We ended our readings from the Old Testament with a sense of hope as we saw the exiled Israelites return to the land and to the Lord with encouragement from the prophetic voices. But the hope of a restored land and kingdom never did fully materialize. Nearly 400 years passes by without any sign of documented activity…at least from a Biblical perspective. This was enough time for the people to lose hope.
During this time the Persian rule gives way to the Greek rule who are then taken over by the Roman Empire. Leadership within the Israelites have been basically reduced to a couple of political sects (Maccabeans and Zealots) and spiritual sects (Pharisees and Saducees). And none of these groups provided the kind of leadership after God’s heart. In fact, they were a far cry from the heart of God. And the prophet Jeremiah refers to such leadership in these words: “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” (Jeremiah 23:1).
But the people of God, the Jews, were still holding on to the hope of the promised Messiah to come and rescue them. It is here that the Biblical narrative picks up again with 4 books, the Gospels, that give us glimpses into the life and ministry of Jesus, who is the promised Messiah. These four different narratives, each offer a different lens through which we may see the this amazing incredible story of incarnation unfold but yet they all point to the same person of God the Son.
And in our Bible Learning journey, we will commit a week to each one of these narratives starting with the book of Matthew going with the order in which they appear in the Bible even though that may not be exact order in which the four gospels were written. As the name suggests, the book was written by someone named Matthew even though there isn’t a complete agreement about the Biblical scholars on which Matthew this could be – some believe this was Matthew the Apostle, one of the disciples of Jesus but others believe the book was written a little later and attribute it to another Matthew. Regardless of this ambiguity, the facts of the book remain.
So, what is the gospel of Matthew all about? Well, instead of trying to summarize the whole book, let me give you some quick highlights before you can go off and read the book on your own.
- The book is primarily written with a Jewish audience in mind where the author takes time to establish the ancestry of Jesus pointing out that he was born of the line of David.
- There are several citations throughout the book that shows the reader that Jesus fulfills so many of the Old Testament prophecies the point to Him being the Messiah. These are just a few surrounding his birth (it would be a separate study just to go through them all):
- Jesus’ virgin birth and being named Emmanuel – Matthew 1:22-23 (Isaiah 7:14)
- Bethlehem as Jesus’ birth place – Matthew 2:5-6 (Micah 5:2, 4)
- Jesus being called “Out of Egypt” – Matthew 2:15 (Hosea 11:1)
- Jesus being called a Nazarene – Matthew 2:23
- As Matthew gives an account of the life and ministry of Jesus, he continually points out to the readers that the new Kingdom that Jesus is ushering in is not what might have expected.
- The kingdom is of heaven (3:2, 4:17, 5:3,10,19-20…)
- The order in this kingdom of Heaven is not what one would expect. Also referred to as “upside down kingdom” (5:19, 11:11, 18:1-3)
- It is not easy to enter the kingdom of heaven (5:20; 7:21, 19:23-24)
- Jesus proclaimed the good news of the kingdom through signs and wonders (9:35)
- The kingdom warfare is spiritual in nature (12:25-28, 16:19)
- The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, like yeast, like a treasure and fine pearls, like a net (13:31, 13:33, 13:44-45)
- The criteria for entering the kingdom is not what one would expect (21:31, 23:13)
- The good news of the kingdom cannot be contained. It will be preached to the whole world and the disciples are commissioned to take to all nations (24:14, 28:18-20)
Well, there is so much more to the book of Matthew that just cannot be summarized but hopefully I have piqued your interest enough for you to want to go read more for yourself.
With the birth, life, death and ressurection of Jesus, the kingdom of heaven has been ushered onto earth to conquer and claim victory over the kingdoms of the world.
Weekly Reading Plan
And now here is the weekly plan for you to read through this section.
If you want to dig deeper here are some of my suggestions:
- Use the above schedule to read through all of the text
- Look up all the prophecies that Jesus fulfilled
- Look up the 54 references to “kingdom” in the book of Matthew and read more about the significance of each of them
- Optional (if you want to really read through the Bible in a year): Read Psalms 97-99.
And that is it for week 34!
Happy Bible Learning!