In August we will read the Gospel of Luke together. For a study guide for the first 9 chapters of Luke, look after the sermon.
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).
9th Sunday after Pentecost
July 29, 2012
Matthew 22: 41-46; 23: 1-39; 28: 16-20
Read 22: 41-46
All through the grueling intensity of the questions that the Pharisees and the Sadducees and the scribes put to Jesus, the major question is one of his authority.
The Pharisees were a denomination of Judaism, focused on the Torah and keeping the rules given to the earliest Jewish communities were important to them. They were not priests in the temple, but they made up a large part of the religious leadership of the day. They and Jesus were much in agreement about many of the philosophical issues of Judaism, including a life after death. It is primarily their arrogance in leadership and their concentration on rules instead of mercy that puts them at odds with Jesus.
The Sadducees did not agree with the Pharisees about life after death and about free will. They were not as popular as the Pharisees, being primarily of the wealthy, upper class, but they were very influential in Jewish leadership. It is thought that many of the priests were Sadducees.
Scribes were the lawyers and economic experts of the time. As the record keepers, they became the experts on Biblical traditions. All of these religious leaders had a vested interest in maintaining the status quo of leadership of the temple and the traditions which bound the Jews of Jesus day to their historical identity.
Among those traditions was the one that a son from David’s line would come to return them to their rightful place in history and in God’s heart. Much like the Arthurian legends and the legends of Barbarossa in Germany, the Jews waited for the son of David to restore them to their former glory. Jesus moves to the offensive in his heated discussion with all stripes of the authorities. How is it, then, if David’s son will return the kingdom to the glory of David’s reign, that David calls the Messiah his Lord? Jesus is not just challenging their right to ask him questions, he is challenging their understanding of what the role of the Messiah will be. The Son of David, the Christ, will be wholly other than a human king who comes with political power. So Jesus quotes from Psalm 110, verse 1, the words of David “the Lord (that is, God) said to my Lord (That is Christ or the Messiah), Sit at my right hand, till I put thy enemies under thy feet.” Actually this verse is quoted here, in Acts, in 1 Corinthians, in Ephesians, in Colossians, and in Hebrews. So Jesus is here arguing that David acknowledges the fundamental “otherness” of Christ and his kingship, his weaponry, his methods and his warfare. The church leaders that Jesus confronts missed that “otherness” that their scripture talked about. So also can the church leaders of Matthew’s community, as well as the church leaders we know, miss the “more” of what Jesus as the Messiah brings for us. So Jesus calls for a new perspective, a heavenly one, high and lifted up, that sees the way of service and of suffering as a way of victory.
Read 23: 1-39.
This reads like a rant, like an Anti-Beatitudes. Wow! This attack on the leadership of Jesus’ day, who are long gone by the time Matthew writes, is also an attack on the dangers of church leadership; both the leadership of the emerging Judaism of Matthew’s day, and the leadership of the Christian community. Here we have seven woes: against the preoccupations with titles of honor, against aggressive missionary efforts which leave the people at home poor and neglected, for not living the life which they impose on others, for serving the details of the commandments without the loving heart to serve God and their neighbors, rejecting Jesus as the authorities have always rejected God’s prophets, persecuting those who call them to live up to the spirit of the law rather than the letter of it. I suppose Jesus might savage church leadership in our day as well for covering up sexual abuse in parish ministry and protecting clergy instead of people, for leaders getting rich on the proceeds of their ministry, for preachers preaching fire and brimstone instead of grace and mercy, for scholars getting so caught up in the historical details of scripture that they forget that their purpose is to tell God’s story of salvation and invitation to all people, that people are encouraged to look inward at their own spiritual lives instead of being sent out to proclaim God’s love and to serve their neighbors. Church leaders are especially accountable, because they have such power to lead people either on the right path or lead them astray. And they are accountable both to God and to their congregations to live the life they profess.
Read 28: 16-20
After all the drama of the crucifixion and resurrection, the suicide of Judas and the bribing of the guards, we find Jesus and the disciples on a mountain again, the mountain on which he has arranged to meet them in Galilee. There is such quiet majesty in this scene, even though some are still unsure. “All authority is given to me in heaven and on earth,” he says. This authority is confirmed by his resurrection, and his presence with them in this place. And he sends them to complete the mission that he started among them and trained them to complete. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing hem in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” This is Jesus’ commission to all disciples, even to us. Jesus is the source of authority by which we speak of our own experience of God’s presence with us. Jesus is the source of authority by which we teach the Gospel of God’s saving love and mercy to sinners. Jesus is the source of authority by which we live out our compassion for people who suffer under the burdens of sin: addiction, poverty, injustice, illness, abuse, neglect, hunger, workaholism, lack of opportunity, loneliness, and all those other aches and pains of our age.
In his masterful narrative, Matthew ends the story of Jesus with its significance to the world with the same image as he began. As the angel comes to Joseph in a dream to assure him that he should marry Mary, Matthew says, “All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘Look a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,’ which means ‘God with us.’” Jesus promises, “I am with you to the end of the age.” And so he is.
May the God of hope fill you all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Study Guide for The Gospel According to Luke I Chapters 1-9
This Gospel is the first half of a two-volume work, the second half being “The Acts of the Apostles.” Luke seems to be a Gentile writer who may have converted to Judaism and then to Christianity, as his references to the Hebrew Scriptures are to the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Bible. Luke’s storytelling is vivid, pinpointing detail that brings each episode to life. His Greek is polished and fluent, leading scholars to imagine that his audience included highly educated people.
Luke uses geography prominently, moving Jesus from Bethlehem to Nazareth to Jerusalem, the center of the Jewish world. The story of the church – the book of Acts – moves the story from Judea to Rome itself, the center of the Gentile world. In his two-volume work, Luke tells as one story God’s fulfillment of the promises to Israel both in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and the birth and spread of the Church. “In a single vision, Luke grasps the meaning of Jesus and the church for the world, and he tells that story so that what happens with Jesus foreshadows the church’s experience and what happens in the church finds meaning as the continuation of Jesus’ story.” (Luke Timothy Johnson, The Writings of the New Testament, Fortress Press, 1999) pg. 215.
Luke’s Gospel uses Mark as a source and pattern for much material. It is thought to be contemporaneous with Matthew, and perhaps also written in Damascus or Antioch. We don’t know for sure that Luke is the Physician who accompanied Paul on his journeys, as there is scant evidence in the writings of the early church fathers to substantiate such claims. We also don’t know whether “Theophilus” was a real person or the imagined readers of this work. Theophilus, translated, means God Lover.
Luke emphasizes the continuation of God’s promises to Israel and Jesus as the fulfillment of them. Luke’s Gospel lifts up issues of rich and poor. Perhaps the mixture of Luke’s community reflected socio-economic inequalities. He also focuses on prayer. Check how many times you find Jesus at prayer.
Prologue: This introduction to his purpose for writing is exclusive to Luke. He does the same in Acts.
Annunciation Stories: The two annunciations (to Zechariah and to Mary) are like a diptych – two panels side by side relating twinned events. Zechariah represents the end of the Hebrew era, Mary represents the beginning of the new. You might diagram them out to see the who, what, where, and how side by side.
Birth Stories: Another set of twinned stories of John the Baptist and of Jesus. Which story has the most detail?
Canticles: The hymns on the lips of Mary, Zechariah, the Angels and Simeon may reflect early church hymns. Luke uses them so beautifully. They wrap promises from Hebrew Scripture into the fulfillment in the new age. See Hannah’s hymn (1 Sam 2:1-10).
Genealogy: Compare with Matthew. How does Luke use this?
Nazareth to Capernaum: Why does Jesus move to Capernaum to begin his ministry? How does this compare to Mark and Matthew?
Compare Jesus’ earliest ministry in Luke to that of the other Gospels?
Calling the Disciples: Luke puts this at a different place in Jesus’ ministry. Note how the disciples are portrayed in Luke compared to Mark and Matthew.
The Sermon on the Plain: Chapter 6: 20-46 are Luke’s version of The Sermon on the Mount. What differences do you notice?
The Sinful Woman: Luke creates a completely different setting for this woman’s action. Does this change the point of the story?
When the Days Drew Near: Chapter 9:51 begins Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem to be crucified. This begins a new chapter in his ministry. How does Luke’s pace compare with Mark’s? Matthew’s?