If the Lord’s Prayer recapitulates the structure of the Ten Commandments, its arrangement is ideal for responsive reading in worship.
The rulers of Jerusalem tested Yahweh and refused to enter into His rest. In Matthew 21-22, Jesus is challenged by the authorities five times. The sixth challenge comes from Jesus, who then pronounces their doom.
Jesus’ seven last “words” from the cross follow the pattern of Creation. Why? Because He was making all things new.
The seventh cycle deals with the saints in the court of God as a new Hierarchy. Unlike the Abrahamic demarcation, this is a division by Spirit rather than flesh, a court not of Jews by birth but of “Jews indeed,” those with hearts circumcised by the Gospel of Christ.
In the English New Testament, “Judas” and “Judah” as personal and corporate names are a helpful differentiation. But when it comes to Judas Iscariot, his Hebrew name links him “liturgically” to the fate of the kingdom of Israel.
Matthew’s account of Jesus, Peter and their miraculous payment of the Temple tax is a classic literary puzzle. Providentially, the Bible’s own covenant-literary matrix is its key.
Since most modern Christians do not have the Bible’s sacred architecture hidden in their hearts, much of the impact of Jesus’ words is lost on them.
When Jesus described the fate of a house built upon sand (Matthew 7:24-27), it is likely, although unstated, that He had Herod’s Temple in mind. “The sand of the sea” was the typological buffer zone between the “Land” of Israel and the untamed “Sea” of the Gentiles. Its basic meaning is a multitude of people –– usually Jews, but sometimes Gentiles –– so it seems Jesus is condemning the Herods for their simultaneous exaltation of the Jewish identity and envy of Roman state power, and their failure to seek true refuge, and true succession, through faithful obedience to God.
The prophecies in the final chapters of Zechariah, taken in isolation, are extremely confusing. They seem to describe, very darkly, some events which took place in the first century. Yet they also describe some things which clearly did not take place. Or did they?
The key to interpreting the prophecy is its structure. It follows a formula which is second nature to Jewish people: the process of Israel’s annual feasts. If they had their wits about them, the Jews would hear these words and be able to say, “I see what you did there.” Once they are recognised as literary art, these words are not only completely intelligible, they are also brilliant and beautiful. And terrifyingly ironic.
In Matthew 24:29, Jesus employs “cosmic language,” signs in the sun, moon and stars, to predict the imminent end of the Old Covenant. His first-century audience would have recognized His allusion to the prophecy against Babylon in Isaiah 13 and understood His discourse as a condemnation of Jerusalem as a contemporary Babel.
There are seven mountains mentioned in Matthew’s Gospel, but together they form a single literary mountain, one which highlights not only the authority of Jesus, but that of the prophetic voice of His church.