Leadership Succession from Matthew's Gospel
Passing the Baton of Leadership to the Next GenerationLeadership Succession from Matthew's Gospel Passing the Baton of Leadership to the Next Generation

Leadership Succession from Matthew’s Rhetorical Tools

Among other rhetorical tools, Matthew uses a first-century cultural literary device, an encomium – a rhetorical tool used to prove a person as honorable by telling their life story from birth to death. Matthew uses this specific cultural rhetorical structure to communicate that Jesus lived as an honorable man. His tactic shows Jesus as one who was in a perfect patron-client relation with His Father and from that relationship, the chosen one to assume a mediator-broker role with absolute authority. Matthew fixes Christ’s honor by opening with Jesus’ genealogy showing a well-known and honored heritage. Matthew then builds Christ’s honor through stories of a life of honor. Finally, Matthew provides a picture of Christ’s life ending with an honorable death. From Matthew’s encomium, this paper infers the following “overarching” biblical leadership succession principle:

Biblical leadership succession flows out of the core of a leader’s honorable life demonstrated by respect for past generations, a daily commitment to God’s purposes, and determination to transfer leadership to the next generation.

Matthew’s next rhetorical tool is an inclusió, which is a first century cultural literary device to signal an intended theme within a body of text. An inclusió links a topic at the beginning of a body of text with a similar topic at the end of the subject text to signal “a literary envelope” with an enveloped theme. Matthew’s first use of the inclusió provides a theme of God’s continued plan of leadership succession. McKenna argues that Matthew opens with the genealogy of Jesus to provide a picture of generations of “anointed [leadership] continuity” – that is, leadership passing from one generation to the next. This paper agrees with McKenna and argues Matthew’s picture of leadership passing to the next generation provides a textual opening for Matthew’s first inclusió dealing with Jesus’ leadership succession.

With that picture of past succession, Matthew closes his leadership succession inclusió with Christ’s last commission – His passing of leadership to His disciples. This inclusió identifies a theme of leadership succession within Matthew’s practical action-based message. Matthew gives the opening story of Christ’s past heritage; the central theme of Christ’s choosing and developing His disciples; and Christ’s passing the leadership legacy to His disciples. From Matthew’s inclusió, this paper infers the following biblical leadership succession principle:

1. Biblical leadership succession is not a one-time event. It is continuous progression of honoring a heritage, engaging the present, and passing a legacy into the future.

Matthew’s second inclusió provides a theme of God’s continuous presence with His church. Matthew opens this inclusió with his intertexture insert of Isaiah 7:14 with the message of “Immanuel” or “God with us.” He then closes the inclusió with Christ’s words in Matthew 28:20b that He will be with us “always.” These inclusió book ends provide the theme of “God with us” always and in all situations. From Matthew’s second inclusió, this paper infers a biblical leadership succession principle:

2. Biblical leadership succession is not an autonomous event; it develops out of Christ’s abiding presence in the family of God.

Matthew’s third inclusió provides a theme of Christ’s absolute authority. Matthew opens this inclusió in 2:6 quoting Herod’s chief priests and scribes answering Herod’s question about Christ’s birthplace; they drew their answer from Micah 5:2, Micah’s prophecy of Christ as ruler coming from Bethlehem. Matthew 28:18 provides the closing inclusió text in Christ’s claim for authority, to set the theme in Matthew of Christ’s authority over all creation. Christ kept His authority, in contrast to delegating His authority, placing His disciples in a regency relationship, with Christ still the King. From Matthew’s third inclusió, this paper infers a biblical leadership succession principle:Next Page ===>

3. Biblical leadership succession is not a leader-centered event; it occurs within Christ’s authority over all creation and the regency role of leaders.

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