After three and a half years, we have finally made it through the book of Matthew! As I moved my Matthew books off my desk and onto the bookshelf in my office, I began thinking, what have we learned about Jesus through Matthew these past few years? Here are a few observations about Jesus that I have learned:
1. Jesus is the "with us God."
Matthew tells us at the beginning of the Gospel that Jesus will be called "Immanuel" which literally means "with us God." This image of Jesus is incredibly important to Matthew. Jesus is with us in fleeing to Egypt for His safety. Jesus is with us through the temptations. Jesus is with us by entering our diseases and healing them. Jesus is with us by looking upon us with the compassion of a shepherd. Jesus is with us when He suffers on behalf of us by taking our sin at the cross. At the end of the Gospel Jesus says to His disciples "I am with you always." In the original language it is literally "I with you AM." The I AM frames with you. Let that sink in. The Great I AM frames your life. Jesus cares about your pains, your joys, your sorrows, your triumphs, and the ponderings of your heart. Jesus is with you at the office, in the hospital, at your home, at your school, and around your dinner table.
2. Jesus seems more comfortable in the presence of honest sinners than self-righteous saints.
Matthew begins his presentation of Jesus with a genealogy. Sometimes we are tempted to skip lists of people like this. However, Matthew uncharacteristically lists women in the genealogy of Jesus. This was rare in the ancient world (despite women's upmost importance in all the begotting). Not only did Matthew include women, but he included scandalous women. There was Tamar who seduced her father-in-law Judah; there was Rahab who ran a house of ill-repute; there was Bathsheeba - David's mistress; and of course Jesus' own mother Mary, who would have born social shame for becoming pregnant out of wedlock. Jesus hung around tax collectors and "sinners." His choice of disciples included common fishermen, a political revolutionary, a traitor to Israel, and of course one who would betrey Him. Jesus' harshest words were for the spiritual leaders of Israel (Matthew 23 specifically) - the Pharisees and the priests of the Temple. The Pharisees created unecessary rules upon the TORAH or law of God, which ironically made them miss the point of the TORAH. The priests were so blinded by their loyalty to the sacrificial system, they did anything they could to maintain power and the status quo.
3. Jesus calls us to a higher obedience/righteousness.
Jesus was the master-teacher. He is presented as a better Moses throughout the Gospel. His most famous teaching, like Moses', happened on a mountain. Jesus gave us not a new law, but a law fulfilled by Jesus himself. Jesus got back to the original intention of the TORAH, and claims boldly if you really want to follow the way of God, you follow me! Jesus did not want just an external obedience, but an inward reality. Jesus wants our hearts, the center place of our lives. There Jesus combats our tendency toward anger, violence, lust, greed, and other destructive sin that reign in our soul. Instead, Jesus replaces these tendencies with His self-sacrificial love.
4. Jesus cares about the way we live our life now.
This observation goes along with 2 and 3. So much of Christian preaching deals with the afterlife, and rightfully so. The hope of God renewing the world through Jesus is our Gospel. However, Jesus makes clear that the afterlife, the Kingdom of Heaven, spurs us to live ethically and justly now. We are training for the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus stands in the line of the prophets who call us to treat justly those in society who cannot speak for themselves. Jesus did this constantly through His miracles - the blind receiving sight can now enter back into the life of Israel. The lepers are cleansed and can now be touched. The woman who dealt with bleeding issues for 12 years has her dignity restored. Jesus taught us that all of God's ways matter, but they should lead to a life of mercy, compassion, and justice that is modeled after Jesus Himself.
5. Jesus wants us to make more disciples.
There is nothing like the Great Commission anywhere else in the scripture that points to Jesus' vision of His church. He wants us to make more students of Jesus - learning from His life, His teachings, His compassion, His self-sacrificial love, His death, and His resurrection. Not only learning informationally from Him, but being formed and transformed by Jesus. He wants others to join us in this life. Becoming and making disciples of Jesus is the great hope of this world. Let's pray that Jesus will empower us to make more disciples as we grow deeper in our own discipleship!
There are so many more we could make! If something has stood out to you over the last 3 and half years through Matthew, I want to hear about it! You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org - we might even share some of them on the blog!
We love you all and are looking forward to where God is leading FBC Shawnee in the near future!