Servant leaders (Mt 20:25-20:27)

“But Jesus called them

To himself.

He said.

‘You know

That the rulers

Of the gentiles

Lord it over them.

Their great men

Are tyrants over them.

It will not be so

Among you.

Whoever wishes to be great

Among you

Must be your servant.

Whoever wishes to be first,

Among you

Must be your slave.’”

 

ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς προσκαλεσάμενος αὐτοὺς εἶπεν Οἴδατε ὅτι οἱ ἄρχοντες τῶν ἐθνῶν κατακυριεύουσιν αὐτῶν καὶ οἱ μεγάλοι κατεξουσιάζουσιν αὐτῶν.

οὐχ οὕτως ἐστὶν ἐν ὑμῖν· ἀλλ’ ὃς ἐὰν θέλῃ ἐν ὑμῖν μέγας γενέσθαι, ἔσται ὑμῶν διάκονος,

καὶ ὃς ἂν θέλῃ ἐν ὑμῖν εἶναι πρῶτος, ἔσται ὑμῶν δοῦλος·

 

There is something similar to this in Mark, chapter 10:42-44, almost word for word, and Luke 22:26, but slightly different.  Jesus called his 12 leaders to himself (ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς προσκαλεσάμενος αὐτοὺς) because of this dispute among them.  He told them that they knew that the gentile rulers, the Romans and the Greeks, lorded it over their people (ἶπεν Οἴδατε ὅτι οἱ ἄρχοντες τῶν ἐθνῶν κατακυριεύουσιν αὐτῶν).  Their great men acted like tyrants, exercising authority (καὶ οἱ μεγάλοι κατεξουσιάζουσιν αὐτῶν).  However, Jesus reminded them that it was not going to be like that among them (οὐχ οὕτως ἐστὶν ἐν ὑμῖν), the early Christian leaders, the 12.  Whoever wanted to be great among them must be their servant or waiter (ἀλλ’ ὃς ἐὰν θέλῃ ἐν ὑμῖν μέγας γενέσθαι, ἔσται ὑμῶν διάκονος).  Whoever wanted to be first among them (καὶ ὃς ἂν θέλῃ ἐν ὑμῖν εἶναι πρῶτος) must be their slave (ἔσται ὑμῶν δοῦλος).  Clearly, Jesus wanted his new leaders not to be like the gentile Roman leaders, but true leaders who served their people.  The early 12 apostolic leaders must practice servant leadership, not dictatorial leadership.

The simple explanation of the parable (Mt 20:16-20:16)

“Thus,

The last will be first.

The first will be last.”

 

Οὕτως ἔσονται οἱ ἔσχατοι πρῶτοι καὶ οἱ πρῶτοι ἔσχατοι.

 

This simple explanation of the parable of the day laborers is unique to Matthew.  Thus, the last ones will be the first ones (Οὕτως ἔσονται οἱ ἔσχατοι πρῶτοι) and the first ones will be the last ones (καὶ οἱ πρῶτοι ἔσχατοι).  There are no special places in the kingdom of heaven.  There will be a role reversal.  Those who think that they were first here on earth will be the opposite in the kingdom of heaven.  The last will be the first.  This long parable was nothing more than a repeat of the same saying that was earlier in chapter 19:30 with similar statements in Mark, chapter 10:31 and Luke, chapter 13:30.  Thus, a change in status was part of the kingdom of heaven.

The return of the evil spirits (Mt 12:44-12:45)

“Then this unclean spirit says.

‘I will return

To my house,

From which I came.’

When he comes,

This spirit finds it empty.

It is swept.

It is put in order.

Then the unclean spirit goes

And brings along

Seven other spirits

More evil than itself.

They enter there.

They live there.

The last state of that person

Is worse than the first.

Thus,

It will it be also

With this evil generation.”

 

τότε λέγει Εἰς τὸν οἶκόν μου ἐπιστρέψω ὅθεν ἐξῆλθον· καὶ ἐλθὸν εὑρίσκει σχολάζοντα καὶ σεσαρωμένον καὶ κεκοσμημένον.

τότε πορεύεται καὶ παραλαμβάνει μεθ’ ἑαυτοῦ ἑπτὰ ἕτερα πνεύματα πονηρότερα ἑαυτοῦ, καὶ εἰσελθόντα κατοικεῖ ἐκεῖ· καὶ γίνεται τὰ ἔσχατα τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐκείνου χείρονα τῶν πρώτων. οὕτως ἔσται καὶ τῇ γενεᾷ ταύτῃ τῇ πονηρᾷ.

 

This saying about the returning unclean spirit can also be found word for word in Luke, chapter 11:25-26, indicating a Q source.  This implies a failed exorcism or a failed healing, so that the evil unclean spirit would return with more evil spirits.  Thus, the final state of that person would be worse than it was in the beginning.  This unclean spirit said to itself that it would return to its house or the place or person that it had come from (τότε λέγει Εἰς τὸν οἶκόν μου ἐπιστρέψω ὅθεν ἐξῆλθον).  Nothing had been put in its place, because this unclean spirit found it empty or unoccupied (καὶ ἐλθὸν εὑρίσκει σχολάζοντα), swept clean (καὶ σεσαρωμένον) and in order, newly decorated (καὶ κεκοσμημένον).  Thus, the unclean spirit went and brought 7 more evil spirits (τότε πορεύεται καὶ παραλαμβάνει μεθ’ ἑαυτοῦ ἑπτὰ ἕτερα πνεύματα πονηρότερα ἑαυτοῦ).  All these evil spirits entered and lived there (καὶ εἰσελθόντα κατοικεῖ ἐκεῖ·).  Finally, the last state of that person would be worse than the original situation (καὶ γίνεται τὰ ἔσχατα τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἐκείνου χείρονα τῶν πρώτων).  Thus, it would be the same for this evil generation (οὕτως ἔσται καὶ τῇ γενεᾷ ταύτῃ τῇ πονηρᾷ).  Jesus had just called this generation evil in chapter 12:19.

Protestant Reformation

The Augustinian priest, Martin Luther (1483-1546) was one of the first to point out that Scripture alone, without the Church interpretation was enough.  With the invention of the printing press in the late 15th century and the growth of the new vernacular languages, printing and translating the Bible was an important element in the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century.  Sermons on Bible readings took on a new importance.  The printed Bible book also became an icon.  There were immediate difficulties within this reform movement over the question of the clear meaning of Scripture.  Each group and even each individual within the group began to interpret Scripture as they saw fit.

A new vision (Zech 1:7-1:7)

“On the twenty-fourth day

Of the eleventh month,

The month of Shebat,

In the second year

Of King Darius,

The word of Yahweh

Came to the prophet Zechariah,

The son of Berechiah,

The son of Iddo.”

This apparently is the first of 8 visions that Zechariah had.  This oracle of Yahweh took place on the 24th day of the 11th month in the 2nd year of King Darius, either late 520 BCE or early 519 BCE.  This month was called Shebat.  Once again, there is a mention of Zechariah’s lineage, via Berechiah and Iddo, with Iddo the most well-known.

The flowing water leads to a river (Ezek 47:3-47:5)

“Going on eastward,

With a cord in his hand,

The man measured

One thousand cubits.

Then he led me

Through the water.

It was ankle-deep.

Again,

He measured

One thousand cubits.

He led me

Through the water.

It was knee-deep.

Again,

He measured

One thousand cubits.

He led me

Through the water.

It was up to the waist.

Again,

He measured

One thousand cubits.

It was a river

That I could not cross.

The water had risen.

It was deep enough

To swim in,

A river

That could not be crossed.”

The bronze man took a cord and started to measure the flowing water from the Temple. For the first 1,000 cubits or 1,500 feet, or a little over a quarter mile, the water was only ankle-deep. He then led Ezekiel across this small stream. However, the next measured 1,000 cubits or quarter mile, the water was knee high. Once again, he led Ezekiel across this knee-high water. After the 3rd measurement of 1,000 cubits or over a quarter mile, the water was waist high. Ezekiel then waded through this waist-high water. Finally, after another 1,000 cubits or another quarter mile, it was a mighty river that Ezekiel could not cross, except by swimming, because it was so deep. Thus, there was a river, a little over a mile from the eastern gate of the Temple.

The inspectors at Modein (1 Macc 2:15-2:18)

“The king’s officers who were enforcing the apostasy came to the city of Modein to make them offer sacrifice. Many from Israel came to them. Mattathias and his sons were assembled. Then the king’s officers spoke to Mattathias as follows.

‘You are a leader,

Honored and great in this city,

Supported by sons and brothers.

Now be the first to come.

Do what the king commands,

As all the gentiles

And the men of Judah

And those that are left in Jerusalem have done.

Then you and your sons

Will be numbered among the friends of the king.

You and your sons will be honored with silver, gold, and many gifts.’”

These inspectors of the king were zealous. They came to Modein to make sure that the Israelites there were offering the correct sacrifices. Mattathias and his sons were assembled there. These inspectors spoke specifically to Mattathias and his sons. They said that he and his sons were honored and great. They should be the first to follow the king’s command to sacrifice to the idols since everyone elsewhere had done the same. If they were to be first in Modein, they would become friends of the king, a special title that the Persian kings often used. They would be honored with silver, gold, and other gifts.