Who is Jesus?
Have you ever wanted to write a book?
Writing books is really hard. Reading books takes a while, I imagine writing one takes a little longer.
Now, what’s funny is we’re a church of about 100 people, and we have several authors in our midst! Gene Poppino has helped write a book. Hannah Russell is in the process of writing a book. Gwen Waller and Harold Eash have each on their own written multiple books. I wonder if other churches have 4% of their congregation write books.
If you could write a book, what would it be about?
Our old pastor Dave Odell said he wanted to write a book about God and Dogs and Theology, I’m not sure how that would work, but if you knew Dave, you know Dave LOVED dogs.
If you’re going to write a book, you have to be passionate about what you’re writing about. Why? Because writing a book is hard.
I like eating burritos at the Mexican Mart across the street. I would not write a book about it because I don’t LOVE eating burritos at the Mexican Mart across the street. Writing a book takes dedication, heavy amounts of research, experience, and passion about the subject.
Nearly two thousand years ago, a Jewish man named Matthew wrote a book.
He wrote about something he was so convinced of, so passionate about, something he had experienced so deeply himself, that he wanted as many people to know about it as possible, so he put it in writing, and it was so successful, that two thousand years later, Gateway Chapel in the ends of the earth is going to be talking about it.
This year, we’re going to be walking through the gospel of Matthew together. Matthew is an incredible book, one that I am so excited to share with you all in 2023.
This morning, rather than dive right into Chapter 1, I want to do a brief overview of the book as a whole and ask, “What is Matthew about? Why does it matter for you, for me, for our cities, for the world in 2023?”
I would argue, the main point of Matthew is that Jesus is the Christ. Jesus is the Messiah. The Son of David. He’s the Son of God. He’s the Savior of the World. He’s the King!
Or, to put it in a way you could share with your neighbor - Jesus is the most important person in the world, then, now, and forever. And that’s really good news.
So we’re going to learn some things about Matthew, see how the book’s structure points towards its message, and see what that means for us today.
Why Matthew in 2023?
I want to be more and more convinced, as I hope you do too, that the most important thing about my life is getting to know Jesus better. That’s what we mean when we say we are a church on mission to make disciples who hear, love, and obey Jesus. So reading Matthew, which is all about Jesus, helps us to do that. And the Bible says regularly gathering as Christians to encourage one another sing songs together, teach from God’s word, is a part of becoming more like Jesus.
What is Matthew all about?
When I read books with Isabelle, the first page in a book is that one with all the tiny print with the copywright info…Isabelle likes that! She’ll ask, “When was this written?” And I’ll say, “When you give a cat a cupcake was written in 2011” and She’ll say, “Oh...”
If you open your Bible, Matthew doesn’t have that basic info, but I think it’s important as we begin looking at the book.
Who’s the author of Matthew?
If you said Jesus you’re either just guessing or you’re being snarky because yes God did inspire Scripture but he also used human authors and traditionally, church history has said Matthew is the author. Does it say that anywhere?
It doesn’t. But for thousands of years the church has attributed this to Matthew so we’re going to roll with it.
Who is Matthew?
He’s a tax collector. We read that in Matthew 9 when Jesus calls Matthew. Matthew is a Jew…Matthew is one of the most Jewish books of the New Testament. He pulls so consistently from the Old Testament writings.
When was it written?
People think different things. There’s a possibility it was written after AD 70, which was when the Romans sacked Jerusalem. Which makes you read sayings of Jesus differently like, “Love your enemy, pray for those who persecute you...” Why Jesus? Because look what happened!
Who did he write it to?
If you wrote a book, who would you want to read it? As many people as possible.
Jews and Gentiles. Matthew wants everyone to know Jesus. However, Matthew was almost an edge to it, and seems particularly written for Jews who were unconvinced of Jesus being the Christ. Look at this verse in Matthew 27...
25 And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!”
Why is it in our Bibles?
God wanted it to be there, for one. Two, if we didn’t have Matthew, we wouldn’t have the Sermon on the Mount, some of the most precious words ever spoken! We wouldn’t have Jesus’ self attestation in Matthew 11, “I am gentle and lowly in heart.” I love Matthew because, as we’ll see, the structure makes sense, it’s like you can carry it around in your mind and have it at your disposal as you go about your daily life with Jesus.
What is the book about?
It’s all about Jesus, the most important person in the world. How do we know that? Look at how Matthew starts and ends his book:
1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
Christ is not Jesus’ last name, Matthew is right from the start arguing that Jesus is the promised Messiah, the savior of the world, the most important person in the history of the world.
Okay now the last verse:
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew wants us to read his book, close it, and say: Oh my goodness, it’s all about Jesus! He’s the King! The whole Old Testament is about him, the story of the world is about him, my life is for him…and to be driven to get to know him more.
Matthew is 28 chapters long, how does the structure of the book point to this main point that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the King, the most important person in the world?
One way to look at Matthew is in a three part structure:
Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3
Part 1 - He’s the Promised King!
Part 2 - He is the Good King!
Part 3 - He is the Crucified and Victorious King!
Thanks to Fletcher for pointing me towards some good resources and helping me with this structure...Part 1 says, “Look, Jesus is the one we were promised!” Part 2 of Matthew says, “Look at what Jesus said and what he did, he’s a good king!” and Part 3 says, “You missed him! You expected him to be something else, but he was a crucified and victorious king!”
So let’s briefly look at each of these parts to see how they add to Matthew’s point that Jesus is the most important person in the world.
How does Part 1 of Matthew point us to Jesus as the most important person in the world?
Part 1 - Matthew 1:1-4:16. “The Promised King”
The story of the Bible is one of God being King, making a good creation, but humans tarnishing that good creation by choosing that we want to be king, rather than God. And God promises that one day he would send his King, the promised Messiah to save humans from the sin and death which has corrupted that world.
And Matthew says guys…It’s Jesus. He’s the one who fulfills all the Old Testament prophecy about the Promised King.
In Matthew, we see the word fulfill 14 times, with half of those coming in Part 1 of the book…like in Matthew 1:22
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented.
Part 1 of Matthew is very concerned about proving that Jesus is the Promised King which the whole Old Testament was pointing to.
A brief scan of the first four chapters -
Part 1 - Promised King: Matthew 1:1-4:16.
1:1-25 - Jesus is the Promised Son of David
2:1-23 - Jesus was Born in Bethlehem
3:1-17 - Jesus as Son of God, and John the Baptist
4:1-18 - Jesus defeats Satan, goes to Nazareth
Matthew is trying to make it so obvious…Jesus is the one! He’s yelling at his Jewish brothers and sisters saying…haven’t you read?? It’s Jesus who God would send to save us! Jesus of Nazareth! The traveling country preacher.
What does this mean for us?
Jesus is the most important person in the world…he’s the promised King every human heart is waiting for.
Whether we know it or not, whether you’ve read your OT or not, we all desperately need a Savior like Jesus.
How many of you watched Monday Night Football this week? This is not a sanctification test.
Danar Hamlin, a 24 year old player for the Buffalo Bills suffered a cardiac arrest during the game, his heart stopped, he nearly died, the game was suspended, and he’s recovering at a hospital still. I didn’t watch it but I watched a lot after, it was crazy.
I was talking to Cindy Bush this week about it, and she made a great point that it’s amazing how much prayer was happening on ESPN. ESPN is owned by Disney…not a Christian organization…but boy was ESPN talking about praying to God. Why? Because we’re all terrified of death! And a young man nearly died playing football, and we’re sad and wondering is there someone out there who can save us from this world of death?
And Matthew says, Yes! It’s Jesus! He’s come as promised and every person who’s ever wondered is there someone who cares and someone who can save me from this life of sin and death, it’s Jesus!
Jesus is the most important person that every human heart has been waiting for.
So how does part 2 build on this idea that Jesus is the most important person in the world?
Part 2 - Matthew 4:17-16:20. “He is the Good King”
Show image of Part 2
In Part 2, Matthew 4:17-16:20, Matthew gives us an account of things Jesus said, and things Jesus did.
In these chapters, there is a cadence between what Jesus said, and what Jesus did. And Matthew says Jesus is a good king, because the things Jesus said line up with what Jesus did.
The saying, “Do as I say and not as I do” may apply to you and me, but it doesn’t apply to Jesus!
Part 2: The Good King: Matthew 4:17-16:20.
Matthew 4:17-5:1 - Jesus calls the first disciples
Matthew 5:2-7:27 - SERMON ON THE MOUNT
Matthew 7:28-10:4 - Healings, miracles, casting out demons, calling disciples
Matthew 10:5-11:30 - MISSIONS, JOHN THE BAPTIST
Matthew 12:1-12:50 - Stories about Jesus interacting with the Pharisees
Matthew 13:1-52 - PARABLES ABOUT THE KINGDOM
Matthew 13:53 - 16:20 - Stories about miraculous feeding, walking on water, Peter proclaiming Jesus as the Christ
There’s a famous line in The Chronicles of Narnia where Susan asks, “Is Aslan Tame?” And they respond, “Tame? No. But he is good.”
I think it’s the same with Jesus. Jesus is not tame, but he is good. Think of what he says!
48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
Jesus heals people, walks on water, miraculously feeds thousands of people, has power over the spiritual world.
Who is this guy? And Part 2 ends with this famous scene...
13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Matthew is saying…look, if I didn’t convince you in the first four chapters that Jesus is the most important person in the world…let me show you all he said and did. He is the King who is bringing the kingdom!
What does part 2 of Matthew mean for us?
Jesus is the most important person in the world, and he is a good king.
We are in a cultural moment where we distrust anyone with power. In the age of the internet we’re bombarded with stories of people in power who abuse their power. Personally, we’ve experienced it. Your boss has let you down, saying one thing and doing another, management lets you down at your job, your parents let you down, pastors let us down...
Matthew is saying…Jesus will never let you down. He’s a good king.
So much of this section of Matthew is full of people like us saying, “Who is Jesus? Can I trust him? Is he good or evil?”
Matthew is saying stop giving your allegiance to other kings, come to Jesus. He’s the good king.
So part 1....Jesus is the promised king…part 2…Jesus is the good king…part 3…Jesus is the crucified and victorious king.
Part 3 - Matthew 16:21-28:20. Matthew is saying Jesus is the most important person in the world…and he was murdered.
Part 3 of Matthew walks us towards the death of Jesus.
Part 3 begins just like Part 2…Matthew 16:21
21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.
This is where you play the record scratch song. If he’s the true king, how can he die? Peter agrees...
21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
Part 3: The Crucified and Victorious King - Matthew 16:21-28:20
Matthew 16:21-17:27 - Transfiguration
Matthew 18:1-20:34 - Teachings on forgiveness, the church, marriage, service, etc.
Matthew 21 - Triumphal entry, parables
Matthew 22-23 - Debates with the religious leaders
Matthew 24-25 - Teaching on what is to come
Matthew 26 - Betrayal, Final Supper, Peter Denies
Matthew 27 - Crucifixion, Burial
Matthew 28 - Resurrection, Great Commission
Matthew proved Jesus was the promised king, he’s a good king, and here he says look…you missed him! You didn’t think he was the promised king, you didn’t think he was a good king, so you had him killed. And you know how there are these communities of Jesus followers popping up all over the place? That’s because Jesus rose from the dead and told his people to go make disciples! Jesus’ death was actually his victory over the curse of sin and death.
There’s this irony in Matthew over who truly follows Jesus. You would think the Jews would be the first to follow him. But we read them cry out in Matthew 27:25
25 And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!”
And then we see a Roman centurion…a bad guy! Hired hand of the enemy call out Matthew 27:54
54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
Jesus is the most important person in the world, and he doesn’t look like we expect.
Just like the Jews, we can miss Jesus. What Jesus actually does, and what we expect him to do, are often two different things. The Jews expected a King who would come and kill the enemy, Jesus came to be killed by the true enemy in order to achieve victory.
In his book, Emotionally Healthy Discipleship, Pete Scazzero says we often follow an Americanized Jesus, rather than the Crucified Jesus.
What does that mean? When we expect Jesus to be Americanized rather than Crucified, we expect following him to be easier. We expect to be happy all the time. We expect that we won’t ever be depressed, won’t ever suffer the loss of a loved one, won’t ever have a string of sleepless nights, won’t ever be worried about finances…when in actuality, following the crucified Jesus means we follow a King who knew that the way to life was through death.
And so that gives us great hope in 2023 that even if things go wrong, and they will, Jesus is the kind of King who surprises us by being there in our suffering.
The good news of Matthew is Jesus is the most important person in the world. He’s the promised king who’s brought the kingdom and is the longing of every human heart to have someone save us from our life of death and pain and sorrow. He’s the good king who doesn’t let us down or lie to us like other false leaders. He’s the crucified and victorious king who wins through losing, letting his enemies crush him so he can save them.
I don’t have the time or energy to write a book.
Some of you have written books and you amaze me! Matthew was passionate about Jesus and wrote this amazing text about Jesus, the most important person in the world.
And the great thing about Matthew’s book is that unlike many other books which have been written about famous people, we can actually get to know Jesus. I can read a book about Abraham Lincoln, he was pretty important, but he’s dead. Jesus is way more important than anyone in history, and he is alive. And the best thing is that you and I can get to know him this year. What would it look like for you to get to know Jesus more through Matthew’s book in 2023?