Thursday, March 06, 2014

Lord of the Sabbath

[Read]  At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath.  His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them. 2 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.” 3 He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4 He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests. 5 Or haven’t you read in the Law that the priests on Sabbath duty in the temple desecrate the Sabbath and yet are innocent? 6 I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. 7 If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.” 9 Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, 10 and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” 11 He said to them, “If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.  (Matthew 12:1-14)

[Meditate]  What is the Sabbath?  In Exodus 20:8-11 the Sabbath day was given by God as a day of rest; there was to be no working on that day (see also Nehemiah 13:15-22, Jeremiah 17:21-27).  It is holy "unto the Lord" (see also Exodus 16:23).  The reason is because God created "the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day."  In Exodus 16:23 and 35:3, we see God's desire that food preparations be made the day/evening before and not on the Sabbath.  In Deuteronomy 5:15 we see God's desire for remembering what God has done to be part of Sabbath observance.  Sabbath serves as a picture of future eternal rest (Hebrews 4:9).  Teaching and receiving teaching was permitted on the Sabbath (Mark 6:2; Luke 4:31, 13:10; Acts 17:2, 18:4).

Should Christians practice the observance of Sabbath today?  Based on the Scriptures and the early church fathers, the first thing that should be said is that Sabbath observance, as detailed in the Old Testament, is a shadow of what was to come in Christ (Colossians 2:16-17):  "Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.  These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ."  That is to say, observing the Sabbath is not necessary just as keeping the law is not necessary as part of the old order before Jesus' sacrifice on the cross.  It might be said that while keeping the Sabbath is not "required," it may still be of some benefit.  As church father Ignatius says, "Let us therefore no longer keep the Sabbath after the Jewish manner, and rejoice in days of idleness; for "he that does not work let him not eat."  ...But let every one of you keep the Sabbath after a spiritual manner, rejoicing in meditation on the law, not in relaxation of the body, admiring the workmanship of God, and not eating things prepared the day before, nor using lukewarm drinks, and walking within a prescribed space, nor finding delight in dancing and plaudits which have no sense in them."  And it seems beneficial for the following reasons: (1) using Sabbath to spend time with God (2) understanding that labor is good, but not ultimate; God is (3) man is utterly dependent on God for everything (see Lee link).  I'll add one more- reflection on God, his goodness, sending his Son, and his works in man's behalf.

2  Reaping was one of "thirty-nine kinds of work forbidden on the Sabbath (M Shabbath 7:2) under prevailing Halakah."  (Carson, 280)

3  Mark 2:25 says, "were hungry and in need?"

"The point is not 'The Sabbath is delivered unto you, you are not delivered unto the Sabbath' but that the Pharisees' approach to the Old Testament was wrong and could not explain the incident of David."  (Carson, 281)

4  "On the one hand, David ate; on the other, it was unlawful for him to do so.  Jesus' point is not simply that rules admit of exceptions but that the Scriptures themselves do not condemn David for his action; therefore the rigidity of the Pharisees' interpretation of the law is not in accord with Scripture itself."  (Carson, 280-281)

"It is possible that this event took place on a Sabbath, since 1 Samuel 21:5-6 sounds as if the consecrated bread had just been changed.  Many Jews understood the text that way (SBK 1:618f)."  (Carson, 280)

5  "Formally speaking the Levitical priests 'broke' the Sabbath every week, since the right worship of God in the temple required them to do some work- changing the consecrated bread (Lev 24:8) and offering the doubled burn offering (Num 28:9-10). In reality, of course, the priests were guiltless; the law that established the Sabbath also established the right of the priests, formally speaking, to 'break' it."  (Carson, 281)

"Jesus reminds his opponents that the law of Moses provided for the priests in the temple to 'desecrate' the Sabbath by fulfilling their duties and yet to remain 'innocent' (Numbers 28:9-10, Leviticus 24:8).  The recognition that temple duties took precedence over Sabbath regulations was an accepted Rabbinic argument, which Jesus took a step further.  If the service of the temple could legitimate certain work on the Sabbath, how much more could 'one greater than the temple.' "  (Peterson, 83)

6  The 'one' or something greater is Jesus.

"Jesus claims, 'something' greater than the temple is here.  And that... takes precedence over the Sabbath.  This solution is entirely consistent with what we have perceived to be Jesus' attitude to the law in this Gospel.  The law points to him and finds its fulfillment in him.  Not only, then, have the Pharisees mishandled the law... but they have failed to perceive who Jesus is.  The authority of the temple laws shielded the priests from guilt; the authority of Jesus shields his disciples from guilt."  (Carson, 282)

He compares himself to the temple in 26:61 and John 2:20-21.

7  Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6 also in Matthew 9:13.

"...the Hosea quotation was not simply telling them that they should be more sympathetic to outcasts and less concerned about ceremonial purity, but that they were aligned with the apostates of ancient Israel in that they too preserved the shell while losing the heart of the matter, as exemplified by their attitude to tax collectors and sinners."  (Carson, 225)

"...the Pharisees' attitude to the law being as worthy of condemnation as the attitude of those who relied superficially and hypocritically on mere ritual in Hosea's day."  (Carson, 282)

8  Mark 2:27-28 says:  "Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

9  We know from Luke 6:6 and Mark 3:1 that this story took place on another Sabbath from the previous Sabbath story of Matthew 12:1-8.

"The customary Jewish ruling was that healing was permitted on the Sabbath when life was in danger (M Yoma 8:6; Mek Exod 22:2; 23:13), which of course did not apply here.  Even so, what rabbinic discussion had in view was medical help by family members or professionals, not miraculous healings."  (Carson, 284)

12  "For the third time in [Matthew's] Gospel, Jesus' argument depends on a contrast between animals and men (6:26; 10:31 and implied in Luke 13:15; 14:5) and presupposes the greater value of human beings... man alone was made in the image of God (Genesis 1-2)."  (Carson, 284)

13  Mark 3:3-5 says, "Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”  Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.  He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.”

John's gospel has this account:  "Jesus said to them, “I did one miracle, and you are all amazed.  Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a boy on the Sabbath.  Now if a boy can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing a man’s whole body on the Sabbath?  Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.”  (John 7:21-23)

"In not less that twenty-four chapters [of the Mishna], matters are seriously discussed [regarding Sabbath observance] as of vital religious importance, which one would scarcely imagine a sane intellect would serious entertain.”  -Alfred Edersheim

"It has been said by biblical scholars that the Pharisees had added over 600 regulations regarding what qualified as ‘working’ on the Sabbath." (Got Questions)

14  Luke 6:11 says, "But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were furious..." 

Mark 3:6 says, "Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus."  The Herodians are mentioned also in Matthew 22:16.  Who were the Herodians?

"The Herodians held political power, and most scholars believe that they were a political party that supported King Herod Antipas, the Roman Empire's ruler over much of the land of the Jews from 4 B.C. to A.D. 39. The Herodians favored submitting to the Herods, and therefore to Rome, for political expediency. This support of Herod compromised Jewish independence in the minds of the Pharisees, making it difficult for the Herodians and Pharisees to unite and agree on anything. But one thing did unite them—opposing Jesus. Herod himself wanted Jesus dead (Luke 13:31), and the Pharisees had already hatched plots against Him (John 11:53), so they joined efforts to achieve their common goal."  (Got Questions, "Who Were the Herodians")

"...this first mention of a plot to kill Jesus springs not from disputes over the legality of various Sabbath activities but over Jesus' authority... Sabbath disputes were not mentioned at Jesus' trials; in themselves they were never as much an issue as Jesus' claim to be Sabbath's Lord."  (Carson, 285)

[Pray]  God, you have sent Jesus Christ to give us an eternal Sabbath rest.  Would we realize that work is not ultimate, but you are ultimate.  Would we spend regular time with you, and meditate on your word and your works.  In Jesus name, Amen.

[Live]  A right heart before God is pleasing to him.


D.A. Carson, The Expositor's Bible Commentary: Matthew, Volume 8 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984).
Got Questions: http://www.gotquestions.org/Herodians.html.
Jon English Lee:  http://theblog.founders.org/ecclesiological-implications-of-the-sabbath-part-2/
David Peterson, Engaging With God: A Biblical Theology of Worship  (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1992).
Matthew_12

Monday, January 13, 2014

Rest for the Weary

[Read]  25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.  27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.  28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:25-30)

[Meditate]

25  Luke's account reads "At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, "I praise you..."  (Luke 10:21)

Jesus says God has hidden 'these things' (spiritual wisdom, salvation) from the 'wise and learned' and revealed them to 'little children.'  So who are the 'wise and learned' and who are the 'little children'?

The 'wise and learned' are those who are wise in their own eyes (Isaiah 5:21; 1 Corinthians 1:20, 8:2; Galatians 6:3).

The 'little children' are representative of those who will enter the kingdom (Matthew 18:4, 19:13-15).  They are those who 'humble themselves' and take the 'lowly position.'  These are his disciples and those who receive Him.

From Matthew 18:4, we know that "whoever humbles themself" or "takes the lowly position" like a child is greatest in the kingdom.  He speaks of the value in being humble (God have mercy on me, a sinner) and contrasts it with pride in Luke 14:11 (taking the seat of honor, the best seat for yourself) and Luke 18:14 (God, thank you I'm not like these wicked people).  Jesus taught blessed are the poor in spirit and the meek (Matthew 5:3, 5).  He said that whoever wants to be first must be a servant and a slave (Matthew 20:26-27, 23:11; Luke 22:25-27).  (His contrasts include the disciples arguing about who would be the greatest and take over after Jesus left and the Pharisees who were desiring the seat of honor at the banquet.)  And of course Jesus demonstrated this by washing the feet of his disciples (John 13:14).

26  Why would God be pleased to hide Spiritual things from the wise and learned yet reveal them to the 'humble' and those who take the 'lowly position'?

27  "All things"- probably authority of all knowledge of 'these things' (v. 25) necessary for repentance and acceptance of Jesus/his disciples.  Jesus chooses (v. 27).

See Matthew 13:11, Mark 4:11-12.

Jesus words that 'no one knows the Son except the Father' is hard for me.  Looking at the context, perhaps Jesus is saying 'the wisdom of this world doesn't give man wisdom of the Father or the Son.  All things, all wisdom was given to the Son from the Father; and nobody knows the Son or the Father whom the Son has not chosen to reveal them to.'

After verse 27, Luke adds the following:  "Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.  For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.” (Luke 10:23-24)

28-30  Jesus offers rest.  Matthew 23:4; Revelation 14:13; Hebrews 3:11, 18, 4:6-11.  Spiritual rest (v 29).

Come to me, Jesus.  I am the one who has the words of eternal life.  You will receive rest for your souls.  Rest is the idea of peace with God and contrasting with toil:  "Through painful toil you will eat of it [the ground] all the days of your life."  (Genesis 3:17).

Also physical rest in this life.  The people were weary and burdened by the heavy loads the Pharisees and teachers of the law were placing on the people (Matthew 23:4).  They ask the people to obey them and do everything they tell them to do (Matthew 23:3).  But they don't need to do these things; heck, the Pharisees don't even do them (Matthew 23:3)!  It's useless, burdensome work that God doesn't require.  Jesus requires no such things.  Jeremiah 6:16:  Jesus knows the good way to walk in.  This will provide rest.

"It has been said by biblical scholars that the Pharisees had added over 600 regulations regarding what qualified as ‘working’ on the Sabbath. That is a heavy burden!"  (Got Questions)
"...the contrast is between the burden of submission to the OT in terms of Pharisaic regulation and the relief of coming under Jesus' tutelage as under the authority of gentle revealer to whom the OT, the ancient paths, truly pointed."  (Carson, 278-279)

[Live]  None.


D.A. Carson, The Expositor's Bible Commentary: Matthew, Volume 8 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984).
Got Questions:  http://www.gotquestions.org/yoke-easy-burden-light.html.
Matthew_11

Friday, January 10, 2014

Woe on Unrepentant Cities

[Read]  20 Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades.  For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”  (Matthew 11:20-24)

[Meditate]  This passage appears also in Luke 10:12-15.  Here, Luke places the teaching after instructing the disciples when sending them out.  Jesus says this to those cities who would not welcome his sent out disciples.

20  Repentance was what Jesus was looking for when he was performing miracles.

21  "The Bethsaida in question was probably the home of Andrew, Peter, and Philip (John 1:44; 12:21) on the west side of Galilee..." (Carson, 273)

"Tyre and Sidon were... often denounced by OT prophets for their Baal worship (Isaiah 23; Ezekiel 26-28; Joel 3:4; Amos 1:9-10; Zechariah 9:2-4)."  (Carson, 273)

" 'Sackcloth' is a rough fabric made from the short hairs of camels and usually worn next to the skin to express grief or sorrow (2 Samuel 3:31; 1 Kings 21:27; 2 Kings 6:30; Joel 1:8; Jonah 3:5-8).  Ashes were added in cases of deep emotion (Job 42:6; Daniel 9:3), whether one put them on the head (2 Samuel 13:19; Lamentations 2:10), sat in them (Jonah 3:6), lay on them (Esther 4:3), or even rolled in them (Jeremiah 6:26; Micah 1:10)."  (Carson, 273)

22  "...punishment on the Day of Judgment takes into account opportunity.  There are degrees of felicity in paradise and degrees of torment in hell (Luke 12:47-48)."  (Carson, 273)

More importantly, I think Jesus is trying to say that their refusal to repent is egregious.  When you get compared with Sodom and Gomorrah (which they are about to be compared to in verses 23-24) you know God is not pleased.

In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire. (Jude 1:7)
More Sodom and Gomorrah comparisons:  Isaiah 1:9-10, Jeremiah 23:14, Ezekiel 16:48, Matthew 10:15.

23  "The city [Capernaum] was not only Jesus' base (4:13), but he performed many specific miracles there."  (Carson, 273)

Sodom would have repented if it saw the miracles Capernaum saw, Jesus says.  This is the same argument Jesus gives in verse 21.

24  It would be more tolerable because they didn't have the light they had.

[Pray]  God, I can see in this passage that repentance is important to you, and that salvation depends on it.  In Jesus name, Amen.

[Live]  Repent and be saved.


D.A. Carson, The Expositor's Bible Commentary: Matthew, Volume 8 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984)
Matthew_11

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Jesus and John the Baptist

[Read]  After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee.  2 When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples 3 to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”  4 Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 6 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”  7 As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 8 If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. 9 Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written:  “‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’  11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. 15 Whoever has ears, let them hear.  16 “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:  17 “‘We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.” (Matthew 11:1-19)

[Meditate]

2  Luke's account says that John sent two of his disciples (Luke 7:18).

In Matthew 4:12 we first learned John was in prison.

John is in prison because Herod Antipas sent him there.  John had been saying, "It is not lawful for you to have her," because Herod had married his brother Philip's wife (Matthew 14:3-5).

"According to Josephus (Antiq XVIII, 119 v2), Herod imprisoned John the Baptist in the fortress of Machaerus, east of the Dead Sea."  (Carson, 262)

3  Why does John ask this?  Isn't he a prophet?  Doesn't he already know this?

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God,who takes away the sin of the world!  This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’  I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”  Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him.  And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’  I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.” (John 1:29:34)

“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”  Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John.  But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”  Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.  As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.  And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”  (Matthew 2:11-3:17)

Perhaps John believed Jesus was 'God's Chosen One' (John 1:34), then heard about all Jesus had done but wondered if Jesus fit his Messianic expectations- so he thought he would ask Jesus himself...?  Scholars have suggested multiple possibilities (see http://www.biblewise.com/archives/2010/november/teen_time/question/questions.htm).

4  Before the words in verse 4, Luke records this:  "At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind.  So he replied..."  (Luke 7:21)

5  "Jesus' answer briefly summarized his own miracles and preaching, but in the language of Isaiah 35:5-6; 61:1... At one level the answer was straightforward:  Isaiah 61:1 is an explicit messianic passage, and Isaiah 35:5-6... describes the return of God's people to Zion with accompanying blessings (e.g., restoration of sight).  Jesus definitely claimed that these messianic visions were being fulfilled in the miracles he was performing and that his preaching the Good News to the poor (5:3) was as explicit a fulfillment of the messianic promises of Isaiah 61:1-2 as Luke 4:17-21.  The powers of darkness were being undermined; the kingdom was advancing (v. 12)."  (Carson, 262)

Good news is proclaimed to the poor:

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.  Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in.  If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?   Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?  But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?  Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong? (James 2:1-7)

6  "...the beatitude in this form assumes the questioner has begun well and now must avoid stumbling."  (Carson, 262)

What is the meaning of this phrase?  The ESV translates the phrase as, "And blessed is the one who is not offended by me."

When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there.  Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed.  “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked.  “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?  Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?”  And they took offense at him. (Matthew 13:53-57)

Jesus says those who do not take offense at (reject) him are blessed.  Perhaps Jesus was speaking to John and his disciples here; maybe he was saying, 'You see the work I have been doing; it's not what you expected; but you will be blessed if you don't reject me.'

7  "A reed is probably cane grass, found in abundance along the Jordan."  (Carson, 263)

"A reed...'swayed by the wind' suggests a fickle person, tossed about in his judgment by the winds of public opinion or private misfortune."  (Carson, 263)

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. (Ephesians 4:14)

8  Luke's account says "No, those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury are in palaces." (Luke 7:25).

9  Here Jesus confirms that John is a prophet.  John's father, Zecharias, predicted this also (Luke 1:76).

10  This is a quote from Malachi 3:1.

  "...he himself was also the subject of prophecy- the one who, according to Scripture, would announce the Day of Yahweh."  (Carson, 264)

11  Jesus speaks of John's greatness to setup up his teaching- he wants to speak about greatness in the kingdom being tied to the least.

From Matthew 18:4, we know that "whoever humbles themself" or "takes the lowly position" like a child is greatest in the kingdom.  He speaks of the value in being humble (God have mercy on me, a sinner) and contrasts it with pride in Luke 14:11 (taking the seat of honor, the best seat for yourself) and Luke 18:14 (God, thank you I'm not like these wicked people).  Jesus taught blessed are the poor in spirit and the meek (Matthew 5:3, 5).  He said that whoever wants to be first must be a servant and a slave (Matthew 20:26-27, 23:11; Luke 22:25-27).  (His contrasts include the disciples arguing about who would be the greatest and take over after Jesus left and the Pharisees who were desiring the seat of honor at the banquet.)  And of course Jesus demonstrated this by washing the feet of his disciples (John 13:14).

Andrew Murray has a great teaching on this:  http://www.heavenreigns.com/read/read_html/humility/humility_5.html

Luke's account has this note after verse 11:  "(All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John.  But the Pharisees and the experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.)  (Luke 7:29-30)

12   Luke has slightly different wording:

“The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it. (Luke 16:16)

"The kingdom has come with holy power and magnificent energy that has been pushing back the frontiers of darkness.  This is especially manifest in Jesus' miracles and ties in with Jesus' response to the Baptist (v. 5)."  (Carson, 266)

"...from the days of the Baptist... the kingdom has been forcefully advancing.  But it has not swept all opposition away, as John expected.  Simultaneous with the kingdom's advance have been the attacks of violent men on it...  It includes Herod's imprisonment of John, the attacks by Jewish leaders now intensifying (9:34; 12:22-24)... Already Jesus warned his disciples of persecution and suffering (10:16-42)..."  (Carson, 267-268)

13  " 'The Prophets' precedes 'the Law,' an unusual order (5:17; 7:12)...both 'Prophets' and 'Law' prophecy.. a powerful way of saying that the entire OT has a prophetic function..."  (Carson, 268)

Combined with verse 10, Jesus is trying to say that the prophecies of the OT and John have now culminated in this: the Messiah has now come.

14  John already acknowledged he is not Elijah (John 1:21).  But he was "the Elijah who was to come," as Malachi said (Malachi 4:5).  The angel Gabriel said that John would "go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah" (Luke 1:17).  And John did look like Elijah too (2 Kings 1:8).

15  Whoever can receive it (understand this), let them receive it.

16  He's referring to the Pharisees here as they criticized Jesus for eating with tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 9:10-11, Luke 15:1-2).

17  Luke 7:32 says 'did not cry' instead of 'mourn' here.

These are two different kinds of games: a wedding game, then a funeral game.  Jesus is saying, 'we wanted you, Jesus, to dance and you didn't, we expected you to cry and mourn and you didn't... c'mon, Jesus!'

18  Luke specifies that it was 'eating bread and drinking wine.'  (Luke 7:33)

This fits with Luke's description of John: "for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born" (Luke 1:15).

19  I thought this was an interesting take:

"...reading Deuteronomy 21 this morning, it struck me that there is a darker undercurrent to this accusation thrown at Jesus by the self-righteous. Deuteronomy 21 includes the following passage...:

If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father and mother, who does not heed them when they discipline him, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his town at the gate of that place. They shall say to the elders of his town, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.‘ Then all the men of the town shall stone him to death. So you shall purge the evil from your midst; and all Israel will hear, and be afraid. (Deuteronomy 21:18-21)

In other words, those describing Jesus as “a glutton and a drunkard” were not making a random accusation: they were implying that he was a “rebellious son” who deserved to be stoned to death." (John Halton)

Luke 7:35 says, "But wisdom is proved right by all her children" instead of  'by her deeds'.
Wisdom is proved right by her actions- Jesus' actions and John's actions prove they are wisdom or living rightly.

[Pray]  God, being least in the kingdom is important to you.  You desire that I am a servant and humble; willing to wash others' dirty feet and associate with lowly people, not seeking to be honored by men.  Help me to walk in this.  In Jesus name, Amen.

[Live]  Serve others humbly.  Don't think too highly of myself.  Associate with those in low positions.


D.A. Carson, The Expositor's Bible Commentary: Matthew, Volume 8 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984).
John Halton, "A Glutton and a Drunkard?" (from http://confessingevangelical.com/2010/01/26/a-glutton-and-a-drunkard/)
Matthew_11

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Parousia

The return of Jesus (parousia, pronounced 'par-ew-see-uh).

The Bible says Jesus is coming back.  He will return for his bride and usher in his kingdom.

So when will the Son of Man (Jesus) return?  Is Jesus saying it will happen in the lifetime of his disciples, to whom he is speaking to here:

When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another.  Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.  (Matthew 10:23)

For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.  "Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."  (Matthew 16:27-28; also Mark 9:1, Luke 9:27)

Or is Jesus saying he doesn't know when the Son of Man is to return:

[Jesus says:] "But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."  (Matthew 24:36, Mark 13:32)

And if Jesus knew the time of his return, why would he tell the disciples this (following his resurrection):

He [Jesus] said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority..."  (Acts 1:7)

Were the disciples getting too specific here?  Was Jesus trying to tell them it will happen in your lifetime but don't ask me to be more specific because I don't really know (only God knows)... I told you all I know...?  Or did Jesus not really know (Matthew 24:36, Mark 13:32) but thought he would be specific anyway only to be proven wrong later (as we know the disciples have died but Christ has not yet returned)?

I don't think so.  This is what I think is going on:

Christ spoke of a coming (judgment) with a time frame he was certain of.

Christ spoke of another coming (judgment) of a date he knew not; only the Father in heaven knows.  It is this "final coming" that he spoke at great lengths, saying all men must be ready for this return.

These 'comings' occur at different times.  He is describing different events.

When Christ speaks of a coming (judgment) with a definite time frame, he is speaking of the destruction of the temple (AD 70).

[Jesus says:] When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another.  Truly I tell you, you will not finish going through the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.  (Matthew 10:23)

Jesus here is speaking of when he will return to judge the Jews through the destruction of the temple (AD 70).  This section is part of his teaching on 'when this will happen' and 'the sign of his coming' and of 'the end of the age'.  In Matthew 24:2, the disciples ask him this question when Jesus tells them 'not one stone will be left on the temple' (the temple will be destroyed):

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”  (Matthew 24:3)

So this verse is part of when the temple will be destroyed; Jesus also speaks in Matthew 24 of the second coming that will happen at a later time.  Both are spoken of here, as both are relevant.

"Chrysostom (A.D. 347-407)... Chrysostom in interpreting Matthew 24:20 states: “ ‘Recall that this discourse is addressed to the Jews.’ He is speaking here of the ills that should overtake them. He is not speaking primarily to the apostles, who did not keep the Jewish Sabbath day. They were nowhere around when Vespasian did these things. Indeed, most of the apostles would soon be dead or in other distant parts of the world. It is to the Jews that he says, ‘Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath.’ ”...  In Matthew 24: 29-31, Chrysostom states: “The powers of heaven will tremble because of the terror of the judgment day.” And he further states, “The sign of the Son of man the cross shinning brighter than the sun, will appear in the sky.”  Interpreting verse 29, he states: “The sun shall be darkened, not destroyed. It will be overcome by the light of God’s presence.”  In regard to verse 30, he states: “‘Then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven.’”  In careful observations, it can be noticed that Chrysostom used the future tense “will” in his statements to the verses Matthew 24:29-31. This indicates that he only referred verse 20 as applicable to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, but the later verses indicates the future events."  (Joel Madasu, "Historical Analysis of Preterism from the Early Church")

One exception.  Matthew 16:28.

"Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."  (Matthew 16:28)

This one is likely not speaking of the destruction of the temple and the fall of Jerusalem based on the context of the passage.  Here Matthew speaks that some of them will see the Son of Man (Jesus) coming in his kingdom.  In all three synoptic accounts, this verse is immediately followed by the transfiguration (17:1-9) where 'some' of them- Peter, James, and John- see Jesus in his glory.

"This same promise, some of you are not standing, and so forth, some of you standing shall not see death, appears in Matthew, Mark and Luke. And in all three cases where it appears, it is immediately followed every single time by the same incident. So that what the Lord is simply doing is interpreting what He just said by what happens. "Some of you standing here shall not die till you see the Son of Man in regal splendor."  You know what they were about to get? A personal private preview of Second‑Coming glory. It's exactly what they were going to get. You want to get on it? Verse 1, "After six days, Jesus takes Peter, James and John his brother...." that's it, just those three, that's the sum who didn't die till they saw Him in regal splendor. The rest died, folks, before they saw Him in regal splendor because they haven't...He hasn't come in regal splendor yet. But these three weren't going to die until they saw this and it only came six days later, brought them into a high mountain privately, and He was transfigured before them. "And His face did shine like the sun. And His garment, or raiment, was as white as the light." (MacArthur, "Preview of the Second Coming, Part 1)

I don't think the case for the transfiguration is rock solid; it just seems to make the most sense with the best I can discern.

When Christ speaks of a coming (judgment) with a time frame unknown, he is speaking of his 'second coming' or the time when he will return to usher in the kingdom.

It is described as being 'soon' and 'near.'  Men and women are warned to be prepared:

The end of all things is near.  Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.  (1 Peter 4:7)

More verses:

The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. (Revelation 1:1)

He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon." Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. (Rev 22:20)

Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord's coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord's coming is near. Don't grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! (James 5:7-9)

For, "In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay."  (Hebrews 3:7)

The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.  (Matthew 25:5)

In Matthew 24:42-25:12, Jesus warns his disciples to keep watch because "you do not know on what day your Lord will come."



Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come.  This is how we know it is the last hour.  (1 John 2:18)

And the testimony of the apostolic/church fathers:

Clement (late first to early second century): "Of a truth, soon and suddenly shall His will be accomplished, as the Scripture also bears witness, saying, 'Speedily will He come, and will not tarry;' and, 'The Lord shall suddenly come to His temple, even the Holy One, for whom ye look." (The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, Ch. XXIII)

Ignatius [AD 30-107]: "The last times are come upon us. Let us therefore be of a reverent spirit, and fear the long-suffering of God, that it tend not to our condemnation." (The Shorter Epistle to the Ephesians, Ch. XI)

Didache (late first to early second century): "Watch for your life's sake. Let not your lamps be quenched, nor your loins unloosed; but be ye ready, for ye know not the hour in which our Lord cometh." (Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. VII, p 382)

Hippolytus of Rome (AD 202).  Notice he speaks of 'end times' events yet to come, despite writing after the destruction of the temple in AD 70:  "20. For in every respect that deceiver seeks to make himself appear like the Son of God. Christ is a lion, and Antichrist is a lion.  Christ is King of things celestial and things terrestrial, and Antichrist will be king upon earth.  The Saviour was manifested as a lamb; and he, too, will appear as a lamb, while he is a wolf within.  The Saviour was circumcised, and he in like manner will appear in circumcision. The Saviour sent the apostles unto all the nations, and he in like manner will send false apostles. Christ gathered together the dispersed sheep, and he in like manner will gather together the dispersed people of the Hebrews. Christ gave to those who believed on Him the honourable and life-giving cross, and he in like manner will give his own sign. Christ appeared in the form of man, and he in like manner will come forth in the form of man.  Christ arose from among the Hebrews, and he will spring from among the Jews. Christ displayed His flesh like a temple, and raised it up on the third day; and he too will raise up again the temple of stone in Jerusalem. And these deceits fabricated by him will become quite intelligible to those who listen to us attentively, from what shall be set forth next in order. 21 For through the Scriptures we are instructed in two advents of the Christ and Saviour.  And the first after the flesh was in humiliation, because He was manifested in lowly estate.  So then His second advent is declared to be in glory; for He comes from heaven with power, and angels, and the glory of His Father.  His first advent had John the Baptist as its forerunner; and His second, in which He is to come in glory, will exhibit Enoch, and Elias, and John the Divine.  Behold, too, the Lord's kindness to man; how even in the last times He shows His care for mortals, and pities them. For He will not leave us even then without prophets, but will send them to us for our instruction and assurance, and to make us give heed to the advent of the adversary, as He intimated also of old in this Daniel... For he says, I shall make a covenant of one week, and in the midst of the week my sacrifice and libation will be removed. For by one week he indicates the showing forth of the seven years which shall be in the last times. And the half of the week the two prophets, along with John, will take for the purpose of proclaiming to all the world the advent of Antichrist, that is to say, for a thousand two hundred and sixty days clothed in sackcloth; (Revelation 11:3) and they will work signs and wonders with the object of making men ashamed and repentant, even by these means, on account of their surpassing lawlessness and impiety."  (http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0504.htm)

The Apostles Creed [AD 390], affirmation #7, affirms that "He [Jesus] will come again to judge the living and the dead."  Again, if the early church believed end times events had been completed already with the judgment associated with the temple (AD 70), then why speak of Christ yet returning in the future unless his return is still to come...?

"The hope [early Christian writers] maintain is imminent but at the same time indeterminate." (Taylor, 43)


D.A. Carson:
The "coming of the Son of Man" here refers to his coming in judgment against the Jews, culminating in the sack of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple...  The coming of the Son of Man refers to the same event as the coming of the kingdom, even though the two expressions are conceptually complementary.  Thus the coming of the Son of Man brings in the consummated kingdom (24:30-31; 25:31).  But the kingdom, as we have seen, comes in stages (4:17; 12:28).  In one sense Jesus was born a king (2:2); in another he has all authority as a result of his passion and resurrection (28:18); and in yet another his kingdom awaits the end.  Mingled with this theme of the coming of the kingdom are Jesus' repeated warnings to the Jews concerning the disaster they are courting by failing to recognize and receive him.  In this he stands on the shoulders of the OT prophets; but his warnings are unique because he himself is the eschatological judge and because the messianic reign is now dawning in both blessing and wrath (8:11-12; 21:31-32).  Against this background the coming of the Son of Man in v. 23 marks that stage in the coming of the kingdom in which the judgment repeatedly foretold falls on the Jews.  With it the temple cultus disappears, and the new wine necessarily takes to new wineskins.  The age of the kingdom comes into its own, precisely because so many of the structured foreshadowings of the OT, bound up with the cultus and nation, now disappear (5:17-48).  The Son of Man comes... They will not have finished evangelizing the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes in judgment on Israel."  (Carson, 252-253)

John Piper's take:
"Just like the New Testament speaks of the coming of the kingdom of God in several stages and manifestations, it also helps to think of the coming of the Son of Man in several stages and manifestations. He came to earth the first time and died; he came as the risen Christ from the dead; he came in judgment in the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 by the Romans armies; he has come in power from time to time in Great Awakenings. And he will come in visible bodily form at the end of the age. So I take Matthew 10:23 to refer probably to the coming in judgment in AD 70. “When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes to judge the Israel”—which happened in a decisive way forty years later."  (Piper, "I am Sending You Out as Sheep Amongst Wolves")

C.S. Lewis on Albert Schweitzer and the parousia:
“Say what you like,” we shall be told [he is speaking of Albert Schweitzer and the like], “the apocalyptic beliefs of the first Christians have been proved to be false. It is clear from the New Testament that they all expected the Second Coming in their own lifetime. And, worse still, they had a reason, and one which you will find very embarrassing. Their Master had told them so. He shared, and indeed created, their delusion. He said in so many words, ‘this generation shall not pass till all these things be done.’ And he was wrong. He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else.”  It is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible. Yet how teasing, also, that within fourteen words of it should come the statement “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.” The one exhibition of error and the one confession of ignorance grow side by side. That they stood thus in the mouth of Jesus himself, and were not merely placed thus by the reporter, we surely need not doubt. Unless the reporter were perfectly honest he would never have recorded the confession of ignorance at all; he could have had no motive for doing so except a desire to tell the whole truth. And unless later copyists were equally honest they would never have preserved the (apparently) mistaken prediction about “this generation” after the passage of time had shown the (apparent) mistake. This passage (Mark 13:30-32) and the cry “Why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) together make up the strongest proof that the New Testament is historically reliable. The evangelists have the first great characteristic of honest witnesses: they mention facts which are, at first sight, damaging to their main contention.  The facts, then, are these: that Jesus professed himself (in some sense) ignorant, and within a moment showed that he really was so. To believe in the Incarnation, to believe that he is God, makes it hard to understand how he could be ignorant; but also makes it certain that, if he said he could be ignorant, then ignorant he could really be. For a God who can be ignorant is less baffling than a God who falsely professes ignorance. The answer of theologians is that the God-Man was omniscient as God, and ignorant as Man. This, no doubt, is true, though it cannot be imagined. Nor indeed can the unconsciousness of Christ in sleep be imagined, nor the twilight of reason in his infancy; still less his merely organic life in his mother's womb. But the physical sciences, no less than theology, propose for our belief much that cannot be imagined."  (Lewis, 97-99).


D.A. Carson, The Expositor's Bible Commentary: Matthew, Volume 8 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984).
C.S. Lewis, The World's Last Night and Other Essays.  New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1952.
John F. MacArthur, "Preview of the Second Coming, Part I" from http://www.gty.org/Resources/Sermons/2322.
Joel Madasu's Blog, "Historical Analysis of Preterism from the Early Church" from http://jmadasu.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/historical-analysis-of-preterism/
John Piper, "I am Sending You Out as Sheep Amongst Wolves" from www.desiringgod.org. 
Nicholas H. Taylor, "Early Christian Expectations Concerning the Return of Jesus: From Imminent Parousia to the Millennium." Journal of Theology for Southern Africa, 104, July 1999, 32-43.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Jesus Sends Out the Twelve (part 1)

[Read]  Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.  2 These are the names of the twelve apostles:  first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.  5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.  7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.  9 “Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts- 10 no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. 11 Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. 12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. 15 Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.  (Matthew 10:1-15)

[Meditate]

1  The story of how Jesus chose the twelve is recorded in Mark 3 and Luke 6:

Jesus went up on a mountainside [to pray; and Jesus spent the night praying to God, Luke 6:12] and called to him those he wanted [the next morning, Luke 6:13], and they came to him.  He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.  These are the twelve he appointed [whom he also designated apostles, Luke 6:13]...  (Mark 3:13-16)

"...somehow, I always had the impression that when Jesus called Peter, James, John, and Matthew, he was calling them to be one of the Twelve. But now, after rereading this and the other accounts of how Jesus chose the apostles, I don’t think that’s true. When Jesus first called them, he was simply asking them to follow him. They were just part of the larger group of Jesus’ disciples up until this point. Then, at some point in Jesus’ ministry, Jesus chose the twelve apostles from out of this larger group. Jesus had had some time to interact with the men who followed him, and had had some time to pray about who should be the leaders in the group...  I think Jesus personally asked each one in the larger group of disciples to follow him. This was a “by invitation only” group. There were crowds that followed Jesus around uninvited, but only the disciples who were asked left everything to follow Jesus, to disciple under him.  After some time with those he had called, Jesus chose the Twelve."  (Bradford, "Matthew 10:1-4")

Why did Jesus choose Judas?  It may have been because he knew Judas was part of "the plan" of the cross and dying for the sins of the world.  Bradford suggests another possibility- that Jesus, while he was taking on flesh as a man, had limited knowledge:

"Why would he need to spend all night in prayer about this [Luke 6:12] if he already knew everything?"  (Bradford, "Matthew 10:1-4")

About the fulfillment of the end times, Jesus does say:

But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (Mark 13:32)

Twelve is reminiscent of the twelve tribes of Israel (the 12 sons of Jacob/Israel, 1 Chronicles 2:1-2).

Mark 6:7 says Jesus sent them out two by two.

"The sending of two-by-two may allude back to Deuteronomy 19:15 where two witnesses are required for a testimony to be credible. A more practical reason would be the rigors and dangers of traveling back in those days."  (Stoffregen, "Luke 10.1-11, 16-20")

Impure spirits are demons (verse 8 and see Luke 9:1, Mark 3:15).

2  The word 'apostle' means "one sent" and is also used of Jesus in Hebrews 3:1, Paul by special dispensation (1 Cor 15:8-10) and of other disciples in Romans 16:7.

Lists of the 12 apostles are also found in Mark 3:16-19, Luke 6:13-16, and Acts 1:13.  When comparing the lists, Carson notes:  "Peter is always first, Judas Iscariot always last."  (Carson, 237)

Other observations he makes:

"Matthew uses 'first' in connection with Peter; the word cannot mean he was the first convert (Andrew or perhaps John was) and probably does not simply mean 'first on the list'... More likely it means primus inter pares ("first among equals")."  (Carson, 237)

"In each list there are three groups of four, each group headed by Peter, Philip, and James the son of Alphaeus respectively.  But within each group the order varies (even from Luke to Acts!) except that Judas is always last."  Carson believes this suggests the 12 were organized into smaller groups each with a leader.  "The commission in Mark 6:7 sent the men out two by two; perhaps this accounts for the pairing in the Greek text of Matthew 10:2-4."  (Carson, 237)

"...Mark lists Peter, James, John and appends Andrew, doubtless because the first three were an inner core... Matthew preserves the order suggested by sibling relationships.  He not only puts himself last in his group but mentions his less-than-savory past.  Is this a sign of Christian humility?"  (Carson, 237)

"Also named 'Didymus', which in Aramaic means 'Twin'... known for his doubt, he should also be known for his courage (John 11:16) and his profound confession (John 20:28)."  (Carson, 238)

5-6  Why does Jesus say 'go to the Jews' only?  Perhaps he wants them to go to the Jew first?  The disciples do get commissioned by Jesus to go to the Gentiles later (Acts 1:8).  Paul also speaks of a 'Jew first' order:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.  (Romans 1:16)

But why the Jew first?  The Jews are the subjects of the kingdom (Matthew 22:2-14, 8:12).  They have special priority because God chose them to be special to himself as his chosen people (Deuteronomy 7:7-8, 14:2; Amos 3:2).  By the Jews' rejection of the message, the Gentiles get grafted in (Matthew 22:8-10, Romans 11:11).  Jesus himself said he came for the Jews:

Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.  A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”  Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”  He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” (Matthew 15:21-24)

See also Acts 13:46, John 4:22, Galatians 4:4-5, Romans 2:9-10.  This phrase "the lost sheep of Israel" is used here also.  The Jews that are "his" (John 10:24-26) are the lost sheep of Israel:

“‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them.  As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.  I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. (Ezekiel 34:11-13)
More on the lost sheep:  Jeremiah 50:6, Luke 15:1-7, Psalm 119:176, Matthew 9:36.

7  Here Jesus says the 'kingdom of heaven is near' (also Matthew 3:2, 4:17).  What's the "kingdom of heaven"?  The kingdom of heaven may be synonymous with the kingdom of God (Walvoord disagrees, and his article is compelling: https://bible.org/article/kingdom-heaven).  Elsewhere recorded in the Scriptures, Jesus says the kingdom is at hand:  "But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you" (Matthew 12:28).  See also Luke 17:20-21.  So there's a present aspect to the kingdom.  The kingdom is also not yet (Matthew 5:19-20, 6:10, 7:21-23, 8:11-12; Mark 14:25; Luke 13:22-30).

So what does Jesus mean by saying here that the 'kingdom of heaven is near'?  A similar passage is found in the commissioning of the 70:

"Whatever city you enter and they receive you, eat what is set before you; and heal those in it who are sick, and say to them, `The kingdom of God has come near to you." (Luke 10:8-9)

The best I can tell is that Jesus is referring to the future aspect of the kingdom of heaven.  He's speaking as he (and John the Baptist) do elsewhere, impressing upon the people the imminence and the need to be ready for the kingdom to come.

We know from Mark's account that when the disciples went out from here, they preached the need for repentance: "They went out and preached that people should repent" (Mark 6:12).

This aspect of repentance is tied to John and Jesus saying, essentially, 'The kingdom of heaven is near.  Get right with God.'  The only other interpretation that makes sense to me is to take Luke 10:8-9 and say Jesus is trying to say 'by being healed and Jesus being here, the kingdom is essentially here.'  Which would fit better with Matthew 12:28.

8  He commissioned them to preach the message (verse 7) and to do acts of healing (gave them the ability in verse 1).

Mark tells us they did indeed drive out "many demons" and "anointed many sick people with oil and healed them" (Mark 6:13).

9  "Gold, silver, and copper refer either to money or to a supply of the metals that could be exchanged for goods or money."  (Carson, 245)

10  Were the apostles to bring a staff or not?  Matthew and Luke say no; Mark says yes:
  • Do not get any... no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep.  (Matthew 10:10)
  • Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts.  Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. (Mark 6:8-9)
  • “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt.  (Luke 9:3)
Carson's take:  "Mark permits 'taking' (airo) sandals and a staff (a walking stick) and forbids everything else (6:8); Matthew's account forbids 'procuring' (ktaomai) even sandals or a walking stick (v. 10).  It may be that Mark's account clarifies what the disciples are permitted to bring, whereas Matthew's assumes that the disciples already have certain things (one cloak, sandals, a walking stick) and forbids them from 'procuring' [acquiring] anything more... The imperative me ktesesthe ("Do not take along") more likely means "Do not procure [obtain] (as in Acts 1:18; 8:20; 22:28)... could mean either "Do not accept money [i.e. fill your moneybelt] for your ministry" or "Do not provide your belt with money when you start out."  The parallel in Mark 6:9 obviously means the latter."  (Carson, 245)

What about Luke's report?  Carson admits his interpretation breaks down here:

"Though the distinction between ktaomai and airo may work in Matthew and Mark, it fails in Luke, who uses airo but forbids a staff in 9:3 and sandals in 10:4... Many [other] solutions have been proposed, none altogether convincing."  (Carson, 247)

"The disciples needed to learn the principle that 'the worker is worth his keep' and to shun luxury while learning to rely on God's providence through the hospitality of those who would take them in overnight..."  (Carson, 245)

"Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not keep moving from house to house.  (Luke 10:7)

The principle is that the disciples should be supported by those who receive them.  They are worthy to receive (should be receiving?) the food and drink those who receive them are offering.  See also 1 Timothy 5:17 and 1 Corinthians 9:3-9, 14.

So regarding the gold, silver, copper and the bag, staff, sandals, extra shirt- Jesus, I think, is trying to communicate that your needs will be met.  You don't have to bring along these extra things you might need because you are worthy to be provided for by those who will receive you.  I believe Jesus was okay with them wearing sandals and bringing a walking stick, etc. but was saying 'your needs will be (and should be) met by those who receive you.'

11  "...worthy probably does not refer to a morally upright, honorable, or religious person but to one willing and able to receive an apostle of Jesus and the gospel of the kingdom- the opposite of 'dogs' and 'pigs' (7:6)."  (Carson, 245)

13  "let your peace return to you" = don't stay (says Carson, 246)

14  Mark and Luke's accounts add Jesus saying "shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them" (Mark 3:11, Luke 9:5).

"A pious Jew, on leaving Gentile territory, might remove from his feet and clothes all dust of the pagan land now being left behind (Strack-Billerbeck, 1:571), thus dissociating himself from the pollution of those lands and the judgment in store for them.  For the disciples to do this to Jewish homes and towns would be a symbolic way of saying that the emissaries of Messiah now view those places as pagan, polluted, and liable to judgment (Acts 13:51, 18:6)."  (Carson, 246)

15  Why would it be more bearable on the day of judgment for Sodom and Gomorrah than for a town that will not welcome or listen to the words of the disciples?

God used Sodom and Gomorrah as examples of what is going to happen to the "ungodly":

...if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly...  (2 Peter 2:6)

In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire. (Jude 1:7)

Here Jesus is making a comparison with Sodom and Gomorrah to underscore the consequences of failing to receive the apostles and their message of the kingdom and repentance.

[Live]  None.


Mark Bradford, "Matthew 10:1-4" (http://mark-bradfordsbibleblog.wordpress.com).
D.A. Carson, The Expositor's Bible Commentary: Matthew, Volume 8 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984).
Brian Stoffregen, "Luke 10.1-11, 16-20" (http://www.crossmarks.com/brian/luke10x1.htm).
Matthew_10

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Jesus Heals the Blind and Mute

[Read]  As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!”  28 When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”  “Yes, Lord,” they replied.  29 Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you”; 30 and their sight was restored. Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no one knows about this.” 31 But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region.  32 While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. 33 And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”  34 But the Pharisees said, “It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.”  (Matthew 9:27-34)

[Meditate]

27  "Matthew uses this designation, Son of David, for Jesus most frequently of the evangelists." (Van Elderen, 8)

"Seventeen verses in the New Testament describe Jesus as the "son of David." But the question arises, how could Jesus be the son of David if David lived approximately 1000 years before Jesus? The answer is that Christ (the Messiah) was the fulfillment of the prophecy of the seed of David (2 Samuel 7:14-16). Jesus was the promised Messiah, which meant He was of the seed of David.  Matthew 1 gives the genealogical proof that Jesus, in His humanity, was a direct descendant of Abraham and David through Joseph, Jesus' legal father. The genealogy in Luke chapter 3 gives Jesus' lineage through His mother, Mary. Jesus is a descendant of David, by adoption through Joseph, and by blood through Mary.  Primarily though, when Christ was referred to as the Son of David, it was meant to refer to His Messianic title as the Old Testament prophesied concerning Him.  Jesus was addressed as “Lord, thou son of David” several times by people who, by faith, were seeking mercy or healing. The woman whose daughter was being tormented by a demon (Matthew 15:22), the two blind men by the wayside (Matthew 20:30), and blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:47), all cried out to the son of David for help. The titles of honor they gave Him declared their faith in Him. Calling Him Lord expressed their sense of His deity, dominion, and power, and by calling Him “son of David,” they were professing Him to be the Messiah.  The Pharisees, too, understood what was meant when they heard the people calling Jesus “son of David.” But unlike those who cried out in faith, they were so blinded by their own pride and lack of understanding of the Scriptures that they couldn’t see what the blind beggars could see – that here was the Messiah they had supposedly been waiting for all their lives. They hated Jesus because He wouldn’t give them the honor they thought they deserved, so when they heard the people hailing Jesus as the Savior, they became enraged (Matthew 21:15) and plotted to destroy Him (Luke 19:47)... Jesus Christ... the son of David, both in a physical sense and a spiritual sense." (GotQuestions.org)

28  The blind men are now following Jesus indoors.

"Apparently Jesus was returning from the ruler's house [Jairus' house] (v. 23) either to his own house (4:13) or to that of Matthew (v. 10, 28- the article in Greek implies it was either his own dwelling or the one previously mentioned)."  (Carson, 232)

29  "In this case, and the case of Bartimaeus, he merely touched their eyes, and they were cured (20:34). When he healed the blind man at Bethsaida, he used saliva (Mark 8:22-26). With the man born blind in John 9:1-12, he used saliva to make mud, and put in on the man’s eyes." (Bradford, "Matthew 9:27-34")

" 'According to your faith' does not mean 'in proportion to your faith' (so much faith, so much sight) but rather 'since you believe, your request is granted'- "your faith has healed you" (v. 22)."  (Carson, 233)

30  Jesus had previously told someone else he healed not to tell anyone else what had happened and he would do it again (Matthew 8:4, 12:16, 16:20, 17:9).  The time was not yet.

32  "The word kophos (could not talk) in classical, Hellenistic, and biblical Greek means 'deaf' or 'dumb' or 'deaf mute'; the two ailments are commonly linked, especially if deafness is congenital.  Perhaps the man here (v. 32) was not only mute but a deaf mute."  (Carson, 234)

33  "Within the Judaism of Jesus’ day, as tradition had been passed down over the centuries, a system had been developed to cast out demons from people who had been possessed. This system was made up of a three-part ritual. First, the exorcist would have to make verbal contact with the demon, which would speak through its victim. Second, the exorcist would demand to know the name of the demon. Third, the exorcist would then command the demon to leave the body of its victim. This was the ritual used by the rabbis in Jesus’ day, and it even survives today in this basic form within the Roman Catholic Church.  Jesus used this system when He was confronted by the demon-possessed man in the area of the Gerasenes.  Before Jesus cast out the demon He demanded to know its name. The demon responded by saying, "My name is Legion, for we are many." Then Jesus cast these demons into the pigs, which then ran off a cliff and drowned (Mark 5)."  (Red Moon Rising, "Who Was Jesus?")

What was unusual was not that there was demon exorcism:

"The casting out of demons was not a terribly unusual miracle. However, there was a certain type of demon that was beyond the reach of the traditional rabbinic system. In some cases a demon would possess a mute person or cause its victim to go mute. In this way the exorcist would not be able to make verbal contact with the demon and could not command it to leave."  (Red Moon Rising, "Who Was Jesus?")

The unusual part was that the demon was cast out of a mute person.

"The belief in that culture was that you could only cast a demon out by knowing its true name. Therefore, a demon that caused muteness could not be cast out because its name could not be learned. That’s why the crowd was amazed, because Jesus was able to drive out a demon from a man who could not speak... It may have seemed logical to some [the Pharisees that accuse him here] that Jesus knew the demon’s name without being told because he was in league with them."  (Bradford, "Matthew 9:27-34")

34  In Matthew 12:24 also the Pharisees accuse Jesus of driving out demons by the prince of demons.

This verse is curiously missing from the Western textual tradition.  Some scholars believe it's an intrusion from 12:24.  I don't see an issue; in this case the demon-possessed man is said to be mute; in Matthew 12 the man is mute and also blind (12:22).

[Pray]  God, would I have faith like these three men who came in their need and asked of Jesus.  In Jesus name, Amen.

[Live]  Walk in faith.


Mark Bradford, "Matthew 9:27-34" (http://mark-bradfordsbibleblog.wordpress.com).
D.A. Carson, The Expositor's Bible Commentary: Matthew, Volume 8 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984).
Got Questions: http://www.gotquestions.org/Jesus-son-of-David.html
Red Moon Rising:  http://www.redmoonrising.com/truthforfreedom/JESUS.htm
Bastiaan Van Elderen, "The Significance of the Structure of Matthew 1," found in Chronos, Kairos, Christos (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1989).
Matthew_9

Thursday, December 05, 2013

A Dead Girl and a Sick Woman

[Read]  18 While he was saying this, a synagogue leader came and knelt before him and said, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.” 19 Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples. 20 Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. 21 She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”  22 Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment. 23 When Jesus entered the synagogue leader’s house and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes, 24 he said, “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. 25 After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. 26 News of this spread through all that region.  (Matthew 9:18-26)

[Meditate]

18  Mark says, "When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake" (Mark 5:21).  "Luke's account tells us "Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him" (Luke 8:40).  Luke and Mark say the synagogue leader's name was Jairus (Luke 8:41, Mark 5:22) and that when he saw Jesus, he fell at Jesus' feet (Luke 8:40, Mark 5:22) pleading with him to come to his house (Luke 8:41).  Luke says Jairus' only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying (Luke 8:42, Mark 5:23).

They must have been in the synagogue in Capernaum (Matthew 9:1), where Jesus lived.

Matthew links this account with the previous discussion Jesus has with John's disciples and the Pharisees about fasting.

This was not a small thing that the ruler of a synagogue was kneeling/bowing before Jesus.

It should be noted:  "Jairus thought Jesus needed to be there in person to heal his daughter. The synagogue ruler had less faith than a Gentile [the centurion, Matthew 8]. That’s why Jesus was so astonished at the centurion’s faith, and said he had not found anyone in Israel with such great faith."  (Bradford, "Matthew 9:18-26")

20  Luke adds the following:  "As Jesus was on his way [with Jairus], the crowds almost crushed him.  And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her." (Luke 8:42-43)  Mark says the large crowd followed Jesus (Mark 5:24).  About the woman, Mark says "She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse" (Mark 5:26).

Perhaps the nature of her disease (unclean, Leviticus 15:26) was reason that she touched him from behind.

"Strictly speaking, she should not have been in this crowd, where she could be contaminating many others; and most certainly she should not have been touching Jesus."  (Carson, 229)

21  Mark says her bleeding stopped immediately and "she was freed from her suffering" once she touched Jesus' cloak (Mark 5:29).

22  Luke provides a fuller account here.  After the woman touches Jesus' cloak, Jesus asks, "Who touched me?" (8:45).  Then, "When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”  (Mark's account says " “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”  But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it.  But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”  Mark 5:31-32) Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling (Mark says "trembling with fear", Mark 5:33) and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed.  Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” " (8:45-48)  Mark says Jesus realized the power had gone out from him at once (Mark 5:30) and then turned around in the crowd to ask who touched his clothes.

The reason she was trembling with fear:  "Because being unclean, any rabbi would have rebuked her severely for touching him."  (BibleStudyTools)

23-24  Again, Luke provides more to the story:  "While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher anymore.”  Hearing this (Mark says Jesus overheard), Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.”  When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother.  Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.”  They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead.  (Luke 8:49-53)

Why the pipes or flutes?:  "Even to this day Oriental funerals are characterized by noisy uproar and frantic demonstrations of sorrow, made by real and hired mourners. Flute-players, then as now, mingle the plaintive strains of their instruments with the piercing cries of those females who made mourning a profession."  (BibleStudyTools)

Jesus makes a similar comment about Lazarus (who had been dead for four days) being asleep in John 11:11.

"The least that Jesus meant by this contrast between sleep and death was that in this instance the real death of the girl was not as final as the mourners thought."  (Carson, 229)

25-26  Mark 5:40 says that after the crowd was put outside, Jesus "took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was."  Luke's account:  "But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” 55 Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up (Mark 5:42 adds that she also immediately began to walk around). Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened."  (Luke 8:54-56)

"Talitha cumi" (Aramaic), as Mark says.

[Pray]  God, would I live by faith while there's still time.  Here in your word we see examples of people who lived by faith, and I am reminded of the centurion who had "great faith".  Would I have that kind of faith.  In Jesus name, Amen.

[Live]  Live by faith while there's still time.


BibleStudyTools: http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/the-fourfold-gospel/by-sections/jairus-daughter-and-the-invalid-woman.html
Mark Bradford, "Matthew 9:18-26" (http://mark-bradfordsbibleblog.wordpress.com).
D.A. Carson, Jesus' Sermon on the Mount and his Confrontation with the World (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1987).

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Jesus Questioned About Fasting

[Read]  14 Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”  15 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.  16 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17 Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined.  No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:14-17)

[Meditate]

14  Both Mark and Luke's accounts tell us that John's disciples and also the Pharisees were fasting at this time (Mark 2:18, Luke 5:33). Luke's account says the claim is they both fast and pray often.

Who is speaking to Jesus here?  Luke says "They said to him..." leaving the question unanswered.  Matthew says it was John's disciples, while Mark says it was "some people" (Mark 2:18).

The fasting was from "eating and drinking" as Luke 5:33 explains.  Many Christians today believe fasting can include things such as television and entertainment.  Fine.  Originally it was food and drink.

15  Mark and Luke use the word 'fast' (Mark 2:19, Luke 5:34) instead of 'mourn'.  He also answers the question here by saying, "They cannot, so long as they have him with them." (Mark 2:19)

"Fasting, in Jewish culture at that time, was associated with mourning. John and his disciples fasted as a sign of mourning over their sin, and the sin of Israel."  (Bradford, "Matthew 9:14-17")

"In the Old Testament God had pictured himself as the husband [or bridegroom] of his people Israel (Isaiah 62:4-5.; Jeremiah 2:2; 3:20; Ezekiel 16:8; Hosea 2:19-20).  Now his Son, the Messiah, the long hoped-for one, has come and he claims to be the Bridegroom—that is, the husband of his people, who will be the true Israel (cf. John 3:29). This is the kind of partially veiled claim Jesus made about his identity with God. If you had ears to hear, you could hear it."  (Piper, "When the Bridegroom is Taken Away")

"After a thousand years of dreaming and longing and hoping and waiting, he is here! The absence of fasting in the band of disciples was a witness to the presence of God in their midst."  (Piper, "When the Bridegroom is Taken Away")

"Jesus replies to them that his disciples were not mourning for the same reason that wedding guests don’t mourn during the wedding. The time for mourning would come soon enough for Jesus’ disciples. It would come sooner than they thought. And Jesus was certainly not against fasting. He had just taught his disciples on the subject of fasting (6:16-18)."  (Bradford, "Matthew 9:14-17")

And when the bridegroom (Jesus) was taken from them, they did fast:

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.  (Acts 13:2-3)

Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.   (Acts 14:23)

The Didache (written before the year AD 120) on fasting:

"Let not your fasts be with the hypocrites, for they fast on Mondays and Thursdays, but do your fast on Wednesdays and Fridays." (7:1)

Calvin (16th century) on fasting:

"Let us say something about fasting, because many, for want of knowing its usefulness, undervalue its necessity, and some reject it as almost superfluous; while, on the other hand where the use of it is not well understood, it easily degenerates into superstition. Holy and legitimate fasting is directed to three ends; for we practice it either as a restraint on the flesh, to preserve it from licentiousness, or as a preparation for prayers and pious meditations, or as a testimony of our humiliation in the presence of God when we are desirous of confessing our guilt before him."  (Institutes, IV.12, 14, 15)

16  Luke has an interesting reading:  "He told them this parable: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old." (Luke 5:36)

"To repair a large rent in an old and well-shrunk cloth, it is necessary to use a patch that is similarly well-shrunk.  The two parts must be compatible."  (Carson, 215)

17  At the end of Luke's passage, he adds the following:  "And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’” (Luke 5:39)

"Skin bottles for carrying various fluids were normally made by killing and skinning an animal, sewing up all orifices, fur side out, after tanning the skin with special care to reduce the possibility of disagreeable taste in the liquid to be stored.  Eventually such a skin bottle became brittle.  If new wine, still fermenting, were stored there, the fermentation gases could easily exert enough pressure to split the bottle.  New wine was therefore placed in new wineskins, if at all possible, because they would still be pliable and somewhat elastic, and therefore less likely to split open."  (Carson, 215)

"New wine that is still fermenting expands and will cause old skins to burst if new wine is poured into them."  (Wilkins, 369)

There are three comparisons Jesus gives between something old and something new:  1, garment (old vs. new).  2, wineskins (old vs. new).  3, wine (old vs. new).  Something new or different is going on here.  The bridegroom has come.  We can't put it in the old contents.  You can't take the bridegroom and celebration and try to mix that with mourning and fasting.  Yet there are some (the Pharisees and perhaps John the Baptist's disciples) that want to see the disciples of the bridegroom mourn and fast, claiming the old is better (c'mon, Jesus- your disciples should be fasting and mourning!).

[Pray]  God, would I not ignore fasting.  And when I do fast, would it be for the right reasons- in seeking you and remembering that I don't live on food alone.  In Jesus name, Amen.

[Live]  Fast as either as a discipline for controlling the body, or as part of seeking the Lord in prayer, or as part of confessing and grieving sins.


Mark Bradford, "Matthew 9:14-17" (http://mark-bradfordsbibleblog.wordpress.com).
D.A. Carson, Jesus' Sermon on the Mount and his Confrontation with the World (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1987).
John Piper, "When the Bridegroom is Taken Away They Will Fast With New Wineskins" (http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/when-the-bridegroom-is-taken-away-they-will-fast-with-new-wineskins)
Michael J. Wilkins, Matthew: From Biblical Text- to Contemporary Life, NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004)
Matthew_9