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4 January 2015
posted by Canon Dakin on 10-01-2015

When Matthew decided to write a gospel he didn’t retire to the equivalent of a Lake District cottage, cutting himself off from the world to concentrate on his writing. He remained within what seems to have bene a lively community, probably in Syria when the debate between Christians and Jews was hotting up. 

      The destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in the year 70 was a tremendous blow to Jewish self-confidence as God’s chosen people. It was the strictly orthodox Pharisees who rallied the scattered groups of Jews and imposed a strong identity by excluding any who failed to subscribe to their strict code including those believed in Jesus as the Messiah. They set up a road block to the conversion of Jews to Christianity.  Matthew, whose community already included Gentiles, saw the future of the Church to be in its expansion into the gentile world.  That is why at the beginning of his gospel he chose to include the story of the Magi. They are gentiles. They followed a star. That is an indication that they had already, by their study of nature, come to believe in God as creator but in order to discover precisely what God had in mind for the human race they had to consult the Hebrew scriptures and so they come to Jerusalem and find their way to Jesus.  Now Matthew introduces Herod. He is the King of the Jews. Legally he personifies the Jewish people - those who rejected Christ and, in Matthew’s time, were strongly opposed to the infant Church. So this story is slipped in by Matthew not for its own sake but because it is a commentary on the situation of his church struggling to establish itself against opposition. That Church in Syria which has existed over so many centuries is now threatened with extinction by different opponents. Christians in Syria have, so many them, become refugees in Lebanon and Jordan and elsewhere in order to escape not only from the hazards of the civil war but from deliberate attacks by Muslim extremists. They tend to be forgotten because attention is constantly being switched to atrocities taking place in Northern Iraq, to the plight of boat-people being trafficked across the Mediterranean, or to violence in Pakistan or Nigeria. At the birth of Christ, we are told, the world was at peace. It was the Pax Romana - the Romans imposed peace. Sadly we are in a world today which is not at peace.        

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from Carlyn posted on 17-07-2017


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