This is going to be one of those holy entries that are incredibly boring, like Keith’s.
So, I’ve actually been getting a lot out of the Matthew Bible studies we’ve been having, and for some reason, I feel like it’s all coming together for me. The book, I mean.
An interesting thing is, like, different influences are affecting my view of Matthew. In particular, Perspectives. I don’t know, it’s just been interesting.
Anyway, I wrote a while back how I’ve come to believe that Matthew is just all about 2 themes. One, Jesus is the Messiah they were waiting for. And two, he’s not like they were expecting. So, this just makes a lot of Matthew make sense. There’s all this language about the Kingdom, and stuff like that, for example. I think what he’s doing is saying those two things. Yes, I am the Messiah, and the Kingdom of heaven is at hand. And two, that Kingdom is nothing like you were expecting. I don’t know, that just makes sense to me.
Anyway, I learned something very beneficial in Perspectives. It said how Jesus came and brought the Kingdom of heaven, as the Jews were expecting. So the kingdom of God is here. But, it wasn’t the way they were expecting. Instead of bringing final judgment and whatever, Jesus’ first coming brought forth a time of mercy, like a waiting period, when the Kingdom will grow, until His second coming, when his final kingdom will be established. And the purpose of this time of waiting will be to extend his kingdom to all the nations. So that’s how we’re in the “already / not yet” stage: the kingdom of God is already here, but his final kingdom is not yet here. Dunno if I’m explaining that right, but I think that’s the gist.
Actually, it’s not that concept that’s been enlightening, it’s the way Perspectives used it to explain certain things in the Bible. Like, I always thought it was weird how John the Baptist sent his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the One. When, earlier in the book, he had clearly recognized that Jesus was. It’s just strange.
But then, it makes sense. John the Baptist was expecting a Messiah like the one prophesied in… Micah? Malachi? Not sure. But, if you look at the language John uses in Matthew 3 it’s similar to one of those, and the Messiah there is described as bringing final judgment, the ax that will cut the tree and send the bad ones into the fire.
And, Jesus will do that, but what wasn’t understood then was that this will happen at the second coming. But Jesus’ first coming will bring about a time for mercy to be extended to the nations. So, again, it’s Jesus is the promised Messiah, but what he’s about is not what they expected. And, why John the Baptist would start to wonder whether Jesus is the Messiah makes sense then. At least to me. Jesus wasn’t doing what he was expecting.
Like I wrote before, other stuff makes sense also, like why he tells people when he heals them not to tell others. Because it would give people the wrong impression about what he’s about. Yeah, he will heal, but that’s not the most important thing. He came to bring salvation.
Anyway, that passage about when an evil spirit leaves a man it goes out and wanders and then comes back, it makes sense to me now, I think.
I don’t know, I think this passage is taken out of context a lot. I think that what Jesus says is true, that that’s what actually happens when an evil spirit leaves a man. But, I don’t think that’s the main point of what he’s talking about, and that’s not what we should be fixating on. He talks about it right after talking about the sign of Jonah, and he ends by saying that “that is how it will be with this wicked generation.”
So, he’s trying to make a point with the story about what he was talking about. And, what I think he’s saying is this. When a man has an evil spirit, it’s bad. When it comes out, it’s good. But if it returns with more spirits, it’s worse off than it was before.
I think what Jesus is saying is that before he came, the world was in a bad state. Now that he’s here, it’s a good thing. But if, after this good thing has happened, you still reject Jesus, then you’re worse off than if he had never come.
Because, before, when he’s talking about Jonah, he’s essentially saying that. They ask him for a sign, and he’s saying, I’ll give you a sign, the sign of Jonah, I’ll rise again from the dead after 3 days, but even with this sign, you’re not going to believe it. And because of that, earlier generations, who saw less but still repented, will stand up in judgment. At any rate, this generation, if they reject Jesus, will be worse off than before he came. And that’s the point of the evil spirit story.
I don’t know, I’m not really explaining it well, but I think when I grasped that it was pretty exciting for me. I don’t know, I think Perspectives has just helped me look more in context. But yeah, it’s exciting to me.
Last week’s lesson I think helped me understand why Jesus spoke in parables. You know, some people say he did that to make them understand easier. And you know, maybe that’s true some of the time. The thing is, a lot of the time, even the people closest to him had no idea what he was talking about and would have to ask him to explain it. So, that doesn’t make sense. And then, Jesus himself, when explaining why he uses parables, says something weird, like, it’s to fulfill prophecy that says they will hear but not understand, see but not perceive. At any rate, it doesn’t sound like it’s to make it clearer at all.
So, what the lesson kind of said, and what I buy, is that it’s not like that, it’s not to make it clearer. It’s not exactly to make it more confusing either, though. What it is is to separate those who are truly interested from those who just want to see him do miracles or whatever. If you listen to a parable, it’s kind of confusing, to understand it you kind of have to delve into it, really examine it. And if you don’t really care you won’t do that and won’t understand it. So parables separate those who really want to listen from those who have some other agenda.
I don’t know, that makes sense to me. It’s why Jesus always says to them, he who has an ear, let him hear. And why he says just before that his mother and brothers are those that do the will of His Father. And why previous generations will stand in judgment. And it’s the point of the parable of the sower. He’s saying, listen to me, and do what I say.
So, another thing I’ve come to believe. Like before I wrote about how I think the passage where he talks about faith to move mountains is misguided or whatever. It’s not that we should try to move mountains. It’s just that if we have faith, stuff like this is possible. But the point isn’t to “move a mountain”, whatever that might be, but to have faith.
I think sometimes the parable of the sower is misread. Not misread, but the wrong thing is emphasized. Like, I don’t think it’s meant to be an in depth explanation of salvation. Maybe it is. But, I would say the clear point is this – be the person who hears and understands and bears fruit. So, we shouldn’t worry so much about how much it applies to other people, but think about whether we’re getting the message. But I don’t know, still thinking about it.
I think he’s making another point also. About the kingdom of heaven. I think he’s saying that the kingdom is going to grow, it’s not going to be a sudden thing like John the Baptist and most Jews expected. Again, that second theme of Matthew. Thus the talk about a crop and yielding many times what was sown. It’s going to grow.
If he’s not saying it here, he’s definitely saying it in the next 3 parables. Where he says what the kingdom of heaven is like. It’s like the weeds in the field, it’s like the mustard seed, it’s like the yeast. The last two are pretty clear, he’s saying, the Kingdom isn’t gonna be like you thought, it’s going to grow slowly, not be a sudden once for all thing in the beginning. I think that’s the point he’s making with the weeds in the field also. He’s saying, no, final judgment isn’t going to happen now, we’ll let the weeds and wheat grow together. It’s going to happen later.
I mean, that’s actually obvious. But, I guess the new insight I had is how that relates to the Kingdom and what people thought. He’s just saying something unexpected, how the Kingdom is going to be delayed in a sense, it’s gonna grow slowly and then something final will happen later. And, that just all makes sense now.
Anyway yeah, other parts of the book make more sense to me now also, like, you can see how he starts with the Jews but then moves towards the nations, and how that’s a part of his plan, how it’s fulfilling prophecies of him bringing a kingdom but how it’s also not a kingdom like people thought. It’s for all people, and it’s gonna grow.
So like, he starts with the Jews, he sends out his disciples to the Jews, he does the miracle with bread and fish. And then there are 12 baskets left over which everyone says represents the 12 tribes of Israel. But then, it kind of switches. After that Canaanite woman comes to him. He says how he was sent for the lost sheep of Israel, but then she talks about how even dogs get scraps. And he basically says, yes you’re right.
I don’t know, this kind of makes sense to me now also. I think what Matthew is saying is that the woman is right – Jesus did come for all people, and right after that things change. He does the second miracle of the loaves and fish and this time there are seven baskets left over. And they say seven represents completeness or the world. So, it represents something. And then after this point, he starts going all over (I’m making this up. I don’t know geography at all). But anyway, yeah, the Kingdom will be composed of people from all nations. It’s the Perspectives view, and how I’ve started looking at Scripture, and, I think it’s there. So, it’s just kind of cool to see.
So, yeah Perspectives has been pretty good for me. What I dig I realized is just good Bible study. One that’s educational and compelling, and the whole Biblical perspectives unit has largely been that. Now we’re moving on to historical perspectives and I don’t know how it will be for me. I guess we’ll see.
Uh yeah, sorry it’s a boring entry but whatever, it’s what I’ve been learning.