The Shape of Matthew – 2

“John was not a court prophet but a man in skins, like Adam, representing both the goodness (covering) and severity (death) of God. John’s food and shelter, like his ministry, came directly from God, and was not the result of the wisdom of men.”

Matthew 10-15: HIERARCHY

The theme of the second major cycle of Matthew is the Hierarchy phase of the Covenant, which concerns the delegation of authority. This section contains seven cycles, a complete “week.” Identification of the structure answers some interesting questions concerning Jesus’ directives.

The “macrostructure” is as follows (click the link for the previous blog post):


The second cycle moves us from the “Genesis” of Jesus and His ministry to the beginnings of a new corporate Exodus.

Matthew 10 - Creation

The Apostles Chosen (Genesis – Animal Chosen)
The Apostles Sent (Exodus – Animal Cut)
Sheep Among Wolves (Leviticus – Animal Lifted Up)
Disciple and Teacher (Numbers – Animal Incinerated)
Bold Witness (Deuteronomy – Smoke and Ashes)
Not Peace, But a Sword (Joshua – Sin Covered)
Rewards (Judges – Rest and Rule)

The first half (“Head”) of this cycle concerns a witness to the house of Israel. Jesus tell the disciples to go out unprepared, that is, they are to rely upon the hospitality of their fellow Jews. The position of this account in the structure reveals this event to be a sort of “Passover.” As the disciples sought out the “worthy” Israelites, they were also to mark out the unreceptive houses for destruction. Shaking the dust from their feet relates to the Tabernacle, and also back to the cursed dust eaten by the serpent in Genesis 3. The house which rejected Jesus was no longer among the tents of Israel but would be given to the serpent and crushed underfoot.

The position of “sheep among wolves” at Ascension means that it concerns the identification and exaltation of the true sons of Abraham, the lambs of God. The division is between the scavenging dogs and the blameless lambs, the hunters and the hunted, the Esaus and the Jacobs. Because the matrix pattern is also found in the Ten Words, we can see a reinterpretation of honoring father and mother here: our heavenly Father is to be honored over our earthly fathers. This is exactly the test faced by the first century Jews: would they exalt their “Abrahamic flesh” over the faith of Abraham in the Father he was chosen to represent.

Jesus alludes to the Egyptian plagues with His reference to Beelzebul, “Baal the exalted,” which the Hebrews mocked by altering it to Beelzebub, “Lord of the flies.” This short paragraph concerns the nature of true kingdom, which is found only in submission to God.

Sparrows and hairs are the “swarms,” the abundance of Day 5, and Jesus also sneaks in a reference to money (plunder).

Just as the end of “Forming” spoke of the transfiguration family allegiance, so the end of “Filling” puts it to the sword. This would be the end of untransformed fleshly ties, leaving only the ties of faith. The last line,”whoever finds his life” concerns inheritance. Jesus moves it from the earthly Caanan to a heavenly one. Earthly inheritances were now to be despised, sacrificed for the sake of the lasting rewards of witness.

Finally, Matthew prefigures the words of Jesus concerning the sheep and the goats in chapter 25, at the end of the Ethics section. Both these appear at the “Booths” section in their respective structures, which means they refer to the food and shelter offered by “trees of righteousness.”

Matthew 11 – Division

Jesus ends His instruction to the disciples and begins to teach and preach in the cities. I hope you can see the “fractal” nature of His approach here. Each small cycle concerns Delegation, but replicates the same pattern in that Delegation.

Jesus is the Prophet (Transcendence)
The Baptist vs. Courtiers in Soft Clothing (Hierarchy)
The Baptist Exalted (Ethics 1 – Law Given)
The Kingdom Suffers Violence (Ethics 2 – Law Opened)
Wisdom Justified by Her Children (Ethics 3 – Law Received)
Woe to Unrepentant Cities (Sanctions)
Come to Me, and I Will Give You Rest (Succession)

The major theme here is cutting. It begins with John the Baptist’s question to Jesus concerning the signs of a Prophet. He knew He was priestly and kingly but asked if there would be another to fulfil the prophetic ministry. [1]

Jesus’ reference to soft clothing refers to the Temple Veil, and to robes of office. This is the Delegation line within the Delegation stanza within the Delegation cycle. John was not a court prophet but a man in skins, like Adam, representing both the goodness (covering) and severity (death) of God. John’s food and shelter, like his ministry, came directly from God, and was not the result of the wisdom of men.

At Ascension, John is lifted up as the greatest natural born man (Firstfruits), yet even he would be superseded by a better birth (so much for the desperate references to John’s in utero testimony in support of paedobaptism). The New Covenant is about life from the tomb, not life from the womb.

At Testing, Jesus refers to the long line of Cains who desired kingdom without prior priestly submission to God. The violence begun in Cain was institutionalized in Lamech and became culture-wide in the Nephilim, the men-who-would-be-gods. Of course, Jesus later mentions the long line of Abels who suffered at the hands of these men. All that blood would be avenged upon this generation to whom He and John spoke. Prophets come from the court of God to speak in the courts of the kings.

At Maturity, the immaturity of the Jews is exposed. Neither the Ascension fasting of John nor the Maturity feasting of Jesus (Old and New Covenants) is beyond their condemnation. Notice also the reference to music, a common Maturity symbol. They despise the silence of the Mosaic Tabernacle and yet reject also the “bridal” celebration of the Tabernacle of David.

The condemnation of Chorazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum follows the miraculous witness of the disciples, and must be a direct result of the unwillingness of the Jews in these cities to receive them. After all, it matches their sending chiastically in this cycle: Delegation always leads to Vindication.

Finally, Jesus’ reference to His yoke ties this section to the “Covenant identity” of Israel, taking God’s name (as a yoke) rather than being yoked to the Baals. This is a brilliant way of linking Step 2 (the yoke of delegated authority) with Step 7 (rest). Our rest in Jesus results in faithful service.

Matthew 12 – Ascension

The Ascension cycle begins (of course) with a reference to the fields of grain of Day 3 (as opposed to the fields of gold of Day 5?).

Jesus Is Lord of the Sabbath (Sabbath)
A Man with a Withered Hand (Passover)
The Chosen Servant (Firstfruits)
Blasphemy Against the Spirit (Pentecost)
A Tree Is Known by Its Fruit (Trumpets)
The Sign of Jonah
Return of an Unclean Spirit (Atonement)
Jesus’ Mother and Brothers (Booths)

Now that we have moved to cycle 3 (Leviticus), the festal calendar of Leviticus 23 comes to the fore. The rest offered by Jesus in the previous cycle is tested and vindicated in the first story. And, just as Jesus was the “Beloved Son” in Matthew 3 (Ascension), so here there is a mention of David “the Beloved”) the ruddy-faced face-bread man.

Left and right hands have to do with priestly and kingly authority, hence the man with the withered hand being healed by “stretching it out,” a reference to both delegation and the Firmament. You might also remember that there is is a lot of stretching out of hands in the book of Exodus.

The third story contains a head and a body. After Matthew’s introduction, in which Jesus is “taken” as Firstfruits (like Enoch and Elijah), the body is very obviously structured after the  sevenfold Covenant. It also contains another reference to the Son as beloved. And it is also another instance of the “opening” of the scroll of Isaiah by Jesus.

At the centre, we have a call to discernment of spirits. It seems “blasphemy against the Spirit” is the Satanic twist on the Covenant Oath by those who usurp the Covenant and turn it into tyranny, those who have the “form” of religion without the “filling.” You will find more discussion on the binding of Satan in God’s Kitchen.

At Maturity, we seem to have a dual witness, the first relating to the Jews and the second to the Gentiles. The testimony “to the Jew first” concerns spiritual fruitfulness (“the fifth year” of circumcised fruit trees, Leviticus 19 – again, see God’s Kitchen for structure and discussion), and the “sign of Jonah” is the death, resurrection and successful witness to Gentiles of the Jewish prophet. Fish is a Day 5 symbol.

Atonement comes with the cleansing of Israel by Jesus as the High Priest, and her condemnation through the refusal of the Holy Spirit. The cycle ends with Jesus’ redefinition of Covenant inheritance and Covenant offspring, which make  the idea of “Covenant children” under the New Covenant an impossible conception. The New Covenant is about Representation, not Reproduction. These words appear where one would have found a genealogy or some reference to fertility in the Old Testament. If we do make the New Covenant a promise to our earthly offspring, we pervert the work of Christ in sorting out the true sons from the false, which leads to the next cycle: those who see and hear, and those who cannot.

Matthew 13:1-30 – Testing

Testing concerns the opening of the Law, the opening of the eyes to the intentions of God, as it was for Adam and Eve in the Garden.

Jesus teaching by the Sea (Initiation)
The Parable of the Sower (Delegation)
Parables are a Sealed Scroll (Presentation)
They Identify the Ethically Blind and Mute (Purification)
The Disciples See and Hear the Scroll Opened (Transformation)
The Parable of the Sower Explained (Vindication)
The Parable of the Weeds – Ingathering (Representation)

Testing also corresponds to Pentecost, and threshing, hence the theme of sowing and reaping. Testing also concerns kingdom, and Jesus’ kingdom, at its heart, is that of the Spirit. Notice that Jesus uses a natural story at Delegation/Circumcision and reveals its supernatural meaning at Vindication/Baptism. Again, baptism is not about the Land and the womb but about the tomb, about ethical fruit.

Matthew 13:31-52 – Maturity

This cycle has worked through Priest and King, and with a multiplication of Parables moves to Prophet, and a sign of imminent emancipation.

The Mustard Seed (Genesis)
The Leaven (Exodus)
The Parable of the Weeds Explained (Leviticus)
The Parable of the Hidden Treasure (Numbers)
The Parable of the Pearl (Deuteronomy)
The Parable of the Net (Joshua)
New and Old Treasures (Judges)

The mustard seed is the beginning of a “burning bush,” a manifestation of the voice of God (the third pillar). The overall reference is actually to Genesis, and Adam’s call to be not only the source of a physical genealogy but also an ethical one. Leaven moves us to Exodus, and Jesus “opens the scroll” of the Parable of the Weeds at Ascension/Land. The treasure hidden in the field has a kingly theme, but may also refer to the mining of Havilah by the sons of God to build the Sanctuary of God, as Israel’s Spirit-filled craftsmen constructed the Tabernacle in the wilderness. As Paul Huxley observes, it is also the plot of the book of Ruth. [2]

As the first four of these parables refer to the Land, so the next two refer to the Sea. Step 5 brings us the merchant (plagues and plunder) who realizes that quality outstrips quantity (Maturity is about a “many” unified by one Spirit) and Step 6 goes fishing in the Laver. Instead of two goats (Land) this cleansing divides between good and bad fish (Sea). Notice that the division is not between two animals as a proxy for Israel but a division between multiple creatures depending upon the ethical quality of each individual. That is baptism. The “weeping and gnashing of teeth” refer to the outpouring of the Sanctions (“eye and tooth”) upon those who rejected the Vision and Prophecy, the “open eye and open mouth” legal witness of Christ and His Apostles.

The final stanza refers to the “scribe” who can unseal the true meaning of old Scriptures, through the work of the Spirit. Matthew was obviously one such scribe. As a Roman “accountant,” he could read (Forming) and now he was writing (Filling). As a side note, the Old Covenant Scriptures were written right-to-left (priestly submission), and the New Covenant left-to-write (kingly ascension). Here is the “there and back again” in the very direction of the text.

MATTHEW 13:53-14:36 – Conquest

The “Day of Coverings” cycle in this Hierarchy section appears to work through the Canaan-to-Canaan history of Israel.

A Prophet Without Honor (Transcendence)
John the Baptist Bound and Slain (Hierarchy)
Jesus Feeds Five Thousand (Ethics)
Jesus Walks on the Water (Sanctions)
The Wing of His Garment Heals (Succession)

In the first story, Jesus is rejected by his earthly brothers, the Jews, much like Joseph. In the second, John speaks against Herod (as Pharaoh) and is bound. He is beheaded as a sick kind of Firstfruits (the head of the sacrifice was offered first). Then we have Jesus in “a desolate place,” feeding His followers with loaves and fish (Land and Sea). The number 5000 is a military number, so this fivefold section is also subtly sevenfold, with John’s head and Jesus’ crowd as the “missing” Ethical elements.

At Sanctions, Jesus is the one who truly ascends and walks upon the Crystal Sea (beyond the Laver) and invites Peter to walk on the “waters above” as He does. They are Joshua’s priests walking across the overflowing river. The point here is not salvation by faith, but dominion by faith. The ministry of Peter and the other disciples will conquer the restless waters of the nations, and subdue the beasts that reside within the Sea.

Finally, we have another Day of Coverings allusion with the reference to healing through touching the fringe of Jesus’ robe. Yet this is also a “Succession” symbol, because the wings are a means of protection and shelter (Exodus 19:4; Matthew 23:37).

Matthew 15 – Booths

The final cycle sees Israel’s failure to minister to the Gentiles (which is the theme of Booths) fulfilled in Jesus.

God’s Commands vs. Men’s Traditions (Transcendence)
True Defilement (Hierarchy)
A Canaanite Woman’s Faith (Ethics)
Jesus Heals on the Mountain (Sanctions)
Jesus Feeds Four Thousand (Succession)

God’s authority is usurped by the laws of men at Transcendence. Israel’s ministry is perverted at Hierarchy. At Ethics, Jesus steps in and rewards true faith in a woman from Tyre/Sidon. The move is from the Land to the Sea, from the disqualified Adam to the desire of Eve. Jesus is then “lifted up” and draws all men to Himself for healing. The cycle ends with another feeding of crowds. This time there are seven large (man-sized) baskets of leftovers instead of twelve small baskets. (The large baskets were of the kind which lowered Paul over the wall of Damascus). The move is therefore from the Table (twelve loaves) to the lampstand (seven lights). Jesus is threshing Israel and enabling human history to move from Priesthood (the Land) to true Kingdom (Land and Sea). We see the same thing in the Judges (twelve Judges, of whom seven were “elected,” ending the Mosaic era and leading to the Davidic). What does it mean that five loaves fed 5,000, and seven loaves fed 4,000? The crowds were Jewish in both instances. [3] Firstly, James Jordan observes that the reference to the “thousands” of Israel in Matthew 2:6 (citing Micah 5:2) is a reference to Israel’s military units. Five is a military number, and also the number of the Bride. But four is the number of the Land. When a four appears at the end of a cycle, it refers to the Land as an inheritance. The first crowd had been with Jesus only for one day. The second crowd had followed Him for three days without food and water. It seems that the five thousand was old Israel in the wilderness, and  the four thousand was a new Israel which had persevered in faith, more hungry for righteousness than for bread. Four is also the number of Testing, and these would inherit the promises. If we track back to Matthew 10, which matches this cycle in the Hierarchy chiasm, we can see another reference to the sheltering of Jesus’ true disciples. The four thousand were a multiplication of the original twelve, the foundation of a new, cruciform house, empty and awaiting the true Spirit as the true Bride.

This brings to an end Jesus’ “delegation” to the people of Israel, the Circumcision. In the Ethics section, He is confronted by the rulers of Israel, the serpentine enemies of the people. [4]

[1] See Q&A: Did John The Baptist Doubt Jesus?
[2] See Fairy Tale in a Field
[3] See The Feeding of the 4,000 — Were They Gentiles?
[4] See When Judaism Jumped the Shark

Share Button

Comments are closed.