It looks like i got ahead of myself. I went and did the word cloud before i finished the last post!
I finished the book of Matthew, and i need to give my post-copy impressions. This is kind of hard for me as i haven’t really noticed a difference in my view and attitude about the book since i did the work. So there aren’t really any “BIG” new impressions. I knew going into this that Matthew is a book for the Jews. It was written to a Jewish audience in order to make clear the events that occurred and to make a clear case for Jesus, the Christ. You can see this as you go through Matthew’s gospel. In the very first chapter you see Jesus genealogy and how He is a clear descendant of David. Also, throughout the book there have been numerous purposeful reference back to the (O.T.) Scriptures, and especially referring to Jesus fulfilling the prophesies about the coming Messiah / Christ. But all this i knew ahead of time. And I really wanted to get a new impression after having finished this book.
Although, the more i process all of this, and the more I think about it, the more i do have a bit of a different outlook on it. One thing that i have liked about posting about Matthew has been the chapter titles. I really put a lot of thought into my chapter / section titles, and it can be pretty frustrating when i just can’t find the right descriptor that communicates about not just one section of the chapter, but the whole thing. The nice thing about Matthew, is that the author kept everything neat and clean. At the same time that Matthew talks about Jesus healing the blind man so he can see, you also get Jesus reprimanding the Pharisees and talking about how even though they have eyes, they just can’t see (ch. 20). You can also see this in Chapter 16 – Response. In the beginning of the chapter we see the Pharisees starting to get fed up with Jesus. So they respond to Him by attempting to test / trick Him, but it fails. Jesus responds to them in ways that blow them away so badly that they decide not to ever do that again. So first we have the Pharisees’s response to Jesus, then His response towards them, then finally Jesus asks Peter for his response to who people say He is. It’s all very beautiful the way it’s all laid out. Each and every section / chapter seems to have its own theme, which in turn just makes it all the more fun, seeing / finding those common themes.
In all honesty, I’m definitely pretty glad that i made the jump to Matthew at this time, and I think that interspersing the NT books in with the OT books will continue, for the time being! Well, that’s been my thoughts on Matthew, and I’m glad to share them. I hope you get half as much out of my notes as i have by doing the project.
God bless, and onward to Numbers! Woo Hoo!
I have a hard time writing about this section. I don’t know why. It is such a rich section of the scripture with beauty, majesty, & strength. I look at this section of scripture and it seems like time is slowing down and almost coming to a standstill. Like if you could be there, you could almost see every drop of blood and hear the cry of every vulture. It’s almost like every bit and piece of reality is slowed down and magnified. Like all of life and time itself has been preparing for this moment and is now holding its breath in anxious anticipation of this, the very moment that it exists for. Distantly, in the background, “ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?” ringing through all of reality. The flutter of the wings of a bird; the racing heartbeat of a little boy; the sound of the laughter of the roman soldiers slowing down as a moment is extended into five. It is almost deep and primal, and then… it is done!
Jesus, the Christ, has died! The heaven’s mourn. The Father / YHWH tears His veil, as the priest had torn his robes only hours before. The very earth and rocks cry out. They expel the very bodies of the dead righteous, just as the blood of righteous Able called out to YHWH from the ground that had swallowed him up from the hands of Cain.
Nothing else matters in all of history and time, as what happens in that very moment when “Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.“
… except maybe what happens on the third day
This is the last chapter of teaching in Matthew before Passover comes, Jesus has His “last supper” with His disciples, and He is betrayed by Judas. There are three parables here. All three deal with Christ’s relationship with His people at the end of the age. All three are preparation for the kingdom to come.
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to 10 virgins…” Are we living our lives in preparation for the kingdom to come? Are we ready to work and be prepared for the bridegroom to come any time? Are we pursuing God’s / YHWH’s purposes for us, or are we simply living life as if it doesn’t matter. Christ is returning, and He could return at any time. Are we foolish virgins who have not prepared for a long wait and sudden entrance, or are we the wise virgins who are expecting Him at any time and living life as if it matters?
“For it is just like a man about to go on a journey, who called his own slaves and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; and he went on his journey.” We have each been given talents and financial provision. What are we doing with those gifts? What is our purpose and what does it mean? Are we investing what we have and helping it to grow, or are we ignoring and burying our gifts and finances using it only for our own good? God is expecting a return on what He has given us. He is expecting us to use what we have for something more than we started with. He has not blessed us for our sake, but rather for the growth of the kingdom. If we are not working towards kingdom growth (not our own), all that we have will be taken away.
“All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left…” The judgment is coming; what’s the difference between the sheep and the goats? Christ says that the difference between the sheep and the goats is that the sheep don’t just sit on what they have been given. The difference between the sheep and the goats is that the sheep have passion / compassion for others (or just obedience towards God). They reach out and help those in need. They step out of their own lives and into the lives of others. They do the opposite of what our culture teaches. They reach out and touch the lives of those around them. Do We?
The time is coming near in which Jesus the Christ’s earthly ministry is to end. He has taught His disciples so much and has been preparing them for His being gone. Now, He needs to help them understand and prepare for what is to come in the much further future.
It’s interesting to me how CEO Jesus thinks and works. He starts His ministry, but he doesn’t do it alone. First He preps and plans, but it’s not just His plan. He takes on the plan of the Master Architect. He sees the need (the people’s need for a redemptive relationship with the Father / YHWH) and works toward providing for that need. He brings along a team of people to help Him do the work, and in the process He is also training them up (mentoring them) to take over the work when He leaves. He trains and prepares them to rise up, take the reigns, and make the work succeed. He brings in not just the front runners, like Peter, James and John, who are continually involved as part of the face of the work, but also those who are behind the scenes making things happen like Mary, Martha, Simon the Zealot, Judas, etc. He genuinely cares about what He is doing and the long, long-term of what He is building, even if it means stepping on some toes and going toe-to-toe with some powerful people. He sacrifices everything He has for this work, even to the point of giving up His own life to make it happen. Yet when He does this, He does not leave His followers unprepared or without the support that they need to make the work succeed. He knows what is going to happen and He is prepared to send “the helper” to them at the right time.
Yet what we see here in this chapter is Jesus forecasting. He is looking to the future. He understands what He is building and what His people need to prepare for future problems and trials. He is giving them insight into the long-term plans and goals, the overall vision of the work, and what kinds of problems and trials they can expect in the decades to come. He gives them an overall understanding of not only what the work is, but WHY the work needs to be done, and what they can expect to see and do. He needs His people to look to His return; to see the BIG picture and to Be Ready!
Are we looking at the BIG picture? Are you ready?
Rev. John J. Camiolo Jr.
How lightly do we esteem divorce? How easily do we let it go? In the time of Christ, divorce was an easier process than it is now. You had just to get a certificate of divorce from the Scribes and/or Pharisees. I have heard it said that it was easier than that. I have heard it said that all a man needed to do was to tell his wife, “I divorce you.” three times together, and they were divorced.
Jesus makes it clear that once the marriage has been sealed, divorce is not in the design or the plan. Yet so often, we don’t see it that way. Men are looking for t he perfect wife, and women are looking for the perfect man. They marry the person that they think is “the one” or their “soul mate” and when things don’t quite go as expected, there is a running of the bulls. The couple flees and the marriage dissolves. Yet that is not how it is meant to happen. Yet we, in our selfishness and pride, would rather destroy what God made and blessed than admit that we may be wrong, or that we need to change in ways that we don’t want / like to… especially when we feel hurt by someone who was supposed to protect / respect us. There are so many things i could go into explaining and blaming for this mentality; the age of marriage, pre-marital emotional intimacy, a lack of marital support / mentoring, a lack of understanding of what marriage really is, but i need to move on.
I am very interested in this story of the rich young ruler. In Bible college I had a professor that put a very interesting spin / perspective on this story. The rich young ruler is a young man that clearly desires to be righteous and be a part of what God / Christ is doing. However, he gets so caught up in his own wealth, that he can’t let it go to pursue Christ. However, this story may not end here. From what i’ve heard, this young man reappears in the Bible in the book of acts. Apparently Josephus (the non-Christian Jewish historian) reports that the Apostle John taught his disciples that this rich young ruler was the same man that is named in Acts (4:36-37) “Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” Barnabas went on, partnered with Paul, and was one of the first missionaries. He did great things with the kingdom, but ONLY after he let go of his riches. I have not studied this in depth, but i believe this to be true because i have seen how God works. To have a man consumed by his riches and reject Christ / his call at first because of these things finally turn, reject the wealth, and become the true man of God he was meant to be. That kind of redemption can only be the work of God / YHWH!
Rev. John J. Camiolo Jr.
“Value” is an interesting word. We talk about how valuable something is, or how something has value, or is a value. Yet, that value is not really standard. The saying goes that “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” What is important / significant / valuable to one person is worthless to another. One person sees “high art” another sees “junk”. One sees “junk” and another sees “potential”. Even the value of money is dependent upon the person and situation. To some people, money is everything! They seek after it even at the cost of the people around them. To others, money is nothing but a tool… and not a very good one at that!
So it should be no surprise that what Christ or God values can be very different than what we value. The disciples came to Jesus at one point and asked Him, “Who then is the greatest (has the most value) in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus response is, unexpectedly, a child. One must have faith as a child, and anyone who receives a child in His name, receives Him.
What’s more, anyone who causes a child to stumble (away from God) has done such a grave danger that he may as well have been drowned… not that Christ is condoning murder. This is such an issue that Jesus give His disciples the analogy that if their eye causes them to stumble, they need to pluck it out.
The analogy of value seems to continue with the picture of the flock of sheep. When one sheep wanders off, Christ says that He will leave the entire flock of sheep to seek out the ONE that is lost! He values each person so much, that He would leave everything else behind to rescue one lost soul. If that doesn’t define our value to Him, i don’t know what will.
He goes on even further. We must value others enough to not only discipline them, and kick them out when they refuse to accept the truth, but we must also forgive them as well! So when a man / woman sins against you, hurts you, and your pride, you must be willing to forgive; not just 7 times, but 7, 70 times (or as many as it takes). Yet that forgiveness does not preclude discipline and even to the removal of the offender. Why, because God values His creation, even to the point of understanding the need for discipline and the removal of the cancerous.
Do we value His whole creation? Or do we only care about those who directly affect us?
It’s interesting to look at (compare & contrast) the responses of the action’s / reactions between Jesus, the disciples, and the Pharisees. I’d say that by this time many of the Pharisees are getting a little fed up with Jesus. So they decide that they are going to respond to Him by testing Him. They ask Jesus for a sign that He is who He says He is. Of course you know that Jesus is not going to just make things easy for them. He already knows what’s in their hearts, so He criticizes them for not seeing (or ignoring) the signs that are there right in front of them.
So Jesus, understanding the Pharisees, turns around later and tells His disciples to beware of the leaven (teachings) of the Pharisees. They don’t get it at first, but after some prompting, they catch on. So Jesus finally comes to them and asks them about their response to who He is. Peter is the only one who seems to give a real and solid response. He tells Jesus, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus response is high praise of Peter.
So now, because of the response He is given, Christ begins to put a little more depth / meat into His teachings. He foretells His death and explains the cost of following Him. Of course we know how the (hi)story goes, but they didn’t at that time.
I wanted to touch on Peter’s “good’ confession here as it has some very interesting facets. I love the play on words that Jesus does here. Peter says to Jesus, “You are the Christ (Kristos) the Son of the Living God.” Jesus responds that this is not something that Peter discovered, but rather something that was revealed to him by the Father. It’s what Jesus says that is so interesting: “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” The name Peter is the Greek word “petros”. It means a small stone. The picture that i get here is of a rock that you would use to skip on a pond. The word “rock” in this verse is “Petra” which means a very large rock, a bedrock, or a foundational stone. So we have Jesus telling Peter, “You are a small stone, and on this huge froundational stone I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will on overtake it.
So if the foundational stone is not Peter, then what is it? It is this truth; “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This is such an amazing picture, because out of the small stone, the pebble if you will, comes the bedrock of truth. The pebble speaks forth the mountain. Isn’t that an amazing picture?! The pebble is not the foundation / mountain, but out of the small stone / pebble comes that which is the foundation / mountain. It is an amazing picture!