Lectionary Year A
June 30, 2002
IV: Broader Context
(JFC) A. NT & PRIMITIVE CHRISTIANITY
Christianity in the final third of the first century CE was very young,
naive and certainly in need of elementary instructions. Matthew's Gospel
teaches through discourses, sayings and examples Jesus does and comments on to
interpret as advisable, recommendable and expected of followers. Paul's
epistles had been written and were circulating some by this time.
Nevertheless, much more specifically about Jesus and His followers needed to
be said, written and exemplified. Matthew does accomplish these ends.
Surely, by now, questions had arisen and confusions must have begun to run
rampant. Matthew's Gospel addresses such needs for answers,
clarifications, explanations and even definitions. In light of the
persecutions of Christians, the sayings in the pericope at hand sound
(JFC) OLD TESTAMENT AND JUDAISM
It is well known that Mathew's Gospel relies heavily on the Old Testament.
is addressed to Jewish readers and hearers. Marginal notes in the
Nestle-Aland text refer us to Old Testament (I Kings 17:9-24 and 18:4 and II
Kings 4:9-37) stories of Elijah and Elisha finding hospitality on their travels
from home. God tells them to expect such hospitality. It happens, too.
Matthew's Gospel has similar expectations. Pre-Christian Judaism
celebrated fellowshiping events like festivals, rituals, rites and similar
observances. In Jesus' time, they continued these celebrations. They
anticipated visitors in their midst and were willing to exercise
responsibility for travelers' room and board. In Matthew especially among
the synoptics, Jesus observes and respects the Law of old.
(JFC) C. HELLENISTIC WORLD
Greek speaking Jews might hear this passage with listening ears. Since
reportedly here makes no mention of the Law, Hellenists might appreciate
what He predicts. The ethics this saying conveys might appeal to their
values. They appreciated inclusivity. The Hellenists would naturally have
been accepting of others, even and especially of foreigners. These words are
somewhat less than philosophical and intellectual, so, it is very likely
Hellenists would attend to its teachings only briefly at best. Still,
knowing our Lord, He just might be trying to get their attention with such
a saying. It smacks enough of Jewish traditionalism to arrest their
attention somewhat, surely. Consequently, Jesus might well have been
speaking their language.
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