Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Matthew's Jesus...

Last night, I tried to finish Michael Card's commentary on the Gospel of Matthew.  I have been wrestling with it for a long while now.  Or, rather of late, assiduously not wrestling with it.  I didn't want to simply just give up and move on to his commentary on Luke because I think it is important to  to understand the testimonies being given, at least as far as I am able.

I admit that is not very far.

I have been so ... afraid ... of the words of Jesus that I read in Matthew.  Not really the commentary on them, though my fear stymied me from taking in the commentary.  Blinded really.  Blinded and paralyzed me so that I stopped trying to read the commentary even though I really would like to read all four, learn all four testimonies about Jesus.  Learn the Gospels.

Someone asked how it was going with the commentaries.  Okay, my pastor did.  But it was not so much that my pastor asked but that anyone asked.  I thought, Myrtle, gird your blooming loins!

I started reading from the beginning, as per my practice, and got all distressed even before I got to Jesus' first sermon. I was dreading reading the words ... hearing them.  I turned off the Kindle app and watched an episode of one of the series I'm plowing my way through as I am mired in germs.  But couldn't stop thinking about the commentary.  I wondered if really, really, really serious loin girding would make a difference.  In a way, I pondered what sort of environment I could create that would help me keep reading and keep ... present.

I thought about that song I found, "Be Still."  I really like it.  I like how it has changed thoughts in my head.  I like the ... encouragement ... it gave me to ponder the Psalter more and in a new way.  So, I thought I would try reading and listening to music, my special calming playlist.  But hearing text whilst I was reading text didn't work.

I brought out the big guns:  The soundtrack to Out of Africa.  Oh, my how that music ... sustained me when I was away from home for the first time.  But I needed something more.


Amos wrote on his blog today.  He wanted to write about the special words he's learned living with a disabled puppy dog momma.  Come-Come-Come is one of them.  Come means something different.  Come-Come-Come means that even though he are curled up at my side or on my lap, I am in need of greater comfort and want him to climb up on my chest and tuck his neck against mine, preferably falling asleep and snoring if possible.  Amos is a very intelligent puppy dog and a very obliging fellow.

There I was, John Barry's incredible score filling the room and being half suffocated by Amos.  Having thus girded my loins, having created a better environment for myself, I started at the beginning of the commentary once more and actually read the entire book.

I admit to much fear and trembling and a certain amount of disengagement as I worked from Chapter 5 to Chapter 7 in the Gospel.  But then I read what I've somehow missed a dozen or more times:  "When Matthew draws from Mark's narrative (the entire Gospel of Mark is contained in Matthew except for 44 verses), he always shortens the story, and this example is no exception."

Nearly the entire Gospel of Mark is in Matthew.
Mark's Jesus remains what I would almost term hope.

So, every times I read what I call "scary words of Jesus"—for it is the Scripture that has me so distressed, not the commentary—I chanted to myself:  "The Gospel of Mark is in Matthew and you are not afraid of the Gospel of Mark."  But that really was not quite enough.  I needed further help.  That meant a different kind of loin girding:  that for trying to learn something new.  SIGH.

I fetched a Dr Pepper and set out finally learning how to first change the highlighting colors on the Kindle app and then to learn how to make notes.  Back in the dark ages, one of the most effective means of coding the data for my dissertation came from using different colors of highlighters.  I still have all the data.  My dissertation committed was a bit skeptical of my rather unorthodox approach, but the categories generated were good and the visual highlighting made going back and providing examples of those categories for writing my dissertation rather easy.  I wrote the entire document in two months.

[I sure do miss that Myrtle, the scholarly one who braved new frontiers.]

Figuring out how to change the highlighting colors meant that I could use one color for all the scary words of Jesus, to contain them, so to speak.  I also picked a color to use for the "only Matthew" bits, even though there is an appendix in each of the commentaries listing all the bits that are unique to each Gospel.  And I chose a color for something I found particularly interested.  The evolution of my highlighting arose as I moved through the chapters.  I would like to go back to the beginning and use all the colors, so that later I can follow my thoughts again.

As for scary thoughts, for things I struggled with deeply, I put them as notes on the highlighted bit.  The notes feature appears as a tiny icon of a page of paper on the highlighted section.  So, there is an indicator to remind me a note was made.  I think there is a way to view all your notes at once, but my Kindle app learning curve has not progressed that far.  Primarily, I read all my Kindle books on my Kindle.  The commentaries, however, I wanted the color highlighting and wanted them to show up on my phone as well, so I have only read them (and now worked on them) in the Kindle app.

I don't really want to try and go back and blog my way through Matthew, as I did with Mark, but I thought I would put a few bits down here and maybe in some other entries as reminders.  But I thought I would start with a few thoughts, rather than direct quotes, even though none of them may make sense without both the Scripture reference and the commentary text:

  • Mark is in Matthew!!  Holy Cow!!!
  • Mathew is the Jewish Gospel and understanding both the first recipients of the Gospel and the turmoil occurring in the Judaism at the time is important to understand the whys and wherefores of Matthew's testimony.
  • Matthew's structure is one of fulfillment, quoting the passages from the Old Testament that are fulfilled in Christ's ministry. 
  • Matthew, a  Gospel of identity, takes you through the identities Jesus assumes and illumines the identity Christians have in Jesus.
  • These identities are revealed alongside the teaching of the Kingdom of God and its citizenship.
  • Having read two commentaries, now, I even more deeply appreciate the charge to consider the things that are unique to the commentary and the things omitted.
  • Matthew is the minimalist, when it comes to including testimonies that are found in other Gospels, often leaving off what could be considered key elements of a story to highlight the message of the Gospel.
  • I FINALLY understand orthodoxy in a way that has been frustratingly elusive to me, and, thus, understand the parables of the cloth patches and the wineskins.
  • Hesed (mercy) is more fully explored in Matthew, especially through the pattern of Jesus being willing to violate a Jewish tradition for the shake of showing hesed.
  • Once again, each time Jesus reveals something about himself to the disciples, their reaction is fear.  So, again, fearing God is not a "wrong" thing.
  • Another pattern is that the credit for Jesus' miracles is always to praise God; all glory to the Father rather than focusing solely on the Son.
  • Matthew, the selective minimalist when it comes to details of a story, is the most loquacious about the words of Jesus.  To put it in the vernacular, there is more "face time" with Jesus in Matthew than in all the other Gospels.
  • As with Mark, I think, that it is important to consider what words are for the disciples, specifically, for what they will do and what they will encounter.  
  • When instructing the disciples on their ministry, Jesus gives them His words to spread and provides for the works they will be doing.  
  • The same caddywhompusness that is in Mark is in Matthew, in this case the radical reversal of the status quo in the church, the upside-down nature of the Kingdom and the source of Christian's identities in Christ.
  • Jesus is the stumbling stone and, so, stumbling over the Gospel is part of encountering him.  Some are broken, as they glimpse the magnitude of the hesed of our Triune God, and some are broken as they fall over the foolishness of Christ crucified and reject the Gospel.  So, if you think about it, everyone is broken.

I could type up pages and pages of interesting things that I learned.  I do hope to capture some here, perhaps as I go back and "standardize" my highlighting.  However, I am eager to discover Luke's Jesus.  I do hope, though, that doing so will not be wrought with fear and trembling.

A final note:  If you are a praying person, I would appreciate prayers for my fluff ball.  He was really restless this evening and then ended up sneaking upstairs to vomit in my bedroom and then crawl beneath the bedcovers.  This was not regurgitating something he should not have eaten, but actually loosing his entire dinner.  I disremember that Amos ever doing that before.  Of course, I am worried.  But waiting to see how he is after a good night's sleep.   Mostly, I am anxious to know if a) he will want his breakfast and b) if he will keep it down.

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