Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

This passage occurs in the Revised Common Lectionary, year A, most recently July 2017

Rather than offer a summary of these parables, I will offer a word or two comment on each parable.  Hopefully this can offer a connection to a parable for you

Parable of the mustard seed
παραθηκεν ("put before", 13:31)  Jesus does not tell them parables, he puts them before his disciples.  A reminder that we are invited to consider their meaning.

βασιλεια των ουρανων ("kingdom of heaven", 31)  A reminder that Matthew Gospel does not discuss the Kingdom of God, but rather the Kingdom of Heaven.  This is in contrast to the other writers of the new Testament.  Perhaps Matthew's Jewish roots made him uncomfortable using the word God?

λαχανων (-ον, "shrub/herb", 32) The word for tree/plant here signifies an edible plant.  A reminder that the mustard seed is intended for consumption by another, just like our lives.  While I am on the mustard seed...interesting the mustard seed was used to make chemical weapons in world war I.  Also used to make the first chemotherapy drugs.  A reminder that all things can be used for God's purposes.  Or not.

κατασκηνουν (-οω, "live in tent", 32)  John's Gospel tells us that Jesus "dwelt"/"tented" among us (same word.)  Is Jesus like one of the birds that dwells in the tree?  I don't think so, but hey, its a parable and always fun to ask the question:  Where is Jesus in this parable?

Parable of the kneading woman
ενεκρυψεν (literally and in meaning "encrypted", 33)  The kingdom is somehow hidden -- literally encrypted -- into this world.  I appreciate that this is a feminine protagonist!


Parable of the field and treasure
αγοραζει ("agorize" meaning "to buy or sell", 13:44;46)  Interesting economic metaphor.  If Christ is the one who finds us, the pearl, then Christ is the one who sells all that he has to buy us.  This is pretty way (the only way??) to use the buy/sell metaphor common in Christian soteriology.

μαργαριτας ("margarita" meaning "pearl", 45)  Just wanted to everyone to know the word for pearl is margarita.  The Kingdom of God is like a margarita :-)

ευρων (from ευρισκω meaning "find", 44; 46)  A reminder that there a many lost and found parables in the Bible!

Parable of the net
γενους (literally genous, meaning "type" or "species"; 47)  This word can even mean peoples or races.  The net is intended for all people!!  (Not just fish!)

συναγαγουση (from συναγω meaning "gather", 47)  The purpose of the net is to gather all people together.  The word literally means synagogue.  The net is to bring us all into the same synagogue...

συντελεια (meaning "completion", 48)  I have no idea why Christians don't call it the fullness of all time instead of the end of time.  The word is completion and fullness, not termination!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Freedom of a Christian Sermon Series

Here is a proposal for a sermon series on freedom of a Christian.  Feel free to use.  I would really love some help creating adult Sunday school materials.  Email me if you are interested!
 
Date Oct 22 
Gospel Matthew 22:15-22 (Paying taxes; rendering to Caesar)
Theme Freedom is both a freedom from…and a freedom for
Quick Take The culture tells us that freedom is about autonomy, the freedom, really the right, to do what we want.  Scripture teaches us that while we are radically free before God in Christ, we are radically bound -- freed for -- service to our neighbor.  This sermon will lay out this tension and unpack the trajectory of the series:  what freedom in Christ really looks like.
Possible OT Story David fights Goliath (1 Samuel 17)
Possible Psalm Psalm 41
Date Oct 29 Reformation
Gospel John 8:31-36 (Freedom in truth)
Theme Freedom to repent
Quick Take The culture tells us that sin is arachaic concept.  As we have abandoned the concept of sin, we have become no less judgmental of a culture.  In fact, most people (especially parents) experience tremendous guilt each day.  In Christ we are free to confess our sins and live in the hope of God's ensuring grace that can carry us and even transform us.  We are justified by God in Christ alone.  This means that no one has a right to judge us, except for THE judge, who has declared us loved.
Possible OT Story David's Fall (2 Samuel 11-12)
Possible Psalm Psalm 51
Date Nov 5 All Saints
Gospel Matthew 5:1-12 (Beatitudes)
Theme Freedom to grieve
Quick Take The culture tells us to celebrate the death of loved ones, who are, in some weird way, still with us.  We shame guilt and expect productivity to abound.  As Christians who believe in the resurrection, we know that we will see our loved ones again.  This means we are not simply saying goodbye, but until we meet again.  This hope allows us to grieve them not being here now.
Possible OT Story Naomi and Daughters (Ruth 1)
Possible Psalm Psalm 4, 6
Date Nov 12 
Gospel Matthew 25:1-13 (Parable of the Bridesmaids)
Theme Freedom to wait
Quick Take The culture tells us that we can have what we want, and have it now.  In Christ we have the hope to wait -- to be mindful of the present even!
Possible OT Story Joseph in prison (Genesis 40)
Possible Psalm Psalm 27/40
Date Nov 19 
Gospel Matthew 25:14-30 (Parable of the Talents)
Theme Freedom to give
Quick Take The culture tells us that life is about consumption.  Christ teachs us that live is about giving it away…and seeing it multiply! 
Possible OT Story Widow at Zarapheth (1 Kings 17)
Possible Psalm Psalm 23/24
Date Nov 26 Christ the King
Gospel Matthew 25:31-46 (Parable of the Sheep and Goats)
Theme Freedom to praise
Quick Take The culture tells us we are physical beings whose fulfillment is found in self-exploration and actualization.  In Christ we learn that our ultimate destiny is a life time of service that leads to an eternity of praise.  We can let go and fall into the embrace of a loving God, from whom all blessings flow.
Possible OT Story Miriam (Exodus 15)
Possible Psalm Psalm 150

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Romans 8:12-25

This passage occurs as a New Testament Lesson in the RCL "Pentecost"/"Ordinary"/"Proper" Season, Year A, most recently July 2017. 

Summary:  Paul describes in some beautiful and novel ways our relationship to God through the work of the Holy Spirit.  First, Paul uses the word adoption (υιοθεσια); he, alone among NT writers, uses this concept to talk about our relationship to God.  Second, Paul uses a string of "συν" verbs to talk about our togetherness with God:  We have inheritance, suffering and glorification WITH Christ.  Lastly, Paul says we have the first-fruit of the Spirit.  EVERY time before this, first-fruits went to God to appease him.  Now, God is offering us the first-fruit (απαρχη) of the Spirit.  I am still pondering the interpretation of verse 23, but it is clear that Paul is pushing the dimensions of the God-humanity relationship in new (and strange) directions, made possible by the work of the Holy Spirit through Christ.

Key Words:
υιοθεσια ("adoption"; 8:15, 23)  Paul employs the imagery of adoption to describe our relationship with God.  Rather profound, not only because of the metaphor itself, but because Paul had no Biblical antecedents.  Paul claims that our adoption comes with rights, including inheritance and glorification.  (oh, yes, and suffering too).

ει ("if"; 13, 25)  This word is often translated as "if" but it can also mean "since."  For example, in verse 25, it would be a much more natural reading in English: "Since we hope for what we have not seen, we wait in patience."  I've written about this word before in my grammar review, but in this passage, it does have an impact on translation, especially in verse 13.  [Basic review:  "ει" with subjunctive verb means "if"; with an indicative verb it can range from "if" to "since under the condition of X."  The verbs in vs. 13 are indicative, so we have some flexibility.]  If you read verse 13 with "if" it reads like a moral imperative:  sin and die or put to death the body and live.  But if you read it with "since" it makes a much more Lutheran reading:  "Since you are sinning, you will die; since you, by the Spirit, putting the deads of the body to death, you will live."  In otherwords, Paul may simply be describing a situation rather than prescribing a situation.

ματαιοτης ("futility" or "vanity" 8:20)  This is the main word of the book of Eccles. in the OT.  I think keeping it as "vanity" might be a better translation.  This is life before Christ:  not simply dark or evil, but vain and rather pointless.

απαρχη ("first-fruit"; 8:23)  Paul employs this word in a striking way.  Normally this word refers to the choice part of the sacrifice offered to God.  God explicitly commands this part; the rest can be used for secular (ie our) use.  Paul says that we now have the first-fruit of the Spirit.  There a number of ways to read this passage (I assume) but one that strikes me is this:  We have Christ, the first fruit sacrifice of God.  This means the age of sacrifice is over.  We no longer have to live in fear of appeasing God, but we can live as his children, assured of his mercy and grace.  Another way to think of it is this.  The Spirit is the first-fruit, in the sense of the Spirit is the downpayment, the promise, the sealed legal papers, of our future glory with God.  This word remains an enigma to me, but it is clear that Paul is pushing beyond the bounds of its normal cultic and OT usage. 

σαρξ:  (Note:  This is a much longer entry)
Paul uses σαρξ three times in this passage (8:12 (twice); 8:13). It seems to have a variety of meanings concretely and abstractly related to “flesh.” Although Paul uses the word in various ways, in Romans he tends to offer a negative view of σαρξ, presenting it as hostile to the purposes of God.

BDAG suggests a variety of meanings for σαρξ ranging from purely physical to more abstract. Although BDAG suggests that Paul uses σαρξ to signify a variety of these possible meanings, it also indicates that

“in Paul’s thought especially, all parts of the body constitute a totality known as sa.rx or flesh, which is dominated by sin to such a degree that whatever flesh is, all forms of sin are likewise present, and no good thing can live in the σαρξ.”

The Theological Lexicon of the New Testament offers a similar assessment: “Paul treats the flesh – the inferior part of the person – as the locus of the passions and covetousness.”

In the beginning of the book, Paul seems more neutral on flesh.  His argument against flesh grows!  For example, although Jesus is the descendant of David according to the flesh, he is designated son of God in power according to the Spirit (1:4). Indeed, faith, not our fleshly ancestry in Abraham, provides us with justification (Romans 4:24; Paul reiterates this point in chapter 9). Paul even writes that the inward – real – circumcision is not in the flesh, but in the heart by the Spirit (2:28-29). It is clear that even when Paul uses σαρξ in a more neutral manner, he views it as incomplete, if not incompatible, with God’s purposes and the work of the Spirit.

Although Paul uses σαρξ throughout Romans, it overwhelmingly appears in the middle of his letter. Here Paul explicitly describes σαρξ as hostile to purposes of the God. He writes, “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh (7:18).” Most of chapter 8 negatively contrasts the flesh against the Spirit. For example, “To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace (8:6).”

In conclusion, Paul uses this word generally and also specifically in chapter 8 of Romans to describe something in our human nature opposed to God and the work of the Spirit. Paul seems more concerned with what it does (causes us to sin) than what it is (some entity in us). The Spirit will not work to improve the flesh, but the flesh and its works must be put to death.

Translation/Grammar Review:  συν verbs
Greek can easily make new verbs by combining prefixes to existing verbs.  In English, we could do this too, but perhaps not as easiliy:  "Co-suffering" would make sense, but it would be bad English.  But in Greek writers will often add suffixes freely to verbs to slightly modify their meaning.  Paul does this a number of times in this passage, see, for example, verses 16, 17 and 22.  Here Paul adds the prefix συν, which means "with" to a number of verbs.  Some words in English still have this prefix, for example:  "synergy" or "syntax."   But mostly in English we have words with the Latin "con" or "co" as their prefix (which also means "with").

At first, you might not notice the verbs because you don't see συν.  Don't worry!  The problem is "n" is a weak sound, so it often gets dropped -- in every language.  For example, it is not "con"operation, but cooperation.  It is not "con"munication, but communication.  The "n" is dropped or moved to another sound.  (In Hebrew this makes certain verbs very difficult to detect after they have been conjugated). 

This happens in verse 17: συγκληρονομοι, συμπασχομεν, συνδοξασθωμεν.  The point for translation is that you have to try to capture, in both 16-17 and 22 the great amount of "co"working that is happening:
We are "co" witnesses (16); "co" inheritors"; "co" sufferes and "co" glorifieders (spelling intentional).

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Matthew 13:1-9;18-23

This passage occurs in the RCL "Pentecost"/"Ordinary"/"Proper" Season, Year A, most recently July 2017.  Since the two sections have similar vocabulary, I will focus my comments on one section, namely 18-23.

Summary:  What is this parable about:  The soil?  The seed?  In the parable, certain individuals endure hardship, survive temptation and finally bear fruit.  How is that going to happen?  How will they, to use the metaphor of the parable, have deep soil?  As Jesus says, the parable is about the sower, the sower who constantly comes to us again and again, sowing the seed that we might finally be at a point in our lives where the soil is deep, that we might repent, turn and be healed (13:15), that we will bear fruit.


Key words: 
παραβολή ("parable"; 3, 18)  Just a reminder:  This is Jesus first parable! (In Matthew's Gospel and therefore, the New Testament!)

σπειραντος ("the one who sows", participle of σπειρω; 18)  There is nothing distinct about this word, but it is worth pointing out that Jesus says the parable is about this, namely, the one who throws his seed, even into wasteful places!

καρπος ("grain"/"fruit"; 8, 23)  The first time through the parable, most translators translate the word as "grain" or a "crop."  Which is too bad because one misses the crucial connection to bearing fruit, one of the few metaphors that is consistent across the entire New Testament.  I love this image, because you can do so much with it:
* Fruit is not for the sake of the tree that produced it (our life is about our neighbor)
* Fruit often takes a season if not years to produce (patience)
* Fruit doesn't last long (our good works are needed every day)
* Fruit needs pollination (need a word outside of ourselves)
* Fruit needs the death of a flower...

καρδια ("heart"; 19)  Interestingly, this word never refers to the actually beating heart inside the body in the NT!  Hebrew and Greek map the whole heart-brain-feelings-thoughts a bit differently, but the basic point is that the heart here is not the Hallmark center, but the core of who we are, including our thoughts.

Small but interesting words:
σπειρος  ("seed"; multiple times; also see 13:38)  In Greek the word "seed" is actually a participle made into a noun, literally "The thing that is sown."  It is worth point out that in verse 38 the good seed are the sons of the kingdom (as opposed to the seed being the Word).   Jesus switches the metaphor, reminding us, that these are parables and not allegories.

παντος ("all"; 19)  The Greek here reads literally, "Everyone hears the word and does not understand it."  It is a little suggestion in the Greek that all hear, even though all do not understand.

ακουω ("hear"; multiple times)   Warning:  Overly pietist comment coming up:  Hearing the word is not sufficient.  In this parable hearing must move to understanding.

σκανδαλιζεται ("stumble"; 21)  This means "scandalize"; how does the word scandalize you?
απατη ("deception"; 22)  An interesting side note on this word.  It closely sounds like "agape" which Christian communion meals were often called.  2 Peter 2:13 plays on this a bit a condemns the "apate" at the communion meals.

Grammar Review:  Substantive participles
In Greek, you can make "substantive" participles very easily.  They are also easy to translate.
They follow the following pattern:  "The one who does X/Y/Z"  In English, this idea is accomplished with a relative pronoun clause:  I like the woman who married me.  Greek also has relative clauses, but the substantive participle is common.  Here we have a nice one:
ο τον λογον ακουων
Step one:  Identify it as a substantive participle.  How?  Well, you have a "the" (ie a definite article:  ο) and you only have one, otherwise it would be an adjectival.
Step two:  Get the participle:  ακουων
Step three:  Translate the basics under the formula "the one who does X":  The one who hears
Step four:  Correct for voice and tense:  Don't have to hear.
Step five:  translate the other stuff:  "The one who hears the word."  Greek will often sandwich important stuff for the substantive participle clause in between the article and the particple

Give it a try, with the last five words of verse 19...

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Potential Sermon Series

I am thinking about doing a sermons series on Freedom of a Christian this fall, in conjunction with the 500th anniversary of the reformation.  My hope would be to think more concrete about the actual freedoms we have as a Christian

- The freedom to grieve
- The freedom to fail
- The freedom to "be ourselves"
- The freedom to love

In short, I think Luther correctly interprets Scripture by pointing toward our radical and amazing freedom in Christ.  I just want to unpack this a bit.

I would aim for a 5 to 6 week preaching series.  I would like to offer adult education classes on the same material for Sunday morning Bible study  (something along the lines of this:  http://www.stpaullititz.net/smallcatechism.html).  Perhaps we would look at the Galatians (and Luther's commentary) alongside of this for the Bible study.

Let me know if this is of interest to you.  I've included below the list of Gospel passages for this time period.

Rob


1-Oct Matthew 21:23-32 Jesus challenges temple teachers
7-Oct Matthew 21:33-46 Parable of the Vineyard
15-Oct Matthew 22:1-14 Parable of a (harsh) banquet
22-Oct Matthew 22:15-22 Paying taxes; rendering to Ceasar
29-Oct Matthew 22:34-46 Jesus teaches on the law and being greater than David
5-Nov Matthew 23:1-12 Love of false and fancy things
or Matthew 5:1-12 Beatitudes
12-Nov Matthew 25:1-13 Bridesmaids
19-Nov Matthew 25:14-30 Talents
26-Nov Matthew 25:31-46 Sheep and Goats

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Matthew 10:40-42

This passage occurs as a RCL "Pentecost"/"Ordinary"/"Proper" Season, Year A, most recently June 2017. 

Summary:  We are familiar with the Great Commission of Matthew:  Go therefore...  This week we hear the Least Commission:  We are sent to do small things to the least of these.

Key Words
αποστειλαντα ("send" aorist participle of αποστελλω 10:40)  Perhaps you might be familiar with the phrase or concept:  "The sending of the Trinity."  This idea develops out of verses like this one:  The Father sends the Son; who sends the Spirit; who, along with Jesus, sends the disciples.  This motif is most recognizable in John (John 3:16 for Father sending son; John 14:26 and 15:26 for the sending of the Spirit; John 20:21 for Jesus sending the disciples.).  Luke has a similiar phrase in 10:16:  "Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me" (This verse uses the same participle as Matthew 10:40; Mark 9:37 also is similar).  The point of these various Scripture citations is to show that Trinitiarian thinking is deeper in Matthew (and the other Gospels) than we often give credit.  Furthermore, one of the earliest ideas of the Trinity was this procession of sending.  It is also worth noting that even in Matthew's Gospel Jesus equates action with himself to action to God. 

This ties also back to Matthew 10:5 and the sending of the disciples by Jesus.
δεχομενος ("welcome" present participle of δεχομαι; 10:40).  This word can also mean accept (See Matt 18:5).  Instead of accepting Jesus, you need to accept your pastor, who stands in line of the apostles :-)

μισθος ("wages" or "reward" 10:41,42)  I am not sure what to make of it, but Matthew uses this word way more than the other Gospels.  I think it might reflect the fact that Matthew aims at the working class, who would be well aware of the reality of wages and rewards?  For the most part Matthew is telling others that they already have their reward or that they will not get theirs!  In this case though, Matthew has Jesus offer us a promise:  If you welcome a prophet, you get your reward; if you give a small cup of water, you also gain your reward.  The question remains, what is the reward?

προφητης ("prophet" 10:41)  Worth noting:  For Matthew, the notion of prophecy is very important; the word appears 34 times.  By comparison, in Mark the word only appears 5 times!  Luke 28; John 14. It is always worth remembering that connections to the OT are important for Matthew, but Luke doesn't leave them out!

μικρων ("least of these" from μικρος 10:42).  This phrase is often understood to mean "children."  This is because in Matthew 18 Jesus explicitly connects the phrase little ones with the word for children.  Also, Jesus says, "Who welcomes children, welcomes me" in all three synoptics.  So, it is probably a fair translation to say, "children" here.  However, I think that Matthew 25 and, "Do unto the least of these" is probably a fair direction for understanding this passage too.  Jesus is always concerned about the least in society, of which children are an example.  I'd rather leave the translation as the "least of these" instead of "children" to leave open this ambiguity.  As a side note, some manuscripts use the word "least" that is found in Matthew 25 (ελαχιστος).

Grammar Review:  ου μη
In Greek the strongest denial of a possibility is ου μη.  It probably best means "It ain't never ever gonna happen."  Whenever you see this, you can know the speaker is completely and totally sure about something.  In this case, we will never lose our reward when we give a cup of cold water to the least of these.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Matthew 28:16-20

This passage occurs both in the Narrative Lectionary and the Revised Common Lectionary (Trinity Sunday).

Summary:
Well, this passage clarifies a few things:
* Jesus did have to suffer
* The law still exists in the new creation
* Commissioning is just as important as proclamation
* Baptizing is subordinate to making disciples; yet Baptism binds us to God
* The resurrection changes God's name
While we are at it, let's also clarify two other things
* The Trinity was in Matthew's Gospel
* Some, not all, doubted

Okay, I will be less pugnacious, but Matthew brilliantly closes out of his Gospel.  Only five verses, but it really does tie together so much of Matthew's writing.
Key Words

ορος ("mountain", 28:16)   Mountains show up at many key points in the Gospel of Matthew:  The sermon on the Mount, the tranfiguration and the betrayal of Jesus.  Matthew may be connecting some of the "dots" within his story here.  I wrote about this in my comments on Matthew 5 as well.

εταξατο ("command" from τασσω, 28:16)  Even after the resurrection, the concept of obedience still exists.  I write this because recently I've been engaged in some discussions with "hyper" Lutherans who want to functionally deny the role of the law within the new creation.  The law still exists; the new creation does the law.  But okay, let's avoid this discussion and actually get to something that we can preach:  Living as a disciple means obeying, even as we doubt.  (See below for more on law and Gospel post resurrection)

προσεκυνησαν ("worship", from προσκυνεω, 28:17) and εξουσια ("authority" or "power", 28:18). The President of Luther Seminary once gave a great sermon linking this passage (Matthew 28:16-20) with the temptation of Christ.  It will be on a mountain that the devil offers Jesus all authority if Jesus would worship him.  Poetically, here it is on a mountain that the disciples worship him as the hear that Jesus has all the authority.  The point of the sermon (by Dr. Richard Bliese) was that devil tried to convince Jesus that suffering wasn't necessary for his authority and glory, but Jesus would have none of it.

εδιστασαν ("doubt", from δισταζω 17)  Back in chapter 14, Jesus rescues a sinking Peter and asks him why he doubted.  Here we are, after the crucifixion and resurrection, and doubt still lingers.  Interestingly, Jesus does not rebuke them for their faith (or even false worship) but simply puts them to use and offers them the promise of his presence.  What is Jesus response to failure on the part of the disciples?  Commissioning and promise.  I would argue that in both John 22 and Matthew 28, Jesus not only hands over the promise but also employs people.  This to me suggests that law can function as Gospel when it lets us know that Jesus cares about us.  In other words, when someone tells us to quit smoking, we can hear this as law but also as love in that the person cares about us.  The failure of church to commission people is a failure to communicate God's love for them.  Ultimately I would argue that it is the promise of Jesus' presence that will give them the strength to carry out this command!

μαθητευσατε and βαπτιζοντες ("teach" and "baptize", 19)  Interestingly, the only imperative verb in verse 19 is "make disciples."  The rest are participles that likely describe the verb "teach."  [Grammatically you can argue that "go," although not an imperative, functions like this because of its position.]  In the Greek, baptizing and teaching are not imperatives, they are participles that describe the manner of making disciples.  This is true in the parish too; we make disciples by baptizing them and teaching them.  One should not press too hard here because even if "baptize" only modifies "make disciples" it is still commanded to us by Jesus!  However, it reminds us that Baptism without teaching is not what Jesus commanded. 

I would also add that the purpose of our teaching is making disciples...Do we look at Christian Education as formation??

Side note on the verbs here:  The main verb (μαθητευσατε ) is in the plural (second person).  No one of us is commanded to make disciples.  It always take the community to accomplish this task.

εις το ονομα ("into the name" 19)  Two points here.  First off all, there is only the most scant evidence that Matthew's Gospel did not originally have the Trinitarian name.  All the major manuscripts have it.  In fact, each and every manuscripts has it.  The main evidence against it consists of one or two Greek Fathers who don't include it when they cite Matthew, most importantly Eusebius.  However, Eusebius wrote around 300; the Didache (110 AD), which heavily quotes from Matthew's Gospel includes the name Father, Son and Holy Spirit within its Baptismal formula. (The Didache also use the word "into" and not "in" reflecting Matthew's language)

Second point, we are baptized into the name of God.  There is something that happens in Baptism that joins us to Christ.

μεθ υμων ("with you"; the word μεθ is μετα but the letters change before a vowel, much like "a" becomes "an", vs 20).  It is a good reminder that Jesus offers a plural promise here:  "With all of you."  More importantly though, the words "with you" appear in the middle of the words "I am."  "I am" or εγω ειμι can also signify the name of God (see one of the previous' weeks entries on this).  Here though we find the construction "I with you am."  In the middle of God's name is "with us."  I would argue that God's name has been changed by the death and resurrection of Jesus.  God is forever bound to humanity in a way that God was not before (see tearing of temple curtain).  Even if the whole name of God thing seems like a stretch, Jesus is indicating that after the crucifixion and resurrection he is truly Emmanuel, or God with us, as the angel declared in the beginning of the Gospel. 

Grammar:  How Greek often switches subjects.
In verse 17, Matthew says that "some doubted."  He actually doesn't use the word "some," but the words οι δε.  These two words simply mean "The and."  How did the translators get to "some" from "the and"?

This particular construction (δε ("and") following the word οι/ο ("the")) almost always implies a new subject.  Often times Greek writers will do this; perhaps to save space because it is quicker to write "ο δε" then to write out "the other person I was just writing about."  This device, I assume, almost functioned like a period or a paragraph start; "attention reader, new subject."  For example, Matthew uses this construction back in verse 16 to switch the narrative from the Jews to the disciples. We have a paragraph marker there, but in the original Greek, which lacked punctuation, this didn't exist. 

In verse 17, the question becomes, who is Matthew referring to when he switches the subject? We are not told of anyone on the hill.  It seems the only option is to assume Matthew here switches from all eleven disciples to a smaller group within that.  While a minority think he means all the disciples (and thus is NOT switching subjects), most people assume he is referring to a subset within the disciples.  Regardless at least some of the people on that hill are doubting...and Luke tells in Acts they all keep moving forward with the team!