Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

As we ring in the New Year, it is the perfect time to think about how we can make and keep God's word a priority. The Bible is an incredible source of grace God has given us for our spiritual growth and development. This year, let's commit to reading through the New Testament together by 2023. It's easy to follow, with a passage for each weekday and opportunities to catch up on weekends if needed.

The BIG Story

The Gospel, According to Matthew, picks up the storyline of the Old Testament and shows how Jesus brings it to fulfillment in himself. Looking forward, Matthew ends his Gospel by propelling the church out into the world to take the gospel to all nations so that the reign of King Jesus is further expanded over all creation.

Matthew's account of the life and teachings of Jesus is the first book in the New Testament and one of the early church's most popular books. It delivers a clear, thorough account of who Jesus is and what he did in his life, death, and resurrection. Matthew presents Jesus Christ as the true King of the universe who ushers in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew's Gospel also provides a clear picture of discipleship and the radical demands of being a follower of Jesus.

Matthew's Place in the Story

The New Testament story begins with God's people still waiting for their salvation which had not yet been fulfilled. The Jews lived under the control of a foreign power (Rome) and were managed by an able but autocratic figure, Herod the Great. Herod proved himself an efficient leader on behalf of Rome. He kept the peace among a people who had proven to be difficult to govern. Though Herod was a cruel and ruthless man, his elaborate building efforts, relatively peaceful rule, and occasional generosity provided stability and benefit to the regions under his control. He had an impressive building program, which he used to introduce western architectural elements across his kingdom. This included fortresses, palaces, aqueducts, stadiums, amphitheaters, and urban areas. His most impressive construction, however, was the renovation of the temple mount and the Jerusalem temple.

Matthew, The Tax Collector

Matthew was one of the twelve apostles. He is particularly noteworthy because he was a Jewish publican (tax collector) for the Romans and was thus seen by the Jews as a traitor, collaborator, and thief. A publican sat at the city's gate, similar to a customs inspector at an airport. Everyone entering the city had to submit to a sometimes humiliating examination of everything they had with them. A publican determined what was taxable and its rate, and he collected it on the spot. The Romans did not care how much was collected as long as it was enough to satisfy them. The more he collected, the more he kept, so most publicans avoided being fair or honest. A publican could become a wealthy man. The only control over him was that if he went too far, he might provoke a riot, which would cost him his job or his life. It is little wonder, then, that the Jews detested publicans; they were complete social pariahs, even to the point that their families considered them dead and might even have funerals for them.

Matthew served King Herod Antipas in Capernaum of Galilee, collecting tariffs on goods passing on the road from Damascus to the Mediterranean Sea. Matthew was probably educated and acquainted with the Greek language and the native Aramaic. The Pharisees consistently spoke of tax collectors in the same breath as sinners (Matt. 11:19; Mark 2:16; Luke 7:34; 15:1).

Following Jesus

Jesus called Matthew while he was working at his toll booth. Jesus passed by on the road and said to him, "Follow me" (Mark 2:14). Matthew left everything and did so (Luke 5:28). Immediately, he gave Jesus a lavish banquet at his house, and a large crowd of his fellow tax collectors and others were there to enjoy it. At this feast, the Pharisees and their scribes complained: "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?" (Luke 5:29–32, RSV). It is unclear when Matthew was called, but the first six disciples were probably present on that day since the Pharisees complained to Christ's disciples during Matthew's feast. Unlike the first men Jesus called, Matthew was not originally a follower of John the Baptist.

Overview

As the first book of the New Testament of the canon, The Gospel of Matthew contains more teachings of Jesus than any other Gospel, with well-known passages including the Beatitudes (5:3–12), the Lord's Prayer (6:9–13), the Golden Rule (7:12), and the Great Commission (28:19–20). Matthew is the only Gospel to document the visitation of the magi (Matt 2:1–12), the renaming of Simon as Peter (Matt 16:13–20), and the parables of the Wheat and the Tares (Matt 13:24–30), and the Sheep and the Goats (Matt 25:31–46). In nearly every known manuscript of the Gospels, Matthew is placed first.

Let's Go 🙌

Not only do we need the Word, but passing down scripture from one generation to another is essential for Christianity to survive and thrive in today's world. Reading through the New Testament together can help build relationships between believers and strengthen their relationships with God. Let's read the New Testament together in 2023!