ESV Expository Commentary: Matthew—Luke (volume 8)

ESV Expository Commentary: Matthew—Luke, Volume 8 (Crossway, 2021). 

This volume is the first NT entry in the ESV Expository Commentary series. It features an exposition of Matthew by Dan Doriani, Mark by Hans Bayer, and Luke by Thom Schreiner.

The focus of this commentary series is on exposition of the biblical text and its theological implications for preaching and teaching. Theologically, each of these volumes is soundly evangelical and conversant with the major scholarly discussions in Gospels scholarship. Because of the target audience and expository focus, interaction with scholarly positions is kept to a minimum. This weakens these treatments as one-stop shops for study of these biblical text but strengthens their value as guides for grasping the author's primary purposes. 

With these shared commitments, each author also highlights distinct elements. For example, Doriani notes the common formula that Matthew was written primarily as "the Gospel for the Jews" and helpfully gives a broader orientation to the audience and purpose of Matthew. This lengthy narrative is written "for Jewish readers who would embrace the mission of making disciples of the nations" (29). Doriani also shows the way that Matthew's portrayal of the disciples (as both understanding and misunderstanding the message of Jesus) informs the way that this biblical text might be understood and experienced by a reader. As he comments, "Matthew desired his Gospel to do to his readers what the gospel did for him. His encounter with Jesus equipped him to write the Gospel that would become the source for all who train disciples" (32).  

Though Bayer and Schreiner do not really discuss this feature of audience (they focus on issues that are particularly prominent in their books), these comments can be readily applied to Mark and Luke as well. The same is true for their varied points of emphasis. Doriani treats the nature and historicity of miracles, Bayer discusses Peter as a historical source for the eye-witness testimony of Mark's narrative, and Schreiner sets the story of Luke within the scope of the OT's biblical-theological themes. Collectively, then, these three treatments of the Synoptic Gospels gives a solid orientation to studying and preaching these texts (though, there is a surprising omission of any direct treatment of the "synoptic problem" beyond Schreiner's brief comments on Luke's prologue).

Overall, this commentary on the Synoptic Gospels is a solid evangelical resource that will be a great help to preachers and teachers of the Word. 

Some Notes: 

  • See details on the other volumes in the ESV Expository Commentary series; Thanks to Crossway for this review copy.

On a side note, I was disappointed with Doriani's theological treatment of Jesus's cry from the cross in Matthew 27 (429–32; though Doriani's comments on the Gospel as a whole are excellent!). He takes this cry of dereliction to mean that the Father turns away from the Son on the cross (sometimes referred to as the "Broken Trinity" view). The most important move here is denying that Ps 22 as a whole is the proper context in which to understand Jesus's words (Doriani thinks that this move "reduces Jesus' agony to a heuristic device"). Citing Paul's letters (in particular, 2 Cor 5:21, Gal 3:13) and Habakkuk 1:13, Doriani claims that "the Father, in his holiness, looked away." Jesus' "separation from his Father must have felt far more acute due to the heretofore perfect fellowship of the Father and the Son." Doriani does emphasize other theological truths that are also true of this moment (e.g., that Jesus still calls out to God) and also that this interpretation is forced to make this separation only momentary (due to Luke's portrayal of Jesus's address to the Father from the cross). However, this discussion is framed by comments about how the "trinitarian unity" could "suffer this separation."

In terms of the volume as a whole, this view is balanced a bit by Bayer's suggestion (in his treatment of Mark's account) that the presence of the opening line could imply that the whole of Ps 22 may be in view (a rhetorical practice that would have been common among readers). Jesus crys out to God "even amid the immense pain of abandonment by God, divine judgment, and physical agony." Bayer notes that "the following context of Ps 22:1 conveys deep and sustained trust in God (Ps 22:4–5, 9–11, 19–21)," and further that "eventually, the psalmist anticipates divine intervention and vindication." Schreiner likewise highlights Luke's portrayal of Jesus's unbroken relationship with God the Father. Noting that Jesus's words ("Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit!") also allude to a Davidic psalm (Ps 31:5), Schreiner makes the biblical-theological connection: "Jesus, like David, is a king, and psalms that refer to David in their historical context have a typological connection to Jesus as the son of David, the fulfillment of Davidic hopes." Accordingly, "Jesus commits himself to God with the assurance that the Lord will vindicate him." 

Indeed, my hope is that theological reflections on the crucifixion account by teachers and preachers (including reflection on the cries of Jesus) would reflect Schreiner's concluding statement that Jesus dies "not in fear but with confidence and hope, for he has taught his disciples not only that he would die but also that he would be raised from the dead."

A robust theology of the cross is not powerful because the Father turned his back on his Son. Rather, the meaning of the cross is powerful because the Father did not turn his face away from the Son. The movement of humiliation to exaltation is woven into the prophetic expectation about the messiah, and this emphasis on humiliation on the cross and vindication in resurrection is the burden of the Gospel narratives. Though the Son suffers, he is never ontologically abandoned by the Father. In this sacrificial work of redemption, he carries out the will of Father in the Spirit. The relations between the Father, Son, and the Spirit are never "broken." Rather, it is only because of those very realities that it is possible for the redemption of mankind to be effective at all. Obviously, there is much more to this reading and a broader theology of the cross, but I think the meaning of the cry is found in the genre of lament that Matthew, Mark, and Jesus himself have pointed us to. 

If we're looking for an ultimate evaluation of the Son's relationship to the Father in every moment of the incarnation from the cradle to the cross, I think there's no better formulation than the suffering psalmist and the author of Hebrews:

  • "God has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him" (Ps 22:24). 

  • "In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence" (Heb 5:7). 

Book Review
April 13, 2024


Popular Posts

Why did Jesus have to heal the Blind Man Twice in Mark 8?

In Mark 8:22-26, Jesus encounters a blind man in Bethsaida. To heal the man, Je…

Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Historical Theology w/ Madison Grace

In this episode, I talk with my friend Dr. Madison Grace about Dietrich Bonhoef…

"The Gospel" as the Unifying Theme of Theology and the Rule of Faith for the Churches

Mike Bird ends his articulation and apology for the structure of his systematic…