Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 4:12-25

bibleLast time, we looked at the Temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. Jesus overcame every temptation using the Word of God to refute and resist the Devil. Afterward, we saw Jesus being ministered to by the angels.

Remember that upon being baptized by John the Baptist, God the Father testified of His Son before the people in an audible voice and God the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove. We know that the Holy Spirit then sent Jesus out into the wilderness to be tempted… and that temptation picks up in the texts after 40 days. Today, we pick up the Gospel According to Matthew in verse 12. The ESV marks this portion of Matthew’s account as the beginning of His ministry.

Matthew 4:12-25 (ESV) | Jesus Begins His Ministry

12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee.13 And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
    the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—
16 the people dwelling in darkness
    have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
    on them a light has dawned.”

17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Matthew is still focused on demonstrating to his Jewish audience how completely Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets. We, Gentiles, tend to focus on the prophecies that point to Christ’s death and resurrection (as we should) for the forgiveness of our sins and our adoption into the Kingdom of God. The Jews, however, were God’s chosen ones. Matthew (under the influence of the Holy Spirit) isn’t waiting for those prophetic references, he is  presenting the very life of Jesus in light of Prophecy, particularly here from the Prophet Isaiah. Let us pause Matthew for a moment and read from Isaiah 9, beginning in the first verse.

Isaiah 9:1-7 (ESV) | For to Us a Child Is Born
1  But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.

2 The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
on them has light shone.
3 You have multiplied the nation;
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
as with joy at the harvest,
as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
4 For the yoke of his burden,
and the staff for his shoulder,
the rod of his oppressor,
you have broken as on the day of Midian.
5 For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
and every garment rolled in blood
will be burned as fuel for the fire.
6 For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and of peace
    there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
    to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

This is such a beautiful passage of Scripture. The Jews of Jesus’s day longed for this prophecy to come to pass. They had come out of the Exile but the throne of David had not yet been reestablished. They were an occupied people. They longed for the Messiah… only they still wanted a king like the other nations, only they wanted their king to rule as David did. They weren’t ready for Jesus. The next portion of this prophecy speaks of judgment upon Israel. This was initially a prophecy of the coming judgement upon Israel, the northern kingdom. I’ll leave it to you to read on and see if Matthew isn’t also pointing ahead toward the judgement against the religious leaders of Jesus’s Day also. Jesus was coming to fulfill the Law and the Prophets and very soon the Temple would be replaced by Christ’s body. Isaiah has historical context that cannot be subverted, but in its historicity, we see a foreshadowing of what Jesus, the Messiah, was coming to accomplish. Great stuff. Okay, let’s get back to Matthew.

Matthew 4:18-22 ESV | Jesus Calls the First Disciples

18 While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21 And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

Jesus saw them, called them, and they followed Him. Maybe it happens to you, but I didn’t grow up in a fishing community, so often when I read through this passage I picture Jesus walking along the side of a lake at a KOA campground with a few weekend families out on a fishing trip. I have to remind myself that this isn’t their recreation, this is their profession. This isn’t some isolated lake, but it is an integral part of the local economy. The seashore was likely full of fishermen. I don’t like pulling in extra-biblical material, but since I needed an external reference to better picture this scene, let’s look at how historians describe this area around the time of Jesus.

When Herod Antipas took over Galilee in Jesus’ time, it was a rural region on Judea’s margins. Larger towns such as Bethsaida, a fishing center on the Sea of Galilee, could hold as many as 2,000 to 3,000 people. However, most people lived in small villages such as Nazareth, the home of Jesus’ foster father Joseph and his mother Mary, and Capernaum, the village where Jesus’ ministry was centered. The populations of these hamlets rarely rose above 400 people, according to archaeologist Jonathan L. Reed in his book, The Harper Collins Visual Guide to the New Testament.
(ref: About.com)

Another website claiming to quote Josephus (I’ve not yet chased down it’s veracity) assesses that each village in the area of Galilee held populations in excess of 15,000 each. Suffice it to say that my mental image based on how I grew up is far too small. This draws extra significance to the fact that Jesus saw these men and called them. It would be like walking into the food court area of the popular local mall and spotting 4 individuals to call upon… not at random… not by asking for volunteers, but seeing them and calling them. Matthew didn’t need to tell his audience what a busy scene Jesus would have been walking into… they knew. I hope that at least in some way, now you do, too.  Let us continue.

Matthew 4:23-25 ESV | Jesus Ministers to Great Crowds

23 And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. 24 So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them.25 And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.

What was the focus of Jesus’ Ministry? Teaching and proclaiming the Gospel. Did He also heal the sick and cast out demons? Yes. Was this a “healing and deliverance crusade”? No. Jesus went throughout Galilee teaching in the synagogues and proclaiming the Gospel. What was he preaching? While we don’t have specifics in this passage, Matthew’s reference point coming into this portion is “Now when he heard that John had been arrested…” What was John’s Gospel?

Matthew 3:1-2 (ESV) 1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea,2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Matthew 3:11-12 (ESV) 11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Jesus was most likely teaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”, only He wasn’t a herald for one who would come after, He is the One, the Only Begotten Son of God, who came to take away the sins of the world. John’s preaching brought many out of Jerusalem to be baptized… Jesus’ preaching brought out many more, from the entire region. Next week, we’ll be diving into the Sermon on the Mount.

Romans 11:33-36 (ESV)
33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?”

36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Amen, indeed. May the Lord bless you and keep you in Him until that great day.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Christmas | Gospel According to Matthew

bible

As we move into another Christmas season, we plan on working our way through the Book of Matthew for our Gospel Wednesday study.

On a personal note, I dislike referring to this book (and the other three) as “the Gospel of Matthew”. there is only one Gospel, and that is of Jesus Christ, not Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. Thankfully, I’m not alone in this and when researching the Encyclopedia of the Bible, I found the following discourse on the title of this book:

2. The title. The title of this gospel in most modern Bibles reads, “The Gospel According to St. Matthew.” This wording is an exact tr. of the title in many Gr. MSS which reads Εὐαγγέλιον Κατα Μαθαῖον, “The Gospel According To Matthew.” But the oldest Gr. copies of the gospel have the shortened form, “According to Matthew” (Κατα Μαθαῖον). Most scholars believe the original text had no title at all. When the early Christians wished to distinguish one gospel from another, they called the first gospel not the “Gospel of Matthew,” as we often say, but “The Gospel According to Matthew,” to distinguish it from the other VSS of Mark, Luke and John. There is only one Gospel, but four VSS or accounts of it. The term “Gospel According to Matthew” is, therefore, not the “Good News of Matthew,” but Matthew’s VS of the “Good News from God.” The Gospel is “God’s Story” of salvation and life, the best news story the world has ever heard. The earliest Church Fathers, for example, Irenaeus (a.d. 180), spoke of the fourfold Gospel canon in this manner; that is, that there is only one Gospel according to four different authors (Against Heresies III. 11, 8).

I will be referring to these from now on as The Gospel According to Matthew. Let us turn to the first chapter of Matthew. It is critically important that we remember that Matthew 1 isn’t the beginning of the story of God’s relationship with His Creation, it is in-fact the start of the final chapter, the last days. God is bringing about the fulfillment of His promise to crush the head of the serpent back in Genesis 3. Let that sink in… while it might be said that for the Gentile everything begins at the Gospel of Jesus Christ and then we have to learn the Law to grow in our faith in God; for Israel, God’s chosen ones, they are awaiting the promised Messiah.

Matthew 1 (ESV)

The Genealogy of Jesus Christ

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, 10 and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, 11 and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.

12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel,and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, 13 and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud,15 and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.

17 So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.

I don’t want to get into the weeds in this geneology, but this was recorded for a purpose, for God the Holy Spirit’s purpose. For now, I want to highlight that Matthew was being very intentional here to point out how perfectly Christ completes God’s Promise to Abraham. He points out the following:

Abraham –  King David – Babylonian Exile – Christ

 God promised Abraham the land of Canaan, and King David ruled over it, but Israel fell away after David, and were sent into Exile. God promised Israel that He would send an Anointed One (Messiah / Christ) to sit on the Throne of David again… and He sent His One and Only Son, Jesus. I feel this is significant for understanding the framework of Matthew’s narrative, considering that the Gospel According to John began “in the Beginning was the Word…”, focusing on the Deity of Christ from before Creation.

Matthew 1 | The Birth of Jesus Christ

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

The Gospel according to Luke spent a great deal of time on Mary and the immaculate conception, but here Matthew jumps straight to Joseph. Here, we see Joseph desiring to show mercy to Mary by not putting her to shame. Apart from the intervention of God the Holy Spirit, there was no way for Mary to be pregnant without having had unlawful sex. Joseph is a popular name in this culture, but have you thought about why? Let’s look back in Genesis at one of the patriarchs whose name was Joseph, the son of Jacob/Israel.

Genesis 37:1-3 (ESV) 1 Jacob lived in the land of his father’s sojournings, in the land of Canaan. 2 These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was pasturing the flock with his brothers. He was a boy with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives. And Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. 3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors.

Jacob, whose name God changed to Israel, loved Joseph more than any other of his sons. He was a favored son, and he made him a robe of many colors. Fast-forward to Matthew, and we have Joseph, favored of God to serve as an earthly guardian of Mary and Jesus. And the angel of the Lord appeared to Joesph in a dream. No doubt the Jewish readers/hearers of this Gospel account would already be thinking on Joseph. Where did the dreams given to Joseph, son of Jacob, lead him? To Egypt. Eventually God would preserve Israel in the land of Egypt during the 7 year famine. Let’s continue in Matthew where we will see this connection revisited.

Matthew 2 (ESV)

The Visit of the Wise Men

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

“‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

So we have the Wise Men from the east coming because they recognized the sign in the heavens, a star, marking the birth of the king of the Jews. Where were they from? Most likely from Babylon, from where Israel spent so much time in Exile (remember how Matthew set apart this event as significant). These wise men were not quoting prophecy as we tend to think of quoting, they were giving their understanding of the meaning of two different prophetic passages (Micah 5:2 and Ezekiel 34:23). Quoting the prophets directly wasn’t necessary given their audience was all of the chief priests and scribes, they needed to convey the interpretation that was undoubtedly revealed to them by God of the fulfillment of these 2 prophetic passages. Reflecting on the life of Joseph, son of Israel, notice that this news troubled Herod and all Jerusalem with him. This is analogous to the response of Joseph’s brothers. Let’s look at some of the their thoughts toward Joseph recorded in Genesis 37 (ESV):

4 But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him. Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they hated him even more. He said to them, “Hear this dream that I have dreamed: Behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and behold, my sheaf arose and stood upright. And behold, your sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to rule over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words

18 They saw him from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him. 19 They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer.20 Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams.”

They hated their brother. Herod and all of Jerusalem were troubled by the news of the birth of the king of the Jews. Now, these parallels aren’t provided to suggest that “they should have seen it coming”; rather, they are being examined to point to God and His Sovereignty. Let’s continue in Matthew 2.

Matthew 2 | The Flight to Egypt

13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Herod Kills the Children

16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah:

18 “A voice was heard in Ramah,
    weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
    she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”

Herod was indeed evil. God warned Joseph in a dream (again) of Herod’s plot to kill Jesus, so Joseph took Mary and Jesus and fled to Egypt until Herod’s death. What I find fascinating here is that Matthew (via the Holy Spirit) points to Jesus as a picture of Israel when he quotes Hosea 11:1 (ESV), When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son”. This is right in line with how we’ve been reading the Exodus account and how it points to Jesus. This is how the Book of Hebrews approaches the message of the Gospel. Hosea was prophetically looking backward to the shadow of Christ in the Nation of Israel, as well as pointing forward to Jesus the Messiah. Praise God. 

Matthew 2 | The Return to Nazareth

19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” 21 And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. 23 And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.

With another dream, Joseph brings his wife and Jesus out of Egypt and settled down in Nazareth. Now, there is no direct quote that I could find pointing to His being called a Nazarene. Again, Matthew seems to be conveying understanding of prophecy (revealed by the Holy Spirit) more than actually quoting it. Being called a Nazarene bore with it some disdain, because there was nothing special about Nazareth, and that was part of God’s point. Let’s look at a few verses that suggest this could be a way of rightly understanding this point.

John 7:40-52 (ESV) | Division Among the People
40 When they heard these words, some of the people said, “This really is the Prophet.” 41 Others said, “This is the Christ.” But some said, “Is the Christ to come from Galilee? 42 Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the offspring of David, and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David was?” 43 So there was a division among the people over him. 44 Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him. 45 The officers then came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring him?” 46 The officers answered, “No one ever spoke like this man!” 47 The Pharisees answered them, “Have you also been deceived? 48 Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him? 49 But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.” 50 Nicodemus, who had gone to him before, and who was one of them, said to them, 51 “Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?” 52 They replied, “Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee.”

Had Jesus begun his ministry having grown up in Bethlehem, he would have had instant buy-in. Instead, God chose a different route. Indeed, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the City of David, but by the time of His ministry He was known as a Galilean, a Nazarene.

John 1:43-51 (ESV) | Jesus Calls Philip and Nathanael
43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him,“Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him,“Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Nazareth had a reputation. Even Nathanael, of whom Jesus said, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” held an unfavorable view of Nazareth. How does all of this point to what the Prophet said of Jesus? Let’s look to Isaiah 53.

Isaiah 53:3 (ESV) 3 He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

This was by design, according to His purpose. Jesus humbled Himself in order to redeem mankind. He created all things in the beginning, yet He came to save wicked sinners like you and me. Let us close on this thought, wonderfully conveyed by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians.

Philippians 2:1-13 (ESV)

Christ’s Example of Humility

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Amen.
In Christ Jesus,
Jorge