Matthew's Perspective On Jesus

I love the story about the three wise men visiting the child Jesus. I know, I know. The Bible never says there were three of them. In fact, the Greek text of the New Testament doesn't call them wise men. They're simply identified as magi in Matthew 2:1, a word which is translated as magician or sorcerer in Acts 13:6 and 13:8. Kind of funny if you think about it. If they're the good guys in the story, English translations call them wise men. If they're the bad guys, then they're definitely sorcerers.


Maybe these were the Magi. Please, God. That would be awesome.

Still, I love the story. Visitors from a distant land follow a star to a child who they deem worthy of their worship. The regional ruler attempts to gather information from the visitors so he can squash this potential threat in the form of a child. The visitors choose to deliver their gifts to the child (three gifts, which is why we came to think of three visitors) and circumvent the ruler on their way back home.

Did you know if it wasn't for the gospel of Matthew, we wouldn't have this story? It's not in Mark, Luke, or John. In fact, Mark and John don't even mention the birth of Jesus. If it wasn't for Matthew and Luke, there would be no Christmas story. Matthew thought the story of the magi was worth sharing.

That's not the only thing that makes Matthew's "perspective" unique. Matthew is writing for a Jewish audience. You can see this in the way Matthew often points to events from the life of Jesus and understands them as the fulfillment of prophecy from the Hebrew scriptures. It happens four times in the first two chapters of Matthew alone (Matthew 1:23; 2:6; 2:15; 2:18)! Clearly, Matthew is trying to convince a Jewish audience that Jesus is the Messiah, the anointed one. Only a Jewish audience would care about what the prophets of the Hebrew scriptures had to say.

Matthew's audience is also evident in the genealogy of Jesus included at the start of the book. He traces the lineage back to Abraham, the first patriarch, the father of the Jews. Nicely done, Matt. I like your style.

Sometimes, Matthew might take it a touch too far. There is a story in all four of the gospels about Jesus entering into Jerusalem on a donkey a week before his crucifixion (see Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19, and John 12). Matthew, of course, points to the Hebrew scriptures and sees this event as a fulfillment of prophecy from Zechariah 9:9, which reads (literally):

Behold, your king comes to you,
Righteous and delivering salvation,
Humble and riding on a donkey,
Upon a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Hebrew poetry liked to practice parallelism. That is, they liked to state the same thing twice, slightly different the second time, but in a parallel manner. A great example is Psalm 24:1, which says the same thing in two different ways (and Psalm 24:2, for that matter). This happens a lot in the Hebrew scriptures, and that's what is happening in the last two lines of Zechariah 9:9. Mark understood this. So did Luke and John. Matthew seems to take it literally, however. Check out Matthew 21:7. The disciples brought the donkey and the colt, they put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. Huh? Both of them?

I know this guy isn't sitting, but I still like to think it was something like this.

Matthew, like a lot of folks, took the word of God rather literally. More literally than Mark, Luke, and John, it would appear. Doesn't really bother me much. Makes me laugh a little, but it's his perspective. I get it.

Comments

  1. This is the kind of stuff that qualifies as "contradictions" to many people. I know you hate apologetics so I'm warning you.
    That's what friends are for.

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    1. Sure, but not just to the people who take issue with the Bible. The truth is, that's why the Church has tried to downplay this sort of thing for a long time. It's easier to live in the black and white. Shades of gray raise too many questions that are too hard to answer and don't always fit neatly in a 3-point sermon. I think it's the stuff between the black and the white that makes the Bible interesting.

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  2. Okay, thanks to John Branyan for bringing you to my attention, I am definitely a new fan. Now, I just have to remember how to save this to my favorites...Maybe when my wife gets up...waiting...waiting.

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    1. Thanks for checking it out. You can always subscribe and get it delivered straight to your inbox. Thanks again.

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