Gareth Flanary

Gareth Flanary

The Shaping of a Community

Matthew 9:36-13:52

The core of Matthew’s gospels is found in five discourses of Jesus.  The first is what we deem the “Sermon on the Mount” (5-7).  Today’s article will focus on the second and third discourse.

In 9:36-11:1, Matthew reflects a pattern that moves from identity to mission.  The disciples are compelled to decisive action as they embark upon a mission modeled after Jesus’ mission to transform the human condition by announcing the good news of the kingdom and by exhibiting the kingdom’s presence as they are empowered to bring wholeness out of brokenness and liberation to those held in the grip of evil (10:5-7). Although Jesus’ mission crosses cultural boundaries, initial priority is given to Israel to hear and see the wonders of God’s redemptive plan (10:5).  The movement of the Matthew’s narrative runs from the old to the new (9:14-17) constantly reconstructing the past and constructing the future in expectation.  The mission is a movement that is always being joined by others—an ever-new people.  Like interns, the followers of Jesus are taught missions by being sent into diverse cultural settings, where real llife happens.  They learn to trust in God’s providential care and wisdom (10:9-15,19-20,26-31).  They learn to respond creatively to rejection and hostilities (10:16-18,23-24,38-39).  They learn to fully experience the depth of true community and family (10:11-14,32-33,40-42). 

In the third discourse (13:1-52), Jesus shares with his new family the secrets of the way of the kingdom.  A series of seven parables captures in story form how God’s transforming presence seeps into the cracks of human experience and makes its presence known.  Several questions are answered:  Why is the majority largely unresponsive or dismissive of the way of the kingdom (13:1-9,18-23)?  Why does the kingdom coexist with evil and tolerate its presence (13:24-30, 36-43, 47-50)?  Why does the arrival of the kingdom lack the expected “shock and awe,” and appear so inconspicuous (13:31-33)?  The kingdom will ultimately prevail even though it progresses without political coercion.  The seed of the kingdom grows at its own pace and resists our obsession for control and manipulation.

Note:  As we journey through Matthew and capture his vision for the identity and mission of God’s people, it is a blessing to have George Perron and Stephen Broyles preach for the next two Sundays.  Today, George will take us through some of the parable of Jesus in Matthew 13; next week, Stephen will reflect on Matthew 14:13-33.  

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