matthew 2Ready or not here, He comes!  The account of Jesus.  And nothing has been the same since!  The first four narratives, the Gospels per Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John of the New Testament, are biographical profiles on Jesus, each written from the author’s accounts and perspective of first-century believers (remember all the N.T. authors are Jewish   to include Jesus so there are many circular references between the shared Testaments) whose life had been made new by the His life, atoning death,  and resurrection.

It’s interesting to note that the Christian message (Romans 10:13) is not unambiguous to the Jews. Dig a little deeper and find in the Jewish Apocrypha (that which is not part of canon nor part of the Hebrew  Bible but was written roughly around the same time), describes the anointed one, the Messiah  (i.e. servant, shepherd, judge, king, son of man, etc).    Israel’s heritage was conveyed, not beginning with itself, but within the context of the entire human race in the first ten chapters of Genesis before the ancestral line up through Abraham in Genesis 12 that Matthew quotes.

Jesus Christ is the compound name of the savior of the world.  Jesus is the son of man, with the name similar to the meaning of Josuha ( Jehovah saves) and Christ is Greek for the anointed one.

About one-third of Matthew and Mark, one-fourth of Luke and one-half of John focus on the last hours of Jesus.  The first three Gospels are called synoptic because of the offer a comparison with each other.  All the Gospels have a literary relation to one another.  John is written more different than the first three Gospels.  Some argue the Gospels contradict each other, but taking into account the personalities of the writers, their styles and who their audience is, the harmony comes forth.  Over half the words in all the Gospels are the words of Christ.

Matthew writes to show the fulfillment of the First Testament prophecies.  Technically the author (Matthew a.k.a Levi) gives his eyewitness account written specifically with the Jewish audience in mind.  His theme is to show the fulfillment of First Testament prophecies.  Technically the author is not mentioned except the reference to  Levi the tax collector whom Jesus later renames  Matthew.  The name means a gift of the Lord.  Matthew was not favored by many at the time because he was a Jew who worked as a Roman tax collector.

There is much debate (to get it right) about when the Gospels were written and for that matter the New Testament.  Except for the books by John, it is assumed the New Testament was written before AD 70  when the temple was destroyed in Jerusalem.  Scholarly scrutiny for scripture to be part of the canon of the New Testament include whether the writers had a direct association or eyewitness accounts with Jesus, it produced during His era, how widely used (at first orally) it was in the early church and if it conforms to the rules of faith.  It is suggested the book of Matthew was written after the book of Mark.  My guess is Matthew was placed first in this second part of the Bible to bridge the two eras together (O.T. and N.T), to show Jesus came as the fulfillment for the Jewish saving Messiah.  It has been four hundred years of silence since the book of Malachi, a time known as the intertestamental or second temple period.

Early philosopher (AD 328) and theologian St. Augustine is attributed as saying,  “In the Old Testament, the New is concealed, in the New, the Old is revealed.”

Jesus’s narrative is the hope of the universe which rests on his shoulders, a first-century Middle Eastern man, conceived by a teenage virgin, born in an obscure town, who hung out with the nonreligious and for the most part, was unimpressive to others until He spoke. Jesus’s adult life is spent with no predictable place to lay His head, and He died by crucifixion between two thugs on top of a trash heap. Basically, He would be what we call homeless today. These details about Jesus’ life don’t exactly scream “the hope of the universe” or “savior of the world” when He started out his three-year ministry at thirty years old.  In Matthew 24:21-29, Jesus predicts His second coming after his resurrection.

The Sermon on the Mount, commonly known as the Beatitudes, is recorded in chapters 5 through 7, as key verse about Jesus not coming to abolish the law but fulfill it.It is spoken not only to the original twelve disciples but to others who came to hear Jesus speak.  The meaning of blessed, a word He used often, is blurred today because it’s definition is used differently in this era.  It is now used in such a way that it is disguised as if bragging versus used humbly (a topic to be taken up in a later chapter) as intended. The Sermon on the Mount is not about how to get into the kingdom of God (heaven) but how we already have a step in the kingdom here in this life on earth when joining in on the mission of Christ. The sermon is a description of a Jesus like character trait with each beatitude or blessing presented in a progressive order of steps with the first: poverty of spirit.

Brooks, in his book The Road to Character, retells a Jewish story from a rabbi about the first Adam (in Genesis) being more focused on what his resume says about him versus another, the second Adam (Jesus in the Gospels), focused more on his eulogy.  It made me think of this conversation pattern that developed with a friend.  When sharing a story about someone, he made sure he sandwiched in that person’s accomplishments (found in a resume) as part of the discussion. I guess it was said so I could fully appreciate the importance or significance of that person by his credentials. I also think, the teller, was trying to impress his listeners on whose important shoulders he was rubbing up against.

Write your own eulogy as you prepare your will or last wishes.  Then continue to revise it.  Do as often as you revise your resume.

The definition of disciples is comparable to being an apprentice.  Apprentices however usually chose their master or teacher, not the other way around as was the case here with Jesus who chose them.  There once was a fictitious mock evaluation that makes the point between  what man values versus what God sees:

  • Peter is declared emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper.
  • Andrew has no qualities of leadership.
  • The two brothers, James and John, sons of Zebedee, place personal interest above company loyalty.
  • Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale.
  • Greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau blacklists Matthew.
  • Simon, James, and Thaddeus ( a.k.a. Jude) have radical learnings and the latter two register high scores on the manic-depressive scale.
  • The initial response from Nathanial is as skeptic and Philip as pessimistic.
  • One disciple, however, shows to be highly motivated and ambitious and innovative, has the ability, is resourceful, networks with people in high places and is business minded: Judas.

Comparing a resume to a eulogy, the Beatitudes informs that Jesus wasn’t interested if someone stood with the great but instead if they sat with the broken.  St. Mother Teresa sat with the broken in India.  What better way then to shine a light on her ministry than when she sat with world dignitaries and celebrities who held public esteem, titles, influence, and prominence who helped gain exposure from it.  Bill Bennot, a church planter, said how we walk with the broken speaks louder that how we sit with the great.

John the Baptist was the last of his kind as a prophet, echoing the First Testament warnings.   When the time came, he was hesitant to baptize Jesus knowing of His divine identity and authority.  Jesus didn’t need the rebirth of the cleansing of baptism. When John reminded him of this, he was told by Jesus that it must be done to fulfill scripture.  After the baptism, God said, with a symbolic dove (representing His Spirit) similar to the one for new creation on Noah’s ark,  “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17).

God had said He was “well pleased” before Jesus’ ministry had yet to begin. He had not yet healed anyone, preached any sermons of note, held little accomplishment to be recorded in the Scriptures (notwithstanding his miraculous birth ). But still, God, the Father, expresses his approval.  It showed how the father God’s love and approval are not based on orthopraxy.

The longest Jewish genealogy of Jesus, beginning with Abraham is in Matthew (Luke’s genealogy begins his with Adam showing God’s message is for all of humanity related before Genesis 12).  Matthews genealogy is an indicator he was writing to a Jewish audience showing the realization of Jesus’s line coming from Abraham. Jesus’s family tree includes women (seldom mentioned in biblical genealogies): Judah, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba. Their backstory includes sex with a father in law who thought she was a prostitute; a Gentile who bore two sons out of incest, a Canaanite prostitute, and a Moabite lineage that began with from the incest between Lot and his daughter.  Jesus was not ashamed of His family tree nor did He hide it.

I have struggled with an underlying burden of shame and guilt, to the point of irrational guilt, of unworthiness when it comes to my birth family.  Somewhere along the way, my guilt morphed into the most defining aspects of shame. The shame came from their actions, the things they did and still do today to themselves and others, and even their neglect of preserving any sense of reputation of our family name has been particularly burdensome for me. I have a sense of shame of not having the kind of birth family that grows together, one that takes care of each other, shows love and support to and for each other.  There is no perfect family.  But I do admire the ones that stick together regardless instead of going their separate ways in adult life.  I feel the shame of my situation of being a divorced grandparent,  I had hoped to represent something different for my grandchildren.

I can almost pinpoint the exact moment shame raised its ugly head in my life.  It was when I received my first-grade report card.  I had just begun school, so my “first grades” were averaged out and was reflected in one grade which the teacher explained to parents.  I received the grade of C (for average).  My dad was disappointed and, quietly and calmly, while sitting on his lap, he let me know.

It was an impetus for me to eventually be the first female in my immediate family to complete higher education which broke a glass ceiling for my girls who equaled my education or exceed it.  Sadly, my experience of not measuring up to dad’s expectations since that day sitting on his lap is firmly fid in my memory. For years, I sought to overcome the stigma of being average. While growing up, it led me to try and excel in school, to be the good girl, to win approval or any acknowledgment for accomplishments from others to fill my perceived disappointment f not measuring up.  This behavior followed me into my married and professional life.

Finally, I recognized what I was doing to myself and began to stop basing my success on other’s approval.   Shame for what it is, a feeling of worthlessness, after rejection, of being cast out. Guilt is concerned with doing something wrong whereas the definition of shame is believing that somehow you are bad by association.   It carries with it the sense that there is nothing to be done to purge its burdensome and toxic presence.  This shame usually raises its head when my relationships do not work out because the other decides I am not the “one” hence leaves.  I would spiral downward with abandonment issues. There is also the confusion between shame and guilt in my thinking of it.  My self-incriminations at times, still haunt me, but as I grow older, I am learning to discipline those thoughts by differentiating between the wheat (healthy kind of guilt) from the chaff (shame).   If the first beatitude is about the poverty of spirit, I wonder if that doesn’t define shame?

The Beatitudes are a study in paradox or mystery of Jesus’s teachings.  It depicts the epitome of an attitude of service and humility. Pastor Kyle Idleman says that, in the first Beatitude, “Jesus says there is a blessing that comes when you reach the end of yourself. That’s what it means to be poor in spirit. You reach a place where you are broken, and you do not have what it takes.”

In my warped thinking, I thought my achievements were supposed to pave the way for approval.  Later, I became very sensitized to this in identifying when my kids’ thinking gravitated to this same kind of conclusion to get parental attention.  I conveyed to them they were important and worthy because of who they were and not by their performance to win affection or gain attention.

Ideally, parental love comes regardless of their outcomes.  There were some mixed messages sent out to the kids by their parents but hopefully, the love and acceptance carry the day.

The parable of talents (Matt. 25:14-30) was a confusing one for me.  How can the laborers all be paid the same amount regardless of the time they started work (the beginning or the last hour of the day).  Then I came to a fuller knowledge that the parable is to teach a simple truth.  The rewards (represented by salary here but can also mean love and acceptance in God’s overwhelming grace) is not according to the length of service or the notoriety of service of a believer but according to equal compensation for unequal opportunity, not equal compensation for unequal work.  It’s about being a faithful steward, with the heartfelt conviction of the best of intentions, with what is done with opportunities God gives us.   He created opportunity by sending opportunities (in the parable)at the last hour. In turn the people were true to the only opportunity they had.  Their reward was as great as the reward of those who perhaps worked longer (or as in the case others may have been Christians longer, or have done more in their ministry). This also explains the outcomes for the thief on the cross next to Jesus, the end of life conversions of some, and the father running to greet the prodigal son.  When the opportunity comes from the Holy Spirit then seize it, no matter the timing or what age of the person, everyone is equally valued in His eyes.


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