I am working through the Gospels in the Sunday morning sermons right now because I believe Jesus is to be our single, solitary focus and that everything else must find its place around him. We have been through his birth, his baptism and his temptation. At this point in the Gospels, Jesus launches into his public ministry where the calling of the disciples is mixed in with Jesus’ teaching and his power to heal diseases. I was looking at Matthew 4:23 in Davies and Allison’ exceptionally good commentary on Matthew 1-7 and ran across an interesting parallel that had never caught my attention.
First, in Matthew 4:23 we get a line that is later repeated in 9:35.
Matthew 4:23 – “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.”
Matthew 9:35 – “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.”
Davies and Allison believe these nearly identical verses are a clue to something bigger. They believe that this is a point of connection between the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and the beginning of his disciple’s ministry as right after this verse in Matthew 9 is the sending of the 12. That isn’t all. There are a few more parallels that point to Matthew making this parallel in the similarities of the events in Matthew 4 and Matthew 9-10.
Second is the similarity of their message:
Matthew 4:17 – “From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
Matthew 10:5-8 – “These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.”
Third in both places the calling of the disciples and the sending of the disciples is mixed into the teaching (same message between disciples and Jesus) and miracle stories (same miracle stories between disciples and Jesus) in both passages. Following Jesus’ message in Matthew 4:17 he calls his first disciples (4:18-22) after which he performs many healing miracles and exorcisms. We get that summarized in 4:24 which is then paralleled with his disciples in 10:1:
Matthew 4:24 – “News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them.”
Matthew 10:1 – “Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.”
The parallels are striking. This points to the heart of discipleship and the taking up of the yoke of Jesus’ teaching and ministry upon his disciples as they enter into ministry to do and say what they have seen and heard in their Rabbi Jesus.