Lectionary Year A
July 14, 2002
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
Step III: Immediate Context
A. IMMEDIATE CONTEXT
Pre - At the end of chapter 12, we read of Jesus' severe criticism of the
Post - following this week's lection, we read of Jesus' telling
another parable. This one is of seeds, good seeds, sown in a field of good
soil. An enemy comes at night to sow seeds of weeds in that field.
Chapter 13 in Matthew's gospel might as well be called the "parable
chapter." Jesus tells and explains parable after parable here. But he does
not only tell parables, but also "explains" them. "The reason I speak to
them in parables is that 'seeing they do not perceive and hearing they do
not listen, nor do they understand,'" Jesus says (v.13). Parables,
furthermore, are a blessing to those who are able to see and hear about the
great things of God and God's kingdom. (v.16). Over all, Jesus does not
tell anything to the crowds except by means of "parables (v.34)." It is the
task of those who have been trained to interpret (the scribes) parables to
be stewards of them "like the master of a household who brings out of this
treasure what is new and what is old (v.52.)"
This seems to me to be a key verse in this entire chapter 13 with respect to
the "use" and "meaning" of parables. It is the task of the interpreter of
the parable (scribe, pastor) to draw out what is new and (!) what is old.
New and old--in this order! This warrants some considerable meditation, I
think [and I would welcome some feedback from you folks out there on this
... it would help me a lot for my sermon preparation this coming Sunday!].
The constant meditation, the drawing out of the new and old, the labor of
love and hard work, and finally its application (in a sermon, lecture, life
...) appears to be the "right" stewardship of an entrusted treasure, not
only for oneself but for the entire household (congregation, family,
community ...). WOW!
It is also striking, how chapter 13 is "sandwiched" between two pericopes
about "misunderstanding" that Jesus corrects. The first pertains to the
"misunderstanding of family ties" (12:46-50). "Family" is not determined by
biological factors. According to Jesus, "family" is the one who does the
will of Jesus' Father in heaven (v.50). The second is the "misunderstanding
of calling or vocation" (13:54-58). Jesus does not necessarily act on his
calling/vocation among his own but rather away from home. Apparently, "his
own" are offended by this attitude. Jesus, however, corrects their
misunderstanding. "Prophets are not without honor except in their own
country and in their own house (v.57)."
(JFC) B. COMPOSITIONAL WHOLE
Matthew begins with Jesus' lineage, advent, preaching, healings and miracles.
The pericope at hand initiates the 3rd discourse, generating parables, regarding
the Kingdom. This section ends with Peter's confession in chapter 16.
Thereafter, Jesus begins telling His disciples of His death and trying to
prepare them for it and for their responsibilities in the future.
(JFC) C. ISSUES OF AUTHORSHIP
Remember, twice in Matthew's Gospel (9:9 & 10:3), the name Matthew is
mentioned as a tax collector and called as a disciple by Jesus. Markan and
Lukan parallels use the name, Levi. Commentators doubt that this person
authored this Gospel. Recall that a second century Bishop, Papias, claimed
that Matthew, an apostle of Jesus' wrote Jesus' sayings in Hebrew. Our
Gospel by that name is written in Greek amd tells of much more than just
sayings. It was likely written in Syria between 65 and 75 CE, give or take 5
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