Sunday, January 18, 2015

Lecture Four: The Gospel of Matthew - The Kingdom of Heaven

First Narrative Section: Ten Miracles (8:1–9:38)

Jesus Heals a Man With Leprosy (8:1-4)

Covered more thoroughly in Mark 1:40-45

The Faith of the Centurion (8:5-13)

Jesus goes to Capernaum and a Roman centurion goes up to him and tells him that his servant is very sick.

Jesus asks if he should come and heal him.

The centurion says that he doesn’t deserve to have Jesus come to house, but he knows that Jesus doesn’t have to come all that way to heal him – he can “just say the word” and he will be healed.

The centurion tells Jesus that as a man of authority himself he recognizes that Jesus had authority of his own, and that whatever he says will happen will happen.

Jesus is amazed and says to the people following him that he hasn’t found any Israelite with greater faith than this Roman.

He adds, “I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

In other words, the pagans have begun to follow God and will be rewarded, but God’s own people don’t believe in Him and because of this they will be punished.

Jesus then tells the centurion to go back home and he will find his servant healed… and he does.

Jesus Heals Many (8:14-17)

Covered more thoroughly in Mark 1:29-34

The Cost of Following Jesus (8:18-22)

Covered more thoroughly in Luke 9:57-62

Jesus Calms the Storm (8:23-27)

Covered more thoroughly in Mark 4:35-41

Jesus Restores Two Demon-Possessed Men (8:28-34)

Covered more thoroughly in Mark 5:1-20

Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralyzed Man (9:1-8)

Covered more thoroughly in Mark 2:1-12

The Calling of Matthew (9:9-13)

Covered more thoroughly in Mark 2:13-17

Jesus Questioned About Fasting (9:14-17)

Covered more thoroughly in Luke 5:33-39

Jesus Raises a Dead Girl and Heals a Sick Woman (9:18-26)

Covered more thoroughly in Mark 5:21-43

Jesus Heals the Blind and the Mute (9:27-34)

Two blind men follow Jesus saying, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!”

Jesus takes the men inside and asks them if they believe he is able to do this.
They say yes, and Jesus touches their eyes and they are healed.

Jesus orders them not to tell anybody about this, but they go out and spread the word anyway.

Two blind men healed (9:27-31) unique to Matthew’s Gospel

Later, a demon-possessed man who was also a mute was brought to Jesus.

Jesus drives out the demon and the man begins to speak again.

The crowd was amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”

But the Pharisees said, “It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.”

The Workers Are Few (9:35-38) 

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 

Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Second Major Discourse: Instructions to the Twelve Apostles (10:1-42)

Jesus now formally summons and names the twelve disciples and sends them out in mission with authority to preach the good news of the kingdom and to heal every disease and sickness. 

He accompanies their disciples' instruction with warnings about the need for endurance and the promise of reward for those who take up the cross and follow him. 

In this second of the five major discourses of Jesus in Matthew, Jesus summons the twelve disciples and formally hands over to them his same authority to preach the good news of the kingdom and to heal "every" disease (10:1, 7-8), but not, tellingly, the authority to teach! That will come only at the end of the Gospel after the resurrection (28:18-20).

Disciples not to go to Gentiles but to lost sheep of Israel (10:5-8) unique to Matthew’s Gospel. 

Along with the authority come instructions for the conduct of the disciples’ mission, instructions that would seem to offer some transparency to the situation and mission of Matthew's own contemporary disciple community. 
It suggests a situation of wandering missionaries, relying on the hospitality of those who receive them and not lingering long with those who do not (10:9-15). 

It warns of the need for wisdom amid the tough realities of mission for ones who go as "sheep into the midst of wolves" (10:16). 

It gives encouragement to face certain persecution that the Father's Spirit will be with them and that in their suffering they are only imitating their master (10:17-25). 

It comforts them with the promise of the Father's presence and concern and with the value and hope of rewards for faithful endurance (10:26-42). 

In so doing, key themes of discipleship and mission are noted, combining material from Mark, Q, and special Matthean material. 

The call for the decision to acknowledge the Son of Man will bring not peace but a sword (10:34). 

Worthy discipleship will mean to take up the cross and discover what it means that those who lose their lives for Jesus' sake will find it (10:37-39). 

Finally, disciples are given to realize that whoever welcomes them is actually welcoming the Messiah and, in turn, "the one who sent me."

The Messiah's identity is constituted in the mission of his disciples. So it is significant that such welcoming is linked here to the theme of righteousness.

Three times righteousness is specifically mentioned in connection with the disciple mission (10:41) and even a cup of water for these "little ones" in the name of a disciple merits reward (10:42). 

The discourse concludes once again with the characteristic formula of disciple instruction and reference to Jesus' ongoing ministry of teaching and proclamation (11:1). 

Second Narrative Section (11:1–12:50)

The Baptist’s Questions about Jesus (11:1-30) 

Jesus and John the Baptist (11:1-19) 

John asks, “are you the ‘coming one’?” referring to Zechariah who predicted that the ‘coming one’ would ‘set the captives free.’” 
Jesus quotes six phrases from six different places in Isaiah (blind see, lame walk, lepers cleansed, deaf hear, dead raised, good news proclaimed to the poor.) that all end in “set the captives free,” but Jesus doesn’t say that part – which is Jesus’ way of saying, “Yes, I am the coming one… but I’m afraid that you are going to die in jail, John.” 

Then Jesus adds, “Blessed is the one who does not fall away on account of these difficult words.” The difficult words are in fact the words that Jesus did not repeat. 

Woe on Unrepentant Towns (11:20-24) 

Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. 

“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.” 

“And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

The Father Revealed in the Son (11:25-30) 

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.” 

He also says, “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” 

He also says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” 

"Come to me all you who labor..." (11:28-30) unique to Matthew’s Gospel 

Jesus says that we should use his “yoke” and “learn from me.” What was Jesus’ yoke?

Women carried water using a shoulder yoke to carry two jars with the same effort as a single jar on the head. A rabbi called his approach to the scriptures his “yoke,” that is, the interpretive tools he used to make interpretation easier. The rabbis called the text “living water,” and so the yoke helps to carry the water. 

“Give you rest” comes from Exodus 33:13-14, in a conversation between Moses and God, in which Moses asks for instruction from God. 

If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.” 

The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” 

Jesus was claiming to be God! Moses asked God to teach him his ways, and God replied that Moses should follow his Presence. 

Jesus tells his disciples to follow him and so learn from him. It was both a claim to be God and statement that we learn Jesus’ ways by coming to him and following him.

“Rest for your souls” comes from Jeremiah 6:16… 

This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’” 

The ancient paths are found in the Law of Moses. God is calling the people back to obedience to the Law. 

Therefore, when Jesus promises his listeners to find “rest for your souls” and to “give you rest,” he’s saying that he will show them the ancient paths and the ways of God himself by showing them how to follow the very presence of God. He is saying that following him is the true fulfillment of the Law. 

Finally, a First Century Jew would have known that Jesus’ claim to be “gentle and humble” is a claim to be like Moses. 

Numbers 12:3 says, “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.” 

This, of course, is an essential claim if Jesus is to be a true interpreter of the Law of Moses. 

Moreover, to claim to be like Moses is to claim to be the Prophet of Deuteronomy 18:15-19… 

“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him. … I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account.” 

This passage echoes throughout the Gospels.

Controversies with Jewish Authorities (12:1-50) 

Jesus Is Lord of the Sabbath (12:1-14) 

Covered more thoroughly in Mark 2:23-28 

Profaning Sabbath, greater than temple (12:5-7) unique to Matthew’s Gospel 

God’s Chosen Servant (12:15-21) 

Jesus knows that the Pharisees want to kill him, so he leaves the area, but large crowds continue to follow him. 

He heals the sick, but continues to tell people not to spread the word about him. 

Healing fulfilling Isaiah’s prediction of servant (12:18-21) unique to Matthew’s Gospel 

Jesus and Beelzebul (12:22-37) 

Covered more thoroughly in Mark 3:20-35 and Luke 11:14-28 

The Sign of Jonah (12:38-45) 

Covered more thoroughly in Luke 11:29-32 

Jesus’ Mother and Brothers (12:46-50) 

Covered more thoroughly in Mark 3:20-35 

Third Major Discourse: Parables on the Kingdom (13:1-52)

The Parable of the Sower (13:1-23) 

Jesus goes to the Lake to teach again. 

The crowd is so large that he climbs into a boat to teach. 

The teaching: 

“Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.” 
Later, the disciples ask him about his parables. 

Jesus tells them that they have been blessed with the knowledge of the secret kingdom of God – they are insiders. 

He says that the crowds are on the outside - so he speaks to them in parables so that they won’t understand, in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesy about the people who see but don’t perceive, and who hear but don’t understand. 

The people listening to the parable have become a parable unto themselves. 

Lack of understanding of parables fulfilling Isaiah (13:14-15) unique to Matthew’s Gospel

In rabbinic teaching, every parable has at least one “secret” or “key”. With Jesus, most of his parables had at least two: 

A high level “secret”, that of the “kingdom of God” or “kingdom of heaven”, which would be better termed in English “the reign of God”, because it describes how God’s people should live now to demonstrate His reign in their lives here on earth. 

A second “secret”, which is a demonstration of how we are to act in the kingdom, is the most obvious import in the parable. 

In teaching the “secrets” or “keys”, rabbis were expecting two things from their listeners: to understand their “secret”, and to accept that teaching and apply it to their walk. 

Jesus then has to explain the parable to his disciples, because even though they are insiders they just don’t get it. 


Seed sown along the path and eaten by birds = people who hear the word, but Satan takes it away 

Seed sown on rocks whose roots never grow = people who receive the word with joy, but quickly fall away under persecution 

Seed sown among thorns that gets choked = people who worry about wealth and life and forget the word given to them 

Seed sown on good soil = people who hear the word, accept it, and reproduce it 

The Parable of the Weeds (13:24-30) 

Wheat and weeds (13:24-30) unique to Matthew’s Gospel 

“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. 

“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ 

“‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. 

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ 

“‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’” 

The Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast (13:31-35) 

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” 

“The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.” 

The text says that Jesus always spoke in parables to the people, but that when he was alone with his disciples he would explain them.

The Parable of the Weeds Explained (13:36-43) 

Interpretation (13:36-43) unique to Matthew’s Gospel 

Sower of good seed = Son of Man 

Field = world 

Good seed = people of the kingdom 

Weeds = people of the evil one 

Enemy who sows bad seed = the devil 

The harvest = the end of the age 

The harvesters = the angels 

“As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.” 

The Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl (13:44-46) 

Hidden treasure and pearl (13:44-45) unique to Matthew’s Gospel 

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” 

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” 

The Parable of the Net (13:47-52) 

The net (13:47-50) unique to Matthew’s Gospel 

“Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 

Jesus asks them if they understand what he’s saying, and they say yes. 

He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.” 

Trained scribe like a householder (13:51-52) unique to Matthew’s Gospel 

Third Narrative Section: From the Rejection in Nazareth to the Transfiguration (13:53–17:27)

A Prophet Without Honor (13:53-58) 

Covered more thoroughly in Luke 4:14-30 

John the Baptist Beheaded (14:1-12) 

Covered more thoroughly in Mark 6:14-29 

Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand (14:13-21) 

Jesus and disciples constantly surrounded by large crowds. 

Jesus needs a break, so they get in a boat and try to find a quiet place to hide. 

Crowds soon find them, Jesus “has compassion,” and begins to teach them. 

At the end of the day, the disciples tell Jesus to send the crowds home so that the people can get something to eat, but Jesus says, “You feed them.” 

Disciples are unable, Jesus inquires about food supply – five loaves and two fish. 

Jesus blesses it, breaks it up, disciples distribute it. 

Amazingly, all 5,000 people end up with enough to eat. 

There are twelve basket-fulls of food left over. 

Twelve disciples with twelve baskets represent twelve tribes of Israel. 

This event takes place on the Jewish side of the Lake.

Jesus Walks on the Water (14:22-36) 

That night, the disciples sail across the Lake while Jesus stays behind. He watches them struggling through the night, and eventually walks out to them on the water. 

He’s about to pass them by, when they see him and cry out, “Ghost!” 

Jesus reveals himself to them, and Peter declares that if it really is Jesus he will walk out on the water to him. 

Peter walks on the water, but becomes afraid and begins to sink. 

He cries out for help and Jesus grabs him and pulls him up and take shim back to the boat. 

Jesus asks him why he doubted. 

Peter walking on sea (14:28-31) unique to Matthew’s Gospel 

Ray Vander Laan on walking on water… 

Watch 8:12– 14:37 

Clean and Unclean (15:1-20) 

The Pharisees come to Jesus and ask him why his disciples don’t follow their tradition of washing their hands before they eat. 

Jesus then asks the Pharisees why they would rather follow their traditions than follow the Law of God. 

He accuses them of giving their money as an offering at the Temple as an excuse for not spending it on taking care of their aging parents. 

Jesus turns to the crowd and declares that it’s not the stuff you eat that makes you nasty, what’s nasty is the stuff you vomit out. 

The disciples let Jesus know that the Pharisees were offended by this parable. 

He replies with two more parables: “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” 

Peter is a bit slow and still doesn’t get the first parable, so he tells Jesus to go back and explain that one. 

Jesus is like, “Come on, dummy, don’t you get it? Food goes in one end and out the other… but the stuff that you vomit out is the real problem. I’m talking about your heart – the stuff that you let brew and rot inside of you that you then spew out all over everyone. You know, stuff like murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. That’s the real dirt… not the stuff on your hands when you forget to wash.” 

The Faith of a Canaanite Woman (15:21-28) 

A non-Jewish woman comes to Jesus and asks him to heal her demon-possessed daughter. 

Jesus points out how strange this request is – essentially to ignore the chosen people (the Jews) in order to go heal a pagan. 

Jesus is like, “You know, we have this saying in Israel: ‘don’t give the children’s food to the dogs…’” (Jesus is reminding her that the Jews consider people like her no better than dirty animals, so what might they think of this?) 

But the woman is like, “The dogs will still eat up whatever the kids have dropped on the floor.” (She is reminding Jesus that the Jews have not been faithful with what they’ve been given, so why should they have a say here?) 

Jesus turns to his disciples and says to them that he hasn’t seen more fiery faith in all of Israel than what he’s just seen in this pagan woman. 

And he heals her daughter. (Because she isn’t a dog.)

Jesus Feeds the Four Thousand (15:29-39) 

Jesus teaches the crowds on the mountainside by the Sea of Galilee 

The crowds are amazed when he heals them. 

Jesus “has compassion” on them and tells his disciples that he doesn’t want to send the people away to get something to eat because they’ve already been with him for three days and they might collapse on the way from hunger. 

The disciples, again, have no idea where they can get enough food for the people. 

Jesus inquires about food supply – seven loaves and a few small fish. 

Jesus blesses it, breaks it up, disciples distribute it. 

Amazingly, all 4,000 men, plus the women and children, end up with enough to eat. 

There are seven basketfuls of food left over. 
Seven baskets represent seven pagan nations. 

This event takes place on the Gentile side of the Lake. 

The Demand for a Sign (16:1-4) 

Jesus and his disciples go to Magadan where the Pharisees and Sadducees ask Jesus to show them a sign from heaven. 

He’s like, “You say, ‘Red in the morning, sailor’s warning; red at night, sailors delight.’ You know how to interpret the weather, but you don’t know how to interpret the times. A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” 

The Yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees (16:5-12) 

They get in a boat and cross the lake and Jesus says, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Sadducees.” 

The disciples think he is talking about how they had forgotten to bring bread along. 

Jesus rebukes them for their lack of understanding and asks them if they remembered how many basketfuls of bread were left over from the five thousand and the four thousand. 

They tell him that there were twelve and seven. 

Jesus then asks, “Do you still not understand?” 

The disciples do not immediately understanding what Jesus is trying to tell them, but eventually they realize that he’s not talking about literal bread, but theology. 

The Gospel is for both Jews and Gentiles, as the miracles of the bread and fish portrayed, but the Pharisees and Sadducees wanted God’s blessings all to themselves. 

Peter Declares That Jesus Is the Messiah (16:13-20) 

Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. 

Having just come from Bethsaida, this means that Jesus decided to take his disciples on a 32+ mile round trip to Caesarea Philippi, the only recorded trip Jesus took to that region or anywhere remotely like it. 
Caesarea Philippi, was established by Ptolemaic Greeks as a hellenistic city, where the worship of the god Pan was centered. By the early first century, Caesarea Philippi was reviled by orthodox rabbis, and it was taught that no good Jew would ever visit there. 

This city, which sits at the foot of Mount Hermon, butts up against a large cliff, referred to as the ‘Rock of the Gods’, in reference to the many shrines built against it. 

Shrines to Caesar, Pan and another god (possibly the fertility goddess Nemesis) were all built up against this cliff. 

In the center of the Rock of the Gods is a huge cave, from which a stream flowed. 

This cave was called the “Gates of Hades”, because it was believed that Pan (like Baal) would enter and leave the underworld through places where water came out of it. 

In the open-air Pan Shrine, next to the cave mouth, there was a large niche, in which a statue of Pan (a half-goat, half-human creature) stood, with a large erect phallus, worshiped for its fertility properties.

Surrounding him in the wall were many smaller niches, in which were statues of his attending nymphs. 

On the shrine in front of these niches, worshipers of Pan would congregate and partake in bizarre sexual rites, including copulation with goats – worshiped for their relationship to Pan. 

And so, one day, Jesus took his twelve disciples, most likely all of whom were in their teens or early twenties, and said “we’re going to Caesarea Philippi” (if he even told them where they were going). 

He asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” 
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” 

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 

We don’t know for sure where they were standing in the Caesarea Philippi region, but Jesus’ next statement gives us an idea that they may have been standing within sight of the Rock of the Gods. 

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” 

Ray Vander Laan on Ceasarea Philippi… 

Watch 7:40–21:20 

Jesus Predicts His Death (16:21-28) 

Jesus begins to tell his disciples that they are going to go up to Jerusalem, and once there he will be abused by the teachers of the Law, killed, and then raised to life again. 

Peter pulls Jesus aside and starts to lecture him on his theology, telling him that this will never happen to him. 

Jesus cuts Peter off, calls him “Satan,” and tells him that he’s only thinking about what people want, and not what God wants. 

Jesus continues his short lesson, literally shouting at the top of his voice to the crowd and his disciples. 

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” 

This begs a few questions: What crowd did He call to him? Could it have been the Pan worshipers? Any crowd from this region would not have been religiously Jewish. Was the last statement aimed at his disciples, who might have been embarrassed at the spectacle Jesus was creating? 

The Catholic tradition has taken Jesus’ pronouncement in Matthew 16:18 to mean that Jesus was declaring that the church was to be built on the authority of Peter and the other disciples. It is true that they led the early church, so this would be a possible interpretation. 

The Protestant tradition has taken Jesus’ declaration here to say that His church was to be built upon the confession recognizing Him as the Messiah and the Son of the living God. This is a valid interpretation, as well, and is a practice supported by other scriptures. 

Ray Vander Laan and other Hebrew contextual scholars suggest a third interpretation which may be just as – if not more – powerful as the others, based on the context. 

Perhaps Jesus took his disciples to the most degenerate place possible to say to them “This is where I want you to build my church – where God is not even known.”

The Transfiguration (17:1-13) 

Covered more thoroughly in Mark 9:2-13 

Jesus Heals a Demon-Possessed Boy (17:14-23) 

Covered more thoroughly in Mark 9:14-29 

The Temple Tax (17:24-27) 

After Jesus is transfigured on the mountain, heals the demon-possessed boy, and again predicts his own death, he and his disciples show up in Capernaum. 

The Temple tax-collectors go to Peter and ask him if Jesus pays his religious taxes. 

Peter’s like “of course he does.” 

Peter then goes home and Jesus is waiting for him with a question: Do kings collect taxes from their own children or from others? 

Peter admits that it is from others, and Jesus then indicates that since he is God’s Son he is exempt from paying the Temple tax… but then he adds that he doesn’t want to offend the tax-collectors, so he has Peter go fishing and orders him to look in the mouth of the first fish he catches. There he will find a coin that will be enough for both Jesus’ tax and Peter’s. 

Coin found in mouth of fish for temple tax (17:24-27) unique to Matthew’s Gospel 

The two-drachma temple tax was paid by all adult Jews over the age of 20, and in this passage, we see that Jesus pays the tax for only him and Peter, even though the text says that disciples were with Jesus. 

So either Jesus paid for Peter and himself, stiffing the others, or (more likely) Jesus and Peter were the only ones required by age (over 20) to pay it. 

Because of our cultural biases, we often see the disciples as being the same age as – if not older than – Jesus. Rather, it is far more likely that, at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, John (the youngest) was likely 12 or 13 and Peter was probably 18 or 19. 

Fourth Major Discourse: Instructions to the Church (18:1-35)

The Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven (18:1-9) 

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 

He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come! If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.” 

The Parable of the Wandering Sheep (18:10-14) 

Covered more thoroughly in Luke 15:1-7 

Dealing With Sin in the Church (18:15-20) 

Rebuking brother, binding on earth, two or three agreeing and promise of presence (18:16-20) unique to Matthew’s Gospel 

“If your fellow believer sins against you, go and tell him in private what he did wrong. If he listens to you, you have helped that person to be your brother or sister again. But if he refuses to listen, go to him again and take one or two other people with you. ‘Every case may be proved by two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen to the church, then treat him like a person who does not believe in God or like a tax collector.” 

“I tell you the truth, the things you don’t allow on earth will be the things God does not allow. And the things you allow on earth will be the things that God allows.” 

“Also, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about something and pray for it, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. This is true because if two or three people come together in my name, I am there with them.” 

The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (18:21-35) 

The unmerciful servant (18:23-35) unique to Matthew’s Gospel 

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” 

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven.” 

He adds:

“The kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talent ($10 million) was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.” 

“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.” 

“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarri ($2,000). He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.” 
“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’” 

“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.” 

“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.” 

“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” 

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