That's The Book: Matthew
Last week our eldest entered middle school. We put her on the bus with the big kids. She went off to school looking a lot like I did at her age. Blue Converse and a pink ESPRIT bag and a smattering of freckles across her nose. As the bus pulled out, I held my five-year-old's hand. I needed the comfort. I prayed my middle schooler wouldn't trip or spill her lunch or get lost or cry. I prayed she would remember what we've taught her about her worth and her character. I prayed she would listen and learn. I prayed she would filter what others tell her through her history. I prayed she'd speak words of life to the people around her.
Welcome back to That's the Book. One of my goals with this feature is to make the Bible accessible for people who have no church background. Each week I'll review one book of the Bible. You'll notice I try to share a little about how I apply the text to my own life. I've found such direction and comfort in this book. I hope you do as well. How is that for a standard heartfelt teacher welcome back to school speech?
In the biggest picture possible the Bible is split into two sections, the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament I covered last year. The Old Testament is split into five major categories. History Books, Law books, Wisdom Books, Major Prophets and Minor Prophets. For a review of each you can go HERE.
The Old Testament tells the story of God's grand plan to rescue his creation through the people of Israel. God gave lots of hints throughout the OT books to to how He planned to save the world. The Old Testament says God planned to send a person to save humanity; a savior or Messiah. The OT is full of prophecies about how people could recognize the savior when he came.
The New Testament tells how this plan played out in the life of Jesus and the early church. The New Testament is split into three major sections. The gospels, the letters and prophecy. Today we begin with the first book in the section of the New Testament called the gospels. Gospel means good news. The first 4 books of the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John tell the story of the life of Jesus. Each book covers the same time in history but from a different point of view. Matthew comes first.
Matthew was a Jewish tax collector. Tax collectors in Israel were considered traitors and thieves. They were Jewish people who agreed to work for the Romans and exact taxes from their countryman. Most of them cheated and took way more money to line their own pockets. Matthew was likely a hated, greedy, lecherous person. Then he met a man named Jesus. His whole life changed. Matthew's account of Jesus' life is written to convince his countryman that the person of Jesus was the Messiah promised in the Old Testament.
I loved going back to school. I liked new clothes, old friends, mountains of books and I really liked when teachers handed out a syllabus. Something nerd in me geeks out with a big organized schedule of what is to come along with a tidy to-do list. I absolutely can not summarize the 28 chapters of Matthew in one blog post. Not possible. It's much more important and effective if you read it yourself. But I would like to point out a few rafter level understandings to watch for as you work through the book. It's your faith journey after all. But these assignments may help you work through the book and learn the very most.
WORDS POINTING TO JESUS:
93 different times the Old Testament is quoted in the book of Matthew. These are used as pointers to the OT prophecies to show how Jesus fulfilled the promises and should be trusted as the savior.I read through Matthew this last week looking just for these markers. Remember word searches? A favorite handout from teachers in those early awkward first days back to school. So try reading through Matthew grabbing all the verses which talk about prophecies being fulfilled. Can you find all 93? Here is one to get you started.
Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet; I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world." Matthew 13: 34-25
At one point in the story, Jesus asks his team of guys who have been following him around (church people call them disciples) who they think he is. And Peter's response sums up the point of the entire book of Matthew.
"But what about you?" he asked, "Who do you say I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." Matthew 16:15
WORDS FROM JESUS POINTING THE WAY
The second major topic on the book of Matthew is the lessons Jesus himself spoke. In the book of Matthew many of these sermons are filtered through the context of the Old Testament. Jesus wanted people to remember their history while he expanded the lessons. Think of this like the back to school "what did you do over the summer?" assignment. You know your teachers didn't really care about your camping trips or summer vacations. They gave out the question to see if you were paying attention and to get you thinking. Jesus did the same thing. He was calling them to remember their history as a starting point and then he expanded it to fulfill what God's intent was the whole time.
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets: I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. Matthew 5:17
Here is one of the examples. See if you can find more.
You have heard that it was said, "Love your neighbor and hate our enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:43-44
WORDS OF LIFE
I care about what my daughter learns. I dutifully look over her homework and encourage her to do her best. We cheer for good grades and high five when she completes an assignment with excellence. It's not really what I care about the most though. For me, it's all about relationships. If she learns to get along, to stand up for the underdog, to forgive an offense, to stand alone when necessary and to carry herself with character I'll be a thrilled mama. Heavy list isn't it?
I believe it is good to know the context of the book of Matthew. I'll argue understanding how the prophesies of the Old Testament fit makes it easier to understand the message of the New Testament. But those details, while interesting, aren't what is most important. The book of Matthew is about finding a relationship with the very Word of Life. Its why a man like Matthew changed from a greedy tax collector to a committed follower. Its why a person like me writes and prays and cares at all. Its why I pray for my daughter as she walks the halls of her school.
Back to school comes with pressure, homework and high expectations. Jesus has an assignment for you too. Jesus calls you to be light. To love your enemy. To walk in good character. Its a heavy syllabus. Do you need some encouragement? The grading scale is stacked in your favor. Jesus already passed the test.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28
Your assignment today? Matthew is a treasure. Crack the book.
Here we go! If you read along through the Old Testament you'll know I'm a fan of the Bible Project and their Read Scripture YouTube Channel. Here are the two they did for the book of Matthew.
Infographics help me. I'm a visual learner so if I can see it I retain it. You too? Check out New Spring Church and their great collection of Bible Studies and infographics. Here is the one for Matthew.
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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