Thursday, April 24, 2014

Rest and conquest in the wilderness

Almost all of chapters eleven and twelve in Matthew's Gospel seem to take place on the Sabbath,1 and revolve around a theme of conquest and rest for those who follow Jesus. John the Baptist sends disciples to Jesus, asking him if he’s “the Coming-One” (ὁ  ἐρχόμενος), to which Jesus responds by alluding to himself as the one Isaiah described as bringing rest to Israel (Isa. 35). In Isaiah 35, Israel is a "wilderness" and desert-land being restored with the glory and majesty of God Himself (vv. 1-2). Israel is also like a fatigued man in this wilderness, wandering around with weak hands and knees; but God Himself is coming to save them (vv. 3-4). God is coming, and pools of water follow His visitation to cool the scorching heat of burning desert sand and quench the thirsty ground. Even the places of this wilderness where predators used to lie down and wait for their prey will become inhabitable again because of the great flood of salvation promised to follow Him (vv. 6b-7). At that time the redeemed shall walk on a highway paved by the Lord, a highway of holiness that leads to Zion and is characterized by peace and rest (vv. 8-10).

1.  All these events most certainly did not take place on the Sabbath (as Luke’s account shows), but the only explicit time indicators mentioned by Matthew seem to relate all these occurrences on the Sabbath. Every other event in this section occurs “at that time,” which is a more general reference to a time around that Sabbath.

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