I have to begin today with some background in order to help us understand our gospel. Matthew almost certainly writes to a Jewish Christian audience living in or near Palestine, and that these early Jewish believers were experiencing intense persecution from the Jewish religious authorities. A number of aspects in the gospel point to this audience, including the focus on the Torah—the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures—along with a number of symbols and allusions to Jewish history. Jesus can be seen throughout the gospel as partaking in the tradition of Moses, and Jesus’ teachings and miracles keep hearkening back to that leader of the Exodus.
[featured-image single_newwindow=”false”]Phil LaBelle, 2017.[/featured-image]
However, Matthew’s Jesus also often gets very confrontational with the religious leaders, likely because his readers are also experiencing that conflict. Jesus has been in their sight for some time, and now it’s reaching its climax. It’s the Monday of Holy Week in our reading. The day before, Jesus rode on that donkey, and was hailed with praises and waving branches. On this Monday, he comes into the temple and has been asked by whose authority he teaches. The leaders are trying to trap him, of course. But Jesus is a bit tricksy himself, and asks them an unanswerable question too. He then tells a parable that those religious types know casts them in a bad light, and they can’t say anything. Our reading this morning is how Jesus continues speaking to these leaders.