Introduction to Matthew

By James M. Rochford

Authorship

There are several reasons for affirming the traditional authorship of the gospel:

Matthew speaks about himself in a self-deprecating way. Only the gospel of Matthew refers to Matthew as “the tax collector” (Mt. 10:3). Mark and Luke both mention Matthew, but only Matthew includes this identification.

The early church affirmed that Matthew was the author of this gospel. Not only was Matthew the most quoted gospel during the first 300 years of the church,[1] but Carson writes, “The universal testimony of the early church is that the apostle Matthew wrote it, and our earliest textual witnesses attribute it to him (KATA MATTHAION).”[2] Carson and Moo write,

The gospel of Matthew was universally received as soon as it was published and continued to be the most frequently cited gospel for centuries. The refusal of Marcion to accept it carries no weight, since his antipathy to all things Jewish is well known. So far as our sources go, the book never divided the Eastern and Western wings of the church as did, say, the epistle to the Hebrews.[3]

We have no evidence that these gospels ever circulated without an appropriate designation, (kata Matthaion, “according to Matthew”) or the like.[4]

They note that the early church valued the authorship of canonical books. For instance, Tertullian writes, “A work ought not to be recognized, which holds not its head erect… which gives no promise of credibility from the fullness of its title and the just profession of its author” (Tertullian, Against Marcion, 4.2). Of course, the epistle to the Hebrews is anonymous, so this might be overstated on Tertullian’s behalf.

When multiple gospels were read in the same church (by about AD 100?), it would have become necessary to have names for each. Thus Carson and Moo conclude, “In short, the argument that Matthew was understood to be the author of the first gospel long before Papias wrote his difficult words affirming such a connection seems very strong, even if not unassailable.”[5]

Matthew is not the sort of name that would be picked by a deceiver. The second century apocryphal gospels all used popular names for their gospels (e.g. the gospel of Peter, the gospel of Judas, the gospel of Thomas, etc.). Why would the early church intentionally make up Matthew as the author, when he isn’t a very “popular” apostolic figure?

Critical scholars argue that Matthew’s Greek is too advanced to have been written by a Jewish man in Palestine. Yet this argument doesn’t carry much weight. After all, as a tax collector, Matthew would’ve needed to know Greek to some degree.

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?].[6]

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.

Was Matthew written first (Matthean priority) or was Mark (Markan priority)?

The early church fathers contended that Matthew wrote his gospel first, and Mark and Luke borrowed their material from him. Matthew contains 90% of the gospel of Mark, and Matthew and Mark typically agree in their ordering of the events in Jesus’ life (see Mt. 3-4, 12-28). Who is depending on whom?

We agree with most modern scholars that Mark wrote his gospel first (i.e. Markan priority). We hold this view for several reasons:

First, Matthew and Luke rarely agree with each other against Mark. Carson writes, “Matthew and Mark frequently agree against Luke, and Mark and Luke frequently agree against Matthew, but Matthew and Luke seldom agree against Mark.”[7] This implies that Mark was the common source for Matthew and Luke.

Second, Mark is much shorter than the other accounts. Why would Mark write a shorter, condensed gospel, rather than a longer elaboration? Consider how John writes 90% novel material in his gospel.

Third, the early church fathers claim that Mark received his material from Peter—not Matthew. If Mark borrowed from Matthew, then why does Papias claim that Peter was the original source? (Ecclesiastical History, 3.39.15)

Fourth, the OT citations point to Matthean dependence. Carson writes, “The OT quotations and allusions Matthew and Mark have in common are consistently from the LXX, whereas those found in Matthew alone are drawn from a variety of versions and textual traditions.”[8]

Date

Ignatius (AD 110) cites Matthew 3:15 (To the Smyrneans, 1:1). Thus it must have been written before this time.[9] If it can be shown that Luke depends on Matthew, then Matthew would’ve need to be written before ~AD 65 (see “Introduction to Acts” for a defense of this dating). Carson writes, “While surprisingly little in the Gospel conclusively points to a firm date, perhaps the sixties are the most likely decade for its composition.”[10]

OBJECTION #1: Jesus predicts the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 (Mt. 22:7; 24:15). How could this gospel be written before this event?

Critical scholars deny Jesus’ supernatural ability to predict the future. Thus they believe that this “prediction” must have happened after AD 70. However, we don’t consider this to be a good argument for a number of reasons:

First, Matthew fails to mention a number events that occur after AD 70. If Matthew wrote after AD 70, then why wouldn’t he mention more about this event? Carson writes, “One could almost say that the lack of more detailed description of the events of A.D. 70 argues for an earlier date.”[11]

Second, Matthew mentions various aspects of Temple worship. Jesus claimed that believers should rectify their relationships before going to the Temple (Mt. 5:23-24). He cites that the Pharisees were surrounding the Temple (Mt. 12:5-7; 23:16-22), and he criticized their practices. Matthew also included that Jesus was crucified for claiming to replace the Temple (Mt. 26:60-61). Carson writes, “Significantly Matthew records more warnings against the Sadducees than all other NT writers combined; and after A.D. 70 the Sadducees no longer existed as a center of authority.”[12] Why would Matthew mention all of these things, if the Temple was destroyed?

Third, if Matthew was later than AD 70, we would expect him to mention more about church practices. But the absence of this points toward an early date.

OBJECTION #2: Jesus mentions the church

Jesus mentions the “church” in two passages (Mt. 16:18; 18:17–18). Critics charge that this shows that Matthew was writing much later. However, if this was the case, then why doesn’t he mention more? For instance, why doesn’t he mention elders or deacons?

Matthew 1:1-18 (Genealogy of Jesus)

[Parallel account: 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)

(1:2)

(1:3) Tamar tricked her father-in-law into impregnating her (Gen. 38).

Ruth was a Pagan from Moab (Ruth 1).

(1:4)

(1:5) Rahab was a Canaanite prostitute.

(1:6) Bathsheba was an adulteress.

(1:7)

(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.”[13]

(1:9)

(1:10)

(1:11)

(1:12)

(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)

(1:14)

(1:15)

(1:16) 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).

(1:17) What is the significance of the “fourteen generations”?

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

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.]

(1:18) 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! 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).”[14]

(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 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.”

(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 that “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 forever. He may have been afraid for his own life—or for the life of Mary.

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.

(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.

(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. He came from them, but he also was different from them.

While this passage doesn’t prove the deity of Christ, it surely supports this concept (“God with us”).

(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.

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 with Jesus being born, whereas Luke includes more detail on this (Lk. 2:1-38).

The main antagonist of this chapter is King Herod. After the Romans invaded Israel, they allowed the Jews to self-govern, but they really put in puppet kings. He probably died around 4 BC, so this event must have occurred before then.[15] History tells us that he was a paranoid maniac (cf. v.3).

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.”[16] 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.

(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.

(2:3) Why was Herod “troubled” by this? It may have been 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?

(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. On the other hand, this view doesn’t hold up to 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 gospels integrity, it actually shows an example of “interlocking” or an “undesigned coincidence” that shows the credibility of the authors (see our earlier article “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?

(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.

Do the Magi suspect that something is wrong with Herod’s suggestion? They may have believed him, because later on God has to send 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?

(2:10)

(2:11) This scene is not the Christmas scene. It occurs “after” Jesus was born (2:1). Mary is living in a “house,” rather than a “manger” (Lk. 2:7). In fact, this could have been some time after Jesus’ birth. After all, 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).

(2:12) God is working to protect his Son. Here he warns the magi not to return.

(2:13) Now, God warns Joseph in a dream.

Herod was a “seeker” of Jesus, but not in a good way.

(2:14) 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).

(2:15)

(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. We do know that this mania fits with what we know regarding Herod the Great. He was a cruel and vicious man.

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

(2:17)

(2:18)

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

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

Historically, Herod the Great died in 4 BC, placing Jesus’ birth around 5 BC. 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.”[17]

(2:20) 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.

(2:21)

(2:22) This might correspond with Luke’s material that Matthew skipped over, regarding Jesus’ circumcision, presentation at the Temple, etc. The text says that he was “afraid” to go there—not that he didn’t go there at all.

(2:23) This 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?”

Application

The irony of Magi seeking Jesus. Matthew contrasts the eagerness of these Pagans wanting to meet the King with the apathy of the Jewish leaders. Herod and the scribes actually had more specific revelation than the Magi. He was 10 miles away from Bethlehem, but he wouldn’t travel to meet the Messiah.

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. The Magi respected Christ more than the human leader (Herod).

Joseph gets the wisdom that he needs, bit by bit. He probably 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. He expects us to be faithful with the information we do have.

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

[Matthew skips 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 pericope about Jesus travelling to the Temple when he was twelve. Luke also sets the timeframe for the beginning of Jesus’ ministry (Lk. 3:1-2). Moreover, Mark picks up in this chapter.]

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

Why was he preaching out in the wilderness of Judea? He must have wanted to separate from the religious establishment.

(3:2) The Kingdom had not come yet, because the King had not revealed himself.

Matthew uses the expression “kingdom of heaven” 32 times. He is the only gospel author to use this expression.[18]

(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.

(3:4) John the Baptist seems similar to Elijah the prophet, based on his appearance (2 Kin. 1:8).

(3:5) This is a case of hyperbolic language.

(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! This is similar to people in church culture who come to Christ as adults and get believer’s baptism. This is still offensive to many traditional churches today. But we can’t trust in our Christian upbringing. We only get to God through repentance—just like these Pharisees.

(3:7) This passage is very cutting. Not only does he call them 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 (!). 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”).

Notice the order of repentance. We don’t bear fruit in order to repent. Instead, we repent and then bear fruit. How do we discern true biblical repentance? Is it by shedding tears? By being upset with their 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.

(3:10) Repentance is serious business! If they do not repent, they will face the judgment of God.

(3:11) Luke tells us that John made this comment because the people were wondering if John was the Messiah (Lk. 3:15).

Jesus’ baptism is clearly different from John’s.

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

(3:12)

Jesus arrives for baptism

(3:13) Jesus had the humility to be baptized by John.

(3:14) How did John know who Jesus was? However he knew, John didn’t want to baptize Jesus. Imagine how overwhelming it would be to be the one to baptize Jesus.

(3:15)

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

(3:16) Matthew uses the language of simile. The Holy Spirit descended “as a dove.” This might mean that he descended gracefully, quietly, gently, or beautifully (?). 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”).

(3:17) God the Father deeply loves Jesus. Since we are “in Christ,” he has this same attitude toward us (Eph. 1).

This statement from God the Father cites and conflates Psalm 2:7 and Isaiah 42:1. He is blending passages about the Reigning Ruler (Ps. 2) and the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 42).

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

Application

Jesus showed his dependence on the Holy Spirit. We sometimes think of Jesus as “cheating” when he lived a sinless life. He was God after all. He had the power to discern people’s thoughts and perform miracles. But Jesus operated out of the Holy Spirit’s power—not his own.

Matthew 4:1-11 (Jesus’ temptation)

 

(4:1) Sometimes, God will lead us into situations where we will need to depend on him. God had just given Jesus the Holy Spirit, and then, that same Spirit was leading him into battle with Satan. By depending on him, he will lead us into these situations. Job was tempted because he was righteous—not because he was sinful.

(4:2) Moses spent 40 days and nights getting the Law. Elijah spent 40 days at Mount Horeb (1 Kin. 19:8).

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 grumbling against God in the desert, Jesus trusted in him. 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). 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 grabbed from, why does he quote this section three times?

(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?

(4:8) How could Satan take Jesus to a very high mountain? Did he transport him there? Was this a vision? Which mountain was it? And what is the significance of standing atop a mountain? In the OT, mountains are usually symbols for world empires, so this could be why he took him to a literal mountain.

How would this help Jesus in seeing “all the kingdoms of the world?” This must have been some sort of “visionary experience.”[19]

(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. When believers command Satan to leave in Jesus’ authority, he must leave (Jas. 4:7).

(4:11) The angels met Jesus’ needs because he responded in trust.

Conclusions and application

Notice how Jesus battles Satan. He doesn’t rely on his own wisdom, but models for us our need to quote Scripture at Satan. We need the word of God to sustain us when we’re suffering or under attack. This same temptation offered to Jesus is offered to us as believers (Jas. 4:4-10; 1 Jn. 2:15-17). We need to trust in the one who overcame the world.

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

[The gospel of John includes some backstory to John the Baptist during this time (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). 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 he had met him.]

[If we take John’s gospel as chronological, then Jesus cleansed the Temple at the beginning of his ministry (Jn. 2:13-22), as well as at the end of his ministry.]

(4:12) Luke tell 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).

(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).

(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).

(4:18) 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.” This refers to the second decision of following Christ. We don’t ultimately follow men, but Jesus himself.

“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 lines and nets, but people have the freedom to respond. This also shows that as believers the results aren’t ultimately up to us. While fishermen can strategize and become more equipped, then 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 throw away 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.”

Matthew 5 (The Sermon on the Mount)

[Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount” seems to be different than Luke’s “Sermon on the Plain” (Lk. 6). Matthew states that Jesus was up on a “mountain” (Mt. 5:1), while Luke states that Jesus delivered his team “on a level place” (Lk. 6:17). Since Jesus was an itinerant (i.e. travelling) teacher, it is likely that he taught on this material more than once. In other words, these are two separate teachings, where Jesus covers similar material.]

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) 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. This would fit with the idea that Jesus is fulfilling the role of Israel in the OT perfectly. Moreover, he also refers to the Law of Moses many times throughout this section.

(5:2)

The beatitudes

For this section, 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.

(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.” Lemke writes, “A heart condition of realizing spiritual bankruptcy and need of grace.”[20] 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.

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.” 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.” God values gentleness (humility), because he himself is this way (cf. Mt. 11:28). God wants to give to the humble, rather than the proud.

(5:6) “Hunger and thirst for righteousness… satisfied.” This 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.

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.” This seems to refer to eternal rewards.

(5:8) “Pure in heart… see God.” This is a motivation to flee from sin. When we’re tangled up in sin, we lose sight of God in our condition. Sin doesn’t affect our position, but it does affect our condition.

(5:9) “Peacemakers… sons of God.” Jesus was the ultimate peacemaker, making us right with God. So too, he is the ultimate Son of God.

(5:10) “Persecuted for righteousness… theirs is the kingdom.” These get the parallel reward with verse 3 (“kingdom of heaven”). When we are persecuted (for God’s truth!), we are willingly suffering in this life. But Jesus gives a special promise for those who suffer in this way. We can look forward to the next life. Jesus surely knew that his message would result in people facing persecution. At the beginning of his ministry, he 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 (“because of Me”). How can we consider this a blessing?

(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.

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

“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.

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).

Salt and Light

[This material is unique to Matthew.]

We are called salt, lamps, and lights to the world. Why does Christ pick these images to describe Christian witness? What is the similarity between salt, lamps, and lights with our role as believers in the world?

(5:13) Jesus refers to salt based on its function and its use. Some commentators think of salt as a preservative. However, Jesus refers to the “taste” of the salt here.

(5:14) Light reveals the world around us.

(5:15) The purpose of light is not to hide it, but to reveal it.

(5:16) The purpose of the light is to “glorify God” (v.16).

The Law

[This material is unique to Matthew.]

(5:17) How did Jesus “fulfill” the Law and Prophets? This could refer to his redemptive work on the Cross (Rom. 10:4). It could also refer to his fulfillment of messianic prophecy. Or perhaps to both.

(5:18) This seems to speak more to the fulfillment of prophecy.

(5:19) This seems to speak more 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 sermon is to let the full weight of the Law crush self-righteousness.

(5:20) We know that Jesus has the Pharisees in his sights from this verse. People in Jesus’ day believed that Pharisees were the most righteous people to have ever lived. Here, Jesus argues that you need to be even more righteous than them!

Don’t murder (The sixth commandment)

(5:21) The Pharisees felt that they were safe with regard to this commandment.

(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.

Reconciliation

(5:23) Forgiveness and reconciliation is 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.” Jesus teaches that if your brother has an issue with you.

(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 be perfectly just once we face him.

Don’t commit adultery (The seventh commandment)

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

(5:29-30) Most interpreters read this passage hyperbolically.[21] 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 of the text. Jesus is speaking very literally here. It truly would be better to lose an eye or a hand, rather than go to hell. 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. The reader might think that this is horrible, and they would be right. Going the route of legalistic, self-righteousness is horrible. Jesus is raising the bar on the Law back where it belongs, showing people the impossibility of keeping it.

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 (see comments on Matthew 19:3-12).

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

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 argued that they could get what they deserved based on this law.

(5:39) 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.”

Incidentally, this does not support the concept of pacifism (see “Just War Theory”). This passage doesn’t refer to being physically attacked or killed. It refers to being “slapped” (v.39) or “sued” (v.40). That is, the consequences are embarrassment—not death.

(5:40-41) The way to “win” during conflict is to love our enemy.

(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 habit. Such a behavior is not “giving” at all. Properly understood, it is hurting the person to encourage their habit.

The law of love

(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.

(5:44) 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.

(5:45) God calls on us to love all people, 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?

(5:46-47) 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.

(5:48) Here is the conclusion to Jesus’ teaching on the Law. This passage serves as an inclusio with verse 20. 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?!” Jesus concludes this section by saying that we need to equal God in his righteousness. Again, there is nothing hyperbolic about this. 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.

Matthew 6 (The Eternal Perspective)

[This is unique material to Matthew.]

Our rewards are in heaven—not earth. 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 into. 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 being recognized (“be noticed by them”).

Jesus directs us to be more vertically focused, rather than horizontally focused. Instead of seeking recognition from men, we should look for our rewards with God. The cure to 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.

(6:3-4) Again, Jesus focuses on reward. God wants to reward what only he knows about. 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.

(6:5) Jesus isn’t against corporate prayer. In fact, he commands it elsewhere. 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) This sounds like the practice of the prophets of Baal (1 King 18). The opposite of “meaningless repetition” is meaningful relationship.

(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) The great and terrible irony is that many Christians repeat this exact prayer in a form of “meaningless repetition.” 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.

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).

(6:10) 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.

(6:11) God wants to meet our need, but not our greed.

(6:12) 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?

(6:13) This can be rendered “the evil one” (see NASB footnote).

(6:14-15) See comments on verse 12.

(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). Modern Christians want to look “spiritual” or “godly” by acting like martyrs all the time. Victorious suffering and victorious Christian living is 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?

Treasures in heaven

Jesus has already spoken about the false, self-righteous form of financial giving (vv.3-4). Here he gives the reasons for financial 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.

(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) Financial 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. 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.”[22]

(6:22) 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.

 (6:23-24) 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). 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.”[23]

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 this in detail.

(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 are more important things to think and worry about. 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 comes to us when we reverse the order, spending our mental and emotional energy 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?

(6:27) This is a good question that all worriers should ask themselves: What does worrying accomplish? When we sit and brood over something negative or worrisome, does it ever change anything? 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 brood over negative worries? Isn’t it because—deep down—we don’t believe that God will provide for us?

(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!

(6:33) Here is where our theology really becomes practical. Do we believe that God is our provider or not? If we put his will first, will he provide or won’t he?

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

(6:34) We should be more “worried” over whether we’re presentally “seeking his kingdom” (v.33).

Discussion Questions

Of course, 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.[24] 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 spiritual lives of others, or your own spiritual life?

Matthew 7 (Unrighteous and righteous judging)

 

Judging

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

(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) This is really a comical illustration. Not only as 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, but that we aren’t ready to do this until we pull the log out of our own eye. This is the attitude that I can help and correct others, but I myself don’t need any help myself.

Jesus isn’t against all judging. Remember, his targets here are the Pharisees who were guilty of self-righteous judgment.

Seeking God

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

(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.

(7:9-11) Why do these verses come on the heels of “seeking” for God? It seems that Jesus is reminding us that God desires find people and give them good things. These passages are similar to Luke 11:5-8; 18:1-5.

(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 stakes are high. We are each responsible for discerning truth from falsehood.

(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.

(7:16) Instead of judging externally (like the Pharisees do), look at their life. “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.

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

Acting on Jesus’ words

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

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

(7:26) 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”).

(7:28-29) Why were the crowds impressed by the “authority” of Jesus? It wasn’t merely that he spoke with confidence (though this is surely true). 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.”[25]

Matthew 8 (Miracles: Part 1)

These next two chapters (chs. 8-9) demonstrate that Jesus is the supernatural Son of God by virtue of his miraculous activity. Jesus is demonstrating why he is worth following.

(8:1)

Healing a leper

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

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

The leper doesn’t ask Jesus for healing. Instead, he comes to him with his problem, and he affirms that Jesus is able to heal him.

Try to put yourself in the leper’s shoes: He’s ostracized by his people. He hasn’t felt a human touch for years. He steps out in front of the entire crowd, putting himself in a really vulnerable situation. True faith puts the results in God’s hands.

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

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

(8:4) 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.

Healing a centurion’s servant

[Luke contains a parallel account in 7:1-10.]

(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.

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. If the President sent an ambassador with a message, it would be the same as the President himself speaking. 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.”[26]

(8:6) Instead, he 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. Luke records that at this point Jesus started to travel to the man’s house (Lk. 7:6). 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. He doesn’t try to twist God’s arm or control him. There are no conditions to this.

In Luke’s account, the centurion adds that he didn’t even feel worthy to speak to Jesus directly. That’s 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 filthy Gentile has more faith than anyone in Israel.

(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 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?

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).

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

(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).

(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 “deepest sickness.” Was Matthew reading something into the text that wasn’t there? No, instead Matthew’s interpretation of the Hebrew is actually correct, when we compare it against other similar usages. For instance, Ezekiel 33:10 and Psalm 103:3 use the Hebrew expression in this sense.

The calming of the sea

(8:18) Jesus was attracting so much attention that he wanted to escape the crowds by getting into a boat.

(8:19) The scribes were men of authority and high office in Israel.

(8:20) 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 even a bed… Are you sure that you want to follow me?”

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

(8:23) This passage says that the disciples followed Jesus, and this implies that the scribe and the man who wanted to bury his father did not follow him. 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).

(8:24) When we are freaking out 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 freaking out. 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) 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 to “Shhhhhhh!”

(8:27) In the OT, only God himself could control nature (Ps. 65:7; 89:9; 107:22-32). Thus there 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 frightening storm, then who exactly were they dealing with?

Healing the demon-possessed man

[The parallel passages are found in Mark 5:1-20 and Luke 8:26-39.]

What do we learn about demon possession from this passage?

(8:28) Matthew writes “Gadarenes,” while Mark and Luke write “Gerasenes” (Mk. 5:1; Lk. 8:26). Lemke writes, “Mark seems to have located the healing near a little-known town named Gerasa on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, which corresponds to the modern site known as Kersa. Matthew 8:28 uses the region of the Gadarenes for the location, pointing to the more well-known city of Gadara, which was about six miles southeast of the Sea of Galilee. The main idea is that by crossing over the Sea of Galilee Jesus has now entered into Gentile territory.”[27]

The demon possessed men travelled together. Why are the demon possessed men hanging around the cemetery?

Demon possession leads to violence.

Luke records that the man was buck naked (Lk. 8:27). 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.” Demons know that they are going to lose, but they still persist anyway.

(8:30) Pigs were unclean animals in Jewish culture.

(8:31) It was probably 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 to stick close to Jesus (Mk. 5:18).

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

Matthew 9 (Miracles: Part 2)

 

Healing of the paralytic

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

Notice that each author puts the parenthetical statement “He said to the paralytic” in between the words of Jesus:

(Mt. 9:6) But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your bed and go home.”

(Mk. 2:10-11) But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, “I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.”

(Lk. 5:24) But, so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,”—He said to the paralytic—“I say to you, get up, and pick up your stretcher and go home.”

These three authors were clearly copying from one another, or from a common written source. While scholarship posits the Q source, it could be that Matthew and Luke are copying from Mark.

(9:1) Jesus came home.

(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. This is similar to James 2:14-26.

What does the healing have to do with his sins being forgiven?

(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. 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 miracles. 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.”[28]

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

The calling of Matthew

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

(9:9) 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).

Taxes collectors would bid to collect more and more taxes for each province. They would claim that they could collect more money for each province. Armed guards would protect these people to collect taxes. There was no court of appeals to protect the people from being overtaxed. Jewish society fought back by ostracizing tax collectors (e.g. tax collectors couldn’t testify in court; their money was considered unclean). The Romans and Jews didn’t like the tax collectors, because the Romans viewed them as traitors too. Most rabbis taught they had passed the point of repentance and forgiveness. Complete ostracizing.

No one would take this job, unless they were already a low-life, criminal, or loser.

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.

(9:10) After they saw that it was “safe” to approach Jesus (after the calling of a tax collector), many others came forward. Jesus was the kind of person that sinners were drawn to. Luke tells us that this party was thrown by Matthew himself (Lk. 5:29).

(9:11) 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.

(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 that John himself had 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 moving through the new covenant in Jesus, this is the “wine” he’s referring to. The old wineskins of rabbinical Judaism will not work for the new truth of God’s new covenant.

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 us that this man’s name was Jairus (Mk. 5:22; Lk. 8:41).

Jairus (mistakenly) thought that his daughter was dead. Mark records that Jairus said she was “at the point of death” (Mk. 5:23).

(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. This 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).

(9:21) How did she know this? Moreover, how could God heal her through merely touching Jesus’ clothes?

(9:22) 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), and

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.”[29]

(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.[30] However, he uses it here in contrast to death.

(9:25) Whatever her state, Jesus brought her back to health. 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.

Two blind men

[This account only occurs in Matthew.]

(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?

(9:28-29) Jesus gave the condition of faith for them to be healed.

(9:30) Again, Jesus didn’t want many people to hear about him yet. He wanted to reveal himself more before he would be put to death.

(9:31) The people 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.

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.

(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.

The workers are few

(9:35) Jesus had a major ministry of healing. 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.

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

(9:38) At the same time, our understanding of human agency should drive us to prayer. This pericope leads us naturally into the sending of the disciples in chapter 10.

Matthew 10 (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 wanted to target the nation of Israel. Likely, these people would be the most open to the message of the kingdom. They believed in Yahweh, the Scriptures, and God’s plan. So Jesus wanted them to have the first shot at hearing about their Messiah.

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)?

(10:1) Coming off the heels of chapter 9, Jesus is thinking about how he wants to use human agency. The disciples didn’t have authority in and of themselves. Jesus gave this authority to his disciples.

(10:2) Matthew recorded how he called these men (e.g. Peter, Andrew, James, and John) in Matthew 4:18-21.

(10:3) Philip’s calling is recorded in John 1:43ff.

Thomas is mentioned throughout John (11:16; 14:5; 20:24ff; 21:2).

James the son of Alphaeus is most likely the man mentioned in Mark (15:40).

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.

Thaddeus isn’t mentioned very much in the gospels (Mk. 3:18; Lk. 6:16; Acts 1:13).

(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.

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

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

(10:8) The miraculous ministry of the disciples would help to authenticate their message.

“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.

(10:9-10) The disciples were to 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).

(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?

(10:15) The Jewish people were very familiar with the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19). 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?

(10:17-18) Is Jesus thinking eschatologically here? When were the disciples ever arrested or tortured in front of Gentile kings? Such events happen in the book of Acts, but none are recorded in the gospels. In fact, Jesus’ disciples flee from him during this time.

(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 to speak to people.

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

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

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

The cost of discipleship

(10:24-25) The goal is not to exceed Jesus, but just to become “like” him. However, Jesus notes that this means that we will suffer like him too.

(10:26) Why shouldn’t we fear our persecutors? Jesus is pointing 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 make it all right.

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

(10:28) Why should we fear our persecutors? They may judge us currently, but they will not judge us ultimately.

(10:29-31) Why should we not fear our persecutors? God knows us and values us deeply.

Sparrows were cheap and worthless animals, but even God was sovereign over them. Note that 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).

(10:34) Jesus is not referring to a literal “sword” here as the context makes clear. 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 cites Micah 7:6 to explain the fractured relationships that will occur among his disciples and their loved ones.

(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.

(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.

The REWARD for discipleship

(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. Jesus is also showing 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.

(10:41) Jesus is the ultimate prophet and the ultimate righteous man.

(10:42) God is even watching our small acts of faithfulness to him. If he sees something small like giving a glass of water (and he’s willing to reward us for that!), then how much more will he reward us for other acts of faithfulness.

Matthew 11 (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) 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 in Matthew 4:12. It’s interesting that Jesus didn’t go and immediately bust John the Baptist out of prison.

Apparently John’s disciples still had access to him.

(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.

(11:4-5) Jesus responds by quoting Isaiah 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.

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.

(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).

(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.

(11:12) What is the “kingdom of heaven” in this context? What “violence” does it suffer? Jesus may be referring to persecution in general.

(11:13)

(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 the people to children who play music looking for the proper response (either dancing or mourning). But instead of responding to the music, the people just listened blankly to the music.

What is the analogy Jesus is drawing here? He goes on to say that 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.

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.

(11:21) Why did Jesus perform these miracles if he knew (or the Father knew) that these cities wouldn’t respond to him?

(11:22)

(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

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

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

(11:28) In the next verse, Jesus tells us that we can specifically experience “soul rest.”

(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 6:6.

(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?

Matthew 12 (Pharisees try to trap Jesus)

 

Sabbath breaking

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

(12:1-2) Rabbinical Judaism held that any form of work was considered breaking the Sabbath. This is why the Pharisees were so antagonistic toward them.

(12:3-4) Jesus cites from a biblical (not extra-biblical) example from the life of David (1 Sam. 21:6). If David 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.”

(12:5) What law is Jesus referring to here? He is probably thinking of Numbers 28:9-10 which teaches that priests should make their sacrifices, even on the Sabbath.

(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!

(12:7) Again, Jesus cites Hosea 6:6 (cf. Mt. 9:13).

(12:8) Again, only God is Lord of the Sabbath.

Healing a deformed hand

(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 trapping him. Mark and Luke record that they were watching Jesus so that they could bring a formal accusation (Mk. 3:2; Lk. 6:7).

(12:11-12) Instead of being trapped, Jesus refers to a sheep that is trapped and will die on the Sabbath. If we would help a sheep, how much more should we help a human being? Again, the purpose of the Sabbath was to help people—not hurt them (Mk. 2:27).

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). This doesn’t fit with Calvinism. Otherwise, Jesus would be angry and grieved that He himself had hardened their hearts.

(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 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).

Citing Isaiah’s Servant Songs

[The parallel account is found in Mark 3:7-12.]

(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.”

Pharisees believe Jesus was healing by Satan’s power—not God’s

[The parallel account is found in Mark 3:20-30.]

(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”).

(12:24) This accusation is really a strong admission. Jesus’ enemies didn’t deny his miraculous power, but instead they denied its source. Later Jewish writers ascribed Jesus’ miracles to demonic power as well (see “Did Jesus Exist?” for these sources in the Talmud).

(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.

(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”).

(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.

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

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

Denouncing the Pharisees

[This material is unique to Matthew.]

(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.

(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.

(12:36) Jesus is showing that the stakes are high. 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).

(12:38-39) This is really a smoke screen. After all, they had already seen many miracles from Jesus. 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.

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

(12:41) Furthermore, 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!

 

(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.

Jesus’ (true) family

[The parallel account is found in Mark 3:31-35 and Luke 8:19-21.]

(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 (Parables)

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

(13:1-2) 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 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.

Why parables?

(13:10) The disciples questioned Jesus’ approach. Why did he choose to speak in parables, rather than more clearly?

(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.

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

(13:17) Jesus brought greater revelation than ever before.

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.

(13:19) Soil #1: Beside the road. Birds ate the seed. This is the person who hears, but doesn’t understand (v.14). 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. Immediate, 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.” Suffering and persecution is what stops him from growing. Luke writes that “they believe for a while” (Lk. 8:13).

(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.

(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? He both “hears and understands” (v.14). That is, he 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.

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

(13:24) This “man” in the parable is Jesus (v.37). 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).

(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.[31]

(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)

(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 millions on Earth.

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.

(13:34-35) Jesus was fulfilling Psalm 78:2.

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

(13:36)

(13:37)

(13:38)

(13:39)

(13:40)

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

(13:42)

(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.

Return to Nazareth

(13:53) Jesus didn’t stick around to teach anymore. He taught the parables, and then he left.

(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.

(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.

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

Matthew 14 (Death of John, feeding of the 5,000, and walking on water)

 

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.” 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.”[32]

(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.[33]

(14:3)

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

(14:5) Josephus tells us that Herod was afraid of John the Baptist’s large public ministry (Antiquities, 18.118).

(14:6) Herod wanted Herodias, but he was also enamored by Herodias’ daughter. Apparently, Herodias put her own daughter up to this (v.8).

(14:7) Our sex drive can lead us to do really stupid things. Mark adds that Herod promised her “up to half of [his] kingdom” (Mk. 6:23).

(14:8) Herodias wanted the head of John the Baptist, because John was denouncing her marriage to Herod (v.4). Mark records that she had a “grudge” against John (Mk. 6:19).

(14:9) Herod wasn’t grieved because he was such a good man. He was afraid of John the Baptist—or more accurately—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.

(14:11) What a corrupt family! This has all of the intrigue of a mafia movie.

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

(14:13) This is a good case for being able to take time to grieve.

(14:14) At the same time, Jesus continued to give out to the needs of people.

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 was usually burned dry and dead. But in this time of 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).

(14:15) Were the disciples wanting to protect Jesus while he was grieving? Maybe they were 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?’”[34] 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.”[35] 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) 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 through.

(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.

Jesus leaves to pray

(14:22-23) John records that Jesus left because the people were trying to force Jesus to be their King (Jn. 6:15).

Walking on water

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

(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?

(14:25-26) The “fourth watch” was between 3 and 6 am. 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. Instead, it means that he had the intention of them seeing him on this sea. Lemke comments, “The background for making sense of Jesus’ desire to pass by the disciples is in the language used for God’s revelation of His glory to Moses (Ex 33:17–34:8). Alter [sic] Moses asks to see God’s glory, the Lord places him in the cleft of the rock and protects his life by covering him with His hand while His glory ‘is passing by’ (Ex 33:18–22; see 1 Kg 19:11–13). 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.”[36]

(14:27) Jesus didn’t want to scare them. He “immediately” spoke to them, telling them who he was.

(14:28) We have to admire Peter’s faith and courage. Mark omits this part about Peter walking on water.

(14:29) 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 three to four miles from shore (Jn. 6:19).

(14:30) Instead of “fixing his eyes on Jesus” (Heb. 12:2), Peter focused on his fears (e.g. the wind). Peter is still a model of faith, because he called out to Jesus for help, rather than trying to keep himself afloat.

(14:31) Jesus claims that Peter sank because he doubted. In this context, doubt relates to focusing on fear, rather than faith.

(14:32) In the OT, only God can stop the waves (Job 9:8). 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). Here he accepts the disciples’ worship.

(14:34)

(14:35)

(14:36) They must have heard about the hemorrhaging woman in Matthew 9:20.

Matthew 15 (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 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.

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) There was a practice that people would effectively dishonor their parents by placing their money in the Temple. Of course, they could always remove this money in the future. This would be similar to laundering money, so that their parents wouldn’t have access to aid.

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) Jesus believed that God’s truth was more costly than being offensive to the religious leaders.

(15:13-14) Jesus combines God’s active and passive wrath here. God will actively “uproot” these religious leaders in the future, but he is currently passively “leaving them alone.”

(15:15) Even Peter didn’t understand what Jesus meant. Did Jesus even speak a parable above?

(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, “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.

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.

(Mt. 15:22-28) Was Jesus cruel to this Canaanite woman?

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.

(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 there 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 are trying to solve Bible difficulties, interpreters 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 (Jesus reveals his nature and mission)

[The parallel passage is found in Mark 8:10-26.]

Beware of legalistic teaching

(16:1) This is really disingenuous because Jesus had been showing many signs. Lemke writes, “This was the fourth time the religious leaders had asked for a sign (Mt 12:38; Jn 2:12; 6:30).”[37]

(16:2-3) 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 12:39.

(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.

(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.

Who is Jesus?

[The parallel account is found in Mark 8:27-30 and Luke 9:18-20.]

(16:13) 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. Keener said, “The recently renamed Caesarea Philippi was as pagan a territory as one could find. It was famous for its grotto where people worshiped the Greek God Pan; its earlier name Paneas persisted even in its modern Arabic name, Baneas (compare Josephus, Wars, 1.404), and public pagan rites reportedly continued there until a later Christian miraculously demonstrated that Jesus was more powerful (Eusebius. H.E. 7.17).”[38]

Luke tells us that Jesus was in prayer by himself before he asked them this question (Lk. 9:18). When Jesus asked this question, he was trying to get his disciples thinking about his identity. 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.

(Mt. 16:14) Why did people confuse Jesus with the prophet Jeremiah? (see introduction to Jeremiah)

(16:14-15) Jesus wasn’t satisfied being called just a good teacher or a good prophet. He wanted them 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.”

(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.”

What does it mean that God the Father needed to reveal this to him? Does God not reveal this to all people?

(16:18) Once Jesus made this statement, there is zero chance that his Church will 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 promises to 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. Again, Jesus was going to be brutally killed, and he wanted them to have firm evidence in his identity.

(16:22) Peter did such a good job identifying Jesus (v.16) that now he wants to correct 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.

(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. Instead of focusing on God’s plan, Peter was driving his own (finite and limited) plan.

The way of the Cross

[The parallel account is found in Mark 8:31-37 and Luke 9:22-25.]

(16:24) Why does Jesus’ teaching on self-sacrifice follow his teaching on his mission? What is the connection? 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).

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.

(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).

(16:26-27) Why should we lose our lives for others? Jesus gives us two reasons: (1) we can’t keep our status or power on Earth anyways (v.26) and (2) 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).

(Mt. 16:28) Did Jesus make a false prediction about his second coming?

Matthew 17 (The Mount of Transfiguration)

 

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.[39] 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.

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. Moreover, the trek up the mountain could’ve taken an extra two days, and Luke may be including these extra two days.

(17:2) Just like movies have previews, this is a little sneak peek of Jesus’ true nature. The Greek term for “transfigured” is 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.

(17:3) Moses had never made it into the Promised Land until this moment. Some commentators point out that Moses and Elijah were chosen because they represent the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah).

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!

(17:5) “A bright cloud overshadowed them.” In the OT, God usually revealed himself in the form of a cloud. 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? Modern people usually assert that religious experiences are always pleasant and tranquil. While God does want to fill us with his love, there is an aspect in the Bible that coming into the raw presence of God is terrifying. Regularly, biblical figures feel overwhelmed and wrecked by the presence of the real, transcendent God.

Comparative religion scholars like Rudolph Otto talk about the horror of coming into the presence of the divine—not the warm fuzzies. They call this the mysterium tremendum et fascinans. The mysterium (refers to “wholly other”), termendum (refers to “awfulness, terror, awe”), and fascinans (refers to “attractiveness in spite of fear”). When Isaiah saw God in his throne room, he said, “I am ruined!” (Isa. 6:5). The second time Peter saw Jesus’ miracles, he said, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (Lk. 5:8). When Jesus returns at his Second Coming, all people will collapse to the ground (Phil. 2:10).

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?[40]

(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) At this point, 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, Batman is gone.

(17:9) Again, Jesus wanted to keep this quiet “until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.”

Question about Elijah

[The parallel passages are found in Mark 9:9-13 and Luke 9:36.]

(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 argues that John the Baptist was a figurative Elijah.

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

Healing a demoniac

[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 boys 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 do not enter him again” (Mk. 9:25). Jesus didn’t want this demon to return.

(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”).

(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).

(17:22-23) If you notice, Jesus is all of the sudden talking a lot about his death and resurrection. He wants this message to drill into the disciples minds, so that they can be ready for this 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).

Drachma in the fish’s mouth

(17:24) Two-drachma was 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).

(17:25-27) Kings didn’t tax their own children. 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.”[41] We reject this first assertion that Jesus’ statement was metaphorical. The plain sense reading implies a 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!”[42]

Matthew 18 (Seeking the Lost)

 

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).

(18:2-4) Mark adds that he took 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. NT scholar Steve Lemke writes, “A child in the ancient world had no real status, so to use a child as an example of the humility one must have was a powerful illustration. To welcome a child was to welcome someone with no status, and yet Jesus gave that child a status equal to His own. In this way, the least are to be seen as great.”[43]

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.”[44]

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!

(18:6) Jesus also promises punishment toward those who would lead a little child astray. The imagery here is graphic: It is the severity of a mafia boss promising “concrete shoes” to someone so that they will “swim with the fishes.” However, this warning is not to hurt good men, but to protect weak and vulnerable people like children.

(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 (ch.5).

(18:10) Apparently, God sends angels to protect little children. This is where people get the idea of a guardian angel from.

(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.”[45]

God’s heart for the Lost

(18:12-14) This is NT church theology (vv.12-14). The focus isn’t on the fortress (the 99); 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.

Incidentally, this passage speaks against limited atonement and 5-point Calvinism. God’s will is to not see a single person perish.

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.

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.

Jesus cites Deuteronomy 19:15 which refers to legal cases. Sometimes, 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.

We don’t believe that Jesus is teaching a “three strikes and you’re out” mentality. The principle here is to keep moving toward the person with admonition 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 fellowship.

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 real problem with holding this view is that Jesus is always behind our decision to move forward with church discipline, which we would feel very uncomfortable claiming. 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 and practice can be faulty, and we should 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.

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.” Lemke writes, “The Rabbis ruled that no one should ask forgiveness more than three times. 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.”[46] Jesus must have blown his 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.

(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.

(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 would need to do.

(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!).

(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).

Matthew 19 (Marriage and the Rich Young Ruler)

 

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 (Safrai 1974–1976b:756–57; Finkelstein 1962:1:45). 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!”[47]

(19:11-12) This probably speaks to the gift of celibacy (1 Cor. 7:7).

(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)

Rich young ruler

(19:16) The man is asking how to get to heaven. How will Jesus respond? His 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.

(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.”[48] 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.”[49]

(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.”[50] 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) 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 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 (Servant leadership)

 

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 his grace to somebody. 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) 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”).

(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) The Owner cannot be accused of being unjust (“Friend, I am doing you no wrong”). 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’s “generosity.”

(20:16) This is an oft-repeated teaching of Jesus.

(20:17-19) Jesus keeps repeating this teaching to prepare his disciples for his death and resurrection.

The John and James’ mom asks a favor of Jesus. She was ignoring the fact that Jesus’ kingdom was one of suffering (vv.17-19). She thought 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 is trying to teach them the true nature of leadership (vv.26-28).

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? They are exhibiting child-like, dependent faith.

Servant leadership

[The parallel accounts are found in Mark 10:32-45 and Luke 18:31-34.]

(20:20) 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, the

Remember, this whole question is given on the heels of Jesus repeatedly telling his disciples that he was going to be crucified.

(20:21) The mother watched her sons go and follow Jesus. She wanted to know if they would be successful, powerful, and influential.

(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.

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, 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.

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).

(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. 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 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.

(20:28) Why would we choose to do this? Jesus sets the example of the ultimate servant.

Healing two blind men

(20:29) Jesus leaves Jericho.

(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.

(20:31) These blind men fought through the social pressure. They must have felt pretty awkward yelling out to Jesu, 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)

(20:34) Jesus had a heart of compassion for these men and their plight. This act of compassion and power changed their lives. They followed Jesus after this encounter.

Matthew 21 (Entering, Cleansing, and Debating in the Temple)

[This account is recorded in Mark 11:1-11, Luke 19:29-44, and John 12:12-19]

(21:1) They arrive at Bethpage near Jerusalem. They are standing on the Mount of Olives.

(21:2-3) These two verses really show that Jesus had supernatural foreknowledge. Jesus 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.

(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) This makes it sound like Jesus was riding both the donkey and the colt at the same time—maybe straddling both. Mark and Luke only mention the colt—not the donkey.

(21:8-9) The people recognized what Jesus was fulfilling. They spread out their coats, branches, and sang a messianic psalm (Ps. 118:26). 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?

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.

Cleansing 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)

(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)

For a milder example, consider spending $20 for a beer at a sports game. Once you’re at the Temple, you can’t go back and get another lamb from home. You must get bilked by the people in the Temple.

Imagine buying a used car for 8 grand, only to discover that it was only worth 2 grand. In fact, I think I’ve bought a few cars like that…

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 well liked. 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.

(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.

(21:16) The religious leaders give him an opportunity to recant. But instead, Jesus just keeps 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 predicts the destruction of Jerusalem, and he 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.

Cursing of the fig tree

[The parallel account is found in Mark 11:12-14.]

(21:18-19) Jesus curses this poor, poor fig tree. How could he?? (We hope our sarcasm is evident.) Many skeptics treat this as an unforgiveable sin on Jesus’ behalf.

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.”[51]

(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.

Showdown between Jesus and the Religious Leaders

[The parallel accounts are found in Mark 11:27–12:12 and Luke 20:1-19.]

(21:23) Jesus reenters the Temple, and the religious leaders are waiting for him. They are trying to trap him into giving himself away. Jesus has a trap of his own.

(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 and 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.

Parable of the two sons

(21:28-30) The parable shows that an individual can be cantankerous on the outside, but actually 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 still to be a doer and a talker! This passage should not be used to justify being irritable and stubborn with our words.

(21:31-32) What is the connection between this parable and the fact that the tax collectors and prostitutes will enter into the kingdom? He 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.

Parable of the vineyard owner

(21:33) Many commentators see stark allusions back to Isaiah 5 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.

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 cited Psalm 118:22. He is showing that God predicted that his plan (“his cornerstone” Jesus) 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 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.

Matthew 22 (Jesus debates “unwilling” religious leaders)

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 forced 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.

(22:3) These people were “called” and “invited,” but they didn’t come. Why? They were “unwilling.”

(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.).

(22:6) Some weren’t merely apathetic. They were hostile! They beat and killed these messengers of the King.

(22:7) This may be a reference to eternal judgment, or it could be a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 (“set their city on fire”).

(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).

(22:9) There was so much food at the banquet hall that was going to go to waste. The King opens up 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.

(22:11) This man was a “wedding crasher.” He was invited, but he didn’t show up in the right clothes. This probably shows that he really didn’t care about the King or his Son. He was just there for the free food and drinks.

(22:12) When he was asked by the King himself, he was “speechless.” This is probably analogous to the person who comes to the judgment seat, and has no defense for refusing to receive Christ.

(22:13) This is a common metaphor for hell (“weeping and gnashing of teeth”).

(22:14) The “called” include all of the people who were invited and refused to come (v.3). The “chosen” refer to those who actually make it to the feast.

Jesus: the Great Debater

Notice how Jesus’ opponents are trying to trap, and how deftly he maneuvers in debate. This is a case where people are getting off on rabbit trails, but Jesus was able to hit them with a good question in return. He doesn’t stay on the defensive the entire time, but instead, he forces his opponents to answer some questions.

Debating the PHARISEES

[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?), they send their disciples to challenge Jesus.

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. 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 was in hostile opposition to paying 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 (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.

(22:19-21) Jesus’ answer is really 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)

(22:22) Jesus could debate people to a standstill.

Debating the SADDUCEES

(22:23) Note the present tense (“[those] who say there is no resurrection”). Those who date Matthew after AD 70 will have difficulty with this passage, because 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 argue a theological trap. They cite Deuteronomy 25:5, which told the Jewish people to marry a widowed woman.

(22:25-28) They are using an argument ad absurdum. That is, you adopt the premise of your opponent, and carry it out to his 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.

HUMOR: The real question is why seven men would marry such an unlucky and deadly woman!

(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.

(22:30) Marriage lasts until “death do we part.” Moreover, we will not get remarried in heaven. Thus, Jesus answers their objection.

(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.”

(22:33) Again, Jesus argued them to a standstill. In Luke’s account, the religious leaders told Jesus that he had “answered well,” and this was because “they did not have courage to question Him any longer about anything” (Lk. 20:39-40).

Debating the PHARISEES (Round 2)

(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) This was a test because rabbinical thinkers argued over how to accurately systematize the OT law.

(Mt. 22:37-39) Does Jesus misquote Deuteronomy 6:5?

(22:37-40) 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.

(22:41-45) But Jesus doesn’t feel satisfied just defending his convictions. Again, he goes on the offensive in the debate. Now it’s time for them to answer some questions. 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?

(Mt. 22:41-46) Is Psalm 110 a prophecy of Jesus?

(22:46) Again, when Jesus wanted to debate, he could argue his opponents into utter silence. Why did Jesus do this? Was it because he wanted to embarrass the Pharisees? Not at all. He waited until this point in his ministry 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.

Matthew 23 (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 going off on the hypocrisy and legalism of the religious leaders! He must’ve been gasping for air in between rebukes.

This doesn’t condone going off on people whenever you see legalism. Jesus built up to this point, arguing and persuading for many years. But it does tell us that after arguing, persuading, and making our case, there is a time to simply say, “No, this sort of hypocrisy and legalism is wrong!”

For this chapter, ask yourself, “What qualities make someone or something legalistic? Which qualities make someone a legalistic Pharisee?”

(23:1) Notice the pronouns in this section. They switch between the disciples and the Pharisees. Apparently, the Pharisees are standing right there with his disciples, as he’s verbally denouncing them.

(23:2) This may have been a literal seat. It is also possible that this merely refers to trying to usurp Moses’ authority. Regardless, the Pharisees enjoyed having authority—even over Moses (i.e. the Bible).

(23:3) 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.

(23:5) Legalists love getting attention for their deeds. They hate doing anything in secret.

Phylacteries were boxes which contained Scriptures to be read. Lemke writes, “Phylacteries consisted of four strips of parchment inscribed with texts (Ex 13:3–10, 11–16; Dt 6:4–9; 11:13–21) and enclosed in a leather case. Adult Jews wore them bound to the left arm and the forehead. They also wore tassels with a ‘blue cord’ on their garments as a reminder of the Lord’s commands (Nm 15:37–41).”[52] The Pharisees focused on the size of their phylacteries, rather than their content.

(23:6) They love getting the attention and honor of men.

(23:7) They love the title of leader, rather than the role.

(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.”

(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.

The woes of the Pharisees

These eight woes may be parallel to the eight blessings in the Beatitudes (Mt. 5).[53]

(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) 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) Leading others into legalism is a tremendous sin.

(23:16-17) This is like saying, “I swear on my mother’s grave!” and the person says, “No, instead, swear on your mother’s pension!” They focused on the 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”).

(23:25) 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) They look good on the outside, but inside, they are spiritually dead.

(23:29-31) They venerate the prophets, but would have been their killers! They would’ve killed the prophets if they had been alive at the time.

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. Hindsight is 20-20.

(23:32) The connection to the fathers is that they had the example, but did it even worse, killing God’s son! The Greek term plerosate is the same word used for “filling up” prophecy.

(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.

(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) This passage is difficult for Calvinism. Calvinists often argue (1) that this doesn’t refer to salvation and (2) that the “children” are the Jewish lay people rather than the religious leaders. However, this defense isn’t valid.

(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) 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 being stop God from saving these people?

(23:38) This, no doubt, refers to the destruction of the Jewish Temple in AD 70.

(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.

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)[54]

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) the language of “the abomination of desolation.” This must 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.

(24:1-2) The Jewish Temple was beautiful and enormous. Josephus writes that the stones were 40 feet long, 18 feet deep, and 12 feet tall.[55] The Talmud records, “He who has not seen the Temple of Herod has not seen a beautiful thing.”[56]

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.”[57]

(Mt. 24:2) Why doesn’t Matthew (or Mark) mention the destruction of the Temple?

(24:3) 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).

(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) Preterists note that many messianic pretenders arose during the time between Jesus’ resurrection (AD 33) and the Jewish War (AD 66). 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.

(24:6) The history leading up to the destruction of the Temple fits with Jesus’ words as well. Note that Jesus specifically says, “But that is not the end.” Such a short-term fulfillment would fit with a Futurist reading.

(24:7) Famines (Acts 11:28) and earthquakes (Acts 16:26 are recorded in the book of Acts. This could also refer to the first century world—not the end of history.

(24:8) Again, 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.”

(24:9) Many of the disciples were martyred for their faith (Acts 12:2). While we have had “tribulation” throughout the Church Age, this is different than the “great tribulation.”

(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) Futurists sometimes argue that this could refer to the end times, where moral relativism is increased (“because lawlessness is increased”). We don’t want to take a dogmatic view on this, but this could be a case of “right message, wrong passage.” So far, Jesus’ teaching could all fit before AD 70. We have no problem with Preterism so far. The real problem occurs with trying to fit everything Jesus teaches into a first century context, rather than allowing for a futuristic reading. Our chief objection with Preterism is the rigidity in forcing everything Jesus says through a historical grid that doesn’t fit.

Flashing forward to the end

We aren’t exactly sure where a gap occurs in Jesus’ teaching. Some of the material in verses 4-12 could be fulfilled in the first century. Here in verses 13 and following, we have a much harder time finding a historical fulfillment. It is our contention that the earlier material (vv.4-12) could refer to the first century or the Church Age in general. Here in verse 13 and following, we see a clear shift.

(Mt. 24:13) Does this verse threaten eternal security?

(24:13)

(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 all nations. This could also refer to angels spreading the gospel during the Tribulation (Rev. 14).

(Mt. 24:15-16) Does this refer to the destruction of the Temple in AD 70, as Preterist interpreters claim?

(24:15) Jesus is referring back to Daniel 9:27. Mark’s account 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).

(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!”

(24:19) This would be an especially bad time to have children.

(24:20) This would be an especially bad time for travelling during the winter—mostly because 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?

(24:21) This shows that this period of history cannot have occurred by AD 70. The Destruction of Jerusalem was not the worst tribulation—even of the Jewish people (e.g. the Nazi Holocaust).

This great tribulation stands in contrast to the general tribulation mentioned earlier (v.9).

(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.

(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.

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 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).

(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 from localized and hidden comings of Christ. Jesus’ return will not be hidden, but will be a public and easily recognizable event.

(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.

(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 phenomenological language describing the cataclysmic return of Christ.

(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).

(Mt. 24:31) Is the gathering symbolic (as Preterists claim) or literal (as futurists claim)?

(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.

(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.

(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.”

(24:36) We can know the general time of Jesus’ return, but we cannot know the exact time of Jesus’ return.

Since Jesus had given up the use of his divine attributes (see “The Incarnation”), he willingly gave up his access to this information. To be clear, Jesus still had the attribute of omniscience, but he laid aside the use of this attribute in his incarnation.

(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 benign acts like “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 after 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 for the purpose of judgment—not raptured for protection. The ones who were taken in Noah’s day were those who drowned in the Flood.

Be ready!

(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.

(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 (Parables about the return of Christ)

[This material is unique to Matthew. The “parable of the talents” has close similarities with Luke’s “parable of the minas” (Lk. 19), but the two are different. This material follows on the heels of Matthew 24. In fact, Jesus begins this chapter by saying, “Then…” This implies that there is a direct connection with Matthew 24. Some Dispensational interpreters see that this material is chronologically after the Tribulation and Second Coming of Matthew 24.]

Parable of the Ten Virgins

Commentators focus on the details of this parable, such as the meaning of the oil, the virgins, the lamps, etc. We shouldn’t press these details for meaning. Instead, the point is that you need to be ready for the coming of Christ.

(25:1) What is the significance of ten virgin women waiting for a single groom in a wedding? Was this a custom at the time in wedding ceremonies?

(25:2-4) 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. 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.

(25:7-9) The foolish had the resources to get their own oil, but they didn’t prepare in advance. So they were scrambling at the last minute.

(25:10-12) 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.

(25:13) Jesus makes the application that we need to be ready for his return at any time.

Parable of the Talents

(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.

(25:16-18) The man with five talents made five. The man with two made two. The man with one didn’t invest the money.

(25:19) There will be a historical day in the future where Christ will ask us how we invested his resources.

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.

This man is “put in charge.” Part of the reward in Heaven will be to have influence and servant-leadership. Of course, he is still called a “slave,” so this must refer to delegated authority.

The other part of our reward will be to experience the “joy” of the Lord.

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 say that they are afraid of failure or looking foolish if they take a step of faith. Really, this is not the root fear. The root fear is that they don’t believe God is good and will provide for them.

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.

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).

The Sheep and Goats Judgment

These previous two parables describe how God will judge or reward people. This passage is not a parable, but a direct teaching on what this judgment will look like.

(25:31) This must refer 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).

(25:32-33) Jesus himself will judge humanity.

(25:34-36) This judgment of rewards is based on our works.

(25:37-39) 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.

(25:41) This isn’t likely to be 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?

(25:42-43) These non-believing people will be judged for their omissive sins—not just their comissive sins. This really fits well with the “one talent man” in the parable of the talents: He is not judged for what he did, but what he failed to do.

(25:44-45) Apparently, this judgment will be surprising for the non-believers too. Christ will have a perfect, 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 (The betrayal of Jesus)

(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.

(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.

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) These alabaster viles couldn’t be closed like Tupperware once they were opened. 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.

Mark and John mention that the vile was filled with “pure nard” (Mk. 14:3; Jn. 12:3). This was a very expensive perfume. The cost of the vile was estimated at 300 denarii; that is, it was worth roughly a full year’s salary (Mk. 14:5; Jn. 12:5).

(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? It’s 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 our spending of our resources on him to be a waste.

(26:11) This passage implies that we should normally use our money to help the poor.

(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.

(26:13) Today, nearly 2,000 years later, we are still talking about what she did.

Judas

(26:14) After seeing this act of sacrificial love, Judas realized that his involvement with Christ wasn’t going to profit him. This was the last straw for Judas. He wanted to get out ahead however he could.

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). 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.

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.”[58] 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) Judas was lying right to Jesus’ face and in view of the other disciples. He kept up appearances right to the bitter end. Judas left before Jesus initiated the Last Supper (Jn. 13:27-30).

(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.

Consequently, this passage contradicts the Mormon doctrine that Jesus celebrated the Lord’s Supper in the Americas. Jesus says that he will not drink wine again until the kingdom is inaugurated.

[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).

(26:31) Jesus predicts that the disciples will all betray him (see Zechariah 13:7).

(26:32) While his disciples would betray him, He would not betray his disciples. He would still wait for them to return.

(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.

(26:35) We shouldn’t be too hard on Peter. “All” of the disciples were making similar boasts.

The Garden of Gethsemane

[The parallel accounts are found in Mark 14:26-42, Luke 22:39-46, and John 18:1.]

(26:36) He 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 the battle at the Cross.

(26:37-38) 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.

(26:39) 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. 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. The “cup” refers to the wrath of God.

(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.

(26:42)

(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)

(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.

The betrayal 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.

(26:48-49) 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 Jesus was dumbstruck with Judas’ hypocrisy, 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 (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). 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) This would be one of the most agonizing elements of the Cross: Jesus could end his suffering at any moment! 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.

(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).

(26:56) Jesus’ appeal to the veracity of Scripture is fulfilled (see v.31). All of the disciples fled Jesus, but Jesus also requested that the guards would leave his disciples alone (Jn. 18:8).

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, many commentators believe that this was Mark himself, though this isn’t certain.

Jesus and the High Priest Caiaphas

(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.

(26:58) Peter had fled, but he wanted to get close. 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. 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.

(26:64) 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).

(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).

Peter denies Jesus

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).

(26:69) Once they kindled the fire, the girl began to recognize Peter (Lk. 22:56).

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.”

(26:70) Denial #1.

(26:71) Again, the great Peter cannot even keep his vow to another little girl!

(26:72) Denial #2.

(26:73) Galileans had an accent that would “give them away.” Lemke writes, “Galileans pronounced gutturals peculiarly and had a sort of lisp.”[59]

(26:74) Denial #3. Peter’s denials became more and more severe. In his second denial, he made an “oath” (v.72). Now he both “cursed” Jesus and “swore” that he didn’t know him.

Immediately after his third denial, the shrill and staccato noise of a rooster pierced through the air. This probably 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). He wept bitter tears.

God really broke Peter’s self-reliance through this episode. We don’t read about Peter in the rest of Matthew’s gospel.

Matthew 27 (The Cross)

 

The Death of Judas

(27:1-2) The religious leaders couldn’t put criminals to death, 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.

(27:3-5) “Remorse” and “repentance” are not the same. The remorseful person can try to rectify the sin (“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). For discussion, what then is the difference remorse and repentance?

Repentance isn’t about feeling bad, because Judas felt really bad!

Judas didn’t want to help Jesus. He doesn’t go to the authorities pleading for his life. He just wants to feel better under the crushing weight of guilt by returning the money. He wants to look good, so he can feel good.

(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) 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?

(27:8)

(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.

(27:12) Why did Jesus admit his Messiahship to Pilate, but not to the religious leaders?

(27:13-14) 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.

(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).

(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? Why would God send this woman a dream if he really was planning to have Jesus crucified?

(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.

(27:24) Pilate is doing everything in his power to show the crowds that he is not responsible for the consequences.

(27:25) This is mob rule at its worst.

Tortured and mocked

(27:26) This is a picture of substitution: A “notorious prisoner” is released from judgment, and Jesus is killed in his place.

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”).

(27:27) After his scourging, Jesus faced a Roman cohort, suffering ridicule.

(27:28) They stripped him naked, which is always disgraceful, but especially embarrassing in such a modest culture.

(27:29) They created a macabre theater scene to humiliate Jesus.

(27:30) They spit and beat him some more.

(27:31) Jesus wasn’t led to the crucifix naked. He had his own clothes back on.

Luke adds that a group of women followed him (Lk. 23:27).

(27:32) Simon of Cyrene helped Jesus carry his cross—probably because of all of the blood loss. They must’ve thought that he wouldn’t make it. This really shows the humanity of Jesus. He wasn’t like Clark Kent pretending to be human. He really was truly human, and he didn’t exercise the use of his divine power to lift the cross.

Mark gives more information on Simon of Cyrene, mentioning that he was “the father of Alexander and Rufus” (Mk. 15:21).

The Crucifixion

Read “The Crucifixion of Christ.”

(27:33) The Latin version of Golgotha is “Calvary.”

(27:34) What is the “wine mixed with gall”? Mark calls it “wine mixed with myrrh” (Mk. 15:23). Lemke writes, “A narcotic sedative that drugged the victim. Jesus would not receive it; He faced the redemption of mankind with senses intact.”[60]

(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.

(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.

John also 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.”[61]

(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.

(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.

(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). Luke records that one of these men came to faith in Christ at the very last moment of his life (Lk. 23:40-43).

(27:45) The darkness occurred from noon until 3pm. Darkness was a symbol in the OT for God’s judgment.

Mark writes that Jesus was crucified at 9am or “the third hour” (Mk. 15:25). 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.

“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?” To be “forsaken,” means to be rejected from God. 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.”

(27:48) They kept trying to feed Jesus “sour wine.” Why did they do this? Were they being merciful, or were they trying to prolong his death?

(27:49) See verse 47.

(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). This fulfills Psalm 31:5.

(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 at the time of Jesus’ death, look closely at verse 53: they are only raised after Jesus is raised.

(27:54) While the religious leaders rejected Christ, this pagan Roman centurion comes to faith at the Cross. This must show that even one of the killers of Christ could become a follower of Jesus. Mark also 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.

(27:55-56) Matthew notes that many women were watching these events. This is interesting because the male disciples had fled in fear.

Jesus’ burial

(27:57) When did Joseph of Arimathea become a “disciple” of Jesus?

(27:58) Joseph of Arimathea 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 (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 voted to have Jesus killed (Mk. 14:55).

(27:61) The women were watching this whole event transpire (see vv.55-56).

(27:62-63) The religious leaders were being proactive about Jesus’ final miracle.

(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. This is possible, but Pilate says that this was the Jewish guard that looked over the tomb.

(27:66) Regardless, the religious leaders sealed the tomb.

Matthew 28 (The Resurrection)

(28:1) The “first day of the week” was Sunday. The women were the first witnesses of the resurrection.

(28:2) The angelic activity led to an earthquake. Why did the angel move the stone out of the way? Why didn’t Jesus do this himself? This isn’t clear, but the movement of the stone was surely for our benefit to show that Jesus had been physically raised.

(28:3-4) It would be shocking to see an angelic being.

(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 one in person (v.4). This must be why the angel tells Mary not to be afraid.

(28:6) The angel doesn’t say that Jesus never died, but rather, that he has been risen from the dead. 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.

(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.

(28:9-10) Why does Jesus send an angel to the women, only to appear to them right away?

Their “worship” of Jesus continues to support his deity (see Mt. 4:10).

How did the religious leaders explain the empty tomb?

[Only Matthew contains this material.]

(28:11) These women witnesses were on their way to spread the good news of Jesus’ resurrection at the very same time some other witnesses spread the news to the religious leaders. Note the contrasts between these two sets of witnesses. The one 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) Again, the stolen body hypothesis has been around for centuries. 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.

Note that even the enemies of Christ couldn’t deny the empty tomb. The tomb was empty Sunday morning. They needed to explain why it was empty.

(28:15) People today still believe this spurious theory.

The Great Commission

(28:16) Is there any significance to the fact that Jesus appeared to them on a mountain?

(28:17) Some still doubted him (v.17)! This could be where the 500 saw him (1 Cor. 15:6). 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!

(28:18-20) Verse 18 is the indicative for his command in verse 19. We start to see his glorification here. His authority stretches over all creation. Christ is the power behind this command. The “therefore” refers back to verse 18.

What would happen if just made converts, rather than disciples, as Jesus commanded here (v.19)?

This teaching on baptism gives good evidence for the Trinity (v.19).

It’s important to teach Christian disciples “all” of the Bible. This would fall under teaching the “whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27).

He opens with indicatives and ends with indicatives (v.20). How would your ministry be different if you didn’t believe God was with you?

[1] 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. 19.

[2] 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. 17.

[3] Carson, D. A., and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament. Second ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005. 159.

[4] Carson, D. A., and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament. Second ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005. 140.

[5] Carson, D. A., and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament. Second ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005. 152.

[6] 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.

[7] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 13). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[8] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, pp. 15–16). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[9] 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. 19.

[10] 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. 21.

[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. 20.

[12] 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. 20-21.

[13] 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.

[14] 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.

[15] 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.

[16] 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.

[17] 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.

[18] 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.

[19] Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 45). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[20] Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 68). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[21] Lemke writes, “Self-mutilation was not Christ’s intent, since it is possible to be blind or crippled and still lust. Rather, Jesus’ language is hyperbolic. He commanded drastic measures to avoid temptations to sexual sin.” 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.

[22] Alcorn, Randy C. Money, Possessions, and Eternity. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 2003. 101.

[23] Alcorn, Randy C. Money, Possessions, and Eternity. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 2003. 42.

[24] “Conversations About Personal Finance More Difficult Than Religion And Politics, According To New Wells Fargo Survey.” Wells Fargo, February 20, 2014.

[25] 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.

[26] 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.

[27] 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.

[28] 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.

[29] 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.

[30] Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 91). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[31] Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 85). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[32] 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.

[33] 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.

[34] Lydia McGrew, Hidden in Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts (Chillicothe, OH: DeWard Publishing Co., 2017), Kindle Location 1552.

[35] 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.

[36] 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.

[37] 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.

[38] Keener, C. S. (1997). Matthew (Vol. 1). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[39] 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.

[40] We are indebted to one of Tim Keller’s sermons for this insight.

[41] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (B & H Publishing Group, 1992), in loc.

[42] 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.

[43] 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.

[44] Joel Green, The Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1997), 391.

[45] 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.

[46] 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.

[47] Keener, C. S.. Matthew (Vol. 1). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. 1997. Matthew 19:10-12.

[48] William Barclay, The Gospel of Luke (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1956), 238.

[49] William E. Phipps, The Wisdom and Wit of Rabbi Jesus (Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press, 1993), 90.

[50] J. Guhrt, New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), 184.

[51] 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.

[52] Lemke, S. W. (2007). The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies. In Holman Christian Standard Bible: Harmony of the Gospels (p. 168). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

[53] 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.

[54] 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).

[55] 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.

[56] Baba Bathra, 4a.

[57] Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, 7:1:1.

[58] 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.

[59] 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.

[60] 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.

[61] 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.