BOOK 1 - GOSPEL OF MATTHEW
With people, places, definitions ...
In 3 Parts
Writer: The apostle Matthew (also called Levi);
Date: Traditionally the first Gospel to be written, perhap s c AD40-50 in Aramaic, with the Greek translation sometime before AD70;
Where written: Probably Palestine;
Readers: To appeal to Jews, and especially Jewish Christians. There are frequent references to Jewish prophecy, and many Old Testament quotations;
Why written: To show that the man Jesus of Nazareth, was the kingly Messiah or Christ prophesied as the saviour of Israel throughout much of Jewish history.
According to Some Modern Scholarship: There was no Aramaic original. Instead the Gospel was written by an unknown Jewish Christian, using Mark's Gospel and other collections among his sources. These might have included sayings compiled by the apostle Matthew. Suggested date is c AD85-90; place of writing possibly Syrian Antioch.
Part 1 of 3, chapters 1-9
THE BEGINNINGS - FROM THE BIRTH OF JESUS TO THE START OF HIS MINISTRY c 6BC-AD27
AN ACCOUNT OF THE ANCESTRY OF JESUS
(also Luke 3:23b-38)
Genealogy of Jesus - His two lines of ancestry differ considerably in part, although there are also important similarities. Thus both Matthew and Luke record the descent of Jesus from the patriarch Abraham through King David. Luke then goes further back into Bible history to show that Jesus was a "son of Adam".
Many and varied reasons have been given for the differences in recorded ancestry after King David, none of which are wholly satisfactory. But as the differences are so obvious, and Luke is generally regarded as reliable, the two genealogies have been recorded by the two Gospel writers for no doubt very good reasons. These just happen to escape modern analysis. However it is helpful to know that father can mean "ancestor of", and son, "descended from".
There are many points of note, but one of the most interesting concerns the few women listed - just four. All are Gentile, and not one a model of Jewish virtue:
Tamar - probably a Canaanite, an adulterous and scheming daughter-in-law of Judah;
Rahab - a Canaanite and a prostitute of Jericho who helped the Hebrew spies;
Ruth - from Moab, who schemed more subtly than Tamar, and married Boaz; and
Bathsheba - possibly a Hittite, who committed adultery with King David. He then had her husband Uriah, killed in battle.
Much information can be found in the Old Testament on many of the men, and the women listed in the genealogies. Chapter and verse references are given in the following text:
Matthew 1:1-17 - In Matthew, the line starts with Abraham and goes Up through King David and his son Solomon to Jesus, to emphasise his royal descent:
This is the record of the ancestry of Jesus Christ who was the descendant of both David and Abraham:
Abraham (c 1,800BC, originally "Abram", a man of great faith, and father of nations, Genesis chapters 11-25) was the father of
Isaac (Genesis 17-35), who was the father of
Jacob (later "Israel" and father of the 12 tribes, Genesis 25-50), who was the father of
Judah (father of the royal tribe of Israel, Genesis 29-50) and his brothers, who was the father of Perez (Genesis 38:29) and Zerah (Genesis 38:30) (whose mother was Tamar - Genesis 38). ....
Perez to David (Ruth 4:18-22):
Perez was the father of
Hezron, who was the father of
Ram, who was the father of
Amminadab, who was the father of
Nahshon, who was the father of
Salmon, who was the father of Boaz (whose mother was Rahab - Joshua chapters 2 and 6).
Boaz (Book of Ruth) was the father of Obed (whose mother was Ruth - also the Book of Ruth), and
Obed was the father of
Jesse (1 Samuel 16-17), who was the father of ....
Kings of the United Kingdom of Israel and Judah c 1,000BC:
.... King David (1 Samuel 16-31; 2 Samuel 1-24; 1 Kings 1-2), who was the father of Solomon (whose mother was Uriah's wife - 2 Samuel 11-12; 1 Kings 1-2).
Solomon (2 Samuel 11-12; 1 Kings 1-11; 1 Chronicles 22-23, 28-29; 2 Chronicles 1-9) was the father of ....
Kings of Judah - good and bad:
.... Rehoboam, who was the father of
Abijah, who was the father of
Asa, who was the father of
Jehoshaphat, who was the father of
Joram (or Jehoram), who was the father (or great-great grandfather, through Kings Ahaziah, Joash, and Amaziah) of
Uzziah (or Azariah), who was the father of
Jotham, who was the father of
Ahaz, who was the father of
Hezekiah, who was the father of
Manasseh, who was the father of
Amon, who was the father of
Josiah, who was the father (or grandfather, through King Jehoiakim) of
Jechoniah (or Jehoiachin) and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon (c 587BC).
- The lives of the Kings of Judah - and of Israel, can be found in 1 Kings 12-22, 2 Kings 1-25, and 2 Chronicles 10-36;
- When Jechoniah was taken captive to Babylon, his uncle, Zedekiah, was appointed last King of Judah -
After the Babylonian exile Jechoniah (or Jehoiachin) was the father of
Shealtiel (or Salathiel, 1 Chronicles 3:17), who was the father (or grandfather, through Pedaiah, 1 Chronicles 3:19) of
Zerubbabel (a leader of the exiles who returned to Jerusalem, Ezra 2-5), who was the father of
Abiud, who was the father of
Eliakim, who was the father of
Azor, who was the father of
Sadoc, who was the father of
Achim, who was the father of
Eliud, who was the father of
Eleazar, who was the father of
Matthan, who was the father of
Jacob, who was the father of
Joseph (the carpenter), who was the husband of Mary, the mother of
The genealogy of Jesus Christ may thus be traced for fourteen generations from Abraham to David, fourteen from David to the deportation to Babylon, and fourteen from the deportation to Christ himself.
THE COMING BIRTH OF JESUS IS ANNOUNCED
(also Luke 1:26-56)
Matthew 1:18-24a - The birth of Jesus Christ happened like this. When Mary was engaged to Joseph, just before their marriage, she was discovered to be pregnant - by the Holy Spirit .....
Holy Spirit - "Holy" from Old English for "whole", "sound"; "Spirit" from Latin for "a breath" or "to breathe". The Holy Spirit is the third part of the Christian Trinity with God the Father, and Jesus Christ the Son -
.... Whereupon Joseph, her future husband, who was a good man and did not want to see her disgraced, planned to break off the engagement quietly. But while he was turning the matter over in his mind an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David (the David of "David and Goliath", who became the great poet-king of Israel, c 1,000BC), do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife! What she has conceived is conceived through the Holy Spirit, and she will give birth to a son, whom you will call Jesus ('the Saviour') for it is he who will save his people from their sins."
All this happened to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet -
'Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel' (Isaiah 7:14). ("Immanuel" means "God with us.")
When Joseph woke up he did what the angel had told him.
Prophet - Greek for "spokesman". Usually an Old Testament teacher or interpreter of God's will to his chosen people - the Jews. Prophets were usually more concerned with speaking out against the Godless state of the people, than with foretelling the future. Prophets also play a role in the New Testament.
BIRTH OF JESUS
(also Luke 2:1-38)
Matthew 1:24b-25 - He (Joseph) married Mary, but had no intercourse with her until she had given birth to a son. Then he gave him the name Jesus.
INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD OF JESUS
(also Luke 2:39-52)
Matthew 2:1-23 - Jesus was born in Bethlehem, in Judea, in the days when Herod (the Great) was king of the province. Not long after his birth there arrived from the east a party of astrologers (Magi, or traditionally "wise men", possibly from Arabia or Persia) making for Jerusalem and enquiring as they went, "Where is the child born to be king of the Jews? For we saw his star in the east and we have come here to pay homage to him."
When King Herod heard about this he was deeply perturbed, as indeed were all the other people living in Jerusalem. So he summoned all the Jewish scribes and chief priests together and asked where "Christ" should be born. ....
Scribes - From the Latin "to write". Professional scholars, interpreters and teachers of the Jewish Law; theologians and jurists;
Chief priest - "Priest" from the Greek "presbyter" for an "elder". Members of "high priestly" families, who held senior positions in the Jerusalem Temple under the High Priest. In the time of Jesus, they were usually from an aristocratic Sadducee background, and the High Priest might be chosen from among them;
Both scribes and chief priests are often linked with elders in the New Testament. Elders from the Old English, "old". A title used throughout the Old Testament, and in the New Testament Gospels and Acts for Jewish religious officials and leaders. Later in the New Testament, in the Acts of the Apostles, and some of the Letters, "elders" refers to leaders in the early Christian Church -
... Their reply (the scribes and chief priests) was: "In Bethlehem, in Judea, for this is what the prophet (Micah) wrote about the matter -
'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel' (Micah 5:2)."
Then Herod invited the wise men to meet him privately and found out from them the exact time when the star appeared. Then he sent them off to Bethlehem saying, "When you get there, search for this little child with the utmost care. And when you have found him come back and tell me - so that I may go and worship him too."
The wise men listened to the king and then went on their way to Bethlehem. And now the star, which they had seen in the east, went in front of them as they travelled until at last it shone immediately above the place where the little child lay. The sight of the star filled them with indescribable joy.
So they went into the house and saw the little child with his mother Mary. And they fell on their knees and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts - gold, incense and myrrh.
Gold, Incense, Myrrh - Traditionally:
- gold for a King;
- incense or frankincense for God or the Son of God; and
- myrrh, an aromatic gum-resin used in embalming and as a painkiller, to represent mortal man and the eventual death of Jesus -
Then, since they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back to their own country by a different route.
But after they had gone, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up now, take the little child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you. For Herod means to seek out the child and kill him."
So Joseph got up, and taking the child and his mother with him in the middle of the night, set off for Egypt, where he remained until Herod's death.
This again is a fulfilment of the Lord's word spoken through the prophet -
'Out of Egypt I called my son' (Hosea 11:1).
When Herod saw that he had been fooled by the wise men he was furiously angry. He issued orders, and killed all the male children of two years and under in Bethlehem and the surrounding district - basing his calculation on his careful questioning of the wise men.
Then Jeremiah's prophecy was fulfilled:
'A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they were no more' (Jeremiah 31:15).
Jesus is brought to Nazareth
But after Herod's death (in 4BC) an angel of the Lord again appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Now get up and take the infant and his mother with you and go into the land of Israel. For those who sought the child's life are dead."
So Joseph got up and took the little child and his mother with him and journeyed towards the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was now reigning as king of Judea in the place of his father Herod, he was afraid to enter the country. Then he received warning in a dream to turn aside into the district of Galilee (now ruled by Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee and Perea) and came to live in a small town called Nazareth - thus fulfilling the old prophecy, that he should be called a Nazarene.
APPEARANCE OF JOHN THE BAPTIST
(also Mark 1:2-8; Luke 3:1-20; John 1:6-28)
Matthew 3:1-12 - In due course John the Baptist arrived, preaching in the Judean desert: "You must change your hearts - for the kingdom of Heaven has arrived!"
Kingdom of Heaven (or God) - A New Testament phrase for Heaven and the reign of God, whether within the Christian believer or in the wider world. A description used throughout the Gospels by Jesus, and also by the writers of Acts and the Letters -
This (... John the Baptist) was the man whom the prophet Isaiah spoke about in the words:
'The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight' (Isaiah 40:3)
John wore clothes of camel-hair with a leather belt round his waist, and lived on locusts and wild honey. The people of Jerusalem and of all Judea and the Jordan district flocked to him, and were baptised by him in the river Jordan, publicly confessing their sins.
But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism ....
Pharisees - Hebrew for "Separated". Members of the conservative Jewish religious party - not a political party. They conformed to the written Law of Moses in the first five books of the Old Testament, and the traditional oral interpretation of them;
Sadducees - A Hebrew word probably associated with descendants of "Zadok" the priest - 2 Samuel 8:17. Members of the aristocratic Jewish religious and political party that only accepted the written Law of Moses. They did not observe the oral interpretation, and denied the resurrection of the dead and the existence of spirits -
.... he said: "Who warned you, you serpent's brood, to escape from the wrath to come? Go and do something to show that your hearts are really changed. Don't suppose that you can say to yourselves, 'We are Abraham's children', for I tell you that God could produce children of Abraham out of these stones!
"The axe already lies at the root of the tree, and the tree that fails to produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. It is true that I baptise you with water as a sign of your repentance, but the one who follows me is far stronger than I am - indeed I am not fit to carry his shoes. He will baptise you with the fire of the Holy Spirit. He comes all ready to separate the wheat from the chaff and very thoroughly will he clear his threshing-floor - the wheat he will collect into the granary and the chaff he will burn with a fire that can never be put out."
BAPTISM OF JESUS
(also Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-23a; John 1:29-34)
Matthew 3:13-17 - Then Jesus (of Nazareth) came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptised by John. But John tried to prevent him. "I need you to baptise me", he said. "Surely you do not come to me?" But Jesus replied, "It is right for us to meet all the Law's demands - let it be so now."
Then John agreed to his baptism. Jesus came straight out of the water afterwards, and suddenly the heavens opened and he saw the Spirit of God coming down like a dove and resting upon him. And a voice came out of Heaven saying, "This is my dearly-loved son, in whom I am well pleased."
JESUS' TEMPTATION BY THE DEVIL
(also Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13)
Matthew 4:1-11 - Then (after his baptism) Jesus was led by the (Holy) Spirit up into the desert (the Wilderness of Judea), to be tempted by the devil. ....
The Devil (or Satan) - "The devil" from the Greek "to slander"; "Satan" from the Hebrew for "adversary", "to oppose", "to plot against". The supreme person and spirit of evil -
.... After a fast of forty days and nights he was very hungry.
"If you really are the Son of God," said the tempter, coming to him, "tell these stones to turn into loaves."
Jesus answered, "The scripture says
'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God' (Deuteronomy 8:3)."
Scripture - From the Latin "to write". The books of the Old Testament, and later, for Christians, also the New Testament -
Then the devil took him to the holy city, and set him on the highest ledge of the Temple. ....
Temple - From the Latin for an open or consecrated place, a place of worship. The three successive buildings of Jewish worship in Jerusalem. In Christian terms, the place where God lives, whether in our body or heart -
.... "If you really are the Son of God," he said, "Throw yourself down. For the scripture says -
'He shall give his angels charge concerning you,' and 'In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone' (Psalm 91:11,12)."
"Yes," retorted Jesus, "and the scripture also says
'You shall not tempt the Lord your God' (Deuteronomy 6:16)."
Once again the devil took him to a very high mountain, and from there showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their magnificence. "Everything there I will give you," he said to him, "if you will fall down and worship me."
"Away with you, Satan!" replied Jesus, "the scripture says,
'You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only you shall serve' (Deuteronomy 6:13)."
Then the devil let him alone, and the angels came to him and took care of him.
HIS TRAVELS AND ACTS c AD27-30
HOW JESUS STARTS HIS MINISTRY ACCORDING TO MATTHEW
(also Mark 1:14-15; Luke 4:14-15; John 1:35-36)
Matthew 4:12-17 - Now when Jesus heard that John (the Baptist) had been arrested (by Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee and Perea) he went back to Galilee. He left Nazareth and came to live in Capernaum, a lake-side town in the Zebulun-Naphtali territory. ....
Zebulun and Naphtali - Two of the twelve tribes of Israel whose original land coincided with part of the Galilee territory -
.... In this way Isaiah's prophecy came true:
'The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: the people who sat in darkness saw a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death, light has dawned' (Isaiah 9:1,2).
From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, "You must change your hearts - for the kingdom of Heaven has arrived."
THE CALLING OF SIMON PETER, ANDREW, JAMES AND JOHN
(also Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:1-11)
Matthew 4:18-22 - While he (Jesus, after he had begun to preach) was walking by the lake of Galilee he saw two brothers, Simon (Peter) and Andrew, casting their large net into the water. They were fishermen, so Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will teach you to catch men!"
At once they left their nets and followed him.
Then he went further on and saw two more men, also brothers, James and John. They were aboard the boat with their father Zebedee repairing their nets, and he called them. At once they left the boat, and their father, and followed him.
JESUS CONTINUES PREACHING AND HEALING
(also Mark 1:35-39; Luke 4:42-44)
Matthew 4:23-25 - Jesus (after calling the brothers Simon Peter and Andrew, and James and John to be his disciples, and before the Sermon on the Mount) now moved about through the whole of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the good news about the kingdom, and healing every disease and disability among the people. His reputation spread throughout Syria, and people brought to him all those who were ill, suffering from all kinds of diseases and pains - including the devil-possessed, the insane and the paralysed. He healed them, and was followed by enormous crowds from Galilee, The Ten Towns (Decapolis), Jerusalem, Judea and from beyond the river Jordan (in Perea).
Matthew 5:1 - This is the first of Matthew's Five Discourses, concluding at verse 7:28 with "When Jesus had finished ...":
When Jesus (as he continued teaching and healing in Galilee) saw the vast crowds he went up the hill-side and after he had sat down his disciples came to him.
TRUE HAPPINESS AND SORROW - "THE BEATITUDES"
(also Luke 6:20-26)
Matthew 5:2-12 - Then he began his teaching by saying to them,
"How happy are the humble-minded, for the kingdom of Heaven is theirs!
"How happy are those who know what sorrow means for they will be given courage and comfort!
"Happy are those who claim nothing, for the whole earth will belong to them!
"Happy are those who are hungry and thirsty for goodness, for they will be fully satisfied!
"Happy are the merciful, for they will have mercy shown to them!
"Happy are the utterly sincere, for they will see God!
"Happy are those who make peace, for they will be sons of God!
"Happy are those who have suffered persecution for the cause of goodness, for the kingdom of Heaven is theirs!
"And what happiness will be yours when people blame you and ill-treat you and say all kinds of slanderous things against you for my sake! Be glad then, yes, be tremendously glad - for your reward in Heaven is magnificent. They persecuted the prophets before your time in exactly the same way.
PARABLE: LIVING AS WITNESSES TO JESUS CHRIST - "SALT, AND THE SALT OF THE EARTH"
(also Mark 9:50; Luke 14:34-35)
Matthew 5:13 - "You are the earth's salt. But if the salt should become tasteless, what can make it salt again? It is completely useless and can only be thrown out of doors and stamped under foot."
PARABLE: LIVING AS WITNESSES TO JESUS CHRIST - "LIGHT, AND THE LAMP ON THE STAND"
(also Mark 4:21-23; Luke 8:16-17; 11:33)
Matthew 5:14-16 - "You are the world's light - it is impossible to hide a town built on the top of a hill. Men do not light a lamp and put it under a bucket. They put it on a lamp-stand and it gives light for everybody in the house.
"Let your light shine like that in the sight of men. Let them see the good things you do and praise your Father in Heaven."
JESUS HAS COME NOT TO ABOLISH THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS, BUT TO COMPLETE THEM
(also Luke 16:16-17)
Matthew 5:17-20 - "You must not think I have come to abolish the Law ....
The Law - From the Old Norse "lie", "lay". The Laws of God as set down by Moses in the first five books or Pentateuch of the Old Testament - Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. Also their detailed oral interpretation as it developed over the pre-Christian centuries -
.... or the Prophets (of the Old Testament); I have not come to abolish them but to complete them. Indeed, I assure you that, while Heaven and earth last, the Law will not lose a single dot or comma until its purpose is complete. This means that whoever now relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men to do the same will himself be called least in Heaven. But whoever teaches and practises them will be called great in the kingdom of Heaven. For I tell you that your goodness must be a far better thing then the goodness of the scribes and Pharisees before you can set foot in the kingdom of Heaven at all!
ANGER AND RECONCILIATION
Matthew 5:21-24 - "You have heard that it was said to the people in the old days,
'You shall not murder' (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17),
and anyone who does must stand his trial. But I say to you that anyone who is angry with his brother must stand his trial; anyone who contemptuously calls his brother a fool must face the supreme court; and anyone who looks on his brother as a lost soul is himself heading straight for the fire of destruction.
"So that if, while you are offering your gift at the altar, you should remember that your brother has something against you, you must leave your gift there before the altar and go away. Make your peace with your brother first, then come and offer your gift."
SETTLING DISAGREEMENTS WISELY
(also Luke 12:57-59)
Matthew 5:25-26 - "Come to terms quickly with your opponent while you have the chance, or else he may hand you over to the judge and the judge in turn hand you over to the officer of the court and you will be thrown into prison. Believe me, you will never get out again till you have paid your last farthing!"
ADULTERY AND LUST
Matthew 5:27-28 - "You have heard that it was said to the people in the old days,
'You shall not commit adultery' (Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18).
But I say to you that every man who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her - in his heart.
GETTING RID OF TEMPTATION - "THE OFFENDING "EYE", "HAND", "FOOT""
(also Mark 9:43-49)
- These are not literal commands to mutilate ourselves as some sects have and still do in various parts of the world. The aim is to emphasise the importance of getting rid of or avoiding any temptations that may lead us away from the narrow Christian path:
Matthew 5:29-30 - "Yes, if your right eye leads you astray pluck it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than that your whole body should be thrown on to the rubbish-heap.
"Yes, if your right hand leads you astray cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than that your whole body should go to the rubbish-heap.
DIVORCE AND ADULTERY
(also Luke 16:18)
Matthew 5:31-32 - "It also used to be said that
'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce' (Deuteronomy 24:1).
But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife except on the ground of unfaithfulness is making her an adulteress. And whoever marries the woman who has been divorced also commits adultery.
SWEARING AND MAKING VOWS
Matthew 5:33-37 - "Again, you have heard that the people in the old days were told -
'You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord' (Leviticus 19:12; Numbers 30:2; Deuteronomy 23:21),
but I say to you, don't use an oath at all. Don't swear by Heaven for it is God's throne, nor by the earth for it is his footstool, nor by Jerusalem for it is the city of the great king. No, and don't swear by your own head, for you cannot make a single hair - white or black! Whatever you have to say let your 'yes' be a plain 'yes' and your 'no' a plain 'no' - anything more than this has a taint of evil.
DON'T TAKE REVENGE - "TURN THE OTHER CHEEK"
(also Luke 6:29a)
Matthew 5:38-39 - "You have heard that it used to be said
'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth' (Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21),
but I tell you, don't resist the man who wants to harm you. If a man hits your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.
DON'T SET LIMITS ON HOW MUCH YOU SERVE - "GO THE EXTRA MILE"
(also Luke 6:29b-30)
Matthew 5:40-42 - "If a man wants to sue you for your coat, let him have it and your overcoat as well. If anybody forces you to go a mile with him, do more - go two miles with him. Give to the man who asks anything from you, and don't turn away from the man who wants to borrow."
DON'T HATE - "LOVE YOUR ENEMIES"
(also Luke 6:27-28;32-36)
Matthew 5:43-48 - "You have heard that it used to be said,
'You shall love your neighbour' (Leviticus 19:18), and 'hate your enemy',
but I tell you, Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Heavenly Father. For he makes the sun rise upon evil men as well as good, and he sends his rain upon honest and dishonest men alike.
For if you love only those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even tax-collectors do that! And if you exchange greetings only with your own circle, are you doing anything exceptional? Even the pagans do that much. No, you are to be perfect, like your Heavenly Father.
GIVING GENEROUSLY WITHOUT SHOWING OFF
Matthew 6:1-4 - "Beware of doing your good deeds conspicuously to catch men's eyes or you will miss the reward of your Heavenly Father.
"So, when you do good to other people, don't hire a trumpeter to go in front of you - like those play-actors (the scribes and Pharisees) in the synagogues and streets who make sure that men admire them. Believe me, they have had all the reward they are going to get! No, when you give to charity, don't even let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be secret. Your Father who knows all secrets will reward you.
A PATTERN FOR PRAYER - "THE LORD'S PRAYER"
(also Luke 11:1-4)
- The Matthew and Luke versions of the Lord's Prayer differ, suggesting a pattern for Christian prayer rather than a rigid form of worship:
Matthew 6:5-13 - "And then, when you pray, don't be like the play-actors. They love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at street-corners so that people may see them at it. Believe me, they have had all the reward they are going to get. But when you pray, go into your own room, shut your door and pray to your Father privately. Your Father who sees all private things will reward you. And when you pray don't rattle off long prayers like the pagans ....
Pagans (or Heathens) - "Pagan", Latin for a "peasant", "villager"; "Heathen" from the Old English. Anyone not belonging to the Jewish religion; later applied to those who did not belong to the Christian Church, a non-Christian -
.... who think they will be heard because they use so many words. Don't be like them. After all, God, who is your Father, knows your needs before you ask him. Pray then like this -
'Our Heavenly Father, may your name be honoured;
May your kingdom come, and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day the bread we need,
Forgive us what we owe to you, as we have also forgiven those who owe anything to us.
Keep us clear of temptation, and save us from evil'."
LEARNING TO FORGIVE, IF WE WANT TO BE FORGIVEN
Matthew 6:14-15 - "... if you forgive other people their failures, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you will not forgive other people, neither will your Heavenly Father forgive you your failures."
FASTING WITHOUT SHOWING OFF
Matthew 6:16-18 - ".... when you fast, don't look like those miserable play-actors! For they deliberately disfigure their faces so that people may see that they are fasting. Believe me, they have had all their reward. No, when you fast, brush your hair and wash your face so that nobody knows that you are fasting - let it be a secret between you and your Father. And your Father who knows all secrets will reward you.
REAL SECURITY IN LIFE - "NOT FROM MOTH-EATEN AND RUSTING TREASURES ON EARTH"
(also Luke 12:32-34)
Matthew 6:19-21 - "Don't pile up treasures on earth, where moth and rust can spoil them and thieves can break in and steal. But keep your treasure in Heaven where there is neither moth nor rust to spoil it and nobody can break in and steal. For wherever your treasure is, you may be certain that your heart will be there too!"
PARABLE: OUR EYES AS A GUIDE TO OUR INNER BEING - "THE INWARD LIGHT"
(also Luke 11:34-36)
Matthew 6:22-23 - "The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is evil, your whole body will be full of darkness. If all the light you have is darkness, it is dark indeed!"
WE CANNOT SERVE GOD AND MONEY AT THE SAME TIME
(also Luke 16:13)
Matthew 6:24 - "No one can be loyal to two masters. He is bound to hate one and love the other, or support one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and the power of money at the same time."
WORRYING ABOUT MONEY AND POSSESSIONS - "HOW GOD PROVIDES FOR THE BIRDS AND THE FLOWERS"
(also Luke 12:22-31)
Matthew 6:25-33 - "That is why I say to you, don't worry about living - wondering what you are going to eat or drink, or what you are going to wear. Surely life is more important than food, and the body more important than the clothes you wear. Look at the birds in the sky. They never sow nor reap nor store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Aren't you much more valuable to him than they are? Can any of you, however much he worries, make himself an inch taller? And why do you worry about clothes? Consider how the wild flowers grow. They neither work nor weave, but I tell you that even Solomon (son of King David known for his wealth, fame and initially, his wisdom) in all his glory was never arrayed like one of these! Now if God so clothes the flowers of the field, which are alive today and burnt in the stove tomorrow, is he not much more likely to clothe you, you 'little-faiths'?
"So don't worry and don't keep saying, 'What shall we eat, what shall we drink or what shall we wear?! That is what pagans are always looking for; your Heavenly Father knows that you need them all. Set your heart on the kingdom and his goodness, and all these things will come to you as a matter of course.
DON'T WORRY ABOUT THE FUTURE - "THERE ARE ENOUGH TROUBLES FOR TODAY"
Matthew 6:34 - "Don't worry at all then about tomorrow. Tomorrow can take care of itself! One day's trouble is enough for one day."
THE PRICE OF CRITICISM AND TREATING OTHERS BADLY - "MEASURE FOR MEASURE"
(also Mark 4:24-25; Luke 6:37-38; 8:18)
Matthew 7:1-2 - "Don't criticise people, and you will not be criticised. For you will be judged by the way you criticise others, and the measure you give will be the measure you receive."
THE HYPOCRISY OF JUDGING OTHERS - "THE PLANK OF WOOD IN OUR OWN EYE"
(also Luke 6:41-42)
Matthew 7:3-5 - "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and fail to notice the plank in your own? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me get the speck out of your eye', when there is a plank in your own? You fraud! Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you can see clearly enough to remove your brother's speck of dust."
BE WISE WHEN DEALING WITH PEOPLE ABOUT THE THINGS OF GOD - "CASTING PEARLS BEFORE 'SWINE' "
Matthew 7:6 - "You must not give holy things to dogs, nor must you throw your pearls before pigs - or they may trample them underfoot and turn and attack you."
GOD'S GIFTS ARE FREELY AVAILABLE TO EVERYONE - "ASK! SEEK! KNOCK!"
(also Luke 11:9-10)
Matthew 7:7-8 - "Ask and it will be given to you. Search and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened for you. The one who asks will always receive; the one who is searching will always find, and the door is opened to the man who knocks."
ASKING IN PRAYER; HOW GOD MEETS OUR REAL NEEDS - "THE BREAD AND THE STONE, THE FISH AND THE SNAKE"
(also Luke 11:11-13)
Matthew 7:9-11 - "If any of you were asked by his son for bread would you be likely to give him a stone, or if he asks for a fish would you give him a snake? If you then, for all your evil, quite naturally give good things to your children, how much more likely is it that your Heavenly Father will give good things to those who ask him?"
DOING TO OTHERS AS WE WOULD HAVE THEM DO TO US - "THE GOLDEN RULE" IN THE POSITIVE FORM
(also Luke 6:31)
Matthew 7:12 - "Treat other people exactly as you would like to be treated by them - this is the essence of all true religion."
CHOOSING THE PATH TO TAKE THROUGH LIFE - "THE BROAD AND NARROW WAYS"
Matthew 7:13-14 - "Go in by the narrow gate. For the wide gate has a broad road which leads to disaster and there are many people going that way. The narrow gate and the hard road lead out into life and only a few are finding it."
BEING KNOWN BY WHAT WE DO AND SAY - "THE GOOD AND BAD FRUIT TREES"
(also Luke 6:43-45)
Matthew 7:15-20 - "Be on your guard against false religious teachers, who come to you dressed up as sheep but are really greedy wolves. You can tell them by their fruit. Do you pick a bunch of grapes from a thorn-bush or figs from a clump of thistles? Every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree is incapable of producing bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot produce good fruit. The tree that fails to produce good fruit is cut down and burnt. So you may know men by their fruit."
ARE WE REALLY DOING GOD'S WILL? OR WILL JESUS SAY "I NEVER KNEW YOU!"
(also Luke 6:46;13:22-30)
Matthew 7:21-23 - "It is not everyone who keeps saying to me 'Lord, Lord' who will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but the man who actually does my Heavenly Father's will.
"In 'that day' many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, didn't we preach in your name, didn't we cast out devils in your name, and do many great things in your name?' Then I shall tell them plainly, 'I have never known you. Go away from me, you have worked on the side of evil!'"
PARABLE: THE ONLY REAL SECURITY IS IN JESUS - "THE HOUSE BUILT ON THE ROCK"
(also Luke 6:47-49)
Matthew 7:24-27 - "Everyone then who hears these words of mine (the Sermon on the Mount) and puts them into practice is like a sensible man who builds his house on the rock. Down came the rain and up came the floods, while the winds blew and roared upon that house - and it did not fall because its foundations were on the rock.
"And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not follow them can be compared with a foolish man who built his house on sand. Down came the rain and up came the floods, while the winds blew and battered that house till it collapsed, and fell with a great crash."
THE AUTHORITY OF JESUS
Matthew 7:28-29 - When Jesus had finished these words (at the end of Matthew's First Discourse, "The Sermon on the Mount") the crowd were astonished at the power behind his teaching. For his words had the ring of authority, quite unlike those of the scribes.
(also Mark 1:40-45; Luke 5:12-16)
Matthew 8:1-4 - Large crowds followed him when he came down from the hillside (after the Sermon on the Mount). There was a leper who came and knelt in front of him. "Sir," he said, "if you want to, you can make me clean." Jesus stretched out his hand and placed it on the leper saying, "Of course I want to. Be clean!" And at once he was clear of the leprosy.
Leprosy - From the Greek "scaly". The word covers a variety of skin diseases, some infectious, of which leprosy was only one -
"Mind you say nothing to anybody," Jesus told him. "Go straight off and show yourself to the priest and make the offering for your recovery that Moses prescribed (in Leviticus 14:1-32), as evidence to the authorities."
THE ROMAN CENTURION'S SERVANT
(also Luke 7:1-10)
Matthew 8:5-13 - Then as he was coming into Capernaum (after healing the leper) a centurion approached. ....
Centurion - The main unit of the highly professional and much-feared Roman army was the 6,000 strong legion under the command of an imperial Legate. It consisted of six cohorts, each under a Tribune, with cohorts divided into "centuries" of approximately 100 soldiers commanded by a Centurion. They had the same reputation as a tough regimental sergeant-major in any modern army. A number of centurions appear in the New Testament, some quite prominently:
In the Gospels:
(1) This centurion whose servant was healed by Jesus;
(2) The centurion present at the crucifixion (Matthew 27:54); and
In the Acts of the Apostles:
(3) Cornelius from Caesarea, the first named Gentile to become a Christian through the teaching of the apostle Peter (Acts 10:1);
(4) Those centurions involved in Paul's arrest and imprisonment in Jerusalem and his journey to Caesarea (Acts 22:25; 23:17,23); and
(5) Julius who escorts Paul to Rome (Acts 27:1) -
.... "Sir," he (the centurion) implored him, "my servant is in bed at home paralysed and in dreadful pain."
"I will come and heal him," said Jesus to him.
"Sir," replied the centurion, "I'm not important enough for you to come under my roof. Just give the order, please, and my servant will recover. I'm a man under authority myself, and I have soldiers under me. I can say to one man 'Go' and I know he'll go, or I can say 'Come here' to another and I know he'll come - or I can say to my slave 'Do this' and he'll always do it."
When Jesus heard this, he was astonished. "Believe me," he said to those who were following him, "I have never found faith like this, even in Israel! I tell you that many people will come from east and west and sit at my table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of Heaven. But those who should have belonged to the kingdom will be banished to the darkness outside, where there will be tears and bitter regret."
Then he said to the centurion, "Go home now, and everything will happen as you have believed it will."
And his servant was healed at that actual moment.
PETER'S MOTHER-IN-LAW'S FEVER: JESUS ALSO HEALS MANY OTHERS THAT EVENING
(also Mark 1:29-34; Luke 4:38-41)
- Here, as elsewhere in the New Testament, some of the apostles and many of Jesus' disciples were married. Celibacy does not appear to have been a major issue in the early Church. However, the Apostle Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians (chapter 7) does recognise that the unmarried and celibate can enjoy certain advantages in their Christian life:
Matthew 8:14-17 - Then on coming into Peter's house (in Capernaum, after healing the leper and the centurion's servant in Matthew's Gospel) Jesus saw that Peter's mother-in-law had been put to bed with a high fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her. And then she got up and began to see to their needs.
When evening came they brought to him many who were possessed by evil spirits, which he expelled with a word. Indeed he healed all who were ill. Thus was fulfilled Isaiah's prophecy -
'He himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses' (Isaiah 53:4)
HARD DECISIONS FOR THE FOLLOWERS OF JESUS - "LET THE DEAD BURY THE DEAD!"
(also Luke 9:57-62)
Matthew 8:18-22 - When Jesus (after healing the leper) had seen the great crowds around him he gave orders for departure to the other side of the lake (of Galilee). But before they started, one of the scribes came up to Jesus and said to him, "Master, I will follow you wherever you go."
"Foxes have earths, birds in the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere that he can call his own," replied Jesus.
Another of his disciples said, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father."
But Jesus said to him, "Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead."
- If the reference to burial is literal, this is Jesus' way of emphasising that no earthly duty can be as important as following him. Alternatively, if this reflects the custom that a young man was not free to take up his own life until his father had indeed died, then Jesus may have been encouraging him to become truly independent.
CALMING THE STORM
(also Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:22-25)
- The Sea of Galilee, like other stretches of water surrounded by hills and mountains, is subject to sudden and violent storms or squalls:
Matthew 8:23-27 - Then he went aboard the boat (to cross to the other side of the Sea of Galilee after healing many people, including the centurion's servant), and his disciples followed him. Before long a terrific storm sprang up and the boat was awash with the waves. Jesus was sleeping soundly and the disciples went forward and woke him up.
"Lord, save us!" they cried. "We are drowning!"
"What are you so frightened about, you little-faiths?" he replied.
Then he got to his feet and rebuked the wind and the waters and there was a great calm. The men were filled with astonishment and kept saying, "Whatever sort of man is this - why, even the wind and the waves do what he tells them!"
THE MADMAN (OR MEN) AND THE GADARENE PIGS
(also Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:26-39)
- The different Gospels and various versions of the Bible place this incident in the region of the Gadarenes, the Gerasenes, and the Gergesenes:
(1) The town of Gadara was a few miles southeast of the Sea of Galilee in the Gentile Decapolis. The region of the Gadarenes may well have spread beyond the town to the shoreside;
(2) Gerasa, also in the Decapolis, but much further away, some 30 miles (50 km) from the Sea of Galilee; and
(3) Only Gergesa was on the actual shoreside in the territory of Gaulanitis - the modern Golan.
Whatever the case, it must have been predominantly Gentile to account for the large numbers of pigs or swine. These were forbidden to Jews as food -
Matthew 8:28-34 - When he arrived on the other side (of the Sea of Galilee after calming the storm - which is the Gadarenes' country) he was met by two devil-possessed men who came out from among the tombs. They were so violent that nobody dared to use that road. "What have you got to do with us, Jesus, you Son of God?" they screamed at him. "Have you come to torture us before the proper time?"
It happened that in the distance there was a large herd of pigs feeding. So the devils implored him, "If you throw us out, send us into the herd of pigs!"
"Then go!" said Jesus to them.
And the devils came out of the two men and went into the pigs. Then quite suddenly the whole herd rushed madly down a steep cliff into the lake and were drowned.
The swineherds took to their heels, and ran to the town. There they poured out the whole story, not forgetting what had happened to the two men who had been devil-possessed. Whereupon the whole town came out to meet Jesus, and as soon as they saw him implored him to leave their (Gentile) territory.
THE PARALYSED MAN
(also Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26)
Matthew 9:1-8 - (After healing the madman - or men - of Gadarene) ... Jesus re-embarked on the boat, crossed the lake, and came to his own town (of Capernaum). Immediately some people arrived bringing him a paralytic lying flat on his bed. When Jesus saw the faith of those who brought him he said to the paralytic, "Cheer up, my son! Your sins are forgiven."
At once some of the scribes thought to themselves, "This man is blaspheming". But Jesus realised what they were thinking, and said to them, "Why must you have such evil thoughts in your minds? Do you think it is easier to say to this man, 'Your sins are forgiven' or 'Get up and walk'? But to make it quite plain that the Son of Man has full authority on earth to forgive sins" - and here he spoke to the paralytic - "Get up, pick up your bed and go home." And the man sprang to his feet and went home. When the crowds saw what had happened they were filled with awe and praised God for giving such power to men.
CALLING OF MATTHEW THE TAX COLLECTOR
(also Mark 2:13-17; Luke 5:27-32)
Matthew 9:9-13 - Jesus left there (Capernaum) and as he passed on he saw a man called Matthew sitting at his desk in the tax-collector's office.
Tax collectors - "Publicans" in Latin. Jewish or other local people who collected taxes for the Roman authorities. Jewish tax-collectors were thrice despised - they dealt with Gentiles, they were extortioners, and they collaborated with the occupying power -
"Follow me!" he said to him - and the man (Matthew) got to his feet and followed him.
Later, as Jesus was in the house sitting at the dinner-table, a good many tax-collectors and other disreputable people came on the scene and joined him and his disciples. The Pharisees noticed this and said to the disciples, "Why does your master have his meals with tax-collectors and sinners?" But Jesus heard this and replied, "It is not the fit and flourishing who need the doctor, but those who are ill! Suppose you go away and learn what this means:
'I desire mercy and not sacrifice' (Hosea 6:6).
In any case I did not come to invite the 'righteous' but the 'sinners'."
THE PRESENCE OF JESUS SHOULD MEAN JOY - "THE WEDDING GUESTS AND THE BRIDEGROOM"
(also Mark 2:18-20; Luke 5:33-35)
Matthew 9:14-15 - Then (after Jesus had told the Pharisee's why he ate with "sinners") John (the Baptist)'s disciples approached him with the question, "Why is it that we and the Pharisees observe the fasts, but your disciples do nothing of the kind?"
"Can you expect wedding-guests to mourn while they have the bridegroom with them?" replied Jesus. "The day will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them - they will certainly fast then!"
THE TEACHING OF JESUS AND THE OLD WAYS CAN NOT BE MIXED - "THE NEW CLOTH SEWN ONTO THE OLD" and "THE NEW WINE POURED INTO OLD WINESKINS"
(also Mark 2:21-22; Luke 5:36-39)
Matthew 9:16-17 - (After the question about fasting, Jesus continued ....) "Nobody sews a patch of unshrunken cloth on to an old coat, for the patch will pull away from the coat and the hole will be worse than ever. Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins - otherwise the skins burst, the wine is spilt and the skins are ruined. But they put new wine into new skins and both are preserved."
THE WOMAN WITH THE HAEMORRHAGE and THE RAISING OF JAIRUS' DAUGHTER
(also Mark 5:21-43; Luke 8:40-56)
Matthew 9:18-26 - While he was saying these thing to them (parables such as the bride and the bridegroom, and the new cloth sewn onto old; also after healing the madman in the region of the Gadarenes) an official (or synagogue ruler or president) came up to him and, bowing low before him, said, "My daughter has just this moment died. Please come and lay your hand on her and she will come back to life!"
At this Jesus got to his feet and followed him, accompanied by his disciples. And on the way a woman who had a haemorrhage for twelve years approached him from behind and touched the edge of his cloak.
"If I can only touch his cloak," she kept saying to herself, "I shall be all right."
But Jesus turned right round and saw her.
"Cheer up, my daughter," he said, "your faith has made you well!" And the woman was completely cured from that moment.
Then when Jesus came into the official's house and noticed the flute-players and the noisy crowd he said, "You must all go outside; the little girl is not dead, she is fast asleep."
This was met with scornful laughter. But when Jesus had forced the crowd to leave, he came right into the room, took hold of her hand, and the girl got up. And this became the talk of the whole district.
TWO BLIND MEN and THE DUMB MAN
Matthew 9:27-34 - As Jesus passed on his way (after bringing the daughter of Jairus back to life) two blind men followed him with the cry, "have pity on us, Son of David!" And when he had gone inside the house these two came up to him.
"Do you believe I can do it?" he said to them.
"Yes, Lord," they replied.
Then he touched their eyes, saying, "You have believed and you will not be disappointed."
Then their sight returned, but Jesus sternly warned them, "Don't let anyone know about his." Yet they went outside and spread the story throughout the whole district.
Later, when Jesus and his party were coming out, they brought to him a dumb man who was possessed by a devil. As soon as the devil had been ejected the dumb man began to talk. The crowds were simply amazed and said, "Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel." But the Pharisees' comment was, "He throws out these devils because he is in league with the devil himself."
MORE DISCIPLES ARE NEEDED - THE SEVENTY (OR 72) ARE SENT OUT
(also Luke 10:1-12,16-20)
Matthew 9:35-38 - (In this account he speaks about the great harvest .....) Jesus now travelled through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of illness and disability. As he looked at the vast crowds he was deeply moved with pity for them, for they were as bewildered and miserable as a flock of sheep with no shepherd.
"The harvest is great enough," he remarked to his disciples, "but the reapers are few. So you must pray to the Lord of the harvest to send men out to reap it."
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