MATTHEW

Michael G. Vanlaningham

INTRODUCTION

Author. The Gospel of Matthew is an anonymous work, but ancient church tradition universally supports Matthean authorship of this Gospel. Papias (early second-century church leader from what is now Turkey, though he is dependent upon an earlier source), Pantaenus (c. AD 200, theologian who taught in Alexandria), Tertullian (d. c. AD 160–220, apologist from northeast Africa), Irenaeus (d. c. AD 202, church leader from Western Europe), Origen (c. AD 185–254, a scholar who died in Caesarea by the Sea), Eusebius (c. AD 263–339, a church leader and "father of church history" from Caesarea by the Sea), Jerome (c. AD 347–420, a priest and scholar from southeastern Europe), and Augustine (AD 354–430, a scholar from North Africa who also lived in Rome and Milan) say so. A major concern is the "Papias Fragment" in which he made the cryptic statement, "Matthew put together the oracles of the Lord in the Hebrew language." (Similar statements are made by Pantaenus, Irenaeus, and Origen, but they may depend upon Papias’s comments). No consensus exists regarding what this statement means, but Matthew gives little evidence of being translated from a Semitic language into Greek. It may mean that Matthew wrote sayings of Jesus in Hebrew or Aramaic and later incorporated them into the Greek Gospel of Matthew (for the details on this view, cf. Daniel B. Wallace, "Matthew: Introduction, Argument, and Outline," at http://bible.org/seriespage/matthew-introduction-argument-and-outline, accessed September 8, 2009). It is also possible that Papias was wrong regarding an initial Semitic work by Matthew, and that Matthew wrote in Greek the gospel extant today. The key is to recognize that these ancient writers ascribe to Matthew some sort of work about Jesus’ life.

Recipients. Nothing is known of the recipients of the gospel. The best suggestions range from Jewish believers still engaged with, or who had broken from, the synagogue system in Capernaum, Caesarea by the Sea, or Syrian Antioch. Because of the strongly Jewish flavor of the book, it is unlikely that it was written primarily to Gentiles. There was a vibrant Jewish and Gentile Christian community in Antioch, one that took seriously the urgency of the Great Commission. It is possible that Matthew wrote his gospel with this group in mind, but there is no way to know for sure.

Date. Matthew’s gospel is dated by most scholars as coming from the late first century, partly on the assumption that it depends on Mark’s gospel for much of its contents (see the "Excursus" below), and therefore had to be written after Mark. It is possible that Matthew wrote after the fall of Jerusalem (Mt 22:7; 24:1). His references to the Church (16:18; 18:17), to the other nation that will possess the kingdom (21:43), and his refined Christology are sometimes invoked as support for a late date of Matthew. But there is a great deal of evidence in Matthew that supports a pre-70 date (on AD 70, see the comments introducing Matthew 24). He referred often to the Sadducees (3:7; 16:1–12; 22:23, 34), although they fade from significance after AD 70. Jerusalem was the center of Jewish opposition to the movement Jesus started, but after 70 that center shifted to Jamnia (western Israel). The destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 did not come about in the manner presented in Mt 24, making it likely that it was written before that war. Matthew recorded Jesus as enjoining, "leave your offering there before the altar" (5:23–24), which he probably would not have done if no altar remained after AD 70. A similar point could be made related to swearing "by the gold of the temple" (23:16–22) and paying the temple tax (17:24–27) if the temple had been destroyed. These observations are not absolutely conclusive, but taken together support the likelihood that Matthew was written before AD 70, perhaps between the early 40s to mid 60s. For the evidence for a pre-70 composition of Matthew, see Robert H. Gundry, Matthew, 1982, 602–6.

Purpose. It would have been helpful if Matthew wrote, "I’m writing this book for this reason: …" But he did not, and the gospel is complex enough that it is folly to suggest a single purpose for it. The purpose of Matthew’s gospel appears to be at least partially apologetic. He seems to build a case for Jesus of Nazareth being the One who fulfilled the OT prophecies about the Messiah, the Son of David, King of the Jews, Immanuel, and the King of the world. Matthew also wrote to explain why the Jewish Messiah was rejected by the Jewish leadership and crucified by the Romans. The "mystery form" of the kingdom (chap. 13) may have been presented by Matthew to explain why the kingdom had not yet come in its fullest form, even though the King had been present. These themes may have been intended by the evangelist to help his messianic community interact intelligently with antagonistic members of the "synagogue down the street." That Gentiles are presented favorably (especially 2:1; 15:21; 28:18–20) is often cited by scholars who maintain that Matthew’s purpose was to motivate his audience, primarily Jewish believers, to begin to fulfill the Great Commission. Finally, Matthew’s gospel contains a considerable amount of instruction both on what it means to be a follower ("disciple") of Jesus, and the consequences of not embracing Him as King of kings.

Excursus: Gospel Critical Studies

Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called "the Synoptic Gospels" since they present a similar narrative on Jesus’ life ("synoptic" is derived from a Greek term that means "sharing or presenting a common view"). The Synoptic Gospels have a remarkable agreement on wording, content, and order of events. This agreement has puzzled scholars for centuries, and how to account for it forms the basis of what is called the "Synoptic Problem" or "Gospel Critical Studies." Three related disciplines have developed in an attempt to account for the similarities between the Synoptic Gospels: Source criticism, Form criticism, and Redaction criticism.

Source Criticism. This discipline attempts to determine the relationship between the Synoptic Gospels by identifying the written traditions that lie behind them. Source critics seek to determine what information the gospel writers received from the church, and what those individual writers may have added to what they received to fit their editorial, theological, and practical purposes. Gospel critical scholars look at the similarities between the Gospels and conclude that the agreements stem from some kind of literary dependence between them. Matthew, Mark, and Luke have considerable overlap (e.g., Mt 12:9–14 // Mk 3:1–6 // Lk 6:6–11). Most argue that Mark was the Gospel written first, and that Matthew and Luke utilized Mark when they wrote their own gospels. Hence there are similarities between all three. Sometimes, however, Matthew and Luke agree in wording that is not contained in Mark (e.g., Mt 13:16–17 // Lk 10:23–24). To account for these agreements between Matthew and Luke against Mark, source critics postulate that there was another source besides Mark that Matthew and Luke both used. That source is called "Q" (an abbreviation for the German term Quelle, "source"), and is theorized to have been a list of sayings by Jesus. However, there is no extant Q. It is a hypothetical source proposed by scholars to explain Matthew and Luke’s agreements against Mark. The proposed dependence of Matthew and Luke upon Mark and Q is called "The Two-Source Theory." But sometimes Matthew and Luke contain material unique to their own gospels (for Matthew, see 19:10–12; for Luke, see 17:27–30). In these cases, scholars hypothesize that Matthew used a source (or many sources) unique to him, called the "M" source(s) not shared by Luke, and Luke’s unique content is derived from a hypothetical source called "L." The proposal that Matthew and Luke used Mark, Q, M, and L, is called "The Four-Source Theory." Many recent source critics reject the idea of the Four-Source Theory, though it was popular during the first quarter of the 20th century.

Source criticism can help one see the similarities between the Gospels and may give an indication of the individual emphasis of each gospel writer. Many evangelical scholars adopt the assumptions and engage in the practice of source criticism. But in the hands of more critical scholars, source criticism tends to diminish the credibility of Matthew, Mark, and Luke as independent witnesses and historians. The Two-Source Theory has come under attack for being illogical. For example, as it was mentioned above, source critics assert that Mark was written before Matthew and Luke, and that Matthew and Luke depend on Mark. They also point out (rightly) that Luke agrees with Mark’s order of events when Matthew departs from Mark’s order, and Matthew agrees with Mark’s order when Luke departs from it. Thus, they argue, Mark was written first. But it is possible that Mark’s gospel was written after Matthew and Luke, and depended upon both. When Matthew and Luke departed from each other, Mark may have chosen on one occasion to follow Matthew, on another to follow Luke. In addition, the fact that the Two-Source Theory requires an as-yet undiscovered hypothetical source called Q renders it hard (not impossible) to believe.

Form Criticism. This discipline seeks to determine the shape and content of oral traditions that circulated in the early church before they were written down. One of the goals of form critics is to provide a description of what the early church was like based upon what they believe can be determined about it from the oral traditions used by the gospel writers. Form criticism also seeks to categorize the kinds of features found in the Gospels, labeling some of its contents as "logia" (proverbial, prophetic, or "I am" sayings of Jesus in which He makes some statement of His identity), "pronouncement stories" (a short narrative that climaxes in Jesus making a profound statement on some topic), "parables," and "miracle stories" (stories that include supernatural acts by Jesus). As an example of the methodology of form critics, they will look at a "miracle story" and postulate that the early church formulated this story to help it compete with miracle-working characters in Greco-Roman religions called theios aner.

Form criticism is grounded in several assumptions. First, the Gospels were not the work of one person. The stories in the Gospels evolved as they circulated throughout Christian communities, who adjusted them and embellished them to meet their own situational needs. Second, the stories about Jesus circulated for at least 20 years in oral form and in independent units. These units were retained or discarded based upon their helpfulness for the localized church. Third, Mark and Q (and perhaps M and L as well) were the first written records of these diverse oral traditions. Matthew and Luke depend upon these two (or four) sources. Fourth, the sayings of Jesus are authentic only if they differ from the kinds of things said either in early (intertestamental) Judaism or in the early church, if they have multiple independent sources that attest to their authenticity, and if the sayings fit well with other sayings thought to be authentic.

There are numerous dangers with form criticism. First, because it assumes the validity of the Two- (or Four-) Source Theory, it inherits the weaknesses of that approach to the Synoptic Gospels. Second, the more radical forms of Form Criticism (i.e., as espoused and practiced by non-evangelicals) tend to de-historicize Jesus and make Him an invention of the early church. Critical scholars say that the picture of Jesus in the Gospels largely does not square with the Jesus "of history." Third, form criticism denies the presence of eyewitnesses and the biographical interest of the early church. If stories and sayings were fabricated and circulated in Christian communities, eyewitnesses to the events may well have challenged the validity of those inventions. Even Paul was careful to distinguish between what Jesus taught about divorce and what he taught (1Co 7:10, 12). If the more radical form critics are right, Paul would never have made such a distinction. Finally, so little is known about the first 30 years of the early church that the assumptions and conclusions of form critics rest upon speculation and subjective opinions.

Redaction Criticism. "Redaction" is drawn from the German term Redakteur, which means "editor." Redaction criticism is the discipline that seeks to discover the editorial emphasis of each gospel writer. This emphasis is discerned by seeing how a writer adjusted the contents of the stories and sayings he received from the church, and how he arranged them into his larger narrative framework. Rather than seeking to determine how the contents of the Gospels were shaped by the early church (one of the goals of form criticism), redaction criticism seeks to determine the distinctive contributions by Matthew, Mark, and Luke by noting their differences from each other.

For example, Matthew arranges Jesus’ temptations in this order: bread, pinnacle of the temple, worship Satan (Mt 4:1–11). Luke’s order is bread, worship Satan, pinnacle of the temple (Lk 4:1–13). Why this change in the order? Matthew probably gives the more strictly chronological account (see his temporal marker "then" in Mt 4:5), and Luke has chosen to order the temptations to fit his emphasis on the temple. His gospel begins with the temple (Lk 1:8) and ends with the temple (Lk 24:53) and generally gives the temple a more prominent place than Matthew or Mark do.

Redaction criticism may have more to offer than source or form criticism, for it is demonstrable that one gospel writer draws attention to certain things that are not emphasized by the others, and vice versa. But it is better to say that their editorial work highlighted certain aspects of events that really happened, rather than to say that they adjusted the information they received from the church to fit their own theological purposes. For example, Matthew notes the exception clause regarding divorce because of adultery (Mt 19:9; see the comments there), a clause absent from Mark (Mk 10:11) and Luke (Lk 16:18) (see the comments there). Rather than say that Matthew added this material, or "changed Mark" (a phrase seen often in the commentaries of Two-Source scholars), it is preferable to maintain that Jesus really said "except for adultery," and to propose why Matthew included it to suit his purposes, and why Mark and Luke omitted it to suit theirs.

There are several dangers associated with the more radical and critical approaches to redaction criticism (drawn from Robert L. Thomas, "Redaction Criticism," The Jesus Crisis, 255–57). First, it inherits the weaknesses of the Two- and Four-Source Theories upon which it depends. Second, redaction criticism does not deal adequately with its chronological, evidential, and ethical questions. Chronologically, redaction critics maintain that the tradition about Jesus circulated through and was formed by the early church (Form Criticism), but that after this it was fashioned and shaped by the Evangelists—all in a span of 30–40 years. In a day when communications moved slowly, this is nigh unto impossible. Evidentially, form criticism does not deal adequately with the fact that there were eyewitnesses still alive whose word would challenge the "artistry" of the Evangelists. Ethically, the more radical redaction critics maintain that the Evangelists ascribed words and deeds to Jesus that did not originate with Him. Christianity is the mother of high morality and makes it somewhat unlikely that the writers would have done this.

So how does one account for the similarities and differences in the Gospels? The similarities are explained by recognizing that Jesus was an itinerant teacher. It was common for Jewish itinerant teachers to present much of the same material in the various places where they traveled. If Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount once, He probably gave it a dozen times in various locations to various crowds. The disciples, of course, would have heard it almost every time. When they wrote their Gospels as eyewitnesses (Matthew) or as church historians using primary sources (Mark and Luke), there would understandably be considerable similarity in the words they ascribed to Jesus. The differences in wording can be accounted for as they individually emphasized certain things Jesus said in any one setting. What He taught about divorce (Mt 19:3–12) can be read slowly in about 60 seconds. But He almost certainly took considerably longer to interact with the Pharisees, and later His disciples, on the topic. Matthew thus chose to emphasize one aspect of that much longer discussion, Mark and Luke others. The differences in the order or location of events can also be explained by Jesus’ travels. In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus taught the Lord’s Prayer (Mt 6:9–13) in Galilee early in His ministry (cf. Mt 4:23), but Luke (Lk 11:2–4) places it during Jesus’ trek from Galilee to Jerusalem much later, perhaps in Samaria (cf. Lk 9:51–52), possibly even in Bethany in the vicinity of Jerusalem (Lk 10:38–42, if Mary and Martha are the sisters from Bethany—a fair assumption). So which is it? Did Jesus teach the Lord’s Prayer in Galilee or much further south? Critical scholars maintain that this difference in location signals historical inaccuracies in the Synoptic Gospels. But as an itinerant teacher, He probably taught about prayer in both Galilee (the episode Matthew records) and elsewhere (Luke’s episode), just as any good traveling preacher does today, and did in Jesus’ day.

For evangelical discussions sympathetic to source, form, and redaction criticism, cf. the articles by Scot McKnight, Darrell L. Bock, and Grant R. Osborne, respectively, in New Testament Criticism and Interpretation, ed. David Alan Black and David S. Dockery (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1991). For an interesting interaction between evangelicals who differ on these disciplines, see Robert L. Thomas, ed., Three Views on the Origins of the Synoptic Gospels (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2002). For a capable critique of Gospel critical studies, see Robert L. Thomas and F. David Farnell, eds., The Jesus Crisis: The Inroads of Historical Criticism Into Evangelical Scholarship (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1998), and Eta Linnemann, Is There a Synoptic Problem? Rethinking the Literary Dependence of the First Three Gospels, trans. Robert W. Yarbrough (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1992).

OUTLINE

I. The Introduction to the King-Messiah (1:1–4:11)

A. The King-Messiah’s Background (1:1–3:12)

1. The Messiah’s Ancestry (1:1–17)

2. The Messiah’s Birth (1:18–25)

3. The Messiah’s Fulfillment of the OT (2:1–23)

a. The Birth in Bethlehem (2:1–12)

b. The Flight to Egypt (2:13–15)

c. The Murder of Babies (2:16–18)

d. The Disdain Because of His Hometown (2:19–23)

4. The Messiah’s Forerunner (3:1–12)

B. The King-Messiah’s Preparation for Ministry (3:13–4:11)

1. The Messiah’s Baptism (3:13–17)

2. The Messiah’s Test (4:1–11)

II. The Authority of the King-Messiah (4:12–11:1)

A. The Setting for the Expression of the Messiah’s Authority (4:12–25)

1. The Messiah’s Relocation to Galilee (4:12–16)

2. The Messiah’s Initial Followers (4:17–25)

B. The Messiah’s Teaching Demonstrated His Authority: The Sermon on the Mount (5:1–7:29)

C. The Messiah’s Miracles Demonstrated His Authority (8:1–9:34)

D. The Messiah’s Disciples Functioned with His Authority (9:35–11:1)

III. The Reactions to the King-Messiah (11:2–12:50)

A. John Was Confused (11:2–15)

B. The Masses Were Unresponsive (11:16–24)

C. The Downhearted Were Encouraged (11:25–30)

D. The Leaders Were Antagonistic (12:1–50)

1. Regarding Sabbath Practices (12:1–21)

2. Regarding Exorcisms (12:22–37)

3. Regarding Signs (12:38–45)

E. Family Ties Were Narrowed (12:46–50)

IV. The Kingdom and the King-Messiah in the Present Era (13:1–52)

A. The Parable of the Sower and the Soils (13:1–23)

B. The Parable of the Wheat and Tares (13:24–30; cf. 36–43)

C. The Parable of the Mustard Seed (13:31–32)

D. The Parable of the Leaven (13:33)

E. The Reason for the Parables (13:34–35)

F. The Parable of the Wheat and Tares, cont. (13:36–43; cf. 13:24–30)

G. The Parables of the Buried Treasure and Pearl of Great Price (13:44–46)

H. The Parable of the Dragnet (13:47–50)

I. The Parables Gave New Revelation about the King and Kingdom (13:51–52)

V. The Withdrawal, Help, and Opposition of the King-Messiah: Four Cycles (13:53–16:28)

A. Cycle #1: The Ministry in Nazareth (13:53–14:12)

1. Jesus Withdrew: To Nazareth (13:53)

2. Jesus Helped: By Teaching in the Synagogue (13:54)

3. Jesus Faced Opposition: From His Kin and King Herod (13:55–14:12)

B. Cycle #2: Feeding the Five Thousand at Bethsaida (14:13–15:20)

1. Jesus Withdrew: To a Secluded Spot (14:13)

2. Jesus Helped: By Feeding the Multitude and Stilling a Storm (14:14–36)

3. Jesus Faced Opposition: From Pharisees and Scribes Over Oral Traditions (15:1–20)

C. Cycle #3: Tyre and Sidon and Feeding the Four Thousand (15:21–16:4c)

1. Jesus Withdrew: To the Region of Tyre and Sidon (15:21)

2. Jesus Helped: By Assisting the Canaanite Woman and Feeding Many (15:22–39)

3. Jesus Faced Opposition: From the Pharisees and Sadducees Who Wanted a Sign (16:1–4c)

D. Cycle #4: The Leaven of the Pharisees and Teaching the Disciples (16:4d–16:28)

1. Jesus Withdrew: To the Other Side of the Sea (16:4d)

2. Jesus Helped: By Teaching His Disciples (16:5–20)

3. Jesus Faced Opposition: From Disciples Who Did Not Understand (16:21–27)

VI. The Foretaste of the Glory of the King-Messiah: The Transfiguration (16:28–17:8)

VII. The Model of Humble Service Provided by the King-Messiah (17:9–27)

A. The Messiah Was Willing to Suffer (17:9–13)

B. The Messiah Was Willing to Help the Dull (17:14–20)

C. The Messiah Was Submissive (17:22–27)

1. Prepared to Die (17:22–23)

2. Prepared to Pay a Tax (17:24–27)

VIII. The Ethics of the Leaders Chosen by the King-Messiah (18:1–19:12)

A. Humility: Necessary to Enter and Serve in the Kingdom (18:1–6)

B. Personal Purity: Avoid Harming Self and Others (18:7–14)

C. Corporate Purity: Conduct Church Discipline (18:15–20)

D. Forgiveness: Remember How Much God Forgives (18:21–35)

E. Divorce: Avoid It (19:1–12)

IX. The Citizens of the Kingdom and the King-Messiah (19:13–20:34)

To Be a Citizen of the Kingdom, One Must …

A. Be Childlike to Be in It (19:13–15)

B. Depend on God to Enter It (19:16–30)

C. Not Be Shocked at Those Whom God Excludes (20:1–16)

D. Yield to the Messiah the Desire for Prominence (20:17–34)

1. Jesus Was Willing to Die (20:17–19)

2. The Leaders of the Disciples Were Required to Serve (20:20–28)

3. Jesus Was Willing to Serve (20:29–34)

X. The Rejection of the King-Messiah (21:1–23:39)

A. The Messiah Offered Himself to the People (21:1–11)

B. The Messiah Confronted the Corruption of the Priests (21:12–17)

C. The Messiah Foretold the Judgment Against the Nation (21:18–22)

D. The Messiah Exposed the Cowardice of the Leaders (21:23–27)

E. The Messiah Presented Parables about the Consequences of Their Rejection (21:28–22:14)

F. The Messiah Escaped Their Traps (22:15–46)

G. The Messiah Condemned the Leaders (23:1–39)

1. The Leaders Craved Acclaim (23:1–12)

2. The Leaders Corrupted the People through Their Hypocrisy (23:13–36)

3. The Leaders Faced Judgment (23:37–39)

XI. The Future Coming of the King-Messiah (24:1–25:46)

A. The Beginning of the Great Tribulation (24:1–14)

B. The Middle and End of the Great Tribulation: The Abomination of Desolation (24:15–28)

C. The Second Coming (24:29–35)

D. Instruction Urging Readiness for the Day of the Lord (24:36–25:30)

E. The Judgment Following the Second Coming (25:31–46)

XII. The Death of the King-Messiah (26:1–27:66)

A. The Hateful Plot Against Jesus (26:1–5)

B. The Act of Kindness for Jesus (26:6–13)

C. The Plans Judas Formed (26:14–16)

D. The Objective of Jesus’ Death: Inauguration of the New Covenant (26:17–29)

E. The Boast of Jesus’ Disciples (26:30–35)

F. The Anguish in Gethsemane (26:36–46)

G. The Incarceration at Gethsemane (26:47–56)

H. The Jewish Phase of Jesus’ Trial (26:57–68)

I. The Denials by Peter (26:69–75)

J. The Remorse of Judas (27:1–10)

K. The Roman Phase of Jesus’ Trial (27:11–26)

L. The Ridicule and Torture of Jesus (27:27–32)

M. The Crucifixion of Jesus (27:33–37)

N. The Cruelty Against Jesus (27:38–44)

O. The Death of Jesus (27:45–56)

P. The Burial of Jesus (27:57–61)

Q. The Securing of Jesus’ Tomb (27:62–66)

XIII. The Resurrection of the King-Messiah (28:1–20)

A. The Angel Announced the Resurrection (28:1–8)

B. Jesus Announced the Resurrection (28:9–10)

C. The Guards Were Bribed to Lie about the Resurrection (28:11–15)

D. The Disciples Saw Jesus in His Resurrection (28:16–17)

E. The Great Commission Flows from the Authority of the Resurrected One (28:18–20)

COMMENTARY ON MATTHEW

I. The Introduction to the King-Messiah (1:1–4:11)

A. The King-Messiah’s Background (1:1–3:12)

1. The Messiah’s Ancestry (1:1–17)

1:1. Matthew introduced his gospel by emphasizing the legal right of Jesus of Nazareth to be the king of the Jews and of the entire world. Matthew included Jesus’ genealogy to argue for the validity of His claim to David’s throne. As the creation accounts began with the phrase record of the genealogy (LXX Gn 2:4; 5:1), Matthew’s description here of the fulfillment of God’s plan begins with the same phrase, suggesting that He was beginning the "new creation" (2Co 5:17). In Christ’s humanity, He was legally a son of David and was a rightful heir to the Davidic throne (2Sm 7:12–13).

1:3–6. What is the connection between Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba? Women were not usually included in Jewish genealogies (though cf. 1Ch 2). It is impossible to be certain, but perhaps the best view is that all four had unusual marriages through which God brought much good. He did the same through the unusual circumstances of the virgin birth. Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth were Gentiles, and Bathsheba was married to a Gentile. This may suggest Matthew’s desire to indicate to his audience that Gentiles not only had a role in the ancestry of the Messiah, but should benefit from the sacrificial death of the Messiah as well (Mt 28:18–20).

1:11. Jeconiah (aka Jehoiachin) is Joseph’s ancestor in the line of David through Solomon. Second Samuel 7:12–17 unconditionally promises the perpetuity of the Davidic kingdom through Solomon (vv. 12–13). But Jeconiah, who was in that line, was so wicked that God cursed him, not allowing his descendants to be king (Jr 22:30). This posed a dilemma. How can both the promise and curse be fulfilled? The answer is, "Through the virgin birth." Joseph was legally in that line through David, Solomon, and even Jeconiah. But Jesus is not a physical son of Joseph, and so dodges the curse while still fulfilling the legal requirement of being a son of David. Jesus, through Joseph, is in the legal line to David and Solomon without being under the physical curse.

1:17. Matthew structured the genealogy in three groups of 14 names, possibly to indicate that the Davidic kingdom dismantled in the exile would be restored by King Jesus. The importance of the number fourteen is unclear, but the name "David" (Hb. dwd) adds up to 14 on the basis of Hebrew numerology (4 ["D"] + 6 ["W"] + 4 ["D"]), and since there were three letters, this may account for three sets of 14. But Matthew left no clues for the significance in his thinking of this arrangement. This is not a pure genealogical record, but makes a theological statement about Jesus as son of David. In order to get 14-14-14, David should be counted only once, but Jeconiah twice (because of the break ending v. 11 and introducing v. 12, where Jeconiah is viewed both as the last of the kings of Judah before the exile, and the first of the kings of Judah during the exile).

2. The Messiah’s Birth (1:18–25)

1:18–21. Jewish marriage practices had the groom taking the initiative in approaching the father of the prospective bride. If the bride’s father agreed to the marriage, the groom paid a price called a mohar, a sort of reverse dowry that compensated the bride’s family for any financial loss they might incur without her help in the family business. The couple exchanged vows and was considered legally married. Dissolution of the marriage during betrothal required formal divorce. The couple did not cohabit for a year while the groom prepared living quarters, often attached to his father’s house. After the year the groom and his friends would surprise the bride and her family, the wedding feast would begin, further vows would be exchanged, and the marriage consummated. It was during the year of betrothal that Mary’s pregnancy was discovered. Marriage would have been a tacit admission by Joseph that the child was his, possibly something intolerable to this righteous man. But he was kind as well, and intended to divorce her secretly by writing a bill of divorcement in the presence of two or three witnesses rather than suing Mary and her family to recoup the mohar and to make a case for his innocence. It required angelic intervention to change Joseph’s mind.

Feature Text for Judah Text for Israel
Opportunity to repent before wrath comes Is 7:1–17 Is 9:8–10:4
Assyria will invade Is 7:18–8:8 Is 10:5–15
Enemies destroyed and a faithful remnant preserved Is 8:9–22 Is 10:16–34
A glorious kingdom ruled by a Son of David Is 9:1–7 Is 11:1–16

1:22–23. How Matthew views the connection between Is 7:14 and the birth of Jesus is debated. Possibly Isaiah’s words were fulfilled in the eighth century BC, with Jesus not so much "fulfilling" Isaiah, but Matthew "filling Isaiah full" of new meaning. Another view is that Isaiah’s prophecy had multiple fulfillments—one in the day of Ahaz and one in Jesus’ day. The preferable understanding is to see the prophecy as a direct prediction with an unvarnished fulfillment in the virgin birth. The meaning of Virgin (Gk. parthenos in Matthew and in the LXX at Is 7:14; almah in Hb.) is debated. Almah usually means "a young woman who is not sexually active" (Gn 24:43; Ex 2:8; possibly Ps 68:25 [ET; MT and LXX, 67:26]; Sg 1:3; 6:8; probably Pr 30:19). Parthenos meant "a young woman," usually one who is presumed to be sexually inexperienced (though see LXX Gn 34:3, where it probably means simply "girl"). Only in Gn 24:43 and Is 7:14 does parthenos translate almah, and in Gn 24:43 it designates a young woman with no sexual experience. The one(s) who translated Isaiah into Greek for the LXX had other words available for "young woman of marriageable age who is having or who is about to have sexual relations" (e.g., neanis which could mean "maiden" or "young married woman," or kore, "bride," "young wife," "concubine"), and apparently understood almah in Is 7 as referring to sexual inexperience. This weighs against the understanding that Isaiah was referring to his own or another’s wife on the verge of conception.

The structure of the words addressed to Judah (Is 7:1–9:7) and Israel (Is 9:8–11:16) are parallel, and contain the following features: the parallels mean that Is 7:1–9:7 should be read as a unit, and indicates that the promised Immanuel (Is 7:14) will possess the land (Is 8:8), defeat all enemies (8:10), and appear in Galilee as a light to the Gentiles (Is 9:1–2; see Mt 4:15–16), and will be seen as divine, ruling forever on David’s throne (Is 9:6–7). Matthew saw these themes directly fulfilled in the birth of Jesus (for the details, see D. A. Carson, "Matthew," In Matthew, Mark, Luke of EBC, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984], 78–81).

1:24–25. Joseph complied with the angel’s message and married Mary, apparently without any wedding celebration. To safeguard the integrity of the virgin birth, Joseph kept Mary a virgin until after the birth. While Mary is commendable for her role in Jesus’ birth, Joseph is similarly impressive. He was ethically upright, compassionate toward the woman he intended to divorce, and was in control of his libido enough to abstain from relations until after the birth. Joseph is the forgotten hero of Christmas!

3. The Messiah’s Fulfillment of the OT (2:1–23)

a. The Birth in Bethlehem (2:1–12)

2:1. Bethlehem was about six miles southwest of Jerusalem. Herod the king was the ruthless and paranoid puppet ruler under Rome. His atrocities included killing three sons, a wife, and her mother to protect his regime. There is no secular record of what happened in Bethlehem, but it is perfectly in keeping with his paranoia to slaughter these children. The magi remain enigmatic figures, but were probably wise men specializing in astronomy and astrology. In the Greco-Roman world they purportedly predicted the ascendancy of great leaders (Astyages of Media in the sixth century BC; Alexander the Great, and Augustus). From the east could be Egypt, but was more likely Babylonia, where a large and influential group of Jews still lived in exile. It is remotely possible that these magi were familiar with the prophecies of Daniel and that these, in association with the star, would have caused them to come to the Holy Land.

2:2. A star could signal the birth of powerful men. In Jewish tradition a new star appeared following the birth of Abraham, and the Messiah is associated with a star (Nm 24:17; Rv 22:16). What was this star? Jupiter and Saturn were aligned in Pisces in 7 BC, but such planetary alignments were never called "stars." Halley’s Comet was visible in 12 BC but this is certainly too early. That this star appeared (2:7) suggests it had not been documented previously, and 2:9 implies that this star moved around, supporting a supernatural origin, and may parallel the pillar of fire that led the Hebrews in the wilderness.

2:3–6. These verses indicate that neither the magi nor Herod knew what Scripture said regarding the location of Messiah’s birth. Matthew cites Mc 5:2, where he only appears to contradict Micah’s words. Micah emphasizes what made Bethlehem great, the birth of the Messiah, and Matthew asserts that Bethlehem consequently was not unimportant. Matthew may have related the episode of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem to make His connection with King David clearer. Though Jesus grew up in Nazareth, not Bethlehem, His birthplace links Him with David, a fact that would have carried some apologetic clout for those who might doubt the legitimacy of His descent from David.

2:7–12. Herod’s deception about worshiping the King of the Jews was consistent with what is known about his modus operandi. Matthew’s reference to gold, frankincense, and myrrh may intend to establish a parallel with Solomon, a son of David, to whom similar gifts were given (1Kg 10:1–2; 2Ch 9:23–24; Sg 3:6).

b. The Flight to Egypt (2:13–15)

2:15. The exact day of Herod the Great’s death is not known, but Josephus says it happened after a lunar eclipse on March 12–13, 4 BC, and before the Passover on April 11, 4 BC. Matthew’s use of Hs 11:1 (Out of Egypt I Called My Son) is puzzling. In its OT context, Hosea is looking backward—but not entirely. Hosea 11:9–11 contains the promise of a future restoration of the Jewish people after all their exiles. Hosea 3:4–5 indicates that Hosea knows about the future Son of David, and that He will be involved in the restoration of the nation and people. God had the power and ability to protect His people once in Egypt and brought her out from Egypt (Hs 11:1); He will protect His people and someday restore them (Hs 11:9–11). He will do this with the Son of David (Hs 3:5). Where does Jesus fit in? Jesus is the typological fulfillment of Israel, seen in that God protected both the Hebrews and Jesus in Egypt. The future restoration promised through the Son of David in Hs 3:5 and 11:9–10 will be accomplished through Jesus Christ. Just as the Jews were brought out of Egypt, and that was a proof that they would one day be restored, so Jesus being protected in and brought out of Egypt signals the commencement of Israel’s restoration. Israel’s full restoration will come only at Jesus’ second coming when He will free Israel from Gentile oppression (called "the times of the Gentiles" in Lk 21:24), following their faith in Him (cf. the comments on Mt 23:38–39 and Rm 11:20–27).

c. The Murder of Babies (2:16–18)

2:16–18. Herod discovers that he was duped by the magi, and cruelly has the baby boys in Bethlehem killed. Good estimates are that about 20 children were killed two years old and under, their ages specified to provide Herod a margin of error.

How does Matthew use Jr 31:15 (Ramah)? Jeremiah indicated that the tears associated with exile (Jr 31:15) would end. Matthew has already made the exile a turning point in his thought (Mt 1:11–12), for during the exile the Davidic line was dethroned. The tears in Jeremiah’s day caused by the exile find a parallel in the tears of the mothers of Bethlehem. The exile is nearly over, the heir to David’s throne has come, and the true Son will introduce a new covenant (Jr 31:31ff.; Mt 26:28) promised by Jeremiah. See the comments on Jr 31:15.

d. The Disdain Because of His Hometown (2:19–23)

2:19–22. Herod’s kingdom was divided among his sons Philip, Antipas, and Archelaus. Archelaus ruled Judea proper, Samaria, and Idumea. He was more debauched than the others, his nine-year reign marked by immorality, brutality, and tyranny. Matters got so bad that there were complaints lodged in Rome against him by a deputation of Jews and Samaritans. Augustus summoned him to Rome, fired him, and exiled him to Gaul in AD 6. God warned Joseph about Archelaus, and when the family left Egypt, they went into the region of Galilee and lived in Nazareth, under the control of Herod Antipas.

2:23. He shall be called a Nazarene has no clear OT source. Nazarene apparently was a term of scorn in the first century (Jn 1:45–46; Ac 24:5), and Matthew appears to indicate that the OT prophets foretold that the Messiah would be despised (cf. Ps 22:1, 6–8, 13; 69:8, 20–21; Is 49:7; 53:2–3; and see Mt 8:20; 11:19; 15:7–8).

4. The Messiah’s Forerunner (3:1–12)

3:1–4. Matthew shifts his narrative about 30 years into the future to the start of Jesus’ ministry. John the Baptist’s attire (3:4) is strikingly similar to Elijah’s (2Kg 1:8), and Matthew makes that connection explicit (Mt 11:14; see Lk 1:17). Matthew thus consistently uses the phrase kingdom of heaven, not "kingdom of God" as in the other gospels, probably because his Jewish audience might have been offended at the excessive and overly-familiar use of God’s name. What is the kingdom of heaven? In Luke’s gospel, the initial announcements of the kingdom were made to Mary regarding her Son, of whom the angel Gabriel says, "God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end" (Lk 1:32–33). Gabriel appeared to reiterate the Davidic covenant found in 2Sm 7, in which God promised David a son who would rule and reign over His kingdom Israel forever. Of importance are the verbal parallels between Lk 1:32–33 and 2Sm 7:13–16 (both passages referring to and using the words "son," "house," "kingdom," "throne," and "forever"), which indicate that Jesus has come, among other things, to fulfill the role as the ultimate Son of David. These points suggest that the gospel writers had an apologetic purpose, to argue for Jesus fulfilling the promises regarding David’s seed ruling over David’s kingdom. It makes the best sense to see this kingdom as the same one promised in the Hebrew Scriptures. It is a literal geopolitical kingdom in which there was a ruling king, replete with authority that is exercised over a literal people and a literal land. Matthew calls it the kingdom of heaven not because it exists only in heaven, but because it will come to earth from heaven.

3:5–12. The connection between the baptism administered by John and the confession given by those baptized is disputed. The preposition for (eis) in the phrase for repentance (v. 11) can carry the nuance "because of" or "on the basis of" (see Mt 10:41, where the phrase "in [eis] the name of a prophet" could be translated "on the basis of the name of a prophet" or "because one is called a prophet"), so that the baptism in water by John is "because of" or "on the basis of" the prior repentance of the people. John’s blistering words for the Pharisees and Sadducees (v. 7) indicate that there was an element among those who came whose actions were hypocritical. We have Abraham for our father (v. 9) indicates that their ethnic and religious background was presumptuous and gave them false security. To be children to Abraham was wrongly restricted to Jewish people in their thinking, and would depend upon one’s repentance (a change of mind regarding one’s sins). True repentance was to be demonstrated by the production of good fruit (v. 10), the absence of which negated the baptism and showed the repentance to be spurious. For Matthew, it is good fruit that provides the evidence that one is in right standing with God (i.e., "saved"), not the supposed presence of life without good fruit (Mt 7:16–20; 13:3–9; 18–23).

John declares that the baptism Jesus will bring will be with the Holy Spirit and fire (v. 11). Jesus is the "baptizer" and the Spirit is the element into which the believer is baptized (Mk 1:8; Lk 3:16; Jn 1:33; Ac 1:5; 11:16, and even 1Co 12:13). The Spirit does not do the baptizing. With the Holy Spirit and fire indicates that everyone will experience both aspects of this baptism, either a baptism in the Spirit that is a "refining fire" (strengthening through trials or growth in sanctification; see Zch 13:9; Rm 8:12–14; 1Pt 1:7) for those who embrace Christ, or for those who do not embrace the Messiah, a "fiery judgment" (Gn 19:24; Ps 21:9; Ezk 22:20; 2Th 1:7–8; Heb 10:27) eternal in duration.

B. The King-Messiah’s Preparation for Ministry (3:13–4:11)

1. The Messiah’s Baptism (3:13–17)

3:13–14. John’s reluctance to baptize Jesus is understandable. John’s baptism was in response to one’s confession of sins, was preparatory for the One who would dispense the fiery Spirit baptism, and was enacted in anticipation of the coming kingdom. Jesus was sinless, was ready to dispense the eschatological baptism, and was the King who was present. How could John baptize Him? Jesus’ baptism, however, was important for establishing His identification with John, the coming kingdom John preached, and those who had undergone John’s baptism in preparation for that kingdom.

3:15–17. In the baptism of Jesus, both Jesus and John cooperate to fulfill all righteousness (v. 15). This is My beloved Son (v. 17) (citing Ps 2:7) is from a psalm loaded with messianic freight, and in whom I am well-pleased (citing Is 42:1) is about the call of the Suffering Servant. In Is 42:1, God says, "I have put My Spirit upon Him." This finds a parallel in Mt 3:16 with the words Spiritdescendingon Him. How does all this fit together? Jesus entreated John to baptize Him so that together they might do all that God required (righteousness) of Jesus as He fulfilled Scripture when He embarked on His messianic suffering-servant ministry for which God gave Him a visible manifestation of the Holy Spirit who came upon Him. The Spirit descending as a dove probably does not refer to creation (Gen 1:2 where the Spirit hovered dove-like) nor to Noah’s dove (Gn 8:8–12). It seems to be simply a visual manifestation apparently seen only by Jesus and John (Mt 3:16; Jn 1:32–33), intended to convey God’s approval of His Son as He embarked on His ministry.

2. The Messiah’s Test (4:1–11)

With His baptism, the first of two prerequisites for Jesus beginning His ministry was over. The second involved His testing. At His baptism, God identified Jesus as His Son. In the first two temptations, the Devil attacks Him on precisely His divine Sonship.

4:1–2. There are a number of parallels between Jesus’ temptations and the testing of Israel in the wilderness (Dt 8:2). Israel was led by the Spirit (Neh 9:20) as was Jesus (Mt 4:1). Moses fasted for 40 days (Ex 34:28; Dt 9:9) and later Elijah did as well (1Kg 19:8). Matthew may allude to these possibly to indicate that Jesus was the supreme prophet or the "new Moses."

4:3–4. The first temptation may have been designed to influence Jesus to act independently of God by using His own powers to alleviate His hunger. But Jesus responded by citing Dt 8:3, which is in a context of God humbling Israel, evaluating the people’s obedience, determining if they would depend on Him, disciplining them as a father disciplines a son (Dt 8:3–5). Where Israel failed, Jesus was faithful.

4:5–7. In the second temptation, the Devil cited Scripture about God’s promises to protect His people (Ps 91:11–12). Either physically or in a vision, Jesus was taken to the temple probably because it symbolized God’s intense care for His people (Ps 18:6; 48:9; 65:4), the very point of this temptation. Jesus responded with another reference to Deuteronomy (6:16), where Moses warned the people not to test God as they had when they sought to force Him to give them water (Ex 17:1–7). While God promises to protect His children, they must not coerce Him to do so, which would be tantamount to turning Him into their slave. Jesus’ response does not indicate that this temptation was to dupe Jesus into a spectacular display so that people would forcibly make Him king and cause Him to bypass the cross.

4:8–10. The third temptation may also have been a visionary experience. What the Devil offered Jesus, the Father had already promised Him, namely world dominion (Nm 24:15–19; Ps 2:7–8; Dn 7:13–14). Jesus cited Dt 6:13, a verse found in the context of warnings about idolatry on the eve of the Hebrews entering the Holy Land. Failure to worship God alone would result in decisive judgment (Dt 6:14–15), and had Jesus succumbed to the temptation to worship the Devil, He would have faced God’s wrath and forfeited His saving role.

4:11. Unlike Israel in the wilderness, Jesus did not fail when He was tested. When the Devil left him, angels came to minister to [lit., "to serve"] Him—possibly indicating that they brought food since a forty-day fast would have left Him precariously weak.

There are practical lessons suggested by this episode. First, Jesus drew upon Scripture to resist the attacks of the Devil. How can Christians hope to fare very well against Satan if they have little knowledge of the Word (Eph 6:17)? Second, the Devil quoted Scripture, but did so out of context. Psalm 91:11–12 is about His protection in the vicissitudes of life, not in presumptuous and impetuous actions chosen in foolishness. God’s people must not only be able to quote Scripture, but will need to know what it means in its context. Third, eventually God met all of Jesus’ needs, and as His children wait humbly for Him to act, He will never let them down.

II. The Authority of the King-Messiah (4:12–11:1)

A. The Setting for the Expression of the Messiah’s Authority (4:12–25)

1. The Messiah’s Relocation to Galilee (4:12–16)

4:12–16. Jesus shifted His base of operations back to Galilee in the north, probably because of the threat posed by Herod Antipas who incarcerated John the Baptist. It was also a logical place for Jesus to begin the more aggressive phase of His ministry. Galilee was open, densely populated, and laced with roads that fostered its bustling commerce. Matthew indicates that Jesus’ relocation fulfilled Is 9:1–2. This prophecy, connected with the birth of the Child in Is 9:6–7, refers not to the restoration of the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali after the exile but to the ultimate restoration of Israel in messianic days, aspects of which were beginning during Jesus’ ministry.

2. The Messiah’s Initial Followers (4:17–25)

4:17. Repent means "to change one’s mind (about the seriousness of one’s sins) and behavior." It does not carry the primary sense of sorrow over sin, nor is it usually understood in the Gospels strictly as a mental adjustment. When John the Baptist preached repentance, he expected it to be accompanied by a change in behavior (Mt 3:7–10; see Lk 3:8–14).

4:23 9:35
Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people. Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.

4:18–22. It is unclear what other exposure to Jesus Peter and Andrew might have had before this call, but it is likely that there was some. Fishers of men, in contrast to their previous vocation, suggests that their role would be to help win people to the movement started by the Lord. Their response was immediate, but while Peter and Andrew left their nets, James and John left their father, implying a deeper sacrifice.

4:23–25. Matthew 4:23 has a virtual twin in Mt 9:35, with minor differences depicted by the bold font in the chart below.

This feature, called an inclusio, implies that Matthew intended the material between 4:23 and 9:35 to be read as a thematic whole. That primary theme is Jesus’ authority. In 4:23a, b, c, Jesus exercised His prophetic authority by His teaching and preaching. A grand example of this was the Sermon on the Mount, chapters 5–6–7 (see especially 7:29). In 4:23d–24, Matthew reported that He showed His authority as He healed the people (see 8:9; 9:6, 8; 10:1), a theme developed through the nine miracles in chaps. 8 and 9.

B. The Messiah’s Teaching Demonstrated His Authority: The Sermon on the Mount (5:1–7:29)

The Sermon on the Mount is probably the most famous of all the teachings of Christ, but it is difficult to determine exactly what its purpose is. The approach here is that the sermon is Jesus’ teaching about how those who repented in preparation for the coming of the kingdom should live as they await its coming.

5:1–6. The purpose of the Beatitudes is to present the virtues that should characterize those who are ready for the kingdom and to assure them of blessing and reward when it comes. Verses 1–6 express the blessedness of one who is rightly related to God and vv. 7–12 the blessedness of one who is rightly related to people. In the most basic sense, blessed means "deep joy," usually flowing from knowing one has received divine favor. Poor in spirit (v. 3) may include an economic component, but the focus here seems to be on recognition of one’s spiritual bankruptcy; those who have nothing of their own to offer God have the kingdom. Those who mourn (v. 4) look primarily at the sadness often experienced in this evil, difficult era while anticipating the kingdom. The promise is that they shall be comforted, the passive voice referring to what God will do for them. For the idea of gentle (v. 5), see Ps 37:9–11 where the "gentle" rely on God to reverse their fortunes. On thirsting for righteousness (v. 6), see Mt 5:20.

5:7–9. Social relationships are the focus of these beatitudes. Being merciful (v. 7) embraces both forgiveness for those who are guilty and compassion for the suffering; they shall receive mercy does not indicate that God’s mercy toward us is contingent upon us showing mercy to others. Mercy cannot be merited (for a fuller explanation of this, see the comments on 18:31–35). The pure in heart (v. 8) refers to those who are morally unstained, clean, and free from duplicity or filth in their relationships with others. Peacemakers (v. 9) are sons of God because, like God, they pursue reconciliation with others, just as God has extended Himself to reconcile people to Himself.

5:10–12. Verse 10 parallels v. 3, both concluding with the same promise. Verses 11–12 serve as an expansion of v. 10. Persecution can come from living for the sake of (heneken) righteousness. But in v. 11, Jesus says that persecution can come because of (or "for the sake of," also heneken) Me. This particular righteousness for which one might be persecuted is a righteousness based upon and found in Jesus.

5:13–16. The salt and light figures make it clear that Jesus intended His people to influence the world. The main point of the salt in this text is not to create thirst or serve as a preservative against the moral decay of the world, but to improve taste, to make the world a better place. A lamp provides light precisely so that one can see in the darkness, and it is nonsense to conceal it. The citizens of the kingdom are light, and they must shine and not conceal that light. The result is the enhancement of God’s reputation in the world, not the aggrandizement of the lamp.

5:17–19. The flow of thought is not completely clear, but the idea of good works in v. 16 might summon notions of keeping the Law as fulfilled by Christ. The phrase Law or the Prophets occurs in 7:12 where the golden rule appears to satisfy the requirements of the Law (the Pentateuch, Mt 12:5) and Prophets (the rest of the OT, Lk 16:29, 31). Matthew indicates that Jesus does fulfill the OT, using "fulfill" 15 times for bringing about what was forecast in the OT (e.g., 1:22; 2:15, 17; 8:17; 26:56). The Law or the Prophets remain relevant until all is accomplished (v. 18), the precise idea probably being that the OT serves as a beacon shining upon Jesus as the one who provides the fulfillment of messianic promises. From this standpoint all of the Law and each of the prophets are valid forever (until heaven and earth pass away, possibly at the conclusion of the millennial kingdom) as they all point toward Christ. This includes not only the Ten Commandments but all 613 of them, even the ritual and civil aspects of the Law (not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law, v. 18; not even the least of these commandments will pass away, v. 19). The religious leaders would hardly have dismissed even the least of these commandments, but they certainly would not have taught that they pointed to Jesus of Nazareth as the One who fulfilled them. However, vv. 17–18 do not require the people of God to perform the Law today, but to promote the ongoing validity of the OT as a signpost identifying Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah. Only where the NT reiterates the OT commands are believers to keep the Law; but then it becomes "the Law-as-fulfilled-in-Jesus," also known in the NT as the "law of Christ" (1Co 9:21; Gl 6:2), but is no longer the Law of Moses (cf. Rm 3:31; 8:4). Then (v. 19) introduces a conclusion Jesus draws from the previous verses. Those who minimize the importance of the OT as an apologetic for Jesus being the Messiah will face loss of rewards in the kingdom.

5:20. For I say to you introduces an additional thought to that of one’s rank within the kingdom—namely, the circumstances under which one might be excluded from the kingdom altogether. Righteousness in Matthew generally has two connotations: ethical behavior in keeping with the teachings of Jesus (Mt 5:10, 20; 6:1), and a rather Pauline understanding of righteousness as a pure, holy, and innocent status before God that He imparts to followers of Jesus. This finds support in Mt 5:6, where those prepared for the kingdom hunger and thirst for righteousness, and they are promised that "they will be satisfied"—a divine passive, so that God is the one who fills them full of righteousness. This makes it unlikely that the context allows for 5:20 to be understood as a proof text for works righteousness. See further the comments on 7:21–23.

The fundamental problem with the Pharisees was that at the core of their righteousness was keeping the law or their own oral traditions, but they excluded Jesus. The scribes and Pharisees would probably not have objected to the righteousness Jesus presented in 5:21–48, except that He claimed to be its authoritative source and that His teaching superseded the OT. The righteousness one needed to enter the kingdom of heaven came as a gift from God to the spiritually bankrupt and is found only in connection with Christ.

5:21–48. As is the case with much of Matthew, it is hard to figure out exactly the purpose of the six "antitheses" in these verses. The view adopted here is that He was presenting new revelation alongside the OT based upon His prophetic authority. Moses prophesied that a great prophet would arise in the future (Dt 18:15, 18; cf. Dt 34:10–12 for the implication that the coming of this great prophet was still future), and the NT writers see this fulfilled by Jesus (Ac 3:20–23). While Jesus is more than a prophet, He functions in the role of a prophet, calling the people back to faithfulness to God.

5:21–26. Jesus cited the sixth commandment regarding murder (Ex 20:13) but equated the guilt of an emotion with the act of murder, something not found in the sixth commandment itself. He could do this because of His prophetic authority as the law’s fulfiller. In v. 22 there is probably not an escalation in the venues of judgment, but court, supreme court, and fiery hell represent the certainty of accountability for anger expressed in a way that shames a neighbor. The main point of vv. 23–25 is that the followers of Christ are to seek reconciliation as swiftly as possible when one has harmed another out of anger.

5:27–30. Jesus cited the seventh commandment regarding adultery (Ex 20:14). Again, He connected inner motive with outward act. When Jesus said, but I say to you, He was not giving material derived from the commandment, but altogether new revelation that complemented the law. With lust for her could also be translated "in order to cause her to lust" for him. Either way, the attitude of lust is the problem here. Verses 29–30 indicate that His followers must take radical steps to conquer moral sins. Gouging out the eye or cutting off the hand are surely hyperbolic statements but suggest extreme measures to avoid sexual sins. On being thrown into hell, see the comments on 18:7–10.

5:31–32. Jesus cited Dt 24:1, 3 regarding the regulation of divorce. If lust in the heart is spiritually tantamount to adultery, then divorce without biblical warrant is full-fledged adultery. Technically, divorce was not commanded in Dt 24:1; what was commanded was the need to give a certificate of divorce, and divorce was permitted only for the reason of unchastity. See the comments on 19:1–9. What Jesus taught here went beyond Moses, who permitted divorce if a certificate were provided. But Jesus emphasized the gravity of the consequences for one who executed an improper divorce and for one who marries an improperly divorced person.

5:33–37. Jesus’ instructions regarding vows were drawn probably from several passages, for there is no single OT verse that says this precisely (see Lv 19:12; Nm 30:3; Dt 23:21; Ps 56:12). To make a vow involved the pledge to do something, to call upon God to witness the discharge of the action, and to punish if it were not carried out. The OT did not forbid the trading of vows, but it did regulate the practice. Today one might say, "I swear on the soul of my grandmother" to do this or that, and in Jesus’ day people might swear by the gold in the temple or any number of other revered things. This sounds solemn enough, but such vows were used occasionally by the unscrupulous to conceal the intention to never keep their promise. Jesus dismissed the practice altogether, demanding absolute truthfulness instead. Scripture says that God swears by Himself (Heb 6:13), and that Paul also made a vow (Ac 18:18), suggesting that making vows is permissible on earnest occasions (such as weddings or giving testimony in court).

5:38–42. Jesus may have alluded to several OT texts (Ex 21:24; Lv 24:20; Dt 19:21) regarding acts of retaliation. Dt 19:18 indicates that the "law of the tooth" (lex talionis) was a guideline for the civil authorities and did not approve private retribution. It was possible that many applied it wrongly for personal revenge, but Jesus forbade the practice for his followers. Not only should they not retaliate, they should be willing to surrender what was theirs to avoid taking revenge (turn the other [cheek] … let him have your coat alsogo with him two [miles], and give and lend to those who ask; see 1Co 6:7).

5:43–48. In the last of the six antitheses, Jesus enjoins love in keeping with Lv 19:18, but goes beyond that command by insisting on loving one’s enemies (contrast 1QS 1:4, 10). Jesus’ followers are to pray for those who persecute them (see 1Th 5:17), because to do so is so like God who provides the necessities of life for all, even those who hate Him. There is no reward in loving only those who love us, for even the tax collectors and Gentiles—both despised by many of the Jewish people—show the same love (the verb is agapao) for each other. Verse 48 must be read in its context. Perfect might be translated better as "mature." Jesus expects His followers to show the same kind of mature love for everyone, those who are pleasant and difficult, as God shows to them, especially by joyfully meeting their daily needs.

Jesus emphasized the need for virtue in Mt 5. Starting in Mt 6 he discussed the proper motives for living virtuously. A. B. Bruce ("Matthew," The Expositor’s Greek Testament, The Synoptic Gospels, ed. W. Robertson Nicole [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans], 116) points out that in chap. 5 Jesus encouraged His followers to show their good works when they are tempted to hide them, and in chap. 6 to hide their good works when they are tempted to show them.

6:1. Righteousness has an ethical sense of giving (6:2–4), praying (6:5–15), and fasting (6:16–18). For those who follow Jesus’ teaching there is the promise of reward, a theme that dominates the chapter (6:1, 4, 6, 18). Those rewards may include God’s approval (1Co 4:5; Mt 25:21) and perhaps the opportunity to serve Him in a grand way when the kingdom comes (Lk 19:17).

6:2–4. One needed to avoid hypocrisy when fasting. Sound a trumpet suggests "calling attention to one’s self" at the start of a fast. People were hypocrites if they fasted purportedly to please God but actually to be honored (lit., "glorified") by others, or if they gave to help others when they intended to "help themselves" by inflating their reputation. Giving was to be done in secret (not letting the left hand know what the right hand is doing), and God would "pay back" the one who gives in this manner. It is a mistake to restrict God’s reimbursement to money.

6:5–8. Hypocrisy in prayer was also forbidden. The synagogues and street corners include every indoor and outdoor public place where one might pray to impress others. Impressing others would be the only reward, but God is unimpressed. When public or corporate prayer is motivated by narcissism it is wrong.

Meaningless repetition was a characteristic of the prayers of some Gentiles (1Kg 18:26; perhaps Ac 19:34). God already knows the needs of His children and delights to meet them. Mindless repetition is unnecessary.

6:9–10. Pray, then, in this way (ESV, "like this") indicates that this prayer provides a pattern to follow rather than a prayer to recite (though see Lk 11:2). Verses 9–10 focus upon matters related to God’s program, while vv. 11–13 focus upon people’s needs. Father probably reflects an Aramaic word Abba, which was used both during childhood and adulthood and could be used for respected men outside of one’s family. "Daddy" is not quite the best English equivalent. This intimate Father is also in heaven, emphasizing His transcendence and divinity. Hallowed is not a call to worship but is an imperative of request or entreaty for God to cause His name (His "fame") to be revered. The kingdom has present manifestations (see Mt 13) and a future cataclysmic coming (Mt 22:1–14; 25:31–46); this petition may incorporate both a request for more people to experience the present form of the kingdom (i.e., find salvation) and for the kingdom to come soon in its full eschatological form.

6:11–13. Daily bread probably means "bread for the coming day." On forgiveness, see 6:14–15. Temptation refers to solicitations to moral infractions, and Do not lead us into temptation is informed by the second positive part—deliver ["rescue"] us from evil or better "the evil one." It is the Devil, not God (Jms 1:13), who initiates the temptation, but God rescues us from his evil designs.

6:14–15. Jesus expands on the theme of forgiveness in v. 12 (see the comments on 18:31–35). It is possible that He means, "If you do not forgive others, God will not forgive you," but this runs contrary to the very idea of forgiveness, which by definition cannot be earned. It is better to see it as indicating that one’s capacity for forgiving others is tied to the receipt of forgiveness from God. If one does not or cannot forgive others, it may indicate that he has not yet received forgiveness, so that forgiving others becomes an evidence of one’s forgiveness before God.

6:16–18. Jesus forbids ostentation related to fasting. To anoint your head was a common practice in which oil laced with aromatic spices was applied to the hair or beard during times of celebration or when honoring someone (Lk 7:46; Jn 12:3). Jesus’ point is that, out of humility, one is to conceal his serious spiritual activity, even to the extent of "putting on a happy face," and God will reward him.

6:19–21. Just as Jesus’ followers should not crave earthly acclaim (6:1–18), they should not crave earthly things (6:19–34). Jesus does not forbid the accumulation of wealth, but He does command that it not be treasured because it can be lost. Storing up treasures in heaven in context may be fostered by the spiritual disciplines of giving, praying, and fasting—performed with the right attitudes and in the right way.

6:22–23. People fix their heart on where their treasure is (vv. 19–21); so they fix their eyes on what they desire most (vv. 22–23) (for both, see Ps 119:10, 18). The clear eye probably parallels the heart set on heavenly treasure. Just as a healthy eye gives light to the body, so wholehearted fidelity to God gives meaning and light to one’s life. Unbridled lust for material things can cloud one’s spiritual sight; obsession with earthly things obscures one’s sunny view of God.

6:24. A misplaced heart and a clouded eye lead to a misaligned will that tries to serve two irreconcilably different masters. One could not have served Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Adolph Hitler at the same time. Eventually a person would default to serving one or the other, and that is the case with God and wealth (mamo nai, mamonai, "mammon," "worldly things").

6:25–30. Materialism beguiles one of heavenly treasure, obscures spiritual sight, and enslaves to something other than God (vv. 19–24). For this reason (v. 25) the followers of Christ must not permit themselves to be obsessed with worldly goods. Do not be worried is an imperative verb which means "to have anxiety based upon perceived or real impending misfortune" (see also Php 4:6). God gives the greater gifts (life and one’s body) and will supply the lesser ones (food, clothing). The Father feeds the birds (v. 26); but He hardly ever makes worms rain from the sky into opened beaks. They work for their food, but He providentially puts worms where the birds peck. His children are more precious to Him than birds; they can count on Him to provide food, clothing, and shelter, usually through their work (which He also provides). By being worried (v. 27) one cannot add a single hour (literally "one cubit") to one’s life span, which is sometimes described in units of measured distances. Wild flowers usually grow only for a few weeks in Israel because it is so arid, but God dresses them with splendor (vv. 28–30). The materials to make dyes were difficult to obtain and yielded mediocre results. Even Solomon could not clothe himself in garments as brilliantly colored as the lilies of the field. Such vegetation, however, was disposable, used for tinder to light the fire in a home’s oven. God can be trusted to clothe the follower of Jesus, whom He values more than dried grass.

6:31–32. For the second time Jesus forbids fixating on things. Such obsession characterizes the Gentiles—probably a reference to those outside the covenant community of God who, as a result, do not know God’s provision.

6:33. The kingdom includes both a future cataclysmic coming and present effects (see the commentary on Mt 13). To seek first His kingdom involves not only being prepared for its future coming but also incarnating its values and glorifying its King in the present time. His righteousness (see 6:1) surely includes what He demands of His children ethically (see the connection of kingdom and ethical righteousness in Rm 14:17). All these things include the basic essentials of life. There is no guarantee that God provides luxury items when people claim them or visualize their reception. The main point of 6:33 is that God so demands His people’s undivided attention that He promises to provide their necessities so that they will not worry about them and can fully concentrate on Him.

6:34. In the phrase tomorrow will care [lit., "will worry"] for itself, Jesus probably personifies tomorrow as owning its own anxieties. It is folly to wrest what belongs to "Mr. Tomorrow" and make it one’s own today. Instead, when tomorrow comes, it will have enough trouble of its own, but God will enable the believer to handle those troubles then (6:25).

7:1–2. Jesus has been discussing His disciples’ motivation. Here He begins to discuss His disciples’ relationships with others, especially those who are antagonistic to His message. Do not judge does not mean that believers are to suspend all discernment. In 7:6 determining the identity of the "dogs" and "swine," as well as false prophets (v. 15), is impossible without critical thinking. Judge means "harsh, destructive criticism." If a person sets himself up as judge, it implies that he has a broader knowledge of God’s Word and standards and a higher degree of being able to live it. The harsh, strict standards by which they criticize others will be the same standard by which God will hold them accountable.

7:3–5. Judgmentalism (7:1–2) can easily lead to fault-finding (7:3–5). When people are critical of others without recognizing their own faults, they have the satisfaction of self-righteousness without the rigors of self-improvement. One is a hypocrite who uses an apparent act of kindness (removing a speck) to inflate his own ego. Before presuming to help others, one must undergo some self-discipline and yield to the discipline of the Lord (Ps 51:10–13).

7:6. If one is not to be judgmental, neither is one to be completely blind to others’ faults. Dogs and swine were considered unclean animals by the Jews. The holy thing and the pearls, given the context of vv. 3–5, may be the correction a disciple might give to someone who needs it, after the disciple has removed the log from his own eye.

7:7–11. When seeking to remove the speck from someone’s eye (vv. 3–5), or trying to discern when to refrain from casting pearls (v. 6), one must pray for wisdom and discernment. Verse 8 does is not guarantee that every persistent prayer will be answered the way one prefers. The context (vv. 6–11) suggests that God is generous when His people ask for discernment when "casting pearls before swine." Three analogies indicate He will gladly provide discernment. First, many desert rocks had roughly the same color and shape as loaves of bread, but no father would substitute a rock if a child asked for bread (v. 9). Second, snakes were considered unclean for eating (Lv 11:12) but like fish had scales. A snake filet might resemble a fish filet, but no father would deliberately trick a child with something that would defile him (v. 10). Third, as parents give gifts to their children, similarly God will give wisdom in knowing how to act toward those who are resistant (v. 11).

7:12. This is arguably the most famous verse in all Scripture. God is gracious in response to prayer for discernment (vv. 6–11), so God’s people should be gracious in how they treat others (v. 12). The guideline is to treat others the way one wishes to be treated. Such an approach summarizes and fulfills the 39 books of the Hebrew canon (the Law and the Prophets) and puts in pithy form the command, "love your neighbor as yourself" (Lv 19:18; Mt 22:39; Rm 13:8–9).

7:13–14. Verse 12 concludes the Sermon on the Mount. What follows in vv. 13–27 are four warnings Jesus gives to His audience about applying the sermon. The first warning (vv. 13–14) is a caution to the lost about where they are headed. The verb enter (v. 13) has no grammatical object, but v. 14 indicates that eternal life is the destination and should probably be understood here. The narrow gate, small gate and narrow way are harder to find than the wide ones and must be sought deliberately, or people will not escape destruction. The narrow way that leads to life is found only by faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Jn 14:6; Ac 4:12). Destruction means "a loss that produces utter ruin, perishing," and here refers to loss of eternal life.

7:15–20. This is the second warning, cautioning His followers about "pretenders." Perhaps the connection here with vv. 13–14 is that false prophets prevent others from entering the narrow gate because they beckon people to the broad gate. Verses 16–20 tell of their deeds, vv. 21–23 of their words.

False prophets (v. 15) are ravenous wolves who look like the sheep but will devour God’s flock for their devious ends. Not all who claim to be a part of the covenant community are. Jesus teaches that there are wolves in sheep’s clothing, houses that look similar but have different foundations, tares that resemble wheat (13:24), wise and foolish virgins (25:1–13), and good and bad slaves (25:14–30). Fruits refer to the actions of false prophets, and while their deeds might temporarily conceal who they really are, eventually their actions will betray them (vv. 16–18). A false prophet does evil deeds and teaches rotten doctrine just as surely as a bad plant produces correspondingly bad fruit

7:21–23. This is the third warning, directed at those who claim to be a part of Jesus’ community but who are not. No one is allowed admission into the kingdom on the basis of the good deeds he has performed, no matter how spectacular they might be (prophesy, cast out demons, perform many miracles). Entering the kingdom only happens when one has the kind of righteousness grounded in Christ that surpasses the Pharisees’ (5:10–11, 20); when, like a little child, one depends on the Lord for entrance (18:3); when one recognizes that entering is possible only as God effects it (19:16–17, 23–26); and when one enters only through Jesus (and the religious leaders hindered people from doing this, 23:13). I never knew you has the sense, "I do not recognize you as one of my people," and their alleged good deeds He views as lawlessness.

7:24–27. The last of the four warnings, this one is about acting upon the words of Jesus. Just as there are wolves among the sheep (7:15–23) and tares among the wheat (13:24–30) until the end, so do the houses of the wise and foolish stand side by side until the Son of Man comes to judge and take His throne. The house is a person who has heard Jesus’ words; the rock represents the teachings of Jesus that, as one does them, result in withstanding the storm, whether it be eschatological judgment (Is 29:6; 30:30; Ezk 13:10–16; 38:22) or life’s trials.

7:28–29. The scribes were virtually walking footnotes who derived their authority by citing other famous rabbis. By contrast Jesus taught with His own authority, functioning as a prophet, giving new revelation from God. Jesus’ authority continues into the next several chapters of Matthew (see 8:9, 27; 9:6, 8; 10:1), serving to tie the Sermon on the Mount where He displayed His authority through His teaching with chaps. 8–10 where He displayed His authority through His miracle-working ministry.

C. The Messiah’s Miracles Demonstrated His Authority (8:1–9:34)

Matthew 11:4–5 is a key for understanding chaps. 8 and 9. The miracles not only show Jesus’ compassion but also confirm His messianic authority. Matthew 11:6 ("And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me") is equally important as it serves to connect the narratives about the miracles in Mt 8 and 9 with the dialogue in these chapters. Donald A. Hagner (Matthew 1–13, WBC [Dallas: Word Books, 1993], 196) points out that Jesus confronted several groups whose response to Him was either appropriate or deficient (see 8:10; 8:26–27; 9:8; 9:3, 11; 9:33–34). Those who are blessed are those who do not stumble over Jesus; they or their loved ones usually receive healing. But those who stumble over Him face dire consequences (8:11–12).

8:1–4. Leprosy was a term applied to skin diseases such as eczema, psoriasis, possibly seborrhea, not Hansen’s Disease (or modern leprosy). Leprosy rendered one a social outcast (Lv 13:45–46), ritually impure (Lv 13:3–30), and was thought to be a sign of judgment (2Ch 26:20; Nm 12:9–12). When Jesus touched him, He was formally violating Lv 5:3; but the Law was to benefit people (Mk 2:27), and to help someone was no real infringement of the Law. In the next miracle He heals with a word without touching the sick one. Perhaps Jesus knew that this leper needed caring physical contact, something denied him during his illness. The healed leper was to show [himself] to the priest and offer the prescribed sacrifices in obedience to Lv 14:1–33. For Mt 8:4, see the comments on 9:27–31.

8:5–13. Capernaum was the center of Jesus’ Galilean ministry (cf. 4:13). The centurion in a Roman legion would be roughly somewhere between a high-ranking noncommissioned officer and a captain in the modern army. He oversaw 100 soldiers, with each legion having 60 groups of 100 when fully staffed. This centurion was courteous in not insisting that Jesus come under [his] roof, as Jewish people often refused to enter the homes of Gentiles to avoid becoming ritually impure. The centurion’s faith was bolstered by his own military context. He was given authority and exercised it over his troops. Jesus had authority over all diseases and the evil spirits that sometimes inflict them. Jesus had not seen faith like this "even in Israel"—the birthplace of faith in God. Those who will come from east and west are probably Gentiles like the centurion and not scattered Jews. Those with faith will reclinein the kingdom of heaven, which is likened to a wedding feast (Is 25:6; Mt 25:10; Lk 14:15; Rv 19:7–10). The sons of the kingdom refer to the Jewish people who simply assumed their inclusion in the messianic kingdom (see m. Sanh. 10:1) and who even viewed themselves as God’s agents in judging the nations (2 Bar 72:6; T. Abr. 13:6). Jesus makes it clear that without faith in Him they would be excluded from the kingdom. The outer darkness (Mt 22:13; 25:30) and weeping and gnashing of teeth (13:42, 50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30) are metaphors for the experience of God’s judgment reserved for unbelievers. Some scholars view those in the outer darkness as believers excluded from the celebrative aspects of the kingdom because they failed to live for God (the view of Zane C. Hodges, Grace in Eclipse: A Study on Eternal Rewards [Dallas: Redenciˇn Viva, 1985], 83–95). This view is impossible, however, in light of 13:42, 50, where tares—who are labeled "sons of the evil one" in 13:38, bad fish in 13:48, and called "wicked," not righteous, in 13:49—experience this judgment.

8:14–17. Peter’s mother-in-law was healed so thoroughly that she had no residual effects, evident in that she waited on Him. The citation of Is 53:4 has engendered considerable discussion. Does the atonement guarantee healing for Christians? The answer is, "Yes, but …" Believers are guaranteed the resurrection body in the atonement also (Rm 6:4–10), but there is no indication that they will receive it prior to the rapture of the Church, at which time—and not before—God frees His child from all physical and spiritual ills. Matthew cites Is 53 as initial proof that Jesus was filling the role of the Suffering Servant, with the fuller, more climactic fulfillment coming at His crucifixion and experienced by the Church at the rapture.

8:18–22. It is possible that Jesus’ departure to the east side of the Sea of Galilee prompted some to pursue remaining with Him. Teacher is used in Matthew by people who did not actually believe in Jesus (12:38; 19:16; 22:16, 24, 36). Scribe(s) is used 23 times in Matthew, each time negatively except 23:2–3. Son of Man is used in contexts that either emphasize His earthly ministry and divine authority (9:6; 12:8; 19:28) or His suffering and death (8:20; 17:12, 22; 20:18). Daniel 7:13–14 uses it in an eschatological context for the One who establishes the kingdom on earth (see Mt 24:27–39). Jesus emphasized not only His divine authority but also His humility. Only one who is divine could inaugurate the kingdom and reconcile God and humankind. Nowhere to lay His head testifies of the rigors of Jesus’ itinerate ministry. Following Jesus would be a challenge for the scribe, for the disciples (who leave their homes in 8:23 for the east side of the Sea of Galilee), and for anyone.

Bury my father probably includes both the funeral and the months of mourning that traditionally followed. Burial of one’s father was so important that other religious observances could be suspended (e.g., saying daily prayers, study of the Torah), but following the Messiah was the highest priority. The dead burying the dead probably means, "Let those who are dead to the call of the kingdom bury those who are physically dead."

8:23–27. The Sea of Galilee (a fresh-water lake) is rimmed by hills and valleys that can funnel high winds that can whip up whitecaps abruptly. These violent waves, however, do not fully subside for 24–48 hours, making this miracle remarkable (it became perfectly calm) when the winds instantly abated and the water became glassy. Matthew may have drawn a parallel with Israel’s deliverance at the Red Sea in Ex 14 (the people cried out for deliverance beside the water, had fear, were rescued by God, and as a result, had faith in God and Moses). Jesus is the "New Moses" and more—Jesus rebuked the winds and waves and they obeyed, but Moses was silent.

8:28–34. The country of the Gadarenes is difficult to locate with certainty, and a number of textual variants are connected with the name ("Gergasenes?" "Gerasenes?"). It is probably the general area of Gadara, a city about five miles southeast of the Sea of Galilee. Its influence extended to that sea, including the town now called Kursi. The topography there fits Matthew’s description, with fertile but steep slopes that plummet into the sea.

What business do we have with each other? is an OT phrase (2Sm 16:10; 1Kg 17:18; 2Kg 3:13) that always indicates hostility. Torment us before the time: Demons will be tortured forever in judgment (Jd 6; Rv 20:10; 1 Enoch 16:1; Jub 10:8–9; T. Levi 18:12; 1QS 3:24–25; 4:18–20). Jesus, because He is the Son of God, will mete out this punishment at the appointed time, but the Gadarean episode is a foreshadowing of that future judgment.

The presence of swine makes it likely that this was a Gentile region, and the city of Gadara was in the Gentile province of the Decapolis. It is not clear why the demons wanted Jesus to send them into the herd, though 12:43–45 implies that demons seek hosts to wreak their destructive work. Jesus permits them, but the situation does not unfold as they anticipated. The drowning may have occurred to show the demons’ colossal power versus the superior power of Jesus or possibly as a sign of their future judgment. Mark 5:13 says there were 2,000 pigs, and as any hog farmer will attest, they are uncooperative creatures.

It is also unclear why the townspeople implored Him to leave. They appear to be worried about further financial loss, and the identity of Jesus as well as the deliverance of the demoniacs was inconsequential to them, suggesting that their priorities were skewed. The proper response, in spite of their loss, would have been to welcome Christ, thank Him for delivering the possessed men, and help to spread His fame in the region (see Mk 5:18–20).

9:1–8. Matthew continues to emphasize the theme of authority (9:6, 8) and the reaction of various groups to His miracles. The paralytic needed physical healing, but his greater need was spiritual. The reaction to Jesus’ pronouncement of forgiveness is understandable in light of the OT texts that ascribe the prerogative only to God (Is 43:25; 44:22). Blasphemes (v. 3) means "to speak against someone," "to harm one’s reputation." When a person claimed to have divine privileges, it diminished God’s unique and exalted place by suggesting that a mere human could share His attributes. It was not just uttering a theological lie. The healing confirmed that Jesus was not blaspheming, that He did have the divine authority to forgive sins. Miracles in the Gospels and Acts frequently occur to substantiate those whom God used to initiate a new movement and to validate new revelation.

9:9. The call of Matthew took place in Capernaum, and it is likely that he was willing to follow so readily because of observing these miracles. As a tax collector, Matthew’s job may have been to work a tollbooth for people traveling to or from the regions under Herod Antipas (Galilee) and Philip the Tetrarch (Gaulinitis, northeast of the Sea of Galilee, roughly the same as the modern Golan Heights). Tax collectors usually contracted with Roman authorities to gather a set amount of tax revenue each year, and as long as that quota was met, those authorities were satisfied. They made a profit by overcharging people, and their assistance rendered to Rome as well as their contacts with Gentiles resulted in Jewish people despising them.

9:10–13. Sinners refers to those who, at best, were irreligious, and at worst reputed violators of the Law. The question posed by the Pharisees in v. 11 is more of an accusation than a request for information. They disapproved of Jesus’ interaction with such known sinners for He was allowing Himself to be defiled by their company, and perhaps charged Him with "guilt by association." The words healthy and righteous should be understood as ironic, for Jesus saw the Pharisees as being neither (cf. 5:20), though these words summarized their estimation of their own condition. Jesus cites Hs 6:6 in v. 13. Neither Hosea nor Jesus should be understood as dismissing sacrifices, for God desired them; but He desired compassion (mercy) more. The Pharisees were in the same category as the apostates of Hosea’s day for they neither showed compassion toward the outcasts Jesus was reaching nor joy at their repentance. Many believers today fall into this trap as they pompously isolate themselves from the world, when God desires them to extend His love even to those on the fringes of society.

9:14–17. It is likely that John the Baptist was imprisoned by Herod Antipas by this time (see 14:1–12). The disciples of John had ascetic tendencies as did John and, on the topic of fasting, were in agreement with the Pharisees. Jesus’ disciples did not fast since it was inappropriate for them to do so—the bridegroom (Jesus) was still present, a cause for celebration. The guests at a wedding feast freely enjoyed themselves. Later, when He was gone, His disciples would fast.

The connection of vv. 16–17 with what precedes is unclear. Perhaps by these images He (and Matthew) meant that His presence (vv. 14–15) entailed the rise of a new spirituality that could not simply be added onto Judaism as most were practicing it. Those, like John’s disciples and the Pharisees, could not maintain their traditional ways and add "a little bit of Jesus" to them. There is considerable continuity between the Hebrew Scriptures and the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth, but the religious system of Israel could not be just slightly amended without disastrous results (a worse tear resultsthe wine pours out and the wineskins are ruined). Jesus’ point is not so much that Judaism and Christianity, respectively, are ruined by trying to combine them, as if they are both perfectly fine when unmixed. Instead, He proposed that catastrophe follows such an attempt, namely the forfeiture of salvation found only in Him.

9:18–19. The four miracles in 9:18–34 may provide concrete examples of individuals coming wholly to Jesus for their "preservation" (9:17), as well as providing substantiation that Jesus is the Messiah (see 11:4–6).

The typical synagogue official would have been similar to an administrative elder or executive pastor. He did relatively little of the preaching, but recruited those who did and otherwise oversaw the affairs of a synagogue. These officials were usually prominent in their communities.

9:20–22. Why did Matthew intertwine the miracle of the official’s daughter and the woman with the hemorrhage? There are few clues, but both episodes emphasize Jesus’ compassion (see 9:36) and His ability to deliver against all human expectations and perceived time constraints (the daughter was already dead by the time Jesus got to the official’s home in all three gospels [Mk 5:35; Lk 8:49]; the woman had been ill for 12 years). God can work on behalf of His children even when they think enough time has passed to make it impossible for Him to do so.

The hemorrhage was due to some uterine disorder, and this sort of illness had serious social and spiritual implications (Lv 15:19–25; see also Ezk 36:17; CD 4.12–5:17; 11QTemple 48:15–17; Josephus, War 5.227; m. Nidda; m. Zabim 4:1). The fringe of His cloak may have been the tassels that were worn on the four corners of one’s garments to remind a person of the Law (Nm 15:38–41; Dt 22:12). It is possible that the sick woman did not approach Jesus directly because of the shame of her condition. Made you well is literally "saved you." When Paul uses the verb it usually means "being rescued" from the eternal consequences of sin, and Matthew uses it this way (1:21; 10:22; 16:25; 18:11; 19:25); but here it may mean little more than God delivering her from her physical condition.

9:23–26. At the official’s home, a crowd in noisy disorder had gathered, probably consisting of musicians, professional mourners, and friends bringing food and condolences (2Ch 35:25; Jr 9:17–22; 16:7; Ezk 24:17, 22; Hs 9:4; Ec 12:5; Am 5:16). The job of the professionals was to express grief for the family, the louder the better. Even a poor family was expected to hire two flute players and one wailing woman (m. Ketub 4:4). The crowd began laughing at Him when He said the girl was just asleep. They may have felt disdain for Him as they knew she was dead and perhaps Jesus did not yet know it, or because they assumed that even this great Healer could not raise one from the dead. But "sleep" was an apt description of her condition; when people sleep they awaken from that temporary condition. Because of Jesus’ authority, her state of death was rendered temporary. This was also the first time in Matthew’s Gospel that Jesus raised one from the dead, and this was important for substantiating His messianic identity (Mt 11:5).

9:27–31. This is the first explicit mention of healing the blind in Matthew. According to the OT, messianic days would be accompanied by sight being restored (Is 29:18; 35:5; 42:7). The miracle lent weight to the claim that Jesus was the Messiah (Mt 11:5), and the blind men recognized Him as such, calling Him by the messianic title Son of David (9:27; see Matt 1:1) and even Lord (9:28). Josephus (Ant. 8.42–49) ascribes great healing prowess to Solomon, David’s son, which may account for the title here.

As in the case of the woman with the hemorrhage (9:22), the key for the blind men being healed was their faith. Apparently, Jesus wanted to avoid the sensationalism this miracle might produce, and sternly warned them against announcing it. There was the risk that the crowds would foment rebellion against Rome utilizing Jesus as the messianic liberator and cause Him to bypass the cross. The men, however, could not contain themselves.

9:32–34. Matthew says that the demon was cast out of the mute man in contrast to the other miracles where he wrote that people were "healed." The exorcism provided the setting for the accusation of the Pharisees that Jesus conspired with the ruler of the demons to help this man (see 10:25; 12:24). The accusation was public, given in response to the musings of the crowd, and signals open and explicit opposition by the Pharisees for the first time in Matthew. The opposition grew considerably more intense from that point on.

D. The Messiah’s Disciples Functioned with His Authority (9:35–11:1)

9:35–38. On 9:35 and its broader contextual connections, see the comments on 4:23–25. The harvest refers to the extensive needs of the distressed and downcast people of Israel, who were like sheep without a shepherd, a phrase that had messianic associations (Ezk 34:5, 23). Jesus commanded the disciples to pray that God would raise up and send out workers—and then Jesus enlisted the disciples to do what He urged them to pray about. God’s people must always pray—but there comes a time when effort must be coupled with entreaty.

10:1–4. The inclusio of 4:23 and 9:35 finds a continuation in 10:1, where the words that conclude 4:23 and 9:35 occur again. Chapter 10 is the second major discourse in Matthew and continues the theme of Jesus’ authority (10:1). This is a precursor of the Great Commission in Mt 28:18–20. For a detailed discussion of the twelve disciples, see John MacArthur, "Matthew 8–15," MNTC (Chicago: Moody, 1987), 129–182.

10:5–6. These verses specify the "target audience" of the disciples. They were not to go to the Gentiles or to the Samaritans, though no reason is given for the restriction to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Perhaps the best reason is that it was expedient to go to those with whom the disciples shared a common set of values and beliefs. There would be time for a ministry to the Samaritans and Gentiles later (10:18). The Jewish national rejection of Messiah had not yet taken place (Mt 12:14, 24); only afterward could the message be taken to the Gentiles (cf. Rm 11:11).

10:7–8. Here, Jesus instructs the Twelve about some of the ministry activities they would perform. No nature miracles are mentioned, and, as Craig Blomberg points out, the curing of each of these kinds of maladies occurred in the book of Acts (3:1–10; 8:7, 13; 9:32–43; 14:8–10; 19:13–16; 20:7–12) except for lepers (Matthew, NAC [Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1992], 171).

10:9–10. Jesus also instructed them regarding their belongings while engaged in this work. There is a harmonization problem between Matthew and Mark. In Matthew, Jesus forbids taking sandals and a staff (with other items). In Mk 6:8–9, Jesus allows them. The best solution is that Jesus allowed only one pair of sandals and one staff in keeping with Mark, but not two. That Jesus, in Matthew, says "shake the dust off your feet" (10:14) and not "off your sandals" does not prove they lacked sandals. Mark 6:11 says "shake the dust off the soles of your feet," but those feet had sandals. Given the harsh terrain of the land of Israel, walking for any distance without shod feet would be impossible, and theirs was to be a traveling ministry (see the verbs for going, entering, and leaving in vv. 5–15). If the disciples had sandals when they began their travels, then they probably also had one tunic and one staff but should not acquire more. By being lightly equipped they would not be hampered by the weight of transporting extra supplies and would experience and demonstrate God’s provision. Accusations of greed would also not stick to them.

10:11–14. The instruction to stay at a house until you leave would help the disciples not waste time finding better accommodations, nor perplex an initial host. Peace was often associated with the arrival of the Messianic Age (Is 9:6; 52:7; Mc 5:5; Nah 1:15; Zch 9:10); if a house is worthy probably means "they welcome you and your message," then they would have the kind of peace that will characterize the kingdom and avoid the judgment for those who do not embrace the gospel (Mt 10:15). Jewish people who traveled through Gentile regions would shake the dust off their feet (v. 14), for unholy places might make one unclean or one could track defilement into Jewish districts (cf. m. Ohal. 2:3). For the disciples to do this as a testimony against Jewish homes was to insinuate that they might someday be judged by God just as the Gentiles would be.

10:16–20. Verses 16–20 present the likelihood of more active opposition, and may have been given by Jesus in preparation for what would happen to them further in the future. These kinds of persecution happened in the book of Acts.

Sheep and doves are both victims of predators with few defenses, and the metaphors suggest that the disciples were to be transparent and vulnerable to people to serve them, but they were also to be wise as serpents (or "snakes"), which have a knack for self-preservation. The disciples were not to be unduly na´ve, resulting in perpetual victimization. The courts (v. 17), refer to judicial actions against the disciples. Though they would encounter overwhelming obstacles, they nevertheless must provide a testimony (lit., "witness") to their abusers. The promise of vv. 19–20 was intended chiefly for the disciples, and in Acts they speak in crisis situations while "filled with the Holy Spirit" (Ac 4:8; 7:55; 13:9). The promise that their words will be given to them by the Spirit reflects a prophetic experience that is not guaranteed to every believer.

10:21–22. The one who has endured, based on vv. 21–22, is the one who continues his witness in the midst of furious antagonism. The end sometimes refers to the last days (e.g., 1Co 1:8; Rv 2:26), but it often carries a less technical sense of "the end (of a period of time)" (Lk 1:33; 1Co 10:11; 2Co 3:13; 1Pt 4:7). In v. 21, death due to persecution makes it likely that the end here is the end of life, whether from persecution or other causes. Saved refers to spiritual deliverance, and perseverance is the evidence from which one can infer that a person is saved (Col 1:22–23; Heb 3:5–6, 14; and see the comments on Mt 13:18–23). Perseverance, however, is not the cause of salvation.

10:23. Does the phrase you will not finish ["going through" is not found in the Gk.] the cities of Israel reassure persecuted disciples that they will always have places of refuge in Israel despite widespread persecution? Or does it mean that the mission to Israel will not be completed even at the second coming? The two views are not mutually exclusive, for to say one is surely to suggest the other. Matthew 10:11–15 places this statement in the broader framework of the Church’s mission to Israel. But the explanatory for linking the desperate flight from one town to the next in 23a and b with "finishing the cities" in 23c supports the first view. Until the Son of Man comes is similarly difficult. It may be a reference to His "coming" to the Father at His ascension or to His eschatological second coming. But a satisfying option is that it is a reference to Jesus’ "coming" in judgment in AD 70. In 16:27 and 26:64, the coming of the Son of Man is associated with judgment. In addition, the persecution of His followers is depicted as taking place early on, during the period before relations with the synagogue were curtailed (10:17), making it likely that Jesus is referring narrowly to the experience of His disciples following the resurrection. This does not exclude the need for the ongoing mission to Israel today, however.

10:24–31. For Beelzebul, see the comments on 12:22–24. As 10:16–25 indicates, there will be intense opposition to believers, especially those involved in evangelistic efforts. Fear would be a normal reaction, so Jesus encourages them three times not to fear (vv. 26, 28, 31), and gives them truths that might assuage it. Verse 26 contains the first truth, promising that the identity of Jesus and the disciples will finally be revealed in the day of judgment if not before; they are not of Satan, but of God, and eventually even their persecutors would see that. Therefore, they were to be bold about what He told them in darkness and whispered in their ear, probably figures for the private instruction Jesus gave the twelve in contrast to the open proclamation coming later (v. 27).

The second truth is that their fear of God must supersede fear of opposition so that their mission would continue (v. 28). The third truth emphasized God’s sovereign awareness of their distress and His care for them. If God cares about even the little things (sparrows; the number of the hairs of your head), why should they fear people?

10:32–33. Therefore introduces an inference from what precedes. If Jesus’ followers do not fear people in a paralyzing sense, then they will confess Him. The meaning of Jesus denying a person probably refers to being deprived of salvation (cf. 10:22). Will Jesus deny Peter before the Father (see 26:70, 72)? This is unlikely. The tense of the verb denies indicates that if a person’s life could be defined or summarized as a whole by the words, "He denied Me," then that person can expect to be denied by Jesus. But that label does not fit Peter’s life. He surely denied Christ, but he repeatedly "confessed Christ" (Jn 21:15–17) thereafter. Jesus is not warning about an occasional lapse in one’s witness that is otherwise found in a life punctuated by outspoken identification with Him.

10:34–39. Jesus must be confessed before people, even if His witnesses experience contention and martyrdom. I did not come to bring peace refers to dissension that they, and all His people, would experience because of their loyalty to Jesus. Eventually there will be peace on earth for His gospel is one of peace, but in the meantime even family members may be set at odds with one another. Breaking with one’s family because of Jesus (v. 37) is to take up the cross and "lose one’s life" in this world (vv. 38–39). It was common for a criminal to carry both the crosspiece of his crucifix and a plaque that delineated his crimes. Jesus probably meant that following Him could lead to such severe persecution that crucifixion might result. Verse 39 could be paraphrased, "He whose life pleases only himself will miss eternal life, and he whose life is lived for Me even to the point of death will find that eternal life awaits him."

10:40–42. What if a person is not a missionary? There are other ways to help the cause. Those who contribute even in small ways (giving a cup of cold water to drink to a weary, hot, roaming minister—probably what is meant by little ones) will share in the reward of those who are on the front lines.

11:1. To teach and preach are the same words found in the inclusio of 4:23 and 9:35. In 10:1, the mention of healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness provided a continuation of the theme of Jesus’ authority; in 11:1, the teaching aspect of His work continues.

III. The Reactions to the King-Messiah (11:2–12:50)

A. John Was Confused (11:2–15)

Matthew 11:2 provides a transition with John the Baptist inquiring about the works of Christ. Chapters 4–10 emphasized the authority of Christ based upon His teaching and healing ministry, and beginning in chap. 11 the main theme revolves around how one should respond to Jesus.

11:2–6. See 14:3 for John’s imprisonment. John’s question (v. 3) is understandable in light of his own prophesying about the Messiah coming with judgment (3:7–12), but there was little judgment so far in His ministry. In addition, most of the Jewish people anticipated a Messiah who would come as a great warrior king like David to free Israel from her oppressors (c. 164 BC, the SibOr 3:652–656; c. 63–48 BC, PssSol 17:1–4, 21–25, 30–32, 35–37, 45–46). Jesus’ answer (vv. 4–5) draws heavily upon messianic texts from Isaiah (26:19; 29:18; 35:5–6; 42:7, 18; 61:1) as proof that He was the Expected One.

11:7–11. Jesus defended John’s ministry. A reed shaken by the wind would have been a common sight along the Jordan where John baptized; but people did not go out to see just something commonplace or even something with worldly splendor (soft clothing belonged to the rich and powerful). John was more than a prophet (v. 9) from the standpoint that he was the one chosen to prepare the way for the Messiah (citing Ex 23:20 and Mal 3:1). John was greater than all from the standpoint that he was the one who would point to Christ more clearly than anyone else. But even those least in the kingdom of heaven are greater than John, probably because those who are citizens of the messianic kingdom and who look back to the cross can give a more profound explanation of Jesus than John could.

11:12. Verse 12 is puzzling, but it probably should read, "The kingdom has violence done to it, and violent men are seeking to seize it." The verb suffers violence could be middle voice ("The kingdom is forcefully advancing itself" or something like it) but is probably a true passive judging from the parallel expression violent men take it ["violently seize" it] by force. The verse indicates the spiritual battle the opponents were waging against John and later Jesus as these opponents discouraged people from following them.

11:13–15. John himself is Elijah (v. 14), but not in the literal sense of Elijah descending to earth from heaven. Luke 1:17 says John came "in the spirit and power of Elijah," not unlike Elisha. God gave three orders to Elijah toward the end of his ministry (1Kg 19:15–16), only one completed by him before his ascension (1Kg 19:19), the others being accomplished by Elisha "in the spirit and power of Elijah" (2Kg 8:7–8; 9:1–3). At the transfiguration, it was not John the Baptist and Moses who joined Christ but Elijah and Moses.

B. The Masses Were Unresponsive (11:16–24)

11:16–19. In this little analogy, Jesus is symbolized by the children playing the flute for other children who refused to dance (cf. 11:19, where "playing the flute" corresponds to Jesus’ "eating and drinking") and John is symbolized by the children who sang mournfully but other children did not mourn (cf. 11:18, where "singing a dirge" corresponds to John’s refusal to eat or drink). This generation disregarded John and Jesus—John because of his asceticism and Jesus because of His "excessiveness." Both Jesus and John taught with wisdom, each in his own unique but complementary way, but the people found both repugnant. The wisdom John and Jesus voiced, however, was vindicated by her deeds; i.e., the works of John and Jesus (see 11:2) exonerated them from unwarranted accusations and showed the validity of the wisdom they articulated.

11:20–24. Woe refers to a condition of deep destitution, suffering, or pain. Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum were within about five miles of each other around the north end of the Sea of Galilee. In spite of the innumerable miracles Jesus performed there, as well as the amount of teaching, their reaction, based on these verses, was one of unbelief. Miracles do not always promote faith in unbelievers. Tyre and Sidon were Gentile cities north of Israel on the Mediterranean Sea, and Sodom needs no comment. Verses 21 and 23 give indirect evidence for Jesus’ omniscience, for He knew what might have happened in these corrupt cities if He had done the kinds of miracles there that He performed in Galilee. Notably, today Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum are just ruins, but other cities in the region (Svat aka Safed, probably the "city set on a hill"; Magdala aka Migdal; Tiberias) are still bustling towns. When Jesus pronounces a woe, ruin is the result.

C. The Downhearted Were Encouraged (11:25–30)

11:25–27. Lord of heaven and earth expresses God’s sovereignty and indicates that even the dissension that surrounded Jesus was part of His sovereign plan. He revealed spiritual truths about Jesus and the kingdom to infants (those who are of no account in the world’s opinion) but hid them from the wise and intelligent (see 1Co 1:26–29). Both groups witnessed the same miracles and heard the same Teacher, but God gave special insight to those who welcomed Christ, and it pleased Him to do so (v. 26). Those who were sympathetic to Christ were the ones to whom the Son wills to reveal these realities, for He is the only one capable of adequately mediating knowledge of God to humankind.

11:28–30 The promise of rest was tied especially to the promises about the Son of David, the Messiah, providing security for the house of Israel (see Jr 23:5; 33:15–16; Ezk 34:15, 23–25; Am 9:11–15). That rest is found only in Jesus, and has eternal implications (Heb 4:1–11). The people were weary and heavy-laden because the excesses of the traditions of the Pharisees marginalized those who were spiritually "sick" (Mt 9:12) and even on the Sabbath left people hungry, maimed, and demon possessed (12:1–24). The religious leaders laid heavy burdens upon the people without providing any help (23:4) or showing mercy (9:13; 12:7; 23:23). On the other hand, Jesus’ burden is light but not necessarily effortless. Anyone who has tried to embody the ethic of the Sermon on the Mount knows the requirements are agonizingly difficult. But they are easy and light in contrast to the heavy burdens of the Pharisees precisely because He is gentle and humble in heart and, as the Suffering Servant, bears His people’s sins (Is 53:11–12). He does not break off a battered reed, nor snuff out the spark from a smoldering wick (Mt 12:20)—that is, He helps those who are demoralized. Jesus says, "Come to Me," and those who do find a challenging yoke, but also a compassionate Savior who encourages, loves, forgives, restores, strengthens, and saves (for this interpretation, see Jon Laansma, I Will Give You Rest: The Rest Motif in the New Testament with Special Reference to Mt 11 and Heb 3–4, Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament, Series 2 [TŘbingen: Mohr Dieback Siebeck, 1997], 238–50). Rabbinic literature speaks of taking on the yoke of the Torah or the yoke of the commandments, meaning "adopting Torah," including the performance of Rabbinic instruction as a lifestyle. Jesus is contrasting following Him, which is light, with following Rabbinic Torah, which is burdensome (Mt 23:4). Perhaps the more severe expressions of Christianity have strayed from the kind of discipleship He offers.

D. The Leaders Were Antagonistic (12:1–50)

1. Regarding Sabbath Practices (12:1–21)

12:1–8. At that time provides a chronological connection with the events of chaps. 10–11. Thematically the connection may involve prime examples of the rest that Jesus provides in contrast to the heavy burdens of the religious leaders.

The Sabbath is mentioned here in Matthew for the first time, and chap. 12 begins a recurring theme of Sabbath controversies. One of the reasons was that during and after the exile (around 440 BC), Pharisaic Judaism began to develop rules that augmented biblical Sabbath law in order to "build a fence around the Law" (m. Aboth 1:1) so that one would not inadvertently violate it. Those additional rules are not found in the Hebrew Scriptures. Carrying a burden on the Sabbath was forbidden (Jr 17:21–24), but the later authorities felt the need to be more explicit about identifying what a burden was. They formulated dozens of rules so people would avoid carrying a burden on the Sabbath (a tailor could not carry around a needle stuck into his coat; one could not carry enough ink with which to write two letters of the alphabet, etc.). So, according to these traditions, when the disciples were picking the heads of grain off the stalks, they were guilty of reaping and of preparing food for consumption on the Sabbath, both banned under Pharisaic traditions.

What David did (vv. 3–4) is recorded in 1Sm 21:1–6. The consecrated bread was 12 loaves of bread placed on a special table in the tabernacle and later the temple, symbolizing God’s presence with the tribes of Israel. Only the priests could eat these loaves (Ex 25:30; Lv 24:5–9), but David was no priest. Jesus’ point is that the OT did not condemn David for his action. If the written Law could be suspended for David without consequence, then oral traditions could be suspended for Jesus and His followers. The rigidity of the Pharisees’ interpretation of the Law was not in accord with Scripture itself and it could not explain the incident with David.

Even the priests break the Sabbath and are innocent (v. 5). On the Sabbath priests changed the consecrated bread (Lv 24:8) and offered double the number of animals for the burnt offering (Nm 28:9–10). If priests "broke" the Sabbath for the sake of the temple, and if Jesus is greater than the temple (v. 6), then He could "break" the Sabbath as well. The authority of the temple laws shielded the priests from guilt; the authority of Jesus shields his disciples from guilt. The Pharisees needed not only to keep the Law but to be compassionate (v. 7, see 9:13; Hs 6:6), a trait that many of them lacked as seen in their attitudes on this occasion. For the Son of Man is Lord ["boss"] of the Sabbath (v. 8) not only sums up Messiah’s supremacy over the temple in v. 7, but also serves as the ground for the innocence of Jesus and the disciples. Jesus has the unequivocal authority to determine how to apply the Sabbath.

12:9–14. To heal on the Sabbath was to work. It was laid down in their oral tradition that only if life was in actual danger could one provide medical attention (m. Yoma 8:6; m. Shabbat 22:6), and then steps could be taken only to keep the sufferer from getting worse, not to improve his condition. Withered means "dried up, shriveled, lifeless."

In v. 11, the main question was simply whether the Sabbath was a day for doing beneficial activity or not. Judging from Ex 23:12, it was. Jesus’ point was that if it were permissible to help an animal on the Sabbath, it was certainly permissible to help a person.

The man’s hand was restored to normal—its shriveled, shrunken condition was reversed, perhaps expanding and becoming muscular before their eyes. The Pharisees’ anger came because He rejected their view of the Sabbath and exposed their inconsistency; they were willing to help an animal on the Sabbath but not a person. His mercy, His easy yoke, and light burden were highlighted in contrast to the heavy burden of the Pharisees.

12:15–21. Matthew 12 is thematically linked to Is 42:1–3, a passage viewed as messianic (see Tg. 42:1, and W. D. Davies and Dale C. Allison A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew, ICC [Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1991], 322–24). Those connections include: (1) the Spirit (Is 42:1; Mt 12:18) as the agent of Jesus’ miracles and the focal point of the blasphemy of the Spirit in 12:24; (2) The double mention of Gentiles (Is 42:1, 3; Mt 12:18, 21), which fits with Matthew’s and Jesus’ emphasis on the gospel going to the Gentiles; (3) Is 42:2, which says that people did not hear His voice in the streets, a feature that corresponds with Mt 12:16, where Jesus told people to keep quiet about healing them, and (4) the mention of the battered reed and smoldering wick (Is 42:3), which corresponds to His kindness in healing so many (Mt 12:15). Jesus was fulfilling the role of the prophesied Suffering Servant.

2. Regarding Exorcisms (12:22–37)

12:22–24. In the wake of the healing of the blind man, the crowds begin to wonder if Jesus was the Son of David. The syntax, however, indicates that the question was asked with some doubt. The Pharisees countered that idea by claiming connivance between Jesus and Beelzebul the ruler of the demons. Beelzebul may have come from the Hebrew woalzebub ("lord of the flies," with "flies" serving as a euphemism for "manure"), a mocking takeoff of Ba‘alzebul this should read Ba’alzebul ("Prince Baal"), a pagan deity (see 2Kg 1:2–3, 16). It was clearly intended by the Pharisees pejoratively, along with ruler of the demons, for the Devil.

12:25–30. These verses presuppose that Satan also has a well-organized kingdom. The reference to a kingdom, a city, and a house shows that in large or small organizations, internal division wreaks havoc. Jesus responded to their accusation with three arguments. (1) He showed the absurdity of their view. How then will his kingdom stand? (v. 26). It made no sense for the Devil to give a person power if that power was used to ransack his own kingdom. (2) He showed the inconsistency of their view. Your sons were the disciples of the Pharisees (i.e., other Pharisees), and Pharisees sometimes engaged in exorcisms. But exorcisms by Jesus and exorcisms by the Pharisees were assigned by them to two different sources (Beelzebul and the Spirit of God, respectively). Jesus rightly brands this as inconsistent. (3) He showed what was actually taking place through the exorcisms (vv. 28–29). The kingdom of God has come upon you suggests that with the presence of the King some effects of the kingdom were also present, including exorcising demons. The connection between vv. 28 and 29 is that Jesus was not part of Satan’s kingdom. Rather, He was successfully attacking Satan’s kingdom, called the strong man’s house. His property was the people under Satan’s sway. Verse 30 unpacks the consequences of Jesus’ battle with Satan. There could be no middle ground: one was, and is, either on God’s side with Christ or on Satan’s side.

12:31–32. In v. 31, Jesus stopped explaining and started warning. On blasphemy, see 9:3. Most scholars agree that the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit refers to attributing the miracles Jesus performed through the power of the Spirit to the evil one. The title Son of Man was used in contexts that emphasized His humility associated with the incarnation (see 8:20). Perhaps speaking against the Son of Man was pardonable because Jesus’ identity was veiled. Someone might reject His words but eventually be forgiven if the person accepted the evidence of His miracles performed through the Spirit. But if that evidence was rejected, then there was no other evidential "safety net" that could keep one from falling into spiritual ruin.

It is unlikely that this sin can be committed today, for conditions are different; Jesus is not physically present performing miracles, validating His identity as the Son of Man and Son of God. Some aver that unbelief is the unpardonable sin. However, every person who trusts Christ is pardoned for the sin of unbelief. If one dies in a state of unbelief, that sin is not so much unpardonable as it is unpardoned. Other texts (Heb 6:4–6; 10:27–29; 1Jn 5:16) are cited as references to the unpardonable sin. However, those texts seem to describe individuals who were outwardly and superficially sympathetic to faith in Jesus, but then apostatized, showing that they were never saved. Those situations are different from Mt 12.

This sin shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come. Those who committed the sin in Jesus’ day were beyond salvation. The age to come is not "heaven" or "purgatory," but is the messianic kingdom on earth when Jesus once again will be physically present performing miracles. Some will reject Him then also (Rv 20:7–10). The conditions will exist for this sin to be committed again without hope of forgiveness.

12:33–37. The Pharisees’ evil words (v. 24) originated from the evil that fills the heart (v. 34). Make the tree (v. 33) refers to arboriculture, developing and cultivating trees to produce the desired fruit. If the fruit is bad, the tree is defective. The Pharisees’ reaction (their "fruit") to Jesus’ ministry indicated that their heart was faulty. They would be held accountable in the judgment for every careless ("worthless," "useless," "unproductive") word. No one is "justified by words." But good words (good treasure) demonstrate that one has a good heart, which, in context, means acknowledging that what Jesus says about Himself is true. Words dismissing Jesus demonstrate an evil heart that will result in condemnation.

3. Regarding Signs (12:38–45)

12:38–42. The irony of v. 38 is that His earlier miracles led the Pharisees to accuse Jesus of working with the Devil, yet they wanted more miracles. Sign means "an unusual act with special meaning," and here carries the nuance of a miraculous act. The scribes and Pharisees were looking for such an astounding display of power that all reservations about Jesus could be dismissed. Perhaps if Ursa Major (the Big Bear constellation) would run across the sky and bite Orion’s belt—then they could believe. The three days and three nights causes some concern since Jesus only spent Friday and Saturday night in the tomb. But Jewish people regarded even a part of a day as "a day and a night" (see 1Sm 30:12–13; 2Ch 10:5, 12; Est 4:16; 5:1). The Gentile men of Nineveh and the Queen of the South (1Kg 10:1; 2Ch 9:1) make unusual protagonists in Jesus’ rebuke, but they are commendable inasmuch as they responded appropriately to those with considerably less authority than Jesus.

12:43–45. The key to understanding this brief allegory is in v. 45c, d. This evil generation is used in both vv. 39 and 45, linking the two warnings together. Jesus’ ministry brought profound benefits for many (12:15), but most remained either noncommittal or hostile toward Him. As a result, they were worse off (the last state of that man becomes worse than the first) because eventually God would judge them for their antipathy.

E. Family Ties Were Narrowed (12:46–50)

12:46–50. The point of this paragraph is to encourage people to follow Jesus even in the general environment of animosity. Brothers cannot refer to Joseph’s sons through a previous marriage to someone other than Mary; this would make Joseph’s oldest son the legal heir to David’s throne, not Jesus. Jesus has to be Joseph’s legal first-born to qualify for the throne. Jesus is not undermining the importance of blood ties, but being a follower of Jesus supersedes family commitment, and those who follow are adopted into a new family with God as their Father (Rm 8:15–17). On doing the will of My Father, see the comments on 7:21–23.

IV. The Kingdom and the King-Messiah in the Present Era (13:1–52)

A. The Parable of the Sower and the Soils (13:1–23)

In many ways chap. 12 is the watershed chapter of Matthew. There the leaders formally rejected Jesus and committed the unpardonable sin. They rejected the King. In light of this, what happens to the kingdom He offered? Jesus answered that question in Mt 13 with eight parables about the nature of the kingdom in light of the nation’s rejection of the King.

"Parable" could be defined many ways, but the working definition here is that it is a true-to-life story designed for teaching some specific spiritual truth usually pertaining to the King, the kingdom of God, or the citizens of the kingdom.

13:1–9. See 13:18–23 below. Often seeds would be scattered on the ground from leather pouches as a farmer walked the field. Sometimes the fields were plowed, then seed scattered, and fields plowed again. In the parable, some seed fell beside the road (v. 4) where footpaths often bordered the fields. There were rocky places just below the surface of the soil in many areas. The plant could grow, but eventually withered under the sun because it did not get the moisture or nutrients it needed. Thorns often grow when no other plants will. In the rugged terrain of Israel, they can take over an area so the crops are choked. Let him hear (v. 9) served as both a warning and an invitation by Jesus to His hearers to exercise their minds to grasp the spiritual significance of this and the other public parables.

13:10–17. Up to this point in Jesus’ ministry He had not once taught the crowds in parables. This is why the disciples questioned Him about it (v. 10). He teaches the crowds predominantly in parables throughout the remainder of Matthew’s gospel. Verses 10–17 explain why. The disciples have the privilege of knowing the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but not all do. "Mystery" means "a secret" or "that which is hidden," the contents usually revealed to a select group. Here it refers to truth Jesus was revealing about the kingdom of heaven for the first time (for "kingdom of heaven, see 3:1–4). In the OT prophecies, the kingdom would come to earth in a cataclysmic, civilization-shattering way, accompanied with judgment of the nations and the restoration of Israel (see Is 2; Dn 2, 7; Zch 14). But with the rejection of the King, Jesus reveals new aspects of the kingdom not forecast by the OT. George Eldon Ladd (The Presence of the Future: The Eschatology of Biblical Realism [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1974], 225), wrote, "The new truth, now given to men by revelation in the person and mission of Jesus, is that the Kingdom which is to come finally in apocalyptic power, as foreseen by Daniel, has in fact entered into the world in advance in a hidden form to work secretly within and among men" (italics Ladd’s). In the end, the kingdom will come in all its outward power at Jesus’ second coming, but in the wake of the nation rejecting the King, the "mystery form" of the kingdom is at work in the world initially.

The parables were designed to reveal truth to the privileged few, including the disciples, but to conceal it from the spiritually dull (vv. 12–13)—especially the religious leaders and opponents of Jesus seen in Mt 12. The parables thus have a dual function, the key being God’s elective purposes. However, as in much of Scripture, divine election and human responsibility are not mutually exclusive; the spiritual receptivity of the hearer plays a role in this, and if one did not persist in rejecting Jesus, he or she could later embrace Him. The citation from Is 6:9–10 (vv. 14–15), spoken by God through the prophet, was for Isaiah’s contemporaries, and addressed their spiritual unresponsiveness. That citation served as an analogy for the Jewish rejection of Jesus.

13:18–23. In the parable, the seed represented the word of the kingdom (v. 19), and Jesus was the sower. The seed sown beside the road was those who heard the word about the kingdom but who did not understand it (13:9), and Satan (symbolized by the birds in v. 4) hindered their understanding of the truth (see 2Co 4:3–4). The seed sown on the rocky places represented one who was superficial, lacking the ability to follow through, especially whenpersecution arises (vv. 20–21). The seed among thorns (v. 22) represented the person distracted by material concerns (worry, wealth) that choke the word (see 1Tm 6:10). The good soil receives and understands the word being spread by the King and produces a bountiful crop (see Mt 13:12).

A crucial question emerges: Which of these four is "saved?" All agree the first is not. All agree that the fourth is. The other two may have been saved since they seemed to have "life," but this is unlikely, for several reasons. First, none of the first three produced fruit, so the fourth seed was in a distinct category. Second, John’s and Jesus’ teaching suggested that avoiding judgment was not dependent upon the apparent presence of life but upon the production of good fruit (Mt 3:10; 7:19). Third, in Mt 10:22, 32–33, Jesus said that endurance during times of persecution were indications that one was truly saved, but the second seed sown in rocky soil falls away when persecution arose, making it likely that the second seed (and probably the third) was not saved.

What is the point of this parable? Prophecies of the kingdom in the OT did not envision this kind of "coming" of the kingdom quietly and spiritually into the hearts of people as they responded correctly to the Word. None of this precludes the climactic coming of the kingdom in the future at the second coming of Christ.

B. The Parable of the Wheat and Tares (13:24–30; cf. 13:36–43)

13:24–30. For the interpretation of this parable, see the comments below on 13:36–43. The second parable is about one of the mysteries of the kingdom. It reveals how, during the present age before its climactic coming, the kingdom contains diabolical counterfeits, something not seen in the OT concept of the coming kingdom from which all enemies of God are removed.

C. The Parable of the Mustard Seed (13:31–32)

13:31–32. In later rabbinic thought, the mustard seed was proverbial for smallness (m. Niddah 5:2). It was the smallest seed regularly cultivated in Israel. In a single season modern mustard bushes can grow in excess of ten feet tall. The point of the parable is that in the OT gradual growth was not part of the coming of the kingdom. However, this newly revealed truth about the kingdom, the "mystery form" of the kingdom during this present era, does grow gradually into a large entity. This gradual growth does not preclude a future coming that is sudden, enormous, and earthshaking. The birds may refer to malevolent elements found in its mystery form, but birds do not always represent evil in Scripture (see Mt 6:26), and may be a feature in the parable simply to indicate the large size of the bush.

D. The Parable of the Leaven (13:33)

13:33. Bread was usually baked using a piece of dough with active yeast in it from a previous batch of dough. Leaven sometimes refers to corrupting influences (Mt 16:6; 1Co 5:6), but not always (Lv 7:13; 23:15–18). Here the leaven probably has much the same function as the mustard seed, indicating small origins with gradual growth that permeates a much larger entity such as the world. The leaven in this parable infuses three pecks, a huge amount enough for 100–150 people. Jesus’ small band would have a gradual but wide effect upon the world, then subsequently the kingdom would come in full force.

E. The Reason for the Parables (13:34–35)

13:34–35. Psalm 78:1–2 is cited in v. 35. It was written by Asaph, poet and prophet under David and Solomon. Psalm 78 is an extended review of the history of the Jewish people from the patriarchs through David’s time. The main theme in the psalm is God’s faithfulness despite the people’s disobedience. Asaph calls his psalm a "parable" and "dark sayings" (78:2), probably indicating that he was drawing insights from historic events not usually seen in them. Asaph wrote the psalm to instruct his own and following generations. When Matthew says Jesus taught in parables it was to fulfill typologically what Asaph had done, i.e., presenting new insights about the kingdom of God that would come in spite of the people’s unfaithfulness.

F. The Parable of the Wheat and Tares, cont. (13:36–43; cf. 13:24–30)

13:36–43. In v. 36 Jesus withdrew from the boat (13:2) and the crowds, and continued instructing the disciples in parables privately. He explained the referents of the elements of the parable of the wheat and the tares. The good seed is the sons of the kingdom placed in the world by Jesus. The devil places the tares in the field, i.e., sons of the evil one in the world. Tares bore a strong resemblance to wheat and could not be distinguished from it until a crop matured. This enemy places counterfeits of the sons of the kingdom (true followers of Jesus) in the world to hinder the spread of the mystery form of the kingdom during the present age. In the future when the kingdom fully comes the Son of Man will remove these fakes from the kingdom (stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness) and judge them. The moment Jesus returns to earth at the second coming the kingdom arrives as well, but there is a short period of time in which Jesus judges those not aligned with Him (1,335 days, Dn 12:12; see the comments there). At the end of that period of judgment, the sons of the evil one are removed from the kingdom and experience weeping and gnashing of teeth—a favorite expression of Jesus for eschatological judgment (Mt 8:5–13 and see the comments there; also 13:50; 22:13; 24:51; 25:30). At that time, finally, the righteous will share and enjoy the glory of God with Him in His kingdom.

G. The Parables of the Buried Treasure and Pearl of Great Price (13:44–46)

13:44–46. The parables of the treasure and the pearl emphasize the great worth of the mystery form of the kingdom. Jewish prophetic thought did not view the kingdom as something as inconspicuous as a buried box of valuables or a priceless pearl that one might providentially stumble across. It was to come powerfully and openly from God alone at the end of the age. Jesus tells us virtually nothing about the situation surrounding the treasure and the ethics of the man who obtains it; these do not fit His purpose. The point seems to be that while the kingdom is not physically resplendent, it is nevertheless priceless and one must obtain it at all costs. Pearls were more highly prized in the ancient world than today (see Jb 28:18; 1Tm 2:9; Rv 17:4; 18:12, 16). This mystery form of the kingdom is worth obtaining, no matter the cost.

H. The Parable of the Dragnet (13:47–50)

13:47–50. Not unlike the parable of the wheat and tares, the parable of the dragnet indicates that the mystery form of the kingdom encompasses good and evil components, and only the final "sweep of the net" sorts them out. That the righteous are not mentioned indicates the emphasis of this parable. Jesus is concerned with the final removal of evil, when the net is full at the end of the fishing. This is not about church discipline. The focus here is on the state of the kingdom when the final judgment occurs. Initially it includes both the righteous and the wicked, but an infallible sorting out will certainly take place so that only the righteous remain. For v. 50, cf. the comments on 8:5–13.

I. The Parables Gave New Revelation about the King and Kingdom (13:51–52)

13:51–52. The scribe probably refers to disciples who will teach other disciples. The head of a household in Jesus’ teaching was one who dispensed items for others (20:1–16; 21:33–43). The treasure sometimes referred to what one produces from one’s heart (12:35). So the disciple-scribes must teach things new and old for others. This has special relevance for the Twelve, but the entire Church is included since it is founded upon their teaching. Things new and old indicates Jesus taught new truth about the mysteries of the kingdom, but old truth clearly seen in the OT as well, and that His followers must teach both. He taught what is found in the OT about the coming of the kingdom—future separation and judgment and the enormity of the kingdom. But there is also new material in this chapter, the mysteries of the kingdom, which included small beginnings, gradual growth, permeation, and the mixture of good and bad elements. The followers of Jesus are to teach the old and the new.

V. The Withdrawal, Help, and Opposition of the King-Messiah: Four Cycles (13:53–16:28)

A. Cycle #1: The Ministry in Nazareth (13:53–14:12)

1. Jesus Withdrew: To Nazareth (13:53)

13:53–58. This section is the first of four cycles with parallel structure that run through Mt 16:28. Matthew 13:53–58 presents all the elements of each section. Matthew’s structure continues to show the ongoing kindness of Jesus in the face of mounting opposition. See the table "Parallel Cycles in Matthew 13:53–16:28" below.

2. Jesus Helped: By Teaching in the Synagogue (13:54)

It is not clear what His hometown (v. 54) is. In 14:13 Jesus enters a boat, supporting the possibility that it is Capernaum. But more than likely it is Nazareth, and Matthew omits the return to Capernaum. He began teaching them in their synagogue. This would, under normal circumstances, be a blessing for these people. But their hard-heartedness left them without benefit from His teaching.

3. Jesus Faced Opposition: From His Kin and King Herod (13:55–14:12)

The residents of Nazareth fixated upon His humble beginnings, and failed to be led past these by His powerful ministry and thereby grasp who He truly was (vv. 55–56). The proverb A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household (v. 57) is similar in force to the modern adage, "Familiarity breeds contempt." The relationship of the paucity of miracles and their unbelief is not that their lack of faith hampered Jesus’ power. He did not do many miracles there because they did not bring their sick to Him at all, precisely because they did not believe in Him.

Parallel Cycles in Matthew 13:53–16:28

  He Withdrew He Helped He was Opposed
Cycle #1 13:53 13:54 13:55–14:12
Cycle #2 14:13 14:14–36 15:1–20
Cycle #3 15:21 15:22–39 16:1–4c
Cycle #4 16:4d 16:5–20 16:21–28

14:1–2. One of the themes of chap. 13 was the gradual growth of the mystery form of the kingdom (13:31–33) in spite of mounting opposition to Jesus by the religious leaders (chap. 12) and others (13:53–58). Here the governing authorities opposed Him, namely Herod the tetrarch (b. 20 BC). This was Herod Antipas, one of Herod the Great’s sons, who ruled from 4 BC until AD 39 over the region of Galilee and Perea, where John the Baptist and Jesus ministered. It is the same Herod who assisted Pilate in the trial of Jesus (Lk 23:6–12). John the Baptistrisen from the dead was probably a reflection of superstition and not reflective of a well-rounded theology of resurrection. Jesus and John both preached the kingdom of heaven, which may have led Antipas to this conclusion.

14:3–5. The date of John’s imprisonment is unknown, but it is mentioned in 4:12 and 11:2. It was occasioned by John’s denunciation of Antipas, who around AD 29 became attracted to and eventually married the wife of his half brother, Herod Philip. Her name was Herodias, and she was also Antipas’s niece, the daughter of another half brother, Aristobulus. She insisted that Antipas divorce his Nabatean wife, daughter of the king of Petra, Aretes IV, an act that was both a breach of a political alliance and a personal affront. Hostilities arose between them, and eventually Aretes started a war that led to Antipas’s downfall in AD 36.

The Law forbade a man marrying his brother’s wife (Lv 18:16; 20:21) unless the brother died childless (Dt 25:5). Herod Philip was alive and had a daughter, Salome. John challenged Antipas’s marriage to Herodias on these grounds.

14:6–12. Matthew omits the unseemly details (cf. Mk 6:14–29). Salome was probably 12–14 years of age, akin to an 18–22 year old today. It was culturally acceptable in Roman settings for a young woman, even a princess, to dance in such an audience. Antipas was grieved (v. 9), perhaps because he found John interesting (Mk 6:20), perhaps because he did not want John executed this way. According to Josephus (Ant., 18.119), John was executed at Machaerus, Antipas’s fortress east of the Dead Sea. After his disciples buried the body, they went and reported to Jesus, possibly to warn Him (see his withdrawal in v. 13; also 2:22; 4:12) or possibly to look to Him to take up John’s mantle.

B. Cycle #2: Feeding the Five Thousand at Bethsaida (14:13–15:20)

1. Jesus Withdrew: To a Secluded Spot (14:13)

14:13. Beginning in 14:13, Matthew presents the second cycle of withdrawal (14:13), helping people (14:14–36), and opposition (15:1–20). See the table at 13:53 entitled "Parallel Cycles in Matthew 13:53–16:28."

2. Jesus Helped: By Feeding the Multitude and Stilling a Storm (14:14–36)

14:14–21. The site of the feeding of the five thousand is unknown, but may have been in the vicinity of Bethsaida on the northeast shore of the Sea of Galilee (cf. Mk 6:45). The traditional site of Tabgah on the northwest shore is unlikely because of v. 34, for Gennesaret is located close to it and would not accommodate the long boat ride. The numbers of the five loaves and two fish (v. 17) are probably not symbolic but serve to show the scant resources despite which Jesus was able to help the crowd. Matthew gives few clues explaining why he recorded the process of distributing the food (took the five loaveslooking upblessed the food breaking the loaves, and giving them to the disciples); these things were so often done at a typical meal that they would not have been included, except Matthew probably intends to link them to other miraculous feedings (e.g., through Moses, Exodus 16; Elijah, 1Kg 17:8–16, and Elisha, 2Kg 4:1–7, 42–44). Matthew also may be forecasting the Lord’s table (Mt 26:26). There also He took bread, blessed it, and gave it to the disciples (same words both passages). Perhaps the point is that the ultimate and wildly abundant provision for Israel (the twelve full baskets are probably symbolic) will no longer be found in the one who brought the Law nor in the prophets, but in Jesus.

14:22–33. Once again, Matthew gives no clues regarding Jesus’ actions in sending away the disciples, dismissing the crowds, and finding solitude to pray. In the stilling of the storm in 8:23–27, the main threat to the disciples was the waves, which were on the verge of swamping the boat. Here it is a contrary wind that hindered their progress (v. 24). The fourth watch of the night (v. 25) would have been between 3:00 and 6:00 a.m., probably closer to the latter since there was apparently just enough light for the disciples to see Jesus, though not to recognize Him. The disciples thought they saw a ghost (v. 26; Gk. phantasma)—people with corporeal bodies could not do what they saw Jesus doing. When Jesus said it is I, the Gk. words are ego eimi, a phrase used in Isaiah 40–50 (LXX) by God when He alone claims to have the power to rescue His people (cf. Is 41:10; 43:1–2, 10; 45:22; 46:4; 48:17). Is 41:10 says, "Do not fear ["fear" here is phobou; in Mt 14:27, phobeisthe—same word, different person and mood], for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am [ego eimi] your God.… Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." Peter’s ability to walk on the water (vv. 28–29) was contingent upon Jesus’ identity as God’s Son. As long as Peter focused in faith upon Jesus, the authoritative Son, he could walk on water as Jesus did. Matthew indicates that when Jesus’ followers rely upon Him and do not doubt, they will be able to do remarkable things on the basis of His strength (opening the kingdom, 16:19; "moving mountains," 17:20; reaching the nations, 28:18–20). When Peter "anxiously looked about him" (Is 41:10) at the waves he needed Jesus to stretch out His hand (v. 31). In other OT passages, God is the one who rescues His people from the sea (Ex 14:10–15:21; Ps 107:23–32; Jnh 1:4–2:10). Jesus took that prerogative for Himself and intimated that He was fulfilling this divine role. On the disciples’ exclamation You are certainly God’s Son! see the comments on 16:14–17.

14:34–36. Gennesaret (modern Nof Ginosar) is on the NW side of the Sea of Galilee, about three miles southwest of Capernaum. See 9:20 for the woman being healed by touching His cloak.

David Turner (Matthew, BECNT [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2008], 376) offers a helpful summary of the significance of chap. 14. "Looking back on Matt. 14, one can conclude that in the midst of growing opposition, the authority of the kingdom is also growing [as assured in the parables of chap. 13] through the miracles and through the weak but genuine and maturing faith of the disciples."

3. Jesus Faced Opposition: From Pharisees and Scribes Over Oral Traditions (15:1–20)

Matthew 15:1–20 continues the second cycle by presenting the heightened opposition of the Pharisees and scribesfrom Jerusalem (v. 1) (see the comments on 14:13, and the table at 13:53, "Parallel Cycles in Matthew 13:53–16:28"). The flow of Matthew’s argument may include the theme of ritual defilement. External incidental contact with unclean things (sick people, 14:34–36; bread "defiled" by unclean hands, 15:1–20) does not defile a person, but what comes out of the heart does.

15:1–9. The Pharisees and scribesfrom Jerusalem probably denote an official party that has come to engage in a theological investigation of the popular Teacher who staunchly opposed some from their sect (12:38). The tradition of the elders (v. 2) refers to the "fence around the Law" put in place by the ancient Jewish scribes (see the comments on 12:1–8 on the Sabbath). Jesus’ disciples did not wash their hands when they eat bread. The Pharisees and scribes believed that hands could become ritually unclean by a host of ways. That impurity could be transferred to food when someone held it while eating. Defiled food would then make unclean the entire person, and those who were serious about their status before God would hardly allow this (cf. John Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew: A Commentary on the Greek Text, NIGTC [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005], 611–15 for the details and bibliography; cf. also m. Yadaim for the need for washing hands). However, there was nothing quite like this in the Law for anyone other than priests or community leaders on special occasions (Ex 30:17–21; Dt 21:1–9), or if one had a bodily discharge (Lv 15:11). Jesus’ answer (v. 3) confronted the leaders with an accusation similar to the one they levied against Him and the disciples; when the disciples did not wash, they appeared to dismiss the Pharisees’ tradition, but when the Pharisees kept their own traditions they would sometimes transgress the commandment of God, the more serious of the two shortcomings. Jesus illustrated this with reference to the fifth commandment (Ex 20:12; Dt 5:16; Ex 21:17). The phrase has been given to God (v. 5) reflects a tradition called korban (cf. Mk 7:11), "a gift" pledged to God, no longer allowed to be used in common affairs. One could make a vow to turn over all his assets to the temple upon his death but retain use of them until then. However, these assets could not be transferred to others nor used to benefit anyone else (the poor; one’s family) since they belonged to God (Blomberg, Matthew, 238). Invalidated (v. 6) means "to disregard or refuse the authority or power of something," in this case the word of God which must have sole authority for the life of God’s children. Religious traditions often do not supplement Scripture; they supplant Scripture.

Jesus cited Is 29:13 (vv. 7–9) which addressed Jerusalem (called "Ariel" in Is 29:1, 2, 7) with God’s plans to deliver her from the Assyrians (Is 29:1–8). In spite of what He would do, the city would continue to worship Him in a perfunctory manner, as they had always done (their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote, 29:13), with their hearts far from Him. Jesus makes a typological connection between the people’s reaction to the Word of God given through Isaiah and the people’s reaction in Jesus’ day to the Word of God given through Him. The worship of those who substitute human religious traditions for the Word is vain ("to accomplish nothing," "to have no result," "to be as though nothing has happened")—no good comes of it unless it conforms to the Word and flows from a warm heart.

15:10–11. So serious was the Pharisaic neglect of Scripture that Jesus initiated an opportunity to teach the crowd. Verses 17–20 develop v. 11. What one ate was important in the OT and could result in one being unclean (see the context of Lv 11:24, 39–40). Defile means "to be profane, ritually unacceptable to God." Jesus indicates that food was morally neutral (Mk 7:19); the problem was not what one ate but what one did. The more fundamental purpose of Jesus was not so much to show that food laws were obsolete as much as that other matters deserved a higher priority. Matthew 15:11 with Mk 7:19 sounded the death knell of dietary laws for the Church, but it was not Jesus’ primary purpose here.

15:12–14. Jesus ascribed the Pharisees’ taking offense to their being plants which My heavenly Father did not plant. This alludes to Is 60:21; 61:3, where restored Israel is right with God on the basis of His gracious action. The Pharisees were not the recipients of God’s restorative work, now manifested in Jesus. As a result, they would be uprooted (judged) and resist Jesus’ ministry. That God did not plant them, and that Jesus told Peter, "Leave them!" (NET) is reminiscent of the parable of the wheat and the tares. The landowner lets both grow together until the harvest when they are separated and the tares (sons of the evil one, 13:38) are judged (13:30, 40–41). The Pharisees were blind guides in that they were blind to the true intent and "weightier matters" of the Law, as well as to their own unenviable condition, and could not be counted on to lead others safely in spiritual matters.

15:15–20. Jesus commanded the crowd to hear and understand (v. 10), suggesting that He anticipated the difficulty of His instruction. The disciples had a private audience with Jesus and received further instruction. For the comments on 15:16–19, see above on 15:10–11. To eat with unwashed hands (v. 20) forms an inclusio with the phrase "they do not wash their hands" in v. 2. This signals that Jesus’ main point in the discussion was to deal with the sub-biblical oral traditions of the Pharisees, which often obscured the true requirements of the Law.

C. Cycle #3: Tyre and Sidon and Feeding the Four Thousand (15:21–16:4c)

1. Jesus Withdrew: To the Region of Tyre and Sidon (15:21)

15:21. This begins the third cycle of Matthew’s "He withdrew, He helped, He was opposed" structure running through 16:28 (see the table at 13:53–58, "Parallel Cycles in Matthew 13:53–16:28"). The district of Tyre and Sidon provides an important geographical note. Both cities were on the Mediterranean coast, Tyre being about 30 miles northwest of Capernaum, Sidon about 25 miles north of Tyre, and both in the Roman province of Syria. The district suggests that Jesus may not have gone all the way to the cities, so that the farthest north He traveled may have been to the district of Caesarea Philippi (16:13).

2. Jesus Helped: By Assisting the Canaanite Woman and Feeding Many (15:22–39)

15:22–28. The Canaanite woman (v. 22) makes an unlikely heroine, as Canaanites were the indigenous people almost displaced by the Hebrews and their perpetual enemies (Jos 3:10; Jdg 1:1). How she addressed Jesus, however, sounded very Jewish (see the plea of the blind men in Mt 9:27–28 and 20:30–31) and indicates well-rounded knowledge of His mission and power. Once again the disciples show how calloused they were (see 14:15), and Jesus seemed ready to dismiss her (I was sent only toIsrael, vv. 23c–24). When she became more insistent (v. 25), He gave a further explanation in v. 26. The children’s bread is probably a metaphor for the covenant blessings intended for the Jewish people, and dogs a reference to Gentiles as those outside of the covenant community of Israel. Her response in v. 27 indicated a surprising level of insight regarding the relationship of the Jewish people’s covenant blessings and the benefits they provide for Gentiles (see Gn 12:3; Rm 11:17–18; Eph 2:11–22). The salvation-historical priority of Jesus was to reach the Jewish people, but as the Great Commission (Mt 28:18–20) indicates, even Gentiles benefit from the Jewish Messiah.

15:29–31. It is not clear where this episode takes place. By the Sea of Galilee is probably on the southeastern shore in the Gentile region of Decapolis (see Mk 7:31), a fact bolstered by the boat ride into the Jewish region of Magadan (v. 39), probably Magdala, on the northwest shore of the Sea. The textual clues in Matthew do not make this reconstruction certain, however. Like Moses, Jesus went up on the mountain and healed a number of the Gentiles there. The crumbs that blessed the Canaanite woman are now applied to a much wider group, indicating Jesus’ intent to broaden His ministry to encompass Gentiles.

15:32–39. The similarities with the feeding of the 5,000 in Mt 14:15ff. are obvious, but there are differences. Here Jesus was probably in a Gentile region with Gentile people, He went up on a mountain, the crowd was with Him three days, Jesus initiated this feeding, the amount of the provisions and leftovers differ, and the size of the crowd is smaller. The point of this miracle may be to indicate that Jesus would include Gentiles in the scope of His ministry and that they would participate in the great messianic banquet that described the kingdom, along with the Jewish people. Carson ("Matthew," 358) explains the unbelief of the disciples in light of Jn 6:26. There Jesus rebuked the crowds for following Him in order to receive nothing more than food. It is possible that the disciples thought He might not feed a crowd again because of that previous episode. In addition, this second feeding miracle parallels the two feeding miracles prompted by Moses (Ex 16; Nm 11), suggesting that Jesus was the new Moses. It is impossible to determine if the seven large baskets are symbolic, as Matthew does not give any helpful clues.

3. Jesus Faced Opposition: From the Pharisees and Sadducees Who Wanted a Sign (16:1–4c)

16:1–4. It is not easy to determine the flow of the argument here. Matthew may have included 16:1–4 to demonstrate the stark contrast between the (probably) Gentile recipients of blessings in 15:21–38 who also received remarkable signs and the complete blindness of the religious leaders.

The Pharisees and Sadducees were hostile sects but united in their opposition of Jesus. On the sign from heaven (v. 1) and the sign of Jonah (v. 4), see 12:38–40. These religious leaders could forecast the weather, which is always difficult because conditions change so quickly. But in spite of the indisputable miracles Jesus performed, they could not comprehend that they were the signs of the (messianic) times.

D. Cycle #4: The Leaven of the Pharisees and Teaching the Disciples (16:4d–16:28)

1. Jesus Withdrew: To the Other Side of the Sea (16:4d)

16:4d. And He left them and went away begins the fourth cycle involving Jesus withdrawing, helping someone, and then being opposed. See the table at 13:53–58 above, "Parallel Cycles in Matthew 13:53–16:28").

2. Jesus Helped: By Teaching His Disciples (16:5–20)

16:5–6. Mark 8:22 notes that Jesus and the disciples came to Bethsaida, on the northeast shore of the Sea of Galilee, at the conclusion of the boat trip. Matthew 16:5 makes it sound as if the disciples traveled without Jesus, while 14:13 and 15:39 sound as if Jesus sailed without them. Unless the text is clear that they traveled separately (cf. 14:22), the assumption must be that they were together. The focus here is upon the disciples whose negligence in bringing bread (v. 5) becomes the point of the episode.

The leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees (v. 6) is explained in v. 12 as the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. A small amount of dough with active yeast could make a large batch of unleavened dough rise. Leaven sometimes, though not always, refers to evil influences (Lk 12:1; 1Co 5:6–8). The metaphoric reference to leaven stands for the poisonous influence of the religious leaders who sought to turn the people against Jesus. According to 27:20–26, they were successful.

16:7–12. Verse 7 indicates that the disciples did not understand Jesus. They may have thought He was warning them not to buy bread from the leaders (v. 6). Their preoccupation was with their lack of bread and presumably the hardship that might bring, whereas Jesus’ concern was with more potent issues. The disciples’ anxiety about food was unfounded in light of the care and the power of Jesus, who recounts the two feeding miracles as a reminder of both. The disciples are still men of little faith (v. 8). Jesus will provide the mundane things needed for survival. What the disciples—then and now—needed to watch out and beware of (v. 6) was not the lack of physical provisions but the subtle permeation and influence of false teaching, hypocrisy (Pharisees; cf. 23:13, 15), and unbelief (Sadducees; cf. 22:23).

16:13. The disciples demonstrated a considerable lack of spiritual insight in 16:1–12, but in 16:13–20 God overcame that through the revelation given to Peter. Caesarea Philippi was about 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee. The city, originally called Paneas, was given by Caesar Augustus to Herod the Great in 20 BC, and Herod promptly built a temple in honor of Augustus on the site. Herod then gave it to his son, Philip the tetrarch, who renamed it "Caesarea Philippi" in honor of Augustus, adding Philip’s name to it in order to distinguish this city from Caesarea by the sea. Philip also kept a palace there. A large spring was there, one of the main sources of the Jordan River, and a shrine to the god Pan. It was a thoroughly pagan, Roman place, and the promise of an unstoppable Church flew in the face of the assumed powers that were represented there. On the title Son of Man, see the comments on 8:18–22.

16:14–17. The common denominator between John the Baptist, Elijah, and Jeremiah was that they were all prophets calling the people to return to covenant faithfulness. Elijah performed miracles (1Kg 17), and there were great prophetic hopes attached to him as the forerunner of the Messiah (Mal 4:5–6; Mt 11:7–15). That Jesus’ ministry might be confused with his was understandable. Jeremiah and the prophets prophesied judgment, as did Jesus (cf. 11:20ff.; 21:33ff.). The Christ (v. 16) is a title, not a proper name, and means "one who is anointed." In the LXX christos is used for the Hebrew masiah, "anointed," for priests (Lv 4:5, 16; 6:22 [LXX 6:15]) and kings (e.g., 2Sm 23:1), including the future great Davidic king, the Messiah (PssSol 17:32; 18:5; 2 Bar 29:3; 30:1; 27:2; 4 Ezra 12:32). Matthew uses the word Christ elsewhere in narrative sections of his gospel (1:1, 16, 17, 18; 2:4; 11:2), but the disciples use it for the first time here. Living God is used in Jos 3:10; Jr 10:10; Dn 6:20, 26, for God’s power and uniqueness in contrast to false gods like Pan. As the Son of the living God, Jesus can guarantee that the gates of Hades (see the comments below) will not prevail over the Church. "Son of God" occurs in 4:3, 6, and figures prominently in 14:33 ("You are certainly God’s Son!"), where Jesus rescues Peter and the disciples from the sea, a prerogative reserved only for God in the OT (Ex 14:10–15:21; Ps 107:23–32; Jnh 1:4–2:10).

The response of Jesus is enigmatic (v. 17). In 14:33 the disciples recognized that Jesus was God’s Son. Why did He claim divine revelation for Peter’s confession when the disciples seem to have understood this previously? Perhaps the best answer is to understand that in 14:33 the disciples ascribe divinity to Him as they witnessed His God-like power over natural forces. That episode surely led them to a budding perception of Jesus’ deity. But in 16:16, Peter connects Jesus’ divine identification with the concept of the coming Messiah, who, with a few noteworthy exceptions, was not viewed as divine in the OT or Early Judaism (for a human Messiah, see 1QS 9:11; CD 12:23; 4QPBless 3f; b. Ber. 56b; b. Suk. 52a; 4 Ezra 7:28; b. Sanh. 99a; for the exceptions, see the LXX of Dn 7:13; b. Hag. 14a; b. Sanh. 38b). Peter’s insight that connected these two facts came from God, not his own ingenuity.

16:18. Jesus assigns Simon a new name, Peter, just as God did with Abraham. In both cases the new name shows how the individual will function in God’s plans (Abraham becomes the "father of many," Gn 17:1–8, and Peter the "foundation stone") as He creates a new people (the Jewish people in Abraham’s case, the Church in Peter’s). The identification of this rock is interpreted variously as Peter’s faith, Peter’s confession, Peter’s preaching office, the truth shown to Peter, the 12 disciples, Jesus Himself, Jesus’ teaching, and even God Himself. Most of the variety stems from the bitter antagonism between interpreters from markedly different backgrounds. Many take exception to identifying Peter as the rock, but some of the reason for that is grounded in saying too much about Peter (e.g., that he was the first pope). But Peter is the focus in the verses before and after v. 18. Eph 2:20 and Rv 21:14 speak of the 12 apostles as foundational for the Church, a fact supporting that Peter was part of the foundation, but was not the sole foundation vis-Ó-vis the other apostles. And it was Peter who, using the keys of the kingdom, opened the kingdom for the Jewish people (Ac 2), the Samaritans (Ac 8), and the Gentiles (Ac 10), so that Jesus’ prophecy about Peter seems to have actually come true in that he does function as the foundation of the Church. On this much most recent commentators, even from highly diverse religious persuasions, agree. However, doctrines related to apostolic succession or the infallibility of the Church cannot be substantiated from this, nor any other, text.

The gates of Hades probably means "death" (see Jb 38:17; Ps 9:13; 107:18; Is 38:10). As Son of the living God Jesus guarantees that the power of death would neither conquer nor imprison (as gates can incarcerate) the Church. In Matthew, there was much opposition to Christ, and the church being "killed" was quite possible. And Jesus in the next section (Mt 16:21) would talk about His own death.

16:19. Precisely how Peter functions as the rock is explained in v. 19. On keys, see Rv 1:18; 3:7; 9:1–6; 20:1–3. The keys of the kingdom of heaven probably refers to Peter’s and the apostles’ authority to admit people into the blessings of the kingdom, for keys often were used by the stewards who supervised one’s household to dispense provisions for those who needed them (Is 22:15, 22; see Lk 11:52 where the "key of knowledge" related to entering the kingdom). The keys relate specifically to bind[ing] and loos[ing]. As Peter and the apostles preached in various areas—as they wielded the keys of the kingdom and Jesus built His Church—people would be loosed from their sins (forgiven) as they responded correctly to their gospel message (Ac 2:14–39; 3:11–26), or bound in their sins (remain unforgiven) if they did not (Ac 4:11–12; 8:20–23; 13:4–12, 44–52; 18:5–10). The verb construction shall have been bound, shall have been loosed (estai dedemenon, estai lelumenon, future perfect periphrastics) probably does not indicate that heaven made the determination of who is bound or loosed before Peter, though the concept is theologically sound. Instead, it probably accentuates the permanent divine agreement between Peter and heaven on the matter. To paraphrase: "Peter, when, in the future, you bind or loose people, be assured that unquestionably they will remain bound or loosed in heaven as well."

16:20. Jesus warned the disciples to remain silent about this discussion, probably to avoid misunderstanding in the throng that followed Him and would have forcefully made Him king with very little encouragement, but also perhaps to avoid aggravating the religious leaders further.

3. Jesus Faced Opposition: From Disciples Who Did Not Understand (16:21–27)

16:21–22. The disciples did not yet adequately understand the more serious implications of Jesus’ divine Messiahship. The elders and chief priests and scribes is an apt summary of those included in the Sanhedrin, the ruling religious body. Jesus alluded cryptically to His death before this (9:15; 10:38; 12:40), but this was the first time He did so explicitly with the disciples (see Mk 8:32). Peter demonstrated that he still had a lot to learn about Jesus’ Messiahship.

16:23. Get behind Me, Satan! reflects Jesus’ words at the conclusion of the temptation (4:10). There the Devil sought to keep Jesus off the cross by soliciting Him to sin, rendering Him unfit to be a sacrifice. Peter unwittingly played the same role, becoming a stumbling block (lit., "a trap," but metaphorically "a situation or person that causes another to sin") for Jesus. Peter was setting his mind on man’s interests. The typical Jewish expectation was that the Messiah would provide enormous political, economic, and spiritual relief for the Jewish people (cf. PssSol 17), but a dead Messiah could hardly do any of that.

16:24–27. On this section, see the comments on 10:34–39. Verse 24 is explained by vv. 25, 26, and 27. If one gains the whole world and forfeits his soul ("life"), this is pointless, for one would not be able to enjoy all that he acquired. Nothing can be given in exchange for one’s soul. Therefore, if one wishes to preserve his life, paradoxically it must be given up to follow Christ. Verse 27 gives another motivation for following Jesus. At the second coming, Jesus will then repay every man according to his deeds—especially those, in context, related to following Him (v. 24; see also Jn 5:28–29; 6:28–29).

VI. The Foretaste of the Glory of the King-Messiah: The Transfiguration (16:28–17:8)

16:28. The Son of Man coming in His kingdom has been interpreted as the transfiguration, the resurrection, the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, and the full-orbed establishment of the kingdom (i.e., assuming that the Church = the kingdom). The more defensible view is that v. 28 refers to all indicators of Christ’s kingly authority and judgment, including the transfiguration, His resurrection, the spread of the Church, and the judgment of Jerusalem. If 16:28 is about the kingly authority of Jesus that has residual effects, then the transfiguration alone is not the best referent. This view fits well with the idea of judgment in v. 27, with the transfiguration that follows immediately in chap. 17, and with some of the disciples who would not taste death, which seems to require a lengthier span of time than the six days that passed before the transfiguration (17:1). In addition, Judas is an example of one who did taste death and missed the resurrection, Pentecost, the Church’s growth, and AD 70.

17:1. Jesus provided a powerful experience for the three "inner circle" disciples, perhaps to offset the distressing mention of His impending death (16:21; 17:22). Exodus 24:9–18 provides a typological background for this episode (six days, Ex 24:16; three associates, Ex 24:9; a mountain covered by a cloud, Ex 24:12, 15; the glory, Ex 24:17, and God’s voice, Ex 24:16; 25:1). Matthew’s point in presenting these features of what transpired may be to build a case for Jesus being the new Moses, the new leader of God’s people. Mt. Tabor is the traditional high mountain, but Mt. Hermon (30 miles north of Capernaum), which rose to over 9,200 feet, is a better option, though the precise location is unknown. Lk 9:28 says the transfiguration took place some (lit., "about," "approximately") eight days later, but Matthew gives the more precise chronology.

17:2–3. Transfigured (metamorphoo, "to transform, change in form," here "a change that is outwardly visible") is further described by the remainder of the verse. The appearance of Moses and Elijah was probably to indicate the superiority of Jesus over these two prominent OT characters.

17:4–8. Peter offered to build three tabernacles (better "shelters" or "booths"—usually temporary dwellings made of animal skins supported by poles and secured with rope and stakes), perhaps to commemorate the event. But Peter’s intent to honor Moses and Elijah, as well as Jesus, brought a correction from God (v. 5), who clearly put the priority upon His Son.

VII. The Model of Humble Service Provided by the King-Messiah (17:9–27)

A. The Messiah Was Willing to Suffer (17:9–13)

17:9–13. This was the last time Jesus commanded His followers to remain silent about His power (8:4; 9:30; 12:16; 16:20; see the comments on 9:27–31). The connection between vv. 9 and 10 centers on the relationship of Elijah to the death of Jesus. Mk 9:11–12 suggests that their confusion resulted from being unable to harmonize the promise that Elijah will restore all things with Jesus’ forecast of His own death. If Elijah would lead the Jewish people in revival and spiritual restoration, then why would any revived and restored Jewish person kill the Messiah? The scribes were right about Elijah’s coming (v. 11), but failed to connect John’s ministry to what was promised of Elijah’s (Mal 4:5; Lk 1:17; see the comments on Mt 11:13–15). John did prepare the people for Jesus’ coming, but was killed nevertheless (v. 12); the same fate could well await the Messiah, Jesus.

B. The Messiah Was Willing to Help the Dull (17:14–20)

17:14–20. The thematic connections between this episode and the ones surrounding it are not clear. Jesus’ references to His death (17:9, 12, 22–23) are followed by miracles (17:14–21, 24–27), indicating that He was nevertheless the divine Messiah. Davies and Allison (The Gospel According to St. Matthew, 2:728) point out the primary thrust of these verses, which is seen in the repetition of various words for "faith" (unbelieving, apistos, v. 17; littleness of faith, oligopistia, v. 20, and faith, pistis, v. 20) and "power" (edynasthesan, [not] "to be able," translated could [not] in v. 16; edynethemen, [not] "to be able," translated could [not], and adynatesei, "to be unable," translated impossible, v. 20). God’s merciful power, which He makes available to His people as they serve others, is conditioned upon their reliance on Him. Lunatic (v. 15) means "to be moonstruck," i.e., adversely affected by the supposed supernatural powers of the moon, but here refers to something akin to epilepsy.

The disciples’ inability to heal (v. 16) is surprising in light of 10:1–8, but in keeping with their stumbling progress. Jesus’ rebuke (v. 17) was directed primarily against the disciples, but generation broadens the scope to include the others who were there. The disciples failed because of the littleness (better "poverty") of their faith, which may consist of understanding God’s vast power but not relying adequately upon Him; poor faith is faith mixed with a portion of doubt (see 8:26). The extreme condition of the boy, the pressure from the father and perhaps the crowd, the absence of Jesus and the three prominent disciples—these may have contributed to their lack of faith. Nothing will be impossible to you is clearly hyperbolic, and it is imperative to recognize that faith is not a shamanistic spell that compels God to give health and wealth to His children. The context is that of power in ministry that comes in outrageous reliance upon God, and faith includes not only belief in God’s ability to act but reverent dependence upon Him that does not mandate how He should respond.

As a side note, Lk 9:28 says that Jesus went up on the mountain prior to His transfiguration to pray, and Mk 9:29 emphasized the need for prayer (as does Mt 17:21—a verse not found in the best manuscripts). Perhaps one of the reasons Jesus was able to exorcise this pernicious demon, aside from His divine power, was because of His life of prayer. Significant times of prayer precede remarkable accomplishments in ministry.

C. The Messiah Was Submissive (17:22–27)

1. Prepared to Die (17:22–23)

17:22–23. The trek to Caesarea Philippi and back was finished. The mention of Galilee anticipates 17:24 and 19:1, where Jesus leaves never to return. The verb delivered is used for Judas’s betrayal of Jesus (26:15, 16, 21, 23, 24, 25, 45, 46, 48), and this is the first time Jesus mentioned it (though cf. 10:4). Deeply grieved indicates that the disciples only heard they will kill Him and not the glorious final outcome raised on the third day. They were beginning to comprehend the dark day that awaited them, and no longer chastised Jesus for speaking of it.

2. Prepared to Pay a Tax (17:24–27)

17:24–27. The two-drachma tax (v. 24) was the temple tax used to support the sacrificial system in Jerusalem. According to the Mishnah (m. Shek. 1:1), the tax was a fixed amount seen as equivalent to two days’ wages, to be paid annually in the month of Adar (February-March) by all adult Jewish males over 20 years of age. The question posed to Peter indicates some concern regarding Jesus’ practice on this matter. Jesus used the opportunity to make a strong Christological point (vv. 25–26); as God’s Son, the Son of the King, Jesus would be exempt from paying this tax, just as kings of the earth exempted their own sons. Jesus, however, surrendered His right to the exemption to avoid undue offense, and miraculously provided the resources for Peter to pay the tax for both of them, suggesting that Peter is among "God’s sons" because of his connection with Jesus. Once again Matthew shows his readers Jesus’ humility in paying a tax for His Father’s house from which He was exempt, and in His perfect willingness to provide for Peter’s needs.

VIII. The Ethics of the Leaders Chosen by the King-Messiah (18:1–19:12)

A. Humility: Necessary to Enter and Serve in the Kingdom (18:1–6)

18:1–6. The question, Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven? may have arisen because of the mention of Jesus’ death. Which of them would be leader in His absence? On the kingdom of heaven, see 3:1–4. Jesus’ answer focused not on rank, but on the more critical issue of how to enter the kingdom—that is, by being converted ("change one’s ways, to turn to God") and becoming like children. This comparison could be understood several ways, but the key is being humble (v. 4), explained further in v. 6 as believing in Me. Entering the kingdom is the prospect only for those who humbly trust in Jesus for salvation (see the comments on 7:21–23 for entering the kingdom). In v. 4, Jesus returned to the initial topic of being great in the kingdom. Humility was needed to enter the kingdom and to be great in it, for the leaders of His community are to be its servants (20:24–28) willing to care even for the insignificant (a child, v. 5). Whoever causes [a Christian] … to stumble ("spiritual harm") will be held accountable for it (v. 6).

B. Personal Purity: Avoid Harming Self and Others (18:7–14)

18:7–10. Jesus does not say why it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come (v. 7), but later He indicates that evil thrives before it is expunged (24:6). Verse 7 indicates both God’s providential superintendence of stumbling blocks and human responsibility for them. In v. 8, Jesus warns that His followers could cause themselves spiritual harm by their own imprudent behavior. The OT forbade self-mutilation (Dt 14:1; 1Kg 18:28; Zch 13:6), and Jesus surely did not mean this verse to be applied literally. His point is that dealing with sin requires severe steps.

Fiery hell (v. 9) is literally "Gehenna of fire." For the history of Gehenna, aka the Hinnom Valley on the southwest end of Jerusalem, see 2Kg 16:3; 21:6; 23:10; 2Ch 33:6. Under King Josiah, the valley became Jerusalem’s city dump where fires constantly burned to reduce volume and speed putrefaction. It was a graphic representation of hell. According to this context, some of the characteristics of being saved include being dependent upon God and believing in Jesus (see comments above). But if one harms and despises His followers (vv. 2–10) and does not deal severely with his own sin, he shows an affinity with the world that indicates he might be unsaved and condemned (destined for fiery hell). The main point of v. 10 is that believers are important to God, and if angels who serve them (Heb 1:14) observe one of these little ones receiving harsh treatment, God will "find out about it" from them and neither He nor they will approve.

18:12–14. See Lk 15:3–7. The point here, however, is that God goes to great pains to redeem His people and to keep them in His love. The followers of Jesus should show the same kind of pastoral concern for each other that God demonstrates.

C. Corporate Purity: Conduct Church Discipline (18:15–20)

18:15–20. This passage indicates how a wayward sheep is brought back to the fold. The first step (v. 15) involves a caring, private admonition of the sinful disciple. To the verb sins some ancient mss add "against you" (reflected in the KJV; NKJV; ESV; RSV), but scribes tended to add material, supporting the shorter and more encompassing reading. Show is literally "to rebuke," or "to convince a person of his wrongdoing." This reproof is to be conducted in private; slander and gossip have no place in Jesus’ community. You have won ["to gain," "prevent the loss of"] your brother presents the goal of the process. These steps must be conducted with family-like kindness (brother is used twice). Those who relish church discipline are precisely the ones who should not engage in it.

The second step (v. 16) involves the enlistment of two or three witnesses (see Dt 19:15). These additional participants probably did not observe the initial sin. The need for privacy would be reduced if they had. Their role is to accompany the original witness to lend weight to the gravity of the situation, and perhaps to certify to the church that restoration was being conducted correctly.

The third step (v. 17) involves telling the church, presumably so that the entire church becomes involved in the effort to restore. If this attempt fails, then the offending party is to be treated as a Gentile and a tax collector. Jewish people kept their interaction with Gentiles and tax collectors to a bare minimum. While Jesus accepted Gentiles and tax collectors, an unrepentant believer who has been taken through the three steps of church discipline should not be accepted back into the church. In the phrase let him be to you, you is singular, not plural. Jesus was personalizing the instruction, making the responsibility for restoration and discipline binding upon every individual in Jesus’ community (not just the leaders!).

For v. 18, see 16:19. Here, however, it is the entire community that participates in the binding and loosing, not just Peter. In this context it deals less with salvational forgiveness of sins and more with the restoration (being loosed) of one who is already saved. The two who agree (v. 19) refers to the same two or three witnesses of v. 16 and the two or threegathered (v. 20). Their agreement probably relates to the need to tell the entire church. On earth and in heaven (v. 19) parallel the similar phrases in v. 18. Anything that they may ask must be governed by the context as a promise related to church discipline, and surely includes asking for God’s providential guidance through these steps. Anything literally is "any matter" or "any affair," i.e., any circumstance requiring church discipline. In v. 20 Jesus promised to be present with His people when they engage in restoration, just as He does in 28:20. The church needs reassurance of His presence and authority not only in the daunting task of evangelism, but also in the distressing task of church discipline.

D. Forgiveness: Remember How Much God Forgives (18:21–35)

18:21–22. Peter’s question flows from the implications of church discipline in vv. 15–20. There are petty offenses not worthy of church discipline for which forgiveness is appropriate. Seventy times seven (NASB; KJV; RSV; NLT) is literally "seventy-seven" times (so NRSV; NIV; NET), indicating that no restriction should be placed on the number of times forgiveness is offered.

18:23–27. On the kingdom of heaven (v. 23), see the comments on 3:1–4. The talent (v. 24) (talanton) was the largest denomination of money in the Roman world, and ten thousand talents was the largest number employed in that day. In modern currency, the spending power could easily be several billion dollars. The slave made a promise he could not possibly keep (v. 26). Driven by his compassion, the king no longer counted the loan against the slave (v. 27) and acted as if the loan had never been made. There were no further consequences, no further punishment, and complete release from the obligation.

18:28–30. What follows in vv. 28 mirrors vv. 24–27, except the amount of money and response of the unforgiving slave differ. The denarius was a Roman silver coin, worth one day’s wage for a common laborer. The second slave owed the first about 100 days’ wages. This is not a trifling amount, but 100 denarii is minute in comparison to the 10,000 talents.

18:31–35. There are two options regarding the main point of the parable. The first is that certain results should be present if one has been forgiven, and the absence of the results indicates that the person did not receive forgiveness from God. In Lk 7:36–50, the sinful woman was saved by her faith (Lk 7:50), her many sins forgiven (Lk 7:47). She responded by expressing her great love to Jesus (Lk 7:47). The implication is that if she had not been forgiven, she would not have shown her love, a proper response to receiving forgiveness. Conversely, the unforgiving slave gives evidence of never actually receiving his king’s forgiveness, for if he had, a reasonable response would have been forgiveness of the other slave. As a result, the king rescinds the forgiving of the debt, and increases the severity of the punishment (torturers, not simply "jailers," NIV; TNIV; KJV; ESV; HCSB), a reference to judgment and eternal condemnation.

Another approach is that the parable is a warning to those who have "entered the kingdom of heaven" as children who trust Jesus (see 18:1–6 above) and who are brothers in the fullest sense (18:21), saved individuals who have received the gracious forgiveness of God (18:27, 32–33). But they choose to be unforgiving of others. As a result, God turns those saved individuals over to torturers, probably discipline from God in this life, until they learn to forgive. While the first view is unobjectionable, the second has better contextual support mentioned above.

The details of the parable must not be forced to "walk on all fours." God is not so capricious as to change His mind about forgiving people. Verse 34 cannot be invoked as a support for purgatory; if anything, it supports the idea of the eternal duration of hell since the slave would never have paid off the debt and been released. The essential lesson is this, and only this: In this life God will severely discipline those whom He has forgiven but then refuse to forgive others.

E. Divorce: Avoid It (19:1–12)

19:1–2. The connection between chaps. 18 and 19 may be on the need for forgiveness, not only in general relationships with others, but especially in marriage where unfaithfulness and divorce may occur.

19:3. The test was designed to trick Jesus into being at odds with Moses or into infuriating those who held contrary views. For any reason at all (see Dt 24:1–4) reflects the more popular view of divorce championed by the famous rabbi Hillel (d. AD 20, leader of the Sanhedrin during the reign of Herod the Great), who taught that one could divorce his wife for any reason, including burning dinner or being unpleasant (m. Git. 9:10; see also Josephus, Ant., 4.253; Life 426; Sir 25:26). Rabbi Shammai (Hillel’s contemporary) had a much narrower view, permitting divorce only for "indecency," probably lewdness or promiscuity short of actual intercourse.

19:4–6. Jesus cited Gn 1:27 (v. 4); God did not create many women for Adam, nor many men for Eve. God brought one man and one woman together in an intense sharing of a common life which included sexual union (joined to his wifebecome one flesh, Gn 2:24) and which superseded all other familial bonds (shall leave his father and mother). Serial monogamy was not, and is not, God’s design.

19:7–8. The Pharisees returned to the question about Dt 24:1–4. They believed that Moses required divorce, but Jesus corrected them. Moses permitted divorce because of your hardness of heart, a reference to unfaithfulness by a spouse. The only command in Dt 24 comes in v. 4 (see the comments there). Divorce is therefore "never to be thought of as a God-ordained, morally neutral option but as evidence of sin, of hardness of heart" (Carson, "Matthew," 412–13). From the beginning (see Mt 19:4) indicates that God’s foundational purpose for marriage was that it be permanent between one man and one woman, and that purpose is not trumped by the allowance for divorce in Dt 24 when there is moral failure.

19:9. The verse probably does not mean "Whoever divorces his wife, even for immorality, and marries another, commits adultery." If Jesus forbade all divorce for all reasons, it is highly unlikely that Paul would have allowed divorce for abandonment by an unbelieving spouse (1Co 7:12–16), and v. 9 would be placed at loggerheads with 5:32 where Jesus clearly permits divorce. Immorality (porneia) is sometimes interpreted as "an incestuous marriage" (forbidden in Lv 18:6–18) on the basis of its use in 1Co 5:1. But in that context an incestuous affair is meant, not a marriage, and the word elsewhere means "sexual sin," referring to prostitution, premarital and extramarital sex (1Co 6:13, 18; Eph 5:3; 1Th 4:3), and sometimes adultery (Sir 23:23), depending on the context. Incest is also unlikely because 19:6 says that God joined together the man and woman, which would not be true if the marriage were contrary to the Law. Nor does immorality mean "unfaithfulness during betrothal," for which divorce was the approved action (1:18–19). Jesus spoke of a consummated marriage in 19:5–6 (one flesh), but the marriage was not consummated during betrothal. The exception clause may modify only whoever divorces his wife, allowing divorce but forbidding remarriage. However, it is hard to see how divorce could constitute adultery without a subsequent one-flesh remarriage, and remarriage following divorce was assumed (see m. Git. 9:3). Jesus appears to permit divorce and remarriage without either being a sin if one’s spouse was unfaithful. In addition, the adultery could be forgiven (see David’s case, 2Sm 12:13; also 1Co 6:9–10), but this must not be used to rationalize it, and forgiveness never precludes serious consequences.

19:10–12. Jesus’ approach to the permanency of marriage and the restrictions on divorce elicited a strong reaction from the disciples. He is much more narrow than Hillel, but in line with Shammai’s view of marriage and divorce. However, Shammai’s view was probably virtually abandoned in Jesus’ day, making the contrast between Jesus’ approach and the popular one all the more startling.

IX. The Citizens of the Kingdom and the King-Messiah (19:13–20:34)

To Be a Citizen of the Kingdom, One Must …

A. Be Childlike to Be in It (19:13–15)

19:13–15. Matthew may have recorded this episode to emphasize the sanctity of the family, the heart of it being marriage and children.

B. Depend on God to Enter It (19:16–30)

19:16–22. This episode shows the kinds of attitudes that do not characterize the childlikeness approved in 19:13–15. What good thing (v. 16) is contrasted with the One who is good (v. 17), suggesting that obtaining eternal life is dependent upon God rather than one’s deeds. Verse 17a is literally, "Why are you asking Me about a good thing [that you would do]?" He made this theme explicit in 19:26, namely, that one’s entrance into the kingdom is the result of God’s work, not a result of one’s deeds. Keep the commandments is puzzling in light of the strong grace context, but Jesus played the works card to challenge the man’s assumption that he, by his deeds, could obtain eternal life. Jesus included Lv 19:18 (v. 19) on loving one’s neighbor, a critical observation for understanding what followed. The young man may have made money his idol, but Jesus gave no hint of this. Instead He focused on his failure to keep the very laws he claimed to have kept. Jesus commanded him to sell everything and give to the poor (v. 21), an application of Lv 19:18 for this man. Jesus called his bluff and proved that he had not and would not do what he claimed to have done. He even revealed an awareness of his own deficiency in keeping the law (v. 20).

19:23–26. The disciples were astonished because (v. 25) in Early Judaism wealth was an indication of God’s favor, since it was believed that God would surely not endow a sinner with wealth. Hence if it were hard for a rich man to get into the kingdom, how could anyone else hope to do so? Jesus responded by saying it is ultimately God’s work (for more on entering the kingdom, see the comments on 7:21–23).

19:27–30. In contrast to the rich young ruler, the twelve left the little they had to follow Jesus. How would that benefit them? Regeneration (v. 28) is used again in the NT only in Ti 3:5 where it refers to the regenerating work of the Spirit for the believer. But here it refers to the future renewal of the earth when the curse is lifted (Rm 8:18–25) during the "new age," the millennial kingdom, when Jesus comes to reign upon the earth. The disciples will judge the twelve tribes of Israel. This is a significant promise because it shows that the disciples were not only the foundation of the Church (Eph 2:20–22) but also the leaders of the remnant of Israel (Rm 11:1–6). Jewish believers have this unique status as members both of the Church and Israel. This promise was probably made only to the twelve as a unique group, but the NT indicates that all believers will participate with Christ in His judgment of the earth (Mt 25:21; Rm 16:20; 1Co 6:2; Rv 2:26–27; 3:21). The promise of v. 29 is not a literal one, since one cannot have 100 literal mothers! God is no man’s debtor: if Jesus’ disciples were shunned by family members, they would find within the messianic community a hundred surrogate loved ones, in addition to eternal life. The first will be last; and the last, first provides both reassurance and a warning. The statement in context states that God’s grace extends to those who approach God in childlike trust (vv. 13–15). God will incorporate and advance them in the kingdom instead of those who enjoy power and prominence like the rich young ruler, which provides the warning in these verses. The same phrase is found in 20:16, giving a slightly different look at God’s grace there, namely that He is remarkably gracious and does the unexpected for His people.

C. Not Be Shocked at Those Whom God Excludes (20:1–16)

20:1–2. There is a clear structure in 19:30–20:16. It begins with the saying, "But many who are first will be last, and the last first" (19:30). Then, in the parable, often called Parable of the Gracious Landowner, during the morning hours workers are hired from first to last (20:1–7), but in the evening, workers are paid from last to first (20:8–15). Verse 16 inverts the clauses in 19:30. The reversal theme from 19:23–30 continues. (See David Turner, Matthew, 478.)

20:3–7. The third, sixth, ninth, and eleventh hours were approximately 9:00 a.m., 12:00 noon, 3:00 p.m., and 5:00 p.m., and assume a twelve-hour workday. Jesus did not explain why the landowner returned throughout the day, and probably nothing should be read into this (perhaps he was disorganized; the harvest was urgent). Similarly, the workers hired at the end of the day were probably not the reputed worst workers (v. 6), but rather simply had not found work.

20:8–16. Temporary laborers were usually paid each evening (v. 8) (Lv 19:13; Dt 24:15). Those who worked longer but were paid a single denarius grumbled at the landowner (v. 11) since, by human reckoning, they deserved more than those who came later, though they were paid appropriately (20:2). But this is the point of the parable. It is not primarily about deathbed conversions, disciples who joined Jesus after the initial twelve, the Gentiles being included in the people of God after the Jewish people, the need for not seeing rewards in the kingdom as an entitlement. These points are not clearly evident in the parable. What is clear is that God exercises His freedom to give kingdom blessings graciously to whom He chooses, and that may cause shock when He reverses human expectations.

D. Yield to the Messiah the Desire for Prominence (20:17–34)

1. Jesus Was Willing to Die (20:17–19)

20:17–19. It is possible that 20:17–19 looks back to the Parable of the Gracious Landowner and presents the basis on which even late-comers can be part of the kingdom—through God’s grace effected in the death of Christ. This is the third time Jesus mentioned His death to the disciples (16:21–23; 17:22–23). To go up to Jerusalem (vv. 17–18) was a topographical expression, as the city is about 2,500 feet above sea level. Jesus and the disciples were headed to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, as were thousands of others, for the Law required three pilgrimages each year for Jewish men in celebration of certain holy days (Ex 23:14–17). On Son of Man, see 8:18–22. This prediction, unlike the others, included the condemnation by the leaders, and the mocking, scourging, and crucifixion by the Gentiles. Although the Church has historically held the Jewish people responsible for the death of Jesus, obviously Jesus includes Gentiles as responsible parties in this conspiracy of guilt (see Ac 4:27–28). It is the Son of Man, the Son of David, the divine Son of God, who would voluntarily undergo such treatment to save others. His humility would contrast starkly with the arrogance of the sons of Zebedee in the following section.

2. The Leaders of the Disciples Were Required to Serve (20:20–28)

20:20–23. These verses function as the bridge connecting 20:1–18 with 20:29–34. God will give rewards on the basis of His grace (vv. 1–16) through the death of His Son (vv. 17–19); all jockeying for rewards and status are misdirected in light of what God alone has determined and in light of Jesus’ example.

The sons of Zebedee (v. 20) were James and John (4:21). The only other place in Matthew’s gospel where a mother directs a request to Jesus for a child is in 15:22. The Canaanite woman’s request was granted on the basis of her sheer desperation and faith, in contrast to the denied request voiced by Mrs. Zebedee. Sit one on Your right andleft (v. 21) was an appeal for the brothers to acquire a high rank in the kingdom, even to direct the other disciples. Jesus already promised that the twelve would reign in the kingdom with Him (19:28), but James and John wanted a guarantee that they would be the first among equals. To drink the cup (v. 22) was an idiom for "undergoing God’s wrath" (Pss 11:6; 75:7–9; Is 51:17, 22; Jr 25:15, 17, 27–28; 49:12; Lm 4:21; 16:19; 18:6), but here probably means "to undergo intense suffering" since they were not the objects of wrath. We are able is ironic, for neither brother stayed awake in Gethsemane while Jesus prayed for the "cup" to pass from Him (Mt 26:37–46). Prepared (v. 23) refers to the preordained plan of God who sovereignly governs all things, including His determination regarding a disciple’s position in the kingdom. James was martyred in Ac 12:2; John suffered, but apparently was not a martyr (cf. Jn 21:20–23; Rv 1:9).

20:24–28. Matthew does not say why the ten became indignant, but possibly because they were afraid they would lose their own prominence in the kingdom, or become subservient to James and John. They forgot the childlikeness enjoined by Christ in 18:4. The rulers of the Gentiles (v. 25) were counter-examples; lord it over them means "to have mastery" (Mk 10:42; 1Pt 5:3), sometimes "to bring into subjection, gain dominance" (Ac 19:16), usually with a sense of heavy-handedness. Shall be your servant (or "helper," v. 26), shall be your slave (v. 27) give the positive values, all too frequently ignored in some ecclesiastical settings. It is true that a leader serves his organization by exercising authority and influence. But the true servant leader—one who satisfies Jesus’ job description—occasionally gets his hands dirty in the process of helping those who cannot reciprocate. Jesus Himself did not come to be served, and provides the supreme example of servant leadership. Ransom means "the money paid to obtain the freedom of a slave." Jesus’ sacrifice frees those who trust Him from the tyranny of sin, personified as a slave master in Rm 6:1–14. For (anti, meaning both "in exchange for" and "in the place of") points to a person who receives a benefit because of some kind of exchange or substitution. At the cross, Jesus took the penalty of the sins of His people upon Himself, dying in their place as their substitute, and in exchange gives them eternal life. How the many (pollon) are ransomed is specified in 26:28 (My blood … poured out for many [pollon] for forgiveness of sins), where the wine symbolized His blood soon to be shed on the cross. Many indicates that the benefits of Jesus’ death are applied only to those who trust Him as Savior (see Rm 5:18, where all men refers only to those who receive grace and the gift of righteousness in Christ, Rm 5:17). Matthew 20:28 is cited often in support of the doctrine of particular redemption.

3. Jesus Was Willing to Serve (20:29–34)

20:29–34. In 9:27, at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry before He faced opposition, two blind men cried out using the same words as in 20:30 (with Lord being textually suspect in v. 30). This episode is near the end of His ministry after rejection and opposition. "So despite being rejected, Jesus’ charity remains the same throughout. His difficulties do not cancel His compassion" (Davies and Allison, The Gospel According to Saint Matthew, 109). In addition, Jesus demonstrates His ongoing role as a servant leader.

Matthew and Mark (10:46) state that this miracle happened as Jesus left Jericho, Luke (18:35ff.) while entering. There is not a good explanation for this (see the major commentaries for the options), but Luke’s account is the least precise (literally, When Jesus was near Jericho, Lk 18:35), and may indicate a compressed account in order to accommodate the Zaccheus narrative. Matthew relates that there were two blind men, Mark and Luke only one. Matthew may have referred to both men in order to draw the parallels between them and the other two blind men in 9:27 (cf. above on 20:29–34). But there are no formal contradictions in the three accounts.

For Son of David, and the other details of the healing, see 9:27–31. Jesus possessed great authority; He was the messianic leader; He was no doubt preoccupied with what awaited Him in Jerusalem. But, unlike the crowd, He took the time to show compassion (v. 34) as the model servant-leader for these blind men, and by doing this instructed His disciples.

X. The Rejection of the King-Messiah (21:1–23:39)

A. The Messiah Offered Himself to the People (21:1–11)

21:1–3. The theme of Jesus’ royal identification ("Son of David," 20:30–31) continues in chapter 21 (He is "King," v. 5; "Son of David," vv. 9, 15). In spite of all that will happen to Him in Jerusalem, Jesus was still the King of the Jews.

Bethphage was probably on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives. The Mount is an eschatologically important location (e.g., Zch 14:4; Ac 1:9–11) and historically important as the place from which the glory of the Lord departed from Israel (Ezk 9:3; 10:4, 18–19; 11:22–23). Jesus’ triumphal entry roughly retraced this route as if to say, "The glory has returned!"

21:4–9. Verse 5 is drawn from Is 62:11 and Zch 9:9, both from eschatological contexts about the deliverer rescuing Israel. The crowd spread their coats (v. 8) as a symbolic act. As their coats were under His feet, so they pledged to submit to their King. The branches from the trees were reminiscent of the celebration when Judas Maccabeus liberated Israel from Antiochus Epiphanes IV in 164 BC (1Mac 10:7; 2Mac 13:15), suggesting that the crowd expected a similar military emancipation through Jesus. Hosanna (v. 9) is probably a term of praise (see Lk 19:37–38), with their wish that their praise be heard in heaven (in the highest). The crowd shouted Ps 118:26 (cited also in Mt 23:39). The heart of Ps 118 is God’s deliverance of His people (vv. 13–14) who cry out to Him (vv. 15–21). The deliverance would come through the rejected stone (v. 22), the one who comes in the name of the Lord (v. 26), the Messiah.

21:10–11. This is the prophet may reflect an inadequate view of the residents of Jerusalem regarding Jesus, but Matthew offers no appraisal of their view. But Jesus did function as a prophet in this context.

B. The Messiah Confronted the Corruption of the Priests (21:12–17)

21:12. The priests and people were buying and selling in the temple, probably a reference to the purchase of animals for sacrifice (for doves, see Lv 5:7). The money changers were necessary since many pilgrims would have brought foreign coins embossed with pagan images, and these were not to be used to pay the temple tax. Jesus’ primary concern appeared to be with the misuse of the temple and not with the leadership swindling the pilgrims. My house shall be called a house of prayer (v. 13), from Is 56:7, looks forward to a time when God-fearing Gentiles will be welcome in the temple (Is 56:3–8). Robbers’ [better "revolutionists’ "] den (or "cave") alludes to Jr 7:11. In Jeremiah’s day, those who were disobedient to God viewed the temple as a magic charm that would spare them from His retribution. In Jesus’ day, the priests disregarded God’s desires for the temple, rendering them rebels against Him. Yet they functioned as if there would be no repercussions for their apathy.

Jesus’ act was considered insidious. His measures shut down the normal sacrifices probably for the rest of a busy day close to Passover. At Jesus’ trial, His action against the temple, and the authority with which He claimed to perform it (21:23), were the primary charges raised against Him (26:61; see also 27:40). No mere mortal had the right to do such things.

21:14–17. Perhaps to show one of the proper functions of the temple, Jesus healed the blind and the lame, probably in the outer Court of the Gentiles since the physically challenged were not admitted into the inner courts (Lv 21:18–19). The question voiced by the chief priests and the scribes (see 16:21) in v. 16 was a veiled mandate for Jesus to silence the children. He cited Ps 8:2, in which God ordained the children’s praise to nullify the opposition of His enemies. God was doing that in Jesus’ setting through these children. Jesus implicitly placed these leaders among God’s enemies. When Jesus left the temple and went to Bethany, about two miles southeast of Jerusalem on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, He stayed probably with Lazarus (Jn 12:1).

C. The Messiah Foretold the Judgment Against the Nation (21:18–22)

21:18–22. The withering of the fig tree comes between two sections that speak of opposition by the leaders in the temple (21:12–17 and 21:23), and, for reasons presented below, was probably a symbolic act portending God’s judgment because of their obstinacy. In the morning (v. 18) signifies Monday of Passion Week, the next morning after the triumphal entry on Sunday. Usually when fig trees are in leaf, they have fruit. Figs were used as a metaphor for the Jewish people (Jr 24:5, 8; 29:17; Hs 9:10), and the image of withered trees represented God’s judgment (Is 34:4; Jr 8:13; Hs 2:12; Jl 1:7; Mc 7:1). In Matthew, good fruit (righteous living) was the evidence of a right relationship with God, and absence of fruit made one liable to judgment (see comments on 3:5–12). The Jewish leaders were obligated to render the good fruit of Israel to God but failed to do so (see the comments on 21:33–46). As the fig tree advertised fruit but provided none for Jesus, so the Jewish leaders advertised spiritual fruit from Israel but actually offered none to God.

Verses 20–22 must also be read in this context of judgment. For the promise related to faith and prayer, see 17:14–21. The twelve apparently did not throw mountains around, but their prayers did result in the advancement of the Church against an otherwise insurmountable "mountain" of antagonism (Ac 1:14; 4:31–33; 8:15; 10:9; 13:2–3).

D. The Messiah Exposed the Cowardice of the Leaders (21:23–27)

21:23–27. Matthew does not note it, but Mk 11:27 ("they came again to Jerusalem" suggesting the start of a new day) and Lk 20:1 ("on one of the days" similarly indicating another day) indicate that 21:23 took place on the day after the events of Mt 21:18–22 which transpired on Monday (see the comments on Mt 21:18–22). Matthew 21:23 introduces the events on Tuesday of Passion Week. The question about His authority to do these things related to the cleansing of the temple. However Jesus answered would be problematic. If He claimed only human authority, He would leave Himself vulnerable to the charge of sinful action against the temple. But if He claimed divine authority, He might be open to the charge of blasphemy by claiming divine prerogatives. So, He responded with a question about their view of the source of John’s baptism (vv. 24–25a). Jesus’ question sounds evasive, but if they answered His question correctly then they would be answering their own. John the Baptist was a prophet sent by God, and he testified regarding Jesus (3:11–14). The religious leaders should have believed John and embraced Jesus, but their failure to do so gave their real estimation of John. They feared the people (v. 26), who saw John’s ministry as legitimate, so to avoid infuriating the crowds they feigned ignorance. By doing this, however, they implied that they were not fit to lead the Jewish people, for one of their main jobs was to determine who posed a spiritual threat, or who was actually sent from God.

E. The Messiah Presented Parables about the Consequences of Their Rejection (21:28–22:14)

21:28–32. The purpose of the Parable of the Two Sons was to expose the leaders’ deficient view of John and ultimately Jesus. The vineyard owner represents God, the first son the known sinners who, before John started his ministry, were disobedient to God but repented under John. The second son represents the religious leaders who claimed to be obedient. Yet when John came, they refused to believe the message God sent through him (cf. vv. 25, 32). Verse 32 indicates a twofold rejection of John by the leaders, in the initial stages of his work (John came to you) and later when John’s ministry had an impact on sinners (afterward the leaders persisted in their unbelief). Before you (v. 31) may reiterate the theme of the reversal of human expectations but may actually mean that the leaders would not get into the kingdom at all because of their opposition of Jesus (7:21–23; 23:13).

21:33–41. This parable continues the attack against the religious leaders. The landowner is God, the vineyard is Israel (cf. Is 5:1–7; Jr 2:21; Hs 10:1), the vine-growers are the leaders of Israel, the fruit they raised is what they owed God (a righteous life; see Mt 3:8–10; 7:16–20; 12:33; 13:23). The rejection of the landowner’s slaves represents the rejection of the prophets by the Jewish religious leaders (see 21:45), and the rejection of the son was the rejection of Jesus. Verse 33 suggests that considerable effort was expended developing this vineyard, reflective of God’s creation and care of Israel. The landowner sought to receive his produce (v. 34), a percentage of the yield divided with those who farmed it. The mistreatment of the slaves (vv. 35–36) shows the continuity between previous generations of religious leaders who abused God’s prophets and the leaders of Jesus’ day—a point that becomes explicit in 23:29–36. The phrase they said among themselves (v. 38) has an earlier parallel in v. 25 (reasoning among themselves), making explicit the connection between the farmers and the religious leaders. The deeds of the farmers were so outrageous that they would not get away with them. The landowner will punish the thugs and replace them with farmers who will pay him (v. 41). The verb pay (apodidomi) is used in 22:21 (translated "render" in the phrase "Render … to God the things that are God’s"). The religious leaders had not given God what was due Him, namely the kind of lives He required them to live, nor had they led Israel to bear the kind of spiritual fruit He sought.

21:42–44. Jesus cited Ps 118:22, which is found in a context that defines who the true followers of God are, namely those who trust in the Lord for their deliverance (Ps 118:15–21). Their deliverance comes through the stone which the builders rejected (Ps 118:22), the blessed one who comes in the name of the Lord (v. 26; see the comments on 21:9). Verse 43 is often cited in support of the idea that the Church replaces Israel in God’s program. But in the phrase the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, the antecedent of you in v. 43 is not Israel but the religious leaders (v. 45), and in the parable it is the farmers, not the vineyard. The supervision of the kingdom would be given to a people producing the fruit of it, a reference to the apostles who would lead the faithful remnant of Israel (cf. 19:28). The word people [lit., "nation," ethnos] in the singular as it is here was used often in the LXX for the Jewish people rightly related to God (e.g., Gn 12:2; Ex 19:6; Dt 4:6; Mc 4:7; Zph 2:9), with the plural often referring to Gentile nations (Lv 26:45; 1Sm 8:20; Ps 2:8; Is 2:4). In v. 44, Jesus indicated that if one fell on the stone, the stone won, and if the stone fell on a person, the stone won. No matter what, the stone wins (see Is 8:14–15; Dn 2:44–47). One had better not reject the stone (21:42).

21:45–46. The religious leaders understood Jesus correctly. Yet, in spite of the fate of the wicked farmers in the parable, they sought to seize Him and ignored the consequences.

22:1–14. Again indicates that Jesus continued addressing the theme of the removal of the kingdom from the Jewish leaders. For the kingdom of heaven (v. 2), see the comments on 3:1–4 and 13:10–17. The kingdom is often likened to a wedding feast (Mt 8:11–12; Rv 21:2, 7–9). The king sent out his slaves (v. 3), a reference to the prophets and John the Baptist. The verb call in this context means "to invite," and does not mean "to experience the effectual call of God for salvation" as it does frequently in Paul (see Rm 8:28–30). Often in ancient times an initial notification of such a gala would be followed by the formal summons when preparations were complete. This was the second call. They were unwilling to come indicates that they were reneging on an assumed previous agreement, not unlike the second son in 21:30 and the evil farmers in 21:35–36. In his rage, the king set their city on fire (v. 7), prophetic of what happened to Jerusalem in AD 70 (cf. Josephus, War, 6.403–422). Worthy (v. 8) is the same word John the Baptist used when he addressed the Pharisees in 3:8 (bear fruit in keeping with ["worthy of"] repentance); the parable was directed mainly to those leaders who never repented.

Verses 9–10 are sometimes interpreted as presenting a transition from God’s focus upon Israel to a predominantly Gentile Church. But as in 21:33, it is the religious leaders who are confronted with this parable, who snub the king, and who will be judged. The king’s slaves went to the roads on the outskirts of town and invited everyone (vv. 9–10). The fringe people in the parable parallel the first son (21:29) and the good farmers (21:41, 43) who, late in the day, do God’s will. The leaders parallel the second son (21:30) and the wicked farmers. They early on appear to fulfill their obligations but ultimately refuse to do so and, in the case of the farmers, will suffer the consequences. The ones who accepted the invitation later are the Jewish riffraff (21:31–32) who will be included in the kingdom while the respectable leaders are turned away. In this parable, Jesus reiterated the reversal principle (see 19:30–20:16).

On the inclusion of the evil guest (v. 10) not dressed in wedding clothes (vv. 11–12), see the comments on 13:24–30, 36–43, and 47–50. The fate of this man is similar to that of the false prophets in 7:15–23. The lack of appropriate wedding clothes may depict his failure to meet the requirements for entering the kingdom (see the comments on 5:20; 7:21; 18:3–4, 6; 19:23–24).

The parable concludes with a foreboding note (vv. 11–13). This describes the judgment following the second coming, when the unprepared guest is thrown into the outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (v. 13). In support of this as a reference to eternal punishment of unbelievers, not the regret of carnal Christians excluded from the happy aspects of the kingdom, see the comments on 8:5–13. Few are chosen (eklektos, i.e., "elect," "chosen" for salvation; cf. Rm 8:33; Col 3:12; 2Tm 2:10) (v. 14) indicates that God chooses those who will be in the kingdom. But His sovereign choice is surely compatible with the decisions people make (like ignoring God, v. 5), but here, and in all of Scripture, the impetus is grounded in God’s sovereign plan.

F. The Messiah Escaped Their Traps (22:15–46)

22:15–22. This section reiterates 21:41, 43, about rendering to God what He requires. The trap (v. 15) was brilliant. Whatever Jesus said would get Him in trouble. Rome might see Him as an insurrectionist and punish Him if He disallowed paying taxes. But with an affirmative answer He might infuriate the Jewish people, for paying taxes was an agonizing reminder of their subjugation. The Herodians (v. 16) were aristocratic Jews in league with Rome, intent on the perpetuation of their privileged status and despised by their fellow Jews. Normally the Pharisees would not have sought any accordance with them, but if Jesus disparaged paying taxes, the Herodians would report it to the Roman authorities. The flattery (v. 16) was designed to embolden Jesus to say something against Rome. The poll-tax was a Roman tax upon personal property and agricultural products and probably amounted to about one day’s wage each year. The likeness (v. 20) on the front of the coin, assuming it was a Roman denarius, would be the image of Emperor Tiberius with a wreath on his head, with the inscription "TI CAESAR DIVI AUG F AUGUSTUS" ("Tiberius Caesar Augustus, Son of the Divine Augustus"). On the back was the abbreviation "PONTIF MAXIM," or "High Priest" of the ancient Roman religions, with a picture of a seated woman ("peace" personified). It was clearly an idolatrous coin, deifying Caesar. The coin had Caesar’s image on it, suggesting that he "owned" it and that it should be given back to him in the appropriate tax amounts. Render (v. 21) was used in 21:41, translated pay. Jesus’ point there and here was that the Jewish leaders in particular failed to render to God what He required, namely, spiritual lives expended for Him and His glory, and the kind of leadership that would result in similar fruit from the entire nation.

22:23–33. On that day was still Tuesday of Passion Week (cf. the comments on 21:23–27). Sadducees did not believe either in a disembodied existence after death nor in the resurrection, so their question was not intellectually honest. They cited Dt 25:5 (v. 24) concerning Levirate marriage (see the comments on Dt 25:5–10). The Sadducees set up a scenario that was designed to make Jesus look either completely arbitrary (how could He pick one out of the seven when they all had married her [lit., "had her" in a conjugal way] in this life? v. 28), or to trick Him in to conceding that resurrection was an impossible doctrine, thereby alienating the Pharisees who cherished the belief. But the Sadducees were mistaken about the resurrection (v. 29). They assumed wrongly that Jesus believed it would be the continuation of a bodily existence like the present life, where marriage, intercourse, and procreation would continue. Jesus corrects them, saying that in the resurrection (v. 30) there will be no marriage (for which having children was a crucial component; Gn 1:28), for people will be like angels in heaven, that is, they will live forever. Hence procreation to perpetuate the race will be unnecessary. Note that He did not say that people become angels. Jesus responded further by citing Ex 3:6, which indicated that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were still alive as disembodied souls and eventually would be resurrected. God’s covenantal promises to the patriarchs were largely unrealized at the time of their deaths, so their eventual resurrection is necessary for God to fulfill those promises (for these points and many more, see N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God [Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003], 416–29).

22:34–40. The Pharisees once again went on the offensive. The responsibilities of a pharisaic lawyer (v. 35; synonymous with "scribe," Mk 12:28, and "teacher of the law," Lk 5:17) included studying the Law to derive legal principles from it, teaching it, and administering the Law as a counselor and judge in local courts (see Geza Vermes et al., ed., The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ [175 BC–AD 135] [Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1987], 330). Testing him once again indicates the diabolical intent of the question, this time posed by one with impressive biblical savvy. The test may consist in duping Him into demeaning some aspects of the Law in favor of others, or in expressing a firm opinion on the great commandment when the very question was hotly debated (see Hagner, Matthew 14–28, 646 for the evidence). He cited Dt 6:5 and Lv 19:18 (vv. 37–40). Heartsoulmind indicate that love for God is to come from every facet of one’s constitution. It is unlikely that the Pharisees would have taken exception to this part of His answer. You shall love your neighbor means taking delight in meeting the needs of others. Sometimes the phrase as yourself is used to prove the need for cultivating a positive self-image before being able to love others. But Moses and Jesus assume self-love as the basis for the comparison of loving one’s neighbor. When one is cold, he puts on a sweater; when he is hungry, he eats. As one happily meets his own needs, i.e., "loves himself," he should similarly meet the needs of his neighbor. These two great commandments are not mutually exclusive, for if one loves God he will love what God loves, and God loves people (cf. Mt 25:31–46; 1Jn 4:20).

22:41–46. Jesus went on the offensive here. He tested their understanding of the Messiah, perhaps to expose their superficiality, but perhaps also to help them understand more completely who He was. The stock answer to the question, "Who is the Messiah?" was "The son of David." But the answer is deficient. Jesus cited Ps 110:1 (in v. 44) as proof that the Messiah was more than a human descendant of David. In Hebrew, the first occurrence of Lord (the Hebrew word often transliterated YHWH or Yahweh) is a clear reference to God, but the second occurrence is a different word (’adoni), usually referring to human authorities (e.g., Gn 18:12; 40:1; but cf. Jos 5:14; Jdg 6:13, where it is used for the angel of the Lord). However, the LXX (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, ca. 200 BC) uses the same word (kyrios) for both God and for David’s Lord, suggesting that the translators saw ’adoni as a reference to a divine being. Furthermore, the word enemies is used seven times in Psalms, six of them for God’s enemies, not those of a human ruler (8:2; 21:8; 66:3; 74:23; 89:10, 51; 92:9 twice). When footstool (Hebrew and LXX in Ps 110:1; beneath Your feet in Mt 22:44) is used elsewhere in the OT (1Ch 28:2; Ps 99:5; 132:7; Is 66:1; Lm 2:1), it is God’s footstool. These points together suggest that while the Messiah was not less than the son of David, He was much more than that (for more details, cf. Barry C. Davis, "Is Psalm 110 a Messianic Psalm?" BibSac 157 [April-June, 2000]: 162–63). In verse 43, Jesus asked the question, "If the Messiah is David’s son, then how can David call Him ‘Lord’?" In v. 45, the flip side is asked: "If David called the Messiah ‘Lord,’ then how can He be David’s son?" The answer to both questions is that the Messiah has dual natures and dual paternity. As a result of the incarnation, Jesus is fully human, and descended from David, and He is also fully God, and therefore, He is David’s Lord.

G. The Messiah Condemned the Leaders (23:1–39)

Jesus excoriates the Pharisees in Mt 23, but He was not alone in doing so. Others within Judaism were critical of Pharisaism. For example, in m. Sotah 22b, seven different kinds of Pharisees are discussed, six of which are portrayed negatively. They are: (1) The "shoulder" Pharisee wore his good deeds on his shoulder so everyone could see them. (2) The "wait a little" Pharisee always found an excuse for putting off a good deed. (3) The "bruised" Pharisee shut his eyes to avoid seeing a woman and knocked into walls, bruising himself. (4) The "humpbacked" Pharisee always walked bent double, in false humility. (5) The "ever reckoning" Pharisee was always counting up the numbers of his good deeds. (6) The "fearful" Pharisee always quaked in fear of the wrath of God. (7) The "God-loving" Pharisee was a copy of Abraham who lived in faith and charity. What Jesus does here is akin to other in-house criticism by some Jewish people against other Jewish people.

1. The Leaders Craved Acclaim (23:1–12)

23:1–12. Chapter 23 is a separate discourse, serving as an apt conclusion to Jesus’ running dispute with the religious leaders. In vv. 1–12 Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples about the improper actions of the scribes and the Pharisees, especially related to their thirst for acclaim. In vv. 13–36, He pronounced seven "woes" upon them (23:13, 15, 16, 23, 25, 27, 29) because of their hypocrisy and corrupt influence upon the people. And in vv. 37–39, He expressed a lament regarding the desolation that will come upon Israel. Verse 39 does, however, conclude with a note of hope.

In light of Jesus’ positive injunction in v. 3a, the chair of Moses probably does not refer to the leaders’ role as teachers of the Law. It probably reflects Moses’ role as a judge for the Hebrews (Ex 18:13, Moses sat to judge the people), a role that was largely delegated to faithful leaders (Ex 18:21–27). Moses commanded the people to do [same word in the LXX as in Mt 23:3] according to the terms of the verdict handed down by a judge, usually a priest or another notable leader, and to be careful to observe that decision (Dt 17:8–10). Scribes often filled the role of judges in their towns (cf. Sir 38:33–39:11). When they rendered a judicial verdict, they sat in a special chair in the synagogue to do so (a "chair of Moses" was found in the ruins of several synagogues, including Chorazin). Jesus taught that those verdicts were binding. But His followers were not to do according to their deeds, that is, imitate their religious practices. For the heavy burdens (v. 4), cf. 11:28–30. Phylacteries (v. 5) were small leather containers worn on the arm or forehead as an application of Ex 13:9 and Dt 6:8; 11:18; the tassels were worn on the corners of their clothes to remind the Jewish people to obey the Law (Nm 15:38–40), but many religious leaders enlarged them simply to impress others. The place of honor at banquets (v. 6) was always the seat closest to the host and signaled the importance of the guest. Chief seats in the synagogues were usually on a raised platform close to where the Scriptures were read. The respectful greetings (lit., "a greeting that reflected homage or acclaim"; cf. Lk 1:28–29) (v. 7) often followed a set formula with the one of lower status saluting the superior. Rabbi was a transliteration of a Hebrew word that meant "my teacher" or "my master," carrying considerably more prestige than "reverend." Verses 8–12 indicate that Jesus’ followers were to eschew such titles. One is your Teacher (v. 8) refers to Jesus, as in v. 10. The authority possessed by contemporary ministers is derived from Jesus, and humility dictates that they be cautious about self-aggrandizement, for you are all brothers (there is equality among God’s people). Father (v. 9) was used for great leaders and for respected elderly male acquaintances. Leaders (v. 10) means "a guide, instructor," perhaps "mentor." On vv. 11–12, see the comments on 20:26–28 and Jms 4:10, respectively. In light of these verses, it seems inappropriate for church leaders to oblige others to call them by these honorific titles ("Reverend," "Doctor," "Father," "Bishop," even "Pastor").

2. The Leaders Corrupted the People through Their Hypocrisy (23:13–36)

23:13–15. Woe is an exclamation that approximates "How sad!" or "Alas!" because of coming distress. As such it is a statement of lament but it also entails the future judgment of these leaders. The word hypocrites was used for the work of an actor. But here it means "pretending to be what you are not." Jesus’ opponents put on a facade of pious conduct (though it really was not all that pious, v. 23) that cloaked a fundamental failure to do God’s will sincerely, all to enhance their reputation. Judgment would come on them because, by their opposition to Jesus (9:33–34; 11:19; 12:23–24; 21:15), they kept people from entering the kingdom (cf. the comments on 7:21–23). The better manuscripts omit v. 14, which was probably borrowed by some impulsive scribe from Mk 12:40 or Lk 20:47 for harmonization purposes. Proselyte usually referred to a Gentile who fully converted to Judaism. A son of hell here probably means "a follower (of Pharisaism) destined for hell" because, like the Pharisees, the proselyte is unwilling to welcome Jesus as the Messiah.

23:16–22. In these verses, Jesus attacked those who drew distinctions between binding and nonbinding oaths. In 5:33–37, Jesus’ teaching focused on the avoidance of volunteering oaths, while here it is on the question of how binding certain oaths were. The leaders were blind guides (v. 16) (see the comments on 15:12–14). The verb swears means "to promise a course of action by calling upon an important entity (God, or "the soul of my mother") to witness it and to punish if it does not come about." Someone spared no expense to give gold items, or the offerings on the altar, to the temple. Thus they were korban, wholly dedicated to the Lord’s use. On the other hand, some of the Jewish people and the leaders may have viewed the temple and altar as the more constant and less dramatic components of worship. If this reflects their thinking (and it is impossible to say with any certainty that it does), what they failed to grasp was that the gold was dedicated to the Lord (sanctified) precisely because of its connection with the temple, otherwise it would be no more important than any other gold. The altar made the mundane things on it extraordinary. Jesus evened out the prominence of the entities used in making oaths. By doing this, He removed the loophole whereby one might renege on an oath simply because it did not invoke something foremost in their estimation. He went further, emphasizing that because the altar, temple, and heaven all pertain to God, then making an oath in reference to any of them was tantamount to invoking God. Therefore, all oaths are binding.

23:23–24. The Law commanded that virtually everything be tithed to support the Levites (Lv 27:30–33; Nm 18:21–32; Dt 12:5–19; 14:22–29), and the Pharisees included even mint and dill and cummin. But they neglected the more serious aspects of the Law (justice, mercy, faithfulness; cf. Mc 6:8). Jesus graphically and proverbially makes the same point in v. 24. Some would pour wine through a strainer to avoid accidentally ingesting an unclean gnat (Lv 11:23, 41), a minor infraction of the Law compared to swallowing a camel (also an unclean animal; Lv 11:4). Jesus’ followers need to guard against being fixated on gnats (like not smoking, drinking, dancing) to the neglect of bigger issues (like controlling lust or curbing materialism).

23:25–26. The cup and the dish are metaphorical for the religious leaders who presented the image of well-scrubbed piety that concealed robbery ("the strong craving to obtain things, even by violent or deceptive means") and self-indulgence ("lack of self-control," used in 1Co 7:5 for sexual excess).

23:27–28. The metaphor changes in vv. 27–28, but the point is much the same as in vv. 25–26. A tomb might be attractive when painted, but that did not change what was inside. For hypocrites, cf. 23:13–15. Jesus drew attention to the irony of the religious leaders who claimed to keep the Law but, because of their inattentiveness to the more important aspects of the Law, were actually engaged in lawlessness.

23:29–33. The figure of tombs was applied in a different way in these verses. Jesus’ point may be that the leaders were proud of their forebearers and of their connection with them, and yet did not want to identify with their abuse of the prophets (v. 31). Nevertheless, these leaders were planning His death, an act that forged a strong link to their murderous progenitors. Verse 32 puts in narrative form the parabolic prophecy of 21:35–39.

23:34–36. Therefore, to facilitate the leaders’ filling up the measure of the guilt of their fathers (v. 32), Jesus will send them Christian prophets, wise men and scribes whom they will persecute. Like the generation exiled in Babylon, the Jewish leaders not only were accountable for their own sinfulness, but rode a wave of evil created by those who preceded them who killed Abel (Gn 4:8–10) and Zechariah, and they would experience the full expression of God’s wrath, which had been building through the years. Abel and Zechariah are mentioned by Jesus because they encompass the entire Hebrew canon (Genesis being the first, 2 Chronicles being the last book in the Hebrew order of the OT). Berechiah is probably a scribal error here but found also in two ancient Jewish texts (Tg. Lam. 2:20; Midr. Eccles. 3:16), and Jerome (Comm. in Matt. 4.23.35–6) mentions a book called "The Gospel of the Nazarenes" (which may have been the Gospel of Matthew, but there is no certainty of this) that has "Jehoiadah" instead of "Berechiah," in keeping with the details of 2Ch 24:20–22.

3. The Leaders Faced Judgment (23:37–39)

23:37–39. Jesus reiterated the fate awaiting the Jewish people because of the disobedience of the leaders. Judgment, however, is not the last word, for Jesus will come again to a repentant people. At some time in the future, as a virtual prerequisite for the second coming, the Jewish people will recognize that Jesus of Nazareth is their Messiah, and will express a Ps 118:26—like confession. Only then will He come (cf. also Ac 3:19–20) and be seen by them in fulfillment of Zch 12:10. Cf. the comments on Mt 21:4–9 for the significance of Ps 118:26.

XI. The Future Coming of the King-Messiah (24:1–25:46)

The Olivet Discourse. There are several different approaches to this often disagreed upon discourse. Preterists (from the Latin "praeteritus," "that which has passed," "bygone events") maintain that these chapters were fulfilled in AD 70, with Jesus’ second coming being a coming only to Israel (not for the whole world) in judgment. But the view is extremely unlikely. David Turner (Matthew, 584) writes, "One difficulty with preterism is its truncation of Jesus’s eschatology, which brings the reign of heaven to earth (6:10) and renews the world (19:28). If all this has already occurred, one wonders at the underwhelming denouement of the glorious future promised by the biblical prophets, John, and Jesus himself. It is very doubtful that the global language of Mt 24 (e.g., 24:3, 7, 14, 21–22, 27, 30–31, 40–41; see also 25:31–32) can be satisfactorily explained by a local event in 70 CE, as significant as that event was.…"

Partial preterists see the structure of Mt 24 in a number of ways. One view is that 24:4–25 (or 28) is about AD 70, and 24:26 (or 29; or 36) is about the second coming of Christ. But Jesus weaves the mention of His coming into this whole section (cf. v. 14, where the end should probably be connected with His coming on the strength of v. 3; cf. also vv. 27, 30), and the extreme conditions of vv. 21–22 make it unlikely that AD 70 are in view.

Another approach held by some futurists is that vv. 4–28 refers to hardships throughout the Church Age, as do vv. 32–35, with AD 70 a notable example of them in vv. 15–20. This period is then followed by the second coming, seen in vv. 29–31. But this view requires the reader to shift his historical and chronological understanding from the expanse of the entire Church Age (vv. 4–13), back to AD 70 (vv. 15–20), then to the second coming (vv. 21–22), then back to AD 70 (vv. 23–28), then to the second coming again (vv. 29ff.), then to the entire Church Age yet again (vv. 32–35), though "this generation" in v. 34 refers to the generation of Jesus’ day that experienced AD 70. How vv. 32–35 can refer to the entire Church Age but "this generation" in v. 34 only to Jesus’ contemporaries is not made completely clear. All of this chronological shifting is expecting a lot, perhaps too much, of Jesus’ hearers and Matthew’s readers.

An attractive alternative is offered by other futurists. They maintain that the events associated with AD 70 serve as an attesting sign that some day the events of the great tribulation will also take place, followed by the second coming. Verses 32–33 indicate that vv. 4–31 are the signs about the end of the age and the second coming but do not actually include those end time events. "This generation" (v. 34), many of those alive in Jesus’ day, will see all the events associated with AD 70, and that guarantees that there will be a tribulation period followed by the Parousia in the future. But this view falls prey to the objections leveled against the preterist views.

Still other futurists maintain that Mt 24 has a dual fulfillment, so that it speaks both of the events of AD 70 and of the second coming. But neither Jesus nor Matthew give any clear clues that this is the case, and without them it is difficult to conclude that the original hearers or readers would have understood that this one text presented twofold layers.

The approach adopted here is to view Mt 24–25 from a consistently futurist and pretribulational position. The first question in 24:3c, When will these things happen? (24:3c), is answered second by Jesus in 24:36–44, and His answer describes the surprise commencement of the day of the Lord (also known as "the great tribulation" [Dn 12:1; Mt 24:21] and "the time of Jacob’s trouble [Jr 30:7]) which is initiated by the rapture of the Church. The second question in 24:3d, what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?, is answered first in 24:4–35, in which Jesus describes the various signs that arise during the day of the Lord. The various time references move back and forth during the seven-year tribulation period (v. 14 mentions the end of the tribulation; v. 15 describes events occurring in the middle of it; vv. 29–31 the end and the second coming; vv. 32–35 the entire tribulation period and the second coming; vv. 36–44 the startling commencement of the tribulation, including the rapture). This is a common dispensational interpretation, and for the best defense of it, see John F. Hart, "Should Pretribulationists Reconsider the Rapture in Matthew 24:36–44?", Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 20 (Spring 2007), 51–75.

The weakness of this approach is that it does not adequately account for 23:38, where Jesus is surely referring to AD 70. It also requires that the first question of 24:3 receives an answer that is about an eschatological molestation of Jerusalem and the temple and not about its destruction in AD 70. Another weakness is that it sees "this generation" in v. 34 as a reference to people other than those alive in Jesus’ day who saw the events of AD 70. See the comments below for the responses to these issues. There are other weaknesses as well, but overall the consistently futurist view handles the text less awkwardly at key points than the other approaches.

Since AD 70 figures prominently in how some interpret Mt 24–25, a brief review of the revolt is in order. The Jewish people had endured religious insults and monetary pilfering under corrupt Roman governors for some time, and when they reacted negatively to it Rome countered brutally. Governor Gessius Florus killed over 3,000 people, and Jewish zealots wrested control of Jerusalem away from the Romans in an effort to inspire its inhabitants to join in their revolt. Nero dispatched General Vespasian to deal with the uprising which had spread into Galilee in the north. But in June, 68, Nero committed suicide to avoid being assassinated by subordinates. In the ensuing year, Servius Sulpicius Galba and Marcus Salvius Otho successively took the throne and were promptly terminated. Vitellius (Aulus Vitellius Germanicus) took the throne but lost the support of the Roman army. The eastern Roman legions backed Vespasian as the new emperor, who abruptly departed for Egypt in late 69 and orchestrated the demise of Vitellius from there. Vespasian left his son, Titus, about 30 at the time, in charge of subduing Jerusalem, which was finally accomplished in September, 70, after a seven-month siege that left the temple burned, much of the city destroyed, and a majority of the populace of Jerusalem dead because of starvation.

A. The Beginning of the Great Tribulation (24:1–14)

24:1–2. Matthew 23 is a stand-alone discourse because, as with the other discourses, when Jesus concluded it Matthew recorded that He departed from the place the discourse was given (cf. 8:1; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; and 24:1). But 24:1–2 are closely connected thematically to 23:37–39, describing further the desolation of Jerusalem. Going away indicates that at the end of Tuesday of Passion Week, Jesus returned to Bethany with His disciples. The slope of the Mount of Olives affords a panoramic view of the Temple Mount and engendered the disciples’ observation (v. 1). Not one stone here will be left upon another may refer to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70, but the events described by Jesus in vv. 4–28 do not fit what is known of those days. Cf. the comments on vv. 15–16. If Matthew’s gospel was written before AD 70, and the evidence indicates that it was, then a reasonable understanding of v. 2 is that He was referring to the trauma that would be incurred by the Holy City during the future tribulation period (cf. Mc 4:11–5:1; Zch 12:1–3; 14:1–2). This well-known end-times event would have been readily familiar to Matthew’s readers and Jesus’ disciples, but the same cannot be said for AD 70 as it had not yet occurred.

24:3. It is likely that the disciples’ questions do not have AD 70 in mind. When will these things happen? (answered in vv. 36–44) should be understood in light of the dual-sided question, What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age? (answered in vv. 4–35). The twelve apparently envisioned a connection between "when" these things happen and the sign(s) that culminate in the end, which makes it somewhat difficult to see AD 70 as playing much of a role in His answer. The syntax of the question, What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age? suggests that the disciples inquired about a sign that forecast both the coming of Jesus and the end of the age, two matters that are distinct, closely-related, but not identical (see Daniel B. Wallace, Granville Sharp’s Canon and Its Kin: Semantics and Significance [Studies in Biblical Greek] [New York: Peter Lang, 2009], 185–93). For the sign, see the comments on 24:30. Your coming (parousias, from which the word Parousia, a technical term for Christ’s second coming, is derived) signals that the disciples finally grasped, at least to some extent, that Jesus was leaving (16:21; 17:9, 12, 22–23; 20:17–19; 21:38–39), and that His return would involve cataclysmic events.

24:4–8. Beginning in v. 4 and running through v. 35, Jesus answers the question in 24:3 regarding the sign of His coming and the end of the age (see the recurrence of sign in v. 30). He gave several signs, not just one, indicating that His answer to their question was somewhat unexpected. Verses 4–14 summarize the entirety of the tribulation period including its end (v. 14). The events of vv. 4–8 are part of the seal judgments early in the tribulation. See the comments on Rv 6:9–11. I am the Christ (v. 5) is often viewed as a reference to the presence of messianic claimants before AD 70, the most likely candidates being Judas of Galilee (Ac 5:37), Theudas, who led a short-lived revolt c. AD 43–46 (Ac 5:36; Josephus, Ant. 20.97–98), an unknown Egyptian (Ac 21:38), Simon bar Giora, a leader of one Jewish faction at AD 70 (Josephus, War, 2.521–522; 7.26–32), Menahem, another leader in the war c. AD 70 (Josephus, War, 2.433–448). But there is no clear indication that any of them applied the title to himself, as v. 5 requires, until Simon bar Kokhba at the time of the second revolt (c. AD 132–135). It is preferable to see Jesus referring to a phenomenon during the great tribulation (cf. the comments on Rv 6:2). For vv. 6–7, see Rv 6:4–6 for these same events being part of the seal judgments during the tribulation. That is not yet the end (v. 6) and the beginning of birth pangs (v. 8) are cited in support the view that this part of the discourse is about the trials of the Church Age, or events culminating in AD 70, and not the Parousia. Perhaps more likely is that they refer to events early in the tribulation period (the seal judgments), and indicate that other eschatological events with greater severity will follow them before the end. Birth pangs is a technical expression for the upheaval associated with the day of the Lord (Is 13:8; 26:17; 66:7–8; Jr 4:31; 6:24; 22:23; 30:5–7; 48:41; Hs 13:13 Mc 4:9–10; 1QH 3:7–10; 1 Enoch 62:4; 1Th 5:3; Rv 12:2), and their beginning more easily supports the idea of events early during those end-times woes than they do a reference to AD 70 or the span of the Church Age. These things picks up these things in v. 3.

24:9–14. The events in this paragraph describe conditions that arise later in the tribulation period, with then (v. 9) signaling this transition. The one who endureswill be saved (v. 13) is found verbatim in 10:22. See the comments there. And then the end will come (v. 14), in connection with Your coming in v. 3, must refer to the end of the age, which makes it difficult to understand vv. 9–14 as referring to conditions around AD 70 when the gospel can hardly be said to have been preached in the whole worldto all the nations (though cf. Rm 10:18 and the comments there).

B. The Middle and End of the Great Tribulation: The Abomination of Desolation (24:15–28)

24:15–16. Verse 15 shifts from the end of the tribulation described in v. 14 to consider one of the key signs in the middle of the tribulation period, namely, the abomination of desolation. It is mentioned in Dn 9:24–27; 11:31; 12:11; see the comments there. According to Daniel, the abomination takes place half-way through the 70th week of Daniel. The abomination of desolation should not be associated with the destruction of the temple in AD 70, for a number of reasons. The abomination of desolation in Mt 24:15 seems to take people by surprise, but there was no surprise when the Romans came under General Titus, who laid siege to the city for seven months before its fall in September, AD 70. In 24:16, the people could flee, but could not with Titus since the Romans built a siege wall all the way around Jerusalem’s walls to prevent this. In addition, the siege left enormous numbers of the residents of Jerusalem dead or severely weakened, and when the Romans finally took the city, there was virtually no one who fled. According to Mt 24, the temple will be desecrated. However, with Titus, in AD 70, it was destroyed before it could be desecrated (though the Roman soldiers raised their ensigns in the temple, sacrificed to their gods, and sang in honor of Titus. Cf. Josephus, War, 6.316). In short, if Jesus is giving a prophecy of AD 70, He was wrong about much of what actually happened—which is somewhat problematic for one’s Christology. Let the reader understand was probably a comment made by Jesus rather than an editorial aside by Matthew, challenging His followers to read Daniel 9 in light of His reference to it here. Flee to the mountains (v. 16) is also unlikely to refer to AD 70, since the Judean mountains were crawling with the soldiers from four Roman legions.

24:17–20. Verses 17–18 indicate that people should flee without giving any thought to getting things from their homes. During the winter (v. 20), roads were wet, muddy, and could be extremely hard to travel on. On the Sabbath, they might be more reluctant to flee as it would violate the command to rest, or they might not find much help along the way.

24:21–22. This is probably a reference to the future tribulation period, and not to AD 70. As bad as the Jewish war with Rome was, it does not match the severity of the language Jesus employed here. The phrase unless those days had been cut short means that God would not allow the days to go on for an undetermined time. This shows He is sovereign over the length of the great tribulation. Elect (v. 22; cf. also 24:24, 31) is often applied to Christians (cf. Rm 8:33; Col 3:12), and it is usually assumed that the word here refers to believers. At this point in the Olivet Discourse, the apostles function as representatives of the nation of Israel, not necessarily the Church (see Bruce A. Ware, "Is the Church in View in Matthew 24–25?", BibSac April–June 1981, 158–172), and, more precisely, as the leaders of the remnant of Israel during the tribulation. David K. Lowery ("A Theology of Matthew," in A Biblical Theology of the New Testament, Roy B. Zuck and Darrell L. Bock, eds. [Chicago: Moody, 1994], 44, 60) points out that Jesus’ disciples serve as a model of future disciples in 10:17–22, where they and the subsequent disciples whom they represent will suffer for their testimony, and in 10:23, where their mission to reach Israel will be continued by others after them. It is plausible that the disciples here serve as a model of the experience of future Jewish believers and those who lead them during the tribulation. Furthermore, Dn 9:24, which introduces the abomination of desolation prophecy, says, "Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city.…", indicating that Dn 9 was intended for, and was primarily about, the Jewish people. Jesus’ reference to Daniel in Mt 24 probably carries over the same focus, so that at least in 24:4–15 the experience of believing Israel during the tribulation is in view here, not that of the Church, while the experience of the Church is found in 24:36.

24:23–28. The main difference between this warning (v. 23) and the one in 24:4–5, 11, is that here the claim to be the messiah is made by one on behalf of another. False leaders arise calling attention to themselves in the earlier section, but here they garner support from many others. In contrast to Jesus, the false messiahs and false prophets will freely work miracles to promote themselves (v. 24), whereas Jesus insisted on secrecy about most of His acts. On the miracles of the antichrist, cf. 2Th 2:8–9; Rv 13:13. Unlike the first advent, the second will be as sudden and unmistakable as a flash of lightning (vv. 26–27). All doubt will vanish, and all false messiahs will be unmasked. No one will have to say, "Look here, look there." These verses make the preterist position (that Jesus’ second coming to judge Israel happened in AD 70) more difficult to defend. Verse 28 is puzzling, but by this Jesus may mean that in the same way vultures inevitably find carrion, so also it is inevitable that everyone alive in those days will see the second coming.

C. The Second Coming (24:29–35)

24:29–31. It is possible that there is a gap between v. 28 and v. 29 to accommodate enough time for AD 70 to transpire and the Church Age to run its course before the second coming. "Prophetic foreshortening" is a phenomenon found in biblical prophecy where eschatological events are presented as if happening one immediately after another when in fact there may be centuries between them (cf. Is 9:6a, b, with 9:6c; Dn 9:24–25, with 9:26–27). If there is such a gap here, that would fit nicely with the unknowability of the time of the Parousia. If vv. 4–28 are about events surrounding AD 70 (the preterist and partial-preterist view) or about the entire Church Age (some futurists) followed by a time gap after which the events of vv. 29 transpire, then no one could know when He will come. The main problem with this understanding is that it seriously minimizes the force of the phrase immediately after the tribulation of those days. Jesus gives a clear chronological marker that does not easily allow for prophetic foreshortening here, and immediately connects the temporal proximity of the signs of the tribulation to the second coming. The darkening of the heavenly bodies (v. 29) signals the arrival of the day of the Lord, the great tribulation. For other passages that refer to cosmic disturbances at the end of the tribulation, cf. Ezk 32:7; Jl 2:31; 3:15; Rv 6:1–14. The two occurrences of then (v. 30) make it likely that the sign is distinct from, and chronologically follows, the phenomena in the sky (v. 29) and is distinct from but immediately precedes the coming of the Son of Man mentioned in the last half of v. 30. The word sign (see 24:3d) could be translated "ensign, standard, flag." When ancient Israel’s troops were mustered, a ram’s horn was blown (note the trumpet in 24:31; cf. Ex 19:16) and an ensign with a crosspiece at the top was raised, to which an animal (usually a snake) was affixed. There is an end-times context in Is 11:10–16, where God raises His flag as He begins His campaign to crush Israel’s enemies and regather His people to their land. The sign of the Son of Man, then, is some kind of visible militaristic portent that indicates the commencement of Jesus’ campaign. The appearance of this sign causes the tribes of the earth to mourn, an allusion to both Dn 7:13 and Zch 12:10 but with world-wide application. Sometimes v. 31 is interpreted as a reference to a posttribulational rapture, and while possible, it is unlikely that this is the case. The phrase will gather (episynago) is used in the LXX in Ps 105:47 (English translations 106:47) and 147:2 (English translations 146:2) for the regathering of the Jewish people to the Holy Land following God rescuing them (also the point of the sounding of the trumpet in Is 27:13, cited by Matthew in v. 31). In the OT, this regathering was not a "rapture" in which God’s people would receive their resurrected, glorified bodies but appears to be an event experienced in natural bodies in which God gathers them into the millennial kingdom.

24:32–35. All these things (vv. 33, 34) refers to the signs mentioned in vv. 4–31. When these signs begin to come to pass, the people alive at that time can be assured that they will see His second coming as well. All these things (plural adjective and pronoun; see "these things" in 24:3c) is distinct from He [or "it"—probably the Parousia] is [the verb is third person singular] near, so that the Parousia is not included in all these things. This generation (v. 34) is almost universally taken as a reference to the people alive in Jesus’ day, and generation usually means this in Matthew (cf. 11:16; 12:41; 17:17). However, this is often assumed rather than argued, and the context of v. 34 points in another direction. The generation in v. 34 will pass away only after all these things take place. All these things probably include the world-wide preaching of the gospel message followed by the end (v. 14), the future abomination of desolation (vv. 15), the unparalleled world-wide tribulation for which God limits the days (vv. 21–22), the increase of false messiahs (vv. 24), followed immediately by cosmic upheaval (v. 29), the militaristic sign of Jesus’ coming (v. 30), and then, presumably, His second coming which follows hard on the heels of these signs (v. 30; probably v. 33). The near-demonstrative pronoun this often refers to that which is near in the mind of the writer or speaker (cf. Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996], 325), and to assign to this generation the referent "those living in the disciples’ day who survive until AD 70" is somewhat ungainly in light of the contextually-immediate discussion of the events associated with the end (especially vv. 30–31, all these things in vv. 33 and 34). Another interpretation which understands the meaning of generation as "family" or "race" ("this family—the Jewish people—will not pass away," even though it might seem like they will because of the severity of the tribulation) is an unlikely sense based on Jesus’ and Matthew’s other uses.

D. Instruction Urging Readiness for the Day of the Lord (24:36–25:30)

24:36–41. These verses answer the first question in 24:3c, "When will these things happen?" But (v. 36) is actually two words, "but concerning" (peri de; see the ESV), and frequently indicates a move to a new thought (Mt 22:31; Mk 12:26; 13:32; Ac 21:25; 1Co 7:1; 8:1; 12:1; 16:1, 12; 1Th 4:9, 13; 5:1). In this case the shift is away from the discussion of Jesus’ coming during those days (note the plural; see vv. 19, 22, 29) at the end of the tribulation (vv. 29–31) to the suddenness of the beginning of the day of the Lord (that day, v. 36—note the singular) including the rapture of the Church which commences it. Of that day [the day of the Lord; 1Th 5:4] and hour [used for end-time woes in Jn 16:21–22; Rv 3:10] no one knows is highly problematic for every eschatological school, for Jesus claims that one can know that His coming is near based upon observable signs (24:4–35, especially vv. 29–35), and yet says that no one can know that day and hour (vv. 36, 39, 42, 43, 44, 50 twice; 25:13) (for the issue, see Douglas J. Moo, "The Case for the Posttribulation Rapture Position," in Gleason L. Archer, Jr., Paul D. Feinberg, Douglas J. Moo, and Richard R. Reiter, The Rapture: Pre-, Mid-, or Post-tribulational? [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1984], 209). The problem stems from the failure to note that the events of vv. 29–35 and vv. 36–44 are different events. The second coming will be recognizable (v. 33), but the beginning of the day of the Lord will be a complete surprise unknown to all (v. 36) (Robert L. Thomas, "Imminence in the NT, Especially Paul’s Thessalonian Epistles," The Master’s Seminary Journal 13 [Fall 2002], 193; Hart, "Should Pretribulationists Reconsider the Rapture in Matthew 24:36–44? Part 1 of 3," 71–74). Similarly intriguing is that Jesus claims to have no knowledge of the time of His own second coming, leading some to question His omniscience. It is important to remember that Jesus had both a human and a divine nature. In His humanity, He grew tired, hungered, and could be tempted—and apparently could choose to be ignorant of things not necessary or profitable for Him or others to know. Robert H. Gundry (Matthew: A Commentary on His Literary and Theological Art [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1982], 492) notes, "Theologically we may say that just as Jesus did not exercise his omnipotence except to further the kingdom …, so he did not exercise his omniscience except to further the kingdom. To have known and made known the exact time of his coming [better, the beginning of the day of the Lord and the rapture of the Church] would have damaged the work of the kingdom by encouraging carelessness during the interim." On this occasion, Jesus chose not to "access" knowledge about the timing of the Parousia, something He could have done through His divinity. The analogy with Noah (vv. 37–39) is detrimental for a preterist view of the discourse, for the flood, like the Parousia, had world-wide effects and did not just affect the Holy Land. It will be "business as usual" in the world when Jesus returns, suggesting similar conditions before the flood and before the start of the day of the Lord (the tribulation), and the pretribulational rapture which designates its inception (v. 38; see the comments on 1Th 5:1–3). They did not understand (lit., "know," v. 39) reflects the surprise coming of the day of the Lord (v. 36). The flood came and took them all away (v. 39) does not refer to Noah and his family being taken away safely by the ark. The plural pronouns and verbs in these verses relate to those who perished in the flood. In addition, Matthew’s the flood came and took [airo] them all way (v. 39) in Lk 17:27 is the flood came and destroyed them all, indicating that the rapture (whether pre- or post-tribulational) is not in view in v. 39. The verb will be taken (paralambano) in vv. 40–41 can have sinister overtones in Matthew (27:27; cf. also Jn 19:16). But it also has a positive sense, "to receive to one’s self, to take to safety" (Mt 1:20, 24; 2:13, 14, 20, 21), and in Jn 14:3 it is used in reference to the rapture of the Church. These points support the idea that the man and woman who are taken in vv. 40 and 41 are raptured out of the world before the start of the tribulation, just as Noah was taken out of harm’s way before the coming of the flood. The verb will be left (aphiemi) (vv. 40, 41), when used in reference to people in Matthew’s gospel, connotes abandonment (e.g., 4:11, 22; 8:15; 13:36; 19:29; 22:22, 25; 26:56), and in Jn 14:18 Jesus uses the verb to promise that He will never "abandon" believers. The man and woman who are left will face God’s wrath in the tribulation, just as those left on the earth in Noah’s day underwent God’s judgment in the flood. The separating of the righteous and unrighteous for judgment is a theme seen elsewhere in Matthew (cf. 8:12; 13:39–43, 49–50; 24:48–51; 25:30, 41–46). This passage, in connection with the transition in v. 36 (see the comments there) does not readily support the concept of a post-tribulational rapture (for a helpful treatment of the analogy of the flood and its relationship to the rapture and the tribulation, see John F. Hart, "Should Pretribulationists Reconsider the Rapture in Matthew 24:36–44? Part 2 of 3," 45–63; and Hart, "Should Pretribulationists Reconsider the Rapture in Matthew 24:36–44? Part 3 of 3," 43–49).

24:42–44. The suddenness and unexpectedness of the day of the Lord, and the need to be ready for it, is the focus of this and the remaining sections. Since no one knows during what time of the night (literally what "watch" of the night) a thief might strike, constant vigilance is required. Similarly, the start of the day of the Lord will be completely unexpected, as indicated by vv. 36–39 (see the comments there). For the imagery of a thief in connection with the rapture, see 1Th 5:2, 4; 2Pt 3:10; Rv 3:3; 16:15. To be on the alert (gregoreo, vv. 42, 43) refers to living in a way that pleases the Lord at all times so that there is no shame when He comes for the Church (1Jn 2:28). See the comments on 24:45–47 regarding the characteristics of being alert. A homeowner suffers loss when a thief burglarizes his home. The follower of Christ who does not live for Him will suffer loss of rewards when He comes unexpectedly (see the comments on 1Co 3:10–17). Being on the alert also means living differently from the behavior of those in the world (for the verb, see 1Th 5:6, 10; for the behavior, see 1Th 5:4–8).

24:45–47. Jesus spends the rest of the discourse describing what being on the alert (vv. 42, 43) for the coming of the Lord looks like. The slave in this parable (vv. 45–47) is the head over all the other domestics. Some think this might limit the parable to church leaders, but the application is wider. Readiness involves being faithful and sensible in one’s interaction with others. Readiness means being kind to others (give them their food). There are rewards for caring for others. One is blessed (v. 46; see the definition at 5:1–6), and is given an enlarged capacity to serve Him (v. 47). The Parable of the Talents (25:14–30) unpacks the latter point.

24:48–51. The Parable of the Unrighteous Slave typifies the lack of readiness for the rapture. The wicked servant uses the Master’s delay to abuse his fellow servants and carouse. Beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards suggests that the evil slave begins to act as if he were his own master and could abuse the other slaves as many masters did. But he was not a master, and he would be held accountable for his actions. So, here is the flip side of being ready for the Parousia—being sure to avoid mistreating others. On v. 51, cf. the comments on 8:5–13.

25:1–4. Then (v. 1) looks back to the conditions associated with that day and hour in 24:36. The phrase the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to (homoiothesetai he basileia ton ouranon) is similar to 13:24 (homoiothe he basileia ton ouranon) which refers to the "mysteries of the kingdom" during the present age (see the comments on 13:10–17). Michael J. Wilkins writes, "This indicates that this parable (and the next) points explicitly to conditions during this age, the age in which the kingdom operates in a ‘mystery’ manner" (Matthew, NIVAC [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004], 804), suggesting that the Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins relates to the theme of readiness for the beginning of the day of the Lord and the rapture of the Church. The virgins, unlike the wicked slave (24:48), had no prior knowledge of a delay. These virgins assembled near the groom’s home to which the wedding party would venture after the groom collected the bride (see the comments on 1:18–21). For (v. 3) explains what constituted the foolishness of the five. The oil could stand for numerous things, but because the main point of the parable is readiness, it is unnecessary to be specific. The key is not what the oil is but the lack of readiness in the form of insufficient foresight by the foolish virgins (cf. vv. 10, 13 with 24:42, 44, 50–51).

25:5–13. The bridegroom is Jesus, the delay is the time between the ascension and His coming, the wise and foolish virgins are true or false disciples, and the exclusion of the foolish virgins from the wedding feast represents the judgment of unbelievers on earth during the day of the Lord, while believers participate in the heavenly "marriage supper of the Lamb" (Rv 19:7–10; see the comments there) following the rapture, and later in the millennial kingdom on earth. They all got drowsy and began to sleep (v. 5) does not mean that even the wise virgins had some moral lapse or that they had all died. Their sleeping simply functions to indicate the length of the delay. For the shout (v. 6), see also 1Th 4:16. All those virgins rose (v. 7) likewise does not depict the resurrection of dead believers, nor do vv. 8ff. indicate that people will have a second chance to enter the kingdom after their resurrection. The phrase those who were ready (v. 10) reveals the main point of the parable, namely, that here readiness is preparedness before He returns. One cannot leave "getting ready" to the last minute. If one seeks to get ready while He is coming, it is too late (similarly 22:11–14; and see the comments on 23:39). The coming of the Lord in the rapture and the start of the day of the Lord will be completely unexpected, and unless one is prepared before that time, he will face the hardship of the tribulation period (vv. 11–12). See the comments on 7:21–23, where, like the unwise virgins, false teachers say, "Lord, Lord," Jesus responds with "I do not know you" and exclusion from the kingdom also occurs. Those excluded from the kingdom are those who failed to prepare for His coming well in advance of it. Then (v. 13) should be translated "therefore," and introduces the application Jesus intends His followers to grasp from the parable. The verb be on the alert means "to be alert, watchful" as it does in 24:42, 43. For the day and the hour, see the comments on 24:36. Both passages encourage spiritual vigilance to be ready for Christ’s coming.

25:14–18. The word for (v. 14) introduces an expansion on the concept of readiness found in 24:36–25:13. Being ready for the return of the Lord at the rapture means being industrious for Him. The man in the parable represents Jesus, the journey is His absence during the Church Age, the productive slaves represent faithful disciples who are ready, and the third slave an unfaithful (false) disciple. A talent (Gk. talanta) was the largest denomination of money in the Greco-Roman world and is estimated to be worth as much as 6,000 days’ wages, or about 20 years of income for an average laborer. Each slave was given a different amount, each according to his own ability, but the same expectation appeared to go with each: Gain something for the master while he was gone. The talents are often identified as the gospel, the Word of God, one’s spiritual gifts, or stewardship of "time, talent, and treasure." None of these work especially well in the parable (Did the first slave gain five more gospels? Did the second slave gain two more spiritual gifts?). In light of the reward consisting in greater responsibility (vv. 21, 23), the talents should be understood in the most general terms, such as a disciple’s fulfillment of his or her responsibilities, whatever they might be. The third slave (v. 18) hid his master’s money by burying it, which was not a bad measure in those days to ensure security. As a result, however, he gained nothing for the master, in contrast to the other two slaves (vv. 16, 17).

25:19–23. After a long time (v. 19) indicates a delay in the start of the day of the Lord and the rapture. Settled accounts refers to the judgment following the rapture, perhaps at the bema seat judgment (see 1Co 3:10–17; Rm 14:10–12). The two slaves were given differing amounts and their returns reflected that. But the master said identical words to both (You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master, vv. 21 and 23) in connection with the reward, which included a slice of the master’s own joy. This implies that whatever level of abilities Jesus has given, His followers will be held responsible for faithfully making gains corresponding to the amount entrusted to them—no more, no less. Scripture is muted about future rewards, but this parable suggests they involve enlarged opportunities to serve Him when the millennial kingdom is established and to experience the joy of the master as it is done. But it also ties those rewards to what the believer does presently, during the time the Master is away. While works will not save a person, one must never think that works are inconsequential.

25:24–25. These verses provide the motivation for the third slave’s inappropriate actions. I knew you to be a hard man is not repeated by the master when he reiterates the slaves comments in v. 26, and this may be part of the point of the parable. Nothing in the master’s interaction before this suggested that he was hard ("harsh," "severe," "demanding," possibly "violent").

25:26–28. But (v. 26) indicates a contrast between the treatment of the other two slaves and this one. Lazy means "being timid about or shrinking from accomplishing a task." The knowledge of his master’s characteristics should have motivated the slave to be industrious for him. Assuming that the reaping and sowing are fittingly applied to Jesus, the sense may be that He looks for returns on work which He has not performed. Granting that a believer’s fruitfulness for Jesus is a mark of His power and grace ("by the grace of God I am what I am," says Paul in 1Co 15:10a), nevertheless this fruitfulness is a result of the believer’s work for Him as well ("I labored even more than all of them," 1Co 15:10c), and from the work of His followers He expects returns for Himself.

25:29–30. For begins to explain the main principle of the parable. The two faithful slaves are in the category of those who make gains for the master (everyone who has [made gains]) and thus, they shall be given more (probably more "rewards" consisting in responsibility and joy). But the evil slave is in a completely different category, being one who does not have anything for the Lord. Even what he does have does not suggest that the third slave had either fruit for the Lord or rewards, but that whatever he appeared to have was forfeited by his inactivity (cf. also 7:21–23, where the alleged good deeds of false teachers are regarded by Jesus as "lawlessness"). It is true that the third slave is counted among the slaves (v. 14), but he cannot be understood to portray a true but perhaps carnal follower of Christ, especially in light of v. 30 (for which see the comments on 8:5–13). He is a counterfeit disciple, one who never actually knew Him. In Matthew’s gospel one finds true and false prophets, sheep and wolves in sheep’s clothing, houses built on sand and houses built on rock, wheat and tares, wise and foolish virgins, righteous and unrighteous servants; not all who are associated with Jesus are true disciples.

E. The Judgment Following the Second Coming (25:31–46)

25:31–33. Matthew 24:36–25:30 is about His people being ready for the rapture and day of the Lord. In 25:31, the scene shifts to the judgment that will take place after the tribulation, following His second coming, when He begins to reign in His earthly kingdom (when the Son of Man comes in His glory then He will sit on His glorious throne, v. 31). All the nations (v. 32) indicates that Jews and Gentiles alike are included and that this is a universal judgment.

25:34–40. The altruistic actions are done by the sheep who are called righteous in vv. 37, 46 (see the comments on 5:20). This text is sometimes seen as a support for works salvation, but several factors weigh against this. First, it is out of step with the rest of the NT. Second, it is the righteous who do these deeds. There is no indication that they are righteous because they do righteous deeds. Third, these sheep will be in the kingdom, for which see the comments on 7:21–23. Fourth, the sheep are called blessed (v. 34), and while there is nothing in the immediate context that develops the concept, see 5:3, 5, 10; 11:6; 13:16 and the comments there, which indicates that those who are poor in spirit and hunger and thirst for righteousness are blessed (see the comments on 5:3, 5, 10; 11:6; 13:16). Fifth, the righteous sheep inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world. Their inclusion in the kingdom cannot be contingent upon their works, for that destiny was settled before doing any works. Finally, the sheep were surprised regarding the reasons for their admission into the kingdom (i.e., good deeds; vv. 37ff.). This indicates they were not doing them in an attempt to gain admission into the kingdom. The implication from the passage is that while the good deeds do not produce righteousness, those who are righteous do good deeds. Conversely, the lack of good deeds indicates that one is among the goats. You did it to one of these brothers of Mine (v. 40) indicates that Jesus had in mind especially Jewish believers who suffer persecution during the tribulation and who receive help from Gentile believers at that time. It is good and proper that believers should be involved in prison ministries, but it must be noted that v. 40 indicates that these acts of kindness are rendered especially (not exclusively) to the Jewish followers of Jesus (see Gl 6:10). On vv. 34–40, D. A. Carson ("Matthew," 520) writes, "Good deeds done to Jesus’ followers, even the least of them, are not only works of compassion and morality but reflect where people stand in relation to the kingdom and to Jesus himself. Jesus identifies himself with the fate of his followers and makes compassion for them equivalent to compassion for himself.…"

25:41–46. Those who are not true followers of Jesus will not show kindness to believers (whether they are Jewish or Gentile believers), and will also thereby indicate that they have no connection with Him (cf. 1Jn 3:14–15; 4:7–14). The goats are destined for eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels, but which is also enlarged to accept all who are apart from Jesus (Rv 12:9–12; 20:11–15).

In the Parable of the Sheep and Goats, Jesus reiterated the themes from the previous three parables but applies those themes to the demonstration of righteousness and being prepared for the kingdom during the tribulation. One shows he is destined for the kingdom by being kind to others, as the sheep were here. In 25:1–13, being ready meant one must be ready before He returns, and the sheep had a lifestyle of care demonstrated over some time even during the tribulation. In 25:14–30, the labor of the good slaves, like the assistance rendered by the sheep, was ultimately for the Lord. "Readiness" is the key to the Olivet Discourse, and Jesus provided concrete examples of readiness so that His followers would not be left in the dark.

XII. The Death of the King-Messiah (26:1–27:66)

A. The Hateful Plot Against Jesus (26:1–5)

26:1–2. As He was leaving the Mount of Olives, Jesus gave clear instruction about His impending death. The One who will judge will Himself be judged. He mentioned His impending crucifixion (cf. 20:19), suggesting that He knew exactly what was going on. He was no victim (in the truest sense) in what would transpire. After two days the Passover is coming (v. 2) indicates that Matthew is narrating events from late Tuesday afternoon or early evening that, in Jewish reckoning, would have been the start of Wednesday. Note the deliberate effort on Jesus’ part to tie His death to the celebration of the Passover (see the comments on Ex 12–13). He is the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world (Jn 1:29). For a harmonization of the various chronological problems associated with the timing of events around Good Friday, see Carson, "Matthew," 528–32.

26:3–5. Jesus’ teaching became so caustic against the leaders that they saw the need to kill Him. The high priest (v. 3) was appointed by the Romans to four-year terms, and one of his primary responsibilities, for which he also utilized his family, was to direct the affairs of the temple. The temple cleansing was a frontal attack against them. Caiaphas (a name that means "Inquisitor") was appointed by procurator Valerius Gratus and held the position from AD 18–36, a much longer tenure than traditionally was allowed, attesting to his political finesse. His father-in-law Annas served before him and continued to wield considerable authority (cf. Lk 3:2; Jn 11:47–53; 18:13–24). Their plot would not be carried out until after the festival (v. 5), the weeklong celebration of Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. By then the pilgrims, who were enthusiastic about Jesus, would have returned to their homes.

B. The Act of Kindness for Jesus (26:6–13)

26:6–13. The episode at Bethany is a remarkably tender demonstration sandwiched between the most reprehensible deeds. The alabaster vial (v. 7) was probably a fine, translucent white gypsum bottle. Costly perfume was typically made by combining exotic oils and extracts of various spices and flowers. Mark 14:5 and Jn 12:5 indicate that it was worth about 300 denarii, or about 300 days’ wages. The disciples reacted so strongly (vv. 8–9) because, during Passover, it was customary for affluent Jews to offer financial help to the poor. The perfume could have been sold for that. But Jesus defended the woman (vv. 10–13), saying that her act would serve to prepare Me for burial (v. 12). When a rich person died the body was doused in perfume then wrapped in a burial shroud. More spices were placed in its folds, not to mummify the body but to cut the odors of decomposition for tombs were not airtight. However, crucified criminals did not receive such treatment. After a body was left to putrefy on a cross, it was usually cast into the city dump, in Jerusalem’s case the Hinnom Valley on the southeast edge of Jerusalem, and received no burial at all. What this woman did honored Jesus and gave Him burial preparations that, under normal circumstances, He otherwise would not have received.

C. The Plans Judas Formed (26:14–16)

26:14–16. These verses contain the one event Matthew recorded that took place on Wednesday of Passion Week. Judas’s motivation remains one of the biggest enigmas in NT studies. Perhaps Judas wanted to betray Jesus in order to hasten His establishment of the kingdom, and the disciples’ privilege in it, as well as the overthrow of Rome. But there is not a whisper of this in the Gospels. The best evidence is that he was greedy (see the comments on Jn 12:4–6) and betrayed Jesus for the money. Matthew makes more of the thirty pieces of silver (v. 15) in 27:9–10.

D. The Objective of Jesus’ Death: Inauguration of the New Covenant (26:17–29)

26:17–19. Verse 17 introduces Thursday of Passion Week. It was customary for the citizens of Jerusalem to provide accommodations for the Passover pilgrims (many of them family and friends). It cannot be known if Jesus made some previous arrangements with this man who would become His host for Passover or if this was an exercise of His divine omniscience. Mark 14:13 and Lk 22:10 both mention that this man would be carrying a pitcher of water. It was typically woman’s work, so he would have been easy to spot. My time is near (v. 18) notes again the theme of Jesus’ death, His knowledge and God’s sovereignty over it, and its connection here with the Passover celebration.

26:20–25. That Jesus knew what was in Judas’ heart but never let on to the other disciples is a remarkable testimony to His patience and self-control. Judas was assigned the place of honor closest to Jesus during their celebration (v. 23). Verse 24 presents the mysterious balance between divine sovereignty and human responsibility. Cf. also Ac 2:23–24; 4:27–28. God determined the time and circumstances of Jesus’ death, and brought them about through the sinful actions of Judas. But this neither absolved Judas of guilt nor placed upon God the moral culpability of Judas’s treachery.

26:26–29. For the treatment of the Lord’s Table in the other gospels, see the comments on Mk 14:22–25; Lk 22:17–20; and 1Co 11:23–26. Jesus altered the traditional celebration of Passover so that it would commemorate His death. This is My body (v. 26) was a metaphor, not unlike the metaphors by which He likened Himself to a vine, a shepherd, or a door. The text gives no hint of any miraculous transformation as they ate the bread. As a Passover meal, it included many symbolic elements. The unleavened bread represented the haste to depart from Egypt, and the bitter herbs represented the bitterness of slavery. When these elements were discussed and consumed in the traditional Passover meal, there was no expectation that they would be mystically transformed. In the same way, when Jesus held up the elements and declared they were His body and blood, no listener would have expected it to refer to a mystical transformation. Rather, they would have understood it to mean a symbolic representation of Jesus body and blood.

The Mishnah, which is the recorded traditions of the Jewish people collected around AD 200, prescribes how Passover should be observed (though there is no way to be certain that it reflects how it was practiced in Jesus’ day). See specifically m. Pesach. 10. They enjoyed four cups of wine at different points in the Passover meal, corresponding to the four promises of God in Ex 6:6–7. Jesus may have introduced the Lord’s Table after the third cup, called "the cup of redemption." This is My blood of the covenant parallels Ex 24:8: Behold the blood of the covenant [LXX to haima tes diathekes], which the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words. When God made the covenant of Law with the Jewish people, the blood of bulls was used to institute it (Ex 24:5–6). But in Mt 26:28, Jesus said, for this is My blood of the covenant [to haima mou tes diathekes, emphasis added]. The wine is a symbol of His shed blood through which He inaugurated the new covenant, a covenant forecast in the OT. God would transform the hearts of His new covenant community, forgive their sin (Jr 31:31–34), and give them the Spirit (Ezk 36:25–27). See the comments on Jr 31:31–34 and Heb 8–9. The Lord’s Table is also a symbol of the messianic kingdom, which is compared to a great feast (v. 29) (see 8:11; 22:2; 25:10; Is 25:6–10; Rv 19:7–9). While the disciples would engage repeatedly in the Lord’s Table, Jesus would not again until He joins them in the consummated kingdom. The Lord’s Table is a profound memorial (not "just" a memorial!), and conveys sanctifying (not saving) grace, strengthening the believer who reflects upon the tortured body and spilled blood of the Son of God.

E. The Boast of Jesus’ Disciples (26:30–35)

26:30–35. Judas took the steps to betray Him apparently when they left the upper room for the Mount of Olives (v. 30). Jesus predicted that the disciples would flee from Him at His arrest (v. 31), and cited the messianic passage Zch 13:7, which prophesied their dispersion (for the details, see Craig Blomberg, "Matthew," 91–93). In contrast to the evil shepherds in Zch 13:1–6, the "Good Shepherd" would be struck down. God calls that Shepherd "My Associate," a word used for one’s blood relatives, for those who shared ancestral ties or ethnic background (Lv 6:2; 18:20; 19:11, 15, 17; 24:19; 25:14, 15, 17). This suggests that the shepherd is more than a mere mortal but God’s equal. Jesus reassured them that He would go ahead of them into Galilee, where they would again regroup after being scattered and once again be with Jesus.

F. The Anguish in Gethsemane (26:36–46)

26:36–46. Gethsemane (v. 36), which means "olive press," was located in the Kidron Valley at the foot of the western slope of the Mount of Olives. Above it was the Temple Mount. John 18:1–2 indicates that Jesus spent time there occasionally with His disciples, perhaps debriefing at the conclusion of the stressful days of Passion Week. Judas knew the place, and this may explain how he found Him. The word cup is sometimes a metaphor for God’s judgment in the OT (cf. Ps 11:6; Is 51:22). But why did Jesus request to not undergo His ordeal when He knew He would die that way (20:19)? Matthew does not say. He was not close to dying in Gethsemane because of the stress, as some teach, and knew that He would die of crucifixion (26:2). The phrase to the point of death (v. 38) very likely means something like, "I am so sad, I feel like dying." A more likely possibility is that before Gethsemane, in His humanity, He did not fully comprehend the extreme entailments of His death. God may have given Him an exhaustive view of what was before Him so that His sacrificial death could be fully obedient and fully voluntary. To go blindfolded is to go as a victim, not a gracious, obedient volunteer. In Gethsemane the blindfold came off. It was when Jesus saw the full force of His suffering that He exercised full obedience, offered with full freedom, with full knowledge, with full willingness (credit Jonathan Edwards, in his sermon "Christ’s Agony," for these ideas). See the comments on Heb 5:7–10. In His human nature, He recoiled from the prospect and prayed for deliverance from it. But since God the Son came to do the will of God the Father, He obeyed His Father.

When He found the three sleeping (v. 40), He addressed Peter in light of his boast in v. 33, but the verbs in vv. 40–41 are second person plural and include James and John. The temptation (v. 41) probably related to denying Him. He wanted the disciples to escape when His captors came (cf. Jn 18:8), but denying Him was unacceptable (cf. the comments on 10:32–33). The spirit probably refers to the immaterial part of one’s nature favorably disposed to God when the Holy Spirit influences it (Ac 17:16; 1Co 7:34). The flesh probably refers to the immaterial part of man typified by human weakness and values (see, e.g., Rm 7:5 and the comments there), and is weak when it comes to doing what is right. On three occasions Jesus found Peter and the others sleeping, and Matthew probably intends his readers to connect Peter’s threefold denial to that. Peter serves as a warning about the dangers of prayerlessness in the lives of Jesus’ followers. In contrast, Jesus’ second and third times of prayer (vv. 42, 44) reflected a deeper resolve to obey His Father’s will regardless of the extreme test that was coming.

G. The Incarceration at Gethsemane (26:47–56)

26:47–50. Judas (v. 47) came with a large crowd with swords and clubs. Jn 18:3 says that a "cohort"—about 600 Roman soldiers when full—was sent "from the chief priests and Pharisees" presumably with Pilate’s approval, and included some Jewish officials (v. 51). A cohort was garrisoned in the Antonia Fortress adjacent to the temple complex, making their dispatch to Gethsemane uncomplicated. The sign of a kiss, and the greeting (vv. 48–49) were necessary because many of the soldiers would have been unfamiliar with Jesus. Judas may have gone ahead of the larger group to give them the cues. The betrayal in Gethsemane afforded the Jewish leaders an ideal opportunity to apprehend Jesus sooner than they planned but without Jerusalem knowing it (26:3–5, 14–16). Friend means "companion," though not always with a sense of warmth, or "comrade." John 18:3 says that they came "with lanterns and torches," making it likely that Jesus could see their approach from a distance. He showed remarkable courage. A twenty-minute walk up the Mount of Olives, a couple miles down the opposite slope, and He would have been in the Judean wilderness with a good possibility of escape.

26:51–54. John 18:10 names Peter as the disciple who cut off the ear of the slave of the high priest (v. 51) and names the slave (Malchus). Only Luke (22:51) records that Jesus healed the slave. All those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword (v. 52) is less a slogan supporting pacifism than it is a proverbial statement about how violence in a fallen world tends to breed more violence. If Peter had persisted in his fierce reaction, the soldiers would have killed him. Verse 53 indicates, among other things, that Jesus did not need Peter’s help. Twelve full Roman legions would have contained 72,000 soldiers. Angels will participate in eschatological events (13:41; 24:31), but Jesus, who here functioned as the sovereign director of this sad scene, kept them off stage. It is difficult to say which Scriptures were being fulfilled (vv. 54, 56) by Jesus’ ordeal, but cf. Zch 13:7 in Mt 26:31; Ps 22:1 in Mt 27:46; Is 52:13–53:12 (especially Is 53:9, 12 in Mt 27:38, 57–61).

26:55–56. Jesus rebuked the soldiers and Jewish officials (v. 55). He taught openly in the temple, implying that He had nothing to hide. The leaders did not move to incarcerate Jesus during Passion Week (I used to sit in the temple teaching and you did not seize Me, v. 55), adopting that strategy to avoid incensing the people who favored Jesus. But in the privacy of Gethsemane there was no longer any need to restrain themselves. They accosted Him as if He were a terrorist (a better translation than the word robber) though He was not, and came blanketed by darkness to conceal their obscene conspiracy from the masses. Ironically, they were the ones guilty of duplicitous behavior. But their conduct did fulfill the Scriptures (v. 56), and Jesus was clearly aware of God’s supervision of these events.

H. The Jewish Phase of Jesus’ Trial (26:57–68)

26:57–58. On Caiaphas, cf. 26:3–5. Scribes and elders refer to the makeup of the Sanhedrin—71 men from both the Pharisees and Sadducees. The Romans recognized it as a self-governing body with judicial and religious authority over Judea under the leadership of the high priest. The Mishnah tractate m. Sanhedrin 4:1 forbade trying such a case at night, but the Mishnah was codified later than these events and it does not necessarily reflect the protocol from Jesus’ day. Additionally, the courtyard of the high priest was an equally bizarre place to conduct such a trial. According to the record left in the Mishnah 200 years later, capital cases could be tried only within the confines of the temple complex (m. Sanhedrin 11:2). Such irregularities show the leaders’ rush to judgment against Jesus.

26:59–64. Note that false testimony (v. 59) was a violation of the Law (Ex 20:16) and one who gave it was to be severely punished (Dt 19:16–19). The testimony eventually given misrepresented Jesus’ statement, I am able to destroy the temple of God and to rebuild it in three days (v. 61) (reflected in Jn 2:18–22; see the comments there). On the cleansing of the temple and its significance for His trial, cf. the comments on Mt 21:10–13. Jesus kept silent (v. 63; cf. also 27:12–14) while being questioned for at least two reasons: First, it showed his willingness to die in fulfillment of Is 53:7. Second, Jesus was brilliant, as demonstrated by His skill in debating His opponents (Mt 22:15–46). If He would have spoken in His own defense, He could have procured His own acquittal. The only times He spoke were to answer questions related to His identity (Tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God, v. 63; Are you the King of the Jews?, 27:11). For Him to remain silent on these questions would have been to deny Himself. You have said it yourself (v. 64; cf. 26:25; 27:11) was an affirmative response to Caiaphas, and the reaction of the members of the Sanhedrin indicated that they took it that way. Many critical scholars deny that Jesus ever actually claimed to be the Messiah, the Son of God, but Matthew indicates otherwise. For the force of Dn 7:13–14, see the comments there.

26:65–68. When the high priest tore his robes (v. 65), he violated Lv 21:10. This act by Caiaphas was apparently intended to incite the Sanhedrin against Jesus even more. On the verb blasphemed, see the comments on 9:1–8. Blasphemy was considered a capital offense in the OT, deserving stoning (Lv 24:16). Once again, m. Sanhedrin 4:1, written much later, required that the rights of the one being tried be protected, and the authorities were supposed to safeguard the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. His "trial" was a mockery of justice.

I. The Denials by Peter (26:69–75)

26:69–75. See the comments in 10:32–33 for the relationship between "denying Christ" and Peter’s denials. Jesus predicted that both Judas (Mt 26:25) and Peter (Mt 26:34) would deny Him. Matthew says that both were overcome by remorse. The main difference between the two, aside from Judas being an unbeliever (Jn 6:64, 70–71)—an important distinction—is that Jesus prayed for Peter (Lk 22:31–32), just as He does for all His true followers (Rm 8:34) who are thereby kept forever in God’s love. The way you talk gives you away (v. 73) reflects Peter’s Galilean accent, which led the bystanders to connect him with Jesus. The denials were solemnized with an oath (v. 72), cursing and swearing (v. 74). On oaths, see the comments on 5:33–37 and 23:16–22. To curse means "to invoke God to bring harm upon one’s self if what he said were not true, or if he failed to do what he promised." When Peter wept bitterly, some of the anguish may have stemmed from the prospect of God afflicting him for making these false statements.

J. The Remorse of Judas (27:1–10)

27:1–2. When morning came introduces the final part of the all-night phase of Jesus’ trial. Conferred together reflects the Sanhedrin’s deliberations regarding how to enlist Pilate’s assistance to execute Jesus. "Blasphemy" was not a charge for which the Roman government would have executed someone. Pilate was a prefect (a military leader) who received his appointment in AD 26 from Sejanus, the powerful leader of the Praetorian Guard in Rome. Sejanus was both a friend of Emperor Tiberius and a known hater of the Jewish people, and Pilate probably was influenced by his anti-Semitism. Pilate’s tenure was immediately beset with problems. He brought into Jerusalem army flags embossed with the emperor’s figure, infuriating the Jewish leaders as it bordered on idolatry. Later he confiscated money from the temple treasury to build an aqueduct into Jerusalem, and when a crowd protested, he had soldiers, disguised among the crowd, club many of them to death. After his brutal suppression of the followers and leaders of a (supposed) Samaritan prophet, he was dismissed from his post and sent home to Rome in late AD 36 or early 37. By all accounts, he felt nothing but repugnance for the Jewish people.

27:3–10. On the basis of pure chronology, Judas probably acted after Pilate’s decision, but Matthew may have included it here to contrast Judas and Peter. Judas felt remorse (metamelomai), but did not sincerely repent. In contrast, Peter did indeed repent, and his restoration to Jesus and the leadership of the early church demonstrated his genuineness. Judas may have sought forgiveness from the chief priests and elders (v. 3), but their response indicated that they had no more interest in the one who betrayed Jesus. See the comments on Ac 1:18–19 for the harmonization of the accounts of Judas’s suicide. The use of funds gained illicitly could not be used to benefit the temple (v. 6; cf. Dt 23:18). The leaders once again "strained out a gnat" in their caution to use Judas’s blood money correctly, but "swallowed a camel" by orchestrating Jesus’ death. They bought an unclean piece of property in the Hinnom Valley, according to tradition, where those who died while visiting Jerusalem could be buried. Matthew spliced together several OT passages in vv. 9–10, but which ones, and the point he makes with them, is not altogether clear (see the comments in the relevant OT passages). For the view that Zch 11:4–14 is a direct messianic prophecy, see the comments there. Both Zechariah (out of anger) and Judas (out of despair) threw the money into the temple. Jeremiah bought a field (Jr 32:6–9) as a prophetic sign that God would judge, then restore, the nation (Jr 32:23–36). Long before Zch 11, Jeremiah used the metaphor of a potter for God’s right to judge Judah (Jr 18:2, 9–12; 19:2–13) in part because of atrocities done in the Hinnom Valley (called "Topheth" in Jr 19:6, 14). As in Jeremiah’s day, the leaders preferred to buy an unclean field in the Hinnom Valley rather than embrace the Son of God, an atrocity for which God would judge them. Matthew referred to Jeremiah (v. 9) probably because Matthew’s immediate intent was to show that the purchase of the Potter’s Field fulfilled prophecy, and possibly because Jeremiah was the more prominent prophet who originated the potter imagery long before Zechariah mentioned it.

K. The Roman Phase of Jesus’ Trial (27:11–26)

27:11–14. The governor questioned Him. In provinces like Judea the governors investigated charges and tried cases by themselves without juries in a procedure called cognitio extra ordinem. Hence Pilate acted alone. According to custom, the governor would sit on the tribunal seat (bema) to try the case (cf. Bruce Corley, "Trial of Jesus," in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, eds. Joel B. Green and Scot McKnight [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1992], 852–53).

Are You the King of the Jews? (v. 11) was the charge submitted by the Sanhedrin. They shifted the charge from "blasphemy" to "sedition." Only Caesar was king. The charge amounted to sedition, a crime that would deserve the death penalty. But the Romans would not have executed someone over a religious dispute. So the Sanhedrin adjusted the charge against Jesus, hoping to manipulate Pilate into executing Him. For Jesus’ silence (v. 14), see 26:59–64.

27:15–23. According to the Mishnah (m. Pesach. 8:6), it was customary for amnesty to be granted a prisoner at Passover. In an attempt to remove from himself the responsibility for dealing with Jesus, Pilate sought to get rid of Jesus through this privilegium paschale. But this backfired. Matthew called Barabbas a notorious prisoner (v. 16; see also Mk 15:7; Lk 23:19; Jn 18:40). Envy (v. 18) indicates that the leaders were threatened by Jesus’ miraculous power and charisma, and sought to get rid of Him though they had no legal grounds for doing so. Pilate understood this, and was apparently hoping that the crowds, which so enthusiastically received Jesus earlier in the week, would prevail over the leaders and insist on Jesus’ release. Once again, his plan backfired. The warning from Pilate’s Gentile wife (v. 19) heightened her husband’s guilt.

27:24–26. Pilate washed his hands (v. 24), indicating that he would not be liable for whatever happened to Jesus. His act, however, does not absolve him of his guilt. It was Pilate’s job to investigate the charges, try the accused, render a verdict, and ensure that justice was accomplished. He was grossly irresponsible and therefore, guilty (cf. Ac 4:27). Romans often scourged criminals as part of the execution and this treatment of Jesus (v. 26) was undoubtedly gruesome. They used the dreaded flagellum whip, consisting in leather strips braided with sharp pieces of bone and metal. Scourging could tear the flesh down to arteries and veins, and even internal organs (Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 4.15.3–5; Josephus, War, 2.611–612). It was not unusual for one to die while being scourged. All the people (v. 25) describes only the mob, not all Jewish people. The phrase and on our children can no more bring perpetual guilt on all the Jewish people for Jesus’ death than can Pilate’s hand washing absolve his guilt. Human culpability for Jesus’ death rests upon the Jews and Gentiles, then, at that time, who conspired against Him (cf. Mk 10:33–34; Ac 4:27–28), not upon all Jewish people forever.

L. The Ridicule and Torture of Jesus (27:27–32)

27:27–32. A Roman cohort (v. 27) had 600 soldiers when full, which was unlikely inasmuch as the Holy Land was more or less at peace during this time. Nevertheless, there would have been a large gathering of men who mocked Jesus. The color scarlet (v. 28; "purple" in Mk 15:20, 17; Jn 19:2, 5) could be a sign of wealth, though the same word was used for the color of a soldier’s tunic (the likely meaning of robe). The crown of thorns may have been a parody of the images of the emperors who were often depicted in art and on coins with rays of light emanating from their heads. Reed was often used for the material to make the shaft of an arrow or a stake for supporting vines. Following this abuse, they led Him away to crucify Him (v. 31). In a typical crucifixion, the execution squad consisted of four soldiers. They marched the condemned to the site, forcing him to carry the crosspiece (patibulum) to which he would be nailed. The scourging left Jesus so weakened that a man of Cyrene, a city in northeastern Africa, named Simon (v. 32) was drafted to help him carry the crosspiece.

M. The Crucifixion of Jesus (27:33–37)

27:33–37. Golgotha (v. 33) means "skull," and "Calvary" comes from the Latin word calvaria, also meaning "skull." Both the reason for its name and its location are uncertain, but the Church of the Holy Sepulchre commemorates the most likely place. Golgotha was outside the northern wall, probably alongside a busy road (Mt 27:39) near the city (Jn 19:20). Wine mixed with gall (v. 34) was offered to Jesus before the crucifixion by the soldiers, as Jesus’ friends were not close by (27:55). Mark uses the word "myrrh" to describe the ingredient (Mk 15:23), and Matthew uses gall to describe the taste and provide a link with Ps 69:21. The blood loss from scourging resulted in severe dehydration not unlike profuse perspiration, and intense thirst was the result. Offering the wine appeared on the surface as an act of kindness, but He was mercilessly taunted since it was undrinkable. In addition, on the basis of the use of the same word (LXX chole) in Ps 68:22 [English 69:21] and Jr 8:14, this drink may have been poisonous. The soldiers’ duty required them to remain at the site until those crucified had expired, and that could take days. It is possible that they offered Jesus this poisoned wine to hasten His death. Casting lots for the clothing of the condemned (v. 35) was customary, providing partial compensation for the soldiers due to the repulsiveness and length of their assignment (cf. also Ps 22:18). They began to keep watch over Him there (v. 36) because part of their duty was to ward off any rescue attempts by the associates of the crucified and to verify when death occurred. The inscription (v. 37) reflected the charge levied against Jesus by the Jewish leaders.

N. The Cruelty Against Jesus (27:38–44)

27:38–44. Robbers (v. 38) means "insurrectionists," "revolutionaries," a capital offense in Roman law—mere banditry was not. While there are no linguistic connections with it, Matthew may have presented this detail to forge a connection with Is 53:12. Three groups deride Jesus, each challenging Him to come down from the cross (vv. 40, 42, suggested in v. 43). The derision Jesus underwent had a typological connection with Ps 22:7–8. The words If You are the Son of God are found verbatim in Jesus’ temptation (Mt 4:3, 6), and may hint at the diabolical source of the words of those who mocked Him. This may have been the Devil’s last attempt to keep Him from fulfilling His role as the unblemished sacrificial lamb. The references to Jesus destroying the temple (v. 40), being the Son of God (vv. 40, 43), and being King of Israel (v. 42) reflect the accusations leveled against Him during the various phases of His trial (see 26:61, 63–64, and 27:11 respectively). Ironically, they spoke the truth about Him as the King and the Son of God, and even as the one who would destroy the temple, a feat He would accomplish in AD 70. The connection with Ps 22:8 becomes stronger in v. 46 (see comments below).

O. The Death of Jesus (27:45–56)

27:45–50. The sixth houruntil the ninth hour (v. 45) was noon to 3:00 p.m. Darkness sometimes suggested God’s judgment (Ex 10:22; Jl 2:2, 31; Am 8:9), and its presence here shows the upheaval in creation that took place when God poured out His wrath upon His Son who was dying as a sacrifice. Jesus’ cry (v. 46) was a citation of Ps 22:1, and by citing it Jesus was probably calling attention to His fulfillment of all that is contained in Ps 22:1–18, and not strictly 22:1 alone. This is supported by Matthew noting several connections with Ps 22 in the immediate context (Ps 22:7, 16 in Mt 27:39; Ps 22:8 in Mt 27:43; Ps 22:18 in Mt 27:35). Jesus’ cry, Eli, Eli (My God, My God) was mistaken as a cry for Elijah (v. 47). The drink He was given (v. 48), judging from vv. 47 and 49, was, once again, not an act of compassion but of mockery. The sour wine (usually wine mixed with vinegar, a common drink of soldiers) was administered to improve His enunciation and enhance their sadistic amusement. Matthew probably intended his readers to view this in connection with Ps 69:21b. And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit [or "gave up breath"] (v. 50). That He still had a loud voice is remarkable, for people who died of crucifixion usually did so in such a weakened condition that they had no voice left. Yielded up is an active-voice verb, putting into grammatical form Jesus’ sovereignty over His own death and the voluntary surrender of His life. His spirit is ambiguous, and could refer either to Jesus’ immaterial nature (His "soul" or "spirit," but probably not "the Holy Spirit"), His "life," or His "breath" ("spirit" and "breath" employ the same word, pneuma, in Gk.). However it is understood, life went out of His body.

27:51–56. Matthew gives no clues regarding the significance of the tearing of the veil of the temple (v. 51). However, many of Matthew’s fulfillment verses (e.g., 5:17–20; 11:11–13), including those related to the new covenant (26:26–29), suggest that it served as a sign of the obsolescence of the Mosaic covenant’s sacrificial system and the free access of humankind to God through Jesus’ blood. The earthquake and cracking of rocks also sometimes functioned as a display of God’s coming in the OT (Jdg 5:4; Ps 18:6–8; 77:18), frequently associated with judgment (Is 5:25; 24:17–18; 29:6; Ezk 38:19) or great tragedy (1Sm 14:15). Bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep (on "sleep," see 1Th 4:13–18) were raised (vv. 52–53) but only after His resurrection. Matthew may have included this occurrence here, rather than in chap. 28, to connect it to the other effects of Jesus’ death mentioned in 27:51 and to avoid distracting from the more important narrative elements about the resurrection in chap. 28. It is impossible to say from Matthew’s account if the saints were resuscitated and subsequently died or actually received their glorified resurrection bodies and somehow ascended into heaven with Jesus. Matthew may have referred to this episode to ground the resurrection of OT and NT saints in the death and resurrection of Jesus. The Son of God! (v. 54) was the title used to ridicule Jesus in vv. 40, 43, but here was spoken with sincerity by the centurion (see 8:5–13), his rank lending credibility to his observation. The mention of many women (v. 55) provides continuity with 27:61 and 28:1. For a suggestion on how to harmonize 27:56 with Mk 15:40–41 and Jn 19:25, cf. Carson, "Matthew," 583.

P. The Burial of Jesus (27:57–61)

27:57–61. Arimathea (v. 57) was located at the site of modern Ramathain, about 20 miles east of modern Jaffa. Joseph is known only from the other gospels (Mk 15:43; Lk 23:51; Jn 19:38). Usually the body of one who was crucified was left on the cross as a graphic warning to any who would challenge Rome. That Pilate allowed Joseph to take Jesus’ body (vv. 57–58) was another indication that Pilate believed Jesus was innocent. Joseph laid Jesus’ body in his own new tomb (v. 60). It was expensive to fashion a tomb, and only the rich had them (providing the fulfillment of Is 53:9). A large disc-shaped stone usually sat in an inclined groove at the mouth of the tomb, making it easy to roll the stone into place but difficult to move it from the opening. The mention of the two Marys (v. 61) adds credence to their testimony of the empty tomb, and a note of pathos as they grieved for their fallen Master.

Q. The Securing of Jesus’ Tomb (27:62–66)

27:62–66. The day after the preparation (v. 62) was Saturday, the "preparation day" being Friday before sundown during which Sabbath preparations were made. The Pharisees (vv. 62–64) may have been thinking of Jesus’ words concerning the sign of Jonah (Mt 12:38–42, see the comments there). Debate exists regarding the nature of the guard to which Pilate refers (v. 65). He may have granted permission for the leaders to use the Jewish temple guard for this duty or approved the use of a contingent of Roman soldiers, the more likely possibility because of the following. The soldiers went to the Jewish leaders after the resurrection, possibly because they feared Pilate, and these leaders promised to protect them if Pilate found out about the missing body (28:14). This would not have been necessary if they were the temple guard, making it more likely that they were Roman. The seal on the stone (v. 66) was not placed there to make the tomb air tight, but to warn those who came to the tomb that the seal could only be broken, and the stone moved, by the Roman authorities. All others who would seek to do so would bring upon themselves the wrath of Rome.

XIII. The Resurrection of the King-Messiah (28:1–20)

A. The Angel Announced the Resurrection (28:1–8)

28:1–8. After the Sabbath (v. 1) was early Sunday morning. For "three days and three nights," see the comments on 12:38–42. Matthew did not explain why Mary Magdalene and Mary came to the tomb, but it was probably to anoint Jesus’ body further (Mk 16:1), augmenting what Joseph did (Jn 19:39–40). It is not clear if the women felt the earthquake (v. 2), but the narrative seems to indicate that they were close by when the angel arrived and the soldiers became like dead men (vv. 3–5), implying that the women did feel it. An empty tomb may have meant several things, so the angel explained the reason for the missing body: He has risen, just as He said. Galilee was considered the "last stop" in Israel before entering Gentile lands (Is 9:1; Mt 4:15). It is significant that Jesus would give the Great Commission, targeting "all the nations," to His disciples there. For the best harmonization of all the resurrection appearances of Jesus, see Murray J. Harris, Raised Immortal: Resurrection and Immortality in the New Testament, (n.p.: Marshall Morgan & Scott, 1983), 69–71.

B. Jesus Announced the Resurrection (28:9–10)

28:9–10. When the women encountered Jesus, they took hold of His feet, indicating, among other things, that Jesus was raised bodily and was no ghost. My brethren (v. 10) probably encompassed more than the eleven remaining disciples, and may accommodate those who had doubts in v. 17.

C. The Guards Were Bribed to Lie about the Resurrection (28:11–15)

28:11–15. That the guards told the Jewish leaders all that had happened (v. 11) heightened the guilt of those leaders, who bribed the soldiers to lie (vv. 12–13). Moreover, it was not even a good lie, for if the soldiers had actually been asleep, how would they have known that the disciples stole His body? It defies credence to argue that the disciples, who hid during Jesus’ execution, marshaled enough courage to raid a tomb sealed with a Roman brand, guarded by Roman soldiers. This story was widely spread among the Jews, and is to this day (v. 15). Justin Martyr (in Dialogue with Trypho, 108, c. AD 155, a Christian response to Jewish objections to Christianity), Tertullian (in De Spectactulis 30, c. AD 200, a treatise warning Christians not to attend gladiatorial games), and Toledoth Yeshu (an anti-Christian Jewish work extant from AD 826 but existing much earlier) refer to the claim that Jesus’ disciples stole His body.

D. The Disciples Saw Jesus in His Resurrection (28:16–17)

28:16–17. No certainty exists regarding the mountain in Galilee where Jesus met the eleven disciples (v. 16). On some were doubtful, cf. vv. 9–10 above. Their doubts may have been allayed by the actual appearance of Jesus (v. 18).

E. The Great Commission Flows from the Authority of the Resurrected One (28:18–20)

28:18–20. The word all occurs in each of Matthew’s last three verses, indicating the comprehensive nature of the scope of Jesus’ power and His ongoing mission. As the Second Person of the Godhead, Jesus always possessed all authority (v. 18), but at the resurrection God vindicated Jesus and demonstrated that Jesus’ claims were true (e.g., He had authority to forgive sins, 9:6, and judge the world, 26:63–64). Therefore (v. 19) indicates that the sole ground for the disciples’ success is His authority. The only imperative in the verse is make disciples, whereas the other verbs, go, baptizing, and teaching are adverbial participles. Go, however, should not be understood in a temporal sense ("When you go") as some have argued. In Greek, when an aorist adverbial participle precedes an aorist imperative (command) verb, the participle usually takes on the force of a command as well (see Mt 9:13; 11:4; 17:27). Go becomes a virtual second command along with make disciples (see Constantine R. Campbell, Basics of Verbal Aspect in Biblical Greek [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008], 126–27; Wallace, Greek Grammar, 642, 645; K. L. McKay, A New Syntax of the Verb in New Testament Greek: An Aspectual Approach, Studies in Biblical Greek vol. 5, ed. D. A. Carson [New York: Peter Lang, 1994], 82–84). The disciples must go and make disciples. Make disciples means "to become a follower, a pupil, an apprentice" of Jesus, including doing what He teaches and furthering His cause. The verb here has a slightly causative force: "Urge them to become disciples." All the nations encompasses the Gentile world as well as Israel. The verb baptizing means "to dip" or "immerse." Cf. the comments on Rm 6:2–4. Name is a singular noun (not "names"), giving an implicit witness to the tri-unity of God. None of the baptisms in Acts utilizes the Trinitarian formula (cf. Ac 2:38; 8:16; 10:48; 19:5) perhaps because Jesus was not imparting a baptismal formula at all. He was describing Christian baptism as demonstrating belief in the triune God as its fundamental referent. John’s baptism referred instead to repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Teaching (v. 20) is a present participle that, along with the present participle baptizing, gives the primary means whereby Jesus’ followers make disciples. Jesus is so intent on the members of His redeemed community fulfilling the Great Commission that He promised to be with them, in all His authority, as they go and make disciples.

Conclusion

How does one sum up the content and implications of Matthew’s Gospel? Darrell Bock provides some helpful words. "Although Jesus did point out the way to God and urged disciples to have integrity and show love even to those who hated, that character was to be the product of a life resting in the divine hope and promise that Jesus brought. Jesus’ ministry was about the new era that he inaugurated along with the opportunity for forgiveness and enablement that he represented and supplied. That ministry compelled a choice. Had the new era come? Was the unique anointed one present? If he was, then embracing him and his message becomes an imperative from God. Death’s inability to hold Jesus and devour him showed the way to the answer. The Synoptics together are telling us that anyone with ears to hear and eyes to see should use them to find forgiveness in Jesus and enter into his promise. They also tell us that having responded, we should stay the course until he completes what he started, no matter how rough the world’s rejection of him becomes" (Jesus According to Scripture: Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2002], 405).

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Broadus, John A. Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. Valley Forge: Judson, 1886.

Bruce, A. B. "Matthew." In The Synoptic Gospels. Vol. 7 of The Expositor’s Greek New Testament, edited by W. Robertson Nicole, 61–340. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1951.

Blomberg, Craig L. Matthew. In The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1992.

Carson, D. A. "Matthew." In Matthew, Mark, Luke. Vol. 8 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, edited by Frank E. Gaebelein, 3–599. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984.

France, R. T. The Gospel of Matthew. In New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007.

MacArthur, John. Matthew 1–7, Matthew 8–15, Matthew 16–23, and Matthew 24–28. In The MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Chicago: Moody, 1985, 1987, 1988, 1989.

Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to Matthew. In Pillar Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1992.

Turner, David L. Matthew. In Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2008.

Wilkins, Michael J. The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004.

 

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