Day 44 – The Rising Tide of Opposition

The experts say that Matthew wrote his gospel with the Jews in mind. He’s making a case for Jesus as the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy.

It makes sense, therefore, that the book begins with Jesus’ genealogy, starting not with Adam, but with Abraham. This is right after Matthew introduces Jesus as the Messiah, Son of David.

An imprecise count on my part reveals 20 Old Testament quotes by Matthew, many of them revealing fulfilled prophecies.  There are probably a lot of other things that commentators can point out about Matthew’s purposes, but I noticed something regarding the religious establishment that interested me (I even mentioned it before). It shows how the very people who should have recognized the Messiah, instead steadily grew in opposition until Jesus’ arrest, trial, and death.

When Jesus is baptized in chapter 3, the Pharisees and Sadducees were there to check him out. These guys were like local pastors compared to the Priests, Scribes, and elders (judges/leaders) who were the higher-up muckety-mucks.

These guys lay pretty low as Jesus preaches the Sermon on the Mount (where he calls them hypocrites) and heals a whole lot of people in chapters 4-8. But my sense is they are hanging out and watching everything Jesus does. They seemed hacked off that Jesus doesn’t do things their way, and they may be jealous of his following. In any case, the Pharisees start in on him in chapter 9 where they ask why he eats with the riff-raff (discussed here in a post).

The Pharisees really get to questioning and accusing Jesus in chapter 12 (4 different incidents), at one point demanding  a sign. Whatever kind of trouble they are brewing up for Jesus, it must have taken its toll. Both Jesus’ family (chapter 12) and hometown friends (chapter 13) appear to doubt and reject him.

Somewhere along the line, the Pharisees and Sadducees must have complained up at the Temple, because the Scribes (experts in the law) come to question Jesus about breaking traditions (chapter 15). The Pharisees and Sadducees continue to demand signs and try to trip up Jesus (chapters 16  and 19).

The Pharisees (who’ve had most of the interaction with Jesus) have obviously been talking behind Jesus’ back. They’ve gone and gossiped with the big guns, too.  By chapters 21 and 22, there are no less than 4 interactions with Jesus by various combinations of Priests, elders, Pharisees and Sadducees. They question his authority and test him. And on three other occasions, they plot against Jesus and decide to find a way to arrest him. The Pharisees even stoop to bring the political Herodians to move their plan along.

Finally, by chapter 23, Jesus has had enough of this behavior. For the sake of his followers, he has to let them know what jerks these guys really are, so he launches into a blistering attack against the hypocrites and snakes.

I don’t think these guys were too happy with Jesus for that. By chapter 26, Judas goes right to the chief priests to seal the deal and set the course in motion for Jesus’ arrest at the end of chapter 26 – where he is taken to be interrogated by the Priests, elders and Scribes.

I don’t know. I thought it was pretty interesting to see how the local religious right got a burr under their saddle early in Matthew and worked themselves into an increasing frenzy throughout the book, eventually pulling in the guys with power, culminating in the cross.

It’s just like people to do something like that.

Readings:  Exodus 37:1-38:31, Psalm 22: 9-18, Proverbs 8:12-21, Matthew 26:57-75. See About for what I’m up to with these daily posts.

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