The First Christian Primer: Matthew

 Study Guide Commentary Series, New Testament, Vol. 1. See attached PDF (313 pages)

Biblical Topics: 
Passage: 
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Introduction to Matthew

OPENING STATEMENT

A. Until the time of the Renaissance/Reformation the Gospel of Matthew was thought to have been the first Gospel written (and still is by the Roman Catholic church).

 

B. It was the most copied, most quoted, most used Gospel in catechism and in the early liturgy by the church for the first two centuries.

 

C. William Barclay in The First Three Gospels, p. 19, said "When we turn to Matthew, we turn to the book which may well be called the most important single document of the Christian faith, for in it we have the fullest and the most systematic account of the life and the teachings of Jesus."

This is because it developed the teachings of Jesus in a thematic way. It was used to teach new converts (both Jew and Gentile) about the life and message of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ.

D. It forms a logical bridge between the Old and New Covenants, between Jewish believers and Gentile believers. It used the Old Testament in a promise/fulfillment format as did the early sermons of Acts which are called the kerygma. The Old Testament is quoted over fifty times and alluded to many more. Also, many of the titles and analogies used of YHWH are applied to Jesus.

 

E. Therefore, the purposes of The Gospel According to Matthew were evangelism and discipleship, the twin aspects of the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20).

1. They were to help convert Jews by informing them of Jesus' life and teachings,

2. They were to disciple both believing Jews and Gentiles into how they should live as Christians.

 

AUTHORSHIP

A. Although the earliest copies of the Greek NT ( a.d. 200-400) have the designation "according to Matthew,"the book itself is anonymous.

 

B. The uniform tradition of the early church is that Matthew (also known as Levi, cf. Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27,29), tax-collector (cf. Matt. 9:9; 10:3) and disciple of Jesus, wrote the Gospel.

 

C. Matthew, Mark and Luke are strikingly similar:

1. they often agree in form on OT quotes that are not found in the Masoretic text nor the Septuagint,

2. they often quote Jesus in unusual grammatical constructions, even using rare Greek words,

3. they often use phrases and even sentences of exactly the same Greek words,

4. obviously literary borrowing has occurred.

 

D. Several theories have been advanced concerning the relationship between Matthew, Mark and Luke (the Synoptic Gospels).

1. The uniform tradition of the early church is that Matthew (Levi), the tax-collector and disciple of Jesus, wrote the Gospel. The Apostle Matthew was unanimously affirmed to be the author until the Renaissance/Reformation.

2. Around 1776 A. E. Lessing (and later Gieseler in 1818), theorized an oral stage in the development of the Synoptic ("to see together") Gospels. He asserted that they were all dependent on earlier oral traditions which the writers modified for their own target audiences:

a. Matthew: Jews

b. Mark: Romans

c. Luke: Gentiles

Each was related to a separate geographical center of Christianity

a. Matthew: Antioch, Syria

b. Mark: Rome, Italy

c. Luke: Caesarea by the Sea, Palestine

d. John: Ephesus, Asia Minor

3. In the early nineteenth century J. J. Griesbach theorized that Matthew and Luke wrote separate accounts of Jesus' life, completely independent of each other. Mark wrote a brief Gospel trying to mediate between these other two accounts.

4. In the early twentieth century H. J. Holtzmann theorized that Mark was the first written Gospel and that both Matthew and Luke used his Gospel structure plus a separation document containing the sayings of Jesus called Q (German quelle or "source"). This was labeled the "two source"theory (also endorsed by Fredrick Schleiermacher in 1832).

5. Later B. H. Streeter theorized a modified "two source"theory called "the four source"theory which posited a "proto Luke"plus Mark plus Q.

6. The above theories of the formation of the Synoptic Gospels are only speculation. There is no historical nor actual manuscript evidence of either a "Q"source or a "proto Luke."

Modern scholarship simply does not know how the Gospels developed nor who wrote them (the same is true of the OT Law and former Prophets). However, this lack of information does not affect the Church's view of their inspiration or trustworthiness as historical as well as faith documents.

7. There are obvious similarities in structure and wording between the Synoptics, but there are also many arresting differences. Differences are common in eye witness accounts. The early church was not bothered by the divergence of these three eyewitness accounts of Jesus' life.

It may be that the target audience, the style of the author and the different languages involved (Aramaic and Greek) account for the seeming discrepancies. It must be stated that these inspired writers, editors or compilers had the freedom to select, arrange, adapt and summarize the events and teachings of Jesus' life (cf. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth by Fee and Stuart, pp. 113-148).

E. There is a tradition of the early church from Papias, the bishop of Hierapolis (a.d. 130), which was recorded in Eusebius'Historical Ecclesiasticus 3:39:16, that Matthew wrote his Gospel in Aramaic. However, modern scholarship has rejected this tradition because

1. the Greek of Matthew does not have the characteristics of a translation from Aramaic

2. there are Greek word plays (cf. Matt. 6:16; 21:41; 24:30)

3. most of the OT quotes are from the Septuagint (LXX) not the Masoretic Hebrew Texts

It is possible that Matt. 10:3 is a hint at Matthew's authorship. It adds "tax-gatherer"after his name. This self-deprecating comment is not found in Mark. Matthew also was not a well known person in the NT or early church. Why would so much tradition have developed around his name and this first apostolic Gospel?

DATE

A. In many ways the date of the Gospel is linked to the Synoptic problem. Which Gospel was written first and who borrowed from whom?

1. Eusebius, in Historical Ecclesiasticus, 3:39:15 said Matthew used Mark as a structural guide.

2. Augustine, however, called Mark "a camp follower"and an abbreviator of Matthew.

 

B. The best approach would be to try to set the limits of possible dates

1. It must have been written before a.d. 96 or 115

a. Clement of Rome (a.d. 96) made an allusion to Matthew's Gospel in his letter to the Corinthians.

b. Ignatius (a.d. 110-115), the Bishop of Antioch, quoted Matt. 3:15 in his letter To the Smyrneans, 1:1

2. The more difficult question is how early could it have been written?

a. obviously after the events recorded, which would be in the mid 30's

b. some time would have had to pass for its need, composition, and circulation

c. what is the relationship of Matt. 24 to the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70? Parts of Matthew imply the sacrificial system was still in place (Matt. 5:23-24; 12:5-7; 17:24-27; 26:60-61). This means a date before a.d. 70.

d. if Matthew and Mark were written during the time of Paul's ministry (a.d. 48-68), why does he never refer to them? Irenaeus is quoted by Eusebius in Historical Ecclesiasticus 5:8:2, to say that Matthew wrote his Gospel while Peter and Paul were in Rome. Peter and Paul were both killed during Nero's reign which ended in a.d. 68

e. modern scholarship's earliest guess is a.d. 50

 

C. Many scholars believe that the four Gospels relate more to geographical centers of Christianity than to the traditional authors. Matthew may have been written from Antioch of Syria, because of its Jewish/Gentile church issues, possibly about a.d. 60 or at least before a.d. 70.

 

RECIPIENTS

A. As the authorship and date of the Gospel are uncertain, so are the recipients. It seems best to relate it to both believing Jews and Gentiles. The Church at Antioch of Syria of the first century fits this profile best.

 

B. Origen is quoted by Eusebius in Historical Ecclesiasticus 6:25:4, that it was written for Jewish believers.

 

STRUCTURAL OUTLINE

A. How is this Gospel structured? One can best find the intent of the original inspired author by analyzing the structure of the entire book.

 

B. Scholarship has suggested several structures

1. the geographical movements of Jesus

a. Galilee

b. north of Galilee

c. Perea and Judea (while traveling to Jerusalem)

d. in Jerusalem

2. Matthew's five thematic units. They are discernable by the recurrent phrase, "and when Jesus had finished these things"(cf. Matt. 7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1). Many scholars see these five units as Matthew's attempt to portray Jesus as the "new Moses,"with each unit being analogous to one of the five books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy)

a. a chiastic structure which alternates between narrative and discourse sections

b. a theological/biographical format which picks up on the recurrent phrase, "from that time on Jesus began. . ." (cf. Matt. 4:17; 16:21), thereby dividing the book into three sections (Matt. 1:1-4:16; 4:17-16:20; and Matt. 16:21-28:20)

c. Matthew's emphasis on OT predictive passages by use of the key term "fulfillment"(cf. Matt. 1:22; 2:15,17,23; 4:14; 8:17; 12:17; 13:35; 21:4; 27:9 and 27:35)

 

C. The "gospels"are a unique literary genre. They are not biographical. They are not historical narrative. They are a selective theological, highly structured literary type. Each of the Gospel writers chose from the life events and teachings of Jesus to uniquely present Him to their target audience. The Gospels were evangelistic tracts.

 

READING CYCLE ONE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Therefore, read the entire biblical book at one sitting. State the central theme of the entire book in your own words.

1. Theme of entire book

2. Type of literature (genre)

 

READING CYCLE TWO (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Therefore, read the entire biblical book a second time at one sitting. Outline the main subjects and express the subject in a single sentence.

1. Subject of first literary unit

2. Subject of second literary unit

3. Subject of third literary unit

4. Subject of fourth literary unit

5. Etc.

 

Copyright © 2013 Bible Lessons International

Passage: 

Matthew 1

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS *

UBS NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Genealogy of Jesus Christ The Genealogy of Jesus Christ Jesus' Royal Descent The Family Record of Jesus Christ The Ancestry of Jesus
(2-6)
1:1 1:1-17 1:1 1:1 1:1-16
1:2-6a   1:2-6a 1:2-6a (2-6)
1:6b-11   1:6b-11 1:6b-11 (6b-11)
1:12-16   1:12-16 1:12-16 (12-16)
1:17   1:17 1:17 1:17
The Birth of Jesus Christ Christ Born to Mary Jesus' Birth The Birth of Jesus Christ Joseph Adopts Jesus As his Son
1:18-25 1:18-25 1:18-25 1:18-21 1:18-25
      1:22-23 (23)
      1:24-25  

* Although they are not inspired, paragraph divisions are the key to understanding and following the original author's intent. Each modern translation has divided and summarized the paragraphs. Every paragraph has one central topic, truth, or thought. Each version encapsulates that topic in its own distinct way. As you read the text, ask yourself which translation fits your understanding of the subject and verse divisions.
 In every chapter we must read the Bible first and try to identify its subjects (paragraphs), then compare our understanding with the modern versions. Only when we understand the original author's intent by following his logic and presentation can we truly understand the Bible. Only the original author is inspired—readers have no right to change or modify the message. Bible readers do have the responsibility of applying the inspired truth to their day and their lives.
  Note that all technical terms and abbreviations are explained fully in the following documents: Brief Definitions of Greek Grammatical StructureTextual Criticism, and Glossary.

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS TO VERSES 1-25

A. The lists of ancestors found in Matt. 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38 do not agree. There are two major theories for the discrepancies:

1. Matthew wrote primarily to a Jewish audience and recorded Joseph's lineage to satisfy Jewish legal practices, while Luke wrote to Gentiles and recorded Mary's lineage (Luther). Both trace Jesus back to David, but Luke goes further, all the way back to Adam (probably because he was writing for Gentiles).

2. Matthew recorded the lineage of the kings of Judah succeeding David (or after the Exile, those who would have succeeded), while Luke recorded the actual ancestors.

 

B. This lineage would serve the purpose of proving Jesus' tribal identity and showing the fulfillment of prophecy (cf. Gen. 49:8-12 and 2 Samuel 7). Fulfilled prophecy (cf. Matt. 1:22; 2:15,17,23; 4:14; 8:17; 12:17; 13:35; 21:4; 27:9,35) is strong evidence for a supernatural Bible and for God's control of history and time.

 

C. Verse 17 gives the key to understanding why some ancestors are not listed. The author was using a numerically structured, three-tiered "fourteen generation" approach to Jesus' lineage.

 

D. In these opening birth narratives there are four OT quotes (cf. Matt. 1:23; 2:6,15,18) which involve different types of prophesy.

1. Matt. 1:23 ― Isa. 7:14 is a multiple fulfillment prophecy. A child was born in Isaiah's day, cf. Matt. 1:15-16; however the Hebrew word in Matt. 1:14 is not "virgin" (bethoolah, cf. BDB 143), but "young woman of marriageable age" (almah, cf. BDB 761 II). I believe in only one virgin birth-Jesus!

2. Matt. 2:6 ― Micah 5:2 is a marvelous, very specific prophecy written 750 years before the event it describes. The place of Jesus' birth was not something He could alter or effect. This kind of predictive prophecy confirms (a) God's knowledge (and His control) of history and (b) the inspiration and uniqueness of the Bible. No other world religion's holy book has predictive prophecy!

3. Matt. 2:15 ― Hosea 11:1 and Matt. 2:18 ― Jeremiah 31:15 are both typological prophecies. Something that happened in the life of Israel reoccurs in the life of Jesus and the NT author understands it as a prophetic sign.

 

E. Raymond E. Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament (p. 175), makes a great comment about how Matthew's genealogy is structured.

1. the Patriarchs - first fourteen names

2. Israelite kings - second fourteen names

3. unknown ancestors - third fourteen names

This genealogy is highly structured and selective. It is uncertain why.

1. literary technique (mnemonic)

2. numerical symbolism

a. 7 x 2; Luke lists 77 ancestors

b. the letters of David's Hebrew name add up to 14

3. well known or godly ancestors only

4. women/men; Gentiles/Jews (purposeful inclusion)

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 1:1
 1The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham:

1:1

NASB"The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah,"
NKJV"The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ"
NRSV"an account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah"
TEV"This is the family record of Jesus Christ"
NJB"roll of the genealogy of Jesus Christ"

The genealogy (cf. Gen. 5:1 or "account," cf. Gen. 2:4) is illustrative of God's hand in history fulfilling His promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and David. The NT is the fulfillment of the OT. In some cultures the use of genealogy is evidence for a trustworthy history.

▣ "the son of David" This was a title for the promised Messiah that emphasized His Jewish royal line from the tribe of Judah (cf. Gen. 49:8-12). He was of the seed of woman, Gen. 3:15; the seed of Abraham, Gen. 22:18; the seed of Judah, Gen. 49:10 and the seed of David, 2 Sam. 7:12-14, 16. This phrase was a common Messianic designation in Matthew (cf. Matt. 9:27; 12:33; 15:22; 20:30-31; 21:9,15; 22:42).

▣ "the son of Abraham" Luke's genealogy takes the line back to Adam. Luke was written for Gentiles, so it emphasizes the common human ancestry (cf. Gen. 12:3; 22:18). Matthew was written for Jews, so it focuses on the beginning of the Jewish family, Abram. In Matthew's genealogy "Abraham" and " David" are highlighted by its numerical design (i.e., three groups of 14).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 1:2-6a
 2Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. 3 Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez was the father of Hezron the father of Ram. 4 Ram was the father of Amminadab, Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon. 5 Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. 6Jesse was the father of David the king.

1:2 "Judah" Judah was one of Jacob's children (cf. Gen. 49:10; Deut. 33:7). Verses 2-6 follow the genealogy of 1 Chr. 1-3 in a limited sense.

1:3 "Perez and Zerah" Perez and Zerah were twins (cf. Gen. 38:27-30). The Messianic line came through Perez. This section of the genealogy (Matt. 1:3-5) follows Ruth 4:18-22.

▣ "Tamar" Tamar was Judah's daughter-in-law who became pregnant by him (cf. Gen. 38:12ff). It was very unusual to include women in Jewish genealogical lists. Several are included here in Matthew to emphasize that the lineage of the Messiah was not based on nationality or meritorious effort. Three of the women listed-Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth-were Gentiles and the fourth, Bathsheba, was married to a Hittite. The Gentiles, even women, are included for an inclusive theological impact!

1:5 "Rahab" Rahab was the Canaanite prostitute who helped the spies (cf. Jos. 2:13; 6:17,23,25). In Jewish and Christian tradition Rahab was an example of the power of repentance (cf. Heb. 11:31; James 2:25).

▣ "Ruth" Ruth was a Moabitess (cf. Ruth 1). Moabites were forbidden from entering the congregation of Israel (cf. Deut. 23:3).

She exemplified the faith of Gentiles and women and God's inclusive love. She was the grandmother of King David.

1:6 "who had been the wife of Uriah" This referred to Bathsheba, the mother of Solomon (cf. 2 Samuel 11 and 12), who, like Rahab and Ruth, was not Jewish.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 1:6b-11
 6bDavid was the father of Solomon by Bathsheba who had been the wife of Uriah. 7Solomon was the father of Rehoboam, Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asa. 8Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah. 9Uzziah was the father of Jotham, Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah. 10Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh, Manasseh the father of Amon, and Amon the father of Josiah. 11 Josiah was the father of Jeconiah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

1:7-11 This section (with some differences) follows 1 Chr. 3:10-15.

1:7

NASB, NKJV,
TEV, NJB"Asa"
NRSV"Asaph"

This Judean king was named Asa in 1 Kgs. 15:9 and 1 Chr. 3:10. "Asa" is found in MSS L and W and fits the context. The early uncial Greek manuscripts א, B, and C surprisingly have "Asaph." This was the name of a choir director of David (cf. Psalm 50,73,83). Most textual critics assume that this is an ancient copyist error, or just a variant spelling of the name of the king.

1:8 Three Judean kings between Joram and Uzziah are omitted (1) Ahaziah (cf. 2 Kgs. 8,9; 2 Chr. 22); (2) Joash (cf. 2 Kgs. 11:2; 12:19-21; 2 Chr. 24); and (3) Amaziah (cf. 2 Kgs. 14; 2 Chr. 25).

 The reason for their omission is uncertain. Two theories are: (1) Joram was married to and influenced by his wife, Athaliah, the daughter of Jezebel and, therefore, his sin of idolatry was transmitted to the third generation (cf. Deut. 5:9) or (2) Matthew is structuring the genealogy into three sections of 14 ancestors each (Matt. 1:17). This would be the middle section.

1:9 "Uzziah was born to Jotham" In 2 Kgs. 15:1-7 and 1 Chr. 3:12 Uzziah is called Azariah. He was a godly king who was struck with leprosy because he offered a sacrifice in a wrong manner.

1:10 "Hezekiah" Hezekiah was one of the five godly kings of Judah (Asa, Jehoshaphat, Uzziah, Hezekiah, and Josiah). His life is recorded in 2 Kgs. 18-20, 2 Chr. 29-32, and Isa. 36-39.

▣ "Manasseh" He was the son of Hezekiah. Manasseh was reputed to be the most evil king in Judah's history (cf. 2 Kgs. 21:2-7). He also reigned the longest, fifty-five years (cf. 2 Kgs. 21; 2 Chr. 33).

▣ "Amon" He was the son of Manasseh and father of Josiah (cf. 2 Kgs. 21:18-19,23-25; 1 Chr. 3:14; 2 Chr. 33:20-25). Some early uncial Greek manuscripts, א, Bc, and C, have the name, "Amos." This manuscript problem is much like Matt. 1:7.

▣ "Josiah" Another godly king of Judah, Josiah was eight years old when he became king (cf. 2 Kgs. 22-23; 2 Chr. 34,35). Many scholars believe that the righteous father, the wicked son of the righteous father, and the righteous son of the wicked father in Ezekiel (cf. Ezek. 18:5-9, 10-13, 14-18) were direct references to Hezekiah, Manasseh, and Josiah.

1:11 "Jeconiah" He was also called Coniah (cf. Jer. 22:24) and Jehoiachin (cf. 2 Kings 24-25). The next to last Davidic king before the Babylonian captivity, Jeconiah was either 8 years old when he ascended the throne (cf. 2 Chr. 36:9) or 18 years old (cf. 2 Kgs. 24:8) and reigned only three months (cf. 1 Chr. 3:16-17; Jer. 24:1; 29:2). Ezekiel dates his prophecies from the year of this king's exile by Nebuchadnezzar II in 597 b.c. (cf. Ezek. 1:1,2; 8:1; 20:1; 24:1; 26:1; 29:1; 30:20; 31:1; 32:1,17; 33:21; 40:1).

▣ "deportation to Babylon" This deportation occurred under Nebuchadnezzar II. Jerusalem was captured by the army of Babylon several times-in 605, 597, 586, and 582 b.c. Several different deportations occurred.

1. deportation of Daniel and his three friends in 605 b.c.

2. the deportation of Jehoiachin, Ezekiel, and ten thousand soldiers and craftsmen in 597 b.c. (cf. 1 Kgs. 24:10-17)

3. the deportation of most of the remaining population (the city of Jerusalem was destroyed) in 587/586 b.c., 2 Kings 25

4. the final invasion and deportation of Judah in 582 b.c. in retaliation for the killing of Nebuchadnezzar's appointed governor, Gedeliah, and his Babylonian honor guard

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 1:12-16
 12After the deportation to Babylon, Jeconiah became the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel. 13Zerubbabel was the father of Abihud, Abihud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor. 14Azor was the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud. 15Eliud was the father of Eleazar, Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob. 16Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.

1:12 "and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel" Zerubbabel was the leader of the Jews in the second return from Babylonian exile, the first return being under Sheshbazzar (cf. Ezra 1:8; 5:14). He was of the line of David (cf. Ezra 2-6). In 1 Chr. 3:16-19, his father is listed as Pedaiah and his grandfather as Shealtiel. Hebrew familial terms were fluid and could refer to several different categories of relatives. In this case, Shealtiel was an uncle. This confusion could be explained if Shealtiel adopted Zerubbabel after his father Pedaiah died (cf. Ezra 3:8; 5:2; Neh. 12:1; Hag. 1:1).

These two names also appear in the Lucan genealogy, but in a much later period.

1:13-15 The names from Zerubbabel's son Abihud to Jacob are unknown from OT sources.

1:14 "Zadok" This was not the faithful priest of David's day (cf. 2 Sam. 20:25; 1 Chr. 16:39) because Matthew's Zadok is of the tribe of Judah, not Levi.

1:16 "Joseph the husband of Mary" "Begot," which is so prominent in this listing of the other fathers, is left out! Joseph is named as the legal father and his lineage given because this was what the Jews of the first century legally required and recognized. But he was not the true biological father. Jesus was virgin born of the Spirit of God (cf. Matt. 1:23-25; Luke 1:34-35).

▣ "who is called the Messiah" "Christ" (NKJV) was the Greek translation of the Hebrew term Messiah (BDB 603, cf. 1 Sam. 2:10,35; 2 Sam. 22:51; Ps. 2:2 18:51; 89:38,51; 132:10,17; Dan. 9:24,25), meaning "an anointed one." Jesus was YHWH's special Servant (cf. Isa. 7:14; 9:1-7; 11:1-5; 52:13-53:12), the Coming One, who would establish the new age of righteousness (cf. Isaiah 61, 65-66). See Special Topic at Matt. 8:20.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 1:17
 17So 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.

1:17 "generations" This was not a complete historical genealogy. The Hebrew term "generations" was ambiguous and could have meant grandfather or great-great-grandfather or ancestor.

▣ "from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations" There are three sections of fourteen ancestors listed (1) Abraham to David, ( 2) David to the Exile, and (3) the Exile to Jesus. Only thirteen names are listed in the third section, so possibly Jehoiachin is counted in both the second and third sections. The number pattern implies that some names were left out (cf. 1 Chr. 1-3). Some commentators believe that these structured lists of fourteen are based on the numerical value of the consonants of David's name in Hebrew (daleth, 4 + waw, 6 + daleth, 4 = 14).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 1:18-25
 18Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, wanted to send her away secretly. 20But when he had considered this, 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. 21She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." 22Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23" Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which translated means, "God with us." 24And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife,25 but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.

1:18 "the birth" There is a Greek manuscript variant between "beginning" [genesis] and "birth" [gennasis]. The term genesis was probably original (cf. MSS P1, א, B, C; UBS4 rated it B). While both terms can mean "birth," the first had wider connotations (creation, generation, i.e., "the new Genesis in Jesus as the second Adam, cf. Rom. 5:12-21) and could have meant "begotten." It has been supposed that later scribes changed the first term to "birth" deliberately to counteract later Christological (gnostic) heresies (cf. The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture by Bart P. Ehrman, pp. 75-77).

▣ "betrothed to Joseph" Betrothal was a legally binding Jewish custom, usually lasting about a year before marriage. The parties lived separately but were considered contractually married. Only death or divorce could break the betrothal arrangement.

NASB"she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit"
NKJV"she was found with child of the Holy Spirit"
NRSV"she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit"
TEV"she was going to have a baby by the Holy Spirit"
NJB"she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit"

This refers to the virgin birth, which was not a sexual experience for Mary or the Spirit. This was a prophetic fulfillment of Gen. 3:15 (" And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel"), and in a multiple fulfillment sense, of Isa. 7:14 (" Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel"). Surprisingly, no apostolic sermons in Acts or the Epistles mention this, possibly because it could have been confused with Greco-Roman mythology (the Mount Olympus gods often took human women and bore children by them).

1:19 "being a righteous man" A "righteous man" meant a lawful man by the standards of the Mosaic Law and the oral traditions of his day. It does not imply sinlessness; Noah and Job were righteous in the same sense (cf. Gen. 6:9 and Job 1:1).

▣ "to send her away secretly" Joseph could have accomplished this through two legal procedures: (1) open renunciation in court or (2) the presentation of a written bill of divorce in front of two witnesses (cf. Deuteronomy 24). Mary had not shared the vision concerning her pregnancy with Joseph. OT Law demanded the death penalty for sexual unfaithfulness (cf. Deut. 22:20-21,23-24).

1:20 Joseph was informed about the pregnancy of his betrothed wife by an angelic messenger. In Luke 1:26 the angel is identified as Gabriel (cf. Matt. 1:19; Dan. 8:16; 9:21).

The word "dream" (onar) occurs five times in the first two chapters of Matthew (cf. Matt. 1:20; 2:12,13,19,22), but not again until 27:19 and no where else in the NT.

" an angel of the Lord" This phrase is used two ways in the OT.

1. an angel (cf. Gen. 24:7,40; Exod. 23:20-23; 32:34; Num. 22:22; Jdgs. 5:23; 1 Sam. 24:16; 1 Chr. 21:15ff; Zech. 1:28)

2. as a way of referring to YHWH (cf. Gen. 16:7-13; 22:11-15; 31:11,13; 48:15-16; Exod. 3:2,4; 13:21; 14:19; Jdgs. 2:1; 6:22-24; 13:3-23; Zech. 3:1-2

Matthew uses the phrase often (cf. Matt. 1:20,24; 2:13,19; 28:2), but always in the sense of #1 above. The NT does not use sense #2 except Acts 8:26 and 29, where, "an angel of the Lord" is paralleled to the Holy Spirit.

1:21 "you shall call His name Jesus" This name (Hebrew, Joshua) meant "YHWH saves," " YHWH brings salvation," or "YHWH is Savior" (some verb must be supplied, cf. Luke 1:31). See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE NAME OF THE LORD at Matt. 18:20.

The name YHWH means

1. This is the name which reflects deity as the covenant making God; God as savior, redeemer! Humans break covenants, but God is loyal to His word, promise, covenant (cf. Ps. 103).

This name is first mentioned in combination with Elohim in Gen. 2:4. There are not two creation accounts in Genesis 1-2, but two emphases: (1) God as the creator of the universe (the physical) and (2) God as the special creator of humanity. Genesis 2:4 begins the special revelation about the privileged position and purpose of mankind, as well as the problem of sin and rebellion associated with the unique position.

2. In Gen. 4:26 it is said "men began to call upon the name of the Lord" (YHWH). However, Exod. 6:3 implies that early covenant people (the Patriarchs and their families) knew God only as El-Shaddai. The name YHWH is explained only one time in Exod. 3:13-16, esp. Matt. 1:14. However, the writings of Moses often interpret words by popular word plays, not etymologies (cf. Gen. 17:5; 27:36; 29:13-35). There have been several theories as to the meaning of this name (taken from IDB, vol. 2, pp. 409-11).

a. from an Arabic root, "to show fervent love"

b. from an Arabic root "to blow" (YHWH as storm God)

c. from a Ugaritic (Canaanite) root "to speak"

d. following a Phoenician inscription, a causative participle meaning "the One who sustains," or "the One who establishes"

e. from the Hebrew Qal form "the One who is," or "the One who is present" (in future sense, "the One who will be")

f. from the Hebrew Hiphil form "the One who causes to be"

g. from the Hebrew root "to live" (e.g., Gen. 3:20), meaning "the ever-living, only-living One"

h. from the context of Exod. 3:13-16 a play on the imperfect form used in a perfect sense, "I shall continue to be what I used to be" or "I shall continue to be what I have always been" (cf. J. Wash Watts, A Survey of Syntax in the Old Testament, p. 67

The full name YHWH is often expressed in abbreviation or possibly an original form.

(1) Yah (e.g., Hallelu - yah)

(2) Yahu (names, e.g., Isaiah)

(3) Yo (names, e.g., Joel)

3. In later Judaism this covenant name became so holy (the tetragrammaton) that Jews were afraid to say it lest they break the command of Exod. 20:7; Deut. 5:11; 6:13. So they substituted the Hebrew term for "owner," "master," " husband," "lord" -adon or adonai (my lord). When they came to YHWH in their reading of OT texts they pronounced "lord." This is why YHWH is written Lord in English translations.

4. As with El, often YHWH is combined with other terms to emphasize certain characteristics of the Covenant God of Israel. While there are many possible combinations of terms, here are some.

a. YHWH - Yireh (YHWH will provide), Gen. 22:14

b. YHWH - Rophekha (YHWH is your healer), Exod. 15:26

c. YHWH - Nissi (YHWH is my banner), Exod. 17:15

d. YHWH - Meqaddishkem (YHWH the One who sanctifies you), Exod. 31:13

e. YHWH - Shalom (YHWH is Peace), Jdgs. 6:24

 f. YHWH - Sabbaoth (YHWH of hosts), 1 Sam. 1:3,11; 4:4; 15:2; often in the Prophets)

g. YHWH - Ro'I (YHWH is my shepherd), Ps. 23:1

h. YHWH - Sidqenu (YHWH is our righteousness), Jer. 23:6

i. YHWH - Shammah (YHWH is there), Ezek. 48:35

 

SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY

▣ "for He will save His people from their sin" Jesus came for three distinct purposes.

1. to fully reveal the Father

2. to give humans an example to follow

3. to redeem mankind from sin

Genesis 3 affected all life on this planet (cf. Rom. 8:20-23). Jesus came to die in our place (cf. Mark 10:45; John 1:29; 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 2:6-11; Isaiah 53). The promise of Gen. 3:15 is fulfilled in Him!

1:23 Matthew uses the fulfillment of OT prophecy as a major evidence for Jewish people to believe in Jesus as the promised Messiah.

1. Matt. 1:22 ― Isa. 7:14

2. Matt. 2:15 ― Hos. 11:1 and Exod. 4:22-23

3. Matt. 2:23 ― possibly Isa. 11:1

4. Matt. 3:15 ― "fulfill all righteousness"

5. Matt. 4:14 ― Isa. 9:1,2

6. Matt. 5:17 ― ". . .but to fulfill"

7. Matt. 8:17 ― Isa. 53:4

8. Matt. 12:17 ― Isa. 42:1,2,3,4

9. Matt. 13:14 ― Isa. 6:9,10

10. Matt. 13:35 ― Ps. 78:2

11. Matt. 21:4 ― Isa. 62:11 or Zech. 9:9

12. Matt. 27:9 ― Zech. 11:12,13

 

▣ "virgin" This is a quotation of Isa. 7:14 from the Septuagint. In Isaiah the Hebrew word used was almah (BDB 761 II), meaning a "chaste young woman of marriageable age." There was a special birth in Ahaz's day (cf. Isa. 7:15-16). Only one virgin birth has ever occurred, not two; therefore, the historical fulfillment in Isaiah's day was a sign to Ahaz, but not an impregnation by the Holy Spirit. This is an example of a multiple fulfillment of prophecy. The sign to Ahaz was the child's name. See my commentary of Isaiah 1-39 online at www.freebiblecommentary.org.

NASB, NKJV,
NJB"Immanuel"
NRSV, TEV"Emmanuel"
NJB"God-is-with-us"

Immanuel meant "God with us" (BDB 769). This shows that the OT passage pointed beyond its own day. Isaiah 7-12 (the Syro-Ephramitic War) ultimately referred to incarnate Deity, Jesus of Nazareth (cf. John 1:1; 5:18; 10:33; 14:9-10; Phil. 2:6). However, it must be remembered that the Jews did not expect the Messiah to be divine. They would have seen the powerful names from Isa. 9:6 as metaphors. It is not until the NT that the Messiah as God Incarnate was clearly revealed.

1:24-25 These verses reaffirm a truly supernatural virgin birth. They also imply that the couple had a normal married life after the birth of Jesus. The Textus Receptus, following the Greek uncial manuscripts C and D*, K, W add "her firstborn son," implying other children.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Why does Matthew have such a lengthy genealogy?

2. Why is Luke's genealogy different from Matthew's?

3. Did Isaiah predict a virgin birth in his own time?

 

Copyright © 2013 Bible Lessons International

Passage: 

Matthew 2

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Visit of the Wise Men Wise Men from the East The Wise Men Visitors From the East The Visit of the Magi
2:1-6 2:1-12 2:1-6 2:1-2 2:1-12
      2:3-4  
      2:5-6  (6)
2:7-12   2:7-12 2:7-8  
      2:9-11  
      2:12  
The Flight to Egypt The Flight Into Egypt Escape to Egypt and Return The Escape to Egypt The Flight into Egypt,

the Massacre of the Innocent

2:13-15 2:13-15 2:13-15 2:13 2:13-15
      2:14-15a  
      2:15b  (15b)
The Slaying of the Infants Massacre of the Innocents   The Killing of the Children  
2:16-18 2:16-18 2:16-18 2:16 2:16-18
      2:17-18  (18)
The Return from Egypt The Home in Nazareth     From Egypt to Nazareth
2:19-23 2:19-23 2:19-23 2:19-21 2:19-23
      2:22-23  (23c)

 

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

 

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 2:1-6
 1Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 2"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." 3When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5They 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 out of you shall come forth a Ruler
 Who will shepherd My people Israel.'"

2:1 "Bethlehem" The name meant "house of bread." This was the birthplace of Boaz, and later, King David (cf. Ruth 1:1 and 4:18-22). It was a small rural village of about 300 people, located 4-5 miles south of Jerusalem. There were two villages by this name; one in Judah (cf. Micah 5:2) and one in Zebulun (cf. Jos. 19:15).

▣ "Herod the King" Herod the Great was a jealous, paranoid Idumean (Edomite) ruler installed by the Romans. He expanded the second Temple in order to appease the Jews who were upset over a non-Jew ruling over them. He died in 4 b.c.; therefore, Jesus must have been born earlier, sometime between 6 - 4 b.c.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE FAMILY OF HEROD THE GREAT

2:1

NASB"magi"
NKJV, NRSV,
NJB"wise men"
TEV"men who studied the stars"

This type of sage probably originated in Media, but they came to be a well known group of wise men, counselors, and astrologers all over Mesopotamia. Herodotus called them Medean Priests (Herodotus I, 101). They were sometimes referred to in Babylon literature as "Chaldeans" (cf. Dan. 2:2-13).

 The ones mentioned in this text were possibly Zoroastrians from Persia, but they could have been Jewish exiles like Daniel. It is unusual that Matthew, writing to Jews, included the story of the wise men (Gentiles) from the East while Luke, writing to Gentiles, included the story of the Jewish shepherds (outcast Jews).

SPECIAL TOPIC: MAGIC

▣ "from the East" Tradition tries to locate where they came from and how many there were, as well as their race and social status, but the Bible is silent on these issues.

2:2 "King of the Jews" This was Herod the Great's title. This was the same title that was placed on Jesus' cross (cf. Matt. 27:37). It was a way of referring to the Messiah (cf. 1 Sam. 8:7; Ps. 10:16; 29:10; 98:6).

NASB, NKJV"we have seen His star in the east"
NRSV"we observed his star at its rising"
TEV"We saw his star when it came up in the east"
NJB"we saw his star as it rose"

This is literally "from the rising of the sun." This could mean: (1) "we saw his star while we were in the East," or (2) "we saw his star when it rose in the night sky." It cannot mean it rose in the east because the star would have led them in the wrong direction, unless it rose in the east but moved to the western part of the sky.

The ancient world correlated the birth of important men or events with astrological occurrences. God revealed to them in a way they would understand. In a sense they represent the world seeking and finding the Jewish Messiah. This " star" may have related to the prophecy of Num. 24:17: "I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; A star shall come forth from Jacob, A scepter shall rise from Israel."

2:3 "he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him" Herod the Great was so cruel and unpredictable that when he was upset, everyone was afraid! A notable example of his cruelty was that when he was near death, he was afraid no one would mourn his passing, so he imprisoned many Pharisees who were to be crucified when he died. This would ensure that the day of his death would be a day of grieving. The order was not carried out, but this illustrates his character.

2:4 "all the chief priests and scribes of the people" This referred to the Sanhedrin, the highest judicial and religious court of the Jewish nation, made up of 70 leaders from the Jerusalem area. It was presided over by the High Priest (Sadducees, see Special Topic at Matt. 22:23), which was at this time a position purchased from Roman authorities. The Sanhedrin was usually referred to by the phrase "High Priests, scribes (Pharisees, see Special Topic at Matt. 22:15), and elders" (cf. Matt. 26:57; 27:41; Mark 11:27; 14:43,53; Acts 4:5). Herod had arrested and later killed many of the Jerusalem leaders several years earlier so it is uncertain if this is a reference to the official Sanhedrin.

SPECIAL TOPIC: SADDUCEES

▣ "he inquired of them" This is imperfect tense meaning (1) he asked repeatedly or (2) he began to ask.

2:6 This was an allusion to Micah 5:2. It was not an exact quote from the Masoretic Text or the Septuagint. This specific prophecy gives strong evidence for the inspiration of the Bible. Micah wrote approximately 750 years before Christ's birth yet he predicted the small village where the Messiah would unexpectedly be born. The most powerful empirical evidence for an inspired Bible is predictive prophecy which is unique to Scripture!

▣ "Who will shepherd My people Israel" This line from the composite quote was added from 2 Sam. 5:2.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 2:7-12
 7Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. 8And 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." 9After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. 10When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.

2:7

NASB"determined from them the exact time the star appeared"
NKJV"determined from them what time the star appeared"
NRSV"learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared"
TEV"and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared"
NJB"He asked them the exact date on which the star appeared"

Herod was interested in the age of the child. Since it took the Magi many months to travel from Persia, Jesus was at least one or two years of age at this time.

2:9

NASB"the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them, until it came and stood over the place where the Child was"
NKJV"the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was"
NRSV"and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was"
TEV"and it went ahead of them until it came and stopped over the place where the child was"
NJB"the star they had seen rising went forward and halted over the place where the child was"

Presuppositions determine interpretation. I believe in the supernatural, although I cannot always explain why or how. The star moved and stopped! It must not have been so spectacular that many others saw it or recognized its significance. These men were trained in what to expect in the night sky. This phenomena did not fit a standard pattern. Therefore, it was not solely a natural phenomenon. This mixture of the natural and supernatural is similar to the plagues on Egypt.

The wise men did not come the same time as the shepherds. It has always surprised me that Matthew, writing to Jews, mentions Gentiles coming (saw the star) and Luke, writing to Gentiles, mentions Jewish shepherds coming (heard the angels). The theological truth is obvious-everyone is welcome to come (Gentiles, outcast Jews)!

2:10 "they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy" Why did they rejoice?

1. their search was over

2. the star continued to guide them

3. there is a spiritual component to their search (cf. Matt. 2:11); they found their new king and lord!

The intensive nature of this phrase leads one to option #3.

2:11 "the house" Obviously some time (up to two years) had passed from the time of the birth. Joseph, Mary, and Jesus were living in their own house.

▣ "the Child" The Greek term (paidion) used here was not the usual term for "infant" (brephos, cf. Luke 1:41,44; 2:12,16), but "toddler" (cf. Luke 2:40; Matt. 18:2). There was a lengthy period of time between the visit of the shepherds and the wise men.

▣ "gold, frankincense, and myrrh" Because three gifts were presented, tradition has asserted that there were three wise men. Tertullian even went so far as to assert that they were the kings mentioned in Isa. 60:3. Much effort has been spent to interpret the significance of the gifts, but what is known definitely is that these gifts were expensive and were used by royalty. It is possible they are fulfillment of Isa. 49:23 or Ps. 72:10-12.

2:12 "having been warned by God in a dream" God spoke to these magi just as He revealed His will to Mary and Joseph in a dream (cf. Matt. 1:13,19). They were spiritually sensitive men.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 2:13
 13Now 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 remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.

2:13 "an angel of the Lord" See note at Matt. 1:20.

▣ "Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him" The folly of evil men can be clearly seen in their attempts to thwart the will of God.

SPECIAL TOPIC: DESTRUCTION (APOLLUMI)

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 2:14-15
 14So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. 15He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called My Son."

2:15 "Out of Egypt I called My Son" Hosea 11:1 is the source of this prophetic quote. In the OT "son" referred either to Israel, the King, or the Messiah. The plural "sons" usually referred to angels.

Hosea 11:1 in context referred to the Exodus. This then is a play on the word "son," originally referring to Israel. Matthew alone records this incident. It is impossible to construct an exact chronology of the early life of Jesus from the Gospels. Egypt was home to a large Jewish community. Maybe this is symbolic of a second exodus or deliverance.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 2:16-18
 16Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi. 17Then 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."

2:16 "slew all the male children. . .two years old and under" Bethlehem was a small village, so probably few babies were involved in the slaughter. The phrase "two years old and under," reinforces the age of Jesus as a toddler, not an infant, at the time of the Magi's visit.

2:18 "Ramah" Verse 18 is a quote from Jer. 31:15, but it relates to Gen. 48:7. Rachel, the mother of Joseph, was associated with the Northern Ten Tribes, while her other son, Benjamin, was associated with Judah. In this one mother both houses of Israel are joined. The city of Ramah (6 miles north of Jerusalem) was the collection point for the deportation of the Northern Ten Tribes under Sargon II of Assyria in 722 b.c. Symbolically Rachel is again weeping over her lost children.

NASB"weeping and great mourning"
NKJV"lamentation, weeping and great mourning"
NRSV"wailing and loud lamentation"
TEV"sound of bitter weeping"
NJB"lamentation and bitter weeping"

This is an allusion to Jacob's favorite wife, Rachel, who had children, one of whom would be part of the northern ten tribes (after the united monarchy split in 922 b.c.) and one in the southern tribes. She is depicted as weeping over the exile of her sons (cf. Jer. 31:15, referring to the exile of Israel in 722 b.c. and Judah in 586 b.c.). In this context her grief is a metaphor for the death of the children of Bethlehem by Herod.

Some uncial Greek manuscripts have one verb, " weeping" (i.e., א, B, Z); others add "mourning," which comes from the LXX of Jer. 31:15 (i.e., C, D, L, W). As with so many of these manuscript variants, it makes little difference in understanding the meaning of the verse.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 2:19-23
 19But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, and said, 20"Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who sought the Child's life are dead." 21So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. 22But 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, 23and came and lived in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: "He shall be called a Nazarene."

2:19 "an angel of the Lord" See note at Matt. 1:20.

2:22 "Archelaus" Archelaus was another cruel member of the Herod family whom Joseph did not trust. He ruled the southern part of Herod the Great's territories (Judah, Samaria, and Idumea) from 4 b.c. - a.d. 6 when the Romans banished him to Gaul because of his cruelty.

2:23 "He shall be called a Nazarene" The village where Jesus grew up was called Nazareth. It is not mentioned in the OT, the Talmud, or in Josephus. It apparently was not settled until the time of John Hyrcanus (i.e., Hasmonaen), who ruled from 134-104 b.c. The presence of Joseph and Mary from this village implies that a clan of David's line settled here.

There may be an etymological connection between the names Nazareth and the Messianic title "Branch," which is netser in Hebrew (cf. Isa. 11:1; Jer. 23:5; 33:15; Zech. 3:8; 6:12; Rev. 5:5; 22:16). This interpretation is evidenced by the fact that no prophet ever foretold of Jesus being born or raised in Nazareth, but they did predict the coming of a special anointed Davidic king (i.e., Isa. 7:14; 9:1-7; 11:1-5; Dan. 2:44; 7:13-14, see Special Topic at Matt. 8:20).

It was apparently a term of reproach because of its location far from Jerusalem in a Gentile area (cf. John 1:46 and Acts 24:5, even though this, too, was prophecy cf. Isa. 9:1). This may be why it was included on the board above Jesus on the cross (i.e., Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews).

SPECIAL TOPIC: JESUS THE NAZARENE

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Who were the wise men? Were they Jewish?

2. What kind of star was it?

3. How old was Jesus when the Magi came?

4. How does Micah 5:2-6 relate to the validity of the Bible as a supernatural book?

5. Do these Old Testament quotes seem to be out of context? Why?

 

Copyright © 2013 Bible Lessons International

Passage: 

Matthew 3

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Preaching of John the Baptist John the Baptist Prepares the Way Activity of John the Baptist The Preaching of John the Baptist The Proclamation of John the Baptist
3:1-6 3:1-12 3:1-6 3:1-3 3:1-12
(3b)
      3:4-6  
3:7-12   3:7-10 3:7-12  
    3:11-12    
The Baptism of Jesus John Baptizes Jesus Jesus' Baptism The Baptism of Jesus Jesus is Baptized
3:13-17 3:13-17 3:13-17 3:13-14 3:13-15
      3:15a  
      3:15b-17  
        3:16-17

 

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

 

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS TO MATTHEW 3:1-17

A. Between Matthew 2 and 3 are the silent years of Jesus' childhood. Except for one experience at the age of twelve, details about Jesus' childhood are not known. There has been much interest and speculation by believers. Several extra-canonical pseudepigraphic gospels record other specific events, which are supposed to have occurred during His adolescence, but these years are simply unrecorded in the Bible.

 

B. The parallel passages for Matt. 3:1-12 are Mark 1:3-8, Luke 3:1-17, and John. 1:6-8, 19-28.

 

C. The parallel passages for Matt. 3:13-17 are Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22, and John. 1:31-34.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 3:1-6
 1Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, 2"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." 3For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said,
 "The voice of one crying in the wilderness,
 'Make ready the way of the Lord,
 Make His paths straight!'"
 4Now John himself had a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5Then Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea and all the district around the Jordan; 6and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins.

3:1 "in those days" This is a transition idiom. It does not attempt to locate a specific time.

▣ "John" This was the shortened form of the name " Johanan," which meant "YHWH is gracious" or "gift of YHWH." His name was significant because, like all biblical names, it pointed toward God's purpose for his life. John was the last of the Old Testament prophets. There had not been a prophet in Israel since Malachi, around 430 b.c. His very presence caused great spiritual excitement among the people.

▣ "the Baptist" Baptism was a common rite among Jews of the first and second century.

1. preparation for worship a the temple (i.e., cleansing rite)

2. the self baptism of proselytes

If someone from a Gentile background were to become a full child of Israel, he had to accomplish three tasks:

(a) circumcision, if male

(b)  self-baptism by immersion, in the presence of three witnesses

(c) sacrifice in the Temple

In sectarian groups of first century Palestine, such as the Essenes, baptism was apparently a common, repeated experience. However, to mainline Judaism, John's baptism of repentance would have been humiliating for a natural child of Abraham to undergo a Gentile ritual.

Some OT precedents can be cited for ceremonial washing.

1.  as a symbol of spiritual cleansing (cf. Isa. 1:16)

2.  as a regular ritual performed by the priests (cf. Exod. 19:10; Lev. 15)

It should be noted that all other baptisms in first century Jewish culture were self-administered. Only John's called for him to administer this rite. Apparently John made a spiritual evaluation of the spiritual qualifications which denoted a personal repentance (cf. Matt. 3:7-10).

▣ "came preaching in the wilderness of Judea" "Wilderness" was uninhabited pasture land, not an arid desert. John not only dressed like Elijah (cf. 2 Kgs. 1:8), he also lived in the same arid setting. John was claiming a prophetic position (cf. Zech. 13:4). His nomadic life resembled the wilderness wandering of Israel, which was an idealized time of an intimate relationship between YHWH and Israel.

Parallel passages suggest the geographical location of John's preaching was somewhere close to the city of Jericho just north of the Dead Sea, near the Jordan River.

3:2 "Repent," This is a present imperative which is an ongoing command. Without repentance, it is impossible to be saved (cf. Luke 13:3). The Hebrew equivalent meant "to change one's actions," while the Greek word meant "to change one's mind." It implied a willingness to change. Salvation requires faith in Christ and repentance (cf. Mark 1:15; Acts 3:16, 19; 20:21). John's ministry was one of spiritual preparation for the coming of Jesus the Messiah and His message.

Jesus also called on His hearers to repent (cf. Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:15).

SPECIAL TOPIC: REPENTANCE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

▣ "for the kingdom of heaven" Matthew, writing to Jews, is sensitive to their aversion to using God's name, so he uses a circumlocution, "kingdom of heaven" (cf. Matt. 4:17), whereas the other Synoptic Gospels use "kingdom of God" (Matthew used "kingdom of heaven" 32 times and " kingdom of God" only 4).

The Kingdom of God refers, in an OT sense, to the reign of God, not to a geographical area. God is King of creation! See Special Topic at Matt. 4:17.

NASB, NKJV"is at hand"
NRSV"has come near"
TEV"is near!"
NJB"is close at hand"

This is a perfect tense verb which describes the culmination and continuing results of a process started earlier. The nearness of the kingdom is stressed in the Gospels (cf. Matt. 4:17; 10:7; Mark 1:15; Luke 10:9-11; 11:20; 21:31). "Near" can be understood in one of two ways: (1) near in location or (2) near in time (cf. Matt. 12:28). This is the tension of "the already" and "not yet" of the New Age. It describes the time between the two comings of Christ. It is the overlapping of two Jewish ages.

3:3 "The voice of one crying in the wilderness" This is a quote from Isa. 40:3 in the Septuagint (LXX). The same idea was also reflected in Isa. 57:14 and 62:10, and Mal. 3:1. John saw himself as being the preparer for the coming of the Messiah (cf. John. 1:23). This fulfilled the predictions concerning Elijah found in the Mal. 3:1 and 4:5. All four Gospels record these words of John (cf. Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4; John 1:23).

▣ "Make ready the way of the Lord, Make His paths straight" These phrases are poetic parallels. The second phrase was usually a metaphor for preparing for a royal visit. It is significant to note that in Isa. 40:3 the term "the Lord"referred to YHWH, which in this quote referred to Jesus of Nazareth. The NT authors use several literary ways to assert the Deity of Jesus.

1. OT titles for YHWH applied to Jesus

2. OT actions of YHWH seen in Jesus

3. OT quotes relating to YHWH now used of Jesus

4. both God and Jesus as the grammatical object of one verb or one preposition

"Straight" was often used metaphorically for the character of God (similar to " right," " righteous," " just," " justify"). Most of the Hebrew as well as Greek words for sin reflect a deviation from a standard or "measuring reed." The standard is God Himself (cf. Lev. 11:44; 19:2; Matt. 5:48; 20:7,26; 1 Pet. 1:16).

3:4 Compare this to the clothing and lifestyle of Elijah recorded in 2 Kgs. 1:8 and reflected in Mal. 4:5. Camel-hair clothes were the cheapest available. John was accustomed to living in a desert and eating the diet available there. Locusts were a food allowed by the Mosaic legislation (cf. Lev. 11:22). The term was also used of the beans of the locust, or carob, tree.

3:5 The Jewish people of Judea saw John as a prophet (cf. Matt. 21:26). This verse shows the great hunger for God of the first century Jews. Even the religious leaders came. This verse is obviously a hyperbole, but it communicates the religious fervor which John caused.

3:6 "as they confessed their sins" The Greek term " confess" [homologeo] meant "to say the same thing." It implied both a public confession and a profession of faith (cf. Acts 19:18; James 5:16). The people as a whole recognized the need for spiritual renewal. OT precedents are found in Lev. 5:5 and 26:40. See special topic on confession at Matt. 10:32.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 3:7-10
 7But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; 9and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father'; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. 10The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."

3:7 "But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them" John's statements to these religious leaders are shocking in their intensity (i.e., "you brood of vipers," cf. Luke 3:7; and used by Jesus in Matt. 12:34; 23:33). Several theories have been advanced about why he reacted so strongly.

1. he saw them as Satanic agents

2. he saw them as spiritually dead to the true faith

3. he saw them as fakes

4. he saw them as being manipulative leaders whose public professions did not match their attitudes and motives

It is significant that these leaders were considering baptism themselves. Possibly they wanted to identify with the multitude and thereby retain their leadership status. John recognized their true motives.

For a full discussion of the origin and theology of the Pharisees see Special Topic at Matt. 22:15 and for Sadducees see Special Topic at Matt. 22:23.

▣ "to flee from the wrath to come" From the parallel of Mal. 3:2-3, it is clear that judgment was coming upon Israel because of her violations of the Mosaic Covenant (cf. Deuteronomy 27-28). Amos called it "the day of YHWH" (i.e., Amos 5:18), which inaugurated the New Age of Righteousness or the Messianic Kingdom. Here John confirms Malachi's judgment motif. Note that John's message was not national or corporate like Malachi's, but individual (cf. Ezek. 18; 33; Jer. 31:31-34).

3:8

NASB"bear fruit in keeping with repentance"
NKJV, NRSV"bear fruit worthy of repentance"
TEV"Do the things that will show that you have turned from sins"
NJB"But if you are repentant, produce the appropriate fruit"

Even in the OT, faith was more than simply ritual or membership in a national group (cf. Deut. 10:12, 16; Matt. 7:15-23; Rom. 2:28-29). Faith was and is both corporate and individual, both faith and works (cf. James 2:14-26)! Their lives must show their new relationship with God (cf. Matt. 7:16-20; 12:33; Luke 6:43-44; Acts 26:20). For "repentance" see full note at Matt. 4:17.

3:9 "and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father'" This same dependence on national descent can be seen in John. 8:31ff. and the Talmud's "Sanhedrin" 10:1. The Jews believed that the merit of Abraham's faith was applied to them. However, Mal. 3:2ff. and 4:1 show that judgment would come upon the Jews for their violations of the Covenant (also note Matt. 8:11-12). Lifestyle faith, not lineage, is the way to recognize a true child of Abraham (cf. Rom. 2:28-29).

▣ "stones. . .children" This was a word play using the Aramaic words for "stones" ('ebnayya) and "children" (benyya), which sounded similar. See G. B. Caird, The Language and Imagery of The Bible, p. 48.

3:10 "the axe is already laid at the root of the trees" This judgment motif is similar to Malachi's. A parallel can be seen in Isa. 10:33-34. One reason John the Baptist wondered whether Jesus was really the Messiah was because His message was not one primarily of judgment as John anticipated.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 3:11-12
 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. 12His 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."

3:11

NASB"I am not fit to remove His sandals"
NKJV, NRSV"whose sandals I am not worthy to carry"
TEV"I am not good enough even to carry his sandals"

This term may be translated two ways (1) following the usage in the Egyptian papyri, "to take off and carry a visitor's shoes to the storage place" or (2) to " untie and remove." Both acts were traditionally done by slaves. Not even the students of rabbis were asked to perform this task. This was an idiomatic statement of John's understanding of the superiority of Jesus.

▣ "He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire" Only one preposition and one article in the Greek text link the Holy Spirit and fire, implying that they are parallel (note Isa. 4:4). However, as in Luke 3:17, fire may refer to judgment, while the Holy Spirit referred to cleansing or to purity. It is possible both refer to the Pentecostal experience of Acts 2. Some have seen this as a two-fold baptism: one baptism for the righteous and one for the wicked, or Jesus baptizing as Savior or as Judge. Others have related it to conversion before Pentecost and the special endowment at Pentecost. 1 Corinthians 12:13 implies that Jesus is the baptizer "in," " with," or "by" the Spirit (cf. Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John. 1:33; Acts 1:5; 2:33).

3:12 "but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire" The metaphor Jesus used to describe the eternal judgment of God (cf. Isa. 66:24) was Gehenna (contraction of "the valley of the sons of Hinnom"), the garbage dump located south of Jerusalem (cf. Mark 9:48; Matt. 18:8; 24:41; Jude 7). A Canaanite fire and fertility god had been worshiped (an activity known as molech) at Gehenna in Israel's past by sacrificing of children (cf. Lev. 18:21; 20:2-5; 1 Kgs. 11:7; 2 Kgs. 21:6; 23:10). This aspect of eternal judgment is shocking to modern readers, but it was evident (rabbinical teaching) and expressive to first century Jews. Jesus did not come as judge, but all who reject Him will be judged (cf. Luke 3:16-17, John. 3:17-21). A possible OT precedent for this metaphor was Isaiah 34 which described God's judgment on Edom.

SPECIAL TOPIC: FIRE

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 3:13-17
 13Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him. 14But John tried to prevent Him, saying "I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?" 15But Jesus answering said to him, "Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he permitted Him. 16After being 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 lighting on Him, 17and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased."

3:13 "Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan coming to John, to be baptized by him" The Gospels differ in their early chronologies of Jesus' ministries in Galilee and Judea. It seems that there was an early Judean ministry and a later one, but all four Gospels'chronologies must be harmonized in order to see this early Judean visit (cf. John. 2:13-4:3).

Why Jesus was baptized has always been a concern for believers because John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. Jesus did not need forgiveness for He was sinless (cf. John 8:46; Acts 3:14; Rom. 8:3; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 7:26; 1 Pet. 2:22; 1 John 3:5). The theories have been as follows:

1. it was an example for believers to follow

2. it was His identification with believers'need

3. it was His ordination and equipping for ministry

4. it was a symbol of His redemptive task

5. it was His approval of the ministry and message of John the Baptist

6. it was prophetic of His death, burial, and resurrection (cf. Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12).

Whatever the reason, this was a defining moment in Jesus' life. Although it does not imply that Jesus became the Messiah at this point (adoptionism, cf. The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture by Bart D. Ehrman, pp. 47-118), it held great significance for Him.

3:14 "But John tried to prevent Him" This is an imperfect tense verb. Many commentators have struggled with why John tried again and again to prevent Jesus from being baptized. Some theories are:

1. some see this as John having previous knowledge of Jesus, but this conflicts with John 1:31,33

2. some see this as John acknowledging that Jesus was a righteous Jew, but not that He was the Messiah

3. in modern Near Eastern culture one must insist three times to be considered sincere

 

3:15 "But Jesus answering said to him" Verses 14-15 are found only in the Gospel of Matthew. They do not provide enough information to completely answer the question of verse 14. It is certain, however, that the baptism had meaning both for Jesus and John and that it was God's will for both their lives.

3:16

NASB"Jesus came up immediately from the water"
NKJV"came up immediately from the water"
NRSV"just as he came up from the water"
TEV"Jesus came up out of the water"
NJB"he at once came up from the water"

This verse has been used by those who support immersion as the only biblical mode of baptism to prove that Jesus was immersed. However, it could be understood to mean that He went up on the bank out of the water (see Michael Magill, New Testament TransLine, p. 9, #35 and 36).

▣ "the heavens were opened" This is a metaphorical way of showing God's will (cf. Isa. 22:22; Rev. 3:7). Only God can open heaven (cf. Mal. 3:10; Rev. 4:1). God opens blind eyes (i.e., Matt. 9:27-31; 12:22-23; 20:29-34; note Isa. 29:18; 35:5; 42:7,16) and answers prayer (cf. Matt. 7:7,8).

It is surely possible that this metaphor is from Isa. 64:1.

▣ "and he saw" The Greek text has only the pronoun "he," which could refer to either John or Jesus. Some ancient Greek uncial manuscripts (אi1, C, D, L, and W), some ancient translations (the Vulgate and Coptic), and the Greek texts used by early church fathers (Irenaeus, Eusebius, Chrysostom, Jerome, and Augustine) imply that only Jesus saw the dove coming, in the phrase "the heavens were opened to Him." However, the dove was also a sign to John to point out the true Messiah (cf. John. 1:32).

▣ "the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him" This is recorded in all four Gospels (Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32). Was it like a dove or was it a real dove? The question cannot be fully answered (cf. Luke 3:22). This is related to Isa. 11:2; 42:1; 48:16; 61:1. The specific form of the Spirit is not as significant as the Spirit Himself coming upon Jesus. This does not imply that before this time Jesus did not have the Holy Spirit, but that this was a special inauguration of His Messianic task.

The symbolism of the dove has been discussed a great deal as to its origin and purpose.

1. it goes back to Genesis 1, where the Spirit brooded over the waters

2. it goes back to Genesis 8, where Noah sent a dove out from the ark

3. the rabbis said that the dove was a symbol of Israel (cf. Ps. 68:13; Hos. 7:11; 11:11; The Talmud San. 95A and Ber. R. 39; II Esdras 5.26)

4. Tasker, in the Tyndale New Testament Commentary Series, says that it refers to gentleness, which is to be contrasted with the fire in verse 11 (cf. Rom 11:22; Matt. 11:29; 25:40).

 

3:17 "a voice out of the heavens" This phrase is significant for several reasons. During the inter-biblical period, when there was no true prophet, the rabbis said that God confirmed His choice and decisions by means of a bath kol, which was a voice from heaven. Also, this voice was a sign from God in a cultural way these first century Jews could understand (cf. Acts 10:9-16; 11:7-9; Rev. 1:10; 4:1; 10:8; 11:12). It was apparently as meaningful to Jesus as it was to John and possibly to the crowd which observed His baptism.

The combination of the quote "My Son in whom I am delighted" links the royal Messianic, Davidic emphasis of Ps. 2:7 with the Suffering Servant motif of Isa. 42:1. Here, in this quote, the royal Messiah is linked to the Suffering Servant of Isaiah.

This phrase, "My Beloved Son" (also note 17:5) is the possible origin of the phrase "Son of God," which is found in Matt. 4:3, 6. It is significant to note that in Mark 1:11 it was translated "You are My beloved Son," which showed that the Father directed His words to Jesus, while in Matthew 3, it was translated in such a way as to indicate that God spoke to John and the crowd. See Special Topic: Son of God at Matt. 27:54.

Verses 16-17 involve all three persons of the Trinity. The term "trinity" is not in the Bible, but the concept is surely scriptural. The fact that the Bible asserts the oneness of God (monotheism, Deut. 6:4) must be balanced with the deity of Jesus and the personality of the Spirit. There is one divine essence and three eternal personal manifestations. The three divine personalities are often mentioned in the same context (i.e., Matt. 3:16-17; 28:19; Acts 2:33-34; Rom. 8:9-10; 1 Cor. 12:4-6; 2 Cor. 1:21-22; 13:14; Eph. 1:3-14; 4:4-6; Titus 3:4-6; 1 Pet. 1:2).

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE TRINITY

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Of which OT prophet does John the Baptist remind you? Why?

2. Define repentance.

3. Why does Matthew use the phrase "kingdom of heaven" and Mark and Luke use " kingdom of God" ?

4. What is the significance of the quote from Isaiah 40 (Matt. 3:3)?

5. Why did the religious leaders want to be baptized? What did baptism symbolize in that day?

6. Why is the emphasis of John the Baptist's message on judgment and not on salvation?

7. Why was Jesus baptized with a baptism of repentance?

8. What is the significance of God speaking out of heaven? Identify the two OT sources of the Father's quote and explain their significance.

 

Copyright © 2013 Bible Lessons International

Passage: 

Matthew 4

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Temptation of Jesus Satan Tempts Jesus Jesus' Temptation The Temptation of Jesus Testing in the Wilderness
4:1-11 4:1-11 4:1-4 4:1-3 4:1-11
      4:4 (4b)
    4:5-7 4:5-6 (6b)
      4:7 (7b)
    4:8-11 4:8-9  
      4:10  
      4:11  
The Beginning of the Galilean Ministry Jesus Begins His Galilean Ministry Beginnings of Jesus' Activity in Galilee Jesus Begins His Work

in Galilee

Return to Galilee
4:12-16 4:12-17 4:12-17 4:12-16 4:12-17
(15-16)
4:17     4:17  
The Calling of Four Fishermen Four Fishermen Called

as Disciples

  Jesus Calls Four

Fishermen

The First Four Disciples Are Called
4:18-22 4:18-22 4:18-22 4:18-20 4:18-20
      4:21-22 4:21-22
Ministering to a Great Multitude Jesus Heals a Great Multitude   Jesus Teaches, Preaches, and Heals Jesus Proclaims the Message and Heals the Sick
4:23-25 4:23-25 4:23-25 4:23-25 4:23-25

 

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

 

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS TO VERSES 1-25

A. It is extremely significant that immediately following God's affirmation of the Messianic Sonship of Jesus, the Spirit "drives" Jesus into the desert to be tempted (cf. Mark 1:12). Temptation was in the will of God for the Son. Temptation can be defined as the enticement of a God-given desire beyond God-given bounds. Temptation is not a sin. This temptation was initiated by God. The agent was Satan (cf. 2 Kgs. 22:13-23; Job 1-2; Zech. 3).

 

B. It is also significant that in this chapter an Israel/Christ typology is developed. Jesus is seen as the "Ideal Israelite" who fulfills the task which the nation was originally given (cf. Isa. 41:8-9; 42:1,19; 43:10). Both are called " Son" (cf. Hos. 11:1). This explains some of the ambiguity which is found in the Servant Songs of Isa.41-53 in the shift from the plural to the singular (Isa. 52:13-15 in the LXX). This Israel/Christ typology is similar to the Adam/Christ typology found in Rom. 5:12-21.

 

C. Could Christ really have sinned? This is really the mystery of the two natures of Christ. The temptation was real. Jesus, in His human nature, could have violated the will of God. This was not a puppet show. Jesus is truly human though without a fallen nature (cf. Heb. 4:15; 7:26). In this respect He was like Adam. We see this same human nature in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed three times for another way of redemption other than the cross (cf. Matt. 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42). This tendency is the essence of each one of Satan's temptations in Matthew 4. How will Jesus use His Messianic gifts to redeem mankind? Any way other than substitutionary atonement was the temptation!

 

D. Jesus must have told this experience to His disciples later because He was alone in the desert. This implies that this account not only teaches us about Christ's temptation, but also helps us in our temptations.

 

E. It must be remembered that the Bible is not a chronological, cause and effect, western history. Near Eastern history is selective, but not inaccurate. The Gospels are not biographies but gospel tracts written to different groups of people for the purpose of evangelism and discipleship, not just history. Often Gospel writers selected, adapted, and arranged the material for their own theological and literary purposes (cf. Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart's How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, pp. 94-112, 113-134). There are several good illustrations of Matthew's tendencies to structure his Gospel.

1. He puts Jesus' teachings together in one sermon (Matthew 5-7), as he does His miracles and parables.

2. He has a numerical propensity for (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 657)

a. threes

(1) three temptations, Matt. 4:1-11

(2) three acts of Jewish righteousness, Matt. 6:1-18

(3) three healings, Matt. 8:1-15

(4) three "fear nots," Matt. 10:26,28,31

(5) three days, Matt. 12:40

(6) three questions, Matt. 22:15-40

(7) three prayers of Jesus to the Father while in Gethsemane, Matt. 26:39-44

(8) three days to rebuild the temple, Matt. 27:40 (#5)

(9) Jesus will rise in three days, Matt. 27:63 (#5,8)

b. sevens

(1) demons, Matt. 12:45

(2) loaves, Matt. 15:34,36

(3) baskets, Matt. 15:37

(4) forgiveness to a brother, Matt. 18:21,22 (seven, seventy-times seven)

(5) seven brothers, Matt. 22:25

(6) seven woes, Matt. 23:13,15,16,23,25,27,29

Mark (the first written Gospel, used by Matthew and Luke) has "seven" for #2, #3, and #5, which shows the number was not a structure unique to Matthew. It is difficult to know what was part of the tradition and what part Matthew's propensity for these numbers caused his structure.

This does not mean to imply the Gospel writers falsified or made up events or words. The differences in the Gospels does not deny inspiration. It affirms eyewitness accounts.

F. The parallels of Jesus' temptations are found in Mark 1:12-13 and Luke 4:1-13.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 4:1-4
 1Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. 3And the tempter came and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." 4But he answered and said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.'"

4:1 "Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil" This is an extremely significant verse in that it shows that God's will for Jesus' life was to face temptation (Heb. 5:8). This temptation experience related to how Jesus would use His Messianic powers to redeem mankind (the use of first class conditional sentences in Matt. 4:3, 6).

▣ "was led" In the Mark 1:12 parallel we find the phrase "was driven by the Spirit." This experience was necessary for Jesus (cf. Heb. 5:8).

▣ "the wilderness" This referred to the uninhabited pasture land near Jericho. This would have been the kind of territory in which Moses (cf. Exod. 34:28), Elijah (cf. 1 Kgs. 19:8) and John the Baptist lived (cf. Matt. 3:1).

▣ "tempted" Two terms in the Greek language describe a temptation or test. One has the connotation of "to test with a view toward strengthening" [dokimazo] and the other "to test with a view toward destruction" [peirasmo]. The term used here is the one for destruction (cf. Matt. 6:13; James 1:13-14). God will never tempt us to destruction, but He often tests us, with a view toward strengthening us (cf. Gen. 22:1; Exod. 16:4; 20:20; Deut. 8:2,16; 13:3; Jdgs. 2:22; 2 Chr. 32:31; 1 Thess. 2:4; 1 Pet. 1:7; 4:12-16). Satan tempts to destroy!

SPECIAL TOPIC: GREEK TERMS FOR TESTING AND THEIR CONNOTATIONS

▣ "the devil" In the Old Testament the title of the angelic being who gives mankind a choice is Satan (BDB 966), the accuser (cf. Mark 1:13). In the NT he becomes diabolos (following the LXX) or the devil, which meant slanderer, adversary, or tempter. In the OT he was a servant of God (cf. Job 1-2; 2 Kgs. 22:13-23; 1 Chr. 21:1; Zech. 3:1,2). However, by the time of the New Testament there was an intensification of evil and he has become the arch-enemy of God. One of the best books on the development of evil in the Bible is A. B. Davidson's Old Testament Theology, published by T. and T. Clark, p. 300-06. See Special Topic at Matt. 4:5.

4:2 "after He had fasted" See SPECIAL TOPIC: FASTING at Matt. 6:16.

▣ "forty days and forty nights" Here again Matthew chose a motif from the OT of (1) Moses'forty days and forty nights on Mt. Sinai (cf. Exod. 24:18; 34:28; Deut. 9:9; 10:10) and (2) Israel wandering in the wilderness for forty years (cf. Num. 14:26-35). Matthew saw Jesus as the New Law giver and deliverer (i.e., new exodus).

The term "forty" was used often in the Bible implying it could function both literally (40 years from Egypt to Canaan) and figuratively (the flood). The Hebrews used a lunar calendar. "Forty" implied a long, indefinite period of time longer that a lunar cycle, not exactly forty twenty-four periods.

SPECIAL TOPIC: SYMBOLIC NUMBERS IN SCRIPTURE

▣ "He then became hungry" Fasting involved the absence of food, not water. Some commentators see this as Satan waiting until the end of Jesus' fast when He was weak and tired before approaching Him. Others believe that Satan came during the entire fast. The first option fits the context best.

This also shows the full humanity of the Spirit-filled, Spirit-sent Jesus.

4:3 "and the tempter" This is a present participle used as a substantive of " to tempt" as in Matt. 4:1.

▣ "came and said to Him" These temptations could have been either mental or physical. Based on the fact that Satan will take Him to a high mountain to view all of the kingdoms of the earth in a single instant (Luke parallel), this was probably a vision, but still a personal confrontation between Jesus and Satan.

▣ "If You are the Son of God" Like verse 6, this is a first class conditional sentence which is assumed to be true, at least from the point of view of the author; therefore, it should be translated " since" (instead of "if") for English readers. Satan is not doubting Jesus' Messiahship (i.e., God affirmation in Matt. 3:17), but was tempting Him to misuse or abuse His Messianic powers. This grammatical form colors the interpretation of this entire temptation experience (cf. James Stewart's The Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ).

▣ "command that these stones become bread" Apparently these rocks in the Judean desert were shaped like loaves of baked bread used in first century Palestine. Satan was tempting Jesus to use His Messianic powers both to meet His personal needs and to win the allegiance of humans by feeding them. In the OT the Messiah was described as feeding the poor (cf. Isa. 58:6-7,10). These temptation experiences, to some extent, continued to occur during Jesus' ministry. The feeding of the five thousand (Matt. 14:13-21) and of the four thousand (Matt. 15:29-33) showed how humans would, and did, abuse God's provision of physical food. This again is parallel to the problems of Israel's wilderness experience. Matthew saw a parallel between Moses and Jesus. The Jews were expecting the Messiah to perform many of the actions of Moses.

Satan's temptation functioned on two levels. The first was the Jewish expectation of the Messiah providing food like Moses (i.e., John 6). The second was the implication that if He was truly God's Son, the Messiah, let Him prove it by "speaking" His will. This obviously refers to creation by the spoken word (Genesis 1). Satan's test was

1. provide human food as Moses did

2. show your power by speaking a miraculous event (note the quote in Matt. 4:4b)

 

4:4 "It is written" This is a perfect passive indicative. This was the standard idiomatic way of introducing an inspired quotation from the OT (cf. Matt. 4:4,7,10), in this case, from Deut. 8:3 from the Septuagint (LXX). This particular quote relates to God providing manna to the children of Israel during the wilderness period:

All of Jesus' responses to Satan's temptations were quotes from Deuteronomy. This must have been one of His favorite books.

1. He quoted repeatedly from it during His temptation by Satan in the wilderness, Matt. 4:1-16; Luke 4:1-13.

2. It is possibly the outline behind the Sermon on the Mount, Matt. 5-7.

3. Jesus quoted Deut. 6:5 as the greatest commandment, Matt. 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34; Luke 10:25-28.

4. Jesus quoted this section of the OT (Genesis - Deuteronomy) most often because the Jews of His day considered it the most authoritative section of the canon.

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 4:5-7
 5Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, 6and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written,
 'He will command His angels concerning You'; and
 'On their hands they will bear You up,
 So that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.'"
 7Jesus said to him, "On the other hand, it is written, 'You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'"

4:5 "the devil" The Greek word, Diabolos, is used in the NT 37 times, while Satanas is used 36 times; both refer to one who accuses, which was his OT task. Matthew and Luke use diabolos for the temptation experience, while Mark uses Satanos. Why the change is uncertain. See SPECIAL TOPIC: PERSONAL EVIL following.

SPECIAL TOPIC: PERSONAL EVIL

▣ "took Him into the holy city" This phrase "the holy city" is unique to Matthew and was a special designation for Jerusalem (cf. Matt. 27:53; Dan. 9:24; Neh. 11:1,18; Rev. 11:2). Matthew knew the Jews would understand this immediately as an allusion from the OT (cf. Isa. 48:2; 52:10; 64:10). The order of the temptation events in Matthew and Luke are different. The reason for this is uncertain. Possibly Matthew's account is chronological (" then"), while Luke's account restructures the order for climactic effect (" again").

NASB, NKJV,
NRSV"had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple"
TEV"set him on the highest point of the temple"
NJB"set him on the parapet of the Temple"

" Parapet" or "pinnacle" may be literally translated "wing." This term could have meant (1) the outermost part of the Temple's southeast corner of the outer wall, which overlooked the Kidron Valley or (2) the part of Herod's Temple which overlooked the inner court. Because of the Jewish tradition that the Messiah was to appear suddenly in the Temple (cf. Mal. 3:1), this tradition became one of Satan's temptations of how to win people's allegiance by performing a miracle of jumping off and floating into the Temple area, possibly during a feast day.

4:6 "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down" This is another first class conditional sentence which is assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his purposes (cf. Matt. 4:3). Satan quotes Ps. 91:11-12. Some have asserted that Satan misquoted this verse. Although he left out "in all your ways," this quotation is in line with the Apostles'use of the OT Scripture. The problem was not that Satan was misquoting the verse, but was misapplying it.

4:7 "Jesus said to him" Verse 7 is a quote from Deut. 6:16, which referred to Israel's testing God at Massah during the Wilderness Wandering Period (cf. Exod. 17:1-7). Israel, at this point, did not trust God to provide her basic needs, but demanded a miracle. The pronoun "you" in the quote relates to Israel, not Satan (cf. Matt. 4:10).

▣ "You shall not put the Lord your God to the test" The issue is the motive for the "test" (cf. 1 Cor. 10:9 [Numbers 21]; Acts 5:9; 15:10). Believers are called on to actively trust God's promises (i.e., Jos. 1:56; Isa. 7:10-13; Mal. 3:!0).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 4:8-11
 8Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; 9and he said to Him, "All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me." 10Then Jesus said to him, "Go, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.'" 11Then the devil left Him; and behold, angels came and began to minister to Him.

4:8-9 This temptation implies a vision instead of an actual event. Compare Luke 4:5 which said "in a moment of time." In either case, it was a real and personal temptation confronting Jesus.

There has been much discussion as to what Satan meant by his claim in Matt. 4:9: (1) does it imply that he owned all of the kingdoms of the earth? or (2) does it imply that he was simply trivializing the world's sin by showing Jesus its splendor? Satan is called the "god of this world" (cf. John. 12:31; 2 Cor. 4:4) and ruler of this world (cf. Eph. 2:2; 1 John 5:19) and yet this world is owned by God who created and sustains it! The exact extent of Satan's influence, ownership (cf Luke 4:6), and free will (cf. Job 1-2; Zechariah 3) is uncertain, but his power and evil are pervasive (cf. 1 Pet. 5:8).

4:9 "if" This is a third class conditional sentence which implied probable future action. This verse shows Satan's true desire to replace YHWH!

4:10 "Then Jesus said to him" This loosely quotes Deut. 6:13. It does not appear in this form in either the Masoretic Text (MT) or the Septuagint (LXX). Jesus added the word "only." This verse and Deut. 6:5 affirm the needed commitment to God in heart, mind, and life.

The fact that Jesus loosely quotes a Scripture text ought to encourage us to memorize Scripture (i.e., Ps. 119:11; 37:31; 40:8), the purpose is to know its main point and live it out daily, not necessarily to quote it perfectly especially in times of temptation and trials (cf. Eph. 6:17).

▣ "Go, Satan" This is similar but not identical to Matt. 16:23. Some early Greek manuscripts, C2, D, L, and Z, add "get behind me Satan." Apparently early scribes added this phrase which is from Matt. 16:23. The UBS4 gives the shorter text a "B" rating (almost certain).

4:11 "Then the devil left Him" Luke 4:13 adds the phrase "until an opportune time." Temptation is not once-and-for-all, but ongoing. Jesus would experience temptation again. Peter's words at Caesarea Philippi were as tempting and cutting as Satan's words in the wilderness (cf. Matt. 16:21-23).

▣ "angels came and began to minister to Him" The Greek word "minister" is often associated with physical food (cf. Matt. 8:15; 25:44; 27:55; Acts 2:6). This recalls 1 Kgs. 19:6-7, where God miraculously provided food for Elijah. God's angels ministered to His unique Son. God provided all that Satan said he could provide.

Why the incarnate son of God would need the ministry of angels is a mystery. Angels are ministering spirits to the redeemed (cf. Heb. 2:14). Twice in Jesus' life angels helped Him in times of His physical weakness, here and in Gethsemane (cf. Luke 22:43 in MSS א*, D and L and the Vulgate).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 4:12-17
 12Now when Jesus heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee; 13and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. 14This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet:
 15"The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
 By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles-
 16The 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."
 17From that time Jesus began to preach and say, " Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

4:12 The specific reasons for John's arrest are given in Matt. 14:3-5.

4:13 "and leaving Nazareth" Jesus changed His place of residence because of the city's unbelief (cf. Luke 4:16-31). See Special Topic: Jesus the Nazarene at Matt. 2:23.

▣ "and settled in Capernaum" This was the hometown of Peter and John. "Capernaum" meant "village of Nahum." Therefore, it may have been the traditional hometown of the OT prophet. It was located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee.

4:13c-16 Because of the concluding phrase of Matt. 4:13, this was fulfilled prophecy (cf. Isa. 9:1-2). Everyone expected the Messiah to minister primarily to Judea and Jerusalem, but the ancient prophecy of Isaiah was uniquely fulfilled in the life and ministry of Jesus (cf. John. 7:41). The land of Zebulun and Naphtali were the first to fall to the Assyrian invaders and the first to hear the good news.

4:15 "beyond the Jordan" This idiom usually referred to the east side of the Jordan (the trans-Jordan) but here it referred to the west (the promised land). It all depends on where the person speaking was standing (or thinking).

▣ "Galilee of the Gentiles" Galilee was a mixture of both Jews and Gentiles (ethnē, LXX Isa. 9:1), the majority being Gentiles. This Gentile area was looked down on by the Jews of Judea. God's heart has always been for the salvation of the entire world (i.e., Gen. 3:15; 12:3; Exod. 19:5-6; Isa. 2:24; 25:6-9; John. 3:16; Eph. 2:11-3:13).

4:16 "The people who were sitting in darkness" This was either (1) a reference to their sin, (2) a reference to their ignorance, or (3) an idiom of derision because of their differences from the Jewish customs in Judea.

▣ "in the land and shadow of death" This was a metaphor for great danger (cf. Job 38:17; Ps. 23:4; Jer. 2:6).

4:17 "From that time" This phrase is used three times in Matthew (cf. Matt. 4:17; 16:21; 26:16) and seems to be a purposeful literary marker of the main divisions of Matthew's presentation of Jesus.

"Jesus began to preach and say, 'Repent; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand'" This is similar to John the Baptist's message (cf. Matt. 3:2). In the mouth of Jesus it takes on new significance. The kingdom is both present and future. This is the "already" but " not yet" tension of the new age (see Robert Stein, The Method and Message of Jesus' Teachings, pp. 75-79).

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE KINGDOM OF GOD

▣ "repent" Repentance is crucial for a faith relationship with God (cf. Matt. 3:2; 4:17; Mark 1:15; 6:12; Luke 13:3,5; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 20:21). The term in Hebrew meant a change of actions (BDB 996), while in Greek it meant a change of mind. Repentance is a willingness to change from one's self-centered existence to a life informed and directed by God. It calls for a turning from the priority and bondage of the self (cf. Genesis 3). Basically it is a new attitude, a new worldview, a new master. Repentance is God's will for every human being, made in His image (cf. Ezek. 18:21,23,32 and 2 Pet. 3:9).

The NT passage that best reflects the different Greek terms for repentance is 2 Cor. 7:8-12.

1. lupē, "grief" or "sorrow" 2 Cor. 7:8 (twice), 2 Cor. 7:9 (thrice), 2 Cor. 7:10 (twice), 2 Cor. 7:11

2. metamelomai, "after care," 2 Cor. 7:8 (twice), 2 Cor. 7:9

3. metanoeō, "repent," " after mind," 2 Cor. 7:9, 10

The contrast is false repentance [metamelomai] (cf. Judas, Matt. 27:3 and Esau, Heb. 12:16-17) vs. true repentance [ metanoeō].

True repentance is theologically linked to

1. Jesus' preaching of the conditions of the New Covenant (cf. Matt. 4:17; Mark 1:15; Luke 13:3,5)

2. the apostolic sermons in Acts [kerygma] (cf. Acts 3:16,19; 20:21)

3. God's sovereign gift (cf. Acts 5:31; 11:18 and 2 Tim. 2:25)

4. perishing (cf. 2 Pet. 3:9)

Repentance is not optional!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 4:18-22
 18Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. 19And He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." 20Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. 21Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. 22Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.

4:18 "the Sea of Galilee" This fresh water lake is about 12 miles by 8 miles. It was known in the Bible by four different names.

1.the Sea of Chinnereth (cf. Num. 34:11)

2. Lake Gennesaret (cf. Luke 5:1)

3. the Sea of Tiberias (cf. John. 6:1; 21:1)

4. here, the Sea of Galilee

 

▣ "He saw two brothers," It is uncertain if this was the first time that these men had met and heard Jesus. Apparently their immediate response reflected an earlier meeting, possibly recorded in John. 1:45-51. It must be remembered that John records an earlier Galilean and Judean ministry. John's chronology of Jesus' life records events in: Galilee, Judea, Galilee, and Judea.

▣ "net" This refers to a hand-cast, round net, but the word "net" in Matt. 4:20 and 21 is a different word and refers to larger nets pulled by boats.

1. behind the boat or between boats

2. one end anchored at the shore, the other end taken straight out by a boat and then in a semi-circle, brought to shore.

 

4:19 "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men" In its Jewish setting, Jesus was officially calling these men to become His disciples. There were set rules and procedures on how a rabbi did this. The terminology is a word play on their current profession of fishing and their new one as witnesses and evangelists.

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

4:23 "Jesus was going throughout all Galilee" This involved three specific ministries: (1) teaching; (2) preaching; and (3) healing. It is interesting to note that they responded to the third, but not always to the first and second. The third was simply a confirmation of the vitality and power of the first two. It was possible to be healed and not be saved (cf. John. 5).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 4:24-25
 24The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them. 25Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Decapolis and Jerusalem and Judea and from beyond the Jordan.

4:24 "The news about Him spread throughout all Syria" Syria was a Roman province which included northern Palestine. However, in this context it may refer to the whole area, which showed the wide-spread popularity of this healer from Nazareth.

▣ "all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics" In the Gospels, distinctions are made between physical sickness and demon possession. Although demonic forces might cause physical symptoms, the cure for each is different. Jesus healed all those who were brought to Him (see Special Topic at Matt. 19:2). We know from other accounts that healing was sometimes based on the faith of the individual, or the faith of the sick individual's friends; and sometimes it came without much faith at all. Physical healing did not always mean or imply spiritual salvation (cf. John. 9).

▣ "demons" See Special Topic at Matt. 10:1.

▣ "epileptics" See note at Matt. 17:15.

4:25 "Large crowds followed Him" Verse 25 is a graphic description of the extent of Jesus' popularity (cf. Mark 3:7-8; Luke 6:17). This popularity caused the Jewish leaders to be jealous and the crowds to misunderstand His mission.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. What was the purpose of Jesus' temptation?

2. Who is the devil and what is his purpose?

3. Were these temptations psychological, physical or visionary?

4. Why do the Gospels emphasize the Galilean ministry of Jesus?

5. When Jesus called the disciples, had they met or heard Him before that time?

6. Does the New Testament make a distinction between demon possession and physical illness? If so, why?

 

Copyright © 2013 Bible Lessons International

Passage: 

Matthew 5

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Sermon on the Mount The Beatitudes The Sermon on the Mount The Sermon on the Mount The Beatitudes
    (5:1-7:27)    
5:1-2 5:1-12 5:1-2 5:1-2 5:1-12
The Beatitudes   The Beatitudes True Happiness  
5:3-12   5:3 5:3-10 (3-10)
    5:4    
    5:5    
    5:6    
    5:7    
    5:8    
    5:9    
    5:10    
    5:11-12 5:11-12  
Salt and Light Believers are Salt and Light The Witness of the Disciples Salt and Light Salt for the Earth and Light for the World
5:13-16 5:13-16 5:13 5:13 5:13
    5:14-16 5:14-16 5:14-16
Teaching About the Law Christ Fulfills the Law The Relation of Jesus' Message to the Jewish Law Teaching About the Law The Fulfillment of the Law
5:17-20 5:17-20 5:17-20 5:17-20 5:17-19
Teaching About Anger Murder Begins in the Heart Illustrations of the True Understanding of the Law Teaching About Anger The New Standard Higher Than the Old
        5:20
5:21-26 5:21-26 5:21-26 5:21-24 5:21-26
      5:25-26  
Teaching About Adultery Adultery in the Heart   Teaching About Adultery  
5:27-30 5:27-30 5:27-30 5:27-20 5:27-30
Teaching About Divorce Marriage is Sacred and Binding   Teaching About Divorce  
5:31-32 5:31-32 5:31-32 5:31-32 5:31-32
Teaching About Oaths Jesus Forbids Oaths   Teaching About Vows  
5:33-37 5:33-37 5:33-37 5:33-37 5:33-37
Teaching About Retaliation Go the Second Mile   Teaching About Revenge  
5:38-42 5:38-42 5:38-42 5:38-42 5:38-42
Love for Enemies Love Your Enemies   Love for Enemies  
5:43-48 5:43-48 5:43-48 5:43-48 5:43-48

 

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

 

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS TO CHAPTERS 5-7

A. This sermon has been called

1. "The Ordination Address to the Twelve"

2. "The Compendium of Christian Doctrine"

3. "The Magna Carta of the Kingdom"

4. "The Manifesto of the King"

The term "Sermon on the Mount" was first used by Augustine (a.d. 354-430) in his Latin Commentary on Matthew. This title came into our English Bibles through the Coverdale Bible of a.d. 1535.

B. "The Sermon on the Mount" in Matthew 5-7 is possibly the same as "the Sermon on the Plain" in Luke 6. The difference in the contents can be explained by comparing the target audiences of the Gospels writers; Matthew's readers were Palestinian Jews and Luke's were Gentiles. However, because the differences are so great, many believe they are not the same sermon. They may be examples of often repeated themes used by Jesus in many places with differing audiences. An example of this is the parable of the lost sheep. In Matthew 18 it was directed to disciples, but in Luke 15 to sinners.

 

C. Under God's inspiration, the Gospel writers were free to select from Jesus' teachings and actions and to combine them in non-chronological ways to communicate theological truth. See Fee and Stuart's How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, pp. 127-148. The Gospels are not biographies-they are evangelistic tracts and discipleship manuals. Matthew combines Jesus' teachings and miracles into thematic units, while Luke records these same teachings in different contexts throughout his Gospel.

 

D. The structure of Matthew's first (of five, i.e., 5-7; 10-13; 18; 24-25) and longest discourse of Jesus is very Jewish, possibly a conscious structural parallel to the Ten Commandments. The statements are pointed gnomic sentences, often paradoxical, which attempt to summarize truth and aid memory. Thematically they are loosely related but grammatically separate.

 

E. These teachings are the ultimate kingdom ethic meant to convict the lost and motivate the saved. The audience was comprised of several different groups: the disciples, the curious, the sick, the skeptical and the religious elite. Different texts were intended for the differing groups.

 

F. These teachings are basically an attitude toward life or a " worldview" which is radically reoriented toward faith and obedience to God. There is an obvious play on Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5.

 

G. A good book which describes Jesus' teaching and preaching methods is Robert H. Stein's, The Methods and Message of Jesus' Teaching, Westminister Press, 1978, ISBN 0-664-24216-2.

 

H. The purpose is not to show the lost how to be saved, but how God expects the saved to live. The new kingdom ethic is so radical that even the most committed self-righteous legalists feel inadequate. Grace is the only hope for salvation (i.e., Isa 55:1-3) and the Spirit's power the only hope for kingdom living (i.e., Isa. 55:6-7).

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS TO 5:3-12 (the BEATITUDES)

A. The Beatitudes form a spiritual ladder (1) from salvation to Christlikeness or (2) from mankind's sense of spiritual need to mankind's new life in Christ.

 

B. Their number has been understood differently as 7, 8, 9, and even 10.

 

C. The Beatitudes demand a response from the reader/hearer! They are not informational but motivational!

 

D. Three helpful quotes:

1. Every moral system is a road which by self-denial, discipline, and effort, men seek to reach the goal. Christ begins with this goal, and places His disciples at once in the position to which all other teachers point as the end. . .They began by commanding, He by bestowing: because He brings good tidings of forgiveness and mercy." The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim, p. 528-529.

2. "The Sermon on the Mount is neither an impractical ideal nor a set of fixed legal regulations. It is, instead, a statement of the principles of life essential in a normal society. . .Many of the sayings of the Sermon are metaphorical or proverbial statements and are not to be understood in a literal or legal sense. In them, Jesus was illustrating principles in concrete terms." The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. vol. 4 p. 2735.

3. "Basic Principles:

a. Character is the secret of happiness.

b. Righteousness is grounded in the inner life. Character is not something imposed from without, but a life that unfolds from within.

c. The inner life is a unity.

d. Universal love is the fundamental social law.

e. Character and life exist in and for fellowship with the Father. All worship and conduct look toward God.

f. Fulfillment is the final test of life.

g. Deeds and character are the only things that abide and endurance is the final test."

 The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. vol. 4 p. 2735.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

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

5:1 "When Jesus saw the crowds" People from all areas of society flocked to Jesus. These huge crowds were also present in Matt. 4:23-25 and Luke 6:17. Probably the disciples and those who were truly interested, formed an inner circle closest to Jesus with the others in the background (cf. Matt. 7:28).

▣ "the mountain" In Luke 6:17 the physical setting is a plain, but the content of the messages is basically the same. Luke's historical setting seems best. Jesus was praying on the mountain about His choice of the Twelve, but He came down onto the plain to receive the crowd and then moved back up the hillside a short distance so all could hear and see. The Greek term in Matthew can refer to the hill country and the term in Luke can refer to a level place in the hill country. So maybe the apparent contradiction is an English translation problem. However the two messages are different in many ways. Matthew may have described a mountain setting to parallel the giving of the Law on Mt. Sinai. Jesus is the new law-giver (cf. Matt. 5:21-48).

The Gospel writer is purposely structuring the life of Jesus in such a way as to mimic the life of Moses (here, Exod. 19:3; 24:12). Jesus is the new and greater "law-giver" ! He is the prophet that Moses said would come after him (cf. Deut. 18:14-22). Fallen humans (both Jew and Gentile) find their salvation in Him, not in performance-based religion (cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-38, "the new covenant")!

▣ "He sat down" This was a rabbinical idiom for an official teaching session (26:55; Mark 9:35; Luke 4:20; 5:3; John 8:2), as was " He opened His mouth" (Matt. 5:2). These phrases, as well as the standardized close at Matt. 7:28, "When Jesus had closed this address," imply that this is presented by Matthew as one sermon. This is the first and longest of five sermons by Jesus recorded by Matthew (Matthew 10, 13, 18, & 24-25).

▣ "His disciples came to Him" Some, assuming that Matthew and Luke are different sermons, assert that only disciples were present here. They were the object and recipients of this sermon, but the common people and the religious leaders were standing around listening (cf. Matt. 7:28). It is possible that Jesus spoke to one group and then another.

5:2 "began to teach them" This is an imperfect tense, which can mean (1) He began to teach or (2) he continued to reiterate these things on different occasions. Matthew's Gospel is characterized by combining Jesus' teachings into topics. The content of Matthew 5-7 is scattered throughout many chapters in Luke.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 5:3
 3"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

5:3 "Blessed" This term meant "happy" or "honored" (cf. Matt. 5:3-11). The English word "happy" comes from the Old English " happenstance." Believers' God-given happiness is not based on physical circumstances, but inner joy. There are no verbs in these statements. They are exclamatory (cf. Rev. 1:3) in form like in Aramaic or Hebrew (cf. Ps.1:1). This blessedness is both a current attitude toward God and life as well as an eschatological hope. A blessed person was a righteous person (cf. Psalm 119:1-2).

▣ "poor in spirit," Two terms in Greek were used to describe poverty; the one used here was the more severe of the two. It was often used of a beggar who was dependent on a provider. In the OT this implied hope in God alone! Matthew makes it clear that this does not refer to physical poverty, but to spiritual inadequacy. Man must recognize God's adequacy and his own inadequacy (cf. John. 15:5; 2 Cor. 12:9). This is the beginning of the gospel (cf. Rom. 1:18-3:31). Possibly these first few beatitudes reflect Isa. 61:1-3, which predicted the Messianic blessings of the coming New Age.

▣ "kingdom of heaven" This phrase, "Kingdom of Heaven" or "Kingdom of God," is used over 100 times in the Gospels. In Luke 6:20 it is the "kingdom of God." Matthew was writing for people with a Jewish background who were nervous pronouncing God's name because of Exod. 20:7. But the Gospels of Mark (cf. Matt. 10:14) and Luke were written to Gentiles. The two phrases are synonymous. See Special Topic at Matt. 4:17.

The phrase refers to the reign of God in human hearts now that will one day be consummated over all the earth (cf. Matt. 6:10). This is possibly confirmed by Matthew alternating between present tense "is" in Matt. 5:3 and 10, and future tense "shall be" in Matt. 5:4-9.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 5:4
 4"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."

5:4 "mourn" This referred to "loud wailing," which was the strongest term for mourning in the Greek language. The context implies that the mourning was for our sin. The result of seeing one's sin (Matt. 5:3) must be repentance (Matt. 5:4). It is possible, if the OT referent is Isa. 61:1-3, that it was mourning in a corporate, societal sense.

▣ "comforted" See Isa. 12:1; 40:1; 49:13; 51:3,12; 52:9; 66:13. The new age has dawned in Christ. God comforts not only the OT people of God, but all who believe/trust Jesus. The OT promises to Israel have been universalized to the whole world (cf. John 3:16).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 5:5
 5"Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth."

5:5 "gentle" This is literally "meek" or " humble." Jesus used this term for Himself (cf. Matt. 11:29; 21:5). Its origin implies domesticated strength, like a trained horse. Recognizing our need for God and His provision in Christ makes believers humble and teachable (cf. 1 Pet. 3:4). God wants to direct our strengths to His purposes (He gave them, cf. Psalm 139; 1 Corinthians 12), not break them.

▣ "inherit the earth" This was often associated with the Promised Land (cf. Ps.37:11), but it could be an eschatological reference for the entire earth (cf. Isa. 11:6-9). This reflects the ambiguity of the Hebrew term erets (BDB 75). Again God's OT promises have been universalized.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 5:6
 6"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied."

5:6 "hunger and thirst" This is a present active participle describing the basic ongoing spiritual needs of humankind (cf. John. 4:10-15). This metaphor reflects a kingdom person's ongoing attitude toward God (cf. Ps. 42:2; 63:1-5; Isa. 55:1; Amos 8:11-12). This is a sign that the image of God, lost in the fall, has been restored through Christ.

NASB, NKJV,
NRSV"for righteousness"
TEV"to do what God requires"
NJB"for uprightness"

This key theological term can mean (1) a declared (legal) or imputed (banking) right standing (cf. Romans 4) or (2) a personal kingdom ethic, which is Matthew's use of the term (cf. Matt. 6:1 for Synagogue usage). It involves both justification and justice; both sanctification and sanctified living! This is another example of Matthew's circumlocution, a substitution of another word or phrase for the name of God (cf. Matt. 5:7-8).

SPECIAL TOPIC: RIGHTEOUSNESS

▣ "satisfied" Literally "gorged," this term was used of fattening cattle for market.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 5:7
 7"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy."

5:7 "merciful" Mercy is the result-not the grounds-of knowing God. It is the ability to put one's self in another's situation and act with compassion (cf. Matt. 6:12,14-15; 18:21-35; Luke 6:36-38; James 2:13).

A change occurs here in the beatitudes. The two previous ones have focused on the Kingdom person's sense of spiritual need; the following ones, however, focus on the attitudes that motivate one's actions. This was what was missing in Pharisaism then and legalism now.

▣ "they shall receive mercy" This is a future passive indicative which is literally translated "shall be mercied." The implications of this tense are: (1) the future tense was used in the sense of certainty now, in this age or (2) the FUTURE blessing and forgiveness in the Last Day Judgment (eschatology) scene. The passive voice may be another circumlocution like "kingdom of heaven," to avoid using God's name.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 5:8
 8"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."

5:8 "pure in heart" Our attitudes are crucial (cf. Titus 1:15). Priorities are equally crucial (cf. Heb. 12:14). From Ps. 24:4 and 73:1, "pure" can mean (1) single-minded, (2) focused, or (3) cleansed (cf. Heb.12:14). This term was used in the OT for ritual washings. Notice the focus is on the heart, the center of the individual's being, not the intellect or ritual actions. The central aspect of personhood in the OT was the "heart," while in Greek thought it was the "mind."

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE HEART

▣ "shall see God" To the pure in heart, God can be seen in all creation and in every situation. Purity opens the spiritual eyes. In the OT to see God meant to die (cf. Gen. 16:13; 32:30; Exod. 20:19; 33:20; Jdgs. 6:22, 23; 13:22; Isa. 6:5). This statement, therefore, would probably refer to an eschatological setting.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 5:9
 9"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."

5:9 "peacemakers" This compound word appears only here. It refers to reconciliation between God and humanity, which results in peace between persons. However, this is not a peace at any price, but peace through repentance and faith (cf. Mark 1:15; Acts 3:16,19; 20:21; Rom. 5:1). God has not changed, humanity has (i.e., Genesis 3; Rom. 3:9-19; Gal. 3:22), but in Christ the original mindset has been restored.

SPECIAL TOPIC: PEACE AND WAR

▣ "sons of God" In the OT this phrase usually referred to angels. It is a Hebrew idiom reflecting God's character. The goal of Christianity is Christlikeness (cf. Rom. 8:28-29; Gal. 4:19), which is the restoration of the image of God in mankind lost in the Fall of Genesis 3. See Special Topic at Matt. 27:54.

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

5:10 "those who have been persecuted" This is a perfect passive participle. It speaks to those who have been and continue to be persecuted by an outside agent (i.e., Satan, demonic, unbelievers). The persecution of believers is a real possibility, even an expected reality, for God's children in a fallen world (cf. Acts 14:22; Rom. 5:3-4; 8:17; Phil. 1:29; 1 Thess. 3:3; 2 Tim. 3:12; James 1:2-4; 1 Pet.3:14; 4:12-19; Rev. 11:7; 13:7). Notice the suffering is occurring because of the godly lifestyle and witness of believers. God uses it to make believers like Christ (cf. Heb. 5:8).This verse is a needed balance to the modern American (health, wealth and prosperity, see Gordon Fee, The Disease of the Health Wealth Gospel) overemphasis on the covenant promises of Deuteronomy 27-29 applied directly and unconditionally (i.e., ignoring the curses for disobedience) to all believers. Health, wealth, and prosperity promises must be balanced by the repeated acknowledgment of the suffering of believers, because they are people of faith in a fallen, godless world. Jesus suffered, the Apostles suffered, the early Christians suffered, so shall believers in every age! With this truth in mind it is also probable that the church will go through the tribulation period (no secret rapture)!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 5:11-12
 11"Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

5:11-12 A new paragraph should start with Matt. 5:11 (cf. NRSV & TEV). The pronouns in these verses change from the third person to the second. Luke 6:22-23 has an even stronger wording.

5:11 "insult you and persecute you" These are both aorist subjunctives which denoted a contingency but with a Third class conditional structure which showed it was potential (cf. Rom. 5:3-5; James 1:2-4; 1 Pet. 4:12-19). Persecution may be common, but it is not to be desired or pursued (as did many of the early church fathers). In the OT, problems and persecution were often interpreted as a sign of God's displeasure because of sin (cf. Job, Psalm 73, and Habakkuk deal with the subject). The righteous do suffer. But Jesus went one step further. Those who live and witness for Him will suffer rejection and persecution from a fallen world as He did (cf. John. 15:20; Acts 14:22; 2 Tim. 3:12).

NASB, NKJV,
NRSV"and falsely say all kinds of evil against you"
TEV"and tell all kinds of evil lies against you"
NJB"and speak all kinds of calumny against you"

There is some manuscript doubt about the present participle "falsely." It is missing in the western uncial manuscript D, the Diatesseron, and the Greek texts used by Origen, Tertullian, and Eusebius. It is included in the early Greek uncial manuscripts א, B, C, W, and the Vulgate and Coptic translations. It does reflect the historical situation of the early church. The early Christians were accused of incest, cannibalism, treason, and atheism. All of these accusations were related to misunderstandings about Christian terms and worship practices (cf. 1 Pet. 2:12,15; 3:16). The UBS4 gives its inclusion a C rating (difficulty in deciding).

▣ "because of Me" This is linked to Matt. 5:10. The persecution discussed is specifically related to being an active follower of Christ (cf. 1 Pet. 4:12-16).

5:12 "Rejoice and be glad" These are two present imperatives (cf. Acts 5:41; 16:25). Rejoicing comes from being counted worthy to suffer for/with Christ and being rewarded (cf. Rom. 8:17). Be careful of self pity. Nothing "just happens" to God's children (cf. Rom. 5:2-5; James 1:2-4, see Hannah Whithall Smith's The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life). Suffering has a purpose in the plan of God.

▣ "for your reward in heaven is great" See Special Topic following.

SPECIAL TOPIC: DEGREES OF REWARDS AND PUNISHMENT

▣ "the prophets" This was a veiled reference to Christ's Deity. As the prophets of the OT suffered because of their relationship with and service to YHWH, so too, the Christian will suffer because of his relationship with and service to Christ.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 5:13
 13"You are the salt of the earth; but if 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 under foot by men."

5:13 "You are the salt of the earth" Because of the extreme value of salt in the ancient world (1) for healing and cleansing; (2) for preserving food; (3) for flavoring food; and (4) for sustaining moisture in humans in very dry climates, salt was a prized possession. It was often used to pay soldiers'wages. Christians are called the "salt of the earth" because of their penetrating and preserving power in a lost world. "You" is plural and emphatic like Matt. 5:14. Believers are salt (cf. Mark 9:50). It is not an option. The only choice is what kind of salt will they be. Salt can become adulterated and useless (cf. Luke 14:34-35). Lost people are watching.

▣ "if salt has become tasteless" This is a third class conditional sentence which meant potential action. Literally salt cannot lose its strength but when mixed with impurities the salt can leach away and, thereby, the salt content is diluted. Christians can lose and/or damage their testimonies!

The term "tasteless" was normally used in the sense of "foolish" (cf. Rom. 1:27; 1 Cor. 1:20).

▣ "It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men" Salt that was unusable as a preservative or flavor enhancer was absolutely useless. It was thrown on the footpaths or roof tops to form a hard top seal. Salt taken from the Dead Sea had many impurities. The people in this part of the world were accustomed to unusable salt.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 5:14-16
 14"You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."

5:14 "You are the light of the world" Light has always been a biblical metaphor of truth and healing. It was used by Jesus to describe Himself (cf. John. 9:5). The question is not, "Will you be the light of the world?" As a believer, you are the light of the world (cf. Phil. 2:15). The only real question is, "What kind of light will you be?" All that some people know about God, they know from you and your life! "You" is plural and emphatic like Matt. 5:13.

▣ "a city" This was a generic reference either to (1) the location of a city in plain view or (2) its white limestone which gleamed in the sun. Those who try to relate it to an eschatological Jerusalem are hard pressed to explain the absence of the definite article. Cities, like lights, are not designed or intended to be hidden.

5:15

NASB, NKJV"a basket"
NRSV"the bushel basket"
TEV"a bowl"
NJB"a tub"

This referred to an earthen pot used for measuring grain.

▣ "lampstand" There was a small protrusion from the wall in ancient Palestinian homes on which a small oil lamp was placed which gave light to the whole room (cf. Mark 4:21-22; Luke 8:16-17).

5:16 Believers'lifestyles must bring glory and honor to God (i.e., "sons of God" in Matt. 5:9, cf. Eph. 1:4; 2:8-10). It is possible that the thrust of this verse related to the exclusivism and cloistering of groups like the Essenes. Believers must stay engaged with an evil society, but not become part of it (cf. John. 17:15-18).

▣ "Father" The normal posture for Jewish prayer was standing with the eyes open and the head and arms lifted upward. They prayed as if in dialogue with God.

Jesus' use of the title Father to describe YHWH is one of the unique aspects of His teachings. Matthew records Jesus' use of the title for God over forty times.

SPECIAL TOPIC: FATHER

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. To whom are these statements directed?

2. Can anyone meet these standards?

3. Why do Matthew and Luke record the same sermon differently?

4. Why are these statements so paradoxical?

5. How do the Beatitudes relate to each other?

6. What is the purpose of the Sermon on the Mount?

7. Write the central truth of each paragraph in your own words and then summarize the whole.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS TO VERSES 5:17-48

A. To understand 5:17-20 one must realize that Jesus rejected the Jewish oral tradition (Talmud) which attempted to interpret the written Old Testament. Jesus elevated the OT in strong and definitive statements (i.e., 5:17-19), then showed Himself to be its true fulfillment and ultimate interpreter (i.e., 5:21-48). This can be seen in the fact that Jesus used the phrase "you have heard" not "it is written." This is a powerful Christological passage, in light of the Jews'respect for the written and oral Law.

 

B. This section is not exhaustive of the misinterpretations of first century Judaism but representative. The entire sermon, Matthew 5-7, is an attitude check for humble believers and a pride killer for self-righteous legalists. Jesus placed the mind alongside the hand as the source of sin and rebellion against God's law. He addressed the inner man as well as the outer. Sin begins in the thought life.

 

C. God's standard of judgment is so different from man's (cf. Isa. 55:8-9). Believers'righteousness is both an initial gift and a developing Christlikeness, both a forensic, legal position and a spirit directed progressive sanctification. This section focused on the latter.

 

D. If these verses were spoken in the historical context of modern conservative Christianity, we would all be shocked at how God views our religiosity!

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 5:17-19
 17"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven."

5:17 "Do not think" This is a negative aorist active subjunctive which was a grammatical construction that meant "do not ever start!"

▣ "that I came to abolish the Law" The context of Matt. 5:17-20 is a statement affirming the inspiration and eternality of the Old Covenant. Jesus acted in a sense as the second Moses, the new Law-giver. Jesus Himself was the fulfillment of the Old Covenant. The New Covenant is a person, not a set of required rules. The two covenants are radically different, not in purpose but in the means of accomplishing that purpose. The thrust here is not on the inability of the Old Covenant to make man right with God as in Galatians 3, but rather on the rabbis'incomplete and improper interpretation of the biblical texts by means of their Socratic or dialectical method of interpretation.

Jesus, in effect, expanded the scope of the Law from overt actions to mental thoughts. This takes the difficulty of true righteousness through the Old Covenant to a level of utter impossibility (cf. Gal. 3:10,21-22). This impossibility will be met by Christ Himself and given back to the repentant/believing faith community through imputed righteousness or justification by faith (cf. Rom. 4:6; 10:4). Mankind's religious life is a result of a relationship with God, not a means to that relationship.

▣ "the Law or the Prophets" This was an idiom referring to two of the three divisions of the Hebrew Canon: Law, Prophets, and Writings. It was a way of designating the entire Old Testament. It also showed that Jesus' understanding of Scripture was closer to the theology of the Pharisees than of the Sadducees, who only accepted the Torah, or Law (Genesis-Deuteronomy) as authoritative.

NASB, NKJV,
NRSV"but to fulfill"
TEV"but to make their teachings come true"
NJB"to complete"

This was a common term (pleroō) which was used in several senses. In this context it meant to consummate or to come to a designated completion (cf. Rom. 10:4). The Mosaic Covenant has been fulfilled and surpassed by the New Covenant. This is the main truth of the book of Hebrews and Galatians 3!

5:18 "truly" This is literally "Amen." See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: AMEN

▣ "heaven and earth" In the OT these two permanent entities were used as the two required witnesses to confirm YHWH's statements (cf. Num. 35:30; Deut. 17:6; 19:15). They are aspects of our world that will remain as long as this age remains. This statement was like an oath from YHWH.

NASB"not the smallest letter or stroke"
NKJV"one jot or one tittle"
NRSV"not one letter, not one stroke of a letter"
TEV"not a letter, not a dot"
NJB"not one dot, not one little stroke"

This referred to

1. the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet, yodh, paralleled in the smallest letter in Greek alphabet, iota

2. the ornamental additions to squared Hebrew script, similar to serifs in modern calligraphy

3. a small stroke that distinguishes between two similar Hebrew letters

The point is that the OT is significant in all its parts; even its most seemingly insignificant parts were from God. Yet the OT was completely fulfilled in the person, work, and teachings of Christ.

NASB"shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished"
NKJV"will by no means pass. . .till all is fulfilled"
NRSV"will pass. . .until all is accomplished"
TEV"will not be done away with-not until the end of all things"
NJB"is to disappear. . .until all its purpose is achieved"

The first term usually referred to destroying something by pulling it down, like a wall. The second term was used in Matt. 1:22 to fulfill, as in accomplishing its declared function. Although this term had several other meanings in other parts of the NT, here it speaks of the OT finding its completion in Christ. Jesus' teachings are like the new wine that cannot be contained in the old wine skins (cf. Matt. 9:16-17).

This fulfillment referred to Jesus' life, death, resurrection, second coming, judgment, and eternal reign, which are, in some sense, incipient in the Old Testament. The OT points to Christ and His work. The Apostles interpreted it in a typological or Christological sense!

5:19 This verse is not a threat directed toward modern interpreters and teachers, but a rejection of Pharisaic traditional legalism, spiritual arrogance, and sectarian dogmatism. Jesus Himself clearly set aside the Oral Tradition (Talmud), but also parts of the written Law! Two examples would be (1) the concept of divorce in Deut. 24:1-4 rejected in Matt. 5:31-32 (cf. Mark 7:15,19-23) and (2) the food laws of Leviticus 11 rejected in Mark 7:15-23.

The use of "least" and "greatest" may be evidence for some type of gradation within the Kingdom (cf. Matt. 20:20-28; Luke 12:47-48; 1 Cor. 3:10-15).

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

5:20 This was a shocking statement to sincere, legalistic religionists. Self-righteousness is a common plague of religious mankind (cf. Isa. 29:13; Col. 2:16-23). Neither correct doctrine (James 2:19) nor religious actions (Matt. 7:21-23) replace the need for a personal repentance/faith relationship (cf. Mark 1:15; Acts 3:16,19; 20:21; Phil. 3:8-9; Rom. 10:3-4). This verse and verse 48, are keys to interpreting the whole Sermon on the Mount.

For a full discussion of the origin and theology of the Pharisees, see Special Topic at Matt. 22:15.

NASB"will not"
NKJV"by no means"
NRSV, NJB"will never"

This is the doubling of two Greek terms for negation. One functions with the indicative mood and the second with the other Greek moods. It was a very emphatic way to negate a statement (cf. Matt. 5:18,26; 10:23,42; 13:14; 15:6; 16:22,28; 18:3; 23:39; 24:2,21,34,35; 25:9; 26:29,35).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 5:21-26
 21"You have heard that the ancients were told, 'You shall not commit murder'and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.'22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing,'shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,'shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. 23Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. 25Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. 26Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent."

5:21 "You have heard that the ancients were told" This could be understood as "to the ancients" or "by the ancients." The first part of this verse is from the Ten Commandments, but the second part is harder to identify and may be a quote from the rabbinical schools (Shammai, the conservative, or Hillel, the liberal). This implied a rejection of Pharisaic scribal interpretation while at the same time asserting the inspiration of the OT.

▣ "murder" This is a quote from the Septuagint (LXX) of Exod. 20:13 or Deut. 5:12. It is a future active indicative used as an imperative. The KJV has " kill," but this rendering is too broad in scope. The NKJV has "murder." A more accurate translation would be "nonlegal premeditated murder." In the OT there was a legal premeditated murder-the "Blood Avenger" (cf. Deuteronomy 19; Numbers 35; Joshua 20).

SPECIAL TOPIC: MURDER (EXODUS 20:13)

5:22 "But I say to you" Jesus' teaching was radically different from the rabbis of His day, whose authority was found in quoting previous Jewish teachers as their authority (cf. Matt. 7:28-29; Mark 1:22). Jesus' authority lay in Himself. He is the true revealer of the meaning of the Old Testament. Jesus is Lord of Scripture. The "I" is emphatic-"I myself and no other" or "myself (as the Son of God who knows the mind of God.)"

▣ "everyone who is angry" This is a present middle participle. This was the Greek term for a settled, nurtured, non-forgiving, long term anger. This person continued to be intensely angry.

▣ "with his brother" The KJV adds "without cause." This is a Greek manuscript variation. The addition is not in the early Greek manuscripts P67, א*, B, or the Vulgate. However, it is in the uncial manuscripts אc, D, K, L, W, the Diatesseron, and the early Syrian and Coptic translations. The UBS4 gives the shorter text a B rating (almost certain). The addition weakens the strong thrust of the passage.

It might be helpful at this point to explain the superscripts: the * means the oldest copy of the manuscript type that is available; the c means the later correctors of copyists. This is often represented by 1, 2, 3, etc, if there is a series of correctors; the number after P refers to the papyrus manuscript. Uncial Greek manuscripts are designated by capital letters while papyrus manuscripts are designated by numbers. For additional information, see Textual Criticism.

NASB"You fool"
NKJV"Raca"
NRSV"if you insult"
TEV"You good-for-nothing"
NJB"Fool"

Raca was Aramaic for "an empty-headed person incapable of life." This section is not dealing with what specific titles one can or cannot call another person, but with a supposed believer's attitude toward others, especially covenant brothers.

The Greek term, mōros, translated "fool," was meant to reflect the Aramaic term raca. However, Jesus' word play was not to the Greek word mōros, but the primarily Hebrew word mōreh, BDB 598, which meant " rebel against God" (cf. Num. 20:10; Deut. 21:18,20; see F. F. Bruce, Answers to Questions, p. 42). Jesus called the Pharisees by this very term in Matt. 23:17. Not only our actions, but our motives, attitudes, and purposes determine sin against our fellow human. Murder, as far as God is concerned, can be a thought! Hatred of our brother or sister clearly shows that we do not know God (cf. 1 John. 2:9-11; 3:15, and 4:20). Socially speaking, a hateful thought is better than a death, but remember that this section of Scripture is meant to shatter all self-righteousness and pride in one's own goodness. It is possible that this three-fold expression was a sarcastic play on scribal interpretation methods.

SPECIAL TOPIC: TERMS FOR FOOLISH PEOPLE

NASB"fiery hell"
NKJV, NJB"hell fire"
NRSV"the hell of fire"
TEV"fire of hell"

This is the Greek contraction Gehenna. See Special Topic below, II. D.

SPECIAL TOPIC: Where Are the Dead?

5:23 This is a third class conditional sentence, which means probable action.

▣ "presenting your offering at the altar" This strongly implies that Matthew wrote before the destruction of the Temple by the Roman general Titus in a.d. 70. Lifestyle love precedes religious acts! Relationships take precedence over ritual. People are the top priority with God. Only people are eternal.

5:24 "be reconciled to your brother" This is an aorist passive imperative. Personal relationships are more significant than (1) periodic ritual (Matt. 5:24) or (2) judicial decisions (Matt. 5:25).

5:26 "Truly" See Special Topic at Matt. 5:18.

▣ "until you have paid the last cent" "Cent" is the smallest Roman coin, quadrans (see Special Topic at Matt. 17:24). Judgment extracts the full penalty. Mercy and love forgive all!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 5:27-30
 27"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery'; 28but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it 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. 30If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it 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."

5:27 "adultery" Here the term is moichaomai. It is a quote from the Ten Commandments found in Exod. 20:14 and Deut. 5:18. The Greek term from the Septuagint is porneia. This word usually referred to extramarital intercourse, but it also had the added connotation of any improper extramarital sexual activity, such as homosexuality or bestiality. In the OT adultery was a sexual affair involving a married person. Jesus redefined sexual sin as an attitude of the heart. Sex is a gift of God, a good and wholesome thing. But God has also put boundaries on its expression for our well-being and long term enjoyment. Prideful, self-centered humans always want to go beyond the God-given bounds. These words of Jesus by inference would also refer to premarital sexual activity.

SPECIAL TOPIC: ADULTERY (EXODUS 20:14)

5:28 "heart" See Special Topic at Matt. 5:8.

5:29-30 This is obviously hyperbolic for emotional impact! Sin is dangerous and its consequences eternal!

5:29 " if" These are first class conditional sentences which were assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes. Humans have been affected by Genesis 3. We are not what we were created to be.

NASB"makes you stumble"
NKJV, NRSV,
TEV"causes you to sin"
NJB"should be your downfall"

This term was used of the baited, triggering mechanism of an animal trap. See the parallel in Mark 9:43-48 and Jesus' second mention of this subject in Matt. 18:8-9. Since all humans are affected by sin (different ones for different individuals), we must take personal responsibility to remove ourselves from places/things/occasions of temptation (i.e., Proverbs 1-9; Eph. 4:27; 6:10-18; James 4:7; 1 Pet. 5:8-9). We will not be able to blame Satan, or heredity, or circumstances for our sins when we all stand before God and give an account of the gift of life (cf. Matt. 25:31-46; Rev. 20:11-15). We are free moral agents made in God's image, accountable to Him for our lives!

" lose" This term is in both Matt. 5:29 and 30. See Special Topic: Apollumi at Matt. 2:13.

5:29,30 "hell" There is an eternal hell and sin is the ticket to get in! See Special Topic at Matt. 5:22.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 5:31-32
 31"It was said, 'Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce';32 but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery."

5:31 "sends his wife away" Verses 27-32 and 19:3-12 deal with the same issue. Be careful not to read your preconceived cultural notions into these passages! In context, Jesus was showing the ways that one commits adultery other than those taught by the Scribes: (1) mental lust and (2) putting away one's spouse except for sexual unfaithfulness (cf. Deut. 24:1). Jesus shows Himself to be Scripture's proper interpreter (i.e., 5:17-19,21-48).

NASB, NKJV,
NRSV"a certificate of divorce"
TEV"notice of divorce"
NJB"a writ of dismissal"

This is a quote from Deut. 24:1-4. Moses did this to protect the wife who had no rights or resources at all in that day and culture. Remarriage was assumed. However, Jesus asserted that was a concession to their fallenness, not God's ideal. Divorce is not the unpardonable sin, but it is a failure which affects societal stability.

5:32

NASB, NRSV"except for the reason of unchastity"
NKJV"for any reason except sexual immorality"
TEV"she has not been unfaithful"
NJB"except for the cause of an illicit marriage"

This "exception clause" is unique to Matthew's Gospel. Probably because it related to Jewish views of inheritance rights given by God which Gentiles would not comprehend.

"Unchastity" is the term porneia, as in Matt. 5:27. This referred to any kind of sexual misconduct. This was often interpreted as "fornication" or " unfaithfulness." There were two rabbinical schools of interpretation: (1) Shammai, who allowed divorce for inappropriate sexual activity only (" some indecency," Deut. 24:1) and (2) Hillel, who allowed divorce for any reason (i.e., " she finds no favor in his eyes," Deut. 24:1). Divorce had become a major problem within Judaism. Some scholars see this term related not to sexual intercourse, but to incest (cf. Leviticus 18; 1 Cor. 5:1). Still others think it relates to the issue of virginity discussed in Deut. 22:13-21. In the OT adultery affected family inheritance, which was sacred and given by God (Joshua 12-24). The "Year of Jubilee" is an illustration of this concern.

▣ "makes her commit adultery" This is an aorist passive infinitive. The passive voice is crucial in a proper interpretation of "causes her to commit adultery." The very act of divorcing a wife caused the woman to be stigmatized by the community as an adulteress whether or not she was guilty. The one remarrying her also became stigmatized. This is not a dogmatic statement referring to remarriage as being adultery (cf. A. T. Robertson in his Word Pictures in the New Testament, vol. 1 p. 155).

It needs to be stated that this difficult subject of divorce must be dealt with in context. Here it is a message to disciples while in Matt. 19:1-9 and Mark 10:2-12 the setting is Pharisaic trick questions. We must guard against forming our theology on divorce by merging these contexts and claiming to have Jesus' neutral theological views on the subject.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 5:33-37
 33"Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, 'You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.' 34But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37But let your statement be, 'Yes, yes'or 'No, no'; anything beyond these is of evil."

5:33 "vows" This was an allusion to several OT texts. This did not mean cursing, but God's name being brought into a conversation to assure the truth of one's statements (cf. Matt. 23:16-22; James 5:12). Vows or oaths in the OT could refer to (1) worship (cf. Deut. 6:15); (2) legal proceedings (cf. Exod. 20:7; Lev. 19:12); or (3) affirmations of doing something (cf. Lev. 27; Num. 30:2; Deut. 23:21-22). Jesus was involved in an oath in Matt. 26:63-64. Paul made oaths in 2 Cor. 1:23, Gal. 1:20, Phil. 1:8, and 1 Thess. 2:5. Another oath is found in Heb. 6:16. The focus is not on oath taking, but on failing to perform the vow!

5:34-36 This showed how elaborately the rabbis had developed binding and unbinding oaths (cf. Matt. 23:16-22). It was a way to appear to be telling the truth by associating one's statement with Deity, but all the time knowing that one's oath, expressed in certain ways, was not legally binding.

5:34 "make no oath" Jesus testified under oath in Matt. 26:63-64. Paul often confirmed his words by oaths in God's name (cf. 2 Cor. 1:23; Gal. 1:20; Phil. 1:8; 1 Thess. 2:5,10). The issue is truthfulness, not restricting oaths (cf. James 5:12).

5:37 " But let your statement be, 'Yes, yes'or 'No, no'" Jesus was concerned with truthfulness, not form! Others who claim to know God should be honest and trustworthy, not tricky.

NASB"evil"
NKJV, NRSV"the evil one"
TEV, NJB"the Evil One"

The inflected form of the term in Greek can either be neuter, "evil" or masculine, "the evil one" (see special Topic at Matt. 4:5). This same ambiguity occurs in Matt. 6:13; 13:19,38; John. 17:15; 2 Thess. 3:3; 1 John. 2:13,14; 3:12; 5:18-19.

Evil has several forms.

1. a fallen world system, Genesis 3; Eph. 2:2; James 4:4

2. personal evil, Eph. 2:2

3. fallen individuals, Eph. 2:3; James 4:1-2

Evil looks for an opportunity to kill, steal, and destroy. Only the mercy of God, His Son, and His Spirit can enable us to live happy, purposeful, contented lives!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 5:38-42
 38"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.'39But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other cheek to him also. 40If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. 41Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you."

5:38 "an eye for an eye" This is an allusion to Exod. 21:24, Lev. 24:20, and Deut. 19:21. This law, like divorce certificates, was originally intended to deal with a societal problem by attempting to limit personal revenge. It did not allow individuals or families to take revenge, but was a guideline for the court. It was often reduced to monetary equivalents by the Jewish judges. However, the principle of limited personal revenge remains.

5:39-42 This was a series of five examples of Jesus' new ethics concerning our attitude toward others, both insiders and outsiders. These are historically conditioned examples. They advocate an attitude, not a hard and fast rule for every society or age. It is the spirit of the believing offended party which should issue in positive actions of love. This should not be interpreted as covering inappropriate or repeated requests from tricky or lazy people.

5:39 "an evil person" This could, in context, refer to the first century legal system in the sense that it is better to endure additional insults than take a covenant brother to an unbelieving judge. If " evil" relates to Matt. 5:37, it could refer to the Evil One. The Charles B. Williams Translation, The New Testament in the Language of the People, gives a third option, "the one who injures you."

5:40 "shirt. . .coat" The first item of clothing refers to an under garment and the second to an outer garment. This is a hyperbolic statement. Jesus is not advocating nudity! This is an allusion to Exod. 22:26-27; Deut. 24:10-13. The central truth of this entire section is that Christians should go beyond what others expect of them. The purpose is to encourage unbelievers to be attracted to God by His people's actions (cf. Matt. 5:16; 1 Pet. 2:12).

5:41 This is historically conditioned to a time when one nation militarily occupied another. The word "force" was of Persian derivation, originally referring to a postal carrier. It came to be the term used for forced labor of any kind by an occupying military or civil government. An example of this is Matt. 27:32. Christians are to go beyond even what is demanded or expected.

5:42 This was not meant to be taken as a hard and fast rule about lending, but an attitude of love and openness toward others, especially the poor, needy, and outcast (cf. Exod. 22:25; Deut. 15:7-11; Pro. 19:17).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 5:43-48
 43"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'44But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may 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. 46For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

5:43 The quote referred to by Jesus is a composite.

1. "You shall love your neighbor" is from Lev. 19:18. Jesus seems to see this as a crucial text, even listed with the Ten Commandments in Matt. 19:18-19. In Mark 12:31, it is the second greatest commandment after Deut. 6:4-5, and in a similar way in Luke 10:25-28.

Paul uses this text as a summary of the entire Law in Rom. 13:8-10.

2. "And hate your enemy" is not a quote from the OT, but a commonly drawn inference by Jewish, exclusivistic religionists (i.e., Sadducees, Pharisee, Essenes).

How different is the new Kingdom ethic from the fallen world model of " self," " more for me at any cost," " what's in it for me" ! Knowing God changes everything (cf. Matt. 5:20,48)!

5:44 The KJV adds a phrase from Luke 6:27-28. It does not appear in ancient Greek uncial manuscripts א or B or several other geographically separated early manuscripts.

In verse 44 there are two present imperatives: " keep on loving and praying" and one present participle, " the one who keeps on persecuting." These presents speak of ongoing commands both of loving and forgiving on the part of the believer as well as the possibility of ongoing persecution.

The Kingdom is radically different from the current world order!

5:45 "that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven" Believers'lifestyles clearly reveal whose family they belong to: God's or Satan's. Children act like their fathers (cf. Lev. 19:2).

5:46-47 The actions of believers must go beyond the expected social acts of unbelievers. These verses contain two third class conditional sentences which implied probable future action.

5:46 "rewards" This was a recurrent theme in the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Matt. 6:1,2,4,6). See Special Topic at Matt. 5:12.

5:48

NASB"you are to be perfect,"
NKJV"you shall be perfect"
NRSV"be perfect"
TEV, NJB"you must be perfect"

This is an allusion to Lev. 11:44,45; 19:2; 20:7,26. This term literally meant "mature" or "fully equipped." This is a strong statement that God's ultimate standard of righteousness is Himself (cf. Deut. 18:13). Humans cannot achieve perfection except in Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21). However, believers must strive for it in their daily lives. There must be a theological balance between (1) salvation being accepted as a free gift of God through Christ, which is called positional sanctification and (2) striving toward Christlikeness, which is called progressive sanctification.

Some interpreters see this verse as a summary of the immediate paragraph only. If so, it would focus on the inclusive love of God that His children should emulate.

SPECIAL TOPIC: NEW TESTAMENT HOLINESS/SANCTIFICATION

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Did Jesus reinterpret the OT or change it?

2. What does "fulfill" mean in Matt. 5:17 and 18?

3. Can one lose his salvation for calling another person a derogatory name (v.22)?

4. What do Matt. 5:23-24 say to our modern worship practices?

5. Is remarriage adultery?

6. Is swearing in court a sin?

7. Explain how Matt. 5:17-20 and 48 frame the rest of the verses.

 

Copyright © 2013 Bible Lessons International

Passage: 

Matthew 6

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Teaching About Almsgiving Do Good to Please God Teachings in Practical Piety Teaching About Charity Almsgiving in Secret
6:1 6:1-4 6:1 6:1 6:1-4
6:2-4   6:2-4 6:2-4  
Teaching About Prayer The Model Prayer   Teaching About Prayer Prayer in Secret
6:5-15 6:5-15 6:5-6 6:5-6 6:5-6
        How to Pray The Lord's Prayer
    6:7-8 6:7-13 6:7-15
    6:9-15    (9-13)
      6:14-15  
Teaching About Fasting Fasting to be Seen Only by God   Teaching About Fasting Fasting in Secret
6:16-18 6:16-18 6:16-18 6:16-18 6:16-18
Treasures in Heaven Lay Up Treasures in Heaven   Riches in Heaven True Treasures
6:19-21 6:19-21 6:19-21 6:19-21 6:19-21
The Light of the Body The Lamp of the Body   The Light of the Body The Eye, the Lamp of the Body
6:22-23 6:22-23 6:22-23 6:22-23 6:22-23
God and Mammon You Cannot Serve God and Riches   God and Possessions God and Money
6:24 6:24 6:24 6:24 6:24
Care and Anxiety Do Not Worry     Trust in Providence
6:25-34 6:25-34 6:25-33 6:25-27 6:25-34
      6:28-34  
    6:34    

 

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

 

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS TO VERSES 1-8 AND 16-18

A. Matthew 5 describes the characteristics of God's new people and God's view of true righteousness. Matthew 6 relates to the Jews'traditional view of what constituted righteousness (i.e., almsgiving, prayer, fasting).

 

B. These are not so much specific rules, but an attitude check for believers. For a true definition of righteousness, see Matt 5:20, 48. This can only be ours as a gift of God in Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21). However, our gratitude moves us toward Christlikeness.

 

C. The radical commitment that is required for disciples is clearly presented, not in concrete rules but in spiritual principles.

 

D. There is both a positive and negative purpose of the Sermon on the Mount.

1. to show us the kind of life God has a right to expect His people to live, the pattern for a Spirit-filled life

2. to show man's inability to keep God's commandments.

It shows us our sinfulness, much like the Ten Commandments (cf. Gal. 3:15-29). No one can stand in its searchlight.

 

E. It is possible that Matt. 6:5, 6 address Jewish problems in prayer, while 6:7, 8 address pagan problems in prayer.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 6:1-4
 1"Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. 2So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 3But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

6:1

NASB, NRSV"Beware of practicing"
NKJV"take heed that you do not do"
TEV"Be careful not to perform"
NJB"Be careful not to parade"

"Beware" is a present active imperative. This is literally "think constantly." God looks at the heart (motive) before the hand (action)!

▣ "your righteousness" This passage deals with three aspects of first century Jewish religious practices which were thought to make one right with YHWH: (1) almsgiving (Matt. 6:2-4); (2) prayer (Matt. 6:5-15); and (3) fasting (Matt. 6:16-18). Beware of religious exhibitionism (cf. Matt. 5:20). Many things can be good or evil depending on our attitude, motive, and purpose!

"Righteousness" stood for almsgiving in Jesus' day. Almsgiving was a weekly Jewish system of free will offerings to help the poor and needy.

SPECIAL TOPIC: ALMSGIVING

▣ "before men" There are some things that believers should do "before men."

1. let your light shine, Matt. 5:16

2. confess Christ, Matt. 10:32

 

▣ "to be noticed by them" The English term " theatrical" is derived from this Greek word (theamai), which meant "to behold attentively." The term "hypocrites" in Matt. 6:2 also has a theatrical etymology. The Pharisees were play-acting religion (cf. Matt. 5:20).

▣ "reward" This term is found in Matt. 6:1,2,5,16 and means "to receive a full payment" (cf. Phil. 4:18). The Bible teaches rewards, but on the basis of believers'attitude, not their actions alone (i.e., Matt. 7:21-23). A similar phrase in Matt. 6:2 was an idiom for "a signed and received receipt." See Special Topic at Matt. 5:12.

6:2 "give to the poor" Almsgiving was a means of helping the poor on a weekly basis. The rabbis even thought of it as having saving qualities (cf. Tobit 12:8-9; Ecclesiasticus 3:30; 29:11-12).

▣ "do not sound a trumpet before you" This has often been interpreted as alluding to the thirteen metal, trumpet-shaped receptacles in the Temple where money was placed (cf. Luke 21:2). Each container had a different designated purpose. However, no clear historical evidence has been found in Jewish literature for these receptacles. Therefore, it is probably a figure of speech of someone calling attention to their religious acts.

▣ "hypocrites" See Special Topic following.

SPECIAL TOPIC: HYPOCRITES

NASB"that they may be honored by men"
NKJV"that they may have glory from men"
NRSV"so that they may be praised by others"
TEV"so that people will praise them"
NJB"to win human admiration"

God looks at the heart (cf. 1 Sam. 16:7; Pro. 21:2; Luke 16:15; John. 12:43; Acts 1:24; 15:8; Rom. 8:27; Rev. 2:23).

NASB"Truly I say to you,"
NKJV"Assuredly, I say to you"
NRSV"Truly, I tell you"
TEV"remember this"
JB"I tell you solemnly"
NJB"In truth I tell you"

Literally "amen, amen" (cf. Matt. 6:2, 5, 16), this was used exclusively by Jesus to introduce significant statements. The OT root of " amen" is faithfulness, loyalty, or dependability. This had the connotation of, " I am making a faithful statement, listen clearly." See Special Topic at Matt. 5:18.

▣ "they have their reward in full" This word " reward" found in the Egyptian papyri (see James Moulton and George Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, p. 413) denoted a wage or earnings. This word occurs in Matt. 5:12,46; 6:1,2,5,16.

6:3 This was an idiom for secrecy. It was not meant to be taken literally. It was a reaction to and guard against religious exhibitionism.

6:4 "your Father who sees what is done in secret" The significance of private personal faith is found in the believer's personal trust in God. Believers show their personal relationship to God in unobserved activity more than any other way (cf. Matt. 6:6, 18). Attitude, not secrecy, is the key (cf. Matt. 5:16). Often monetary stewardship can be a great witness, e.g., J. C. Penney and R. G. Letourneau.

SPECIAL TOPIC: GOD DESCRIBED AS A HUMAN (Anthropomorphic Language)

▣ "will reward you" The Greek term "openly" is found in the NKJV in Matt. 6:4,6, and 18. The early Greek uncial manuscripts K, L, & W, and the Greek text used by Chrysostom add "openly" here and in Matt. 6:6 and 18. This word does not occur in the major ancient Greek manuscripts א, B, D, Z; nor the Greek texts used by Origen, Cyprian, Jerome, or Augustine. The UBS4 gives the shorter text a "B" rating (almost certain).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 6:5-15
 5"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 may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6But 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. 7And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. 8So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. 9Pray, then, in this way:
 'Our Father who is in heaven,
 Hallowed be Your name.
 10Your kingdom come.
 Your will be done,
 On earth as it is in heaven.
 11Give us this day our daily bread.
 12And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
 13And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
 [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.]'
 14For if you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions."

6:5 "for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues" The common posture for Jewish prayer was standing with arms and face lifted to heaven with the eyes open. The issue is not the position of the body, but the exhibitionist attitude of the heart.

▣ "and on the street corners" The Jews in Jerusalem during Jesus' time prayed at three specific times during the day. Two of these times were 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. when certain sacrifices (the continual) were being offered in the Temple; to these times they added high noon. Some self-righteous leaders would arrange to find themselves in public, crowded places at these set times, so that all could see their piety.

▣ "so that they may be seen by men" This is literally " to shine before men." Believers are admonished to let their lights shine before people, but the purpose is that God, not themselves, be glorified (cf. Matt. 6:2; 5:16 and John. 12:43; Phil 2:15). See SPECIAL TOPIC: HYPOCRITES at Matt. 6:2.

▣ "Truly" See Special Topic at Matt. 5:18.

6:6

NASB"go into your inner room"
NKJV, NRSV"go into your room"
TEV"go to your room"
NJB"go to your private room"

This referred to a storeroom (cf. Luke 12:24). This was from a Greek term that etymologically meant "to cut," which implied a separate or partitioned room (cf. Matt. 24:26; Luke 12:3). This would have been the only room with a door.

SPECIAL TOPIC: USE OF THE WORD "DOOR" IN THE NT

6:7

NASB"meaningless repetition"
NKJV"vain repetitions"
NRSV"heap up empty phrases"
TEV"a lot of meaningless words"
NJB"babble"

This word is used only here in the NT. Its meaning is uncertain. Notice the variety with which English versions translate this term! Jesus and Paul repeated prayers (cf. Matt. 26:44; 2 Cor. 12:8). Possibly the translation "meaningless phrases" is best. For possible biblical examples of the use of liturgical prayers, see 1 Kgs. 8:26 and Acts 19:34. The issue is not the number of times a person repeats a phrase, but the faithful/trusting/believing heart of the speaker.

6:8 "you" In context this emphatic pronoun is in contrast to two groups: (1) the pagans of Matt. 6:7 or (2) the legalistic Pharisees of Matt. 6:5.

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS TO VERSES 9-15

A. This sample prayer was first entitled "The Lord's Prayer" by Cyprian, a.d. 250. However, the prayer was for Jesus' disciples; the title, "The Model Prayer," is a better characterization.

 

B. The Model Prayer is made up of seven phrases. The first three relate to God. The last four relate to a person's need.

 

C. This prayer was possibly Jesus' reapplication of the Ten Commandments to His day. The Beatitudes also possibly relate to the Ten Commandments (Decalog). Matthew depicted Jesus as the second Moses. Paul used the same type of OT analogy by referring to Jesus as the second Adam (cf. Rom. 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15; Phil. 2:6-11).

 

D. The Model Prayer is stated in imperatives. They are examples of entreaty imperatives of request. We do not command God.

 

E. Luke's version is much shorter. It is found in Matt. 11:2-4 and not in the Sermon on the Plain, Matthew 6, which is the parallel to Matthew 5-7. The textually-controversial doxology of Matt. 6:13b is also missing from Luke's version.

 

6:9

NASB, NRSV"Pray, then, in this way"
NKJV"in this manner, therefore, pray"
TEV"This, then, is how you should pray"
NJB"So you should pray like this"

"Pray" is a present imperative which is a lifestyle command that denotes continuous, habitual action. This prayer was meant to be an example, not necessarily a set form. The scope and attitude of the prayer are far more important than the specific words. This can be illustrated by the fact that Luke's version in Matt. 11:2-4 is different. Jesus may have taught this prayer often but in slightly different forms.

▣ "our" This prayer is for the gathered community, as well as private prayer. We are a family with one Abba, Father! In light of this, Matt. 6:14-15 make much more sense.

" Father" Father does not refer to sexual generation or chronological sequence, but the intimate personal relationships within a Jewish home. The OT background is Deut. 32:6, Ps. 103:13, Isa. 63:16, Mal. 2:10, and 3:17. This concept of God as Father was not a major theme in the OT nor in the rabbinical writings. It is astonishing that believers can call YHWH "Father" (cf. Rom. 8:15) through their faith relationship with Jesus! See Special Topic at Matt. 5:16.

6:9-10 "hallowed. . .come. . .done" These are all aorist imperatives. Also they are all placed first in the Greek sentence for emphasis. The placement, the tense, and the mood all speak of urgency and emphasis. This is how believers should reverence God. The phrase "on earth as it is in heaven" refers to all three of these verbs.

▣ "Hallowed" This term is from the root "holy" (cf. Heb. 10:29) and meant "honored," " respected," or "held in high esteem." The verb comes first in the Greek sentence for emphasis. This verb is found in the Synoptic Gospels only four times (cf. Matt. 6:9; 23:17,19; Luke 11:2).

6:9 "name" This stood for the character and personality of God (cf. Ezek. 36:22; Joel 2:32). His name is to be made known in this fallen world by the obedience of His children (cf. Isa. 29:23).

6:10 "Your kingdom come" God was invoked in His capacity as King. This was a prayer for God's control of earth as He has of heaven. God's kingdom was expressed in the NT as both (1) present reality (cf. Matt. 4:17; 12:28; Luke 17:21) and (2) a future consummation (cf. Matt. 6:10; 13:2ff.; Luke 11:2; John. 18:36). This statement expresses the paradox of God's rule which will be consummated with the Second Coming, but present now in the lives of true disciples. See Special Topic at Matt. 4:17.

6:11 "Give us" As the first three petitions dealt with how believers are to respect God, the next four deal with how they want God to treat them.

▣ "this day" God wants His children to live by faith in Him daily. One OT example was that the manna was given daily (cf. Exod. 16:13-21). In the Middle East bread is baked early every day and either eaten or dried hard by nightfall. Today's bread will not do for tomorrow.

▣ "daily" This was a rare Greek word. It was used

1. in the Egyptian papyri of a master giving a slave enough food to accomplish an assigned task

2. possibly a Greek idiom "for necessary food for today" (" bread of our necessity")

3. the Tyndale Commentary on Matthew has "Give us the necessary strength so that life's trials do not become for us occasions of spiritual temptations," p. 74.

 Tertullian translated it "daily." The word was used in the NT only here and in the parallel in Luke 11:3.

 

▣ "bread" Several possibilities of how "bread" should be understood.

1. literal bread

2. the Lord's Supper (cf. Acts 2:46)

3. the Word of God, the Bible (cf. Matt. 4:4; Luke 4:4)

4. the Living Word, Jesus (cf. John 6:41,48,51,55)

5. the Messianic banquet (cf. Luke 14:15)

Option one fits the context best. However, metaphorically it represented God's provision for all of life's needs.

6:12

NASB, NRSV,
NJB"have forgiven"
NKJV, TEV"forgive"

There is a Greek manuscript variation at this point related to the tense of the second use of the verb, "forgive." The aorist is found in MSS א*, B, Z, the Vulgate, and Peshitta. All other Greek MSS and ancient versions have the present. The term meant "to send away" or "to wipe away," both of which express OT metaphors relating to forgiveness.

▣ "debts" The parallel in Luke 11:4 has "sins." First century Judaism used "debts" (opheilēmata) as an idiom for "sins" (hamartias). In Matt. 6:14-15 another term is used, "trespasses" (paraptōmata). All of these refer to rebellion against God. Sin puts us in rebellion against the God of righteousness and holiness. There is a price to be paid for rebellion!

"as we also have forgiven our debtors" This is an aorist active indicative. As God forgives believers they are able to forgive others (cf. Matt. 18:35)! One sign of our personal relationship with God through Christ is that we begin to emulate His actions.

6:13

NASB, NKJV"do not lead us into temptation"
NRSV"do not bring us to the time of trial"
TEV"do not bring us to hard testing"
NJB"do not put us to the test"

This is a negative aorist active subjunctive. This grammatical construction meant "do not ever begin an action." There has been much discussion about this verse as compared with James 1:13, concerning God's agency in testing. There is a play on the connotation of two Greek words translated "test" or "try." The one here and in James 1:13 has the connotation of testing for the purpose of destroying [peirasmo]; the other has a connotation of testing for the purpose of strengthening [dokimazo]. God does not test believers so as to destroy, but to strengthen. See Special Topic at Matt. 4:1.

Possibly this referred to the intense governmental and legal trials of that day (cf. Matt. 26:41; Mark 13:8). C. C. Torrey in The Four Gospels, pp. 12, 143. translates it as "keep us from failing under trial" (cf. Luke 22:40).

NASB"from evil"
NKJV, NRSV,
JB"from the evil one"
TEV, NJ"from the Evil One"

It is impossible grammatically to determine whether this term was masculine (see Special Topic at Matt. 4:5) or neuter. This same form referred to Satan in Matt. 5:37, 13:38, and John. 17:15. This same ambiguous form appears in Matt. 5:37; 6:13; 13:19,38; John. 17:15; 2 Thess. 3:3; 1 John. 2:13,14; 3:12; 5:18-19.

The Doxology of verse 13b is not found in (1) the parallel of Luke 11:2-4; (2) the ancient Greek uncial manuscripts א , B, D, or (3) the commentaries of Origen, Cyprian, Jerome, or Augustine. There are several forms of this doxology in the different Greek manuscripts of Matthew. It probably was added from 1 Chr. 29:11-13 as the Lord's prayer began to be used in liturgical ways by the early Church. It was not original. Roman Catholic liturgy omits it because it is not in the Vulgate. A. T. Robertson commented on this text in his Word Pictures in the New Testament, "The Doxology is placed in the margin of the Revised Version. It is wanting in the oldest and best Greek manuscripts. The earliest forms vary much, some shorter, some longer than the one in the Authorized Version. The use of a doxology arose when this prayer began to be used as a liturgy to be recited or to be chanted in public worship. It was not an original part of the Model Prayer as given by Jesus," p. 55. The UBS4 rates the omission as "A" (certain).

6:14-15 Verses 14-15 are the conclusion to the Model Prayer. They do not assert that our actions earn our salvation, but they should give evidence of our salvation (two third class conditional sentences). They are not the basis, but the results (cf. Matt. 5:7; 18:35; Mark 11:25; Luke 6:36-37; James 2:13; 5:9). As we pray this prayer, "our Father," we must live out this familial truth in our dealings with covenant brothers.

6:14 "transgressions" This is literally "to fall to one side." This meant, as do most of the words for sin in Hebrew and in Greek, a deviation from a standard, which is the character of God. It implied a conscious act of crossing a set boundary.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 6:16-18
 16Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 17But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face 18so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

6:16-18 These are additional examples of religious exhibitionism. See SPECIAL TOPIC: HYPOCRITES at Matt. 6:2.

6:16 "fast" There was only one fast specifically mentioned in the OT, the Day of Atonement (cf. Leviticus 16), which was observed in the seventh month. The Jewish leaders appointed additional fast days to remember specific times of stress in Israel's national history (cf. Zech. 7:3-5; 8:19).

In addition, the rabbis increased the times of fasting to twice a week, on Monday and Thursday (Luke 18:12); Thursday because that was the day when they said Moses went up on Mt. Sinai and Monday because that was the day when he came down. They used these fasts as a means to flaunt their spirituality.

SPECIAL TOPIC: FASTING

"gloomy face" This term occurs only here and Luke 24:17.

"Truly" See Special Topic at Matt. 5:18.

6:17 This is the same truth as verse 6. The context is religious exhibitionism. Our spiritual lives are to be seen primarily by God! We seek His approval, not the approval of men.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Why did Jesus choose these three areas of abuse (almsgiving, prayer, and fasting) to condemn?

2. What areas do we use in our day in the same way?

3. Why is one's attitude more important than one's actions?

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS TO VERSES 19-24

A. The truths of this section are repeated in the Gospel of Luke, but in different settings.

1. humans must store up treasure in heaven (Luke 12:33-34)

2. the eye is the lamp of the body (Luke 11:34-36)

3. humans cannot serve two masters (Luke 16:13)

4. God's provision for nature serves as an example of God's provision for people (Luke 12:22-31)

Jesus repeated His teachings for different groups and used the same analogies in different settings.

B. Jesus used nature to teach about God: (1) all things belong to God and (2) humans are more important than things or animals.

 

C. This section must be understood not in literal terms, but in contrasts. Earthly possessions are not evil, but the misplaced priority of material things can be evil (cf. 1 Tim. 6:10). Mankind's undue anxiety about the normal needs of life shows a lack of faith in the care and provision of God (cf. Phil. 4:6). Trust is the key issue.

 

D. This section of Scripture can be broken into three related contexts: (1) Matt. 6:19-21; (2) Matt. 6:22-24; and (3) Matt. 6:25-34. This is similar to what the rabbis call "pearls on a string," which meant several unrelated subjects are dealt with in close proximity.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 6:19-23
 19"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal; 21for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. 23But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!"

6:19 "do not store up" This is literally "stop treasuring up treasures." This same word play is also found in Matt. 6:20. This is a present imperative with a negative particle, which usually means to stop an act that is already in progress. The desire of fallen humanity is to try to provide, by means of their own resources, all that is needed for a happy life. The grammatical construction here shows that this is also a temptation for redeemed humanity. True happiness and success are found only in dependence on God and contentment in what He has provided (cf. Ecclesiastes 1-2; 2:24-25; 3:12,22; 5:18; 8:15; 9:7-9; Phil. 4:11-12).

▣ "treasures" In the ancient world wealth emanated from three sources: (1) clothing, (2) food stuffs, and (3) precious metals or jewels. Each of these items may either be destroyed or stolen. Moths will attack clothing. Rust is from the root "to eat" or metaphorically "eat away" or " corrode" and was used of vermin eating food. Stealing referred to robbery of precious metals, jewels or the other two items. Basically this means that all of our worldly possessions are vulnerable. If one's happiness depends on possessions, one could lose them at any moment. The false concept that contentment and happiness are found in physical things is stated in Luke 12:15.

▣ "destroy" The term meant "disfigure" (Matt. 6:16), "to cause to disappear" (cf. Matt. 6:20, Acts 13:41; James 4:14).

▣ "thieves break in and steal" The term "break in" literally was "dig through." Many homes of this period had mud walls. In the Greek language, the word for "robber" was from the compound term "mud digger."

6:20 "but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven" This is a present active imperative, essentially referring to spiritual attitudes and actions. 1 Timothy 6:17-19 beautifully expresses the same concept. God Himself protects our heavenly treasure (cf. 1 Pet. 1:4-5).

 The verb in verse 20 is from the same root as the noun (cognate accusative). Literally this word play would have been "treasure up for yourselves treasure in heaven."

6:21 "for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" It is significant that the plural pronoun which has been used in the previous verses now changes to the singular. This section teaches the transitoriness of earthly things and the eternality of spiritual things. It also emphasizes that where one puts one's interest, resources, and energy truly reveals one's priorities. The heart (a Hebrew idiom) is the center of the person. It expresses the totality of one's self.

6:22 "The eye is the lamp of the body" The background of this statement was the Jewish concept of the eye being the window of the soul. What one allows into his thought-life determines who he is. Thought produces desire, desire produces action, action reveals the person.

6:22-23 These two verses are obviously antithetical. The antithesis was expressed in the terms: "good" versus "bad" ; "singular" versus " double" ; "generous" versus "stingy" ; or "healthy" versus "diseased." The eye was used because of the singleness that healthy vision provides versus the double or blurred vision which disease causes.

These verses contain three conditional sentences (" ifs"). The first two are third class conditional which speak of probable action. There are those who clearly see spiritual truths and there are those who are spiritually blind.

The last "if" is a first class conditional sentence which characterizes the blind who think they see!

 

SPECIAL TOPIC: GENEROUS/SINCERE (HAPLOTES)

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 6:24
 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.

6:24 "No one can serve two masters" This puts the world in stark reality. This is the reduction of true life to one simple choice. Humans are not really free. They serve one of two masters (cf. 1 John. 2:15-17).

▣ "he will hate the one and love the other, or" These are in a parallel relationship. The Hebrew terms "hate" and "love" were idioms of comparison (cf. Gen. 29:30, 31, 33; Mal. 1:2-3; Matt. 21:15; Luke 14:26; John. 12:25, and Rom. 9:13). It does not refer to hate in the traditional sense, but one's priority.

NASB, NRSV"You cannot serve God and wealth"
NKJV"You cannot serve God and mammon"
TEV"You cannot serve both God and money"
NJB"You cannot be the slave both of God and of money"

The term "wealth" was from the Hebrew root "to store up" or "to entrust." It was used originally to denote a person putting his trust in another by investing money with him. It came to mean "that in which one trusted." It seems to emphasize the object on which one bases his security. A. T. Robertson asserted that this term was used by the Syrians for the name of a money god. Although this has been denied by more recent scholarship, it would seem to be a logical analogy. William Barclay, in his Daily Study Bible, on Matthew, vol. 1 p. 252, asserts that in the ancient Mediterranean world mammon came to be spelled with a capital "M," a way to designate deity.

Money itself is not the problem, but the priority of money (cf. 1 Tim. 6:10). The tragedy of money is that we never have enough and soon it possesses us instead of us possessing it. The more we have, the more we are worried about losing it, and thereby, we are consumed with protecting it. See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: WEALTH

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 6:25-33
 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 not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor do they reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? 28And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30But 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! 31Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?'or 'What will we drink?'or 'What will we wear for clothing?'32For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

6:25 "For this reason I say to you" This shows the logical connection with Matt. 6:19-24.

▣ "do not be worried about your life'" This is another present imperative with a negative particle, which meant to stop an act that is already in progress. For a parallel passage, see Phil. 4:6. Verse 25 states a general principle in light of the previous verses. The KJV translation, "take no thought for," is unfortunate because it implies, in our day, that any planning about the future is inappropriate. This is surely not the case (cf. 1 Tim. 5:8). The key thought is "worry" (cf. Matt. 6:25, 27, 28, 31, and 34).

▣ "Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing" Physical life is important but it is not ultimate. This world is simply the training ground for a fuller and more intimate fellowship with God. The biblical truth is that God does care for His children and that He will provide for their basic needs.

6:26,28 "the birds of the air. . .the lilies of the field" The translation "wild birds" and "wild flowers" is appropriate because the text does not specify a particular kind of bird or flower but simply common ones. Because the setting was the Sermon on the Mount, perhaps Jesus pointed to a flock of wild birds or to the wild flowers nearby. This was a rabbinical hermeneutical argument from the lesser to the greater.

6:26 "Are you not worth much more than they" This is a rabbinical-type comparison of the lesser to the greater. The Bible is clear that God created and loves animals. But animals cannot fellowship with God as humans made in His image can. Be careful of making the lives of animals more valuable than the lives of humans. Animals were given for food and service after the Fall. They are not eternal, humans are! Evangelism is more important than " animal rights" ! Most of the animal life which was created has gone out of existence. Some groups care more for animals than people! What a warped worldview. Animal rights groups care more for insects than unborn humans!

Just one more word, cruelty to animals says a lot about an uncaring, unfeeling person. God created animals with pain sensors just like us. Animals were part of the original creation of Genesis 1 and will be part of the new creation (cf. Isa. 11:6-9).

6:27

NASB"can add a single hour to his life"
NKJV"can add one cubit to his stature"
NRSV"add a single hour to your span of life"
TEV"live a bit longer"
NJB"add a single cubit to his span of life"

This is literally the Hebrew term "cubit." Cubit referred to the length between a man's elbow and his longest finger. It was an OT measurement used in construction and was normally about eighteen inches. However, there was a royal cubit used in the Temple which measured twenty-one inches. In the New Testament it was used either for height or time: of height in Luke 19:3 (also LXX of Ezek. 13:18) and of time in John. 9:21,23 and Heb. 11:11. Because it is ridiculous for a person to be able to physically grow over a foot taller, it is either (1) a metaphor for aging or (2) an oriental overstatement (hyperbole).

6:30 "But if God" This is a first class conditional sentence, which is assumed to be true from the perspective of the speaker or for his literary purposes. God does provide for His creation.

▣ "which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace" A common use for dry grass was to start the fire in small ovens used for baking bread. This was a metaphor for the transience of life, not an eschatological judgment. Believers are worth much more than beautiful wild grasses.

▣ "You of little faith" This phrase occurs several times in the Gospel of Matthew (cf. Matt. 8:26; 14:31; 16:8). Jesus' teaching was designed to increase believers'faith.

6:31 "Do not worry then" This is a negative aorist subjunctive, which meant "do not begin worrying" (cf. Phil. 4:6). An unhealthy emphasis on how one will provide for his basic needs shows a lack of trust in the God who has promised to provide for believers.

6:32

NASB"For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things"
NKJV"For after all these things the Gentiles seek"
NRSV"For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things"
TEV"These are the things the pagans are always concerned about"
NJB"It is the gentiles who set their hearts on all these things"

One of the characteristics of fallen mankind is their insatiable desire for things. God knows believers need the things of this world to live. He will provide their needs, not always their wants.

6:33

NASB, NKJV"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness"
NRSV"But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness"
TEV"Be concerned above everything else with the Kingdom of God"
NJB"Set your heart on his kingdom first, and on God's saving justice"

This is a present imperative which speaks of a habitual command. The truth is that God must be the priority in believers'lives. The phrase "His righteousness" was used here in an ethical sense, not in a legal (forensic) sense as in Paul's writings. This ethical sense can be seen in Matt. 5:6,10,20, 6:1, Deut. 6:25, Isa. 1:27-28, and Dan. 4:27. This is not a call to works righteousness; rather, it suggests that once one knows Him, his life will be characterized by good works (cf. Eph. 2:10). Positional, imputed righteousness should be reflected in Christlike living. See Special Topics: Kingdom of God at Matt. 4:17 and Righteousness at Matt. 5:6.

 The phrase "His Kingdom" was the concept of God's current reign in human hearts that will one day be consummated over all the earth (cf. Matt. 6:10). It was the central focus of Jesus' preaching. This kingdom ethic must be the highest priority. The early Greek manuscripts (א & B) do not have the genitive phrase "of God" (cf. NRSV and TEV).

The term "first" is used by Jesus several times to illustrate the radical newness of the "new age" of the Spirit, which He inaugurated.

1. Matt. 5:24, be reconciled to your brother before worship

2. Matt. 6:33, seek the kingdom of God before personal needs/desires

3. Matt. 7:5, before judging others evaluate your own faults

4. Matt. 23:26, clean the whole life, inner and outer

 

"and all these things will be added to you" This referred to the physical and normal needs of life. God will not leave believers stranded. This is a general principle, which cannot always answer the specific questions of why this individual or that individual suffers loss or is in need. Sometimes God will provide a time of need in order for believers to trust Him, turn to Him, or to improve their character. This statement is much like the book of Proverbs in the sense that it states general principles. They are not meant to explain every individual, particular occurrence.

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

6:34 This verse breaks the train of thought. The Christian life is a daily walk in a fallen world. Bad things that happen to the unbelieving person often happen to the believing person. This does not mean that God does not care. It simply means that believers are caught in a fallen world system. Do not let the problems of life trick you into thinking God does not care. See Hannah Whithall Smith, The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. How do verses 19-34 relate to the over all presentation of the Sermon on the Mount?

2. Were the people who were listening to Jesus storing up riches on earth? How does this relate to our modern emphasis on savings accounts, insurance, or planning for retirement?

3. How does one store up riches in heaven? What do these heavenly riches comprise?

4. Explain the spiritual truths of Matt. 6:22-24 in your own words and from your own experience.

5. Is money evil?

6. Is worry a sin (Matt. 6:31)?

7. Does verse 33 teach works righteousness?

8. Explain why Christians suffer.

 

Copyright © 2013 Bible Lessons International

Passage: 

Matthew 7

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Judging Others Do Not Judge Illustrations of Practical Meaning Of Jesus' Message Judging Others Do Not Judge
7:1-6 7:1-6 7:1-5 7:1-5 7:1-5
        Do Not Profane Sacred Things
    7:6 7:6 7:6
Ask, Seek, Knock Keep Asking, Seeking, Knocking   Ask, Seek, Knock Effectual Prayer
7:7-12 7:7-12 7:7-11 7:7-11 7:7-11
        The Golden Rule
    7:12 7:12 7:12
The Narrow Gate The Narrow Way   The Narrow Way The Two Ways
7:13-14 7:13-14 7:13-14 7:13-14 7:13-14
A Tree Known By Its Fruit You Will Know Them By Their Fruits   A Tree and Its Fruit False Prophets
7:15-20 7:15-20 7:15-20 7:15-20 7:15-20
I Never Knew You I Never Knew You   I Never Knew You The True Disciple
7:21-23 7:21-23 7:21-23 7:21-23 7:21-23
The Two Foundations Build on the Rock   The Two House Builders  
7:24-27 7:24-27 7:24-27 7:24-25 7:24-27
      7:26-27  
      The Authority of Jesus The Amazement of the Crowds
7:28-29 7:28-29 7:28-29 7:28-29 7:28-29

 

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

 

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

BACKGROUND TO MATTHEW 7:1-29

A. The Lucan parallel starts the same section with a positive statement "Be merciful as. . ." Luke 6:36-38, 41-42. Usually Luke's accounts of Jesus' sermons are briefer than Matthew's, but here Luke records more of Jesus' words.

 

B. This chapter has several asyndetons (lack of linking particles, which was very unusual in Greek), Matt. 7:1,6,7,13,15. It was a grammatical way of highlighting individual truths. It is presuppositional to assume that Jesus' sermon had a unifying theme or structured outline. He may have been following the common rabbinical teaching technique called "pearls on a string," which links unrelated topics together. Although some of the individual subjects at first seem unrelated to their surrounding contextual units, it is the best hermeneutical approach to interpret them in light of (1) context and (2) their usage in other Gospel parallels. The author of Matthew did have a unified theme and structured outline determining which of Jesus' teachings to record and in what order to record them.

 

C. It is possible to relate verses 1-12 to the preceding context in the following manner:

1. Matt. 7:1-5 show the danger of Matt. 5:20 and 48

2. Matt. 7:6 shows the danger of sentimental, nondiscerning love

3. Matt. 7:7-11, prayer is the believer's key to proper discernment 

4. Matt. 7:12 is a summary of the great truth which should characterize all kingdom people

 

D. This section, like all of the Sermon on the Mount, paints life in black and white. An excellent discussion of the relation between Matt. 7:1-5 and 6 is found in William Hendricksen's commentary on Matthew, "The Lord has been admonishing his listeners to abstain from judging others (Matt. 7:1-5), yet also to judge (Matt. 7:6); not to be hypercritical, yet to be critical; to be humble and patient, yet not too patient," p. 360.

 

E. Remember this is not a presentation of the gospel, but an ethical message about life in the Messianic kingdom. Its three major truths are

1. the sin of religiosity

2. the supremacy of Jesus' teaching about God

3. our response to Jesus and His teachings and God's judgment of our response

 

F. The Sermon on the Mount ends with three or four invitations and warnings related to the two choices facing mankind (Matt. 7:13-27): (1) two ways, (2) two fruits, (3) two professions, and (4) two foundations. They all relate to the end-time judgment based on now-time actions.

 

G. Verse 28 is a summary statement by Matthew. Matthew concludes all five of Jesus' teaching sections with a summary statement. They may have formed his structure for the Gospel.

1. Matt. 7:28

2. Matt. 11:1

3. Matt. 13:53

4. Matt. 19:1

5. Matt. 26:1

 

H. It must be remembered that at this early stage of Jesus' preaching/teaching the full gospel was not yet known. The hearers, even the disciples, did not fully realize who Jesus was and the price discipleship would require to follow Him in persecution, rejection, and death.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 7:1-5
 1"Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 3Why 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? 4Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,'and behold, the log is in your eye? 5You 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."

7:1 "Do not" This is a present imperative with a negative particle meaning to stop an act already in process. Christians have a tendency to be critical of one another. This verse is often quoted to prove that Christians should not judge each other at all. But, Matt. 7:5,6,15, 1 Cor. 5:1-12, and 1 John. 4:1-6 show that Jesus was assuming that believers evaluate one another spiritually. One's attitude and motives are the keys (cf. Gal. 6:1; Rom. 2:1-11; 14:1-23; James 4:11-12).

▣ "judge" This Greek word is the etymological source for our English word "critic." Another form of this same root in Matt. 7:5 is translated "hypocrite." It seems to imply a critical, judgmental, self-righteous spirit which judges others more severely than it does itself. It emphasizes one set of sins over another set of sins. It excuses one's own faults, but will not excuse the faults of others (cf. 2 Sam. 12:1-9).

SPECIAL TOPIC: JUDGING (SHOULD CHRISTIANS JUDGE ONE ANOTHER?)

7:2 The Greek text of Matt. 7:2 appears in a rhythmical, poetic form. This may have been a well-known proverb. The fact that this statement was used in the other Gospels in different settings backs up this interpretation.

This verse contains a significant truth which was repeated quite often in the NT (cf. Matt. 5:7; 6:14-15; 18:35; Mark 11:25; James 2:13, and 5:9). How believers act toward others is a reflection of how God has acted toward them. This is not meant to destroy the biblical truth of justification by faith. It is meant to emphasize the appropriate attitude and lifestyle of those who have been so freely forgiven.

7:3 "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye" "Speck" was used by classical Greek writers for the material that made up a bird's nest. Therefore, we are talking about bits of plant material and similar insignificant, small items.

▣ "but do not notice the log that is in your own eye" This was an Oriental overstatement. The "log" referred to some large piece of lumber, a building timber or rafter. Jesus often used this literary form of hyperbole to communicate spiritual truths (cf. Matt. 5:29-30; 19:24 and 23:24).

7:5 "You hypocrite" This compound word came from the theatrical world and was used for an actor performing behind a mask. It came from two Greek words, "to judge" and "under." It described a person acting in one way but being another (Luke 18:9). A good example of this kind of activity can be seen in the life of David (cf. 2 Sam. 12:1-9). Jesus used this term for the self-righteous Pharisees in Matt. 5:20; 6:2,5,16; 15:1,7; 23:13.

This verse implies the appropriateness of believers'concern for other Christians when it is not done in a condescending, self-righteous manner. Galatians 6:1 is helpful regarding the proper attitude and motive for Christians'exhorting and correcting one another. The Church has always had to spiritually examine and exhort its leadership and membership.

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

7:6 "Do not give what is holy to dogs" This is an aorist subjunctive with the negative particle which implied "never think of doing this activity." The Didache, an extra-canonical book used by the early Church, applied this verse to unbaptized people being excluded from the Lord's Supper (Didache 9:5 and Tertullian, Depraesc. 41). The real questions have always been: (1) What are the "holy things?" and (2) To whom do the terms "dog" and "hog" refer? The "holy things" must be taken in context of the entire Sermon on the Mount, which would be the teachings about God embodied in the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. Or, to put it another way, the gospel.

Jesus' reference to some human beings as "dogs" (cf. Matt. 15:26,27) or "swine" has caused great consternation among commentators. Both of these animals were vicious and repulsive in the society to which He spoke. There has been much discussion as to whom these terms refer. In the life of Jesus, it could have referred to the self-righteous Jewish leaders, as well as the apathetic and indifferent people of Palestine. This may be a prophetic reference to Jesus' rejection and death by the Jewish leadership and the Jerusalem crowd. However, in the life of the Church, it is not so obvious to whom these terms refer. William Hendricksen, wrote in his commentary on Matthew, "This means, for example, that Christ's disciples must not endlessly continue to bring the gospel message to those who scorn it" (p. 359). An example of this is recorded in Matt. 10:14, "shake the dust off your feet" (cf. Acts 13:51 and 18:5-6.) It is used of Jews in Phil. 3:2-3. It is used in Rev. 22:15 for unbelievers excluded from heaven.

▣ "pearls" These were very valuable in the ancient world.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 7:7-11
 7Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? 11If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!

7:7 "ask. . .seek. . .knock" These are all present imperatives which speak of habitual, lifestyle commands (cf. Deut. 4:29; Jer. 29:13). It is important that one balance human persistence with God's responsive character. Believers cannot force God to do that which is not good for them. However, at the same time, they can bring any need to their heavenly Father. Jesus prayed the same prayer in Gethsemane three times (cf. Mark 15:36,39,41; Matt. 26:39,42,44). Paul also prayed three times about his thorn in the flesh (cf. 2 Cor. 12:8). But the great thing about prayer is not that one receives a specific answer to his request, but that he has spent time with the Father. See SPECIAL TOPIC: PRAYER, UNLIMITED YET LIMITED at Matt. 18:19.

7:8-10 Persistence is important (cf. Luke 18:2-8). However, it does not coerce a reluctant God but reveals the level of interest and concern of the person. Neither one's many words nor his repeated prayers will motivate the Father to give that which is not in one's best interest. The best thing believers get in prayer is a growing relationship and dependence on God.

7:9-10 Jesus used the analogy of a father and son to describe the mystery of prayer. Matthew gives two examples while Luke gives three (cf. Luke 11:12). The whole point of the illustrations was that God will give believers the "good things." Luke defines this "good" as "the Holy Spirit" (cf. Luke 11:13). Often the worst thing our Father could do for us is answer our inappropriate, selfish prayers! All three examples are a play on things that look alike: stone as bread, fish as eel, and egg as a coiled, pale scorpion.

The questions of Matt. 7:9 and 10 expect a "no" answer (like Matt. 7:16).

7:11 "If you then" This is a first class conditional sentence, which is assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes. In rather an oblique way this is an affirmation of the sinfulness of all men (cf. Rom. 3:9,23). The contrast is between evil human beings and a loving God. God shows His character by the analogy of the human family.

▣ "give what is good to those who ask Him" The parallel in Luke 11:13 has "Holy Spirit" in place of "good." There is no article in Luke; therefore, it could mean "the gifts" given by the Holy Spirit. This cannot be used as a proof text that one must ask God for the Holy Spirit, for the thrust of Scripture is that the Holy Spirit indwells believers at salvation (cf. Rom. 8:9 and Gal. 3:2,3,5,14). Yet there is a sense in which the filling of the Spirit is repeatable based on believers'volition (cf. Eph. 5:18).

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

7:12 This has often been called the Golden Rule (cf. Luke 6:31). This summary statement was based on the assumption that believers are kingdom people with a new heart. This is not an egocentric fallen human response.

Jesus was the only One who put this proverb in a positive form, although the negative form was known from the rabbinical writings (cf. Tobit 4:15 and Rabbi Hillel, found in the Talmud, b Shabbath 31a, and Philo of Alexandria). This is not an emphasis on inappropriate self-worth, but it is a good word about knowing who believers are in Christ and projecting that sense of peace and goodness onto one's fellow human in Jesus' name. It requires that people do what is good and right, which is far more than refraining from doing wrong.

▣ "for this is the Law and the Prophets" The Law and the Prophets are the names of two of the three divisions of the Hebrew canon. This was an abbreviated Hebrew idiom referring to the entire OT (cf. Matt. 5:17).

It was significant that Jesus made a summary statement summing up all that the OT requires (cf. Matt. 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34). This would have been extremely controversial to a first century Jew (cf. Rom. 13:9).

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

7:13 Does this verse imply (1) entering a gate and then walking on a path; or (2) walking on a path which leads to a gate; or (3) is it an example of Hebrew parallelism? The fact that the gate appears first and then a way implies that this is referring to one's coming to know God in a personal way through Jesus' teachings and then living a new kingdom life. Some of the confusion here can be attributed to the threefold aspect of biblical salvation: (1) initial faith and repentance; (2) lifestyle Christlikeness; and (3) eschatological culmination. This parable is paralleled in Luke 13:23-27. See Special Topic: Use of "Door" in the NT at Matt. 6:6.

▣ "the narrow gate" This type of proverbial truth has traditionally been known as "the two ways" (cf. Deut. 30:15, 19; Ps. 1; Pro.4:10-19; Isa. 1:19-20 and Jer. 21:8). It is hard to identify to whom Jesus was speaking: (1) to disciples, (2) to Pharisees, or (3) to the crowd. The general context would imply that the verse relates to 5:20 and 5:48. If so, then this would imply that the restricted nature of the gate was not rules, like Pharisaic legalism, but lifestyle love flowing out of a relationship with Christ. Christ does have rules (cf. Matt. 11:29-30), but they flow from a changed heart! If we place this verse in relation to a Jewish-Gentile context (cf. Matt. 6:7, 32), then it relates to belief in Jesus as Savior (gate) and Lord (way).

Starting with Matt. 7:13-27 there is a series of contrasts related to religious people.

1. the two ways of performing religious duties (Matt. 7:13-14)

2. the two types of religious leaders (Matt. 7:15-23)

3. the two foundations of a religious life (Matt. 7:24-27)

The question is not to which group of religious people Jesus referred, but to how religious people respond to their understanding of God's will. Some use religion as a guise to gain immediate praise and rewards from men. It is a " me" and "now" focused lifestyle (cf. Isa. 29:13; Col. 2:16-23). True disciples order their lives in light of Jesus' words about the present and coming Kingdom of God.

▣ "for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction" "Way" can be (1) a metaphor for lifestyle and (2) the earliest title of the church (cf. Acts 9:2; 19:9,23; 22:4; 24:14,22; 18:25-26). This verse implies that salvation is not an easy decision which fits in with the mainstream of culture, but a decisive change of life which issues in obedience to the principles of God. The fact that one way leads to destruction shows the ultimate outcome of those who live lives independent of God. Often they seem very religious (cf. Isa. 29:13; Matt. 7:21-23; Col. 2:23)!

This phrase has a typical Greek manuscript variable. In the first of the verse it says, "enter by the narrow gate," but in the second half "the gate" is omitted in the uncial manuscript א*, some old Latin manuscripts, some Vulgate manuscripts, the Diatessaron, and the Greek texts used by Clement and Eusebius. It is present in the uncials אi1, B, C, L, W, and some old Latin, Vulgate, Syriac, and Coptic manuscripts. So the question is, "Was it inserted for balance" or "fell out by accident?" The UBS4 gives the longer text (i.e., its inclusion) a "B" rating (almost certain). However, its inclusion or exclusion does not change the meaning of the text. This is true of the vast majority of the NT variations in the 5,300 Greek New Testaments in existence today! See Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, p. 19.

7:14 In a day of "easy-believeism" this is a needed balance! This is not saying that Christianity is dependent on human effort, but rather that the life of faith will be filled with persecution. "Narrow" in this verse shares the same root word as "tribulation" or "persecution" in other NT passages. This emphasis is the exact opposite of Matt. 11:29-30. These two verses could be characterized as the "gate" and the "way." We come to God through Jesus as a free gift of God (cf. Rom. 3:24; 5:15-17; 6:23; Eph. 2:8-9), but once we know Him, it is the pearl of great price for which we sell all that we have to follow Him. Salvation is absolutely free, but it costs everything that we are and have.

The phrase "few they are that find it" should be compared with Matt. 7:13 and Luke 13:23-24. The question is "are more going to be lost than saved?" Is the verse teaching this numerical distinction?

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 7:15-20
 15Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20So then, you will know them by their fruits.

7:15 "Beware of the false prophets" This is a present imperative. Jesus often spoke of false prophets (cf. Matt. 24:4, 5, 11, 23-24; Mark 13:22). It is always difficult to identify false proclaimers because they usually have an element of truth in their message, and one is not always certain of their motives. Therefore, it becomes a crucial question as to how believers ascertain who are false proclaimers. There are several elements which must be brought into the evaluation.

1. Deut. 13:1-3 and 18:22

2. Titus 1:16 and 1 John. 4:7-11

3. 1 John. 4:1-3, Based on these criteria, Christians are able to make their evaluation.

Verses 15-20 deal with the issue of fruit inspection, while Matt. 7:21-23 deal with people who bear seemingly good fruit, but have no personal relationship with God. There is both "a gate" and "a road" ; both an initial faith and a life of faith!

▣ "who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves" The wolf is the traditional enemy of the sheep (cf. Matt. 10:16; Acts 20:29). This may mean that one of the difficult aspects of the road that leads to life is that there are people who try to detour us by means of a false message (cf. Eph. 4:14). Usually this message will have some personal advantage for the false prophets. They look so religious! Verses 21-23 show how wolves can look like sheep!

7:16 "You will know them by their fruits" This parable is unique to Matthew. This is a future indicative used as a present imperative (see also Matt. 7:20). The question expected a "no" answer (like Matt. 7:10). "Know" is emphatic, implying that believers can and must recognize false proclaimers. We can know them by their lifestyle priorities and their doctrinal teachings. It has often been questioned as to which of these make up one's fruit, when actually, both do.

1. their teachings (cf. Deut. 13:1-3; 18:22; Luke 6:45; 1 John. 4:1-3)

2. their actions (cf. Luke 3:8-14; 6:43-46; John 15:8-10; Eph. 5:9-12; Col. 1:10; Tit. 1:16; James 3:17-18; 1 John. 4:7-11)

How people live reflects

1. their true selves

2. their relationship with God

It is difficult to hold together the twin truths of an absolutely free invitation to a free salvation, with the demand of Christlikeness. Yet both are true! A good brief discussion of this is in Manfred T. Brauch, Abusing Scripture, pp. 104-116.

7:19 Because of John the Baptist's use of this same phrasing in Matt. 3:10, many believe this was a common proverbial saying.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 7:21-23
 21"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,'will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22Many 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? 23And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'"

7:21 "Not everyone who says to Me" This is a present active participle which speaks of continuing action. They said these words again and again.

▣ "Lord, Lord" The rabbis said that the doubling of a name shows affection (cf. Gen. 22:11).

The Greek word kurios was used in several distinct ways in the first century. It could simply mean (1) "sir" ; (2) "master" ; (3) "owner" ; or (4) " husband." But, in theological contexts, it is usually interpreted with its full meaning derived from the OT translation of the name YHWH (cf. Exod. 3:14). In this context these men were making a theological statement about Jesus, but did not have a personal relationship with Him. It is difficult at this early stage in Jesus' ministry to know how much theological weight to attach to this term. Peter also used it early as a theological title for Jesus (cf. Luke 5:8), as did Luke 6:46, where Jesus links one's verbal affirmations with obedience. However, in this context the scene is eschatological-these false prophets will be judged at the Second Coming.

Were they saved and fell away or were they never saved?

SPECIAL TOPIC: APOSTASY (APHISTĒMI)

▣ "will enter the kingdom of heaven" This is a future indicative. The Kingdom was the central focus of the preaching of Jesus. It paralleled the phrase "the kingdom of God" used in Mark and Luke. Matthew, writing to Jews, used "heaven" as a circumlocution for "God." This verse implies a future orientation, while Matt. 3:2 implies a present orientation. The kingdom of heaven is the reign of God in human hearts now which one day will be consummated over all the earth. Jesus, in His model prayer of Matt. 6:10, was praying for the coming of the Kingdom of God on earth.

▣ "but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven" This is a present active participle. The real focus of the next few verses is on those people who say they are kingdom people but live in ways that reveal they are not. This can be seen in the concluding portion of Matt. 7:23, and in Matt. 7:24 and 26. The stated will of God is that one believe on His Son (cf. John. 6:29, 39-40). This personal relationship was what these religious, false prophets lacked (cf. Matt. 7:23).

This dialectic or paradoxical structure is so characteristic of biblical truth. God's will is both an initial decision (gate) and a continuing lifestyle (way).

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE WILL (thelēma) OF GOD

7:22 "Many will say to Me on that day" The structure of this Greek question expected a "yes" answer. The phrase "that day" referred to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. This is often called Resurrection Day or Judgment Day, depending on whether you know Him personally or not.

▣ "in Your name. . .in Your name. . .in Your name" This phrase implied "in your authority" or "as your disciple." It is obvious from Matt. 7:23 that they did not know Jesus in a personal way. Notice that the works they performed are godly works. But fruit without relationship is as abominable as relationship without fruit. These same types of miracles were performed by Jesus' true disciples (cf. Matt. 10:1-4), including Judas Iscariot! Miracles are not automatically a sign from God (cf. Matt. 24:24 and 2 Thess. 2:9-10). Religious self-deception is a tragedy.

▣ "cast our demons" See Special Topics: Exorcism at Matt. 10:1 and The Demonic at Matt. 10:1.

7:23 "then I will declare to them" This Greek term meant "to profess" or "to confess" publicly (see Special Topic at Matt. 10:32). The implication of this statement is that Jesus has the position and authority to judge and that judgment is in relation to personal faith in Him.

▣ "I never knew you" This was a strong grammatical construction in Greek. The term "know" had an OT background meaning "intimate, personal relationship" (cf. Gen. 4:1 and Jer.1:5). It is frightening to think that the religious activity of Matt. 7:22 can be performed in such a self-deceiving way (cf. 1 Cor. 13:1-3).

▣ "depart from Me" This is a present active imperative, a continuing command rendered literally as "keep on departing from Me!" Thus the implied meaning is "you are already going away-just keep on going!" It is an allusion to Ps. 6:8.

▣ "you who practice lawlessness" It is shocking that these apparently effective religious leaders were totally independent of the power and person of Christ.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 7:24-27
 24"Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25And 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. 26Everyone 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. 27The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell-and great was its fall."

7:24 "everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them" This parable was unique to Matthew and Luke (6:47-49). This is similar to the thought in the Hebrew word Shema of Deut. 6:1 where the word implies "to hear so as to do." Christianity involves (1) knowledge; (2) personal response; and (3) a lifestyle of service. It is interesting that both builders are said to hear Jesus' words. Again, it looks as if the context of these warnings is religious people who have heard and responded at some level.

7:24-27 These verses are similar to the truth of Matthew 13, the parable of the soils. It is only through persecution and adversity that the true character of "supposed" believers is revealed. A life of persecution is a real possibility for Christians (cf. John. 15:20; 16:33; Acts 14:22; Rom. 8:17; 1 Thess. 3:3; 2 Tim. 3:12; 1 Pet. 2:21; 4:12-16).

7:26 It is interesting that both builders are said to hear Jesus' words. Again, it looks as if the context of these warnings is religious people who have heard and responded to some degree. A.T. Robertson said in Word Pictures in the New Testament, "Hearing sermons is a dangerous business if one does not put them into practice," p. 63, and I would add, as is writing and delivering them (i.e., sermons).

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

7:28 "When Jesus had finished these words" Matthew used this phrase to close several of the major sections in his Gospel (cf. Matt. 7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1). They form one possible outline of the book.

▣ "the crowds were amazed at His teaching" Jesus' teachings were so different from the scribes. He based His authority not on previous teachers, but on Himself. This aspect of Jesus' authority is a characteristic of the Gospel of Matthew (cf. Matt. 8:9; 9:6, 8; 10:1; 21:23-24, 27; 28:18). Jesus claimed the place of both the promised Messiah (i.e., the new Moses or new law-giver) and the eschatological Judge.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Is it sinful for Christians to judge one another?

2. What does verse 6 mean?

3. Does verse 7 imply that human persistence can avail in prayer?

4. Does verse 13 imply that it is hard to be saved? What exactly are the two ways?

5. How do you know who is a false prophet?

6. What does the term "fruit" mean?

7. Is it possible for successful ministries to be empowered apart from a personal relationship with Christ?

8. What is the relationship between hearing and doing in the Christian faith?

9. Is persecution necessary in the Christian life?

 

Copyright © 2013 Bible Lessons International

Passage: 

Matthew 8

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Cleansing of a Leper Jesus Cleanses a Leper Events in Galilee Jesus Makes a Leper Clean Cure of a Man with Skin-disease
    (8:1-9:38)    
8:1-4 8:1-4 8:1-4 8:1-2 8:1-4
      8:3-4  
The Healing of a Centurion's Servant Jesus Heals a Centurion's Servant   Jesus Heals a Roman Officer's Servant Cure of a Centurion's Servant
8:5-13 8:5-13 8:5-13 8:5-6 8:5-13
      8:7  
      8:8-9  
      8:10-13b  
      8:13c  
The Healing of Many People Peter's Mother-in-Law Healed   Jesus Heals Many People Cure of Peter's Mother-in-law
8:14-17 8:14-15 8:14-17 8:14-15 8:14-15
  Many Healed After Sabbath Sunset     A Number of Cures
  8:16-17   8:16-17 8:16-17
(17b)
The Would-be Followers of Jesus The Cost of Discipleship   The Would-be Followers of Jesus Unconditional Commitment
8:18-22 8:18-22 8:18-22 8:18-19 8:18-20
      8:20  
      8:21 8:21-22
      8:22  
The Calming of a Storm Wind and Waves Obey Jesus   Jesus Calms a Storm The Calming of the Storm
8:23-27 8:23-27 8:23-27 8:23-27 8:23-27
The Healing of the Gadarene Demoniacs The Demon Possessed Men Healed   Jesus Heals Two Men with Demons The Demoniac of Gadara
8:28-34 8:28-34 8:28-34 8:28-29 8:28-34
      8:30-31  
      8:32  
      8:33-34  

 

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

 

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

BACKGROUND TO MATTHEW 8:1-34

A. Matthew 8 and 9 form a literary unit of ten miracles describing Jesus' power and authority not only over human beings, but over disease and nature. It is not by accident that these power miracles follow the Sermon on the Mount. Miracles are meant to (1) confirm Christ's message, (2) show the reality of the eschatological setting, and (3) show Deity's compassion.

B. In this chapter several groups depreciated by Jewish society are ministered to by Jesus.

1. leper - Matt. 8:2,4 (Matt. 10:8; 11:5; 26:6; Luke 5:12-14; 17:11-14)

2. Gentile (i.e., Roman army officer) - Matt. 8:5-13 (cf. Mark 7:26-30,31-37)

3. woman - Matt. 8:14-15 (cf. Luke 8:2,43-48; 7:36-50; 13:10-12)

4. demon-possessed, Matt. 8:16,28

This list could be easily expanded.

1. children - 18:2 (in context a metaphor for new believers); Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17

2. the poor -

3. Samaritans - Luke 10:30-37; 17:15-19; John 4:1-54

4. tax collectors - Mark 2:15-17; Luke 5:27-32; 15:1ff; 19:1-10

5. sinners (those who did not keep the oral traditions) - Matt. 9:10-11; 11:19; Luke 15:2; 18:13; John 9:16,24,25,31

Jesus' attention to and healing of these people was fulfillment of OT prophecy (cf. Matt. 11:5, which quotes Isa. 35:5-6; and 61:1, also note the parallel in Luke 7:22).

C. There are discrepancies related to the time, place, and other details involved in these accounts as recorded in the Synoptic Gospels. The difference speaks of (1) each Gospel writer's ability under inspiration to structure his evangelistic/catechistic presentation of Jesus to specific audiences and (2) the authenticity of the eyewitness accounts. We cannot explain the "why" and the " how" of Synoptic Gospel composition, but we can affirm their truthfulness, inspiration, and authority for our lives!

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 8:1-4
 1When Jesus came down from the mountain, large crowds followed Him. 2And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him and said, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean." 3Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, "I am willing; be cleansed." And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. 4And 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."

8:1 "When Jesus came down from the mountain" This statement and 5:1 form a literary frame. Matthew was obviously referring to the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7. Some interpret this as Jesus the second law giver, descending a mountain as Moses did. Here, Jesus gave the new Law, not received it!

▣ "large crowds followed Him" The purpose of the miracles was to give validity to the message. Fallen mankind is always attracted to the immediate, the self-centered, the material instead of the eternal, the corporate, and the spiritual!

8:2 "a leper came to Him" Our English term " leper" comes from the Greek word "scales." The ancient term covered many more skin diseases than our modern nomenclature. Leviticus 13 and 14 deal with the Old Testament examples of leprosy. The fact that a leper approached Jesus was socially and theologically inappropriate because leprosy was viewed as a disease given as a judgment by God. The OT and theological bases for this was King Uzziah, 2 Chr. 26:16-23.

▣ "Lord" This is the term kurios. It can be used as a polite designation such as "Sir" or as a theological designation of the Divine Messiahship of Jesus. Context determines which use is intended. Often it is uncertain, as in this context.

▣ "if You are willing" This is a third class conditional sentence, which meant possible future action. This man had heard of Jesus' miracles and believed He could perform a cure if He would.

8:3 "Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him" Touching a leper went against the culture of that day based on the command of the OT (cf. Lev. 13:45-46). This showed Jesus' compassion, lack of fear, and willingness to break with Jewish tradition (cf. Matt. 5:21-48).

▣ "I am willing" The man had faith in Jesus' ability based on what he had heard, but he was not sure of Jesus' willingness!

8:4 "see that you tell no one" This type of statement is often called the Messianic secret of the Synoptics (cf. Matt. 8:4; 9:30; 12:16; 16:20; 17:9; Mark 1:44; 3:12; 5:43; 7:36; 8:30; 9:9; Luke 4:41; 5:14; 8:56; 9:21). It is related to Jesus' unwillingness to be known simply as a healer. The gospel message was not yet complete (cf. Matt. 17:9; Mark 9:9). He knew that humans would respond to Him for the wrong reasons.

▣ "but go, and show yourself to the priest. . .as testimony to them" This was an attempt by Jesus to affirm the Mosaic law of Leviticus 13-14. It was also an attempt to show His power to the priests in Jerusalem (cf. Mark 1:44; Luke 5:14; 17:14). Early in Acts many thousands of them accepted Jesus and His message (cf. Acts 6:7).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 8:5-13
 5And when Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, 6and saying, "Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented." 7Jesus said to him, "I will come and heal him." 8But the centurion said, "Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9For 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." 10Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, "Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. 11I 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; 12but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." 13And Jesus said to the centurion, "Go, it shall be done for you as you have believed." And the servant was healed that very moment.

8:5 "Capernaum" This city became Jesus' Galilean headquarters after His rejection in Nazareth (cf. Matt. 4:13). It was a central location. Peter and Andrew owned a home there.

▣ "a Centurion" There were no more ostracized people in Jewish society than lepers (Matt. 8:2) and Roman military officers. This concept demonstrated Jesus' love for all mankind, as His dealings with the men of Gadara, Matt. 8:28, 34; and the Syro-Phoenician woman (Matt. 15:21-28). This same account is paralleled in Luke 7:1-10, but in a different setting.

8:6 "my servant" The account in Luke records that this man had great love for the Jewish people (as did Cornelius of Acts 10). The account in Matthew shows that he had great love for his servant boy. Centurions throughout the NT are usually presented in a positive light.

8:7 "I will come and heal him" This is an emphatic use of "I," which is explained in Matt. 8:8 by the unheard of action of Jesus being willing to enter a Gentile home, which was a major cultural/religious taboo.

8:8 "I am not worthy" this term is used in the statements of

1. John the Baptist - 3:11; Mark 1:7; Luke 3:16

2. Roman Centurion - 8:8; Luke 7:6

In a theological sense it expresses the sinfulness of all humans as well as God's amazing love and mercy. Humans must recognize their spiritual need (cf. Matt. 5:3-6) before they can receive God's forgiveness and acceptance.

▣ "just say the word, and my servant will be healed" This man, being a military person, understood authority and did not demand a ritual, or magical formula, or even Jesus' physical presence for the healing. In Luke the centurion did not come to Jesus personally, but sent representatives: (1) Jewish elders (cf. Luke 7:3-5) and (2) his friends (cf. Luke 7:6). This is a good example of how the Gospels record the same event in different ways. The question is not which account is true but why the authors recorded it in the way they did. See Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, pp. 127-148.

Jewish and Greek healers healed by means of chants, magic, and special rituals, but Jesus healed by the spoken word. This was a way to show

1. His connection with creation (i.e., Genesis 1)

2. His personal authority (cf. Matt. 8:16)

3. His difference from the other healers of His day

This is why the title logos (word) is so appropriate in John 1:1! Jesus could heal with a touch (cf. Matt. 8:3) or speak a word (cf. Matt. 8:8), as well as exorcize demons (cf. Matt. 8:16). He spoke with authority (cf. Matt. 7:28-29); He healed with authority!

It is also interesting in Matthew how he uses the formula "what was spoken. . .was fulfilled" (cf. Matt. 1:22; 2:15,17,23; 4:14; 8:17; 12:17; 13:35; 21:4; 22:31; 24:15; 27:9) as a way to assert the trustworthiness of Scripture and its fulfillment in Jesus and the new age He inaugurated.

8:10

NASB"Truly I say to you"
NKJV"Assuredly I say to you"
NRSV"Truly I tell you"
TEV"I tell you"
JB" I tell you solemnly"
NJB"In truth I tell you"

This was Jesus' distinctive way of showing emphasis. There are no other examples in Greek literature. The single or double use of "amen" to start a sentence accentuated the importance of the statement, as well as Jesus' personal authority. See Special Topic at Matt. 5:18.

8:11 "many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" This was an allusion to the inclusion of Gentiles into the family of God (cf. Isa. 25:6-9; Mal. 1:11; Luke 13:22-30). The faith of this Roman military man was greater than any Jesus had encountered among the Jewish people. These kinds of encounters with Gentiles (i.e., Matt. 15:28; 21:32; Mark 7:24-30; Luke 10:30-37; 17:11-19), combined with Jesus' strong statements concerning their faith is evidence of the universal nature and evangelistic goal of the gospel (cf. Matt. 15:28; 22:2-14; 28:18-20; Luke 7:9; 24:47; Acts 1:8). The phraseology was taken from the concept of the Messianic banquet at the end of time (cf. Isa. 25:6-9; Luke 14:15; Rev. 19:9). Jesus speaks of these Patriarchs as alive in the kingdom of heaven (i.e., the new age). They will fully participate in the eschatological events, as well as other believers. This is surely a strong witness to the reality of life after death, as well as the promise of fellowship with God and other believers.

8:12 "but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out" Many Jews knew nothing of a personal relationship with God but only of a racial, legalistic, and ritualistic religion handed down to them (cf. Isa. 6:9-10; 29:13; Matt. 15:14). They were prideful and self-righteous based on their race and performance of the Mosaic Covenant (cf. Matt. 3:9). Jesus affirms in Matt. 8:12 that many who were not historically part of the people of God will be included, and many who thought they were part of the people of God will be excluded (cf. Matt. 21:43; Luke 13:28).

▣ "into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" These metaphors were also used in Matt.13:42,50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30 to describe the horrors of separation from God in hell (Gehenna, see Special Topic at Matt. 5:22). What men and women do with Jesus Christ now will determine their ultimate destiny (cf. Matt. 25:31-46). Jesus Himself is the One who shows us the grim alternative facing those who refuse to trust Him.

In the OT "gnashing of teeth" signified "rage" (cf. Job 16:9; Ps. 35:16; 37:12; 112:10; Lam. 2:16), as it does in Acts 7:54, but here it denotes the sorrow and pain of eschatological judgment (i.e., separation from God in Gehenna).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 8:14-17
 14When Jesus came into Peter's home, He saw his mother-in-law lying sick in bed with a fever. 15 He touched her hand, and the fever left her; and she got up and waited on Him. 16When 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. 17This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: "He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases."

8:14 "Peter. . .his mother-in-law" Peter was married (cf. 1 Cor. 9:5). This speaks of the normalcy of marriage among the Jews. The rabbis said that marriage was an obligation because of the command in Gen. 2:24. We never hear of his wife; maybe she had died. The Gospels were not written to satisfy our curiosity.

8:16 "when evening came" The end of the Sabbath had come (Mark 1:32) and the Jews who were taught that healing was not allowed on the Sabbath were now coming to Peter's front door. The Sabbath began at twilight on Friday and ended at twilight on Saturday. This follows the order of the days of creation in Genesis 1:5,8,13,19,23,31.

▣ "many who were demon-possessed. . .healed all who were ill" There was always a distinction made between demon possession and physical disease in the NT. Sometimes demons cause physical problems, but certainly not always. Physical ailments, injuries, and diseases do not necessarily have demonic causes. See Special Topic: The Demonic (Unclean Spirits) at Matt. 10:1.

8:17 This is a quote from Isa. 53:4, but not from the Masoretic Text (Hebrew) nor the Septuagint (Greek translation). This is the only place in the NT this verse is quoted. This is used by many modern groups to affirm that physical healing is inherent in the Atonement. God is a supernatural God who acts in the lives of people for good. There is not enough Scriptural evidence based on this verse to affirm that all diseases on all occasions are out of the will of God and will be cured if we just respond with enough faith or prayer (cf. 2 Cor. 12:8-10; 2 Tim. 4:20).

Psalm 103:3b is also often quoted in connection with this subject. There is a Hebrew poetic parallel relationship between 103:3a and 3b. They both refer to spiritual forgiveness. In the OT physical ailments were used as a symbol for spiritual problems (i.e., Isa. 1:5-6). The rabbis saw sin and sickness as related (cf. James 5:14-16). See F. F. Bruce, Answers to Questions, pp. 44-45.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 8:18-22
 18Now when Jesus saw a crowd around Him, He gave orders to depart to the other side of the sea. 19Then a scribe came and said to Him, "Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go." 20Jesus said to him, "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." 21Another of the disciples said to Him, "Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father." 22But Jesus said to him, "Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead."

8:19 "scribe" This was an expert in the oral law (the Talmud) and written traditions (the Scriptures) of the Jews. They took the place of the local Levite of the OT in interpreting Scripture. They were consulted about how to apply the Law of Moses to everyday matters. See Special Topic: Scribes at Matt. 12:38. In Jesus' day most of them were Pharisees (see Special Topic at Matt. 22:15).

▣ "Teacher" This is the vocative form (didaskale) of the term "teacher" (didaskalos). It translates the Hebrew term for "teacher" (lit. "great one," cf. John 1:38; 20:16) and refers to one who knew the Law of Moses (i.e., an honorific title). It is used in the NT of

1. Jewish teachers - Luke 2:46

2. John the Baptist - Luke 3:12

3. Jesus - Matt. 8:19; 9:11; 17:24; 26:25,49; Mark 9:5,17,38; 11:21; Luke 10:25; John 1:49

4. Nicodemus - John 3:10

5. Paul - 1 Tim. 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:11

6. Christian teachers - Acts 13:1; 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11; James 3:1

Jesus restricts the usage of this term/title to Himself (cf. Matt. 23:7-12; Mark 14:14; John 3:2; 11:27-28; 13:13-14). There is only "one" Father; there is only " one" teacher! He and only He is the true "Great One" !

8:20 "Jesus said to him" Two persons are involved in this context. One was willing to go anywhere; Jesus told him to stop and count the cost (cf. Matt. 8:20). The other one was reluctant to follow; Jesus told him, follow at any cost because of the priority of the call of God on a human's life (cf. Matt. 8:21). Truth often cuts two ways!

▣ "the Son of Man" This was Jesus' self-chosen designation. It was an Hebraic phrase referring to a human being (cf. Ps. 8:4; Ezek. 2:1). But because of its use in Dan. 7:13, it took on divine qualities. Therefore, this term combines the humanity and Deity of Jesus. This designation was not used by the rabbis; therefore, it had no nationalistic or militaristic overtones.

Here is a quote from my commentary on Daniel 7:13.

" a son of man was coming" The Aramaic phrase (" ben enosh," construct BDB 1085 and 1081) "son of man" is different from the similar Hebrew phrase ("ben adam") found in Psalms and Ezekiel. Both phrases are used in parallel in Job 25:6; Ps. 8:4; 90:3; 144:3; Isa. 13:12. This obviously refers to the Messiah and it links his humanity (cf. Dan. 8:17; Job 25:6; Ps. 8:4; Ezek. 2:1), which is the meaning of the Aramaic and Hebrew phrases, "son of man" with his deity because the clouds are the transportation of Deity (cf. Matt. 24:30; 26:64; Mark 13:26; 14:62; Rev. 1:7; 14:14).

Jesus uses the phrase to refer to Himself in the NT. It was not used of the Messiah in rabbinical Judaism. It had no exclusivistic, nationalistic, militaristic connotations. It uniquely describes the Messiah as fully human and fully God (cf. 1 John 4:1-3). Daniel's usage is the first which focuses on its divine aspect!

Jesus used the phrase for Himself in three senses.

1.His suffering and death (e.g., Mark 8:31; 10:45; 14:21; Luke 9:22,44)

2.His coming as Judge (e.g., Matt. 16:27; 25:31; John 5:27)

3.His coming in glory to set up His kingdom (e.g., Matt. 16:28; 19:28; Mark 13:26-27; 14:62)

From The Jewish Study Bible, p. 1657 (also see George E. Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, pp. 136-139), the later Jewish tradition about this text are listed.

1.This context is Messianic (cf. I Enoch 46:1; 48:10; 4 Ezra [2 Esdras] chapter 13; b. Sanh. 98a)

2.All predictions in this context are already fulfilled (cf. b. Sanh. 97b)

3.This context does not refer to the end-time (cf. Gen. Rab. 98:2)

4.This context represents Israel (cf. Ibn Ezra and Rashi)

 

SPECIAL TOPIC: OT TITLES OF THE SPECIAL COMING ONE

8:21 "permit me first to go and bury my father" On the surface this seems like a reasonable request. However, this was a cultural idiom for staying home and taking care of one's parents as long as they lived. It was a social obligation (cf. 1 Kgs. 19:20).

8:22 "allow the dead to bury their own dead" This was a play on the word "dead." It can be used of spiritual lifelessness as in Matt. 10:39. What Jesus was saying was that spiritual life and obedience to the heavenly Father are more important than social obligations to one's earthly family.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 8:23-27
 23When He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. 24And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being covered with the waves; but Jesus Himself was asleep. 25And they came to Him and woke Him, saying, "Save us, Lord; we are perishing!" 26He 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. 27The men were amazed, and said, "What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?"

8:24

NASB"And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea"
NKJV" And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea"
NRSV" A windstorm arose on the sea"
TEV"Suddenly a fierce storm hit the lake"
NJB"Without warning a storm broke over the lake"

The Sea of Galilee is surrounded by hills and affected by its proximity to Mt. Hermon and the Mediterranean Sea. The strong winds descending on this body of water were often sudden, unexpected, and violent. Even these professional fishermen were afraid.

The NIDOTTE, vol. 3, p. 557, has an interesting comment about the term seismos (" storm").

"The other eleven occurrences of seismos in the NT all refer to earthquakes, and always as divine interventions: at the moment of Jesus' death (Matt. 27:54); at the resurrection, where it is linked with the rolling back of the stone; and at Philippi, as Paul and Silas sing God's praises in prison (Acts 16:26). Earthquakes are one of the eschatological signs (Matt. 24:7; Mark 13:8; Luke 21:11; Rev. 6:12; 8:5; 11:13,19; 16:18)."

This sudden storm was not a coincidence, but a God-sent opportunity to

1. reveal Jesus

2. build the disciples'faith

 

8:25 "Save us, Lord" This was the OT use of the term " save" meaning physical deliverance (cf. Matt. 14:30; John 12:27; Acts 23:24; 27:20,31,34,43,44; 28:1,4; James 5:15).

SPECIAL TOPIC: SALVATION (OLD TESTAMENT TERM)

8:26-27 "it became perfectly calm" They were absolutely astonished at Jesus' power even over nature. Because of Ps. 89:8,9 this was an allusion to Jesus' deity . Only the creator can control nature (cf. Ps. 107:23-32).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 8:28-34
 28When He came to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs. They were so extremely violent that no one could pass by that way. 29And they cried out, saying, "What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?" 30Now there was a herd of swine feeding at a distance from them. 31The demons began to entreat Him, saying "If You are going to cast us out, send us into the herd of swine." 32And He said to them, "Go!" And they came out and went into the swine, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the waters. 33The herdsmen ran away, and went to the city and reported everything, including what had happened to the demoniacs. 34And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they implored Him to leave their region.

8:28

NASB, NRSV,
JB" into the country of the Gadarenes"
NKJV"to the country of the Gergesenes"
TEV"to the territory of Gadara on the other side of the lake"

There has been much discussion over this geographical location. This place was spelled three different ways in differeing Greek manuscripts of Matthew, as well as in three different Synoptic Gospels. Apparently it was close to the city of Khersa, but the city of Gadara owned some land near the lake and it was often called the district of Gadara, even though this city was six miles away.

▣ "two men" Matthew usually has two people involved in an account where Mark and Luke only have one (cf. Mk 5:1; Luke 8:26). Another example would be the blind man/men of Jericho (cf. Matt. 20:29; Mark 10:46; Luke 18:35). Some have supposed that two were mentioned because the OT required two witnesses in court (Num. 35:30; Deut. 17:6; Matt. 18:16).

▣ "who were demon-possessed. . .coming out of the tombs" They had been ostracized by the community and this was the only place where they could find shelter. During this period small manmade or natural caves were used as burial places. Whether this location was connected with their demon possession is uncertain. There are many specific questions about demons and angels which cannot be answered because there is not enough biblical information. Our world is permeated by a personal force of evil with his servants, the fallen angels, who are out to thwart the will of God and to destroy mankind, God's ultimate creation and focus of His love and attention. See Special Topics: Personal Evil at Matt. 4:5 and the Demonic at Matt. 10:1.

▣ "that no one could pass by that way" See Mark 5:2-6 and Luke 8:27.

8:29 "Son of God" These demons recognized who Jesus was (cf. James 2:19). The title "Son of God" was used several times in Matt. 4:3; 14:33; 16:16; 27:43,54. It was a play on the term "son" (cf. Matt. 2:15); the nation of Israel is called "son" ; Israel's king is called "son" ; and Israel's Messiah is called "son." Several times in the Gospels the demons recognize Jesus (cf. Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34). Jesus does not acknowledge their testimony. They were not saying this to help Him. Later Jesus will be accused of utilizing Satan's power (12:24). The demons'witnessing to Him would have given credence to this charge. See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE SON OF GOD at Matt. 27:54.

NASB, NKJV,
NRSV, JB" Have You come here to torment us before the time"
TEV"Have you come to punish us before the right time"

The spiritual realm knows that a time has been set for God to judge the living and the dead, humans, and angels (cf. Phil. 2:10-11; Rev. 11:15).

8:30 "a herd of many swine" It was a Gentile area shown by the presence of these hogs. Exactly why the demons wanted to go into the hogs is simply a matter of conjecture. There is not enough information. The destruction of this group of hogs does show the ultimate purpose of the demonic-death to their host. Also, the herd's destruction would have caused the townspeople to ask Jesus to leave!

▣ "the demons" See Special Topic at Matt. 10:1.

▣ "if" This is a first class conditional sentence. Jesus was going to drive out the demons!

8:34 "they implored Him to leave their region" This is one of the saddest verses in all of the Bible. In the presence of the greatest man of history, these villagers were more concerned about the death of a few hogs than they were over the redemption and reclamation of two demonized persons and the spiritual potential of the gospel for their area.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Why do the Synoptic Gospels differ in their recording of the words and acts of Jesus?

2. Why was the healing of a leper such a significant event (cf. Matt. 11:5)?

3. Why did Jesus want those who had been healed to go and show themselves to the priests?

4. What is so unusual about Jesus working with a Roman military officer?

5. What is the significance of verses 11 and 12?

6. Who or what are demons? What is their purpose in our world?

7. Does verse 17 teach that physical healing is a part of the atonement?

8. What is the significance of the terms "Son of Man" and "Son of God" (cf. Ezek. 2:1; Dan. 7:13)?

 

Copyright © 2013 Bible Lessons International

Passage: 

Matthew 9

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Healing of a Paralytic Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralytic Events in Galilee
(continued)
Jesus Heals a Paralyzed Man Cure of a Paralytic
    (8:1-9:38)    
9:1-8 9:1-8 9:1 9:1-2 9:1-8
    9:2-8    
      9:3  
      9:4-6  
      9:7-8  
The Calling of Matthew Matthew the Tax Collector   Jesus Calls Matthew The Call of Matthew
9:9-13 9:9-13 9:9 9:9a-b 9:9
      9:9c Eating with Sinners
    9:10-13 9:10-11 9:10-13
      9:12-13  
The Question About Fasting Jesus is Questioned About Fasting   The Question About Fasting A Discussion of Fasting
9:14-17 9:14-17 9:14-17 9:14 9:14-17
      9:15  
      9:16-17  
The Ruler's Daughter and the Woman Who Touched Jesus' Garment A Girl Restored to Life and a Woman Healed   The Official's Daughter and the Woman Who Touched Jesus' Cloak Cure of the Woman with a Hemorrhage; The Official's Daughter Raised to Life
9:18-26 9:18-26 9:18-26 9:18 9:18-19
      9:19  
      9:20-21 9:20-22
      9:22  
      9:23-24a 9:23-26
      9:24b-26  
The Healing of Two Blind Men Two Blind Men Healed   Jesus Heals Two Blind Men Cure of Two Blind Men
9:27-31 9:27-31 9:27-31 9:27 9:27-31
      9:28a-b  
      9:28c  
      9:29-30  
      9:31  
The Healing of a Dumb Man A Mute Man Speaks   Jesus Heals a Dumb Man Cure of a Dumb Demoniac
9:32-34 9:32-34 9:32-34 9:32-33 9:32-34
The Compassion of Jesus     9:34 The Distress of the Crowds
9:35-38 9:35-38 9:35-38 9:35-38 9:35
        9:36-37

 

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

 

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

BACKGROUND TO MATTHEW 9:1-38

A. Matthew often condenses events which are recorded in much fuller detail in both Mark and Luke. Interpreters should not compare the other Gospels seeking fuller details until they have determined how/why the individual Gospel writer recorded the events as he did. We are not looking for a complete history, but for the theological intent of the inspired writer (cf. Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart's How to Study the Bible for All Its Worth, pp. 120-129) .

 

B. This chapter breaks into several distinct units:

1. Verses 1-8, cf. Mark 2:3-12 and Luke 5:17-26

2. Verses 9-17, cf. Mark 2:14-22 and Luke 5:27-38

3. Verses 18-26, cf. Mark 5:22-43 and Luke 8:41-56

4. Verses 27-31, which are unique to Matthew

5. Verses 32-34, which are also unique to Matthew

6. Verses 35-38, many believe that this is an introduction to the mission of the Twelve which should go with Matthew 10

 

C. Matthew 8 showed His power over diseases, nature, and the demonic. Matthew used this section to show the power and authority of Jesus over different types of circumstances.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 9:1
 1Getting into a boat, Jesus crossed over the sea and came to His own city.

9:1 Contextually this verse should go with Matthew 8, as it is a transitional verse leading to the next event. Capernaum became the headquarters of Jesus' ministry (cf. Mark 2:1; Matt. 4:13) after the experience of unbelief and rejection in Nazareth where he spent His childhood.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 9:2-8
 2And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, "Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven." 3And some of the scribes said to themselves, "This fellow blasphemes." 4And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, " Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? 5Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,'or to say, 'Get up, and walk'? 6But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" -then he said to the paralytic, "Get up, pick up your bed and go home." 7And he got up and went home. 8But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

9:2 "they brought to Him a paralytic" Fuller details of this event are found in Mark 2:1-22. This is the account in which the friends of the paralytic man tear the roof apart and lower him to the floor at Jesus' feet.

▣ "Seeing their faith, Jesus" In context "their faith" referred not only to the man who needed healing, but primarily to his friends who had so much ingenuity and persistence.

▣ "Take courage son; your sins are forgiven" This is a present active imperative (cf. Matt. 9:22) and a present passive indicative. The Jews often related sin and sickness (cf. John. 5:14; 9:2; and James 5:15-16). Although Jesus apparently recognized the connection, He also seemed to resist a formal linkage (cf. John. 9:3 and Luke 13:2-3). This is a powerful statement of Jesus' self understanding. Only God can forgive sin (i.e., passive voice)!

Jesus addressed this man as "child" (teknon). However, this was not an indication of his age, but a term of endearment (cf. Mark 10:24; also possibly Luke 16:25 and Gen. 43:29 in the LXX).

9:3 "the scribes" Since the Babylonian captivity, the Temple had been somewhat rivaled by the Synagogue as the place of honor in Jewish society. These local experts in the Jewish law, following the tradition of Ezra, became known as scribes (see Special Topic at Matt. 12:38, Ezra 7:8,10). They were from several theological backgrounds, but they were mostly Pharisees. Whether they were present because of genuine interest or to spy on Jesus is uncertain. They would certainly have been astonished at His claiming to have the power to forgive sin. They believed that only God had this power. In this context, they condemned the radical claims of Jesus as blasphemy (cf. Mark 2:7); indeed, they were blasphemy if Jesus was not the Incarnate Son of God!

9:4 "and Jesus knowing their thoughts" Whether this is an example of Jesus' supernatural knowledge, which seems to be implied from the context, or whether someone in the crowd passed on their grumbling verbally is uncertain. There are passages in the New Testament which imply that Jesus knew human nature well and other passages which imply that He used His supernatural power.

There is a manuscript variation between

1. seeing (idōn) - א, C, D, L, W, and the old Latin, Vulgate, and Coptic translations

2. knowing (eidōs) - B, Ec, and the Syrian and Armenian translations

The UBS4 rates #1 as "B" (almost certain). The second option probably comes from Matt. 12:25; Luke 6:8; 9:47. The NASB, NKJV, and NJB follow option #2.

9:5 "Which is easier, to say 'Your sins are forgiven'or to say 'Get up, and walk'" To say, "Your sins are forgiven" is harder, but it is not as obvious as a physical healing. Both are impossible for sinful mortals!

9:6 "But so that you may know" Throughout the Gospels Jesus was concerned not only with the poor and needy, but also the Jewish leadership (cf. John. 11:42,45). Jesus was confronting them for the purpose of turning them to faith in Himself. This healing was as much for the scribes as it was for the paralyzed man and his friends. As a matter of fact, this is true of most of Jesus' healing ministry. Often these acts of power were to encourage the faith of the disciples or engender faith in by-standers.

▣ "the Son of Man" This was an adjectival phrase from the OT. It was used in Ezek. 2:1 and Ps. 8:4 in its true etymological meaning of " human being." However, it was used in Dan. 7:13 in a unique context which implied both the humanity and deity of the person addressed by this title. Since this title was not used by rabbinical Judaism and, therefore, had none of the nationalistic, exclusivistic, militaristic implications, Jesus chose it as the perfect title of both veiling and revealing His dual nature (cf. 1 John. 4:1-6). It was His favorite self-designation.

▣ "has authority on earth to forgive sins" This term " authority" (exousia) was the word for "right," " power" or "authority." It strongly implied Jesus' Messiahship, if not His Deity. The Jews were not expecting the Messiah to be divine, but to be a supernaturally-empowered military/political leader, like the Judges of the OT. It is only through NT progressive revelation that believers recognized the incarnational nature of the Messiah (i.e., John 1:1; 5:18; 8:58; 10:30,34-38; 14:9-10; 20:28; Rom. 9:5; Phil. 2:6-7; Heb. 1:8; 2 Pet. 1:1).

▣ "He said to the paralytic, 'Get up, pick up your bed, and go home'" There are three verbals in this phrase.

1. " get up" is an aorist passive participle used as an imperative

2. " pick up your bed" is an aorist active imperative

3. " go home" is a present active imperative.

The implication of these tenses would have been that God was the agent of the passive voice, "be raised up." The two imperatives would speak of the man's actions immediately after his healing. Taking up his bed was a sign that his days of begging were over and he was returning home. This healing confirmed Jesus' claim of Deity and Messiahship!

9:8 "But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck" There is a Greek manuscript problem here connected to the term "awestruck." The oldest and best Greek texts have "were afraid" (MSS א, B, D, W). Later texts softened the term to "marveled" or NKJV "were astonished" (MSS C, L). Some Greek manuscripts simply left the phrase out (MS X). The UBS4 gives option #1 an "A" rating (certain).

The crowds were not accustomed to someone speaking with this kind of authority. Rabbinical Judaism had become trapped by tradition and the quoting of the ancient sayings of the rabbis. Jesus spoke with truth and authority, which this generation of Jewish people had never heard. They praised God for giving this kind of power to a man. This may be a veiled allusion to the humanity of Jesus which was questioned by the early church heresy called "Gnosticism." It is also likely from further reading of the NT that the religious leaders were jealous of Jesus' popularity.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 9:9
 9As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man called Matthew, sitting in the tax collector's booth; and He said to him, " Follow Me!" And he got up and followed Him.

9:9 "As Jesus went on from there" Verses 9-17 are expressed in more detail in the other Synoptic Gospel parallels, Mark 2 and Luke 5.

▣ "He saw a man called Matthew" From Mark 2:14 and Luke 5:27 we learn that his other name was Levi. This does not imply that he was a priest or a Levite. Jews often had two names, one Jewish and one Greek, given to them usually at birth. This is the disciple to whom authorship of this Gospel is attributed. Jesus may have chosen him because of his gift of keeping meticulous records or as a way of showing His love to all people, even tax-collectors!

▣ "sitting in the tax-collector's booth" Capernaum was located by the Sea of Galilee between the jurisdictions of Philip the Tetrarch and Herod the Tetrarch. Therefore, the taxation would be between the areas of Syria and Judea. The office of tax collector was purchased from the Herodian or Roman authorities. It was often done with the implied suggestion that all of the extra revenue which was collected would be the wage of the one having the office. This was notoriously practiced in Jesus' day and, therefore, the office had become a synonym for evil and exploitation. Tax-collectors were certainly not welcome at the local synagogue or in Jewish society.

▣ "'Follow Me!'And he got up and followed Him" This was probably not the first time Matthew had heard Jesus. Apparently he had been exposed to Jesus' teachings on many occasions and this was the culmination of an official call (present active imperative) of a rabbi to a follower to come and be a full-time disciple (cf. Matt. 4:19,21).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 9:10-13
 10Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples. 11When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, "Why is your Teacher eating with the tax collectors and sinners?" 12But when Jesus heard this, He said, "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick. 13But go and learn what this means: 'I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,'for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

9:10 This referred to Matthew's house, not Jesus' . Apparently the giving of a banquet after a meaningful decision in life was quite common because Zaccheus, another tax-collector, does the same thing (cf. Luke 19). "Notorious sinners" would refer basically to those outcasts of Jewish society who could not perform the meticulous details of the Mosaic Law as amplified in the oral tradition of rabbinical Judaism. That some of them were openly immoral people is possible, but again, it may have been that their trade or occupation was unacceptable to the Jewish leaders (i.e., shepherds, tanners, etc.).

The phrase "took their seats" meant "reclined." The people during this historical period reclined on their left elbows when they ate. Only in Egypt did people sit at a table to eat.

9:11 "when the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples" These Pharisees were present at the dinner, but were not a part of the dinner. It seems unusual but in the ancient world anyone could come and stand around the walls or look in the windows and participate in the conversation without being an official guest at the dinner. Apparently "the Pharisees" was another name for "the scribes" who were mentioned earlier in this context. They were a group of committed Jews who followed a particular tradition which affirmed the oral tradition of the Jews (the Talmud). Notice that they confronted the disciples and not Jesus Himself. Jesus, by eating with these notorious sinners, was expressing fellowship and friendship. John the Baptist had come earlier as an ascetic and the Jewish leaders had rejected him and now they rejected Jesus who came as a more social person (cf. Matt. 11:19; Luke 7:34). They even accused Jesus of being a "wine-bibber" which meant a "glutton" or "one who over-drinks." Quite often religious conservatism has an ugly and self-righteous side. For a full discussion of the origin and theology of the Pharisees, see note at Matt. 22:15.

9:12 "But when Jesus heard this, He said" On this occasion Jesus obviously did not read the minds of the Pharisees (cf. v.4). Either it was conveyed to Him what they were saying or He heard them Himself.

▣ "It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick"This does not imply that the Pharisees were without sin; rather it was a sarcastic response.

9:13 "But go and learn what this means" This is a quote from Hosea 6:6 (as is Matt. 12:7). This verse began with an aorist imperative phrase which was an idiom that the rabbis used to tell their students to study a particular issue. Verse 13 is unique to Matthew's Gospel.

▣ "for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners" Luke 5:32, which is the Synoptic parallel to this account, adds "to repentance." Matthew's account, although it does not specifically record this, implied it. The two necessary responses for people to be right with God were repentance and faith (cf. Mark 1:15; Acts 3:16, 19; 20:21). Jesus even asserted that unless people repent they shall perish (cf. Luke 13:5). Repentance basically is a turning from self, sin, and rebellion and turning to God's will and way for one's life. It is not so much an emotion as it is a change in priority and lifestyle. It is willingness to change. See Special Topic at Matt. 3:2.

The verb "call" (kaleō) can be understood as " invite" (cf. Matt. 22:2-10 and Luke 14:16-25; John 2:2; Rev. 19:9). In a theological sense this accentuates the covenant concept.

1. God invites (divine call)

2. humans must respond (with initial and continuing faith, repentance, obedience, and perseverance)

 

See SPECIAL TOPIC: ELECTION/PREDESTINATION AND THE NEED FOR A THEOLOGICAL BALANCE at Matt. 24:22.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 9:14-17
 14Then the disciples of John came to Him, asking, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?" 15And Jesus said to them, "The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. 16But 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. 17Nor 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."

9:14 "then the disciples of John came to Him" It is uncertain whether they were (1) truly interested, (2) truly confused, or (3) trying to trick Him. They, like the Pharisees, were uninvited guests, but were apparently present at the feast. There were many disciples of John the Baptist, as can be seen from Acts 19:1ff.

▣ "Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast" In the Old Testament there was only one official fast day called Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement, cf. Leviticus 16) held each year. However, the rabbis had made the second and fifth days of the week fast days also (cf. Luke 18:12), supposedly basing them on the day that Moses went up on Mt. Sinai and on the day that he came back down. Fasting had become a way to prove one's religious commitment. Jesus does not condemn the practice, but neither does He affirm it as required. See SPECIAL TOPIC: FASTING at Matt. 6:16.

There is a Greek manuscript problem in this verse connected with the term " often," found in NKJV and NRSV, apparently from the parallel in Luke 5:33. The Markan parallel 2:18 just has "fast." The UBS4 Committee put the other term "much" in brackets because they were uncertain whether it was original with Matthew or added later by a copyist from Luke.

9:15 The grammar of this question expects a " no" answer.

▣ "But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast" Jesus assumed that His disciples would fast after He was crucified. This is the first time that the crucifixion was implied. The verb apairo (" taken away"), used in this phrase, has violent connotations (cf. Mark 2:20; Luke 5:35). Jesus' analogy of "the bridegroom," had Messianic connotations. See Special Topic: Fasting at Matt. 6:16.

9:16-17 There has been much discussion about how to apply this truth. It seems to emphasize the need to be flexible in one's faith. However, one must be careful as to the nature and extent of this flexibility. It is in reality a condemnation of rabbinical Judaism's literalistic interpretation of the Oral Tradition. Jesus' message was radically new and different from the Jewish sects of His day! God help us, sometimes we are more committed to our traditions and legalisms than we are to a dynamic, obedient, daily relationship with God (cf. Isa. 6:9-10; 29:13). This parable is paralleled in Mark 2:19-20 and Luke 5:33-39. Something new has come (i.e., the gospel) and it has changed everything!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 9:18-19
 18While He was saying these things to them, 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 live." 19Jesus got up and began to follow him, and so did His disciples.

9:18 "a synagogue official came and bowed down before Him" A much more detailed account is found in Mark 5:22-43 and Luke 8:41-56. The person was literally a "synagogue ruler" (cf. Mark 5:22; John 3:1). This was a man who was responsible for the physical condition of the synagogue as well as its regular activities. He acted in an uncharacteristic way by publicly running up to a controversial, unofficial rabbi such as Jesus and by falling at His feet. However, he was greatly concerned about the condition of his daughter, whom he loved. When one compares this passage with Mark 5:21 and Luke 8:42, there is some discrepancy as to whether the daughter was at the point of death or was already dead.

9:19 "Jesus got up and began to follow him" Apparently this man's faith was connected to (1) the physical presence of Jesus, (2) the act of laying on of hands, and (3) prayer. In Matt. 11:5 the raising of the dead was one of the signs mentioned to John the Baptist to validate the Messianic ministry of Jesus. Whether this was truly an act of resuscitation or an act of healing from a coma is uncertain from the context.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 9:20-22
 20And a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His cloak; 21for she was saying to herself, "If I only touch His garment, I will get well." 22But Jesus turning and seeing her said, "Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well." At once the woman was made well.

9:20 "a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years" We learn more details about this account from Mark 5:26 and Luke 8:43. Apparently she had spent all of her money on doctors and had received no help. We know of some of the magical cures in rabbinical Judaism from the Talmud, particularly Shabb, 110 A and B. One of the cures was to carry ostrich eggs or barley corn obtained from the dung of a white donkey around one's neck. One can imagine the grotesque kinds of cures this woman had tried during these twelve years. This particular kind of illness made her ceremonially unclean and unwelcome in regular Jewish worship services (cf. Lev. 15:25). Also she was probably physically exhausted most of the time.

9:21 "if I only touch His garment, I will get well" There was an element of superstition in this woman's faith and yet Jesus honors even her weak faith (third class conditional sentence). Based on Lev. 15:19ff. it would have been illegal for her to touch a rabbi because it would have made Jesus ceremonially unclean. Jesus was more concerned with people than He was with ceremonial laws!

The garment referred to was possibly (1) Jesus' outer robe (cf. John 19:2) or (2) Jesus' prayer shawl (talith), which He used to cover His head during worship (cf. Num. 15:38-40; Deut. 22:12; Matt. 23:5) and worn on the shoulders at other times.

9:22 "your faith has made you well" This is literally the term "saved." It was used in its OT sense of "physical deliverance" (cf. James 5:15). This woman's faith, weak though it was because of superstition, was still honored by Jesus. In the NT it is the object of ones faith that is the issue.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 9:23-26
 23When Jesus came into the official's house, and saw the flute-players and the crowd in noisy disorder, 24He said, " Leave; for the girl has not died, but is asleep." And they began laughing at Him. 25 But when the crowd had been sent out, He entered and took her by the hand, and the girl got up. 26This news spread throughout all that land.

9:23 "Jesus came into the official's house, and saw the flute players and the crowd in noisy disorder" It was a common practice in rabbinical Judaism (cf. Jer. 9:17; 48:36) that when someone died, even in the poorest family, at least two flute players and one wailing woman had to be hired for a standard funeral. Funerals were a very outward and emotional communal experience.

9:24 "Leave; for the girl has not died, but is asleep" " Sleep" was not often used of death, but in this context it was contrasted with death. Whether it was a deep coma or death, a miracle of healing truly occurred.

9:25 "but when the crowd had been sent out" Luke 8:51 notes that the parents and the inner circle of disciples, Peter, James, and John, were allowed to stay.

▣ "took her by the hand" From Mark 5:41 more details are recorded as to what Jesus said to the girl. Touching a dead body would have made Him ceremonially unclean. But, when one has the power of life over death, there is no such thing as a dead body!

9:26 "this news spread throughout all that land" The reason that Jesus emptied the room was so that no one would spread the news about this miraculous healing (cf. Matt. 8:4; 9:30; 12:16; 16:20; 17:9; Mark 1:44; 3:12; 5:43; 7:36; 8:30; 9:9; Luke 4:41; 5:14; 8:56; 9:21). However, with the funeral process well under way, the restoration of this young girl would certainly have been broadcast.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 9:27-31
 27As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out, "Have mercy on us, Son of David!" 28When He entered the house, the blind men 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." 29Then He touched their eyes, saying, "It shall be done to you according to your faith." 30And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them: " See that no one knows about this!" 31But they went out and spread the news about Him throughout all that land.

9:27 "two blind men followed Him, crying out" It was characteristic in the Synoptic Gospels'miracle accounts that Matthew always records two persons whereas Mark and Luke only record one (cf. Matt. 8:28 and 20:30). The exact reason for this is uncertain. It has been speculated that Matthew wanted two witnesses to fulfill OT witness requirements (cf. Num. 35:30; Deut. 17:6; 19:15).

▣ "Have mercy on us, Son of David" This OT title is also used in Matt. 1:20. It apparently had Messianic implications going back to 2 Samuel 7 (cf. Matt. 1:1; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30; 21:9,15). Exactly what these people understood by these titles is uncertain, but surely it was a sign of their faith, not a full theological understanding of the person of Christ. The Jews of Jesus' day expected the Messiah to be a healer from Isa. 35:5-6.

9:28 "Yes, Lord" This is the title "kurios." It was used in the sense of "sir" or "mister" or it could have been a full theological title of Jesus' Deity. Here it seems to be used more in the popular sense although these blind men's use of the title "Son of David" implied some theological understanding. Jesus took them off away from the crowd because He did not want to broadcast their healing (cf. Matt. 9:26, 30; 8:4).

9:29 "He touched their eyes" It is amazing how many accounts of the healing of blind people are recorded in the Gospels. However, they are performed with great variety. Here Jesus touched their eyes, apparently to increase their faith. Restoring sight to the blind was one of the prophetic evidences of the Messiah (cf. Ps. 146:8; Isa. 29:18; 35:5; 42:7, 16, 18; Matt. 11:5).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 9:32-34
 32As they were going out, a mute, demon-possessed man was brought to Him. 33After the demon was cast out, the mute man spoke; and the crowds were amazed, and were saying, " Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel." 34But the Pharisees were saying, "He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons."

9:32 "a mute, demon-possessed man" A sharp distinction was made in the Gospels between demon possession and physical illness. A good example of this is found in Mark 7:32 and 9:25: a physically dumb man was healed while a demonized man, who was also dumb, was exorcized. Although demonic forces can cause physical illness, not all physical illness is demonic. The NT affirms the presence of demons in our world. Those who have spent much time in Third World countries affirm this reality and see this manifestation much more often and in NT categories. This is not to imply there are more demons in the Third World. The modern western worldview is biased against the supernatural. See special topic at Matt. 10:1.

The term "mute" (kōphos) can mean

1. deaf (cf. Matt. 11:5; Mark 7:32,37; Luke 7:22, so used by Homer)

2. dumb (cf. Matt. 12:22; 15:30-31; Luke 1:22; 11:14, so used by Herodotus)

The first could lead to the second. Context is the best clue as to which meaning is intended.

9:34

NASB, NKJV,
NRSV" He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons"
TEV"It is the chief of the demons who gives him the power to drive them out"
NJB"It is through the prince of devils that he drives out devils"

The "ruler of demons" refers to the chief demon who in Matt. 10:25 is called Beelzebul. Both titles are together in Matt. 12:24. See full note on this name there.

It is amazing that the Pharisees who saw Jesus' power and heard His teachings could have rejected Him simply because He violated their traditions. This same account is found in Mark 3:22 and Luke 11:15. This same blasphemy is recorded as coming from the crowd in John. 7:20. They could not deny the reality of these miraculous events, so they attributed them to the power of the evil one.

Jesus fully answered this charge, which is often called the "unpardonable sin" in Matt. 12:22ff. The unpardonable sin is apparently the continual rejection of faith in Jesus in the presence of great light. These people were so blinded by their preconceived notions that they were unable to see the gospel which was revealed so clearly in the words and actions of Jesus Christ. When your light has become darkness, how great is the darkness (cf. Matt. 6:23; 2 Cor. 4:4).

It is interesting that this verse is omitted in the Greek manuscript D (Bezae) and some Old Latin MSS, but present in all the older uncial manuscripts. The verse is present in Matt. 12:24 and Luke 11:15. The UBS4 rates its inclusion as "B" (almost certain).

▣ "by the ruler of the demons" The phrase referred to Satan (cf. Matt. 12:24-32, Mark 3:22, and Luke 11:15). The attitude of the Pharisees in denying Jesus' power and authority led them to the unpardonable sin of turning God's light into darkness!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 9:35-38
 35Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. 36Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. 37Then he said to His disciples, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 38Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest."

9:35-38 There are two possible ways of relating this summary statement (1) as a summary going back to 4:23 or (2) an introduction of the mission of the Twelve in Matthew 10.

9:35 "proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom" The kingdom of God was the focus of Jesus' first and last sermons and most of His parables. It apparently referred to the reign of God in men's hearts now that will one day be consummated over all the earth (cf. Matt. 6:10). See special topic at Matt. 4:17.

The term "gospel" (euangelion) is used in summary statements by Matthew in Matt. 4:23 and 9:35. It is used by Jesus in Matt. 24:14 and 26:13. The term becomes a standard way of referring collectively to the life, teaching, death, resurrection, second coming, and offer of salvation in Paul. Only in the second century does the term begin to denote the four written accounts on Jesus' life (i.e., Gospels, in Ireneaus and Clement of Alexandria).

9:36 "He felt compassion" It is comforting to know how caring Jesus the Messiah was (cf. Matt. 14:14; 15:32; 20:34) to the socially and religiously outcast. His compassion for them is expressed in these same terms in Luke 13:34.

▣ "like sheep without a shepherd" "Shepherd" was a common metaphor for religious leaders (cf. Num. 27:17; 1 Kgs. 22:17; Ezek. 34:1-16). It was sometimes used in the sense of false shepherds (cf. Ezek. 34; Zech. 11:5). Jesus is the good shepherd (cf. John. 10; Zech 11:7-14; 13:7-9).

9:37-38 God sees His world in an entirely different light than humans (cf. Isa. 55:8-9). Believers need to be praying for God to thrust or drive out laborers into His harvest field. Seeing the need does not constitute a call but, thank God, when we pray, God sometimes allows us to go! Notice that the world is seen as God's harvest field. This is His world. He loves it. He wants it redeemed (cf. John. 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Why do these same teachings seem to appear with different details and settings in the Synoptic Gospels?

2. What is the significance of Jesus' forgiving the sins of the paralytic man?

3. What is the theological significance of the term "Son of Man" ?

4. Why is it significant that Jesus ate with sinners and tax collectors?

5. What does Jesus say about fasting?

6. Why did the sick woman want to touch Jesus' clothing?

7. Describe an oriental funeral.

8. Why does Matthew consistently record two blind men or angels while Mark and Luke only record one?

9. Explain the difference between physical illness and demonic possession.

10. How did the Pharisees commit the unpardonable sin in Matt. 9:34?

11. What do verses 37 and 38 say about the heart of God?

 

Copyright © 2013 Bible Lessons International

Passage: 

Matthew 10

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Mission of Twelve The Twelve Apostles Commissioning and Instruction of the Twelve The Twelve Apostles The Mission of the Twelve
    (10:1-11:1)    
10:1-4 10:1-4 10:1-4 10:1-4 10:1
        10:2-5a
The Commissioning of the Twelve Sending Out the Twelve   The Mission of the Twelve  
10:5-15 10:5-15 10:5-15 10:5-10 10:5b-10
      10:11-15 10:11-16
Coming Persecutions Persecutions are Coming   Coming Persecutions The Missionaries Will Be Persecuted
10:16-23 10:16-26 10:16-23 10:16-20  
        10:17-20
      10:21-23 10:21-23
10:24-25   10:24-25 10:24-25 10:24-25
Whom to Fear Jesus Teaches the Fear of God   Whom to Fear Open and Fearless Speech
10:26-31   10:26-31 10:26-31 10:26-27
  10:27-31      
        10:28-31
Confessing Christ Before Men Confess Christ Before men   Confessing and Rejecting Christ  
10:32-33 10:32-33 10:32-33 10:32-33 10:32-33
Not Peace, But a Sword Christ Brings Division   Not Peace, But a Sword Jesus, the Cause of Dissension
10:34-39 10:34-39 10:34-39 10:34-36 10:34-36
        Renouncing Self to Follow Jesus
      10:37-39 10:37-39
Rewards A Cup of Cold Water   Rewards Conclusion of the Instruction
10:40-11:1 10:40-42 10:40-11:1 10:40-42 10:40
        10:41
        10:42

 

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

 

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

BACKGROUND TO MATTHEW 10:1-42

A. The newly chosen disciples are sent out on a mission trip which was foreshadowed in Matt. 9:37-38. Jesus also sent, at a later time, a larger group of seventy disciples (cf. Luke 10:1ff).

 

B. This passage is paralleled in Mark 3:14-16; 6:7-13; and Luke 9:1-6. There may have been several of these kinds of mission trips.

 

C. Jesus' message to the Twelve has three divisions marked off by the recurrent phrase "Truly, I say to you" Matt. 10:15,23,42.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 10:1
 1Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.

10:1 "twelve" This is the first time this number is stated, possibly corresponding to the twelve tribes of Israel. See Special Topic: The Number Twelve at Matt. 14:20.

▣ "disciples" This is literally "learners." The New Testament emphasizes disciples, not just decisions (cf. Matt. 28:19; Acts 14:21)! The Special Topic below addresses this theological distinction.

SPECIAL TOPIC: SALVATION (GREEK VERB TENSES)

▣ "gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out" Jesus empowered these followers with His power. They became His official representatives (i.e., Apostles). The physical miracles were a way of confirming Jesus' new message.

SPECIAL TOPIC: EXORCISM

"unclean spirits. . .heal every kind of disease" Notice a distinction is made between demon possession and disease. Demons can cause diseases, but not always.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE DEMONIC (UNCLEAN SPIRITS)

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 10:2-15
 2Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus; 4Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him. 5These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: "Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; 6but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7As you go, preach, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is at hand.'8Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons, freely you received, freely give. 9Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, 10or a bag for your journey, or even two coats, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support. 11 And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave that city. 12As you enter the house, give it your greeting. 13If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace. 14Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. 15Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city."

10:2 "the names of the twelve apostles" The term " apostle" (see note at Matt. 10:5) is used only in Matthew (here) and Mark (3:14) in connection with the list of the apostles'names, also once more in Mark 6:30. It is much more common in Luke and Acts.

1. Luke 6:13; 9:10; 11:49; 17:5; 22:14; 24:10

2. Acts

a. the Twelve, Acts 1:2,26; 2:37,42,43; 4:33,35,36,37; 5:2,12,18,29,40; 6:6; 8:1,14,18; 9:27; 11:1; 15:2,4,6,22,23; 16:4

b. other apostles (later use of the term)

(1) Paul, Acts 14:4,14 (equal authority with the Twelve)

(2) Barnabas Acts 14:14 (lesson authority)

The lists of the Apostles are found in Mark 3:16-19, Luke 6:12-16, and Acts 1:13-14. The names and order change slightly. However, they are always in three groups of four. Peter is always first and Judas Iscariot is always last. The groupings stay the same. These groupings were possibly a rotating system whereby certain disciples could go home for short periods to check on their families.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE CHART OF APOSTLES'NAMES

10:3 "Bartholomew" He was also called Nathaniel (cf. John. 1:45-51).

▣ "Matthew" He was also called Levi (cf. Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27).

▣ "Thaddeus" He was also called Judas, the son or brother of James (cf. Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13) or Lebbaeus (Greek MSS C2, L, and W).

10:4

NASB, NJB" Simon the Zealot"
NKJV"Simon the Canaanite"
NRSV"Simon the Canaanean"
TEV"Simon the Patriot"

He was also called "the Canaanean," which could refer to one from Cana (cf. Mark 3:18). However, the Greek reflects a Hebrew term "zealous." He was a Jewish patriot and separatist (cf. Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13). For Matthew and Simon to be in the same group shows the radical change that Jesus accomplished in these men's lives.

▣ "Iscariot" This term can mean a man from a city in Judah, Kerioth (from the Hebrew), or an assassin's knife (from the Greek). If he was from Judah, he was the only Apostle from the south.

▣ "the one who betrayed him" There is an interesting book that attempts to interpret Judas in a new, a more positive way, Judas, Betrayer or Friend of Jesus? by William Klassen, published by Fortress Press, 1996. However, to do so it completely ignores John's Gospel.

10:5 "sent" This was from the same Greek root as " apostle" (apostello, used in the LXX for God sending the prophets to speak for Him), which came to mean within rabbinical circles "sent one" with the implication of official authority. Mark 6:7 tells us Jesus sent the Apostles out in pairs.

▣ "do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans" This is probably the source of Paul's "Jew first and also the Greeks" (cf. Rom 1:16). This was not exclusivism, but limiting His emphasis so as to give Abraham's descendants every chance to respond.

The Jews hated the Samaritans because they were considered half-breeds. This referred to the Assyrian exile of the Northern Ten Tribes of Israel in 722 b.c. Thousands of Jews were deported to Media and thousands of Gentiles were exiled to take their place in Israel. Over the years an amalgamation of religion and social customs had occurred (cf. Ezra and Neh.). At this early stage of Jesus' ministry the inclusion of either of these groups would have negatively affected His ability to reach Jews!

10:6 "the lost sheep" This was an unusual combination of terms; "sheep" often referred to God's people (cf. John. 10), while " lost" implied their spiritual helplessness and vulnerability (cf. Matt. 9:36), especially if there is no shepherd (cf. Num. 27:17; 1 Kgs. 22:17; Ps. 119:176; Isa. 53:6; Zech. 13:7).

▣ "of the house of Israel" This was an idiomatic way of referring to the descendants of the Patriarchs. They are also known as

1. the house of Jacob (i.e., Luke 1:33, cf. Matt. 15:24; Acts 2:36; Heb. 8:8)

2. the house of Judah (i.e., Heb. 8:8)

3. children of Abraham (i.e., Matt. 3:9; John 8:33,39)

 

SPECIAL TOPIC: ISRAEL (THE NAME)

10:7 "as you go" This is a present active participle used as an imperative (cf. Matt. 28:19).

▣ "preach" This was a present imperative. This is a foreshadowing of (1) the mission trips of the Twelve and seventy and (2) the Great Commission of Matt. 28:18-20; Luke 24:46-47; Acts 1:8.

▣ "kingdom. . .is at hand" This was to be the content that they were to preach (cf. Matt. 3:2; 4:17; Mark 1:15; Luke 10:9,11; 11:20; 21:31). The kingdom is the reign of God in human's hearts now which will one day be consummated over all the earth (cf. Matt. 6:10). Although the disciples did not understand it yet (i.e., Luke 24:16,31), it began with the Incarnation of Christ (the Messiah) and will be consummated at the Second Coming of Christ. Initially Jesus and the disciples preached a message similar to John the Baptist's message. See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE KINGDOM OF GOD at Matt. 4:17.

10:8 "heal. . .raise. . .cleanse. . .cast out" These are all present imperatives (cf. Matt. 10:1). They went and ministered as Jesus ministered. His power and authority were flowing through them. These signs confirmed their message about Him.

The Greek manuscripts contain several variations of the phrase "raise the dead." This may be because (1) biblical records are lacking that the twelve Apostles did this, (2) it is metaphorical of the spiritually dead, and (3) Matthew used the other three verbs often without mentioning "raising the dead." See Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary On the Greek New Testament, pp. 27-28. The phrase is included in the uncial MSS א, B, C, D, N, and many versions.

▣ "lepers" In the OT the disease of leprosy was a sign of God's disfavor (cf. 2 Chr. 26:16-23).

▣ "cast out demons" Jesus' power is greater than Satan and the demonic (cf. 1 John. 4:4). The demons are designated by the terms " spirits," (cf. Matt. 8:16) and "unclean spirits," (cf. Matt. 10:1). The origin of demons is not disclosed in Scripture. The rabbis attribute the origin of evil in the world to Genesis 6 (Paul says it was Genesis 3, cf. Rom. 5:12-21). They assert that the "sons of God" (see Special Topic on Genesis 1-11 commentary online at www.freebiblecommentary.org) mentioned in Genesis 6 became disembodied at their death by the flood of Noah and became the demons of the NT period seeking another body.

▣ "freely you received, freely give" This is not a passage against salaries for missionaries, but rather encouraging believers to trust in God while doing Kingdom work in (1) His power, (2) His provisions, and (3) His purposes to be accomplished. These verses are not universal principles, but guidelines for this particular mission trip (cf. Luke 22:35-36). They are the practical application of Matt. 6:25-34 to the present situation.

10:9 "your money belts" This was how first century Jews carried their coinage.

10:10 "bag" This kind of bag functioned as a suitcase. The disciples were not to carry with them every thing they might need, but trust God's daily provision.

▣ "or even two coats, or sandals, or a staff" Comparisons with Mark 6:8-9 have caused great controversy. The theories are

1. " staff" could be used in two different senses: a walking stick or a defensive club

2. the two shirts of Matt. 10:10 imply "do not take extras of these items"

3. Luke 22:35-36 shows one harmonization

The Gospels were not written for us to compare the details. The key to this text is that believers are to trust in God for His provisions; rely on His resources!

▣ "for the worker is worthy of his support" Jesus is probably alluding to the truth of Deut. 25:4 (cf. 1 Cor. 9:6-7,14; 1 Tim. 5:18), which goes back to Deut. 24:14-15 (cf. Lev. 19:13). Gospel preachers are to be supported by their hearers! The NT guidelines for giving are not OT tithing, but voluntary, sacrificial, joyful, according to the ability (cf. 2 Corinthians 8-9). See SPECIAL TOPIC: TITHING at Matt. 23:23.

10:11

NASB"inquire who is worthy in it; and stay at this house until you leave that city"
NKJV"inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out"
NRSV"find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave"
TEV"Go in and look for someone who is willing to welcome you, and stay with him until you leave that place"
NJB"Seek out someone worthy and stay with him until you leave"

When they came to a village (1) they were to seek out a godly home which desired the blessing of their presence, and (2) they were not to move again and again seeking better accommodations. It is possible that the godly home would be one of the first that responded to their preaching.

10:12 "give it your greeting" This referred to the traditional Jewish blessing of peace, shalom.

10:13 "if. . .if" There are two third class conditional sentences which meant potential future action.

10:14 "shake the dust off your feet" This was a Jewish symbol of rejection (cf. Acts 13:51; 18:6).

10:15 This is one passage that implies degrees of judgment based on the amount of light that has been rejected (cf. Matt. 11:22-24). Also notice the same book which reveals God's matchless love also reveals God's wrath and judgment. See SPECIAL TOPIC: DEGREES OF REWARDS AND PUNISHMENTs at Matt. 5:12.

▣ "Truly" See Special Topic at Matt. 5:18.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 10:16-20
 16Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. 17But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; 18and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. 19But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. 20For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.

10:16 "I send you out as sheep" Sheep were a metaphor for the new faith community which was fragile, helpless, and in need of constant care and protection, see Luke 10:3 and John. 10. This the first of four metaphors from the animal kingdom that characterize humanity.

"in the midst of wolves" Wolves represented those who prey on the new community of faith, see Matt. 7:15-27; Luke 10:3; John. 10:12; Acts 20:29; 2 Peter 2.

▣ "shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves" Believers must be wise but innocent (cf. Rom. 16:19). They were to avoid conflict when possible, but remain bold proclaimers of the gospel.

10:17 "Because of. . ." This is a present active imperative (cf. Matt. 7:15; 16:6,11). Even with the dawn of the new age (Romans 5-6), the old age remains (Romans 7)! This is the tension of " the already" and the "not yet" of the overlapping (i.e., two comings of Christ) of the two ages. See Special Topic at Matt. 12:31.

"the courts" This referred to local Jewish synagogue courts (cf. Matt. 23:34). It is interesting to note that some of Mark's eschatological discourse (cf. Mark 13:9-13) of Jesus is repeated here instead of Matthew 24. Therefore, this mission assignment of the Disciples takes on eschatological implications (as does Matt. 10:23).

▣ "scourge" This referred to Jewish flogging (cf. Deut. 25:3), which consisted of one less than forty lashes, one-third on the front of the body and two-thirds on the back (cf. 2 Cor. 11:24).

▣ "in their synagogues" See parallel at Matt. 23:34. This was the local place of worship, education, and welfare relief.

10:18 "you will even be brought before governors and kings" This referred to the future universal spread of the gospel (cf. Matt. 28:18-20; Luke 24:46-47; Acts 1:8). It is important that the narrow exclusiveness of Matt. 10:5 be balanced by this verse. Gordon Fee (How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth, p. 133) makes the assertion that Matt. 10:5-12 relate to the sending out of the Twelve new apostles, but Matt. 10:10-20 are instructions for a much later time (i.e., governors, kings, Gentiles) because at first Jesus came only to the lost sheep of Israel. This illustrates how the Gospel writers "selected, rearranged, and adapted" Jesus' teachings to meet the needs of the early church.

Another example of this is Matt. 10:23 "until the Son of Man comes" (see note at Matt. 10:23). Obviously this could have several meanings depending on the historical period.

▣ "governors and kings" If this refers to (1) Jesus' day, then Pontius Pilate or (2) Paul's mission activities then

1. " governors" could be the Roman governors of Felix (Acts 23:24) or Festus (Acts 24:27)

2. " kings" could be Agrippa I (Acts 12:1) or Agrippa II (Acts 25:13)

They basically stand for governmental authority of any kind.

10:19 This speaks of special illumination and grace during persecution (cf. Mark 13:11; Luke 21:12). This is not a proof-text for preachers and teachers not studying before proclaiming! This verse and verse 26 are aorist subjunctives with the negative particle which meant never start an action. Verses 28 and 31, which also deal with fear, are present imperatives with the negative particle which usually meant stop an act in process.

10:20 "it is the Spirit of your Father" Here the Holy Spirit is linked to the Father (cf. Rom. 8:11,14). In Rom. 8:9; 2 Cor. 3:17; Gal. 4:6; and 1 Pet. 1:11 the Spirit is linked to the Son. There is a fluidity between the persons of the Trinity. They all participate in the acts of redemption. See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE TRINITY at Matt. 3:17.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 10:21-22
 21Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against his parents and cause them to be put to death. 22You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.

10:21 This speaks of the radical commitment necessary for discipleship which supersedes even family love and often caused confrontation within families (cf. Matt. 10:34-39).

10:22 "you will be hated by all because of My name" Persecution was expected for disciples of Jesus (cf. Matt. 5:10-12; John 15:18-21; 16:1-3; 17:14; Acts 14:22; Rom. 5:3-4; 8:17; 2 Cor. 4:16-18; 6:3-10; 11:23-30; Phil. 1:29; 1 Thess. 3:3; 2 Tim. 3:12; James 1:2-4; and all of 1 Peter.

SPECIAL TOPIC: WHY DO CHRISTIANS SUFFER?

▣ "it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved" The doctrine of the "perseverance" (see Special Topic below) is as biblical as "the security of the believers!" (cf. Matt. 24:13; Gal. 6:9; Rev. 2:7,11,17,26; 3:5,12; 21:7). We must affirm both truths, even though they cause doctrinal tension! Doctrines are given in tension-filled relationship to other doctrines, not isolated truths. The best illustration is that biblical truth is revealed as constellations of stars, not as single stars. We must focus on the patterns of the whole of biblical revelation.

"End" (telos) refers to the end of this age (cf. Matt. 24:6,13,14). "Saved" can be understood in its OT sense of physical deliverance or its NT sense of spiritual salvation.

SPECIAL TOPIC: PERSEVERANCE

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 10:23
 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."

10:23 "But, whenever they persecute you" This is missing in Luke, but has a parallel in Mark 9:1. See note and Special Topic at Matt. 10:22.

▣ "flee to the next" Believers must avoid conflict and confrontation when possible. Evangelism must be the constant goal!

▣ "Truly" See Special Topic at Matt. 5:18.

▣ "you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes" This was probably initially understood as

1. Jesus will rejoin the Twelve after their mission

2. Jesus asserts His authority in Jerusalem

3. inauguration of the church (i.e., Pentecost)

4. Jesus fulfilling His promises to them (i.e., upper room event of John 20:19-23)

5. the judgment on Jerusalem in a.d. 70 (NASB Study Bible, p. 1382)

6. Jesus' Second coming in power as Judge (i.e., Dan. 7:13-14), inaugurating the eternal kingdom

 

See Special Topic: the Any-Moment Return of Jesus vs. the Not-Yet (NT paradox) at Matt. 24:27.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 10:24-25
 24"A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. 25It is enough for the disciple that he 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 malign the members of his household!"

10:25 "if" This is a first class conditional sentence which is assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes.

▣ "Beelzebul" This was a compound term from Ba'al and Zebub. This was the local Ba'al of Ekron (cf. 2 Kgs. 1:16). The Jews changed the names of pagan rulers and pagan gods by changing the vowels, to make fun of them. The term can be translated as "Lord of the house," " Lord of the flies," or "Lord of the dung."

The second term was often spelled Zebul, the chief demon in Jewish folklore (cf. Matt. 12:24; Luke 11:15). This explains why NASB and NRSV have Beelzebul, while NKJV and NIV have Beelzebub.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 10:26-27
 26Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops.

10:26 "do not fear them" This is a negative aorist passive (deponent) subjunctive like Matt. 10:19 functioning as an aorist active imperative like Matt. 10:28 and 31. This construction meant "do not even start an action." This verse states that the motives and purposes of the human hearts, both positive and negative, will be known on Judgment Day.

It is difficult to relate the truth of this verse with the biblical promises that when God forgives, God forgets (cf. Ps. 103:11-14; Isa. 1:18; 38:17; 43:25; 44:22; Micah 7:19). Possibly unconfessed (believers, cf. 1 John 1:7-9) sin or unforgiven (unbelievers) sin is being referred to. I so rejoice in the "forgetfulness of God" ! Jesus' blood cleanses from all sin (cf. Hebrew 9)!

Believers are not to fear humans, but respect/fear God (cf. Matt. 10:28; Heb. 10:31).

Overall I think this verse refers to the motives and actions of

1. unworthy houses, Matt. 10:13

2. wolves, Matt. 10:16

3. evil men, Matt. 10:17

4. governors and kings, Matt. 10:18

5. brother, Matt. 10:21

6. child, Matt. 10:21

7. "they" of Matt. 10:23

8. "them" of Matt. 10:26

9. "those" of Matt. 10:28

 

10:27 "housetops" The flat rooftops common in Palestine were places of social activity; therefore, what was told would become public knowledge. Jesus wants His message known by all mankind!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 10:28-31
 28Do not fear 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. 29Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30But the very hairs of your head are numbered. 31So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.

10:28 "Do not fear" See notes at Matt. 10:26.

"to destroy" See Special Topic: Apollumi at Matt. 2:13.

▣ "soul and body" This verse does not refer to a sharp dichotomy between body, soul, and spirit, but is an expression of the possibility of physical death, but not eternal death for believers.

SPECIAL TOPIC: BODY AND SPIRIT

▣ "in hell" This was the Hebrew term "Gehenna." It was a compound of "valley" and "(sons of) Hinnom." This was a valley outside Jerusalem where a Canaanite fertility and fire god (cf. Lev. 18:21) was worshiped by sacrificing children (called molech). The Jews turned it into the garbage dump for Jerusalem. Jesus' metaphors of eternal punishment were taken from this burning, stinking, worm-infested dump. See Special Topic: Where Are the Dead? at Matt. 5:22.

10:29-30 "sparrows. . .hairs" God cares and knows about every aspect of believers'lives (cf. Luke 12:6; 21:18; 1 Pet. 5:7). This is a promise of individual (not corporate) concern.

▣ "a cent" This is literally "assarion," which was a Roman copper coin. One assarion could buy several sparrows.

10:31 "So do not fear" See note at Matt. 10:19 and 26.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 10:32-33
 32"Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. 33But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is heaven."

10:32 "who confesses Me before men" This meant " publicly acknowledge" (cf. Mark 8:38; Luke 12:8-9). Verses 32 and 33 are contrasting parallel statements. Christianity is a God-offered covenant that must be personally, publicly received, obeyed and maintained.

SPECIAL TOPIC: CONFESSION

▣ "My Father in heaven" There are several different pronouns used with Father.

1. your - Matt. 5:16,45; 6:1; 7:11

2. our - Matt. 6:9

3. My - Matt. 7:21; 10:32,33; 12:50

I think 12:50 is crucial, one who does the Father's will, as Jesus does, is part of the family. One who refuses is not part of the family. It must have been particularly irritating to the Jewish leaders of Jesus' day to hear Him, an unofficial rabbi and Galilean upstate, to use "Father" to refer to YHWH, the Holy One of Israel. Even more so to allow the outcast to be included in God's family!

10:33 The antonym of "confess" (homologeō, cf. Matt. 10:32 [twice]) is "deny" (arneomai, cf. Matt. 10:33 [twice]; Matt. 26:70,72 [aparneomai in Matt. 26:35,75]). See SPECIAL TOPIC: CONFESSION at Matt. 10:32 above.

This is a shocking verse, as is 2 Tim. 2:12. It must be remembered that public acknowledgment in word (cf. Rom. 10:9-13) and deed (cf. Matt. 13:1-23; 25:36-46) is crucial. The decisions made now relate to eternity (cf. Matt. 25:46).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 10:34-36
 34"Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36and a man's enemies will be the members of his household."

10:34 "Do not think" According to the Analytical Greek New Testament by Barbara and Timothy Friberg, this verb is an aorist active subjunctive used as an aorist active imperative.

Jesus was probably speaking these words against the backdrop of the Jewish expectations concerning the Messiah, who was called the "Prince of Peace" (cf. Isa. 9:6). The Jews expected the Messiah to usher in a military order and a nationalistic peace on the Jews'behalf (cf. Luke 12:49-53).

▣ "peace" This term's etymology was "to bring together that which was broken" (cf. John. 14:24).

▣ "I did not come to bring peace, but a sword" Jesus did not come to bring war or strife, but the fact that He has come forces humans to make a radical decision between "followship" or rejection (cf. John. 3:17; Luke 12:51-53).

10:35 "for I came to set a man against his father" See Matt. 10:21. The parallel in Luke 14:26 has the Hebrew idiom, "hate father," which was an idiom of comparison. We must recognize this as a Hebrew idiom instead of interpreting it literally (cf. Gen. 29:31, 33; Deuteronomy. 15; Mal. 1:2-3; John. 12:25). This speaks of a radical priority commitment to Jesus which supercedes all earthly ties.

10:35-36 This is a quote from Micah 7:6. This passage was often quoted in eschatological settings (cf. Mark 13:12 and Luke 12:53).

10:36 "a man's enemies will be the members of his household" A good example of this type of familial pressure can be seen in Peter's response to Jesus' claim to Messiahship (cf. Matt. 16:22).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 10:37-39
 37"He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it."

10:37 "He who loves. . .more than Me" The key here is radical priority commitment. Discipleship, unlike decision, is a life-long commitment of followship and obedience!

▣ "is not worthy of Me" See Luke 9:62.

10:38 "take his cross and follow after Me" This is a graphic metaphorical summons to total commitment to Christ for life. Jesus is demanding that possible followers count the cost (cf. Luke 14:25-35).

The cross was a Phoenician method of execution that was taken over by the Romans and developed into an ordeal involving several days of excruciating pain before death. Its purpose was to discourage non-Romans from criminal activity. There was a historical precedent of its use in Palestine:

1. Antiochus IV "Epiphanes" crucified eight hundred Pharisees

2. Varus, a Roman general, put down a revolt and crucified two thousand Jews along the highways of Palestine (cf. Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews 17:10:10)

3. Herod planned on crucifying many Pharisees at his death so that people would grieve

This metaphor does not refer to some particular problem in your life. It refers to death-death to self (cf. 2 Cor. 5:14-15; Gal. 2:20; 1 John. 3:16).

10:39 "life. . .life" This was the Greek term psuche. This term was often synonymous with "spirit" [pneuma]. In this context, however, it seems to refer to an individual person or self. This statement involved a radical crucifixion of self interest in light of Jesus' interest (cf. Matt. 10:39; 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24; 17:33; John. 12:25). Salvation involves far more than a decision or prayer. It demands one's all (possessions, family, reputation, time, and energy)! Nothing less will do!

"lose" See Special Topic: Apollumi at Matt. 2:13.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 10:40-42
 40"He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. 41He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. 42And whoever in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward."

10:40,41 "He who receives you receives Me. . .a prophet. . .a righteous man" The context seems to imply that Jesus is referred to personally by all three of these terms. The term "prophet" alludes to Deut. 18:15 and 18. The term "righteous man" equals "the Righteous One" of Acts 7:52 and possibly the Dead Sea Scrolls phrase "teacher of righteousness."

Jesus' radical new message was directed to those who would trust Him and His words. One must first repent and receive Him as their savior and hope. In so doing they become identified with the new spiritual kingdom of God. The disciple represents Jesus Himself and His message, therefore, whoever receives them and their message, receives Jesus and to receive Jesus is to receive the Father (cf. John 8:19; 16:3; 17:3; 1 John 2:23; 4:15; 5:1,10-12; 2 John 9). One cannot know or fellowship with the Father except through the Son (cf. John 14:6-7,8-11).

▣ "sent" See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: SEND (APOSTELLŌ)

10:42 "gives to one of these little ones" Loving help by one Christian should be given to another simply because they are both related to Jesus Christ. "Little ones" are not children, but new believers (cf. Matt. 18:6).

▣ "Truly" See Special Topic at Matt. 5:18.

▣ "reward" The Bible is replete with statements concerning the Christian's reward. These rewards are based on the Spirit's activity in believers and their yieldedness to His activity. However, in the bountiful grace of God believers will be rewarded for their Christ-like yieldedness and the effective operation of the Spirit working through their spiritual giftedness! See Special Topic at Matt. 5:12.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Why did Jesus limit Himself mostly to the Jews? Can you list the exceptions?

2. Why do Matthew, Mark, and Luke differ in their accounts of Jesus' life?

3. Are there degrees of reward and punishment? Based on what?

4. What is verse 23 referring to?

5. Why is public acknowledgment of faith in Jesus so important?

6. Why does Jesus cause such controversy?

7. What does it mean to take up one's cross and follow Him?

 

Copyright © 2013 Bible Lessons International

Passage: 

Matthew 11

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Messengers of John the Baptist John the Baptist Sends Messengers Narratives Illustrate the Authority Claimed by Jesus The Messengers from John the Baptist  
(10:40-11:1)   (11:2-15:50)    
  11:1-19   11:1 11:1
        The Baptist's Question; Jesus Commands him
11:2-15   11:2-6 11:2-3 11:2-6
      11:4-6  
    11:7-15 11:7-15 11:7-10
(10b)
        11:11-15
        Jesus Condemns his Contemporaries
11:16-19   11:16-19 11:16-19 11:16-19
(17)
Woes to Unrepentant Cities Woes to the Impenitent Cities   The Unbelieving Towns Lament Over the Lake-Towns
11:20-24 11:20-24 11:20-24 11:20-24 11:20
        11:21-24
Come to Me and Rest Jesus Gives True Rest   Come to Me and Rest The Good News Revealed to the Simple. The Father and the Son
11:25-30 11:25-30 11:25-27 11:25-26 11:25-27
      11:27 The Gentle Mastery of Christ
    11:28-30 11:28-30 11:28-30

 

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

 

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

BACKGROUND TO MATTHEW: 11:1-30

A. This chapter has often been described as unrelated stories, but the unifying factor seems to be the answer to the question, "Why was Jesus' ministry not more outwardly successful?"

 

B. John the Baptist is a central character in this chapter (cf. John. 1:6-8, 19-36). He was the last of the Old Testament prophets (cf. Matt. 11:9).

 

C. Isaiah lists several actions by which the Jews could recognize the Messiah, of whom John the Baptist was forerunner (i.e., Isa. 40:3; Mal. 3:1; 4:5b). These are the very actions of Jesus recorded in Matthew 8 and 9.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 11:1
 1When Jesus had finished giving instructions to His twelve disciples, He departed from there to teach and preach in their cities.

11:1 "When Jesus had finished giving instructions" This was a phrase which Matthew used to outline his book. It occurred at the end of Matthew's five literary units (cf. Matt. 7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1).

▣ "to teach and preach in their cities" This is Jesus' main mission, to communicate the gospel, not to heal (cf. Matt. 4:23; 9:35). Healing was meant to confirm and validate the gospel, not to become the focus of His ministry. Healing was a way to (1) show God's love; (2) show Jesus' power; and (3) fulfill OT prophecy about the Messiah (cf. Matt. 11:5).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 11:2-6
 2Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3and said to Him, "Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?" 4Jesus answered and said to them, "Go and report to John what you see: 5the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me."

11:2 "John, while imprisoned" John the Baptist was imprisoned in Machaerus (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews. 18.5.2), one of the fortresses of Herod Antipas. It is on the eastern side of the Dead Sea. Herod had imprisoned John for preaching against his marriage to Herod Phillip's former wife, Herodias. Antipas wooed her away from Phillip during a visit to Rome (cf. Josephus'Antiq. 18:5:2).

▣ "Christ" The term "Christ" equals the OT term Messiah which meant "an Anointed One." It was used in the sense of God's special call and equipping. In the OT, prophets, priests, and kings were anointed. Jesus fulfills all three of these anointed functions (cf. Heb. 1:1-3). King Cyrus of the Persian Empire, who was an unbeliever, was even called God's anointed (cf. Isa. 44:28; 45:1).

11:3 "Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else" This was a Messianic title (cf. Ps. 118:26; alluded to often, Matt. 21:9; 23:39; Mark 11:9; Luke 13:35; 19:38; John 6:14; 11:27; 12:13; and Heb. 10:37). See Special Topic at Matt. 8:20.

In Luke 1:15 John was filled with the Spirit, but he still had doubts. Several theories explain John's doubting.

1. John was discouraged because he was in prison

2. John Calvin says that this was his way of referring his disciples to Jesus

3. Jesus was not acting in the expected manner (cf. Matt. 3:7-12)

"Someone else" is the Greek term heteros which meant, in Classical Greek, "another of a different kind." John expected a message of judgment from the Messiah, instead Jesus offered salvation to all.

11:4-5 "Jesus answered and said to them" Verse 5 is a quote from Isaiah. It is debated whether it was from 26:19; 29:18,19; 35:5-6; or 61:1. It does emphasize the ministry of the Messiah as a ministry of compassion and the healing of the poor and outcast.

11:5 "Gospel" The noun form (euangelion, over 60 times in Paul's writings) is found in Matt. 4:23; 9:35; 24:14; and 26:13. The verb form (euangelizumai) is found only here in Matthew (not in John). This word describes the contents of Jesus' message, "good news." It includes the "bad news" of the sin and separation of all humans from God, but continues in the offer of forgiveness, restoration, and eternal salvation for all in faith in Christ. The good news of victory in the spiritual conflict!

11:6 This was a gentle rebuke of John's lack of faith. The Bible depicts its characters in both positive and negative ways. This shows its credibility. It was not propaganda, but true historical people and their feelings and faults!

Matthew chose to record this because it gets back to the major theological issue-who is Jesus?

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 11:7-15
 7As these men were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 8But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings'palaces! 9But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet. 10This is the one about whom it is written,
 Behold, I send My messenger ahead of You,
 Who will prepare Your way before You.'
 11Truly 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. 12From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force. 13For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

11:7 "A reed shaken by the wind" Notice the threefold parallelism, "what did you go out to see?" John was like Elijah; he fulfilled the predictions fo Mal. 3:1 and Isa. 40:3 (cf. Mark 1:2-3).

This may relate to (1) John's doubt which had just been expressed publicly in his question (i.e., Matt. 11:3) or (2) John's steadfast character and moral courage in denouncing sin (i.e., the Pharisees'and Herod's).

11:9 "and one who is more than a prophet" John was not the first gospel preacher, but the last OT prophet predicted by Isaiah and Malachi. It is difficult to compare OT prophets with NT prophets. OT prophets wrote Scripture, but not NT prophets. Some of the Apostles, like Paul, claimed to be a prophet, but not all. What then is the purpose of the NT gift? See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: NEW TESTAMENT PROPHECY

11:10 "this is the one about whom it is written" This is a quote from Mal. 3:1. It was a reference to a royal visit and the feverous preparation which preceded it. Mark 1:2-3 is a composite quote from Mal. 3:1 and Isa. 40:3. This same concept is found in Isa. 57:14; 62:10.

Matthew collects the life and teachings of Jesus to convince Jews that He is the Messiah (the Coming One). This is done by quoting many OT texts. They are introduced in a variety of ways.

1. a prophet is unnamed or alluded to

a. the prophet, Matt. 1:22 (unnamed, Isa. 7:14)

b. the prophet, Matt. 2:5 (unnamed, Micah 5:2

c. the prophet, Matt. 13:35 (unnamed, Ps. 78:2)

d. the prophet, Matt. 21:4 (unnamed, Isa. 62:11)

2. a prophet is named

a. Isaiah -- Matt. 3:3; 4:14; 12:17; 13:14; 15:7

b. Jeremiah -- Matt. 2:18; 27:9

3. it is written (perfect passive), Matt. 4:6,10; 11:10; 21:13; 26:24,31

4. God said, Matt. 15:4; 22:31

5. have you not read, Matt. 19:4; 21:16,42

6. Moses said, Matt. 22:24

7. David in the Spirit, Matt. 22:43

Jesus' birth, life, death, resurrection, and return were fulfillments of OT prophecy (cf. Matt. 26:54-56).

11:11 "Truly" This is literally "amen," the Hebrew word for faith (cf. Hab. 2:4). Its original etymology meant "to be firm" or "to be sure." It was often used initially by Jesus to introduce a significant statement. See Special Topic at Matt. 5:18.

▣ "among those born of women" This verse is not a put down of John the Baptist, but an affirmation that he was the last of the OT prophets (cf. Matt. 13:16, 17). In a sense this was Jesus' way of affirming the significance of the new age (New Covenant, Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-38), inaugurated by Himself.

11:12

NASB, NKJV,
NRSV" the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force"
TEV" the Kingdom of heaven has suffered violent attacks, and violent men try to seize it"
NJB"The Kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence and the violent are taking it by storm"

There has been much discussion about what this verse meant and how it should be translated. The first phrase can (1) in a positive sense, indicate that the kingdom of heaven is vigorously pressing forward, or (2) in a negative sense, refer to the violent reaction of the Jewish leaders to both John and Jesus' preaching.

The second phrase seems to be a play on the word " vigorous" and was used of sinners eagerly grasping, or responding to, the gospel (cf. Luke 16:16). The Septuagint uses this verb in the sense of a "strong invitation" (cf. Gen. 33:11; Jdgs. 19:7). See Special Topic: The Kingdom of God at Matt. 4:17.

11:13 "for all the prophets and Law" The Hebrew canon was divided into three sections, "the Law," " the Prophets," and "the Writings." This was the NT way of indicating the entire OT (cf. Luke 24:44). The OT pointed toward Jesus and the gospel.

SPECIAL TOPIC: HEBREW CANON

11:13 "until John" This seems to imply that the old covenant comes to an end (cf. Galatians 3 and the book of Hebrews) with the preaching of John the Baptist, who was the last old covenant prophet. Something radically new has come in Jesus. John is His forerunner! The new age of the Spirit; the new covenant; the promise of Gen. 3:15; 12:3 has come!

11:14 "if" This is a first class conditional sentence which is assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes.

▣ "John himself is Elijah who was to come" This is implied in Luke 1:17. In John. 1:20-25, John denied that he was Elijah, but this was in the context of the specific questioning by the Pharisees. John was denying that he was Elijah reborn. Jesus asserted that John fulfilled the prophecy of the return of Elijah before the Messiah from Mal. 3:1 and 4:5, (cf. Matt. 11:10).

11:15 "He who has ears to hear, let him hear" This idiom (present participle and present imperative) refers to the fact that unless the Holy Spirit aids believers'insight they cannot understand spiritual truth (cf. Isa. 6:9-10; 50:5; Matt. 13:9,43; Mark 4:9,23; Luke 8:8; 14:35; very similar to Rev. 2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22; 13:9). However, it also implies that the willingness of the individual to hear and respond is also necessary. Revelation involves a divine sender and a human hearer/responder (i.e., covenant).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 11:16-19
 16"But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places, who call out to the other children, 17and say, 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.'18For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon.'19The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!'Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds."

11:16 "like children sitting in the market place" This is paralleled in Luke 7:31-32. Even though John the Baptist came as an ascetic (i.e., a prophet from the desert, like Elijah), the Jews rejected him. Jesus came as one who readily associated with humans of all social levels and yet they rejected Him too. This either speaks of the fickleness of the Jewish leaders or shows their preconceived biases.

11:17 "We played the flute for you, and you did not dance" This social approach referred to the way Jesus interacted with people (cf. Matt. 11:19). The flute could be used for dancing (Matt. 11:17a) at both a party or a funeral (Matt. 11:17b).

▣ "we sang a dirge, but you did not mourn" This somber approach referred to the ministry of John the Baptist (cf. Matt. 11:18).

11:18 "He has a demon" This same charge is made against Jesus in Matt. 9:34 and 12:24 (cf. John. 7:20; 8:48-49,52; 10:20). This is the only text that accuses John of having a demon. The Jews could not deny the power of either John or Jesus, but claimed that their source of authority and power was the evil one. This, ultimately, is the unpardonable sin.

11:19 "The Son of Man" This was Jesus' self-chosen title because it had no militaristic nor nationalistic implications. It combined the human and divine aspects of Christ's nature (cf. Ezek. 2:1; Ps. 8:4; Dan. 7:13). The combination of aspects became a crucial NT truth (cf. 1 John 4:13).

▣ "a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners" Jesus acted in a very unexpected way. He befriended the same people the religious leaders rejected (cf. Matt. 9:11; Luke 5:30; 7:34; 15:2). This fulfills the Messianic predictions of Isaiah.

Religious legalism and asceticism have been such a spiritual/theological struggle for the church that I would like to quote a brief section from New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, vol. 1, p. 495.

"Viewed as a whole, however, asceticism in the sense of renunciation of possessions, sexual activity, and food-restrictions is not generally enjoined by the teaching of Jesus in the Gospels. This does not mean that renunciation by a particular person in a concrete situation is excluded (cf. the story of the rich young ruler, Matt. 19:21). It is only that from such passages (cf. Matt. 11:19; 9:14ff; Mk. 2:18f; Lk. 5:33ff.), one cannot deduce a basic attitude on the part of Jesus, just as one cannot deduce his will for the overall validity of an ascetic ethic. Renunciation is only demanded where something stands in the way of following Jesus."

11:19

NASB, NRSV"Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds"
NKJV"But wisdom is justified by her children"
TEV"God's wisdom, however, is shown to be true by its results"
NJB"Yet wisdom has been proved right by her actions"

The mention of "wisdom" alludes to Proverbs 8, where it is personified. Jesus is that personification. An example of this imagery is seen in Matt. 12:42, where Jesus is greater than the wisdom of Solomon (also note He is greater than the temple, Matt. 12:6 and greater than Jonah, Matt. 12:41). Even Jesus' use of "yoke" in Matt. 11:29 may be a reference to wisdom teachings.

There is a Greek manuscript variation here. By her " deeds" is found in the ancient Greek uncial manuscripts א, B, and W, while " children" is found in the Corrector of Vaticanus B2, C, D, K, and L. " Children" is the parallel in Luke 7:35 and seems to be added here by scribes to make the passages agree. "Deeds" may refer to Matt. 11:2. The UBS4 gives " deeds" a "B" rating (almost certain). The same truth is expressed in the phrase " by their fruits you shall know them" (cf. Matt. 7:16,20; 12:33). This is true of Jesus and of all people. The acts of Jesus in Matthew 8-9 revealed to those who would see that He was the promised Messiah (cf. Isa. 29:18-19; 35:5-6; 61:1-2).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 11:20-24
 20Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. 21"Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, 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 in the day of judgment than for you. 23And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. 24Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you."

11:20-24 "He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done" This showed the universal truth that to whom much is given, much is required (cf. Luke 12:48). The cities of Jesus' day are compared with the OT cities. They had seen His miracles and heard His teachings. Nineveh had repented at the preaching of Jonah, while Tyre, Sidon, Sodom, and Gomorrah did not, yet the Galilean cities of Jesus' day had much greater light by which to respond. Those who have greater light are more responsible!

Jesus' comments were introduced by "woe" (cf. Matt. 18:7; 23:13,15,16,23,25,27,29; 24:19; 26:24). This was one of the three usual literary forms by which the OT prophets communicated their messages (promise oracle, court scene, and funeral dirge or lament). This form represented a funeral dirge (lament).

▣ "repent" Repentance is a turning from sin and self, the negative aspect of salvation, while faith is a turning to God in Christ, the positive aspect of salvation (cf. Mark 1:15; Acts 3:16, 19; 20:21). By combining the meanings of the Greek and Hebrew words, the meaning of repentance is a change of mind followed by a change of action. Repentance is more than feelings (cf. 2 Cor. 7:8-11). It must result in a lifestyle change. See complete note at Matt. 4:17.

11:21,23 "if" This is a second class conditional sentence which is called "contrary to fact," a false statement is made to show the false premise drawn from it.

11:21 "Chorazin" This shows our limited knowledge of the works of Jesus, for we have no Gospel record of Jesus' miracles in this town. We must remember that the Gospels are selected theological truths to reveal Jesus to selected audiences (i.e., Jews, Romans, Gentiles), and not western histories (cf. John. 20:30-31).

▣ "Bethsaida" There were two Bethsaidas. One was somewhere close to Capernaum and one at the place where the Jordan River flowed into the Sea of Galilee.

▣ "if" This is a second class conditional sentence , see note at Matt. 11:23.

▣ "Tyre and Sidon" Tyre and Sidon were OT types of sinful, prideful nations or mankind. The phrase found in Matt. 11:23 related this to Isa. 14:13-15 and Ezek. 28:12-16. In these verses the pride of the Kings of Babylon and Tyre were used as examples of the pride of Satan.

▣ "in sackcloth and ashes" In context this may refer to a sign of repentance (cf. Jonah 3:5-8).

SPECIAL TOPIC: GRIEVING RITES

11:22 There are degrees of both reward and punishment based on the amount of light to which the hearers have been exposed (cf. Luke 12:47, 48; Matt. 10:15). See Special topic at Matt. 5:12.

11:23 "And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you" This grammatical construction expects a "no" answer. This may be an allusion to Isa. 14:13-14 and Ezek. 28:2,5-6,17, which magnifies the pride of the kings of Babylon and Tyre.

▣ "descend to Hades" This may be an allusion to Isa. 14:15 or Ezek. 26:20; 28:8; 31:14; 32:18,24. This referred to the realm of the dead (cf. Luke 16:23) in Hebrew Sheol. According to the rabbis, there was a righteous part, called Paradise and a wicked part, called Tartarus. This may be true. Jesus' words to one of the criminals crucified with Him in Luke 23:43 seem to imply a righteous part of Hades because Jesus did not return to heaven until Pentecost. At Jesus' resurrection He took the righteous part of Hades (Sheol) to be with Him. Therefore, Paul can now say in 2 Cor. 5:8b that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Be careful not to combine the concepts of Hades and Gehenna. They are distinct in the New Testament. See SPECIAL TOPIC: Where Are the Dead? at Matt. 5:22.

▣ "if" This is a second class conditional sentence which is called "contrary to fact" (as was Matt. 11:21). This should then be translated, "If the miracles had occurred in Sodom, which occurred in you (but they did not), then it would have remained to this day, (which it did not)."

11:24 "the land of Sodom" The word "land" may be the Aramaic phrase for "the city." Modern archaeologists believe this OT city was located on the southern end of the Dead Sea.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 11:25-27
 25At that time Jesus said, "I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants. 26Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. 27All 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."

11:25 In Luke 10:21 these words of Jesus are spoken after the return of the mission of the seventy. Remember the Gospels are not necessarily in chronological order! See Gordon Fee and douglas Stuart, How To Read the Bible For All Its Worth, pp. 127-148.

▣ "I praise You" This compound term in this context can mean to make open avowal (cf. Matt. 3:6; Phil. 2:11), to praise, or to celebrate. This same Greek term translated the Hebrew term for "praise" in the Septuagint. The Aramaic possibly meant "openly agree."

▣ "Lord of heaven and earth" This is a Hebraic idiom for physical creation. This affirms God as creator of all things. Interestingly, John, John 1:3,10; Paul, 1 Cor. 8:6, Col. 1:16; and the author of Hebrews, Heb. 1:2; 2:10, assert that Jesus is the Father's agent in creation.

▣ "You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants" This is a Semitic idiom meaning the things that all humans, not just the religious or worldly elite, can know about God. "Infants" referred to new believers (cf. Matt. 18:6). It is still surprising that the Jewish religious leaders who knew the OT did not recognize Jesus and put their faith in Him (cf. Romans 9). Isaiah 50:5 must occur before the result of sin (Isa. 6:9-10) can be reversed!

11:26 "for this was well-pleasing in Your sight" This is a Hebrew idiom for "it was God's will" (cf. Luke 10:21).

11:27 "all things have been handed over to Me by My Father" This was a strong affirmation of Jesus' self-understanding and sense of unique authority given very early in His ministry (cf. Matt. 28:18, John 3:35; 13:3; Eph. 1:20-22, Col. 1:16-19; 2:10, and 1 Pet. 3:22). Jesus makes such strong statements about Himself (i.e., John 10:1-18; 14:1-24). He cannot be a great teacher, a religious genius! He is either the incarnated Son of God or a lunatic or a liar! There is no middle ground here! The NT is true or Christianity is a lie (cf. 1 Cor. 15:12-19). You must decide!

This verse sounds like John's Gospel (cf. John 3:35; 10:15; 13:3; 17:2). Yet this same truth is repeated in Matt. 28:18.

▣ "nor does anyone know the Father" The intensified term "know," used twice, meant full, complete, and personal knowledge (i.e., epiginoskō). No one knows the Father but the Son (cf. John. 1:18; 17:25; 1 John 5:1-12).

▣ "and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him" This is not a proof-text for Jesus choosing some and not choosing others. Verse 28 shows that God, by choosing Christ, chose all humans (cf. John 3:16; 4:42; 1 Tim. 2:4; Titus 2:11; 2 Pet. 3:9; 1 John 2:1; 4:14). It also asserts that Jesus is the ultimate revelation of the invisible, eternal God (cf. John 1:1,18; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3). He is the only way (1) to know the Father (cf. John 1:18; 3:11) and (2) to the Father (cf. John 10:1-9; 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Tim. 2:5)!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 11:28-30
 28"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

11:28-30 These verses are unique to Matthew. Verse 28 affirms the doctrine of justification, while verse 29 affirms progressive sanctification.

SPECIAL TOPIC: NEW TESTAMENT HOLINESS/SANCTIFICATION

11:28 "Come to Me" "Come" is an adverb used as an aorist active imperative. It denotes an immediate faith response to Jesus Himself and His radical new covenant message. Notice the emphasis was on personal relationship, not on doctrinal content or ritual only. This same truth was repeated often in the Gospel of John.

▣ "weary" This is a present active participle. The terms "weary" and "heavy-laden" in this verse describe hard labor. They are synonymous.

▣ "heavy-laden" This is a perfect passive participle. These two terms related culturally to the heavy obligations of rabbinical Judaism (cf. Acts 15:10). This same idea is expressed by the Hebrew idiom "yoke" (cf. Matt. 11:29,30; Matt. 23:4; Luke 11:46). This was also used metaphorically for the Oral Tradition of the Jews (Talmud), which had become such a burden that it separated mankind from God rather than bringing them to Him. Judaism had become a barrier instead of a bridge!

The new covenant in Jesus has requirements just like the old covenant. However, they do not bring us to God and make us acceptable. They become the natural result of knowing Him in Christ. God still wants a righteous people who reflect His character to the world. I usually state the NT requirements as

1. repentance

2. faith

3. obedience

4. perseverance

 

▣ "I will give you rest" This is an emphatic grammatical construction. Jesus was saying, "I, myself, will lead you into rest." " Rest" did not refer to perpetual inactivity, but to a time of refreshment and training so as to move out into useful service for Christ. This concept of a rest goes back to the seventh day rest of Genesis 1. For a good discussion of the different ways this term was used in the OT see Hebrews, Matthew 3 and 4.

11:29 "learn" This is an aorist active imperative. It is etymologically related to the word " disciples" found in Matt. 11:1. Believers are commanded to learn and mature.

▣ "I am gentle and humble" These were not virtues in the Greek world, but Jesus made attitude the key. Humility and gentleness became the catch-words of the new kingdom of God.

11:30 "for My yoke is easy and My burden is light" There are new covenant tasks to be performed. Faith and repentance in Jesus' name are the first step; the second is obedience and maturity; the third is perseverance. Jesus changed the burdensome task of the Pharisees (cf. Matt. 23:4; Luke 11:46) into a life of gratitude and service in His name (cf. 1 John 5:3).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Why did John the Baptist doubt that Jesus was the promised coming Messiah?

2. Why did Jesus say that John the Baptist was not in the new kingdom of God?

3. How does verse 17 apply to Jesus and John the Baptist?

4. Will there be degrees of punishment?

5. Does Jesus invite all men to come unto Him or just certain chosen ones?

6. Define the terms "burden" and "yoke" in their cultural/religious setting.

 

Copyright © 2013 Bible Lessons International

Passage: 

Matthew 12

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Plucking Grain on the Sabbath Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath Jesus and the Sabbath Laws The Question About the Sabbath Picking Corn on the Sabbath
12:1-8 12:1-8 12:1-8 12:1-2 12:1-8
      12:3-8  
The Man with a Withered Hand Healing on the Sabbath   The Man with a Crippled Hand Cure of the Man with a Withered Hand
12:9-14 12:9-14 12:9-14 12:9-10 12:9-14
      12:11-13a  
      12:13b-14  
The Chosen Servant Behold My Servant Work of Healing God's Chosen Servant Jesus the 'Servant of Yahweh'
12:15-21
(18-21)
12:15-21 12:15-21 12:15-21 12:15-21
(18-21)
Jesus and Beelzebul A House Divided Cannot Stand Sources of Jesus' Power Jesus and Beelzebul Jesus and Beelzebul
12:22-32 12:22-30 12:22-32 12:22-23 12:22-24
      12:24  
      12:25-28 12:25-28
      12:29 12:29
      12:30-32 12:30-32
  The Unpardonable Sin      
  12:31-32      
A Tree and Its Fruits A Tree Known by Its Fruits   A Tree and Its Fruit Words Betray the Heart
12:33-37 12:33-37 12:33-37 12:33-35 12:33-37
      12:36-37  
Demand for a Sign The Scribes and Pharisees Ask for a Sign Request for a Sign The Demand for a Miracle The Sign of Jonah
12:38-42 12:38-42 12:38-42 12:38 12:38-42
      12:39-42  
The Return of the Unclean Spirit An Unclean Spirit Returns The Return of the Unclean Spirit The Return of the Evil Spirit The Return of the Unclean Spirit
12:43-45 12:43-45 12:43-45 12:43-45 12:43-45
The Mother and Brothers of Jesus Jesus' Mother and Brothers Send for Him Jesus' True Family Jesus' Mother and Brothers The True Kinsman of Jesus
12:46-50 12:46-50 12:46-50 12:46-47 12:46-50
      12:48-50  

 

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

 

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

BACKGROUND TO MATTHEW 12:1-50

A. Matthew 12 describes the growing opposition (cf. Matt. 11:12) by the Jewish religious leaders, particularly the Pharisees, to Jesus because of His violation of the oral tradition (i.e., the "Talmud"). There is both a Babylonian and a Palestinian Talmud. The Palestinian was never finished, so the Babylonian became the more authoritative of the two.

 

B. Matthew 12 relates to 11:28-30 which describes the oral tradition in terms of a "burden" and a "yoke." Jesus' yoke is easy and light and brings rest, but not so the elaborate ceremonial and legal rules of the Pharisees.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 12:1-8
 1At 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. 2But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him, " Look, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath." 3But He said to them, "Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions, 4how 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? 5Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent? 6But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here. 7But if you had known what this means, "I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice,'you would not have condemned the innocent. 8For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."

12:1 "At that time" Often the Gospel writers used this (and other) time designations as a way to move to a new topic or event, not a pure temporal indicator (cf. Matt. 11:25; 12:1; Luke 10:21; 13:1; Acts 7:20; 12:1; 19:23).

▣ "Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath" The Talmud taught that any journey over 2,000 paces on the Sabbath was considered work and therefore not permitted. It is interesting that the crowds, along with the Pharisees and the Scribes, were following Jesus on the Sabbath; therefore, they also were guilty of breaking this Sabbath law. For a full discussion of the origin and theology of the Pharisees, see note at Matt. 22:15.

The Gospel writers had to choose certain events and teachings from all that Jesus said and did (cf. John 20:30-31) to reveal the new covenant and His Messianic person and work. It almost seems that these writers chose these Sabbath encounters to illustrate how Jesus confronted and dealt with the religious leaders, sects, and traditions of the Talmud. Jesus' good news was different from the legalism and ritualism of Jewish traditions (cf. Matt. 5:21-48).

▣ "Sabbath"

SPECIAL TOPIC: SABBATH

▣ "began to pick the heads of grain and eat" Normally this was legally allowed (cf. Deut. 23:25). The problem was that it occurred on the Sabbath (cf. Exod. 34:21). From the other Synoptic Gospels we learn that the disciples were hungry. Technically according to the rabbis, they were guilty of several offenses: (1) harvesting, (2) processing, (3) preparing food on the Sabbath and (4) all of this with ceremonially unclean hands.

12:3 "Have you not read what David did when he became hungry" Jesus' phrasing affirms the inspiration of the OT (cf. Matt. 5;17-19). For the historical event see 1 Samuel 21:1ff.

12:4 "the house of God" Verse 4 is a historical allusion to the tabernacle (cf. Exodus 25-30) of David's younger days. But it must also refer to the late temple built by Solomon (cf. Matt. 12:6). YHWH symbolically dwelt between the wings of the cherubim over the ark of the covenant. Genesis 1 may be YHWH's cosmic temple (see John L. Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One).

NASB"the consecrated bread"
NKJV"the showbread"
NRSV"the bread of the promise"
TEV"the bread offered to God"
NJB"the loaves of the offering"

This referred to "the Showbread" or "the Bread of the Presence" which was placed on the table in the Holy Place of the Tabernacle and later the temple (each weighing over 12 pounds). This seems to have symbolized YHWH's provision and care for His people, not food for YHWH! It was unleavened which linked back to the Exodus (cf. Gen. 15:12-21). They became weekly nourishment exclusively for the priests (cf. Lev. 24:5-9; Exod. 25:30). These twelve loaves were replaced every week. However, under the special conditions of 1 Samuel 21, David was allowed to eat them.

12:5 "the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent" The Sabbath was a work day for the priests (cf. Num. 28:9-10). The verb "break" is literally "treat as common." It is found only here and Acts 24:6. The pronominal form is in 1 Tim. 1:9.

12:6 "But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here" Some manuscripts have the masculine " someone" (cf. NKJV), but the most attested ancient reading is neuter, "some thing" (cf. NASB, NRSV, TEV, JB). This seems to refer to the Kingdom of God, a veiled Messianic reference (cf. Matt. 12:28, 41-42). This must have been a shocking statement to these Jews.

Jesus is greater than:

1. the temple, Matt. 12:6

2. Jonah, Matt. 12:41

3. Solomon, Matt. 12:42

4. Jacob, John 4:12

5. John the Baptist, John 5:36

6. Abraham, John 8:53

7. Scripture, Matt. 5:21-48; Mark 7:18-19

 

12: 7 "if you had known what this means" This is a second class conditional sentence called "contrary to fact." Its inference is "If you had known (but you did not), then you would not have condemned the innocent (but you did)."

▣ "I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice"This is a quote from Hosea 6:6. It was an example of the preaching of the eighth century prophets, which emphasized attitude over ritual (cf. Mic. 6:6-8).

To clarify this theological issue I have included my comments from Hosea 6:6.

" I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice" God looks at the heart! Motive is the key (cf. Jer. 9:24)! This is one of the key theological passages in the book (cf. Hos. 8:7; 11:12). "Loyalty" is the same as Hos. 6:4, but here it is true covenant love/loyalty. Jesus used this concept in His discussion with the Pharisees in Matt. 9:13; 12:7. This does not imply that God wanted them to stop sacrificing, but to be careful to have the right motive (cf. 1 Sam. 15:22; Isa. 1:11-13; Jer. 7:21-23; Amos 5:21-24; Micah 6:6-8). For a good discussion see Hard Sayings of the Bible, pp. 207-208, 294-295). The sacrificial system was a way to show the seriousness of the sin and the willingness of God to accept sinners into fellowship with Himself. However, when it was turned into ritual without repentance and faith, it became a farce, a barrier to a true interpersonal relationship with God."

12:8 "For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath" This must have been a great shock to the Jews who had made circumcision and Sabbath keeping almost ultimate (cf. Mark 2:27). Jesus illustrates this truth in His reinterpretations of Moses (cf. Matt. 5:20-48). When people raise anything or anyone to the place of ultimate allegiance instead of God Himself (or His Messiah), they become idolaters. For the title "Son of Man" see note at Matt. 8:20.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 12:9-14
 9Departing from there, He went into their synagogue. 10And 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 accuse Him. 11And 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? 12How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath." 13Then He said to the man, " Stretch out your hand!" He stretched it out, and it was restored to normal, like the other. 14But the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.

12:10 "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath" This question is never dealt with in the OT, but the ultimacy of the Sabbath had become part of the Oral Tradition by which the rabbis of old interpreted the OT texts (i.e., healing on the Sabbath only to save a life). The focus was on human rules (cf. Isa. 29:13), not human need!

▣ "And a man was there whose hand was withered" From the apocryphal "Gospel of Hebrews" we learn the tradition that the man was a mason and that it was his right hand that was withered. Therefore he was unable to work.

12:11 "sheep" This is one of many examples of where the Oral Tradition had become a burden instead of a joy. Sheep had become worth more than humans (cf. Matt. 12:12).

▣ "if" This is a third class conditional sentence which denoted potential action.

12:12 Jesus uses the question/answer format to dialog with his challengers (cf. Matt. 9:5; 12:12; 21:25; even disciples, Mark 8:17-18).

12:14 "the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him" From Mark 3:6 we learn that the consultation was held between the Herodians and the Pharisees, who were traditional enemies (politics and religion).

▣ "as to how they might destroy Him" These leaders saw themselves as YHWH's defenders! It is amazing that the religious leaders saw no conflict in their premeditated murder compared to Jesus' supposed ritual and Sabbath breaking (cf. Matt. 26:4; Luke 6:11; John. 11:53).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 12:15-21
 15But Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. Many followed Him, and He healed them all, 16and warned them not to tell who He was. 17This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet:
18"Behold, My Servant whom I have chosen;
 My Beloved in whom My soul is well-pleased;
  I will put My Spirit upon Him,
  And He shall proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
  19He will not quarrel, nor cry out;
  Nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets.
  20A battered reed He will not break off,
  And a smoldering wick He will not put out,
  Until He leads justice to victory.
  21And in His name the Gentiles will hope."

12:15 "aware of this" It is difficult to ascertain the source of Jesus' knowledge.

1. over heard

2. knew the human heart

3. informed by the Spirit

This question cannot be answered because of Jesus' unique combination of the human and the divine (i.e., incarnation).

▣ "and He healed them all" There is such power, compassion, and fulfilled OT prophecy expressed in this phrase. Jesus cared for people, all people. It must be remembered that physical healing, even exorcism, did not automatically involve spiritual restoration or salvation.

The verses that speak of Jesus' healing ministry express the extent of it in different ways.

1. sometimes they say "all," (cf. Matt. 8:16; 12:15; Luke 4:40; Acts 10:38)

2. sometimes they say every "kind," not every "one" (cf. Matt. 4:23; 9:23)

3. sometimes they say "many" not "all" (cf. Mark 1:34; 3:10; Luke 7:21)

4. often they imply that He healed all (cf. Matt. 14:14; 15:30; 19:2; 21:14)

 

12:16 "and warned them not to tell who He was" This is related to the Messianic secret (esp. of Mark's ospel). Jesus implored people not to share His miracles, but to share His message which was still in process. The gospel was not yet finished. This Messianic secret was a common theme of the Synoptics (cf. Matt. 8:4; 9:30; 17:9; Mark 1:44; 3:12; 5:43; 7:36; 8:30; 9:9; Luke 4:41; 8:56; 9:21). Jesus did not want to be known as just another itinerant healer!

12:17 "Isaiah the prophet" Verses 18-21 are a quote from Isa. 42:1ff. It does not exactly follow the Masoretic Hebrew text or the Greek Septuagint. It clearly showed Jesus' Messianic consciousness.

12:18-21 This is a quote from Isa. 42:1-4 (but not the LXX), which is the first of the "Servant Songs" of Isaiah.

Notice the characteristics of the Coming One which are being displayed in Jesus.

1. called

a. My (YHWH) Servant

b. whom I have chosen

c. My Beloved

d. in whom My (YHWH) Soul id well-pleased

2. YHWH's Spirit upon Him 

3. proclaim justice to the Gentiles

4. personal characteristics

a. will not quarrel

b. will not cry out

c. will not hear His voice in the streets

5. personal actions

a. will not break the battered reed

b. will not put out the smoldering wick

c. will lead justice to victory

d. in His name Gentiles will hope

 

12:18 "My Servant"This was a special honorific title (cf. Acts 3:13) used of Moses, Joshua, and David in the OT. Because of the special poems in Isa. 42:1-9; 49:1-7; 50:4-11; 52:13- 53:12, called "the Servant Songs," it took on Messianic connotations. This Messianic element climaxes in Isa. 52:13-53:12, the "Suffering Servant." The Jews of Jesus' day did not expect a suffering Messiah but a supernaturally empowered military Messiah. This explains why the Jewish leaders did not accept Jesus' message (even John the Baptist did not understand, cf. Matt. 11:3).

The Jews have always understood these Servant Songs to refer to the nation of Israel and this is surely true (cf. Isa. 41:8; 42:1,19; 43:10; 49:3-6). However these songs are individualized into one ideal righteous Israelite (cf. Isa. 52:14 (LXX), 15 (LXX); 53:1-12). Israel had failed (cf. Isa. 42:19; 53:8) in her world mission task (cf. Gen. 12:3; Exod. 19:5-6) because of continued violations of the Mosaic Covenant (cf. Lev. 26; Deut. 27-28). Therefore, instead of blessing, all the world saw was the judgment of God. Therefore, YHWH Himself had to enact a new covenant focusing on His actions and faithfulness (cf. Ezek. 36:22-38).

▣ "My Beloved in whom My soul is well-pleased" This phrase was also used at the baptism and the Transfiguration of Jesus (cf. Matt. 3:17; 17:5). The Father was pleased with the ministry of the Son. This title combines the royal emphasis of Psalm 2 and the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 40-53.

The use of "soul" to describe God is a metaphor to express that He is a living being (cf. Heb. 10:38). This description of God in human terms is called anthropomorphism. See Special Topic at Matt. 6:4.

▣ "I will put My Spirit upon Him" Do you see the three persons of the Trinity (see Special Topic at Matt. 3:17) in the quote from Isa. 42:1?

Jesus and the Spirit have a combined theological relationship. See Special Topic following.

SPECIAL TOPIC: JESUS AND THE SPIRIT

12:18,21 "He shall proclaim justice to the Gentiles. . .in His name the Gentiles will hope" The statement that the Kingdom was open to the Gentile believers was shocking to the Jews (cf. Isa. 2:1-4; 45:22; 49:6; 60:3; 66:18,23; see Paul's statement at Eph. 2:11-3:13).

12:19 "He will not quarrel, nor cry out" This described the manner of Jesus' ministry before the governmental leaders of Palestine (cf. Isa. 53:7) like Pilate and Herod.

12:20 "A battered reed He will not break off,

And a smoldering wick He will not put out,

Until He leads justice to victory" This could mean (1) Jesus treated sinners with gentleness or (2) Jesus' kingdom looked so weak and small, yet it would fill the earth with joy (cf. Matt. 13:31-32).

12:21 "in His name" See Special Topic at Matt. 18:20.

▣ "hope" This is surprisingly the only occurrence of the word "hope" in Matthew and even here it is in an OT quote from Isa. 42:4. It does appear three times in Luke (cf. Luke 6:34; 23:8; 24:21). The word becomes an eschatological pointer in Paul's writings, who uses it nineteen times.

SPECIAL TOPIC: HOPE

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 12:22-24
 22Then a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute was brought to Jesus, and He healed him, so that the mute man spoke and saw. 23All the crowds were amazed, and were saying, "This man cannot be the Son of David, can he?" 24 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, "This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons."

12:22 This was one of the Messianic signs (cf. Isa. 29:18; 35:5; 42:7,16; Matt. 9:27-31; 12:22; 15:30; 21:14). Israel herself needed this healing ministry (cf. Isa. 6:9-10 and 42:18-22). It was a sign they refused to see!

12:23 "This man cannot be the Son of David, can He" In Greek, this question expected a "no" answer, but with the possibility that maybe it might be true. The term "the Son of David" was a Messianic title from 2 Samuel 7. It was used often by Matthew (cf. Matt. 1:1; 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30-31; 21:9,15; 22:42; also note Rev. 3:7; 5:5; 22:16).

12:24 "the Pharisees heard this, they said" This is the essence of the unpardonable sin, attributing God's work to Satan and calling that which is true, false and that which is light, darkness. The Pharisees could not deny the marvelous powers of Jesus so they attributed them to the supernatural power of the evil one (cf. Matt. 9:32-34; Mark 3:22-30, Luke 11:14-26).

▣ "Beelzebul" This referred to the Ba'al (male Canaanite fertility god) of the City of Zebub (cf. 2 Kgs. 1). The Jews slightly changed the name to Ba'al of Zebul which meant " lord of the dung" or "lord of the flies." This word is spelled differently in the ancient texts. Zebul is in the Latin Vulgate and the Peshitta translations, while the term Zebub is in all the Greek manuscripts. It was a title for Satan. In later Judaism, Zebul was the chief of demons.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 12:25-30
 25And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, "Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand. 26If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? 27If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? For this reason they will be your judges. 28But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God. then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29Or how can anyone enter the strong man's house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house. 30He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.

12:25-32 Jesus used a logical, analytical argument to show the ridiculousness of the Pharisees'claim (cf. Mark 3:23-27; Luke 11:17-22). There were four examples used: (1) Matt. 12:25; (2) Matt. 12:27; (3) Matt. 12:28; and (4) Matt. 12:29. There is a series of first class conditional sentences, which are usually assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes, but here they are false (Matt. 12:26 and 27). However, the first class conditional sentence in Matt. 12:28 is true to reality! Context, context, context!

12:25 "And knowing their thoughts" It is uncertain whether Jesus was using His supernatural ability to read men's thoughts or whether he saw them talking and overheard their comments (cf. Matt. 9:4). See note at Matt. 12:1.

▣ "Jesus" The oldest Greek manuscripts omit the name (i.e., P21, א, B, D, and some Old Latin, Syrian, and Coptic manuscripts).

12:27

NASB, NKJV"by whom do your sons cast them out"
NRSV"by whom do your own exorcists cast them out"
TEV"who gives your followers the power to drive them out"
NJB"through whom do your own experts drive them out"

The Jews (i.e., "your sons") practiced exorcism by magical formulas and oaths (cf. Mark 9:38; Acts 19:13). The unusual account in Matt. 12:43-45 seems to relate to this Jewish exorcism which cast out the demons, but did not replace it with faith in God, leaving a spiritual vacuum.

12:28 "If. . .then the kingdom of God has come upon you" This is a first class conditional sentence, assumed to be true by the author for his literary purposes. This is another veiled Messianic reference. It is also highly unusual for Matthew to use the phrase "the kingdom of God," which is usually found in Mark and Luke. Matthew usually used the phrase " kingdom of heaven." There are only four exceptions: (1) this passage; (2) Matt. 19:24; (3) Matt. 21:31; and (4) Matt. 21:43. Jesus asserted that His exorcisms demonstrated that His Messianic power proved the arrival of the new age of the Spirit! See a good brief discussion of "realized eschatology" in F. F. Bruce, Answers to Questions, p. 198. See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE KINGDOM OF GOD at Matt. 4:17.

12:29 This verse is often used to support the modern practice of casting Satan out of worship services. But in context this is not a " promise" text to be used for corporate exorcisms. Believers are not given the authority to bind Satan (i.e., "the strong man"). Even Michael the Archangel of Israel does not speak judgment against Satan (cf. Jude 9). The Apostles and the Seventy were given the power of exorcism over the demonic (cf. Matt. 10:1; Luke 10:17-20). However this is never listed among the gifts of the Spirit given to the Church. This parable is paralleled in Mark 3:22-27 and Luke 11:21-23.

12:30 "He who is not with Me is against Me" A clear, radical choice must be made (cf. Mark 9:40; Luke 9:49, 50; 11:23). Jesus brings the New Age, mankind must respond to Him. Not to respond is to choose!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 12:31-32
 31"Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. 32 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."

12:31-32 This reference to blasphemy against the Spirit is often called "the unpardonable sin." From the parallel in Mark 3:28 it is obvious that "Son of Man" was not a title for Jesus in this context but a generic use of the Hebrew idiom "sons of men" or "mankind." This is supported by the parallelism of Matt. 12:31 and 32. The sin discussed was not the sin of ignorance but of willful rejection of God and His truth in the presence of great light. Many people worry about whether they have committed this sin. People who desire to know God or are afraid that they have committed this sin have not! This sin is the continuing rejection of Jesus in the presence of great light, to the point of spiritual callousness. This is similar to Heb. 6:4-6 and 10:26-31.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE PERSONHOOD OF THE SPIRIT

▣ "either in this age or in the age to come"

SPECIAL TOPIC: THIS AGE AND THE AGE TO COME

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 12:33-37
 33"Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. 34You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. 35The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. 36But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. 37For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."

12:33 "for the tree is known by its fruit" What one does, like what one says, reveals the true self. See note at Matt. 7:16.

12:34 "You brood of vipers" Jesus used His harshest language for the religious leaders of His day. In this regard He followed the preaching of John the Baptist (cf. Matt. 3:7). The Serpent of Genesis 3 could be the original source of this metaphor (cf. Rev. 12:9; 20:2).

▣ "For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart" It is not what goes into a person, but what comes out, that defiles (cf. Mark 7:17-23). Humans reveal themselves by what they say. Speech is part of the image of God. Speech reveals the heart (cf. Matt. 7:116,20; Luke 6:44; James 3:12). See SPECIAL TOPIC: HUMAN SPEECH at Matt. 15:19.

12:35 The "treasure" refers to a person's inner self (cf. Luke 6:45).

12:36 "they shall give an account for it in the day of judgment" Jesus repeatedly spoke about judgment and its eternal consequences (cf. Matthew 7; 25). This relates to those who have rejected Jesus. Their lives, priorities, and words reflect their spiritual choices (cf. Matt. 12:37).

12:37 See SPECIAL TOPIC: HUMAN SPEECH at Matt. 15:19.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 12:38-42
 38Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from You." 39But He answered and said to them, "An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; 40for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41The 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. 42The 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."

12:38 "scribes"

SPECIAL TOPIC: SCRIBES

▣ "we want to see a sign from You" They had heard Jesus' teachings and had seen the healings and exorcisms performed by Him, but they wanted some ultimate sign to convince them to believe on Him. This is exactly the temptation of Matt. 4:5-7 to which Jesus would not succumb. However, in reality, He had given them sign after sign but they would not or could not see (i.e., Isa. 6:9-10)!

12:39 "adulterous" Adultery became a metaphor for spiritual unfaithfulness (cf. Lev. 20:5; Num. 25:1; Hos. 1:2; 4:10,18; 5:3; Matt. 16:4; mark 8:38; James 4:4).

▣ "the sign of Jonah the prophet" As Jonah was in the great fish three days, Jesus was three days in the grave (Hades). We must remember that this is three days by Jewish reckoning, not three twenty-four hour periods. Any part of a day, which for them was evening to evening (cf. Genesis 1), was reckoned as a full day.

Jesus' allusion to Jonah confirms strongly the historicity of the book of Jonah. It is precisely the experience in the great fish that was used as an analogy (cf. Matt. 16:4).

12:40 "three nights" See note at Matt. 16:21.

▣ "in the heart of the earth" This referred to descending into Hades (cf. Matt. 11:23), the realm of the dead, the grave, or the metaphorical place of unborn children (cf. Ps. 139:15-16). This is phenomenological language: the language of observation and of common human description. The Jews, like us, buried their dead; therefore, they "lived" in the ground. See SPECIAL TOPIC: Where Are the Dead? at Matt. 5:22.

Jesus' words would not have been understood by His contemporary hearers until after His resurrection. Matthew has structured the sayings of Jesus for theological purposes, not chronological sequence (cf. Matt. 7:21-23, also could not have had meaning until a much later date).

12:41 "the men of Nineveh" This also relates to Matt. 11:20-24, as does Matt. 12:42. Nineveh repented due to Jonah's preaching and consequently was spared the wrath of God's judgment. This also implies that the Ninevites of Jonah's day were alive in an afterlife.

▣ "repented" See SPECIAL TOPIC: REPENTANCE IN THE OLD TESTAMENT at Matt. 3:2 and see note at Matt. 4:17.

12:42 "The Queen of the south" This was a way of referring to the Queen of Sheba (cf. 1 Kings 10:1-15), who is still alive and will appear to testify in the eschaton.

▣ "something greater than Solomon is here" This is another clear Messianic claim. It reveals Jesus' self-understanding. He saw Himself as greater than the wisest man of the ancient East (cf. 1 Kgs. 3:12; 4:19-34). See full note at Matt. 12:6.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 12:43-45
 43"Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. 44Then 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. 45Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation."

12:43 "the unclean spirit" See the two Special Topics: Demonic (Unclean Spirits) at Matt. 10:1.

▣ "waterless places" In the OT the desert was the haunt of the demonic (i.e., Azazel in Leviticus 16 and desert animals in Isa. 13:21; 34:14).

12:44-45 This passage has three possible meanings.

1. the Jewish exorcists performed exorcisms without personal faith, and the demonic spirit returned

2. it is an allusion to national Israel in the sense of their rejection of idol worship, but without replacing it with a faith relationship to YHWH

3. it referred to the preaching of John the Baptist, whom they accepted as being from God, while rejecting Jesus

The last condition was far worse than the immediate problem (cf. 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 12:46-50
 46While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. 47Someone said to Him, "Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You." 48But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, "Who is My mother and who are My brothers?" 49And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, "Behold My mother and My brothers! 50For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother."

12:46 "His mother and brothers were standing outside" Apparently they thought Jesus was working too hard or was becoming too untraditional (cf. Mark 3:20-21).

12:47 This verse is not included in the Greek manuscripts א, B, and L or in some Old Latin, Syrian, and Coptic manuscripts. It is included in the manuscripts אc, C, and D and the Vulgate and the Diatessaron. It is also found in Mark 3:32 and Luke 8:20. It seems that scribes added it to this verse to make the three parallel. It is included in NASB, NKJV, NRSV, and TEV translations. The United Bible Societies Fourth Edition Greek New Testament translation committee believes that it was inadvertently left out of the text because of a slip of the eye (homoloteleuton) between two similar words (" speak") in the Greek text at the end of Matt. 12:46 and 47. The verse is required to make sense of the paragraph.

12:50 "For whoever does the will of My Father" The will of God is to repent and to believe on Him whom He has sent (cf. John. 6:39-40). Once one is saved, God also has a will of Christlikeness for every believer, (cf. Rom. 8:28-29; Gal. 4:19). See Special Topic: The Will of God at Matt. 7:21.

The NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 488, has such a good statement about Jesus' call to be a disciple.

1. the unconditional sacrifice of one's whole life (cf. Matt. 10:37; Luke 9:59-62; 14:26-27)

2. the unconditional sacrifice of one's life for the whole life (cf. Matt. 16:24-25; John 11:16)

3. bound to Jesus and to do God's will (cf. Matt. 12:46-50; Mark 3:31-35)

Jesus' call to follow Him is a radical call to selflessness which demonstrates that the effects of the Fall are reversed! This is a life-long, life-inclusive call!

▣ "who is in heaven" This is a recurrent theme in Matthew (cf. Matt. 5:16,45; 6:1,9; 7:11,21; 10:32-33; 12:50).

▣ "He is my brother and sister and mother" Faith in Christ supercedes earthly family ties (parallel in Mark 3:31-35). Christianity is a family based on the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of Jesus (cf. Rom. 8:15-17).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Why does Jesus make such an affirmation of Old Testament Law in Matthew 5:17-21 and yet reject so vehemently the Oral Tradition of the Jews?

2. Does Jesus claim to be the Messiah in Matthew 12?

3. Did Jesus perform these miracles in confrontation or in reaction to the Pharisees?

4. How does Isaiah 42:1-4 describe the ministry of the Messiah?

5. Define/explain the Pharisees'calling Jesus Beelzebub.

6. What and where is Hades?

7. Explain the parable in verses 43-45.

 

Copyright © 2013 Bible Lessons International

Passage: 

Matthew 13

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Parable of the Sower The Parable of the Sower Teaching in Parables The Parable of the Sower Introduction
13:1-9 13:1-9 13:1-9 13:1-3a 13:1-3a
      13:3b-9  
        Parable of the Sower
        13:3b-9
The Purpose of the Parables The Purpose of Parables   The Purpose of the Parables Why Jesus Speaks in Parables
13:10-17 13:10-17 13:10-17 13:10 13:10-15
      13:11-15  
 (14b-15)        (14b-15)
      13:16-17 13:16-17
The Parable of the Sower Explained The Parable of the Sower Explained   Jesus Explains the Parable of the Sower The Parable of the Sower Explained
13:18-23 13:18-23 13:18-23 13:18-23 13:18-23
The Parable of the Weeds Among the Wheat The Parable of the Wheat and Tares Weeds in the Wheat The Parable of the Weeds Parable of the Darnel
13:24-30 13:24-20 13:24-30 13:24-30 13:24-30
The Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Leaven The Parable of the Mustard Seed The Mustard Seed The Parable of the Mustard Seed Parable of the Mustard Seed
13:31-32 13:31-32 13:31-32 13:31-32 13:31-32
  The Parable of the Leaven Yeast The Parable of the Yeast Parable of the Yeast
13:33 13:33 13:33 13:33 13:33
The Use of Parables Prophecy and Parables   Jesus' Use of Parables The People are Taught Only in Parables
13:34-35
(35b)
13:34-35 13:34-35 13:34-35 13:34-35
(35b)
The Parables of the Weeds Explained The Parable of the Tares Explained   Jesus Explains the Parable of the Weeds The Parable of the Darnel Explained
13:36-43 13:36-43 13:36-43 13:36 13:36-43
      13:37-43  
Three Parables The Parables of Hidden Treasure Hidden Treasure The Parable of the Hidden Treasure Parable of the Treasure and of the Pearl
13:44 13:44 13:44 13:44 13:44
  The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price The Pearl of Great Value The Parable of the Pearl  
13:45-46 13:45-46 13:45-46 13:45-46 13:45-46
  The Parable of the Dragnet The Dragnet The Parable of the Net Parable of the Dragnet
13:47-50 13:47-52 13:47-50 13:47-50 13:47-50
        Conclusion
13:51-42   13:51-53 13:51a 13:51-52
      13:51b  
      13:52  
The Rejection of Jesus at Nazareth Jesus Rejected at Nazareth Rejection at Home Jesus Rejected at Nazareth A Visit to Nazareth
13:53-58 13:53-58   13:53-57a 13:53-58
    13:54-58    
      13:57b-58  

 

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

 

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

BACKGROUND TO MATTHEW 13:1-58

A. The understanding of parables was and is related to a prior faith commitment. Even the Apostles did not initially understand Jesus' teachings (i.e., Mark 4:13,40; 6:52; 7:18; 8:17,21,33; 9:10,32). In some ways understanding is dependent upon

1. election

2. the illuminating power of the Spirit

3. a willingness to repent and believe (i.e., Isa. 6:9-10; 30:6)

Understanding involves a divine empowering and a human faith response!

 

B. " Parable" is a compound word in Greek meaning "to throw alongside." Common occurrences were used to illustrate spiritual truths. However it must be remembered that to these Jewish writers this Greek word reflected the Hebrew mashal which meant "riddle" or "proverb," in wisdom literature terminology. The parables form types of literary relationships similar to the parallelism of Hebrew poetry.

1. parables that illustrate similarity

2. parables that illustrate contrasts

3. parables that build to certain types of climatic statements of truth

It is crucial to determine the type of contrast/similarity climax that the parable is intended to illustrate. To miss this is to misinterpret the parable's intended purpose. One must be willing to rethink issues and expected outcomes in light of the surprising nature of the mashal.

C. Some of the parables in Matthew 13 form doubles. The same central truths are repeated with different examples.

1. The Tares and the Dragnet

2. Mustard Seed and Leaven

3. Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price

It is possible that Matt. 13:51-52 form an eighth parable.

 

D. The parables of Matthew 13 are paralleled in the other Synoptic Gospels.

 

Matthew Mark   Luke
Matt. 13:1-9, 18-23
Matt. 13:6-9
Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43
Matt. 13:31-32
Matt. 13:33
Matt. 13:34
Matt. 13:44
Matt. 13:45-46
Mark 4:1-9, 13-20
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------
Mark 4:30-32
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------
------
------
Luke 8:4-8, 11-15
------
------
Luke 13:18-19
Luke 13:20-21
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------
------

E. Of the seven parables in Matthew 13, the sower/soils and the mustard seed are both in Mark and Luke while the parable about leaven is repeated in Luke only. As Matthew gathered the teachings of Jesus into the long sermon of Matthew 5-7, so too he gathered the parables of Jesus into one context.

 

F. It is possible that Matthew structured his Gospel so that the faith response to Jesus' preaching and teaching was mixed (Matthew 8-12). Some responded but some did not. If Jesus was God's Messiah, why did not all respond? This is the question that this series of parables answers.

 

SPECIAL TOPIC: INTERPRETING PARABLES

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 13:1-2
 1That day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea. 2And large crowds gathered to Him, so He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd was standing on the beach.

13:1

NASB"that day"
NKJV"on the same day"
NRSV, TEV,
NJB" that same day"

This is not meant to be a temporal marker in this context, but a transition technique. An example of it as a temporal marker is 22:23; Mark 4:35.

▣ "was sitting by the sea" Sitting was the official teaching position of a rabbi (cf. Matt. 13:2; 15:29; 24:3; 26:55; Luke 4:20; Acts 13:14). They stood to read the Scripture (cf. Luke 4:16). This position and place suggest a teaching session. The sea acted as a natural amphitheater.

13:2 "so He got into a boat and sat down" A boat was usually available when Jesus taught because of the press of the crowd (cf. Luke 5:1-3; Mark 3:9).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 13:3-9
 3And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, "Behold, the sower went out to sow; 4and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. 5Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. 6But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. 7Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. 8And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. 9He who has ears, let him hear."

13:3 "the sower went out to sow" This parable (Matt. 13:3-9) is extremely important because Jesus Himself gave interprets it. The seed, the sower, the soils, and the harvest are all significant in Jesus' interpretation of the parable (Matt. 13:18-23).

It is somewhat allegorical or at least typological. Allegory seeks a hidden, deeper level of meaning in a text. It imports meaning into the text that has no relation at all to the intended meaning of the original author or his day or even the thrust of Scripture as a whole. Typology, on the other hand, seeks to focus on the unity of the Bible, based on one divine Author and one divine Plan. Similarities in the OT pre-figure NT truths. These similarities rise naturally out of a reading of the entire Bible (cf. Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:6, 11).

13:4-7 "the road. . .the rocky places. . .thorns" Usually the village farmers worked together and plowed the entire field around their homes. In this field were footpaths, some shallow ground and some places where thorn bushes had established themselves. All of the field had been plowed. The sowers scattered the seed indiscriminately in this large plowed field.

13:8 "And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty" The plants bearing of fruit, not the precise amount, is the focal point. We must be careful not to identify germination with salvation! John 8:31 says "those Jews who had believed Him," yet later in the context it is obvious they are not saved (i.e., John 8:59). The Bible differentiates between an initial emotional response and a life changing permanent discipleship. In this parable germination referred to the first, and fruit-bearing to the second.

13:9 See note at Matt. 11:15.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 13:10-17
 10And the disciples came and said to Him, "Why do You speak to them in parables?" 11Jesus 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. 12For 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. 13Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says,
 'You will keep on hearing, but will not understand;
  You will keep on seeing, but will not perceive;
  15For the heart of this people has become dull,
  With their ears they scarcely hear,
  And they have closed their eyes,
  Otherwise they would see with their eyes,
  Hear with their ears,
  And understand with their heart and return,
  And I would heal them.'
 16But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. 17 For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it."

13:10-13 Proper interpretation of Jesus' parables involves a faith commitment on the part of the hearer as well as the illuminating power of the Spirit. Parables demand a response! This response combines the power of God and the free will of the believing hearer. See introductory notes at the beginning of this chapter.

13:11 "the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven" Jesus uses this term for the New Age (cf. Matthew 5-7) with its new way of viewing reality. These mysteries are about Him and His New Kingdom. This term is used to describe God's eternal redemptive plan that is only now being revealed by God's Messiah (cf. Luke 22:22; Acts 2:23; 3:18; 4:28; Eph. 1:11; 1 Pet. 1:12). Every hearer does not understand (cf. Matt. 13:13,16-17,19,23; Mark 4:11-12).

13:12 The Jewish leadership, with their scriptural knowledge, should have recognized and embraced Jesus and His teachings, but they did not. Therefore, those who could have/should have are more responsible (cf. Luke 12:48). Their partial knowledge results in complete judgment (similar to 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

13:14-15 "the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled" This is a quote from the Septuagint (LXX). This related to Isaiah's call and mission. God told him that he would speak, but the people would not hear and respond (cf. Isa. 6:9-10). This same OT passage is quoted in John. 12:40 and Acts 28:25-27. To those who have faith, God will progressively reveal more truth as they walk in the light they have, but to those without faith the Scriptures are dark and silent! Parables open truth to those who will hear but veils truth to those who refuse faith in Christ. See F. F. Bruce, Answers to Questions, pp. 176-177.

▣ "heart" See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE HEART at Matt. 5:8.

13:16 Compare this with Mark 4:13.

13:17 "Truly" See Special Topic at Matt. 5:18.

▣ "many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it" NT believers know more of God's eternal redemptive plan and purpose for all humans than did any of the OT characters (1 Pet. 1:10-12). This gives us an awesome responsibility!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 13:18-23
 18"Hear then the parable of the sower. 19When 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 on whom seed was sown beside the road. 20The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. 23And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty."

13:18-23 Jesus' interpretation of this parable was given to the disciples privately.

13:19 "the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart" In the parallel in Mark 4:15 he is called Satan (see Special Topic at Matt. 4:5). 2 Corinthians 4:4 describes his work among men. It is surprising that the evil one appears so often in these parables (cf. Matt. 13:25, 28, 39). Jesus asserted the presence of a personal force of evil who is out to thwart God's will for both nations and individuals. There is a veiled reference in these parables to the three enemies of man: (1) Satan (cf. Matt. 13:19; Eph. 2:2); (2) the world system (cf. Matt. 13:22; Eph. 2:2); and (3) mankind's fallen nature (cf. Eph. 2:3).

13:20 "the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy" This was obviously a superficial response to Jesus and His message as the context shows. True salvation is an initial response of repentance and faith followed by an ongoing response of repentance and faith. There are many in the visible Church who use Christian words, attend Christian meetings, and read the Christian Bible, but do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ (cf. Matt. 7:21-23; 2 Peter 2).

13:21-22 "but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away" Christlikeness in attitude and lifestyle is evidence of a valid profession (cf. the books of 1 John. and James). An initial response, even when exuberant, is not always permanent or valid. See SPECIAL TOPIC: APOSTASY (APHISTĒMI) at Matt. 7:21.

The NT speaks often of those who heard having turned way.

1. no root, Matt. 13:21; Mark 4:17; Luke 8:13

2. fall away, Matt. 24:10

3. do not abide, John 15:6

4. gone astray, 1 Tim. 1:9; 6:21; 2 Tim. 2:18

5. shipwreck, 1 Tim. 1:19

6. fall away, 1 Tim. 4:1

7. apostasy, 2 Thess. 2:3

8. falling away, Heb. 3:12

9. fall away, Heb. 6:6

10. turn away, 2 Pet. 2:20-22

Christianity is a relationship which must be maintained! It involves an initial response (i.e., John 1:12; Rom. 4), a continuing response (James and 1 John), and a faithful conclusion (Heb. 11)!

13:22 "deceitfulness of wealth" See Special Topic: Wealth at Matt. 6:24.

13:23 "it becomes unfruitful" Bearing fruit is the evidence of genuine conversion and not just an emotional initial decision! Christianity is not one high moment but a life of discipleship.

Manfred T. Brauch, Abusing Scripture: the Consequences of Misreading the Bible, p. 106, has an interesting comment.

" In warning against false prophets, Jesus taught that they would be known by the fruit they bore (Mt. 7:15-16). That is, our character, our deepest values and beliefs, are ultimately revealed in the life that we live (Mt. 7:17-20; Lk. 6:43-45). Therefore, participation in the sphere of God's reign is neither guaranteed nor secured by the confession of Jesus as Lord; rather, only those who embody God's will in their lives are children of the kingdom (Mt. 7:21; Lk. 6:46-48). In his interpretation of the parable of the sower (Mt. 13:18-23; Mk. 4:13-29; Lk. 8:11-15), Jesus asserted that neither the hearing nor the receiving of "the word of the kingdom" is sufficient. Only those who bear the fruit of its presence in their lives are revealed as those who truly grasp its deepest significance (Mt. 13:23), accept it (Mk. 4:20) and "hold it fast in an honest and good heart" (Lk 8:15)."

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 13:24-30
 24Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. 26But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. 27The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?'28And 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?'29But he said, 'No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn." '"

13:24-30 The parable of the wild wheat is unique to Matthew (cf. Matt. 36-43). Here is an interesting paragraph from New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (NIDOTTE), vol. 1, p. 299.

"The idea of the invisible church is found in Augustine, City of God; Wycliffe, De ecclesia; Luther, Preface to Revelation; Calvin, Institutes IV 1 7; and many other writers (see edition of Calvin's Institutes, ed. J. T. McNeill, 1960, II 1022). The thought that is uppermost is not to minimize the importance of church membership, but to recognize the possibility of hypocrisy and deceit. In the last analysis, those who belong to God are visible to God alone. Membership of the true church is a fact which is not visible to man. The idea recalls the statement of 2 Tim. 2:19; 'The Lord knows who are his.'It extends to the church what Paul says of Israel, that they are not all Israel who belong to Israel, but only "the children of promise" (Rom. 9:6 f.). It recognizes the danger, which church members are warned against, of reaping corruption through sowing to the flesh (Gal. 3:7; cf. Rom. 8:12 f.). Paul recognized the need for discipline in his own life lest he should become a castaway (1 Cor. 10:27; cf. Phil. 2:12, 19). The possibility of church members falling away is one of great themes of Hebrews (cf. Heb. 2:3; 3:7-4:14; 6:1-12; 10:26-39; 12:12-28). It is also suggested by the parables of the weeds (Matt. 13:24-43) and the sheep and goats (Matt. 25:31-46) and the example of Judas (Matt. 10:4; 26:14, 25, 47 ff.; 27:3; Mk. 14:10, 43; Lk. 6:16; 22:3, 47; Jn. 13:2; 17:12; 18:22 ff.; Acts 1:17 ff., 25)."

These warnings do not jeopardize security, but give a balance to excessive confidence in an initial decision and ignores the mandate of discipleship and perseverance.

13:25 "the enemy" In this context the characterization refers to

1. Satan, Luke 10:19

2. false teachers, Matthew 7; 2 Peter 2

Anyone who distorts the gospel of the Kingdom. Only the grace of God can help believers understand the truth (cf. Matt. 13:13,16-17,23) and resist error.

▣ "the tares" Wild wheat (darnel) and domestic wheat looked exactly alike until they bore fruit. The wild seed had a dark grain, while edible wheat had a light brown grain.

13:27 "Sir" This is an example of the term kurios (Lord) used as a polite address. Remember context, context, context, not a dictionary or lexicon, determines word meaning. Dictionaries list only the way the word has been used in known literature or speech in a given language/culture.

13:29 "for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them" The context seems to relate this to the religious leaders of Jesus' day. There is no way for humans to know the hearts of other humans. God will set all things straight on Judgment Day. One of Satan's most effective schemes is religion. People seem to be spiritual but they are not (i.e., Matt. 7:21-23). The wheat and tares look alike, but time reveals the difference. Many people are fooled by religiosity (cf. Isa. 29:13; Col. 2:16-23) masquerading as true spirituality (cf. Matthew 7)!

13:30 "gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn" Ultimate destiny is related to what humans do with the message of Jesus Christ and the person of Jesus Christ (cf. Matt. 13:42, 50). It is interesting to note that it is Jesus who emphasizes the awesome, eternal consequences of rejecting personal faith in Himself.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 13:31-32
 31He presented another parable to them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; 32and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches."

13:31-32 The parables of the mustard seed and the yeast and verses 31-33, are parallel. They are repeated in Mark 4:30-32 and Luke 13:18-19. Those who respond to the gospel seem small and insignificant, but they are part of a spiritual kingdom which will ultimately fill the earth.

13:32 "so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches" The capitalization in the NASB assumes this is a quote from Daniel (4:11-12). This would make the phrase a way of asserting how large the mustard seed plant became, here a symbol for the extent of the Messianic kingdom of the eschaton.

NASB"pecks"
NKJV, NRSV,
NJB" measures"
TEV" bushel"

This Greek term saton translated the Hebrew unit of measurement seah. It's exact volume is uncertain, but it was a large amount (parallel to the large tree).

SPECIAL TOPIC: Ancient near Eastern Weights and Volumes (Metrology)

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 13:33
 33He spoke another parable to them, "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened."

13:33 "leaven" In the OT yeast was often a symbol of evil, but here it was an obvious symbol of the pervasiveness and growth of the Kingdom of God. Be careful of attaching one definition or connotation to a word, regardless of its context. Context determines meaning! See Special Topic at Matt. 16:6.

▣ "hid" In context this refers to the mixing process. It describes the hiddenness of the kingdom.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 13:34-35
 34All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, and He did not speak to them without a parable. 35This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
 "I will open My mouth in parables;
  I will utter things hidden since the foundation of the world."

13:35 "This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet" This is a quote from Ps. 78:2.

Several ancient Greek manuscripts including the original copier of א and the Greek manuscripts used by Eusebius and Jerome have "through Isaiah the prophet." It has been speculated that the original text had "through Asaph" to whom Psalm 78 is attributed in the Masoretic Text. There is no Greek text, however, which has this name. An early scribe either (1) did not recognize this Levitical Temple choir leader and changed the name to "Isaiah" or (2) thought the reference from Matt. 13:14-15 somehow continued.

The Jews believed that all writers of inspired Scriptures were "prophets." The vast majority of ancient Greek manuscripts do not have the name "Isaiah" in the text.

▣ "the foundation of the world" The GENITIVE phrase "of the world" is not found in Uncial manuscripts אi1 and B, as well as some Old Latin and Syriac manuscripts and the Greek texts used by Origen and Jerome. The full phrase does occur in Matt. 25:34 and many Uncial Greek manuscripts (i.e., אi2, א*, C, D, L, W. The UBS4 committee decided to include "Kosmou," but in brackets, with a "C" rating (i.e., difficulty in deciding).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 13:36-43
 36Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said, "Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field." 37And He said, "The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, 38and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; 39and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. 40So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. 41The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness,42 and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear."

13:36-43 This was Jesus' interpretation of the parable of Matt. 13:24-30 given in private to the disciples.

13:37 "The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man" These parables relate to both Jesus as God's Messiah, who brings life and truth, and the gospel message as the content of that truth. God's truth is both a person (sower) and a message (seed).

13:38 "the field is the world" This is a key for understanding these parables. It is not the Church but the world (cf. Matt. 13:47). Only the parable of the sower seems to deal with those who have heard the gospel message and even then it could refer to (1) Palestine of Jesus' day or (2) the places where the gospel was preached (i.e., the world, cf. Matt. 28:19; Luke 24:46; Acts 1:8).

▣ "the sons of the kingdom. . .the sons of the evil one"

SPECIAL TOPIC: "SONS OF. . ."

13:39,40 "the end of the age" This is an eschatological setting. The kingdom is both "already" but "not yet," as is judgment.

"fire" See Special Topic at Matt. 3:12.

13:41 This is a partial quote from Zechariah 1:3. Notice that in this verse the Kingdom is called "His kingdom." There are several places where the kingdom is attributed to the Son (cf. Matt. 16:28; Luke 22:30; 23:42; John 18:36; 2 Tim. 4:1,18). There are also several places where the kingdom is attributed to both the Father and the Son (cf. Matt. 13:43; Eph. 5:5; Rev. 11:15).

The kingdom of the Son is not temporal (John 18:36), but eternal (cf. Dan. 7:14; Luke 1:33; 2 Tim. 4:18; 2 Pet. 1:11). See Frank Stagg, New Testament Theology, pp. 164-165.

13:42 See note at Matt. 8:12. See Special Topic: Where Are the Dead? at Matt. 5:22.

13:43 "shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father" This was similar to the statements of Dan. 12:3.

▣ "He who has ears, let him hear" Those whom God has allowed to understand the gospel must respond to it now! This cryptic phrase occurs many times in the NT (cf. Matt. 11:15; 13:9,43; Mark 4:9,23; Luke 8:8; 14:35; Rev. 2:7,11,29; 3:6,13,22; 13:9). These parables strike a note of urgency in the immediate need to hear, trust and respond to Him, and respond now!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 13:44
 44"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 all that he has and buys that field."

13:44 "the kingdom of heaven" See Matt. 13:45,47,52. This phrase was equivalent to "the kingdom of God" in Mark and Luke. Matthew, in writing to the Jews, did not use God's name but circumlocution, " heaven." This parable is unique to Matthew.

▣ "hidden in the field" Burying valuables in the ground to protect them was a common practice in the Ancient Near East. There were no banks.

▣ "sells all. . .buys the field" This shows the radical nature of discipleship. Knowing Jesus is worth everything! The paradox is (1) a free salvation comes by God's grace alone and is therefore absolutely free (cf. Rom. 3:24; 5:15; 6:23; Eph. 2:8-9), but (2) it costs the disciple everything (cf. Matt. 10:34-39; 13:44,46).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 13:45-46
 45"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, 46and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it."

13:45-46 The parable of the pearl of great price is unique to Matthew.

13:45 "pearls" Pearls were costly in the ancient world and equally valued with gold as a medium of exchange.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 13:47-50
 47"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind; 48and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away. 49So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, 50and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

13:47-50 The parable of the dragnet is unique to Matthew. Its meaning is similar to the parable of the tares, which is that there will be an end-time separation of the believers and unbelievers (cf. Matt. 25:31-46).

13:48 This verse describes the end time division of people based on their response to Jesus and the gospel (cf. Matt. 25:31-46; Rev. 20:11-15).

13:49 "at the end of the age" The Jews viewed reality as two ages: the current evil age and the age to come (see Special Topic at Matt. 12:31). They believed that God would empower a human leader to inaugurate the new age by force. From the New Testament we now know these ages have overlapped, from Incarnation at Bethlehem to the Second Coming. This verse speaks of eschatological judgment (cf. Matt. 25:31-46; Revelation 20).

13:50 "and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" See Matt. 13:30, 42, 50; 8:12; 25:31ff. Jesus often spoke of Hell!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 13:51-52
 51"Have you understood all these things?" They said to Him, "Yes." 52And 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 things new and old."

13:52 "every scribe who has become a disciple" A scribe was a legal expert in the oral and written Law (see Special Topic at Matt. 12:38). A believing scribe will be able to draw truths from the Old Testament as well as see the fulfillments in Jesus' teachings (cf. Rom. 4:23-24; 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:6,11; 2 Tim. 3:16). It is possible Matthew is characterizing himself!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 13:53-58
 53When Jesus had finished these parables, He departed from there. 54He came to His hometown and began teaching them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, "Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? Is not this the carpenter's son? 55Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? 56 And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?" 57And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household." 58And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.

13:53 "parables" This was a compound word in Greek which meant "to throw alongside." Common occurrences were used to illustrate spiritual truths. However, it must be remembered that to these Jewish writers this Greek word (parabola) reflected the Hebrew mashal, which meant "riddle" or "proverb." One must be willing to rethink issues and expected outcomes in light of the surprising nature of the mashal. There are two paradoxical reasons given for the use of parables in Jesus' teaching ministry: (1) to communicate clearly spiritual truths to those who exercised faith in Him and (2) to hide spiritual truths from those who do not have faith in Him.

13:54 "He came to His hometown" A similar account is mentioned in Luke 4:16-30. There has been much discussion among commentators as to whether this is the same visit or a second visit. There are several accounts in Jesus' ministry that are very similar (cf. John. 2:13-22 versus Matt. 21:12-16; Mark 11:15-18; Luke 19:45-47), but scholars must be careful, based on their western literary presuppositions, not to assume they are the same event. There may well have been two cleansings of the Temple, for example, and Luke's account may refer to another incident.

"began teaching them in their synagogue" It was Jesus' habit to attend regular Sabbath worship. Jesus learned the OT during His days in the synagogue school at Nazareth. The synagogue was a Jewish institution which developed during the Babylonian exile for the purpose of (1) training children, (2) worship, (3) ministering to the Jewish community, and (4) retaining the Jews'unique culture while in exile by emphasizing study of the Law and the traditions of the fathers.

▣ "they were astonished" They were incredulous, not only by the tremendous insight of His teaching, but also by the authority of His teaching. The scribes taught in the authority of earlier famous rabbis; Jesus taught in His own authority (cf. Matt. 7:28-29).

▣ "where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers" The source of Jesus' power was much debated. He was an officially untrained local boy. The Jews even accused Him of being in league with the evil one. For them His action against the oral law was "the unpardonable sin." For those in Nazareth it was hard to believe that a local boy was the Messiah, Deity Incarnate.

13:55,56 "Is not this the carpenter's son" There are three questions in these two verses; all three expect a "yes" answer.

Carpenter was used in the sense of craftsman. It could have referred to a craftsman of stone, metal or wood. The English term " architect" comes from this Greek term. These questions by the townspeople of Jesus' hometown imply that Jesus had a normal childhood (cf. Luke 2:40,52).

13:55 "His brothers" The men listed

1. James, who became the leader of the Jerusalem church and wrote the book of James.

2. Joseph, he is called Jose in Mark 6:3 and a few later Greek manuscripts. We know nothing else about him.

3. Simon, we know nothing else about him.

4. Judas, he is also called Jude and wrote the NT book of Jude. 

 

▣ "His brothers. . .His sisters" These are later children by Mary and Joseph (cf. Matt. 1:25; 12:46; Mark 6:3) or possibly children from Joseph's previous marriage (which is not recorded anywhere in Scripture), so option #1 is best (see F. F. Bruce, Answers to Questions, pp. 47 and 174).

13:57 "they took offense at Him" He is the rock of offense and a stone of stumbling. The stone which the builders have rejected has become the head of the corner (cf. Matt. 11:6; Isa. 8:14; 28:16; Jer. 6:21).

▣ "a prophet" This was a common proverb. That which is familiar loses its significance. See Special Topic at Matt. 11:9.

13:58 "He did not do many miracles there" God has always chosen for believers to cooperate in matters which relate to Him (covenant). It is not that Jesus could not, He chose not to. We learn from Luke 4:28-29 that they tried to kill Him because of His statements.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. List the central truth of each of these parables in your own words. Is there a unifying theme in this chapter?

2. How does one balance a free salvation with one that costs everything?

3. Is hell as biblical a doctrine as heaven?

4. How was Jesus' teaching style different from the rabbis'?

5. Why did Nazareth reject Him?

 

Copyright © 2013 Bible Lessons International

Passage: 

Matthew 14

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Death of John the Baptist John the Baptist Beheaded Events of Decisive Acceptance or Rejection of Jesus The Death of John the Baptist Herod and Jesus
    (13:53-17:27)    
    Death of John    
14:1-12 14:1-12 14:1-12 14:1-2 14:1-2
        John the Baptist Beheaded
      14:3-5 14:3-12
      14:6-7  
      14:8  
      14:9-12  
The Feeding of the Five Thousand Feeding the Five Thousand Five Thousand Fed Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand First Miracle of the Loaves
14:13-21 14:13-21 14:13-21 14:13-14 14:13-14
      14:15 14:15-21
      14:16  
      14:17  
      14:18-21  
Walking on Water Jesus Walks on the Sea Jesus Walks on Water Jesus Walks on the Water Jesus Walks on the Water and, with Him, Peter
14:22-33 14:22-33 14:22-27 14:22-26 14:22-33
      14:27  
    14:28-33 14:28  
      14:29-30  
      14:31  
      14:32-33  
The Healing of the Sick in Gennesaret Many Touch Him and are Made Well   Jesus Heals the Sick in Gennesaret Cures at Gennesaret
14:34-36 14:34-36 14:34-36 14:34-36 14:34-36

 

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

 

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

BACKGROUND TO MATTHEW 14:1-36

A. Herod the Tetrarch who is mentioned in Matthew 14:1ff.; Luke 3:1; 9:7; 13:31, and 23:7, was the son of Herod the Great. At the death of Herod the Great, his kingdom was divided among three of his sons (Archelaus, Herod Antipas, and Philip). The term "Tetrarch" meant "leader of the fourth part." This Herod was known as Herod Antipas which is the shortened form of Antipater. He controlled Galilee and Perea (4 b.c. - a.d 39). This meant that much of Jesus' ministry was in the territory of this second generation Idumean ruler.

 

B. Herodias was the daughter of Herod Antipas'brother, Aristobulus, which made her his niece. She had also been previously married to Philip, the half brother of Herod Antipas. This was not Philip the Tetrarch who controlled the area just north of Galilee, but the other brother Philip who lived in Rome. Herodias had one daughter by Philip (Salome). On Herod Antipas'visit to Rome he met and was seduced by Heroditas who was looking for political advancement. Therefore, Herod Antipas divorced his wife, who was a Nabatean princess and Herodias divorced Philip so that she and Herod Antipas could be married. She was also the sister of Herod Agrippa I (cf. Acts 12).

 

C. We learn the name of Herodias'daughter, Salome, from Flavius Josephus in his book The Antiquities of the Jews 18:5:4. She must have been between the ages of twelve and seventeen at this point. She was obviously controlled and manipulated by her mother. She later married Philip the Tetrarch but was soon widowed.

 

D. About ten years after the beheading of John the Baptist, Herod Antipas went to Rome at the instigation of his wife Herodias to seek the title of king because Agrippa I, her brother, had received that title. But Agrippa I wrote Rome and accused Antipas of corroboration with the Parthians, a hated enemy of Rome from the Fertile Crescent (Mesopotamia). The Emperor apparently believed Agrippa I and Herod Antipas, along with his wife Herodias, was exiled to Spain.

 

E. It may make it easier to remember these different Herods as they are presented in the New Testament by remembering that Herod the Great killed the children in Bethlehem; Herod Antipas killed John the Baptist; Herod Agrippa I killed the Apostle James; and Herod Agrippa II heard Paul's appeal recorded in the book of Acts.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 14:1-5
 1At that time Herod the Tetrarch heard the news about Jesus, 2and said to his servants, "This is John the Baptist; he has risen from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him." 3For when Herod had John arrested, he bound him and put him in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. 4For John had been saying to him, "It is not lawful for you to have her." 5Although Herod wanted to put him to death, he feared the crowd, because they regarded John as a prophet.

14:1 "At that time Herod the Tetrarch heard the news about Jesus" Matthew apparently inserted a parenthesis between Matt. 14:1-2 and Matt. 14:13 dealing with the earlier death of John the Baptist. (What Jesus heard in Matt. 14:13 was not the death of John the Baptist but the report that Herod had heard about Him and thought that He was John the Baptist come back to life.)

14:2 "This is John the Baptist" See account in Luke 9:7-9.

▣ "that is why miraculous powers are at work in him" Herod apparently was superstitious and this magnified his guilt over the beheading of John the Baptist. There are no historical records of John the Baptist ever performing any miracles.

14:3 "Herod had John arrested, he bound him and put him in prison" We learn from Josephus'Antiquities of the Jews 18.5.2 that this was the prison of Machaerus (cf. Matt. 4:12; 11:2). It was apparently a high, impregnable fortress to the southeast of the Dead Sea on the border of the Nabatean Empire. It is interesting to note that Herod's first wife successfully defected to her father, Aretas (cf. 2 Cor. 11:32), by requesting to come to this particular summer palace. Later, her father had a military clash with her former husband, Herod Antipas, and totally defeated him. Herod would have been removed from office then if the Roman authorities had not intervened.

▣ "Herodias" The New Testament TransLine by Michal Magill has a good summary of her.

" She was the grand-daughter of Herod the Great, the daughter of Aristobulus, the sister of Agrippa I. See 2:1. She married Herod Philip I, a paternal brother of her father. Later, she left him and married Herod Antipas, also a paternal brother of her father by a different wife. She chose to go into exile with Antipas when he was exiled in a.d. 39" (p. 49).

14:4 "for John had been saying to him" The verb is imperfect tense which meant repeated action in past time. John had apparently made this accusation repeatedly. These charges were based either on Herod Antipas and Herodias (his niece) being too closely related to be married (cf. Lev. 18:16), or more probably, because they were each had been illegally divorced (cf. Deut. 24:1-4).

14:5 "Although Herod wanted to put him to death, he feared the crowd" This seems to be in direct contradiction to Matt. 14:9. However, the schizophrenia of these eastern potentates was notorious. Apparently there was a fascination with John because Herod often called him to talk with him (cf. Mark 6:20), yet at the same time, there was great fear!

▣ "because they regarded John as a prophet" Jesus said in Matt. 11:7-11 that John was the last OT prophet and the greatest man ever born of woman under the old covenant. See SPECIAL TOPIC: NEW TESTAMENT PROPHECY at Matt. 11:9.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 14:6-12
 6But when Herod's birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before them and pleased Herod, 7so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. 8Having been prompted by her mother, she said, "Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist." 9Although he was grieved, the king commanded it to be given because of his oaths, and because of his dinner guests. 10He sent and had John beheaded in the prison. 11And his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. 12His disciples came and took away the body and buried it; and they went and reported to Jesus.

14:6 "But when Herod's birthday came" There is some archaeological, linguistic evidence that this may refer to an annual feast recognizing his inauguration. Judging from the available historical evidence, it was simply his birthday. On these occasions great feasts were the rule of the day.

▣ "the daughter of Herodias danced before them" Salome's dance (see Josephus, Antiq. 18.5.4) must have greatly surprised everyone present because in this day and time dancing women were considered to be immoral. For a princess to dance before a group of drunken guests, particularly at this young age, must have been astonishing. The implication of the context is that it was a sensual dance instigated by her mother to win Herod's approval.

14:8 "Having been prompted by her mother" The word " prompted" was the strong Greek term "urged." This shows that this young girl was not only manipulated by her mother, but also controlled by her in an obviously premeditated plan to secure the death of John the Baptist (cf. Mark 6:22-25).

14:9 "although he was grieved" He was sorry-not because he was going to commit the premeditated murder of an innocent man, but because he had made an oath (secular use of "confess," cf. Luke 22:6) and he was embarrassed to break it before his drunken guests (cf. Mark. 6:26).

14:11 "and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother" We do not know what the mother did with the head. There is a tradition, first mentioned by Jerome in the 4th century a.d., that she pulled out his tongue and stuck a pin through it.

The Greek term "girl" was used both of Jairus'daughter (cf. Mark 5:41-42 where she is said to be twelve) and Salome, therefore, she was probably a teenager.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 14:13-14
 13Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself; and when the people heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the cities. 14When He went ashore, He saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick.

14:13 "when Jesus heard about John" This seems to refer to Matt. 14:1 and 2 and not the intervening parenthesis of Matt. 14:3-12.

▣ "He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself" This account of Jesus feeding the five thousand is also recorded in Mark 6:32-44, Luke 9:10-17, and John. 6:1-13. Apparently He wanted to get away to pray. This was His normal custom which helped Him to be prepared for the circumstances He faced. If Jesus needed to get away to pray, how much more do believers?

▣ "when the people heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the cities" Jesus never got tired of nor impatient with the crowds, but was always moved with compassion (cf. Matt. 14:14). This is a theme in Matthew's Gospel (cf. Matt. 9:36; 15:32). Jesus, although tired and needing a time of retreat for prayer, still made people the priority. He cured all of those who were brought to Him, although He usually did not go out of His way to heal. He did not primarily want to be known as a healer but His compassion overflowed whenever He was in the presence of human misery. The healings of Jesus did two things: (1) they confirmed His message and (2) they showed the character and presence of the Messianic kingdom. Jesus is recorded as healing people numerous times in the Gospel of Matthew (cf. Matt. 4:23; 8:16; 9:35; 14:14; 15:30; 19:2; 21:14). I still believe in a supernatural God who heals. I do not understand why God heals some and does not heal others. I believe that there was a special emphasis on healing during the first century to confirm Jesus' message as there was a special outburst of the demonic during His lifetime. This same pattern may be repeated before the Second Coming. See Special topic: Is Healing God's Plan for Every Age? at Matt. 19:2.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 14:15-21
 15When it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said, "This place is desolate and the hour is already late; so send the crowds away, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves." 16 But Jesus said to them, "They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!" 17They said to Him, "We have here only five loaves and two fish." 18 And He said, "Bring them to Me." 19Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking 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, 20and they all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets. 21There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children.

14:15 "When it was evening" See Matt. 14:23. Matthew presents this chapter as one day in the life of Jesus (cf. Matt. 14:23). It is assumed that the Jews of Jesus' day had an early evening and a late evening. The early one would occur at  3 p.m. in the afternoon when the offering of the evening sacrifice occurred in the Temple. The later one would be sometime just after sunset.

▣ "this place is desolate" This idiom meant that there was no large town or village close by, not that it was an uninhabited desert region.

14:16 Jesus apparently told the disciples to provide for these people (cf. Mark 6:37). "You give them something to eat" is emphatic in the Greek text. They were stunned. This was a training opportunity for them, as was the storm (cf. Matt. 14:32).

14:17 "We have here only five loaves and two fish" This was one boy's lunch (cf. John. 6:9). Commentators who are nervous about miracles (William Barclay and other logical positivists) try to say that what happened was that this young boy shared his lunch and others who had brought their lunches shared them, which provided enough food for everybody. This is an obvious example of one's presuppositions misinterpreting the biblical author's obvious meaning. Where did the twelve full baskets that were left over come from if this was simply a sharing of lunches? Also notice that Jesus supernaturally multiplied the bread; but did not waste any of it because the disciples picked up the small pieces to eat later. This multiplication of food was the exact temptation of the evil one in Matt. 4:1-4, to get Jesus to feed the needy humanity. One of the reasons why Jesus may have wanted to get alone to pray was this previous temptation. The people wanted to make Him the "bread king" (cf. John. 6:15).

14:18 "Bring them to Me" Jesus was doing this not only to feed the crowd, but to teach the disciples and to build their faith. This was the true purpose of many of His miracles. Compassion for the needy and the desire to build the faith of His disciples were the twin motivations of the miracles.

This feeding would also have had Jewish Messianic implications. The Jews expected the Messiah to perform acts like Moses. This new manna may have been one such act (cf. John. 6).

14:19 "ordering the people to sit down on the grass" Literally this says "to recline on the grass." This was the normal eating posture in Palestine. They were in groups of hundreds and fifties (cf. Mark 6:39-40). The presence of this lush, green grass meant that it was probably in the spring time.

▣ "looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food" The normal position of prayer for the Jews was with the eyes and hands lifted up to heaven. It was unusual for them to kneel to pray. Our modern practice of bowing our heads and closing our eyes comes from the parable of the Pharisee and the sinner. If we are going to bow our head and close our eyes, to be truly biblical we should also beat our breasts (cf. Luke 18:9-14)!

14:20 "twelve full baskets" See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE NUMBER TWELVE

14:21 "There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children" This being a somewhat isolated place, there were probably not too many women or children present unless they were sick and had been brought to be healed. The full number may have been somewhere around six or seven thousand but this is uncertain.

Since the Gospel of Matthew is directed to Jewish readers, this may have addressed the cultural issue of men eating separately from women and children (cf. NASB Study Bible, footnote, p. 1389).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 14:22-27
 22Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. 23After 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. 24But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. 25And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. 26When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out in fear. 27But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid."

14:22 "Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat" Why Jesus forced the disciples into the boat is unspecified. It could have involved

1. the inappropriate actions of the crowd (cf. Mark 6:15)

2. another example of His supernatural power to build the disciples'faith (cf. Mark 6:45-51; John. 6:15-21)

 

▣ "while He sent the crowds away" They had become excited over this miraculous feeding and attempted to make Him king (cf. John. 6:15). This was exactly the temptation of the evil one in Matt. 4:1-4 regarding the turning of the stones to bread. It was for this very reason that Jesus needed to get away, pray and speak with the Father about His further ministry. There was great confusion among the people concerning His healings and, here, of the feeding of the multitude.

14:23 "He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray" This was His original intent back in Matt. 14:13. The Gospels repeatedly record Jesus getting alone to pray. If He, being God Incarnate, needed this, how much more do we?

14:24 "the boat was already a long distance from the land" Mark 6:47 says the boat was in the middle of the lake.

14:25

NASB, NKJV,
NJB" in the fourth watch of the night"
NRSV" early in the morning"
TEV"between three and six o'clock in the morning"

This was a technical term to designate the fourth Roman watch of the night, which was 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. (cf. Mark 13:35). Originally the Jews had only three watches during the night (cf. Jdgs. 7:19; Lam. 2:19), but during the Roman period they adopted this fourfold division. Notice that Jesus had been in prayer for most of the night.

▣ "He came to them, walking on the sea" Because the waves and the wind were up, He must have come in and out of sight as the waves lifted up the boat. Here again Jesus showed His power over nature. We learn from the other Gospels that Jesus meant to simply walk past them but, because of their fright, He had to get in the boat with them.

14:26 "it is a ghost" This is exactly what they would say in the Upper Room in Luke 24:37. They were terrified. Jesus' first words to them were "Stop being afraid" (present imperative with the negative particle. These words of encouragement are repeated often (cf. Matt. 14:27; 17:7; 28:19; Mark 6:50; Luke 5:10; 12:32; John. 6:20; Rev. 1:17).

14:27 Jesus spoke to His disciples two commands.

1. NASB, "take courage"

    NKJV, "be of good cheer"

    NRSV, "take heart"

    TEV, NJB, "courage"

This is a present active imperative. Jesus spoke these words often to

a. a paralytic, Matt. 9:2

b. hemorrhagic woman, Matt. 9:22

c. the disciples in a boat, Matt. 14:27; Mark 6:50

d. a blind man, Mark 10:49

e. the disciples in the upper room, John 16:33

f. Paul, Acts 23:11

2. " Do not be afraid" - This is a present middle/passive deponent imperative. Jesus spoke these words to

a. disciples in a boat, Matt. 14:27; Mark 6:50; John 6:20

b. Peter after his great catch of fish, Luke 5:10

c. disciples while teaching them, Luke 12:32

d. at transfiguration, Matt. 17:7

e. women at the tomb, Matt. 28:10

f. Paul at Corinth, Acts 18:9

g. Paul at sea, Acts 27:24

h. John on Patmos, Rev. 1:17

These same words were spoken by angels to

1. Zacharias, Luke 1:13

2. Mary, Luke 1:30

3. shepherds, Luke 2:10

4. women at the tomb, Matt. 28:5

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 14:28-33
 28Peter said to Him, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water." 29 And He said, "Come!" And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!" 31Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand, and said to him, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" 32When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. 33And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, "You are certainly God's Son!"

14:28 "Peter said to Him" This event is recorded only in Matthew's Gospel. Peter was so impetuous. He was a mixture of great faith and great doubt.

▣ "if it is you" This is a first class conditional sentence, which is assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes. Peter recognized it was Jesus.

14:30 "seeing the wind" He saw and felt the wind and the waves and began to lose his faith focus.

▣ "Lord, save me" This is a good example of the word " saved" used in the OT sense of "physical deliverance" (cf. James 5:15).

14:31 "You of little faith" This is a recurrent theme in the Gospel of Matthew (cf. Matt. 6:30; 8:26; 16:8). Many of Jesus' miracles were done to increase the faith of the disciples. God works with those who have little faith. Amen!

14:32 "worshiped Him, saying, 'You are certainly God's Son'" Jesus accepted this worship. How much they really understood concerning the term " Son of God" (see Special Topic at Matt. 27:54) and how much they understood by hearing and seeing the supernatural aspects of His ministry is uncertain. This obviously set the stage for the full theological confession of Matt. 16:16. Matthew's Gospel does not exhibit the "Messianic secret" to the extent Mark's Gospel does (i.e., Mark 6:52).

The term "Son of God" was used quite often in the Gospel of Matthew (cf. Matt. 4:3,6; 16:16; 26:63; 27:40,43,54). There is no article with the term here as in Luke 27:54. Many assumed that this implied that they did not have the full theological implication of the term, which implied full deity. This may be true. Their understanding was progressive and not instantaneous. But it is dangerous to build too much theology on the presence or absence of the Greek article!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 14:34-36
 34When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. 35And when the men of that place recognized Him, they sent word into all that surrounding district and brought to Him all who were sick; 36and they implored Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were cured.

14:34 "When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret" There is ambiguity in the words "crossed over." In Mark 6:45 there was a place called Bethsaida which meant "house of fish." There must have been two Bethsaidas or else there was some confusion in the geography of the various accounts of the Synoptic Gospels. Jesus was staying in the territory of Philip the Tetrarch and not going back to the territory of Herod the Tetrarch. Gennesaret was primarily a Gentile area. Maybe this was His way of getting away from the Jewish crowds as He would later at Caesarea Philippi.

14:35 "and when the men of that place recognized Him" The exact same thing that happened in Matt. 14:13 happens again and Jesus again took time to minister to needy people. They had the same kind of superstitious faith as the woman with the issue of blood in Matt. 9:20-they wanted to touch the tassel of His prayer shawl (cf. Matt. 14:36). Jesus accepted and worked with even this weak faith. His compassion can be clearly seen even for these superstitious non-Jews.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Why are verses 3-12 thought to be a parenthesis?

2. Can you identify the different Herods mentioned in the New Testament?

3. Why was Herodias so angry with John the Baptist?

4. What was the purpose of Jesus' miracles?

5. Why did Jesus feed the multitudes twice after rejecting the Devil's temptation to do this in Matthew 4:1-4?

6. How is the fearful reaction of Peter and the disciples so helpful to us in our faith?

 

Copyright © 2013 Bible Lessons International

Passage: 

Matthew 15

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Tradition of the Elders Defilement Comes From Within Traditions of the Elders The Teaching of the Ancestors The Traditions of the Pharisees
15:1-9 15:1-20 15:1-9 15:1-2
15:3-9
15:1-9
 (8-9)        (8-9)
      The Things that Make a Person Unclean On Clean and Unclean
15:10-20   15:10-20 15:10-11 15:10-11
      15:12 15:12-14
      15:13-14  
      15:15 15:15-20
      15:16-20  
The Canaanite Woman's Faith A Gentile Shows Her Faith The Canaanite Woman A Woman's Faith The Daughter of the Canaanite Woman Healed
15:21-28 15:21-28 15:21-28 15:21-22 15:21-28
      15:23  
      15:24  
      15:25  
      15:26  
      15:27  
      15:28  
The Healing of Many People Jesus Heals Great Multitudes Healings Jesus Heals Many People Cures near the Lake
15:29-31 15:29-31 15:29-31 15:29-31 15:29-31
The Feeding of the Four Thousand Feeding the Four Thousand Four Thousand Fed Jesus Feeds the Four Thousand Second Miracle of the Loaves
15:32-39 15:32-39 15:32-39 15:32 15:32-39
      15:33  
      15:34a  
      15:34b  
      15:35-38  
      15:39  

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 15:1-11
 1Then some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 2"Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread." 3And He answered and said to them, "Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4For God said, 'Honor your father and mother,'and, 'He who speaks evil of father or mother is to be put to death.'5But you say, "Whoever says to his father or mother, 'Whatever I have that would help you has been given to God,'6he is not to honor his father or mother." And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you:
 8This people honors Me with their lips,
  But their heart is far away from Me.
  9But in vain do they worship Me,
  Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.'
 10After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them, "Hear and understand. 11It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man."

15:1 "Pharisees" They were the most outwardly religious sect within first century Judaism. They had developed during the Maccabean period. The name may have meant "separated ones." Jesus did not condemn all Pharisees but only those who were outwardly legalistic without inner righteousness (Isa. 29:13). They emphasized absolute conformity to the oral tradition which was later codified into the Talmud. For a full discussion of the origin and theology of the Pharisees see Special Topic at Matt. 22:15.

▣ "scribes" This was a professional group of religious lawyers, trained in the written law and oral tradition, who were contacted to make rulings on points of Jewish regulations related to daily life. See Special Topic at Matt. 12:38.

▣ "from Jerusalem" Jesus was in Galilee at this time so these men traveled a long way to hear Him. They were, if you please, a delegation from headquarters!

15:2 "your disciples" The disciples were from Galilee, where Judaism was not as strict as in the Jerusalem area.

▣ "the tradition of the elders" This was a reference to the large body of oral traditions called the Mishnah, which interpreted the Law of Moses and helped apply it to everyday life. The Mishnah was codified most completely by Rabbi Judah in a.d. 200 and later became part of the Talmud. It was believed by the rabbis to be as authoritative as the Torah (Gen.-Deut.), for it, too, was believed to have been given orally to Moses by God (cf. Deut. 4:14).

▣ "they do not wash their hands when they eat" Handwashing was not for hygienic purposes but for ceremonial cleanliness. The OT did not require washing before every meal, but tradition grew (1) from Exod. 30:19 where the priests were to wash and (2) Leviticus 15, where those who touched something unclean were to wash. By Jesus' time washing before meals had become a major part of Jewish religious life. One early rabbi was excommunicated for not washing properly! Not only was washing before meals commanded, but washing after and even between the individual courses was also considered a religious ceremonial duty.

15:4 "God said" Mark 7:11 has "Moses said." This shows Jesus' view of the authority and inspiration of the OT (cf. Matt. 5:17-19).

▣ "Honor your father and mother" Jesus quoted one of the Ten Commandments (cf. Exod. 20:12; Deut. 5:16). "Honor" was a commercial term which meant "to give due weight to."

The second OT quote in Matt. 15:4 is from Exod. 21:17 or Lev. 20:9. The stability of the society demanded swift and strong action against those who violated covenant requirements. The family was/is based to society.

▣ "He who speaks evil of father or mother is to be put to death."See Exod. 21:17 and Lev. 20:1.

15:5

NASB, NRSV"has been given to God"
NKJV"dedicated to the temple"
TEV"belongs to God"
NJB"dedicated to God"

The concept of vowing or dedicating unneeded resources to God was called corban (from Hebrew word for "gift," cf. Lev. 1:2; 22:27; 23:14; Num. 7:25) or "under the ban" (cf. Mark 7:11). This vow thereby made these resources legally unavailable to be used to help aging parents (though they might be used for other personal reasons).

15:6

NASB"he is not to honor"
NKJV"is released from honoring"
TEV"they do not need to honor"
NJB"he is rid of his duty"

Although it is not expressed in English this phrase is

1. a strong double negative

2. implies a question

3. a quote from the teachings (or implication of) the Pharisees/Scribes

 

NASB"invalidated"
NKJV"no effect"
NRSV"void"
NJB"ineffective"

This is a strong Greek word used only here and the parallel in Mark 7:13 and in Gal. 3:17. By their motives and actions the intent of the Scriptures was compromised to human greed! These people looked religious, but the evidence of the Fall remained (i.e., more for me at any cost).

▣ "for the sake of your tradition" This term (pardosis) is used in several senses.

1. in 1 Cor. 11:2,23 for gospel truths

2. in Matt. 15:6; 23:1ff; Mark 7:8; Gal. 1:14 of Jewish traditions

3. in Col. 2:6-8 of gnostic speculations

4. Roman Catholics use this verse as a biblical proof-text for Scripture and tradition being equal in authority

However, in this context it refers to Apostolic truth, either spoken or written (cf. 2 Thess. 3:6)

15:7 "you hypocrites" This was a theatrical term literally "to judge under" but in the sense of "to play a part behind a mask."

15:8-9 "This people honor me with their lips" This is a quote from the Septuagint of Isa. 29:13. This powerful verse shows that a person's personal faith is clearly revealed by their outward acts and words (cf. Rom. 4:3-6; James 2:14-26).

15:8 "far away" This phrase conveys the idea of holding something or someone at arm's length.

15:10 "Jesus called the crowd to Him," Jesus publicly denounced these religious leaders from Jerusalem.

15:11 "It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man" This related primarily to the question of hand washing (cf. Matt. 15:18,20), but Mark 7:19 adds a phrase that related the statement to all foods (cf. Acts 10). The purity is from within and it guides/directs outward activities.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 15:12-14
 12Then the disciples came and said to Him, "Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?" 13But He answered and said, "Every plant which my heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted. 14Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit."

15:12 "the Pharisees were offended" The disciples were shocked at Jesus' treatment of these religious leaders, His statement about the oral traditions, and by implication, His negation of the food laws of Lev. 11.

15:13 "Every plant which my heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted" This referred either to the Pharisees'teachings or to the Pharisees themselves. It showed that they were not of God (cf. Matt. 5:20; 16:6,11). Religiosity can be a dangerous thing (cf. Rom. 2:17-29). Peace at any price was not Jesus' way!

It is possible that Jesus is drawing this plant imagery from Isa. 60:21; 61:3. Israel was described in agricultural terms (cf. Isaiah 5; John 15). Israel was YHWH's chosen vine, chosen to reveal Himself to the nations! AS Israel failed, so too Pharisaic theology. The greatest sin besides unbelief is self-righteousness!

15:14 This is a third class conditional sentence, which refers to potential action.

▣ "blind" This is used metaphorically to describe the spiritual understanding of the Pharisees and their disciples (cf. Matthew 23, especially Matt. 15:16,24).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 15:15-20
 15Peter said to Him, "Explain the parable to us." 16Jesus said, "Are you still lacking in understanding also? 17Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? 18But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. 19For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witnesses, slanders. 20These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man."

15:15-20 This speaks of the need for spiritual balance between freedom in Christ and self-limiting responsibility out of love for Christ and others (cf. Rom. 14:1-15:13; 1 Cor. 8; 10:23-33; 1 Tim. 4:4; Titus 1:15).

15:16 "Are you still lacking in understanding also" This is a rare, emphatic Greek idiom. Even the disciples did not understand until after the resurrection (cf. Luke 24:45, see also Luke 24:16,31; Acts 16:14; 1 John 5:20).

15:18 What food one may or may not eat is not the issue but the person's heart (cf. Matt. 12:34; Mark 7:20). By these statements Jesus negated the food laws of Leviticus 11! Jesus is usually said to have rejected the oral tradition of the rabbis, but affirmed the OT. However, in this instance and His treatment of divorce (cf. Matt. 5:31-32; 19:8-9) He changes OT Law. It is best to affirm Jesus' right and inspiration to reinterpret both the OT and rabbinical tradition without turning this into a hermeneutical principle. Modern interpreters are not inspired but illumined. We affirm Jesus' teachings, but dare not follow His hermeneutic technique!

▣ "heart" See Special Topic at Matt. 5:8.

15:19 "fornications" The English word " pornography" shares the same root word as this Greek term. It meant any inappropriate sexual activity: premarital sex, extramarital sex, homosexuality, bestiality, and even a refusal of levirate responsibilities (a brother failing to sexually relate to the widow of a deceased brother in order to provide heirs).

In the OT there was a distinction between marital infidelity (adultery) and pre-marital promiscuity (fornication).

▣ "thefts" The English word "kleptomania" is derived from the same Greek root.

▣ "slanders" This whole list referred to the Ten Commandments. Blasphemy was to speak against God.

SPECIAL TOPIC: HUMAN SPEECH

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 15:21-28
 21Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22And 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 cruelly demon-possessed." 23But He did not answer a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, "Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us." 24But He answered and said, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." 25But she came and began to bow down before Him, saying, "Lord, help me!" 26And He answered and said, "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs." 27But she said, "Yes, Lord; but even the dogs feed on the crumbs which fall from their masters'table." 28Then Jesus said to her, "O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed at once.

15:21 "Tyre and Sidon" These were Phoenician coastal cities. In most of the OT they are associated with Ba'al worship and wickedness, however (1) Solomon did procure artisans and material for the Temple from Hiram, King of Tyre (cf. 1 Kgs. 7); and (2) Elijah helped a widow from this area (cf. Luke 4:25-26.)

15:22 "a Canaanite woman" This is the only use of this term in the NT, although a similar form is found in a name (Matt. 10:4; Mark 3:18). In Mark 7:26 she was called a Syro-Phoenician woman, who in the modern world would be a woman from southern Lebanon. She was obviously non-Jewish. This account, like 8:5-13, showed Jesus' care for Gentiles. The healings summarized in Matt. 15:29-31 took place in a predominately Gentile area (cf. Mark 7:31).

▣ "began to cry out, saying" Obviously this was done loudly and repeatedly. This imperfect tense can mean (1) repeated action in past time or (2) the beginning of an act in past time.

▣ "Have mercy on me" The mercy and compassion of Jesus towards the poor, sick, and possessed had been told far and wide. Even a non-Jewish woman felt He would act on her behalf (cf. Matt. 9:27; 17:15).

This aorist active imperative is used in the sense of a prayer request, not a command.

"Lord" This was either (1) a common use of "Sir" or (2) the theological use of "Master" and "Messiah" ; only context can tell. Because it is combined with a Messianic title here, the second option is best.

▣ "Son of David" This was a Messianic title from 2 Sam. 7. She knew something about the Jewish faith and hope. See note at Matt. 9:27.

▣ "my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed" Demon possession was and is a reality that can even affect children (cf. Matt. 17:14-18). There is so much we don't know about this area!

I have struggled in this area of demon possession. I believe and affirm the biblical worldview. However, it bothers me that (1) exorcism is not listed as one of the spiritual gifts; (2) it is never discussed in any of the NT letters; (3) I am not informed by an inspired author about how to perform this spiritual rite. I am left to affirm the reality, but not able to identify it or know how to address it or remove it! See special topics on the demonic at Matt. 10:1.

15:23 "disciples came and implored Him" The verb is also Imperfect tense. The disciples show their level of compassion in contrast to Jesus (cf. Matt. 9:36; 14:14; 15:32). Jesus' answer in Matt. 15:24 was addressed to them, not the woman. This phrase is left out in Mark because he was writing to Gentiles who would not have understood the disciples'reluctance in helping a Gentile.

15:24 "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" Remember Jesus helped other Gentiles, but within the geographical boundaries of the Promised Land. If Jesus had begun a healing ministry in a Gentile land, He would have been rejected by the Jewish populous in general because of their prejudices. The phrase "lost sheep of the house of Israel" shows the spiritual condition of the Jewish people (cf. Matt. 10:6; 9:36).

The "shepherding" imagery began in Num. 27:17 (cf. Zech. 10:2). Psalm 23; 78:52; Isa. 40:11; Jer. 31:10 depict YHWH as the Shepherd of Israel. This imagery becomes Messianic in Micah 5:2; Zech. 11:4-17; and John 10:1-10. The bad shepherds are contrasted with the good shepherd in Ezekiel 34.

Sheep needed constant care and protection. They were helpless, defenseless, and easily influenced animals! Calling God's people sheep is not a compliment, but a spiritual reality!

Could I make one more comment on the word "only" ! Jesus helped this needy Gentile, as He did several other Gentiles. These are foreshadowings of His world-wide goal (cf. Matt. 28:18-20; Luke 24:46-47; Acts 1:8). The Messiah came for all humans made in God's image (cf. Gen. 1:26-27). Genesis 3:15 is not a promise to Israel, but to humans. The call of Abraham included a concern for Gentiles (cf. Gen. 12:3). The giving of the law on Mt. Sinai included God's concern for the world (cf. Exod. 19:5)!

15:26 "dogs" This is the only use of this term in the NT. Its harshness is diminished by the fact that it is diminutive in form, "puppies" (JB, "house-dogs"). The Jews called the Gentiles "dogs." This dialogue was intended to help the disciples overcome their prejudice against Gentiles. Jesus recognized and publicly affirmed that her faith was great (cf. Matt. 15:28)!

15:27 "crumbs" People often used bread to wipe their hands after eating.

15:28 "O woman, your faith is great" Jesus complimented Gentiles several times (cf. Matt. 8:10). This was to: (1) show His love for Gentiles, or (2) stimulate the disciples'global world view.

▣ "her daughter was healed at once" Notice that this lady did not require ritual magic or Jesus' physical presence (cf. Matt. 8:8-9). When He told her that her daughter was healed, she believed.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 15:29-31
 29Departing from there, Jesus went along by the Sea of Galilee, and having gone up on the mountain, He was sitting there. 30And large crowds came to Him, bringing with them those who were lame, crippled, blind, mute, and many others, and they laid them down at His feet; and He healed them. 31So the crowd marveled as they saw the mute speaking, the crippled restored, and the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel.

15:30 "large crowds" These large crowds were made up of the curious, the committed, the religious leaders, and the sick.

▣ "He healed them" This was a Messianic sign (cf. Matt. 11:5) which showed the heart of God.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 15:32-38
 32And Jesus called His disciples to Him, and said, "I feel compassion for the people, because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way." 33The disciples said to Him, "Where would we get so many loaves in this desolate place to satisfy such a large crowd?" 34And Jesus said to them, "How many loaves do you have?" And they said, "Seven, and a few small fish." 35And He directed the people to sit down on the ground; 36and He took the seven loaves and the fish; and giving thanks, He broke them and started giving them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 37And they all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, seven large baskets full. 38And those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children.

15:33 "the disciples said" How could the disciples have forgotten the feeding of the 5,000 so quickly (cf. Matt. 14:13-21)? The difference in the number, setting, and type of baskets used show that there were two separate feedings of multitudes, not just one recorded twice.

Although Jesus' statements seemed to restrict His ministry to Jews, this feeding, like the healing of the Centurion's family in Matthew 8, healing of the Gentile woman's child in Matt. 15:21-28 and the summary statement of Matt. 15:29-30, all refer to Gentiles.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 15:39
 39And sending away the crowds, Jesus got into the boat and came to the region of Magadan.

15:39 "the region of Magadan" This location is unknown. In the Markan parallel the text has "Dalmanatha" (Mark 8:10), but this site is also unknown. Some Greek manuscripts changed Magadan to Magdala which was a Semitic term for "tower."

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Why did the Pharisees and scribes travel to Galilee to see Jesus?

2. How can tradition be a dangerous thing?

3. Is it possible to be religious and not know God?

4. How do we balance our freedom as Christians with our responsibilities?

5. Why are Matthew's and Mark's lists in verse 19 different?

6. Why did Jesus not readily want to help this lady? Why was He reluctant or, was He reluctant?

7. How can children have demons?

 

Copyright © 2013 Bible Lessons International

Passage: 

Matthew 16

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Demand for a Sign The Pharisees and Sadducees Seek a Sign Demand for Signs The Demand for a Miracle The Pharisees Ask for a Sign from Heaven
16:1-4 16:1-4 16:1-4 16:1-4c 16:1-4
      16:14d  
The Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees The Leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees Yeast of the Pharisees The Yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees The Yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees
16:5-12 16:5-12 16:5-12 16:5-6 16:5-12
      16:7  
      16:8-11  
      16:12  
Peter's Declaration about Jesus Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ Peter's Confession Peter's Declaration about Jesus Peter's Profession of Faith; his Pre-eminence
16:13-20 16:13-20 16:13-20 16:13 16:13-20
      16:14  
      16:15  
      16:16  
      16:17-19  
      16:20  
Jesus Foretells His Death Jesus Predicts His Death and Resurrection   Jesus Speaks about His Suffering and Death First Prophecy of the Passion
16:21-28 16:21-23 16:21-23 16:21 16:21-23
      16:22  
  Take Up the Cross and Follow Him On Discipleship 16:23 The Condition of Following Christ
  16:24-28 16:24-26 16:24-28 16:24-26
    16:27-28   16:27-28

 

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

 

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent which, is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 16:1-4
 1The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. 2But He answered and said to them, "When it is evening, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.'3And in the morning, 'There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.'Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times? 4An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah." And He left them and went away.

16:1 "the Pharisees and Sadducees" Matthew links these two groups together as the collective leadership of rabbinical Judaism (cf. Matt. 3:7; 10:1, 6, 11, 12; 22:34). For a full discussion of the origin and theology of the Pharisees, see note at Matt. 22:15 and for the Sadducees see Special Topic at Matt. 22:23.

▣ "testing" This word (peirasmos) was used with the connotation of "test with a view toward destruction" (cf. Matt. 6:13; James 1:13).

See Special Topic at Matt. 4:1.

▣ "a sign from heaven" "From heaven" is a circumlocution for "God." They had seen His miracles but they wanted more (cf. Matt. 12:38-42). This was the same temptation offered by Satan in Matt. 4:5-6 about winning mankind's allegiance by the use of the miraculous.

Apparently these Jewish religionists wanted evidence that Jesus was empowered by YHWH. They were calling the healings "Satan's work," so they wanted a sign that was indisputably from God (i.e., "heaven"). Exactly what that would be is not clearly stated. Jesus gives them that sign, but in a veiled and future way (i.e., His resurrection).

16:2b-3 These sentences are not in the most ancient uncial Greek manuscripts א, B, X, and the Greek text used by Origen, the Greek manuscripts known to Jerome, nor in some Peshitta or Coptic versions, but they are found in the uncial manuscripts C, D, L and W. A similar passage is found in Luke 12:54-56. The textual critics behind the fourth edition of the Greek NT put out by the United Bible Societies could not make a decision about the originality of these verses (cf. A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament by Bruce Metzger, p. 41.)

16:3 "the signs of the times" Notice the PLURAL " times." This refers to the two ages (see Special Topic at Matt. 12:31). These Jewish religionists could predict and understand some weather phenomena, but they could not/would not understand the coming of the new age of the Spirit in Jesus. He chides them for their lack of spiritual perception (cf. Isa. 6:9-10). Another sign/prophecy was fulfilled in them!

16:4 "adulterous generation" This phrase is used in the metaphorical sense of "unfaithful." The metaphor (cf. Matt. 12:39; James 4:4) goes back to the OT usage related to idolatry and fertility worship (i.e., Jer. 3:8; 9:2; 23:10; 29:23; Ezekiel 23; Hosea 4:2-3; Mal. 3:5).

▣ "the sign of Jonah" They would have had no clue what He was talking about! This was an analogy of three days Jonah was in the great fish and Jesus would be in Hades (cf. 1 Pet. 3:19). Remember Jesus was in the tomb only about thirty-six to forty hours, but it was reckoned as three days in the Jewish counting system of Jesus' day. Part of a day was counted as a whole day and a day began and ended at twilight (cf. Gen. 1). See notes at Matt. 12:39 and Matt. 16:21.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 16:5-12
 5And the disciples came to the other side of the sea, but they had forgotten to bring any bread. 6And Jesus said to them, "Watch out and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." 7They began to discuss this among themselves, saying, "He said that because we did not bring any bread." 8But Jesus aware of this, said, "You men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread? 9Do you not yet understand or remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets full you picked up? 10Or the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many large baskets full you picked up? 11 How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." 12Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

16:6, 11 "the leaven" It is possible that the Aramaic term "legal severity" was meant here (remember Jesus and the Jews of His day spoke Aramaic). The two words are similar in Aramaic; however, verse 12 demands the term "yeast" or "leaven."

SPECIAL TOPIC: LEAVEN

16:8 Jesus often referred to the Twelve as having little faith (cf. Matt. 6:30; 8:26; 14:31; 16:8). Those who heard Him and lived with Him did not always understand or have faith. Verses 7-10 are parenthetical. Jesus wanted to talk about the false faith of the Pharisees (cf. Matt. 5:20-48), but the disciples got mentally sidetracked over the lack of "bread."

16:9 The disciples had the advantage of hearing Jesus speak and minister to the crowds and also the private the private discussions and interpretation afterward, but still they, like most of the hearers (cf. Matt. 13:13,14-15 [Isa. 6:9-10,19]), did not understand (i.e., Matt. 15:17; 16:11; Luke 2:50; 18:34; John 10:6; 12:16). Jesus' message was so unique and different from the Jewish religion (i.e., "the leaven of the Pharisees") they had grown up with that it took a supernatural Spirit-led opening of their minds to perceive (i.e., Luke 24:45). This occurred slowly during Jesus' time with them (i.e., Matt. 16:13-28), but not fully until

1. after the resurrection

2. in the upper room (cf. John 20)

3. by the seashore in John 21

4. Acts 1 when He ascended into heaven

 

16:12 It was their legalism and lack of love that caused Jesus' sternest words of condemnation! Often, religiosity can be a barrier instead of a bridge!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 16:13-20
 13Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" 14And they said, "Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah or one of the other prophets." 15He said to them, " But who do you say that I am?" 16Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." 17And 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. 18I 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. 19I 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." 20Then He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ.

16:13 "Caesarea Philippi" This was a city in Philip's territory about 20 miles north of the Sea of Galilee. This was Jesus' second attempt to get away with the disciples alone (cf. Matt. 15).

▣ "Son of Man" This phrase was used several times in the OT. It implies humanity (Ps. 8:4; Ezek. 2:1) and deity (Dan. 7:13). The phrase was not used by the rabbis of Jesus' day; therefore, it had no nationalistic or militaristic implications. This was Jesus' self-chosen designation because it combined the twin aspects of His person, fully God and fully man (cf. Phil. 2:6-8; 1 John. 4:1-3). See note at Matt. 8:20.

16:14 "John the Baptist" Herod Antipas guessed that Jesus was actually John the Baptist (cf. Matt. 14:1-2).

▣ "Elijah" This was from the prophecy of Mal. 3:1; 4:5 which said Elijah would prepare the way for the Messiah. It would have acknowledged the dawning of the new age of the Spirit.

▣ "Jeremiah" The rabbis held that he hid the Ark of the Covenant on Mt. Nebo and that he would bring it out just before the New Age began.

▣ "one of the prophets" This made Jesus a prophet like other OT figures. It could have related to the prophecy of Deut. 18:15-22 (cf. John. 2:2). All of these guesses involved a resuscitation!

▣ "But who do you say that I am" "You" is plural. Jesus asked all of His disciples this question. Peter answered first. His personality made him the spokesman for the group.

16:16 "You are the Christ" This had been expressed before by Andrew in John. 1:41, Nathaniel in John. 1:49, and Peter in John. 6:69. The Greek title "Christ" is the equivalent of the Hebrew "Messiah" or " Anointed One." See Special Topic: OT Titles For the Special Coming One at Matt. 8:20.

▣ "the Son of the living God" Peter did not fully understand Jesus' Messiahship as is obvious from verses 21-23. Therefore, the blessing of verse 17 related to the phrase "Son of the living God." The phrase " living God" was a paraphrase of YHWH which is the from the Hebrew verb "to be" (cf. Exod. 3:14). See SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY at Matt. 1:21.

16:17

NASB"Simon, Barjonah"
NKJV"Simon Bar-Jona"
NRSV, NJB"Simon son of Jonah"
TEV"Simon son of John"

This Aramaic "Barjonas" meant "son of John."

▣ "but My Father who is in heaven" The content of Peter's confession (Matt. 16:16) was not human discovery, but divine revelation. The Spirit is the person of the Trinity who is attributed this task, but here it is the Father, possibly because of the mention of "Son of God."

The gospel cannot be comprehended nor responded to without divine aid (cf. John 6:44,65; 10:29). This does not eliminate the mandated human response (cf. John 1:12; 3:16; Rom. 10:9-13), but it does show that humans can only respond to the initiation from the spiritual realm. The cannot/do not initiate spiritual decisions! The verb tense related to the "binding" and " loosing" of Matt. 16:19 reflect this same truth!

16:18 "Peter" This is the Greek word "petros," a masculine noun. It referred to a detached boulder. For much of his life (i.e., Matt. 16:22,23; Mark 14) he was anything but a "rock" !

▣ "this rock" This is the Greek work, "petra," a feminine noun. It referred to bedrock (cf. Matt. 7:24). These two words (petros and petra) cannot grammatically link up to each other because of their gender. The disciples did not see this as a reference to Peter's superiority because they continued to argue over who was greatest (cf. Matt. 18:1, 18; John. 20:21). These two terms are related but distinct in Greek. There is an obvious play between Peter's faith and the faith of all the apostles. However, in Aramaic there is only one term, "kepha" (" Cephas, John 1:42; 1 Cor. 1:12; 3:22; 9:5; 15:5) for both of the Greek terms for "rock." Jesus spoke Aramaic but His words are recorded by inspired writers in Greek. Therefore, we must deal with the Greek text, not a supposed Aramaic statement.

▣ "church" "Ekklesia" was the word used in the Septuagint for "the congregation of Israel" (Qahal, BDB 874, cf. Deut. 18:16; 23:2). One must be careful not to read post-Pentecostal definitions and forms into this very early and Jewish passage. These early disciples saw themselves as an extension of the OT people (i.e., Qahal) of God. They were the fulfillment of the OT people. The term itself implied a called gathering for some purpose. Its Greek background was a called town meeting (cf. Acts 19:32,39,41). This term does not occur in Mark, Luke, or John. It occurs in Matthew only three times (cf. Matt. 16:8; 18:17 [twice]). The Matt. 18:17 text obviously refers to a later period of time. The term does occur often in Acts and Paul's writings.

SPECIAL TOPIC: CHURCH (EKKLESIA)

▣ "gates of Hades" "Gates" can refer to (1) the idea of a city of death from which no one escapes, (2) a city council meeting held at the gate, or (3) an active scheme of evil against the Church. Hades was from the word "to see" negated, therefore invisible. It equals the OT "Sheol," where the righteous and wicked alike go at the time of death. See Special Topic: Where Are the Dead? at Matt. 5:22.

▣ "will not overpower it" This word had an active connotation of "to assault, to gain control." Death and evil have not overcome nor even comprehended (the two meanings of this term) the Church of the Living God.

16:19 "keys of the kingdom of heaven" This was a metaphor for ownership by gaining entrance. See Isa. 22:22; Rev. 1:18; 3:7. The keys are the proclamation of the gospel with an invitation to respond. This concept of Hades and heaven having gates like a city goes back to Isaiah (see Special Topic following). The author of Hebrews also uses this metaphor for heaven (cf. Heb. 11:10,16; 12:22; 13:4), as does John in Revelation (cf. Rev. 3:12; 21-22).

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE TWO "CITIES" OF ISAIAH

▣ "kingdom of heaven" Mark and Luke have, "kingdom of God." The difference is not one of substance, but a difference of recipients. See special topic on the Kingdom of God at Matt. 4:17.

NASB, NKJV,
NRSV, NJB"bind. . .loose"
TEV"prohibit. . .permit"

These were rabbinical terms used for legal decisions of permitting or not permitting something. The tense of these two periphrastic verbals is significant. They are both future indicatives of "I Am" with perfect passive participles. They should be translated " shall have been bound" and "shall have been loosed" (cf. Matt. 18:18). This reflects the truth that what humans, led by the Holy Spirit, decide on earth about spiritual matters will have already been decided on in heaven. This passage does not express a human decision, but humans following God's lead (cf. Matt. 18:18; John 20:23).

16:20 "He warned the disciples that they should tell no one that He was the Christ" The gospel was not yet complete. The current Jewish notions about the work of the Messiah were incorrect. The disciples must wait (cf. Matt. 8:4; 9:30; 12:16; 17:9).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 16:21-23
 21From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. 22Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, "God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You." 23But He 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 interests, but man's."

16:21 "must" This was the word "dei" which meant moral necessity (Jesus came to die, Mark 8:31; 10:45; John 3:14,16). Jesus knew there was a divine plan for His life and ministry (cf. Matt. 12:15-21; Luke 22:22; Acts 2:23; 3:18; 4:28; 10:42; 17:31). He knew at the age of twelve (cf. Luke 2:41-49)!

▣ "and suffer many things" John had implied this by calling Jesus "the Lamb of God" (cf. John 1:29), but the disciples were not prepared for this truth. It was not in their first century Jewish notions about the Messiah. The rabbis emphasized the coming of the Messiah as an act of judgment and military triumph (cf. Rev. 19:11-16). They were not wrong in this assessment but they failed to recognize His first coming as the suffering servant (cf. Isa. 53), the humble one on the colt of a donkey (cf. Zech. 9:5), both of which seem to follow Gen. 3:15. See Special Topic: YHWH's ETERNAL REDEMPTIVE PLAN at Matt. 27:66.

This revelation of His suffering was so shocking that Jesus had to repeat it several times (cf. Matt. 17:9,12,22-23; 20:18-19). He did this so that when it happened the disciples, after their initial grief and confusion, would realize that Jesus was in control of His own destiny. This would embolden them for their called mission (cf. Matt. 28:18-20; Luke 24:46-47; Acts 1:8).

▣ "the elders, and chief priests, and scribes" This was the phrase used to describe the Sanhedrin. It was the ruling body of the Jews made up of 70 leaders from the Jerusalem area. In Jesus' day it had been corrupted by Roman politics because the High Priesthood had become a purchased position.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE SANHEDRIN

▣ "on the third day" Jesus specifically mentioned this time element several times, Matt. 12:40; 16:4, where it was related to the prophet Jonah and as a sign of His Messiahship. Paul implied in 1 Cor. 15:4 that it was predicted in the OT. The only two possibilities are Hos. 6:2 and Jonah 1:16. In the context of Jesus' usage it must relate to Jonah.

However, it was not a full 72 hours but only about 36-40. The Jews counted partial days as full days. Their days started at twilight. Jesus died at  3 p.m. on Friday and was buried before 6 p.m. This was counted as one day. He remained in Hades all of the Sabbath, 6 p.m. Friday to 6 p.m. Saturday. Then sometime before sunrise on Sunday He arose (see Special Topic: Resurrection at Matt. 27:63), thereby, three Jewish days.

16:22 "Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him" Peter overstepped his bounds. Jesus used the term "rebuke" in several other strong contexts (cf. Matt. 8:26; 12:10; 16:20). Peter's personal feelings for Jesus were superceding God's plan of redemption.

▣ "This shall never happen to you" This is literally " mercy on you" which implied "May God have mercy on you so this never happens." This is a strong double negative used for emphasis.

16:23 "Get behind Me, Satan" Peter, who moments before spoke a revelation from God, now speaks temptation from Satan. This was the same temptation Jesus faced in the wilderness, to bypass the cross (cf. Matt: 4:1-11). In this context, Peter was Satan's spokesman!

▣ "stumbling block" This referred literally to a baited trap-stick trigger on an animal trap. The word was used metaphorically of an obstacle.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 16:24-27
 24Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 27For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds."

16:24 "disciples" This meant "learner." Jesus' emphasis was not on an initial decision only but on a continuing and deepening discipleship (cf. Matt. 28:19).

▣ "if" This is a first class conditional sentence which is assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes. Jesus assumes that people will want to follow Him.

▣ "he must deny himself" This is an aorist middle (deponent) imperative. There must be a decisive act. Believers must turn away from self-centered lives (the results of the Fall of Genesis 3) in all areas. This concept is similar to repentance.

16:24 "take up his cross" This is an aorist active imperative. This same emphasis is recorded in Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24; John 12:25. Another decisive act is called for. Condemned criminals had to carry their cross bar to the place of crucifixion (cf. John. 12:24). This was metaphorical of a torturous death, in this context, the death of the self-life (cf. John. 12:24; 2 Cor. 5:13-14; Gal. 2:20; 1 John. 3:16).

▣ "and follow Me" This is present active imperative. As the two previous phrases were decisive commands (aorist imperatives) this one speaks of habitual living. Followship (rabbinical discipleship) in a first century Jewish context had specific requirements. As Jesus called the twelve disciples to be with Him, He calls believers of every age. Jesus poured His life into these men and they had to respond by pouring their lives into others (cf. 2 Tim. 2:2; 1 John. 3:16). Jesus often spoke of the radical continuing nature of followship (cf. Matt. 10:37-39; Mark 8:38-39; Luke 9:23-27; 14:25-27; 17:33; John. 12:25).

16:25 The new age is different from the current evil, self-centered age. Humans show that the transition has been made by how they live (cf. Matthew 7 and 13). Living right does not make one right with God (cf. Eph. 2:8-9); confession and faith do that (i.e., 16:16), but it does give evidence a change/transition has been made!

The term "life" (psuchē) is equivalent to nephesh (BDB 659), which denotes life on planet earth, in this case self-directing life (i.e., human). The new age calls for a radical new orientation. The old age is characterized by a pull toward self (cf. Genesis 3), but the new age is characterized by selflessness. The image of God in humanity (cf. Gen. 1:26-27) was damaged in the Fall. Salvation restores the image so that fellowship with God (i.e., the purpose of creation) is restored! Self is replaced by service, sin by sanctification, me by ministry, more and more for me by less of me and more of Him!

16:26 "if" This is a third class conditional sentence which meant potential future action. Some do gain worldly things but forfeit spiritual, eternal things.

▣ "what will a man give in exchange for his soul" Life selfishly lived ends in death, but life given away for Christ's sake results in eternal life (cf. Mark 8:34-38). Believers are responsible stewards of the gift of physical life and spiritual life!

16:27 "The Son of Man is going to come. . .with His angels" This referred to the Second Coming (cf. Matt. 10:23; 24:3, 27, 37, 39; 26:64; Acts 1:11; 1 Cor. 15:23; 1 Thess. 1:10; 4:16; 2 Thess. 1:7,10; 2:1,8; James 5:7-8; 2 Pet. 1:16; 3:4,12; 1 John 2:28; Rev. 1:7). Notice the angels of heaven could be the Father and/or the Son's angels. This was another way to assert the deity of Jesus. Several times in Matthew the angels are the eschatological gatherers and dividers of humans (cf. Matt. 13:39-41,49; 24:31).

▣ "in the glory of His Father" In the OT the most common Hebrew word for "glory" (kbd) was originally a commercial term (which referred to a pair of scales) which meant "to be heavy." That which was heavy was valuable or had intrinsic worth. Often the concept of brightness was added to the word to express God's majesty (cf. Exod. 15:16; 24:17; Isa. 60:1-2). He alone is worthy and honorable. He is too brilliant for fallen mankind to behold (cf. Ex 33:17-23; Isa. 6:5). God can only be truly known through Christ (cf. Jer. 1:14; Matt. 17:2; Heb. 1:3; James 2:1).

The term "glory" is somewhat ambiguous: (1) it may be parallel to "the righteousness of God" ; (2) it may refer to the "holiness" or " perfection" of God; (3) it could refer to the image of God in which mankind was created (cf. Gen. 1:26-27; 5:1; 9:6), but which was later marred through rebellion (cf. Gen. 3:1-22). It is first used of YHWH's presence with His people (cf. Exod. 16:7,10; Lev. 9:23; Num. 14:10).

▣ "will then repay every man according to his deeds" This is an allusion to Ps. 62:12 or Pro. 24:12. This judgment of deeds is seen in Job 34:11; Ps. 28:4; Pro. 24:12; Eccl. 12:14; Jer. 17:10; 32:19; Matt. 16:27; 25:31-6; Rom. 2:6; 14:12; 1 Cor. 3:8; 2 Cor. 5:10; Gal. 6:7-10; 2 Tim. 4:14; 1 Pet. 1:17; Rev. 2:23; 20:12; 22:12. Our life shows our allegiance ! 1 John and James assert that how we live gives evidence of the validity of our profession of faith. No fruit-no root! Jesus came as Savior (cf. John 3:16-21), but He will return as Judge (cf. Revelation 19)!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 16:28
 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."

16:28 This is a difficult verse to interpret. In context it seems to refer to the Second Coming, but Matthew, writing forty plus years after Jesus' death, realized this was incorrect. It could refer to

1. Jesus' ascension

2. the kingdom which was already present in Jesus

3. the Parousia or Second Coming

4. the Spirit's coming and equipping at Pentecost

5. the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70 by the Roman General Titus

6. the transfiguration recorded in the next chapter (note the proximity in Mark 9:1 and 9:2)

Because of the immediate context of Matthew 17, the sixth option is best. See special topic on the Kingdom of God at Matt. 4:17 and Reigning in the Kingdom of God at Matt. 5:3.

▣ "Truly" See Special Topic at Matt. 5:18.

▣ "taste death" This is a Hebraic idiom for dying (cf. 1 Sam. 15:32).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Why are Matt. 16:13-20 so pivotal for the Roman Catholic Church?

2. Did the disciples recognize Peter's supremacy?

3. What is Jesus referring to by the word "church" ? (Matt. 16:18)

4. Does verse 18 imply an active or passive attack on the church?

5. What are the keys of the kingdom? (Matt. 16:19)

6. Why did Jesus insist that they tell no one He was the Messiah, God's son?

7. Why did the disciples balk at Jesus' revelation of His future?

8. What does it mean to die to self?

9. How do you understand verse 28?

 

Copyright © 2013 Bible Lessons International

Passage: 

Matthew 17

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Transfiguration of Jesus Jesus Transfigured on the Mount The Transfiguration The Transfiguration The Transfiguration
17:1-8 17:1-13 17:1-8 17:1-4 17:1-8
      17:5  
    Prophecies About Elijah 17:6-8 The Question about Elijah
17:9-13   17:9-13 17:9 17:9-13
      17:10  
      17:11-12  
      17:13  
The Healing of a Boy with a Demon A Boy is Healed An Epileptic Child Healed Jesus Heals a Boy with a Demon The Epileptic Demoniac
17:14-20 17:14-21 17:14-20 17:14-16 17:14-18
      17:17-18  
      17:19 17:19-20
      17:20-21  
17:21   17:21   17:21 (not included)
Jesus Again Foretells His Death and Resurrection Jesus Again Predicts His Death and Resurrection The Passion Foretold a Second Time Jesus Speaks Again about His Death Second Prophecy of the Passion
17:22-23 17:22-23 17:22-23 17:22-23b 17:22-23
      17:23c  
Payment of Temple Tax Peter and His Master Pay Their Taxes Money for the Temple Tax Payment of the Temple Tax The Temple Tax Paid by Jesus and Peter
17:24-27 17:24-27 17:24-27 17:24 17:24-27
      17:25a  
      17:25b  
      17:26a  
      17:26b-27  

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

BRIEF OUTLINE OF VERSES 1-27

A. The transfiguration, Matt. 17:1-13 (cf. Matt. 17:1-11; Mark 9:2-13; Luke 9:28-36; 2 Pet. 1:16-18)

 

B. Healing of the demonized boy, Matt. 17:14-23 (cf. Mark 9:14-29; Luke 9:37-42)

 

C. The Temple tax for Peter and Jesus, Matt. 17:24-27 (this was unique to Matthew)

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 17:1-8
 1Six days later Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. 2And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. 3And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. 4Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three tabernacles here, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah." 5While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, "This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!" 6When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground and were terrified. 7And Jesus came to them and touched them and said, "Get up, and do not be afraid." 8And lifting up their eyes, they saw no one except Jesus Himself alone.

17:1 "six days later" The parallel passage in Mark 9 also has six days, but Luke 9:28 records eight days. This is not so much a contradiction as it is two different ways of describing a week.

▣ "Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John his brother" These men made up an inner circle, not of Jesus' favorites, but of those who possibly were more spiritually attuned and teachable (cf. Matt. 2:13; 4:5; 12:45). James died early. God is no respecter of persons. See chart at Matt. 10:2.

▣ "and led them up on a high mountain by themselves" Matthew apparently deliberately compares Moses on the mountain in Exod. 19:24; 24:1 and this transfiguration experience of Jesus. The four areas of comparison would be

1. they both were up on a mountain

2. God spoke out of the cloud in both instances(cf. Exod. 24:16)

3. Moses'face shone, (cf. Exod. 34:29), and Jesus' whole body shone

4. those around Moses were afraid, as were those accompanying Jesus

There has been much discussion about which mountain this was. The traditional site is Mt. Tabor, but this is much too far from Caesarea Philippi. Some say it was Mt. Hermon, which is quite possible. More probably it was Mt. Miron, the highest mountain in the boundary limits of the Promised Land; it is also located on the way from Caesarea Philippi to Capernaum.

17:2 "and He was transfigured before them" This is a compound Greek term from "after" (meta) and "form" (morphē). The term "transfiguration" comes from the Latin Vulgate. We get the English term metamorphosis from the Greek compound term. The theological connotation is that Jesus' eternal divine nature broke through His human nature. The term is also used of what happens in a spiritual sense to believers (cf. Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 3:18).

We learn from Luke 9:28 that this occurred while they were praying. It may have even been at night after a long walk up this mountain; therefore, the disciples would have been tired and sleepy. This event has some parallels to the Garden of Gethsemane experience.

▣ "His face shone like the sun" This seems to be another feature of Matthew's Gospel that attempts to present Jesus as the new Moses, Moses' face also glowed (cf. Exod. 34:29-35).

This is not to be understood as an equivalency .

1. Moses' face faded

2. Moses concealed the fading

3. Moses received the word of God, Jesus is the word of God (cf. Matt. 5:17-48)

 

▣ "His garments became as white as light" White is uniquely associated with heaven/heavenly beings/glorified saints.

1. Jesus' transfiguration

2. angels at His tomb, Matt. 28:3

3. angels at His ascension, Acts 1:8

4. angels (lit. "elders") around the throne, Rev. 4:4

5. angelic heavenly army, Rev. 19:14

6. glorified saints, Rev. 3:4-5,18; 6:11; 7:9,13

 

17:3 "Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him" There has been much discussion as to why it was Moses and Elijah. Some say this represents the Law and the Prophets. They were both eschatological figures, Moses out of Deuteronomy 18 and Elijah out of Malachi 4. Others say that both of them had unusual deaths. Both of them represented the old order and were encouraging Jesus as He was inaugurating the new order. How the disciples knew that it was Moses and Elijah is uncertain unless they were dressed in a characteristic way, by their speech, or Jesus told them.

Like the miracles and predictions of Jesus, this experience was as much for these disciples'faith and spiritual growth (cf. Matt. 17:5) as it was for Jesus' encouragement.

Just one added point, this shows the believers of the OT were still alive! It affirms a conscious afterlife after a physical death.

17:4 "Peter said to Jesus" Peter interrupted and answered a question that was never asked, which was characteristic of Peter.

▣ "I will make three tabernacles here" The implication was "Let's stay up here (first class conditional sentence). This experience was so wonderful and spiritual." In some ways this functions like the temptation experiences in Matthew 4-another way for Jesus to bypass the cross. This was possibly the reason why this account was preserved for us-Jesus showing Himself to be truly God to the disciples and their attempt to turn Him away (cf. Matt. 16:22-23) from His predestined death (cf. Mark 10:45). In the same literary context (cf. Matt. 19:16-17), Jesus tells again of His impending death (cf. Matt. 17:9-13, 22-23).

17:5 "a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold a voice out of the cloud said" This bright cloud was related to the Shekinah cloud of glory of the Old Testament, which was a symbol of the personal presence of God. This cloud appeared once before at Jesus' baptism (cf. Matt. 3:17). Peter alludes to it later in 2 Pet. 1:17-18. There may even be some connection between God speaking out of this cloud and the rabbinical concept of the bath kol, which was the way during the interbiblical period of confirming the will of God since there was no prophet.

This phrase "overshadowed them" is from the same Greek root used to refer to the conception of Jesus by the Spirit in the virgin Mary in Luke 1:35.

What God said is significant. The parallel in Luke it combined a quote from Ps. 2:7 (My Son) and Isa. 42:1 (My Chosen One, cf. Luke 9:35). Psalm 2 is a royal Davidic Psalm and Isaiah 42 is the beginning of the Servant Songs of Isaiah. Here we have the full deity of Jesus combined with the ministry of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah (cf. Mark 9:28; Luke 9:28-36). This reflects the prophecy of Gen. 3:15.

▣ "listen to Him" This is a present active imperative which reflects Deut. 18:15,18-19 and is implied in Isa. 42:1. To be a follower of Jesus not only invoked a theological understanding of His person and mission, but also an obedience (note. Deut. 18:20)!

17:6 "they fell face down to the ground and were terrified" The people of the Bible believed that to see God was to die (cf. Exod. 33:20-23; Jdgs. 6:22-23; 13:22; John. 1:18; 6:46; Col. 1:15; 1 Tim. 6:16; 1 John. 4:12). God's voice terrified these Apostles as it had earlier terrified the people of God at Mt. Sinai (cf. Exod. 19:16). Remember, Matthew presented Jesus as the second law giver, or the second Moses (cf. Deut. 18:15).

17:7 "Jesus came to them and touched them" They were asleep (cf. Luke 9:32). This may have been a nighttime experience where the glory of Jesus may have shone all the more brilliantly against the background of the night sky. This touch was a gesture of Jesus' care for them.

▣ "Get up, and do not be afraid" These are both imperatives. They address the issue at hand.

1. no we can not stay here on the mountain (aorist imperative)

2. do not be afraid of this experience of the closeness of God (present imperative)

This experience was to promote action, not inaction, and courage in the task, not fear!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 17:9-13
 9As 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." 10And His disciples asked Him, "Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?" 11And He answered and said, "Elijah is coming and will restore all things; 12but I say to you that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they wished. So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands." 13Then the disciples understood that He had spoken to them about John the Baptist.

17:9 "Jesus commanded them, saying, 'Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man has risen from the dead'" This is the Messianic secret (cf. Matt. 8:4; 9:30; 12:16; 16:20; Mark 1:44; 3:12; 5:47; 7:36; 8:30; 9:9; Luke 4:41; 5:14; 8:56; 9:21). "Tell" is an aorist active subjunctive used in an aorist active imperative sense. Luke 9:30 says that they told no one. The problem was, what were they going to tell? Jesus was already having problems being known as a miracle healer and the gospel was not yet finished. There would come a time, as Jesus mentioned in Matt. 17:9, after He had been raised from the dead (He told them this several times in several ways, but they never seemed to hear it or get its implications), that the theological content of this encounter would be understandable.

Verse 9 also implies that this was a reference to the sufferings of Jesus (cf. Matt. 16:21ff), which shows that Peter's attempt to keep them on the mountain was another subterfuge of Satan.

17:10 "His disciples asked Him, "Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first'" This referred to the prophecy of Mal. 3:1 and 4:5. There has been much discussion about the answer which Jesus gave. He stated specifically that Elijah had already come in the ministry of John the Baptist (cf. Matt. 11:10, 14; Mark 9:11-13; Luke 1:17). However, when the Pharisees asked John in the Gospel of John (1:20-25) if he was Elijah, he flatly denied it. This seeming contradiction can be handled by the fact that John denied that he was a resuscitated Elijah, but Jesus affirmed that John symbolically fulfilled the preparation ministry of Elijah. They both dressed and acted in similar ways, so the identification would be obvious in the minds of the Jews who knew about Elijah and who heard and saw John the Baptist (Luke 1:17).

▣ "So also the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands" This is a recurrent theme after Peter's confession (cf. Matt. 16:21; 17:9,12,22-23; 20:18-19). He told them about His suffering, but if they could have heard, He also told them of His resurrection. A suffering Messiah was so alien to their Jewish traditions that they simply could not receive it!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 17:14-18
 14When they came to the crowd, a man came up to Jesus, falling on his knees before Him and saying, 15"Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic and is very ill; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. 16I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him." 17And 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." 18And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured at once.

17:15 "Lord, have mercy on my son" The title "Lord" (kurios) can simply mean "sir" or "mister" (lit. kurie), yet in some contexts it taken on theological connotations. This is probably one of them.

The man's request is an implied question. Will Jesus have mercy (aorist active imperative) as the man requested? This is the question which the OT had predicted, the Messiah would have mercy (cf. Isa. 35:2-6; 61:1-2). Jesus' power and compassion (cf. Matt. 9:27; 15:22; Mark 10:47,48; Luke 17:13) were the " signs" that the Jewish leadership sought!

NASB, NJB"he is a lunatic"
NKJV, NRSV,
TEV"he is an epileptic"
NJB"he is demented"

A much more detailed account of this ailment is found in Mark 9:18-20. The term "epilepsy" was literally the term "moon struck" or "lunatic." This particular illness was caused by a demon (cf. Matt. 17:18). There is a major attempt in the New Testament to differentiate between demon possession, which often causes physical ailments, and physical disease itself (cf. Matt. 4:24). This was an account of an exorcism, not a healing.

17:16 "I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him" This was highly unusual, for 10:1,8 tells us they had this delegated power. The exact reason for their failure in this instance was specified as their lack of faith and prayer. A much more detailed account of the dialogue between the father and Jesus is recorded in Mark 9:21-24.

17:17 "and Jesus answered and said, 'You unbelieving and perverse generation'" This was an allusion to Deut. 32:5,20. In Jesus' temptation experience (i.e., Matthew; Luke 4), He quoted Deuteronomy three times. He must have known and loved this book.

The textual question is to whom Jesus is speaking.

1. the disciples (cf. Matt. 17:19-20)

2. the man/the crowd/that generation

3. the Jewish leaders

4. fallen humanity in general

It is interesting that "generation" often has a negative connotation (cf. Exod. 1:6; Deut. 1:35; 32:5; Ps. 12:7). Notice how these unbelievers are characterized.

1. evil and adulterous, Matt. 12:39

2. faithless and perverse, Matt. 17:17

3. adulterous and sinful, Mark 8:38

4. unbelieving or faithless, Mark 9:19

5. wicked, Luke 11:29

6. crooked, Acts 2:40

7. crooked and perverse, Phil. 2:15

 

17:18 "the boy was cured at once" For a much more graphic account, see Mark 9:26. It must be remembered that each of the Gospel writers recorded these accounts in his own way for his own unique purposes and audiences. Therefore, it is important to try to understand each of them individually before consulting the others and combining the information (cf. Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart in How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth, pp. 113-134).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 17:19-21
 19Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, "Why could we not drive it out?" 20And He said to them, "Because of the littleness of your 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 to you." 21[" But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting." ]

17:19 "Why could we not drive it out" Jesus answers this question in Matt. 17:20 where He said, "You have so little faith." This was a repeated comment by Jesus (cf. Matt. 6:30; 8:26; 14:31; 16:8). The Apostles were not super saints. There are no super saints!

17:20

NASB"the littleness of your faith"
NKJV"your unbelief"
NRSV"your little faith"
TEV"do not have enough faith"
NJB"you have so little faith"

The oldest Greek manuscripts, including א and B, have "little faith" (olieopistis), while others including C, D, L & W, have "unbelief" (apistis). Because the first term was so rare it was probably original. The UBS4 gives it an "A" rating.

▣ "if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move over here to there'" The mustard seed was the smallest seed known to the Jewish people. Jesus was not emphasizing the power of human faith itself, but the object of their faith. Jesus was not disparaging their need for faith; it is crucial (cf. Heb. 11:1). From 21:21 it seems that " little faith" is characterized by Jesus as "doubt." This is a third class conditional sentence; He assumed they would have faith. The concept of a mountain being moved was a proverbial way of referring to a major problem. This can be seen in Isa. 40:4; 49:11; 54:10. Some believe that Jesus gestured to the mountain where He had just been transfigured the night before.

17:21 Verse 21 is not found in the Greek text of either Siniaticus (א) or Vaticanus (B). It seems to have been incorporated by very early copyists from the parallel account in Mark 9:29, where it is included in the original text. The UBS4 gives its exclusion an "A" rating.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 17:22-23
 22And while they were gathering together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, "The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; 23and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day." And they were deeply grieved.

17:22

NASB"while they were gathering together in Galilee"
NKJV"while they were staying in Galilee"
NRSV"as they were gathering in Galilee"
TEV"when the disciples all came together in Galilee"
NJB"one day when they were together in Galilee"

There is a Greek manuscript variation at this point. The ancient manuscripts א, and B and the Greek text used by Origen have "all came together," while C, D, L & W have "abode." The first term was misunderstood by early scribes and changed to the more familiar text. The reason the twelve were divided into four groups of three was that they took turns traveling with Jesus and returning home for brief periods to check on their families. This verse speaks of the disciples and Jesus meeting at a certain place.

17:22-23 "the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; and they will kill Him, and He will be raised again on the third day" Jesus showed His prophetic insight about His suffering and death (cf. Matt. 16:21ff.; 17:9,12; John 10:11,15,17,18). Jesus was beginning to lay the foundation for the disciples'understanding of what was going to occur during the last week of His life. From this passage we learn that Jesus would be turned over to the Gentiles (i.e., the Romans, cf. Matt. 20:19).

17:23 "and they were deeply grieved" Both of the Gospel parallels in Mark (9:32) and Luke (9:45) add that they did not understand but were afraid to ask. It is amazing that the Sanhedrin understood Jesus' prediction about His resurrection but the disciples were absolutely surprised by His appearance in the upper room (cf. Luke 24:36-38).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 17:24-27
 24When 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?" 25He 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?" 26When Peter said, "From strangers," Jesus said to him, "Then the sons are exempt. 27However, 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 coin. Take that and give it to them for you and Me."

17:24

NASB"the two-drachma tax"
NKJV, NRSV,
TEV"the temple tax"
NJB"the half shekel"

This referred to a half shekel tax which was voluntarily given annually by Jewish men between the age of twenty and fifty. It was to pay for temple maintenance. It was due some time in March and, therefore, if our understanding of the time setting of this passage is correct, Jesus was late paying this tax. This tax was possibly based rabbinically on Moses'appeal in Exod. 30:11-16 for the Tabernacle. Although it was a voluntary tax, it was considered to be important and obligatory by orthodox Jews. The coin found in the fish's mouth would pay the tax for both Peter and Jesus.

SPECIAL TOPIC: COINS IN USE IN PALESTINE IN Jesus' DAY

17:25-27 This verse shows Jesus claiming exemption from the tax because of who He was, yet He paid the tax in order to fulfill all righteousness (cf. Matt. 3:15). Jesus wanted to reach His contemporary Jewish culture.

17:25 "Jesus spoke to him first" Did Jesus overhear the conversation or was He using His foreknowledge? This question comes up again and again in the Gospels!

▣ "customs or poll-tax" In this paragraph there are three different taxes addressed.

1. the Jewish tax (two drachma, Matt. 17:24)

2. local taxes (customs, Matt. 17:25)

3. poll-tax (Roman imperial tax, cf. Matt. 22:17)

 

17:26 "the sons are exempt" This is a powerful statement of Jesus' royal Messiahship. He is the true, ideal Davidic King and His followers are the royal children who pay no taxes! What is surprising is that the Jews (i.e., the Jewish collection of the temple tax) are depicted as not children!

17:27 Many have criticized this account because it seems to be Jesus using His Messianic powers for personal purposes. It was the ongoing exercise of Jesus' miraculous powers that was used to train the disciples and increase their faith. In this account, Jesus showed His power over nature and His foreknowledge, which would help Peter in the days to come when he experienced difficult times in his own pilgrimage of faith. It was recorded for us!

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Why are the same events recorded in all three Synoptic Gospels?

2. Why do the details sometimes differ between these accounts in the other Gospels?

3. Why did Jesus choose an inner circle of disciples?

4. Why did Moses and Elijah appear to Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration?

5. What is the significance of God's statement in combining Psalm 2 and Isaiah 42?

6. How is Matthew 17 related to Matthew 16 in the prediction of Jesus' suffering and death?

7. Why is the phrase "Son of Man" so applicable to Jesus?

8. Was John the Baptist Elijah reborn?

9. How is faith related to exorcism and healing?

10. What are demons? Are they still in our world?

11. Does the term "mountain" in Matt. 17:20 refer to physical manipulation of objects or to dealing with life's problems?

12. If Jesus predicted His own betrayal, death and resurrection so often, why were these events so surprising to the disciples?

 

Copyright © 2013 Bible Lessons International

Passage: 

Matthew 18

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Greatest in the Kingdom Who is Greatest? Sayings on Humility and Forgiveness Who is the Greatest? Who is the Greatest?
18:1-5 18:1-5 18:1-5 18:1 18:1-4
      18:2-5  
Temptations to Sin Jesus Warns of Offenses Warnings of Hell Temptations to Sin On Leading Others Astray
        18:5-7
18:6-9 18:6-9 18:6-7 18:6-7  
    18:8-9 18:8-9 18:8-9
The Parable of the Lost Sheep The Parable of the Lost Sheep The Lost Sheep The Parable of the Lost Sheep  
18:10-14 18:10-14 18:10-14 18:10-11 18:10
18:11 (not included)
        The Lost Sheep
      18:12-14 18:12-14
A Brother Who Sins Dealing With a Sinning Brother Discipline Among Followers A Brother Who Sins Brotherly Correction
18:15-17 18:15-20 18:15-20 18:15-17 18:15-17
      Prohibiting and Permitting  
18:18-20     18:18 18:18
        Prayer in Common
      18:19-20 18:19-20
The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant Forgiveness The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant Forgiveness of Injuries
18:21-35 18:21-35 18:21-22 18:21 18:21-22
      18:22-27  
        Parable of the Unforgiving Debtor
    18:23-35   18:23-35
      18:28-34  
      18:35  

 

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

 

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. This context is not addressed to children, but to new believing adults using children as an object lesson.

 

B. This context does not relate to winning the lost, but to the characteristics of believers.

 

C. The Church discipline of verses 15-19 is related to the issue of our love for one another in Christ, cf. Rom. 14:1-15:13; 1 Corinthians 8; 10:23-33.

 

D. The parable of verses 21-35 is related to believers'treatment of weak or new Christians based on God's treatment of believers in Christ. Forgiveness issues in forgiving! It is not the basis but the result of God's action in our lives!

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 18:1-6
 1At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" 2And he called a child to Himself and set him before them, 3and said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 4Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; 6but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

18:1 "the disciples came to Jesus" This shows that Jesus was speaking to believers, not unbelievers!

▣ "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven" This question set the stage for all that followed. See Mark 9:33-34; Luke 9:46-48. The question showed that the disciples still radically misunderstood the nature of the kingdom. It also shows that the disciples did not consider Peter as greatest!

18:2 "a child" Mark 9:33 suggests that this was Peter's child.

18:3 "Truly" See Special Topic at Matt. 5:18.

▣ "unless you are converted" "Convert" denotes a conversion experience whereby an inner repentance is expressed in a change of lifestyle (NRSV, NJB). In John 12:40 this word is used to translate Isa. 6:10, where it refers to "repentance" (Hebrew shub, BDB 996). Notice that in Matt. 18:4 "humility" is parallel with "convert." Children innocently trust and depend on others. They are readily teachable and obedient to authority (here divine authority).

This is an aorist passive subjunctive. The aorist tense implied a decisive act, while the subjunctive mood showed there was an element of contingency and choice involved. The passive voice implied God's initiative (cf. John. 6:44,65).

▣ "you will not enter the kingdom of heaven" This is a STRONG DOUBLE negative meaning, "never, no never under any circumstances." Also note that entrance into the Kingdom is immediate! Trusting Jesus and His message is tantamount to entering to new age! The Kingdom was available to all who heard and responded to Jesus.

18:3,4,6 "and become like children. . .child. . .one of these little ones" These statements all relate to new, innocent, immature believing adults, and not to children. However, the trusting dependence of children is the proper attitude for adults.

18:,34 "you will not enter into the kingdom. . .of heaven" In context this referred to (1) how someone comes to Christ and (2) how one continues in Christ.

18:5 This is similar to the emphasis of Matt. 10:40. Also notice Matt. 25:35-45; Luke 10:16; Acts 9:4; and 1 Cor. 8:12. Jesus is fully identified with His followers!

18:6 "it would be better" Death, though traumatic, is a one-time event, but judgment has eternal consequences (cf. Matt. 25:31-46).

Another "it would have been better" statement is found in 2 Pet. 2:20-22.

▣ "a heavy millstone" This referred to the large top stone pulled by animals for grinding grain.

▣ "to be drowned in the depth of the sea" The Jews were fearful of water, as are many desert people. Therefore, this phrase related to a terrible physical death which was better than leading new believers to sin (cf. Matt. 18:8-10; Rom. 14). See SPECIAL TOPIC: DEGREES OF REWARDS AND PUNISHMENTs at Matt. 5:12.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 18:7
 7Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!

18:7 "woe to the world. . .woe to that man" This was put in the literary form of the OT prophets, a funeral dirge which symbolized the judgment of God (cf. Matt. 11:21; 18:7; 23:13,15,16,23,25,27,29; 24:19; 26:24; Luke 17:1-2). Causing new believers to stumble has eternal consequences!

▣ "stumbling blocks" This same noun (skandalon, cf. Luke 17:1) was used in Matt. 16:23 for Peter's statements. It refers literally to a baited animal trap trigger (cf. LXX of Amos 3:5). New believers are vulnerable to deception and trickery by false teachers (Jewish and later false Christian teachers, cf. Matt. 7:15-27; 1 Tim. 4:1-5; 2 Tim. 2:14-26; 3:1-9; 2 Peter 2).

The verb is recurrent in Matthew's Gospel (cf. Matt. 5:29,30; 11:6; 13:21,57; 15:12; 17:27; 18:6,8,9; 24:10; 26:31,33). Problems and temptations are always present!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 18:8-9
 8If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; 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. 9If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell.

18:8-9 "If. . .if" These are both first class conditional sentences which are assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes. These shocking hypothetical statements stress the seriousness of personal sin, as well as sinners that causes others to stumble (cf. Matt. 18:6,7).

18:8,9 "cut it off. . .pluck it out" These were not meant to be taken literally, but to show the seriousness of sin and its consequences (cf. Matt. 5:29-30).

▣ "eternal fire" See Special Topic following.

SPECIAL TOPIC: ETERNAL

18:9 "the fiery hell" Gehenna is from two Hebrew words ge meaning "valley" and henna meaning "sons of Hinnom" (cf. 2 Kgs. 23:10; 2 Cor. 28:3; 33:6; Jer. 7:31). This was the valley outside of Jerusalem where the Phoenician fire god was worshiped by child sacrifice (the practice was called molech). The Jews turned it into a garbage dump. See SPECIAL TOPIC: Where Are the Dead? at Matt. 5:22. Jesus Himself used this place metaphorically to describe Hell. Only Jesus uses this term (except one verse in James 3:6).

This is a frightening verse. However, one must remember the use of overstatement (hyperbole) in Jesus' teaching. The context relates to followers, believers. Yet Jesus wants to warn even His own followers of the need for a continuing and loving faith (cf. Matt. 5:22).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 18:10-11
 10"See that you do not despise 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." 11[" For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost." ]

18:10 "see that you do not despise one of these little ones" This whole section (i.e., Matt. 18:9,10-11) expresses this same truth.

▣ "their angels" This could be understood to teach that all believers have an individual guardian angel (cf. Ps. 91:11; Acts 12:15; Heb. 1:14). This is an interesting concept, but there is so little biblical evidence on which to build a doctrine. Psalm 24:7 is the same truth, but in a corporate sense.

18:11 This verse is not in the ancient Greek manuscripts א, B, L, or the Greek texts used by Origen, Eusebius, and Jerome. Nor is it found in the Syriac and Coptic versions. It was possibly not an original part of Matthew. It is an addition from Luke 19:10 by early copyists. The UBS4 rates its exclusion as "B" (almost certain).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 18:12-14
 12"What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? 13If it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray. 14So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish."

18:12-14 "a hundred sheep" This parable relates in context to believers who have become backslidden and then returned to God. Believers are to help and restore one another (cf. Gal. 6:1-3). In Luke 15:4-7 this same parable refers to the spiritually lost, self righteous Pharisees. This shows that Jesus used the same parables in different ways to different audiences.

18:13 "if" Both verses 12 and 13 are third class conditional sentences, which meant possible future action.

▣ "Truly" See Special Topic at Matt. 5:18.

18:14 "the will of your Father who is in heaven" See Special Topic at Matt. 7:21.

▣ "that one of these little ones perish" There are several Special Topics that relate to this phrase.

1. Destruction (appollumi) at Matt. 2:13

2. Apostasy (aphistami) at Matt. 7:21

3. Perseverance at Matt. 10:22

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 18:15-18
 15"If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18Truly 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."

18:15-17 "go and show him his fault in private" This third class conditional sentence is followed by two imperatives.

1. Go, present active imperative

2. Reprove, aorist active imperative (only here in Matthew, but note its use in John 3:20; 8:46; 16:8; and by Paul in Eph. 5:11; 1 Tim. 5:20)

This is practical wisdom on how to deal with sin in a congregation. It relates to a later period in church history. Notice the steps.

1. go to the offender privately (Matt. 18:15)

2. take one or two witnesses and go again

3. bring the matter before the whole congregation

4. cut off fellowship

These guidelines were not addressed to leadership only, but to all believers. We are our brother's keeper (cf. Luke 17:3; Gal. 6:1-2). The goal of church discipline must always be redemptive not punitive. However, the reputation of the body and the peace of the body as well as the health (spiritual and physical) of the sinning saints must be dealt with.

18:15 "If your brother sins" This paragraph deals with church discipline in light of verses 1-14. This is a series of third class conditional sentences, 15 (twice), 16, 17 (twice). This refers to possible future action.

▣ "sins" There is a Greek manuscript variation here. The earliest complete Greek uncial New Testaments, א and B, do not have "against you" after "sins." It does appear in the uncial manuscripts D, L, and W, as well as the Vulgate and Armenian translations. The UBS4 text includes it in brackets and gives its inclusion a "C" rating.

▣ "you have won your brothers" This phrase parallels James 5:15,19-20.

18:16 "so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses" This is a quote from Deut. 19:15. The OT required at least two witnesses to confirm a matter in court (cf. Num. 35:30; Deut. 17:6).

18:17 "the church" For a discussion of the origin of ekklesia see note at Matt. 16:18. This seems like a reference to a later period when groups of believers must discipline their members. Several of Jesus' statements do not fit this early period of His ministry, but are prophetic of the church's future needs. Matthew, living in this later period, would be reminded (by the Spirit) of Jesus' earlier statements, which only after Pentecost did he fully understand.

The term "church" appears only in the Gospels, two times in Matthew. The term is common in Acts, which shows that Luke was conscious of a change after Pentecost.

▣ "let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector" Matthew was written to Jews. Gentiles were regarded as unclean and tax-collection was a profession despised by the Jews (cf. Matt. 5:46; 9:10-11; 11:19). This phrase with its two descriptive examples, would have been misunderstood by Gentiles, so it is not in the other Gospels.

18:18 "Truly" See Special Topic at Matt. 5:18.

▣ "I say to you" "You" is plural. Jesus was addressing the Twelve not just Peter as in Matt. 16:19.

▣ "bind. . .loose" These words might alternatively be rendered "forbid" and "permit." They were both rabbinical terms for legal decisions about how the Law should be applied to a current situation. See discussion at Matt. 16:19. In John 20:23 these terms also refer to the forgiveness of sins, as it does here!

▣ "shall have been bound in heaven. . .shall have been loosed in heaven" These periphrastic perfect passive participles were a roundabout way of saying that something already is. This passage does not assert human's initiative in spiritual matters, but God's will being fulfilled on earth by the Spirit's guidance of His people (cf. Matt. 16:19-20; John. 20:23). Church discipline should always be redemptive (cf. Gal. 6:1-10), following God's dealing with believers.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 18:19-20
 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. 20For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst."

18:19 "if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask" This is a third class conditional sentence, which meant potential future action. The context relates this promise to church discipline and our treatment of other believers.

18:19 This verse must be taken in the context of God's will being revealed by the Spirit from Matt. 18:18. Believers are only promised answers under certain spiritual circumstances. The worst thing that could happen to most modern believers is that God answer their selfish, materialistic prayers.

The Bible presents a paradoxical view on prayer. Some passages speak of its unlimited scope and promise of answers (cf. Matt. 18:19; John 14:13-14; 15:7,16; 16:23). Other passages speak of prayer being limited by

1. our persistence (cf. Matt. 7:7-8; Luke 11:5-13; 18:1-8)

2. our attitude (cf. Matt. 21:22; Mark 11:23-24; Luke 18:9-14; James 1:6-7; 4:1-10)

3. the will of God (cf. 1 John. 3:22; 5:14-15)

Theologically believers agree that

1. God is affected by His children's prayers

2. the greatest gift is not the answer but the fellowship with the Father

3. all prayer is answered

4. prayer does change our lives and the lives of those we pray for

However, when all is said and done, there is still "mystery" in prayer. It is best summed up by the truth that God has chosen in His sovereignty to limit Himself to the prayers of His children. We have not because we asked not or asked amiss.

SPECIAL TOPIC: PRAYER, UNLIMITED YET LIMITED

18:20 The number mentioned is the same as verse 16. This could be a husband and wife (family setting) or two or more believers (worship or disciple setting). However, it may be implied (i.e., an application) that when believers meet to pray Jesus is there (i.e., 28:20)!

"in My name" See Special Topic following.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE NAME OF THE LORD

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 18:21-22
 21Then Peter came and said to Him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" 22Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven."

18:21

NASB, NKJV,
TEV" seventy times seven"
NRSV, NJB"seventy-seven times"

Peter was trying to be generous by using seven times (cf. Luke 17:4)! The Babylonian Talmud had three times as the maximum (cf. Amos 1:3, 6; 2:6). Jesus took forgiveness to the new metaphorical height of 7 x 70 (or possibly 77). This does not mean on the 491st time believers do not forgive, but that covenant brothers must always be ready to forgive other covenant brothers (cf. Luke 17:4) as God forgives them (cf. Matt. 18:35). The new covenant has a radically new orientation to life (cf. Matt. 18:15).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 18:23-35
 23"For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made. 26So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.'27And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt. 28But 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.'29So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you.'30But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. 31So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened. 32Then summoning him, his lord said to him, 'You wicked slave, I forgave you all the debt because you pleaded with me. 33Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?'34And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. 35My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart."

18:23 "a king" This parable is unique to Matthew. In Aramaic (Jesus spoke Aramaic, not Hebrew) this term could have meant "a king's official."

18:24 "ten thousand talents" This was a huge amount. Six hundred talents was the yearly Roman tax for southern Palestine. This parable is purposeful oriental exaggeration (hyperbole). Often Jesus used this literary technique to drive home the point of His parables. See Special Topic at Matt. 17:24.

18:25 People (and their families) could be sold into slavery for debts (cf. Lev. 25:39; 2 Kgs. 4:1; Neh. 5:5; Isa. 50:1). The king's threat was a real threat!

18:26,29 "have patience with me and I will repay you everything" These are the exact words of both Matt. 18:26 and 29. This is the heart of the parable. In Matt. 18:30 he has no mercy on another human who pleads for it!

18:34 "the torturers" In Aramaic this was possibly " jailers."

18:35 "My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart" This is a third class conditional sentence which meant potential future action. Forgiveness should/must result in forgiving (cf. Matt. 5:7; 6:14-15; 7:1-2; 10:8; Luke 6:36; Col. 3:13; James 2:13; 5:9). Forgiveness is not the basis of our salvation but a sure evidence of being forgiven. However, Jesus leaves open the question about those who claim to know Him, but refuse to forgive other believers! Parables cannot, do not, answer all the theological questions!

"heart" See Special Topic at Matt. 5:8.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Does this passage define children's relationship with God?

2. What two examples are given us in the passage to show the radical nature of our personal sin?

3. Does this parable in verses 12-14 convey the same truth as in Luke 15:4-7?

4. What is the parable of verses 23-25 saying to us about forgiveness?

 

Copyright © 2013 Bible Lessons International

Passage: 

Matthew 19

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Teaching on Divorce Marriage and Divorce Marriage and Divorce Jesus Teaches About Divorce The Question About Divorce
19:1-2 19:1-10 19:1-2 19:1-2 19:1-2
19:3-12   19:3-9 19:3 19:3-6
      19:4-6  
      19:7 19:7-9
      19:8-9  
        Continence
    19:10-12 19:10 19:10-12
  Jesus Teaches on Celibacy      
  19:11-12   19:11-12  
Little Children Blessed Jesus Blesses Little Children Blessing the Children Jesus Blesses Little Children Jesus and the Children
19:13-15 19:13-15 19:13-15 19:13-14 19:13-15
      19:15  
The rich Young Man Jesus Counsels the Rich Young Man The Rich Young Man The Rich Young Man The Rich Young Man
19:16-22 19:16-22 19:16-22 19:16 19:16-22
      19:17  
      19:17a  
      19:18b-19  
      19:20  
      19:21  
      19:22  
  With God All Things Are Possible     The Dangers of Riches
19:23-30 19:23-30 19:23-26 19:23-24 19:23-26
      19:25  
      19:26 The Reward of Renunciation
    19:27-30 19:27 19:27-29
      19:28-30  
        19:30

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. The Pharisees were not really interested in the question of divorce but they were trying to reduce Jesus' popularity by splitting His following over a disputed issue (cf. Mark 10:2-12). Jesus' answer must be interpreted in this confrontational context. This is not a neutral teaching passage.

 

B. Matthew 5:31-32; Mark 10:1-12; Luke 16:18 and 1 Corinthians 7:12-14 must also be taken into consideration when discussing the issue of divorce. This passage concerns the legal grounds for divorce and remarriage in Moses'writings.

 

C. When interpreting a hot social issue such as this, be careful of:

1. being influenced too heavily by your own culture and age

2. being influenced by your own existential situation and experiences

3. being influenced by your presuppositions (denominationalism)

4. making hard and dogmatic rules for every situation

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 19:1-2
 1When Jesus had finished these words, He departed from Galilee and came into the region of Judea beyond the Jordan; 2and large crowds followed Him, and He healed them there.

19:1 "When Jesus had finished these words" This phrase is apparently a textual marker for Matthew's structuring of Jesus' teachings (cf. Matt. 7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 26:1).

▣ "He departed from Galilee and came into the region of Judea" This period of Jesus' ministry is often called His Perean ministry. It covered Matthew 19-20. Many Jews would not pass through Samaria but would cross over into the trans-Jordan area of Perea, then south toward Jerusalem and cross back over the Jordan at Jericho into Judea. This was because of their hatred of Samaritans. They believed them to be half Jews, half pagans. This was the result of the Assyrian exile under Sargon II of the Northern Ten Tribes in 722 b.c. and the resettlement of pagans into the region.

19:2 "and large crowds followed Him" These were possibly pilgrims going to Jerusalem, but they could also be persons looking for healing or curiosity seekers.

▣ "and He healed them there" Jesus' healings were intended to confirm His message, to help show the future bliss of heaven, and the heart of God. He did not come primarily to heal, but to teach; however, whenever He saw people hurting from the ravages of sin, He acted; and He still does!

SPECIAL TOPIC: IS HEALING GOD'S PLAN FOR EVERY AGE?

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 19:3-9
 3Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?" 4And He answered and said, "Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? 6So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." 7They said to Him, "Why then did Moses command to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away?" 8He 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. 9And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery."

19:3 For a full discussion of the origin and theology of the Pharisees see the Special Topic at Matt. 22:15.

▣ "testing Him" This term (peirazō) had a negative connotation of "testing with a view toward destruction." See Special Topic at Matt. 4:1. This was not a theological discussion in a neutral setting!

NASB"for any reason at all"
NKJV"for any reason"
NRSV"for any cause"
TEV"for whatever reason he wishes"
NJB"on any pretext whatever"

In Mark 10:2 the question was about divorce, but here the question concerned the grounds for divorce. The conservative rabbinical school of Shammai picked up on the phrase "some indecency" from Deut. 24:1, while the liberal rabbinical school of Hillel picked up on the phrase "she finds no favor." So the first school said the grounds were only for adultery or some other forbidden sexual act; the second said for any cause. Later, Rabbi Akiba, of the school of Hillel, even said that one could divorce his wife if he found someone prettier!

The Pharisees are asking Jesus a question, not for information but to hurt Him

1. with some portion of His followers (factions within Judaism)

2. with Herod Antipas (John the Baptist condemned Herod's divorce and remarriage)

 

19:4 "Have you not read" Jesus expected that Jewish people had read God's book (cf. Matt. 12:3; 19:4; 21:16; 22:31). Knowledge of Scripture was foundational for godly living. Jesus expects modern believers to " have read" it also! The Jewish traditions twisted and annulled Scripture, as does modern denominational traditions, usually quoting one text or part of a text out of context and ignoring all other parallel passages!

▣ "created" This participle (ktisas) is in the uncial MS B, but the verb "made" (poiēsas) is in MSS א, C, D, L, W, Z. It follows the Septuagint of Gen. 1:27. However, the UBS4 thinks the first option is original (i.e., a "B" rating, meaning " almost certain").

▣ "from the beginning" This quote is from Gen. 1:27 and 5:2 of God's creation of both men and women. Marriage is God's idea and it is to be monogamous (cf. Gen. 2:23-24) and permanent (cf. Matt. 19:6).

19:5 "for this reason. . .leave his father and mother" This is a quote from Gen. 2:24. Notice both parents are mentioned, but also the radical break with one's nuclear family that marriage demanded. In the ancient world families lived with multiple generations in one house. The priority and independence of each generation is affirmed.

▣ "the two shall become one flesh" The singular form but with a plural sense is also found in Gen. 2:24, Deut. 6:4, and Ezek. 27:17. Love merges individuals!

19:6 "what therefore God has joined together" This is an aorist active indicative, which expressed completed action. By stating "what," not "who," the institution of marriage was emphasized. The term "joined together" meant "yoked together."

19:7 "Moses commanded to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away" This is from Deut. 24:1-4. Jesus said that Moses did it, not because God wanted it, but because of the hardness of the peoples'hearts. Moses had compassion for the wife's societal plight. This certificate (1) required several days, (2) required legal help, (3) may have required return of the dowry, and (4) implied remarriage.

What really bothers me about Jesus' rejection of Moses'words is how do I know what else is contained in OT Scripture that God rejects. I would never have known this unless Jesus expressly stated it here. All my life I have revered Scripture, used it to guide my life and actions, but now Jesus says part of it was never God's will!! This gives me pause and forces me to cling to the NT and not the OT. The OT must be viewed through its interpretation by Jesus and His inspired Apostles! Jesus is Lord of Scripture (cf. Matt. 5:17-48)!

19:9

NASB"except for immorality"
NKJV"except for sexual immorality"
NRSV"except for unchastity"
TEV"other than her unfaithfulness"
JB" I am not speaking of fornication"
NJB"I am not speaking of an illicit marriage"  

The Greek term is porneia, which comes into English as "pornography." This could have referred to fornication (pre-marital sexual activity), adultery (extra-marital sexual activity), or other inappropriate sexual acts such as bestiality and homosexuality (forbidden sexual activity).

▣ "and marries another woman" Only Jewish men had the right of divorce during this period of time. In Mark and Luke, who were writing to a Gentile audience, women are also addressed (cf. Mark 10:12).

▣ "commits adultery" This is present passive (deponent) indicative (cf. Mark 10:11-12). There are some textual variations in this verse probably caused by scribes referring to Matt. 5:32. The verb tenses from 5:32 shed light on this passage. In Matt. 5:32 the translation should be "causes her to become an adulteress." This passive voice has also been found in Matt. 19:9 in the Greek manuscripts B and C*. This possibly referred to the social stigma which was put on the divorced woman by her Jewish culture, which designated her as an adulteress by the fact that she was put away.

At this point F. F. Bruce's comment on this text in his book Answers to Questions, p. 55, is relevant to the use of this text today:

"He was not giving His disciples occasion for instituting a new legalism on the basis of His ruling, as some of them have tried to do. What He said about the Sabbath law could be said of the marriage law: it was made for human beings, and not vice versa."

See Dr. Utley's audio tapes on "divorce" online at www.freebiblecommentary.org in the "Difficult and Controversial Texts" section.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 19:10-12
 10The disciples said to Him, "If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry." 11But He said to them, "Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given 12For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother's womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it.

19:10 "disciples said. . .it is better not to marry" Jesus' statement shocked them. They had the views of their culture ingrained in their minds. So do we! Marriage is God's will for humans (this is a first class conditional sentence). It is a great blessing but also a great responsibility. In days of frequent divorces the witness of a strong, godly marriage is very powerful to a lost world.

19:10-11 Marriage is the norm (cf. Gen. 1:28; 9:17), but celibacy is a godly option (cf. 1 Cor. 7:7,17). A believer's prayerful desires will guide him/her in this area. If one chooses to be single, it should be for service to God (cf. 1 Cor. 7:32).

The Jews of Jesus' day rejected singleness as a godly option. Jesus is challenging the standards of His culture in several areas.

1. the husband's total authority

2. couples should remain together and work out their problems

3. singleness is a godly option

 

19:12 Jesus discusses the different types of singles.

1. born that way

a. birth defect

b. personal tendency

2. forceful castration (eunuchs, i.e., Esther 2:3; possibly Daniel and his friends, Acts 8:27)

3. personal choice of singleness for the purpose of ministry (I do not think this demands physical castration although some early church leaders did it to themselves, i.e., Origen)

Notice how Matt. 19:12 is framed

1. verse 11, all men cannot be single

2. verse 12c, some me can accept this lifestyle

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS FOR VERSES 13-15

A. Verses 13-15 are paralleled in Mark 10:13-31 and Luke 18:15-30.

 

B. The New Testament does not discuss children's spiritual relationship with God.

 

C. Matt. 18 does not discuss the spiritual status of children but uses them as an example for new believers.

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 19:13-15
 13Then some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them. 14But Jesus said, "Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." 15After laying His hands on them, He departed from there.

19:13 "children" Jesus was a friend to the socially outcast, ostracized, and/or underprivileged. He befriended the common person, slaves, the poor, women, and children.

▣ "so that He might lay His hands on them and pray" This was the traditional rabbinical blessing for children. This has nothing to do with salvation. Jewish parents saw their children as already members of the congregation of Israel by birth.

19:14 "Let the children alone" This is aorist active imperative. Jesus was emphatic in His desire to be available to all.

▣ "do not hinder them from coming to Me" This is present active imperative with a Negative particle. This grammatical construction implies to stop an act which was already in process.

▣ "for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these" This did not refer to the children themselves, but those (1) with child-like characteristics or (2) who see themselves in a low or receiving position who will enter the kingdom of God (cf. Matt. 18:2-4). This is not a verse on the salvation of children. The NT is written to adults!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 19:16-22
 16And someone came to Him and said, "Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?" 17And He said to him, "Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments." 18Then 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 bear false witness; 19Honor your father and mother; and You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 20The young man said to Him, "All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?" 21Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." 22But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.

19:16 "someone came to Him" From Matt. 19:20 we know that he was young, from Matt. 19:22 we learn that he was rich, and from Luke 18:18 we learn that he was a ruler (cf. Mark 10:17-22).

▣ "Teacher" The parallels in Mark 10:17 and Luke 18:18 have "good Teacher." The better uncial MSS (i.e., א, B, D, L) omit it here (UBS4 rates its exclusion as "A," meaning "certain").

▣ "what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life" This Jewish man had the common conception of salvation held by most Jews of his day, which was a works righteousness based on one's conformity to the Mosaic Law and Oral Tradition (cf. Luke 10:25; Rom. 9:30-33). He saw eternal life as the result of his religious performance.

▣ "eternal life" This was an OT concept of the life (zoē) of the age to come (cf. Dan. 12:2). The term addressed both the quality of the new life and its duration.

In this one context several different expressions are used to describe a person's relationship with God.

1. obtain eternal life, Matt. 19:16

2. to enter into life, Matt. 19:17

3. to be complete, Matt. 19:21

4. to enter the kingdom of God, Matt. 19:23,24

5. be saved, Matt. 19:25

6. will inherit eternal life, Matt. 19:29

 

19:17 "There is only One who is good" Jesus was not making a statement about His lack of goodness, but was showing this man the standard of goodness that was required to be right with God. This verse should not be used as a proof-text depreciating Jesus' deity or sinlessness.

▣ "if" This is a first class conditional sentence which is assumed to be true from the author's perspective or for his literary purposes. There is nothing in this context to imply that this man was trying to tempt, try or trick Jesus.

▣ "keep the commandments" This is aorist imperative (Nestle Greek text has a Present active imperative). This obviously referred to the Ten Commandments of Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5. This was the heart of the Jewish Law.

19:18-19 This is a partial list of the second half of the Ten Commandments which dealt with person's relationship to his fellow covenant brother. This listing is different from the Masoretic Hebrew text and the Septuagint. See Special Topics at Matt. 5:21, 5:27, 15:4, and the following Special Topic.

SPECIAL TOPIC: NOTES ON EXODUS 20

19:18 "murder" The King James Version (KJV) and the Jerusalem Bible (JB) render this verb as "kill," which is an unfortunate translation of this Hebrew word for "non-legal premeditated murder." The NKJV has " murder." The "eye for an eye" law code of Israel provided a blood-avenger to exact justice from one who killed a family member (cf. Num. 35:12; Deut. 19:6,12; Jos. 20:1-9). This served to prevent feuds or unlimited retaliation. See Special Topic at Matt. 5:21.

19:20 "the young man" In Jesus' day a man was considered young until he was forty years old. Luke 18:18 adds that the man was a "ruler," which meant the leader of a local synagogue or of a local town council.

▣ "all these things I have kept" In Phil. 3:6 Paul makes the same claim. This is not a contradiction of Rom. 3:23, but shows the legalistic nature of the Jewish interpretation of the Old Testament to which Jesus spoke in Matt. 5:20-48. Righteousness was seen as performance of a legal code. This man felt he had performed all the religious duties of his day and culture.

NKJV adds "from my youth," which is found in Mark 10:20 and the uncial MSS C and W and many versions. In Jewish society a person was not responsible to keep the Law until after a time of personal study and commitment (i.e., Bar Mitzvah at age 13 for boys and Bat Mitzvah for girls at age 12). This is parallel to the concept of "the age of accountability" in Christianity.

▣ "what am I still lacking" This shows the restlessness of this man's heart. Even after keeping all of the Mosaic laws and their interpretations, he still felt empty.

19:21 "If" This is a first class conditional sentence which is assumed to be true by the author for his literary purposes.

NASB"complete"
NKJV, NRSV,
TEV, NJB" perfect"

This word meant "full," " mature," " fully equipped for the assigned task" (from telosi). It did not imply sinlessness.

▣ "go and sell your possessions" This shows the radical nature of the Christian's faith (cf. Luke 14:33). It is a total commitment. For this man the choice was in the area of possessions. This man's possessions possessed him! This is not a requirement for all believers, but a radical, ultimate commitment to Jesus is!

There is a series of imperatives.

1. go, present active imperative

2. sell, aorist active imperative

3. give, aorist active imperative

4. come, adverb used as an aorist active imperative

5. follow, present active imperative

These commands (i.e., #4, 5) are like Jesus' call to the Twelve. Jesus was inviting this man to become part of His nucleus!

▣ "give to the poor" From 1 Cor. 13:1-3, we see that attitude is the key!

▣ "you will have treasure in heaven" See notes at Matthew 6:19-20.

▣ "and come, follow Me" Jesus perceived this man's priority structure and He demanded first place. His wealth was not the problem, but its priority (cf. 1 Tim. 6:10). Notice the radical personal commitment demanded for following Jesus (cf. Matt. 10:34-39).

19:22 "he went away grieving" Jesus loved this man but would not lower the standards of the Kingdom. The Bible is silent on this man's salvation. This is shocking when we realize that (1) he came with good motives, (2) he came to the right person, (3) he came with the right questions, and (4) Jesus loved him (Mark 10:21), but he went away!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 19:23-26
 23And Jesus said to His disciples, "Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." 25When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, "Then who can be saved?" 26And looking at them Jesus said to them, "With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

19:23 "Truly" See Special Topic at Matt. 5:18.

19:24 "a camel to go through the eye of a needle" There has been much discussion over this phrase. Is it literal or figurative? There was never a small gate in Jerusalem which camels had to kneel to enter! It was an oriental exaggeration, in which it would be impossible for rich people to be saved! But with God, all things are possible (Matt. 19:26). Jesus is addressing the situation of the rich, young ruler. He seemed to be blessed by God in an OT snese, but he was not right with God. Riches and possessions can be (and often are) a curse!

"it is hard for a rich man" See Special Topic: Wealth at Matt. 6:24.

▣ "the kingdom of God" This was a rare use of this phrase in Matthew because of the Jewish fear of taking God's name in vain (cf. Exod.20:7; Deut. 5:11). This phrase appears often in the Gospel parallels of Mark and Luke written for Gentiles.

19:25 "the disciples. . .were astonished" The OT taught that God blessed the righteous and temporally punished the wicked (cf. Deut. 27-28). The book of Job, Psalm 73, and Jer. 12:1-4 react against this traditional view. Often the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper. Wealth, position and health are not always signs of God's favor!

19:26 This saying may go back to the OT (i.e., Gen. 18:14; Job 42:2; Jer. 32:17,27). It is an idiomatic way of asserting the powerlessness of humans and the powerfulness of YHWH. God's purposes and plans cannot be thwarted (cf. Job 42:2; Luke 1:37)!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 19:27-30
 27Then Peter said to Him, "Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?" 28And 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. 29And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name's sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life. 30But many who are first will be last; and the last, first.

19:27 "what then will there be for us" Peter had left all but he still was thinking about it! The disciples still expected an earthly kingdom with a special reward for themselves (cf. Matt. 20:21,24).

19:28 "the Son of Man" See the full note at Matthew 8:20.

▣ "you who have followed Me. . .shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" This must refer to the original Twelve Apostles (cf. Luke 22:30), while Matt. 19:29 expands the benefits of abundant blessings and eternal life to all believers (cf. Matt. 20:16; Mark 10:31; Luke 13:30).

To whom does this phrase "the twelve tribes of Israel" refer?

1. the new Israel, the church (cf. Rom. 2:28,29; Gal. 6:16; 1 Pet. 2:5,9; Rev. 1:6)

2. the believing Israel of the eschaton

It seems to me the verse is emphasizing that the Twelve will share Jesus' glory and reign. Verses like this should not be used to build elaborate theories of the nature of the eschaton! See Special Topic: the Number Twelve at Matt. 14:20.

SPECIAL TOPIC: REIGNING IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD

NASB, NKJV"in the regeneration"
NRSV"at the renewal of all things"
TEV"in the New Age"
NJB"when everything is made new again"

The word means "rebirth." Philo used it for the rebirth after th flood. It was used by Greek thinkers for the new world order. Here it refers to the rebirth at the consummation of the New Age of the Spirit. The disciples still thought this would happen in their lifetime. They were surprised by the two-stage coming of the Messiah.

Initial creation was damaged; the recreation after Noah's flood was also polluted, but the rebirth of the Messianic consummation will be pure, ideal (cf. Isa. 9:6-7; 11:1-10; Micah 5:2-5a; Revelation 21-22).

19:29

NASB"many times as much"
NKJV, NRSV"a hundredfold"
TEV"a hundred times more"
NJB"a hundred times as much"

There is a Greek manuscript variation at this point. The term "hundredfold" is in the uncial MSS א, C and D, while "manifold" is in MSS B and C. The first option follows Mark 10:29 and the second Luke 18:30. Most scholars assume that Matthew and Luke follow the structure of Mark. One's commitment to Jesus must supercede his devotion to family, possessions and even life itself (cf. Matt. 10:34-39; Luke 12:51-53).

The new age of righteousness is described in agricultural hyperbole (as in the OT). The Bible is not clear on what heaven will be like.

1. renewed Garden of Eden

2. agricultural abundance

3. beautiful city

4. new spiritual realm

What this text does reveal is that personal faith in Jesus now secures the blessing of heaven in the future. No personal sacrifice now will go unnoticed or unrewarded! The key blessing is "eternal life" with God in Christ! All else pales into insignificance.

We must be careful of holding a theology of sacrifice now for abundance later! True wealth is intimacy with God. Jesus' statements are

1. hyperbolic

2. addressed to the disciples'current understanding

3. showing the radical, selfless decision involved in "following" Him!

I think Jesus' words here are hyperbolic and related to OT agricultural imagery. He expressed Himself this way because of the Apostles'misunderstanding of the spiritual nature of the Kingdom of God. It does not make sense to me for believers to reject materialism in this life only to claim it in the next (" pie in the sky, by and by Christianity"). Jesus is trying to encourage them on a level they can comprehend. This is not a text to base one's views of heaven on! The afterlife, both hell and heaven, are veiled. Earthly metaphors are used to describe both, but only because of our current blindness caused by the Fall (i.e., "we see through a glass darkly," 1 Cor. 13:9-12). We must always guard against "what's in it for me" Christianity. Heaven, like the Kingdom, is all about Him!

SPECIAL TOPIC: BELIEVERS' INHERITANCE

19:30 Things are not as they appear to us (cf. Matt. 20:16; Mark 10:31; Luke 13:30). God's ways of evaluation are different from ours (cf. Isa. 55:8-11). Child-like disciples are received, while the wealthy and privileged are rejected (i.e., Matt. 8:10-12). Biblical faith causes an unexpected reversal of the creation!

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Is divorce always a sin?

2. What biblical principle did Jesus advocate in response to the Pharisees'question?

3. Why did Moses allow remarriage if God was against it? What about today?

4. Is celibacy spiritually superior to marriage?

5. Define the Bible's teachings about children and salvation.

6. Do verses 13-15 deal with salvation?

7. Why does Jesus not claim "goodness" in Matt. 19:17? Does this affect the doctrine of Jesus' deity or sinlessness?

8. Did this man really keep all of the commandments? Was he sinless? (Matt. 19:20)

9. Are riches evil?

10. Why were the disciples dumbfounded concerning the rejection of a wealthy man? (Matt. 19:25)

 

Copyright © 2013 Bible Lessons International

Passage: 

Matthew 20

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Workers in the Vineyard The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard Laborers in the Vineyard The Workers in the Vineyard Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard
20:1-16 20:1-16 20:1-16 20:1-7 20:1-16
      20:8-15  
      20:16  
A Third Time Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection Jesus a Third Time Predicts His Death and Resurrection Passion Foretold a Third Time Jesus Speaks a Third Time About His Death Third Prophecy of the Passion
20:17-19 20:17-19 20:17-19 20:17-19 20:17-19
The Request of James
and John
Salome Asks a Favor James and John Seek Honor A Mother's Request The Mother of Zebedee's Sons Makes Her Request
20:20-28 20:20-28 20:20-23 20:20 20:20-23
      20:21a  
      20:21b  
      20:22a,b  
      20:22c  
      20:23 Leadership with Service
    20:24-28 20:24-28 20:24-28
The Healing of Two Blind Men Two Blind Men Receive Their Sight Two Blind Men of Jericho Jesus Heals Two Blind Men Two Blind Men of Jericho
20:29-34 20:29-34 20:29-34 20:29-30 20:29-34
      20:31  
      20:32  
      20:33  
      20:34  

 

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

 

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. In interpreting parables (see Special Topic in Introduction to Matthew 13) it is crucial to take the historical and literary context into consideration. In this particular parable the historical context is related to the closing phrase of Matt. 19:30, which is repeated at the close of Matthew 20:16. This literary parallel shows that the parable under discussion is primarily related to the subject of wealth and rewards. The larger literary context is seen in Matt. 18:1 and 20:20-21, 24, where the disciples were concerned about who was greatest among them.

 

B. Many have interpreted this parable as referring to the relationship between Jews and Gentiles and, from the larger context of the entire New Testament (or when the Gospels were written), this is possible. But, from the immediate context, this parable has to do with the relationship between the disciples themselves. The kingdom of God has a totally different standard of evaluation than the world (cf. Isa. 55:8-11; Matthew 5-7). God's new kingdom (cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-38) is based solely on grace and not human merit. This is not meant to depreciate or discredit an active life of religious discipleship; rather, grace is foundational to salvation and righteous living (cf. Eph. 2:8-10). Discipleship must be motivated by gratitude, not merit (cf. Rom. 3:21-24; 6:23; Eph. 2:8-9).

 

C. We need to be reminded that when interpreting parables, the central truth and context are far more important than pushing the details into a theological system. The key to parables is to look for the unexpected, or culturally shocking statement.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 20:1-7
 1"For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2When he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the market place; 4and to those, he said, 'You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.'And so they went. 5Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did the same thing. 6And 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? 7They said to him, 'Because no one hired us.'He said to them, 'You go into the vineyard too.'"

20:1 "For the kingdom of heaven" The parable was given as an example of how the material rewards offered by this world were totally different from the spiritual rewards of the kingdom of God. This parable is unique to Matthew. The "kingdom of heaven" was a central topic in Jesus' teaching and preaching ministry. It referred to the reign of God in human hearts now which will one day be consummated over the earth (cf. Matt. 6:10). The present yet future aspects of the kingdom of God are the origin of the "already" and "not yet" tension and paradox of the two comings of Christ and the Christian life.

▣ "landowner" This is a compound term "house" plus " master" (despotēs). It translates a Hebrew phrase, "the owner of the land." Matthew uses this designation often (cf. Matt. 10:25; 13:27,52; 20:1,11; 21:33; 24:43).

In this passage it reflects the grace of God in dealing with His human creation. In Matt. 10:24-25 Jesus is the true "household master," but they call Him Beelzebub" (head demon or Satan).

Grant Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral, p. 244 has an interesting comment.

"God appears in several fuises in the parables as king, father, landowner, employer, father and judge. Throughout, the picture is of one who graciously and mercifully offers forgiveness, but at the same time demands decision. . .salvation is present and insistently demanding response. God's rule is typified by grace but that grace challenges the hearer to recognize the necessity of repentance."

▣ "vineyard" Many assume that this was a reference to the nation of Israel. It is true that a vineyard often stood for Israel in the OT (cf. Isa. 5, Jer. 2:21; 12:10; Ps. 80:8-13), but that does not mean it does in every context in the NT. In this context, it seems to simply be the setting of the parable and does not have major symbolic truth.

20:2 "when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius for the day" This first group of laborers was the only one for whom a set pay for a day's work was discussed. The term "denarius," like all monetary values in translations, is linked to one's own historical equivalent. It would be much better to see this monetary amount in light of its usage in the first century, as a day's wage for a soldier or an agricultural worker. It was enough money to provide food and the necessities of life for a day for a Palestinian family.

20:3

NASB, NKJV,
NJB" about the third hour"
NRSV, TEV" about nine o'clock"

All of the designations (Matt. 20:3,5,6) for time in the parable are based on the assumption of the day beginning at  6  a.m. (Roman time); therefore, it was nine o'clock in the morning. The Jews began their day at  6 p.m. (i.e., Gen. 1:5).

One questions why the vineyard owner would hire so many people throughout the day. It has been assumed by scholars that it was the peak of the grape harvest and the Sabbath was close at hand; therefore, it was urgent that as many of the grapes as possible be gathered before they ruined.

20:6 "found others standing around" Although in English this phrase sounds derogatory, as if the vineyard owner were chiding these people for not working all day, in reality he simply had found some workers who had not been hired earlier. There is no hint that these were lazy or indifferent workers, but ones who had not been able to find work for that day (cf. Matt. 20:7).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 20:8-16
 8When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last group to the first.'9When those hired about the eleventh hour came, each one received a denarius. 10When those hired first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received a denarius. 11When they received it, they grumbled at the landowner, 12saying, 'These last men have worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the scorching heat of the day.'13But he answered and said to one of them, 'Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14Take what is yours and go, but I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous? 16So the last shall be first, and the first last."

20:8 "When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the laborers and pay them their wages'" We learn from the Mosaic Law that laborers were to be paid at the close of the work day so that they could buy food for their families (cf. Lev. 19:13; Deut. 24:15; Mal. 3:5). Often landowners tried to withhold the wages until the next day in order to assure that their labor force would return, but this was against the Mosaic Law.

20:10 "When those hired first came, they thought they would receive more" The workers hired first were assuming that they deserved more money because those who worked less time received what they had contracted for (cf. Matt. 20:2). This parable shows how the ways of God are so different from the ways of this world. We see from Matt. 20:11 that when they did not receive more money, they grumbled continually. Their attitude of being grateful even to be employed turned to anger because they did not get all that they expected. They rationalized that because they had worked all day in the heat, they deserved more pay. The implication of this is striking in relationship to religious people and spiritual rewards (cf. Matt. 19:30; 20:16).

20:13-15 The landowner answers with three rhetorical questions. The landowner has freedom to act as he will (cf. Romans 9), but he chooses to act in grace!

20:15 This verse is the theological heart of the parable. God is sovereign and He has the right to act (i.e., Romans 9-10). He chooses to act in undeserved grace (cf. Romans 11). Can anyone fault Him for that? This is theologically parallel to the Prodigal Son recorded in Luke 15:11-32. Should God's mercy to some offend those who have also experienced His mercy?

NASB, NRSV"Or is your eye envious because I am generous"
NKJV"Or is your eye evil because I am good"
TEV"Or are you jealous because I am generous"
NJB"Why be envious because I am generous"

This relates to the Ancient Near Eastern metaphor of "the evil eye" (cf. Deut. 15:9; 1 Sam. 18:9). In this context it referred to jealousy or envy (cf. Mark 7:22). See Special Topic at Matt. 6:22-23.

20:16

NASB"So the last shall be first, and the first last"
NKJV"So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen"
NRSV"So the last will be first and the first will be last"
TEV"So those who are last will be first, and those who are first will be last"
NJB" Thus the last will be first, and the first, last"

There is a phrase at the end of this verse "for many are called, but few chosen," which is found in the KJV, but is omitted in the NASB, NKJV, TEV, and JB. It seems to have been added from Matt. 22:14. It does not appear in the Greek manuscripts א, B, L, or Z. The UBS4 gives its exclusion an " A" rating (i.e., certain).

There is an obvious relationship between 19:30 and 20:16. Rewards are not based on merit but on grace. This has been understood in two ways.

1. All believers will not receive equal rewards, but equal standing in the kingdom. This is the biblical tension between a free salvation and Christ-like discipleship.

2. The Jews who received the promises of God first will not receive greater rewards or blessings than Gentile believers (cf. Luke 13:30).

 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. What are the guidelines for interpreting parables? (See How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth, by Fee and Stuart, p. 135-148)

2. What is the literary context of this parable?

3. What does this parable have to say to the relationship between God's children and rewards?

4. What do you think is the relationship between this parable and the elder brother in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15)?

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS FOR 20:17-18

A. The parallel of this account, found in Mark 10:32ff., sets the stage for the attitude and actions of the disciples.

 

B. It is obvious from this account that the disciples still had a fundamental misunderstanding of the Messianic kingdom. This was possibly related to Jesus' statement in Matt. 19:28.

 

C. This is the third and most detailed prediction of Jesus' death and resurrection to the disciples (cf. Matt. 16:21; 17:9,22-23). He knew why He came! He controlled His own history (cf. John 10:17-18)!

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 20:17-19
 17As Jesus was about to go up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and on the way He said to them, 18"Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, 19and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up."

20:17 "as Jesus was about to go up to Jerusalem" Mark 10:32 says He had set his face toward Jerusalem and was walking out ahead of the disciples.

20:18 "the Son of Man" See the note at Matt. 8:20.

▣ "the chief priests and scribes" This was a reference to the Sanhedrin. It was made up of 70 leaders of the Jewish community in Jerusalem. The full title was "the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders," (cf. Matt. 16:21). This was the final authority in religious and political matters for the Jews, although it was extremely limited in a political sense by the Roman occupation forces.

See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE SANHEDRIN at Matt. 16:21.

20:19 "and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him" This was a reference to Jesus' humiliation and abuse by the Roman authorities. The soldiers took out their animosity toward the exclusivism of the Jewish population by transferring it to Jesus.

This verb "hand over" (paradidōmi) often refers to Jesus being given into the legal authority of a group or person for judgment.

1. to the high priests and scribes, Matt. 20:18

2. to men, Matt. 17:22

3. to the Gentiles (ethnē), Matt. 20:19

4. to Pilate, Matt. 27:2

5. for crucifixion, Matt. 26:2

Because of Jesus' statement of Matt. 10:24-25, believers will also be "handed over" (cf. Matt. 10:17; 24:9; Luke 21:12).

▣ "crucify" The horror of this form of execution was not only in its public humiliation and pain, but in its relation to Deut. 21:23; according to the rabbis of Jesus' day "the curse of God" was upon those who are hung upon a tree. Jesus became "the curse" (Lev. 26; Deut. 27-28; Gal. 3:13; Col. 2:14) for sinful mankind!

▣ "on the third day" In 1 Cor. 15:4 Paul mentioned that this was an essential element of the gospel. However, when we look at the OT, it is difficult to find an allusion to the "three days." Some try to use Hos. 6:2, but this seems extremely doubtful. Because of Matt. 12:38-40 many use Jonah's time in the belly of the great fish (cf. Jonah 1:17). This seems to be the most appropriate.

For the Jews of Jesus' day any part of a day was counted as a full day. Remember Jews start their day at twilight (cf. Gen 1:5). Therefore Jesus' death late Friday afternoon (3 p.m.) and burial before 6 p.m. was counted as one day. Friday at twilight until Saturday at twilight (the Sabbath) was the second day; from Saturday at twilight until sometime before sunrise on Sunday was the third day. See note at Matt. 16:21.

▣ "He will be raised up" Usually the resurrection (see Special Topic at Matt. 27:63) is spoken of as an act of the Father's will which showed His approval of the life, ministry, and death of Jesus. However, in John. 10:17-18 Jesus asserted His own authority in His resurrection. Rom. 8:11 says the Spirit raised Jesus. Here is a good example of all the persons of the Trinity involved in the acts of redemption.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 20:20-23
 20Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him. 21And He said to her, "What do you wish?" She said to Him, "Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left." 22But Jesus answered, "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." 23He said to them, "My cup you shall drink; but to sit on My right and on My left, this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father."

20:20 "the mother of the sons of Zebedee" From Mark 10:35 we learn that James and John were also active in this request. When one compares Matt. 27:56 with Mark 15:40 and John. 19:25 it is quite possible that Salome, Zebedee's wife, was the sister of Jesus' mother.

▣ "bowing down" This was not an act of worship but an act of selfish family ambition. How often do Christians kneel before God just to get what they want? They try to trade faith for favors (cf. Job. 1:9-11)!

▣ "making a request of Him" Mark records "do for us whatever we ask of you." This sounds like the request of an immature child.

20:21 "Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left" Every time Jesus tried to discuss His death, the disciples began to argue over who was greatest. This shows a fundamental misunderstanding not only of the person and work of Christ, but of the Messianic kingdom (cf. Luke 18:34).

20:22 "but Jesus answered, 'You'" The "you" of Matt. 20:21 is singular, addressing the mother, but in Matt. 20:22 it is plural, addressing James and John.

▣ "Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink" The term "cup" was used in Ugaritic literature to mean destiny. In the Bible, however, it seems to mean the experiences of life whether good or evil. It was usually used in the sense of judgment (cf. Ps. 75:8; Isa. 51:17-23; Jer. 25:15-28, 49:12, 51:7; Lam. 4:21-22; Ezek. 22:31-34; Hab. 2:16; Zech. 12:2; Rev. 14:10, 16:19, 17:4, 18:6). However, it was also mentioned in a few passages as blessings (cf. Ps. 16:5, 23:5, 116:13; Jer. 16:7).

The added phrase found in the King James Version (KJV) referring to Jesus' baptism is simply not a part of the original Greek text of Matthew, nor the ancient Latin, Syriac, or Coptic translations. It came from Mark 10:38 and Luke 12:50, which was later inserted into Matthew by copyists as is the same addition in Matt. 20:23. The UBS4 rates their exclusion as "A" (certain).

20:23 "My cup you shall drink" James was the first martyr of the apostolic band (cf. Acts 12:2). John lived long enough to be exiled by the Roman government to Patmos (Rev. 1:9) and died of old age in Ephesus (according to church tradition).

The KJV adds a phrase, "and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with," but it is an addition from Mark 10:39. Scribes tended to make the Gospels parallel!

▣ "for whom it has been prepared by My Father" This is perfect passive indicative. Here is another example of Jesus' submission to the Father's will and purpose. The Father is in control of all things (cf. 1 Cor. 15:27-28).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 20:24-28
 24And hearing this, the ten became indignant with the two brothers. 25But Jesus called them to Himself and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. 26It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, 27and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; 28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."

20:24 "And hearing this, the ten became indignant with the two brothers" They were angry because they did not ask first! But they also put on a show of anger as though they knew the question was out of place but secretly wanted to ask the same question.

20:26 "whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave" Jesus did not condemn their ambition for greatness, but defined its true parameters in light of one's commitment to Him. In Jesus' kingdom leadership is servanthood (cf. Matt. 23:11; Mark 9:35; 10:43)! Believers are saved to serve! Believers are saved from the service of sin to the service of God (cf. Romans 6)!

20:28 "the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve" Here is the practical truth of who is greatest (cf. Mark 10:45; Luke 19:10). Jesus knew that He came to (1) reveal the Father; (2) give mankind an example (i.e., selfless service) to follow; and (3) die a substitutionary death

▣ "and to give His life" There is a price to be paid for spiritual greatness and it is in service-even sometimes ultimate service, which is laying down your life for a friend (cf. John. 15:13; 2 Cor. 5:14-15; 1 John. 3:16).

▣ "a ransom" This term (lytron) found only twice in the NT, here and Mark 10:45, implied a price paid to purchase the freedom of a slave or prisoner of war. It is used in the LXX to translate koper (BDB 497 I), which denotes a life given to cover sin (i.e., Num. 35:31,32). Jesus did something for believers that they could never have done for themselves. The price was paid to reconcile the justice of God and the love of God (cf. Isa. 53; 2 Cor. 5:21).

SPECIAL TOPIC: RANSOM/REDEEM

▣ "for many" This is an allusion to Isa. 53:11-12. The term "many" was not used in a restrictive sense of a special few, but the natural result of Christ's work. The rabbis and the Qumran community used the term "many" for the community of faith or the elect. By comparing Isa. 53:6c with 53:11d and 12e, we can see the central play between "all" and "many." This same play is used by Paul in Rom. 5:17-19. Verses 18 and 19 are parallel, which means " all" and "many" are synonymous. This cannot be a proof-text for strict Calvinism! See discussion in NIDOTTE, vol. 1, pp. 96-97.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 20:29-34
 29As they were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed Him. 30And two blind men sitting by the road, hearing that Jesus was passing by, cried out, "Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!" 31The crowd sternly told them to be quiet, but they cried out all the more, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!" 32And Jesus stopped and called them, and said, "What do you want Me to do for you?" 33They said to Him, "Lord, we want our eyes to be opened." 34Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight and followed Him.

20:29-34 This was another healing miracle of Jesus that displayed His compassion and power. Again characteristically for Matthew there were two blind men healed (and not only one as in Mark 10:46-52 and Luke 18:35-43).

20:29 "as they were leaving Jericho" It is interesting that both Matthew and Mark (10:46-52) place this healing as Jesus left Jericho, while Luke (18:35-43) places it as He was entering. There was an old Jericho and a new Jericho. It is possible that both accounts are accurate.

▣ "two blind men" The healing of the blind was an OT Messianic sign (cf. Isa. 29:18; 35:5; 42:7,16,18). Jesus had compassion on those who others regarded as "throw-away" people (cf. Matt. 20:31).

20:30 "Son of David" See note at Matt. 9:27. Matthew records the use of this Messianic title often (cf. Matt. 1:1; 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30; 21:9,15; 22:42,45).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. In every context where Jesus foretells his death, what do the disciples discuss?

2. Where is the third day mentioned in the OT concerning Jesus resurrection?

3. Is James and John's mother related to Jesus?

4. Why is verse 28 so important?

5. Explain how "all" and "many" can mean the same.

 

Copyright © 2013 Bible Lessons International

Passage: 

Matthew 21

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Triumphal Entry Into Jerusalem The Triumphal Entry Palm Sunday The Triumphant Entry Into Jerusalem The Messiah Enters Jerusalem
21:1-11 21:1-11 21:1-11 21:1-3 21:1-9
 (5)     21:4-5 (5)
(9b)     21:6-9 (9b)
      21:10 21:10-11
      21:11  
The Cleansing of the Temple Jesus Cleanses the Temple Cleansing the Temple Jesus Goes to the Temple The Expulsion of the Dealers from the Temple
21:12-13 21:12-17 21:12-13 21:12-13 21:12-17
21:14-17   21:14-17 21:14-15  
      21:16a (16b)
      21:16b  
      21:17  
The Cursing of the Fig Tree The Fig Tree Fig Tree Cursed Jesus Curses the Fig Tree The Barren Fig Tree Withers, Faith and Prayer
21:18-22 21:18-19 21:18-22 21:18-19 21:18-22
  The Lesson of the Withered Fig Tree      
  21:20-22   21:20  
      21:21-22  
The Authority of Jesus Questioned Jesus' Authority Questioned Jesus' Authority The Question about Jesus' Authority The Authority of Jesus is Questioned
21:23-27 21:23-27 21:23-27 21:23 21:23-27
      21:24-25a  
      21:25b-27a  
      21:27b  
The Parable of the Two Sons The Parable of the Two Sons   The Parable of the Two Sons Parable of the Two Sons
21:28-32 21:28-32 21:28-32 21:28-31a 21:28-32
      21:31b  
      21:31c-32  
The Parable of the Vineyard and the Tenants The Parable of the Wicked Vinedressers Parable of the Vineyard The Parable of the Tenants in the Vineyard Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen
21:33-44 21:33-46 21:33-41 21:33-39 21:33-43
      21:40  
      21:41  
(42b)   21:42-44 21:42 (42)
      21:43-44  
21:45-46   21:45-46 21:45-46 21:45-46

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS FOR 21:1-17

A. The Triumphal Entry was a significant prophetic act. It, along with the cleansing of the temple, proclaimed Jesus to be the promised Messiah. These two events are paralleled in

1. Triumphal Entry, Mark 11:1-10, Luke 19:29-44, and John. 12:12-19

2. Cleansing of the temple, Mark 11:15-18; Luke 19:45-47

 

B. There is a paradoxical aspect to the Triumphal Entry. Jesus was obviously fulfilling the prediction of Zech. 9:9, and the shouts of the crowd were an affirmation of His Messiahship. However, it must be remembered that these Hallel Psalms (i.e., 113-118) were used to welcome the pilgrims every year as they came to Jerusalem for the Passover. The fact that they were applying them to a particular person was the uniqueness of this event. This is clearly seen in the consternation of the religious leaders.

 

C. The cleansing of the Temple recorded in Matt. 21:12-17 was possibly a second cleansing by Jesus. The first one was recorded in John. 2:13-16. I personally do not accept the tenets of literary criticism that telescope these two events into one. Although there is a problem in unifying the chronology of the Synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John, it still seems best to me, because of the differences between the two accounts, to hold to two cleansings, one early in His ministry and one near the end. This (along with Jesus' parables of the leadership's rejection) explains the growing animosity of the religious leaders of Jerusalem.

 

D. The cleansing of the temple had several theological purposes.

1. to assert Jesus' authority and Kingship

2. as an act of judgment on Israel's leaders (foreshadowing of a.d. 70)

3. as a clarification of the purpose of the temple to be a house of prayer for all people (cf. Matt. 28:19; Luke 24:46-47; Acts 1:8)

4. to bring the confrontation between Himself land the Jewish leaders to a climax which would result in His arrest and death (cf. Mark 10:45)

5. to show that the Jews gloried and trusted in the temple (cf. Jeremiah 7), but needed to glory in God and trust in His Messiah/King (Jesus).

6. to set the stage for the parables of the rejection of

a. Israel

b. Israel's leadership

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 21:1-11
 1When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2instructing them, "Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a
 colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me. 3If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, 'The Lord has need of them,'and immediately he will send them." 4This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
 5Say to the daughter of Zion,
  Behold your King is coming to you,
  Gentle, and mounted on a donkey,
  Even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'"
 6The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them, 7and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on the coats. 8Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road, and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road. 9The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting,
 Hosanna to the Son of David;
 Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord;
 Hosanna in the highest!"
 10When He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, "Who is this?" 11And the crowds were saying, "This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee."

21:1 "Bethphage" This name meant "house of figs." This village was located somewhere between Bethany and Jerusalem on the long ridge known as the Mount of Olives.

▣ "Mount of Olives" It is uncertain where Jesus spent the nights the last week of His life. Some assert that He went back to Bethany and stayed with Lazarus; others say that He bivouacked on the Mount of Olives, possibly in the specific location of the Garden of Gethsemane. Reality is probably the combination of both (cf. John. 12:1-10).

21:2-3 This is one of those accounts that is either a miracle of Jesus' supernatural knowledge or a pre-arrangement. There are accounts of both in the New Testament. In context it seems to be a pre-arranged meeting.

21:2 "a donkey tied there and a colt with her" In John. 12:14 a donkey is mentioned but not a colt. The reason that the colt is significant is because of the symbolism of the donkey to Israel. The donkey was the mount of the king (i.e., 2 Sam. 18:9). The king had a royal donkey on which no one but he ever rode. The fact that Jesus came riding on a donkey, particularly on one that had never been ridden, is a fulfillment of the prophecy mentioned in Matt. 21:5, from Zech. 9:9, with a possible allusion to Isa. 62:11. Some late Greek manuscripts add "Zachariah" before "prophet," while some of the editions of the Vulgate and the Coptic translations add "Isaiah." The donkey was not only a symbol of royalty, but the colt a symbol of humility and peace.

21:3 "if" This is a third class conditional sentence, which denotes potential action.

21:5 This is a quote from Isa. 62:11 and Zech. 9:9.

21:7 "and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on the coats" This act of placing their coats on the two animals is much like our festival saddles used during a parade. It is obvious that Jesus rode on the colt although the Greek text is somewhat ambiguous. "Them" in the Greek texts referred to the coats on both animals, not the animals.

21:8 "spread their coats in the road" This was another aspect of a royal parade which is similar to our modern expression of " rolling out the red carpet" for a distinguished visitor. There is even a historical allusion to this same act being done to (1) Jehu in 2 Kgs. 9:13, and (2) Simon Maccabeus in I Mac. 13:51 and II Mac. 10:7.

▣ "and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road" Although this symbolic act was regularly done during the Feast of Tabernacles (cf. Lev. 23:13-20), those branches were much larger than these. The branches used here were smaller and are comparable to the modern custom of spreading rose petals before a bride as she walks down the aisle. These three acts: (1) the coats on the animals, (2) the coats spread in the road, and (3) the branches spread in the road show that they were honoring Jesus as the coming royal, Davidic King (Messiah).

21:9 "The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting" The term "shouting" is an imperfect tense which implied that they shouted repeatedly. The quote comes from Ps. 118:26-27. It was part of the Passover liturgy known as the Hallel Psalms (cf. Ps. 113-118). These were used every year at the place where the road rose to Jerusalem to welcome the pilgrims to the Feast of Passover, but this year there was unique expectation in the person of Jesus. These verses applied uniquely to Him! He was their fulfillment!

NASB, NKJV,
NRSV, NJB"Hosanna"
TEV"Praise to"

The term may have been an Aramaic idiom meaning "royal power to." Literally, this term in Hebrew was "Hosanna" (BDB 446, cf. Ps. 118:25), which came to be used as a regular greeting. Originally it meant "save us now." The first usage referred to Jesus and the second (Ps. 118:26; Matt. 21:10) to God the Father, praising Him for sending the Messiah.

▣ "in the highest" This was a circumlocution for heaven or the presence of God.

▣ "Son of David" This was a Messianic title (cf. Matt. 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30,31; 22:42). This was an allusion to 2 Samuel 7, which predicted that there would always be a descendant of the Davidic line on the throne. This was the necessary fulfillment of the Messiah being from the tribe of Judah (cf. Gen. 49:10; Ps. 60:7; 108:8).

▣ "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord" The parallel in Luke adds "He that is king" and this was the explicit implication.

21:10 "and when He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, 'Who is this'" It is true that many people had heard about the mighty works of Jesus and attributed to Him the title of prophet (cf. Matt. 21:11). But it needed to be clearly revealed that He was not only a prophet, but the predicted Messiah. The events that follow will clearly reveal this to anyone who had spiritual eyes to see.

At this point Luke 19:41-44 inserts Jesus weeping over the city of Jerusalem; however, Matthew does not record this until 23:37-39. The Gospel writers had the ability under inspiration to select, adapt, arrange and summarize Jesus' words and teachings. The Gospels are not a western chronological history but a theological tract to win the lost and teach the saved.

21:11 "the crowds were saying, 'This is the prophet Jesus' " The recognition of Jesus' divine inspiration and power relates to the Messianic prophecy of Deut. 18:15-19. The people freely admitted that Jesus was a prophet of God (cf. Luke 7:16; 24:19; John. 4:19; 6:14; 7:40; 9:17). This context also asserted His Messiahship. See SPECIAL TOPIC: NEW TESTAMENT PROPHECY at Matt. 11:9.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 21:12-13
 12And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who were selling doves. 13And He said to them, "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer'; but you are making it a robbers'den."

21:12 "and Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple and overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who were selling doves" This was the second cleansing of the Temple (cf. John. 2:15). The High Priest and his family were the owners of these particular booths. They purchased the right from the Roman authorities. They originally had been set up to aid those pilgrims from foreign lands who were unable to bring sacrificial animals and the right type of money (shekel) that the temple required. These booths charged outrageous prices. If a man did bring his own animal, the priestly inspectors would find some defect in it so that they had to purchase an animal from the booth operator for a highly inflated price.

The Temple only accepted shekels (cf. Exod. 30:13). There were no longer any Jewish shekels available, but there were Tyrian ones. Pilgrims were charged exorbitant prices for exchanging into this coinage. The doves were available for the poorest people so that they could make a sacrifice (cf. Lev. 1:14; 5:7,11; 12:8; 14:22; Luke 2:24), but the High Priests were charging exorbitant prices even for them.

This is an example of Jesus' anger at the religious exploitation by the Jewish leaders of His day. If anger is a sin, Jesus would have sinned (cf. Eph. 4:26).

21:13 "It is written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer'" All of this buying and selling was taking place in the Court of the Gentiles, which was meant to be a place to attract the nations to the worship of YHWH. Jesus quoted Isa. 56:7 and made an allusion to Jer. 7:11. In Mark's parallel (cf. Matt. 11:17), he adds the phrase, 'shall be a house of prayer for all nations.'Matthew, writing to Jews, left out this universal emphasis while Mark, writing to Romans, included it.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 21:14-17
 14And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them. 15But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that He had done, and the children who were shouting in the temple, "Hosanna to the Son of David," they became indignant 16and said to Him, "Do You hear what these children are saying?" And Jesus said to them, "Yes; have you never read, 'Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies You have prepared praise for Yourself'?" 17And He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there.

21:14 "And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple, and He healed them" Verses 14 and 15 are unique to Matthew, but they do show that, even at this late date, Jesus was still trying to confirm His message to the religious leaders by performing miraculous acts of love and compassion right in the Temple area. These were OT signs of the Messiah.

1. sight to the blind (cf. Isa. 29:18; 42:7,16)

2. help to the lame (cf. Isa. 40:11; Mic. 4:6; Zeph. 3:19)

3. both signs together in Jer. 31:8 and Isa. 35:5-6

If they simply had spiritual eyes to see, they would have seen His authority, compassion, and the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, but they did not.

21:15 "but when the chief priests and scribes" The usual designation of the Sanhedrin (see Special Topic at Matt. 20:18) included the High Priest, scribes, and elders (cf. Matt. 21:23; 16:21). This was a way of referring to those in places of leadership in Jerusalem of Jesus' day.

▣ "the children who were shouting in the temple, 'Hosanna to the Son of David,'they became indignant" Apparently the children (used of Jesus at twelve, cf. Luke 2:43) had heard the Hallel Psalms applied to Jesus the day before and they were repeating the refrain which had upset the Pharisees earlier.

21:16 "and said to Him, 'Do You hear what these children are saying'" In Luke 19:39 other Pharisees complained about this same thing. Jesus accepted these titles as another way of affirming His Messianic claims.

▣ "Jesus said to them, 'Yes; have you never read'" This was a strong statement which implied that they were not familiar with their own Scriptures. Jesus used irony and sarcasm several times in relation to the religious leaders (cf. Matt. 12:3; 19:4; 21:42; 22:31). Jesus, at this point, quoted Ps. 8:2. This was not necessarily a Messianic Psalm, but it is a Psalm which asserted that children (nursing ones, possibly up to three years of age or older) will speak the truth before adults even understand it.

21:17 "He left them and went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there" In John. 12:1-10, Jesus stayed with Lazarus, Mary, and Martha several nights during this last week of His life.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive

1. Why is the Triumphal Entry so significant?

2. Why is it important that Jesus rode on the colt of a donkey?

3. Explain the significance of Psalm 118:26-27. What was unique about this year's welcoming parade?

4. Why was Jesus so upset with the buyers and sellers in the Temple?

5. Why did the religious leaders not rejoice in Jesus' miracles?

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS FOR 21:18-46

A. Matthew 21 begins with the Triumphal Entry and closes with the second of three parables. It was an attempt to discuss Jesus' Messiahship with the Jewish leaders.

 

B. It is extremely difficult to be certain whether Jesus is rejecting (1) the Jewish nation, (2) her leaders, or (3) both.

 

C. The cleansing of the Temple in Matt. 21:12-17 was an act of rejection. The cursing of the fig tree in verses 18-22 was an act of rejection. The parable of the two sons in Matt. 21:28-32 was a parable of rejection. The parable of the wicked tenants, Matt. 21:33-46, was a parable of rejection. The parable of the King's wedding feasts, Matt. 22:1-14, was a parable of rejection. The question remains, were the leaders symbolic of all the nation or was it rabbinical Judaism in particular that Jesus was rejecting?

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 21:18-19
 18Now in the morning, when He was returning to the city, He became hungry. 19Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He said to it, "No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you." And at once the fig tree withered.

21:18 "Now in the morning, when He was returning to the city" The time sequence in Mark is slightly different (cf. Mark 11:12-14, 20-21). Apparently Jesus was returning from Bethany, which was two miles from Jerusalem (cf. Mark 11:12).

21:19 "Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it" It was legal for a traveler to stop and take food from a fruit tree or a field (cf. Deut. 23:24-25).

▣ "and found nothing on it except leaves only" Mark 11:13 adds "it was not the time for figs." This makes this a prophetic act of rejection of the Jewish leaders or of the nation. Outwardly they looked prosperous, spiritual, and religious but there was no supernatural fruit (cf. Col. 2:21-23; 2 Tim. 3:5; Isa. 29:13).

▣ "No longer shall there ever" Jesus spoke Aramaic but thought in Hebrew terms. See Special Topic following for the words "ever" or " forever" taken from my OT commentaries.

SPECIAL TOPIC: FOREVER ('OLAM)

▣ "and at once the fig tree withered" Mark 11:20 records that the withering happened the next morning. There is a related parable found in Luke 13:6-9. This was an object lesson against the ostentatious religious exhibitionism of the Jewish leaders and the abominable absence of love and commitment to God.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 21:20-22
 20Seeing this, the disciples were amazed and asked, "How did the fig tree wither all at once?" 21And 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. 22And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive."

21:21 "Truly" See note and Special Topic at Matt. 5:18.

▣ "if" This is a third class conditional sentence which meant potential future action.

▣ "have faith and do not doubt" This theme is crucial (cf. Matt. 17:20; James 1:6-8) because the new age of the Spirit is different from the current evil age. It is an age of faith/trust in God, His word, and His Son! This verse does not relate to the will of individual believers, but to the revealed will of God acted out in life. Israel failed the faith test! There were consequences to this failure! This event is theologically parallel to the cleansing of the temple earlier in the chapter.

▣ "this mountain" This referred to the Mt. of Olives, which would have been in clear view.

▣ "the sea" This referred to the Dead Sea, also visible from the Mt. of Olives. In the OT this action of lowering the mountains and raising the valleys was usually associated with the Gentiles having physical access to YHWH in Jerusalem. The context then should not be interpreted as advocating power miracles through faith but is idiomatic of spiritual access to God for the Gentiles which the Jewish leaders actions had stifled (i.e., court of Gentiles used primarily for merchant booths). This context must be seen as one of a series of rejection passages (Matt. 21:12-17, 28-32, 33-46; 22:1-14).

21:22 "And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive" Notice the unconditional promise linked to mankind's conditional response. This was a quite common way to express biblical truth but it is difficult for western-oriented people, who like clear cut black and white statements, to deal with biblical, dialectical paradoxes. Answered prayer must be linked to God's will and mankind's faith (compare Matt. 18:19; John. 14:13-14; 15:7,16; 16:23; 1 John. 3:22; 5:14-15 with Matt. 7:7-8; Luke 11:5-13; 18:1-8; 18:9-14; Mark 11:23-24; and James 1:6-7; 4:3).

The worst thing that God could do for faithless children is answer their selfish, materialistic requests. Those believers who seek the mind of Christ ask for things that please God and extend His kingdom. See Special Topic on Prayer at Matt. 18:19.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 21:23-27
 23When He entered the temple, 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?" 24Jesus said to them, "I will also ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. 25The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?" And they began reasoning among themselves, saying, "If we say, 'From heaven,'He will say to us, "Then why did you not believe him?" 26But if we say, 'From men,'we fear the people; for they all consider John to be a prophet." 27And answering Jesus, they said, "We do not know." He also said to them, "Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things."

21:23 "the chief priests and elders of the people" Notice in verse 15 they are called "chief priests" and "scribes." These three groups made up the Sanhedrin. Whether they were an official or unofficial delegation is uncertain, but they represented the Jewish leadership. The phrase " elders of the people" is unique to Matthew (cf. Matt. 21:23; 26:3,47; 27:1).

▣ "while He was teaching" Jesus taught under Solomon's portico (cf. Acts 3:11; 5:12) in the Court of the Gentiles within the Temple area. He was still trying to reach the Jewish leadership.

▣ "'By what authority are You doing these things'" This was the central question! "These things" could refer to the cleansing of the Temple (cf. Matt. 21:12-16), Jesus' rejection of oral tradition, or His public miracles. They could not deny the miraculous acts, so they attacked the source of His authority. Apparently the religious leaders of Jesus' day thought Jesus was an extremely powerful demon possessed person (cf. Matt. 12:24; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15; John. 7:20; 8:48,52; 10:20-21).

21:24-27 This discussion sets the stage for the three parables that follow. It shows the compromising position of the religious leaders. These men had been trying to catch Jesus on the "horns of a dilemma" for several months. Now He reversed their strategy.

21:24, 25, 26 There are three third class conditional sentences, which meant potential future action.

21:26 "'a prophet'" See SPECIAL TOPIC: NEW TESTAMENT PROPHECY at Matt. 11:9.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 21:28-32
 28"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.'29And he answered, 'I will not.'; but afterward he regretted it and went. 30The man came to the second and said the same thing; and he answered, 'I will, sir'; but he did not go. 31Which 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. 32For 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 feel remorse afterward so as to believe him."

21:28 "a man had two sons" This parable is unique to Matthew. The ancient Greek manuscripts vary on the order of the two son's response. The order is really not significant in seeing the relationship of this parable to Matt. 21:23-27. The comparison is made between the religious leaders and the common people of the land.

21:31 "the tax-collectors and prostitutes will get into the kingdom of God before you" This was such a startling statement to the Jewish leaders of Jesus' day. It must have truly shocked them as Matt. 5:20; 8:11-12; 19:24-25,30 and 20:16 did. The leaders recognized that Jesus was unambiguously asserting their rejection and the welcoming of sinners and the common person (and by implication the Gentiles).

Matthew predominately used the term "the Kingdom of Heaven," because he was writing to Jewish hearers who were fearful of using God's name; however, in Matt. 6:33, 12:28, and 21:31, the phrase most common in Mark and Luke was used by Matthew. Possibly it was used to shock the Jews into listening.

21:32 "for John came to you in the way of righteousness" Jesus and John represented two approaches. John came in the tradition of the elders and was rejected (Matt. 21:24-26). Jesus came as a friend of sinners and was accused of being a wine-bibber (cf. Matt. 11:19; Luke 7:34). Both of them were rejected!

The term "way" was an OT idiom of a lifestyle of faith (i.e., Exod. 32:8; Deut. 8:6; 10:12; 11:22,28). It was the first title of the church, "The Way" (cf. Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:22).

▣ "you did not believe him. . .did believe him" Behind this imagery is the need to believe Jesus and it is open to any and all humans made in God's image!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 21:33-41
 33"Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard and put a wall around it and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey. 34When the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce. 35The vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third. 36Again he sent another group of slaves larger than the first; and they did the same thing to them. 37But afterward he sent his son to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.'38But when the vine-growers saw the son. they said among themselves, 'This is the heir; come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.'39They took him, and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40Therefore when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?" 41They said to Him, "He will bring those wretches to a wretched end, and will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons."

21:33 "listen to another parable" The parable is paralleled in Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-19. This is the strongest parable on God's rejection of Israel and her leaders!

▣ "who planted a vineyard" This has an obvious connection to Isa. 5. The vineyard has always been a symbol for the nation of Israel. This parable is the most allegorical of the three. The slaves represent the prophets. The son represents the Messiah (notice there is a son in each of the parables in this chapter, but used in different senses). The tenants represent the nation of Israel or at least her leaders.

In the immediate context the new tenants refer to the common people of the land, but in the larger context it referred to the Gentiles (cf. Matt. 28:18-20; Luke 24:46; Acts 1:8).

21:41 The crowd answers the question and seals their own doom. There is a word play which is translated "those wretches (kakous) to a wretched (kakōs) end."

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 21:42-44
 42Jesus said to them, "Did you never read in the Scriptures,
 'The stone which the builders rejected,
  This became the chief corner stone;
  This came about from the Lord,
  And it is marvelous in our eyes'?
 43Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruit of it. 44And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust."

21:42 "Did you never read in the Scriptures" This was a quote from Ps. 118:22-23. Originally this referred to the nation of Israel rejected by the Gentiles. How ironical that it now refers to the nation of Israel rejected by God and His acceptance of the common person and by implication the Gentiles.

▣ "stone" The "stone" was a title of God in the OT (cf. Ps. 18). It was used of the Messiah as the only sure foundation in Isa. 28:16. It was used as a metaphor of the coming Messianic kingdom in Dan. 2:34,44-45. The Messiah can be both a sure and sturdy foundation sent by God or a destructive judgment sent by God! Resurrection Day will also be Judgment Day! See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: CORNERSTONE

21:43 "and given to a nation" This passage and the parable found in Matt. 22:1-14 lead one to believe that these three connected parables deal with the rejection of the nation of Israel, not only its leaders. At the least it was a rejection of rabbinical Judaism. The word for Gentiles was literally "the nations."

21:44 The NASB and NRSV include verse 44 while the RSV, TEV and JB only put it in a footnote. This verse is similar to Luke 20:18 and the RSV, JB and TEV translation committees assumed it was transferred to Matthew by a copyist. UBS4 gives it a "C" rating. However, the Greek text in Luke and Matthew are not exact. This verse was also included in many ancient Greek uncial manuscripts: א , B, C, K , L, W & Z and also in the Latin, Syriac, Coptic and Armenian translations, as well as the Greek texts used by Chrysostom, Cyril, Jerome and Augustine. As a matter of fact, the earliest Greek manuscript that omits it is the sixth century manuscript, D (Bezae). It should be included.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 21:45-46
 45When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them. 46When they sought to seize Him, they feared the people, because they considered Him to be a prophet.

21:45 "when the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them" The religious leaders of Jesus' day recognized completely what Jesus was saying. What terrible irony! The disciples did not understand, but the Sadducees and Pharisees did!

21:46 "prophet" See Special Topic at Matt. 11:9.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. What is the relationship between the cleansing of the Temple, the cursing of the fig tree, and the three parables?

2. Was Jesus rejecting rabbinical Judaism, the religious leaders, or national Israel? Why?

3. How is it possible that non-religious, socially ostracized sinners, such as tax-collectors and prostitutes, can possibly be saved while such pious, conservative, biblical-oriented religious leaders are spiritually lost? (cf Matt. 5:20,48)

4. Explain how Psalm 118:22-23 is related to Jesus' statements about His rejection.

5. How are Matt. 21:43-46 related to 8:11-12, 19:30, and 20:16?

 

Copyright © 2013 Bible Lessons International

Passage: 

Matthew 22

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Parable of the Marriage Feast The Parable of the Wedding Feast The Marriage Feast The Parable of the Wedding Feast Parable of the Wedding Feast
22:1-14 22:1-14 22:1-10 22:1-10 22:1-14
    22:11-14 22:11-13  
      22:14  
Paying Taxes to Caesar The Pharisees: Is It Unlawful to Pay Taxes to Caesar? Paying Taxes to Caesar The Questions About Paying Taxes On Tribute to Caesar
22:15-22 22:15-22 22:15-22 22:15-17 22:15-22
      22:18-19a  
      22:19b-20  
       22:21a  
      22:21b  
      2:22  
The Question About Resurrection The Sadducees: What About the Resurrection? Question About the Resurrection The Question About Rising From Death The Resurrection of the Dead
22:23-33 22:23-33 22:23-28 22:23-28 22:23-33
    22:29-33 22:29-32  
      22:33  
The Great Commandment The Scribes: Which is the First Commandment of All? The Great Commission The Great Commandment The Greatest Commandment of All
22:34-40 22:34-40 22:34-40 22:34-36 22:34-40
      22:37-40  
The Question About David's Son Jesus: How Can David Call His Descendant Lord? David's Son The Question About the Messiah Christ Not Only Son but Also Lord of David
22:41-46 22:41-46 22:41-46 22:41-42b 22:41-46
      22:42c  
      22:43-45  
      22:46  

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS FOR 22:1-14

A. This is the last of three parables that Jesus addressed to the religious leaders in Jerusalem (cf. Matt. 21:23). The parables are found in the context of Jesus' cleansing the Temple (cf. Matt. 21:12-17) and cursing the fig tree (cf. Matt. 21:18-22), both of which are signs of God's rejection of the Jewish leadership, rabbinical Judaism, or the nation.

 

B. One of the major questions one must answer in interpreting these parables is to whom do they refer and apply?

1. Jewish leadership Matt. 22:Jewish common man (cf. Matt. 21:31)

2. Jews Matt. 22:Gentiles (cf. Matt. 21:41, 43; 22:3-5, 8, 9, 10)

3. Unrepentant and apathetic people Matt. 22:repentant humble people

 

C. There are possibly two parables in Matt. 22:1-14. This is because:

1. The term "parables" in verse 1 is plural.

2. There seem to be internal and contextual problems between Matt. 22:1-10 and 11-14, especially relating to the wedding garments.

 

D. There is also the related question of how many speakers are represented in verses 1-14:

1. obviously, the king

2. obviously, the king's servants

3. possibly the Gospel writer himself in Matt. 22:7

4. possibly Jesus Himself commenting in Matt. 22:14

 

E. The three parables in this literary context are possibly related:

a. The first parable is the rejection of God's messenger, i.e., John the Baptist.

b. The second parable is the rejection of God's son, the Messiah.

c. The third parable is the rejection of God's grace.

 

F. It is possible that verses 1-10 relate to God's undeserved, unmerited grace toward fallen humanity, while verses 11-13 relate to human responsibility after experiencing the grace of God. The parable is too ambiguous to build doctrine at this point, but the same truth is reflected in Eph. 2:8-9, 10. This would then emphasize the truth that salvation begins with the grace of God, but must continue with initial and life-long repentance and faith. We are not saved by works, but we are saved unto good works.

 

G. This parable is similar in several ways to Luke 14:16-24. Critical scholarship has asserted that it is two accounts of the same teaching session. Jesus used the same teaching stories in many different contexts. The Gospel writers did not have the freedom to put words in Jesus' mouth. They did have the freedom, under inspiration, to select from, combine, and summarize His teachings. A good example would be Matthew's "Sermon on the Mount," (cf. Matt. 5-7) when compared to Luke's "Sermon on the Plain" (cf. Luke 6).

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 22:1-10
 1Jesus spoke to them, again in parables, saying, 2"The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. 3And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come. 4Again he sent out other slaves saying, "Tell those who have been invited, 'Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast. 5But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business, 6and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them. 7But the king was enraged, and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire. 8Then he said to his slaves, 'The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. 9Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.'10Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests."

22:1 "in parables" Note the plural, which can mean one of three things

1. Matthew has combined several parables of Jesus

2. Jesus used the same stories at different times to express different truths

3. Jesus was simply speaking to them in parabolic fashion (cf. Mark 4:10-12)

 

22:2 "the kingdom of heaven" This topic was a recurrent theme in Jesus' teaching and preaching ministry (see Special Topic at Matt. 4:17). It is both a current reality and a future hope. Basically, it is the reign of God in men's hearts now that will one day be consummated over all the earth. This phrase was synonymous with "the kingdom of God" in Mark and Luke. Matthew, writing to Jews, is more reluctant to use the name of God.

▣ "a king. . .his son" Although it is inappropriate to turn parables into allegories, it does seem that this royal motif is related to God. It is also interesting that in all three parables in Matt. 21:28-22:14 " a son" plays a part in the story. It is true that it is a minor part in this parable, but it is still present. One is tempted to see God as the King and Jesus as the royal son. The wedding feast then becomes an allusion to the Messianic banquet (cf. Matt. 8:11; Luke 13:29; 14:15; 22:16; Rev. 19:9,17).

22:3 "those who had been invited" This was literally " call the called." It was customary in the Ancient Near East for two invitations to be given: an original invitation and an announcement that the feast was ready.

▣ "but they were unwilling to come" This imperfect tense implies a repeated refusal.

22:4 "I have prepared my dinner" The term referred to the first of two daily meals (cf. Luke 14:12). In this time and culture, there was a meal at mid-morning (9 a.m.-12 p.m.) and one at twilight (3 p.m.- 6 p.m.). This meal would have begun a feast which lasted several days.

22:5 "But they paid no attention" This implied an apathy or indifference to the royal invitation. There is an easy and obvious transition to fallen humanity's attitudes toward the gospel.

▣ "one to his farm, another to his business" This is similar to Luke 14:18-19. Their actions were not wicked, but indifference to God's call in Christ is a serious mistake.

22:6 The violence of this verse is shocking. One is surprised by this type of reaction in response to the rejection of an invitation to a wedding feast. To refuse a king's invitation to anything in the Middle East was considered an inexcusable insult. This is probably a literary technique showing a relationship to the previous parable (cf. Matt. 21:35). Some ignore God's call; some are violent in their rejection (i.e., Saul of Tarsus).

22:7 The reaction of the King also seems out of place. Many have assumed that a rejection of the royal invitation was really rebellion against the King. Some commentators have noted the similarity of verse 7 to the historical destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70 by the Roman General, and later Emperor, Titus. Some have asserted that Matthew added this to Jesus' parable. I feel uncomfortable with this extension of Matthew's freedom in dealing with the words of Jesus. Although I would allow the Gospel writers the freedom to select, adapt, rearrange, and summarize the teachings of Jesus under inspiration, I cannot allow them to put words in His mouth which He never spoke.

22:8 This, too, is similar to Luke 14:21-23.

22:9 The King wanted his son's wedding feast to be well attended. Those who should have come refused. From the context and verse 15, the Jewish leadership realized Jesus was addressing them.

22:10 "and gathered together all they found, both evil and good" The question has always been, "To whom does this refer?" In context it seems to refer to the ostracized Jewish poor. The terms "good and evil" would then refer to their willingness and ability to keep or not keep the oral traditions of the elders (i.e., Matt. 15:2). The obvious implication is that God freely accepts sinners. Some recognize their need and some do not! The invitation has been issued, now who will respond?

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 22:11-14
 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,12 and he said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?'And the man was speechless. 13Then the king said to his servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.'14For many are called, but few are chosen."

22:11 "wedding clothes" Through the years many commentators have noted the problems between Matt. 22:9-10 and 11. It does not mention banquet preparation in 9-10, but demands it in Matt. 22:11. Augustine, following some limited historical evidence, assumed that the host provided a special party garment. This would mean the man refused it or entered in an inappropriate way. The inappropriately dressed man seems to recognize his position by his lack of response in Matt. 22:12.

22:13 As earlier in Matt. 22:6 and 7, Matt. 22:13 is a shocking statement. Possibly all of these verses are meant to be Oriental overstatements (hyperboles); however, the severity of the punishment fits the crime of rejecting God's gracious offer (cf. Matt. 22:6-7) and refusing to walk in God's grace (cf. Matt. 22:13).

▣ "throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" This was a common idiom used often in Matthew to describe the condition of humans who reject God (cf. Matt. 8:12; 13:42,50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30). It implied a current (cf. Luke 16:19-31) as well as eschatological setting (cf. Matt. 24:51).

22:14 This is a difficult verse to interpret. Many say it relates to Matt. 22:2-10, but not 11-13. It seems to focus on God's gracious gift extended to all (i.e., John 1:12; 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:4; 4:10; Titus 2:11; 2 Pet. 3:9). However, fallen mankind must respond appropriately. God does choose, but He has chosen that mankind must respond by repentance and faith (cf. Mark 1:15; Acts 3:16,19; 20:21) to the gospel of Jesus mediated through the wooing of the Holy Spirit (cf. John. 6:44,65).

This verse may relate to God's revelation to the children of Abraham (cf. Acts 3:26; Rom. 1:16; 2:9). They rejected God's offer in Christ, so the gospel was given to the Gentiles who eagerly embraced it (i.e., Romans 9-11). This entire context expresses the truth that the expected outcome in spiritual matters was going to be reversed (cf. Matt. 19:30; 20:16)!

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. How is this parable related to Matthew 21?

2. How many parables are there in verses 1-14?

3. To whom does the phrase "invited guests" in verses 3-5 refer?

4. To whom does the phrase "both the good and bad" of verse 10 refer?

5. How do you explain the presence of such violence in verses 6, 7, and 13?

6. How does verse 14 relate to verses 1-14?

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 22:15-22
 15Then the Pharisees went and plotted together how they might trap Him in what He said. 16And 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 defer to no one; for You are not partial to any. 17Tell us then, what do You think? Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?" 18But Jesus perceived their malice, and said, "Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites? 19Show Me the coin used for the poll-tax." And they brought Him a denarius. 20And He said to them, "Whose likeness and inscription is this?" 21They said to Him, "Caesar's." Then He said to them, "Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's." 22And hearing this, they were amazed, and leaving Him, they went away.

22:15 "Pharisees" See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: PHARISEES

▣ "plotted together" This term is used by Matthew to document the numerous times and ways that the religious leaders gathered together to plan to thwart Jesus' ministry (cf. Matt. 12:14; 22:15; 26:4; 27:1,7; 28:12).

In this instance Pharisees even consulted with Herodians to trick Jesus. They hated each other, but they both felt threatened by Jesus and His teachings. Hate makes strange "bedfellows"!

22:16 "Herodians" See Special Topic at Matt. 2:1.

▣ "Teacher" This group of religious leaders is trying to flatter Jesus in order to trick Him (cf. Matt. 22:15). Notice how they characterize Him.

1. we know You are truthful

2. we know You teach the way of God in truth

3. we know You defer to no one

4. we know You are not partial to any (lit. "do not lift the face")

If these Pharisees and Herodians really believed these statements, why did they reject His teachings?

22:17 "Is it lawful" This meant according to the oral traditions which interpreted the Mosaic Law (i.e., "traditions of the elders," 15:2). Jesus changed the question from an "either/or" to a "both/and" (cf. Matt. 22:21).

▣ "poll-tax" This was a Roman tax that went directly to the Emperor. It was levied on every male 14-65 years old and every female 12-65 years old who lived in the imperial provinces.

22:18 "testing" This Greek term had the connotation of "to test with a view toward destruction." See Special Topic at Matt. 4:1. These Jewish leaders knew that the Jewish population was not in support of this tax. If Jesus answered one way He would be in trouble with the Roman authorities; if the other, the Jewish population.

▣ "hypocrites" This compound term meant "to judge under" (cf. Matt. 6:2,5,16; 7:5; 15:7; 16:3; 23:13,15,25,26,27,29; 24:51). It referred to people who acted one way while truly living or feeling another.

22:19 "Show Me the coin used for the poll-tax" This coin was a "denarius." It was a day's wage for soldiers and laborers. On the front was a picture of Tiberius with the saying, "Tiberius Caesar Augustus, son of the Divine Augustus." On the back was a picture of Tiberius seated on a throne and an inscription, "Highest Priest." Tiberius ruled the Roman Empire from a.d. 14-37. Coinage was a symbol of who was in governmental control. See Special Topic: Coins in Use in Palestine in Jesus' Day at Matt. 17:24.

22:21 "Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's" The Bible is clear that believers are to pray for and support the governmental authority they live under regardless of its form unless it usurps the place of God in the life of the believer (cf. Rom. 13:1ff.; Tit. 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:13). Jesus changed the word "pay" of Matt. 22:17 to "pay back."

▣ "and to God the things that are God's" The government, although ordained by God, cannot demand allegiance as a divine power. Believers must reject all ultimate claims of authority, for God alone is the ultimate authority. We must be careful of basing our modern political theory of separation of church and state on this passage. The Bible does not clearly speak on this issue, but western history does!

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Can you list and define all the religious and political groups within Judaism of Jesus' day mentioned in the NT?

2. Why were these groups trying to trick Jesus?

3. What is the implication of Jesus' statement in verse 21 for our day?

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 22:23-33
 23On that day some Sadducees (who say there is no resurrection) came to Jesus and questioned Him, 24asking, " 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.'25"Now there were seven brothers with us; and the first married and died, and having no children left his wife to his brother; 26so also the second, and the third, down to the seventh. 27Last of all, the woman died. 28In the resurrection, therefore, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had married her." 29But Jesus answered and said to them, "You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like the angels in heaven. 31But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God: 32'I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not the God of the dead but of the living." 33When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at His teaching.

22:23 "Sadducees" See Special Topic at Matt. 2:4.

▣ "questioned Him" This question also was meant to force Jesus to deal with a controversial topic, and thereby, alienate Himself from a segment of the Jewish population.

22:24 "Moses said" This is a reference to Deut. 25:5-6.

▣ "if" This is a third class conditional sentence, which meant potential future action.

▣ "his brother as next of kin shall marry his wife" This dealt with the concept of "Levirate marriage" (cf. Deut. 25:5-6; Ruth 4:1-2). This term comes from the Latin term for " brother-in-law." In ancient Israel the land was a major theological emphasis (cf. Gen. 12:1-3). God had divided the land by lot under Joshua into tribal allocations. When a male descendant died without an heir the question arose about the fate of his land. The Jews developed a way for the widow to have a child, if possible, by a near relative so that the deceased man's property would go to an heir. This child would be considered the child of the deceased brother (cf. Numbers 27 and Ruth 4).

22:25 "seven brothers" This shows that the Sadducees did not really want theological information but grounds for accusations! No doubt they had used this theological argument many times to confuse and embarrass the Pharisees.

22:29 "You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God" This accusation must have really embarrassed these religious leaders (cf. Matt. 21:42)! However, it is uncertain to which OT Scripture Jesus was referring to provide this information.

22:30 "For in the resurrection" Jesus was asserting His agreement with the Pharisees concerning a future resurrection (cf. Dan. 12:1-2 or possibly Job 14:7-15; 19:25-27).

▣ "they neither marry nor are given in marriage" This was a new truth not disclosed elsewhere in Scripture. It implies that sexuality is only an aspect of time. It was part of God's will for creation (cf. Gen. 1:28; 9:17), but not for eternity! This seems to imply that the wonderful one flesh fellowship between a man and wife will be superseded by an even closer fellowship between all of God's children in eternity.

▣ "but are like the angels in heaven" This states that angels do not have a sexual aspect to their existence. They do not reproduce themselves in this way. Many commentators have used this verse to interpret Gen. 6:1-4 as not referring to the sexual activity of angels, but rather a special group of angels mentioned in Jude 6 and possibly 1 Pet. 3:19-20, who are kept in prison (Tartarus, which was the name for the wicked part of hades).

22:32 "I am the God of Abraham" Jesus was using a rabbinical word play on the implied present tense of the supplied Hebrew verb "I Am"of Exod. 3:6 to assert that God was and is still Abraham's and the Patriarchs'God. Abraham still lives and God is still his God! Jesus used a text from the Pentateuch (Genesis - Deuteronomy) in which the Sadducees claimed to be authoritative.

22:33 They were astonished because Jesus used the OT without reference to the rabbinical traditions (cf. Matt. 7:28; 13:54). He was His own authority (cf. Matt. 5:21-48).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 22:34-40
 34But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. 35One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, 36"Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" 37*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.'38This is the great and foremost commandment. 39The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'40On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."

22:35 "a lawyer" Matthew usually called these legal experts "scribes." He never used this term "lawyer" anywhere else in his Gospel. This term may have been an assimilation by a copyist from Luke 10:25. Luke used the term often (cf. Luke 7:30; 10:25; 11:45,46,52; 14:3). It is not found in the parallel in Mark 12:28. However it is present in almost all ancient Greek manuscripts. Jewish religious lawyers developed during the Babylonian exile. Ezra typified this group (cf. Ezra 7:10). In many ways they took the place of the local Levites. Basically they answered practical questions related to the written Law and the oral law (Talmud) as they applied to common life.

▣ "testing Him" This verb (peiraze), rendered alternately "tempt," " try," " test" or "prove," has the connotation of "to test with a view toward destruction" (see Special Topic at Matt. 4:1, cf. Matt. 4:1; 16:1; 19:3; 22:18, 35; the noun in Matt. 6:13; 26:41).

22:36 "which is the great commandment in the Law" The rabbis had asserted that there were 248 positive and 365 negative commandments in the writings of Moses (Genesis - Deuteronomy) for a total of 613 commands.

22:37-38 The greatest commandment is stated in Deut. 6:5. There is a slight difference between the Masoretic Hebrew text and Jesus' quote, but the essence is the same. This verse is not concerned with the dichotomous (cf. Heb. 4:12) or trichotomous (cf. 1 Thess. 5:23) nature of man but rather deals with a person as a unity (cf. Gen. 2:7; 1 Cor. 15:45): a thinking and feeling, physical and spiritual being. It is true that because humans are earthly animals they depend upon this planet for food, water, air, and all the other things animal life needs to survive. Humans are also spiritual beings who relate to God and the spiritual realms. However, it is a false interpretation to build theology on these different descriptions of human nature. The key to this verse is the thrice-repeated "all," not the supposed distinctions between "heart," " soul," and "mind."

By quoting this central affirmation of the oneness of God, Jesus is inseparably linking the OT and NT understanding of God. The NT is the fulfillment of the OT. YHWH is now revealed as a Triune Unity. Oneness has been redefined! NT believers fully assert monotheism, but with a footnote. Apparently the NT writers did not see the implication of Ps. 110:1 as a contradiction (cf. 1 Cor. 8:6; Eph. 4:5; Phil. 2:11). There is surely mystery here! See the Special Topic: The Trinity at Matt. 3:17.

22:39 The second commandment was not requested by the scribe, but it does show that a balance between believers'love for God and their love for their fellow human must be maintained. It is impossible to love God and hate people (cf. 1 John. 2:9, 11; 3:15; 4:20). This is a quote from Lev. 19:18.

22:40 Jesus was asserting that the OT has an integrating center (i.e., covenant love, cf. Matt. 7:12; Mark 12:31; Rom. 13:8-10; Gal. 5:14). These two OT commands are obviously applicable to NT believers. Love for God expresses itself in being like God, because God is love (cf. 1 John 4:7-21).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 22:41-46
 41Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question: 42"What do you think about Christ, whose son is He?" They said to Him, "The son of David." 43He 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 beneath Your feet'?
 45If David then calls Him 'Lord,'how is He his son?"
 46No one was able to answer Him a word, nor did anyone dare from that day on to ask Him another question.

22:41-42 The Jewish leaders had asked Jesus several questions trying to test Him, now He asked them a question that showed their lack of spiritual understanding (cf. Matt. 21:24-27).

22:42 "What do you think about Christ, whose son is He" This question basically dealt with the lineage of the Messiah. Jesus had accepted the OT Messianic title "son of David." This was a common Messianic title in Matthew (cf. Matt. 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30; 21:9,15). Jesus was clearly asserting His own messiahship. The Jews of Jesus' day were not expecting a divine incarnation but a divine empowering like the Judges. Jesus used Ps. 110 (cf. Matt. 22:44) to show the human lineage and divine lineage of the Messiah.

22:44 This same Messianic use of Ps. 110 is found in Matt. 26:64. The Hebrew text of Ps. 110:1 was a play on the term YHWH (Lord) and Adonai (Lord). The first would represent the God of Israel; the second would refer to the Messiah.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. What is the central theme of the parable in Matt. 22:1-14?

2. How do you explain the harsh words of Matt. 22:13?

3. Do verses 15-22 speak to the modern issue of the separation of church and state?

4. List and characterize the political and religious groups in Palestine in Jesus' day.

5. Why were these groups trying to "trap" Jesus? (Matt. 22:15)

 

Copyright © 2013 Bible Lessons International

Passage: 

Matthew 23

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Denouncing of the Scribes and Pharisees Woe to the Scribes and Pharisees Woe to the Scribes and Pharisees Jesus Warns Against the Teachings of the Law and the Pharisees The Scribes and Pharisees: Their Hypocrisy and Vanity
23:1-12 23:1-36 23:1-12 23:1-12 23:1-7
        23:8-12
      Jesus Condemns Their Hypocrisy Sevenfold Indictment of the Scribes and Pharisees
23:13   23:13-15 23:13 23:13
23:14     23:14 23:14 (not included)
23:15     23:15 23:15
23:16-22   23:16-22 23:16-22 23:16-22
23:23-24   23:23-24 23:23-24 23:23-24
23:25-26   23:25-26 23:25-26 23:25-26
23:27-28   23:27-28 23:27-28 23:27-28
      Jesus Predicts Their Punishment  
23:29-36   23:29-36 23:29-36 23:29-32
        Their Crimes and Approaching Punishment
        23:33-36
The Lament for Jerusalem Jesus Laments Over Jerusalem Lament Over Jerusalem Jesus' Love for Jerusalem Jerusalem Admonished
23:37-39 23:37-39 23:37-39 23:37-39 23:37-39
(39b)

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. The rift between Jesus and the Jewish power structures in Jerusalem was becoming more intense.

 

B. Jesus had often tried to reach them but they would not give up their traditional, nationalist concepts. They continuously tried to trap Him with questions. Their questions usually focused on the controversies (1) between the rabbinical schools of Hillel (liberal) and Shammai (conservative) or (2) between the Romans and the Jewish people. They hoped that Jesus would alienate one group or the other.

 

C. Jesus' cleansings of the Temple (cf. John. 2:15 and Matt. 21:12-17) intensified the conflict.

 

D. Jesus' cursing of the fig tree, a symbol of Israel (cf. Matt. 21:18-22), and the two parables of rejection (cf. Matt. 21:28-46 and 22:1-14) were the final breaking points.

 

E. This chapter culminates in Jesus' rejection by the religious leaders. It is uncertain if Jesus' words reflect a rejection of Israel as a whole or merely her religious leaders.

 

F. Some other biblical parallels to His criticism of the religious leaders are Mark 12:38-40, Luke 11:39-54, 20:45-47. Jesus used His most severe language to address these religious leaders.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 23:1-12
 1Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, 2saying: "The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; 3therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they saythings and do not do them. 4They 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. 5But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. 6They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. 8But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. 9Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, he who is in heaven. 10Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. 11But the greatest among you shall be your servant. 12Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

23:1 "Jesus spoke to the crowds" This was a public denunciation of the religious leaders. Although the following words do not describe every member of the Pharisees, they do characterize the prevalent attitude of the group.

23:2 "scribes" These were experts in the Written Law (OT) and the Oral Law (Talmud) of Israel and were available to make local practical applications. In effect they replaced the traditional OT functions of the local Levites. See Special Topic at Matt. 12:38.

▣ "Pharisees" This was a group of committed Jews which developed during the Maccabean Period. They accepted all of the written Old Testament and Oral Tradition as binding. Not all scribes were Pharisees, but most were. For a full discussion of the origin and theology of the Pharisees see Special Topic at Matt. 22:15.

▣ "the chair of Moses" This referred to a teaching position in the local synagogue or in the local Jewish community.

23:3 "all that they tell you, do and observe" Jesus uses two commands.

1. " do," aorist active imperative

2. " keep," present active imperative

Jesus was saying that if they could show you truth in the Law, then you should act on it. The Word of God is true no matter who proclaims it!

▣ "but do not do according to their deeds" Their lifestyles and attitudes revealed their character. In a sense they are the false teachers described in Matt. 7:15-23. They have not acted on God's truth (cf. Matt. 7:24-27), but human tradition (cf. Isa. 6:9-10; 29:13)!

23:4 "they tie up heavy burdens" This was a cultural metaphor which referred to the overloading or improper loading of domestic animals (cf. Matt. 11:28-30). The religious leaders did not show any compassion for the common person (cf. Luke 11:46; Acts 15:10). They themselves could not keep their own rules (cf. Rom. 2:17-24).

There is a Greek manuscript variation in this verse. It is uncertain whether the phrase "difficult to carry" is original or assimilated from Luke 11:46.

23:5 "they do all their deeds to be noticed by men" They were religious exhibitionists (cf. Matt. 6:2,5,16).

NASB"they broaden their phylacteries"
NKJV, NRSV"they make their phylacteries broad"
TEV"Look at the straps with scripture verses on them which they wear on their foreheads and arms, and notice how large they are"
JB"wearing broader phylacteries"
NJB"wearing broader headbands"

These black leather boxes contained the OT texts of Exod. 13:3-16, Deut. 6:4-9, or Deut. 11:13-21. They were worn on the forehead just above the eyes. This was an over literalization of Exod. 13:9 and Deut. 6:8 and 11:18. These texts were to be the guiding light of believers lives, not black boxes on their foreheads!

NASB"lengthen the tassels of their garments"
NKJV"enlarge the borders of their garments"
NRSV"their fringes long"
TEV"how long are the tassels on their cloaks!"
NJB"longer tassels"

These were blue ornaments on their robes or prayer shawls which reminded them of the Torah (cf. Num. 15:38 and Deut. 22:12).

23:6 This was the same temptation related to James and John in Matt. 20:20-28.

23:7 "Rabbi" This Aramaic term was an honorific title (" my teacher"). These titles (rabbi, father, leader) are criticized because of the pride and arrogance connected with them in first century Judaism. The leaders loved to be called by these honorific titles.

The NKJV following the Textus Receptus doubles the word "Rabbi." This was a cultural way of (1) adding solemnity or (2) showing affection (cf. Matt. 23:37). However the early Greek texts (א and B as well as the Vulgate) have it only once.

 

23:8-10 Note the repeated use of "One." Jesus (and Matthew) did not see a contradiction of monotheism. See the second paragraph at Matt. 22:37-38.

1. One is your Teacher (could be the Father or the Son, 22:36)

2. One is your Father (twice)

3. One is your Leader, that is Christ

 

23:8 "you are all brothers" Believers are equal in God's sight (i.e., Gen. 1:26-27), therefore, we must be careful of ranks or titles! There is no "clergy" vs. "laity" distinction in the NT. There are also no other distinctions, note Rom. 3:22; 1 Cor. 12:12-13; Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:11.

23:11 "the greatest among you shall be your servant" This is discussed in Matt. 20:25-28 and Mark 10:42-44. What a shocking statement! This is markedly different from the world's attitudes. However, this is the sign of true greatness in the new age.

23:12 "whoever exalts himself shall be humbled" This is a recurrent biblical theme (cf. Job 22:29; Pro. 29:23; Luke 14:11; 18:14; James 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 23:13-14
 13"But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves; nor do you allow those who are entering to go in." 14[" Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows'houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation." ]

23:13 "woe to you" This passage (Matt. 23:13-36) is known as the "seven woes." Matthew often structured his Gospel using seven things. Woes are the opposite of blessings. In Luke's parallel to Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, he added four "woes" to the beatitudes (cf. Matt. 5:3-11 vs. Lk 6:20-26). In the OT the term "woe" introduced a prophetic "dirge" or lament. It was structured (i.e., Hebrew beat or meter, accented lines of poetry) like funeral music to express God's judgment.

▣ "hypocrites" This was a compound Greek term meaning " to judge under." It was a theatrical term used to describe one who played a part or acting role behind a mask. It was used earlier in Matt. 6:2,5,16; 7:5; 15:7; 16:3; 22:18; and also 24:51.

▣ "you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people" This was the use of "the keys of the kingdom" (cf. Matt. 16:19; Rev. 1:18; 3:7). What an awesome responsibility it is to know truth! Modern, secular humanity has not so much rejected Jesus as he has rejected the modern church's presentation of Him in our words, lives and priorities! This is what the religious leaders of Jesus day did also. How many Pharisees are in the church today?

This is a shocking and tragic statement (irony).

1. the religious leaders themselves were not right with God (cf. Matt. 5:20)

2. the religious leaders led others astray and kept them from being right with God (cf. Matt. 15:14; 23:16,24; 24:24; Rom. 2:19)

 

▣ "enter in" This verb is used of becoming part of the new eschatological Kingdom of God (i.e., the new covenant of Jer. 31:31-34). One enters by their reception of Jesus now! Those who reject Him cannot enter (note
Matt. 5:20; 7:21; 18:3; 19:23-24; 23:13).

Jesus is the only door to the Kingdom (i.e., John 1:12; 10:7-18; 14:6; Rom. 10:9-13).

23:14 Verse 14 is not in the Greek uncial manuscripts A, B, D, or L, nor most versions and, therefore, is probably not original to Matthew. It was probably put here by a copyist from Mark 12:40 or Luke 20:47. It appears in some later Greek manuscripts before Matt. 23:13 and in some after Matt. 23:13. The UBS4 rates its exclusion as "B" (almost certain).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 23:15
 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."

23:15 "hypocrites" See Special Topic at Matt. 6:2.

▣ "to make one proselyte" There were two kinds of Jewish converts: (1) those who were circumcised, self baptized and offered a sacrifice-they were called "proselytes of the gate" and (2) those who just regularly attended the synagogue-they were called "God-fearers."

▣ "you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves" This is truly a shocking statement. Jesus is offended by self-righteous legalism! This reenforced His statement of Matt. 5:20. This is a significant reversal of cultural expectations.

▣ "hell" This term Gehenna came from two Hebrew words, "valley" and "Hinnom." This was where the Phoenician fertility fire god was worshiped just south of Jerusalem in the valley of Topheth, by the practice of child sacrifice [molech] (cf. 2 Kgs. 16:3; 17:17; 21:6; 2 Chr. 28:3; 33:6). It became the garbage dump of Jerusalem. Jesus used it as the earthly metaphor of hell and eternal judgment.

This term was only used by Jesus, except for James 3:6. Jesus' love for fallen mankind did not prevent Him from addressing the awesome consequences of rejecting His words and works (cf. Matt. 25:46). If Jesus asserted the reality of eternal separation from fellowship with God, it is a truth that His followers must take seriously. Hell is a tragedy for mankind, but also an open bleeding wound in the heart of God that will never heal! See Special Topic: Where Are the Dead? at Matt. 5:22.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 23:16-22
 16"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.'17You fools and blind men! Which is more important, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold? 18And, 'Whoever swears by the altar, that is nothing, but whoever swears by the offering on it, he is obligated.'19You blind men, which is more important, the offering, or the altar that sanctifies the offering? 20Therefore, whoever swears by the altar, swears both by the altar and by everything on it. 21And whoever swears by the temple, swears both by the temple and by Him who dwells within it. 22And whoever swears by heaven, swears both by the throne of God and by Him who sits upon it."

23:16 "blind guides" This was a sarcastic metaphor for the religious leaders (cf. Matt. 15:14; 23:16, 24).

23:16-22 "swears by" The Jews had developed an extensive system of valid and invalid oaths, using God's name (cf. Matt. 5:33-37; James 5:12). It was a way to allow lying while appearing religious (cf. Lev. 19:12; Deut. 23:21).

▣ "You fools" See Special Topic at Matt. 5:22.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 23:23-24
 23"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, 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. 24You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!"

23:23 "you. . .hypocrites" See Special Topic at Matt. 6:2.

▣ "you tithe mint and dill and cummin" In their legalism (cf. Lev. 27:30-33; Deut. 14:22-29), they counted even the smallest spices so as to give precisely ten percent to God, but they neglected justice, love, and fidelity. The New Testament does not speak of tithing except here. The heart of New Testament giving is not found in a percentage (cf. 2 Cor. 8-9)!

NT believers must be careful of turning Christianity into a new legal performance oriented code (Christian Talmud). Their desire to be pleasing to God causes them to try to find guidelines for every area of life. However, theologically it is dangerous to pull old covenant rules which are not reaffirmed in the NT and make them dogmatic criteria, especially when they are claimed to be causes of calamity or promises of prosperity!

SPECIAL TOPIC: TITHING

23:24 "who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel" The Pharisees of Jesus' day would filter their water through cloth to keep from inadvertently swallowing an inclean insect, but in reality their legalistic unlove caused them figuratively to swallow an unclean camel! This was a word play between the Aramaic terms gnat, "galma" and camel, "gamla." This was an Oriental hyperbole. Jesus often used camels in His overstatements (cf. Matt. 19:24; Mark 10:25; Luke 18:25).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 23:25-28
 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. 26You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also. 27Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like the whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. 28So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness."

23:25 "hypocrites" See Special Topic at Matt. 6:2.

▣ "you clean the outside of the cup" They were very concerned with ceremonial cleanliness, but their attitudes and motives were far from God (cf. Isa. 29:13). They were defiled from within (i.e., the heart, cf. Mark 7:15,20). The new standard of righteousness (i.e., the new covenant, cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:22-38) was not human performance, but faith in Christ's righteousness to be purchased on Calvary and confirmed on Easter Sunday!

23:27 "whitewashed tombs" The citizens of Jerusalem would paint the graves white before feast days lest a pilgrim accidentally touch them and become ceremonially unclean for seven days, and hence unable to participate in the feast even after traveling a long distance (cf. Num. 19:16; 31:19). These freshly painted tombs were analogous to the outward religiosity of the Jewish leaders.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 23:29-33
 29"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, 30and 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.'31So you testify against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. 32Fill up, then, the measure of the guilt of your fathers. 33You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?"

23:29 "hypocrites" See Special Topic at Matt. 6:2.

▣ "you build the tombs of the prophets" In the OT God's people would kill God's prophets and then build large tombs for them. The building of monuments to God's spokesmen is not what God wanted. He desires obedience to His message (cf. Matt. 23:34-35). As the leaders of the OT killed the prophets, these leaders would kill Jesus and His followers.

23:30 "if" This is a second class conditional sentence, which is called "contrary to fact." A premise is made that is false and, therefore, the conclusion drawn from it is also false.

23:33 "You serpents, you brood of vipers" Jesus was not always the meek and mild, "turn the other cheek" man often pictured (cf. Matt. 3:7; 12:34). Religious self-righteous hypocrisy elicited His harshest condemnation-and still does!

"hell" See Special Topic at Matt. 5:22.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 23:34-36
 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 scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, 35so that 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, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36Truly I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation."

23:34 "I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes" God (note Jesus uses "I") continues His activity of revelation through His chosen spokespersons (cf. Matt. 21:34-36; 23:37). The Jews were not ignorant of God's truth; they chose to reject it for their traditions (cf. Isa. 6:9-13; 29:13; Jer. 5:20-29)! See SPECIAL TOPIC: NEW TESTAMENT PROPHECY at Matt. 11:9.

▣ "some of them you will kill and crucify" The prediction of persecution was dramatically fulfilled in the early days of Christianity. God's spokespersons often reap the hostility of fallen mankind, even religious mankind, against God's word and will.

23:35 "blood shed" See Special Topic following.

SPECIAL TOPIC: POURED OUT

▣ "Abel" See Gen. 4:8ff.

▣ "Zechariah" There has been much discussion here as to which prophet this referred. The only martyr known by this name is found in 2 Chr. 24:2-22, but his father's name is different from this reference. However the parallel in Luke 11:51 omits the father's name, as does the Greek MSS א in Matthew.

Zechariah, the post-exilic prophet, had this name but was not killed in this manner. There could be another prophet by this name that we know nothing about. However, since Abel is the first martyr in the OT then the Zechariah mentioned in 2 Chr. 24 would be the last martyr because Chronicles is the last book of the Hebrew canon.

23:36 "all these things will come upon this generation" In one sense this showed the preeminence of Jesus (cf. Matt. 10:23; 23:36; 24:34). He was God's ultimate spokesman. When the leaders and the general population rejected Him, there was no hope- only judgment. The new age of the Spirit has come!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 23:37-39
 37"Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are 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. 38Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! 39For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!'"

23:37-39 Jesus is obviously filled with emotion (cf. Luke 13:34,35). He and the Father both love the covenant people. He longed to restore them to fellowship, but they clung to their legalism (Isa. 29:13). Only judgment could restart the need for covenant intimacy!

The question remains, when did Jesus speak these words? Was it just before His Triumphal Entry or does it refer to an eschatological entry? One thing is sure, the prophecy of Zech. 12:10 will come to pass one day! The unification of God's people spoken of in Romans 9-11 will restore the fellowship of the Garden of Eden (cf. Gen. 3:15).

23:37 "gather" This verb is also used of an end-time gathering of the elect in Matt. 3:12; 13:20,47; 24:31.

▣ "the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings" YHWH and Jesus often used feminine metaphors to describe their work and attitudes (cf. Gen. 1:2; Exod. 19:5; Deut. 32:11; Isa. 49:15; 66:9-13). Deity is neither male nor female, but spirit. He created the sexes and has the best qualities of both in Himself.

SPECIAL TOPIC: SHADOW AS METAPHOR FOR PROTECTION AND CARE

23:38 "your house is being left to you desolate" This appears to be an allusion to Jer. 22:5. It could refer to the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70 or to other future events. God's unique covenant with Israel has been altered by their unbelief! There is a New Covenant (cf. Jer. 31:31-34), which is not based on racial descent, but on faith and faithfulness in God and His Messiah.

23:39 "until you say" This is a reference to Ps. 118:26-27, which was used in the Triumphal Entry (cf. Matt. 21:9). This is similar to the wonderful Messianic prediction of Zech. 12:10 that the Jews will one day turn to the one whom they pierced (cf. Romans 9-11)! All believers pray for this Jewish revival!

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Why is Jesus so critical of the religious leaders of His day?

2. How do we know what to believe and practice?

3. Is attitude more crucial than action?

4. Is tithing a clearly taught New Testament principle?

5. Has Jesus totally rejected Israel?

 

Copyright © 2013 Bible Lessons International

Passage: 

Matthew 24

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Destruction of the Temple Foretold Jesus Predicts the Destruction of the Temple Destruction of the Temple Foretold Jesus Speaks of the Destruction of the Temple Introduction
24:1-2 24:1-2 24:1-2 24:1-2 24:1-3
The Beginning of Woes The Signs of the Times On the End of the Age Troubles and Persecutions The Beginning of Sorrows
24:3-14 24:3-14 24:3-8 24:3  
      24:4-8 24:4-8
    24:9-14 24:9-14 24:9-13
        24:14
The Great Tribulation The Great Tribulation   The Awful Horror The Great Tribulation of Jerusalem
24:15-28 24:15-28 24:15-28 24:15-22 24:15-22
      24:23-25 24:23-25
        The Coming of the Son of Man
      24:26-27 24:26-28
      24:28  
The Coming of the Son of Man The Coming of the Son of Man   The Coming of the Son of Man The Universal Significance of This Coming
24:29-31 24:29-31 24:29-31 24:29-31 24:29-31
The Lesson of the Fig Tree The Parable of the Fig Tree   The Lesson of the Fig Tree The Time of This Coming
24:32-35 24:32-35 24:32-35 24:32-35 24:32-36
The Unknown Day and Hour No One Knows the Day or the Hour   No One Knows the Day or Hour Be On the Alert
24:36-44 24:36-44 24:36-44 24:36-44  
        24:37-41
        24:42-44
The Faithful or the Unfaithful Servant The Faithful Servant and the Evil Servant   The Faithful or the Unfaithful Servant Parable of the Conscientious Servant
24:45-51 24:45-51 24:45-51 24:45-51 24:45-51

 

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

 

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS FOR 24:1-36 (parallel to Mark 13:1-37)

A. My exegetical notes on Mark 13 are more complete in my commentary on Mark and I & 2 Peter. You can see all of my commentaries at www.freebiblecommentary.org.

 

B. Matt. 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 are so difficult to interpret because they deal with several questions simultaneously (cf. Matt. 24:3).

1. When will the Temple be destroyed?

2. What will be the sign of the Messiah's return?

3. When will this age end?

 

C. The genre of New Testament eschatological passages is usually a combination of apocalyptic (see Special Topic below) and prophetic language which is purposely ambiguous and highly symbolic.

 

D. Several passages in the NT (cf. Matt. 24, Mark 13, Luke 17 and 21, 1 and 2 Thess. and Rev.) deal with the Second Coming. These passages emphasize

1. the exact time of the event is unknown but the event is certain

2. we can know the general time but not specific time of the events

3. it will occur suddenly and unexpectedly

4. we must be prayerful, ready, and faithful to assigned tasks

 

E. There is a theological paradoxical tension between (1) the any moment return (cf. Matt. 24:27,44) versus (2) the fact that some events in history must occur.

 

F. The NT states that some events will occur before the Second Coming:

1. The Gospel preached to the whole world (cf. Matt. 24:14; Mark 13:10)

2. The great apostasy (cf. Matt. 24:10-13, 21; 1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Tim. 3:1ff.; 2 Thess. 2:3)

3. The revelation of the "man of sin" (cf. Dan. 7:23-26; 9:24-27; 2 Thess. 2:3)

4. Removal of that/who restrains (cf. 2 Thess. 2:6-7)

5. Jewish revival (cf. Zech. 12:10; Rom. 11)

 

G. Verses 37-44 are not paralleled in Mark. They do have a partial Synoptic parallel in Luke 17:26-37.

 

SPECIAL TOPIC: APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 24:1-2
 1Jesus came out from the temple and was going away when His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. 2And He 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."

24:1 "the temple" This was the Greek word for the whole temple area (hieron, cf. Mark 13:1). Jesus had been teaching there since Matt. 21:23. This building itself (naos, cf. Mark 15:38) had become the great Jewish hope (cf. Jeremiah 7), a symbol of God's exclusive love for the Jews.

▣ "buildings" They were white polished limestone with gold trim. This building project took Herod the Great more than 46 years to complete (cf. John. 2:20). This project was meant to placate the Jews, who were upset because an Idumean (Edom) was ruling over them.

24:2 "stone" Josephus tells us that Herod the Great used polished limestones or mezzeh, which were native to this area. These foundation stones and wall stones were huge, 25x8x12 cubits ( a cubit was 18-21 inches; thus, the total volume of one of these stones would have been approximately 3600 cubic feet).

▣ "not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down" This is the strong grammatical structure of two double negatives. This speaks of total destruction. This must have dumbfounded the disciples! Josephus tells us that in a.d. 70 the Roman army destroyed this site so completely that one could plow the ground on Mount Moriah (cf. Mic. 3:12; Jer. 26:18) where the temple stood.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 24:3
 3As 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?"

24:3 "sitting on the Mount of Olives" This ridge to the east overlooked Jerusalem and the temple area. Mark's Gospel identified the disciples who asked Jesus these questions-Peter, James, John, and Andrew. Matthew reads "the disciples came up. . .to Him" (cf. Matt. 24:1 and 3).

▣ "when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming" Mark 13:4 and Luke 21:7 have only one question, but Matt. 24:3 shows the expanded questions. There were several events the disciples wanted to know about: (1) destruction of the temple, (2) Second Coming and (3) end of this age. The disciples probably thought all three would happen at one time. See Special Topic following.

The term used here translated "coming" (cf. Matt. 24:3,27,37,39; 1 Cor. 15:23; 1 Thess. 2:19; 3:13; 4:15; 5:23; 2 Thess. 2:1,8; James 5:7,8; 2 Pet. 1:16; 3:4,12; 1 John 2:28) is parousia. See the second Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: ANSWERS TO THE DISCIPLES'TWO QUESTIONS OF MATTHEW 24:3

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE SECOND COMING

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 24:4-8
 4And Jesus answered and said to them, "See to it that no one misleads you. 5For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,'and will mislead many. 6You will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. 7For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes. 8But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs.

24:4 "See to it that no one misleads you" This is a present active imperative with the negative particle which meant stop an act in process. There were and continue to be many false signs or "precursor signs." This statement was repeated often (cf. Mark 13:5, 9, 23, 33). There is great theological confusion in this area. The church has never had a consensus in eschatology.

Every generation of Christians has tried to force their contemporary history into biblical prophecy. To date they have all been wrong. Part of the problem is that believers are to live in a moment by moment expectation of the Second Coming yet the prophecies are all written for one end time generation of persecuted followers. Rejoice that you do not know!

24:5 "many will come in My name" This referred to false messiahs (cf. Matt. 24:11, 23-24; Mark 13:6). It could also be an allusion to the end-time (1) antichrist of 1 John 2:18; (2) "Man of Sin" of 2 Thessalonians 2; or (3) the Sea Beast of Rev. 13:1-10.

▣ "I am the Christ" "Christ" is the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew term messiah, which meant "an anointed one." This shows that many messianic pretenders would come (cf. Matt. 24:11, 24; 1 John. 2:18).

▣ "and will mislead many" This shows the persuasive power of the false messiahs and the spiritual vacuum of fallen mankind (cf. Matt. 24:11,23-26). It also shows the naivete of new believers and/or carnal Christians (cf. 1 Cor. 3:1-3; Col. 2:16-23; Heb. 5:11-14).

24:6 "that you are not frightened" This is present passive imperative with the negative particle, which usually means stop an act in process.

▣ "for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end" Wars (Matt. 24:6, 7), famines (Matt. 24:7), earthquakes (Matt. 24:7), and false messiahs (Matt. 24:5) are not signs of the end, but precursor signs of every age (cf. Matt. 24:8). The presence of these kinds of events are not a sign of the end, but of a fallen world.

24:8

NASB, NRSV"of birth pangs"
NKJV"of sorrows"
TEV"the first pains of childbirth"
NJB"the birthpangs"

This referred to the "birth pangs" of the new age (cf. Isa. 13:8; 26:17; 66:7; Mic. 4:9-10; Mark 13:8). This reflected the Jewish belief in the intensification of evil before the new age of righteousness. The Jews believed in two ages (see Special Topic at Matt. 12:31); the current evil age, characterized by sin and rebellion against God, and the "age to come." The New Age would be inaugurated by the coming of the Messiah. It would be a time of righteousness and fidelity to God. Although the Jewish view was true to a point, it did not take into account the two comings of the Messiah. We live in the over-lapping of these two ages. The "already" and "not yet" of the kingdom of God!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 24:9-14
 9"Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. 10At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. 11Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. 12Because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold. 13But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. 14This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come."

24:9 "Then" This term is used several times in Jesus' end-time discussion (cf. Matt. 24:9,10,14,16,21,23,30,40; 25:1,7,31,34,37, 41,44,45). The question is

1. Is it simply a transition marker?

2. Does it designate a temporal sequence?

3. Does it designate a context sequence (like the waw consecutive in Hebrew)?

 

Mark 13:9 is much more specific at this point. " Courts and synagogues," a phrase not found in Matt. 24:9, shows both governmental and religious persecution of Christians (cf. 1 Pet. 4:12-16). " Beaten" or literally "skinned," Jews whipped offenders thirty-nine times-thirteen times on the front and twenty-six times on the back (cf. Deut. 25:1-3; 2 Cor. 11:24).

▣ "you will be hated by all nations" Jesus prepared His disciples for the world's hatred (cf. Matt. 10:22; 21:35-36; 23:37; Mark 13:13; Luke 21:17; John 15:18,19; 1 John 3:13). The level of opposition to the gospel is surprising (cf. Eph. 6:10-18). The implication of this phrase is that Christianity has spread into all the world (cf. Matt. 24:14) which means Jesus is referring to a future time.

▣ "because My name" Not for their own wickedness or civil crimes will believers be persecuted, but because they are Christians (cf. Matt. 5:10-16; Mark13:9; 1 Pet. 4:12-16).

24:10 "many will fall away" Under persecution and spiritual delusion many followers of Jesus will "fall away" (lit. "be caused to stumble," cf. Matt. 11:6). These are the ones spoken of in the parable of the soils in Matt. 13:21 (cf. Mark 4:17; 8:13). They are the ones who "do not abide" in John 15:6. They are the ones who leave the fellowship in 1 John 2:18-19. They are the ones described in Hebrews and 2 Pet. 2:20-22. See SPECIAL TOPIC: APOSTASY (APHISTĒMI) at Matt. 7:21.

24:10-11 This implies organized opposition (cf. Mark13:12). Families will be split over Christ (cf. Matt. 10:35-37). Those who should have been changed by the gospel act like the unsaved (cf. Titus 3:2-3).

24:11 "many false prophets" This is a frightful thought. These people are wolves in sheep's clothing (cf. Matt. 7:15-23). Believers must have a grasp of the gospel, a yieldedness to the Spirit, and a godly lifestyle to protect themselves from these pretenders (cf. 2 Peter 2; 1 John. 2:18-19; Revelation 13).

24:12 Persecution will reveal the true spiritual nature of the pretenders (cf. Matt. 13:20-22) or the weak (cf. 1 Tim. 6:9-10).

24:13 "but whoever endures to the end, he will be saved" This is an aorist active participle (endure) followed by a future passive indicative (saved cf. Matt. 10:22. See Special Topic: the Need to Persevere at Matt. 10:22). This is the doctrine of perseverance (Rev. 2:2, 11, 12, 26; 3:5, 12, 21) and it must be held in a dialectical tension with the doctrine of the security of the believer. Both are true! Both are gifts of God. The term "saved" can be understood in its OT sense of physical deliverance and its NT sense of spiritual eternal deliverance.

Endurance is an evidence of a life changing encounter with Jesus (be sure to read the Special Topic on perseverance at Matt. 10:22). It does not imply sinlessness, but it does contrast the actions of Matt. 24:10-12!

24:14 "this gospel of the kingdom" This was mentioned earlier in Matt. 4:23; 9:35. It is synonymous with "the gospel." It referred to the content of Jesus' preaching.

▣ "shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations" This is the goal of Matt. 28:18-20; Luke 24:46-47; Acts 1:8! It marks a major shift away from the "Israel only" policy. This is one of the things that must occur before the Second Coming. It is impossible to know how specific to interpret this phrase. Does it mean every single tribe or people in racial groupings or possibly everyone in the Roman world of Paul's day? This second option is possible because the phrase "the whole world" is literally "the inhabited earth."

SPECIAL TOPIC: YHWH's ETERNAL REDEMPTIVE PLAN

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 24:15-28
 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), 16then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains; 17Whoever is on the housetop must not go down to get the things that are in his house. 18Whoever is in the field must not turn back to get his cloak. 19But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! 20But pray that your flight will not be in the winter, or on a Sabbath. 21For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will. 22Unless 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. 23Then if anyone says to you, 'Behold, here is the Christ,'or 'There He is,'do not believe him. 24For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. 25Behold, I have told you in advance. 26So if they say to you, 'Behold, He is in the wilderness,'do not got out, or, 'Behold, He is in the inner rooms,'do not believe them. 27For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. 28Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather."

24:15

NASB, NKJV"the abomination of desolation"
NRSV"the desolating sacrilege"
TEV"the Awful Horror"
NJB"the appalling abomination"

The word "desolation" meant sacrilege. This was used in Dan. 9:27, 11:31, and 12:11. It seems originally to refer to Antiochus IV Epiphanes in 168 b.c. (cf. Dan. 8:9-14; I Mac. 1:54). Also in Dan. 7:7-8 it related to the Antichrist of the end time (cf. 2 Thess. 2:4). Luke 21:20 helps us interpret this as possibly the coming of Titus'army in a.d. 70. It cannot refer to the siege of Jerusalem itself because it would be too late for believers to escape.

This is an example of a phrase being used in several different but related senses. This is called multiple fulfillment prophecy. Often it is difficult to interpret until after the events occur. Then looking back, the typology is obvious. For more detailed notes on Daniel see my commentary at www.freebiblecommentary.org.

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION

NASB, NKJV,
NRSV"standing in the holy place"
TEV"it will be standing in the holy place"
NJB"set up in the holy place"

The Greek participle "standing" is neuter, not masculine. It should be translated " it," which backs up the interpretation of "it" being the Roman army under Titus in a.d. 70. "Holy Place" referred to the first part of the central shrine of the Temple. Titus set up Roman standards representing their pagan gods in this area of the temple.

NASB, NRSV,
NJB"(let the reader understand)"
NKJV"(whoever reads, let him understand)"
TEV"(Note to the reader: understand what this means)"

This was a comment by Matthew to his Christian readers. Everyone read aloud in the ancient Mediterranean world. A regular attender at synagogue should know God's word. It may relate to the specific phrase "the abomination of desolation" in Dan. 9:27, 11:31, and 12:11.

24:16 "then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains" Eusebius, an early church historian (4th century a.d.), informs us that the Christian community fled to the city of Pella in Perea when the Roman army appeared and began to surround Jerusalem.

24:17 "Whoever is on the housetop" The houses had flat roofs. They were used as the place of social gathering in the hot months. It has been said that one could walk across Jerusalem on the roofs of houses. Apparently some houses were built next to the city's wall. When the army was seen, immediate flight was necessary.

24:18 "must not turn back to get his cloak" This referred to one's outer cloak which was used as sleeping gear. They were to flee immediately and not go back even for what was perceived as necessities of life.

24:19 "But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies" See Mark13:17. This referred to the destruction of Jerusalem only! These disciples'questions to Jesus related to three separate issues: the destruction of Jerusalem, His Second Coming, and the end of the age. The problem is that these questions were dealt with at the same time. There is no easy verse division by topic.

24:20 "But pray that your flight will not be in the winter" This phrase was related to the difficulties of pregnant women fleeing quickly. This is not a warning to today's women not to be pregnant at the Second Coming. Matthew, written to Jews, adds the phrase "or on the Sabbath" which is left out of Mark 13:18. Jewish believers would be reluctant to flee on a Sabbath.

I am struck by two things related to this verse.

1. Jesus did not know the exact date of the destruction of Jerusalem.

2. Believers'prayers could affect the exact date of the destruction of Jerusalem.

 

24:21 "such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will" This is a Hebrew idiomatic phrase similar to many in the OT (cf. Exod. 10:14; 11:6; Jer. 30:7; Dan. 12:1; Joel 2:2).

24:22 If all the Christians fled as Eusebius tells us they did, then this might be a reference to the Jewish people, the OT elect (God still has a purpose for national Israel cf. Rom. 9-11). However because of the use of the term "elect" in Matt. 24:24 and 31, it seems to refer to believing Jews. For "elect" see Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: Election/Predestination and the Need for a Theological Balance

SPECIAL TOPIC: FORTY-TWO MONTHS

24:23,26 The true Messiah's coming will not be secret or hidden. It will not be to a select group but visible to all (Matt. 24:27). Biblically there is no "secret rapture." See note at Matt. 24:40-41.

24:23,26 "if" These are two third class conditional sentences which denote potential action.

24:24 "they will show great signs and wonders" These false christs will perform miracles (cf. Matt. 7:21-23). Be careful of always identifying the miraculous with God (cf. Exod. 7:11-12,22; Deut. 13:1-3; 2 Thess. 2:9-12; Rev. 13:13; 16:14; 20:20).

24:27 "just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be" See Luke 17:24. Mark 13 does not have this phrase. This implies a visible coming. The NT does not teach a secret rapture of believers (cf. Matt. 24:40-41). But it does reveal that believers dead and alive will meet the Lord in the air at His Second Coming (cf. 1 Thess. 4:13-18). The air was considered the realm of the demonic or Satan (cf. Eph. 2:2). Believers will meet Jesus in the midst of Satan's kingdom to show its total overthrow!

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE ANY-MOMENT RETURN OF JESUS VERSUS THE NOT YET (NT PARADOX)

24:28 "Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather" This does not appear in Mark 13 but it does appear in Luke 17:37. It was a proverbial statement possibly from Job 39:30. If it was a cryptic reference to the end time battle of Psalm 2, then maybe the source is Ezek. 39:17-20. It may be a metaphor for endtime persecution and death.

NASB TEXT: 24:29-31
 29But 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. 30And 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. 31And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.

24:29 "but" This is a strong adversative showing a break in context. Notice all the English translations mark a paragraph division at this point.

▣ "the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light" This was OT apocalyptic language of the end time (cf. Isa. 13:10; 34:4; Ezek. 32:7-8; Joel 2:10,31; 3:15; Amos 8:9). There will be upheavals in nature at the coming of the Day of the Lord (cf. 2 Pet. 3:7,10,11,12; Rev. 6:12-14).

▣ "the powers of the heavens will be shaken" This could simply be the continuation of the OT apocalyptic language, and thereby a reference to the convulsions of nature at the Lord's coming or a reference to angelic powers that influence history (cf. Dan. 10; Eph. 6:12; Col. 2:15; Rev. 12:4).

24:30 "And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky" It is possible that this is a connection to Isa. 60:1-3. The " sign" would be the light of the Shekinah cloud of glory. Earthly lights fail, but God's light (cf. Gen. 1:3), the true morning star, shines forth!

Jesus' humanity (Ps. 8:4; Ezek. 2:1) and deity (Dan. 7:13) are emphasized by the term "Son of Man." Clouds were seen as the means for transportation of deity in the OT. Jesus used them in Acts 1:9 and 1 Thess. 4:17 which implied His deity. This sign will be Jesus coming on the clouds of heaven as the eastern sky " opens."

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE SON OF MAN (from notes on Daniel 7:13)

▣ "and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn" This referred to the visible return of Jesus. It will be seen by the entire world. Unbelievers will suddenly recognize the consequences of their unbelief.

▣ "on the clouds" See Special Topic following.

SPECIAL TOPIC: COMING ON THE CLOUDS

▣ "with power and great glory" This shows the drastic contrast between His first coming and the Second Coming. This is the way the Jews expect the Messiah's coming. See note on "Glory" at Matt. 16:27.

24:31 "His angels" See Mark13:27, 8:38, and 2 Thess. 1:7. God's angels are called Jesus' angels here. This implied His deity.

▣ "with a great trumpet" This probably referred to the Shophar, the left ram's horn, which was used to signal Jewish Sabbaths and feast days. In Isa. 27:13 there is a trumpet blast related to the last days (cf. 1 Cor. 15:52; 1 Thess. 4:16).

SPECIAL TOPIC: HORNS USED BY ISRAEL

▣ "gather together His elect" This is OT imagery of restoration from exile (i.e., Deut. 30:4), here turned into an eschatological gathering (cf. Matt. 13:40-43,47-49). The exact order of these specific end-time events is uncertain. Paul taught that at death the believer is already with Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 5:6,8). 1 Thess. 4:13ff. teaches that apparently something of our physical bodies, which were left here, will be united with our spirits at the Lord's coming. This implies a disembodied state between death and resurrection day. There is so much about the end-time events and afterlife that are not recorded in the Bible.

▣ "from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other" This implied a world-wide following of Jesus! It also implied a long period of time for the gospel to spread.

The numerical four is symbolic of the world. It referred to the four corners of the world (Isa. 11:12; Rev. 7:1), the four winds of heaven (Dan. 7:2; Zech. 2:6), and the four ends of heaven (Jer. 49:36). See Special Topic: Symbolic Numbers In Scripture at Matt. 4:2.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 24:32-35
 32Now learn the parable of the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; 33So, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. 34Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 35Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.

24:32 "the fig tree" This parable is paralleled in Mark 13:28-32 and Luke 21:29-33. The fig tree in this proverbial passage was apparently not a symbol of Israel as in Matt. 21:18-20 and Mark 11:12-14, but a way of assuring believers that although they cannot know the specific eschatological times, they can know the general time. The fig tree put out its leaves early and everyone knew spring was close.

24:32-33 "you know" When the last generation comes, the Bible's prophetic passages will fit exactly the history of that day. This knowledge will strengthen the believers'trust in God amidst end time persecution. The problem with every generation of believers is that they force the Bible into the history of their own day! All attempts have so far have been wrong!

24:33 "He" This masculine pronoun is not in the Greek text. It should be "it" (cf. Matt. 24:14).

▣ "when you see all these things" This could refer to (1) the destruction of Jerusalem; (2) the transfiguration (cf. Mark 9:1; Matt. 16:27); or (3) one of these specific signs of the Second Coming.

24:34 This verse referred to the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70 by the Roman legion under Titus. Jesus was merging the questions of Matt. 24:3: (1) the destruction of the temple, (2) the sign of His return at the end of the age, and (3) the end of the age.

It is also possible to link Matt. 10:23; 16:28 and 24:34 and conclude that Jesus expected to return quickly, but Matthew, writing decades later, realized the " delayed return" theme in Jesus' teachings.

24:25 What a strong statement of Jesus' self understanding. It surely relates to Matt. 5:17-19 or Isa. 40:8; 55:11. Jesus is the full revelation of the invisible God (i.e., Col. 1:15).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 24:36-41
 36But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. 37For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. 38For 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, 39and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. 40Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. 41Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left.

24:36 "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone" For "hour" see Special Topic below. This is a strong verse to deter Christians from setting specific dates for the Second Coming.

The phrase "nor the Son" is not included in Matt. 24:36 in some ancient Greek uncial manuscripts אa, K, L, W. It is included in most translations because it does occur in manuscripts א, B and D, the Diatesseron, and the Greek texts known to Irenaeus, Origen, Chrysostom, and the old Latin manuscript used by Jerome. This may have been one of the texts modified by orthodox scribes to accentuate the deity of Christ against false teachers (See The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, Bart D. Ehrman, pp. 91-92, published by Oxford University Press, 1993).

SPECIAL TOPIC: THE HOUR

24:37 "Coming" See Special Topic at Matt. 24:3.

▣ "will be just like the days of Noah" This is an idiom which meant that normal life was continuing just as in the past (cf. Matt. 24:38).

24:39 This is the judgment of God on the unbelieving both temporally and eschatologically.

24:40-41 "there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left" Many try to relate this to a secret rapture. However, the context implies blessing on some and judgment on others in the unexpected day the Lord returns. It is uncertain which group is blessed. Does "taken" or "left" refer to Noah and his family who were left alive after the Flood, or are those who meet the Lord in the air (Matt. 24:31)? An OT example of some people being blessed and some people being judged is Noah's flood (cf. Matt. 24:39). In Luke the OT example of Sodom was used (cf. Luke 17:29). As a matter of fact, Matt. 24:27 implied one physical, visible coming of the Lord! The only reason some want a secret rapture of believers first is to try to explain the dialectical tension in the NT documents between (1) the any moment return of the Lord and (2) the fact that some things must happen first.

Jesus gives several examples to denote the suddenness and unexpectedness of His return.

1. Noah's flood, Matt. 24:37-38

2. thief in the night, Matt. 24:43

3. the master's return, Matt. 24:45-46

4. delayed bridegroom, 25:5-6

5. possibly "lightning" in Matt. 24:27

Believers'only option is to be ready at all times (cf. Matt. 24:44; 25:10,13)!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 24:42-44
 42Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. 43But 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. 44For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.

24:42 "be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming" This parable is paralleled in Luke 12:39-40. The emphasis on being ready (cf. Matt. 24:43, 44) and the uncertainty of the time (cf. Matt. 24:39,47,49,50; 25:5,13) are recurrent themes in the chapter. The uncertainty of the time provides motivation for the continued readiness of each generation of believers.

24:43 "if" This is a second class conditional sentence, which is called "contrary to fact." A statement is made that is false so the conclusion drawn from it is also false.

24:44 "you also must be ready" This phrase is present (deponent) imperative (cf. Mark 13:5,9,23). This is the key for believers, not speculation and dogmatism about the when and how!

The fact that so many expect His coming soon may be an evidence that this is not the last generation!

▣ "an hour" See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE HOUR at Matt. 24:36.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 24:45-51
 45Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. 47Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48But if that evil slave says in his heart, 'My master is not coming for a long time,'49and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with the drunkards; 50the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know, 51and will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

24:45 "put in charge of his household" Some see this as relating this parable to Christian leaders (cf. Luke 12-40-48). In this context it related to Jesus' continuing confrontation with the Jewish leaders of His day.

24:46 Believers must remain active, ready, and faithful (cf. Luke 12:37-38; James 1:12; Rev. 16:15). The when and how of the Second Coming is not the issue!

24:47 "he will put him in charge of all his possessions" See Matt. 13:12, 25:29, and Luke 19:17.

24:48 "if" This is a third class conditional sentence, which meant potential future action.

"heart" See Special Topic at Matt. 5:8.

▣ "My master is not coming for a long time" This represents the concept of a delay in the Second Coming (cf. Matt. 25:5; 2 Thess. 2; 2 Pet. 3:4).

24:50 "the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know" See Matt. 24:27,44; 25:6, 13. This reflects the "any moment" return of the Lord.

24:51 "will cut him to pieces" There is uncertainty as to whether this is metaphorical or literal (cf. 2 Sam. 12:31; Heb. 11:37). It is surely a description of OT judgment.

▣ "with the hypocrites" The parallel in Luke 12:46 has "unbelievers." Matthew calls the Pharisees "hypocrites" several times. See Special Topic at Matt. 6:2.

▣ "weeping" These last two items are judgment metaphors. Weeping was a sign of great sadness (cf. Matt. 25:30).

▣ "gnashing of teeth" This represents anger or pain (cf. Matt. 8:12; 13:42,50; 22:13; 25:30).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. What is the basic purpose of this chapter?

2. Do verses 4-7 describe the end time?

3. How does Daniel's prophecy (7:23-28; 9:24-27; 11:26-29) relate to this chapter?

4. Why does Jesus use language like verse 24?

5. Can we know when the Lord will come again?

6. Is the time of Second Coming imminent, delayed, or time uncertain?

7. How could Jesus not know the time (Matt. 24:36)?

8. What is the major emphasis of this section (Matt. 24:45-51)?

9. Do you expect Jesus' return in your lifetime? Why?

 

Copyright © 2013 Bible Lessons International

Passage: 

Matthew 25

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

UBS4 NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Parable of the Ten Maidens The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Bridesmaids The Parable of the Ten Girls Parable of the Ten Wedding Attendants
25:1-13 25:1-13 25:1-13 25:1-5 25:1-13
      25:6-12  
      25:13  
The Parable of the Talents The Parable of the Talents Parable of the Talents The Parable of the Three Servants Parable of the Talents
25:14-30 25:14-30 25:14-30 25:14-18 25:14-30
      25:19-30  
The Judgment of the Nations The Son of Man Will Judge the Nations The Great Judgment The Final Judgment The Last Judgment
25:31-40 25:31-46 25:31-46 25:31-40 25:31-46
25:41-46     25:41-46  

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. Take note of the literary context. In this case the context is Matthew 24-25, which dealt with the suddenness of Christ's unexpected coming and the warning to "be ready" by being faithful in doing God's will-even amidst persecution.

 

B. For a full discussion on interpreting parables see introduction to Matthew 13.

 

C. Write in your own words the central truth of each parable (cf. Matt. 24: 45-51; 25:1-13; 25:14-30). Parables are meant to illustrate truth from common occurrences of daily life (cf. Matt. 13:10-17). Always look for the unexpected twist or surprise!

 

D. Verses 37-44 do not appear in Mark. They do have a partial Synoptic parallel in Luke 17:26-37.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 25:1-13
 1"Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish and five were prudent. 3For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps. 5Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep. 6But at midnight there was a shout, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.'7Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8The foolish said to the prudent, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.'9But the prudent answered, 'No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.'10And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. 11Later the other virgins also came, saying, 'Lord, lord, open up for us.'12But he answered, 'Truly I say to you, I do not know you.'13Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour."

25:1 "the kingdom of heaven" God's current reign over the lives of redeemed people will one day be consummated in His reign over all the earth (cf. Matt. 6:10). See Special Topic at Matt. 4:17.

▣ "ten" See Special Topic: Symbolic Numbers in Scripture at Matt. 24:31.

▣ "went out to meet the bridegroom" The cultural background of this parable (which is unique to Matthew) concerns Jewish wedding customs of first century Palestine (see James Freeman, Manners and Customs of the Bible). After about a year of binding betrothal, the groom went to the bride's home on an assigned day to bring her to his home for a seven day feast.

There is a Greek manuscript variant here that relates to this Hebrew custom. The best and most ancient Greek texts have "went out to meet the bridegroom." The Bezae Greek manuscript (D) and the Latin, Syriac, Coptic, and Armenian translations, as well as the Greek texts used by Origen, Athanasius, Chrysostom, Jerome, and Augustine add "and the bride." This then would refer to when she joined the wedding party. The UBS4 gives the shorter text a "B" rating (almost certain).

25:5 "the bridegroom was delaying" This may refer to the delay of Jesus' return. Matthew 24:14 and 43-44 also imply a delay between the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Coming. This delay surprised the early church, yet the concept was implicit in Jesus' teachings and Paul's (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2). The parables are literary imagery that has a main purpose. Be careful to turning the details into doctrine!

▣ "they all got drowsy and began to sleep" There is no condemnation implied for this. It merely sets the stage for the parables'emphasis on preparedness.

25:9 Each person must prepare for themselves in the kingdom!

25:10 "the door was shut" Luke 13:25 related this parable to Israel and the Gentiles, but this context demands a relationship to the Second Coming. This illustrates how the inspired evangelists used Jesus' teachings in different settings and for different purposes (cf. Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, p. 113-134). See Special Topic: Use of "door" in the NT at Matt. 6:6.

25:11 "Lord, lord" The repetition was an attempt to show intimacy (cf. Luke 6:46), but the relationship was lacking (cf. Matt. 7:21,22). The shocking part of these examples is that these were seemingly part of the followers of Jesus, but somehow were not (cf. Matthew 13, the parable of the soils and the parable of the tares). As Paul says in Rom. 9:6, "they are not all Israel who are from Israel," so too, not all the outward followers of Jesus are redeemed (cf. 2 Pet.2:20-22; 1 John 2:18-19 and even possibly some of the warnings of Hebrews [i.e., Heb. 2:1-4; 3:7-13; 4:1-13; 5:11-6:12; 10:26-39; 12:14-17]). See SPECIAL TOPIC: APOSTASY (APHISTĒMI) at Matt. 7:21.

25:12 "I do not know you" Lack of preparation has eternal consequences. This is parallel to Matt. 24:50-51; 25:29-30; and Matt. 25:41-44. One must balance the different aspects of salvation presented in the NT.

1. it is a decision, a public profession (i.e., welcome a person)

2. it is a discipleship, a public godly lifestyle (live like that person)

3. it is an informed biblical understanding (i.e., accept truths about that person)

All three are necessary for maturity.

The term "know" was used in its OT sense of intimate personal relationship (cf. Gen. 4:1; Jer. 1:5). Christianity combines the Hebrew sense (personal relationship) and the Greek sense (information). The gospel is a person, a lifestyle, and a message!

25:13

NASB"Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour"
NKJV"Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming"
NRSV"Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor hour"
TEV"Watch out, then, because you do not know the day or the hour"
NJB"So stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour"

This truth is the purpose of the parable. See full note at Matt. 24:40-41. The date of the Second Coming is sure, but unknown (cf. Matt. 24:36,42,44,50; Mark 13:32). Believers are to stay active and ready for Jesus' certain but sudden return (cf. Matt. 24:36).

There is a manuscript variant at this point. Apparently copyists added "in which the Son of Man is coming" from 24:44. This additional phrase is absent in the ancient Greek manuscripts P35, א, A, B, C*, D, L, W, X, and Y, as well as the Latin, Syriac, Coptic, and Armenian translations. It is obviously not original to Matthew. UBS4 gives the shorter text an "A" rating (certain).

"the hour" See Special Topic at Matt. 24:36.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 25:14-18
 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. 15To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey. 16Immediately the one who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and gained five more talents. 17In the same manner the one who had received the two talents gained two more. 18But he who received the one talent went away, and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money."

25:16 "Immediately the one who had received the five talents" This parable is paralleled in Luke 19:11-27. There is a Greek manuscript variant over how "immediately" relates to Matt. 25:15: (1) does it describe the slave owner or (2) the slave? Although the Greek texts vary, the context and Matthew's usage of "immediately" mandate option two.

▣ "five talents" A talent was equivalent to 6,000 denarii. A denarius was the daily wage of soldiers and laborers. The RSV footnote says "more than fifteen years'wages of a laborer." See Special Topic at Matt. 17:24.

▣ "each according to his own ability" This states a biblical principle (cf. Matt. 13:8; 2 Cor. 8:3,11).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 25:19-23
 19"Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them. 20The 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 gained five more talents.'21His 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 into the joy of your master.'22Also the one who had received the two talents came up and said, 'Master, you entrusted two talents to me. See, I have gained two more talents.'23His 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 into the joy of your master.'"

25:21-23 "Well done, good and faithful slave" Good stewardship, not the amount, was the issue. See Special Topic: Degrees of Rewards and Punishments at Matt. 5:12.

▣ "enter into the joy of your master" This repeated phrase is an idiom for entering the Kingdom. Service for Christ is service for the family. The joy is the fellowship.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 25:24-25
 24"And the one also who had received the one talent came up and said, 'Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow and gathering where you scattered no seed. 25And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.'"

25:24-25 The servant's characterization does not accurately describe God. One must not push the detail of these parables allegorically. The NT has parables of both comparison and contrast.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 25:26-28
 26"But his master answered and said to him, 'You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. 27Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. 28Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.'"

25:27 "interest" This term was an idiom taken from child bearing. OT guidelines for interest are found in Deut. 23:19-20. A Jew could only collect usury from Gentiles.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 25:29-30
 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. 30Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

25:29 "For to everyone who has more shall be given" See Matt. 13:12; Mark 4:25; Luke 8:18; 19:26. "More" is not in the text but is certainly implied.

25:30 "Throw out the worthless slave into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" Western readers are uncomfortable with Eastern overstatements and metaphorical language (cf. Matt. 8:12; 13:42,50; 22:13; 24:51). This parable shows the need not only for initial salvation but for ongoing responsibility. Profession is confirmed by lifestyle. No fruit-no root!

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. What is the central truth of all these parables?

2. How do these parables relate to other larger context of Matthews 24 and 25?

3. Explain the statement that gospel writers had the right under inspiration to select, adapt, and arrange the teachings of Jesus.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS FOR 25:31-46

A. It is Jesus Himself who speaks so often of the eternal and horrible consequences of human sin. It is Jesus and Jesus alone who emphasizes not only a final judgment but an eternal hell.

 

B. This passage seems to be an amplification of Matt. 16:27. A good parallel passage on a day of judgment is Rev. 20:11-15.

 

C. Jesus is coming again as the Glorified King of Heaven. This is similar to the way the Jews are still expecting Him to come for the first time.

 

D. The Bible speaks of the certainty of the judgment, but often signifies different agents.

1. God as Judge (cf. Rom. 14:2; 1 Peter 1:17)

2. Christ as Judge (cf. John. 5:22, 27; Matt. 16:27; Acts 10:42; 2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Tim. 4:1)

3. God through Christ (cf. Acts 17:31; Rom. 2:16)

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 25:31-33
 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. 32All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left."

25:31 "the Son of Man" This was a term used in the OT to simply signify a human being, as in Psalm 8:4 and Ezek. 2:1. However, in Dan. 7:13 a human being, called "a son of man," comes riding on the clouds of heaven-the mode of transportation for deity -and is given the eternal kingdom. The title "Son of Man" was not used in rabbinical Judaism. Jesus used this term as a self-designation which included the concepts of humanity and deity and did not have the narrow Jewish nationalistic, militaristic connotation. As the Son of Man rode on the clouds of heaven in Dan. 7:13, He now comes with all the holy angels to judge mankind (cf. Matt. 25:31; 1 Thess. 4:13-18).

▣ "in His Glory" See note on "glory" at Matt. 16:27.

▣ "and all the angels with Him" The angels will do the work of gathering and dividing. They were often associated with Christ's coming (cf. Matt. 16:27; Mark 8:38; 2 Thess. 1:7; Jude 14; and Dan. 7:10).

▣ "He will sit on His glorious throne" He will take His seat on the throne of God (cf. Ps. 110:1) not only as Lord and King, but as Judge (cf. Matt. 19:28). Rejecting Jesus has a temporal aspect (cf. John 3:18) and an eschatological aspect. The judgment in time is consummated in eternity.

25:32 "All the nations will be gathered before Him" This passage may not be a parable, but a dramatic presentation unique to Matthew. All questions about the end time are not dealt with. One wonders if all nations include those humans who are alive and dead, or just those who are alive. The phrase "all the nations" implied the universal spread of the gospel to all people (cf. Revelation 5) which included Israel. This is the goal of Gen. 3:15, 12:3, and Exod. 19:4-6. Israel's call was to be missionary to the nations!

It is difficult to identify with certainty who "the goats" are: (1) those who have rejected the gospel or (2) those who have an outward profession only? Both groups call Jesus "Lord" (cf. Matt. 7:21-23). This judgment seems to be limited to those who have, at least outwardly, responded to the gospel. Therefore it is similar in meaning to the parable of the soils (cf. Matthew 13).  The pressures of end-time events and the lack of love for other believers (cf. 1 John. 2:9,11; 3:15; 4:7-21) will clearly reveal false professions (cf. Matt. 13:21,22; 1 John. 2:19).

▣ "and He will separate them from one another" Much like the wheat and tares (cf. Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43) could not be separated until judgment day, so the sheep and the goats wait until the last day for all to see the fruit of their lives. Also notice there are only two categories.

▣ "as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats" God as shepherd was a common OT metaphor (cf. Psalm 23). "Shepherd" was used in Ezekiel 34 to describe the false shepherds of Israel and God as Chief Shepherd and Judge. The same terminology is applied to Jesus in Zech. 11:4-14; John 10.

25:33 "on His right" This is a biblical anthropomorphic phrase to describe the place of preeminence, honor, power, and authority.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 25:34-40
 34"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. 35For 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; 36naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.'37Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39When did we see You sick in prison, and come to You?'40The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'"

25:34 "the King" Jesus was often spoken of as the Coming King (cf. Rev. 17:14; 19:16). YHWH was also spoken of as the King, which brings additional significance to this term when it was used for Jesus (cf. Deut. 10:17; 1 Tim. 6:15). This transference of title was a common technique of NT authors to assert the full deity of Jesus of Nazareth.

▣ "you who are blessed of My Father" This is a perfect passive participle. They have been blessed in the past and continue to be blessed. God is the active agent.

▣ "inherit" This is an aorist active imperative. The judgment of believers (cf. 2 Cor. 5:10) will not be based upon our sins (cf. Titus 2:14; 1 John. 1:7), but upon our use of spiritual gifts and our availability to God (cf. 1 Cor. 3:10-15). See Special Topic: Believers'Inheritance at Matt. 19:29.

▣ "the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world" This is a Perfect passive participle. The NT used this phrase several times to describe things that God did for believers even before creation (cf. John. 17:24; Eph. 1:4, 11; 1 Pet. 1:19-20; Rev. 13:8). The Trinity was active in redemption before Gen. 1:1! God's work never fails!

25:35-39 Our good deeds and lifestyle love reveal and confirm our initial faith commitment to Jesus Christ (cf. Eph. 2:8-9,10; 2 Tim. 2:21; 3:17; Titus 3:1; Heb. 13:21). Faith without works is dead (cf. James 2:14-26). These good works to others are related to the good works of Jesus Himself (cf. Isa. 58:6-7). Believers continue His ministry (cf. Titus 2:14).

25:40 "to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them" The term "brother" here must refer to a neighbor. It is believers caring for humans made in God's image that is emphasized. The close relationship between Jesus and His followers can be seen in Acts 9:4, 22:7, 26:14, and 1 Cor. 8:12. To hurt one is to hurt both; to bless one is to bless both. Jesus wants believers to live in such a way that His task on earth continues (i.e., help fallen humans find fellowship with their Creator, cf. Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45; 1 John 3:16).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: MATTHEW 25:41-46
 41"Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43I 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.'44Then they themselves also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?'45Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.'46These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

25:41 "Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me'" Hell's worst aspect is the separation from fellowship with God (cf. Matt. 7:23; Luke 13:27). God does not send humans to hell; they send themselves by their lifestyle choices.

▣ "accursed ones" This is a perfect passive participle. This grammatical construction was used several times in this context. It speaks of that which happened in the past and the results of which have continued into the present. The action is done by an outside agent. These people's rejection of God and His Christ in the past has been consummated into permanent blindness and rejection! This rejection revealed itself in lack of love for other human beings (Matt. 25:42-43).

▣ "into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels" Hell was not made for humans, but for angelic beings in rebellion. Satan has angels that serve him, possibly alluded to in Dan. 8:10 and Rev. 12:4. Matthew 25 mixes the metaphors of its darkness in Matt. 25:30, and fire in Matt. 25:41. T