Study Guide

Gospel of Matthew Sin

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She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. (NRSV 1:21)

And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins. (KJV 1:21)

Matthew wastes no time. And neither does God, for that matter. The Big Guy already has Jesus's name and life plan ready before the kid is even born. Helicopter parent, much?

Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. (NRSV 12:30-31)

He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad. Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. (KJV 12:30-31)

What is blasphemy against the Spirit? Does Jesus ever explain? It seems like a pretty big deal given that it's the only thing that won't be forgiven.

"If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eyes causes you to stumble, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into the hell of fire." (NRSV 18:8-9)

Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. (KJV 18:8-9)

What do you think—is Jesus speaking literally? Or is this just a really graphic and slightly disturbing metaphor?

"If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector." (NRSV 18:15-17)

Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. (KJV 18:15-17)

Matthew's making it pretty clear that we can sin against each other just like we can sin against God. Does he seem to be placing a value judgment on which is the worse transgression?

Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." (NRSV 26:27-28)

And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. (KJV 26:27-28)

Remember the word covenant from the Hebrew Bible? There are tons of 'em in Genesis and Exodus, whenever God makes a deal with one of the head honcho patriarchs. So where's the deal here? Jesus is spilling his blood and the people's sins are forgiven—what do the people have to do in return? Does Jesus get anything out of the bargain?

Then he came to the disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners." (NRSV 26:45)

Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. (KJV 26:45)

Picture this. You've prophesied your own death, and your friends react by taking a nap. No wonder Jesus isn't psyched. But here's the thing: right after this scene, we get Judas's kiss of death. Why do you think Matthew juxtaposed these two betrayals?

When Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. He said, "I have sinned by betraying innocent blood." But they said, "What is that to us? See to it yourself." (NRSV 27:3-4)

Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. (KJV 27:3-4)

Better late than never? Or too little too late? Judas's regret doesn't do anything to stop the events his betrayal put into motion. But hey, Matthew is the only gospel in which the guy actually repents. Seriously—check out what happens in the other three.

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