The Weight of Literary Glory

“…and they saw the God of Israel. And there was under His feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone, and it was like the very heavens in its clarity. But on the nobles of the children of Israel He did not lay His hand.” (Exodus 24:10-11)

Well, I’ve been blustering on about art and “intuition” in generalities for about a week now. Fluffy generalities are exactly the kind of thing that annoys me about many Biblical scholars, and I reckon it annoys God, too. They never seem to get down to specifics, and He is very specific. This shows in His architecture, and also in His literary architecture. So, here, in a section of Matthew 14, is a chance for me to get specific and show you what is possible with this “killer hermeneutic.” [1]

After a brief look at the structure of this passage the other day, I thought I’d spend some more time on it. A closer analysis has revealed an even greater beauty than I expected. (I have briefly referenced the order of words in the Greek to avoid any great missteps, so it may not be perfect, but it’s close.) Much learning hath indeed made me mad but I hope you’ll take a few minutes to see this passage through my eyes.

Creation – Initiation (Genesis)
Immediately Jesus
…..made His disciples
……….get into the boat
……………and go before Him
……….to the other side,
…..while He sent
the multitudes away.

This first stanza initiates the action. The story follows the story of the Father and His Son. The Son is sent on a mission, and then He returns, with brethren, “the Bride.” Father and Son are together at the beginning, and reunited at the end. But at the end, unlike Adam, the Son is vindicated in the presentation His spotless Bride.

However, here we have the next step in authority It is Jesus here who is the Transcendent One, not the Father. And the Covenant Hierarchy is the disciples. (Notice the same pattern at the beginning of the Revelation: a vision of Jesus, then the letters to His delegation, the pastors of the churches.) The boat appears here at Ascension. The command to “go” appears as the Ethics (Testing). Notice that the boat here is a kind of Day 3 “Land” and the other side is the Day 5 “transformed Land,” the heavenly country. Obedience to the Law of Christ takes them from the Bronze Altar (bloody Jewish Body of Moses) to the Golden Altar (fragrant Jew-Gentile Body of Christ), from the Loaves to the Fishes, from the Land of Israel to the Sea of the Nations, from the one-nation Priesthood of Aaron to the all-nations Priesthood of Melchizedek. Then, we have “He” as the Day 6 Mediator (Atonement), and finally the multitudes at Booths, the corporate glory of a commissioned people.

This practice God has of using repeated structures means that this even little stanza can retell, or comment on, every other part of the Bible, and indeed its source in the Trinity, in so few words. I find this totally mind blowing. There is nothing else like the Bible. This is usually the point where my eyes tear up and I fall on my face.

And that’s just the first stanza!

Division – Delegation (Exodus)
And when He (Creation)
…..had sent the multitudes away, (Division)
……….He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. (Ascension)
……………Now when evening came, (Testing)
……….He was alone there. (Maturity)
…..But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, (Conquest)
tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. (Glorification)

Just as the “seven” of the Sabbath-week set the pattern for the annual feasts, we begin to see that this first stanza sets the pattern for this entire story. This second stanza follows the same structure, yet every line also references events in Exodus. In many cases here, as is a frequent practice, our literary expectations are confounded. Matthew gives us the exact opposite of what is expected. At Division, God divides the waters, tears Adam open, to make an empty space, a Holy Place, for something new. Jesus is turning the Old Covenant on its head, tearing the Veil, to do something that is just like everything that has gone before and yet nothing like it.

Jesus is Moses, the Called, and the multitudes are now used by Matthew to divide the Head from the Body. Jesus is Moses ascending the mountain, away from the children of Israel, to intercede for them as “Firstfruits” of a greater harvest.

Instead of sun, moon and stars, or a reference to the Lampstand, or eyes and sight, at the centre, we have darkness. This is a firmament that is yet to be filled. This second stanza, although a complete “week,” is Day 2 of a new Creation.

Day 5 is about swarms, living clouds in the waters above and the waters below, the hosts of angels and the hosts of the nations. But here, Jesus is alone in the dark. Analysis of the literary structure is the only way to discern the purpose of many of the details included by the author.

At Day 6, we have the Laver, the crystal sea, the mediator between heaven and earth. Jesus’ “Body” is trapped in the Sea, unable to ascend with Him through the Veil into glory, held back by the nations and an evil spirit. Seeing as the entire first century history follows this exact pattern, the “contrary wind” is the demonic spirit sent by the Lord upon those who rejected the true Spirit at Pentecost, and the waves are the nations in tumult, Herod and Nero, working together against the firstfruits church as did Herod and Pilate: friends for a day.

After His Ascension, Jesus was alone in glory, but not for long. Nothing would stop the ascension of the body of the sacrifice. In fact, the entire Land would be torn apart, broken in two, to allow the smoke to ascend and the ashes to fall away. It would be Aaron and Korah all over again.

Ascension – Presentation (Leviticus – nearbringing)
Now in the fourth watch of the night
…..Jesus went to them,
……….walking on the sea.
……………And when the disciples saw Him
……….walking on the sea,
…..they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!”
And they cried out for fear.

The fourth watch might reference the four horns of the Bronze Altar, which is where we are up to in the architecture. Jesus is the High Priest entering the darkness of the Old Covenant Tabernacle. At line three of stanza three (Ascension within Ascension), He is already there, on the crystal sea, ruling over the nations. Line 4 is Testing, and the eyes here are the eyes of the disciples, which have been opened to judge rightly.

Now we have the waters above and below (at least in the literary structure) with the disciples as the Ruling Lights at the centre. Matthew is prefiguring Pentecost in stanza 3. In line 6, Atonement, the disciples are troubled. Israel was to mourn before the Day of Coverings. Jesus is “a ghost,” passing through the Veil, even though it appears to be a “closed door.” Later, Jesus passed through walls or a closed door to appear to His disciples who were fearfully hiding in a locked room (John 20:19). It is the Bridal Head coming to rescue the Bridal Body. The whole point is that He is NOT a ghost. He is FLESH that has been justified before God.

Testing – Purification (Numbers – Law opened)
But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, (Initiation – Call)
…..“Be of good cheer! (Delegation – Un-Passover)
……….It is I; (Presentation – Firstfruits)
……………do not be afraid.” (Purification – un-OT Pentecost)
……….And Peter answered Him and said, (Transformation – Trumpets)
…..“Lord, if it is You, (Co-Mediators: Vindication of Head…)
…..command me to come to You on the water.” (Ascension of Body)
So He said, “Come.” (Restoration – Booths)

Here, Jesus speaks as Yahweh. But instead of the mourning of Passover, He says “be happy!” He presents Himself as Firstfruits, the first Adamic dust to bear good fruit. Instead of asking them to tremble at His Law, He tells them not to be afraid. He will deliver them from the evil, the Covenant Curse.

Peter responds as the New Bridal Body, the “witness.” Then we have the Head and Body together on the Sea as co-regents.

Maturity – Transformation (Deuteronomy – Law received)
And when Peter had come down out of the boat,
…..he walked on the water to go to Jesus.
……….But when he saw that the wind was boisterous,
……………he was afraid;
……….and beginning to sink he cried out,
…..saying, “Lord, save me!”

But, just as in the first century, things didn’t go according to plan. Many would lose their faith and fall away. Witnesses are martyrs. Following Jesus means following Him through death and resurrection, which is what all saints do to some degree.

As was noted online this week, it is odd that Peter saw the wind. Notice that Peter’s eyes are not at the centre of the Covenant chiasm. Fear is. Peter’s “Bridal” voice here is a cry for Atonement, for vengeance, echoing the cries of the saints in the Apocalypse. Notice that this stanza has no line 7, no rest, no heavenly country.

Conquest – Vindication (Joshua – Coverings)
And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand (Transcendence)
…..and caught him, and said to him, (Hierarchy)
……….“O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Ethics – Walking by Sight)
…..And when they got into the boat, (Sanctions)
the wind ceased. (Succession)

This stanza might have seven lines, but keeping it as a five makes its Covenant shape more apparent.

Jesus is the Ark, and His hand is the arm of a golden measuring rod, an extension of the Law. Instead of being a serpent in Moses’ hand, it is the authority of the true Adam that brings life instead of death, reaching through the Veil.

“For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” (Matthew 7:2 2)

He is the High Priest whose hand brings resurrection instead of death, blessing instead of cursing, as He touches the sacrificial goat.

Glorification – Restoration (Righteous Judges – Seers – Shekinah)
Then those who were in the boat
…..came and worshiped Him,

……………“Truly (Transcendence)
………………..You (Hierarchyservant Moses [Veil])
…………………….are (Ethics – “I am”) [Lampstand - Fiery Bush]
………………..the Son (Sanctionsson Christ [Veil Torn])
……………of God.” (Succession)

The final stanza is only a three-and-a-half. But the half itself follows the Covenant pattern, and as such, these five words on their own echo the entire journey of the Son from heaven to earth and back again. Notice that it is now the disciples who are in the initiating position of authority. They are elohim, gods and judges, representatives of the Son.

But, this is only a three-and-a-half. Jesus’ life was only half a life, the “Adam” (singular, not plural) half of the Ten Words (1-3-5-7-9: see Bible Matrix II, p. 63 – oh OK, here it is! and also Half A Life.) The story is not over. The actual ascension of the Firstfruits Body would complete the Shekinah Glory of Israel, and allow the gospel to proceed in full force to the nations. Based on that observation, what does it mean that the entire passage follows the pattern, but that the final stanza is not complete? Here’s my guess: the final stanza is Booths and so far it is only Jews who are worshipping. Israel consistently failed to complete the mission of this feast.

I know many people are skeptical of this method of interpretation, but this passage is an easy one if we have a head full of Old Testament imagery, architecture, history and structure, as Jesus did, as the disciples did. The whole Bible really is all about Jesus, in a greater way than modern interpreters could imagine in their wildest dreams. If only they had ears to hear and eyes to see.

Now I think I will go and have another cry. Even the weight of the literary glory is too much for the tiny mind of a sinner.

[1] Rich Bledsoe’s twinkle-eyed description of the Bible Matrix. Well, he thinks that I think it is.

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