Fourth narrative

The fourth narrative section revealed the increasing opposition to Jesus.  Thus, his disciples had to prepare for his absence.  These instructions emphasized responsibility and humility.  Simon was renamed Peter, the rock upon which he was going to build his church, especially the mystery of the kingdom of heaven.

While Jesus was preaching in the various towns, John the Baptist was put in prison.  The disciples of John questioned Jesus and Jesus responded.  Jesus then asked questions about John.  Was John more than a prophet?  Then Matthew had a series of Old Testament scriptural quotations about John.  How great was John the Baptist?  Was John Elijah?

Jesus warned that this was a childish generation that was indifferent as they kept on eating and drinking, as if nothing important was happening.  Jesus was against the various Galilean cities and towns, especially Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum.  Jesus explained that there were hidden things from the wise ones, especially the relationship of the Father with the Son, but that the disciples had an easy yoke to bear.

Next came the question of eating on the Sabbath.  The Pharisees reacted against Jesus, but he used the example of David and the priests in the Temple to respond to them.  God was the Lord of the Sabbath.  Thus, when Jesus went into the synagogue, they asked him if he would heal anyone on the Sabbath?  Jesus compared sheep to human beings and then healed the man’s hand.  Thus, the Pharisees conspired against Jesus, while he took a low profile.

Jesus said that the fulfillment of the prophesy of Isaiah was at hand in the servant of Yahweh.  Jesus cured the blind and mute man as the crowds were amazed.  However, the Pharisees compared Jesus to Beelzebul, the devil.  Jesus responded that a divided kingdom would not stand.  The Spirit of God was with Jesus.  The bandits tied up people before stealing from them.  You were either for or against Jesus.  They should be aware of the sin against the Holy Spirit.

Jesus then issued a series of sayings about a tree and its fruit.  He compared the Pharisees to a brood of vipers.  There could be good and bad treasures.  Words would either save or condemn them.

Jesus told them about the sign for this evil generation that was always seeking signs.  He was only going to give them the sign of Jonah.  Notice how the men of Nineveh reacted.  The Queen of Sheba brought gifts to Solomon.  The unclean spirit would return with other evil spirits.  The relatives of Jesus, his mother and brothers showed up, but Jesus said that he had a new family.

Then Jesus spoke in parables siting in a boat by the sea.  There was the parable of the sower with his lost seeds, where only a few of the seeds fell on good soil.  His disciples wanted to know why he was speaking in parables, so that Jesus explained why he used parables.  Once again, he referred to a prophecy of Isaiah.  He explained about the seeds on the rocky ground and the seeds among the thorns.  Finally, he explained the meaning of the seeds on good ground or path since they were the blessed ones.

Then there was the parable about the weeds among the wheat.  The slaves let the weeds grow and then separated them at harvest time.  There were other parables about the mustard seed and the yeast.  Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, but he explained these parables to his disciples, especially the sower, the field, and the seeds.  He explained the enemy and the burning of the weeds.  The punishment for the weeds came at the harvest end times.  Thus, the reward for the righteous will be at the end times.

The kingdom of heaven was like a treasure, like pearls, and like a fishing net.  Jesus explained the parables because the disciples did not understand them.  They were like new and old treasures.

Jesus was an astonishment in his own home town.  They all knew the family of Jesus.  Thus, he was a prophet without honor in his own country.

Herod thought that Jesus was a resurrected John the Baptist, but he was afraid of John the Baptist.  At his birthday party, Herod granted the wish to have the head of John the Baptist on a platter.  Meanwhile, John the Baptist’s disciples buried him.

Jesus was worried as he was healing the sick people.  The disciples complained about the crowds, so that Jesus told them to give them something to eat.  However, they only had five loaves and two fish.  Then Jesus blessed the five loaves of bread and distributed them to the crowd.  There were even leftovers from this crowd of five thousand people.

The disciples left in a boat, so that Jesus prayed alone.  The boat was in the middle of the sea when Jesus walked on water to come to them.   Peter talked to Jesus and then attempted to walk on the water.  Jesus then saved Peter who recognized Jesus as the Son of God.  Then there were the healings at Gennesaret, where Jesus cured the sick.

The Pharisees from Jerusalem came to Jesus to ask him why his disciples did not wash their hands before eating.  Jesus responded by telling them to honor their parents since there was hypocrisy in their traditions.  He cited Isaiah about vain worship.  He told them to hear and understand.  They should watch what came out of their mouth rather than what went into their mouth as defilement.  The Pharisees were offended, but Jesus called them blind guides.  Peter wanted to understand more so that Jesus explained the mouth should speak from the heart.

Jesus went to the coastal cities of Tyre and Sidon where he met a Canaanite woman.  He said that he was only going to the lost sheep of Israel, but this Canaanite woman persistently asked for help.  Jesus refused again saying that he could not feed the dogs.  However, she responded that dogs eat crumbs from the table.  Jesus said that she had great faith and healed her.

As Jesus healed the crowds of people in the mountain near the Sea of Galilee, he had compassion for them.  Where will they get food?  His disciples said that they had seven loaves.  Jesus then gave thanks over them and distributed the bread to four thousand men as there was a second multiplication of bread loaves.

Jesus went to Magadan.  There the Pharisees asked for a sign from heaven.  Once again, Jesus said that there are weather signs, but he would only give this evil generation the sign of Jonah.

The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, but Jesus warned them about the yeast of the Pharisees.  He reprimanded his disciples for their lack of faith as he reminded them about the multiplication of the loaves of bread.  They should be worried about the Pharisees not food.

What was the role of Peter?  Jesus asked about the Son of Man as the disciples responded.  Then Jesus asked them about himself.  Peter gave a very positive response, so that Jesus rewarded him.  The Messianic secret was tied to the future of Jesus in this conversation between Peter and Jesus.  He would have to take up his cross if wanted to save his life because the Son of Man in his kingdom would be coming soon.

Jesus took three of his apostles up a mountain where he was transfigured before them.  Moses and Elijah appeared with him.  Peter wanted to set up three tents for them.  A voice from the cloud came as the three apostles adored him.  Jesus asked them to be silent about this.  What was the role of Elijah and John the Baptist?

An epileptic man knelt before Jesus that his disciples were unable to heal.  Jesus then healed him, so that his disciples wondered why they were unable to heal this epileptic?  Jesus spoke about the future of the Son of Man.  Should they pay the Temple tax?  Jesus responded that the son of the king did not pay taxes, but he told Peter to pay them anyway.

Finally, we have the ecclesiastical discourse about who is the greatest.  A child is the greatest because when you welcome a little child, you welcome Jesus.  They were not to cause children to sin.  They were not to tempt people.  It would be better to be maimed and blind than suffer eternal fire.  They were not to despise the little ones.  Jesus explained the parable of the lost sheep and fraternal correction.  What were you to do with a sinning brother.  Let him become a gentile, if he does not listen.  Common prayer was important so that they should gather in his name.  How often should they forgive?  The response was the seventy times seven.

Then there was the parable of the unforgiving servant slave.  The master settled accounts with servant slaves.  One owed ten thousand talents, so that the king forgave him his debt.  However, this servant slave would not forgive the debt of his fellow slaves, who were angry.  Thus, this unforgiving slave was tortured.  This parable explanation was simple, forgive your brothers.

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The fourth beatitude about righteousness (Mt 5:6-5:6)

“Blessed are

Those who hunger for righteousness,

Those who thirst for righteousness,

They shall be filled.”

 

μακάριοι οἱ πεινῶντες καὶ διψῶντες τὴν δικαιοσύνην, ὅτι αὐτοὶ χορτασθήσοντ

 

The happy, blessed, and fortunate ones (μακάριοι) were those who hungered and thirsted for righteousness (οἱ πεινῶντες καὶ διψῶντες τὴν δικαιοσύνην).  They would not go away empty handed.  They would be satisfied or filled (ὅτι αὐτοὶ χορτασθήσοντ).  Isaiah, chapter 55:1-2 has an invitation to those without money to come to drink and eat.  They could have water, wine, milk and bread.  They would enjoy themselves at this banquet.  Matthew may have been referencing Psalm 107:4-9, where Yahweh had helped a small group of lost Israelites who were hungry and thirsty, while wandering in the desert.  He satisfied their thirst and filled their hunger with good food.  In their distress, they called out to Yahweh, who heard them.  He led them in a straight path to an inhabited town.  Thus, they gave thanks to Yahweh.  So too, those who hungered and thirsted for righteousness, the right way of doing things, would be satisfied or filled with this righteousness.

The glory of King David (Sir 47:6-47:11)

“They glorified him

For the tens of thousands that he conquered.

They praised him

For the blessings bestowed

By the Lord.

The glorious diadem was given to him.

He wiped out his enemies on every side.

He annihilated his adversaries,

The Philistines.

He crushed their power even to our own day.

In all that he did

He gave thanks to the Holy One,

The Most High,

Proclaiming his glory.

He sang praise

With all his heart.

He loved his Maker.

He placed singers before the altar.

They made sweet melody with their voices.

Daily they sing his praises.

He gave beauty to the festivals.

He arranged their times

Throughout the year.

They praised God’s holy name.

The sanctuary resounded from early morning.

The Lord took away his sins.

He exalted his power forever.

He gave him a covenant of kingship.

He gave him a glorious throne in Israel.”

Sirach told of the glory of King David who had killed thousands of his enemies. He was praised for the Lord’s blessings that he had received. He was given a glorious diadem crown to wear, after an unmentioned dispute with King Saul. David wiped out his enemies, especially the Philistines, but they kept coming back for more. However, David gave thanks to the Holy One, the Most High God. He loved his creator. He sang praises to him. He had singers at the altar as well as set up wonderful festivals throughout the year. Although there is mention of a sanctuary, the Temple was not built until his son King Solomon built it. The Lord took away the sins of David and established a covenant of kingship with him on the throne in Israel. In light of what was to come, there was no eternal covenant of kingship.

The wisdom of the scribes (Sir 39:6-39:11)

If the great Lord is willing,

He will be filled

With the spirit of understanding.

He will pour forth

Words of wisdom.

He will give thanks

To the Lord in prayer.

The Lord will direct his counsel.

The Lord will direct his knowledge.

He will meditate on his mysteries.

He will show the wisdom

Of what he has learned.

He will glory in the law

Of the Lord’s covenant.

Many will praise

His understanding.

It will never be blotted out.

His memory will not disappear.

His name will live

Through all generations.

Nations will speak of his wisdom.

The congregation

Will proclaim his praise.

If he lives long,

He will leave a name

Greater than a thousand.

If he goes to rest,

It is enough for him.”

Sirach continues his praise for the wise scribes like himself. Always it is the will of God that brings wisdom and understanding. These scribes will speak words of wisdom and give prayerful thanks to the Lord. The Lord directs their counsel and knowledge, as they meditate on the divine mysteries. These scribes will show their wisdom by glorifying the law and the covenant. However, many will praise these scribes, since their names will not disappear or be blotted out, but remain for generations to come. Many countries and congregations will praise them also. If they live long, their names will be remembered more than 1,000 others. If they die early, that will be okay also.

The foolish giver (Sir 20:13-20:17)

“The wise make themselves beloved

By only a few words.

But the courtesies of fools are wasted.

A fool’s gift will profit nothing.

So it is with the envious

Who give under compulsion.

He looks for recompense sevenfold.

He has many eyes instead of one.

He gives little.

He upbraids much.

He opens his mouth

Like a town crier.

Today he lends.

Tomorrow he asks it back.

Such a one is a hateful man.

Such a one is hateful to God.

Such a one is hateful to humans.

The fool says.

‘I have no friends.

I get no thanks for my good deeds.

Those who eat my bread

Are evil-tongued.’

How many will ridicule him!

How often will they ridicule him!”

Wise people can make themselves loved with a few words. However, fools have a difficult time. Courtesies and gifts do not bring them any gain. The same is true of the envious people that are forced to give a gift. They are looking for a reward. These fools are looking to be compensated. They are looking all over with their many eyes. They give little. They are always criticizing. They are like town criers, shouting all the time. One day they lend things. Then the next day, they want them back again. These fools are hateful people to God and their fellow humans. These foolish people think that they have no friends. They get no thanks for their good deeds. They think that the people who eat with them are evil people. Thus they are often ridiculed by many people.

Pray to God (Wis 16:24-16:29)

“Creation,

Serving you

Who made it,

Exerts itself to punish the unrighteous.

In kindness,

It relaxes on behalf of those

Who trust in you.

Therefore at that time also,

Changed into all forms,

It served your all-nourishing bounty,

Aaccording to the desire of those who had need,

Thus your children,

Whom you loved,

O Lord!

Might learn

That it is not the production of crops

That feeds humankind.

But your word sustains

Those who trust in you.

What was not destroyed by fire

Was melted

When simply warmed by a fleeting ray of the sun.

This was to make it known

That one must rise before the sun

To give you thanks.

One must pray to you

At the dawning of the light.

The hope of an ungrateful person

Will melt like wintry frost.

This hope will flow away like waste water.”

Creation serves God by punishing the unrighteous. However, it gives bounty to those whom you love, your children, your sons (οἱ υἱοί σου). People should learn that it is not the production of crops that feeds people, but the word of the Lord (Κύριε) that sustains them. Thus fire can destroy or warm a crop. Therefore, humans should rise in the morning before sunlight to give thanks and pray to God. Otherwise, the hope of an ungrateful person will melt like frost. Their hope will flow away like waste water.

David wanted to be taken out of prison (Ps 142:6-142:7)

“Save me from my persecutors!

They are too strong for me.

Bring me out of prison!

So that I may give thanks to your name.

The righteous will surround me.

You will deal bountifully with me.”

This psalm ends with a plea from David to save him from his persecutors. They were too strong for him. He could not deal with them himself. He wanted to be brought out of prison. There is no specific time mentioned in the stories of David where he was actually in a prison. This might be a metaphor since he feels like he cannot move. If he escaped he would give thanks to the name of Yahweh. He wanted to be surrounded by the righteous ones. He felt that Yahweh would deal with him mercifully and bountifully.