Nets of Our Own Making

Man toils in his service, acts on his behalf, and slaves for personal gain. Even when he strives to gather food for his family, the human being does so selfishly—for his family—a community readily exploited to fulfill his personal needs. The act of gathering food, which should be a gesture of unselfish love toward those in need, is reduced to a selfish act ensnaring man in the net of his own making.

When Jesus approaches the Pillars (Peter, James, and John) with the addition of Andrew, he calls them to a new kind of service, one that has the power to make their labors productive for an unselfish purpose—a purpose that obliterates the distinction they draw between the needs of their family, and those of the entire human family.

Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Matthew 4:18-22.

Listen: https://tracking.feedpress.it/link/15937/10187602/tbal%20episode%20241.mp3

Episode 241 Matthew 4:18-22; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Loopster” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com (http://incompetech.com/)) Licensed under Creative Commons: B.y Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

On the Margin

The first three chapters of Matthew portray a confrontation between the God of Abraham and the many false gods and kings that rule the earth. Even as these kings—represented here by Herod—struggle to cling to power at the visible center, the Lord moves the center of power to the invisible margin. This move deludes the powerful, allowing them a false sense of comfort, since, in their minds, out of sight means out of mind. But the Torah is on the move in Matthew—and it moves with force—disempowering rulers both inside Jerusalem and beyond. As David proclaims in Psalm 14, “The fool says in his heart, there is no God.”

Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Matthew 4:12-17.

Listen: https://tracking.feedpress.it/link/15937/10108665/tbal%20episode%20240.mp3

Episode 240 Matthew 4:12-17; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Morgana Rides” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com (http://incompetech.com/)) Licensed under Creative Commons: B.y Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

Jesus Does Not Speak

When a child reads a letter of St. Paul aloud in church, it does not matter if the child himself understands the reading, it only matters that he pronounce the text correctly. When the words of the letter are pronounced correctly, it is as though Paul himself is speaking to the church. It does not matter that it happens to be a child. The words of Scripture speak for themselves.

That is exactly how Jesus handles the Devil in chapter 4 of Matthew. Jesus himself does not speak, he merely recites the text of Scripture, and without ever making an argument—let alone lifting a finger—the full power of his Father’s authority is brought to bear through the written content of Deuteronomy.

Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Matthew 4:1-11.

Listen: https://tracking.feedpress.it/link/15937/10046266/tbal%20episode%20239.mp3

Episode 239 Matthew 4:1-11; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Twisting” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com (http://incompetech.com/)) Licensed under Creative Commons: B.y Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

W.W.J.B.?

To the extent that Christians believe in the power of their actions and the value of their ethics, it’s understandable why they would interpret the Bible as a set of moral guidelines, or the life of Jesus as a moral example. But this is nonsense. The Bible does not present a philosophy of life, a set of ethics, or a set of moral guidelines. Jesus is not a role model and the question “what would Jesus do” is not Scriptural. In the Bible, there is no distance between the commandment and the steps taken by the disciple. Christ does not show us how to live. On the contrary, he demonstrates who his master is by his obedience to that master. This is what we imitate in Christ—his obedience to the Torah—with no provision for moral deliberation on our part. When you deliberate, “what would Jesus do“ you’ve already missed the bus. The real question is, “who was Jesus‘s boss?“

Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Matthew 3:13-17.Listen: https://tracking.feedpress.it/link/15937/9981552/tbal%20episode%20238.mp3

Episode 238 Matthew 3:13-17; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Zap Beat” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com (http://incompetech.com/)) Licensed under Creative Commons: B.y Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

The Axe is at the Root

It’s difficult for us to wrap our minds around, but the fact is, God does not need us. He does not need our abilities, our sentiments, our help, our efforts, our offerings, our deeds, our families, or our communities. God needs nothing from us yet provides everything for us. In Scripture, he freely offers Scripture to every generation. In Matthew, if we do not submit to this gift, itself presented as a judgment against us for our sake, we are warned, ominously, by John the Baptist:

”The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matthew 3:10)

Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Matthew 3:10-12.

Listen: https://tracking.feedpress.it/link/15937/9912489/tbal%20episode%20237.mp3

Episode 237 Matthew 3:10-12; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Failing Defense” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com (http://incompetech.com/)) Licensed under Creative Commons: B.y Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

Subjugation of Identity


People assert and impose an identity from their king, their nation, their city, their tribe, and their family—all of which are dismantled and repurposed in Matthew’s genealogy. Now, in chapter 3, on the lips of John the Baptist, we come face to face with this new purpose: the adoption of all nations as brothers and sisters under the headship of Abraham. Indeed, the first two chapters of Matthew are summed up nicely in St. John’s Pauline admonition, ”that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.” (Matt 3:9)

Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Matthew 3:1-9.

Listen: https://tracking.feedpress.it/link/15937/9863594/tbal%20episode%20236.mp3

Episode 236 Matthew 3:1-9; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Decisions” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com (http://incompetech.com/)) Licensed under Creative Commons: B.y Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

A New Branch

When a person’s behavior improves, we naturally speak about how they have grown or changed, when, what has changed is not the person, but the instruction that controls their actions. Scripture bypasses human psychology to focus strictly on commandment and behavior. The Bible relieves the burden of sin by substituting one master for another. That’s it. We don’t change. We don’t improve. We simply remember that we were slaves in the land of Egypt, and the Lord our God brought us out by his mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; and that this same Lord has now commanded us to obey him.

Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Matthew 2:19-23.

Listen: https://tracking.feedpress.it/link/15937/9796402/tbal%20episode%20235.mp3

Episode 235 Matthew 2:19-23; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Not As It Seems” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com (http://incompetech.com/)) Licensed under Creative Commons: B.y Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

It’s Not a Fortune Cookie

Modern students of Scripture dumb down the power of the New Testament by dealing with the Old Testament as a kind of antiquated fortune cookie. They see a connection between Matthew and Jeremiah, and exclaim, “You see! Jeremiah predicts Matthew!” Even if we suspend reality for a moment (and ignore the fact that Matthew had access to Jeremiah before he wrote his book) fortune cookie theology does something far worse: it strips the New Testament of its nuance, functionality, interconnection, and narrative continuity with the Old Testament. In other words, if your understanding of Jeremiah is that he predicts Jesus, you have already shut down the meaning of Matthew’s gospel.

Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Matthew 2:16-18.

Listen: https://tracking.feedpress.it/link/15937/9730554/tbal%20episode%20234.mp3

Episode 234 Matthew 2:16-18; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “Raw” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com (http://incompetech.com/)) Licensed under Creative Commons: B.y Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

The Liberation of Egypt

In secular ideology, we tend to depict everything as a struggle between bad actors and (so-called) good actors; between victims and oppressors. Thankfully, this self-righteous view of the world is dismantled in the Bible, which assumes that all humans are bad actors. In Scripture, all peoples come face-to-face with God’s wrath through a functional judgment that pivots constantly against anyone who will listen. This mechanism is on full display in Matthew, who not only presents Israel’s oppressor in a positive light; but as a people enslaved on Israel’s account; and without whom Israel can’t be saved.

Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Matthew 2:13-15.

Listen: https://tracking.feedpress.it/link/15937/9654069/tbal%20episode%20233.mp3

Episode 233 Matthew 2:13-15; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “The Forest and the Trees” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com (http://incompetech.com/)) Licensed under Creative Commons: B.y Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/

Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride

The most difficult part of following the Bible is accepting the factuality of our powerlessness. Human beings repeatedly invent ways to sustain the illusion of control and self-importance, scheming tirelessly to defend and secure the passing fallacy of our place in the world.

According to (more accurately, as evidenced by) the written Gospel of Matthew, Scripture is written; and what is written in Scripture controls everything because it is factually correct and deals with the factuality of the world around us. Matthew’s account of the Nativity amplifies this point through the sign of Mary’s weakness, which highlight’s the sign of Joseph’s absence, and, ultimately, the helplessness and vulnerability of the child, Jesus Christ.

Richard and Fr. Marc discuss Matthew 2:7-12.

Listen: https://tracking.feedpress.it/link/15937/9586850/tbal%20episode%20232.mp3

Episode 232 Matthew 2:7-12; Subscribe: http://feedpress.me/the-bible-as-literature; “The Death of Kings” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com (http://incompetech.com/)) Licensed under Creative Commons: B.y Attribution 3.0 License http:// creativecommons .org/ licenses /by/3.0/