28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law. (Matthew 7.28-29)
Matthew is the gospel of the Kingdom. Key to understanding the Kingdom is understanding the King and so both subjects are presented. Both subjects are presented but both are confusing because King is probably not a complete description of who Jesus is.
The notion of The Kingdom can be traced all through the Bible. The main feature is righteous rule by a righteous king from the line of David. While David is the idealized earthly king, in the Bible, God is the ultimate righteous ruler. Because terms like The Kingdom and The Day of the Lord can be both temporal and eternal, one can easily be confused with the other. The more we focus our lives in our physical world the less we experience the eternal kingdom of God. This is part of the story that is related by Matthew in this Gospel. There are those who understand who Jesus is even though they are still confused about His mission. There are also those who actively work against His mission and eventually have Him crucified.
Mathew structures his gospel around five great discourses tied together with narrative portions. These discourses serve as an outline for the story. The discourses are:
First Jesus Presents how life in the kingdom would be in the Sermon on the Mount. If Jesus was a law giver like Moses this would be His law. It is not so much a ceremonial law, as much of the Mosaic Law is, but as a way of life that to which the Mosaic Law points. Jesus' main point is that most of the problems we have with sin are inward rather than outward. After each discourse, Matthew characterizes the crowd's reaction, or Jesus action. After the Sermon on the Mount we read:
With this clear authority, Jesus prepares his Disciples to go out in to the world and spread the news. After the Missionary Discourse, the disciples are sent out to proclaim the Kingdom. "As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near’ (Matthew 10.7)." The basic notion of this discourse is to go to those who should have a clue about what you speak. That is, not the gentiles who are far from God nor the Samaritans who should have some clue but are a bit mixed up; but to the lost sheep of Israel who should be expecting it.
Jesus himself goes a different way:
The Mystery Parable Discourse talks about what The Kingdom will be like, at least for the present. Again the vision is not what one might expect. The discourse is in three sections: Spreading the Kingdom, the Growth of the Kingdom and the Value of the Kingdom. The Disciples had already experienced the problem of preaching the Kingdom, Jesus now illustrates that there will be those problems going forward as well. Not only that but the Kingdom is going to have to grow in the face of weeds, pride and sin. As such, not everyone will find the value in it nor will they be willing to do what it takes to enter.
The Church Discourse is about Humility and forgiveness. We find that the greatest is the one who would be the least, and that we must practice infinite forgiveness. A bit easier said than done as the Church has discovered in the past 2000 years.
The Olivet Discourse is one of the most confusing for our worldly thinking. The sermon is in response to a question asked by the Disciples: “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” The title “Eschatological Sermon” would seem to indicate that the topic is strictly about last things. It is about that but almost secondarily. Mostly it is about the way the kingdom survives in a world that hates it.
At the end of this discourse Jesus talks about the end of His earthly ministry:
A story would not be a story without the narrative. The narrative sections tie together the discourses and amplify the story told by Jesus' teachings.
We can know of earthly kings but it is hard to envision a transcendent king. The introductory narrative tells us why Jesus is the King. It traces his royal genealogy through David, Solomon and his adopted father Joseph. Jesus' adoption by Joseph gives Him the legal claim to the throne of David. Earthly kings make and enforce laws. To know what is acceptable in a kingdom one needs to know the laws, and that is, as we have said, the Sermon on the Mount.
We now know that Jesus can claim to be King in an earthly sense and his law is more internal than external. Jesus now demonstrates his power to rule, but it is not power in the earthly sense. In the 10 miracle stories that follow we find that Jesus has power over impurity in the lives of people and power over nature itself. Not your ordinary king!
After these miracles we have the Missionary Discourse where the disciples are to take the news of the kingdom to the area around Galilee. They find opposition even among those who should know better. In the next narrative section John the Baptist announces Jesus' arrival as Messiah but we also find that opposition from the religious establishment grows because Jesus' actions do not conform with their expectations.
Jesus counters with the Mystery Parable Discourse. It is important to notice that parables are not used as illustrations as much as they are to code the message for those that are given to hear. In the narrative that follows, there are two stories. One of increasing opposition and one of continuing miracles. It is hard for us to see why increasing miracles would harden the opposition like it does but clearly the crisis point is being reached. Even at that Jesus and His followers head to Jerusalem.
The Olivet Discourse is not a public sermon but a private briefing to His inner circle. It is the last great discourse and it is to prepare the disciples for what is to come.
The final narrative portion is the Passion and Resurrection story. This does not seem like a story of victory but it does demonstrate the Resurrection which the Sadducees did not believe in and what is in store for us.