christine's bible study

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever. Isa 40:8

matthew 11, the kingdom of heaven suffers violence

Read Matthew 11 at Bible Gateway.

Most of Mat 11 forms a chiastic structure with Mat 10, but we did see that one of the elements of that greater structure forms a mini chiastic structure by itself:

Mat 11:6-19
1a) Mat 11:6, Blessed is he who is not offended because of Me;
1b) Mat 11:7-8, What did you go out into the wilderness (to John) to see?;
1c) Mat 11:9-11, He is a prophet and more than a prophet;
1d) Mat 11:12a, From the days of John the Baptist until now;
central axis) Mat 11:12b, “The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force;”
2d) Mat 11:13, For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John;
2c) Mat 11:14, He is Elijah who is to come;
2b) Mat 11:15, He who has ears to hear, let him hear;
2a) Mat 11:16-19, This generation takes offense at Jesus no matter what.

This saying of Jesus that forms the central axis has always troubled me, because I did not understand it. An alternate translation to “the kingdom of heaven suffers violence,” from the Greek, is that the kingdom of heaven is taken by violence. The Greek word here for “violence” is very rarely used in secular Greek sources, and always poetically when it is (for example, in Homer); and there it carries the meaning of using or applying force. In other words, the violent, or zealous, get a share in the kingdom of heaven by the utmost earnestness and effort.

Now why would this be the central axis of Jesus’ discourse on John? John was put into prison for preaching the uncompromising gospel of the kingdom. He zealously preached the kingdom of heaven forcefully, as we read when the Pharisees came to be baptized by him, and he called them out on not being truly repentant, but just doing what was the popular thing at the moment so as to not seem unspiritual in the eyes of men.

Preaching the truth without compromising gets you thrown into prison, or, it gets you nailed to a cross. The greater chiastic structure that this is part of, is Jesus’ ministry instruction to His disciples as He sends them out to preach, teach, heal, and cast out demons. A large part of that instruction has to do with the persecution that opposes those who take the kingdom of heaven forcefully and zealously.

Listen, if we are weak and wishy washy in our faith and witness, don’t worry; because then we are not a threat to the kingdom of darkness, and we will not have to worry about offending the rich or powerful, being thrown into prison, or nailed to a cross.

matthew 11, Elijah who is to come (2011)


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