Lectionary Year A
July 11, 1999
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

Step III: Immediate Context


A. IMMEDIATE CONTEXT

(JFC)
Pre - At the end of chapter 12, we read of Jesus' severe criticism of the Pharisees.
Post - following this week's lection, we read of Jesus' telling another parable. This one is of seeds, good seeds, sown in a field of good soil. An enemy comes at night to sow seeds of weeds in that field.

(DH)
Chapter 13 in Matthew's gospel might as well be called the "parable chapter." Jesus tells and explains parable after parable here. But he does not only tell parables, but also "explains" them. "The reason I speak to them in parables is that 'seeing they do not perceive and hearing they do not listen, nor do they understand,'" Jesus says (v.13). Parables, furthermore, are a blessing to those who are able to see and hear about the great things of God and God's kingdom. (v.16). Over all, Jesus does not tell anything to the crowds except by means of "parables (v.34)." It is the task of those who have been trained to interpret (the scribes) parables to be stewards of them "like the master of a household who brings out of this treasure what is new and what is old (v.52.)"

This seems to me to be a key verse in this entire chapter 13 with respect to the "use" and "meaning" of parables. It is the task of the interpreter of the parable (scribe, pastor) to draw out what is new and (!) what is old. New and old--in this order! This warrants some considerable meditation, I think [and I would welcome some feedback from you folks out there on this ... it would help me a lot for my sermon preparation this coming Sunday!]. The constant meditation, the drawing out of the new and old, the labor of love and hard work, and finally its application (in a sermon, lecture, life ...) appears to be the "right" stewardship of an entrusted treasure, not only for oneself but for the entire household (congregation, family, community ...). WOW!

It is also striking, how chapter 13 is "sandwiched" between two pericopes about "misunderstanding" that Jesus corrects. The first pertains to the "misunderstanding of family ties" (12:46-50). "Family" is not determined by biological factors. According to Jesus, "family" is the one who does the will of Jesus' Father in heaven (v.50). The second is the "misunderstanding of calling or vocation" (13:54-58). Jesus does not necessarily act on his calling/vocation among his own but rather away from home. Apparently, "his own" are offended by this attitude. Jesus, however, corrects their misunderstanding. "Prophets are not without honor except in their own country and in their own house (v.57)."

(JFC) B. COMPOSITIONAL WHOLE

Matthew begins with Jesus' lineage, advent, preaching, healings and miracles. The pericope at hand initiates the 3rd discourse, generating parables, regarding the Kingdom. This section ends with Peter's confession in chapter 16. Thereafter, Jesus begins telling His disciples of His death and trying to prepare them for it and for their responsibilities in the future.

(JFC) C. ISSUES OF AUTHORSHIP

Remember, twice in Matthew's Gospel (9:9 & 10:3), the name Matthew is mentioned as a tax collector and called as a disciple by Jesus. Markan and Lukan parallels use the name, Levi. Commentators doubt that this person authored this Gospel. Recall that a second century Bishop, Papias, claimed that Matthew, an apostle of Jesus' wrote Jesus' sayings in Hebrew. Our Gospel by that name is written in Greek amd tells of much more than just sayings. It was likely written in Syria between 65 and 75 CE, give or take 5 years.


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