Matthew

“The Messiah, the Kingdom and Discipleship”

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An Introduction to Courses

Choose your course based on your needs -

Taster Course

A short introduction

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Starter Course

Getting into the guts of what’s going on

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Main Course

The meat! And what to do about it!

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Dessert Course

Material for Church leaders and Tertiary level students

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The Key
The Key to unlocking the dynamic

The key to unlocking the dynamic of the Gospel of Matthew: This gospel really is one of the most astonishing documents ever written, and it is used by the church more than any other gospel. But it is not easy or straightforward to grasp. The Gospel of Matthew is profoundly Jewish from beginning to end. A Jewish author writes using the Jewish literary genre to Jewish Christians, narrating the accounts of a Jewish man and arguing and demonstrating that this man has fulfilled the expectations of the Jewish Messiah. We will not understand, grasp and master the message of ‘Matthew’ until we have first made every effort to understand the literary, cultural and historical tools, assumptions and nuances of the Jewish religious culture of the first century. In the Gospel of Matthew the truth is presented in rather different forms to the way truth is communicated in the 21st Century, but it is still 100% truth. As an artist chooses different styles to communicate truth, so Matthew writes to help us see and hear the truth about ‘Jesus the Messiah, the Son of the living God’ (16:16).


hear
Hear
Listen Here

Click on the link above to hear an audio version of Matthew.

Listen to the Podcasts of Nick reading and commentating on Matthew in the Starter Course.

Download a Bible App for your smart phone and listen when you’re at the gym, travelling in the car, etc …


Read
Read

I strongly recommend that you create the opportunity to read the whole of Matthew’s gospel through in one sitting with others. Read a chapter each in rotation from the beginning straight through to the end. This should take around 75-90 minutes, perhaps a little longer. It will give you an astonishing – and powerful – overview of what happens when the divine enters the world of the human.

Since the Gospel of Matthew is very clearly written in sections, a second important way of reading Matthew is section by section. Study the ‘structure’ section in the Starter Course to see the sections in the book.

Read through Matthew, all the time being conscious that you are an apprentice of Jesus in the family business of the Kingdom. As you read day by day, keep asking and thinking ‘what is this teaching me/us about living as an apprentice in the family business of the Kingdom?’


Watch
Watch
Watch here

Study
Study

Study the Bible for Life material and answer the questions in each of the ‘meal courses’.

Study how Matthew reveals Jesus’ identity in these different sections: chapters 1-2, 3-4, 8-9, 11:25-27, 13:53-16:20, 26-28.

Study the Kingdom of Heaven from the following passages: 4:17, chapters 5-7, chapters 8-10, chapter 13, chapter 24-25.

Study discipleship from the following passages: 4:17-22, chapters 5-7, 8:18-22, 9:9-17, chapter 10, 11:25-30, chapters 18-20, 28:16-20.

Read ‘the Divine Conspiracy’ by Dallas Willard – a classic of our time, and the finest exposition of the Kingdom and discipleship.


Meditate
Meditate

Suggested verses for meditation …

5:3   ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’

5:44   ‘But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be sons of your father in heaven.’

6:33   ‘But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be yours as well.’

10:7   ‘As you go, preach this message: “The kingdom of heaven is near.” Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.’  

11:28-30   ‘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 shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’

24:45   ‘Who then is the faithful and wise servant whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whom his master when he comes will find so doing. Truly I tell you he will set him over all his possessions.’   

22:29   You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.’

28:19-20   ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and the Son and the holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all I have commanded you. And lo I am with you always to the end of the age.’


learn
Learn

Consider learning some of these verses:

 

6:9-13   The Lord’s Prayer

 

6:33   ‘But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well’

 

16:24-28   ‘Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it”.’

 

28:18-20   ‘Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age”.’

 


Challenge
The Challenge

Explanation: We all learn in different ways. This section is for those who find that challenging questions motivate them to master a subject.

Here are ten questions about the Gospel of Matthew. See how you score. The answers are at the bottom of the page. 

Easy:

Q1   What leading message did John the Baptist and Jesus both preach?

Q2   In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus’ birth is told from Mary’s perspective; from whose perspective are the birth narratives told in Matthew’s gospel?

Q3   As soon as Peter has publicly stated that Jesus is the Messiah, Jesus leads the apostles to Jerusalem. How many times on the journey does he specifically teach them that he will be crucified and rise again in Jerusalem?

 

Straightforward:

Q4   List the six leading issues that every human being must address to live the Kingdom life.

Q5   What is Jesus’ leading charge against the Pharisees?

Q6   In chapters 8-9 Matthew lists a collection of Jesus’ miracles that build up to a crescendo. What is his purpose in using this literary device?

 

Difficult:

Q7   What four different responses to Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom does Matthew record in chapters 11 and 12?

Q8   What great promise does Jesus give to all who ‘deny themselves, take up their crosses and follow him’?

 

Testing:

Q9   What is the leading theme that guides Matthew’s selection of the events that happened at the crucifixion?

Q10   What seems to be Matthew’s leading concern when narrating the Resurrection?

 

 

Answers:

A1 – “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near” (3:2 and 4:17).

A2 – Joseph.

A3 – Three times (16:21, 17:22, 20:17-19). There is also a more oblique statement in 17:9.

A4 – Anger, lust, divorce, truthful speech, revenge and loving one’s enemies (Matthew 5:21-48).

A5 – That they shut the Kingdom of heaven in men’s faces; they themselves do not enter the Kingdom; they prevent others from entering the Kingdom (23:13).

A6 – Matthew lists around ten miracle stories building up to a crescendo to illustrate that Jesus is fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy about the Messiah’s healing ministry, and therefore Jesus is the Messiah (Isaiah 35:5-6).

A7 – John the Baptist (in prison) is confused; the towns of Korazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum are indifferent; the religious leaders are aggressively hostile; Jesus’ family are concerned – Mark records that they think he is mad (Mark 3:21)!

A8 – They will see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom (16:28). This is a clear refence to the power of the Spirit that formed the Church at Pentecost and has caused it to grow since then.

A9 – Matthew narrates the events that demonstrate the final judgement of God on humanity: the earthquake, the tombs opening, the resurrection of the dead, humanity (expressed through the words of the Centurion) finally seeing that Jesus is the ‘Son of God’. We should also add: Jesus uttering (in our place) the cry of sinful humanity when judgement is passed on our condition of sin.

A10 – To expose and counter the false report that the disciples stole the body during the night (27:62-66, 28:4 and 28:11-15).

 

 

 

taster course

Overview

Questions

5 mins

    • Video - The book explained in 4 minutes
    • Video
    • /
    • Summary
    • /
    • 21st Century Scenario

    Summary Exhortation

     

    Context:

    The document, which includes almost every verse of the Gospel of Mark, was quite probably written to Christians in the region of Antioch in Syria. Since it refers to the existing Temple, it seems likely to have been written in the late 60sCE before the Temple’s destruction in 70CE.

    Matthew’s gospel, which has been structured with quite exceptional care and skill, shows most affinity to the literary genre referred to as ‘Ancient Biography’, a unique type of biography used for the founding figure of a philosophical school.

     

    Main Themes:

    In terms of its position, the Jewish style, literary genre, culture, tone, thought forms and argumentation of the Gospel of Matthew make it a bridge linking the Old Testament to the New Testament. This is why it is the first document in the New Testament. The book describes the life and ministry of Jesus as a Jewish man, to Jewish believers who are committed to proclaiming their faith in Messiah Jesus to the non-Jewish world.

    In terms of its subject matter, the leading argument of the Gospel of Matthew is that Jesus is the Messiah. His life-story is continuously presented as the fulfilment of the Hebrew Bibles’ expectations and prophecies of the forthcoming Messiah. His miracles and the character of his ministry fulfil the prophecies of Isaiah.  

    The Gospel of Matthew presents Jesus as the ‘Son of Man’ who is bringing in the Kingdom of Heaven – the specific fulfilment of the prophecies in Daniel. The Sermon on the Mount is a prolonged exhortation to enter the Kingdom, the parables describe the birth and growth of the Kingdom, and Jesus’ final teaching discourse describes the end of this age leaving the Kingdom to prevail.

    In terms of response, ‘the Gospel of Matthew’ is the leading New Testament document on discipleship. Jesus calls his disciples to follow him as his apprentices in the family business of the Kingdom. Each of the five teaching sections in Matthew relate to this, culminating in the final commission in its very last verses: ‘go and make disciples of all nations’ (28:19). 

     

    Main Applications:

    The imperative that drives the entire thrust of the Gospel is the very first statement Jesus makes: ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near’ (4:17). Jesus then calls a succession of individuals with the simple invitation ‘Come, follow me’ (4:19). As soon as Peter has publicly recognised him to be the Messiah, Jesus instructs his followers ‘If anyone would come after me he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.’ ‘The Gospel of Matthew’ is the church’s handbook for discipleship. Perhaps the heart of which is expressed by Jesus at the end of the Sermon on the Mount: ‘Therefore, whoever hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on a rock’ (7:24).

    21st Century Contemporary Scenario

    ‘You are holding in your hands a tiny book which has changed more human lives than ‘the Communist Manifesto’ or Freud’s ‘Interpretation of Dreams’; a book which has shaped whole civilisations, a book which for many people has not been a gospel but THE GOSPEL. …(if you reject it) you will reject one of the most disturbing and extraordinary books ever written.’

    A N Wilson (Introduction to Matthew’s Gospel in the ‘Pocket Canons’ Series; October 1998)

    Summary >
      Book-in-a-Picture - The message and key features in a picture
    • Book-in-a-Picture
    taster Questions - Questions to start you off

    Question 1 -

    Is there a place for disciples of Jesus being secular heroes and celebrities like Bear Grylls (18:1-4)? What are the dangers?


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    Question 2 -

    In Matthew a number of titles are used about Jesus including ‘Son of Man’, ‘Messiah’, ‘Son of God’, ‘Emmanuel’. Without in any way discrediting these, what descriptive title would you use if you were trying to describe the meaning of these titles to an adult who knew absolutely nothing about Jesus?


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    Question 3 -

    ‘But I tell you: Love your enemies’ (5:44). Who are your enemies? How can you love them today? Many have dismissed this teaching as unrealistic. Is it?


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    starter course

    podcasts

    the essentials

    Argument

    Questions

    10 mins

    • podcasts - 3 to 5 minute ‘Teach-Ins’ on key themes

    Jesus is the Messiah

    The Kingdom of Heaven

    Discipleship in Matthew

      the essentials - The literary features explained
    • Context
    • /
    • Literary Genre
    • /
    • Structure
    • /
    • Themes

    Context:

    Nature: The Gospel of Matthew is distinctly Jewish in nature and tone. In this document, a Jewish author narrates the life and ministry of a Jewish man to Jewish Christians.

    Date: Since all of the Gospel of Mark (apart from nine verses) is contained in the Gospel of Matthew, it seems that Matthew has used ‘Mark’ (which was the apostle Peter’s testimony about Jesus, written around the early CE60s), and structured the material around five main teaching sections. Since the Gospel proceeds on the understanding that the Temple still operated, a strong argument can be made that this gospel was written before the Jewish War that led to the Temple’s destruction. ‘Matthew’ can therefore be dated in the mid-to-late CE60s.

    Destination: The Jewish tone of this Gospel, with its focus on mission to the non-Jews and with the apparent separation of church from synagogue indicate it was probably written for Jewish Christians committed to evangelising Non-Jews, quite possibly in the region of Antioch in Syria. ‘Matthew’ affirms that the Christian believers are firmly within the Jewish tradition while also affirming the call to evangelise and disciple non-Jewish people.

    Author: Papias writing around 125CE recorded that “Matthew” wrote the first gospel. Some scholars see the work of different authors in the final edition.

    Genre:

    This gospel shows most affinity to the literary genre known as ‘Ancient Biography’, a unique type of biography used for the founding figure of a philosophical school. Such ‘Ancient Biographies’ begin with the person’s teaching, and provide an entry point for those considering joining the movement, which is exactly the content and argumentation of Matthew’s first teaching discourse (Matthew 5-7). The Gospel of Matthew shows all the signs of undergoing very careful structuring. The inclusion of almost every verse of the Gospel of Mark is obviously of primary importance. But within Mark’s narrative (Matthew 13:53-27:66), and the introductory section about Jesus’ teaching and miracles (Matthew 5:1-13:52), the author has carefully included several of Jesus’ teaching discourses. Throughout, the genre is profoundly Jewish in culture, tone, phraseology, structure, argumentation, example and style. There is constant reference to Old Testament prophecy and prediction. Jesus is the culmination of Abraham’s family. He sits on king David’s throne. He is Immanuel, God with us. Jesus is the new Moses, bringing the promised Kingdom to God’s people. He is the Son of Man prophesied by Daniel who teaches seven parables about the Kingdom of Heaven, seven times calls individuals to “follow me”, and severely warns the religious leaders in seven “woe” statements to them.

    The Structure of Matthew’s Gospel:

    Beginnings

    The Messiah is born (1-2)

    Preparation and early ministry (3-4)

     

    The Kingdom of Heaven and discipleship

    The Messiah teaches the Kingdom (5-7)

    The power of the Kingdom in mission (8-10)

    Responding to the Kingdom (11-13:52)

     

    Jesus is recognised as the Messiah (13:53 – 16:20)

     

    The journey to Jerusalem:

    Jesus teaches about the community of disciples and his coming death (16:21-20:34)

     

    Jerusalem:

    Jesus challenges the religious establishment (21-25)

    Jesus’ betrayal, trail, execution and resurrection (26-27).

     

     

    Comments on how Matthew has structured this gospel:

    Within this structure, Matthew includes five sections of Jesus’ teaching, each of which is introduced with narrative:

    1. 5-7 The lifestyle of a disciple in the Kingdom
    2. 10 Kingdom mission
    3. 13 Parables describing the nature of the Kingdom
    4. 18 Community relations in the Kingdom
    5. 24-25 The end of the age

    Matthew’s Gospel shows numerous incidents of careful ordering:

    1. There are seven parables about the Kingdom in chapter 13, and there are seven occasions where Jesus calls people to “follow me”.
    2. The intercalation of the discipleship narratives with the miracle stories in chapters 8-9.

    Jesus’ identity: he is the Messiah

    The Kingdom of Heaven

    Discipleship

    Judgement: The final judgement of humanity, and Jesus’ bearing of the judgement on the cross.

     

    Literary Genre >
      Argument - Understanding how the argument develops

    ‘The Argument and Development’

     

    Section 1   Chapters 1 – 4   Preparation

    The Messiah is born   Chapters 1 – 2

    The opening genealogy demonstrates that Jesus is Jewish, that he is descendent of king David, and that he is climax of Jewish history. The birth narratives are told from Joseph’s perspective. Gentiles come to worship the baby king, while Herod tries to kill him. Jesus’ journeys replicate the journey of his people through Egypt and the desert.

     

    Preparation for ministry   Chapters 3 – 4

    John the Baptist begins a ‘Kingdom’ movement which is strongly critical of the religious establishment. Jesus is baptised and joins the movement. God affirms Jesus as his son at the baptism and Jesus is then prepared for ministry through being tempted in the desert.

     

    Section 2   Chapters 5 – 7   The Messiah teaches: ‘the Kingdom and discipleship’

    As the new Moses, Messiah Jesus teaches his disciples how a person can enter, engage and participate in the Kingdom of Heaven.

     

    Section 3   Chapters 8 – 10   The power of the Kingdom in mission

    Matthew records a rising crescendo of miracle stories, culminating in Jesus’ power over death and the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecies about the forthcoming Messiah. The section includes two passages in which Jesus instructs his disciples about following him and the need for new spiritual disciplines in the Kingdom. The section culminates in Jesus commissioning his apostles to preach the Kingdom and heal the sick. He sends them out in mission and instructs them how to handle the persecution that they will experience.

     

    Section 4   Chapters 11 – 13:52   The Messiah explains the Kingdom

    In contrast to the reactions of confusion, indifference, outright hostility and concern, Jesus teaches (through the medium of parables) the secrets and the operating principles of the Kingdom of Heaven. 

     

    Section 5   Chapters 13:53 – 16:20   Jesus’ identity: the Messiah

    The execution of John the Baptist heightens the pace of events, and Jesus leads his disciples through a series of events and challenges that culminate in Peter’s ‘confession’ testimony that Jesus ‘is the Messiah, the Son of the living God’.  

     

    Section 6   Chapters 16:21 – 20:34   The journey to Jerusalem

    Now that the disciples had understood Jesus’s true identity, he teaches them that he must go to Jerusalem where he will be crucified before rising again. On the journey, during which he continues to preach the Kingdom of Heaven in the villages, he teaches the apostles the leading principles that must guide his community of followers (the Church).

     

    Section 7   Chapters 21 – 25   Confrontation with the religious leaders

    Through a series of confrontations, Jesus silences the religious      leaders. He denounces them and strongly warns them of the      judgement they face. In his final teaching discourse, Jesus teaches about God’s final judgement of humanity.

     

    Section 8   Chapters 26- 28   Jesus is executed, buried and rises again

    Matthew narrates Jesus’ trial, execution and death in terms of God’s

    final judgement of humanity. As the Messiah he embodies humanity and takes God’s judgement of humanity on himself. Matthew’s resurrection appearances focus on refuting the lie that the disciples stole the body from the tomb. The gospel ends with Jesus’ commission to all his apostles to make disciples of all nations.

     

     

     

    starter Questions - To help you think carefully about the key issues

    Question 1 -

    In ‘The Divine Conspiracy’, Dallas Willard uses the idea of the ‘Kingdom of Electricity’ to illustrate how when electricity was discovered and then controlled and marketed, it changed almost every aspect of our lives since its discovery and development. In the past twenty years the ‘Kingdom of wifi and the internet’ has similarly changed our lives. What are some of the changes Jesus states will happen when a person turns and engages with the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ (4:17)?


    Question 2 -

    When Jesus wanted to describe the pervasive influence and growth of the Kingdom of Heaven, he spoke about the effect of yeast in bread. When he wanted to communicate the value of the Kingdom, he described treasure hidden in the ground. Think about your own experience of the Kingdom of Heaven and describe it (truthfully) in terms of something in everyday 21st Century life.


    Question 3 -

    Who are the Pharisees in the world today? Where are they? What do they do? In 23:13, Jesus states his leading charge against them. Who are the people who shut the Kingdom of Heaven in men’s faces today?


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    main course

    Verse by Verse

    The Apprentice

    Questions

    • Verse by Verse - For a thorough understanding of the Biblical text
    • Matthew 1-2
    • /
    • Matthew 3-4
    • /
    • Matthew 5-7
    • /
    • Matthew 8-10
    • /
    • Matthew 11:1 - 13:52
    • /
    • Matthew 13:53 - 16:20
    • /
    • Matthew 16:21 - 20:34
    • /
    • Matthew 21-25
    • /
    • Matthew 26-28

    The key to unlocking the dynamic of the Gospel of Matthew:

    The Gospel of Matthew is profoundly Jewish from beginning to end. A Jewish author writes using the Jewish literary genre to Jewish Christians narrating the accounts of a Jewish man and arguing and demonstrating that this man has fulfilled the expectations of the Jewish Messiah. We will not understand, grasp and master the message of ‘Matthew’ until we have first made every effort to understand the literary, cultural and historical tools, assumptions and nuances of the Jewish religious culture of the first century. Matthew writes to help us see and hear the truth about ‘Jesus the Messiah, the Son of the living God’ (16:16).

     

    Chapters 1 – 2   The Messiah is born

    1. The genealogy of Jesus Christ the Messiah                    1:1-17
    2. God calls Joseph to be Mary’s husband                           1:18-25
    3. The visit of the Magi                                                                 2:1-15
    4. The escape to Egypt and the return to Nazareth         2:16-23

     

    1:1 – 17   The genealogy of Jesus the Messiah

    Matthew uses a deliberate literary structure to present Jesus’ genealogy in three sections of fourteen generations. The first section (v1-10) demonstrates that as the son of Abraham, Jesus is Jewish. The second part (v6-11) demonstrates that Jesus is the son of King David, and as a consequence Jesus has a right to the Jewish throne, as King of the Jews.  V1 and v17 endorse the point of the structure, that God’s dealings with his people have now reached a climax in Jesus the King of the Jews: the Messiah!

    V3   Since Jesus is descended from Judah (v3), we should remember the Old Testament prophecies about the coming ‘Lion of the tribe of Judah’.

    V3,5,6,16   The inclusion of four ‘mothers’ in the genealogy is, strictly, unnecessary. But the significance of their names becomes apparent once it is recognised that in each case there was an element of ‘moral disorder’ about the conception of the child. In Jesus’ case this is picked up and explained directly in v18-19.

    V9   When compared to 1 Chronicles 3:10-16 there is a ‘three generation’ omission which appears to be accounted for by a three-generation curse (1 Kings 21:21-24,29).

    V16   The genealogy traces the line of Joseph (v16), who is the leading decision-maker in each of the stories recounted until the end of chapter 2. The Lukan genealogy traces the ancestry of Mary.

     

    1:18 – 25   God calls Joseph to be Mary’s husband

    These verses focus on the process through which Joseph decided to marry Mary and thereby take responsibility for the child he had not fathered. Joseph is presented as a righteous, godly, deeply spiritual (young) man who fears God and obeys his commands but is also anointed in the prophetic gift of hearing God speak in dreams. The whole of chapter1 is therefore about Jesus’ “fathers”: Abraham, Judah, David and lastly his ‘step-father’ Joseph.

    V23   This is the first of many Old Testament verses quoted in Matthew’s gospel. Isaiah 7:14 was originally a prophetic message about a king that would come, although the extremely general nature of the prophecy (a young girl will have a baby called Immanuel) meant that it was almost impossible to locate it in history. Indeed, it could be applied to every Jewish king!

    V24   Joseph was most probably only in his late teens. He is godly, kind, merciful, righteous, charismatically anointed, brave and obedient. God the Father committed the oversight of his own baby son and the care of the child’s mother to Joseph – an astonishingly high calling. Here is a man called by God to be a father. His immense, albeit silent, influence can be studied in the characters of the his ‘sons’; Jesus, James and Jude, each of whom contributed to the teaching of the New Testament.

     

    2:1 – 15   Magi visit the baby Jesus

    This unexpected story seems to be included to indicate that the Messiah has come not just for the Jews but for all non-Jews, all humanity. Although traditionally understood to be ‘kings’, the Magi were probably either occultists, or more likely simply godly men (and women?).

    V1   Matthew does not narrate the events of the night Jesus was born; the only detail given is that Jesus’ birth happened in Bethlehem.

    V2   The proposal that ‘the star’ was the alignment of Saturn and Jupiter which took place around that time is not only rather unconvincing, but on more careful study it quickly becomes immensely problematic. A more convincing explanation is simply that the star was an angel, as per Revelation 1:19. This idea makes much more sense of the star resting over the house in v9. It is also commensurate with the other encounters with angels throughout the birth narratives. There is a strong link with the story of Baalam in Numbers 22-24; Baalam and the Magi are both pagans who are brought into the Jewish story to bring blessing.

    V5   Matthew focuses on the fulfilment of Scripture in order to make the point that Jesus is great king of Israel prophesied in the Old Testament. Ezekiel 34 is a powerful prophecy of the coming ‘shepherd’ of Israel.

    V11   While gold could indicate royalty, it is probably unwise to press the meaning of the gifts beyond seeing them as luxuries suitable for the child’s very high calling.

    V14   Joseph obeys immediately in a way similar to Peter’s release from prison (Acts 12:7).

     

     

    2:16 – 23   The escape to Egypt and the return to Nazareth

    Matthew may have included this story as a parallel to the ‘slaughter’ of the Israelite children by the Egyptians. The story therefore presents Jesus as ‘new Moses’, something Matthew will repeat at the beginning of Matthew 5.

    V16   Although this slaughter is not recorded in extra-Biblical sources, Herod’s behaviour is in line with the exceptional impulsive and capricious violence for which he is known historically. This is arguably the most horrific story in all of Scripture. It is an indication that the coming of Christ and his Kingdom will generate immense struggle and suffering by those set on opposing God’s work.

    V23   Joseph’s decision to live in Nazareth was probably made for two reasons. First, it was a long way from Herod’s descendants in Jerusalem, and second it was the town where the Nazarites, “the monks”, lived. Joseph probably hoped to raise his children in a godly environment, although sadly Nazareth (“Monktown”) was to prove to be the place of greatest unbelief for Jesus (13:53-58).

     

    Chapters 3 – 4   Preparation and early ministry

    1. John the Baptist prepares the nation for Jesus (3:1-12)
    2. Jesus is baptised (3:13-17)
    3. Jesus is tested by temptation (4:1-11)
    4. Jesus announces the Kingdom (4:12-17)
    5. Jesus calls his first disciples (4:18-22)
    6. Jesus teaches, preaches and heals many (4:23-25)

     

    3:1 – 12   John the Baptist prepares the nation for Jesus

    John the Baptist was called to prepare the nation for Jesus’ ministry. The significance and the extraordinary effectiveness of what John achieved is often missed because it is overshadowed by all that subsequently happened with Jesus. John succeeded in bringing the whole nation to a place of repentance, readiness and anticipation of what God was about to do. John and Jesus preached exactly the same message.

    V2     John the Baptist preached ‘Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near’. Jesus preached exactly the same message (4:17), and Jesus instructed his apostles to preach exactly this message (10:7). We must do the very same today. It is astonishing how simple this axiomatic statement of the gospel is, and it is astonishing how many people preach anything and everything except this gospel!

    V7-10   These verses teach genuine repentance. There is a strong element of warning here. Note the parallel with John 15:6.

    V12     Don’t miss the contrast with v11: a person either gets the Holy Spirit and fire, or burns in the fire! Not exactly what a safe middle class Briton wants to hear.

     

    3:13 – 17   Jesus is baptised

    As ‘Messiah Jesus’ embodied the Jewish nation, and because God had chosen the Jews to represent all humanity, Jesus therefore embodies all humanity. As ‘the human being’ he embodies humanity in his baptism, and subsequently in his death. The immediate divine verdict is that Jesus is himself sinless and he is anointed and empowered with the Holy Spirit. The incident also has a political angle in that Jesus’ movement emerged from within John’s movement, so there was no rivalry between them.

    V15   Jesus identifies with his nation which went through the Jordan into the promised land.

    V16   One of the moments in the Gospels when the Trinitarian nature of the Godhead is clearly in focus.

    V17   Although Jesus has identified with the sin of Israel, the divine intervention announces him sinless. Although announced by the divine voice to be personally sinless, the Messiah embodies the sin of his people.

     

    4:1 – 11   Jesus is tested by temptation

    Anointed by the Holy Spirit and publicly declared to be God’s son, the Messiah must now choose how to win and restore humanity back to God. The three desert temptations each provide a strategy that Jesus then rejects in favour of the redeeming power of the Cross – which is subject of the fourth temptation (27:41-44).

    V2   In spending forty days in the desert, Jesus is identifying with the forty years God’s people spent in the desert before they entered the promised land. This pattern follows Ezekiel’s prophetic sign of judgement in Ezekiel 4:4-8.

    V3   To understand this verse we must first meditate on Deuteronomy 8:1-4, because the subjects of desert, hunger, sonship, discipline and the word of God dominate both passages. As he considers this work during a time of intense focus, prayer, discernment and planning, Jesus resists three possible strategies which are essentially to do the right thing in the wrong way. It is a mistake to trivialise temptation. Real temptation is actually quite rare and occurs only a few times in a person’s life. The power of temptation is its deceptiveness in that temptation provides the opportunity to do good, but good that is secondary to the very best. It seems that through the desert temptations, Jesus understood even more clearly that humanity must be saved righteously, and that the only righteous way to save humanity was to die on the cross. Only through the cross would humans’ hearts be won in love and brought into the deepest loyalty to God forever. The cross is God’s secret tool that brings even the very hardest hearts to repentance (Revelation 11:13).

    V5   Just as Jesus was first tempted to win the nations through feeding the world (v3), so in this second temptation he contemplates and rejects the opportunity to win humanity by performing spectacular miracles and ‘wonders’.

    V8   The third opportunity presented is in many ways the deepest, and most powerful, and could be viewed as the only temptation. The truly ultimate decision that every human being faces is; who do you serve? The offer of the rule of all nations is presented as a temptation.

     

    4:12 – 17   Jesus announces the Kingdom

    Having publicly aligned himself with John the Baptist’s reform movement (which was in the southern region of the Jordan), Jesus now chooses Capernaum, a fishing village on the north side of the Sea of Galilee, as the centre for the northern part of the renewal movement. It is at Capernaum that Jesus will establish his movement that will emerge out from John’s in the south.

    V12-13   Capernaum was further away from Jerusalem, and in moving there Jesus was lowering the political temperature evidenced by John’s imprisonment.

    V14-16   Matthew continues to narrate these developments in terms of the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy.

    V17   This short sentence expresses the heart of Jesus’ ministry, and the key for understanding Matthew’s gospel. It is also exactly the same message that John preached in the region of the Jordan.

     

    4:18 – 22   Jesus calls his first disciples

    These two simple short stories touch the essence of Jesus’ second strategy (the first, as expressed in v17, was the preaching that the Kingdom of Heaven is near). Jesus ministers at two levels: he makes disciples (apprentices), and teaches and preaches to the crowds. Matthew’s Gospel is the handbook for discipleship, and discipleship begins when the Messiah/king personally invites a person to follow him.

    V18   Jesus calls brothers (and sisters) to be his disciples today. Throughout my life I have seen this happen many times; Jesus has called two brothers, or two sisters, to ‘follow him’. Even though their subsequent ministries may be rather different, there is great power for the Kingdom through their filial love. Jesus’ call to Peter on the beach at Galilee led ultimately to his death (crucifixion) in Rome about 35 years later. Life is never the same when the king has called you.

    V21   There is something almost mesmerising about the power and simplicity of this story. It is most likely that Jesus already knew these four men from their association with John the Baptist (John 1:35-42), but the reality and power of the incident touches the heart of all discipleship. These four men, probably in their late teens or early twenties, were to become Jesus’ closest friends and companions, and subsequently the pillars of the early church (Galatians 2:9).

     

    4:23 – 25   Jesus teaches, preaches and heals many

    These summary verses describe Jesus’ strategy with the crowds and his wider ministry. He preaches the Kingdom ‘in church’ (the synagogue) and ‘out of church’, but always within the area prophesied by Isaiah (Galilee), although large crowds come from outside the region to hear him. He teaches about the Kingdom (through what is preached) and he demonstrates the Kingdom through the healings. Although Matthew only mentions this in summary form, these verses in all likeliness describe at least the first year of Jesus’ ministry.

    V23   Jesus’ ministry of healing is mentioned for the first time.

     

    Chapters 5 – 7   The Messiah teaches: ‘the Kingdom and discipleship’

    The Messiah, as the new Moses, teaches how a person can enter and participate in the Kingdom of Heaven.

     

    1. Those who are well-placed to enter the Kingdom (5:1-12)
    2. The Kingdom and the old covenant law (5:13-20)
    3. The lifestyle of the Kingdom (5:21-48)
    4. How to practice Kingdom religion (6:1-18)
    5. The Kingdom, wealth and the fear of poverty (6:19-34)
    6. Kingdom relationships (7:1-12)
    7. This teaching is the only truth (7:13-29)

     

    5:1 – 12   Those who are well-placed to enter the Kingdom

    The eight sentences commonly referred to as ‘the Beatitudes’ are a description of those people who are well-placed to enter and participate in the Kingdom of Heaven. The different categories describe the types of people who long and labour for spiritual renewal. The list does not imply that this includes all people – it does not include the wicked, the violent, thieves, liars and others. The Kingdom is mentioned first and last indicating that this is Jesus’ answer to the deep longing in the heart of humanity.

    V1   Jesus’ response to attention and popularity was to teach and train only a few.

    V2   The Rabbis ‘sat down’ when they taught.

    V3   Probably the most encouraging verse in the whole of Scripture. The Kingdom of Heaven is expressly for those who haven’t a clue what spiritual life and truth is about.

    V4   Those who mourn profoundly over the low level of spiritual understanding.

    V5   The humble and gentle who have set their hearts to live by God’s standards.

    V6   Those determined to do the will of God.

    V7   God is merciful, so those who are merciful will encounter God.

    V8   God is pure, and those who have set themselves to be pure will encounter God.

    V9   Similarly those who strive for peace are well set to meet the God of peace in the Kingdom.

    V10   Those who stand up for justice and what is right and as a result end up behind bars.

    V11-12   Jesus, ever absolutely realistic, states that to follow him will involve rejection, but the reward of the Kingdom is very great.

     

    5:13 – 20   The Kingdom and the old covenant law

    Before describing the essence of the Kingdom lifestyle, Jesus gives two illustrations about the powerful effect his community of disciples will have on the world. Firstly, all who live the Kingdom life will have a similar effect on society as a tiny pinch of salt has on a plate of food – the entire meal is changed, for the better! Secondly, no one should be under any doubt that Jesus’ Kingdom teaching is absolutely consistent with what the Mosaic Law always demanded. Indeed, the righteousness of the Kingdom apprentice is greater than the Pharisaic righteousness because it is deeper; it is not a righteousness of ticking the boxes of outward behaviour, but the righteousness of the thoughts and motives of the heart.

    V13   Jesus taught many ‘salt’ sayings. All disciples are astonished at the truth that we are salt now! We do not become salt. The issue is whether or not we are the sort of disciples who are noticed by society.

    V14   Disciples are ‘the light of the world’ because we reflect ‘The Light of the World’ to the world: we mirror Jesus to the world.

    V15-16   The purpose of mirroring Jesus to the world is so those in the world see Jesus, turn, follow him, and then they also glorify Jesus by reflecting him to the world.

    V17-19   In isolation, these verses are problematic, but Jesus’ meaning is clarified by the way he himself handled the Law in his life. For example, the way he interpreted the laws about the Sabbath (12:1-14, 15:1-20). In the six following examples, Jesus goes to the heart of the intention of the old covenant law and in each case very substantially raises the bar of God’s expectations.

    V20    The Pharisees could see no further than the legalistic performance of religious duty, but Jesus taught the essential heart of obeying God out of love (14:8-9). This is why the ‘righteousness’ of the Pharisees failed to lead anyone to ‘enter the kingdom’.

     

    5:21 – 48   The Lifestyle of the Kingdom

    Jesus takes the leading commandments and addresses six issues at the absolute heart of the Kingdom disciple’s lifestyle. In repeatedly using the emphatic “… but I …”, Jesus is asserting that he has a greater authority than Moses himself!

     

    5:21 – 26   Anger: settle disputes quickly

    As the highest priority the disciple must handle anger and settle all disputes quickly.

    V22   To be angry is to immediately risk reaping the results of your anger. ‘Raca’ is a (four letter) swear word that expresses distain, but ‘You fool’ expresses contempt, which is far more dangerous because it indicates that the relationship is about to end, with all the resulting carnage that happens when a relationship is ‘through’; Jesus calls this ‘the fire of hell’.

    V23-24   Restoring a relationship is more important than worship, and worship is tainted by waring relationships.

    V25-26   A vivid illustration of the way that when a relationship breaks down, others get involved, the issue spirals out of control and the two parties quickly lose all control of the outcomes. Others get involved, the situation escalates, feuds break out and communities become set against each other. Everyone loses very badly!

     

     

    5:27 – 30   Lust must be dismissed with the greatest strictness    

    Lust, like anger, must be resisted with the greatest seriousness.

    V27   Be ruthless and cut lust out of your life. There is no place for pornography in a disciple’s life; ‘Make no provision for the flesh’.

     

     

    5:31 – 32   Divorce must be avoided since it leads directly to adultery 

    Divorce is included here because anger and lust are often the root causes of divorce.

    V31   Jesus’ teaching on divorce is far stricter than the Mosaic law.

     

    5:33 – 37   Disciples must speak the truth clearly and without manipulation

    V33   The practice of making oaths, in the way that Jesus is referring to here, is seldom practiced in 21st Century. Jesus’ point is very simply that disciples should speak the truth simply and clearly.

     

    5:38 – 42   Kingdom disciples must never take revenge        

    V39   Jesus is not instructing us to tolerate injustice, or even encourage it through our passivity. He is instructing his disciples to take care not to escalate evil. We should ‘soak up evil’ in order prevent the never ending contagion of evil. Evil spreads by contact. The one who strongly stands up to evil is almost always actually capitulating completely to it, so that whereas there was originally one person affected by the evil, now there are two!

     

    5:43 – 48   Kingdom disciples must ‘love their enemies’  

    V44   This is the crescendo of Jesus’ lifestyle teaching. This is the summary of all he teaches and all that he himself embodied in his death on the cross. His only command to his disciples is: ‘love one another as I have loved you’.

     

     

    6:1 – 18   How to practice lifestyle ‘Holy Habits’ in the Kingdom 

    Jesus began his leading teaching discourse about the Kingdom by encouraging those who are best placed to engage in it. He then identified six priority lifestyle behaviours for Kingdom disciples and in the process demonstrated that his Kingdom teaching is not only completely in step with the Mosaic Law, but, unlike the Pharisees’ interpretation of it, his teaching goes to the very heart of what the Law always intended. Jesus now teaches how religious ‘Holy Habits’ should be practiced so they enable and empower the Kingdom disciple to progress in the six lifestyle areas he has highlighted. This is again in strong contrast to the practice of the Pharisees. Each of these three stanzas follows exactly the same structure, the one exception being the middle stanza on prayer which includes ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ with the central request ‘Thy kingdom come’.

     

    6:1 – 4   Practicing the ‘Holy Habit’ of giving      

    V1   ‘The reward’ is all the outcomes that ensue from your time of prayer, or your giving, or your activity for God. Jesus severely warns against any such practice being directed towards human beings. All personal ‘Holy Habits’ are only effective if they are private between you and God. Other ‘Holy Habits’ are communal: festivals, pilgrimage, communal worship; but a Kingdom disciple ought to direct all ‘spiritual disciplines’ to God alone.

    V2   A hypocrite is an actor. Jesus is not saying that disciples should not join with others in publicly raising funds for charity, in the sort of TV Telethon events that are popular today. He is severely warning humanity against obtaining public recognition among men and women for pious religious behaviour. There are plenty of examples of this happening around the world today.

    V3-4   Giving to the poor ought to be a private business that springs out of the disciple’s love for God. The promise is that God sees and that there will certainly be a positive outcome in the disciple’s life, which may or may not be financial.

     

    6:5 – 14   Practicing the ‘Holy Habit’ of prayer  

    V5   Verses 5-8 follow exactly the same structure as v2-4 and v16-18. Jesus develops the illustration of the hypocrites in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18:9-14.

    V6   These brief instructions are the best practical advice about praying ever given. Over four decades I have witnessed again and again that most disciples struggle in prayer and fail to learn the deeper and more powerful arenas of prayer precisely because they do not ‘go into your room, close the door, and pray to your father who is in secret’. Prayer is like every other skill a human being can learn. Everything is available and ready for those who set themselves to master this powerful ‘tool’ for the Kingdom.

    V7-8   Two mighty instructions for prayer. Don’t babble! Try and learn to pray for only the things that your heavenly Father knows that you need. This is why disciples should study the prayers written in the New Testament.

    V9-13   The Lord’s Prayer is in two halves. The disciple’s petitions should first be orientated towards our heavenly Father’s concerns: his glory, his kingdom and his will (in this world). These are in fact the greatest needs a disciple will ever have, because they are the best things that can ever happen in our lives. The second part focuses on the leading essential needs in our lives. Our bodies need food. Our souls need forgiveness and peaceful relationships. Our spirits need protection from every form of pernicious evil.

    V14-15   Jesus applies the leading operating principle of the Kingdom – ‘the measure you use will be measured to you’ – to the leading issue of forgiveness. Later when instructing the disciples about community he will teach then ‘the parable of the unmerciful servant’ (18:21-35).

     

    6:16 – 18   Practicing the ‘Holy Habit’ of fasting            

    V16   More any other spiritual discipline, fasting is the arena of the Pharisee – the zealot, the enthusiast! So it is the arena of spiritual danger. The fasts of the New Testament demonstrate that this spiritual tool ought to be used under the leading of the Spirit to establish bridgeheads for effective Kingdom ministry (Luke 2:37, Matthew 4:1-11, Acts 13:1-3, Acts 14:23).

     

    6:19 – 34   Wealth and the Kingdom

    One of the deepest fears in every person is the horror of poverty. Jesus assures the apprentices of the Kingdom that not only is it safe to invest in the Father’s Kingdom, but that when they do, their heavenly Father will look after their greatest needs.

     

    6:19 – 24   Invest in the lasting spiritual treasure of the Kingdom          

    V19   Humanity loves wealth and searches for security in wealth. But such wealth is transitory, insecure, vapid and dangerous. The riches of heaven will last for ever. To give money away to those in need is to invest in the eternal treasure of the Kingdom (19:21).

    V22-23   Jesus addresses the heart of the issue of wealth. There is something about a person’s handling of money that reveals the very essence of every person.

    V24   Ultimately each person faces a binary choice: either seek (trust in) wealth, or seek (trust in) God.

     

    6:19 – 34   Do not fear for future provision, but seek the Kingdom first

    Jesus highlights the way that God looks after the very simplest creatures to assure the Kingdom disciples that their heavenly Father will take care of their deepest needs. This passage contains the leading imperative of the whole discourse: seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness and your heavenly Father will see that your basic needs are provided.

    V34   A deep maxim for living: live one day at a time, and learn the practice of not worrying endlessly about the future. However, Jesus is not telling us that there is no need to make responsible decisions about our futures – especially if others are dependent on us.

     

    7:1 – 12   Relating to others and God

    These sayings which at first appear to be rather random are united by the final statement in v12 ‘do to others what you would have them do to you’. The sayings all reflect truths and wisdom about relationships with others, and particularly about how we use speech to manipulate others in order to get what we want. The summary statement gives practical advice on how to fulfil the command to ‘love one another’ which is why it is also the final summary of both Jesus’ ‘Sermon on the Mount’ and ‘the law and the prophets’.

    V1-2   Jesus applies the operating principle of the Kingdom, ‘the measure you give will be measured to you’, to humanity’s endless desire to assess and judge others.

    V3-5   Sort yourself out and get your own house (life) in order before you criticise and ‘sort out’ the way other people live.

    V6   Don’t be endlessly stuffing your spiritual ideas down other people’s throats!

    V7-8   Jesus understood the power of simply asking for what you want. This is effective with both men and women, and also with our heavenly Father…

    V9-11   …and our heavenly Father can be trusted and relied on to give his children what is truly good for them.

    V12   ‘In everything, every matter and issue that we face in life, ‘do to others what you would have them do to you’. This seems to be the thread uniting the rather ‘random’ sayings in these first twelve verses of chapter 7.

     

    7:13 – 29   Final imperative: Enter the Kingdom and reject every other teacher

    Jesus summarises his teaching about the lifestyle of the Kingdom with a powerful imperative that his disciples must strive with everything they have to enter the Kingdom because the entrance is ‘small’ and ‘narrow’ and ‘only a few’ will actually succeed in entering (living the Kingdom life). He follows this with an equally emphatic warning that under no circumstances should they listen to any other ‘teacher’ or prophet. To put this teaching of Jesus into practice is to build your house (your life) securely on a rock. Every single other lifestyle will end in total and absolute ruin!

    V13-14   This sentence is the leading application imperative of the entire ‘Sermon on the Mount’ discourse. Jesus is clear: in contrast to the general wide and easy life of humanity, apprentices of the Kingdom must strive with everything they’ve got to enter the Kingdom, because the entrance is small and narrow, the road itself is narrow, and in the final analysis only a few people learn how to walk (live) it (the Kingdom lifestyle).

    V15-20   In this context, Jesus uses the title ‘prophet’ to refer to every other person other than himself who represents God to humanity and teaches a way of life other than the lifestyle Jesus has himself taught in this discourse. These philosophers and religious teachers come with gentle, soothing words, but the fruit of their lives is tyranny and damage in the lives of their followers. The leading means of discernment is the attractiveness (or otherwise) of the lives of those who follow them. What sort of people are they really like? Would you really like to be like them? Would you like your own children to go on holiday with them? God himself is set against all such false teachers (‘prophets’) and in the course of time both they and their movements will be exposed for what they truly are and will end in complete ruin.

    V21-23   Strong, uncompromising words from Jesus. Lip service is not enough, despite whatever fine performance (or even miracles) that might accompany it. The only people who will ‘enter the kingdom of heaven’ are those who ‘do the will of my Father in heaven’. In other words, it is simply impossible to enter, participate and grow in the Kingdom without learning how to practice the teaching of Jesus in this ‘Sermon on the Mount’ discourse. Disciples are saved by faith, but they enter, participate and grow in the life of the Kingdom by practicing the Kingdom lifestyle that Jesus has taught in this discourse.

    V24-27   To practice Jesus’ teachings about the Kingdom lifestyle is to build your life securely on a rock. Absolutely every other lifestyle, philosophy and religion will end in ruin!

    V28-29   Unsurprisingly, the crowds are shocked and astonished; and anyone who is not astonished has seriously misunderstood the shocking exclusiveness of Jesus’ message and claims. This is God himself teaching the Kingdom lifestyle as the perfect fulfilment of the Mosaic Law!

    Chapters 8 – 10   The power of the Kingdom in mission

    Matthew now presents a collection of miracle stories that demonstrate Jesus’ power to heal, his authority to command nature, exorcise evil spirits, forgive sins and perform the miracles that Isaiah had prophesied would happen when God visited his people. These are interspersed with two collections of incidents that illustrate the nature of discipleship. Almost all the miracle stories that Matthew narrates are in chapters 8-9. Jesus then commissions his apostles into mission and teaches them to be realistic about the opposition they will face.

    1. Jesus heals sickness (8:1-17)
    2. The cost of discipleship (8:18-22)
    3. Jesus’ authority over nature, evil and sin (8:23-9:8)
    4. Discipleship: the call and the Holy Habits (9:9-17)
    5. Jesus does the miracles of the Messiah (9:18-34)
    6. Jesus commissions his apostles into mission (9:35-10:4)
    7. Jesus sends his apostles out in mission (10:1-16)
    8. Jesus warns his apostles about opposition (10:17-42)

     

    8:1 – 17   Jesus’s healing ministry

    Matthew narrates three stories from Jesus’ healing ministry, culminating in a general time of healing which he interprets as the fulfilment of a prophecy from Isaiah. He selects three ‘marginalised and despised’ people – an unclean leper, a foreigner, and a woman – to emphasise that Jesus has come to all humanity, not just his own nation, or people (13:54-58).

    V1-4   The first healing story is the simplest: the healing of a skin disease. Instead of being defiled by the ‘unclean’ man, Jesus makes him clean. Jesus brings the lonely ‘outsider’ back into the community. Jesus instructs him to follow the commands in the Mosaic law and receive confirmation of the healing from the priests themselves. There are two sides to this. First, Jesus is ‘keeping the Mosaic Law’, but conversely, he is forcing the priests themselves to verify the healing publicly!

    V5-13   Jesus heals the Centurion’s servant (another ‘outsider’), but this involves a higher level of ‘power’ because it took place at a distance. Matthew is likely to have included this story because of the narrative about ‘authority’, the issue being, ‘under whose authority is Jesus operating?’ – the question that the chief priests were forced into asking when Jesus entered the temple (21:23). This incident therefore anticipates the question underlying Matthew’s third group of miracles (9:18-33), to which the Pharisees give their shocking answer in 9:34.

    V14-17   The healing of Peter’s mother-in-law was the first healing story recounted (by Peter) in Mark’s Gospel, and as such seems to have had a disproportionate and powerful effect on the leading apostle. Matthew records it here to introduce the larger healing of the ‘many’, and then to close the sub-section following his overriding hermeneutic of interpreting all of Jesus’ life, teaching and ministry as the fulfilment of specific Jewish prophecy and expectation.

     

    8:18 – 22   The call to bear the cost of discipleship

    Matthew now pauses his collection of ‘power and authority’ stories to recount two responses to the call to discipleship.

    V18   As in 5:1, Jesus’ response to mass popularity is to avoid it and focus on the few.

    V19-20   Matthew, who has a special interest in Jesus’ teaching and the teaching ministry in general, probably includes this incident to tell those in the Kingdom with the ministry of teaching not to expect safety or luxuries (10:9-10).

    V21-22   In that culture, a person was buried just a few hours after they had died, so if the man’s father had just died it is exceptionally unlikely that this conversation would have happened. The conversation is therefore about loyalty and priority. Jesus is clear that a disciple’s highest daily priority is to ‘follow Jesus’. The incident illustrates 6:33 and 10:37.

     

    8:23 – 9:8   Jesus’s power and authority over nature, evil and sin

    In this second collection of three stories Matthew recounts incidents that demonstrate Jesus’ power and authority. The first and last narratives emphasise the place and importance of faith, and in both cases the result is astonishment. The response in the middle story is widespread communal fear.

     

    8:23 – 27   Jesus calms a storm                     

    Matthew tells this story very simply. This demonstration of Jesus’ authority over nature also highlights two key concepts: ‘save us’, and ‘faith’.

    V26   Although it is imperative that the apostles learn how to have and use faith, Jesus seems to almost tease them, calling them ‘little faiths’.

     

    8:28 – 34   Jesus exorcises two demon-possessed men                       

    Once again, Matthew considerably abbreviates this story from Mark. The story demonstrates Jesus’ authority over evil. He seems to emphasise the fear and terror of a community encountering the raw power and authority of God.

    V34   The response of the community is similar to Peter’s in Luke 5:8-9.

     

    9:1 – 8   Jesus forgives a man’s sins            

    The third story in this collection demonstrates Jesus’ authority to forgive sins. This truth is couched in the context of the healing of a paralytic man. The incident links ‘faith’ and ‘forgiveness’, and the outcome, as with the incident in the storm, is ‘amazement’.

    V1   ‘Faith’ is present, not in the sick person, but in his friends!

    V2   Faith leads to forgiveness.

    V6   This is the focus of the incident, and the whole collection from 8:23: all humanity needs to know that Jesus ‘the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins’.

     

     

    9:9 – 17   The nature of Kingdom discipleship

    While the first ‘discipleship’ collection in this section (8:18-22) focused on the call and the cost of following Jesus, this second collection focuses on two principles underpinning discipleship in the Kingdom. But these stories have to do with food and its place in the Kingdom.

    V9-13   The call of Matthew plunges Jesus’ community into the heart of the community of ‘sinners’. God’s will is to call ‘sinners’, not the righteous, because the Kingdom is especially for the spiritually bankrupt (5:3).

    V14-17     The personal disciplines involved in fasting touch the heart of the practice of almost all ‘Holy Habits’ (spiritual disciplines). Fasting is therefore the primary showpiece of the religious enthusiast which is why representatives of two different groups of piously religious people take Jesus to task for not practicing this primary spiritual discipline. Jesus responds with an illustration that shows that his Kingdom demands a completely different perspective and practice. In the old covenant, fasting, although used in different ways, has to do with repairing damage.  In contrast, each of the four examples of fasting in the New Testament (excluding Saul’s immediate post-conversion fast which was essentially an Old Testament fast because he knew no better at that point) are fasts that establish bridgeheads for the Kingdom in new places. Christians fast to take the victory of the Cross and Kingdom forward in the world.

     

     

    9:18 – 34   Jesus’ power over death shows he is the Messiah

    These two stories are the crescendo of all the healing narratives Matthew has listed in these two chapters. Jesus brings the young girl back to life, demonstrating his power over death, but this story is recorded before the healing of the blind and mute men because Matthew has the Isaiah prophecies of Isaiah 35:5-6 in mind, prophecies that point directly to Jesus being the anointed servant king; the Messiah. Just as Matthew’s first teaching section culminated with the revelation that God was speaking through the new Moses (7:28-29), so this second section ends with the revelation that Jesus is fulfilling the messianic signs prophesied by Isaiah (7:33).

    V24   Strong words from Jesus, but he refuses to allow ‘unbelief’ to dominate the atmosphere while he looks to God to bring the girl back to life (Ephesians 2:2). Both miracles demonstrate that Jesus is the Messiah and both happened because of faith; v22,28,29.

    V34   The crescendo is immediately followed by the Pharisees’ rejection of Jesus as demonic. Matthew will respond to this at length in chapter 12 where he has collected a number of ‘opposition’ narratives.

     

     

    9:35 – 38   Jesus commissions his apostles into mission

    This short section functions as a link narrative into the second main teaching discourse on mission (10:5-42). It is a summary section and it reads in similar terms to 4:23-25.

    V38   Apart from the Lord’s prayer, this is one of the only requests that Jesus told us to pray.

     

    10:1 – 16   Jesus sends his apostles out in mission

    Chapter 10 is Matthew’s second teaching discourse. In the discourse Jesus instructs the disciples about proclaiming the Kingdom through words and miracles, and counsels them how to respond to the persecution they will experience. In the first part Matthew describes Jesus authorising and commissioning his twelve disciples as apostles with the task of propagating the message and the miracles of the Kingdom, and he instructs them how to go about this mission.

    V1   Authority can only be given by Jesus himself. These appointments are the direct fulfilment of the instruction in 9:38.

    V2-4   Matthew list the twelve apostles in pairs. Very significantly, at least two of the pairings are brothers.

    V5-6   This gospel, which is intensely Jewish in character, emphasises that in their first mission these twelve Jewish men were sent only to their own people. In the second mission (Luke 10:1-10) where the seventy are sent out, the mission does not have this limitation. Matthew’s gospel ends with the commission to go to all nations.

    V7-8   The apostles were commissioned to preach exactly the same message that John the Baptist (3:2), and Jesus himself (4:17) had preached. We must preach the same message; the Kingdom of heaven is near, it has come, and it is coming. Through the anointing of the Spirit we must also do the miracles of the Kingdom (1 Corinthians 12:7-11, 2 Corinthians 12:12).

    V9-10   No money and no extra clothes or equipment in order that the ‘sent one’ is entirely dependent on the outcome of the message itself. Today’s missions are hampered by the attitude that we cannot take the gospel anywhere unless we first have a whole long list of resources.

    V11-13   We ought to focus the mission of the Kingdom on those who don’t bite your head off when you mention Jesus – these are the ‘worthy’, the ‘people of peace’. In their initial context, Jesus probably envisaged that the apostles would stay in the homes of those who had themselves already listened to Jesus and been won by his teaching – those in the crowds of 4:25, 7:28, 8:16, 8:36.

    V14   When people reject you, pick yourself up, brush the matter off you, and don’t let the experience affect you as you move on to the next place.

    V15   To reject two of Jesus’ apostles is an exceptionally serious mistake.

    V16   The mission is dangerous because a lot of people don’t want the Kingdom and all the changed loyalties that it entails. So be very, very shrewd, and always completely blameless.

     

     

    10:17 – 42   Jesus warns his apostles about opposition       

    These verses are the second half of Jesus’ second teaching discourse. Jesus was always absolutely clear about the realities of what will happen in the future. He now warns them about the hardship and persecution that the church will experience as it takes the Kingdom to humankind. However, all this hardship happens within the fact that this Kingdom mission is from God himself who is working by his Spirit and will bring encouragements and help throughout the whole process. Yes, it will be tough, but God’s purposes will be fulfilled and the Kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world (24:14).

    V17-18   Those proclaiming the Kingdom will be opposed by both civil and religious authorities. But Jesus’ ‘sent ones’ will testify before the highest authorities in the world.

    V19-20   The very Spirit of your heavenly Father will be the one who speaks through you at those times when you testify.

    V21   The message of the Kingdom will split families.

    V22   These will be opposition from every direction, but those who ‘stand firm to the end will be saved’.

    V23   We should keep on preaching the message of the Kingdom regardless of how many people reject it.

    V24-25   Our opponents will accuse us of being evil and satanic.

    V26   Don’t be afraid of them, they are only paper tigers, and the truth about their situations will be revealed publicly.

    V27   In response to the accusation that you are satanic, the Lord will give you prophetic revelation about your accusers.

    V28   Don’t fear men; fear God.

    V29-31   Each of you are immensely valuable to God.

    V32-33   The litmus test of loyalty is whether or not a person is prepared to tell another person that they are committed to following Christ.

    V34-36   Don’t be naïve. This message of the Kingdom will strike division into the heart of families.

    V37-39   Only those for whom Jesus and the life of the Cross is the first priority are ‘worthy’ of him (10:11). In the final analysis the only people who ‘find life’ are those who give away their own ambitions in order to serve Jesus.

    V40   Those who faithfully preach the Kingdom are representing not only Jesus, but God himself. God himself is the author, sustainer and power behind the propagation of the Kingdom.

    V41-43   Whenever you welcome into your home a messenger of the Kingdom you will receive from that person something of the anointing of the Holy Spirit in that person. If you have a prophetic person to stay then you will find that this prophetic person starts having prophetic messages for those in your household. A kind, generous (‘righteous’) woman guest will bring the fruits of kindness, gentleness and godliness into your home and lives of those in the home. This principle, which reflects the basic Kingdom principle – ‘the measure you use will be measured to you’­ – is so powerful that it even extends to the influence of children. When you welcome into your home disciples of Jesus who are only a few years old, their Christian influence will quietly permeate your home.

     

     

    Chapter 11:1 – 13:52   Responding to the Kingdom

    Having recorded Jesus’ teaching about the Kingdom (chapters 5-7) and the power of the Kingdom in mission (8-10), Matthew now records in this third leading section the different responses to the Kingdom before recording Jesus’ own teaching on how the Kingdom grows and develops. Once again, Matthew typically intercalates the material with a short section addressed to Jesus’ apprentices (11:25-30). The revelation given to Jesus’ apprentices contrasts with the opposite reactions of others.

     

    1. Doubt: John the Baptist (11:1-19)
    2. Indifference: the Galilean villages (11:20-24)
    3. Revelation: the Kingdom apprentices (11:25-30)
    4. Opposition and accusation: the Pharisees (12:1-45)
    5. Confusion and concern: Jesus’ family (12:46-50)
    6. Jesus explains how the Kingdom grows (13:1-52)

     

     

    11:1 – 19   Doubt: John the Baptist

    After the flint-like statements from John in chapter 3, this wobble comes as a surprise. Jesus’ reply to John focuses not on what he (Jesus) is saying, but on what he is doing, which is the exact fulfilment of the Isaiah 35 prophecy about the coming Anointed King; in other words, Jesus is demonstrating to John that he is the Messiah. Matthew then uses this incident to record further sayings by Jesus about his cousin John, but he does this in terms of, and for the benefit and assurance of, his disciples. Jesus affirms John very highly, but adds that the ‘least’ Kingdom disciple is greater than John. He also affirms that from John’s initial proclamation of the Kingdom, the Kingdom is advancing strongly, and forceful people are championing it. Jesus is speaking beyond John himself, he is addressing all who have doubts about him. He points to the miracles, and to the fruit of his ministry (v19), as evidence to persuade the doubter to believe in him.

    V1   This is Matthew’s literary formula indicating the end of the teaching discourse (8:1, 13:53, 20:17, 26:1).

    V5   Isaiah 35:4-6 and Isaiah 61.

    V10   Jesus understood John the Baptist to be serving the role prophesied about Elijah.

    V11   ‘Greater’ than all, but in prison.

    V12   A difficult verse to translate. The emphasis seems to be on the fact that there is a proper place for those who forcefully drive forward the Kingdom.

     

     

    11:20 – 24   Indifference: the Galilean villages

    The second reaction to Jesus is indifference. The Galilean villagers living where Jesus had based his ministry loved the miracles (at least four are specifically mentioned as occurring in the village of Capernaum), but they did not love the accompanying demand to ‘repent’ (4:17). It is a chilling fact that the visitor to Capernaum today finds only ruins! Just as the ruins of Babylon witness the specific fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies predicting that outcome, so the ruins of Capernaum bear out these very words of Jesus. Indifference to Jesus brings ruin, and Capernaum today is visible proof that Jesus was neither lying nor exaggerating.

    V21   The cities of Tyre and Sidon were the leading Gentile cities in the region whose political power and influence rivalled that of the Jewish capital Jerusalem.

     

    11:25 – 30   Revelation: the Kingdom apprentices

    Just as the disciple passages (8:18-22, 9:9-17) are intercalated between the rising crescendo of miracle stories in chapters 8 and 9, so here Matthew inserts three brief affirmations for the apprentices who are faithful to Jesus. Using recognisable Johannine phraseology and in moving and beautiful words, Jesus affirms his loyal apprentices in the Kingdom.

    V25   God specifically chooses those from the highways and byways (22:9), as recognised by Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:26-27.

    V26   The truths about Jesus’ identity and his Kingdom are actually only revealed by the Father (John 3:27).

    V29   This statement is in direct contrast to the ‘heavy burdens’ imposed on those who genuinely seek God through the spiritual direction of the Jewish religious leaders (23:4).

     

     

    12:1 – 45   Opposition and accusation: the Pharisees

    Up to this point, Matthew has given only the briefest indication (9:34) that the Pharisees strongly oppose Jesus, but in this chapter he lists four clear accounts of their forthright opposition to him: that he abuses the Sabbath by ‘harvesting’ (12:1-8), that he abuses the Sabbath by healing (12:9-14), that his power is demonic (12:22-37), and a challenge to prove his identity with miraculous power (12:38-42). We should, once again, note that Matthew has intercalated this material with a beautiful description and explanation of Jesus’ healing ministry for his disciples (12:15-21).

    V3-7   The Pharisees accuse Jesus of not obeying the Law (v2), but he replies demonstrating that they are the ones who have not read the Law.

    V8   In making this claim, Jesus is putting himself above the Sabbath – and therefore in the place of God.

    V19   This quiet approach is in direct contrast to the assertive, hypocritical self-righteousness of the Pharisees.

    V28   The Holy Spirit is the living dynamic catalyst of the Kingdom of God.

    V32   If a person rejects the only means of salvation that God has provided as ‘demonic’, that person is directly rejecting God’s provision of forgiveness and so there is no means of their sins being forgiven!

    V43-45   Jesus’ final comment is usually always very badly misunderstood. Verses 43-45 are absolutely not to be understood as a final curious tangential aphorism about the deliverance ministry. Jesus is making here a summary comment on the main subject of the chapter – the Pharisees. His point is that, far from improving themselves and making themselves godly, their religious zeal has made them seven times more demonic than they were before they became believers! V14 states their desire to kill Jesus! In a gospel that directly teaches about discipleship, this is a chilling warning of what happens when religious zeal is driven without revelation (11:25). To put it differently, the convert who drives out from his life the demons of ‘wine, women and song’ (Hosea 4:11) only to let in the demons of criticism, aggression, pride, envy, jealousy, violence and spiritual blindness is in a far worse spiritual condition than he was before his ‘conversion’. The person who turns from drunkenness, immorality and a godless lifestyle only to become self-righteous and then strap a bomb to his chest and blow up twenty random people has exchanged one demon for seven, and is in a truly horrifying spiritual state. Matthew reserves Jesus’ final warning to these zealots until chapter 23.

     

     

    12:46 – 50   Confusion and concern: Jesus’ family

    Matthew tones down the force and difficulty of Mark’s account of this incident, where his family question Jesus’ sanity – ‘He is out of his mind’ (Mark 3:21). Nevertheless, the force of Jesus’ rebuttal stands: his real family are those who do the will of his Father in heaven! Jesus’ relations with his own family were complicated, and never properly resolved until Jesus’ resurrection appearance to James (1 Corinthians 15:7). This incident therefore marks a decisive and difficult turning point in his relations with them. It is an example to all apprentices that Jesus must come before father and mother, sisters and brothers (10:37-39). As usual, Matthew recounts the story in order to strengthen the Kingdom apprentice in his/her discipleship.

    V50   In two separate incidents, here and in Luke 4:23-28, Jesus decisively severed any residual expectation of privilege or special favours to those with whom he grew up. No group of people have any special privilege in his Kingdom! Matthew records Jesus’ visit to Nazareth after this incident (13:53-58) and the whole town reject him!

     

     

     

    13:1 – 52   Jesus explains how the Kingdom grows

    Matthew has collected and ordered the narrative from 11:2 to this point to show and contrast the very different responses to Jesus in order that he can now present in a third teaching discourse Jesus’ own explanation of the how the Kingdom grows and operates. In contrast to the reactions of doubt, indifference, opposition and confusion, Jesus now explains the Kingdom through the medium of parables. Matthew, very typically, lists seven parables in a carefully constructed literary order.

     

    V1-9   Parable of the seed and the four soils. The parable illustrates the four main responses to the message of the Kingdom. Although the four pictures can be seen to illustrate the different responses by different individuals, disciples will also recognise that at different times in their lives they have reacted in each of the four different ways. These have been well summarised as cold-hearted, half-hearted and whole hearted.

     

    V10-15   Jesus explains why he teaches in parables. The quotation from Isaiah’s commissioning in Isaiah 6 is difficult to understand. While men and women are blinded and deaf to the message of the Kingdom (and to their true spiritual state), the use of these quoted verses also seem to communicate that God allows people to be blind and deaf precisely so they are not culpable for rejecting the message of the Kingdom.

    V11   One of Jesus’ very great promises to his disciples that we should hold onto and pray back to our heavenly Father.

    V12   This is an axiomatic operating principle of the Kingdom. Since ‘the measure you use is measured to you’, every person who uses a big measure will find their engagement with the Kingdom becomes more and more abundant, and every person who uses a small measure, or no measure at all, will one day realise that they have lost all the reality and engagement with the Kingdom that they enjoyed and loved earlier in their lives.

     

    V16-17   Jesus encourages his disciples. These beautifully encouraging sayings indicate that the apostles themselves were beginning to participate in the Kingdom.

     

    V18-23   Jesus explains the parable of the seed and the four soils. The four soils match some of the different responses to the message that Matthew has described in chapters 11 and 12.

     

    V24-30   Parable of the weeds. See V36-43 below.

     

    V31-32   Parable of the mustard seed. Jesus continues to develop the illustration of a seed growing, giving the whole collection of seven parables the overriding context of the planting, growth, development and fruition of the Kingdom.

    V32   To be derailed by the fact that there were smaller seeds than the mustard seed in Jesus’ culture is to demonstrate a misunderstanding about his Hebraic use of illustrations, as further evidenced by his statement about the sign of Jonah in 12:40. Jesus is stating that this Kingdom movement begins in the smallest, most unimpressive way, but it will grow to titanic size throughout the world. The Kingdom grows in a disciple’s life in the same way, from the tiniest of ideas into a world view influencing every part of the apprentice’s life and thought.

     

    V33   Parable of the yeast in the flour. This short parable is the exact centre of Matthew’s gospel. It repeats the message of the parable of the mustard seed and speaks of the pervasive influence of the Kingdom in every possible area and feature of humankind. We should take note of the astonishing amount of flour used: 60 pounds of flour! The woman must have been exhausted!

     

    V34-35   Further explanation about parables. Matthew reminds his readers that yet again Jesus was doing exactly what the Old Testament prophesied the Messiah would do.

     

    V36-43   Jesus explains the parable of the weeds. Here the seed is the ‘sons of the Kingdom’, the labourers (9:38). The parable perfectly demonstrates the marred and embarrassing nature of today’s church, containing both brilliant evidence of the Saviour’s grace and at times the very opposite. This is the work of the enemy, but the day will come when the Lord will switch on the light and everything in the darkness will be completely exposed and revealed.

     

    V44   Parable of the hidden treasure. It is not only worth giving up everything to get the life of the Kingdom, but everyone who understands the Kingdom properly will rush to do so. Only those who cannot see what is happening will hold onto earthly treasures.

     

    V45-46   Parable of the pearl. This second ‘double’ parable in this chapter makes the same point from a slightly different perspective. The greatest jewel a person will ever come across is the Kingdom.

     

    V47-50   Parable of the net. In this last parable of the collection, Jesus switches the metaphor from seeds that grow into plants to fishing, the profession of the first four apostles (4:18-24). Jesus had called them with the promise that ‘from now on you will be fishing for men’ (4:19). This parable describes the spectrum of members in the churches Matthew was writing to. The subject of the final judgement is addressed towards the end of each of the five Matthean teaching discourses (7:21-27, 10:33,39, 18:34-35, 24:45-25:46).

     

    V51-52   Jesus instructs those who teach about the Kingdom. Those anointed to teach the Kingdom should do so from both the Old and New Testaments.

     

     

     

    Chapter 13:53 – 16:20   Jesus is the Messiah

    Up to this point Matthew has collected and presented three different aspects of Jesus and his ‘Kingdom movement’. First, he presents Jesus’ teaching about the Kingdom (chapters 5-7). Second, he recounts a collection of miracle stories and Jesus’ instructions about extending the influence of the Kingdom (chapters 8-10). Then, a third section demonstrates the different responses to Jesus’ Kingdom movement, culminating in his own explanation of how the Kingdom grows and develops. However, from now onwards Matthew follows Mark’s chronology of the events. That is, Matthew uses Mark 6:1-16:2 as the framework for Matthew 13:53-28:1. The story divides into three parts. In the first, Jesus is identified as the Messiah (13:53-16:20). The second narrates the journey to Jerusalem during which Jesus prepares the disciples for his crucifixion and their future community life. The third section narrates Jesus’ death and resurrection.

     

    1. Rejection of the movement …
      1. By Nazareth (13:53-58)
      2. By Herod (14:1-12)
    1. Jesus’ Galilean ministry
      1. The feeding of the 5,000 (14:13-21)
      2. Jesus walks on the water (14:22-36)
      3. Opposition from the Pharisees (15:1-20)
    1. Jesus’ Gentile ministry
      1. The believing Gentile (15:21-28)
      2. The feeding of the 4,000 (15:29-39)
      3. Opposition by the Pharisees (16:1-12)
    1. Peter says Jesus is the Messiah (16:13-20)

     

     

    13:53 – 58   Rejection of the movement: rejection by Nazareth

    Matthew begins his narration of Jesus’ ministry with this record of Jesus visiting his home town. Their dismissal of Jesus originates from two issues. Firstly, ‘familiarity breeds contempt’: “How can you be special? We know you too well, you are one of us!” Secondly, “How dare you put yourself above us and choose others? We expect special treatment!” In terms of the wider subject of discipleship, the story illustrates that loyalty to Jesus may require separation from one’s own community. This story is Jesus’ own personal example to his community of disciples of his very own teachings in Matthew 10:17-39. Jesus’ relationship with his own family is complicated, and is only properly restored after his resurrection appearance to James, his sibling.

    V53-58   Matthew reproduces Mark’s narrative almost word for word. Two of Jesus’ brothers, James and Jude, wrote New Testament books.

     

    14:1 – 12   Rejection of the movement: rejection by Herod

    This was a significant blow to the movement. Herod takes out the man who pioneered the movement (chapter 3) and was currently the second most important political figure in it. The incident itself was a toxic and dangerous mixture of sex, power, fear and violence that foretold the violence that the movement’s leaders should expect: Jesus’ death, Stephen’s martyrdom, Saul’s persecution, James’ execution, right up to the millions being persecuted and martyred daily throughout the world in the 21st Century.

    V4   The standard of monogamous lifelong marriage between husband and wife runs through Jesus’ teaching (Matthew 5:27-32, 19:3-12), and the narratives here and 1:18-25.

    V5   Herod seems to have had very mixed views of John, sometimes fascinated by him, and other times wanting to kill him.

     

     

    14:13 – 21   Jesus’ Galilean ministry: the feeding of the 5,000

    Matthew has already recounted most of the key events in Jesus’ Galilean ministry in the three sections from 5:1 to 13:52, so in this narrative section he chooses to describe only the final banquet – an astonishing miracle where the crowd of thousands of men, women and children are all fed. This is the only event of Jesus’s ministry that is mentioned by every one of the four gospels. It demonstrates that Jesus is ‘the bread of life’; he is the ‘manna’ that every person needs each day of their lives. He is the provider of all that humanity needs, he is the final answer.  It is also a foretaste of the final banquet in heaven. In John’s gospel, he records this event in terms of the Eucharist (John 6).

    V13   Jesus’ response to the news of John’s execution is to withdraw and decrease the political temperature.

    V16   Jesus also responds to John’s death by asking his disciples a series of penetrating and increasingly confrontative questions designed to drive the apostles to consider the deeper realities of the Kingdom and his identity (14:16, 14:26, 15:16, 16:11, leading to 16:15).

     

    14:22 – 36   Jesus’ Galilean ministry: Jesus walks on the water

    This is an immediate sequel to the ‘end of ministry banquet’ in Galilee (14:13-21) and must be understood in this context. In John’s gospel, he records that at the end of the banquet, the crowd tried to make him king. Jesus’ dismissal of the crowd and his sending of the disciples to exhaust themselves all night on the sea immediately deflates any such enthusiasm. But the event is engineered by Jesus in order to force his apostles to reconsider his identity. While they do this instinctively in the crisis, ‘you are the son of God’ (v33), this process does not come to fruition until Peter’s forthright statement in 16:16 – ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’

    V23   At this turning point in his ministry (the conclusion of the main Galilean ministry, but before the apostles had fully realised his true identity), Jesus withdraws to pray through the night.

    V25   Between 3.00am and 6.00am.

    V28   Every Kingdom pioneer should meditate often on this story.

    V33   The very first time the apostles state that Jesus is the ‘Son of God’.

     

    15:1 – 20   Jesus’ Galilean ministry: opposition by the Pharisees

    This conflict is described at length and in detail and should therefore be understood as a formal public challenge by the Pharisees. Jesus’ imperative to his apprentices is typically economic: ‘leave them’ (15:14), that is, don’t engage in a massive theological punch-up, simply leave them. Once again, very typically, Jesus answers the root question and issue, which is about right-standing before God, not the superficial presenting issue of bodily cleanness. In terms of the Kingdom, the type of food that a disciple chooses to eat is absolutely irrelevant. But in contrast, the disciple’s words and actions are crucial because they demonstrate our spiritual state to the world.

    V13   Every philosophy and spiritual movement birthed by human thinking will fail, even if it takes hundreds of years to do so.

    V16   This statement appears provocative, but Jesus is deliberately pushing and challenging his disciples to think and recognise what it actually happening around them! The incident in 16:1-4 serves as a foil to contrast the issue. This leads to 16:11 and then to the ultimately important 16:16!

    V19   Jesus articulates the sins of the heart which follow the order of the 10 commandments.

     

     

    15:21 – 28   Jesus’ Gentile ministry: the believing Gentile

    Matthew only includes one story from Jesus’ ministry in the Gentile region north of Galilee. It is a story of exceptional faith and answered prayer which is similar to the healing of the Centurion’s servant (8:5-13).

    V21   It is important to study the maps at this point. Jesus travels north from Galilee and is a long way from the Jewish people.

    V28   Jesus responds to the women’s persistent faith and heals the women’s daughter.

     

     

    15:29 – 39   Jesus’ Gentile ministry: the feeding of the 4,000

    It makes sense to see this ‘feast’ as the conclusion of Jesus’ Gentile ministry, even though it takes place in Galilee. Jesus seems to be patiently bringing his disciples to the point where they acknowledge that he is not just ‘rabbi’, or ‘a prophet’, but ‘Messiah’.

     

    16:1 – 12   Jesus’ Gentile ministry: opposition by the Pharisees

    Matthew recorded the Pharisees’ opposition to Jesus at the end of the Galilean ministry (15:1-20) and here he records that their opposition was the turning point for Jesus. Jesus uses the incident to give a severe warning to his disciples about the pernicious influence of the Pharisees’ teaching.

    V3   Jesus is challenging them: ‘You can interpret the weather, but you cannot recognise the Messiah when he is standing three feet in front of you and speaking with you’.

    V11   Jesus challenges his apostles not by accusing them, but by asking a question that directs their attention on their own blindness.

    V12   Matthew, the teacher, has a special interest in the ‘teaching ministry’ (13:52).

     

    16:13 – 20   Peter states that Jesus is the Messiah

    The whole section from 13:53 has built to this point. This incident is the fulcrum of Jesus’ entire ministry. The narrative up to this point has focussed on Jesus’ identity; “who is Jesus?” From this point onwards, the narrative focuses on “what has Jesus come to do?”, “why is he here?”, which leads directly to the question “why did Jesus die?”

    V17-18   The word ‘revealed’ is important: it picks up directly on 11:25. Note the interplay between the two men: ‘You are the Messiah’, reply: ‘And you are Petros (Peter)’. After the apparent failures of the recent stories (15:16, 16:8, 9, 11), these verses contain strong statements affirming the disciples’ progress.

    V20   Since the concept of messiahship had been twisted and distorted with political baggage, Jesus tells his apostles not to use the term. Instead he chooses the title prophesied by Daniel: ‘Son of Man’ – the one bringing in the Kingdom of God. Jesus himself delays his public assertion that he is the Messiah until it is put to him under oath at his trial by the High Priest (26:64).

     

    16:21 – 20:34   The journey to Jerusalem: Jesus teaches his disciples about community and his coming death

    Now that Peter has stated (on behalf of the 12 apostles) that Jesus is the Messiah, Jesus immediately introduces the second phase of his ministry, which is to go to Jerusalem and be crucified. Jesus uses the journey to teach and instruct his disciples about two things: first, that he is going to die and rise again, and second, how the community of Kingdom disciples should live after his death and resurrection.

     

    Jesus states that he will die in Jerusalem (16:21-29)

    The Transfiguration (17:1-13)

    Healing of a severely demonised boy (17:14-21)

    Jesus predicts his death a second time (17:22-23)

    Kingdom community: Civil authorities (17:24-27)

    Kingdom community: Greatness (18:1-9)

    Kingdom community: The vulnerable and lost (18:10-14)

    Kingdom community: Handling conflict (19:15-35)

    Kingdom community: Marriage, divorce and sex (19:1-12)

    Kingdom community: Children (19:13-15)

    Kingdom community: Wealth (19:16-30)

    Kingdom community: Equality (20:1-16)

    Jesus predicts his death a third time (20:17-19)

                Kingdom community: Power and authority (20:20-27)

                Two blind men receive their sight (20:29-34)

     

     

    16:21 – 29   Jesus states that he will die in Jerusalem

    This incident is crucial. Peter’s attempt to rebuke Jesus comes from deep within the heart of every unredeemed apprentice. Jesus publicly exposes Peter’s mistake, and then immediately teaches the first step and the heart of discipleship, which is to take up your cross, identify fully with Christ and accept whatever consequences may come. But it is also a mistake to see all discipleship as pain and suffering; Jesus carefully articulates that the reward for those who identify with him in this obedience is that ‘they will see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom’ (16:28). This is the glorious motivation for all discipleship – we will see Jesus and his Kingdom coming (with power) in our lives. The apostle Paul articulates this so brilliantly in all his teaching about the Spirit in his letters.

    V23   This is the fourth (of five incidents) when Satan attempted to tempt and distract Jesus from his work of dying on the Cross for the sins of the world.

     

    17:1 – 13   Jesus’ glory is revealed to three apostles

    In this wonderful (but strange and unexpected) incident, God the Father reveals to Peter, James and John a far greater depth of the truth in Peter’s confession ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God’ (16:16, 17:5). The Father gives affirmation from Moses and Elijah (representing the Law and the prophets) to Jesus that his coming death will be the exodus of humanity (from slavery to sin). The event confirms the answers to the two great questions of the gospel: Who is Jesus? The Son of God (v5), and: Why did he die? To engineer the exodus that saves humanity from slavery to sin (v2). The divine voice first intervened at Jesus’ baptism as he began the process of revealing his identity. This second intervention comes as Jesus begins his great work of atoning humanity.

    V5   Words that parallel the voice at the baptism (3:17).

    V9   The second time Jesus teaches that he will be raised from the dead (16:21).

     

     

    17:14 – 23   Healing of a boy with a demon, and Jesus’ second prediction of death

    The revealing of Jesus’ identity on the mountain is followed by an awkward incident in which the other nine apostles fail to deliver a seriously demon-possessed boy. Jesus’ frustration at their inability to address the situation is evident (as with 15:16, and 16:9). The incident is recorded as a clear rebuke to the disciples, and leads directly into Jesus’ second prediction of his death. Nevertheless, the incident marks the beginning of a new phase of training and teaching on the nature of the community of disciples which they will ultimately themselves lead.

    V20   Faith is the assurance of the conviction that God has spoken His will. Faith involves acting on a promise that God has made.

     

     

    17:24 – 27   Kingdom community: Civil authorities

    The incident of paying the Temple tax is only recorded by Matthew, and, because it involves tax collecting, points towards this ex-tax-collector apostle’s authorship of this Gospel. In mentioning the Temple, it indicates a pre-CE70 dating since there would be little point in recording the instruction to pay the Temple tax if there was no Temple! Its significance lies in the example Jesus gives in complying with a secondary issue – even though he need not have done so – in order not to cause unnecessary offence. It also addresses the issue of the Church as a community in the non-believing world and therefore serves as a bridge into the next section which addresses the leading issues that his community of apprentices will face after he has left them.

    V25   On this secondary issue, Jesus complies with social requirements rather than cause unnecessary offence. Jesus applies the principle he later expounds in 22:21: ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what it God’s’.

    V27   This miracle is surely the most unusual miracle in the Bible. It is more of a ‘sign and wonder’ than a miracle. It combines the main livelihood of both the apostles, and Matthew the tax-collector.

     

    18:1 – 9   Kingdom community: Greatness

    Chapter 18 is Matthew’s fourth teaching section, in which Jesus completely inverts the world’s concept of greatness in his Kingdom. The greatest celebrities of the Kingdom are the powerless children, the weak, the vulnerable, the unsophisticated, the inarticulate, the outsiders, etc. Following his usual practice, Matthew follows this incident by adding collected aphorisms by Jesus on this discipleship issue. In doing so, Matthew is applying the Kingdom teaching of Jesus for the apprentice.

     

     

    18:10 – 14   Kingdom community: the vulnerable and lost

    Jesus’ teaching that humility is the evidence of true greatness in the Kingdom immediately leads into this delightful and popular parable about the lost sheep. It speaks of God’s love and his searching for the very weakest. It is an example of how the community of his apprentices must live out their humble service and love for each other.

     

     

    18:15 – 35   Kingdom community: Handling conflict

    Conflict between disciples of the Kingdom is not only common, it is one of the most damaging issues that the community of Jesus’ apprentices experiences. Jesus has already identified the handling of anger as the first leading issue that the Kingdom apprentice will face (5:21-26), a fact of life that every human being knows only too well. It is therefore not surprising that the issue is addressed prominently in this general section on the Kingdom community (16:21-20:34). In these crucial verses, Jesus establishes a three stage process for the resolution of disputes.

     

    18:21 – 35   Parable of the unmerciful servant

    This powerful and disturbing parable ends with both servants bound in the prison of hatred and unforgiveness. It is a chilling illustration that uncontrolled anger without forgiveness binds every man and woman until the very last penny is paid, the opponent has suffered, and forgiveness is granted ‘from your heart’ (v35).

     

     

    19:1 – 12   Kingdom community: Marriage, divorce and sex

    With characteristic economy and clarity, Jesus steers his apprentices through the complicated and sensitive questions of divorce, marriage and sex by simply affirming his Father’s creation ordinance. But the way he does this is significant, because (again, very characteristically) he places the onus for obedience on the one who reads Scripture: ‘Haven’t you read?’ (v4). It is like he is asking, ‘is it really possible that you haven’t meditated long and in depth over some of the very first words God ever spoke and on the most central issue of the human life?’ He then affirms God’s will by warning that we should obey God: ‘That which God has joined together let not man divide’ (v6). The apostles’ immediate response demonstrates how hard it is for humanity to obey these callings. We should rightly be compassionate and understanding, but Jesus’ teaching about lust, divorce, marriage and sex is exceptionally high (5:27-32), and his disciples are called to follow and obey him in this area also.

    V11 Jesus has affirmed his Father’s purpose that humanity lives in heterosexual, monogamous covenant. Here he affirms the place and calling of the single, celibate person in the Kingdom. Isaiah 56 prophesies a special place of privilege in the Temple courts for the eunuch in the Kingdom.

     

     

    19:13 – 15   Kingdom community: Children

    Jesus has just affirmed the place of the married couple and the celibate apprentice in his Kingdom. This incident is included here because it affirms that children have full status alongside them in the Kingdom.

     

     

    19:16 – 30   Kingdom community: Wealth

    The incident with the ‘rich young man’ provides a springboard for Matthew to extend Jesus’ teaching about money to the individual (6:19-34) into the wider context of the community of believers. Jesus again emphasises the expectation that his apprentices should prioritise the Kingdom by selling their possessions and giving to the poor, thereby gaining treasure in heaven. This leads Peter to ask what benefits the apostles and the apprentices will have since they had already ‘left everything to follow you’ (v27). Jesus assures them that such dedication and sacrifice will be rewarded astronomically, but states that the final outcome will be extremely different from what is expected here and now.

    V21 This is the seventh (and last) time that Matthew records Jesus specifically calling a person to ‘follow me’. This demonstrates the immense care Matthew has shown in recording the narrative. Significantly, riches thwart obedience (6:24).

     

     

    20:1 – 16   Kingdom community: Equality           

     

    Parable of the workers in the vineyard

    Jesus teaches a parable demonstrating God’s amazing generosity to outsiders. It is never too late to join the Kingdom, and no one is too bad (or from the content of the parable, ‘too useless’); a full place is offered to all late-comers or outsiders. Note that the principle of v16 is demonstrated in the contrasting outcomes of the rich man (19:22) and the disciples (19:28).

    V14   The leading imperative in Matthew 5-7 is ‘seek first his kingdom and his righteousness’ (6:33). The righteousness of God is imputed through faith in Christ and is binary; a person is either in or out, as is the case with this parable. But participation in the Kingdom is a matter of degree: ‘the measure you use is measured to you’, with the result that the rewards in the Kingdom are directly proportional to one’s faithful engagement with it, as per the parable of the talents (25:14-31, note especially v29).

     

    20:17 – 19   Jesus predicts his death a third time

    This is stated clearly and without ambiguity for a third time. It is illustrated by the final community issue addressed on the journey to Jerusalem (20:27).

     

     

    20:20 – 27   Kingdom community: power and authority

    If it wasn’t such an appalling mistake, the manipulation attempted by John, James and their mother would be comical. The only possible way to have genuine executive authority in the Kingdom is by faithfully going through crucifixion. Jesus calls all to deny themselves daily, take up their crosses and follow him. It is only those who consistently walk the road of crucifixion who earn the right to hold power and authority in the Kingdom.  Those in authority and power in the Church must serve the community of apprentices as slaves and follow Jesus, giving their lives away.

     

     

    20:29 – 34   Two blind men receive their sight

    The majority of Jesus’ healing miracles take place in the lead up to the moment when Peter states he is the Messiah (16:16). From then on, the miracles seem to be more occasional, deliberate and strategic, as is the case here. Jesus the Messiah is going to Jerusalem to ransom humankind (20:28); the blind men can see, but can you see? Do you really understand what is happening?

     

    Matthew 21 – 25   Jerusalem, Part 1: Jesus challenges the religious establishment

    Jesus’ ministry culminates in a direct and forceful challenge to the religious leaders. He teaches about the end of the age and the final judgement.

     

    Jesus enters Jerusalem and the Temple (21:1-22)

    Confrontation and response (21:23 – 22:46)

    Jesus’s severe warning to the religious leaders (23:1-39)

    Final teaching discourse: the end of this age, and the final judgement (24:1-44)

     

     

     

     

     

    21:1 – 22   Jesus enters Jerusalem and the Temple

    Throughout the different phases of Jesus’ ministry, he has been challenged by those with both secular and religious power, and Matthew has recorded that at several points ‘he withdrew’ (14:3, 15:21, 16:5). On Jesus’ part this was not cowardice, but strategy. He deliberately held back in order to build the ministry elsewhere. But now he bravely takes the initiative and in a carefully arranged strategy, boldly enters Jerusalem and the Temple and in a dramatic and physical incident forcefully challenges the blatant ungodliness at the heart of the Jewish religious system. He then heals the blind and the lame in a public demonstration of the fulfilment of the Messianic prophecies of Isaiah 35. This led directly to his crucifixion a few days later; Jesus was far too dangerous a political and religious figure to let have freedom of movement in Jerusalem.

    V2   These arrangements had probably been planned very carefully by Jesus.

    V9   Matthew consistently demonstrates that all the main things Jesus did had been prophesied long ago in the Old Testament scriptures.

     

    21:18 – 22   The cursing of the fig tree      

    This event (which often perplexes people) makes complete sense in the light of the context of Jesus’ deliberate and highly planned confrontation in the Temple. The two symbols of the Jewish nation are the fig tree and the vine. The barren fig tree represents the spiritually barren and fruitless Jewish religious system! The meaning of the cursing is straightforward; What Jesus did to the fig tree is about to happen to their entire religious system! It is utterly fruitless and barren and is about to be dismissed! Jesus uses the concept of the barren vine in the parable of the tenants (21:33-46.) Even more astonishing is the New Testament theology and teaching that when God’s curse fell on the fig tree (symbolising the Jewish nation), that coming Friday it would be God himself in Christ who would carry the full force of that curse in himself (Galatians 3:13).

    V19   In uttering this curse, Jesus had in view not that individual fig tree, but the entire religious system of God’s people; ‘May you never bear fruit again!’ The point is that all human religion is ultimately completely bankrupt, no matter how beautiful it may appear or how strongly it may control men and women! In pronouncing these words, Jesus is expressing the mercy of God in shielding men and women from deception; those who ‘can hardly hear or see’ spiritual truth (13:15). Jesus’ action is a brave illustration of what C.S. Lewis referred to as a ‘severe mercy’ of God.

    V21 Jesus’ reply is typical of the way that Matthew has consistently used both the narrative and Jesus’ teaching about the Kingdom to then teach about discipleship. In this case, here is another opportunity for Jesus to teach and exhort ‘you of little faith’ (8:26) to have faith in him. There is a terrible seriousness to the story at this point.

     

     

    21:23 – 22:46   Confrontation and response

    Jesus’ dramatic and forceful behaviour in the Temple precipitates a whole series of challenges from the religious authorities.

     

    21:23 – 27   Challenge 1: Jesus’ authority

    Unsurprisingly, those in authority in the Temple who could not deny either the scriptural challenge (Jeremiah 7:11), nor the Messianic nature of his healings, challenge Jesus to present his credentials: “what authority do you have to do these things?” But since they refuse to answer Jesus’ question about John the Baptist, he refuses to answer them directly. Instead, he teaches three parables against them. Note the interplay here: since they began by challenging him, he has every right to ask them leading questions! Since they refuse to answer his direct question (v27), Jesus has every right to challenge them. Very typically, Jesus answers their question through telling a parable.

     

    21:28 – 32   Parable of two sons                    

    The first son represents the multitudes of Israel; sinners who then repented and turned to God through the ministry of John the Baptist. The second son represents those religious leaders who nominally represented the things of God, but in practice rejected God’s minister John the Baptist. Jesus frames the parable and the question (v31) so that through their own answer they both condemn themselves out of their own mouths, and show that they know the answer to their own question to Jesus in v23.

     

    21:33 – 46   Parable of the tenants              

    Jesus then deliberately takes the Isaianic illustration of the nation of Israel, the vineyard (Isaiah 5), and in a violent, grossly unjust story he makes them once again condemn themselves out of their own mouths (v41). While describing himself as ‘the son’ under direct commission from his father, in answer to their question in v23, the Pharisees admit that ‘the vineyard’ should be given to others and they themselves deserve ‘a wretched end’ (21:41). Jesus’ statement in v43 is unambiguous – he even uses the name of God! But the chief priests are cowards afraid of the crowds (v46).

     

    22:1 – 14   Parable of the wedding banquet                    

    This is one of the strangest parables because is seems to have two parts. The guest’s refusal to accept the banquet describes the religious authorities’ refusal to engage with Jesus’ Kingdom movement. But the ejection of the unprepared outsider from the feast underlines the need to engage with the Kingdom on the terms set by Jesus. Since ‘many are invited, but few are chosen’ (v14), Jesus’ apprentices must both seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness (6:33).

     

     

    22:15 – 22   Challenge 2 by the Pharisees: paying taxes to Caesar

    Jesus’ discernment, wisdom and the sheer brilliance with which he both dismisses the Pharisees’ challenge and exposes them as hypocrites makes this one of the best-loved incidents in the gospels. Even his opponents are amazed by him.

    V21   The principle ‘give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s’, as illustrated in Jesus’ handling of the ‘Temple tax’ (17:24-27), is the guiding axiom for all Kingdom disciples in their responsible interaction with the societies and civilisations in which we live. See Romans 13:1-7, Titus 3:1,2,8.

     

    22:23 – 33   Challenge 3 by the Sadducees: marriage in heaven

    Both religious groups try to trick Jesus with an issue they themselves struggle with. This one from the Sadducees, the equivalent of the ‘high church liberals’, is equivalent to the type of ‘how many angels can you get on a pin head’ question. Jesus’ reply stabs to the heart of genuine religion: those who do not know the word of God and the power of God are doomed to triviality, error and religious nonsense. His statement about angels being celibate is an important revelation that leads directly to the high value of celibacy in Christianity (1 Corinthians 7:25-28). He then quotes Exodus 3:6 back to the Sadducees showing that they have not even understood their own foundational text (quoting Exodus 3:6 to a Sadducee is like quoting John 3:16 to an Evangelical!).

     

     

    22:34 – 40   Challenge 4: the greatest commandment

    Although this fourth challenge is introduced as another challenge from his opponents, in this case an expert in the Law (the Torah), both the question and Jesus’ answer are straightforward. Both the Law, and, by implication, the Kingdom that Jesus preaches, call for a response of love that involve the whole person (just as in v21).

    V38   Jesus’ emphasis on this leading commandment is an example of his teaching in 5:17-20. This is also one of Paul’s main points; that through faith we receive the Spirit. It is the Spirit that pours the love of God into our hearts. The ‘law of the Spirit of life has set me free from the law of sin and death, …. in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us who do not live according to the sinful nature, but according to the Spirit’ (Romans 8:3).

     

    22:41 – 46   Response 5: Jesus’ challenge to the religious leaders

    Having answered and silenced their hostile challenges, it is Jesus who now has the ‘right’ to return the challenge, and he does so with one question which goes to the heart of his identity, and to which they give no answer. In quoting from the ‘royal’ Psalm 110, he leads the Pharisees through his questioning to the point where they are logically forced to admit that the Messiah is not merely the son of David, but the son of God. Since the popular opinion in Jerusalem was that Jesus was the Messiah, and his entry into Jerusalem and his miracles in the Temple a few days earlier were the clear fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy about the Messiah, Jesus is by implication looking them in the face and forcing them to admit that he is God’s son. Jesus’ approach to this issue is consistent throughout the Gospels; he leads people to the point where they have to choose to make a response. So they give no answer, and having been defeated in five consecutive arguments, are terrified of any further humiliation and frightened by the implications of his final question to them. Jesus’ answer here leads directly to the charge under oath from the High Priest at the key point in his trial (26:63-64).

     

     

    23:1 – 39   Jesus’s severe warning to the religious leaders

    Throughout the gospel, Matthew has recorded both the Pharisees’ opposition to Jesus and Jesus’ teaching against them (5:20, 6:16, chapter 12, 16:1-12, 22:15-22). This religious sect who were zealous for holiness in ways that addressed the outward form of religion but not the heart are the foil that contrast with Jesus’ apprentices of the Kingdom. Their similarity to the Kingdom movement, and also their strong rejection of him, expose them as dangerous. Jesus’ speech is a severe warning of judgement against them for their hypocrisy and wickedness (23:28), and for the only time in the Gospels, this group alone is specifically identified and warned that they are on the trajectory to hell itself (v33)! Following immediately after Jesus’ implied claims of divinity in 22:41-46, and containing the divine voice of 23:34-39, the effect must have been frightening. This address sealed Jesus’ fate following his actions in the Temple at the beginning of the week. The authorities were in a corner; they had to silence Jesus, and do so quickly.

    V13 Jesus deliberately picks up on the Old Testament pattern of seven ‘woes’ (Isaiah 6, Isaiah 29-32). Jesus’ leading charge against the Pharisees is that ‘You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to enter.’ This is the direct opposite of 3:2, 4:17 and 10:7, and the reason for the exceptional warning of v33.

    V33 Even this severe warning is framed as a question. Jesus tries with all he can to get them to think for themselves and choose to turn from their blind madness while they still have the opportunity.

     

     

    24:1 – 44   Jesus’ final discourse: ‘The end of this age’

    From the beginning, the King has proclaimed the coming of the new age, the Kingdom of Heaven (4:17).  Now, sitting opposite the Temple, Jesus teaches the leading features of the end of the present age and his return, in answer to the specific questions ‘when’ and ‘what’ in v3.

    First, in a context of wars, famines, earthquakes, spiritual deception and persecution, this gospel of the Kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole earth (v4-14.) Then, when some form of extreme spiritual blasphemy and evil is established ‘in the holy place’ (v15), a time of exceptional persecution will begin. This will be accompanied by a time of extreme spiritual deception (v15-25). Some understand that in these verses Jesus is giving specific instructions to his apprentices to flee from Jerusalem before the Romans sieged and sacked the city in CE70. Perhaps the principles he teaches apply to both scenarios. Then Jesus will return to gather his apprentices (v26-35). Lastly, Jesus gives his apprentices instructions about preparing for his return (v36-44).

     

     

     

    24:45 – 25:41   The final judgement

    Since a final judgement follows the end of the age, Jesus immediately explains the process, and the Kingdom criteria, that will be applied at the judgement. As with the order of judgement in the Old Testament, Jesus begins with those in authority in ‘the house of God’. Verses 45-51 describe the criteria of judgement for those stewards in his house (church leaders.) Those who have demonstrated faithfulness and wisdom will be rewarded with a general license to manage ‘all (the master’s) possessions’ (v47.) Those (church leaders) who have behaved wickedly will weep in profound regret as they are cast out with the hypocrites. Jesus then uses two parables in order to describe the second phase which is the judgement of all his apprentices who have believed in him. In the first, only those who have ‘kept watch’ (25:13) for the long haul are rewarded with entry to the feast. In the second, the faithful and good servants who have invested their gifts in the Kingdom are rewarded with greater gifts and opportunities. The judgement is an elaboration of the Kingdom operating principle that  ‘everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance’ (13:12).

    The final phase is the judgement of all remaining humanity throughout all time; ‘all the nations’ (25:32) – those who have never heard the gospel or even the name Jesus. Jesus directly uses the title ‘king’ in this teaching (which is not strictly speaking a parable.) In this case, the criteria for judgement is the individual’s active concern for the poor, weak and deprived. Those who have been kind to the ‘least’ of the king’s brothers and sisters are deemed to have been kind to him and are accepted into the Kingdom of heaven on the grounds that their character is like his. This principle seems similar to that described by Paul in Romans 2:14-16.

    In each of these judgement scenarios, the king rewards those who are ‘wise’, ‘faithful’ and ‘good’ and throws out those who are ‘wicked’, ‘foolish’, ‘lazy’, and uncaring.

     

     

    Matthew 26 – 27   Jesus’ betrayal, trail, execution and resurrection

     

    The plot against Jesus (26:1-16)

    The last supper (26:17-35)

    Gethsemane (26:36-56)

    Jesus is tried by the Sanhedrin (26:57-68)

    Peter’s denial; Judas’ death (26:69 – 27:10)

    Jesus is tried by Pilate (27:11-26)

    Jesus is crucified (27:27 – 44)

    Jesus dies and is buried (27:45 – 66)

    Jesus’ resurrection: he appears to the women (28:1-10)

    The soldier’s report (28:11-15)

    Jesus commissions his disciples in Galilee (28:16-20)

     

     

    26:1 – 16   The plot against Jesus

    Matthew places the story of the woman anointing Jesus in the context of the scheme by the Chief Priests and Judas to kill Jesus. The whole episode follows directly from a fourth statement by Jesus that he is about to be ‘handed over and crucified’.

    V2   This is the fourth time that Jesus states he will be crucified (16:21, 17:22,23, 20:17-19).

    V7 It was a woman who first properly understood that Jesus was going to be killed, and women were the first witnesses of the resurrection. This story is therefore yet another Matthean example of the prominence of women in the Kingdom.

    V9   Judas was certainly one of the leading critics making this statement. He was in charge of the common purse, and he became a thief.

     

     

    26:17 – 35   The last supper

    The majority of Matthew’s last supper narrative is about Jesus’ betrayal. At the point of potential fracture, Jesus unites the disciples through the formation of a new covenant for the forgiveness of sins and union together in his memory and in his death.

    V29   With this statement, Jesus shows that it was through his death that humanity’s participation in the Kingdom would catapult forward.

    V30   This is the only reference to Jesus singing a hymn, and he does so before his greatest trial: an insight into the power of worship in preparing us to serve God.

    V32   Jesus gives the detailed instructions just before the disciples need to know them.

     

     

    26:36 – 56   Gethsemane

    V39   The temptation Jesus faced was to run away and hide in the crowd so that Judas would not find him. It took great courage to simply stay in Gethsemane, even more so with the disciples all deeply asleep. “Watching” is literally staying awake in one place.

    V56   Matthew repeatedly makes the point that the events of Jesus’ death happened in line with what Scripture had always indicated.

     

     

    26:57 – 68   Jesus is tried by the Sanhedrin

    V64   Jesus delays his open confession of being the Messiah until this crucial point in his (religious) trial. But even at this point, and even though he lets the high priest speak the title, he chooses to direct the attention to Daniel’s prophecy about the Son of Man (who it was prophesied would initiate and bring in God’s Kingdom).

     

     

    26:69 – 27:10   Peter’s denial; Judas’ death

    There is more narrative about Peter and Judas in 26:1-27:10 than in the remainder of Matthew.

    V75   In court, two confessions are sufficient, but three puts the matter beyond any doubt.

     

     

    27:11 – 26   Jesus is tried by Pilate

    V11   In a similar way to his first (religious) trial, Jesus uses his civil trial before Pilate to make a clear affirmation of who he is, the King of the Jews; the theme that has underlined the Gospel from the beginning.

    V19   Details from this brief incident, along with other descriptions of events in Pilate’s household in these final two chapters, indicate that Matthew has either direct or third party evidence from individuals there at the time.

     

     

    27:27 – 44   Jesus is crucified

    V40   This is the fourth time that Jesus is tempted to avoid the cross – the other three being in the desert (4:1-11).

    V43   Once again (26:63), it is the religious leaders who verbalise the title.

     

     

    27:45 – 66   Jesus dies and is buried

    V46   Jesus quotes the first line of Psalm 22, the old covenant psalm that describes a person being crucified and ends with vindication and global honour. Since Jesus always prayed to God as “Father”, this cry immediately indicates that something very different is taking place in this phrase. Jesus, the divine Son of God in perfect union with the Father and the Spirit, embodies all humanity and experiences the full horror of humanity’s alienation from the Father because of humanity’s choice to turn away from God. Isaiah 59 describes humanity’s experience of alienation from God because of our evil choices, even though God is actually not separated from us. In making this statement, Jesus is not expressing a moment of personal crisis or doubt, he is expressing humanity’s experience of alienation as he embodies all humanity on the cross, even though God has not separated himself from humankind. The phrase expresses the experience of apparent rejection by God that all humanity experiences in the state of sin, but it is also a mighty statement of faith by an exhausted and weak man, who fully believes and trusts, as that Psalmist does, that vindication is about to happen, as it did on Easter morning. This cry of dereliction is therefore the penetrating window into the astonishing lengths ‘God in Christ his Son’ went to save the uttermost sinner. It supremely demonstrates the love of God for every human being who has ever existed.

    V51   When narrating the events of the crucifixion Matthew records the details which demonstrate that it is the final judgement: darkness, an earthquake, the rocks splitting, the dead being raised.

     

     

    28:1 – 10   Jesus’ resurrection: He appears to the women

    Matthew’s gospel is strongly Jewish in culture, literary style and concept, and this is the case with his short narration of the resurrection. Apart from the obvious central fact that Jesus is alive again, Matthew gives high profile to the guards, who are mentioned in each of the three stories (27:66, 28:4 and 28:11-15). The reason appears to be that Matthew is specifically shaping the narrative to expose and counter the false account created by the religious leaders that Jesus’ body was stolen by the disciples (28:13). This highlights the importance of the details in Matthew’s trial narratives that demonstrate he is using a source from within Pilate’s household (27:19).

    V7   This is the second time the disciples are instructed to go to Galilee. They are in such disarray that they actually disobey him.

    V9   Such is the greatness of Jesus’ victory that he has no need to show off in front of his enemies; such action would simply credit them with honour. As always, Jesus ‘shows himself’ to his friends (John 14:21).

    V10   Jesus repeats the instructions to meet (regroup) again in Galilee (26:32).

     

     

    28:11 – 15   The soldier’s report

    This is the third time that the soldiers are mentioned (27:62-65, 28:4).

     

     

    28:16 – 20   Jesus commissions his disciples in Galilee

    V16   Although Matthew describes the great commission being given to the eleven disciples, I follow John Wenham who argues that in addition the 500 were also present (1 Corinthians 15:6), since this was the heartland of Jesus’ discipling ministry. Galilee was the heartland of Jesus’ ministry and support, the place of the celebration banquet (14:13-21), and where he had already instructed the apostles to regroup (26:32).
    V18-19   This great commission begins with Jesus’ authority in the Kingdom of Heaven and leads directly to discipleship. It is the logical conclusion and extension of the two themes that have driven the entire argument throughout Matthew’s gospel: Jesus’ identity, and the importance of discipleship.

    V20   Matthew does not record the ascension, in order to emphasise that Jesus is here with you and me now. His presence, until the end of the age, repeats the promise of God himself to his people (Exodus 33:14).

    Matthew 3-4 >
      The Apprentice - Helping apprentices of Jesus think through the applications
    • Overall Message
    • /
    • Leading Imperatives
    • /
    • Holy Habits

     

    The overall message of the Gospel of Matthew:

    The Gospel of Matthew teaches that Jesus is the Messiah; he is the Son of Man who is bringing and establishing the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, and he is calling men and women to follow him as his disciples.

    The leading imperatives:

    3:3       ‘Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near’

    3:8       ‘Produce fruit in keeping with repentance’

    4:7       Do not put the Lord you God to the test’

    4:11     ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only’

    4:17     ‘Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near’

    5:16     ‘Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your father who is in heaven’

    5:17     ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets …’

    5:25     ‘Settle matters quickly with your adversary …’

    5:29     (Concerning lust) ‘If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away …’

    5:34&37   ‘Do not swear (take oaths) at all … simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ be ‘No’.’

    5:39     ‘Do not resist an evil person’ (meaning, do not take revenge)

    5:42     ‘Give to the one who asks you and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.’

    5:44     ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’

    6:1       ‘Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men’

    6:2-3    ‘When you give to the needy do not announce it with trumpets … do not let your right hand know what you left hand is doing’

    6:5-7    ‘When you pray do not be like the hypocrites, … go into your room, close, the door, and pray to your father who is unseen … do not keep babbling like the pagans’

    6:9-13  ‘This then is how you should pray: “Our Father in heaven, …’

    6:16-17   ‘When you fast do not look sombre as the hypocrites do … put oil on your head … so it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting …’

    6:19     ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth … store up for yourselves treasures in heaven …’

    6:25,31   ‘Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or your body, what you will wear.’

    6:33     ‘Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be yours as well.’

    6:34     ‘Therefore do not worry about tomorrow …’

    7:1       ‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged.’

    7:5       ‘First take the plank out of your own eye’

    7:6       ‘Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not cast your pearls before swine.’

    7:7       ‘Ask and it will be given you, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you.’

    7:12     ‘So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.’

    7:13     ‘Enter through the narrow gate …’

    7:15     ‘Watch out for false prophets …’

    9:38     ‘Ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers into the harvest.’

    10:7     ‘As you go preach this message: “The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.’

    10:11-12  ‘Search for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave … as you enter the home give it your greeting.’

    10:17   ‘Be on your guard against men’

    10:19   ‘When they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it.’

    10:23   ‘When you are persecuted in one place flee to another’

    10:26   ‘Do not be afraid of them … what I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the rooftops.’

    10:28-31  ‘Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather be afraid of the One who can destroy both body and soul in hell … don’t be afraid you are worth more than many sparrows.’

    11:28-30  ‘Come to me all you who are weary and burdened … take my yoke upon you and learn from me …’

    14:27   ‘Take courage. It is I. Do not be afraid.’

    15:10   ‘Listen and understand …’

    15:16   ‘Leave them they are blind guides’

    16:6     ‘Be careful. Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.’

    16:24   ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself take up his cross and follow me …’

    17:5     ‘… listen to him.’

    17:7     ‘Get up. Don’t be afraid.’

    18:3     ‘Unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven’

    18:10   ‘See that you do not look down on one of these little ones (children)’

    18:15-17   ‘If your brother sins against you, go and show him your fault … if he will not listen take one or two others along … if he refuses to listen to them tell it to the church.’

    19:14   ‘Let the children come to me and do not hinder them’

    19:21   ‘If you want to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come follow me.’

    20:26   ‘Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant’

    22:21   ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s’

    22:37   ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’

    23:3     ‘You must obey them (teachers of the law) and do everything they tell you to do. But do not do what they do …’

    23:9     ‘Do not call anyone on earth “father” …’

    23:10   ‘… nor are you to be called “teacher” …’

    24:4     ‘Watch out that no one deceives you’

    24:42   ‘Therefore keep watch’

    24:44   ‘So you also must be ready’

    25:13   ‘Therefore keep watch’

    26:41   ‘Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation’

    28:19-20   ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.’

     

    Holy Habits: (Holy Habits are patterns of living and lifestyle practices which we choose to do in our lives.  These can be in order to either withdraw from the dominion of the world, such as silence, secrecy, submission, fasting, watching, simple living, or, practices that plunge us into the life of the Kingdom, such as prayer, worship, celebration, study, serving the poor and deprived, etc. They can be as simple as kneeling by your bed and thanking God at the end of the day, or as substantial as attending an annual Christian festival.)

    • Since Matthew’s emphasis is on hearing and obeying Jesus’ teaching, the first Holy Habit an apprentice of the Kingdom should learn is how best s/he can read, study, meditate on and obey scripture; ‘Therefore whoever hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on a rock’ (7:24).
    • The Sermon on the Mount, and specifically Matthew 6:1-18, is the place in the New Testament where the practice of Holy Habits is addressed most directly by Jesus. We should construct and assess all the Holy Habits we practice in the light of these teachings.

     

    Leading Imperatives >
    main Questions - Important questions directly from the text

    Question 1 -

    A man whose work is professional mentoring in secular businesses once told me as we played golf together that he was wary of the word ‘disciple’ because he found it frightening, overbearing and forceful. Is it? What do you think? Should we use the phrase ‘apprentice of the Kingdom’?


    watch video

    Question 2 -

    If the one we follow was a refugee (2:13-15; 19-23), how should we respond to the hundreds of thousands being driven from their homes in the Middle East, and Africa and the many migrants fleeing into Europe?


    Question 3 -

    Jesus addresses anger (5:21-27) as the first issue the individual disciple has to face, and conflict (18:15-35) as the second issue that the community of disciples has to face. On a scale of 1 – 10, where would you put your ability to handle anger (Ephesians 4:26-27), and where on the scale would you rate your church’s ability to handle conflict?


    watch video

    Question 4 -

    In January 2019 there was a ‘red supermoon’. Is this what Jesus was referring to in Matthew 24:29 as a sign that his second coming is imminent?


    watch video

    Question 5 -

    There are 195 countries in the world today, including ‘The Holy See’, and ‘The State of Palestine’. At his trial, Jesus said ‘my kingdom is not of this world’. What leading features does Matthew describe as the evidence that Jesus’ Kingdom is in the world in the 21st Century?


    Question 6 -

    Your Jewish friend Ben asks why you believe Jesus is the Messiah. What do you say?


    dessert course

    A prayer

    Commentaries

    Suggested Sermon Series

    Questions

    • A prayer -

    A prayer based on Matthew  

    Given the pre-eminence of the Lord’s Prayer in Christian worship and its foundational basis at the very heart of Jesus’ teaching about the Kingdom and apprenticeship, we should start our prayers at this point. It would be very strange to recommend any other prayer than the one Jesus himself specifically taught us to pray.

     Our Father in Heaven Prayer must start solely focused on God our Father, the one in the heavens.

    Hallowed be your name … We should always begin with respect, gratitude and worship.

    Your Kingdom come … This is the leading prayer request that an apprentice of Jesus can pray – the greatest need is to engage ever more fully in our Father’s heavenly Kingdom.

    Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven … This is in many ways an elaboration of the petition for our Father’s Kingdom to come.

    Give us today our daily bread … the basic needs of the body.

    Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us … our foundational need in the realm of the soul is forgiveness – healthy, clean, relationships with our Father in heaven and with others on earth.

    And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil … our basic need in the spirit is deliverance from all evil.

    Matthew 6:9-12

      Commentaries - Introducing the best commentaries

    BfL Recommends:

    For an excellent, exhaustive, but nevertheless readable academic commentary on ‘Matthew’, read:

    ‘The Gospel of Matthew’ by John Nolland in ‘The New International Greek Testament Commentary’ series: 2005, Eerdmans, Michigan, USA. (1481 pages)

     

    For a shorter, insightful commentary on ‘Matthew’, read:

    ‘Matthew’ by R. T. France: 1985, IVP, Leicester, (416 pages)

     

    Dallas Willard’s reading of the Sermon on the Mount is in my opinion by far the most convincing perspective and to this day I strongly recommend every apprentice in the family business of the Kingdom to read his leading book:

    ‘The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering our hidden life in God’ by Dallas Willard: 1998, Harper Collins, London. (468 pages) 

    …a shorter digest of some of his main points can be found in his briefer book:

    ‘The Great Omission: reclaiming Jesus’s essential teachings on discipleship’ by Dallas Willard, 2006, HarperCollins, New York (237 pages)

     

     

     

     

      Suggested Sermon Series -

    Series Title:           ‘The Messiah, the Kingdom and Discipleship’

     

    The best way of plunging a church community into Matthew’s gospel is to preach one chapter a week throughout the year. Synchronise the nativity chapters to Advent and the Crucifixion chapters to Lent and Holy Week, (consider starting in Advent). The steady sequential study of this gospel (coordinated with special material for home-groups and one-off teaching sessions) will have a very profound effect on the entire church community.

     

    Apart from preaching on the “set pieces” of Jesus’ birth and his death and resurrection, other topics can be addressed in shorter series over a few weeks:

    1. Jesus’ identity: the Messiah
      1. Chapters 1-2 – Birth
      2. Chapters 3-4 – Preparation
      3. 13:53-16:16 – The King’s identity
      4. 26-28 – Trial, crucifixion and resurrection
    1. The Kingdom
      1. Chapters 5-7 – The lifestyle
      2. Chapters 8-10 – Kingdom power and mission
      3. Chapters 11-13 – Kingdom secrets and operating principles
      4. Chapters 18-20 – The Kingdom community
    • Discipleship (apprenticeship)
      1. Chapters 5 – The six kingdom lifestyle axioms
        • Anger, lust, divorce, truthful speech, revenge and enemies.
      2. Chapter 6 – Holy Habits and wealth
        • Practicing ‘Holy Habits’, and storing up treasure in heaven
      3. Chapter 9 – Holy Habits
        • Fasting and the new ‘Holy Habits’ of the Kingdom
      4. Chapter 10 – The apprentice in mission
        • The message and the miracles
      5. Chapters 18-20 – Community discipleship
        • Handling; authority, power, fame, marriage and divorce, wealth, conflict.

     

     

     

     

     

    dessert Questions - Gloves off; hard questions for the Bible student and theologian

    Question 1 -

    In some instances, why does Matthew say there were ‘two’ men, when Mark records only ‘one’ (8:28 // Mark 5:2, 20:30 // Mark 10:46)?


    Question 2 -

    Why does Matthew choose to use the phrase ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ when all the other gospel writers use ‘The Kingdom of God’?


    Question 3 -

    Comment on AN Wilson’s Introduction to Matthew: ‘You are holding in your hands a tiny book which has changed more human lives than ‘The Communist Manifesto’ or Freud’s ‘Interpretation of Dreams’ a book which has shaped whole civilisations, a book which for many people has not been a gospel but THE GOSPEL .… (if you reject it) you will reject one of the most disturbing and extraordinary books ever written.’ (Pocket Canons, October 1998).


    Waiter's Brief

    Answers to Questions

    Coaching Questions

    Questions

    • Answers to Questions -

    Tasters:

    Is there a place for disciples of Jesus being secular heroes and celebrities like Bear Grylls (18:1-4)? What are the dangers?

     Comment: Some disciples of Jesus are prominent celebrities in secular society. The positive aspect of this is that these people are a great encouragement to Christians in general and are often role models for us to follow. The risk however is that if they  ‘fall’, they fall very badly, and great shame is brought on the body of Christ. Bear Grylls has conducted himself in a way that honours Christ in both the world and the church and we owe it to him to pray that he is able to maintain this through all his life. We should always remember that Jesus put a little child in the middle of the apostles and said that ‘whoever humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 18:4).

     

    In Matthew a number of titles are used about Jesus including ‘Son of Man’, ‘Messiah’, ‘Son of God’, ‘Emmanuel’. Without in any way discrediting these, what descriptive title would you use if you were trying to describe the meaning of these titles to an adult who knew absolutely nothing about Jesus?

    Comment: This question is trying to get to the heart of what would be a 21st Century equivalent title to the Jewish term ‘Messiah’. The answer we choose will be determined to a large extent by the context we are in. In a conversation with a very spiritually aware person the title ‘Supreme Guru’ might successfully communicate the meaning. How about ‘the friend who is God … the ultimate boss … the world’s real President … the essential man’?

      

    Have you ever been an apprentice learning a trade, or a sport, a skill or a musical instrument? What skills does Jesus want his ‘apprentices’ to learn?

     Comment:  Apprenticeship in the family business of the Kingdom of Heaven involves learning lifestyle characteristics that minimise the behaviour patterns of the sinful nature, and plunge us into the full orbed dynamic of Kingdom life. Jesus addresses these directly in Matthew 5-7. All apprentices in the Kingdom must learn how to settle disputes quickly, ruthlessly cut out lust from their lives, speak the truth openly and clearly, never take revenge and love their enemies. We must practice the basic Holy Habits of giving money, prayer and fasting in ways that are private and just between us and our heavenly Father. We must all learn how to store up treasure in heaven (and not on earth), and seek first the Kingdom and his righteousness. We must do to others what we would have them do to us. All of these lifestyle patterns can be learned and mastered.

      

    ‘But I tell you: Love your enemies’ (5:44). Who are your enemies? How can you love them today? Many have dismissed this teaching as unrealistic. Is it?

    Comment:  British armed forces are present in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria (albeit in covert ways). Individually, there may be people in our lives who we are not on speaking terms with. Jesus said: ‘love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who ill-treat you … Do to others as you would have them do to you.’

     

     

    Starters:

    In ‘The Divine Conspiracy’, Dallas Willard uses the idea of the ‘Kingdom of Electricity’ to illustrate how when electricity was discovered and then controlled and marketed, it changed almost every aspect of our lives since its discovery and development. In the past twenty years the ‘Kingdom of wifi and the internet’ has similarly changed our lives. What are some of the changes Jesus states will happen when a person turns and engages with the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ (4:17)?

    Comment:  ‘Comfort (5:4); ‘inherit the earth’ (5:5); those who hunger for righteousness will be satisfied’ (5:6); ‘they will be ‘shown mercy’, ‘see God’ and ‘be called the sons of God’ (5:7-9); ‘You will find rest for your souls’ (11:29); ‘your Father … will reward you’ (6:6); ‘all these things (needs) will be given you as well’ (6:33); we become Jesus’ ‘brother and sister and mother’ (12:50); ‘then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father’ (13:43); they gain the most valuable possession on earth (13:44-46).

     

    When Jesus wanted to describe the pervasive influence and growth of the Kingdom of Heaven, he spoke about the effect of yeast in bread. When he wanted to communicate the value of the Kingdom, he described treasure hidden in the ground. Think about your own experience of the Kingdom of Heaven and describe it (truthfully) in terms of something in everyday 21st Century life.

     Comment:  If we wanted to communicate the value of the Kingdom we could describe an investor who discovered and put all their money into an ISA that had a growth and yield that dramatically outperformed every other stock in the market. When wanting to describe to pervasive effect of the Kingdom we might speak of the way the internet was only created in the 1990s and yet it has spread to influence the lives of almost every human being on the planet. How about the image of the shape of a trumpet – it is a picture of a cumulative experience of living in the Spirit; the further you go the wider, and greater the experience.

      

    Who are the Pharisees in the world today? Where are they? What do they do? In 23:13, Jesus states his leading charge against them. Who are the people who shut the Kingdom of Heaven in men’s faces today?

    Comment:  While it is not difficult to find people in all religions who demonstrate their faith very publicly and ‘pray on the street corners so everyone can see how righteous they are’, Jesus’ criticism and warning about Pharisaism goes far beyond and far deeper than such outward manifestations. The answers this question are properly found through studying Matthew 23. The Pharisees were a holiness sect who took their religion very seriously, but their enthusiasm and their spiritual blindness led them into terrible sin. It is not difficult to discern Pharisaism, both in Christianity and in other religions – its fruit is appalling hardship and suffering. Pharisees are religious actors; all religious, righteous and pious on the outside but inside full of self-righteousness, aggression, criticism, and forcefulness against others. They are proud of what they think they are and critical of everyone who is not like them.

     

    Main Course:

    A man whose work is professional mentoring in secular businesses once told me as we played golf together that he was wary of the word ‘disciple’ because he found it frightening, overbearing and forceful. Is it? What do you think? Should we use the phrase ‘apprentice of the Kingdom’?

    Comment:  I found my friend’s comment deeply illuminating. Jesus used the word ‘disciple’, so we also ought to use it. Nevertheless, I find the concept of ‘apprenticeship in a family business’ communicates the truth that we are all in training, learning how to engage with the Kingdom, that we are in a family, and that we won’t get ‘fired’ by our Heavenly Father.

     

    If the one we follow was a refugee (2:13-15; 19-23), how should we respond to the hundreds of thousands being driven from their homes in the Middle East, and Africa and the many migrants fleeing into Europe?

    Comment: Giving freely is evidence of a true Kingdom apprentice. Jesus taught that one of the criteria of judgement will be ‘I was a stranger and you took me in’ (25:35). If we cannot do this individually, we should support those who can.

     

    Jesus addresses anger (5:21-27) as the first issue the individual disciple has to face, and conflict (18:15-35) as the second issue that the community of disciples has to face. On a scale of 1 – 10, where would you put your ability to handle anger (Ephesians 4:26-27), and where on the scale would you rate your church’s ability to handle conflict?

    Comment:  Handling conflict in a church is one of the most difficult things a pastor ever faces.

     

    In January 2019 there was a ‘red supermoon’. Is this what Jesus was referring to in Matthew 24:29 as a sign that his second coming is imminent?

    Comment: I do not think so. ‘Supermoons’ have been a regular astronomical feature since the world was created. Jesus’ teaching about astronomical events must be understood in terms of the apocalyptic literary genre of which they are part (Joel 2:30-31). As disciples in the Kingdom we must rightly handle the word of God. We are on far firmer ground when we take our perspective from 24:14. The end of the age will only come when the gospel of the Kingdom of Heaven has been preached throughout the world.

     

    There are 195 countries in the world today, including ‘The Holy See’, and ‘The State of Palestine’. At his trial, Jesus said ‘my kingdom is not of this world’. What leading features does Matthew describe as the evidence that Jesus’ Kingdom is in the world in the 21st Century?

    Comment:  I would answer this question by pointing to the pre-eminence of Christ in the world, the existence and growth of the community of his apprentices (the Church) throughout history, the effect of Jesus’ teachings on human history, the growth of freedom and democracy, and the vast number of charities launched in his name throughout the world to care for the poor, the deprived, the disadvantaged, the sick, the weak and all who suffer. I would point to the willing sacrifice made by countless millions who have taken up their crosses, followed him, and served others with all they have, simply and solely because of they have encountered Jesus and love him.

     

    Your Jewish friend Ben asks why you believe Jesus is the Messiah. What do you say?

    Comment:  Jesus affirmed the Torah, but interpreted it (in the Sermon on the Mount) with the authority of one who is greater than Moses. Jesus claimed to be Lord of the Sabbath, and said, ‘One who is greater than the Temple is here’. He fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah. He performed the miracles that Isaiah prophesied the Messiah would perform. He claimed the authority to forgive sins. He exercised power and authority over nature and the demonic. As the ‘Son of Man’ he brought and established the Kingdom in direct fulfilment of Daniel’s leading prophecy. He bore the full horror of humanity’s experience of alienation from God and fulfilled the Messianic prophecies of Psalm 22 and Isaiah 52-53 when he died.

     

    Dessert (Extras):

    In some instances, why does Matthew say there were ‘two’ men, when Mark records only ‘one’ (8:28 // Mark 5:2, 20:30 // Mark 10:46)?

    Comment:  Matthew seems to be deliberately using a literary device to proclaim truth, somewhat like an artist who paints a portrait of a person, but in a different style and genre that brings out different features of the person’s true character.  

     

    Why does Matthew choose to use the phrase ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ when all the other gospel writers use ‘The Kingdom of God’?

    Comment: As a Jew writing to Jews about a Jewish man, Matthew seems to have chosen a phrase that roots Jesus’ teaching within the Jewish Heaven – Earth – Hell cosmology. The phrase ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ focuses on the fatherhood of God which is axiomatic to all of Jesus’ teaching.

     

    Comment on AN Wilson’s Introduction to Matthew: ‘You are holding in your hands a tiny book which has changed more human lives than ‘The Communist Manifesto’ or Freud’s ‘Interpretation of Dreams’ a book which has shaped whole civilisations, a book which for many people has not been a gospel but THE GOSPEL .… (if you reject it) you will reject one of the most disturbing and extraordinary books ever written.’ (Pocket Canons, October 1998).

    Comment:  AN Wilson’s comment is absolutely true, indeed if anything he has understated the astonishing influence of Matthew’s gospel throughout history!

     

     

      Coaching Questions -
    • Matthew 5-7
    Discipleship Coaching Session                               Matthew 5-7

     

    Podder:

    Start: ‘Hello’ and Beginning

    Key current things in your life

    Last pod you said you wanted to make progress in …  how have you got on?

    10 min: Prayer:        Ask for the Spirit’s help now.  
    11 – 45 mins: ‘Understanding the content’

         How did you go about engaging with ‘Matthew 5-7’?

    Ø  QQQ – Do you agree with A N Wilson’s introduction to Matthew?

     

          What do you want to talk about from your study of ‘Matthew 5-7’?

                       Do you have any questions – points to clarify?

     

          What are the main themes and points?

    Ø  The Sermon on the Mount

    Ø  QQQ – What are Jesus’ main points in the Sermon on the Mount?

    Ø  QQQ – What are the leading imperatives in the Sermon?

    Ø  QQQ – How does a person enter the Kingdom of Heaven?

    Ø  QQQ – What was Jesus’ second priority?

     

    Ø  6 Lifestyle obedience

    Ø  QQQ – Why does Jesus choose these six issues?

    Ø  QQQ – Which is the toughest?

     

    Ø  Wealth and God

    Ø  QQQ – What are the two imperatives, and what does obeying them look like?

    Ø  QQQ – What demonstrates we are worrying about food and clothes?

     

    Ø  Practicing Holy Habits

    Ø  QQQ – What dangers does Jesus warn us about?

    Ø  QQQ – Do you enjoy Holy Habits?

    Ø  QQQ – In what area of your life do you need to practice Holy Habits?

    Ø  QQQ – Choose a Holy Habit for Lent

     

    Ø  *** Use some of the Menu Questions

     

    45 – 60 mins:    Personalised Coaching Qs for “the Podder

    Talk together and explore what it means in practice to ‘enter the Kingdom of Heaven.’

    60 min: Prayer: Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your name. Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.