The Gospels, part 6: The Gospel of Matthew (2)
A progression of parables, and the nature of judgment
Not only is Jesus portrayed in the Gospel of Matthew as superior to Moses, as we saw in our previous post (“You have heard it said… but I say to you…”), but as superior to other biblical figures as well: to Elijah (along with Moses at the Transfiguration: which is the import of 17:4-8), to Jonah and Solomon (12:38-45), and to King David, his forebear. Jesus not only is called “the son of David” (1:1) and born in “the city of David” (2:4-5), he is proclaimed in kingly fashion to be “God’s son” at his baptism (i.e., “the Anointed” in 3:15-17: compare 2 Sam. 7:14; Ps. 2:7; 89:27). At the outset of his sufferings, Jesus is also similar to David in the time of the latter’s woes: he ascends the Mount of Olives as did David, betrayed by a former boon companion (Matt. 26:30, 47-49; compare 2 Sam. 15:30-31 – David’s Judas-like betrayer was Ahithophel, originally the king’s trusted adviser). But Matthew doesn’t merely suggest a parallel between Jesus and David, he contrasts them as well. Jesus is depicted as his forebear’s moral superior, bringing blessing where David had brought a curse: before David had conquered the Jebusites and entered Jerusalem triumphantly, he had been insulted by his enemies that even “the blind and the lame” could ward off his attack. The consequence of that jibe, we are told, was that the blind and the lame – now “hated by David’s soul” – were afterward forbidden entrance into “the house,” meaning “the House of the Lord,” i.e., the Temple (2 Sam. 5:6-8). In direct contrast, when Jesus enters Jerusalem, after first being hailed as “the son of David” (Matt. 21:9), it is Matthew’s Gospel that uniquely tells us in pointed terms that “the blind and the lame came to [Jesus] in the Temple, and he healed them” (21:14; emphasis added). David’s “hatred” of the blind and lame is reversed by his “greater Son,” who heals them in the very precincts once forbidden to them.
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