a few thoughts on Matthew 3 & 4

I’m trying out different writing styles for this reading plan, so here we go with point form notes. Also, I think it goes without saying (yet I’m apparently going to say it anyway) that these posts are only scratching the surface of the riches that these passages contain.

chapter 3:

  • introduction of John the Baptist
  • John preaches and baptizes in the desert
  • John rebukes the Pharisees and Sadducees (no wonder he was unpopular!)
  • John predicts the coming of a greater one who will baptize “with the Holy Spirit and with fire”
  • John baptizes Jesus (somewhat reluctantly)
  • God the Father and the Holy Spirit are audibly / visibly present at this baptism

chapter 4:

  • Jesus goes to the desert to be tempted by Satan
  • Satan comes after Jesus’ 40-day fast and tries three times (unsuccessfully) to tempt Jesus
  • The devil tries to (mis)use the Word of God against Jesus to convince Him to give in
  • Jesus uses Scripture (correctly) to resist the devil
  • John is imprisoned
  • Jesus goes to live in Galilee, thereby fulfilling another OT prophesy
  • Jesus begins to preach a message of repentance
  • Jesus calls four fishermen (Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John) to follow Him
  • They obey Him immediately
  • Jesus teaches and preaches throughout Galilee
  • Jesus heals the sick, and people begin to come from farther away for His healing
  • He attracts large crowds who follow Him around

new or continued themes:

  • fulfillment of prophesy (ex. John fulfills one of Isaiah’s prophesies in 3:3, Jesus’ baptism in 3:15, Jesus relocates in 4:13-16)
  • “repent for the kingdom of heaven is near” – this is the message preached by both John and Jesus; repentance also mentioned directly or indirectly in 3:6, 3:8, 3:10
  • baptism – both physical (ie. with water) and spiritual (the Holy Spirit)
  • Jesus being set apart and unlike anyone else (ex. the presence of the trinity at His baptism and God’s verbal affirmation of His divinity, His desert “showdown” with Satan, His ability to heal all kinds of diseases)
  • the importance of the Word of God (I’m thinking primarily of how it was sort of a “Scripture quotation war” between Jesus and Satan in the desert)
  • Jesus is the source of (all) healing

application:

  • “produce fruit in keeping with repentance” – this is what John tells the Jewish leaders to do… am I doing the same? am I going through the motions of faith or producing real fruit that is a result of a repentant heart?
  • how do I respond to temptation? when Jesus was tempted, He was at a very weak point (physically for sure, probably emotionally/mentally/spiritually as well). it’s easy to make excuses about not being obedient to the Lord when I’m tired, sick, discouraged, or generally “run down.” however, Jesus shows that there are no excuses and that relying on God is the way to handle temptation of every kind.
  • “it is written,” “it is written,” “it is written”… the way Jesus handled Satan is a total Psalm 119:11 moment: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” we won’t be deceived when we know God’s word and it has actually become part of us. then we will have the power we need to obey God, even in difficult times.
  • when Jesus called Simon and Andrew, they followed Him “at once.” similarly, James and John responded to His call “immediately” – am I so quick to obey the call and command(s) of Christ in my own life? if He asked me to walk away from someone or something I loved / was comfortable and familiar with, would I do it?

questions:

  • how did John know about the Holy Spirit? (3:11) was this divine revelation/insight given to him at an earlier time? did he somehow get this from reading the OT?
  • elsewhere in the NT we are taught to “flee from temptation,” yet in Matthew 4 Jesus seems to be seeking it out (!) and Matthew even says that this was something He was led to do “by the Spirit” (!!!) – is this just an exception because it’s Jesus? did He overcome the devil purely as a man (human nature) or as God (divine nature) or as both?
  • even though 4:15-16 are shown as a quotation from Isaiah, why are the actual verses in Isaiah (9:1-2) are a little different? also, I’m pretty sure that’s not the first time that’s happened with NT writers quoting OT passages… what gives?
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a few thoughts on Matthew 1 & 2

The first thing that struck me when reading these chapters was something that has never stood out to me before, although this passage is familiar and it’s hardly the first time I’ve read through a genealogy in the Bible. (Oh, those genealogies!) This time, I couldn’t help thinking about some of the names recorded here – these people were really sinners! I mean, of course they all were sinners, but some of them infamously so. Yet, they appear in the lineage of Christ – astonishing! How could he bear to be associated with swindlers, the sexually immoral and incestuous, adulterers, and idolaters? How could he bear to become part of a family line of these people?

Of course the answer is more wonderful than any of us could dare to hope: “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:32) He could bear this sordid family history because He was on a mission of love to precisely this kind of person – the depraved. People like me, and you, and Jacob, Judah, Tamar, Manasseh… None of us are worthy to be part of His family tree. But not only did Jesus come to save the unrighteous, He set aside his divine, exalted position as the Son of God to become the Son of man (Phil. 2:6-8). He entered into human history, into our own narrative of deception, seduction, and perversion.

It’s pretty humbling.

And it’s pretty amazing to think that because He did this, we can experience the glorious consequences. He gave up His divine rights and status as God’s Son so that we could become the redeemed children of God, co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:16-17).

This family tree also testifies to the extraordinary faithfulness of God. As I alluded to, some of the people named in the first few verses of Matthew have less than stellar reputations. They did evil in the sight of God, disobeyed His commands, and in some cases completely spurned Him to worship other gods. Yet God, in His mercy, not only preserved their family line but blessed it. So in a broad and sweeping way, we can see this as a demonstration of His faithfulness. An in-depth look at the lives of these men (and women) shows in even more detail the tenderness of His compassion and the riches of His love towards them. (But, no time for that here!)

Lastly, and this is more from chapter two, you really get a sense of God’s sovereignty in the dramatic story of Christ’s early years. The incredible obedience of Joseph to trust God and marry a pregnant women. The supernatural direction of the Magi to find and worship the Christ child. The complete inability of Herod to harm Jesus, despite all plotting to the contrary. The fulfillment of many prophecies to demonstrate the total trustworthiness, faithfulness, and sovereign power of God.

It kind of takes your breath away, doesn’t it?!

I have to say, I’m glad I listened to my husband’s urging to join in on this reading plan project. I’ve never been so encouraged by the first two chapters of Matthew before! Praise God for sending the Spirit to open our minds and hearts to His glorious truth.