As I have mentioned in the past, I have been teaching through the Bible to my youth. The series is called “Route 66” in which I have been presenting each book as a whole, giving the theme, purpose, outline, the message for us, and who is God. So far we have made it through the Old Testament, the Intertestamental Period, and the book of Matthew. Through this study and teaching many tools I learned in semiary have proved very useful. I want to share one with you.
In seminary, I look Hebrew & Greek classes to learn to translate the Scripture and I took “how to preach from the Oldand New Testaments” classes. These classes prepared me to dive deeply into the inerrant Word of God to discover God’s intended meaning throughout. I one specific class (Epository Preaching), I began to learn to recognize a chiastic structure. In fact, one guest lecturer (Jesse Johnson, a blog contributor over at The Cripplegate blog) claimed he looked for chiasms under every Old Testament rock. lol
A chaism is a writing style that uses a unique repetition pattern for emphasis. This structure form appears throughout the Bible (esp. in the OT) and its purpose is to help point to the primary message of the book/passage/chapter/etc. Chiasms are structured in a repeating A-B-C … C′-B′-A′ pattern. It is a repetition of similar ideas that are in reverse sequence, using the middle of the chiasm as the focal point.
Now, don’t be lost. A simple example might help:
In this example, you can see the flow of thought in A-C, then repeated in C’-A’. The emphasis of this structure lies in the middle (C & C’). Here we have a double burger. It would be silly, in the example, to call this sandwich a double bun or a mustard, because the emphasis is the middle; namely, burger 2X.
Now in Scripture, a chiasm looks like this (Matt 6:24):
Many people believe this passage is all about which master you serve. Yet, the chiastic structure lays down a far more profound truth. Looking at the middle (the most important part of the chiasm) this passage is about loving the right master. Many people “serve” God, but do not love Him. True service to God, as Jesus commands here, is the person who gives of themselves to God as a natural outflow of their love for God. Love is the key. Therefore who/what you love is who you truly serve (cf. Rom 6:16).
Now why in the world am I walking you through this? Well, (1) to expose you to another aspect of Bible study that will be a blessing if you seek it, and (2) I want you show you this structure in the book of Matthew so as to ask you a question.
The book of Matthew is primarily a book written to prove that Jesus is the promised Messiah of the Old Testament. As a whole, the book is structured in a chiasm. This should not really be much of a shock because the author (Matthew) was a Jewish man who knew and loved His Old Testament, and the Old Testament is full of chiasms. Therefore, when writing about Jesus to proof His Messiahship, a chiasm would be preferred as it continued the tradition of writing from the Old Testament.
Here is the structure of Matthew:
So as you can clearly see, Matthew is making D the primary point of Matthew. In chapters 11-13 we have different responses to Jesus’ Person and teaching. Some accept, some are still in question, and the rest (majority) reject Jesus(chs. 11-12). This leads to Jesus telling 8-parables—stories that have a spiritual point—in order to force people to make a decision of what to do about Jesus and His teachings (ch. 13). Will they blow Him off as a blasphemer like the religious leaders and not seek to understand Jesus’ teaching? Or will they hear Jesus’ teaching and seek after what He is intending to communicate about God’s kingdom?
The opposition that Jesus receives leads to His withdrawal, rejection, and eventually His death (and glorious resurrection). So the application for any who read the book of Matthew is what will they do with Jesus and His teaching? Matthew has proven Jesus as Messiah, the Savior of the world, the coming King. Now how will they respond?
Now I turn all of this on to you:
What is YOUR reponse to Jesus and His teaching?
To help, Jesus begins in Matthew 13 with a well-known parable about different types of soil. This parable is basically a summary of the other 7 parables and is a commentary about how people receive the Kingdom of God, asking “will you accept or reject Jesus and His teaching?”
The seed (the message of the kingdom, the gospel) is sown by the sower. The one who rejects is hard soil. They do not want or desire God’s Word as Jesus presents it. The one who likes the mere emotional experience of Jesus’ teaching is rocky. As soon as the good feeling goes away, they leave the truth also. The one who is a Christian so long as it is convenient and seems to solve my problems is weedy. As soon as something “better to fix my problems” comes along, they dump Jesus’ teaching. The one who receives Jesus and His truth with joy and obedience, knowing that following is for life, no matter the cost, they are good soil that “gives off fruit in its season and whatever they do, they prosper” (Ps 1:2-3).
So, which are you? There is only one truly saved heart in this parable — the one that has belief in Jesus and His words leading them to obedience. True faith is not about the feels nor convenience nor merely the best option available. If these are true of you, then you are not saved and have rejected Jesus and His teaching. You need to truly repent and believe in Jesus Christ for your salvation. For a true Christian hears Jesus’ words and roots themselves deeply in Him, which results in joyful obedience from the heart. To this person, Jesus’ words are a treasure that is worth everything (Matt 13:44-46).
What is YOUR response to Jesus and His teaching?
May His truth be your salvation and your treasure as you daily seek to know Him and walk, by grace, in obedience.
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Side note: For more on recognizing chiasms in Scripture, there is no resource for recognizing every chiastic structure in Scripture. It will take study with resources, like commentaries. I would, first and foremost, tell you to seek out your pastor. He is studying the Word every week. I have no doubt that He would invite the discipleship opportunity with you to make your Bible study even richer.