Saturday 29 October 2016

Bible Book:

“Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (v. 28)

Matthew 16:13-28 Saturday 29 October 2016

Psalm: Psalm 37:30-40


This is a significant, and complicated, passage in Matthew'sGospel. Like so much of this Gospel, it is profoundly Jewish, andit reflects 1st-century Jewish beliefs about the coming Messiah,God's 'anointed one' who would triumph over Israel's enemies andrestore the kingdom of King David. The setting is the Romanoccupied region of Caesarea Philippi, which tells us that thisMessiah would be a challenge to imperial power, and Jesusidentifies himself as "Son of Man", the one promised in the OldTestament (Daniel 7:13-14) who would one day rule theworld on Israel's behalf. The Messiah's coming, Jews believed,would be marked by the return of the prophet of Elijah, a roleplayed by John the Baptist. And Peter recognises Jesus as the'anointed one' who, as the coming king, was declared to be the "Sonof God" (a royal, not a divine title in the Old Testament) (verse16).

The word 'church' only comes twice in the Gospels, and bothtimes in Matthew. Here, Peter is identified as the founding apostleof the Church, with unique authority to act on Jesus' behalf. This,probably, reflects a conflict between Matthew's Jewish Christianchurch and the increasingly gentile (non-Jewish) churchesassociated with Paul which, by the time this was written (aroundAD85) were gaining ground in the wider Roman Empire. (It is ironic,perhaps, that this passage, subsequently, was used to underpin theauthority of the Church of Rome.) Peter's reputation was somewhattarnished, though, when he challenged Jesus' declaration that theway ahead would take him through suffering and death (verse 22),which Jews did not associate with the Messiah. The kingdom wouldcome, not by military conquest, but through self-sacrifice.

The passage ends, as it began, with "the Son of Man", and theastonishing assertion that his kingdom would come "with his angelsin the glory of his Father" (v. 27) within the lifetime of some ofhis disciples. This may reflect Matthew's belief that thedestruction of Jerusalem in AD70 would precipitate dramatic divineintervention. Unfortunately it didn't, and Matthew's Jewish churchpretty much died out within a generation.

To Ponder

  • Both "Messiah" and "Son of Man" are human, not divine, titlesin the Old Testament. Is that a problem for Christian readers?Why?
  • As a modern reader, who do you identify with in the story?Why?
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