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.

The crown (Zech 6:11-6:13)

“Take the silver!

Take the gold!

Make a crown!

Set it upon the head

Of the high priest Joshua,

The son of Jehozadak!

Say to him!

‘Thus says Yahweh of hosts.

Here is a man whose name

Is the Branch.

He shall branch out

In his place.

He shall build

The temple of Yahweh.

It is he who shall build

The temple of Yahweh.

He shall bear royal honor.

He shall sit

Upon his throne,

Where he shall rule.

There shall be a priest

By his throne,

With peaceful understanding

Between the two of them.’”

Yahweh wanted the prophet Zechariah to take the gold and silver that the former exile captives had given him and make a crown out it.  He was to set this crown on the head of the high priest Joshua, the son of Jehozadak.  Perhaps this is a mistake and maybe it should be Governor Zerubbabel, since this ruler ends up with a priest by his side.  This newly crowned person would be the branch that would spread out.  He was the one who was going to build the temple of Yahweh.  Thus, he would have a royal honor and sit on a throne ruling the people.  However, they were still under Persian jurisdiction.  Both the priest and this new ruler would get along peacefully.

The salvation of Yahweh (Hab 3:12-3:13)

“In fury,

You trod the earth.

In anger,

You trampled nations.

You came forth

To save your people.

You came forth

To save your anointed.

You crushed

The head

Of the wicked house.

You laid it bare

From its foundation

To its roof.”

Selah

Yahweh in his fury and anger would trample the various countries on earth.  Yahweh was going to come forward to save his people and their anointed one, the king.  He was going to crush the head of the wicked house, destroying it completely from its foundations to its roof.  Yahweh would save his people and their king by destroying their enemies.  Once again, we have a meditative pause in this canticle with a Selah.

The accusation against Susanna (Dan 13:34-13:35)

“Then the two elders

Stood up

Before the people.

They laid their hands

On her head.

Through her tears,

Susanna looked up

Toward heaven.

Her heart trusted

In the Lord.”

These two old judges laid their hands on the head of Susanna before this assembly of people, indicating that they were going to testify against her. She was weeping, but Susanna looked up to heaven, because she trusted in the Lord.

Description of the false female prophetesses (Ezek 13:18-13:19)

“Thus says Yahweh God!

Say to them!

‘Woe to the women

Who sew bands

On all wrists!

Woe to the woman

Who make veils

For the heads of persons

Of every height,

In the hunt for human lives!

Will you hunt down lives

Among my people?

Will you maintain

Your own lives?

You have profaned me

Among my people

For handfuls of barley,

For pieces of bread.

You put to death

Persons

Who should not die.

You keep alive

Persons

Who should not live,

By your lies

To my people,

Who listen to lies.’”

Yahweh said to Ezekiel that these prophetesses should be cursed. Then he went into a description of their activities. One group of these female prophetesses sewed bands on the wrists of people. What exactly was that? Most commentators are not sure. It was some kind of band, pillow, or lucky charm on the arm by the wrist, elbow, or armpit. They also made veils or kerchiefs for the head. How they were hunting down human lives is not clear.   However, they were profaning Yahweh with their lies. Apparently, they received a few handfuls of barley or pieces of bread for their activities. More serious is the fact that these women were sometimes asked to be judges. They would judge the innocence or guilt of a person, leading to their free life or the death penalty of a person, perhaps wrongly as indicated in this passage. Whatever their lies, the people of Israel were listening to them.

The devastation of northern Israel (Isa 9:13-9:17)

“The people did not turn to him

Who had struck them.

They did not seek Yahweh of hosts.

Thus Yahweh cut off from Israel

Head and tail.

In one day,

He cut off the palm branch.

He cut off the reed.

The elders and dignitaries are the head.

The prophets who teach lies are the tail.

Those who lead this people

Led them astray.

Those who were led by them

Were left in confusion.

Therefore Yahweh did not have pity

On their young people.

He did not have compassion

On their orphans and widows.

Everyone was godless.

Everyone was an evildoer.

Every mouth spoke folly.

Thus his anger has not turned away.

His hand is still stretched out.”

Isaiah puts part of the blame for the destruction of northern Israel on their leaders. However, he starts and finishes with the guilt of all the people, because they did not turn to the Lord, Yahweh. Both the head and the tail of northern Israel were to blame. Thus Yahweh cut off the tall palm trees and the short reeds in one day. The heads of northern Israel were the elders and the dignitaries who failed to do anything. The tails were the lying northern prophets since there were both good and bad prophets. These leaders led their people astray. They left the people confused. Thus Yahweh, the Lord, did not take pity on their young, their orphans, or their widows, as he had done elsewhere. After all, everyone was involved in foolish godless evildoing. Once again, we have the refrain that Yahweh’s anger was continuing, as he still stretched out his hand against these northern Israelites.

The razor of the king of Assyria (Isa 7:20-7:20)

“On that day,

Yahweh will shave

With a razor

Hired beyond the River,

The king of Assyria.

It will shave the head.

It will shave the hair of the feet,

It will take off the beard as well.”

On this day to come, Yahweh was going to let the king of Assyria, from beyond the Euphrates River, come and attack. He would act like Yahweh’s razor, shaving the head and the feet, and even the beards as well.