26. Matthew 16:1-28: Jesus Heads toward Jerusalem

Warnings to and about the Pharisees and Sadducees (Mt.16:1-12)
Pharisees and Sadducees are not naturally allies. Much divided them, particularly belief in the resurrection. One who believes in it believes the world can be fundamentally changed. One who does not sticks with the powers that be and the way things are. The two had very different ideas about how Israel should be God’s people, especially viz-a-viz Rome (as we have seen). For them to collaborate against Jesus, to catch him up in a way to discredit or destroy him (v.1), each sense in him a threat to their way of being Israel so strong that can unite in the project to do away with him.
They challenge him to perform a sign for them (one they could use to turn the people and/or the authorities against him). The issue at the heart of this confrontation is the same as it was for their ancient forebears who, freed from Egypt by God’s mighty act of deliverance, grumble and gripe in the wilderness soon afterward and ask God for a si…

25. Matthew 15:1-39: Conflict, a Parable, a Healing, and another Feeding Conflict (Mt.15:1-9)

Some scribes and Pharisees from the center of officialdom, Jerusalem, come to Jesus with a complaint:
“Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands before they eat.”
Jesus counters back:
“And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?
The tradition of the elders was authoritative interpretation of scripture for the people. It was how they were to live as God’s people. Jesus came along claiming to do nothing that would undermine the law, instead he would fulfill every little piece of it (5:17-20). Yet he allows his followers to disregard this washing before eating authoritative teaching. How can he be Messiah?
Jesus turns the tables on these teachers and expert in the law by showing that it is they who use their tradition to evade the obligations of the law. How can they be reliable guides for the people? They are, as Jesus puts it: “hypocrites” (v.7; lit. play-actors), citing Isaiah 29:13 in support of this point.

24. Matthew 13:54-14:36 – Conflict Rising

Conflict on the Home Front (Mt.13:54-58)
The parables of ch.13 make as clear as possible to difference between Jesus’ kingdom movement and its competitors among the Jewish people. And his insistence upon the necessity of choosing and shaping one’s life entirely around his way is unmistakable as well. He comes next to his hometown “and they took offense at him” (v.57). However true it may be on a psychological or sociological level that “familiarity breeds contempt,” Matthew’s concern is theological. As St. John puts it, the Word came to his own but his own did not receive him (Jn.1:11) and Matthew gives narrative color to that maxim.

“Where did this kind come up with all this pompous and, well, arrogant or at least presumptuous proclamation?” We know him. His family too. He’s nothing special or not ant better than us, at least. And in those words Matthew voices the deep truth and scandal of the incarnation. A creature just like them (and us):

“Jesus was what we are.He grew up in a f…