Matthew Bible Study Lesson Four

Matthew Bible Study Lesson Four      

Matthew 7-11

For use in Sunday School, Small Groups or to supplement your weekly reading

 

Chapter seven finishes with these words, “the crowds were astonished at this teaching…” Chapter eight begins with these words, “When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him…” And so begins Jesus’ earthly ministry. This ministry it seems will be one of healing: a leper, a centurion’s daughter, Peter’s mother-in-law, the disciples fear and even the casting out of demons. Bishop John Hurst Adams of the AME Church preached his translation of Matthew 8:10 at my ordination saying, “Never has such been seen!”

How is spiritual healing and physical healing related? Can you have one without the other?

Read Matthew 8:28-34

There is a personal and communal cost to all kinds of healing. In this passage of scripture we read of the  Gadarene Demoniacs.

With the demons cast out of these two who lived among the tombs how might the community relate to them moving forward?

Why did the city want Jesus to leave?

What is the personal/communal cost to healing?

In Matthew 9-10 how many different ways are people healed?

Do you have to ask for healing or can someone do it on your behalf?

Can you demand healing? Can you grab healing?

 

Read Matthew 9:9

Matthew’s call is captured in two sentences. Matthew’s reply to the call is not put into words but actions. Dietrich Bonheoffer in his book The Cost of Discipleship defines this response as “spontaneous obedience.”

How would you define “spontaneous obedience” as it relates to Matthew’s response?

Share a time when you feel like you responded obediently and spontaneously.

 

If you have time

Chapter 10 deals with commissioning and sending of the disciples.

According to chapter ten what are the responsibilities and duties of a disciple?

How is a disciple to relate to Jesus?

 

Chapter 11 deals with how Jesus relates to the community.

 

What are some of the points of contention between Jesus’ message and communities?

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Matthew 9:9

     As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. (Matthew 9:9)”

     “With our conscious distracted by sin, we are confronted by the call of Jesus to spontaneous obedience.”- The Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer

“The life of discipleship is not hero-worship we would pay to a good master, but obedience to the Son of God.”- The Cost of Discipleship,  Bonhoeffer

Matthew’s response to Jesus is immediate and complete. “[He] got up and followed him.” I am hard pressed to find a time in my life that my obedience to anything was spontaneous. I generally need time to think through options weighing the pros and cons long before I take a decision. With Matthew we find that there is only one option and that is to follow and do it immediately.

What in our lives are we willing to follow with spontaneous obedience?

     What does it take for us to follow Jesus?

 

#WWJD or #WWJS

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help.  “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it. (Matthew 8:5-10)”

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.

For years we have seen the “WWJD” bracelets, t-shirts, jewelry, etc. Ostensibly these four letters are supposed to remind the faithful that their response should emulate the response of Jesus. Those of us who dare to sport “WWJD” often fall woefully short. Begging the question, “What would Jesus Say?” I am not sure that there is room on the rubber bracelet market for a “WWJS” bracelet but we who follow Jesus should at the very least write these words upon our heart.

“Never has such been seen in Israel,” was the refrain of the sermon preached at my ordination nearly twenty years ago. Bishop John Hurst Adams of the AME Church took Matthew 8:5-13 (the faith of a centurion) and applied it to those of about to be tasked with leading Jesus’ followers. As those who had answered the call to service as Ordained Elders and Deacons in the United Methodist Church we were asked indirectly, “What will Jesus say about this class of Ordinands?”    In the years that have passed I wonder if I have been able to live up to the rallying cry of that evening: Never has such been seen.  Have I been able to present the Gospel in such a way that Jesus would exclaim, “Never has such been seen…” Have God’s people place under my care and direction been compelled to bear witness to the healing power and authority of Jesus in ways that the community responds: Never has such been seen. Or is the response from Jesus, the community and the followers more akin to, “Been there done that!”

What is Jesus saying about my faith?

Matthew – #Judge

“Judge not, that you be not judged (Matthew 7:1).”

Whenever we choose one thing over another we are in fact judging. We do this generally based on relative merits that are generally subjective. Judging something based on objective values of size and weight is more of a comparison. A person with a scale can determine which pig at the state fair is the heaviest. Judging “Best in Show” takes into to account preferences and biases. “That’s not fair!” my children will often exclaim. In their judgment they may right, however, fair is moving target determined only by one with authority to judge.

Matthew 7:1 wants the disciple to remember that in our belief system there is only one judge that has the ability to maintain a standard of equality and fairness. That judge is not you and it is not me. Matthew 7:1 also recognizes that we are a discerning people and that we can and will make judgments on just about anything.

Best Quarterback – Tom Brady
Best Car –Corvette
Best Wife – Mine
Worst Food – Liver
Worst Sin – Child Molester

In recognizing that we make judgments Jesus reminds us that the manner in which we judge we should expect the same judgment in return. He goes on to say that we should also guard against being judgmental. We need to stop worry about petty issues with our neighbor when we are carrying a load of problems ourselves. In Matthew 7:5 Jesus goes so far as to call us “hypocrites” which means that we are ”acting” like we are superior when in fact we are not. To sum up the admonitions of Jesus in chapter seven of Matthew: Judge if you choose – you will be judged – quit acting important and do something important.

What judgment should I expect for myself?

Matthew – Be Not Anxious

It is difficult to recognize the subtle differences between anxiety and excitement. I used to claim that I was nervous before I preached. I assumed this was because I was tasked with the great responsibility of sharing God’s word with a group of people hungry for a word from above. To this day I eat very little before I step into the pulpit on Sunday morning concerned that I may vomit all over the pulpit. I have found myself from time to time describing this as anxiety. When this kind of thinking creeps into my psyche I remind myself that Jesus told his disciples, “Be not anxious (Matthew 6:25).”

I have come to recognize that it is not anxiety that has me on edge but excitement. The best way I can decried it is to say that it is like a first date with the girl you know you are going to marry. You are so excited about getting to her house and picking her up because you know that this date will be the date of the rest of your life. Jesus reminds his disciples that they need not be anxious because they are on the first date of the rest of their lives. Be excited – the best is yet to come and you and I get to be a part of it.

What do you allow to cause you anxiety?
What is the most exciting thing happening in your life today?

Matthew 6:21

“For where your treasure there will your heart be also (Matthew 6:21).”

It is difficult for us to confess to something as simple as Jesus’ saying. Most of us want to believe that our heart’s desire is what motivates us for the most important of decisions. We will not readily admit that we would protect our own treasure or covet the treasure of someone else. That would make us look petty and small. However, Jesus says it pretty clear; your heart follows what you treasure.

If your treasure is buried – your heart is buried.
If your treasure is consumed by moths – your heart is consumed by moths.
If you treasure is locked up and safely kept – that’s right so is your heart.

Jesus offers us the antidote to a heart that is trapped by treasure. There is a vaccination against our temporal desires. There is a cure for the darkness that tries to swallow the light. It is simple unclench your fists and let go of your treasure and your heart will be set free in the process. Just the other night I sat with the study committee for our church as they plan for the use of the property in relation to parking spaces. I informed them that they were not limited by anything. I told them that they should not feel constrained by finances. They were a committee with no money to spend and with no money you are free to do whatever you want.

We are called to seek God’s kingdom (Matthew 6:33). This kingdom we seek is amongst now and is yet to be made complete. This kingdom needs to be our heart’s desire. When it is it will become the only treasure worthy of our desire.

If money was not an impediment to your greatest desire what would you do first? Would that give God joy?

Matthew 5:41

“…and if anyone forces you to go with him one mile, go with him two miles (Matthew 5:41)”

Upon reading this passage most of us are delighted to figure out the “going the extra mile” is Biblical. Generally we interpret this to mean that we are simply to do more than we are asked.
However, there is more to this than simply doing a little extra. As I have stated and will continue to argue, Matthew in sharing his take n Jesus likes to stir things up. This means Jesus liked to stir things up as well. The easy slogan to come out of this passage of scripture would be “try harder.” The more subversive slogan would be “Antagonize the Authorities.”

In context, Jesus was teaching Jewish peasants living in a time of great injustice and oppression. “Going the extra mile” was an attack on the Roman Impressment Law. A Roman Soldier could compel any citizen to carry his pack for up to one mile. Anything over a mile put the soldier at odds with the law. Jesus’ teaching to go another mile, was a way of creatively exposing the injustice of the law and highlighting the oppression of the Jewish people.

We don’t often consider that Jesus would actively call his followers to acts of civil disobedience. Yet in our reading for the day we find Jesus does call upon his followers to take the opportunity to expose the folly of particular laws of the prevailing government.

What limits should we place upon our civil disobedience?
What is the price we are willing to pay for our disobedience to the civil laws?

Matthew 5:17

I was driving on the interstate a few years ago and was struck by a particular billboard. The billboard was advertising for a local church. It read “Preaching the New Testament.” I was at the time preaching a series on the stories found in Genesis (Old Testament) and wondered if perhaps I was making a mistake in preaching from these ancient texts that predated Jesus. When I returned to my office and researched what texts I had preached in the previous two or three years. I found that almost half of my sermons were based on Gospel lessons, a quarter on other New Testament lessons, and the other quarter on Old Testament lessons. I figured I scored a barely passing grade of 75% on the billboard test.

Matthew in his presentation of the Gospel takes great pains to remind us that Jesus’ story is not a new story but the next chapter in God’s story. In Jesus’ words the Gospel is the fulfillment of God’s story. The Book of Matthew may be enough for us to understand the entire story but how much more rich will we be if we take on the whole story. The longer I am in a position to teach and preach God’s Word the more I believe that we need to remove titles like Old and New and recognize that is one story not two.

Jesus tells us, “I have [not] come to abolish the law and the prophets…but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:15)”

How does Matthew’s telling of God’s story convey fulfillment of God’s word?

How is my life a fulfillment/ abolishment of God’s story?

Matthew Bible Study Lesson Three

Matthew Bible Study Lesson Three   

Matthew 5-6          

For use in Sunday School, Small Groups or to supplement your weekly reading

 

Sermon on the Mount

In Matthew 4:17 we were told that, “…Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  In this week’s readings  we have the beginning of chapters of “The Sermon on the Mount (5:1 – 7:27).” This includes “The Beatitudes (5:3-12).”

What does the “Sermon on the Mount” tell us about the “kingdom” that is “at hand?”

What does the “Sermon on the Mount” tells us about the “king” that would lead this kingdom?”

 

Read Matthew 5:3-12

Jesus’ first sermon and perhaps only sermon when viewed in the most traditional uses of the word sermon is the one recorded by Matthew. The first word that Jesus speaks upon “opening his mouth” is “Blessed.” This word is easily paraphrased as “You are blessed!” Thus the first and perhaps only sermon begins with the words “You are Blessed.”

How do you define blessed?

How does Jesus/Matthew define blessed?

How is our understanding different/the same?

 

The Lord’s Prayer

 

Read Matthew 6: 9-13

 

How is Matthew’s version different from what say on Sunday mornings?

 

Other questions

 

Who is the audience for the sermon?

What does the sermon say about the actions of a disciple?

How  does this sermon apply to the twenty-first century church?

How does this sermon apply to you?

 

If you have time

Spiritual Geography

Matthew  5:1   Jesus went up the mountain

Matthew 4:1    Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness

Matthew 3:1   John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness of Judea

Matthew 2:13  flee to Egypt and remain there

Matthew 2:1    born in Bethlehem of Judea

 

In just the first five chapters Matthew recounts Jesus’ story by placing him in a variety of locations.

 

How do these locations inform the texts? What might this be telling us about what is to come?

Matthew – You are #Blessed

Matthew 5 gives us the beginning of Jesus’ “Sermon in the Mount.” This sermon also found in Luke in a slightly different setting is the only “sermon” of Jesus’ on record. Yes he told parables and he taught. But in the classical sense of a sermon this is it. What I really love about this sermon is the introduction. Jesus stands before the crowds and says, “Blessed art thou… (5:3, KJV). This in our common language is the same as him saying to the gathered   ”congregation” – “You are blessed!” What a wonderful way for Jesus to begin his one and only sermon. This is also wonderful message for the modern reader – “We are blessed!”

In what ways am I blessed?

In what ways are my “blessing” unconventional?