Instruction from the king (aka Sermon on the Mount)

The Sermon on the Mount is actually the Law given by the king for life in his kingdom.

Open Matthew 5–7.

John the Baptist was “the voice” announcing the arrival of God’s kingdom (3:1-3), introducing heaven’s anointed king (3:11-12). A voice from heaven confirmed his message: Jesus was indeed the chosen Son, the ruler heaven was pleased to appoint (3:17).

The anointed king had faced Israel’s enemy and driven him back: “Be gone, Satan: you have no authority here! Our Law honours YHWH our ruler. We serve no other” (4:10 paraphrased).

The king then withdrew to the northern reaches of his realm to live with the most oppressed, to bring light to the darkest place (4:12-16). There he announced the re-establishment of God’s kingdom, enacting the kingdom by releasing people from oppression by sickness and evil (4:22-25).

The king leads his followers to “a mountain” to give instruction on life in God’s kingdom. It was somewhere on the northern slopes of the Sea of Galilee, traditionally near Tabgha (Google maps). As you can see (photo above), it’s more of a hillock than a mountain. So why does Matthew call it a mountain? He’s thinking of something more than geography.

Continue reading “Instruction from the king (aka Sermon on the Mount)”

Matthew 1–5 reveals Jesus fulfilling Torah

Matthew’s opening chapters show Jesus as the fulfilment of Israel’s Torah.

Deuteronomy (Dead Sea Scroll 4Q41)

Open Matthew 1–5.

Here’s an intriguing possibility.

Matthew keeps focusing on Jesus fulfilling Scripture. He’s told us that six times already (1:22; 2:15, 17, 23, 3:15; 4:14). Does this motif define the way Matthew tells Jesus’ story? Continue reading “Matthew 1–5 reveals Jesus fulfilling Torah”

Jesus’ kingdom agenda (Matthew 4:23-25)

What was Jesus’ main message? How would you describe his message in a single phrase?

Open Matthew 4:23-25.

Does your pastor have a key theme you hear in most messages? Perhaps you hear how wonderful people are, an encouragement to be your best self. Perhaps you hear how depraved people are, and the importance of getting saved. Perhaps your church focuses on being kind and loving, or perhaps it calls you to act for justice. For some, exegeting the Bible is central, while for others church life is the focus. Most of us preachers and teachers have a core message.

So what was Jesus’ core message? If you had to summarize what Jesus wanted to say, what would it be? A single sentence: how would you describe it? Say it (out loud if you can) before reading on. Continue reading “Jesus’ kingdom agenda (Matthew 4:23-25)”

The people of the kingdom (Matthew 4:18-22)

Who would you choose to help change the world?

Open Matthew 4:18-22.

The People’s Choice: How the Voter Makes Up His Mind in a Presidential Campaign. That was the book by Berelson and Lazarsfeld, published at the end of World War II. Most people are influenced by their friends, they said, so marketers should target the influencers. Continue reading “The people of the kingdom (Matthew 4:18-22)”

The Gospel in 3D — John Frye

John Frye has a thought-provoking piece titled The Gospel in 3D.

I won’t spoil his analogy (follow the link above), but his conclusion applies to Christians everywhere:

My hope is that the church in the USA will rediscover the Gospel of Jesus Christ in IMAX 3D. To reimagine the realm we live in under the phenomenal King. Let his Way temper our spirits, frame our speech, and direct our actions. Only the 3D Gospel of the New Testament will unite the church and then energize the church to show this broken world “the new way of being human.”

Light in dark places (Matthew 4:12-17)

Why did Jesus announce the kingdom first in Galilee?

Open Matthew 4:12-17.

They met in the wilderness: the person God appointed to rule, and the enemy who claimed to rule all the kingdoms of the world. They reached no compromise deal. Now it’s war. Continue reading “Light in dark places (Matthew 4:12-17)”

All the kingdoms of the world (Matthew 4:8-11)

What would you give for this kind of power?

Open Matthew 4:8-11.

“All the kingdoms of the world!” Satan claims to have them. He offers them to Jesus. History is full of people who would kill for that! Empires will do anything for that kind of power!

But how can Satan claim to have the kingdoms of the world anyway? The Jewish hymns declare that YHWH rules the whole earth and advise the nations to acknowledge him (e.g. Psalms 2, 8, 45, 72, 79, 97, 99, 110, 149). Does Satan really have all the kingdoms in his grasp? Well, … sort of. Continue reading “All the kingdoms of the world (Matthew 4:8-11)”

Putting God on the spot (Matthew 4:5-7)

Trusting God, or testing God? What’s the difference?

Open Matthew 4:5-7 and Psalm 91:11-12.

Psalm 91:1–2 (NIV)
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” 3 Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence.

We love the psalms of trust. They calm our concerns. Fear subsides; faith soars. Beyond our immediate struggle, they help us see the unchanging love of our sovereign. We hold onto the one who holds us securely.

But there’s a world of difference between trusting God to hold us, and manoeuvring so God has to catch us. That’s what Satan suggested to Jesus: “Jump off the extremity of the temple: God said he’d look after you.” Continue reading “Putting God on the spot (Matthew 4:5-7)”