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Happy New Year! Welcome to the beginning of our New Testament in a Year journey in 2024! Today we begin the gospel of Matthew! Below is Northern Renaissance painter Jan Sanders van Hemessen's "Jesus Summons Matthew to Leave the Tax Office" from the year 1536:
Place: Perhaps Antioch
Date: A.D. 60-70
Content: Matthew was a tax collector, called by Jesus to follow him early in his public ministry; hence, he was an eyewitness of most of the events he describes. He begins with a detailed account of Jesus’ birth of the virgin Mary, his baptism, and temptation in the wilderness. Jesus came preaching the kingdom of God, entrance into which meant eternal life. One entered by repentance and faith. Matthew blocks the teaching of Jesus together into five discourses in which may be seen the ethics, the proclamation, the parables, the fellowship, and the consummation of the kingdom. Jesus’ death and resurrection end the Gospel with the command to go into all the world with the good news (gospel) of Jesus Christ.
Theme: Matthew’s main purpose in writing his Gospel is to show that Jesus fulfills the promise of God in the Old Testament. For this reason Jesus is introduced as a “descendant of King David and of Abraham,” and Matthew makes use of numerous Old Testament prophecies and quotations to explain Jesus’ life. Jesus came to be the Savior of the Jews, the Gentiles, and ultimately the world. The ethics required by members of God’s kingdom are found in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7) where the world’s values are rejected and the Kingdom of God and his righteousness become supreme. (Above commentary is from Tyndale Publishers “The One Year Bible Companion” p. 21) A wonderful commentary on the book of Matthew by Daniel Wallace is at this link. Below is a painting (I absolutely love this painting!) titled "The Inspiration of St. Matthew" by the Baroque Italian artist Caravaggio, circa 1602:
In today's Matthew readings, we read the genealogy of Jesus. I know that genealogy's can sometimes seem a bit boring to read, but this one in Matthew is phenomenal! If you just finished reading the One Year Bible this past year, you will recognize many of these names. Or - let me encourage you to come back and read this genealogy again on January 1st of next year, if you are going through the entire Bible for your first time this year. This genealogy will amaze you. One of the interesting things to note in this genealogy is the mention of 5 women - Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary. It was not the norm in the 1st century to list women in genealogies - only men were typically listed. At least 3 of these women were Gentiles (not Jewish) - Tamara, Rahab, and Ruth. Matthew was potentially trying to indicate to his Jewish readers that God's work in this world is not limited to the people of Israel - nor was God's work limited to men. The genealogy in Matthew is sometimes illustrated by a "Jesse Tree" showing the lineage of Jesus from Jesse, father of King David:
Chapter 1 verse 23 is certainly a huge prophecy from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah being fulfilled through the birth of Jesus: "Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and he will be called Immanuel (meaning, God is with us)." Jesus is God and came to literally be with us. To experience our human sufferings and temptations - and joys and triumphs. The importance of this birth of Immanuel cannot be overstated. God came to be with us in flesh and blood.
Chapter 2 verse 6 is very powerful in that last year's One Year Bible crew recently read about the prophet Micah's prophesying of Jesus being born in Bethlehem: "O Bethlehem of Judah, you are not just a lowly village in Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel." Here again you can see Matthew writing for his Jewish audience - quoting an Old Testament prophet and also focusing in on the town of "Bethlehem of Judah" - the City of David. This was to demonstrate again that Jesus was from the lineage of King David.
Verse 10 is a brief verse showing us the reaction of the magi in being led to Jesus: "When they saw the star, they were filled with joy!" The magi were also Gentiles and likely astrologers - following a star might lead one to think this... :) But no matter where they were from and what they believed prior, they were filled with joy at being led to the Messiah, Jesus. And they gave him gifts and worshipped him. And for us today - are we filled with joy in reading about the birth of Jesus? Do we realize what this meant back then - and still means today? That Immanuel was born - that God came to be with us. (Note that some Biblical scholars say that contrary to popular tradition, it is believed that the magi did not visit Jesus at the manger on the night of his birth, as did the shepherds, but that the magi came months later and visited him as "child" in his "house" - see verse 11.)
Worship Video - I typically post up a worship video that relates to our daily readings on this section of the blog. Today our readings in Matthew reminded me of Chris Tomlin's song "Our God" (filmed live at Red Rocks, Colorado, in 2013 - I was there!). Enjoy, and don't be afraid to Worship God right now along with this video!
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Comments from You and Question of the Day: As today is our first day together on the New Testament in a Year journey in 2024, I thought I'd post up a "roll-call." This is an opportunity for each of us to click on the "Comments" link below and let everyone know a few things about ourselves, as we'll be journeying through the Word together over the coming year. So here's the roll-call questions: 1. Have you read the entire New Testament before? 2. What are you looking forward to about reading the New Testament in 2024? 3. What's your favorite book or verse in the Bible? Thanks for participating in the roll-call! :) Also, what verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!
p.s. I would greatly appreciate it if you would pray for this New Testament in a Year ministry today. Thanks!