I am a bit misty-eyed as I come to the end of my (most recent) study of the gospel of Matthew. This has been one of the must fulfilling studies of scripture I have ever embarked on. Through my personal study, weekly discussions with my co-teacher and women’s pastor (thank you Dipa and Michelle, that was so much fun), leading discussions with my small group of precious women, and preaching three messages to a gracious large group, four major themes emerged for me from Matthew.
Jesus is God-with-us. First, he came as Immanuel (1:23)—God in human flesh to walk among us. Then he promised to be wherever two or three gather (18:20). And just before his return to heaven, he renewed his claim to be with us to the end of the age (28:20).
Jesus was Messiah, the Christ, the one the scriptures prophesied. But the people expected a conquering king who would overthrow their oppressive government and set up his earthly kingdom. Instead, Jesus came as a suffering servant to give his life as a ransom (20:28).
Jesus has authority over death, disease, demons, nature, and sin (8–9) which he exercised in different ways to a variety of recipients. Jesus accepted and praised the faith of those who believed in his power, rather than expecting him to work in man-made formulas.
Expect Jesus do the unexpected, let him exercise his authority and set up his kingdom his way.
Jesus ushered in a new kingdom, an upside-down kingdom, where the last are first (19:30) and the least become the greatest (18:4). Leaders serve and children are exalted (20:26).
Participating in this new kingdom means we aren’t offended by him (11:6) when he shows mercy and gives people what they don’t deserve. Instead, we (the needy, the grieving, the humble, the persecuted) are happy and well off to be invited into his new kingdom (5:3-11).
Stop seeking power and hoarding kingdom benefits, rather share the good news and make disciples of others.
Follow in Faith
Jesus invited ordinary men and women to follow him in faith (4:19–20, 22; 9:9; 27:55–56). They responded immediately and followed him (albeit with a few bumps) to the very end. We, too, leave loved ones, and material stuff, and religious ritual to suffer with him knowing that we will be rewarded. (19:29).
Jesus bears our yoke with us, removing the heavy burden of the law, and giving rest (11:28–30). In contrast, the religious leaders followed God by putting rules upon rules (heavy yokes) around the ten commandments in an attempt to guard against breaking them (23:4).
Jesus’s disciples demonstrate humility in contrast to the hypocrisy of the religious leaders (23:13). They admit their foibles, allowing them to be entered into the written record.
Throw off rules and fears, and follow Jesus humbly in faith.
Love, not Law
Jesus has fulfilled the law (5:17) so we no longer live by it. He takes the commandments of the mosaic law and morphs them into a new way to live—reflecting the love of God into the world (5:43–44) and holding us to a higher standard (5:48).
You have heard it said: Love your enemy and love your neighbor as yourself, but Jesus tells us to love one another as he has loved us (John 13:34–35). Jesus demonstrated love everywhere he went by forgiving sin, showing compassion, touching the outcast, asking thoughtful questions, removing heavy burdens, being a servant, and giving his life as a ransom.
Respond to God love by loving others the way that Jesus loves us—not placing unnecessary burdens on others. Instead, teach them to respond to God’s love, not merely obey him.
The effect of Jesus’ giving of his own life: the example of love, non-retaliation, the kingdom way of confronting evil with goodness; Jesus’ taking of the world’s hatred and anger on himself; and beyond all these, the defeat of the powers of evil, the blotting out of the sins o the world, the love of God shining through the dark clouds of wickedness—all of this is now to be seen around the world.N. T. Wright
What are your takeaways from Matthew’s gospel?
Thank you, Lord God, for inspiring Matthew to write his gospel and for guiding him to include and leave out what he did. Thank you for preserving it all these years so that I can read it—and in multiple versions with language, culture, and commentary helps readily available. Thank you for giving me the opportunity and enabling me to teach from these passages. And may I seek to reflect the new kingdom through my words and actions.
N. T. Wright, Matthew: 25 Studies for Individuals and Groups (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press: 2009), p.121.