Study guide for Matthew Chapters 22-28 follows after the sermon.
The Gospel According to Matthew
Study Guide for 17-22
As you read chapters 17-21 of Matthew, pay particular attention:
The Transfiguration: Compare this story with Mark’s version (Mark 9:13-19). What do you notice?
The Boy with the Demon: How does Matthew’s version of this story compare with Mark’s? Jesus sounds so cranky, but for a different reason in each Gospel. What’s his issue in each?
Passion Predictions: You’ve already read one of them in last week’s reading (16:21-23). How do they fit into the story? How do they change what people think and do?
Authority: The question of authority looms larger and larger as Jesus encounters more opposition from the religious leadership. How does Matthew point to it? Can you see where this is headed? Examples?
The tax: This story almost sounds like a folktale in the midst of the increasing intensity of the opposition. Some authorities question whether this is a ‘temple tax’ required of Jews, or a ‘civic tax’ required by Rome. What does this story bring to the narrative?
Parallels with Mark: Are you continuing to check Mark’s version of some of these stories? What’s the same and what’s different? How do the differences contribute to a different picture of Jesus? How do they give you hints at the issues facing the community to which Matthew’s Gospel is written?
True Greatness: Jesus’ example of ‘the greatest’ is surprising in a day when children were regarded as a burden and anyone who couldn’t work to contribute to the family was worth nothing. How does this example fit Matthew’s theme of righteousness?
“The Church:” Matthew is the only Evangelist who uses this word (Greek: ekklesia). You also saw it in chapter 16:18. The careful instructions about keeping faith in the community are carefully set in the midst of parables and instruction about finding the lost and about forgiveness. Is this about purity of the community or about reconciliation? Who do you think needs to hear this? Why?
“Now when Jesus had finished saying these things:” Did you know you were in Jesus’ fourth discourse in Chapter 18? It doesn’t have the ‘classic’ beginning, but Jesus’ teaching might have tipped you off?
On the Way: At the beginning of Chapter 19, Jesus moves out of Galilee into Judea. He is headed for Jerusalem and his death.
Seated on the right and the left: James and John want special treatment in the coming kingdom. How is this version different than Mark’s? How the same? How is this an example of the difference between Matthew’s depiction of ‘the twelve,’ and Mark’s? Note the irony of Jesus’ healing two blind men after this encounter with James and John.
Jerusalem, The Temple, The Fig Tree: how do these compare with Mark? What do you notice?
Three Parables: 21: 28-32; 33-46; 22: 1-14. Jesus has become quite pointed and savage in his confrontation of the religious leadership? How do you think these stories sounded to the leadership of Matthew’s own community?
The Greatest Commandment: Jesus has been teaching about discipleship on the way and in Jerusalem. It’s not about rules or purity, it’s about loving God and loving your neighbor. Think about your own church experience. Is this what comes to mind? How have you seen this modeled in your communities?
8th Sunday after Pentecost
July 22, 2012
Matthew 17: 14-21; 18:1-7; 10-27
Read 17: 14-21
This story follows immediately after Jesus and three disciples go up on a high mountain and Jesus is revealed to them in all his glory. Things are not going well down below, and you can almost feel the frustration of the disciples who have returned from their mission to proclaim and heal and cast out demons. They just can’t do it. I love that Jesus rebukes the demon, like he is scolding it. It must have been quite a contrast to the disciples’ commands and desperate prayers over this boy. Jesus calls them “little faiths,” as he did in the story of the storm at sea. It only takes faith the size of a mustard seed, or as Eugene Peterson says, the size of a poppy seed to work miracles. This always astounds me. It is usually when we are stripped down to our last defenses that we find the tiny kernel of our faith. And we worry that it will not be enough. But Jesus tells us that even that can move mountains when we are willing to dare to live it.
That tiny kernel is the flickering of light that Jesus has told us is the light of the world. The stories of how we found that faith to be enough are our testimony. That little match in the dark of our own fear is what Jesus tells us to put up on a lampstand for all the world to see. Even when the disciples cannot be what they believe they should be, even when he criticizes them, Jesus is still busy teaching. Perhaps the disciples are having a hard time getting past their pre-conceived ideas and maybe even the bad religion they have received in the past. Like many of us.
Read 18: 1-7
Getting tired of Matthew’s constant commentary about who is the greatest? Eugene Peterson calls it getting back to square one. Once we forget that we all start out being called to a life of faith out of God’s great love and mercy, we run the risk of thinking of ourselves as more important than we are meant to be. In Jesus’ day, childhood was not a precious thing as it is now. In a society where parents taught the work that you were born into, education was rare, and children were an inconvenience. Jesus is pretty radical to lift up a child as the example of greatness. Jesus’ teaching about what makes one right with God is getting more and more difficult. We are to consider always the outlier, the stranger, the least in our midst when we plan our worship, when we get together, because in God’s eyes, we ourselves have been invited out of our alienation into God’s family. This is so hard for us. Maybe that’s what original sin looks like: we are always using ourselves and our own likes and comfort as the measure of what’s acceptable. Thanks be to God, that is not the measure God uses with us.
Read 18: 10-30 and 31-35 according to Eugene Peterson, The Message:
As Matthew writes Jesus’ preaching, he embeds these instructions about leadership and community building between two stories of graciousness. The shepherd risks all to bring home one of the strays, and the master condemns one who is does not offer the gracious forgiveness he has received. So even though the teaching about all the steps involved in reconciliation between church members has about it the detail of legal proceedings, it is meant to be a reminder that all are present by God’s invitation. These rules may be regarded as a way to get rid of people who don’t respond to the invitation of the community. They do provide for a way to keep the integrity of the community. But the surrounding teachings about forgiveness and grace turn them, instead, into a mechanism by which an erring brother or sister can be restored to relationship.
Our emphasis in this country on our independence and self-suffiency blind us the way other communities work. When we read the parable of the lost sheep, we see Jesus going off to get the one who has wandered away so that it will not get hurt or starve to death, right? In Latin America, Jesus goes after the wandering sheep because the community is not complete until everyone is gathered. You cannot function properly until all are in their proper places.
Jesus has many more things to teach, and his discourse gets more and more pointed against the religious habits of the day. As we read into the following chapters, he makes it sound impossible to be what God wants people to be and to do. His demand for discipleship is sharp and scary. As he comes closer and closer to the end of his days, he provokes the wrath of those he wants to save. He calls them and us always to see that God’s call to discipleship is not easy, but only possible through the faith that gives us new eyes to see and new hearts ready to respond to God’s call. It is always in following God’s will that our ways become God’s ways, and our hearts and hands become God’s hands to continue the salvation that begins with Jesus’ presence among us.
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Study Guide for Matthew Chapters 22-28
As you read chapters 22-28 of Matthew, pay particular attention:
Wedding Garment: The point of this story is pretty clear since we already know that Matthew’s community is a mixed congregation separating itself from the Jewish tradition, but what about the wedding garment? What do you think he’s trying to tell “the invited?”
Questions: The Jewish leadership is busy grilling Jesus in order to make him look like a fool in front of the crowds. Matthew uses these confrontations to make Jesus’ authority and his personification of Torah pretty clear.
David’s Lord: Jesus’ conclusion to the arguments with the religious authorities are not just to top them with a question they can’t answer. He is redefining the role of the descendant of David’s royal line. What’s his claim?
Phylacteries and fringes: Got a Bible dictionary? What are these and why would they be important to the leadership?
Heavy Burdens: Do you think Matthew is just savaging the Jewish leadership in Jesus’ day? What leadership is important to Matthew? How would his community hear this?
The Greatest: 23: 11-12 are Jesus manifesto about leadership. How many times has he said this? It must have been a burning issue to Matthew’s readers. How about church leaders today?
Woes: This rant by Jesus is almost like an “Anti-Beatitudes.” What is he accusing leadership of doing and being? Make a list in your own language. Does this ever happen in modern church leadership? Do you have your own experience of this?
Be Ready: Chapter 24 and 25 are Jesus’ final discourse. How does his apocalyptic vision compare with Mark’s (Chapter 13)?
“Blessed is the slave whom the master finds at work when he comes” (Matt 24: 46). The master in these parables sounds so unforgiving. What is Jesus trying to say?
The Sheep and the Goats: Isn’t this typical to Matthew? Once again, it is those who quietly do what God would do for the world who are rewarded. And they never realized that meeting the needs of others is what brings in God’s kingdom.
The Plot, the Anointing, the Betrayal: Note the contrast of her act of love sandwiched between the acts of perfidy.
The Forgiveness of Sins: In his brief description of their Passover meal, Matthew gives us the language we use in our consecration of Communion. What are other things you notice in comparing Matthew and Mark’s description of this meal, the prayer in Gethsemane, and Jesus’ arrest?
Parallels: Matthew uses narrative devices from the earliest parts of Jesus’ story to tell the story of his end: Who dreams? Who are the Gentile witnesses to his divinity? Two Josephs protect him; Jesus’ birth is marked by a sign in heaven (star) and his death by a sign on earth (quake).
The Guard: This is exclusive to Matthew. Why do you think it was important for him to include this information?
Resurrection: Compare Matthew’s account with Mark’s spare version. How would you characterize the differences?
Commission: Note that they are on a mountain, in true Matthean form. This is Jesus’ manifesto to the Church and all of us who are the Church. How have we done?
I Am With You: Matthew is the one who names Jesus as Emmanuel, “God with us”(chapter 1:23).