The chapter and verse numbers weren’t included in the first manuscripts of the Bible. They were added to the Greek New Testament and the Hebrew Old Testament texts in the 16th-century by a man named Robert Stephanus (his son, Henri, is famous for introducing the pagination numbers still used today in many of Plato’s writings).
While Robert’s Stephanus’ work has long been the gold standard for quickly finding Bible references according to “chapter and verse”… some of his organizational decisions are not as helpful for studying the Bible as a piece of literature. Matthew chapter 20 is one such “unfortunate chapter break”.
Matthew chapter 20 begins with the word “for”. Grammatically, that word suggests that the statement that follows somehow relates with information that came before. It organically ties back to the statement in the last verse of chapter 19. Continue reading
In Matthew 19:16 a man came to Jesus asking a question. He said, “What good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?”
There are several places in the New Testament where people ask a question similar to this. Surprisingly, the answers vary greatly (see John 6:25-29, Luke 3:10-18, Luke 10:25-37, and Acts 16:30-31).
In this particular case Jesus answered the man, “keep the commandments.” But that wasn’t as clear as it needed to be so the man asked another question, “Which ones?” The people that count such things have found 613 different commandments in the OT. So I think it was a good question.
To which commandments was Jesus referring? He started with a portion of the list of the 10 commandments found in Exodus 20:12-17 (and repeated in Deuteronomy 5). But surprisingly, Jesus doesn’t list all of the 10 commandments and the ones He does mention were strategically chosen.
Let’s count along with him. (I’ve included each commandment’s number for your convenience.) Continue reading
In Matthew 18:1, the disciples wonder about what kind of seats they would have in the heavenly kingdom. They asked Jesus for His thoughts by asking who is “greatest in the kingdom of heaven”.
To answer their question, Jesus called a child into their midst. Mark mentions in his gospel (Mark 9:36) that Jesus took the child “in his arms”, so I suspect it wasn’t a teenager! It was probably more like a toddler.
Then, very subtly, Jesus changes the question. He doesn’t answer the disciple’s question about “who has the best seats”… but responds by telling them what’s required “to get into” the kingdom. Turns out the disciples had been assuming something that wasn’t the case.
It kinda reminds me of that Bob Uecker beer commercial from the 80’s. In the commercial Bob, a former major league player who playfully refers to himself as “Mr. Baseball”, receives a free ticket from the management to see his former team play a game. He assumes, “I must be in the front row!” But the seating attendant escorts him, instead, to one of the last rows of the upper deck (in case you weren’t paying attention to beer commercials in the 80’s, I’ve included a link HERE for your viewing pleasure).
Poor Bob Uecker… and poor disciples too! They were both assuming something that wasn’t the case. Continue reading
In Matthew 17:1-13, Jesus takes three of His disciples (Peter, James and John) up on a mountain. During their time there, Moses and Elijah appear and Jesus is “transfigured” before them.
When something is “transfigured” it goes through a change that makes it more beautiful. Transfiguration creates a new outward appearance.
In Matthew 17:2, Matthew tells us Jesus was transfigured, and suggests Jesus’ appearance completely changed. The description makes it seem like His outward flesh went away and the divine person beneath was allowed to shine forth. It says Jesus’ face shone like the sun. His clothes became like light.
The Greek lemma behind this transformation is a word that’s pronounced “metamorephoo”. That should sound familiar to English speakers. We describe the change a caterpillar undergoes to become a butterfly as metamorphosis. Interestingly, the same Greek lemma is also used to describe the transformation a believer experiences through faith in Christ. Continue reading
In Matthew 16:13, Jesus asks His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” Anytime the author (Matthew) records Jesus asking a question, he is expecting you, as a reader, to answer the question. It’s a question that, eventually, everyone must answer.
But did you notice how Jesus phrased the question? He didn’t say, “Who do people say that Jesus of Nazareth is?” He inserts the title “Son of Man” in place of his name. The title “Son of Man” has a very specific context in the Old Testament book of Daniel (chapter 7 verses 13-14). The “Son of Man” character in the book of Daniel is very God himself.
Jesus is not asking, “Do people think I’m the Son of Man?” He is declaring that this is who He is. He had used the “Son of Man” title before (back in Matthew 9:6).
Here are the responses that the disciples mentioned they were hearing.
- People think you seem a lot like John the Baptist.
- You are doing things like some of the prophets in the OT… like Elijah… who helped a widow’s son in Sidon. (Jesus had traveled to Sidon and helped a widow’s daughter.)
- You seem like, Jeremiah, who wept over Jerusalem and predicted that the city would be destroyed. (Jesus will weep over Jerusalem and also predict its destruction.)
- Or one of the other prophets… like Jonah. (Both Jonah and Jesus had been asleep in the bow of a boat in the midst of a storm… and both calmed the sea… although in very different ways).
People were concluding that Jesus was an Old Testament person that had come back from the dead. But, the people on the street were failing to make one important connection.