The term, μαθητής (mathetes) can refer to any disciple and οι μαθηταί (hoi mathetai) denotes a special group, the Twelve. The term μαθηταί is very common in Matthew. Among 261 appearances of the noun μαθητής in the New Testament – found only in the Gospels and Acts – Matthew has 72 occurrences. Moreover, Matthew narrates the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry with the call of the disciples. And he ends the Gospel with the great commission given to the disciples by the risen Lord. Thus from beginning till the end of the Gospel narrative the disciples play an important role. Then how does this theme of disciples converge in the Gospel according to Matthew? What are the characteristics of discipleship in Matthew’s development of disciples? What is their relation to the Matthean ecclesiology? Adopting a synchronic approach, this work responds to these questions first by analysing the different texts where the theme of disciples occur in Matthew, secondly enlisting the characteristics of discipleship in Matthew and and finally stating their relation to Matthean ecclesiology.
A. Disciples in Matthew
It is true that the second of the five great discourses in Matthew’s narrative deals with the appointing of the disciples and their commissioning (chap 10). But the theme of disciple in Matthew cannot be restricted to this discourse alone. It can be elaborated analysing at least thirteen micro narratives.
1. Jesus calls the disciples (4:18-22)
Jesus begins his God given commission with the proclamation: “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” (4:17). The immediate impact of the proclamation is evident in the call narrative. Jesus approaches four fishermen, Simon, who is called Peter, Andrew his brother (4:18), James son of Zebedee and his brother John (4:21). It is the very first public act of Jesus. He takes the initiative and calls them: “Follow after me” (4:19). The call thus stamps the sovereign mark of divine initiative upon the existence of the disciples from the beginning. Jesus’ words, “follow after me,” contain not an invitation but an unconditional demand. That is, the disciples are called by Jesus to follow after him. The call is immediately accompanied by a mission. Jesus describes the future task of the fishermen with a metaphor that they are familiar with: “I will make you fishers of men” (4:19). What does this metaphor mean? Nothing is made clear at this point. The response of the fishermen to the call of Jesus makes apparent their positive character: They follow Jesus (4:20). In forsaking their nets, boats and father, the first four disciples leave everything to follow Jesus. They leave behind their past preoccupations. A complete renunciation is involved in their response. Then promptly and unconditionally they follow Jesus. We apparently see here the pattern of true discipleship.
2. Stormy discipleship and Jesus’ authority (8:23-27)
Having shown the immediate impact of “God’s kingdom at hand,” Matthew elaborates Jesus’ teaching activity (5:3-7:27). And the hearers of Jesus’ teaching are the disciples. Thus the term “disciples” appears for the first time in the Gospel. Jesus then continues his healing ministry (8:1-4, 5-13; 14-17). Following the sayings on discipleship (8:18-22) we encounter a narrative that involves both testing for the disciples and a further demonstration of the authority of Jesus in another deed of power: Jesus stills the storm (8:23-27). Discipleship qualities are immediately apparent here: “When he got into the boat, his disciples followed him” (8:23). The master leads from front and the disciples follow. Suddenly, the discipleship encounters a life threatening situation: “Behold there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves” (8:24a). The disciples experience hardship. In the midst of this precarious situation Jesus continued to sleep (8:24b). But the disciples rightly run to the one who can save: “They went and woke him, saying, ‘Save, Lord, we are perishing’” (8:25).
Their plea, “Save, Lord” emphasizes their struggle for faith. They do not share Jesus’ confidence in God nor do they imitate the faith of Gentile centurion (8:6-10). Therefore Jesus’ saving action is not immediate, but first he challenges the faith of the disciples: “Why are you afraid, O men of little faith” (8:26a)? They fail to understand that the one who called them will protect them even in their perishing circumstances. Hence their faith is “little faith” (cf. 6:30; 14:31; 16:8). Then he rebuked the wind and the sea and a great calm prevails instantaneously (8:26b). Jesus’ power works its complete effect immediately. The disciples first “marvelled” (cf. 9:33; 15:31) but then they question the consequence of Jesus’ mighty deed: “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and sea obey him” (8:27)? Their question strengthens the assumption that the one whom they follow is not an ordinary person to whom the elements of nature, the wind and the sea, are obedient. The passage is thus as much a lesson on discipleship. A supreme call to a complete discipleship is balanced by the great authority and person of the one who issues that call. The disciples, however, are unable to discover completely Jesus’ identity.
3. Disciples participate in Jesus’ mission (10:5-15)
Having performed mighty deeds (8:1-9:34) Jesus indicates the great need to expand his ministry through other labourers (9:35-38). So he appoints twelve disciples. As he exhibited his God given authority in preaching and healing, the disciples are given “authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out and to heal every disease and every infirmity” (10:1). He calls them apostles, which highlights their mission task and then he names them (10:2-4). Then Jesus sends the twelve on mission (10:5-15). As in the call narrative, here too the initiative is with Jesus for he sends out the disciples (10:5a) to the plentiful harvest of God (cf. 9:37). Disciples’ mission arena opens with a prohibition: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans” (10:5b). These two negative commands are cleared by a positive command: “Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel” (10:6). It anticipates Jesus’ description of his own ministry (cf. 15:24) and recalls the reference to “sheep without a shepherd” (9:36).
Jesus then assigns them the mission tasks. The fundamental charge of the mission is proclamation of the dawning of the kingdom (10:7), the same mission of John the Baptist and Jesus (3:2; 4:17). Disciples have seen God’s kingdom encountered in Jesus in his life-giving ministry (cf. 4:17-9:36). Now they are to proclaim the same reign of God’s kingdom to Israel. Four further tasks are subordinate to the proclamation of the kingdom: healing of the sick, raising of the dead, cleansing of the lepers and casting out of demons (10:8a). Once again these tasks are the same as Jesus’ objectives. The mission of disciples, therefore, applies to the participation in the mission of Jesus himself. Jesus then proposes mission’s material support (10:8b-10). The disciples are to accomplish their mission without regard for the listener’s ability to pay: “You received without paying, give without pay” (10:8b). In other words, the disciples are not to make profit out of preaching neither are they to carry gold, silver, or copper (10:9). They are even told not to trouble themselves with the ordinary things of a travel: “No bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor a staff” (10:10a). Thus disciples are to commit absolutely to the cause and urgency of the mission without having dependence on material benefits and comforts. At the same time the missionary must live: “the labourer deserves his food” (10:10b). This implies that the disciples are to receive their substance from those to whom they approach (cf. Num 18:31).
The impact of disciples’ mission is both positive (10:11-13a) and negative (10:13b-15). Positive force of disciples’ mission specifies that on entering the town or village the disciples have to search for the “worthy” (10:11a), who respond to the preaching of the disciples with faith and who provide hospitality to them (cf. 10:14). Also, the disciples are to stay with those who receive them, because respondents will provide for the disciples (10:11b). Then, the disciples are to greet the people (10:12), a benediction for those who receive the disciples and the message: “Let your peace come upon it” (10:13a). The negative force of the mission is, first of all, return of the “peace benediction” from those who do not receive the disciples (10:13b). Secondly, deserting of the house or town, when the disciples as well as the message are rejected (10:14). As a sign of their rejection the disciples have to shake off the dust from their feet as they leave that house or town. The impact of the mission ends with a serious caution: “It shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town” (10:15). The final judgment will be severe for those who have rejected the Gospel.
This narrative uncovers the meaning of the enigmatic mission, “fishers of men.” But the mission arena is limited to Israel. Does this particularism temporary? At this point Matthew does not give a definite answer to this. Instead he continues to narrate the hardship of mission and inevitable persecution that the disciples may face (10:16-25) in the midst of which the disciples are not to fear but their mission will be rewarded (10:24-42).
4. Disciples receive revelation of Jesus’ identity (11:25-27)
While people respond to Jesus and to his message negatively (11:7-24) the disciples respond positively. So the disciples become the privileged ones. Jesus praises God because disciples receive the revelation concerning Jesus’ identity (11:25-27; cf. Lk 10:21-22). The reason for Jesus’ thankful praise is established in two opposite statements: “because you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to the infants” (11:25b). “These things” – the manifestation of God’s kingdom and His saving presence (4:17) in Jesus – God has concealed from the “wise and intelligent,” who refuse to recognize God’s ways (2:13 [elite]; 10:16-18 [leaders]). On the other hand, God “revealed them to the infants,” “simple,” “uneducated,” “lowly” and “teachable;” the small community of disciples who have responded to Jesus’ call (4:18-22; 9:9; 10:1-4), who have participated in the saving mission of Jesus (10:5-15) and who have welcomed the saving presence of God (10:14). Hence Jesus recognizes disciples’ receptiveness towards God’s revelation. Jesus then confirms revelation of God’s kingdom and His saving presence to the disciples in accordance with God’s good pleasure: “Yes Father, for such was your gracious will” (11:26). It was God’s decision, his “gracious will” to elect these ‘infants’ to his plan of salvation to respond to the life-giving action of God in the person and message of Jesus.
5. Disciples understand the mysteries of the Kingdom (13:10-17)
As the disciples grow in understanding Jesus’ identity (11:25-27) others continue to demonstrate their failure to recognize Jesus (12:1-8). The latter conspire against Jesus to destroy him (12:14); confront him (12:24) and demand a sign (12:38). But disciples, who are receptive to his teaching and works become “his brother, sister and mother” (12:50) and beneficiaries of understanding the mysteries of the Kingdom (13:10-17). God gives the understanding to the disciples about mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven, the saving acts of God in the person, works and deeds of Jesus. These mysteries are revealed to the disciples through God’s revealing action (11:25-27) because they have accepted Jesus in faith. The crowds also experienced the mysteries of the kingdom because ministry has been public. But they do not understand the meaning and the message of God’s purpose for them. Receptivity and unreceptivity towards Jesus and his message result in fruitfulness and fruitlessness respectively (13:12).
The unreceptivity of the crowds is further explained: “Seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand” (13:13). The crowds have shut themselves off God’s intervention (13:14) because their “heart has grown dull and their ears are hard of hearing and they have shut their eyes” (13:15a). Consequently, they inflict further effect, “so that they might not look with their eyes and listen with their ear and understand with their heart and turn” (13:15b). But the final phrase, “I would heal them” (13:15c), sheds some positive intent to save them from their unbelief. On the contrary, disciples’ understanding of the mysteries of the kingdom is affirmed in the manner of beatitude: “blessed are your eyes, for they see and your ears, for they hear” (13:16). It expresses the privileged role of the disciples as eyewitnesses, for which many prophets and righteous people longed to be (13:17). They are the privileged ones because they understand the message and the person of Jesus (13:51).
6. Disciples worship Jesus (14:22-33)
As the disciples discern the message and person of Jesus (13:51) the people continue to reject him (13:54-58). The rejection of Jesus intensifies as Herod responds with hostility to what God is doing (14:1-12). Though the crowds benefit again from Jesus’ mighty deeds they do not commit themselves to or oppose Jesus (14:13-21, 34-36). However, the disciples have not abandoned Jesus, they respond positively (14:22-33). Hence Jesus separates the disciples from the crowds and sends them to the other side of the sea (14:22). Jesus then goes up to the mountain to pray (14:23). As the disciples are a long way from the shore and from Jesus, they are impeded by the wind and sea (14:24). They are in a dangerous world, which threatens to crush them. In the midst of disciples’ trouble, Jesus comes to them walking on the sea, manifesting God’s presence and demonstrating God’s reign over all forces that oppose the journey of the disciples. But seeing Jesus the disciples become terrified and cry out in fear, saying “it is a ghost” (14:26). The fear and cry of the disciples necessitates the self-manifestation of Jesus: “Take courage. It is I! Have no fear” (14:27). Jesus manifests his assurance to his disciples that he is with them assisting them to put away from their anxiety.
In what follows, Peter takes a central role (14:28-31): Though shaded by doubt, Peter recognizes Jesus and asks his permission to imitate him in walking on the sea. Jesus gives the command. Peter obediently and faithfully imitates Jesus, as disciples should (cf. 10:24-25). Peter walks as he concentrates on Jesus, immediately he begins to sink as he moves his attention away from Jesus. But Jesus extends his hand and saves Peter, manifesting God’s saving act of delivering people from danger (Ex 3:20; 7:5; Ps 144:7). Paradoxically, Peter demonstrates faith and a lack of faith. Hence Jesus rebukes his “little faith” for not trusting his authority to overcome the stormy waves and winds. As Jesus and Peter get into the boat a miraculous act of causing the wind to cease takes place (14:32). Jesus does not give a direct order to calm the wind, but his very presence is responsible for the ceasing of the wind. The narrative concludes appropriately: The disciples respond to the saving presence of Jesus with worship: “Truly you are the Son of God” (14:33), recognizing that the one whom they follow is God’ anointed.
7. Disciples understand Jesus’ teaching (16:5-12)
Matthew further notes Jesus’ conflict with the scribes and Pharisees (15:1-9) which Jesus explains to the crowds (15:10-11) and the disciples (15:12-20). Jesus is then located in a Gentile territory where he meets a Canaanite woman (15:21-28) thus gradually unfolding that his mission goes beyond the “lost sheep of Israel.” Once again the crowds experience Jesus healing power (15:29-31) and his provision of material benefits (15:32-39) but they remain neutral. The religious elite continue to fail to discern Jesus and his message (16:1-4) in contrast to the disciples, who “understand” his teaching (16:5-12). The disciples who did not witness the incident in 16:1-4 join Jesus. They seem upset for “they had forgotten to bring any bread” (16:5). At this point Jesus delivers a strong warning to them: “Take heed and beware of the leaven of Sadducees and Pharisees” (16:6). The metaphor, leaven, points to its spreading and permeating effect. Since the disciples are given a warning against a strong danger (“beware”), the metaphor must be understood with its corrupting effect. But the disciples understand Jesus words literally, perhaps not to eat the bread given by the Sadducees and Pharisees: “They discussed it among themselves, saying, we brought no bread” (16:7). Jesus rebukes them for being so much preoccupied with bread addressing them “men of little faith” (16:8; cf. 8:26; 14:31). Jesus reproaches their lack of trust in God’s provision for their physical need.
Referring to the two previous miraculous feeding of the people (14:13-21; 15:32-37) Jesus questions their incomprehension (16:9-10). Jesus reminds them of his ability to provide material needs for which they should trust rather than being anxious. Jesus now clarifies about what he was speaking: “How is it that you fail to perceive that I did not speak about bread” (16:11a)? Jesus was not talking then about the literal leaven or bread, but in a metaphorical level, leaven that has corrupting effect. So he repeats the warning (16:11b) already found in the beginning of the narrative (cf. 16:5). In contrast to the crowds and religious leaders, the disciples, “then understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (16:12).
8. Disciples rightly confess Jesus as the Son of God (16:13-20)
Though disciples confess Jesus as the Son of God in an extraordinary circumstance (14:33) and understand Jesus’ teaching (16:12), in a private, peaceful and pensive setting Jesus for the first time demands from the disciples a right answer on his identity. The scene is set in the “district of Caesarea Philippi” (16:13a). Being alone with the disciples, away from the crowd, Jesus takes the initiative to commence the dialogue: “Who do men say that the Son of Man is” (16:13b)? The disciples report an assortment of opinions that people embrace: “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets” (16:14). The estimation that Jesus was the martyred John who had resurrected to life (cf. 14:2), the preliminary role of precursor to the Messiah assigned to Elijah (cf. Mal 3:1; 4:5-6) the understanding that Jeremiah would play a role in the coming of the eschaton (2 Macc 15:13-16) and the belief that “one of the prophets” would return in a preparatory role just before the end of this age might have prompted the disciples to give this response.
But for Jesus, all these opinions, although situate him in the prophetic tradition, are partly true and inadequate. So Jesus repeats the question, but now with a more personal and emphatic manner, to the disciples: “But who do you say that I am” (16:15)? Simon Peter answers for himself and for the disciples: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (16:16). This is the first time that disciples confess Jesus as Christ, which the Gospel has indicated from the beginning (1:1, 16-18; 2:4). This answer diverges definitely from those perceived by the people. Jesus is confessed as God’s anointed one. The added expression, “the Son of the living God,” agrees with God’s perspective on Jesus (cf. 2:15; 3:17). The confession begets beatitude: Jesus declares Simon blessed (16:17). He is renamed: “You are Peter;” he is given a role: “On this rock I will build my Church” and a promise: “the powers of death shall not prevail against it” (16:18). Thus Peter, the first to be called, the first to be named, the representative and spokesperson of the disciples is commissioned as the foundation stone of the believing community. As Peter is the leader of the twelve and upon whom the new community will be built, he is given authority symbolized by his possession of “the keys of the kingdom of heaven,” the authority of “binding and loosing” (16:19). In a site where had been a shrine for the god Pan, god of flocks and shepherds, the true shepherd is recognized and confessed by Peter, the head of the disciples, as the God’s anointed one.
9. Disciples fail to accept Jesus’ messiahship (16:21-23)
Having accorded a blessing and authority to Peter (16:17-20), Jesus teaches the disciples that their confession concerning him involves his death at the hand of the religious and political leaders and his resurrection (16:21-23). Immediately following the exultant confession, Jesus begins to “show” his disciples that he must “go to Jerusalem,” “suffer many things” at the hands of “the elders and chief priests and the scribes,” “be killed” and finally, “on the third day be raised.” Jesus through his prediction announces his future programmatic prospect, which is determined already in the will of God. But the prediction results in a protest. The disciples do not understand Jesus’ teaching. So “Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you’” (16:22); an indirect evidence that Jesus’ identity is not yet clear for him despite his confession. Peter was right in confessing Jesus’ role and relationship as God’ Son, but his words here represent that he does not understand the specifics of his confession.
Jesus rebuts the objection: “Get behind me Satan, you are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God but of men” (16:23). Peter’s words goes against God’s purposes of Jesus. He takes a position identical with that of Satan, who attempted to deviate Jesus from God’s will (cf. 4:1-11). So Peter is asked to “get behind,” a phrase that goes close with “come after me” (4:19) not causing “a hindrance.” In other words, Jesus calls Peter again to discipleship. Jesus calls him to start over in a relationship and role in which the disciple is never above the master (cf. 10:24). The fundamental nature of Peter’s mistake is that he is “not on the side of God but of men” (16:23). Peter thinks of the triumphant aspect of the Messiah and the messianic kingdom as opposed to God’s way of the cross to establish messianic kingdom.
10. Discipleship involves self-denial (16:24-28)
To set the mind on God, disciples need to make room for the necessity of the suffering and death of Jesus. So Jesus tells them to face the reality of suffering in their own lives. True discipleship involves a readiness to accept the path of self-denial and even martyrdom (cf. 10:17-28). Jesus proceeds to instruct his disciples on the cost of true discipleship: “if any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (16:24). Discipleship involves a deliberate decision to follow Jesus. It is by “denying self and putting one’s life on the line, taking up one’s cross.” For Jesus the denial of his self involves his death (16:21), the way of the cross. His death and the way of discipleship are linked. So discipleship means to face death as Jesus will face. This is what it means to follow Jesus. The condition of discipleship is therefore the breaking of every link which ties a person to himself or herself (cf. 1 Cor 6:19 [“you are not your own”]).
Jesus gives two reasons for the death to self. The first reason is: “Whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (16:25). To save one’s life is to choose against the way of the cross, to choose safety. But, in Jesus’ vision, this choice for safety is to loose life, the way of credulous affiliation. God will honour such a choice with ultimate well-being. Hence the person who dies to self in discipleship to Jesus will discover life in this fundamental sense. The second reason to choose ultimate value of life through death to self is affirmed with two rhetorical questions. First: “What will profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life” (16:26a)? To “gain the whole world” is to acquire great wealth. This profit in life can be gained only by evading the path of obedience to God; it is forfeiting one’s life. The second question emphasizes this point: “What shall a man give in return for his life” (16:26b)? Even if one has gained the whole world, it is not an exchange to have participation in the external life (cf. Ps 49:8-9). Hence the only sensible course for the disciples is the way of Jesus, the way of self-denial and the cross.
Commitment to full discipleship will be rewarded when the Son of Man comes in glory. The Son of Man who must suffer and die (16:21) is also destined to return: “For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father” (16:27a). The future of the Son of Man stands stark contrast to the present. In the present the Son of Man and his disciples are rejected and forced to suffer and even executed. But in the future the Son of Man will participate in God’s eschatological kingdom and “will repay every men for what he has done” (16:27b). The repayment underlines reward for disciples, who chose the path of Jesus’ suffering and death, and punishment for the wicked (cf. 13:39-42). Jesus ends his instruction on discipleship with an enigmatic saying: “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” (16:28).
11. Disciples reject servant-hood (20:24-28)
Having instructed the disciples the cost of discipleship and its recompense (16:24-28) Jesus transfigured before them (17:1-13). He then repeats the prediction concerning his death and resurrection (17:22-23; 20:17-19). At the same time he teaches them about true greatness in the kingdom (18:1-5) which is marked by concern for others (18:6-14), by fraternal discipline (18:15-20) and limitless forgiveness (18:21-35). These repeated teachings do not elicit expressions of concern or support for Jesus from the disciples. They seem not to comprehend what means to be great in the kingdom of God (20:20-28). Instead of expressions of concern or support, there is ambition and a desire for power among the disciples. It is represented by the mother of James and John. The mother approaches reverentially, recognizing Jesus’ authority and believing in him (20:20). Jesus encourages her to make the request (20:21a). The reverence and belief expressed previously retreat as she places her need, for she begins with an imperative: “Command that these two sons of mine may sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom” (20:21b). She knows that Jesus will be triumphant and will establish God’s kingdom and that disciples will share in that kingdom (cf. 19:28). But she has failed to perceive the nature of God’s kingdom and the disciples’ role in it.
Jesus’ response addresses both mother and the sons: “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink” (20:22a)? Once again Jesus refers to his suffering and disciples’ sharing in the same, with the help of the metaphor “drink the cup.” Mother and the sons state that they can remain truthful (20:22b). Jesus does not deny their affirmation rather he accentuates that the brothers will suffer for their association with him: “You will drink my cup” (20:23a). They would indeed drink the cup that Jesus was about to drink and thus share in Jesus’ glory. “But,” Jesus continues, “to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father” (2:23b). Jesus acquiesces in subordination to the will of his Father.
The second scene (20:24-28), which concerns that true service is the mark of true discipleship, begins with a note on the failure of the other ten disciples to understand Jesus’ teaching: “And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers” (20:24). The ten are indignant not because they think as Jesus does but they are afraid of losing something for themselves. So Jesus calls together all the disciples and gives them further teaching: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them” (20:25). Jesus teaches them that the values of his disciples should not reflect the values of the world. In the world “rulers” and “great men” pursue for power and they find delight in it.
But magnitude, reputation and status in the kingdom of God are surmised through an entirely different standard. So Jesus places the alternative praxis of power in the community of disciples: “It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (20:26). The “great” is the powerful, the influential. “Servant” is the one who expresses submission, recognizance or debt to another. So greatness of the disciple is realized by becoming a servant in the community (cf. 23:11). This point is repeated in equating “great” and “first,” “servant” and “slave:” “Whoever would be first among you must be your slave” (20:27). The “first” is the one coming, occurring or ranking before or above all others. But “slave” is “the non-person who has no rights or existence of his own and exists solely for others.” Here “great” and “servant,” “first” and “slave” are nearly polar opposites. The greatness of the kingdom is thus of a paradoxical nature. So Jesus is the model for the disciples: “Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (20:28). The ultimate sign of Jesus’ service is his death as a ransom, that is, redemption, freedom or liberation for those who believe in him. This redemption is achieved at the cost of the sacrifice of Jesus. Jesus’ ultimate example of service is an apt conclusion to the pericope.
12. Disciples forsake and deny Jesus (Mt 26:30-46, 56, 69-75)
Having given the ultimate teaching on what it means to follow Jesus, he goes to Jerusalem, the centre of religious leaders and the place, as already predicted, where he will be crucified. How will Jesus’ death come about? Through subsequent chapters Matthew shows that Jesus’ death results due to conflict with political and religious leaders. These conflicts are developed through the parables in chaps 21-22, the curses in chap 23, the eschatological discourse in chaps 24-25 and finally through the passion narrative in chaps 26-27. All throughout these happenings the disciples’ response is evident. In the beginning two of the disciples are portrayed as obedient to Jesus’ request (21:1-11). Judas cooperates with the opponents of Jesus and tries to help them to take Jesus’ life (26:14-16). A disciple having agreed to work with his opponents Jesus’ death now appears a more likely occurrence. While Judas seeks to betray the master, in the proceeding passage (26:17-25), the disciples seek to obey him, in preparing for the Passover (26:19). During the meal Jesus reinforces the upcoming betrayal of Judas (26:20-25). Jesus explains to the disciples the significance of his imminent death by interpreting the meal (26:26-29). The supper scene concludes with further predictions (26:31-34): The disciples will desert Jesus and Peter will deny Jesus.
As Jesus predicted, first gesture of disciples’ disloyalty towards Jesus takes place immediately during his agony in the garden, where they fail to participate in prayer in the great inner distress and struggle that Jesus faces (26:36-46). Jesus’ prediction concerning Judas fulfils as he eventually sides with the opponents to take Jesus’ life (26:47-50). Now the attention moves from Judas to another disciple, who uses force to resist the arrest (26:51). He does not seem to understand that Jesus’ arrest and death are inevitable (cf. 16:21). While Jesus remains steadfast to the fate of a rejected prophet, all disciples desert him and flee despite their promise never to deny Jesus (cf. 26:35). Thus Jesus’ prediction of disciples’ disloyalty (26:51-56) reaches its culmination. Their behaviour does not demonstrate the way of the cross of losing their life to find it (cf. 16:24, 25b), but by trying to save it, they risk losing it (16:25a).
As the arrested Jesus is taken to the Sanhedrin, the Jerusalem council under Caiaphas (cf. 26:3), Peter follows Jesus at a distance (26:51-52). The Sanhedrin condemns Jesus of blasphemy (26:57-66) and the soldiers mock Jesus’ prophetic ability (26:67-68). Peter, sitting outside the courtyard (26:69a) when questioned denies his association with Jesus (26:69b-74). Peter denies Jesus first by a simple assertion: “I do not know what you mean” (26:70). His second denial is more intense and more impersonal: “Again he denied with an oath, I do not know this man” (26:72). It is intense for it involves an oath and it is more impersonal for the “Messiah” (cf. 16:16) is just “this man.” The third denial is even stronger, involving an oath as well as a cursing (29:74). With the third denial Jesus’ prophecy concerning Peter’s denial is fulfilled. Jesus is then delivered to Pilate (27:1-2). Judas commits suicide (27:3-10). Now the disciples having fled from Jesus’ company, Peter unwilling to admit his status as a true follower of Jesus and Judas committing suicide, there is no one to defend Jesus’ innocence. So it becomes easy for Jesus’ opponents to complete their assault on him: Jesus is handed over to be crucified (27:26). The crucifixion takes place without the presence of the disciples (27:32-44). But the centurion (27:54), three women (27:55-56) and Joseph of Arimathea (27:57) are depicted as followers.
13. Disciples’ mission to the whole world (28:16-20)
Though Jesus has been crucified, as predicted earlier, he is then raised from the dead (28:1-10). Since the disciples were absent previously, they become the object of discussion when both angel (28:7) and Jesus (28:10) ask for the disciples to go to Galilee. Despite their withdrawal, Jesus has not rejected them. Being obedient to the appeal of angel (28:8) and Jesus (28:10), contrary to the false rumour (28:11-15), the disciples return to Galilee (28:16). The disciples meet the risen Jesus on a “mountain,” a place of revelation. Matthew then evokes the confrontation and the reaction of the disciples to risen Jesus: “When they saw him they worshiped him; but some doubted” (28:17). First, in recognition of Jesus’ kingship, the disciples, as they have done in 14:33 and like the women in 28:9, worship Jesus. Thus they believe that Jesus had risen from the dead. But some disciples doubted. Their faith is too small in measure. It is probably due to their uncertainty of the past events connected to Jesus’ death and its aftermath.
So Jesus does not rebuke them for their disloyalty or their doubt. But Jesus confides with them first the great commission (vv 18-19) and then the reassurance (v 20). “Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Mt 28:18). First, taking initiative, Jesus comes to the disciples. Then Jesus declares his authority. God has given Jesus dominion and sovereignty over the whole of created order, “heaven and earth” (cf. Dan 7:13-14) for through resurrection Jesus is exalted and made the Lord of the cosmos. With this authority he commissions the disciples: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (28:19). The verb maqhteu,w, (matheteuw)“to make disciple” or “to be a disciple” draws on the noun maqhth,j, “disciple.” The mission arena of the disciples is extended; it includes “all nations.” Now the mission of the disciples embrace both the whole Israel and the whole Gentiles, hence a universal mission. Thus Matthew clarifies that the mission to “the lost sheep of Israel” is temporary.
The command to make disciples is detailed by two elements. First, the disciples are to “baptize.” As Jesus indicated his loyalty to God’s will by submitting to John’s baptism (3:13-17), the new disciples are to show their loyalty to him by submitting to baptism. The new disciples are baptized in the ownership and protection – “in the name” – of the Trinity. Secondly, the disciples are to “teach:” “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (28:20a). “Teaching” has been Jesus’ activity. He is the sole teacher. Now the disciples are told to teach what Jesus himself taught. Jesus’ command to the disciples to teach includes the whole teaching of Jesus, his whole earthly ministry. Obedience to the teachings of Jesus is a prime concern in the Gospel (5:15-20; 7:21-27). So it is the responsibility of the disciples to see that the new disciples obey the teachings of Jesus as their way of life.
The commission of the disciples is followed by a promise: “I am with you always, to the close of the age” (28:20b). “I am with you” recalls the promise of God’s presence with his people in the person of Jesus (1:23) and Jesus’ on promise (18:20). Where God was with his people Jesus is now with his people. The disciples for they are not going to be alone in their mission task. The risen Jesus will be in their midst and will make them powerful to fulfil the commission he has given to them. This promise of Jesus’ continuing presence with the disciples is not limited to any special circumstances and for the immediate future. But it is “to the close of the age,” that is, to the end of the present age when Jesus returns and God’s reign is established. Thus Jesus, the one with full authority, gives them a task more elaborate than the previous one: mission among the “lost sheep of Israel,” and to “all nations.”
B. Characteristics of Discipleship in Matthew
The above analysis shows that the theme of disciples remains a prominent topic in Matthew. Jesus begins his ministry by calling the disciples and ends his ministry by commissioning them to the whole world. Jesus initiates and teaches the disciples. They participate in Jesus ministry. At the same time, they exhibit “little faith” and become unable to support Jesus in his suffering. In the light of this analysis it becomes expedient to group the characteristics of discipleship in Matthew.
1. Discipleship involves following
Through out the Gospel the verb avkolouqei/n (akolouthein), “to follow” remains a technical term, having importance on discipleship. The verb denotes Jesus’ authoritative call and disciples’ commitment to entrust themselves to him. So they “follow after” him. This idea of “following after” stems from the Jewish background of the rabbis and their disciples. But “the crucial difference from the rabbinic practice is that here the master, not the would-be disciples, takes the initiative to establish the relationship.” Following Jesus involves primarily witnessing to the Kingdom as John the Baptist and Jesus did (3:2; 4:17; 10:7-8). In this sense, the mission of Jesus and the disciples is the same (10:8). As the disciples have witnessed God’s kingdom encountered in Jesus’ ministry, in following Jesus they are to proclaim the reign of God to “the lost of sheep of Israel” and to the “nations. ”
Following Jesus meets also with prospects contrary to its original sense. While Jesus willingly accepts his destiny of suffering and death, leading finally to resurrection, the disciples are unwilling to accept this destiny (16:22-23; 20:20-23; 26:69-75). In the end, however, the disciples meet the risen Jesus (28:16-20). With the power of his continuing presence (28:20; cf. 1:23; 18:20) he equips the disciples for the righteous obedience and vigour in mission that will lead them to make disciples of “all nations” through baptizing and teaching. Indeed they will make disciples of others even as Jesus has made disciples of them. Therefore, for Matthew, disciples are followers of Jesus, who witness to God’s kingdom through Jesus’ ministry, experiencing his continual presence and in the course of the time, sharing his fate.
2. Discipleship involves understanding
Disciples not only follow Jesus, they understand whom they follow and what he teaches. They know the identity of Jesus and without hesitation confess him as the Son of God (14:33; 16:16). First, they understand Jesus as the one who embodies the presence of God when he walks on the sea and calms the storm (14:25-27). So the one whom they follow is the unique messenger of God, God’s messianic agent (14:33). Then, they understand him as the real manifestation of God, the very agent of God who participates in God’s being (16:16). While the earlier understanding was under pressure of extraordinary circumstances, the later one is the result of reflection and divine revelation (cf. 16:17). Their understanding agrees with God’s perspective on Jesus (cf. 2:15; 3:17) and with Jesus’ own statements (11:25-27). It emphasizes Jesus’ function as God’s agent as well as his intimate relationship with God.
The disciples not only understand the real identity of their master but also they understand his teaching (13:51; 16:12). As Jesus reveals the disciples God’s reign in the parables they understand Jesus’ teaching (13:51). Disciples’ understanding also confirms their identity as recipients of Jesus’ revelation about Gods kingdom (13:11). The disciples also understand the teaching concerning the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees (16:12). Their teaching actually debarred Jesus from any assertion to being the agent of messianic fulfilment. Their teaching undeniably worked like leaven and affected all else to bring Jesus ultimately to his death. Their teaching remains contrary to the teaching of Jesus. While disciples understand the false teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees they in all prospects understand the right teaching of Jesus, which they should continue to teach “making disciple of all nations” (28:19).
3. Discipleship involves faith
The disciples are ideally to have faith. They must put complete trust in Jesus, especially in the midst of trial and crisis. Matthew highlights this characteristic of discipleship frequently. Faith in Jesus signifies recognition of his authority, understanding of his identity and dependence on his power. Furthermore, faith in Jesus implies accepting him as God’s agent, the anointed one, the Son of God (14:33; 16:16). The disciples are expected to extend such confident faith to the future, while awaiting the unexpected coming of the Lord (24:29-31, 36-44, 45-51; 25:1-13). Faith is the obvious characteristic of disciples which distinguishes them from the crowds and religious and political leaders of Jesus’ time. Thus faith in Jesus constitutes the identity and life style of the community of disciples.
The faith in Jesus is not instant but it grows and develops. So we find frequent use of “little faith” in the Gospel, mostly used of disciples (8:26; 14:31; 16:8; 17:20). The charge of “little faith” occurs mostly in connection with a dangerous world: sea, opponents of Jesus and crowd. The Gospel accordingly recognizes that the world in which disciples live is a dangerous place which can provoke a crisis of faith. This crisis of faith leads the disciples to doubt and fear even as they believe in Jesus. So the charge of “little faith” indicates not the absence of any faith but the crisis of faith. It must grow into “great faith” (cf. 15:28) not being swamped or paralysed by apparently overpowering conditions. Eventually, “little faith” of the disciples grows into “great faith” when their failure and doubt are met by the risen Jesus (28:16-20), who by the power of continuing presence (28:20) equips the disciples for mission that will lead them to “make disciples of all nations.”
4. Discipleship involves suffering
Faith in Jesus does not free the disciples from the calling to take up the cross (10:37-39; 16:24-27). This means, first, redefining conventional household relationships (10:37; cf. 4:20, 22). The disciples are to place relationship and obligation to Jesus above anything else. Commitment to Jesus takes precedence over all other adherences. Secondly, loyalty to Jesus means not just the rejection of household relationships, but taking up of the cross (10:38; 16:24). Cross is a vivid metaphor which stands for utter self-denial. The disciples are exhorted to voluntarily deny themselves. That is they must engage in Jesus’ mission of proclamation and commission even if it ruins their families. At the same time, the afflictions attendant upon self-denial will include suffering and death. In other words, “taking up of the cross” is a withdrawal from the world, despising things of the flesh and putting aside cares displeasing God. The disciples’ suffering is in accordance with the destiny of the one who calls and sends them on mission. It is seen as the inevitable consequence of responding positively to the call of Jesus and taking on his commission. It remains a constitutive mark of discipleship.
5. Discipleship involves mission
Jesus links the call to discipleship with the promise to make them “fishers of men” (4:19). This metaphor, in a general way, refers to the work of the new disciples. Their former occupation was gathering of fish, now on it has to be gathering of humans: joining in Jesus’ mission of the proclamation of the kingdom, encouraging people to respond to God’s reign, extending Jesus’ healing and enabling people to enter the kingdom. Their mission ground at the kick-off remains only among the “lost sheep of Israel” (10:6; cf. 15:24). As the Gospel advances, Matthew clarifies that this particularism is temporary: the mission of the disciples is not only to Israel but it includes Gentiles as well. For this reason, the Gospel shows Jesus himself overcoming the ethnic, cultural and religious barriers in his mission by granting the desire of Canaanite woman (15:28). Again there are allusions (cf. 22:1-10) as well as clear statements about the future situation when the Gospel will go to the Gentiles (21:43; 24:14). Moreover, the great commission (28:19) clearly reverses the particularism involved in disciples’ mission. The risen Lord rules the whole world. In the mission of the disciples, if the former included only Israel, in the latter the Gentiles are also included. Hence discipleship involves a universal mission.
C. Disciples in Relation to Matthean Ecclesiology
Generally, when Matthew speaks of disciples, he intends the twelve, though he knows that Jesus had other followers. This meticulous intention of Matthew is to relate them with particular functions. We could trace two functions of disciples in the Gospel.
1. Disciples represent Matthew’s Church
Through out the Gospel Matthew presents the disciples as a specific group. They are distinct from the “crowds,” who even though constantly hear Jesus’ words and experience his healing ministry remain neutral. The disciples are also presented different from the religious and political leaders who feel threatened by Jesus and reject him. But the disciples obey him, understanding him, have faith in him and do his work. They are the privileged companions of Jesus. As historical companions of Jesus they provide a bridge between Jesus and Matthew’s church. Therefore, church according to Matthew is the assembly of those who respond in faith and obedience to the invitation of Jesus to enter God’s kingdom. The theological foundation for Matthew’s identification of disciples with his church is the on-going bond of the risen Christ within it (28:20; 18:20). The power of the earthly Jesus is efficacious in the community and calls for faith in him. Then what is essential for the church is to hear, understand and do the words of the earthly Jesus. This is the essence of true discipleship. Thus characteristics of discipleship, which Matthew emphasizes in the Gospel, are true for his church.
Matthew also brings out the role of the church in his development of the disciples. The disciples are called to proclaim the kingdom of God (cf. 10:7). They experience the power of Jesus which overcomes all doubt and fear (cf. 14:22-33; 28:16-20). They receive the continuing presence of the Lord (28:16-20). They receive authority in the church (cf. 16:19; 18:18). Now the disciples, who represent Matthew’s church must impart the abiding presence of the Lord, command everyone to obey his teaching (cf. 28:16-20), especially proclaim the Gospel to “the lost sheep of Israel” (10:6) and “to all nations” (28:16-20). To safeguard this fundamental notion, relationship of disciples to Jesus is decisive. So maqhth,j is an ecclesiological term and they represent Matthew’s community.
2. Disciples reflect mixed nature of Matthew’s Church
The essential characteristics of discipleship in Matthew appear already in the calling of the first disciples (4:18-22): they are initiated by Jesus; they follow Jesus; they are given a mission; they change their way of life; and they are part of a new community. Thus disciples in Matthew bring to mind true followers of Jesus. Moreover, they are persons who stand as figures of believers. As the Gospel advances, however, we become aware of a mixed portrait of disciples, their positive and negative elements. Positively, the disciples forsake everything to follow Jesus (4:18-22; 19:27). They do the will of the Father and therefore they are “sons” of the Father (17:25-26; 23:9) and “brothers and sisters” of Jesus (12:29-50). They humbly accept Jesus’ announcement of the kingdom (11:25-27) and, as a reward, receive the ability to understand the mysteries of the kingdom (13:10-17, 51-52). They rightly confess Jesus to be the Son of God (14:33; 16:16); worship Jesus (14:33; 28:17); and obey him (4:18-22; 9:9; 21:1-7; 26:17-19). Negatively the disciples fail to understand fully their master. Hence they portray “little faith” (8:26; cf. 14:31). They fail to understand the meaning of Jesus’ miracle (16:5-12). They fail to accept Jesus’ teaching that both Messiahship and discipleship involve self-sacrificial suffering and death (16:22-23). They reject the notion that greatness in the kingdom means servant-hood and childlike submission rather than power and prestige (20:20-28). Finally, in the face of the cross, the disciples forsake and deny Jesus (26:30-46, 56, 69-75). The negative character of the disciples, in brief, is their inability to identify themselves with Jesus and their disobedience to the teaching of will of the Father.
Matthew’s portrayal of the disciples with their positive and negative character presents another important function in the Gospel: they reflect mixed nature of Matthew’s church. Portrayed positively, the disciples become examples of true followers of Matthew’s church, who are taught by Jesus and advance to understanding and solidarity with Jesus. They eventually become sensible and realistic paradigms of what one must to be a member of Matthew’s church. On the other hand, portrayed negatively, the disciples become examples of what not to be a follower of Matthew’ church. A follower of Matthew’s church, therefore, should understand that following Christ entails passing through narrow gate and cross-centeredness, not broad gate and easy path (cf. 7:13-14; 16:21). Also, a follower of Matthew’s church must not centre the life on power (20:20-21) but on service (20:26-28). It is true that only a small group respond to the call to enter the community of believers. Once they enter, their life is centred on Jesus’ passion and on his deepest plans concerning the Kingdom to become a true believer.
Matthew shows that one of the chief dimensions of Jesus’ ministry is the calling and nurturing of the disciples. This becomes apparent from the beginning to the end of the Gospel. Jesus’ ministry starts with the calling of the disciples. The disciples are initiated by Jesus. They submit to his authority. They participate in his mission of proclamation and healing. They understand Jesus’ teaching. They are taught on the genuine cost that their following entails. But often they express “little faith” in some circumstances. Also they fail to comprehend the element of suffering involved in following Jesus. So they desert Jesus in his suffering and death. At the end of Matthean narration we perceive that despite their withdrawal Jesus has not rejected them. So the disciples with their imperfection and doubts are given the task of continuing the important mission of Jesus. Through this development of disciples Matthew appropriately conveys the characteristics of discipleship: it involves following, understanding, having faith, experiencing suffering and embarking on mission. Thus Matthew’s development of disciples demonstrates that discipleship is a very important theme in the Gospel. Relating Matthew’s presentation of the disciples to his church one could see mainly two components: disciples represent Matthew’s church and they reflect nature of Matthew’s church. Briefly, the disciples in Matthew recall followers of Jesus, persons who stand as figures of the believers, with whom the Church in general can identify.
Dr. Laurence Culas
Executive Secretary, CCBI Commission for Catechetics
Visiting Professor, Bodhi Institute of Theology, Tillery, Kerala
Later in the Gospel, when Jesus calls Matthew, the tax collector, he leaves his tax office as a matter of course and follows Jesus (9:9). To the applicant for discipleship who wanted to go home and first bury his father Jesus makes clear the rigour of the renunciation which he demanded by replying, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead” (8:22).
Sleeping is a sign of faith in the protective power of God (cf. Lev 26:6; Job 11:18-19; Ps 3:5; 4:8; Prov 3:23-24).
When there were moments of disaster or peril it seemed as though God was asleep and people sought to “wake him up” (cf. Ps 35:23; 44:23-24; 59:4; Isa 51:9). Similarly disciples, faced with an extraordinary perishing event wake up Jesus.
Unlike the other two Synoptic Gospels (cf. Mk 4:38-39; Lk 8:24-25) Matthew places the rebuke prior to the stilling of the storm to emphasize the discipleship theme and to reinforce its impact.
Matthew puts the list of the twelve relatively late in his Gospel (cf. Mk 3:13-19). This may be because of his desire to have the names before the discourse concerning their mission. This delay causes some ambiguity about earlier references to “disciples” (5:1). Here a larger circle may be in view. Matthew continues to use the term “disciples” frequently and at the same time refers to the twelve disciples again (10:5; 11:1; 20:27; 26:14, 20, 47). Hence from now on there is a natural presumption that the twelve are meant, unless the context supports a wider interpretation of the word. The choice of the twelve recalls Israel’s twelve tribes (cf. 19:28) and suggests the fulfillment of the hope of Israel (cf. Acts 28:20). D.A. Hagner, Matthew 1-13, WBC, Dallas, Word Books Publisher, 1991, 265.
As a parallel to Gentiles and Samaritans, “the lost sheep of Israel” are not a group within Israel but to all Israel. See, D.A. Hagner, Matthew1-13, 270; W. Carter, Matthew and the Margins, Maryknoll, Orbis Books, 2000, 234. For a contrary opinion, cf. S. Brown, “The Two-fold Representation of the Mission in Matthew’s Gospel,” ST 31 (1977) 21-32, 29.
The shaking of the dust from the feet seemed to be practised in the early Church. For example, Acts 13:51 (cf. Acts 18:6). The Jews shook the dust of their sandals when they returned from travelling in Gentile territory. Cf. H.L. Strack and P. Billerbeck, Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrasch, 4 vols., Munich, Beck, 31951-1956, 1.571.
Sodom and Gomorrah suffered destruction (Gen 19:24-28) thus these cities became a symbol of catastrophic judgment (Rom 9:29; 2 Pet 2:6; Jude 7).
Cf. Ps 18:7; 114:6; 118:30; 119:130.
Cf. “Men” could be Herod (Mt 2:3, 7, 16); religious leaders (10:17; 15:1-9; 16:1-4, 5-12); cities (11:20-24); crowds (13:54-58).
Jesus, the Son of God has life in and of himself. He shares this quality of “living” so completely that he can promise his community that the powers of death will not prevail against it (cf. 16:18). The phrase, “the living God” is often used of God in the NT (cf. Acts 14:15; Rom 9:26; 2 Cor 3:3; 6:16; 1 Thess 1:9; 1 Tim 3:15; 4:10; Heb 3:12; Rev 7:2). It is also well attested in the LXX (cf. Ps 41:3; Isa 37:4, 17; Hos 2:1). “Living” is applied to God in the OT to stress that God has life in and himself and God alone gives it to others. Cf. J.P. Meier, The Vision of Matthew, New York, Paulist Press, 1979, 109.
This authority can either refer to excluding and including the people in the community or, as generally understood, can refer to the teaching office of Peter. Both tasks are related as they have to do with discerning an appropriate way of life shaped by God’s kingdom.
Caesarea Philippi was a site where a shrine for the god Pan, god of flocks and shepherds, existed. Hence it was known as Paneas, modern Baniyas. Cf. Josephus, Ant, 15.363-364.
D.A. Hagner, Matthew 14-28, WBC, Dallas, Word Books Publisher, 1995, 483.
At the time when Matthew wrote the Gospel, it was commonly believed that most of those who were then alive would live to see the second coming of Jesus and some of the twelve disciples were then alive. The expression therefore refers to Jesus’ imminent return. It reinforces the definite establishment of God’s kingdom and Jesus’ role in it.
Her name may have been Salome (cf. Mk 15:40); Mt 27:56) and perhaps she was Jesus’ aunt, the sister of Jesus’ mother (cf. Jn 19:25), which may have been thought to add some privilege to the request.
The martyrdom of James is recorded in Acts 12:2. John also suffered, but was not a martyr (cf. Jn 21:20-23).
J.P. Meier, Matthew, NTM, Wilmington, Glazier, 1980, 228.
Galilee is the beginning (4:15-16) and end of Jesus’ earthly ministry. The location, Galilee, ties the chapter together (cf. vv 7, 10, 19). It is also the location of resurrection appearances in Mark (Mk 16:7) and John (Jn 21:1-14). On the difficulties it creates with the Jerusalem appearances in Luke and Acts, cf. C.F.D. Moule, “The Post-Resurrection Appearances in the Light of Festival Pilgrimages,” NTS 4 (1957) 58-61.
No reference has been made earlier in the Gospel of Matthew to a specific mountain in Galilee. It probably reflects Matthew’s concern to set this revelatory event of Jesus at an appropriately holy mountain. Traditionally the mountain has been identified with Tabor, the mount of the transfiguration. For details, cf. T.L. Donaldson, Jesus on the Mountain, JSNTS 8, Sheffield, JSOT Press, 1985, 170-190.
Cf. Eph 1:20-23; Phil 2:6-11; Col 1:15-20; 1 Pet 3:18-22.
Mt 4:23; 5:2; 7:29; 9:35; 11:1; 13:54; 21:23; 26:55.
Cf. Gen 28:15; Ex 3:12; Josh 1:5, 9; Isa 41:10.
Mt 4:22; 8:22, 23; 10:38; 19:28.
D.A. Hagner, Matthew 1-13, 76-77.
Mt. 8:10, 13; 9:3, 22, 28-29; 15:28; 17:20; 21:21; 27:42.