. At the same time, when we meet Christ, he calls on us to change our thinking. For instance, the magi respected Christ more than the human leader (Herod).

(4) Joseph. God gave him the wisdom that he needed—little by little. Surely, Joseph would have wanted God to tell him the entire picture, but he gets only a little bit of revelation at a time. He gets what he needs to hear in the moment. Likewise, we are all on a “need to know” basis with God, and he expects us to be faithful with the information that we’ve been given.

Matthew 3

Matthew 3: Baptism (cf. Mark 1 and Luke 3)

[Matthew skips the material about Jesus’ childhood. In the intervening years, Jesus “continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him” (Lk. 2:40; cf. 2:52). Luke also includes a short account about Jesus travelling to the Temple when he was twelve, as well as setting the timeframe for the beginning of Jesus’ ministry (Lk. 3:1-2). Moreover, Mark picks up in this scene as well as Matthew (Mk. 1:1-11). John covers similar content (Jn. 1:19-34).]

(3:1) “In those days” skips over roughly 30 years of Jesus’ life.

Why was John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness of Judea? He must have wanted to separate from the religious establishment. He was also setting the stage for Jesus to fulfill messianic prophecy (v.3). Remember, God had been silent for four centuries. No more Scripture. No new prophets. Now, all of the sudden, a powerful charismatic figure appears, claiming to speak for God. Adding to this, he claims that someone even greater than himself is on the way!

(3:2) John had two central messages: (1) repentance and (2) the coming of the kingdom. Jesus used the same expression as John (Mt. 4:17), as did the apostles (Mt. 10:7). Jesus wasn’t a rival with John, but an obvious ally (Jn. 3:22-26).

“…is at hand…” (engizō) means “has come near.”[29] The kingdom is near, because the King is near. Matthew uses the expression “kingdom of heaven” 32 times, and he is the only gospel author to use this expression.[30]

(3:3) John’s ministry was predicted by Isaiah the prophet (Isa. 40:3; Mal. 3:1). Because Isaiah was a major prophet and Malachi was a minor prophet, they only quote Isaiah as the source.

In the OT, these passages speak about the coming of Yahweh. Here they refer to the coming of Jesus. This is a good passage that supports the deity of Christ.

Luke quotes more from the prophecy (Isa. 40:3-5), while Matthew and Mark quote only the beginning (Isa. 40:3). Luke’s citation of “all flesh will see the salvation of God” fits with his emphasis on the gospel being for Gentiles, as well as Jews. In John, the Baptist applies this passage to himself (Jn. 1:23).

(3:4) John the Baptist seems similar to Elijah the prophet, based on his appearance and clothing (2 Kin. 1:8). He dressed like an outdoorsman, living a simple and Spartan lifestyle in the wilderness. Carson writes, “Both Elijah and John had stern ministries in which austere garb and diet confirmed their message and condemned the idolatry of physical and spiritual softness.”[31] As another commentator notes, “Even the food and dress of John preached.”[32]

We might find his cuisine unrealistic or even disgusting, but people continue to eat locusts in the Middle East today.[33]

(3:5) This is a case of hyperbolic language (cf. Mt. 2:3). That is, not every single person came to see John, but many did.

(3:6) John the Baptist’s ministry must have been offensive to the religious elite. Ethnically Jewish people believed that they were in the covenant because of their race and heritage. John was doing the most offensive act possible: baptizing Jews! Carson writes, “The rabbis used baptism to induct proselytes but never Jews.”[34] By baptizing Jewish people, John was saying that their race and ethnicity weren’t enough to be right with God. This is similar to church goers today who never had a personal relationship with Christ, and get a “believer’s baptism” as adults. Since they were baptized as babies, many people find a second “adult baptism” offensive. But we can’t trust in our Christian upbringing—just as these Jewish people couldn’t trust in their ethnicity or race. We only get to God through a change of heart—just like these people coming to John.

(3:7) This passage is very cutting. Not only does John call the Pharisees and Sadducees a “brood of vipers” as Jesus himself did (Mt. 12:34; 23:33), but it almost sounds like John didn’t want the Pharisees and Sadducees to repent (!). But we are likely reading too much into the text, because the subsequent verse tells them to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” Perhaps John is just using a “sarcastic”[35] tone toward these religious elite.

Luke includes a wider audience in his gospel, mentioning the “crowds” (Lk. 3:7), “tax collectors” (Lk. 3:12), and “soldiers” (Lk. 3:14). Matthew highlights the religious leaders, while Luke highlights the Gentiles and the marginalized.

(3:8) John isn’t denying them forgiveness (as if he could). He is telling them that the outward sign means less than the inner change of heart (“bear fruit in keeping with repentance”). Jesus uses this same “fruit” imagery (Mt. 7:16-20).

Notice the order of repentance. We don’t bear fruit in order to repent; instead, we repent in order to bear fruit. How do we discern true biblical repentance? Is it by shedding tears? By being upset with sin? No, we identify it through deeds and fruit. The root is repentance, but the fruit is a changed life.

(3:9) Again, these religious leaders were trusting in their ancestry, rather than their repentance. Jesus fights against this as well (Mt. 8:11-12; Jn. 8:33, 39).

(3:10) Repentance is serious business! If they do not repent, they will face the judgment of God. Again, Jesus uses this same metaphor (Mt. 7:19).

(3:11) “I baptize you with water for repentance.” This doesn’t mean that John’ baptism caused the repentance. Earlier, we read, “They were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins” (v.6). The word eis (“for”) plus the accusative usually implies purpose, rather than causation. It can be rendered, “I baptize you with reference to or in connection with repentance.”[36]

“He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals.” Luke tells us that John made this comment because the people were wondering if John was the Messiah (Lk. 3:15). A disciple of a rabbi would act “virtually as his master’s slave,” but to remove the rabbi’s sandals “was too low a task even for a disciple (Ketuboth 96a).[37]

Jesus’ baptism is clearly different from John’s.

(Mt. 3:11) Does this passage support the concept of a second blessing?

(3:12) Again, Jesus uses very similar language (Mt. 13:30). In this culture, farmers would toss the wheat and chaff into the air. The wheat was heavy and would fall to the ground, while the chaff was light and would drift away in the wind. John uses this as a metaphor to describe separating believers from unbelievers in reward or judgment.

John baptizes Jesus

Luke tells us that Jesus was “about thirty years of age” when this happened (Lk. 3:23).

(3:13) Jesus had the humility to be baptized by John. Luke’s account even implies that Jesus was baptized alongside many others (Lk. 3:21).

(3:14) John didn’t want to baptize Jesus. The “pronouns are emphatic” in the Greek,[38] and it is as if John is saying, “You want me to baptize you??” Indeed, imagine how overwhelming it would be to baptize Jesus Christ! Imagine how different it would feel to baptize prostitutes, tax collectors, religious leaders, etc. This must have really shook John to do this. If John was unfit to untie Jesus’ shoes (v.11), how uncomfortable must he have felt to baptize him!

(3:15) Jesus agrees that John needs a spiritual baptism, but he states that “at this time” John needs to baptize Jesus.

(Mt. 3:15) Why was Jesus baptized?

(3:16) Matthew uses the language of simile. The Holy Spirit descended as a dove.” We might be tempted to think that this refers to the way the dove descended—namely, gracefully, quietly, gently, or beautifully. However, Luke also uses simile (“like a dove”), but he also notes that the Spirit descended in “bodily form” (Lk. 3:22). Does this mean that the Holy Spirit made a theophany in the form of a dove? Or in some other form?

Matthew doesn’t say that everyone could see this. He only mentions that Jesus could see it (he saw the Spirit of God descending”).

This does not mean that Jesus received the Holy Spirit for the first time here. Rather, as R.T. France notes, “The vision symbolizes his commissioning for his Messianic work, not a new spiritual status.”[39]

(3:17) God broke the 400 year silence with these words! Carson observes, “This voice is God’s (‘from heaven’) and testifies that God himself has broken silence and is again revealing himself to men—a clear sign of the dawning of the Messianic Age.”[40]

God the Father deeply loves Jesus. God the Father later repeats this at the Transfiguration (Mt. 17:5). Since we are “in Christ,” he has this same attitude toward us (Eph. 1:7). Despite our performance or moral track record, God is “well pleased” with us. While we can grieve God (Eph. 4:30), we should never think that God is anything other than loving toward us. Thoughts of disappointment and embarrassment come from the Enemy—not from our Heavenly Father.

God shows that Jesus was both a Servant and a King. This statement from the Father conflates Psalm 2:7 and Isaiah 42:1. He is blending passages about the Reigning Ruler (Ps. 2) and the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 42).

Conclusions

Jesus showed his dependence on the Holy Spirit. We write this tongue-in-cheek, but we sometimes think of Jesus as “cheating” when he lived a sinless life… After all, he was God! But Jesus operated out of the Holy Spirit’s power—not his own. We too have access to the Holy Spirit’s guidance and empowerment—just like Jesus did.

Jesus showed his condescension by being baptized. John the Baptist was write that he had no business baptizing Jesus. However, Jesus showed incredible humility by allowing John the baptize him. He did this to identify with us, which shows even greater humility still.

Matthew 4

Matthew 4:1-11 (Jesus’ temptation)

[The parallel passages are found in Mark 1:12-13 and more extensively in Luke 4:1-13.]

(4:1) Even though Jesus was God’s Son (Mt. 3:17), God lead him into situations where he would be tempted by Satan. God had just given Jesus the Holy Spirit, and then, that same Spirit was leading him into battle with Satan. By depending on him, God will lead us into these situations, too. Remember, Job was tempted because he was righteous—not because he was sinful.

This doesn’t mean that God was the one doing the tempting (Jas. 1:13). Instead, God put Jesus in the situation where Satan would tempt him. God permitted and foresaw the temptation of Satan, but didn’t cause it himself.

(4:2) Moses spent 40 days and nights getting the Law. Elijah spent 40 days at Mount Horeb (1 Kin. 19:8). Israel spent forty years in the desert (Deut. 8:2).

Matthew is showing that Jesus is doing what Israel could not. It isn’t a coincidence that Israel was in the wilderness for 40 years and Jesus was there for 40 days. Where Israel was grumbling against God during their “testing” in the desert (Deut. 8:2), Jesus trusted God in the desert. Matthew is also showing that Jesus is greater than Moses. Exodus records, “So he [Moses] was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did not eat bread or drink water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments” (Ex. 34:28; cf. Deut. 9:9, 18). Jesus’ citations come from Deuteronomy 6-8, which were written at the end of the 40 year wandering. Is this a coincidence? Of all the Scripture that Jesus could’ve cited, why does he quote this section three times?

“Jesus became hungry.” The one who was hungry would feed others.

TEMPTATION #1. The PROVISION of God

(Mt. 4:3-10; Lk. 4:3-12) Why do Luke and Matthew place Satan’s conversation out of order?

(Mt. 4:4-10) Why does Jesus cite these OT passages?

(4:3) Jesus was “hungry” (v.2), but Satan tells him that there is no need to be hungry. After all, he can command stones to turn into bread. Indeed, Jesus could feed others (Mt. 14:15-21; 15:32-38), so why not feed himself?

Satan states, “If You are the Son of God…” Jesus’ persecutors hurled this statement at Jesus while he hung from the Cross (Mt. 27:40). This is a subtle questioning of Jesus’ sonship, which God had just announced (Mt. 3:17). When Satan questions our sonship, who should we believe? Satan’s word or God’s word?

(4:4) Jesus responds with Deuteronomy 8:3. Jesus knew that God’s word came before anything else—even food.

TEMPTATION #2. The PROTECTION of God

(4:5) The “pinnacle” of the Temple was 180 feet high, so this would be like looking down from a skyscraper.[41]

(4:6) Satan cites Scripture—namely, Psalm 91:11-12.

(4:7) Jesus realizes that this would be testing God (Deut. 6:16; Ex. 17:1-7). Carson writes, “For both Israel and Jesus, demanding miraculous protection as proof of God’s care was wrong; the appropriate attitude is trust and obedience (Deut 6:17).”[42] Notice that Jesus doesn’t allow one passage to contradict another.

TEMPTATION #3. The PRIORITY of God

(4:8) How could Satan take Jesus to a very high mountain? While we shouldn’t be dogmatic (cf. 2 Cor. 12:2), we hold that this was some sort of “supernatural vision,”[43] perhaps like the vision that Ezekiel had (Ezek. 8:1-3, 11:24).

In the OT, mountains are usually symbols for world empires, so this could be why Satan took Jesus to a mountain.

(4:9) Satan seems to have some sort of legal right over the world (1 Jn. 5:19). Since humans forfeited their dominion (Gen. 1:28), Satan has taken over the title to the Earth. Notice that Jesus doesn’t dispute this fact.

(4:10) Jesus rebukes Satan, and he does so with truth (Deut. 6:13). When believers command Satan to leave in Jesus’ authority, he must leave (Jas. 4:7).

(4:11) Satan fled. But Luke adds that he left Jesus “until an opportune time” (Lk. 4:13). This shows that Satan will be back to do battle against Jesus.

The angels met Jesus’ needs because he responded by trusting God. France aptly comments, “The angelic help of Psalm 91:11, which Jesus refused to call for illegitimately (vv. 6-7), is now appropriately given.”[44] God broke the fast that Jesus was keeping. Jesus didn’t stop the fast until God ended it.

Conclusions

God will lead us into periods of suffering. The Holy Spirit “led” Jesus to be “tempted by the Devil” (v.1). God brings us through times of suffering in order to test and grow us. Of course, God didn’t tempt Jesus, because God “does not tempt anyone” (Jas. 1:13). Instead, he led Jesus to be in a place where Satan would have access to tempting him. Similarly, God will put us in situations where we need to depend on him.

God’s tests supersede our natural ability. Jesus was in the desert for 40 days, and then he faced Satan’s keen intellect and persuasion. Jesus needed to depend on God to pass this test, rather than his own power. Similarly, we cannot face temptation or testing in our own power. Otherwise, this only puffs up our ego and self-will. Instead, God will allow us to suffer and be “burdened excessively, beyond our strength… so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead” (2 Cor. 1:8-9). As one person has said, “Faith in God begins where faith in self ends.”

Imitate how Jesus battles Satan. Jesus doesn’t rely on his own wisdom, but models for us our need to quote from Scripture. We need the word of God to sustain us when we’re suffering or facing spiritual attack. This same temptation of the world-system that was offered to Jesus is also offered to us as Christians (Jas. 4:4-10; 1 Jn. 2:15-17), and we need to overcome this temptation by trusting in the one who overcame the world (1 Jn. 5:4-5).

Notice how Satan battles Jesus. For one, Satan attacks Jesus’ sonship (v.3), and he will attack ours as well. He will try to move us off the sturdy ground of our new identity in Christ (Eph. 6:10-18). Second, Satan knows and utilizes Scripture (citing Ps. 91:11-12), twisting its context. Third, Satan attacks the character of God—specifically, his provision, protection, and priority.

Matthew 4:12-25 (Jesus calls Peter, Andrew, James, and John)

[The gospel of John includes some backstory to John the Baptist (Jn. 1:19-28). During this interval of time, John the Baptist sent two of his disciples to Jesus (Jn. 1:40-42), and Jesus picked up Nathanael and Philip (Jn. 1:43-51). Then, Jesus performs his first miracle of turning the water into wine (Jn. 2:1-11).]

[We know that this section fits here chronologically because John the Baptist refers to the baptism of Jesus as a past event (Jn. 1:29-34). Andrew introduced his brother Peter to Jesus during this time as well (Jn. 1:40-42). So when Peter meets Jesus in Matthew, this is the second time they met.]

(4:12) Up until this point, Jesus had been in Judea doing ministry (Jn. 3:22-23) before John’s arrest (Jn. 3:24), and Jesus’ disciples were baptizing many people there (Jn. 4:1-2) before moving into Galilee (Jn. 4:3). After leaving Judea, Jesus travelled all over preaching, teaching, and healing people (Mt. 4:23-25).

Luke tells us that John the Baptist was arrested because he condemned Herod’s unlawful marriage and “all the wicked things [Herod] had done” (Lk. 3:19-20). Matthew later records that this arrest led to John the Baptist being decapitated (Mt. 11). Jesus makes a “tactical withdrawal”[45] into Galilee.

(4:13) Jesus had been rejected in his hometown of Nazareth (Lk. 4:16-31), and this is why he moved on to Capernaum. This lines up with the events in John’s gospel during this time (Jn. 2:12, 4:46). Capernaum became a sort of base of operations for him.

(Mt. 4:14-16) Why does Matthew cite Isaiah 9:1-2?

(4:17) Luke emphasizes that Jesus’ preaching was “in the power of the Spirit” (Lk. 4:14). Jesus calls for a response from his hearers to “repent.”

(4:18) “Sea of Galilee…” is really more like a lake, being only 7 miles wide and 13 miles long. The fishing was good here, and John and James did well for themselves. In fact, they had “hired servants” in their family from their trade (Mk. 1:20).

Peter and Andrew grew up in Bethsaida (Jn. 1:44), but they moved to Capernaum and made it their home (Mt. 8:5, 14).

Remember, if our chronology is correct, then this is the second time Jesus met Andrew and Peter (Jn. 1:40-42).

(4:19) “Follow Me.” We don’t ultimately follow men, but Jesus himself. He is the one who will transform us into the kind of people who will winsomely lead people to God (I will make you”).

“I will make you.” Jesus promises to transform and grow us. Paul tells us that he makes us into a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17).

“Fishers of men.” Why does he compare evangelism to “fishing”? Why not say “hunters of men” instead? Obviously, this is because we can’t force people to come to Christ. Like fishing, we can cast out our nets, but people have the freedom to respond. This also shows that the results aren’t ultimately up to us. While fishermen can strategize and become more equipped, they need to trust that the catch will come. Luke’s version shows that Simon Peter had been trying to catch fish “all night” but couldn’t catch anything (Lk. 5:5). But when Jesus entered his boat, Peter’s catch was so big that his nets “began to break” (Lk. 5:6). It is in this context that Jesus tells the men that he will make them “fishers of men.”

(4:20) Matthew records that Peter and Andrew followed Jesus “immediately,” but according to Luke, this was after seeing the miracle of the big catch of fish. Peter initially wanted Jesus to go away because he realized he was in the presence of greatness (Lk. 5:8).

(4:21) Why are John and James “mending their nets”? This is a throwaway comment that seems unimportant. But when we compare it with Luke’s account, we discover that Peter had called his business partners to come help with the large catch of fish. Luke records, “They [Peter and Andrew] signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink” (Lk. 5:7). In other words, James and John’s boat was also overwhelmed with fish, and their nets were presumably ripping as well. This would make perfect sense as to why they were “mending their nets.”

(4:22) Since James and John witnessed this miracle of the fish, it would make sense for them to “immediately” drop everything to follow Christ.

(4:23) Jesus’ ministry met spiritual needs (“proclaiming the gospel”) and physical needs (“healing every kind of disease… and sickness”).

(4:24) Matthew distinguishes between demon-possession and epilepsy.

(4:25) Jesus’ ministry was garnering “large crowds.” Moreover, they came from all over Israel, including Judea where he had formerly ministered (see comments on Mt. 4:12 above).

Conclusions

Before Jesus called four of his disciples, he revealed who he was to them. He talked to Peter and Andrew much earlier (Jn. 1:40-42), and he showed them miracles before calling them to follow him (Lk. 5:1-11). In the same way, God shows us his goodness and greatness before he calls us to follow him in a serious way. He shows us that he is trustworthy before he expects us to trust him.

Our role is to “follow” and His role is to “make.” If we fix our eyes on Jesus (Heb. 12:2) and follow him (Mt. 4:19), he will “make” us into the people we need to be. If you are struggling with selfishness and sin, take your eyes off of yourself and place them onto Christ. Like Paul in Romans 7, learn to give up on self-effort and trust in Christ for your sanctification (Rom. 7:24-25).

Matthew 5

Matthew 5:1-12 (The Beatitudes)

[Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount” seems to be different than Luke’s “Sermon on the Plain” (Lk. 6).]

We must confess that our view is held by a small minority of commentators. But that being said, we would argue that Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5-7) is a different teaching than Luke’s Sermon on the Plain (Lk. 6:17-49). Indeed, when we compare the two, we see that the “differences are many,”[46] and there is a “considerable difference in content.”[47] For one, the location is different. Matthew records that Jesus “went up on the mountain” to teach (Mt. 5:1) and he “came down from the mountain” when he was finished teaching (Mt. 8:1). Luke, however, states that Jesus “came down” from a mountain to begin this teaching (Lk. 6:12, 17). Second, the length is different. Matthew records 107 verses, while Luke records only 30 verses. Luke spreads much of Matthew’s content throughout the life of Jesus, rather than clumping it all here (Lk. 8:16; 11:2-4, 9-13, 33-35; 12:22-34, 58-59; 13:24, 26-27; 16:17-18). Third, the chronology is different. Matthew places Jesus’ teaching before Jesus chooses his twelve disciples (Mt. 10:1-4), while Luke places it after this event (Lk. 6:12-16).

As we noted above, most commentators argue that these differences can be harmonized, and both versions refer to the same teaching. This is certainly possible,[48] but a more natural reading leads us to believe that these are two separate teachings. Indeed, some commentators hold that Jesus had one sermon that was a sort of “keynote address,”[49] which he repeated over and over. Consequently, Matthew and Luke only recorded parts of this teaching that Jesus repeated over and over.

It’s crucial to read “How to Interpret the Sermon on the Mount” in order to have a good understanding of this section of Scripture (Mt. 5-7).

(Mt. 5:1ff) Is this the same as Luke’s account in Luke 6:20-49?

(5:1-2) This is where we get the name, “The Sermon on the Mount.” Jesus gave this on a “mountain.” Some commentators see similarities between this and Moses receiving the Law on Mount Sinai.[50] This would fit with the idea that Jesus is fulfilling the role of Israel in the OT perfectly. Moreover, Jesus also refers to the Law of Moses many times throughout this section. Notice that this sermon is given to Jesus “disciples.” He is targeting the legalism and formalism of the religious leaders, and he is teaching this material to his close followers.

The beatitudes

The “beatitudes” comes from the Latin beatus (“blessed”). We see this same style of literature “in wisdom literature and especially the Psalms.”[51]

For each beatitude, ask the question: “Why is this particular attribute emphasized by Jesus?”

Jesus’ reward for each type of person is different. One way to read this is that each person gets a different reward. Another way of reading this is that each reward is pointing to a larger picture. After all, someone cannot “inherit the earth,” unless they are a “son of God.” They cannot “be satisfied” if they do not “see God.” Each of these rewards all seem to be different perspectives on our ultimate reward: heaven.

“Blessed” (makarios) means “fortunate or happy” (BDAG). France writes that it refers to “someone who is to be congratulated, someone whose place in life is an enviable one.”[52] Carson likewise states that it refers to a person who is “favored by God and therefore in some sense ‘happy.’”[53] We emphasize this because modern people don’t know what the word “blessed” even means, because we no longer use this word! Indeed, Randy Alcorn argues forcefully in his book Happiness (2015) that it is simple loyalty to tradition that keeps translation committees from rendering this word as “happy,” rather than “blessed.” But this is a mistake! No modern people use the word blessed, but we constantly use the word happy. How different would this passage read if you understood that God wanted you to be happy? We know that this can be taken to an extreme regarding health-and-wealth preachers. But we shouldn’t let prosperity teachers rob us of God-given happiness. We highly recommend Alcorn’s book to anyone who is interested in exploring more on this question.

Jesus’ teaching articulates “the best way of life not only in its intrinsic goodness but in its results.”[54] The tenses of the second clause are all future—except for the first beatitude and the last (v.3, 10). This demonstrates that for the Christian “the best is yet to come.”[55]

(5:3) “Poor in spirit.” This is the human precondition of being ready for God’s grace and wisdom: brokenness and humility. They are “spiritual beggars.”[56] These are people who “acknowledge [their] spiritual bankruptcy” and have “utter dependence” on God.[57] Coming to saving faith in the God of the Bible was practiced in the same way in the old covenant and the new covenant—based on spiritual poverty and need. Later, Jesus piles up the standards of the Law so high that it should produce this type of attitude in a person—namely, utter dependence.

Differences from Jesus’ “Sermon on the Plain.” Luke records that Jesus was simply referring to the poor—not the poor in spirit (Lk. 6:20).

(5:4) “Mourn… comforted.” Carson understands this as referring to mourning in repentance over personal or national sin (citing Ps. 119:136; Ezek. 9:4 for justification).[58] Yet the concept of sin or repentance is not named, so this is speculative.

France understands mourning as broadly referring to suffering.[59] That is to say, you are blessed if you mourn, because you recognize that the world is not the way it’s supposed to be. You look forward to the time when true comfort is coming. Your hope turns from your present circumstances and more toward God’s eternal comfort. When we suffer, we experience the reality of God in a new way.

Differences from Jesus’ “Sermon on the Plain.” Luke mentions those who “weep,” rather than “mourn” (Lk. 6:21).

(5:5) “Gentle… inherit the earth.” This is unique to Matthew. God values gentleness (humility), because he himself is this way (Mt. 11:28; 21:5). God wants to give to the humble, rather than the proud (Ps. 37:11).

(5:6) “Hunger and thirst for righteousness… satisfied.” This could refer to positional righteousness (i.e. justification) or conditional righteousness (i.e. doing what is right). In Matthew, the term “righteousness” (dikaiosynē) does not carry the idea of justification anywhere. Carson understand this to refer to “personal righteousness” and “justice in the broadest sense.”[60]

Jesus points to inner desires (“hunger and thirst”), rather than outward actions. Jesus is pointing to the heart of the person. Those inner longings are going to be fulfilled—both in our own lives and in the world. France goes too far when he states that the concept of righteousness is for “a relationship of obedience and trust with God,”[61] rather than social justice. We think that personal and social righteousness could both be the longing that is in view.[62] They desire the New Heavens and Earth “in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet. 3:13).

Differences from Jesus’ “Sermon on the Plain.” Luke doesn’t mention hungering for righteousness—just being physically hungry (Lk. 6:21).

(5:7) “Merciful… receive mercy.” Verses 7-10 are unique to Matthew. In this verse, eternal rewards seem to be in view.

(5:8) “Pure in heart… see God.” This could refer to (1) personal moral purity or to (2) singlemindedness. Carson thinks that both are in view.[63] This is an “undivided loyalty… whose inward nature corresponds with his outward profession.”[64] When we’re tangled up in sin, we lose sight of God. Sin doesn’t affect our position, but it does affect our condition.

(5:9) “Peacemakers… sons of God.” This doesn’t refer to us being personally peaceful, but being peacemakers with others. Jesus was the ultimate peacemaker, making us right with God (Eph. 2:14-18; Col. 1:20). As sons, we imitate him when we imitate his peacemaking. This statement would have shocked the Zealot party, who were set on a violent, military overthrow.[65]

(5:10) “Persecuted for righteousness… theirs is the kingdom.” Like verse 3, the reward is in the present tense, and these people also get the parallel reward (“kingdom of heaven”). When we are persecuted for God’s truth (not our own sin!), we are willingly suffering in this life. But Jesus gives a special promise for those who suffer in this way. Jesus surely knew that his message would result in people facing persecution. At the beginning of his ministry, he also prepares his followers for this future reality.

(5:11) “Insult you and persecute you… falsely say all kinds of evil” Again, the blessing comes to those who are insulted because of following Jesus—not because of personal sin (“because of Me). Jesus unpacks what is means to be persecuted (“insult… falsely say all kinds of evil… persecute…”). There is no way around it: We need to be ready to face persecution and slander if we want to follow Jesus (Mt. 10:24-25; 1 Pet. 3:16; 4:4, 14-16).

(5:12) Jesus tells us that we can “rejoice and be glad.” Why? Because we know that God is watching! He is going to give out rewards for our faithfulness here. The imagery is not that we merely toughen up, but that we keep a tender heart through giving thanks during these times.

“In the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you…” Jesus was connecting their suffering with those who came before them. Suffering persecution for God is nothing new. It’s been happening for centuries, and it’s still happening today. We can multiply examples of how righteous people were persecuted for following God’s will (2 Chron. 24:21; Neh. 9:26; Jer. 20:2; Mt. 21:35; 23:32-37; Acts 7:52; 1 Thess. 2:15).

Differences from Jesus’ “Sermon on the Plain.” Luke adds “leap for joy” (Lk. 6:23).

Differences from Jesus’ “Sermon on the Plain.” Luke adds “woes” as well as “blessings,” specifically for the rich and the well-fed (Lk. 6:24-25).

Conclusions

The beatitudes are the picture of a happy life. We typically think that we would be happy (or “blessed”) if we were rich in spirit (v.3), well-fed (v.6), cut-throat and aggressive (v.7), cutting corners (v.8), and intimidating others (vv.9-12). This is the opposite of a happy life! Jesus tells us the key to happiness in these vivid verses. The question is whether we believe that his design for us is correct, or whether we want to create our own version of a happy life.

The key to happiness is not comfort, but Christ. Jesus is saying that we can be happy with him—even though we are humbled, hungry, and persecuted. The alternative is also true: We can be miserable with all the comforts of the world, if we lack Christ.

The religious leaders lacked these qualities. Jesus is aiming both barrels at the religious leaders of his day. Read through the beatitudes, and notice that each of these would’ve been a subtle rebuke to the mindset and attitude of these legalistic leaders.

Matthew 5:13-16 (Salt and Light)

[This material is unique to Matthew.]

We are called salt and light. Why does Christ pick these images to describe our Christian witness to the world? What is the similarity between salt and light with regard to believers as messengers to the world?

Salt

(5:13) Jesus refers to salt based on its function. Jesus could be referring to the use of salt as (1) good for flavor or (2) good for preserving meat. While both ideas could be in view, Jesus specifically refers to the “taste” of the salt here. We favor the idea that believers are here to make Jesus’ message attractive, and this this way we are salt. We are not the main dish (e.g. steak, turkey, lobster, etc.), but we bring flavor to the main dish. In the same way, our “good works” (v.16) do not replace the gospel message, but they do make it attractive to others. Paul uses this salt metaphor to refer to speech filled with “grace” (Col. 4:6).

“If the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again?” France writes, “Pure salt cannot lose its salinity; but the impure ‘salt’ dug from the shores of the Dead Sea could gradually become unsalty as the actual sodium chloride dissolved.”[66]

Light

(5:14) Light reveals the world around us (“A city set on a hill cannot be hidden).

(5:15) The purpose of light is not to hide, but to reveal. Later, Jesus refers to putting a light under a bed (Mk. 4:21; Lk. 8:16). We shouldn’t worry about the basket or bed catching on fire. Rather, the idea is that the “basket” would conceal the light.[67]

(5:16) The purpose of the light is to “glorify God.” Paul picks up on the imagery of light to show that believers “appear as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15). There should be a certain quality about believers that draws others to God. Jesus is the ultimate light of the world (Jn. 8:12; Isa. 42:6; 49:6), but he has passed this ministry to us (Phil. 2:15; Acts 13:47).

As believers, we shouldn’t hide in “Christian ghettos,” retreating to some form of Christian subculture. The goal of the Christian community is to be out in front of others and shining. While the culture will continue to grow darker and darker (Mt. 24:12), this means that believers will shine brighter and brighter. As Paul writes, “You were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light 9 (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), 10 trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord” (Eph. 5:8-10). Our lives of love can have the effect of allowing others to be “exposed by the light” by contrast (Eph. 5:13).

Likewise, Paul writes that we can be light in our attitudes and in our evangelism: “Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe 16 as you hold out the word of life” (Phil. 2:14-16 NIV).

“Father who is in heaven…” This was a unique concept that Jesus brought to first-century Jewish people. They usually thought of God as a corporate or collective father over all of Israel. Jesus addresses God as their personal Father.[68]

Matthew 5:17-48 (The Law)

[This material is unique to Matthew.]

(5:17) How did Jesus “fulfill” (plērōsai) the Law and Prophets? The antithesis is not between Jesus abolishing and KEEPING the Law, but between abolishing and FULFILLING the Law. This could refer to perfectly keeping the Law in our place (Rom. 10:4).[69] After all, when Jesus allowed John to baptize him, Jesus said that this was “to fulfill all righteousness” (Mt. 3:15). Later, Jesus enters into a long sermon the requirements of the Law, citing repeatedly from the Ten Commandments. This would further confirm this reading of the term “fulfill.”

Others think that the fulfillment of messianic prophecy and typology could be in view (Mt. 11:13; 26:54, 56).[70] This would seem to fit with Matthew’s repeated use of “fulfill” (plēroō) to refer to fulfilling OT prophecies or typology (Mt. 1:22-23; 2:15, 17-18, 23; 4:14).

Perhaps both are in view. After all, part of the fulfillment of messianic prophecy is Jesus’ teaching, life, death, and resurrection. Thus, he would be fulfilling both the moral requirements of the Law and the predictions in the Law (i.e. the OT).

(5:18) The “smallest letter” (iota) is the Hebrew letter yôd, and the “stroke” (keraia) is likely the wāw. Carson comments, “His is the highest possible view of the OT.”[71]

This seems to speak more to the fulfillment of prophecy, because it refers to the Law’s “prophetic function” and when “all these things have taken place as prophesied.”[72] Notice that Jesus viewed his own words as lasting longer than the Law! Later he says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” (Mt. 24:35).

(5:19) On the first view of verse 17 above, Jesus is fulfilling the moral requirements of the Law. Consequently, this verse would speak to the fulfillment of the legal requirements of the Law on us. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were trying to water down the full weight of the Law. Jesus rebukes this ideology. His purpose in this teaching is to let the full weight of the Law crush self-righteousness.

It’s hard to square this passage (and verse 20) with the second view of verse 17 above, where Jesus is fulfilling the prophecies and typology of the OT. To support this reading, Carson states that the OT predicted the coming of Jesus and his teaching, which should be obeyed.[73] But this seems stretched, especially when verse 20 refers to moral righteousness—not prophetic fulfillment.

(5:20) We know that Jesus has the Pharisees in his sights from this verse. People in Jesus’ day believed that the Pharisees were the most righteous people to have ever lived. Here, Jesus argues that you need to be even more righteous than them! Indeed, he will conclude this chapter by raising the bar to the moral flawlessness of God himself (Mt. 5:48).

Jesus lays down the Law

The “I” is emphatic in each of the six cases below.[74] This means that Jesus is standing as the true interpreter of the Law. His contemporaries understood that he was standing in an extremely authoritative position to speak like this (Mt. 7:29).

Don’t murder (The sixth commandment)

(5:21) The Pharisees felt that they were safe with regard to the sixth commandment (Ex. 20:13).

(5:22) Jesus reveals that they are not safe at all. While they didn’t murder externally, they were angry with their brother internally. They killed countless people in their hearts. Since God sees the heart, they were guilty of sin.

“Good-for-nothing” (raka) comes from the Aramaic, which means “empty one.” It came to mean “a term of abuse/put-down relating to lack of intelligence, numskull, fool (in effect verbal bullying)” (BDAG).

“Fool” (mōros) is used by Jesus (Mt. 23:17) and James (Jas. 2:20). Thus, it isn’t the words themselves, but the use of the words. France writes, “These are not uncommon or particularly vulgar words… but they suggest an attitude of angry contempt.”[75]

“Fiery hell” (geenna) is the term for Gehenna, which comes from the Hebrew word (gê-hinnōm) that means “Valley of Hinnom.” During dark days in Israel, the people worshipped Moloch here and even sacrificed their children in this place! (2 Kin. 23:10; 2 Chron. 28:3; 33:6; Jer. 7:31; Ezek. 16:20; 23:37) After Josiah reformed the nation, he converted this horrific place into a garbage and funeral dump (2 Kin. 23:10). It was used “regularly by Jesus, [and] by Jewish writers, for the place of ultimate punishment.”[76] The burning of the trash and corpses gives us vivid imagery of what hell would be like.

Reconciliation: A key example of dealing with anger

(5:23) Jesus is teaching that forgiveness and reconciliation are more important than Temple worship. This would’ve been scandalous to hear in first-century Judaism.

This doesn’t refer to my (self-righteous) problems against other “sinners.” Neither does it deal with my anger. Instead, it states that the other person has someone against you. Carson comments, “We are more likely to remember when we have something against others than when we have done something to offend others. And if we are truly concerned about our anger and hate, we shall be no less concerned when we engender them in others.”[77] It’s also true that we should forgive others that have sinned against us (Mk. 11:25), but here, Jesus’ point is that we are often oblivious to how serious open conflict is with other brothers. This implies that we will often minimize our role in conflict (cf. Mt. 7:3-5).

(5:24) This speaks of the immediacy of reconciliation. Elsewhere, Paul writes that we should “not let the sun go down on your anger” (Eph. 4:26).

(5:25) Pre-trial attorneys are always trying to get a settlement without the need of going to court. Once we go to court, the decision is not in our hands anymore. It’s in the judge’s hands. Jesus applies this concept to our judgment before God. We are “going to trial” relatively soon, so we should strive to find reconciliation before we get there.

(5:26) The judge is going to dispense perfect justice once we face him.

Don’t commit adultery (The seventh commandment)

(5:27) The Pharisees would’ve felt safe that they were righteously keeping the seventh commandment.

(5:28) Jesus removes this façade, and he argues that internal lust is also sin. While the Pharisees may not have committed adultery, they had a whole harem of women in their minds and hearts. Notice as well that Jesus expands this commandment from simply thinking about another man’s wife to thinking lustfully about women in general.

(5:29-30) Most interpreters read this passage metaphorically or hyperbolically.[78] They argue that Jesus is saying that we should take extreme measures against sin, but we shouldn’t literally tear out our eyes (v.29) or cut off our hands (v.30).

Of course, we would agree that Jesus is not endorsing self-mutilation, but we disagree with a hyperbolic reading. Jesus is speaking very literally here. Indeed it truly would be better to lose an eye or a hand, if the other option was going to hell! Again, we must point out that Jesus is teaching Law. If you are trying to come to God under Law, then it would be better to tear your eye out, rather than go to hell. Jesus’ listeners might think that this is simply horrible, and they would be right. Going the route of legalistic, self-righteousness is horrible! Jesus is raising the bar on the Law back to where it belongs, showing people the impossibility of keeping it.

Origen (AD 250) followed this verse so far that he castrated himself. Yet, Carson observes that this was “not radical enough, since lust is not thereby removed.”[79] He’s right. We can keep our limbs from sinning, but not our hearts.

Carson holds that the term “hand” is a “euphemism for the male sexual organ.”[80] He bases this on Isaiah 57:8 which uses the Hebrew term “hand” (yāḏ) in this way: “You have uncovered yourself, and have gone up and made your bed wide. And you have made an agreement for yourself with them, You have loved their bed, You have looked on their manhood [yāḏ].” However, we disagree with Carson’s understanding for a number of reasons: First, when Jesus repeats this teaching, he refers to cutting off a hand, and then he says, “It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire” (Mt. 18:8). If “hand” is a euphemism for a man’s sexual organ, then what do the two hands and two feet represent? Second, a literal hand could engage in sexual immorality. Third, Jesus never cites Isaiah 57. At best, this would be an allusion.

Don’t divorce

(5:31) Jesus cites from Deuteronomy 24:1-3. The Pharisees thought that they were safe on this law too, because they had set up all sorts of extrabiblical reasons for a good and legal divorce.

(5:32) But Jesus rips down this false sense of righteousness. You can create all sorts of extrabiblical reasons for divorce, but the Scriptures teach that this is wrong.

(Mt. 5:31-32) What does this passage tell us about divorce and remarriage?

Don’t break vows

(5:33) Jesus cites a number of passages on the importance of vow-keeping (Lev. 19:12; Num. 30:2; Deut. 23:21, 23).

(5:34-37) They needed to appeal to vows because people couldn’t trust their character. So instead of appealing to the fulfillment of vows, Jesus appeals to the fact that these would be unnecessary if people weren’t sinful.

(Mt. 5:34) Are we allowed to make oaths? (cf. Jas. 5:12; Hos. 4:2)

Lex Talionis: “The law of retribution”

(5:38) The law of retribution (see “An Eye for an Eye?”) was taught in the OT (Ex. 21:24; Lev. 24:20; Deut. 19:21). It was a way of ensuring fair retribution for crimes that did not exceed the crime itself. But the people must have used this to have a sense of entitlement. That is, they must’ve inappropriately used this as a “justification for vindictiveness.”[81]

(5:39-40) Jesus turns this entitlement mentality upside down. Instead of focusing on our rights, focus on what you can give away. Instead of the “law of retribution,” Jesus taught the “law of love.” This is a refusal “to insist on one’s rights, however legitimate.”[82]

Incidentally, this does not support the concept of pacifism (see “Just War Theory”). In fact, it doesn’t refer to being (seriously) physically attacked or killed. Instead, it refers to being “slapped” (v.39) or “sued” (v.40). The term “slapped” (rhapizo) refers to an “insult rather than of physical violence, and it is possibly to be seen as an aspect of religious persecution.”[83] Indeed Jesus’ captors “slapped” him (Mt. 26:67). The consequences are embarrassment—not death. Luke’s version uses the word “hits” (typtō), but this can also refer to a slap (Acts 23:3). We can take this sort of embarrassment, because Jesus did this for us first (Mt. 26:67; Isa. 50:6).

(5:41) “Forces you to go” (angareuō) refers to being conscripted for service (Mt. 27:32).[84] The Romans could force a civilian “to carry the luggage of military personnel a prescribed distance, one Roman ‘mile.’”[85] Virtually all Jews (especially Zealots!) would become spiteful, but Jesus tells them (and us) to be helpful instead. This is the “law of love,” namely, to go the extra mile to win the person.

(5:42) Instead of letting the person “borrow” from us, Jesus tells us simply to “give.” Of course, this doesn’t support giving money to drug addicts to fulfill their addiction (Prov. 11:15; 17:18; 22:26). Such a behavior is not “giving” at all. Properly understood, it is hurting the person to encourage their habit. This also doesn’t mean giving to the point of poverty, because then we would need other people’s giving. (It should be noted, however, that this application is lightyears away from our tendency in opulent American culture!). Instead, the “principle is that the need of others comes before my convenience.”[86]

The law of love

Jesus culminates this section by getting at the point: We need to become people of love. All of the OT laws could be summarized in the law of love (Mt. 22:37-40). As Paul writes, “He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law” (Rom. 13:8).

(5:43) The first part of this citation comes from Leviticus 19:18. The second part (“hate your enemy”) doesn’t come from the OT. This must refer to extrabiblical, rabbinical teaching in Jesus’ day. It could also be an idiom that means “love less”[87] (see Lk. 14:26 with Mt. 10:37; Gen. 29:30-31). It could also refer to hatred of outsiders, as those in Qumran taught.[88]

(5:44) The term “love” (agapaō) refers to “generous, warm, costly self-sacrifice for another’s good,” and “there is no reason to think the verb here in Matthew does not include emotion as well as action.”[89] Jesus himself did what he commands us to do here (Lk. 23:34). Plummer writes, “To return evil for good is devilish; to return good for good is human; to return good for evil is divine.”[90]

This passage is a good refutation of the so-called “new tolerance” today. We don’t agree with our enemies, but we should love them anyhow. It is impossible to tolerate a person with whom we agree. We can only tolerate people with whom we disagree.

Jesus takes love to a new level. France rightly observes, “There is a sweeping universality in the love Jesus demands which has no parallel in Jewish literature… It is not just a sentimental feeling, but an earnest desire for their good.”[91]

(5:45) God calls on us to love all people (v.44), because he loves all people. This passage does not bode well for 5-point Calvinism. After all, does God call us to love people whom he salvifically hates? Does God bring the blessings of sun and rain for a few short years, only to damn the unelect to hell for eternity? Is this love?

(5:46) Jesus calls us to an extreme and unique form of love. Most American Christians will love their friends and families. But such love doesn’t live up to the radical calling of Jesus.

(5:47) In this culture, to “greet” someone was very important, and was “a mark of courtesy and respect.”[92]

(5:48) Here is the conclusion to Jesus’ teaching on the Law, and it serves as an inclusio with verse 20, tying the section together.

Jesus began by teaching that our righteousness needs to exceed that of the Pharisees (5:20). Jesus’ audience must have thought, “Greater than the Pharisees?! Who is more righteous than the Pharisees?!” By the end of this part of the teaching, Jesus states that we need to equal God in his righteousness! Again, there is nothing hyperbolic about this. If we want to go the path of Law, then the standard is perfect. Remember, Jesus taught, “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 5:19). Jesus is teaching Law, pure and simple. If we want to live up to the Law, then we need to be as righteous as God himself.

Conclusions

If you have never received Jesus’ forgiveness, you need to badly! The Sermon on the Mount raises the bar for salvation by works back to where it belongs. The standard is perfection, and nothing less. When we realize the crushing weight of the Law, it should lead us to accepting the free gift of grace through Jesus.

This description of love is other-worldly. Jesus was describing what it is like to be a perfectly loving person in this section: No hatred, no lust, no divorce, no breaking our word, no revenge—always reconciling, always giving, always loving. When we read these descriptions, we reach parts where we think, “Jesus doesn’t really mean that… does he?” We want to pull down the Law to a place where we can fulfill it, but we dare not do such a thing! (5:17-20) Instead, look at this picture of love and marvel at it, because this is the character of God himself (v.48). We don’t know love like this, because love like this comes from another world altogether.

Matthew 6

Matthew 6:1-18 (Hypocrisy)

[This is unique material to Matthew.]

The religious leaders practiced a form of spirituality that benefited the person on Earth in the immediate moment. So, if a person was righteous in the eyes of society, they would benefit from that. Jesus refutes this by arguing that our rewards are (primarily) in heaven—not earth (see v.1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 16, 18). The purpose of this chapter is to fight hypocrisy, anxiety, and worry based on the eternal perspective. We shouldn’t have our “best life now” as Joel Osteen titles one of his best-selling books. Our best life is later.

PRAYER AND GIVING: Whose recognition are you living for?

(6:1) Jesus opens this section with the word, “Beware.” Self-righteousness is a sin that we can easily enter. If it weren’t, Jesus wouldn’t need to tell us to “beware” of it.

The real problem is wanting to be seen (“practicing your righteousness before men”) and recognized (“be noticed by them”). This isn’t just an issue of our motives. As France observes, “The difference lies not only in the motive, but in the result: the former brings glory to God, the latter only to the performer.”[93]

Jesus directs us to be more vertically focused, rather than horizontally focused. Instead of seeking recognition from men, we should look to God’s reward. The cure for man-pleasing and self-righteousness is to look to God for his recognition. If we settle for man-pleasing, we get our reward in full. What a cheap substitute for what God wants to give us!

(Mt. 6:1) Should we show our good works to others or not?

(6:2) The measly recognition of men is pitted against the reward of God. The concept of “sounding a trumpet” is clearly metaphorical (and humorous!) language.[94] It refers to obnoxiously calling attention to oneself. The term “hypocrites” (hupokritēs) originally referred to actors in a play. Similarly, self-righteous people are living for the “applause” and recognition of others—not God. Jesus asked, “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?” (Jn. 5:44) Some areas of life are complicated and blurry, and others are both/and rather than either/or… But not this! We can either live for the approval of people, or the approval of God! (cf. Jn. 12:43)

(6:3-4) There is a temptation in Christian work to want to “be somebody.” Somehow our sinful natures can even turn Christian work into a selfish ambition! The cure for this is to know that God is both watching and recognizing our work. He will reward” us in the future. Temporal blessings can occur when we give financially (e.g. intimacy with God, joy, happiness, etc.), but Jesus’ point is that they definitely will occur in eternity.

(6:5) Jesus isn’t against standing while praying. We see various physical ways that people hold themselves when they pray. For example, people pray while they lie down prostrate (Num. 16:22; Josh. 5:14; Dan. 8:17; Mt. 26:39; Rev. 11:16), kneel (2 Chron. 6:13; Dan. 6:10; Lk. 22:41, Acts 7:60; 9:40; 20:36; 21:5), sit (2 Sam. 7:18), and stand (1 Sam. 1:26; Mk. 11:25; Lk. 18:11, 13).

Jesus also isn’t against corporate prayer. In fact, he commands it elsewhere (Mt. 18:19-20). Instead, he is against flouting our religiosity in public to garner the praise of men. If our motivation is only to get recognition, we have “our reward in full.” The paltry recognition of men is all the reward that we will ever get.

(6:6) God gives out reward for prayer, but the condition is that it is done “in secret.”

(Mt. 6:6) Did Jesus abolish corporate prayer meetings?

A model prayer

(6:7) The beginning of this section critiqued the religious, but this critiques the irreligious (i.e. the Gentiles). This sounds like the practice of the prophets of Baal (1 King 18). The opposite of “meaningless repetition” is meaningful relationship.

It was the norm in pagan circles to use “formal invocations” and “magical incantations” for prayer.[95] This was a way to gain control over the gods.

(Mt. 6:7) Does this passage preclude persistent prayer? (cf. Luke 11:5-10)

(6:8) Why shouldn’t we pray meaningless repetition? It communicates that we need to remind God of what we need. Instead, God is all-knowing. While we do need to petition God (Jas. 4:2; Lk. 11, 18), we should never think that this is manipulating God or telling him something he doesn’t already know.

(6:9-13) We aren’t supposed to repeat this prayer mindlessly, but to pray “in this way.” Jesus wasn’t teaching us what to pray, but how to pray. The great and terrible irony is that many Christians mindlessly repeat this exact prayer in a form of “meaningless repetition.”

“Our Father who is in heaven…” Why did Jesus teach us to pray to God as “Father”? Why not “Creator” or “Lord” or “Teacher” or “Friend”? (see our earlier article “From Slaves to Sons” for more insight).

Notice the tension here: God is transcendent and other-worldly “in heaven,” but he is also close and personal as “our Father.”

God is the Father of us all—not just me (our Father”). When we pray to God, we realize that we are part of his family.

“Hallowed be Your name.” The word “hallowed” is an imperative, and it means to “treat as holy, reverence.”[96] In this culture, a person’s “name” represented who they were.

“Your kingdom come.” This could be referring to the Messianic (Millennial) Kingdom. It could also refer to the progressive “already-not-yet” kingdom of the church. Regardless, the point is that we want God’s rule on Earth in all stages of salvation history—not our own.

“Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We need to begin our prayers by getting the focus on God—not us (Your name… Your Kingdom… Your will”). When we are wrapped up in worry, the best antidote is to remember who we’re praying to and what we’re praying for. We’re praying to the Creator of all things, and we want his good will to flourish—not our own.

Jesus not only told others to pray in this way, but he followed his own teaching in the Garden of Gethsemane. He prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will” (Mt. 26:39).

“Give us this day our daily bread.” The word “daily” (epiousios) is quite rare. It could refer to (1) the day in question, (2) the necessary bread to survive, or (3) the “coming day.” God wants to meet our need, but not our greed. The first option is most likely. The context refers to this day.” Moreover, Luke’s version refers to “each day” (Lk. 11:3).

In the wealthy Western world, we don’t typically pray for God to give us the food that we need for the day, because we already have a refrigerator full of food! However, we need to remember that God has given us both the ends (e.g. the food) and the means to those ends (e.g. a career, an able body, a mind, etc.). Hard work and prayer are not mutually exclusive now, nor were they when Jesus prayed this.

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” In the old covenant, forgiveness wasn’t the same as in the new covenant. After the Cross, forgiveness from God is completed. Therefore, Paul can write, “[Forgive] each other, just as God in Christ has forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32). He also writes, “[Forgive] each other… just as the Lord forgave you” (Col. 3:13). The principle Jesus is pointing to is timeless, however. How can we receive forgiveness from God, while withholding forgiveness toward others?

“And do not lead us into temptation.” God doesn’t tempt anyone (Jas. 1:13). This could refer to testing, and it seems like a rhetorical of praying that God would carry us through times of temptation.

“Deliver us from evil.” This can be rendered “the evil one” (see NASB footnote). Indeed, “either translation is possible.”[97]

“For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” This occurs in a few early manuscripts, but it most likely was not in the original text of Matthew.

(Mt. 6:15) Is forgiveness conditional or unconditional?

FASTING: Whose recognition are you living for?

(6:16) The Pharisees would fast twice a week (Lk. 18:12). The Pharisees would typically fast on Mondays and Thursdays (M Taanith 1:4-7). By AD 95, the Didache criticized the Jewish people for fasting on Mondays and Thursdays, but suggested fasting on Tuesdays and Fridays instead! (8:1)

Modern Christians want to look “spiritual” or “godly” by acting like martyrs all the time. Victorious suffering and victorious Christian living are not about acting like a martyr. It’s a lifestyle of deep joy and satisfaction—even amidst hard work and suffering.

(6:17-18) Jesus is driving at the purpose of fasting. It isn’t about recognition before men, but before God.

(Mt. 6:16-18) Should believers fast?

Conclusions

We need to do the Lord’s will in the Lord’s way. Jesus’ rebuke against the hypocrisy of the religious leaders should not be taken to discourage good deeds (v.1), financial giving (vv.2-4), or prayer (vv.5-7). Instead, Jesus wants us to do good deeds for the right reasons. Motivation matters. While we are not supposed to become morbidly introverted regarding our motives, we should be sensitive to blatant hypocrisy like Jesus described. This sort of man-centered spirituality is loathsome to God.

Matthew 6:19-34 (The Eternal Perspective)

[This is unique material to Matthew.]

Jesus has already spoken about a fake and self-righteous form of financial giving (vv.3-4). Here he gives the reasons for authentic godly giving.

(6:19-20) Jesus isn’t against wealth or investment. He’s against worldly investment that won’t last. We wants us to invest our money in an eternal asset, rather than an earthly one. Notice the language attached to financial giving in the Bible.

(Ps. 49:17) When they die, they take nothing with them. Their wealth will not follow them into the grave.

(Ps. 39:4-7) Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered—how fleeting my life is. You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath.” We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it. And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you.

(1 Tim. 6:7) For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.

(6:21) Giving changes our hearts. Jesus doesn’t say that we change our hearts, so that we can redirect our money (though this is certainly true). Here he says that the giving of our money will actually change our heart. If we place our money in God’s hands, our hearts will follow it. Randy Alcorn comments, “What we do with our money doesn’t simply indicate where our heart is. According to Jesus, it determines where our heart goes. This is an amazing and exciting truth. If I want my heart to be in one particular place and not in another, then I need to put my money in that place and not in the other.”[98]

(6:22) The “eye is the lamp” can be understood to mean (1) that the eye lets the light into the body or (2) that “it enables the body to find its way.”[99]

“Clear” (haplous) can either mean “single” or “undivided loyalty.” Under this view, it would be “a metaphor for a life totally devoted to the service of God.”[100] This term can also be used for generosity (Rom. 12:8; 2 Cor. 8:2; 9:11, 13).

This is a test to expose a deceived mind. Only God knows the heart. But Jesus gives us a way to test what is in their heart, by testing where their treasure is.

(6:23) If materialism affects the eye, then the idea is that you become spiritually blind. Materialists think that what they are investing in is good. Jesus says that they are like a blind person, who thinks they can see (see NLT). Elsewhere, Jesus stated, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains” (Jn. 9:41 NIV).

(6:24) Why can’t we serve two masters? Alcorn comments, “For the same reason a woman cannot have two husbands. When we carry on a love affair with the world, we commit spiritual adultery… God will not be a half husband.”[101]

Anxiety

Anxiety floods our minds when we begin to worry about the things of the world: car payments, mortgages, possessions, bills. It feels unavoidable. Fortunately, Jesus addressed anxiety directly.

(6:25) Jesus is not claiming that food, drink, and clothing are meaningless. We need the basics of “food and covering” (1 Tim. 6:8), so Jesus is not advocating for starving ourselves or walking around naked. Instead, he is saying that there is more to life than these things—not less. This is what he means when he says, “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing”? In other words, these material things are less important than spiritual things. Anxiety enters our lives when we reverse this order, spending our physical, mental, and emotional energy being preoccupied on these unimportant aspects of life.

(6:26) Jesus’ antidote for anxiety is simple: God’s provision. Think back on your life. When did it get so bad that everything fell apart completely? How many times did the worst possible scenario actually happen? By contrast, how many times did you worry that things would fall apart, but God came through for you?

Anxiety often occurs when we become overly fixated on an exaggerated fear. Counselors will often urge counselees to “redirect” their thoughts onto something else, rather than becoming immersed in anxiety. This is precisely what Jesus does throughout this section. He gets his listeners to focus on the birds, the lilies, and the grass, rather than their problems.

(6:27) This is a good question that all worriers should ask themselves: What does worrying accomplish?? When we sit and brood, does it ever change reality? Later Jesus says, “Do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Mt. 6:34). Elsewhere he taught, “Do not worry beforehand” (Mk. 13:11). Anxiety often feels like cyclical thinking: Once a negative thought springs into our mind, it becomes difficult to release our mental grip on it. But why do we feel the need to continually focus on our worries? Deep down, it is because we don’t believe that God will provide.

“Life” (hēlikia) can also be rendered “height” or “stature.” Likewise, the term “hour” (pēchys) can also be translated as a “cubit” or ~18 inches. In the first rendering, worry doesn’t lengthen to our lives by adding more time. In the second rendering, worry doesn’t add to our lives. This would be metaphorical—just as we refer to “passing a milepost” at our birthday.[102] Either way, the point is clear: We can make a strong case that anxiety only shortens our lives.

(6:28-30) If God provides for miniscule things like grass, wouldn’t he provide for valuable persons like you and me?

(6:31-32) We aren’t equipped to provide for ourselves. This is a burden that we were never meant to carry. When we ignore God’s provision, Jesus is saying that we are living like those that don’t even know God. In other words, even though we may be believers, we’re living like practical atheists when we ignore God’s provision. No wonder anxiety feels so crushing! We are living like God doesn’t exist or care about our lives!

(6:33) This replaces the attitude of anxiety with something concrete, meaningful, and positive. Instead of worrying about materialism, we should focus on giving to God’s kingdom. Here is where our theology becomes practical. Do we believe that God is a faithful provider or not? If we put the cause of Christ first, will he provide or won’t he?

“Added” can be rendered “provided” (see NASB footnote).

“His righteousness” could refer to justification through Christ. However, we agree with Carson that Jesus is referring to our condition of pursuing righteousness.[103] For one, the context favors God’s way of righteous living in his “kingdom.” Second, Jesus has been using the term “righteousness” to refer to our condition—not our position (e.g. Mt. 5:10, 20; 6:1).

(6:34) Jesus was a realist. He teaches that real problems and worries confront us. However, we don’t have the strength to carry this load on our own shoulders. Just like asking for our daily bread, we only have enough bandwidth to handle the issues of today. Moreover, we should be more “worried” over whether we’re presently “seeking his kingdom” (v.33). As one person has said, “Yesterday’s faith cannot fight today’s battles.”

Conclusions

It is no accident that Jesus taught on money right alongside anxiety. When our mind is focused on ourselves and our assets, anxiety fills our hearts.

Discussion Questions

Discussing the subject of money can be touchy in our culture. According to a 2014 survey, Americans would prefer to talk about politics, religion, or even death, rather the topic of personal finance.[104] This same study found that Americans were more worried about their financial health (49%) than they were about their physical health (42%) or their pursuit of personal relationships (21%).

Why do you think Americans are so sensitive about the subject of personal finance? How might this cultural trend impact our generosity as Christians?

Watch this video of people checking out the “new” iPhone 7 on the Jimmy Kimmel Show (found here). What’s your reaction to this comical social experiment? Could there be any truth to this experiment when it comes to our spending habits?

How would you respond to someone who said this? “I’ll start giving when I am more financially stable.”

What might happen to a believer if they never learned to become a financial giver? How have you seen financial giving affect the lives of others, or your own life?

Matthew 7

Matthew 7:1-5 (Conflict)

[Luke 6:37-42 parallels this material in Matthew 7:1-6.]

Judging

(Mt. 7:1) Are we allowed to judge or not?

(7:2) This sounds similar to Paul’s teaching that people will be judged based on how they judged others (Rom. 2:1-16).

(7:3-5) The “log” (dokos) is “more literally a beam or rafter.”[105]

This is really a comical or “sarcastic”[106] illustration. Not only is the “log” big and cumbersome, but it is completely blinding the person from being able to see and judge correctly (cf. Lk. 6:39). Jesus isn’t saying that we can’t point out the speck in the other person’s eye (cf. Mt. 18:15-17), but that we aren’t fit to do so until we pull the log out of our own eye. He is criticizing the self-righteous attitude that I can help and correct others, but I myself don’t need any help or correction.

This is the only time in the NT that the term “hypocrite” is applied to a disciple of Christ.[107] This must show that self-righteousness is so pervasive that it can affect the follow of Jesus.

Discussion questions

What principles does Jesus give for preparing for conflict resolution? What other principles might be helpful before entering into conflict resolution?

Conclusions

Minimization in conflict is common. The fact that Jesus would compare another person’s sin to a “speck” and my sin to a “log” implies that I am prone to minimizing my own problems and contribution to a conflict. I need to develop a healthy fear of my own self-righteousness when in conflict. It’s very likely that I’m minimizing my part, and magnifying theirs.

Matthew 7:6-12 (Seeking God)

(Mt. 7:6) What does it mean to cast pearls before swine?

(7:6) The imperatives of verse 1-5 could lead to an extreme of never judging, and leave Jesus’ disciples acting like “undiscerning simpletons.”[108] Sadly, Christians are often too judgmental (vv.1-5), but they are also so open-minded that their brains fall out! Jesus speaks against this mentality here.

The “dogs” refer to wild dogs that were vicious. The “swine” were not only unclean, but also dangerous to people. Hence, they are able to “tear you to pieces.”

Some commentators think that “what is holy” refers to the Jewish holy food that was given to the priests (Ex. 29:33-34; Lev. 22:10-16; Num. 18:8-19).[109] Perhaps this is the literal referent, but this doesn’t speak to the metaphorical meaning of the literal referent. That is, just as you wouldn’t give holy food to dogs or swine, you also shouldn’t give God’s truth to those who “who have given clear evidences of rejecting the gospel with vicious scorn and hardened contempt.”[110] In Matthew, “the gospel of the kingdom” is what is holy,[111] and more immediately, the context of this statement refers to evangelism (vv.7-8).

(7:7) These verbs are in the present tense (“keep on asking… keep on seeking… keep on knocking”).

(7:8) God promises to find seekers. Notice the absolute language (Everyone who asks…”).

(7:9-10) Why do these verses come on the heels of “seeking” God? It seems that Jesus is reminding us that God desires to find people and give them good things. Regarding Jesus’ parables of prayer that fit this pattern (Lk. 11:5-8; 18:1-8), Joachim Jeremias calls this “beggar’s wisdom.”[112] As those who have nothing to offer God, we should approach him with this sort of attitude.

Bread and fish were the most common foods in Israel at this time. So, by asking for this, the child was asking for something incredibly menial.

(7:11) Jesus shows that human fathers know how to meet the basic needs for their kids. Indeed it is dark comedy to give a snake to a kid instead of dinner! Jesus’ audience must have chuckled when he said this. But here, Jesus hits them with a nonchalant landmine: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children…” The word “evil” (poneros) is the same word for the Evil One! (Mt. 6:13) The best part is that Jesus just says this in a passing sense—not even trying to make his main point! He just assumes that humans are evil.

“…how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” A human father’s love for his child is one of the most powerful loves on Planet Earth. Yet Jesus calls us “evil” in comparison to the incomparable love of God!

(7:12) Jesus felt comfortable systematizing (or at least summarizing) what the OT stated. If we were to capture the teaching of the Law, it could be characterized by the so-called “Golden Rule.”

The title “Golden Rule” comes from the 3rd century Roman Emperor Alexander Severus who (allegedly) had this “written in gold on his wall.”[113] Many religions have a version of the Golden Rule, but they are given in the negative (“Do not do to others what you would not want done to you”).

Rabbi Hillel (AD 20): “What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man. That is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary” (Talmud, Shabbat 31a).

Hinduism: “This is the sum of duty: Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you” (Mahabharata, 5:5157).

Buddhism: “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful” (Udana-Varga, 5:18).

These are similar, but not the same. Jesus was the only one to phrase this rule positively.[114] This is a crucial distinction. After all, one could otherwise satisfy this moral call by doing… nothing. Jesus says that we need to actively love someone—not passively do nothing. This is a much higher moral imperative than other forms of the Golden Rule.

Discussion questions

In light of verse 6: How do we know when it might be appropriate to walk away from a spiritual conversation with a person?

Conclusions

In light of verses 9-11: I think that I express a high degree of love when I give gifts to my two sons. Yet, Jesus nonchalantly calls me “evil”! Jesus’ point isn’t to disparage acts of love like this, but to show that the Father’s love dwarfs mine! Whenever I think that I love others (e.g. family, non-Christians, people I lead and influence, etc.), I need to remember that God loves them far, far more!

Matthew 7:13-23 (The stakes are high)

(7:13-14) These are paths that people take—one step at a time. It isn’t an accident that they end up in life or death. They journeyed there—step by step. Rather than focus on who else will find life, we need to make sure that we resolutely make sure that we choose for Christ and “strive to enter” (Lk. 13:24).

We do not determine truth by a democratic process or a vote. The majority could hold falsehood, and the minority could hold to truth. According to Jesus, this is exactly what was happening in his own day and age.

(Mt. 7:13-14) Does this verse teach that many people will go to hell and few will go to heaven?

How do I avoid the wide gate that leads to death (vv.13-14)? Learn to discern the false prophet (vv.15-18)!

False teachers

(7:15) False teachers look one way on the outside, but on the inside they are far different. We cannot judge a teacher based on external appearances (cf. Acts 20:29-30).

(7:16) Instead of judging externally (like the Pharisees), look at their life and what they actually do. “Fruit” would include good deeds, but it would also include their teaching. Later, Jesus uses this same concept of “fruit” to refer to what the false teachers say (Mt. 12:33-37).

(7:17-18) We don’t create fruit. Instead, we ourselves are changed to be a “good tree” or a “bad tree,” and the fruit will follow.

(Mt. 7:19) Do believers have to bear fruit in order to be saved?

(7:20) Jesus is sharing how we can “know” false teachers. In this case, we can know they by their deeds.

False followers

It’s possible that the false prophets (vv.15-20) led to these false followers (vv.13-14, 21-23). In verse 23, Jesus cites from Psalm 6:8. There, the psalmist is vindicated by God, and this is why he tells the evildoers to “depart.” Similarly, false followers of Jesus will be revealed for who they are, and Jesus will be vindicated for who he is.

(Mt. 7:21-23) Does Jesus teach that those who call out to him in the sinner’s prayer will actually go to hell?

Conclusions

Consider how terrible it would be to go to church every Sunday, say your prayers at night, live a legalistic lifestyle, tithe your money… And wind up going to hell! This is a horrific fate—one beyond all human imagination or conception. But remember that people found themselves in this place—one step at a time—and were so self-deceived that Jesus’ statements shocked them.

Matthew 7:24-27 (Building on the Rock)

(7:24) We can’t just “hear.” We also need to “act.” Through action, we become “wise.”

(7:25) Following the way of Jesus will include suffering and trials (“rain… floods… wind”).

(7:26) Again, the difference between the fool and the wise man is not “hearing.” They both “hear,” but the fool doesn’t “act.”

(7:27) Both people will experience the suffering and trials of life, but the fool will be wrecked by them (“it fell—and great was its fall”).

Matthew 7:28-29 (Conclusion)

(7:28-29) Why were the crowds impressed by the “authority” of Jesus? It wasn’t merely that he spoke with confidence (though he surely did). Jesus was speaking in the first person as God. The prophets would say, “Thus says the Lord…” But throughout this section, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you…” Moreover, the religious rabbis would constantly quote from other rabbinical sources, but Jesus spoke on his own authority. Lemke writes, “The scribes quoted the rabbis before them and rarely expressed an idea without support by some predecessor. Jesus spoke as His own authority.”[115] Likewise, Carson writes, “Jesus is not an ordinary prophet who says, ‘Thus says the Lord!’ Rather, he speaks in the first person and claims that his teaching fulfills the OT; that he determines who enters the messianic kingdom; that as the Divine Judge he pronounces banishment; that the true heirs of the kingdom would be persecuted for their allegiance to him; and that he alone fully knows the will of his Father.”[116]

This authority in Jesus’ words leads us into his authority in his works. The next two chapters demonstrate Jesus’ power through various miracles…

Conclusions

It isn’t until we are tested that God reveals our character. After all, both the fool and the wise man look the same until the storm comes (vv.24-27). The “greatest storm” comes when we die.[117]

Matthew 8

Matthew 8 (Miracles: Part 1)

Matthew collects ten miracles that Jesus performed throughout his ministry, and he topically groups them in these two chapters. This is a case where Matthew is arranging material topically, but not chronologically. Carson states that many of these miracles “almost certainly took place before the Sermon on the Mount.”[118] If Matthew 5-7 was the message of Jesus, then Matthew 8-9 are the vindicating miracles of Jesus. The miracles show that the message is truly of God, and Jesus is demonstrating why he is worth following.

Matthew 8:1-4 (Healing a leper)

[The parallel account is found in Mark 1:40-45 and Luke 5:12-16.]

(8:1) The Sermon on the Mount landed, and great crowds followed Jesus.

(8:2) This man wasn’t just recently infected. It was all over his body. Luke adds that the man was “covered with leprosy” (Lk. 5:12).

The leper doesn’t ask Jesus for healing. Instead, he comes to him with his problem, and he trusts that Jesus is able to heal him. He also “bowed down” (proskyneō) before Jesus, which is the normal term for “worship” (cf. Mt. 2:2). This combined with calling Jesus “Lord” (cf. Mt. 7:21) shows that he had deep respect for Jesus.

Try to put yourself in the leper’s shoes: He’s ostracized by his people. He hasn’t felt a human touch for years—the OT prescribed quarantine for leprous people (Lev. 13-14). He steps out in front of the entire crowd, putting himself in a very vulnerable situation. This man shows true faith, putting the results in God’s hands.

(8:3) Jesus could have performed the miracle with just a simple word. But instead, he performs the miracle by touching the man. Mark adds that Jesus was “moved with compassion” when he touched him (Mk. 1:41). He was showing compassion—not just power.

While many people were healed, this man was also “cleansed.” There was a cultural stigma and ceremonial uncleanness attached to leprosy that Jesus purified.

(Mt. 8:3) Jesus breaking the law in touching a leper?

(8:4) This remark from Jesus implies that he was away from the crowds when he healed this man. Jesus knew that if people talked about his miracles that it would expedite his confrontation with the religious leaders (Luke leaves this part out, Lk. 5:14). Mark records that the leper disobeyed, and as a consequence, Jesus could hardly enter any of the cities, because he was swamped with people (Mk. 1:45). When this would happen, Jesus would slip away to pray by himself (Lk. 5:16). He wanted the Father’s attention—not the crowds.

Matthew 8:5-13 (Healing a centurion’s servant)

[Luke contains a parallel account in 7:1-10. This is not the same as the healing of the royal official’s son in John 4:46-52, which took place in Cana—not Capernaum]

(Mt. 8:5-13) Does this contradict the account in Luke 7:1-10?

(8:5) Consider what the centurion could have said. As a powerful Gentile man, he could’ve come forward and ordered a penniless, miracle working (Jewish!) preacher to come and heal his servant. Yet Luke records that this man was a God-fearer who helped build the synagogue (Lk. 7:5).

Luke records that it wasn’t the centurion himself speaking with Jesus. Instead, the centurion sent some Jewish elders to speak in his place (Lk. 7:3). This is not a contradiction. Lemke writes, “In the ancient world, if someone sent a representative, it was as good as if they were present and speaking, much like a press secretary can speak for the President.”[119]

(8:6) Instead, the centurion comes forward and places himself under Jesus’ authority! Again, like the leper, he doesn’t boss Jesus around. Instead, he merely brings him his need.

Luke adds that the servant was “about to die” (Lk. 7:2).

(8:7) Jesus tells him that he’ll show up at the house to heal the man in person.[120] Luke records that at this point Jesus started to travel to the man’s house (Lk. 7:6), and Jesus made it very close to the house before the centurion sent more friends to speak with Jesus (Lk. 7:7).

(8:8) The centurion shows two things here: (1) his unworthiness and (2) his willingness to take Jesus at his word. Indeed, “we have no recorded evidence that up to this point Jesus had performed a healing miracle at a distance and by word alone.”[121] So, this implies a strong faith on this man’s behalf. He doesn’t try to twist God’s arm or control him. The centurion sets no conditions on Jesus.

In Luke’s account, the centurion adds that he didn’t even feel worthy to speak to Jesus directly. This could be why he sent the Jewish elders and his friends instead.

(8:9) This man is used to bossing people around, but he doesn’t do this with Jesus.

(8:10) A Gentile has more faith than anyone in Israel. Indeed, the word “marveled” (thaumazō) is only used in Mark 6:6, where it refers to Israel’s unbelief (!).

(8:11-12) What is the connection between this passage and verse 10? Jesus seems to be saying that many Gentiles will get into the kingdom, but many Jews will not. The Jewish people believed they were in God’s kingdom because they were descendants of Abraham, but Jesus says that many from all over the world (“east and west”) will be in the kingdom instead.

(8:13) Clearly, it was the man’s faith that made Jesus want to heal the servant.

What do we learn about biblical faith from this miracle?

First, it is not for any particular race—Jew or Gentile.

Second, conditions shouldn’t be placed on God. We should ask big prayers (Jas. 4:2) and trust God with the results.

Matthew 8:14-15 (Healing Peter’s mother-in-law)

[The parallel account is found in Mark 1:29-34 and Luke 4:38-41.]

(8:14) Clearly, Peter was married (cf. 1 Cor. 9:5). While he was from Bethsaida (Jn. 1:44), he moved his family to Capernaum.

(8:15) Again, Jesus shows compassion by “touching her hand.”

Summary of many healings

(8:16) Jesus healed spiritual sickness as well as physical sickness. Matthew saw a difference between the two.

Mark and Luke both record that the demons knew that Jesus was the Messiah (Mk. 1:34; Lk. 4:41). They also record that it was during the Sabbath, which explains why they would wait until sundown. After all, why would the people wait to have a demon possessed person healed? This makes sense in light of Sabbath laws.

(8:17) This is a fulfillment of Isaiah 53:4. Matthew quotes this portion of Isaiah 53, explaining that it describes Jesus’ ministry of curing diseases and physical sickness. This appears to contradict what Isaiah writes. Isaiah says that the Servant was “acquainted with grief,” not “diseases.” Was Matthew reading something into the text that wasn’t there? Not at all. Matthew didn’t follow the LXX or other popular Greek translations, and likely translated the Hebrew into Greek himself.[122] His interpretation of the Hebrew is accurate, especially when we compare it against other similar usages. For instance, Ezekiel 33:10 and Psalm 103:3 use the Hebrew expression in this sense.

Does this passage support prosperity preaching? This doesn’t justify word-faith preachers who claim that Jesus will heal us of all sickness if we have enough faith. Carson writes, “Matthew holds that Jesus’ healing ministry is itself a function of his substitutionary death, by which he lays the foundation for destroying sickness… the Cross is the basis for all the benefits that accrue to believers, but this does not mean that all such benefits can be secured at the present time on demand, any more than we have.”[123]

Two pseudo-followers

(8:18) Jesus was attracting so much attention that he wanted to escape the crowds by getting into a boat. The following narrative of two would-be followers shows that Jesus was separating the dedicated followers from the undedicated ones. Thus, these men become “two case-studies illustrating the demands of committed discipleship.”[124]

(8:19) The scribes were men of authority and high office in Israel. Based on verse 21 (“Another of the disciples…”), this scribe may have been a follower of Jesus to some extent. Jesus challenges this man’s brash boast…

(8:20) The scribe may have thought that following Jesus only referred to going across the Sea of Galilee (v.18). Jesus wanted this scribe to know what he was getting himself into. In a sense, he’s asking, “I don’t even have a house or a bed… Are you sure that you want to follow me?”

(Mt. 8:21-22) Wasn’t this insensitive and cruel?

Matthew 8:23-27 (The calming of the sea)

[The parallel account is found in Mark 4:35-41 and Luke 8:22-25.]

(8:23) Jesus had been trying to leave in this boat since verse 18. Here, he pushes off from shore.

The disciples followed Jesus, which implies that the scribe and the man who wanted to bury his father missed their opportunity. Jesus made a call of radical discipleship that not everyone followed. At the same time, Mark adds that “other boats were with him” (Mk. 4:36), which implies many disciples were in tow (or at the very least followers).

(8:24) The “great storm” (megas seismos) is usually translated “earthquake,” and it literally means “shaking.”[125]

“Jesus Himself was asleep…” When we are panicking over our problems, Jesus is so in control that he can sleep through it! The disciples didn’t have a robust view of God’s will. Jesus was saying, “Do you really think God brought you this whole way only to drown you?” They were in the very presence of Christ, but they were still panicking. Similarly, as believers, Christ is always with us (Mt. 28:20). Why do we need to worry?

(8:25) Mark adds that the boat was filling with water (Mk. 4:37).

(8:26) Jesus isn’t angry that they cried out to him in prayer, but that they are so internally filled with fear and anxiety. Carson writes, “Faith chases out fear, or fear chases out faith.”[126]

Mark says that Jesus merely said, “Hush, be still” (Mk. 4:39). Like a librarian telling little kids to be quiet, Jesus tells the storm, “Shhhhhhh!”

(8:27) In the OT, only God himself could control nature (Job 38:8-11; Ps. 29:3-4, 10-11; 65:5-7; 89:9; 107:23-32). Thus their question is a good one: Who (but God alone!) can calm a storm and have sovereignty over creation?

Mark adds that the disciples were “afraid” after Jesus calmed the storm (Mk. 4:41; cf. Lk. 8:25). If Jesus had power over a storm of this size, then who exactly were they dealing with?

Conclusions

The same One who was personally tired (v.24) had the power to calm a storm with a word (v.26).

Matthew 8:28-34 (Healing the demon-possessed man)

[The parallel passages are found in Mark 5:1-20 and Luke 8:26-39. Matthew’s account is far shorter, and he doesn’t mention the self-identification of the demons as “Legion.”]

What do we learn about demon possession from this passage?

(8:28) Two problems confront us here:

First, Matthew seems to offer a different location from Mark and Luke. Matthew writes “Gadarenes,” while Mark and Luke write “Gerasenes” (Mk. 5:1; Lk. 8:26). “Gadara” was a city of Decapolis, and it was six miles to the southeast of the Sea of Galilee. If Mark and Luke were referring to Gerasa (modern day Kursi) on the eastern shore of the Sea. They were not referring to the Roman city of Gerasa, which was 30 miles away.[127] Lemke writes, “The main idea is that by crossing over the Sea of Galilee Jesus has now entered into Gentile territory.”[128] Mark Roberts favors the El Kursi location. He writes,

Recent investigations have focused on another town, known today as El Kursi. It was called Gergesa or Khersa in ancient times, which would have been spelled like Gerasa in Greek. Importantly, El Kursi sits on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. An ancient church had been built in El Kursi on top of a site that was considered sacred because Jesus had done something important there. Archeologists found evidence of an ancient graveyard nearby (where the demonized man could have been living). Moreover, there is a steep cliff at El Kursi… down which the herd of pigs could have run into the Sea of Galilee. Though the jury is still out on this one, it looks as if the event depicted in the Gospels happened, not at Gerasa or Gadara, but at El Kursi. The evangelists referred either to the city itself or to the region in which it was found.[129]

Second, Matthew mentions two demoniacs, while Mark and Luke only mention one. This occurs throughout Matthew’s gospel: two demoniacs (Mt. 8:28ff), two blind men (Mt. 9:27ff), and two more blind men (Mt. 20:30ff). In each case, Matthew has two, rather than one. This doesn’t give us great difficulty, because Mark and Luke do not write that there was only one demoniac or blind man. Instead, they use a literary device called “telescoping,” where they choose to focus on one figure, rather than two. Matthew could mention both men because they cry out “Son of David” or “Son of God” when they meet Jesus. In Jewish law, a person needed two witnesses in court, and Matthew could include both in order to show that Jesus was indeed who he claimed to be (compare with Mt. 26:60).[130]

What do we learn about demon possession? First, these demon possessed men travelled together. Second, they lived near a cemetery (?). Third, demon possession leads to violence (“extremely violent”). Fourth, Luke records that the man was buck naked (Lk. 8:27). Fifth, Mark and Luke record that he had supernatural strength (Mk. 5:3-4; Lk. 8:29).

(8:29) This could refer to the “time of judgment” (cf. Rev. 14:20; 20:10). Demons know that they are going to lose, but they still persist anyway. Jesus was showing that his kingdom was dawning in this moment (Mt. 12:28).

[Matthew skips over the dialogue that Mark includes in Mark 5:8-10.]

(8:30) Pigs were unclean animals in Jewish culture. The death of these animals could show the “unclean” nature of these evil spirits.

(8:31) Demons need to rest and reside somewhere (Mt. 12:43ff). It was better to send them into a herd of pigs, rather than into a herd of people! Mark records that there were roughly 2,000 pigs in this herd (Mk. 5:13). Imagine the sound of this stampede of pigs as they ran down the hill and off the cliff!

A “legion” of soldiers was 6,000. This would make sense as to why they could possess a couple thousand pigs. This also tells us that demons can possess animals.

(8:32) Jesus has so much authority over the demonic realm that he can just speak one word (“Go!”), and they must respond. At the same time, Mark records that Jesus had been repeatedly calling on the demon to come out of the man (Mk. 5:8). This doesn’t show a lack of power on Jesus’ behalf, because the demon was being “tormented” and was sniveling for mercy. Specifically, they didn’t want to go to the “abyss” (Lk. 8:31). This must be some sort of maximum security prison for demons.

Why did the demons kill the pigs? Can demon possession lead to suicide in humans as well?

(8:33) The herdsmen snitched on Jesus. They must have scared the people to death with their story (v.34). It’s possible that they didn’t give an accurate account to the people of the town.

(8:34) The people had been suffering from these two demon possessed men, but they were even more afraid of the raw power of Jesus. Mark records that the people came to see the (healed) demon possessed man for themselves (Mk. 5:15). While the people wanted Jesus to leave, the healed man wanted Jesus to stay (Mk. 5:18). R.T. France notes that the reaction of the town people was “understandable,” because “Jesus was not a comfortable person to have around!”[131] Indeed, Jesus’ act was bad for business. Levertoff states, “All down the ages the world has been refusing Jesus because it prefers its pigs.”[132]

Mark and Luke interchange “Lord” and “God” with “Jesus” (Mk. 5:19-20; Lk. 8:39).

Matthew 9

Matthew 9:1-8 (Healing of the paralytic)

[The parallel passages are in Mark 2:1-12 and Luke 5:17-26.]

(9:1) Jesus came home to Peter’s house in Capernaum. This was his headquarters from which he did his Galilean ministry.

(9:2) Mark records that they couldn’t see Jesus because the house was packed. So, they lowered the man through the ceiling (Mk. 2:4). It’s possible to see faith in action (cf. Jas. 2:14-26).

What does the healing have to do with his sins being forgiven? In this culture, the religious teachers held that a person had a physical disability because they had committed a moral sin.[133] Of course, Jesus categorically denied such teaching (Jn. 9:1-3), but he used their teaching to prove who he was…

(9:3) The scribes understood the claim Jesus was making. If he could forgive sins, then he was standing in the place of God himself (Isa. 43:25; 44:22; Ps. 51:4). Mark records that they were thinking, “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mk. 2:7)

(9:4) Luke records that “the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing” (Lk. 5:17). The Spirit must have also given him the ability to read people’s minds (“knowing their thoughts). By denying Jesus’ claim, they were thinking “evil” thoughts.

(9:5) It’s technically easier to say that his sins are forgiven, but if you say that he can walk, then you need to prove it.

(9:6-7) Jesus could have just said that he was forgiven, but he validated himself through this miracle. If Jesus could heal his body, then this is evidence that he could forgive his sins. Lemke writes, “Because Jews regarded disease as the punishment of sin, their own principles argued that the healing of the infirmity implied the ability to forgive sins.”[134]

(9:8) The crowd glorified God as a result of this miracle.

Matthew 9:9-17 (Matthew comes to Christ and throws a party)

[The parallel account is found in Mark 2:13-17 and Luke 5:27-32.]

(9:9) Matthew becomes one of Jesus twelve disciples (Mt. 10:3). Like many ancient biographers, Matthew speaks in the third person, rather than the first person. Julius Caesar wrote the Gallic Wars and the Civil Wars in the third person. Xenophon wrote Anabasis in the third person. Jesus himself even spoke in the third person (Jn. 17:3; c.f. Daniel 7 and the book of Ezra). For a concept of Matthew’s deplorable profession, see our earlier article “Tax Collectors in Jesus’ Day.”

Mark calls him “Levi the son of Alphaeus” (Mk. 2:14; cf. Lk. 5:27). Matthew (his Greek name) was also called Levi (his Jewish name). Jesus hires this lowlife to be one of his twelve disciples! It’s hard to compare this to someone today. It would be like Billy Graham hiring a man from a Colombian drug cartel.

We don’t see previous contact between Matthew and Jesus, as we do with Peter, Andrew, James, and John. But because Jesus had become famous in Capernaum, Matthew likely heard about him.

The arrangement of Matthew’s calling here is quite intentional. In the previous pericope, Jesus proved that he could forgive sins. Here, he calls a horrendous sinner into his company. Not only could Jesus forgive sins (vv.1-8), but he could forgive the sins of a tax collector like Matthew!

(9:10) Luke tells us that this party was thrown in Matthew’s house (Lk. 5:29). After they saw that it was “safe” to approach Jesus, many others came forward. Jesus was the kind of person that sinners were drawn to.

(9:11) Extrabiblical Judaism held that being a guest of a sinner like this disqualified a person from being righteous (Mishnah Demai 2:2-3). Many religious people have this same attitude today.

(9:12) Jesus liked hanging around with these sinful people, because they knew they were sick. The Pharisees didn’t see their problem.

(9:13) Jesus cites Hosea 6:6. Jesus is speaking in the first person as God. He doesn’t want the sacrifices of the people, but to give his own Sacrifice at the Cross. He didn’t want to call the self-righteous, but to give His Righteousness to us (2 Cor. 5:21).

(Mt. 9:13) Why does Jesus quote Hosea 6:6?

Fasting

(9:14) John the Baptist’s disciples must have been going rogue. John the Baptist didn’t feel this way about Jesus, though we do read later that John himself had his own doubts about Jesus.

(9:15) These people believed that they could come to close to God through fasting (9:14). Jesus’ point is that God is here! Fasting is for our benefit—not God’s.

(9:16-17) The “wineskins” are the extrabiblical forms or methods. The “wine” is the truth of God. Since God was soon going to move into the new covenant in Jesus, this is the “wine” he’s referring to. The old wineskins of rabbinical Judaism will not work for God’s new covenant. Carson rightly comments, “The new situation introduced by Jesus could not simply be patched onto old Judaism or poured into the old wineskins of Judaism. New forms would have to accompany the kingdom Jesus was now inaugurating; to try to domesticate him and incorporate him into the matrix of established Jewish religion would only succeed in ruining both Judaism and Jesus’ teaching.”[135]

Matthew 9:18-26 (Synagogue official’s daughter)

[The parallel passage is found in Mark 5:21-43 and Luke 8:40-56.]

(9:18) A “synagogue official” was a person of importance in Israel. He was a religious leader. He humbly asks Jesus for help in healing his “only daughter” (Lk. 8:42). Mark and Luke tell us that this man’s name was Jairus (Mk. 5:22; Lk. 8:41). Jairus wanted Jesus to place his hand on his daughter, but the reader knows that just a simple word would accomplish the healing (Mt. 8:5-13).

Mark records that Jairus said she was “at the point of death” (Mk. 5:23). But Matthew and Luke (Lk. 8:53, 55) state that she was, in fact, dead.

(9:19) The disciples would follow Jesus around wherever he would go. Imagine what that would’ve been like to literally follow Jesus, watching him heal, teach, etc.

Interruption! Healing a hemorrhaging woman

(9:20) Jesus was on mission to go save a girl’s life. However, he is interrupted by this poor woman who had a sensitive medical condition—a menstrual disorder.[136] This would’ve made her ceremonially unclean (Lev. 15:25ff), and it had been going on for 12 years! Mark records that she “had endured much at the hands of many physicians, and had spent all that she had and was not helped at all, but rather had grown worse” (Mk. 5:26). This was so serious that the Mishnah dedicated an entire tractate to how women could stop their blood flow (Zabim).[137]

(9:21) In Judaism, rabbis wore tassels like this (Num. 15:38-39; Deut. 22:12). By touching Jesus in an unclean state, this would make Jesus unclean.

(9:22) How could (or why did) God heal her through merely touching Jesus’ clothes? Jesus can heal through many different methods and mediums. But he wanted to make sure that she knew that the real condition for her healing was trusting in him. Mark and Luke record that the woman was healed on the spot (Mk. 5:29; Lk. 8:44).

Back to the synagogue official’s daughter

(9:23) Remember, the synagogue official’s daughter from verse 19? Because Jesus was distracted by healing the hemorrhaging woman, he was delayed in helping the official’s daughter. If you were Jairus, you would probably be angry that Jesus hadn’t healed your daughter in time. Yet God’s timing is different than ours. Mark records that messengers from the house said that the girl had died during the transition (Mk. 5:35). Lemke writes, “Hired musicians assisted at funeral lamentations in which all the relations and friends joined.”[138] Indeed, the Mishnah records that even poor families would hire “not less than two flutes and one wailing woman” (Mishnah Ketuboth 4:4). The reason the funeral was in “noisy disorder” was because people in the rest of the world actually show their emotions at funerals! Westerners are the strange ones with the “stiff upper lip.”

(9:24) Jesus states that the girl is not physically dead (cf. Mk. 5:39). Was she in a comatose state? Jesus used the term “sleep” as a euphemism for death in John 11:11, as does the rest of the Bible (Dan. 12:2; 1 Thess. 5:10). However, here, Jesus uses it in contrast to death.

(9:25) Whatever her state, Jesus brought her back to life. Mark adds that Jesus ordered for her to be given some food (Mk. 5:43; cf. Lk. 8:55). Jesus could heal by divine decree, but he didn’t make food appear. Instead, he told them to feed her.

(9:26) Jesus’ power over sickness and death spread across the land of Israel.

Matthew 9:27-31 (Healing two blind men)

[This account only occurs in Matthew. The healing of Bartimaeus (20:29-34; Mark 10:46-52; Luke 18:35-43) was another healing of the blind. This shows that Jesus would heal multiple people with the same conditions.]

(9:27) By calling him the “Son of David,” they were acknowledging him as the Messiah. How did these “blind” men know that Jesus was the Messiah, when everyone else could see and not know it? Carson writes, “They may have been physically blind, but they really ‘saw’ better than many others—further evidence that Jesus came to those who needed a doctor.”[139]

(9:28-29) “The house” is probably Peter’s house (cf. Mt. 9:10). Jesus gave the condition of faith for them to be healed. “According to your faith” doesn’t refer to the proportion or amount of their faith, but rather it refers to healing in response to their faith. In other words, the “deed matches the faith.”[140]

(9:30) Again, Jesus didn’t want many people to hear about him yet. He didn’t want to reveal himself more; otherwise, this would accelerate his death at the hands of the religious leaders.

(9:31) The blind men disobeyed Jesus. There is a certain irony here. When Jesus told them not to share about him, they spread it “throughout all that land.” But today, when Jesus tells us to “Go!” and share about him with the world, Christians are often too shy to share their faith.

Matthew 9:32-34 (Mute and demon possessed man)

(9:32) This must mean that demons can affect people’s voices.

(9:33) The crowds had never seen this sort of miraculous power before. This shows us the uniqueness of Jesus. It also shows us the kind of non-supernatural leadership that the people had formerly been under. The people could tell the difference between Jesus’ supernatural leadership, and the man-centered leadership of their religious leaders.

(9:34) The Pharisees saw the same evidence, but they had a different interpretation of that evidence. They believed that Satan empowered Jesus—not God! Similarly, people today can both see the same evidence, but some can believe, while others do not. Matthew will return to this fallacious argument in Matthew 12:24.

Matthew 9:35-38 (The workers are few)

(9:35) Jesus had a major ministry of healing (cf. Mt. 4:23). No disease or sickness could thwart his power (every kind of disease and every kind of sickness”).

(9:36) After going through and meeting people’s needs, Jesus stepped back for a moment and looked at the fundamental problem with the people: they lacked the leadership of God. He “felt compassion” refers to a “gut reaction”[141] to the plight of the people.

“Sheep without a shepherd” is OT imagery for a lack of leadership (Num. 27:17; 1 Kgs 22:17; Ezek. 34:5; Zech. 10:2). They needed the true messianic Shepherd (Ezek. 34:23; Mic. 5:4; Zech. 11:4ff).

(9:37) This insight from Jesus caused him to implore his disciples to have more urgency with regard to human agency.

(9:38) Our understanding of human agency should drive us to prayer. We should pray for more shepherds to love the sheep! This account leads us naturally into the sending of the disciples in chapter 10.

Conclusions

Based on verses 1-8: We think that the biggest problems in our lives are physical, financial, or circumstantial. Jesus heals the biggest problem in our lives which is moral. He forgives our sins, and this is more important than anything else.

Matthew 10

Matthew 10:1-42 (The Sending of the Twelve)

[Most of this chapter is unique to Matthew. At the same time, both Mark and Luke contain parallel accounts (Mk. 6:6-13; Lk. 9:1-6).]

Jesus showed his authority through his words (Mt. 5-7) and his works (Mt. 8-9). Now, he wants to channel his authority through his disciples, and give them a chance at having God use them.

Jesus’ strategy was to focus on the nation of Israel. Likely, these people would be the most open to the message of the kingdom. They believed in Yahweh, the inspired Hebrew Scriptures, and God’s plan. So Jesus wanted them to have the first shot at hearing about their Messiah.

Discussion Question: As you read, what are the specific principles that Jesus gives to his disciples about how to perform their mission? How does he encourage them? What does he forewarn them about?

(Mt. 10:1-15) Does the commissioning of the Twelve contradict Mark and Luke’s account (cf. Mk. 6:7-13; Lk. 9:1-6)?

The MEN in Discipleship

(10:1) Coming off the heels of chapter 9, Jesus is thinking about how he wants to use human agency (“the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few”). The disciples didn’t have authority in and of themselves. Jesus gave them this authority. Jesus gave them the same power and authority that he has, visibly showing that those following him are filled with his power. Specifically, he sent them to cure “every kind of sickness,” whether spiritual, physical, or mental (cf. v.8).

Why twelve disciples? This was to reach the twelve tribes of Israel (Mt. 19:28).

(10:2) This is the only use of the term “apostles” in Matthew. He typically only refers to “the twelve” (Mt. 11:1; 20:17; 26:14, 20, 47). Matthew recorded how he called these men (e.g. Peter, Andrew, James, and John) in Matthew 4:18-21.

Simon Peter is called “first,” even though he was not the first convert. This likely means that he was “first among equals.”[142] Carson writes this about Peter: “Impulsive and ardent, Peter’s great strengths were his great weaknesses.”[143]

Andrew was the brother of Peter, and he was a disciple of John the Baptist before following Jesus (Jn. 1:35-42). He is only mentioned in a few passages in the NT (Mk. 13:3; Jn. 1:35-44; 6:8; 12:22).

James was probably older than John, because he is always mentioned first between the two. He became the first apostle to be martyred (Acts 12:2). James and John came from a fairly lucrative fishing business—at least successful enough to have “servants” working for them (Mk. 1:20). Their mom was one of the women who were eyewitnesses of Jesus’ death (Mt. 27:55-56). They were aggressive, and so, Jesus called them the “sons of thunder” (Mk. 3:17). These sons of Zebedee were business partners with Peter and Andrew (Mt. 4:18-21), and Peter and John remained friends for years to come (Lk. 22:8; Jn. 18:15; 20:2-8; Acts 3:1-4:21; 8:14; Gal 2:9).

(10:3) Philip’s calling is recorded in John 1:43ff. He grew up in Bethsaida (Jn. 1:44), as did Peter and Andrew.

Bartholomew is associated with Nathanael, whom we see in John’s gospel (Jn. 21:2; 1:43-51).[144] Philip brought him to Christ (Jn. 1:43-46), so it would make sense that Jesus would pair these two together (“Philip and Bartholomew”). Of course, this isn’t uncommon to have two names. After all, Peter and Matthew had more than one name (as did Paul/Saul).

Thomas is mentioned throughout John (11:16; 14:5; 20:24ff; 21:2). He wasn’t just a doubter (i.e. “Doubting Thomas”), but was also very courageous (Jn. 11:16).

Matthew mentions his own calling in Matthew 9:9. Matthew didn’t mind including the embarrassing detail that he had been a former low-life tax collector.

James the son of Alphaeus is most likely the man mentioned in Mark 15:40. However, we “know almost nothing about him.”[145] Matthew is the son of “Alphaeus” as well (Mk. 2:14). So, if this is the same Alphaeus, then Matthew and James are also brothers. Though, we are uncertain if this is true.

Thaddeus isn’t mentioned very much in the gospels (Mk. 3:18; Lk. 6:16; Acts 1:13). Carson speculates that this could be another name for Jude—the brother of James and half-brother of Jesus (Jn. 14:22).[146]

(10:4) Simon the Zealot would’ve been a violent man. These men were trying to politically and militarily liberate Israel from her foreign, Roman oppressors. In fact, he would’ve hated Matthew, because tax collectors were considered one of the worst forms of traitors in Israel at the time.

Judas is given significance coverage throughout the NT. Even Jesus had unfaithful disciples.

The MISSION of Discipleship

(Mt. 10:5-6) Was Jesus cruel in not ministering to the Gentiles? (cf. 15:24)

The concept of “lost sheep” was an OT concept for Israelites who needed leadership from God (Jer. 50:6; Ezek. 34:1-16; Isa. 53:6).

Jesus would later reach the “Samaritans,” but not now (John 4:4-42; Acts 1:8; 8:5-25)

(10:7) Jesus gave practical instructions to his disciples. Moreover, this shows that a large part of their mission was preaching Jesus’ own message (Mt. 4:17).

(10:8) The miraculous ministry of the disciples would help to authenticate their message. These types of miracles mimic what Jesus did in Matthew 8-9.

“Raise the dead” is fulfilled in at least two instances (Acts 9:36ff.; 20:7ff).

“Freely you received, freely give.” This passage really shows the nature of grace. When we have accepted God’s love freely, it changes our hearts to want to give it away freely. Moreover, the apostles were not to profit off the authority that Jesus had given to them freely. Indeed, if these men could really cure disease, demon-possession, and death, it would be tempting to start a “get rich quick” scheme. Jesus forbid this.

(10:9-10) The disciples could bring travel supplies with them, but they were to “acquire” or receive financial help from the people they taught and healed (v.10), but they were not supposed to get rich off of the people (v.9). This also showed that they needed to actively trust God for his provision. France writes, “A church whose members are preoccupied with material concerns still finds it hard to convince the world that it should take God seriously.”[147]

The “bag” could refer to (1) a lunch bag or (2) a beggar’s bag.[148] Since they were not supposed to take basic provisions, the lunch bag seems more likely.

They were allowed “sandals,” but not two pair of sandals (Mk. 6:9). The same is true for taking a staff (Mk. 6:8).

“The worker is worthy of his support.” This becomes a staple teaching in the letters of Paul for why leaders and teachers should be paid (1 Cor. 9:14; 1 Tim. 5:17-18).

(10:11-12) Jesus was teaching his disciples strategic thinking. They were supposed to find the “man of peace” in every city, and they would use this person’s receptivity as a sort of “beachhead” for their mission.

(Mt. 10:13-14) Isn’t it cruel to not pursue unwilling people?

(10:14) This action was common when a Jewish person left Gentile territory. Jesus makes the scandalous claim that the disciples should do this after leaving unwelcoming Jewish towns! Carson notes, “For the disciples to do this to Jewish homes and towns would be a symbolic way of saying that the emissaries of Messiah now view those places as pagan, polluted, and liable to judgment (cf. Acts 13:51; 18:6).”[149]

(10:15) The Jewish people were very familiar with the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19; Ezek. 16:49). Jewish culture viewed these people as the worst of the worst. Here, Jesus says that if they refuse his message, then they will be worse off than the people of Sodom and Gomorrah!

(10:16) Jesus forewarned them of the dangers that confronted them. This is a good principle of leadership—namely, we don’t want to give people an overly optimistic view of ministry. After all, when they fail or suffering, we don’t want them to be surprised.

Jesus tells them that they need to careful thinkers and smart in the way they maneuver (“shrewd as serpents”). At the same time, he didn’t want them to be hardened in their hearts toward people or fall into sin (“innocent as doves”). Earlier, the Holy Spirit appeared in the form of a dove (Mt. 3:16). Could Jesus be making an allusion to that here? Carson understands the refers to being “innocent as doves” to mean that the disciples should not be “so cautious, suspicious, and cunning that circumspection degenerates into fear or elusiveness.”[150] In other words, they should still believe in people—even while being prepared for rejection and persecution (v.17).

(10:17) Is Jesus thinking about the end of history, or the lifetime of the disciples? The disciples were “scourged” for their faith in Jesus (23:34; Acts 5:40; 22:19; 2 Cor. 11:24).

(10:18) Clearly, this prediction goes beyond the Israelite mission.

(10:19) The focus here is not a lack of preparation. Instead, the focus is a lack of worry (“Do not worry about how or what you are to say”).

(10:20) Christians often say, “God spoke through me.” We’re not entirely sure how this works, but somehow God can use us as his voice box or conduit through which he can speak to people.

The context for God speaking is persecution and even martyrdom. This must be one of our greatest fears, and when we imagine it, it makes us shutter. We think to ourselves, “There’s no way I could give my life for Christ, or suffer for him like that!” And the truth is, we’re right! We are unable to have this sort of courage, and that is why Jesus promises to speak through us during these times.

(10:21) In first century Israel, the family unit was very close. Jesus is predicting that even their own families would betray them.

(10:22) “Endured” (hypomenō) refers to “patient endurance.”[151]

(Mt. 10:22) Does this passage deny eternal security?

(Mt. 10:23) Does this passage support Preterism?

The MENTALITY of Discipleship

(10:24-25) The goal is not to exceed Jesus, but to become “like” him (cf. Lk. 6:40; Jn. 13:16; 15:20). Jesus notes that this means that we will suffer like him too.

(10:26) Why shouldn’t we fear our persecutors? Jesus points to the day when we will all stand before the judgment of God (1 Cor. 4:5). God is watching each and every act of persecution, and he will right every wrong.

(10:27) This passage stands in contrast to Jesus’ earlier secrecy. Especially in Mark, we find that Jesus was teaching that they should be quiet about his miracles. Here, Jesus teaches them to speak out loudly about it.

(10:28) Why shouldn’t we fear our persecutors? They may judge us currently, but they will not judge us ultimately. As the Proverbs state, “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe” (Prov. 29:25 NIV).

(10:29-31) Why should we not fear our persecutors? God knows us and values us deeply. Sparrows were cheap and worthless animals. A “cent” was “one-sixteenth of a denarius” or day’s wage.[152] However, God is even sovereign over them. Carson writes, “Jesus says that God’s sovereignty over the tiniest detail should give us confidence that he also superintends the larger matters.”[153]

This does not imply that God controls the deaths of sparrows, but this refers to God’s permissive will. Likewise, God doesn’t cause the hairs on our head to grow, but he does count them.

(10:32-33) The tenses for “confess” and “deny” can also be rendered “will confess” and “will deny” (see NASB) footnote. “Deny” (arneomai) can be rendered as “to refuse consent to something, refuse, disdain” or “to state that something is not true, deny” (BDAG). Thus, this refers to refusing to receiving Christ.

(10:34) Jesus is not referring to a literal “sword,” as the context makes clear. This isn’t a “military conflict,” but a “sharp social division” according to verses 35-36.[154] In context, Jesus is speaking about persecution. The very next verse contains the connecting word “for” to describe relational disunity because of our loyalty to Christ.

(10:35-36) Jesus paraphrases Micah 7:6 to explain the fractured relationships that will occur among his disciples and their loved ones. However, Jesus offers us peace in our hearts to overcome this (Jn. 14:27; 16:33).

(10:37) Jesus continues to pour on the seriousness of his call: We need to love him more than anything else. If we don’t have God at the center of our lives, we won’t be able to be the right father or son that we need to be. France writes, “Jesus calls not for an unloving attitude, but for a willingness to put him first in the concrete situation where the calls of Jesus and of family conflict.”[155]

(10:38) Crucifixion was the most shameful way to die in the first century world. Following Jesus is not about getting the crown of gold, but the crown of thorns.

(10:39) This is Jesus’ most repeated teaching in the four gospels (Mt. 16:25; Mk. 8:35; Lk. 9:24; 17:33; Jn. 12:25). Some think this refers to “martyrdom or disciplined self-denial.”[156] Since Jesus’ isn’t specific about what it means to give one’s life away, we hold that this refers to a general, outward love of others.

(10:40) When people persecute or reject us, we should not take this personally. Jesus is teaching us that their real problem is with Him—not us. Truly, their real problem is with God the Father—not with Jesus! Here, Jesus shows just how closely he identifies with his human messengers. Like an ambassador for the President giving terms of surrender, we are speaking directly for God himself (cf. Jn. 13:20; 2 Cor. 5:20).

(10:41-42) The order descends from “prophet” to “righteous man” to “little ones.” Each of these are disciples of Jesus—regardless of their influence. The way that we treat God’s people is very close to the heart of God. If God even watches and rewards our small acts of faithfulness to him, then how much more will he reward us for other acts of faithfulness?

Matthew 11

Matthew 11:1-30 (Hiding in Plain Sight)

[The parallel account for this section is found in Luke 7:18-35.]

This chapter really touches on the Mystery of Christ (see “Why Did Satan Crucify Jesus?”). Notice how many times we read that the people didn’t understand the identity or mission of Jesus.

(11:1) This verse seems to fit better with chapter 10. Jesus sent out his disciples to teach and preach, and he himself also went out to do the same.

John the Baptist experiences doubt

(11:2) John had been taken custody back in Matthew 4:12, and we won’t read the story of how this happened until Matthew 14:3-12. Jesus didn’t go and bust John the Baptist out of prison, and perhaps, this is why John is doubting in his faith. John “heard of the works of Christ,” but Jesus was not working to get John out of prison. This would create a theological problem for John, as well as a personal problem. Theologically, the Messiah was supposed to knock down the prisons and take over politically—but Jesus was doing no such thing. Personally, John was rotting in prison, while Jesus was healing everyone else. Why wouldn’t Jesus take the time to rescue John? Did Jesus not care? Did he forget about John? It wouldn’t be hard to imagine the doubt that John was enduring.

Apparently John’s disciples still had access to him, so they passed messages back and forth between John and Jesus.

Josephus tells us that John was imprisoned in the fortress of Machaerus (Antiquities, 18.119), which was east of the Dead Sea. Since John was in prison during Jesus’ Galilean ministry (Mt. 4:12), he could’ve been there for “as long as a year.”[157]

(11:3) Even John the Baptist isn’t fully aware of who Jesus was. He seemed to know at one point (Jn. 1:29), but now he seems to be doubting (v.3). He must have been wondering why he’s rotting in prison, if Jesus is truly the Conquering King Messiah. His expectations of what Jesus would do for him were the issue.

(11:4-5) Jesus responds by quoting Isaiah 29:18, 35:5 and 61:1. These passages predict the words and deeds of the Messiah.

(Mt. 11:4-5) Did Jesus fulfill Isaiah 35:4-6?

(11:6) This isn’t an OT citation. This must be Jesus reporting his thoughts on those prophecies. If you are really seeing God working so powerfully, then you shouldn’t “take offense” (skandalon).

The crowds

(11:7-8) Why is Jesus asking these questions? These are clearly rhetorical questions: They didn’t go out to see the reeds or a man of prestige. They went out to see a prophet.

“A reed shaken by the wind?” This could be a rhetorical question for going out “just for the scenery,” or it could metaphorically refer to a “weak, pliable person.”[158] Clearly, John was not a weak man. It could also be understood to an “ordinary spectacle.”[159] In this sense, no one would travel that far just to see something so ordinary.

“A man dressed in soft clothing?” John definitely didn’t wear wealthy clothing. Matthew records, “John himself had a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey” (Mt. 3:4).

“Those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ palaces!” This could be a jab at Herod’s palace. John dressed himself in the rugged garb of a prophet—not a pretentious king.

(11:9) Jesus agrees that John is a prophet, but also adds that he is “more than a prophet.”

(11:10) John the Baptist would be the final prophet to proclaim the coming of Christ (citing Mal. 3:1). This passage supports the deity of Jesus, when read in its OT context.

(Mt. 11:10) Why does Jesus cite Malachi 3:1?

(11:11) At this point, you would think that John is the greatest believer of all time. But Jesus turns this assumption on its head. Yes, John the Baptist was an incredibly righteous and faithful man, but he doesn’t compare to the person who is justified by the righteousness of Christ (Rom. 3:24ff).

Carson understands this to refer to John the Baptist’s role in pointing to Jesus as the Messiah.[160] His argument is that John knew more about Jesus as the final old covenant prophet than any before him. However, John never lived to see the Cross, the Resurrection, the Ascension, Pentecost, etc. In this way, even the “least” in the new covenant knows more than John. The problem, however, is that some true Christians never witness for Jesus at all, so it’s hard to say why John would be less than them.

(11:12) What “violence” does the kingdom suffer? John the Baptist opened this chapter with his doubts about why he was rotting in prison at the hands of “violent men.” Indeed, he would die at the hands of these men. Therefore, Jesus is saying that such violence will indeed occur, and we shouldn’t be caught off guard by this.[161] Jesus may be referring to the persecution and soon-to-be martyrdom of John, or he could be referring to persecution in general. John could be a foreshadowing of what the “kingdom of heaven” would endure through the Church.

(11:13) These are given out of order: The prophets occur before the Law. John also seems to conclude the prophetic line.

(Mt. 11:14) Could John the Baptist be a figurative Elijah?

(Mt. 11:14) Did Jesus believe in reincarnation?

(11:15) The imperative can be taken empathetically as “Hear!” or “Listen!” (see NASB footnote) The problem isn’t with the message, but with the people’s hardened hearts.

(11:16-19) Jesus compares John and himself to children playing music for “this generation,” but the people neither danced nor mourned. Instead of responding to the music, the people just listened blankly. France writes, “Jesus and John are the ones who piped and wailed, but neither dance-music nor dirge evoked a response, only a sulky refusal.”[162]

The people compared John’s simple lifestyle to demon-possession, and they compared Jesus’ freedom to engage sinners as sinful (Mt. 9:9-13). Notice that they are stuck either way: John didn’t drink and they called him demon possessed, but Jesus did drink and they called him a drunkard. In other words, whether you play the happy music or the sad, the people responded the same. The problem wasn’t with the music, but with the listeners! This sets up Jesus’ judgment on specific towns…

Judgment for unrepentance

(11:20) This is a good argument against the notion that people will necessarily respond to God if he is less “hidden.” These people saw tremendous miracles, but they still didn’t change their minds. Indeed, Matthew records that most of His miracles” were done here.

(11:21-22) “Woe” (ouai) can mean “doom or [a] solemn warning” or it can refer to pity or “alas.” According to Carson, “both are mingled here.”[163]

“Tyre and Sidon” were wicked cities that were destroyed according to the predictions of the OT prophets (Isa. 23; Ezek. 26-28; Amos 1:9-10). France comments, “The failure of the Galilean towns to respond to the direct evidence and appeal of Jesus and his mighty works was worse even than the paganism of Tyre and Sidon. They had not the excuse of ignorance.”[164]

Interestingly, Carson holds that this verse demonstrates that God has middle knowledge. He writes, “The Judge has contingent knowledge: he knows what Tyre and Sidon would have done under such-and-such circumstances.”[165]

(11:23-24) The Jewish people loathed the immorality of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19). Here, Jesus compares these Jewish cities to Sodom… What a serious denunciation!

Forgiveness for repentance

(11:25) We see a recurrence of this theme in Matthew 21:15-16 (cf. Mk. 10:14-15; 1 Cor. 1:18ff). Carson writes, “The contrast is between those who are self-sufficient and deem themselves wise and those who are dependent and love to be taught.”[166]

(Mt. 11:25) Why would God hide his truth?

(Mt. 11:27) Does this support Calvinism?

(11:27) Critics think that John and the Synoptics are radically different portrayals of Jesus. This passage is thought to reflect language that is very common in John. Thus, this would be a fly in the ointment of the critic’s theory that Jesus never spoke in such a way, because here Matthew records language that is similar to John’s portrayal of Jesus. Consequently, critics double-down on their assertion by claiming that this verse is inauthentic. Why? Because it sounds too much like John! This circular reasoning could make your head spin!

Jesus tells us that he is the absolute way to come to God—similar to John 14:6. In this verse, Jesus praises the Father, whereas earlier the Father praised the Son (Mt. 3:16).

(11:28) In the next verse, Jesus tells us that we can specifically experience “soul rest.” This fits with God revealing himself to little children, who are humble (v.25). This is in contrast to the Pharisees: “They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger” (Mt. 23:4).

(11:29) In a counterintuitive way, we do not have access to Jesus’ rest unless we decide to work alongside him. After all, the “yoke” was a harness placed on a beast of burden (e.g. cow, donkey, etc.), who would till the soil.

We need to get into the work alongside Jesus, but we do not work for a slave master! He is “gentle” and “humble in heart.”

Jesus cites from Jeremiah 6:16. In the original context, God (Yahweh) himself offered this rest of the soul, but here, Jesus offers the rest in God’s place. This is yet another passage supporting the deity of Christ.

(11:30) How do we harmonize this statement with the suffering and toil that we experience in the Christian life? Are we always supposed to feel like the Christian life is easy?

Conclusions

Jesus didn’t rebuke John the Baptist for his doubts. He understood that John was a good and faithful man—even if he was going through a time of doubt. Indeed, Jesus gave him more evidence—not less (citing Isaiah 35). Of course, we need to point out that John the Baptist was moving toward his doubts, asking questions and seeking Jesus. Furthermore, he was rotting in prison, awaiting a death sentence. So his doubt is a lot more understandable than for many today!

More miracles doesn’t necessarily result in more faith. Many of these towns saw miracles, but they still didn’t believe.

Our status, education, or religiosity doesn’t bring us to Christ. We need the drawing power of God, as well as a heart of humility—much like a child (v.25).

Matthew 12

Matthew 12:1-8 (Picking grain on the Sabbath)

[The parallel account is found in Mark 2:23-28 and Luke 6:1-5.]

The legalism of the Pharisees stands in stark contrast to Jesus’ “easy yoke” in the previous chapter (Mt. 11:28-30). Jesus offers true “rest,” while the Pharisees offer a fake rest on the Sabbath day.

(12:1-2) Plucking grain wasn’t illegal (Deut. 23:25). However, rabbinical Judaism held 39 rules that constituted working on the Sabbath (Mishnah Shabbath 7:2). This is why the Pharisees were so antagonistic toward them. But what does it communicate about God that he would want people to be hungry, while serving him, rather than being able to feed themselves? It surely depicts a god that is cruel and controlling—not the God of the Bible!

(12:3-4) Jesus cites from a biblical (not extra-biblical) example from the life of David (1 Sam. 21:1-6). If David (and his companions) could eat the consecrated bread to feed his starving men, then how much more should the disciples be allowed to eat the grain in the field? Jesus is showing that God’s law is not supposed to harm people, but to help them. Mark’s parallel account really brings this out: “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mk. 2:27). Furthermore, this shows that Jesus believed in “Prioritized Ethics.” Jesus is also affirming that if David was allowed to eat consecrated bread and break a ceremonial law, then how much more should Jesus himself be able to do this?[167] Indeed, Jesus is even greater than the Temple itself! (v.6)

(12:5) What law is Jesus referring to? He is probably thinking of Numbers 28:9-10 which teaches that priests should make their sacrifices, even on the Sabbath. If these priests were allowed to break the law (so to speak) in order to prepare the sacrifices, then how much more is Jesus, who is greater than the Temple? (v.6)

(12:6) Modern people don’t realize how grandiose of a claim this was. The Jewish people believed that they could encounter God himself in the Temple. Jesus was claiming that he was “greater than” the Temple! This is a powerful statement supporting the deity of Christ. Even though the term “something” is neuter in the Greek, Carson holds that this either refers to Jesus or his kingdom.[168]

(12:7) Again, Jesus cites Hosea 6:6 (cf. Mt. 9:13). This is a Semitism that means that one is better than the other, similar to Luke 14:26. It isn’t that God was abolishing or abrogating the sacrificial system. Instead, if push came to shove, mercy outranked sacrifice. God wants to extend compassion—not legalism. Notice that the disciples were “innocent” for what they did.

(12:8) Again, only God is Lord of the Sabbath, which supports the deity of Jesus. After all, whoever is the “Lord” gets the service of the people. Here, the Sabbath serves Jesus—not the other way around!

Matthew 12:9-14 (Healing a deformed hand)

[The parallel accounts are found in Mark 3:1-6 and Luke 6:6-11.]

(12:9) The Pharisees weren’t happy with Jesus’ teaching, so they welcomed him on their “home turf” in the synagogue.

(12:10) They may have positioned this man in the synagogue to trap Jesus. They are banking on the fact that Jesus would be compassionate to this poor man—thus encouraging Jesus to break the rabbinical Sabbath laws. Mark and Luke record that they were watching Jesus so that they could bring a formal accusation (Mk. 3:2; Lk. 6:7). According to the rabbinical rules, the only reason a person could be healed was if they were in mortal danger (Mishnah Yoma 8:6). This man had a paralyzed (literally “dry”) hand, so he wasn’t in danger of death.

(12:11-12) Instead of being trapped, Jesus refers to a sheep that is trapped on the Sabbath. If we would help a sheep, how much more should we help a human being? (cf. Mt. 6:26; 10:31) Again, the purpose of the Sabbath was to help people—not hurt them (Mk. 2:27). Some rabbis held that ladders should be “thrown in the pit to allow the animal to climb out” and others said that the animal “should be fed until it could be lifted out on a weekday.”[169] However, the mainstream held that it was legal to help a suffering animal (Shabbath 128b).

In Mark’s version, Jesus put this statement in the form of a question: “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?” (Mk. 3:4; cf. Lk. 6:9) Mark also records that this silenced his accusers. Mark also records that their hardness of heart “angered” and “grieved” Jesus (Mk. 3:5).

(12:13) Jesus didn’t buy into the social and religious pressure of his day. He healed the man—sticking to his convictions—despite the religious pressure.

(12:14) This conviction to stick to the truth is one of the reasons that Jesus was killed. Luke adds that the Pharisees were “filled with rage” (Lk. 6:11). They were enraged that Jesus healed a man. Mark records that the Pharisees conspired with the Herodians (the political supporters of Herod) to have Jesus killed (Mk. 3:6).

Notice the great irony: Jesus was healing on the Sabbath, and this was considered work. But the religious leaders were conspiring to kill Jesus on the Sabbath, but this was considered totally legal!

Matthew 12:15-21 (Citation of Isaiah 42:1-4)

[This extended citation is unique to Matthew.]

(12:15) Jesus didn’t face off with the Pharisees here. He “withdrew” from them. But this confrontation didn’t take him off of his mission. He continued to heal people and draw crowds.

(12:16) Again, Jesus wanted to keep his identity secret until his time had come to take up the Cross.

(12:17-21) Matthew notes that Jesus was fulfilling Isaiah 42:1-4. See our earlier article “The Servant Songs.”

Matthew 12:22-32 (Jesus is accused of healing by the power of Satan)

[The parallel account is found in Mark 3:20-30. Luke spreads out this material in his gospel: see Luke 6:43-45; 11:17-23; 12:10.]

(12:22) Jesus continued to heal demon-possessed people.

(12:23) The crowds started to chatter about whether Jesus was in fact the Messiah (“the Son of David”), though the form of their question shows they were unsure. While Jesus performed miracles, he didn’t look like a regal king. Thus, they were confused by him.

(12:24) This accusation is really a strong admission. Jesus’ enemies didn’t deny his miraculous power, but instead they denied its source. Josephus (AD 100) wrote that Jesus was a “worker of amazing deeds” (Antiquities 18.3). The anti-Christian philosopher Celsus (AD 150) argued that Jesus “served for hire in Egypt” and learned “certain miraculous powers” (Origen Contra Celsum 1.38). Furthermore, the Talmud (AD 400-600) stated that Jesus “practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy” (b. Sanhedrin 43a). All of these hostile sources agreed that Jesus was a miracle worker, but they disagreed that God was the source of his power.

The religious leaders had been raising this charge against Jesus for some time. Earlier they said, “He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons” (Mt. 9:34). Jesus was even aware of this accusation (Mt. 10:25), and if it was true, then this would be a capital crime (Mishnah Sanhedrin 7:4). Jesus decides to confront such a ludicrous accusation here.

(12:25) Jesus could read people’s thoughts.

(12:26) What is Jesus’ argument here? He seems to be saying that it would be self-defeating for Satan to fight against himself. Why would Satan cast out his own demons? This would be similar to a general bombing his own troops.

Mark adds that Jesus’ own family were calling him insane during this time (Mk. 3:21). They were also saying that he had an “unclean spirit” (Mk. 3:30). That is, they were claiming Jesus was demon possessed.

(12:27) Jesus already showed that his power was from God—not Satan. Here he is arguing that his power is different from theirs. Jesus is also saying that the “sons” (literal or metaphorical?) will be judges over the Pharisees, because they recognize Jesus’ power. There were many examples of Jewish exorcists (Acts 19:13; Mk. 9:38); Josephus, Antiquities 12.46-48; 7. 46-48; Wars of the Jews, 7. 185). France comments, “If exorcism as such was accepted in Jewish society, why should Jesus’ practice of it be suspect?”[170]

 (12:28) If Jesus’ argument is sound, then the Pharisees would need to admit that the kingdom has come in the person of Jesus.

(12:29) Jesus’ ministry of exorcising demons is an example of “binding the strong man.” Believers have this authority over the demonic realm today. In faith, if we speak in the name of Jesus, Satan must flee (see our earlier article “The Occult”).

France thinks that this could be an allusion to Isaiah 49:24-26, where God himself saves his people from “the mighty man.”

Amillennialists argue that this refers to the binding of Satan at the Cross. Thus, when Revelation 20 speaks of Satan’s binding, they would argue that Jesus had already bound him, and the Millennial Kingdom is actually the Church Age. However, look at the flow of Jesus’ argument: According to Jesus, the kingdom had already come upon the people—so much so that Jesus was healing demon possessed people. This was, of course, long before the Cross. So this means that the “binding” of Matthew 12 cannot refer to the Cross and Resurrection, because it occurs before this ever happened.

(12:30) Since Jesus is the King ushering in the kingdom (v.28), then he has authority to call for our allegiance. This passage shows the urgency of making a decision for Christ (cf. Mk. 9:40; Lk. 9:50). This is also the only place in Matthew where he refers to the “kingdom of God,” rather than the “kingdom of heaven.”

(Mt. 12:31-32) Blaspheming the Holy Spirit?

(Mt. 12:32) Does this passage support the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory?

Matthew 12:33-37 (Denouncing the Pharisees)

[The parallel account is Luke 6:43-45.]

(12:33) Here, the fruit coming from a tree refers to words, and most likely doctrinal teaching. In context, the Pharisees were making the doctrinal declaration that Jesus was demon possessed (cf. Mt. 7:16-20).

(12:34-35) John the Baptist also called the religious leaders a “brood of vipers” (Mt. 3:7). One way to discern a false teacher is to listen to their words. France writes that the “application is not to suggest that no-one can be changed, but that as long as they remain unchanged at heart, their words and behaviour will show it.”[171]

(12:36) Jesus is showing that the stakes are high. “Careless” (argon) is literally “workless” or “ineffective” or “useless.”[172] If the people believe that Jesus was demon possessed, they will be judged for this. There is no middle ground on this question (v.30).

(12:37) The goal here is not to clean up our words, but to clean out our hearts (v.34). The words reveal what is in our hearts.

Matthew 12:38-42 (The Pharisees wanted a sign)

(12:38-39) This is really a smoke screen. They had already seen many miracles from Jesus, including an exorcism from demon possession! The problem isn’t with the evidence, but their interpretation and trust in the evidence. This is why Jesus reacts the way that he does (v.39).

(12:40) Modern critical scholars are skeptical of the account that Jonah was in the belly of a whale, but Jesus believed that this was true (Jon. 1:17). In fact, he compares this to his resurrection (cf. Lk. 11:30). Jonah had been in the “depth of Sheol” for those three days (Jon. 2:2).

The “sign of Jonah” seems to refer to Jonah as an overall type of Jesus. While there are obvious differences between Jonah and Jesus, there are some similarities as well: Both were preachers to wicked people (Lk. 11:30); both were good as dead for three days and nights (Jon. 1:17); both saw wicked people repent and turn to God. Carson writes, “Jesus’ preaching will be attested by a deliverance like Jonah’s only still greater; therefore there will be greater condemnation for those who reject the significance of Jonah’s deliverance.”[173]

(Mt. 12:40) Was Jesus dead three days and three nights or a day and a half?

(12:41) Jesus didn’t just believe in the miracle of Jonah being alive in the belly of the whale, but he also believed in the ministry of Jonah preaching to the Ninevites (Jon. 3:5). If you find the account of Jonah to be difficult, what about the resurrection of Jesus? Jesus claims that his resurrection is “greater than” the miracle of Jonah.

(12:42) The Queen of Sheba was a pagan woman who came all the way to visit Solomon, because of his wisdom (1 Kin. 10:1; 2 Chron. 9:1). Jesus is noting that this woman travelled all of that way to see Solomon. By contrast, the Pharisees were seeing Jesus up close and personal, and they were rejecting him. We might compare these two people in this way:

Queen of Sheba

The Pharisees

Gentile woman

Jewish men

Travelled across the world to see God (Solomon)

Saw Jesus in their home country
Believed in Solomon who was not as great as Jesus

Disbelieved in Jesus—even though he was “greater than” Solomon!

 

Matthew 12:42-45 (An illustration of demon possession)

[The parallel account is Luke 11:24-26.]

(12:43-45) This is a really wild account! Jesus is explaining the mechanics of demon possession, and it’s scary to read. What is his point? He is saying that the Pharisees are deceived and their deception will only get worse with time, unless they have a change of heart. France doesn’t think this refers to the experience of a demon-possessed person. Yet he writes, “It warns of the danger of half-hearted repentance: this evil generation might be ‘cleansed’ by Jesus’ ministry among them, but a repentance which does not lead to a new allegiance leaves a void which the devil will exploit; he who is not positively with Jesus must inevitably end up against him.”[174] Similarly, Carson understands this in context to “beware of neutrality toward Jesus the Messiah.”[175] After all, Jewish exorcists could heal a demoniac (Mt. 12:27), but they wouldn’t permanently cure the person, as Jesus can.

Matthew 12:46-50 (Jesus’ true family)

[The parallel accounts are in Mark 3:31-35 and Luke 8:19-21. See also John 7:3-5.]

(12:46) Remember, Jesus’ family thought he was insane (Mk. 3:21).

(Mt. 12:46) Did Jesus have brothers, or was Mary a perpetual virgin as Roman Catholicism claims?

(12:47) This verse is not found in the early manuscripts, but nothing really hangs on this passage either way. It merely repeats what we have in verse 46.

(12:48-50) In this traditional culture, family was placed as one of the highest values. Jesus, however, overturns this cultural norm by asserting that followers of God (“his disciples”) were his true family.

Matthew 13

Matthew 13 (Parables)

[The parallel accounts are found in Mark 4 and Luke 8.]

(13:1-2) “The house” is probably Peter’s house in Capernaum (Mt. 8:14; 9:10, 28). Jesus was speaking from a boat on the sea to the people on shore. He probably did this because the acoustics would be great if the water was still.

The audience is not the disciples, but the crowds. Jesus was “open air” preaching to these crowds.

The Kingdom as FOUR SOILS (explained in verses 18-23)

(13:3) This parable would’ve resonated with this agricultural and agrarian society. We will not give too much commentary on the parable itself, because Jesus himself explains this parable later on.

(13:4) Soil #1: Beside the road. Birds ate them.

(13:5-6) Soil #2: Rocky places. Immediate, they sprang up, but had no depth of soil or roots, so they quickly withered.

(13:7) Soil #3: Among the thorns. These were choked out.

(13:8) Soil #4: The good soil. These produced a crop of 100, 60, or 30 fold.

(13:9) The problem isn’t that they can’t hear the words audibly, but that they don’t desire to understand.

Interlude: Why parables?

(13:10) The disciples questioned Jesus’ approach. Why did he choose to speak in parables, rather than more clearly? A “parable” (parabolē) includes “proverbs, riddles and wise sayings as well as parables.”[176]

(13:11) Jesus was not giving his truth to just anyone. He was choosing to give the deeper truths about the kingdom to his disciples.

(13:12) This riddle seems to be saying that God will give more revelation to the soft hearted, but less to the hard hearted.

(13:13-16) This passage aligns very well with the end of Acts 28. There, Paul cites the same passage in Isaiah 6, and he argues that the people have become hardened because of their unbelief. That is, they had ears, but they refused to hear (v.9). They are not born unable to respond to God’s truth from birth (as Calvinists argue). Instead, they have “become dull” (v.15) and have “closed their eyes” (v.15). If only they would open their hearts, God “would heal them” (v.15).

By contrast, Jesus praises his disciples for having soft hearts and learning from him. France writes, “Anyone can hear, but only a disciple can understand.”[177] After addressing the predestinarian language of the parallel passage in Mark 4:12, Carson comments, “If Jesus simply wished to hide the truth from the outsiders, he need never have spoken to them. His concern for mission (9:35-38; 10:1-10; 28:16-20) excludes that idea. So he must preach without casting his pearls before pigs (7:6).”[178]

(Mt. 13:11-16) Did Jesus not want people to repent and know him?

(13:17) Jesus brought greater revelation than ever before (cf. Lk. 10:23-24).

Explaining the PARABLE OF THE SOWER (vv.3-9 above)

(13:18) If you have ears, you are supposed to “hear” (v.9). Jesus urges them to hear the meaning of the parable. The title is misleading because the seed and soils are the focus.

(13:19) Soil #1: Beside the road. Birds ate the seed. It is “is wrong to conclude from this that the person in view actually becomes a Christian and church member and then rejects the message.”[179] This is because the person hears the message, but doesn’t even understand it (v.14). This can hardly describe a true Christian. Satan can come right into the person’s heart and pull away what they heard, if they refuse to receive it. Luke makes this more explicitly, writing that “they will not believe and be saved” (Lk. 8:12).

(13:20-21) Soil #2: Rocky places. Immediately, they sprang up, but had no depth of soil or roots, so they quickly withered. This person seems to be a true believer. After all, they receive the gospel “with joy.” Yet suffering and persecution is what stops him from growing. Luke writes that “they believe for a while” (Lk. 8:13). France comments, “To start is not necessarily to finish… Joy without understanding and commitment cannot last.”[180]

(13:22) Soil #3: Among the thorns. These were choked out. Materialism and the world-system render this believer unfruitful. Luke adds that “the pleasures of life” are another factor (Lk. 8:14). These seem to be true believers, but they are rendered unfruitful because they are obsessed with the things of the world.

Materialism creates “deceitfulness” (apatē), which can also be rendered “pleasure” or “delight.”[181]

(13:23) Soil #4: The good soil. These produced a crop of 100, 60, or 30 fold. What is the difference between this soil and all of the others? Jesus tells us that this seed both “hears and understands” (v.14). That is, this person grasps the truth and implications of the gospel. This is the key to persevering and bearing fruit.

The purpose of this parable is not fatalism. Jesus’ whole point is that you get to choose which sort of soil you want to be. Carson writes that this parable “implicitly challenges hearers to ask themselves what kinds of soil they are.”[182] Furthermore, as France notes, “The wonder is not that some do not produce fruit, but that any do.”[183]

The Kingdom as WHEAT and TARES (explained in verses 36-43)

[This parable is unique to Matthew.]

(13:24) This “man” in the parable is Jesus (v.37). The “fields” is the world (v.38). The “good seed” are believers (v.38). The “bad seed” or the “tares” are non-believers (v.38).

(13:25) The “enemy” is Satan, who reaches people with his message (vv.38-39). The “tares” are likely the weed darnel. France writes, “To sow darnel among wheat as an act of revenge was punishable in Roman law, which suggests that the parable depicts a real-life situation… A light infestation of darnel could be tackled by careful weeding, but mistakes would easily be made. In the case of a heavy infestation the stronger roots of the darnel would be tangled with those of the wheat, making selective weeding impossible.”[184]

(13:26) When wheat and tares are initially growing, they look very similar to one another. It isn’t until they are fully grown that they look different. In fact, the tares are “botanically close to wheat and difficult to distinguish from it when the plants are young.”[185]

(13:27-28) The servants want to pull the tares (or weeds) out of the field. This was the thinking of the kingdom of God in Jesus’ day: When the Messiah comes, he would bring wrath on the wicked and rescue the righteous.

(13:29) The problem with this approach is that Jesus was going to inaugurate the Church Age, where the righteous and unrighteous would live side by side. If Jesus came to judge all of the wicked people in his First Coming, then he would judge everyone! Instead, Jesus brought in the Church Age for wicked people (like us) to decide to come to faith in him.

(13:30) After the Church Age is over, Jesus will bring judgment and separate the “wheat” from the “tares.” This will be done through angels judging the people on Earth (v.39).

This parable teaches us that God is allowing the righteous and unrighteous to coexist for a time before he ushers in judgment.

The Kingdom as a MUSTARD SEED (not explained later)

[This is similar to Mark 40:30-32 and Luke 13:18ff.]

(Mt. 13:31-32) Was Jesus wrong in saying that the mustard seed is the smallest seed?

(13:31-32) This parable teaches us that the kingdom will start small, but it will grow very large over time. Back then, Jesus only had twelve disciples, but today, he has hundreds of millions of followers on Earth. The “tree” imagery could refer to an empire of people (Ezek. 17:23; 31:3-9; Dan. 4:10­-12), because in the OT the nations gather under the tree (Ezek. 31:6; Dan. 4:20-22).

Mark has a similar teaching about the growing seed (Mk. 4:26-29). He adds that the seed grows “how—he himself does not know” (Mk. 4:27).

The Kingdom as LEAVEN (not explained later)

[The parallel account is in Mark 4:33-34.]

(13:33) This parable about the kingdom seems to be similar to the one about the mustard seed. The kingdom will start small, but it will grow very big over time. This also shows that it will grow secretly (“a woman took and hid…”). In the parable, the woman couldn’t see the results until the flour was opened, and then, she could see that the yeast spread everywhere. This would be different from the Judaism of Jesus’ day, which expected a sudden kingdom that would be obvious to all.

(13:34-35) Jesus was fulfilling Psalm 78:2. Asaph was considered a “seer” (2 Chron. 29:30). Asaph recounts God’s mysterious works in the past in the same way that Jesus is revealing God’s mysterious works in the present. Carson writes, “The parables of this chapter are not exactly like the comparisons and wise sayings offered in Psalm 78. Yet the term ‘parable’ can embrace both kinds of utterance. So we must be careful not to impose on the text too narrow an understanding of what a parable is.”[186]

The WHEAT and the TARES explained (verse 18-24 above)

(13:36-40) This is the explanation of the parable above (vv.18-24). The “end of the age” (v.40) could line up with Jesus’ later statement of judgment (Mt. 25:31-46).

(13:41) The angels do not gather believers (as in Mt. 24:31), but they gather the unbelievers. You do not want to be a part of this rapture! Instead, Jesus gathers the believers to himself.

(13:42) This is parallel to verse 30, and describes the judgment of hell (cf. Mt. 8:12).

(13:43) This is a citation of Daniel 12:3.

The Kingdom as a HIDDEN TREASURE or a COSTLY PEARL (not explained later)

(Mt. 13:44-46) Do we need to sell everything in order to come to Christ?

The Kingdom as a DRAGNET (not explained later)

(13:47) Again, Jesus appeals to illustrations that would connect with his culture.

(13:48) Ancient fisherman knew how to separate the good fish from the bad.

(13:49-50) Jesus explains that these fish refers to people. God will deal with all people, but he will separate the believers from the unbelievers at the final judgment.

Conclusion

(13:51) Again, the purpose of the parables was for the disciples to “understand” these things (cf. v.14). Jesus concealed his truth in such a way that only those who had faith could see it revealed.

(13:52) This could also be rendered “every scribe” (see NET note). Instead of being a scribe for rabbinical Judaism, Matthew was a scribe for Jesus. The “old and new” could refer to the fulfillment of the old covenant in Jesus.

Return to Nazareth

(13:53) Jesus didn’t stick around to teach anymore. He taught the parables, and then he left. There was nothing more to say.

(Mt. 13:54-58) How was Jesus rejected? (cf. Mk. 6:1-5; Lk. 4:16-30)

(13:54) The religious leaders couldn’t understand how such an average man could have such supernatural wisdom and miracles (Jn. 6:42).

(13:55-56) Jesus was not trained under the great religious leaders of the day. He came from a blue collar family (e.g. carpentry).

The absence of Jesus’ step father Joseph is a conspicuous silence. Many scholars believe that Joseph died before Jesus began his ministry.

(Mt. 13:55) Did Jesus have brothers, or was Mary a perpetual virgin as Roman Catholicism claims?

(13:57) They were offended by the wisdom and miracles of this simple, Galilean man. This statement of Jesus appears in all four Gospels (Mk. 6:4; Lk. 4:24; Jn. 4:44). We shouldn’t understand this as fatalistic. After all, Jesus reached his family in the end—even though they initially didn’t believe in him (Mk. 3:21; Jn. 7:5).

(Mt. 13:58) Could Jesus not perform miracles? (cf. Mk. 6:5-6)

Matthew 14

Matthew 14:1-12 (Death of John the Baptist)

[The parallel accounts are found in Mark 6:14-29 and Luke 9:7-9.]

(14:1) “Herod the tetrarch” was also called “Herod Antipas,” and this is the only time Matthew mentions him. Herod the “tetrarch” was a “minor local ruler,”[187] while his father Herod the Great was a “king” (Mt. 2:1). Jesus referred to him as a “fox” (Lk. 13:31-32), because Herod put John the Baptist to death. F.F. Bruce writes, “Aretas naturally resented the insult offered to his daughter, and seized the opportunity a few years later to wage war against Antipas (ad 36). The forces of Antipas were heavily defeated, and Josephus says that many people regarded the defeat as divine retribution for Antipas’ killing of John the Baptist. In ad 39 Antipas was denounced to the Emperor Gaius by his nephew Agrippa (see 4) as a plotter; he was deposed from his tetrarchy and ended his days in exile.”[188]

(14:2) Since John the Baptist was a type of Elijah, the people probably thought that he was coming back (cf. Mt. 16:14; Lk. 9:7-8; Mk. 6:14-15). Herod couldn’t have thought that John had been physically resurrected, because Jesus was already well known at this time. Instead, he probably thought John’s spirit was alive in Jesus.[189]

(14:3-4) John “had been saying” it was unlawful (imperfect tense), which implies a “continuing campaign.”[190]

(Mt. 14:4) Why was is “not lawful” for Herod to marry Herodias?

(14:5) Herod likely arrested John the Baptist because he was afraid of a political uprising. The area of Antipas included Perea, which bordered on the Nabatean Kingdom. Herod’s earlier wife (before Herodias) was a Nabatean (the daughter of Aretas IV of Nabatea). John’s criticism of Herod’s remarriage to his former sister-in-law (Herodias) could be interpreted as a political criticism, because Herod had thrown out his former Nabatean wife for his new wife. Josephus tells us that Herod was afraid of John the Baptist’s large public ministry (Antiquities, 18.118), and Herod had John killed (Antiquities 18.116-119).

(14:6-8) Herodias had been Herod’s sister-in-law through his brother Philip. Mark records that she had a “grudge” against John (Mk. 6:19).

This is particularly disturbing because this female dancer (whom Josephus names as Salome) was Herod’s step-daughter. She was only in her mid-teens, but probably of “marriageable age”[191] in this culture. Her mom (Herodias) used her as sexual bait, and her step-dad (Herod Antipas) took the bait. The offer of “up to half of my kingdom” is reminiscent of Xerxes (Esth. 5:3, 6). This was likely proverbial—not literal.

Herodias used her daughter’s body to get the head of John the Baptist. Salome was working with her mother to some degree, because she added the request “on a platter” (v.8) This is dark humor and a sickening request in the middle of this dinner party.

Herod wanted Herodias, but he was also enamored by Herodias’ daughter. Apparently, Herodias put her own daughter up to this (v.8).

Herodias wanted the head of John the Baptist, because John was denouncing her marriage to Herod (v.4).

(14:9) Herod wasn’t grieved because he was such a good man. He was afraid of John the Baptist—or more accurately—he was afraid of John’s influence on the people. On the other hand, Mark records that Herod “kept him safe” because he “used to enjoy listening to him” (Mk. 6:20).

(14:10) John never received a trial. He was slaughtered like an animal in a dingy prison. He also died by decapitation, which is odd for Jewish culture and law. The Jews stoned people for capital punishment, rather than decapitating them. Likely, Herod was forced to do this because of the oath he swore earlier to Salome.

(14:11) What a corrupt and twisted family! This has all of the intrigue of a Game of Thrones episode! Here is the final OT prophet to die (Mt. 11:9, 13), and he dies for telling the truth.

(14:12) John the Baptist’s disciples buried his body and reported this to Jesus. They must’ve known that Jesus loved John deeply.

Conclusions

Sometimes we will face harsh consequences for doing nothing more than speaking the truth. In this case, John was beheaded. What will you have to face for speaking the truth? We don’t know. But are you willing—in advance—to speak the truth, regardless of consequences?

Matthew 14:13-21 (The feeding of the 5,000)

[The parallel accounts are found in Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:10-17, and John 6:1-13. This is the only miracle recorded in all four gospels besides the resurrection.]

John records that this was during the time of the Passover (Jn. 6:4). This makes sense of Mark’s comment that the grass was green (Mk. 6:39). Throughout the year in this arid place, the green grass was usually scorched—dry and dead. But in this sliver of time during the year (during Passover), the grass would grow. This is a case of interlocking in the gospels that shows the truthfulness of the accounts. As the good shepherd (Mk. 6:34), Jesus has them recline on the grass to eat (Ps. 23:1-2).

(14:13) This is a good case for being able to take time to grieve. Luke tells us that the location was Bethsaida.

Carson argues that verses 3-12 are an excursus, and what Jesus “heard” was Herod’s “Herod’s response to his preaching and miracles,” and this is what caused him to decide to “withdraw.”[192] This would be similar to him withdrawing from the Pharisees (Mt. 12:15). He also argues that, otherwise, this would result in an anachronism, because John the Baptist’s death is presupposed already in verse 2.

In response, we should point out that Jesus could be hearing about John’ death referenced in verse 2. So, what Jesus “heard” was about the death of John either way (whether in the excursus of verses 3-12 or the mention in verse 2).

(14:14) Even during a time of grief, Jesus continued to feel for others (“compassion”) and give out love to meet the needs of others.

(14:15) Were the disciples wanting to protect Jesus while he was grieving? Were they just tired of serving? Mark records that the disciples had been so busy themselves that “they did not even have time to eat” (Mk. 6:31). This event happened at night, after a long day of travelling (Mk. 6:36).

(14:16) In and of themselves, they couldn’t meet the hunger of this mass group of humanity. But with Jesus, they could meet their needs.

Originally, Jesus directed his question specifically toward Philip (Jn. 6:5-6). Why did Jesus ask specifically ask Philip where to buy bread? Why does Jesus ask a relatively obscure apostle like Philip, rather than Peter, James, or John? Philip only appears in three places in John’s gospel (Jn. 1:43ff; Jn. 12:21ff; Jn. 14:8ff), so why is he singled out here?

The feeding of the 5,000 occurred near Bethsaida (Lk. 9:10), but John never mentions this. However, John does mention that Philip was from Bethsaida (Jn. 1:43-44; 12:21). McGrew comments, “One can… picture Jesus asking the question in a slightly teasing manner. The fact that Philip was from that vicinity makes the question (and the joke) more pointed. If Philip is from the nearby town, Jesus is in essence saying, ‘Philip, you’re from around here. Where can we get bread for all these people?’”[193] This is another case of interlocking in the gospels, where the authors confirm each other without intending to.

(14:17) They only had “five loaves” and “two fish.” This was hardly enough to feed themselves, let alone a crowd of 5,000 men. Lemke comments, “Not a ‘loaf’ in the English sense, but a flat, round, pancake-like piece of bread, and small, pickled fish similar to a sardine.”[194] The person who had the food was just a little kid (Jn. 6:9).

(14:18) We need to take our meager resources and place them into the hands of Jesus for him to use them. We often feel like we don’t have a lot to give, but Jesus can multiply what we have to meet people’s needs.

(14:19) It was common for Jewish men to pray in this way before a meal (M Berakoth 6-8). However, it is decidedly uncommon for a Jewish man to feed 10-20,000 people with five loaves and two fish afterwards!

Again, Jesus works through human agency. He could’ve just snapped his fingers and all of the people would’ve been full. Instead, he wanted the disciples to carry out the food to the people. Mark records that they sat in groups of 100’s and 50’s (Mk. 6:40; cf. Lk. 9:14).

(14:20) Is it a coincidence that there were twelve disciples and twelve full baskets left over? The disciples must have been hungry serving people all day, but Jesus more than provided for them when they were finished.

(14:21) There were 5,000 men, but this doesn’t include the “women and children.” There could’ve been as many as 10,000 to 20,000 people there.

John later records that this was a “sign” to show how God wanted to deliver spiritual life to people. Jesus himself was the “bread of life” (Jn. 6:35). So this picture of taking the bread out to people is really a picture of Jesus sending his disciples to bring spiritual life to people.

Matthew 14:22-36 (Jesus—and Peter—walk on water)

[The parallel accounts are found in Mark 6:47-52 and John 6:16-21.]

(14:22-23) John records that Jesus left because the people were trying to force Jesus to be their King (Jn. 6:15). The Greek term for “made” (anagkazō) is very strong, even implying “to compel” or “to force” (BDAG). Likely, Jesus wanted to get back to prayer and solitude (left off at v.13), he wanted rest (Mk. 6:31-32), and he wanted to avoid being taken as King Messiah (Jn. 6:15).

Luke has the feeding of the 5,000 at Bethsaida (Lk. 9:10), but Mark says that they are leaving to go to Bethsaida. How do we explain this discrepancy? For one, Mark states that they were not in the city, but out in the country on the “green grass” (Mk. 6:39). Therefore, the feeding of the 5,000 wasn’t in the city of Bethsaida, but rather near the city. Second, it could be that the disciples were moving toward Bethsaida and landed in Gennesaret (Mk. 6:53). R.T. France states that they were “driven off course by the contrary wind.”[195] Third, the words to Bethsaida” could simply be translated toward Bethsaida.” The word here is pros, which can be rendered as a “marker of movement or orientation toward someone/something” (BDAG).

(14:24) Remember, Jesus had sent the disciples away by boat (v.22). They might’ve wondered how he would meet up with them again. Did Jesus have his own boat?

It was already “quite late” before the disciples fed the 5,000 (Mk. 6:35). This must have been deep into the night at this point.

Did Jesus really walk on water? It’s nonsense to think that Jesus was walking in shallow water, on a sandbar, or near the shore. First, both Matthew and John place this far from shore (Mt. 14:24; Jn. 6:19). The Sea of Galilee is 13 miles long and 8 miles wide, and they were “a long distance from the land.” Second, seasoned fishermen wouldn’t be shocked to see a man walking in shallow water. Third, after Peter sunk in the water, he yelled, “Lord, save me!” Of course, Peter wouldn’t be afraid to drown in six inches water!

These boats were tiny—not big barges. In 1986, the “Ancient Galilee Boat” or “Jesus Boat” was discovered, which dates to the first-century AD. It is roughly 27 feet long and 7.5 feet wide. It would be pretty scary to be in the middle of a storm in one of these little boats.

(14:25-26) The “fourth watch” was measured according to the Roman—somewhere between 3 to 6 am.[196] It would’ve been dark and hard to see. Imagine how scary it would be to see a man walking toward you on the water. This has all of the makings of a good horror movie. The disciples were justifiably terrified.

Jesus had “intended to pass by them” according to Mark (Mk. 6:48). This doesn’t mean that Jesus was just going to take a stroll across the lake, and happened to bump into the disciples (!). The verse itself states that Jesus “came to them.” Instead, it means that he had the intention of them seeing him on the sea. It could be that this was meant to be a theophany—just like with Moses (Ex. 33:19, 22) or Elijah (1 Kin. 19:11). The expression “pass them by” was common language for a theophany in the Septuagint.[197] This is also similar to the language found in Job (Job 9:8, 11).

“[God] alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea” (Job 9:8 NIV). This is the same Greek as Mark 6:48.

“Were He to pass by me, I would not see Him; were He to move past me, I would not perceive Him” (Job 9:11).

This is the language of a theophany. Lemke comments, “Jesus’ desire to pass by His disciples, therefore, does not indicate that He wanted to go beyond them to reach another location but rather that He wanted to reveal His glory to them.”[198]

(14:27) Jesus didn’t want to scare them. He “immediately” spoke to them, telling them who he was. Jesus doesn’t tell them to calm their fear based on their feeling of his presence, but rather, on the knowledge of his presence (cf. Heb. 13:5).

The words “take courage” and “do not be afraid” sandwich the central statement: “It is I” (egō eimi). This echoes God’s name Yahweh in the OT (see especially the LXX; Ex. 3:14; Isa 43:10; 51:12).

Some commentators don’t see a reference to Jesus’ deity here,[199] while others do.[200] Carson[201] understands this language to take on greater divine meaning after the resurrection and ascension, and France sees it as “an echo of the divine name.”[202] Hagner writes, “In a theophany-like context such as this, the words allude to the definition of the name Yahweh.”[203]

We agree that this is a reference to Jesus’ deity for several reasons. For one, the “I” is emphatic, showing that this was meant to communicate something important. Second, the command not to fear fits with Isaiah’s revelation of God. He writes, “I am the LORD your God, who upholds your right hand, who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you’” (Isa. 41:13). Third, the language up to this point fits with a theophany, where Jesus intended to “pass by them” (see comments on verse 48).

Peter takes a turn

(14:28) We have to admire Peter’s faith and courage. The other gospels all omit this part about Peter walking on water. Carson asks, “What is more natural than for a fisherman who knew and respected the dangers of Galilee to want to follow Jesus in this new demonstration of supernatural power?”[204]

(14:29) Peter didn’t just pray and then jump into the water. He waited for Jesus’ command (“Come!”). Jesus could empower others to do the miraculous. Peter had enough faith to get out of the boat and walk on the water. He could’ve sank, drown, or just looked foolish. They were several miles from shore (Jn. 6:19).

How far did Peter get before floundering? The text doesn’t say.

(14:30) Instead of “fixing his eyes on Jesus” (Heb. 12:2), Peter focused on his fears (e.g. the wind). He allowed the circumstances of the storm to be more important to him than his faith in Jesus.

Many Christians can clearly articulate Jesus’ message of love and forgiveness. They have trusted their eternities into his hands. That is, they trust him for their next life, but they don’t trust him for this life! Practically, they allow the circumstances to overshadow the love of Jesus in their lives

Peter is still a model of faith, because he called out to Jesus for help, rather than trying to keep himself afloat. This is an almost identical cry of help with the cry of the disciples in the first incident (Mk. 8:25).

(14:31) Like a dad teaching his child to swim, Jesus “immediately” grabbed Peter’s hand and lifted him out of the water. After this, they climbed into the boat. Jesus claims that Peter sank because he doubted. In this context, doubt relates to focusing on fear, rather than faith. Peter is both a mixture of success and failure. He had more faith than the other eleven in the comfort of the boat. But Jesus doesn’t compare their faith with his. He addresses Peter on his own terms. Moreover, Peter wasn’t punished for trying: “Peter was nevertheless saved.”[205]

(14:32) In the OT, God himself controls the waves (Ps. 77:16, 19; Job 9:8; 38:16). Jesus must have sent this wind to test Peter’s faith. Mark comments that they had hardened hearts, and they didn’t grasp the message of the miracle of feeding the 5,000 (Mk. 6:52).

(14:33) Remember, Jesus said that “God alone” should be worshipped (Mt. 4:10). Here he accepts the disciples’ worship.

This appears to contradict Mark’s account, where we read, “They were utterly astonished. For they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened” (Mk. 6:51-52). However, this term “astonished” (existēmi) simply means to be “confused” (BDAG) or even “amazed with joyful worship” (Lev. 9:24 LXX; Lk. 5:26).[206] Carson points out that the reaction of the disciples is “always with a mixture of misapprehension.”[207] Moreover, they probably called Jesus the “Son of God” with “superficial comprehension”[208] at this point. For instance, Peter confesses that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16:16), yet a few verses later, Jesus calls him “Satan” for rebuking Jesus for choosing to die in Jerusalem (Mt. 16:21-23).

The disciples had “hardened hearts” in Mark (6:52), but this likely refers to the fact that they would be amazed at Jesus doing a miracle—even calming a storm (Mk. 4:35-41). Moreover, both gospels depict the disciples as unbelieving and fearful (Mt. 14:26-27; Mk. 6:52). And finally, if Matthew describes Peter as a man of “little faith,” then what would this imply about the other disciples?[209]

What do we learn from this passage?

Never say, No, for God. When you think about it, Peter’s request exists somewhere between audacity and insanity. Can you even imagine asking Jesus if you could come out onto the water with him? I wonder if the other disciples were making fun of Peter behind his back when he even asked this question: “Who does he think he is?!” Did they roll their eyes at Peter’s request? Did they make faces behind his back in cynicism? Did they mock his aspiration in skepticism?

Mark doesn’t say, and Peter didn’t seem to notice or even care. He probably pointed clumsily at Jesus on the waves and said, “I wanna do that…” If I was Jesus, I picture myself saying, “Peter, are you serious? Sit down and shut up… The adults are talking, alright?” After all, Peter’s request was impulsive, poorly timed, outrageous, shameless, and downright inappropriate!

And yet, Jesus says, “That’s exactly how I want you to bring your needs and desires to me!” After all, what is it that we are believing about God if we don’t bring our big needs and big aspirations to him? James writes, “You do not have because you do not ask” (Jas. 4:2). Sadly, most Christians are simply too afraid to ask! If God is going to say, No, then that’s his prerogative, and we should be quick to agree: “Not my will, but thy will be done.” However, we should never say, No, for God! Like Peter, we will be likely be surprised by how God answers prayers. As Paul writes, “[God] is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Eph. 3:20).

Our mindset will make us or break us. Peter accomplished the supernatural as long as he kept looking at Jesus. The same is true for us. The author of Hebrews writes, “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:1-2 NIV). What does it mean to “fix our eyes on Jesus”? This must refer to our mindset, and how we think about him during times of perseverance, pain, and suffering.

Peter didn’t have the power in himself to walk on water, but he succeeded in doing this under one condition: He needed to focus on Christ, rather than the imminent threats around him.

Some followers of Jesus start off focused. They feel unstoppable, and they are! They have the infinite-personal God guiding and empowering them! Yet over time, the imminent pressures and dangers of life begin to dominate their thinking, distracting them and causing their thoughts to drift. Finances, work, relationships, unsatisfied desires, physical pain—all of these lead to a mental drift and a loss of felt-choice. That is, they feel powerless and helpless from thinking about anything else. Sadly, how they feel becomes what is real. If only they pulled their mind away from their feelings, they could come into contact with the living God!

We can’t control our circumstances, but we can control our mindset. It’s one of the cruelest lies in circulation today to believe that we are powerless and helpless with what we think. This is one of the few things over which we actually have control! Jesus held Peter accountable for what he chose to focus on: “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Mt. 14:31) The same is true with us. At times, our situation is so dire that we have a felt-loss of freedom. That is, we feel like we can’t help but contemplate, ruminate, and meditate on our circumstances. Yet the “wind and waves” will always be there. The question is, “Will you choose to allow these to dominate and distract your mindset?”

Is it “denial” to look away from these threats? No, it isn’t denial to look to Christ during times of anguish and suffering; instead, it’s delusional to focus on anything else! It’s destructive to continue to ruminate on something over which we have no control!

Did Peter fail? Yes and no. Jesus did ask Peter why he doubted. But since Peter was under grace, he truly couldn’t fail. While Peter took his eyes off of Jesus, Jesus never took his eyes off of Peter. When we’re under grace, we have the security to pursue new aspirations, take risks, and even fall flat on our faces! Why? Because our core needs are met: we’re secure, we’re loved, and we’re safe. So, why not try?

Peter didn’t fail, but do you know who did fail? The eleven guys sitting in the boat! Many Christians are just like these eleven disciples. They are good, nice people. They never take any spiritual risks, never have any aspirations, and never make any impact for the cause of Christ.

Why should I get out of the boat?

Because we can’t fail! Since we’re under grace, there’s nothing worry about. We can enter any adventure with the question, “What’s the worst thing that can happen? Oh no, I might fail and still be forgiven!” The pressure is off.

Because complacency causes spiritual comas! We start to feel spiritually sleepy, then apathetic, and finally, our relationship with God feels like it’s on life support. Following Christ will give us battle scars, but seeking comfort will give us bed sores!

Because that’s where Jesus is. The idea of security apart from God is an illusion. It is always safer to be in the storm with Jesus, than to be in the boat without him.

Gennesaret

(14:34-36) Gennesaret was a region on the “western shore south of Capernaum,”[210] and Josephus describes it as a fertile area (Wars of the Jews 3.516-521). They must have heard about the hemorrhaging woman in Matthew 9:20, and this is why so many flocked to him.

Matthew 15

Matthew 15:1-20 (Scripture over religious tradition)

[The parallel accounts are found in Mark 7:1-23 and John 7:1.]

(15:1) The religious leaders travelled all the way from Jerusalem to bring this accusation against Jesus in Gennesaret (Mt. 14:34).

(15:2) This is similar to the earlier attack (Mt. 9:14). This isn’t a biblical teaching, but rather the “tradition of the elders.” That is, this is rabbinical Judaism—not biblical Judaism. Mark adds much more explanation: “The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders; and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots” (Mk. 7:3-4). The religious thinking at the time was that sin could be transmitted into the air or through physical touch with Gentiles or sinners. Thus the washing of the hands was not for hygienic purposes, but for religious purification.

(15:3-4) Jesus considered both the moral law (Ex. 20:12; Deut. 5:16) and the civil law (Ex. 21:17; Lev. 20:9) as coming from God. To Jesus, “God said” both of these commands.

(15:5) In Greek, the “you” is emphatic. This means that God gave the Ten Commandments, but YOU say…

Mark records that this practice of what was “given to God” was called Corban (Mk. 7:11). A whole tractate or section of the Mishnah was devoted to this (Nedarim). This was the practice of giving an oath to dedicate their liquid assets to God and the Temple. However, the individual never gave the money; they only dedicated it. It would “not mean that one could use the goods or money in question but that he could withhold it from his parents.”[211] So, it effectively kept the money from going to the Temple, and kept it from providing aid to help their parents. This was a rabbinical law that broke the fifth commandment to honor one’s parents. In other words, the religious leaders were charging Jesus with breaking the rabbinical laws, but Jesus charged them with breaking biblical laws.

(15:6) According to Jesus, it is wrong to break Scripture by appealing to human tradition.

(15:7-9) Jesus cites Isaiah 29:13 to show what the religious leaders were doing. This practice of invalidating Scripture with man-made teaching led to hypocrisy, relational distance, and ultimately false worship of God.

(15:10-11) Rabbinical Judaism had this completely backward. They were more concerned with external traditions, rather than the problems of the heart.

(15:12-14) Matthew adds this material that is not found in Mark. Jesus believed that God’s truth was more costly than being offensive to the religious leaders (v.12). Jesus combines God’s active and passive wrath here. Israel was described as a plant (Isa. 60:21; 61:3). God will actively “uproot” these religious leaders in the future, but he is currently passively “leaving them alone.” The problem with the religious leaders is that they thought they could see (Rom. 2:19; Jn. 9).

(15:15) Even Peter didn’t understand what Jesus meant. The “parable” refers to verse 11.[212]

(15:16) Jesus seems disappointed in Peter’s ability to grasp what he was saying.

(15:17) God isn’t concerned with external purity laws like ceremonial washings. After all, biologically, we cannot transmit sin through what we eat! Food passes through the body “into the latrine” (see NASB footnote). Mark adds the parenthetical note: “Thus [Jesus] declared all foods clean” (Mk. 7:19).

(15:18-19) It isn’t what goes in, but what comes out. Our sin problem isn’t external, but internal. Sin begins in the “heart” of a person.

(15:20) Jesus isn’t saying that one is more important than the other. He’s saying that one is moral, and the other is amoral.

Matthew 15:21-28 (Healing a Canaanite child)

[The parallel passage is found in Mark 7:24-30.]

(15:21) The setting for this account is in Tyre and Sidon. Earlier, people from these regions had come out to receive healing from Jesus (Mk. 3:8; Lk. 6:17). Now, Jesus was entering these pagan cities, and he must’ve already had a positive reputation there as a healer.

(15:22) The opening word here is “behold” (idou), though most translations don’t capture this. In a sense, Matthew is saying, “Wow, a Canaanite woman was there!” The use of this word most likely points to “the extraordinary nature of the story.”[213]

(15:25) The words “bowed down” (proskuneō) is the same term used for worship.

(15:26) The point of the illustration is to show “precedence” in who gets fed “first.”[214] Salvation was from the Jews (Jn. 4:22), and so it was first for the Jews (Rom. 1:16-17).

(15:28) “O woman” has “emotional force.”[215] It shows that he cared for this woman. Moreover, just in case we think that Jesus was cruel to Gentiles, the next section shows us Jesus feeding 4,000 Gentile people. Carson understands that this is Gentile territory for three reasons: “(1) The clause ‘they praised the God of Israel’ (v. 31) could be naturally said only by Gentiles; (2) the remoteness of the place (v. 33) suggests the eastern side of the lake; and (3) the number of ‘basketfuls of broken pieces’ (v. 37) left over avoids the symbolic ‘twelve’ (cf. 14:20).”[216]

(Mt. 15:22-28) Was Jesus cruel to this Canaanite woman?

Matthew 15:29-39 (Feeding of the 4,000)

[The parallel account is found in Mark 7:31-8:9.]

(15:29-31) Jesus was attracting massive crowds due to his healing ministry. Jesus healed a deaf and mute man during this time (Mk. 7:31-37).

(15:32) The crowds had travelled with their sick all the way up this mountain. Jesus wanted to meet their needs.

(15:33-39) This is very similar to the feeding of the 5,000 in chapter 14. The main differences are that here were only 4,000 men (rather than 5,000 men), and they only had seven baskets left over (rather than twelve baskets). This shows that Jesus would perform similar miracles more than once. Sometimes, when we attempt to solve Bible difficulties, we might posit two separate miracles, rather than just one. This isn’t an ad hoc hypothesis, because even the same author records similar miracles like this.

Matthew 16

Matthew 16:1-12 (Beware of legalistic teaching)

[The parallel passage is found in Mark 8:10-26.]

(16:1) Jesus withdrew from the religious leaders in 15:21. Here, he returns to find them asking for signs—as if they hadn’t already seen enough! This is really disingenuous because Jesus had been showing many signs (cf. 1 Cor. 1:22). This is the “fourth time the religious leaders had asked for a sign (Mt 12:38; Jn 2:12; 6:30).”[217] France also points out an “unholy alliance”[218] between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, who normally despised one another. This could be a case where “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

(16:2-3) Some (like France[219]) think that these two verses were not in the original autograph, but instead, they were inspired by Luke 12:54-56. Others like Carson[220] think these were in the original autograph, but were dropped in Alexandria, Egypt because a “red sky” in the morning doesn’t foretell rain. Incidentally, this is the only place in the NT where we have the expression “the signs of the times.”

What is this expression that Jesus uses (vv.2-3)? Sailors would say, “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning.” Jesus was in touch with his culture. He was quoting a common saying of his day. Jesus’ point is that the people can understand that storms are coming based on what they see. The problem is, they can’t do this on the larger level of God’s plans. It isn’t that they are ignorant; it’s that they don’t want to see it. Therefore, he won’t give them anymore evidence (v.4)—except for the resurrection.

(16:4) This is a similar response to what he said in Matthew 12:38-41, though he doesn’t explain that the sign of Jonah relates to his death and resurrection here. Some think that this contradicts Mark 8:12 (“No sign will be given to this generation”). However, these hardened religious leaders “would not have recognized Jonah as the kind of sign they were after.”[221]

(16:5-7) The disciples’ lack of food gave Jesus a teaching opportunity. The disciples thought their problem was their lack of bread, but Jesus tells them that their real problem was the Pharisees. The metaphor of “yeast” surely refers to the fact that their teaching can spread quickly, silently, and broadly.

(16:8-10) Jesus admonishes them for their focus on material things, rather than spiritual things. After all, Jesus had fed 5,000 people just recently (Mt. 14), and if that wasn’t enough, he fed 4,000 more (Mt. 15). Why were they concerned about bread, when Jesus gave them more than enough on two recent occasions?

(16:11) By telling them to “watch out” (v.6) and “beware” of the Pharisees’ teaching, Jesus was warning them that legalistic teaching could subtly slip into their lives. As believers, we need to watch out for this as well.

(16:12) They finally understood his meaning.

Matthew 16:13-28 (Who is Jesus? Peter’s confession of the Christ)

[The parallel account is found in Mark 8:27-30 and Luke 9:18-20.]

(16:13) Caesarea Philippi was 25 miles north of Bethsaida (Mk. 8:22), and it was in the heart of Herod Philip’s rule. Augustus gave this region to Herod the Great (the man who tried to kill the infant Jesus in Mt. 2). He built a “temple in honor of the emperor near a grotto consecrated to the Greek god Pan.”[222] Herod also rebuilt the village of Paneas and renamed it after Caesar. Caesarea Philippi “was as pagan a territory as one could find,” and the people here worshipped “the Greek God Pan.”[223] Thus Jesus was moving directly into Pagan territory to identify himself as the Son of God. This would be like Frodo walking into Mount Doom to identify that he is going to destroy Sauron. Jesus was moving directly into Pagan territory, where it would be common to hold that “Caesar is Lord.” Yet this is the same exact place where Jesus would reveal that He is Lord!

Luke tells us that Jesus was in prayer by himself before he asked them this question (Lk. 9:18). It isn’t that Jesus was an amnesiac (!), but rather, he was asking this question to get them thinking.

To put this question in context, we need to remember that up until this point Jesus was telling people to keep his identity secret, even as he performed miracle after miracle after miracle… Now that he has fully proven himself to his disciples, he wants them to see that he is in fact the Messiah.

Why so much evidence? Couldn’t one miracle have done the job? Not likely. After all, we’ve been seeing that the disciples were slow to understand the ramifications of Jesus’ miracles. Moreover, Jesus is about to drop a theological bomb on the disciples: the Messiah will be crucified! (v.21) In Jewish thinking, this was a remarkable and unforeseen turn of events in God’s plan, and Jesus wanted to provide as much evidence for his identity as possible before he revealed this to them.

Only Matthew includes the expression “Son of Man” which fits the criterion of dissimilarity, and Jesus’ use of “Simon Barjona” fits with the criterion of Aramaisms. These two criteria boost this historical account.

(16:14) Why was Jesus compared to John the Baptist? Both preached repentance, the kingdom of God, and God’s judgment. Moreover, both had a large following.

Why was Jesus compared to Elijah? Since John the Baptist was compared to Elijah, this probably wasn’t a stretch. This could be an example of the transitive property.

Why was Jesus compared to Jeremiah? Some of these similarities occur later in Jesus’ life. However, consider the massive amount of similarities between Jeremiah and Jesus. For instance, both served just before the fall of Jerusalem and the Temple. Both spoke to the world (Jer. 1:10; 36:2; Mt. 28:18-20). Both condemned the hypocritical Temple practice (Jer. 7:11; Mt. 21:13). Both were unjustly accused and called to be executed for sedition and treachery against Israel (Jer. 26:11; Mt. 26; 1 Pet. 3:18). Both submitted to the false accusations of the religious leadership (Jer. 26:14; Mt. 26:57-58). Both predicted that the treachery of the leadership would fall on the nation (Jer. 26:15; Lk. 19:44; Mt. 27:25). Both foretold the destruction of the Temple (Jer. 7:14; Mt. 24:1-2). Both wept over Jerusalem (Jer. 9:1; Lk. 19:41). Both were rejected by their families (Jer. 12:6; Mt. 13:57).

(16:15) Jesus wasn’t satisfied with merely being called just a good teacher or a good prophet. He wanted his disciples to see that he was far greater than these titles. Incidentally, this idea still confronts the modern reader, who claims that Jesus was merely a “good moral teacher.” In Greek, the “you” is plural. Thus, Jesus was asking all of the disciples to answer this question. Furthermore, Jesus is still asking this question of us today!

(16:16) Peter gets the answer right on the first try. We wonder if Peter felt proud of this fact.

(16:17) “Barjona” means “son of Jonah.” This fits the criterion of Aramaisms.

What does it mean that God the Father needed to reveal this to him? Peter had special revelation from God that not everyone else had. This fits with Jesus’ thought in Matthew 11:27, where Jesus said, “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”

(16:18) Once Jesus made this statement, there is zero chance that his Church would fail. While the Church has seen its setbacks over the last two millennia, we see this promise still proven true today with millions of believers across the Planet Earth living for Christ. This is a good passage for us to remember when we are feeling discouraged about serving Christ: He will build His Church!

(Mt. 16:18) Did Jesus give papal authority to Peter?

(Mt. 16:19) What does binding and loosing mean?

(16:20) Again, Jesus was trying to keep his identity secret.

(16:21) After revealing that he was the Messiah, Jesus started to talk about the Cross “from that time” forward. This “marks a major turning point in Matthew,”[224] where Jesus reveals his mission clearly. Again, Jesus was going to be brutally killed, and he wanted them to have firm evidence of his identity.

(16:22) Peter did such a good job identifying Jesus (v.16) that now he takes a shot at correcting Jesus (!!). For those of us who follow Christ, this is never a good idea! Peter thought that the Messiah was coming to judge the wicked Romans—not to be judged himself. France comments, “Peter cannot grasp that such a ‘disaster’ could be God’s purpose.”[225]

(16:23) What a stern rebuke! Mark adds that this was in front of the other disciples (Mk. 8:33). This doesn’t mean that Peter was necessarily demon-possessed, but rather than he was speaking from Satan’s perspective (cf. Mt. 4:8-9). Instead of focusing on God’s plan, Peter was driving his own (finite and limited) plan. Peter’s earlier statement was inspired by God (v.17), but this one was inspired by Satan!

The way of the Cross

[The parallel account is found in Mark 8:31-37 and Luke 9:22-25.]

(16:24) Mark tells us that the crowds were present for this (Mk. 8:34). This makes sense of Jesus’ language: “If anyone…”

Why does Jesus’ teaching on self-sacrifice follow his teaching on his mission? What is the connection? The One who commands us to take up our cross and lose our lives, was the same One who took up the Cross and lost his life.

Jesus goes from praising Peter to rebuking him on a dime. Peter doesn’t want this to happen to Jesus, because he is self-serving and wants to be a ruler alongside Jesus—the ultimate Ruler. This fits perfectly with the context, where Jesus tells Peter that he needs to take the lower seat (vv.24-25).

(16:25) This was Jesus’ most repeated teaching in the four gospels. This “riddle” appears in all four gospels at least once (Mt. 16:25; Mk. 8:35; Lk. 9:24; Jn. 12:25), in Matthew twice (Mt. 10:39; 16:25) and Luke twice (Lk. 9:24; 17:33). Mark adds “for My sake and the gospel’s” (Mk. 8:35).

Some commentators think that this refers to eternal life.[226] The idea is that the person will try to save their life during times of persecution, but this will result in apostasy and damnation. However, the parallelism doesn’t fit this reading. If “life” (psychēn) refers to one’s physical life in the first usage, then it needs to refer to one’s physical life in the second usage. In other words, we cannot hold that this refers to avoiding martyrdom in the first usage, but then refers to going to hell in the second. Furthermore, the same term is used in verse 26 to refer to one’s “life” or “soul” (psychēn), though translators inconsistently render verse 25 as “life” and verse 26 as “soul.” We hold that “life” simply refers to one’s time, talent, and treasure. If we try to hoard our lives selfishly, we end up losing them. But a life of self-sacrificial love results in gaining true life (Jn. 10:10).

(16:26-27) Why should we lose our lives for others? Jesus gives us two reasons: First, we can’t keep our status or power on Earth anyways (v.26), and secondly, God will richly reward us based on our sacrificial love (v.27). Mark adds, “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mk. 8:38; cf. Lk. 9:26). Matthew cites from Psalm 62:12 to show how Yahweh will repay each individual.

(Mt. 16:28) Did Jesus make a false prediction about his second coming?

Matthew 17

Matthew 17:1-8 (The Transfiguration)

[The parallel passages are found in Mark 9:2-8 and Luke 9:28-36.]

(17:1) Jesus leads the disciples up the mountain to reveal himself. We don’t know which mountain this was. Tradition tells us that it was Mount Tabor, but this is unlikely because a fortress existed up there. Others think that this was Mount Hermon.[227] The importance isn’t the mountain, but the revelation of Jesus. Similarly, it didn’t matter which bush was burning when God revealed himself to Moses (Ex. 3). The more important issue was God’s revelation.

Was it “six days” or “eight days”? Matthew and Mark both record that “six days” passed (Mt. 17:1; Mk. 9:2), but Luke records that it was “eight days” (Lk. 9:28). How do we resolve this? For one, Luke writes that is was “some eight days after these sayings,” which may imply a general time period. Second, the reference to “eight days” is “based on a Greek way of speaking and means ‘about a week later.’”[228] Third, the trek up the mountain could’ve taken an extra two days, and Luke may be including these extra two days.

Why does Matthew emphasize six days? This likely reflects Moses’ mountaintop experience with God (Ex. 24:15-18).

(17:2) Just like movies have previews, this is a little sneak peek of Jesus’ true nature. The Greek term for “transfigured” is metamorphoō (or “metamorphosis”). Mark adds that his clothes were so white “as no launderer on earth can whiten them” (Mk. 9:3). He sounds like he is advertising for a Downy commercial! Luke adds that Jesus was praying when the Transfiguration took place.

While Moses reflected God’s glory in his face (Ex. 34:29-30), Jesus generated God’s glory. The term “transfigured” (metamorphoō) “suggests a change of inmost nature that may be outwardly visible.”[229]

(17:3) Why do Moses and Elijah appear to talk with Jesus? Some commentators point out that Moses and Elijah were chosen because they represent the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah). Others see that Moses represented the condemnation of the Law, while Elijah represented the restoration of all things (Mal. 3:1ff; 4:5ff). These explanations make a certain amount of sense, but we don’t think they go far enough. We think that Moses and Elijah were chosen because this scene was meant to be a theophany. Both Moses (Ex. 33:19, 22) and Elijah (1 Kin. 19:11) had experiences of God revealing himself on a mountain just like this.

Luke adds that Moses and Elijah were speaking to Jesus about his “departure” (exodus) from Jerusalem (Lk. 9:31).

Luke adds that Moses and Elijah were speaking to Jesus about his “departure” (Greek exodus) from Jerusalem.

Since they had been hiking all day up this mountain, this event probably happened at night. After all, Luke notes that he disciples were sleeping when this event occurred (Lk. 9:32). They woke up to this overwhelming light being generated by Jesus himself.

(17:4) Like a lot of people having a “mountain top” experience, Peter didn’t want to leave. He wanted to stay locked in this incredible experience. Mark adds that Peter “did not know what to answer” because he was “terrified” (Mk. 9:6). Luke adds that Peter didn’t realize what he was talking about (Lk. 9:33). Peter was on sensory overload! As he is talking about giving three equal tabernacles to each person, God the Father interrupts Peter’s blabbering by telling Peter to “Listen to [Jesus]!”

(17:5) “A bright cloud overshadowed them.” Only Matthew mentions that the cloud was “bright,” which is “reminiscent of the shekinah glory.”[230] Indeed, in the OT, God usually revealed himself in the form of a cloud (Ex. 24:15-18; 40:34-38). Luke records that they “entered the cloud” (Lk. 9:34). This must symbolize coming into the very presence of God.

The content of God the Father’s message is identical to Jesus’ baptism, but he adds another thought that they should listen to Jesus. He doesn’t tell the disciples to listen to Moses or Elijah (though they certainly should); instead he tells them to listen to Jesus—the ultimate revelation of God. It was Moses who predicted a future prophet whom the people should listen to (Deut. 18:15).

(17:6) Why did they react in fear and terror? Postmodern people often have a conception of God that reflects Hallmark greeting cards or Lifetime television shows: God is warm, cozy, and fuzzy like a teddy bear or like a warm quilted blanket. Yet most people in world religions don’t perceive God this way.

Scholars of world religions observe that people across the world have a “frightening and irrational experience” when they come into contact with the divine.[231] They call this the “mysterium tremendum et fascinans.” Mysterium refers to “wholly other,” tremendum refers to “awfulness, terror, awe,” and fascinans refers to “attractiveness in spite of fear.” To most people, God isn’t comfortable and cozy, but terrifying and attractive all at once. The worshipper “finds the feeling of terror before the sacred, before the awe-inspiring mystery (mysterium tremendum)… that emanates an overwhelming superiority of power. The numinous [i.e. God] presents itself as something ‘wholly other,’ something basically and totally different. It is like nothing human or cosmic. Confronted with it, man senses his profound nothingness, feels that he is only a creature.”[232]

If we collapse in the presence of a spectacular person (e.g. so much smarter, more charismatic, more attractive, so much better at something you think you’re good at), how will we respond in the presence of God? You’re intrigued and attracted, but you also sense your personal inadequacy. If it can be traumatic to be in the presence of human glory, then how much more in the presence of divine glory?[233]

God came into the world to direct these disciples to Jesus. In Matthew’s account, we read Jesus came up and “touched” them, and he told them not to be afraid (Mt. 17:7). While God’s transcendence is scary (as we mentioned above), Jesus bridges this gap for us, so we can come into the presence of God. The mysterium tremendum placed his hand on the disciples, and told them that there is no reason to be scared: the safest place to be is in the presence of power and love like this. This might be why John later wrote, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear” (1 Jn. 4:18). Perhaps C.S. Lewis got it right, when one of his characters in the land of Narnia asked if Aslan (Jesus) was safe—to which one of the Narnians replied, “Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King.”

(17:7) While God is transcendent and “wholly other,” Jesus reveals God’s imminence. He came up and “touched” them, and he told them not to be afraid. While God’s transcendence is scary, Jesus bridges this gap for us, so we can come into the presence of God.

(17:8) Just in case they didn’t know who God the Father was talking about, everyone was gone except Jesus. This reminds us of when Commissioner Gordon is talking to Batman in front of the bat signal, and when he turns around and… Poof! Batman is gone!

Conclusion

This is a theophany of God through the person of Jesus. This entire scene reflects OT concepts of God revealing himself in what theologians call a “theophany” or “appearance of God.” However, rather than God appearing, Jesus himself is the focus! This shows that Mark is drawing on OT content to show that Jesus is God himself. Lane writes, “The transfiguration scene develops as a new ‘Sinai’ theophany with Jesus as the central figure.”[234]

God typically appeared to the people in the form of a cloud in the OT (Ex. 16:10; 19:9; 24:14-19; 33:1), just as he does here. Moreover, Moses and Elijah had similar experiences to this event—though nothing to this extent:

Moses went up on a mountain with Joshua to meet with God (Ex. 24:12-13), but even the elders stayed behind at the bottom of the mountain (Ex. 24:14). Once Moses made it to the peak of the mountain, we read that “the cloud covered the mountain” (Ex. 24:15). Then we read, “The glory of the LORD rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; and on the seventh day He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud. 17 And to the eyes of the sons of Israel the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a consuming fire on the mountain top. 18 Moses entered the midst of the cloud as he went up to the mountain; and Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights” (Ex. 24:16-18).

Later, Moses wanted to see the “glory” of God (Ex. 33:18), but God told him, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” (Ex. 33:20) Moses was only allowed to partially see God’s glory (Ex. 33:21-23), but here, he sees it revealed in the face of Jesus!

Elijah was told by God to go and “stand on the mountain before the LORD,” and then we read, “Behold, the LORD was passing by!” (1 Kn. 19:11). Elijah was so scared that he ran and hid in a cave! (1 Kin. 19:13).

We might compare the similarities in this way.

The Transfiguration as a Theophany

Moses and Elijah in the OT

Transfiguration in the NT

Only Moses (and Joshua) could come up on the mountain, and the elders had to stay behind (Ex. 24:14)

Jesus only chose three disciples to come with him up the mountain (17:1)
God appeared on a mountain (Ex. 24:12-13; 1 Kn. 19:11)

God appeared on a mountain (17:1)

God appeared in a cloud (Ex. 24:15)

God appeared in a cloud (17:5)
Six days passed (Ex. 24:16)

Six days passed (17:1)

God appears in glory (Ex. 24:17; 33:21-23), but a full revelation would destroy Moses (Ex. 33:20)

God appears in inexpressible glory (17:2)
Elijah was scared by what he saw (1 Kn. 19:13)

The disciples were terrified by what they saw (17:6)

The people should listen to Moses and Elijah

The people should listen to Jesus (17:5)

Because Jesus is God, we should “listen to him.” Who are you listening to in your life? Some take religious leaders as akin to the word of God. Others sense that something is wrong with themselves, and they read self-help books with a desire to change. Still others listen to their own thoughts, as though their own opinions had infallible authority! God tells us unequivocally: Listen to Jesus! This means studying his teachings and his view of the entire Bible.

Are you hearing from God? Is your knee-jerk reaction in difficult or confusing situations to turn directly to God? We see so many Christians nervously biting their fingernails, churning their thoughts around and around in their mind. They might even bring themselves to ask for wise Christian counsel. But have they turned to God himself and hear from him? No! We all need to learn to hear from God through his word and prayer, and learn to seek his guidance and encouragement to do what he wills.

Matthew 17:9-13 (Question about Elijah)

[The parallel passages are found in Mark 9:9-13 and Luke 9:36.]

(17:9) Again, Jesus wanted to keep this quiet until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.” This is the last time he tells his disciples to be quiet about his death and resurrection in Matthew.

(17:10-13) This question is interesting—especially since it comes on the heels of Elijah actually appearing to Jesus (Mt. 17:3). Jesus affirms that Elijah will return in the future (Mal. 4:5), but he also argues that John the Baptist was a figurative Elijah.

See comments on (Mt. 11:14) Could John the Baptist be a figurative Elijah?

Matthew 17:14-20 (Question about Elijah)

[The parallel passages are found in Mark 9:14-29 and Luke 9:37-43.]

(17:14) This poor father was in dire straits. He came to Jesus seeking help. Mark adds that the scribes were surrounding him during this time (Mk. 9:14).

(17:15) Matthew claims that demons (v.18) can have psychological effects on a person. In this instance, it results in self-harm or maybe even suicide. Mark adds further details: “Teacher, I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out. I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it” (Mk. 9:17-18). Luke adds that the demon would “maul” the young boy when it left him, but it would come back (Lk. 9:39). If indeed the demon would come and go, then this would make sense of Jesus’ command for the demon to leave the boy and “to not enter him again” (Mk. 9:25). Jesus eventually didn’t want this demon to come back.

(17:16) Why could the disciples not heal this demon possessed man? Jesus tells us that it was because they had a lack of faith (v.17, 20). Mark records that the father himself “believed,” but needed help with his “unbelief” (Mk. 9:24).

(17:17) Jesus seems frustrated, but his frustration didn’t stop him from serving.

(17:18) Jesus didn’t partially heal him over time. He instantly healed him on the spot. Mark’s account adds that the boy initially looked dead after the exorcism, but Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up (Mk. 9:26-27).

(17:19) The disciples must’ve felt insecure about their ability to heal this man.

(17:20) This is a strange response. On the one hand, Jesus tells them that they had a tiny faith (“littleness of your faith”), but then he says that all they need is a tiny faith (“faith the size of a mustard seed”). Carson understands “littleness of your faith” (oligopistia) to refer to the “poverty of faith.”[235] He adds, “Jesus tells his disciples that what they need is not giant faith (tiny faith will do) but true faith—faith that, out of a deep, personal trust, expects God to work.”[236]

The idea of “moving mountains” was “proverbial for overcoming great difficulties (cf. Isa 40:4; 49:11; 54:10; Matt 21:21-22; Mark 11:23; Luke 17:6; 1 Cor 13:2).”[237]

(17:21) This part about “fasting” was added later. Early manuscripts do not contain this verse. In Mark’s account, Jesus only mentions “prayer,” not fasting (Mk. 9:29).

Conclusion: Why couldn’t the disciples heal the boy?

Remember, Jesus already “gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases” (Lk. 9:1). They had the authority, but they lacked the faith and the prayer.

Lack of prayer. In Mark’s account, the disciples asked why they couldn’t drive out the demon. Jesus said it was because they didn’t pray (Mk. 9:29). Were they waving their hands? Were they using meaningless phrases? Were they speaking to the demon without speaking to God first?

Lack of faith. In Matthew’s account, the disciples asked why they couldn’t drive out the demon. Jesus said it was because of their lack of faith (Mt. 17:20). Jesus makes clear that it isn’t the amount of faith, but the object of our faith. The father of the boy was torn—only having a little bit of faith. But this was good enough for Jesus (Mk. 9:22-24). In Matthew and Mark, we understand that the disciples didn’t exercise prayer or faith in their ministry. Maybe the disciples prayed the same magic words that they always prayed, but it didn’t work. Maybe they were filled with cynicism, short-arming it, or filled with past successes. Jesus gets really frustrated (Lk. 9:41). He doesn’t get frustrated with our inability or ineptitude, but our lack of faith.

(17:22-23) This is the second time Jesus announces his death and resurrection (cf. Mt. 16:21). If you notice, Jesus is all of the sudden talking a lot about this. He wants to drill this message into the disciples’ minds, so that they can be ready for this earth-shaking event when it happens. Luke records, “[The disciples] did not understand this statement, and it was concealed from them so that they would not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this statement” (Lk. 9:45).

Matthew 17:24-27 (Drachma in the fish’s mouth)

[This passage is unique to Matthew.]

(17:24) Two-drachma were equivalent to two denarii (or two days’ wages). Matthew may have included this because he himself was a tax collector. At the same time, this tax was for the Temple services—not the Romans (Ex. 30:11-16).

This two-drachma tax aligns with secular history. Josephus states, “The Jews… deposited in them that half shekel which everyone, by the custom of our country, offers unto God.”[238] A Jewish shekel was “the equivalent of four Greek drachmas.”[239] After the Jewish War in AD 70, Vespasian made the Jews pay their tax to the temple of the god Jupiter.[240] Hence, R.T. France writes, “It is one of the incidental indications that Matthew’s gospel was written before ad 70 that he can record with approval Jesus’ acceptance of the temple tax, which after ad 70 would have had a quite different connotation of the support of pagan worship.”[241]

(17:25-27) Kings didn’t tax their own children. Since this was “God’s tax,”[242] Jesus (the Son of God) should be except from this. But he agrees to it so that he doesn’t “offend” the authorities. One shekel was equivalent to four drachmas.

Craig Blomberg argued that this miracle may have never happened. He writes, “All that Matthew records is a command from Jesus to Peter. We do not know what resulted. Given Peter’s track record of misunderstanding, it would be rash to hazard a guess. It is possible that v.27 is even some kind of metaphor, not intended to be taken literally, perhaps implying that Peter should catch fish that can be sold to pay the tax for them both or that he should trust in God, who will supply his children with what they need.” Though he later admits, “Yet another reasonable explanation is that Peter did exactly what Christ commanded and that the miracle was one of prescience more than provision.”[243] We reject Blomberg’s assertion that Jesus’ statement was metaphorical. Indeed, this is a clear prediction of the future, which would’ve been false if unfulfilled. This prediction of Jesus that would no doubt come to fruition, unless Jesus erred. We agree with Lemke who writes, “This miracle is often overlooked: of all the fish in the sea Jesus knew exactly which one had a coin in its mouth!”[244]

Matthew 18

Matthew 18:1-10 (Jesus and his love for children)

[The parallel passages are in Mark 9:33-50 and Luke 9:46-50]

(18:1) This question implies that “greatness” is based on stature or maybe power (?). The disciples originally kept quiet (probably out of embarrassment) because they had been discussing this in private (Mk. 9:33-34). Luke adds that Jesus knew “what they were thinking in their heart” (Lk. 9:47). Later, James and John would ask to be at Jesus’ right and left hand (Mt. 20:20-23), which provoked the outrage of the disciples (Mt. 20:24), probably because they didn’t think to ask sooner!

(18:2-4) Since they were in “the house” in Capernaum (Mk. 9:33), this implies that this was Peter’s house. Carson speculates that this could very well be Peter’s child.[245] If so, this would serve as a double admonishment to these grown men. Mark adds that Jesus scooped up this little child “in his arms” (Mk. 9:36; cf. Mt. 19:13-15).

This must have been shocking to Jesus’ audience for him to extol children. In the ancient world, kids were looked down upon. France write, “A child was a person of no importance in Jewish society, subject to the authority of his elders, not taken seriously except as a responsibility, one to be looked after, not one to be looked up to.”[246]

In the ancient world, children were not viewed as significant. For instance, m. ‘Abot 3:10 reads, “Morning sleep, mid-day wine, chattering with children and tarrying in places where men of common people assemble, destroy a man.” Joel Green writes, “Children were the weakest, most vulnerable among the population. They had little implicit value as human beings, a reality that is related to the likelihood that they would not survive into adulthood. Even if women procured their place in the household by bearing children, especially sons, children themselves were of the lowest status.”[247]

Why does Jesus appeal to a little child to make his point about greatness? What is it about little children that Jesus was trying to extol?

It is NOT the gullibility or ignorance of children. Paul writes, “We are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Eph. 4:14).

(Mt. 18:3) Are believers supposed to be gullible like children?

It is NOT the selfishness of children. Kids are born with a sin nature like everyone else, and sometimes children show this more ably than adults.

It IS the humility and dependence of children. Jesus specifically says that we need to “humble” ourselves like little children (v.3). We need to becoming like children in our ability to being willing to receive gifts, willing to admit they can’t handle situations, and willing to be helped. Kids never say, “I couldn’t never accept this gift from you.” Instead, their eyes light up with excitement. They don’t stand aloof when they have problems; instead they run to and cling to their parents for help. They are totally dependent on their parents.

Jesus is looking for this sort of attitude in his disciples. The chief virtue of the Christian life is humility (see “Humility”).

(18:5) Far from taking the culture’s view of children, Jesus so identifies himself with these little vulnerable people that he says loving them is like loving Him! (see Mt. 25:31-46)

(18:6) Jesus also promises punishment toward those who would lead a little child astray. The imagery here is graphic: A millstone was a “heavy stone pulled around by a donkey.”[248] It has all the severity of a mafia boss promising “concrete shoes” to someone so that they will “swim with the fishes.” However, this warning is not issued to good men, but to evil ones! It isn’t given to those who protect the weak and vulnerable, but to those who hurt them.

(18:7) The fact of stumbling blocks is a determined reality, but individual people have freewill to do this or not.

(18:8-9) This material is nearly identical to the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5:29-30). Carson comments, “Jesus’ disciples must deal as radically with pride as they were earlier commanded to deal with lust.”[249]

(18:10) Apparently, God sends angels to protect little children. This is where people get the idea of a guardian angel from (cf. Dan. 10; 12:1; Rev. 1:20).

Carson desists.[250] He, rather surprisingly, holds that these angels are the spirits of these dead children. First, they are before God the Father—not on Earth (“[they] continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven”). So, they are in heaven—not Earth. Second, this fits with Rhoda thinking that Peter’s “angel” was knocking at the gate (Acts 12:15). If this was Peter’s soul, then this would make sense as to why she would mistakenly think this was Peter himself. Third, Jesus uses the language of angels to describe our resurrected selves: “In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (Mt. 22:30).

We reject this view: First, there is no problem with an angel living in heaven and protecting over a child on Earth. Indeed, this is what we see of angels in the Bible, who travel to and fro. Second, we shouldn’t build a doctrine on Acts 12:15, which is admittedly a difficult passage. Third, Jesus uses the language of simile to refer to our resurrected state (we are “like angels” in heaven). Fourth, and finally, how could the class of children be represented by the same class of angels in heaven, which the text implies? While we aren’t willing to build a solid doctrine of “guardian angels” from this text, we aren’t willing to follow Carson’s lead either.

(18:11) The connecting word (“for”) looks back on verse 10. However, it also sets up the transition for his teaching on reaching the lost. Thus this passage serves as a “Janus verse.”[251]

Matthew 18:12-14 (God’s heart for the Lost)

[This material is unique to Matthew.]

(18:12-14) This is classic NT church theology (vv.12-14). The focus isn’t on the fortress (the “ninety-nine”); it’s on the lost (the “one”). Shepherds treated their sheep like pets. The good shepherd couldn’t sleep at night, knowing that there was one lost sheep out there somewhere. We shouldn’t “despise” (v.10) those whom God loves.

Incidentally, this passage speaks against limited atonement and 5-point Calvinism. God’s will is to not see a single person perish.

Matthew 18:15-20 (Church discipline)

[This material is unique to Matthew.]

(18:15) Church discipline slowly raises tension with a Christian brother who is living selfishly and hurting themselves and others. It begins when you “show him his fault” (elenchō) which means to “to scrutinize or examine carefully, bring to light, expose, set forth” (BDAG). It can be translated “reprove” (Lk. 3:19) or “expose” (1 Jn. 3:20) or “convict” (Jn. 8:46).

The goal of church discipline is always to “win your brother.” This doesn’t speak to punitive justice, but to loving discipline.

(18:16) If a private admonition doesn’t win your brother, Jesus commands us to take two or three. France understands that this functions to “add force to the persuasion.”[252]

Is this like a court trial? Jesus cites Deuteronomy 19:15 which refers to legal cases, so some interpreters think that this is similar to a formal trial. It’s true that a believer can be so deceived that they won’t admit to the facts. By having multiple believers present, we can make a stronger appeal to the person who is deceived about their sin.

However, we reject the legal interpretation as bizarre. For one, discipline is not to prove guilt, as in a court of law, but to restore and “win your brother.” Second, the “two or more” brothers may or may not have seen the event, so this wouldn’t fit with the legal setting. Third, Paul’s use of Deuteronomy 19:15 is far different in other contexts (2 Cor. 13:1; 1 Tim. 5:19). France concludes that the person is not “on trial,” but rather, “the point of the Old Testament reference is the principle that multiple testimony is more convincing, not the specific judicial application.”[253] We agree.

Furthermore, Jesus isn’t teaching a “three strikes and you’re out” mentality. The principle here is to keep moving toward the person with admonition, conviction, correction, teaching, and even rebuke. These steps could be repeated privately or with “two or three.”

(18:17) The issue of church discipline is repentance. Jesus says that the person refuses to listen.” It isn’t simply that the person is trying, but failing. The issue is that they are refusing to have a change of heart. At this point, a corporate appeal to the church is in order. We think that this doesn’t imply the entire fellowship, but rather the person’s closest friends in “the local group.”[254] We agree with France, who concludes, “There can be no real fellowship with someone who has so blatantly set himself against the united judgment of his fellow-disciples.”[255]

For a fuller explanation of church discipline, see comments on 1 Corinthians 5:1-13.

(18:18-20) There are two ways to interpret this section:

OPTION #1: These passages could be seen in connection with Jesus’ teaching on church discipline. After all, the context is church discipline, and Jesus even mentions “two” (v.19) and “two or three” (v.20), which parallels verse 16 (“take one or two more with you”). If this is the case, then Jesus is teaching that he is behind the process of church discipline, and he will show up in a confirming way to support this (“I am there in their midst”).

The first problem with holding this view is that the plural “you” that refers to “binding and loosing” breaks the context of verses 15-17. This refers to apostolic authority—not our authority today. The real problem with holding this view is the notion that Jesus is always behind our decision to enact church discipline. As fallen humans, we would feel very uncomfortable claiming our use of discipline is always supported by Jesus. As in all practices in the church, we can err when bringing discipline, and we would be remiss if we claimed otherwise. As fallen believers, our discernment can be distorted and our practice can be faulty. Consequently, we should humbly admit when this is the case.

OPTION #2: These passages change context and merely refer to the disciples’ authority and prayer. After all, the subject of church discipline appears in verse 15 out of context from what preceded it. If this is the case, then Jesus is just giving a special promise for those who come together in prayer. We favor this later view.

Incidentally, this passage supports the deity of Christ. It is interesting that the Mishnah states, “If two sit together and words of the Law (are) between them, the Shekinah (God’s presence) rests between them” (Mishnah Aboth 3:2).[256] This further supports the deity of Christ (cf. Mt. 1:23; Mt. 28:20). Not only is the concept reflected in the rabbinic literature for God, but also, how could a person be omnipresent like this?

Conclusion

This section (vv.1-20) shows our need to become like little children. However, this is contrasted with being bold and disciplinary to those who threaten themselves or the church. There is a balance here between gentleness and strength that is worth meditating upon in our ministry.

Matthew 18:21-35 (Forgiveness)

[This material is unique to Matthew.]

(18:21) How interesting that this passage on church discipline is followed by a long excursus on forgiveness! This shows that any sort of discipline is not punitive, but restorative in nature.

Peter must have thought that he was really being generous by claiming we should forgive “seven times.” France writes, “The Rabbis discussed the question, and recommended not more than three times.”[257] Lemke writes, “Peter’s question shows that he had not yet grasped the spirit of Christian forgiveness. Jesus’ answer in v. 22 means an indefinite number of times.”[258] Jesus must have blown Peter’s mind with his response…

(18:22) Some translations render this “seventy times seven” (NASB, NLT) or “seventy-seven times” (NIV, NET). This is not important. The point is that we should forgive an unlimited amount of times. France writes, “To be concerned as to whether the figure is 77 or 490 is to return to the pedantic calculation which Jesus rejects!”[259] This could be a reversal of Lamech’s vengeful heart (Gen. 4:24).

(Mt. 18:21-22) What did Jesus mean by forgiving someone 77 times?

(18:23) The king had ultimate authority. He could choose to forgive or punish. The slave was totally at the mercy of the king.

(18:24) A talent was worth 15 years wages (see NASB footnote). This would be a debt of 150,000 days wages (or working full-time, every day, for 410 years!). In other words, this debt was insurmountable to pay. The “talent” was biggest unit of currency, and the 10,000 was the highest number.[260] This could refer to “over a billion dollars in today’s currency.”[261]

(18:25) The king appeals to justice: the man would need to pay all of it back. If we want fairness, this is what we’re asking for!

(18:26) The slave asked for mercy and promised to pay it all back.

(18:27) The king did three things: (1) “felt compassion,” (2) “released him,” and (3) “forgave him his debt.” What was this slave’s reaction? Did he say, “Thank you!” Did he leap for joy?

(18:28) No, the first thing this man did was to call in his debt from a fellow slave who owed him 100 denarii (or 100 days’ wages). Remember, this man formerly owed 150,000 days’ wages, and he’s still holding on to a debt of 100 days wages (1,500x less than his debt!). While 100 days’ wages was still significant (over three months’ pay), it pales in comparison to his own debt. When people sin against us, the sin is real and the price is steep. But the point is that this sin doesn’t even compare to the debt we owe God himself!

(18:29) This slave gives the same exact plea that we heard earlier: “Have patience with me and I will repay you everything” (v.26).

(18:30) But this slave threw him into prison to pay back the money!

(18:31) The fellow slaves snitched on him to the King.

(18:32-33) The King points out the utter hypocrisy here. The slave’s refusal to forgive this small debt “angered” him (v.34). He was angered at the fact that this man could receive mercy, but not extend mercy to others.

(18:34-35) As we argued in the Sermon on the Mount, this material was given under the old covenant. Now that we are in the new covenant, we are totally forgiven (see comments on Matthew 5:1). Forgiveness “from your heart” implies a sincerity.

Conclusion

Christians are the most forgiven people on Earth, so we should be the most forgiving people on Earth!

Matthew 19

Matthew 19:1-12 (Marriage and Divorce)

[The parallel account is found in Mark 10:1-12. Mark reports this conversation in a different order than Matthew, but the meaning is identical.]

(19:1-2) Jesus came back to Judea, where the religious leaders were more centrally located. This would make sense as to why this question on divorce would come up in this geographical location.

(19:3) The key to this passage is understanding the background views on marriage and divorce. The school of Shammai was strict, and the school of Hillel was loose. To remember these schools, use this slightly irreverent aid:

  • Shammai: Samurais (Shammai’s) are strict.
  • Hillel: The school of Hillel would answer, “What the hillel? Do whatever you want!”

The religious leaders were “testing” Jesus with this question. They were asking, “Do you agree with Shammai or with Hillel?” They were trying to trap him into a dilemma. Jesus splits the horns of the dilemma and offers a unique view instead.

(Mt. 19:3-12) Is adultery the only reason for divorce? Are other reasons permitted?

(19:4-5) Jesus cites Genesis 1:27 and 2:24 as the benchmark for his discussion on marriage. Paul makes a similar appeal in Ephesians 5:31 and 1 Corinthians 6:16.

(19:6) God’s design for marriage was for it to be between one man and one woman for one lifetime.

(19:7) They cite Deuteronomy 24:1ff to show that the Law allowed for divorce.

(19:8) Jesus points out that Moses permitted divorce, but didn’t command it.

(19:9) Men couldn’t divorce their wives for “any reason.” There has to be a very good reason for divorce. Jesus lists the reason as adultery (porneia).

(19:10) Commentators have long pointed out that this observation should make us really think twice about marriage. Many couples cavalierly enter into marriage without really thinking about the soul-forming implications of it. Obviously, God is for marriage, but we should treat this decision very carefully. Keener writes, “Parents arranged marriages, and in Galilee at least prospective spouses could not spend time alone until after the wedding. Then, more so than today, marriage partners could not know in advance how their spouse would turn out. To marry without the possibility of divorce in a painful marriage seemed worse than not marrying at all!”[262]

(19:11-12) This probably speaks to the gift of celibacy (1 Cor. 7:7), which is the nearest antecedent—namely, not getting married. The “For..” of verse 12 continues on the thought of celibacy.

Matthew 19:13-26 (Children versus the Rich Young Ruler)

(19:13-15) The disciples were “rebuking” the people for bringing their kids to Jesus! Jesus could send fear into the Pharisees and Sadducees, but he also had a softness to him. Kids wanted to use him like a jungle gym! (cf. Mt. 18:2-4; Mk. 10:13-16; Lk. 18:15-17) Luke adds that parents were bringing babies to Jesus too (Lk. 18:15). For more on this subject of children, see comments above on Matthew 18:2-3. These children are the antithesis of the rich young ruler…

(19:16) The man was rich (Mk. 10:22), he was “young” (Mt. 19:20), and he was a “ruler” (Lk. 18:18). In this religious culture, wealth “was regarded as a sign of God’s blessing.”[263] So, he must have thought he was on the right track when he asks how to get to heaven. At the same time, perhaps he had a gnawing sense that something wasn’t right and something was missing. This is what brings him to Jesus.

The man is sincerely seeking Jesus, and he’s asking the most important question ever! But his focus is on himself and his good deeds (“what good thing shall I do…?”). In Marks’ account, Jesus had just said, “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all” (v.15). This man isn’t coming to Jesus like a child, but like competent ruler.

Jesus’ response is interesting.

(Mt. 19:17) Is Jesus not God? (see comments on Lk. 18:19)?

(19:17-19) Jesus tells the man to keep the Ten Commandments. Jesus is clearly teaching Law here. His objective is to showing the crushing weight of the Law, so that the man is open to hearing about grace. Mark records, “Jesus felt a love for him and said to him” (Mk. 10:21). When we call people out of materialism, it should be because we “love” the person—not out of self-righteousness or moral indignation.

(19:20-21) The man thought that he was righteous enough to stand up under the weight of the Law. Instead of debating this, Jesus adds to the Law. He presses on the point where the man was weakest: materialism. This man had everything, but he needed to come to Jesus with nothing! He needed to come “like a little child” (Mk. 10:15).

(19:22) Jesus’ statement struck a nerve. The man went away “grieving,” realizing that he didn’t measure up after all.

(19:23) Wealth can have a deceiving and seductive effect on the human heart.

(19:24) Pastors often claim that Jesus was referring to the “needle’s eye,” which was a little gate that camels had to stoop to get through. William Barclay writes, “It is said that beside the great gate into Jerusalem through which traffic went, there was a little gate just wide and high enough for a man to get through. It is said that that little gate was called the needle’s eye, and that the picture is of a camel trying to struggle through it.”[264] The problem with this interpretation is that it is demonstrably false! No such gate exists. Another scholar writes, “The so-called needle’s eye gate in ancient Palestine has no historical basis, and is purely the concoction of a European expositor several centuries ago.”[265]

(19:25-26) God can do all things that are logically possible. This is obviously assumed by Jesus—even if it is not so obvious to skeptics today. Jesus’ point is that God has a plan to rescue people through the Cross, and this is now possible today. At the same time, the principle of what Jesus is saying still holds true: wealth can really inhibit people from coming to Christ (cf. Mt. 13:22). Mark records, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mk. 10:23)

(19:27) Wealth is the only reward the non-believer has, but God promises to give rewards to those who sacrificed for the cause of Christ. Luke’s version adds that the disciples “left their homes” to follow Jesus (Lk. 18:28).

(19:28) Ancient Greek philosophers used this term (paliggensia) to refer to the rejuvenation of the Earth. But as Colin Brown notes, “The cosmos did not attain to a new mode of being or quality through the rebirth; the world that has passed away was there once again.”[266] Of course, while Greek thinkers held to a repeated destruction and renewal of the Earth, Jesus spoke of one—and only one—restoration (“the regeneration”).

This passage implies a future for ethnic Israel. Jesus promises that the disciples will judge “the twelve tribes of Israel.”

(19:29) The word used is not “and” this, “and” that. Rather, we might give up this “or” that. What does this mean? It means that we never have to worry about outgiving God! He has all of the resources in the universe and beyond. If we give something to God, he is able and willing to give much more back. At the same time, we need to give over our lives and resources from the heart—not out of some sort of religious manipulation. Mark’s account adds that we will also get “persecutions” for following Christ (Mk. 10:30).

(19:30) Jesus promises that the way of the world will be reversed in eternity.

Matthew 20

Matthew 20:1-16 (The parable of the vineyard)

[This material is unique to Matthew.]

The people “grumbled” at what they were given (v.11), because they wanted to earn more. The major point is that this smashes self-righteousness and works-based righteousness. They would have been content with a denarius, but they compared themselves to others. This is why they were unhappy. It’s not unfair for God to give grace to somebody, because grace is unmerited and undeserved. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be grace. Why are you grumbling over God’s generosity to someone (v.11)?

We all get the same blessing, no matter how much we work. The application might be that we shouldn’t look down on other brothers or sisters in Christ, because they have the same identity—no matter how much they worked. God goes out to reach us, because we are “unemployed.” God takes even the unwanted and unemployed.

(20:1-2) “For…” relates to the final statement from the previous chapter: “Many who are first will be last; and the last, first” (Mt. 19:30). This is an inclusio with verse 16, showing that God’s economy works differently than ours.

The hard workers agreed to a denarius for the day (which was a day’s wages). They were hired “early in the morning.”

(20:3-4) The Owner hired more men to work at 9am (“the third hour”). He would pay them “whatever is right.” Who decides what is right? You? Me? God (the Owner) decides what he will give. We are in no position to bargain. God’s choice is not “unlawful” (v.15).

(20:5) The Owner hired more men at noon and 3pm (“the sixth and ninth hour”).

(20:6-7) The Owner hired more men to work at 5pm (“the eleventh hour”). In other words, these men were hired just before quitting time. They only worked for an “hour” (v.12), rather than all day long.

(20:8) After that long day of work, the foreman started to pay out.

(20:9) The men who only worked for a few minutes received a full denarius (i.e. a full day’s wages).

(20:10) The problem with the others is that they thought they deserved more than the others.

(20:11) They “grumbled” at the Owner.

(20:12) They hated the fact that they worked hard all day, when the others didn’t put in the work that they did.

(20:13) This is a mild rebuke, because he calls him “friend.” The Owner cannot be accused of being unjust (“Friend, I am doing you no wrong”). It was “not unlawful” (v.15). They agreed to work for that wage.

(20:14-15) The problem with the “grumblers” (v.11) is that they were angry with the Owner being “generous.”

(20:16) This is an oft-repeated teaching of Jesus.

Conclusions

In all honesty, this parable has always bothered me (and continues to bother me!). Why? Because I don’t understand God’s grace as well as I should! Do I realize that I deserve nothing from God? Do I realize that any sort of “ministry” is a “received mercy” (2 Cor. 4:1)? Am I learning to be happy when God blesses someone else, rather than grumbling? This parable continues to challenge me.

Many people grumble at the judgment of God, but these people grumbled at him being “generous” (v.15). Reread that last sentence to see how corrupt our thinking is!

This passage shouldn’t be taken to deny rewards in heaven, as Blomberg does. For one, it is a parable, and it shouldn’t override clear, didactic material in the epistles (e.g. 1 Cor. 3:8-15; Heb. 10:35; 11:6; 2 Jn. 8). Instead, the purpose of the parable is to show that God operates under grace. If indeed this does refer to rewards, we agree with Carson who writes, “The point of the parable is not that all in the kingdom will receive the same reward but that kingdom rewards depend on God’s sovereign grace.”[267]

Matthew 20:17-28 (Servant leadership)

[The parallel accounts are found in Mark 10:32-45 and Luke 18:31-34.]

(20:17-19) Jesus keeps repeating this teaching to prepare his disciples for his death and resurrection. This is his third prediction of his death and resurrection (Mt. 16:21; 17:22-23). This stands in contrast to the request from the Zebedee family…

(20:20) The John and James’ mom decides to ask Jesus a favor. She was ignoring the fact that Jesus’ kingdom was one of suffering (vv.17-19), thinking it would be one of power. She asks that her sons, who were standing with her (v.22), would be able to be Jesus’ head generals or princes. Jesus uses this as a teaching opportunity to teach them the true nature of leadership (vv.26-28).

Did it embarrass John and James that their mom came and asked Jesus this? Did they put her up to it? In the parallel account, Mark simply says that James and John were asking Jesus this question, so all three were probably bugging Jesus about this.

Remember, this whole question is given on the heels of Jesus repeatedly telling his disciples that he was going to be crucified (vv.17-19).

(20:21) The mother watched her sons go and follow Jesus. She wanted to know if they would be successful, powerful, and influential. Again, Jesus had just said that the “first will be last” (Mt. 19:30; 20:16), and his parable of the unemployed men explained this further. Then, Jesus spoke of his impending death and resurrection. Now, the Zebedee mother asks for her sons to be first!

This woman will show up at death and resurrection of Jesus later in the account (Mt. 27:56).

(20:22) She didn’t realize the nature of Jesus’ kingdom. She was expecting a political kingdom, where Jesus would reign as a Conquering King. She didn’t expect his kingdom to be inaugurated by his bloody and torturous death on the Cross, as humanity’s Suffering Servant.

At this point, Jesus must have turned his gaze to James and John. He asks them if they are able to “drink the cup” that he was about to drink. Of course, Jesus was thinking of the “cup” of suffering (Isa. 51:17; Jer. 25:17ff.; Ezek. 23:31ff), but they didn’t realize this. They probably thought he was thinking of a cup of stately wine.

(20:23) Later church history tells us that James and John suffered intensely for Jesus. Luke records that James was run through by a sword (Acts 12:2). The early church fathers record that John was tortured and exiled for his faith in Christ (Rev. 1:9; Jn. 21:21-23). He was exiled to the island of Patmos under the rule of Emperor Domitian (AD 81-96). Tertullian (AD 200) claimed, “The Apostle John was first plunged, unhurt, into boiling oil, and thence remitted to his island-exile!” (On the Prescription of Heretics, 36) This is a questionable assertion, and it could be a case of hagiography (i.e. making someone into a saint).

Jesus doesn’t make any promises about the assigned seating in heaven. This would’ve done more harm than good, as the context makes clear (v.24). Moreover, we don’t earn our seat, but God prepares our seat for us (“for whom it has been prepared by My Father”).

(20:24) When Jesus told James and John that they will drink his cup (v.23), the rest of the disciples probably thought that this meant that these two would be given special treatment. This was jealousy—not humility. Little did they know, this actually meant more suffering for James and John! It is in this context that Jesus begins to correct the disciples’ false beliefs about the very nature of leadership.

(20:25) Leadership in the world-system is characterized by “lording it over” others. Leadership is a power trip, and everyone can see it.

(20:26-27) Jesus didn’t deny the need for leadership or “greatness.” Instead, he redefines it. Leadership is based on serving and taking the lower seat. He intensifies the position of such a person from “servant” (diakonos) to “slave” (doulos).

(20:28) Why would we willingly choose to do become servants like this? Jesus sets the example of the ultimate servant.

Matthew 20:29-34 (Healing two blind men)

[A parallel account is found in Mark 10:46-52 and Luke 18:35-43.]

This section ends Jesus’ itinerant ministry, where he travels around. Here, he sets his face toward Jerusalem (Mt. 19:1). But he has one final healing miracle to do. This is similar to the early healing of the two blind men earlier (Mt. 9:27-31), but clearly not the same account.

The blind men don’t listen to the crowd. They listen to Jesus (vv.29-34). When you’re going through a hard time, are you going to turn directly to God, or listen to unbelieving people? These two exhibit a child-like, dependent faith.

(20:29) Jesus leaves Jericho (18 miles NE of Jerusalem) to travel to Jerusalem.

Jericho: Leaving or approaching? (Mt. 20:29; Mk. 10:46; Lk. 18:35) Matthew and Mark state that Jesus was “leaving Jericho” when he healed two blind men (Mt. 20:29; cf. Mk. 10:46), while Luke states that he was “approaching Jericho” during this time (Lk. 18:35). How on Earth can this be harmonized?

As it turns out, there were two towns called Jericho—an old town and a new one. The OT describes the old Jericho (which Matthew and Mark depict), while Josephus records the new Herodian town,[268] which Luke describes. Matthew and Mark likely referred to the ancient Jewish Jericho, because they were Jewish men. Luke, however, likely referred to the town built by Herod the Great, because he was a Gentile.[269] Again, if a Bible harmonizer asserted two Jericho’s to explain this difficult, they wouldn’t be taken seriously. Yet, this is exactly what we see in this particular text.

(20:30) There is a certain irony that these blind men could see who Jesus really was. They call him “Lord” and “Son of David,” which were both messianic titles.

Why does Matthew mention two blind men, but Mark mentions only one? Mark only mentions one blind man, and he names him (Bartimaeus). Critics see this as a contradiction. However, Mark doesn’t say that there was only one man. Instead, he simply chooses to focus on Bartimaeus, rather than both men. This is a common literary device that older commentators called telescoping. This is where a historian or author chooses to focus on one character, and not mention others. Such a device is not lying or being errant. After all, imagine if I said, “I saw a rock concert in August.” What if a skeptical listener asked, “Did you honestly go to the concert by yourself? Were you the only person in the arena? How can I trust anything you have to say??!!” Of course, by claiming that I went there, I am not saying that I was the only person at the concert! Indeed, I could’ve mentioned my spouse, my friends, and the 20,000 other people in the arena! Similarly, historians are free to focus on one figure, rather than exhaustively explaining every detail. Such an omission is the prerogative of the narrator.

(20:31) These blind men fought through the social pressure. They must have felt pretty awkward yelling out to Jesus, as the crowd was telling them to be quiet. But they persisted.

(20:32) While these men were rejected by the crowd, they were accepted by Jesus. He calls them over. They must have insecurely hobbled through the crowd, groping in the dark, reaching out for Jesus.

(20:33) They made a direct request from Jesus, showing their dependence and trust (Jas. 4:2).

(20:34) Jesus had a heart of compassion for these men and their plight. This act of compassion and power changed their lives. Typically, Jesus would tell people to be quiet. However, he is ready to take up the Cross in Jerusalem. So, Jesus allows these two men to follow him after this miraculous encounter.

Matthew 21

Matthew 21:1-11 (Entering the Temple: The Triumphal Entry)

[This account is recorded in Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:29-44, and John 12:12-19]

(21:1) Bethpage was functionally a suburb of Jerusalem, but technically part of Jerusalem itself. They are standing on the Mount of Olives.

(21:2-3) Why was Jesus asking for a donkey? After all, this is the only record of Jesus not walking somewhere in the entirety of the Bible,[270] and he only had two miles to travel. For a weathered itinerant preacher, two miles would be nothing. But, as we’ll see, he was setting up a scene to show that he was the long-predicted Messiah, and this piece of the scenery was predicted in Zechariah 9:9.

Jesus had supernatural foreknowledge. He knew that there was a donkey and a colt there. He not only knows this, but he also knows how people will respond if the disciples start untying and walking off with their property. He also knows what people will freely do if they hear the words, “The Lord has need of them.”

Mark records the fulfillment of these exact events (Mk. 11:6). In fact, when the disciples shared these words, the people “gave them permission” to take the animals.

Luke tells us that Peter and John went ahead to get the animals (Lk. 22:8).

(21:4-5) Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9. Clearly, this is a messianic prediction, because it speaks of the coming “King” of Jerusalem.

(Mt. 21:5) How did Jesus fulfill Zechariah 9:9?

(21:6-7) Did Matthew misinterpret Zechariah 9:9 and think this prediction included two animals, rather than one? When Zechariah 9:9 mentions that the Messiah would ride on “a donkey, even on a colt,” this is a case of Hebrew parallelism—specifically, it is a case of intensification. Critics argue that Matthew didn’t understand this basic aspect of reading Hebrew poetry. Does Matthew picture Jesus straddling two animals as he rides into Jerusalem? And why do Mark and Luke only mention the colt—not the donkey?

We hold that Jesus only rode on the colt—not both animals. For one, the text never says that Jesus rode both animals. Instead, it states that Jesus sat on the “coats,” and both animals had coats on them. But while both the donkey and colt had coats on them, Jesus could’ve merely ridden on one—not both. This would be similar to saying, “My car has leather seats, and my friend said how much he liked riding on the leather seats.” By saying this, it is not required that my friend needed to sit in all five seats in the car! He merely needed to sit on some part of the leather seat.

Secondly, Mark records a detail absent from Matthew that could very well explain this difficulty—namely, the young colt had never been ridden before (Mk. 11:2). So, it’s possible that they had the wisdom to bring the colt’s “mother as well to reassure it among the noisy crowd.”[271]

(21:8-9) “Most of the crowd” is better translated as “the very great crowd.”[272] The people recognized that Jesus was fulfilling Messianic prophecy. They spread out their coats (cf. 2 Kin. 9:13), laid out branches, and sang a messianic psalm (Ps. 118:26).[273] This is similar to “rolling out the red carpet” in modern contexts. John adds that these were the branches of “palm trees” (Jn. 12:13). This is where we get the title “Palm Sunday.”

(Mt. 21:9) Why did the crowds shout out Psalm 118:26?

“Hosanna” is Greek for “save us!”[274] Days later, these same people would be screaming, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!”

(21:10-11) The crowds called him the prophet,” which may harken back to Deuteronomy 18:15ff (cf. Jn. 6:14-15). When it says that they were “stirred” (seiō), this is better translated “shaken.” This is the Greek word from which we get our English term “seismic.” Jesus was shaking the city as he entered!

Luke records that Jesus wept over the city as he approach (Lk. 19:41-44). As he had been predicting this entire time, he knew that these same people who were crying, “Hosanna!” would later cry, “Crucify Him!”

Matthew 21:12-17 (Cleansing the Temple)

[The parallel accounts are in Mark 11:11-19 and Luke 19:45-48. Some think that John organizes his account topically, placing the Temple cleansing at the beginning of his account—see John 2:13-22. However, we contend that there were two cleansings of the Temple.]

(Mt. 21:12) When did Jesus cleanse the Temple?

(Mt. 21:12) Why did Jesus get so angry? Was his anger justified? (cf. Lk. 19:45-46, Jn. 2:14-15, and Mk. 11:15-17)

Mark includes that a night transpired before Jesus entered (Mk. 11:11-15). This shows that Jesus waited before purifying the Temple, rather than appearing to fly off the handle in anger. This is a fulfillment of Malachi 3:1, where God himself comes into the Temple!

(21:12) Why was Jesus being so harsh? These religious leaders were profiteering off of a poor culture. The historical background of this graft is important.

Josephus: “When Pompeii entered Jerusalem (80 BC), ‘There were in that temple… the treasures two thousand talents of sacred money.’” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 4:76)

  • One Attic talent was ~ 60 lbs.
  • 2,000 talents
  • 120,000 lbs of gold
  • 92 million ounces (an ounce is $1,500)
  • $2,880,000,000

Josephus: “Now Crassus… carried off the money that was in the temple, which Pompeius had left, being two thousand talents, and was disposed to spoil it of all the gold belonging to it, which was eight thousand talents.” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 7:105)

  • 68 million ounces
  • $11,520,000,000
  • In total, $14.4 billion.

Josephus: “The Romans exacted of us, in a little time, above ten thousand talents; and the royal authority… became the property of private men.” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 4:77)

Josephus: “And let no one wonder that there was so much wealth in our temple, since all the Jews throughout the habitable earth, and those that worshipped God, nay, even those of Asia and Europe, sent their contributions to it. Nor is the largeness of these sums without its attestation; nor is that greatness owing to our vanity, as raising it without ground to so great a height; but there are many witnesses to it.” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 7:2)

Once you were at the Temple, you couldn’t travel all the way home to get another lamb. You were forced to get bilked by the people in the Temple. For a milder example, this is like spending $20 for a beer at a sports game. This was the kind of deceit happening at the time, and Jesus was enraged by this.

Jesus’ cleansing was not good for business. Mark adds that Jesus “would not permit anyone to carry merchandise through the temple” (Mk. 11:16). This would be like shutting off the power at Wal-Mart on Black Friday! They wanted to dispense of him, but they couldn’t because he was so popular. Mark adds that the religious leaders “were afraid of Him, for the whole crowd was astonished at His teaching” (Mk. 11:18).

(21:13) Jesus cites Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11.

(21:14) Jesus brought discipline to the religious profiteers, but he also healed the innocent bystanders, who congregated at the Temple (cf. Acts 3:2). A millennium earlier, King David wouldn’t allow the blind and lame into the Temple (2 Sam. 5:8). Here, however, the Son of David was bringing them into the Temple. But more than this, he was healing them there!

(21:15) Jesus was really coming out into the open here: He has been fulfilling prophecy, accepting praise, and cleansing the Temple. This will bring about a massive confrontation with the religious leaders. The “children” understand what the religious leaders fail to comprehend—just as Jesus had earlier taught (Mt. 11:25).

Carson understands this to support the deity of Christ, because Psalm 8 is “applicable only to God.”[275] And the children are directing their “Hosannas” at Jesus—not at God the Father.

(21:16) The religious leaders give him an opportunity to recant. But instead, Jesus doubles down on his claims, quoting Scripture (Ps. 8:2). Luke contains extended material from Jesus, telling the religious leaders that the stones would cry out if his disciples stopped speaking (Lk. 19:40). Jesus then predicts the destruction of Jerusalem, and argues that this is because they didn’t accept him (Lk. 19:41-44). Specifically, they didn’t recognize the “time of [their] visitation” (Lk. 19:44). Some Dispensational commentators take this to refer to the chronological fulfillment of Daniel 9.

(21:17) He spends the night in Bethany. Jerusalem was so packed during Passover week that most people had to find lodging outside of the city. Jesus and his entourage were no exception. Carson thinks that he probably stayed with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.[276]

Matthew 21:18-22 (Cursing the Fig Tree)

[The parallel account is found in Mark 11:12-14.]

(21:18-19) Many skeptics treat this as an unforgiveable sin on Jesus’ behalf. Jesus curses this poor, poor fig tree. How could he?? (We hope our sarcasm is evident!) Lemke explains the likely meaning of this event: “The fig tree was frequently associated with Israel in the Prophets (Jr 29:17; Hs 9:10, 16; Mc 7:1-6). Micah 7:1-6 compared the absence of early figs to the dearth of righteousness.”[277] France writes, “A tree which promises fruit but provides none is an apt symbol of a religion without godliness, and the summary destruction of the tree can only point in the same direction as Jesus’ demonstration in the temple.”[278]

(Mt. 21:18) What is the significance of the fig tree?

(Mt. 21:18-22) Does this account of Jesus cursing the fig tree contradict Mark’s account? (Mk. 11:11-15, 19-25)

(21:20) They should’ve been asking why Jesus would do this. After all, he has been performing miracle after miracle for the last three years. Is the death of a fig tree really so surprising?

(21:21-22) Jesus is pointing out their lack of faith by asking this question. Incidentally, he confers this same power of prayer to the disciples.

Matthew 21:23-27 (Debating in the Temple)

[The parallel accounts are found in Mark 11:27-12:12 and Luke 20:1-19.]

(21:23) Jesus reenters the Temple, and starts to teach. The religious leaders interrupt his teaching to debate him publicly (“…while he was teaching…”). They think that they are going to trap him, but they wind up falling into a trap themselves…

(21:24-26) Jesus springs a true theological dilemma on the religious leaders. He asks if John the Baptist’s authority was from God (“from heaven”) or not from God (“from men”). If they go with the first horn of the dilemma, then they would need to admit that Jesus was also from God, because John the Baptist affirmed Jesus. But if they chose the second horn of the dilemma, then they would be at odds with the people, because John was so popular.

Which option do they choose?

(21:27) They chose agnosticism (“We do not know”). This really isn’t a fair answer. Often, people say, “I don’t know” thinking that it’s the safe position. But in reality, their agnosticism is really a lack of intellectual integrity. Consequently, it causes them to miss out on what God has to offer them.

Jesus knows that the issue is not with knowledge, but with their hearts. So he doesn’t give them more evidence or debate with them. Carson comments, “They raised the question of Jesus’ authority; he raised the question of their competence to judge such an issue.”[279]

Matthew 21:28-32 (Parable of the Two Sons)

[This material is unique to Matthew.]

(21:28-30) The parable shows that an individual can be cantankerous on the outside, but actually quite leadable on the inside. Jesus’ point is that it is better to be a doer, than a talker. At the same time, it would be better yet to be a doer and a talker! This passage should not be used to justify being irritable and stubborn with our words. Jesus taught a parable about “two sons” that speaks to similar themes in Luke 15.

(21:31-32) What is the connection between this parable and the fact that the tax collectors and prostitutes will enter into the kingdom? Jesus is showing that the religious leaders didn’t feel “remorse” for their initial reaction to John’s ministry. This is the same term used of the son who later “regretted” saying, “No,” to his father. Jesus is calling for a change of mind.

Matthew 21:33-46 (Parable of the vineyard owner)

[The parallel passages are in Mark 12:1-12 and Luke 20:9-19.]

(21:33) Many commentators see stark allusions back to Isaiah 5 and Psalm 80 in this parable.

(21:34-36) The Owner wanted to collect the money which rightly belonged to him. He sends multiple waves of slaves to collect the money, but the renters keep killing or beating them.

(21:37) The Owner believes that the key problem is that they don’t “respect” these slaves, but they were surely “respect” his son.

(21:38-40) Instead of respecting the son, they see this as an opportunity to kill the son and illegally seize the vineyard for themselves. Jesus uses this parable to get the religious leaders to identify with the Owner, and his rightful need for justice.

(21:41) The religious leaders agree that those renters should be judged, and the vineyard should be given away. Carson writes, “For six months Jesus has been telling his disciples that the rulers at Jerusalem would kill him (16:21; 17:23; 20:18). Now he tells the rulers themselves, albeit in a parable form, which, at some level, the leaders understand (21:45-46). Undoubtedly some who heard Peter a few weeks later (Acts 2:23-37; 3:14-15) were the more convicted when they remembered these words of Jesus.”[280]

This is different from Luke’s account. In Luke, Jesus tells them that the Owner will judge the renters and will give it over to others, and the religious leaders cry, “May it never be!” (Lk. 20:16) Matthew and Luke are summarizing their accounts differently. Matthew separates the part about giving the kingdom to a people who will produce fruit (Mt. 21:43), while Luke combines these together (Lk. 20:16).

(21:42) Jesus cites Psalm 118:22, showing that God predicted that his plan through himself (God’s “cornerstone”) would be rejected by his own people.

(21:43) In context, this does not speak to the Gentiles receiving the kingdom from the Jews. The tax collectors and prostitutes mentioned earlier were also Jews—not Gentiles.

(Mt. 21:43) Is Jesus saying that the Jews are permanently out of God’s plan, because they rejected the Messiah?

(21:44) You can’t win a fight with this Stone. If you attack it, you die. If it attacks you, you die. It’s better to surrender and submit to this “cornerstone.”

(21:45) There is an irony in the fact that the Pharisees could not understand Jesus’ other parables, but they could understand this one.

(21:46) Remember how this chapter opened. The people were in love with the words and works of Jesus. Carson comments, “The pericope ends with magnificent yet tragic irony (v. 46). The religious leaders are told they will reject Jesus and be crushed. But instead of taking the warning, they hunt for ways to arrest him, hindered only by fear.”[281]

Matthew 22

Matthew 22:1-14 (The parable of the wedding feast)

[This passage is similar to Luke 14:16-24.]

Is this the same parable as Luke 14:16-24? They are similar, but not the same. Matthew refers to the king, while Luke simply refers to a man. Matthew refers to a wedding banquet for the son of the king, while Luke simply refers to a great dinner. Matthew states that the guests turn violent, while Luke simply says they give excuses. While these differences can be harmonized, there seems no reason to believe that Jesus couldn’t have repeated this story multiple times, and Matthew and Luke are recording different forms of it.

This is a good parable for Arminians, but a difficult passage for Calvinists. The King tries to persuade the guests, but they are “unwilling” (v.3). It isn’t that the people were “unworthy” in the sense that they didn’t merit the acceptance. They were unworthy because they chose to be unworthy. These people who were personally invited are the ones whom you’d expect to be worthy (e.g. status, wealth, etc.), but they didn’t respond. As a result, it’s the unexpected people who get in. The notion of “chosenness” is based on those who reply to the King’s offer—not those who were irresistibly compelled to come (v.14).

(22:1-2) This parable really strikes close to home with Jesus’ mission. That is, the Bible repeatedly refers to the Church as the Bride of Christ, and Jesus is the Groom.

(22:3) These people heard the “call” and were “invited,” but they didn’t come. Why? They were “unwilling.” In fact, they heard an original call, and they needed to hear it again from a personal messenger. But they wouldn’t answer the call of the king.

(22:4) The King had more than enough food and drink for this feast. The problem wasn’t with the lack of his provision, but their lack of willingness.

(22:5) Why didn’t they come? They didn’t “pay attention,” because they were obsessed with the mundane routine of life (e.g. “farming,” “business,” etc.). They were distracted by the common aspects of life. Still, others were so angry at the king’s gracious offer that they literally “killed the messenger.” Regardless, the ordinary sinners and the heinous sinners both missed their opportunity to dine with the king.

(22:6) Some weren’t merely apathetic. They were hostile! They beat and killed these messengers of the King.

(22:7) Some hold that this is a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 (“set their city on fire”). However, J.A.T. Robinson, who himself was a critical scholar, points out that the city was not burned in AD 70—the Temple was.[282] In our estimation, this is simply the detail of a parable that shouldn’t be pressed for predictive precision. More accurately, it refers to judgment in general—most likely hell.

(22:8) Why weren’t they “worthy”? Because they weren’t “called” or “invited”? Not at all. They were “unwilling” (v.3) and did not “pay attention” (v.5). That is, they rejected the call of the king.

(22:9) There was so much food at the banquet hall that was going to go to waste. So, the king opens the doors wide (to the Gentiles?) to be invited to the feast.

(22:10) The servants called all they found.” Here is another reference to salvation being available to “all.” Both the “good and evil” were called. Earlier parables ended with a greater audience being invited to God (Mt. 21:31-32, 41-43).

(22:11) Today, we might call this man a “wedding crasher.” He was invited, but he didn’t show up in the right clothes. In this culture, people wore white to a wedding, and “to come in dirty clothes [was] an insult to the host.”[283] Thus the man’s lack of proper apparel probably shows that he really didn’t care about the King or his Son. He was just there for the free food, drinks, and prestige.

(22:12) When he was asked by the King himself, he was “speechless.” This is probably analogous to the person who comes to face Christ at the judgment seat, and he has no defense for refusing to receive Christ’s “clothes” (i.e. forgiveness).

(22:13) This is a common metaphor for hell (“weeping and gnashing of teeth”).

(22:14) “For many are called, but few are chosen.” The “called” (klētos) include all of the people who were invited—even those who refused to come (v.3). The “chosen” refer to those who actually make it to the feast. The term “chosen” (eklektoi)

Conclusion

The people weren’t allowed in based on their good deeds. In fact, Jesus says that “both evil and good” people entered (v.10).

The people weren’t forced to come. Indeed, many decided to freely reject the King’s invitation—even violently.

No one will be able to carry a defense as they stand before Christ. This man was “speechless” (v.12). You will be too if you stand before God without the forgiveness of Christ.

Consequently, it’s too late once you get there. When we stand before Jesus, we will need to already have accepted his forgiveness of Christ. If you wait until you get there, you’ll be like this man: in big trouble.

Matthew 22:15-46 (Jesus: the Great Debater)

Notice how Jesus’ opponents try to trap him, and how deftly Jesus maneuvers in debate. Jesus doesn’t stay on the defensive the entire time, but instead, he forces his opponents to answer some questions.

Debating the PHARISEES and HERODIANS

[The parallel passages are found in Mark 12:13-37 and Luke 20:20-44.]

(22:15) The Pharisees come to “trap” Jesus in a debate. This shows how important it is to know truth, know how to defend it, and be prepared for how to maneuver in these tough situations (cf. 1 Pet. 3:15).

(22:16) Instead of coming in person (were they too afraid?), the Pharisees send their disciples to challenge Jesus. This is the only mention of the Herodians in Matthew. They seem to be buttering Jesus up. Remember, they are trying to “trap” him.

(22:17) They bring up a very heated topic in the first century: taxes. This is not the Temple tax mentioned in Matthew 17:24-27. Instead, this is the poll-tax that was “paid direct[ly] to Rome.”[284]

Different factions of Jews had different views on this topic. The Pharisees and Sadducees believed it was permissible to pay taxes to the godless, Roman emperor. The Pharisees were waiting for the Messiah to overthrow Rome, and the Sadducees were getting wealthy off of this arrangement. Meanwhile, the Zealot party wanted war to oppose the paying of taxes to Rome. They were similar to those who were “zealous for the Law” in the days of the Maccabean Revolt.

If Jesus agreed to the tax, his messianic status would be questioned. After all, the Messiah was supposed to dethrone Caesar—not pay taxes to him! But if he disagreed, then he would be viewed as a threat to Rome, which was a capital offense. Which horn of the dilemma will Jesus choose? This topic was so heated that the religious authorities brought this up at Jesus’ trial, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, and saying that He Himself is Christ, a King” (Lk. 23:2).

(22:18) Jesus could see through this trap (v.15). He calls them hypocrites, because they themselves could also be asked this question and wouldn’t be able to answer it. That is, this wasn’t just a tough question for Jesus to answer, but for everyone to answer.

(22:19) By asking them for the coin, Jesus was implicitly showing that they were idol-worshippers, who carried around the image of a false god! In fact, the inscription of a denarius read, “Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus.”[285] In other words, we might imagine Jesus saying, “Why are you asking me about taxes, when you carry money that engages in explicit idolatry?”

(22:20-21) Jesus’ answer is brilliant. He doesn’t fall into the dilemma. Instead, he splits the dilemma by showing that the political and spiritual authorities are different. By saying so little, we could interpret Jesus to be saying that we should pay taxes to Caesar, because that is his money (cf. Rom. 13:1-7). But we can also see beneath this answer a radical commitment to God. After all, what things belong to God? Everything! (Ps. 24:1)

In addition, the coin had an image of Caesar on it, and it contained the words “son of a god” etched into it.[286] The fact that his opponents could so quickly produce this money showed that they used coinage that supported idolatry!

Furthermore, in Greek, there is a subtle play on words in the text: When the disciples of the Pharisees asked Jesus if it was lawful to “give” (didomi) this tax (v.17), this is different than the word “render” (apodidomi), which means “to meet a contractual or other obligation, pay, pay out, fulfill” (BDAG).

(22:22) Jesus could debate people to a standstill.

Debating the SADDUCEES

[The parallel passages are found in Mark 12:18-27 and Luke 20:27-40.]

(22:23) The Sadducees believed that the soul died along with the body. Josephus writes, “The doctrine of the Sadducees is this: That souls die with the bodies.”[287]

Matthew’s use of the present tense (“[those] who say there is no resurrection”) supports the notion that he wrote this gospel before AD 70. Indeed, the Sadducees virtually disappeared after the Jewish Revolt (AD 66) and the Destruction of Jerusalem (AD 70).

(22:24) Instead of a political trap, they leverage a theological trap. They cite the levirate law found in Deuteronomy 25:5-6, which told the Jewish people to marry a widowed woman.

(22:25-28) The Sadducees are using a reductio ad absurdum. Under this form of argument, you carry out the premises of your opponent to their logical and absurd conclusions. They are trying to show that the concept of resurrection is absurd, because it would make marriage (an eternal bond) absurd. They had probably used this argument before on the Pharisees, and they thought it would work on Jesus as well.

The real question is why seven men would continue to marry such a deadly woman! We can only imagine the seventh brother sweating at the altar as he married this black widow!

(22:29) Jesus is assuming that they (1) know what the Scriptures ARE and (2) what the Scriptures TEACH (note the same concept in verse 31). This defeats the notion that the Jewish canon was still undecided or unknown in Jesus’ day, and the concept that we cannot understand the clear teaching of Scripture. Later, Jesus cites Exodus 3:6 and states that this was “spoken to you by God.” This shows that the Scriptures are for every generation.

(22:30) Marriage lasts until “death do we part.” Moreover, we will not get remarried in heaven. Jesus’ mention of being “like the angels” may have been a jab at the Sadducees who also denied the existence of the angelic order (Acts 23:8).

(22:31-32) Now, Jesus goes on the offensive and strikes them with a theological argument of his own. The Sadducees respected the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible). Jesus cites Exodus 3:6 to support his concept of the afterlife. Mark’s account makes it clear that Jesus has Exodus 3 in mind, because he says, “The passage about the burning bush…” (Mk. 12:26; cf. Lk. 20:37).

Jesus makes his argument on the verb tenses. It doesn’t say, “I was the God of Abraham.” It says, “I am the God of Abraham.” France comments, “‘To be the God of’ implies a caring, protecting relationship which is as permanent as the living God who makes it.”[288]

(22:33) Again, Jesus argued them to a standstill. While Matthew doesn’t record their response, he definitely scored points with the crowds and audiences. Moreover, in Luke’s account, the religious leaders told Jesus that he had “answered well.” This was because “they did not have courage to question Him any longer about anything” (Lk. 20:39-40).

Debating the PHARISEES (Round 2)

[The parallel passage is found in Mark 12:28-34, though a similar passage can be found in Luke 10:25-28.]

(22:34) Remember, the Pharisees earlier sent their disciples to debate Jesus (v.16). Now they work up the courage to come debate him publicly.

(22:35-36) A “lawyer” was one who was an expert at biblical law. Thus, this man was “both a learned theologian and a legal expert.”[289] This was a test because rabbinical thinkers argued over how to accurately systematize the OT law. The scribes identified 613 commands in the OT law. Some held that all of the laws had equal importance.[290] Rabbi Hillel articulated the Golden Rule in a negative form: “What is hateful to you, do not do to anyone else. This is the whole law; all the rest is commentary. Go and learn it” (b Shabbath 31a). Though, Carson notes, “Akiba’s dictum was a response to a Gentile challenge to explain the whole law during the time he could stand on one leg.”[291]

Since this was such a hot topic, “an incautious reply by Jesus could suggest that he repudiated some of these commandments, and thus lay him open to a charge of ‘annulling the law.’”[292]

(Mt. 22:37-39) Does Jesus misquote Deuteronomy 6:5?

(22:37-40) France[293] and Carson[294] hold that the terms “heart… soul… mind…” are “overlapping categories”[295] that refer to the whole person, rather than individual parts of the person. This is a sort of merism that describes the whole person.

Jesus doesn’t bend on his conviction that the purpose of the Law was to love God (Deut. 6:5) and love our neighbor (Lev. 19:18). In Mark’s account, we read one of the scribes admitted that this was the correct answer (Mk. 12:32), and Jesus told him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God” (Mk. 12:34). If Jesus was merely preaching Law, then Jesus would have said that you are in the kingdom of God. Instead, this statement must mean that the man should reflect on the crushing weight of the Law, so he could come to salvation by grace through faith.

Jesus turns the tables: It’s his turn to ask a question

[The parallel passages are found in Mark 12:35-37 and Luke 20:41-44.]

Jesus doesn’t feel satisfied just defending his convictions. He goes on the offensive in the debate. Now it’s time for them to answer some questions. Instead of discussing peripheral details like taxes, marriage, etc. Jesus brings them to the “real issue,”[296] which is what they believe about him.

(22:41-42) Jesus begins with a simple question. Anyone would be able to answer this. He is setting them up for his next question…

(22:43-45) He argues that Psalm 110 was written by David, and yet David could refer to the Messiah as his “Lord.” How could this be, unless the Messiah was greater than David? Jesus sets up the antinomy or apparent conflict in Psalm 110, but he leaves the answer as a cliffhanger.

To agree to the conclusion, Jesus’ opponents would need to admit that someone greater than David was there. Just as Jesus was greater than the Temple (Mt. 12:7), Jonah (Mt. 12:41), Solomon (Mt. 12:42), he was also greater than David.

(Mt. 22:41-46) Is Psalm 110 a prophecy of Jesus?

(22:46) When Jesus wanted to debate, he could argue his opponents into utter silence. Earlier, Jesus kept his dialogues open, and his opponents would return for more. But not here. Why did Jesus argue them into silence? Was it because he wanted to embarrass the Pharisees, humiliating them publicly? Did Jesus want to show-off his intellectual prowess? Did he want to display his vast knowledge of the Scriptures? Not at all. He waited to publicly take them down in debate to reveal to them and the crowds that their real problem with him was not intellectual or theological; instead, it was moral and spiritual.

Mark’s account points out that the “large crowd enjoyed listening to him” (Mk. 12:37). While Jesus didn’t reach all of the religious leaders, his message bounced off of their hardened hearts and connected with the crowds.

Conclusion

The chapter opened by describing how people were refusing to come to the king’s wedding banquet for his son’s wedding. The rest of the chapter explains how these religious leaders missed an opportunity to come to faith in Jesus.

This chapter issues a warning about intellectual smokescreens. These religious leaders didn’t want to hear the truth. They just wanted to catch Jesus in a lie or inconsistency in order to kill him.

Matthew 23

Matthew 23:1-36 (Jesus rebukes the Pharisees)

[Much shorter parallel passages are in Mark 12:38-40 and Luke 20:45-47.]

In this chapter, there are no interruptions: Jesus is absolutely unloading on the hypocrisy and legalism of the religious leaders!! He must’ve been gasping for air in between rebukes.

Why is Jesus so angry? This doesn’t condone over-the-top rebukes whenever we see legalism of any kind. After all, Jesus interacted and tried to persuade these religious leaders for years before this point. Indeed, in the previous chapter, he argued them to a point of silence (Mt. 22:46). Their problem wasn’t intellectual, but moral and spiritual. At a certain point, there is a time to draw the line and say, “Enough discussion, enough debate, enough dialogue… This is simply wrong, and I’m not going to agree with it.” Jesus was at this point here.

Furthermore, Jesus wasn’t personally irritated by the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. Surely, their hypocrisy affected him personally, but that’s not the point of this section. Instead, Jesus’ rebuke is like a siren that is warning them about the coming judgment if they don’t repent (Mt. 23:37-39).

DISCUSSION: As you read this chapter, ask yourself, “What qualities make someone or something legalistic?”

Jesus addresses the crowds

(23:1) Jesus addresses the crowds and his rebuke “is intended to appeal over the heads of the leaders to those who have been attracted to Jesus’ teaching as a new and better way.”[297]

(23:2) Is this a literal seat? Possibly.[298] The “Magdala Stone Moses Seat” was discovered in a synagogue. Kennedy writes, “excavations uncovered an intricately carved stone, nearly cubed shaped, decorated with a menorah, ritual water jars, pillars, palm trees, and various geometric and floral designs.” He adds, “Other objects identified as a “Moses Seat” include those found in ancient synagogues at Hammath by Tiberias, Chorazin, En-Gedi, and possibly Delos.”[299] This seat was likely where the Scriptures were opened and spread out in front of the people. By saying that the Pharisees were sitting in this seat, this implies that they were equating their authority with Scripture—a heinous sin.

Is this a metaphorical seat? This is also possible. Under this view, Jesus is saying that they are teaching what Moses taught, and they are usurping Moses’ authority. Regardless, the Pharisees enjoyed having authority—even over Moses (i.e. the Bible).

(23:3) “All that they tell you, do and observe…” This is odd in light of Jesus’ critiques of Pharisaical teaching (Mt. 15:1-20; 16:6-12). This could have been given “with an ironical, tongue-in-cheek tone,”[300] or it is “biting irony, bordering on sarcasm.”[301] On the other hand, he could be saying that the people shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater: If the Pharisees are reading God’s word, the people should follow that. God’s word has power to change lives, and the Pharisaical hypocrisy shouldn’t stop the people from following God’s word.

They are good talkers, but they don’t practice what they teach.

(23:4) They put a lot of moral commands on people, but aren’t concerned with offering any help. They like to complain about how immoral people are, but don’t try to help them with their struggles. These “heavy burdens” stand in stark contrast to Jesus’ ways which are “easy and light” (Mt. 11:28-30).

(23:5) Legalists love getting attention for their deeds. They hate doing anything in secret.

Phylacteries were “small leather or parchment boxes containing a piece of vellum inscribed with four texts from the law.”[302] They contained scrolls of Exodus to Deuteronomy (specifically Ex. 13:2-10, 11-16; Deut. 6:4-9; 11:13-21). The religious leaders wore these on their arm or forehead. The Pharisees focused on the size of their phylacteries, rather than their content.

“Tassels” were commanded in the law (Num. 15:37-41; Deut. 22:12) to remind the people of God’s words.

(23:6) They love getting the attention and honor of men, which is incompatible with getting honor from God. Elsewhere, Jesus said, “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?” (Jn. 5:44)

(23:7) They love the title of leader, rather than the role of a leader.

(23:8-10) The purpose is that we should be servant leaders—not yearning for the title (see v.7). Paul called himself a father and teacher. Therefore, Roman Catholics aren’t ipso facto wrong by calling priests “father.” France argues that a meaningful application of this would be to avoid “honorific titles” for people.[303]

(23:11-12) This is the thesis statement through which we can understand these statements above. The Pharisees were wrong to desire being esteemed and worshipped by their followers (cf. Mt. 18:4; 20:26-27).

Jesus directly rebukes the Pharisees

The pronouns switch to “you,” which means that Jesus is directly rebuking the Pharisees here. These eight woes[304] may be parallel to the eight blessings in the Beatitudes (Mt. 5),[305] and somewhat similar to the six woes of Luke 11:37-54.

“Woe” can refer to a lament (Mt. 24:19), or it can refer to a curse (Mt. 11:21).

(23:13) The Pharisees’ theology stopped people from going to heaven. This really focuses on radical legalism, because the Pharisees themselves weren’t getting into heaven.

(23:14) This is from Mark 12:40, but not in our best manuscripts of Matthew.

They were taking from the poorest of the poor (widows). At the same time, they are doing religious acts (prayer). They’re taking from the poor, while at the same time thinking they’re righteous for praying afterwards!

(23:15) It’s unlikely that these Pharisees were reaching Pagans; rather, they were most likely reaching fellow Jews into Pharisaism.[306] Leading others into legalism is a tremendous sin. Jesus isn’t against sharing our convictions (Mt. 28:18-20), but he is against sharing poisonous convictions!

(23:16-17) This is like saying, “I swear on my mother’s grave!” And the other person says, “No, instead, swear on your mother’s inheritance!” They focused on gold, rather than on God.

(23:18-22) The point here is that the Pharisees were ousting God as the most important aspect of the Temple.

(23:23-24) They focus on ethical minutiae, rather than the more important moral principles (see “Prioritized Ethics”). Regarding verse 24, France writes, “The joke may have been aided by an Aramaic pun on galma (gnat) and gamla (camel).”[307] The people were probably laughing at this joke, even as Jesus continued to rip these hypocrites to shreds.

“Weightier” does not refer to the more difficult, but rather, it refers to the “more central” and “more decisive,” rather than the ethically trivial or “peripheral.”[308]

(23:25) There was a debate between the Hillelites and the Shammaites on what constituted a clean cup. Hillelites taught that one simply needed to clean the inside, while the Shammaites taught that both the inside and the outside needed cleaned.[309] Jesus incisively uses this silly debate to show them their problem: The issue isn’t with cups but with people! They focus on their appearances, rather than on their character. Inside, they have all sorts of problems, but they can’t bring themselves to admit this.

(23:26) Jesus gives an invitation to have their hearts cleaned in the midst of this rebuke.

(23:27-28) Right before Passover, there was a Jewish custom where they would plaster tombs white (i.e. “white-wash” them) so that people wouldn’t accidentally touch them and become defiled (Mishnah Shekalim 1:1; cf. Ma’aser Sheni 5:1). Think of this picture: These white tombs looked nice on the outside, but inside, they are full of death and decay! In the same way, these people looked good on the outside, but they were full of spiritual death on the inside. Those obsessed with “law” ended up in “lawlessness.”

It’s also possible to understand Jesus’ words to refer to the ossuaries (or bone boxes) that looked good on the outside, but were filled with death on the inside.[310] Though, we favor the first reading as more natural than this second reading.

(23:29-31) In the first-century, people built many monuments like this. One example is Herod’s building of a monument that was dedicated to King David’s tomb (Antiquities, 16.179-182).

They venerate the prophets, but would have been their killers! They would’ve killed the prophets if they had been alive at the time. This is similar to Stephen’s words, “Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute?” (Acts 7:52)

It’s like the “Monday morning quarterback” who is second guessing Peyton Manning: “I would’ve thrown it to the tight end… He was WIDE OPEN!” It’s the armchair critic, who is usually self-righteous. Remember that hindsight is 20-20.

(23:32) The connection to the “fathers” is that they fulfilled (plerosate) the example to an even greater degree by fulfilling prophecy and killing Jesus. Paul seems to pick up this idea in 1 Thessalonians 2:16, when he writes, “They always fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them to the utmost.”

(23:33-34) The disciples of Jesus go on to save some of these religious leaders, but many of them went to hell after hearing this horrific warning. This isn’t the first time they heard this, because John the Baptist had used almost identical words three years earlier (Mt. 3:7).

(Mt. 23:35) Jesus claims that the last Hebrew martyr was Zechariah the son of Berechiah, but this is the wrong Zechariah.

(23:35) Salvation history contains many examples of hypocrites and legalists killing the prophets. In this final stage of the old covenant, these men kill Jesus. Not merely a prophet, but the Son of God himself.

(23:36) This likely refers to the destruction of the Temple (v.38). Though it could also refer to the judgment of hell (v.33).

(Mt. 23:37-39) Does this passage support Preterism?

(23:37) We find a close parallel in Luke 13:34-35. Typically, God himself was pictured as bird protecting his people (Deut. 32:11; Ps. 17:8; 91:4; Isa. 31:5). Thus, this could support the deity of Christ.

This passage is difficult for Calvinism for obvious reasons. Calvinists often ofter two rejoinders: (1) This doesn’t refer to salvation, and (2) the “children” are the Jewish lay people rather than the religious leaders. However, these responses aren’t persuasive.

(1) This is a salvation passage. Jesus is speaking about the judgment of hell (v.33) and the judgment of the destruction of the Temple (v.38). The principle sin of Jerusalem was that they ignored the salvation message of the “prophets” and “those who were sent to her.”

(2) Even if the “children” refer to the Jewish lay people, then this passage would still be a major difficulty for Calvinism. After all, how could the “unwillingness” of these leaders thwart the sovereignty of God? How could the puny will of a human leader stop God from saving these people?

But nothing in the text connects “Jerusalem, Jerusalem” with only the religious leaders. After all, if this only refers to the religious leaders, then this would mean that only the religious leaders died in AD 70 (Mt. 23:38-39). Instead, the use of Jerusalem is a use of “metonymy” to refer to “all Jews.”[311]

(23:38) No doubt, this refers to the destruction of the Jewish Temple in AD 70 (Mt. 24:2). The language is key: This is not God’s house, but your house.” God had left the Temple, but the religious leaders didn’t notice!

(23:39) Jesus cites Psalm 118:26. This was the same psalm that the people were singing a few chapters earlier (Mt. 21:9). Since this hasn’t been fulfilled, then we should expect it to happen before the Second Coming.

On a Preterist view, when did the unbelieving Jewish nation ever bless the return of Christ? Three chapters earlier, we see what Jesus meant by having the crowds shouting such a praise. When Jesus came into the city of Jerusalem in Matthew 21:9, the crowds literally sang Psalm 118:26 and Jesus literally and physically entered the Temple—not figuratively or symbolically as Preterists contend. We agree with Stanley Toussaint when he writes, “Jews would hardly call the horrible decimation of life in the destruction of their capital city a blessed coming of the Messiah. Rather, verse 39 describes Israel’s future repentance when they will mourn because of their great sin (Zech. 12:10).”[312] We agree. Indeed, this event will occur toward the end of human history (Zech. 12; Rom. 11:25-29).

Preterist Kenneth Gentry has nothing to say about Matthew 23:39. He skips from Matthew 23:38 to 24:1.[313]

R.T. France attempts to explain Jesus’ statement by arguing that the expression “until you say” is not a certainty in the future. Instead, this is an “indefinite possibility.” He writes, “There is no promise that the condition will be fulfilled.”[314] To support this interpretation, Preterist Gary DeMar cites four passages that demonstrate how this Greek word may not refer to a certain fulfillment (Mt. 5:26; 18:30; 18:34; Acts 23:12).[315]

While DeMar cites multiple passages to support this “indefinite possibility” reading, it’s more interesting to note the passages he does not cite. Matthew uses the word “until” (heos) in several other predictions in his gospel (cf. Mt. 5:18; 17:9; 26:29):

(Mt. 10:23) For truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.

(Mt. 16:28) Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.

(Mt. 24:34) Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.

Preterists stake their view particularly on these three passages above. They claim that the preaching of the disciples (10:23), the coming of Christ (16:28), and the events of the destruction of Jerusalem (24:34) all needed to be fulfilled in the first century, during the lives of the disciples. But if Matthew’s use of the word “until” only refers to an “indefinite possibility,” then this would nullify the three most crucial passages that support the Preterist position!

We agree with Carson who notes that the this “from now… until” language refers to the Second Coming or parousia of Jesus (cf. Mt. 26:29, 64).[316]

Conclusion

Jesus hates legalism, hypocrisy, and anything keeps people from coming to saving faith. When we look at this type of religious thinking today, it would anger us too, because it keeps people from coming to know Christ.

Matthew 24

Matthew 24 (The Olivet Discourse)

[The parallel passages are found in Mark 13:1-37 and Luke 21:5-36. John doesn’t contain this teaching of Jesus, but he does have an entire 22 chapter book dedicated to the end of human history: Revelation.]

All three versions of the Olivet Discourse have their own focus and emphases.

Comparing and Contrasting Matthew and Luke’s account

Luke 21

Matthew 24

Many are misled (v.8)

Many are misled (v.4) by false Christs (v.5)
Rumors of wars (v.9)

Rumors of wars are “not yet the end” (v.6)

Wars (v.10)

Wars (v.7)
Plagues, famines, great signs from heaven (v.11)[317]

Famines and earthquakes (v.7) called “birth pangs” (v.8)

Persecution in the synagogues (vv.12-16)

Persecution (v.9) and apostasy (v.10)
————————

More false prophets (v.11)

————————

Love will grow cold (v.12)
Divine protection for committed believers (vv.17-18)

Divine protection for committed believers (v.13)

Destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple (vv.20-24)

————————
————————

All nations hear the gospel “and then the end will come” (v.14)

————————

Destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem (v.15)
Command to flee Jerusalem when Judea is surrounded (v.20)

Command to flee Judea after seeing the Abomination of Desolation (vv.16-20)

————————

“A great tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will” (v.21)
————————

“Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short” (v.22)

————————

More false teaching predicting the Second Coming (vv.23-26)
Second Coming of Christ with signs in heaven (vv.25-27)

Second Coming of Christ with signs in heaven (vv.27-31)

Fig tree illustration (vv.29-31)

Fig tree illustration (vv.32-33)
“Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place” (v.32)

“Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (v.34)

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” (v.33)

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” (v.35)

As you can see, Luke conspicuously omits Jesus’ teaching that (1) all life would be destroyed, (2) this is the greatest tribulation the world has ever seen, and (3) this period is connected with “the abomination of desolation.” This seems to mean that Luke is focusing on the destruction of the Temple in AD 70, and he doesn’t flash forward to the end of history until after verse 25.

For a thorough response to a Preterist reading of the Olivet Discourse, see James Rochford, Endless Hope or Hopeless End, “Chapter 8: Was Jesus a Preterist?” pp.97-108.

R.T. France (Preterist) understands verses 4-35 to refer solely to the Jewish War (AD 66) and the Destruction of the Temple (AD 70). He writes, “On the interpretation here adopted vv. 4-35 form a continuous whole referring to the coming judgment on Jerusalem.”[318]

D.A. Carson agrees with our view that the “disciples think of Jerusalem’s destruction and the eschatological end as a single complex web of events.”[319] Hence, verses 4-28 refers to “persecution and tribulation for his followers” throughout the Church Age. Verses 15-21 refer to the Fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. Then, verses 29-31 refer to the Second Coming. And verses 32-35 refers to the persecution during the Church Age. Finally, verses 36-44 refer to the Second Coming.[320]

(24:1-2) The fact that Jesus was leaving the Temple is likely symbolic of God’s presence leaving his people. But, he already said that he would return (Mt. 23:39).

The Jewish Temple was beautiful and enormous. Josephus writes that the stones were 40 feet long, 18 feet deep, and 12 feet tall.[321] The Talmud records, “He who has not seen the Temple of Herod has not seen a beautiful thing.”[322]

The fulfillment of Jesus’ prediction occurred in AD 70. Virtually all interpreters agree on this. Regarding the destruction of the Temple, Josephus recorded, “It was so thoroughly laid even with the ground by those that dug it up to the foundation, that there was left nothing to make those that came [near] believe it had ever been inhabited.”[323]

(Mt. 24:2) Why doesn’t Matthew (or Mark) mention the destruction of the Temple?

(24:3) “He was sitting on the Mount of Olives.” This would be an epic setting to give his predictions about the future. After all, in light of Zechariah 14:4, this would be the very place that Jesus would return.

Matthew refers to the destruction of the Temple in AD 70 (v.2), but Luke’s account gives a fuller explanation of this event (Lk. 21:20-24). Mark’s account seems to focus on the destruction of the Temple (Mk. 13:4).

“The end of the age” refers to the end of history (see Mt. 13:39, 40, 49; 28:20).

(24:4) It’s interesting that Jesus opens up this discussion on the end times by warning about false teachers. 2,000 years later, many false teachers have flocked to end times prophecy like flies to dung.

(24:5) Is Jesus referring to this time period or to the end of human history? Preterists very well be correct in seeing this period as referring to the history leading up to AD 70. Consider several examples of false prophets and false messiahs:

  • Theudas (AD 45) led a number of people to the Jordan River, claiming he was a prophet and claiming the ability to divide the water like Moses. Josephus states that “many were deluded by his words.” Fadus sent a troop to kill these people, capture Theudas and decapitate him (Josephus, Antiquities, 20.97-99).
  • An Egyptian impostor claimed to be a “prophet,” and he “advised the multitude of the common people to go along with him to the Mount of Olives.” This unnamed Egyptian predicted that “the walls of Jerusalem would fall down,” and “he promised that he would procure them an entrance into the city through those walls, when they were fallen down.” Felix sent in the cavalry and the army to annihilate 400 of these people, and taking 200 alive. The Egyptian escaped from this fight, and he disappeared (Josephus, Antiquities, 20.169-172). This is an expanded account of the brief mention in Acts 21:38.
  • A certain impostor promised the people deliverance, “If they would but follow him as far as the wilderness.” However, Festus sent in the military and “destroyed both him” and those he had “deluded” (Josephus, Antiquities, 20.188).
  • Manahem (the son of Judas) led the revolt during the Jewish War at Masada. When he was eventually found, they publicly “tortured him with many sorts of torments, and after all slew him” (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 2.448).
  • Other examples include Theudas, who is different from the man mentioned above (Acts 5:36-37), as well as a couple others (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 2.448; 6.285-287).

(24:6) The history leading up to the destruction of the Temple in AD 70 fits with Jesus’ words as well. However, Jesus specifically says, “That is not the end.” Such a short-term fulfillment fits a Futurist reading.

(24:7) Famines (Acts 11:28) and earthquakes (Acts 16:26) are recorded in the book of Acts. Thus, again, this could refer to the first century world—not the end of history.

(24:8) Here’s the point: a first century fulfillment wouldn’t preclude the Futurist reading, because Jesus continues to say that “these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.” That is, these things could start in the first-century and continue to increase in frequency and severity until Jesus’ return. Hence, the point has been that these signs show us that the end is not here. These lead up to the end.

(24:9) “They will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you.” Many of the disciples were martyred for their faith: James of Zebedee (Acts 12:2), Peter (1 Clement 5:4-5), Paul (1 Clement 5:4-5), and James (Antiquities 20). While we have had “tribulation” throughout the Church Age (Rev. 1:9), this is different than the great tribulation” mentioned later.

(24:10) Apostasy occurred throughout the first century church—especially in the Jerusalem Church before the destruction of the Temple. For instance, Jesus’ half-brother James was martyred for his faith by the Sanhedrin (Josephus, Antiquities, 20).

(24:11) Again, many false teachers arose during this time (cf. vv.4-5).

(24:12) “Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold.” Futurists sometimes argue that this could refer to the end times, where moral relativism is increased. Surely, it was also true in the first century when people persecuted Christians en masse.

Does this refer to the first-century, or can it apply to today as well?

So far, Jesus’ teaching could all fit before AD 70. We have no problem with Preterism so far. Our chief objection with Preterism is the rigidity in forcing everything Jesus says through a historical grid that doesn’t fit.

That being said, why couldn’t these things have begun in the first century and continue on to this day? After all, Jesus refers to these things as “birth pangs” (v.8), which increase in frequency and intensity over time. Hence, Preterists can quote Josephus until they are blue in the fact to demonstrate a first-century fulfillment. However, this does not preclude an ever-increasing fulfillment throughout the history of the Church Age.

Flashing forward to the end

We aren’t exactly sure where a gap occurs in Jesus’ teaching that definitively places us at the end of history. Verse 13 may be the place of the gap, because it mentions “the end.” However, verse 14 is definitely a gap, because the gospel has not reached the “whole world” and “all nations,” and consequently, the end” has not come.

(Mt. 24:13) Does this verse threaten eternal security?

(24:13) The “end” lacks the article, so it could simply refers to the end of this period.[324]

(Mt. 24:14) Does this predict the evangelization of the globe (as futurists claim) or the evangelization of the Roman Empire (as preterists claim)?

(24:14) This may refer to the Church spreading the gospel to the “whole world” and “all the nations” before Jesus returns. On the other hand, it’s possible that angels will fulfill this commission. John writes, “I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people” (Rev. 14:6).

(Mt. 24:15-16) Does this refer to the destruction of the Temple in AD 70, as Preterist interpreters claim?

(Mt. 24:15-21) The Fall of Jerusalem…? No way!

D.A. Carson[325] holds that this section (vv.15-21) reverts back to the Fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. In other words, the context up until this point has referred to the Church Age on his view, and verse 22 and following refer to the Second Coming. However, these verses in between refer to the Fall of Jerusalem. His central argument is that these verses are “too limited geographically and culturally.”[326] Jesus refers to those in “Judea” (v.16), and he refers to the “Sabbath” (v.20). This is indeed “geographically and culturally” centered on Israel! This either means that it refers to AD 70, or it means that God has a future for the nation of Israel before the Second Coming. In contrast to Carson’s view, we can make several points:

First, this breaks from the context and Jesus’ flow of thought. It jumps from the Church Age leading up to the Second Coming (vv.4-14), reverting back to AD 70 (vv.15-21), and then jumping forward to the rest of the Church Age leading up to the Second Coming (v.22ff). This is nothing short of contextual gymnastics!

Second, on this view, verse 21 refers to AD 70, and verse 22 refers to the end of history. However, the language of verse 22 modifies verse 21. When Jesus says, “Unless those days had been cut short…,” to what is he referring?

Third, Carson has no explanation as to what historically fulfilled the abomination of desolation in verse 15 (see below).

Fourth, we need to understand the “great tribulation” to refer to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Furthermore, this needs to have been worse than any atrocity “since the beginning of the world until now,” or “ever will [happen]” in the future (see below). For these reasons, we reject this view.

(24:15) The “abomination of desolation” occurs in Daniel 8:13, 9:27, 11:31, and 12:11. To which passage is Jesus referring? We think it’s clear that he’s referring to Daniel 9.

  • Daniel 11:31 is ruled out because it refers to the time of Antiochus Epiphanes IV (168 BC). Antiochus sent his mercenaries to Jerusalem, and they attacked on the Sabbath Day. They killed a large number of people and looted the city (see 1 Macc. 1:30-32; 2 Macc. 5:25-26). He prohibited all Jewish religious practices, promising that violators would be killed (see 1 Macc. 1:50, 63). He set up a statue of Zeus in the temple (“the abomination that causes desolation”). Then, on December 25, he offered a sacrifice to Zeus by slaughtering a pig on the altar. Daniel calls this the abomination of desolation because it rendered the temple unclean, useless, and desolate. But Jesus speaks of this abomination in the future—not the past.
  • Daniel 12:11 refers to a period chronologically after the return of Michael the archangel (Dan. 12:1), the worst distress on Earth (Dan. 12:1), which correlates with Matthew 24:22, and the resurrection of the dead (Dan. 12:2). Clearly, this cannot be what Jesus is referring to.

Jesus must be referring back to Daniel 9:27, which mentions the invading armies, the Romans, the Antichrist, and the end of the age.

In Mark’s account, we see that Mark uses the masculine singular to refer to a person standing in the Temple (“when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be” Mk. 13:14 ESV). This shows that the Futurist reading of Daniel 9:27 is correct—namely, that Daniel was predicting a man (the Antichrist) desecrating the Temple (cf. 2 Thess. 2:3-5).

Preterists understand this abomination in many ways. First, it could refer to Emperor Caligula trying to put a statue of himself in the Temple (AD 40-41). This is far too early, and the plan was never carried out. Second, it could refer to Zealots desecrating the Temple with murder and installing a false high priest in AD 68 (Wars, 4.150-157, 162-192, 334-344). But they didn’t use an idolatrous symbol. Third, it could refer to the Romans putting their standards or images in the Temple, which was thought to be idolatrous. Fourth, most understand the abomination to refer to the destruction of the Temple in AD 70. However, if this was the case, then it would have been “too late for anyone in the city to flee.”[327] None of these options work.

R.T. France writes that it must have been some event during the Jewish War, but he doesn’t commit to one.[328] Likewise, D.A. Carson[329] characteristically outlines several different options, but lands on none. As a Futurist, we must ask, Could it be that we don’t know what the fulfillment of the ‘abomination of desolation’ is because it hasn’t been fulfilled yet? How come such a catastrophic event was never recorded for us—especially if the reader was supposed to understand what it was?

(24:16) If the Futurist reading is correct, then a return of Jewish life is implied by these descriptions. The setting is in “Judea” and there is a return to “Sabbath” keeping (v.20).

(24:17-18) When believers see the Abomination of Desolation, they are to urgently flee. This is the language of a fireman telling people not to grab precious commodities from a house that is on fire. There is simply no time to linger. Jesus is saying, “Get out NOW!” This was fulfilled during the Jewish War, when the Christians fled to Pella (Church History, 3.5.3).

(24:19) This would be an especially bad time to have children.

(24:20) Why would it be bad to travel during the winter? This would be a bad time because the “roads in Palestine were practically impassable with mud.”[330] Moreover, you wouldn’t have any possessions—not even a “cloak” (v.18). It would be rough travelling.

Why would it be bad to travel during the Sabbath? During the Sabbath, the “gates would be shut and provisions unobtainable.”[331] Furthermore, religious Jews would disapprove of travel like this—especially during a time of war. So, “few would help” the Christian escape the city.[332]

(24:21) This great tribulation stands in contrast to the general tribulation mentioned earlier (v.9). This also shows that this period of history cannot have occurred by AD 70. The Destruction of Jerusalem was not the worst tribulation—even for the Jewish people (e.g. the Nazi Holocaust).

Carson acknowledges that Hitler and Stalin were worse, but he argues, “There have been greater numbers of deaths… but never so high a percentage of a great city’s population so thoroughly and painfully exterminated and enslaved as during the Fall of Jerusalem.”[333] This is quite a stretch. Are we to believe that Jesus was thinking in terms of percentages when he said this? The text nowhere makes such an assumption. Instead, Jesus says that this is the worst tribulation. Period.

Matthew 24:22-35 (The Second Coming)

(Mt. 24:22) Is Jesus using hyperbole when he says “no life would have been saved” as Preterists claim?

(24:22) Apparently, God will sovereignly intervene to save the lives of many people who come to faith in Christ, allowing them to enter into the Millennium.

Again, Preterists understand the “great tribulation” to refer to the Jewish War. For a description, see Josephus, Jewish War, 5.512-518. This is clearly an allusion to Daniel 12:1, which takes places at the end of history—not AD 70!

(24:23-24) This is the third time Jesus mentions false teachers (vv.4-5, 11). This period of history will be an intense time of deception. Just as Jesus gave “signs” to demonstrate his identity, these false Messiahs and false prophets will be empowered (by Satan—not God) to lead people astray. We agree with Carson who writes, “Empty-headed credulity is as great an enemy of true faith as chronic skepticism.”[334]

This differs slightly from John’s description in Revelation. John writes of a singular false Christ (“the Beast”) and a singular false prophet. This fits well with Paul’s teaching about the end of human history: “[The Antichrist’s] coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, 10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 11 For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, 12 in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness” (2 Thess. 2:9-12).

Can true believers (“the elect”) lose their salvation? No. Jesus says, “false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect” (Mt. 24:24). The word “deceive” is telic, and it can be rendered as “in order to deceive.” Thus, this refers to “the intent of the deceivers.”[335] The “possible” aspect is similar to Jesus asking if it was “possible” for him not to take up the Cross (Mt. 26:39). This was his request, but it simply wasn’t in the realm of possibility.

(24:25) While this scares us to consider (vv.23-24), Jesus reassures us that we have the truth “in advance.” There is no good reason why a believer in Jesus should fall away, because Jesus has told us the plans of the Enemy “in advance.”

(Mt. 24:26-27) Is the lightning symbolic of God’s judgment as Preterists claim?

(24:26-27) Jesus distinguishes his coming to be crystal clear. His return will not be hidden, but will be a public and easily recognizable event.

The public may have thought that the Messiah would come from the “wildnerness” because this is where John the Baptist preached (Mt. 3:1-3). Messianic pretenders did come from the wilderness (Antiquities, 20.97-99; 167-172).

The “inner rooms” could refer to the Messiah’s obscurity (Jn. 7:27).

(24:28) This graphic prediction speaks of the many, many people who will suffer judgment and death from the return of Christ. The birds will feast on the carcasses and corpses of the dead.

France[336] and Carson[337] argue that vultures infallibly know where corpses are, and in a similar way, we will infallibly know when Jesus returns. While this is possible, this seems stretched. After all, less macabre and less enigmatic proverbs could’ve been used to describe the return of Christ.

(24:29) This passage occurs after the tribulation of those days.” This means that the “great tribulation” (v.21) has past, and this is ended with the return of Christ. The imagery of the sun, moon, and stars is most likely apocalyptic language describing the cataclysmic return of Christ. Carson, surprisingly, takes these as literal imagery.[338]

Preterists use this apocalyptic language to their benefit to argue for a non-literal reading which could be fulfilled in AD 70.[339]

(Mt. 24:30) Are the clouds symbolic for God’s judgment (as Preterists claim), or are they literal (as Futurists claim)? Also does the citation of Daniel 7:13 support Preterism?

(24:30) Jesus will literally return—just as he literally left (Acts 1:11). People will literally mourn as they see him return—specifically the nation of Israel (Zech. 12:10-12).

“The sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky.” This “sign” (sēmeion) could refer to the “ensign” or “standard” or “banner” of the king, rather than a physical, visible sign in the sky.[340] As Isaiah predicts, “In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious” (Isa. 11:10 NIV). However, this relates back to the question raised by the disciples in verse 3 (“What will be the sign of Your coming?”). Surely, they were asking for some sort of visible sign or signifier.

Does Matthew’s citation of Daniel 7:13-14 support Preterism? Preterists understand this citation as Jesus receiving his kingdom in heaven, because the “clouds” represent God’s abode.[341] After all, they argue, Daniel 7:13-14 states that Jesus goes up to receive his kingdom—not down to the Earth. Thus, Matthew 24:30 shows that “the authority of Jesus is vindicated over the Jewish establishment which has rejected him.”[342]

This interprets Jesus receiving his kingdom from God the Father too rigidly. True, Daniel 7:13-14 states that Jesus will go up to the clouds to receive his kingdom from God. However, this could simply be the necessary prerequisite before Jesus comes down to rule and reign on Earth. Indeed, this reading of Daniel 7:13-14 literalistically understands Jesus’ interaction with the Father in “some physical and spatial sense.”[343]

 (24:31) Jesus will use angelic agency to gather believers at this time. Remember, these believers just escaped the final world war—a war that would’ve ended all life on Earth (v.22). Thus these believers are probably in bad shape and in need of rescue.

Preterists understand the “angels” (angeloi) to simply refer to “messengers” (cf. Mt. 11:10). This refers to missionaries and the “human preaching of the gospel throughout the world” and the “world-wide growth of the church.”[344]

(Mt. 24:31) Is the gathering symbolic (as Preterists claim) or literal (as futurists claim)?

(24:32-33) Jesus has just finished listing a number of events that need to occur before his return. When believers see these events finally happening, they will know that Jesus’ return is “near.”

(Mt. 24:34) Did Jesus make a false prediction about his second coming?

(24:34) When these things occur, this is the final generation of the human race. Our failed experiment of human rebellion will almost be over.

Carson understands “this generation” to refer to Jesus’ current generation. Yet how does he harmonize this with his (partially) Futurist position? He states that parts of the fulfillment of the events of the tribulation in the Church Age (vv.4-28) would have been seen by that generation.[345] However, this doesn’t do justice to the use of the word “all,” when Jesus says, “This generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” All of these things had not taken place—specifically the Second Coming!

(24:35) Jesus’ predictions seem hard to understand and maybe hard to believe. But here, Jesus reaffirms the veracity of his words. It’s as if Jesus is saying, “This is going to go down exactly as I’ve predicted it.”

This further supports the deity of Christ, because God says, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isa. 40:8).

Matthew 24:36-41 (We don’t know the time of Jesus’ return)

In this section, Jesus emphasizes that no one knows the time of his return. Consequently, it’s best to live as though he could return at any time.

(24:36) We can know the general time of Jesus’ return, but we cannot know the exact time of Jesus’ return. This passage rules out “date setting” for Jesus’ Second Coming (cf. v.44). Indeed, it is blasphemous to claim to know the time of Jesus’ return, when he himself doesn’t know!

Early scribes edited out Jesus’ name in this verse, most likely out of embarrassment.[346] This shows that Matthew had more integrity than the later scribes! This verse definitely existed because it is found in Mark 13:32.

Since Jesus had given up the use or utility of his divine attributes (see “The Incarnation”), he willingly gave up his access to this information. To be clear, Jesus still possessed the attribute of omniscience, but he laid aside the use of this attribute during his incarnation.

Preterists often see Jesus jumping forward to his Second Coming at the end of history here.[347] In our estimation, this shows their inconsistency, because they constantly gripe about Dispensationalists seeing “gaps” in prophetic material. Yet, everyone admits that there are gaps—even Preterists.

As in the days of Noah

(24:37-39) Many Futurist interpreters understand this passage to refer to the moral depravity of humanity during this time. We are sympathetic to this view, because Scripture elsewhere teaches that the end of history will be time of severe moral depravity (2 Tim. 3:1-7).

However, this seems like an example of “right message, wrong passage.” Jesus is not comparing the moral quality of the people, but rather the suddenness of God’s judgment. Jesus doesn’t mention the sins of the people in Noah’s day; instead, he refers to morally neutral acts of “eating,” “drinking,” and “marrying.” His point is that the people of Noah’s day were clueless about their impending judgment “until the day that Noah entered the Ark.” The people in Noah’s day didn’t see the coming judgment until it was too late. Similarly, since “no one knows the day or the hour,” we should live in a state of constant readiness for the return of Jesus (v.44).

(24:40-41) Some Dispensational interpreters understand this to refer to the Rapture. We disagree. For one, if we read this chronologically speaking, then the Rapture would occur after the Tribulation—not before (see “A Pretribulational Rapture”). More importantly, the context speaks of judgment—not rescue. Thus, in context, the ones who are taken are taken to judgment. The ones who were taken in Noah’s day were those who drowned in the Flood. In other words, you really don’t want to be the one taken in this situation!

Regardless, Jesus’ point is that even close relationships will suddenly be ripped apart. A father and son could be working together, and suddenly, they will be separated… forever!

Matthew 24:42-44 (Parable of the Thief and the Homeowner)

This kicks off a series of five parables that teach us, “Be ready!” This first of five parables uses a rather odd metaphor, where Jesus compares the suddenness of his return to a thief robbing a house.

(24:42-44) Since we don’t know when Jesus is returning, the best approach is to be ready at all times. It is funny that Jesus compares his return to an evil thief coming in the night. The analogy is not the moral character of the thief, but the suddenness of the thief.

Matthew 24:45-51 (Two servants)

(24:45-46) When Jesus returns, will he find you “faithful” and “sensible”?

(24:47) Jesus promises to reward those who are faithful and sensible.

(24:48-51) By stark contrast, some people interpret Jesus’ delay to mean that he will never return (2 Pet. 3:3-9). They flatly deny Jesus’ promise to fulfill these predictions (v.35). These deniers of Christ will face judgment.

Matthew 25

[This entire chapter is unique to Matthew. This material follows on the heels of Matthew 24. In fact, Jesus begins this chapter by saying, “Then…,” which implies that there is a direct connection with Matthew 24. Some Dispensational interpreters see this material as chronologically after the Tribulation and Second Coming of Matthew 24, which would place us in the Millennium.]

Matthew 25:1-13 (Parable of the Ten Virgins)

Commentators (especially the church fathers) focus on the details of this parable, such as the meaning of the oil, the virgins, the lamps, etc. This is misguided. We shouldn’t press these details for meaning. Instead, the point is, “Be ready!”

(25:1) “Then” (tote) could be understood chronologically. If this is the case, then chapter 25 should be understood as occurring after the Second Coming. However, Carson states that this word is “sufficiently vague,” citing Matthew 2:7, 24:9, and he argues that “not much can be built on it.”[348]

What is the significance of ten virgin women waiting for a single groom in a wedding? In this culture, the groom would go to the bride’s house in a procession, carrying on the celebration. The ten virgins are likely bridesmaids who are waiting for the procession to come through. They may be “attendants of the bride, or servants in the bridegroom’s home, or perhaps friends and neighbours. (The term ‘bridesmaids’ in our heading is not necessarily to be read in a modern cultural context!).”[349] Most likely, they are there to walk the groom to his “wedding feast” (v.10). So, they are waiting for him to arrive so that they can join the wedding procession.

The “bridegroom” surely refers to Jesus (Mt. 9:15). This would be another allusion to the deity of Christ, because the OT describes Yahweh as the Groom (Isa. 54:4-5; 62:5; Jer. 2:2; Hos. 1-3).

“The lamps” refer to “torches whose rags would need periodic dowsing with oil to keep them burning.”[350]

(25:2-4) There is no symbolism to the fact that some sleep and some have oil. The point is that five are ready for the groom, and five are not. Similarly, some people will be ready for Jesus’ return, while others will not. In this parable, the wise brought enough oil to be ready for the groom’s return, while the foolish didn’t come prepared.

(25:5) Jesus is preparing his disciples for a “delay” in his return (cf. Mt. 24:48; 25:5, 19; 2 Pet. 3:3-8).

(25:6) This would’ve been a very unexpected time for the groom to arrive. It was in the middle of the night, and they were sleeping.

(25:7) “Trimmed their lamps” means to get them soaked with oil and lit on fire. Fully soaked, they would burn for about 15 minutes.[351] So, they needed to wait until the groom was right there.

(25:8-10) The foolish had the time and resources to get their own oil, but they didn’t prepare in advance. So they were scrambling at the last minute. We cannot trust in someone else’s alert attitude. We need our own convictions on this. It isn’t that the wise virgins are selfish. Rather, “preparedness can neither be transferred nor shared.”[352]

(25:11-12) Because they weren’t prepared, they missed their opportunity (“The door was shut”). It was too late to plead for him to open the door. They blew it. So too, at the end of history or at the end of our lives, there will be a point where it is too late to turn to Christ. Bertram Shadduck wrote this chilling song on the subject which he called “The Great Judgment Morning” (1894).

…The soul that had put off salvation,

“Not tonight; I’ll get saved by and by,

No time now to think of religion!”

At last they had found time to die.

[Refrain]

And, oh, what a weeping and wailing,

As the lost were told of their fate;

They cried for the rocks and the mountains,

They prayed, but their prayer was too late.

(25:13) Jesus makes the application that we need to be ready for his return at any time (cf. Mt. 24:36, 42, 44, 50).

Matthew 25:14-30 (Parable of the Talents)

[The “parable of the talents” has close similarities with Luke’s “parable of the minas” (Lk. 19), but the two are substantially different. We agree with Carson[353] that these are two different parables.]

We get our concept of having “talent” from this passage. But originally, the word “talent” (talanton) referred to a measure of precious metal—not to a gift or aptitude. Verse 18 calls it “money” for clarity. A talent was “between fifty-eight and eighty pounds,”[354] and it could consist of different metals (e.g. gold, silver, bronze, etc.). It was generally held to be worth 6,000 denarii.[355] A denarius (singular) was a full day’s wage for a grown man. In modern terms, if a man made $20 an hour (or $40,000 per year), this would mean that a “talent” would be worth $960,000. So, the master was entrusting a lot of money to these servants!

By contrast, Luke refers to a “mina,” which is only 100 denarii (or drachmas).

(25:14) God has entrusted humans with everything we have: beauty, wealth, intelligence, education, etc.

(25:15) We are entrusted with talents “according to [our] ability.” We aren’t all given equal gifts or abilities. Some are clearly more gifted than others. But notice that each person—no matter their talents—gets the same commendation from the Master. God will likewise judge us based on what we’ve been given.

(25:16-18) The man with five talents didn’t waste any time, but “immediately” got to work and made five more. The man with two made two. The man with one didn’t invest the money at all, but buried it in the ground.

(25:19) There will be a historical day in the future where Christ will ask us how we invested his resources. Again, the delay of his return (“after a long time…”) is emphasized (cf. Mt. 24:48; 25:5, 19; 2 Pet. 3:3-8).

5 talent man

(25:20) The man with five made five.

(25:21) The man was faithful with “few,” and he is put in charge of “many.” We should never worry about putting our resources into God’s hands. In God’s economy, a small investment results in massive return.

What is the reward? We see three rewards given here:

(1) Praise from the Master (“Well done!”). We all seek approval. Imagine if you were a musician who was covering a song by a famous rock band, and one of your YouTube videos went viral. In the comments, you discovered that the rock band told you that you, “Great job! We loved your rendition of our song!” This would surely bring happiness to be praised in this way. How much happier will you feel to get praise from the infinite-personal God?[356] (For further reading on this, see C.S. Lewis’ famous essay entitled, “The Weight of Glory”)

(2) More responsibility (“I will put you in charge of many things…”). Thankfully, heaven will not be a bunch of people wearing adult diapers, playing harps, and floating on the clouds for eternity. We will have meaningful responsibility and purpose.

(3) Happiness (“Enter into the joy of your master…”). God created us as emotional and sensory beings. If we have happiness and pleasure in this life, how much more will we have in the next?

2 talent man

(25:22-23) Notice that the man with five talents and the man with two talents get the same reward from the Master (v.21, 23; cf. 1 Cor. 4:2, 7; 2 Cor. 10:12). God isn’t going to evaluate your life based on gifts you don’t have. There is no reason to compare yourself with others. They have been given a different wheelhouse of gifts, and there is no use comparing. Instead, we should focus on being faithful with what God has given to us.

1 talent man

(25:24-25) This isn’t a defense… It’s an accusation! Why didn’t he invest the money? Several reasons arise from the text:

(1) He had a low view of the Master’s character. He considered him to be a “hard man.” When we view God as a Cosmic Tyrant, we will not trust him with our lives or our resources.

(2) He believed the Master was trying to take from him. He accuses the Master of “reaping where he did not sow.” This means that the Master was taking what didn’t belong to him. If we believe God is trying to take from us, we will not be willing to trust him with our lives or resources.

(3) He was afraid. Really, this fear was built upon false assumptions regarding the Master. Many believers are fearful of dedicating their lives to Christ. They are afraid of failure or looking foolish. Really, this is not the root fear. The root fear is that they don’t believe God is good enough to provide for them.

(4) He was guilty of doing nothing. This should come to a shock to most Christians. They are playing it safe, and are more concerned with not doing anything wrong. But the problem is that they also aren’t doing anything right.

The Master’s evaluation

(25:26-27) The Master doesn’t accept these excuses. If the man really believed that the Master was so malevolent, then he could’ve at least invested in the money in the bank. Instead, he literally did nothing with it.

The Master uses the man’s own words to indict him (“You knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed”).

Imagine giving your retirement money to an investor, only to discover that he was keeping it in a safe in his basement. You would be outraged! Similarly, God is angered when we don’t invest his resources in any beneficial way.

(25:28-30) This final man must be a non-Christian, because he not only receives no reward (v.28), but he is also actively judged (v.30).

We see cases of repetition in Jesus’ teaching: verse 29 is the same as Matthew 13:12, and verse 30 is the same as Matthew 8:12; 13:42, 50.

Matthew 25:31-46 (The Sheep and Goats Judgment)

These previous two parables describe how God will judge or reward people. This passage is not a parable.[357] It contains simile (vv.32-33) and parabolic elements (e.g. sheep, goats, shepherd, etc.). But this is a teaching about what judgment will look like.

(Mt. 25:31-46) Does this passage teach salvation through good works?

(25:31) This likely refers to the millennial kingdom. Jesus is leaving Heaven to come to Earth. It is here—on Earth—that Jesus will “sit on his glorious throne” (cf. Mt. 19:28). This also occurs after the Second Coming, because Matthew 25:1 states, “Then…”

(25:32-33) During the day, sheep and goats will mingle together, but at night, they will separate, because “sheep tolerate the cool air, but goats have to be herded together for warmth.”[358] Similarly, in the end, Jesus will judge humanity. This is not just for Israel, but for all the nations.”

(25:34-36) This switches from the “Son of Man” to “the King,” because Daniel 7:13-14 refers to the Son of Man receiving a “kingdom.” Thus, the transition is a natural one.

“Inherit the kingdom prepared for you…” This is similar to when James and John of Zebedee asked for a seat at Jesus’ right and left hand in his kingdom (Mt. 20:23). Thus, this could refer to their rewards in the kingdom, because it refers to their responsibility and role. These people gained rewards based on how they treated Jesus’ disciples (i.e. “brothers,” v.40).

(25:37-39) We take the term “righteous” in a forensic sense.[359] This means that this is who they are—not what they do (Mt. 13:43, 49). Apparently, there will be a lot of surprises on this day. We will not have realized how much we served Christ, but he will remember and reward us for it.

(25:40) Jesus identifies with us so much that loving people is like loving him (cf. Acts 9:4).

(25:41) This isn’t likely literal fire, because it is prepared for “the devil and his angels,” who are spiritual beings. (How would literal fire affect spiritual beings like Satan or demons?)

Notice that heaven was “prepared” for believers (v.34), but hell was “prepared” for Satan and his angels. In other words, God never intended people to go to hell. France comments, “The cursed are going to a fate that was not meant to be theirs.”[360]

(25:42-43) These non-believing people will be judged for their omissive sins—not just their comissive sins. This fits well with the “one talent man” in the parable of the talents above: He is not judged for what he did, but for what he failed to do.

(25:44-45) Apparently, this judgment will be surprising for the non-believers too. Only Jesus is calm and composed, because he has a perfect and omniscient memory of our lives.

Non-believing people often admit that they have sinned against people, but they don’t realize that God takes this very personally. It is like sinning against someone’s child: To sin against the child is to sin against the parent. Similarly, when we sin against people made in God’s image, it is like we are sinning against God himself.

(25:46) This is a strong passage against the concept of Annihilationism (see “Is Hell Annihilation?”).

Matthew 26

Matthew 26:1-5 (The betrayal of Jesus)

[The parallel passages are found in Mark 14:1-2 and Luke 22:1-2.]

(26:1-2) After finishing his long teaching on the end of history, Jesus brings the focus back to his death on the Cross. Before we can make it to his Second Coming, Jesus had work to do in his First Coming.

(26:3-4) This shows that Jesus’ short term predictions were accurate. Even as he was predicting his death, the religious leaders were plotting his death. Caiaphas reigned from AD 18-36.

(26:5) Jesus’ influence was so widespread that the people could riot. A riot during the Passover would be horrific, because of all of the visitors from out of town and the threat of Rome looming over the nation.

Josephus records an incident shortly after the time of Christ when a Roman regiment stood at the Temple, and a soldier “let down his breeches, and exposed his privy members to the multitude.” Josephus records that this precipitated a riot that killed somewhere between 10,000[361] and 20,000 people.[362] Again, while this event happened shortly after the time of Jesus (under the Roman procurator Ventidius Cumanus, AD 48-52), Josephus records that Cumanus was doing “no more than what the former procurators of Judea did at such festivals.”[363] In other words, the tensions between the Jews and Romans during these festivals were high, and would even turn into full-blown riots.

Matthew 26:6-13 (Why this waste?)

[The parallel accounts are found in Mark 14:3-9 and John 12:2-8. John tells us that this woman was Mary—the sister of Lazarus (Jn. 12:3). Luke records a similar event (Lk. 7:36-50), but his account is not the same as this event.]

(26:6-7) Bethany was the hometown of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus (Jn. 11:1-2; 12:1-2; cf. Lk. 10:38-42).

Simon the leper is only known from this passage.[364] He must’ve been known by the original audience.

Mark and John mention that the vial was filled with “pure nard” (Mk. 14:3; Jn. 12:3). This was a very expensive perfume. The cost of the vial was estimated at 300 denarii; that is, it was worth roughly a full year’s salary (Mk. 14:5; Jn. 12:5).

These alabaster vials couldn’t be opened and closed like Tupperware. These would need to be broken open and used. They had a very high value, and women usually owned these for their dowry or their retirement. This woman uses it on Jesus instead.

 (26:8) The disciples considered this woman’s offering as wasteful. Mark adds that the disciples were “scolding” her (Mk. 14:5). What really is waste? Waste is when we spend our resources on something that doesn’t have any benefit. Spending our lives on Jesus doesn’t lead to waste, but to spiritual wealth.

In parallel passage, we discover that it was Judas who was pushing this perspective (Jn. 12:4).

(26:9) John writes that Judas didn’t really care about the poor “but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it” (Jn. 12:6).

(26:10) Jesus doesn’t consider spending our resources on him to be a waste.

(26:11) This passage implies that we should normally use our money to help the poor (cf. Deut. 15:11).

(26:12) Jesus was thinking about his death on the Cross when he saw this happen. Since he was crucified, the women didn’t have an opportunity to anoint him with oil before he was buried. Joseph of Arimathea took the body and prepared it for burial. The women came after Jesus’ died to anoint his body, but he was already risen (Mk. 16:1; Lk. 23:56-24:1; Jn. 19:39-40).

(26:13) Today, nearly 2,000 years later, we are still talking about what she did. Just 60 years after Jesus’ death, John assumes that his readers knew what Mary had done for Jesus (Jn. 11:1-2).

Matthew 26:1-5 (Judas sells out)

[The parallel passages are found in Mark 14:10-11 and Luke 22:3-6.]

(26:14) After seeing this act of sacrificial love, Judas realized that his involvement with Jesus wasn’t going to bring a profit. Also, Jesus had just rebuked him publicly (Jn. 12:7-8). This was the last straw for Judas! He wanted to “get out before it was too late.”[365]

Luke adds that “Satan entered into Judas” at this moment (Lk. 22:3). This shows that Judas’ decision was free, but it had demonic consequences.

(26:15) Modern Christians often scoff at Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. They think, “Why would you abandon Christ for a measly 30 pieces of silver?” But we should be careful. After all, Christians are often willing to put Jesus in the backseat in order to pursue their careers and materialistic conquest. While we aren’t as obvious in our betrayal of Christ, we often give him second place in our lives for transitory commodities like money or status.

The value of 30 pieces of silver was the price of a slave (Ex. 21:32). It also lines up with Zechariah 11:12. This was the low value that Judas had of Jesus. How much do you value God? What price tag would you place on your relationship with God?

(26:16) Once Judas made this deal, he was watching for the right opportunity. This was a premeditated crime if there ever was one.

Matthew 26:17-29 (The Ultimate Passover)

[The parallel accounts are found in Mark 14:17, Luke 22:14-30, and John 13.]

(26:17-19) Jews would celebrate the Passover supper together, which was also called “the Feast of Unleavened Bread” (Lk. 22:2). The disciples planned this dinner for Jesus. They were supposed to look out for a man carrying a pitcher of water (Mk. 14:13; Lk. 22:10). Lemke notes, “At that time men normally carried water in skins while women carried water in jugs.”[366] The man gave them a large and furnished upper room to eat (Mk. 14:15; Lk. 22:12).

(26:20) Jews would lay on the floor to eat their meals, and this explains why the disciples were “reclining” at the table together. This would’ve been a casual and relaxed setting.

During this time, Luke records that the disciples began to argue with each other over which one of them was the greatest (Lk. 22:24). It is in this context that Jesus began to wash the disciples’ feet (Jn. 13:4-5). In Luke’s account, Jesus gives an extended teaching on the nature of servant leadership.

(26:21-22) Judas must have been a very keen liar and hypocrite. The disciples were quicker to implicate themselves, rather than Judas. They had a debate over which one of them it might be (Lk. 22:23). John records that the disciples were “at a loss to know of which one He was speaking” (Jn. 13:22).

(26:23) In John’s account, Jesus dips the bread and hands it to Judas (Jn. 13:18, 26).

(26:24) God predicted that the Messiah would be betrayed, but Judas had the freewill to choose this.

Judas is clearly in hell. After all, if he eventually made it to heaven, then it would have been better if he was born.

(26:25) The others used this same defense (v.22). Judas was lying right to Jesus’ face and in full view of the other disciples, keeping up appearances right to the bitter end. Judas left before Jesus initiated the Last Supper (Jn. 13:27-30). This statement only occurs in Matthew’s account.

(Mt. 26:26) Does this statement support the Roman Catholic view of transubstantiation? (cf. Mk. 14:22; Lk. 22:17-20; 1 Cor. 11:24-25)

(26:26-28) The Passover supper was about a sacrificial lamb who would substitute for the death of the people. At the Passover, God took the firstborn son of the people who didn’t have the sacrifice. Here, God gives his firstborn son to substitute for all people (see comments on Exodus 12 for the prophetic fulfillment of the Passover supper).

(26:29) We will be drinking wine with Jesus in the kingdom. This could refer to the Millennial Kingdom or to Heaven. Jesus promised that we will recline with him at a great banquet in the future (Mt. 8:11).

Consequently, this passage contradicts the Mormon doctrine that Jesus celebrated the Lord’s Supper with the Native Americans. Jesus says that he will not drink wine again until the kingdom is inaugurated.

Matthew 26:30-46 (The Garden of Gethsemane)

[The parallel accounts are found in Mark 14:26-42, Luke 22:39-46, and John 18:1. Some skeptics argue that we cannot know this event, because the disciples were asleep, and thus they couldn’t have been witnesses of what Jesus said or did. However, Jesus’ 40 days of post-resurrection teaching would’ve allowed for his telling of this account.[367] Indeed, this section even seems to be centered on Jesus’ point of view. John includes chapters 13-17 before Jesus goes out to the Mount of Olives.]

(26:30) They went back to the Mount of Olives, where Jesus had just finished giving his Olivet Discourse (Mt. 24-25). They probably sang Psalm 115-118, which was the last part of the Hallel at the end of the Passover. Carson comments, “Parts of it must have been deeply moving to the disciples when after the Resurrection they remembered that Jesus sang words pledging that he would keep his vows (Ps 116:12-13), ultimately triumph despite rejection (Ps 118), and call all nations to praise Yahweh and his covenant love (Ps 117). It may be that Jewish exegesis had already interpreted Psalm 118:25-26 as a reference to Messiah’s Parousia.”[368]

(26:31) Jesus predicts that the disciples will all betray him (see Zechariah 13:7).

“Because of Me…” seems to refer to his suffering and death.

(26:32) While the disciples would betray Jesus, He would not betray his disciples. He would wait for them to return to him in Galilee, which was fulfilled later (Mt. 28:7, 10, 16-20). This language of going ahead of them to Galilee could be further shepherd imagery following verse 31.

(26:33) Peter had a higher view of his character than Jesus did. The root of his problem is that he was comparing himself to others (“Even though all will fall away, I will never fall away”). This wasn’t humble dependence on Christ, but boasting in his own self-effort and courage.

(26:34) How much did this moral effort and boasting help Peter? As it turns out, it doesn’t help him at all. He will betray Christ that very night.

Mark records that the rooster would crow “twice” (Mk. 14:30, 72). However, we can harmonize this in much the same way that we harmonize Jesus healing one person in one gospel, and two people in another. This is a case of what is called telescoping, where the author is focusing on one aspect of the narrative, rather than both aspects (or all aspects).

(26:35) We shouldn’t be too hard on Peter. “All” of the disciples were making similar boasts.

(26:36) This was a “garden” according to John (Jn. 18:1). Jesus told his disciples to stay in one part of Gethsemane, while he went away for some solitude. In Luke’s account, Jesus tells them to pray that they wouldn’t fall into temptation (Lk. 22:40). Because they lost this battle in prayer, they lost the battle in practice. Because Jesus won his battle in prayer, he was able to win his battle at the Cross.

(26:37) These three men (Peter, James, and John) specifically shared their commitment to suffer and die for Jesus (Mt. 20:22; 26:35). They were willing to die for Jesus, but not pray for him!

(26:38) On the most difficult night of his life, Jesus wanted to be surrounded by three of his closest friends. He broke down in front of them. The language is so graphic that D.A. Carson comments, “It suggests a sorrow so deep it almost kills.”[369]

(26:39) In one sense, “all things are possible with God” (Mt. 19:26; Mk. 14:36). However, it is impossible for God to pay for sin any other possible way.

On the most difficult night of his life, Jesus longed to meet with God in prayer by himself. What can we learn from Jesus’ prayer?

(1) He addresses God as Father—even though he knew suffering was ahead of him. The “cup” refers to the wrath of God. Mark’s account is more tender: Jesus calls God “Abba” (Mk. 14:36). Jesus saw no contradiction with the idea that God loves us like a Father, and yet he calls on us to suffer.

(2) It isn’t sinful to ask God to spare us from suffering. Jesus prays this multiple times (v.42, 44).

(3) Jesus submits himself to God’s will. While he asks for rescue, he doesn’t demand this (“not as I will, but as You will”).

Luke records that God sent an angel to comfort Jesus at this time (Lk. 22:43). Jesus was sweating in fear (Lk. 22:44).

(26:40-41) We often criticize the disciples for sleeping on the most horrible night of Jesus’ life. But how many believers have been able to stay awake for a single night in prayer? Prayer is the cure for our weakness in temptation (Mt. 6:13).

(26:42) Earlier Jesus asked, “If it is possible.” Here, he prays, “If this cannot pass away.” Again, Jesus lives out his own prayer: “Your will be done” (Mt. 6:10).

(26:43) How did Jesus feel to have his three closest friends sleeping, rather than supporting him on this horrible night? They apparently fell asleep each time Jesus left (v.43, 45). The disciples didn’t have a good answer when Jesus woke them up each time (Mk. 14:40).

(26:44) France speculates that these three times of prayer relate to Peter’s three denials. In other words, because Peter didn’t draw power from God in private, he failed God in public (vv.69-75).[370]

(26:45-46) After praying through his grief, sorrow, and fears, Jesus was ready to face his fear. Jesus breaks down in solitude with God, but he faces the guards, authorities, and religious leaders with incredible bravery.

Matthew 26:47-56 (The Arrest of Jesus)

[The parallel accounts are found in Mark 14:43-52, Luke 22:47-53, and John 18:2-11.]

(26:47) Jesus couldn’t finish these words (vv.45-46) before Judas walked up in the middle of the night, surrounded by guards. John records that this “crowd” consisted of a Roman cohort (Jn. 18:3, 12).

(26:48-49) The authorities didn’t have a photograph of Jesus, so they would’ve needed a visible signal like this—especially at night.

Rabbis would allow their disciples to kiss them on the hand or foot, but this was “a mark of special honour,” and the disciple needed permission, otherwise it was a “studied insult.”[371]

Judas was trying to keep up appearances right to the bitter end. We sometimes see believers apostatize or choose to live a life of sin, and we wonder why they are so dishonest about their decision. Judas was the same way. Psychologists refer to this as cognitive dissonance, and perhaps this is a way of explaining the insanity of sin. Luke records that Judas’ hypocrisy was so flagrant that even Jesus was dumbstruck, asking him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” (Lk. 22:48)

(26:50) Jesus was being betrayed by Judas, and he still calls him, “Friend.” Why doesn’t he call him “Liar!” or “Hypocrite!”?

(26:51) John tells us that this was Peter who struck the slave, whose name was Malcus (Jn. 18:10). This is really a pitiful attempt to show his loyalty to Christ. After all, there is a massive assembly of guards. John records that Judas brought a “Roman cohort” with him (Jn. 18:2), and all Peter can do is cut the ear off of a single slave! He couldn’t even kill the poor guy—just maim him!

Luke adds that Jesus rebuked Peter for doing this: “Stop! No more of this” (Lk. 22:51). Luke also adds that Jesus healed the slave on the spot (Lk. 22:51).

(26:52) Jesus rebukes this futile and malevolent action.

(26:53) Peter misread this situation. He thought Jesus was helpless and in need of protection. Perhaps he wanted to fulfill his vow that he made earlier (Mt. 26:35). But Jesus needed no protection: a “legion” was 6,000 soldiers. So twelve legion would be 72,000 angels!

(26:54) Even on the worst night of his life, Jesus was thinking about Scripture (see v.56).

(26:55) Jesus points out the hypocrisy of this wrongful arrest. Luke adds that Jesus said, “This hour and the power of darkness are yours” (Lk. 22:53). The term “robber” (lēstēs) can also be rendered “revolutionary, insurrectionist, guerrilla” (BDAG).

(26:56) Jesus’ appeal to the veracity of Scripture is fulfilled (see v.31; Isa. 53:12?). All of the disciples fled Jesus, but Jesus requested that the guards would leave his disciples alone (Jn. 18:8). Jesus surrenders, and the guards bind him (Jn. 18:12).

Mark adds that a young man followed Jesus during his prisoner transport to the high priest. The authorities seized him, but they couldn’t hold him. They grabbed his tunic, but the kid ran away naked (Mk. 14:51-52). Since only Mark identifies this young man, some believe that this was Mark himself, though this isn’t certain.

Matthew 26:57-68 (Jesus and the High Priest Caiaphas)

[The parallel accounts are found in Mark 14:53-65, Luke 22:54-65, and John 18:24.]

(26:57) The soldiers followed the order of operations. They take Jesus to stand before the high priest to be investigated. Really, the religious leaders were leading a kangaroo court, and they had already decided to have him killed (Mt. 26:3-4).

(26:58) Peter had fled, but he wanted to get close. He is “midway between courage and cowardice.”[372] Was Peter still trying to salvage his betrayal of Jesus? Was he still trying to fulfill his vow based on self-effort?

(26:59) Again, this was a witch hunt. They didn’t care about truth. They just wanted Jesus dead.

(26:60) Jesus was so squeaky clean that they couldn’t even find false witnesses to accuse him. They needed at least two false witnesses to have Jesus killed according to the Mosaic Law (Num. 35:30; Deut. 17:6; 19:15). Mark adds that they were contradicting each other (Mk. 14:56, 59).

(26:61) Matthew doesn’t record this saying of Jesus, but John does (Jn. 2:19). Of course, this witness was distorting Jesus’ statement. But this charge of destroying the Temple was a capital crime, so this would’ve been enough for the authorities to have Jesus put to death.

(26:62-63) If the high priest could get a confession, it would end the trial. If Jesus admitted to being the Christ (the Conquering King), the high priest would have warrant to hand Jesus over to the Romans to be killed. Instead, he was silent (Isa. 53:7).

(26:64) “You have said it yourself” corresponds to Jesus’ response to Judas (v.25). Jesus cites Psalm 110:1 and Daniel 7:13 to refer to himself, which were both very clear messianic passages. Jesus’ use of the self-designation “Son of Man” is clearly being lifted from Daniel 7—not the book of Ezekiel.

(26:65-66) Having gotten his confession, he calls for the people to confirm this. Mark records that “all” of the Sanhedrin voted against Jesus (Mk. 14:64). Blasphemy was faced with capital punishment (Lev. 24:10-23).

The high priest “tore his robes” in disgust and outrage. He was not even allowed to do this in a time of mourning (Lev. 21:10), so this shows how much rage filled his heart.

If Jesus’ statements were true, they would need to crown him. If false, they would need to kill him. There was no third option.

(26:67-68) Why were the people asking Jesus to “prophesy” when they slapped him? Mark and Luke tell us that they had Jesus blindfolded, which makes sense of this insult (Mk. 14:65; Lk. 22:64). This is a fulfillment of Isaiah 50:6.

Matthew 26:69-75 (Peter denies Jesus)

[The parallel accounts are found in Mark 14:66-72, Luke 22:54-62, and John 18:15-27.]

Notice that Jesus’ confession (vv.57-68) is in stark contrast to Peter’s betrayal (vv.69-75). In addition, Jesus’ persecutors taunted him to “prophesy!” (v.68) In reality, Jesus’ prophecy about Peter’s betrayal was coming to fruition at that moment!

Right in the midst of trying to salvage his image, Peter actually fails even harder than before. Peter was warming himself around a fire in the dark of the night (Mk. 14:54; Lk. 22:55). John adds that “another disciple” helped him gain access to the courtyard (Jn. 18:15).

Peter’s trial gets more intense (e.g. girl, then a girl with a crowd, then a crowd), and his betrayal gets more intense (e.g. evasion, oath, curse).

Denial #1

(26:69-70) Once they kindled the fire, the girl began to recognize Peter’s face (Lk. 22:56). Regarding Peter’s denial, Carson writes, “The form of Peter’s denial is akin to a formal, legal oath (cf. M Shebuoth 8:3).”[373]

HUMOR: Peter couldn’t even stand up for Jesus in the presence of a little girl! It doesn’t even say that she was a particularly strong or intimidating little girl, just a “servant-girl.”

Denial #2

(26:71-72) Again, the great Peter cannot even keep his vow to another little girl!

Denial #3

(26:73) Galileans had an accent that would “give them away.” Lemke writes, “Galileans pronounced gutturals peculiarly and had a sort of lisp.”[374]

(26:74) Peter both “cursed” Jesus and “swore.” France understands this to be a curse on Jesus![375] If this was the case, then this would be a particularly heinous sin! (Mt. 10:33)

Immediately after his third denial, the shrill and staccato noise of a rooster pierced through the air. This must’ve sent a shiver up Peter’s spine. Luke adds that they were likely transporting Jesus through the courtyard at this time, and Jesus “turned at looked at Peter” (Lk. 22:61). Jesus heard Peter deny him, but Jesus didn’t say a word. He just stared at Peter.

(26:75) Peter remembered Jesus’ prediction (Mt. 26:34), and he wept bitter tears. This lesson is captured well in the words of Paul: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).

God really broke Peter’s self-reliance through this episode. We don’t read about Peter in the rest of Matthew’s gospel, but Matthew foretold that Peter would be an ongoing leader in the church (Mt. 16:18-19; 19:27-28). We read about Peter’s restoration the most in John 21—though Mark and Luke make reference to this as well. Even though Peter committed a horrific sin, Jesus was able to restore him and have him lead powerfully within seven weeks! Satan tells us that restoration will take years, but God often moves much faster than we might expect.

Peter’s restoration and repentance stands in stark contrast with Judas’ “remorse.” (see our earlier article “Repentance”).

Matthew 27

Matthew 27:1-2, 11-14 (Jesus before Pilate)

[The parallel passages are in Mark 15:1-5, Luke 23:1-5, and John 18:28-38.]

(27:1-2) The religious leaders couldn’t put criminals to death (Jn. 18:31, but they had the legal right to take them to the Roman authorities. In this case, the authority is Pontius Pilate, the governor of Judea. He lived in Caesarea throughout the year, but he came to Jerusalem for the feasts, because these were contentious times in the year. Pilate had military and judicial authority over Judea and Samaria.

Matthew 27:3-10 (The Death of Judas)

[The parallel passage is in Acts 1:18-19.]

(27:3-5) “Remorse” (metamelomai) and “repentance” (metanoeō) are not the same. Repentance isn’t about feeling bad, because Judas felt really bad! Moreover, the remorseful person can try to rectify the sin (“[Judas] returned the thirty pieces of silver”) and even admit that they sinned (“I have sinned by betraying innocent blood”). He even felt so bad that he “hanged himself” (v.5). What then is the difference remorse and repentance?

Judas didn’t want to help Jesus. He didn’t go to the authorities pleading for his life. He just wanted to feel better under the crushing weight of guilt by returning the money. He wants to look good, so he can feel good.

Is Matthew alluding to Ahithophel as a type or foreshadowing of Judas? Or is this a way of showing that Judas’ death was like Ahithophel’s in some way. The similarities between the two figures are several: First, both use the word “hanged” (apēnxato) to describe their deaths. Second, Ahithophel betrayed David, while Judas betrayed the ultimate Son of David. Third, both were fraudulent friends.

However, we disagree with this reading. For one, the signifier of typology or even Matthew’s common fulfillment motif are never mentioned. Furthermore, the similarity of word-association is thin ground upon which to see a similarity. We agree with Carson who states “that Matthew intended such a comparison is doubtful.”[376]

(Mt. 27:5) How did Judas die?

(27:6) The religious leaders didn’t have a problem betraying Jesus, but they had qualms about taking a suicidal man’s blood money. They probably pulled this money out of the Temple treasury to pay Judas, but now they won’t put the money back in.

(27:7-9) What is the significance of the fact that this was a burial place “for strangers”? Is Matthew communicating that Judas has become a stranger to Jesus or the people of Israel?

(Mt. 27:9-10) Did Matthew misattribute Zechariah 11:12-13 to Jeremiah?

(27:9-10) This passage in Zechariah foreshadowed the work of Jesus (see comments on Zechariah 11:13).

Jesus faces Pontius Pilate

John tells us the background: The Jewish leaders weren’t allowed to kill their own criminals, so they needed permission from the Roman governor (Jn. 18:31).

(27:11) Pilate thinks that Jesus is rising up as a political ruler—a Conquering King. He doesn’t realize that Jesus is coming as a Suffering Servant. They are speaking past each other. This accounts for Jesus’ enigmatic statement: “You say.”

(27:12-14) Jesus remains silent (fulfilling Isa. 53:7). Pilate seems incredulous over the fact that Jesus wouldn’t defend himself. Pilate was not a good man. He is probably hesitant to crucify Christ, because it could start a riot. The religious leaders wanted Jesus dead, but they didn’t want to be held responsible.

Matthew 27:15-26 (Jesus before Pilate—the second time)

[The parallel passages are in Mark 15:6-15, Luke 23:13-25, and John 18:39-19:16.]

(27:15) Pilate probably chooses this option because he wants to appease the crowds. He is worried about inciting a riot (Mt. 26:5), and he wants to make sure the crowds agree to this execution.

John includes that the religious leaders had leverage over him. If Pilate released Jesus, he could be considered a traitor to Rome (Jn. 19:7-8, 12-16; see “Dating Jesus’ Death: April 3, AD 33”).

(27:16) What do we know about Barabbas? Matthew simply says that he is a “notorious prisoner.” Mark adds that he was one of the “insurrectionists” and a “murderer” (Mk. 15:7; cf. Lk. 23:19, 25). John adds that he was a “robber” (Jn. 18:40). Carson favors the view that he was some sort of insurrectionist or Zealot, because “neither theft nor violent robbery was a capital offense, but insurrection was.”[377]

(27:17) By putting the decision to the crowds, Pilate is getting them to make the decision, so he isn’t held responsible for a riot. Interestingly, the people start to riot over Jesus not being killed (v.24).

(27:18) Pilate wasn’t friendly to the Jewish people. In fact, history tells us that he was fiercely anti-Semitic. He didn’t want to cause a riot simply because the religious leaders wanted a man dead.

(27:19) Who gave Pilate’s wife this dream? This material is unique to Matthew, and it raises many questions: Why would God send this woman a dream if he really was planning to have Jesus crucified? Was this just a coincidence? Was God trying to speak to Pilate’s wife for future purposes? It could be included to show that even a Gentile woman could see Jesus’ innocence,[378] but it “may not have been supernatural”[379] because it doesn’t result in furthering God’s plans. Pilate ends up handing over Jesus to be flogged and crucified anyway.

(27:20) The religious leaders were behind the public relations campaign against Jesus. The leaders were the ones who “persuaded the crowds.”

(27:21-23) Pilate has the crowds make this decisions, so that he isn’t responsible for the consequences. These same people were calling out “Hosanna! Hosanna!” just days earlier. Peter will later use this to show the guilt of the people: “Jesus, the one whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. 14 But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you” (Acts 3:13-14).

(27:24) Pilate is doing everything in his power to show the crowds that he is not responsible for the consequences. He may have picked up this Jewish custom to show them that they are at fault (Deut. 21:6; Ps. 26:6). It could have been an act of “contempt” or a “taunt” against the Jewish people.[380]

(27:25) This is mob rule at its worst. The language of guilt being placed “on our children” could be fulfilled in the Jewish War of AD 66-70.

(27:26) This is a picture of substitution: A “notorious prisoner” is released from judgment, and Jesus is killed in his place. We can imagine Barabbas—the equivalent of a modern day terrorist—looking at Jesus being hauled off to be nailed to a cross that belonged to him.

Pilate isn’t a good man. He succumbed to the whims of the crowd, had Jesus tortured, and handed him over to be crucified (see “The Crucifixion of Christ”).

Matthew 27:27-30 (Jesus mocked)

[The parallel passage is in Mark 15:16-19.]

(27:27-30) The praetorium was most likely not the “the fort of Antonia” to the north of the Temple, but more likely “Herod’s former palace” to the west of the Temple.[381]

After his scourging, Jesus faced a Roman cohort (600 total men), and these soldiers ridiculed Jesus. This was all some sort of sadistic theater for the mob. The soldiers stripped Jesus naked, which is always disgraceful, but especially embarrassing in such a modest culture. This included physical beating (v.30), but it mostly focused on humiliation. The Jewish religious leaders mocked Jesus for being the Messiah (Mt. 26:67-68), and the Roman soldiers mocked him for being King. At this point, Jesus had been up all night, beaten, scourged, humiliated, and now, beaten some more.

Matthew 27:31-44 (The Crucifixion: Dead Man Walking)

[The parallel passages are in Mark 15:20-32, Luke 23:26-43, and John 19:16-27.]

(27:31) Jesus wasn’t led to the crucifix naked; they put his clothes back on him. Luke adds that a group of women followed (Lk. 23:27).

(27:32) When it says that they went “out,” this most likely refers to reaching the limits of the city. Jesus most likely carried his crossbeam to the city limits (Jn. 19:17) before he could carry it no longer.

Simon of Cyrene helped Jesus carry his cross—probably because of all of the blood loss. They must’ve thought that Jesus wouldn’t make it. Simon may have become a follower of Jesus as a result of this, because Mark includes his name, along with the names of his sons (Mk. 15:21). Mark states that he was “the father of Alexander and Rufus” (Mk. 15:21). Richard Bauckham argues that this implies that Mark’s audience knew these people; otherwise, why such a specific detail?

This really shows the humanity of Jesus. He wasn’t like Clark Kent pretending to be human. He truly was human, and didn’t exercise the use of his divine power to lift the cross. Read “The Crucifixion of Christ.”

(27:33) The Latin version of Golgotha is “Calvary.” Calvary derives from the Latin word calva, which means “skull.”

(27:34) What is the “wine mixed with gall”? Mark calls it “wine mixed with myrrh” (Mk. 15:23). Lemke writes that this was “a narcotic sedative that drugged the victim. Jesus would not receive it; He faced the redemption of mankind with senses intact.”[382] However, others like Carson argue that Jesus never would’ve tasted this “narcotic sedative” if he knew what it was, and this was standard practice. Instead, this was not an act of “compassion but of torment.”[383]

Regardless of our view, Jesus wanted to face the Cross fully sober, fulfilling Psalm 69:21.

(27:35) Matthew gives a very short and concise explanation: “They had crucified Him.” This gory and horrific form of execution was known so well to these people that Matthew didn’t feel the need to explain this any further.

They must have stripped Jesus naked again, because they were gambling for his clothing. This fulfills Psalm 22:18 (cf. Jn. 19:24). John records that they were doing this because Jesus’ garment was one piece, and they didn’t want to tear it apart (Jn. 19:23-24).

(27:36) They sat down in front of the Cross and watched him suffer and die. These soldiers were also stationed there to prevent any sort of rescue attempt. Carson writes, “Perhaps Matthew gives us this detail to eliminate any suggestion that Jesus was removed from the cross without dying.”[384]

(27:37) Rome would place a certificate of debt above the crucifixion victim, telling the passersby what they did to deserve death. Jesus committed no sin. He was only guilty of being “The King of the Jews.” John adds that this was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek (Jn. 19:20), presumably so all of the people could read it. After all, crucifixion was a public deterrent. So, the Romans wanted everyone to see this.

John adds that the religious leaders asked Pilate to write that Jesus said he was the King of the Jews—not that he was the King of the Jews (Jn. 19:21), but Pilate refused to change the placard (v.22).

(27:38) Jesus was crucified in between two criminals of the State. Lemke writes, “Rebel or insurrectionist is probably a better translation than ‘robber.’ The nature of their crimes likely involved terrorism and assassination.”[385] Josephus uses the term to refer to “political insurgents.”[386] This shows that Jesus fulfilled Isaiah 53:12.

(27:39) This fulfilled Psalm 22:7.

(27:40) Jesus’ statement about the Temple was being misused against him (Jn. 2:19-21), but this really shows how seriously the Jewish people venerated their Temple. Of all the things Jesus claimed, this is the claim that they bring up so frequently when he is on the Cross.

“If You are the Son of God…” This is a cruel statement that fits with Satan’s temptation of Jesus (Mt. 4:3, 6; cf. Mt. 26:63).

(27:41) The religious leaders couldn’t help themselves from mocking him. Jesus had been such a thorn in their side for so long that they enjoyed watching him suffer.

(27:42) They affirmed that he could “save others.” The great irony is that Jesus was currently saving others at this moment by not saving himself. Carson writes, “Though Jesus could have saved himself (Mt 26:53), he could not have saved himself if he was to save others.”[387]

“Let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in Him.” This implies that their lack of faith was Jesus’ fault. In other words, “If only Jesus performed more signs and miracles, we would’ve believed in him!”

(27:43) This fulfills Psalm 22:8.

(27:44) You know you’re having a bad day when even the other crucifixion victims are “insulting” you (Mk. 15:32). Though, Luke records that one of these men came to faith in Christ at the very last moment of his life (Lk. 23:40-43).

Matthew 27:45-50 (The Death of Jesus)

[The parallel passages are in Mark 15:33-37, Luke 23:44-46, and John 19:28-30.]

(27:45) The darkness occurred from noon until 3pm. Darkness was a symbol in the OT for God’s judgment (Amos 8:9).

Mark writes that Jesus was crucified at 9am or “the third hour” (Mk. 15:25). Though Mark agrees that the darkness occurred from noon until 3pm (Mk. 15:33; cf. Lk. 23:44).

(27:46) At the end of the darkness (~3pm), Jesus cried out to God, citing the first line of Psalm 22.

“Eli, Eli…” Matthew retains the Hebrew, while Mark retains the Aramaic (“Eloi, Eloi”). Furthermore, the words “lama sabachthani” are Aramaic.[388]

“My God, My God.” This is the only recorded prayer of Jesus where he doesn’t address God as his Father. This is a conspicuous shift! This implicitly means that Jesus was giving up his Father, so that we could have his Father. Likewise, God gave up his Son, so that we can become his sons!

“Why have you forsaken Me?” The word “forsaken” (egkataleipō) means “to separate connection with someone or something, forsake, abandon, desert” (BDAG). At the Cross, Jesus became sin, so that we can be declared righteous (2 Cor. 5:21).

(27:47) They made this false inference because Jesus was calling out to “Eli, Eli.” Since Elijah was taken directly to heaven (2 Kin. 2:1-12), Jewish tradition held that Elijah “would come and rescue the righteous in their distress.”[389]

(27:48-49) They kept trying to feed Jesus “sour wine” (cf. Ps. 69:21). This was the “wine vinegar diluted with water, the usual refreshing drink of labourers and soldiers.”[390] Why did they do this? They could be acting mercifully here,[391] while the others are saying that Elijah should help Jesus (v.49). However, we think that they are mocking Jesus, as Luke makes clear (Lk. 23:36).

(27:50) Matthew doesn’t record the content of Jesus’ loud cry. Luke records that Jesus said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Lk. 23:46), which fulfills Psalm 31:5. This shows that Jesus was in control and sovereign over giving up his life.[392] At this moment, this fulfilled Jesus’ prediction that he would “give His life a ransom for many” (Mt. 20:28).

Matthew 27:51-56 (After effects of Jesus’ Death)

[The parallel passages are in Mark 15:38-41 and Luke 23:45-49.]

(Mt. 27:51-53) Is this passage really historical?

(27:51) This demonstrates that the way to God has been opened. Remember, the people kept insulting Jesus because he claimed to destroy the Temple (Mt. 26:61; 27:40). Here, through his death on the Cross, Jesus abrogated the need for the Temple. Both Mark and Luke contain this note that the Temple veil was torn in two (Mk. 15:38; Lk. 23:45).

(27:52-53) We don’t know how “many” this was. While it seems like they are raised during Jesus’ death, the text states that they are raised after Jesus is raised.

(27:54) While the religious leaders rejected Christ, this pagan Roman centurion comes to faith at the Cross. This shows that even one of the killers of Jesus could become one of his followers. Think about that for a while!

Why does this profession of faith occur here? Mark affirms that the centurion came to faith (Mk. 15:39), while Luke merely writes that the centurion said, “Certainly this man was innocent” (Lk. 23:47). In Mark, this centurion is the only human (besides Jesus) to affirm that Jesus was God’s Son. Carson comments, “This confession tells us something more: Jesus as the promised Messiah and unique Son of God is seen most clearly in his passion and death.”[393]

(27:55-56) Matthew notes that many women were watching these events. This is interesting because the male disciples had fled in fear; so, the women showed more courage than the men. This is quite a role reversal in a patriarchal society.

Matthew 27:57-60 (Jesus’ Burial)

[The parallel passages are in Mark 15:42-46, Luke 23:50-54, and John 19:31-42.]

(27:57-58) Joseph of Arimathea had become a secret disciple, and he didn’t want Jesus’ body to be left unburied (Deut. 21:22-23; Wars of the Jews, 4.317). Joseph must’ve had some clout and influence because Pilate allows him to take the body. Mark notes that he was a “prominent member of the Council [i.e. the Sandhedrin]” (Mk. 15:43; cf. Lk. 23:50). Luke adds that Joseph of Arimathea “had not consented to their plan and action” (Lk. 23:51). John writes that Joseph was a “secret disciple of Jesus” (Jn. 19:38). Nicodemus also helped to bury the body with a hundred pounds of myrrh (Jn. 19:39).

(27:59-60) Jesus wasn’t buried as a common criminal. He was placed in a “rich man’s tomb” (Isa. 53:9). This statement has historical credibility because it passes one of the criteria of authenticity: embarrassment. Why would Christians place the story of the burial of Jesus in the hands of a Sanhedrinist, who all voted to have Jesus killed? (Mk. 14:55)

These tombs had a “disk-shaped stone that rolled in a slot cut into the rock.”[394] The slot decline into the place where the stone would rest, and so, these tombs were “easy to seal but difficult to open: several men might be needed to roll the stone back up the incline.”[395]

Matthew 27:61-66 (Jesus’ Tomb)

[The parallel passages are in Mark 15:47 and Luke 23:55-56.]

(27:61) The women were watching this whole event transpire (see vv.55-56).

(27:62-63) The religious leaders were being proactive about preventing Jesus’ final miracle. These leaders “may have heard something of the content of 16:21; 17:9; 20:19 from Judas.”[396]

(27:64) The “stolen body” hypothesis is still used today by average skeptics, but it has been rejected by scholarly skeptics of the resurrection (see “Defending the Resurrection”).

(27:65) Many apologists argue that it was a Roman guard at the tomb of Jesus, but it could also be taken as a Jewish guard. If Pilate is speaking with an imperative, then he is telling them to take a Roman guard. But if he is speaking with an indicative, then he is telling them to use their own Jewish guard. Carson favors the indicative mood, holding to a Jewish guard.[397] Later, this makes sense as to why these guard report to the chief priests, rather than to Pilate (Mt. 28:11).

(27:66) Regardless, the religious leaders sealed the tomb.

Matthew 28

Matthew 28:1-10 (The Empty Tomb)

(28:1) The “first day of the week” was Sunday. The women were the first witnesses of the resurrection.

(28:2) Why did the angel move the stone out of the way? Why didn’t Jesus do this himself? Why didn’t Jesus just walk through the stone, as he did in different contexts (Jn. 20:19). The movement of the stone was surely for our benefit. It showed that Jesus had been physically raised, and this was open to observation by these women witnesses.

This “severe earthquake” could be the same one that opened the tombs of the OT saints (Mt. 27:51), though this isn’t certain.

(28:3) It would be simply shocking to see an angelic being. The imagery is similar to Daniel’s description, where we read, “His body looked like a precious gem. His face flashed like lightning, and his eyes flamed like torches. His arms and feet shone like polished bronze, and his voice roared like a vast multitude of people” (Dan. 10:6 NLT).

(28:4) The response of the guards is also similar to Daniel. After seeing this vision of an angel, Daniel writes, “I was left there all alone to see this amazing vision. My strength left me, my face grew deathly pale, and I felt very weak. 9 Then I heard the man speak, and when I heard the sound of his voice, I fainted and lay there with my face to the ground” (Dan. 10:8-9 NLT).

While we might assume that all of these events happened in short, connected sequence, this isn’t necessarily the case. Verses 2-4 could’ve happen before the women arrived.[398]

(Mt. 28:5) Were there two angels or one?

(28:5) We typically think of angels as kind and friendly beings, but it must be overwhelming to our senses to see an angel in person (v.4). This must be why the angel tells the women not to fear.

(28:6) The angel affirms Jesus’ death, but just as emphatically affirms his resurrection. He shows her the empty tomb (“See the place where He was lying”).

(28:7) The angel tells her to go tell the disciples that Jesus is risen, and he’s waiting for them in Galilee. This fulfills Jesus’ prediction and plan all along (Mt. 26:32). Mark explicitly mentions Peter, but Matthew doesn’t.

(28:8) They were still afraid, but they were also filled with joy. They probably were filled with many conflicting emotions after seeing all of this.

It seems that they reported this very quickly (Lk. 24:9-11).

(28:9-10) Again, this fulfills Jesus’ prediction and plan all along (Mt. 26:32). Matthew and Mark focus on Jesus’ appearances in Galilee, while Luke and John focus on his appearances in Jerusalem.

Their “worship” of Jesus continues to support his deity (see Mt. 4:10).

Why does Jesus meet his disciples in Galilee? This fits with the theme of the gospel that Jesus would be a light from “Galilee of the Gentiles” (Mt. 4:15), and be a light to the nations. This sets up the Great Commission nicely (Mt. 28:18-20).

Matthew 28:11-15) (How did the religious leaders explain the empty tomb?)

[Only Matthew contains this material.]

(28:11) As we argued above (Mt. 27:65), these were more likely than not “temple police,”[399] rather than Roman guards. The women witnesses were on their way to spread the good news of Jesus’ resurrection at the very same time some other witnesses spread this news to the religious leaders. The one group came to spread good news, and the others came to create a conspiracy theory.

(28:12) Because they didn’t have truth on their side, they resorted to bribery.

(28:13-14) The stolen body hypothesis has been around for millennia. It’s funny that Matthew would include this theory in his own gospel. This section lends credence to the resurrection account (vv.11-15): Why give your opponents ammunition about a “stolen body theory” without really refuting it? He surely gives the true account, but doesn’t really answer this one at all. Furthermore, notice that even the enemies of Christ couldn’t deny the empty tomb. They needed to explain why it was empty.

(28:15) People today still believe this spurious theory—though not in academia (see Justin Martyr, Dialogue 108).

Matthew 28:16-20 (The Great Commission)

(28:16) “But…” (de) stands in contrast to the false conspiracy theory concocted by the religious leaders. Here is the true story, and the risen Christ, who commissions his disciples to spread truth—not lies.

“Eleven disciples…” This is due to the fact that Judas had died (Mt. 27:3-10). While Peter betrayed Jesus, this passage implies that he was restored. This is in contrast to Robert Gundry’s utterly bizarre thesis that Peter went to hell (!!).

Is there any significance to the fact that Jesus appeared to them on a mountain? This could fit with the “new Moses” motif seen throughout the Sermon on the Mount.

(28:17) Some still doubted Jesus (v.17)! Some[400] think that this could be where the 500 saw him (1 Cor. 15:6), though Matthew seems to limit the number to “eleven” only (v.16). This passage shows that ancient people weren’t any less skeptical that we are today. They knew enough biology to know that dead people don’t come back to life!

The term “doubted” (distazo, Mt. 14:31) doesn’t refer to unbelief, but rather to “a state of uncertainty and hesitation.”[401] Luke and John also record doubt—even in the face of the risen Jesus (Luke 24:10-11; John 20:24-29).

(28:18) “All authority…” Jesus already had authority (Mt. 7:29; 9:6, 8; 11:27; 21:23ff.), but now he has all authority. We start to see Jesus’ glorification here. His authority stretches over all creation. Christ is the power behind this command.

(28:19) “Go, therefore…” Verse 18 is the indicative for this command in verse 19. This is also in a participial form (“going”).

 “…make disciples of all the nations…” What would happen if we just made converts, rather than disciples, as Jesus commanded here (v.19)?

“Baptizing” and “teaching” derive from the main imperative: “make disciples.” These are participles that “further specify what is involved in discipleship.”[402] Carson differs slightly in his understanding, when he writes, “Baptizing and teaching are not the means of making disciples, but they characterize it.”[403]

“Baptizing them in the name [singular] of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…” This teaching on baptism gives good evidence for the Trinity (v.19). They are baptized in the singular “name” of these three Persons. Indeed, at Jesus’ baptism, all three members of the Trinity were present (Mt. 3:16-17).

(Mt. 28:20) “Teaching them to observe all that I commanded you…” Jesus specifically tells them to teach what He taught them, rather than emphasizing or even mentioning the OT. Of course, it’s important to teach Christian disciples “all” of the Bible and the “whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27). But it’s indeed interesting that Jesus makes the focus of discipleship on his own teaching, showing his centrality (cf. Mt. 24:35).

“Lo, I am with you always…” This echoes Matthew 1:23 (“God with us”), as well as Matthew 18:20 (“I am there in their midst”). This further supports the deity of Christ.

“…even to the end of the age.” Jesus’ teaching will be relevant and binding forever (Mt. 24:35). Carson writes, “Jesus does not foresee a time when any part of his teaching will be rightly judged needless, outmoded, superseded, or untrue: everything he has commanded must be passed on ‘to the very end of the age.’”[404]

How would your ministry be different if you didn’t believe God was with you?

[1] Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 3.39.16. Cited in Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 11). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[2] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 78). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[3] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 79). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[4] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 66). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[5] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 67). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[6] Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 26). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[7] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 68). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[8] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 79). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[9] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, pp. 79-80). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[10] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 74). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[11] Carson, D. A. Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 8: Matthew, Mark, Luke (F. E. Gaebelein, Ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House. 1984. 74.

[12] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 82). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[13] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 85). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[14] Carson writes, “Traditionally some have argued that Herod died in 4 B.C.; so Jesus must have been born before that. Josephus (Antiq. XVII, 167 [vi. 4]) mentions an eclipse of the moon shortly before Herod’s death, and this has normally been identified as having occurred on 12-13 March 4 B.C.” Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 8: Matthew, Mark, Luke (F. E. Gaebelein, Ed.) (84). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[15] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 92). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[16] Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 37). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[17] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 8: Matthew, Mark, Luke (F. E. Gaebelein, Ed.) (84-85). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[18] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 86). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[19] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 86). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[20] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 88). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[21] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 89). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[22] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 89). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[23] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 89). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[24] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 91). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[25] Antiquities, 17.11.4.

[26] Antiquities, 17.9.3.

[27] Antiquities, 17.13.3.

[28] Antiquities, 17.9.3.

[29] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 96). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[30] Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 40). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[31] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 102). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[32] Bengel’s Gnomon. Cited in Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 102). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[33] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 96). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[34] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 103). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[35] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 103). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[36] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 104). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[37] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 98). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[38] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 107). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[39] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 100). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[40] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 109). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[41] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 104). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[42] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 114). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[43] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 111). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[44] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 105). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[45] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 105). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[46] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.146.

[47] Walter Liefeld, Luke: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.890.

[48] First, the term “mountain” can refer to a hilly area that could include a plateau or plan. Second, Luke could have selected some of Jesus’ teachings from this broader teaching, as we see in various Gospel differences. And third, the Gospels regularly arrange their material topically or logically, rather than chronologically.

[49] Walter Liefeld, Luke: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.890.

[50] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 112). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[51] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 130). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[52] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 114). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[53] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 131). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[54] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 114). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[55] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 114). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[56] I am indebted to professor Dana Harris of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School for this insight.

[57] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 132). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[58] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 133). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[59] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 115). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[60] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 134). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[61] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 115). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[62] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 134). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[63] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 135). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[64] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 116). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[65] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 135). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[66] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 117). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[67] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 118). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[68] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 118). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[69] France leans toward this view. France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 119). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[70] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, pp. 143-144). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[71] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 145). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[72] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 145). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[73] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 146). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[74] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 148). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[75] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 125). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[76] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 125). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[77] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 150). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[78] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 127). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 69). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[79] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 151). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[80] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 151). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[81] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 155). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[82] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 131). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[83] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 131). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[84] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 132). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[85] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 156). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[86] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 132). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[87] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 133). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[88] Serek Hayyahad or “Rule of the Community, Manual of Discipline,” 1:4, 10; 2:4-9; Milhamah “War Scroll,” 4:1-2; 15:6; Hodayot (Thanksgiving Hymns) from Qumran Cave 1, 5:4. Cited in Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 157). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[89] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 158). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[90] Cited in Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 159). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[91] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 133). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[92] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 159). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[93] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 135). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[94] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 136). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[95] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 137). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[96] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 139). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[97] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 141). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[98] Alcorn, Randy C. Money, Possessions, and Eternity. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 2003. 101.

[99] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 143). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[100] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 143). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[101] Alcorn, Randy C. Money, Possessions, and Eternity. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 2003. 42.

[102] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 180). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[103] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 182). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[104] “Conversations About Personal Finance More Difficult Than Religion And Politics, According To New Wells Fargo Survey.” Wells Fargo, February 20, 2014.

[105] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 147). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[106] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 147). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[107] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 147). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[108] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 185). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[109] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 148). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[110] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 185). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[111] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 185). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[112] Joachim Jeremias, The Parables of Jesus (E.T. London: SCM Press, 1963).

[113] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 149). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[114] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 187). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[115] Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 74). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[116] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 195). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[117] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 194). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[118] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, pp. 196-197). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[119] Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 74). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[120] Carson argues that verse 7 should be taken as a question—not a statement. Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 201). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[121] John 4:46ff is a possible exception. Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 201). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[122] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 205). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[123] Emphasis his. Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 206, 207). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[124] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 163). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[125] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, pp. 165-166). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[126] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 216). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[127] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, pp. 166-167). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[128] Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 87). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[129] Roberts, M. D. (2007). Can we trust the gospels? investigating the reliability of matthew, mark, luke, and john (p. 153). Wheaton, IL: Crossway.

[130] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 167). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[131] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 168). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[132] P. P. Levertoff, St. Matthew (1940), p. 26. Cited in France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 169). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[133] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 169). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[134] Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 60). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[135] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 227). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[136] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 174). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[137] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 230). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[138] Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 90). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[139] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 233). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[140] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 176). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[141] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 179). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[142] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 237). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[143] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 238). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[144] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, pp. 180-181). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[145] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 239). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[146] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 239). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[147] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, pp. 183-184). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[148] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 184). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[149] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 246). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[150] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 247). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[151] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 250). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[152] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 255). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[153] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 255). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[154] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 192). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[155] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 193). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[156] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 257). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[157] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 261). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[158] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 197). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[159] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 263). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[160] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 264). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[161] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 267). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[162] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 200). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[163] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 273). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[164] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 201). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[165] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 273). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[166] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 275). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[167] Carson notes the obvious that the kingdom cannot exist without the King! Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 281). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[168] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 283). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[169] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 208). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[170] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 212). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[171] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 215). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[172] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 215). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[173] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 296). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[174] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 218). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[175] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 298). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[176] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, pp. 224-225). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[177] Emphasis mine. France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 226). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[178] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 309). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[179] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 313). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[180] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 223). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[181] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 314). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[182] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 310). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[183] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 223). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[184] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 229). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[185] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 316). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[186] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 322). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[187] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 237). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[188] Bruce, F. F. (1996). Herod. In D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, & D. J. Wiseman (Eds.), New Bible dictionary (3rd ed., p. 472). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[189] Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 95). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[190] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 237). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[191] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 238). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[192] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 341). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[193] Lydia McGrew, Hidden in Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts (Chillicothe, OH: DeWard Publishing Co., 2017), Kindle Location 1552.

[194] Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 98). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[195] France, R. T. (2007). The Gospel of Matthew (p. 569). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publication Co.

[196] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 344). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[197] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 236). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[198] Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 99). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[199] Wessel, W. W. (1984). Mark. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 676). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[200] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 237). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Cole, R. A. (1989). Mark: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 2, p. 183). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[201] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 344). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[202] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 242). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[203] Hagner, D. A. (1995). Matthew 14-28 (Vol. 33B, p. 423). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[204] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 344). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[205] Hagner, D. A. (1995). Matthew 14-28 (Vol. 33B, p. 424). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

[206] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 345). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[207] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 345). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[208] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 345). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[209] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 346). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[210] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 243). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[211] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 349). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[212] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 351). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[213] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 354). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[214] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 355). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[215] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 356). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[216] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 357). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[217] Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 107). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[218] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 253). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[219] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 253). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[220] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 361). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[221] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 361). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[222] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 289). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[223] Keener, C. S. (1997). Matthew (Vol. 1). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[224] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 376). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[225] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 263). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[226] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 379). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[227] Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 112). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[228] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 384). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[229] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 385). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[230] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 385). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[231] Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion (Orland, FL: Harcourt, 1957), p.9.

[232] Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion (Orland, FL: Harcourt, 1957), pp.9-10.

[233] We are indebted to one of Tim Keller’s sermons for this insight.

[234] Lane, W. L. (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 317). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

[235] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 391). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[236] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 392). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[237] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 391). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[238] Antiquities, 18.9.1.

[239] France, R. T. (2007). The Gospel of Matthew (p. 668). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publication Co.

[240] Wars of the Jews, 7.218.

[241] See footnote. France, R. T. (2007). The Gospel of Matthew (p. 668). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publication Co.

[242] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 271). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[243] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (B & H Publishing Group, 1992), in loc.

[244] Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 116). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[245] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 396). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[246] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 274). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[247] Joel Green, The Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 391.

[248] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 398). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[249] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 399). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[250] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 401). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[251] Interpreters use this expression to refer to passages that look forward and backward like the Roman mythological god Janus that had two heads: one looking forward and one backward.

[252] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 278). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[253] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 278). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[254] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 278). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[255] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, pp. 278-279). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[256] Cited in France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, pp. 279-280). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[257] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 280). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[258] Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 119). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[259] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 280). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[260] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 280). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[261] Note that Carson wrote in 1984, so “today’s currency” is outdated by nearly four decades! Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 406). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[262] Keener, C. S.. Matthew (Vol. 1). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. 1997. Matthew 19:10-12.

[263] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 287). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[264] William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1956), 238.

[265] William E. Phipps, The Wisdom and Wit of Rabbi Jesus (Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press, 1993), 90.

[266] J. Guhrt, New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), 184.

[267] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 428). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[268] The Jewish War 4.459.

[269] D.A. Carson, Matthew (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.435.

[270] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, pp. 299-300). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[271] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 302). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[272] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 302). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[273] Jewish people would sing this song during the Feast of Tabernacles (M Succoth 4:5).

[274] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 303). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[275] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 443). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[276] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 443). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[277] Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 158). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[278] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 307). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[279] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 448). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[280] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 453). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[281] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 454). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[282] Robinson also argues that this is stock language for a parable—not a strict prediction at all. John A.T. Robinson, Redating the New Testament (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1976), pp.20-21.

[283] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 316). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[284] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 318). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[285] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 459). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[286] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 318). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[287] Josephus, Antiquities, 18.16.

[288] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 321). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[289] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 464). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[290] Mekilta Exodus 6 and Sifre Deuteronomy 12:8; 19:11. See Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 464). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[291] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 464). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[292] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 322). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[293] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 323). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[294] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 464). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[295] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 464). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[296] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 466). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[297] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 327). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[298] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, pp. 471-472). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[299] Titus Kennedy, Unearthing the Bible (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2020), p.187.

[300] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 327). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[301] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 473). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[302] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 474). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[303] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 328). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[304] Carson only counts seven woes, because verse 14 might be a scribal interpolation.

[305] Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 169). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[306] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 478). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[307] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 332). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[308] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 480). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[309] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 481). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[310] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 332). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[311] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 487). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[312] Stanley Toussaint, “A Critique of the Preterist View of the Olivet Discourse” Bibliotheca Sacra 161 (October-December, 2004), 472-473.

[313] Kenneth L. Gentry, The Book of Revelation Made Easy: You Can Understand Bible Prophecy (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2008), 40.

[314] R. T. France, Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 1. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 336.

[315] Gary DeMar, Last Days Madness (Atlanta, GA: American Vision, 1999), 61.

[316] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 487). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[317] This might refer to the fact that when the temple burned (AD 70), a bright star appeared over the Jewish Temple (see Josephus, Jewish War, 6.5.1-3).

[318] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 339). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[319] Emphasis his. Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 495). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[320] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 495). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[321] To be more accurate, he states that the dimensions were 25 cubits long, 12 cubit deep, and 8 cubits tall. A cubit is thought to be 18 inches long. Josephus, Antiquities, 15:392.

[322] Baba Bathra, 4a.

[323] Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, 7:1:1.

[324] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 342). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[325] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 499). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[326] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 499). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[327] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 500). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[328] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 344). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[329] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 501). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[330] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 344). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[331] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 344). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[332] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 501). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[333] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 501). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[334] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 503). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[335] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 503). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[336] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 346). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[337] Carson merely holds this as a possibility. Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 504). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[338] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 505). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[339] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 347). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[340] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, pp. 347-348). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[341] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 347). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[342] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 347). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[343] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 506). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[344] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 348). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[345] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 507). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[346] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, pp. 350-351). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[347] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 350). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[348] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 512). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[349] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 354). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[350] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 513). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[351] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 354). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[352] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 514). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[353] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 515). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[354] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 516). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[355] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 356). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[356] I am indebted to my friend Conrad Hilario for this illustration—though I’ve changed it slightly.

[357] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 518). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[358] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 521). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[359] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 360). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[360] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 361). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[361] Wars of the Jews, 2.224.

[362] Antiquities, 20.112.

[363] Antiquities, 20.107.

[364] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 366). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[365] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 368). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[366] Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 180). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[367] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 377). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[368] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 539). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[369] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 543). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[370] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 379). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[371] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 380). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[372] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 553). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[373] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 558). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[374] Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 198). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[375] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 388). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[376] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 561). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[377] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 569). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[378] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 396). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[379] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 569). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[380] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 570). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[381] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 389). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[382] Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 208). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[383] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 575). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[384] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 576). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[385] Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 209). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[386] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 401). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[387] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 577). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[388] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 578). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[389] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 579). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[390] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 404). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[391] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, pp. 404-405). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[392] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 580). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[393] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 583). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[394] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 584). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[395] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 584). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[396] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 585). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[397] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 586). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[398] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 588). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[399] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, pp. 590-591). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[400] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 589). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[401] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 418). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[402] France, R. T. (1985). Matthew: an introduction and commentary (Vol. 1, p. 420). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[403] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 597). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[404] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 599). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.