The Gospel According to Matthew – 2017.08.27
Identity, and Propaganda
Matthew’s Gospel was written roughly one hundred years after the death of Jesus of Nazareth.
Saint Paul the Apostle, was the first person to call Jesus the Christ, the anointed one. This was not a term his disciples used of him, nor a term Jesus would have ever used of himself.
Jesus and his disciples did contend with the title Son of Man. This is a phrase associated with the coming of a messiah, an individual that could both represent humanity as humanity is meant to be, and free the Children of Israel from the grip of foreign rule.
The title, Son of Man, had been circulating in popular culture for about two-hundred tears prior to the time of Jesus, and is most closely associated with the books of Daniel, and Enoch in the Old Testament. Apart from scripture, the Son a Man was a wildly popular figure in Hebrew literature in a time known as the “inter-testamental” period, in non-canonical and apocryphal writers.
The authors of Matthew’s Gospel are doing a couple of things, they are connecting the ministry of Jesus, and so by extension their ministry, to this wider body of literature, and to the very popular writings of Saint Paul. They are making claims to redirect popular understanding of who the Son of Man might be; the Son of Man was not John the Baptist, neither is Jesus, John the Baptist returned. The Son of Man is not Elijah, or one of the other prophets, neither is Jesus the second coming of one of them. The Son of Man is Jesus, the Christ, uniquely able to claim the mantle of sonship in relation to the living God.
This is piece of propaganda.
It propagandizes the ministry of Jesus, the ministry of the disciples, and the faction of the church most closely associated with Saint Peter.
There are no cosmic truths being disclosed here, there is only the struggle of the church to claim an identity, that both carries on the most popular traditions in and around the early church, and differentiates itself from those traditions at the same time.
On This Rock
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi he put this question to his disciples, ‘Who do people say the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say he is John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ ‘But you,’ he said ‘who do you say I am?’ Then Simon Peter spoke up, ‘You are the Christ,’ he said, ‘the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Simon son of Jonah, you are a happy man! Because it was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. So I now say to you: You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.’ Then he gave the disciples strict orders not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time