29 November 2007

St. Matthew Bible Study - Lesson 10

After a break last week because of Thanksgiving, we picked up again with Chapter 10 of St. Matthew’s gospel.

Father Echert always mentions that Satan’s power is being curtailed more and more and that the effects of sin are being lessened. Here we start chapter 10 seeing that Jesus gave his apostles authority over unclean spirits, “to cast them out and to heal every disease and every infirmity.” God’s power is acting through the apostles. Jesus then sends out His apostles to “heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.”

This ties in nicely with a quote in the study from one of my favorite saints:
Only after they had seen the dead raised, the sea rebuked, devils expelled, the legs of a paralytic brought to life, sins remitted, lepers cleansed, and had received a sufficient proof of his power both by deeds and words did He send them out.-St. John Chrysostom

Father said that even as Jesus transcends the Old Covenant, there is continuity into the New Covenant. We see this with the number 12. Previously, there were 12 tribes, now there are 12 apostles. It was important to the apostles to have 12, so Peter argued for a replacement to Judas. Lots were cast and through the power of the Holy Spirit, Matthias was chosen. This is when the Church was officially born. View the incorporation documents in Delaware ;}

Maybe you noticed that Peter’s name is always listed first in the bible and Judas is listed last. It was customary to list people by priority and I think it still is the way things are done.

Simon is renamed Peter, which was not a name that was known or used back then. Cephas is the Aramaic form of Peter, which is the masculine form of the Greek word for rock: Petros.

The Evangelists never used the first person in their writings, except for St. John who uses it in his epilogue.

Big point of this chapter is Jesus is fulfilling an Old Testament prophecy about gathering his lost sheep. These lost sheep are the ten tribes that were taken into captivity during the first Babylonian exile. They are referred to as Israel, while the two tribes that survived until the second captivity are called Judah, which consist of the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin. The ten lost tribes of Israel were in the northern part of the region and were later called Samaritans because they intermarried with the pagan peoples of the area (the capital was Samaria).

From Ezekiel, God says, “Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when some of his sheep have been scattered abroad, so will I seek out my sheep; and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring them out from the peoples, and gather them from the countries…” (Ez 34:11-13). Jesus is now sending his apostles out to gather these sheep, the ten lost tribes. In fact, they are ONLY to seek the lost Israelites at this point and not evangelize the pagans and Gentiles. “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And preach as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Our small group discussed that it wasn’t until after Jesus’ resurrection that St. Paul was chartered with the job of preaching to the Gentiles. Never realized this.

We see that God’s grace and love are conditional in this verse, “And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.” (Mt 10:13) And, in the next verse we see that those that are not willing to accept the apostles or their message are to be treated as spiritually unclean. “And if any one will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.” This would’ve been an insult because the Jews would shake the dirt off their feet when leaving Gentile areas as a gesture indicating that the Gentiles were (ritually) unclean, so any Jew would recognize the significance of getting flipped the apostolic bird.

Father mentioned that the area back then wasn’t called Palestine, but the name originated after 135 AD when the Jews revolted against a weakened Roman Empire. The revolt was put down and the Romans called the Jews the name of their enemies, the Philistines, which then became the Romanized “Palestine.”

Father mentioned that the “council” mentioned in Matthew 10:17, was the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin consisted of 70 members and it isn’t known how they were chosen. Synagogue, which means gathering place, is not as old as the Jewish temple. After the 6th century, this system arose where you couldn’t offer sacrifice and it had no altar, but there were readings. Father said our Mass is a hybrid of the temple and synagogue because we have elements of both (readings and an altar/sacrifice).

Father Echert mentioned that all of the apostles, except St. John, suffered a martyr’s death. God doesn’t allow evil to triumph through this action, but brings a greater good out of it. What Satan would use to crush the Church actually serves to strengthen it.

In Matthew 10:23 we see some apocalyptic language, “…you will not have done through all the town of Israel, before the Son of Man comes.” In 70 AD the temple is destroyed, which signifies the initial fulfillment, on a small scale, of what will happen at the end of time. Josephus’ writings indicate that many considered the destruction of the temple to be the end of the world.

Another big point is the sword, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34) Father said we see here that actions have a cause and effect or action and consequence. He said God did come to bring peace, but that humanity rejected peace, and it was humanity that raised a sword against God. A mini-homily broke out. Father said that the world at large will not allow the Church to be at peace if it is doing its mission. If there is peace, there is something wrong. Things shouldn’t be quiet because that would indicate that we are in a false “capitulated” peace.

In our small group discussion, we see that Jesus equips His followers with the sword of the spirit…God’s word (Eph 6:17 and Heb 4:12). And that the God’s word is sharper than a two-edged sword.

We also see several examples of Jesus telling his apostles what to expect...persecution from Jews and Gentiles. They are not to fear those that can kill them physically, but to be wary of Satan who can "kill" spiritually. Also Jesus refers to the need to put God at the top, as our priority, "He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me..." Jesus is not anti-family, but reminds us that God should be more important in our lives. Father said this is true in our families when someone is not living according to the gospel. We are not to condone the behavior, but speak out kindly and compassionately.

"...and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me." Here we see a foreshadowing of the martyrdom of most of the apostles and an image of what is demanded of us to follow Jesus. The Jews of the day understood this reference since they were familiar with crucifixion. With Jesus, the cross becomes a symbol of triumph and hope instead of despair. The cross will now symbolize the glory of martyrdom..."God reigned from the wood."
Father also mentioned he drove his motorcycle for the last time this season last weekend and has now put it away until spring :) No more worries he won't be there for bible study because he had another accident.


Divine Mercy said...

i will pray for your priest to recover quickly!

swissmiss said...

He's fine now! He had an accident on his motorcycle early this fall. It was just a relief that he's put the cycle away for the year. Folks around here call him Father Crash :) Even my four year-old heard in bible study about Father Crash!

Anonymous said...

Swiss Miss,

I had a sick son at home so I could not make it to the bible study. I know I was where I was suppose to be but I really do not like missing bible study. Oh well! I could still do the readings! :')


swissmiss said...

It was a rather light lesson compared to some of them. I know what you mean about missing class. I managed to make it to all of them last year. Haven't missed one this year...yet!

swissmiss said...

testing to see if my comments are working correctly...