Jesus sends out the apostles (Mk 6:7-6:7)

“Jesus called

The twelve.

He began

To send them out

Two by two.

He gave them authority

Over the unclean spirits.”

 

Καὶ προσκαλεῖται τοὺς δώδεκα, καὶ ἤρξατο αὐτοὺς ἀποστέλλειν δύο, καὶ ἐδίδου αὐτοῖς ἐξουσίαν τῶν πνευμάτων τῶν ἀκαθάρτων,

 

This section about the authority and mission of the 12 disciples or apostles is similar to Matthew, chapter 10:1 and Luke, chapter 9:1.  Mark said that Jesus summoned or called (Καὶ προσκαλεῖται) his 12 apostles (τοὺς δώδεκα).  He began to send them out two by two (καὶ ἤρξατο αὐτοὺς ἀποστέλλειν δύο δύο).  He gave them authority over unclean or impure spirits (καὶ ἐδίδου αὐτοῖς ἐξουσίαν τῶν πνευμάτων τῶν ἀκαθάρτων).  Thus, they could cast out or banish these evil spirits or demons, but there was no mention of curing diseases, illnesses, sicknesses, or weakness, just casting out the evil spirits that might have been the cause of their illnesses.  Jesus was giving his own power or authority to cast out evil spirits to these 12 apostles.  This was a big deal.  The number 12 corresponded to the number of sons of Jacob or the 12 tribes of Israel.  Jesus thus established these 12 apostles to carry on his work in casting out evil spirits.

Prologue

This Gospel of Matthew has a prologue with five parts that echo the book of Genesis.  First, there was the genealogy of Jesus via Joseph that began with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Then this genealogy went through the twin sons of Judah and the descendants of Perez.  Then it went from Ruth to King David.  Then there was the kings of Judah from Solomon to the gap and up to and including the Babylonian captivity.  Finally, there were the unknown names in this genealogy that led up to Joseph and his father.  Matthew then explained the genealogy of Jesus, since there were differences of this genealogy with that of the Gospel of Luke.

The second part of this prologue was the virgin birth of Jesus.  First of all, there was the conception of Jesus from Joseph’s point of view, not Mary’s.  Joseph wanted to divorce Mary for being pregnant until an angel in a dream told him that Jesus would be a special child that fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah.  After waking up from his dream, there was the virgin birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.

The third part of this prologue was the visit of the Magi.  They brought their questions to Herod the Judean Roman king, who was annoyed and frightened.  He found out that Bethlehem was described by the prophet Micah as the place where the Messiah would be born.  Herod summoned the Magi and sent them to Bethlehem.  The Magi followed the star and found Mary with the child at the so-called Epiphany.  However, they went home another route so that they did not go back to King Herod.

The fourth part was the flight into Egypt, as Joseph had another dream.  They went to Egypt to fulfill another prophecy that the Messiah would come out of Egypt.  Meanwhile, King Herod killed all the under two-year old boys in the Bethlehem area as the fulfillment of the prophecy of Jeremiah.

Finally, the fifth part of the prologue was the return of Jesus to Nazareth when Joseph had a third dream.  He was told to return to Israel, or more specifically to Galilee in a place called Nazareth.  Thus, this prologue gave the unique perspective of Joseph.

A man entrusts his assets to his slaves (Mt 25:14-25:14)

“The kingdom of heaven

Will be like

As if a man,

Going on a journey,

Summoned his slaves.

He entrusted

His property

To them.”

 

Ὥσπερ γὰρ ἄνθρωπος ἀποδημῶν ἐκάλεσεν τοὺς ἰδίους δούλους καὶ παρέδωκεν αὐτοῖς τὰ ὑπάρχοντα αὐτοῦ,

 

This parable is unique to Matthew, but there is a somewhat similar parable in Luke, chapter 19:12-27, where the story is about the power of a nobleman with 10 slaves, but the basic concept is the same.  Some of the slaves were able to get more money, while the others were not.  Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven would be like a man going on a journey (Ὥσπερ γὰρ ἄνθρωπος ἀποδημῶν).  He called or summoned his slaves (ἐκάλεσεν τοὺς ἰδίους δούλους) to entrust them or gave them his property and possessions while he was gone (καὶ παρέδωκεν αὐτοῖς τὰ ὑπάρχοντα αὐτοῦ).  This was a very generous man.

The unforgiving slave was tortured (Mt 18:32-18:34)

“Then his lord

Summoned him.

He said to him.

‘You wicked slave!

I forgave you

All that debt

Because you pleaded with me.

Should not you

Have had mercy

On your fellow slave,

As I had mercy on you?’

In anger,

His lord handed him over

To be tortured

Until he would pay

His entire debt.”

 

τότε προσκαλεσάμενος αὐτὸν ὁ κύριος αὐτοῦ λέγει αὐτῷ Δοῦλε πονηρέ, πᾶσαν τὴν ὀφειλὴν ἐκείνην ἀφῆκά σοι, ἐπεὶ παρεκάλεσάς με·

οὐκ ἔδει καὶ σὲ ἐλεῆσαι τὸν σύνδουλόν σου, ὡς κἀγὼ σὲ ἠλέησα;

καὶ ὀργισθεὶς ὁ κύριος αὐτοῦ παρέδωκεν αὐτὸν τοῖς βασανισταῖς ἕως οὗ ἀποδῷ πᾶν τὸ ὀφειλόμενον αὐτῷ.

 

This parable about the unforgiving servant slave is unique to Matthew.  This forgiving lord king summoned his unforgiving slave (τότε προσκαλεσάμενος αὐτὸν ὁ κύριος).  He called him a wicked or evil slave (αὐτοῦ λέγει αὐτῷ Δοῦλε πονηρέ).  The king reminded him that he had forgiven all his debt (πᾶσαν τὴν ὀφειλὴν ἐκείνην ἀφῆκά σοι) because he had begged or pleaded with him (ἐπεὶ παρεκάλεσάς με).  Why did he not show the same mercy to his fellow slave that he had shown to him (οὐκ ἔδει καὶ σὲ ἐλεῆσαι τὸν σύνδουλόν σου, ὡς κἀγὼ σὲ ἠλέησα)?  Then the angry king and lord ordered him handed him over to a torturing jailer (καὶ ὀργισθεὶς ὁ κύριος αὐτοῦ παρέδωκεν αὐτὸν τοῖς βασανισταῖς) until he would pay off his entire debt (ἕως οὗ ἀποδῷ πᾶν τὸ ὀφειλόμενον αὐτῷ).  He could never pay off his enormous debt, so that he would be tortured every day of his life instead of originally being sold with all his possessions, as was the original punishment.  He just had too much debt.  With a little mercy, he would have been okay.

A child is the greatest (Mt 18:2-18:4)

“Jesus summoned a little child.

He put him

Among them.

He said.

‘Truly!

I say to you!

Unless you change,

Unless you become

Like little children,

You will never enter

The kingdom of heaven.

Whoever becomes humble

Like this little child,

Will be the greatest

In the kingdom of heaven.’”

 

καὶ προσκαλεσάμενος παιδίον ἔστησεν αὐτὸ ἐν μέσῳ αὐτῶν

καὶ εἶπεν Ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, ἐὰν μὴ στραφῆτε καὶ γένησθε ὡς τὰ παιδία, οὐ μὴ εἰσέλθητε εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν.

ὅστις οὖν ταπεινώσει ἑαυτὸν ὡς τὸ παιδίον τοῦτο, οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ μείζων ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τῶν οὐρανῶν.

 

This saying about the humble child as the greatest in heaven can also be found in Mark, chapters 9:36 and 10:15, as well as Luke, chapters 9:47 and 18:16-17, with some minor changes.  Jesus put an emphasis on becoming like little children to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Jesus called or summoned a little child (καὶ προσκαλεσάμενος παιδίον).  He placed this little child in the middle of his disciples (ἔστησεν αὐτὸ ἐν μέσῳ αὐτῶν).  Then he made a solemn proclamation ‘Truly! I say to you!’ (καὶ εἶπεν Ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν).  They had to change or convert to become like little children (ἐὰν μὴ στραφῆτε καὶ γένησθε ὡς τὰ παιδία).  Otherwise, they would never enter the kingdom of heaven (οὐ μὴ εἰσέλθητε εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν).  Whoever became humble like this little child in their midst (ὅστις οὖν ταπεινώσει ἑαυτὸν ὡς τὸ παιδίον τοῦτο), would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ μείζων ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τῶν οὐρανῶν).  The greatest in heaven would be the simple humble little children or those who acted like children, without power and dependent on other people.

The authority of the twelve disciples (Mt 10:1-10:1)

“Jesus summoned

His twelve disciples.

He gave them

Authority

Over unclean spirits,

To cast them out.

They were able

To cure

Every disease,

As well as every sickness.”

 

Καὶ προσκαλεσάμενος τοὺς δώδεκα μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς ἐξουσίαν πνευμάτων ἀκαθάρτων ὥστε ἐκβάλλειν αὐτὰ καὶ θεραπεύειν πᾶσαν νόσον καὶ πᾶσαν μαλακίαν.

 

This section about the authority of the 12 disciples or apostles is similar to Mark, chapter 3:14 and Luke, chapter 9:1.  Jesus summoned or called to him (Καὶ προσκαλεσάμενος) his 12 disciples (τοὺς δώδεκα μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ).  He gave them spiritual authority over unclean or impure spirits (ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς ἐξουσίαν πνευμάτων ἀκαθάρτων).  Thus, they could cast out or banish these evil spirits or demons (ὥστε ἐκβάλλειν αὐτὰ).  They were also able to cure, treat, or heal all diseases and illnesses, sicknesses, or weakness (καὶ θεραπεύειν πᾶσαν νόσον καὶ πᾶσαν μαλακίαν).  In other words, Jesus was giving his own power or authority to cast out evil spirits and heal people to these 12 disciples.  This was a big deal.  The number 12 corresponded to the number of sons of Jacob or the 12 tribes of Israel.  This will be referred to later as the apostolic authority.  Jesus thus established these 12 disciples to carry on his work in casting out or exorcising evil spirits and curing people of their illnesses.

Yahweh predicts the invader from the north (Isa 41:25-41:29)

“I stirred up one from the north.

He has come.

From the rising of the sun,

He was summoned by name.

He shall trample on rulers

Like on mortar,

Like the potter treads clay.

Who declared it from the beginning?

We might know before time.

We might say.

‘He is right!’

There was none

Who declared it.

None who proclaimed it.

None who heard your words.

I first have declared it to Zion.

I give to Jerusalem

A herald of good tidings.

But when I look

There is no one.

Among these,

There is no counselor.

When I ask,

Who gives an answer?

No!

They are all a delusion.

Their works are nothing.

Their images are empty wind.”

Although most interpret this passage as the predicting the victory of King Cyrus of Persia, his name is never explicitly mentioned. He is an invader from the northeast, which could be Persia. Second Isaiah says that he was summoned by name, but no name is mentioned. This invader was going to trample underfoot the rulers, as if they were like mortar or potter’s clay. This was an indication of things to come. No one else is talking about the future. However, Second Isaiah and Yahweh had declared this herald of good tidings in Jerusalem. There was no one with advice, no one to give an answer. Their works were all an empty delusion because all their false image idols were like an empty wind.

Yahweh calls the victor from the east (Isa 41:2 -41:4)

“Who has roused a victor from the east?

Who summoned him to service?

He delivers up nations to him.

He tramples kings under foot.

He makes them

Like dust with his sword.

He makes them

Like driven stubble with his bow.

He pursues them.

He passes on safely,

Scarcely toughing the path

With his feet.

Who has performed this?

Who has done this?

He is calling the generations

From the beginning.

I!

Yahweh!

I am the first!

I will be with the last.”

Second Isaiah wants to know who has summoned the victor conquer from the east for service. This victor from the east was Cyrus, the King of Persia from 559-530 BCE, more than two centuries after the time of Isaiah. Cyrus the Great created the largest empire in the world with present day Iran the last vestige of that realm. Cyrus took over many countries, trampling kings. He made them like dust or stubble with his sword as well as his bow and arrows. He pursued many people, but he was always safe with his fast feet that barely touched the ground. Second Isaiah points out that Yahweh was behind Cyrus. Who allowed him to do all these things? Why it was Yahweh, who interjected himself in the first person singular, saying that he was eternally the first and the last.

Menelaus become the high priest (2 Macc 4:23-4:29)

“After a period of three years, Jason sent Menelaus, the brother of the previously mentioned Simon, to carry money to the king. He sent him to complete the records of essential business. But Menelaus, when presented to the king, extolled him with an air of authority. He secured the high priesthood for himself, outbidding Jason by three hundred talents of silver. After receiving the king’s orders he returned. He possessed no qualification for the high priesthood. He had the hot temper of a cruel tyrant and the rage of a savage wild beast. So Jason, who after supplanting his own brother, was supplanted by another man. He was driven as a fugitive into the land of Ammon. Menelaus held the office, but he did not pay regularly any of the money promised to the king. Sostratus, the captain of the citadel kept requesting payment, since the collection of the revenue was his responsibility. Two of them were summoned by the king on account of this issue. Menelaus left his own brother Lysimachus as deputy in the high priesthood, while Sostratus left Crates as the commander of the Cyprian troops.”

In 172 BCE, 3 years later, Jason the high priest and brother of Onias III sent Menelaus, a Benjaminite brother of Simon, the brother-in-law of Onias III, to King Antiochus IV with money on official business. However, this Menelaus decided that he was going to outbid Jason for the position of high priest by offering 300 talents of silver, about $180,000 USA. Although he was not qualified to be a high priest since he was not a Levite, the king gave him orders to become the high priest in Jerusalem. Obviously the position of high priest went to the highest bidder. Menelaus was cruel and full of rage. Jason was then driven into the land of Ammon, east of the Jordan River. Menelaus never kept his financial promise to the king, although he ruled as high priest for 10 years from 172-162 BCE. Meanwhile, Sostratus, the captain of the citadel troops was not getting any money. The king then called Sostratus and Menelaus to settle this money issue. In the meantime, Lysimachus, the brother of Menelaus, was the deputy high priest in Jerusalem, and Crates became the commander of the citadel troops.

The division of the empire of Alexander the Great (1 Macc 1:5-1:9)

“After this, King Alexander fell sick. He perceived that he was dying. He summoned his most honored officers, who had been brought up with him from youth. He divided his kingdom among them while he was still alive. After King Alexander had reigned twelve years, he died. Then his officers began to rule, each in his own place. They all put on crowns after his death. Their sons after them did the same for many years. They caused many evils on the earth.”

King Alexander the Great only ruled for 12 years and died at the age of 33. However, before he died, he had divided up his kingdom among his trusted officers. Obviously, it was probably not that neatly done. After his death, 3 major kingdoms evolved the Antigonids of Macedonia in Greece, the Ptolemies in Egypt, and Seleucids in Syria. You have to remember that the Jewish people had a very pleasant relationship with the Persian kings since the time of Cyrus in the 6th century BCE. Thus they would have thought of these new kingdoms as evil.   This would have been very traumatic in the late 4th century BCE.