“As always, the beauty of the arrangement is breathtaking. It is historical narrative, poetry, legal Covenant and high symbolism all at once… It consists of three Cycles which recapitulate the triune ‘Garden, Land, World’ architecture of the Creation and the Tabernacle.”
Matthew 28: SUCCESSION
The fifth major cycle takes us to the end of the Covenant pattern, from the Covenant Sanctions to Covenant Succession. In the Old Testament, this concerned handing Covenant authority to the faithful of the next generation. It was the blessings of Jacob upon his sons (Garden), and Moses passing the baton of headship of Israel to Joshua (Land). This time, the inheritance was not the Garden Sanctuary of Moses  nor the Land of Canaan, but the entire World. Thus, it is no accident that in both cases, in that of Joshua and that of the disciples, He said, “I am with you.” A battle lay ahead.
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him… (Matthew 2:1-2)
An atheist recently declared to me that a cumulative reading of the Bible makes no sense, since the Bible is not a single book but an anthology. I agree, but this “anthology” is indeed a single work because it was compiled by God. Without that foundation, the significance of much of its detail appears redundant. A good example is the wise men from the east in Matthew 2.
“Sanctions corresponds to the Day of Atonement. One goat goes to heaven (as fragrant smoke) and the other goes to hell, carrying the sins of the people into the wilderness, to be eaten by the birds and beasts. The difference here is that we have not two goats, but two High Priests…”
Matthew 26-27: SANCTIONS
The fourth major cycle moves us from the Covenant Ethics to the Covenant Sanctions. This concerns the pouring out of blessings and curses for obedience or disobedience to the Covenant, and the cleansing of the Land from the guilt of sin and the ensuing barrenness.
Aligning this pattern with its corrupted prototype in Eden, the “war of words” between Adam (Jesus) and the serpent (the Jewish rulers) is over, and it is time for some face to face combat, and a reckoning.
“A stone would be rejected by builders because it was ‘unhewn,’ like an Altar stone. But priestly submission was the only possible foundation for the perfectly chiseled stones of Israel’s temples, including the one still taking shape as Jesus spoke these words.”
Matthew 16-25: ETHICS
The third cycle moves us from the “Exodus” of Jesus and His ministry to the threshing of Israel under His new Law. His growing influence among the people (Hierarchy) brings Him into conflict with the authorities (Ethics).
[A guest post by Chris Wooldridge]
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.” (Matthew 11:21-24)
If we are paying careful attention to the historical context of this passage, it should be clear enough that the “day of judgment” referred to was fulfilled in the Jewish war of 66-70 AD. But why then does he seem to bring Tyre and Sidon/Sodom onto the scene in verses 22 and 24? Are we dealing here with a future judgment of the inhabitants of these cities, perhaps one which awaits the second coming of Christ?
“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.
“…we tend to read the parables as if Jesus’ ministry is at the beginning of the parables… I’m suggesting that we think about Jesus coming at the end of the story instead.”
Peter Leithart puts Jesus’ parables where they belong — in the context of Israel’s history.
Parables thus teach us about God’s ways and help us to anticipate what happens next. Whenever a field is planted with wheat, whenever we see the word spreading out through the world, we can expect the devil to spread his own seed, and the two grow up until a harvest. These are mysteries of God’s dealings throughout the ages. By learning to interpret parables, God forms us into prophets who know the times and can see God’s trajectories.
I guess this series should be called “A Structure of Matthew,” since there are so many interesting resources available. But of course, as usual, I reckon everyone else is wrong because the Bible Matrix is “the killer hermeneutic.” Ha! See what you think.
Who are the dogs and pigs whom Jesus warns His hearers against in Matthew 7?