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Monday, January 7, 2008

Lexegete™ | Year A | Matthew

January 27, 2008 (Lectionary 3)
Isaiah 9:1-4
Psalm 27:1, 4-9 (1)
1 Corinthians 1:10-18
Matthew 4:12-23
Color: Green

February 2, 2008
Malachi 3:1-4
Psalm 84 (1) or Psalm 24:7-10 (7)
Hebrews 2:14-18
Luke 2:22-40
Color: White

1a. CONTEXT: Matthew 4:12-23

This Sunday is rather blah, stuck as it is between the festivity of Christmas and solemnity of Lent. The color is green, which alerts us to life and growth, though our eyes are accustomed to the drabness of January. Our attention is focused on congregational meetings, perhaps (belated) recognition of Martin Luther King,Jr., the imminent Superbowl Sunday (and related good causes) , and the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, each of which comes around this time of year and is more or less important in the lives of individuals, congregations and communities. This Third Sunday after the Epiphany is preceded by Matthew's account of the Baptism of Our Lord (3:13-17) and John's proclamation of Jesus as the "Lamb of God," as well as Andrew's faith statement to and recruitment of his brother Peter (John 1:29-41). The Sermon on the Mount material forms the basis for the remaining Sundays of Epiphany.

Generally the emphasis has been on Jesus' calling to follow, and consequently has given rise to an evangelism emphasis, as if we who follow 2000 years later could do what Christ did, or respond as the fishermen did.

Matthew 4:12-23 serves to launch Jesus into his public ministry, and to summarize his proclamation--"Repent, for the realm of heaven is at hand" (AILL). Matthew duplicates all of Mark 1:14-20 and adds Isaiah 9:1-2, thereby implying is fulfillment, which would be meaningful and significant for Matthew's Jewish audience. Matthew's sensitivity causes him to use "basileia ton ouranon" 34 times, though this phrase is not found in the other Gospels. Frederick Buechner (Wishful Thinking, p. 79) says that "to repent is to come to your senses. It is not so much something you do as something that happens. True repentance spends less time looking at the past and saying 'I'm sorry,' than to the future and saying 'Wow!'" According to Gunther Bornkamm (Jesus of Nazareth, p. 82), Repentance is "to lay hold on the salvation which is already at hand, and to give up every- thing for it." Finally, Floyd Filson in A New Testament History (p. 94) says that the Kingdom is the theme of the synoptics. Jesus announces the Kingdom or Realm as a present reality and a future hope. The announcement is preceded by a summons to repent. The appeal is urgent, for this Realm comes not by the brilliance and action of God's people--rather by God's intervention in the person of Jesus.

1b. Text: Mt. 4:12-23

Now when Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

"Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles-- the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned."

From that time Jesus began to proclaim, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea-- for they were fishermen. And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fish for people." Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.


12ακουσας δε οτι ιωαννης παρεδοθη ανεχωρησεν εις την γαλιλαιαν. 13και καταλιπων την ναζαρα ελθων κατωκησεν εις καφαρναουμ την παραθαλασσιαν εν οριοις ζαβουλων και νεφθαλιμ: 14ινα πληρωθη το ρηθεν δια ησαιου του προφητου λεγοντος, 15γη ζαβουλων και γη νεφθαλιμ, οδον θαλασσης, περαν του ιορδανου, γαλιλαια των εθνων, 16ο λαος ο καθημενος εν σκοτει φως ειδεν μεγα, και τοις καθημενοις εν χωρα και σκια θανατου φως ανετειλεν αυτοις. 17απο τοτε ηρξατο ο ιησους κηρυσσειν και λεγειν, μετανοειτε, ηγγικεν γαρ η βασιλεια των ουρανων. 18περιπατων δε παρα την θαλασσαν της γαλιλαιας ειδεν δυο αδελφους, σιμωνα τον λεγομενον πετρον και ανδρεαν τον αδελφον αυτου, βαλλοντας αμφιβληστρον εις την θαλασσαν: ησαν γαρ αλιεις. 19και λεγει αυτοις, δευτε οπισω μου, και ποιησω υμας αλιεις ανθρωπων. 20οι δε ευθεως αφεντες τα δικτυα ηκολουθησαν αυτω. 21και προβας εκειθεν ειδεν αλλους δυο αδελφους, ιακωβον τον του ζεβεδαιου και ιωαννην τον αδελφον αυτου, εν τω πλοιω μετα ζεβεδαιου του πατρος αυτων καταρτιζοντας τα δικτυα αυτων: και εκαλεσεν αυτους. 22οι δε ευθεως αφεντες το πλοιον και τον πατερα αυτων ηκολουθησαν αυτω. 23και περιηγεν εν ολη τη γαλιλαια, διδασκων εν ταις συναγωγαις αυτων και κηρυσσων το ευαγγελιον της βασιλειας και θεραπευων πασαν νοσον και πασαν μαλακιαν εν τω λαω.

Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 26th edition
© 1979, Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart;

The Greek New Testament, 3rd edition
© 1975, United Bible Societies, London

2. ANALYSIS: Matthew 4:12-23

Mt. 4:15 - Galilia ton ethnon - Literally, "ring of foreigners," referring to the far reaches of the Northern Kingdom. Jesus withdrew to Galilee (compare Mark 1:14, "Jesus came into Galilee") because: 1)he was from there, and 2) many who were baptized by John were also from there; hence, the message of the Kingdom would find readier acceptance among those who were most dissatisfied with current political, economic, social and religious conditions (a region of shadow and death, 4:16).

4:17 - ho Iesous kerussein - "Jesus began to preach" (AILL) - Literally, Jesus began proclaiming or announcing. Fundamentally, kerussein is the declaration of an event and not "to preach" in the usual sense. In Jesus, what is proclaimed is a creative force; it gives what it declares. Its goal is faith, rather than understanding. Its companion is "teaching," but "teaching" is reserved for believers, usually in the synagogue. Proclaiming is for sinners, and occurs anywhere.

4:17 - metanoiete....he Basileia ton ouranon - Metanoiete is "to change one's mind" - In the OT, the concept is one of "return," or doing an about-face. It had for the prophets and Jesus three facets:

l) obedience to God's will; 2) trust in God alone; and 3) turning aside from everything ungodly. God grants con-version as both gift and task. Repentance is not law, but gospel -- it is God's gift which binds one to joyful tasks. - He Basileia ton ouranon is synonymous with "Kingdom of God" - The kingdom is different, miraculous, not a human product. Jesus does not promise political
glory to Israel, but salvation to the world. The actualization of God's rule is future, but this future determines the present. It is a gift set before us, and with another gift -- repentance -- we are but in touch with a realm which comes apart from us.

4:19 - deute opiso mou - "Follow me" (AILL) - Opiso has such meanings as - behind, after, later and again. This invitation is a binding one to the person of Jesus--it is not simply a following that is asked of
the disciples, but a total commitment to and entry into the kingdom.
It means self-denial, cross-bearing, and self-surrender. There is no
going back, and exclusive belonging to Christ is the reality for the
one who follows.

4:20 - aphentes - "They left" (their nets) (AILL) - This term is more
akin to "release, leave behind, to let go." It is used most often in
the NT as a word for forgiveness, something constantly needed and
granted when requested if there is a willingness to do the same for
others. Forgiveness is God's act, bringing total renewal, and is
received when God's judgment is affirmed by the confession of sins.

4:23 - didaskon en tais sunagogais - "teaching in their synagogues"
(AILL) - (see note above on kerussein,4:17) - Jesus uses the form of
a typical teacher and his material is traditional. But he aims to
order all life in relation to God and neighbor, appeals to the will,
and calls for decision for or against God. The teaching is not in
reference to intellect, but to the total will of the hearer, their
whole personhood. What raises the hostility of other teachers is the
absolute claim that Jesus alone is the fulfillment of the law
(greater than Moses) and the way (for others) to its fulfillment.

4:23 - kai therapeuon - "and healing" - Physical healing, in the
sense of the total healing of the whole person is implied. With
Jesus, God's realm has broken into our suffering world. The real
miracle of healing is not the breaking of natural law, but victory in
the conflict with hardship.

3. STRATEGY: Matthew 4:12-23

There is an intriguing change evident in this text. The message itself is a call to change - "Repent, for the realm of heaven is at hand."

There is a change in Jesus from passive to active. With John's voice silenced, Jesus begins to proclaim the same message (Mark
1:15). Passive, in the sense of "being acted upon," preparation is over. Now comes the change from passive to active--going, preaching, teaching and healing. This change might serve as a model for Christians: first a need to be acted upon by the power of God, and then empowered by that power.

There is an implicit change for those drawn by the message.
There is no need for them to come to hear the message of God's gifts
of the Kingdom or repentance. Now the message goes forth in the
person of Jesus--the message and the messenger.

There is a change in the four fishermen. Note the immediacy of their response in the "M and M" gospels. Are they akin to our contemporaries who experience restless dissatisfaction with life or self? Weight-watchers, AA, Stop Smoking seminars, psychiatry, psychotherapy, counseling and doctors' offices are full of those engaged in activity which they feel is destructive, unfulfilling or unrewarding. These are people whose change must be immediate. And what of those called to follow? Were they perhaps restless about themselves or life? The preacher should jump into one of these fishermen's boats: is this all there is?--4 a.m. risers, stinking fish, putting up with brothers and others, and old man Zebedee, the CEO? Were they people who wished to find meaning in their life but could not?

Jesus ignited their imagination and set them aflame for the possibility of more joyful, satisfying service, and they followed immediately! Do not discount the effect of cold, dark January days and nights in the northern climes on people in the pews. Perhaps they are looking for some CHANGE or newness in liturgy, order of worship, method and style of preaching. There are myriad ways to "change" the setting and situation (one pastor actually wheeled a small boat into the nave for a children's sermon on this text). Change is grace--dare to be creative!

4. REFERENCES: Matthew 4:12-23

Bornkamm, Gunther. Jesus of Nazareth. NY: Harper & Bros.,1960.

Buechner, Frederick, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC. New York:
Harper and Row, 1973.

Filson, Floyd V. A New Testament History: Story of the Emerging Church. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1964.


If not previously used, JESUS CALLS US, O'ER THE TUMULT (HB 549,550;LBW 494) is the most obvious hymn choice for the day.

Also recommended are "COME,FOLLOW ME," THE SAVIOR SPAKE (LBW 455), HAIL TO THE LORD'S ANOINTED (HB 616,LBW 87), HAVE NO FEAR, LITTLE FLOCK (LBW 478) and REJOICE, YE PURE IN HEART (HB 556,557;LBW 553 alt.) is a good processional hymn. Also, if a "healing" theme is pursued, THINE ARM, O LORD, IN DAYS OF OLD (HB 567,LBW 431) is an
ideal hymn for the day.

Exegetes: R. Ervin Walther & Philip H. Scherr



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