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Exploring Matthew’s Gospel

Exploring Matthew’s Gospel

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Exploring Matthew’s Gospel

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  1. Exploring Matthew’s Gospel Session 6 Ahhh, Togetherness: The Community Discourse

  2. The Community Discourse • The fourth major “discourse” • Applies core values of the reign of heaven to the communal life of the church • Call to live out a distinctive ethic in relations with others • Parallel to similar calls in Sermon on Mount regarding personal conduct

  3. Re-Imagining Greatness (18:1-5) • Matthew softens account in Mark 9:33-37 • Disciple’s question provides opening for Jesus’ teaching on community relationships

  4. Re-Imagining Greatness • Compare back to 5:19 • paidion = paidion = a child under 12 • Zero status or political significance • Not just answer to question but commentary on its propriety • Transforms discussion into question of orientation (to God? Or to humans?)

  5. Re-Imagining Greatness • Only by becoming a “nobody” can one expect to become great in the reign of heaven • Call to totally disregard status; “race to bottom” • Radical and complete departure from values of surrounding society

  6. skanda/lwn • skanda/lwn = skandalon = trap, stumbling block, temptation to sin, enticement to renounce faith • 5:29-30; 11:6; 15:12; 16:23; 17:27; 24:10; 26:31-32 • 6x in verb or noun form in 18:6-9

  7. Response to Skandalon (18:6-9) • Shift from “child” to “little one” (mikroi) marks shift from child as symbol of kingdom humility to those who can be led astray • Great care is to be used with respect of those “least” members of the community

  8. Response to Skandalon • Skandalon are inevitable, but agents of skandalon still bear responsibility • 18:8-9 restates 5:29-30 • Given context, may refer to members of community • Communities often referred to in “body” language (cf. 1 Corinthians 12) • Agents of scandal are to be expelled for the sake of the health of the community

  9. God and “Little Ones” (18:10-14) • Disciples are not to engage in spiritual elitism • Reinterprets OT motif of God’s preferential concern for materially vulnerable • Applies such preferential concern to the spiritually vulnerable

  10. God and “Little Ones” • Preferential concern for those who stray doesn’t necessarily imply lack of concern with those who don’t • Note qualification in 18:13 • “If he finds it” vs. “When he finds it (Luke 15:5) • Search is not always successful • However, every attempt is to be made to save the “strays”

  11. Believers Who Sin (18:15-17) • “against you” may not be original • Possible application to any sin • Apparent adoption, expansion of Q source (Cf. Luke 17:3-4) • Probably reflects practice of Matthew’s community

  12. Step One: Alone • Echoes Lev. 19:17 • Conflict is to be dealt with at the lowest possible level • Presumption is desire for reconciliation

  13. Step Two: Witnesses • Echoes Deut. 19:15 • Witnesses to what? • Deut. reference is to criminal proceeding • Sense here seems to be witnesses to: • Good-faith effort of aggrieved party • Willingness or (unwillingness) to repent and be reconciled

  14. Step Three: The Church • One of only two uses of ekklesia (church) in the Gospels (Matt 16:18) • Distinguishes Christian community from “their synagogues” • Community is to exercise accountability over members • The unrepentant may be expelled as a last resort • Remain subjects of pastoral concern

  15. Binding & Loosing (18:18-20) • Authority explicitly given to community, not a particular person or office • Principles of agreement, common prayer and Christ’s presence applied to case of believer who sins • Excommunication is so grave a step as to call for communal discernment

  16. Practicing Radical Forgiveness (18:21-22) • Emphasis here is on personal response to fellow believer • 7x? 77x? 490x? • Jesus’ response indicates that question itself is absurd • How many times? As many as it takes

  17. Justice? Or Mercy? (18:23-32) • 10,000 talents = 60-100 million day’s (164,383.5 years) wages • 100 denarii = 100 days wages • Others’ sins against us pale in comparison to our sins against God • Our forgiveness of others is to be as boundless as God’s forgiveness of us

  18. Justice? Or Mercy? • Justice and mercy are key attributes of God in the OT and rabbinic Judaism • Justice in OT is either: • Retributive (“eye for an eye”) • Distributive (concern for materially vulnerable) • Parable deals with former

  19. Justice? Or Mercy? • Implication is that God’s retributive justice is trumped by God’s mercy • However, those who insist on retributive justice over mercy will receive it

  20. Conclusions • Spiritual elitism (and all elitism) is counter to the values of the reign • The reign of heaven demands a choice between its values and those of the world • When conflict arises, reconciliation is to be pursued whole-heartedly

  21. Conclusions • Expulsion is absolute last resort • Expulsion only to be used to defend “little ones,” not as “my way or the highway” legalism • The community is to practice radical forgiveness • Our relations with others have implications for our relationship with God, and vice versa

  22. On a Mission From God: The Missionary Discourse in Matthew 10