Where Is the One We Seek: Seventh Week

June 2nd, 2014 Posted in writing

One doesn’t have to be a scholar to profit from reading the Bible, but sometimes the work of scholars can deepen our appreciation of what we are reading. Take the concluding verses of Matthew’s gospel, where the disciples meet with Jesus for the last time.

Matthew’s audience consisted primarily of Jewish Christians, and their feeling of being at home with the gospel would’ve increased if they heard references and echoes from their own scriptures. In the concluding scene of Matthew’s gospel there are three echoes of things they would have been familiar with.

The first was the setting. The disciples met with Jesus on a mountain, just as Moses had met with God on Mount Sinai. Both meetings had great significance, for on Sinai God had delivered the Law to Moses whereas on Matthew’s mountain Jesus entrusted his gospel to the disciples.

The second was when Jesus said that all authority in heaven and earth had been given to him and that his followers would come from all nations. This echoed Psalm 2, in which God promised that his son would rule over all the kingdoms of the earth.

The last was Jesus’ promise that he would be with them always. A Jewish audience might recall that in the prophecies of Isaiah, the name of the child whose birth was a sign of God’s faithfulness was “Emmanu-El” or “God-With-Us.”

Such echoes helped those Jewish Christians find congruence between their tradition and the message about Jesus.

But, personally, I like it that Matthew began the concluding scene of his gospel by telling us that when the disciples came to the mountain they worshiped Jesus but at least some — if not all — doubted. This may not have been a reference to something in the Hebrew scriptures, but I’m glad that Matthew included it because it certainly echoes the faith experience of many people. The fact is that, though we have had almost two months to reflect on the Resurrection of Jesus and it’s meaning, we may still have our moments of doubt. And this tells us that Easter faith is, after all, still faith.

That’s how things often are when it comes to faith. Sometimes belief is easy and natural; at other times it is difficult and challenging; according to St. Paul, we walk by faith and not by sight. But even so, Matthew tells us that Jesus has given us the task of spreading the Good News of his life, death and Resurrection, even when that last part seems too far good to be true — but is true nonetheless.

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