Biblical Commentary  --  Matthew

 

 

 

Matthew

 

 

Whose Son Is Jesus

Matthew 1:1-17

 

Have you ever wondered why the genealogy of Jesus is different in Matthew 1 as compared to Luke 3? Scripture doesn’t really say why, so we are left on our own to try to discover the reason for the difference.

But then it may be obvious to some, since everyone has two parents, and therefore two genealogies; and maybe that’s why Scripture really doesn’t need to say. It seems clear to me that the two genealogies represent one for Jesus’ father and one for Jesus’ mother; and all we need to do now is figure out which is which.

We do know that Matthew, who was one of Jesus’ twelve disciples, one of the apostles, a Jew, and a writer with a Jewish audience in mind, addresses Jewish concerns about the Messiah, and uses many Tanach (Jewish Scripture, or the Old Testament) quotes about the Messiah.

According to the Old Testament, Jewish lineage always flowed from the father, so one is a Jew if one’s father is a Jew, always tracking back to one of the twelve tribes, the sons of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham. Consequently the only lineage that would be of interest to a Jewish audience would be the lineage of the father.

We can now say with a high degree of certainty that the genealogy written down by Matthew, a Jew, writing to a Jewish audience, would be the lineage of the father, Joseph. Additionally, we can conclude that the genealogy written down in Luke would then have to be the lineage of the mother, Mary. Consequently, explaining the differences between the two genealogies.

The language used by each author also supports this conclusion. Mathew uses the word “begat”, which means to procreate, to literally have a child, or to bear young. We see the word commonly used in the Old Testament; for example, in Genesis 5 to describe the children of Adam.

Luke, on the other hand, uses the word “son”, which is used to mean immediate, remote, or even figurative kinship, and would therefore be used to describe a son-in-law just as easily as a biological son.

We can now say with certainty that Joseph is the son of David through the line of Solomon (Matthew 1:6), and Mary is the daughter of David through the line of Nathan (Luke 3:31). Either way you look at it, Jesus is the son of David, as prophesied in the Old Testament, legally through Joseph from the line of Solomon and physically through Mary from the line of Nathan.

God left no loopholes in Jesus’ lineage. He is without question the son of David through both lines, the father’s and the mother’s.

In addition, we see that Matthew, in starting with Abraham, shows that He is the son of Abraham, as prophesied in Genesis 12:3 when God said to Abraham “in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed”, and shows that He is the son of David, as prophesied in 1 Chronicles 17:11ff when God said to David through Nathan the prophet “I will raise up thy seed after thee, which shall be of thy sons; and I will establish his kingdom” and “I will settle him in mine house and in my kingdom for ever: and his throne shall be established for evermore.”

Luke, on the other hand, is intent on showing Jesus to be the son of man, a description Jesus also uses for Himself many times, and therefore takes His lineage all the way back to Adam, the first man, showing that Jesus is the prophetic fulfillment of God’s promise in the garden in Genesis 3:15 when He said to the serpent “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” And, of course, we know that the seed of the woman is Jesus Christ, from Galatians 4:4.

The key point of Matthew’s genealogy is the proof he offers that Jesus is who He says He is; He is the promised son of David, the Messiah, who would be the one like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15ff) and the Son of God (Isaiah 9:6). Peter confirms that Jesus is the son of God in Matthew 16:16; John the Baptist confirms it in John 1:34; John confirms it in John 20:31; and Jesus confirms it Himself in John 5:25, 9:35-37, 10:36, and 11:4.

And so the question for you, after reading this passage (Matthew 1:1-17), is “Who do you say Jesus is?” Is He the only begotten son of God, or is He a prophet of God, or is He just a good man?

Think about your answer carefully, because with the correct answer comes all the answers to the mysteries of life revealed through Scripture, all the answers to how you fit into God’s magnificent scheme of things, and all the promises made to Abraham, to David, to Israel, and fulfilled in the spiritual children of the promise.

For me there is no doubt that Jesus is the son of Abraham, the son of David, the son of the living God, the promised Messiah.

 

 

Jesus’ Birth Foretold

Matthew 1:18-25

 

Matthew, a Jew writing to a Jewish audience, describes how Joseph, Mary’s espoused husband, deals with finding out that she is pregnant. According to Jewish custom, a man and a woman are espoused, or betrothed to each other, for one year prior to moving in together as husband and wife. Legally the betrothal is the same as marriage when it comes to ending the relationship.

You can consider betrothal as similar to our modern day custom of engagement, with a few exceptions. Legally the couple is considered married, and so terminating the relationship would only be possible through death or divorce. Additionally, during the betrothal period the man and woman do not consummate their union, even though they would have already exchanged their marriage vows. Chaperones would always be around to protect them from their hormones.

A typical God fearing Jewish man, upon finding out that his espoused wife is pregnant, would naturally assume that she has been unfaithful to him, especially knowing that he was not the cause the of the pregnancy. The typical reaction would then to be to put her away, or divorce her, for adultery.

Joseph, however, appears to not have been a typical Jewish man of his times. Matthew shows him as a caring, compassionate man, who is not willing to make a public spectacle of Mary, and therefore decides to give her a private divorce; thus saving her from public humiliation, even though legally she deserves public stoning for adultery.

But God, having another plan in mind, intervenes on Mary’s behalf and sends the angel of the Lord to talk with Joseph in a dream, reminding him that he is a son of David, and telling him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife, because the pregnancy was caused by the Holy Ghost, not another man. Joseph is also told that Mary will give birth to a son and that he should name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.

The Hebrew name for Jesus is Yeshua (ישוע), meaning Savior, from the root meaning to deliver, rescue, or save. See Psalm 130:7-8; Isaiah 12:1-2, 45:21-22; Jeremiah 23:6, 33:16; Ezekiel 36:25-29; Daniel 9:24; Zechariah 9:9; John 1:29; Acts 3:26, 4:12, 5:31, 13:23, 13:38-39; Colossians 1:20-23; Titus 2:14; Hebrews 7:25; 1John 1:7, 2:1-2, 3:5.

Matthew goes back to the Old Testament, Isaiah 7:14, to show his Jewish audience that what is happening now was foretold by the prophet Isaiah, written in the eighth century BC. Isaiah wrote that a virgin would give birth to a son and His name will be called Immanuel, or Emmanuel; and Matthew tells us that the name Immanuel means God with us. This was not meant to be His literal name, but rather a description of who He would be; we know this because God also said that His literal name is to be Jesus.

To a Jewish audience, steeped in the ways of the Old Testament, and already looking for the coming Messiah, one like Moses, who would redeem them from their bondage to the Romans, verses 22 and 23 would be explosive. Matthew is telling them in very explicit language, as a Jew speaks in quotes and phrases from the Old Testament, that this Jesus, born of a virgin to the legal line of David is without a doubt the promised Messiah, the one like Moses who will save them from their sins, as foretold by Daniel in 9:24.

When Joseph wakes up from his dream, he does exactly what the angel of the Lord told him to do; he took Mary as his wife, but didn’t consummate their relationship until the baby was born, and he named him Jesus.

This is a passage in Scripture that every Christian knows well; we grew in our faith hearing and reading it. But what does it mean today in our daily walk with our Lord?

As Matthew is so keen to point out, God fulfills His promises, and does all that He says He will do, and even when He says He will do it.

We see an example of this in God’s promise through Isaiah to bring Cyrus, a Persian, to save His people from Babylonian captivity in Isaiah 44:28-45:7, and His confirmation in Isaiah 46:11 when He says “I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it”; and then again when God promises not to tarry with His salvation in Isaiah 46:13. God fulfilled His promise of Cyrus in 539 BC, some 150 years after the end of Isaiah’s ministry.

God proves His faithfulness over and over again in Old Testament prophecies that have already been fulfilled. But what does this mean to you and I today?

God’s faithfulness in fulfilling past prophecies speaks to us very loudly, saying we can be completely confident that He will also fulfill all the promises He has made to us about us being His in this life and our future with Him for all eternity.

“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Romans 10:9-13

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.” John 10:27-29

Consequently, God’s promises to each of us is very clear.

If you call upon His name, believe that God raised Him from the dead, and believe in Him, then you will be saved and no one can pluck you out of His hand, or the hand of the Father, in this life or the life to come, and you will be with Him for all eternity.

 

 

Born in Bethlehem

Matthew 2:1-12

 

Jesus is born in Bethlehem, in Judea, as foretold by the Prophet Micah in verse 5:2, to Mary and Joseph somewhere between 5 and 4 BC.

We know the relative time period of Jesus’ birth because we know the earliest and the latest possible dates from Scripture and from Old Testament history. We know that Jesus had to be born no later than 4 BC because Scripture tells us that he was born during Herod’s reign as King, and history tells us that Herod was King from 37-4 BC.

We also know that Jesus had to be born no later than 5 BC because of Daniel’s prophecy in verses 9:24-26: “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.”

The start of the seventy weeks, seventy sevens in Hebrew, which is really seventy weeks of years, was when the command was given by Artaxerxes, King of Persia, to Ezra to return to Jerusalem to restore and to build the city. Ezra returned to Jerusalem in 458 BC. In addition, we know that after sixty-nine of the weeks the Messiah would be cut off; that is, He would be cut off in the middle of the seventieth week. And so the sixty-nine weeks (483 years) takes us to 25 AD, when Jesus started His ministry at the age of thirty (Luke 3:23), which would put Jesus’ birth at about 5 BC.

Therefore we can conclude that Jesus was born somewhere between 5 and 4 BC.

At the time after Jesus was born, wise men came to Jerusalem from the east, most likely from Persia, since they had hosted the Jews in captivity and afterward, and would have had access to Daniel’s writings, and probably even access to much of the Old Testament confiscated during the captivity.

The wise men came looking for Jesus, who was born King of the Jews, because they saw His star in the east and wanted to come to worship Him. Luke tells us that the wise men were told about the birth by the angel of the Lord, along with a multitude of heavenly hosts praising God, saying “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:14)

Herod the King was troubled when he heard that the wise men were looking for the King of the Jews, so he gathered all his chief priests and scribes together and demanded that they tell him where the Christ, the Messiah, should be born. They searched the Scriptures and told Herod the answer, that the Messiah was prophesied by Micah to be born in Bethlehem, in Judea, the city of David.

Herod asked the wise men when they saw the star, so he could know the approximate age of the child who was born in the line of David to replace him on the throne as King, and then sent them to Bethlehem, asking them to stop back after they have found the child to tell him where so he too could worship Him. Of course we know from later in this chapter that Herod had no intention of worshiping Jesus; he wanted to kill Him and thereby protect his throne.

When the wise men found the child with His mother Mary, they rejoiced, fell down and worshiped Him, and gave Him gifts of gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. Afterward they returned to the east via another route, since they were warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod.

In this passage Matthew gives us another Old Testament prophecy fulfilled in Jesus Christ’s incarnation; more proof for the Jews in his audience, and for us, that Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah.

First he connects the dots that Jesus is the son of David through the line of Joseph, then he connects the dots that Jesus is the son of God and born of a virgin, Mary, and now he connects the dots that Jesus is born in Bethlehem, in Judea, in the city of David.

If you need more proof that Jesus is the promised Messiah then continue reading the Gospel of Matthew and you will find out that God is faithful. What He speaks He will also bring to pass, and what He purposes He will also do (Isaiah 46:11).

Therefore, God will also be faithful in keeping His promises to us.

 

 

Out of Egypt

Matthew 2:13-23

 

After the wise men left Jesus and His parents and were warned not to return to Herod, the angel of the Lord appeared again to Joseph in a dream, warning him to take the young Child and His mother and flee into Egypt, and to remain there until the angel tells him it’s ok to return, because Herod wants to kill Jesus.

Joseph immediately departs for Egypt with the young Child and His mother in the middle of the night, showing us his great faith in the Lord God of Israel. He exhibits an obedience and a faith that every one of us prays that we too would have and that we hope to exercise when a time of trials enters into our life. It is important that obedience and faith are exercised every day, in little ways, like the muscles of our body, in order for them to function as hoped and needed when trials actually befall us.

The family remained in Egypt until the death of Herod. Matthew tells us that this was prophesied by Hosea, so that another prophecy might be fulfilled at this time, showing his readers that Jesus is the promised Messiah; “Out of Egypt have I called my son.” (Hosea 11:1)

When Herod realized that the wise men were not going to return with news of who the newly born King of the Jews is, and where to find Him, he became exceedingly angry and decided to kill every child in Bethlehem and the surrounding area that was two years old and under, knowing the approximate age from when he had asked the wise men about when they saw the Child’s star in the sky.

Matthew tells us that the killing of the children was a fulfillment of that which was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, “In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.” (Jeremiah 31:15)

We have here two very specific prophecies that Matthew tells us are now fulfilled, one about what would happen to the Child and one about what would happen to Rachel’s children. Matthew is giving us additional evidence that Jesus is the promised Messiah, so we can know that He is the One, and so we can be confident in our faith in all God’s promises made to us.

Once Herod died and his son became King, an angel of the Lord appears to Joseph in a dream, telling him it’s ok to return to Israel with the Child and His mother, because those seeking to kill Jesus are dead.

Again Joseph obeyed the words of the Lord, returning to Israel, but this time he was skeptical about returning anywhere near Jerusalem or Bethlehem, and returned to Nazareth in Galilee, which is about seventy miles to the north. Matthew tells us this was done so He could be called a Nazarene; a title we know well as Jesus of Nazareth.

This prophetic fulfillment is not as clear to us as the others. We can assume that Matthew was referring to Judges 13:5 when Samson was set aside at birth to be the Lord’s, saying that he would deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines. The similarity can be seen in that Jesus is also set aside at birth for the Lord’s work, more specifically because He is the Son of God who came to live a sinless life, and He too redeems His people out of bondage to sin, not to Rome, through the shedding of His own blood on the cross.

But there the similarity ends. Jesus’ sinless life and blood shed on the cross was not just for the generation of people alive at that time, as Samson’s deliverance was for Israel; it was for everyone in every generation. His life, death, burial, and resurrection was for all who believe in Jesus as the Son of God, and in what He has done for each one of us.

He redeemed each one of us who believe from the curse of the law and from the judgment of God for transgressing His law, and gives us eternal life, standing in His presence, rejoicing forever for His mercy and grace, and goodness and truth and justice.

Just as Israel was redeemed out of bondage in Egypt as a young nation, and just as Jesus was called out of Egypt as a young Child, we too are called out of bondage to sin by faith in Jesus’ name and accepted as a child of the living God.

 

 

John the Baptist

Matthew 3:1-12

 

Matthew turns his attention to John the Baptist, the son of Zechariah and Elisabeth, a priest and his wife. Luke tells us that both are righteous before God and that Elisabeth is barren and advanced in years. Gabriel, an angel of the Lord, appears to Zechariah, telling him that Elisabeth will give birth to a son, he shall be called John, “and he shall go before him (the Lord their God) in the spirit and power of Elijah.” See Luke 1:1-25.

Malachi tells us that God will send His messenger to prepare the way for the Lord, and that the Lord, who is sought by Israel, will appear suddenly at His temple, and His messenger of the covenant, the Messiah, will come as promised (Malachi 3:1). He says Elijah the prophet will be sent by God before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord (Malachi 4:5).

The day coming is great because Jesus, the Messiah, the son of God, comes into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15), and to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10); and the day coming is dreadful because Jesus comes into the world for judgment (John 9:39), and He has been given all authority to execute judgment (John 5:27). Those who are not saved are judged, condemned already (Mark 16:16, John 3:16-18, 1 John 5:10).

Jesus tells us that John the Baptist is the promised Elijah who would precede Him (Matthew 11:14); and John the Baptist says that the one coming after is preferred before himself (John 1:27); that is, the One whose shoe lace he is unworthy to untie (John 1:27).

Therefore, Scripture is quite clear that John the Baptist is the promised messenger who would precede the promised Messiah, preparing the way, preparing the hearts and minds of the people of Israel, for the coming of the Lord.

John the Baptist comes preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Jesus made a similar statement in Matthew 4:17, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Webster’s 1828 Dictionary tells us that repent means “(1) To feel pain, sorrow or regret for something done or spoken; (2) To express sorrow for something past, (3) To change the mind in consequence of the inconvenience or injury done by past conduct.”

Biblically, repentance is a heartfelt sorrow for having sinned against God, for transgressing His commandments and statutes, and a turning toward God, by setting our heart and mind on doing what’s right in His eyes, not our own. See Matthew 9:13. Luke 5:32, 15:7, 24:46-48, Acts 2:38, 3:19.

Both John the Baptist and Jesus are telling their audiences, including you and I, to repent and turn toward heaven, that is God, because His kingdom is at hand, or near.

The kingdom of heaven is one of the more difficult and controversial concepts in Scripture; one I think we make overly complicated with our own wisdom, forgetting to look at how Scripture actually describes it. See the essay on My Father’s Kingdom.

In its simplest form the kingdom of heaven, or the kingdom of God as used by Mark and Luke, is anywhere that the King is and has rule over His realm; and so the kingdom would be near when the King is near; and clearly, the King is Jesus, the King in the line of David who will sit on David’s throne forever.

Jesus’ kingdom starts when He ascends into heaven to sit down at the right hand of the Father. See Acts 1:9-11 and Daniel 7:13-14; they are both describing the same event, one from an earthly perspective and one from a heavenly perspective.

So when we’re told to “repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” we are being told to repent and turn toward heaven, that is God, because the King who will judge the secrets of men according to the gospel is near completion of His goal.

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Matthew tells us that John the Baptist is the one who was spoken of by Isaiah when he talked about “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” This is a direct quote from Isaiah 40:3, and also quoted in Mark 1:3, Luke 3:4, and John 1:23.

John, dressed in a similar fashion as Elijah (2 Kings 1:8), was given a ministry of preparing the way for the coming of the Messiah by baptizing all who would repent and have their sins washed away by the water of the Jordan.

Many come from Jerusalem and all Judea to be baptized by John, confessing their sins, and preparing their hearts for the coming of the Lord. In addition, many Pharisees and Sadducees also come to be baptized. But John is not going to make it easy for the Jewish leaders to have their sins cleansed unless they are able to show the fruits worthy of their repentance; that is, works consistent with a heart and mind that follows God’s teachings, and not the works of men done in the name of God to honor and glorify themselves.

John calls them a “generation of vipers,” as does Jesus in Matthew 12:34 and 23:33, because they are the seed of the serpent (Genesis 3:15), the children of the devil (John 8:44) who do the lusts of their father. They lie and murder, as does their father the devil.

John tells the Pharisees and Sadducees not to even consider using the excuse that they are the children of Abraham, chosen to be righteous through the following of the Law, because God is capable of raising up true children of Abraham from the stones on the ground, children who would fear God and honor Him by faith in obediently following the Law as required.

However, because they are not even willing to try to honor and to glorify and to fear God by following the Law of the Lord (see Psalm 19:7-11), that is to bring forth good fruit worthy of repentance, then the axe is already laid at the root of the tree, ready to cut them down and throw them into the fire of eternal damnation, into the lake of fire.

John’s baptism is with water for repentance, and has nothing to do with salvation. It is an Old Testament baptism to wash away the uncleanness caused by sin. John tells us that One mightier than he will come after him, whose shoes he is not worthy to carry, and that He will baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire.

John is talking about Jesus, the Messiah, who will come after him to baptize with the Holy Ghost all those who believe that He is the son of God, and who call on His name to be saved. Jesus’ baptism is a baptism unto salvation, that is redemption through the shedding of His blood on the cross. Jesus will also baptize every believer with fire, like the refiner’s fire which is used to purity silver and gold, a fire which will purify every believer so that they may dwell with Jesus in heaven forever.

The winnowing fan is in Jesus’ hand, separating the wheat from the chaff on the threshing floor. The wheat, all who believe, will be gathered into His barn, heaven, and the chaff, all those who do not believe, will be cast into the unquenchable fire, hell, to be burned up.

Which are you? Are you wheat for the barn, or chaff for the fire?

“The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:8-13)

 

 

Jesus’ Baptism

Matthew 3:13-17

 

Jesus comes from the region of Galilee to be baptized in the Jordan by John. John knows that he is unworthy to baptize Jesus, and that it is he who has need to be baptized by Him, so John objects. But Jesus simply reminds John that he needs to baptize Him in order for all righteousness to be fulfilled. John relents and baptizes Jesus in the Jordan in the presence of all who came out to John that day, and in the presence of the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Why does Jesus need to be baptized by John in the Jordan? Since Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, He has no need to even partake in John’s baptism, which is a baptism of repentance.

John’s baptism, as a baptism in the traditions of the Old Testament Law, was required to be done by one who needed cerimonial cleansing, thereby permitting them entrance into the presence of the most Holy God in the Jewish Temple.

Jesus needs no cleansing, and yet He needs to be baptized. Why?

John was sent by God as a forerunner of the Christ, the one who would stand up and say that this man is He whom God has sent, the promised Messiah to take away the sins of the world. So then in order to fulfill the ministry and purpose of John’s having come before Jesus to prepare the way for Him, John needed to baptize Jesus.

Likewise, Jesus needed to be baptized by John in order to fulfill the ministry and purpose of His life, having chosen to come into the world to take on His own shoulders all the sins of those who believe in Him. Jesus needed John to point to Him and say ‘He is the One.’

This is why Jesus needed to be baptized by John, saying “Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness.”

John and Jesus needed to fulfill the righteousness of the plan of God, which was set in motion before the foundations of the world were laid.

So Jesus went into the Jordan, was baptized by John, and when He came up out of the water the heavens were opened up, the Spirit of God descended from heaven in the form of a dove and lighted upon Him, and then the Father’s voice was heard from heaven saying “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

The significance of this should be overwhelmingly clear to all of us. The Father and the Holy Spirit were present with Jesus at His baptism, confirming the fact that Jesus was the One sent. It was and is a very important event in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.

In fact, the baptism of Jesus carries with it two significant meanings.

First, at the age of thirty, Jesus’ baptism signified the start of His rabbinical ministry, according to Jewish custom and tradition. It signified the completion of His training in the Tanach, the Old Testament, and the start of His life’s work as a teacher of others, as a Rabbi who was allowed to take on disciples whom He would then train in all the teachings of the Law and the Prophets.

Second, and more importantly, Jesus’ baptism signified the fulfillment of the start of God’s righteous plan to save sinners, ushering in the age of grace, the age of salvation by grace through faith in Christ’s name. The confirmation of the start of this new age of grace was made by the confirming words of the Father and the confirming presence of the Holy Spirit.

And so begins the public ministry of Jesus, the Messiah, the Christ, to save sinners. To save you and me and all who believe.

Jesus’ baptism confirms that He came into the world, God with us, to live a sinless life, to die the death of a lawbreaker on the cross cursed as one who hangs on a tree, to be buried in the earth for three days and three nights, and to be raised to life from the dead on the third day.

If you believe this and confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord, then your sins are forgiven, you receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, and you will dwell with Christ for all eternity.

 

 

Jesus’ Temptation

Matthew 4:1-11

 

After His baptism, Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit so that He could be tempted by the devil, Satan; but first He fasted for forty days and was very hungry. Then Satan came to Him to begin these three temptations.

The first temptation Satan uses is targeted at Jesus’ hunger after fasting. Satan tells Him if You are the Son of God then command these stones to become bread; and Jesus’ response, from Scripture, is that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from God’s mouth (Deuteronomy 8:2).

Notice how Satan challenges Jesus, questioning if He is really the Son of God. Scripture tells us He is the Son of God (Luke 1:35); so how could Satan not really know? Of course he knew, but he challenged Jesus anyway; just as he challenges every one of Jesus’ followers, just as he challenges our adoption as children of God in Christ, trying to cause confusion and doubt in our minds so we will fall prey to his deceptive schemes.

Jesus remains cool, though, and quotes God’s truth from His Word right back at Satan, using the shield of faith to withstand the attack against His Sonship and against His hunger, and using the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, to mount His offensive against the wily schemes of the devil.

This is a great example for us, for how we can defend ourselves against the attacks of the devil, and for how we can defend ourselves against our own lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life. The key is to read and memorize Scripture so that it is in our mouth when we need it most.

For the second temptation Satan decides to quote Scripture also, but totally out of context and incorrectly. Satan takes Jesus to a pinnacle of the temple and tells Him if You are the Son of God then throw Yourself down and angels will keep You from getting hurt (Psalm 91:11-12); and Jesus’ response, again from Scripture, is that man should not test God (Deuteronomy 6:16).

Satan challenges Jesus’ Sonship again, and then challenges Him to prove it by using Scripture to get Him to intentionally sin against God, testing God’s promise for security and safety to all His followers portrayed in this Psalm.

Psalm 91, however, tells us that God is our security and our fortress through difficult times in life, but only as long as we put our faith in Him, and trust in Him to get us through the difficulties. The Psalm does not tell us to test God’s faithfulness for us by intentionally causing the difficulties.

Remember, God only provided the Jews with sacrificial blood offerings for unintentional sin, those committed by mistake, without setting out to do so intentionally. However, God provided no blood offering for intentional sin. The only offering one could then make was a truly repentant heart and a broken and contrite spirit.

The best example we have is when David sinned against God with Bathsheba and then had her husband killed. David shows his repentant heart in Psalm 51, especially in verses 16 and 17. This is why David is called a man after God’s own heart.

For the third temptation Satan takes Jesus to a very high mountain and shows Him all the kingdoms of the world, and their glory. Satan tells Jesus that if He falls down and worships him then he will give Him all that he showed Him; and Jesus’ response, again from Scripture, is a strong rebuke, telling him that man must worship God and serve Him only (Deuteronomy 6:13, 10:20).

Clearly Satan didn’t realize that the kingdoms of this world are not really his to give, even though he has deluded himself into thinking that they are. They belong to God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.

Satan also doesn’t understand that God, the creator of the heavens and the earth and all that is in them, is the only one to be worshiped and served above all else. The truth of the matter is that it is Satan who should fall down and worship Jesus. But he is still in rebellion and will not be accountable to Jesus’ authority until he is cast into the lake of fire at the very end.

After these three temptations Satan leaves Jesus, and the angels come to minister to Him.

The first question that comes to mind is ‘Why does Jesus need to be tempted?’ What is its importance in God’s plan of redemption?

These three temptations seem to go straight to the heart of our human condition and existence, testing how important it is for us to meet our basic human needs. More importantly, they test the sinlessness of Jesus’ humanity.

Jesus needed to prove that His humanity was without sin; and so allowing Him to take our place as the unblemished lamb on the cross, dying for our sins, and not his own. So Satan is allowed to test His humanity by testing these three basic human needs: our physiological need for food to survive, our emotional need for safety and security as we live life, and our emotional need to be highly esteemed by others.

Jesus, in His humanity, not in His deity, overcame all three of these basic needs, and therefore could be the propitiation for our sins through faith in His shed blood.

Some might want to argue that it was Jesus in His deity that allowed Him to overcome these three temptations, and therefore it was not a fair test. But they could not be farther from the truth, because we know that Jesus set aside His divine nature when He took on human form so He could be just like us, to be tempted, and to be without sin. See Philippians 2:6-8, Hebrews 2:16-18, and Hebrews 4:14-16.

Jesus, as a man, overcame these three human temptations for us, so that we would be able to be counted righteous through His shed blood by faith in His name

If you believe that Jesus died on the cross for your sins against the living God of all creation, and believe that God raised Him from the dead, and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, then you will be saved and set aside to reside with Him for all eternity in His Father’s house.

 

 

Jesus’ Ministry Begins

Matthew 4:12-17

 

When Jesus heard that John the Baptist was thrown into prison He left the area and went back to Galilee, dwelling in Capernaum, which is along the northwest coast of the Sea of Galilee, and there began His public ministry.

Matthew makes a couple of interesting points in this passage. First, he mentions the imprisonment of John, who was thrown into prison by Herod because he was speaking the truth about Herod committing adultery with his brother Philip’s wife Herodias (Matthew 14:3-4).

This is something we find difficult to understand in today’s politically correct world of not speaking ill of another’s behavior, even if it is in direct disagreement with God’s standards set forth in Scripture. But John, a just and holy man (Mark 6:20), was a prophet (Matthew 14:5), and therefore was required to speak God’s truth above all else.

We too are required to speak God’s truth as led by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 10:19-20), even when we think it will cause us difficulties in the world, as it did for John. There are times in our life when we know for sure we are being led by the Holy Spirit to speak up no matter the consequences. Are we willing to do it, as John did, and trust the Lord to work things out to His glory?

Are you willing to put obedience to God ahead of your own wellbeing?

The second point Matthew is making in this passage is with regard to the faithfulness of God in doing what He said He would do.

When Jesus leaves Galilee for Capernaum He is entering a region on the border between Zebulun and Naphtali, and He is entering this land to start His public ministry, proclaiming that people “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Matthew quotes Isaiah 9:1-2, which says that people walking in darkness are about to see a great light. This quote introduces the well known verses 9:6-7 which talk about the coming of the Prince of Peace to Israel, the beginning of the Messiah’s God given ministry to His people and to the world.

So God prophesied about the coming of the Messiah at about 740 BC, and then fulfilled this prophesy almost 700 years later when Jesus, the light of the world, begins His public ministry.

This is another in a long line of prophesies fulfilled by God in Jesus Christ, and all of them prove to us God’s faithfulness in fulfilling past promises so we can be sure He will also fulfill His promises that are yet unfulfilled, like our promised redemption and our promised residence with Him in heaven for all eternity.

Are you willing to trust in God’s promises even when there is no rational reason to do so?

In addition, there is something else that we are being shown in Matthew 3:13 through 4:17. Do you know what I am getting at?

Jesus is baptized, tested, and then He enters into public ministry. Baptism is an outward statement we all make of the inward change that has taken place in us through our faith in Christ’s shed blood on the cross, in His resurrection from death to life, and in our willingness to publicly call Him Lord. It is our open statement that we are His promised possession, bought with a price.

Jesus’ testing through the three temptations is also an outward statement that He is willing to put obedience to God’s commands ahead of His own wellbeing, and everyone of us who are in public ministry for Him can point back to a number of time in our life when we were called by God to do the same. It is our open proof that we are His obedient follower, willing to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him wherever He leads.

It is only after these two public expressions of our faith, as with Jesus, that we can begin our public ministry for Him, doing His will, not our own.

Are you also willing to die to self so you can be raised with Him to newness of life in the public forum?

 

 

Jesus’ Call

Matthew 4:18-22

 

Jesus was walking by the sea of Galilee when He saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and Andrew, fishing, casting a net into the sea. He said to them “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” and they dropped everything and followed Him.

Moving on from there, Jesus saw two more brothers, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, with their father mending their fishing nets, and He called them, and they immediately left the ship and their father and followed Him.

This is a familiar story in Jesus’ life for many. One we’ve heard or read over and over again.

Here we have four young men, according to Jewish tradition in their mid-teens, who are willing to drop everything and leave family and friends to follow Jesus, to become the disciples of a Jewish Rabbi who just happened to pass by.

This is a man that they probably heard about, probably even met before (John 1:40), who walked up to them one day and said “Follow me.”

And they did!

What great faith they must have had to do what they did.

In talking to people, I find that many did the same thing when they heard about Jesus, that He could take away their sins and reconcile them to God, all they had to do is believe and follow Him.

I must admit, I was not one of them.

Growing up Jewish and then hearing that Jesus was the Messiah, my reaction was not very positive. In fact I set out to prove, from the Old and the New Testaments, that Jesus could not have been the promised Messiah.

God won that battle! There’s just too much evidence that Jesus fulfilled all the Old Testament prophesies about the promised Messiah.

What then does it mean to each of us when Jesus says “Follow me?” Does it mean I should go to church Sunday’s, and then do whatever I want the rest of the week? Does it mean I should read the Bible every now and then?

No!

It means that I confess with my mouth that Jesus is Lord and I believe in my heart that God raised Him from death to life. It also means that I am willing to drop everything I have and everything I do, and that I am willing to follow Him wherever He leads me.

It means that I attend a good Bible believing church, that I read the Bible every day so I can get to know God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, that I obey His teachings, that I love all His followers, that I serve His church using the gifts He gives me, and much more.

It means that I am willing to deny myself, to take up His cross, and follow Him. That is, I am willing to let Jesus live His life through me, setting aside what I want to do to do what He wants me to do; that I am willing to be persecuted for His name the way He was, and serve others the way He did; and that I am willing to obediently follow Him whenever and wherever He leads me in life.

It means that I am identified as a follower of Jesus Christ by all who know me.

Are you willing to follow Jesus today, and every day for the rest of your life?

Are you willing to be know by the world as a follower of Jesus Christ?

 

 

Jesus Heals

Matthew 4:23-25

 

Jesus went about Galilee teaching in the synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing many who came to him. His fame went throughout all the region and people came to be healed of all kinds of diseases, possessions, and maladies. And Jesus freely healed them.

When Jesus taught in the synagogues, what do you think He taught to the Israelites?

Luke tells us that in the synagogue in Nazareth He read this passage from Isaiah “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:18-19)

Then, when He closed the book and sat down He said “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” (Luke 4:21)

Jesus taught the Israelites that the Tanach, the Jewish Scriptures, which is our Old Testament, spoke of Him, the Messiah, who would preach the gospel, heal the brokenhearted, free the prisoners, give sight to the blind, free the oppressed, and preach the acceptable year of the Lord.

This is the time fixed, appointed beforehand, by God for redemption and grace to heal and to free souls. The time when the Messiah would make Himself known through His words and His actions.

Jesus went through Galilee telling the Israelites that He is the promised Messiah, and then showed them by His actions that He has power and authority over diseases, possessions, and maladies, as was foretold about the Messiah. Jesus wanted the Israelites to be without doubt about who He is and why He came.

Jesus also preached the gospel, the good news, of the kingdom. Paul tells us that this gospel is about Jesus Christ, how He died for our sins according to the scriptures, how He was buried, and how He rose again the third day according to the scriptures; and by this gospel we are saved. (See 1 Corinthians 15:1-4)

John tells us that unless we are born again we cannot even see the kingdom, and we certainly cannot enter into it. (John 3:3, 5)

The message is very clear. We must believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah, spoken of in the Tanach, that He died for our sins, that He was buried, and that He rose again on the third day.

If we believe this gospel, this good news, then we are saved, born again, and can both see and enter into this kingdom He came to teach and preach about.

Are you willing to believe this gospel?

Are you willing to believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah?

If you answer yes to these two questions, then you are born again, born of the Spirit, and an heir to the kingdom of Jesus Christ.

Congratulations. There is rejoicing for you in heaven.

 

 

The Sermon the Mount

Matthew 5:1-2

 

Matthew introduces the sermon on the mount by telling us that when Jesus saw the multitudes that followed Him around Galilee to be healed of all manner of diseases, possessions, and maladies He went up on a mountain, sat down, waited for His disciples to follow, and opened His mouth and began to teach them.

This is the earliest recorded teachings of Jesus to a crowd outside of a synagogue, called the sermon on the mount for the obvious reasons. Because Jesus preached this sermon, His first, from the top of a mountain.

We know that many people, in addition to His disciples, heard this sermon because at the end of it Matthew tells us that “the people were astonished at His teachings, for He taught them as one having authority” (see Matthew 7:28-29).

Some would say that this message was only directed at the Jews of His time, and had nothing to do with those who would come to follow Him as the Son of God, the promised Messiah, the true church of His eternal kingdom.

I believe it would be a big mistake to think this sermon was only intended for the Jews, since His teachings go far beyond the requirements of the Law of the Tanach, the Old Testament.

An example of this is when He taught that anger without cause, or even saying Raca, which is an Aramaic word that can be translated “worthless” or “foolish”, to someone is the same in God’s eyes as if we kill them (Matthew 5:22); and yet the Tanach only teaches “thou shalt not kill” (Deuteronomy 5:17).

Jesus’ sermon, His greatest sermon, preached to the multitudes of Jews following Him around Galilee, describes the character qualities to be found in anyone who will follow Him into His kingdom, who will follow His teachings and commands every day of their life, denying their own will to follow His.

These qualities describe the character of a true believer, one who believes Jesus is the Son of God, the promised Messiah, who came in human form to die on the cross for our sins and transgressions against God, who would be raised from death to life on the third day, and who would sit down at the right hand of the Father in heaven.

And so, I challenge everyone who reads the following posts about Jesus’ greatest sermon to examine his or her own heart to see if these character qualities describe you, your actions, and your attitudes.

If they do, then you too are joint heirs with Jesus Christ in His promised kingdom for all eternity; if they do not, then maybe you want to consider turning your heart toward God, believing that Jesus died for your sins, was raised from death to life, and call upon Him as Lord.

The choice is yours.

 

 

Poor In Spirit

Matthew 5:3

 

In the opening salvo of the sermon on the mount Jesus begins “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

A simple statement that we so often take for granted. But I thought I would dissect it a little.

“Blessed” is a word used in Scripture to describe a person who has found favor with God, one who walks in all the fullness that God has to offer. It is a word that describes the state of a believer in, and follower of, Jesus Christ; one who walks in the world as Jesus walked.

The word has nothing to do with “happiness”, which is more about an emotional state of a person, a state which is fully dependent on worldly circumstances, and not upon a relationship with the living God of all creation.

What then does it men to be “poor in spirit”?

It has nothing to do with worldly poverty, and everything to do with spiritual poverty.

Let’s look at some verses that will help enhance our understanding of the phrase.

In Matthew 11:5 Jesus says, quoting from Isaiah 61:1, “the poor have the gospel preached to them”.

In Isaiah 66:2 God says “but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word”.

In Isaiah 57:15 God says “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones”.

In Psalm 34:18 David says “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.”

In Psalm 51:18, after he sinned with Bathsheba and had her husband killed, knowing that God does not accept blood sacrifice for intentional sin, David says “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”

These verses describe someone whose heart is humbled and broken before the Lord, and whose spirit is also humbled and broken before the Lord; one who is poor spiritually, and therefore has the gospel preached to them, and is saved.

Only one who trembles at the word of God, has a broken heart, and a humble and contrite spirit can truly know the fear of the Lord. Only one such as this has had their heart changed from stone to flesh, and is therefore a true follower of the Lord.

One who is “poor in spirit” is one who believes in their heart that Jesus was raised from the dead for all their sins, and is willing to confess with their mouth that Jesus is the Lord, the Son of God, the Messiah; one who is then saved, set apart as one of God’s children for all eternity.

And so, one who is “poor in spirit” has found favor with God, is spiritually blessed, and is the possessor of the kingdom of heaven; that is, they walk in the presence of the King, Jesus Christ, and will reside with Him for ever.

Are you “poor in spirit”?

Would you like to be?

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is the Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you too are saved, and are “poor in spirit”.

 

 

Those Who Mourn

Matthew 5:4

 

In this verse Jesus tells us “Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.”

When we mourn for someone or for something we express sorrow or grief from the depths of our heart; and sometimes we may even weep, as Abraham did in Genesis 23:2 when Sarah died, and as David did in Psalm 38:6 as a result of God’s anger against him for his sin against God.

We mourn only for those people or things we truly care about.

We can mourn for the death of one close to us, or the for loss of great riches, or for the loss of our standing in our community, or even for the anger of God burning against us.

We can also mourn for the spiritually dead, those who are disobedient and rebellious against the living God of all creation, those who will not accept Jesus Christ as the true Son of God and promised Messiah.

What is it, then, that you mourn for? What is it that touches the depths of your heart and soul in such a way that all you can do is grown in sorrow from morning till evening?

At the end of Matthew 23, Jesus mourns for Jerusalem because she killed the prophets that were sent to her by God; these prophets wanted her to repent for her abominations in the sight of the living God. Jesus would have gathered them up as children, even as a hen does her chicks, if only they would turn back to God in repentance and obedience. (See Matthew 23:37-39)

But they would not!

So Jesus mourns for them and says “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” Then He speaks in Matthew 24:2 about the temple, in response to a statement by His disciples, “See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”

Jesus tells us that God’s response to the disobedience of the Jews will be the destruction of the temple and the city, Jerusalem. A prophecy we know from history that was carried out in 70 AD.

When God mourns over disobedience, we know there will be consequences!

When we mourn for the things that God mourns for, then Jesus promises we will be comforted, and that our mourning will be turned into joy. (Also see Isaiah 61:1-3 and Revelation 21:4.)

How then can you mourn for the things that God mourns for? Is it possible for you to have the heart of God beating inside of you, as David did?

As Jesus shows, you can mourn for those who sin against God, who reject His offer of reconciliation and repentance, who reject God’s requirement of faith in His Son Jesus Christ and obedience to His word.

But in order to do so you must first turn away from you own sins against God. You must accept His offer of reconciliation and repent for you own sins and transgressions against the living God of all creation. You must believe that God raised Jesus from death to life and confess with you mouth that Jesus is Lord. And you must follow Jesus in obedience to His word.

If you do these things then you are saved, redeemed from your sins, raised in newness of life, and you will live with Jesus for all eternity in heaven.

You will then be given a new heart that will mourn for the things God mourns for, and you will be comforted by the Spirit of the living God dwelling inside of you.

Now is the time to cry out to God with Godly sorrow, which produces repentance that leads to salvation without any regrets.

Now is the time to mourn and be comforted.

 

 

The Meek

Matthew 5:5

 

Jesus tells us “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.”

Can you tell me: who are the meek that Jesus is referring to, and what character traits do they have?

Dictionary.com tells us that meek means (1) humbly patient or docile, as under provocation from others, (2) overly submissive or compliant; spiritless; tame, and (3) Obsolete . gentle; kind.

In today’s world, one who is meek is typically reviled, and is considered to be a spineless wimp who lets everyone walk all over them.

But this is not what Jesus meant by His use of the word.

Spiros Zohdiates tells us the following (See The Complete Word Study Dictionary, New Testament) for Strong’s 4240, “Meekness, but not in a man’s outward behavior only, nor in his relations to his fellow man or his mere natural disposition. Rather, it is an inwrought grace of the soul, and the expressions of it are primarily toward God. It is that attitude of spirit in which we accept God’s dealings with us as good and do not dispute or resist.”

Jesus calls Himself meek in Matthew 11:29; Scripture tells us that Jesus was meek in Matthew 21:5; and Paul tells us that Jesus was meek in 2 Corinthians 10:1.

According to Scripture, Jesus was humble, patient, docile, submissive, and compliant, as Dictionary.com says, … though, only to the Father’s will, not to the world’s, nor to His own.

We see Jesus’ meekness in the Garden of Gethsemane, where He is willing to submit His will to the Father’s, even when His soul was sorrowful, praying for the Father to remove the coming burden from Him. (See Matthew 26:36-46)

We see first hand the inward grace of Jesus’ soul in the Gethsemane passage, where He was willing to accept the Father’s will without dispute, and without resistance.

How many of us would do the same?

I know I would be the first to try bargaining with God so as not to have to endure the cross, nor the shame; yet Jesus counted it as joy (Hebrews 12:1-2).

What a great example Jesus is for us. He shows us how to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him (Matthew 16:24), no matter where He leads us.

It’s important to remember that Jesus learned obedience through suffering (Hebrews 5:8), and we are not greater than our Lord (John 13:16).

Jesus modeled meekness for us, so there would be no doubt about what it really looks like, so we could see first hand the inward grace of His soul, His willingness to accept God’s dealings with Him without dispute or resistance.

We are to follow His lead to be meek; and when we do, His promise to us is that we will inherit the earth. That is to say, everything that is His will be ours too. We are after all joint heirs with Him (Romans 8:17).

As followers of Jesus, our promised inheritance is the redemption of our soul through His blood, for which we have the Holy Spirit as down payment (Ephesians 1:7, 13-14); and then we will get to dwell with Jesus for all eternity (John 14:1-4).

Thus, the new heaven and the new earth will belong to all of us who are meek, to all who believe Jesus is the Son of the living God, that He died on the cross for our sins, was raised the third day from death to life, and sits for all eternity at the right hand of the Father on His throne in heaven.

The whole earth will belong to us, who are the meek, who are the followers of Jesus Christ, Lord of Lords and King of Kings, God with us.

 

 

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