This Gospel contains Matthew's underlying message.

Thursday, 8/18/11

The Gospel tells the story of a king who had prepared a feast honoring his son only to have  invited guests spurning his invitation, moving him to invite strangers.

By the invited guests who refused to come, Jesus might have had in mind the Jewish leaders who rejected him, causing God to open his banquet to the Gentiles. This story has similarities with the story of the landowner who planted a vineyard, leasing it out to vinedressers who would not give him a share of the vintage. In that story the vinedressers even murdered his son when the owner sent him.

Matthews’s Gospel has these stories because they are in line with his underlying reason for writing his Gospel. Let me recall the history of those times that led to Matthew writing his Gospel.

One of the Apostles, Simon, was known as a Zealot. The Zealots were patriotic Jews who wanted to liberate the country from Roman rule. Thirty years after Our Lord’s death and resurrection the Zealots became terrorists. For ambushes of Roman army units they used short daggers called shikas, and that gave them the name of shikarees. Exasperated with their attacks, Rome in 69 A.D. set about destroying Jerusalem where the Shikarees were holed up.

Now, the Shikarees had hated the Pharisees more than they hated the Romans. The Romans, knowing this, allowed the Pharisees to leave Jerusalem, settling at Jamnia on the Mediterranean, while the Romans destroyed the temple and its people.

Setting up their synagogue at Jamnia, the Pharisees were perplexed about how Judaism could survive without its temple. They came to a decision. They would make exact observance of all kosher rules the essential core of Judaism. Having made that decision, and looking around, they saw that tens of thousands of Jews had become Christians. What is more, those Christian Jews were violating the kosher rules by eating with unclean Gentile Christians.

The Pharisees issued an ultimatum. They said that if Jews who had become Christians wanted to remain Jews they would need to break off all connections with Gentiles. Matthew assured such Jewish Christians that the Gentiles with whom they associated were called by God just as they were.

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