Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Reading Through the Gospel of Matthew #7 (21.17-25.46)

Keener MatthewI am continuing reading through the Gospel of Matthew accompanied by Matthew, vol. 1, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series, by Craig S. Keener. This section records Jesus’ final presentation of His kingdom to the nation and their final rejection of Him. He then turns to His disciples and teaches them about their responsibilities in the inaugurated kingdom to be ready for His judgment when He brings the present age to a close. 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.

In 21.17-22.46 the Jewish religious leaders challenge the source of Jesus' authority to teach the people. Jesus responds by showing that they have rejected God's authority, which He and John the Baptist represented, and they are in the same danger as past leadership of receiving God's judgment. The parables illustrate their rejection of God and his prophets and warn them, that God is patient, but judgment is coming soon. The Jewish leaders were more concerned with preserving their privileged place in society and thus, were more evil than the tax collectors and prostitutes who recognized their sin and repented. Jesus offered the kingdom but the nation, because of the actions of their leaders, was about to miss it.

Jesus and John represent the same source of moral authority, and those who rejected John’s way of righteousness showed the hypocrisy of their own claims to be God’s servants... Neither Jesus nor Matthew contends for God’s rejection of Israel as a people, but for his rejection of the religious leaders. Matthew 21:28–44

The welcoming of both good and bad (v. 10) echoes Jesus’ own mission to sinners (9:11–13), but it may also remind us that grace not only forgives but also transforms. All are welcome, but no one dare remain the way he or she entered, in view of the final separation of “the wicked from the righteous” (13:49)...salvation is not simply a matter of those who begin the race, for we must finish it. Matthew 22:1-14

To render to Caesar what was Caesar’s was to return his own coin to him; to render to God what was God’s was to render worship to him alone (compare 4:10)...The appropriate response to living in a society whose beliefs differ from one’s own is to critically evaluate and withstand its claims, not to censor such claims from being heard or to boycott all participation in the society.  Matthew 22:15-22

Matthew 23 begins Jesus' final discourse before His passion. This passage is a denunciation of the hypocritical way the Pharisees applied the torah, but the passage is directed at all Christians to examine themselves to make sure we don't "have a place with the hypocrites." Religion should produce people who live out what they teach, who don't use religion for personal honor, special treatment or titles. Our standards should be God-made not manmade and should emphasize what God thinks is important. They should be applied to ourselves before we apply them to others. This is critical because these actions will all be brought to judgment by God.

Although Pharisaic ethics emphasized being as lenient or strict with others as one was with oneself, in practice Jesus accuses them of being too strict with others and too lenient with their own failings (compare 5:18–20; 15:1–20), which fits the way Christians often evaluate sins today. Matthew 23:1-12

I suspect that much of what passes for Christianity today is little more than human religion with the name of Jesus tacked onto it, because like most of the religion of Jesus’ contemporaries, it has failed to transform its followers into Christ’s servants passionately devoted to his mission in the world. When rightly understood, Jesus’ woes may strike too close to home for comfort. When religion becomes a veneer of holiness to conceal unholy character, it makes its bearers less receptive to God’s transforming grace. Matthew, 23:13-32

Many of us today do not like to preach on judgment, but the prophets of Scripture, including Jesus, heavily emphasized warnings about judgment. If we are to be faithful to our calling as Christ’s followers and if we care about others, we dare not shortchange Scripture’s message of judgment on individuals and nations. We must recognize that every nation, including our own, will face divine punishment (if Israel, how much more Gentiles!). Yet we must remember that God’s heart of judgment sometimes sounds most like a lament (v. 37). Matthew, 23:33-39

In Matthew 24-25, Jesus answers the disciples questions about the nature and timing of the destruction of the temple and the end of the age. Jesus answers that the destruction of the temple is coming soon and it will be a complete destruction from which God's people need to flee. That event will begin the "birth pangs" of the final age which will consummate with the return of Jesus Christ. Jesus seems to fuse the prophesies of the temple destruction, the persecutions of the present age and the coming final tribulation that will immediately precede His coming. The only prerequisite for the coming of the end which Jesus mentions is the spread of the gospel throughout the world. The end will come when the great commission is completed and with the cosmic visible return of Jesus to this world.

While catastrophic events do not allow us to predict how soon the Lord is coming—such events have happened throughout history—they do remind us that such problems characterize this age, summoning us to long for our Lord’s coming all the more fervently. Matthew 24:1-14

Christians who remember the nature of the time ought not to be attached to worldly possessions; we should value our lives enough to flee immediately. Indeed, God may judge materialistic Western and other societies at times to turn us from our pursuit of what does not matter so we may learn to pursue what really does. Nor ought we to believe false prophets of peace proclaiming that judgment will never strike our own locality; rather than sparing a locality, God sometimes warns his servants to leave. Matthew, 24:15-28

24.32-25.46 contain several parables about the end of the age. Each of them focus on the coming end of the age and what Jesus' disciples need to do now to prepare for the judgment and coming kingdom. Disciples need to "keep watch" and "be prepared" at all times because we don't know when Jesus will return to consummate the kingdom. Disciples do this by using the resources Jesus gives them wisely by investing their lives in His kingdom work. At the judgment we will all be judged based on how we advanced his kingdom mission and how we treated and responded those who made great sacrifices to announce the gospel of the kingdom and fulfill the great commission. 

After Jesus exhorts the disciples to “keep watch,” to stay awake, he illustrates what he means. We stay alert not by artificially and perpetually stirring expectation that he will come at a given time, but by living in such a manner that we would have no cause for shame if he did come at any time, since he may in fact do so. Matthew 24:32-45

Whereas the other servants are rewarded by the master’s benevolence, this servant, fearing the master’s harshness but unaware of his benevolence, experiences the very wrath he feared. This, says Jesus, is what will happen to those who claim to be his followers but do not invest their lives in the work of the kingdom. Matthew 25:14-30

The King thus judges the nations based on how they have responded to the gospel of the kingdom already preached to them before the time of his kingdom (Mt 24:14; 28:19–20). The passage thus also implies that true messengers of the gospel will successfully evangelize the world only if they can also embrace poverty and suffering for Christ’s name. Matthew 25:31-46

No comments: