These are notes collected from studying with brothers in Christ. Anything good comes from the Lord. Everything else is from us!
Matt. 1- God’s Grace & Sovereignty
I was really moved to read Matthew 1 and the list of names actually. It felt like a scene from the movie where we’ve been working through the Old Testament and we see all the issues and we’re waiting for the Messiah… Then there is this time of silence (400 years) between the Old Testament and Jesus’ coming. And you can only imagine the waiting. Then Matthew 1 starts and recounts all of that history (at least starting with Abraham)…all the waiting…all the struggle…all the messiness. It’s like all we were reading got a quick montage in my mind. AND THEN…after all that…JESUS IS HERE. Just makes me want to cry honestly. So moving–He truly came. And in the introduction of his name we see His purpose: Jesus [God saves] – God will forgive and save us from our sins (Matt. 1:21). He’s here! All that nasty history in the Old Testament. All that nasty history in our own life. All that comes to an end when Jesus comes. We’re saved!! We’ve been forgiven!!! Can only capture so much of my feelings here in words. But I have been really touched!
A theme of Matthew is that God brings in Gentiles/sinners. I saw that in the genealogy when He mentions promiscuous acts/women (even Gentiles) as part of the lineage of Jesus: “by Tamar…Rahab…Ruth…the wife of Uriah…” (Matt. 1). Then the first sign of people coming to Jesus in Matthew 2 are these people from Eastern lands (not even Jews). You get this theme of God bringing in all the world to Jesus to forgive them. Fast forward to the end of Matthew, where you get the great commission to go out to all the nations (not just Israel). Matthew is the only 1 to talk about that. This is a theme that is really at the heart of his gospel. And I’m seeing it in these early chapters.
I was also struck by God’s grace and sovereignty while reading the genealogy in Matthew 1. We are reading through the book of Genesis at my church right now, and we just recently got through the story of Judah and Tamar. Looking back at Jesus’ family line there is just a ton of brokenness and sin on display. Deceit, violence, sexual brokenness, and favoritism are all part of Jesus’ family history.
I am comforted, however, that God chose to use these broken people to bring about his plan because I know that I don’t have to be perfect for God to use me.
I love that connection at the end (I was thinking the same): this gives us hope to be used in the Lord’s service!
“By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.”
This verse, and the concept of us “bearing fruit” has been an important lesson for me over the last few years. During the early days of COVID, when we were all just trying to survive the shutdown, this was something on my mind a lot. With all of the tension and anxiety and uncertainty of the time it became plain what “tree” we were all connected to.
I know that when I am plugging myself into anything other than Jesus (who tells us that he is the vine, and we are the branches) I am a very hard person to be around. However, when I am connected to Jesus I am a blessing to others. Jesus’ teaching shows us that the only way for us to grow spiritually and bear good fruit is to be connected to him.
Matthew 8: Jesus calms the storm
I love this story, and the children’s Bible that we read after dinner describes it very well:
“Jesus stood up and spoke to the storm.
‘Hush!’ he said. That’s all. And the strangest thing happened…
The wind and the waves recognized Jesus’voice (They had heard it before, of course- it was the same voice that made them, in the very beginning). They listened to Jesus and they did what he said.”
This reminds me of John 1:3:
“Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”
Matt. 9 – Opened Eyes
“And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, ‘See that no one knows about it.’ But they went away and spread his fame through all that district.” (Matt. 9:30-31)
I love this on so many levels.
I continue to be legitimately unsure if Jesus would’ve liked them sharing or not. It goes against his command to them (con), but they were so eager to spread His name (pro).
Either way, I love the power of this–when God opens our eyes, we are compelled to run and share Him with others. The more our eyes are opened (i.e. the more revelation we have of Jesus and His work), the more I believe we will be compelled to share Him.
Along these lines, I encourage us to join Paul in his prayer:
that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places…Eph. 1:17-20
Matt. 11 – Jesus’ Yoke
Matt. 11 – I’m struck by the contrast between the wise and prudent striving to know God versus the infants and babes who just surrender to Jesus. The yoke of the scholars to learn God is all effort placed on you. The yoke of Jesus is placing complete reliance and trust on Him–like a baby would be dependent on parents for everything. In my humble opinion, there is a LOT of blindness among people studying the Bible because they haven’t learned this first lesson.
Continuing the theme of bearing fruit, Matthew 12:33-35
“Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 35 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”
The fruit of the Spirit is not a “To-Do list,” but it is what will naturally come out of us if we are connected to the “proper tree,” so to speak. This has been weighing on me lately after a somewhat disappointing interaction I had with a few friends recently.
This group of friends used to go to my church, and a few years ago they left our church with two of the pastors to help plant another church in a nearby city. This was a time that was difficult and felt like the church was splitting apart, but it was also kind of exciting to see how God would work through the difficult circumstances and bring about something new.
I had the opportunity to spend some time with this group of guys a few weeks ago, and I left the time feeling very disappointed and dissatisfied. I was hoping to be encouraged and filled by the opportunity to see how my old friend group was growing, but instead I felt like a foreigner. There was very little encouragement in conversation at all, and one thing in particular that stood out to me was a frequent use of explicit language. I am not at all trying to be legalistic here, and I will openly say that I fail at this often (especially in my thoughts and to myself), but it just kind of gave me pause. It made me wonder that if this is the “fruit”, then what does the “tree” look like? This group of friends spoke a bit about their political beliefs and I have noticed a lot of community activism on their part, but I don’t think that this is necessarily always the same thing as following Jesus.
Later, in Matthew 28, Jesus gives us all the great commission to “go and make disciples of all nations.” I think that when we become disciples of Jesus, and are connected to him, the one true “vine” or “tree,” we will bear the fruit of the spirit. I do believe that making disciples is remarkably different from making activists, advocates, or party members. Disciples of Jesus are different from the rest of the world, namely in the way they love and the “fruit” they bear.
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
Reminds me of 2 Cor: “we have treasure in earthen vessels”. Our value with Christ (the treasure within) is so much greater than without.
And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a master of a house, who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
Never noticed the reference to “scribe” before. A writer. May be a veiled reference to NT writers where they stitch together Old Testament references with NT events.
And when the men of that place recognized him, they sent around to all that region and brought to him all who were sick
Recognition / revelation of Jesus —> coming toward Him as healer and savior
This actually really stirs me. Makes me wonder when Jesus is waiting for me to knock down the door, so to speak, and won’t respond until He sees us asking with a bit of conviction and muster!
43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.
Matthew 21:43 – https://www.biblegateway.com/passage?search=Matthew%2021:43&version=ESV
Shows that Israel after the flesh are rejected from Gods kingdom if they reject Jesus. And a new people is formed: the church—made up of all who receive Jesus; Jew and Gentile.
God Can Use Us
Something that strikes me in Matthew…and really in all of the gospels, is how hopeless the disciples are on their own. They misunderstand Jesus the whole way through. They try to correct him because they know the better way. They aren’t able to cast out the demons that Jesus seemed to expect them to. They leave Jesus at his hardest hour, even though they all claim they’d never deny Him. They chastise Mary for pouring out the alabaster flask on Jesus. And I could go on.
Anyone else read this and think, “Wait, these are the ones Jesus wants to use to turn the world upside down?” Haha!! I hope it’s actually empowering for all of us to consider this. Jesus is looking to use people who don’t have it together…NOT at all. Anyone who studies church history will see the same thing. It’s always stunning to me to do a deep dive study of heroes of the faith. They also had tremendous issues most of the time.
Why? So He gets all the glory!
I totally agree as well! God uses us broken people to further his kingdom, and he ends up with the glory. If we end up with the glory we will most likely misuse it due to our brokenness.
This is empowering for me because I read the Bible and think, ‘if God used these totally messed up people to bring his kingdom then I suppose he can use me too.’
26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”(1 Cor. 1:26-31)
By the power of the Holy Spirit–Christ in you…
Rise up fellow non-influential–non-noble–weak-lowly-despised-fools. We’re just the people God is looking to use, as His Spirit carries us fumbling and bumbling along!