Introduction to Matthew

By James M. Rochford

Authorship: Did Matthew write this Gospel?

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

Did Matthew originally write his Gospel in Hebrew?

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

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

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

First, Matthew’s gospel often cites from the Septuagint—the Greek translation of the OT. But if Matthew was originally written in Hebrew, why then would he often cite 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? (see “The Synoptic Problem”)

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.”[2] A translator would need to be excellent to translate Matthew in such a fluid way.

Those who hold to the so-called “Q” source think it’s possible that Matthew had recorded a list of notes during Jesus’ lifetime. This list of sayings (or logia as Papias puts it) could be what we currently refer to as the “Q” source. It could’ve been copied into Greek, and then subsumed into both Matthew and Luke. Of course, this is merely conjecture, but it is a way of validating both Papias’ claim and the “Q” hypothesis.

Date: When did Matthew write his Gospel?

Evidence for an Early Dating of the Four Gospels: Many historians and commentators date the Gospels between AD 70 and AD 100. This subject is surely up for debate. However, based on the manuscript evidence, the citations of the Church Fathers, the dating of the Book of Acts, and the early citations from Paul, we think there is good evidence for an early dating of the Gospels. We would date Matthew to the early 60’s AD.

Audience: Did Matthew only write his Gospel for the Jews?

Yes and no. Matthew does tailor his Gospel for a Jewish audience in many ways. First, he focuses on the “fulfillment” of OT prophecy (Mt. 1:22-23; 2:15, 17, 23; 4:14; 5:17; 8:17; 12:17; 13:17, 35; 21:4; 26:54-56; 27:9. Second, he emphasizes Jesus’ lineage from Abraham and David—two very important Jewish patriarchs. Third, he focuses on Jesus’ mission to the nation of Israel—not the Gentiles (Mt. 10:5-6; 15:28). Fourth, he feels no need to explain Jewish practices (compare Matthew 15:1-20 with Mark 7:3-4, 11).[3] Fifth, Matthew uses “kingdom of heaven,” rather than “kingdom of God.” Some commentators argue that he uses this expression because Jews wouldn’t use the holy name for God. However, we don’t find this argument persuasive (see comments on Matthew 3:2 below).

On the other hand, Matthew records how Jesus foresaw and predicted the Gentile mission (Mt. 8:11; 10:18; 21:43; 22:9; 24:14; 28:19). Moreover, Jesus frequently approved of the faith of Gentiles like the Roman centurion (Mt. 8:10) and the Canaanite woman (Mt. 15:28). So, Matthew was not written exclusively to a Jewish audience.

How to use this commentary well

For personal use. We wrote this material to build up people in their knowledge of the Bible. As the reader, we hope you enjoy reading through the commentary to grow in your interpretation of the text, understand the historical backdrop, gain insight into the original languages, and reflect on our comments to challenge your thinking. As a result, we hope this will give you a deeper love for the word of God.

Comparing parallel accounts. At the beginning of each section, we included the parallel accounts in the other gospels. By reading these other accounts, we develop a three-dimensional view of the historical event. This gives greater nuance to our interpretation, and we would be wise to read these parallels.

Teaching preparation. We read through at least five commentaries on this book in order to condense some of the scholarship on the subject. We footnoted these authors to share their insights. We hope that this will help those giving public Bible teachings to have a deep grasp of the book as they prepare their teachings. As one person has said, “All good public speaking is based on good private thinking.”[4] We couldn’t agree more. Nothing can replace sound study before you get up to teach, and we hope this will help you in that goal. And if you complain about our work, don’t forget that the price is right: FREE!

Discussion questions. Each section or chapter is outfitted with numerous discussion questions for small group study. We think these would work best in a small men’s or women’s group. In general, these questions are designed to prompt participants to explore the text or to stimulate application.

Discussing Bible difficulties. We highlight Bible difficulties with hyperlinks to articles on those subjects. All of these questions could make for dynamic discussion in a small group setting. As a Bible teacher, you could raise the difficulty, allow the small group to wrestle with it, and then give your own perspective.

As a teacher, you might give some key cross references, insights from the Greek, or other relevant tools to help aid the study. This gives students the tools that they need to answer the difficulty. Then, you could ask, “How do these points help answer the difficulty?”

Reading Bible difficulties. Some Bible difficulties are highly complex. For the sake of time, it might simply be better to read the article and ask, “What do you think of this explanation? What are the most persuasive points? What are the weakest? Do you have a better explanation than the one being offered?”

Think critically. We would encourage Bible teachers to not allow people to simply read this commentary without exercising discernment and testing the commentary with sound hermeneutics. God gave the church “teachers… to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-12). We would do well to learn from them. Yet, we also need to read their commentary with critical thinking, and judge what we’re reading (1 Cor. 14:29; 1 Thess. 5:21). This, of course, applies to our written commentary as well as any others!

In my small men’s Bible, I am frequently challenged, corrected, and sharpened in my ability to interpret the word of God, and I frequently benefit from even the youngest Christians in the room. I write this with complete honesty—not pseudo-humility. We all have a role in challenging each other as we learn God’s word. We do well to learn from Bible teachers, and Bible teachers do well to learn from their students!

At the same time, we shouldn’t disagree simply for the sake of being disagreeable. This leads to rabbit trails that can actually frustrate discussion. For this reason, we should follow the motto, “The best idea wins.” If people come to different conclusions on peripheral issues, it’s often best to simply acknowledge each other’s different perspectives and simply move on.

Review of Commentaries

Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992).

Blomberg’s focuses on history in this commentary, and he gives a well-reasoned historical defense of the text.

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

Carson gives various interpretations of the text before offering his own. If you are looking for a commentary that gives a wide range of views, Carson is excellent. Even when you disagree with Carson’s interpretation, he at least explains alternative views well before giving his own. This commentary is also far more technical than others in the Expositor’s series. One word of caution is that Carson routinely criticizes John Walvoord’s commentary on Matthew. Indeed, Walvoord is Carson’s punching bag in his commentary. The reader will need to determine for himself or herself whether his criticisms are valid.

Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009).

Keener’s historical insight into the Greco-Roman and Jewish literature is in a league of its own. The footnotes alone are worth the price of the book. He also engages modern interpreters well, and argues for the historicity of the text at various points. This commentary is long and technical, but very well done.

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

France has chosen to specialize in the gospel according to Matthew, and he has a later commentary listed below that is more technical (2007). This earlier commentary is quite readable, and it has a good balance of history and theology.

David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008).

We were honestly disappointed with Turner’s commentary. The Baker Exegetical Commentary series is designed to go deep into the text. However, Turner routinely would “punt” to other commentaries (e.g. Carson, Blomberg, France, etc.) for the reader to get an explanation. But why did we buy Turner’s $50 commentary if he was simply going to point us to others who actually give the research? That said, Turner did give some quality insights into the text, which we included in our work below. However, in our estimation, his work was overall underwhelming.

Steve W. Lemke, The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007).

This is an excellent academic resource for harmonizing the Gospel accounts, and well worth the money.

Additional Commentaries

We haven’t read these commentaries in their entirety, so we can’t vouch for them. However, we did appeal to them at times to explore and research difficult passages. Thus, as with all study, READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.

R.T. France, The Gospel of Matthew: NIGTC (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publication Co., 2007).

Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew (Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press, 1992).

Craig A. Evans, Matthew: New Cambridge Bible Commentary (Cambridge University Press, 2012).

Ben Witherington III, Matthew (Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, 2006).

Table of Contents

Click these links below to jump directly to the chapter in question.

Commentary on Matthew.. 7

Matthew 1 7

Matthew 2. 16

Matthew 3. 25

Matthew 4. 33

Matthew 5. 42

Matthew 6. 63

Matthew 7. 75

Matthew 8. 84

Matthew 9. 96

Matthew 10. 106

Matthew 11 116

Matthew 12. 124

Matthew 13. 135

Matthew 14. 145

Matthew 15. 158

Matthew 16. 164

Matthew 17. 171

Matthew 18. 181

Matthew 19. 192

Matthew 20. 199

Matthew 21 206

Matthew 22. 216

Matthew 23. 226

Matthew 24. 236

Matthew 25. 254

Matthew 26. 263

Matthew 27. 278

Matthew 28. 291

Commentary on Matthew

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

Matthew 1

Matthew 1:1-17 (Genealogy of Jesus)

[The parallel passage is in Luke 3:23-38. After the book of Malachi, God went silent for four centuries. No more prophets. No more Scripture. No more voices from heaven. Theologians refer to this era as the “silent years.” This all builds anticipation for God’s final revelation in the person of his Son.]

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

(1:1) The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

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

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

(1:2) Abraham fathered Isaac, Isaac fathered Jacob, and Jacob fathered Judah and his brothers.

Jesus identified with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the twelve patriarchs. Judah, of course, was the patriarch through whom the Messiah would come (Gen. 49:10). Matthew is showing that Jesus came from the line of the kings (i.e. Judah’s line).

Four unlikely women (vv.3-6)

OT genealogies had some precedent for mentioning mothers alongside fathers (1 Chronicles 1:32; 2:17-21, 24, 26, etc.). However, these four women whom Matthew mentions are striking. For one, they are all non-Jewish by ethnicity. Second, they were looked down upon in their original culture. Third, they each had “at least suspicions of some form of marital irregularity, though all four were in fact vindicated by God’s subsequent blessing.”[6] Indeed, this is the “only factor that clearly applies to all four,” namely, each had “suspicions of illegitimacy” surrounding their “sexual activity and childbearing.”[7] This sets the stage for Jesus’ birth through Mary—a virgin who was likely mocked and ridiculed like these women of old…

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

(v.5) Rahab was a Canaanite prostitute (Josh. 2:1-21; 6:17, 22-25; Heb. 11:31; Jas. 2:25).

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

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

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

(1:3-5) Judah fathered Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez fathered Hezron, and Hezron fathered Ram. 4 Ram fathered Amminadab, Amminadab fathered Nahshon, and Nahshon fathered Salmon. 5 Salmon fathered Boaz by Rahab, Boaz fathered Obed by Ruth, and Obed fathered Jesse.

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

(1:6) Jesse fathered David the king. David fathered Solomon by Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah.

David’s title of being the “king” would bring back “nostalgia”[8] to Matthew’s original readers, who would long to be back in such times. Yet Matthew is showing the fulfillment of someone who is even greater than David. After all, Matthew records that David was an adulterer (“Bathsheba… had been the wife of Uriah”). Someone greater than David has come!

(1:7-10) Solomon fathered Rehoboam, Rehoboam fathered Abijah, and Abijah fathered Asa. 8 Asa fathered Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat fathered Joram, and Joram fathered Uzziah. 9 Uzziah fathered Jotham, Jotham fathered Ahaz, and Ahaz fathered Hezekiah. 10 Hezekiah fathered Manasseh, Manasseh fathered Amon, and Amon fathered Josiah.

These names are taken from 1 Chronicles 3:10-14. This is a mixture of good and evil kings, which made up the Messiah’s line.[9]

Matthew compresses these genealogies. 1 Chronicles 3:11-12 records: “Joram his son, Ahaziah his son, Joash his son, Amaziah his son, Azariah [Uzziah] his son…” Matthew, however, 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.”[10] These other generations were probably omitted to keep the number at fourteen (see comments on verse 17).

(1:11) Josiah fathered Jeconiah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

This picks up the final fourteen generation from the Exile under Jeconiah to the time of Jesus.

(1:12) After the deportation to Babylon: Jeconiah fathered Shealtiel, and Shealtiel fathered Zerubbabel.

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

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

(1:13-15) Zerubbabel fathered Abihud, Abihud fathered Eliakim, and Eliakim fathered Azor. 14 Azor fathered Zadok, Zadok fathered Achim, and Achim fathered Eliud. 15 Eliud fathered Eleazar, Eleazar fathered Matthan, and Matthan fathered Jacob.

The names from Abihud to Jacob “are not otherwise known to us today.”[11] Matthew likely had records in his own day that tracked these genealogies.

(1:16) Jacob fathered Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.

This verse contains a conspicuous omission. The rest of the genealogy states that each man “fathered” their offspring, using the active verb 39x (“was the father of” egennēsen). This final word uses the passive verb “was born” (egenn̄ethē). This is surely because Joseph isn’t the physical father of Jesus, and this presupposes the virginal conception that will be mentioned later (Mt. 1:23). Indeed, the word “whom” is feminine and in the passive voice. France writes, “The genealogy is thus clearly intended to be that of Jesus’ ‘legal’ ancestry, not of his physical descent.”[12]

(1:17) So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.

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

Conclusions

We get a dual portrait of Jesus in his genealogy: (1) He is a man that comes from royalty, but (2) he is a man who also comes from immorality.

(1) Jesus comes from royalty. The birth of Jesus was the culmination of a new era in salvation history. For centuries, the people of Israel yearned for the one who would stomp the Serpent (Gen. 3:15) and take up the Davidic Throne (2 Sam. 7:11-16; Ps. 2, 110). Now, at long last, Jesus has arrived!

(2) Jesus comes from immorality. The genealogy of Jesus shows that he came from sinful ancestors. This includes both the men and the women in his ancestry. This shows the condescension of Jesus. He entered a family tree that was profoundly dysfunctional.

The people expected a political ruler who would liberate them from the rule of Rome (Jn. 6:15). While Jesus will rule the people of Earth, he initially came in humility to rescue the people of Earth.

Discussion questions

Of all the ways Matthew could have begun his Gospel, why do you think he chose to open with a genealogy? Each Gospel opens with a distinct theme in mind:

  • Mark throws us right into the action, declaring Jesus as the Son of God.
  • Luke shows deference to his patron Theophilus (who presumably paid for his books), and he alludes to the apostolic authority of the eyewitnesses he interviewed.
  • John begins at the very beginning of creation itself—indeed before creation itself! He shows Jesus as the divine Word (or Logos) who existed with God the Father and was revealed in a human body.
  • Matthew begins with a genealogy, connecting Jesus with David and Abraham.

Why do you think Matthew opens his Gospel with a genealogy? Why do you think he thought this approach was important?

Genealogies aren’t important to us in our modern, democratic culture, where we elect leaders based on a popular vote. But ancient Israel was not this way. They recognized leaders based on their ancestry. We might compare this to being considered for the throne in Great Britain: You need to be from the right household and bloodline. No doubt, Matthew wanted to show that 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).

Why do you think Matthew cites four sinful women in Jesus’ genealogy? It was odd for Matthew to put women in Jesus’ genealogy, because he lived in a patriarchal society. In addition, Matthew includes four considerably sinful women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba—all of whom had rough backgrounds. Furthermore, the men in the genealogy are just as bad (and probably worse). By including these people in Jesus’ genealogy, Matthew is showing that Jesus is no ordinary king. Matthew shows us that Jesus identifies with sinners like us in order to save sinners like us.

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.]

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

(1:18) Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be pregnant by the Holy Spirit.

“Birth” (genesis) is the same Greek word used for “genealogy” in verse 1. It refers to the “birth” or “origins” of Jesus’ human nature—obviously not his divine nature.[13]

What was betrothal? In our culture, engagement is commonly a long period where the couple is in somewhat of a pseudo-commitment to each other. We do not intend to be critical of the commitment of engagement, but rather, we are trying to show the serious commitment of betrothal. In Jewish culture, betrothal was much more committed—more like marriage—and breaking a betrothal was tantamount to divorce. Indeed, even in this account, Joseph is called Mary’s “husband,” not her fiancée (v.19).

Betrothal had all the commitment of marriage with none of the benefits. A couple could hardly see each other, and sex was out of the question. So, betrothal was all commitment, but no coitus! And it lasted for about a year! (m. Ketub. 5.2; m. Ned. 10.5). 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)… 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]

How old was Mary? Women were typically betrothed when they reached puberty (~ages 12-14) and men were typically betrothed when they were a bit older (~ages 18-20). In fact, Turner comments that engagement or “betrothal frequently occurred when girls were twelve years old.”[15] Kenner comments, “Jewish men in Joseph’s day probably often married around the age of eighteen or twenty (m. ‘Abot 5:2, 32; b. Qidd. 29b-30a; Qoh. Rab. 3:2). Jewish women often married as young as twelve or fourteen, upon reaching puberty (Gen. Rab. 95; Peseq. Rab Kah. 11:6), though some were older than twenty. Young men were expected to begin adult responsibilities around age thirteen, so Joseph at eighteen or twenty had already begun to fill that role and likely already saved some money for his marriage.”[16]

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

(1:19) And her husband Joseph, since he was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.

Were these simply ancient, ignorant people? Some skeptics assert that these ancient people were pre-scientific fools, who attributed anything unknown to God or a miracle. But how does this verse fit with such an assertion? Joseph was no pre-scientific fool. Indeed, he knew enough about human embryology to know that women don’t just become pregnant! He didn’t believe her story that God had performed a miracle.

Joseph was a “righteous man.” He cared for his fiancée. Instead of calling the authorities to show that Mary had been unfaithful, he planned to divorce her “secretly.” Since the Jewish people could divorce with only two witnesses (m. Sotah 1:1, 5), Joseph was likely taking this approach.

In the OT law, the punishment for adultery was stoning (Deut. 22:13-14). However, this was not enforced in Jesus’ day, and divorce was the solution—not death.[17] In an act of kindness, Joseph was worried about “disgracing” Mary—not seeing her face capital punishment.

(1:20) But when he had thought this over, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.”

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, and she’s claiming, “God did it.” He must have been emotionally wrecked! Since the angel tells Joseph not to be “afraid,” this implies that he was scared of the consequences. At the very least, his future had been indelibly changed forever. He may have been afraid for his own future, for Mary’s future, or for the overall future of their new family.

“An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream…” Mary’s claim was so supernatural that Joseph probably needed an angel to confirm this in a unique way. God confirmed the truth of the virginal conception “in a dream,” but Joseph could’ve surely rationalized this away, and he could’ve continued with his plan of breaking up with Mary. Instead, he was open to correction from God.

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

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

(1:21) “She will give birth to a Son; and you shall name Him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

Far from having his life ruined, Joseph would be the father of the long-awaited Jewish Messiah. What God had seemed to take away from Joseph actually was given back—only far, far more! Whenever we give anything to God, we never have to worry about whether he will meet our needs in return. Always remember: You can’t out give God!

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

(1:22-23) Now all this took place so that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet would be fulfilled: 23 “Behold, the virgin will conceive and give birth to a Son, and they shall name Him Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”

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

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

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

(1:24) And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife.

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) But [Joseph] kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he named Him Jesus.

Roman Catholic theologians teach the perpetual virginity of Mary—namely, Mary continued to be a virgin even after she gave birth to Jesus. Roman Catholic commentator states,

The Greek conjunction translated “until” does not imply that Joseph and Mary had relations after Jesus was born. It refers to their relationship up to the birth of Christ without intending to communicate either a change or a continuance in the state of affairs after that point. Matthew’s concern is to underscore Joseph’s lack of involvement in Mary’s pregnancy and thus reinforce the miraculous nature of Jesus’ conception by the Holy Spirit. As such, this verse neither confirms nor contradicts the Catholic doctrine of Mary’s perpetual virginity (see Catechism 499-510).[18]

But there are difficulties with this perspective:

First, the grammar implies that Joseph and Mary had other children. We read, “[Joseph] kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son.” The verb is imperfect and focuses on “the period during which Joseph abstained from intercourse with Mary, namely prior to the birth of Jesus.” However, Witherington continues,

The imperfect, however, probably implies subsequent sexual relations between Joseph and Mary even more than an aorist verb would do. This is so because the phrase “he used not to know” or “he was not knowing her” implies a definite limited duration of abstinence, the duration limited by heos ou. Attempts to redefine these words to mean “while” or “without” are clearly special pleading, as is the attempt to see these words as unrelated to what comes before them. A. H. Mc Neile puts it this way: “In the New Testament, a negative followed by heos ou (e.g., 17:9) …always implies that the negated action did, or will take place after the point in time indicated by the participle . . . .”13 The issue here is not what heos means without ou nor what the phrase means in different sorts of contexts. When this phrase is preceded by an aorist indicative such as here (“gave birth”) and following the imperfect verb “he was not knowing,” it is hard to escape the conclusion that Joseph knew Mary after Jesus was born. The verse likely rules out Mary’s virginity after the birth of Jesus.[19]

This implies that Joseph had sexual relations after the birth of Jesus. France writes that this expression “would normally suggest that intercourse did take place after the end of this period.”[20]

Second, other passages teach that Joseph and Mary had other children. This is also why we read about Jesus’ other brothers and sisters (Mt. 12:46; 13:55).

Third, the perpetual virginity of Mary developed very early in Christian circles—though with quite bizarre additions. The extra-biblical Protoevangelium of James (19.3-20.2) goes into great detail about Mary’s hymen not being broken—even after childbirth (!!). The skeptical mid-wife (named Salome) personally checked Mary’s hymen after Jesus was born. But to her surprise, she said, “‘As the Lord my God lives, unless I thrust in my finger, and search the parts, I will not believe that a virgin has brought forth…’ Salome put in her finger, and cried out, and said: ‘Woe is me for mine iniquity and mine unbelief, because I have tempted the living God; and, behold, my hand is dropping off as if burned with fire! …And, behold, an angel of the Lord stood by her, saying to her: ‘Salome, Salome, the Lord has heard you. Put your hand to the infant, and carry it, and you will have safety and joy.’” For more on this subject, see our earlier article, “The Perpetual Virginity of Mary.”

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

Discussion Questions

Whose perspective does Matthew focus on in this birth account—Mary’s perspective or Joseph’s perspective? Why do you think he focuses on this person’s account and not the other?

Joseph received an angelic messenger in a dream in order to take a scary step of faith (v.20). Imagine that a young Christian stated that we should pray for angelic messengers before we choose to take big steps of faith. How would you respond to this application by appealing to this text? (vv.18-25)

What do we learn about Joseph from just this short section? (vv.18-25)

So far in Matthew 1, what have we learned about (1) who Jesus is and (2) what he has come to accomplish?

Conclusions

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

  • Mary agreed with God’s plan of the virginal conception. She told the angel, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said” (Lk. 1:38 NIV). No doubt, Mary faced scorn, ridicule, and potential divorce (cf. Jn. 8:41).
  • Joseph would’ve looked like a desperate wimp. In this culture, a man did not marry a woman who cheated on him. In fact, this was one of the clearest grounds for divorce! By staying with her, Joseph would have also carried the scorn and ridicule of his culture.

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

The mystery of the incarnation stretches the mind and warms the heart. Imagine if a good looking, wealthy, athletic, and brilliant man willing jumped in front of a bus to save your life. That same man was now paralyzed from the neck down, and he was also blind, deaf, and mute—imprisoned in the shell of a human body. The change in that man’s life is absolutely nothing compared to what God the Son did at the incarnation! By taking on a human nature, God the son became a zygote, a fetus, an infant, a toddler, etc. Why? He did this so he could get close to humanity—close to you! John writes, “We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life” (1 Jn. 1:1 NLT). Such an unfathomable idea boggles our minds, even as it warms our hearts.

Matthew 2

Matthew 2:1-12 (Hiding from Herod)

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

(2:1) Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem.

Jesus is not an infant at this point. He is likely around 18 months old. We know this for several reasons. For one, Matthew opens with after Jesus was born…” This implies that some time has passed. Second, Luke includes many details that Matthew omits before this time (Lk. 2:1-38). Third, Matthew calls Jesus a “child” (v.9, 11), not a “baby” (Lk. 2:12, 16). Fourth, Herod killed all children under the age of two, which implies that Jesus could’ve been alive for some time (v.16), perhaps even as long as two years. We find 18 months to be a good estimate.

Bethlehem had an important history. It was the place where Jacob buried his wife Rachel (Gen. 35:19), where Ruth met Boaz (Ruth 1:22ff), and where David was born. Consequently, Luke and John refer to Bethlehem as “the city of David” (Lk. 2:4, 11) or “the village where David was” (Jn. 7:42).

Herod the Great is anything but “great.” Indeed, he is the main antagonist in this chapter. He was born in 73 BC, and by the age of 33, the Roman Senate named him as the king of Judea. Since Herod died around 4 BC, this would date Jesus’ birth to roughly 5 BC.[21] The events in Matthew 2 must’ve occurred shortly before his death.[22]

The portrait of Herod in Matthew 2 fits what we know of this horrific man. Josephus tells us a number of atrocities committed by Herod:

  • He murdered suspected conspirators,[23] and he even killed the families of those who tried to assassinate him.[24]
  • Herod killed three of his sons.[25] Indeed, he killed two of his sons because he merely suspected that they were trying to kill him, but they were framed. Then, Herod killed his third son because his third son was actually trying to kill him at the end of his life.
  • Herod ordered his wife Mariamne to be killed after his death because he “was afraid of the injury that should be offered him, if, after his death, she, for her beauty, should be engaged to some other man.”[26] While this initial threat was never carried out, Herod eventually had Mariamne killed.[27]
  • Herod’s dying wish was to have all of the Jewish aristocracy killed at the time of his death, because he wanted to make sure that people were genuinely mourning and wailing when he died![28]

Caesar Augustus allegedly[29] joked of Herod, “It is better to be Herod’s pig than his son.” This was a joke because the Jews didn’t eat pork; thus, Herod’s pigs would all live long lives. Furthermore, it was a pun: In Greek, “pigs” (hys) and “sons” (huios) sounded similar.

Who were the Magi? This comes from the Latin (magus) and Greek (magos) which is where we get our modern term “magic” from this ancient word “Magi.” These were Pagans and probably Zoroastrians. Matthew tells us that they came “from the east,” and their gifts (v.11) imply an Arabian or Babylonian origin.[30] 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.”[31] Craig Evans gives us more detail when he writes, “As stargazers and scholars, often in the employ of kings (cf. Strabo, Geography 15.1.68; Xenophon, Cyropaedia 8.1.23-24), they would be expected to observe and understand strange phenomena in the heavens. The Chaldeans were famous in antiquity for magic and astrology (Arrian, Alexander 7.18.2; Juvenal, Satires 6.553-564; Philo, Dreams 1.53; Sibylline Oracles 3.227).”[32] The Bible certainly forbids astrologers and astrology in the strongest terms (Isa. 47:13-15; Dan. 1:20; 2:27; 4:7; 5:7; Jer. 10:1-2). Yet 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—specifically, those influenced by Daniel.

(2:2) [The magi asked,] “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”

The magi were there for the wrong reasons. While it’s possible that a Jewish population in Babylon could’ve led these men to read the Hebrew Scriptures,[33] the text simply doesn’t state this. Instead, it says that they came because they were “star chasers” and astrologers. The magi were likely pagan, Zoroastrians who came because they were reading astronomical signs. Yet God worked through this to bring them to Jesus.

What was the star of Bethlehem? Various explanations have been offered: It could be the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter (7 BC), Venus and Jupiter (3 BC), Halley’s Comet (12 BC), or perhaps a supernova. The difficulty with all of these natural explanations is that the star is said to have rested over their place of residence (“stood over the place where the Child was” v.9), implying that it signified a specific location. We simply aren’t sure if God used a material cause, or if this was a supernatural phenomenon. Regardless, Morris writes, “There is evidence that astral phenomena were widely held to be connected with the birth of great men.”[34] Thus Matthew recorded this to show that God was doing something special through this newborn child.

Why did they go to Jerusalem? Surely these magi expected a king, and they thought it was only natural to go to the capital city of Israel to find him. Little did they know that this king would be born in the tiny backwater town of Bethlehem!

Born King of the Jews…” The word “born” has emphasis in the original Greek, and this would’ve ruffled Herod’s feathers.[35] After all, Herod was half Jewish and half Idumean, so he didn’t have the proper ethnicity or birthright to be king. In other words, these magi unwittingly hit a sore spot of Herod’s.

(2:3) When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

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

Why were “all Jerusalem” also troubled? This could be hyperbole. However, this could also reflect how afraid they were of Herod, and how he would react to this news. Likely, they knew that Herod would react in a paranoid and maniacal way, which turned out to be true! (v.16)

(2:4-6) And gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet: 6 ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; for from you will come forth a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel.’”

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, they argue, then Jesus wouldn’t have been able to fulfill the prediction of Micah 5:2. But this doesn’t hold up to careful scrutiny. After all, Luke mentions the census, but he never mentions the prophecy of Micah 5:2. Likewise, Matthew mentions the prophecy of Micah 5:2, but never mentions the census. Therefore, far from being evidence against the integrity of the Gospels, it actually offers an example of “interlocking” or an “undesigned coincidence” that demonstrates the credibility of these authors (see “Interlocking in the Gospels”). That is to say, these two authors confirm each other without intending to.

This passage implies that it was a consensus that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Indeed, the Sadducean and Pharisaic leaders often disagreed with one another, so it’s quite significant that they agree on this.[36]

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

(2:7) Then Herod secretly called for the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared.

Why is the timing of the star significant? It is likely that Herod “had already schemed to kill the small boys of Bethlehem (cf: v. 16).”[37] By learning the time of the star’s origin, he could retrospectively date Jesus’ birth and thus his age.

(2:8) And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.”

Since the magi had already come this far, Herod bet that they would eventually find Jesus. Herod sends them out as ad hoc spies to find the baby, rather than sending his own men.

Did the Magi suspect that something was wrong with Herod’s suggestion? We’re not sure. They may have believed him, because later God sends them a dream to scare them away from returning to Herod (2:12).

(2:9) After hearing the king, they went on their way; and behold, the star, which they had seen in the east, went on ahead of them until it came to a stop over the place where the Child was to be found.

How could a star move over the top of a person’s house? The text says that it rested over the general “place” where Jesus was—not the specific house. The expression “came and stood” can “mean only that the star itself moved to guide the Magi.”[38]

(2:10) When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.

God must have revealed a sign that they could understand. They burst into joy when they saw the sign, knowing that their quest had reached its end.

(2:11) And after they came into the house, they saw the Child with His mother Mary; and they fell down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

This description disagrees with the traditional nativity scene, where the newborn baby Jesus sleeps in his manger surrounded by animals, shepherds, and the magi. Remember, this event occurs “after” Jesus was born (2:1), and Mary is living in a “house,” rather than a “manger” (Lk. 2:7). Herod ordered the genocide of all baby boys “two years old and under” (2:16). This means that a year or two might’ve passed. Otherwise, Herod would’ve only killed the babies—not the toddlers.

Moreover, the text does not say that there were “three wise men.” Children’s Sunday school classes and Christmas pageants infer this from the fact that there are three gifts given to Jesus (e.g. gold, frankincense, and myrrh), but this is only an inference that only three men gave three gifts. There could have been a caravan of magi. The text simply doesn’t say.

Gold (Ps. 72:15), frankincense (Ps. 60:6), and myrrh (Ps. 45:8) are gifts fit for a king (cf. 1 Kin. 10:2). Frankincense is a “glittering, odorous gum obtained by making incisions in the bark of several trees.”[39] Myrrh was “a much-valued spice and perfume.”[40]

(2:12) And after being warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.

God is working “behind the scenes” to protect his Son, and he used this dream to protect the magi. In Babylon, dreams were thought of as a way for the gods to communicate to humans. However odd this may sound, God spoke to the magi through an unorthodox means with which they were familiar.

Matthew 2:13-23 (Flight to Egypt)

(2:13) Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to kill Him.”

God sends another dream to Joseph (Mt. 1:20). This time, he directs him to hide in Egypt. This was a good place to hide, because “a large Jewish community had lived there for several centuries.”[41] So, Joseph and his family could blend in well. Furthermore, Egypt was “safely outside Herod’s jurisdiction,”[42] so it would have been a good place to flee for asylum. It was also 75 miles away, so it put considerable distance between Herod and Jesus’ family.

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

(2:14-15) So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. 15 He stayed there until the death of Herod; this happened so that what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet would be fulfilled: “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”

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. Here, God is sending Jesus into Egypt for protection from a genocidal, totalitarian ruler, who is killing young boys who are younger than two years of age (v.16).

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

(2:16) Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent men and killed all the boys who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi.

“When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi…” Bethlehem was only ~five miles from Jerusalem, so it wouldn’t take long for Herod to realize that he had been betrayed.

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

(2:17-18) Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: 18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; and she refused to be comforted, because they were no more.”

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

(2:19) But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt.

“When Herod died…” If you would like to read about Herod’s gruesome death, see Josephus, Antiquities, 17.168-181.

This is now the third time that God spoke to Joseph in a dream. God gives Herod specifics about how to lead his family in survival. Jesus’ heavenly Father is sovereignly speaking to Jesus’ earthly father to protect him.

(2:20-21) [The angel said,] “Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child’s life are dead.” 21 So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel.

The pathway was clear to return Israel. This would be like waiting for a mob boss to die before you were allowed back into a specific part of the city. This language is very similar to Exodus 4:19, which refers to Moses leaving Midian and returning to Egypt.

(2:22) But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee.

Why was Joseph afraid to go to Judea in 4 BC? This fits quite well with extrabiblical history. Herod the Great died in 4 BC, and his son Herod Archelaus took over Judea as its ruler or “ethnarch” for nine years (4 BC-AD 6).[43] Right after his father’s death, a seditious group challenged him, and he ordered a massive massacre. His horsemen alone “slew three thousand men,”[44] and Archelaus sent everyone home, cancelling the festival of the Passover. Archelaus was such a “barbarous and tyrannical” leader that the Jewish people protested to Augustus Caesar in Rome.[45] Consequently, Caesar removed Archelaus from power in AD 6. Herod the Great’s other son (Herod Antipas) took over in Judea.[46]

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

(2:23) [Joseph] came and settled in a city called Nazareth. This happened so that what was spoken through the prophets would be fulfilled: “He will be called a Nazarene.”

This was Jesus’ original hometown (Lk. 1:26; 2:4, 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?”

Discussion questions

Read chapter 2: Jesus is a king, and so is Herod. What differences do you see between these two figures? How is Herod’s kingship strikingly different from Jesus’ kingship?

Read chapter 2: Both Herod and the magi were seeking Jesus (but for far different reasons!). What key differences do you see between the magi and Herod?

Read chapter 2: We often hear that God works “behind the scenes.” In what ways does God operate “behind the scenes” in this chapter?

Read verse 3: Herod the Great was “troubled” when he heard about Jesus. If Jesus is such a perfect king, why would Herod feel threatened by him? Likewise, why are people today resistant to letting Jesus lead their lives?

God used signs and dreams to reach the magi with the truth of Christ. This raises a number of key questions.

  • Does this mean that God works through false religions to reach people? If so, to what extent does God reach people within a false religious system, while also not compromising truth?
  • To what extent (or in what areas) can we assimilate to a false religious system in order to reach people for Christ? How can we do this without compromising our convictions? What biblical principles should guide us these sort of judgment calls?

Conclusions

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

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

(2) Herod. Matthew contrasts the eagerness of the pagan magi seeking Jesus with the apathy of Herod (and the religious leaders). Consider the irony: Herod was a king in Israel, but he wouldn’t worship the true King of Israel! Furthermore, Jesus was called illegitimate, but he was the true King in God’s eyes; Herod was considered the legitimate ruler over Israel, but he was truly a usurper of the throne.

Herod and the scribes had more revelation than the Magi (Mic. 5:2), and they lived far closer to Jesus than the magi (only 10 miles away from Bethlehem!). Yet, neither Herod nor the religious leaders would take the time to travel to meet Jesus. They had lots of Bible knowledge, but it didn’t translate into faith or action. As Turner bluntly asks, “Why are the magi the only ones who travel to Bethlehem?”[47]

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

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

Matthew 3

Matthew 3:1:12 (John the Baptist)

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

(3:1) Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea.

“In those days” skips over roughly 30 years of Jesus’ life.

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

(3:2) [John was saying,] “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

John had two central messages: (1) repentance and (2) the coming of the kingdom. Jesus used the same expression as John (Mt. 4:17), as did the apostles (Mt. 10:7). Jesus wasn’t a rival with John, but an obvious ally (Jn. 3:22-26). Regarding John’s message of repentance, Turner writes, “John is not calling his Jewish audience to regular turning from specific sins but to a radical conversion from an old to a new way of life, a repentance of the sort that they as Jews might associate with Gentiles converting to Judaism.”[48] Thus, this would’ve been shocking to his original Jewish audience. After all, they were used to hearing teachings about how the Gentiles needed to repent—not the Jews! (m. Pesah. 8:8; t. ‘Abod. Zar. 3:11).

“…is at hand…” (engizō) means “has come near.”[49] John can state that the kingdom is near, because the King is here.

Why does Matthew refer to the “kingdom of heaven,” rather than the “kingdom of God”? Mark and Luke cite Jesus as referring to the kingdom of God—not the kingdom of heaven. Meanwhile, Matthew uses the expression “kingdom of heaven” 32 times, and he is the only gospel author to use this expression.[50] Blomberg speculates that Matthew—writing to a Jewish audience—didn’t want to use the divine name because this could offend his Jewish readers.[51] Indeed, Turner states that there is “little doubt” that Matthew doesn’t use God’s name, because this was “held in awe by pious Jews.”[52] Yet we don’t find this view persuasive. For one, Mark was also Jewish, and he would’ve had the same sensibilities as Matthew—indeed, more so, because Matthew was a tax collector (not a “holy man”). Second, Matthew uses the expression “kingdom of God” in his gospel on a few occasions (Mt. 12:28; 19:24; 21:31, 43), and he uses the term “God” throughout his Gospel. Therefore, this theory doesn’t hold water in our estimation. Indeed, it’s more likely that Matthew is simply using the expression “kingdom of heaven” interchangeably with the “kingdom of God” (see Mt. 19:23-24).

(3:3) For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said, “The voice of one calling out in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight!’”

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

In the OT, these passages speak about the coming of Yahweh. Here they refer to the coming of Jesus. Thus, 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 from the beginning (Isa. 40:3). Luke’s citation of “all flesh will see the salvation of God” fits with his emphasis on the gospel being for Gentiles, as well as Jews. In John’s Gospel, the Baptist specifically applies this passage to himself (Jn. 1:23).

(3:4) Now John himself had a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey.

John the Baptist seems similar to Elijah the prophet, based on his appearance and clothing (2 Kin. 1:8). He dressed like an outdoorsman, living a simple and spartan lifestyle in the wilderness. Carson writes, “Both Elijah and John had stern ministries in which austere garb and diet confirmed their message and condemned the idolatry of physical and spiritual softness.”[53] Another commentator notes, “Even the food and dress of John preached.”[54] While Westerners might find John’s cuisine unrealistic or even disgusting, people continue to eat locusts in the Middle East today.[55]

(3:5) At that time Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea and all the region around the Jordan.

All Judea… all the region…” This is a case of hyperbolic language (cf. Mt. 2:3). That is, not every single person came to see John, but many did.

(3:6) And they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins.

John the Baptist’s ministry must have been offensive to the religious elite. Jewish people believed that they were in God’s covenant because of their ethnicity, race, and heritage (not to mention their possession of the Law as God’s chosen people). John, however, was doing the most offensive act possible: baptizing Jews! Carson writes, “The rabbis used baptism to induct proselytes but never Jews.”[56] By baptizing Jewish people, John was saying that their race and ethnicity weren’t sufficient to be made right with God. Blomberg writes, “John’s call for a one-time-only baptism for those who had been born as Jews was unprecedented… God has no grandchildren.”[57]

This is similar to church goers today who never had a personal relationship with Christ, and get a “believer’s baptism” as adults. Since they were baptized as infants, many people find a second “adult baptism” to be offensive. But we can’t trust in our Christian upbringing—just as these Jewish people couldn’t trust in their ethnicity or race. We only get to God through a change of heart—just like these people coming to John.

(3:7) But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You offspring of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”

“Brood of vipers” refers to the offspring of snakes. John could be referring to their “shrewdness and to the danger they pose to others.”[58] However, Keener argues that this is actually a reference to these people being “mother killers,” because baby vipers “chewed their way out of their mothers’ wombs, killing their mothers in the process.”[59]

Not only does John call the Pharisees and Sadducees a “brood of vipers” as Jesus himself did (Mt. 12:34; 23:33), but it almost sounds like John didn’t want the Pharisees and Sadducees to repent (!). Yet, we are likely reading too much into the text, because the subsequent verse tells them to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” Perhaps John is just using a “sarcastic”[60] tone toward the religious elite.

People use texts like these to justify explosive rebukes on others. However, we should remember that John was righteously rebuking the worst hypocrites in his day. Furthermore, John had nothing to lose. He couldn’t be fired from an organization, because he belonged to none. People couldn’t take his paycheck, because he collected no money from those around him. The point? If you want to have a prophetic rebuke like John, that’s fine. But you need to count the cost—namely, you need to be prepared to lose everything—except locusts for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! Indeed, John’s strong prophetic voice eventually resulted in his martyrdom (Mt. 14).

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) “Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance.”

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

The order of repentance is critical. We don’t bear fruit in order to repent; instead, we repent in order to bear fruit. How do we discern true biblical repentance? Is it by shedding tears? By being upset with sin? No, we identify it through a person’s actions—a person’s fruit. As one person has said, the root is repentance, but the fruit is a changed life.

(3:9) “Do not assume that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father’; for I tell you that God is able, from these stones, to raise up children for Abraham.”

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

(3:10) “And the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore, every tree that does not bear good fruit is being cut down and thrown into the fire.”

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

(3:11) “As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

“I baptize you with water for repentance.” This doesn’t mean that John’ baptism caused the repentance. Earlier, we read, “They were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins” (v.6). The word eis (“for”), plus the accusative, usually implies purpose, rather than causation. Carson states that it can be rendered, “I baptize you with reference to or in connection with repentance.”[61] Blomberg agrees with this grammatical assessment.[62]

“He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals.” Luke tells us that John made this comment because the people were wondering if John was the Messiah (Lk. 3:15). A disciple of a rabbi would act “virtually as his master’s slave,” but to remove the rabbi’s sandals “was too low a task even for a disciple (Ketuboth 96a).[63] Hence, John is saying that he is worse than a slave compared to Jesus!

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

(3:12) “His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

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

Discussion Questions

Read verses 1-12. What do we learn about John the Baptist from this section? What kind of man was he?

Read verses 1-12. What do we learn about repentance from this section?

Read verses 11-12. What does John mean by the baptism of the “Holy Spirit”? What does he mean by the baptism of “fire”? Does this refer to the Pentecostal Second Blessing, or something else?

In light of the OT, could there be any significance to the fact that John was preaching repentance in the wilderness? Why do all four Gospels emphasize this location? What significance might this have?

If John’s baptism was for the repentance of sins, then why did Jesus get baptized? What does it tell us about Jesus that he would submit to baptism?

Matthew 3:13-17 (John baptizes Jesus)

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

(3:13) Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan, coming to John to be baptized by him.

Full stop! Why would Jesus be baptized by John? It obviously wasn’t because Jesus sinned (see “The Sinlessness of Jesus”). Instead, Jesus had the humility to be baptized by John in order to identify with us. Luke’s account even implies that Jesus was baptized alongside many others (Lk. 3:21). Keener comments, “In traditional Mediterranean culture where society stressed honor and shame, Jesus relinquishes his rightful honor to embrace other’s shame.”[64]

(3:14) But John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I have the need to be baptized by You, and yet You are coming to me?”

The “pronouns are emphatic” in the Greek.[65] It is as if John is saying, “You want me to baptize you??” Indeed, imagine how overwhelming and intimidating it would be to baptize Jesus Christ! Imagine how different it would feel to baptize prostitutes, tax collectors, religious leaders, etc. This must have really shaken John to the core to do this. After all, if John was unfit to untie Jesus’ sandals (v.11), how uncomfortable must he have felt to baptize him!

(3:15) But Jesus, answering, said to him, “Allow it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him.

Jesus agrees that John needs a spiritual baptism, but he states that “at this time” John needs to baptize Jesus. The idea of “fulfilling” righteousness and the law is a major theme of Matthew.[66] In this context, it likely refers to fulfilling God’s will from OT Scriptures.[67]

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

(3:16) After He was baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and settling on Him.

Why does the Holy Spirit appear as a dove? Matthew uses the language of simile (as a dove”), and we might be tempted to think that this refers to the way the dove descended (e.g. gracefully, quietly, gently, or beautifully?). However, Luke also uses the language of simile (“like a dove”), yet he notes that the Spirit descended in “bodily form” (Lk. 3:22). This implies that the Holy Spirit appeared in a theophany in the bodily form of a dove. Why did he choose to manifest in this way? Turner thinks that this “may remind the reader of other appearances of doves in redemptive history,”[68] citing Genesis 1:2 and 8:10.[69] To be honest, we’re simply not sure why the Holy Spirit chose to manifest himself in this way.

Was this a public or private vision? Matthew doesn’t say that everyone could see this. He only mentions that Jesus could see it (he saw the Spirit of God descending”). Yet John the Baptist apparently saw it. John said, “I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him” (Jn. 1:32).

Did Jesus receive the Holy Spirit here for the first time? Not necessarily. Rather, as R.T. France notes, “The vision symbolizes his commissioning for his Messianic work, not a new spiritual status.”[70]

(3:17) Behold, a voice from the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

God broke the 400-year silence with these words! This voice from heaven is what Jewish people referred to as the Bat Qôl (“daughter of the voice”), which had gone silent.[71] As Blomberg writes, “The voice is a sign that divine communication with Israel is resuming.”[72] Carson observes, “This voice is God’s (‘from heaven’) and testifies that God himself has broken silence and is again revealing himself to men—a clear sign of the dawning of the Messianic Age.”[73] It’s no wonder that John drew large crowds in the desert (v.5), because the people heard that a prophet at appeared.[74]

400 years! That’s longer than the age of the United States of America. Finally, at long last, God has chosen to speak… And what does he speak about? His Son!

God the Father deeply loves Jesus. The Father later repeats this at the Transfiguration (Mt. 17:5).

All of us long to hear this sort of love and approval. We search for love like this in our world that is filled with broken people. However, because of Jesus, we have this love and approval from the Father! Since we are “in Christ,” Father God has this same attitude toward us (Eph. 1:7). Despite our performance or moral track record, God is “well pleased” with us. While we can grieve God (Eph. 4:30), we should never think that God is anything other than loving toward us. Thoughts of disappointment and embarrassment come from the Enemy—not from our Heavenly Father.

God shows that Jesus was both a Servant and a King. This statement from the Father conflates Psalm 2:7 and Isaiah 42:1. He is blending passages about the Reigning Ruler (Ps. 2) and the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 42; cf. Mt. 12:18ff).

Discussion Questions

God tells Jesus, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Mt. 3:17). We argued above that God takes the same view of us who are “in the beloved” (Eph. 1:7). Here’s our question: If God always “loves” us and is always “well pleased” with us, then how can the Bible also speak about striving to “please” God in our lives? Which is it? Are we always “loved” and “well pleasing,” or is this something that we need to gain from God? (see 1 Cor. 7:32; Col. 1:10; 1 Thess. 4:1; Heb. 13:16)

The author of Hebrews writes, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). How does this passage fit into this discussion?

Conclusions

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

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

Matthew 4

Matthew 4:1-11 (Jesus’ temptation)

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

(4:1) Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

Even though Jesus was God’s Son (Mt. 3:17), God led him into situations where he would face severe temptation. The Holy Spirit had just descended on Jesus, and then, that same Spirit was leading him into battle with Satan. Even when depending on him, God will lead us into these situations, too. Jesus will later teach us to pray, “Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Mt. 6:13). Jesus went into temptation for us, and God delivered him from the Evil One. Keener writes, “Disciples are destined for testing (6:13; 26:41), but Jesus their forerunner has gone before them and shown them how to overcome.”[75]

Did God tempt Jesus? No. God wasn’t the one tempting Jesus (Jas. 1:13). Instead, God put Jesus in the situation where Satan would tempt him. God permitted and foresaw the temptation of Satan, but didn’t cause it. Remember, God allowed Job to face temptation and suffering because he was righteous—not because he was sinful.

(4:2) And after He had fasted for forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry.

This was a fasting from food—not water. Luke records, “He ate nothing during those days, and when they had ended, He became hungry” (Lk. 4:2). While Moses went without water (Deut. 9:9), Turner argues that the lack of water “might entail abstention during the day but not at night.”[76]

There might be some allusions to Moses and Elijah. Moses spent 40 days and nights getting the Law (Ex. 34:28; cf. Deut. 9:9, 18), and Elijah spent 40 days at Mount Horeb (1 Kin. 19:8).

There is quite likely an allusion to Israel. Many commentators believe that Matthew is depicting Jesus as fulfilling the role that Israel played in the Wilderness—only Jesus is completely faithful during this time as God’s true, one and only, Son (cf. Mt. 2:15). It isn’t a coincidence that Israel was in the wilderness for 40 years and Jesus was there for 40 days. While Israel grumbled against God during their “testing” in the desert (Deut. 8:2), Jesus trusted God in the desert. Moreover, all of Jesus’ biblical citations come from Deuteronomy 6-8, which were written at the end of the 40-year wandering. Surely, Matthew is alluding to this period in Israel’s history to show that Jesus succeeded where Israel failed. This is why Jesus had the qualifications to be our substitute and savior (Mt. 1:21).

TEMPTATION #1. The PROVISION of God

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

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

(4:3) And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”

Jesus was “hungry” (v.2), but Satan tells him, “There’s no need to be hungry! You have a buffet of bread all around you, if you will simply utilize your divine power!” After all, Jesus could feed others (Mt. 14:15-21; 15:32-38), so why not feed himself? Jesus knew that the Holy Spirit had taken him here, and that He would provide for Jesus if he led him into this wilderness. Thus, in a great act of love, Jesus went hungry so that we could be full.

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

(4:4) But He answered and said, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes out of the mouth of God.’”

Jesus responds with Deuteronomy 8:3. He knew that God’s word came before anything else—even food. Do you have this high of a view of Scripture?

TEMPTATION #2. The PROTECTION of God

(4:5) Then the devil took Him along into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple.

The “pinnacle” of the Temple was 180 feet high, so this would be like looking down from a skyscraper.[77] Blomberg argues that this isn’t the pinnacle, but the portico. This would refer to “the flat-topped corner of Solomon’s porch on the southeast corner of the temple complex overlooking the Kidron Valley.”[78]

(4:6) And [Satan] said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written: ‘He will give His angels orders concerning You’; and ‘On their hands they will lift You up, so that You do not strike Your foot against a stone.’”

“If You are the Son of God…” Again, Satan attacks Jesus’ sonship. But he also ups the ante: Satan cites Scripture—namely, Psalm 91:11-12. You might be thinking, “Wait a minute. Satan knows the Bible?” Oh yes! He not only knows it, but he has this verse memorized, reciting it on command. Further, Satan not only twists the interpretation of Scripture, but also its application. It is not Satan’s interpretation of the psalm that is in error. Rather, “Satan has misapplied it.”[79] This shows that people can misuse Scripture for horrific causes.[80]

(4:7) Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written: ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Jesus realizes that this act would force God’s hand, and it would be testing God (Deut. 6:16; Ex. 17:1-7). Carson writes, “For both Israel and Jesus, demanding miraculous protection as proof of God’s care was wrong; the appropriate attitude is trust and obedience (Deut 6:17).”[81]

Jesus doesn’t allow one passage of Scripture to contradict another. The concept of harmonizing Scripture does not originate from modernistic, Western, Aristotelian Bible commentators… We see it in Jesus’ own practice.

TEMPTATION #3. The PRIORITY of God

(4:8) Again, the devil took Him along to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.

How could Satan take Jesus to a very high mountain? While we shouldn’t be dogmatic (cf. 2 Cor. 12:2), we hold that this was some sort of “supernatural vision”[82] or “visionary experience,”[83] perhaps like the vision that Ezekiel had (Ezek. 8:1-3, 11:24).

“A very high mountain…” In the OT, mountains are usually symbols for world empires, so this could be why Satan took Jesus to a mountain.

(4:9) And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.”

Satan called Jesus ‘the Son of God’ in the first two temptations. Here, he lacks giving Jesus this title, and instead, he simply makes an offer to given him the world-system.

Satan seems to have some sort of legal right over the world. Since humans forfeited their dominion (Gen. 1:28), Satan has taken over the “property deed” to the Planet Earth. He is the “god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4), and the “whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 Jn. 5:19). Indeed, Jesus argues with Satan about a lot of things, but this is not one of them. Jesus silently concedes this point.

As we look at this progression, Satan’s subtlety seems to wear off. If he can’t get what he wants by playing theological games and twisting the scriptures, then Satan will just go for the jugular. The same was true with his interaction with Eve in the Garden: He started subtle, but became bolder and more blasphemous.

(4:10) Then Jesus said to him, “Go away, Satan! For it is written: ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.’”

“Go away, Satan!” Earlier, Jesus prolonged the debate. Here, he must have had the sense that he had clinched the argument by citing Deuteronomy 6:13. This verse completely smashed Satan’s point, and both Jesus and Satan knew it. This gave Jesus the authority to command Satan to leave. In the same way, when believers command Satan to leave through God’s word and in Jesus’ authority, he must leave (Jas. 4:7).

(4:11) Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to serve Him.

Satan made a tactical retreat. But Luke adds that he left Jesus “until an opportune time” (Lk. 4:13). This shows that Satan will be back to do more battle with Jesus. It’s possible that Satan used the religious leaders (Mt. 27:40-43) and Peter (Mt. 16:22) as a “mouthpiece” to repeat his lies to Jesus.[84]

The angels met Jesus’ needs because he responded by trusting God. France aptly comments, “The angelic help of Psalm 91:11, which Jesus refused to call for illegitimately (vv. 6-7), is now appropriately given.”[85] God broke the fast that Jesus was keeping, but Jesus refused to stop until God stopped it. Similarly, in our lives, we need to wait on God’s timing to end the suffering or the temptation, rather than reaching for illegitimate pain-reducers (e.g. sex affair, intoxication, spending spree, etc.). These angels return to minister to Jesus in another great hour of need—in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mt. 26:53).

Discussion Questions

What do we learn about Satan’s methods from this section?

What do we learn about how to battle Satan from Jesus’ example?

What do we learn about Jesus’ view of Scripture from this interaction?

Conclusions

Jesus faced far more severe temptation than we will ever know. He didn’t just go hungry; he didn’t eat for 40 days. He didn’t merely desire glory in front of people; he could have been publicly saved from a twenty-story fall. He didn’t simply experience the temptation of selling out for a job or a pay raise; he was offered all the nations on Earth! Whatever temptations you have faced, Jesus faced far, far more!

God will lead us into times of temptation and suffering. The Holy Spirit “led” Jesus to be “tempted by the Devil” (v.1). Similarly, God will put us in situations where we need to depend on him. Have you made up your mind in advance to trust God during these times? These times are on their way, hurtling toward you right at this moment. You can’t control your circumstances, but you can control your response. Will you let these times strengthen your trust and closeness with God? Will you come out on the other side a new person, or will you allow these times to set you back in your spiritual growth?

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

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

Imitate how Jesus battles Satan. Jesus models for us our need to quote from Scripture. We need the word of God to sustain us when we’re suffering or facing spiritual attack. This same temptation of the world-system that was offered to Jesus is also offered to us as Christians (Jas. 4:4-10; 1 Jn. 2:15-17), and we need to overcome this temptation by trusting in the One who overcame the world (1 Jn. 5:4-5).

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

[The gospel of John includes some backstory to John the Baptist (Jn. 1:19-28). During this interval of time, John the Baptist sent two of his disciples to Jesus (Jn. 1:40-42), and Jesus picked up Nathanael and Philip (Jn. 1:43-51). Then, Jesus performs his first miracle of turning the water into wine (Jn. 2:1-11). We know that this section fits here chronologically because John the Baptist refers to the baptism of Jesus as a past event (Jn. 1:29-34). Andrew introduced his brother Peter to Jesus during this time (Jn. 1:40-42), and so, when Peter meets Jesus in Matthew, this is actually the second time that they met.]

(4:12) Now when Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee.

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

Luke tells us that John the Baptist was arrested because he condemned Herod’s unlawful marriage and “all the wicked things [Herod] had done” (Lk. 3:19-20). Matthew later records that this arrest led to John the Baptist being decapitated (Mt. 11). Jesus, therefore, makes a “tactical withdrawal”[86] into Galilee.

(4:13) And leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali.

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

(4:14-16) This happened so that what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet would be fulfilled: 15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, on the other side of the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—16 the people who were sitting in darkness saw a great Light, and those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them a Light dawned.”

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

(4:17) From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Luke adds the emphasis that Jesus’ preaching was “in the power of the Spirit” (Lk. 4:14). This is what gave Jesus power to preach.

Furthermore, Jesus wasn’t satisfied with idle listeners. He calls for a response from his hearers—namely, “repentance.”

(4:18) Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen.

The “sea of Galilee…” is really more like a lake, being only 8 miles wide and 13 miles long. In fact, Luke—the Gentile—consistently refers to this as “the lake of Galilee,” while Matthew, Mark, and John—Jewish men—consistently call it a “sea.” Jewish sailors didn’t travel out into the big seas of the Mediterranean, but stayed within Israel. So, this explains why these Jewish men would call it a sea, but Luke would call it a lake. We might think of Luke like Crocodile Dundee, as if he was saying, “That’s not a sea… This is a sea!”

The fishing on the Sea of Galilee was good, and John and James did well for themselves. In fact, they had “hired servants” because of this lucrative family business (Mk. 1:20).

Peter and Andrew grew up in Bethsaida (Jn. 1:44), but they moved to Capernaum and made it their home (Mt. 8:5, 14). If our chronology is correct, then this is the second time Jesus met Andrew and Peter (Jn. 1:40-42).

“They were fishermen…” These ancient men used nets to catch their fish. Turner explains, “The net was a circular device, weighted with stones, that was thrown into the water. When pulled up, it tightened around the fish.”[87]

(4:19) And [Jesus] said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of people.”

Follow Me.” Jesus made an unapologetic, radical call for these men to leave their fishing business. While fishermen weren’t rich, neither were they poor. Fishermen were “among the more economically mobile” in ancient Israel, because fishing was a “major industry” and a “primary staple” food.[88] By leaving their careers, they were leaving well paying jobs.

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

Rabbis didn’t typically ask prospective disciples to follow them. Instead, the wise and elite rabbi waited for disciples to flock to him. Keener writes, “Jesus’ seeking out disciples himself may thus represent a serious breach of custom, ‘coming down to their level’ socially.”[89]

“I will make you.” We might feel inadequate to be useful to Jesus, and truly we are! Yet 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.” Jesus would’ve scared them to death if he said, “I will make you into church leaders who will write Scripture, speak to thousands, lead hundreds of thousands, and ultimately die for your faith.” Instead, Jesus gave them a concept with which they were familiar: fishing. We might imagine these men saying to themselves, “I don’t know what he means by being ‘fishers of men,’ but I know how to fish. How hard can it be?”

Why does Jesus compare evangelism to “fishing”? Why not say “hunters of men” instead? We can think of a few reasons that Jesus picked this metaphor:

First, we can’t force people to come to Christ. Like fishing, we can cast out our nets, but people have the freedom to respond. This shows that the results aren’t ultimately up to us.

Second, while fishermen can strategize and become more equipped at what they do, they need to trust that the fish 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). This shows that we need Jesus’ power in order to be effective at this sort of work.

Third, while we might be pushing the metaphor too far, it’s certainly true that recreational fishing is still fun, even when we don’t catch anything. In the same way, people who have adopted a lifestyle of evangelism simply enjoy doing it, regardless of how people respond.

(4:20) Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.

Luke states that Peter and Andrew responded “immediately” to Jesus’ invitation after they saw the miracle of the big catch of fish. Thus, they responded to this simple invitation because of what they had just seen.

Peter initially wanted Jesus to go away because he realized he was in the presence of absolute greatness, and he sensed his own sin (Lk. 5:8).

(4:21) Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets; and He called them.

The “boat” would represent their finances, and their “father” obviously represents their family. Keener comments, “In a society where teachers normally stressed no higher responsibility than honor of parents (Josephus, Apion 2.206)… some people would view such behavior as scandalous.”[90] The lesson is not to dishonor or hate our families. Rather, the point is that we should be willing to break from cultural customs regarding our assumed familial duties in order to follow Jesus.

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

(4:22) Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.

Since James and John witnessed this miracle of the fish too, it would make sense for them to “immediately” drop everything to follow Christ. These men not only left their finances, but also their family (see Mt. 8:21-22; 10:21, 34-37; 12:46-50; 19:29).

(4:23) Jesus was going about in all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness among the people.

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

“Synagogues” developed after the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonians, when the Jewish people were sent into Exile in other nations. In these places, Jewish people could meet together for Bible teaching and prayer. This was an excellent medium through which Jesus could reach spiritually eager people.

(4:24) And the news about Him spread throughout Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and severe pain, demon-possessed, people with epilepsy, and people who were paralyzed; and He healed them.

Matthew distinguishes between demon-possession and epilepsy. In other words, Matthew was not some pre-scientific, credulous man. He knew the difference between physical and spiritual maladies.

(4:25) Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and Jerusalem, and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.

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

Discussion Questions

Jesus called four disciples in verses 18-22. From this section, what do we learn about the nature of discipleship?

Conclusions

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

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

Matthew 5

Virginia Stem Owens (a professor of literature) assigned her undergraduate students to write a short essay on the Sermon on the Mount at Texas A&M University. Most of the students responded with shock and horror:

  • “I did not like the essay ‘Sermon on the Mount.’ It was hard to read and made me feel like I had to be perfect and no one is.”
  • “The things asked in this sermon are absurd. To look at a woman is adultery. That is the most extreme, stupid, unhuman statements that I have ever heard.”

Owens wrote that at this point she “began to be encouraged… This was a real thing, a pristine response to the gospel, unfiltered through a two-millennia cultural haze… I find it strangely hearting that the Bible remains offensive to honest, ignorant ears, just as it was in the first century. For me, that validates its significance.”[91]

Matthew 5:1-12 (The Beatitudes)

[In our estimation, Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount” seems to be different than Luke’s “Sermon on the Plain” (Lk. 6). Though, we admit, they are very similar in nature, and it’s possible Matthew could be topically arranging Jesus’ teachings into one place.]

At the outset, we must confess that our view is held by a small minority of commentators. That said, we hold that Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5-7) is a different teaching than Luke’s Sermon on the Plain (Lk. 6:17-49). Indeed, when we compare the two, we see that the “differences are many,”[92] and there is a “considerable difference in content.”[93]

For one, the location is different. Matthew records that Jesus “went up on the mountain” to teach (Mt. 5:1), and he “came down from the mountain” when he was finished teaching (Mt. 8:1). Luke, however, states that Jesus “came down” from a mountain to begin this teaching (Lk. 6:12, 17). We agree with Turner that “these historical markers must be ignored or viewed as fictional”[94] if one claims Matthew was collating various teachings of Jesus into one.

Second, the length is different. Matthew records 107 verses, while Luke records only 30 verses. Luke spreads much of Matthew’s content throughout the life of Jesus, rather than clumping it all here (Lk. 8:16; 11:2-4, 9-13, 33-35; 12:22-34, 58-59; 13:24, 26-27; 16:17-18).

Third, the chronology is different. Matthew places Jesus’ teaching before Jesus chooses his twelve disciples (Mt. 10:1-4), while Luke places it after this event (Lk. 6:12-16).

Most commentators argue that these differences can be harmonized, and both versions refer to the same foundational teaching(s). This is certainly possible,[95] but a more natural reading leads us to believe that these are two separate teachings. Indeed, some commentators hold that Jesus had one sermon that was a sort of “keynote address,”[96] which he repeated over and over. Consequently, Matthew and Luke only recorded parts of this teaching that Jesus repeated for various audiences. Perhaps both were citing from this larger teaching. Surely Jesus repeated “key themes in his itinerant ministry.”[97]

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

How should we interpret the Sermon on the Mount? Craig Keener notes that there are 36 distinct interpretations of the Sermon on the Mount.[98] We recommend reading “How to Interpret the Sermon on the Mount” in order to have a good understanding of this section of Scripture (Mt. 5-7).

(5:1-2) Now when Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. 2 And He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying.

Jesus gave this teaching on a “mountain.” Hence, this is where we get the name “The Sermon on the Mount.” France[99] and Turner[100] see similarities between this and Moses receiving the Law on Mount Sinai. Moreover, Jesus also refers to the Law of Moses many times throughout this section. This would fit with the notion that Jesus is fulfilling the work of Moses and Israel perfectly.

Who is the audience? Jesus gave this sermon to his “disciples.” However, we learn from the sermon itself that Jesus is clearly targeting the legalism and hypocrisy of the religious leaders. In other words, this teaching is given to his disciples, but it is given about the Pharisees and scribes.

The Beatitudes

What is a beatitude? The term “beatitude” comes from the Latin beatus (“blessed”). We see this same genre in “wisdom literature and especially the Psalms.”[101] In fact, we see various beatitudes throughout the NT (Mt. 11:6; 13:16; 16:17; 21:9; 24:46; Lk. 1:42; 10:23; 11:27-28; Jn. 13:17; 20:29; Acts 20:35; Rev. 1:3).

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.

What does it mean to be “blessed”? This beautiful biblical concept has become a staple of church culture. But if asked directly, how many people really know the meaning of the word “blessed”? It seems like some sort of vaguely positive, spiritual state. But what does the Bible mean by this term?

“Blessed” (makarios) means “fortunate or happy” (BDAG). France writes that it refers to “someone who is to be congratulated, someone whose place in life is an enviable one.”[102] Carson likewise states that it refers to a person who is “favored by God and therefore in some sense ‘happy.’”[103]

We emphasize this because modern people don’t know what the word “blessed” even means. Indeed, only Christians use this word! Indeed, Randy Alcorn argues forcefully in his book Happiness (2015) that it is simple loyalty to tradition that keeps translation committees from rendering this word as “happy,” rather than “blessed.” But, as Alcorn argues, this is a tragic mistake! After all, modern people have no idea what the word blessed means, but they are hungry for happiness. How different would this passage read if you understood that God wanted you to be happy? We recognize that this can be taken to an extreme regarding health-and-wealth preachers. But we shouldn’t let prosperity teachers rob us of God-given happiness. We commend Alcorn’s book to anyone who is interested in exploring this subject further.

Why is there a change in verb tenses in the beatitudes? The first and final beatitudes are in the present tense (v.3, 10), while the ones in between are in the future tense (vv.4-9). Blomberg states, “Partial recompense may come in this age, but complete fulfillment of Jesus’ promises often requires waiting for the age to come.” Furthermore, he continues that this is “an appropriate introduction to Jesus’ sermon as they remind his disciples that God blesses them before he makes demands on them (the body of the sermon).”[104] Jesus’ teaching articulates “the best way of life not only in its intrinsic goodness but in its results.”[105] The tenses of the second clause are all future—except for the first beatitude and the last (v.3, 10). This demonstrates that for the Christian “the best is yet to come.”[106]

(5:3) Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Poor in spirit.” This is the human precondition to be ready to receive from God. To approach God, humans need to be “spiritual beggars.”[107] These are people who “acknowledge [their] spiritual bankruptcy” and have an “utter dependence” on God.[108] It refers to “one’s spiritual powerlessness and bankruptcy apart from Christ,”[109] and those who “acknowledge one’s total dependence on God for everything, for righteousness as well as sustenance.”[110] Coming to saving faith in the God of the Bible was practiced in the same way in the old covenant and the new covenant; it was based on spiritual poverty and need (cf. 1 Cor. 1:26-29). Later, Jesus piles up the standards of the Law so high that it should produce this type of attitude in a person—namely, complete and total humility. Of course, the Pharisees and scribes were not spiritual beggars! And these are the kind of people and the type of spirituality that Jesus is attacking in this teaching.

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) Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Does this refer to mourning over our sin? Carson understands this as referring to mourning in repentance over personal or national sin (citing Ps. 119:136; Ezek. 9:4 for justification).[111] This is possible. Yet the concept of sin or repentance is not named, so this seems speculative at best. Furthermore, we should be wary of mourning over sin as a form of genuine repentance. Some people can be sorrowful for the consequences of their sin, but not in the sin itself. Judas “felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders” (Mt. 27:3), yet he went ahead and “hanged himself” (Mt. 27:5). He literally mourned his way to suicide! We should be careful to distinguish the “sorrow… that produces repentance,” and a “sorrow of the world [that] produces death” (2 Cor. 7:10).

Does this refer to mourning over persecution? Turner states that the meaning is “more on those who mourn over afflictions and persecutions that arise because of their allegiance to the kingdom.”[112] This view fits with Jesus’ statement in verse 10-12.

Does this refer to mourning generally over suffering? France[113] and Blomberg[114] understand mourning as broadly referring to suffering in general, which could refer to personal sin, but also to a sinful world of suffering in general. That is to say, you are blessed if you mourn, because you know that the world is not the way it’s supposed to be. Under this view, you should not “not grieve as do the rest who have no hope” (1 Thess. 4:13), but you still should grieve and mourn the state of our world—yearning for God’s “kingdom to come.” This hope focuses on eternal comfort, rather than present circumstances. Indeed, when we suffer, we experience the reality of God in a new way. Paul writes, “The more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ” (2 Cor. 1:5 NLT). We favor this view.

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

(5:5) Blessed are the gentle, for they will inherit the earth.

“Gentle… inherit the earth.” Imagine all of the men who tried to take over the Earth. What sort of qualities did they have? These men were cut-throat, cruel, and cunning megalomaniacs… But according to Jesus, what type of people will “inherit the earth”? The gentle! The term “gentle” (praus) means “to not [be] overly impressed by a sense of one’s self-importance, gentle, humble, considerate, meek” (BDAG). The term is used of a powerful animal who has become tamed.[115] Thus, meekness is not equivalent to weakness. People like this are able to exercise great ferocity for the sake of God and others, but they are also able to display great deference when it comes to their own desires.

How can we exercise such restraint and deference? We can do this because Jesus himself is gentle (Mt. 11:28; 21:5). Furthermore, in the end, God will give to the humble, rather than the proud (Ps. 37:11).

(5:6) Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.

Does this refer to positional righteousness (e.g. justification) or conditional righteousness (e.g. sanctification)? The term “righteousness” (dikaiosynē) can refer to either. However, in Matthew, it does not carry the idea of justification. Thus, Carson understands this to refer to “personal righteousness” and “justice in the broadest sense.”[116] In other words, these sort of people long to see their own personal transformation, as well as the world at large. We all desire that we ourselves would be different, and long to see peace filling the Earth. According to Jesus, those inner longings are going to be fulfilled—both in our own lives and in the world to come!

If we don’t hunger for righteousness, we will still hunger for something. That inner hunger will not be satisfied by a shopping spree, a sexual adventure, or a selfish lifestyle. Our hunger will only be satisfied by God coming into our world and into our lives. Jesus said, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (cf. Mt. 6:33).

France goes too far when he states that the concept of righteousness is for “a relationship of obedience and trust with God,”[117] excluding societal justice. We think that personal and social righteousness could both be in view.[118] As Peter writes, these people desire the New Heavens and Earth “in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet. 3:13). Hence Keener holds that this refer to God’s “vindication of the oppressed.”[119]

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

(5:7) Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.

“Merciful… receive mercy.” Verses 7-10 are unique to Matthew. Jesus must be targeting the religious leaders, because the Pharisees specifically lacked “mercy” (Mt. 9:13; 12:7; 23:23). Similarly, since Christians are the most forgiven people on Earth, we should be the most forgiving people on Earth. Indeed, it is unfathomably hypocritical to be forgiven from eternal separation from God and hell itself, while nursing bitterness and hatred toward others! When we refuse to forgive, the pain and hurt come out in various ways: violent outbursts, cutting remarks, irritability, avoidance, silent treatment, or an endless replaying the incident in our minds. Yet this never heals the hurt! Only forgiveness and mercy result in health and healing.

Our forgiveness toward others should be unqualified (Col. 3:13 Eph. 4:32; 1 Cor. 13:5; Mk. 11:25; Acts 7:60), filled with prayer (Lk. 6:28), and an ongoing process—not a quick fix. After all, selfishness, greed, and lust don’t disappear after one prayer… Why expect anything less with the process of forgiveness?

(5:8) Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

“Pure in heart… see God.” This could refer (1) to personal moral purity or (2) to singlemindedness. Carson thinks both concepts are in view.[120] This is an “undivided loyalty… whose inward nature corresponds with his outward profession.”[121] When we’re tangled up in sin, we lose sight of God. Sin doesn’t affect our position, but it does affect our condition.

(5:9) Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

“Peacemakers… sons of God.” This doesn’t refer to us being personally peaceful, but rather, helping others reconcile and find peace with each other.[122] The NLT rightly renders this as “those who work for peace.” Jesus was the ultimate peacemaker, making us right with God (Eph. 2:14-18; Col. 1:20). God himself is kind to evil people (Mt. 5:43-48). As God’s sons, we imitate him when we imitate his peacemaking. This statement would have shocked the Zealot party, who were set on a violent, military overthrow.[123]

(5:10) Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Persecuted for righteousness… theirs is the kingdom.” Like verse 3, the reward is in the present tense, and these people also get the parallel reward (“the kingdom of heaven”). When we are persecuted for God’s truth (not for our own sin!), we are choosing the path of voluntary suffering. But Jesus gives a special promise for those who suffer in this way: the kingdom of heaven.

(5:11) Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.

“Insult you and persecute you… falsely say all kinds of evil.” These final two verses “repeat, amplify, and personalize”[124] verse 10. Again, the blessing comes to those who are insulted because of following Jesus—not because of personal sin or foolishness (“because of Me). Jesus unpacks what it means to be persecuted (“insult… falsely say all kinds of evil… persecute…”). There is no way around it: We need to be ready to face persecution and slander if we want to follow Jesus (Mt. 10:24-25; 1 Pet. 3:16; 4:4, 14-16).

(5:12) Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in this same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Jesus tells us that we can “rejoice and be glad.” Why? Because we know that God is watching! He is going to reward our acts of faithfulness to him. The imagery is not that we merely toughen up, but that we keep a tender heart through giving thanks during these difficult times. Grammatically, the words “rejoice” and “be glad” are verbs—not nouns. These are not feelings, but actions. In other words, we choose to give thanks during these tough times.

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

Differences from Jesus’ “Sermon on the Plain.” Luke adds “leap for joy” (Lk. 6:23), and he adds “woes” as well as “blessings,” specifically for the rich and the well-fed (Lk. 6:24-25).

Discussion Questions

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

For each beatitude, ask the question: “How did Jesus himself fulfill this beatitude in his own life?” Consider Turner who writes, “As they maintain this countercultural witness to the world, they may look to their master, who perfectly exemplified the character traits of the Beatitudes. Jesus was meek (11:29). He mourned (26:36-46). He ‘fulfilled all righteousness’ (3:15; 27:4, 19). He was merciful (9:27; 15:22; 17:15; 20:30-31). And above all, he was oppressed and persecuted.”[125]

Write out all eight character qualities: What would happen if we only had seven out of the eight? In other words, if we were missing one of these qualities, how would that affect our relationships with others?

Conclusions

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

The key to happiness is not comfort, but Christ. Jesus is saying that we can be happy with him—even when we are humbled, hungry, and hounded by the world. Or we can have all of the comforts of the world, and be miserable.

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

Matthew 5:13-16 (Salt and Light)

[This material is unique to Matthew.]

Salt

(5:13) You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by people.

Jesus refers to salt based on its function. However, he could have at least two meanings when he said this (though Turner lists nine different referents in extrabiblical literature![126]). He could be referring to the use of salt as (1) good for flavor or (2) good for preserving meat. France insists that this could refer to both,[127] yet this is difficult to maintain because using an enormous amount of salt as preservative would make it repulsive for flavor; likewise, the alternative would lead to rotten meat. Blomberg[128] and Carson[129] hold that Jesus’ salt metaphor refers to how believers preserve the downward moral and spiritual spiral of our world. To be sure, we don’t want to deny that Christians do have this effect on culture. Yet, is this what Jesus had in mind in this passage? This seems like a case of “right message, wrong passage.”

We favor the idea that believers are salt in the sense that we make Jesus’ message attractive or “tasty” to others. Indeed, Jesus specifically refers to the “taste” of the salt. While we are not the main dish (e.g. steak, turkey, lobster, etc.), we bring added flavor to the main dish. In the same way, our “good works” (v.16) do not replace the gospel message, but they do make it attractive to others (Titus 2:10). Paul uses this salt metaphor to refer to speech filled with “grace” (Col. 4:6).

“If the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again?” Technically, salt cannot lose its sodium chloride.[130] France writes, “Pure salt cannot lose its salinity; but the impure ‘salt’ dug from the shores of the Dead Sea could gradually become unsalty as the actual sodium chloride dissolved.”[131] In other words, this white substance from the Dead Sea could lose its sodium chloride (“salt”), and there was no way to put it back.

“Thrown out and trampled under foot by men.” This has nothing to do with eternal security. As the parallel makes clear (Lk. 14:35), this “refers to the world’s response to Christians if they do not function as they should.”[132]

Light

(5:14) You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.

Light reveals the world around us (“A city set on a hill cannot be hidden). In the same way, believers reveal the reality of God’s truth and character to the world. Matthew has already associated Jesus as being “light” (Mt. 4:16), and as his followers, we have this opportunity as well (cf. Isa. 42:6; 49:6; 51:4-5; Jn. 1:4-5; 3:19-21; 8:12; Acts 26:18).

(5:15) Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.

The purpose of light is not to conceal, but to reveal. Later, Jesus refers to putting a light under a bed (Mk. 4:21; Lk. 8:16). Jesus is not referring to starting a house fire. Rather, the idea is that the “basket” (or bed) would hide the light.[133]

(5:16) Your light must shine before people in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

The purpose of the light is to “glorify God.” Paul writes that we can be light in our attitudes and in our evangelism: “Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe 16 as you hold out the word of life” (Phil. 2:14-16 NIV). In other words, there should be a certain quality about believers that draws others to God. Jesus is the ultimate light of the world (Jn. 8:12; 9:5; Isa. 42:6; 49:6), and he has passed this ministry on to us (Phil. 2:15; Acts 13:47).

As believers, we shouldn’t hide in “Christian ghettos,” retreating to some form of idiosyncratic subculture. The goal of Christian community is to be out in front of others—shining. While the culture will continue to grow darker and darker (Mt. 24:12), this means that believers will shine brighter and brighter, until the entire world will hear Jesus’ message of love and forgiveness (Mt. 24:14). As Paul writes, “You were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light 9 (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), 10 trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord” (Eph. 5:8-10). Our lives of love can have the effect of allowing others to be “exposed by the light” by contrast (Eph. 5:13).

“Your Father who is in heaven…” This was a unique concept that Jesus brought to first century Jewish people. They usually thought of God as a corporate or collective Father over all of Israel—much like we might call George Washington one of the “fathers” of the United States. Jesus, however, addresses God as their personal Father.[134]

Discussion Questions

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

Matthew 5:17-20 (Jesus fulfills the Law)

[This material is unique to Matthew.]

(5:17) Do not presume that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.

How did Jesus “fulfill” (plērōsai) the Law and Prophets? The antithesis Jesus presents is not between abolishing and KEEPING the Law, but between abolishing and FULFILLING the Law.

(1) This could refer to perfectly fulfilling the requirements of the moral Law in our place (Rom. 10:4).[135] After all, when Jesus allowed John to baptize him, Jesus said that this was “to fulfill all righteousness” (Mt. 3:15). Moreover, in context, Jesus enters into a long sermon about the requirements of the moral law, citing repeatedly from the Ten Commandments. This would further confirm this reading of the term “fulfill.”

(2) This could refer to the fulfillment of messianic prophecy and typology (Mt. 11:13; 26:54, 56). Carson[136] and Blomberg[137] argue that this fits with the larger context in Matthew, where he repeatedly uses the term “fulfill” (plēroō) to describe how Jesus fulfilled the OT prophecies and typology (Mt. 1:22-23; 2:15, 17-18, 23; 4:14).

Perhaps both are in view. After all, part of the fulfillment of messianic prophecy is Jesus’ death as our vicarious substitute. Thus, Jesus fulfills both the moral requirements of the Law and the predictions in the Law (i.e. the OT).

(5:18) For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke of a letter shall pass from the Law, until all is accomplished!

The “smallest letter” (iota) is the Hebrew letter yôd, and the “stroke” (keraia) is likely the wāw. Carson comments, “His is the highest possible view of the OT.”[138] Notice, however, that Jesus viewed his own words as outliving the world itself! Later he says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” (Mt. 24:35).

This seems to speak more to the fulfillment of prophecy, because it refers to the Law’s “prophetic function,” when “all these things have taken place as prophesied.”[139]

(5:19) Therefore, whoever nullifies one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

If we adopt the first view of verse 17 above, then Jesus is fulfilling the moral requirements of the Law in our place. Consequently, this verse would speak to the fulfillment of the legal requirements of the Law on us. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were trying to lighten the full weight of the Law, but Jesus rebukes this ideology. His purpose is to let the full weight of the Law crush human pride and self-righteousness.

It’s hard to square this passage (and verse 20) with the second view of verse 17 above, where Jesus is fulfilling the prophecies and typology of the OT. To support this reading, Carson states that the OT predicted the coming of Jesus and his teaching, which should be obeyed.[140] But this seems stretched, especially when verse 20 refers to moral righteousness—not prophetic fulfillment.

(5:20) For I say to you that unless your righteousness far surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

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

Matthew 5:21-48 (Jesus lays down the Law)

The “I” is emphatic in each of the six cases below.[141] This means that Jesus is standing as the true interpreter of the Law. Keener writes, “Jesus upholds the law (5:17-19) but is the decisive arbiter of its meaning, not one scholar among many.”[142] His contemporaries understood that he was standing in an extremely authoritative position to speak like this (Mt. 7:29).

Truly I say to you…” The use of the word “truly” (amen) to preface his statement was “an extremely rare expression.”[143] On 75 occasions in the Gospels, Jesus introduces his teaching with the two-fold “Truly, truly…” or more literally “Amen, amen…” This was unknown in ancient Judaism. Indeed, “Jesus seems to be the only person in ancient Judaism to have placed an ‘amen’ at the beginning of his own statements.”[144] Moreover, the early Christians didn’t follow this practice either. This makes this statement quite strong based on the criterion of (double) dissimilarity.

Don’t murder (The sixth commandment)

A key observation of the effects of translation is in order here. Throughout verses 21-22, the term “answerable” (enochos) is used repeatedly and consistently three times (see NASB, NET, ESV). However, the NIV translates this in two different ways, moving from “subject to judgment” to being “in danger of hell.” Yet this is the same word and the same context! Jesus isn’t speaking of the potentiality of judgment, but the actuality of judgment! (cf. NLT

(5:21) You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not murder,’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be answerable to the court.’

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

 (5:22) But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be answerable to the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be answerable to the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.

Jesus reveals that they are not safe at all! While they didn’t murder externally, they were angry enough to kill their brother internally. Indeed, they killed innumerable people in their hearts!

“Good-for-nothing” (raka) comes from the Aramaic, which means “empty one.” It came to mean “a term of abuse/put-down relating to lack of intelligence, numskull, fool (in effect verbal bullying)” (BDAG). It was a “quasi-swear word in Aramaic.”[145]

“Fool” (mōros) is used by Jesus (Mt. 23:17) and James (Jas. 2:20). France writes, “These are not uncommon or particularly vulgar words… but they suggest an attitude of angry contempt.”[146] We agree. It isn’t the word itself, but the contempt and hatred expressed by using the word. Otherwise, Jesus would’ve been committing sin by using the word “fool.” We might compare this to saying a cuss word versus cussing someone out in anger.

“Fiery hell” (geenna) is the term “Gehenna,” which comes from the Hebrew word (gê-hinnōm) that means “Valley of Hinnom.” During particularly dark days in Israel’s history, the people worshipped Moloch in this region, and even sacrificed their children in this area! (2 Kin. 23:10; 2 Chron. 28:3; 33:6; Jer. 7:31; Ezek. 16:20; 23:37) After Josiah reformed the nation, he converted this horrific place into a garbage dump, and a place to dispose of corpses (2 Kin. 23:10). It was used “regularly by Jesus, [and] by Jewish writers, for the place of ultimate punishment.”[147] The burning of the trash and corpses gives us vivid imagery of what hell will be like.

Reconciliation: A key example of dealing with anger

(5:23) Therefore, if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you.

Jesus is teaching that forgiveness and reconciliation are more important than Temple worship. This would’ve been scandalous to hear in first century Judaism!

This doesn’t refer to my (self-righteous) problems against other “sinners.” Neither does it refer with my unrighteous anger against others. Instead, Jesus is teaching that the other person has an issue with you. Carson comments, “We are more likely to remember when we have something against others than when we have done something to offend others. And if we are truly concerned about our anger and hate, we shall be no less concerned when we engender them in others.”[148] It’s true that we should forgive others that have sinned against us (Mk. 11:25). But that’s not Jesus’ point in this passage. Instead, he is saying that we should be aware of the way in which we may have sinned against others (Mt. 7:3-5).

(5:24) Leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.

This speaks of the immediacy of reconciliation, which takes priority even over temple worship—especially when Galileans were travelling long distances to visit the Temple. Elsewhere, Paul writes that we should “not let the sun go down on your anger” (Eph. 4:26), which is another way to express this peacemaking principle.

(5:25) Come to good terms with your accuser quickly, while you are with him on the way to court, so that your accuser will not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you will not be thrown into prison.

Pre-trial attorneys are always trying to get a settlement without allowing the case to go 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 (cf. Lk. 12:58-59). Based on the severity of hell (see verses 21-22), Jesus tells us to settle out of court! In other words, he is saying, “Your unrighteous anger will send you to hell. So, cut the religious formalism and reconcile before it’s too late!”

(5:26) Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last quadrans.

The judge is going to dispense perfect justice once we face him. The “quadrans” is the same as the NASB 1995’s language of “cent.” It is 1/64 of a man’s daily wage (or denarius), and it was the second smallest coin in the Roman Empire.[149]

Don’t commit adultery (The seventh commandment)

(5:27) You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’

The Pharisees would’ve felt safe that they were righteously keeping the seventh commandment. Indeed, rabbinical teaching often blamed women for a man’s lust. Keener writes, “Jewish writers often warned of women as dangerous because they could invite lust (e.g., Sir 25:21; 26:9; Ps. Sol. 16:7-8; Test. Reub. 3.11-12; 5.1-5; 6:1; Jos. War 2.121; Anti. 7.130; b. Ta’an. 24a), but Jesus placed the responsibility for lust on the person doing the lusting.”[150]

(5:28) But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

While the Pharisees may not have committed adultery, they had engaged in all forms of sexual activity with a whole harem of women in their minds and hearts! Jesus shatters the self-righteous façade of the Pharisees, arguing that internal lust is also sinful, and also worthy of God’s judgment. Moreover, Jesus doesn’t just focus on the internal mindset, but also on the object of sexual lust: He expands this commandment from simply thinking about another man’s wife to thinking lustfully about women in general. However, Keener notes that the present tense implies that “Jesus refers not to noticing a person’s beauty, but to imbibing it, meditating on it, seeking to possess it.”[151]

(5:29-30) Now if your right eye is causing you to sin, tear it out and throw it away from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand is causing you to sin, cut it off and throw it away from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.

Most interpreters read this passage metaphorically or hyperbolically.[152] 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 as well. The careful reader might ask himself, “If Jesus isn’t endorsing self-mutilation, then hyperbole is the only other option, right?”

Not at all. Jesus is arguing that it literally would be better to lose an eye or a hand, if the alternative was going to hell! Remember, we must point out that Jesus is teaching Law. If you are trying to come to God under Law, then it would be better to tear your eye out, rather than go to hell. Jesus’ listeners might think that this is simply horrific to consider. And they would be right! Going the route of legalistic, self-righteousness is horrific! Jesus is raising the real requirement of the Law back to where it belongs, showing people the impossibility of keeping it.

Origen (AD 250) followed this verse so far that he castrated himself. Yet, as Carson observes, this was “not radical enough, since lust is not thereby removed.”[153] He’s right. We can keep our limbs from sinning, but not our hearts.

Carson holds that the term “hand” is a “euphemism for the male sexual organ.”[154] He bases this on Isaiah 57:8 which uses the Hebrew term “hand” (yāḏ) in this way: “You have uncovered yourself, and have gone up and made your bed wide. And you have made an agreement for yourself with them, You have loved their bed, You have looked on their manhood [yāḏ].”

However, we disagree with Carson’s understanding for a number of reasons: First, when Jesus repeats this teaching, he refers to cutting off two hands or two feet. He says, “It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire” (Mt. 18:8). If “hand” is a euphemism for a man’s sexual organ, then what do two hands represent? Second, a literal hand could engage in sexual immorality. If the literal referent makes sense, we should seek no other sense. Third, Jesus never cites Isaiah 57. At best, this would be an allusion to a possible OT reference—not a direct citation.

Don’t divorce

It makes sense that Jesus’ teaching on lust would be followed by a teaching on divorce—as the former so often leads to the latter…

(5:31) “Now it was said, ‘Whoever sends his wife away is to give her a certificate of divorce.’”

Jesus cites from Deuteronomy 24:1-3. The Pharisees thought that they were in the clear on this law, because they had set up all sorts of extrabiblical reasons for having a good and legal divorce.

(5:32) “But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

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

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

Don’t break vows

(5:33) Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.’

The OT contains a number of passages on the importance of vow-keeping (Lev. 19:12; Num. 30:2; Deut. 23:21, 23).

(5:34-37) But I say to you, take no oath at all, neither by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 nor by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you take an oath by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black. 37 But make sure your statement is, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil origin.

The reason a person needs to appeal to a vow is because people can’t trust their character. Otherwise, why would we need to make a vow? Instead of appealing to the fulfillment of vows, Jesus appeals to the fact that these would be unnecessary if people weren’t untrustworthy, unreliable, and sinful. Blomberg writes, “Jesus’ followers should be people whose words are so characterized by integrity that others need no formal assurance of their truthfulness in order to trust them.”[155]

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

Lex Talionis: “The law of retribution”

(5:38) You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’

The law of retribution (see “An Eye for an Eye?”) was taught in the OT (Ex. 21:24; Lev. 24:20; Deut. 19:21). But, contrary to common belief, this was a way of ensuring fair retribution for crimes committed. The “eye for eye” rule was the maximum punishment—not the minimal punishment—for compensation. But the people must have used this as a “justification for vindictiveness.”[156]

(5:39) But I say to you, do not show opposition against an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other toward him also.

Jesus turns this entitlement mentality upside down. Instead of focusing on our rights, focus on what you can give away. Instead of the “law of retribution,” Jesus taught the “law of love.” This is a refusal “to insist on one’s rights, however legitimate.”[157]

Incidentally, this does not support the concept of pacifism (see “Just War Theory”). In fact, it doesn’t refer to being (seriously) physically attacked. The term “slapped” (rhapizo) refers to an “insult rather than of physical violence, and it is possibly to be seen as an aspect of religious persecution.”[158] How do we know this? For one, a right-handed man slapping a person on the right cheek” would imply a back-handed slap. Blomberg states that this “was a characteristic Jewish form of insult.”[159] Secondly, we see examples of this term in the life of Jesus, where his captors “slapped” him in order to humiliate him (Mt. 26:67). Likewise, Paul was “hit” (typtō), but this can also refer to being “slapped” (Acts 23:3). The consequences are embarrassment and humiliation—not death.

One might ask how we can withstand such humiliation and embarrassment. But we need to remember that Jesus did this for us first (Mt. 26:67; Isa. 50:6).

(5:40) And if anyone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak also.

The law allowed a person to keep his “tunic” as a blanket and covering at night for sleeping (Ex. 22:26-27). Jesus’ point here is that we should go beyond was the law requires. In other words, we should be more generous than we need to be in order to love others.

(5:41) Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.

“Forces you to go” (angareuō) refers to being conscripted for service (Mt. 27:32).[160] The Romans could force a civilian “to carry the luggage of military personnel a prescribed distance, one Roman ‘mile.’”[161] Virtually all Jews (especially Zealots!) would become spiteful and contemptuous at being conscripted as slave labor. But Jesus tells them (and us) to be helpful instead. Here is the law of love in action! Go the extra mile to win the person!

(5:42) Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.

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 inexhaustible addiction (Prov. 11:15; 17:18; 22:26). Such a behavior is not “giving” at all. Properly understood, it is hurting the person to encourage their harmful habit. As Augustine famously noted, Jesus told us to give to everyone that asks, but not to give everything that they ask for.[162] Moreover, this also doesn’t mean giving to the point of poverty, because then we would need other people’s giving. (It should be noted, however, that this application is lightyears away from our tendency in opulent American culture!). Instead, the “principle is that the need of others comes before my convenience.”[163]

The law of love

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

(5:43) You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’

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 some strand of extrabiblical teaching alive in Jesus’ day.

Some hold that the expression “hate your enemy” could also be an idiom that means “love less”[164] (see Lk. 14:26 with Mt. 10:37; Gen. 29:30-31), or it could refer to hatred of outsiders, as those in Qumran taught.[165] Yet the contrast (in verse 44) implies a movement from hatred to love—not less love to more love.

(5:44) But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

The term “love” (agapaō) refers to “generous, warm, costly self-sacrifice for another’s good,” and “there is no reason to think the verb here in Matthew does not include emotion as well as action.”[166] Jesus himself did what he commands us to do here (Lk. 23:34), as does God the Father (v.45). Plummer writes, “To return evil for good is devilish; to return good for good is human; to return good for evil is divine.”[167]

This passage is a good refutation of the so-called “new tolerance” today. We shouldn’t agree with our enemies, but we should love them. Truly it is impossible to tolerate a person with whom we agree. We can only tolerate people with whom we disagree. Hence Jesus takes love to a new level. As France rightly observes, “There is a sweeping universality in the love Jesus demands which has no parallel in Jewish literature… It is not just a sentimental feeling, but an earnest desire for their good.”[168] The human race has never seen love like this in our world. It is truly from another world entirely.

(5:45) So that you may prove yourselves to be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

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

(5:46) For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Even the tax collectors, do they not do the same?

Most people will love their friends and families. In Jesus’ world, “tax collectors” were the scum of society, but Jesus observes that even they know how to love people who love them. To put this in modern day terms, even members of the KKK will volunteer to visit one of their White members in the hospital or bake cookies for an all-White school. They will “love” others as long as these people aren’t Black, Hispanic, Jewish, etc. This is Jesus’ point: even sinful humans know how to scratch each other’s backs.

But what about you or me? What is the difference between us, and someone in the KKK? The major difference is that we choose to love our friends and family—not just members of our race. Indeed, almost all people know how to love those who love them. But such love doesn’t describe the incomparable love of Jesus.

(5:47) And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Even the Gentiles, do they not do the same?

In this culture, to “greet” someone was very important, and was “a mark of courtesy and respect.”[169]

(5:48) Therefore you shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

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

Jesus began by teaching that our righteousness needs to exceed that of the Pharisees (5:20). Jesus’ audience must have thought, “Greater than the Pharisees… But who on Earth is more righteous than the Pharisees?!” But Jesus ups the ante. By the end of the teaching, he states that we need to equal God in his righteousness! Again, there is nothing hyperbolic about this. If we want to walk the path of the Law, then the standard is perfection—moral equality with God himself!

Conclusions

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

This description of love is other-worldly. Jesus was describing what it is like to be a perfectly loving person in this section: No hatred, no lust, no divorce, no breaking our word, no revenge—always reconciling, always giving, always loving. When we read these descriptions, we reach parts where we think, “Jesus doesn’t really mean that… does he?” Human nature tells us to pull down the Law to a place where we can fulfill it. But doing so violates Jesus’ very own command! (5:17-20) It is as if he anticipated our sinful human natures to dilute his demands. Instead, look at this picture of love for what it is: This is the character of God himself (v.48). We don’t understand love like this, because love like this is other-worldly, breaking into our lives of sin and selfishness.

Discussion Questions

Read verses 21-48. How does Jesus’ sermon implicitly or explicitly attack the hypocrisy and self-righteousness of the religious leaders? (As a discussion leader, it’s wise to focus on small sections at a time, because looking at all two dozen verses can be overwhelming and disorienting.)

Jesus taught the true intent of the Law in order for people to grasp grace. Does this mean that we should teach Law, convincing people of their sinfulness, in order to show them grace?

Matthew 6

Matthew 6:1-18 (Hypocrisy)

[This is unique material to Matthew.]

In this culture, religious practices garnered respect and rewards in the eyes of society. Jesus refutes this mentality by arguing that our rewards are (primarily) in heaven—not earth (see v.1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 16, 18). The purpose of this chapter is to focus on the eternal perspective in order to fight hypocrisy, anxiety, and worry. 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) Beware not to practice your righteousness in the sight of people, to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.

Jesus opens this section with the word, “Beware.” In the previous verse, Jesus told the disciples to “be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” This good aspiration could lead to legalism, and hence, he tells them to “beware.”

Self-righteousness is a sin in which we can easily engage. If it weren’t an easy trap to fall into, then Jesus wouldn’t need to tell us to “beware” of it. After all, we only put up signs to “BEWARE” if the threat is (1) serious and (2) unanticipated. For instance, a sign might say, “Beware of Dog.” This is because the dog is a serious threat (i.e. he could bite your leg), and the dog is an unanticipated threat (i.e. he could jump out at any time). Similarly, Jesus tells us to “beware” of self-righteousness because it is both serious and unexpected. In other words, no one thinks that they will wake up one day and become a conceited, self-righteous person. As Paul warns, “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Cor. 10:12 NIV)

Ironically, the central problem of self-righteousness does not relate to ourselves, but to others. Self-righteous people desire to be seen (“practicing your righteousness before men”) and recognized (“be noticed by them”). This isn’t just an issue of our motives. As France observes, “The difference lies not only in the motive, but in the result: the former brings glory to God, the latter only to the performer.”[170]

Jesus directs us to be more vertically focused toward God, rather than horizontally focused toward people. The cure for man-pleasing and self-righteousness, in other words, is to look to God for his recognition and reward. If we settle for man-pleasing, we get our reward in full.

Man-pleasing… What a joke! Think about it. By man-pleasing, we get a relatively few number of people to respect us for a few years. But then, we die and so do they, and no one remembers a thing. What a cheap substitute for receiving an eternal glory from God—the greatest conceivable being!

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

(6:2) So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, so that they will be praised by people. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.

Jesus pits the measly recognition of men against the magnificent reward of God. The concept of “sounding a trumpet” is metaphorical (and humorous!) language.[171] It refers to obnoxiously calling attention to oneself. Some argue that “it might refer to a trumpet-shaped collection box that resounded when coins were thrown into it (m. Šeqal. 1.3; 2.1).”[172] Regardless, the point is that the giver is trying to draw attention to oneself.

The term “hypocrite” (hupokritēs) originally referred to an actor in a play (Arist. Poetics 18.19, 1456a; Diod. Sic. 37.12.1; Herodian 3.8.9).[173] Similarly, self-righteous people are living for the “applause” and recognition of others—not God. They put on a mask in front of an audience, but they act completely different in different contexts.

(6:3-4) But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your charitable giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

“Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” Surely Jesus cannot be against all public giving, and thus, this imperative cannot be rigidly literal. For one, this is only “literally possible only for those who undergo a lobotomy!”[174] Thus, the literal reading is nonsensical. Second, the context also speaks against ostentatious public prayer (v.5), even though Jesus spoke for praying publicly (Mt. 18:19-20). If Jesus endorsed public prayer in other contexts, this shows that this call for secret giving is not absolute. Third, the NT names major financial givers—both individual givers like Barnabas (Acts 4:36-37) and corporate givers like the Macedonian churches (2 Cor. 8:1-4). Therefore, Jesus is saying to not give our money in a boastful way. It is appropriate to encourage generous givers—just as we would any other service. But we shouldn’t boastfully speak about our own giving. As the Proverbs state, “Let someone else praise you, not your own mouth—a stranger, not your own lips” (Prov. 27:2 NLT).

There is a temptation in Christian work to want to “be somebody.” Somehow our sinful natures can even turn serving into a selfish ambition! The cure for this is to know that God is watching and recognizing our work. He will reward” us in the future. Temporal blessings might occur when we give financially (Acts 20:35), but Jesus’ point is that they definitely will occur in eternity.

(6:5) And when you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they will be seen by people. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.

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

Jesus isn’t against corporate prayer. In fact, he commands corporate prayer elsewhere (Mt. 18:19-20). Instead, he is against flouting our religiosity in public to garner the praise of people. 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) But as for you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

God gives out reward for prayer. The only condition is that we do this “in secret.”

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

A model prayer

(6:7) And when you are praying, do not use thoughtless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard because of their many words.

The beginning of this section critiqued the religious, but this section critiques the irreligious (i.e. the Gentiles). The “many words” is reminiscent of the practice of the prophets of Baal (1 King 18).

“Thoughtless repetition” (battalogeō) is an onomatopoeia (i.e. a word that sounds like its meaning). In this case, the word literally means “to say batta.” That is, the word itself sounds like babbling. The opposite of “thoughtless repetition” is thoughtful relationship and meaningful reflection.

It was the norm in pagan circles to use “formal invocations” and “magical incantations” for prayer.[175] This was a way to gain control over the gods. Keener states that “pagans piled up as many names of the deity they were entreating as possible, hoping at least one would be effective… Roman magistrates read prayers exactly as they had been handed down through tradition; if one syllable or one ritual gesture was performed incorrectly, the prayer might well be invalid. Pagans also reminded a deity of favors owed, seeking an answer on contractual grounds, as many ancient texts attest.”[176] Jesus speaks against such prayers in the clearest of terms.

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

(6:8) So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.

Why shouldn’t we pray meaningless repetition? This form of prayer communicates that we need to remind God of what we need. Truly this reveals a low view of an all-knowing God! While God does tell us to offer petitions (Jas. 4:2; Lk. 11, 18), we should never think that this is manipulating God or telling him something that he doesn’t already know.

(6:9-13) “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

We aren’t supposed to repeat this prayer mindlessly, but to pray “in this way.” In other words, Jesus wasn’t teaching us what to pray, but how to pray. The great and terrible irony is that many Christians mindlessly repeat this exact prayer in a form of thoughtless repetition! Indeed, such formalism entered Christian communities very early. By AD 95, the Didache told Christians to “pray this way thrice daily” (8.3).

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

Tension appears here: On the one hand, God is transcendent and “in heaven,” but on the other, he is close and personal as “our Father.” Moreover, God isn’t just my Father, but our Father. When we pray to Father God, we realize that we are part of his family.

“Hallowed be Your name.” The word “hallowed” is an imperative, and it means to “treat as holy, reverence.”[177] It can be to be “sanctified or shown holy, special above every other name.”[178] In this culture, a person’s “name” represented who they were. To treat God with reverence means to give him the respect that he deserves in our thinking and in our prayers.

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

“Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” This isn’t “escapism,” where we want to leave and go to heaven. Instead, we should yearn for “a concrete existence in which heaven comes to earth.”[179]

We need to begin our prayers by getting the focus off of ourselves, and onto God where it belongs (Your name… Your Kingdom… Your will”). When we are wrapped up in worry, the best antidote is to remember whom we’re talking to. We’re praying to the loving and wise Creator of all things, and we want his good will to flourish, which is “good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:3). We want his will—not our fallible and fallen agenda.

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

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

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

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Jesus said this under the old covenant, and forgiveness didn’t operate in the same way as it does in the new covenant. After the Cross, forgiveness from God is complete and all-encompassing. Thus, in the new covenant, 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). Yet, the principle Jesus is teaching is truly timeless: How can we receive forgiveness from God, while withholding forgiveness toward others? (See further comments below on verses 14-15)

“And do not lead us into temptation.” God doesn’t tempt anyone (Jas. 1:13). Thus, this seems like a rhetorical way of praying that God would carry us through times of temptation. Once again, we see that God led Jesus into the desert where he was tempted, and Jesus resisted the greatest temptation that anyone has ever known (Mt. 4:1-11). In other words, Jesus lived out this prayer on our behalf.

“Deliver us from evil.” This can be rendered “the evil one” (see NASB footnote). Indeed, “either translation is possible.”[180]

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

(6:14-15) For if you forgive other people for their offenses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive other people, then your Father will not forgive your offenses.

(Mt. 6:14-15) Is forgiveness conditional or unconditional?

FASTING: Whose recognition are you living for?

(6:16) Now whenever you fast, do not make a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they distort their faces so that they will be noticed by people when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.

This passage does not tell us how, when, or where to fast. It simply speaks of “whenever you fast.” The time or frequency isn’t important. Indeed, we see quite an irony in Christian history on precisely this point. The Pharisees would typically fast on Mondays and Thursdays (Lk. 18:12; M Taanith 1:4-7). Yet, by AD 95, the Didache (a Christian document) criticized the Jewish people for fasting on Mondays and Thursdays… but it went on to suggest fasting on Tuesdays and Fridays instead! (8:1)

If you choose to fast, you shouldn’t turn this into some bizarre form of “super spirituality.” Modern Christians might not do this through fasting, but they often do this in their attitude. That is, they try to look “spiritual” or “godly” by acting like martyrs. They carry a long face, look tired and dreary, and complain about how much time and effort they give to God. If we weren’t careful, we might think that God really couldn’t get along without them. Not only is this nonsense, but it also poisons the perception of others. That is to say, onlookers will perceive that serving Christ is a real drag, and should be avoided at all costs!

Instead, victorious suffering and victorious Christian living are not about acting like a martyr. This is a lifestyle of deep joy and satisfaction—even amidst hard work and suffering.

(6:17-18) But as for you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that your fasting will not be noticed by people but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

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?

Discussion Questions

How can we tell if we’ve fallen into the insidious trap of hypocrisy? What are small signs that we have begun to slide into man-pleasing?

Read verses 6:7-13. Jesus gave us a model prayer in order to teach us how to pray. As you read and reflect on this model prayer, what do you think Jesus considered to be key components of prayer? What are unimportant aspects of prayer that might actually hinder prayer?

Conclusions

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

Beware of hypocrisy and man-pleasing. Elsewhere, Jesus asked, “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?” (Jn. 5:44) Some areas of life are complicated and blurry, but not this issue! We can either live for the approval of people, or the approval of God! (cf. Jn. 12:43) Which will you choose?

Matthew 6:19-34 (The Eternal Perspective)

[This is unique material to Matthew.]

Jesus has already spoken about a fraudulent form of financial giving (vv.3-4). Here he gives the reasons for authentic godly giving. Jesus spoke on the subject of money in 10% of his recorded teachings (on my count), and he is the guide for how we can live in this thorny area. Yet Jesus’ healthy teaching goes far beyond what we read about in rabbinic Judaism. Keener writes, “Nearly all Jesus’ extant statements on wealth go beyond the rabbinic model.” Yet, he “did not establish a council to enforce his teachings on possessions.”[181] Instead, he was convincing and convicting on this subject—so much so that he changed the hearts and mind of people in his day and two thousand years later in our day.

(6:19-20) Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal.

Jesus isn’t against wealth or investment. He’s against worldly investment that won’t last. He wants us to invest our money in an eternal asset, rather than an earthly one. When Jesus refers to how “thieves break in and steal,” he is speaking of the current uncertainty of wealth, as well as the ultimate “thief” of death itself. No matter how much money we acquire, we will without a doubt forfeit all of it at death:

(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) For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

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). Rather, he says that the act of giving of our money will actually change the inclination of 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.”[182]

(6:22) The eye is the lamp of the body; so then, if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.

The “eye” is parallel in some respect to the “heart” of verse 21. The “eye is the lamp” can convey at least two concepts: (1) the eye lets the light into the body, or (2) the eye “enables the body to find its way.”[183] Either way, the “way people handle their finances affects every other part of their lives, either for good or for bad.”[184]

“Clear” (haplous) can either mean “single” or “undivided loyalty.” Under this view, it would be “a metaphor for a life totally devoted to the service of God.”[185] This term can also be used for generosity (Rom. 12:8; 2 Cor. 8:2; 9:11, 13), which fits the context of financial giving.[186]

(6:23) But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. So if the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

If materialism affects the eye, then you become spiritually blind, affecting your whole self. Materialists convince themselves that what they are investing in is good, that they are only being practical, that they are only thinking of their families…, etc. But Jesus says that they are like a blind person, who thinks they can see (see NLT). Elsewhere, Jesus stated, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains” (Jn. 9:41 NIV).

(6:24) No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

Why can’t we serve two masters? Alcorn aptly 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.”[187]

Anxiety

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

(6:25) For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is life not more than food, and the body more than clothing?

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

(6:26) Look at the birds of the sky, that they do not sow, nor reap, nor gather crops into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more important than they?

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 you prayed and trusted God, watching him come through?

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

(6:27) And which of you by worrying can add a single day to his life’s span?

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

“Life” (hēlikia) can also be rendered “height” or “stature.” Likewise, the term “day” (pēchys) can be translated as a “cubit” (~18 inches). If these “distance” or “length” metaphors are in view, then this would be metaphorical language—just as we refer to “passing a milepost” at our birthday.[188] Either way, the point is clear: Anxiety doesn’t lengthen our lives, and indeed, we can make a strong case that it only shortens our lives!

(6:28-30) And why are you worried about clothing? Notice how the lilies of the field grow; they do not labor nor do they spin thread for cloth, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!

If God provides for miniscule things like grass, wouldn’t he provide for an immeasurably valuable person like you?

(6:31-32) Do not worry then, saying, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear for clothing?’ 32 For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.

We aren’t equipped to protect, prolong, or provide for our lives. 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 (“the Gentiles”). In other words, even though we may be believers, we’re living like practical atheists when we ignore God’s provision. No wonder anxiety feels so crushing! We are holding deep-seated beliefs that God doesn’t exist or care about us.

(6:33) But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided to you.

This replaces the attitude of anxiety with something concrete, meaningful, and enjoyable. Instead of worrying about materialism, we should focus on giving to God’s kingdom. Here is where our theology becomes practical. Do we believe that God is a faithful provider or not? Honestly ask yourself: If I put the cause of Christ first, will God provide for me? Turner notes, “Paradoxically, if the disciples put God’s interests first, God will give them all the food and clothing they need.”[189]

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

“His righteousness” could refer to justification through Christ. However, we agree with Carson that Jesus is referring to our condition of pursuing righteousness.[190] For one, the context favors God’s way of righteous by living in his “kingdom.” Second, Jesus has been using the term “righteousness” to refer to our condition—not our position (e.g. Mt. 5:10, 20; 6:1). In fact, the term “righteousness” nowhere refers to justification in Matthew’s gospel (though Luke does use the term this way in Luke 18:14).

What about genuine Christians who suffer starvation, abject poverty, and death? One thought is that Jesus’ promise will be fulfilled in the next life, if not in this one. As Blomberg writes, “‘Will be given’ does not specify when God will provide.”[191] Another reading could refer to the sharing among believers (see Lk. 12:33; Mk. 10:30). God will provide for our needs through his people, if not directly. Blomberg writes, “When God’s people corporately seek first his priorities, they will by definition take care of the needy in their fellowships.”[192]

(6:34) So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Jesus was a realist. He teaches that real problems confront us. However, we don’t have the strength to face these alone. Just like asking for our daily bread, we only have enough bandwidth to handle the issues of today—not those in the distant future. Moreover, we should be more “worried” over whether we’re presently “seeking his kingdom” (v.33). As one person has said, “Yesterday’s faith cannot fight today’s battles.”

Conclusions

Materialism leads to anxiety. It is no accident that Jesus taught on money right before teaching on anxiety. When our mind is focused on ourselves and our assets, anxiety fills our hearts.

Our heart will follow our money. If your spiritual living is lagging, this could be the result of many reasons. However, if you aren’t giving, look no further! This is an essential aspect of spiritual growth.

Discussion Questions

Read Matthew 6:19-34. What practical solutions does Jesus give for us to handle anxiety in this section?

Why do you think Jesus teaches on materialism in the same context that he teaches on money? In what way might materialism generate anxiety?

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.[193] This same study found that Americans were more worried about their financial health (49%) than they were about their physical health (42%) or their pursuit of personal relationships (21%).

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

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

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

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

Matthew 7

Matthew 7:1-5 (Conflict)

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

Judging

(7:1) Do not judge, so that you will not be judged.

The most popular verse in America used to be John 3:16. Not anymore! Today, people in our culture know this verse by heart. But what does it mean? A complete lack of moral assessment? Moral relativism? Not at all. In short, Jesus is speaking against a type of judgment that is hypocritical and self-righteous—not any and all forms of judgment. The subsequent context makes this clear (vv.2-5).

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

(7:2) For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.

This sounds similar to Paul’s teaching that people will be judged based on how they judged others (Rom. 2:1-16). It is the “way” that we judge that is wrong—namely, in a hypocritical fashion.

(7:3-5) Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, the log is in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye!

This is truly a comical or even “sarcastic”[194] illustration. The “log” (dokos) is “more literally a beam or rafter.”[195] Not only is the “log” big and cumbersome, but it is completely blinding the person from being able to see and judge correctly (cf. Lk. 6:39).

Jesus isn’t saying that we can’t point out the speck in the other person’s eye (cf. Mt. 18:15-17); rather, we aren’t fit to do so until we have pulled the log out of our own eye. Jesus is criticizing the self-righteous attitude that I can help and correct others, but I myself don’t need any help or correction. This is the only time in the NT that the term “hypocrite” is applied to a disciple of Christ.[196] This must show that self-righteousness is so pervasive that it can affect the follower of Jesus.

Does Jesus state that we are not allowed to point out others’ faults? No. It’s loving to help another person with their “speck.” After all, do you know how aggravating it is to have a speck in your eye? But we should point out problems in people’s lives, in the context of humility and relationship, to help them with their problems. Paul captures this concept well when he writes, “If someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted” (Gal. 6:1 NIV).

Discussion questions

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

How would you respond to a non-Christian person who cited verse 1 and said, “You Christians are so judgmental, but Jesus told us not to judge.”

What is the difference between being judgmental and being discerning? How can we grow in discernment without becoming judgmental or self-righteous in the process?

Conclusions

We should develop a healthy fear of minimizing my own contribution to conflict with others. The fact that Jesus would compare another person’s sin to a “speck” and my sin to a “log” implies that I am prone to minimizing my own problems and contribution. Indeed, it’s very likely that I’m minimizing my part, and magnifying theirs.

Matthew 7:6-12 (Seeking God)

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

(7:6) Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

The imperatives of verses 1-5 could lead to an extreme of never judging, and leave Jesus’ disciples acting like “undiscerning simpletons.”[197] Truly, Christians are often too judgmental (vv.1-5), but it’s equally true that some Christians are so open-minded that their brains fall out! Jesus speaks against this mentality here.

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

France[198] and Blomberg[199] think that “what is holy” refers to the Jewish holy food that was given to the priests (Ex. 29:33-34; Lev. 22:10-16; Num. 18:8-19). Perhaps this is the literal referent to which Jesus is speaking, but this doesn’t speak to the metaphorical meaning of this literal referent. In other words, even if we know that Jesus is literally alluding to the holy food, this still doesn’t tell us what this allusion means.

Jesus seems to mean simply this: Just as you wouldn’t give holy food to dogs or swine, you also shouldn’t give God’s truth to those “who have given clear evidences of rejecting the gospel with vicious scorn and hardened contempt.”[200] In Matthew, “the gospel of the kingdom” is what is holy,[201] and more immediately, the context of this statement refers to evangelism (vv.7-8). It takes discernment to know when to back away from a person like this, and we should likely err on the side of sharing God’s truth until proven otherwise. However, at the very least, we should have a context for refusing to engage in fruitless discussion or debate. Turner writes, “Disciples must realize that the sacred message of the kingdom must be handled with discernment, since there are malicious people who will respond to the message with violence against the messengers.”[202]

Jesus practiced this principle when he refused to explain the source of his authority to the religious leaders (Mt. 21:23-27). Paul would also move on when people were unreceptive (Acts 13:46; 18:6; 19:9). Likewise, the Proverbs explain that there are both times to debate with a “fool,” and times to walk away from a debate with a “fool” (Prov. 26:4-5). Wisdom and discernment are clearly needed to know which is which, but a key principle remains clear: There are so many people that are hungry for Jesus’ message of love and forgiveness that we don’t need to shove it down the throats of those who are rejecting it.

(7:7) Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

These verbs are in the present, continual tense (“keep on asking… keep on seeking… keep on knocking”). This teaches “habitual”[203] prayer, and it shows that God wants us to continually seek after him. Jesus teaches this based on the fact that God will answer prayer, which gives us confidence in praying habitually and continually.

(7:8) For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

God promises to find seekers. Jesus uses absolute language (Everyone who asks…”). If you are seeking God but haven’t found him, we can only tell you what Jesus told us: “Keep on seeking!”

(7:9-10) Or what person is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf of bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?

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

Why do these verses come on the heels of “seeking” God? It seems that Jesus is reminding us that God desires to find people and give them good things. Regarding Jesus’ parables of prayer (Lk. 11:5-8; 18:1-8), Joachim Jeremias calls this “beggar’s wisdom.”[204] As those who have nothing to offer God, we should approach him with this sort of attitude (see comments on Mt. 5:3).

 (7:11) So if you, despite being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!

Jesus observes that even fallen fathers know how to meet the basic needs for their kids. Indeed it is surely dark comedy to give a snake to a kid instead of a sandwich! (v.10) Such an idea is so absurd that Jesus’ audience likely chuckled when he said this. But here, Jesus hits them with a nonchalant landmine: “If you, despite being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children…” The word “evil” (poneros) is the same word that Jesus used for the Evil One! (Mt. 6:13) The best part is that Jesus just says this in a passing sense—not even trying to make his main point! He just assumes that humans are evil.

“…how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” What indescribable love does God have for us? Think about it: A human father’s love for his child is one of the most powerful loves on Planet Earth. Yet Jesus calls this “evil” in comparison to the incomparable love of God! In a parallel passage, Luke records that Jesus referred to the “Holy Spirit” as the ultimate gift of God (Lk. 11:13).

(7:12) In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

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

The title “Golden Rule” comes from the 3rd century Roman Emperor Alexander Severus, who (allegedly) had this “written in gold on his wall.”[205] Many religions have a version of the Golden Rule, but they are given in the negative (“Do not do to others what you would not want done to you”).

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

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

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

Jesus was the only ancient teacher to phrase this rule positively,[206] and it makes a crucial distinction in our ethical thinking. After all, when framed in the negative, one could otherwise satisfy this moral imperative by doing… nothing! Jesus says that we need to actively love someone—not passively abstain from hurting them. This is a much higher moral imperative than other formulations of the Golden Rule (cf. Gal. 5:14; Rom. 13:8-9).

Discussion questions

Read verse 6. How do we know when it might be appropriate to walk away from a spiritual conversation with a person?

Read verses 7-8. Imagine if someone said, “I’ve been seeking God for my entire life, and I’ve never found him.” How would you respond?

Conclusions

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

One side of the truth is that we are far worse than we ever believed (“you… being evil”). Yet the other side is that we are more loved than we ever dared hope (“how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!”).

Now that Jesus has summarized his teaching about love with the Golden Rule (Mt. 7:12), he gives his hearers two choices: two gates, two fruits, and two builders. In other words, Jesus calls his hearers to a decision.

Matthew 7:13-14 (Two gates)

(7:13-14) Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is constricted that leads to life, and there are few who find it.

It isn’t an accident that a person ends up facing destruction or finding life. They actively journeyed on this path—one step at a time. Rather than focusing on how many others will find life in Christ, we need to make sure that we have found it first ourselves. Elsewhere, Jesus resolutely tells us to make sure that we choose for Christ and “strive to enter” (Lk. 13:24). In other words, before you can save others, make sure that you yourself have been saved.

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

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

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

Matthew 7:15-23 (Two trees and two fruits)

 

False teachers

(7:15) Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

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

(7:16) You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they?

Jesus tells us to look at the actions of the person to determine if they are a false teacher. “Fruit” would include good deeds, and it would also include good doctrine. Later, Jesus uses this same concept of “fruit” to refer to what the false teachers say or teach (Mt. 12:33-37).

(7:17-18) So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.

We don’t create fruit. Instead, we ourselves are changed to be a “good tree” or a “bad tree,” and the fruit will follow.

(7:19) Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

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

(7:20) So then, you will know them by their fruits.

Jesus is sharing how we can “know” false teachers. In this case, we can know them by their actions.

False followers

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

(7:21-23) Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; leave Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

Turner understands these false teachers to be “libertines or antinomians”[207] based on this final citation of Psalm 6:8 (“You who practice lawlessness”). He writes, “Antinomians who disregard the law are not genuine disciples no matter how many spectacular deeds they perform.”[208]

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

Discussion Questions

Read verses 13-14. Does this verse teach that the majority of humanity will go to hell? How does this harmonize with Luke 13:23-24 and Revelation 7:9?

Read verses 15-20. What are helpful ways that a Christian community can guard itself from false teachers? What are counterproductive ways that we might try to guard ourselves?

Conclusions

Consider how terrible it would be to go to church every Sunday, say your prayers every night, tithe your money… And wind up going to hell! This is a horrific fate—one beyond all human conception or imagination. But remember, these people didn’t accidentally reject Jesus. They found themselves in this place after a long and active journey—one step at a time. They were so self-deceived that, in the end, Jesus’ statements actually shocked them.

Matthew 7:24-27 (Two builders)

Perhaps Jesus used this illustration because he was acquainted with building homes for people. Indeed, as a carpenter, it’s “plausible that Jesus had personal experience in house construction.”[209]

(7:24) Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts on them, will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.

We can’t just “hear.” We also need to “act.” Through action, we become “wise.”

(7:25) And the rain fell and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock.

Following the way of Jesus will include suffering and trials (“rain… floods… wind”). Indeed, Jesus promises that we will be buffeted by the storms of life. But he also promises that we have a sturdy foundation in his words and in Jesus himself (“it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock”).

(7:26) And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.

Again, the difference between the fool and the wise man is not “hearing,” but “acting.” Both people “hear,” but only the wise man “acts.”

(7:27) “And the rain fell and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and its collapse was great.”

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

Matthew 7:28-29 (Conclusion)

(7:28-29) When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; 29 for He was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.

Why were the crowds impressed by the “authority” of Jesus? It wasn’t merely that Jesus spoke with confidence (though he surely did). Jesus was speaking in the first person as God. Roughly 500 times, the prophets said, “Thus says the Lord…” But throughout this section, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you…” What did this mean? Jesus was speaking in the first person as God himself! Rabbis would gain authority “based on their ability to quote Scripture or subsequent Jewish teachers and tradition.”[210] But Jesus spoke on his own authority. Carson writes, “Jesus is not an ordinary prophet who says, ‘Thus says the Lord!’ Rather, he speaks in the first person and claims that his teaching fulfills the OT; that he determines who enters the messianic kingdom; that as the Divine Judge he pronounces banishment; that the true heirs of the kingdom would be persecuted for their allegiance to him; and that he alone fully knows the will of his Father.”[211] Turner writes, “Scribal authority was tied to traditional sources: one’s views were authoritative when tied to convincing citations of previous teachers (m. ʾAbot 1.1; y. Pesaḥ. 6.1.33a). Jesus’s teaching assumes a transcendent authority that their teachers rightly do not claim to possess.”[212] This is the sort of “authority” the Matthew has in mind here.

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

Conclusions

Jesus spoke about building our lives on his teaching. Is anything more valuable to you than your life? After all, you only have one life, and then, it’s over forever! Will you look back on a life built on sand? Or will you begin to build your life on the teachings of the wisest man who ever lived?

Are you ready to face the storms of life? Right now, at this very moment, suffering is careening toward you at top speed. It might not strike today. It might not strike tomorrow. Nevertheless, suffering is coming. It could be a broken relationship, a disease, a disability, a loved one dying, or any other form of suffering. Are you ready to face this? Wouldn’t it be nice to know that you could victoriously triumph during these “storms” of life? You can! Learn Jesus’ teachings. Memorize his promises. He will give you a firm foundation for these times of suffering.

It isn’t until we are tested that God reveals our character. After all, both the fool and the wise man look the same until the storm comes (vv.24-27).

Jesus’ teaching not only speaks to this life, but also the next. After all, the “greatest storm” comes when we die.[213]

Matthew 8

Matthew collects ten miracles that Jesus performed throughout his ministry, and topically arranges them in these two chapters. We know this by comparing the chronological accounts in Mark and Luke. Carson states that many of these miracles “almost certainly took place before the Sermon on the Mount.”[214] Therefore, this is a case of topical arrangement—not chronological recording.

If Matthew 5-7 was the message of Jesus, then Matthew 8-9 are the vindicating miracles of Jesus. The miracles show that the message is truly from God, and Jesus is demonstrating why he is worth following.

Matthew 8:1-4 (Healing a leper: Breaking down social barriers)

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

(8:1) When Jesus came down from the mountain, large crowds followed Him.

The Sermon on the Mount exploded like a bomb on the people, and great crowds followed Jesus.

(8:2) And a man with leprosy came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.”

Try to put yourself in the leper’s shoes: Luke tells us that the man was “covered with leprosy” (Lk. 5:12). This means that this disease was all over his body and likely had been for years. He was a human eyesore, and his very own people ostracized him. He hadn’t felt a human touch for years. Indeed, the OT prescribed quarantine for leprous people (Lev. 13-14). He stepped out in front of the entire crowd, putting himself in a very vulnerable situation. This man showed true faith, putting the results in God’s hands.

Sometimes, we feel like we lack faith if we pray for a healing, but add the words “if it is your will” at the end. However, there’s nothing wrong with this: After all, the leper didn’t demand a healing, and Jesus seemed to like this man’s request. Indeed Jesus himself prayed this way in the Garden of Gethsemane (“if it is your will”). This leper simply brought his problem to Jesus, and he trusted that Jesus was able to heal him. He also “bowed down” (proskyneō) before Jesus, which is the normal term for “worship” (cf. Mt. 2:2). This combined with calling Jesus “Lord” (cf. Mt. 7:21) shows that he had deep respect for the person of Christ.

(8:3) Jesus reached out with His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

Jesus could have performed the miracle with just a simple word. (Indeed, look at the very next miracle in verses 5-13!) Why then does Jesus feel the need to touch the leper? This must show that he wanted to connect with him personally and physically, touching the untouchable of society (Lev. 5:3). Mark adds that Jesus was “moved with compassion” when he touched him (Mk. 1:41). In other words, Jesus was showing compassion—not just power—by making physical contact. It’s quite likely that this touch is “the first human contact the leper has had throughout the duration of his illness.”[215]

Moreover, not only was this man healed, but he was also “cleansed” of any religious impurity. There was a cultural stigma and ceremonial uncleanness attached to leprosy that also Jesus purified.

“Immediately the leprosy was cleansed.” Keener goes so far as to say that “leprosy was incurable apart from God’s intervention,” citing Numbers 12:12-14 and 2 Kings 5:14.[216] Indeed, he writes, “Jewish teachers… regarded leprosy as akin to death, and cleansing a leper as akin to raising the dead (b. Sanh. 47a; Jos. Anti. 3.264).”[217]

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

(8:4) And Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest and present the offering that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

This remark implies that Jesus had been far away from the crowds when he healed this leprous man. Jesus knew that if word of his miracles spread that it would expedite his confrontation with the religious leaders. Mark records that the leper disobeyed, and consequently, 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.

At the same time, Jesus did want the man to tell the “priest” in this region. The miracle would be “a testimony to them,” which refers to an evidence of evangelism (Mt. 10:18; 24:14).

Conclusion

In order to become clean, Jesus had to become dirty. Jesus made the active choice to touch the man, knowing that this would make him unclean in the eyes of the religious establishment. Yet he chose to take on this man’s “uncleanness” in order to heal him. Perhaps this prefigures what he would do for us on the Cross (2 Cor. 5:21). At the very least, we see the same pattern of Jesus substituting himself for us at the Cross—giving his righteousness and taking our guilt.

Instead of taking the glory, Jesus tells the man to be quiet. This fits with the so-called “messianic secret,” where Jesus didn’t want people to know about his identity too soon, because it would expedite his death. The crowds would “invite further ‘incriminating charges’ that Jesus sought to delay until the appropriate time.”[218]

Discussion Questions

What do we learn about biblical faith by examining the example of the leper?

What do we learn about Jesus from this miracle? Why do Matthew, Mark, and Luke all choose to include this miracle account for us?

Matthew 8:5-13 (Healing a Roman centurion’s servant: Breaking down racial barriers)

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

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

Roman centurions were “the officers ordinary citizens of other lands most frequently had to confront; e.g., CIJ 2:132; 920; Sifre Deut. 309.1.1.”[219] Yet Jesus taught to go the extra mile for these people (Mt. 5:41) and to love these enemies (Mt. 5:44). Here, Jesus puts this teaching into practice.

(8:5) And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, begging Him.

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

Did the centurion speak directly to Jesus or not? Luke records that it wasn’t the centurion himself speaking with Jesus. Instead, the centurion sent some Jewish elders to speak in his place (Lk. 7:3). This is not a contradiction. Lemke writes, “In the ancient world, if someone sent a representative, it was as good as if they were present and speaking, much like a press secretary can speak for the President.”[220]

(8:6) And [he was] saying, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, terribly tormented.”

Instead of taking a self-important and bossy posture, the centurion places himself under Jesus’ authority. Much like the account of the leper, the centurion doesn’t boss Jesus around. Instead, he merely brings him his need.

Luke adds that the centurion’s servant was “about to die” (Lk. 7:2). In this culture, servants were often considered part of the family.[221]

(8:7) Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.”

Jesus tells him that he’ll show up at the house to heal the man in person. Keener understands this as a question,[222] while Carson agrees with this standard translation above.[223] In favor of Keener’s view, the Jews wouldn’t culturally or traditionally enter a Gentile’s house (Acts 10:28; m. Pesah. 8:8; Ohol. 18:7; Jos. War 2.150). “Though,” Keener states, “this custom primarily grew from the hatred of idolatry” in Gentile homes.[224]

Luke records that Jesus started to travel to the man’s house (Lk. 7:6), and Jesus made it very close to the house before the centurion sent more friends to speak with Jesus (Lk. 7:7).

(8:8) But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed.”

The centurion shows two things here: (1) his unworthiness and (2) his willingness to take Jesus at his word. Indeed, “we have no recorded evidence that up to this point Jesus had performed a healing miracle at a distance and by word alone.”[225] So, this implies a strong faith on this man’s behalf. He doesn’t try to twist God’s arm or control him. The centurion sets no conditions on Jesus.

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

(8:9) For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it.”

This man is familiar with ordering people around. As a man in authority, he can do this. The centurion is reasoning that Jesus (the ultimate authority) can speak a word and heal if he chooses. This shows tremendous faith on this man’s behalf, because he recognizes Jesus’s authority and power.

(8:10) Now when Jesus heard this, He was amazed and said to those who were following, “Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel.”

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

(8:11-12) “And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; 12 but the sons of the kingdom will be thrown out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

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 people from all over the world (“east and west”) will be in the kingdom instead.

(8:13) And Jesus said to the centurion, “Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.

Clearly, it was the man’s faith that made Jesus want to heal the servant. The fact that it occurred “at that very moment” only served to show that “the precise timing and the distance… underline the supernatural authority of Jesus.”[226]

Discussion Questions

What do we learn about biblical faith from studying the Roman centurion? First, biblical faith is not for any particular race or ethnicity—Jew or Gentile. Second, conditions shouldn’t be placed on God. We should ask big prayers (Jas. 4:2), but we should trust God with the results. Third, it takes great humility to be a man in authority and to ask help of Jesus. As a person who is used to calling the shots, it can be hard to humble ourselves and submit to God.

What do we learn about Jesus from this interaction with the Roman centurion?

Matthew 8:14-17 (Healing Peter’s mother-in-law: Breaking down sexist barriers)

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

(8:14) When Jesus came into Peter’s home, He saw his mother-in-law lying sick in bed with a fever.

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

(8:15) And He touched her hand, and the fever left her; and she got up and waited on Him.

Again, Jesus shows compassion by “touching her hand.” This broke from social taboo. Blomberg states that “touching women in this fashion was banned by at least some Jewish traditions.”[227]

Summary of many healings

(8:16) Now when evening came, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed; and He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were ill.

Jesus healed spiritual sickness as well as physical sickness. Matthew saw a difference between the two. He also states that Jesus had ultimate authority—able to heal them “all.”

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

(8:17) This happened so that what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet would be fulfilled: “He Himself took our illnesses and carried away our diseases.”

Does Matthew inaccurately cite Isaiah 53? Matthew cites Jesus’ healing ministry as a fulfillment of Isaiah 53:4. Matthew quotes this portion of Isaiah 53, explaining that it describes Jesus’ ministry of curing diseases and sicknesses. Yet Isaiah writes that the Servant was “acquainted with grief,” not “diseases.” Was Matthew reading something into the text that wasn’t there? Not at all. Matthew didn’t follow the LXX or other popular Greek translations, and likely translated the Hebrew into Greek himself.[228] His interpretation of the Hebrew is accurate, especially when we compare it against other similar usages. For instance, Ezekiel 33:10 and Psalm 103:3 use the Hebrew expression in this sense.

Does this passage support “health and wealth” preaching? This doesn’t justify word-faith preachers who claim that Jesus will heal us of all sickness if we have enough faith. Carson writes, “Matthew holds that Jesus’ healing ministry is itself a function of his substitutionary death, by which he lays the foundation for destroying sickness… the Cross is the basis for all the benefits that accrue to believers, but this does not mean that all such benefits can be secured at the present time on demand, any more than we have.”[229] Turner writes that Matthew is citing a fulfillment in Jesus’ “earthly ministry,” not his “atoning death.”[230] This resolves the difficulty nicely.

Conclusions

The leper, the centurion, and Peter’s mother-in-law were all marginalized in this culture. They were not allowed to worship of God in the Temple. By healing them, Jesus was showing great inclusion.

Matthew 8:18-22 (Two pseudo-followers)

(8:18) Now when Jesus saw a crowd around Him, He gave orders to depart to the other side of the sea.

Jesus was attracting so much attention that he wanted to escape. The following narrative of two would-be followers shows that Jesus was separating the dedicated followers from the undedicated ones. Thus, these men become “two case-studies illustrating the demands of committed discipleship.”[231]

(8:19) Then a scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.”

The scribes were men of authority and held a high office in Israel. Based on verse 21 (“Another of the disciples…”), this scribe may have been a follower of Jesus. However, he merely calls Jesus a “teacher,” which is a term that only unbelievers use in Matthew when addressing him (Mt. 12:38; 19:16; 22:16, 24, 36). Furthermore, the title is “accurate but not adequate”[232] to describe Jesus. Thus Jesus challenges this man’s conception of discipleship…

(8:20) And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

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

(8:21-22) And another of the disciples said to Him, “Lord, allow me first to go and bury my father.” 22 But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”

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

Discussion Questions

Read verse 18-22. What do we learn about discipleship from this section? Is this still applicable today? By what criteria do you decide if this does or doesn’t have application for today?

Was Jesus deliberately trying to get rid of pseudo-disciples? Is this cruel of him to do? (compare with Mark 10:21-22)

Matthew 8:23-27 (The calming of the sea: Power over the natural realm)

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

(8:23) When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him.

Jesus had been trying to leave in this boat since verse 18. Here, he pushes off from shore. The disciples followed Jesus, which implies that the scribe and the man who wanted to bury his father missed their opportunity. Jesus made a call for dedicated discipleship, but he was rejected. At the same time, Mark adds that “other boats were with him” (Mk. 4:36), which implies that many disciples were in tow (or at the very least followers). The lesson seems to be that some people agree to following Jesus with their lives, while others may not. Jesus gave the call of discipleship to many, but as a good leader, we don’t see him pleading or begging with people to follow him.

(8:24) And behold, a violent storm developed on the sea, so that the boat was being covered by the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep.

“Great storm” (megas seismos) is usually translated “earthquake,” and it literally means “shaking.”[233] Blomberg takes these terms to have “preternatural overtones,” because Jesus’ rebuke (epitimaō) is the same word used for rebuking demons (Mk. 1:25; 9:25; Lk. 4:41). Turner holds a similar view.[234] Blomberg writes, “This seems to be no ordinary storm but one in which Satan is attacking.”[235] Yet, this seems to read too much into the text. For one, the use of the word “rebuke” is mere word-association. Second, Matthew doesn’t use this word to refer to Jesus’ exorcisms—only Mark and Luke do. So, this isn’t even strong word-association. Therefore, we hold that this was simply a natural storm that Jesus overcame. This section is meant to show Jesus’ power over the natural realm—not the supernatural realm.

“Jesus Himself was asleep…” When we are panicking over our problems, Jesus is so in control that he can sleep through it! (see Ps. 3:5; 4:8) The disciples didn’t have a robust view of God’s will. Jesus was saying, “Do you really think God brought you this whole way only to drown you?” They were in the very presence of Christ, but they were still panicking. Similarly, as believers, Christ is always with us (Mt. 28:20). Why do we need to worry?

(8:25) And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing!”

Mark adds that the boat was filling with water (Mk. 4:37). Turner adds, “The intensity of the storm is underlined when one remembers that four of the disciples were commercial fishermen who were used to the weather on the Sea of Galilee (cf. 4:18-22).”[236]

(8:26) He said to them, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm.

Jesus isn’t angry that they cried out in prayer, but that they were filled with crippling fear and anxiety. Carson writes, “Faith chases out fear, or fear chases out faith.”[237]

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

(8:27) The men were amazed, and said, “What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”

In the OT, only God himself could control nature (Job 38:8-11; Ps. 29:3-4, 10-11; 65:5-7; 89:9; 107:23-32). Thus their question is a good one: Who (but God alone!) can calm a storm and have sovereignty over creation? Mark adds that the disciples were “afraid” after Jesus calmed the storm (Mk. 4:41; cf. Lk. 8:25). If Jesus had power over a storm of this size, then who exactly were they dealing with?

Discussion Questions

Read verses 23-27. What does this narrative tell us about Jesus’ identity?

Why was Jesus so disappointed in the disciples’ faith? After all, they were in the middle of a dangerous squall? Why does he reprove them so sharply?

Conclusions

This section captures the mystery of the incarnation. The same One who was personally tired (v.24) was the same One who had the power to calm a storm with a word (v.26).

Matthew 8:28-34 (Healing the demon-possessed man: Power over the demonic realm)

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

(8:28) And when He came to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men confronted Him as they were coming out of the tombs. They were so extremely violent that no one could pass by that way.

Two problems confront us:

First, Matthew seems to offer a different location from Mark and Luke. Matthew writes “Gadarenes,” while Mark and Luke write “Gerasenes” (Mk. 5:1; Lk. 8:26). “Gadara” was one of the cities of the Decapolis, and it was six miles to the southeast of the Sea of Galilee. The Roman city of Gerasa, however, was 30 miles away.[238] However, Gerasa (modern day Kursi) rests on the eastern shore of Galilee. Mark Roberts favors this geographical location. He explains,

Recent investigations have focused on another town, known today as El Kursi. It was called Gergesa or Khersa in ancient times, which would have been spelled like Gerasa in Greek. Importantly, El Kursi sits on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. An ancient church had been built in El Kursi on top of a site that was considered sacred because Jesus had done something important there. Archeologists found evidence of an ancient graveyard nearby (where the demonized man could have been living). Moreover, there is a steep cliff at El Kursi… down which the herd of pigs could have run into the Sea of Galilee. Though the jury is still out on this one, it looks as if the event depicted in the Gospels happened, not at Gerasa or Gadara, but at El Kursi. The evangelists referred either to the city itself or to the region in which it was found.[239]

Blomberg agrees that the most likely “town in view was Khersa, close to the shore.”[240] Keener states that both authors are trying to describe the broader region of the Decapolis in general—not aiming for specificity: In both Gospels, the writer is simply identifying the region; Gadara and Gerasa were both parts of the Decapolis, a primarily Gentile area with a large Jewish population (Jos. War 1.155; cf. Ant. 15:354…).[241]

Second, Matthew mentions two demoniacs, while Mark and Luke only mention one. This occurs throughout Matthew’s gospel: two demoniacs (Mt. 8:28ff), two blind men (Mt. 9:27ff), and two more blind men (Mt. 20:30ff). In each case, Matthew has two, rather than one. This doesn’t give us great difficulty, because Mark and Luke do not write that there was only one demoniac or blind man. Instead, they use a literary device called “telescoping,” where they choose to focus on one figure, rather than two. To explain this, imagine if I said, “I went to a concert last year.” Does this imply that I went alone? Does it imply that the stadium or theater was empty? Surely not! Instead, I was simply choosing to focus on my own experience—not my friends or the other 20,000 people at the concert.

In Jewish law, a person needed two witnesses in court, and Matthew could’ve chosen to include both men in order to show that Jesus was indeed who he claimed to be (compare with Mt. 26:60).[242]

(8:29) And they cried out, saying, “What business do You have with us, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?”

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

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

(8:30) Now there was a herd of many pigs feeding at a distance from them.

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

(8:31) And the demons begged Him, saying, “If You are going to cast us out, send us into the herd of pigs.”

Typically, Jewish exorcists used many different concoctions and verbal formulas to expel demons. Keener writes, “Jesus’ contemporaries recognized the reality of spirit-possession, but sought to relieve it by means of incantations, pain compliance techniques like smelly roots, or invoking higher spirits to get rid of lower ones (Tob 6:7-8, 16-17; 8:2-3; Jos. Anti. 8:45-49; Jub. 10:10-13; Apul. Metam. 3.15). Jesus instead expelled demons simply by his word.”[243]

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

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) And He said to them, “Go!” And they came out and went into the pigs; and behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the waters.

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, these demons pled with Jesus that He would not send them 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 self-harm or even suicidal ideation in humans as well? Yes, we are inclined to think so, and the implications are frightening.

(8:33) And the herdsmen ran away, and went to the city and reported everything, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men.

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

(8:34) And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they pleaded with Him to leave their region.

The people had been suffering from these two demon-possessed men, but they were even more afraid of the raw power of Jesus. Mark records that the people came to see the (healed) demon possessed man for themselves (Mk. 5:15). While the people wanted Jesus to leave, the healed man wanted Jesus to stay (Mk. 5:18). R.T. France notes that the reaction of people was “understandable,” because “Jesus was not a comfortable person to have around!”[244] Indeed, Jesus’ act was bad for business. Levertoff states, “All down the ages the world has been refusing Jesus because it prefers its pigs.”[245] Indeed, the Gadarenes loved their pigs more than people.

Notably, Mark and Luke interchange “Lord” and “God” with “Jesus” (Mk. 5:19-20; Lk. 8:39). This could be an allusion to Jesus’ deity.

Discussion Questions

Read verses 28-34. What do we learn about demon possession from this passage? First, these demon-possessed men travelled together. Second, they lived near a cemetery (?). Third, demon possession leads to violence (“extremely violent”). Fourth, Luke records that the man was buck naked (Lk. 8:27). Fifth, Mark and Luke record that he had supernatural strength (Mk. 5:3-4; Lk. 8:29).

Matthew 9

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

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

(9:1) Getting into a boat, Jesus crossed over the Sea of Galilee and came to His own city.

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

(9:2) And they brought to Him a paralyzed man lying on a stretcher. And seeing their faith, Jesus said to the man who was paralyzed, “Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven.”

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 was possible for Jesus to “see their faith” in action (cf. Jas. 2:14-26).

What does the healing have to do with forgiving sins? In this culture, the religious teachers held that if a person had a physical disability, this was because they had committed a moral failing.[246] Of course, Jesus categorically denied such teaching (Jn. 9:1-3). Keener writes that “Jesus did not always pause to forgive sins shows that he did not always connect disease and sin in a causal relational.”[247] But he used their own teaching to prove who he was…

(9:3) And some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming!”

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

(9:4) And Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?”

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

(9:5) “For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?”

Jesus isn’t asking which is easier to do, but which is easier to say. It’s obviously easier to say that a man’s sins are forgiven, but if you say that he can walk, then you need to prove it!

(9:6-7) “But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, pick up your stretcher and go home.” 7 And he got up and went home.

Jesus could have just said that he was forgiven, but instead, he chose to validate himself through this miracle. In other words, Jesus showed that he could heal the man’s body, and therefore, 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.”[248]

This makes far more sense than the so-called “plausible scenario” that this was a “psychosomatic illness.”[249] Turner (following Barclay) fails on this absurd reading of the paralytic.

(9:8) But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

The crowd glorified God as a result of this miracle.

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

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

(9:9) As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew sitting in the tax collector’s office; and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him.

How could Matthew write this gospel if he refers to himself in the third person (cf. Mt. 10:3)? Many ancient biographers wrote in the third person. For instance, Julius Caesar wrote the Gallic Wars and the Civil Wars in the third person; Xenophon wrote Anabasis in the third person; indeed Jesus himself spoke in the third person! (Jn. 17:3; c.f. Daniel 7 and the book of Ezra)

Why does Matthew have two different names? 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). The name “Levi” could imply that Matthew had a major fall in his life: Rather than being a man who was involved in priestly Temple worship (i.e. as the Levites were), Matthew became a tax collector instead. What led Matthew down this path? We don’t know, but his original name implies that he may have had a major fall from his heritage to get there.

Why does Matthew drop everything and suddenly follow Jesus? We don’t see previous contact between Matthew and Jesus (as we did with Peter, Andrew, James, and John). But because Jesus was famous in Capernaum, Matthew likely heard about him before meeting him.

What was tax collecting? For a concept of Matthew’s deplorable profession, see our earlier article “Tax Collectors in Jesus’ Day.” The arrangement of Matthew’s calling here is quite intentional. In the previous pericope, Jesus proved that he could forgive sins. Here, he calls a horrendous sinner as a personal disciple. Not only could Jesus forgive sins (vv.1-8), but he could even forgive the sins of a tax collector like Matthew!

(9:10) Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and began dining with Jesus and His disciples.

Reclining at the table…” Keener writes, “The term ‘recline’ indicates that this was no ordinary meal (Palestinian Jews normally sat on chairs) but a banquet (when people reclined), [was] probably in the teacher’s honor.”[250]

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

(9:11) And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?”

Extrabiblical Judaism held that being a dinner guest at a “sinner’s” house would disqualify the person from righteousness (Mishnah Demai 2:2-3). Many religious people have this same attitude today, and they wouldn’t be caught dead in a “sinner’s” company.

(9:12) But when Jesus heard this, He said, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick.”

Jesus liked hanging around with these sinful people, because they knew they were “sick.” The Pharisees were desperately sick, but they refused to see it. Keener writes, “Jewish literature indicates that, for all of early Judaism’s heavy emphasis on repentance and divine mercy… Jesus’ act of actively pursuing sinners as a human teacher was unheard of.”[251]

(9:13) “Now go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, rather than sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

The fact that Jesus tells them to “go and learn” implies that they are ignorant of God’s truth. Jesus cites Hosea 6:6, and he speaks in the first person as God. He doesn’t want the sacrifices of the people, but to give his own Sacrifice at the Cross. He didn’t want to call the self-righteous, but to give His Righteousness to us (2 Cor. 5:21).

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

Discussion Questions

Notorious sinners enjoyed spending time with Jesus, and they even invited him to parties! Is it possible for notoriously sinful people to enjoy your company without compromising your convictions? What are key ways to keep relational connection with others without compromising our spiritual convictions?

Fasting

(9:14) Then the disciples of John came to Him, asking, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?

John the Baptist’s disciples must have been going rogue by asking this question. John the Baptist didn’t feel this way about Jesus, though we do read later that John himself had his doubts (see Mt. 11).

(9:15) And Jesus said to them, “The attendants of the groom cannot mourn as long as the groom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the groom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”

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

(9:16-17) “But no one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and a worse tear results. 17 Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.”

The “wineskins” are the extrabiblical forms or methods. The “wine” is the truth of God. Since God was soon going to move into the new covenant through Jesus, the “wine” must refer to the new covenant. The old wineskins of rabbinical Judaism will not work for God’s new covenant. Carson rightly comments, “The new situation introduced by Jesus could not simply be patched onto old Judaism or poured into the old wineskins of Judaism. New forms would have to accompany the kingdom Jesus was now inaugurating; to try to domesticate him and incorporate him into the matrix of established Jewish religion would only succeed in ruining both Judaism and Jesus’ teaching.”[252] We agree with Blomberg who states, “We must consider, even as the message of the gospel remains unchanged, whether the methods of evangelism, preaching, church growth, music, and worship, once effective in different circumstances, have turned counterproductive and need to be replaced by new methods that will more effectively win and minister to the current generation.”[253]

Discussion Questions

Some churches hold on to wineskins (or methods) that haven’t worked for years. Why might we be tempted cling to wineskins that aren’t working, rather than trying something new?

Matthew 9:18-26 (Healing of the synagogue official’s daughter)

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

(9:18) While He was saying these things to them, behold, a synagogue official came and bowed down before Him, and said, “My daughter has just died; but come and lay Your hand on her, and she will become alive again.”

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

A “synagogue official” was a person of importance in Israel, being a well-known religious leader in the community. Yet, he humbly asks Jesus for help. Specifically, he wants Jesus to heal his “only daughter” (Lk. 8:42). Imagine what it would be like to be watching your only child dying right in front of your eyes. Jairus wanted Jesus to place his hand on his daughter. Of course, the reader knows that just a simple word would accomplish the healing (Mt. 8:5-13).

Was she dead or not? Mark records that Jairus said she was “at the point of death” (Mk. 5:23). But Matthew and Luke (Lk. 8:53, 55) state that she was, in fact, dead. Matthew’s language (arti eteleutēsen) could be rendered “came to the point of death,” as in Hebrews 11:22.[254] Meanwhile, Mark’s language (eschatos echei) in Mark 5:23 could be rendered “is dying.”[255] The main point is clear: This little girl was facing the finality of death.

(9:19) Jesus got up from the table and began to accompany him, along with His disciples.

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) And behold, a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years came up behind Him, and touched the border of His cloak.

Wait a minute! Jesus is supposed to go save the little girl’s life—not this hemorrhaging woman. However, this woman with a menstrual disorder[256] interrupts him. What is she doing interrupting Jesus? See verse 23…

This sensitive medical disorder would’ve made this woman ceremonially unclean (Lev. 15:25-33), and this means that she wouldn’t have been able to get married or participate in Temple worship of any kind. Indeed, the Mishnah dedicated an entire tractate to how women could stop their blood flow (Zabim).[257] Moreover, this had been going on for twelve years! Her whole life must’ve revolved around her condition, and 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) For she was saying to herself, “If I only touch His cloak, I will get well.”

In Judaism, rabbis wore tassels, and this is what the woman was trying to touch (Num. 15:38-39; Deut. 22:12). Yet by touching Jesus in an unclean state, this would make Jesus unclean. In other words, Jesus needed to take her uncleanness for her to become clean.

(9:22) But Jesus, turning and seeing her, said, “Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well.” And at once the woman was made well.

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

Back to the synagogue official’s daughter

(9:23) When Jesus came into the official’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd in noisy disorder…

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.”[258] Indeed, the Mishnah records that even poor families would hire “not less than two flutes and one wailing woman” (Mishnah Ketuboth 4:4). The reason the funeral was in “noisy disorder” was because people in the rest of the world actually show their emotions at funerals! Westerners are the strange ones with their “stiff upper lips.”

(9:24) He said, “Leave; for the girl has not died, but is asleep.” And they began laughing at Him.

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

(9:25) But when the crowd had been sent out, He entered and took her by the hand, and the girl got up.

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

“Took her by the hand…” Jewish law held that touching a corpse rendered a person unclean for seven days (Num. 19:11). Jesus took her uncleanness in order to make her clean.[259]

(9:26) And this news spread throughout that land.

Jesus’ power over sickness and death spread across the land of Israel. Indeed, this is what we would expect of miracles of this kind were actually occurring.

Discussion Questions

What does the healing of Jairus’ daughter and the hemorrhaging woman tell us about how God answers our prayers? (e.g. timing, expectations, etc.)

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

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

(9:27) As Jesus went on from there, two men who were blind followed Him, crying out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!”

By calling him the “Son of David,” they were acknowledging him as the Messiah. How did these “blind” men know that Jesus was the Messiah, when everyone else could see and not know it? Carson writes, “They may have been physically blind, but they really ‘saw’ better than many others—further evidence that Jesus came to those who needed a doctor.”[260]

(9:28-29) And after He entered the house, the men who were blind came up to Him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.” 29 Then He touched their eyes, saying, “It shall be done for you according to your faith.”

“The house” is probably Peter’s house (cf. Mt. 9:10). Jesus gave the condition of faith for them to be healed. “According to your faith” doesn’t refer to the proportion or amount of their faith, but rather it refers to healing in response to their faith.[261] In other words, the “deed matches the faith.”[262]

(9:30) And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, saying, “See that no one knows about this!”

Again, Jesus didn’t want word to spread too quickly. Otherwise, this would accelerate his death at the hands of the Romans and the religious leaders.

(9:31) But they went out and spread the news about Him throughout that land.

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

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

(9:32) And as they were going out, behold, a demon-possessed man who was unable to speak was brought to Him.

This must mean that demons can affect people’s voices.

(9:33) And after the demon was cast out, the man who was previously unable to speak talked; and the crowds were amazed, and were saying, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”

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

(9:34) But the Pharisees were saying, “He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.”

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 can both see the same evidence; however, some believe, while others do not.

“He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.” Matthew will return to this fallacious argument in Matthew 12:24. Could it be that the Pharisees were jealous of Jesus’ miracles? Keener aptly observes, “If they were like many of their modern counterparts, one can understand the religious people’s sentiments in Jesus’ day; after all, if God were still doing miracles like those he had done through Elijah and Elisha, surely he would have been doing it through them. Were they not the ones with correct doctrine?”[263]

Discussion Questions

Read verse 34. Many people say that they’d believe in Christ if they saw a miracle. But the religious leaders refused to believe the miracles right before their eyes. Why do some people respond to evidence with faith, while others do not?

Besides reason and evidence, what other factors affect our faith?

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

(9:35) Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and every sickness.

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

(9:36) Seeing the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast, like sheep without a shepherd.

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. When Jesus “felt compassion,” this refers to a “gut reaction.”[264] His heart broke seeing the plight of the people.

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

(9:37) Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”

God is the ultimate Shepherd of humanity, but he wants workers to contribute to this important work. Jesus showed his disciples to have more urgency with regard to human agency.

(9:38) “Therefore, plead with the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.”

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

Discussion Questions

Read verses 36-38. Jesus balanced human agency (“the workers are few”) with God’s role (“plead with the Lord”). How would we know if we were placing too great of an emphasis on human agency rather than God’s role? How would we know if we were emphasizing God’s role at the expense of human agency? How do we keep these balanced as Jesus did?

Matthew 10

The Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5-7) was Jesus’ first major teaching, and this is now Jesus’ second major teaching in Matthew’s biography. In his first teaching (Mt. 5-7), Jesus focused on his own authority to accurately interpret the Law. Then, in Matthew 8-9, we watched as Jesus displayed his power over disease, demon-possession, disasters, and death. In other words, Jesus showed his authority through his words (Mt. 5-7) and his works (Mt. 8-9). Now, he wants to channel his authority through his disciples, and give them an opportunity for God to use them (Mt. 10). This anticipates the reaction Jesus himself will receive in Matthew 11-12.

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

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

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

Discussion Question: As you read this chapter, what principles does Jesus give his disciples about how to perform their mission? How does he encourage them? What does he forewarn them about?

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

The MEN in Discipleship

(10:1) Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every sickness.

Coming off the heels of chapter 9, Jesus is thinking about how he wants to use human agency (“the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few”). The disciples didn’t have authority in and of themselves. Jesus gave them this authority. Jesus gave them the same power and authority that he has, visibly showing that those following him are filled with his power. Specifically, he sent them to cure “every kind of sickness,” whether spiritual, physical, or mental (cf. v.8). Like these early followers of Jesus, we also depend on Jesus’ authority to serve today (cf. Mt. 28:18-20).

Why twelve disciples? This was, no doubt, to reach the twelve tribes of Israel (Mt. 19:28).

(10:2-4) Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and his brother Andrew; and James the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who also betrayed Him.

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

Simon Peter is called “first,” even though he was not the first convert. This likely means that he was “first among equals.”[265] Carson writes this about Peter: “Impulsive and ardent, Peter’s great strengths were his great weaknesses.”[266]

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

James was probably older than John, because he is always mentioned first between the two. He became the first apostle to be martyred (Acts 12:2). James and John came from a fairly lucrative fishing business—at least successful enough to have “servants” working for them (Mk. 1:20). Their mom was one of the eyewitnesses of Jesus’ death (Mt. 27:55-56). James and John were aggressive (Lk. 9:54); so, Jesus called them the “sons of thunder” (Mk. 3:17). These sons of Zebedee were business partners with Peter and Andrew (Mt. 4:18-21), and Peter and John remained friends for years to come (Lk. 22:8; Jn. 18:15; 20:2-8; Acts 3:1-4:21; 8:14; Gal 2:9).

(10:3) Philip’s calling is recorded in John 1:43ff. He grew up in Bethsaida (Jn. 1:44), as did Peter and Andrew. Perhaps they all knew each other in that small town.

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

Thomas is mentioned throughout John (11:16; 14:5; 20:24ff; 21:2). He is typically cast as being merely a skeptical person—as if this was his only quality (i.e. “Doubting Thomas”). However, a more nuanced view reveals that he was also very courageous (Jn. 11:16).

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

James the son of Alphaeus is most likely the man mentioned in Mark 15:40. Matthew is the son of “Alphaeus” as well (Mk. 2:14). So, if this is the same Alphaeus, then Matthew and James were brothers—though, we are uncertain if this is true. Besides these few conjectures, we otherwise “know almost nothing about him.”[267]

Thaddeus isn’t mentioned very much in the gospels (Mk. 3:18; Lk. 6:16; Acts 1:13). Carson speculates that this could be another name for Jude—the brother of James and half-brother of Jesus (Jn. 14:22).[268]

(10:4) Simon the Zealot would’ve been a violent man (cf. Lk. 6:15). 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 significant coverage throughout the NT. His name “Iscariot” was Hebrew for “man of Kerioth,” which was a city in either Judea or Moab (though most likely Judea). Thus, he was “the only non-Galilean of the Twelve.”[269] By recording Judas, we see that even Jesus had unfaithful disciples.

Andrew, Philip (Jn. 1:43-48; 6:5-7; 12:21-22; 14:8-9), Bartholomew, Thomas (Jn. 11:16; 14:5; 20:24-28; 21:2), Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot are not mentioned for the rest of Matthew.

The MISSION of Discipleship

(10:5-6) These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them, saying, “Do not go on a road to Gentiles, and do not enter a city of Samaritans; 6 but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

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

The concept of “lost sheep” was an OT concept for Israelites who needed leadership from God (Jer. 50:6; Ezek. 34:1-16; Isa. 53:6). Jesus would later reach the “Samaritans,” but not now (Jn. 4:4-42; Acts 1:8; 8:5-25). In fact, this is the only time Matthew mentions the “Samaritans.”

(10:7) And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’

Jesus gave practical instructions to his disciples, specifically telling them what to say. Moreover, this shows that a large part of their mission was preaching Jesus’ own words (Mt. 4:17). In our context, we also should focus on the ministry of the word (i.e. the Bible).

(10:8) Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with leprosy, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give.

The miraculous ministry of the disciples would help to authenticate their message. These types of miracles mimic what Jesus did in Matthew 8-9. This is the ministry of works. Both God’s words and good works complement one another.

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

“Freely you received, freely give.” This passage shows the nature of grace. When we have accepted God’s love freely, it changes our hearts to want to give it away freely. Moreover, the apostles were not to profit off something that Jesus had given to them freely. This would be like getting a truckload of sandwiches from Meals-on-Wheels, and then selling them at five bucks a piece to people in need! If these men could really cure disease, demon-possession, and death, it would be tempting to start a “get rich quick” scheme. Jesus forbid getting rich off of their ministry tour.

(10:9-10) Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, 10 or a bag for your journey, or even two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is deserving of his support.

The disciples could bring travel supplies with them, but they were to “acquire” (i.e. receive financial help) from the people they taught and healed (v.10). Again, this did not allow for them to get rich off of the people (v.9). This also showed that they needed to actively trust God for his provision. France writes, “A church whose members are preoccupied with material concerns still finds it hard to convince the world that it should take God seriously.”[270]

The “bag” could refer to (1) a lunch bag or (2) a beggar’s bag.[271] Since they were not supposed to take basic provisions, the lunch bag seems more likely.

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

“The worker is worthy of his support.” This becomes a staple teaching in the letters of Paul for why leaders and teachers should be paid (1 Cor. 9:14; 1 Tim. 5:17-18). Turner is correct when he writes, “The message of the kingdom is not for sale, but those who receive its gifts freely should also give freely to its messengers.”[272] As Christian teachers and leaders, we should offer the word to people and minister to them before asking for financial assistance to keep the lights on. The purpose is for Jesus’ followers to “live simply.”[273]

(10:11-12) And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave that city. 12 As you enter the house, give it your greeting.

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.

(10:13) If the house is worthy, see that your blessing of peace comes upon it. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace.

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

(10:14) And whoever does not receive you nor listen to your words, as you leave that house or city, shake the dust off your feet.

This action was common when a Jewish person left Gentile territory (cf. Mt. 7:6). Jesus makes the scandalous claim that the disciples should do this after leaving unwelcoming Jewish towns! Carson notes, “For the disciples to do this to Jewish homes and towns would be a symbolic way of saying that the emissaries of Messiah now view those places as pagan, polluted, and liable to judgment (cf. Acts 13:51; 18:6).”[274]

(10:15) Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment, than for that city.

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

(10:16) Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be as wary as serpents, and as innocent as doves.

Jesus forewarned them of the dangers that awaited them. This is a good principle of leadership: we don’t want to give people an overly optimistic view of ministry. After all, when they face failure or encounter 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 (“be as wary as serpents”). The word “wary” (phronimos) means to have “insight and wisdom,” to be “sensible, thoughtful, prudent, wise” (BDAG). At the same time, he didn’t want them to be hardened in their hearts toward people or to fall into sin (“innocent as doves”). Earlier, the Holy Spirit appeared in the form of a dove (Mt. 3:16). Could Jesus be alluding to that here? Carson understands the reference to being “innocent as doves” to mean that the disciples should not be “so cautious, suspicious, and cunning that circumspection degenerates into fear or elusiveness.”[275] In other words, they should still believe in people—even while being prepared for rejection and persecution (v.17).

Does this flash forward to the future?

It seems that Jesus could be preparing them for both their current mission, as well as their future missionary efforts. This is most likely the case because these events “were not fulfilled in the immediate mission of the Twelve.”[276] Keener, however, makes the simple and yet profound observation that the text “does not actually report the disciples’ mission” being fulfilled (see Mt. 11:1; contra Mk. 6:12-13).[277] This doesn’t entirely resolve the difficulty of the timing of this mission. But it is an overlooked piece of the puzzle in our estimation, and requires further thought.

(10:17) But be on guard against people, for they will hand you over to the courts and flog you in their synagogues.

Is Jesus thinking about the end of history, or is he thinking about the lifetime of the disciples? Later, the disciples were “scourged” for their faith in Jesus (Mt. 23:34; 27:26; Acts 5:40; 6:12; 22:19; 2 Cor. 11:24). Furthermore, the mention of “synagogues” implies a Judean and first-century context.

(10:18) And you will even be brought before governors and kings on My account, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.

Clearly, this prediction goes beyond the Israelite mission—even to Paul who wasn’t a member of the original Twelve (Acts 25:23; 27:24).

(10:19) But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given you in that hour.

We should prepare, study, and pray before we speak and teach. What then is Jesus getting at? In our view, the focus here is not a lack of work, but a lack of worry (“Do not worry about how or what you are to say”).

(10:20) For it is not you who are speaking, but it is the Spirit of your Father who is speaking in you.

This is a subtle prediction of the arrival and indwelling of the Holy Spirit, who would guide these early Christians into service (Acts 4:8, 13, 29, 31; 5:32; 6:5, 10; 7:51, 55; 13:9).

Christians often say, “God spoke through me.” We’re not entirely sure how this works, but somehow God can use us as a conduit through which he can speak to others. He doesn’t take away our personality in doing so, turning us into dictation machines. Instead, we speak how we would if we weren’t distracted and distorted by sin.

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

(10:21) Now brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death.

In first century Israel, the family unit was very close. Jesus is predicting that even their own families would betray them. This would be even more severe than today, where the modern family unit is much less tight-knit.

(10:22) And you will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.

“Endured” (hypomenō) refers to “patient endurance.”[278]

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

(10:23) But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.

Carson[279] thinks that this refers to Jesus “coming” on the clouds in the judgment of AD 70 via the Roman armies who descended on Jerusalem.

Turner[280] understands this as referring to the continuing evangelism of Jews and Gentiles until the Church Age is complete.

Blomberg[281] holds that Jesus’ Second Coming will occur before Jewish evangelism is completed.

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

The MENTALITY of Discipleship

(10:24-25) A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple that he may become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they insult the members of his household!

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

(10:26) So do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.

Why shouldn’t we fear our persecutors? According to Jesus, a day is coming when we will all stand before the judgment of God (1 Cor. 4:5). God is watching each and every act of persecution, and he will right every wrong. This coming into the light refers to the “the hidden sins of the persecutors” that “will be revealed on judgment day.”[282]

As young kids, my older sister and I got into a fierce argument, which turned into a fight. She tackled me, and I (shamefully!) punched her in the mouth. Immediately, we fight stopped—not because she was hurt or I was repentant. Rather, we both stopped fighting because we knew that I would face the wrath of my Dad when he got home!! I felt bad for my sister—for hitting and hurting her. But she felt even worse for me—for the punishment I would face when my Dad discovered what happened! In the same way, when people persecute us, we should pity them, knowing that they will need to answer to the infinite personal God.

(10:27) What I tell you in the darkness, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim on the housetops.

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

(10:28) And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

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

(10:29-31) Are two sparrows not sold for an assarion? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all counted. 31 So do not fear; you are more valuable than a great number of sparrows.

Why should we not fear our persecutors? God knows us and values us deeply. Sparrows were cheap and worthless animals in this culture. An “assarion” is “a Roman copper coin, worth about one-sixteenth of a denarius” (BDAG) or roughly an “hour’s wage.”[283] It is translated as a “penny” (ESV, NIV, NET) or a “copper coin” (NLT). However, God is sovereign even over them. Carson writes, “God’s sovereignty over the tiniest detail should give us confidence that he also superintends the larger matters.”[284] It implies protection from “ultimate harm” from persecutors,[285] as the context of verse 28 makes clear.

This does not imply that God causes the deaths of sparrows. Rather, 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) Therefore, everyone who confesses Me before people, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before people, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.

The tenses for “confess” and “deny” can also be rendered “will confess” and “will deny” (see NASB footnote). The term “deny” (arneomai) can be rendered “to refuse consent to something, refuse, disdain” or “to state that something is not true, deny” (BDAG). In our view, this refers to either refusing Christ or receiving Christ.

(10:34) Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.

Jesus is not referring to a literal “sword,” as the context makes clear. This isn’t a “military conflict,” but a “sharp social division” according to verses 35-36.[286] 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) For I came to turn a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and a person’s enemies will be the members of his household.

Don’t people already have problems with their in-laws? (Of course, that was a poor attempt at humor) In reality, Jesus picks the “in-laws” because “young couples generally lived with the man’s family.”[287]

Jesus paraphrases Micah 7:6 to explain the fractured relationships that will occur among his disciples and their loved ones. Keener writes, “Some Jewish interpreters thus applied the familial division of this text to the period of messianic woes, the great tribulation that would precede the Messiah’s coming (m. Sot. 9:15; Pesiq. Rab Kah. 5:9; Song Rab. 2:13; Pesiq. R. 15:14/15).”[288] However, Jesus offers us peace in our hearts to overcome this (Jn. 14:27; 16:33).

(10:37) The one who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and the one who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.

Jesus continues to pour on the severity of what it means to follow him—especially in light of the “division” between family members mentioned above. We need to love him more than anything. Since God is the greatest conceivable good, then it is only right to love him the most. Indeed, if we didn’t love God the most, then we wouldn’t be able to love our families the way that we should. If we don’t have God at the center of our lives, we won’t be able to be the right kind of father or mother or son or daughter. France writes, “Jesus calls not for an unloving attitude, but for a willingness to put him first in the concrete situation where the calls of Jesus and of family conflict.”[289]

(10:38) And the one who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.

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) The one who has found his life will lose it, and the one who has lost his life on My account will find it.

This is Jesus’ most repeated teaching in the four gospels (Mt. 16:25; Mk. 8:35; Lk. 9:24; 17:33; Jn. 12:25). Some think this refers to “martyrdom or disciplined self-denial.”[290] Perhaps. But since Jesus’ isn’t specific about what it means to ‘give one’s life away,’ we hold that this refers to a sacrificial love of others.

(10:40) The one who receives you receives Me, and the one who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.

When people persecute or reject us, we should not take this personally. According to Jesus, a persecutor’s real problem is with Him—not with us. Truly, their real problem isn’t even with Jesus, but with God the Father!

Here, Jesus shows just how closely he identifies with his human messengers: Just as Jesus represents the Father, so too, we represent him. Like an ambassador for the President speaking to a foreign nation, we speak directly for God himself (cf. Jn. 13:20; 2 Cor. 5:20).

(10:41-42) “The one who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and the one who receives a righteous person in the name of a righteous person shall receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And whoever gives one of these little ones just a cup of cold water to drink in the name of a disciple, truly I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.”

The order descends from “prophet” to “righteous man” to “little ones.” Each of these are disciples of Jesus—regardless of their influence. The way that we treat God’s people is very close to the heart of God (cf. Mt. 25:31-46). If God even watches and rewards our small acts of faithfulness to him, then how much more will he reward us for other acts of faithfulness?

Discussion Questions

Read verses 1-13. What principles do we learn about serving Christ from these verses?

Read verse 14. Doesn’t it seem cruel to reject people who won’t listen to the message of Christ?

Read verses 17-23. The immediate context for these verses refers to Jesus sending the Twelve on a mission in Israel. But Jesus speaks of events that never occurred in this local mission at that time. Is Jesus referring to a local mission for the Twelve apostles at that time, or is he referring to ministry in general? Or is some other perspective in view?

Read verses 24-31. What do we learn about how to face persecution from this section?

Read verses 32-39. Create a cost-benefit analysis of following Jesus from this section? What do we gain from following Jesus? What is he telling us we need to give up to follow him? Is it worth it? (Remember, God doesn’t want to take anything away from us that’s worth anything!)

Read verses 40-42. Why do you think Jesus chose to end this teaching with these verses? How is this message different than what came before?

Matthew 11

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

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

Repeatedly, we read that the people didn’t understand the identity or mission of Jesus, and it was mysterious to them. Why? This chapter really touches on the Mystery of Christ (see “Why Did Satan Crucify Jesus?”). Yet even though people doubted and distrusted Jesus, he still concluded this chapter by giving an open invitation to them (Mt. 11:28-30).

(11:1) When Jesus had finished giving instructions to His twelve disciples, He went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.

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

John the Baptist experiences doubt

(11:2) Now while in prison, John heard about the works of Christ, and he sent word by his disciples.

John had been taken into custody back in Matthew 4:12, and we don’t read the story of how this happened until now. Josephus tells us that John was imprisoned in the fortress of Machaerus (Antiquities, 18.119), which was east of the Dead Sea. Since John was in prison during Jesus’ Galilean ministry (Mt. 4:12), he could’ve been there for “as long as a year.”[291]

Jesus didn’t rescue John the Baptist from prison, and this is likely why John is experiencing doubt. John “heard of the works of Christ,” but Jesus was not getting to work on John’s jailbreak! Surely, this would create a theological problem for John, as well as a personal problem.

  • Theologically, the Messiah was supposed to knock down the prisons and take over politically—but Jesus was doing no such thing.
  • Personally, John was rotting in prison and suffering, while Jesus was outside of the prison, healing people in large numbers.

Why wouldn’t Jesus take the time to rescue John? Did Jesus not care? Or did Jesus forget about John as he was becoming more and more popular? It wouldn’t be hard to imagine the doubt that John was enduring as the days turned into weeks, and the weeks turned into months…

(11:3) And said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or are we to look for someone else?”

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’s not so sure (v.3).

(11:4-5) Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: 5 those who are blind receive sight and those who limp walk, those with leprosy are cleansed and those who are deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.”

Jesus responds by quoting Isaiah 29:18, 35:5 and 61:1. These passages predict the words and works of the Messiah and God himself.

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

(11:6) “And blessed is any person who does not take offense at Me.”

This isn’t an OT citation. Jesus’ commentary is for people to believe in him and not “take offense” (skandalon). In other words, because you’re seeing the fulfillment of prophecy, this should lead to faith and trust.

The crowds

(11:7-8) As these disciples of John were going away, Jesus began speaking to the crowds about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ palaces!”

Why is Jesus asking these questions? Clearly, they are rhetorical: The people didn’t travel miles into the desert to watch the reeds blow—nor did they go to see a man of prestige. They went out there to see a prophet.

“A reed shaken by the wind?” This could metaphorically refer to a “weak, pliable person.”[292] Keener writes, People who proved too weak for the test that awaited them were compared with the weak, tall papyrus reeds, easily moved simply by the wind (1 Kings 14:15; 2 Kings 18:21; 3 Macc. 2:22).”[293] Clearly, John was not a weak man, so this doesn’t explain why people would travel to see him. It could also refer to an “ordinary spectacle,”[294] such as the wind shaking a reed. Of course, this would be like watching grass grow: No one would travel that far to see something so ordinary. So, Jesus’ point stands—namely, they came to see John for another reason entirely.

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

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

(11:9) “But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet.”

Jesus agrees that John is a prophet, but also adds that he is “more than a prophet.” Indeed, John is the final prophet who will announce the coming of the Messiah according to Malachi 3:1. He has been called a “superprophet”[295] for this reason.

(11:10) “This is the one about whom it is written: ‘Behold, I am sending My messenger ahead of You, who will prepare Your way before You.’”

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

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

(11:11) Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

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

Carson understands this to refer to John the Baptist’s functional role in pointing to Jesus as the Messiah.[296] His argument is that John knew more about Jesus as the final old covenant prophet than any before him. However, John never lived to see the Cross, Resurrection, Ascension, etc. In this way, even the “least” in the new covenant knows more than John. Similarly, Keener states that new covenant Christians had a “fuller message”[297] than John the Baptist. The problem with this view, however, is that some true Christians never witness for Jesus at all, playing no functional role. So, it’s hard to say why John would be less than them.

We agree with Blomberg that believers in the new covenant are “greater” in the sense of our privileges—not our function. These privileges would include “the once-for-all forgiveness of sins, the greater sense of immediate access to God’s presence, and the permanent indwelling of the Spirit.”[298]

(11:12) And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has been treated violently, and violent men take it by force.

What “violence” does the kingdom suffer? We interpret both uses of “violently” (biazetai) and “violent men” (biastai) to be passive—namely, the kingdom is suffering from these violent people.[299] John the Baptist opened this chapter with his doubts about why he was rotting in prison at the hands of “violent men.” Indeed, he would later die at the hands of these men. Therefore, Jesus is saying that such violence will indeed occur, and we shouldn’t be caught off guard by it.[300] Jesus may be referring to the persecution and soon-to-be martyrdom of John, or he could be referring to persecution in general. That is to say, John could be a foreshadowing of what the “kingdom of heaven” would endure through the Church.

(11:13) For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John.

This seems like a merism to refer to the entire OT. This occurs when two terms refer to everything in between (e.g. “I love you from your head to your toes”). The “Prophets” and “Law” capture the entire OT predictions. Yet we aren’t sure why these are given out of order—where the Prophets are placed before the Law.

(11:14) And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come.

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

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

(11:15) The one who has ears to hear, let him hear.

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 (metaphorically, their “ears”).

(11:16-19) But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces, who call out to the other children, 17 and say, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a song of mourning, and you did not mourn.’ 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a heavy drinker, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ And yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.

Jesus compares John and himself to children playing music for “this generation,” but the people neither danced nor mourned. Instead of responding to the music, the people just listened with hollow eyes and blank faces. France writes, “Jesus and John are the ones who piped and wailed, but neither dance-music nor dirge evoked a response, only a sulky refusal.”[301]

The people compared John’s simple lifestyle to demon-possession, and they compared Jesus’ freedom to engage sinners as sinful (Mt. 9:9-13). John was “too righteous” for them, but Jesus was “not righteous enough.” 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 would respond with ridicule. This is a no-win scenario.

But the problem wasn’t with the music, but with the listeners! This sets up Jesus’ words of judgment on specific towns…

Judgment for unrepentance

(11:20) Then He began to reprimand the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent.

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

(11:21-22) Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that occurred in you had occurred in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.

“Woe” (ouai) can mean “doom or [a] solemn warning” or it can refer to pity or “alas.” According to Carson, “Both are mingled here.”[302] This is a message of judgment mixed with deep sorrow.

“Tyre and Sidon” were wicked cities that were destroyed according to the predictions of the OT prophets (Isa. 23; Ezek. 26-28; Amos 1:9-10). France comments, “The failure of the Galilean towns to respond to the direct evidence and appeal of Jesus and his mighty works was worse even than the paganism of Tyre and Sidon. They had not the excuse of ignorance.”[303]

Interestingly, as a Reformed theologian, D.A. Carson holds that this verse demonstrates that God has middle knowledge. He writes, “The Judge has contingent knowledge: he knows what Tyre and Sidon would have done under such-and-such circumstances.”[304]

(11:23-24) And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will be brought down to Hades! For if the miracles that occurred in you had occurred in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. 24 Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment, than for you.

The Jewish people loathed the immorality of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19). So, when Jesus compares Capernaum to Sodom, this is a serious denunciation! After all, Capernaum was somewhat of a headquarters for Jesus’ ministry, and they still rejected him.

Forgiveness for repentance

(11:25-26) At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent, and have revealed them to infants. 26 Yes, Father, for this way was well pleasing in Your sight.”

We see a recurrence of this theme in Matthew 21:15-16 (cf. Mk. 10:14-15; 1 Cor. 1:18ff). Carson writes, “The contrast is between those who are self-sufficient and deem themselves wise and those who are dependent and love to be taught.”[305]

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

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

(11:27) All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son determines to reveal Him.

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

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

(11:28) Come to Me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Since people come to know the Father through the Son, Jesus invites people to come to him. Turner comments, “If people come to know the Father only through Jesus, it is only fitting for Jesus to invite them to come to him and to promise that he will give them rest as they take his yoke upon themselves.”[306]

In the next verse, Jesus tells us that we can specifically experience “soul rest.” This fits with God revealing himself to little children, who are humble (v.25). This is in contrast to the Pharisees: “They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger” (Mt. 23:4; cf. Acts 15:10).

(11:29) Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

It was common for Jews to refer to taking on the “yoke” of the law. Thus we find it insightful to read Blomberg who writes, “Jews commonly spoke of taking on the yoke of the Torah to refer to the acceptance of the stipulations of the law. But… Jesus calls people not to the law but to himself.”[307]

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

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

(11:30) For My yoke is comfortable, and My burden is light.

Jesus’ “yoke” was nothing like that of the religious teachers. Following him brought soul rest, rather than a restless soul.

Discussion Questions

Read verses 2-3. What kind of doubt do you think John the Baptist was having? Was this intellectual doubt, or something else?

Read verses 4-6. What approach does Jesus take to help John with his doubts?

Read verses 20-24. The great atheistic philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell was asked what he would say to God if he was wrong about Christianity after he died. Russell famously replied, “Not enough evidence, God! Not enough evidence!” How does Russell’s statement fit with the rejection of miracles in these cities Jesus visited? Is our problem a mere lack of evidence? If not, what else could affect our faith?

Read verses 25-26. What truth did God choose to keep hidden in this context? Moreover, why would God choose to keep his truth hidden?

Read verses 28-30. What do we learn about Jesus’ offer of “rest” in this passage? (e.g. Who is it for? How do we obtain it? What kind of an experience is it?)

Read verse 30. How do we harmonize this statement with the suffering and toil that we experience in the Christian life? Are we always supposed to feel like the Christian life is easy?

Conclusions

Jesus didn’t rebuke John the Baptist for his doubts. He understood that John was a good and faithful man—even if he was going through a time of doubt. Indeed, Jesus gave him more evidence—not less (citing Isaiah 35). Of course, we need to point out that John the Baptist was moving toward his doubts—not away from his doubts (e.g. asking questions, seeking Jesus, etc.). Furthermore, we should go easy on John. He was rotting in prison, awaiting a death sentence. So, his doubt is a lot more understandable than for many today, who sip their chardonnay in a luxury apartment wondering if God is real…

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

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

Matthew 12

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

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

The legalism of the Pharisees stands in stark contrast to the “easy yoke” of Jesus from the previous chapter (Mt. 11:28-30). Jesus offers true “rest,” while the Pharisees offer a counterfeit rest on the Sabbath day. Turner writes, “There is irony in Matthew’s intentional placement of these Sabbath controversy stories right after the promise of Jesus to give his disciples rest.”[308]

(12:1-2) At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat. 2 Now when the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath!”

Plucking grain wasn’t illegal (Deut. 23:25). However, rabbinical Judaism held 39 rules that constituted “work” on the Sabbath (Mishnah Shabbath 7:2). Josephus states that the Pharisees were scrupulous and meticulous interpreters of the law (War 2.162; Life 191). This is why the Pharisees were so antagonistic toward them. But what does it communicate about God that he would want people to be hungry, while serving him, rather than being able to feed themselves? It surely depicts a god that is cruel and controlling—not the God of the Bible!

(12:3-4) But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions—4 how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone?”

Jesus cites from a biblical (not an extra-biblical) example from the life of David (1 Sam. 21:1-6). If David (and his companions) could eat the consecrated bread to feed his starving men, then how much more should the disciples be allowed to eat the grain in the field? Jesus is showing that God’s law is not supposed to harm people, but to help them. Mark’s parallel account really brings this out: “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mk. 2:27). Furthermore, this shows that Jesus believed in “Prioritized Ethics,” because this was indeed a ceremonial law which was being overruled by Jesus in this instance. Jesus is affirming that if David was allowed to eat consecrated bread and break a ceremonial law, then how much more should Jesus himself be able to do this?[309] Indeed, forget about the bread in the Temple… Jesus is greater than the Temple itself! (v.6)

(12:5) Or have you not read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple violate the Sabbath, and yet are innocent?

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

(12:6) But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here.

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, and Jesus was claiming that he was “greater than” the Temple! This is a powerful statement supporting the deity of Christ. Even though the term “something” is neuter in the Greek, we agree with Carson who holds that this either refers to Jesus or his kingdom.[310] Perhaps Jesus was speaking enigmatically by using a neuter noun.

(12:7) But if you had known what this means: ‘I desire compassion, rather than sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.

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

(12:8) For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.

Wait a minute! Only God is Lord of the Sabbath (meaning: God owns the Sabbath). Yet, this states that Jesus is the “Lord of the Sabbath.” This supports the deity of Jesus. After all, whoever is the “Lord” gets the service of the people. Here, the Sabbath serves Jesus—not the other way around.

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

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

(12:9) Departing from there, He went into their synagogue.

The Pharisees weren’t happy with Jesus’ teaching, so they welcomed him on their “home turf” in the synagogue. Bad move!

(12:10) And a man was there whose hand was withered. And they questioned Jesus, asking, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might bring charges against Him.

Jesus’ opponents raised this question frequently (Lk. 13:14; Jn. 5:7-9). They may have positioned this man in the synagogue to trap Jesus. They are banking on Jesus’ character of compassion, knowing that he would fall into a trap because he was loving. Thus, they encouraged Jesus to break the rabbinical Sabbath laws. Mark and Luke record that they were watching Jesus closely so that they could bring a formal accusation (Mk. 3:2; Lk. 6:7). According to the rabbinical rules, the only reason a person could be healed was if they were in mortal danger (Mishnah Yoma 8:6). This man had a paralyzed or “withered” (literally “dry”) hand, so he wasn’t in danger of death. By healing him, Jesus was clearly breaking the Sabbath.

(12:11-12) But He said to them, “What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable then is a person than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

Instead of being trapped, Jesus refers to a trapped sheep. If we would help a sheep, how much more should we help a human being? (cf. Mt. 6:26; 10:31) Again, the purpose of the Sabbath was to help people—not hurt them (Mk. 2:27). Some rabbis held that ladders should be “thrown in the pit to allow the animal to climb out,” and others said that the animal “should be fed until it could be lifted out on a weekday.”[311] However, mainstream Jewish thinking held that it was legal to help a suffering animal (Shabbath 128b).

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

(12:13) Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand!” He stretched it out, and it was restored to normal, like the other.

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

(12:14) But the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.

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

Notice the great irony: Jesus was healing on the Sabbath, and this was considered work. But the religious leaders were conspiring to kill Jesus on the Sabbath, but this was considered totally legal! Turner writes, “It is not a little ironic that a dispute over the finer points of Sabbath law leads the Pharisees to plan to break the sixth commandment.”[312] So true! A heart poisoned with legalism can find many ways to subvert God’s moral will.

Discussion Questions

Read verse 14. Why do the Pharisees have such an extreme reaction to a debate over the Sabbath law?

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

[This extended citation is unique to Matthew.]

(12:15-16) But Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. Many followed Him, and He healed them all, 16 and warned them not to tell who He was.

Jesus didn’t face off with the Pharisees here. He “withdrew” from them. But this confrontation didn’t take him away from his mission. He continued to heal people and draw crowds. Again, Jesus wanted to keep his identity secret until his time had come to take up the Cross.

(12:17-21) This happened so that what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet would be fulfilled: 18 “Behold, My Servant whom I have chosen; My Beloved in whom My soul delights; I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He will proclaim justice to the Gentiles. 19 He will not quarrel, nor cry out; nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets. 20 A bent reed He will not break off, and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish, until He leads justice to victory. 21 And in His name the Gentiles will hope.”

This is the longest OT citation in Matthew. It doesn’t exactly cite the MT or LXX, and it is likely Matthew’s “own translation of a Hebrew original.”[313]

God’s view of Jesus stands in utter contrast to these religious leaders who were trying to kill Jesus. Matthew notes that Jesus was fulfilling Isaiah 42:1-4. See our earlier article “The Servant Songs.”

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

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

(12:22) Then a demon-possessed man who was blind and unable to speak was brought to Jesus, and He healed him so that the man who was unable to speak talked and could see.

Jesus continued to heal demon-possessed people.

(12:23) And all the crowds were amazed and were saying, “This man cannot be the Son of David, can he?”

The crowds started to chatter about whether Jesus was in fact the Messiah (“the Son of David”), though the form of their question shows that they were unsure. While Jesus had the power of the Messiah, he didn’t have the appearance of a regal king. Thus, they were confused by him.

(12:24) But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.”

This accusation is really a strong admission. Jesus’ enemies didn’t deny his miraculous power, but instead they denied its source. Likewise, extrabiblical (and even hostile) sources affirm that Jesus was a miracle-worker:

  • Josephus (AD 100) wrote that Jesus was a “worker of amazing deeds” (Antiquities3).
  • The anti-Christian philosopher Celsus (AD 150) argued that Jesus “served for hire in Egypt” and learned “certain miraculous powers” (Origen Contra Celsum38).
  • The Talmud (AD 400-600) stated that Jesus “practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy” (b. Sanhedrin 43a).

All of these hostile sources agreed on the effects of Jesus’ miracles, but not on the empowerment that caused them. The religious leaders had been raising this charge against Jesus for some time. Earlier they said, “He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons” (Mt. 9:34). Jesus was even aware of this accusation (Mt. 10:25), and if it was true, then this would be a capital crime (Mishnah Sanhedrin 7:4). Jesus tolerated this nonsense for long enough. He finally decides to confront such a ludicrous accusation here.

(12:25) And knowing their thoughts, Jesus said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and no city or house divided against itself will stand.”

Jesus could read people’s thoughts (“knowing their thoughts”). This doesn’t prove full-blown omniscience, but it’s a line of evidence in that direction.

(12:26) And if Satan is casting out Satan, he has become divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand?

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) And if by Beelzebul I cast out the demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore, they will be your judges.

There were many examples of Jewish exorcists (Acts 19:13; Mk. 9:38; Josephus, Antiquities 12.46-48; 7. 46-48; Wars of the Jews, 7. 185). France comments, “If exorcism as such was accepted in Jewish society, why should Jesus’ practice of it be suspect?”[314] Blomberg goes further and explains the logic of Jesus’ argument: “Jesus is not the only exorcist in the area. Other Jews practiced exorcism as well… If Satan is the one who enables exorcisms, then other Jewish exorcists must also be devilish. Jesus’ accusers judge their own ‘people’ (literally, sons) by their accusations.”[315]

 (12:28) But if I cast out the demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

If Jesus’ argument is sound, then the Pharisees would need to admit that Jesus has inaugurated the kingdom of God on Earth. Incidentally, this is also the only place in Matthew where he refers to the “kingdom of God,” rather than the “kingdom of heaven.”

Roughly a dozen verses earlier, we read that God had poured out his Spirit on Jesus (Mt. 12:18), and this is the real explanation for Jesus’ miracles—not Satanic power. Perhaps Matthew cited Isaiah 42:1-4 in order to prepare for this accusation here.

(12:29) Or, how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first ties up the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.

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

France thinks that this could be an allusion to Isaiah 49:24-26, where God himself saves his people from “the mighty man.” If so, this would be yet another allusion to the deity of Christ.

Amillennialists argue that this refers to the binding of Satan at the Cross. Thus, when Revelation 20 speaks of Satan’s binding, they would argue that Jesus had already bound him, and the Millennial Kingdom is actually the Church Age. However, look at the flow of Jesus’ argument: According to Jesus, the kingdom had already come upon the people—so much so that Jesus was healing demon possessed people. Of course, he said this before the Cross! Jesus said, “The kingdom of God has come upon you” (v.28). This implies that the kingdom exists already to some degree, and “some sense of arrival seems inescapable.”[316] This means that the “binding” of Matthew 12 cannot refer to the Cross and Resurrection, because it occurs before those historical events.

(12:30) The one who is not with Me is against Me; and the one who does not gather with Me scatters.

Since Jesus is the King ushering in the kingdom (v.28), then he has authority to call for our allegiance. This passage shows the urgency of making a decision for Christ (cf. Mk. 9:40; Lk. 9:50). If you’re saying, Not yet, to Jesus, this is the same as saying, No. We might compare this to a man proposing to a woman, only to hear her say, “I’ll think about it…” It wouldn’t take a genius to figure out that she is saying, No, to the man’s proposal.

(12:31-32) Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. 32 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.

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

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

Matthew 12:33-37 (Denouncing the Pharisees)

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

(12:33) Either assume the tree to be good as well as its fruit good, or assume the tree to be bad as well as its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit.

Here, the fruit coming from a tree refers to the person’s words—not works (see v.34). It most likely refers to the doctrinal teaching of the person. In context, the Pharisees were making the doctrinal declaration that Jesus was demon possessed (cf. Mt. 7:16-20).

(12:34-35) You offspring of vipers, how can you, being evil, express any good things? For the mouth speaks from that which fills the heart. 35 The good person brings out of his good treasure good things; and the evil person brings out of his evil treasure evil things.

John the Baptist also called the religious leaders a “brood of vipers” (Mt. 3:7). One way to discern a false teacher is to listen to their words. France writes that the “application is not to suggest that no-one can be changed, but that as long as they remain unchanged at heart, their words and behaviour will show it.”[317]

(12:36) But I tell you that for every careless word that people speak, they will give an account of it on the day of judgment.

Jesus is showing that the stakes are high. “Careless” (argon) is literally “workless” or “ineffective” or “useless.”[318] These are words that don’t build up others in love. 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) “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

The goal here isn’t to clean up our words, but to clean out our hearts (v.34). The words reveal what is in our hearts.

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

(12:38-39) Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” 39 But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves a sign; and so no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet.”

Jesus just showed the religious leaders how illogical their arguments were, but more than this, he showed them how serious the consequences were. How do they respond? They dodge his arguments, and demand more signs! This is surely a smoke screen; after all, they had just witnessed an exorcism from demon possession! The problem wasn’t the evidence, but their interpretation and trust in the evidence. This is why Jesus reacts the way that he does (v.39).

(12:40) For just as Jonah was in the stomach of the sea monster for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights.

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

The “sign of Jonah” seems to refer to Jonah as an overall type of Jesus. While there are obvious differences between Jonah and Jesus, this is common in typology—where the sign and signifier are not identical in all respects (e.g. Jonah ran from God’s mission!). However, Jesus saw typology between himself and Jonah. There are several similarities between the two figures: Both preached to wicked people (Lk. 11:30); both were as good as dead for three days and nights (Jon. 1:17); both saw wicked people repent and turn to God. Carson writes, “Jesus’ preaching will be attested by a deliverance like Jonah’s only still greater; therefore there will be greater condemnation for those who reject the significance of Jonah’s deliverance.”[319]

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

(12:41) The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

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, then what about the resurrection of Jesus? Jesus claims that his resurrection is “greater than” the miracle of Jonah.

(12:42) The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.

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). By contrast, the Pharisees were seeing Jesus up close and personal, and they were rejecting him. We might contrast these two people(s) in this way:

Queen of Sheba

The Pharisees

Gentile woman

Jewish men
Travelled across the world to see God (Solomon)

Saw Jesus in their home country

Believed in Solomon who was not as great as Jesus

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

 

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

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

(12:43-45) Now when the unclean spirit comes out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. 45 Then it goes and brings along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they come in and live there; and the last condition of that person becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.

This is a really wild account! Jesus is explaining the mechanics of demon possession, and it’s scary to read. But what exactly is his point?

Jesus is saying that the Pharisees are deceived and their deception will only get worse, unless they have a change of heart. France doesn’t think this refers to the experience of a demon-possessed person. Yet he writes, “It warns of the danger of half-hearted repentance: this evil generation might be ‘cleansed’ by Jesus’ ministry among them, but a repentance which does not lead to a new allegiance leaves a void which the devil will exploit; he who is not positively with Jesus must inevitably end up against him.”[320] Similarly, Carson understands this in context to “beware of neutrality toward Jesus the Messiah.”[321] After all, Jewish exorcists could heal a demoniac (Mt. 12:27), but they couldn’t permanently cure the person, as Jesus did. In the example that Jesus gives, the man was healed of demon possession, yet “nothing good came into the man to fill the vacuum.”[322] As applied to the nation, Turner writes, “The nation, like a recently cleaned house, has had its demons removed. Yet it has done nothing to ensure itself against their more rigorous re-entrenchment… This enigmatic parable implies that the absence of evil spirits does not equate with the presence of redemption. The house has been cleaned, but a good tenant has not taken up residence.”[323]

Matthew 12:46-50 (Jesus’ true family)

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

(12:46) While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him.

Mark records that 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) [Someone said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak to You.”]

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

(12:48-50) But Jesus replied to the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is My mother, and who are My brothers?” 49 And extending His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold: My mother and My brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother, and sister, and mother.”

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. But notice a conspicuous omission: Jesus doesn’t refer to any of these people as his “father” (cf. Mt. 23:9).

Discussion Questions

Read verses 1-8. What argument are the Pharisees using to corner Jesus? What is the substance of Jesus’ counterargument? In other words, how does he respond to their case against him?

Read verses 9-14. Do you see any irony or inconsistency in what the religious leaders were doing to trap Jesus?

Read verses 15-21. What does this citation of Isaiah 42 tell us about Jesus?

Read verses 22-32. What argument do the Pharisees use to accuse Jesus? How does Jesus refute this argument?

Read verse 30. This statement seems very black-and-white. What if someone asked, “Isn’t it possible to be friendly to Jesus without accepting him or following him?” How might you respond?

Read verses 38-42. Why was Jesus reluctant to give the Pharisees more evidence? Why does Jesus contrast the Pharisees with the Queen of Sheba? In what ways were they different from one another?

Matthew 13

This is Jesus’ third major teaching section in Matthew’s Gospel (the first is Matthew 5-7 and the second is Matthew 10).

Matthew 13 (Parables)

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

Classical Dispensationalists—like Stanley Toussaint or John Walvoord—understand these parables as referring to the future millennium or the postponed kingdom that has been replaced by the church age.

(13:1-2) On that day Jesus had gone out of the house and was sitting by the sea. 2 And large crowds gathered to Him, so He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd was standing on the beach.

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

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

(13:3) And He told them many things in parables, saying, “Behold, the sower went out to sow.”

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) And as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up.

Soil #1: Beside the road. Birds ate them.

(13:5-6) Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and they sprang up immediately, because they had no depth of soil. 6 But after the sun rose, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.

Soil #2: Rocky places. Immediately, they sprang up, but had no depth of soil or roots, so they quickly withered.

(13:7) Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out.

Soil #3: Among the thorns. These plants were choked out by thorns.

(13:8) But others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundred, some sixty, and some thirty times as much.

Soil #4: The good soil. These produced a crop of 30, 60, and 100 fold.

(13:9) The one who has ears, let him hear.

The problem isn’t that they can’t hear the words audibly, but that they don’t desire to understand.

Interlude: Why parables?

(13:10) And the disciples came up and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?”

A “parable” (parabolē) includes “proverbs, riddles and wise sayings as well as parables.”[324] Mark tells us that the disciples questioned Jesus’ approach in private (Mk. 4:10). They are wondering why they get the direct teaching, but others only get cryptic parables.

(13:11) And Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.”

Jesus was not giving away precious truth to just anyone. He was choosing to give the deeper truths about the kingdom only to his disciples.

(13:12) For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.

This riddle seems to be saying that God will give more revelation to the soft hearted, but less revelation to the hard hearted. Indeed, the hard hearted will lose the revelation that they received, because they weren’t responsible with it.

(13:13-16) Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 And in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, ‘You shall keep on listening, but shall not understand; and you shall keep on looking, but shall not perceive; 15 for the heart of this people has become dull, with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes, otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their heart, and return, and I would heal them.’ 16 But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear.

This passage aligns very well with 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 had “become dull” (v.15) and had “closed their eyes” (v.15). If only they would open their hearts, God “would heal them” (v.15).

The term “fulfill” (anaplēroō) more literally means to “fulfill again.” In other words, this was fulfilled in Isaiah’s day, but it is being fulfilled all over again.

Jesus praises his disciples for having soft hearts and learning from him. France writes, “Anyone can hear, but only a disciple can understand.”[325] After addressing the predestinarian language of the parallel passage in Mark 4:12, Carson comments, “If Jesus simply wished to hide the truth from the outsiders, he need never have spoken to them. His concern for mission (9:35-38; 10:1-10; 28:16-20) excludes that idea. So he must preach without casting his pearls before pigs (7:6).”[326]

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

(13:17) For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

Jesus brought greater revelation than ever before (cf. Lk. 10:23-24). Indeed, he himself is the final revelation of God (Heb. 1:1-3).

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

(13:18) Listen then to the parable of the sower.

If you have ears, you are supposed to “hear” (v.9). Thus, Jesus urges them to hear the meaning of the parable. The title is misleading because the seed and soils are the focus. Blomberg holds that soils 1-3 are all describing non-believers. He writes, “None of them stands for people who were ever true believers, despite certain outward appearances.”[327] He argues that farmers would consider a non-bearing seed not to “count for anything.” Yet, this confuses the literal referent used in the parable with the interpretation of the parable. While a farmer might consider soils 1-3 worthless, how does Jesus interpret his parable? We will look closely at this below, defending a different view than Blomberg’s.

(13:19) When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one sown with seed beside the road.

Soil #1: Beside the road. Birds ate this seed. This can hardly describe a true Christian. Indeed, it “is wrong to conclude from this that the person in view actually becomes a Christian and church member and then rejects the message.”[328] Why? The person never even understood the message (v.14). Before they understand, Satan came right into the person’s heart and pulled away what they heard. Luke makes it explicit that this person is rejecting the message. He writes that “they will not believe and be saved” (Lk. 8:12).

How might Satan move to snatch the word from people’s hearts? He doesn’t do this by force. How might he do this? This could be through distraction, intimidation, misdirection, misinterpretation, confusion, etc.

(13:20-21) The one sown with seed on the rocky places, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution occurs because of the word, immediately he falls away.

Soil #2: Rocky places. Immediately, they sprang up, but had no depth of soil or roots, so they quickly withered. This person seems to be a true believer. After all, they receive the gospel “with joy.” Yet suffering and persecution is what stops them from growing. Luke writes that “they believe for a while” (Lk. 8:13). France comments, “To start is not necessarily to finish… Joy without understanding and commitment cannot last.”[329] This shows the need to disciple, equip, and teach young Christians.

(13:22) And the one sown with seed among the thorns, this is the one who hears the word, and the anxiety of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

Soil #3: Among the thorns. These were choked out. Materialism and the world-system render this believer unfruitful. Luke adds that “the pleasures of life” are another factor (Lk. 8:14). These seem to be true believers, but they are rendered unfruitful because they are obsessed with the things of the world. Materialism creates “deceitfulness” (apatē), which incidentally can also be rendered “pleasure” or “delight.”[330] They forfeit making an impact for Christ because of this delightful deceit.

(13:23) But the one sown with seed on the good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces, some a hundred, some sixty, and some thirty times as much.

Soil #4: The good soil. These produced a crop of 100, 60, or 30 fold. What is the difference between this soil and the others? Jesus tells us that this seed both “hears and understands” (v.14).[331] That is, this person grasps the truth and the implications of the gospel. This is the key to persevering and bearing fruit.

Lordship theology teaches that only this fourth soil consists of true believers, because only the fourth soil bears “fruit” which is key to Matthew (Mt. 3:8-10; 7:16-20; 12:33; 21:19, 34, 41, 43). Yet, even within this fourth soil, there are degrees of fruit. So, even on a Lordship view, God seems content with seeing any amount of fruit. This would fit with moderate Free Grace teaching as well.

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. Indeed this parable “implicitly challenges hearers to ask themselves what kinds of soil they are.”[332] Furthermore, as France notes, “The wonder is not that some do not produce fruit, but that any do.”[333]

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

[This parable is unique to Matthew.]

(13:24) Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.”

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

(13:25) But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and left.

The “enemy” is Satan, who reaches people with his twisted narrative about God and the world-system (vv.38-39). The “weeds” or “tares” are likely the weed “darnel.” France writes, “To sow darnel among wheat as an act of revenge was punishable in Roman law, which suggests that the parable depicts a real-life situation… A light infestation of darnel could be tackled by careful weeding, but mistakes would easily be made. In the case of a heavy infestation the stronger roots of the darnel would be tangled with those of the wheat, making selective weeding impossible.”[334]

(13:26) And when the wheat sprouted and produced grain, then the weeds also became evident.

When wheat and weeds are initially growing, they look very similar to one another. It isn’t until they are fully grown that they look different. In fact, the weeds are “botanically close to wheat and difficult to distinguish from it when the plants are young.”[335]

(13:27-28) And the slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ 28 And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’

The servants want to pull the weeds out of the field. This was the common view 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) But he said, ‘No; while you are gathering up the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them.’

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. He is allowing this before he comes to judge, so that people can gain access to his forgiveness.

(13:30) Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and at the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather up the weeds and bind them in bundles to burn them; but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

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

This parable teaches that God is allowing the righteous and unrighteous to coexist for a time before he ushers in judgment. The message is clear: You want to be wheat on judgment day—not weeds! We change our identity by coming to faith in Christ, receiving his forgiveness and becoming a new creation (2 Cor. 5:21).

The Kingdom as a MUSTARD SEED (not explained later)

[This is similar to Mark 4:30-32 and Luke 13:18ff.]

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

(13:31-32) He presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a person took and sowed in his field; 32 and this is smaller than all the other seeds, but when it is fully grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the sky come and nest in its branches.”

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

Mark has a similar teaching about the growing seed (Mk. 4:26-29). He adds that the seed grows “how—he himself does not know” (Mk. 4:27). It surely is mysterious how God chooses to grow his church. We marvel at it in much the same way that we marvel at growing plants—namely, we watch its results, but we can’t control the cause.

The Kingdom as LEAVEN (not explained later)

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

(13:33) He spoke another parable to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three sata of flour until it was all leavened.”

This parable about the kingdom seems to be similar to the one about the mustard seed. The kingdom will start small, but it will grow very big over time. This also shows that it will grow secretly (“a woman took and hid…”). In the parable, the woman couldn’t see the results until the flour was opened, and then, she could see that the yeast had spread everywhere. The “three sata” were somewhere between 20-45 liters, which could feed 100 men.[336] In other words, this was a large amount of material being infiltrated by the yeast. This would be different from the Judaism of Jesus’ day, which expected a sudden kingdom that would be obvious to all.

(13:34-35) All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, and He did not speak anything to them without a parable. 35 This was so that what was spoken through the prophet would be fulfilled: “I will open My mouth in parables; I will proclaim things hidden since the foundation of the world.”

Jesus was fulfilling Psalm 78:2. Asaph was considered a “seer” (2 Chron. 29:30). Asaph recounts God’s mysterious works in the past in the same way that Jesus is revealing God’s mysterious works in the present. Carson writes, “The parables of this chapter are not exactly like the comparisons and wise sayings offered in Psalm 78. Yet the term ‘parable’ can embrace both kinds of utterance. So we must be careful not to impose on the text too narrow an understanding of what a parable is.”[337]

The WHEAT and the WEEDS explained (see verses 18-24 above)

(13:36-40) Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37 And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, 38 and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the weeds are the sons of the evil one; 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. 40 So just as the weeds are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age.”

Here we see just how Jesus’ use of parables worked. The crowd didn’t desire to learn more, so they went home; the disciples desired to understand the meaning of the parables, so they asked him privately (v.36). Only those who seek divine revelation will find it.

This is Jesus’ explanation of the parable above (vv.18-24). The “end of the age” (v.40) could line up with Jesus’ later statement about a final judgment (Mt. 25:31-46). Specifically, angels are the agents of God’s judgment (Mt. 24:31; 25:31-33; Rev. 14:15-19).

(13:41) The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness.

Elsewhere, Jesus speaks about angels gathering believers (as in Mt. 24:31), but that is not the meaning here! Indeed, you do not want to be a part of this gathering!

(13:42) And they will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

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

(13:43) Then the righteous will shine forth like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. The one who has ears, let him hear.

This is a citation of Daniel 12:3.

Should this parable be used to have a low view of church discipline? Not at all. Turner argues that this passage shouldn’t be used to take a lax attitude toward church discipline for the obvious reason that “Jesus states that the field is the world, not the church.”[338] The purpose of church discipline is to remove hypocrisy from the church—not the world.

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

(13:44-46) The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells everything that he has, and buys that field. 45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, 46 and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold everything that he had and bought it.

(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, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered fish of every kind.

Again, Jesus appeals to illustrations that would connect with his culture. Here he uses a fishing illustration.

(13:48) And when it was filled, they pulled it up on the beach; and they sat down and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away.

Ancient fisherman knew how to separate the good fish from the bad.

(13:49-50) So it will be at the end of the age: the angels will come forth and remove the wicked from among the righteous, 50 and they will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Jesus explains that the fish refer to people. God will deal with all people, but he will separate the believers from the unbelievers at the final judgment.

Jesus concludes his parables

(13:51) “Have you understood all these things?” They said to Him, “Yes.”

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) And Jesus said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure new things and old.”

Instead of being a scribe for rabbinical Judaism, Matthew was a scribe for Jesus. The “old and new” could refer to the fulfillment of the old covenant in Jesus.

Return to Nazareth

(13:53) When Jesus had finished these parables, He departed from there.

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

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

(13:54) And He came to His hometown and began teaching them in their synagogue, with the result that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man acquire this wisdom and these miraculous powers?”

The religious leaders couldn’t understand how such an average man could have such supernatural wisdom and miracles (Jn. 6:42; 7:15).

(13:55-56) “Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is His mother not called Mary, and His brothers, James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas? 56 And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man acquire all these things?”

Jesus was not trained under the great religious leaders of the day (Jn. 7:15). He came from a blue-collar family (e.g. carpentry).

The absence of Joseph (Jesus’ step-father) is a conspicuous silence. For this reason, 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) And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not dishonored except in his hometown and in his own household.”

This is an inclusio with the unbelief of Jesus’ family that occurred just before Jesus’ parables (Mt. 12:46-50). The people in Jesus’ hometown were offended by the wisdom and miracles of this simple, Galilean man. Turner writes, “The parable of the sower has become a veiled prophecy. Jesus tells this parable and soon he expeiences [sic] its wisdom in his own hometown.”[339]

This statement of Jesus appears in all four Gospels (Mk. 6:4; Lk. 4:24; Jn. 4:44). Yet we shouldn’t understand this as fatalistic. After all, Jesus reached his family in the end—even though they initially didn’t believe in him (Mk. 3:21; Jn. 7:5).

(13:58) And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.

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

Discussion Questions

The people travelled far and wide to hear Jesus teach: How do you think the people reacted when Jesus started teaching about simple things like farming and fishing?

How do Jesus’ teachings in this chapter compare to his teachings in the Sermon on the Mount? (Mt. 5-7)

Read verses 11-17. According to Jesus, why did he choose to communicate in parables? Why didn’t he speak more clearly? Is it wrong for God to communicate in an unclear fashion?

Matthew 14

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

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

(14:1) At that time Herod the tetrarch heard the news about Jesus.

“Herod the tetrarch” was also called “Herod Antipas,” and this is the only time Matthew mentions him. The term “tetrarch” comes from the roots tetra (“four”) and arche (“rule”). After the death of Herod the Great, the land was divided into four quadrants, and Herod oversaw just one. Thus Herod the “tetrarch” was a “minor local ruler,”[340] while his father Herod the Great was a “king” (Mt. 2:1).

Jesus referred to Herod Antipas as a “fox” (Lk. 13:31-32), likely because Herod put John the Baptist to death.

(14:2) And [Herod] said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist; he himself has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”

“John had risen from the dead…” Typically, historians and apologists argue that Jewish people didn’t believe in a singular resurrection before the end of history (e.g. Dan. 12:2). Why then was John thought to have risen from the dead? Since Elijah was a type of John the Baptist, the people probably thought that Elijah 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,[341] or perhaps that John was resuscitated—not truly given a resurrection body (1 Kin. 18:21-22; 2 Kin. 4:34-36).[342] Stein writes, “Possibly what is envisioned here is that the “spirit” of John the Baptist had passed on to Jesus in much the same way as Elijah’s spirit came to rest upon Elisha in 2 Kgs 2:1-15.”[343]

(14:3-4) For when Herod had John arrested, he bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. 4 For John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.”

John “had been saying” it was unlawful (imperfect tense), which implies a “continuing campaign.”[344] That is, John was repeatedly poking Herod in the eye with this message.

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

(14:5) Although Herod wanted to put him to death, he feared the crowd, because they regarded John as a prophet.

Herod likely arrested John the Baptist because he was afraid of a political uprising. The territory of Antipas included Perea, which bordered on the Nabatean Kingdom. Herod’s earlier wife (before Herodias) was a Nabatean (the daughter of Aretas IV of Nabatea). Thus John’s criticism of Herod’s remarriage to his sister-in-law (Herodias) could be interpreted as a political criticism, because Herod had thrown out his former Nabatean wife for his new wife.

Josephus records that Herod was afraid of John the Baptist’s large public ministry (Antiquities, 18.118), and Herod had John killed (Antiquities 18.116-119). F.F. Bruce writes, “Aretas [Herod’s former father-in-law] naturally resented the insult offered to his daughter [Herod’s ex-wife], 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 as a plotter; he was deposed from his tetrarchy and ended his days in exile.”[345]

(14:6-8) But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod, 7 so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. 8 And after being prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.”

Herodias had been Herod’s sister-in-law through his brother Philip. Mark records that she had a “grudge” against John the Baptist (Mk. 6:19), presumably because of John’s criticism of their marriage (v.4).

This scene is particularly disturbing because this female dancer (whom Josephus names “Salome”) was Herod’s step-daughter. She was only in her mid-teens, but probably of “marriageable age”[346] in this culture. Her mom (Herodias) used her as sexual bait, and her step-dad (Herod Antipas) took the bait. The offer of “up to half of my kingdom” is reminiscent of Xerxes (Esth. 5:3, 6). This was likely proverbial—not literal.

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

(14:9) And although he was grieved, the king commanded it to be given because of his oaths and his dinner guests.

Herod wasn’t grieved because he was such a good man. He was “grieved” because of the political implications (see verse 5). Herod was afraid of John the Baptist—or more accurately—he was afraid of John’s influence on the people. On the other hand, Herod’s feelings toward John should be nuanced: Mark records that Herod “kept him safe” because he “used to enjoy listening to him” (Mk. 6:20).

(14:10) He sent word and had John beheaded in the prison.

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

(14:11) And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother.

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

(14:12) John’s disciples came and took away the body and buried it; and they went and reported to Jesus.

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

Discussion Questions

John gave his life for speaking the truth. It might not always be worth speaking the truth—especially if it means decapitation! When would a situation be serious enough for us to speak the truth—no matter the consequences? What situations would not warrant speaking the truth—especially if it meant death?

Herod mistakenly thought that Jesus was John the Baptist risen from the dead. Why do you think led Herod to confuse Jesus with John the Baptist?

Conclusions

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

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

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

John records that this was during the time of the Passover (Jn. 6:4). This makes sense of Mark’s comment that the grass was green (Mk. 6:39). Throughout the year in this arid place, the green grass was usually scorched—dry and dead. But in this small sliver of time during the year (during Passover), the grass would grow. This is a case of interlocking in the gospels that shows the truthfulness of the accounts.

As the good shepherd (Mk. 6:34), Jesus has them recline on the grass to eat (Ps. 23:1-2).

(14:13) Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself; and when the people heard about this, they followed Him on foot from the cities.

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

Carson argues that verses 3-12 are an excursus, and what Jesus “heard” was “Herod’s response to his preaching and miracles,” and this is what caused him to decide to “withdraw.”[347] This would be similar to him withdrawing from the Pharisees (Mt. 12:15). Carson also argues that, otherwise, this would result in an anachronism, because John the Baptist’s death is presupposed already in verse 2.

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

(14:14) When He came ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick.

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

(14:15) Now when it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said, “This place is secluded and the hour is already past to eat; send the crowds away, so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.”

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

(14:16) But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go; you give them something to eat!”

In and of themselves, the disciples couldn’t meet the hunger of this mass of humanity. But with the power of Jesus behind them, they could meet their needs.

Why did Jesus specifically ask Philip where to buy bread? Originally, Jesus directed his question toward Philip (Jn. 6:5-6). Why Philip? Why not 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?’”[348] This is another case of interlocking in the gospels, where the authors confirm each other without intending to.

(14:17) They said to Him, “We have nothing here except five loaves and two fish.”

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 that this was “not a ‘loaf’ in the English sense, but a flat, round, pancake-like piece of bread, and small, pickled fish similar to a sardine.”[349] The person who offered this food was just a little kid (Jn. 6:9), yet he played an important role.

(14:18) And He said, “Bring them here to Me.”

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, and truly, we don’t! But Jesus can multiply what we have to meet people’s needs.

(14:19) And ordering the crowds to sit down on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looked up toward heaven. He blessed the food and breaking the loaves, He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.

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

Why did Jesus decide to have the disciple distribute the food? Jesus could’ve simply snapped his fingers, and the stomachs of all of these people would’ve been immediately full. However, he chose to work through human agency. 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) And they all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up what was left over of the broken pieces: twelve full baskets.

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

(14:21) There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children.

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 present!

John later records that this was a “sign” to show how God wanted to deliver spiritual life to people. Moreover, Jesus identified himself as 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 the masses of humanity.

Discussion Questions

Why did Jesus tell the disciples to feed the people, when he knew that they didn’t have the resources? Why did he do this rather than just performing the miracle?

What lessons was Jesus trying to teach his disciples through this miracle?

The feeding of the 5,000 is the only miracle that appears in all four Gospels (with the exception of the resurrection). Why did the disciples place such a heavy emphasis on this miracle? In what ways was this miracle special or unique among Jesus’ miracles?

Some commentators see a connection between this miracle and God feeding the people with manna during the Exodus. Do you agree? Consider this quote from Craig Blomberg: “Feeding the five thousand—providing bread for Israel in the wilderness—almost certainly was meant to call to people’s minds God’s supernatural feeding of the Israelites with manna in their wilderness wanderings in Moses’ day. Jewish tradition had come to believe that the Messiah would repeat this miracle of abundant provision of food on an even grander scale.”[350] How does John’s account fit into this discussion? (see John 6)

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

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

(14:22-23) Immediately afterward He compelled the disciples to get into the boat and to go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. 23 After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone.

The Greek term for “made” (anagkazō) is very strong, even implying “to compel” or “to force” (BDAG). The people were trying to force Jesus to be their King (Jn. 6:15), so this could explain why Jesus was forcing his disciples out of the area. Likely, Jesus wanted to get back to prayer and solitude (left off at v.13), he wanted rest (Mk. 6:31-32), and he wanted to avoid being foisted into a role as the King Messiah (Jn. 6:15).

Luke has the feeding of the 5,000 at Bethsaida (Lk. 9:10), but Mark says that they are leaving to go to Bethsaida. How do we explain this discrepancy? For one, Mark states that they were not in the city, but out in the country on the “green grass” (Mk. 6:39). Therefore, the feeding of the 5,000 wasn’t in the city of Bethsaida, but rather near the city on the countryside. Second, it could be that the disciples were moving toward Bethsaida and landed in Gennesaret (Mk. 6:53). R.T. France states that they were “driven off course by the contrary wind.”[351] Third, the words to Bethsaida” could simply be translated toward Bethsaida.” The word here is pros, which can be rendered as a “marker of movement or orientation toward someone/something” (BDAG).

(14:24) But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary.

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

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

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

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

“Battered by the waves…” Again, as in Matthew 8:29, Blomberg thinks that “there may be an occult element at work here.”[352] Again, he bases this on word association—namely, the word “battered” (basanizō) is used for “demonic hostility,” citing Matthew 8:6 and Revelation 9:5. For a thorough response to this view, see comments on Matthew 8:24 above. Suffice it to say, the disciples were “battered” or “tormented” by the waves because they had been serving thousands of people all day, and they were fighting a storm in the middle of the night (v.25). Being in such a situation would be truly tormenting.

(14:25-26) And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. 26 When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear.

The “fourth watch” was measured according to Roman time measurements—somewhere between 3 to 6 am.[353] Thus it would’ve been dark and hard to see. Imagine how scary it would be to see a man walking toward you on the water… This has all of the makings of a good horror movie! The disciples were justifiably terrified.

Jesus had “intended to pass by them” according to Mark (Mk. 6:48). This doesn’t mean that Jesus was just going to take a stroll across the lake, and happened to bump into the disciples (!). The verse itself states that Jesus “came to them.” Instead, it means that he had the intention of them seeing him on the sea. It could be that this was meant to be a theophany—just like with Moses (Ex. 33:19, 22) or Elijah (1 Kin. 19:11). The expression “pass them by” was common language for a theophany in the Septuagint.[354] For instance, we find this language in Job (Job 9:8, 11).

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

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

To repeat, “pass them by” is the language of a theophany. Lemke comments, “Jesus’ desire to pass by His disciples, therefore, does not indicate that He wanted to go beyond them to reach another location but rather that He wanted to reveal His glory to them.”[355]

(14:27) But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Jesus didn’t want to scare them. He “immediately” spoke to them, telling them who he was. Jesus tells them not to be afraid. This command is not based on the feeling of Jesus’ presence, but on the knowledge of Jesus’ actual presence with them (cf. Heb. 13:5).

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

Some commentators don’t see a reference to Jesus’ deity here,[356] while others do.[357] Carson[358] understands this language to take on greater divine meaning after the resurrection and ascension, and France sees it as “an echo of the divine name.”[359] Hagner writes, “In a theophany-like context such as this, the words allude to the definition of the name Yahweh.”[360]

We contend that this is a reference to Jesus’ deity for several reasons. For one, the “I” is emphatic, showing that this was meant to communicate something important. Second, the command not to fear fits with Isaiah’s revelation of God. He writes, “I am the LORD your God, who upholds your right hand, who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you’” (Isa. 41:13). Third, the language up to this point fits with a theophany, where Jesus intended to “pass by them” (see comments on verse 48). Turner writes, “In walking on the water and delivering the disciples from the storm, Jesus exercises divine attributes and accomplishes feats that are the prerogative of God alone.”[361]

Peter takes a turn

(14:28) Peter responded and said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”

We have to admire Peter’s faith and courage. The other gospels all omit this part about Peter walking on water. Carson asks, “What is more natural than for a fisherman who knew and respected the dangers of Galilee to want to follow Jesus in this new demonstration of supernatural power?”[362]

(14:29) And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water, and came toward Jesus.

Peter didn’t just pray and then jump into the water. He waited for Jesus’ command (“Come!”), knowing that Jesus could empower others to do the miraculous. Peter had enough faith to get out of the boat and walk on the water. They were several miles from shore (Jn. 6:19), so he also risked sinking, drowning, or simply looking foolish.

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

(14:30) But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and when he began to sink, he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!”

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

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

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

(14:31) Immediately Jesus reached out with His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Like a dad teaching his child to swim, Jesus “immediately” grabbed Peter’s hand and lifted him out of the water. After this, they climbed into the boat. Jesus claims that Peter sank because he doubted. In this context, doubt relates to focusing on fear, rather than faith.

Thus Peter is both a mixture of both success and failure. He had more faith than the other eleven in the comfort of the boat. But Jesus doesn’t compare their faith with his. He addresses Peter on his own terms. Moreover, Peter wasn’t punished for trying, because he was still saved.[363]

(14:32) When they got into the boat, the wind stopped.

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

(14:33) And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are truly God’s Son!”

Remember, Jesus said that “God alone” should be worshipped (Mt. 4:10). Here he accepts the disciples’ worship. This further adds to the case that Jesus was making a claim to deity.

This appears to contradict Mark’s account, where we read, “They were utterly astonished (existēmi). For they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened” (Mk. 6:51-52). However, this term “astonished” (existēmi) simply means to be “confused” (BDAG) or even “amazed with joyful worship” (Lev. 9:24 LXX; Lk. 5:26).[364] Carson points out that the reaction of the disciples is “always with a mixture of misapprehension.”[365] Moreover, they probably called Jesus the “Son of God” with “superficial comprehension”[366] at this point. For instance, Peter confesses that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt. 16:16), yet a few verses later, Jesus calls him “Satan” for rebuking Jesus for choosing to die in Jerusalem (Mt. 16:21-23).

The disciples had “hardened hearts” in Mark 6:52, but this likely refers to the fact that they would be amazed at Jesus doing a miracle—even calming a storm (Mk. 4:35-41). Moreover, both gospels depict the disciples as unbelieving and fearful (Mt. 14:26-27; Mk. 6:52). And finally, if Matthew describes Peter as a man of “little faith,” then what would this imply about the other disciples?[367]

What do we learn from this passage?

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

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

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

Our mindset will make us or break us. Peter accomplished the supernatural as long as he kept focused on Jesus. Peter didn’t have the power in himself to walk on water, but he succeeded in doing this under one condition: He needed to focus on Christ, rather than the imminent threats around him.

The same is true for us. The author of Hebrews writes, “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:1-2 NIV). What does it mean to “fix our eyes on Jesus”? This must refer to our mindset, and how we think about him during times of perseverance, pain, and suffering.

Some followers of Jesus start off focused. They feel unstoppable, and truly they are! They have the infinite-personal God guiding and empowering them! Yet over time, the imminent pressures and dangers of life begin to dominate their thinking, distracting them and causing their thoughts to drift. Finances, work, relationships, unsatisfied desires, physical pain—all of these lead to a mental drift and a loss of felt-choice. That is, they feel powerless and helpless from thinking about anything else. Sadly, how they feel becomes what is real. If only they pulled their mind away from their feelings, they could come into contact with the living God!

We can’t control our circumstances, but we can control our mindset. It’s one of the cruelest lies in circulation today to believe that we are powerless and helpless with what we think. This is one of the few things over which we actually have control! Jesus held Peter accountable for what he chose to focus on: “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Mt. 14:31) The same is true with us. At times, our situation is so dire that we have a felt-loss of freedom. That is, we feel like we can’t help but contemplate, ruminate, and meditate on our circumstances. Yet the “wind and waves” will always be there. The question is, “Will you choose to allow these to dominate and distract your mindset?”

Is it “denial” to look away from these threats? No, it isn’t denial to look to Christ during times of anguish and suffering; instead, it’s delusional to focus on anything else! Truly, it’s destructive to continue to ruminate on something over which we have no control.

Did Peter fail? Yes and no. Jesus did ask Peter why he doubted. But since Peter was under grace, he truly couldn’t fail. While Peter took his eyes off of Jesus, Jesus never took his eyes off of Peter. When we’re under grace, we have the security to pursue new aspirations, take risks, and even fall flat on our faces! Why? Because our core needs are met: we’re secure, we’re loved, we’re safe. So, why not step out and give something new a try?

Peter didn’t fail. But do you know who did fail? The eleven guys sitting safely in the boat! Many Christians are just like these eleven disciples. They are good and nice people. They never take any risks and never have any aspirations. But they also never make any impact for the cause of Christ.

Why should I get out of the boat?

Because we can’t fail! Since we’re under grace, there’s nothing to worry about. We can enter any adventure with the question, “What’s the worst thing that can happen? Oh no, I might fail and still be forgiven!” The pressure is off.

Because complacency causes spiritual comas! We start to feel spiritually sleepy, then apathetic, and finally, our relationship with God feels like it’s on life support. Following Christ will give us battle scars, but seeking comfort will give us bed sores!

Because that’s where Jesus is. The idea of security apart from God is an illusion. It is always safer to be in the storm with Jesus, than to be in the boat without him.

Gennesaret

(14:34-36) When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place recognized Him, they sent word into all that surrounding region and brought to Him all who were sick; 36 and they pleaded with Him that they might just touch the border of His cloak; and all who touched it were cured.

Gennesaret was a region on the “western shore south of Capernaum,”[368] and Josephus describes it as a fertile area (Wars of the Jews 3.516-521). They must have heard about the hemorrhaging woman in Matthew 9:20, and this is why so many flocked to him.

Discussion Questions

Do you think Peter was a failure for what he did? Do you think he regrets stepping out of the boat?

How would you respond to the thought in your mind, “You really shouldn’t take that risk… The last time you took a risk, you failed and were embarrassed. Let’s face it: You’re probably going to fail again.”

Matthew 15

Matthew 15:1-20 (Scripture over religious tradition)

[The parallel accounts are found in Mark 7:1-23 and John 7:1.]

(15:1) Then some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem.

The religious leaders travelled all the way from Jerusalem to bring this accusation against Jesus in Gennesaret (Mt. 14:34). Jesus was no longer dealing with the local rabbis or Pharisees, but the big guns from Jerusalem. These were the scholars and leaders of his day. How would he do against men of such prestige and education?

(15:2) [They said,] “Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”

Only the priests needed to wash themselves before their duties in the Temple (Exod. 30:17-21; Lev. 15:11; Deut. 21:1-9). Jesus’ disciples didn’t wash their hands, because he himself didn’t wash his hands (Lk. 11:38). 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 other “sinners.” Thus the washing of the hands was not for hygienic purposes, but specifically for religious purification. The Mishnah had an entire tractate (or section) devoted to this subject, which was called Yadim (“Hands”). Needless to say, this was a major staple of rabbinical Judaism, which was similar to an earlier attack (Mt. 9:14).

(15:3-4) And He answered and said to them, “Why do you yourselves also break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘The one who speaks evil of father or mother is to be put to death.’”

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. This even included the part about the death penalty (“…is to be put to death”).

(15:5) “But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever I have that would help you has been given to God.”

In Greek, the “you” is emphatic. It is as if Jesus is saying, “God gave the Ten Commandments, but YOU say…” He is emphasizing that they are arrogating authority to themselves over God’s word.

Mark records that this practice of what was “given to God” was called “Corban” (Mk. 7:11). A whole tractate (or section) of the Mishnah was devoted to this (Nedarim, specifically m. Nedarim 1:2-4; 9:7). This was the practice of giving an oath to dedicate liquid assets to God and the Temple. However, the individual never gave the money. They only dedicated it until they died, and then the money “could still be used for one’s own benefit while one was still alive.”[369] It would “not mean that one could use the goods or money in question but that he could withhold it from his parents.”[370] So, it effectively kept the money from going to the Temple, and kept it from providing aid to help aged parents. This was a legal loophole invented to break the fifth commandment. In other words, the religious leaders were charging Jesus with breaking the rabbinical laws, but Jesus charged them with breaking biblical laws.

(15:6) ‘He is not to honor his father or mother.’ And by this you have invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition.

According to Jesus, it is wrong to break Scripture by appealing to human tradition. Ironically, the “laws designed to build a fence around the Torah are actually undermining it.”[371]

(15:7-9) You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy about you, by saying: 8 ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. 9 And in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”

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.

(15:10-11) After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them, “Hear and understand! 11 It is not what enters the mouth that defiles the person, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles the person.”

Rabbinical Judaism had this completely backward. They were more concerned with external traditions, rather than the problems of the heart. In the parallel passage, Mark explains the implicit and yet radical message of Jesus from verse 11. He writes, “Thus He declared all foods clean” (Mk. 7:19b).

(15:12-14) Then the disciples came and said to Him, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?” 13 But He answered and said, “Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant will be uprooted. 14 Leave them alone; they are blind guides of blind people. And if a person who is blind guides another who is blind, both will fall into a pit.”

Matthew adds this material that is not found in Mark. The Pharisees were the most popular Bible teachers in Israel at the time according to Josephus (Jewish War, 1.110-12; Antiquities, 13.399-404). Hence, the disciples are fearful of offending them.

Jesus, however, believed that God’s truth was far too precious to allow it to be trampled on by these religious leaders (v.12). Jesus combines God’s active and passive wrath here. Israel was described as a “plant” (Isa. 60:21; 61:3). God will actively “uproot” these religious leaders in the future, but currently, he is passively “leaving them alone.” The problem with the religious leaders is that they thought they could see (Rom. 2:19; Mt. 23:16, 24). Jesus told the Pharisees, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains” (Jn. 9:41).

(15:15) Peter said to Him, “Explain the parable to us.”

Even Peter didn’t understand what Jesus meant. The “parable” refers to verse 11.[372]

(15:16) Jesus said, “Are you also still lacking in understanding?”

Jesus seems disappointed in Peter’s ability to grasp what he was saying.

(15:17) Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated?

God isn’t concerned with external purity laws like ceremonial washings. After all, biologically, we cannot transmit sin through what we eat! Food passes through the body “into the latrine” (see NASB footnote). Mark adds the parenthetical note: “Thus [Jesus] declared all foods clean” (Mk. 7:19).

(15:18-19) But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and those things defile the person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, acts of adultery, other immoral sexual acts, thefts, false testimonies, and slanderous statements.

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) “These are the things that defile the person; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the person.”

Jesus isn’t saying that one is more important than the other. He’s saying that one is moral, and the other is amoral. One is meaningful, while the other is meaningless.

Matthew 15:21-28 (Healing a Canaanite child)

[The parallel passage is found in Mark 7:24-30.]

(15:21) Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the region of Tyre and Sidon.

The setting for this account is in Tyre and Sidon (modern day Lebanon and Syria). This would be 50 miles to the north. Earlier, people from these regions had come out to receive healing from Jesus (Mk. 3:8; Lk. 6:17). Now, Jesus was entering these pagan cities, and he must’ve already had a positive reputation as a healer. If you recall, earlier Jesus had commented on these cities saying, “Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you” (Mt. 11:22). How will Jesus respond to these people now?

(15:22) And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely demon-possessed.”

Though most translations don’t capture this, the opening word here is “behold” (idou). In a sense, Matthew is saying, “Wow, a Canaanite was there… And she was a girl!” The use of this word most likely points to “the extraordinary nature of the story.”[373]

(15:23-25) But He did not answer her with even a word. And His disciples came up and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us!” 24 But He answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”

 “But He did not answer her with even a word…” Jesus normally responded right away to needs, but here his silence is “deliberate and dramatic.”[374]

“Send her away…” The disciples don’t care about the needs of the people (Mt. 14:15; 15:32-33), specifically a marginalized Canaanite woman like this.

“Bowed down” (proskuneō) is the same term used for worship.

(15:26) Yet He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”

The point of the illustration is to show the “precedence” of who should be fed “first.”[375] Salvation was from the Jews (Jn. 4:22), and so it was first for the Jews (Rom. 1:16-17). While Jesus’ statements have been taken as “condescending,” another interpretation is that Jesus was intending to “stretch this woman’s faith.”[376]

(15:27-28) And she said, “Yes, Lord; but please help, for even the dogs feed on the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” 28 Then Jesus said to her, “O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed at once.

“O woman” has “emotional force.”[377] It shows that he cared for this woman. Moreover, just in case we think that Jesus was cruel to Gentiles, the next section shows Jesus feeding 4,000 Gentiles. Carson understands that this is Gentile territory for three reasons: “(1) The clause ‘they praised the God of Israel’ (v. 31) could be naturally said only by Gentiles; (2) the remoteness of the place (v. 33) suggests the eastern side of the lake; and (3) the number of ‘basketfuls of broken pieces’ (v. 37) left over avoids the symbolic ‘twelve’ (cf. 14:20).”[378]

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

Matthew 15:29-39 (Feeding of the 4,000)

[The parallel account is found in Mark 7:31-8:9.]

Why does Matthew include another miracle account of feeding thousands of people? First, Mark also includes this miracle, so this isn’t unique to Matthew. Both found it important to record. Second, if this was done in Gentile territory, this would show that Jesus was caring for the Gentiles, which would fit the context of healing the Canaanite woman’s daughter. Third, other miracles—such as healing the blind, deaf, handicapped, demon-possessed—are also repeated. Fourth, Matthew likely wants to show that the disciples lack faith and are slow to understand the power and compassion of Jesus (cf. Mt. 16:8).[379]

Is this miracle accidentally repeated? Critics charge that this is an accidental doublet that Matthew added. That is, Matthew got his miracle stories confused, and so he added this one twice. However, Jesus refers to both miracles side-by-side (Mt. 16:9-10). Thus, the critical view that this is an accidental doublet is rendered false.

(15:29-31) Departing from there, Jesus went along the Sea of Galilee, and after going up on the mountain, He was sitting there. 30 And large crowds came to Him bringing with them those who were limping, had impaired limbs, were blind, or were unable to speak, and many others, and they laid them down at His feet; and He healed them. 31 So the crowd was astonished as they saw those who were unable to speak talking, those with impaired limbs restored, those who were limping walking around, and those who were blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.

Jesus was attracting massive crowds due to his healing ministry. Mark adds that Jesus healed a deaf and mute man during this time (Mk. 7:31-37). While the feeding of the 5,000 was likely meant to resemble God’s manna-provision for the people in the Wilderness, Blomberg writes that “it is better to see Jesus as deliberately repeating for Gentiles what he previously offered to Jews.”[380]

(15:32) Now Jesus called His disciples to Him and said, “I feel compassion for the people, because they have remained with Me now for three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.”

The crowds had travelled with their sick all the way up this mountain, and Jesus wanted to meet their needs.

(15:33-39) The disciples said to Him, “Where would we get so many loaves in this desolate place to satisfy such a large crowd?” 34 And Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” And they said, “Seven, and a few small fish.35 And He directed the people to sit down on the ground; 36 and He took the seven loaves and the fish; and after giving thanks, He broke them and started giving them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 37 And they all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, seven large baskets full. 38 And those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. 39 And sending away the crowds, Jesus got into the boat and came to the region of Magadan.

This is very similar to the feeding of the 5,000 in chapter 14. The main differences are that here were only 4,000 men (rather than 5,000 men), and they only had seven baskets left over (rather than twelve baskets). This shows that Jesus would perform similar miracles more than once. Sometimes, when we attempt to solve Bible difficulties, we might posit two separate miracles, rather than just one. This isn’t an ad hoc hypothesis, because even the same author records similar miracles like this.

Discussion Questions

Read verses 2-9. Jesus taught that religious people are more inclined to focus on external rituals, rather than the internal condition of the heart. Why are human beings drawn to external rituals like this? Why do you think people would prefer approaching God through rituals? Why would this be appealing to them?

Read verse 9. Is Jesus saying that all traditions are wrong? According to this passage, is it wrong to celebrate holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, etc.?

Read verses 17-19. Does Jesus mean that our external actions are irrelevant, and it’s only the heart that counts? If not, what does he mean?

What would you tell a friend if they said that they feel closer to God by coming to him through rituals?

Do you think that it’s possible for a bible-believing Christian to fall into ritualism? In what ways?

Matthew 16

Matthew 16:1-12 (Beware of legalistic teaching)

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

(16:1) The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and putting Jesus to the test, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven.

Jesus withdrew from the religious leaders in Matthew 15:21. Here, he returns to find them asking for signs—as if they hadn’t already seen enough! Truly, this is disingenuous because Jesus had been showing many signs (cf. 1 Cor. 1:22), and this is now the fourth time they had asked for a sign (Mt. 12:38; Jn. 2:12; 6:30). While the Pharisees and the Sadducees normally despised one another (cf. Acts 23:6-10), it seems that the “enemy of my enemy is my friend.” They had formed an “unholy alliance”[381] against Jesus.

(16:2-3) But He replied to them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ 3 And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but are you unable to discern the signs of the times?”

France[382] thinks that these two verses were not in the original autograph, but instead, they were likely lifted from Luke 12:54-56. Others like Carson[383] and Blomberg[384] think these were in the original autograph, but were dropped in Alexandria because a “red sky” in the morning doesn’t foretell rain in Egypt. Incidentally, this is the only place in the NT where we have the expression “the signs of the times.”

What is this expression that Jesus uses (vv.2-3)? When the clouds are moving to the East, the sun tints them red in the West, which implies that a storm is coming. Likewise, when clouds are moving to the West, the sun tints them red in the East. This was a primitive way to forecast the weather for the day. In more recent times, sailors have a rhyme that states, “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning.” This captures what Jesus was getting at—namely, sailors could understand that storms were coming based on observing the weather. The problem is, they refused to do this with regard to God’s coming plans. It isn’t that they were ignorant; it’s that they didn’t want to see it. Therefore, he won’t give them anymore evidence—except for the resurrection itself (v.4).

(16:4) “An evil and adulterous generation wants a sign; and so a sign will not be given to it, except the sign of Jonah.” And He left them and went away.

This is a similar response to what Jesus said in Matthew 12:38-41, though he doesn’t explain that the sign of Jonah relates to his death and resurrection here. Some think that this contradicts Mark 8:12 (“No sign will be given to this generation”). However, these hardened religious leaders “would not have recognized Jonah as the kind of sign they were after.”[385]

(16:5-7) And the disciples came to the other side of the sea, but they had forgotten to bring any bread. 6 And Jesus said to them, “Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 7 They began to discuss this among themselves, saying, “He said that because we did not bring any bread.”

“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees…” These two Jewish sects were completely different from one another—one affirmed the supernatural and the entirety of the Scriptures (i.e. the Pharisees), while the other denied the supernatural and only affirmed the Torah (i.e. the Sadducees). However, they were both treacherous to true spirituality. Blomberg comments, “Hyperconservatism and hyperliberalism in contemporary religion and politics also share the common features of dogmatism and judgmentalism and remain an insidious threat to the true church of Jesus Christ.”[386]

The disciples’ lack of food gave Jesus a teaching opportunity. The disciples thought their problem was their lack of bread, but Jesus tells them that their real problem was the Pharisees. The metaphor of “yeast” surely refers to the fact that their teaching can spread quickly, silently, and broadly.

(16:8-10) But Jesus, aware of this, said, “You men of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? 9 Do you not yet understand nor remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets you picked up? 10 Nor the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many large baskets you picked up?”

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) “How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you about bread? But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

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 own lives. As believers, we are not immune to this, and we need to beware of legalism spreading silently in our own lives.

(16:12) Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

By simply repeating what he said, the disciples finally understood his meaning!

Matthew 16:13-23 (Who is Jesus? Peter’s confession of the Christ)

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

(16:13) Now when Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

Caesarea Philippi was 25 miles north of Bethsaida (Mk. 8:22), and it was in the heart of Herod Philip’s rule. Augustus gave this region to Herod the Great (the man who tried to kill the infant Jesus in Matthew 2). Herod the Great built a “temple in honor of the emperor near a grotto consecrated to the Greek god Pan.”[387] Herod also rebuilt the village of Paneas and renamed it after Caesar. Caesarea Philippi “was as pagan a territory as one could find,” and the people here worshipped “the Greek God Pan.”[388] Josephus speaks of this territory numerous times (Antiquities 15.363-64; Jewish War 1.404-6; 2.168; 3.509-15)

Thus Jesus was moving directly into Pagan territory to identify himself as the Son of God. This would be like Frodo walking into Mount Doom to identify that he is going to destroy the Ring. Jesus was moving directly into Pagan territory, where it would be common to hold that “Caesar is Lord.” Yet this is the same exact place where Jesus would reveal that He is Lord!

Luke tells us that Jesus was in prayer by himself before he asked them this question (Lk. 9:18). It isn’t that Jesus was an amnesiac (!), but rather, he was asking this question to get them thinking. 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, Jesus wants them to see that he is in fact the Messiah.

Why so much evidence? Couldn’t one miracle have been enough to demonstrate that Jesus was the Messiah? Not likely. After all, we’ve been seeing that the disciples were slow to understand the ramifications of Jesus’ miracles. Moreover, Jesus is about to drop a theological bomb on the disciples: the Messiah will be crucified! (v.21) In Jewish thinking, this was a remarkable and unforeseen turn of events in God’s plan, and Jesus wanted to provide as much evidence for his identity as possible before he revealed this to them.

Only Matthew includes the expression “Son of Man” which fits the criterion of dissimilarity, and Jesus’ use of “Simon Barjona” fits with the criterion of Aramaisms. These two criteria boost this historical account.

(16:14) And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets.”

Why was Jesus compared to John the Baptist? This was likely because both preached repentance, the kingdom of God, and God’s judgment. Moreover, both had a large following. Furthermore, since they were related, perhaps they even looked alike (?).

Why was Jesus compared to Elijah? Since John the Baptist was compared to Elijah, this probably wasn’t a stretch. This could be an example of the transitive property (If A = B, and B = C, then A = C).

Why was Jesus compared to Jeremiah? Some of these similarities occur later in Jesus’ life. However, consider the massive amount of similarities between Jeremiah and Jesus. For instance, both served just before the fall of Jerusalem and the Temple. Both spoke to the world (Jer. 1:10; 36:2; Mt. 28:18-20). Both condemned the hypocritical Temple practice (Jer. 7:11; Mt. 21:13). Both were unjustly accused and called to be executed for sedition and treachery against Israel (Jer. 26:11; Mt. 26; 1 Pet. 3:18). Both submitted to the false accusations of the religious leadership (Jer. 26:14; Mt. 26:57-58). Both predicted that the treachery of the leadership would fall on the nation (Jer. 26:15; Lk. 19:44; Mt. 27:25). Both foretold the destruction of the Temple (Jer. 7:14; Mt. 24:1-2). Both wept over Jerusalem (Jer. 9:1; Lk. 19:41). Both were rejected by their families (Jer. 12:6; Mt. 13:57).

(16:15) He said to them, “But who do you yourselves say that I am?”

Jesus wasn’t satisfied with merely being called a good teacher or a good prophet. He wanted his disciples to see that he was far greater than these titles. Incidentally, this idea still confronts the modern reader, when he claims that Jesus was merely a “good moral teacher.” In Greek, the “you” is plural. Thus, Jesus was asking all of the disciples to answer this question. Furthermore, Jesus is still asking this question to modern men and women today!

(16:16) Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Peter gets the answer right on the first try. We wonder if Peter felt proud of this fact. Peter uses this language to identify Jesus, but later, the high priest uses similar language to indict Jesus during his trial (Mt. 26:63).

(16:17) And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”

“Barjona” means “son of Jonah.” This fits the criterion of Aramaisms.

What does it mean that God the Father needed to reveal this to Peter? Peter had special revelation from God that not everyone else had. This fits with Jesus’ thought in Matthew 11:27, where Jesus said, “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”

(16:18) And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.

Once Jesus made this statement, there is zero chance that his Church would fail. While the Church has seen setbacks over the last two millennia, we see this living promise being fulfilled today in the lives of hundreds of millions of believers across the Planet Earth. This is a good passage for us to remember when we are feeling discouraged about serving Christ: He will build His Church!

(Mt. 16:18) Did Jesus give papal authority to Peter?

(16:19) “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”

(Mt. 16:19) What does binding and loosing mean?

“Bind… loose…” Jesus uses the extremely rare “future perfect periphrastic verbal constructions.” This is where he uses the “future indicative of eimi with the perfect passive participle.”[389] It can be translated as “will have already been bound” and “will have already been loosed.” Turner comments, “The implication is that heaven’s prior decisions are ratified on earth by the apostles.”[390]

Later rabbis used this language “for the interpretation of Torah and for decision making more generally.”[391] However, this is retroactively using later sources to determine the meaning of this first-century expression. Based on Isaiah 22:22, Blomberg takes this to refer to “Christians’ making entrance to God’s kingdom available or unavailable to people through their witness, preaching, and ministry.”[392] This would include “forgiveness” through evangelism (Jn. 20:23) and “knowledge” (Lk. 11:52). In other words, by spreading the Christian faith, these men were “binding” and “loosing.”

(16:20) Then He gave the disciples strict orders that they were to tell no one that He was the Christ.

Again, Jesus was trying to keep his identity secret.

(16:21) From that time Jesus began to point out to His disciples that it was necessary for Him to go to Jerusalem and to suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and to be killed, and to be raised up on the third day.

After revealing that he was the Messiah, Jesus started to talk about the Cross “from that time” forward. This “marks a major turning point in Matthew,”[393] where Jesus reveals his mission clearly. Again, Jesus was going to be brutally killed, and he wanted them to have firm evidence of his identity.

(16:22) And yet Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You!”

Peter did such a good job identifying Jesus (v.16) that now he takes a shot at correcting Jesus (!!). This is never a good idea! Peter thought that the Messiah was coming to judge the wicked Romans—not to be judged himself. France comments, “Peter cannot grasp that such a ‘disaster’ could be God’s purpose.”[394]

(16:23) But [Jesus] turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s purposes, but men’s.”

Peter’s earlier statement was inspired by God (v.17), but this one was inspired by Satan! 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 that he was speaking from Satan’s perspective (cf. Mt. 4:8-9).[395] That is, his “mind-set” became “momentarily satanic.”[396] Instead of focusing on God’s plan, Peter was driving his own (finite and limited) plan.

Jesus did not say, “Get behind Me, Peter.” Tim Keller comments that when we get the doctrine of the Cross wrong, we get everything wrong. We begin to teach the doctrine of demons (1 Tim. 4:1-2).

Matthew 16:24-28 (The Way of the Cross)

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

(16:24) Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.”

Mark tells us that the crowds were present for this (Mk. 8:34). This makes sense of Jesus’ language: “If anyone…”

Why does Jesus’ teaching on self-sacrifice follow his teaching on his mission? What is the connection? The One who commands us to take up our cross and lose our lives, was the same One who took up his Cross and lost his life.

Jesus goes from praising Peter to rebuking him on a dime. Peter doesn’t want this to happen to Jesus, because he is self-serving and wants to be a ruler alongside Jesus—the ultimate Ruler. This fits perfectly with the context, where Jesus tells Peter that he needs to take the lower seat (vv.24-25).

(16:25) “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”

This was Jesus’ most repeated teaching in the four gospels. This “riddle” appears in all four gospels at least once (Mt. 16:25; Mk. 8:35; Lk. 9:24; Jn. 12:25), in Matthew twice (Mt. 10:39; 16:25) and Luke twice (Lk. 9:24; 17:33). Mark adds “for My sake and the gospel’s” (Mk. 8:35).

Some commentators think that this refers to eternal life (e.g. Carson[397] and Blomberg[398]). The idea is that the person will try to save their life during times of persecution, but this will result in apostasy and damnation. However, the parallelism doesn’t fit this reading. If “life” (psychēn) refers to one’s physical life in the first usage, then it needs to refer to one’s physical life in the second usage. In other words, we cannot hold that this refers to avoiding martyrdom in the first usage, but then refers to going to hell in the second. Furthermore, the same term is used in verse 26 to refer to one’s “life” or “soul” (psychēn), though translators inconsistently render verse 25 as “life” and verse 26 as “soul.”

We hold that “life” generally simply refers to one’s time, talent, and treasure. If we try to hoard our lives selfishly, we end up losing them. But a life of self-sacrificial love results in gaining true life (Jn. 10:10).

(16:26-27) For what good will it do a person if he gains the whole world, but forfeits his soul? Or what will a person give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every person according to his deeds.

Why should we lose our lives for others? Jesus gives us two reasons: First, we can’t keep our status or power on Earth anyways (v.26). Secondly, God will richly reward us based on our sacrificial love toward others (v.27). Mark adds, “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” (Mk. 8:38; cf. Lk. 9:26). Matthew cites from Psalm 62:12 to show how Yahweh will repay each individual.

(16:28) Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.

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

Discussion Questions

Read verses 1-12. The Pharisees, Sadducees, and even Jesus’ disciples seem to be suffering from short-term memory loss! They all keep forgetting his miracles. We can also forget what God has done in our lives. What are some helpful ways to remember what God has done for us?

Read verses 13-23. Is there any significance to the fact that Peter is the first disciple to properly identify who Jesus is?

Read verse 25. Some interpreters believe that this refers to martyrdom. Do you agree? Or is Jesus referring to something else?

Read verses 24-28. Some interpreters believe that we need to do all of these commands in order to prove that we are true Christians. Is Jesus speaking about justification by faith? Or something else? Defend your viewpoint.

We heard a young man boast that he was willing to die for Christ. An older believer responded, “If you are willing to die for Christ, why aren’t you willing to live for him on a daily basis?” If someone was beginning to start building their relationship with Jesus, what would be some small steps for them to take? What tools do you think they’d need to set themselves up for success?

Matthew 17

Matthew 17:1-8 (The Transfiguration)

[The parallel passages are found in Mark 9:2-8 and Luke 9:28-36.]

(17:1) Six days later, Jesus took with Him Peter and James, and his brother John, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves.

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 during this time. Others think that this was Mount Hermon[399] or Mount Meron.[400] The importance isn’t the mountain, but what happened on the mountain—namely, the transformation and 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—not the specific location.

Was it “six days” or “eight days”? Matthew and Mark both record that “six days” passed (Mt. 17:1; Mk. 9:2), but Luke records that it was “eight days” (Lk. 9:28). How do we resolve this? For one, Luke writes that is was “some eight days after these sayings,” which may imply a general time period. Second, the reference to “eight days” is “based on a Greek way of speaking and means ‘about a week later.’”[401] Third, the trek up the mountain could’ve taken an extra two days, and Luke may be including these extra two days of travel.

Why do Matthew and Mark emphasize six days? This likely reflects Moses’ mountaintop experience with God (Ex. 24:15-18), which we will explore more below. Whereas, Luke may have emphasized historical accuracy for the entire trip, including the travel.

(17:2) And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light.

Just like movies have previews, this is a little sneak peek of Jesus’ true nature. The Greek term for “transfigured” (metamorphoō) which is the root for our modern term “metamorphosis.” Mark adds that his clothes were white “as no launderer on earth can whiten them” (Mk. 9:3). He sounds like he is advertising for an OxiClean infomercial! Luke adds that Jesus was in prayer when the Transfiguration took place.

While Moses reflected God’s glory in his face (Ex. 34:29-30), Jesus generated God’s glory. The term “transfigured” (metamorphoō) suggests “a change of inmost nature that may be outwardly visible.”[402]

(17:3) And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.

Why do Moses and Elijah appear to talk with Jesus? Some commentators point out that Moses and Elijah were chosen because they represent the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah). Others see that Moses represented the condemnation of the Law, while Elijah represented the restoration of all things (Mal. 3:1ff; 4:5ff). These explanations make a certain amount of sense, but we don’t think they go far enough. Instead, we hold that Moses and Elijah were chosen because this scene was meant to be a theophany (or an “appearance of God”). Both Moses (Ex. 33:19, 22) and Elijah (1 Kin. 19:11) had experiences of God, where he revealed himself on a mountain just like this.

Luke adds that Moses and Elijah were speaking to Jesus about his “departure” (exodus) from Jerusalem (Lk. 9:31).

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 awoke to this overwhelming light being generated by Jesus himself.

(17:4) Peter responded and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If You want, I will make three tabernacles here: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

Like a lot of people having a “mountain top” experience, Peter didn’t want to leave. He wanted to stay forever—held tightly by 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 must have been on sensory overload! Just as Peter is talking about giving three equal tabernacles to each person, God the Father interrupts Peter’s blabbering to say, “Listen to [Jesus]!” In other words, these are not three equals! Jesus is the final revelation of God—as God incarnate.

(17:5) While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice from the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him!”

“A bright cloud overshadowed them.” Only Matthew mentions that the cloud was “bright,” which is “reminiscent of the shekinah glory.”[403] Indeed, in the OT, God usually revealed himself in the form of a cloud (Ex. 24:15-18; 40:34-38). Luke records that they “entered the cloud” (Lk. 9:34), which 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. Indeed it was Moses who predicted a future prophet to whom the people should listen (Deut. 18:15).

(17:6) When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground and were terrified.

Why did they react in fear and terror? Postmodern people often have a conception of God that reflects Hallmark greeting cards or Lifetime television shows: God is warm, cozy, and fuzzy like a teddy bear or like a warm quilted blanket. Yet most people in world religions don’t perceive God this way.

Scholars of world religions observe that people across the world have a “frightening and irrational experience” when they come into contact with the divine.[404] They call this the “mysterium tremendum et fascinans.”

  • Mysterium refers to “wholly other.”
  • Tremendum refers to “awfulness, terror, awe.”
  • Fascinans refers to “attractiveness in spite of fear.”

To most people, God isn’t comfortable and cozy, but terrifying and attractive all at once. The worshipper “finds the feeling of terror before the sacred, before the awe-inspiring mystery (mysterium tremendum)… that emanates an overwhelming superiority of power. The numinous [i.e. God] presents itself as something ‘wholly other,’ something basically and totally different. It is like nothing human or cosmic. Confronted with it, man senses his profound nothingness, feels that he is only a creature.”[405]

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 himself? You’re intrigued and attracted, but you also sense your own 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?[406]

(17:7) And Jesus came to them and touched them and said, “Get up, and do not be afraid.

God came into the world to direct these disciples to Jesus. In Matthew’s account, we read that Jesus came up and “touched” them, and he told them not to be afraid (Mt. 17:7). While God’s transcendence is scary (as we mentioned above), Jesus bridges this gap for us, so we can come into the presence of God. The mysterium tremendum placed his hand on the disciples, and told them that there is no reason to be scared: the safest place in the world is to be in the presence of power and love like this!

This might be why John later wrote, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear” (1 Jn. 4:18). Perhaps C.S. Lewis got it right, when one of his characters in the land of Narnia asked if Aslan (Jesus) was safe—to which one of the Narnians replied, “Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King.”

(17:8) And raising their eyes, they saw no one except Jesus Himself alone.

Just in case they didn’t know who God the Father was talking about, everyone was gone except Jesus. This reminds us of when Commissioner Gordon is talking to Batman in front of the bat signal, and when he turns around and… Poof! Batman is gone!

Conclusion

This is a theophany of God through the person of Jesus. This entire scene reflects OT concepts of God revealing himself in what theologians call a “theophany” or “appearance of God.” However, rather than God appearing, Jesus himself is the focus! This shows that Matthew is drawing on OT content to show that Jesus is God himself. Regarding the Markan account, Lane writes, “The transfiguration scene develops as a new ‘Sinai’ theophany with Jesus as the central figure.”[407]

God typically appeared to the people in the form of a cloud in the OT (Ex. 16:10; 19:9; 24:14-19; 33:1), just as he does here. Moreover, Moses and Elijah had similar experiences to this event—though nothing to this extent:

Moses went up on a mountain with Joshua to meet with God (Ex. 24:12-13), but even the elders stayed behind at the bottom of the mountain (Ex. 24:14). Once Moses arrived at the peak, we read that “the cloud covered the mountain” (Ex. 24:15). Then we read, “The glory of the LORD rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; and on the seventh day He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud. 17 And to the eyes of the sons of Israel the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a consuming fire on the mountain top. 18 Moses entered the midst of the cloud as he went up to the mountain; and Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights” (Ex. 24:16-18).

Later, Moses wanted to see the “glory” of God (Ex. 33:18), but God told him, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!” (Ex. 33:20) Moses was only allowed to partially see God’s glory (Ex. 33:21-23), but here, he sees it revealed in the face of Jesus!

Elijah was told by God to go and “stand on the mountain before the LORD,” and then we read, “Behold, the LORD was passing by!” (1 Kn. 19:11). Elijah was so scared that he ran and hid in a cave (1 Kin. 19:13).

We might compare the similarities in this way.

The Transfiguration as a Theophany[408]

Moses and Elijah in the OT

Transfiguration in the NT
Only Moses (and Joshua) could come up on the mountain, and the elders had to stay behind (Ex. 24:14)

Jesus only chose three disciples to come with him up the mountain (17:1)

God appeared on a mountain: Horeb (Ex. 24:12-13; 1 Kn. 19:11)

God appeared on a mountain (17:1)
God appeared in a cloud (Ex. 24:15)

God appeared in a cloud (17:5)

Six days passed (Ex. 24:16)

Six days passed (17:1)
God appears in glory (Ex. 24:17; 33:21-23), but a full revelation would destroy Moses (Ex. 33:20)

God appears in inexpressible glory (17:2)

Elijah was scared by what he saw (1 Kn. 19:13)

The disciples were terrified by what they saw (17:6)
The people should listen to Moses and Elijah

The people should listen to Jesus (17:5)

Because Jesus is God, we should “listen to him.” Who are you listening to in your life? Some take the teachings of religious leaders as similar to God’s very own inspired words. Others sense that something is wrong with themselves, and they read self-help books with a desire to change. Still others listen to their own thoughts, as though these had infallible authority. What a tragic mistake! God tells us unequivocally: Listen to Jesus! This means that we should study his teachings and his view of the entire Bible.

Are you hearing from God? Is your knee-jerk reaction in difficult or confusing situations to turn directly to him? We see so many Christians nervously biting their fingernails, churning their thoughts around and around in their mind. They might even bring themselves to ask for wise Christian counsel. But have they turned to God himself and heard from him? No! We all need to learn to hear from God through his word and prayer, and learn to seek his guidance and encouragement to do what he wills.

Matthew 17:9-13 (Question about Elijah)

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

(17:9) When they were coming down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.”

Again, Jesus wanted to keep this quiet until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.” This is the last time he tells his disciples to be quiet about his death and resurrection in Matthew.

(17:10-13) And His disciples asked Him, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” 11 And He answered and said, “Elijah is coming and will restore all things; 12 but I say to you that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wanted. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that He had spoken to them about John the Baptist.

This question is interesting—especially since it comes on the heels of Elijah actually appearing to Jesus (Mt. 17:3). Jesus affirms that Elijah will return in the future (Mal. 4:5), but he also argues that John the Baptist was a figurative form of Elijah.

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

Matthew 17:14-20 (Healing of the demon possessed boy)

[The parallel passages are found in Mark 9:14-29 and Luke 9:37-43.]

(17:14) When they came to the crowd, a man came up to Jesus, falling on his knees before Him.

This poor man was in dire straits. He came to Jesus seeking help. Mark adds that the scribes were surrounding him during this time (Mk. 9:14). Presumably, they were watching Jesus.

(17:15) [And he was saying,] “Lord, have mercy on my son, because he has seizures and suffers terribly; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water.”

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, and it happens “often.” Mark adds further details: “Teacher, I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out. I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it” (Mk. 9:17-18). Luke adds that the demon would “maul” the young boy when it left him, but it would come back (Lk. 9:39). If indeed the demon would come and go, this would make sense of Jesus’ command for the demon to leave the boy and “to not enter him again” (Mk. 9:25). Jesus didn’t want this demon to come back eventually.

(17:16) “And I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him.”

Why could the disciples not heal this demon possessed man? Jesus tells us that it was because they tried to heal the boy without faith (v.17, 20). Mark records that the father himself “believed,” but needed help with his “unbelief” (Mk. 9:24). So, the disciples must’ve lacked faith altogether, operating out of self-effort.

(17:17) And Jesus answered and said, “You unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him here to Me.”

Was it wrong for Jesus to share his frustration? There is nothing wrong with sharing in honesty, as long as it doesn’t result in a failure of fidelity. Jesus expressed his frustration, but his frustration didn’t stop him from serving. Indeed, he heals the boy despite how he felt. Moreover, this question is similar to God the Father in the Wilderness, who says, “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who are grumbling against Me?” (Num. 14:27) This shows that sharing exasperation is not sinful (because God the Father did this), and it also shows that Jesus is speaking like God the Father, which may imply his deity.

(17:18) “And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was healed at once.”

Jesus didn’t partially heal the boy over time. He instantly healed him on the spot (“at once”). 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) “Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?”

The disciples must’ve felt insecure about their ability to heal this man. After a time of failure, we often turn to God asking him for answers. We often think that we failed for reasons like personal inadequacy, lack of gifting, or something like this. Jesus surprises them with the reason why the disciples failed: a lack of faith and prayer. In other words, their problem was with active dependence on God—not their lack of independent ability.

(17:20) And He said to them, “Because of your meager faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”

This is a strange response. On the one hand, Jesus tells them that they had a tiny faith (“littleness of your faith”), but then he says that all they need is a tiny faith (“faith the size of a mustard seed”). Carson understands “littleness of your faith” (oligopistia) to refer to the “poverty of faith.”[409] He adds, “Jesus tells his disciples that what they need is not giant faith (tiny faith will do) but true faith—faith that, out of a deep, personal trust, expects God to work.”[410] It isn’t the amount of faith, but the proper object of our faith.

The idea of “moving mountains” was “proverbial for overcoming great difficulties (cf. Isa 40:4; 49:11; 54:10; Matt 21:21-22; Mark 11:23; Luke 17:6; 1 Cor 13:2).”[411]

(17:21) This part about “fasting” was added later. Early manuscripts do not contain this verse. In Mark’s account, Jesus only mentions “prayer,” not fasting (Mk. 9:29).

Conclusion: Why couldn’t the disciples heal the boy?

Remember, Jesus already “gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases” (Lk. 9:1). They had the authority, but they lacked the faith and the prayer.

Lack of prayer. In Mark’s account, the disciples asked why they couldn’t drive out the demon. Jesus said it was because they didn’t pray (Mk. 9:29). What on Earth were they doing instead?? Were they waving their hands at the demon? Stopping their feet? Using meaningless religious phrases? Speaking to the demon without speaking to God first? Whatever strategy they took, it didn’t include God in prayer.

Lack of faith. The disciples asked why they couldn’t drive out the demon. Jesus said it was because of their lack of faith (Mt. 17:20). Jesus makes clear that it isn’t the amount of faith, but the object of our faith. The father of the boy was torn—only having a little bit of faith. But this was good enough for Jesus (Mk. 9:22-24). In Matthew and Mark, we understand that the disciples didn’t exercise prayer or faith in their ministry. Maybe the disciples prayed the same magic words that they always prayed, but it didn’t work. Maybe they were filled with cynicism, short-arming it, or filled with past successes. Jesus gets really frustrated (Lk. 9:41). He doesn’t get frustrated with our inability or ineptitude, but our lack of faith.

(17:22-23) And while they were gathering together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be handed over to men; 23 and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.” And they were deeply grieved.

This is the second time Jesus announces his death and resurrection (cf. Mt. 16:21). If you notice, Jesus is all of the sudden talking a lot about this. He wants to drill this message into the disciples’ minds, so that they can be ready for this earth-shaking event when it happens. Luke records, “[The disciples] did not understand this statement, and it was concealed from them so that they would not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this statement” (Lk. 9:45).

Matthew 17:24-27 (Two-drachma in the fish’s mouth)

[This passage is unique to Matthew.]

(17:24) Now when they came to Capernaum, those who collected the two-drachma tax came to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the two-drachma tax?”

Two-drachma were equivalent to two denarii (or two days’ wages). Matthew may have included this because he himself was a tax collector. At the same time, this tax was for the Temple services—not the Romans (Ex. 30:11-16).

This two-drachma tax aligns with secular history. Josephus states, “The Jews… deposited in them that half shekel which everyone, by the custom of our country, offers unto God.”[412] A Jewish shekel was “the equivalent of four Greek drachmas.”[413] After the Jewish War in AD 70, Vespasian made the Jews pay their tax to the temple of the god Jupiter.[414] Hence, R.T. France writes, “It is one of the incidental indications that Matthew’s gospel was written before AD 70 that he can record with approval Jesus’ acceptance of the temple tax, which after AD 70 would have had a quite different connotation of the support of pagan worship.”[415]

(17:25-27) He said, “Yes.” And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect customs or poll-tax, from their sons or from strangers?” 26 When Peter said, “From strangers,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are exempt. 27 However, so that we do not offend them, go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a stater. Take that and give it to them for you and Me.”

Kings didn’t tax their own children. Since this was “God’s tax,”[416] 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 or “stater” was equivalent to four drachmas. Keener observes the irony of this tax when he writes, “The king’s children can pay the tax because the king gives them the money to do so.”[417]

Did the fulfillment of Jesus’ prediction never happen? Craig Blomberg argues 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.”[418] We reject Blomberg’s assertion that Jesus’ statement was metaphorical. Indeed, this is a clear prediction of the future, which would’ve been false if left unfulfilled. This prediction of Jesus 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!”[419]

Discussion Questions

Read verses 1-8. What do we learn about Jesus’ identity and authority from this passage?

Read verses 9-13. The disciples asked Jesus about the coming of Elijah before the end of history (citing Malachi 4:5). What does this tell us about Jesus’ view of interpreting Scripture?

Read verses 14-20. What does this section tell us about biblical faith? For example, what do we learn about the father’s faith? What do we learn about faith from the example of the disciples?

Read verse 17. Jesus seems frustrated. How does his frustration differ from our sinful frustration?

Matthew 18

Matthew 18 is often referred to as the “Discourse on the Church,” and it is the fourth teaching block of Jesus. The first three were the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5-7), Missions (Mt. 10), and Parables (Mt. 13).

Matthew 18:1-10 (Jesus’ love for children)

[The parallel passages are in Mark 9:33-50 and Luke 9:46-50]

(18:1) At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

This question implies that “greatness” is based on stature, or perhaps power. The disciples originally kept quiet (probably out of embarrassment) because they had been arguing about this in private (Mk. 9:33-34), and Luke adds that Jesus knew “what they were thinking in their heart” (Lk. 9:47). Even after this lesson, James and John ask to be at Jesus’ right and left hand (Mt. 20:20-23), provoking the outrage of the disciples (Mt. 20:24), probably because they didn’t think to ask sooner! Because this question comes up multiple times, this tells us that we need to be reminded over and over about our need for humility.

(18:2-4) And He called a child to Himself and set him among them, 3 and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you change and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 So whoever will humble himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Mark tells us that they were sitting in “the house” in Capernaum (Mk. 9:33), which Mark uses to describe Peter’s personal home. Thus Carson speculates that this could very well be Peter’s child.[420] If so, this would serve as a double admonishment to these grown men: Not only is Jesus using a child as an example, but he’s using Peter’s own son! Mark adds that Jesus scooped up this little child “in his arms” (Mk. 9:36; cf. Mt. 19:13-15), which shows the tenderness and love of Jesus.

The ancient world did not esteem children. Society looked down upon children as inferior. Keener writes, “Children were powerless, without status and utterly dependent on parents. On the one hand, parents loved their children… On the other hand, perhaps due to the high infant mortality rate among rural peasants, ancient Mediterranean parents sometimes may have been slower than are their modern Western counterparts to attach themselves too deeply to their younger children.”[421] France writes, “A child was a person of no importance in Jewish society, subject to the authority of his elders, not taken seriously except as a responsibility, one to be looked after, not one to be looked up to.”[422] 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.”[423] In the extrabiblical Jewish literature, we read, “Morning sleep, mid-day wine, chattering with children and tarrying in places where men of common people assemble, destroy a man” (m. ‘Abot 3:10).

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). Elsewhere he writes, “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things” (1 Cor. 13:11).

(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 flagrantly 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 become like children in our ability to (1) receive gifts, (2) admit our inadequacy, and (3) ask for help. Indeed, kids never say, “I couldn’t never accept this gift” or “I won’t let you pay the bill.” Instead, their eyes light up with excitement. Likewise, they don’t stand aloof when they have problems; instead they cling to their parents for help, showing total dependence. Jesus is looking for this sort of humble attitude in his disciples, which we contend is the chief virtue of the Christian life (see “Humility”).

(18:5) And whoever receives one such child in My name, receives Me.

Far from taking the culture’s view of children, Jesus so identifies himself with these little vulnerable people that he says loving them is like loving Him (see Mt. 25:31-46). If verses 1-4 show us the nature of humility, this verse is a way to practice humility.[424]

(18:6) But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it is better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depths of the sea.

Jesus also promises punishment toward those who would lead a little child astray. The imagery here is graphic: A millstone was a “heavy stone pulled around by a donkey.”[425] Jesus’ threat has all the severity of a mafia boss promising “concrete shoes” to someone so that they will “swim with the fishes.” However, this warning is not issued to good men, but to evil ones! Jesus threatened those who hurt and intimidate the weak and vulnerable among us.

(18:7) Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to the person through whom the stumbling block comes!

We live in a fallen world with billions of sinners on the loose. Therefore, stumbling blocks are a determined reality. That being said, individual people still bear the responsibility for hurting others with their free will.

(18:8-9) And if your hand or your foot is causing you to sin, cut it off and throw it away from you; it is better for you to enter life maimed or without a foot, than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into the eternal fire. 9 And if your eye is causing you to sin, tear it out and throw it away from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fiery hell.

This material is nearly identical to the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5:29-30), though the context here refers to pride, rather than lust. Carson comments, “Jesus’ disciples must deal as radically with pride as they were earlier commanded to deal with lust.”[426]

(18:10) See that you do not look down on one of these little ones; for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven.

Apparently, God sends angels to protect little children. This is where people get the idea of a guardian angel (cf. Dan. 10; 12:1; Rev. 1:20). It’s also possible that the plural “angels” all collectively serve humans.[427] This would be the difference between a “zone defense” and “man-to-man.” Either way, these angels guard over children.

Yet, others like Carson desist.[428] Carson, rather surprisingly, holds that Jesus isn’t describing angels at all, but instead, the spirits of these dead children. Why does he hold this view? First, these “angels” are before God the Father—not on Earth (“[they] continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven”). Second, this fits with Rhoda thinking that Peter’s “angel” was knocking at the gate (Acts 12:15). If this was Peter’s soul, then this would make sense as to why she would mistakenly think this was Peter himself. Third, Jesus uses the language of angels to describe our resurrected selves: “In the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (Mt. 22:30).

We respectfully reject Carson’s view for a number of reasons. For one, there is no problem with an angel living in heaven and also offering protection over a child on Earth. Indeed, this is what we see of angels in the Bible, who travel to and fro. Second, we shouldn’t build a doctrine on Acts 12:15, which is admittedly a difficult passage. This breaks a key hermeneutical principle, which is that we should interpret the unclear in light of the clear. Third, Jesus uses the language of simile to refer to our resurrected state. He says that we will be “like angels” in heaven—not that we are or will be angels in heaven. Indeed, in context, we will be “like angels” with regard to marriage. Fourth, and finally, how could the class of children be represented by the same class of angels in heaven, which the text implies? While we aren’t willing to build a developed doctrine of “guardian angels” from this single text, we also aren’t willing to follow Carson’s lead either. We agree with Keener who writes, “The majority view and the most satisfactory interpretation of this passage in light of ancient Jewish ways of speaking would refer to guardian angels.”[429]

(18:11) Many early manuscripts do not contain this verse—yet we see it in Luke 19:10. 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.”[430]

Discussion Questions

Read verses 1-5. Jesus states that little children are the greatest in the kingdom. What qualities do you think Jesus sees in children that make them great? Where does the analogy break down, and where would it be inappropriate to imitate children?

Matthew 18:12-14 (God’s heart for the Lost)

[This material is unique to Matthew.]

(18:12-14) What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains, and go and search for the one that is lost? 13 And if it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that have not gone astray. 14 So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven for one of these little ones to perish.

This is classic NT ecclesiology (vv.12-14). The focus of the church isn’t on the fortress (the “ninety-nine”); it’s on the lost (the “one”). In this culture, shepherds treated their sheep like pets, having great tenderness and affection for them. The good shepherd couldn’t sleep at night knowing that there was a lost sheep in danger.

Is Jesus referring to apostates? Turner understands the “one sheep” as referring to an apostate.[431] The later context refers to church discipline (Mt. 18:15ff), so this is possible. However, the earlier context refers to being converted like a child (vv.4-6). In our estimation, this seems to be reading too much into a short parable. Furthermore, we see practical problems with this interpretation—namely, we should spend the bulk of our time chasing down apostates who have made it clear that they aren’t interested in Christ. Meanwhile, we would be leaving the growing sheep to fend for themselves, and ignoring those non-Christians who are open to the message of the gospel. Something is wrong with this line of thinking.

No, this is not Jesus’ meaning. His point is that we should go out and rescue the one in danger of going to hell, rather than those who are secure in their salvation. While this passage could refer to loving an apostate person, it doesn’t exclusively refer to apostate people.

Incidentally, this passage speaks against limited atonement and 5-point Calvinism. God’s will is not to see a single person perish (v.14).

Matthew 18:15-20 (Church discipline)

[This material is unique to Matthew.]

(18:15) Now if your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have gained your brother.

Church discipline slowly raises tension with a Christian brother who is living selfishly and hurting themselves and others. It begins when you “show him his fault” (elenchō) which means to “to scrutinize or examine carefully, bring to light, expose, set forth” (BDAG). It can be translated “reprove” (Lk. 3:19) or “expose” (1 Jn. 3:20) or “convict” (Jn. 8:46).

The goal of church discipline is always to “win your brother.” This language doesn’t speak to punitive justice, but to loving discipline.

(18:16) But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that on the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be confirmed.

If a private admonition doesn’t win your brother, Jesus commands us to take two or three. France understands that this functions to “add force to the persuasion.”[432]

Is this like a court trial? Jesus cites Deuteronomy 19:15 which refers to legal cases, so some interpreters think that this is similar to a formal trial. It’s true that a believer can be so deceived that they won’t admit to the facts. By having multiple believers present, we can make a stronger appeal to the person who is deceived about what happened.

However, we reject the legal interpretation as bizarre.[433] For one, the goal of biblical discipline is not to prove guilt, as in a court of law, but to restore and “win your brother.” Church discipline is always restorative—not retributive. Second, the “two or more” brothers may or may not have seen the event, so this wouldn’t fit with the legal view. Third, Paul’s use of Deuteronomy 19:15 is far different in other contexts (2 Cor. 13:1; 1 Tim. 5:19). France concludes that the person is not “on trial,” but rather, “the point of the Old Testament reference is the principle that multiple testimony is more convincing, not the specific judicial application.”[434] Blomberg states that even the “drastic action” of removing a person from fellowship still “remains rehabilitative rather than retributive in design.”[435] Likewise, Turner states that when we bring two or three others, this “is calculated to underline the gravity of the problem and to add their wisdom to its solution.”[436]

Turner understands this as referring to a “three-step procedure.”[437] Yet, in our understanding, Jesus isn’t teaching a “three strikes and you’re out” mentality. The principle is to keep moving toward the person with admonition, conviction, correction, teaching, and even rebuke. These steps could be repeated privately or with “two or three.” Perhaps we could state that three steps are a minimum, but not a maximum number.

(18:17) And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, he is to be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

The central issue of church discipline is repentance. Jesus says that the person refuses to listen.” It isn’t simply that the person is trying, but failing. The issue is that they are refusing to have a change of heart. At this point, a corporate appeal to the church is in order. We think that this doesn’t imply the entire fellowship, but rather the person’s closest friends in “the local group.”[438] We agree with France, who concludes, “There can be no real fellowship with someone who has so blatantly set himself against the united judgment of his fellow-disciples.”[439] For a fuller explanation of church discipline, see comments on 1 Corinthians 5:1-13.

“He is to be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector…” Blomberg notes that these people were removed from Jewish society, and therefore, Jesus must be referring to removing these people from fellowship. However, he also notes that we should view these in “light of Jesus’ consistent compassion for pagans and tax collectors.” Indeed, he states, “Surely [Jesus] must also want Christians, individually, to continue to reach out to these people and call them to repentance.”[440] He cites 2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 and the restored brother of 2 Corinthians 2:5-11 as examples of this process. Turner agrees that we should “withdraw community fellowship” from such a person, but “absolute shunning or total withdrawal from personal contact is not necessarily commanded here.”[441]

Keener, by contrast, thinks that this language implies that the person was not a true Christian, and the result is that this implies “spiritual death,”[442] citing 1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Timothy 5:20; Titus 3:10-11. However, these passages are restorative in nature, and they don’t fit with Paul’s teaching to restore the person as a “brother,” not an “enemy” (2 Thess. 3:14-15).

(18:18-20) “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. 20 For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”

There are two central ways to interpret this section:

OPTION #1: These verses should be read in light of Jesus’ teaching on church discipline.[443] 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”).

However, the first problem with holding this view is that the plural “you” that refers to “binding and loosing” breaks the context of verses 15-17. This refers to apostolic authority—not our authority today. Thus, the central problem with holding this view is the notion that Jesus is always behind our decision to enact church discipline, which is surely false. As errant followers of Jesus, we feel very uncomfortable claiming our use of discipline is always supported by God. We can err when exercising formal or informal church discipline. Consequently, we should humbly admit when this is the case.

OPTION #2: These verses change context and merely refer to the disciples’ authority and prayer. After all, the subject of church discipline appears in verse 15 out of context from what preceded it. If this is the case, then Jesus is just giving a special promise for those who come together in prayer. We favor this latter view.

Incidentally, this passage supports the deity of Christ. It is interesting that the Mishnah states, “If two sit together and words of the Law (are) between them, the Shekinah (God’s presence) rests between them” (Mishnah Aboth 3:2).[444] This further supports the deity of Christ (cf. Mt. 1:23; Mt. 28:20). After citing the rabbinical literature, Keener comments, “Here Jesus himself fills the role of the Shekinah, God’s presence, in the traditional Jewish saying.”[445] Indeed, how could a person attend every and any prayer meeting—unless that being was omnipresent and thus divine?

Discussion Questions

Jesus said that formal church discipline should be in front of the “church,” not just the leaders of a small group. Why do you think the Bible calls on everyone to be there for such a confrontation, instead of letting the leadership handle it?

Most churches do not practice formal church discipline. Yet, we see this teaching repeated throughout the NT. Why do you think that most churches do not practice church discipline?

If a local church chose to follow Jesus’ teaching on church discipline, what negative repercussions might they face? If a local church chose to reject Jesus’ teaching on church discipline, what negative repercussions might they face?

Pollster David Kinnaman states, “People aged 16 to 29 were asked what word they would pick to describe ‘Christians’ or ‘Christianity.’ 85% used the word ‘hypocritical.’[446] How does this relate to our discussion of church discipline?

Conclusion

This section (vv.1-20) shows our need to become like little children. However, this is contrasted with being bold and disciplinary to those who threaten themselves or the church. There is a balance here between gentleness and strength that is worth meditating upon in our ministry.

Matthew 18:21-35 (Forgiveness)

[This material is unique to Matthew. Blomberg notes that the previous material on church discipline seems “harsh to modern ears,” but Jesus’ audience would have no issue with it at all. However, this material on forgiveness below would be “shockingly radical when first spoken.”[447]]

(18:21) Then Peter came up and said to Him, “Lord, how many times shall my brother sin against me and I still forgive him? Up to seven times?”

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—really going over the top—by claiming we should forgive “seven times.” France writes, “The Rabbis discussed the question, and recommended not more than three times.”[448] Lemke writes, “Peter’s question shows that he had not yet grasped the spirit of Christian forgiveness. Jesus’ answer in v. 22 means an indefinite number of times.”[449] Jesus must have blown Peter’s mind with his response…

(18:22) Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy-seven times.”

Some translations render this “seventy times seven” (NASB, NLT)[450] or “seventy-seven times” (NIV, NET). The figure is not important. The point is that we should forgive an incalculable amount of times. France writes, “To be concerned as to whether the figure is 77 or 490 is to return to the pedantic calculation which Jesus rejects!”[451]

(Mt. 18:21-22) What did Jesus mean by forgiving someone 77 times?

(18:23) For this reason the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his slaves.

The king had ultimate authority. He could choose to forgive or punish. The slave was totally at the mercy of the king.

(18:24) And when he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him.

The “talent” was the biggest unit of currency, and the 10,000 was the highest number.[452] This could refer to “over a billion dollars in today’s currency.”[453] Turner states that a talent was 6,000 days wages, which would result in “sixty million days, or roughly 193,000 years… to earn this much money.”[454] In other words, this debt was insurmountable. This figure is so large that “estimates in modern currency range from several million to one trillion dollars.”[455] In other words, it’s such a big figure that we don’t know how much money this is!

(18:25) But since he did not have the means to repay, his master commanded that he be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment be made.

The king appeals to justice: the man would need to pay all of it back. If we want fairness, this is what we’re asking for.

(18:26) So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’

The slave asked for mercy and promised to pay it all back. Clearly, this was a lie. He could do no such thing!

(18:27) And the master of that slave felt compassion, and he released him and forgave him the debt.

The king did three things: (1) “felt compassion,” (2) “released him,” and (3) “forgave him his debt.” He didn’t just feel for him emotionally, but he released him and forgave him in what was owed.

What was this slave’s reaction? Did he say, “Thank you!” Did he leap for joy? We see an outrageous reaction in the next verse…

(18:28) But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe!’

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). This wasn’t just some stoic settling of accounts; the man hunted him down, roughed him up, and “choked” him like a thug working for a greedy gangster.

Remember, this man formerly owed 60 million days’ wages, and he’s still holding on to a debt of 100 days wages. While 100 days’ wages were still significant (roughly four months’ pay), this pales in comparison to his own debt. One author compares this to being forgiven “zillions” and refusing to forgive “peanuts.”[456] When people sin against us, the sin is real and the price is steep. No one should deny or minimize this. However, the point is that this sin doesn’t even compare to our moral violation of God!

(18:29) So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’

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 he was unwilling, and went and threw him in prison until he would pay back what was owed.

This slave was acting like the king. He was arrogating to himself an authority that rightly belonged to the king himself.

(18:31) So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their master all that had happened.

The fellow slaves snitched on him to the King.

(18:32-33) Then summoning him, his master said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’

The King points out the utter hypocrisy of this man’s actions. 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 did not extend mercy to others.

(18:34-35) “And his master, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he would repay all that was owed him. 35 My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”

This punishment sounds harsh—and it is—but it is the same punishment that the unforgiving servant was giving to the other man (v.30). He got what he deserved.

As we argued in the Sermon on the Mount, this material was given under the old covenant. Now that we are in the new covenant, we are totally forgiven (see comments on Matthew 5:1). Forgiveness “from your heart” implies a sincerity.

Discussion Questions

Read verses 21-35. What do we learn about forgiveness from this section?

If I forgive someone today, bitterness and hatred might fill my heart again tomorrow. Does this mean that my act of forgiveness lacked sincerity? What should I do if the feelings of hostility return after a time of forgiveness?

What are signs or symptoms that you haven’t forgiven someone?

If you are carrying around bitterness or anger, what effect does this have on you? What effect might this have on others around you?

Conclusion

Christians are the most forgiven people on Earth, so we should be the most forgiving people on Earth!

Do you have anyone in your life that God is telling you to forgive? How will you respond to God’s convicting voice in your heart? Will you forgive your brother? Or will you justify your lack of forgiveness and become more and more bitter with time? Why not forgive them right now and let that burden be lifted?

Matthew 19

Matthew 19:1-12 (Marriage and Divorce)

[The parallel account is found in Mark 10:1-12. Mark reports this conversation in a different order than Matthew, but the meaning is identical.]

(19:1-2) When Jesus had finished these words, He left Galilee and came into the region of Judea beyond the Jordan; 2 and large crowds followed Him, and He healed them there.

Jesus came back to Judea, where the religious leaders were centrally located. Since the religious leaders debated divorce, it makes sense why this question would arise in this geographical location.

(19:3) Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?”

The key to understanding this passage is to understand the background views on marriage and divorce in Jewish thought. The school of Shammai was strict, and the school of Hillel was loose. To remember these schools, we suggest using this slightly irreverent aid: If one asked Hillel about divorce, he would answer, “Ah… 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 stick him on the horns of 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) And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?”

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. Sexual and marital ethics are grounded in God’s creation and design of humans.

(19:6) “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no person is to separate.”

God’s design for marriage was for one man and one woman for one lifetime.

(19:7) They said to Him, “Why, then, did Moses command to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?”

They cite Deuteronomy 24:1ff to show that the Law allowed for divorce.

(19:8) He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way.”

Jesus points out that Moses permitted divorce, but didn’t command it.

(19:9) “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

Men couldn’t divorce their wives for “any reason” (see v.3). Instead, there had to be a very good reason for divorce. In this context, Jesus lists the reason as adultery (porneia).

(19:10) The disciples said to Him, “If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry.”

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 its soul-forming implications. Obviously, God is for marriage, but we should treat this decision very seriously. Keener writes, “Parents arranged marriages, and according to tradition, in Galilee at least, one could not spend time alone with one’ prospective spouse until after the wedding… One could not always know in advance what one’s spouse would turn out to be like. To marry without the possibility of divorce in a painful marriage seemed worse than not marrying at all!”[457]

(19:11-12) But He said to them, “Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given. 12 For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by people; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who is able to accept this, let him accept it.”

“Eunuch” literally meant “half-man,” and they were scorned in Israel.[458] Keener writes, “Mainstream Jewish society regarded marriage and childbearing as solemn responsibilities. A metaphor of such shame and sacrifice testifies to the value of the kingdom of God for which anyone would pay such a price.”[459]

This probably speaks to the gift of celibacy (1 Cor. 7:7), which is the nearest antecedent—namely, not getting married. “For…” in verse 12 continues Jesus’ thought regarding celibacy.

Discussion Question

How does Jesus’ view of marriage compare to our culture’s view of marriage?

Some interpreters argue that adultery is the only permissible reason for divorce. Is this the case? Or does Scripture allow for other permissible reasons? Defend your view.

What are ways to prepare for marriage so that we can avoid divorce?

What are key ways to strengthen your marriage right now?

Matthew 19:13-26 (Children versus the Rich Young Ruler)

(19:13-15) Then some children were brought to Him so that He would lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But Jesus said, “Leave the children alone, and do not forbid them to come to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 15 After laying His hands on them, He departed from there.

Jesus could be an intimidating man if he wanted to be. He could strike fear into the Pharisees and Sadducees. But he also had a softness to him. Indeed, when little kids saw Jesus, they wanted to climb on 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 (Lk. 18:15). For more on this subject of children, see comments above on Matthew 18:2-3.

The humility of these children is the utter antithesis of the pride of the rich young ruler…

(19:16) And someone came to Him and said, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do so that I may obtain eternal life?”

The man was rich (Mk. 10:22), he was “young” (Mt. 19:20), and he was a “ruler” (Lk. 18:18). Hence, commentators refer to him as the “rich young ruler.” In this religious culture, wealth “was regarded as a sign of God’s blessing.”[460] So, he must have thought he was on the right track when he asked how to get to heaven. At the same time, perhaps he had a gnawing sense that something wasn’t right; something was missing. This is what brought him to Jesus.

The man is sincerely seeking Jesus, and he’s asking the most important question ever! But his focus is on himself and his good deeds (“What good thing shall I do…?”). In Marks’ account, Jesus had just said, “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all” (v.15). This man isn’t coming to Jesus like a child, but like competent ruler. Jesus’ response is interesting…

(Mt. 19:17) Is Jesus not God? (see comments on Lk. 18:19)?

(19:17-19) And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 Then he said to Him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not commit murder; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not give false testimony; 19 honor your father and mother; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus tells the man to keep the Ten Commandments (5-9). Jesus is clearly teaching Law here. His objective is to show the crushing weight of the Law, so that the man will become open to grace. Notice, however, that Jesus left the 10th Commandment off of the list: “You shall not covet.” Jesus takes a different approach to get at this man’s covetous and greedy heart…

(19:20-21) The young man said to Him, “All these I have kept; what am I still lacking?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

Before Jesus called on him to sell his possessions, Mark records that “Jesus felt a love for him…” (Mk. 10:21). When we call people out of materialism, it should be because we “love” the person—not because of self-righteousness or moral disgust.

This isn’t the typical command. Jesus tailored this command for this individual man. For one, the Talmud allowed financial giving up to 20% of one’s income, but no higher (b. Ketub. 50a).[461] By contrast, Zacchaeus gave away half of his money (Lk. 19:1-10), and the old widow only gave a few pennies (Lk. 21:1-4).

The man thought that he was righteous enough to stand under the weight of the Law. Instead of debating this, Jesus adds to the Law. He presses on the point where the man was weakest: materialism. This man had everything, but he needed to come to Jesus with nothing! He needed to come “like a little child” (Mk. 10:15).

(19:22) But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.

Jesus’ statement struck a nerve. The man went away “grieving,” realizing that he didn’t measure up after all. We retain the word “grief” for the death of a person and family member. This man felt grief for his possessions and finances! This was clearly the most important thing in his life—far more important than people.

(19:23) And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Wealth can have a deceiving and seductive effect on the human heart.

(19:24) “And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

Is there a “needle’s eye gate” that leads into Jerusalem? 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.”[462] The problem with this interpretation… is that it is demonstrably false! No such gate exists or ever existed. 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.”[463]

(19:25-26) When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, “Then who can be saved?” 26 And looking at them, Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

In this culture, wealth was seen as a sign of God’s favor. Turner writes, “The disciples’ incredulous question may be based on the notion that riches are always proof of God’s approval… If such a notion were correct, the rich would be most likely of all people to enter the kingdom.”[464] This is the backdrop for their question.

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. At the same time, the principle of what Jesus is saying still holds true—namely, wealth is a powerful inhibitor that keeps 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) Then Peter responded and said to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?”

It’s interesting that Jesus doesn’t rebuke Peter for seeking eternal rewards. Apparently, Jesus sees no problem with believers desiring these rewards. Indeed, if we do not seek eternal rewards, our hearts will seek earthly ones.

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) And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

Ancient Greek philosophers used the term “regeneration” (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.”[465] The term “was something of a technical term in Stoic thinking (a prevalent Greco-Roman philosophy of the day) for the dissolution and re-creation of the cosmos.”[466] In other words, Greek thinkers held to a repeated destruction and renewal of the Earth. Yet Jesus spoke of one—and only one—restoration (the regeneration”). This implies that our planet will be burned, but God will restore it in the final judgment.

Furthermore, this passage implies a future for ethnic Israel. Jesus promises that the disciples will judge “the twelve tribes of Israel.” Blomberg—a historical Premillennialist—denies that Israel will come back into God’s plan. In his view, since all believers will judge the whole world (1 Cor. 6:2-3), it seems that the apostles will not “receive any privilege they do not share with all believers.”[467] Indeed, he concludes, “The comparison of the Twelve with the twelve tribes of Israel again highlights the theme of the church replacing Israel as the locus of God’s saving activity in the new age.”[468]

This is clear-cut replacement theology, and frankly, we find this to be nothing short of hermeneutical gymnastics! This interpretation has several problems. For one, we need to ignore Jesus’ original audience—namely, the apostles. Second, we need to steal a promise given to the apostles, and divvy it up to all Christians who have ever lived. Third, we need to take the beginning of the verse about Jesus’ “regeneration” and his “throne” to be literal, but the second half about “twelve thrones” and “twelve tribes of Israel” is metaphorical. Fourth, the only basis for taking this promise as non-literal is based on word-association with 1 Corinthians 6:2-3, which uses the word “judge” (krino).

(19:29) And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms on account of My name, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.

This promise is not just for the apostles, but for “everyone.” God has plenty of gifts to go around.

The conjunction is not “and” this “and” that. Rather, Jesus says that we might give up this “or” that. What does this imply? Surely, it means that we may give over one thing or another to God, but he is going to give far, far more in return. It means that we never have to worry about outgiving God! He has all of the resources in the universe and beyond. If we give something to God, he is able and willing to give much more back. At the same time, we need to give over our lives and resources from the heart—not out of some sort of religious manipulation. Mark’s account adds that we will also get “persecutions” for following Christ as well (Mk. 10:30).

(19:30) But many who are first will be last; and the last, first.

Jesus promises that the way of the world will be reversed in eternity.

Discussion Questions

If salvation is a free gift, why would it be harder for wealthy people to accept it? What barriers might specifically confront wealthy people from coming to faith?

Why do the financially poor have less barriers to coming to faith in Christ? For example, James writes, “Did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?” (Jas. 2:5)

Read verses 27-30. Jesus offers a different “wealth” than the rich young ruler possessed. What is the nature of Jesus’ reward? How does this compare to wealth in our culture?

Matthew 20

Matthew 20:1-16 (The parable of the vineyard)

[This material is unique to Matthew.]

The point of this parable is to teach grace, and smash works-based righteousness. The people “grumbled” at what they were given (v.11), because they thought they deserved more. Only someone operating out of works would hold this view. They would have been content with a denarius, if they didn’t compare themselves to others—a common legalistic downfall. This is why they were unhappy.

Yet it’s not unfair for God to give grace to somebody, because grace is unmerited and undeserved. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be grace. Why would anyone “grumble” over God’s generosity to someone else (v.11)?

Turner[469] holds that this parable is an expansion on Peter’s question: “We have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?” (Mt. 19:27) Peter wanted to know what his recompense would be for everything that he gave to Jesus. Truly Jesus would reward Peter graciously, but as Turner argues, Jesus is warning Peter that he should be wary of a deserving, entitled, and grumbling attitude. He also points out that this parallel sets the stage for the power-hungry move of the Zebedee brothers (Mt. 20:20-28).

(20:1-2) For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard.

The “denarius” was a day’s wage for a working man at the time, and this first group of men were hired “early in the morning.” The word “For…” relates to the final statement from the previous chapter: “Many who are first will be last; and the last, first” (Mt. 19:30). This is an inclusio (or “bookend”) with verse 16, showing how God’s economy works differently than ours.

(20:3-4) And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace; 4 and to those he said, ‘You go into the vineyard also, and whatever is right, I will give you.’ And so they went.

The Owner hired more men to work at 9am (“the third hour”). He would pay them “whatever is right.” Who decides what is right? You? Me? No way! God (the Owner) decides what he will give. We are in no position to bargain or dispute what we deserve. The Owner (God) possesses all of the money, and God’s choice is always right and never “unlawful” (v.15).

(20:5) Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing.

The Owner hired more men at noon and 3pm (“the sixth and ninth hour”).

(20:6-7) And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day long?’ 7 They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You go into the vineyard too.’

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” or so (v.12), rather than all day long.

(20:8) Now when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, starting with the last group to the first.’

After that long day of work, the foreman started to pay out.

(20:9) When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius.

Wow! They only worked for an hour, and they received an entire day’s wage! The other guys in the work crew were probably salivating at how much they were going to get, since they worked the whole day.

(20:10) And so when those hired first came, they thought that they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius.

The problem with the others is that they thought they deserved more, and they were comparing themselves to the others.

(20:11) When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner.

They “grumbled” at the Owner. How many of us grumble at God over how gracious he is to others who don’t deserve it? How many of us grumble at what we think we deserve?

(20:12) [They were] saying, ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day’s work and the scorching heat.’

They hated the fact that they worked hard all day, when the others didn’t put in the work that they did. In other words, they were basing their argument on their works—not the Owner’s rightful prerogative.

(20:13) But he answered and said to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius?’

This is a mild rebuke, because he calls him “friend.” The Owner cannot be accused of being unjust (“Friend, I am doing you no wrong”). It was “not unlawful” (v.15). They agreed to work for that wage.

(20:14-15) ‘Take what is yours and go; but I want to give to this last person the same as to you. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I want with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?’

The problem with the “grumblers” (v.11) is that they were angry with the Owner being “generous.” Legalists hate the generosity of God!

(20:16) So the last shall be first, and the first, last.

This is an oft-repeated teaching of Jesus, but this parable gives it new meaning.

Discussion Questions

How do you think you’d react if your boss paid someone the same amount of money as you, but they only worked for the last few minutes of the day? What thoughts would be going through your mind?

How would you respond to someone who said that this parable doesn’t make any sense because it’s unfair for God to act like this?

Conclusions

In all honesty, this parable has always bothered me (and continues to bother me!). Why? Because I don’t understand God’s grace as well as I should! Do I realize that I deserve nothing from God? Worse than that, I deserve nothing but judgment from God! Do I realize that any sort of “ministry” is a “received mercy” (2 Cor. 4:1)? Am I learning to be happy when God blesses someone else, rather than grumbling? This parable continues to challenge me.

Many people grumble at the judgment of God. Ironically, these legalists grumble at God being “generous” (v.15). Reread that last sentence to see how corrupt our thinking is!

This passage shouldn’t be taken to deny eternal rewards (see Blomberg). For one, it is a parable, and it shouldn’t override clear, didactic material in the epistles (e.g. 1 Cor. 3:8-15; Heb. 10:35; 11:6; 2 Jn. 8). Second, the purpose of the parable is to show that God operates under grace—in all respects. If indeed this does refer to rewards, we agree with Carson who writes, “The point of the parable is not that all in the kingdom will receive the same reward but that kingdom rewards depend on God’s sovereign grace.”[470]

Matthew 20:17-28 (Servant leadership)

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

(20:17-19) As Jesus was about to go up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and on the road He said to them, 18 “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, 19 and they will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and flog and crucify, and on the third day He will be raised up.”

This is now Jesus’ third prediction of his death and resurrection (Mt. 16:21; 17:22-23). Jesus’ astonishing self-sacrifice stands in direct contrast to the request from the Zebedee family…

(20:20) Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him.

In one of the more embarrassing moments in biblical history, the mother of John and James asks Jesus to give her boys a promotion. Did it embarrass John and James that their mom came and asked Jesus this? Did they put her up to it? In the parallel account, Mark simply says that James and John were asking Jesus this question, so all three were probably bugging Jesus about this.

They were ignoring the fact that Jesus’ kingdom was one of suffering (vv.17-19), thinking it would be one of power. Remember, this whole question is given on the heels of Jesus repeatedly telling his disciples that he was going to be crucified (vv.17-19). The mother asks that her sons would be leading members of Jesus’ political cabinet. But Jesus uses this request as a teaching opportunity to teach them the true nature of leadership (vv.26-28).

 (20:21) And He said to her, “What do you desire?” She said to Him, “Say that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine shall sit, one at Your right, and one at Your left.”

The mother watched her sons leave and follow Jesus. Like many parents, she wanted to ensure that her children would be successful, powerful, and influential. Yet, her request stands in direct contrast to the context: Jesus had just said that the “first will be last” (Mt. 19:30; 20:16), he just told a parable of the unemployed men that spoke against comparison and performance, and finally, he spoke of his impending death and resurrection. Now, the Zebedee mother asks for her sons to be first! The mother of the Zebedee brothers will show up at the death and resurrection of Jesus later in the account (Mt. 27:56). There, she will see two crucified men on Jesus’ “right and left,” not her sons reigning with Jesus in glory. We wonder if this request haunted her as she saw that gruesome scene of Jesus in his “glory” on the Cross.

Don’t forget, however, that Jesus did promise the disciples thrones in his kingdom. He said, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Mt. 19:28). Perhaps the Zebedee family thought about this promise, and they were vying for a good throne, rather than a bad one…

(20:22) But Jesus replied, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to Him, “We are able.”

At this point, Jesus must have turned his gaze to James and John. He asks them if they are able to “drink the cup” that he was about to drink. Of course, Jesus was thinking of the “cup” of suffering (Isa. 51:17; Jer. 25:17ff.; Ezek. 23:31ff), but they didn’t realize this. They probably thought he was thinking of a cup of stately wine.

“We are able.” They didn’t understand the nature of Jesus’ kingdom. They were expecting a political kingdom, where Jesus would reign as a Conquering King. They didn’t expect his kingdom to be inaugurated by his bloody and torturous death on the Cross, as humanity’s Suffering Servant.

(20:23) He said to them, “My cup you shall drink; but to sit at My right and at My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.”

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), and the early church fathers record that John was tortured and exiled for his faith in Christ (Rev. 1:9; Jn. 21:21-23). He was exiled to the island of Patmos under the rule of Emperor Domitian (AD 81-96). Tertullian (AD 200) claimed, “The Apostle John was first plunged, unhurt, into boiling oil, and thence remitted to his island-exile!” (On the Prescription of Heretics, 36) This is a questionable assertion, and it could be a case of hagiography (i.e. making someone into a saint). Regardless, it seems likely that it is based on a historical core of John’s suffering.

“It is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.” Jesus doesn’t make any promises about the assigned seating in heaven. This would’ve done more harm than good, as the context makes clear (v.24). Moreover, we don’t earn our seat, but God gives us our seat (“for whom it has been prepared by My Father”).

(20:24) And after hearing this, the other ten disciples became indignant with the two brothers.

When Jesus told James and John that they will drink his cup (v.23), the rest of the disciples probably thought that this meant that these two would be given special treatment. This was jealousy—not humility. Yet, 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 itself.

(20:25) But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles domineer over them, and those in high position exercise authority over them.”

Leadership in the world-system is characterized by “lording it over” others. Jesus assumes that his followers can see what typical leadership in the world is like. It’s an egotistical display of power, and obvious to all. Just stand around the coffee pot or water cooler at work, and you’ll get an education in what people think of the leadership at your job!

(20:26-27) “It is not this way among you, but whoever wants to become prominent among you shall be your servant, 27 and whoever desires to be first among you shall be your slave.”

Jesus didn’t deny the need for leadership or “greatness.” Instead, he redefined it. Elsewhere he said, “Who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves” (Lk. 22:27). Leadership is based on serving and taking the lower seat. Jesus intensifies the position of such a person from “servant” (diakonos) to “slave” (doulos). This fits with the aphorism that Jesus has been repeating: “Many who are first will be last; and the last, first” (Mt. 19:30; 20:16).

(20:28) “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

Why would we willingly choose to do become servants like this? Dumb question: Jesus himself sets the ultimate example. Though he has all of the power in and beyond the universe, he chose to lay aside the use of his power to lay down his life for us.

Discussion Questions

Some would argue that Jesus is against any kind of leadership authority? Is this the case? If not, where do Christian leaders have legitimate authority? What are the boundaries for this authority?

Matthew 20:29-34 (Healing two blind men)

[Parallel accounts are found in Mark 10:46-52 and Luke 18:35-43.]

This section ends Jesus’ itinerant ministry (i.e. Jesus’ travelling ministry). Here, he sets his face toward Jerusalem (Mt. 19:1). But he has one final healing miracle to do. This is similar to the early healing of the two blind men earlier (Mt. 9:27-31), but clearly not the same account.

The blind men don’t listen to the crowd. They listen to Jesus (vv.29-34). When you’re going through a hard time, are you going to turn directly to God, or listen to unbelieving people? These two men exhibit a child-like, dependent faith.

(20:29) As they were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed Him.

Was Jesus leaving or approaching Jericho? (Mt. 20:29; Mk. 10:46; Lk. 18:35) Matthew and Mark state that Jesus was “leaving Jericho” when he healed these two blind men (Mt. 20:29; cf. Mk. 10:46), while Luke states that he was “approaching Jericho” during this time (Lk. 18:35). How on Earth can this be harmonized?

As it turns out, there were two towns called Jericho—an old town and a new one. The OT describes the old Jericho (which Matthew and Mark depict), while Josephus records the new Herodian town,[471] which Luke describes. Matthew and Mark likely referred to the ancient Jewish Jericho, because they were Jewish men. Luke, however, likely referred to the town built by Herod the Great, because he was a Gentile.[472] If a Bible harmonizer asserted two Jericho’s to explain this difficult, they wouldn’t be taken seriously. Yet, this is exactly what we see in this particular text.

(20:30) And two people who were blind, sitting by the road, hearing that Jesus was passing by, cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!”

The blind men call Jesus “Lord” and “Son of David,” which were both messianic titles. There is a certain irony in the fact that these blind men could see who Jesus really was, while the crowds were blind.

Why does Matthew mention two blind men, but Mark mentions only one? Mark only mentions one blind man, and he names him (Bartimaeus). Critics see this as a contradiction. However, Mark doesn’t say that there was only one man. Instead, he simply chooses to focus on Bartimaeus, rather than both men. This is a common literary device that older commentators called telescoping. This is where a historian or author chooses to focus on one character, not mentioning others. Such a device is not an error. After all, imagine if I said, “I saw a rock concert in August.” What if a skeptical listener asked, “Did you honestly go to the concert by yourself? Were you the only person in the arena? How can I trust anything you have to say??!!” Of course, by claiming that I went to a concert, I am not saying that I was the only person at the concert. Indeed, I could’ve mentioned my spouse, my friends, and the 20,000 other people in the arena! Similarly, historical accounts are free to focus on one figure, rather than exhaustively explaining every detail. Such an omission is the prerogative of the narrator. As one older commentator put it, “Silence is not contradiction.”

(20:31) But the crowd sternly warned them to be quiet; yet they cried out all the more, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”

These blind men fought upstream against the prevailing social pressure. They must have felt pretty awkward yelling out to Jesus, as the crowd was telling them to be quiet. But they persisted.

(20:32) And Jesus stopped and called them, and said, “What do you want Me to do for you?”

While these men were rejected by the crowd, they were accepted by Jesus. He calls them over. Picture these men as they insecurely hobbled through the crowd, groping in the dark, reaching out for Jesus.

(20:33) They said to Him, “Lord, we want our eyes to be opened.”

They made a direct request, showing their dependence and trust (Jas. 4:2).

(20:34) Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight and followed Him.

Jesus had a heart of compassion for these men. This act of compassion and power changed their lives. Typically, Jesus would tell people to be quiet. However, now he is ready to take up the Cross in Jerusalem. So, Jesus allows these two men to follow him after this miraculous encounter.

Discussion Question

In what ways does Jesus’ interaction with the blind men seem similar to his interaction with the Zebedee family? In what ways are these interactions different?

Matthew 21

Matthew 21:1-11 (Entering the Temple: The Triumphal Entry)

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

(21:1) When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus then sent two disciples.

Bethpage was functionally a suburb of Jerusalem, but it was technically part of Jerusalem itself. They were on the Mount of Olives.

(21:2-3) [He was] saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with it. Untie them and bring them to Me. 3 And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them on immediately.”

Why was Jesus asking for a donkey? After all, this is the only record of Jesus not walking somewhere in the entirety of the Bible,[473] and he only had two miles to travel. For a weathered itinerant preacher, two miles would be nothing. But, as we’ll see, he was setting up a dramatic scene to show that he was the long-predicted Messiah, and this piece of the scenery was predicted in Zechariah 9:9.

Jesus possessed foreknowledge. He knew that there was a donkey and a colt there. He not only knows this, but he also knows how people will respond if the disciples start untying and walking off with their property. He also knows what people will freely do if they hear the words, “The Lord has need of them.”

Mark records the fulfillment of these exact events (Mk. 11:6). In fact, when the disciples shared these words, the people “gave them permission” to take the animals. Luke tells us that Peter and John went ahead to get the animals (Lk. 22:8).

(21:4-5) Now this took place so that what was spoken through the prophet would be fulfilled: 5 “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold your King is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

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) The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them, 7 and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their cloaks on them; and He sat on the cloaks.

Did Matthew misinterpret Zechariah 9:9? Did he think this prediction included two animals, rather than one? When Zechariah 9:9 mentions that the Messiah would ride on “a donkey, even on a colt,” this is a case of Hebrew parallelism—specifically, it is a case of intensification. Critics argue that Matthew didn’t understand this basic aspect of Hebrew poetry—hence, he understands Jesus as straddling these two animals as he rode into Jerusalem. Meanwhile, critics charge, Mark and Luke only mention the colt—not the donkey.

We hold that Jesus only rode on the colt—not both animals. For one, the text never says that Jesus rode both animals. While both the donkey and colt had coats on them, Jesus could’ve merely ridden on one—not both. This would be similar to saying, “My car has leather seats, and my friend said how much he liked riding on the leather seats.” By saying this, it is not required that my friend needed to sit in all five seats in the car! He merely needed to sit on some part of the leather seat.

Secondly, Mark records a detail absent from Matthew that could very well explain this difficulty—namely, the young colt had never been ridden before (Mk. 11:2). So, it’s possible that they had the wisdom to bring the colt’s “mother… to reassure it among the noisy crowd.”[474]

(21:8-9) Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them on the road. 9 Now the crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David; blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!”

“Most of the crowd” is better translated “the very great crowd.”[475] The people recognized that Jesus was fulfilling messianic prophecy. They spread out their coats and laid out branches on the ground, which was common for a king’s welcome (cf. 2 Kin. 9:13; 1 Macc. 5:45-54; 13:51; 2 Macc. 10:7). Furthermore, they sang a messianic psalm (Ps. 118:26).[476] This is similar to “rolling out the red carpet” in modern contexts. John adds that these were the branches of “palm trees” (Jn. 12:13). This is where we get the title “Palm Sunday.”

(Mt. 21:9) Why did the crowds shout out Psalm 118:26?

“Hosanna” is Greek for “save us!”[477] Days later, people would be screaming, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” (Mt. 27:22-23)

(21:10-11) When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds were saying, “This is Jesus the prophet, from Nazareth in Galilee.”

The crowds called him the prophet,” which may harken back to Deuteronomy 18:15ff (cf. Jn. 6:14-15). When it says that they were “stirred” (seiō), this is better translated “shaken.” This is the Greek word from which we get our English term “seismic.” In other words, Jesus was metaphorically shaking the city as he entered!

Luke records that Jesus wept over the city as he approached (Lk. 19:41-44). As he had been predicting this entire time, he knew that these same people who were crying, “Hosanna!” would later cry, “Crucify Him!”

Matthew 21:12-17 (Cleansing the Temple)

[The parallel accounts are in Mark 11:11-19 and Luke 19:45-48. Some think that John organizes his account topically, placing the Temple cleansing at the beginning of his account—see John 2:13-22. However, we contend that there were two cleansings of the Temple.]

(Mt. 21:12) When did Jesus cleanse the Temple?

(Mt. 21:12) Why did Jesus get so angry? Was his anger justified? (cf. Lk. 19:45-46, Jn. 2:14-15, and Mk. 11:15-17)

Mark includes that a night transpired before Jesus entered (Mk. 11:11-15). This shows that Jesus waited before purifying the Temple, rather than appearing to fly off the handle in anger. This is a fulfillment of Malachi 3:1, where God himself comes into the Temple.

(21:12) And Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all those who were selling and buying on the temple grounds, and He overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves.

The Temple was enormous. The entire complex that included the Court of the Gentiles was roughly rectangular with “an area of 172,000 square yards, the size of thirty-five football fields.”[478]

Why was Jesus being so harsh? The problem was not that there were taxes or funds given to the Temple, because this was in the Law itself. By contrast, Jesus was angry at the fact that these religious leaders were profiteering off of a poor culture. The historical background of this graft is important.

Josephus: “When Pompeii entered Jerusalem (80 BC), ‘There were in that temple… the treasures two thousand talents of sacred money.’” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 4:76)

  • One Attic talent was ~ 60 lbs.
  • 2,000 talents
  • 120,000 lbs of gold
  • 92 million ounces (an ounce is $1,500)
  • $2,880,000,000

Josephus: “Now Crassus… carried off the money that was in the temple, which Pompeius had left, being two thousand talents, and was disposed to spoil it of all the gold belonging to it, which was eight thousand talents.” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 7:105)

  • 68 million ounces
  • $11,520,000,000
  • In total, $14.4 billion.

Josephus: “The Romans exacted of us, in a little time, above ten thousand talents; and the royal authority… became the property of private men.” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 4:77)

Josephus: “And let no one wonder that there was so much wealth in our temple, since all the Jews throughout the habitable earth, and those that worshipped God, nay, even those of Asia and Europe, sent their contributions to it. Nor is the largeness of these sums without its attestation; nor is that greatness owing to our vanity, as raising it without ground to so great a height; but there are many witnesses to it.” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 7:2)

Once you were at the Temple, you couldn’t travel all the way home to get another animal to sacrifice. You were forced to get bilked by the people in the Temple. For a milder example, this is like spending $20 for a beer at a sports game. This was the kind of deceit happening at the time, and Jesus was enraged.

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! The religious leaders wanted to get rid of Jesus, but they couldn’t because he was so popular. Mark adds that the religious leaders “were afraid of [Jesus], for the whole crowd was astonished at His teaching” (Mk. 11:18).

(21:13) And He said to them, “It is written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a den of robbers.”

Jesus cites Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11.

(21:14) And those who were blind and those who limped came to Him in the temple area, and He healed them.

Jesus brought discipline to the religious profiteers, but he also healed the innocent bystanders, who congregated at the Temple (cf. Acts 3:2). A millennium earlier, King David wouldn’t allow the blind and lame into the Temple (2 Sam. 5:8). Here, the Son of David was bringing them into the Temple. But more than this, he was healing them there!

(21:15) But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He had done, and the children who were shouting in the temple area, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became indignant.

Jesus was really coming out into the open here: He has been fulfilling prophecy, accepting praise, and cleansing the Temple. This will bring about a massive confrontation with the religious leaders. The “children” understand what the religious leaders fail to comprehend—just as Jesus had earlier taught (Mt. 11:25).

Carson understands this as supporting the deity of Christ, because Psalm 8 is “applicable only to God.”[479] And the children are directing their “Hosannas” at Jesus—not at God the Father.

(21:16) And they said to Him, “Do You hear what these children are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read, ‘From the mouths of infants and nursing babies You have prepared praise for Yourself’?”

The religious leaders give him an opportunity to recant. Yet Jesus doubles down on his claims, citing from Scripture (Ps. 8:2). Luke contains extended material from Jesus, telling the religious leaders that the stones would cry out if his disciples stopped speaking (Lk. 19:40). Jesus then predicts the destruction of Jerusalem, and argues that this is because they didn’t accept him (Lk. 19:41-44). Specifically, they didn’t recognize the “time of [their] visitation” (Lk. 19:44). Some Dispensational commentators take this to refer to the chronological fulfillment of Daniel 9:24-27. This could very well be the case.

(21:17) And He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there.

Jesus spends the night in Bethany. Jerusalem was so packed during Passover week that most people had to find lodging outside of the city. Jesus and his entourage were no exception. Carson thinks that he probably stayed with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.[480]

Discussion Questions

Read verses 12-17. Jesus was clearly angry because of the graft of the poor and the hypocrisy in the Temple. Clearly, not all anger is unrighteous. What then is the difference between righteous anger and unrighteous anger?

Matthew 21:18-22 (Cursing the Fig Tree)

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

(21:18-19) Now in the early morning, when He was returning to the city, He became hungry. 19 And seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves alone; and He said to it, “No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.” And at once the fig tree withered.

Many skeptics treat this as an unforgiveable sin on Jesus’ behalf. Jesus curses this poor, poor fig tree. How could he?? (We hope our sarcasm is evident!) Lemke explains the likely meaning of this event: “The fig tree was frequently associated with Israel in the Prophets (Jr 29:17; Hs 9:10, 16; Mc 7:1-6). Micah 7:1-6 compared the absence of early figs to the dearth of righteousness.”[481] France writes, “A tree which promises fruit but provides none is an apt symbol of a religion without godliness, and the summary destruction of the tree can only point in the same direction as Jesus’ demonstration in the temple.”[482]

(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) Seeing this, the disciples were amazed and asked, “How did the fig tree wither all at once?”

They were asking how, but they should’ve been asking why. That is, what is the meaning of this miracle? 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) And Jesus answered and said to them, “Truly I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will happen. 22 And whatever you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive it all.”

Jesus is pointing out their lack of faith by asking this question. Incidentally, he confers this same power of prayer to the disciples.

Matthew 21:23-27 (Debating in the Temple)

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

(21:23) When He entered the temple area, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him while He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?”

After single-handedly clearing the Temple, it’s no wonder that the religious leaders ask about Jesus’ “authority.” His actions were bold and brazen, and raised questions in the minds of these religious experts. The religious leaders interrupt Jesus’ teaching to debate him publicly (“…while he was teaching…”). They think that they are going to trap him, but they wind up falling into a trap themselves…

(21:24-26) But Jesus responded and said to them, “I will also ask you one question, which, if you tell Me, I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John was from what source: from heaven or from men?” And they began considering the implications among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the people; for they all regard John as a prophet.”

Jesus springs a true theological dilemma on the religious leaders: Was John the Baptist’s authority 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 choose the second horn of the dilemma, then they would be at odds with the people, because John was so popular.

Which option did they choose?

(21:27) And answering Jesus, they said, “We do not know.” He also said to them, “Neither am I telling you by what authority I do these things.

They chose agnosticism (“We do not know”). But this really isn’t a fair answer. Often, people say, “I don’t know,” thinking that this is the safe position. Yet this shows a lack of intellectual integrity. Consequently, it causes them to miss out on what God had to offer them.

Jesus knows that the issue is not with knowledge, but with their hearts. So he doesn’t give them more evidence or debate with them. Carson comments, “They raised the question of Jesus’ authority; he raised the question of their competence to judge such an issue.”[483]

Discussion Questions

Read verses 23-27. Jesus refused to give answers to the religious teachers. Why do you think he refused to do so? What principles does this teach us when we have spiritual conversations today?

Would it ever be appropriate to refuse to give someone an answer to their question? If so, how would you know when to do this?

Matthew 21:28-32 (Parable of the Two Sons)

[This material is unique to Matthew.]

(21:28-30) But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go work today in the vineyard.’ 29 But he replied, ‘I do not want to.’ Yet afterward he regretted it and went. 30 And the man came to his second son and said the same thing; and he replied, ‘I will, sir’; and yet he did not go.

The parable shows that an individual can be belligerent on the outside, but actually quite leadable on the inside. Jesus’ point is that it is better to be a doer, than a talker. At the same time, it would be better still to be a doer and a talker! This passage shouldn’t be used to justify being irritable and stubborn with our words. Instead, we should accept God’s leaders both with our lips and with our lives. Furthermore, Jesus taught a parable about “two sons” that speaks to similar themes in Luke 15.

The fact that this parable takes place in a “vineyard” points to the nation of Israel, which is often pictured as a vineyard (Isa. 5:1-7). Though, we agree with Turner[484] that this parable does not teach replacement theology—where the first son represents the Gentiles and the second represents Israel. Gentiles are not even mentioned, and the religious leaders rejected their fellow Jews (e.g. John the Baptist, Jesus, etc.). Thus, such a reading sees something in the text that simply doesn’t exist.

(21:31-32) Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even have second thoughts afterward so as to believe him.

What is the connection between this parable and the fact that the tax collectors and prostitutes will enter into the kingdom? Jesus is showing that the religious leaders didn’t feel “remorse” for their initial reaction to John’s ministry. This is the same term used of the son who later “regretted” saying, “No,” to his father. Jesus is calling for a change of mind. The story does not pit Jews against Gentiles, because the “tax collectors” and “prostitutes” were also Jews. Instead, the story pits “those who reject and those who accept Jesus.”[485]

Discussion Questions

In what way does this parable of the “two sons” describe the problem with the religious leaders?

Matthew 21:33-46 (Parable of the vineyard owner)

[The parallel passages are in Mark 12:1-12 and Luke 20:9-19.]

(21:33) Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard and put a fence around it, and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and he leased it to vine-growers and went on a journey.

Many commentators see clear allusions to Isaiah 5 and Psalm 80 in this parable.

(21:34-36) And when the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his fruit. 35 And the vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. 36 Again, he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they did the same things to them.

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. These slaves represent the prophets of the OT, who were frequently mistreated (1 Kings 18:4; 2 Chron. 24:19-21; 30:10; 36:16; Neh. 9:26-30; Jer. 7:25-26; 20:1-2; 25:4; 26:21-23; Amos 7:10-17; Dan. 9:6, 10).

(21:37) But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’

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) But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let’s kill him and take possession of his inheritance!’ 39 And they took him and threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. 40 Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?”

It’s interesting that Jesus stops at this moment to ask his listeners how they think the story will end. This gets them to “buy in” with the story’s progression. Jesus uses this parable to get the religious leaders to identify with the Owner (i.e. God), and his rightful response of justice. Instead of respecting the son, they see this as an opportunity to kill him and illegally seize the vineyard.

(21:41) They said to Him, “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end and lease the vineyard to other vine-growers, who will pay him the fruit in the proper seasons.”

The religious leaders agree that those renters should be judged, and the vineyard should be given away. Carson writes, “For six months Jesus has been telling his disciples that the rulers at Jerusalem would kill him (16:21; 17:23; 20:18). Now he tells the rulers themselves, albeit in a parable form, which, at some level, the leaders understand (21:45-46). Undoubtedly some who heard Peter a few weeks later (Acts 2:23-37; 3:14-15) were the more convicted when they remembered these words of Jesus.”[486]

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 said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures, ‘A stone which the builders rejected, this has become the chief cornerstone; this came about from the Lord, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”

Jesus cites Psalm 118:22, showing that God predicted that his plan (God’s “cornerstone”) would be rejected by his own people.

(21:43) Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruit.

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) “And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and on whomever it falls, it will crush him.”

You can’t win a fight with this Stone: If you attack the stone, you die; if it attacks you, you die! It’s better to surrender and submit to this “cornerstone.”

(21:45) When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them.

There is an irony in the fact that the Pharisees could not understand Jesus’ other parables, but they could understand this one.

(21:46) And although they sought to arrest Him, they feared the crowds, since they considered Him to be a prophet.

Remember how this chapter opened. The people were in love with the words and works of Jesus. Carson comments, “The pericope ends with magnificent yet tragic irony (v. 46). The religious leaders are told they will reject Jesus and be crushed. But instead of taking the warning, they hunt for ways to arrest him, hindered only by fear.”[487]

Matthew 22

Matthew 22:1-14 (The parable of the wedding feast)

[This passage is similar to Luke 14:16-24, though not the same.]

Is this the same parable as Luke 14:16-24? They are similar, but not the same. Matthew refers to the king, while Luke simply refers to a man. Matthew refers to a wedding banquet for the son of the king, while Luke simply refers to a great dinner. Matthew states that the guests turn violent, while Luke states that they merely give excuses. While these differences can be harmonized, there seems no reason to believe that Jesus couldn’t have repeated this story multiple times, and Matthew and Luke are recording different forms of it.

This is a good parable for Arminians, but a difficult passage for Calvinists. The King tries to persuade the guests, but they are “unwilling” (v.3). It isn’t that the people were “unworthy” in the sense that they didn’t merit the acceptance. They were unworthy because they chose to be unworthy. These people who were personally invited are the ones whom you’d expect to be worthy (e.g. status, wealth, etc.), but they didn’t respond. As a result, it’s the unexpected people who get in. In other words, “chosenness” is based on those who reply to the King’s offer—not those who were irresistibly compelled (v.14).

(22:1-2) Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who held a wedding feast for his son.”

This parable strikes close to home with Jesus’ mission, because the Bible repeatedly refers to the Church as the Bride of Christ and the Great Wedding Feast is when the Church celebrates with Jesus (Mt. 8:10-12; 9:15; 15:26-27; 26:26-29; Lk. 13:29; Rev. 19:9).

(22:3) And he sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come.

These people heard the “call” and were “invited,” but they didn’t come. Why not? They were “unwilling.” In fact, they heard an original call, and they needed to hear it again from a personal messenger. But they wouldn’t answer the call of the king.

(22:4) Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened cattle are all butchered and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast!”’

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) But they paid no attention and went their separate ways, one to his own farm, another to his business.

Why didn’t they come? They “paid no attention,” because they were obsessed with mundane matters of life (e.g. “farming,” “business,” etc.). Literally, “paid no attention” (ameleo) comes from the alpha privative (“not”) and the root word melei (“care”). In other words, they “didn’t care”[488] about the king, the son, or the wedding. At the same time, others were so angry at the king’s gracious offer that they literally “killed the messenger.” Regardless, the ordinary sinners and the heinous sinners both missed their opportunity to dine with the king.

(22:6) And the rest seized his slaves and treated them abusively, and then killed them.

Some weren’t merely apathetic. They were hostile! They beat and killed these messengers of the King. In the same way, people have various responses to Jesus—some hostile and some merely disinterested.

(22:7) Now the king was angry, and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire.

Some hold that this is a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 (“set their city on fire”). For examples, Turner writes that the “destruction of Jerusalem and the burning of the temple in 70 CE by the Romans are at least a partial fulfillment of this veiled prophecy.”[489] However, J.A.T. Robinson (a critical scholar) rightly points out that the city was not burned in AD 70—only the Temple was![490] In our estimation, this is simply the detail of a parable that shouldn’t be pressed for predictive precision. More accurately, it refers to judgment in general—most likely hell (see verse 13).

(22:8) Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy.’

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). They rejected the call of the king.

(22:9) ‘So go to the main roads, and invite whomever you find there to the wedding feast.’

The king had catered an enormous amount of food for his son’s wedding, and it was going to go to waste. Thus, the king opens the doors wide to be invited to the feast. Perhaps this could be an allusion from Jesus that the gospel would go to the Gentiles.

(22:10) Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests.

Here is another reference to salvation being available to “all.” Both the “good and evil” were called. Earlier parables ended with a greater audience being invited to God (Mt. 21:31-32, 41-43).

(22:11) But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes.

Today, we might call this man a “wedding crasher.” He was invited, but he didn’t show up in the right clothes. In this culture, people wore white to a wedding, and “to come in dirty clothes [was] an insult to the host.”[491] Thus the man’s lack of proper apparel probably shows that he really didn’t care about the King or his Son. He was just there for the food, the drinks, and the prestige.

(22:12) And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless.

When he was asked by the King himself, he was “speechless.” This is probably analogous to the person who comes to face Christ at the judgment seat, and he has no defense for refusing to receive Christ’s “clothes” (i.e. forgiveness).

(22:13) Then the king said to the servants, ‘Tie his hands and feet, and throw him into the outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth in that place.’

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

(22:14) “For many are called, but few are chosen.”

The “called” (klētos) include all of the people who were invited—even those who refused to come (v.3). The “chosen” (eklektoi) refer to those who actually make it to the feast. Blomberg writes, “Many people hear the summons of the gospel, but only a certain percentage responds properly.”[492]

Discussion Questions

What does this parable tell us about God’s calling and election of people?

Why does Jesus choose to compare heaven to a wedding reception in this parable? What does this tell us about what heaven will be like?

Conclusion

The people weren’t allowed entrance based on their good deeds. In fact, Jesus says that “both evil and good” people entered (v.10).

The people weren’t forced to come. Indeed, many decided to freely reject the King’s invitation—even violently.

No one will be able to carry a defense as they stand before Christ. This man was “speechless” (v.12). You will also be speechless if you stand before the infinite-personal God without the forgiveness of Christ.

Consequently, it’s too late once you get there. When we stand before Jesus, we will need to already have accepted his forgiveness. If you wait until you get there, you’ll be like this man: in big trouble!

Matthew 22:15-46 (Jesus: the Great Debater)

Jesus’ opponents try to trap him, but Jesus maneuvers deftly in debate. He is calm, courageous, and in control of himself the entire time. Jesus doesn’t stay on the defensive, but instead, he forces his opponents to answer some questions…

Debating the PHARISEES and HERODIANS

[The parallel passages are found in Mark 12:13-37 and Luke 20:20-44.]

(22:15) Then the Pharisees went and plotted together how they might trap Him in what He said.

The Pharisees come to “trap” Jesus in a debate. This shows how important it is to know truth, know how to defend truth, and be prepared for how to maneuver in these tough situations (cf. 1 Pet. 3:15).

(22:16) And they sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and do not care what anyone thinks; for You are not partial to anyone.”

Instead of coming in person (were they too afraid?), the Pharisees send their
“disciples” to challenge Jesus. This is the only mention of the Herodians in Matthew.

These sly disciples of the religious leaders seem to be buttering Jesus up, telling him how “truthful” and impartial he is. Yet, remember, they are trying to “trap” him. They are trying to get him to stumble when they spring a dilemma on him.

(22:17) “Tell us then, what do You think? Is it permissible to pay a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?”

They bring up a very heated topic in first century Israel: taxes. This is not the Temple tax mentioned in Matthew 17:24-27. Instead, this is the poll-tax that was “paid direct[ly] to Rome.”[493] It was the “head tax” (tributum capitis) that came from Israel’s census taken by the Romans (Lk. 2:1-4; Jewish War, 1.154; 2.118, 403-5, 433; Tacitus, Annals, 2.42).[494]

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 (and Herodians) wanted to go to war to oppose the paying of taxes to Rome. They were similar to those who were “zealous for the Law” in the days of the Maccabean Revolt.

If Jesus agreed to the tax, his messianic status would be questioned. After all, the Messiah was supposed to dethrone Caesar—not pay taxes to him! But if he disagreed, then he would be viewed as a threat to Rome, which was a capital offense. Which horn of the dilemma will Jesus choose? This topic was so heated that the religious authorities brought it up at Jesus’ trial. They said, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, and saying that He Himself is Christ, a King” (Lk. 23:2).

(22:18) But Jesus perceived their malice, and said, “Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites?”

Jesus could see through this trap (v.15). He calls them hypocrites, because they themselves wouldn’t be able to answer this question. That is, this wasn’t just a tough question for Jesus to answer, but for everyone to answer.

(22:19) “Show Me the coin used for the poll-tax.” And they brought Him a denarius.

By asking them for the coin, Jesus was implicitly showing that they were idol-worshippers; that is, they carried around the image of a false god in their pockets! In fact, the inscription of a denarius read, “Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus.”[495] Keener writes, “Jerusalemites preferred death to allowing Caesar’s image to enter Jerusalem on standards (Jos. Ant. 18.59), yet they carried it in on coins.”[496] In other words, we might imagine Jesus saying, “Why are you asking me about taxes, when you carry money that engages in explicit idolatry?”

(22:20-21) And He said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” 21 They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” Then He said to them, “Then pay to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.”

Jesus’ answer is brilliant. He doesn’t fall into the trap of this dilemma. Instead, he splits the dilemma in a multitude of ways:

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) Keener affirms, “Surrendering to God ‘what is God’s’ implied the surrender of all one was and possessed.”[497]

The term render means that we owe this money. Therefore, it would be wrong to withhold it from Caesar. In Greek, there is a subtle play on words in the text: When the disciples of the Pharisees asked Jesus if it was lawful to “give” (didomi) this tax (v.17), this is different than the word “render,” which Jesus used. The term “render” (apodidomi) means “to meet a contractual or other obligation, pay, pay out, fulfill” (BDAG).

Jesus subtly points to the hypocrisy of these men carrying around a pocket idol. After all, they carried money with a deified, Pagan emperor in their pockets (see comments on v.18). This implies that they are breaking the 2nd commandment (Ex. 20:4; Deut. 5:8).

Neither group gets what they want to hear. Jesus tells the Pharisees to pay the taxes because of God’s providence in placing the Romans in power (cf. Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:13-17). The Herodians are told that their fidelity to God should supersede loyalty to Rome. Both groups hear that “the inscription on the emperor’s coin is wrong—he is neither God nor high priest—and his blasphemous coin does not belong in God’s temple.”[498] In the end, Jesus supports aspects of each view, but none of both views.

(22:22) And hearing this, they were amazed; and they left Him and went away.

Jesus could debate people to a standstill.

Discussion Questions

This was a heated political issue. What do you learn about how to handle heated political issues from Jesus’ example above?

What do you learn about how to debate from Jesus’ example above?

Debating the SADDUCEES

[The parallel passages are found in Mark 12:18-27 and Luke 20:27-40.]

(22:23) On that day some Sadducees (who say there is no resurrection) came to Jesus and questioned Him.

Josephus confirms that the Sadducees denied the afterlife (Acts 23:8). He writes, “The doctrine of the Sadducees is this: That souls die with the bodies.”[499]

Matthew’s use of the present tense (“[those] who say there is no resurrection”) supports the notion that he wrote this gospel before AD 70. Indeed, the Sadducees virtually disappeared after the Jewish Revolt (AD 66) and the Destruction of Jerusalem (AD 70).

(22:24) [The Sadducees were] saying, “Teacher, Moses said, ‘If a man dies having no children, his brother as next of kin shall marry his wife, and raise up children for his brother.’”

Instead of a political trap, they leverage a theological trap. They cite the levirate law found in Deuteronomy 25:5-6, which told the Jewish people to marry a widowed woman. The Mishnah also devotes an entire tractate to this subject as well (Yebamot).

(22:25-28) “Now there were seven brothers among us; and the first married and died, and having no children, he left his wife to his brother. 26 It was the same also with the second brother, and the third, down to the seventh. 27 Last of all, the woman died. 28 In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had her in marriage.”

The Sadducees are using a reductio ad absurdum. Under this form of argument, you carry out the premises of your opponent to their logical and absurd conclusions. They are trying to show that the concept of resurrection is absurd, because it would make marriage (an eternal bond) absurd. They had probably used this argument before on the Pharisees, and they thought it would work on Jesus as well.

In reality, the real question is why seven men would continue to marry such a deadly woman! We can only imagine the seventh brother sweating at the altar as he married this black widow…

(22:29) But Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, since you do not understand the Scriptures nor the power of God.”

Jesus is assuming that they (1) know what the Scriptures ARE and (2) what the Scriptures TEACH (note the same concept in verse 31). This defeats the notion that the Jewish canon was still undecided or unknown in Jesus’ day, and the concept that we cannot understand the clear teaching of Scripture. Later, Jesus cites Exodus 3:6 and states that this was “spoken to you by God.” This shows that the Scriptures are for every generation.

(22:30) “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.”

Marriage lasts until “death do we part.” Moreover, we will not get remarried in heaven. Jesus’ mention of being “like the angels” may have been a jab at the Sadducees who also denied the existence of the angelic order (Acts 23:8).[500]

(22:31-32) But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”

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). So, 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 bases his argument on grammar—specifically, the verb tenses. The text doesn’t say, “I was the God of Abraham.” It says, “I am the God of Abraham.” France comments, “‘To be the God of’ implies a caring, protecting relationship which is as permanent as the living God who makes it.”[501]

(22:33) When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at His teaching.

Again, Jesus argued them to a standstill. While Matthew doesn’t record their response, he definitely scored points with the crowds and audiences. Moreover, in Luke’s account, the religious leaders told Jesus that he had “answered well.” This was because “they did not have courage to question Him any longer about anything” (Lk. 20:39-40).

Discussion Questions

What do we learn about Jesus’ view and use of Scripture from this section?

What do you learn about how to debate from Jesus’ example above?

Debating the PHARISEES (Round 2)

[The parallel passage is found in Mark 12:28-34, though a similar passage can be found in Luke 10:25-28.]

(22:34) But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together.

The Pharisees earlier sent their disciples to debate Jesus (v.16). Now they work up the courage to come debate him themselves.

(22:35-36) And one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him: 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”

A “lawyer” was one who was an expert in biblical law. Thus, this man was “both a learned theologian and a legal expert.”[502] This was a test because rabbinical thinkers argued over how to accurately systematize the OT law. The scribes identified 613 commands in the OT law, and some held that all of these laws had equal importance.[503] Others systematized the law very simply. For instance, Rabbi Hillel articulated the Golden Rule in a negative form: “What is hateful to you, do not do to anyone else. This is the whole law; all the rest is commentary. Go and learn it” (b Shabbath 31a). Though, Carson notes, “Akiba’s dictum was a response to a Gentile challenge to explain the whole law during the time he could stand on one leg.”[504]

Since this was such a hot topic, “an incautious reply by Jesus could suggest that he repudiated some of these commandments, and thus lay him open to a charge of ‘annulling the law.’”[505]

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

(22:37-40) And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 Upon these two commandments hang the whole Law and the Prophets.”

France[506] and Carson[507] hold that the terms “heart… soul… mind…” are “overlapping categories”[508] that refer to the whole person, rather than individual parts of the person. This is a sort of merism that describes the whole person.

Jesus doesn’t bend on his conviction that the purpose of the Law was to love God (Deut. 6:5) and love our neighbor (Lev. 19:18). In Mark’s account, we read one of the scribes admitted that this was the correct answer (Mk. 12:32), and Jesus told him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God” (Mk. 12:34). If Jesus was merely preaching Law, then Jesus would have said that you are in the kingdom of God. Instead, this statement must mean that the man should reflect on the crushing weight of the Law, so he could come to salvation by grace through faith.

Jesus turns the tables: It’s his turn to ask a question

[The parallel passages are found in Mark 12:35-37 and Luke 20:41-44.]

Jesus doesn’t feel satisfied defending his own convictions. Here, he goes on the offensive in the debate. Indeed, now it’s time for his opponents to answer some questions! Instead of discussing peripheral details like taxes, marriage, etc. Jesus brings them to the “real issue,”[509] which is what they believe about him. Indeed, the subject of Jesus being the Messiah “is the topic they really should be talking about.”[510]

(22:41-42) Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question: 42 “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is He?” They said to Him, “The son of David.”

Jesus begins with a simple question. Anyone would be able to answer this. He is setting them up for his next question…

(22:43-45) He said to them, “Then how does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying, 44 ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, until I put Your enemies under Your feet”’? 45 Therefore, if David calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his son?”

Jesus observes that Psalm 110 was written by David, and yet David could refer to the Messiah as his “Lord.” How could this be, unless the Messiah was greater than David? Jesus sets up the antinomy or apparent conflict in Psalm 110, but he leaves the resolution to the difficulty as a cliffhanger. Yet an honest thinker could connect the dots: Just as Jesus was greater than the Temple (Mt. 12:7), Jonah (Mt. 12:41), and Solomon (Mt. 12:42), he was also greater than David.

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

(22:46) No one was able to offer Him a word in answer, nor did anyone dare from that day on to ask Him any more questions.

When Jesus wanted to debate, he could argue his opponents into utter silence. Earlier, Jesus kept his dialogues open, and his opponents would return for more. But not here. Why did Jesus argue them into silence? Was it because he wanted to humiliate the Pharisees publicly? Did Jesus want to show-off his intellectual prowess? Did he want to display his vast knowledge of the Scriptures? Not at all. Jesus waited to publicly take them down in debate to reveal to them and to 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 others in the crowd.

Discussion Questions

What do you learn about how to debate from Jesus’ example above?

This chapter issues a warning about intellectual smokescreens. These religious leaders didn’t want to hear the truth. They just wanted to catch Jesus in a lie or inconsistency in order to kill him. How can we identify intellectual smokescreens like this? What are signs that someone is using an intellectual smokescreen to avoid a topic?

Conclusion

The chapter opened by describing how people were refusing to come to the king’s wedding banquet for his son’s wedding. The rest of the chapter explains how these religious leaders missed an opportunity to come to faith in Jesus.

Matthew 23

Matthew 23-25 is the fifth and final teaching block of Jesus in Matthew. If you recall, the first four teachings were the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5-7), Missions (Mt. 10), Parables (Mt. 13), and the Church (Mt. 18). This is the “culmination of Jesus’s confrontations with Jerusalem’s religious leaders that began in 21:15.”[511] Later, Jesus will teach on the end of human history (Mt. 24-25).

Matthew 23:1-36 (Jesus rebukes the Pharisees)

[Much shorter parallel passages are in Mark 12:38-40 and Luke 20:45-47.]

In this chapter, there are no interruptions: Jesus absolutely unloads on the hypocrisy and legalism of the religious leaders!! He must’ve been gasping for air in between rebukes. Blomberg writes, “Sometimes shock treatment is needed.”[512]

Does Jesus’ expression of anger condone fiery rebukes against legalism? Yes and no. Jesus interacted and tried to persuade these religious leaders for years before this point. Indeed, in the previous chapter, he argued them to a point of silence (Mt. 22:46). Their problem wasn’t intellectual, but moral and spiritual. At a certain point, there is a time to draw the line. Furthermore, Jesus wasn’t rebuking them out of personal irritation, but out of concern for their own spiritual life and the spiritual lives of those they taught. This chapter is like a siren that is warning them about the coming judgment if they don’t repent (Mt. 23:37-39).

Jesus addresses the crowds

(23:1) Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples.

Jesus addresses the crowds and his rebuke “is intended to appeal over the heads of the leaders to those who have been attracted to Jesus’ teaching as a new and better way.”[513]

(23:2) [He was] saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses.

The “chair of Moses” has little precedent from the OT. For instance, we read, “It came about the next day that Moses sat to judge the people” (Ex. 18:13). Of course, this passage merely states that Moses was sitting when he held court—not that he used a special seat of any kind. Furthermore, this is merely Moses’ example, and doesn’t demonstrate that other successive leaders used a special seat to judge legal cases. However, it’s possible that later generations developed a “chair of Moses” in a literal way. Consider both views:

Is this a literal seat? Possibly, according to Carson[514] and Blomberg.[515] Archaeologists discovered the “Magdala Stone Moses Seat” in a synagogue. Titus Kennedy writes, “Excavations uncovered an intricately carved stone, nearly cubed shaped, decorated with a menorah, ritual water jars, pillars, palm trees, and various geometric and floral designs.” He adds, “Other objects identified as a ‘Moses Seat’ include those found in ancient synagogues at Hammath by Tiberias, Chorazin, En-Gedi, and possibly Delos.”[516] This seat was likely where the Scriptures were opened and spread out in front of the people. By saying that the Pharisees were sitting in this seat, Jesus was implying that these religious teachers were usurping the authority of Scripture with their own authority—a heinous sin indeed!

Is this a metaphorical seat? This is Keener’s view.[517] In modern idioms, we might refer to someone wanting to sit in the “captain’s seat.” Under this view, Jesus is saying that they were commandeering Moses’ authority—not a literal chair.

(23:3) Therefore, whatever they tell you, do and comply with it all, but do not do as they do; for they say things and do not do them.

“All that they tell you, do and observe…” This is odd in light of Jesus’ critiques of Pharisaical teaching (Mt. 15:1-20; 16:6-12). This could have been given “with an ironical, tongue-in-cheek tone.”[518] Under this view, Jesus spoke with “irony, not to be literally obeyed,”[519] and it is “biting irony, bordering on sarcasm.”[520] On the other hand, Jesus could be saying that the people shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater: If the Pharisees are reading God’s word, the people should follow it.[521] As one person has said, “God can draw a straight line, even with a crooked stick.” Truly, God’s word has the power to change lives, and the hypocrisy of the Pharisees shouldn’t stop the people from following what God says in his word.

Furthermore, Jesus gives us a key principle of legalism: Legalists are good talkers, but they don’t practice what they teach.

(23:4) And they tie up heavy burdens and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as their finger.

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 won’t help them with their struggles. These “heavy burdens” stand in stark contrast to Jesus’ ways which are “easy and light” (Mt. 11:28-30).

(23:5) And they do all their deeds to be noticed by other people; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments.

Legalists love getting attention, but they distain following God in secret.

Phylacteries were “small leather or parchment boxes containing a piece of vellum inscribed with four texts from the law.”[522] They contained scrolls of Exodus to Deuteronomy (specifically Ex. 13:2-10, 11-16; Deut. 6:4-9; 11:13-21). The religious leaders wore these on their arm or forehead. The Pharisees focused on the size of their phylacteries, rather than their content. We might compare this to modern churches that focus on large buildings and image management, but neglecting the growth of their people.

“Tassels” were commanded in the law to remind the people of God’s words (Num. 15:37-41; Deut. 22:12).

(23:6) And they love the place of honor at banquets, and the seats of honor in the synagogues.

They love getting the attention and honor of men, which is incompatible with getting honor from God. Elsewhere, Jesus said, “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?” (Jn. 5:44)

(23:7) And personal greetings in the marketplaces, and being called Rabbi by the people.

They love the title, rather than the role of being a teacher and leader.

(23:8-10) But as for you, do not be called Rabbi; for only One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers and sisters. 9 And do not call anyone on earth your father; for only One is your Father, He who is in heaven. 10 And do not be called leaders; for only One is your Leader, that is, Christ.

The NT uses the term “teacher” (Acts 13:1; 1 Tim. 2:7; Heb. 5:12; Eph. 4:11; 1 Cor. 12:28-29; Jas 3:1) and “father” for spiritual leaders (1 Cor. 4:15; 1 Jn. 2:13; Acts 22:1). Therefore, Roman Catholics aren’t ipso facto wrong for calling priests “father.” France argues that a meaningful application of this would be to avoid “honorific titles” for people,[523] and Blomberg states that “such titles are not to be used to confer privilege or status.”[524] By way of application, the purpose of Jesus’ teaching is that we should be servant leaders—not yearning for any title (see v.7).

(23:11-12) But the greatest of you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

This is the thesis statement through which we can understand these statements above. The Pharisees were wrong to desire being esteemed and worshipped by their followers (cf. Mt. 18:4; 20:26-27).

Jesus directly rebukes the Pharisees

The pronouns switch to “you,” which means that Jesus is directly rebuking the Pharisees here. These eight woes[525] may be parallel to the eight blessings in the Beatitudes (Mt. 5),[526] and somewhat similar to the six woes of Luke 11:37-54.

Jesus’ use of the word “woe” is complex. It can refer to a lament (Mt. 24:19), or it can refer to a curse (Mt. 11:21). Turner states that this is a “blend [of] anger, grief, and alarm about the excruciating consequences that will come upon Israel due to its sin.”[527]

(23:13) But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut the kingdom of heaven in front of people; for you do not enter it yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.

The Pharisees’ theology stopped people from going to heaven. Truly, this is radical legalism, because the loss of eternal life was at stake. This is built on the back of such passages as Jeremiah 23:2 and Ezekiel 34:2-8.

(23:14) This passage is not in our best manuscripts of Matthew, and it is likely taken from Mark 12:40. Regarding this passage in Mark, we can note that they were taking from the poorest of the poor (widows), while at the same time thinking they were righteous for praying afterwards!

(23:15) Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.

It’s unlikely that these Pharisees were reaching Pagans; rather, they were most likely reaching fellow Jews into Pharisaism.[528] Leading others into legalism is a tremendous sin. Jesus isn’t against sharing our convictions (Mt. 28:18-20), but he is against sharing poisonous convictions!

(23:16-17) Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple is obligated.’ 17 You fools and blind men! Which is more important, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold?

This is like saying, “I swear on my mother’s grave!” And the other person says, “No, instead, swear on your mother’s inheritance… And by the way, I have a notary present if you decide to sign a legal contract…” They focused on gold, rather than on God.

(23:18-22) And you say, ‘Whoever swears by the altar, that is nothing; but whoever swears by the offering that is on it is obligated.’ 19 You blind men, which is more important, the offering or the altar that sanctifies the offering? 20 Therefore, the one who swears by the altar, swears both by the altar and by everything on it. 21 And the one who swears by the temple, swears both by the temple and by Him who dwells in it. 22 And the one who swears by heaven, swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it.’

The point here is that the Pharisees were ousting God as the most important aspect of the Temple. We see this same practice in the OT just before God vacated the Temple, and called for its judicial destruction.

(23:23-24) Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the Law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!

They focus on ethical minutiae, rather than the more important moral principles (see “Prioritized Ethics”). Regarding verse 24, France writes, “The joke may have been aided by an Aramaic pun on galma (gnat) and gamla (camel).”[529] The people were probably laughing at this joke, even as Jesus continued to rip these hypocrites to shreds.

“Weightier” does not refer to the more difficult, but rather, it refers to the “more central” and “more decisive,” rather than the ethically trivial or “peripheral.”[530]

(23:25) Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.

There was a debate between the Hillelites and the Shammaites on what constituted a clean cup. Hillelites taught that one simply needed to clean the inside, while the Shammaites taught that both the inside and the outside needed cleaned.[531] Jesus incisively uses this silly debate to show them their problem: The issue isn’t with cups but with people! They focus on their appearances, rather than on their character. Inside, they have all sorts of problems, but they can’t bring themselves to admit this.

(23:26) You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may also become clean.

Jesus gives an invitation to have their hearts cleaned in the midst of this rebuke.

(23:27-28) Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 So you too, outwardly appear righteous to people, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Right before Passover, there was a Jewish custom where they would plaster tombs white (i.e. “white-wash” them). They did this so that people wouldn’t accidentally touch these tombs and become ritually defiled (Mishnah Shekalim 1:1; cf. Ma’aser Sheni 5:1). Think of this picture: These white tombs looked nice on the outside, but inside, they were full of death and decay. In the same way, these people looked good on the outside, but they were full of spiritual death on the inside. Those obsessed with “law” ended up in “lawlessness.”

It’s also possible to understand Jesus’ words to refer to the ossuaries (or bone boxes) that looked good on the outside, but were filled with death on the inside.[532] Though, we favor the first reading as more natural.

(23:29-31) Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs for the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, 30 and you say, ‘If we had been living in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31 So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.

There is wordplay going on between this woe and the previous woe. These religious teachers like to “beautify” the places of death, even though they are the ones who would’ve filled the tombs! Turner comments, “The simile of tombs (23:27) links the sixth woe to the seventh. But these tombs belong to the prophets murdered by the leaders’ ancestors. The leaders beautify the tombs and claim that they would have had no part with their ancestors in killing those who now occupy the tombs”[533]

In the first century, people built many monuments to venerate their ancestors. For instance, Herod built a monument that was dedicated to King David’s tomb (Antiquities, 16.179-182). Jesus states that they honor the graves of these men, but they would have put these men in their graves if they were alive! This is similar to Stephen’s words, “Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute?” (Acts 7:52)

“If we had been living in the days of our fathers…” This statement captures the attitude of the legalist. It’s like the “Monday morning quarterback” who is second guessing the NFL quarterback: “I would’ve thrown it to the tight end… He was WIDE OPEN!” Armchair critics are usually self-righteous and self-deceived. They make excellent choices for other people in the past, but they make poor decisions for themselves in the present.

“Sons of those who murdered the prophets…” These (obviously) aren’t literal sons. Rather, this was an expression that showed that a person with similar character traits could be called a son (Mt. 8:12; 9:15; 12:27; 13:38; 23:15; Mark 3:17, 28; Luke 16:8; 20:34, 36; John 12:36; 17:12; Acts 4:36; 13:10; Eph. 2:2-3; Col. 3:6; 1 Thess. 5:5; 2 Thess. 2:3). We use similar expressions when we refer to “a chip off the old block” or when “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”[534] While these expressions refer to the father-son relationship, the point is that these aren’t literal pieces of wood or literal trees. Rather, these expressions emphasize character traits given from father to son—not physiological traits.

(23:32) Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers.

The connection to the “fathers” is that they fulfilled or “fill up” (plerosate) the example to an even greater degree. Paul seems to pick up this idea in 1 Thessalonians 2:16, when he writes, “They always fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them to the utmost.”

(23:33-34) “You snakes, you offspring of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell? 34 Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will flog in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city.”

The disciples of Jesus reached many of these religious leaders with Jesus’ message of love and forgiveness. However, many of them went to hell after hearing this horrific warning. This isn’t the first time they heard this, because John the Baptist had used almost identical words three years earlier (Mt. 3:7). They simply refused to listen.

(Mt. 23:35) Jesus claims that the last Hebrew martyr was Zechariah the son of Berechiah, but this is the wrong Zechariah.

(23:35) So that upon you will fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar.

Salvation history contains many examples of hypocrites and legalists killing the prophets. If church history has taught us anything, legalism can even lead to murder if left unchecked!

(23:36) Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

This likely refers to the destruction of the Temple (v.38), though it could also refer to the judgment of hell (v.33).

Jesus expresses personal sorrow over the judgment of Jerusalem

(Mt. 23:37-39) Does this passage support Preterism?

(23:37) Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who have been sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.

We find a close parallel in Luke 13:34-35. Typically, God himself was pictured as a bird protecting his people (Deut. 32:11; Ps. 17:8; 91:4; Isa. 31:5). Thus, this could support the deity of Christ.

This passage is difficult for Calvinism for obvious reasons. Calvinists often offer two rejoinders: (1) This doesn’t refer to salvation and (2) the “children” are the Jewish lay people rather than the religious leaders. However, these responses aren’t persuasive.

(1) This is a salvation passage. In context, 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.” Furthermore, historically, bringing someone under God’s “wings” was a sign of salvation. Keener writes, “Jewish teachers also came to speak of one who converted a Gentile as bringing him or her under the wings of the Shekinah (cf. Ruth 2:12; 2 Bar. 41:4; Sifra Qed. Pq. 8.205.1.4; Sifre Num. 80.1.1; Sifre Deut. 32.2.1; b. ‘Abod. Zar. 13 b; Shab. 31a; Gen. Rab. 47:10; Song Rab. 1:1, 10; 1:3; 3; Pesiq. R. 14:2).”[535]

(2) Even if the “children” refer to the Jewish lay people, then this passage would still raise major difficulties for Calvinism. After all, how could the “unwillingness” of these leaders thwart the sovereignty of God? In other words, how could the puny will of a human leader stop God from saving those he desires to save?

Regardless, nothing in the text connects “Jerusalem, Jerusalem” with only the religious leaders. After all, if this only refers to the religious leaders, then this would mean that only the religious leaders died in AD 70 (Mt. 23:38-39). Instead, even Reformed commentators like Carson state that the mention of Jerusalem is a use of “metonymy” to refer to “all Jews.”[536]

(23:38) Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!

No doubt, this refers to the destruction of the Jewish Temple in AD 70 (Mt. 24:2). The language is key: This is not God’s house, but your house.” Much like during Ezekiel’s time, God had left the Temple. But the religious leaders even didn’t notice!

(23:39) For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is the One who comes in the name of the Lord!’”

Jesus cites Psalm 118:26. This was the same psalm that the people were singing a few chapters earlier (Mt. 21:9). Since this hasn’t been fulfilled, then we should expect it to happen before the Second Coming.

On a Preterist view, when did the unbelieving Jewish nation ever bless the return of Christ? Three chapters earlier, we see what Jesus meant by having the crowds shouting such a praise. When Jesus came into the city of Jerusalem in Matthew 21:9, the crowds literally sang Psalm 118:26 and Jesus literally and physically entered the Temple—not figuratively or symbolically as Preterists contend. We agree with Stanley Toussaint when he writes, “Jews would hardly call the horrible decimation of life in the destruction of their capital city a blessed coming of the Messiah. Rather, verse 39 describes Israel’s future repentance when they will mourn because of their great sin (Zech. 12:10).”[537] For these reasons, we hold that this event will occur toward the end of human history (Zech. 12; Rom. 11:25-29).

Preterist Kenneth Gentry has nothing to say about Matthew 23:39. He skips from Matthew 23:38 to 24:1.[538]

Preterist R.T. France attempts to explain Jesus’ statement by arguing that the expression “until you say” is not a certainty in the future. Instead, this is an “indefinite possibility.” He writes, “There is no promise that the condition will be fulfilled.”[539]

Preterist Gary DeMar follows France’s view, citing four passages that demonstrate how this Greek word may not refer to a certain fulfillment (Mt. 5:26; 18:30; 18:34; Acts 23:12).[540] However, while DeMar cites multiple passages to support this “indefinite possibility” reading, it’s more interesting to note the passages he does not cite. Matthew uses the word “until” (heos) in several other predictions in his gospel (cf. Mt. 5:18; 17:9; 26:29):

(Mt. 10:23) For truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.

(Mt. 16:28) Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.

(Mt. 24:34) Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.

Preterists stake their view particularly on these three passages above. They claim that the preaching of the disciples (10:23), the coming of Christ (16:28), and the events of the destruction of Jerusalem (24:34) all needed to be fulfilled in the first century, during the lives of the disciples. But if Matthew’s use of the word “until” only refers to an “indefinite possibility,” then this would nullify the three most crucial passages that support the Preterist position!

We agree with Carson who notes that the “from now… until” language refers to the Second Coming or parousia of Jesus (cf. Mt. 26:29, 64).[541] Yet, at the very least, this would explicitly imply a large revival of Jewish evangelism before the Second Coming—if not the regathering of Israel itself.

Discussion Question

Read Matthew 23: According to Jesus, what qualities make someone or something legalistic?

Conclusion

Jesus hates legalism, hypocrisy, and anything that keeps people from coming to saving faith. When we look at this type of religious thinking today, it should anger us too, because it keeps people from coming to know Christ.

Matthew 24

Matthew 24 (The Olivet Discourse)

[The parallel passages are found in Mark 13:1-37 and Luke 21:5-36. John doesn’t contain this teaching of Jesus, but he did write 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. Luke conspicuously omits Jesus’ teaching that (1) all life would be destroyed, (2) this is the greatest tribulation the world has ever seen, and (3) this period is connected with “the abomination of desolation.” Luke seems to focus on the destruction of the Temple in AD 70, and he doesn’t flash forward to the end of history until after verse 25.

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)[542]

Famines and earthquakes (v.7) called “birth pangs” (v.8)
Persecution in the synagogues (vv.12-16)

Persecution (v.9) and apostasy (v.10)

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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)
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“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)
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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)

Many commentators hold to a Preterist view of the Olivet Discourse; that is, they argue that most of these predictions were fulfilled by AD 70 in the Jewish War. For a thorough response to a Preterist reading, see James Rochford, Endless Hope or Hopeless End, “Chapter 8: Was Jesus a Preterist?” pp.97-108.

R.T. France (Preterist) understands verses 4-35 to refer solely to the Jewish War (AD 66) and the Destruction of the Temple (AD 70). He writes, “On the interpretation here adopted vv. 4-35 form a continuous whole referring to the coming judgment on Jerusalem.”[543]

D.A. Carson (Preterist-Futurist) agrees with our view that the “disciples think of Jerusalem’s destruction and the eschatological end as a single complex web of events,”[544] yet these are not all the same event. However, we find the rest of his view to be quite convoluted. Carson contends that verses 4-28 refers to “persecution and tribulation for his followers” throughout the Church Age, while verses 15-21 refer to the Fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. Then, verses 29-31 refer to the Second Coming. And verses 32-35 refers to the persecution during the Church Age. Finally, verses 36-44 refer to the Second Coming.[545]

Craig Blomberg (Preterist-Futurist) sees verses 3-14 being fulfilled “prior to AD 70.”[546] He sees the “gospel reaching all nations” as referring to the known world at the time (i.e. the Roman Empire). He understands verses 15-20 to refer to the destruction of the Temple in AD 70 because of their “Jewish nature” and their “close correspondence to the actual events of the mid-first century.”[547] Though, without going into any detail, he states that “much that surrounded the destruction of the temple and the Jewish war in AD 70 will be repeated, probably on a larger scale, just prior to Christ’s return.”[548] Does he think that the destruction of the Temple in AD 70 is a type of a third Temple? He doesn’t say.

David Turner (Preterist-Futurist) understands the bulk of chapter 24 in this way: Verses 4-14 describe the period before his Second Coming (i.e. the Church Age); verses 15-31 describe “an unprecedented season of intense tribulation that will immediately precede his coming”[549] (i.e. the Tribulation); and finally in verses 32-35, Jesus concludes with parabolic language to describe his authority. Furthermore, he argues that “the great tribulation” of verses 21-28 refers to “the entire period beginning with the devastation of AD 70 and continuing on until Christ’s return.”[550]

Craig Keener understands verses 4-14 as “not specifically end-time events, but events that would happen throughout history for which disciples must be prepared.”[551] In verse 15 and following, Keener sees a gap where Jesus “skips from this tribulation [in AD 66-70] to the next eschatologically significant event, his return [i.e. Second Coming.].” Moreover, he “regards the whole interim between the Temple’s demise and his return as an extended tribulation.” Finally, he understands the teaching as “prophetically blends the tribulation of 66-70 with the final one, which it prefigures [citing Darrell Bock].”[552] He writes, “The disasters of 66-73 could not have exhausted the point of his words.”[553] Yet, he notes that these partial fulfillments would fulfill Jesus’ statement that “this generation” would witness these events (in AD 70).

(24:1-2) Jesus left the temple area and was going on His way when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. 2 But He responded and said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.”

The fact that Jesus was leaving the Temple also carries symbolic meaning of God’s presence leaving his people. He won’t return until he is welcomed back by the Jewish people at the end of history (Mt. 23:39).

What did the Temple look like? The Jewish Temple was beautiful and enormous. Josephus writes that its stones were 40 feet long, 18 feet deep, and 12 feet tall.[554] The Talmud records, “He who has not seen the Temple of Herod has not seen a beautiful thing.”[555] It was “known throughout the Roman world (2 Macc 2:22; Ep. Arist. 84:91).”[556]

When was the Temple destroyed? Virtually all interpreters agree that the fulfillment of Jesus’ prediction occurred in AD 70 at the culmination of the bloody Jewish War. 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.”[557]

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

(24:3) And as He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?

“He was sitting on the Mount of Olives.” This would be an epic setting for Jesus to give his predictions about the future. After all, in light of Zechariah 14:4, this would be the very place that Jesus would return, and it had a breathtaking view of the city of Jerusalem and the Temple.

The disciples asked three questions, and the last two questions refer to the same event:[558]

(1) “When will these things happen?” The disciples may have thought that the destruction of their Temple would be the same event as the end of the world. However, this first part was fulfilled in AD 70, and Jesus explains the other events in this same setting. Matthew and Mark briefly refer to the destruction of the Temple in AD 70 (v.2; Mk. 13:2), but Luke’s account gives a fuller explanation of this event (Lk. 21:20-24).

(2) “What will be the sign of Your coming?” Jesus lists many signs that will precede his Second Coming.

(3) “[What will be the sign of] the end of the age?” This refers to the end of history (see Mt. 13:39, 40, 49; 28:20).

(24:4) And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you.”

Jesus opens up this discussion on the end times by warning about false teachers. Over the last 2,000 years, many false teachers have flocked to end times prophecy like flies flock to feces.

(24:5) For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will mislead many people.

Is Jesus referring to the first century or to the end of human history? Preterists may very well be correct in seeing this period as referring to the history leading up to AD 70. Consider several examples of false prophets and false messiahs:

  • Theudas (AD 45) led a number of people to the Jordan River, claiming he was a prophet and claiming the ability to divide the water like Moses. Josephus states that “many were deluded by his words.” Fadus sent a troop to kill these people, capture Theudas and decapitate him (Josephus, Antiquities, 20.97-99).
  • An Egyptian impostor claimed to be a “prophet,” and he “advised the multitude of the common people to go along with him to the Mount of Olives.” This unnamed Egyptian predicted that “the walls of Jerusalem would fall down,” and “he promised that he would procure them an entrance into the city through those walls, when they were fallen down.” Felix sent in the cavalry and the army to annihilate 400 of these people, taking 200 alive. The Egyptian escaped from this fight and disappeared (Josephus, Antiquities, 20.169-172). This is an expanded account of the brief mention in Acts 21:38.
  • A certain impostor promised the people deliverance, “If they would but follow him as far as the wilderness.” However, Festus sent in the military and “destroyed both him” and those he had “deluded” (Josephus, Antiquities, 20.188).
  • Manahem (the son of Judas) led the revolt during the Jewish War at Masada. When he was eventually found, they publicly “tortured him with many sorts of torments,” and then they “slew him” (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 2.448).
  • Other examples include Theudas, who is different from the man mentioned above (Acts 5:36-37), as well as a couple others (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 2.448; 6.285-287).

This theme of false teachers comes up again in verse 11 and verses 23-27, as well as in the rest of the NT. Therefore, we hold that these examples above are the beginnings of a process that continues throughout the entire Church Age. Paul writes, “Let no one in any way deceive you” (2 Thess. 2:3). John writes, “Just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared” (1 Jn. 2:18). Then, he writes, “These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you” (1 Jn. 2:26). In his second letter, he writes, “Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist” (2 Jn. 7).

(24:6) And you will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end.

The history leading up to the destruction of the Temple in AD 70 fits with Jesus’ words as well. However, Jesus specifically says, “That is not the end.” Such a short-term fulfillment fits both a Futurist and a Preterist reading.

(24:7) For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.

Famines (Acts 11:28) and earthquakes (Acts 16:26) are recorded in the book of Acts. Therefore, this could again refer to the first century world—not the end of history. We take these predictions about false teachers (vv.4-5), wars (v.6), famines (v.6), and earthquakes (v.6) as occurring in the first century, and continuing to get worse and worse throughout the Church Age. This seems to be Jesus’ point in the subsequent verse…

(24:8) But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pains.

Here’s the point: A first century fulfillment wouldn’t preclude the Futurist reading, because Jesus continues to say that “these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.” That is, these things could start in the first century and continue to increase in frequency and in severity until Jesus returns. Hence, the point is that these signs show us that the end is not here. These lead up to the end.

(24:9) Then they will hand you over to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name.

“They will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you.” Many of the disciples were martyred for their faith—not the least of which are James of Zebedee (Acts 12:2), Peter (1 Clement 5:4-5), Paul (1 Clement 5:4-5), and James—the brother of Jesus (Antiquities 20). While we have had “tribulation” throughout the Church Age (Rev. 1:9), this is different than the great tribulation” mentioned later.

(24:10) And at that time many will fall away, and they will betray one another and hate one another.

Apostasy has occurred in every age. Apparently, it will get worse as history progresses (many will fall away”). Perhaps it gets worse because of the sheer number of people who are alive at the end of history. We’re not sure.

(24:11) And many false prophets will rise up and mislead many people.

In addition to the comments on verses 4-5, notice how false teaching leads to an increase in “lawlessness” and a lack of love (v.12; cf. 2 Tim. 3:4). False teaching will inevitably produce a lack of love.

(24:12) And because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will become cold.

Futurists sometimes argue that this could refer to the end times, where moral relativism is increased. Surely, it was also true in the first century when people persecuted Christians en masse.

Excursus: Does this refer to the first century, or can it apply to the end of history?

So far, Jesus’ teaching could all fit before AD 70. We have no problem with a Preterist reading so far. Our chief objection with Preterism is its rigidity in forcing everything Jesus says through a first century, historical grid. This has all the markings of trying to squeeze a round peg into a square hole: it simply doesn’t fit.

That being said, why couldn’t these things have begun in the first century and continue on to this day? Keener observes, “Most of the events of 24:5-14 occurred between A.D. 30 and 70.” However, he adds, “The general character of the language prohibits us from limiting it to any such events… Such events occurred throughout the period of AD 30-70, and continued to occur afterward.”[559] After all, Jesus refers to these things as “birth pangs” (v.8), which increase in frequency and intensity over time. Hence, Preterists can quote Josephus until they are blue in the face to demonstrate a first century fulfillment, but it doesn’t prove a thing. Demonstrating a first century fulfillment does nothing to preclude a Futurist reading as well. After all, the Futurist believes these are “birth pangs” that will get worse and worse. It seems likely that Jesus’ description of these events refers to the opening of the seals in Revelation 6 that occur before the Tribulation.[560]

Flashing forward to the end

We aren’t exactly sure where a gap occurs in Jesus’ teaching that definitively places us at the end of history. Verse 13 may be the place of the gap, because it mentions “the end.” However, verse 14 is definitely a gap, because the gospel has not reached the “whole world” and “all nations.” Consequently, the end” has not come.

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

(24:13) But the one who endures to the end is the one who will be saved.

The “end” lacks the article, so it could simply refer to the end of this period.[561]

(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 gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.

This may refer to the Church spreading the gospel to the “whole world” and “all the nations” before Jesus returns. On the other hand, it’s possible that angels will fulfill this commission. John writes, “I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people” (Rev. 14:6).

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

(Mt. 24:15-21) Is this the Fall of Jerusalem in AD 70…? Not at all!

D.A. Carson[562] holds that this section (vv.15-21) reverts back to the Fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. In other words, the context up until this point has referred to the Church Age (vv.4-14), and verse 22 and following refer to the Second Coming. However, these verses in between refer to the Fall of Jerusalem! (vv.15-21) His central argument is that these verses are “too limited geographically and culturally.”[563] Jesus refers to those in “Judea” (v.16), and he refers to the “Sabbath” (v.20). Yet in contrast to Carson’s view, we can make several points:

First, this breaks from the context and Jesus’ flow of thought. It jumps from the Church Age leading up to the Second Coming (vv.4-14), reverting back to AD 70 (vv.15-21), and then jumping forward to the rest of the Church Age leading up to the Second Coming (v.22ff). This is nothing short of contextual gymnastics.

Second, on this view, verse 21 refers to AD 70, and verse 22 refers to the end of history. However, the language of verse 22 modifies verse 21. When Jesus says, “Unless those days had been cut short…,” to what days is he referring?

Third, Carson has no explanation as to what historically fulfilled the abomination of desolation in verse 15. Indeed, interpreting verse 15 from a Preterist view is quite difficult (see comments on verse 15 below).

Fourth, under Carson’s view, we need to understand the “great tribulation” as referring to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Furthermore, we need to understand this as having been the worst atrocity “since the beginning of the world until now,” or “ever will [happen]” in the future (see below). For these reasons, we reject this view.

We agree with Carson that the language is “geographically and culturally” centered on Israel. Indeed, this means Jesus was either referring to Jerusalem in AD 70, or he was referring to Jerusalem at the end of history. But make no mistake: He is clearly referring to Jerusalem! This means that either a Preterist reading is true, or a Dispensationalist reading is true. After all, only these schools of interpretation allow for a Jewish setting.

(24:15) Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place—let the reader understand.

Daniel writes about the “abomination of desolation” in four passages: Daniel 8:13, 9:27, 11:31, and 12:11. To which passage is Jesus referring? We think it’s clear that he’s referring to Daniel 9.

  • Daniel 8:13 and Daniel 11:31 are both ruled out because these passages refer to Antiochus Epiphanes IV (168 BC). Antiochus sent his mercenaries to Jerusalem, and they attacked on the Sabbath Day. They killed a large number of people and looted the city (see 1 Macc. 1:30-32; 2 Macc. 5:25-26). Antiochus prohibited all Jewish religious practices, promising that violators would be killed (see 1 Macc. 1:50, 63). He set up a statue of Zeus in the temple (“the abomination that causes desolation”). Then, on December 25, he offered a sacrifice to Zeus by slaughtering a pig on the altar. Daniel calls this the abomination of desolation because it rendered the temple unclean, useless, and desolate. But Jesus speaks of this abomination in the future—not the past.
  • Daniel 12:11 refers to a period chronologically after the return of Michael the archangel (Dan. 12:1), the worst distress on Earth (Dan. 12:1), which correlates with Matthew 24:22, and the resurrection of the dead (Dan. 12:2). Clearly, this cannot be what Jesus is referring to.

Jesus must be referring to Daniel 9:27, which mentions the invading armies, the Romans, the Antichrist, and the end of the age.

In Mark’s account, we see that Mark uses the masculine singular to refer to a person standing in the Temple (“when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be” Mk. 13:14 ESV). This shows that the Futurist reading of Daniel 9:27 is correct—namely, that Daniel was predicting a man (the Antichrist) desecrating the Temple (cf. 2 Thess. 2:3-5).

Preterists understand this abomination in many ways. First, it could refer to Emperor Caligula trying to erect a statue of himself in the Temple (AD 40-41). This is far too early, and the plan was never carried out. Second, it could refer to Zealots desecrating the Temple with murder and installing a false high priest in AD 68 (Wars, 4.150-157, 162-192, 334-344). But this doesn’t fit, because they didn’t use an idolatrous symbol. Third, it could refer to the Romans putting their standards or images in the Temple, which was thought to be idolatrous. Fourth, most understand the abomination to refer to the destruction of the Temple in AD 70. However, if this was the case, then it would have been “too late for anyone in the city to flee.”[564] None of these options work.

R.T. France writes that it must have been some event during the Jewish War, but he doesn’t commit to one.[565] Likewise, D.A. Carson[566] characteristically outlines several different options, but lands on none. This is a serious indictment on the Preterist view. If this event was so important, why was such a catastrophic event never recorded—especially if the reader was supposed to understand what it was? As a Futurist, we would argue that this event hasn’t occurred yet.

(24:16) Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains.

If the Futurist reading is correct, then a return of Jewish life and the regathering of Israel are implied by these descriptions. The setting is in “Judea” and there is a return to “Sabbath” keeping (v.20).

(24:17-18) Whoever is on the housetop must not go down to get things out of his house. 18 And whoever is in the field must not turn back to get his cloak.

When believers see the Abomination of Desolation, they are told to urgently flee. This is the language of a fireman telling people not to grab precious commodities from a house that is on fire. Every second counts, and there is simply no time to linger. Jesus is directly saying, “Get out… NOW!” Or in the words of Arnold Schwarzenegger, “Come with me if you want to live!”

(24:19) But woe to those women who are pregnant, and to those who are nursing babies in those days!

This would be an especially bad time to have children. It would be hard enough to escape these atrocities as a single person, but just imagine bringing a pregnant wife or young baby along with you.

(24:20) Moreover, pray that when you flee, it will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath.

Why would it be bad to travel during the winter? The “roads in Palestine were practically impassable with mud.”[567] Moreover, you wouldn’t have any possessions—not even a “cloak” (v.18). So, this would be rough travelling.

Why would it be bad to travel during the Sabbath? During the Sabbath, the “gates would be shut and provisions unobtainable.”[568] Furthermore, religious Jews would disapprove of travel like this—especially during a time of war. So, “few would help” the Christian escape the city.[569]

(24:21) For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will again.

This great tribulation stands in contrast to the general tribulation mentioned earlier (v.9). Incidentally, this tortures the text to squeeze this event into the period of history before AD 70. The destruction of Jerusalem was not the worst tribulation on Earth, or even the worst horror for the Jewish people (e.g. the Nazi Holocaust).

Carson acknowledges that Hitler and Stalin brought about worse atrocities (than the Jewish War of AD 66-70), but he argues, “There have been greater numbers of deaths… but never so high a percentage of a great city’s population so thoroughly and painfully exterminated and enslaved as during the Fall of Jerusalem.”[570] In our estimation, this is quite a stretch. Are we honestly to believe that Jesus was thinking in terms of percentages when he said this? Minimally, the text nowhere makes such an assumption. Instead, Jesus says that this is the worst tribulation. Period.

Matthew 24:22-35 (The Second Coming)

(Mt. 24:22) Is Jesus using hyperbole when he says “no life would have been saved” as Preterists claim?

(24:22) And if those days had not been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.

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.

Preterists understand the “great tribulation” to refer to the Jewish War (citing Josephus, Jewish War, 5.512-518). However, this language of a “great tribulation” (thlipsis) matches the Septuagint (LXX) and overall language of Daniel 12:1, which takes places at the end of history—certainly not in AD 70!

(24:23-24) Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘He is over here,’ do not believe him. 24 For false christs and false prophets will arise and will provide great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.

Jesus’ return will not be secret. It will be obvious to all. Blomberg writes, “In the twentieth century the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ belief in a secret, invisible return of Christ in 1914 affords a classic example of what Christ commands us here to avoid.”[571]

Christ’s use of miracles is far different from the Antichrist. Turner comments, “Jesus’s reticence to use miracles to gain a following (4:1-11; 12:15-21, 39; 16:1-4; 27:40) contrasts with the false messiahs’ practice.”[572]

This is the third time Jesus mentions false teachers (vv.4-5, 11). This period of history will be a time of intense deception. Just as Jesus gave “signs” to demonstrate his identity, these false messiahs and false prophets will be empowered by Satan to lead people astray. We agree with Carson who writes, “Empty-headed credulity is as great an enemy of true faith as chronic skepticism.”[573]

This differs slightly from John’s description in Revelation. John writes of a singular false Christ (“the Beast”) and a singular false prophet. This fits well with Paul’s teaching about the end of human history: “[The Antichrist’s] coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, 10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 11 For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, 12 in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness” (2 Thess. 2:9-12).

Can true believers (“the elect”) lose their salvation? No. Jesus says, “False christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect” (Mt. 24:24). The word “deceive” is telic, and it can be rendered as “in order to deceive.” Thus, this refers to “the intent of the deceivers.”[574] The “possible” aspect is similar to Jesus asking if it was “possible” for him not to take up the Cross (Mt. 26:39). This was his sincere request, but it simply wasn’t in the realm of his actual or possible choices if he was to redeem humanity.

(24:25) Behold, I have told you in advance.

While these predictions scare 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 Enemy’s plan “in advance.”

(Mt. 24:26-27) Is the lightning symbolic of God’s judgment as Preterists claim?

(24:26-27) So if they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them. 27 For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes as far as the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.

Jesus distinguishes his return as an unmistakable, earth-shaking event. In other words, his return will be crystal clear—not hidden or open for debate.

The public may have thought that the Messiah would come from the “wilderness” because this is where John the Baptist preached (Mt. 3:1-3). This could also explain why so many messianic pretenders came from the wilderness (Antiquities, 20.97-99; 167-172). Keener writes, “Later Jewish texts expected the coming of the Messiah in the wilderness… (Num. Rab. 11:2; Song Rab. 2:9, 3; Pesiq. R. 15:10).”[575] Likewise, the “inner rooms” could refer to the Messiah’s obscurity (Jn. 7:27).

(24:28) Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.

This graphic prediction speaks of the many, many people who will suffer judgment and death from the return of Christ. That is to say, the birds will feast on the carcasses and corpses of the dead. Turner writes, “Perhaps the grisly picture of vultures hovering over the bodies of those who rebel against God speaks of a final eschatological battle (Rev. 19:17-18).”[576]

Do the vultures and corpses refer to infallible knowledge? France,[577] Carson,[578] and Blomberg[579] argue that vultures infallibly know where corpses are, and in a similar way, we will infallibly know when Jesus returns. While this reading fits with the context to some extent, so does the reading on judgment. Moreover, this reading seems stretched. After all, Jesus could’ve used a far less macabre and enigmatic proverb to describe his return if this is what he intended!

(24:29) But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

This passage occurs after the tribulation of those days.” This means that the “great tribulation” (v.21) has past, and this is ended with the return of Christ. The imagery of the sun, moon, and stars is most likely apocalyptic language describing the cataclysmic return of Christ. Carson, surprisingly, takes the sun, moon, and stars as literal objects.[580] Some literality could be in view—especially the sun and moon being darkened. However, what about how the “stars will fall from the sky?

Preterists use this apocalyptic language to their benefit to argue for a non-literal reading which could be fulfilled in AD 70.[581] They also note that heavenly signs were fulfilled during the Jewish War (see Josephus Jewish War 6.288-310; Tacitus, Histories 5.13). This seems to go too far in the opposite interpretive direction.

(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) And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.

Jesus will literally return—just as he literally left (Acts 1:11). People will literally mourn as they see him return—specifically the nation of Israel (Zech. 12:10-12; Rev. 1:7).

“The sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky.” This “sign” (sēmeion) could refer to the “ensign” or “standard” or “banner” of the king, rather than a physical, visible sign in the sky.[582] As Isaiah predicts, “In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious” (Isa. 11:10 NIV). Furthermore, the “trumpets” mentioned in the next verse fit with this military view (v.31). However, this relates back to the question raised by the disciples in verse 3 (“What will be the sign of Your coming?”). Surely, they were asking for some sort of visible sign or signifier.

Does Matthew’s citation of Daniel 7:13-14 support Preterism? Preterists understand this citation as Jesus receiving his kingdom in heaven, because the “clouds” represent God’s abode.[583] After all, they argue, Daniel 7:13-14 states that Jesus goes up to receive his kingdom—not down to the Earth. Thus, Matthew 24:30 shows that “the authority of Jesus is vindicated over the Jewish establishment which has rejected him.”[584]

However, this interprets Jesus receiving his kingdom from God the Father too rigidly. True, Daniel 7:13-14 states that Jesus will go up to the clouds to receive his kingdom from God. However, this could simply be the necessary prerequisite before Jesus comes down to rule and reign on Earth. Indeed, this reading of Daniel 7:13-14 literalistically understands Jesus’ interaction with the Father in “some physical and spatial sense.”[585] Ironically, this is something that Preterists are often reluctant to do.

 (24:31) And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet blast, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.

Jesus will use angelic agency to gather believers at this time. These believers just escaped the final world war—a war so horrendous that it would’ve ended all life on Earth without divine intervention (v.22). Thus these believers are probably in bad shape and in need of rescue.

Post-tribulationists understand this to be the moment where the rapture occurs (compare with 1 Thess. 4:17; 1 Cor. 15:52). This is because of the mention of the rescue of believers, and the “trumpet blast.” (For our view, see “A Pretribulational Rapture”).

Preterists understand the “angels” (angeloi) to refer to human “messengers” (cf. Mt. 11:10). Under their view, these “messengers” (angeloi) refer to missionaries and the “human preaching of the gospel throughout the world” and the “world-wide growth of the church.”[586]

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

(24:32-33) Now learn the parable from the fig tree: as soon as its branch has become tender and sprouts its leaves, you know that summer is near; 33 so you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.

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) Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.

When these things occur (all these things take place”), this is the final generation of the human race. Our failed experiment of human rebellion will almost be over.

Carson understands “this generation” to refer to Jesus’ current generation. Yet how does he harmonize this with his (partially) Futurist position? He states that parts of the fulfillment of the events of the tribulation in the Church Age (vv.4-28) would have been seen by that generation.[587] This is an interesting reading. However, this doesn’t do justice to the use of the word “all” in Jesus’ statement, “This generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” Surely not all of these things had not taken place in the first century, and we have no justification to arbitrarily end the scope of these events in verse 28.

(24:35) Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.

Jesus’ predictions seem hard to understand and maybe even hard to believe. But here, he reaffirms the reality and veracity of his words. It’s as if Jesus is saying, “Mark my words… This is going to go down exactly as I’ve predicted it!”

This further supports the deity of Christ, because Jesus equates his words with God’s words. Isaiah records that God’s words last forever: “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isa. 40:8).

Matthew 24:36-41 (We don’t know the time of Jesus’ return)

In this section, Jesus emphasizes that no one knows the time of his return. Consequently, it’s best to live as though he could return at any time.

(24:36) But about that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.

“Date setters” for the return of Christ are sadly mistaken. Blomberg writes, “‘Day’ and ‘hour’ are regularly used throughout Scripture for ‘time’ in general, not just twenty-four-hour or sixty-minute periods (in Matt cf. 7:22; 10:19; 24:42, 44, 50; 25:13; 26:45).”[588] We can know that we are seeing signs that indicate the nearness of Jesus’ return; otherwise, Jesus wouldn’t tell us to look for these signs. However, we cannot know the exact time of Jesus’ return. Indeed, it is blasphemous to claim to know the time of Jesus’ return, when Jesus himself claimed that he didn’t know!

Early scribes edited out Jesus’ name in this verse, most likely out of embarrassment.[589] This shows that Matthew had more integrity than the later scribes! This verse definitely existed because it is found in Mark 13:32.

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

Preterists often see Jesus jumping forward to his Second Coming at the end of history here.[590] In our estimation, this shows their inconsistency, because they constantly gripe about Dispensationalists seeing “gaps” in prophetic material. Yet, everyone admits that there are gaps—even Preterists!

As in the days of Noah…

(24:37-39) For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. 38 For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.

Many Futurist interpreters understand this passage as referring to the moral depravity of humanity during this time. We are sympathetic to this interpretation, because Scripture elsewhere teaches that the end of history will be a time of severe moral depravity (2 Tim. 3:1-7).

However, this seems like an example of “right message, wrong passage.” Jesus is not comparing the moral quality of the people, but rather the suddenness of God’s judgment. Jesus doesn’t mention the sins of the people in Noah’s day; instead, he refers to morally neutral acts of “eating,” “drinking,” and “marrying” (though see Mt. 24:49). His point is that the people of Noah’s day were clueless about their impending judgment “until the day that Noah entered the Ark.” That is, the people in Noah’s day decided to continue on with “life as usual,”[591] and they didn’t see the coming judgment until it was too late. This is eerily similar to people today, who discount the return of Jesus (2 Pet. 3:4). Therefore, since “no one knows the day or the hour,” we should live in a state of constant readiness for the return of Christ (v.44).

(24:40-41) At that time there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left.

Some Dispensational interpreters understand this as referring to the Rapture. We disagree. For one, if we read this chronologically, then the Rapture would occur after the Tribulation—not before (see “A Pretribulational Rapture”). More importantly, the context speaks of judgment—not rescue. Thus, in context, the ones who are taken are taken to judgment. The ones who were taken in Noah’s day were those who drowned in the Flood. In other words, you really don’t want to be the one taken in this rapture!

Regardless, Jesus’ point is that even close relationships will suddenly be ripped apart. A father and son could be working together, and suddenly, they will be separated… forever! This reminds us of the opening scene of End Game (2019) with Hawkeye and his family—a gut-wrenching realization of separation.

Matthew 24:42-44 (Parable of the Thief and the Homeowner)

This kicks off a series of five parables that teach us, “BE READY!” This first of five parables uses a rather odd metaphor, where Jesus compares the suddenness of his return to a thief robbing a house.

(24:42-44) Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. 43 But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 44 For this reason you must be ready as well; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.

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. To be clear, the analogy is not describing the moral character of the thief, but the suddenness of the thief.

Matthew 24:45-51 (Two servants)

(24:45-46) Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household slaves, to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.

When Jesus returns, will he find you “faithful” and “sensible”?

(24:47) Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions.

Jesus promises to reward those who are faithful and sensible.

(24:48-51) But if that evil slave says in his heart, ‘My master is not coming for a long time,’ 49 and he begins to beat his fellow slaves, and he eats and drinks with those habitually drunk; 50 then the master of that slave will come on a day that he does not expect, and at an hour that he does not know, 51 and he will cut him in two and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

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.

Discussion Questions

Define the words Preterism and Futurism? What are the key differences between these two views?

People often say, “Studying the end times is a waste of time. We should focus on the here and now—not prophecies about the end of the world.” How would you reply to this oft-repeated objection?

In your mind, what are some of the hardest passages for a Preterist to interpret in the Olivet Discourse? What are some of the hardest passages for a Futurist to interpret? Both schools have difficulties, but which view makes better sense of the text overall?

Do you think it’s wrong to speculate about the Bible’s picture of the events at the end of history? What are ways to guard us from becoming fanatical about our speculations?

In their book The Underground Church (2014), Bach and Zhu note that the Chinese government will not let “official churches” teach about the Second Coming of Christ. (As a result, many Chinese Christians have gone “underground” into unofficial house churches.) Why do you think the Second Coming of Christ would be such a controversial doctrine? In your opinion, how important is this doctrine to the Christian faith?

Matthew 25

[This entire chapter is unique to Matthew. Jesus begins this chapter by saying, “Then…” which might imply a connection with Matthew 24. Based on this and the context, some Dispensational interpreters see this material as occurring chronologically after the Tribulation and Second Coming, which would place us in the Millennium. Though, see comments on verse 1 below.]

Matthew 25:1-13 (Parable of the Ten Virgins)

(25:1) Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the groom.

“Then” (tote) could be understood chronologically. If this is the case, then chapter 25 should be understood as occurring after the Second Coming. However, Carson states that this word is “sufficiently vague,” citing Matthew 2:7, 24:9, and he argues that “not much can be built on it.”[592] Earlier in his commentary, Carson noted that the word “then” (tote) doesn’t always carry “temporal force,” and often serves “as a loose connective.”[593]

What is the significance of ten virgin women waiting for a single groom in a wedding? In this culture, the groom would go to the bride’s house in a procession, carrying on the celebration. The ten virgins are likely bridesmaids who are waiting for the procession to pass by (almost like friends supporting and cheering on a Marathon runner today). They may be “attendants of the bride, or servants in the bridegroom’s home, or perhaps friends and neighbours. (The term ‘bridesmaids’ in our heading is not necessarily to be read in a modern cultural context!).”[594] Most likely, they are there to walk the groom to his “wedding feast” (v.10). So, they are waiting for him to arrive so that they can join the wedding procession.

The “bridegroom” surely refers to Jesus (Mt. 9:15). This would be another allusion to the deity of Christ, because the OT describes Yahweh as the Groom (Isa. 54:4-5; 62:5; Jer. 2:2; Hos. 1-3).

“The lamps” refer to “torches whose rags would need periodic dowsing with oil to keep them burning.”[595]

(25:2-4) Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they did not take extra oil with them; 4 but the prudent ones took oil in flasks with their lamps.

Earlier, the contrast was between the faithful and unfaithful (Mt. 25:36-51). Here, it is between the “foolish” and the “prudent” or “wise” (NIV). Our focus on the Second Coming isn’t always a moral issue. Often, God expects us to make wise choices based on the overarching teaching of Scripture. That is to say, knowing that Jesus is returning soon, what is the wisest decision or course of action?

There is no symbolism to the fact that some sleep and some have oil. The point is that five are ready for the groom, and five are not. Similarly, some people will be ready for Jesus’ return, while others won’t be ready. 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) Now while the groom was delaying, they all became drowsy and began to sleep.

Jesus is preparing his disciples for a “delay” in his return (cf. Mt. 24:48; 25:5, 19; 2 Pet. 3:3-8).

(25:6) But at midnight there finally was a shout: ‘Behold, the groom! Come out to meet him.’

This would’ve been a very unexpected time for the groom to arrive. It was in the middle of the night (“midnight”), and they were sleeping.

(25:7) Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps.

“Trimmed their lamps” means to get them soaked with oil and lit on fire. Fully soaked, these torches would burn for about 15 minutes.[596] So, they needed to wait until the groom was right there before they could do this.

(25:8-10) But the foolish virgins said to the prudent ones, ‘Give us some of your oil, because our lamps are going out.’ 9 However, the prudent ones answered, ‘No, there most certainly would not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’ 10 But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the groom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut.

What does the oil represent? Some commentators (especially the church fathers) focus on the details of this parable. Green[597] and Hendriksen[598] regard the “oil” as the Holy Spirit. Donfried[599] and Garland[600] interpret the “oil” as good works. Yet these are all over-reading the text. After all, none of these things can be bought—let alone at the store![601] Instead, the oil represents being prepared for Jesus’ return—nothing more. In parables, it’s generally wise to focus on the parts in light of the whole. The main point is, “Be ready!”

It isn’t that the wise virgins are selfish. The foolish had the time and resources to get their own oil, but they didn’t prepare in advance. So they were scrambling at the last minute. We cannot trust in someone else’s alert attitude. We need our own convictions on this. Jesus’ point is that “preparedness can neither be transferred nor shared.”[602]

(25:11-12) Yet later, the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’

Because they weren’t prepared, they missed their opportunity (“The door was shut”). It was too late to plead for him to open the door. They blew it. So too, at the end of history or at the end of our lives, there will be a point where it is too late to turn to Christ. Bertram Shadduck wrote this chilling song on the subject which he called “The Great Judgment Morning” (1894).

…The soul that had put off salvation,

“Not tonight; I’ll get saved by and by,

No time now to think of religion!”

At last they had found time to die.

[Refrain]

And, oh, what a weeping and wailing,

As the lost were told of their fate;

They cried for the rocks and the mountains,

They prayed, but their prayer was too late.

(25:13) Be on the alert then, because you do not know the day nor the hour.

Jesus makes the application clear that we need to be ready for his return at any time (cf. Mt. 24:36, 42, 44, 50). Turner comments, “They expected the bridegroom to come on their schedule, not his.”[603]

Matthew 25:14-30 (Parable of the Talents)

[The “parable of the talents” has close similarities with Luke’s “parable of the minas” (Lk. 19), but the two are substantially different. We agree with Carson[604] that these are two different parables.]

We get our concept of having “talent” from this passage. But originally, the word “talent” (talanton) referred to a measure of precious metal—not to a gift or aptitude. Verse 18 calls it “money” for clarity. A talent was “between fifty-eight and eighty pounds,”[605] and it could consist of different metals (e.g. gold, silver, bronze, etc.). It was generally held to be worth 6,000 denarii.[606] A denarius (singular) was a full day’s wage for a grown man. In modern terms, if a man made $20 an hour (or $40,000 per year), this would mean that a “talent” would be worth $960,000. So, the master was entrusting a lot of money to these servants!

By contrast, Luke refers to a “mina,” which is only 100 denarii (or drachmas).

(25:14) For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them.

God has entrusted humans with everything we have: beauty, wealth, intelligence, education, circumstances, resources, etc.

(25:15) To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey.

We aren’t all given equal gifts or abilities. We are entrusted with talents “according to [our] ability.” Some are clearly more gifted than others. But notice that each person—no matter their talents—gets the same praise from the Master. God will likewise judge us based on what we’ve been given.

(25:16-18) The one who had received the five talents immediately went and did business with them, and earned five more talents. 17 In the same way the one who had received the two talents earned two more. 18 But he who received the one talent went away and dug a hole in the ground, and hid his master’s money.

The man with five talents didn’t waste any time, but “immediately” got to work and made five more. The man with two made two. The man with one didn’t invest the money at all, but buried it in the ground.

(25:19) Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them.

There will be a historical day in the future where Christ will ask us how we invested his resources. Again, Jesus emphasizes the delay of his return (“after a long time…” cf. Mt. 24:48; 25:5, 19; 2 Pet. 3:3-8).

The FIVE talent man

(25:20) The one who had received the five talents came up and brought five more talents, saying, ‘Master, you entrusted five talents to me. See, I have earned five more talents.’

The man with five made five.

(25:21) His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter the joy of your master.’

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 a massive return.

What is the reward? We see three rewards given here:

(1) Praise from the Master (“Well done!”). We all seek approval. Imagine if you were a musician who was covering a song by your favorite rock band. One of your YouTube videos went viral, and after reading some of the comments, you noticed that the rock band commented on your cover! Imagine that they wrote, “Great job… We loved your rendition of our song!” This would surely bring happiness to be praised in this way by someone you deeply admire. But if this is the case, how much happier will you feel to get praise from the infinite-personal God?[607] (For further reading on this, see C.S. Lewis’ famous essay entitled, “The Weight of Glory”)

(2) More responsibility (“I will put you in charge of many things…”). Thankfully, heaven will not be a bunch of people wearing adult diapers, playing harps, and floating on the clouds for eternity. We will have meaningful responsibility and purpose.

(3) Happiness (“Enter into the joy of your master…”). God created us as emotional and sensory beings. If we have happiness and pleasure in this life, how much more will we have in the next?

The TWO talent man

(25:22-23) Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, ‘Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have earned two more talents.’ 23 His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter the joy of your master.’

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 all of the gifts you don’t have. Thus, 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.

The ONE talent man

(25:24-25) Now the one who had received the one talent also came up and said, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed. 25 And I was afraid, so I went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you still have what is yours.’

This isn’t a defense of his actions… It’s an accusation against the Master! Why didn’t he at least 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 that the Master was trying to take from him. He accuses the Master of “reaping where he did not sow.” This means that the Master was taking what didn’t belong to him. If we believe God is trying to take from us, we will not be willing to trust him with our lives or resources.

(3) He was afraid. Really, this fear was built upon false assumptions regarding the Master. Many believers are fearful of dedicating their lives to Christ. They are afraid of failure or looking foolish. Really, this is not the root fear. The root fear is that they don’t believe God is good enough to provide.

(4) He was guilty of doing… nothing. Most Christians play it safe, and are obsessed with not doing anything wrong. But the problem is that they also aren’t doing anything right.

The Master’s evaluation

(25:26-27) But his master answered and said to him, ‘You worthless, lazy slave! Did you know that I reap where I did not sow, and gather where I did not scatter seed? 27 Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest.’

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 the money in the bank. Instead, he did nothing. 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.

The Master uses the man’s own words to indict him (“You knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed”).

 (25:28-30) “‘Therefore: take the talent away from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.29 For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away. 30 And throw the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

This final man must be a non-Christian, because he not only receives no reward (v.28), but he is also actively judged (v.30).

We see cases of repetition in Jesus’ teaching: verse 29 is the same as Matthew 13:12, and verse 30 is the same as Matthew 8:12; 13:42, 50.

Matthew 25:31-46 (The Sheep and Goats Judgment)

These previous two parables describe how God will judge or reward people. By contrast, this final section is not a parable.[608] It contains simile (vv.32-33) and parabolic elements (e.g. sheep, goats, shepherd, etc.). But this is a teaching about what judgment will look like.

(Mt. 25:31-46) Does this passage teach salvation through good works?

(25:31) But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.

This likely refers to the millennial kingdom. Jesus is leaving Heaven to come to Earth. It is here—on Earth—that Jesus will “sit on his glorious throne” (cf. Mt. 19:28). This also occurs after the Second Coming, because Matthew 25 occurs chronologically after the description of the Second Coming in Matthew 24 (see comments on Mt. 25:1).

(25:32-33) And all the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, just as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33 and He will put the sheep on His right, but the goats on the left.

During the day, sheep and goats mingle together, but at night, they will separate, because “sheep tolerate the cool air, but goats have to be herded together for warmth.”[609] Similarly, in the end, Jesus will judge humanity. This is not just for Israel, but for all the nations.”

(25:34-36) Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’

This switches from the “Son of Man” to “the King,” because Daniel 7:13-14 refers to the Son of Man receiving a “kingdom.” Thus, the transition is a natural one.

“Inherit the kingdom prepared for you…” This is similar to when James and John of Zebedee asked for a seat at Jesus’ right and left hand in his kingdom (Mt. 20:23). Thus, this could refer to their rewards in the kingdom, because it refers to their responsibility and role (Mt. 5:3-12; 19:29). These people gained rewards based on how they treated Jesus’ disciples (i.e. “brothers,” v.40).

(25:37-39) Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38 And when did we see You as a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’

We take the term “righteous” in a forensic sense.[610] This means that this is who they are—not what they do (Mt. 13:43, 49). Apparently, there will be a lot of surprises on this day. We will not have realized how much we served Christ, but he will remember and reward us for it.

(25:40) And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of Mine, you did it for Me.’

Jesus identifies with us so much that loving his people is like loving him (cf. Acts 9:4).

(25:41) Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you accursed people, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.’

Is this literal fire? Not likely. After all, it is prepared for spiritual beings such as “the devil and his angels.” How would literal fire affect spiritual beings like Satan or demons?

Is this fatalism? Not at all. Heaven was “prepared” for believers (v.34), even from “the foundation of the world.” But hell was “prepared” for Satan and his angels, and there is no mention of this being prepared from “the foundation of the world.” In other words, God never intended people to go to hell. France comments, “The cursed are going to a fate that was not meant to be theirs.”[611]

(25:42-43) For I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43 I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’

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

(25:44-45) Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or as a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it for one of the least of these, you did not do it for Me, either.’

Apparently, this judgment will be surprising for the non-believers too. Only Jesus is calm and composed, because he has perfect and omniscient knowledge 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. We might compare this to 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) “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

This is a strong passage against the concept of Annihilationism (see “Is Hell Annihilation?”). Yet, while this passage is terrifying, we see that Jesus chose to pay the price of hell in the following verse: “Jesus said to His disciples, ‘You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion’” (Mt. 26:1-2).

Discussion Questions

Jesus could return at any time. One theologian once quipped, “How many of us wake up in the morning and say, ‘Jesus could return today’”? Or who thinks, “Jesus might return this Tuesday”? For discussion, how might this doctrine affect a group of believers if they truly believed that Jesus could return at any moment?

What does it look like to be ready for the Second Coming of Christ? How would we know if we were ready?

If Christ could return at any time, does this mean that we should not invest in long term goals? How might you respond to the claim, “We shouldn’t invest in our retirement or a college education, because Jesus could return at any moment”?

Matthew 26

Matthew 26:1-5 (The betrayal of Jesus)

[The parallel passages are found in Mark 14:1-2 and Luke 22:1-2.]

(26:1-2) When Jesus had finished all these words, He said to His disciples, 2 “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion.”

After finishing his long teaching on the end of history, Jesus brings the focus back to the present stage in God’s plan: his own death on the Cross (cf. Mt. 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:18-19). Before we can make it to his Second Coming, Jesus had to finish his work in his First Coming. This passage seems to connect Jesus’ death with the typology inherent in the Passover (cf. 1 Cor. 5:7).

(26:3-4) At that time the chief priests and the elders of the people were gathered together in the courtyard of the high priest named Caiaphas; 4 and they plotted together to arrest Jesus covertly and kill Him.

This shows that Jesus’ short-term predictions were accurate. Even as he was predicting his death, the religious leaders were plotting his death.

Caiaphas reigned as the high priest from AD 18-36, which fits the historical timeline of the Gospels.

(26:5) But they were saying, “Not during the festival, otherwise a riot might occur among the people.”

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. Jesus’ influence was so widespread that his death at this point could cause an insurrection among the people, or at the very least, dangerous civil unrest.

The idea of a riot occurring during Passover fits with extrabiblical history. Josephus records an incident shortly after the time of Christ when a Roman regiment stood at the Temple, and a soldier “let down his breeches, and exposed his privy members to the multitude.” Josephus records that this precipitated a riot that killed somewhere between 10,000[612] and 20,000 people.[613] While this event happened shortly after the time of Jesus (under the Roman procurator Ventidius Cumanus, AD 48-52), Josephus records that Cumanus was doing “no more than what the former procurators of Judea did at such festivals.”[614] In other words, the tensions between the Jews and Romans during these festivals were high, and would even turn into full-blown uprisings.

Matthew 26:6-13 (Why this waste?)

[The parallel accounts are found in Mark 14:3-9 and John 12:2-8. John tells us that this woman was Mary—the sister of Lazarus (Jn. 12:3). Luke records a similar event (Lk. 7:36-50), but his account is not the same as this event.]

(26:6-7) Now when Jesus was in Bethany, at the home of Simon the Leper, 7 a woman came to Him with an alabaster vial of very expensive perfume, and she poured it on His head as He was reclining at the table.

When did this happen? John tells us that this happened “six days before the Passover” (Jn. 12:1), but Matthew topically places the account here.

Who is the “woman” mentioned here? The “woman” is Mary. This fits with the setting of Bethany, which was the hometown of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus (Jn. 11:1-2; 12:1-2; cf. Lk. 10:38-42).

Simon the leper is only known from this passage.[615] The terse mention of this man might imply that the original audience knew him. Perhaps he was a man who had been healed of leprosy by Jesus.

People in the ancient world “often used expensive alabaster bottles, which were semitransparent and resemble marble, to store the most costly ointments.”[616] Keener cites Pliny N.H. 13.3.19; 36.23.60 for support.

Mark and John mention that the vial was filled with “pure nard” (Mk. 14:3; Jn. 12:3), which was a very expensive perfume. The cost of the vial was estimated at 300 denarii; that is, it was worth roughly a full year’s salary (Mk. 14:5; Jn. 12:5). These alabaster vials couldn’t be opened and closed like Tupperware. They needed to be smashed open at the neck of the vial and used all at once. Because of their high value, women usually owned these for their dowry or their retirement. But this woman uses it on Jesus instead.

(26:8) But the disciples were indignant when they saw this, and said, “Why this waste?”

What really is waste? Waste is when we spend our resources on something that doesn’t have any benefit. Spending our lives on Jesus doesn’t lead to waste, but to spiritual wealth.

(26:9) “For this perfume could have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.”

The disciples considered this woman’s offering to be a giant waste. In fact, Mark adds that the disciples were “scolding” her (Mk. 14:5). But in the parallel passage, we discover that it was Judas who was pushing this perspective (Jn. 12:4), likely because he had the motive of stealing the money himself! 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) But Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you bothering the woman? For she has done a good deed for Me.”

Jesus doesn’t consider spending our resources on him to be a “waste” at all. Instead, he calls this effort a “good deed,” not a wasteful one.

(26:11) “For you always have the poor with you; but you do not always have Me.”

This passage implies that we should normally use our money to help the poor (cf. Deut. 15:11). Turner writes, “There will always be opportunities to help the poor, but time to honor [Jesus] is short.”[617] Indeed, Jesus’ earlier teaching on helping the Christian poor (Mt. 25:31-46) implies that caring for the poor is caring for him.[618]

(26:12) “For when she poured this perfume on My body, she did it to prepare Me for burial.”

Jesus was thinking about his death on the Cross when he saw this happen. Since he was crucified, the women didn’t have an opportunity to anoint him with oil before he was buried. Joseph of Arimathea took the body and prepared it for burial. The women came after Jesus’ death to anoint his body, but he was already risen (Mk. 16:1; Lk. 23:56-24:1; Jn. 19:39-40).

(26:13) “Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told in memory of her.”

Today, nearly 2,000 years later, we are still talking about what she did. Just 60 years after Jesus’ death (~AD 95), John assumes that his readers knew what Mary had done for Jesus (Jn. 11:1-2).

Matthew 26:14-16 (Judas sells out)

[The parallel passages are found in Mark 14:10-11 and Luke 22:3-6.]

(26:14) Then one of the twelve, named Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests.

After seeing this act of sacrificial love, Judas realized that his involvement with Jesus wasn’t going to bring about a profit. Also, Jesus had just rebuked him publicly (Jn. 12:7-8). This was the last straw for Judas! He wanted to “get out before it was too late.”[619] Luke adds that “Satan entered into Judas” at this moment (Lk. 22:3), which shows that Judas’ decision was free, but it had demonic consequences.

(26:15) And [Judas] said, “What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?” And they set out for him thirty pieces of silver.

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 dismissal, marginalization, or outright betrayal of Christ, we often give him second place in our lives for transitory commodities like money or status.

How much was 30 pieces of silver? If each piece was a shekel, then this would be equivalent to 120 days’ pay (or denarii).[620] This is also the price of a slave (Ex. 21:32). This fulfills what we read in the prediction of Zechariah 11:12. This was the low value that Judas had of Jesus. Judas sold out Jesus for 30 pieces of silver? What about you? How much do you value God? What price tag would you place on your relationship with God? No price tag is comparable to God’s precious and inestimable value!

(26:16) And from then on he looked for a good opportunity to betray Jesus.

Once Judas made his deal, he was watching for the right opportunity. This was a premeditated crime if there ever was one.

Matthew 26:17-29 (The Ultimate Passover)

[The parallel accounts are found in Mark 14:17, Luke 22:14-30, and John 13.]

(26:17-19) Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do You want us to prepare for You to eat the Passover?” 18 And He said, “Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, “My time is near; I am keeping the Passover at your house with My disciples.”’ 19 The disciples did as Jesus had directed them; and they prepared the Passover.

Jews would celebrate the Passover supper together, which was also called “the Feast of Unleavened Bread” (Lk. 22:2). It was difficult to get a room to eat this meal in the city during Passover, because tens of thousands of people flooded into Jerusalem during this time. Jesus took control to direct the disciples to the right person and the right place. They were supposed to look out for a man carrying a pitcher of water (Mk. 14:13; Lk. 22:10), which was slightly odd in this culture. Lemke notes, “At that time men normally carried water in skins while women carried water in jugs.”[621] Thus, this man would stand out to the disciples from the thousands of others. The man gave them a large and furnished upper room to eat (Mk. 14:15; Lk. 22:12).

(26:20) Now when evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the twelve.

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) And as they were eating, He said, “Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me.” 22 Being deeply grieved, they began saying to Him, each one: “Surely it is not I, Lord?”

Judas must have been a very keen liar and highly skilled hypocrite. After all, the disciples were quicker to implicate themselves, rather than Judas. In fact, they had a debate over which one of them might be the traitor (Lk. 22:23). Yet they didn’t point out Judas, because John records that the disciples were “at a loss to know of which one He was speaking” (Jn. 13:22).

(26:23) And He answered, “He who dipped his hand with Me in the bowl is the one who will betray Me.”

In John’s account, Jesus dips the bread and hands it to Judas (Jn. 13:18, 26).

(26:24) “The Son of Man is going away just as it is written about Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.”

God predicted that the Messiah would be betrayed, but Judas had the freewill to choose this. Based on this passage as well as others, 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) And Judas, who was betraying Him, said, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself.”

This statement only occurs in Matthew’s account, but the others were using this same defense (v.22). Judas must’ve been parroting what he heard the others saying—yet he can’t bring himself to call Jesus “Lord.” He only calls him “Rabbi.” Judas was lying right to Jesus’ face and in full view of the other disciples, keeping up appearances right to the bitter end. Judas left before Jesus initiated the Last Supper (Jn. 13:27-30).

(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) Now while they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” 27 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is My blood of the covenant, which is being poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.”

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) “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it with you, new, in My Father’s kingdom.”

We will be drinking wine with Jesus in the kingdom. This could refer to the Millennial Kingdom or to Heaven. Jesus promised that we will recline with him at a great banquet in the future (Mt. 8:11). Consequently, this passage contradicts the Mormon doctrine that Jesus celebrated the Lord’s Supper with the Native Americans. Jesus says that he will not drink wine again until the kingdom is inaugurated.

Discussion Questions

The Lord’s Supper and water baptism are the only two ritual prescribed in the NT. Why do you think God gave us the ritual of the Lord’s Supper? What is it about this that makes it so important for us to celebrate?

Matthew 26:30-46 (The Garden of Gethsemane)

[The parallel accounts are found in Mark 14:26-42, Luke 22:39-46, and John 18:1. Some skeptics argue that we cannot know this event, because the disciples were asleep, and thus they couldn’t have been witnesses of what Jesus said or did. However, Jesus’ 40 days of post-resurrection teaching would’ve allowed for his recounting of this account.[622] Indeed, this section even seems to be centered on Jesus’ point of view. John includes chapters 13-17 before Jesus goes out to the Mount of Olives.]

(26:30) And after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

They went back to the Mount of Olives, where Jesus had just finished giving his Olivet Discourse (Mt. 24-25). They probably sang Psalm 115-118, which was the last part of the Hallel at the end of the Passover. Carson comments, “Parts of it must have been deeply moving to the disciples when after the Resurrection they remembered that Jesus sang words pledging that he would keep his vows (Ps 116:12-13), ultimately triumph despite rejection (Ps 118), and call all nations to praise Yahweh and his covenant love (Ps 117). It may be that Jewish exegesis had already interpreted Psalm 118:25-26 as a reference to Messiah’s Parousia.”[623]

(26:31) Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’”

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

“Because of Me…” seems to refer to his arrest, suffering, and death.

(26:32) “But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.”

While the disciples would betray Jesus, He would not betray his disciples. He would wait for them in Galilee, which was fulfilled later (Mt. 28:7, 10, 16-20). This language of going ahead of them to Galilee could be further imagery of the shepherd following verse 31.

(26:33) But Peter replied to Him, “Even if they all fall away because of You, I will never fall away!”

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) Jesus said to him, “Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.”

How much did this moral effort and boasting help Peter? As it turns out, it didn’t help him at all. He ended up betraying Christ that very night.

Mark records that the rooster would crow “twice” (Mk. 14:30, 72). However, we can harmonize this in much the same way that we harmonize Jesus healing one person in one gospel, and two people in another. This is a case of what is called telescoping, where the author is focusing on one aspect of the narrative, rather than both aspects (or all aspects).

(26:35) Peter said to Him, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” All the disciples said the same thing as well.

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

(26:36) Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and told His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”

This was a “garden” according to John (Jn. 18:1), hence the oft-used title, “The Garden of Gethsemane.” Jesus told his disciples to stay behind while he went away for some solitude. In Luke’s account, Jesus tells them to pray that they wouldn’t fall into temptation (Lk. 22:40). Because they lost this battle in prayer, they lost the battle in practice. Because Jesus won his battle in prayer, he was able to win his battle at the Cross.

(26:37) And He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee with Him, and began to be grieved and distressed.

Peter, James, and John specifically shared their commitment to suffer and die for Jesus (Mt. 20:22; 26:35). They were willing to die for Jesus, but not pray for him!

(26:38) Then He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me.”

On the most difficult night of his life, Jesus wanted to be surrounded by three of his closest friends. He broke down in front of them. The language is so graphic that D.A. Carson comments, “It suggests a sorrow so deep it almost kills.”[624]

(26:39) And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will.”

In one sense, “all things are possible with God” (Mt. 19:26; Mk. 14:36). However, it is impossible for God to pay for sin without Jesus as the substitute.

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). The “cup” refers to the wrath of God. Jesus saw no contradiction with the idea that God loves us like a Father, and yet he calls on us to suffer.

(2) There’s nothing wrong with asking 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 it (“not as I will, but as You will).

Luke records that God sent an angel to comfort Jesus at this time (Lk. 22:43), as Jesus was dripping sweat in abject fear (Lk. 22:44).

(26:40-41) And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and He said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? 41 Keep watching and praying, so that you do not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

“One hour…” I feel like an hour of prayer is a long time. But this shows us that “one hour of prayer was not a long time by Jesus’ standards.”[625] 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—or even a single hour? Prayer is the cure for falling into temptation (Mt. 6:13).

(26:42) He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, “My Father, if this cup cannot pass away unless I drink from it, Your will be done.”

Earlier Jesus asked, “If it is possible.” Here, he prays something slightly different: “If this cannot pass away.” Again, Jesus lives out his own prayer: “Your will be done” (Mt. 6:10).

(26:43) Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy.

How did it feel for Jesus to see his three closest friends sleeping, rather than supporting him on this terrible night? They apparently fell asleep each time Jesus left (v.43, 45), and they didn’t have a good answer when Jesus woke them up each time (Mk. 14:40).

(26:44) And He left them again, and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more.

Just a few verses earlier, Peter claimed that he would die for Jesus (v.35), but he wasn’t willing to pray with him. France[626] and Blomberg[627] speculate that these three times of prayer relate to Peter’s three denials. In other words, because Peter didn’t draw power from God in private, he failed God in public (vv.69-75).

Similarly, the powerful sons of Zebedee couldn’t stay awake—even though they asked for this cup! Turner makes a profound connection, when he writes, “Zebedee’s sons wanted the highest honors in the kingdom and promised they could drink his cup (20:22), but now they do not even stay awake to share Jesus’s burden over the cup he alone will drink.”[628]

(26:45-46) Then He came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Get up, let’s go; behold, the one who is betraying Me is near!”

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.

Discussion Questions

Read verses 39-46. What do we learn about prayer from this section? What do we learn from Jesus’ example? What do we learn from the example of Peter, James, and John?

Matthew 26:47-56 (The Arrest of Jesus)

[The parallel accounts are found in Mark 14:43-52, Luke 22:47-53, and John 18:2-11.]

(26:47) And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, came accompanied by a large crowd with swords and clubs, who came from the chief priests and elders of the people.

Jesus couldn’t finish these words (vv.45-46) before Judas walked up in the middle of the night, surrounded by guards. John records that this “crowd” consisted of a Roman cohort (Jn. 18:3, 12).

(26:48-49) Now he who was betraying Him gave them a sign previously, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the one; arrest Him.” 49 And immediately Judas went up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed Him.

Why did Judas need to point out Jesus to the soldiers? The authorities didn’t have a photograph of Jesus, and it was very dark. So, the soldiers would’ve needed a visible way to signify whom to arrest.

Was it customary for a man to kiss another man as a form of greeting? Yes. Rabbis would allow their disciples to kiss them on the hand or foot, but this was “a mark of special honour,” and the disciple needed permission, otherwise it was a “studied insult.”[629] Thus, Judas turned an act of veneration and respect into one of betrayal.

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. We’ve seen people exaggerate, manipulate, or outright lie when they stop following Christ. Judas was this same way. Psychologists refer to this as cognitive dissonance, where a person cannot resolve their beliefs with their actions. Perhaps this is also a way of explaining the insanity of sin (also called the “noetic effects” of sin). Luke records that Judas’ hypocrisy was so flagrant that even Jesus was dumbstruck, asking him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” (Lk. 22:48)

(26:50) But Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you have come for.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and arrested Him.

Jesus was being betrayed by Judas, and he still calls him, “Friend.” Why doesn’t he call him “Liar!” or “Hypocrite!”? This shows the incredible love of Jesus.

(26:51) And behold, one of those who were with Jesus reached and drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear.

John tells us that it was Peter who struck the slave, and the slave’s name was Malcus (Jn. 18:10). Look at the mighty Peter! What a pitiful attempt to show loyalty to Christ! After all, there is a “Roman cohort” assembled to arrest Jesus (Jn. 18:2), and all Peter can do is cut off the ear of a single slave! In fact, he couldn’t even kill the poor guy—only maim him!

Luke adds that Jesus rebuked Peter for doing this, saying, “Stop! No more of this” (Lk. 22:51). Additionally, Luke records that Jesus healed the slave on the spot (Lk. 22:51).

(26:52) Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword will perish by the sword.”

Jesus rebukes this futile and malevolent action.

(26:53) “Or do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels?”

Peter misread this situation. He thought Jesus was helpless and in need of protection. Perhaps he wanted to fulfill his vow that he made earlier (Mt. 26:35). But Jesus needed no protection: a “legion” was 6,000 soldiers. Therefore, twelve legions of angels would be 72,000 angels!

(26:54) “How then would the Scriptures be fulfilled, which say that it must happen this way?”

Even on the worst night of his life, Jesus was still thinking about Scripture (see v.56).

(26:55) At that time Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me as you would against a man inciting a revolt? Every day I used to sit within the temple grounds teaching, and you did not arrest Me.”

Jesus points out the hypocrisy of this wrongful arrest. Luke adds that Jesus said, “This hour and the power of darkness are yours” (Lk. 22:53). The term “robber” (lēstēs) can also be rendered “revolutionary, insurrectionist, guerrilla [warfare]” (BDAG). Hence, the NASB 2020 renders this as “a man inciting a revolt.”

(26:56) “But all this has taken place so that the Scriptures of the prophets will be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left Him and fled.

Jesus’ appeal to the veracity of Scripture is fulfilled (see v.31; Isa. 53:12?). All of the disciples fled, and they made an easy escape because Jesus requested that the guards would leave his disciples alone (Jn. 18:8). Here is substitution: Jesus gets taken into custody so his disciples can run free. Jesus surrenders, and the guards bind him (Jn. 18:12).

Mark adds that a young man followed Jesus during his prisoner transport to the high priest. The authorities seized him, but they couldn’t hold him. They grabbed his tunic, but the kid ran away naked (Mk. 14:51-52). Since only Mark identifies this young man, some believe that this was Mark himself, though this isn’t certain.

Discussion Questions

Read verses 47-50. What do we learn about the character of Judas from this short episode?

Read verses 51-56. Peter made a vow to die for Christ. How well did he keep his vow? What do you think this is trying to teach us about making boastful promises to God?

Matthew 26:57-68 (Jesus and the High Priest Caiaphas)

[The parallel accounts are found in Mark 14:53-65, Luke 22:54-65, and John 18:24.]

(26:57) Those who had arrested Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were gathered together.

The soldiers followed the order of operations. They took Jesus to stand before the high priest to be investigated. Really, the religious leaders were leading a kangaroo court, and they had already decided to have him killed (Mt. 26:3-4).

(26:58) But Peter was following Him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and he came inside and sat down with the officers to see the outcome.

Peter had fled, but he wanted to get close. Peter was “midway between courage and cowardice.”[630] Was Peter still trying to salvage his betrayal of Jesus? Was he still trying to fulfill his vow based on self-effort? If he was, it only gets worse from here…

(26:59) Now the chief priests and the entire Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, so that they might put Him to death.

This was a witch hunt—plain and simple. They didn’t care about truth. They just wanted Jesus dead.

(26:60) They did not find any, even though many false witnesses came forward. But later on two came forward.

Jesus was so squeaky clean that they couldn’t even find false witnesses to accuse him accurately. They needed at least “two” witnesses to have Jesus killed according to the Mosaic Law (Num. 35:30; Deut. 17:6; 19:15). Yet, they came up short: Mark tells us that these various people were contradicting each other (Mk. 14:56, 59).

(26:61) And said, “This man stated, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to rebuild it in three days.’”

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) The high priest stood up and said to Him, “Do You offer no answer for what these men are testifying against You?” 63 But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest said to Him, “I place You under oath by the living God, to tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.”

If the high priest could get a confession, it would end the trial. If Jesus admitted to being the Christ (i.e. the Conquering King), the high priest would have warrant to hand Jesus over to the Romans to be killed. Instead, Jesus was being silent (Isa. 53:7), but finally, he gives an answer.

(26:64) Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

“You have said it yourself…” This corresponds to Jesus’ response to Judas (v.25). Jesus cites Psalm 110:1 and Daniel 7:13 to refer to himself, both of which were 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. Blomberg calls this the “Christological climax” of the Gospel.[631]

(26:65-66) Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? See, you have now heard the blasphemy; 66 what do you think?” They answered, “He deserves death!”

If Jesus’ statements were true, they would need to crown him. If false, they would need to kill him. There was no third option. Having gotten his confession, the high priest calls for others to confirm this. Mark records that “all” of the Sanhedrin voted against Jesus (Mk. 14:64). Blasphemy was faced with capital punishment (Lev. 24:10-23).

The high priest “tore his robes” in disgust and outrage. He was not even allowed to do this in a time of mourning (Lev. 21:10), so this shows how much rage filled his heart.

(26:67-68) Then they spit in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him, 68 and said, “Prophesy to us, You Christ; who is the one who hit You?”

Why were the people asking Jesus to “prophesy” when they slapped him? Mark and Luke tell us that they had Jesus blindfolded, which makes sense of this insult (Mk. 14:65; Lk. 22:64). This is a fulfillment of Isaiah 50:6.

Discussion Questions

Read verses 57-64. Why does Jesus remain silent if he planned on revealing who he was at the end of the trial anyhow? (see verse 64) Finally, how does Isaiah 53:7 help us understand Jesus’ silence?

Matthew 26:69-75 (Peter denies Jesus)

[The parallel accounts are found in Mark 14:66-72, Luke 22:54-62, and John 18:15-27.]

Jesus’ confession (vv.57-68) is in stark contrast to Peter’s betrayal (vv.69-75). In addition, Jesus’ persecutors taunted him to “prophesy!” (v.68) In reality, Jesus’ prophecy about Peter’s betrayal was coming to fruition at that very moment!

Earlier, Peter made a fool of himself when he struck the high priest’s slave. But he made a boastful vow, and like any prideful man, he’s still trying to keep it. Yet, in trying to salvage his reputation through self-effort and pride, Peter fails even harder than before…

According to the parallel accounts, 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). As you read this section below, notice that Peter’s trial gets more intense (e.g. girl, then a girl with a crowd, then a crowd), and his betrayal gets more intense (e.g. evasion, oath, curse).

Denial #1

(26:69-70) Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, and a servant-girl came to him and said, “You too were with Jesus the Galilean.” 70 But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.”

Once they kindled the fire, the girl could begin to see Peter’s face, recognizing him (Lk. 22:56). Regarding Peter’s denial, Carson writes, “The form of Peter’s denial is akin to a formal, legal oath (cf. M Shebuoth 8:3).”[632]

Look at the mighty Peter! He 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 girl… just a servant-girl!

Denial #2

(26:71-72) When he had gone out to the gateway, another servant-girl saw him and said to those who were there, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72 And again he denied it, with an oath: “I do not know the man.”

Again, the great Peter cannot even keep his vow in the face of another poor, little girl!

Denial #3

(26:73) A little later the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “You really are one of them as well, since even the way you talk gives you away.”

Galileans had an accent that would “give them away.” Lemke writes, “Galileans pronounced gutturals peculiarly and had a sort of lisp.”[633]

(26:74) Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know the man!” And immediately a rooster crowed.

Peter both “cursed” Jesus and “swore.” The word “cursed” (katathematizō) comes from the same root word that means “anathematize” or send to hell.[634] If this was the case, then this would be a particularly heinous sin! (Mt. 10:33)

Immediately after his third denial, the shrill and staccato noise of a rooster pierced the air. This must’ve sent a shiver up Peter’s spine. Luke adds that they were likely transporting Jesus through the courtyard at this time, and Jesus “turned and looked at Peter” (Lk. 22:61). Jesus heard Peter deny him, but he didn’t say a word. He just stared at Peter. That silent stare sent Peter into a hysterical fit of weeping.

(26:75) And Peter remembered the statement that Jesus had made: “Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

Peter remembered Jesus’ prediction (Mt. 26:34). This lesson is captured well in the words of Paul: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).

God broke Peter’s self-reliance through this episode. We don’t read about Peter in the rest of Matthew’s gospel, but Matthew foretold that Peter would be an ongoing leader in the church (Mt. 16:18-19; 19:27-28). We read about Peter’s restoration the most in John 21—though Mark and Luke refer to this as well. Even though Peter committed a horrific sin (Mt. 10:33), Jesus was able to restore him and have him lead powerfully just seven weeks later at Pentecost! Satan tells us that restoration will take years, but God often moves much faster than we expect. Peter’s restoration and repentance stands in stark contrast with Judas’ “remorse” (see our earlier article “Repentance”).

Discussion Question

Both Jesus and Peter faced interrogation and threats. How does Jesus’ response compare to Peter’s response?

Matthew 27

Matthew 27:1-2, 11-14 (Jesus before Pilate)

[The parallel passages are in Mark 15:1-5, Luke 23:1-5, and John 18:28-38.]

(27:1-2) Now when morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus to put Him to death; 2 and they bound Him and led Him away, and handed Him over to Pilate the governor.

“Now when morning came…” This little detail fits with the Mishnah, which states that capital crimes needed to be decided during the day: “In capital cases, they try the case by day and complete it [by] day” (m. Sanhedrin 4.1.7).

The religious leaders couldn’t put criminals to death (Jn. 18:31), but they had the legal right to take them to the Roman authorities. In this case, the authority is Pontius Pilate, the governor of Judea. He lived in Caesarea throughout the year, but he came to Jerusalem for the feasts, because these were contentious times of the year. Pilate had military and judicial authority over Judea and Samaria.

Matthew 27:3-10 (The Death of Judas)

[The parallel passage is in Acts 1:18-19.]

(27:3-5) Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? You shall see to it yourself!” 5 And he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and left; and he went away and hanged himself.

“Remorse” (metamelomai) and “repentance” (metanoeō) are not the same. Judas experienced the former (“remorse”), not the latter (“repentance”). Repentance isn’t about feeling miserable; after all, Judas felt really awful—indeed, awful enough to hang himself! Truly, the remorseful person can try to rectify the sin (“[Judas] returned the thirty pieces of silver”), and they may even admit that they sinned (“I have sinned by betraying innocent blood”). Yet he wasn’t truly repentant. He just wanted to feel relief from the crushing weight of guilt by returning the money. He wanted to look good, so he can feel better.

Is Matthew alluding to Ahithophel as a type or foreshadowing of Judas? Or is this a way of showing that Judas’ death was like Ahithophel’s in some way? The similarities between the two figures are several: First, both texts use the word “hanged” (apēnxato) to describe their deaths (see the LXX). Second, Ahithophel betrayed David, while Judas betrayed the ultimate Son of David. Third, both were fraudulent friends. However, we disagree with this interpretation. For one, we read no signifier of typology in the text, nor do we read Matthew’s common fulfillment motif (i.e. “this was to fulfill _____”). Second, the similarity of word-association is thin ground upon which to see typology. We agree with Carson who states, “That Matthew intended such a comparison is doubtful.”[635]

(Mt. 27:5) How did Judas die?

(27:6) The chief priests took the pieces of silver and said, “It is not lawful to put them in the temple treasury, since it is money paid for blood.”

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 same money back in. This is religious hypocrisy at its worst. It would be comical if it wasn’t so terrible.

(27:7-8) And they conferred together and with the money bought the Potter’s Field as a burial place for strangers. 8 For this reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day.

What is the significance of the fact that this was a burial place “for strangers”? Is Matthew communicating that Judas has become a stranger to Jesus or the people of Israel?

(Mt. 27:9-10) Did Matthew misattribute Zechariah 11:12-13 to Jeremiah?

(27:9-10) Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of the One whose price had been set by the sons of Israel; 10 and they gave them for the Potter’s Field, just as the Lord directed me.”

This passage in Zechariah foreshadowed the work of Jesus (see comments on Zechariah 11:13).

Discussion Questions

Read verses 3-5. What do we learn about Judas’ reaction to his sinful betrayal of Jesus? Why does his reaction result in his own death, while Peter goes on to help lead the early church?

Jesus faces Pontius Pilate

John informs us of 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) Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor questioned Him, saying, “So You are the King of the Jews?” And Jesus said to him, “It is as you say.”

Pilate thinks that Jesus is rising up as a political ruler—a Conquering King. He doesn’t realize that Jesus is coming as a Suffering Servant. They are speaking past each other. This accounts for Jesus’ enigmatic statement: “You say.”

(27:12-14) And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He did not offer any answer. 13 Then Pilate said to Him, “Do You not hear how many things they are testifying against You?” 14 And still He did not answer him in regard to even a single charge, so the governor was greatly amazed.

Jesus remains silent, fulfilling Isaiah 53:7 (cf. Mt. 26:62). Pilate seems incredulous over the fact that Jesus wouldn’t defend himself. Pilate was an evil man, but he is probably hesitant to crucify Christ, because it could start a riot (see comments on Matthew 26:5 above). The religious leaders wanted Jesus dead, but they also didn’t want to be held responsible.

Matthew 27:15-26 (Jesus before Pilate—the second time)

[The parallel passages are in Mark 15:6-15, Luke 23:13-25, and John 18:39-19:16.]

(27:15) Now at the Passover Feast the governor was accustomed to release for the people any one prisoner whom they wanted.

Pilate probably chooses this option because he wants to appease the crowds. He is worried about inciting a riot, and he wants to make sure the crowds agree to this execution.

John includes that the religious leaders had leverage over Pilate. 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) And at that time they were holding a notorious prisoner called Barabbas.

What do we know about Barabbas? Matthew simply says that he is a “notorious prisoner.” Mark adds that he was one of the “insurrectionists” and a “murderer” (Mk. 15:7; cf. Lk. 23:19, 25). John adds that he was a “robber” (Jn. 18:40). Carson favors the view that he was some sort of insurrectionist or Zealot (i.e. a terrorist), because “neither theft nor violent robbery was a capital offense, but insurrection was.”[636]

(27:17) So when the people gathered together, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?”

By putting the decision to the crowds, Pilate is getting them to take responsibility, so he isn’t held responsible for an ensuing revolt or riot. Interestingly, the people start to riot over Jesus not being killed (v.24).

(27:18) For he knew that it was because of envy that they had handed Him over.

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) And while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him a message, saying, “See that you have nothing to do with that righteous Man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him.”

Who gave Pilate’s wife this dream? This material is unique to Matthew, and it raises many questions: Why would God send this woman a dream if God was actually planning to have Jesus crucified? Was this just a coincidence? Was God trying to speak to Pilate’s wife for future purposes? It could be included to show that even a Gentile woman could see Jesus’ innocence,[637] but it “may not have been supernatural”[638] because it doesn’t result in furthering God’s plans. Pilate ends up handing over Jesus to be flogged and crucified anyway.

(27:20) But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas, and to put Jesus to death.

The religious leaders were behind the public relations campaign against Jesus. The leaders were the ones who “persuaded the crowds.”

(27:21-23) And the governor said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Crucify Him!” 23 But he said, “Why, what evil has He done?” Yet they kept shouting all the more, saying, “Crucify Him!”

How could these people so quickly turn on Jesus? After all, five days earlier these same people were calling out “Hosanna! Hosanna!” One possibility is that the religious leaders had seeded false testimony throughout the crowd, and this had turned into mob rule and mass hysteria. Another possibility is that the “Galilean crowds” were present on Palm Sunday, while the “native Jerusalemites” are here—or perhaps there was “overlap” between the two crowds.[639] Furthermore, and this should not be minimized, seeing Jesus beaten and arrested would’ve crushed their hopes that he was indeed the Messiah.

(27:24) Now when Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this Man’s blood; you yourselves shall see.”

Pilate is doing everything in his power to show the crowds that he is not responsible for the consequences. Even with all of his careful political maneuvering to avoid a riot, one begins to break out anyway. At this point, he expedites Jesus’ death. He may have picked up this Jewish custom of washing his hands to show the people that they are at fault (Deut. 21:6; Ps. 26:6). This may have been an act of “contempt” or a “taunt” against the Jewish people.[640]

(27:25) And all the people replied, “His blood shall be on us and on our children!”

Is this anti-Semitic? This expression refers to being held guilty, and it was common in both the OT and the NT (Lev. 20:9; Deut. 19:10; Josh. 2:19; 2 Sam. 1:16; Jer. 26:15; 51:35; Ezek. 18:13; 33:4; Acts 5:28; 18:6; 20:26). Commentators regularly consider this to be one of the most anti-Semitic passages in the NT, which has justified mistreatment of Jewish people for millennia. While “Christian” anti-Semitism is a disgusting and immoral historical reality, this verse doesn’t support such a thought. First, it says nothing about killing, persecuting, or otherwise mistreating Jews! It is simply a corporate self-indictment of guilt. Second, the text states that this was fueled by the religious leaders (Mt. 27:20), whom Jesus considered guilty. Jesus told the religious leaders, “Upon you may fall the guilt of all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah… all these things will come upon this generation” (Mt. 23:35-36). Third, this only refers to the generation alive in Jesus’ day—not all Jewish people throughout history. Fourth, the passage never states that God agreed with this. After all, similar to this crowd, Peter anathematized himself in Matthew 26:74 (“He began to curse and swear”), yet Peter found forgiveness. Indeed, Peter will later confront this crowd with their guilt to lead them to Christ: “Jesus, the one whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. 14 But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you” (Acts 3:13-14). Fifth, Jesus has already given reason for thinking that many Jewish people will return to him (Mt. 23:39). Though, the language of guilt being placed “on our children” could be fulfilled in the Jewish War of AD 66-70.

(27:26) Then he released Barabbas for them; but after having Jesus flogged, he handed Him over to be crucified.

This is a picture of substitution: A “notorious prisoner” is released from judgment, and Jesus is killed in his place. We can imagine Barabbas—the equivalent of a modern day terrorist—looking at Jesus being hauled off to be nailed to a cross that belonged to him.

Pilate isn’t a good man. He succumbed to the whims of the crowd, had Jesus tortured, and handed him over to be crucified (see “The Crucifixion of Christ”).

Matthew 27:27-30 (Jesus mocked)

[The parallel passage is in Mark 15:16-19.]

(27:27-30) Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole Roman cohort to Him. 28 And they stripped Him and put a red cloak on Him. 29 And after twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and put a reed in His right hand; and they knelt down before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 And they spit on Him, and took the reed and beat Him on the head.

The praetorium was most likely not the “the fort of Antonia” to the north of the Temple, but more likely “Herod’s former palace” to the west of the Temple.[641]

After his scourging, Jesus faced a Roman cohort (600 total men), and these soldiers ridiculed Jesus, fulfilling his own prediction (Mt. 20:19). This was all some sort of sadistic theater for the mob. The soldiers stripped Jesus naked, which is always disgraceful, but especially embarrassing in such a modest culture. Then, the soldiers gave out a physical beating that mostly focused on humiliating Jesus (v.30). The Jewish religious leaders mocked Jesus for being the Messiah (Mt. 26:67-68), and the Roman soldiers mocked him for being King. At this point, Jesus had been up all night: interrogated, insulted, beaten, scourged, and humiliated. And now, they beat him some more.

Matthew 27:31-44 (The Crucifixion: Dead Man Walking)

[The parallel passages are in Mark 15:20-32, Luke 23:26-43, and John 19:16-27.]

(27:31) And after they had mocked Him, they took the cloak off Him and put His own garments back on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him.

Jesus wasn’t led to the crucifix naked; they put his clothes back on him. Luke adds that a group of women followed (Lk. 23:27).

(27:32) As they were coming out, they found a man of Cyrene named Simon, whom they compelled to carry His cross.

When it says that they went “out,” this most likely refers to reaching the limits of the city. Jesus carried his crossbeam (patibulum) to the city limits (Jn. 19:17), and then he could carry it no longer.

Simon of Cyrene helped Jesus carry his cross—probably because Jesus endured so much torture and blood loss. They must’ve thought that Jesus wouldn’t make it. Simon may have become a follower of Jesus as a result of this, because Mark includes his name, along with the names of his sons (Mk. 15:21). Mark states that he was “the father of Alexander and Rufus” (Mk. 15:21). Richard Bauckham argues that this implies that Mark’s audience knew these people; otherwise, why give such specific detail?

This really shows the humanity of Jesus. He wasn’t like Clark Kent pretending to be human. He truly was human, and he didn’t exercise the use of his divine power to lift the cross. Read “The Crucifixion of Christ” for more detail.

(27:33) And when they came to a place called Golgotha, which means Place of a Skull.

The Latin version of Golgotha is “Calvary.” Calvary derives from the Latin word calva, which means “skull.” Turner writes, “Golgotha was probably near a well-traveled street filled with many potential observers.”[642] Indeed, later we read of many who were “passing by” (Mt. 27:39). Thus Jesus was crucified in broad daylight—in a public area. This would be equivalent to being crucified at a shopping mall in the middle of downtown.

(27:34) They gave Him wine mixed with bile to drink; and after tasting it, He was unwilling to drink it.

What is the “wine mixed with gall”? Mark calls it “wine mixed with myrrh” (Mk. 15:23). Lemke writes that this was “a narcotic sedative that drugged the victim. Jesus would not receive it; He faced the redemption of mankind with senses intact.”[643] However, others like Carson argue that Jesus never would’ve tasted this “narcotic sedative” if he knew what it was, and this was standard practice. Instead, this was a bitter drink, and by giving it to Jesus, this was not an act of “compassion but of torment.”[644] Regardless of our view, Jesus wanted to face the Cross fully sober, fulfilling Psalm 69:21.

(27:35) And when they had crucified Him, they divided His garments among themselves by casting lots.

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 it.

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) And sitting down, they began to keep watch over Him there.

They sat down in front of the Cross and watched him suffer and die. These soldiers were also stationed there to prevent any sort of rescue attempt. Carson writes, “Perhaps Matthew gives us this detail to eliminate any suggestion that Jesus was removed from the cross without dying.”[645]

(27:37) And above His head they put up the charge against Him which read, “THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”

Rome would place a certificate of debt above the crucifixion victim, telling the passersby what they did to deserve death. Jesus committed no sin. He was only guilty of being “The King of the Jews.” John adds that this was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek (Jn. 19:20), presumably so all of the people could read it. After all, crucifixion was a public deterrent. So, the Romans wanted everyone to see this.

John adds that the religious leaders asked Pilate to write that Jesus said he was the King of the Jews—not that he was the King of the Jews (Jn. 19:21), but Pilate refused to change the placard out of spite (v.22).

(27:38) At that time two rebels were being crucified with Him, one on the right and one on the left.

Jesus was crucified in between two criminals of the State. Regarding the word “rebel,” Lemke writes, “Rebel or insurrectionist is probably a better translation than ‘robber.’ The nature of their crimes likely involved terrorism and assassination.”[646] Josephus uses the term to refer to “political insurgents.”[647] This shows that Jesus fulfilled Isaiah 53:12.

(27:39) And those passing by were speaking abusively to Him, shaking their heads.

This fulfilled Psalm 22:7.

(27:40) And saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”

This is the final temptation of Jesus. He could’ve called on God the Father for twelve legions of angels, being rescued from all of the shame and mockery and torture. Yet, in the most courageous act in human history, he stayed. As one commentator has written, “It was the power of love, not nails, that kept him there.”[648]

Jesus’ statement about the Temple was being misused against him (Jn. 2:19-21), but it does show 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 accusing and castigating Jesus.

“If You are the Son of God…” This is a cruel statement that fits with Satan’s temptation of Jesus (Mt. 4:3, 6; cf. Mt. 26:63).

(27:41) In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking Him.

The religious leaders couldn’t help themselves. Jesus had been such a thorn in their side for so long that they enjoyed watching him suffer.

(27:42) [The religious leaders were saying,] “He saved others; He cannot save Himself! He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in Him.”

They affirmed that he could “save others.” The great irony is that Jesus was currently saving others at this moment by not saving himself. Carson writes, “Though Jesus could have saved himself (Mt 26:53), he could not have saved himself if he was to save others.”[649]

“Let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in Him.” This implies that their lack of faith was Jesus’ fault. In other words, “If only Jesus performed more signs and miracles, we would’ve believed in him!”

(27:43) “He has trusted in God; let God rescue Him now, if He takes pleasure in Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”

This fulfills Psalm 22:8.

(27:44) And the rebels who had been crucified with Him were also insulting Him in the same way.

You know you’re having a bad day when even the other crucifixion victims are “insulting” you (Mk. 15:32). Later, however, Luke records that one of these men came to faith in Christ at the very last moment of his life (Lk. 23:40-43).

Discussion Question

Read verses 27-44. Do you see any irony in the insults that Jesus receives from the Roman soldiers or the religious leaders? What do you think Matthew is trying to communicate by recording these cases of irony?

Matthew 27:45-50 (The Death of Jesus)

[The parallel passages are in Mark 15:33-37, Luke 23:44-46, and John 19:28-30.]

(27:45) Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour.

The darkness occurred from noon until 3pm. Darkness was a symbol in the OT for God’s judgment (Amos 8:9).

Mark writes that Jesus was crucified at 9am or “the third hour” (Mk. 15:25). Though Mark agrees that the darkness occurred from noon until 3pm (Mk. 15:33; cf. Lk. 23:44).

(27:46) And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabaktanei?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

At the end of the darkness (~3pm), Jesus cried out to God, citing the first line of Psalm 22.

“Eli, Eli…” Matthew retains the Hebrew, while Mark retains the Aramaic (“Eloi, Eloi”). Furthermore, the words “lema sabaktanei” are Aramaic.[650]

“My God, My God…” This is the only recorded prayer of Jesus where he doesn’t address God as his Father. This is a conspicuous shift! This implicitly means that Jesus was giving up his Father, so that we could have his Father. Likewise, God gave up his Son, so that we can become his sons!

“Why have you forsaken Me?” The word “forsaken” (egkataleipō) means “to separate connection with someone or something, forsake, abandon, desert” (BDAG). At the Cross, Jesus became sin, so that we can be declared righteous (2 Cor. 5:21).

(27:47) And some of those who were standing there, when they heard it, said, “This man is calling for Elijah.”

They made this false inference because Jesus was calling out to “Eli, Eli.” Since Elijah was taken directly to heaven (2 Kin. 2:1-12), Jewish tradition held that Elijah “would come and rescue the righteous in their distress.”[651]

(27:48-49) And immediately one of them ran, and taking a sponge, he filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink. 49 But the rest of them said, “Let us see if Elijah comes to save Him.”

They kept trying to feed Jesus “sour wine” (cf. Ps. 69:21). This was the “wine vinegar diluted with water, the usual refreshing drink of labourers and soldiers.”[652] Why did they do this? Some think that they are acting mercifully.[653] However, we think that they are mocking Jesus, as Luke seems to make clear (Lk. 23:36).

(27:50) And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and gave up His spirit.

“Gave up his spirit” is an odd way of saying that he died. This shows that Jesus was in control of giving up his life.[654] Elsewhere Jesus said, “I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again” (Jn. 10:17-18). Jesus displays this sovereign authority by choosing to give up his spirit.

Matthew doesn’t record the content of Jesus’ loud cry, but Luke records that Jesus said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Lk. 23:46), which fulfills Psalm 31:5.

Matthew 27:51-56 (After effects of Jesus’ Death)

[The parallel passages are in Mark 15:38-41 and Luke 23:45-49.]

(Mt. 27:51-53) Is this passage really historical?

(27:51) And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split.

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) Also the tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many.

We don’t know how “many” this was. While it seems like they are raised during Jesus’ death, the text states that they are raised after Jesus is raised.

(27:54) Now as for the centurion and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the other things that were happening, they became extremely frightened and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

While the religious leaders rejected Christ, this pagan Roman centurion comes to faith at the Cross. This shows that even one of the killers of Jesus could become one of his followers. Think about that for a while!

Why does this profession of faith occur here? Mark affirms that the centurion came to faith (Mk. 15:39), while Luke merely writes that the centurion said, “Certainly this man was innocent” (Lk. 23:47). In Mark, this centurion is the only human (besides Jesus) to affirm that Jesus was God’s Son. Carson comments, “This confession tells us something more: Jesus as the promised Messiah and unique Son of God is seen most clearly in his passion and death.”[655]

(27:55-56) And many women were there watching from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee while caring for Him. 56 Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

The male disciples had fled in fear. But not the women! They showed more courage than the men. This is quite a role reversal in a patriarchal society.

Discussion Questions

Read verse 54. We just read about many people insulting, torturing, and rejecting Jesus at his crucifixion. What is the significance of this Roman soldier coming to faith in Christ at this moment?

Matthew 27:57-60 (Jesus’ Burial)

[The parallel passages are in Mark 15:42-46, Luke 23:50-54, and John 19:31-42.]

(27:57-58) Now when it was evening, a rich man from Arimathea came, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. 58 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him.

Joseph of Arimathea had become a secret disciple, and he didn’t want Jesus’ body to be left unburied (Deut. 21:22-23; Wars of the Jews, 4.317). Joseph must’ve had some clout and influence because Pilate allows him to take the body. Mark notes that he was a “prominent member of the Council [i.e. the Sanhedrin]” (Mk. 15:43; cf. Lk. 23:50), yet 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), and he records that Nicodemus helped to bury the body with a hundred pounds of myrrh (Jn. 19:39).

(27:59-60) And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut out in the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb and went away.

Jesus wasn’t buried as a common criminal. He was placed in a “rich man’s tomb” (Isa. 53:9). This statement has historical credibility because it passes one of the criteria of authenticity: embarrassment. Why would Christians place the story of the burial of Jesus in the hands of a Sanhedrinist, who all voted to have Jesus killed? (Mk. 14:55)

These tombs had a “disk-shaped stone that rolled in a slot cut into the rock.”[656] The slot declined into the place where the stone would rest, and so, these tombs were “easy to seal but difficult to open: several men might be needed to roll the stone back up the incline.”[657]

Matthew 27:61-66 (Jesus’ Tomb)

[The parallel passages are in Mark 15:47 and Luke 23:55-56.]

(27:61) And Mary Magdalene was there, and the other Mary, sitting opposite the tomb.

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

(27:62-63) Now on the next day, that is, the day which is after the preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered together with Pilate, 63 and they said, “Sir, we remember that when that deceiver was still alive, He said, ‘After three days I am rising.’”

The religious leaders were being proactive about preventing Jesus’ final miracle. These leaders “may have heard something of the content of 16:21; 17:9; 20:19 from Judas.”[658]

(27:64) “Therefore, give orders for the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise, His disciples may come and steal Him, and say to the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last deception will be worse than the first.”

The “stolen body” hypothesis still appears today by common skeptics. But, this theory has been nearly universally rejected by critical scholars (see “Defending the Resurrection”).

(27:65) Pilate said to them, “You have a guard; go, make it as secure as you know how.”

Was this a Roman guard or the Jewish guard?

Roman guard. Some commentators argue that it was a Roman guard at the tomb of Jesus.[659] If Pilate is speaking with an imperative, then he is telling them to take a Roman guard. Moreover, these men are called soldiers (cf. Mt. 27:27; Acts 12:4), and they ultimately report to Pilate (Mt. 28:14).

Jewish guard. Other commentators note that if Pilate is speaking with an indicative, then he is telling them to use their own Jewish guard. Carson favors the indicative mood, holding to a Jewish guard.[660] Later, this makes sense as to why these men report to the chief priests, rather than to Pilate (Mt. 28:11).

(27:66) And they went and made the tomb secure with the guard, sealing the stone.

The religious leaders made the mistake of overestimating the frightened disciples, and underestimating Jesus.

Matthew 28

Matthew 28:1-10 (The Empty Tomb)

(28:1) Now after the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to look at the tomb.

The “first day of the week” was Sunday. All four Gospels place women as the first witnesses of the empty tomb.

(28:2) And behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone, and sat upon it.

Why did the angel move the stone out of the way? Why didn’t Jesus do this himself? Furthermore, why didn’t Jesus just walk through the stone, as he did in different contexts? (Jn. 20:19) The movement of the stone was surely for our benefit. It showed that Jesus had been physically raised, and this was open to observation by these women witnesses.

This “severe earthquake” could be the same one that opened the tombs of the OT saints (Mt. 27:51), though this isn’t certain.

(28:3) And his appearance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow.

It would be simply shocking to see an angelic being. The imagery is similar to Daniel’s description, when he writes, “His body looked like a precious gem. His face flashed like lightning, and his eyes flamed like torches. His arms and feet shone like polished bronze, and his voice roared like a vast multitude of people” (Dan. 10:6 NLT).

(28:4) The guards shook from fear of him and became like dead men.

There is a certain irony that the guards were watching a dead man’s tomb, but they ended up looking like “dead men.”[661] Again, the response of the guards was similar to Daniel. After seeing a vision of an angel, Daniel writes, “I was left there all alone to see this amazing vision. My strength left me, my face grew deathly pale, and I felt very weak. 9 Then I heard the man speak, and when I heard the sound of his voice, I fainted and lay there with my face to the ground” (Dan. 10:8-9 NLT).

While we might assume that all of these events happened in a short, connected sequence, this isn’t necessarily the case. Verses 2-4 could’ve happened before the women arrived.[662]

(Mt. 28:5) Were there two angels or one?

(28:5) And the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus who has been crucified.”

We typically think of angels as kind and friendly beings, but it must be overwhelming to our senses to see an angel in person (v.4). This must be why the angel tells the women not to fear.

(28:6) He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Come, see the place where He was lying.

The angel affirms Jesus’ death, but just as emphatically affirms his resurrection. He shows her the empty tomb (“See the place where He was lying”).

“Just as He said…” This fulfills the multiple examples of Jesus predicting his death and resurrection (Mt. 12:40; 16:21; 17:9, 23; 20:19; 26:32).

(28:7) “And go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you to Galilee. There you will see Him; behold, I have told you.”

The angel tells her to go tell the disciples that Jesus is risen, and he’s waiting for them in Galilee. This fulfills Jesus’ prediction and plan all along (Mt. 26:32). Mark explicitly mentions that Jesus was wanting Peter to hear about his resurrection, but Matthew omits this specific reference.

(28:8) And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to report to His disciples.

They were still afraid, but they were also filled with joy. They probably were filled with many conflicting emotions after seeing all of this. It seems that they gave this report to the disciples very quickly (Lk. 24:9-11).

(28:9-10) And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Rejoice!” And they came up and took hold of His feet, and worshiped Him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go, bring word to My brothers to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me.”

Again, this fulfills Jesus’ prediction and plan all along (Mt. 26:32). Matthew and Mark focus on Jesus’ appearances in Galilee, while Luke and John focus on his appearances in Jerusalem. Their “worship” of Jesus continues to support his deity (see Mt. 4:10).

Why does Jesus meet his disciples in Galilee? This fits with a main theme of Matthew’s Gospel: Jesus would be a light from “Galilee of the Gentiles” (Mt. 4:15), and a light to the nations. This sets up the Great Commission nicely (Mt. 28:18-20).

Matthew 28:11-15 (How did the religious leaders explain the empty tomb?)

[Only Matthew contains this material.]

(28:11) Now while they were on their way, some of the men from the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened.

As we argued above (Mt. 27:65), these were more likely than not “temple police”[663] as Carson contends, but rather, these were Roman guards. The women witnesses were on their way to spread the good news of Jesus’ resurrection, and at the very same time, other witnesses spread this “bad news” to the religious leaders. The one group came to spread good news, and the others travelled to create a conspiracy theory.

(28:12) And when they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers.

Because they didn’t have truth on their side, they resorted to bribery.

(28:13-14) And said, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came at night and stole Him while we were asleep.’ 14 And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will appease him and keep you out of trouble.”

The stolen body hypothesis has been around for millennia. It’s funny that Matthew would include this theory in his own gospel. Ironically, this section lends credence to the resurrection account: After all, why give your opponents ammunition about a “stolen body theory” without really refuting it? Furthermore, even the enemies of Jesus couldn’t deny that tomb was empty, but only why the tomb was empty.

Still, the story of the guards wasn’t strong. Turner comments, “The story is patently false: if the guards were asleep, they could not know what became of Jesus’s body.”[664]

(28:15) And they took the money and did as they had been instructed; and this story was widely spread among the Jews and is to this day.

People today still believe this spurious theory—though not in academia (cf. Justin Martyr, Dialogue 108.2).

Matthew 28:16-20 (The Great Commission)

(28:16) But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated to them.

“But…” (de) stands in contrast to the false conspiracy theory concocted by the religious leaders. Here is the true story: The risen Christ commissions his disciples to spread the truth about his resurrection—not lies.

“Eleven disciples…” This is due to the fact that Judas had died (Mt. 27:3-10). While Peter betrayed Jesus, this passage implies that he was restored. This is in contrast to Robert Gundry’s utterly bizarre thesis that Peter went to hell (!!).[665]

Is there any significance to the fact that Jesus appeared to them on a mountain? This could fit with the “new Moses” motif seen throughout the Sermon on the Mount.

(28:17) And when they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful.

Some still doubted Jesus! The term “doubted” (distazo, Mt. 14:31) doesn’t refer to unbelief, but rather to “a state of uncertainty and hesitation.”[666] Luke and John also record doubt—even in the face of the risen Jesus (Lk. 24:10-11; Jn. 20:24-29). This passage shows that ancient people weren’t any less skeptical than we are today. They knew enough about biology to know that dead people don’t come back to life!

Carson[667] thinks that this could be where the 500 saw Jesus risen (1 Cor. 15:6). Others argue that Matthew may be limiting the number to only the “eleven” (v.16).

(28:18) And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.”

“All authority…” Jesus already had authority (Mt. 7:29; 9:6, 8; 11:27; 21:23ff.), but now he specifies that he has all authority (echoing Daniel 7:14). His authority stretches over all creation. Thus the full authority of Christ stands behind the Great Commission.

(28:19) “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

“Go, therefore…” This is also in a participial form (“going”). We might translate this “as you go” or “on your way.”[668] It is also in the aorist, which could be rendered “having gone” and would mean that “the going [is] presupposed in the commission.”[669]

 “…make disciples of all the nations…” Turner writes, “The disciples’ central responsibility is to reproduce themselves. The other tasks (going, baptizing, teaching) describe how disciples are made.”[670] Blomberg writes, “Jesus’ main focus remains on the task of all believers to duplicate themselves wherever they may be. The verb ‘make disciples’ also commands a kind of evangelism that does not stop after someone makes a profession of faith. The truly subordinate participles in v. 19 explain what making disciples involves: ‘baptizing’ them and ‘teaching’ them obedience to all of Jesus’ commandments. The first of these will be a once-for-all, decisive initiation into Christian community. The second proves a perennially incomplete, life-long task.”[671]

Are we all disciples of Jesus or of people? Wrong question. We are ultimately disciples of Jesus—fully and unapologetically. Yet, in God’s sovereignty, he has delegated the work of discipleship to human agency. Indeed, a person in first-century Israel would typically become a disciple of a rabbi and follow him. Since Jesus is about to ascend to heaven, he commissions his disciples to take over the task of making disciples for him.

“Baptizing” and “teaching” derive from the main imperative: “make disciples.” These are participles that “further specify what is involved in discipleship.”[672] Carson differs slightly in his understanding, when he writes, “Baptizing and teaching are not the means of making disciples, but they characterize it.”[673]

“Baptizing…” Keener writes, “Baptism was an act of initiation and conversion.”[674] Since this comes before “teaching,” it implies that this refers to conversion. After all, “teaching” of disciples is “never complete.”[675]

“Teaching…” Keener writes, “In the full context of Matthew, it includes making the kind of disciples Jesus made, to carry on his mission of proclaiming and demonstrating his kingdom.”[676]

“Baptizing them in the name [singular] of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…” This teaching on baptism gives good evidence for the Trinity (v.19). They are baptized in the “name” (singular) of these three Persons (plural). Indeed, at Jesus’ baptism, all three members of the Trinity were present (Mt. 3:16-17). France agrees when he writes, “The fact that the three divine persons are spoken of as having a single ‘name’ is a significant pointer toward the trinitarian doctrine of three persons in one God.”[677]

(Mt. 28:20) “Teaching them to follow all that I commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

“Teaching them to observe all that I commanded you…” This is a conspicuous shift. Up until this point, Jesus was the teacher, but now, the disciples are the teachers. Frances writes, “Hitherto in Matthew’s narrative it has been Jesus who has been the ‘teacher.’ But now the verb ‘teach’ is used with the disciples as subject, marking the decisive change which follows Jesus’ death and resurrection.”[678]

Jesus specifically tells them to teach what He taught. This is quite a scandal in light of the fact that he could have told them to teach the Hebrew Scriptures. Of course, Jesus told us to teach all of the Bible (Mt. 5:17-18), and Paul stated that he taught the “whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27). But it’s indeed interesting that Jesus makes the focus of discipleship on his own teaching, showing his centrality (cf. Mt. 24:35).

“Behold, I am with you always…” This is an inclusio with Matthew 1:23 (“God with us”), as well as Matthew 18:20 (“I am there in their midst”). This further supports the deity of Christ. Keener writes, “Jesus’ continuing presence with his followers even after his departure (28:20) suggests his omnipresence—an attribute limited to deity alone.”[679]

“…even to the end of the age.” Jesus’ teaching will be relevant and binding forever (Mt. 24:35). Carson writes, “Jesus does not foresee a time when any part of his teaching will be rightly judged needless, outmoded, superseded, or untrue: everything he has commanded must be passed on ‘to the very end of the age.’”[680]

Discussion Questions

What would happen if we just led people to Christ, rather than “making disciples,” as Jesus commanded here (v.19)?

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

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

[1] Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 3.39.16. Cited in D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.11.

[2] D.A. Carson and Douglas Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament: 2nd Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2005), p.143.

[3] Also compare Matthew 26:17 with Mark 14:12; Matthew 27:57 and Mark 15:42; John 19:40.

[4] Scott Berkun, Confessions of a Public Speaker (Cambridge: O’Reilly Media, 2009), 57.

[5] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.78.

[6] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.79.

[7] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), pp.55-56.

[8] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.66.

[9]D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.67.

[10] Steve W. Lemke, The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), p.26.

[11] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.68.

[12] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), pp.79-80.

[13] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.74.

[14] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.74.

[15] Emphasis mine. David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.65.

[16] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), pp.88-89.

[17] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.82.

[18] Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri, The Gospel of Matthew: Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2010), p.46.

[19] Ben Witherington III, Matthew (Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, 2006), pp.47-48.

[20] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.85.

[21] Why don’t our calendars line up with Jesus’ actual birth? Jesus was most likely born in 5 BC. Lemke writes, “Dionysius Exiguus, the sixth century monk, did not know that when he established the first Christian calendar.” Steve W. Lemke, The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), p.37.

[22] 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.” D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.84.

[23] Antiquities, 16.392-394, 17.182-187.

[24] Antiquities, 15.280-290.

[25] The sons were Alexander, Aristobulus, and Antipater. Antiquities, 16.392-394, 17.182-187.

[26] Antiquities, 15.66.

[27] Antiquities, 15.222-236.

[28] Fortunately, this was never brought to fruition. Antiquities, 17.174-178.

[29] Macrobius reported this in AD 400 (Saturnalia 2.4.11). However, Turner notes that “this report is probably not historical.” Nevertheless, it captures the character of this evil man. David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.78.

[30] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.86.

[31] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), pp.84-85.

[32] Craig A. Evans, Matthew: New Cambridge Bible Commentary (Cambridge University Press, 2012), p.50.

[33] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.86.

[34] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew (Leicester, England: InterVarsity Press, 1992), p.36.

[35] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.62.

[36] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.82.

[37] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.88.

[38] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.89.

[39] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.89.

[40] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.89.

[41] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.66.

[42] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.91.

[43] Antiquities, 17.11.4.

[44] Antiquities, 17.9.3.

[45] Antiquities, 17.13.3.

[46] Antiquities, 17.9.3.

[47] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.85.

[48] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.107.

[49] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.96.

[50] Steve W. Lemke, The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), p.40.

[51] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.73.

[52] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.107.

[53] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.102.

[54] Bengel’s Gnomon. Cited in D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.102.

[55] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.96.

[56] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.103.

[57] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.75.

[58] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.77.

[59] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.122.

[60] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.103.

[61] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.104.

[62] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.79.

[63] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.98.

[64] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.131.

[65] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.107.

[66] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.121.

[67] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.132.

[68] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.120.

[69] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.132.

[70] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.100.

[71] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.120.

[72] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.82.

[73] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.109.

[74] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.116.

[75] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.139.

[76] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.127.

[77] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.104.

[78] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.84.

[79] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.129.

[80] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.143.

[81] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.114.

[82] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.111.

[83] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.129.

[84] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.143.

[85] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.105.

[86] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.105.

[87] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.136.

[88] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.151.

[89] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.150.

[90] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.153.

[91] Story adapted from Philip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew (Zondervan, 2008), p.130. All quotes belong to him.

[92] Leon Morris, Luke: An Introduction and Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1988), p.146.

[93] Walter Liefeld, Luke: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.890.

[94] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.141.

[95] First, the term “mountain” can refer to a hilly area that could include a plateau or plan. Second, Luke could have selected some of Jesus’ teachings from this broader teaching, as we see in various Gospel differences. And third, the Gospels regularly arrange their material topically or logically, rather than chronologically.

[96] Walter Liefeld, Luke: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.890.

[97] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.141.

[98] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.150.

[99] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.112.

[100] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.149.

[101] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.130.

[102] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.114.

[103] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.131.

[104] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.98.

[105] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.114.

[106] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.114.

[107] I am indebted to professor Dana Harris of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School for this insight.

[108] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.132.

[109] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.98.

[110] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.149.

[111] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.133.

[112] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.150.

[113] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.115.

[114] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.99.

[115] Bauder, W. (1986). Humility, Meekness. L. Coenen, E. Beyreuther, & H. Bietenhard (Eds.), New international dictionary of New Testament theology (Vol. 2, p. 256). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[116] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.134.

[117] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.115.

[118] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.134.

[119] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.170.

[120] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.135.

[121] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.116.

[122] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.152.

[123] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.135.

[124] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.101.

[125] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.154.

[126] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.155.

[127] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.117.

[128] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.102.

[129] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.139.

[130] A person asked a first-century rabbi how to salt tasteless salt. He responded, “The afterbirth of a mule” (b. Bek. 8b). Of course, mules are half-breeds that do not give birth, so this rabbi was effectively saying, “You ask a stupid question, you get a stupid answer. Salt can’t stop being salt!” Cited in Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.173.

[131] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.117.

[132] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.102.

[133] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.118.

[134] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.118.

[135] France leans toward this view. R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.119.

[136] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), pp.143-144.

[137] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.103.

[138] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.145.

[139] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.145.

[140] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.146.

[141] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.148.

[142] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.182.

[143] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.181.

[144] J. Ed Komoszewski, M. James Sawyer, and Daniel B. Wallace, Reinventing Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2006), p.41.

[145] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.107.

[146] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.125.

[147] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.125.

[148] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.150.

[149] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.108.

[150] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.187.

[151] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.189.

[152] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.127.

Steve W. Lemke, The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), p.69.

[153] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.151.

[154] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.151.

[155] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.112.

[156] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.155.

[157] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.131.

[158] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.131.

[159] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.113.

[160] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.132.

[161] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.156.

[162] This is a paraphrase. See Augustine, De Sermone Domine en Monte 67.

[163] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.132.

[164] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.132.

[165] Serek Hayyahad or “Rule of the Community, Manual of Discipline,” 1:4, 10; 2:4-9; Milhamah “War Scroll,” 4:1-2; 15:6; Hodayot (Thanksgiving Hymns) from Qumran Cave 1, 5:4. Cited in Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 157). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[166] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.158.

[167] Cited in D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.159.

[168] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.133.

[169] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.159.

[170] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.135.

[171] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.136.

[172] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.183.

[173] Keener adds that this was a profession that “Roman law treated like prostitutes.” Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p. 206.

[174] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.117.

[175] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.137.

[176] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), pp.212-213.

[177] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.139.

[178] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.219.

[179] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.187.

[180] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.141.

[181] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.231.

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

[183] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.143.

[184] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), pp.123-124.

[185] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.143.

[186] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.232.

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

[188] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.180.

[189] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.201.

[190] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.182.

[191] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.126.

[192] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.126.

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

[194] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.147.

[195] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.147.

[196] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.147.

[197] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.185.

[198] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.148.

[199] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.129.

[200] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.185.

[201] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.185.

[202] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.207.

[203] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.209.

[204] Joachim Jeremias, The Parables of Jesus (E.T. London: SCM Press, 1963).

[205] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.149.

[206] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.187.

[207] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.217.

[208] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.220.

[209] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.221.

[210] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.134.

[211] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.195.

[212] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.225.

[213] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.194.

[214] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), pp.196-197.

[215] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.231.

[216] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.260.

[217] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.261.

[218] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.262.

[219] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.265.

[220] Steve W. Lemke, The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), p.74.

[221] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.266.

[222] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.266.

[223] Carson disagrees that this is a question, as some have rendered Jesus’ words. See D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.201.

[224] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.266.

[225] John 4:46ff is a possible exception. D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.201.

[226] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.234.

[227] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.143.

[228] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.205.

[229] Emphasis his. D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.206, 207.

[230] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.236.

[231] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.163.

[232] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.146.

[233] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), pp.165-166.

[234] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.244.

[235] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.149.

[236] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.244.

[237] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.216.

[238] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), pp.166-167.

[239] Mark Roberts, Can We Trust the Gospels? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2007), p.153.

[240] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.150.

[241] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.282.

[242] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.167.

[243] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.272.

[244] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.168.

[245] P. P. Levertoff, St. Matthew (1940), p. 26. Cited in R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.169.

[246] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.169.

[247] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.289.

[248] Steve W. Lemke, The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), p.60.

[249] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.249.

[250] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.296.

[251] Emphasis his. Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.277.

[252] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.227.

[253] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.159.

[254] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.160.

[255] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.160.

[256] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.174.

[257] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.230.

[258] Steve W. Lemke, The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), p.90.

[259] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.305.

[260] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.233.

[261] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.163.

[262] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.176.

[263] Emphasis his. Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.307.

[264] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.179.

[265] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.237.

[266] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.238.

[267] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.239.

[268] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.239.

[269] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.170.

[270] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), pp.183-184.

[271] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.184.

[272] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.271.

[273] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.272.

[274] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.246.

[275] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.247.

[276] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.174.

[277] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.313.

[278] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.250.

[279] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.250.

[280] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.277.

[281] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.176.

[282] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.278.

[283] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.327.

[284] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.255.

[285] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.280.

[286] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.192.

[287] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.330.

[288] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.330.

[289] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.193.

[290] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.257.

[291] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.261.

[292] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.197.

[293] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.336.

[294] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.263.

[295] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.293.

[296] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.264.

[297] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.339.

[298] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.187.

[299] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.294.

[300] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.267.

[301] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.200.

[302] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.273.

[303] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.201.

[304] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.273.

[305] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.275.

[306] Emphasis his. David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), pp.304-305.

[307] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.194.

[308] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.309.

[309] Carson notes the obvious that the kingdom cannot exist without the King! D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.281.

[310] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.283.

[311] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.208.

[312] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.314.

[313] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.316.

[314] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.212.

[315] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.202.

[316] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.202.

[317] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.215.

[318] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.215.

[319] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.296.

[320] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.218.

[321] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.298.

[322] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.327.

[323] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.327, 328.

[324] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), pp.224-225.

[325] Emphasis mine. R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.226.

[326] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.309.

[327] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.214.

[328] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.313.

[329] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.223.

[330] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.314.

[331] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.341.

[332] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.310.

[333] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.223.

[334] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.229.

[335] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.316.

[336] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.220.

[337] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.322.

[338] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.352.

[339] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.361.

[340] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.237.

[341] Steve W. Lemke, The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), p.95.

[342] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.398.

[343] Robert H. Stein, Luke, vol. 24, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 270.

[344] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.237.

[345] F.F. Bruce, New Bible Dictionary (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), p.472.

[346] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.238.

[347] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.341.

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

[349] Steve W. Lemke, The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), p.98.

[350] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.233.

[351] R.T. France, The Gospel of Matthew: NIGTC (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publication Co., 2007), p.569.

[352] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.234.

[353] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.344.

[354] William Lane, The Gospel of Mark: NICNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), p.236.

[355] Steve W. Lemke, The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), p.99.

[356] Wessel, W. W. (1984). Mark. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew, Mark, Luke (Vol. 8, p. 676). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

[357] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.235.

William Lane, The Gospel of Mark: NICNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), p.237.

  1. A. Cole, Mark: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989), p.183.

[358] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.344.

[359] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.242.

[360] Donald Hagner, Matthew 14-28: Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1995), p.423.

[361] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.373.

[362] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.344.

[363] Donald Hagner, Matthew 14-28: Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1995), p.424.

[364] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.345.

[365] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.345.

[366] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.345.

[367] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.346.

[368] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.243.

[369] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.238.

[370] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.349.

[371] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.238.

[372] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.351.

[373] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.354.

[374] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.243.

[375] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.355.

[376] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.244.

[377] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.356.

[378] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.357.

[379] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.394.

[380] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.245.

[381] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.253.

[382] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.253.

[383] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.361.

[384] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.248.

[385] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.361.

[386] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.248.

[387] William Lane, The Gospel of Mark: NICNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), p.289.

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

[389] See footnote as well. David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.405.

[390] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.405.

[391] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.254.

[392] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.254.

[393] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.376.

[394] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.263.

[395] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.259.

[396] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.411.

[397] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.379.

[398] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.260.

[399] Steve W. Lemke, The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), p.112.

[400] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.263.

[401] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.384.

[402] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.385.

[403] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.385.

[404] Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion (Orland, FL: Harcourt, 1957), p.9.

[405] Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion (Orland, FL: Harcourt, 1957), pp.9-10.

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

[407] William Lane, The Gospel of Mark: NICNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), p.317.

[408] For an elaboration of the comparisons, see Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), pp.436-440.

[409] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.391.

[410] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.392.

[411] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.391.

[412] Antiquities, 18.9.1.

[413] R.T. France, The Gospel of Matthew: NIGTC (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publication Co., 2007), p.668.

[414] Wars of the Jews, 7.218.

[415] See footnote. R.T. France, The Gospel of Matthew: NIGTC (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publication Co., 2007), p.668.

[416] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.271.

[417] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.446.

[418] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.271.

[419] Steve W. Lemke, The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), p.116.

[420] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.396.

[421] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), pp.447-448.

[422] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.274.

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

[424] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.273.

[425] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.398.

[426] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.399.

[427] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.276.

[428] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.401.

[429] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.451.

[430] 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.

[431] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.440.

[432] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.278.

[433] Keener holds a legal view based on the synagogue practices at the time. For a rational defense of this perspective, see Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), pp.454ff.

[434] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.278.

[435] Emphasis mine. Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.279

[436] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.445.

[437] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.443.

[438] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.278.

[439] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), pp.278-279.

[440] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.279.

[441] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.445.

[442] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), pp.454.

[443] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.446.

[444] Cited in R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), pp.279-280.

[445] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.456.

[446] David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons. Unchristian (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2007), pp, 28-29.

[447] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.281.

[448] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.280.

[449] Steve W. Lemke, The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), p.119.

[450] The 77 instances of forgiveness could be a reversal of Lamech’s vengeful example (Gen. 4:24).

[451] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.280.

[452] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.280.

[453] Note that Carson wrote in 1984, so “today’s currency” is outdated by nearly four decades! Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.406.

[454] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.450.

[455] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.283.

[456] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.451.

[457] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.471.

[458] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.471.

[459] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.472.

[460] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.287.

[461] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.298.

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

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

[464] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.473.

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

[466] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.300.

[467] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.301.

[468] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.301.

[469] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.481.

[470] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.428.

[471] The Jewish War 4.459.

[472] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.435.

[473] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), pp.299-300.

[474] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.302.

[475] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.302.

[476] Jewish people would sing this song during the Feast of Tabernacles (M Succoth 4:5).

[477] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.303.

[478] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.499.

[479] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.443.

[480] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.443.

[481] Steve W. Lemke, The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), p.158.

[482] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.307.

[483] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.448.

[484] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.510.

[485] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.321.

[486] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.453.

[487] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.454.

[488] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.327.

[489] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.523.

[490] Robinson also argues that this is stock language for a parable—not a strict prediction at all. John A.T. Robinson, Redating the New Testament (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1976), pp.20-21.

[491] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.316.

[492] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.329.

[493] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.318.

[494] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.527.

[495] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.459.

[496] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), pp.525-526.

[497] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), pp.525-526.

[498] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.529.

[499] Josephus, Antiquities, 18.16. Cf. Jewish War 2.162-66.

[500] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.333.

[501] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.321.

[502] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.464.

[503] Mekilta Exodus 6 and Sifre Deuteronomy 12:8; 19:11. See D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.464.

[504] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.464.

[505] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.322.

[506] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.323.

[507] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.464.

[508] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.464.

[509] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.466.

[510] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.336.

[511] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.543.

[512] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.344.

[513] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.327.

[514] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), pp.471-472.

[515] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.340.

[516] Titus Kennedy, Unearthing the Bible (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 2020), p.187.

[517] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.541.

[518] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.327.

[519] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.340.

[520] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.473.

[521] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.546.

[522] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.474.

[523] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.328.

[524] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.343.

[525] Contra this view, Carson only counts seven woes, because verse 14 might be a scribal interpolation.

[526] Steve W. Lemke, The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), p.169.

[527] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.550.

[528] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.478.

[529] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.332.

[530] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.480.

[531] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.481.

[532] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.332.

[533] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.557.

[534] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.557.

[535] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.558.

[536] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.487.

[537] Stanley Toussaint, “A Critique of the Preterist View of the Olivet Discourse” Bibliotheca Sacra 161 (October-December, 2004), 472-473.

[538] Kenneth L. Gentry, The Book of Revelation Made Easy: You Can Understand Bible Prophecy (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2008), 40.

[539] R. T. France, Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 1. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 336.

[540] Gary DeMar, Last Days Madness (Atlanta, GA: American Vision, 1999), 61.

[541] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.487.

[542] 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).

[543] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.339.

[544] Emphasis his. D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.495.

[545] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.495.

[546] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.357.

[547] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.359.

[548] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.359.

[549] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.571.

[550] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.359.

[551] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.567.

[552] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), pp.577-578.

[553] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.578.

[554] To be more accurate, he states that the dimensions were 25 cubits long, 12 cubits deep, and 8 cubits tall. A cubit is thought to be 18 inches long. Josephus, Antiquities, 15:392.

[555] Baba Bathra, 4a.

[556] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.559.

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

[558] The final two questions are most likely asking the same thing. Both are preceded by the article, which implies that Jesus’ return is the same as the end of the age. Blomberg writes, “By not repeating the definite article (“the”) before “end of the age,” Matthew’s rendering of Jesus’ words is most likely linking the coming of Christ and the end of the age together as one event (Granville Sharp’s rule).” See footnote. Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.353.

[559] Emphasis his. Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.569, 570.

[560] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.354.

[561] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.342.

[562] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.499.

[563] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.499.

[564] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.500.

[565] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.344.

[566] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.501.

[567] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.344.

[568] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.344.

[569] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.501.

[570] Emphasis mine. D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.501.

[571] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.361.

[572] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.578.

[573] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.503.

[574] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.503.

[575] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.582.

[576] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.579.

[577] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.346.

[578] Carson merely holds this as a possibility. D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.504.

[579] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.361.

[580] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.505.

[581] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.347.

[582] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), pp.347-348.

[583] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.347.

[584] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.347.

[585] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.506.

[586] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.348.

[587] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.507.

[588] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.365.

[589] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), pp.350-351.

[590] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.350.

[591] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.591.

[592] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.512.

[593] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.90.

[594] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.354.

[595] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.513.

[596] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.354.

[597] Green, Matthew for Today (Dallas: Word, 1988), p.240.

[598] Hendriksen, The Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1973), p.879.

[599] K. Donfried, “The Allegory of the Ten Virgins (Matt. 25:1-13) as a Summary of Matthean Theology.” Journal of Biblical Literature. 1974. 93:415-28.

[600] Garland, Matthew: A Literary and Theological Commentary on the First Gospel (New York: Crossroad, 1993), pp. 240-241.

[601] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.370.

[602] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.514.

[603] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.597.

[604] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.515.

[605] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.516.

[606] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.356.

[607] I am indebted to my friend Conrad Hilario for this illustration—though I’ve changed it slightly.

[608] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.518.

[609] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.521.

[610] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.360.

[611] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.361.

[612] Wars of the Jews, 2.224.

[613] Antiquities, 20.112.

[614] Emphasis mine. Antiquities, 20.107.

[615] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.366.

[616] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.618.

[617] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.619.

[618] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.386.

[619] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.368.

[620] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.386.

[621] Steve W. Lemke, The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), p.180.

[622] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.377.

[623] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.539.

[624] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.543.

[625] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.396.

[626] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.379.

[627] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.397.

[628] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.633.

[629] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.380.

[630] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.553.

[631] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.403.

[632] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.558.

[633] Steve W. Lemke, The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), p.198.

[634] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.388.

[635] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.561.

[636] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.569.

[637] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.396.

[638] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.569.

[639] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.412.

[640] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.570.

[641] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.389.

[642] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.660.

[643] Steve W. Lemke, The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), p.208.

[644] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.575.

[645] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.576.

[646] Steve W. Lemke, The Academic Use of Gospel Harmonies (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007), p.209.

[647] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.401.

[648] Mounce, Matthew, 268. Cited in Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.418.

[649] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.577.

[650] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.578.

[651] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.579.

[652] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.404.

[653] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), pp.404-405.

[654] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.580.

[655] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.583.

[656] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.584.

[657] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.584.

[658] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.585.

[659] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.429.

David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.677.

[660] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.586.

[661] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.681.

[662] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.588.

[663] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), pp.590-591.

[664] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.686.

[665] Robert H. Gundry, Matthew (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1982), pp.548-549. Or more recently, see Robert Gundry’s lecture at Westmont College, “Peter: False Disciple And Apostate According To Saint Matthew” (Oct. 6, 2014).

[666] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.418.

[667] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.589.

[668] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.718.

[669] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.718.

[670] David L. Turner, Matthew: Baker Exegetical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), p.689.

[671] Craig Blomberg, Matthew: The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p.431.

[672] R.T. France, Matthew: Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), p.420.

[673] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.597.

[674] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.720.

[675] R.T. France, The Gospel of Matthew: NICNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publication Co., 2007), p.1116.

[676] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.718.

[677] R.T. France, The Gospel of Matthew: NICNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publication Co., 2007), p.1118.

[678] R.T. France, The Gospel of Matthew: NICNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publication Co., 2007), p.1118.

[679] Craig Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), p.718.

[680] D.A. Carson, Matthew: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984), p.599.