Notes on Craig S. Keener Commentary: Matthew's Gospel

BIBLIOGRAPHICAL DATA

Keener, Craig S. A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. Grand Rapids: William B.Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999.

THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW:

Commentary Overview

The focus of the commentary tends to delineate on the historical contextualization of the gospel of Matthew, the historical context the message is communicated, and the lessons the gospel provides to the first-century Jewish Christian community. The commentary aims at reconstructing the specific setting of Matthew’s gospel which remains hypothetic because the absolute setting remains uncertain with relative to the relevant social context. The commentator has adopted four methodologies with reference to the question of interpretation of the gospel of Matthew. These methodologies include 1) source criticism, 2) form criticism, 3) redaction criticism, and 4) contemporary literary criticism. These methodologies have been adopted and used in studying the gospel of Matthew and the other gospels for exegetical purposes. With reference to the social-historical and sociological interpretation of the Matthew’s gospel, Matthew attempts to reconstruct a general first century Mediteranean setting of the gospel that is more relevant to the original settings when otherwise presupposed.[1] At the glace, the reliability of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew’s gospel that raised questions is examined, the importance of such  questions for Matthew are contextualized and answered, the rhetorical teachings (parables, graphic illustrations, hyperbole etc.) of Jesus are researched, studied, and interpreted. The later revision of the Matthew’s gospel is done by the church, followed y the examination of the written oral tradition, the sayings materials, and accuracy of the Matthew’s narratives. Regarding critical consideration, structure, authorship, and the situation Matthew addresses, the gospel reflects some of the process of oral tradition that stand behind their sources, Matthew’s arrangement of the materials coheres with the basic principles of the ancient rhetoric and biography, Matthew is the best individual regarding authorship, the gospel was written in Syro-Palestine that spoke Greek language, and Matthew addresses conflict. He is involved or engaged in all sort of conflict of the Polemic against the Jewish authority.

THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW:

Introduction

The Gospel of Matthew narrates the story of the arrival of Jesus Christ. The Gospel of Matthew was widely read frequently and used among the four Gospels the most during the early years of the church. The widely use of the Gospel of Matthew during the formative years of the church was the result of its verification that Jesus is recognized as the long-awaiting Messiah of peace, deliverance, salvation, and the new life for humanity including for both Jews and Gentiles as prophesied in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the New Testament.[2]

CHAPTER ONE

Synthesis and Insights

Keener writes,

Matthew opens his Gospel by showing both Jesus’ historic inseparability from the history of Israel and his inseparability from the Gentile mission already implicit in that history. He does this by listing Jesus’ ancestors who evoke Israel’s rich Old Testament heritage and by listing four Gentiles in Jesus’ ancestry who came to participate in that heritage. In literary terms, he connects his plot with the broader plot of Israel’s history (Wright 1992a: 385).[3] The above quotation resonates with the Gospel according to Matthew that highlights the historical background of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in connection to Israel’s history as the Messiah promised and prophesied in the Old Testament. It primarily presents the genealogy of Jesus as the Son of David and the Son of Abraham. In the genealogy, the ancestor of God’s original chosen nominated to the commonwealth of Israel and non-Jewish and non-Jewish national by birth, the Gentile race, Abraham is named as the ancestor of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ indicating to the entire world that though God used the Jewish race to bring about the Savior of the world; however, God also has inaugurated and adopted the Gentile race to be part of the promise; therefore, Abraham, the Gentile race known as the Father of faith is chosen at which the nation of Israel is born out of emerging the Savior of the world. In the Gospel, Matthew explains the character and purpose of his genealogy naming the long list of the ancestors of the Savior. Matthew discusses mixed marriages and the Gentiles mission to the world with reference to globalization with reference to evangelism and church planting encapsulated in the mission of the church. While discussing the Gentiles mission to the world, the birth narratives of infancy is introduced and delineated that necessitates the debate of the virgin birth revealed by the angel through prophetically realizing the birth of the Savior Jesus Christ in the subsequent chapter. In this chapter God has revealed himself through Jesus Christ and revealing the inclusiveness of humanity in the salvation project of his initiation; in this light, God sent Jesus to the entire world to die for sin once for all. The inclusiveness references the adherence of members of other religions of the world. The virgin birth is miraculous and it is not to be compared to the births of the proponents of other religious leaders or pioneers of religions. In this light, salvation is only found in Jesus Christ and no one can be saved by any pioneers of religions besides in Jesus (Acts 4:12). The case is settled through the virgin birth which gives dichotomy of distinction between other births of the pioneers of religions. All other religious leaders were born through the will of man; unless, Jesus was not born in such manner (John 1:1–6). He was conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit. This gives meaning and assurance to the adherence of the Christian faith.

CHAPTER TWO

Synthesis and Insights

Keener writes,

The Magi and scribes function as composite characters, like the chorus in a Greek drama (Arist: Poetics 18:19, 1456a). The pagan astrologers worship Jesus; Israel’s ruler seeks his death, acting like a pagan king; Jerusalem’s religious elite–forerunners of Matthew’s readers’ opponents – take Jesus for granted. Matthew forces his audience to identify with the pagan Magi rather than with Herod or Jerusalem’s religious elite, and hence to recognize God’s interest in the Gentile mission. The God who sought servants from the pagan west like the Roman centurion (8:5–13) also sought previously pagan servants “from the east” (2:1; cf. Is 2:6) like the Magi (see 8:11).[4] Keener comments on the historical eventuality of the birth of Jesus Christ and references the Magi and the scribes as the composite characters in the narrative. The Magi were astrologists who studied the stars and their appearances. Based on the stars seen in the east, the Magi have come to the realization that someone great has been born and this child needed worship. The Magi inquired and the scribes responded to them based on the prophecy in the Old Testament (Gen 49:10; Micah 5:2; Isaiah 11:1, Jer 23:5; 2 Sam 7:16). The Magi went to worship and to present gifts to the child while the pagan king, Herod, sought the death of the child. God in his sovereignty and providence, told the parents of Jesus to take him to Egypt (Matt 2:13–23). When the King, Herod, observed that the Magi could not return to him as instructed, he ordered that every male child two years old and below be executed in Bethlehem (Matt 2:16–18). This was a hash command that required the death of innocent children in the land. He did this because he felt that someone has come to compete with him as the king because Jesus was mentioned as the king of the Jews who would come to liberate Israel (Mark 15:2; John 18:34–36). Was Jesus a political leader or spiritual leader? The king misunderstood this as prophesied in the Old Testament and massacred the children in cold blood. Jesus’ disciples had misconceptions about the kingship of Jesus as prophesied in the Old Testament (Acts 1:6–8). From the day of Jesus’ birth to the time of his crucifixion, Satan had sought to take his life; however, the devil could not take his life until the time appointed by God. Evidently, the mission of Jesus to earth was to die for sin in order to redeem mankind from the hand of Satan. No one could take his life until himself lay his life down; as the result, when the fullness of time came for his crucifixion, Jesus lay his life down; therefore, he was arrested and nailed to the cross according scripture. While on earth, he faced temptations from his countrymen and was accused several times as sacrilegious and was called the prince of the devil. Anyone who follows God or calls on the name of Jesus will be persecuted because no servant is greater than his master according to scriptures. Despite of numerous temptations believers face, these temptations are used by God to train the believers so that they can develop characters and become mature in their walks with Christ and become testimonies to the larger community of believers.

CHAPTER THREE

Synthesis and Insights

Keener writes,

Although Josephus presents the Baptist’s mission as that of a moralizing philosopher for his Hellenized audience (see Meier 1992: 234; cf. Liefeld 1967: 146 n.31), the gospel accounts preserve a greater ring of authenticity concerning the Baptist’s own milieu: John was a wilderness prophet proclaiming impending judgment. Repentance (3:2, 6, 8) was the only appropriate response to the coming kingdom (3:2), fiery judgment (3:7), 10–12), and the final judge, who would be more than a merely political Messiah (3:11–12). Given the widespread view in early Judaism that prophets in the formal sense had ceased (Keener 1991b: 77–91), John’s appearance naturally drew crowds (3:5).[5] The actual presence of God in generations can change the views of such generations with regard to philosophy, the culture, tradition, and history that emerged as the result of human ideologies based on social norms and religious politics. Given the widespread view in early Judaism, the Judaisers had propagated that prophets had ceased; nevertheless, the appearance of John the Baptist naturally drew crowds as John the Baptist preached on the message of repentance and the imminent judgment that awaited those who refuse to repent. Did the judgment that John the Baptist talked about actually happen? Is this judgment still pending? I believe this judgment is still pending; therefore, God has sent evangelists and pastors in our time to preach the word of repentance. Are pastors or evangelists preaching the word of repentance in our time? Preachers or teachers in our time that preach on repentance or holiness are contemporaries of John the Baptist. God is still speaking and he is waiting patiently as the result of longsuffering that forms part of his attributes.

CHAPTER FOUR

Synthesis and Insights

Keener writes,

Given the early church’s lack of political temptation, many scholars argue that Jesus himself must have communicated the temptation narrative to his disciples, at least as a spiritual reality or in parabolic form. If this argument for the narrative’s authenticity lacks must conviction (and it does), the argument against it, depicting the narrative necessarily as only myth or legend, it is evidentially weaker, based merely on modern cultural assumption dismissing the reality of the demonic rather than on formal grounds.6] Given that the natural man understands not the things that come from the Spiritual of God, because they are foolishness to him and he cannot understand them because they are spiritually discerned; therefore, the above quotation resonates with the proof of this passage (1Cor 2:14). Despite of the early Church lacking of political temptation as assumed by the critics does not disprove God’s word and equate the word of God to myth or legend. The argument is baseless because the temptation recorded in the Gospel was recorded by eye witnesses. It is merely a modern cultural assumption to dismiss the reality or the existing of demons. Such approach to scriptures by critics is naturalistic and the argument should not be fueled to take on a theological contest , rather such argument should be discouraged in the theological and ecclesiastical circles. Such criticism challenges the pastoral ministry and encourages the in-depth studies of scriptures contextually.

CHAPTER FIVE

Synthesis and Insights

In chapter five, Matthew collects Jesus’ teachings that explain how a repentant individual is ready for God’s rules to practice them. The Gospel writer suggests that only those who have submitted to God’s kingdom’s reign in this era are prepared for the time when Jesus will judge the world and reign there unchallenged. This discourse on the mount is called the beatitude. The sermon discusses the kingdom blessing (5:1–2) for the repentant individual nomenclature as the reward of the kingdom (5:3–12). In this light, the beatitude indicates that one who truly repents in light of the coming kingdom will treat one’s neighbors rightly.[7] Having described the lifestyle of disciples, Jesus explained that the disciple who does not live this lifestyle of the kingdom is much as the tasteless salt (5:13–16). This indicates that a disciple who does not practice the value exemplified in the beatitudes is like tasteless salt. He referred and affirmed good characters than good deeds (7:17–20).[8] Matthew insists that disciples should obey God’s law wholeheartedly in the affirmation of scriptural authority. Matthew discusses Jesus’ principles of scriptural application, the warning against sexual covetousness, betrayal of spouse by divorce, the avoidance of retribution and resistance, and love for enemies (5: 21–48).[9]

            The above statements describe the kingdom of God with spiritual rules that qualify an individual who desires entering the kingdom of God. The beatitude describing the characters of those who want to enter this kingdom is warranted. In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, he used salt and light to give representation of those who want to enter the kingdom. That is being said, entering the kingdom of God requires obedience to the kingdom rules that have to do with holiness. The Christian lifestyle should serve as salt and light to bring about preserving the lives of those who want to live after the image of Christ as they watch the lifestyles of believers. Our testimonies are paramount and they can serve as encouragement or discouragement to those who want to live for God depending on how Christians live in this world.

Synthesis and Insights

CHAPTER SIX

In this chapter, the Gospel writer indicates that one’s righteous act carried out should be known by God in secret; therefore, he recommends that disciples should impress God alone instead of humans. In this light, he recommends that in order to ascend to ethical propositions, secrecy should apply to all acts of righteousness that promises eternal reward for those who seek to please God rather than humans.[10] The Gospel writer continues the recommendation that charity should be done in secret as well as prayer (6:2–4, 5–8; 14–15). Matthew discusses the kingdom of prayer (6:9–13) known as the Lord’s Prayer coupled with fast and prayer (6:16 – 18), and concluded the paramount essence of attaching value to possession (6:19–34).[11]

            In the church ministry, people seek the favor of the Bishop or the Pastor based on how they announce themselves regarding good works or achievements in the church; however, such announcement can be judged by the motives behind the show. I call it show because such works might be presented to the leadership for self-exaltation instead of bringing glory to God for the achievement. I am not against that people should be recognized in the church by what they have done; nevertheless, the individual who has accomplished such works should allow the leadership to announce and recognize him or her. The above statements instruct giving glory to God than announcing ourselves and it can be done through secret. When we do such in secret, God will reward us openly. Christians should not tell the world what they are doing for God; instead, they should remain faithful in their discharges of the services to God and God will reward them at the appointed time.

Synthesis and Insights

CHAPTER SEVEN

In this chapter, the subject to judge others is objected, because judging assumes a divine prerogative. The second line of 7:1 declares that the person judging “will be judged.” The discourse recognizes that right beliefs about judging are inadequate. In context, Jesus regards the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees as inadequate (5:30) because the Scribes and the Pharisees taught and professed the wrong doctrine on the issue of judging others and portrayed hypocritical behavior contrary to what the Law teaches and how they responded to the Law and taught it. Keener writes, “Most first-century Jewish people believed that they were saved by virtue of descent from Abraham (3:9). Yet Jesus regards the assumption of salvation as a deception; most of his contemporaries were unsaved (7:13–14).[12]

            The Pharisees in Jesus’ days known as the religious law keeper taught the law; however, they refused to obey or practice the law. Jesus admonished his disciples to obey the teachings of the Pharisees since they occupied the seat of Moses by virtue of their assignment; notwithstanding, he warned them not to practice their deeds because they did not practice what they taught. In conjunction to judging others, they were not qualified to do so because they were hypocritical in their dealing with obedience with reference to what they taught. They were unqualified to judge those they considered wrong doers or law breakers because they themselves broke the law. Jesus said before you take the plank out your brother’s eyes, first take the dust out of your own eyes so you can see clear before taking the plank out of your brother’s eyes. In this text regarding judging others, Jesus was teaching on hypocrisy in the house of God. Do we have people or pastors who fall in this category in today’s churches? We do have them today contemporary to the Pharisees of Jesus’ days.

Synthesis and Insights

CHAPTER EIGHT

In chapter eight of Matthew gospel, Jesus manifests his miraculous power by cleansing the leper (8:1–9, 38). The leper approaches Jesus in desperate need of healing as the result of his permanent situation. Jesus recognizing his situation and understanding and knowing his humility, Jesus healed the leper from the leprosy. In this discourse, the gospel writer teaches his audience the character of Jesus. He teaches his audience that Jesus is prepared not only to heal, but he is also prepared to touch the untouchable. Leprosy at this time according to Hebrews Leviticus regulation was considered an unclean sickness; therefore, it was abominable to carry this disease among the Hebrews. The person was isolated and ostracized from the rest of the society. It is the like a pandemic disease that causes isolation so that others cannot contract the disease.

            Matthew discusses the Romans exception (8:5–13) with the reference to the Centurion. In this era, the Centurion humbled himself before Jesus, acknowledged his inferiority as the Gentile and recognized the unlimited authority of Jesus. Jesus accepted his attitude and regarded him as exceptional Gentile. In the following scriptural references (8:14–17), Jesus manifested himself as the healer (8:14–17); consequently, he exercised his healing over sickness or disease, over nature (8:23–27), and over demons (8:28–34). In the Hebrews Leviticus regulations, Leprosy was an abominable illness; therefore, the individual who carried this illness was banished from society until the person was cleansed before returning to the town or city. Jesus knowing the gravity of carrying this kind of illness, reached out to touch the untouchable. How do you think society felt about Jesus when he touched the untouchable with reference to how such individual was marginalized in the Hebrews society? They have thought that Jesus himself was unclean because he has touched the untouchable according to the norms of the Jewish religious orders. Hypocritically, the sin they carried under their sleeves were not recognized as abominable, but they considered physical illness as abominable according to their traditions and law. In today’s society, the church faces the same thing. The church is adopting sinful lifestyle like the word does and thinks she will escape the punishment of God. When I speak about the church, I am talking about believers or Christians. What kind of leprosy are you carrying in your life? Sin is more than leprosy; however, Jesus can heal you from sinful living.

Synthesis and Insights

CHAPTER NINE

In this chapter, Jesus is revealed as the person who has the authority to forgive sin (9:1–8). While sin is the problem of mankind in general, sinners need the physician who is Jesus, the Savior. Time is discussed in the passage as the essence of factor of accomplishing things or agenda; therefore, it is noted that there is time for everything under the sun. The chapter discusses time and indicates that there are two sides of life; hence, there are two sides of every coin (9:14–17). While Jesus travelled with the multitudes, he performed miracles and healed them all (9:10–26). Some of the miracles he performed healing diseases were caused by curses (9:18–19).

            As Jesus is depicted as the person who has the authority to forgive sin, he also demonstrates that he has power over sickness and demons. He does it by healing the multitudes that approached him. What kinds of illness are you carrying you think God cannot heal? Jesus is God; therefore, he heals using Pastors, evangelists, prophets, apostles, or believers in our time. The healing ministry of Jesus is active today through the church. If you are a believer, Jesus has dedicated the same authority he gave to his disciples to heal when he was with them on planet earth.

Synthesis and Insights

CHAPTER TEN

In this chapter, Jesus commissioned his disciples to go. He sent the twelve disciples and told them that they would be persecuted; however, the disciples expressed their unrivaled devotion to Jesus (10:1–54). In the passage, Matthew admonished that Christ’s agents should be honored (10:40–42) as the result of their commitments or dedications to the kingdom’s works. There is the price contingent to be paid for the cost of following Jesus Christ.

            One will realize that there are strait commands in scriptures controversial to be obeyed by people who have decided to follow Jesus. Scriptures regarding divorce and remarriage or scriptures referencing sexual purity until marriage and among others are controversial. I call them controversial based on how some members of the Christian community perceived and classified them as hard commands to be obeyed. There are lot of arguments on disagreement among liberals and conservatives concerning divorce and remarriage; nevertheless, the word of God must be obeyed in regardless of our negative views concerning certain teachings in the bible that oppose the life we live and that does not bring glory to God. For example, sex before marriage is wrong and this should not be practiced among Christians.

Synthesis and Insights

CHAPTER ELEVEN

This chapter discusses the doubts of the man of God (11:1–16), the revealing of the prophets and more than prophet (7–15), the rejecting of divine messenger (11:16–19), the controversy of the unrepentant cities judged (11:20–24), and the rest for the little ones (11:25–30) are briefly discussed.

            Human by nature opposes the divine and consequently expresses doubts about the existence of God and loses the sight of God’s created universe despite the reality of the teleological, ontological, cosmological, and the morality arguments about God and his knowledge. Human falls short of God’s revelation with reference to the understanding of the above arguments and the appreciation of God handiworks due to pride and human depravity. The gospel writer understands this and encourages his audiences to have faith in God despite of the test or trails. He admonishes his audience that God does not act according to human’s expectation. The reason is that the thought of man is quite different from the thought of God. In this passage, John the Baptist sent his disciples to Jesus to confirm Jesus as the Messiah based on what John saw happening to Jesus’ ministry. Jesus answered his disciple to let John know that the blind sees, the cripple walks, the dead are raised etc. Matthew argues that the response to John’s questions were already present in the scriptures. John’s sacrificial lifestyle and his message identified and distinguished him as the servant of God and he concluded that the kingdom of God belongs to those who contend for it. Jesus teaches with graphic illustration that God has different kinds of servants and clarifies that true wisdom is conducted in the eyes of those whose opinions count. Matthew asserts that God judges people according to the opportunities they have had to respond to the truth and those who claim to be God’s people are often the most hard-hearted hearers of all. Matthew explains the characteristic behavior of God in the following sentences: God favors the weak in contrast to the wise and the learned and that Jesus offers rest for the broken and his yoke is easier to carry and to bear. This clearly indicates that the Church of Jesus Christ can do the undoing provided the church depends on Jesus’ ideology and methodology when it comes to serving God. Nothing the church can establish meaningfully to reveal Jesus to the world if the church departs from what Jesus has set into place to make the church successful. That is unless the church (Christian) abides in Jesus, she can do nothing to bring glory to God (John 15:1–10).

Synthesis and Insights

CHAPTER TWELVE

Chapter twelve delineates the controversies that occurred between Jesus and the Pharisees with regards to the conflicting approaches to the scriptures (12:1–14), the challenges the Spirit-anointed humble servant encountered from his opponents (12:15–21), and Jesus true family situations (12:46–50).

            The existence of the controversies is the result of the extrapolation of God’s Law by the Pharisees that opposes biblical truth. The Pharisees extrapolated the letter of the Law that a good lawyer might exhibit; on the contrary, Jesus taught the Law based on biblical ethics as compared to his opponents. In the midst of biblical controversy, Jesus validated God’s power by healing on the Sabbath; hence, the healing on became another talk show between Jesus and the Pharisees. The controversies between Jesus and the Pharisees led to charges and countercharges of sorcery. God’s enemies may challenge God’s servants; however, those who work against the devil’s purpose are doing God’s works. A heart that goes against God’s evidence can hardly become changed or converted. One’s word for or against God’s purpose reveals one’s character in judgment. These characterizations are evidences of what happened between Jesus and his opponents with regards to charges and countercharges of sorcery.

            The Pharisees extrapolated on God’s word ideologically based on their traditions and philosophies; on the other hand, Jesus taught the scriptures and reasoned it based on ethics and theology. There are people in this generation who are contemporaries of the Pharisees in Jesus’ day. They preach and take the word of God out of context in order to enrich themselves. Church in our generation has become like a business; therefore, the church is losing its intended meaning and goal. Pastors or ministers of the gospel have assignment to change this dynamics.

Synthesis and Insights

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

This chapter highlights the sower and the soils (13:1–2), the future revelation of the kingdom (13:24 – 43), the knowledge of the kingdom value (13:44–52), and the visitation of the prophet at his hometown (13: 53–58) are briefly discussed. Referencing the sower and the soil analogy, Jesus uses commonplace images to analogize the kingdom principles by revealing special truth to the disciples through parables. In the passage, Jesus illustrates in the parables that the only conversions that count in the kingdom are those confirmed by a life of discipleship. Jesus narrates relatively realistic agricultural story to explain that the kingdom, though present in the hidden way in the ministry of Jesus and his followers is the glorious anticipated kingdom. Matthew emphasizes that Jesus uses parables to reveal God’s long hidden mysteries and that Jesus tolerates the wicked in the present for the sake of his elect, but will one day publicly distinguish between the two (13:36–42). Understanding the kingdom’s value and applying its practical principles is that the kingdom will cost its genuine followers everything. In this junction, final judgment will reveal who was truly dedicated to the kingdom and how wise the committed were to invest their lives in it. True teachers of the kingdom display the kingdom’s treasure for all who seek the kingdom. When Jesus visited his hometown, the people were unprepared to embrace his wisdom and miraculous powers. Jesus offered a principle that applies to other servants of God too: Prophet will be rejected (13:57; Mark 6:4). Finally, human’s unbelief limits God’s activity in the place.

            In this discourse, Jesus has used parables to explain to his audience the characteristics of the kingdom and those who are kingdom citizens must live according to the norms and values of the kingdom. This speaks volume to the Christian community; consequently, the church must pattern her ways of doing thing according to the kingdom principles. The principles are layout in scriptures. The church should discover them and live accordingly; then, will the church affect this world and its people with the gospel message. The principles are values system about Jesus’ life and how he desires and anticipates the church to represent him in theory and practice.

Synthesis and Insights

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

This chapter delineates on three key elements thematically referencing the martyred prophet (14:1–12), the feeding of the five thousand in the wilderness (14:13–21), and the Lord of the sea. As Herod Antipas remained unsettled about his execution mission toward John the Baptist, it is indicated implicitly that people who are powerful can mistake moral reproof for more disruptive political challenges. In this junction, Antipas ensnared himself in deeper sin because of lust oaths. Matthew emphasizes that those who speak for righteousness can gain powerful enemies. Indeed after the execution of John the Baptist, John’s friends and his enemies reacted differently to his martyrdom (14:9–10). After Jesus having ministered when the crowd has followed him, the people were hungry; then, his disciples expressed their concern about the people’s hunger; in response, Jesus solved the problem in the supernatural manner by multiplying what his disciples had brought to him. It was a loaf of bread. In this passage, Matthew encourages his audience that God is not intimidated by the multitude of problems we have and indicates that God does miracles only when his people need them. The will of God is known and acknowledged when miracle takes place. In the passage of Matthew with reference to the Lord of the sea indicates that miracle can happen any place and at any time which indicates that God is not limited by place, time, and space. The setting of the miracle is intriguing which clarifies that Jesus’ coming should bring an end to fear. In the discourse, Matthew indicates that it is the desire of Jesus that his disciples imitate his works, that Jesus has the power to intervene in the time of crisis, and that Jesus’ power led his disciples to acknowledge his identity.

            The lord of the sea and the feeding of the five thousand with a loaf of bread message indicate that God is not limited by place, situation, and time. The walking on the water and the feeding of the five thousand with the loaf of bread explain what is God. This indicates that we can depend on Jesus as the true representation of God because miracles reveal God. Do you know any religious pioneer that has worked miracles other than Jesus in history?

Synthesis and Insights

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

This chapter discusses three key issues with relative to morality versus ritual cleanness (15:1–20), the displayed faith of the Canaanite woman (15:21–28), and the feeding of the four thousand in the wilderness (15:29–39). In this chapter with regard to morality versus ritual cleanness, dogmatism or tradition clashes with the word of God. Members of the religious elite insisted that their religious custom was right despite of its centrality and practices being based on tradition. In response, Jesus challenges their tradition as unbiblical. Jesus was concerned with the state of the heart and not with ritual act; in this light, Matthew presents Jesus as someone who is interested in spreading God’s truth.

            True spirituality entails commitment to a thing; therefore, anyone can be spiritual. The statement indicates that spirituality is diverse and can mean different things of how people envision themselves of being spiritual. In the context of Christianity, a believer’s spirituality should be centered on God, the Creator. That’s being said, the believer should be committed to God. Since spirituality entails commitment to a thing, it must be related to the heart or the spirit of man. When the Pharisees accused Jesus’ disciples of eating with unwashed hands, Jesus told the Pharisees that it is not what enters into the man that makes him unclean but it is what comes out of the man that makes him unclean. Jesus was speaking about the heart’s condition. The issues of morality versus ritual cleanness present the same issue in this passage. God is not interested in ritual; on the other hand, he is interested in our lifestyles. How we live as Christians to bring glory to his name. True spirituality in God is tied to morality and not ritual. God is not interest in how many communions you have taken, the baptismal certificate that is hanging in your living room, the master or doctorate degrees you have attained in academia, but he is interested how you live as the Christian to bring glory to his name. Who cares about your degree?

Synthesis and Insights

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

This chapter delineates on the controversy with reference to the sign of Jonah (15:39–16:4), the religious cancer and the doubting disciples (16:5–12), the recognition of Jesus Messiahship as the foundation (16:13–20), and the cost of the kingdom (16:21–27).

            The controversy surrounding the sign of Jonah after the Lord has already revealed himself is the matter of testing the divine. The revelation of Jesus in bodily form and his declaration about the kingdom of God was a clearer sign in heaven than what would have been anticipated by men with narrow spiritual repertoire. Jesus’ ministry and his resurrection constituted the decisive sign to the generation in Jesus’ day. This kind of thinking about sign when the sign was already present with the generation in bodily form to religious cancer and doubting disciples is overwhelming. For this reason, Jesus warned them against testifying against God as his opponents had done; unfortunately, his disciples misunderstood his points because they were of little faith.

            The recognition of Jesus’ Messiahship as the foundation indicates that the climatic revelation of the Gospel occurs in pagan environment, outsiders’ recognition of Jesus as the prophet is inadequate; therefore, those who followed Jesus closely knew him as the Christ, the revelation of Jesus Christ’s identity was foundational for God’s purpose in history, the community built on such a foundation would prevail against all oppositions, Jesus gave authority to all those who proclaim his identity, and Jesus admonished his disciples not to reveal his identity. With reference to the cost of the kingdom, the cross is the central to Jesus’ mission at which without it the gospel message will be incomplete, promises of the kingdom without the cross comes from the devil as deception and tends to undermine Jesus’ mission that is death. In this light, disciples should anticipate the same and take Jesus at fixed value that is worth any price a disciple must pay to follow him (16:25–27).

            Jesus revealing himself through his ministry and resurrection and the people’s demand for sign from heaven when the sign was already present with men indicates men’s unbelief and unfruitfulness toward God. Do we have people in this generation that is still demanding for signs?

Synthesis and Insights

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

This chapter endeavors to give a synopsis of the Son of man’s glory, the mustard seed of faith, and solidarity with Israel obedience to Rome (16:28–17:13). In the divine providence with reference to the salvation plan, the Son of Man must suffer and be nailed to the cross to attain glory; therefore, the gospel writer presents Jesus as the glorious Lord before whom all others heroes of the faith should bow to him; in this regard, God had called his people to pay heed to Jesus as they would pay heed to God’s law. God’s way is the way of martyrdom that does not focus on the prophets during the past times, but the Messiah himself (17:9–13).[13] God recommends that believers should have faith that is measurable to a mustard seed. The realization of such mustard seed faith enables believer to use his faith on behalf of others because God honors such. Having such mustard seed faith prepares believers to repeat the miracles that Jesus did while on earth. Believers’ inadequacy to function effectively with reference to spiritual power is due to lack of the most basic level of faith. A life of faithful obedience to God invites martyrdom as well as God’s power (17:22–23). With reference to solidarity regarding Israel’s obedience to Rome, the disciples social obligation is noted in such that disciples are required to surrender their privileges and rights to the sake of the gospel and Jesus promises to supply their needs as well as others (17:27).

Synthesis and Insights

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

In this chapter, the channel of becoming great in the kingdom of God known as humility (18:1–5), the analogy of soul winning (18:10–14), the addressing of stumbling blocks (18:15–20), and forgiveness (18:21–35) are discussed.

            God’s standard of greatness is set differently as opposed to the standard of the world; applicably, the process varies with the world systems. For this reason, status in the kingdom is often inversely proportional to status in the world (18:1–4). The embracing of the weak, the association with whom one can confer no worldly status as disciples embraced Christ himself (18:5).[14]

            The danger of causing the ones to stumble awaits the judgment of God not limited to hell fire (18:6–9). The importance of souls winning is also expressed in the analogy as expressed in the passage about the straying sheep (18:10–14). In the passage, Jesus reveals how God feels towards the individual sheep that strays away. Jesus summons who shares God’s concern to go after the strayed sheep. Jesus addresses the stumbling blocks that arise seriously (18:15–20) when the two individuals are in conflict. He lays out the steps involving conflict resolution in the kingdom of God. Primarily, the disciple should admonish his or her fellow privately before taking any others steps. Although, the disciple seeks reconciliation; however, the disciple should gather evidence to prove his or her innocent in the matter. If the attempts fail, the Christian community should disassociate itself from the habitually sinning disciple. God authorizes the Messianic judicial assembly that follows these procedures to act on the authority of heaven.[15] The witnesses are advised to pray instead of acting vindictively according to the passage and Jesus himself is the presence of God in the situation. The passage concludes on the topic of forgiving others when the individuals wrong others (18:21–35). Primarily, disciple forgiveness should be unlimited. The magnitude of God’s saving grace is the model for forgiveness. The parable depicts (18:21–35).

Synthesis and Insights

CHAPTER NINETEEN

This chapter discusses the ground for divorce (19:1–12), the cost of discipleship (19:16–22), and sacrifice and reward (19:23–30). Under the caption for divorce, Jesus primarily summons his disciples in order to work towards God’s ideal and his intended purpose for the world (19:4–16). While he summons his disciples for the above reasons, the Pharisees presumably like the opponents of the Matthean community, interpret the bible in a manner that treats others unjustly (19:7–8); however, Matthew is careful to include an exception for the innocent party. It deduced that remaining single is sometimes the pride of following Jesus Christ (19:10–12). Meanwhile, those who want everlasting life must obey God’s commandment with absolute commitment. This summarizes the cost of discipleship. While Jesus has promised the kingdom of God to whomever that will follow him (19:25–30), he warns that the powerful can securely enter the kingdom of God (19:23–24). This indicates that people who have power of influence can easily ignore the requirements involved in entering the kingdom of God. We see this in the case of the certain rich man and Nicodemus recorded in the Gospels. They both had the desire to enter the kingdom of God; therefore, they asked for the requirement.

Synthesis and Insights

CHAPTER TWENTY

This chapter delineates on the reversal of the fortunes (19:30–20:16), suffering for the kingdom (20:17–19), and the persistent prayer (20:19–34). The reversal of fortunes fits the first century Galilee as the gospel writer narrates the parable. In this parable, the duration of the work accomplished by the employees has nothing to do with their wages proportionally; instead, the work is disproportionally to the wages received. Those who were hired first received the same amount as compared to those that were hired lately. According to the parable, those who were hired initially and who did most of the work got angry with the landowner or the employer. They complained against the employer for paying the same wages. The truth of the parable is that it contrasts God’s mercy with the stinginess of those who oppose his mercy. The suffering for the kingdom is exemplified in the reign of the suffering servant. In this section, the Lord evaluates the motivation of the disciples’ prayers. The Mother of Zebedee’s son asked Jesus for two of her sons to sit at the right and at the left hand of Jesus. In reply, Jesus said that only his Father could give such determination. The sons were not qualified to sit in these places because God has people already prepared and selected candidates to sit in these places. Reigning with Jesus Christ requires suffering with him as well. It is the pre-requisite for the kingdom reign (20:22–23). She was asking for something she did not know the consequences and repercussion involved. With reference to persistent prayer, the disciples recognized the identity and the authority of Jesus Christ; however, they refused to set other priorities to deter them. It is concluded that Jesus’ compassion was the ultimate motivation for his acting (20:31) and it is the requirement that the recipients of Jesus’ gifts should follow him (Jesus).

Synthesis and Insights

CHAPTER TWENTY ONE

This chapter discusses the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem (21:1–11), the judgment on the temple establishment (21:12–17), the healing of the blind and the lame (21:14–16), the source of Jesus’ authority (21:22–27), and the murderous tenants (21:33–44). Upon the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, his disciples including others welcomed him by spreading palm branches including their belongings for Jesus to walk on them while on the donkey. Jesus is welcomed as the king; consequently, he defined and explained to the audience what kind of king he was (21:4–6). Despite of many inability to cognitively and to spiritually understand the nature of his kingship, they still paid him royal homage (21:7–10).

            The futility of man’s cognition with reference to understanding of people’s identities and characters in history in both the religious and the political arenas is patterned similarly. Such phenomenon in the political arena is the ongoing situation today in the geo-politics. People get behind a candidate to support when they do not know must about the candidate; however, they are carried away by rhetorical speeches the candidate presents on the platform. This happened in Jesus’ day when he triumphantly entered Jerusalem. The people paid royal homage; however, they did not understand the nature of his kingship. This is the reason at one time, they said, “Crucify him.” Do you crucify your leader after your expectation about him or her has changed because initially your expectation about him or her was an unrealistic one.

Synthesis and Insights

CHAPTER TWENTY TWO

This chapter presents the parable with reference to scorning the king’s son and compares Caesar or God in the scenario as Matthew presents the opposition as convincing (22:1–22). Matthew adopts the parable in a way that is relevant to the matter of degree that God will judge those who spurn his kindness. In most often time, the pride or the arrogant is susceptible or prune to disdain and the kindness of God. The parable presented in Matthew is the real life event that occurred in biblical history. The children of Israel rejected the Prophets’ messages and eventually killed them. Among the people invited to the banquet, one of them was not wearing the clothes required for the occasion. This indicates that people who go to church may dishonor God through their lifestyles. The remaining of the chapter discusses Caesar or God with reference to giving that relates to taxes (22:15–22), loving God and neighbor (22:34–40), and David’s Son and David’s Lord (22:41–46). God sent the prophets to Israel; unfortunately, they were rejected and killed them. He sent his son to them and they said, “Crucify him.” God has sent pastors, evangelists, teachers, apostles, and prophets to this generation; unfortunately, the generation is saying “Crucify him” through its lifestyle. I am talking about the present day churches.

Synthesis and Insights

CHAPTER TWENTY THREE

This chapter delineates on the religion for show and woes against human religion (23:1–12). Practicing religion is highlighted and emphasized in the gospel according to chapter twenty three. In this regard, religious leaders must live what they teach (23:2–4) and they should not seek mark of honor neither seek honor treatment (23:7–10) and nor do they seek honorary title. The philosophy of mankind is an opposition against God’s standard of lives; therefore, humanism and the divine cannot co-exist neither does the natural agree with the spiritual. This is the reason God usually places woes against human religions. Human religion is the religion created through the instrumentality of men that opposes God’s standard of lives; therefore, religious leaders outside of God’s standard or principle of lives can do harm (23:13–15), are inconsistent in evaluating the standard of holiness and therefore dishonors God (23:16–22), and they can emphasize holiness in details while missing more critical matter of holiness. Such religion or religious leaders are cursed.

            The emphasis and woes God has placed on religions founded by humanism or the philosophy of men is the serious issue religions of the world should consider. There are eleven religions of the world including Christianity historically; however, among these religions Christianity and Islam seem to have something in common. The commonality that both have is the worship of one God; on the contrary, the characters of the Christian God to that of the god (Allah) of Islam vary. Not only do they vary in the characterization of their God, but both theologies also vary with respect to beliefs and practice. In these religions of the world other than Christianity, men are highly deified and honored because they are religions created after the similitude of men and their ideologies. God, Creator of the universe knows this very well and passes a command that those who serve him should not seek honorary title or be called a name that connotes supremacy.

Synthesis and Insights

CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR

This chapter discusses the temple destruction, the tribulation in eschatological history, Jesus’ return to earth, the day nor the hours unknown, and the Christ’s servant judged (24:1–51). God is not interested about splendid building; however, he would bring destruction and swift judgment to the religious establishment addressing two questions: (1) the time of the temple’s destruction and (2) the coming of Jesus Christ and the close of the end including the temple destruction explanation. During this era, or before Christ returns, the scripture warns that false messiahs will appear (24:4–5), human created activities detrimental humanity and natural disasters will surface (24:7), there will be persecutions against the followers of Christ (24:9–13; 2 Thess 2:3; 1 Timothy 4:1–3), and the gospel will be preached to all nations. Tribulation will emerge and no religious symbol, no matter how treasured, will provide refuge against the judgment that God has decreed (24:15).[16] Believers will flee the impending judgment with greatest haste; fortunately, God will have compassion on his chosen people; however, believers are worried to be watchful of the appearance of the false Christ. After the tribulation, Jesus will be revealed to the world and the nations will respond to his coming with terrors (24:29–30). In the event of Jesus’ return to earth, believers will be ultimately delivered (24:31) with reference to the day nor the hour, the temple’s desolation in the first generation constitutes the final visible pre-requisite for the kingdom of God before the cosmic signs of Jesus’ return (24:36–44).[17] The gospel warns believers who will be unprepared to get ready to be ready. Jesus calls ministers to serve their fellow servants and warns those who exploit the flock that they will be damned (24:45–51).[18]

            When I became a believer in 1985, Matthew 24 along with book of Revelation became the favorite chapter and book that I studied the most. The chapter and book always remind me the return of Christ to earth followed by the judgment that await mankind; unfortunately, many Christians might not take these teachings and prophecies serious; however, it is the responsibility of pastors to teach their congregations concerning these awaited events that God has prophesied through his servants. We hear about natural disasters, pestilence, and among others in the world today. Christ can to return to earth at anytime.

Synthesis and Insights

CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE

This chapter discusses the watchfulness of believers (25:1–13), the parable of the manager who gave responsibility to his servants (25:14–30), and the division of the sheep and the goats (25:31–46). The disciples who refuse to watch will suffer and be condemned as the result of disobedience. While watching, God has placed humanity as stewards of their lives and he will hold anyone responsible for his or her life who mismanages his or her life as depicted in the parable. The chapter concludes with the division of the sheep and the goats that indicates the impending judgment that awaits mankind upon the return of Jesus Christ to earth to judge the world. In the parable, the sheep are believers and the goats are the unbelievers.

            The chapter teaches responsibility and accountability before God regarding what God has entrusted us with. The primary thing that God has given us is our lives. Our inability to manage our lives well according to the standard of God is unhealthy to our spiritual well-being before God, in this life, and the life to come eternal life. The second thing that the chapter teaches is character and the kind of people God will welcome to heaven and those he banish to hell fire. The characters are named as sheep and goats respectively. Will you be among the sheep or the goats? Your inclusion in any of these characters depends on the life you live now.

Synthesis and Insights

CHAPTER TWENTY SIX

This chapter discusses the worth, the turmoil, and the betrayal of Jesus Christ coupled with the political leaders versus Jesus. With reference to Jesus’ worth, Jesus died to accomplish redemption through his obedience (26:1–16); therefore, his death pardons sin despite of people’s weakness to break the rules (26:3–13). The meaning of Jesus’ death indicates that Jesus is the Messiah (26:21–30) and that those who claim to follow him may ultimately betray him (26:21–25). In discussing the turmoil and the disciples’ weaknesses, Jesus knows better than the disciples do and what they are made of (26:31–32). The disciples’ best intention does not protect them from testing unless they have learned to seek God in prayers (26:33, 35); however, God’s call may lead his followers through unbearable pain (26:37–39, 44) and no matter how the suffering is God’s servant is required to obey the mission that has been given him or her (26:39, 42). In conclusion with reference to betrayal, disciples may betray Jesus outwardly that symbolizes devotion (26:47–49) and disciples often wish to fight the kingdom’s battle traditional mortal way or not at all (26:50–54, 56). Jesus confronts injustice but submits to scriptures (26:57–68) and where political and religious leaders confronted Jesus (26:57–68), he answered their questions according to scriptures and justice; on the contrary,  the high priest and the council ignored proper judicial procedures (26:57–60) and failed to follow biblical teaching through practice obedience. The truth is revealed by Jesus and increased opposition of the powerful predisposed to reject it (26:62–68). Peter’s betrayal of Jesus and the exposal of the disciples’ weaknesses causing for repentance and not sorrow unto death is actualized (26:67, 75; cf. 26:31–32).[19]

            Jesus and the religious law keepers were always affront with one another when it came to scriptural practices with relative to obedience. These happenings built animosity between Jesus and the religious law keepers. Upon his arrest to be crucified, it was about time for his enemies to avenge their grudges or malicious insidious revenge against him because he spoke the truth in society. Have you been hated by people in the church or the organization you belong because you are speaking the truth?

Synthesis and Insights

CHAPTER TWENTY SEVEN

This chapter discusses the betrayal of the innocent blood that is central to Matthew’s narratives. Matthew reworks his traditions in order to emphasize his case (27:1–10).[20] The arrest and the killing of Jesus is politicized and consequently leads to political expediency that takes precedence over justice (27:11–26). The Sanhedrin’s condemnation of Jesus fell to Pilate and Pilate compromised and consequently prepared for political expediency to justice; as the result, he delivered Jesus to his accuser to be crucified. The Romans mal handled Jesus through the punishment of torturing. After his crucifixion, the soldiers mocked Jesus’ kingship (27:27–44). Jesus endured the physical pain and the mocking of those present at his crucifixion site. The male disciples feared for their lives and fled; nevertheless, the woman followed to the tomb while Joseph of Arimathea carried Jesus’ cross and up to this day, the early Christians preserved the accurate site of this tomb (27:55–66).[21]

            Despite of the warning the wife of King Pilate gave to her husband regarding Jesus, the innocent one, King Pilate refused to listen to his wife as the result of political expediency. He was protective of the position he holds in Rome; therefore, he rather gave Jesus to be crucified so he can have favor with men or the people he led at the time. Have you found yourselves in such situation to wrongly use your influence because you want to remain in power? The bottom line is, we as believers are obligated to stand for the truth by virtue of our call.

Synthesis and Insights

CHAPTER TWENTY EIGHT

The last chapter of the gospel discusses the report of the women after the crucifixion and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. During this unique event, God used the women to populace the reports of the Lord’s resurrection after his crucifixion. In this discourse, it is indicated that God sent the least with the message that society considers least (28:1–10), the narrative reveals God’s power (28:2–3), and the narrative reveals that God is selective in his revelation (28:4–9).[22] The report did not only end with the women, but it continues with the guards (28:11–15). In this report, the narrative teaches about faith and unbelief (28:10–17), the narrative teaches about Jesus’ identity (28:11–20), and the report teaches the Matthean community about its mission (28:18–20). In this chapter, we receive the Great Commission from the Lord to go to all nations and preach the Gospel through methodologies of evangelism, discipleship, and church planting.


[1] Craig S Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew. Grand Rapids: William B.Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999, 15.

[2]Ibid., 7.

[3]Ibid., 73.

[4]Ibid., 97–98.

[5]Ibid., 116.

[6]Ibid., 136.

[7]Ibid., 165.

[8]Ibid., 173.

[9]Ibid., 177.

[10]Ibid., 206.

[11]Ibid., 226–228.

[12]Ibid., 250.

[13]Ibid., 439.

[14]Ibid., 448.

[15]Ibid., 454.

[16]Ibid., 573.

[17] Ibid., 588

[18]Ibid., 595.

[19]Ibid., 656.

[20]Ibid., 657.

[21]Ibid., 694.

[22]Ibid., 718.