Amidst the onset of Advent and the approach of Christmas in this liturgical season, we have perhaps forgotten one other change in our worship life together: the switch to the Gospel of Matthew.
For those who do not know, the readings in church are determined based on a three-year cycle with begins on the first Sunday of Advent and ends on Christ the King Sunday. Those three years are referred to as A, B, and C, and we have just begun year A. A, B, and C each focus on a different synoptic Gospel: Matthew, Mark, and Luke, respectively. The Gospel of John is featured in the season of Lent and occasional feast days ever year. So since we are in year A, we have begun to hear from the Gospel of Matthew.
The author of that Gospel said that a good scribe had to be like a person in charge of a large household, able to go into the storeroom and bring out things both old and new (Mt 13:52), and the author is, by that definition, a good scribe by not only referencing the Old Testament with regularity, but also featuring a great deal of material unique to that Gospel. Most scholars agree that Matthew structured his Gospel around alternating narrative passages and speeches delivered by Jesus, detailing five speeches in total (Chapters 5-7 “the Sermon on the Mount”; 9:36-10:42; 13:1-52; chapter 18; and chapters 23-25). In broad terms, the Gospel first details the revelation of Jesus to the world, the responses to Jesus, Jesus’ responses to others, and the righteousness of Jesus through his death and resurrection.
As mentioned earlier, Matthew is particularly interested in the connection between the prophetic elements of the Hebrew Bible and the ways in which Jesus Christ fulfilled those promises. He refers to Christ often as the son of David, and the son of Abraham. In some ways, the author is one of the more entrenched in the Jewish culture and tradition while at the same time profoundly critical of the Jewish community for failing to obey God and recognize Jesus Christ for who he is. Also, while Matthew includes over 90% of the Gospel of Mark, the Gospel of Matthew has a distinctly different feel that the earlier, more urgent Gospel. While Jesus teaches in beautifully composed parables in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is more didactic, prone to lecture, and to speak directly to his audience in the Gospel of Matthew.
In closing, the following year allows us the opportunity to get to know a complex, nuanced depiction of Jesus Christ, early Christianity, and the importance of discipleship.
(Works referenced: New Testament Story: An Introduction, by Barr, David L.)
Yours in Christ,