When God doesn’t do what you expect.
Open Matthew 11:1-6.
Matthew 11:2-3 (my translation)
2 In prison, John heard what the Messiah was doing and sent his followers 3 to ask him, “Are you the one to come, or do we wait for another?”
Last year I was in a Masters-level class on the kingdom of God. Dr Tidball asked us, “So why did John the Baptist doubt if Jesus was the Messiah?” How could the greatest of all prophets — the one privileged to announce the arrival of the Messiah — doubt if Jesus was the Messiah? Continue reading “Disillusioned with Jesus? (Matthew 11:1-6)”
How central is the kingdom of God to Matthew’s message?
The Good News according to Matthew is that Jesus is restoring heaven’s reign on the earth. His opening sentence is bursting with good news, “Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (1:1). He’s arrived: the divinely appointed ruler (Messiah) from Israel’s royal family (son of David) who restores the blessing of divine rule to the nations (the Abrahamic family commission).
What a revolutionary story! By confronting the powers with self-sacrificial love on behalf of earth’s oppressed people, this king brings God’s two realms back together in himself. Via a staggering trajectory, he receives all authority in heaven and on earth, and commissions his agents to bring all nations under his command, promising his regal presence until it’s done (28:18-20).
Every chapter of Matthew’s Good News tells this story. He wants us to recognize Jesus as our divinely appointed king, the one who implements heaven’s reign (the kingdom of heaven) on earth.
Continue reading “KINGDOM SUMMARY: Matthew 1–10”
How can Matthew talk about righteous people? I thought there weren’t any.
Open Matthew 10:40-42.
In the grounds of the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem is the Garden of the Righteous. It honours gentiles who protected Jews under Nazi threat, people like Shindler or Corrie Ten Boom. They’re considered righteous because they did the right thing by the people of God, even though they themselves were not descendants of Jacob. The way you treat God’s people is the way you treat God.
That’s how the word righteous (ṣǎd·dîq in Hebrew) functions in Jewish thought, but Christians tend to be horrified by this word. For the last 500 years, protestants have emphasized texts like Romans 3:10: “No one is righteous, not even one.”
Then we’re thoroughly confused when other texts talk about righteous people. The Gospels label several as righteous (dikaios in Greek):
- Joseph (Matthew 1:19)
- Abel (Matthew 23:35)
- John the Baptist (Mark 6:20)
- Elizabeth and Zechariah (Luke 1:6)
- Simeon (Luke 2:25)
Jesus taught that God sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous (Matthew 5:45). He spoke of many righteous people (Matthew 13:17). He even expected Galileans to recognize his disciples as righteous people (Matthew 10:41).
What do you do when one part of the Bible doesn’t match other parts? Continue reading “Righteous people? (Matthew 10:40-42)”
What country do you belong to? It depends on who’s your leader.
Open Matthew 10:32-33.
If John Clarke was still with us, he’d be having a field day. How do you bring down a democratic government? Demonstrate that many sitting members weren’t eligible to stand.
Now, politics is a serious business. Our leaders must have unquestionable allegiance to our nation. If war broke out, which side would a dual citizen support?
I mean, you couldn’t trust Barnaby Joyce as deputy prime minister if he’s secretly a Kiwi. If New Zealand invaded us, the haka alone would probably see him siding with the enemy. Well, that’s what the high court ruled anyway: they declared him unfit to be a sitting member, so he has to stand again. Continue reading “Where’s your allegiance? (Matthew 10:32-33)”
If a little bird falls in the forest, does anybody hear?
Open Matthew 10:29-31.
What was your first pet? A puppy? A kitten? A budgie? Remember its name? What did it mean to you?
How deeply we feel responsibility for a creature in our care! It’s beyond commercial value: even if you paid for it with pocket money, its precious life depends on you. Where does this sense of responsibility come from?
Jesus believed this tenderness is a glimpse of something beyond, an echo of God’s heartbeat for the creatures in his care: Continue reading “The kingdom is God with his creatures (Matthew 10:29-31)”
Your heavenly Father knows when even a sparrow falls.
Open Matthew 10:26-31.
We all have filters that shape what we hear. That’s true of how we understand our closest friends. It’s even more significant when we want to understand what Jesus said 2000 years ago in a very different setting.
For example, we in the western church tend to think of souls as immortal. After your body dies, your soul lives on, either in heaven or hell. It would make no sense to us to talk about bodies going to hell. Yet that’s precisely what Jesus did to: he said it’s better to lose an eye than to lose your whole body in hell (Matthew 5:29-30, 22). Something that doesn’t make sense is a hint that we’re not hearing it right, that we need to reframe the way we think. Continue reading “Where’s God’s justice in an unjust world? (Matthew 10:26-31)”
How can Jesus establish his kingdom with an unarmed army?
Open Matthew 10:34-39.
A military career in the ancient world meant heading off with your regiment in search of fame and glory. Unworthy of the empire was any milksop who couldn’t leave his father and mother. A soldier marched where the army needed him, even if it meant his children grew up without him. Real soldiers didn’t run for cover to save themselves! They grasped their swords and gave their lives for the sake of the empire.
What about the kingdom of God? Do its people face struggles like the kingdoms of the world? Or is it an idyllic life of shalom: no life-threatening situations, no dilemmas of family versus kingdom, no conflicting priorities, no need to run to save your own life? Continue reading “A disarmed kingdom (Matthew 10:34-39)”
Becoming like our teacher is every disciple’s joy. Does it mean we suffer too?
Open Matthew 10:24-25.
It’s the hope that motivates every disciple: as we follow Jesus we become like him. Wow!
Does being like Jesus mean suffering too? Which statement represents what you believe
- Jesus suffered so we don’t have to.
- Jesus suffered because we suffer.
- Jesus suffered, so we must suffer too.
Perhaps we should listen to Jesus’ promise in context: Continue reading “Like our teacher (Matthew 10:24-25)”
The kingdom of God doesn’t leave unjust kingdoms in place.
Open Matthew 10:17-23.
For too long, the church has spiritualized Jesus as if he was just a personal saviour and not the king of the kingdom. Our purpose on this blog is to swing the pendulum back by focusing on the sovereign authority of Jesus as Lord, as Messiah, as king of the kingdom. Continue reading “Clash of kingdoms (Matthew 10:17-23)”
Wise as serpents and innocent as doves? How?
Open Matthew 10:16.
Jesus the shepherd, appointed twelve Jewish males to symbolize the restoration of Israel under his reign. This is dangerous work: others claim to be in control. If history teaches us anything, those in power will do anything to keep it. God’s people are his sheep, but the world is run by wolves: Continue reading “Sheep among wolves (Matthew 10:16)”
Working with the people who want the best for their community — that’s how Jesus’ kingdom vision works.
Open Matthew 10:9-15.
How did Jesus expect to run a kingdom? They’re expensive! Government in Australia costs us $450 billion dollars a year — $50 for every man, woman, and child, every day.
It’s always been like that. When Israel first asked for a king, Samuel warned them how taxing human rulers would be:
1 Samuel 8:11–17 (ESV)
11 These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons … 13 He will take your daughters … 14 He will take … 15 He will take … 16 He will take … 17 He will take … and you shall be his slaves.
David’s son Solomon charged taxes and required his citizens to work to build the temple in Jerusalem. He built stables and garrisons and public works, and a harem and wealth for himself. After 7 years of temple construction, he required the work teams to build him a palace — for the next 13 years! So heavy was Solomon’s yoke that it split the kingdom when he died (1 Kings 12:4, 11).
If Jesus was restoring the kingdom, how could he fund it? He’s just appointed his first government officials — twelve kingdom emissaries — but how could he fund them? You’re not going to believe what he did: he sent them out with no money, to fend for themselves!
Put yourself in their shoes: Continue reading “A grassroots kingdom (Matthew 10:9-15)”
Our Shepherd empowers us to care for his people.
Open Matthew 10:5-8.
“Sheep without a shepherd” — it’s a disturbing image for a ruler who cares for his people (9:36). One man cannot round up the scattered sheep (9:37-38), so Jesus commissions twelve undershepherds (10:1-4), sending them to the lost sheep to announce his kingship (10:5-8).
Continue reading “How the Shepherd gathers his sheep (Matthew 10:5-8)”