Bibliography for “Scandalous Jesus”

When I conclude a sermon series, I usually share resources I utilized in my study and preparation for sermons. Here is the bibliography for our recent series, “Scandalous Jesus,” which is the ninth part of an extended walk through the Gospel of Matthew.

Bibliography for “Scandalous Jesus” [Gospel of Matthew, part 9]

Kenneth E. Bailey. Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2008.

Jeannine K. Brown and Kyle Roberts. Matthew. The Two Horizons New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2018.

Michael Joseph Brown. “The Gospel of Matthew.” In True to Our Native Land: An African American New Testament Commentary, edited by Brian K. Blount, 85-120. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2007.

John Calvin. A Harmony of the Gospels: Matthew, Mark and Luke, Volume 1. Trans. By A. W. Morrison. Calvin’s Commentaries. Ed. by David W. Torrance and Thomas F. Torrance. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1972.

James D. G. Dunn. Jesus, Paul, and the Law: Studies in Mark and Galatians. Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1990.

John Chrysostom. Chrysostom: Homilies on the Gospel of St. Matthew. NPNF, series 1, vol. 10. Ed. by Philip Schaff. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994.

R. T. France. The Gospel of Matthew. NICNT. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007.

Craig S. Keener. Matthew. IVPNTC. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1997.

Scot McKnight. “Matthew, Gospel of.” In Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, edited by Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, and I. Howard Marshall, 526-541. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1992.

Manlio Simonetti, editor. Matthew 14-28. ACCS. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2002.

Burton H. Throckmorton, Jr. Gospel Parallels: A Comparison of the Synoptic Gospels, 5th edition. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1992.

S. Westerholm. “Pharisees.” In Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, edited by Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, and I. Howard Marshall, 609-614. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1992.

N. T. Wright. The Challenge of Jesus. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999.

________. Simply Jesus. New York: HarperCollins, 2011.

Questioning Jesus

This past weekend at Eastbrook, as we continues our preaching series during Lent entitled “Scandalous Jesus,” we looked at the final two in a series of questions-answer exchanges Jesus has in Jerusalem. Found in Matthew 22:34-46, Jesus first responds to a question about the greatest commandment from a Pharisee (22:34-40) and then poses His own question from Psalm 110 about whose son the Messiah is (22:41-45).

These questions bring us to an encounter with the question of Jesus we all must answer: “Who do you say I am?”

This message is from the ninth part of our longer journey through the Gospel of Matthew, which includes “Family Tree,” “Power in Preparation,” “Becoming Real,” “The Messiah’s Mission,” “Stories of the Kingdom,” “Who Do You Say I Am?“, “‘Tis the Reason,” and “Jesus Said What?!

You can find the message video and outline below. You can also view the entire series here. Join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.

“One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’” (Matthew 22:35-36)

Questions and Jesus

The context of the questions: “the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words” (Matthew 22:15)

Question 1: Pharisees – “should we pay the Roman poll tax?” (22:16-22)

Question 2: Sadducees – “how does marriage work in the resurrection?” (22:23-33)

Question 3: Pharisees – “which is the greatest commandment?” (22:34-40)

Question 4: Jesus – “whose son is the Messiah?” (22:41-45)

The end of the questions: “from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions” (22:46)

Which is the Greatest Commandment? (22:34-40)

The nature of the question

  • This was a common question
  • Other answers given

Jesus’ response

  • The centrality of love (not just certain activities)
  • Drawn from the Torah (not elsewhere)
  • Summarizing two tables of the Decalogue (relationship to God and others)
  • The uniqueness of Jesus’ answer (no clear parallels)

Responding to Jesus’ teaching on the Greatest Commandment

Whose Son is the Messiah? (22:41-45)

The question Jesus brings

The context of Psalm 110 (echoes in the book of Hebrews)

The typical answer that Jesus sets aside

The redefining of the Messiah in Jesus

Responding to the identity of Jesus

Dig Deeper

This week dig deeper in one or more of the following ways:

  • Memorize Matthew 22:37-40
  • Dig deeper into this theme of love for God and love for others by reading 1 Corinthians 13 or 1 John (the entire book). What do these portions of Scripture tell you about God’s love and the calling to love others?
  • Read Psalm 110 or the epistle of Hebrews to more deeply understand how Jesus comes as the answer to all Israel’s messianic longings.
  • Consider reading Scot McKnight’s book The Jesus Creed for a deeper dive into Jesus’ distinctive teaching on the greatest commandment.

How Should We Read Jesus’ Parables?: some basic guidance

Jesus knew we loved stories and so He spoke from stories quite a bit of the time. The type of stories he used were called parables. What is a parable? A parable is often defined as “an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.” It’s a story that deals with earthy things in order to talk about deeper things.

The word ‘parable’ comes from two Greek words:

  • Para: which means “alongside”
  • Bole: which means “to throw”

So parable literally means “to throw alongside” or “to compare.” As Stuart Briscoe says: “A parable is a story designed to compare that which is patently obvious to that which may not be obvious at all.”[1]

Jesus used parables to draw His hearers in by talking about everyday things they were familiar with: taxes, fishing, house cleaning, farming, family…

But as He drew the story to a close it became clear—for those who were really listening—that He was also hitting at a deeper meaning. He was opening up a discussion about unseen things by talking about things we could see. He was talking about spiritual truth through everyday things.

But how should we read parables? Let me first offer a word of caution that weneed to think about how we are approaching these stories so that we’re not expecting them to be something they’re not.

Let me use a parable of sorts to explain what I mean. Suppose we were going to watch a movie and suppose that someone picked “Little Women” or “Sense and Sensibility,” both clearly long and sweeping, romantic dramas. Now, it would be very important for me to approach watching these movies in the right way. If I approach viewing those movies looking for action, blood and guts, or non-stop laughs, I am going to be sorely disappointed. Even if I could agree that the movie was good—good acting, good cinematography, good character development, good musical scoring—if I’m expecting the movie to be a comedy or an action movie then I may not understand the point of the movie and may not even think it’s good.

In earlier times in the church’s history, biblical scholars used a method of interpretation that included a lot of allegory. Allegories are stories where nearly every character, item, or event signifies some other thing. Those earlier interpreters provided a wide variety of meanings particularly when it came to interpreting parables, where allegorical or spiritual meanings were linked to many elements within the parables.

While allegorical interpretation does have some value in certain ways, this is not usually how we are supposed to read parables, unless Jesus makes it abundantly clear that such meanings are there. “Parables are not allegories – even if at times they have what appear to us to be allegorical features.”[2]

When we pay attention to their context—the situation or questions that prompted the story—we will find that the parables have one clear and pointed impact related to one fundamental issue.

When we read or listen to parables we shouldn’t try to find secret meanings in every nook and cranny of the story, but try to listen, with the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit, for the strong, power-packed point on the main issue that hits us like swift punch in the gut.

So, as we approach the reading and interpretaton of parables, let us pray God will help us to hear the main idea Christ was speaking then and is speaking to us here and now today.

[1] Stuart Briscoe, Patterns for Power (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1979), 5.

[2] Gordon D. Fee & Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, 2nd edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1993), 138.

Pictures of the Kingdom

This past weekend at Eastbrook, we continues our preaching series entitled “Scandalous Jesus,” that parallels our journey of Lent. This week, I turned our attention to three parables of Jesus in Matthew 21:28-22:14:

  • The Father and His Two Sons
  • The Vineyard and the Tenants
  • The Wedding Banquet

Each of these parables echo two major themes:

  • Jesus brings a great reversal in God’s kingdom
  • Jesus reveals the risks of religious apathy and blind reassurance

This message is from the ninth part of our longer journey through the Gospel of Matthew, which includes “Family Tree,” “Power in Preparation,” “Becoming Real,” “The Messiah’s Mission,” “Stories of the Kingdom,” “Who Do You Say I Am?“, “‘Tis the Reason,” and “Jesus Said What?!

You can find the message video and outline below. You can also view the entire series here. Join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.

“Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you….I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.” (Matthew 21:31, 43)


A group of three enacted parables (21:1-22)

A group of three spoken parables (21:28-22:14)

Two themes:

  • Jesus brings a great reversal in God’s kingdom
  • Jesus reveals the risks of religious apathy and blind reassurance

A Father and Two Sons (21:28-32)

Characters: The Father, Son #1, Son #2 and the Vineyard 

Great reversal: Prostitutes and tax collectors are entering God’s Kingdom ahead of the apparently religious

Risk: Failure to repent and believe risks exclusion.

 Response: Letting our need lead us to Christ.

The Vineyard (21:33-44)

Characters: Landowner, the tenants, two groups of servants, the son of the landowner

Great reversal: The fruitless tenants will be destroyed and the land given to someone else

Risk: Rejecting Jesus and God’s fruit leads to rejection by God

 Response: Opening ourselves fully to Christ.

The Wedding Banquet (22:1-14)

Characters: King, the servants, those invited, those gathered (including the poorly dressed guest)

Great reversal: The invited will be rejected and replaced with unlikely others

Risk: rejecting God’s summons leads to rejection; responding without what’s due is costly

 Response: Hearing God’s summons and responding fully.

Dig Deeper

This week dig deeper in one or more of the following ways:

  • Memorize Matthew 21:42 or 21:43 or 22:9-10
  • Draw, ink, or paint one or more of the parables in this section of Scripture. As you depict these scenes or episodes in your own way, take time to talk with God about what He is speaking to you. 
  • Consider watching the Bible Project video “How to Read the Parables of Jesus” 

What Kind of Ruler Do We Really Want?

“And he will be called…Mighty God.” (Isaiah 9:6b)

Many of us have heard the old proverb about power and might coined by Lord Acton in the 19th century:

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”[1]

We know that power and might can be dangerous. In some ways, we all want to be mighty or powerful, whether it’s in our social group or in our schools or on social media platforms or at our workplaces. We are drawn to power.

But at the same time we know power changes people, including us. We have seen certain people we love and respect become people we don’t like because of their power or influence. We are scared for some people to have too much power because we are terrified of what they might do with that power.

Because of this, we look for right and good people to wield might or power. But still, we often experience the disappointment that even people we thought were good or right sometimes lose their way in might and power, becoming overwhelmed, disoriented, or deformed by the weight of power and might.

Power is both attractive and scary.

When we look at the words about the Messiah in Isaiah 9:6-7, we see that the Messiah will be a Mighty God who rules with power in a very specific way:

“He will reign on David’s throne
    and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
    with justice and righteousness
    from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
    will accomplish this.” (Isaiah 9:7)

The Messiah will rule with might, but that might will be wielded with justice and righteousness. In contrast to the kings of Israel and the surrounding nations of Isaiah’s time, the Messiah will be a different sort of king who wields might in a different sort of way.

The different way is what we see in Philippians 2:5-11. The Messiah will turn away from the alluring influence of false, earthly power by letting go of glory and choosing humility. The Messiah will fully enter into the reality of human life, specifically by taking on human form, even as a servant. The Messiah will make a way through the morass of sin, evil, and death that saturates human nature and experience, opening up a salvation highway through His surprisingly powerful death on the Cross.

And it is because of this different way of wielding power that the Messiah is the Only One worthy to rule and reign with might. Listen to how Paul describes this in Philippians 2:9-11:

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)

This King is worthy to rule and reign. This Messiah is mighty…mighty enough to handle power and rule righteously and justly forever. This Messiah is mighty and is exactly the sort of King we would want to have rule and reign over us. Jesus is the only one who is not absolutely corrupted by absolute power, instead being the absolute King with absolute power who absolutely reigns in absolute goodness and absolute holiness.

This is what this season is all about…receiving and celebrating the Mighty God who is worthy to reign over all.

[1] “Lord Acton Quote Archive,” Acton Institute,