So, we’re back for Part II for some thoughts on the book of Matthew! In no way is the blog post summative or a theological analysis. These are simply passages that stood out to me and thoughts I had while reading through Matthew this time. It took almost all of January since I’m reading a chapter from the New Testament a day! As I said in the last post, one of the best and easiest ways for initially digging into the word is to read and intentionally look for something you haven’t noticed before about that passage or maybe you remembered it differently from how it’s actually written. Ask questions! Be curious about the behind the scenes stuff that’s going on behind all the Jewish culture and the society that Jesus lived in 2,000 years ago!
This was a strategy I learned in Bible class last summer so I can’t take credit for it, but I certainly can attest to how much it will bless your study when you implement it! I’ve used this in Bible study and when I’m rereading a book or piece of literature for class. Without fail, the best works of literature, including the Bible, always show their different dimensions with strategies like this.
With Part I, I left off talking about how Jesus establishes, or rather reveals, his authority in Chapter 8. We learn that he specifically has the authority to heal – to heal us physically, to heal us spiritually, and to heal our situations and the circumstances that surround us. He takes our heartbreak, our brokenness, our pains and frustrations and then mitigates all of it when we are walking with him and trusting in him. As we get into chapter 9, the Word reveals another area where Jesus has the ultimate authority. He is our great example in all things but especially here.
Jesus has the authority to forgive sins.
This seems so obvious. We know Jesus forgives in abundance, and we can always learn how to forgive better and more fiercely from him. But it wasn’t so much Jesus’s ability and authority to wash away our sins that started all the cogs and wheels for me here in chapter 9. It was the reaction the scribes had and specifically their criticism of Jesus forgiving the sins of the paralyzed man that did it for me.
In this small snapshot of Jesus’s life and ministry, we not only get a really life account of how Jesus gave lease on life spiritually and physically, but also we get a broader metaphor for sin.
Because sin paralyzes. Our sin can cripple us from dusting off our mat of deep despair and pain, from taking Jesus’s nail-scarred hands, and from allowing him to gently lead us down the path of discipleship. Sin has a way of creeping into our system and rendering us immobile for the cause of Christ. Sin is that trauma, that severed vertebrae, those damaged nerves that disconnect the muscles of our souls and preventing us from responding to the messages from the brain, the Head, the Savior. Because of sin, we cannot walk with Jesus. Because of sin, we cannot walk with Him on water. Because of sin, we cannot walk.
Jesus not only saw this man’s paralyzed body but also his paralyzed soul.
The scribes only saw one of those. The obvious, the physical, as they beheld the man who’s legs were rendered useless. They failed to see the wounds that went so much deeper, the paralysis that was so much more crippling.
“Who then can be saved?”
Fast forwarding to chapter 19, the story of the rich young man got me thinking here. Right now, I have a friend in Austria. She’s there doing mission work, but she’s reaping the harvest in a place where the ground is extremely infertile. There, she faces the same difficulties we are starting to face in America when it comes to winning followers for Christ. The same difficulties we have been facing her for quite some time actually.
Simply put it is really difficult to acknowledge our need for God when all of our needs are met.
Like the rich young man, most of us in Europe and America have all of our basic needs met. Nearly all of us have a home with four solid walls and a roof to match. Nearly all of us get three meals a day. All of us have access to clean drinking water on a regular basis. Nearly all of us have an iPhone, Xbox, TV, you name it. Nearly all of us graduate with a high school education. We have all that we need physically and so much more.
But while we have all of this wealth in the world we fail to see the families that are falling a part, the senseless killing of children in schools, the half-hearted commitment of that brother or sister who says it is simply enough to walk through some doors and take a seat in the front pew. Some of these problems we even acknowledge, but we don’t acknowledge the act of following Jesus – I’m talking actually leaning on him, clinging to him with all our might – as the solution to the problem. We fail to see this in our own churches, in our own families, in our own lives.
We have checked all the boxes, but our souls are still yearning for more. Just like the rich man. We keep the commandments. We punch our attendance time sheets. We make sure we do our one church duty. We cry fitting tears over the next news cycle. But our hearts do not trust God anymore than they did before. Our hearts have not turned any closer to God.
But – so we can end positively here – let’s look for things in our life that need to be cut out, that are put to better use being given to someone else. Let’s intentionally put ourselves in a situation where we have no other choice but to trust that Jesus will give us what we need at the right time.
Obviously, there are more lessons that I learned when reading through Matthew this time, but I think I’ll leave it at that. I’m finding myself getting a little overwhelmed with writing about a whole book and what stood out to me about it. Maybe you could tell that I was fighting with two strains of what could be powerful and perfectly independent blogs. While writing about the man who was paralyzed I found myself wishing I could go deeper into that story, but there were just too many other things to write about. Some goes for the rich young man.
I think from now on I may keep this to something more topical and take the Bible in more bit-size portions for blogging. It’s truly amazing that the scriptures lend themselves to such depth and magnitude, that we can always glean deeper from the Word! Just as Christ’s love never ends, the levels to his Word never end either. As soon as we think we have reached the end of the line, the deepest part of the ocean, we will always find that his love for us goes on still.