The genealogy of Jesus.
1. The book starts with a record of the genealogy of Christ. Names that we recognise from the Old Testament are: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (Israel), Judah, Tamar, Boaz, Ruth, Jesse, David, Solomon and several of the kings of Judah. Matthew does not say that Joseph was the father of Jesus but only that he was the husband of Mary. Her genealogy as coming from the line of David has never been in doubt (See Romans 1:3 and 2 Timothy 2:8). Matthew 1:1-17.
2. Joseph realises that Mary is pregnant. What a terrible time it must have been for both of them. Why didn’t Mary explain to Joseph? Because she hadn’t been told to. Complete obedience at all times: never take any actions of your own. Let God be in total charge. His ways are not our ways. If we go off on our own we are sure to get things wrong. Mary knew this and waited for God to deal with things in His way. And what a joy it must have been when, after an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, he was able to come to Mary telling her that he now knew that the baby in her womb was the Son of God. Matthew 1:18-20.
The Birth of Jesus Christ.
3. ‘All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will give birth to a son…………” [Isaiah 7:14.] (Twelve times in his Gospel Matthew refers to the Old Testament and the how it is fulfilled in New Testament times. A powerful testimony to the divine origin of Scripture
and its accuracy in even small details. None of the monotheistic religions have such a prophetic proof of their faith. Of all prophets it was declared: ‘But the prophet who presumes to say something in my name which I have not commanded him to say, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet must die.’ Deuteronomy 18.20.) Matthew 1:21-23.
The Angel Gabriel’s Words to Mary.
4. At the angel’s command Joseph takes Mary to his home Matthew 1:24-25. (At the Annunciation the Angel Gabriel had said “Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb and shalt bring forth a son.” Mary answered “How shall this happen, since I do not know man?” [Luke 1:31-34.] Mary’s answer indicates her perpetual virginity. If she and Joseph were planning to have children then her question would not have been necessary. But there are other facts which make it impossible for Our Lady to have conceived any other than Jesus. At Lourdes the Padre, unable to believe that the Mother of God was appearing in his parish, had told Bernadette to ask the lady who she was. The answer she received was “I am the Immaculate Conception”. Those words meant nothing to the illiterate Bernadette who had to keep repeating the words as she ran to tell them to the Padre. So we know, from Our Lady herself, that she was conceived without sin as indeed she had to be in order to bear, in her womb, the Son of God. That being the case no other conceptions can be considered. If there had been others then what would have been their state? Could they have had original sin? That is not possible. Our Lady’s sinless soul and womb could not contain sin in any form. It follows that Jesus was the only child to be born of Mary.)
The Visit of the Magi.
5. Matthew states that Jesus is born in Bethlehem thereby, once again, stressing the importance of Old Testament Prophecies and also reinforcing the fact that Jesus came from the line of David. The Magi had come to worship the one spoken of seven centuries earlier by the prophet (Micah 5:1-2). The Magi were gentiles thereby showing that Jesus had come for both Jews and gentiles. (Some astronomical scholars suggest that ‘the star’ might have been the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn.) Herod’s own chief priests and teachers were able to quote Micah to tell him where ‘the Christ’ would be born. Matthew 2:1-8.
6. The Magi come to ‘the house’. The Magi must have come later when the Holy Family had moved from the stable. They bow down and worship him, give their gifts (gold = royalty; incense = divinity; myrrh = Jesus’ passion) and, having been warned in a dream of Herod’s intent, return by another route. Matthew 2:9-12.
The Flight into Egypt.
7. An angel appears again and tells Joseph to take Mary and Jesus and escape to Egypt. (Anyone who has seen the barren desert which they had to pass through will realise the horror of the journey. Certainly not a place to take a baby or child.) Matthew 2:13-15.
The Holy Innocents.
8. Herod is furious at being outwitted by the Magi and orders the killing of all the baby boys in Bethlehem. The number killed is often probably exaggerated. In a small town like Bethlehem the number may have been no more than twenty. Nevertheless the act itself was very brutal. Once again an Old Testament prophecy is quoted - Jeremiah 31:15 – but there is an anomaly (“A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping. Rachel weeping for her children ……..” Ramah is located about five miles north of Jerusalem yet Rachel’s Tomb is on the outskirts of Bethlehem which is eight miles south of Jerusalem. Perhaps the mention of Ramah is more to do with the Chosen People weeping as they were being forced from their country. They would have passed through Ramah on their way into Babylonian exile. Or perhaps the mention of Ramah is purely symbolic.) Matthew 2:16-18.
The Return to Nazareth.
9. After Herod’s death an angel again appeared to Joseph. The Holy Family return and make their home in Nazareth. ‘I called my son out of Egypt.’ Numbers 23:22 & Hosea 11:1. (In verse 23 there is an anomaly. Matthew says ‘So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets “He will be called a Nazarene.”’ None of the prophets made that statement. The explanation may be the fact that, in the time of Jesus, to come from Nazareth was to be despised. John 1:46 “Nazareth! can anything good come from that place?” The prophet Isaiah 53:3 states – “He was despised and rejected by men.” And Psalm 22:6 reads “But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people.” Therefore Matthew’s words may be a prefiguration of what is to come. Another explanation is that Nazarene is referring to Nazarite applied to Jesus and later to his followers. Judges 13:5 & Numbers 6:1-21) Matthew 2:19-23.
John the Baptist.
10. Matthew’s Gospel now misses out about thirty years in the life of Jesus. It proceeds to John the Baptist who was busy preparing the way for Jesus. He did so in entirely the opposite way to which Jesus was to lead his apostles. For John it was living in the desert, rough clothes made of camel’s hair and whatever food he could find: locusts and honey (Leviticus 11:21-22). His clothing and lifestyle were a visual protest against self-indulgence. A prophecy from the Old Testament is quoted: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness ….…..” (Isaiah 40:3). John is calling people to repent and they come to him ‘Confessing their sins’ though it is not clear how this is done; whether verbally or accepted as a part of the baptism by water.
11. In the Old Testament ‘washing’ was often demanded (Numbers 19:7). Biblical books suggest that at the time of John, baptism was used for proselytes from the gentiles as a symbol of renunciation of pagan errors and of their becoming pure for the service of Jehovah now that they were cleansed of their sin. The River Jordan, where John was baptising, would be
well known for its ‘cleansing’ properties (See 2 Kings 5:1-27). John took the ceremony and adapted it to the new dispensation which he was proclaiming, a purifying for the reign of the Messiah. Matthew 3:6.
The Pharisees and Sadducess.
12. Early in Matthew’s Gospel we are presented with the Pharisees and Sadducees. The Pharisees were a group who strictly, and often hypocritically, kept the law of Moses. The Sadducees were more politically minded and were theologically unorthodox; among other things they denied the resurrection and angels. John the Baptist criticised both of them as a “…brood of vipers,” and continued “Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” Did John have some insight into the minds of the Pharisees and Sadducees leading him to realise that they had not come to him in repentance? Matthew 3:7-8.
13. John continues to rail at the Pharisees and Sadducees. He tells them that they cannot call on Abraham to defend them and by the words “The axe is already at the root of the trees” he indicates that “judgement is near.” Matthew 3:9-10.
14. Then John explains that while he baptises for repentance there is one coming after him whose sandals he is not fit to carry. He is referring to Jesus who will baptise with the Holy Spirit and fire. (This prophecy is dramatically demonstrated at Pentecost. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit was promised to Joel 3:1). Matthew 3:11.
15. In the next verse John gives clear details of the way Jesus will deal with good and evil. ‘The wheat will be gathered into his barn the chaff burnt in unquenchable fire.’ Matthew 3:12.
The Baptism of Jesus.
16. Jesus comes to John to be baptised. John, knowing that Jesus is without sin and therefore not in need of baptism, tries to reverse the process and get Jesus to baptise him. But Jesus insists and John complies. By his baptism Jesus completely identifies himself with man’s sin and failure, though he himself needed no repentance or cleansing from sin. He becomes our substitute ultimately leading to his death on the Cross. Matthew 3:13-15.
17. The Baptism is the start of Jesus’ ministry and The Father and The Spirit are present - a voice is heard:– ”This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” and the Spirit appears in the form of a dove. (In Jewish literature a voice from heaven is a means of showing the God-given authority of a teacher.) Matthew 3:16-17.
The Fast in the Desert
18. Jesus goes into the desert to pray and prepare himself for his three year ministry. He fasts for forty days. (The forty days recall the time Moses spent
on Mount Sinai [Exodus 24:18] and looks forward to the days of Lent and the days between Easter and the Ascension.) Matthew 4:1-2.
The Temptation of Jesus.
19. When Jesus is at his weakest the devil comes to tempt him. That Jesus should be tempted was important so that he could be our ‘merciful and faithful high priest’ (Hebrews 2:17) and thus be able to help us when we are being tempted. (1st temptation: seeking nourishment apart from God. 2nd temptation: testing God for the sake of self-indulgence. 3rd temptation: denying God to follow false gods who serve the powers of this world.) Matthew 4:3-10.
20. The temptation is finished, the devil vanquished and ‘angels came and attended him’. (The Father’s great love is shown by the coming of angels. An angel was to come again to comfort Jesus when he was in his great agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. Luke 22:43). Matthew 4:11.
Jesus Commences His Ministry.
21. Jesus goes to Capernaum which fulfils another prophecy:- ‘…the way of the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the gentiles – the people have seen a great light……….’ (Isaiah 9:1-2.) Jesus starts to preach “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (The method by which Jesus was to promote his ministry was not, as was commonly expected, of a successful nationalist rising but of a purely spiritual movement where ‘love’ and not ‘hate’ is the driving force.) Matthew 4:12-17.
The Call of the Apostles.
22. Now Matthew’s Gospel tells of Jesus calling his first apostles. His story, and that of Mark and Luke, differ from that of John. They have Jesus calling Simon (Peter) from his boat whereas John tells us that Andrew brought Simon to Jesus. What are we to make of these differences? Surely the main point is that they were accepted by Jesus – the detail of how they actually came to him – ‘called from their boats’ or ‘brought to him’ – is irrelevant. Like ‘Chinese Whispers’ the fine detail can become distorted. Matthew’s version tells us that Jesus saw Simon and Andrew in a boat casting their net. Then he saw James and John, with their father, Zebedee, in a boat, working with their nets. He called them and they followed him. (From John’s Gospel we realise that The Baptist had prepared them for this meeting with Jesus. A few days earlier they had been with The Baptist as Jesus passed by. He said to them “Look, the Lamb of God.” John 1:35-36). Matthew 4:18-22.
Jesus Cures All Who Come.
23. Matthew launches straight into Jesus’ healing of all who were brought to him. Every disease – sickness – severe pain – demon-possessed – seizures – paralysed - are all mentioned. As can be expected – “Large crowds……….. …………followed him.” (Miraculous cures are a distinctive sign that the messianic age has dawned. Matthew 11:4). Matthew 4:23-25.
The Beatitudes and Sermon on the Mount.
24. The next three chapters concern Jesus teaching his Apostles and others who followed him or came for healing. They commence with The Beatitudes which, in each case, mentions the ultimate reward of the Blessed. Hence ‘Those who mourn shall be comforted’, ‘Those who are merciful will have mercy shown them’, ‘Those who are peacemakers will be called the sons of God’ and ‘Those who are persecuted for righteousness – theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ Then the Sermon on the Mount – Do not Murder; anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgement – Do not commit Adultery; anyone who looks on a woman lustfully has already committed adultery. (The five principal subjects of the Sermon on the Mount are: 1 The spirit in which the children of the kingdom should live 5:3-48. 2 The way in which they should fulfil the laws and practices of Judaism 6:1-18. 3 Detachment from wealth 6:19-34. 4 Attitudes to the neighbour 7:1-12. 5 Entry to the kingdom by means of a firm decision expressed in action. 7:13-27.) Matthew 5:1-30.
25. Now Matthew has Jesus making a statement about Divorce which has been the object of much discussion and debate. Matthew quotes Jesus as saying “….everyone who divorces his wife, except for the case of an illicit marriage make her an adulteress……” Matthew repeats this statement in Chapter 19:9. Mark and Luke use similar words but without the words “except for marital unfaithfulness.” Why is Matthew using these words which make such a difference to our understanding of the Church’s teaching on marriage and divorce? To answer this we must question the particular interpretation of the Bible being used. My New Jerusalem Study Bible uses the words as quoted above. My Douai Bible interprets Jesus’ words as “But I say to you that everyone who puts away his wife, save on account of immorality, causes her to commit adultery” Here there is mention of adultery but no mention of divorce. To “put away his wife…” is more like ‘separation’ than ‘divorce.’ So perhaps the interpreters are the cause of this New Testament problem. Nevertheless it is not in doubt that from the beginning God intended monogamous marriages. As early as Genesis 2:24 we read “…….a man leaves his father and mother and becomes attached to his wife and they will become as one flesh.” If you kill the flesh you kill the body. (Finally Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:6 and Mark 10:7-10 surely make reference to this: “Therefore what God has joined together let no man put asunder” and Luke 16:18 “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another…………...commits adultery.” Also see Page 23/24 Paragraph 96) Matthew 5:31-32.
Jesus’ New Teachings – Love Your Enemies.
26. Jesus’ teaching continues with instructions about oaths and swearing. Say “No” if you mean “No”, or “Yes if you mean “Yes”, thus avoiding and oath which invokes divinity. Then a change from the Old Testament teaching – ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’ is no longer to be. (Exodus 21:25-27). This is completely reversed; the instruction now is to ‘turn the other cheek’, ‘give your cloak’; ‘go the extra mile.’ Everything is concerned with ‘love’ even
to the extent of ‘love your enemies’. The discourse continues with ‘giving to the needy,’ and doing so secretly rather than announcing it to the world. Matthew 5:33-48 & 6:1-4.
27. Praying should also be done in secret and not openly where everyone can see. Those who do that ‘……..have received their reward.’ Matthew now quotes Jesus’ words as he teaches the Our Father. Matthew 6:5-15.
28. Fasting and the necessity not to store up treasures on earth are mentioned along with the instruction ‘do not worry’. We mustn’t worry about food or clothes or about what might happen tomorrow – ‘each day has enough trouble of its own’. Matthew 6:16-34.
29. Do not judge others – deal with the plank in your own eye before attending to that in your brother’s eye. ‘Ask and you will receive……’ ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ (This maxim was well known in the ancient world especially among the Jews but in a negative form ‘do not do to another what you would not have done to yourself.’ which is less demanding than Jesus’ words.) Matthew 7:1-12.
30. ‘Enter through the narrow gate’. ‘Watch for false prophets.’ ‘…every good tree bears good fruit…..’ ‘He who does the will of my Father….will enter the kingdom of heaven.’ The discourse finishes with the story of the wise and foolish builders. Matthew 7:13-27.
Jesus Authoritative Teaching.
31. Jesus had taught with such authority that the crowds were amazed. In his teaching Jesus had not allowed for any grey areas. Everything was either black or white and ‘he spoke with authority.’ (The teachers of the law spoke with human authority. Jesus spoke with divine authority.) Matthew 7:28-29.
Jesus’ Heals. “Do not tell anyone”
32. Most of the next two chapters deal with healing. (Jesus’ power over nature.) Jesus heals a leper but exhorts him not to tell anyone. (Why did Jesus say that? There are several possible reasons; 1 He did not want to be considered just a miracle worker. 2 He did not want his teaching to be hindered by too much publicity about his miracles. 3 The Pharisees were always looking for excuses for putting Jesus to death. Miraculous cures upset the Pharisees and gave them reason to want to kill him. Jesus did not want his death to come prematurely, before he had finished his ministry.)
Jesus and the Centurion. “I am not worthy…………”
33. Jesus and the Centurion. This is where the well known words come from: “I am not worthy……….say but the word and my servant shall be healed.” Jesus is amazed by the faith of the Roman soldier. (Although this appears early in Matthew’s Gospel, for a foreigner to have such faith, Jesus’ fame must have spread far and wide. By Jesus’ words “Go! It will be done as you believed it would” the Centurion’s faith is rewarded. ‘Faith’ was always necessary for Jesus to perform a cure.) Matthew 8:5-13
More Miracles. The Sea and Wind Obey Jesus.
34. The miracles continue – Peter’s mother-in-law is cured; evil spirits are driven out of the possessed: ‘He himself bore our sicknesses away and carried our diseases.’ Isaiah 53:4. When, on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus calms the storm, the Apostles are amazed. “What kind of man is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him.” (Jesus was obviously wanting to clear up any doubts in their minds as to who he was.) More healing with the two possessed men whose demons were sent into the pigs. (Mark and Luke mention only one demoniac. Differences such as this indicate a possible misunderstanding when the story has been conveyed. Another explanation is that in those days lepers and especially the blind went around in pairs to be able to help each other and they became known as ‘one pair’.) Jesus says to a paralytic who is brought to him “…thy sins are forgiven.” Some Pharisees are shocked they suggest that Jesus is blaspheming. Jesus knows their thoughts. To show God’s authority on earth he tells the paralytic “take up your mat and go.” The crowd are filled with awe .Matthew 8:14-34.& 9:1-8.
Matthew is called by Jesus.
35. Matthew now tells of his own calling by Jesus who goes to eat at Matthew’s house along with other ‘tax collectors and sinners.’ (They might have been ‘sinners’ only in the eyes of the Pharisees because they did not conform to their unnecessary meticulous washing and culinary laws.) The Pharisees call into question Jesus’ choice of table partners. Jesus’ replies “it is not the healthy who need the doctor but the sick.” John the Baptist’s disciples come and question Jesus “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast but your disciples do not?” To answer the question Jesus compares himself to a bridegroom. The guests do not mourn while the bridegroom is still with
them. When the bridegroom is taken from them then they will mourn. In that way Jesus was foretelling his death. But what is his reason for mentioning the new patch on an old garment and new wine into old skins? The answer is that Jesus is ‘the new patch’ and ‘the new wine.’ He brings a newness which cannot be confined in the old forms. Matthew 9:9-17.
The Woman with a Haemorrhage and a Jarius’ Daughter.
36. As Jesus goes to the house of a girl who he is told is dead a sick woman touches the edge of his cloak. Because Jesus was endowed with all the ‘gifts’ he could feel the power passing from him to the woman who is immediately healed. Jesus speaks to her and his words indicate the necessary state for anyone who is to be healed – they must have ‘faith.’ Without the recipient
having ‘faith’ Jesus cannot heal. At the home of the dead girl the traditional mourners and musicians were wailing and lamenting. Jesus is laughed to scorn when he tells them that the girl only sleeps. Jesus holds the girl by the hand and she gets up. If such things happened today we can imagine the amazement they would bring. The only difference between the time of Jesus and today is that today the media would allow the news to travel much faster. Matthew 9:18-26.
Two Blind Men Cured.
37. The words: ‘The son of David’ were accepted as a Jewish title for the expected Messiah. By quoting those words used by the two blind men Matthew shows that Jesus was being accepted for who he was. Once again Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no-one knows about this.” (See Page11 Paragraph 32). Jesus could have easily stopped anything being told by not attempting cures but his total compassion wouldn’t allow that. Matthew 9:27-31.
A Demoniac Cured.
38. Jesus drives out a demon and the Pharisees, lost for how to explain what is happening, turn to the only explanation they can accept – it is the work of the devil. Their pride couldn’t accept what their eyes were telling them. Matthew 9:32-34.
The Harvest is Plentiful but the Workers are Few.
39. What an amazing effect Jesus must have had. Curing and preaching wherever he went. His charisma and compassion ‘shout’ from the pages of the Bible. Yet then, as now, certainly in the UK, ‘the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.’ Matthew 9:35-38.
The Twelve Apostles.
40. Jesus gives the twelve the power to cast out devils and to heal. The twelve are named. 1 Simon Peter. 2 Andrew, Peter’s brother. 3 James son of Zebedee. 4 John, James’s brother. 5 Philip. 6 Bartholomew (also known as Nathanael) 7 Thomas. 8 Matthew. 9 James, son of Alphaeus. 10 Thaddaeus. 11 Simon, the Zealot and 12 Judas Iscariot. They were sent out but told only to minister to the house of Israel. It was later, after Jesus’ resurrection that others were to be given the message of salvation. Why was that necessary? The Jewish people were God’s chosen people so it was right that they should be first to receive the ‘good news’. Matthew 10:1-10.
Advice to the Apostles.
41. The twelve are warned of the dangers ahead of them. When they are arrested they must not worry about what to say ‘for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.’ (It is just the same today. If we allow ourselves to be open to the Spirit then the Spirit gives us the confidence to speak in the name of Jesus.) Matthew 10:11-20.
42. ‘Brother will betray brother…………..’ These verses denote the rivalry which Jesus’ message will bring. Some will accept, some will not. Families will be set against each other. Matthew 10:21-22.
Christ’s Second Coming.
43. The next verse makes it sound as if Christ’s second coming will happen in the lifetime of the apostles. The solution is that Jesus expected the coming ‘after an interval’ which he left undetermined. Another explanation is that ‘the coming’ is not concerned with the world at large but with Israel. It took place when God ‘visited’ his own unfaithful people and brought the OT era to an end by the destruction of Jerusalem and of its Temple in AD70. (‘No-one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.’ Matthew 24:36.) Matthew 10:23.
On Remaining Steadfast.
44. “The disciple is not above his teacher, nor the servant above his master.” Disciple means ‘learner’ or ‘student’. Jesus is telling the disciples that they must not be like the Gnostic heretics who would learn from one teacher and then move on or become teachers themselves. For Jesus’ disciples it was a life-long relationship. Matthew 10:24-25.
The Disciples are Sent Out to Preach.
45. As he sends out the disciples Jesus tells them of the reception they can expect. They are to expect hardship but must trust in God and fear no-one. Matthew 10:26-33.
Jesus’ Teaching Will Not Necessarily Bring Peace.
46. The words “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace on earth,” seem to contradict Isaiah 9:6 ‘Prince of Peace.’ Christ came to bring peace – peace between the believer and God. Yet the result of his coming is a conflict between Christ and the anti-christ. This conflict can occur even between members of the same family. Matthew 10:34-37.
Jesus Mentions The Cross.
47. Verse 10:38 brings the first mention of ‘The Cross.’ The cross was an instrument of death and symbolises the total commitment, even unto death, on the part of Jesus’ disciples. 10:38-42.
The Baptist’s Disciples Question Jesus.
48. Why does John send his disciples to Jesus? He already knows that Jesus is the Messiah. Surely he was wanting to instruct his disciples and get them to see for themselves so that they too may leave him and join Jesus. In answering their question “Are you the one……….?” Jesus tells of his miracles “the blind - the lame – the lepers – the deaf – the dead raised to life” but leaves till the last “the good news is preached to the poor”, this last being the most important. In this way Jesus is telling of things which were predicted of the Messiah in the scriptures. (See Isaiah 29:18 & 35:5 & 61:1) Matthew 11:1-6.
Jesus Praises the Baptist.
49. Jesus praises the greatness of John the Baptist but then says “…he who is the least in heaven is greater than he.” To understand this we must look forward in Matthew’s Gospel 18:4 - “And so, the one who makes himself as little as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 11:7-11.
A Disputed Saying.
50. “….the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence and the violent are taking it by storm.” A difficult and disputed saying. It may refer to Zealot militants, from whom Jesus disassociated himself. Or to the fact that the kingdom opens its gates to those who are desperate. Or to the disciples who by entering Jesus’ service are ‘entering the kingdom’ which requires spiritual courage, and determination because of the ever present persecution. Matthew 11:12-15.
An Interpretation of the Rhyme.
51. The first part of the rhyme – ‘ We played the flute…….’ (Flutes were played at weddings) refers to Jesus. The second part ‘We sang a dirge (Dirges were sung at funerals) refers to John the Baptist. Matthew 11:16-17.
Time will Show
52. Whatever one does is criticised but time will show the truth of the actions of both John the Baptist and Jesus. Matthew 11:18-19.
The Saved and the Condemned.
53. Jesus denounces those cities which had not repented even though they had seen him carry out miracles. (In a similar statement, referring to people rather than cities, Jesus said “Whoever believes and is baptised will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Mark 16:16.) Matthew 11:20-24.
‘Those Who are Weary “Come to Me.”’
54. Jesus praises His Father and asks those who are weary to ‘come to me.’ If they take his yoke and learn from him they will find rest for their souls. The yoke he speaks of is their interpretation of the law with the additional Pharisaic observances. (What Jesus is saying is that following the law, which means keeping the Commandments, is so much easier than doing evil. To do good is natural and loving. To be evil needs working at – it is hard.) Matthew 11:25-30.
Picking Corn on the Sabbath.
55. When the disciples pick ears of corn on the Sabbath, the Pharisees see an opportunity to criticise. In defence Jesus quotes the Bible to them. (1 Samuel 21:1-7. & Numbers 28:9-10.) The quotation from Numbers refers to the Temple. Jesus continues “…one greater than the Temple is here.” Jesus is referring to himself. (Picking the corn was not prohibited: Deuteronomy 23:26) Matthew 12:1-6.
Mercy not Sacrifice.
56. “I desire mercy not sacrifice.” The Hebrew word for ‘mercy’ can also be translated as ‘love’. Sacrifices without love are useless. Matthew 12:7-8.
Healing on the Sabbath?
57. A man with a withered hand gives the Pharisees the chance to try to trap Jesus. They ask “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” Their minds are closed to the truth so when Jesus answers that it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath and then cures the man’s hand they believe their trap has worked and they set about plotting how they might kill him. Matthew 12:9-14.
58. Jesus heals the sick and repeats his request that they should not tell anyone. (See Page 11 Paragraph 32.) The prophecy is fulfilled: Isaiah 42:1-4. Matthew 12:15-21.
A Demoniac is Cured.
59. Jesus heals a man possessed by a demon. Once again the Pharisees, overcome by their pride and seeing their exalted positions endangered, have evil thoughts. They suggest that it must be by Beelzebub, ‘Satan’, that Jesus
casts out demons. Jesus explains that if the Pharisees are right then Satan would be set on a suicide course! Matthew 12:22-29.
Speaking Against the Holy Spirit Will Not be Forgiven.
60. “………..anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or the age to come.” There are several possible interpretations of this, most serious, statement. 1 Satan was being attributed with performing the miracle which had been carried out by the power of the Holy Spirit. 2 The Pharisees were stubbornly denying the work of the Holy Spirit and that makes it impossible for God to forgive them. 3 Speaking against the Holy Spirit would be presuming to attain salvation without faith and love. 4 Despair of salvation. 5 Obstinacy in sin or error. 6 Final impenitence. 7 Renunciation of faith. 8 Persistence in complete and obdurate opposition to the influence of the Holy Spirit. (Perhaps it should be understood that to attract anyone of the above, one must purposely reject the Holy Spirit.) Matthew 12-30-32.
We Will Have to Account for Every Word.
61. We must take care in our speech. On the day of judgement we will have to account for every word spoken. Matthew 12:33-37.
Disbelieving Pharisees ask for a Miracle.
62. Despite the many healings already performed some Pharisees want to see Jesus perform a miracle (in Luke 11:16 they ask for a sign from heaven). He will not perform a miracle for them because their motives are wrong. The final miracle he will perform will be his resurrection from the dead after three days; that will be the proof that his message is true. He draws a comparison between himself and Jonah and the Queen of Sheba. (If the Queen of Sheba responded positively to the wisdom of Solomon, and the men of Nineveh to the preaching of Jonah, how much more should the people of Jesus’ day have responded to the ministry of Jesus, who is infinitely greater than Solomon or Jonah.) Matthew 12:38-42.
The Demoniac and the Sign of Jonah.
63. There are two explanations to Jesus’ words about the demoniac. One is that Jesus is referring to Jewish exorcists who claimed to cast out demons but who rejected the Kingdom of God making their exorcisms ineffective or that Jesus is reflecting on his own ministry from the viewpoint of the demon who can return if one does not fill the empty space left by the demon with faith, hope, love and new life. Matthew 12:43-45.
Jesus ‘Mother and Brothers’.
64. “Your mother and brothers are standing outside wanting to speak to you.” Jesus’ reply was intended to shock – Raising his hand, almost in an act of ordination, he points to his disciples: “Here are my brothers and sisters….” Jesus is making the point that the bond between those who respond to God is stronger even than family ties. The word ‘brother’ was used to indicate cousins of the same family. Mary was ever a virgin. (See Page 5 Paragraph 4.) Matthew 12:46-50.
65. Whilst the Synoptic Gospels include about thirty parables there are seven which appear in them all. (Synoptic Gospels: The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke.) The three mains ones are of the Sower and the Mustard Seed and the Rented Vineyard. When Jesus spoke in parables his enemies could find no direct statements to use against him. Also the parables included hidden meanings which challenged the seriously interested to make further enquiries. Because the parables used every day events from nature and human life it was easier for the people to understand the basic points which Jesus was teaching. The crowds must have been very great for Jesus to use the unorthodox method of speaking from a boat. We have become used to hearing the parables so we understand their meaning. But to those who heard them for the first time they would have required explanation. His own disciples did not understand so have to come to him asking for an explanation. The parable of the sower was calculated to appeal to a rural audience of workers. That some seed lands on good soil and flourishes gives hope and encouragement. Matthew 13:1-9.
66. The disciples ask for an explanation and ask why he is teaching in parables. Jesus’ reply quotes from Deuteronomy 29:4 ‘Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, the do not hear or understand.’ He continues with a quote from Isaiah which, despite the threats it contains, finishes with the encouraging words ‘and I would heal them.’ Isaiah 6:9-10.
Matthew 3 :10-23.
67. The next six parables in this chapter start with the words ‘The kingdom of heaven is like…………..’ The parable of the weeds mixed with the good seed tell of good and evil and how they will be sorted out at judgement. Matthew 13:24-30. & 13:36-43.
68. Two parables which both commence ‘The kingdom of heaven is like….’ The first is about the Mustard Seed the second about the Yeast. By speaking in parables Jesus was fulfilling what was written in Psalms 78:2 ‘I will speak to you in poetry…….’ Matthew 13:31-35.
69. More parables – of the Hidden Treasure –of the Fine Pearls – of the Net Let Down into the Lake. Jesus asks the disciples if they understand “all these things.” They reply “Yes.” ‘New things as well as old’ refers to the wealth of the Old Testament as well as its completion in the New. Matthew 13:44-52.
Jesus visits Nazareth.
70. Jesus goes to his home town of Nazareth. But he is not accepted. Because the people know him as the carpenter, the Son of Mary, they do not have faith so Jesus performed few miracles. (See Page 12/13 Paragraph 36). Matthew 13:53-58.
Salome and The Baptist.
71. John the Baptist is in the prison of Herod Antipas (Son of Herod the Great) who was in an unlawful marriage to Herodias who had previously been married to Herod Antipas’ brother, Herod Philip I. Marrying a brother in law, when the first husband is still alive, was forbidden (Leviticus 18:16). The Baptist had spoken out against this marriage so Herodias had ensured that her husband put him in prison. Because the people called the Baptist a prophet Herod Antipas respected him and was distressed when Herodias’ daughter, Salome, who had danced before Herod and his guests, asked for the Baptist’s head on a platter in answer to Herod saying that he promised, with an oath, to give her whatever she asked. John was beheaded and his head brought to Salome who carried it to her mother. John’s disciples took his body, buried it and went and told Jesus. Matthew 14:1-12.
The Feeding of the Five Thousand.
72. Jesus’ first act at hearing about John’s death was to go to a quiet place. But the crowds followed him so he healed their sick. The disciples want to send the crowds away but Jesus asks what food they have with them and they reply “five loaves and two fish.” So followed the feeding of the five thousand. (Later there is the feeding of the four thousand. There is a theory that there was only one such miracle. The twelve baskets = the number of tribes of Israel. The seven baskets = the number of gentile nations of Canaan.) Matthew states that the number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children. Matthew is careful to mention the women and children separately because he is writing for the Jews who did not allow women and children to eat in public with men. (The feeding anticipates the Eucharist.) Matthew 14:13-21.
Jesus Walks on the Water.
73. Once again Jesus wants to be alone so sends the disciples off in the boat and dismisses the crowds. During the night Jesus comes walking on the water. The disciples are terrified; they think they are seeing a ghost. Peter in an act of impulsive love and faith weakened by doubt walks towards Jesus but has to be saved. The disciples have no doubt about who Jesus is – ‘Then those who were in the boat worshipped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”’ As soon as they landed the sick are brought to him ‘and all who touched him were healed.’ Matthew 14:22-36.
Pharisees Question Jesus.
74. Some Pharisees come from Jerusalem to question Jesus. They had probably been sent purposely which shows the level of concern regarding Jesus and his ministry. They ask Jesus why his disciples do not carry out the traditional washing before they eat. This ‘washing’ was one of the six hundred and thirteen precepts which were passed on orally from one generation to another. Jesus answers by asking them why they break the command of God ‘Honour your father and your mother’. The reason for Jesus’ question is that the Jews allowed people exemption from their duty to their parents if they dedicated money to God. Matthew 15:1-9
What Makes a Man Unclean?
75. What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him unclean. But what comes out of his mouth comes from the heart from where evil thoughts come murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man unclean. Matthew 15:10-20.
The Canaanite Woman.
76. A Canaanite women, a foreigner, asks for Jesus’ healing for her demon- possessed daughter. (She had come from gentile territory especially to seek Jesus’ help.) Jesus remains silent. His disciples, who are embarrassed by the women’s shouting, urge him to reply. He points out that his mission is for those of the Jewish faith. When she kneels and appeals to him he states “It is
not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” This would seem to be a test of faith especially when we recall that Jesus had healed the Centurion’s servant. The woman is quick to respond “But even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Jesus accepts that the woman has great faith and heals her daughter. Matthew 15:21-28.
The Feeding of the Four Thousand.
77. In an act similar to that of the feeding of the five thousand (See Page 20 Paragraph 72) Jesus feeds four thousand from seven loaves and a few small fish. Matthew 15:29-39.
Once Again Some Pharisees Ask for a ‘Sign’.
78. As on Page17 Paragraph 62 more Pharisees and Sadducees come to ask Jesus for a sign. They get the same answer as on the previous occasion. The only sign they will get is “the sign of Jonah.” (As Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days so will Jesus be in the grave.) Matthew 16:1-4.
The ‘Yeast’ – The Teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
79. Jesus speaks to the disciples about the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees. They think he is referring to the fact that they have brought no bread with them. Jesus realises that they are misinterpreting his words and explains that the ‘yeast’ he is referring to is the ‘teaching’ of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Matthew 16:5-12.
Peter is Given the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven.
80. Jesus asks his disciples “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answers “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Then Jesus chooses Peter on which to build his Church. From the words “…..and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” comes the Church’s authority of infallibility. Jesus warns his disciples to tell no-one who he is. (See Page 11 Paragraph 32.) Matthew 16:13-20.
Peter – Devil’s Advocate.
81. Jesus begins to prepare his disciples for the suffering that lies ahead. But the recent promise has gone to Peter’s head. The ‘rock’ becomes an obstacle. God’s spokesman turns devil’s advocate. Matthew 16:21-23.
We Must Deny Ourselves.
82. As on Page 14 Paragraph 47 Jesus once again mentions ’The Cross.’ Denying oneself and following Jesus is necessary. He who might gain the whole world might forfeit his soul. Then Jesus makes the statement: “I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.” (There are two main interpretations of this verse: 1 It is a prediction of the Transfiguration, which
happened a week later and which demonstrated that Jesus will return in his Father’s glory. 2 It refers to the day of Pentecost and the rapid spread of the Gospel described in the book of Acts.) Matthew 16:24-28.
83. The apostles are now certain that Jesus is the Messiah ‘The Son of David.’ But ‘The Transfiguration’ - this special glimpse of his glory, was necessary, especially for Peter, on whom had been placed the enormous task of leading the Church. Moses appears as the representative of the Old Covenant. Elijah appears as the appointed restorer of all things. (Luke 9:31 says that Moses and Elijah spoke to Jesus about his death.) Matthew 17:1-8.
Instructions After the Transfiguration.
84. On the way down from the mountain of the Transfiguration Jesus instructs Peter, James and John to tell no-one what they had seen. The disciples, knowing that Jesus is the Messiah and referring to Malachi 3:23, ask Jesus why Elijah has not come as prophesied. Jesus makes them realise that Elijah came in the form of John the Baptist and as John was made to suffer so too will he, Jesus, be made to suffer. 17:9-13.
The Young Demoniac.
85. The boy ‘with a demon’. The symptom ‘moonstruck’ indicates epilepsy. But Jesus ‘rebuked the demon and it came out of the boy’. Could it have been a case of combined epilepsy and demonic possession? Jesus used the episode to instruct the disciples in the power of trusting faith. “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed………………”. Matthew 17:14-21.
Jesus Foretells his Death and Resurrection.
86. Jesus tells the disciples that he will be betrayed and killed but on the third day he will be raised to life. Matthew 17:22-23.
The Temple Tax.
87. Peter is asked for the two-drachma Temple tax for Jesus and himself. Anyone entering a town had to pay two-drachma for the upkeep of the Temple in Jerusalem. Jesus makes the point that kings do not collect taxes from their sons. Therefore he and the disciples should be exempt as they belonged to God’s Royal Household. But Jesus does not want to offend the officials so he sends Peter fishing and produces the miracle of the coin in the mouth of the fish. Matthew 17:24-27
The Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.
88. To the disciples question “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus shows them a little child and says “unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Through the virtue of simplicity we must become child like.) Better to have a millstone round your neck and be drowned than cause a little one to sin. God’s kingdom operates in a totally different standard than the world’s. Matthew 18:1-6.
Enter Heaven Maimed Rather than be thrown into Hell.
89. It is better to maim yourself than enter heaven with a limb which has caused you to sin. Better to have one eye than have two and be thrown into hell.“….these little ones (children) must never be despised…..their angels (Guardian Angels) are in the presence of my Father in heaven.” Matthew 18:7-10.
The Lost Sheep.
90. The parable of the lost sheep is reassuring for us when we stray. Jesus will come and find us and bring us back to the fold. Matthew 18:11-14.
Advice on Dealing with Disputes.
91. Jesus gives advice on dealing with disputes. Firstly try and sort it out with the one who has caused the dispute. If that doesn’t work then take the matter to a higher authority. Finally, if is all else fails, then the one causing the dispute should be excommunicated. Matthew 18:15-17.
The Apostles Receive the Power to Bind and Loose.
92. This single verse, hidden away in the chapter, gives the disciples the same power as Peter but without ‘the keys’. (See Page 22 Paragraph 80.) Matthew 18:18.
‘Where Two or Three are Gathered…….’
93. Another important message hidden away – yet invaluable for all Prayer Groups “…where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:19-20.
Forgiveness? Seven time Seventy.
94. Peter asks the important question “How many times shall I forgive my brother………?” Jesus’ answer indicates ‘times without number’. (From perfect love must follow perfect forgiveness.) Matthew 18:21-22.
‘The Kingdom of Heaven is Like…..’
95. Jesus starts “The kingdom of heaven is like…” followed by the parable of the Unmerciful Servant. The whole point of the parable is ‘forgiveness’. (We are reminded of the words of the Our Father….‘forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.’) Matthew 18:23-35.
What God has Joined Together Let no Man Put Asunder.
96. As on Page 10 Paragraph 25 Jesus is once again asked about divorce. Some Pharisees test him by asking “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” Jesus states “….what God has joined together let no man put asunder.” The Pharisees then ask “Why then did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” Jesus tells them that it was through the hardness of their hearts that Moses permitted divorce but this was not the way from the beginning. As in Paragraph 25 the words ‘except for marital unfaithfulness’ are again used. We must remember that Matthew was writing for the Jews and he knew of the ongoing dispute between the Shammai Rabbis and the Hillel Rabbis. The Rabbis of the School of Shammai said that a man may not divorce his wife unless he has found in her indecency in anything. The Hillel School of Rabbis said that a man can divorce even if she spoiled a dish, burned his food or even if he found one fairer than her! Jesus clearly took the side of the Shammai but only after first pointing back to God’s original ideal for marriage. (Also see 1 Corinthians 7:11.) Matthew 19:1-12.
Be Like Little Children.
97. Once again a lesson that ‘we must be like little children’: The disciples tried to stop children coming to Jesus. But he said “Let the children come to me – for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
The Rich Young Man.
98. The rich young man asks Jesus what he must do to get eternal life. Jesus tells him to sell all – “Then come and follow me.” The young man goes away sad. His possessions mean too much to him. Because of them he is failing to love God and his neighbour without reserve. (See Page 53 Paragraph 74.) Matthew 19:16-22.
The Problems of Being Rich.
99. Jesus tells of the problems of being rich. Riches can distract us from God and lead to exploitation and oppression. Hence Jesus’ warning about the camel and the eye of the needle. His disciples ask Jesus “Who then can be saved?” Jesus answers “………with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:23-26.
‘Your reward will be great…..’
100. The disciples were surprised at Jesus’ words about riches. They thought that riches were a reward for goodness. So Peter asks about the disciples’ rewards Jesus leaves them in no doubt that their reward will be great. Matthew 19:27-30.
The Workers in the Vineyard.
101. The parable of The Workers in the Vineyard is one which always strikes one as being unfair. Jesus is teaching that someone who lives a long life on earth will receive no more in heaven than those who only lived a short life.
(Those who were called first, the Jewish people from Abraham’s time, have no right to be offended when the latecomers or sinners and gentiles enterGod’s kingdom.) But the parable also teaches that idleness is not identical to laziness. Work is more honourable than doing nothing.
Once again Jesus Speaks of His Passion, Death and Resurrection.
102. For the third time Jesus tells his disciples the truth about what is to happen to him: his passion, death and resurrection. Matthew 20:17-19.
Who Can Sit on the Right and Left of Jesus in Heaven?
103. The mother of the sons of Zebedee (James & John) comes to Jesus and asks that her sons may sit at the right and left hand of Jesus in Heaven. Jesus answers that these places belong, not to him, but to the Father. (Jesus mission on earth is not to apportion human rewards but to suffer for human salvation.) The indignation of the other disciples at this request leads Jesus to teach that to be great they must be like servants – like slaves - as he himself is to serve and give his life. Matthew 20:20-28.
The Healing of the Blind.
104. The healing of the blind man. Matthew mentions two men. Mark and Luke mention only one man. In Mark’s story the blind man is named. (These inconsistencies indicate that, in writing their stories, there had not been collusion. Another explanation is that the lame, the blind and lepers often went around in pairs in order to help each other. Thus they became known as ‘one’ pair.) The blind men refer to Jesus as ‘The Son of David’ – the Jewish term for the long awaited ‘Messiah.’ Jesus ‘had compassion on them’ and healed them. Matthew 20:29-34.
The Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.
105. The prophesy of Zechariah 9:9, is fulfilled when Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey. (Matthew mentions two animals but Mark and Luke only one. Perhaps Matthew misunderstood Zechariah’s prophesy which mentions ‘on a donkey, on a colt’ taking it to mean two animals.) Some people put their cloaks on the ground (An act of royal homage. See 2 Kings 9:13). Others cut branches from trees and spread them on the road. Jesus’ entry stirs the whole city. “Who is this?” they ask and are answered “The prophet Jesus….” Matthew 21:1-11.
Jesus Drives the Traders Out of the Temple.
106. Now we come across the only time that Jesus showed violence. It was justifiable anger and he let the Temple traders know exactly what he thought of them. To explain his actions he draws from two prophets Isaiah & Jeremiah:-‘My house will be called house of prayer’ Isaiah 56:7 ‘But you have made it a den of robbers.’ Jeremiah 7:11 (Matthew, Mark and Luke put this occurrence at the end of Jesus’ ministry. John puts it at the beginning. The possible reasons for this apparent discrepancy will be examined in John’s Gospel. See page 110 Paragraph 17.) Matthew 21:12-13.
The Envy of the Chief Priests.
107. The chief priests and teachers saw Jesus healing the lame and saw the children shouting “Hosanna to the Son of David.” But their hearts were closed to the truth and they were indignant at the attention Jesus was receiving. Matthew 21:14-17.
The Withered Fig Tree.
108. The withered fig tree is surely symbolic of ourselves or anything else which should bear good but bears nothing. Jesus uses the occasion to explain that if we have faith then anything is possible. Matthew 21:18-22.
Jesus Thwarts the Chief Priests.
109. The chief priests question by what authority Jesus casts out the traders from the Temple and by what authority he teaches. They were hoping that Jesus would make a statement which would bring action from the Roman
officials which would result in Jesus being removed from contact with the people. Jesus answers with a question of his own. If they can answer his question he will answer theirs. He asks the chief priests where John’s Baptism came from. This puts the priests in a quandary. If they say that John’s Baptism came from Heaven then why didn’t they believe him? If they say it came from men then they will anger the people, who would know how false that statement was, and who saw John the Baptist as a great Prophet. They take the easy way out and tell Jesus that they “do not know.” Jesus, therefore, does not have to answer their question. (It is obvious that Jesus and John the Baptist derived their authority from the same source.) Matthew 21:23:27.
The Two Sons. One Obeys One Disobeys.
110. The parable of the two sons is related to the dispute with the chief priests which had just taken place. One son does not do what he is asked but then relents. The other son agrees to do what he is asked but then changes his mind. Faithful Jews are like the first son. They say “No” but then relent and know that they need to repent. The faithless Jews say “Yes” but think they have no need of repentance. Jesus goes on to tell the chief priests that tax collectors and prostitutes heard John’s word and acted upon it so they will be the first to enter heaven. Matthew 21:28-32.
The Vineyard and the Tenants.
111. The parable of the Vineyard and the Tenants is also aimed at the unbelievers. The tenants are the Jews and their leaders. The servants are the Old Testament Prophets, many of whom were killed. The son represents Christ, who will be condemned to death by the religious leaders. The chief priests and Pharisees realise that Jesus is referring to them and would have had him arrested but they were afraid of the crowd.
Jesus quotes from the Psalms:
‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the capstone (cornerstone);
the Lord has done this,
and it is marvellous in our eyes.’ Psalm 118:22-23.
Rejected by his own people Jesus will be reinstated by God. Matthew 21:33 ‑46.
The Banquet, the Reluctant Guests, The Unworthy Guest.
112. The parable of the Wedding Banquet unfolds in three parts. First those who were originally invited make their excuses. They represent those who are called but who have become careless with the things of God. (More than one reference book suggests that Verse 7 is alluding to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD).The second part is where people both good and bad are brought into the banquet. The third part shows that if, when we are invited, we are in sin then we must repent. We can only remain on God’s terms. By the words ‘Many are invited but not all are chosen’, Matthew distinguishes between the initial call of salvation and the final election and perseverance. The latter are not automatic. Believers are thus warned against complacency. Matthew 22:1-14.
The Pharisees and Herodians set a trap.
113. The Pharisees are becoming frantic in their desire to trap Jesus. Not only do they want to catch him out but they want to do so in front of the people. They could see the adulation the people had for him and they had seen his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. They needed to find a way to discredit him in front of the people and they came up with a plan. But in order to make it work the Pharisees, who were loyalists, had to obtain the support of their enemies the Herodians who, as their name suggests, supported Herod. They plan to come to Jesus together and ask whether it was right to pay taxes to Caesar. If Jesus says “No” then the Herodians would report Jesus to Herod. If he said “Yes” then the Pharisees would denounce him to the people as being disloyal to the nation. It seemed to be a plan which could not fail! Matthew 22:15-17.
‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.’
114. The Pharisees and Herodians did not know of Jesus’ power of discernment. He knew of their evil intent. So when they asked him “Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” he attacked them verbally. “You hypocrites”, he said, and after being shown a denarius which contained the head and inscription of Caesar he said “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” (It is permissible, indeed it is a duty, for them to pay to that government the tribute of their obedience and of their property so long as this does not encroach on what they owe to the overriding authority of God.) The trap had not worked and ‘they were amazed’. Matthew 22:18-22.
The False Beliefs of the Sadducees.
115. Now the Sadducees come to Jesus. They do not believe in the resurrection and try to make their point by asking about the relationships at the resurrection when, following the teachings Moses of, (Deuteronomy 25:5-6) a woman might have been married several times. Jesus tells them that at
the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage. “They will be like angels.” There is a resurrection: to a life where there is no sexual union or procreation because there is no death. Matthew 22:23-30.
Further Proof that the Sadducees Beliefs are False.
116. Jesus argues further, pointing out that the Sadducees are wrong in not believing in the resurrection. When Moses was at the burning bush God spoke to him and said “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” He is the God of the living not the dead. (Jesus is saying that God was referring to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as if they were alive not as if they were dead.) Jesus had silenced the Sadducees and the crowds were astonished at his teaching. Matthew 22:31-33
Which is the Greatest Commandment?
117. A Pharisee who is an expert in the law asks Jesus “……….which is the greatest commandment?” Jesus answers “Love the Lord your God…………….” is the greatest commandment, and the second “Love your neighbour………………” Then Jesus added “All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.” In other words all the Old Testament Books including those of the Prophets depend on deeds of love. Matthew 22:34-40.
The Scribe’s False Understanding of King David’s Psalm.
118. The scribes took the prophecy that the Messiah would be the son of David literally, as a matter of physical descent. Jesus shows that David’s own messianic psalm makes that impossible. The psalm is 110:1.
The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand
until I put your enemies under your feet.”
Jesus asks the Pharisees “If David calls him ‘Lord’, how can he be his son?” The words: ‘From then on no-one dared to ask him any more questions’ are put here by Matthew but are put at the end of the previous chapter by Mark & Luke. Perhaps an inadvertent mistake by Matthew when copying from Mark. Matthew 22:41-46.
Jesus declares ‘Woe’ to Israel’s Hypocritical Religious Leaders.
119. Jesus launches into a scathing attack on Israel’s religious leaders. Jesus was able to stomach and have patience with the ordinary people – even the wicked, the weak-willed and the stupid. But he could not stomach the religious sham, the self-righteous pride, the pedantic hair-splitting he saw
in the Pharisees and scribes. “Do as they say” he tells the crowd, “But not as they do.” Most of Jesus’ words in this chapter commence with ……..“Woe to you………....you hypocrites” as he details the shortcomings of the teachers of the law and the Pharisees. ‘..mint and dill and cumin…’ the Mosaic Law levied tithes on agricultural produce: the rabbis piously applied the precept to the most insignificant of garden herbs! The words ‘how often’ in verse 37 indicate Jesus’ several visits to Jerusalem which John’s gospel describe whilst the synoptics only tell of one. Verse 38 may be referring to the destruction of Jerusalem. Verse 39 refers to Jesus’ return in glory and judgement. Matthew 23:1-39.
Jesus Predicts the Destruction of the Temple.
120. As the disciples admire the great Temple Jesus predicts its destruction. Jesus says “not one stone here will be left on another.” (Sadly Jesus’ prophesy is to come true in 70AD when the Romans completely destroyed the Temple purposely not leaving a stone on a stone as a sign of their power and strength.) Matthew 24:1-2.
The End of Time.
121. The disciples ask Jesus about the end of time. (Chapter 24 Verses 4 – 14 describe ‘the end.’ Verse 21 tells of ‘great distress. ’ Verses 15 – 22 describe the destruction of Jerusalem. The Jewish historian Josephus who was there when it happened, describes the destruction in terms which agree with Jesus’ words. Also the words may be a reference to Daniel 12:1 which refer to a ‘time of distress.’ Verses 23 – 31 tell of false prophets and Christ’s coming. ‘The coming of Christ will be as obvious as the gathering of vultures around a carcass.’) In his description of ‘the end’ Matthew is the only one of the Gospel writers to mention ‘Pray that your flight will not take place on the Sabbath’. This is because he was writing for the Jews who were forbidden to travel more than half a mile on the Sabbath. Matthew 24:3-28.
122. Describing ‘the end’ Jesus quotes from Isaiah:-
“the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light; Isaiah 13:10.
the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” Isaiah 34:4. Matthew 24:29.
123. “They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds…………” The title ‘Son of Man’ was Jesus’ most common title for himself. It is used eighty-one times in the Gospels. (The title is first used by Daniel prophesying about a vision. Daniel 7:13.) Learn from the Fig Tree. As its twigs get tender, you know that summer is near. So when you see these things know that [the time] is near. (Jesus is referring to the destruction of Jerusalem not to the end of the world. In the course of his teaching Jesus probably made the distinction between these two things more clear.) Matthew 24:30-33.
‘Only The Father knows…………….’
124. “……this generation certainly will not pass away……..” This may refer to the generation in which Jesus lived or to the generation living when the signs begin to occur. “No-one knows about that day or hour………..only the Father knows. Therefore keep watch because you do not know……….” Jesus tells the parable of the wicked servant left in charge of his master’s house. Matthew 24:34-51.
Two Parables which Warn Us to ‘Be Ready’.
125. Continuing his warnings ‘to be ready’ Jesus tells the parable of the Ten Virgins and follows that with the parable of the Talents which is a warning not to waste time whilst waiting for Jesus’ coming. (The word ‘talent’, to indicate an ability, is derived from this parable.) Matthew 25:1-30.
The Last Judgement.
126. The final part of the chapter tells of the last judgement when the sheep will be separated from the goats. It includes the beautiful words about ‘the righteous’ and when they had seen Jesus hungry, thirsty, naked or in prison and the final words: “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Then the awful, frightening, condemnation of those who would be sent to eternal punishment. Matthew 25:31-46.
The Chief Priests Plan to Kill Jesus.
127. This is the time of the Passover and there is a deep significance between the time of Moses, when the lambs were slaughtered to prepare for
the Passover meal, and the chief priests now planning how they can slaughter the ‘Lamb of God.’ Matthew 26:1-5.
The Woman who Anoints Jesus.
128. Jesus is in the house of Simon the Leper. (This is probably a leper who Jesus had cured.) A woman pours expensive perfume over the head of Jesus. The disciples are indignant. But Jesus explains that the woman has done a beautiful thing. She has prepared him for burial. (It is doubtful if the disciples understood the meaning of what Jesus was conveying to them.) Matthew 26:6-13.
Judas Criticises the Waste of Perfume.
129. The ‘waste of the perfume’ seems to have been the ‘last straw’ for Judas Iscariot.(In John 12:6 we read, regarding Judas Iscariot, ‘he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.’ Judas’ action could also have been motivated by the fact that Jesus did not live up to Judas’ expectation as the ‘Messiah’. Some expected the Messiah to be more like one of the Maccabees, someone who would organise the nation into a fighting force which would rid them of their Roman masters.) Judas went to the chief priests and agreed a price for betraying Jesus: ‘So they counted out for him thirty silver coins.’ ( That was the sum of money quoted in Exodus 21:32 which was to be paid if a bull were to gore a
slave. Hence Jesus’ life is put at the very lowest: that of a slave.) Matthew 26:14-16.
The Last Supper and Institution of The Eucharist.
130. Jesus and his disciples meet to partake of the Passover meal. The Passover is the most important Jewish festival. By instituting the changing of bread and wine into his body and blood Jesus uses the occasion, the Last Supper, to change the Passover festival into the Sacrifice of his Body and Blood, the Mass. The word ‘Eucharist’ is taken from the Greek word for ‘Returning Thanks’. During the meal Jesus reveals that one of them is to betray him. Judas words “Surely not I, Rabbi?” and Jesus’ words “Yes, it is you” must have been a private conversation - just between the two of them. Jesus’ words “…..for this is my blood, the blood of the new covenant poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” are a reminder of the old covenant when Moses poured blood on the altar at Sinai. (Exodus 24:4-8.) This time it will be Jesus’ blood which will be poured out for us. The Passover meal finishes with the singing of psalms of the Hallel, Psalms 113-118. (That Jesus and the apostles celebrated the Passover on Thursday brings with it a problem. It seems that the rest of Jerusalem would be celebrating the Passover on the following day: ‘….to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover’. John 18:28. Why did Jesus celebrate the Passover a day early? It could be that Jesus did so in order to institute the Sacrament of the Eucharist. But surely one of the Gospel writers would have commented on the ‘day early’. There is another explanation. Studies of ancient documents show that, at the time of Jesus, the day for celebrating the Passover depended on whether you followed the Sadducees or Pharisees. The Jewish feast of Pentecost [also known as Weeks] was interrelated to the date of the Passover but the Sadducees and Pharisees had different ways of interpreting the actual dates for the two feasts which led, sometimes, to there being one day difference which happened on this occasion. The day of Jesus’ Passover followed that of the Pharisees whereas the majority of the Sanhedrin, which condemned Jesus, were Sadducees and would have celebrated their Passover one day later.) Matthew 26:17-.29.
Jesus Predicts that He will be Abandoned.
131. At the Mount of Olives Jesus tells the disciples that they will all abandon him and quotes from Zechariah 13:7: ‘Strike the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered.’ Matthew 26:30-35.
The Garden of Gethsemane
132. They all go to Gethsemane. Many readings indicate that this was the worst part of the passion of Jesus. He is shown the sins of the whole world for all time and understands that by his Crucifixion he will be accepting them and redeeming mankind from all its sin. Knowing of the pain that is to come must have caused appalling mental agony. (Luke’s Gospel tells us that Jesus ‘sweats blood’ and an angel is sent to comfort him.) The three apostles who have accompanied him are drowsy after the food and drink and they go to sleep. Matthew 26:36-46.
The Kiss of Judas.
133. Judas knew where Jesus went to pray so he was able to lead the crowd to him. Judas had said “The one I kiss is the man: arrest him.” (Why was that necessary? Surely they knew who Jesus was. I suspect that the answer is that in the dark and all in similar apparel they might all look alike.) Matthew 26:47-48.
134. A kiss is a sign of love. To be betrayed by a kiss is to turn that kiss into a sign of hate. Jesus had loved Judas Iscariot as much as all the other disciples. (Surely that betrayal would have been part of his passion. But no more than when we betray him when we sin.) Matthew 26:49-50.
Jesus is Apprehended.
135. At least one of the disciples shows courage by taking his sword and cutting off the ear of a servant of the High Priest. But then their courage fails them and they all flee. (What had happened to their good intentions? The Passover meal leads to drinking much wine, which leads to being sleepy and not fully alert to the unexpected. Jesus knew what was about to happen; the disciples didn’t and were caught unawares.) As Jesus is apprehended he quotes from Zechariah 13:7, and from Isaiah Chapter 53 the whole of which is now being enacted. Matthew 26:51-56.
Jesus in front of Caiphas
136. Jesus is taken to Caiaphas who questions him. But Jesus remains silent. It is only when Caiaphas asks Jesus “Tell us if you are the Christ the Son of God?” Jesus replies “It is you who say it…………you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Jesus, at this critical moment abandons his policy of the messianic secret and accepts the title of Messiah although not in the traditional sense of one like a Maccabean (1 Maccabeus 3:1-12) who would lead by the sword, but in the sense of a glorious personage whom Daniel had seen in a vision (Daniel 7:13). Though Jesus’ reply is the truth it is what Caiaphas and the chief priests are wanting to hear so that they can have Jesus put to death. Matthew 26:57-66.
The Cruelty Starts.
137. The cruelty starts – they spit on him and slap him and make fun of him. All the time Peter is watching. When the cock crowed he realised his sin ‘and wept bitterly.’ (I have to ask myself “Is my sin any less than that of Peter?”.) The Jews do not have the authority to put someone to death but Rome does. So they take Jesus to Pilate. Matthew 26:67-75. & 27:1-2.
138. Judas realised the appalling thing he had done and ‘despair’ took over. He said “I have sinned.” That ‘confession’ was all that was needed. He is forgiven. But he succumbs to the ‘despair’ and hangs himself.
The Thirty Pieces of Silver.
139. The thirty pieces of silver returned by Judas is ‘blood money’ so it is used to buy the potters field as a burial place for foreigners. (Thus the prophecy of Zechariah came true “So they took the thirty pieces of silver and
threw them into the house of the Lord to the potter.” Zechariah 11:13.) Matthew 27:6-10.
Pilate Questions Jesus.
140. Pilate asked Jesus if he was the King of the Jews. Jesus replied “Yes, it is as you say” but otherwise he kept silent and didn’t answer any other questions. Pilate was amazed by Jesus’ silence. (At this point Pilate must have realised that this was no criminal who had been brought to him. The envy of the chief priests would have been evident.) Matthew 27-11-14.
141. Pilate realising that the demand for the death of Jesus is an excuse tries to think ways to obtain his release. Firstly he puts to the crowd whether to release “...Barabbas or Jesus who is called Christ.” Pilate’s wife had intervened telling her husband of a dream she had had and calling Jesus “that innocent man”. But the crowd, encouraged by the priests and elders, ask for the release of Barabbas. Once again Pilate tries to find a way out: “What shall I do, then, with Jesus………” The crowds reply “Crucify him.” For a third time Pilate tries: “Why? What crime has he committed?” The crowd don’t reply to the question; they continue to shout “Crucify him.” Pilate had got it right. Jesus had done nothing which necessitated death. But Pilate was weak, the weakness of wanting to keep his position as a Roman Procurator. If he allowed the crowd to get out of control then news would get back to Rome and his position would be in jeopardy. Despite his wife’s warning, the easy, and weak, way out was to let the crowd have their way. He did make one last show of defiance of the crowd by washing his hands saying “I am innocent of this man’s blood.” (Deuteronomy 21:6). That statement was not true: the handing over of Jesus was Pilate’s approval for the crucifixion to take place. Matthew 27:15-25.
The Scourging and Crowing with Thorns.
142. Flogging was intended to weaken the criminal so that his time on the cross would be reduced. (A Jewish flogging was controlled: forty lashes was the maximum and to ensure that this was kept to, only thirty nine lashes were given. But Jesus had a Roman flogging which had no limit. The only rule was that the criminal was not to die from the flogging.) After the flogging Jesus is mocked by the soldiers, crowned with thorns and spat on. (The Jews had mocked Jesus as a ‘Prophet.’ The Romans mock him as a ‘King’. This shows the two trials of Jesus – one religious and one political.) Matthew 27:26-31.
Simon of Cyrene Helps Jesus. Jesus is Crucified.
143. Simon of Cyrene takes the place of us all in helping Jesus to carry his cross. In the same way that the flogging was to reduce the time on the cross so wine was offered to help to take away some of the pain. Jesus refused it. He accepted the full pain of the crucifixion. ‘The place of the skull’, in Latin, is Calvaria from whence comes Calvary. (We can meditate on the fact that
crucifixion was the most painful method of death devised by man. Eventually even the cruel Romans realised that fact and about two hundred and fifty years after the death of Jesus they ceased crucifixion as a way of death. We can further meditate on the fact that God the Father sent his Son on earth at a time when the cruellest method of death was being used. Also see Page 125 Paragraph 89 regarding crucifixion versus stoning.) Matthew 27:32-34.
Lots are Cast for Jesus Clothing.
144. Casting lots for his clothing was yet another prophesy fulfilled. (Psalm 22:18.) Matthew 27:35.
The Crowds and Chief Priests Taunt Jesus.
145. Even at this stage the crowd, chief priests and even the two crucified with him hadn’t given up their evil taunts. (Only Luke mentions that one of the robbers crucified with Jesus said “Jesus remember me when you come into
your kingdom.” With the reply which we all hope to hear: “I tell you that today you will be with me in paradise.” The fact that one out of the four gospels has something different shows a lack of collusion. Also see Page 104 Paragraph 180.) Matthew 27:36-44.
After Three Hours on the Cross Jesus Dies.
146. Jesus was crucified at the sixth hour (12.00noon) and hung on the cross for three hours until the ninth hour (3.00p.m.). (Though there is a contradiction between Mark and John which will be dealt with in Mark’s account. See Page 67 Paragraph 120.) The sign over the cross of Jesus read: ‘THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS’. Jesus cries out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This is a cry of distress but not of despair. The words are taken from Psalm 22 which continues as an expression of joyful confidence in final victory. Jesus’ words “Eli, eli………” are misunderstood as “Elijah, Elijah……”.Some of the crowd wait to see whether Elijah will come. The dramatic mention of ‘the darkness over the land’, ‘the curtain of the Temple torn in two’, ‘the earth shaking and rocks splitting’ and ‘tombs opening’ give emphasis to the appalling tragedy as Jesus dies. (He died for my sins – nobody else needs to be blamed, neither Judas, the chief priests nor Pilate.) Matthew 27:45-53.
The Centurion’s Words.
147. The death had a definite effect on the Centurion who had been guarding the three crosses. He had seen how Jesus had died. He had seen the women, including Mary, and had come to his own conclusion that this was no
ordinary death. “Surely”, he said, “this was the Son of God”.
Jesus is Taken Down from the Cross and Placed in the Tomb.
148. Joseph of Arimathea, (who Mark and Luke tell us was a member of the Council) had become a disciple of Jesus. As a Council member he would have had immediate access to Pilate so he was able to obtain permission to remove the body from the cross. Jesus’ body is placed in Joseph’s own new tomb. (A new tomb was necessary. The body of an executed man could not be placed in a tomb already in use, where it would have defiled the bones of the upright.) Matthew 27:57-61.
The Tomb is Guarded.
149. Matthew is the only Gospel writer to mention that the tomb was guarded. As he was writing for the Jews he would want them to know the ‘lie’ which was put about regarding the disappearance of the body of Jesus. See Paragraph 151 below. Matthew 27:62-66.
The Empty Tomb Brings Sorrow. Seeing Jesus Brings Joy.
150. The empty tomb. Sorrow turns to joy as the women hear the angel’s message and see the risen Christ. The ‘earthquake’ which heralded the angel’s coming so frightened the guards that they became like dead men. The angel’s message fills the women with both fear and joy. The joy is increased beyond measure when Jesus appears to them. Matthew 28:1-10.
The Lie Regarding the Empty Tomb.
151. The guards report what has happened. They are bribed by the chief priests and elders to keep their silence. They are told to lie and say that the disciples stole the body of Jesus during the night when the guards were asleep. (The penalty for falling asleep on duty was death, but perhaps Pilate too could be squared with a bribe!) This is the story which has been told to the Jews to this day. Matthew 28:11-15.
Jesus’ Final Command to the Apostles.
152. The eleven remaining disciples return to Galilee. There Jesus, possessing ‘all authority’, gives them his last command – to make disciples of all nations. (Anyone who has doubts about, or denies, the Trinity has only to read 28:19 where it is clearly states ‘………….baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit………….’)