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Lecture 4: The Sermon on the Mount and the Galilean Ministry
Course: Life of Christ
This is the 4th lecture in the online series of lectures on the Life of Christ by Dr. Darrell Bock. Recommended Reading includes: Jesus According to Scripture: restoring the Portrait from the Gospels by Bock, Baker, 2002 and Jesus in Context by Darrel Bock and Greg Herrick, eds., Baker, 2005 and Jesus Under Fire by Mike Wilkins and J.P. Moreland, Zondervan, 1995.
The Sermon on the Mount
In Matthew 6:19-21. The Sermon on the Mount shifts to discussing images and practices that influences a person. (The lecturer shows a picture of an eye.) This picture is fairly straight forward in one way; it basically says the eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is healthy then your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is diseased, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the dark. There is some debate in the ancient world as whether the eye is seen as that which takes something in or it is seen as something that comes out of a person. We seem to think of the eye as that taking in the outside world. The ancient world suggests that what comes into the eye reflects what’s inside the person. We talk about a person having a gleam in their eye; that kind of reflects what they are feeling on the inside. Another example would be like seeing someone or an animal in headlights of your car. So from a person’s eyes, you can see what going on inside of them. So the image is probably from the inside out, not outside in. The point here is, the eye is sending out healthy signals; thus it is sending out light if the body is made up of light, but if it’s unhealthy, the body is dark and that darkness is really dark.
In Luke 11:33-36; Luke’s context seems to be a little more distinct here. It may include; watch what you take in. But the point is, either way; the passage is a warning about what one is on the inside and you are to be healthy on the inside, regardless how you interpret the imaginary presented. The point is to be clean on the inside and thus the emphasis of the entire sermon. Part of this thinking has to do with knowing which master you serve. You cannot serve two masters at once. In the end, you will make a choice between one and the other. You will hate one and love the other and in applying this to God, you can’t serve God and something else, such as the world or money or material possessions. Luke only supplies the idea of a householder or domestic slave serving two masters. Again the choice is about life’s values and here the idea is concerned with the call to honor God and being devoted to him above all else, even that which is most likely to get our attention from being faithful to God.
In Matthew 6:25-34; the next passage is a unit on anxiety. We see it as well in Luke 12 and again because of the two masters’ issue. The point might be; don’t worry about food, drink or clothing, if you are dependent upon God, you can trust him for that as well. Relating to Greek, if you ask a question, you can expect a positive or negative answer depending on how you ask. So the question that is ask here, is not life more than food and clothing? One would expect a positive answer to this question; there, life is more than food and clothing. God takes care of the birds, he takes care of us. Worry doesn’t add to any of this, to you as a person; God takes care of you like the flowers in a field and they don’t work. Solomon wasn’t even clothed like these. God even take care of the grass and you are so much more important; you of such little faith. This is the way Jesus sometimes addresses people when they don’t stand up to the spirituality he thinks they should. So don’t worry about food, drink or clothing, the nations do that; rather focus on the kingdom of God, for God knows you need these things. Thus, seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and these things will be added to you. Don’t worry for tomorrow, for tomorrow has enough worry for itself. All this is designed for you to trust God and pursue righteousness and God will care for you.
So the dependence we see in the prayer, in the first part of the chapter in the disciple’s prayer is now working itself out practically in the attitude which that is supposed to generate in the disciples, a lack of anxiety. This is a negative remark; it’s a way of saying that’s how the world reacts but not how God’s people react. Jesus didn’t live in a politically correct world. They said things fairly directly; so his point is to say, ‘that’s living in a way a pagan or godless person lives.’ Of course, part of the reason they’re drawn to him is because he is offering everybody, both Jew and Gentile something about the relationship with God that they don’t see to be anywhere else.
In Matthew 7:5; everybody knows that you are not to judge, unless you are to be judged. This passage is not about a lack of spiritual accountability which is the way unbelievers want to use it. By the standard you judge, you will be judged. Be very careful how you treat others for you might be treated the same way. The measure you use will be the measure you receive. Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye but fail to see the beam of wood in your own? How can you say to your brother, let me remove the speck from your eye, while the beam is in your own. You hypocrites first remove the beam from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. There is accountability in this passage. There is an assumption that it is appropriate to be accountable, but it’s to be accountable with a humility and recognition that we are capable of doing the very same thing we are encouraging someone else not to do. We need to pay attention to the fact, whether or not we are doing those things as well.
In Galatians 6:1; a similar passage deals with the same principle, ‘if brothers and sisters in a person is discovered in some sin, you should restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness. Please pay close attention to yourselves so that you are not attempted also; carry one another’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the Law of Christ.’ So spiritual accountability is to be there; the judging here has to do with judging in such a way that you mark someone off, shoving them away. There is an inner relationship and accountability that is supposed to be maintained. Look to your own righteousness and avoid hypocrisy, and then you are in a position to help. Luke has several additions to this: do not contempt but forgive, forgive so as not to be condemned, forgive enables you to be forgiven. How will you be forgiven; a full measure of grain pressed down. The picture in the ancient world in regards to grain in being sifted out and you put it in the fold of your garment and you shake it to level it so you can get more grain in. The parable that follows: can the blind lead the blind? Both of them will fall in the pit; the disciple is not better than the teacher and so this becomes a warning about who you follow. You will be like your teacher so be careful who you follow.
The next passage is a singular verse, ‘don’t profane holy things.’ Don’t give holy things to dogs, the house dogs that are unclean nor cast pearls before swine which are considered unclean animals. Pearls are used to describe the gates of the heavenly city. Less they turn and trample and maul you. The term maul gives the image of a rabbit animal that destroys things with their teeth. There are all kinds of conceptual parallels to these. Don’t entrust something spiritual presage to someone who will not appreciate it, but use it against you. Holy things should be treated and shared wisely with respect. Make your request to God and he will answer with the good (Matthew 7:7-12). The conceptual parallel is Luke 11:9-13. Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who ask will receive; and the one who seeks finds and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. There are two illustrations in Matthew, asking for bread and getting stones; asking for fish and getting a serpent. No one would do that. Luke lacks the bread and stone illustration but adds: asking for an egg and get a scorpion. The application is straight forward, if we being evil can give good gifts, how much more the Father will give good gifts to those who ask. Luke says that the heavenly Father gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask him, a slightly more specific benefit. This is in parallel with Luke 11. As God for your needs, he knows them and will give them to you. The golden rule, what you wish people to do to you, so do to them. This is the Law in the prophets; it is a remark unique to Matthew. It emphasis is on the relational dimension that Jesus is trying to establish in interacting with the Law. There are numerous parallels to this idea in the ancient world. I’ve just listed a group of them here. In my commentary on Luke, I actually have a couple of pages of these parallels. Jesus states it in the most emphatic way possible; whatever you do not want someone to do to you, do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole Law and the rest of it is just explanation. This equals the Law of love that we see elsewhere in the New Testament, of what is sometimes called the royal Law. You can see it in Romans 13 and Galatians 5 and 6 and also in James 2. A lot of people like to pitch Paul against James, but when it comes to the appeal to the royal Law, Paul and James both agree. Have consideration and sensitivity toward others. This section reads almost like proverbs with some sections of proverbs connecting while others are independent. In the Jewish sense, this is wisdom; skillful living and things that are involved in living well.
Two ways that Jesus starts to finish the sermon are in terms of the choices. The call is to enter by the narrow gate, for the way of destruction is wide and easy and many enter into it; whereas the gate of life is narrow and hard and those who find it are few. This is a real exhortation to say that the way in is not easy, it is not straight forward; it’s the narrow way. Sometimes preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ is seen as narrow. Well, it is! Luke has this saying in response to a question in Luke 13 about whether the saved will be few. Jesus replies by saying strive to enter the narrow door for many seek and will not be able. So he turns the question around and says, ‘the question is not whether the saved will be few, the question is whether the saved will be you.’ He turns the question to get the person to reflect on whether they are walking down the narrow way or not. The way to life is narrowly defined and it’s not easy. You got to watch the choices you make and you also have to watch the teachers that you follow, but you will know the teachers you follow by their fruit. This is the next to last section on the sermon. Watch out for the false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are voracious wolves. You will recognize them by their fruit; as you know, grapes are not gathered from thorns. In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. The exhortation is to pay attention to the kind of fruit that the teachers teach you yield. Test the prophets and test the teachers by the products of their lives.
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven; on that day, many will say to me Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesize in your name and in your name didn’t we cast out demons and do powerful deeds. Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you, go away from me, you Law breakers. This is a difficult passage in Jesus’ teaching. It suggests what the standard of Judgement is going to be and that standard is related to obedience. But it is also related to knowing Jesus. That is where the passage ends. So when we embrace what the Lord is doing and teaching us, we aren’t just embracing ideas. We are entering into a relationship with the Living God. We are coming to know, Jesus our Lord. That is part of what faith in a person is, even though he doesn’t use the word, faith, here. Luke 6 has, ‘Why do you call me Lord, Lord and not do what I tell you?’ And that’s all that it says. The remark is a probing question about potential hypocrisy. We get a distinct use of imagery in Luke 13; we get a story of a householder who refuses entry to those who ate and drank with him as he taught among them. The mere exposure to Jesus means nothing, even giving Jesus lip service means nothing; knowing Jesus and what he teaches is everything. Claiming to know him or laboring for him isn’t the same thing as knowing him. Knowing him is indicated by allegiance to him.
We come to the closing part of the sermon, the house built upon a rock. Those who hear the words of mine is like the man who built his house on a rock, dug deep and laid a foundation. The rains and flood and wind did not destroy the house, but those who hear and do not do are like the foolish man who built his house on the sand where the floods and winds caused the house to fall and great was its fall. The emphasis in this passage is the tragedy of having had the opportunity to hear and not respond. Look at where the passage ends by saying, ‘and the fall of it, the destruction of it was great.’ The sermon is saying that you have been given an opportunity, don’t stop here. Jesus refers to his teachings in ways the rabbis referred to the Law. That it is something that is built upon the rock. This is a radical claim to divulge authority, especially in light of the previous verses about calling me Lord and not doing what I say. Don’t be foolish; hear and do what I teach. These are stable words that prevent ruin. The crowd’s reaction to this sermon, they are astonished at Jesus’ teaching. This is with the same tone as that in Capernaum where it says that he taught with authority, and not like the Scribes. Verses 29 says, ‘he taught them like one having authority, not like the experts in the Law.’ So there is recognition of Jesus’ authority. Luke has a shorter version of the beatitudes, he doesn’t have the six anti-thesis, and he doesn’t discuss the religious practices relating to fasting, prayers and alms giving. In fact, nothing of Matthew 6 appears here. It is scattered throughout other portions of Luke’s Gospel. So Luke’s version is in three parts of the beatitudes and woes, of loving ones enemies and then a discussion on judging, fruit and how you respond to what Jesus is saying.
The Galilean Ministry
You can see the section that’s covered here. We are talking about Matthew 8:12-21, Luke 7:1-8:3 and Mark 3:19b-35. At this point, the story is returning to a treatment of Jesus’ ministry. The sequence of events varies between the Gospels; some that follow in Matthew have already been treated in Mark and Luke. Because of the things that are happening in this section, it is hard to do a harmony. Of the next four events in Matthew 8:1-17, three of them were treated in Mark and Luke: the cleansing of the leper, healing of Peter’s mother-in-law, and the healing of the sick in the evening. The only event not yet present in any of the Gospels is the event of the healing of the centurion in Matthew 8:5-13 which equal Luke 7:1-10 and possibly John 4:46-54. The last two events are part of the Capernaum ministry. The location of the leper’s event is left to Galilee in general, for these three events you can refer back to their earlier treatment. However, note that what Matthew details here is in effect, his first survey of Jesus’ Galilean ministry. So in Matthew, we get an introduction of Jesus coming into Galilee, he’s gathering crowds. The first thing that comes is the teaching unit of the Sermon on the Mount and then we get his activity. Interestingly, Luke does something similar; he has Jesus to come in and teach in the synagogue and we get his activity in Capernaum and eventually we get to the Sermon on the Plain.
Matthew 8 and 9 are a series of mostly miraculous material, part of the perikope (Greek – sections, act of cutting up or setting apart) out of the fourteen shown in these two chapters, of which deal with miracles. And that serves to underscore Jesus’ authority of which all the Gospels focus on as they present this material. These miracles are also the means by which Jesus starts to raise the question of who he is; this is by way of what he does. The scenes are important for this reason. Some events in these chapters in Matthew were treated earlier: the paralytic, the call of Levi and the question on fasting. In this section, issues of authority and controversy are being raised as Jesus reveals his power. So Matthew has the controversies coming in as he surveys the overview of the ministry as well. Finally, Matthew 8:1-17 is a series of four healing perikopes: lepers, centurion servant, Peter’s mother-in –law, and the demon-possessed people in the evening. Again, we have a kind of topical groupings. The healing of the centurion is important in that it involves a gentile whose faith is commended as exemplary in Israel. That healing appears in both Luke and Matthew; it’s told differently in the two Gospels. That the centurion was commended by Jews in Luke is lacking in Matthew; however in Matthew, the centurion has a conversation directly with Jesus. In Luke, Jewish emissaries are sent on behave of the centurion to make an appeal on behave of the centurion. This may explain in part why the event wasn’t seen as offensive, as is the Jewish emissaries went on behalf of the centurion rather than him going directly himself. Luke’s unique account of the widow’s son comes in the mitts of this messianic cluster. So, all of this is the background of the situation.
In the themes of Matthew 8 and 9, there are three triads of miracles built around these passages. There are three sets of miracles then intervening teaching, three sets of miracles then intervening teaching. The first triad deals with the fringe and the common and a new miracle involving the centurion healing. We have already looked at the elements of the first triad with regards to the healing of the leper, we have the centurion’s son, both of which we have looked at. The second triad is Jesus’ activity over creation, the elements, demons and sin. This is going to appeal in Luke 8:22-37 and last is the healing of the paralytic, then the teaching; so the order is reversed from what we see in Luke 5 and in Mark 2. Matthew’s calling and reaction of a fasting issue also comes in association with the second triad. The third triad is the double miracle: the healing of the woman with the hemorrhage and Lazarus’ daughter, the two blind men which is only in Matthew and the dumb man healed which is also only in Matthew. The teaching that follows, deals with compassion that Jesus had for the people without a shepherd. The healing focuses on those who are excluded: the leper, the gentile, the sick and the possessed. These groups were never given a lot of attention in Jesus’ day. Discipleship intervenes at times with the intervening teaching material that breaks up the triad. The first of Matthew’s teaching is what comes later in Luke 9:57-62; it’s teaching the disciples that Jesus is the first priority. Then there comes a call to missions in chapter 10 where he sends out a group of twelve to minister on his behave. Then there is the issue of Jesus’ authority which is the point of Matthew 11 and 12. Leading to a rejection that comes from the leadership which then helps to drive what happens in the remaining of Matthew. These themes are also paralleled in Luke 7:1-8:3. All of this represents the background for this section. Now, let’s look at some of those triads.
The First Triad
The first triad deals with the fringe and common people as already mentioned. It’s the leper, the gentile and Peter’s mother-in-law. We have already covered the leper and Peter’s mother-in-law so we will focus on the gentile in this passage. The focus in the healing of the centurion’s servant s is on the exemplary faith of this centurion. The passage ends with a note, unique to Matthew that many will come from the east and the west and many Jewish people be excluded in the end. The Old Testament is used as an explanation in Isaiah 53:4 where sin is reversed and compassion being made available. This actually ends the triad where it says, ‘he took our weaknesses and carried our diseases, talking about the ministry with the servant.
A closer look at the scene involving the centurion in Matthew 8:5; first, read the passage and think about what makes the centurion faith as exemplary. You’ll see by Jesus was so awed by this man’s faith. He understands that Jesus doesn’t have to be present physically in order for Jesus to affect something else. The second point: he understands authority. He also understands humility in considering that he wasn’t worthy. The centurion crosses ethnic boundaries. Jesus responds, ‘I haven’t seen such faith in Israel.’ Jesus closes it by saying, ‘I tell you, many will come from the east and west to share the banquet with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, but the sons of the kingdom will be thrown out into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Jesus is comparing the faith of the centurion with the Israelites. Now in Matthew, whenever there is the mention of weeping and gnashing of teeth, it is not good! It is judgement and when he talks about sons of the kingdom, he is talking about those for whom the kingdom was originally promised. He is saying, those who should have responded and didn’t are going to end up weeping and gnashing of teeth and who were seemingly on the outside, they will be in; that is the gentiles. ‘Then Jesus said to the centurion, go; just as you believed, it will be done for you. And the servant was healed at that hour.’ Interestingly, his faith leads to Jesus’ response. The elements of his faith were: Jesus can work from a distance, he understood authority, his humility shows that he submits to it and he was able to cross ethnic boundaries.
The first round of teaching the disciples now comes. This appears in the later part of Luke 9 as well. Mark saves discipleship until after we get an announcement of the cross which is after we get the confession of Peter at Caesarea, Philippi. So it comes much later. Jesus wants the disciples to know what they are in far at the beginning. Jesus draws them in and gets them saved and he informs them what they are to expect in following him. The first part is easy but the second step is difficult for anyone choosing to follow Jesus. So Jesus informs them from the beginning of what they should expect to face. There’s a commitment and nothing, not even family comes ahead of this. This point is made rhetorically and hyperbole Jesus wants his followers to know the cost, the priority points to the importance of the time and Jesus’ response here is not like the rabbis. Note that there’s a book called the Charismatic Leader by Martin Hingel, a German, who goes through this background in great detail. In Matthew, the first chooses him. The second the implication is that Jesus chose him so he has to wait and the third example is only in Luke. The two examples that we have in Matthew involve: teacher, I will follow you wherever you go. Jesus said to him, ‘foxes have dens, birds in the sky have their nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.’ You had better be ready to be somewhat homeless, to not have a receiving home, to follow Jesus. Another of the disciples said to him, ‘Lord let me first go and bury my father.’
Note, that in the Jewish world of that time, the family was the priority and within that priority, there was nothing more important than making sure you took care of your parents until they were dead and buried. This is not a random example. This is the highest familial priority he is asking to perform. And Jesus says with sensitivity, ‘follow me and let the dead bury their own dead.’ That’s harsh, direct, rhetorical response is saying, ‘perusing me is the priority,’ It’s a higher priority even than the highest family obligation. Jesus is not a rabbi in the formal sense of the term. He functions like a rabbi, but even more than a rabbi for those who are around him because he is a teacher. Those who were calling Jesus a rabbit, they saw that Jesus was functioning like a rabbi out of Judaism. They aren’t using it in the most technical sense of the term; they are using it functionally and recognized that he was acting out of the power of God. What the Christological content of their understanding is, I don’t think we know.
We have the storm, it is like divine authority. Who is able to control the sea? Only God! That is what the Psalms are telling us. There is also a hint in one text in one Psalm about the King having something to do with this kind of authority. However, the scene closes with a question to ponder. Part of what you need to appreciate about the way the Gospels are told, often times the key part of the unit comes toward the end. This is certainly the case in the stilling of the storm. ‘Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it was dead calm. In 8:26b-27 and the men were amazed and said what sort of person is this? Even the winds and the sea obey him!’ In terms of their perception, Jesus is rising up. This is one of those scenes where you realize something is not normal. Who could this possible be? If God controls the seas and Jesus is able to be in charge of the seas, then who is this that is among us? They’re thinking that this isn’t just a rabbi or just a prophet. He may not even be just the Messiah. They answer the question in their minds only.
There is a work by Eric Evie on Jesus’ miracles. He distinguishes between three kinds of miraculous works: one invokes numinous power and when this is invoked, it’s clear that you are not doing the work, someone else is. Another way in which numinous power is invoked is through various forms of incantations or rituals. In the gentile world, they would do it through some intermediate means or form of appeal. And then the third category was what he called direct numinous power. That means there was no petition, no intermediate means, it was done directly. Note that the vast majority of Jesus’ miracles were done here and the vast majority of other miracles are included in one of these two categories. Mark and Luke handle the stilling of the storm differently. There is first the stilling of the storm, we get the healing of the demonic, there is the healing of the woman with the hemorrhage and then we get the raising of Lazarus’ daughter. These are threats to life and well-being starting from the outside and working inward. This is a sequence that depicts comprehensive authority that is illustrated by Creation, spiritual forces, disease, and death. If you run across this when studying in a Gospel, study the whole unit at one time. As a side line, we have people who were able to manipulate the weather: Moses and Elijah. They are the two miracle workers in the Old Testament. In regards to how they did it, there’s an interesting passage in Exodus 7:1. The Lord said to Moses, ‘I will make you like God to Pharaoh.’ Other translations read, it may be added in italics: ‘I will make you God to Pharaoh.’ The word ‘like’ is not there. Thus, when Jesus is doing these things, he is not like God but he is God. Jesus is exercising divine like authority. The next scene is the demonic.
This is Matthew’s first exorcism of which there are two. This is one of three times in which Matthew has this. In Mark and Luke, it involves a legion of demons along with swine in a gentile area. Rejection is found in the face of God’s work. The person is crazy with being demon processed and then they are cast out and go into the swine which then runs over a cliff into the sea. Then the people of the city come out and asked them to leave. They become very fearful. Even though God is acting as something unusual is happening, they want nothing to do with it.
The next passage deals with the paralytic and authority. Notice what this triad does; as already stated, it has authority over creation, demons and over sin. It’s another kind of comprehensive authority but distinct from what is in Mark and Luke where the calming of the storm appears. We get the storm, the demons, disease and death. Here, we get the storm, demons and sin. They are both doing the same thing with different lists. The teaching that Jesus has for sinners, follows this. There is the teaching on fasting that God is bringing something new. The authority claim is tied to the claim for newness. Remember that Mark and Luke had the miracle sequence of the storm, the demonic, the woman with the hemorrhage, and the raising of Lazarus’ daughter. That list is over creation, over the demon, over disease and over death. This list is over creation, over the demons, and over sin. But both lists deal with the comprehensive scope of Jesus’ authority. Death and disease is not in Mark and Luke’s list in their sequence with the storm and sin is not in the list Mark and Luke’s show. (Here, in answer to a student’s question, the lecturer responds that the fallen world is a product of sin.) So there are two sets of lists covering a comprehensive authority. We need to let each list speak for itself.
The Third Triad
The third triad pictures a ministry of compassion. We see Jesus interacting with the woman and Jairus in Matthew 9:18-26. Faith is the focus here, whether a weak faith or a faith that requires patience. This is an interesting event; we have this woman whose faith exists but very weak and Jesus brings it out of her. Imagine how she felt when Jesus stopped and said, ‘someone touched me.’ Peter was somewhat amazed as this, as there were people crowded around him. For the, would be preacher, this story can be told from a variety of angles or viewpoints: from the viewpoint of the woman, from the viewpoint of Peter, or you could tell it from Jairus’ perspective. For Jairus, whose mind is on his daughter who has already died and then Jesus stops to deal with a woman! How would Jairus be feeling or thinking about this woman? For Jairus, his faith needed patience. ‘When Jesus entered the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the disorderly crowd, he said, go away, for the girl is not dead but asleep. He went in and gently took her by the hand, and the girl got up.’ This passage is about the juxtaposition about these two kinds of faith. Each of them learns something about faith in this experience with Jesus. The woman realizes that her faith needs to be stronger.
Interestingly, Jesus honors the faith that she does have. And Jairus’ faith needs patience, trusting in the Lord’s timing. Look at the parallel here. In Matthew 9:18, ‘My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her and she will live.’ In Mark 5:23, ‘My little daughter is near death. Come and lay your hands on her so that she may be healed and live.’ In 5:35 we get the news, ‘your daughter has died, why trouble the teacher any longer?’ In Luke 8:41, ‘Then a man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue, came up, falling at Jesus’ feet, he pleaded with him to come to this house, because he had an only daughter, about twelve years old, and she was dying.’ And in 8:49, ‘your daughter is dead; do not trouble the teacher any longer.’ As Matthew often does, he has simplified it or shortened it. By the time they get to where Jesus deals with the daughter, she’s dead. This is how Matthew frames the story. The more detailed account comes in Mark and Luke.
At the end of the passage in Mark 5:43, ‘he strictly ordered that no one should know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.’ In Luke 8:56, ‘her parents were astonished, but he orders them to tell no one what had happened.’ Why did Jesus say this? People know that she is dead as there are mourners outside the house, yet Jesus doesn’t want them to say anything about what he did. Jesus doesn’t want to the focus of his ministry strictly on his miracle here. He doesn’t want to be known as simply a miracle worker; therefore he tries to play down the event, even though it is obvious what took place. Thus, we see a hesitation, in the Gospel by Jesus, of people just coming to him because he performs miracles. When the disciples confess Christ, he warns them not to tell others, because they don’t completely understand the kind of Messiah he’s going to be. They can talk about the coming of the Kingdom but Jesus doesn’t want them to talk about him yet.
The Two Blind Men
Then in Matthew 9:27, Jesus interacts with two blind men. They call out for the Son of David to heal them, but how did they know it was Jesus and that he was the Son of David? There is a tradition in Judaism that Solomon was so wise that he was able to give formula for exorcisms, etc. It’s not sure whether this is happening here or not. Then we have the dumb, the guy who can’t speak, but he understands that he can come to Jesus for healing and then we have the Pharisees who can talk about what God is doing, but yet don’t understand what Jesus is doing as they render a negative judgement, ‘by the ruler of demons he casts out demons.’ This is a certain apologetic category, ‘he is either a liar, a lunatic, or he is Lord.’ This is the way Scripture sets it up. In the passage with Luke, he adds, ‘it can’t be of the devil or Beelzebub, because his house would be divided and a house divided, can’t stand. But if I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.’ Jesus sees that the people are without a shepherd as also mentioned in Ezekiel 34 where God rebukes the leaders of Israel for not shepherding his people, so he promises that he will be their shepherd and he will send one to shepherd them at the same time. God and David will be their shepherd; the one who is sent to shepherd is called David. This is part of where the Davidic Son of David comes from.
Missions and Jesus Answers John
In Matthew 9:35, we get the picture of mission, the twelve in Israel and service in the face of opposition. And in chapter 10, we get the Kingdom as being the message. Jesus called the disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits so that they could cast them out and heal every kind of sickness and disease. We get the naming of the twelve he sends out, instructing them not to go to the gentile regions or any Samaritan town, but go to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. So for now, the ministry is restricted to the Nation of Israel. The opposition can be faced; God knows the reaction of others and Jesus will vindicate them. So he predicts the persecution of the disciples in verse 16; I’m sending you out like sheep surrounded by wolves so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Jesus says that they will be brought before governors and kings and the gentiles. In verse 20, he says that the Spirit of the Father will speak through them. Families will be divided and you will be hated because of my name but whoever receives you will receive me and they will receive a prophet’s reward. And in the mist of his, John the Baptist is in trouble. He preached the coming of the Eschaton which he expected to be the vindication of the righteous. And the righteous is being vindicated as he has been locked up in prison. John wants to know what is happening; so he sends some messengers to ask (11:3), ‘are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another?’ The answer is, ‘the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news proclaimed to them. Blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me, Jesus says.’
There are a couple of important points here: the blind see; a miracle that was never performed in the Old Testament. The idea of lepers being cleansed has no Old Testament preference for that part of the passage. However, most of the passage comes from Isaiah where passages are describing what God will do in the Eschaton. ‘So, are you the one to come or not?’ The answer is, look at the nature of the time. Look at what is happening and look at what the Scripture says at the time these things are happening. Jesus doesn’t answer yes or no but look at what’s happening; and we get the promises like in Isaiah 29, 35, 42, 26:61 etc. John is compared to the figure in Malachi 3:1 and the image of Exodus 23:20, the one who goes before and then we get a discussion of the new era. Listen to this in 11:11, ‘I tell you truth, among those born of women, no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist.’ Jesus says that he is there at the top. ‘Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he is.’ Jesus reveals to us the difference between the two eras and John the Baptist represents an end of an era, an end of the era of promise. The coming of Jesus and the Kingdom he brings represents the arrival of a new era, the arrival of the promise. In order to participate in the promise is better than to look forward to the promise. The kingdom comes despite the violence or despite the opposition that it faces. And John is Elijah. The new era is supposed to come with an Elijah figure and John is that figure. That’s why in Luke 1:17, it says that he came in the spirit of Elijah and Luke talks about the different reactions of the Pharisees and the people to John the Baptist. The Pharisees rejected him, the tax collectors and sinners embraced him.
The Naughty Children and the Yoke of Jesus
And then we get the parable of naughty children in 11:16. ‘To what should I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces who call out to one another, we played the flute for you, yet you did not dance or wailed in mourning, yet you did not weep.’ You are not playing the game the way we want, they are saying, so we don’t want to play with you. John came neither eating nor drinking and they said that he had a demon. The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said, ‘look at him, a gulden and a drunk.’ God sends a messenger in two forms and neither one satisfies you. You complain about both forms, but the passage ends by, ‘but wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.’ Here is rejection and invitation, side by side. There are woes to Chorazin, Capernaum and Bethsaida. If what had been done for you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Like the Old Testament prophets, these cities stand condemned and they are being condemned by some of the notorious Old Testament cities. Sodom is also in that list. Jesus’ invitation, on the other hand, ‘I praise you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and revealed them to little children. Yes Father, for this was your gracious will.’ And we have something that is similar to what’s in the Gospel of John, ‘all things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son decides to reveal him. This is the inseparable relationship between the Father and the Son. This sounds like the Gospel of John. And so the invitation, ‘come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.’ So come to the person of Jesus, embrace him, and get to know him. Take what he offers. The authority is delivered to the Son, you are to come and rest and take on the yoke that Jesus has because it is lite and learned. The image of the yoke; wisdom was sometimes called in Judaism, a good yoke. It was viewed like honey; it was sweet to the taste. So this idea could be in the background. So Jesus and his teachings stand at the core of these texts. So in this invitation to learn is Jesus’ activity on the Sabbath that produces a reaction. Did they learn? No.
Controversies and Beelzebub
Note that Jesus goes and tries to lift the burdens of the Sabbath and what did they complain about? Not about the burdens being lifted from them but they complained that he did this on the Sabbath. The Sabbath controversies become like a last straw and Matthew 12 is full of controversy. What is unique here; it is the picture of spirit anointed servants who proclaim justice to the gentiles and this point contrasts with Israel’s rejection. So we get this long citation of Isaiah in the middle of the chapter (verses 18-21). It talks about the servant who God has chosen, has come. God’s spirit is placed upon him and he proclaims justice to the nations. The nations in this passage ends up being the gentiles nations as this is confirms in verse 21, ‘and in his name the Gentiles will hope.’ The next scene involves the Beelzebub controversy where in verse 28, the point is made, ‘but if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God has already overtaken you.’ We’ve already discussed this. Here is a reference in regards to the sign of Jonah being three days in the whale and then the difficult passage on the return of the unclean spirit.
The return of the unclean spirit is a strange passage. When it leaves a person, it looks for another place but can’t find it. So it returns to the person it was in and finds that person, more or less, hollow inside. It goes and collects others to live in the person with him. So, there was an exorcism. How do people react? If they don’t do anything and leave their minds empty; they don’t respond to the Gospel, the Word of God, then the very forces that were extracted come back, more powerful than before. It’s worse to have been exposed to the truth and not appreciate it, than it is to encounter the truth for the first time. Thus Israel has not responded to Jesus’ invitation and what will happen? In Mark and Luke, we have the anointed by the simple woman which underscored the appreciation of God’s offer of grace. The women’s senses God’s forgiveness and cleansed. From the parable Jesus tells about the person given the most money, which of them will love him more; the one who has been forgiven the most. The assumption is the person appreciates forgiveness and the reaction comes out of the forgiveness. There is also another point; if you don’t have an appreciation of what God has done, you may not have an appreciation for what God has forgiven. People who are in cruise control (satisfied with life and without any concerns) may not really appreciate how much God has forgiven them. The problem with the Pharisee, he thought he was forgiven little so he didn’t think he owed God very much. For the simple women response, she knew she owed God everything.
In 8:1-3, Luke notes the support of Jesus and Mark talks about the family effort to protect Jesus because people are rejecting him and they think Jesus might be beside himself (unaware of these things). These controversies have led to his rejection and this is the earliest note of Beelzebub charge in Mark, along with the reference to the blasphemy of the Spirit which is called the eternal sin. Of all the passages in the Gospel, Mark has the clearest presentation of what blasphemy of the Spirit is. Luke, Chapter 3:28-29, ‘I tell you the truth, people will be forgiven for all sins, even all the blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, but is guilty of an eternal sin.’ Jesus said this because the experts in the law said that he had an unclean spirit. What is the unclean spirit? It is to judge and say that Jesus has not come from God! It is rejecting the testimony that the Spirit has attached to the person and work of Jesus Christ. There is more controversy that leads to the Son of David speculation in Matthew 12:23 as we come to the end of the unit, ‘could this one be the Son of David?’ When the Pharisees heard this, they immediately wanted to cast doubt with the Beelzebub charge. Notice something else about this scene in 12:22, ‘then they brought to him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute. Jesus healed him so that he could speak and see.’ This is an incredible miracle told in one verse. In most miracle stories we get an image of the setting, an exchange or request for healing, Jesus does something and the crowd reacts. The Gerasene demoniac takes up Mark 5:1-20; it covers twenty verses. This is a reversal of a normal miracle story in which the miracle is told in one verse and the reaction is the remainder of the unit.
This passage not only illustrates its importance, but it summarizes miracles as a whole and exorcisms as a whole. It is a huge commentary of Jesus’ miraculous ministry as a whole, and so the climactic remark, ‘if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God and the Kingdom of God has already overtaken you,’ is talking about what Jesus is doing as a whole. And he images it with a parable. How else can someone enter a strong man’s house and steal his property unless he first ties up the strongman? How is Jesus able to do this? He must be tying up the strong man who has people oppressed and confined and who binds people. Look at Luke 4, ‘He’s come to liberate the oppressed.’ So there’s a warning about rejecting the testimony of Jesus and his miracles. Mark calls this rejection an eternal sin. Then there is a discussion about trees bearing good fruit and then a reference to the sign of Jonah. Then the unclean spirit we talked about.
The chapter ends with Jesus talking about his true family. In 12:46, ‘while Jesus was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and brothers came and stood outside, asking to speak to him. Someone told him, look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside wanting to speak to you. To the one who had said this, Jesus replied, who is my mother and who are my brothers? And pointing toward his disciples he said, here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’ His family is more than just biology. Jesus’ true family is whoever does the will of his Father. Jesus speaks about, ‘my Father in heaven.’ In Matthew, it comes in the context of controversy; in Mark, it comes in context of Jesus being beside himself. In Luke, it comes in the context of telling kingdom parables. In summarizing this section, there is a claim to restore and bring the new era. This is supporting by miracles of authority and claims of authority extending to Satan, sin and the Sabbath. That is a three some! The audience extends to the fringes of society, the authority resides in the Son of Man, the opposition emerges but so does the mission; Jesus constantly warns and challenges about a response so people can’t say that they didn’t have the opportunity to respond. He’s constantly warning about the importance of the decision, again and again and again. In the controversy accounts are important keys to authenticity while the miracles are authoritative.
Jesus According to Scripture
Each of the synoptic Gospels discusses the Kingdom parable. The fundamental character of Jesus’ ministry is evident. These words are supported by evidence of miraculous deeds. These deeds are to be neither focused on nor promoted as the main point of his ministry. They are rather a picture of the restoration he seeks to bring. Jesus has proclaimed a fulfillment of promise and of Law and his message. He is the one with authority to forgive sin and determine what is right on the Sabbath. He also seeks to reach out to the lost and those who know their needs. He comes to challenge the ravages of sin and Satan on the earth. His ministry reaches out to those on the fringe of society. He calls the nation to repent and turn back to God. His ethical calls that relate to God involves extending love even to outsiders and enemies as well as examining a person’s own walk with God, looking especially to attitudes on the inside. These claims are focused on a figure that he refers to as ‘Son of Man,’ by way of self-description. He is God’s commissioned representative for humanity. This authority represents the approach and arrival of God’s rule; something he will discuss in even more detail as the ministry moves ahead.
The issues of authority that Jesus raises suggest that the way the current leadership of the way Jews interacts with God is inadequate. This view has raised a strong opposition to him. So Jesus calls a group of disciples to himself and has them engage in mission, knowing full well that they too will face opposition. He prepares them for it in his teaching and stresses that an alliance with him will cost them as much as it has cost him. In considering the authenticity of Jesus’ ministry, crucial studies often work one event at a time, operating unit by unit in detail. Such close examination of the details of the text is appropriate and has its place, but often the effect of such study is to divide and conquer. Look at each event as a separate piece and don’t connect it to what comes before or after it, so I lose the story in the process. Losing the story is what I mean by divide and conquer. By cutting the ministry of Jesus up into micro bits, the critic can lose a sense of the whole and by means of the separation make claims about a lack of credibility in the little portions that are left in isolation from one another. In contrast, when one looks at Jesus’ ministry as a whole and sees the interlacing and overlapping between the parts as the synoptic Gospels present them, a credible story of his ministry emerges. His challenge to the leadership did give rise to intense opposition, of which might become a formable opponent and threat to life. Anyone tied to Jesus will be associated with the cause and evaluated in a similar way as the teacher. After all, Jesus has challenged the Jewish leadership in a direct call for repentance, has formed a server critique of the leaders own way of walking with God. Jesus presented a real threat to the Jewish leaders’ authority.
When the student works with this general portrait in the way the major themes are woven into every level of the synoptic Gospels, a solid case emerges for the credibility of the Gospel portrait of Jesus’ ministry and the reaction his ministry produced. The general class of dispute text is mutably attested. In other words, it’s in all the layers of the tradition. It’s in the tradition of Mark and in ‘Q’, ‘M’ and also ‘L’, the materials unique to Matthew and the material unique to Luke. It’s at all levels; it’s distributed across all aspects that talk about Jesus. If it’s that widely distributed, it’s a good reason to believe it authentic. Yet this type of passage comes with similarities and distinctiveness in terms of those Jewish practices and later church practices showing it to be a set of transitional events. If these disputes are real then the portrait reaction to them is a natural consequence of such challenges, as are the words about opposition to the disciples. In other words, the character of Jesus’ ministry as the synoptic Gospels set it out makes cultural sense for the 1st century once the reader sees that these disputes are rooted in history. Thus the controversy accounts are important as historical sources and as a historical base from, in which to appreciate the confrontation that Jesus’ ministry produces with Judaism. So if you can make sense out of the controversy account, you can learn a lot about what Jesus is doing in his ministry.
Obviously, there are world view issues which are wrapped up into how the miracles are associated with some of these disputes. Yet, the historical record, even of Jesus’ opponents shows that they did not doubt his powers, only their source. Thus, these ancient sources both Christian and non-Christian do not leave us an explanation, one that skeptical readers would like to provide. The miracles are key and manifestly authentic merely reflecting a premodern embrace of the supernatural and the miraculous which history cannot affirm. The text doesn’t support that they are simply a fabrication motivated by enthusiasm to exalt Jesus. My response would be that these ministry miracles, though controversial and significant are supportive of a more central element in the tradition, namely these controversies. In other words, first you have the controversies and then the miracles inter into the controversy passages. The controversies and the issues that raise, not the miracles as such, are a bone of contention. Because these disputes spotlighted the issues of whose way and authority spoke for the hope of Israel and of God. After all, it was not the miracles of Mark 1 and 3 that brought controversy, but the claims of forgiveness associated with one particular healing. It is these controversies that demand the careful attention of anyone who seeks to study and understand Jesus’ ministry, historically. The miracles, though important, only enhance the issues these disputes reflect. Interestingly, even the synoptic tradition moves in this direction as Jesus is repeatedly careful to make sure that the miracles don’t get too much attention. This is not the early church creating legendary material to exalt Jesus, because the synoptic presentation of the miracles often down play these events in their promotion. But once the miracles are given their proper place in the traditions, it is then that the real issues of Jesus’ ministry surface. Jesus claimed to have authority; the miracles served to underscore that claim, the issue explains why the leadership later will raise the question directly to Jesus, ‘where did you get the authority to say and do these things?’ But put in another way, ‘who gave you the right to challenge us?’ In other words, does God’s rule and way come in a faith that Jesus advocated with the focus on him as the representative of human kind and Son of Man, or was the hope rooted in tradition as the Jewish leadership argued?
To gather further insight into this dispute and the issue of opposition and rejection that could be explained as a part of God’s plan, the reader’s attention must now turn to how Jesus explained God’s Kingdom program. What moved the disciples to confess Jesus as the Christ and the Son of God is the topic and focus of the chapter. That’s where we are going. So we have laid a foundation that says if you understand the controversies and raising the opposition, you will understand how the miracles support the controversies. They are not the key; they are rather the signs and indicators about the controversies. And if you begin to see the reaction, you can begin to see what’s at stake because Jesus is claiming through his authority that God is ruling and is active in the world. That’s the challenge of Jesus’ message and that’s what he’s calling Israel to believe. And that’s what the leadership is having trouble believing. They think he is misleading the people and them, not actually revealing the way to God. And so the question becomes, what does Jesus have in mind when he talks about the Kingdom of God?