Matthew 16-18 – Just a Few Highlights

Chapter 16

16:7 – "It is because we have brought no bread." I love that! If I had been one of the disciples I would have been the one who said this. Hmm…Jesus is grumpy about something. It must be because we forgot to bring the food! If you remember the parable about the woman kneading yeast into three measures of flour from last week, then you can see here how pervasive the symbol of yeast as evil and corruption is. 

16:13-26 – As soon as the disciples name Jesus correctly — "the Messiah, the Son of the living God" — he begins to point to his own suffering and to make it clear that following him will mean joining that suffering. We need to remember that both in Jesus' time and in Matthew's the idea that you might "lose your life" for the gospel was taken very literally. In our time the question is different and, in some ways, just as difficult. For us the questions is not for what will we lose our lives, but for what will we live them? 

16:28 – They believed Jesus was returning very soon. The delay of the "parousia" (the return of Christ) was a central theme in much early Christian theology. 

Chapter 17

17:1-8 – The transfiguration. What was Peter thinking?! Did you notice that God told Peter to talk less and listen more? 

17:9-13 – Have you noticed how often questions about John the Baptist arise in this Gospel? Concerns about drawing in John's followers and affirming his importance must have been prominent in Matthew's community.

17:22 – Jesus is becoming more pointed about what is ahead. Earlier Peter rebuked Jesus for the claim that he must suffer. Now the disciples respond with "distress."

17:24-27 – This is a tricky question about taxes. Let's start with Jesus' time. Every Jewish man paid an annual tax to support the work of the Temple in Jerusalem. Jesus seems to support this tax. In Matthew's time things are more complicated. When the revolution was crushed the Romans destroyed the Temple and reallocated the Temple tax to support a pagan temple in Rome. When Matthew reports that Jesus claimed "the children are free," what might  he have been saying about the new configuration of temple taxation?

Think of chapter 18 as the book of Numbers. It is the fourth book in Jesus' new Torah.

18:1-7 – Children. Verse 6 alone explains why I don't teach kids!

18:10 – The "little ones" are probably not children, but poor and vulnerable members of the community. In the same way medieval nobles sometimes referred to their peasants as "the small folk."

18:15-17 – This section discusses how to handle conflict within the community, but also maintains the high standards of purity that Jesus had earlier articulated.

18:21-25 – This pericope offers a parable about forgiveness that Christians like to ignore. Please also note that the basic metaphor for sin is debt. Just as debt binds us, so does sin. 

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