in college, i embarked haphazardly on a history degree but soon accumulated enough religion credits to warrant a double major. new testament history opened another realm of ways to geek out, and my desk was always piled high with research.
after graduation, i took a job directing a youth ministry. hanging out with students gave me excuses to watch teen dramas and trick or treat well beyond the age that any self-respecting person should, but my inner school nerd had her day, too, writing curriculum and bible studies. pouring over commentaries as i crafted weekly lessons was a definite highlight.
ed offered me the chance to review The Gospel of Matthew: God with Us, by matt woodley, the latest title in ivp's new resonate commentary series, i was eager to check it out. these days, i'm pretty far removed from academic research, and it's just as well: this "hybrid commentary" is informed by scholarship but written in an exceptionally readable, engaging manner. it does not go into the kind of verse-by-verse detail that most would find mind-numbing; instead, woodley identifies big themes, makes it personal and connects the context to the greater story arc of scripture as a whole.
it's good stuff, and commentary is probably the wrong word. it's more of a companion piece to reading scripture, written for regular readers, not the academy. it's practical like a devotional but more interesting than many, peppered with stories and pop references meant to engage.
in his section on matthew 21, woodley talks about yankee owner george steinbrenner and his ruthless leadership style. Jesus' power and authority, he says, is nothing like the yankee legend's. Jesus rides into jerusalem on a donkey to shouts of hosanna, but his riding the beast of burden is a mixed metaphor: a working class symbol and fulfillment of messianic prophesy at the same time.
Riding on a donkey implies that Jesus, the world's rightful king, is ushering in the peace and rule of God. But, surprisingly, Matthew omits a few crucial words from the ancient prophesy--"triumphant and victorious is he." Jesus is the world's leader, Matthew suggests, but watch carefully, because he will take our standard concepts of power and authority, line them up like fish on a table, gut them, repack them with new meaning and bring them back to life.woodley's narrative is almost breezy in its delivery, but there's no fluff. he truly makes the scripture passages come to life and gets to the heart of the Story: what does it really mean to follow Jesus? what is the significance of his life, death and ministry? who is Jesus?
Matthew tells us that Jesus is both human and God: a man who hungers and the God who gives food, a man who worships and the God who receives worship, a lowly slave and the God who liberates the oppressed, the hero of the story and the God who writes all of our stories.i look forward to reading the rest. even though these days of parenting little ones has left me somewhat non-fiction-challenged, the way this book breathes new life into ancient texts is fresh and stirring. i would be interested in checking out more of the series.
ivp provided me with a book but i was not otherwise compensated for this review.