Lenten Reading Challenge: Matthew 19-25
• When and Where
Today I’ll focus a bit more on the fivefold structure I’ve mentioned.
Borg writes: “In between the stories of Jesus’ birth in Chapters 1-2 and his final days in 26-28, the body of Matthews gospel has five “blocks” or “sections” of material, as scholars have long noted. Each combines narrative and teaching and ends with a distinctive formula…” ( see 7.28, 11.1; 13.53; 19.1; 26.1).
This fivefold structure reflects the five books of Torah and perhaps the traditional division of the Psalms into 5 collections. Where Torah is the foundational document of Judaism, Matthew is presenting a new foundational document for a new understanding of God’s revelation. God leads the people out of slavery into a new community and gives laws by which it is to live. If this suggestion of an approach to Matthew interests you, Borg and Crossan’s book “The First Christmas” explores it in some detail.
• Key Insights
Key themes in today’s readings are righteousness and Jesus’ authority.
Note that despite being the most frequent adversaries, it is likely that Jesus was viewed as a Pharisee by many, their heated conflicts being basically an intra-party debate where the outrages comes from violated expectations of agreement.
It might be easy to miss the importance of the claim in 24:35 – Jesus teachings (his “words”) are equated with Torah. Again, as with many events in chapters 14 and 17, the claim here is that Jesus is equal with God.
• Big Picture
John Wesley, like all Christians, recognizes that the Lord is our righteousness (Sermon 20). We are acceptable to God not because of what we do but because of what Jesus did for us. It is first Christ’s righteousness, but it is also ours. Together these constitute our acceptance before God.
Wesley also insists that Gods gracious acceptance of us both enables and requires cultivation of inner righteousness through participation in the means of grace and acts of personal and social piety.
Responding to God’s grace, our distorted natural, moral and political (social) image is being restored to what God intended us to be, and, ultimately for Wesley, it was possible for us to be “perfectly” human – that is not without flaw, but living in perfect love and full relationship with God and neighbor.
Blessings on your reading!