Gospel of Matthew
- The shaping of
through the first century…
- Jesus followers fled Jerusalem as refugees
after the killing of Stephen by Jewish authorities (Acts 7)… Later, political upheaval
forced additional followers to Judea during war with Rome and their destruction
- Christian refugees formed gospel communities in Samaria, Judea, and Syria (first identified as Christians, likely a derogatory term)…
- Initially, the “Jesus followers” people did not understand themselves as a separate religion over against Judaism but as a renewal movement within; therefore, they remained tied to the Jewish synagogue.
- However, in the late 1st century, the Jewish Council of Jamnia led by Johannen ben Zakkai regulated the synagogue and formulated the Twelfth Benediction: “Let the Nazarenes and the heretics be destroyed in a moment… Let their names be expurgated from the Book of Life and not be entered with those of the just.”
followers faced a crisis of unprecedented magnitude.
- What should its identity be in the coming years?
- Can it continue to be a renewal movement within Judaism?
- What attitude should it adopt toward the Law?
- Can it continue a mission to the Jews only, or must they now reach out to the nations?
- Jesus followers fled Jerusalem as refugees after the killing of Stephen by Jewish authorities (Acts 7)… Later, political upheaval forced additional followers to Judea during war with Rome and their destruction of Jerusalem
- Quote: “The test of a story is the sort of person it shapes, and
ultimately the sort of community it forms.”
- The gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) write their stories, not to compose a life of Jesus, but to provide guidance to a community in crisis. How should they understand their identity and mission in the world?
- Matthew writes his
letter for a community groping for direction in the midst of a changing
environment… one that is less rooted in its past heritage and one that faces
the challenge of a new era… being missionaries to the nations…
- Matthew is intended to reshape the worldview of its readers, by drawing out the implications of the transforming presence of God in the form of Jesus…
- Matthew seeks to connect the church (past and present) to Jesus, who rather than build cultural, sectarian walls takes holiness on the road, redeems the ordinary, and reclaims creation to the glory of God…
- Just as Matthew’s readers were encouraged to re-hear the Jesus story in a way that spoke to their self-understanding and purpose, so the 21st century church needs to return to its roots to rediscover and reclaim those features that once defined life and purpose…
- Matthew provides correctives to a modern Western Church overcome by the toxic fumes permeating our dominate culture.
- Quote: “Christians in the USA need to become more discerning about their host culture… For too long we have wrongfully assumed that indigenous plants pose no serious threat to a Christian way of life. As a result many churches routinely and unwittingly cultivate those indigenous plants, bringing to harvest fruit that bears within it the seeds of some other kingdom.” Phil Kenneson, Life on the Vine…
- Three-quarters through the first century…
- So, in the coming weeks, my preaching team will assist in navigating the story of Matthew. Lord willing, we will reach the story of Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday… and end the series with Jesus’ final words to his apostles.
- So, the rest of today’s sermon will utilize two short videos done by the Bible Project. I pray that these will help you capture Matthew’s flow of thought as we seek to identify our identity and our mission in the world.
#1: Part 1 & Part 2
- For Matthew, being a follower of Jesus means living out the teachings of Jesus… it involves a commitment to God’s kingdom… to justice and love… and to obedience to the will of God.
- For Matthew, mission involves making new believers sensitive to the needs of others, opening their eyes and hearts to recognize injustice, suffering, oppression, and the plight of those who have fallen by the wayside.
- So, let’s take this journey together… and challenge ourselves to be the follower of Jesus in our world…