Continuing Our Look at the Gospel of Matthew...
Before we go further into the book, let’s take a quick peek at Matthew’s skeleton.
No, not that skeleton…. The structure, or the outline of the book.
If you were going to teach someone the Christian faith, how would you approach it? Part of the genius of Luther’s Small Catechism, is the way that it lays out the full breadth of what it means to be a Christian in just six sections: the 10 Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Sacrament of Baptism, Confession & Absolution, and the Sacrament of the Altar. By learning these six ‘chief parts’, you get a very solid introduction into the Christian faith.
But there are other approaches. As Matthew wrote his Gospel, he used an outline that was quite different, but just as simple. A very rough outline of the book of Matthew starts with a section on the person of Jesus (chapters 1-4), then records 5 ‘discourses’— the Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7), a teaching to the apostles in chapter 10 as they are sent out to preach the Gospel to the surrounding areas, a set of parables in chapter 13 which describe the Kingdom of Heaven, a set of parables and teachings in chapter 18 which describe life in the church, and a sermon about the End Times (including how we, as believers, should approach that day) — and then concludes with Matthew’s account of Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension.
Now, that probably sounds mind-numbingly academic— as if it might help you pass a test in a theology class, but wouldn’t be of any benefit in daily life. But go back to my initial question again: how would you approach the task of teaching someone the Christian faith? The way we answer that question; the way we approach that task says a great deal about what is really important for believers— not just for new believers but for you and me, as well. Matthew begins and ends his instruction with Jesus— both literally and figuratively. Who is Jesus? He is true God and true man; conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. What has He done for you? He has suffered, died, and rose again. And, as He ascended into heaven, He sent His church to make new citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven by baptizing and teaching them all that Jesus taught.
In between, Matthew’s readers are introduced to those teachings of Jesus. And those teachings challenge us; they accuse us; they run contrary to so much that comes naturally to us. They reveal quite clearly how desperately we need what Jesus came to do. Is it necessary that you be able to recite the outline of the book of Matthew? No. But if we notice what Matthew is doing and how he tries to introduce you to Jesus Christ, you’ll get to know Him even better.
That’s what you can expect to get out of the study as we work our way through the book of Matthew, section by section: to come to a better knowledge of Jesus Christ and our common faith. Please join us and take advantage of the opportunity.