Elijah, Elisha, Jesus, and Raising the Dead

In the Old Testament, there were three occasions when people died and were brought back to life. In 1 Kings 17:17-24, Elijah raised a widow’s son. In 2 Kings 4:18-37, Elisha raised the Shunammite’s son. And in 2 Kings 13:21, a dead man revived when his body was thrown into a grave with Elisha’s bones.

In the New Testament, Jesus raised a ruler’s daughter (Matt 9:23-25), a widow’s son (Luke 7:11-17), and Lazarus (John 11:38-44).

So far, if you’re keeping score, physical resurrections in the Old and New Testaments pan out like this:

  • Elijah, 1 person
  • Elisha, 2 people
  • Jesus, 3 people

The power of Jesus’ ministry surpasses the greatness of Elijah and Elisha. Like Elijah, Jesus raised a widow’s son (1 Kings 17; Luke 7), but the number of people raised by Jesus was greater than the number by Elijah. Jesus also raised more people than Elisha did. Furthermore, like Elisha, resurrection was associated with Jesus’ death, but in a greater scope. When a dead man was thrown into a grave and touched Elisha’s bones, that one body revived (2 Kings 13). But when Jesus died, “The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised” (Matt 27:52).

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10 Parallels Between John the Baptist and Jesus

John the Baptist and Jesus have some fascinating parallels. Here are 10:

  • Both men were prophesied by the prophet Malachi
  • Both men had births which an angel foretold
  • Both men preached about repentance and the kingdom
  • Both men criticized the religious leaders of the day
  • Both men were opposed
  • Both men were accused of operating by demonic influence/power
  • Both men had disciples
  • Both men were arrested
  • Both men were killed
  • Both men had people who came and asked for their dead bodies

Do you know other parallels between them?

The Parables in Matthew 13

There are eight parables in Matthew 13, four before Jesus goes into a house with his disciples, and four after Jesus goes into a house with his disciples (see 13:36).

  1. The Parable of the Sower and Four Soils (13:1-9)
  2. The Parable of Weeds Sown by an Enemy (13:24-30)
  3. The Parable of the Mustard Seed (13:31-32)
  4. The Parable of the Leaven Hidden in Flour (13:33)
  5. The Parable of the Hidden Treasure (13:44)
  6. The Parable of the Supreme Pearl (13:45-46)
  7. The Parable of the Net and the Fish (13:47-50)
  8. The Parable of the Master Who Brings out Treasure (13:52)

The question in Matthew 13:51, “Have you understood all these things?”, seems to separate the first seven parables from the eighth. The seven parables in 13:1-50 are about the presence, power, and word of the kingdom, and the eighth parable in 13:52 is about the disciples.

In 13:1-50, therefore, we see seven kingdom parables.

  1. The Parable of the Sower and Four Soils (13:1-9)
  2. The Parable of Weeds Sown by an Enemy (13:24-30)
  3. The Parable of the Mustard Seed (13:31-32)
  4. The Parable of the Leaven Hidden in Flour (13:33)
  5. The Parable of the Hidden Treasure (13:44)
  6. The Parable of the Supreme Pearl (13:45-46)
  7. The Parable of the Net and the Fish (13:47-50)

Consider similarities between them. Parables 1, 2, and 3 all concern the act of sowing into the ground. Parables 5, 6, and 7 all concern finding something you want to keep: a treasure, a most valuable pearl, and good fish. Parable 4 is not about sowing, nor is it about finding something worth keeping. In Parable 4 Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened” (13:33). Adding to the uniqueness of this parable is the fact that it is the shortest of the seven. And being Parable 4, it is the central parable of the seven. When you focus on the language of the verse, Parable 4 is also a perfect transition from the first three to the last three: Parable 3 tells of seed going into the ground and tremendous growth taking place, and Parable 4 tells of leaven going into dough and tremendous growth taking place; and Parable 4 speaks of leaven being hidden in flour, and Parable 5 speaks of a treasure hidden in a field.

For these reasons and perhaps more, has Matthew indicated by his arrangement that 13:33 should receive special emphasis? Am I overreading the structure? Thinking out loud here.

The Cyclical Structure of Matthew 11–12

Matthew has demonstrated great care and design in the flow of his Gospel, and chapters 11 and 12 illustrate this. Scholars have discerned that these two chapters are arranged in three cycles, and each cycle contains two sections of unbelief and rejection followed by a section of discipleship and faith.

  1. Cycle 1 (11:2-30)
    1. Rejecting John the Baptist and Jesus (11:2-19)
    2. Unrepentance Despite Mighty Works (11:20-24)
    3. “Take My Yoke and Learn from Me” (11:25-30)
  2. Cycle 2 (12:1-21)
    1. A Criticism from the Pharisees (12:1-8)
    2. A Conspiracy by the Pharisees (12:9-14)
    3. “In His Name the Gentiles Will Hope” (12:15-21)
  3. Cycle 3 (12:22-50)
    1. Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit (12:22-37)
    2. The Evil and Adulterous Generation (12:38-45)
    3. “Here are My Mother and My Brothers!” (12:46-50)

Two Observations:
1) 11:2 is the proper starting point for Cycle 1 because 11:1 belongs with the previous unit (10:1–11:1), evident by the inclusio at 10:1(-5) and 11:1. The chapter division obscures this feature.

2) The previous narrative passages (8:2–9:38) were also arranged in three cycles (8:2-22; 8:23–9:17; 9:18-38), which suggests Matthew views a cyclical arrangement to be an appropriate and effective way of telling the story of Jesus.

Are the Psalms Randomly Ordered?

“There is almost a sense among some Christians—and among some scholars—that someone took 150 scraps of paper, numbered them 1 through 150, put them in a bowl, threw them in the air, and, however they landed, this is how the current order and arrangement of the book of Psalms was determined. It’s an absurd notion, of course, but it is not that far from the de facto manner in which many people approach the book, simply as a collection of unrelated psalms that happened to arrive for us in a rather haphazard arrangement. . . . There are signs that the Psalter is more than simply a random collection of unrelated psalms, that there is an intentional order and arrangement of the Psalter.”

–David M. Howard Jr., “Divine and Human Kingship,” in The Psalms: Language for All Seasons of the Soul, ed. Andrew J. Schmutzer and David M. Howard Jr. (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2013), 198.

The Literary Arrangement of Matthew 8-9

Scholars have noted that Matthew 8-9 is carefully arranged with miracles grouped in threes. After each cycle of miracles is a section of teaching on discipleship and/or mission.

Cycle One
1–Jesus cleanses a leper (8:1-4)
2–Jesus heals a centurion’s servant (8:5-13)
3–Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law (8:14-17)

Teaching (8:18-22)

Cycle Two
1–Jesus calms a storm (8:23-27)
2–Jesus heals two demoniacs (8:28-34)
3–Jesus heals a paralytic (9:1-8)

Teaching (9:9-17)

Cycle Three
1–Jesus raises a girl and heals a woman (9:18-26)
2–Jesus heals two blind men (9:27-31)
3–Jesus heals a mute man (9:32-34)

Teaching (9:35-38)

Jesus Helps Us Identify the Fourth Kingdom in Daniel 2

In Daniel 2, four successive kingdoms are given in 2:32-33.

  1. Head of Gold (2:32a)
  2. Chest and Arms of Silver (2:32b)
  3. Middle and Thighs of Bronze (2:32c)
  4. Legs of Iron and Feet of Iron/Clay (2:33)

Identifying the first kingdom is easy because Daniel specifies it: “you are the head of gold,” he told Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 2:38). The first kingdom is Babylon. But scholars disagree on whether the second kingdom (silver) is the Medes or the Medo-Persians. If it is the Medes, then the third kingdom is Persia and the fourth is Greece. But if the silver represents the Medo-Persians, then the third kingdom is Greece and the fourth is Rome. You see the dilemma: the decision you make on the second kingdom affects everything else.

But what if Jesus can help us identify the fourth kingdom? Then, with the first and fourth kingdoms identified, the second and third kingdoms would become clear as well. In order to see this, we need to know more of the vision Daniel recounted. In 2:34, a stone came during the rule of the fourth kingdom, and in 2:44-45 this stone is interpreted to be God’s kingdom that shall never be destroyed.

In Luke 20:9-18, Jesus tells a parable of wicked tenants. A man’s tenants continued to kill servants whom he sent (see 20:10-12, 15). The scribes and chief priests realized Jesus directed the parable against them (20:19), and Jesus was casting himself in the role of the final servant (the man’s “beloved son,” 20:13) who was killed by the wicked tenants (20:15a).

The last two verses of Jesus’ parable are the key: in Luke 20:17, Jesus cited Psalm 118:22, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Jesus used stone imagery again in 20:18: “Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” This language is not from Psalm 118:22 anymore but from Daniel 2. In Daniel 2:34 the stone “struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces,” and similar language can be found in 2:44-45.

Jesus is the stone. He is the stone that the builders rejected (Ps 118:22), and he is also the stone that shatters those who fall on him and those on whom he falls (Dan 2:34, 44-45). If Jesus is the fulfillment of the stone in Daniel 2, and if the stone would come during the reign of the fourth kingdom of Daniel 2, then we can identify the fourth kingdom by simply asking who was in power during the Son’s incarnation: Rome. Not Greece. If the fourth kingdom in Daniel 2 was supposed to be Greece, then either Daniel is false prophecy or Jesus has deficient hermeneutics.

Jesus applied to himself the imagery of the stone from Daniel 2, and this confirms that Rome was the fulfillment of the fourth kingdom in Daniel 2. So if the first kingdom (head of gold) was Babylon and the fourth (legs of iron and feet of iron/clay) was Rome, then we can accurately identify the second (chest and arms of silver) and third (middle and thighs of bronze):

  1. Babylon (Head of Gold)
  2. Medo-Persia (Chest and Arms of Silver)
  3. Greece (Middle and Thighs of Bronze)
  4. Rome (Legs of Iron and Feet of Iron/Clay)