Basic Facts About Matthew (Part 4)

Basic Facts About Matthew (Part 4)

The transfiguration of Jesus in Matthew 17 was surely one of the most extraordinary events any of the apostles would ever experience. It appears that this event occurred somewhere on the slopes of Mt. Hermon, one of the highest points in Palestine. Jesus and the disciples had previously been in the region of Caesarea Philippi, at the foot of the mountain, according to chapter 16:13. Only three apostles were with Jesus on this occasion (Peter, James and John), and He commanded them to tell no one what they had seen until after His resurrection (17:9). It was during this event that Peter proposed erecting monuments to Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. In response, the Father spoke directly from heaven, commanding Peter and his companions to heed the words of Jesus even over the commandments of Moses and Elijah. In this, the Father shows that Jesus’ covenant and commands supersede both Moses’ and the prophets’. This is why Romans 15:4 tells us that although “the things written aforetime were… for our learning,” the law to which we now answer comes from Jesus Christ (cf. Galatians 6:2 & James 1:25).

Matthew 18 is notable for Jesus’ instruction on “conflict resolution” among brethren (vv. 15-18). Although these verses are often cited as instructions for congregational discipline and correction (and they do provide an excellent model for such matters), their context clearly refers to individuals attempting to resolve conflicts among themselves. Note also that both “sides” in such a conflict have a responsibility to attempt its resolution (not just the “guilty” or wrong-doing party). In Jesus’ instructions, two brethren trying to resolve a conflict would (ideally) meet halfway between their two homes, each one on the way to seek reconciliation with the other!

The Lord’s teaching about divorce in chapter 19 was prompted by the Pharisees’ question in verse 3; “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” (ESV). The question points to a disagreement among Jewish scholars in that time; some taught that divorce could only occur where there was evidence of sexual misconduct, while others said divorce was permissible for any “flaw” or fault a man might find in his wife. The Pharisees seem to have been probing to find out which “school of thought” Jesus would follow. It is important to see that Jesus did not accept either line of thinking as the authority for what He said; instead, He took them back to God’s original pattern for marriage, vs. 4. His description in verse 5 can be summarized as “one man, married to one woman, for life.” At verse 6 He further emphasized that marriage NOT merely civil ritual, because God Himself does the “joining” of husband and wife in this relationship. When the Pharisees challenged Him by asserting that Moses had “commanded” divorce, Jesus pointed out that they were wrong to equate something that was permitted with a commandment (vs. 8). When He then noted that a divorce rooted in any cause other than fornication leads to adultery in any subsequent union. The fact that He makes an exception for one who divorces an unfaithful spouse merely emphasizes the “rule” that one who divorces for some other cause and then marries again engages in adultery.

Matthew 20:18-19 is because Jesus foretells in very plain language exactly what would happen when He goes “up” to Jerusalem at Passover: He would be betrayed to and arrested by the Jewish rulers; condemned to death by them; handed over to the Romans who would mock, scourge and crucify Him; and He would subsequently arise from the dead on the third day after His death. Anyone who suggests that Jesus didn’t know what was about to happen to Him, or that He was “surprised” when He was crucified instead of crowned contradicts what the Lord plainly said.

-Dave Rogers

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