Discipleship in St. Matthew
Michael Crosby, in his article, Matthew's Gospel found in The Way of Discpleship, develops a reading of St. Matthew’s Gospel which focuses on the new order Jesus’ expects his people to live within in light of the inaugurating of the Kingdom of God. The themes he highlights are not merely an exegetical concern, but are pastorally essential in 21st-century American culture. A community centered on Jesus and formed by the Scriptures which tell us who he is, including St. Matthew’s Gospel, are marked by a different order to the society around them. These themes are relevant to modern ministry and modern concerns. One of these concerns is the subject of “territory”, as expounded in St. Matthew’s Gospel. In our day, this concern has been brought to light in American political dialogue, especially the 2016 election. Many evangelicals voted on the premise that Americans need to be kept safe from outsiders and we need to first “protect our own”. Such an attitude is markedly different from that reflected by Jesus in St. Matthew’s Gospel. Crosby focuses on the Canaanite woman who confronts Jesus in chapter 15. When the Canaanite woman confronts Jesus with a request to heal her demon-possessed daughter, at first, Jesus rejects her request, following the typical Jew/Gentile separation which marked the Judaism of his day, but after encountering her faith, he transcends the separation and heals her daughter. Crosby says, “Matthew shows Jesus extending the mercy he had limited to the other children of David to her because of her ‘great’ faith (15:28). Mercy, in Matthew, finds Jesus redefining the holiness codes characterized by separation and removing the boundaries that demanded that exclusive control of God’s reign be in the hands of the chosen few” (28). This subversion of social norms to extend the mercy and Kingdom of God to all is a common theme of Jesus’ ministry in St. Matthew’s Gospel. Discipleship, according to St. Matthew, is obeying the holiness code of Jesus, which is marked by mercy and justice towards all, irregardless of race, economic background, gender, and any other societal separation. “[Jesus] honors all those who…use their resources to do god in a way that brings about God’s reign of justice and proclaims the holiness of God’s name on earth as in heaven” (38). This requirement must be paid attention to, not only in exegesis, but also in forming communities shaped around the Gospel of Jesus summarized by St. Matthew.