WARNING: Uneven Chocolate Break detec–you know what, forget it.
We’re starting off today’s look into how Matthew characterizes the gospel with a single verse: Matthew 24:14. Here Jesus states, “This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world [literally, ‘the whole inhabited earth’] as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” This verse comes in a two-chapter passage where Jesus, prompted by his disciples’ admiration for the temple in Jerusalem, delivers several prophecies concerning its coming destruction, plus additional prophecies about his second coming. If you’re not familiar with the passage, I recommend scoping out at least the opening verses to get a sense of the tone, but for our purposes, the takeaway is that Jesus’ gospel is for everyone. It’s intended to be spread wherever there are human beings. It’s good news that reaches beyond 1st-century Jewish provincialism, good news that is intrinsically tied up in the culmination of history (v.14b, “and then the end will come”).
Our second stop is a scene in which a woman anoints Jesus with expensive perfume, and when the disciples grumble that they could have sold the perfume and helped the poor with the proceeds, Jesus rebukes them. He tells them:
For when she poured this perfume on My body, she did it to prepare Me for burial. Truly I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her. (vv. 13-14)
Jesus’ response here is surprising. Throughout Matthew’s gospel, he’s been going to bat for the poor and censuring the wealthy power-brokers of his day, even telling a rich man to sell all his crap and give the proceeds to the poor if he wants to have a stake in the kingdom of heaven. Why does Jesus go out of his way to tie this woman’s story to his good news–maybe even more so than if she’d presented him with the price of the perfume and asked him to help the poor with it?
As Jesus says, it’s because she’s (perhaps unwittingly) preparing him for burial. This is the first suggestion we’ve seen that part of the gospel is the message that the Messiah must die. In Matthew’s accounts, we’ve seen that the Messiah’s arrival is the basis for the good news; it’s the Messiah who heals the sick, calls men to repentance, brings freedom to the enslaved and sets God’s broken world right as he intended it. Now, based on Jesus’ words, we can infer that the Messiah’s death is in some way instrumental to rectifying the world’s brokenness (including poverty and the suffering that comes with it). How else could Jesus say that this woman’s recognition of his Messiahship (“Christ” or “Messiah” means “anointed”) is more important than all the good that could be done by leveraging the material value of that perfume?
My next lead on Matthew’s definition of the gospel, then, is to look at Jesus’ death and his own anticipation of his death. But for today, let’s turn our attention to the chocolate I ate, which is Green & Black’s organic 70% cacao dark chocolate. I noticed that it’s got a tart element to its flavor, like grape juice, and I like that hint of sharpness. This bar would probably go well with wine, though I in my comparative wine-ignorance am ill-suited to suggest a pairing. Perhaps in time I will learn these things.