The Charter: Matthew’s Literary Structure, Part 1 – On the King’s Errand

Matthew structures Jesus’ actions and teaching in a pattern of five, in a structural allusion to the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), the original constitution-like document of Mosaic Israel.  ‘Torah’ means ‘teaching.’  It’s not that each ‘section’ of Matthew’ matches each ‘book’ of Moses; the structural allusion doesn’t work quite that way.

The first section (1:1 – 7:28) deals with Jesus’ identity and his teaching which transforms the human heart. The second section (8:1 – 11:1) is about Jesus healing us by his word, which builds the disciples’ confidence that his word is powerful, a useful thing since Jesus sends them to do a short-term missions trip to Israel. The third section (11:2 – 13:53) deals with the mixed response to Jesus and how Jesus trains his disciples to interpret rejection; the Old Testament anticipated this, so it’s not a failure of prophecy but a fulfillment. The fourth section (14:1 – 19:1) deals mainly with Jesus doing ministry with the disciples among the Gentiles, i.e. cross-cultural, multi-ethnic ministry. This is vital hands-on training for the Great Commission. The fifth section (19:2 – 26:1) deals with Jesus’ final confrontation with the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem, his parting of ways with them (ethically and socially), and his preparing the disciples for the fall of Jerusalem, the sign that he was indeed the Messiah.

— Read on

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