The first greatest commandment (Mt 22:37-22:38)

“Jesus said to him.

‘You shall love

The Lord,

Your God

With all your heart,

With all your soul,

And with all your mind.’

This is the greatest commandment.

This is the first commandment.”

 

ὁ δὲ ἔφη αὐτῷ Ἀγαπήσεις κύριον τὸν Θεόν σου ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ καρδίᾳ σου καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ ψυχῇ σου καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ διανοίᾳ σου.

αὕτη ἐστὶν ἡ μεγάλη καὶ πρώτη ἐντολή.

 

The response of Jesus can be found also in Mark, chapter 12:29-30, where there is the Shema cry for Israel to listen.  In Luke, chapter 10:27-28, Jesus responded that he had given the right answer to the question.  Here, in Matthew, it is separate from the love of neighbor, which is the 2nd commandment.  This Shema can be found in Deuteronomy, chapter 6:4-5.  These verses have had a great influence on the Israelites as the great commandment that is recited often and written all over the place on their hands, forehead, and door posts.  It is both a morning and an evening prayer, something you say at home and when you are away from home.  The Israelites were to teach their children this simple prayer.  Jesus and the early Christian followers will repeat this in the gospel stories of the New Testament as the great commandment of love of God.  This ‘Shema’ became the basis of the Abrahamic religions, the great commandment of monotheism and love that must always be remembered.  Jesus told this lawyer (ὁ δὲ ἔφη αὐτῷ) that he should love the Lord (Ἀγαπήσεις κύριον), his God (τὸν Θεόν σου) with his whole heart (ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ καρδίᾳ σου), his whole soul (καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ ψυχῇ σου), and his whole mind (καὶ ἐν ὅλῃ τῇ διανοίᾳ σου).  This was the greatest (αὕτη ἐστὶν ἡ μεγάλη) and the first commandment (καὶ πρώτη ἐντολή).  Just be a good human Jewish person and love God above all else with your whole being, heart, soul, and mind.

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The absentee land owner of the vineyard (Mt 21:33-21:33)

“Listen to another parable!

There was a landowner

Who planted a vineyard.

He put a fence around it.

He dug a wine press in it.

He built a watchtower.

Then he leased it

To tenants.

He went away

To another country.”

 

Ἄλλην παραβολὴν ἀκούσατε. Ἄνθρωπος ἦν οἰκοδεσπότης ὅστις ἐφύτευσεν ἀμπελῶνα, καὶ φραγμὸν αὐτῷ περιέθηκεν καὶ ὤρυξεν ἐν αὐτῷ ληνὸν καὶ ᾠκοδόμησεν πύργον, καὶ ἐξέδετο αὐτὸν γεωργοῖς, καὶ ἀπεδήμησεν.

 

This parable of the absentee landowner can be found in Mark, chapter 12:1, word for word, and Luke, chapter 20:9, almost word for word.  Jesus wanted them to listen to another parable or story (Ἄλλην παραβολὴν ἀκούσατε) about a male landowner (Ἄνθρωπος ἦν οἰκοδεσπότης), who planted a vineyard (ὅστις ἐφύτευσεν ἀμπελῶνα).  He then put a fence around it (καὶ φραγμὸν αὐτῷ περιέθηκεν) and dug a wine press in it (καὶ ὤρυξεν ἐν αὐτῷ ληνὸν).  He even built a fortified watchtower (καὶ ᾠκοδόμησεν πύργον).  This seemed like a very nice vineyard.  This was reminiscent of the allegory of the vineyard of Isaiah, chapter 5:1-2.  Isaiah had a song about a friend’s fertile field.  He also dug out stones and planted choice vines.  He put a tower in the middle to look over the vineyard with a carved wine vat there also.  However, he got bad grapes instead of good grapes.  Clearly, he did not get what he expected.  However, this landowner here leased his land or rented it to farmer tenants (καὶ ἐξέδετο αὐτὸν γεωργοῖς).  Then he left that region and went away to another country (ἀπεδήμησεν).  These last two things, renting and leaving the land will cause him a problem.

The young man walked away (Mt 19:22-19:22)

“When the young man

Heard this word,

He went away grieving.

He had many possessions.”

 

ἀκούσας δὲ ὁ νεανίσκος τὸν λόγον ἀπῆλθεν λυπούμενος· ἦν γὰρ ἔχων κτήματα πολλά.

 

This story about the young man walking away can be found in Mark, chapter 10:22, and Luke, chapter 18:23, but slightly different.  When the young man heard this saying of Jesus (ἀκούσας δὲ ὁ νεανίσκος τὸν λόγον), he went away pained or grieving (ἀπῆλθεν λυπούμενος), because he had many possessions or a lot of property (ἦν γὰρ ἔχων κτήματα πολλά).  This rich young man was willing to listen to Jesus but could not bring himself to totally commit his life, by giving up his worldly possessions.  Thus, he went away very sad because he realized his own situation.

Let your brother become a gentile (Mt 18:16-18:17)

“But if you are not listened to,

Take one

Or two others

Along with you.

Thus,

Every word may be confirmed

By the evidence

Of two

Or three witnesses.

If he refuses to listen

To them,

Tell it to the church.

If he refuses

To listen even to the church,

Let him be to you

As a gentile

And a tax collector.”

 

ἐὰν δὲ μὴ ἀκούσῃ, παράλαβε μετὰ σοῦ ἔτι ἕνα ἢ δύο, ἵνα ἐπὶ στόματος δύο μαρτύρων ἢ τριῶν σταθῇ πᾶν ῥῆμα·

ἐὰν δὲ παρακούσῃ αὐτῶν, εἰπὸν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ· ἐὰν δὲ καὶ τῆς ἐκκλησίας παρακούσῃ, ἔστω σοι ὥσπερ ὁ ἐθνικὸς καὶ ὁ τελώνης.

 

This saying about the brother who would not listen to reprimands is unique to Matthew.  This exchange seems to imply a solid structure with specific rules and regulations, not a band of itinerant healing preachers.  If you were not successful with reprimanding your brother, because he would not listen to you (ἐὰν δὲ μὴ ἀκούσῃ), you were to take one or two others with you (παράλαβε μετὰ σοῦ ἔτι ἕνα ἢ δύο).  This is almost like a Jewish religious court case based on Deuteronomy, chapter 19:15, where a single witness would not be enough to convict a person of any crime or wrong-doing.  They needed the evidence of two or three witnesses, since one person was not sufficient enough to convict anyone of any crime.  There had to be at least 2 or 3 witnesses to sustain a charge.  Thus, the testimony of 2 or 3 witnesses might strengthen or confirm every word (ἵνα ἐπὶ στόματος δύο μαρτύρων ἢ τριῶν σταθῇ πᾶν ῥῆμα).  If your brother still refused to listen to them (ἐὰν δὲ παρακούσῃ αὐτῶν), then you should bring him to the church or the congregation (εἰπὸν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ).  Along with chapter 16:18, where Peter was the rock of the new church, this indicates a church structure at the time that Matthew was writing this gospel.  If your brother still refused to listen to the church congregation (ἐὰν δὲ καὶ τῆς ἐκκλησίας παρακούσῃ), he should become like a gentile or a tax collector (ἔστω σοι ὥσπερ ὁ ἐθνικὸς καὶ ὁ τελώνης), an outcast from the community.  This indicates that the disciples of Jesus still thought like Jewish people with no room for gentiles and foreign Roman tax collectors.

The voice from the cloud (Mt 17:5-17:5)

“While Peter

Was still speaking,

Suddenly,

A bright cloud

Overshadowed them.

A voice from the cloud said.

‘This is my beloved Son.

I am well pleased

With him.

Listen to him!’

 

ἔτι αὐτοῦ λαλοῦντος, ἰδοὺ νεφέλη φωτεινὴ ἐπεσκίασεν αὐτούς, καὶ ἰδοὺ φωνὴ ἐκ τῆς νεφέλης λέγουσα Οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ Υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός, ἐν ᾧ εὐδόκησα· ἀκούετε αὐτοῦ.

 

The voice from the cloud can be found in all 3 synoptic gospels, Mark, chapter 9:7, Luke, chapter 9:34-35, and here in Matthew, but there are minor differences in all 3 accounts.  The wording of the voice from the clouds sounds almost exactly like the voice from heaven in chapter 3:17, after the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by John the Baptist.  Instead of heaven there, it is a bright cloud here.  This voice did not address Jesus personally.  However, the idea of a heavenly voice had a very strong tradition in the Jewish writings of the Hebrew Bible, especially among the prophets.  The Baptism of Jesus, like the transfiguration here, has become the starting point for any theological reflection about early Christian Christology.  While Peter was still speaking (ἔτι αὐτοῦ λαλοῦντος), suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them (ἰδοὺ νεφέλη φωτεινὴ ἐπεσκίασεν αὐτούς).  This voice from the cloud (καὶ ἰδοὺ φωνὴ ἐκ τῆς νεφέλης) said that Jesus was his most beloved Son (λέγουσα Οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ Υἱός μου ὁ ἀγαπητός), in whom he was well pleased (ἐν ᾧ εὐδόκησα).  However, here there is the further admonition to listen to him (ἀκούετε αὐτοῦ).  Matthew has a clear connection between the Baptism of Jesus and his transfiguration.  Both times, the Father as the voice from heaven or the clouds pronounced that Jesus was his beloved Son in whom he was well pleased

Hear and understand (Mt 15:10-15:10)

“Then Jesus

Called the crowd

To him.

He said to them.

‘Hear!

Understand!’”

 

Καὶ προσκαλεσάμενος τὸν ὄχλον εἶπεν αὐτοῖς Ἀκούετε καὶ συνίετε·

 

There is something similar to this in Mark, chapter 7:14.  Jesus turned from the Pharisees and his disciples to the crowds.  Somehow, Jesus called back the crowds to himself (Καὶ προσκαλεσάμενος τὸν ὄχλον).  He told them (εἶπεν αὐτοῖς) in the imperative to hear or listen and understand or perceive (Ἀκούετε καὶ συνίετε) what he was saying.

The reward for the righteous (Mt 13:43-13:43)

“Then the righteous

Will shine

Like the sun

In the kingdom

Of their Father.

Let anyone with ears,

Listen!”

 

τότε οἱ δίκαιοι ἐκλάμψουσιν ὡς ὁ ἥλιος ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τοῦ Πατρὸς αὐτῶν. ὁ ἔχων ὦτα ἀκουέτω.

 

Only Matthew has this explanation about the parable of the weeds, in chapter 13:24-30.  Here it is the harvest time, the end times.  The righteous, like the good wheat, will shine (τότε οἱ δίκαιοι ἐκλάμψουσιν) like the sun in the kingdom of their Father (ὡς ὁ ἥλιος ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τοῦ Πατρὸς αὐτῶν).  Then Jesus gave his final remark about his explanation.  He wanted anyone with ears to listen up (ὁ ἔχων ὦτα ἀκουέτω), ending this long explanation of Matthew about the simple parable of the weeds and the good wheat grain.  Wait until the end time to find out about your eternal reward or punishment.