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Bible Overview Series: Matthew

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Matthew by Joseph Novak

Matthew: We thought his teaching was a mirror of God’s Law, but we were wrong. The Law is the mirror, reflecting him.

(Ben Myers’ #CanonFodder Summary)

Jeffrey Kranz’s Overview of Matthew

Matthew free bible iconThis is the story of Jesus as written by an eyewitness: the apostle Matthew. The book of Matthew is the first Gospel (an account of Jesus’ life and ministry) in the New Testament. In Matthew, Jesus performs miracles, shares parables, and teaches the ways of God. He is betrayed and crucified. He rises again and commissions His disciples to spread the good news. Matthew seems to have written this Gospel to a Jewish Christian audience, so he focuses on Jewish writings and prophecies more so than the other Gospels do. Matthew presents Jesus as the Messiah (Mt 1:1), the one chosen by God to deliver the people from their sins. Matthew quotes the Old Testament extensively, and places special emphasis on Jesus’ fulfillment of prophecies—which would have been important to a Jewish audience. Matthew tells us the story of Jesus with an emphasis on His role as Messiah, or Christ:

  • Jesus is the son of God. He is conceived by the Holy Spirit in Mary’s womb (Mt 1:18–20), and God endorses Jesus as His beloved Son  (Mt 3:17). He is God incarnate, living among men (Mt 1:23).
  • Jesus is the king. He is the son of King David (Mt 1:1). Jesus repeatedly declares that the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Mt 4:17), and tells many parables about it. The book of Matthew makes more mentions of the “kingdom of heaven” of “kingdom of God” than any of the other Gospels.
  • Jesus is the promised savior. He is the son of Abraham, through whom God had promised to bless all nations of the earth. Matthew emphasizes the Old Testament prophecies that Jesus fulfills, from His birth (Mt 1:22–23; 2:5–6, 17–18) through His ministry and right up to His death and resurrection. He lives a righteous life, teaches us what it means to be righteous, and dies on a cross so that we can be right with God.

Matthew opens with a simple statement of who Jesus is (the Messiah), and closes with a simple statement of what we should do (make disciples for Him).

Theme verse of Matthew

“She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Mt 1:21)

Why Matthew was written

Unlike John, Matthew doesn’t state his purpose explicitly. However, his opening verse makes it very clear what this book is about: Jesus, the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham. The rest of this Gospel presents evidence of who Jesus is.

Quick outline of Matthew

  1. Jesus’ origins: His birth and baptism (Mt 1–3)
  2. Jesus’ teaching and ministry (Mt 4–25)
  3. Jesus’ sacrifice (Mt 26–27)
  4. Jesus’ resurrection (Mt 28)

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Jesus is the True and Greater Shambhala

Note: This brief reflection first appeared in the August 12th edition of the Nelson Star.

It has come and gone.  Shambhala, a music festival that drew thousands of revelers to our neck of the woods has been dismantled for another year.  In its wake, our city experienced an influx of post-Shambhala pilgrims recuperating from four days of sensory overload.

Shambhala is a Sanskrit term meaning “place of peace/tranquility/happiness.”  In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, Shambhala is a mystical kingdom hidden within the Himalayas, accessible only to those with sufficiently good karma.  Many fusions of New Age and Buddhist spirituality also view Shambhala as a spiritual reality that can be taken hold of through a combination of proper meditation, mindfulness, and right living.

The Shambhala festival’s popularity reveals a longing every human has for “bliss”; a state of harmony, inner coherence, and joy.  In naming this music festival Shambhala, a not-so-subtle invitation was voiced by the festival’s founders: we are providing a place of peace, happiness, and bliss.  What we observe in the yearly pilgrimage to Shambhala is the quest to secure peace and life in a world of violence and death.

And yet each year that sought after peace and security slips through the fingers of every attendee.  The weekend is euphoric, but it is also fleeting.  Life eventually returns to normalcy.  As it does, I wonder how many of those who clamoured to gain access to the festival are haunted by the question of whether or not they are chasing shadows?

In the Bible Jesus is titled “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).  The gospels (the historical records of Jesus’ life and ministry) present Jesus as a kind of embodied Shambhala.  In Jesus peace, tranquility, and happiness (“blessedness”) is offered and found.  Jesus said, “’Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest’” (Matthew 11:28).  Jesus offers peace and life in a world of violence and death.

To further that good news, in Jesus the “peace that surpasses understanding” (Philippians 4:7) is available–not just to those with sufficiently good karma–but even to sinners; spiritual “losers” who don’t have any self-righteousness to stand on.

And the peace Jesus gives isn’t fleeting.  It is established in the heart now and continues forever.  Jesus is the true and greater Shambhala.  There’s no need to chase shadows and substitutes.

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