This chapter starts with an interesting little story that was never read in my church. John the Baptist is in prison, and John’s disciples come to ask Jesus if he (Jesus) is the Messiah, or if they should continue looking…. WTF? Jesus’ divinity really couldn’t have been all that apparent then, could it? In his answer, Jesus quotes Malachi 3:1, indicating that John was the messenger heralding the Messiah (Jesus). Jesus then carries on with some end-times fear-mongering in v 12, and makes the claim that John the Baptist is the reincarnation of Elijah, as predicted by the prophets (Malachi, 4:5). Maybe, but in the Gospel of John, John the Baptist will flatly deny that he is Elijah (John 1:21). Man, is this confusing? It sounds like ‘Who’s on first, What’s on second…’.
At the end of the chapter, Jesus prays, and the prayer sounds a little arrogant to me…. (“My Father has entrusted everything to me. No one truly knows the Son except the Father…” v 27). Some well-known phrases in here – “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (v 28); “Take my yoke upon you… For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (v 29-30). Partly the reason these are so familiar is because they are used in our favorite oratorio, The Messiah 😉
Now we get a rehash of the stories about picking grain on the Sabbath (Mark 2), and healing on the Sabbath (Mark 3). (Is Jesus only active on the Sabbath? Why do we never hear what he did the rest of the week?) Next Jesus quotes Isaiah 42:1-4 and claims it applies to him. Hokum. In the next section (v 22-37), Jesus discusses Satan and exorcism at length. More hokum, with an added dose of woo, but it coins some common English expressions – “a house divided against itself” and “He that is not with me is against me”. Jesus also starts in again about evil and fruit trees again, similar to the rant in chapter 7. Good grief.
Next section is about Jonah and it’s fascinating for a several reasons.
First, because it’s frequently cited by apologists to discourage skeptics from asking for proof that their claims are true. (“Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign..” v 39).
Second, because Jesus goes on to cite the story of Jonah, comparing his death and resurrection to Jonah’s 3 days in the whale. It’s like the gospel writers searched the OT for stories and prophesies that they could link to Jesus to make their case for him being the Messiah.
Third, because Jesus claims that the people of Nineveh are an example of those who repented and lived happily ever after. They didn’t. If Jesus had read the book of Nahum, like I have, he would have known that.
And lastly, because v 43-45 are just sick. And weird.
And Jesus ends this miserable chapter by shunning his family. Ah, biblical family values!