Who are the bad guys in this gospel? Who is the hero? What is won?
Sweep through the 28 chapters of Matthew quickly and you will notice some things. Jesus is presented from beginning to end as the legitimate authority, both religiously and politically. In order for King Jesus to bring his Good News to the people in need he has to overcome posers.
What does this mean for us today? The same thing it did in the 1st century. Jesus is greater than weird coalitions of religion and politics. We show our faithfulness to him by exposing the imposters and promoting the true King. To what end? Love overcoming the threats of death with Life.
Matthew chapters 1–28
1 — Jesus is connected to Abe and descendents, Israel.
2 — Poser Herod sees a religious/political threat and tries to kill Jesus.
3 — John makes it clear Israel has posers, but the King is here.
4 — Jesus is the faithful Israel in the wilderness and with the people in need.
5- Jesus is a New Moses, as promised, leading us to grow up like The Father.
6 — Jesus’ advice is not to do religious service for social status.
7 — Many posers will claim they were with Jesus, but they do not know him.
8 — Jesus is bringing Life and people respond differently.
9 — Jesus declares he has authority to bring Life and he wants more to join him.
10 — Jesus empowers others to bring Kingdom Life and call for Kingdom commitment.
11 — John was the final prophet predicting the King, now he is here and this generation is not choosing wisely.
12 — Religious leaders have beastly thoughts of murder, but Jesus is welcoming people into his family.
13 — This is how one chooses wisely: The Kingdom is Worth Everything.
14 — Now Herod is freaking out and seeing Jesus as John’s ghost, a political rival. Jesus has the disciples give life and avoid death from the raging seas (a political metaphor).
15 — Religious institutional leaders now challenge Jesus. Jesus focuses on Israel, provides Manna.
16 — Jesus is affirmed as Messiah but the death thing is satanically challenged. Jesus says “Death to Life” is The Way.
17 — Jesus is revealed on a mountain and affirmed by Moses (Law) & Elijah (Prophets). Jesus descends to cast out demons and declare he is greater than the Kings of the earth.
18 — Greatness in the Kingdom is about forgiveness and childlike humility.
19 — Rationalizations from the wise and the rich are contrasted with the need to be childlike and trusting. That is the way to greatness.
20 — Greatness is explained by Jesus, and then he helps people to see.
21 — Jesus now enters the capital city. Childlike praise welcomes him and then Jesus tells the anti-childlike religious players a story about a man’s son who is killed. They don’t like it.
22 — Jesus simplifies the Torah to this: Love God and humanity.
23 — Religious manipulators are rebuked harshly by Jesus. He ends with a lament for the city he loves.
24 — Jesus makes it clear that what he says will last even when everything that seems impressive won’t. The key is to stick to the Good News that will extend to everyone.
25 — The Kingdom will result in separating people. How? Their mercy as an expression of loving God and people.
26 — Valuable perfume poured out to the King is not a waste. Silver paid to betray the King is a waste, and worse. The King will overcome death, even more than passover.
27 — Priests and Pilate challenge Jesus. Politics & Religion AGAIN! Jesus dies in a mock enthronement.
28 — Jesus’ enthronement was no joke. He overcame death and appeared to the lowly and trusting. The religious & political leaders conspired to control the story. Jesus told his disciples to tell the truth to everyone everywhere, immersing them in the reality of the Triune God and teaching them to love like Jesus said, with his help.
Religion+Politics too often partner to justify abuses of power for the benefit of their leaders. Matthew’s gospel celebrates how Jesus exposed the problem of posers and presents a way of Life. Following him includes refusing to get trapped in rationalizing corrupt power. It is often costly, but the Kingdom is a treasure that is more than worth any cost. The Kingdom is Life.