The Active Obedience of Christ in Matthew 5:17 and 10:34

Part Two: The two themes of Chapters 5-10

A.     Chapters 8-1

These chapters could be understood simply to be an explication of Matthew 4:23 articulating the content of his statement concerning the itinerant ministry of Jesus just as the Sermon on the Mount can be understood as the content of his message. While true, this surface reading fails to see the nuanced nature of these stories, which are a mix of miraculous and non-miraculous. A point of unison between all the miraculous stories is the emphasis upon one word, ‘faith’ (Matt 8:10, 27; 9:2, 22, 29). These supernatural stories, which focus on the faith that has made one well, envelop two other non- supernatural stories in Matthew 8:19-22 and 9:9-17. The hardship that comes with following Christ is expressed in the first one and the calling of Matthew the tax collector to be a disciple in the second one. It would be odd for Matthew thematically to entertain having these two non-supernatural stories here unless all of the text was meant not to highlight the miracles in their operation but the necessary faith and need to follow the call of Christ.

The connecting link between both the supernatural and non-supernatural stories is the concept of faith. It is only by faith that a disciple would be compelled to leave everything; his home, his livelihood, his familial responsibilities and follow Christ. Traced through these two chapters is differentiation from those with faith and those without, and those who are willing to follow Jesus and those who are not. The division is empirically stated in 9:13b, in response to the growing angst of the Pharisees and Scribes. The simple use of ἦλθον draws attention to this verse and it is a programmatic description of nature of his work offering an interpretive key to the miracle stories. So that the reader should look within each of these stories to discover, who is the sinner and who is the righteous.

Chapter 10 breaks from the supernatural stories but functions as a climax to this section. Jesus in commissioning the twelve disciples and the entirety of the church gives the responsibility and purpose of his mission to his followers. They are now to preach the gospel and heal the sick. There is a culminating effect in this chapter and it draws the reader back to chapter 4 signaling the end of Matthews point encapsulated in chapters 5-10. While chapter 10 is a capstone, Chapters 8-9 are filled with myriad examples of divisions. There are those who are sick and those who are not. There are those who are antagonistic towards Christ and those who are not. Christ came to call the sinners and not the righteous. Faith becomes the key component in determining the separation between those who belong to his kingdom and those who do not. 9:13b articulates well the targets of the gospel ministry, to which the miraculous stories allegorically describe. The mission is not have a universalistic purpose but it is a ministry that seeks out lost sheep which leaves a clear line demarcation between the faithful and the obstinate.

The Sermon on the Mount can be summed up as it is in 7:12 as the Law and the Prophets, while its overall structure can be considered a covenantal document for the Kingdom of Heaven, creating the atmosphere in which a people can relate to the King of the Kingdom. Chapters 8-10 display the motif of division by highlighting the role of faith and the need to follow Jesus despite persecution. Part one demonstrated that the structure markers of Matthew 5:17-20, 7:12-29, and 10:34-42 have the same corresponding pattern. That pattern as demonstrated by part two is replicated in large scale by the two corresponding sections of text situated between these markers. There is a movement from covenantal law to the explication of division resulting from the covenant.

The following parts of this essay will examine direct interpretation of the positive and negative verbs concerning the incarnational purpose of Christ within the broader context of the repeated pattern within these five chapters. Before tackling some of the interpretive questions regarding what it means to fulfill the Law and the Prophets and bring division, an excursus on Israel as a type is necessary to set the broader biblical theological framework for interpreting 5:17 and 10:34.

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