Thanks for the Outline, Craig

blombergI have come to like Craig Blomberg’s work in Matthew, I have his commentary  in which he does a very good job of laying out the shape of Matthew.  (The New American Commentary, Vol. 22, Matthew; Craig L Blomberg, B&H, Nashville, 1992).

I have posted on this  several times, check the “Matthew’s Gospel” link in the topic cloud to the right.

Matthew 5-7 gives Jesus’ authoritative teaching on what it means to be a disciple.  This is the Sermon on the Mount.  There follows two chapters that have 10 miracles in 9 miracle stories, but there are a couple of themes weaving in and out: Miracles, Following Jesus, Opposition.

Blomberg divides the text into 3 sets of 3 miracle stories (underlined).  The narrative pieces then seem to fit into this pattern.

  • Jesus Heals the Outcasts
    • Touching the Leper (uncleanliness) 8:1-4
    • Rewarding the Centurion (ethnicity) 8:5-13
    • Healing Peter’s Mother in law (gender) 8:14-15
    • Conclusion – 8:16-17
  • Jesus Demonstrates Authority in Discipleship
    • Inadequate responses – 8:18-22
    • Invading Satan’s Realm – 8:23-9:8
      • Storm
      • Demoniac
      • Paralytic
    • Discipleship – 8:9-17
      • Matthew
      • John’s Disciples
  • Jesus’ Ministry and Rising Opposition
    • Double Miracle – 9:18-26 – good publicity
    • Blind – 9:27-31 – rising opposition
    • Mute – 9:31-34 – division
  • Ministry Summary – 9:35-39
    • see 4:23ff
    • Links to next section on calling the 12

How the Golden Rule fits in the Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 7:12

Gold barsThe Golden Rule is not called that in the text of Matthew.  It is just there in the text.  Many people seem to think that this is the central truth of the Christian message.  No, that does not seem to be so to me.  I have wondered for some time how it fits.

This time in preaching Matthew, I have tried to pay attention to t he literary structure.  In general Matthew uses two devices – first the life of Christ with a sort of climb to the confession by Peter of Jesus identity, then a turn to the Cross.  This is an outline shared by Mark and to a degree Luke.  Second, Matthew has collected discourses (teaching) and narratives (actions) into thematic clusters.

Matthew 5-9 can be see as a unit with the emphasis on the Authority of Jesus – the Sermon on the Mount, chapters 5-7 focus on Jesus authority as a teacher.  Chapters 8 and 9 demonstrate Jesus authority through miracles.

Now here is how the Golden Rule fits in the Sermon

  • Beatitudes – 8 statements of conditions of blessing – 5:1-12
  • Mission for Disciples – Salt and Light – 5:13-16
  • Ethics 5:17-7:12
    • Statement of Law and Prophets – 5:17
    • Jesus’ Ethical teaching on
      • The Law – 5:18-48 – “you have heard, but I say”
      • Spiritual Life – 6:1-18 – giving, prayer and fasting
      • Possessions and Worry – 6:19-34
      • Reciprocal Judgment  – 7:1-11
    • Golden Rule – “Law and Prophets” 7:12
  • Call to Decision – 7:13-17 – 4 examples of 2 paths (4×2=8)
  • Crowd comments on the Authority of Jesus 7:28-29

I have underlined verse 5:17 which begins the section on Ethics and 7:12 which concludes that section.  Both these verses have the phrase “law and prophets”.  First, Jesus speaks of fulfilling the law and the prophets, and at the end he says that the “golden rule” is the law and the prophets.

So then we can see that the Golden Rule serves as a sort of summary of Jesus’ ethical teaching from 5:17 to 7:12.

The Beatitudes as I noted are 8 statements of blessing.  The initial beatitude “blessed are the poor in spirit” corresponds to the confession of sin and admission of need that is the beginning point of being a follower of Jesus.  At the end there is a four fold call to decide (Two Gates, Two Fruit, Two Claims and Two Houses).  Is it a coincidence that the whole sermon starts with 8  beatitudes and ends with 8 choices (four sets of two)?

This sermon is a very carefully crafted discourse – both from the mouth of Jesus and as Matthew records it – I believe he has edited this message, because it is not that long from start to finish.  It is about 2,400 words in the NIV – which works out to a 30 minute sermon at the pace I preach.  Some parts are shaped as an outline and useful for memorization (e.g. the Beatitudes, the Lord’s Prayer).  So it is reasonable to think that this is a condensation of Jesus message, and one that he may have repeated in part or in full as he went from place to place (4:23).

The Golden Rule does not stand alone, nor can it merely be filled by one’s own ideas of its meaning. It is a conclusion to the central section of Jesus sermon.  In short, it serves to give one way to summarize the ethics of a Christian – it corresponds to the 2nd Greatest Command – “Love your neighbor as yourself”. (Matthew 22:34-37, where again Jesus spoke of “the law and the prophets.)


Miracles, Thomas Jefferson and Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Thomas-Jefferson-9353715-1-402I am teaching a class on Miracles at a local college and in my adult class.

Notes are here – MIRACLES Teacher Outline

As I was preparing this talk, there was a story of a man found after being lost at sea for 13 months in a small fishing boat.  Is this even possible?  How could one survive that long without fresh water and food?  It occurred to me that you can choose to decide before you consider the evidence or after.  So I found some discussions of the possibility of living all that time on a boat.  see

I remembered in Spanish class reading a book by Gabriel Garcia Marquez about a man lost at sea for a shorter time and how he survived – “Relato de un Naufrago” or “Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor.”

One has to examine the historical evidence in a case like this – interview witnesses, check his story where it is verifiable, check if eating turtles could sustain a person for that long, ask how he traveled from point A to point B if his story is false.  In short, check the evidence.  Instead of deciding on pre set opinions, consider the evidence.

When it comes to miracles, it has been common since the Enlightenment to discount their reality.  David Hume said that no reasonable man can believe such an exception to the universal experience of the human race.  Anthony Flew said that the talk of miracles in inherently nonsensical.  Thomas Jefferson, a good Enlightenment Deist, actually took his scissors to the New Testament and kept what he felt was the good teaching and eliminated such matters as the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection.  His version can be found here

Click to access jeffbible.pdf

Thomas Jefferson did not and could not go back and see if such things happened. He decided that they could not have happened.  So he, like many, tried to recreate the historical Jesus according to his edited edition of the Gospels.

The New Testament as we have it claims that these events we call miracles happened and that they were attested by a great number of eyewitnesses. So one has to consider the credibility of these witnesses.

Just as you can not recreate the unlikely events of Napoleon’s life, or see if in fact 300 men held off the armies of Persia, so you cannot recreate Jesus’ miracles. But you can evaluate the historical record.

Reciprocity and Judgment – Matthew 7:1-6


I want to use a word that may not be in your everyday vocabulary.    This word is “Reciprocity.”  The definition of Reciprocity is “an exchange or relationship between two or more people.”  The important part is “relationship”.

If I stood up, pointed the finger at one of you and said, “You are a hypocrite”, there is no reciprocity.”

If I stand up and say, “I am a hypocrite, and if you examine your hearts by the word of God, you may find that you are hypocrites also.”  That is reciprocal – because you and I are in a relationship.  Together we admit our need for Grace.

Notice that Jesus says in v. 3, “When you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye…”  This illustration is about people who are in a relationship.  We know that the New Testament compares the Christian Church to a family.  In Jesus we are brothers and sisters.  So one application of this illustration is how we can deal with each other’s flaws in the family of believers.  This is a reciprocal relationship.

Notice also that Jesus says in verse 5, “…first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

This means that there is room for judgment in the community of believers.  If we see a fault in others, out first response should not be to condemn.  Nor should it be to act like you are better.

This means that there can be an exchange.  If and when I have had my sins addressed by the Lord, I might be in a position to help another person with those.  This is not me inserting myself in their lives. It is rather an offer to help as a fellow sinner and a fellow recipient of Grace.

We have to ask what this verse is here to say to us.  I think it is related to this question of Judgment.  And I believe it is telling us that we have to discern who we are speaking to.

If the other person is a brother or sister, then the teaching about specks and planks apply.  There is a place for loving confrontation.

What if the person is not in a mutual relationship?

v.6 Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

Jesus is not speaking here about a house pet.  He is speaking about dogs from the ancient near east.  We could probably translate the word as “Junk yard dog.”

Would you give your Bible, or the American flag, or your family photo album to a Junk Yard Dog?  No, because he would not care of the value you place on the thing.  He would chew it up or bury it or who knows what.

Would you put your wedding ring, or your grandmothers pearl necklace, or your college diploma in a pig pen?  No, because you care too much for those things.  They are valuable and the pig has no sense of their value.

This verse is about with what is sacred and of valuable with the kinds of people who show no regard for what is sacred.

Where we share a relationship with God, we can also share in mutual confrontation and correction, in the name of Jesus Christ.  Where there is no relationship with God, we cannot share in mutual confrontation and correction.

Reciprocity – Matthew 7:1-12



The thing I notice is the reciprocity of these verses.




  • Do not Judge or you will be judged
    • with the judgments you use
    • with the measures you use
  • Do not remove the speck in your neighbors eye
    • without first dealing with your own
  • Do not give treasure to beasts
    • Or they will turn on you
  • Ask, Seek and Knock and you will receive, find and enter
    • if we the unjust love our children
    • how much more will God love us
  • Do to others what you would have them do to you
    • this applies to everything
    • this fulfills the law and the prophets (see 5:17)

Judging in the sense of condemning is prohibited (maybe because that implies we are on safe ground)

But judging ourselves first, allows us to help others (we are on the same ground)

Some who are in error are correctable (speck/log in eye).

Some who are in error are not (dogs/pigs).

When we love, we imperfectly show what God can do better than we can.

The Golden Rule is reciprocal – do what you want done to you.

So the thing you can’t do is hear this and hope that others get their act together. (the ones you judge, the ones with specks, the dogs and the pigs and the parents with screaming kids in the grocery store)

About the Weather – Job 38



We have had a cold winter so far – about 10 degrees below average.  It is become so that any temperature without a minus sign is good news!


In that light, a little poetry from Job 38

22 “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow
    or seen the storehouses of the hail,
23 which I reserve for times of trouble,
    for days of war and battle?
24 What is the way to the place where the lightning is dispersed,
    or the place where the east winds are scattered over the earth?
25 Who cuts a channel for the torrents of rain,
    and a path for the thunderstorm,
26 to water a land where no one lives,
    an uninhabited desert,
27 to satisfy a desolate wasteland
    and make it sprout with grass?
28 Does the rain have a father?
    Who fathers the drops of dew?
29 From whose womb comes the ice?
    Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens
30 when the waters become hard as stone,
    when the surface of the deep is frozen?