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Sunday, February 27, 2011

(43) The Book of Matthew

The awaited Jewish Messiah has come.  Y'shua Ha Mashiach.

Matthew was one of the main 12 Apostles (emissary) of Jesus Christ.  He was the son of Alphaeus.  Some traditions say he was brother to James (the less).  His Jewish name is actually Mattityahu which means, "gift of Yahweh".  He also went by Levi.  God chose Matthew to write part of His Good News to give to the Jews.  Matthew wrote his inspired word around 65 AD which is about 30 years after the Resurrection of Christ.  He wrote this perhap sin the city of Anitoch.

Here are some interesting facts about the book:
  • There are 1071 verses in the book.  Sixty (60) percent of these verses are spoken by Christ Himself.
  • There are more than 130 quotes and references from the TaNaK (Old Testament), which is more than any other book.
  • "Kingdom of Heaven" is mentioned 32 times.
Who was Matthew?  Matthew was a Jew that was hired by Rome to collect taxes.  His "office" was located on the main highway that ran from Damascus to Capernaum.  The taxes that he collected was for transportation, hence why he was on the highway.  His immediate boss was Herod Antipas.  So if he was a Jew who worked for Rome probably not many of his fellow citizens cared for him much.  Toll keepers had to pay up front for the rented space.  People would say they collected more than they were supposed to because it would help pay for the rent.  Matthew was probably not trusted by his fellow Jews.  So he was hated and wasn't trusted.  If you put these together you would find a man who would have low self-esteem.  In verse 10 of chapter 9, Matthew tells of the story of how Jesus came to eat with him and all of his fellow tax collectors and other "sinners".   Matthew puts into writing his own personality.  His self-esteem shines in his writing.  God uses this personality when he inspired him to write the Gospel.  God, through the life of Matthew, shows that all types of people can be used for His glory.  It doesn't matter where you come from or what others think about you, God knows your value and can uplift you to be a world mover.  Tradition says that Matthew died of martyrdom in Ethiopia.

Matthew starts out his book by giving a record of ancestry of Christ (from Joseph's family line).  His word can be trusted because being a tax collector he had to keep good records and have access to history since taxes were collected by where you were born as the same was with a census.  However, the book was written by category instead of chronologically.  It can be separated into his ancestry, his sermons, his disciples, his parables, the church, and his death.

What is his Gospel about?  Some of the most famous ideas of Christianity are explained in his book.  The Sermon on the Mount is perhaps Christianity in the short version.  Subjects ranking from attitudes to divorce and from loving enemies to worldly possessions are all in there.  All are still relevant to even today's times.  The beatitudes are outlined for us to understand how we should respond to the world.

But why was it written?  If one took time to read it completely they would see it is filled with promises of God being fulfilled in the coming of Christ.  See above where is says interesting facts.  Prophecies are being fulfilled with each chapter such as being called a son of David, king of the Jews.  Others like how he would enter into Jerusalem (triumphant entry) and how he would come into the earth are recorded for one reason.  This was done to show that Christ was the long-awaited for Messiah that the Jews were looking for.  In chapter 10 he reinstates that Jews were still God's chosen people.  But they had lost over the years their own identity by perverting His laws.  Jesus came to not only fulfill prophecy but also to set the law straight.  His parables mentioned in Matthew are all about the listener and to the one who should know better.  The Jewish person knew what the Messiah was going to be and if he was listening to what was happening he would understand that the Kingdom of Heaven had come.  You could call this book, the News to the Jews.

Unfortunately, not all of them listened.  And just as bad many do not listen today.  The word of God is out there.  People know it but refuse to listen.

Friday, February 18, 2011

(42) Kingdoms at His Feet

"The devil made me do it".  This is an age-old excuse of why  we act the way we do.  And many still think it may be accurate to explain their lives.  But it is another form of rationalization by insincere humanity trying to feel better about their own insecurities and failures.  The devil didn't do anything but tempt you.  You are the cause of all your problems.  Read Luke chapter 4:1-13:
  • 1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,
  • 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
  • 3 The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
  • 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”
  • 5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.
  • 6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to.
  • 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
  • 8 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”
  • 9 The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here.
  • 10 For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully;
  • 11 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
  • 12 Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’"
  • 13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.
Satan has no control over you.  There are three things he tried to do here with Christ.  He tried to tempt Him when He was at His weakest.  It failed.  He tried to get Him to doubt His authority by saying "if you are".  It failed.  And He tried to get Him to do something that He knew was wrong.  It also failed.

Why did it fail?  Why didn't he get Him to fall into temptation and take these things? 
  1. Many would say it was because Jesus is divine and had no way of failing.  Well, yes, He was divine, but He made Himself lower than the angels and surrounded by flesh to be able to sin.  The flesh is was is corruptible and he clothed Himself with it to prove that sin is not the master of your flesh.
  2. Many would say its because Jesus was perfect.  True.  But this is not why it failed.
  3. Many would say He was protected.  Maybe so, but if He was protected to the end then sinning was not an option thereby negating all He did.
No the reason why it all failed is because what satan was offering were things he couldn't give anyway.  He lied!  He said he could give Him the world.  It wasn't his to give away.  Jesus knew this.  Satan tried to lay a kingdom at His feet but it was His kingdom already.

All satan can do is pass on temptation.  He has no power over you.  The only power he has is what you give him.  When temptation hits our lives we have to remember that most of it is a lie.  The grass is always greener kind of thing.  The lust within the heart can be turned away unless you hunger for it and feed it.  The hate within your heart can be soothed unless all you do is focus on the thoughts that made you hate and feed that hunger.   The hunger you crave is from above.  You feel empty inside because you have not filled with the things from above.  You have tried to fill it with worldly things and they just aren't good enoug.  If you are hungry and thirsty Jesus said He will give food and drink.  Do not listen to the lies of the world.  Satan thinks he owns it but it's not his to give.  Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.

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