Technology + Intro to Matthew
I hope that you are delighting in God’s Word as you commit yourself to the daily reading plan. If you find yourself behind, take some additional time this weekend to catch up. If you are incredibly behind, this may be a good time to jump ahead and join us starting tomorrow morning in Matthew chapter 1. Here is the reading plan for the next few days.
- May 7 – Matthew 1-2
- May 8 – Matthew 3-4
- May 9 – Matthew 5-7
- May 10 – Matthew 8-10
- May 11 – Matthew 11-12
- May 12 – Matthew 13-15
- May 13 – Matthew 16-18
- May 14 – Matthew 19-21
- May 15 – Matthew 22-24
- May 16 – Matthew 25-26
- May 17 – Matthew 27-28
One of the greatest enemies of deep contemplation of the Word is our tendency to overindulge in technology. If you add up all of the time you are staring at your phone, tablet, computer, and television each day you would probably be amazed at what percentage your waking life is dedicated to tech. Of course, these can be used for the glory of God to intake truth and output kindness and grace. But generally speaking, we are using our devices as a way to escape reality and ‘relax.’ The word ‘muse’ means to think. ‘Amusement’ literally means ‘to be without thought.’ The Christian should be contemplative; not seeking to be amused, but seeking to be amazed by God.
If you, like me, find yourself struggling to find a good balance with your devices and entertainment, consider reading ’12 Ways Your Phone is Changing You’ by Tony Reinke. I would like to share just a couple of his thoughts to help you consider your own approach to tech.
“Freedom in Christ is not freedom to do whatever you want; it is for sure-footed self-reflection and for avoiding the cultural bondage of sin. My freedom in Christ gives me eyes to see that not all things are helpful for me, helpful for others, or acceptable for my witness in the world.”
“The more we take refuge in distraction, the more habituated we become to mere stimulation and the more desensitized to delight. We lose our capacity to stop and ponder something deeply, to admire something beautiful for its own sake, to lose ourselves in the passion for a game, a story, or a person.”
“True freedom from the bondage of technology comes not mainly from throwing away the smartphone, but from filling the void with the glories of Jesus that you are trying to fill with the pleasures of the device.”
Introduction to Matthew
We are now shifting out of shadow and into light. We have been spending most of our time so far this year in the Old Testament which has been pointing us to the coming Messiah. Now, we are going to be spending the next eleven days with the incarnate Christ in the pages of Matthew. Here are seven things to know as you begin to make your way through this incredible account of the life of Jesus.
- Kingdom Language
We have just concluded several weeks in the books of Kings and Daniel. All three of these books focus on the royal authority of the Lord. The books of Kings reveal that earthly kings, even the best of them, will never compare to the pure and kind reign of our God. Daniel reminds us many times that God alone has dominion over the affairs of this earth.
Now we are going to see the long-foretold King arrive on the scene. He is unlike any other ruler. He is gentle and lowly. He is all-powerful but meek. More than any other book in the New Testament, Matthew sets its focus on the concept of Jesus as King. He regularly will connect Jesus with David. He highlights Jesus’ teachings about the Kingdom of Heaven. He contrasts Jesus with the earthly kings of His day (such as Herod). As you read through the book, consider highlighting every reference to Jesus as King.
It is very likely that Matthew and Luke used the book of Mark as a framework for their own books. However, Matthew has a very clear and discernable structure. It is written just like any ancient royal biography. It is a series of major events in Jesus’ life interspersed with five of His sermons. Here is the basic breakdown of the chapters of this book.
- 1-4 – Birth and entry to the ministry
- 5-7 – Sermon on the Mount (also called the ‘Discipleship Discourse’)
- 8-9 – Healing and Miracle Ministries
- 10 – Missionary Discourse
- 11-12 – Opposition to Jesus’ Ministry (John the Baptist doubts, Pharisees reject, Jesus’ family rebukes)
- 13 – Kingdom Parables Discourse
- 14-17 – The Identity of Jesus revealed.
- Prophet without honor (13)
- Compassionate Ruler (14)
- Good Teacher (15)
- The Christ, the Son of the Living God (16)
- The Suffering Servant (17)
- The King of Glory [Transfiguration] (170
- 18-19 – Kingdom Operations Discourse
- 21-23 – The King Displays His Authority
- Triumphal entry
- Cleansing of temple
- Cursing the fig tree/Israel
- Condemning religious rulers
- 24-25 – Olivet Discourse
- 26-28 – Crucifixion and Resurrection
- Jewish Focus
Each of the gospels is directed toward a particular audience. Mark is written for the common Greeks. Luke was addressed to a Roman audience. John tells us that His gospel is for “the world.” Matthew, however, is focused specifically on a Jewish audience. For that reason, this book operates as an excellent bridge between the Old and New Testaments. Matthew (also known as Levi) was probably trained from his childhood to be a religious teacher but then went instead into the business of tax collecting. As a Levite, we see his clear familiarity with Jewish worship practices and his explanation of how Jesus operated within the Jewish system.
You will see constant references back to the Old Testament. I will just reference a few that are exclusive to Matthew.
- Matthew 1:23 (Quotes Isaiah 7:14)
- Matthew 2:6 9 (Quotes Micah 5:2)
- Matthew 2:18 (Quotes Jeremiah 38:15)
- Matthew 8:17 9 (Quotes Isaiah 53:4)
- Matthew 12 18-21 (Quotes Isaiah 42:1-4)
And there are many, many more. As you go through Matthew, take note of the Old Testament references because they will help you understand the main message that Matthew was attempting to get across to his fellow Jews.
- Israel’s Rejection of the Messiah
One of the most evident messages that is underscored by Matthew is the way that the people of Israel rejected Jesus. The rejection is displayed from the birth narrative (Herod’s murder of the innocents) to its climax in the crucifixion. When Jesus preached in His home town of Nazareth, Jesus noted that when the people of Israel fell into sin that the prophets went to the Gentiles (Elijah to the widow of Zarephath, Elisha to the Naaman the Syrian.) Upon hearing of this, the people tried to throw Jesus off of a cliff.
Perhaps the clearest statement Jesus makes about it is found in Matthew 23:37, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”
- Sermon on the Mount
Matthew 5-7 has been referred to by many as ‘the greatest sermon ever preached.’ It contains some of the most beautiful and conviction words of Jesus. It is long-form teaching about what a disciple of Jesus looks like. In this sermon, Jesus references the Old Testament multiple times and expresses how they have heard it said to do something, but He reveals that the Law of Christ goes deeper than external obedience and into the heart. For example, Matthew 5:27-28 says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Jesus is declaring that a true disciple does not just eliminate outward actions, but from the heart, they are transformed. As you read through the sermon on the mount, consider the various descriptions of how a true child of God is called to love, forgive, speak, and think.
- Peter’s Confession
One of the most significant moments in the book of Matthew is when the disciples are asked, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter responded, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Notice how Jesus responds to him in the very next verse. “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”
If you have come to know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, then you likewise have been given the blessing of open eyes. You did not simply discover this truth because you were smart enough to figure it out or because you are abnormally discerning of truth. You, like Peter, were able to see because it was revealed by the Father in heaven. So, we should with Peter joyfully and powerfully proclaim that Jesus is indeed the incarnate Messiah.
- The Great Commission
Matthew is the only book that reveals to us what Jesus said to His disciples as He was ascending into heaven. His final call to them on this earth was to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey all that He commanded. This continues to be our mission. We are to prioritize the spread of the gospels to the end of our block and to the ends of the earth.
I hope you love your time in Matthew. It is going to be a joy.
Grace and Peace,