Tag Archives: Matthew

February 24th: “It’s About God”

Acts of piety, especially forgiveness of sins, restore connections with God. Who we seek to impress, determines the value of what we do. Seek to impress God.

This Week’s Passage: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope:

C. Other texts for Year C for 2nd Sunday in Lent

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

1-4 – Deeds done to impress people, do not impress God.

5-8 – Prayers with deep oratory quality do not connect with God.

9-10 – Know who you are talking with and seek God’s kingdom.

11-13 – “WE” petitions not “ME” petitions.

11 – – Minimal food needs for life.

12 – – Dialectical understanding of forgiveness: both present now in Jesus, and needed after the final judgment. Emphasizes the danger of presuming God’s grace.

13-15 – We want God to lead us from temptation and forgive us when we stray. Therefor we hope God will forget our mistakes and while remembering our weaknesses that led to those mistakes. We must do the same for our neighbors; releasing their mistakes and guarding their weaknesses.

16-18 – Since fasting yields heavenly rewards, we should dress like we are being honored.

19-21 – The mate to giving to impress God, is giving to put our hearts in the right place.

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • 7-15 – The RCL omits the Lord’s prayer. Omitting shifts the focus towards the behavior of righteousness. But including the prayer shifts the focus towards being at prayer in all things. To paraphrase St Francis: Pray at all times, if necessary use words.
  • 19-21 – The RCL includes these verses making the focus of this paragraph on storing up treasures in heaven. When these verses are included with the next pericope, the focus becomes not storing up treasures on earth.

F. Are there any significant variants in the manuscripts? Why?

  • 4 & 6 – Some minor variants (as reflected in the KJV) add “openly” to the end of each of these verses. The oldest and most reliable manuscripts (and most modern translations) do not have this word.
  • 13 – There are ten endings in various manuscripts for this verse. The oldest and most reliable manuscripts (and most translations) omit any doxology. N.B. Roman Catholics do not typically add a doxology when repeated in worship because it was missing from the Vulgate. Protestants typically add the doxology because the oldest Greek manuscripts available to the Reformers included the doxology.

II. Literary Study.

C. Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms

/anTrwpwn/ – NIV & RSV translate this and its cognates as “men”, but Greek has a separate word for males. Thus “people” would be a better translation.

/paraptwmata/ – trespasses. Perschbacher notes in the *New Analytical Greek Lexicon* that in other literature this word means to step falsely.

/upokritai/ – hypocrites. Boring notes this word was “a neutral term to the Greeks, literally meaning “stage actors.” Modern usage has loaded it with negative connotations.

/epiousios/ – daily, necessary, continual, for today, for tomorrow. This word appears only in this prayer, both in the NT and in other Greek literature. Boring reminds us that day laborers may have gone from one day to the next without knowing where there next day’s bread was coming from. Thus this prayer may have been a request to place concerns for tomorrows food into God’s care.

D. What is the literary style of the text? And how does it affect the reading? What does a poetic form do to the meaning? Lament/Praise/Petition? Any subtle variations in the repetitions? What is emphasized/minimized by the repetition?

Two fold inclusio: giving and building treasures forms the outer pair, prayer and fasting the inner pair, with forgiving the central ideal.

III. Question the text.

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

  • Center of Gravity: Forgiveness is the greatest act of piety.
  • Emotional Center: Seek to impress God with piety.

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

M. Eugene Boring, (“The Gospel of Matthew”, NIB) notes the parallels between vv. 2-4, 5-6, and 16-18. He also notes the 3 units of the “inserted” prayer. He notes the references to the synagogue (2 & 5) should not be interpreted as indictments against Jews in general, because both of these practices would not be in keeping with norms of synagogue worship. But rather what is indited is the attitude with which a hypocrite comes to pray. [For example coming to church so that others can see you there.] The Lord’s Prayer has many similarities with other first century Jewish prayers, especially the Kaddish. He suggests that the original prayer was in Aramaic. He also suggest that the original prayer was addressed to /abba/, a familiar form of address rather than a formal address as with the modern English “Father.” He notes that the prayer like authentic worship is God centered, not human need centered.

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

B. Focus Statement: Central, controlling, unifying theme.

Who we seek to impress, determines the value of what we do. Seek to impress God.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

Acts of piety, especially forgiveness of sins, restore connections with God.

November 13th: “Preparations”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: Matthew 25:1-13

C. Other texts for Year A for Sunday November 6th

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

1-2 When the end times come, the reign of God will not be an orderly procession but confusion.

3 The “foolish” took no extra oil, perhaps supposing the bridegroom would come quickly.

4 The “wise” took extra oil, perhaps recalling previous instances of delay.

5 They all slept during the delay.

6 Midnight: Time Critical.

7 Everyone gets ready, and puts forward their best light.

8 Should we expect others to share?

9 Are the wise being wise or merely sending the foolish away at the critical moment.

10 It’s midnight. Where would they find a dealer at that hour? This was not a quick trip to the market!

11-12 Some people are motivated by fear of being excluded.

13 Expect the boss to show any time!

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • This is a complete parable. It is the third of five parables that explain people’s reactions to the Son of Man coming at his appointed hour, a teaching that includes all of chapters 24 and 25.

F. Are there any significant variants in the manuscripts? Why?

  • Some manuscripts expand verse 1 to read “to meet the bridegroom [and the bride].” Although it answers questions about the ceremony, this adds complicates to the allegory, as the bride is otherwise unmentioned.
  • Some manuscripts expand verse 13 to “for you know neither the day nor the hour [in which the Son of Man is coming].” Adding this would match similar verse in adjacent parables.

II. Literary Study.

B. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?

  • This parable is the antithesis to the parable of the generous landowner who pays everyone the same, beginning with the last who wait until the last hour to get hired.

D. What is the literary style of the text? And how does it affect the reading? What does a poetic form do to the meaning? Lament/Praise/Petition? Any subtle variations in the repetitions? What is emphasized/minimized by the repetition?

  • This is a parable in an apocalyptic section, thus the words chosen are likely to be highly symbolic!

III. Question the text.

A. Observe the passage from the perspective of its characters.

The foolish maiden would have enough oil in their lamps for a reasonable party if the bridegroom had been on time.

The wise maidens anticipated the bridegroom arriving late, and even after the call at “midnight” they were unsure of his arrival.

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

  • Center of Gravity: This parable follows a teaching predicated on Jesus’ prophecy that not one stone of the Temple would be left standing. It answers the question: “When will Jesus come again?” A question of importance when this was written ~30 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection.
  • Emotional Center: Those who expect delay will be ready and will be received. Those who wait until the last moment will be excluded.
  • Music: Wagner’s Bridal March would be an interesting background music for this parable!

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

  • Both the foolish and wise maidens bring lamps with some oil. But how much oil is prudent to bring? Since the wise maidens would not give / share / lend / sell any oil to the foolish, there is no upper limit on how much is enough.

E. Is there anything you wish the author had included in the passage? Why do you think this was not a part of Scripture?

  • There is no grace for those who are unprepared.

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

J. Newton Davies (“Matthew”, The Abingdon Bible Commentary, Frederick C. Eiselen, Editor (New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press) 1929.) “The all important lesson is inculcated that the Christian must learn to build up reserves of strength and fortitude, so that in all circumstances, favorable and unfavorable, he may cause his light to shine, and thus find the joy of the Lord.”

Reginald H. Fuller (“Matthew”, Harper’s Bible Commentary, James Luther Mays, Editor (New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, Inc.) 1988.) interprets this as a simple allegory with the Messiah as the Bridegroom and the wise bridesmaids as those who practice better righteousness, fulfilling the Torah, than those who use up their oil.

Benedict Viviano (“The Gospel According to Matthew,” The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, Raymond Brown, et al, eds. (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall) 1990.) explains the oil as allegorizing good works which are not completely transferable, explaining the refusal of the wise to give some of their oil to the foolish. “Others can help, but readiness to accept salvation is ultimately a matter of personal responsibility. … The shut door means that admission is not automatic.”

M. Eugene Boring (“The Gospel of Matthew,” The New Interpreter’s Bible , Leander Keck, et al, eds. (Nashville: Abingdon) 1995.) reflects that we can not tell by looking at the bridesmaids that some are foolish and others are wise, for all have their lamps aglow with expectation [and they can not be differentiated by their watchfulness as all fall asleep]. He links their preparedness back to the Sermon on the Mount: being a peacemaker or merciful for a day can be nice, but doing so for a lifetime requires preparedness.

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

Believers must be ready to persevere as Christ will come in his time, not ours.

B. Focus Statement: Central, controlling, unifying theme.

Make ready to demonstrate a changed life for many days as the last day has yet to dawn.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

October 30th: “Blessings Abound!”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: Gospel Matthew 5:1-12

C. Other texts for Year A, All Saints Day

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

1. c.f. Theophany scene with Moses and the elders approaching God on Mt Sinai.

2. Joke based on the apostles’ response to this passage. Do we have to write this down? Will there be a test? … What are your cognitive goals?

3. Who are the “poor in spirit”? Could this literally mean that God loves those and will call home those who find no hope in this world? That God will save even those who are not rich enough spiritually to call upon the name of Christ for salvation?

4. Is there more to this than assurance of a life to come? Does this recommend mourning?

5-6 Meekness versus striving for righteousness. Meekness sets a bound as to what constitutes a just use of force.

6-7 Righteous vs. mercy. When do we seek justice and when do we grant mercy?

7-8 Mercy vs. Purity. Being merciful means compromising one’s purity. e.g. Pope advocated giving up capital punishment even of those who do terrible things.

6-9 & 10 Righteousness vs. Peacemaking. Seeking righteousness may result in strife.

11. Attacks often include a shred of truth, twisting truth, combining ignorance with a different perspective of how to live out these tensions.

II. Literary Study.

B. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?

  • Luke 6:17, 20-23

C. Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms

/makarios/ ‘blessed,’ ‘fortunate,’ ‘happy,’ ‘well-off’: Trait of being god-like. Trait of being dead (having escaped the bounds of earthly existence. Trait of being wealthy in possessions or relations. BUT, Jesus says it is those who struggle in this earthly existence who are blessed. The prophets and apocalypses pick up the theme of eschatological blessedness.

III. Question the text.

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

M. Eugene Boring (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “The Gospel of Matthew,” Abingdon, 1995.) interprets Jesus’ ascent up the mountain as theological to link Jesus with Moses for whom mountains were places of revelation. He notes the reversal from the usual practice of associating blessings with those fortunate circumstances. He concludes that rejoicing when persecuted should not express a martyr complex, but as acceptance of the “badge of belonging to the eschatological community of faith.”

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

October 23rd: “Stewardship: Love God”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: Gospel Matthew 22:34-46

C. Other texts for Year A, Sunday, October 23rd in Ordinary Time

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

35 Another trick question to divide Jesus’ supporters. We use this behavior today to divide political groups against a candidate.

40 If we could but love God, everything else would fall into place.

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

This is preceded by another controversy story, which ends with Jesus taking the Pharisee’s point of view against the Sadducees regarding remarriage and the resurrection. Could this testing by the Pharisee’s be an attempt to show Jesus as not one of them either?

II. Literary Study.

B. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?

Mark reports this question and answer as a friendly inquiry from a scribe. Jesus’ conversation with the scribe ends with Jesus saying: “You are not far from the kingdom of heaven;” which may be understood as a word of encouragement, a declaration that the scribe is standing before the Son of God, or as sarcasm meaning the scribe is nowhere near the kingdom of heaven. Or as irony, the kingdom of heaven is standing only a few inches away from the Scribe.

Matthew omits the beginning of the Shema in his response, which is carried fully in Mark 12:28-34).

C. Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms

Matthew calls the Pharisee who questions Jesus as a lawyer. This is Matthew’s only use of /nomikos/. Boring translates this as an expert theologian, consistent with the NIV which reads “an expert in the law.”

III. Question the text.

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

Jesus is asked to pick the most important commandment in the law. At that time rabbis had counted 613 laws, 248 positive commands, corresponding to the number of body parts, and 365 negative commands, corresponding to the number of days in a year. The trap comes from a belief that every commandment is equally binding and any rank ordering human presumption of knowing the divine.

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

M. Eugene Boring, The New Interpreter’s Bible, “The Gospel of Matthew.” “It is striking that Jesus is asked for one command but responds with two. Matthew alone specifically adds that the second is ‘like’ (/omoia/) the first. This does not mean merely that it is similar, but that it is of equal importance and inseparable from the first. The great command to love God has as its inseparable counterpart the command to love neighbor. One cannot first love God and then, as a second task, love one’s neighbor. To love God is to love one’s neighbor, and vice verse.” And can one love one’s neighbor, without loving one’s self as well?

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

October 16th: “Stewardship: Taxes”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: Gospel Matthew 22:15-22

C. Other texts for Year A, October 16th in Ordinary Time

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

15 Why do the “Pharisees” of our day want to entrap Jesus?

II. Literary Study.

A. What is the history of the text? Who wrote it? When? In what social context? What Historical/Religious/Sociological factors influenced its writing?

Matthew wrote this remembering the Zealot movement which resulted in a disastrous war (66AD – 70AD) and which arose in part over the Roman head tax. The tax had to be paid with Roman coins which blasphemously referred to Tiberius Caesar as son of the divine Augustus, and head priest.

III. Question the text.

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

The trick to the Pharisees question was would Jesus side with the Zealots, and refuse to pay the tax, or would he affirm the tax and the inferred blasphemous statement, and thereby alienate the nationalists?

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

Eugene Boring, The New Interpreter’s Bible, “Matthew”. While affirming the need to make a distinction between things that belong to Caesar and loyalty to God, Matthew leaves actualizing the decision to the readers who must become “Jesus theologians.”

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

Octobert 9th: “Stewardship: Invitation”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: Gospel Matthew 22:1-14

C. Other texts for Year A, Sunday October 9th Ordinary Time

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

2 What would a wedding banquet for Jesus include?

II. Literary Study.

B. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?

  • Luke 14:15-24
  • Thomas 64
  • If from a common source, Matthew has substantially modified the text to satisfy his own purposes.

C. Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms

  • The king sends out /douloi/, frequently translated slaves, but also servants.

III. Question the text.

F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?

  • Compare with satirical list of reasons not to bathe.
  • Hearers are asking themselves: “Where am I in this scene?”

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

Eugene Boring, The New Interpreter’s Bible, “The Gospel of Matthew”. Boring analyzes this passage as an allegory: The king corresponds to God; the feast to eternal salvation; the invited guests to Israel; the initial invitation to Abraham’s covenant, … Joshua’s covenant; the first two round of servants who remind the guests to the prophets; the final set of servants correspond to Christian missionaries; and the donning of wedding robes to conversion; thus several are invited (Israel and gentiles) but few are chosen ekletos (elected). Boring makes a jump that the wedding robes of the elect are fabricated by the fruits of their actions based on the previous parables and Romans 9-11 and 1Cor 10:12. We may get into the feast based on grace alone, but our election is demonstrated by our fruits.

Robert Grundy, Matthew: A Commentary on his Literary and Theological Art. Grundy links this parable with the preceding two noting that the first (the two sons) addresses the call to repentance by John the Baptist, the second (the ungrateful tenants) addresses the work of the prophets and Jesus Christ, and the third addresses the work of the church.

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

September 25th: “Truth Telling”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: Gospel Matthew 21:23-32

C. Other texts for Year A for Sunday, September 25th in Ordinary Time

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

23 Imagine coming into church on Sunday morning and someone, not a member of the church, was teaching a class. What if the teacher was someone who had a reputation as a rabble-rouser and a reputation as teaching heresies? Would we not ask exactly the same question of authority?

24-25a Jesus traps the Pharisees in a lose-lose question. Often it is the Pharisees that attempt to trap Jesus in a lose-lose question.

25b-27a How would we handle a revival that began outside the church or as a para-church movement? Is AA, Promise Keepers, … of God or of human invention?

27b Can we instead recognize that God may use any and every item of human invention for divine purposes. The church must be able to recognize God’s presence in all things.

28-30 Such typical responses to chores!

31c-32 Sinners, although last among people, are first in the kingdom of God when they recognize their sins, and seek to repent of such.

F. Are there any significant variants in the manuscripts? Why?

  • One variant changes the order of the sons so that the first son agreed to go but did not, with the listeners affirming the one who refused, yet went. This variant may have to do with chiastic structure so it better parallels what follows with tax collectors and prostitutes who believe and repent.
  • Another variant keeps the order the same, but the listeners reply that the second son does the will of the father (says he will go, but does not). Could this refer to the tax collectors and prostitutes who believe, but do not change their ways and to the Pharisees who do not believe but do justice?

II. Literary Study.

A. What is the history of the text? Who wrote it? When? In what social context? What Historical/Religious/Sociological factors influenced its writing?

  • This occurs in Matthew on the morning after Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem.
  • Jesus proceeds to tell two other parables after this one also against the Pharisees: The parable of the murderous tenants, and the rejected stone which became the cornerstone.

III. Question the text.

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

M. Eugene Boring (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “Gospel of Matthew.” Abingdon, 1995) notes that those who will judge Jesus, here pronounce judgment on themselves. After listing instances in this Gospel of Jesus exercising authority, he notes that the climax of the Gospel is Jesus announcement that God has given him all authority. He opines that “We don’t know,” can be a legitimate religious response, however, since the chief priests have pressed a yes/no question they must at least struggle with the ambiguity. He describes the parallel structure of the parable of the two sons and the following parable of the landowner and the vineyard. He reflects that both parables tell how God will take from Jewish/false leaders and will give to new leaders. He rejects interpretations that Israel was rejected. He also reminds interpreters to ask themselves “whether they have set up phony sovereignties in place of the one God, and thus might be addressed in the “you” from whom the kingdom is taken.”

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

— Our actions describe better than our words the authority that we have given to Jesus.

B. Focus Statement: Central, controlling, unifying theme.

— What authority do we give Jesus? And how do we respond to that authority?

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

— Encourage careful introspection of how we acknowledge Christ throughout our whole lives.

September 18th: “Satisfied”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: Matthew 20:1-16

C. Other texts for Year A for Sunday September 18th in Ordinary Time

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

1 The Creator of heaven and earth (a k a the Landowner) gives us purpose in his earthly kingdom.

2 The workers agreed before working to what they eventually received.

3-7 Later workers trusted the landowner to pay them a fair wage. Where were these workers “early in the day” when the landowner began hiring people?

5-6 The Landowner goes out again and again looking for workers.

6 An eleventh hour decision.

6b What are we waiting for? Why are we idle about evangelism? What is our excuse? Just because we arrived late is not an excuse for not sharing the gospel, by word and by deed, with others!

8 This order would encourage jealousy and bait any greed.

9 Usual daily wage would have been just enough to keep a family from starvation so the laborer could return the following day to work.

15 Parable against works righteousness and other criteria for limiting the kingdom of heaven to those meeting a human interpretation of minimal expectations for salvation.

16 What is the significance of the order reversal? How does this amplify or modify the equality of the reward given to all of the laborers?

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

Jesus has just told the disciples “It would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” To which Peter asks: “Who then can be saved?” [Peter may have been thinking realistically, with the rich being able to propagate their genes by their wealth. But Jesus was thinking spiritually.] Peter also asks: “We have left everything and followed you. What then shall we have?” To which Jesus answers: The first shall be last and the last shall be first.” Those who seek to hang onto what they have shall lose it, but those who give up what they have, for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven, shall gain everything.

II. Literary Study.

B. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?

Several commentaries note the grammatical parallels with 19:16-30 especially that the concluding sentence in both passages are similar. In the preceding story of Jesus’ encounter with the rich man who wants to know that he must do to gain eternal life, Jesus tells him he must sell everything and give it to the poor. In this parable, the landowner gives away his wealth beyond what the laborers have earned.

C. Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms

v. 2 NRSV interprets paying the laborers a denarius as the usual daily wage.

III. Question the text.

A. Observe the passage from the perspective of its characters.

Did those chosen last presume they were not good enough to work in the field? Were they invisible members of the community?

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

Center of Gravity: The reward of heaven equally blesses all who receive it. Those who make great sacrifices and demonstrate superior piety will be generously rewarded. But so too will those who arrive in the last hour. So the first ought not lord over the last.

F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?

  • Consider the necessity of even menial jobs to the success of a company or to a community. When garbage workers go on strike, and refuse piles up, their necessity is quite apparent!
  • Definition of Success: “I get to do what I like doing, and I get paid enough to live.”
  • Fairness of some people carrying the full burden of the costs of having a church for others.
  • This parable highlights the impetus for Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins.

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

Brian Stoffregen (Gospel_Notes.topic@ecunet.org) notes that “those who begrudge the landowners generosity were those who felt that they had earned what they received, rather than see their work and wages as gifts.” Later he notes that employment is also a gift.

M. Eugene Boring (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “Matthew” Abingdon, 1995): “Grace is always amazing grace. Grace that can be calculated and ‘expected’ (v. 10) is no longer grace. (cf. 22:11-14)” [p. 394]

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

Although we can find biblical criteria to show that we have earned salvation, God can set that criteria aside to provide sufficient grace to whomever He chooses to justify.

B. Focus Statement: Central, controlling, unifying theme.

God and only God determines who he might exclude from grace.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

Christ’s message is grace, not punishment for failure to meet standards.

September 4th: “No Tomorrow”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: Matthew 18:15-20

C. Other texts for Year [A|B|C] for [N]th Sunday in [Advent | Christmas | Lent | Easter | Ordinary Time]

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

I do this early, before researching the passage influences my questions.

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • Should this passage be shortened/extended?
  • Will the hearers need an introduction before it is read?

F. Are there any significant variants in the manuscripts? Why?

  • When scribes hand copied the Bible, various errors crept in or were ‘corrected’ by later editors.
  • Some copies updated the text to reflect changes in language or culture.
  • Today we can only guess which editions most accurately follow the original author.

II. Literary Study.

A. What is the history of the text? Who wrote it? When? In what social context? What Historical/Religious/Sociological factors influenced its writing?

B. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?

C. Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms

D. What is the literary style of the text? And how does it affect the reading? What does a poetic form do to the meaning? Lament/Praise/Petition? Any subtle variations in the repetitions? What is emphasized/minimized by the repetition?

III. Question the text.

A. Observe the passage from the perspective of its characters.

B. Are there any unusual details? Un-named characters? ‘Pointless’ description? Meanings of names of characters? What does a literal meaning of natural metaphors imply?

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

D. Look for conflict: stated or implied.

E. Is there anything you wish the author had included in the passage? Why do you think this was not a part of Scripture?

F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

B. Focus Statement: Central, controlling, unifying theme.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

August 14th: “Begging and Believing”

I. Establish the text

A. Select the Pericope: Matthew 15:21-28

C. Other texts for Year A for Sunday August 14th in Ordinary Time

D. Brainstorm: What questions/thoughts come to mind?

21-22 Jesus goes to remote seacoast towns, yet the people already know about him.

23-24 When have we cried out to God for healing and heard no response? When have we prayed and experienced only a stone wall? When has the church brushed our concerns away? When have we brushed aside requests from non-members because we were already busy?

25-26 Does Jesus help her by setting up an opportunity for her to make a statement of faith?

27 The “Sinner’s Prayer” in a different form.

28 Why was this conflict necessary? There are several other stories of Jesus healing those whom outsiders, even disciples, ignored. The woman shifts from wanting healing for her daughter to healing for herself, and in that healing, finds healing for her daughter.

E. Reconsider where the text begins and ends: What got chopped out?

  • The scene changes at verses 21 and 29 provide sharp boundaries for this story.

II. Literary Study.

B. What parallel passages exist? How do they differ? How does this author’s intent differ from other authors? Is the text used elsewhere?

  • Mark 7:24-30 – Lists only Tyre. Places the context inside a house, as Jesus “did not want anyone to know he was there; yet he could not escape notice.” Woman was Greek-Syrophoenician. She knelt and begged, but direct speech is not included. Matthew adds that Jesus did not answer her at first. No comment from disciples to “send her away.” Jesus says: “For saying that, you may go, for the demon has left your daughter.”
  • Matthew 8:5-13 – The Healing of the Centurion’s Servant: Has many points in common: An outsider comes to Jesus and begs that another be cured. The outsider observes he does not deserve for Jesus to come under his roof and makes a greater statement of faith than found among the children of Israel. It differs significantly in that Jesus immediately offers to attend to the sick servant.

C. Review syntax/meanings of critical words, phrases, idioms

  • /Kynarion/ = puppies. This word is typically used for household pets rather than stray dogs. The usage first by Jesus, and later by the woman, extends the metaphor the house of Israel as “children.”

D. What is the literary style of the text? And how does it affect the reading? What does a poetic form do to the meaning? Lament/Praise/Petition? Any subtle variations in the repetitions? What is emphasized/minimized by the repetition?

  • Follows the style of a controversy dialog, but here Jesus makes the hostile statement and the woman ends the controversy by making an irrefutable statement. None-the-less, Jesus does not grant the healing because he was bettered by the woman, but out of grace.

III. Question the text.

C. What is the center of gravity of the text? Where was the author heading? What question did the author intend to answer? What is the emotional center of the text? What music would it call for?

  • Center of Gravity: To show that those outside the Jewish nation would also repent and recognize Jesus as Lord and Savior.
  • Emotional Center: Jesus response to persistent humble prayer.
  • Music: ““We Walk by Faith and Not by Sight””

F. How will this text be heard by individuals in the congregation, including the preacher?

  • Could this be illustrated by the preacher receiving a phone call during the sermon and, after checking the caller ID, say: “Oh, its the hospital. Don’t they know I work on Sundays. Too many funerals and wedding already this week. …”

IV. What do the commentaries have to say about the text?

M. Eugene Boring (The New Interpreter’s Bible, “The Gosple of Matthew,” Abingdon, 1995) reflects that Matthew intended this story to make three points: (1) God has a plan for salvation history first to the Jews and then broadening to all nations after Easter; (2) Worshipful struggle with God is not unbelief but great faith, he contrasts this with Peter’s previous statement: “if it is you Lord, then command me to come to you on the water (14:28);” and (3) Jesus crosses barriers of sex and race to make a vital connection.

Brian Stoffregen (Gospel Notes for Next Sunday on EcuNet 7 August 2005) concludes “The entire section of Matthew 15:1-28 is concerned with ritual purity—who is clean/unclean and what makes them that way?” He notes this is the only time Jesus affirms “great faith”, “Yet, she didn’t walk on water, as Peter did last week. She didn’t move a mountain. She probably had never been to church in her life. She certainly had never read the Bible.”

V. With respect to the hearers (including the preacher), What does this text want to say and do?

Those times when my sermons were best received,
when parishioners came up and said: “I felt you were preaching directly to me,”
were those times when I was preaching to myself. — Rabbi Chet Diamond

A. What is the theological meaning of the verses?

Jesus crosses theological and cultural boundaries to heal those who persistently and humbly pray.

C. Function Statement: What change in the hearer?

Come to Christ with “great faith,” recognizing the absurdity of sinners even approaching the throne of grace and the incongruity of the Father sending his Son for us, yet persistently attempting connect so that the Spirit might have an opening to bend us to God’s will.