Friday, August 08, 2008

The Book of Matthew pt. 1

I'd like to do a series on the book of Matthew. In the past few years this book has been on of my favorite places to go to when I need a good word. I have taken a class on it here at Asbury and lucky me I get to read through the Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7) this summer as part of the summer reading program for being a chapel intern. So this book has had a big part in shaping my life and my spiritual journey. I'd like to start with a very, very brief exercise in working through the structure of the book.

Before I get into Matthew, I'd like to quickly make one point: meaning is found in context. A sentence gives meaning to it's parts by their relationships. A paragraph gives a sentence meaning by relating it to other sentences. And so on and so forth. This is important in Biblical Studies as we look at verses. They must not be isolated from their context. So as we read a verse or a chapter we must be sure to attach it on the overarching context that it is located in. It is for this reason that we begin with a quick look at Matthew's structure. With that said let's look at the over arching context of Matthew.

The book of Matthew can be split into two major sections. The first major section going from Chapter 4 to the middle of 16. The second major section going from chapter 16 to the end of the book. A good way to summarize the first major section is found in 4:23. Here Jesus is said to begin to teach the good news of the kingdom to the whole region of Galilee. Likewise the second major section can be seen to follow verse 16:21. In this verse, Jesus begins to explain to his disciples that he is going to Jerusalem to be killed.

The First Half of Matthew:
So the first half of the book can be broken apart like this: He preaches the Sermon on the Mount (5-7). After that there is a two chapter section (8-9) where he goes around performing 10 great signs. He then sends out his disciples to spread this message farther (10). When the disciple return, Israel rejects Jesus teachings (11-12) which causes Jesus rejects Israel (13-15). The beginning of chapter 16 we find Jesus with only his disciples still following him and in a foreign country.

The Second Half of Matthew:
It is at this point that Matthew begins his second section. It begins with Jesus moving towards Jerusalem (17-21). This section climaxes with Jesus actually entering the temple. As he enters into the city he begins a series of teachings against the city and against the religious leaders there (21-25). These teachings lead to the conspiracy by the priests to kill Jesus which is carried out and Jesus is crucified after a scandalous "trial" (26-27). On the first day of the week, Jesus is raised from the dead! He then instructs his disciples that all authority has been given to him and they should go and teach what he has taught them!

This is the book of Matthew in a very brief nutshell: A proclamation (and subsequent rejection) of the Kingdom of Heaven. Then a climatic journey to Jerusalem (and the cross).

One big question I have as I look at this raw data: 'Are the two parts related?" For this sake of this series I am going to assume so. Which means we should ask another question, 'What does this mean about the Cross and the Kingdom of Heaven?'

This is where I will pick up next time. 

What are your thoughts?