Evening Reading - Matthew 9:1-17
Today we continue our reading of Genesis, in which the story of Isaac and his two sons is beginning to unfold. I will offer some reflections on Jacob and Esau tomorrow, but today I would like to shift our attention back to the gospel of Matthew.
Over the weekend, we completed our reading of the Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7), which is the first of five major teachings of Jesus within Matthew's gospel narrative. The following quotation from my study bible helps to explain the various understandings of the purpose of this teaching:
"Some interpreters have thought the purpose of this sermon was to describe a moral standard so impossibly high that it is relevant only for a future millennial kingdom. Others have thought its primary purpose was to portray the absoluteness of God's moral perfection and thereby to drive people to despair of their own righteousness, so they will trust in the imputed righteousness of Christ. Both views fail to recognize that these teachings, rightly understood, form a challenging but practical ethic that Jesus expects his followers to live by in this present age." (English Standard Version Study Bible - Crossway Publishing)
The Sermon on the Mount provides a vision of life in the kingdom of God, which is not simply a future ideal, but is what we are called to embody, albeit imperfectly, in this present age. At the conclusion of his teaching, Jesus declares, "everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock" (7:24). This teaching of Jesus offers us challenging, yet practical, ways to respond to anger, unforgiveness, anxiety, fear, judgment, and many other issues that are significant hindrances to living the fullness of kingdom life. It is also important to note that in Matthew's gospel, Jesus states emphatically that he did not come to abolish the law or the prophets, but to the fulfill them, which means that although we are not longer bound by the law in terms of our justification before God, the law still functions as a source of order and blessing in our lives.
Finally, in today's reading (Matthew 8-9) we find Jesus continuing his ministry of teaching and preaching, but now Jesus is more frequently engaged in the ministry of healing. In these two chapters of alone, we find seven healing stories, which Matthew presents as further evidence that Jesus is the fulfillment of Old Testament messianic expectations (see 8:17). As we continue to read through the gospel narrative, we will find that the ministry of healing is a significant part of Jesus' overall ministry.