Friday, May 7, 2010


Matthew 14-16

Chapter fourteen starts with the story of Herod beheading John the Baptist at the behest of his brother Philip's wife Herodias' daughter. Jesus, upon hearing the news, "withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place" but crowds followed him on foot. "He had compassion on them and healed their sick." As night came, the disciples urged him to send the crowd away to find something to eat, but Jesus told the disciples to feed them. When they told him that they only had five loaves of bread and two fish, he prayed and broke them, and fed five thousand with twelve basketfuls left over. He then sent the disciples to the other side in the boat, and prayed by himself on the mountainside, then followed them by walking across the water. When they saw him they feared, but he told them not to be afraid, and Peter walked out on the water with him until he began to sink and cried for help. Jesus rebuked him for his doubt. When he climbed into the boat, the wind died down and "those who were in the boat worshipped him, saying, 'Truly you are the Son of God.'"

In chapter fifteen, the Pharisees criticized the disciples for not ritually washing their hands before they ate, but Jesus called them hypocrites, and told them all that "what goes into a man's mouth does not make him 'unclean,' but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him 'unclean.'" Later, he explained to the disciples that what goes in passes through, but what comes out of the mouth comes from the heart. In the region of Tyre and Sidon, he resisted the plea of a Canaanite woman to heal her daughter, saying that "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel," but her faith convinced him to grant her request. After another session of teaching and preaching on a mountainside by the sea of Galilee, he fed four thousand with seven loaved "and a few small fish."

In chapter sixteen, the "Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven," and again he told them that "none will be given it except the sign of Jonah." He told his disciples to beware the "yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." They thought that it was because they had no bread, but he rebuked them for their lack of understanding, and then they saw that he was referring to the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. At Caesarea Philippi, he asked them who he was, and after being told that "some say," he asked what they thought. Peter said, "you are the Christ, the Son of the living God," And Jesus blessed him, called him Peter, and told them that "on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it." Then he began to explain to them that "he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life." When Peter protested, Jesus rebuked him for temptation, and told all of them that "if anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me" and "whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it."

Thoughts, questions, issues

  • Everyone knows how hard it is to proof-read your own material. After you've written it and read it a couple of times, you cease to see what's actually on the page, and just see what you believe is on the page. In the same way, I've found it interestingly difficult to actually focus on three chapters of this gospel during a reading. As I've said, there is an awful lot of the bible which, though I've read, I don't know. But a) I've read the gospels several times and b) there is so much similarity between the synoptic gospels that reading them each twice is like reading one of them six times. Consequently, I frequently read a header, or the start of a sentence, and find myself sort of pretending to read the words but not really focusing on them.
  • I don't understand why he was resistant to helping the Canaanite woman. The notion that he came to earth "only to the lost sheep of Israel" conflicts with, well, pretty much everything else in the Gospels.
  • I commented, frequently, about the emphasis on the "lips" and the "tongue" in the book of Proverbs. It's exactly what Jesus tells his disciples and the Pharisees - it's what comes out, that which comes from the heart, that defiles a man.
  • When Peter tells him that he won't be put to death, Jesus responds exactly the same way he responded to the temptation in the desert - "get thee behind me, Satan." Peter is offering a temptation, a deceit that the easy path is possible, and Jesus knows that this is not true.

Psalms 53

I do not quite know what to do with this one. It reads as if it is trying to convey thoughts or ideas that aren't translating well. The start is fairly straightforward, but we immediately go from "the fool" to "they are corrupt and their ways are vile." Is "they" the plural of fool? Is it all men? The next verse does indeed refer to "the sons of men," but is that the same they as the first verse?

In some ways, it reads as a lament, as "everyone has turned away...become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one."

Psalm 53
For the director of music. According to mahalath. A maskil of David.
1 The fool says in his heart,
"There is no God."
They are corrupt, and their ways are vile;
there is no one who does good.

2 God looks down from heaven
on the sons of men
to see if there are any who understand,
any who seek God.

3 Everyone has turned away,
they have together become corrupt;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.

4 Will the evildoers never learn—
those who devour my people as men eat bread
and who do not call on God?

5 There they were, overwhelmed with dread,
where there was nothing to dread.
God scattered the bones of those who attacked you;
you put them to shame, for God despised them.

6 Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
When God restores the fortunes of his people,
let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!

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