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The Gospel of Matthew

Stories of the End – Discussion Questions

Interpretation Questions:

  1. Contemporary readers often wonder how we can understand Jesus’ eschatological language, especially in the Olivet Discourse (chapters 24 and 25). During his ministry, Jesus insists that the end is imminent, but it hasn’t come yet. What does this eschatological language mean for readers today?
  2. In what ways does Jesus’ “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem fulfill prophecies from the Hebrew Bible (e.g. Isa. 62:11 and Zech. 9:9)? What is the ancient significance of him riding a donkey instead of a more powerful animal, like a war horse?
  3. Reflect on the ways that violent passages about slavery, like the one in 24:45-51, have been used throughout history. How can scholarly interpretation of these teachings responsibly honor that history?

Application Questions:

  1. Jesus’ double-love commandment (combining Deut 6:5 and Lev 19:18) is an important guiding principle for Christians today. How does this play out in practical terms in your life? What does it mean to you to “love God and love neighbor” simultaneously?
  2. Jesus’ condemnations of the Jewish leadership in chapter 23 can be troublesome, not least because interpretation of this passage has fueled anti-Judaism over the centuries. Does this contradict the teaching in 5:44 to love one’s enemies? How does Jesus’ animosity in 23:1-36 cohere with the loving images and hope expressed in 23:37-39? Should we read these passages as critiques of established churches and/or Christian leaders today?
  3. What do you make of the harsh language of judgment in chapter 25? To what do you think the “eternal fire” (25:41) and “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (25:30) refer? Does God decide beforehand who will be “sheep” and who will be “goats,” or does this depend on how we treat those in need (25:31-46)?

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One Note

  1. ABIGAIL PURVIS

    Interpretation Questions:
    Contemporary readers often wonder how we can understand Jesus’ eschatological language, especially in the Olivet Discourse (chapters 24 and 25). During his ministry, Jesus insists that the end is imminent, but it hasn’t come yet. What does this eschatological language mean for readers today? The judgement for the Temple gives us an understanding that Jesus first preached to the Jewish people about how to be happy with Beatitudes and finding happiness in His Father. Now in the Olivet Discourse Jesus begins with curses and woes and finishes his statements with destructions of the Earthly home to give rise to a spiritual New Temple. We should use these words as inclination to never use are earthly homes as a place for selfish needs/happiness to be met but to find our happiness in Jesus New Temple near the tabernacle.

    In what ways does Jesus’ “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem fulfill prophecies from the Hebrew Bible (e.g. Isa. 62:11 and Zech. 9:9)? What is the ancient significance of him riding a donkey instead of a more powerful animal, like a war horse? In Isaiah Jesus returning to Jerusalem at this powerful time during the Jewish Passover that Jesus has proclaimed to the ends of the Earth his divine message and now those who seek him will never be forsaken; Zion is Saved. This in Zechariah he humbly rides a donkey your king is coming to YOU! This a battle for a Savior humbly giving His life for His people. Not a battle of offensive destruction of people by a giving of God to us.
    Reflect on the ways that violent passages about slavery, like the one in 24:45-51, have been used throughout history. How can scholarly interpretation of these teachings responsibly honor that history? This is a waiting game. We can chose to ignore that God knows our inner most desires and be on earth to serve ourselves or know that if we follow His instructions that day we come face to face with our Lord we have done as much as we are capable to serve Him on Earth. We are only slaves if we do not shose to serve God.
    Application Questions:
    Jesus’ double-love commandment (combining Deut 6:5 and Lev 19:18) is an important guiding principle for Christians today. How does this play out in practical terms in your life? What does it mean to you to “love God and love neighbor” simultaneously? I believe beginning with love of God and giving of one’s self to His mission allows a person to see the ego and selfish tendencies. When those sins/personality flaw come to surface, a person is more likely to want to change. This leads to how is the easiest way to change oneself but to help others in need. God teaching to help others in turn helps everyone become a better version of themselves.

    Jesus’ condemnations of the Jewish leadership in chapter 23 can be troublesome, not least because interpretation of this passage has fueled anti-Judaism over the centuries. Does this contradict the teaching in 5:44 to love one’s enemies? How does Jesus’ animosity in 23:1-36 cohere with the loving images and hope expressed in 23:37-39? Should we read these passages as critiques of established churches and/or Christian leaders today? The fifth an final Sermon addressed the leaders of the church that are choosing to not look inward or hold themselves accountable. It is not a hate driven speech; on the contrary it is a speech of justice. The end of Chapter 23 words allow the listener to realize that this fate of those who are not open to a true change in heart pass their sins to the next generation. People who act and teach in ways of hypocrisy, power, blind teaching, poor almsgiving, and greed in ways of clothing and burial plots will only give rise too future generations that do not love God and neighbor more than self.

    What do you make of the harsh language of judgment in chapter 25? To what do you think the “eternal fire” (25:41) and “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (25:30) refer? Does God decide beforehand who will be “sheep” and who will be “goats,” or does this depend on how we treat those in need (25:31-46)? Jesus’ parables in Chapter 25 lay out that it is a personal choice to deny a relationship with God, take care of the forgotten and outcast and refuse to use the God given graces to benefit others here on Earth. I agree with CS Lewis that the door to hell is closed from the inside of Hell. God never damns anyone to Hell, people allow themselves to a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth because they refuse to let go of selfish needs and wants.