Rev. Jason Casey
Friday, April 25, 2008
First of all I would like to say that this course was very interesting and thought provoking. To be able to choose just one specific area is going to be difficult but I would like to talk about the book of Mathew.
It’s interesting to first note that the gospels are not placed in order in the bible, but rather in the order of what makes sense. I was looking at the estimated dates of when the gospels were written and discovered that the gospel of Mark was actually written first, followed by Luke, then Mathew and finally John.
However, having said this, I find Luke to be the least in depth of all the gospels and Mathew to be the most detailed. I seemed to be constantly drawn toward the book of Mathew for the main reason that it’s the first book in the New Testament and has often been unofficially declared the “New Genesis”, meaning that it is the book that sets the foundation for the New Covenant.
Upon reading the book of Mathew we see that it starts with the outline of Jesus’ lineage demonstrating that His return was indeed foretold from the very beginning, in fact it was talked about in the book of Genesis. In fact it is quickly understood that Jesus is God incarnate and that He is coming to live as man so that He can fulfill the promises for the new kingdom, Jesus has to become a human and live among men not as a rich man but as a man of humility, He is born of a virgin whose husband is a carpenter. This picture of humility is illustrated many times throughout the bible as it is the spirit that is more important, the body is just a temporary shell and as we know, God does many great works through those who are looked down upon by the world. Jesus was no different, He was disrespected by many in His time but He demonstrated great faith and continued to share His teachings to all who would listen. Despite what people thought and said, Jesus was to become the new Adam except this time to live a life that was sinless, in a sense, cleaning up Adam’s mess!
The first part of Mathew talks about the birth of Christ and the visitation of the 3 Magi or Priests. We see right from the get go that Jesus was threatened with death by Herod so He had to be taken to Egypt until it was safe to return to Nazareth.
John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin paves the way for Jesus saying to the people that the Messiah is coming and when He does come, Jesus is baptized by John. We see that in order for the new covenant to succeed, Jesus has to experience all that man has had to experience, including being tempted for 40 days and nights by the devil. What this demonstrates is that Jesus not only became human but it shows that with the faith that Jesus had in His father, man can overcome anything, this is important because in order for Jesus to truly understand what man is, He has to become what man is, including the experiences of man.
After Jesus calls His first disciples, he travels throughout the land performing miracles, which included healing the sick and raising the dead. This is also the time when Jesus lays down the law, so to speak, starting with the beatitudes and reaffirming that the law will indeed be upheld until the end of time and if any of the laws or commandments are broken, they will be called least in the kingdom, but for those who practice and teach the laws, will be great.
Jesus, for those who may have had a memory lapse, provided some refresher courses around the commandments so that all knew what had to be done. Jesus also taught about other things that must happen, from practicing humility, feeding the hungry, loving your enemies, fasting and prayer, just to name a few.
The book of Mathew is a book of great wisdom and is an instruction manual for eternal life and riches. Jesus had never ending wisdom and that wisdom He taught through parables, in fact the book of Mathew is the first we see of the parables and we see 14 of them, the other gospels talk about the parables but in less detail. The idea behind the parables is that if you have the “eyes and ears” needed, meaning the true faith of God, you will understand Jesus’ parables. I have found this in my personal life as I have grown in my faith. When I first started out reading the New Testament, I didn’t really understand, I saw Jesus’ parables as really confusing stories, but now, I have re read them and they make a lot of sense, the depth of such wisdom in them is unparalleled anywhere else, in fact many times in Mathew we see the disciples asking Jesus what He meant by His many stories. This has always been a surprise to me, even after they saw Jesus perform such wondrous miracles, they still questioned their faith and they still questioned Him, can you imagine!
As part of Jesus’ ministry, we see Him cast out demons and thus we have the first exorcisms recorded, and with His great teachings, the disciples learned to do the same thing. This demonstrates and foreshadows on a smaller scale, the predicted defeat of Satan, the defeat that will signal the beginning of the new kingdom.
Mathew is also the book where we see the great sermon on the mount, when Jesus knows that His end is near and He has gathered all in the land to pass on the things that must be done in order for the new kingdom to be successful. The sermon on the mount is what Christians should be abiding by today…He basically has said that we are the body of Christ and that it is important for us to go forth as the arms of Christ and reach out to all that need to be saved, helped and healed. This sermon is probably one of the most important ones in the entire bible and I would say that this is the “backbone” of Christianity.
Jesus demonstrates a couple of times in this book, the awesome power of faith and prayer, specifically demonstrated with Him feeding the five thousand and the four thousand; during these times, Jesus goes off on His own and prays to God demonstrating to the people that God is indeed their provider, as a result all of the people were fed with food left over.
As we approach the end of Mathew, Jesus predicts His death, a death that has to happen in order to fulfill the new covenant. He gives 3 of His disciples a “sneak preview” of what is to come at the resurrection, but He is sure to tell them not to say anything until He has risen. Jesus foretells who is going to betray Him and later as we see, is subsequently arrested, all for things He didn’t do. When looking at this, Jesus is also teaching that just by being a Christian, we will be unjustly persecuted as He was but if you have faith and do not deny Christ, you will enjoy glorification in Christ’s name and have eternal life.
In the final chapters of Mathew we see the fruition of Jesus’ prediction and He is put to death on the cross and 3 days later He rose from the dead in His entire splendor, fulfilling the predictions from Christ Himself.
The book of Mathew is a fantastic book, a book filled with such great wisdom that despite the number of times you read it, there are many treasures to be unearthed. It is a book of hope, of awe, of wonder and excitement, it is a book of things to come, and it is “the new beginning”.
Rev. Jason Casey