Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Gospel of Matthew: Struck with Awe

Matthew 9:1-8

There is so much that is eye opening in this book that I am going to simply pick my favorite piece from each chapter to share. After all, I have to leave y'all with things to discover and there is so very much in the entire book.

Chapter 9 opens with the people bringing Jesus a paralytic for healing, Jesus forgiving the man's sins, and with his chiding the scribes for saying that he was blaspheming. Very familiar and most of us know it well from a different telling when the man's friends lower him through the roof to Jesus.

Once again, the details are all important in helping us to really grasp fully what Matthew is communicating to us. And, once again, I never considered the bit that Martin brings up in "glorified God" discussion. Thought provoking and fabulous.
8 When the crowds saw this they were struck with awe. This is the first mention of crowds being present and witnessing what was happening. The Greek for were struck with awe can also be translated "became afraid." The people of Capernaum had already seen Jesus heal many people (8:14-17), so we can ponder why this particular healing aroused awe and fear. Its only unique feature was that it was done as a sign that Jesus had the authority to forgive sins. The crowd was struck with awe that Jesus had demonstrated that he had such authority; Jesus was a man who could forgive as God could forgive. Joseph had been told that Jesus would "save his people from their sins" (1:21), and the people of Capernaum had just witnessed a down payment.

Consequently they glorified God who had given such authority to human beings. They recognized that Jesus' authority to forgive sins came from God, for only God could forgive sins. They glorified God for sharing his authority with Jesus, bringing his forgiveness to earth (verse 6). Matthew writes that they glorified God for giving authority to forgive sins to human beings rather than simply to Jesus. Matthew's wording foreshadows Jesus' sharing his authority to forgive sins with his disciples and the church (see 16:19; 18:18; James 5:16). Matthew's first readers experienced forgiveness of sins through the church, and they could join in glorifying God for giving such authority to human beings.

For reflection: How have I experienced Jesus' forgiveness through the church? Where am I most in need of forgiveness?

The disciples had wondered about Jesus, "What sort of man is this?" (8:27), and more pieces of the answer are falling into place. Jesus not only has authority over disease (8:1-17), over the physical world (8:23-27), and over demons (8:28-34); he also sees into human hearts (verses 2, 4) and has the authority to forgive sins (verse 6).
My review is here of Bringing the Gospel of Matthew to Life by George Martin.

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