Saturday, October 07, 2017

Reading Through the Gospel of Matthew #4 (11-12)

I aKeener Matthewm continuing reading through the Gospel of Matthew accompanied by Matthew, vol. 1, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, by Craig S. Keener. I have enjoyed the practical and applicational focus of the commentary I would recommend it for sermon or Bible study preparation. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version (for some reason I cannot make the page numbers come up in the quotes) of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

Chapter 11 begins with Jesus' response to a delegation from John the Baptist asking if he really is the Messiah. Jesus responds graciously, understanding that John is in prison and Jesus is not doing exactly what John expected, with a quote from Isaiah 35 that would assure John that He is the promised one. He then calls John the greatest in God's kingdom because he was the one who introduced God's greatest revelation, Jesus, and John had to deal with those who opposed the kingdom with violence. We carry an even fuller message of Jesus than John did and thus, should be better able to deal with opposition. The opposition often comes from those who refuse God's message no matter how it is packaged. They listen only to come up with arguments against what God is saying. Jesus ministers to the one who recognizes his need, not the arrogant person, often religious, who thinks they have it all figured out. Jesus is a LORD, but He is a humble one who wants to serve His people. We benefit as we humbly receive and then humbly serve as He does. 

Matthew recorded John’s struggle with doubt, not to condemn John, but to encourage subsequent disciples whose faith would be tested by hardships. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me could be translated “How happy will be the one who does not stumble on my account.” In view of its serious use in the Gospel tradition the language of “stumbling” here suggests that one’s response to Jesus determines one’s place at the final judgment. Matthew 11:1-6

God has different kinds of servants for different missions, but we need all the kinds of servants God sends (Mt 11:18–19). Neither Jesus nor John accumulated earthly resources for earthly pleasure; but Jesus accepted invitations to upscale banquets, while John was a wilderness prophet. Jesus came partly as God’s ambassador to initiate relations with sinners (9:10–13), whereas John primarily took the role of biblical prophets in times of persecution (3:7); Jesus was a missionary within the culture, John a critic from outside it. Both models are biblical but suit different situations. When we can influence a culture from within without compromise, we should do so; when the culture becomes so hostile to our Master that we must stand as witnesses outside it, let us do so without regret. Matthew 11:16-19

They will find Jesus’ yoke light because he is a Master who will care for them (Mt 11:29). Jesus’ yoke is not lighter because he demands less (5:20), but because he bears more of the load with us (23:4). In contrast to unconcerned religious teachers who prided themselves on their own position, like some religious leaders today (23:4–7, 29), Jesus was going to lay down his life for the sheep (20:25–28).  Matthew 11:28-30

Matthew 12 deals with Jesus' conflict with the Pharisees over His teaching and authority. The Pharisees were annoyed that Jesus ignored their regulations. Jesus' point was that the heart attitude toward God's Word was more important than the just keeping the regulations. Even the regulations themselves taught that there were exceptions when human need or ministry necessitated. The key was to make allegiance to God more important than anything, including one's own family. The Pharisees then accused Jesus of drawing His authority to do miracles from the demonic side. Jesus responded that it was ridiculous for Satan to fight Satan and urged them to consider that the miracles were a sign that the kingdom was present. He warned them that they were subject to serious consequences for this willful rejection. However, the hard-hearted Pharisees ignored what the Spirit was doing through Jesus and refused to believe. Jesus' "family" is those who recognize His authority and trust Him for their lives without regard for ethnicity or human family connections.

The principles of God’s Word actually demand far more from us than extrapolated rules: they demand the absolute integrity of our hearts before God, summoning us to devote all our actions and thoughts to his glory (5:17–48). Perhaps some Christians take refuge primarily in legal debates because we lack the courage to pursue a genuine relationship with the Father through faith in Jesus Christ. Craig S. Keener, Matthew, 12

Not merely human life but human need in general takes precedence over regulations. Kindness in response to others’ genuine need—such as disciples’ hunger—precedes rules whose purpose is to please the God who values such kindness more highly. Keener, Matthew 12:1-14

Thus Jesus demonstrated that he preferred not to fight others when it was not necessary (Mt 12:19–20; compare 10:23; Gen 26:14–22). His opponents thought him a youthful upstart, but Jesus knew his identity and his destiny (Mt 12:21). When we recognize our identity and destiny as his followers, we may also be less concerned with what the misinformed think of us. Keener, Matthew 12:15-21

Jesus followed the practice he had demanded of others (8:21–22; 10:37): the kingdom of God comes first. Obedience to God’s will (7:21; 21:31; 26:42) is what makes one Jesus’ true brother, sister or mother (25:40; 28:10). When we acknowledge God as our Father, his family becomes our family, and our allegiance to him as Father must come before all earthly allegiances. Keener, Matthew 12:46-50

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