Category Archives: Martin Franzmann

Salt, Light, Discipleship, and Good Works

The call of Jesus had been a call to ministry: “I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). The Beatitudes picture the disciple both as receiving from God in pure passivity and as caught up into the motion of the God who acts and the Messiah who gives. The beggar can only receive, but he does receive; and the mercy which he receives makes him merciful. The peace which God gives him makes him a peacemaker. Men molded by the Messiah act in the world, so vigorously and so decisively that the world persecutes them for it.

In the metaphor of salt and light Jesus makes plain to His disciples how inseparable discipleship and activity are, how impossible any thought of a quietistic and contemplative discipleship is (Matthew 5:13-16). The disciples are salt and light by virtue of what the call of Jesus has given them and what the word of Jesus is giving them. They need not trouble themselves about how they may become salt and light, any more than a city set on a hilltop need concern itself about becoming conspicuous. Where they are and what they are, the fact that they are with Jesus and in communion with the Messiah, gives them inevitably a function which is as universal as the authority of the Messiah; they are the salt of the whole earth and the light of the whole world.

Both salt and light are, of course, thought of as having a salutary effect upon their surroundings. Salt seasons and preserves, and light dispels darkness and makes a man’s goings and comings certain and secure. But what Jesus is stressing in the metaphors is the fact that in salt and light nature and function are one; salt salts because it is salt, and light illumines because it is light. Salt which no longer salts has ceased to be salt. the disciple who ceases to minister has forfeited his existence as disciple and has destroyed himself. He has, by forgoing activity, disrupted his communion with the Christ; and there is no second way to saltness. A man can be light only by his communion with the Christ, and he can remain light only by shining.

The disciple is salt and light by faith; and faith is not chemical process but a personal relationship and therefore involves responsibility and obedience. The disciple cannot make himself light, but he can obscure his light. He cannot make himself salt, but he can in irresponsible disobedience frustrate his saltness. Jesus therefore implants with faith that holy fear which makes a man work in awe and trembling, lest he should have received the grace of God to no purpose. Again Jesus centers the disciple’s life squarely in God and puts it under the tension of the approaching end of days. The disciples live and work as sons of God, and they so live and work that God may at the last, when all false works are judged and all false glories have been erased, be glorified by all – be known as God, acknowledged as God, adored as God by His redeemed creation. (Matthew 5:16; cf. Philippians 2:11)

Martin Franzmann, “Follow Me: Discipleship According to Matthew”, pages 41-42


Martin Franzmann on The Resurrection in Matthew’s Gospel

If the Passion narrative is the disciples’ confiteor, the story of the resurrection is their record of the divine absolution: “He was raised for our justification.” The disciples experienced in the resurrection the never-to-be-outdone proclamation of the grace which had spoken the Beatitude upon the beggar, which had cleansed the leper, which had been moved to compassion by the harassed and helpless sheep of the house of Israel, which had rejoiced in revealing to the simple what was concealed from the wise, which had given to the stumbling and halting disciple what had been denied to the prophets and righteous of old, and had bestowed the Kingdom upon children.

It was grace; and it was, as the grace of God always is, unbelievable grace, the not-to-be-predicted, not-to-be-expected goodness of God which bestows “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9 RSV)

The incredulity of the disciples over against the revelation of the grace of God has left its mark on the resurrection narrative. The reserve of that narrative has frequently been noted. The sparse and laconic speech of the witnesses of the risen Lord contrasts sharply with the theatricality of later accounts, in which men let their fancy supply what the witnesses themselves did not attempt to say. There is nothing in Matthew or in any of the New Testament accounts remotely resembling the heaped-up wonders of an account like that of the second-century Gospel of Peter, where “multitudes” come from Jerusalem and the regions round about to see the sealed tomb, where the elders of Israel keep watch along with the centurion and his soldiers, where the angelic figures whose “heads reached into heaven,” where the angels who in the canonical Gospels are proclaimers of the accomplished resurrection become actors in the drama of the resurrection and actually lead the Christ (whose head in this account overpasses the heavens) out of the tomb, with a cross following after them. The disciples did not pry and did not try to understand the incomprehensible. They no more tried to account for the risen Christ than they had tried to account for His mighty works. One almost gets the impression that speech came hard to me who witnessed this miracle of the creative might of God, “who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist” (Romans 4:17 RSV). The disciples record the awe and fear which the first witnesses felt at the event which spoke their absolution (Matthew 28:8). They record their own doubtings (Matthew 28:17); it is as if they were telling men: “We too found this thing incredible, this power of God which raised our Lord from the dead, and we found even more incredible the grace which raised Him up as the Lord who said, ‘Tell my brethren.'” (Matthew 28:10)

“Follow Me: Discipleship According to Matthew”, pages 215-216
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Martin Franzmann on the Miracles of Christ

For Matthew, and for our Gospels generally, the miracles are revelation, attestations of the unparalleled fact of the Christ and proclamations of the unique eschatological event of the Kingdom come. Therefore their account of the miracles always remains reverent and chaste. There is no thaumaturgic theatricality in the record. There is nothing which verges on the magical, no attempt to look into the “how” of the miracle, no curious inquiry into the technique of the miracle, no attempt to make the miracle credible by somehow explaining it, as later apocryphal gospels sometimes do. the evangelists saw in them the creative act of God before which man can only submit and bow in repentance, as Job once bowed when his eyes were opened to the splendor and might of the Creator: “I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees thee; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5-6 RSV; cf. Luke 5:1-11)

The church must learn to face the miracle freely and joyously again if she would stand where the disciples stood, in the presence of the Christ.

Follow Me: Discipleship According to St. Matthew, pages 68-69