Erin Levins Jesus in the Gospel October 9
Jesus in the Gospel
October 9, 2018
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven,” (Mt. 7:21, NRSV). The gospel of Matthew is often regarded as one of the most important writings on the account of Jesus due to its seamless transition from the old Testament, to the new. Within, it contains the early teachings of the Christian church, the story about Jesus’s miraculous conception; an explanation of the importance of liturgy, law, discipleship, and teaching; and a depiction of Jesus’s life and death. There are many interpretations on the life of Jesus, who he was, what he represented, and what his teachings and parables meant; through the gospel of Matthew, Jesus’ humanity, attainability of the afterlife, and the grace of the lord is written.
Matthew’s gospel begins by depicting the lineage of Jesus all the way back to the biblical patriarch of Moses, the great prophet of the Old Testament, and of great worship to Judaism. What makes the transition from OT to NT so powerful and appropriate through Matthew, is the ability to connect these old Judaic teachings from Moses and the original church, to the story of Jesus and his similar intent of praise in the eyes of the lord. Thus, begins the birth of the new prophet. Jesus was born son of Mary and Joseph by immaculate conception, and both were guided from angels of the heavens to protect their marriage and the survival of the son of God, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins,” (Mt. 1:21). After his arrival was made known, already followers of God were sent to worship him while others already intended to smite him out for fear of the new prophet undermining their kingship. But with the spirits’ protection, Jesus was made to survive and grow to begin his ministry. As he is raised, he is already humble and straightforward with his living and beliefs, he is described as a man in a loincloth, who lives by eating wild honey and locusts, and begins to prophesy throughout Judea, others saw this as the foretelling of Jesus as the one who will come to “baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire,” (Mt. 3:11). John the Baptist, another believed prophet, had heard of Jesus and eventually meets him when he comes to be baptized in the river. John is instantly astonished by the desire of Jesus to be baptized by him and tells him that it should be him baptizing himself and others, but he acts as others and lends himself to the hands of John to be cleansed of the original sin. God then is heard speaking to his son with blessings and praise. In the eyes of my catholic faith, this to me is the first powerful scripture that simultaneously shows Jesus as son of man and son of God. Regardless if he is all knowing to his power and prophecy, he still bows himself to John the Baptist and recognizes his role with God and asks him for the baptismal sacrament, I believe because of his meekness and willingness to be baptized, God is greatly pleased to recognize and call him as his son. Here is where I believe the author N. T. Wright would agree with me that Jesus is to be seen not as ‘pre and post’, but as one entity of human and tradition. His baptism is the first act that serves as evidence that Jesus identifies himself as son of man, unescaped from the original sin, but also as belonging to the service of God. After this dive into God’s divine light, Jesus is then led into the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights without food or water to be tested by Satan. This is also another lineage to Moses, who had to walk the unknown lands of the wilderness for 40 years with his people due to Judaic exile. During Jesus’ spiritual journey, Satan offers him food and drink, the power of the world, and to test the power of God by throwing himself from the top of a temple, he refuses all and walks from the wilderness unscathed and triumphant.
After the confirmation of Jesus’ devotion to his father and his proof of power to turn away from worldly and evil sin, he begins his ministry. He begins to gather a following and starts hand picking ones to be of his family and those worthy of furthering his preaching. After he accumulates his early disciples, Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John, begins the Sermon of the Mount, which I believe to be the most beautiful and most central artifact of what Jesus represented and what is asked of us in order to step through the gates of Heaven. This is also where I learned from Borg and Wright to apply the lenses of what Jesus is and represents, especially with Borg’s view of Jesus as a Jewish mystic. When Jesus lists the Beatitudes, I can see fully his ability as a spirit person, healer, wisdom teacher, and social prophet. He is embodied as a spirit person simply as one who can bring about these divine rules similar to the ten commandments that Moses taught to similar Judaic followers. The sermon emphasizes humility, obedience, love of one’s neighbor, the proper method of prayer, and trust in God. Jesus says that the poor, meek, and hungry are blessed. To be able to see past the past turmoil and troubles of a human being and teach to them that they can be still be saved and enveloped in God’s light is a truly awesome and wholesome experience that I believe no one other than a spiritual person could bring about. Jesus can be seen as a healer on many accounts, mostly known by others as his ability to cure the sick, lame, dumb, and deaf, but he is also a healer within this sermon because he exclaims “Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted” and “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” I can attest to these scriptures and words to live by are those of a healer, because coming through dark tunnels with no end, many nights with no day, countless storms with no sun, to know that to mourn, to be merciful, and to practice the holy trinity’s way of life will save us; and further grant us the eternal welcoming, is nothing but healing to a scalded soul. Jesus is also often referred to as a wisdom teacher with his complex parables and wise and existential views on this Earth, this can also be concluded from being told “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God, and Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.” From this I see great wisdom in the belief by focusing on what is truly important, past physical and humanly pleasures, we can seek the true meaning of God’s grace through focus of humility and peace with others. Jesus pulls the curtain to a new way of life that can be fulfilled with prayer and service to others, while also being humbly rewarded by it, of course not the rewards being the purpose, but for a true, holistic life. Then finally, Jesus as a social prophet, “Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.” Jesus later uses a parable referring to a fig tree, “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit,” (Mt. 7:18). I choose to connect these beatitudes with this scripture because the holy spirit is the only being that can decipher between those good of heart and those with bad. Those who are bad can only produce bad and those who are good can only produce good. Jesus expresses his ability to see past those with masks and impure intentions with faith, and Jesus being one with the holy spirit, can therefor be proclaimed as a social prophet.
After Jesus’ sermon on the mount, word of his coming spread and he began going from town to town to perform miracles and healings on those who had great faith. Jesus cures a leper, a paralytic, a hemorrhaging woman, a centurion’s servant, and Peter’s mother-in-law. He also calms a storm, exorcizes demons, gives eyesight to the blind, and brings a dead girl back to life. Jesus resolves to “send out laborers” to minister to the Gentiles, to whom he refers as lost sheep (Mt. 9:38). Jesus appoints twelve disciples, telling them that they will be persecuted but they should not be afraid. Jesus instructs the disciples to preach that the “kingdom of heaven has come near,” and to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and cast out demons, all without payment (Mt. 10:7). It’s difficult to say if Jesus was actually able to perform these miraculous acts, especially since historians believe that the author of Matthew was not an eye witness account to the life of Jesus. I’d like to believe that these miracles are of Borg’s history remembered, where these accounts can be taken seriously and that the power of faith was the sole cure of these sick people, but metaphorized history would be just as meaningful and miraculous. For those authoring the life of Jesus, to hold such strong faith in these convictions and miracles, it interprets Jesus as a powerful leader and healer of faith.
In chapter 11, Matthew interrupts his account of Jesus and his disciples’ mission to focus on Jesus himself. He gives an account of the opposition Jesus faces. Some people disapprove of his association with sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes, but he further preaches that forgiveness is the key to walking forth and to have faith is door to which the key unlocks. Jesus presents himself as a human man gifted with other worldly knowledge, and his only intention is to teach and guide. He doesn’t seek worship of himself, but worship of his father and the beatitudes he teachers. He believes he himself doesn’t have extraordinary powers, but that faith does. Matthew presents Jesus as a human spiritual teacher. He describes him with human physical and emotional qualities, but with a shadow of paranormal abilities and strengths. He presents him as someone to look up to and seek great guidance, but doesn’t make him to appear perfect or untouchable, but attainable and humble. Jesus believes that everyone is his brother and sister until they turn away from his teachings and faith. He considers his disciples his family and gives further devotion to them than his mother and true biological brothers. His adversaries in technical terms are Sadducees and Pharisees, those who take advantage of the temple, and those who condemn him. For Jesus is both son of God and son of man, he acts as both. In the gospel of Matthew he often is described with human qualities, with hunger, thirst, and exhaustion from his travels, but he never is concerned by these for his faith, he feeds thousands by dividing very little food of fishes and loaves, and by this we can metaphorize that though he has so little, he offers so much with his guidance and teachings of faith in the lord. However, it is when Jesus arrives to Jerusalem for the time of Passover, his true humanity is revealed.
When he arrives with his crowd of followers, his entrance on a colt is greeted by hundreds praising him and laying down palms and cloaks for him to enter upon. Jesus had previously foreshadowed to his disciples that the end was coming and that their faith and understanding of his teachings were more important than ever. “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come,” (Mt. 24:14). Jesus was displeased when he observed and explored the city of Jerusalem. Here is where he was criticized and harassed with questions in regard to him being the true son of God, but he dealt with this like a wisdom teacher, and taught them a lesson with his responses of strength and confidence. But with the remainder of the city, he performed very few healings as he felt the faith of his teachings was not carried well in Jerusalem. “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Mt. 23:37). The final thread of Jesus’ patience was ultimately tested when he came about a temple of worship and saw that it was filled with merchants and taxpayers. He acted as humanly as any of us would under a time of great sadness and frustration with the mistreatment of something beloved. Jesus is said to have scolded the elder priest and merchants and even flipped their tables. He commanded them to go and to leave the temple a place of peace and faith. Seeing the wickedness of Jerusalem, and foreseeing God’s punishment of the wicked, Jesus warns his disciples to be prepared for the end of the world and once again, for the end of himself. This leads to the last supper, where Jesus broke bread and drank wine with his disciples, while also indicating that one would be the ultimate betrayer of him. Regardless, he still initiates one of the most important Christian rituals, the Eucharist. After the supper and the creating of the body and blood, they set out for Mount of Olives. Through the remainder of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus is seen as more human than ever because he expresses frustration with the merchants and people of the temple, and of his disciples when they fail to pray for him, he expresses great anxiety when he speaks and prays to his Father and implores for any other way out of this great suffering, and then the crucifixion itself, where Jesus is to carry the cross, and the weight of the world’s sins on his back. He is exhausted, broken, beaten, stabbed, and then hung for all of the world to see. What makes these verses so vividly excruciating and heart wrenching, is that it in its entirety depicts humanity. It is of humans to harshly and rashly convict an innocent man, it is of humans to torture and to lack remorse for others’ pain. It is of Jesus as the son of man, to continuously beg for water, collapse from exhaustion, and cry out in pain. He is never more human than he is in his final hours, where he clings to his faith and the righteousness of his father. Whether Jesus knew it or not, he opened the gates of heaven for all of those who had faith and were cleansed of the original sin. He carved the pathway for forgiveness and the teachings of a life of pure faith and dedication in serving others and the Lord. Jesus never believed he was above others, or that even those without faith were beneath him; but behind him. It is arguable if he saw himself as a prophecy or recognized the significance of his death prior to it happening, nonetheless he did not call himself a prophet, messiah, etc. and nor did he acknowledge when other people did speak of him this way. He referred to himself solely as son of man and son of God. He was son of man due to his parents of Joseph and Mary, and he saw himself as the son of God because he believed he was placed on this Earth to heal and to teach unending kindness and the right path to enter the eternal kingdom. He was straightforward from the beginning of his teachings and ministry that he was here to bring about the word of his father, and to teach others that anything can be made possible, healed, mended, and forgiven with having faith in God.