First Sunday of Advent (1 December 2013)



  • Isaiah 2:1-5 & Psalm 122
  • Romans 13:11-14
  • Matthew 24:36-44

Beginning the Year of Matthew

This Sunday marks the transition to Year A of the three year cycle of readings, with Matthew taking the lead role in our liturgical listening to the voice of Jesus as mediated through the Gospels.

This may be an opportune time to note the major variations in the way Matthew tells the Jesus story, relative to Mark and Luke.

Matthew is a significantly longer than Mark, and roughly the same length as Luke and John. It is therefore of interest to see how Matthew used the additional space available for his account, as well as noting how the choices made by Matthew differed from those made by Luke and John.

See the Synoptic Gospels Primer site developed by Mahlon Smith for detailed discussion of some information presented here.


According to Mahlon Smith, 35 of these scenes and 38 of the sayings are unique to Matthew; while 77 of the sayings are found only in Matthew and Luke (mostly representing the lost Sayings Gospel Q). The core of the Synoptic tradition, of course, is to be observed in the basic narrative structure that they have in common.

Common Synoptic Outline

The outline common to all 3 synoptics is:

  • John the Baptist’s appearance & message
  • Jesus baptized
  • Jesus tested
  • Jesus preaches in Galilee
  • Cures & exorcisms
  • Social controversies (meals & sabbath observance)
  • Interpretation of parables
  • 5000 fed
  • Peter identifies Jesus as Messiah
  • Jesus’ death & disciples’ persecution predicted
  • Jesus transformed
  • Exorcism
  • 2nd prediction of Jesus’ fate
  • Jesus goes to Judea
  • Jesus summons children
  • Call to abandon possessions & follow Jesus
  • 3rd prediction of Jesus’ fate.
  • Blind cured
  • Jesus enters Jerusalem
  • Temple purged
  • Jesus questioned by Jerusalem authorities
  • Destruction of temple predicted
  • Judas Iscariot cooperates with temple authorities
  • Jesus celebrates Passover meal
  • Jesus arrested at Gethsemane
  • Trial by Sanhedrin
  • Peter denies Jesus
  • Trial by Pontius Pilate
  • Crucifixion
  • Burial by Joseph of Arimathea
  • Women discover empty tomb (told to report to disciples).

Materials unique to Matthew

With such a strong common story line, the points where Matthew differs from Mark and/or Luke become especially significant for gaining an insight into that gospel’s interpretation of Jesus and, by implication, its understanding of Christianity.

The materials unique to Matthew include the following. (The divisions follow Throckmorton, Gospel Parallels. Material in common with Luke is in plain font, while material without parallels in Luke is in bold.)

  • Infancy Narrative (no parallel in Mark and a different tradition in Luke)

1:1-17 Genealogy of Jesus
1:18-25 Birth of Jesus
2:1-12 Visit of the Wise Men
2:13-23 Flight into Egypt + Killing of the Babies + Return from Egypt

  • The Sermon on the Mount (mostly paralleled in Luke but rarely in Mark)

5:1-2 Introduction
5:3-13 Beatitudes
5:13-16 Parables of Salt and Light
5:17-20 Jesus and the Law
5:21-26 On Anger
5:27-30 On Adultery
5:31-32 On Divorce
5:33-37 On Swearing
5:38-42 On Retaliation
5:43-48 On Love of Enemies
6:1-4 On Almsgiving
6:5-8 On Prayer
6:9-15 Lord’s Prayer
6:13-18 On Fasting
6:19-21 On Treasures
6:22-23 The Sound Eye
6:24 Serving Two Masters
6:25-34 On Anxiety
7:1-5 On Judging
7:6 On Profaning the Holy
7:7-11 On Answers to Prayer
7:12 The Golden Rule
7:13-14 The Narrow Gate
7:15-20 The Test of a Good Person
7:21-23 On Self-Deception
7:24-27 Hearers and Doers of the Word
7:28-29 Conclusion to the Sermon

  • Controversies and Miracles (many with parallels in Luke)

8:5-13 The Centurion’s Servant
10:40-11:1 John’s Questions to Jesus
11:20-24 Woes to Unrepentant Cities
11:25-27 Jesus’ Thanksgiving to the Father
11:28-30 Comfort for the Weary
12:43-45 Return of the Unclean Spirit
13:16-17 Blessedness of the Disciples
13:24-30 Parable of the Weeds
13:33 Parable of the Yeast
13:36-43 Interpretation of Parable of Weeds
13:44-46 Parables of Hidden Treasure and Priceless Pearl
13:47-50 Parable of the Net
13:51-52 Treasures New and Old
17:24-27 Temple Tax
18:10-14 Parable of the Lost Sheep
18:15-20 On Reproving Another Believer
18:21-22 On Forgiveness
18:23-25 Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
20:1-16 Parable of Laborers in Vineyard
21:28-32 Parable of the Two Sons
22:1-14 Parable of the Wedding Banquet
23:1-36 Denunciation of the Scribes and Pharisees
23:37-39 Jesus Laments over Jerusalem
24:26-28 The Day of the Son of Man
24:37-41 Sudden Appearing of the Son of Man
24:42-44 The Watchful House Owner
24:45-51 The Faithful and Wise Slave
25:31-36 The Last Judgment

  • Passion Narrative

27:3-10 The Death of Judas
27:52-53 Dead Patriarchs Raised from their Tombs
27:62-66 The Guard at the Tomb
28:11-15 The Bribing of the Soldiers
28:16-20 The Commissioning of the Disciples

This list does not account for the many points where Matthew edits the tradition copied from Mark, nor does it pick up the way that Matthew likes to provide a biblical citation for key events or themes. However, it may serve as a useful way to orient ourselves to Matthew’s distinctive interests as we begin Year A. We shall then have many opportunities to note how these tendencies work out in specific passages.

Despite its interest in the implications of Jesus for the practice of Jewish life, Matthew has a special interest in the place of the Gentiles. Foreigners come from afar to welcome the newborn Jesus, and his final words are to commission his followers to make disciples of all nations. The inclusive and liberating activity of Jesus is overshadowed by violence from birth to death, just as Matthew’s readers were themselves living under the shadow of an aggressive empire and alongside Torah-observant Jews who regarded the Jesus people with suspicion.

Jesus Database

Liturgies and Prayers

For liturgies and sermons each week, shaped by a progressive theology, check Rex Hunt’s web site

Other recommended sites include:

Music Suggestions

  • Hark the glad sound – TiS 269
  • God has spoken through his prophets – TiS 158
  • Mine eyes have seen – TiS 315
  • God gives us a future – TiS 687

See David MacGregor’s Together to Celebrate site for recommendations from a variety of contemporary genre.

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