Study Guide

Gospel of Matthew Immortality

Immortality

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [...] Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (NRSV 5:3-10)

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven [...] Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (KJV 5:3-10)

A verbal contract promising the kingdom of heaven? Not bad. Does Jesus ever explain why the poor and the persecuted get the goods?

"Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven." (NRSV 5:19)

Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (KJV 5:19)

Sounds easy enough. Just do what Jesus says and get a VIP pass into heaven, right? But wait. What about those rich people who have to get a camel through the eye of a needle first?

"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven." (NRSV 7:21)

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. (KJV 7:21)

You've got to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. This reminds us of a couple other things from Matthew: (1) The parable of the two sons. Check it out in 21:28-32. (2) All the talk of hypocrisy—you can't say one thing and do the other.

"I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (NRSV 8:11-12)

And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (KJV 8:11-12)

Later on, Jesus will tell the Canaanite woman that he came just for "the house of Israel" (15:24). But here, he says that the "heirs of the kingdom" will be punished for not believing in him. What gives?

Then the disciples came and asked him, "Why do you speak to them in parables?" he answered, "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given." (NRSV 13:10-11)

And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. (KJV 13:10-11)

Well, this seems a little exclusive. Do we get any more explanation as to why Jesus speaks in parables? Is it really to keep secrets from the outsiders? Or does he just like to wax poetic?

"I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." (NRSV 16:19)

And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (KJV 16:19)

Peter gets a major promotion when Jesus passes on his authority. And this explains why St. Peter is traditionally believed to be the welcoming party for new arrivals at the gates of heaven.

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" he called a child [...] and said, "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." (NRSV 18:1-4)

At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child [...] And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (KJV 18:1-4)

Point for the kids! But don't get too excited for the ankle-biters—they're just a symbol. It's more about those child-like characteristics like humility and meekness.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again, I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." (NRSV 19:23-24)

Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. (KJV 19:23-24)

We've already been warned about hoarding treasures on earth (6:19-21). Now, Jesus tells us why. Having a fat wallet will apparently hurt your chances of getting into heaven. But don't forget—according to Jesus, nothing is impossible.

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