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Meditations on the Gospel of Christ According to the Evangelist Matthew

 

Part 1

 

"Repent, for the kingdom of Christ is at hand" (Matthew 4:17)

 

Abdul Massih & Friends

 

 

 

"Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:4)

 

 

 

 

 

All rights reserved for the center of study: Al-Hayat Al-Foudla

First Edition: 2001

Mazraíat Yashou Ė P.O.Box 226 Matten Ė Lebanon

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meditate over the study and interpretation of the Holy Bible with us.

 

We introduce to you, with the help of God, the "Meditations on the Gospel of Christ according to the Evangelist Matthew", which brings to light the most important principles of commentary on this first book of the New Testament, together with the fundamental articles of the Christian law.

 

Our aim of these explanations is to give you maximum understanding of the teachings of Christ that you may think over the rights of his lawfulness, continue in your worship, and cling to the Savior, the Deliverer, through his calls to repentance, faith, and love.

 

At the end of each meditation, you will find model prayers. Try to pray them with us and complete them by adding suitable words of your own, depending on your own needs, following the directions of the Holy Spirit, to come close and commit yourself to your good shepherd.

 

At the end of each meditation and prayer, you will find questions, which will help you and urge you to meditate on the word of God offered to you. If you answer, in brief, 90% of these questions and mail to us your answers to all the questions throughout the book, (if by mail, do not forget to write your full name and address or you may send your answers by E-mail) we will send you the

 

Certificate of Maturity In the Study of the Gospel of Christ According to the Evangelist Matthew

 

Together with a valuable book to help you to acquaint yourself with the Holy Bible and bring the good news of salvation to those who have not yet gotten acquainted with the living Christ.

 

If you have questions about faith or about the Gospel, please write your questions on a separate sheet and send them to us stating your full name and address.

 

We pray that the Lord may bless you, keep you safe, make his face shine upon you and give you peace.

 

 

 

The center of study: Al-Hayat Al-Foudla,

Mazraíat Yashou, P.O.Box 226, Al Matten, Lebanon

 

 

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled." (Matthew 5:6)

 

 

 

 

 

Chronological Index

 

Introduction: The writing of the Gospel of Christ according to the Evangelist Matthew

Part 1: The period prior to the ministry of Christ (1:1-4:25)

Part 2: The ministry of Christ in Galilee and neighboring regions (5:1-18:35)

Part 3: The ministry of Jesus in Jordan Valley during his journey to Jerusalem

†††††††††† (19:1-20:34)

Part 4: The last ministry of Jesus in Jerusalem (21:1-25:46)

Part 5: Jesusí passion and death on the cross (26:1-27:66)

Part 6: Jesusí resurrection and the great commission (28:1-20)

Part 7: A guide to the Christian law according to the Evangelist Matthew.

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden,

and I will give you rest."

Matthew 11:28

 

 

 

Introduction

 

The Writing of the Gospel of Christ According to the Evangelist Matthew

 

Many people witnessed the life, speeches, death, and resurrection of Christ. We learn from the testimony of these people that Christ did not write books, though he was able to write in Hebrew. He is the word of God become flesh. He lived out what he said, and his conduct and way of life form and produce the open gospel to everyone who loves the truth. His word is more than a teaching. It is the constructive power of God. The word "gospel" signifies "good news", as it offers the riches of Godís kindness and grace through Christ Jesus.

 

The Four Gospels

 

The word "gospel" is intended as translation of Greek "evangelion" which signifies "good tidings" or "good news." The Gospel is the proclamation of the good news of salvation. This word sometimes stands for the record of the life of our Lord Jesus Christ (Mark 1:1) and the embracing of all his teachings (Acts 20:24).

 

But now the word "gospel" primarily describes the message that Christianity preaches. "Good news" is its significance. The gospel is a gift from God. It is the proclamation of the remission of sins and sonship with God restored through Christ.

 

The Spirit of the Lord put into our hands four books recording the life of Christ as revealed to his penmen, the evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Two of these penmen were close disciples of Christ. The other two were companions of his apostles. They accurately took the news from the apostles. When we look at the Gospels, we find that the first three Gospels have much in common. Sometimes the same or related wording appears in each, in spite of the fact that each of them mentions distinctive news about the life of Christ that the other ones did not mention. Thus each Gospel has its distinctive character.

 

Who is Matthew?

 

Matthew is one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ (Matthew 10:1-4). He was a Galilean (Act 2:7). His original name was "Levi son of Alphaeus" (Mark 2:14; Luke 5:29). "Matthew" signifies "the gift of Jehovah." The great feast that Matthew made in his house for Jesus, to which he invited many tax collectors and sinners, was on the occasion of his pleasant response to the call of the Lord. But he did not comment on it because of his humility.

 

Matthewís occupation, in the beginning, was collecting taxes for the Roman government. Such people were hated and despised by the Jews who considered them unworthy of the Jewish nationality. Tax collectors were often ranked with sinners and outcasts (Matthew 9:10-11, 18:17), and the Pharisees have frequently complained about the Lordís conversing with tax collectors, and entering their houses (Luke 5:30, 15:1-2, 19:7). But Godís grace is intended for everyone without exception and is able to save the worst sinners. It called Matthew from the Roman tax office to be an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. After he was a misfortune to the Jews by collecting taxes from them, Godís grace made Matthew their "gift of God" through his gospel. That is why he was not ashamed of calling himself "Matthew the tax collector" (Matthew 10:3).†

 

The Characteristic of the Gospel According to the Evangelist Matthew

 

The gospel according to Matthew brings into view: Christís call to those who labor and are heavy laden (Chapter 11); some parables about the growth of the kingdom of God (Chapter 13); the parable of the wicked servant and idle laborers in the vineyard (Chapter 20); and the parable of the ten wise and foolish virgins, and the description of the final judgment (Chapter 25).

 

The Aramaic Original Gospel

 

The first three Gospels present together a selected view of the life and sayings of Christ. It is evident that those three apostlesóbefore writing their Gospel in Greekócollected and reported what happened during the life of Christ and what he said in Aramaic that was the basis upon which all the evangelists wrote their Gospels (Luke 1:1-4, John 20:30).

 

Who Wrote the Gospel of Matthew?

 

Matthew, the penman of the first and longest Gospel, was a chief tax collector. He was despised by the people for being a skillful official serving the occupying state. His original name was "Levi" (Mark 2:14, Luke 5:27). But Christ gave him a new name, "Matthew", i.e. "the gift of God".

 

The oldest testimony concerning the Gospel of Matthew may be found in the writings of Papias, an elder of the church. We read in his records that Matthew compiled the sayings of the Lord, first in Aramaic. This is confirmed by the many words written in their Aramaic pronunciation in the Gospel, such as "raca" (worthless), and "mammon" (wealth, money, riches). It is most probable that the apostles entrusted Matthew, the most skillful among them in languages, with the compilation and translation of the sayings of Christ into Greek, under their care.

 

The internal evidences also give powerful support to the fact that the writer is Matthew, the tax collector, considering that this Gospel mentions more different currencies than any other Gospel. The Gospel, in fact, refers to three monetary units that are not mentioned any other place in the New Testament. The Gospel of Matthew solely mentions the "two-drachma" (Matthew 17:24), the "stater" (Matthew 17:27), and the "talent" (Matthew 18:24), which tells that the writer of this Gospel was familiar with the different kinds of currencies and that he was interested in identifying and defining their values to the followers. It is also to be mentioned that in his Gospel, Matthew refers to himself, among the other disciples of Christ, as "Matthew, the tax collector" as an indication of his humility, whereas Mark and Luke refer to him as "Matthew" without mentioning the degrading attribute of "tax collector." This humility of Matthew also appears in not mentioning particular details that may speak of him in glowing terms. He does not mention that he made the feast for Jesus. He talks of Jesusí sitting down in "the house" (Matthew 9:10) without telling whose house it was, whereas Luke mentions (Luke 5:29) that Matthew gave Christ "a great feast." In his Gospel, Matthew does not mention the story of Zacchaeus and the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 19:1-10; 18:9-14) maybe because both imply praise to the faith of the tax collector.

 

The Six Addresses of Jesus

 

Christís sayings in the Gospel of Matthew may be divided into six comprehensive parts, systematically successive, and having no repeated ideas. Matthew adopted the teaching of his Master step by step. First, he brought into view the constitution of the kingdom of heaven (Chapter 10), then the secrets of its growth (Chapter 13), followed by its interior organization (Chapter 18), the woes against the enemies of his kingdom (Chapter 23), and finally his appearance on the coming of his kingdom (Chapter 24, 25). The mentioning of these sayings of Jesus is the most valuable treasure in the Gospel of Matthew that deserves thorough study and meditation.

 

The Purpose of the Gospel of Matthew

 

The special purpose that Matthew had in view in his Gospel was to present the details of the tradition of Christ by proving to the Jewish people that Jesus of Nazareth is the predicted Messiah, the son of David and the son of Abraham. Matthew quotes more frequently from the Old Testament than any other evangelist does to prove that Jesus is the promised Messiah in whom is to be found the fulfillment and realization of the Messianic predictions of the Old Testament prophets and seers. Accordingly, his Gospel is considered the best book to build and strengthen believers through growing deeper into the teaching of Christ. It is, at the same time, good for preaching to the sons of Abraham and bringing them over to their Savior who took upon himself, in their place, the judgment of God.

 

These two purposes "preaching and teaching" are so wonderfully correlated in the Gospel of Matthew that it is the first book in the New Testament, glorifying Jesus, the Christ of God.

 

 

 

The Date of Writing the Gospel According to Matthew

 

This unique Gospel was written around 58 ADóabout 25 years after the crucifixion. Scholars agree that it was written before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, as it does not report the fall of Jerusalem and the temple but, on the contrary, describes these events as still in the future (please refer to 23:37-38; 24:1-2). Furthermore, Matthew reports many warnings in his Gospel against the Sadducees who lost their power and authority after the destruction of Jerusalem.

 

We find in this Gospel true statements about the words and deeds of our Master Jesus Christ who calls us to follow him just as he called Matthew.

 

Questions:

1.      Who is Matthew, and how did he introduce himself?

2.      What are the characteristics of the Gospel according to Matthew?

3.      What is the purpose of the Gospel according to Matthew?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part 1

The Preliminary Period of the Ministry of Christ

 

1.† Birth and childhood of Jesus................................................. 1:1-2:23

Genealogy of Jesus.................................................................... 1:1-17

Birth and naming of Jesus.......................................................... 1:18-25

Visit and worship of the Magi.................................................... 2:1-11

Herodís attempt to kill Jesus...................................................... 2:12-23

2.† John, the Baptist, prepares the way of Christ...................... 3:1-4:11

The call to repentance............................................................... 3:1-12

The baptism of Christ................................................................ 3:13-15

Proclamation of the unity of the Holy Trinity............................... 3:16, 17

The temptation of Christ by the devil and his great victory........... 4:1-11

3.† Christ begins his Galilean Ministry...................................... 4:12-25

Christ chooses Capernaum as a residence.................................. 4:12-17

Christ calls the first two brothers to discipleship.......................... 4:18-22

A beautiful account of the Saviorís ministry................................ 4:23-25

The quiz of Part 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1-      Birth and childhood of Jesus (1:1-2:23)

Genealogy of Jesus (1:1-17)

 

1:(1) The book of the genealogy of Jesus

 

Most religions rely on their holy books but we, Christians, do not worship books. We cling to, and believe in a unique person who is the incarnate word of God. Matthew did not produce a flight of fancy following the example of novelists. He was not dictated ideals by a strange spirit, nor did he hear a supernatural voice in a trance, but he described the life and words of Jesus of Nazareth whom he was more than fond of and whom he honored and followed with an abiding faith. Thus this book is an eyewitness testimony about a historical person and real events wherein Jesus is presented as our King, Christ, Savior, and Lord.

 

The word "genealogy" mentioned in the beginning of his Gospel means in Greek "source", "becoming", "coming", and "development in the journey of life." The birth of Jesus on earth was not the beginning of his existence. He exists from eternity. Birth and death do not confine his entity. He lives at all times because he is the Spirit of God, and because he is glorious and everlasting to God. Yet he is the Lord himself.

 

Jesus of Nazareth had different names. He called himself the Son of Man, the Light of the World, and the Bread of Life that gives life to the world. His enemies called him, spitefully, the "Son of Mary" who had no father. But his disciples honored him with the title "Master." His original name was "Joshua." From this unique name, the devils tremble with fear, but the angels revive. In this name, the purpose and the aim of Godís will are found and in these letters are the power of the sovereign authority of all heavens work. We begin our humble commentary not in our own names but in the name of the Lord Jesus who is the incarnate Spirit of God.

 

The word "Jesus" is mentioned 950 times in the Arabic Holy Bible, which indicates that it is more important than his other names.

 

 

Prayer:

O Lord Jesus, you are the eternal God. You became flesh that I may see Godís power in my life and receive the power of the Holy Spirit through your words. Forgive me my ignorance and my incapability. Fill me with light that I may know you, believe in you, and honor your holy name, "Jesus", through my testimony, actions, and thankfulness.

 

Question 4: Why is a Christian not bound by a certain book, but is devoted to the person of Jesus?

 

1:(1) Ö Jesus Christ

 

At the time of Jesus, the Jews were still looking forward to the coming of Christ whom they were promised 1,000 years prior. In the Old Testament, God had already promised the fathers, the kings, and the prophets that he would raise up a man from their nation to be a great king of the people. In addition to his human entity, he would be of divine nature, full of the power of the Creator and rule a kingdom that shall have no end (2 Samuel 7:12-15; Isaiah 9:6-7).

 

The Jews, eagerly, expected the oncoming Christ, particularly when the Romans occupied their country. They wished for Christ to come and deliver them from the occupying enemy, establish the kingdom of God on earth by force and power, make the city of Jerusalem a center of the world, and judge the nations.

 

When Matthew wrote the first sentence of his book, and testified that the meek gentleman Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah, he created with this testimony a burning belief among the prepared people and a severe hate among the rejecting obstinate people. All the faithful among those that awaited Christ and recognized in Jesus the incarnate spirit of God committed themselves to him with faith. But the majority of the Jews rejected him because the leaders of their people did. Having come without weapon and without earthly power, he was delivered up for crucifixion. Matthew did not worry about the grudge of the crowds and the leaders, but opposed them boldly. He testified the truth and called Jesus, "The promised Christ of God." The word "Christ" is mentioned 569 times in the New Testament.

 

The word "Christ" is not a name of Jesus. It is his title, which indicates his office. "Christ" means the anointed one with all the fullness of the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament, kings, priests, and prophets were anointed with the oil of dedication. In his person, Jesus unified the power of the divine king. He is the true High Priest and the slain Lamb of God. He did not come as all other prophets with the word of God revealed unto him, for he was himself the word of God become flesh. In Christ dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. Are you a follower or an enemy of Christ?

 

Prayer:

O Lord Jesus Christ, I worship you for you are my King sent from God, and my faithful Priest. You moved my heart towards the kingdom of your peace. Please teach me to recognize your name and your spiritual power that I may experience your life, meekness, and humility. Renew my mind that I may stand firm as a qualified member of your kingdom.

 

Question 5: What does the title "Christ" signify with respect to Jesus?

 

1:(1) Ö Jesus Christ, the Son of David

 

Every Jew knows David, for many have kept his "Psalms" by heart and chanted them at religious feasts and occasions. They glorify Godís love and care with words from his Psalms which are outbursts of praise and thankfulness. They use the words and phrases of their king to confess their sins and to ask the Lord to deliver them from their enemies.

 

Who is David? The Lord chose David while he was still a young shepherd to be the anointed king of the people of the Old Testament. During his service as keeper of his fatherís sheep, he learned patience, courage, leadership, and trust in God. He struggled against bears and lions, learned to hunt and play the psaltery and harp. And in his youth he overcame, with the power and assistance of God, Goliath, the giant; therefore, King Saul envied him and was jealous of his famous bravery.

 

David had to flee to the Philistines where he lived under their protection until his enemy, Saul, killed himself. Thereafter, he established a kingdom in Hebron for seven years. When the situation became better in 1004 BC, he captured Jerusalem and made it the capital of his kingdom. He then removed the Ark to the center of his kingdom making Jerusalem the center of the Jewish civilization. He also gradually defeated his neighboring enemies in bloody wars.

 

When David became rich and famous, he was overcome by his lustócommitting adultery and then killing and taking the poor manís "lamb." But he heard Godís reproof and responded to it, so God accepted his sincere repentance and forgave him his sin after his clear confession. The son bore from sin died, for it is impossible for sin and blessing to meet together under one roof. God punished him through his children's many sins and acts of rebellion until he had to flee from Godís presence. Though he was old, he fled to Jordan where he stayed until his rebellious son Absalom was killed.

 

During those troubled years, David continually drew near to God and prayed until the Holy Spirit inspired him with indescribable hymns and prophecies. A great part of his psalms refer to the coming Christ. The deepest influence that the Holy Spirit carved in his heart was that a son would descend from him whose father would be God himself (2 Samuel 7:12-15; 1 Chronicles 17:11-14). These exciting promises establish that Christ would be a son of David.

 

In the first sentence of his book, Matthew did not only call Jesus by the title "Christ" but he also emphasized that he descended from David, showing that Jesus is of the kindred of the king, designated from his birth to be the promised king over a kingdom without end.

 

Prayer:

O Holy God, your ways are unseen to my eyes, but every promise of yours is true and is established. You did not choose me because of my own goodness, but because of your great mercy. I have rejected you in my sins; yet you purify me if I sincerely repent. Please direct me to overcome my pride and repent of my sins that I may reject all evil, and be sanctified by the power of your pure Spirit.

 

Question 6: Why was Jesus called "The Son of David"?

 

1:1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham:

 

The Jews honored their father Abraham, because with him and a group of men the history of their relationship with God began. God called Abraham from his residence in Haran and ordered him to get out of his culture and leave his friends and the protection of his kindred. He made him a traveling Bedouin without a home. Abraham abandoned himself to the right guidance of his Lord and became an example to believers. From the beginning, God promised his elect that he would multiply his seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore, and that in his seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed (Genesis 12:2, 7; 13:16; 15:5,18). Though he owned no land and had no son, Abraham believed the Lordís promises and became the father of all the faithful.

 

Despite his true faith, he fell into temptation. He did not wait until God gave him a child but in haste he married Hagar, the Egyptian handmaid of his wife, and she bare Ishmael. His hastiness resulted in pain and distress to the nations for ages.

 

After having kept away from Abraham for thirteen years, God had mercy upon him when he was ninety-nine years old. The Most Holy made a covenant with him and granted him the symbol of circumcision, promising him again a chosen son in spite of he and Sarah's old age. Abraham believed in God; he also believed God's promise of a son, which was contrary to the law of nature. Although Sarah had been barren, the Creator granted the elderly couple a son, Isaac. Abrahamís relationship with God became close, even before he interceded for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, and he was called the friend of God. God tested Abraham, the father of the faithful, and commanded him to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac. The believer obeyed the voice of God and prepared to sacrifice his beloved son out of love for his Lord. Thus he became an example of God who sacrificed his Son out of his love for us and desire to save us. Because of Abrahamís faithfulness, at that moment God swore he would bless all the nations in his seed (Genesis 22:12, 16-17; The Koran: Al-Safat 37:102-113).

 

We know from Paul, the apostle, that the expression "Abrahamís seed" signifies one person, Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:16), in whom and through whom the nations are blessed. But at the time when Matthew called Jesus by the title, "the Son of Abraham", the majority of the Jews rejected this Son and crucified the bearer of the promise. The evangelist confirmed from the beginning of his Gospel that no blessing would come to the people of Abraham or to anyone else except through Jesus, the Bearer of the promise, through whom alone the complete blessing of God can be received.

 

Prayer:

I worship you, our Holy God, because you choose wicked people. You do not choose people because of their goodness and faith but because of your grace and mercy. Please help me to live in vivid faith, that I may live worthy of your calling, stand fast as a son of Abraham in spirit, and share in the fullness of the blessing given to me in your Son Jesus.

 

Question 7: How can Jesus be the Son of Abraham too?

 

1:(2) Ö Abraham begot Isaac,

 

The Evangelist Matthew wrote his Gospel to the Jews and to the Christians of Jewish origin. He brought into view, first of all, the complete genealogy of Jesus proving that he was lawfully worthy of being the Messiah since he was of the seed of Abraham and a son of David. Matthew gives Jesus' lineage knowing his existence did not begin with his birth.

 

God initiated the way of salvation with Abraham. By offering Isaac as a sacrifice, he indicated the necessity of the unique sacrifice accomplished in Jesus Christ on the cross. Isaac, the heir to the promise, was brought up since his childhood in godliness with full submission to God. He was a man of prayer who initiated his marriage in the name of the Lord and got many returns from his fields. He was patient, left his two wells to the quarreling herdsmen, and dug a new well, overcoming his enemies with love. He lived with all humility and meekness until God appeared to him and confirmed the Abrahamic covenant. The behavior of Isaac and that of Jesus bear many resemblance'sómore than when compared with any other member of the family (Genesis 24:63; 25:5; 26:12-13, 22).

 

But Isaac committed sins similar to those of his father. He called his wife "his sister" to rescue himself from his lustful enemies (Genesis 26:6-7). Also Isaac loved his first son Esau more than his second son Jacob, which resulted in a plot created by his wife and Jacob against he and Esau which caused his blessing to be given to Jacob instead of Esau, making him a link of the blessed genealogy of Jesus.

 

Prayer:

I glorify you and praise you, Lord of heaven and earth, for your constant protection to the fathers of faith in spite of their weaknesses. Your love lasts throughout the ages. I believe that you have chosen me to live in Christ and that you have mercy on me in spite of my failure. Thank you for your great kindness.

 

Question 8: How was Isaac comparable to Jesus?

 

1:(2) Ö Isaac begot Jacob,

 

He who reads the genealogy of Jesus realizes that the gospel is based on the books of the Old Testament. No one can understand it thoroughly unless he studies this genealogy, just as no one can reach the upper room of a house unless he first comes from its lower door.

 

By a revelation of God, Jacob alone was designated, prior to his birth, as bearer of the blessing (Genesis 25:23-28). But Jacob did not wait for the fulfillment of the promise with patience and prayer. He hastened and plotted with his mother until he obtained the blessing of the birthright. The grudge, which his brother held against him, was so great that Jacob was compelled to flee. Amidst this flight, God appeared to the schemer, Jacob, and told him that through him the entire world will be blessed. Jacob did not understand the dream, but he fearfully believed in the revelation of the stairway reaching to heaven and in the word of his Lord. He continued on his way and reached the land of the East. There he became a skillful herdsman. He deceived Laban, his uncle and owner of the flock. Laban, on his part, met Jacob with a similar deception by giving him in marriage his first-born daughter rather than the younger daughter they had agreed upon. Later, Jacob married the younger daughter whom he really wanted but only after he labored for his uncle for many years. After long service and difficulty, he longed to go back to the land of his fathers, but God met him on his journey to put an end to his pride and to make him broken and regretful, so he wrestled with him in a dream. Through this spiritual wrestling, the deceiver turned into a humble worshiper, and God gave Jacob a new name, "Israel" which signifies, "he who struggles with God and succeeds as a result of his faith." The Lord achieved his purpose with this deceiver, creating in his soul a longing for the perfect salvation which he caught sight of from afar in the coming of Jesus to the world.

 

It was Christ in whom Jacobís dream came true with the angels of God ascending from him to heaven and descending with the blessings of the world (Genesis 28:12-13; 48:15-16; 49:18; John 1:51).

 

Prayer:

O Holy God, You know my soul that is inclined to lies, deception, and pride. Please forgive me of all my sins. Break my evil intents that I may walk broken in the path of your righteousness. Crush my pride as you crushed Jacob's so that I may become a worshiper and a struggler for the kingdom of your kindness.

 

Question 9: How was Jacob made worthy of offering Godís blessing to all men?

 

1:(2) Ö and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers. (3) Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar

 

The Bible does not oppose men, but makes it clear that we are all sinners, and that every man who thinks that his family is blameless, even if they were kings and prophets, is deceived since none is righteous in front of God, even in the family of Jesus. We find it true that Jesus' lineage lived in sin, but he overcame the wicked inheritance of his fathers, not being conceived from a human father but conceived of Godís Spirit who dwells in him. He remained innocent and pure with no iniquity in him, and has willingly redeemed the human race in himself.

 

Judah was one of the twelve sons of Jacob in whose name the twelve tribes were named. These sons were nomads who once destroyed the population of a whole city for a disgrace that had fallen on their sister (Genesis 34:1-29). They also envied their youngest brother Joseph because their father loved him more than all of them and made a varicolored robe for him. So, they planned to kill him, but Judah dampened their zeal and convinced them to sell their brother for twenty pieces of silver and profit from him instead of taking his life.

 

Judah committed adultery over and above his covetousness. He prevented Tamar, his late sonís wife from getting married to his third son according to the law. She tricked him and let him sleep with her illicitly and had by him his child Pharez (Genesis 38). It is shameful to humans that the names of these three peopleóJudah, Tamar, and Pharezówere mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus. The Son of God came down to prove that he redeems even the covetous, the adulterers, and the sinners; and that he shows up and unveils everybody without exception.

 

Jacob indicated the absolute authority of Christ to redeem the sinners when he blessed his son Judah and compared him with a lion before which all his brothers and all nations will bow in obedience (Genesis 49:8-12). John, the evangelist knew the mystery of this prophesy, he even heard the call of the elders in heaven saying, "Behold, the lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David has prevailed" (Revelation 5:5-10). John opened his eyes to see the great lion, but he did not see the lion. He saw a slain lamb that redeemed to God by his blood chosen people out of every nation who serve him as royal priests forever. Jesus has fulfilled the promises declared about his father Judah.

 

Prayer:

I worship you O Holy Lamb of God because you deserve all blessing, glory, riches, and praise; having overcome the evil one in the world and in your followers, sacrificing your holy life for me. Please overcome my affection for sin because I am no better than Judah or Tamar. Please cleanse me from my sins and sanctify me wholly.

 

Question 10: How was the promise about Judah, son of Jacob, fulfilled in Jesus?

 

1:3 Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram. (4) Ram begot Amminadab, Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon. (5) Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, (6) and Jesse begot David the king. David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah.

 

The Gospel of Matthew leads us to three points in the genealogy of Jesus when it brings into view the names of three women who have caused tiredness and shame to the commentators of the Old Testament. We, on our part, condemn nobody, but we observe man's wicked trends and continue in repentance of our own sins.

 

Matthew did not mention the names of Sarah nor of other famous women whom all the Jews are proud of, but he mentions the names of the women whom the Jews were unable to be proud of: "Tamar" was mentioned to indicate that the salvation of God is planned for sinners (Genesis 38:11-14); "Rahab" was mentioned to indicate that the salvation for sinners is by faith (Joshua 2; Hebrews 11:31); "Ruth" was mentioned to indicate that this salvation is by grace without the law (Deuteronomy 23:3; Romans 3:21-30); and "Bath-Sheba" was mentioned to indicate that the salvation of God to believers is by grace and that such salvation is everlasting (2 Samuel 11 & 12; Psalm 23:3; Hebrews 10:38-39).

 

We do not precisely know some of the names mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus today. However we know that Rahab, the heathen prostitute received the spies and protected them because God showed her that he surrendered her city Jericho to the hands of the oncoming people. After the city was conquered, one of those spies married her and she became a grandmother of Christ. Tamar brought non-Jewish blood into King David and Jesus. Rahab did the same, and such did Ruth, because the Spirit of God wished to prove that he was not keeping to a racial thinking, but also desires to save Gentile sinners (Joshua 2:1-21; Hebrews 11:31).

 

Boaz was a straight man. He did not take advantage of the distress of Ruth, the widow, but ordered his servants to leave the grain of the harvest for her to gather and eat because he knew what a faithful friend she was to her mother-in-law (the mother of her late husband). After that, he married her though she was a foreign woman and she became the mother of Davidís grandfather. She was considered unclean according to Jewish law but all men are equal to God (Ruth 2:4).

 

The most horrible sin in the history of the ancestors of Jesus was one committed by David, the prophet. He desired the wife of Uriah, one of his soldiers, as she was taking a bath on the roof of her house. He sent messengers and brought her to his palace, and asked the commander of his army to find a plan to let Uriah, her husband, be killed in an ambush of the enemy in order to cover the shame of the king. But God uncovered the adultery and the murder in his servant and threatened to kill him. Nothing could save him but the sincere and immediate repentance and the belief in Godís grace for the humble and repentant (Psalm 51). The mercy did not leave him. He married her legitimately, and God gave them a son, wise Solomon, inasmuch as the marriage was purified through sincere repentance.

 

Prayer:

O heavenly Father, I thank you that you did not reject me. I am corrupt and adulterous, but you sent your Son to me that I might see in his behavior a holy example for my life. I accept his sacrifice for me. I am consecrated in the power of your Holy Spirit and I humbly live serving your fatherly will.

 

Question 11: Why did Matthew, the evangelist, bring into view four women in the genealogy of Jesus? What are their names?

 

1:6 and Jesse begot David the king. David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah. (7) Solomon begot Rehoboam, Rehoboam begot Abijah, and Abijah begot Asa. (8) Asa begot Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat begot Joram, and Joram begot Uzziah. (9) Uzziah begot Jotham, Jotham begot Ahaz, and Ahaz begot Hezekiah.

 

In his youth, Solomon was educated at the hand of a priest. He grew up in godliness asking God for an obedient heart filled with wisdom. When he was crowned king, he built a beautiful temple in Jerusalem, a planned center of the Jewish civilization throughout the ages. He cut many valuable cedar logs in Lebanon for this building. Solomon imposed upon the people payment for the costs of those magnificent buildings. The people suffered from exorbitant taxes for such a costly life. He had 700 wives and about 300 concubines. To complete the mischief, each one of his wives carried with her an idol from her country, and they drew Solomon to worship the idols to satisfy his wives (1 Kings 11).

 

At the time of David and Solomon, a strong Israeli state arose but only lasted for 100 years before division began. It happened at the time of "Rehoboam" the tyrannical son of Solomon. The country of the fathers was divided in 932 BC, and the ten tribes were unified into the new kingdom of Israel, the capital of which was Samaria. The tribe of Judah, however, remained faithful to the Davidic royal family, and the Jewish kingdom in the Jerusalem region was formed from this tribe. As for the names of the kings in the genealogy of Jesus, they refer to those who ruled this small kingdom in Jerusalem and its suburbs.

 

At the time of this division, God sent his prophets to the northern kingdom. Some of those prophets were Elijah, Amos and Hosea. They worked towards stopping the idol worship that entered into the nation in the name of God and to turn Israel from the worship of images, holy trees, and from the slaying of children. They called all the gods vanities and proclaimed one almighty God emphasizing that there is but one God. They suffered from the pervading atheism and threatened the ungodly with Godís judgment and vengeance. At the same time, they proclaimed the coming of the humble and just God who would come to unify the two separated brothers and to establish peace in Jerusalem.

 

However, the tribes in the northern kingdom did not obey the prophets. They continued their idol worship and shameless parties and consequently atheism and corruption prevailed. God allowed the Assyrians to attack Israel with incredible power. The Assyrians besieged and destroyed Samaria. They captured the wealthy and the chiefs and took them into exile 1,500 km from their homes, into Mesopotamia. They melted away among the nations and the history of Israel had ended in 722 BC. The Assyrians took other Gentiles and housed them in Galilee, Samaria, and North Palestine in place of the captured, so these people mixed together with the rest of the people of Israel and formed a mixed religion. This prompted the southern Jews to despise and reject the northern Jews as being unclean because they intermarried with Gentiles. However, the statement "Joram begot Uzziah" does not mean that Joram is the father of Uzziah; it means that Uzziah is a descendant of Joram. There were three kings between Joram and Uzziah whose names were not mentioned in the genealogy (1 Chronicles 3:11, 12). They were Ahaziah, Joash and Amaziah. The deletion of these three kings was a divine extermination according to the promise mentioned in (Exodus 20:3-5; Deuteronomy 29:18-20). The people also did not recognize their rule over them, but rose against them and killed them. They did not bury them in the sepulchers of the kings (2 Chronicles 22:8, 9; 24:25; 25:27, 28) and excluded them from the royal list of ancestors. Matthew did the same in his Gospel writing because it would be presented to the Jews. Not mentioning their names produces no effect on the validity of the genealogy. The Jews were unable to object to this since omitting some names from genealogy records was familiar to the Jews (compare Ezra 7:1-5 with 1 Chronicles 6:3-15).

 

Jesus loved the despised and lived by his own choice in Nazareth, in the kingdom of the north, which caused him rejection on the part of the Jews of Jerusalem. At the time of Jesus, Herod, the king, repaired the temple, which was the second temple in Jewish history. Christ and his apostles did not reject this house that was built of stone. They called the people who gathered in the temple to commit themselves to the true God and devote themselves as living stones to build a spiritual house (themselves) into that which God would dwell by his Holy Spirit.

 

Prayer:

O Lord Jesus Christ, Your kingdom is not of this world. You are the true humble king. All other leaders have sinned, fought, shed blood, and laid up treasures; but you lived holy and died for the sake of truth to redeem me from shame. Please accept me and plant me into your spiritual temple that I may truly be the eternally devoted house of God.

 

Question 12: When did the division take place in the kingdom of the Old Testament, and from which group does Jesus descend?

 

1:9 Ö and Ahaz begot Hezekiah. (10) Hezekiah begot Manasseh, Manasseh begot Amon, and Amon begot Josiah. (11) Josiah begot Jeconiah and his brothers about the time they were carried away to Babylon.

 

The Assyrian empire dominated the Middle East with great power. It was situated between the Tigris and the Nile. The small Jewish kingdom around Jerusalem was a thorn in the eye of the colonizer. So the Assyrians began to besiege the city of peace in 701 BC and the siege stopped unexpectedly with the help of the Lord when Sennacheribís army was struck by a plague and about 185 000 soldiers died all at once.

 

At that time, a devout king named Hezekiah lived in Jerusalem. He worked side by side with Isaiah, the noble prophet. The Lord of Hosts appeared to Isaiah and sent him as a mighty prophet to call his king and people to repentance and to a firm belief in the faithfulness of the Most High. The Jewish people shook, but they did not changed nor renew themselves to godliness. Instead, they kept leading a life of ease and pride.

 

One hundred years after this divine miracle, the godly king Josiah came and made a radical reformation that covered religious and social issues. He gathered the people and read in their ears the Book of the Law that was found in the temple. He repaired the temple of the Lord and arranged its rituals so that the people might truly be sanctified. But, since the law has no ability to overcome sin, the corruption was deeper than what was apparent.

 

At that time, God sent a mighty prophet called Jeremiah (626-580 BC) who warned his people that the southern kingdom would pass away. His enthusiastic call to repent still attracts us today. The prophet suffered greatly from the persecution of his kings for he saw the end of the kingdom and called his tribe to politically listen to reason and yield to the enemy.

 

At that time, the Assyrians were defeated in Mesopotamia. Babylon took a great deal of the Assyrian culture and properties, and forced the tribe of Judah to pay exorbitant tribute to the new Babylonian king. And when the Jews rebelled against the Babylonians in 597 BC, the armies of Nebuchadnezzar invaded and occupied Jerusalem without delay, and this king offered the Jewish people a chance of their nobles and carried them into exile. Those remaining were so blind that they did not even ponder their spiritual and political weakness. This small tribe rebelled in 587 BC at the time of Zedekiah, and as a result, their city was destroyed and they were all taken into captivity.

 

Godís judgment will not exclude his elect if they become corrupt and depart from him and do not repent. His holy love for them is the motive for such chastisement in order to bring about repentance so he can release the captive and renew them.

 

 

Prayer:

O Lord, please forgive me of my narrow mindedness. Teach me how to change my mind that I may not take gold, nor comfort, nor weapons, as god of my life. Give me your Holy Spirit to sanctify me for acceptable behavior in truth, purity, love and self-denial, such as the behavior of your Christ on earth. Your kingdom come, your will be done in my life as it is in heaven.

 

Question 13: How did God protect the southern kingdom, and how did he deliver it into captivity?

 

1:12 And after they were brought to Babylon, Jeconiah begot Shealtiel, and Shealtiel begot Zerubbabel. (13) Zerubbabel begot Abiud, Abiud begot Eliakim, and Eliakim begot Azor. (14) Azor begot Zadok, Zadok begot Achim, and Achim begot Eliud. (15) Eliud begot Eleazar, Eleazar begot Matthan, and Matthan begot Jacob. (16) And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.

 

The Jews that were made captives and carried away to Babylon were exceedingly afraid. They thought that God protected them because of his covenant with them and that his presence in the temple ensured them definite victory. But, after that, they experienced God's demand for sanctification and keeping of his law in love. He was not content with their repeated, meaningless rituals, ceremonies, and prayers because his aim was not to establish a theocracy. He sought to change the hearts and make them broken and humble before him. He also sought to renew their minds and turn them into a new creation.

 

God does not get angry forever. He offers the nations and the individuals a second chance to repent. As such in 538 BC, two men went back to Jerusalem with broken hearts and with great hope. Their names were Zerubbabel of Davidic descent, and Jeshua the son of the former high priest. They, as well as their people, were allowed to go back home, because the Persians defeated the Babylonians and Cyrus, the king, allowed the Jews to go back home if they wished. So a small part of them went back joyously, but they found Jerusalem and its neighborhood destroyed and poor. Despite the bad situation, they took steps to rebuild the Temple, knowing that their past decline was due to their lack of faith and twisted conduct. They knew that God did not have in view a political kingdom. He demanded spiritual services, faithful worship and a pure life.

 

We do not know much about the men mentioned in the last third of the genealogy of Jesus. Yet, in view of the fact that the power moved from the Persians to the Greek, then to the Maccabees, and thereafter to the Romans, they lived almost continuously under the dominance of strangers. Therefore the Jewish region remained an unimportant isolated district in political history.

 

We are astonished when we find that the genealogy of Jesus ends with Joseph who is not a father to Jesus according to the flesh. But the Jewish understanding of genealogy at that time depended upon legitimate rights and engagements, not upon race and blood relation. Thus Jesus was grafted in with the sons of David through Joseph who adopted him. Additionally, because of a Roman census, he was born in the city of David and not in Nazareth, as Joseph was obliged to go back to the house of his ancestors according to Roman law.

 

Matthew testified of the importance of the title of Jesus, Son of Mary. He is the promised Christ. Matthew was not the only man who observed the Messiahship of Jesus. Many people of the Old Testament and millions of nations until now have joyfully observed that the kingdom of God came near with the birth of Jesus Christ. His love, spiritual power and humility are the signs of his supernatural kingship. Our declining world is not in need of new kingdoms and principalities since weapons and revolutions cannot change hearts; it is only the reconciliation to God through Christ and his divine peace that can renew individuals and situations. Therefore we pray with all our hearts, "Your kingdom come" in these last days.

 

Prayer:

O Lord Jesus, you are my king. You did not require me to pay taxes or to perform ordinances, but you gave your life for me, and delivered me from my passing hopes for political honor, economic security and the desire for revenge. You change me continuously into a person of love, giving me eternal life that I may not die when I pass away (John 11:25-26), but have eternal life.

 

 

Question 14: Why does the genealogy of Jesus end with Joseph who is not his father according to the flesh?

 

1:17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations. (See Luke 3:23-38)

 

Fourteen is composed of (2 X 7). Also seven is equal to (3 + 4). The number (3) refers to the triune godhead, and the number (4) represents the four universe directions; therefore heaven and earth have been linked with number (7) in the development of history. Yet when number (7) is repeated again to become (14), this means the completion of the divine historical development of our world. This appears in two quotations that give evidence to God and his work in our present life.

 

These periods of fourteen years appeared three times. Matthew saw that they foretold the coming of Christ according to Godís timing. It also informed of the dwelling of the kingdom of heaven on earth. Matthew takes interest in mentioning the lineage of kings and these few historical details because he saw Godís great designs for salvation in them.

 

The Lord chose Abraham and made him the beginning of a great nation of which David became the summit. The collapse started with Solomon, and the political state was divided at the time of Rehoboam, his son. Then the northern kingdom was exterminated, and the Jews were taken captive to Babylon.

 

The Jews who came back from captivity realized from Godís school of chastening that Godís purpose for the repentant was not authority, weapons and comfort, but a holy life according to the Law of Moses, that they might become holy and royal people in humility and truth.

 

This school of brokenness did not produce the same thinking in people. The zealous objected to God and to his crushing them and they determined to build up a glorious nation at any cost. The Pharisees, however, attempted to fulfill the law through their own diligence and they became proud and boastful. A small number of the Jews understood their inability to lead a holy life, so they lived in repentance and brokenness before God, waiting with the tears of repentance for the coming Messiah. At the time of Jesus, the Jews did not see events that indicated the coming of the great savior of their nation who would redeem and bless the whole world. However Matthew, the evangelist, observed the absolute proof in the course of history that Jesus was the promised Christ of God.

 

Prayer:

I glorify you, my Holy and Almighty God, because you prepared from ages past for the coming of your Son, and employed the fathers, the kings and the prophets to prepare his way. You were not ashamed to include captives and adulterers into the genealogy of your Son. Thank you that I too may be sanctified in faith and become the fruit of the redemptive work of your Son. May my life reflect the goodness of his Spirit, giving you praise and bringing you glory.

 

Question 15: What does the chronological order of the genealogy of Jesus indicate?

 

Birth and naming of Jesus (1:18-25)

 

1:18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. (See Luke 1:26-38)

 

From her youth, Mary Ė the pure virgin, kept the word of God by heart. Her praises indicate a rich knowledge of the Old Testament and the prophets. The Holy Spirit inspired her with a beautiful testimony about the glory, the wisdom and the wonderful works of God. Mary, like the majority of girls, might have expected marriage to fulfill the desire of her heart, so she was satisfied with her espousal to the carpenter. Espousal was considered among the people of the Old Testament as a legitimate engagement, so that Joseph was called "her husband" (v. 19) and she was called "his wife" (v. 20).

 

Christ was born of a virgin, but of a betrothed virgin:

 

1.      To sanctify marriage and to recommend it as "honorable among all" (Hebrews 13:4), not giving heed to doctrines of demons Ė "forbidding to marry" (1 Timothy 4:3).

2.      To save the credit of the blessed virgin. It was fit that her conception should be protected by an espousal to Joseph, and so be justified from doubt and suspicion in the eyes of the world.

3.      That the blessed virgin might have one to be a guide of her youth, a companion of her solitude and travels, a partner in her cares, and a help mate for her.

 

Suddenly, she received a message from the angel Gabriel that God himself chose her to give birth by his Holy Spirit to a son. This news deeply excited this pure virgin, but she humbly and submissively believed the word of God. The pregnancy was not an act of flesh, for the Holy Spirit is holy in himself. Every claim that God took Mary to be his woman and had a child by her is a blasphemy that will not be forgiven. There is no doubt that modern biology is not against the idea that a child may be born by a virgin without an earthly father. This is known as Human Cloning. But everyone who is born again of the Holy Spirit, recognizes this secret and accepts the truth of Jesusí coming by way of the blessed Virgin Mary.

 

Mary magnified God for his glorious plan. But at the same time this situation was a bit perplexing to her. She could hardly have expected Joseph to accept her story, so she kept silent and trusted God to be her witness. She suffered and prayed knowing that she would be treated as a harlot and could be stoned to death according to Mosesí law. But believing in God as a Savior, she trusted him, and by her faith she made possible what was impossible: that the Son of God would be incarnate through her body. Because of her great faith, she is glorified by all the ages on earth. Maryís faith prepared her to be the last link of the chain of the heroes of faith in the genealogy of Jesus. We can learn from her.

 

Prayer:

I worship you eternal God, because you came upon the Virgin Mary by your Holy Spirit and gave birth to your Son Jesus through her. I cannot logically understand this miracle but I worship you with praise and thankfulness because you give birth to me spiritually to enable me to understand who you are, and who your Son and Holy Spirit are, and what your great work is.

 

Question 16: What is the meaning of Mary being found with child of the Holy Spirit?

 

1:19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. (20) But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.

 

Joseph was a God-fearing carpenter who desired to establish a family. He admired the beautiful godly Virgin Mary, and obtained the agreement of her family to marry her; thus both families became connected through betrothal.

 

Joseph was a righteous man and Mary was a blessed virtuous woman. This is a call to all the believers "not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers." Those who are spiritual must choose to marry those who are so in order that God may sanctify their relation and bless them in it.

 

We may also learn that it is good for us to enter into the married state with deliberation and not in haste Ė to preface the marriage with an engagement. It is better to take time to consider before marriage than to find time to repent afterwards.

 

Suddenly, Joseph perceived Mary, his betrothed woman to be with child before they came together. He watched her carefully, and when he made sure that she was pregnant, a struggle broke out in his breast between rage and love. He became a prey of bitter suspicions. And when her pregnancy became uncovered, Joseph began to think of his lawful duties towards her. A godly Jew shall not marry a "harlot." He had to either expose her shame in public, which at that time of the Roman empire, would bring contempt but not death; or give her a certificate of divorce in private to enable her to marry the man she loved.

 

Never was any daughter of Eve so dignified as the Virgin Mary, and yet in danger of falling under the imputation of one of the worse crimes; yet we do not find that she tormented herself about it; but, being conscious of her own innocence, she remained at peace and committed her cause to "him that judges righteously".

 

Those who take care to keep a good conscience may cheerfully trust God with the keeping of their good names and have reason to hope that he will clear up not only their integrity but also their honor.

 

Joseph truly loved Mary, and prepared to separate from her privately, to make the blame fall upon him not upon her. This reflects his honesty and uprightness. We may well imagine how greatly troubled and disappointed he was to find the one he had trusted and valued could come under the suspicion of such a heinous crime. ďIs this Mary?Ē he began to think. ďHow can we be deceived by those we think best of? How can we be disappointed in what we expect most from!Ē He is afraid to believe so ill a thing of one whom he believed to be so good a woman and yet the matter, as it is too bad to be excused, is also too plain to be denied. A violent struggle raged in Josephís heart. On one hand he fought bitter jealousy, which is as cruel as the grave, and on the other, he battled the deep affection which he had for Mary! He avoided acting to either extreme. He was not willing to make her a public example, though according to the law, he could have done so: "If a young woman who is a virgin is betrothed to a husband, and a man finds her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones" (Deuteronomy 22:23-24). But he was not willing to take the advantage of the law and punish her, for the knowledge of her guilt was uncertain. How different was the spirit, which Joseph displayed from that of Judah, who in a similar case hastily passed severe judgment "Bring her forth and let her be burnt!" (Genesis 38:24). How good it is to think on things, as Joseph did here! Were there more deliberation in our censures and judgments, there would be more mercy and moderation in them.

 

Bringing her to punishment is expressed in the Gospel as "making her a public example", which shows the objective in punishment Ė the giving of warning to others.

 

This can teach us how to scold sinners, without words. "The words of the wise are heard in quiet" (Ecclesiastes 9:17). Christian love and Christian prudence will hide a multitude of sins.

 

Joseph did not despise Mary, but prayed for her knowing that no one could ever help her but God himself. When Joseph was at a loss, God sent an angel to him that called him by the noble name, ďSon of David." The angel put him in mind of his kingly relation and drove away every fear that he might not be afraid of God, nor of humans, nor of laws, since he and Mary were innocent.

 

The angel confirmed to Joseph that Mary was his legitimate wife according to the laws of betrothal. After this proclamation, the angel did not call Mary "Virgin", rather he clarified to Joseph that the fetus in her womb was of the Holy Spirit according to Godís holy will. God did not want the child, Jesus to be born of a woman suspected by her own husband to be a harlot. The angel urged Joseph to take Mary and embrace her as his wife and provide the protection of a legitimate family. The Lord extended his kind hand and blessed both Joseph and Mary.

 

The appearance of the angel in Josephís dream required Joseph to believe that God, contrary to the laws of nature, is giving birth to a child in Mary and that the child would be a true man as well as the true God.

 

God speaks to and gives instruction to those who he has prepared for good works; and he has prepared good works for all that belong to him. If you do not hear God, the reason is that you do not belong to him (John 8:47).

 

We also read in the Koran the story of Mary and her conception of Christ. We find a very unusual statement, "and we breathed into her out of our Spirit", which makes clear that Christ is a son who was not born of a human being nor resulted from a sexual relation, but is of the Spirit of God (Sura Al-Anbiya 21:91).

 

Prayer:

I worship you, God, Heavenly Father, because you did not reject me, but you came to me and put on my sin upon the body of your Son. I glorify you for your reaching the earth. I praise you for your presence with me and I rejoice in the birth of your Son who is of the Holy Spirit, coming through Virgin Mary. Come, Spirit of the Father, and dwell in me that I may be revived and live in your eternal life. Amen.

 

Question 17: Why did the angel order Joseph to embrace Mary?

 

1:21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." (See Luke 2:21)

 

The angel proclaimed to Joseph that Mary would bring forth a son not a daughter, and that Joseph had the privilege of giving him a name that was eternally designed by God. That was a clear order from God and carried out in faith by Joseph. Joseph trusted this divine name would be realized in its significance.

 

The name Jesus means "the Lord saves"; "the Lord delivers." It is not merely a name to call him by; it is a message about the truth of his person. He is not only the king of the people but he is God. A king can save the people from human enemies but only the Lord can them from their sins (Psalm 51:14). The eternal one is not an angry judge who wants to destroy us, but he seeks to save the lost through his son, the Lord Jesus. He has come to the sinners, and lived among us and asks that we draw near to him. Godís love for the sinners appears in the name "Jesus"; all the heavenly purposes are centered in this wonderful name. However, everyone does not experience the deliverance and help of God. Only his people experience it. A particular nation is not considered "the people of God." Every man has the privilege of belonging to God by repenting of his sins and trusting Jesus, the Savior. He who believes in Jesus shall be justified. You join the people of God immediately when you turn from sin and turn to Jesus. There is nothing, in heaven or on earth, more pleasant than the name of Jesus, which confirms to you that God, in person, cares for you and helps you.

 

What help does Jesus offer to his people? The salvation from sin! Whoever admits and confesses his sins and repents of all his unclean works is granted the great miracle of Jesusóthe Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He is the Almighty and is sitting in glory with his Father. In his eternity, he has the power to redeem us and pour out of his Spirit upon those who believe making them a new creation, fit for his kingdom. Jesus is the only Deliverer and Savior. There is no hope for men but in him. He can pardon your iniquities and he is able to save you to the uttermost. Open your heart to his kindness and thank him and praise him for his grace towards you.

 

Nothing is able to prevent Jesus, the Son of God, from redeeming those who believe in him and evil spirits are unable to take believers from his strong hand. Jesus brings the believers together like sheep in the fold. We testify to the truth of the angelís prophecy that God has saved many people from their sins through his son over the last two thousand years, and the number is still growing. Yet, are you redeemed; have you been saved from your sins? Did your heart break in repentance, compelling you to accepted his salvation and believe in him? Did the joy of redemption fill your heart and change your mind and attitude? Then go and call your brothers and sisters and all your acquaintances to participate in Jesusí salvation, for he is prepared to save whoever believes in him.

 

Prayer:

I worship you my Savior, Lord Jesus, because you were born to save me. You did not despise me, but loved me and wiped out my faults completely. Please teach me to believe in your power and your presence with me that I may become free from unrighteousness and be hallowed for your blessed name. Please draw my friends and enemies toward your salvation that they may not perish but have everlasting life.

 

Question 18:What is the meaning of the word "Jesus"?

 

1:22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: (23) "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call his name Immanuel" which is translated, "God with us".

 

The angel confirmed to Joseph that what was conceived in Mary was of the Holy Spirit. He also guided Joseph to the Old Testament prophecy that the Lord spoke 700 years ago through the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 7:14, 9:6). God wanted Joseph to understand that this miracle did not happen by chance but was designed long ago, being the substance of his salvation, and the summit of the history of the Jewish people.

 

The "promised one" was a Son born of a virgin. His name, Immanuel (in Hebrew), means "God with us." Through him God comes to dwell among his people. From the time sin entered into the world, the Creator separated himself from his creatures because he is greatly exalted and holy. In view of his glory and holiness, he must condemn sin; for God, in his nature, is an enemy of sin and no sinner can dwell in his presence. He will punish everyone who is not willing to repent and turn away from his evil doings.

 

The name "Immanuel" rises higher than our understanding. God incarnate among us, reconciling the world to himself, bringing peace and taking us into covenant and communion with himself. Before Christ's coming, the Jewish people had God with them in types and shadows, but never so much as when the "Word was made flesh." God dwelt among his people in his promised Immanuel, Jesus, instead of his symbolic dwelling between the cherubim.

 

What a blessed action taken by God to bring peace and correspondence between God and man. Two natures are brought together in the person of this Mediator, who is fit to become a referee, "to lay his hand upon us both" (Job 9:33), since he partakes of both the divine and the human natures. In this, we may see the deepest mystery and the richest mercy. In light of creation we see God as a powerful God far above us; in light of the law, we see him as a judging God producing fear in us; but in light of the gospel, we see him as a loving "Immanuel", God with us, walking among us in our nature, very close and very personal. Herein the Redeemer "commended his love".

 

He who does not repent is a deceiver. He deceives himself and deceives others, especially when his friends greet him, "God be with you." They should rather say, "God is against you", for Godís wrath is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness.

 

From the birth of Christ we learn that Godís holiness became united with his love and mercy. The child of the manger was born pure and without a spot to reconcile us to the holy God, taking away the inequities of people, and bearing the wrath of judgment that we deserve, defeating for all time the barrier that separates us from God. The justified and merciful Christ is the connecting link between God and us.

 

No religion and no people have the right to say, "God is with us" except those who accept Christ. In the person of Christ, God came and worked. Whoever cleaves unto him shall receive the Holy Spirit who leads all believers toward purity, truthfulness, and service. No man can ever say, "God is with us" except he that walks uprightly in his spirit, and experiences the indwelling of the person of God.

 

He who seeks after God becomes astonished at the simple message contained in the person of Jesus, "God with us." Keeping prayers, laws, holy days and songs of rituals does not bring you close to God unless you are abiding in the Mediator whom God has sent. We do not deserve his coming to us, yet a virgin bearing a son, calling him Immanuel, was God's plan from long ago.

 

Prayer:

I worship you, Holy God, because you are love. Please do not despise me nor destroy me, but have mercy upon me. You came humbly to me in a stable, took my sin, and cleansed me from all unrighteousness. Thank you that you promised never to leave me or forsake me.

 

Question 19: What is the meaning of "Immanuel"? And why is Christ worthy of that name?

 

1:24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, (25) and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called his name Jesus. (See Luke 2:1-20)

 

Joseph believed the words of the angel and without delay, took his beloved bride, avoiding the suspicions of his mind and relying on the divine vision. By this step of faith, he became worthy of being entered into the series of the ideal heroes of faith.

 

Joseph obeyed the command of the angel, though it was contrary to his former judgement and intention. He took his wife without dispute, being obedient to the heavenly vision. It is not the norm to receive extraordinary directions like these, but God still makes known his direction through the Holy Spirit. Through prayer and his Holy Word, by hints of providence, debates of conscience, and through advice of godly followers of Jesus. In each of these, the general rules of the written word must always apply. In all steps of our life, particularly the great crossroads such as this of Josephís, we need to take direction from God.

 

Mary did not speak about the divine proclamation and her strange situation. She prayed and believed and trusted God who was responsible for her. The Lord listened to the moaning of her trust and offered a glorious response to the struggle of her heart. Joseph accepted her with full respect and kept her a virgin until she gave birth to the Son of God, the highly favored one.

 

Matthew wrote in brief how Jesus was born. The public did not consider the greatest event in human history unimportant, though it happened without noise and without propaganda. He was born in a stable. All the powers and qualities of God were hidden in this grand event expect one. The multitude of angels rejoiced because the Creator and the creatures were united. All the devils gnashed their teeth at him because the Triumphant had come to take the spoil from their claws and condemn them.

 

Joseph saw in the birth of the first-born Son a fulfillment of the promise of the angel, and he called the newborn, "Jesus." He was obedient to Godís direction, contrary to the customs followed by his family.

 

With the birth of Jesus, a new era began. Since then the world did not sink under the nightmare of the law, the unavoidable judgment and the wrath of God. The age of grace began, and God came to men to save them and to sanctify them apart from the works of the law and the striving of man. We received God's abundant grace. Did you know that since the coming of Jesus, all the statutes of the world religions including their conditions, rituals, provisions and laws were made null and void because God sent his help to men freely?

 

Prayer:

I glorify you and praise you Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the one God, for the great redemption you have made. I worship you and your Son in the spirit of your love. I rejoice because you came to me in my impurity. Please open the eyes of the people in my surroundings, that they may see your grace, your kindness, your compassion, and your presence in our Lord, the person of Jesus Christ.

 

Question 20: How did Joseph, the father of Jesus by adoption, become one of the heroes of faith?

 

Visit and worship of the Magi (2:1-11)

 

2:1 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, (2) saying, "Where is he who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East and have come to worship him." (See Numbers 24:17)

 

It was a mark of humiliation put upon the Lord Jesus that, though he was the "desire of all nations", his coming into the world was little observed and taken notice of; his birth was obscure and not regarded. He emptied himself, and made himself of no reputation. If the Son of God must be brought into the world, one must justly expect that he should be received with all the ceremony, glorification and respect possible. Crowns and scepters should immediately have been laid at his feet, and the kings and princes of the world should have been his humble servants. The Jew expected a Messiah such as this but we see little of this. He "came into the world, and the world did not know him" and "he came to his own, and his own did not receive him" (John 1:9-11).

 

Beginning from the captivity of the Jews into Mesopotamia in 587 BC, the knowledge of God and the prophecy about the sending of the Son of David into the world to make peace reached the nations of the east. Those nations did not forget the character of Daniel, the talented prophet, who had served long under the ruling of Nebuchadnezzar and his successors, and who had an effective impression on the destiny of this nation.

 

Some Jews might have studied the secrets of the universe at the astrological school near Babylon at the hands of the Chaldaeans. They watched how Saturn began to get close to Jupiter. On May, 29 of the year 7 BC, the two planets appeared as one big star in the constellation of Pisces; and whereas those astrologers believed that this constellation indicated the middle land, that Saturn symbolized the protection of the Jews, and that Jupiter was the star of the kings. Therefore they watched these planets, believing at that moment Christ, the king of the Jews and Lord of the universe, was born.

 

The astrologers came from the east into Jerusalem, in further quest of the king of the Jews. They traveled to Jerusalem because it was the mother-city. They might have said, "If such a king be born, we shall hear of him shortly in our own country, and it will be time enough then to pay our homage to him." But so impatient were they to be better acquainted with him, that they took a long journey on purpose to inquire after him.

 

We can learn from the wise men that those who truly desire to know Christ, will not regard pains or perils in seeking after him. When we follow through to know the Lord, we shall certainly find him and know him.

 

The astrologers of the Jews could compute beforehand that the conjunction of those two planets, the biggest planets of our solar system, would take place twice during that year and that both planets would appear as a shining star. They often talked about this unique event and they decided to send a mission from their astrological school to Jerusalem to be there at the time of the second conjunction of both planets on the 3rd of October, and also to stay there at the time of the third conjunction on the 3rd of December, 7 BC. The mission would check and watch where and how the new king of the Jews would be born. Those travelers did not fear the trouble of traveling in hot summer. They set out from the Euphrates to Syria alongside with the rivers Orontes and Litany to the south until they arrived at Jordan. Then they climbed the top of the Jewish desert, where Jerusalem crowns the heads of the mountains, to watch the king who would change the world.

 

The wise men did not ask whether there was such a king born since they were sure of that, speaking so strongly of it with assurance in their hearts that they asked, "Where is he born?"

 

They thought everyone would have a ready answer to their question, expecting to find all Jerusalem worshipping at the feet of this new king. They went from door to door with this question, and no man could give them the answer. Perhaps more than we are aware of, the same gross ignorance exists in the world, and even in some churches, today. Many that we think should direct us to Christ are themselves strangers to him.

 

The birth announcement of Christ was delivered to the Jewish shepherds by an angel and to the Gentile philosophers by a star. God spoke to the shepherds in their own language and to the Gentiles in a way they were best acquainted with. God's way of communicating is not limited.

 

Prayer:

O Mighty God, I thank you because you are Lord of the stars and the sun. You created the worlds and they are yours. You speak to pagans in dreams and visions and you gave the world your incarnate word that we might know your will. Please create in me the same longing to see your Son that was found in the wise men who did not grow weary for the sake of meeting him.

 

Question 21: When did the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter take place for the first time during that period?

 

2:3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. (4) And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

 

The king and all the people of Jerusalem were disturbed when they heard about the birth of their Christ. God had done his work without their knowledge, and then employed foreign men to communicate the news to them. Herod gathered the current chief priest, all the former chief priests, and the chiefs of the twenty-four classes of priests (1 Chronicles 24:1-19; 2 Chronicles 23:8; compare Luke 1:8), as well the scribes of the people. Although the priests and scribes knew their books word by word, they did not know the one whom the books gave testimony about. They immediately gave an answer to the kingís query about the place where Christ should be born, but they did not know the one who was born. They showed others how to go to him but they themselves did not go. This is comparable to us when we teach others the word of God without observing it ourselves.

 

Herod could not have been a stranger to the prophecies of the Old Testament, concerning the Messiah and his kingdom, and the time fixed for his appearing by Danielís prophecy of "weeks." Having reigned so long and so successfully, surely Herod began to hope that the promises would forever fail, and that his kingdom would be perpetuated in spite of prophecy. Carnal wicked hearts dread nothing so much as the fulfilling of the scriptures.

 

Herod and all Jerusalem were troubled from a mistaken notion that the kingdom of the Messiah would clash and interfere with the secular powers, whereas the angel who proclaimed the good news plainly revealed that his kingdom was heavenly, and not of this world. For this same reason, leaders of the world and multitudes of people today oppose the kingdom of Christ because they do not understand it, but err concerning it.

 

When the caravan of the Magi arrived at Jerusalem, a tyrant called Herod the Great, who was not Jewish, governed the city. He was Edomic, a descendant of Esau, the rough hunter. With Roman help he took Jerusalem in 37 BC, and shed a lot of blood. He was a cunning, adulterous, murderer. He killed his son and wife in an attempt to get rid of everyone who desired his throne.

 

To this wicked king the wise men came from the east inquiring, "Where is he who has been born King of the Jews? We have an evidence that he was newly born, since Saturn and Jupiter were conjunct in Pisces and we have seen this conjunction clearly in the east." The news fell like a thunderbolt into the palace of the king and shook the whole capital. The people became fearful of house searches and the pressure techniques they might have to endure. They knew that the king would shed more blood to secure his throne.

 

The cunning Herod immediately understood the meaning of this strange proclamation that did not concern any one else except the promised Messiah of God. So he prepared himself to struggle against God and his Son and called the supreme Jewish Council to meet in his palace.

 

This council was composed of 72 members of chief priests, scribes, and elders. Those people had charge of legal decisions, religious interpretive judgments, and final trials. They all knew in detail what the Old Testament had declared, particularly the prophecies about Christ. They talked about what was written in Isaiah. They began with, "The people who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined" (Isaiah 9:2).† They moved into the second prophecy of Isaiah, "For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder. And his name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6). Then they got to Godís message to the captives, "Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the Lord will arise over you, and his glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising" (Isaiah 60:1-3).

 

But King Herod was not willing to know the characteristics, nor the works, nor the peace of the newborn Christ. Out of hatred and spite, he wanted to know the place of his birth that he might arrest him at once and destroy him without mercy.

 

If only you were compelled by the spirit to meditate on the Old Testament Scriptures, you would find 333 promises of God pointing to Jesus Christ. A comparative study of them with the biography of Christ in the New Testament would reveal that the birth of Christ, as well as his works, his death, his resurrection and his ascension did not happen by chance, but were written beforehand in details.

 

Prayer:

O Lord Jesus, you were born and the world hated you from your birth. They did not recognize your love and your divinity. They were afraid of you. But I love you and I commit myself to you thanking you because you came to our world and defeated rejection, hatred, and enmity. Please reveal yourself unto those who thirst for you.

 

Question 22: Who is Herod? And what is the supreme Jewish Council?

 

2:5 So they said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: (6) But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel." (Micah 5:2)

 

King Herod heard the legal opinion about the birthplace of Jesus and of his work in the future. The educated among the Jews knew that Christ would be born in Bethlehem, the city of David of Judea. One thousand years ago, the Lord gave King David a unique promise that one of his sons will live forever (God being his real father), and that his kingdom will have no end. Prophet Micah confirmed this prophecy given to David, with another divine proclamation in which God revealed that Christ did not go forth from heaven for the first time as a child in Bethlehem, but he had many goings forth from eternity past (Micah 5:2). Christ eternally existed and his ability to rule, and his heavenly kingdom, will never end. How astonishing!

 

The chief priests and scribes kept silent before Herod about the last part of the prophecy, because they pinned hopes on the ground that the Messiah would free them of the Roman nightmare and the tyranny of Herod. They said, "Yes, a king will be born, who will unify the divided tribes of Israel, and rule over them just as the most high rules."

 

Bethlehem is a little town among the hills about six km southwest of Jerusalem. It was not fertile since the limestone, which is found at the bottom of the soil, is not conducive to store water, therefore the topsoil was dry. It was called Bethlehem of Judea to distinguish it from another town of the same name in the land of Zebulun (Joshua 19:15). Bethlehem in Hebrew signifies the "house of bread." This was a fittest place for his birth since he is the true manna, "the bread which came down from heaven", and was "given for the life of the world." He who comes to him shall never hunger, and he who believes in him shall never thirst (John 6:35).

 

Observe here how Jews and Gentiles compare notes about Jesus Christ. The Gentiles know the time of his birth by a star, the Jews know the place of it by the scriptures; and so they are capable of informing one another.

 

Are you satisfied with the bread of God? Does the Lord dwell in you and is your heart a manger for him?

 

Prayer:

I thank you Lord Jesus Christ because you satisfy my hunger for true life and my thirst for righteousness. You have proclaimed to me the essence of the love of God. That is why I love you and thank you and pray to you for steadfastness in your everlasting life. Please animate me that I may praise you and glorify you forever.

 

Question 23: What are the most important ideas in the prophecy of Micah?

 

2:7 Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. (8) And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search carefully for the young child, and when you have found him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship him also." (9) When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the east went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. (10) When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.

 

King Herod and the supreme Jewish council closed their hearts against the call of God. They neither repented of their sins nor believed the wise men. So Herod called the visitors from the East to a secret meeting and inquired the exact time the star had appeared in order to learn the time when Christ was born. He had already learned from the priests and scribes where he was born. He cunningly sent the wise men to Bethlehem to search for the royal child among the numerous children of the town with intent to kill him.

 

Herod pretended before the wise men that he would follow them to worship the divine child. All this might look suspicious, if he had not covered it with a show of religion: "that I may come and worship him also." The greatest wickedness often conceals itself under the mask of religion and piety.

 

Most likely, neither Herod nor the scribes, nor anyone in Jerusalem believed the story of the wise men. The Jews and Romans considered their sayings a legend and mocked the wise men of the east. The chief priests did not believe that God might send Christ without informing them since they considered themselves just men and other nations unclean. The thought that God might disclose his secrets to strangers was contrary to their perception.

 

In any case, Herod asked the wise men to bring back word to him upon finding the child. Had Herod been wise, he would have chosen someone loyal to him to do his bidding. Bethlehem being so close to Jerusalem, he could easily have sent spies to watch the wise men, and even destroy the child when they found him.

 

God can blind the eyes of enemies of the church from seeing methods they might easily use to destroy the church; just as he can "make the judges fools" and "lead princes away spoiled" (Job 12:17, 19).

 

While the chiefs of the Jews at first closed their hearts against Christ, the wise men observed on the fourth day of December 7 BC, for the third time, the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter. How astonishing! This time, their conjunction happened in the south not in the east. They were already traveling from east to west but they changed their direction towards Bethlehem, which is located about six km to the southwest of Jerusalem. The star, as it apparently seemed, was going ahead of them.

 

The wise men came from a far country to worship the newborn child while the Jews, his kinsmen, would not go to the next town to bid him welcome. It might have been a discouragement to these wise men to find him whom they sought so neglected at home. Yet the wise men persisted in their resolution. We must continue in our coming unto Christ. Though we may be alone, we must serve the Lord no matter what others do. If they will not go to heaven with us, we must not go to hell with them.

 

If we serve the Lord in every area he directs us, God will enable us to do that which we cannot do; "Arise and be doing, and the Lord will be with you" (1 Chronicles 22:16). A Latin proverb says, "The law affords its aid, not to the idle, but to the active."

 

The star had left them for some time and then returned. Those who hold fast to God in the dark will find that light is always reserved to illuminate their path. God led Israel by a pillar of fire to "the promised land", and he led the wise men by a star to "the promised Seed", who is himself "the Bright and Morning Star" (Revelation 22:16). God would rather "create a new thing" than leave those at a loss who diligently and faithfully seek him.

 

God did not abstain from giving the believers a sign from the Gentiles. Although the wise men were not scribes and knew not the scriptures, they took a long journey to see the King of Kings and to seek his blessing. They were filled with unspeakable joy when they saw, for the third time, the conjunction of the two planets in the sky. Until now, great joy fills all those who seek God and search for him with all their hearts. They worship him and delight in him.

 

We must recognize these days that the Lord gives some non-Christians dreams and visions to attract them to Christ, to his words and to his church. They seek and find the truth they were introduced to in the person of Jesus. Unfortunately many educated Christians do not believe that Jesus was born of God. They mock his resurrection and they consequently lose the eternal treasure deposited in their hands. Which one of those parties do you follow? Do you seek God with all your heart aiming at nothing else but him? Is he your treasure? Or you wish for earthly presents? Leave everything and seek Jesus and his light since he is the only hope for our worried world. He was born for your sake. Christ is your greatest present. Will you present yourself to him without any reservation?

 

Now that Christ, the Sun of righteousness is born, we do not need to observe the stars and planets any longer to learn and discover the secrets of the future. Christ satisfies, secures and guides us; whoever relies on stars, astrology, or palmistry to foresee the invisible denies Christ and remains a distant shadow.

 

Prayer:

I love you Lord Jesus, because you became a man, and you made me a child of God. I am, in reality, corrupt. You are my Savior and Shepherd, my Power and my King. I give my life to you that I may be worthy, by your glorious grace, to be one of your children.

 

Question 24: Why were the wise men filled with great joy?

 

2:11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down and worshiped him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Psalm 72:10, 15; Isaiah 60:6)

 

When the wise men arrived at Bethlehem guided by the star, they asked the people of the village about the newborn child of the family of David. Then some of the people remembered the story of the shepherd who said a few months ago that the angels appeared to them and sang upon the hills of Beth-Zur declaring that the child lying in the manger is the Lord himself, the unique Savior and Christ. The people of the village did not believe the story of the shepherds. They laughed at them, thinking they were imagining things.

 

After the dispersal of the crowds from the Roman census, Joseph rented a house. The wise men were certain of the proof of God and searched until they found the child and his mother in their newly rented house. There, the scientists of the orient confessed their faith and worshiped the one whom they believed in. The word "worship" signifies the complete giving up of oneself, and the submission and yielding of the heart. Slaves in the past demonstrated worship by coming near to their sultans and fall on all fours with their foreheads touching the ground, as if they were saying, "Please put your foot on my head. I am yours. Treat me as you wish. I am at your disposal." The bowing down of the wise men signifies that some nations recognized that Jesus is the Lord of the universe and they surrendered to him, whereas the Jews stood aside silent and opposed him from the beginning of his appearance. Matthew made manifest from the beginning of his Gospel that the promised blessing for Abraham and his seed shall pour out upon all the nations who believe in Jesus Christ the Son of God.

 

If you draw near to the Lord of Lords and believe in him, you will experience that worship of Christ is not an act originating from yourself alone. Rivers of kindness, charity, power, forgiveness and peace flow from the Lord of love into hearts surrendered to him. Though the wise men brought presents to the child, they were the ones who received the greatest gift of all; God had given them his Son. We do not read that they gave such devotion, worship and respect to Herod, though he was in the height of his royal grandeur. But to this baby they gave honor, not only as to a king (then they would have done the same to Herod), but as to God.

 

When we present ourselves in worship to God, we must give up all that we have to Christ. If we are sincere in the surrender of ourselves to him, we shall be willing to part with our dearest and most valuable possessions for him. Our gifts are not accepted, unless we first present ourselves to him as a living sacrifice. "God had respect to Abel, and then to his offering" (Genesis 4:4). Have you really presented yourself as a gift, in faith?

 

The fathers of the church interpreted the Magiís three kinds of gifts as attributes that relate to the merits of Christ. They offered him gold, as a king, paying tribute to his divine glory and his power (Exodus 25:17 with Hebrews 9:5); frankincense, as an indication of Christ's passion and death on the cross Ė the sacrificial lamb of God for our sin (compare Psalm 69:20-21; Matthew 27:33-35 with John 19:28-30, 39); and myrrh, symbolizing Christs human perfection as well as the saint's prayers going up to God through Christ (compare Leviticus 2:1 with Ephesians 5:2; 2 Corinthians 2:15). By these gifts the nations testified that Jesus is the King of Kings, and the High Priest, and that he is of divine nature, but the people of Jerusalem and Bethlehem did not recognize God dwelling in the flesh.

 

Have you softened your heart that you may have eyes to see? Do you worship Jesus, your Lord and God, and are you willingly giving him your heart, your money and your time? Christ was born, bringing God's salvation into our wicked world. He who loves him will abide with him, and the power of his Holy Spirit will dwell in him. Are you indeed a worshiper of Jesus, or are you still neutral?

 

Prayer:

I worship you holy divine Son, because you came to save me. You love every man and you love me too. I confess my iniquities before you; I cannot offer you any good thing as a present; so please accept me and save me. Cleanse me and sanctify me, that I may become worthy of presenting myself to you. I do not deserve to be called your son. But you hurry to me, raise me up and love me. You cloth me in your righteousness and you bring me into the joy of salvation. You are my Lord and my God. I am yours. Please make my life an offering for your glorious grace. Amen.

 

Question 25: What is the meaning of worship?

 

Herodís attempt to kill Jesus (2:12-23)

 

2:12 Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way. (13) New when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, "Arise, take the young child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him." (14) When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt, (15) and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet saying, "Out of Egypt I called my Son." (Hosea 11:1)

 

God foiled Herod's scheme as he trusted in the wise men to find the child. Satan wants to destroy Christ and those who follow him, but God protected the chosen child until he completed his mission on the cross. No one can ever counteract or delay the saving will of God since he protects his messengers to the utmost. God warned the wise men in a dream that they should not return to wicked Herod. Most likely they all dreamed the same dream at the same time. Recognizing the hand of the Lord that worked in them, they went away in private to the Valley of Jordan. Those spiritually related to Christ through faith have the communion and correspondence with heaven which before they were strangers to.

 

Joseph was not comfortable. The wise menís visit and the gifts confused him. Before he went to sleep he prayed the Lord might instruct him what to do. In his sleep the Most High warned him, through his glorious angel, of the danger that was waiting for the child and all the family because Herod would seek the young king to destroy him. God was aware of the tyrant's scheme, and Joseph was warned to flee to Egypt.

 

Joseph obeyed his Lord for the second time. Like Joseph, we should obey God with more faith than we obey men or their organizations. After the dream, in the middle of the night, he got up and woke the mother, and they took the child and fled amidst the darkness to Hebron. From there they moved toward the south through the desert to Egypt. Evangelist Matthew tells us nothing about the inconveniences or the perils they met in their long journey. We don't know if they had supplies, were well prepared nor whether they walked or rode. He only testified that the counsel of God is always true. It gradually comes into effect without hindrance.

 

Verse 14 says, "he (Joseph) took the young child and his mother." Some observe that the young child is mentioned first as the principal person, and Mary is called, not the "wife of Joseph", but "the mother of the young child" which was her greater honor. This was not the first Joseph that was driven from Canaan to Egypt for a shelter from angry brethren. So they find themselves in Egypt, in the midst of idolaters and a great distance from the temple of the Lord. Though they were far from the temple of the Lord, they had with them the Lord of the temple who "desires mercy, and not sacrifice" (Hosea 6:6). Children of God may be absent from fellowship with Godís people and live in the presence of wicked people, but this is not sin; the sin is to follow the worship of the wicked.

 

It is not an unthinkable thing for Godís sons to be in Egypt, a strange land and a house of bondage. God will bring him out. The family may hide in Egypt, but God will not leave them there. All of God's elect, being children of wrath by nature, are born in a spiritual Egypt, and in conversion are called out from Egypt to freedom.

 

Godís providence for the newborn child appeared in the gold presented by the wise men. It was Godís financing of the journey. The Lord always cares for his sons and satisfies their needs in due time.

 

Jesus stayed with his family in Egypt until the death of Herod in 4 BC. This historical determination shows us for the second time that Jesus was born before the date mentioned in the monk Dionysius chronology. Today, we know that Christ was born 7-8 years before the date assumed by that chronology.

 

Just as God called Jacob's descendants out of Egypt, he called his Son out of Egypt to go back to his original land. This verse in the Gospel of Matthew is the first time Jesus is called, "the Son of God." This testimony indicates the courage of the evangelist, for the Jews considered this title blasphemy, which deserved stoning. Christís sonship of God does not mean boasting and mastery. Remember, he was from the beginning a refugee, rejected and persecuted by the worlds ruling powers.

 

In his childhood, he experienced that frankincense (glorification) is accompanied by myrrh (suffering). However, his heavenly Father looked after him and sent him the necessary gold to enable him to live as a stranger in Egypt.

 

Prayer:

I worship you my Father for kings and leaders can never succeed in opposing you. You know the secrets of menís hearts. Please search me and know me and heal me that I may not be an enemy of your Son, but trust in him. O Lord, please keep me under your protection, whenever I am subjected to persecution, rejection and hatred because of my love for your beloved Son.

 

Question 26: How did God save the child, Jesus, and his parents from the hand of Herod?

 

2:16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. (17) Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: (18) "A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they are no more." (Jeremiah 31:15; Genesis 35:19)

 

Herod thought that the wise men feared him and honored him and would return to him directly after visiting the newborn child. When he saw that they ignored him he became exceedingly angry. They did not return to tell him who Christ was nor where he lived. He was outraged as he had frequently been in his past.

 

Herod was an Edomite and enmity toward Israel was bred in his bones. Little children have always been taken under the special protection of human laws as well as human nature, but these were sacrificed to the rage of this tyrant. Herod was then about seventy years old, so a child under two years old would not likely ever threaten his reign. Under Nero, Herod's authority, innocence was no guarantee for security. Throughout his reign, Herod was a bloody man. Not long before this massacre, he destroyed the whole Sanhedrin. Neither was he fond of his own children or their advancement, having formerly slain two of his sons, Alexander and Aristobulus, and later, his son Antipater just five days before he himself died. It was purely to gratify his own brutish lusts of pride and cruelty that he did this. Blood to the bloodthirsty is like water to those with dropsy; the more they get, the more they desire.

 

Macrobius, a heathen historian, states that when Augustus Caesar heard Herod killed his own son among the boys two years old and under that he ordered to be slain, he spoke this jest upon himóthat "it was better to be Herodís swine than his son." The custom of the region forbade him to slay a swine, but nothing could restrain him from slaying his son.

 

Some believe this grief of the Bethlehemites to be a judgment upon them for their contempt of Christ. They that would not rejoice at the birth of the Son of God, are justly made to weep for the death of their own sons. All we read about the Bethlehemites is that they only "wondered" at the tidings the shepherds brought them, but did not "welcome" them.

 

In verse 18, Matthew sites a prophecy from Jeremiah 31:15 which, during Jeremiah's time, applied to his people being taken captive and exiled to Babylon. Notice in verse 17 that Matthew introduces the prophecy, this time referring to the slaughter of innocent children in Bethlehem, not by saying, "to fulfill" but "was fulfilled." The difference between the two phrases is of great importance. If scripture says an incident was "to fulfill" what was spoken in a prophecy, it means that the incident is the sole objective of the said prophecy; but if scripture says "was fulfilled" what was spoken in a prophecy, as Matthew did, it means the incident is not the sole objective, but that the prophecy applies to more than one incident.

 

Jeremiah depicts Rachel, Jacobís beloved wife who was buried near Bethlehem (Genesis 35:19), as a figure weeping from her grave, asking about her children or descendants, and when she did not find them, she refused to be comforted for they were not in their land but were scattered because of the oppression of their enemies. God revealed to Matthew the fulfillment of this prophecy when the true heir, Christ, fled the oppression and the enemy King Herod, put to death Rachel's descendants, all boys two years old and under.

 

The strange thing is that the Bethlehemites did not believe the news of the shepherds and wise men and took no interest in the child Jesus. They did not come to worship him. Because they did not believe, in spite of the remarkable testimonies, Godís strong hand fell upon them by allowing the murder of their children.

 

This prophecy of lamentation and sad providence might serve to invite an objection which some would make against Christ. These objectors may ask, "Can the Messiah, who is to be the Consolation of Israel, be introduced with all this lamentation?" Yes, it was foretold and the scripture must be accomplished. Although, if we look at the following verses of this prophecy, we find further fulfillment when "the bitter weeping" in Ramah will end and Rachel will be comforted when, "Thy work shall be rewarded . . . and there is hope in thine end" (Jeremiah 31:16-17). Unto them the Messiah was born, sufficient to repair their losses.

 

Godís judgment on Bethlehem was the plague of love from their Lord that they might turn to God, repent, and believe in the Christ child, Jesus.

 

Thus it becomes clear that Matthew takes up the subject of comparing the Lord Jesus in his childhood with the Jews in the beginning of their formation as a nation. Jesus will come out of Egypt as they did; but Christ came to succeed where the Jewish nation formerly failed due to their lack of faith. The Evangelist Matthew ends his presentation of the events of Christís childhood, emphasizing again the global orientation of Christ. He refers to Nazareth, his first residence, which was located in Galilee on an international line. It was full of Gentiles and commercial activity that was often accompanied with expressions of immorality and idolatry. Consequently, the land of Judea looked with contempt at those from Galilee in general, and at those from Nazareth in particular, that the Scripture may be fulfilled: "they despised him."

 

 

 

Prayer:

O Holy God, you are just and you do not punish without a reason. I deserve to be cut off for I have neglected your greatness, despised the poor, and did not consider your prophecies. Have mercy upon me and upon my nation because our sins are known in heaven. Create in us sorrow for our lawless deeds. Guide us into the knowledge of our wickedness. Lead us into repentance and change of mind. Open our eyes to the propitiation of Christ, and fill us with your love, that we may be delivered from your revealed and coming judgment

.

Question 27: What is the last goal of Godís punishments?

 

2:19 Now when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, (20) saying, "Arise, take the young child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young childís life are dead." (21) Then he arose, took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. (Luke 2:39; John 1:46)

 

God did not want Jesus to grow up in the Egyptian culture for a long time, so he directed Joseph through a third revelation in a dream to go back home. They were not to return to Bethlehem and not to the Jewish kingdom, but to the northern land of Israel, so that Jesusí education might primarily take its roots from the Hebrew and Aramaic languages and from the principles of the Old Testament.

 

In all we do, it is good to see our way clear and plain with God going before us. We should not move one way or the other without his order.

 

The hand of God took Herod's life. Though kings, prophets and shepherds die, God, his Son Jesus and the spiritual body of Christ, which signifies his true followers, endure forever. If you are a true follower of Jesus and you fall into distress, be secure because he who believes in Jesus, the Living Lord, has eternal life.

 

2:22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee. (23) And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, "He shall be called a Nazarene."

 

When Herod the great died in 4 BC from an inexpressible torture, he decided in his will that each one of his three sons inherit a part of his kingdom; so Archelaus inherited Jerusalem and its territories, Antipas inherited Galilee and Pereas, and Philip inherited Gaulonitis, Trachonitis and Paneas. Archelaus who succeeded his father in Jerusalem was a tyrant like his father. He once ordered his soldiers to slay three thousand pilgrims in the streets of Jerusalem, all at one time. Because of his rudeness and savageness, Julius Caesar removed him from office in 3 AD and banished him to France. Caesar delivered his region to Pontius Pilate, the governor, who sentenced Christ to death on the cross. Therefore whenever we read in the New Testament about Herod, we must conclude that the evangelists refer to Antipas, the king of Galilee and southern Jordan.

 

It goes without saying, that Joseph was frightened by the news of the savageness of Archelaus in Jerusalem, and wondered whether Godís order to go back home was wrong. But the man of faith prayed in his worry, and the Lord answered him in a fourth revelation and ordered him to go to Galilee. There Joseph chose the city of Nazareth as a residence, because Mary had lived there. This small inelegant, non-majestic city is not mentioned in the whole Old Testament but became the earthly home of Jesus. This is true to prophecy that he would have no worldly majesty that we should be attracted to him, not even the region he grew up in (Isaiah 53:2).

 

Upon mentioning this city, another Hebrew word crossed Matthewís mind, "Netzar", which signifies the rod which will come forth out of the stem of Jesse and will grow as a branch out of his roots (Isaiah 11:1, 2). In this prophecy was mentioned the fullness of the Holy Spirit who dwells in Jesus who is the "Netzar." Thus, Jesus, being called from "Nazareth", is declared to be that "Netzar", i.e. that branch.

 

Pilate summarized the most important meaning related to the city of Nazareth in the title he wrote and put on the cross: "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." (John 19:19).

 

Prayer:

I worship you, Gracious Heavenly Father, because you instructed Joseph four times through dreams, declared to him your will, and supported him with power to obey your direction by faith. You protected your Son entirely when he was young; so protect me too. Create in me the desire to obey your guidance that I may joyfully respond to the voice of your Holy Spirit.

 

 

Question 28: What were the three things revealed to Joseph? And where were they mentioned in the Gospels?

 

 

 

 

 

 

2-     John the Baptist prepares the way of Christ (3:1, 4:11)

The call to repentance (3:1-12)

 

3:1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, (2) and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" (Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:1-8; Luke 3:1-18)

 

John the Baptist, son of Zacharias, spent time contemplating in the wilderness where God revealed to him exciting plans for God's kingdom. God sent him to the Jews to cultivate their hearts, change their thinking, and prepare the way of the soon coming Christ.

 

A bath was required for every Gentile who wanted to become a Jew, according to the Jewish law. Plunging oneself into the river and coming up out of the water was symbolic of death and then a new life of godliness being reconciled to God.

 

The interesting thing about John's baptizing is that he did not practice it on the unclean Gentiles, but directed it to the godly Jews. He preached in the wilderness where the sin bearing goat was sent out (Leviticus 16:22), which was considered the residence of Satan. The godly Jews had to guard against deceiving themselves, for every man is evil from his youth (Genesis 8:21) and is in need of sincere repentance. God is still working through his word and his Holy Spirit to bring all mankind to repentance and renew their minds to the will of God. This work of God does not nullify manís duty with regard to repentance. The Lord is not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance, but every person must respond to his drawing.

 

John's call to baptism with water contained more meaning than his demands to put away selfishness and to bear good fruit. True repentance is far more than human efforts; it is a heartfelt cry to the Lord that results in a cleansing of the soul, a radical change in the depths of the heart, and a renewal of ones intents. He who thinks works of repentance is God's whole plan for man makes a mistake thinking that man alone is able to reform his own conduct to the glory of God. John was preparing the way for God's salvation, which renews the man enabling and driving him to do good deeds that glorify God.

 

John planted in men the knowledge that they were sinners. He invited them to confess their sins, to abstain from them, and to hate themóto reject their old way of living, and deny themselvesónot to believe in human godliness, and not to trust to their own works for justification. John does more than call you to reform your conduct; he calls you to be baptized. No man has hope unless he dies to sin. He remains corrupt and unclean until he throws himself into the river of Godís love and holiness and allows God to cleanse and renew him.

 

While John was isolated in the wilderness, God proclaimed to him the mystery of the coming of the kingdom of heavens. He knew that God would begin a new age, overcoming sin and corruption. He also observed that the Lord himself wanted to come in his Christ to renew unclean hearts through the coming of the Holy Spirit upon them. From here he preached that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. This expected coming of the kingdom of heaven became the reason for his call to repentance.

 

The heart of Johnís message is not the calling to repentance. It is rather the good news about the coming of God and the establishment of his kingdom on earth. For this purpose, the Baptist asked every man to be prepared to receive the Lord.

 

Prayer:

O Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof, because my thoughts are unclean, my words are deceit, and my works are evil. Do not banish me from your presence; do not take your Holy Spirit away from me. Create in me the acceptable repentance that I may observe your glory, and know that I am walking in your light. You are my measure and compared to you, I see clearly that I am a sinner. In your mercy I trust, and for your grace I hope.

 

Question 29: What is acceptable repentance?

 

3:3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord; Make his paths straight." (4) Now John himself was clothed in camelís hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. (5) Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him (6) and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins. (Isaiah 40:3; John 1:23)

 

John is like a messenger running into his isolated town calling upon all the people, "The King is coming to visit our village. Clean the road, decorate the houses, and put on the full dress." And when the elders of the town met, they saw that the public road on which the king would enter was rough and not passable. So they asked the caller to go back to his king and beg him to send laborers to remove the stones and obstructions that would prevent his coming and to prepare the way before him. They had to ask the king himself to prepare the way to them because they cannot do it.

 

John the Baptist was the "voice of one crying in the wilderness" (John 1:23), but it was God who gave the words. The scripture must be received for what it really isóthe word of God (1 Thessalonians 2:13). John is called the "voice", the voice of one crying aloud, which is startling and awakening. Christ is called "the Word," which, being distinct and articulate is more instructive. John as the "voice", roused men, and then Christ, as the "Word", taught them.

 

In the Old Testament story of Samson, Samsonís mother was about to conceive and the angel of the Lord commanded her not to drink "strong drink", yet her son, Samson, was ordained to be a "strong man".† In like manner John the Baptistís father was silenced and unable to speak for a time, yet his son was ordained to be the "voice of one crying." When the crierís voice is begotten of a father who is unable to speak, it shows the "excellency of the power to be of God, and not of man".

 

John's cry was a spiritual call to all peopleónot to be wholly engaged in the worries and occupations of life, but to think of God and turn from sin, making their ways straight in society so that the glory of God may reach them.

 

His speech was not merely reverberating words and phrases. He lived in conformity with what he said and preached. He dressed like other prophets and lived in the wilderness, separated from the people, testifying to their need for God and calling for repentance. He ate locusts, which were available to him in the wilderness and were allowed as clean according to the Mosaic Law (Leviticus 11:22). He did not wear soft clothing as the courtiers, but like the nomads he was clothed in camelís hair that was as rough as sandpaper. John the Baptist did without rich food to prove that food, drink and comfort were not important, but he spoke boldly of what is of great importantóour relationship with God. So how is your relation with your Lord? What are your sins that prevent his response to you? Do you remember your lies, your revenge on your opponents and your impurities? Your sins have separated from your Lord. Your educational degrees and good report will not save you from his judgment. How is your conscience? Be reconciled to God through the death of his Son.

 

The words of the Baptist shook the people of Judea. They raced to see him and hear him preach. There the repentant kneeled, bowed their heads and were baptized by him in the Jordan River. They were ashamed of their sins, and confessed their bad deeds in public, seeking Godís forgiveness and purification. Though they turned from their bad deeds, they did not think that they were good and godly, but realized themselves to be sinners deserving God's holy judgment. They cried out for God's grace and mercy knowing that the law did not justify them, for their consciences testified against them.†

 

Johnís food was composed of honey and locusts. This agreed with the doctrine he preached of "repentance" and "fruits worthy of repentance." Those whose business is to call others to mourn for sin, and to mortify it, ought themselves to live a serious life, a life of self-denial, humility, and contempt of the world.

 

John went out of the region where he was to the other regions around Jerusalem. Those who would have the benefit of Johnís ministry must "go out" to him in the wilderness, sharing in his reproach.

 

They who truly desire the life that the message of God brings, if it is not taken to them, will seek for it; and they who learn the doctrine of repentance must "go out" from the hurry of this world, and be still.

 

Dear brother, examine your conscience thoroughly, and uncover your heart, your thoughts and your deeds. Come to your Lord and confess before him every fault you have committed. Know that you are not good, but a sinner and unclean before the holiness and purity of God. Deny yourself, forget your selfishness and seek your Lord and his will. You will not be able to satisfy him if you do not confess your sins. Your mind will not find comfort and peace as long as you keep silent about your faults. Open your heart to God. He is faithful and just to forgive your every fault. Do not hesitateóhurry and throw yourself into the river of Godís love that Christ may save you and you may become a new man of faith, acceptable to God and men.

 

Prayer:

O my God, O my Lord, you know best about my past, that I am a sinner and deserve your judgment. Please forgive my sins, according to the multitude of your mercy; do not cast me away from your presence, and do not take your Holy Spirit from me.

 

Question 30: What are the principles of the preaching and the life of John the Baptist?

 

3:7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, "Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? (8) Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, (9) and do not think to say to yourselves, We have Abraham as our father. For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. (John 8:33-39; Romans 2:28-29; Romans 4:12)

 

At the time of John the Baptist, the Pharisees sect included about 6,000 members. They considered themselves separated from the people and devoted to God on the grounds that they were not defiled as the rest of their despised countrymen, but strictly and accurately kept all the commandments of the Old Testament, and adhered rigidly to the traditions of the fathers. They wanted to manage the situations of life under strict rules. The duties decided by them at the time of Jesus amounted to 248 duties and 365 prohibitions. They gave themselves entirely not to transgress any of them so that the kingdom of Christ might come soon. They believed that man could save himself by keeping the law. They did not understand that the law does not give man the power of love. It condemns his selfishness and unveils his sins as a mirror does.

 

The Sadducees regarded themselves as righteous and godly. They were a party of the prominent priests and notable people who were open to the modern living and to the Greek and Roman thoughts and tried to bind those thoughts to the Scriptures. The Sadducees denied that there were angels. They refused to believe in the immortality of the soul, and in the resurrection of the dead, and considered the final judgment a fantasy. They doubted Godís interference in the history of man, consequently some of them lived under the motto: "Let us eat and drink for tomorrow we will die." On the other hand, the temple and its sacrifices remained, according to their belief, the essence for reconciliation to God. They had many followers and all the priests and Levites submitted to them in their offices. They dealt, as much as possible, with the Romans to maintain their Jewish emirate around the temple.†

 

John the Baptist, with great courage, called the religious "brood of vipers." Every Jew knew that the Holy Bible calls Satan "the serpent." John called them "brood of vipers" because of their wickedness and poisonous teachings and their resorting to trickery to flee from the wrath to come through accepting his baptism without repentance. He asked them who had warned them to flee from the wrath to comeóthe same wrath, as they knew from the Scriptures, that would come upon the wicked when Christ is revealed. With boldness, John condemned their self-righteousness represented by their literal keeping of the law. He contested the life of freedom obtained by keeping the law and instead considered the law to reveal sin. He also recognized Godís wrath upon every hypocrisy and self-deceit in keeping the rituals and testified of the judgment against all those living without God, for there is none righteous in front of God. "They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one" (Romans 3:12).

 

To others he thought it enough to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." But when he saw the self-righteous Pharisees and Sadducees coming, he found it necessary to rebuke them and explain God's purposes in more detail. John harshly addresses them, not calling them "Rabbi" or giving them the applauses they were accustomed to, he calls them "brood of vipers." Christ gave them the same title (Matthew 12:34; 23:33). Though they appeared righteous and true, they were venomous and poisonous vipers, full of malice and enmity to everything that was good.

 

Now, what are the fruits of repentance? Man is corrupt, even in his intents and he cannot do good. Therefore the required fruits are:

First: The true knowledge of our wretchedness.

Second: The brokenness of our pride through confessing our sins before God.

Third: The constant prayer that the power of God may dwell in us and lead us into the holy life.

Fourth: The determination and steadfastness to live at all times with God.

 

Those who say they are sorry for their sins and yet persist in them are not worthy of the privileges that come with repentance. They that profess repentance and are baptized must be truly remorseful for their sin and act penitent, striving never do anything unbecoming a contrite sinner. A contrite heart will cause a person to be humble, thankful for the least mercy, patient under the greatest affliction, careful to avoid all appearances of sin, abounding in every good deed, and to be charitable in judging others.

 

The Jews believed that because Abraham was their father, that guaranteed them Godís promises and covenants and that God does not go back on his promises. John rebuked this belief and called the children of Abraham the children of Satan. He pointed to the numerous stones in the wilderness around him and told them if their stony hearts were not broken and they did not ask God for new spiritual, merciful hearts, "God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones."

 

This statement, "God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones" is of concern in our world today. The hearts of so many people are hard and they do not hear the voice of God within themselves because of hundreds of years of anti-Christ doctrines. But we do believe, and admit joyfully with John the Baptist, that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stony hearts.

 

It is vain presumption to think that having good relations with people around us will save us. Though we may have descended from pious ancestors, have been blessed with a religious education, have a family where the fear of God is uppermost, or have good friends to advise us and pray for us, what will all this avail us if we do not repent and live a life of repentance? And what about you, dear brotheródo you believe with us and confess the saving power of the Lord?

 

Prayer:

O Holy God, you are angry at every oppression and filthiness; and you reject every hypocrisy and self-deception. Please help me to be neither a Pharisee nor Sadducee, but let me be broken before you and repent of my sins. I always ask for your mercy, that your power may create in my weakness the fruits of your pure spirit. You are my Judge and Savior, please do not leave me.

 

Question 31: Who are the Pharisees, and who are the Sadducees?

 

3:10 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree, which does not bear good fruit, is cut down and thrown into the fire.

 

This verse is a metaphor warning of destruction. Although, great is Godís kindness and patience! He does not perform the punishment unless he warns the wicked first. Have you ever seen a lumberjack standing with an axe in his raised hands ready to cut a tree off in one fell swoop? John is saying that Christ to that lumberjack and every man is a tree. The tree which bears the fruits of love and truth will be left in the garden of his kingdom; but he who lives in selfishness and lies and curses will be cut off with the axe by Christ, the Judge.

 

Today, this message is not proclaimed as boldly as Christ spoke it. Preachers often concentrate on grace and free forgiveness, based of the truth of the cross; but neglect talking about Godís wrath upon those who bear no fruit. All those who are not changed by faith in the truth of the cross shall be destined for judgment and cast into hell.

 

Our world today is nearer to Godís punishment than to his grace. Multitudes live without their Lord, neglecting the grace of Christ. Do not be astonished at Godís wrath and the blows of his justice on mankind due to their rejection of the cross and its power. In this age of new wars, the fire of God's judgment has become more validating to us than any time before. Cities burn with showers of bombs and deformed bodies are blackened by the fires of houses destroyed over their heads. God is merely introducing his judgement of wrath. So, let us not mock, any longer, this divine revelation of a fiery hell that awaits those who reject the mercy of the cross. How sad and desperate are those who have despised Godís patience! They will regrettably weep and gnash their teeth when it is too late to repent. Hell is coming, and Satan and his demons are dominating those who have not opened their hearts to the Spirit of Christ. Beware of the imminent danger and call your attention to the drawing on your heart by Christóopen it to him with delighted.

 

The cutting tools are laid to the root of the trees. Although Godís patience still waits, the day will come when every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. This is Godís unchangeable judgment when he judges his people (See Revelation 2:1-5).

 

Prayer:

O Holy Father, I glorify you, because your judgments are just and righteous. Please do not lay your axe to the root of my corrupt life, but be patient with me. Help me to repent and change my thoughts and behavior according to your commandments, that I may bear fruit that is acceptable to you. Forgive my friends and relatives because they deserve the fire like me. Our Lord, we rest our hope upon your grace and tender mercies.

 

Question 32: What does the Creator expect you to do?

 

3:11 I indeed baptize you with water unto 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. (John 1:26-27, 33; Acts 1:5, 8; 2:1-4)

 

The ministry of John the Baptist was that of repentance and baptism with water in preparation for Christ, who was coming to give the Spirit. The Old Testament foretells of coming days when God's people will be cleansed with water and will receive the Spirit of God for sanctification (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:24-28). John, the voice of one crying, explicitly identifies the giver of those propheciesóChrist, who alone baptizes with the Holy Spirit.

 

John preached that his baptism was for repentance and that it does not change the heart. It examines and identifies the disease but does not treat it. He was eagerly looking forward to the coming of Christ, the anointed One, who alone is able to heal the disease and remove destruction from the world. He baptizes all the repentant and broken-hearted with his Holy Spirit, regenerating their spirit with his divine Spirit, changing them into people of love and making them worthy of the kingdom of heaven. Yet Christ will deliver the hypocrites who have the form of godliness, along with those who neglect the grace of God, into the everlasting fire of Godís wrath.

 

John, the greatest prophet of all, was standing at the threshold of the Old Testament, leaning into the New Testament. He preached Godís wrath according to the Law of Moses, but saw the Lord of grace coming upon them to save the repentant, giving life from God to an evil world.

 

The Holy Spirit, promised to those who repent and confess their sins, is God himself. Whoever declares his faults before God and turns from them, shall obtain and experience Christís forgiveness and heavenly power. God himself shall dwell in this sinner and make him his child by the Holy Spirit.

 

Therefore do not be afraid of the baptism with the Holy Spirit because this Spirit is Godís love, kindness and everlasting life, and this Spirit glorifies Christ.

 

John knew, in advance, the nobility of Christ. He thought himself unworthy of serving himóeven considering himself unworthy of being a slave to carry his Masterís sandals. The Baptist was a humble bearer of the fruits of true repentance. He hoped with all his heart that Christ would come, giving the Holy Spirit to all that turned from sin and turned to God.

 

It is a great comfort to faithful ministers, knowing that Jesus Christ is mightier than they areódoing that which they cannot do and giving that which they cannot give. His strength is perfected in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

 

It is those who allow Christ to be all in all that God puts honor upon. He opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).

 

Prayer:

O Holy Father, when I compare myself with your love, I look selfish. Please forgive my lack of mercy and my hard heart. I thank you for sending your Christ, born of your Holy Spirit, to die for me, that I may be worthy to receive your Holy Spirit. Please renew every repenting believer that he may be filled with the Spirit, gentleness, kindness and love of Christ.

 

Question 33: Why is Christ able to baptize us with the Holy Spirit?

 

3:12 His winnowing fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly clean out his threshing floor, and gather his wheat into the barn; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." (Matthew 13:30)

 

John the Baptist wakes us up with another metaphor of truth. He shows us a peasant with a fan (a winnowing fork) in his hand, threshing out his grain. The tares, grain coverings and dust are carried away with the wind; but the wheat falls before the feet of the Lord of the harvest and he gathers it into his barn.

 

What do you compare yourself with? Do you belong to the wheat or to the chaff? The Pharisees and Sadducees thought themselves wheat and all other men chaff and tares. In one of Jesus' parables, a tax collector in the temple (who was then considered as chaff) was ashamed to raise his face to God, but murmured, "God, have pity on me, a sinner!" This repentant man was justified and counted as wheat, whereas another man, a Pharisee, boasted in his godliness and fell into judgment in spite of his self-righteousness (Luke 18:9-14). So, what are you? A hypocrite having a form of godliness? Or are you a repentant sinner? Do you bear the plentiful fruits of repentance? Are you filled with the Holy Spirit?

 

The last word that Matthew mentioned from the sermons of the Baptist was "fire." He spoke three times about Godís wrath. All those who are against the Spirit of Christ shall fall into hell along with all those who do not change wholeheartedly. Christís salvation is complete, bringing the power of the Holy Spirit to sanctify the repentant. But he who pretends piety and continues in his sin indifferently under a veil of godliness shall become firewood to the everlasting fire, and shall have no hope.

 

Prayer:

O Lord Jesus Christ, you are the Savior and the Judge of the world. I ask your forgiveness to my negligence, and I ask you, by the power of your gentle Spirit, to change my mind that I may bear the fruits of your love, kindness and truth. I do not pray for my salvation only, but for all the lost. I pray for the brokenness of the hypocrites, since there is none righteous in front of you. Please bow down our heads before your glory and let us entirely deny ourselves. Fill us with your heavenly Spirit that we may love one another as you loved us, as there is no hope but in you. You are the aim of our praises. Amen.

 

Question 34: What is the difference between the baptism with the Holy Spirit and the baptism with fire?

 

The baptism of Christ (3:13-15)

 

3:13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. (14) And John tried to prevent him, saying, "I need to be baptized by you, and are you coming to me?" (15) But Jesus answered and said to him, "Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Then he allowed him. (See Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-23; John 1:21-23)

 

John the Baptist gathered the repentant, who were like fields cultivated for the planting of the oncoming gospel, in the Jordan Valley. The broken-hearted were chosen by God to be the beginnings of his church. The history of the community of God did not begin in a grandiose temple, but in the deserted wilderness.

 

Suddenly, Jesus arrives from Nazareth after two days of walking, and joins John and the community of repentant. It becomes evident from the first moment of their meeting that John is a true prophet, because he knew Jesus in his essence. The majority of people do not know Jesus son of Mary, but those with eyes anointed with the Holy Spirit observed Jesus and the power of his Spirit.

 

Jesus came to be baptized, but the Baptist, who was calling every sinner to baptism and brokenness, objected to baptize the Nazarene, because he observed his holiness. He admitted aloud: Jesus is the only man who need not cleanse himself, nor change his mind, nor is required to begin a new life since he is without sin. Jesus is the Most Holy, and the Most Holy is God himself. John acknowledged the divinity of Jesus from the first moment he met him.

 

In the presence of Christ, John recognized his inferiority, his own sins, and the necessity to be baptized himself, so he asked Jesus to baptize him. Thus the Baptist was broken before his Lord and committed himself to him. With humility, he committed his followers to Christ.

 

Christ objected to the ideas of the Baptist and explained to him that he did not come to judge but to be judged in the place of all men. Therefore Christ did not appear from the beginning of his ministry as a proud king or a warning prophet, but as the meek Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, prepared to bear the judgment of God in our place.

 

Jesus did not remain in heaven high and lofty, separated and out of touch from sinners. He came down to the water of repentance and took away our sins. Jesus made his first step to the cross from the first day of his ministry, knowing that there was no other way to justify us and to save the world. Through Jesus' tremendous sacrifice, God confirmed his righteousness and justice. Though he justifies sinners freely, he completed our judgment on the cross of his only begotten Son. Only in Christ are all the demands of Godís righteousness fulfilled.

 

John was obedient to his Lord and showed repentance by his submission. He went down into the water with Jesus and immersed him. Christ offered John to partake in the will of God when he said to him, "thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." Christ honored the Baptist considerably for his faithfulness and employed him as an assistant to fulfill Godís righteousness.

 

And you too, dear reader, are invited by the Lord to participate in spreading the divine salvation through your faith and through your testimony, offer his righteousness to those who thirst in your surroundings.

 

Christís baptism in the Jordan discovered its symbolic meaning in the crossówhen the Crucified One sank in the water of the Jordan, taking on himself the sin of the world and dying in the flood of Godís wrath. With his victorious coming up out of the water being symbolic of his resurrection from the dead.

 

Thus the meaning of Johnís baptism changed. It is not only a judgment, it is the way determined by God to everlasting life. Yet Christ wants to give us his life.

 

Prayer:

I worship you, Holy Lamb of God, because you took away the sins of the world. You bore the judgment of God that we deserved. Please open my eyes to your great love and salvation, that I may be justified and truly partake of your righteousness. Help me to confess your name that many of my friends may be justified, for I do not know any other righteousness but that which is in you.

 

Question 35: Why was Jesus baptized at the Jordan though he was innocent?

 

Proclamation of the unity of the Holy Trinity (3:16-17)

 

3:16 When he had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon him. (17) And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." (Isaiah 11:2; 42:1; Matthew 17:5)

 

When Jesus was baptized, the heavens were opened to him to testify their full favors to him. They were never opened to any man on the earth before, since no man had ever obtained the full favor of God until the beloved Jesus stood before him, meek, obedient and without sin.

 

The identity of Jesus was already proclaimed by John. Yet it is proclaimed again, not by flesh, but by heaven. Here the Father proclaims from heaven the identity of his Son, the Lord Jesus "the beloved Son of God" (2 Samuel 7:12-16).

 

When Christ confessed, through his baptism, that he came to die, be buried and rise again for our justification, the heavens parted over the Jordan Valley, and God's voice was heard. Who can ever prevent the Almighty from speaking? Who can ever stop his revelation?

 

Beginning from the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, the way to God was closed; but when Christ came, this door leading to the Creator was opened. Only through Jesus, we have access to God. The heavens parted testifying that he is the way, the truth and the life.

 

In the beginning of the creation the Holy Spirit moved over the face of the waters. In the likeness of a luminous dove the same Holy Spirit descended and rested upon Jesus after he was baptized, expressing that Jesus is the anointed Christ and giver of the Spirit of God to all the repentant. John saw the Spirit of God coming and resting upon Jesus as a clear testimony that Jesus was the promised anointed Christ.

 

Christ was anointed from the beginning of his time on earth because he was born of the Spirit of God. His Father anointed him in the fullness of the Spirit again in the beginning of his ministry so that the man Jesus would minister in power as our High Priest and the incarnate Word of God. Christ did not minister to us as a great privileged king, but as a humble servant. He was so humble that he gave his life to take away our sins. By this, the holy love of God appears.

 

John saw with his eyes the Holy Spirit descending like a dove on Jesus, and heard God's voice with his ears. This proclamation, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased", from God is full of significance. God called Christ his Sonóboth the Father and the Son are eternal. The character, nature and essence of the Father were shown in the Son. The Creator is no longer hidden, being revealed in his Son. In the Son dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, with all God's characters, powers and names.

 

Who can prevent God from saying that he has a Son, if he wants to? Many object to this fact, though God proclaimed having a humble Son in whom he was well pleased and who began to carry his cross in his baptism.

 

The beloved Son is love embodied in flesh. God is love. Christ did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many. Our growing deeper into the words, prayers and works of Jesus during his earthly walk, shows us the practical interpretation of Godís love.

 

God was pleased in his Son because God's will was done in and through him. Christ was worthy to say; "He who has seen me has seen the Father." Christ is the express image of the person of the Father. If you want to know God, look at his Son, the beloved Jesus.

 

The important thing is that God's sending of Christ gave us a new insight toward God. He is the Father, and he is nothing but holy love. The Eternal one does not proclaim himself an angry judge; instead he judged his Son in our place that we might be saved. In his salvation, he is not satisfied with our justification. He is willing to pour his love into our spirits through the dwelling of his Holy Spirit in us so that we may experience a spiritual rebirth and become servants of God to men.

 

The divine proclamation, "I and my Father are one", declared the singleness of God, because the beloved Son abides in his Father and does his will. Everyone who is born of his Spirit appreciates the mystery of the singleness of God. They observe that the Father is in his Son, and the Son is in his Father eternally because Jesus is the Word and the incarnate Spirit of God.

 

The unity of the divine triune God was not completely and clearly proclaimed before the baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ; but here we find the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit mentioned altogether, united with each other, and each having a work. The Son on the earth was God manifest in the flesh. The Father bears him witness with a clear voice from heaven, and the Spirit of God descends upon him in a bodily form to empower him.

 

The Holy Spirit was often mentioned in the Old Testament, but not in a clear manner with respect to his relation with the unity of the triune God. The first purpose of the proclamation at that time was to declare the singleness of God. Other than that, God did not proclaim himself completely before the incarnation, because it was not possible to do that before the Word became flesh.

 

Some objectors harshly criticize the story of the Father's voice heard from heaven when the Holy Spirit descended upon Christ. They say that the evangelists told the story in different ways. Matthew wrote, "This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased." Whereas Luke wrote, "You are my beloved Son, in you I am well pleased." The meaning, as well as the words harmonize, but there is a slight difference in how it was reportedóone reporting from the second person and the other from the third person. However the testimony of each of them confirms that of the other.

 

Prayer:

I worship you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, because you proclaimed yourself in the Jordan Valley to save, justify and sanctify me. I do not deserve to have my eyes opened to your truth. You descended to seek and save me from my sins; not to destroy me. Please help me to follow you, to trust in you and to never leave you. Complete your work of faith in me, that I may stand as Godís beloved child. Draw many of my friends and relatives into the communion of your love.

 

Question 36: How did the holy triune God proclaim himself in the Jordan Valley?

 

The temptation of Christ and his great victory (4:1-11)

 

4:1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. (2) And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward he was hungry. (3) Now when the tempter came to him, he said, "If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." (4) But he answered and said, "It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." (Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 8:3; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13)

 

There should be an emphasis on the first word of verse one, "Then." The heavens were opened to Jesus and the Spirit descended on him and he was declared to be the Son of God and the Savior of the world. Then, the next news we hear of him is that he is "tempted". He was best able to battle with the temptation after he was baptized.

 

The great privileges and special mercies of divine favor, will not secure us from being tempted. After great honors are put upon us, we must expect something that is humbling. God usually prepares his people for temptation before he calls them to it; he gives strength according to the need and gives more than ordinary comfort before a sharp trial. The assurance of our sonship is the primary defense for temptation. If the Spirit of God bears witness to our adoption, that will furnish us with an answer to all the temptations of the evil spirits.

 

After we have been admitted into the communion of God, we must expect to be preyed upon by Satan. The enriched soul must double its guardó"When you have eaten and are full, then beware" (Deuteronomy 6:10-12).

 

The Devil has a particular hatred for useful people who are not only good, but also given to do good, especially at their first setting out and serving the Lord. So be aware, prepare yourself for temptation, and arm yourself accordingly.

 

The Holy Spirit leads Jesus up into the wilderness to face the devil and the spiritual hosts of wickedness. What is interesting is the continuance of the invisible comparison between Jesus and the Jewish nation. Although the nation of Israel failed in its spiritual life after coming out of Egypt, Christ, the Son of God, withstood the temptations of the devil. Jesus overcame him face to face, and carried out the plan that the Father had for man. Christ did not come on behalf of the Jews only, but on behalf of all humanity and took away our sins on the cross.

 

It is to be mentioned that Jesus used the same words against the tempter that God had given his people in the wilderness of Sinai (Deuteronomy 8:3). The Lord Jesus succeeded in facing the temptation of the enemy in three exchanges, which cover all the kinds of temptation a man might face. These temptations are: The lust of the flesh, which tempts man in the point of sensation; the lust of the eyes, which tempts man in the point of possession; and the pride of life, which tempts man in the point of prestige. In all these points, Jesus obtains victory on our behalf, becoming our greatest advocate and our high priest who sympathizes with our weaknesses in times of temptation. He "was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:14-16).

 

The baptism of Christ was a glorious event, in which the heavenly Father expressed his pleasure in his beloved Son. How astonishing that immediately after this baptism, the Holy Spirit led Jesus up into the wilderness to wrestle with the enemy of God. Jesus demonstrated the power of his divine nature in spite of the weakness of his body.

 

Jesus remained forty days without food but in constant communion with his heavenly Father in the deadly desert. He was listening to his Father's voice just as Moses did when he had forgotten to eat or drink for forty days while scribing the two tablets of the Law. But Jesus did not bring tablets of stone from his meeting with God in establishment of the new covenant, since he, himself, is the Word of God become flesh, in whom is the saving power for his followers.

 

At last, the devil came to Christ pretending to have compassion on him. He awakened hunger in Jesus, and lied as if he loved him. His purpose was, in fact, to cast Jesus down in sin and prevent him from going to the cross. The devil tried, first of all, to plant the doubt into his heart with respect to his relation to the Father, and he asked him: Are you the Son of God? Making a question out of the truth. The devil knows more than men who Christ isóthe demons also believe, and tremble. If Satan admitted, "You are the Son of God", he should have submitted in him; but he falsified the truth saying, "If you are Godís Son, order these stones to turn into bread." This is a scheme the devil uses all the timeóto plant doubt in men that their faith be shaken and they might turn away from their source of strength.

 

Poverty is a great temptation to discontentment and unbelief. It often leads to unlawful means for our relief, under the pretence that necessity has no law. It is with this excuse that the hungry will break through stone walls, yet this is no excuse, for the Law of God ought to be stronger to us than stone walls. The writer of Proverbs prays against poverty, not because it is an affliction and reproach, but because it is a temptation, "Remove falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches. Feed me with the food allotted to me; lest I be full and deny you, and say, "Who is the Lord?" or lest I be poor and steal." (Proverbs 30:8, 9).† Therefore those who are reduced to difficult circumstances, have need to double their guard; it is better to starve to death before God, than to live and thrive by sin.

 

The Devil is the "tempter", and therefore he is a foe and enemy to those who believe. Our worst enemies entice us to sin and are Satanís agents, doing his work and attempting to carry out his schemes. He is emphatically called the tempter, because he was so to our first parents, and still is so, with all other tempters conforming to him.

 

The wicked one demanded a miracle from Christ, knowing his ability to turn the stones into bread; but he intended to incite him to contradict his own person. If Jesus had obeyed him, his holiness would have been tainted, since he is love and does not seek his own fulfillment, but gives himself for us and for the glorification of his heavenly Father. Satanís way of winning the world by means of bread is still in progress, misleading and destroying multitudes. What if Jesus made delicious foods out of the stones? Would it, then, be necessary to work and toil any longer? No, everyone would have rather drank milk from the streams, and wine from the rivers. All the world would have raced to Christ, believed in him, and worshiped him without changing their hearts or obtaining forgiveness, thus remaining under Godís wrath and judgment.

 

Christ, from the beginning of his ministry, rejected mass enthusiasm and charitable deeds as a way to save the world without the cross. The primary concern of his salvation is not for the body, but for the redemption of the soul. He intended to forgive our sins and renew our hearts. He finished this purpose on the cross.

 

In Jesusí reply to Satan, we hear the divine principle of the establishment of our spiritual life, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." Christ did not deny the necessity of the daily bread, but he brought to light that abiding in the word of God is more important than the necessities of the flesh. He instructs us to seek our daily bread day by day and he teaches us that our concerns with Godís kingdom and righteousness should take first place. Do you read the gospel every day, and do you partake of it continuously as you would food? He, who does not eat every day, becomes weak and dies in the end. Such is the believer if he does not read the word of God every day; he will become spiritually sick, waste away and will collapse. Regrettably, this is the condition of some churches and many of the believers who listen to the word of God on Sundays only. They resemble those who eat once a week. They do not spiritually die, but they remain weak in love, hope and faith. You are in need of peace and quite before the face of God every day that he may strengthen you, nourish you, and encourage you; praying for spiritual wisdom to see that, through the cross of Jesus, you became a child of God, and that you will live forever, even in hunger and poverty.

 

So we find that Jesus Christ triumphed over the devil's temptations with the word of God and sin found no place in the Son of God; to him be the glory. He did not yield to evil. Though we all have yielded to evil in the past, we can learn from Jesus and fight the enemy with God's Word when temptation comes to us.

 

Prayer:

O Lord Jesus Christ, I thank you because you did not fall into the snare of the devil and make bread out of stones. You did not listen to his voice, nor did you seek your own good. You did not draw the multitudes through delicious food, but you guided them into the unique word of God to satisfy their souls and draw them to receive your eternal life. Please help me to read your word every day, to become strong in your Holy Spirit and do your will with joy.

 

Question 37: Why didn't Jesus make bread out of the stones, though he was able to?

 

4:5 Then the devil took him up into the holy city, set him on the pinnacle of the temple,† (6) and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: He shall give his angels charge over you, and, in their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone." (7) Jesus said to him, "It is written again, You shall not tempt the Lord your God." (Deuteronomy 6:16; Psalm 91:11-12)

 

When the head of a state visits a confederate country, he is generally well received. Soldiers stand in formation, students present flowers, flags are streaming, music is played, officials appear in their official dress, crowds are racing from other countries to watch the political, religious and sporting festivals. One finds himself surrounded by mass unity.

 

The devil tempted Jesus with a grand vision, seducing Jesus to imagine himself flying with the clouds, surrounded and held up by tens of thousands of bright angels, so that the crowded multitudes might bow their heads and worship him. The devil tempted Jesus to perform his Second Coming prematurely without shedding his blood on the cross. There is nothing more hateful to Satan than the cross. The temptation was delivered in the heart of the religious culture of his nation, from the highest point of the Temple.

 

Do not think that you, dear brother, through your gathering under a churchís banner, are protected from evil thoughts. Within the heart of holiness, the Father of Lies tempts those who listen to the word of God, striving to turn their thoughts away from God to their proud self so they sin and fall.

 

Satan's biggest aim in tempting Jesus and his followers was to cut off their communion with God. He repeated his attempt to put doubt into the heart of Jesus saying, "If you are Godís Son, throw yourself down amidst the worshipers, and they will recognize you and shout: 'The Christ of God has come down from heaven.' Then the world will follow you, and there will be no need of the cross." The crafty deceiver added, from the Holy Bible, "it is written." He omitted part of what God said twisting its true meaning. The Biblical promise is: "For he shall give his angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways." The tempter omitted the last part, "to keep you in all your ways." In the first temptation, Jesus overcame Satan with the same words, "it is written", and then continued quoting the word given by the inspiration of God. Satan used the same style, but he made untruth out of the truth. Christ engaged in spiritual warfare with Satan quoting God's word, which is life to everyone who trusts God, submits to him and does not doubt that he is with them. Reluctance in believing God or doubting the truth of his word is a sign of unbelief. The children of Israel tested God in the wilderness saying, "Is the Lord among us or not?" (Exodus 17:7) even though he was among them to care for them, but they did not believe. We would be like them if we doubted the presence of God with us and his complete care for us.

 

There is no city on earth so holy as to exempt and secure us from the Devil and his temptations. The first Adam was tempted in the "holy garden"; the second Adam was tempted in the "holy city." Therefore let us not be caught off guard. Do not think that a "holy place" has great advantages and the Devil will not tempt the children of God with pride and presumption there. But blessed be our God for the holy Jerusalem in the heavens where no unclean thing shall enter; there we shall be forever without temptation.

 

So, beware! For the wicked one is well versed in scripture and is able to quote it readily. But he uses half-truths and twists the meaning to keep you from experiencing God's fullness.

 

We find many books in the world, whether religious, philosophical or political, which use the words of the gospel and the principles of Godís given inspiration with an attempt to mix the truth with biased lies. Dear brother, discern the spirits carefully, and know that every haughty spirit is of the devil, and that whoever honors himself is not of God.

 

If Christ responded to the temptation of the devil, and agreed to show himself in a great manner, throwing himself down, he would have died because he did not do the will of God. God does not want to win people through miracles but only through the cross. If Jesus took heed to the voice of the devil, he would have been leaving his communion with his heavenly Father. The Evil One intended to destroy the Son of God but Jesus could distinguish the voice of the devil from the voice of his Father and chose the way of humbleness and truth. He did not appear in the glorious Temple first, but he served in Galilee, being despised and discarded by many of the Jews.

 

Pinnacles of the temple are places of temptation. They represent high places of the world that are slippery. Advancements in the world lift man's pride and makes him a fair target for Satan to shoot his fiery darts at. God casts down, that he may raise upóthe devil raises up, that he may cast down.

 

Jesus answered the tempter once again decisively saying, "It is written again, you shall not tempt the Lord your God." All those who know that God does not agree to their intended acts and yet seek his help in their daily life, are tempting God through their stubbornness and are opposing his spirit. They will certainly experience his wrath in the end. Do you have the ability to distinguish the voice of God within your heart? Do you know his love, his kindness, his purity and his humbleness? Do not carry out anything that may oppose his purposes. It is not for the benefit of man to act against the voice of his Spirit-led conscience. If you do not know what is the will of God is in a particular situation, then be patient and wait until he opens another door for you and explains to you what he wants you to do. Follow Christ and do not tempt the Lord your God.

 

Prayer:

O Lord Jesus, I thank you because you did not seek power and authority, but you sought the way of humility. We see you with the sick, with the sinners and with the least esteemed. You sought those who were perishing. Please teach us to die to our haughtiness, that we may not be arrogant among our friends, but deny ourselves, seek the poor, and bless the lost, to be in agreement with your salvation.

 

Question 38: Why didn't Christ throw himself down from the pinnacle of the temple?

 

4:8 Again the devil took him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. (9) And he said to him, "All these things I will give you if you will fall down and worship me." (10) The Jesus said to him, "Away with you, Satan! For it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only you shall serve." (11) Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and ministered to him. (Deuteronomy 6:13; John 1:51; Hebrews 1:6, 14)

 

The devil did not appear in the two preceding temptations as an open opponent against God. He first appeared as if he were seeking a proof from Christ that he was the Son of God. He then appeared as if he desired him to prove the truth and power of God's word. But in the third temptation his motives are uncovered. He shows he is an enemy of God trying, if possible, to corrupt our Redeemer. In an astonishing manner that we do not understand, Satan showed Jesus all the kingdoms and glories of the world in a moment of time (Luke 4:5) and offered to give them to him if he worshiped him. But Christ dismissed him immediately saying, "Away with you, Satan!" and he quoted a scripture that God only is to be worshiped. There is a complete contradiction between God and the world. Whoever wants to be the worldís friend makes himself Godís enemy (James 4:4). The greatest temptation the devil can ever tempt man to is the world. It is known that we are apt to walk into this trap. When the devil failed to entice Christ in the two preceding temptations misusing the word of God, he increased the intensity of his seduction and offered him the world; but Christ would never accept it from him. No doubt, he is promised it by the Father (Psalm 2:7-9), and it will become his kingdom at the specified time (Revelation 11:15); for he, as the Son of Man and the last Adam, will inherit everything (Hebrews 2:5-9). He will justly possess it as a reward from God for his full obedience to the point of death, even the death of the cross. He would not expect to put on the crown of glory without first putting on the crown of thorns.

 

We pray at the end of the Lordís Prayer, "Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory." With this glorification we surrender ourselves to God. The devil is quite the opposite of this. He is the proud spirit who sought worship from all the creatures for himself. He lied when he brought the whole kingdom of the world before Christ and offered them to him as a gift, because he had no right to offer that which he only claimed to possession. The world, inclusive of its powers and glory, is the possession of God and his Christ.

 

Christ did not believe the lies of the devil. He abided in his Father, joining himself unto him. Neither power nor glory attracted him since he had made himself and his divine image of no reputation. He became despised that he might redeem all mankind. He chose the way of poverty and scorn, rejecting wealth and fame, so that he would stay in communion with his Father and fulfill the purposes of God.†

 

A millionaire once said: "Every man has a price to do what contradicts his conscience." But Christ did not sell his righteousness for deceptive money. He denied himself, took up his cross, and continued in his Fatherís contentment and obedience.

 

With this obedient attitude the devil was overcome and Christ's goal was accomplished, showing that Satan is a liar, a thief and a killer. He wants to be worshiped by all men. He makes a god out of himself and tempts mankind to love anything other than God. Books, cars, properties and possessions are all temptations that can be lifted up as idols above our Creator. Satan proceeds to discourage mankind from committing themselves to God and to his Son so that evil might reign in his world of rebellion toward God. The devil is the original rebel who invites the children of disobedience to hell in droves.

 

The final temptation of Jesus was ended with Satan asking Jesus to worship him. Instead Jesus showed his lordship over Satan and ordered him to go away from him at once.

 

In spite of that, Jesus did give the devil one last chance; "You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only you shall serve." He did not destroy him at once but he ordered him to repent, to fall on his knees before God, and to worship him, that he might turn from his corrupt mind and commit himself to the Almighty and serve him continuously with humility and obedience. The Son of Man did not seek worship for himself from Satan but he opened for Satan the gate to God that he might come to his senses with repentance and obedience. The heavens and hell caught their breath, because the wrestling between God and his first enemy had reached its climax. So what would the wicked one do?

 

He silently left Jesus and went away but he did not worship the Most High. The devil hated Jesus who did not give himself for the sake of bread, pretense and power, but preferred contentment, contempt and going to the cross to give himself for mankind. The Spirit of Christ overcame the spirit of Satan.

 

The tempter tried, in vain, to make Jesus use his right and power as the Son of God, to turn the stones into bread and satisfy his hunger as a Son of Man. He tried, in vain, to get him to tempt God so that he might ascertain if God were with him or not. Because Jesus trusted God fully, a test was not necessary. Satan offered him, in vain, the kingdom and the glory of the world. Because Jesus, blessed be his name, knew that it would all be given to him at the specified time when he reigns as the Son of Man, he did not yield to Satan but committed himself to do all that was determined for him until that time comes.

 

An importance point in this dialog is the sufficiency and the power of the word of God. The Lord Jesus Christ, who was born and anointed of the Spirit and was manifest in flesh, wrestled with the devil using the most practical weapon availableóthe word of God written to man. One statement from the Scripture was enough to shut up the enemy and put an end to his arrogance. Likewise, the power of God's word is available to us in times of spiritual warfare. We must use the appropriate Scripture in the right situation with a pure heart and not for personal gain, having full trust in God's power behind it.

 

After that victory, the angels came to Jesus, ministered to him and worshiped him. If Jesus had fallen into the temptation, the last chance for our reconciliation to God would have disappeared and the judgment would have come. But he stood firm and faithfully moved ahead and conquered.

 

Prayer:

O Holy Son of God, I worship you and your Father with gladness and rejoicing, because you are triumphant over Satan. Please overcome me too that I may always worship the Most Holy in my heart, minister to him in my days, commit myself to him willingly and follow you in your ministry. Please help me to prefer to be little and despised than to desire wealth or the power that perish, that I may build my future on the basis of your cross and the only name of your Holy Father.

 

Question 39: Why did Jesus order Satan to worship God only?

 

 

 

3-     Christ begins his Galilean ministry (4:12-25)

Christ chooses Capernaum as a residence (4:12-17)

 

4:12 And when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he departed to Galilee. (13) And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, (14) that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: (15) "The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: (16) The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned." (17) From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Isaiah 9:1-2; Matthew 3:2; Mark 1:14-20; Luke 4:14-15; John 8:12)

 

After the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, and the victory of the light over the darkness in the temptation of Christ in the wilderness, the ministry of John the Baptist was nearing completion. During that time, Christ had ministries of another kind that Matthew did not mention.

        He attended a wedding in Cana of Galilee where he turned the water into wine (John 2:1-11).

        He went down to Capernaum (John 2:12).

        He went up to Jerusalem to the Passover, and cleansed the Temple (John 2:13).

        He spoke with Nicodemus in Jerusalem (John 3:1-21).

        He baptized those who received him in Judea, while John was baptizing in Aenon (John 3:22).

        Jesus spoke with the woman of Samaria (John 4:1-42).

        He healed the noblemanís son in Cana of Galilee (John 4:43-54).

 

Then John was put in prison where God would allow his servant to be perfected by suffering at the hands of Satan, just as he allowed the sufferings of Job and others who were faithful to him. After the end of the preaching of the Baptist while in prison, Christ began to preach the kingdom in Galilee.

 

Christ did not enter into Galilee until the moment was right. Time had to be given to prepare the way of the Lord. Providence wisely ordered that John should decrease before Christ shone forth. Otherwise, people would have been distracted between the twoóone group saying, "I am of John," and another saying, "I am of Jesus." Christ went into Galilee as soon as he heard of Johnís imprisonment, not only to provide for his own safety, knowing that the Pharisees in Judea were as much enemies to him as Herod was to John, but to supply encouragement to John and to build upon the good foundation he had laid.

 

God will not leave himself without witness, nor his church without guides. When he removes one useful instrument, he can raise up another by the power of the Holy Spirit whom was given to the church. And he will do it if he has work to do.

 

It became clear to Christ that his Father did not lead him into Judea where the Temple was, but into the countryside and Galilee. Jesus left Nazareth where he had been brought up and went down to Capernaum, the center of transportation. He called it his city and took it as a center of his ministry and miracles. Matthew made clear, with great importance, that every step of Christ was already designed in the prophecies of the Scripture. He proved in the previous chapters that Bethlehem was the place of Jesusí birth, and that Nazareth was his residence in his youth, according to the ancient prophecies. He also observed in the prophecies of Isaiah (9:1-2) that Galilee was the center of the acts of Jesus according to the eternal will of God.

 

Christ is the light of the world and the light of his earthly ministry shone first in Galilee. This beautiful area is far from Jerusalem and its Temple and the inhabitants were not so well versed in the Scripture and the Law of Moses as were the scholars in the capital. On the contrary, they were rough countrymen, some of whom practiced smuggling and highway robbery. This was a dark area that Jesus desired to enlighten.

 

Zebulun and Naphtali were tribal areas that encompassed the region of Galilee. The word "Zebulun" is derived from "Zabhal" (to exalt). Christ went to the lower classes of his people to satisfy those who hunger for righteousness and to exalt them spiritually.

 

The very first word of Christ's very first sermon was the very first word of John's very first sermon: "Repent". The substance of the gospel is the same for every era. The commands are the same and the reasons to enforce them are the same, and men nor angels dare not preach any other gospel (Galatians 1:8). Repent, is a call from the "everlasting gospel" and is being proclaimed to you today.

 

Christ had great respect for Johnís ministry and preached the same message of holiness that John had preached before him. This is evidence that John was his messenger and ambassadoróJesus confirmed the word of his messenger. In part, the Son came with the same task that the prophets came for, to "seek fruit"ófruits worthy of repentance. Christ could have preached sublime notions of divine and heavenly things that would have amused the learned world, but he proclaimed this simple message, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

 

God supported the ministry of his faithful messengers and confirmed that the Holy Spirit wants us, first of all, to change our thoughts and leave our sin. Sin is the reason for our troubles; the wages of sin is death. Jesus does not simply release us from our troubles but releases us from the cause of our troubles, that is sin. He asks us to prepare our hearts and mind and to determine with all of our being to completely separate ourselves from our iniquities, to hate sin, and to trust God to lead us into holiness.

 

Sin separates us from the Creator, therefore Jesusí order to repent offers hope that brings us back from solitude to our Fatherís house and kingdom. This invitation is the first divine order in the Christian law. Man does not go back to God on his own accord; he needs an invitation, an order, and a decision. This coming back to the kingdom of heaven became the characteristic of the Gospel of Matthew. It is interesting that Matthew generally does not use the "kingdom of God" or the "kingdom of Christ" but he often uses the "kingdom of heaven." This is because, with few exceptions, Jews did not use the name of God for fear of breaking the commandment that forbids them to take his name in vain.

 

The kingdom of heaven and the joy of heaven dwells in the hearts of those who have the Spirit of the Lord dwelling in them. Those of old thought that the heavens were over their heads and that hell was under their feet but we know that Christ is always with us, even to the end of the age. In spite of the worldís problems and troubles, we can abide in his vast expanses, as Jesus told us, "In me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

 

The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali having become "Galilee of the Gentiles", indicates the lowly and contemptible position the Jewish tribes were brought to. "Zebulun" signifies "exalted dwelling" (Genesis 30:20). Jacob's blessing for Zebulun was that they "shall dwell by the haven of the sea" (Genesis 49:13). It was an image of the Lordís people who were dwelling alone "and shall not be reckoned among the nations" (Numbers 23:9), but they were mingled among other nations and indulged in their abominations (Psalm 106:35; Hosea 7:8).

 

"Naphtali" signifies "my wrestling" (Genesis 30:8). It was an image of the Lordís people in enjoyment of his freedom because of trusting God in their wrestling (Genesis 49:21). When they gave up wrestling, the enemy began to oppress them.

 

Those without Christ are in darkness. Worst of all, they are "sitting" in this condition. Sitting in a prolonged postureówhere we sit, we plan to stay. Many are in the dark and are comfortable staying there, not desiring to find the way out. "And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil" (John 3:19).

 

The condition of the tribes of Israel was sad. Many great and mighty nations are in the same condition today and should be pitied and prayed for. It is even sadder today because nations sit in darkness with the light of the gospel all around them. He that is in the dark because it is night may be sure that the sun will shortly arise, but he that is in the dark because he is blind will not so soon have his eyes opened. We have the light of day but what will that avail us if we be not have the light of the Lord?

 

The word "kingdom" calls for a king who carries wisdom, authority and glory. Christ said after his death and resurrection, "All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth." By these words, he proclaimed himself as the king of the kingdom of heaven. We rejoice at the fact that God is a king. He reigns through his Son who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from sin and purify for himself a people of his own, born of his Spirit. This kingdom belongs to our King and we are his.

 

The coming of the kingdom of Christ took place gradually. First came the forerunner, John the Baptist; next came the King, Jesus, who brings light to his followers and purifies his people, that they might be worthy to live in communion with God. Then the Spirit of Jesus came upon his believers, ensuring our coming into the kingdom of God. At last, Jesus will come in his glory and his kingdom will prevail on earth. The history of the kingdom of God indicates development, movement and growth towards a majestic goal. It has begun, it is now present in us and it will manifest its glory and power openly for all to see. This is why we listen to Jesus saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Are you inside or outside the kingdom? Do not forget that the kingdom does not concern your personal salvation only. It also concerns those waiting to hear the gospel message so that they might repent and become a newborn believer in the family of their heavenly Father.

 

Prayer:

I glorify you, Holy Lord, because you reiterated the word of repentance and the proclamation of your kingdom that I might not live indifferently but will leave my sins by the power of your nameóexperiencing your mercy and expecting your imminent return. I ask you to create in me perseverance, purity and holiness that I may honor my royal King through my behavior. Please guide whomever longs to come into the kingdom of your love and send me to invite them and draw them into your presence.

 

Question 40: Why did Jesus reiterate the Baptistís good news: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand?"

 

 

Christ calls the first two brothers to discipleship (4:18-22)

 

4:18 And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. (19) Then he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." (20) They immediately left their nets and followed him. (21) 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. He called them, (22) and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him. (Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:1-11; John 1:35-51)

 

When Christ began to preach, disciples began to gather who were first hearers, and then the preachers of his doctrine with signs and wonders accompanying them. In these verses, we have an account of the first disciples that he called into fellowship with himself.

 

In Christ's preaching, he gave a common call to all people but in these verses, he gave a special call to those that were given him by the Father. It is the power of Christís grace that influences hearts and lives to forsake everything and heed the special call of God for the sake of the gospel. Although all the country was called, these were called out and were redeemed from among them. When Christ, the great Teacher, set up his school, one of his first works was to appoint under masters to be employed in the work of instruction. Now he began to give gifts unto men, to put divine treasures into earthen vessels. It was an early instance of his care for the church.

 

Before being called out but after hearing Jesus preach, the disciples went back to their cities and practiced their fishing trade to provide for themselves and their families. However, the relationship between them and Jesus did not break off, and when the time has come, Jesus went to them and called two pair of brothers. They were not philosophers, theologians, rich men, or politicians. They were simple fishermen who were accustomed to hardships and hazards that came with their trade. They feared God and eagerly anticipated the coming of Christ.

 

Jesus gave them an offer that they would have been foolish to reject, "Follow men, and I will make you fishers of men." Although the concept of fishing may have been similar to their former occupation, this divine calling was like taking up a new life. They should not have been full of pride because of this new honor bestowed upon themóthey were still but fishermen. They should not have been afraid of the new work Jesus had for themóthey were used to fishing, and fishermen they still were. It was characteristic of Christ to speak of spiritual and heavenly things with such connotations, using common things that offered themselves to convey his meaning. David was called from feeding sheep to feed Godís people, and as a king, he was declared a shepherd. Followers of Christ are fishers of men, not to catch and destroy men, but to save them by bringing them into the kingdom of God. His followers must fish, not for wealth, honor, and privilege to gain men to themselves, but for souls to gain them to Christ. "I am ready to come to you . . . for I do not seek what is yours, but you." (2 Corinthians 12:14).

 

Anyone that has watched the work of fishermen on the sea has seen that they use different methods to accomplish their work. Some stand on the shore and cast their baited hooks into the water and wait for a fish to bite. They wait patiently until one fish takes the hook so they can reel it in. We see this principle in the kingdom of God. Christ's followers have to wait patiently for those who become interested in taking hold of the gospel message, then they can be led to Christ one by one.

 

Another common way of fishing is with nets. A group of fishermen set out in boats to cast a big net into the water. They propel across the water and drag their net, hoping to catch a lot of fish. It goes without saying that a man is not able to do this job alone. To "catch men" with the "gospel net", a group of believers or church members must work in unity, praying and ministering the gospel, to win many to Jesus. Each member in the group uses their divine gifts to partake in the Lordís work.

 

In addition to these two methods, we find other ways to win sinners to God. There are fishermen who wonít wait for fish to come to them, but instead, they pursue the fish. They cast a hoop with a net attached around it hoping to quickly scoop up a fish that they can see lounging in shallow water. We must not wait until someone is prepared by himself to come to the Lord if God calls us to approach him directly, share with him the gospel of life, and direct him towards the Lord our Savior.

 

We may find some fishermen who put out an open net or a wire cage. They leave it for one or two nights, and then they come back to see if a fish entered. In like manner, some followers of Christ use some form of media to present to the public the fullness of Godís love so that whoever reads or hears the message might believe and follow the Savior.

 

On high seas where manual work is not practical, big vessels similar to factories do the fishing. They are comparable to the Christian broadcasting stations and publishing houses where groups cooperate to distribute the gospel message. They are all on one vessel, toiling together to bring the word of salvation to as many people as possible and to "catch" multitudes to Jesus. In every method of evangelizing, we must realize that apart from Jesus, we can do nothing.

 

Jesus saw these four men by the Sea of Galilee. He knew them and called them, and they obeyed him without delay. They got up, left their means of living and followed Jesus. They did not expect a fixed salary, nor did they signed an agreement to the working hours. He who is called by Jesus to leave his job for the Lord's ministry must not turn toward money, health, or honor. He must turn toward the Master alone who bears the responsibility for him forever. Do you hear the Lordís calling to serve him?

 

They did not object to leaving their present employment or missing engagements with their families. They did not fuss over the difficulties of the service they were called to or their own inability to do it. Being called, they obeyed, and as Abraham "went out not knowing where he was going," they wentóbut they knew very well whom they followed.

 

Those who rightly follow Christ, must "leave all." Every Christian must leave all affections that would interfere with following the Lord. Christ must be so far above all other relationships that love for him can be comparatively viewed as "hate toward family members" (Luke 14:26). In particular, those who are devoted to the work of the ministry must disentangle themselves from all the affairs of this life so that they may give themselves wholly to his work, which requires "the whole man."

 

Jesus is calling his disciples into a special work that concerns him alone. No other person has the right gather people unto himself, separating them from their works, families, houses and neighbors in order to follow him. He did not gather them by force, but by his powerful wordóand he is still calling servants and disciples this way.

 

Prayer:

I thank you Lord Jesus because you called your disciples to serve. Please look upon me, though I have been wicked and I am incompetent, strengthen and encourage me. Teach me how to fish for people, so that I might help many come to know and trust you. Instruct me by your Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Question 41: What is the implication of Jesus saying, "I will make you fishers of men?"

 

A beautiful account of the Saviorís ministry (4:23-25)

 

4:23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues. Preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. (24) Then his fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demonĖpossessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and he healed them. (25) Great multitudes followed him Ė from Galilee, and from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan. (Mark 1:39; Luke 4:31-44; Luke 6:17-19)

 

How beautiful are these verses, which can be considered a summary of the whole gospel! It states in a few words what Jesus said and did, where and to whom. Read the text again and you will get a panoramic view of the saving ministry of Jesus.

 

He might have issued a proclamation to summon all to come to him, but to show his humility and the dignity of his grace he went to them. He is gentle and humble in heart, and came to seek and save. Josephus, the famous Jewish historian, says, "There were above two hundred cities and towns in Galilee, and all, or most of them Christ visited."

 

He taught the godly in the synagogues, and preached to the neglected unbelievers in the streets, courtyards and countryside. Matthew shows us the essential difference between teaching and preaching. Teaching is the thorough study of knowledge through interpreting the given texts, providing well-arranged ideas according to the belief and giving answers to questions from the study. Preaching, on the other hand, is like the sound of a trumpet. It is Godís call to sinners to come into the light of grace to receive salvation. The purpose of teaching is to explain principles that should be implemented in practical life, whereas the purpose of preaching is to offer the gospel of salvation to unbelievers. Jesus was a teacher and preacher at the same time.

 

The content of his teaching and preaching was the gospel of the kingdom. The word "gospel" in Greek is "euangelion". It was an official announcement used at that time in the house of Roman Caesar for events such as the birth of his children or victory over his enemies. The word signifies a proclamation of good tidings at the royal family level. However, the gospel of Christ is God telling us about the birth of his Son who overcame sin, death and Satan. Victory over this enemy, through Jesus Christ, grants a dwelling place in the spiritual kingdom of heaven to all who believe. This spiritual kingdom grows and no one can stop it. The gospel tells us about the growth of the power of Godís love in the world.

 

Not only did Christ speak with words but he also spoke with his life. His heart was full of mercy and compassion for those suffering under the authority of Satan. He had mercy upon them and healed them because of his great love.

 

He has authority over all spirits and all sicknesses and diseases. Three general terms are used here by Matthew to reveal this. First, "all sickness", including those blind, deaf, dumb and lame; second, "all disease", including leprosy, dysentery, dropsy and chronic bleeding; third, "torments," including demon-possession, epilepsy and seizures. Whether the disease were acute or chronic, whether an agonizing or a wasting disease, nothing is too difficult for Christ to heal with a word. He is the sovereign Physician both of soul and body, and has command of all things. In Christ, paradise came to exist in the midst of our world. The Creator came to his creation, and began to renew those who believe in him. This fact may be found, as well, with full clearness, in non-Christian books.

 

Healing the sick was not Jesus' first priority. He concentrated on preaching to the multitudes then he healed those who believed in him. The renewal of the world did not begin with charity, economic planning or social insurance, but with a spiritual turn through repentance and belief in Christ. Trust in the person of Jesus changes the heart, attitude and the situation. Many who crowed near Christ were not rich, educated, or devoutly religious, but were wretched sinners, sick or demon-possessed. How beautiful is the image of the person of Jesus and the gathering of the needy and the tormented around him! He is the source of mercy and blessing, of cure and hope.

 

Today, we see large crowds around kings and presidents during big meetings. We hear empty promises. Their words do not comfort the heart nor cure the body. Yet Jesus cured all those who came to him and comforted the hearts of all those who believed in him. No cure ever failed, they were healed speedily and the sick went immediately, sins were taken away and unclean spirits were cast out. Those who committed themselves to his glory, trusted his desire to save them, and his willingness to help them must have directly experienced how the power of Jesus run into their sick bodies.

 

Do you know who Jesus is? He is the faithful Savior who is full of love for the poor and the smitten. Are you close to him? We congratulate you for your communion with him, for we are also of those who need him every day.

 

Prayer:

I glorify you, Savior of the world, because you did not reject the downcast, despised, sick and desperate but you accepted them, healed them, and comforted them. God, I pray my tongue would be controlled to glorify you. I ask that many of my friends might come into the kingdom of your love. O Lord, please heal, speak, call, and triumph. I am crowded around you, believing in your power and dominion. I trust your desire and determination to save me and to save my family, friends and neighbors. I thank you for accomplishing your work in my nation today.

 

Question 42: Why do we call Matthew 4:23-25 the small Gospel or the summary of the Gospel?

 

 

 

 

 

The first quiz of the Gospel of Christ according to Matthew

 

Dear brother, having read our commentary on the Gospel of Christ according to Matthew in this book, you are now able to answer the following questions. If you answer 90% of the questions stated below, we will send you the next parts of this commentary for your edification, providing there is nothing that would prohibit us from getting this literature to you. Please do not forget to include writing your full name and address clearly on the answer sheet.

 

The questions:

1.      Who is Matthew, and how did he introduce himself?

2.      What are the characteristics of the Gospel according to Matthew?

3.      What is the purpose of the Gospel according to Matthew?

4.      Why is the Christian not bound by a certain book but is devoted to the person of Jesus?

5.      What does the title "Christ" signify with respect to Jesus?

6.      Why was Jesus called the "Son of David?"

7.      How can Jesus be the Son of Abraham too?

8.      How was Isaac comparable to Jesus?

9.      How was Jacob made worthy of offering Godís blessing to all men?

10.  How was the promise about Judah fulfilled in Jesus?

11.  Why did the Evangelist Matthew bring into view four women in the genealogy of Jesus? What are their names?

12.  When did the division take place in the kingdom of the Old Testament, and from which group does Jesus descend?

13.  How did God protect the southern kingdom and how did he deliver it into captivity?

14.  Why does the genealogy of Jesus end with Joseph who is not his father according to the flesh?

15.  What does the chronological order of the genealogy of Jesus indicate?

16.  What is the meaning of Mary being found with child of the Holy Spirit?

17.  Why did the angel order Joseph to embrace Mary?

18.  What is the meaning of "Jesus"?

19.  What is the meaning of "Immanuel"? And why is Christ worthy of that name?

20.  How did Joseph, the husband of Jesus' mother, become one of the heroes of faith?

21.  When did the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter take place for the first time during that period?

22.  Who is Herod? And what is the supreme Jewish Council?

23.  What are the most important ideas in the prophecy of Micah?

24.  Why were the wise men filled with great joy?

25.  What is the meaning of worship?

26.  How did God save the child Jesus and his parents from the hand of Herod?

27.  What is the last goal of Godís punishments?

28.  What were the three things revealed to Joseph? And where were they mentioned in the Gospels?

29.  What is the acceptable repentance?

30.  What are the principles of the preaching and the life of John the Baptist?

31.  Who are the Pharisees, and who are the Sadducees?

32.  What does the Creator expect from you to do?

33.  Why is Christ able to baptize with the Holy Spirit?

34.  What is the difference between the baptism with the Holy Spirit and the baptism with fire?

35.  Why was Jesus baptized at the Jordan though he was innocent?

36.  How did the Holy Trinity proclaim himself in Jordan Valley?

37.  Why did not Jesus make bread out of the stones, though he was able to?

38.  Why did not Christ throw himself down from the pinnacle of the temple?

39.  Why did Jesus order Satan to worship only God?

40.  Why did Jesus reiterate the Baptistís good news: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand"?

41.  What is the implication of Jesus calling, "I will make you fishers of men"?

42.  Why do we call Matthew 4:23-25 the small Gospel or the summary of the Gospel?

 

We encourage you to complete with us the examination of Christ and his Gospel that you may receive an everlasting treasure. We are awaiting your answers and praying for you. Our address is:

 

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