READ THE SCRIPTURE FOR THIS LESSON: Matthew 6-10
MATTHEW CHAPTERS 6-10
Jesus’ ministry begins 4:18-7:28 continued
The Sermon on the Mount continues in chapter 6. After the six examples of “greater righteousness” in chapter 5, verses 1-18 of chapter 6 offers three further examples: giving to others in need, praying and fasting.
Jesus is objecting to the common self-regarding practice of patronage in the Roman world that impresses people and promotes one’s status and reputation. Jesus calls for practices that benefit others and serve God. What we are learning is that you can tell what persons believe, not by what they say in church, but by the assumptions on which they habitually act. One assumption made in these verses is that Christ’s disciples pray. The text is not a command to pray or a scolding for not praying; it assumes that we do pray.
The remainder of chapter six through 7:12 is about just economic and social practices. The teaching begins through the end of chapter 6 by exhorting trust in God rather than pursuit of wealth, It calls into question misplaced human focus, greedy accumulation, dependence on wealth for status, and anxious distraction that comes from anxiety about material things. God’s kingdom, not the quest for stuff, is to shape the identity and lifestyle of disciples. The teaching does not forbid providing for essentials. It focuses on what monopolizes our goals, identity, and efforts. What is it that shapes our lives? If it is anything other than our faith in God and our devotion to His mission, then this passage condemns us.
Chapter 7:1-12 focuses on community. For a minority community living an alternative way of life, community relations provide support and focus in a hostile society. This is the situation for us today. Disciples are part of a merciful community that compassionately corrects, not condemns, members. They do not force the character-forming work of God’s kingdom on those who will not receive it. The remainder of the chapter contains final exhortations. The goal of discipleship is participation in the future completion of God’s purposes. Disciples know what God requires. They are motivated by the consequences of reward or punishment. The goal helps them discern ways of living appropriately in God’s kingdom.
Miracles and Discipleship 8:1-9:38
After Jesus’ teachings, we have Jesus in action. Miracle stories, especially healings, dominate the section, but there are also other actions and dialogues about discipleship. While some modern people balk at miracles, many ancients expected them from prophetic religious teachers. His actions manifest God’s powerful and merciful kingdom. They anticipate the wholeness that completion of God’s purposes will bring, something Rome cannot accomplish. Unlike Rome, God’s kingdom especially benefits the nobodies who people this section. There was one healing, however, that involved a somebody. A Roman officer came to Jesus to seek help for his ill servant. If we went out seeking people of faith, would we have passed by this Roman soldier? He is a Gentile, part of the oppressive establishment. Yet Matthew speaks of him as a model of faith.
Starting in 8:18 we see Jesus calling his disciples to follow him through a storm to a hostile country. Some follow but others find excuses to stay behind. In the foreign land they are rejected for their miracle and when they journey to Jesus’ home town where many praised God for his works, but the leaders and even John the Baptist has doubts. Jesus has a mission in the world. It involves crossing traditional boundaries. It will continue, for he calls us to follow.
The Disciples Authorized and Sent Chapter 10
Chapter 10 is the second of 5 major teachings of Jesus in Matthew. The mission Jesus sets out for his disciples assumes that the Roman imperial world is not as God wants it. They are to challenge the status quo and enact God’s alternative, just and merciful kingdom. Mission is not optional, but the very reason that disciples, or the church, exist. Their mission continues Jesus’ mission. This chapter reveals in concentrated form what the Christian life essentially is: confession of Jesus, living toward the fulfillment of the kingdom with a concern for mission in the world. It is a letting go of material possessions and fear of what others might think about us or do to us. It is placing loyalty to the God revealed in Christ above all other loyalties, even the deepest ones of home and family. It is a life of non-resistance to violence, trust in God and God’s future. The call to this life of mission is not directed to the Twelve only. For Matthew, all disciples are apostles; all of us participate in the apostolic mission.
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