The response of Jesus (Mt 11:4-11:6)

“Jesus answered them.

‘Go on your way!

Tell John

What you hear!

Tell him

What you see!

The blind receive their sight.

The lame people walk.

The lepers are cleansed.

The deaf hear.

The dead are raised up.

The poor have good news

Brought to them.

Blessed is anyone

Who takes no offense at me!’”

 

καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς Πορευθέντες ἀπαγγείλατε Ἰωάνει ἃ ἀκούετε καὶ βλέπετε·

τυφλοὶ ἀναβλέπουσιν καὶ χωλοὶ περιπατοῦσιν, λεπροὶ καθαρίζονται καὶ κωφοὶ ἀκούουσιν, καὶ νεκροὶ ἐγείρονται καὶ πτωχοὶ εὐαγγελίζονται·

καὶ μακάριός ἐστιν ὃς ἐὰν μὴ σκανδαλισθῇ ἐν ἐμοί.

 

This is word for word like Luke, chapter 7:22-23, indicating a possible Q source.  Jesus responded or answered these disciples and their question (καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς ὁ Ἰησοῦς).  He told them to report back after their journey to John (εἶπεν αὐτοῖς Πορευθέντες ἀπαγγείλατε Ἰωάνει) what they had heard and seen (ἃ ἀκούετε καὶ βλέπετε).  Then Jesus listed what he had been doing.  The blind recovered their sight (τυφλοὶ ἀναβλέπουσιν).  The lame people were walking around (καὶ χωλοὶ περιπατοῦσιν καὶ χωλοὶ περιπατοῦσιν).  The lepers were cleansed (, λεπροὶ καθαρίζονται).  The deaf were able to hear (καὶ κωφοὶ ἀκούουσιν).  The dead were raised up (καὶ νεκροὶ ἐγείρονται).  The poor and destitute people were getting good news brought to them (καὶ πτωχοὶ εὐαγγελίζονται).  The blessed, happy, and fortunate people were not scandalized, offended, or stumbled because of Jesus (καὶ μακάριός ἐστιν ὃς ἐὰν μὴ σκανδαλισθῇ ἐν ἐμοί).  This is a very strong response, as if to say that he was the Messiah, the Christ, the anointed one, something that Jesus did not do often.  The messianic expectation was based on Isaiah, chapter 35:4-6, when the savior, their God would come with a vengeance to make up for past problems.  He would come to save them.  Isaiah seems to indicate that there would be a reversal of fortune, a change in the ways that things happen.  The blind would see.  The deaf would hear.  The lame would run.  The mute people would speak.

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The third beatitude about the meek or the humble (Mt 5:5-5:5)

“Blessed are

The meek!

They shall inherit the earth.”

 

μακάριοι οἱ πραεῖς, ὅτι αὐτοὶ κληρονομήσουσιν τὴν γῆν.

 

Matthew relied heavily on Psalm 37:11 here, where the psalmist said that they should be patient with Yahweh.  They were not to be angry.  The meek (οἱ πραεῖς), the humble ones, those who wait patiently on Yahweh, their God, would inherit the earth (ὅτι αὐτοὶ κληρονομήσουσιν τὴν γῆν), the holy land of Israel.  You have to wait a little bit, but the wicked would be no more.  The meek, on the other hand, would inherit the holy land, where they would live in abundant prosperity, if only they waited.  They would be the happy, blessed, and fortunate ones (μακάριοι).

 

Christians reading the Old Testament

The Old Testament Hebrew Bible raises questions of interpretation for a Christian.  To what extent am I, as a Christian, projecting Christian views and values on the children of Israel, the people of Israel, the Israelites?  There are various terms that translators have used to describe the slowing forming group of Yahweh believers over three thousand years ago.  Yahweh was their God and intervened in their lives.  They had a special relationship or covenant with him.  The Hebrew sacred writings were incorporated into Christianity because all the early Christians were Jewish.  However, the writings were not originally meant for Christians, but for the Hebrew people.  Can I really fully understand the Semitic thought process of three thousand years ago?  Will I be able to appreciate how important the promised land of Israel was to Jewish people?  What role did the exodus from Egypt, the Temple, the exile, and the various codes play in their lives?  I can try, but I doubt if I will be fully successful.

The prophets in general

Some prophets wrote things, while others had people write things about them.  Thus, there is a mixed bag about the Hebrew prophets.  Generally speaking, a prophet was someone who believed that a higher power had contacted them.  Thus, they became the intermediary between Yahweh, their God, and their fellow human beings.  Almost like angels, these humans delivered a divine message.  Quite often, the message itself that the prophet conveyed was called a prophecy.  The Hebrew prophets were moral teachers.  Some prophets may have had a role with the institutional Temple priests.  Many religious groups have had what are called prophetic priests.  The Hebrew word navi, meaning spokesperson, has been traditionally translated as prophet.  These navi was considered to be the mouth of Yahweh or God, since they were open to receive and transmit his divine wisdom.  Besides writing and speaking messages from God, these Israelite Nevi’im often acted out prophetic parables in their life.  They were not always praised, since some prophets were even considered bad or false prophets.  Thus, they were sometimes the target of persecution and opposition.

The three major later prophets

The later prophets are what we normally think of as prophets.  They stood out against authority and asked people to reform their ways to that of Yahweh, their God.  They were writing prophets, as opposed to the early prophets who did not write, but were written about.  These later prophets are normally divided into the three major prophets and the twelve Minor Prophets.  There were three famous major writing prophets whose works are very long.  Isaiah lived in the 8th century BCE, but his work was not finished until around the 6th century BCE.  On the other hand, Jeremiah and Ezekiel were 6th century BCE prophetic writers around the time of the Babylonian Exile.

The flight from Jerusalem (Zech 14:5-14:5)

“You shall flee

By the valley

Of Yahweh’s mountain.

The valley between the mountains

Shall reach to Azal.

You shall flee,

As you fled

From the earthquake

In the days of King Uzziah

Of Judah.

Then Yahweh,

Your God,

Will come.

All the holy ones

Will be with him.”

The citizens of Jerusalem would flee their town via this valley in the Mount of Olives.  They would reach Azal, probably a small town beside the Mount of Olives.  Apparently, this was the same place where people fled during the reign of King Uzziah of Judah (781-740 BCE).  The Book of Amos in its first chapter mentioned an earthquake that took place at that time sometime around 760-750 BCE.  This must had made a big impact on people, because Zechariah mentioned it some 250 years later.  In the end, Yahweh, their God would come with his holy ones.  Thus, all the fugitives would be with Yahweh.

Kill the shepherd (Zech 13:7-13:9)

“‘Awake!

O sword!

Against my shepherd!

Against the man

Who is my associate!’

Says Yahweh of hosts.

‘Strike the shepherd,

That the sheep

May be scattered.

I will turn my hand

Against the little ones.’

Says Yahweh.

‘In the whole land,

Two thirds shall be cut off.

They shall perish,

One third shall be left alive.

I will put this third

Into the fire.

I will refine them

As one refines silver.

I will test them

As gold is tested.

They will call

On my name.

I will answer them.

I will say.

‘They are my people.’

They will say.

‘Yahweh is my God.’”

Yahweh of hosts wanted to take away the current leaders.  The sword should rise up against them, even if they are associated with Yahweh.  The shepherd leaders should be killed, so that the flock would be scattered.  Yahweh would destroy 2/3rd of this flock of people.  The remaining 1/3rd would have to be refined by fire, just like gold and silver were tested in a furnace.  This remaining 1/3rd remnant would be Yahweh’s people.  They would have Yahweh as their God.  Yahweh would have them as his people.