Getting to Know Jesus: Matthew 2

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As we continue this week in Matthew chapter 2, we read that Jesus’ birth causes quite a stir in Jerusalem.

(If you are now joining in this study you are welcome to read Getting to Know Jesus: Matthew 1 here ).

From the outset, wise men arrive in Jerusalem inquiring about the birth of the awaited Messiah.

So they go to ask King Herod about this child’s whereabouts, longing to worship Him…and this just sets Herod off. Verse 3 says that King Herod was “troubled” at this along with all of Jerusalem. So Herod assembles all of the chief priests and all of the scribes to find out where the Christ could possibly be born… because he wants to find Him and destroy Him, as we will come to see in this chapter. The fact that Herod would stop what he was doing to gather up all of the chief priests and scribes, which would take a lot of time to do it seems to me, indicates that he was pretty worried about this news. News about a random baby. Who he shouldn’t even know about.

To me it seems pretty strange that Jesus’ birth was made known to the highest authority in the land at that time, King Herod. The king of Judea.

I’ve always heard that Jesus was born into obscurity. That He was almost invisible. Unknown and unheard of. Maybe that could be somewhat true of his family and social status… but what I’m reading here in chapter 2 says quite the opposite.

I mean, if the King of all Judea suddenly was made aware of a random baby’s birth out of all the babies in Judea, shouldn’t that indicate to us that His birth was pretty significant and at least recognized? Even if it was forgotten about once Joseph took his family to Egypt to escape the death-scheming of Herod, it’s pretty clear that Herod, the chief priests and the scribes all knew about His birth…even if they couldn’t manage to find Him. They knew that there was a baby who had been born in the place that it was prophesied about who was said to be the Messiah because of the wise men that just suddenly appeared to find Him. His birth was anything but anonymous. He was not born into obscurity.

Rather, we see right from the get-go that Jesus’ entry into the world initiated controversy.

Jesus initiated controversy because Herod and all of Jerusalem were “troubled” by the wise men’s inquiry regarding the Messiah. It’s not that Jesus did anything to create a problem. He was only an infant anyways. They just didn’t want Him. But then this seems odd to me. It makes me ask…why would they be troubled by the possibility of the Messiah being born? Weren’t they waiting for Him to come along and restore their nation?

Reading along in this chapter specifically, we don’t really know why yet…but we will see this unfold in the story.

Keep these questions in mind as we progress in this book. What we will continue to see throughout Matthew is that the Jews keep rejecting Jesus as the Messiah even though He fulfills every prophecy and every hope that they know to be true. And Jesus will continue to be the object of antagonism and debate throughout His life and ministry, mainly from all of the religious elite. Their hearts have been hardened and they just won’t accept Him. Their entire religion is in vain because the very One they profess to believe in has just come down from the Father to manifest Himself to them in the flesh but they reject Him and despise Him. What a strange phenomenon.

It doesn’t make much sense right now. It especially doesn’t make sense here in chapter 2 where I would have expected King Herod and all of Jerusalem to be so happy that the Messiah was finally showing up.

But as we keep reading, we will start to see the reason and understand God’s purpose.

We will see in Matthew’s gospel both 1) why this response from the Jews has been allowed and orchestrated by God, and 2) how it plays out in the rest of Matthew for the sake of extending faith to the Gentiles.

So as we continue reading in chapter 2 of Matthew, we see how Matthew is starting to point out to the reader that Jesus has been hated by some, even undeservingly, ever since His birth. Jesus was hated by some before He ever spoke a word or a parable. Jesus was despised by some before He ever worked a miracle. Jesus was loathed by some before He was ever seen. His mere existence threatened Herod. It made Herod want to kill Him. But Jesus being hated just points to the inevitable reality that there are some who just aren’t on God’s side. The ones who align themselves with God and who wait for the promised One to come, rejoice at the Messiah’s birth like the wise men do in this chapter. But the ones who align themselves with the devil, despise the promised one like King Herod does.

Therefore, the story continues in chapter 2 to identify Jesus coming on the scene as the Messiah and to identify the 2 opposing forces that now exist: the ones who rejoice in Christ’s coming and the ones who do not. The ones on God’s side and the ones who are not.

We will continue to see this tension play out in the story as we progress in the gospel narrative. Let us pay attention to these two opposing forces that are being identified so that we might be aware of them when they show up again and understand what God is doing overall.

As we read this chapter, let us keep all these things in mind while feasting on the character of Christ as initially manifested in this second chapter of Matthew’s gospel. Granted we don’t yet have any words from Jesus as He is only a baby here in this chapter, we can still learn from the text we are given. I pray that we will appreciate this Word of God in chapter 2 for what it says and that we will fall more in love with Jesus. A Jesus surrounded by controversy yet worshiped and treasured by those who see Him for who He really is. May we do the same. May we worship Him. May we treasure Him. And may our hearts be open and receptive to His Word.

Summary of Matthew 2

Jesus is born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod; the wise men inquire about Jesus’ birth to Herod; Herod assembles all the chief priests and scribes to find out where the Christ was prophesied about in regards to his birth; Herod summons the wise men to find out where the Christ is; the wise men go to find Jesus by way of a star that appears to them resting over where He was at; the wise men find Jesus and worship Him while bestowing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh; the wise men are warned in a dream to not go back to Herod so they leave on another route and go home to their own country; an angel appears to Joseph telling him to flee to Egypt because Herod is going to search for Jesus to kill him; Joseph and Mary take Jesus and go to Egypt until Herod dies; meanwhile Herod kills all the children in Bethlehem 2 years old and under when he realizes that the wise men didn’t come back to give him the information about Jesus; an angel appears to Joseph telling him it is okay to go back to the land of Israel; Joseph is afraid to go back because Herod’s son, Archelaus, is ruling in his place; Joseph has a dream where he is told to go to Galilee; Joseph and Mary take Jesus to settle in Nazareth.

Jesus in Matthew 2

Jesus is born in Bethlehem of Judea (v. 1)

Jesus is born during the time that Herod ruled as king (v. 1)

Jesus’ birth is anticipated by wise men from the east,

Jesus is asked about by the wise men, who inquire about him as being the Messiah (v. 2)

Jesus is desired to be found by the wise men (v. 2)

Jesus is desired to be worshipped by these wise men (v. 2)

Jesus’ star, indicating where He is at, is only seen by the wise men (v. 2)

Jesus’ birth troubles Herod (v. 3)

Jesus’ birth troubles all of Jerusalem (v. 3)

Jesus’ birth location is investigated by Herod through his chief priests and scribes (v. 4)

Jesus’ birth location is indicated as Bethlehem (v. 5)

Jesus’ birthplace was prophesied about in the Old Testament in Micah 5:2 (v. 6)

Jesus was prophesied to be Israel’s ruler (v. 6)

Jesus was prophesied to shepherd God’s people, Israel (v. 6)

Jesus is the object of Herod’s plotting, as he questions the wise men about the star they had seen (v. 7-8)

Jesus is sought out by the wise men, as Herod wants them to find out where He is (v. 8)

Jesus is desired to be found by King Herod (v. 8)

Jesus’ location was indicated by a star in the sky over where He was, so that the wise men knew where to travel (v. 9)

Jesus’ location and star brings joy to the wise men (v. 10)

Jesus is with His mother inside a house (v. 11)

Jesus is worshiped by the wise men (v. 11)

Jesus is offered gifts by the wise men (v. 11)

Jesus is worthy of worship (v. 11)

Jesus is honored (v. 11)

Jesus is not reported about back to Herod by the wise men, as they were warned in a dream (v. 12)

Jesus’ father is met by an angel telling him to take Jesus and Mary to Egypt (v. 13)

Jesus is plotted against by Herod to be destroyed (v. 13)

Jesus’ family departs to Egypt that night (v. 14)

Jesus’ family remains in Egypt until Herod dies (v. 15)

Jesus’ departure to Egypt fulfills the prophecy found in Hosea 11:1 (v. 15)

Jesus’ father is met by an angel telling them it was safe to return home to the land of Israel (v. 19-20)

Jesus’ family returns to Israel (v. 21)

Jesus’ father was fearful about the current ruler, Archelaus, who was ruler over Judea (v. 22)

Jesus’ father was warned in a dream to settle in Galilee (v. 22)

Jesus’ family went to live in Nazareth (v. 23)

Jesus would fulfill what was said by the prophets that he would be called a Nazarene (v. 23)

“…wise men from the east came 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.” -Matthew:1b-2-

Questions for Today:

  • How is the controversy regarding Jesus’ birth relevant in the story?
  • Why is it significant that Jesus’ birth was made known to King Herod?
  • What is Matthew trying to introduce here in chapter 2 that will be helpful as we continue studying this book?
  • What are the two opposing forces that Matthew has now identified in this gospel?
  • How am I learning more about Jesus in Matthew chapter 2?

“Jesus We Love You” by Bethel Worship ft Paul McClure

Getting to Know Jesus: Matthew 1

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Continuing on in my Getting to Know Jesus blogs, I have decided to go through the book of Matthew in an orderly fashion so that I can gain a better understanding of what this whole book is about. I have chosen Matthew because it flows right from the Old Testament into the New Testament and because I just like it. So I will be remaining in Matthew for the next little while. I am excited to study the life and characteristics of Jesus in this gospel while trying to ascertain what the author is actually trying to say. Let us read carefully, place ourselves in the culture and mindset of 1st century Jews who had just witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus, and consider how this gospel is meant to make Jesus known.

Right out of the gate, Matthew’s gospel begins with an extensive genealogy.

It may be easy to skip over this as superfluous information or to regard it just as boring, but this genealogy is included here by the author for a reason. I’ve been learning in class that every part of a story included by the author is there for a purpose and so we must account for all the parts. Particularly, Matthew’s gospel traces Jesus’ genealogy back to Abraham…not to Adam. This is very significant because Abraham was the father of God’s holy nation, Israel. This is the nation that God chose to set apart for Himself, through whom all other nations would be blessed as indicated in Genesis 12:1-3. So the author wants the reader to notice that Jesus comes from God’s holy people.

This gospel also traces back Jesus’ genealogy through King David. In doing so, Matthew wants the reader to be fully aware of Jesus’ royal ancestry so that when Jesus starts to be called the son of God and the son of David in this gospel, we will understand just what it means: that He is the Messiah that Israel has been waiting for. The coming king who was promised to deliver this holy nation, Israel.

The author can’t make it more clear than this. Jesus is a Jew. He is a son of Abraham. A son of David. Of royal ancestry. And He is the Messiah. The son of promise that has been anticipated since God declared His coming right after the fall in Genesis 3:15. Jesus is the son of promise who has come to crush Satan once and for all. And sin. And death. Jesus will fix it all.

Written to a Jewish audience who would have been anticipating the Messiah and very familiar with Old Testament passages prophesying about this, Matthew aims to point to Jesus as the one who has fulfilled all of the Old Testament prophecies. Since Matthew is situated as the first book of the New Testament, it perfectly positions this gospel as the link to the Old Testament… indicating that Jesus is indeed the link.

So now, in Matthew 1 we see that all attention shifts to Jesus in the Biblical narrative…the one who the world has been waiting for to defeat sin and death.

Matthew writes with this purpose of connecting the anticipation of the Messiah with the arrival of Christ, with the hope that 1st century Jews would grasp this and believe that Jesus was who He said He was. Therefore, Matthew’s gospel is not just an isolated book about Jesus. It is a piece in the grander story of the whole Bible. I’ve been learning at seminary just how significant it is to understand the Bible as one story so that the rest of the Bible can make sense, so I want us to read Matthew in light of its position in the whole Bible. It situates itself as the link between the Old Testament and the New Testament, and it is revealing the one who is finally coming on the scene to fix humanity’s problem. Jesus is the main focus in this gospel. He is the point of the story.

As we progress through this gospel, let us focus on the central theme of what Matthew is hoping to accomplish in and through his work: to make known the person and purpose of Jesus Christ so that we might believe in Him through faith and choose to become His own.

May we get to know Jesus in this gospel and gain a greater understanding of who He is in the grander biblical narrative. I pray that we will allow God to open our hearts and minds to understand the scriptures. I pray that we will read carefully. I pray that we will appreciate it for what it says. And I pray that we will fall more in love with the One who it all points to: our Jesus. The Messiah. The Promised One. The Facilitator of our Faith. Our hope.

Summary of Matthew 1

The genealogy of Jesus Christ is listed, from Abraham all the way to Jesus’ parents, Joseph and Mary; the generations listed in His genealogy are 42 generations, which are separated into three sections of 14 generations, a numerical pattern employed by Matthew which could have been a personal preference, a literary style or a memorization device; the time and occasion of Jesus’ birth is mentioned; Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit in Mary, an unwed girl engaged to Joseph; an angel appears to Joseph to tell him not to divorce Mary because her pregnancy is a result of the Holy Spirit, not of unfaithfulness; the author cites an Old Testament passage from Isaiah 7:14 saying that this is now being fulfilled; Joseph agrees to marry her and refrains from intimacy with her until after Jesus is born.

Jesus in Matthew 1

Jesus is who this book is about (v. 1)

Jesus’ genealogy is listed (v. 1-17)

Jesus’ genealogy matters in the story (v. 1)

Jesus is the son of David (v. 1)

Jesus is the son of Abraham (v. 1)

Jesus’ ancestors traced back from Abraham to David are listed (v. 2-6)

Jesus’ ancestors traced back from David to Jechoniah, at the deportation to Babylon are listed (v. 7-11)

Jesus’ ancestors traced back from Jechoniah to Joseph, the husband of Mary are listed (v. 12-16)

Jesus’ genealogy from Abraham to David were 14 generations (v. 17)

Jesus’ genealogy from David to the deportation to Babylon were 14 generations (v. 17)

Jesus’ genealogy from the deportation to Babylon to his birth were 14 generations (v. 17)

Jesus’ ancestry back to Abraham includes 42 generations (v. 17)

Jesus’ genealogy is written by Matthew in a numerical pattern (v. 17)

Jesus was born as a baby (v. 18)

Jesus was born to an already engaged woman (v. 18)

Jesus was conceived in Mary by the Holy Spirit (v. 18)

Jesus’ father had planned to divorce Mary quietly when he heard of her pregnancy (v. 19)

Jesus’ father took time to consider these things (v. 20)

Jesus’ father was then met by an angel of the Lord (v. 20)

Jesus’ father was calmed by the angel (v. 20)

Jesus’ father was told by the angel that Mary’s pregnancy was by the Holy Spirit and would give birth to the Savior (v. 20-21)

Jesus’ name was given by the angel to Joseph (v. 21)

Jesus will save His people from their sins (v. 21)

Jesus’ conception and birth fulfilled the scriptures (v. 21-22)

Jesus was born to a virgin (v. 23)

Jesus will be called Immanuel (v. 23)

Jesus’ father was obedient to the angel’s command and marries her (v. 24)

Jesus is named (v. 25)

“She will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” -Matthew 1:21-

Questions for Today:

  • Why is Matthew writing this gospel?
  • What’s the point of the genealogy listed in verses 1-17?
  • Why is it significant that Jesus’ genealogy is traced back to Abraham and not Adam?
  • How does the gospel of Matthew fit into the larger story of the Bible?
  • How am I learning more about Jesus in Matthew chapter 1?

“How Majestic” by Kari Jobe

“God, I’m Tired.”

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Lately I’ve found myself longing for rest. Longing for things to slow down. Needing relaxation. Needing rejuvenation. With a busy schedule and responsibilities beckoning, I just wanted some time to relax. Getting ready to depart for a Christian young adult conference this past weekend called Passion, I was so excited to get away for a few days and have a refreshing time with the Lord. I enjoyed the drive down and felt a peace with the Lord that I so needed. But as the following day or so progressed, my anticipated relaxation morphed into an apparent fatigue.

My expectancy and excitement for all that I was about to ingest, from great preachers to awesome worship music to community group time, started to turn into downright exhaustion.

I was confused at why I was so tired because the sermons were so powerful, the music was touching my heart and I really felt the Spirit of the Lord in our midst. But I was getting more fatigued by the minute. And I so longed for rest. I just didn’t understand why I was feeling so tired in a place that has always been a place of restoration for me. I loved being there. My desire wasn’t the issue. But the rest and rejuvenation I was hoping for just wasn’t materializing the way I expected.

By the second day of the conference I still found myself exhausted. Then for the first time in a long time I was fluctuating with whether or not I wanted to go to the worship service that was going to take place at 11 pm that night. And anyone who knows me knows this is a rarity for me as I am a music fanatic! But I was just so tired. And it was affecting my joy and my want-to.

I started whispering to the Lord, “God, I’m tired. I don’t think I can go…I just want to go back and rest. Please, can I just leave and rest…” And God convicted my heart in those moments telling me that He didn’t want me to have rest the way I wanted. I didn’t really understand why He wouldn’t want me to have rest except that He wanted me to be obedient and continue on in the conference I had committed to. And that He would take care of me.

Tired and spent and a little discouraged about why I was feeling this way, I walked with a new friend to the arena. Our leaders had told us during community group time to walk back silent as we walked back for the worship night. So as we walked through city streets back to the arena, thousands of us moved in silence. No words. No chatter. Just silence.

And right there, God started working in my heart. There was something about that silence that just renewed my spirit.

Right then and there, God started to teach me what real rest is.

As we continued, I sat down in the arena and we waited for the music to start. Then they began to play. Softly and quietly.

There were no lights like the session before. No drums. No flashing colors. No jumping up and down. Just a sound. Just our voices. Just worship.

In that moment I sensed God moving in my heart reminding me of the power of stillness. Reminding me of the simplicity of His presence. Refreshing me with the calmness of united praise to Him. And I began to experience how He was giving me rest.

And though my body and mind were still tired and exhausted, God met me in that night to show me that real rest comes from a different place. Not the place I wanted to go to rest. But the place He wanted me to go to rest. God is showing me that despite my impoverished soul God can bring forth rest from His Spirit to impart to me. Temporary rest may give me a boost of energy, but real rest eases the soul. Long-term. Only God can manufacture this kind of rest. And it was the rest that I needed.

In looking back on this it seems strange to me that I would have been longing for rest in my soul. I mean I was at a Christian conference for crying out loud, what better place than that to tap into the rest of the Lord, right?!

Or so I thought.

But I see now that I was not resting. I was too busy doing.

I was not letting God’s spirit wash over me. I was not resting in Him. I was too busy taking notes and listening and teaching myself what I needed to apply that I was missing out on the real rest of God to still me. I prioritized the knowledge of God over the experience of God. And that’s why I was feeling so drained and so spent.

Until I got back from this conference and started to think about what God had shown me concerning this, I wasn’t even aware of how much rest my soul was longing for. I had mistaken my longing for soul-rest for a physical kind of rest. But I realized that there had been a steady deterioration occurring in my soul on behalf of my busyness, my school work, and my unmet expectations that had started to whisper lies of discouragement to my soul. Lies that told me I was striving for nothing. That I needed to hide away from it all. That God didn’t want me to have relief. That I wasn’t getting the rest I deserved.

But what I really needed was God’s rest deep down in my soul.

I needed to be reminded that God is God and I am not. To take my focus off of myself and put it onto God. And that there is purpose in what I’m doing because it is preparing me for the next step.

I needed His rest to quiet me. His rest to calm me. His rest to put me at ease. His rest to let me know that everything I’m so worried about will be okay. I needed Him to put my soul at rest.

Psalm 63:1 says, “God, you are my God; I eagerly seek You. I thirst for You; my body faints for You in a land that is dry, desolate and without water.” Like the psalmist I find myself totally impoverished and in need of God. For He alone can provide the rest my soul is thirsting for.

Now I see that this kind of real rest can only come from God. And it cannot be manufactured on my own. Rather it requires me coming to Him completely empty and exhausted so that He can then still me with His love and give me that rest that I need.

So strange as it may seem, God’s rest flourishes best in me in the torrent of my exhaustion.

For my emptiness makes room for Him to move in my heart. I am no longer in His way. And He can be my only supply. My only source of life.

Through this experience, God is teaching me that expecting rest and relaxation through accumulating knowledge of God doesn’t always promise the rest of God. I thought that going to this conference would give me rest and energy like it had in the past… but really…it wasn’t until I was utterly spent by the end of it after working so hard to accumulate all the knowledge I could hold that I broke down and became tired and empty…that I finally met with God in a way that satisfied me.

In Philippians 3:7 Paul says, “Everything I counted as gain I count as loss because of Christ.” Paul understood the all-surpassing significance of experiencing closeness and rest with God through Christ. For him, knowing Christ was more important than all the other knowledge he had accumulated in his life…and Paul was a pretty knowledgeable guy. So for him to say that everything he had learned was a loss compared to Christ is a pretty extreme declaration. I can’t get past it. Because of Paul’s confidence that Christ is worth far more than every other thing he had worked for, I am inspired to also see everything I have and hope to have as nothing in comparison to knowing Christ.

For as I get to know Him, I do find rest.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 11:28-29 that we will find rest for our souls when we come to Him. So I just want to keep coming to Jesus, letting Him give me the rest that I can’t find on my own. Then I will find that all the things that drain me are actually meant to redirect me towards Jesus.

God is having to reteach me how to rest in Him. God is having to teach me how to just sit quietly with Him.

How to be with Jesus.

How to stop thinking, and just let Him speak.

How to stop singing, and just let Him still me.

This is hard for me sometimes because I feel like I’m not connecting with God if I don’t think or sing or learn and so on…but God is teaching me where real rest comes from.

He’s teaching me how to let Him be God and how I can just lean in to Him.

Now I’m realizing that real rest is not found in the place that I wanted to look for rest. If it were, I would have left for the night, went back to my hotel room and went to sleep. I would have gotten physical rest, but I would not have gotten the rest I was really longing for…rest in my soul. God gave me the rest He knew I needed even when I didn’t know it myself. Because His idea of rest and my idea of rest are completely different. And He will always do what is best for us, even despite us.

If He would have given me the rest I wanted which was to skip the last worship session and go back so I could sleep, I would have missed out on the chance to experience God providing rest for my soul in that acoustic worship session.

I would have missed out on the beauty of 15,000 college students walking in silence before the Lord.

I would have missed out on a chance to be still before Him in total exhaustion, desperate need, and emptiness.

I would have missed out on the chance to bask in silent worship, listening to the voices around me praising my King.

I would have missed out on the chance for God to fill me. For Him to give me the rest that only He can give.

Now I’m learning that God has not been giving me the rest I’ve been wanting because the rest that I want will not help me whatsoever in finding peace. It will rather give me a false sense of serenity. A complacent hideaway. And I will not be taught anything if I rest how I want to rest. I will not grow. I will not learn.

I have to let God teach me how to rest in Him even when I feel exhausted so that I can learn how to practice obedience and faithfulness.

So now I’m asking God to change my “God, I’m tired” prayer to a different kind of prayer:

When I’m exhausted and weary and feel like hiding away for any moment of relief, I’m learning to ask God to help me say, “God, I’m tired… But I don’t want to give up. I don’t want to run away. Please help me to be obedient to what you have called me to. And give me the rest that only You can provide. Help me as I am so weak.

I know that He will be faithful to answer, even when it’s hard for me to feel joyful in that moment. For God cares about the condition of my soul far more than anything else about me. And the same goes for you too. He will fight for you and me to bring us to the point where we have no other source of rest apart from Him. Then we can experience a kind of rest that is unattainable by any other means. For we find it from Him alone.

So I pray that we would be brought to the end of ourselves in total exhaustion, just ever needy of Jesus. I pray that we would be keenly aware of the rest God is waiting to pour into our souls. I pray that we would ask God first for rest before looking for it in and through ourselves. I pray that God would meet us in that moment, filling us up with His fullness. And I pray that we would all come to that place where we are so desperate for God that He becomes our only source of rest, our only source of peace and our only source of hope. May we get to know Christ better and find that in Him is rest everlasting. A rest that satisfies.

“Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him.” Psalm 62:5

Questions for Today:

  • Where does real rest come from?
  • What should I do when I feel exhausted and weak?
  • How can I ask God to help me when I am feeling this way?
  • Why is it significant that God wants to give our souls rest and not just our bodies rest?
  • What next step is Jesus asking me to take in my relationship with Him today?

“I Surrender” by Hillsong Worship