When I started writing about the books of the Bible and where God was in the midst of each one, I figured it would be easy! I realized it is not and that is all right. God isn’t easy to follow and so His Word which points to Him isn’t easy to break down either. I’m going to keep to it and try and finish it as quickly as I can, with God as my Helper.
I plan to go back and forth between the Old Testament and the New. This is the first book of the New Testament according to order, but it wasn’t written first. Matthew also wasn’t the first gospel written.
Matthew was written by the disciple of Jesus of the same name ( also known as Levi). He was a Jew but worked for the Romans as a tax collector and was despised by his own people. He was called by Jesus and left everything behind. He writes primarily to a Jewish audience, so he pays attention to what were important to the Jews in his writing, but sometimes doesn’t explain Jewish rituals in detail. While the Bible does not talk of the time and the manner of his death, it is widely held in church traditions that Matthew suffered martyrdom in Ethiopia and was killed by a sword wound.
In chapter 1: Matthew starts with the genealogy of Jesus through his adopted father Joseph. There were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the exile to Babylon, and fourteen from the exile to the Messiah. Matthew mentions 5 women only in all the names of the men. Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, David’s wife who had been Uriah’s wife (Bathsheba), and Mary (who was the mother of Jesus, whose husband was Joseph). 3 of these women were not Israelites. The rest of the chapter deals with Jesus fulfilling the prophecy of being born of a virgin( Isaiah 7:14) and Joseph accepting Mary and Jesus.
In chapter 2: Magi from the East come to Jerusalem and ask ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’ That event fulfills several prophecies from the Old Testament. Bethlehem is the birthplace of the Messiah Micah 5:2,4. There will be weeping in Ramah Jeremiah 31:15. Joseph hides in Egypt and then returns to Nazareth, so the prophecy of Jesus being from Nazareth is fulfilled as well.
In chapter 3: John the Baptist, the miracle child of Elizabeth and Zechariah born in their old age, is the messenger of the Messiah Isaiah 40:3, another prophecy fulfilled. Jesus , the Son of God, asks John to baptist Him to fulfill scriptures and then God the Father gives His approval. As soon as Jesus was baptised, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’ At this time Jesus had done no miracles, he had taught nothing and had not started his minstry, but God the Father still said ,“I am well pleased with my Son”.
In chapter 4: Jesus is led by the Spirit to the wilderness to be tested. He refutes satan at every turn, with the Word that was already written ( proving Jesus can be found in the Old Testament). Jesus starts preaching about repentance and calls his first disciples (Andrew, Simon, James and John).
In chapter 5, 6, 7 : Jesus preaches what is commonly known as the Sermon on the Mount. He says several “Blessed are..” two-liners which teach things completely against the world view, but in line with the heavenly kingdom. He talks about being an influence in the world for Him ( salt, light). He gives them a model to use to pray. He talks about treasures of the heart and tells them not to worry about earthly things.
In chapters 8 and 9 : We see Jesus doing these miracles that man hasn’t seen before. He heals lepers and a servant of a Roman and demon possessed and Peter’s mother-in-law and the mute and blind and raises the dead . Jesus forgives a man of his sin first, then heals him from his paralysis. Jesus talks about the heavy cost of following Him. He calls Matthew out from being a hated tax collector to being a loved disciple. Jesus shows He is Lord of nature by calming a furious storm.
In chapter 10: At the end of chapter 9, Jesus says the harvest ( of souls) is plentiful but the workers are few. He then sends out the 12 disciples in pairs throughout Jerusalem and the towns of the Israelites with strict warnings not to go to the gentiles or to Samaria ( In Acts, Jesus will send them out to the whole world including the gentiles and Samaria). He tells them not to go prepared ( material things), but to be prepared for persecutions and floggings and imprisonment. But Jesus says at that time He will give them the words to speak.
In chapter 11 : After Jesus sends out the 12, He himself preaches in the towns of Galilee. While there, the disciples of John come to ask Him if He is the Messiah or should they expect someone else? (John at the time is in prison, he has been faithful with message He has been given, but hasn’t seen personal deliverance yet). Jesus, doesn’t answer directly but tells them of the miracles He has done. While they leave, Jesus praises John to the crowds, but says that whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he , (John). Jesus’ heart breaks over the towns in which He did the most miracles but they refuse to accept Him.
In chapter 12: At the end of 11, Jesus makes this amazing claim that He and the Father are one. In 12 , Jesus is shown as the Lord of the Sabbath, having the power to heal on the sacred day. Jesus withdraws to pray , but when the crowds follow Him, He heals them all, in accordance with the prophecy in Isaiah 42:1-4. Jesus tells the people that He heals by the power of the Father and not of the devil since a kingdom divided among itself will not stand. Jesus gives the pharisees “The sign of Jonah ( He will be in the belly of the beast [death] for 3 days and rise up on the 3rd day)” when they ask Him for more signs. Jesus includes those who do His will among His family when He says For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’
In chapter 13: Jesus talks in parables (fables, stories with a moral, proverbs). He tells them about a farmer who had seed (the Word of God) and 4 different kinds of soil (conditions of man’s heart) and the one who receives will bear fruit. Jesus makes the same point in 3 different parables , the devil’s workers are mixed in with His disciples, and they will be separated at the end of the age, each to a heavenly reward or to a perpetual punishment. Jesus says the Kingdom of heaven is enough, more than enough for a person. In His home town of Nazareth, Jesus receives ridicule and condemnation instead of praise when He performs miracles.
I’ll continue Matthew in the next post. Till then read this book if possible and do watch Bible Project, they have done a fantastic job of explaining the Bible in pictures.
I want to mention again that at the time of the Holy Spirit appearing over Jesus at His baptism by John and the voice of the Father saying “This is my Son with whom I am well pleased”, Jesus had done no miracles, had not started His ministry, had not healed anyone. It was that God the Father was pleased with God the Son because of who He is, not what He had done. Works isn’t the way to salvation, though it should be a fruit/by-product/ result/ visible/ tangible proof of being saved. This is one of the places in the Bible where we see the Trinity together.
As you mediate on the King of kings I pray that you will find fullness of joy in His presence,
With much love,