Fifth narrative

Jesus traveled toward Jerusalem and taught in the Temple there, debating with the chief priests and religious leaders.  Then he spoke about the coming kingdom of heaven and the future end times.

Jesus finally went to Judea, where he cured large crowds of people.  The Pharisees questioned him about divorce.  Jesus reiterated the importance of marriage, as he spoke about Moses and divorce.  After hearing the response of Jesus about divorce, his disciples wondered why they should marry at all.  Jesus explained about different kind of eunuchs.

The children came forward to Jesus and he blessed them.  He warned against wealth.  To gain eternal life you had to keep the commandments.  They wanted to know which commandments?  The great commandment was not a problem.  However, Jesus asked them to give up their possessions, so that the rich young man walked away.  It was hard for rich people to enter the kingdom like a camel going through the eye of a needle.  Who could be saved?  The response was that all things are possible with God.  Peter wanted to know about the disciples and the eternal life reward, so that Jesus told them that the first shall be last and vice versa.

Then Jesus presented the parable of the laborers in the vineyard.  He hired the first laborers, and then late in the day a second group, a third group and finally a fourth group of laborers.  The last group hired got a full day’s pay.  The first group hired were upset when they got the same as the last group hired.  This brought up the problem of generosity versus fairness, as Jesus explained the parable.

On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus predicted what was going to happen to him in Jerusalem.  The mother of the sons of Zebedee wanted to know if her two sons, James and John, could be the greatest, on either side of Jesus.  Jesus pointed out the difficulties and said that only the Father set up the seating arrangements.  This led to ten angry men as they resented the two trying to be first.  Jesus reminded them about servant leadership, as the Son of Man was going to give up his life.

There were great crowds at Jericho where Jesus found two blind men asking for mercy, so he healed them.  Then began the final ministry in Jerusalem with a triumphal entry.  Jesus sent two disciples from Bethpage to get a donkey and a colt because he needed them.  Thus, the prophecy of Zechariah might be fulfilled.  They brought the donkey and the colt to Jesus.  Then crowds welcomed the Son of David into Jerusalem as they began to wonder who this man was?

Jesus went into the Temple and chased out the money changers to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah.  When he cured people in the Temple, the chief priests were angry, but the little children praised him.

Then Jesus went to Bethany.  The next morning, he was hungry.  He saw a fig tree, but it had no figs, so he cursed the fig tree as it withered because of his faith.

People began to question where did Jesus get his authority?  Jesus responded with a question for a question.  He asked them about the value of the baptism of John.  They gave a timid response.  Then he told the parable about the two sons.  The first son said no at first, and then did the work, while the second son said yes and did not do the work.  Which son did the will of his father?  Thus, they did not believe John the Baptist.

Then Jesus told the parable about the wicked tenants.  This absentee land owner of the vineyard sent people to collect his rent.  Instead, the tenants beat and killed the landowner’s slaves.  He sent a second group that was also killed.  Then the tenants killed the landowner’s son.  Finally, the landowner came to take back his vineyard, citing Psalm 118 about the kingdom of God and the falling cornerstone.  The Pharisees understood this parable and tried to arrest Jesus.

Jesus continued to speak in parables.  This parable was about the king who gave a great wedding banquet.  However, the invited guests refused to come to the wedding banquet.  He sent out a second invitation to the wedding banquet, but they refused the second invitation also.  They treated his slaves badly.  The king was angry and sent out new invitations to the wedding feast.  Finally, a man without a wedding garment showed up, but he threw him out of the feast.  The explanation of this parable was that many are called, but few are chosen.

Next the Pharisees tried to trick Jesus by flattering him.  They asked him a question about taxes.  Jesus gave a harsh response as he had a dialogue about the Roman coin about whose image was on it.  Give Caesar his due.  The Pharisees and their disciples left.

However, the Sadducees asked a question about the resurrection.  There was a law about marrying the brother of a dead man.  There was a woman who married seven brothers, who was her husband in the resurrection?  Jesus responded that there was no marriage in the resurrection.  The living God of their ancestors would show them the way.  The crowd was astonished.

The Pharisees regrouped and wanted to know what is the greatest commandment?  Jesus responded about the two great commandments to love God and your neighbor.  Then Jesus asked the Pharisees a question.  Was the Christ the son of David?  Then who was the Lord for David?  After that there were no more questions for Jesus.

Jesus then cursed the Scribes and Pharisees.  He told his disciples to do what they say, but not what they do.  They tied up heavy burdens on the people.  They wore special clothing and sought the places of honor.  They want to be called Rabbis.  No one was your father or master.  Greatness comes with humility.  They tried to lock people out of heaven as they shut it off.  Even when they tried to make converts, they are like blind guides and fools.  They swore by the altar or the gift of the altar.  They swore by heaven, but they had forgotten the law.  They wanted the gnat out your eye but had a camel in their own eye.  They worried about the outside of the cup instead of the inside.  They were like whitewashed tombs.  They proclaimed reverence for the tombs of the prophets, but they were like their sinning ancestors. They were like serpents.  They would kill the prophets.  They spread innocent blood.  Soon the house of Jerusalem would be desolate.

Finally, there were the predictions about the end times.  Jesus left the Temple as he predicted its destruction.  What are the signs of the Parousia?  There would be the beginning of the great suffering so that they should not be lead astray.  There would be rumors of wars in those troubled times.  They would be persecuted for the sake of Jesus.  There would be betrayals and false prophets.  Love would grow cold.  Endurance would be necessary.  The importance of Daniel the prophet was emphasized.  In Judea, they would flee to the housetops.  It would be too late for the people in the fields.  This would be the wrong time to be pregnant or nursing.  There would be great tribulation, but the days would be short.

The end was coming because there would be false Christs and people looking for the Messiah.  The Son of Man would come on the clouds as the darkness in the skies appeared.  There would be a gathering of the chosen ones.  Using the parable of the fig tree, they could tell that the end was near.  This generation would pass away, but Jesus’ words would not pass away.  No one knew the day, since it would be like in the days of Noah.  Only one would be taken and the other left, so be ready.  Be a wise and faithful slave, not a wicked slave.

Jesus told the parable of the ten bridesmaids where half were wise and half foolish.  They all fell asleep.  When the bridegroom came, they all got up.  However, the foolish ones had no oil and wise ones said that there was not enough oil for both of them.  When the foolish left to get oil, they shut the door.  When they came back, the bridegroom said that he did not know them.  Thus, you do not know the day.

Next Jesus told the parable of the talents.  A man entrusted his assets to his slaves.  He gave them money.  One slave added five more talents, another added two more talents, but the third slave dug a hole and buried his money.  The master settled their accounts.  The slave with five talents got five more talents.  The slave with two talents got two more talents.  The slave with one talent was rebuked and punished.  Thus, there will be rewards and punishments at the end times.

In the last judgment, the Son of Man would appear in glory.  There would be sheep and goats, with the sheep on the right hand.  They had taken care of him.  They wondered when they had done this.  The Son of Man replied that they took care of him when they cared for the least of his brothers.  Then he told the goats on his left side to depart from him because they had not taken care of him when they did not care for the lowly people.  Thus, there would be eternal punishment or eternal reward.

Third narrative

This third narrative centered around a variety of miracles and various comments to his disciples.  Jesus cured the leper before great crowds, but then told him to keep it a secret.  Then he cured the centurion’s paralyzed servant at Capernaum.  This Roman soldier understood the role of authority since he had faith.  Jesus chastised the failure of the sons of Abraham but healed the Roman centurion’s servant.

Jesus also cured other sick and possessed people, including Peter’s mother-in-law.  He thus fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah.  He had some scribe followers, even though Jesus was homeless.  Was the death of a father enough to disrupt a disciple?  During a stormy boat ride, they woke up Jesus.  Thus, he responded by showing them his power by calming the storm.

Jesus cured the two possessed demoniacs who were calling out to him as the Son of God.  These demons wanted to be pigs, so that they died in the sea, jumping off a cliff.  However, the herdsmen in the city were upset so that the people asked Jesus to leave.

Jesus then went home and cured a paralytic.  Did Jesus blaspheme?  What was the difference between sin and sickness?  The people were amazed at his powers.  Jesus then called Matthew, the tax collector.  Jesus hung out with these tax collectors and sinners, so that the Pharisees complained.  Jesus responded by asking if well people needed doctors?  Then there was a citation from Hosea about mercy.

The Pharisees wanted to know why his disciples were not fasting, but the disciples of John the Baptist were.  Jesus explained that there would be no fasting while he, the bridegroom, was present.  You did not use old cloth to mend clothes or put new wine in old wineskins.

Then Jesus cured the woman with hemorrhages, because she was a woman of faith.  Then he cured the dead girl who was only sleeping.  He cured the two blind men because they were believers also.  He cured the mute person so that he could speak again.  The Pharisees questioned the power of Jesus.  However, Jesus had compassion for the sheep because there would be a need for many laborers at the harvest time.

Then Jesus began his apostolic talk to his disciples, in particular about the authority of the twelve disciples, with four major apostles.  Matthew then listed the twelve apostles that would be sent to the Jews and what their work was.  Jesus told them what to bring with them and where to stay.  He told them how to enter a house.  Those unhospitable towns who did not accept them would be punished.  These apostles should be like wise simple sheep.  When they would be persecuted, the Holy Spirit would speak through them.  They would be involved in family disputes and hated.  Both the teacher and his disciples would suffer, but they should not be afraid.  They should proclaim the message.  They were to worry about their souls, since they had more value than sparrows.  They should acknowledge Jesus whether in peace or with the sword.  Who was worthy of Jesus?  You had to pick up your cross and lose your life to find it.  Receive Jesus and be a prophet as the righteous disciple of Jesus.

Second narrative

This second narrative centered around the Sermon on the Mount and the famous so-called Beatitudes.  The first beatitude was about poverty, while the second beatitude was about mourning.  The third beatitude was about the meek or the humble.  The fourth beatitude was about righteousness.  The fifth beatitude was on mercy, while the sixth beatitude was about the pure of heart.  The seventh beatitude was on peacemakers, while the eighth beatitude was on persecution.  There was a grand blessing for the persecuted Christians, who were the salt of the earth and the light of the world.  They had to value and become the lighted lamp.

Next came the law and the prophets.  The law with all its commandments remained.  The righteous ones would not murder, nor would they get angry with insults.  They would offer their gifts at the Temple.  They would pay their debts and not commit adultery.  Jesus warned against the sinning eye and the sinning right hand.  He favored the traditional divorce stance, but warned about marrying a divorced woman.  They should not bear false witness, nor swear at all, since they should have a simple speech.  No longer was it an eye for an eye, but rather turn the other cheek with unusual kindness.  They were to love their enemies and their heavenly Father with a perfect love.

The followers of Jesus should fast and pray.  We should have piety with almsgiving.  Our charity and prayer should be secret with short prayers.  Thus, there was the famous “Our Father” prayer.  The first part of the Lord’s prayer was about God the Father.  The second part of the Lord’s prayer was about our human problems.  We should seek forgiveness and fast in secret.  We should not want earthly treasures, but heavenly treasures.  We need to have a healthy eye because we cannot serve two masters.

We should trust in Providence.  We do not need to worry.  Just look at the birds who do not worry.  The lilies of the field have more beauty than Solomon in all his glory.  Seek the kingdom of heaven first and you will not have to worry about tomorrow.

As far as judgment was concerned, do not judge the speck in the eye of your neighbor.  Be careful with your holy treasures.  Be seekers and give to your sons.  Pray to your heavenly Father and follow the golden rule.  The gate was narrow and there were many false prophets.  Know them by their fruits.  The sound tree has good fruits.  Cut down the bad tree.  Seek the kingdom of heaven.  Stay away from evildoers.  Wise men build on a rock foundation, while the foolish ones build on a sand foundation.  The crowds were astonished at the authority of Jesus.

The second slave added two more talents (Mt 25:17-25:17)

“In the same way,

The one slave who had

Two talents

Made two more talents.”

 

ὡσαύτως ὁ τὰ δύο ἐκέρδησεν ἄλλα δύο.

 

This parable is unique to Matthew, but there is something similar in Luke, chapter 19:12-27.  Jesus said that in the same way (ὡσαύτως) as the slave with 5 talents, the slave who had 2 talents (ὁ τὰ δύο) made, gained or acquired 2 two more talents.  Thus, he doubled the value of his 2 talents from $4,000,000 US to $8,000,000 US.

The value of the baptism of John (Mt 21:25-21:26)

“‘Did the baptism of John

Come from heaven

Or was it of human origin?’

They argued

With one another.

‘If we say,

‘From heaven.’

He will say to us,

‘Why then did you not

Believe him?’

But if we say.

‘From human origins,’

We are afraid

Of the crowd.

All regard John

As a prophet.’”

 

τὸ βάπτισμα τὸ Ἰωάνου πόθεν ἦν; ἐξ οὐρανοῦ ἢ ἐξ ἀνθρώπων; οἱ δὲ διελογίζοντο ἐν ἑαυτοῖς λέγοντες· Ἐὰν εἴπωμεν Ἐξ οὐρανοῦ, ἐρεῖ ἡμῖν Διὰ τί οὖν οὐκ ἐπιστεύσατε αὐτῷ;

ἐὰν δὲ εἴπωμεν Ἐξ ἀνθρώπων, φοβούμεθα τὸν ὄχλον· φοβούμεθα τὸν ὄχλον.

 

This question about John the Baptist and the value of his baptism can be found in Mark, chapter 11:30-32, and Luke, chapter 20:4-6, almost word for word.  Jesus asked this one question.  Did the baptism of John the Baptist come from heaven or was it of human man-made origin (τὸ βάπτισμα τὸ Ἰωάνου πόθεν ἦν; ἐξ οὐρανοῦ ἢ ἐξ ἀνθρώπων)?  Then the high priests and the elders argued with each other (οἱ δὲ διελογίζοντο ἐν ἑαυτοῖς).  If they said that his baptism was from heaven (λέγοντες· Ἐὰν εἴπωμεν Ἐξ οὐρανοῦ,), then Jesus would ask them why they had not believed in John the Baptist (ἐρεῖ ἡμῖν Διὰ τί οὖν οὐκ ἐπιστεύσατε αὐτῷ)?  If they said that this baptism of John was from human origins (ἐὰν δὲ εἴπωμεν Ἐξ ἀνθρώπων), they were afraid of the crowds of people (φοβούμεθα τὸν ὄχλον) since they all regarded John the Baptist as a prophet (φοβούμεθα τὸν ὄχλον).  They were stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Do they pay the temple tax? (Mt 17:24-17:25)

“When they reached

Capernaum,

The collectors

Of the temple tax

Came to Peter.

They said.

‘Does your teacher

Not pay the tax?’

Peter said.

‘Yes!

He does!’”

 

Ἐλθόντων δὲ αὐτῶν εἰς Καφαρναοὺμ προσῆλθον οἱ τὰ δίδραχμα λαμβάνοντες τῷ Πέτρῳ καὶ εἶπαν Ὁ διδάσκαλος ὑμῶν οὐ τελεῖ δίδραχμα;

λέγει Ναί.

 

This section about the temple tax is unique to Matthew.  Jesus and his disciples had come back to Capernaum (Ἐλθόντων δὲ αὐτῶν εἰς Καφαρναοὺμ).  The collectors of the temple tax came to Peter (προσῆλθον οἱ τὰ δίδραχμα λαμβάνοντες τῷ Πέτρῳ).  Once again, this is an indication of Peter’s leadership.  They asked him if his teacher had paid the temple tax (καὶ εἶπαν Ὁ διδάσκαλος ὑμῶν οὐ τελεῖ δίδραχμα).  Peter responded that Jesus did pay the tax with a simple yes answer (λέγει Ναί).  What is this temple tax?  It actually was a half-shekel or “δίδραχμα – didrachma.”  All the Israelite males over the age of 20 had to pay this half-shekel tax to the Jerusalem temple, once a year, sometime in March around Passover time.  In Capernaum, there was no temple, just a synagogue.  However, this might have been a group that was collecting for the temple tax in Jerusalem for those who were not going to go to Jerusalem for the Passover.  The value of a shekel would have been around $5.00 USA, so that each male had to pay about $2.50, not a big deal for a once a year tax.  This incident probably made more sense in Jerusalem itself.

The Sermon on the Mount

Matthew had 3 chapters devoted to Jesus and his preaching on the mount or hill.  This Sermon on the Mount is a collection of sayings and teachings of Jesus that emphasize his moral teaching, the first of his 5 discourses. early in the ministry of Jesus.  Luke had something similar in his sermon on the plain.  This sermon is the longest continuous section of Jesus speaking in the New Testament, containing the central tenets of Christian discipleship.  Thus, it had become the most widely quoted and best known of the teachings of Jesus, with the Beatitudes and the Lord’s Prayer.  These Jesus sayings echo the highest ideals of Jesus’ teachings on spirituality and compassion with acts of mercy, providing both temporal and spiritual benefits.  Jesus also used many metaphors in his sermon.  He reinterpreted the Ten Commandments, particularly about lying, killing and adultery.  The teachings of this sermon have been a key element of Christian ethics with its demanding high moral standards.  Christians were to be perfect with a Christian righteousness.  There have been many different interpretations of this demanding ethical life.  Was this only for clergy and monks?  Is it only an impossible ideal?  Should we take this literally?  Is this only an interim ethic or a future ethic?  Is this the basis of the social gospel and Christian existentialism?  What value do these ideals have for our lives today?

The practical consequences of religious belief

Religion is about belief and behavior.  How we behave depends on what we believe.  The “what” and “why” of life feed into each other.  By doing a certain thing we understand why we are doing it.  We start to do it by first believing it worthwhile.  Behavior is determined by belief, but belief is also determined by behavior.  Praxis is acting and doing.  Theory is thinking and understanding.  We live according to what we believe.  We believe according to the way we live.  There is a circular interplay.  True religion is an integrating force in our lives, so that the whole person is really an integrated personality.  Religion is not a view of life, but a way of living.  A person’s view of the world reflects a way of living.  We express our ethical beliefs in both a concrete and symbolic way.  We have to understand what is being done, in order to understand what is said.  Religion is a life style, not an idea.  Are you challenged to be yourself?  Do these religious practices increase your identity?  Do they challenge you to be freer?  Do they open new horizons?  Do they have value?  Is your human existence better off?  These are the questions you must ask about your religious practice.

The useless worship of God (Mal 3:14-3:15)

“You have said.

‘It is vain

To serve God.

What do we profit

By keeping his commands?

What do we profit

By walking

As mourning

Before Yahweh of hosts?

Now we count the arrogant

Happy.

Evildoers not only prosper,

But when they put God

To the test,

They escape.’”

The people of Israel were saying that it was useless to worship God.  What did they gain by keeping his commandments?  How did it help them by walking around mourning before Yahweh?  The arrogant ones were the happy ones.  The evildoers not only prospered, but when they defied God, they escaped.  What was the value of their Yahweh worship?

The tribe of Simeon (Ezek 48:24-48:24)

“Adjoining the territory

Of Benjamin,

From the east side

To the west side,

Simeon shall have

One portion.”

Simeon had gotten very little land in Joshua, chapter 19, just some land south of Judah. Here, they are attached to Benjamin in some way that is not clear. They had one portion, just like Benjamin. Obviously, Simeon was decreasing in power and value.