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Archive for the ‘Matthew’ Category

As discussed in yesterday’s post, some characters from the Christmas story , despite their close proximity to the miracle, miss Christmas entirely.

We can make a case that the chief priests and scribes missed Christmas.  As strange as it sounds, those whose life was dedicated to the scriptures, to God’s law and teachings, missed God’s arrival as foretold in prophecy.

In Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 2:1-2), Matthew tells us that after Jesus was born, Kings from the east came to Jerusalem looking for “the King of the Jews.”  Herod, when he heard this unsettling news immediately called for his experts in the field, the people most knowledgeable about such things.  He called the Chief Priest and the scribes, the experts in Jewish religion and writings.

As expected, these men knew exactly what the Kings of the east were referring to and where the “King” would be born.  Despite that knowledge, they had no presence in Bethlehem.  No one was monitoring the births of boys in town.  No one seemed to be watching for a Messiah in Bethlehem at all.

The words of the prophet Micah were no more than pen strokes on a parchment scroll.  The knowledge of God that these men had never translated into faith in God, so they missed Christmas.

We don’t want to judge them too harshly as this could happen to you or to me.  We might, like those men and others like them, mistake the mere knowledge of God, the knowledge of His Word and even a role as a religious leader as sufficient to satisfy God.  Beware, even the religious leaders, the most “Holy” men of their time, missed Christmas.  Knowledge of God doesn’t equal saving faith in God.

If you do not have a personal, intimate, saving relationship with God.  If you don’t know Him (not just of Him), you can change that today.  Pray the following prayer to change your status from outsider, to child of God.  Don’t miss Christmas.

Jesus, I admit that I am a sinner, and I have broken your law.
I need a Savior; I cannot save myself.  Please allow your shed blood to cleanse me of my sin. Forgive me and cleanse me.  I want to live for you, to submit myself to you, to be a child of God.

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In preparation for the coming celebration of Christmas, arguable the second most significant celebration in the year, Read Matthew 2:1-12 and see how many of the following questions you can answer.  If you have questions or are unsure of something, please post a comment.

  • What caused the Kings to come to find the Christ child?  Who did they say they were looking for?
  • What was Herod’s response to hearing what the Kings from the east had to say?
  • What is Herod’s plan with regard to this “king of the Jews” that has been born?
  • What was the reaction of the Kings to seeing the star (v. 10)?
  • What was the response of the kings from the east when they saw the Christ child according to Matt. 2:11?
  • What is your response to the Christ child?  Do you worship Him?  Tell others of what you have seen Him do in your life?  Perhaps this coming year, you want to make your response to the Christ child more evident
  • What gifts did they bring to Jesus, the King?  (v. 11)
  • What does each gift signify or foretell?

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In preparation for the coming celebration of Christmas, arguable the second most significant celebration in the year, Read Matthew 1 and see how many of the following questions you can answer.  If you have questions or are unsure of something, please post a comment.
  • What horrible news does Joseph receive in Matt. 1:18?
  • How does Joseph come to terms with Mary’s pregnancy according to Matt. 1:19-25?
  • Read Luke 1.  According to Luke 1:26, who came as a messenger from God to Mary?
  • Where was Mary living at the time of this story?
  • To whom was Mary betrothed?  Of what lineage was her betrothed?
  • How does Gabriel greet Mary in verse 28?
  • What is her reaction in verse 29?
  • For what job has Mary been chosen according to verse 31?
  • How does Gabriel describe Jesus and what He will do in verses 32-33?
  • What is Mary’s very practical question in verse 34?
  • What is Gabriel’s response in verse 35?
  • What separate proof of the authenticity of his message does Gabriel offer in verse 36?
  • What is Mary’s response to the message from God through Gabriel in verse 38?
  • Who does Mary go to visit during her pregnancy according to Luke 1:36-41?  Why?
  • What happens to Elizabeth when she hears Mary’s voice?  Why is that significant?

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Sometimes we are told to “Make a joyful shout to the LORD” (Psalm 100) and  “Praise Him with clashing cymbals! (Psalm 150)”  Other times, we can be quiet.

We can be quiet in His strength

In Matthew 11:28, Jesus says,  “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  30 “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

The picture here is of oxen pulling a plow or a wagon.  The two animals would be yoked together.   A yoke is “a device for joining together a pair of draft animals, especially oxen, usually consisting of a crosspiece with two bow-shaped pieces, each enclosing the head of an animal.”  In order to be yoked together, animals must be comparable in size, stamina and desire to work.   This provides an important spiritual lesson to the believer.

When we are yoked to Jesus, we go where He goes (by necessity).  Because of the yoke, we must look at what He looks at, see what He sees.  By being joined together like this, we benefit from His wisdom and His strength, and we can just be quiet.  Sometimes it is good to just walk alongside Jesus, yoked to Him, quietly learning from Him.

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The gospel of John represents one piece in a four-part testimony of the life of Jesus.  This is important because the Bible requires that there be two witnesses to establish a fact.  The use of four gospels each based on testimony of eye witnesses makes the totality of the gospels very credible.  The fact that each of the gospels is not identical to the others adds to the overall credibility.

If one were to interview four eye-witnesses to any event in history, each of them would emphasize different facts and provide a different presentation of the information depending on their audience.  That is exactly what we find in the gospels – four unique but internally consistent testimonies of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, a real man who lived a real life in Israel.

Looking at all four gospels, we see that each is addressed to a different audience, for example, the Gospel of Mark is written with a gentile (primarily Roman) audience in mind.  Little detail of Jewish history or culture is included.

The Gospel of Matthew is written to the Jewish reader.  Matthew starts off with a very detailed genealogy of Jesus and emphasizes  Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah.

The Gospel of Luke was written to a gentile audience.  In as much as Luke was a physician and educated in Greek, he writes a more detailed, carefully researched gospel focused on Jesus as the Son of Man a Savior sent to save the lost sinner.

The Gospel of John was written with a strong emphasis on the deity of Jesus Christ.  John wrote to encouraged believers and to call unbelievers to faith in Jesus Christ

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The Bible is divided into 2 testaments or sections:

  • Old Testament
  • New Testament

The Old Testament, written mostly in Hebrew, comprises approximately 2/3 of the Bible, and the New Testament, written mostly in Greek, comprises the remaining  1/3.  The Old Testament covers a period of approximately 4,000 years, and the New Testament covers a period of approximately 100 years.

The breakdown of the books of the Old Testament has been provided in prior posts in this Bible Basics series (parts 1-6).  The New Testament was introduced in our last post.

The first section or division of the New Testament is the gospels.  Each of the gospels has a different writer and a different target audience.  Each of the gospels also portrays or emphasizes a different aspect of Jesus.

  • Gospel of Matthew
  1. Written by Matthew also known as Levi
  2. Written to the Jewish religious person
  3. Emphasizes Jesus as the Messiah prophesied of in the Old Testament
  • Gospel of Mark
  1. Written by John Mark
  2. Written to the Roman person (pragmatic)
  3. Emphasizes Jesus as the servant-redeemer
  • Gospel of Luke
  1. Written by Luke, a physician who had traveled with Paul
  2. Written to the Greek mind
  3. Emphasizes the man-nature of Christ (the Perfect man)
  • Gospel of John
  1. Written by John who stood at the cross of Jesus and wrote the Epistles of John and the book of Revelation
  2. Written to a more universal audience
  3. Emphasizes Jesus as the Son of Man

After the Gospels which all basically cover the same time period from at or around the birth of Christ until His trial, crucifixion and resurrection from the dead, is the book of Acts which covers the early history of the Church.

  • Book of Acts
  1. Written by Luke (also wrote the Gospel of Luke)
  2. History of the Early Church from Pentacost to Paul’s final trip to Rome
  3. Documents how the Holy Spirit moved through those who had been saved and how the Word of God spread through those who would believe.

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Matthew 11:28-30   (Jesus Speaking) says,  “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

This scripture speaks to us of 2 aspects of the promise of rest in this scripture.
1. Eternal aspect of the promise of Rest:  Salvation and Eternal life with God
  • The Bible, teaches that it is appointed man once to die and then the judgment.  You will not be able to take your “protections” with you.  Things will not keep you safe from the judgment of God. One day, you will stand totally exposed before the Holiness of God to answer for your life, to answer the questions, “What have you done with my Son, Jesus?”  What will you say?  Not knowing for sure or trying to earn your way can leave your weary and in need of rest.  This is the rest that Jesus is offering.
  • If you haven’t dealt with the issue of eternity, it is likely you have not dealt with your sin.  The older we get, the more are failures and mistakes seem to increase.    Are you weary and heavy laden from carrying the burden of failed marriages?  Failed relationships with family?   Failed parenting?  Failed careers?  Failed attempts to overcome self-destructive addictions or behaviors?  Failed religious experiences?  Despite all your bravado, your jokes, your defenses, do you know deep down that you have fallen short of God’s perfection and there is nothing you can do to bridge that gap?  Does sin weigh on you?  Are your failures heavy?  Have you gone too far?  Have you been too bad, hurt too many, fallen to far?  Even for God?
  • Do you long for rest – to settle with God the issue of your sin – to accept the gift of His Son – the perfect sacrifice – the atonement for your sin?   There is good news!   Jesus offers hope.
  • Jesus will take all you have – all the evil, the sin, failures, pride, self-reliance, arrogance, rage, revenge, abuse.   He’ll trade all your garbage – and for that, He’ll give you rest.
2. A life of rest is characterized by walking by the power and under the direction of the Holy Spirit  There are 6 places you can find rest (6 essential truths – when understood and incorporated into our life, will allow rest)
  • At the cross
  • In the acceptance of God’s Grace
  • In Surrender to Lordship of Jesus
  • In obedience to God
  • In fellowship with God (knowing Him and His promises – spending time with Him)
  • In walking yoked with the Holy Spirit

May you find the rest today that is available through Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross.  There is much to be busy about, but Jesus told us that the “good part” was sitting at His feet.

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