Matthew, named “gift of the Lord” was a tax collector, previously named Levi, who wrote the best seller for things pertaining to Jesus and his story. This best-read book of the early church unfortunately has become one of the least read Gospels of our generation. It is filled with Jewish background, genealogies and stories that do not appear anywhere else in scripture. It is worth asking why this Gospel is often omitted in churches – perhaps it is too difficult to research or regretfully many do not like to study history. In some circles anti-Semitism clouds the rich heritage that would bring clarity to prophecies that have been fulfilled. For those who dig deep- rich treasure awaits!
Whatever took place during Matthews’ life, we can see the end result in Acts 1:13 where we find him sitting with the other disciples in an upper room. We can also see the new Kingdom agenda working – Note the disciple is with the women who ministered with them also – all in unity. These things do not happen by coincidence, nor are they typical for that generation but they do represent a transformation in relationships. Matthew records that. OT and NT come together. Tax collectors and church folks, together? Men and women, together? Jews and Gentiles working and worshipping – together? The Old Covenant being fulfilled in the New is the focus of this book. The more you study the prophecies the more you see that Christ is the promised Messiah. Matthew shows us the process of being Christs disciple and relational unity throughout his book, showcasing both the KING and His Kingdom.
I want to pause for a second and exhort the Church in this season. We are in a spiritual upheaval and the church mamas and papas need to speak up now more than ever. Silence has not helped the Church! and in some instances has left her behind justice, the very thing the prophets cried out for in their day. Women are needed in politics, churches and especially in families to rise up and be who Christ has called them to be. (Slowly reread that in light of what is taking place today). Not just in the pew or the applause section but in every ministry and on every board. We can’t say the Gospels are for this when our ministries do not represent this as the world has taken note. Matthews Gospel promotes partnership, collaboration and .Gods spirit being used in every believer.
Categorically, Women (or any group) are not: depressed, suicidal, promiscuous, Jezebel wannabes, mentally ill, perpetual victims, emotional or any other host of things that are put on them when others fear their promotion or release. Let us move past these archaic labels specifically designed to limit Gods movement in the earth. Seriously, if you use these tools of stereotype you are fighting the King Himself. Random assessments intended to suppress others are being exposed quickly. Judgement begins in the House of God. The entire body is needed to combat the fears and foes of this generation. Gods’ not playing anymore – the King is about to return, and He will be retrieving HIS Bride – in all her glory (male, female, black, white, democrat and republican). If you have used tools to suppress any group of people (yes even white males), now is the time to make amends and get ready. Lamps filled with oil are not needed on a sunny day – they are needed when it is dark. Called women are not willing any longer to watch their families, churches, neighborhood or country fall to ruins. Make room and let them do what they have been prepared to do in this hour. In plain language – interview the women in your church, get their resumes, inquire about their passions, seek to find open doors, plan coffee with them and leaders to plan –hire and honor those unlike you, do NOT rest until each one is placed in the body and using her FIERCEness to challenge the status quo. Submit your fears of other colors or genders to GOD and GO reach your communities! WE must change, be change, activate change if there will ever be change. We do not have to fast and pray for something already clearly in Gods word. Fast and pray for how to mobilize every person in your congregation. Then sit back and watch Gods Kingdom move.
Back to our book…
I love how Matthew takes fourteen generation of the Royal family and fills it with victors and villains. Although the legacy is long, the ones that complete the Kings rule are those who sought after God. From the very first chapter we see that God does not rely on human choices, families, or pedigree to do His will. Stop relying on your grandpappy to be your ticket or your lineage to declare your righteousness – it is only the blood of Jesus, in every generation. King David would not have been able to be in his family photo on Facebook! Yet, God made him King. It is time to bury the dung that smells in all our “gifts, titles, relatives and roles”. The Kingdom reign suggests that the fragrant one is Christ ALONE. If you have a broken, blended, or awesome family – God will still use you, but only IF– you are yielded to Him. We rely on the Holy Spirit, not gene pool or title and this Gospel points that out in the beginning. King David- the King of sinners in the Old Testament, is prominently displayed in the lineage that produces King Jesus. That would never have taken place without several sinful characters and also several holy ones. Matthew includes quite the blend of sinners and saints = women, Jews and even children making this Gospel loved by all.
In an election year, the chaos and violence are more pronounced. This narrative is no exception. If you factor in the stress they experienced in their political upheaval, this story comes to life. Reading about the Census and King Herods’ paranoia seemed timely. I took a month off from writing this blog after studying Malachi and let some of the lessons “soak” into our value and family system. Sometimes letting things “rest” helps to clarify what is important. I wonder if the giant pregnant pause between Malachi and Matthew was used by God to get people to meditate on what God had said prior to that. Was He letting the dust settle so the messages He had given them would be obeyed? We do that with our children – give them space to slow down and really hear what we are saying. Our youngest was explaining the Nativity story to his younger cousins one year and stated that “Mary, was a Veteran(virgin) so we should honor her.” Sometimes messages bear repeating until they are accurate and followed. Isn’t it like God to challenge our perceptions and redirect our behavior also? Things not going as planned is a tool to make people cling to what is truly important. Unity, obedience, love.
It was interesting to me that the story of the wise men is only written in Matthews Gospel. The secrecy of their journey and leaving in the night to protect the young child would have altered the story significantly in their day. We learned recently that the more you try to keep something confidential – the further it spreads! How odd that we have this flight and witness protection program in the life of Jesus before he even becomes a teenager! Keep it silent in the desert would come long before “Go, tell it on the mountains.” Jesus parents had to value Gods’ voice in their lives above all others. What a model of parenting! Herod, feeling deceived that he did not have all the information, did not short-circuit Gods plans to safeguard the holy family. Christmas pageants today, do not include the story of Rachel weeping for her children and thousands of babies murdered in Bethlehem. Some of the anger from those passages can be felt in our country today. Babies are still pawns in political agendas and continue to be eliminated. Babies were sacrificed in Matthews Nativity story – a cover-up of epic proportion. Mans’ kingdoms come with a price tag when they are against Gods’ will. The innocent were Herod’s target, much like today. Matthew, the “gift from the Lord” is the only one who mentions this atrocity and the connection between Herods’ foiled plan and babies being destroyed. Power mongering, control, greed and fear =breed death in every kingdom. For this purpose was the son of God manifest – to destroy the works of the evil one. Who’s the King on your throne?
Matthew includes the narrative of the wise men’s gifts which would be normal for a tax collector to “follow the money.” Matthews keen eye for budget, finances, travel, lodging, and issues like inheritance gives us in-depth insight into the Kings early life. These detailed, logic driven individuals are not often the life of the party, but they are much needed in understanding the full picture of any people group. We can credit Matthews personality strength for giving us perspective into this narrative of young Jesus’ life.
This month is adoption month throughout our nation. Maybe we could apply some “Matthew theology” to those in this process? Maybe we could understand their fears, roadblocks, finances and stand with those warring to protect the forgotten children of our land? Or those outside the border? Pro-life needs to include toddler life, teenage life, and disabled children’s lives as well. If you cannot adopt, please considering standing with those who take on this enormous blessing and task. If there was ever a poster child for adoption it would be the Nativity story. Joseph signed up for a task that benefited the entire world! My older son when he was little called them “Marnie and Jeffef” instead of Mary and Joseph. Somehow it made them more human in our eyes. We often wondered if the early family needed diapers, formula or friendship as they started their new family far away from relatives and synagogue friends. Did they pretend they were not blended; did they gloss over the fact that the baby was not technically theirs? Did they evade questions or have a baby shower? The life Mary dreamed of became the dream for the entire world, but first she had to endure the nightmare. Perhaps God puts this story first, so we understand its importance in our lives today? What will we do to follow God? What dreams will we lay down to be found faithful by the King? Where will we move, work or worship to accomplish Gods’ plan?
The Key “King sermon” from Matthew comes straight from Jesus. It is the body of information that Christ shares with His disciples. The “Kings Proclamation” as it is called, is chapters four through seven. The entire book is awesome but for space and time I just want to point out that if you want to know the heart, the platform, the message from King Jesus to you and your family in this hour, these are the chapters to focus on. It is here we see how Jesus wants us to live. It was what the early church took to heart and passed on with passion. It takes less than a half hour to read. How different the Church would be if this was our focus today! Here is a brief intro:
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted[a] by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
- Jesus knew and was led by the Spirit (not a political, prophetic or church group. Good advice). If we are to be like Jesus, model Jesus or follow after Him this is one of the premier passages that tells us how – be led by the Spirit. That would imply that we need to know the Spirit and take time to listen to the Spirits directives. Later on, at the end of this body of proclamation Jesus tells us those who hear these words and PUT THEM INTO PRACTICE are those who truly are wise.
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’[b]”
- Jesus knew the scripture and how to navigate the misuse of scripture
The devil’s favorite thing is to twist scripture for his purposes. Knowing God and knowing His word needs to be a priority in a world that regularly spins it for their own fake agendas. Dig deep, dig often – yourself.
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God (identity threat),” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
- Jesus was only concerned about one Kingdom – His Fathers, not his own. He had already laid down his kingdom, so it was not available to give away.
10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! (He did not entertain or debate him). For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.”
- Jesus knew all temptations were an attempt to divert and hijack true worship. The devil was not after his ministry or attention but his primary weapon of warfare- worship. Worship is at the heart of everything we believe and do, and this was a major temptation. Defeated people lose their joy and cease their worship – that is the biggest loss! Jesus is ALWAYS worthy of our worship.
11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
- This is the first assignment Jesus had and part of his OJT. Jesus could receive ministry and balanced it with REST. If the son of God allowed time to recover and rest, certainly humans need that too!
The rest of these chapters are great advice for disciples on all levels. Jesus was not trying to build His own kingdom but His fathers and constantly sought God’s agenda. This is ministry 101. His messages were not “best life now” but “Come follow me” and consisted of repentance and good news that salvation and deliverance were possible for those who came to Him. It emphasized making Gods kingdom known and not just rehabbing our lives and hearts. If we only followed this small chapter we would do well. Our generation wants to reach their destiny and use all their amazing gifts to reach their full potential. The early church focused on everyone listening to the King so HIS kingdom could be seen here on earth. It is time for a Kingdom shift – Matthew style. I have seen Gods’ blueprint work over a city to reach the lost and it’s life changing.
WHOEVER wins the election will affect America. However, the Kingdom was established long ago, and the Kings bidding WILL BE DONE — one way or another. Gods’ kingdom is without end. Paul stated he was not of Apollos or Cephas but of Christ. As half the nation (or 3/4 depending on your news channel) grieves the loss of their candidate winning– it might be healing if we all step back from these other “kingdoms” and focus on the ONE true King and His Kingdom. Let us remember HIS campaign promises and follow HIS agenda.
It is time to be led by the Spirit. It is time to read and understand God’s word. It is time to seek the Lord FIRST and give Him ALL of our honor, respect, and worship. If we stay busy with that, we will be too busy to get burdened by other things.
Sounds too good to be true, too simple?
Well, maybe why that’s why Jesus came in the form of a human baby to make things easier, more understandable. He was born King – God’s purpose for Him was to shine the light in the darkness. Our purpose? Same. Go find some darkness and shine in it. Seek God and His Kingdom FIRST. Like Matthew, as we follow Jesus we will start to look, work and function more like Him – what a gift!
“Lord, in these troubled times we declare that YOU are our King, and it is YOUR kingdom that we seek. May Your kingdom come; may Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.
Renae Roche 2020
PS. This blog was written as an insight to the book of Matthew. I pray you are loved and blessed as you seek Gods face during these trying times. You are always welcome to call for prayer or to give insight.