These twelve apostles were for the Jews (Mt 10:5-10:7)

“Jesus sent out

These twelve,

With the following instructions.

‘Go nowhere

Among the Gentiles!

Enter no town

Of the Samaritans!

But go rather

To the lost sheep

Of the house of Israel!

Preach as you go!

Saying,

‘The kingdom of heaven

Is at hand.’”

 

Τούτους τοὺς δώδεκα ἀπέστειλεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς παραγγείλας αὐτοῖς λέγων Εἰς ὁδὸν ἐθνῶν μὴ ἀπέλθητε καὶ εἰς πόλιν Σαμαρειτῶν μὴ εἰσέλθητε·

πορεύεσθε δὲ μᾶλλον πρὸς τὰ πρόβατα τὰ ἀπολωλότα οἴκου Ἰσραήλ

πορευόμενοι δὲ κηρύσσετε λέγοντες ὅτι Ἤγγικεν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν.

 

There is no exact equivalent to this exclusive mission to the Jews, that this is unique to Matthew.  Jesus sent out these 12 apostles (Τούτους τοὺς δώδεκα ἀπέστειλεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς).  He commanded them with specific instructions (παραγγείλας αὐτοῖς λέγων).  They were to stay away from the gentiles (Εἰς ὁδὸν ἐθνῶν μὴ ἀπέλθητε).  They were not allowed to enter any Samaritan town either (καὶ εἰς πόλιν Σαμαρειτῶν μὴ εἰσέλθητε).  Thus, they had to stay away from the gentiles and the Samaritans.  Their mission, however, was to go to the lost sheep in the house of Israel (πορεύεσθε δὲ μᾶλλον πρὸς τὰ πρόβατα τὰ ἀπολωλότα οἴκου Ἰσραήλ).  They were to go and proclaim that the kingdom of heaven was at hand (πορευόμενοι δὲ κηρύσσετε λέγοντες ὅτι Ἤγγικεν ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν).  This is exactly the same teaching as John the Baptist, word for word, as in chapter 3:2.  Matthew had John say that the kingdom of heaven (γὰρ ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν) was at hand, coming near (ἤγγικεν).  Notice that Matthew did not say the kingdom of God, but the kingdom of heaven.  In fact, it is in the plural, heavens.  This connection of the message of John and Jesus is very strong here in Matthew.

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Jesus teaches repentance (Mt 4:17-4:17)

“From that time on,

Jesus began to proclaim.

‘Repent!

The kingdom of heaven

Has come near.’”

 

Ἀπὸ τότε ἤρξατο ὁ Ἰησοῦς κηρύσσειν καὶ λέγειν Μετανοεῖτε, ἤγγικεν γὰρ ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν.

 

Matthew had another unique comment about and his preaching. He said that from that time on (Ἀπὸ τότε ἤρξατο), Jesus was proclaiming (ὁ Ἰησοῦς κηρύσσειν) the same message as John the Baptist in the preceding chapter, 3:2. It almost seems like Jesus had become a disciple of John. The preaching messages of John the Baptist and Jesus were very simple and exactly the same. They both said that people should repent (λέγειν Μετανοεῖτε). People should turn their lives around, with a profound metanoia, a change of their spirit. Matthew had John and Jesus say that the kingdom of heaven (γὰρ ἡ βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν) was at hand, coming near (ἤγγικεν). Notice that Matthew did not say the kingdom of God, but the kingdom of “heavens.” Perhaps this was due to the Hebrew word for heaven that was both singular and plural. Matthew used this apocalyptic phrase over 30 times. He was the only one of the canonical gospel writers to use this term, “kingdom of heaven.”

The prayer of Ezra (Ezra 9:5-9:9)

“At the evening sacrifice I got up from my fasting, with my garments and my mantle torn. I fell upon my knees. I spread out my hands to Yahweh my God, saying.

O my God,

I am too ashamed and embarrassed to lift my face to you,

My God,

Our iniquities have risen higher than our heads,

Our guilt has mounted up to the heavens.

From the days of our ancestors to this day

We have been deep in guilt.

Because of our iniquities,

We, our kings, and our priests

Have been handed over to the kings of the lands,

To the sword, to captivity, to plundering, and to utter shame,

As is now the case.

But now for a brief moment

Favor has been shown by Yahweh our God,

He has left us a remnant,

He has given us a stake in his holy place,

So that he may brighten our eyes

And grant us a little sustenance in our slavery.

We are slaves.

Yet our God has not forsaken us in our slavery.

But he has extended to us his steadfast love before the kings of Persia,

To give us new life

To set up the house of our God,

To repair its ruins,

To give us a wall in Judea and Jerusalem.’”

This is the beautiful prayer of Ezra in the first person, singular and plural. He accepted the guilt for his fellow returning captives for their actions. Ezra is so ashamed that he cannot lift up his head. The guilt of his people from the beginning to today has mounted up to the heavens. Due to their guilt, they have been handed over to others, killed, captured, and plundered. However, in the midst of this slavery, there is a bright spot. Yahweh has led the kings of Persia to let a small remnant return to a new life, to repair the Temple, and build a wall around Jerusalem. This later part was the point of a big dispute earlier in this work.