Recounting the birth of the church with a generation of hindsight, Matthew wrote the Gospel of Matthew to his church to minister to the challenges facing the Christian disciples in his generation. As a leader of a large church made up of both Jews and Gentiles, he ministered to converts of the same disciples addressed in Matthew 28. Found in what we now know as modern day Turkey, Matthew’s church provides a living example of Christ’s strategic plan of disciple making for a missionary-oriented Gospel.
Matthew built Christ’s authority using an encomium, a Greco-Roman rhetorical tool telling an entire life story from birth to death, showing the subject of the story as an honorable person. As Matthew writes, he paints Jesus’ life mirroring perfect patron-client relations through Jesus’ communication with his Patron-Father (John 14:9-11). Jesus received Client benefactions (power, commitment, inducement, and influence) which Jesus used to draw others into God’s family. For his faithfulness, his Patron-Father rewarded Jesus with the highest seat of honor “at his right hand” (Acts 2:32-36), giving Him “all power in heaven and earth” (Matt. 28:18). With his elevation of honor, Jesus became a coequal patron (“in the name [singular] of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit”) and an “exclusive and permanent mediator-broker of God’s benefaction”. From that time, Christ gave the gift (“benefaction”) of the Holy Spirit to all Jesus’ disciples and continues to all the disciples to come through the ages. “In the Name of Jesus” disciples receive Jesus’ continued benefactions of power, commitment, inducement, and influence; this makes all disciples a part of Jesus’ patron-client system.
Matthew shows Jesus setting up “new rules” and a “new playing field” for the social and cultural expectations of the first century. Against the backdrop of the dominant culture rhetoric, Jesus proposes a counterculture or alternative culture rhetoric. Public displays would no longer determine honor and purity codes, but in private relations between the individual and God. Therefore, as the disciples were faithful in new patron-client relations, God would reward them. God redefines standard definitions of “purity,” “holy,” and “clean” from external to internal obedience.
Without the traditional, external proofs of holiness, God opened the door to His kingdom for “all the world” to be a field for disciple making. Throughout Matthew, “in parable after parable,” the poor, the weak, and the foolish are in places of honor. Jesus makes disciples of people without position and honor – fishermen, a tax collector, a revolutionary – even women follow him and minister. He ministers to the fringe of society and the unclean.
Starting with the genealogy of Jesus and the miraculous birth of Immanuel (“God with us”), Matthew built his case that Jesus has the authority to issue His final command. Jesus the Messiah selected His disciples calling them into the family of God, reinterpreting godly standards for living. In keeping with the cultural model of disciple-teacher relations, Matthew provided an instruction manual of commands for the life of a disciple focused on their master, Jesus. The miracles of Jesus further His authority by showing Him providing power, influence, and aid as the mediator-broker of God’s divine benefaction. The stories of disciple building throughout the Gospel of Matthew culminated in these final important verses found in Matthew 28:16-20 with Jesus claiming absolute authority and directing the eleven disciples to go make more disciples.
To understand what disciple making means today, we must understand the first century greater-Mediterranean culture in which Jesus lived. Readers need to switch to a world of dyadic relations with individual responses enmeshed with their social groups; constant honor-shame challenging encounters; patron-client relations; and other responses culturally diverse from our modern Judeo-Christian worldview. Dominate-cultural rhetoric and action found in the lives of the people of Jesus’ day rooted itself in the honor-shame public encounters. Matthew reflects a counter-cultural rhetoric constantly clashing with dominate-cultural rhetoric. The extreme responses between Jesus and the Pharisees clarified a proposed change from the status quo mind-set of tradition to Jesus’ call “to a higher loyalty, the will of God”.
Giving your heart to others by listening to their heart
When you grow a leader who values people you help the whole world