In this chapter Jesus harshly criticizes Sunday School teachers who put off their preparation until too late in the week to organize a thoughtful blog post. "You brood of vipers," he curses them "you will be cast into outer darkness where there will be no study Bible footnotes to rely on and the pericopes for the week will lack obvious and intriguing political consequences. Woe to you for conversation will languish!"
Here in the outer darkness we have seven pericopes that communicate a sense of growing tension surrounding Jesus' ministry. "Growing tension," that's what the footnotes say! Okay, seriously, just a few thoughts to prime the pump:
1. Notice that Jesus healed the paralyzed man on "their" faith, the faith of his friends. Also note that the key question in the story concerns authority. Why would that be?
2. Tax collectors are interesting. They paid a flat fee to the Romans in exchange for permission to extort as much out of the population as possible. They were essentially a legalized form of the mafia. You can see why they were so despised. Naturally, we find Jesus hanging out with them. He even dines with them. He cites Hosea 6:6, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice." No other Gospel uses this text. It's interesting to think about Jesus' own death if sacrifice is not what God wants.
3. Verses 14-17 address a question about why John's disciples fast while Jesus' feast. Take a look at 11:1-19 for more comparison of John and Jesus. Remember that John and Jesus both died at the hands of a tyrant. As the Jesus movement grew, John's disciples would surely have had questions about whether the new movement was something their leader would have endorsed. Should they join forces or not? Matthew makes a case here that he hopes will persuade them.
4. The story of the woman with the issue of blood interrupts the story of healing the ruler's daughter. In this instance, Matthew follows Mark's practice of folding one story into another. The phrase "of the synagogue" in verse 18 is not in the Greek. What difference does it make? The issue of blood would have made the woman ritually impure. Healing her also restored her to her community. With healthcare workers I always like to note that Jesus could have healed her anonymously. She only needed to touch the fringe of his garment, but he chose to stop and take time to recognize her. Healing was personal for Jesus. Also the "fringe of his cloak" probably refers to the tassels on the prayer shawl that every observant Jewish man would have worn.
5. Through the end of the chapter we learn that Jesus continues to heal, that word begins to sperad, and that tensions continue to grow. We end with the note that the "laborers are few" and pick up in chapter ten with a newly commissioned set of laborers who go out into the fields ready for the harvest.
See you Sunday.