Precisely at those moments when we best understand our true identities as sons and daughters of God and as brothers and sisters of Jesus, the evil one seeks to distort or destroy that identity. John was preparing the way for the kingdom by seeking the repentance of the people. In Jesus, that kingdom has come. The two things most useful to the world, salt and light, describe the character of the new identity of his followers.
Sin begins not in dark alleyways but in a darkened imagination. His mercy, his hesed, makes their citizenship possible. Once they realize all that his hesed has made possible, they are obliged to respond to the world with the same hesed. We do not give people the punishment they deserve, because we did not receive the punishment we deserved. We love our enemies because God loves his enemies. It will come to a conclusion in the opening verses of chapter 10 when Jesus will call and commission the Twelve.
He is the one with absolute authority. In Matthew, Jesus uses the occasion to prophesy that at the great messianic feast see Is ; many outsiders from the east and the west will sit alongside the great patriarchs in the kingdom, but many who were originally invited to be the subjects of that kingdom that is, the Jews will be thrown outside in despair. Matthew sees the story in light of the kingdom and its unexpected and unsettling nature. It is clearly not the primary focus of the story. So often the miracle in any given account is not really the miracle.
The true miracle, miraculous enough to amaze even Jesus himself, is the faith of the Roman soldier. To them it clearly only belongs to God. They whisper to themselves usually a bad sign in the Gospels that Jesus is committing blasphemy. This word describes the very heart of God and is used over times in the Old Testament. It is an untranslatable word, like love. It can properly be understood only by being incarnated. And this is what Jesus has come to do.
The creators of the King James Version had to invent a new word to attempt to translate the untranslatable hesed. They came up with the compound word lovingkindness. Though Matthew—or you or me—has a right to expect nothing from God because of his stubborn disobedience, God nonetheless has come to give us everything. Luke provides only three verses Lk Matthew devotes an entire chapter of forty-two verses. While Matthew may be a selective minimalist in regard to the detail of the story, he is the extreme opposite when it comes to the words of Jesus.
In Luke we have fifty-three minutes with Jesus speaking directly to us. In John we have only forty-four. But in Matthew, Jesus speaks to us for more than an hour one hour and twelve minutes. This is the radical reversal, the upside-down nature of the kingdom and the source of our new identities in him.
Only Matthew records it, perhaps because it is a question of identity. There is nothing wrong with Jesus; it is our expectations that are patently wrong.
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The twelve disciples collected twelve small baskets of crumbs so that they too might be fed. All this is by the power of the one who had taught them to pray only for their daily bread and who apparently never uses that power to feed himself.
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He always wins praise for the Father. At the feeding of the four thousand, the miracle is abundance, as seven man-sized baskets of leftovers are collected. The two friends are defining each other. You are the Christ. You are Peter, the rock.
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So, what is the miracle behind the unseen miracle? Remember, these are their final days in Galilee. Soon they will leave for the final journey to Jerusalem Mt This is the last time for Jesus and Peter to spend time together in private, there in his home in Capernaum. Tired from their hike back from Caesarea Philippi, they come home to find two religious men waiting to coerce a tax from Jesus that he should not have to pay in the first place.
There should have been a confrontation. Jesus should have sent them packing. Yet he chooses not to do so. Mysteriously, he does not want to offend them. And why? This is the miracle: Jesus chooses to exercise his miraculous power to make a coin appear to pay the tax so that he and his friend might spend their last few hours together in peace. Upon realizing that the person from whom we have a right to expect nothing has given us everything, we must reciprocate. In the upside-down value system on which it is based, where the last is first, being a slave puts you on the top of the ladder.
He, the Son of Man, the Supreme Human, came to serve and to give his life as a ransom lytron , the technical term for the price paid to redeem slaves. I hope to thank him, once again, and tell him about how we kept at it for years and years, praying in front of the prison every week, forming the largest pro bono legal project in US history, and how some of our detainees got asylum so many years ago, and about some who were deported to further imprisonment, torture and death back in communist China.
As his song puts it, we have so very many books and Bibles here, and such freedom. Anyway, it was a memorable thing for me to meet him and have our passions for this justice project affirmed. Card earned an advanced degree in Biblical studies and is on the deeper end of the CCM gene pool. Even if he were not the beloved performing and recording artist that he is, he would be known as a significant writer, contributing much to the contemporary religious publishing world.
N ot all, but most of his best books are on the well-respected InterVarsity Press. We thank them for helping us host him here this week as he talks about his brand new commentary on Matthew, in the Biblical Imagination series. The correlating album by the same name will arrive on Thursday making us the very first place to have it, so our event will be a bit of a coming out party for the CD. We will have them all on sale Thursday night at our event. Let us know if we can get an autographed one for you.
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I think we can pull that off…. They are nearly unique insofar as they attempt to bring curiosity to the reading; his artistic temperament and imaginative sensibility colors how he reads the texts, so these are being touted as examples of the redemptive use of the imagination. This is an immensely interesting idea, and the preface and introductory material are themselves wonderful meditations on this need and this approach.
Matthew: The Gospel of Identity by Michael Card
He notes, and is surely right, that there are those who are so rationalistic in their studious approach to the text that they are missing much. The mind alone simply cannot comprehend and know all that is being revealed in sacred Scripture — and anyone who has studied social history at all knows that this reductionist view of what counts as knowing is based on the pagan assumptions of secular Rationalism from the era pompously known as the Enlightenment. Of course, the other extreme is equally troublesome; mystical, allegorical, symbolic, emotional, and other creative readings can become unhinged, disconnected from common sense, overly subjective, not grounded in the best insights of the tradition of teaching that has gone before us or the perspectives of others in our faith community.
And Card tells us that our God-given imagination is the tool the Spirit uses to bring back together these two modes of knowing, modes designed to compliment one another but rendered asunder by the Fall and human sin.
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Card makes this assertion quite nicely in the prefaces of these commentaries. It is fabulous, I think, to have an author so self-aware and candid about his or her assumptions and strategies as they commence reading.
I was going to make a joke about him getting his cards on the table. It is also quite nice to have one writing so helpfully about the proper role of the imagination. This humble offering is a sweet aroma and an invaluable contribution to all those who desire to know the Bible and live creatively. Now, in the Biblical Imagination Series, Card invites readers to enter into the Scripture as he does, at the level of imagination… these volumes reintegrates our minds with our hearts to recapture our imagination with the beauty and power of Christ.
Here is a bit of a review published by the Englewood Review , of Luke: The Gospel of Amazement , which explains this nicely,. Card proves himself a worthy guide, offering much to be enjoyed by both bookworms and bohemians as he walks us chapter by chapter through Luke.
The Biblical Imagination Series
For the former there is the requisite geographical and historical information, the dabbling in the original languages, and the discussions of authorship, setting, etc. For the latter there are plenty of invitations to feel, see, and hear, along with the occasional reference to music, painting, or art history. The author is particularly on point when he gets us exploring by way of his compelling use of language. Or, hear what my friend David Swartz wrote at Patheos :.
About this product Product Information "You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. We try to define ourselves one way or another. But who are we really? How does God define us? The Gospel of Matthew was written to a group of Christians who didn't yet know who they were. They were faithful Jews in the synagogue community in Galilee who had found the Messiah.
Jesus had changed everything. But how should they think of themselves now, as Jewish or Christian? What did it all mean? Matthew writes his Gospel to help his readers define their new identity as followers of Jesus the Messiah. Michael Card unpacks how Matthew's emphasis on fulfillment confirms their Jewish connection to the Torah, while his focus on the kingdom helps them understand their new identities in Christ.
Matthew presents this process of redefinition as an exercise of the imagination, in which Jesus reshapes who we are in light of who he is. Come alongside Matthew in this pilgrimage, and discover how your new identity in Christ fulfills all that you are meant to be.
Related Matthew: The Gospel of Identity (The Biblical Imagination Series)
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