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No. 95: Toward a Chiastic Understanding of the Gospel According to Matthew, Part 2

BIBLICAL Horizons, No. 95
May, 1997
Copyright 1997 Biblical Horizons

III. Death of God’s Firstborn in the real Egypt:
1. Passover and crucifixion, 26:1-2
2. Priests plot, 26:3-5
3. Jesus anointed for burial, 26:6-13
4. Preparations: Judas enlisted, 26:14-16; Passover prepared, 26:17-19
5. Judas exposed, 26:20-25
6. Lord’s Supper inaugurated, 26:26-28
7. Nazirite vow, 26:29
8. Removal to Olivet, 26:30
9. Denial predicted, 26:31-35
10. Agony, 26:36-46
11. Judas betrays Jesus, 26:47-56
12. Trial before Sanhedrin, 26:57-68
13. Denial of Peter, 26:69-75
14. Sanhedrin delivers Jesus to Pilate, 27:1-2
15. Judas hangs himself, 27:3-10
16. Trial before Pilate; Passover release, 27:11-26
17. Mockery, 27:27-31
18. Removal to Golgotha, 27:32-33
19. Nazirite vow, 27:34
20. Crucifixion, 27:35-44; Death, 27:45-50
21. Temple exposed, 27:51
22. Aftermath, 27:52-56
[23. Burial, 27:57-61
[24. Priests plot, 27:62-66
[25. Passover resurrection, 28:1-10

This huge chiasm has as its center the betrayal of Peter, as the leader of the disciples himself rejects Jesus. Peter holds an oficial position as high priest among the disciples of the incarnate Lord. His rejection of Jesus is the turning point. Jesus is now forsaken of men.

The chiasm overlaps the sections that follow our section D’, but that is not a problem. Jesus’ anointing for burial is found in paragraphs 3 and 23. The crucifixion scene is parallel to the Passover and Last Supper, �4-7 & 19-22. The exposure of Judas at the Passover meal is parallel to the exposure of the Temple at the crucifixion, for the Temple had hired Judas, �5 & 21. The inauguration of the Lord’s Supper as memorial of the crucifixion and death of Jesus is parallel to His crucifixion and death, �6 & 20. The agony of Jesus, when He asks the Father if He might be released from His coming doom, is answered by the trial of Jesus before Pilate, when Pilate chooses not to release Him, �10 & 16. Judas’s betrayal is answered by Judas’s suicide, �11 & 15.

E. Judea.

Joseph decided not to go into Judea, because it was clear that there was a threat against Jesus there, 2:22-23. The complementary E’ section concerns Jesus’ ministry in Judea, where the threats against Him mounted swiftly. While we know from John’s gospel that Jesus did make forays into Judea to attend the feasts, Matthew says nothing about these. Jesus does not enter Judea until chapter 19 of Matthew, after His transfiguration, after He set His face to the cross. Joseph’s fears were, thus, quite apt: Judea was a great threat to Jesus.

The E’ section of the Judean Ministry can be outlined thus:

1. Healings in Judea, 19:1-2
2. Discussion about divorce, 19:3-11
3. Blessing on children, 19:13-14
4. The rich young man, 19:15-22
5. Perils of riches, rewards of service, 19:23-30
6. Parable of the Laborers, 20:1-16
7. Jesus predicts His death, 20:17-19
8. The request of the wife of Zebedee, 20:20-28
9. Two blind men of Jericho healed, 20:29-34

Though the healings in Judea and Jericho form an inclusio for this section, the section does not seem to have a chiastic internal structure. Notice that Matthew has two blind men healed at Jericho; the other gospels have only one (Mark 10:46; Luke 18:45).

F. Baptism and Transfiguration.

Both F sections are fairly long. Each begins with a revelation of Jesus as God’s honored Son, followed by a series of events that bring out what those revelations entail. The implications of Jesus’ baptism occupy much more text, since they include the Sermon on the Mount. In a larger sense, the implications of Jesus’ baptism extend all the way to the transfiguration, and indeed to the end of the book. The transfiguration, which focuses Jesus on His coming death, is followed by a shorter section, which leads into the Judean ministry and then to the events in Jerusalem.

The two F sections are, however, parallel in a number of significant regards. The first F section looks like this:

1. Preliminary setting: John’s witness, 3:1-12
2. Revelation of the Son, 3:13-17
3. Wrestling with Satan, 4:1-11
4. Removal to Capernaum, 4:12-16
5. Repent, 4:17
6. Call of disciples, 4:18-22
7. Mission begins, 4:23-25
8. Sermon on the Mount, ch. 5:1-8:1
9. Leper and Messianic secret, 8:2-4
10. Centurion and great gentile faith, 8:5-13
11. Peter’s mother-in-law, 8:14-17
12. Reluctant disciples, 8:18-23

The F’ section looks like this:

1. Preliminary setting: Peter’s witness, 16:13-28
2. Revelation of the Son, 17:1-8
– reference back to John, 17:9-13
3. Satan cast out, 17:14-23
4. Removal to Capernaum, 17:24-27
5. Disciples: Sermon on Discipleship, ch. 18
– references back to Sermon on the Mount

A comparison of the two sections reveals their parallels. Both begin with the witness of a chief servant of Jesus. Next comes a revelation of the Son and the voice of the Father. Wrestling with Satan and his demons comes next in both cases, followed by a removal to Capernaum. In �F:6-12 we have the calling of the disciples, a sermon delivered to their ears (5:1-2), ministry to a disciple’s family, and two cases of reluctant disciples. In �F’:5 we have a sermon delivered to the disciples on discipleship. The only elements that are not parallel are the healing of the leper and of the centurion’s servant.

G. Crossing the Sea.

As with the F sections, the G sections begin with a similar event (crossing the sea) followed up by parallel events that should be seen as flowing from the initial event.

Crossing the sea should be seen in terms of the exodus from Egypt and the entrance through the Jordan into the promised land. Alternatively it can be seen as Jonah’s passage from Israel to Assyria. In both cases, the sea crossing is followed by a conquest.

In the G section, we have a double crossing. First, Jesus crosses eastward to gentile territory, where He heals two Gadarene demoniac. Notice that Matthew has two; the others gospels have only one (Mark 5:1, Luke 8:26). Like Jonah, Jesus is asleep on the boat during a storm. Then Jesus crosses back into Galilee, and begins a conquest.

1. Crossing the sea, 8:24-27
2. Gadarene demoniacs, 8:28-34
3. Crossing the sea, 9:1
 
4. Paralytic healed, 9:2-8
5. Conflict with Pharisees, 9:9-13
6. Question from John’s disciples, 9:14-17
7. Jairus’s daughter and the daughter of Israel, 9:18-26
8. Two blind men, 9:27-31
9. Dumb man demon possessed, 9:32-34
10. Jesus heals, moved with compassion, 9:35-38
11. Therefore, sends the disciples to heal, 10:1-11:1

In the G’ section, we have again two sea crossings that are contextualized with Jesus’ feeding of the people. It is not hard to see �G and �G’ as concerned with Word and Sacrament. The movement in this section is the reverse of the G section: Jesus crosses the sea into Israelite territory, and then goes back across eastward, toward Caesarea Philippi (16:13).

1. Many compassionate healings, 14:13-14
2. Disciples sent to feed, 14:15-21
3. Crossing the sea, 14:22-33
4. Gennesaret healings, 14:34-36
5. Conflict with Pharisees, 15:1-20
6. Canaanite woman’s daughter healed (dogs eat bread), 15:21-28
7. Many compassionate healings, 15:29-31
8. Disciples sent to feed, 15:32-38
9. Crossing the sea, 15:39
10. Conflict with Pharisees, 16:1-4
11. Discussion with disciples about bread, 16:5-12

I have tried to make clear the structure of the passage, which is about bread for the most part. In �2, the disciples feed 5000. In �5, the Pharisees argue about eating. In �6, the Canaanite woman says that even the dogs eat the children’s bread. In �8, the disciples feed 4000. In �11, Jesus warns agains the leaven of the Pharisees.

The passage is duplicated. Twice Jesus heals, sends disciples to feed, crosses the sea, enters into conflict with the Pharisees, and has a discussion about bread.

Parallel to the G section, Jesus crosses the sea and heals people, is attacked by the Pharisees, and heals daughters.

H. John’s Ministry.

The H and H’ sections have to do with the Forerunner. Jesus describes John’s work in �H, and John’s death is described in �H’ (11:2-9; 14:1-12). John’s ministry and death are prophetic types of Jesus’ own.

I. Jesus’ Rejection.

The I sections have to do with the rejection of Jesus. In the I section, Jesus condemns the cities that did not listen to John and Himself (11:20-24). In the I’ section, Jesus is rejected at Nazareth (13:53-58). Both sections stress miracles.

J. Gifts for the Children.

The J sections have to do with the blessings and gifts God gives to His true children, and stand in contrast to the K section, which pronounces judgment upon those who have Satan for their father.

In the J section (11:25-30), Jesus praises the Father for revealing His truth to the babes, who are the disciples.

In the J’ section (13:1-52), Jesus reveals truth to the disciples. The J’ section (the parables) seems to have a chiastic structure:

1. Sower, 13:1-9
2. Hidden mysteries, 13:10-17
3. Sower explanation, 13:18-23
4. Tares, 13:24-30
5. Mustard, 13:31-32
6. Leaven, 13:33
7. Parables only, 13:34-35
8. Tares explained, 13:36-43
9. Treasure, 13:44
10. Pearl, 13:45-46
11. Dragnet, 13:47-50

The Sower who gathers a mixed harvest is parallel to the Fisherman who gets a mixed catch. The hidden mysteries are parallel to the Pearl of great price. The explanation of the Sower parable is parallel to the treasure found in a field. The Tares parable is parallel to its explanation. At the center is the parable of the Leaven, which concerns the insertion of the Holy Spirit into the bread of humanity.

We may also note a movement from Jew to gentile as we move from field parables to the pearl and finally to the dragnet: from land to sea.

K. Condemnation of the Pharisees.

L. Innocence of the Servant.

This is the central section of Matthew, and at its center is a revelation of Jesus Christ.

K.1. Sabbath eating argument with Pharisees, 12:1-8
K.2. Sabbath healing argument with Pharisees, 12:9-13
L.3. Pharisees determine to kill Jesus, 12:14
L.4. Innocence of Jesus, 12:15-21
K’5. Healing; Pharisees condemned as Satanists, 12:22-37 (blasphemy)
K’6. Pharisees condemned as demonic, 12:38-45 (false household); Jesus’ mothers and brothers, 12:46-50 (true household)

 

The Egyptian theme is pregnant here. The Egyptians denied any sabbath rest to the Hebrews, but Yahweh delivered them into sabbath. The Pharisees deny the sabbath, while affrming it hollowly. Jesus says that they are sons of snakes, of Satan; and then says that their house is inhabited by demons, recalling the Tabernacle built at the exodus. During His discourse on the demonic house, Jesus comments that the members of His household are those who trust and obey His Father.

Paragraphs 1 & 6 both have to do with houses of God: the Temple of David’s day and the demonic Temple under the Pharisees. Paragraphs 2 & 5 both have to do with healing, the restoration of persons to God’s house in terms of the Levitical law.

At the center of this section, and at the center of Matthew, is the decision of the Pharisees to kill Jesus. Following this is a quotation from Isaiah 42, that Jesus is God’s Servant and that He will deliver the Gentiles. In other words, Jesus is innocent of wrongdoing, and has done only right. The Pharisees only doom themselves by seeking His doom.