4 Books: 4 Questions ~ The Book of Matthew, Change, and Courage

saint-matthew-1147134-1279x1057On Sunday we started our series looking at each of the gospels and why they are written the way they are. Because each gospel is wrote with a different purpose, context, and audience – and we need all 4. Life is complex and we cannot reduce the gospels down to “one story”. Instead, we have one story told from four perspectives and we need all 4.

So on Sunday we looked at the gospel of Matthew.

We learned that it was most likely written to Jewish Christians. We can tell this by how Matthew never explains Jewish customs (like Mark), grounds Jesus’ ministry with echoes to Moses and Abraham (unlike Luke who grounds it in Adam), and focuses in on Jewish questions of how to live.

From this we learned though why this might be so important in that day and age. We learned how the temple was destroyed in AD 70 and how Jospehus writes that millions were killed, and “Most of the victims were peaceful citizens, weak and unarmed, butchered wherever they were caught. Round the Altar the heaps of corpses grew higher and higher, while down the Sanctuary steps poured a river of blood and the bodies of those killed at the top slithered to the bottom”.

And while that is certainly brutal, here is why it matters. The Jewish world was utterly rocked by the destruction of the temple. The Jewish way of life as was known was over, and they faced tremendous change, uncertainty, and confusion. And it’s into this milieu that Matthew writes. Matthew writes to a group of Jewish Christians whose way of life has been so utterly compromised that they can’t see the way forward

So Matthew writes about moving through change and confusion.

While we looked at some high level themes, we really landed on the story of Peter walking on the water, and how this story would be so helpful to a group of people processing change. Peter, in the midst of darkness, uncertainty, and confusion does something crazy. He steps further into the unknown. He actually moves further away from what little safety and security remained for him and stepped out into the wind and the waves. He places all his faith, and trust in Jesus and with courage steps out.

And I think this is Matthew’s point commented on in various ways throughout the gospel: the way we get through change is courage and trust in Jesus. 

That’s how we move through the wind, waves, and sea of chaos and uncertainty. And while the temple being destroyed doesn’t change many of our Western lives, we all have our own temples that we rely on. Whether these temples are faith, jobs, health, or wealth they occasionally crumble and seem to crack. And Matthew’s word for us to trust and have courage in the face of uncertainty. Matthew’s words for us when the world is falling apart to step further out in trust with Jesus and follow with courage. Matthew’s message isn’t to huddle in the boat, trying to keep the thing together, but to step out with trust. And that’s where we ended too. Asking us all to take a step of trust.

Sermon Notes:

Big IdeaFace change with courage and trust.

Teaching Points:

  • We have 4 gospels and need all four.
  • The Gospels tell us how the early church told the story of Jesus in four different contexts – Michael Hardin
  • Matthew is about how to face and deal with change.
  • We still have our own “temples” today.
  • I have no certainty about my future, and you might not either.
  • A theme of Matthew is to have courage and trust.
  • Face change with courage and trust.

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? What was new? Had you ever thought about the gospels being different before? How does knowing some of the context change things? Are you in the midst of facing any change? What excites you, or worries you about it? What might “stepping” out of the boat look like? How can you be sure to remain focused on Jesus?

Challenge for the Week: To ask Jesus to call you out of the boat, and step out with courage and trust.

4 Books and 4 Questions

On Sunday we are starting a brand new series that will look at something both so utterly obvious and simple, but also controversial and challenging:

The gospels are different.

I know that’s so patently obvious to anyone who has read…well two of them. Mark is very different than John for example. And anyone who has ever read the gospels quickly notices differences and different perspectives. And some in the past have tried to “iron” out some of the differences. The problem is that the early church said that’s heresy.

We have 4 gospels told from different perspectives and we need all 4.

So come Sunday we are going to be introducing this series, and looking at the book of Matthew and asking this question: why are they different?

Because when we start to understand the different contexts, the different audiences, and the different questions the authors were trying to answer new insights leap off the page. So join us as we take a high level look at some of the most important 4 documents ever written.

4 Gospels

Red Letters of the Bible

1366751_91583540On Sunday we looked at this statement from the “Sevenfold Way of Following Jesus” – I am learning the teachings of Jesus.

This is such an important part of following Jesus. Because how are we to follow Jesus if we don’t know what he taught, or how he lived? Learning the teachings of Jesus are absolutely crucial to follow Jesus well.

We cannot follow Jesus well if we are unsure, confused, or misinformed about what he taught and how he lived.

And I would also add this: that Whenever we, as Jesus followers, have neglected his teachings, disaster has happened. The Crusades, hate, persecution, and most certainly a lack of love.

So I believe we need to focus back in on the teachings of Jesus. Yet this can also be difficult, because while we tell people to read the Bible we don’t often teach them how.

So on Sunday I gave you three simple tips to read the Bible, that helps to find more out of it. The first is to pay attention not for information, but revelation. God is fully revealed in Jesus. So as you read the teachings of Jesus, what does this reveal about God? For example, holiness in Jesus is revealed not as separation, but incarnation. Very different things.

The second hint is to look for things to practice. Jesus himself says: “Whoever hears my words and puts them into practice is like a Wiseman” (Matt 7.24). So watch for things to put into practice that day. Rather than reading a chapter, read till God reveals something you need to practice that day. It shifts the point from information, to practice and it’s a good shift to happen.

And lastly, I shared how we should read, watching for how we can grow in “loving God” and “loving others”. Jesus when he summarizes the teaching of the Old Testament says, it all comes down to loving God and loving others. That’s the point. So when I read I watch for that: how does this help me love others and God better, deeper, and wholer. St. Augustine once wrote:

“So anyone who thinks that he has understood the divine Scriptures or any part of them but cannot by his understanding build up this double love of God and neighbor, has not yet succeeded in understanding them”

And I think that’s true. So I watch for what the text reveals about God, reveals about what I’m to practice, and reveals about how I’m to love God better. This helps me to focus in on it, and to better learn the teachings of Jesus. Because I know that the more I learn the teachings of Jesus the clearer God becomes, and the more my life reflects Jesus. So I gave this challenge: read the gospels everyday this week. That’s a probably good challenge for all of us for a week…or probably for a lifetime.


Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: I am learning the teachings of Jesus

Teaching Points:

  • We do not drift into discipleship.
  • We cannot follow Jesus well if we are unsure, confused, or misinformed about what he taught and how he lived
  • Whenever we, as Jesus followers, have neglected his teachings of disaster has happened
  • Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. John 14:9
  • Focus not on gaining information but revelation
  • Holiness is not separation from messiness
  • Rather than reading the Bible for information, read it for action
  • How does this help me to love God, or love others better?
  • We need to learn the teachings of Jesus
  • If we want to keep our identity, if we want a text to live by that keeps us in the company of God’s people, keeps us conversant with who he is and the way he works, we simply must eat this book…The blunt reality is that for all our sophistication, learning, and self-study we don’t know enough to run our lives. Eugene Peterson

Adult Discussion Questions:

What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new? What have been some of your struggles with reading the Bible? How might looking for things to practice help you in learning the teachings of Jesus? Why would you say learning the teachings of Jesus is important? Which teachings of Jesus stand out to you most?

Discussion Question for Families:

This week rather than asking questions, tell stories. Find a story of Jesus to tell each day and do that as a family, and let them ask questions and discover who Jesus is.

Challenge for the Week: This week everyday read some of the teachings of Jesus