Lectionary Year A
July 28, 2002
Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52
Step III: Composition
A. Immediate Context
(JFC) Pre - Matthew 13:1-30 records Jesus' teaching from a boat on the water,
several parables, beginning with one about a sower whose seeds fell on four different surfaces. He completed this lesson with the admonition, "Let anyone with ears listen (or hear)!" Next, the disciples asked why He taught the crowds in such parables and He explained that they had received the secrets (or 'mysteries') of the kingdom of heaven which the crowds still lacked. Then, He said those who had lots would get more while any with little will be required to give more, a seemingly cryptic statement, to be sure. There after, He quoted Isaiah 6:9f and applied it to those about whom He had just spoken. Then He pronounced the disciples, "blessed" because they had seen and heard the messages of the kingdom, which even some prophets and righteous people had missed. Verses 18-23 have Jesus explaining the parable of the sower with which the chapter began. Finally before our lection for this week, He tells another parable about sowing seeds that get enemies' adding, by night, weeds to come up with the seeds' crop and He tells the slaves to leave it be and at the harvest the weeds will get thrown out.
Interlude - Verses 34-43 report, again, Jesus' reason for telling the crowds these parables, so to fulfill what the prophet (maybe, Isaiah) said. Then He leaves them and goes into the house where the disciples ask for an explanation of the weeds in with the good seeds and He gives one to them.
Post - the final six verses of this chapter tell of Jesus' going from there to Nazareth where He is rejected because the people there couldn't appreciate His abilities since He had come from there, such a contemptible background.
B. Organizational of Compositional Whole
(JFC) As noted previously in these pages, Albright and Mann, observe in the Anchor
Bible commentary, "Matthew has two principal interests: the fulfillment of God's purposes in and through Jesus, and how this fulfillment will find its expression in the community which Jesus founded." Although the most concise outline of this Gospel seems to be in Reginald H. Fuller's article in Harper's Bible Commentary, a more nearly complete summary might be: the first two chapters of Matthew's Gospel tell of Jesus' birth. 3:1-12 relate John the Baptist's activities. 3:13-4:11 give accounts of Jesus' temptation and baptism. 4:12-18:35 tell of His teachings and preaching in Galilee. These chapters include the Sermon on the Mount (5-7), commissioning and instructing the twelve (10), parables on the Kingdom (13), life in the new community/the New Israel (14-17) and Jesus' journeying to Jerusalem for His last week on earth (21-28). Through these segments, Matthew's Gospel seems to intend to depict Jesus as the Messiah the Old Testament Jews longed for. It gives the impression that it highlights Jesus' fulfilling more prophecies than the other Gospels do. It seems to want to clarify that the New Testament people are the true Israel (16:17-19), actually replacing the former Israel. Several commentaries give "five discourses in chapters 5-7, 10, 13, 18, and 24-25, that Matthew intended his work to serve as a basic book for his community, . . . In fact, Matthew came to serve as the preeminent Gospel for the church as a whole," says Fuller.
C. Issues of Authorship
(JFC) As previously noted, since early in the second century CE, when Papias, a
bishop of Hierapolis, referred to Matthew, the tax collector, one of Jesus' disciples (Matt. 9:9 and 10:3), it has been thought he wrote this Gospel. However, Papias says that work contains only sayings of Jesus and that it was written in Hebrew. Matthew, as we have it, tells of actions and events, as well as sayings of Jesus and it was written in Greek, not Hebrew. So, evidently, Papias means another document, one now lost. This Gospel seems to have been written anonymously between 70-85 CE, since it is mentioned by Ignatius of Antioch in 115 CE and relies on Mark's Gospel, which was written about 70 CE. Ignatius also says it was written in Syria. Suzanna de Dietrich (LBC) notes that the community addressed by this Gospel is "experiencing persecution. Certain passages without doubt reflect this situation. The writer was concerned to fortify the faith of the Christians - to remind them that Jesus had foreseen these struggles and that He had foreseen the apostasy of some, the lukewarmness of others (5:11-12; 10:16-23; 24:9-13)." And, Eduard Schweizer (The Good News According To Matthew) says, "Above all, the method of learned interpretation of the Law, which 'loses' and 'binds,' was still central for Matthew and his community. . . Preservation of sayings such as 23:2-3, which support the continued authority of Pharisaic teaching, and above all the special emphasis placed on the requirement not to offend those who still think in legalistic terms (17:24-27) show that dialogue with the Jewish Synagogue had not yet been broken off. On the other hand, a saying like 27:25 shows that the Christian community had conclusively split with the Synagogue, even though hope for the conversion of Jews was not yet totally dead."
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