The first book of the NT (one of the four Gospels), has 28 chapters. It was written by Matthew, one of the 12 disciples, about AD 60. It focuses on Christ as the Messiah.
Time to read: 2 hrs 30 mins.
Key people: Jesus, Mary and Joseph, disciples.
Outline. It commences with a genealogy extending from Abraham to Christ, then follows the birth of Jesus and the ministry of John the Baptist. After the temptations, when Jesus repelled Satan with Scripture, Jesus began His ministry by choosing and training the disciples, involving them in ministry (Mt 10:1,7,8). Matthew’s focus was Christ’s teaching – with authority and life changing principles, often using parables; his preaching – emphasizing repentance and honesty; and healing – including deliverance from evil spirits (Mt 4:23,24). This includes the Sermon on the Mount and subsequent teaching touching on numerous aspects of personal and community life with the emphasis on the qualities of the heart. It concludes with the betrayal, crucifixion and rising again of Jesus with the Great Commission to His followers to “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:18-20).
Main lesson. This book’s emphasis is on Christ’s mission – “He came to fulfill Scripture” (Mt 1:22, 2:15,17,23...). It presents Jesus as the Messiah, the Saviour – not from the occupying Roman forces but from the devastation of sin within – “He will save His people from their sins” (Mt 1:21). We should be more concerned with the ‘real’ eternal issues of freedom and bondage than the temporal aspects of this life.
Key verses and thoughts: * “Bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance” (Mt 3:8). Repentance was a major theme of both John the Baptist’s and Jesus’ teaching. True repentance is not just a glib ‘I’m sorry’ without any effort to make amends but a heart-felt remorse resulting in a corresponding change in lifestyle. Ultimately, the truth will be revealed for “By their fruit you will know them” (Mt 7:16). We can fool some of the people some of the time but never God, ever. What we store up in our hearts will be at some stage manifest (Mt 12:34-37, 15:18-20).
* The weapon Jesus used against the schemes of Satan (even when he misquoted Scripture in an attempt to entice Jesus to sin), was His total reliance on the Bible (Mt 4:4,7,10). He did not try and reason in His own strength even though He was “filled” and “led” by the Holy Spirit (Mt 3:16, 4:1; Lk 4:1). Walking ‘in the Spirit’ is essential but so also is living ‘by the Word’. How much time do I give to the reading and study of it so its message can be applied to my daily life?
* “Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men...Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest” (Mt 4:19, 11:28-30). His invitations are still open to all who will avail themselves of His offers – and the outcome still applies. He will do for us what He says if we humbly come, acknowledging we need Him.
* “Whoever breaks my commands and teachers others to do the same will be called least in the Kingdom of God, but whoever practices and teaches my commands will be great in the Kingdom of God” (Mt 5:19). The words of Jesus portray the character of God and principles of His Kingdom. It is our responsibility to live by the rules of the Kingdom we profess to belong to, making godly personal choices, responding in genuine loving action to our fellow man, carrying our cross and following our Master (Mt 7:3-5,21,24-27, 10:38,39, 16:24-26, 19:17, 23:3,37). There is an exclusiveness to His Kingdom (Mt 6:24,33). Christianity is not just another commodity to add to our collection but the Kingdom is to be the focus of our lives, understanding that its value is beyond comparison (Mt 13:44-46, 16:26, 22:37).