We begin a new series in Matthew’s gospel. Matthew presents Jesus as the one with all authority, over all nations, for all time, therefore demanding all allegiance in all of life. A bold claim, however, in his gospel we discover good reason to take Jesus seriously. Matthew reveals him as the one who fulfilled the promises of the Old Testament: the seed of Abraham, the true Moses, the ever reigning king of David’s line. We meet the Jesus who taught with authority like no other and performed astonishing wonders. We see this King beautiful in his majesty; the Son who reached out to the lost, the broken, the undeserving; the Sovereign who established his kingdom by serving, who saves through suffering. We explore Matthew’s gospel to encounter Jesus, that like the wise men, we might bow in wonder, embrace his kingdom, enjoy his reign and grow in discipleship as we follow Him.
Sunday 8th January: The prominent kingdom
We start our series in Matthew’s gospel not at the beginning; instead we pause to consider what it means for us to be ‘salt and light’ in the world from our ‘verses for the series’ Matthew 5:13-16. Jesus begins what is known as the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ with the famous beatitudes, describing the characteristics of discipleship; in so far as these qualities are evident in his people, they will be different from the world around them. However, rather than being a holy huddle, the Church is called to intentional engagement, to live differently amongst the local community. In the same way as salt affects the food it is applied to and as light dispels the darkness, so Jesus wants his followers to make an impact for the good and for the glory of God, by living distinctively, displaying and declaring to others the goodness of Christ’s reign, that they might embrace it for themselves.
Reading: Matthew 5:12-16
Sunday 15th January: The promised king
We might be tempted to skip over the beginning of Matthew’s gospel, starting as he does with a genealogy, a list of names. However, it pays to pause. Right at the outset Matthew reveals the identity of Jesus. He is Jesus – Saviour (see 1:21), he is Messiah – God’s anointed deliverer and ruler. He is, as the genealogy attests, the son of David and the son of Abraham, two giants of the Old Testament to whom great promises were made; from them would come the king whose kingdom would endure forever and encompass and bless the nations. Not only does this family tree demonstrate that in Jesus God is faithful to his word, it reveals that Jesus was not ashamed to be associated with the fallen and the foreigner, he is the king for all, the king who serves to deliver from sin, he’s the king we need, who secures forever.
Reading: Matthew 1:1-17
Sunday 22nd January: The provoking king
Matthew identifies Jesus as the Messiah, son of David, son of Abraham – the forever king who will bless all nations (1:1). In the very next chapter Matthew records visit of the Magi. They weren’t kings and there may not have been three of them, but these sages of the East represent the first of the ‘nations’ to acknowledge and honour Jesus’ kingship. However, the arrival of the promised sovereign was not universally welcomed; the religious authorities appear indifferent and Herod had an infamously startling reaction, he would not countenance a rival to his crown. As we note the reactions of the ancients, we’re prompted to consider our own response to Jesus’ rule. If he truly is, as Matthew reveals, the Saviour with all authority, for all time, over all nations, the only wise response is to follow the wise men and give him our allegiance as we take refuge under his reign.
Reading: Matthew 2:1-12
Sunday 29th January: The pronouced king
Matthew has already established Jesus’ identity as Son of David and Son of Abraham, the promised king with all authority, over all nations, for all time. In chapter three, in the account of Jesus’ baptism, we hear the declaration from heaven ‘this is my Son, whom I love; with whom I am well pleased.’ What is hinted at in the genealogy, indicated by the name to be given, ‘Immanuel’ (God with us), and revealed by Matthew as fulfillment (2:5), is now pronounced by the Father: this is my Son! What is astonishing is that we find this Son getting baptised with sinners! Jesus was not ashamed to identify with the flawed and fallen, he is the Son who came, one with us, to identify with us, so that by identifying with him, we might be one with him, and share his verdict: my Son, whom I love; with whom I am well pleased!
Reading: Matthew 3:1-17
Sunday 5th February: Kingdom conquest
Isn’t Jesus wonderful? We all know how hard life is and how much we struggle with sin, temptation and failure. He gave up heaven to live like us and live the life we’re called to because he wanted to be with us so much and knew we could never match up.
Jesus remains faithful even when pushed to limits most of us will never get anywhere near. He does so by knowing the truth and knowing his bible. Satan tempts him with three things we fall for all the time. Comfort? Yes please! Instant recognition? Yes please! Unrivalled power? When can I start? But Jesus resists all these temptations because he knows God has more for us. His obedience was for us, and a great example for us of how God’s word(s) help(s) us to be delivered from evil and led away from temptation.!
Reading: Matthew 3:13 – 4:11
Sunday 12th February: Kingdom convened
Matthew has revealed Jesus to be none other than the promised Son of David, Son of Abraham, the one with all authority, over all people for all time. He is the new Adam and true Israel, the Son of God who proves faithful and who stands for us, by him and in him we are counted faithful children. This is the Jesus who calls people to himself ‘follow me.’ In our passage this week we read of the call of the first disciples, ordinary folk called by an extraordinary Saviour to follow him. More than a casual acquaintance, this is a call to a radical new life under Jesus’ kingship, to leave behind the old life and to identify with Jesus come what may. Sound costly? It may be, however, it is the best news. The one who calls is of greater treasure than all this world has to offer, he’s leading us to share in the glory of his forever reign. Simply put, he’s worth it!
Reading: Matthew 4:12-25
Sunday 19th February: Kingdom constitution
Jesus has been declared the faithful Son, he has confirmed that verdict by his righteous stand, he is the new Adam and the true Israel, and he calls people to follow him into sonship, to share the same heavenly Father. In today’s reading we see Jesus, the true and better Moses, ascend the mountain to teach his followers in what has become known as ‘the sermon on the mount.’ This is the kingdom life, life with God as Father, in the family, after the pattern of the faithful Son. In the famous ‘beatitudes’ Jesus expounds the family anatomy, the attributes he embodied, characteristics that may bring scorn and scandal from the world, but, how precious the promises: comfort, mercy, inheritance, fellowship and family – they will see God, they will be called children of God, theirs is the kingdom of heaven… Which is better news? Fleeting peace in the world, or the solid joys and lasting treasure of the blessing of God? The Son shows the way.
Reading: Matthew 5:1-12
Sunday 26th February: Kingdom conduct
Matthew has introduced Jesus as the Saviour, the Sovereign and the Son. As Saviour he came to ‘save his people from their sins’ (Matt. 1:21). As Son he proves faithful, triumphing over temptation. He stands as a new Adam, the head of a new family, a new Israel, those called to himself to share in his victory and reign. Rescued from the penalty of sin and gifted with his righteousness, those in Jesus stand approved as he is. This is a great assurance, we are saved not by our performance but by grace. However, it is also a challenge. As those made children of God, we’re equipped and called to live in the family way. In the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ Jesus teaches his disciples what this looks like. Rather than legalistic rule-keeping, it is to echo Jesus’ own sonship as the one who delighted to do the will of his Father, who fulfilled Psalm 40:8 ‘I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.’
Reading: Matthew 5:17-48
Sunday 5th March: Kingdom confidence
Matthew reveals Jesus as the son with whom the Father is well pleased, the ‘true Israel’ who lives out sonship perfectly. In Jesus God’s will is done on earth as in heaven. As we heed the call to ‘follow’ Jesus, we enjoy the privilege of being brought into his family, his kingdom, sharing in his status and approval. As ‘sons’ and citizens, we’re therefore called to live the way of the family after Jesus, distinctive and visible, salt and light in the world. Herein lies a danger, a deception. Living out the family life before others, to display the character of God, can quickly become living out before others to be seen by them, to gain earthly accolades. In today’s passage, Jesus challenges us to consider the motivation of our heart. Are we seeking security in the approval of those around us, or are we satisfied in our approval before the Father and following Jesus in delighting in him?
Reading: Matthew 6:1-8, 16-18
Sunday12th March: Kingdom connection
Jesus has been teaching his followers the kingdom life, what it means to be in the family, sons and daughters of God, after him, the true Son. In what some describe as the ‘peak’ of his mountain address, Jesus teaches his disciples how to approach his Father and theirs, how to pray. Here is prayer according to his priorities. We are called to pray for the honouring of God, not least among the people who bear his name, and for the extension of his kingdom – that his actively exercised reign might be willingly obeyed and that by a growing number of people, so that his will is done on earth as in heaven and the light of his goodness and glory shine out across the world. We also recognise our dependence upon him, praying with confidence for the things he has promised, the supply of our daily need, forgiveness, protection and so forth. This then is how we should pray to the Father who knows our needs and is generous to supply.
Reading: Matthew 6:9-15
Sunday19th March: Kingdom concern
As we follow Jesus’ call to live out the family likeness we must remember the lessons of the past weeks – that we are children of a Father who loves us, and values us in spite of our weaknesses and foibles. So we live to please only him, which frees us from worrying about our next ‘spiritual performance management session’, because our Father is so generous. This week we see how there is no need for us to store up treasures for ourselves on earth because God is able to supply all our needs and his treasure is a lasting treasure. Trusting this helps us to live free from worry and get on with the business of seeking first his kingdom and his righteousness.
Reading: Matthew 6:19-34
Sunday26th March: Kingdom concern
In his ‘Sermon on the Mount’ Jesus has been introducing his disciples to the ‘family way,’ what it looks like to live as the distinct children of God. Our passage this week forms something of a sandwich, instruction on true sibling relationships comes either side of the motivating ‘filling.’ Who is God? Not as many imagine, a Zeus type figure, far off, all might and no mercy, but a loving and generous Father. Ask, seek, knock urges Jesus, if even earthly flawed fathers know how to give good things to their children, ‘how much more’ your Father in heaven. This is the family way, so rather judging harshly, approach one another with all humility and generous compassion. Jesus warns against a judgmental, self righteous condemnation; ‘in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you,’ we want people to be generous towards us, let us then be likewise generous, this is the family way, this is how we take after our Father.
Reading: Matthew 7:1-12
Sunday 2nd April: Kingdom construction
On Palm Sunday the Church remembers Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the King came mighty to save yet lowly to serve. Some received him with glad expectation, others plotted against his life. Jesus provoked a response. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus challenged his hearers to consider where they stood in response to him. What kind of road will they take, what kind of fruit will they bear, what kind of foundation will they dig – on what will they secure the house of their lives? There are ultimately two choices. Although some may claim Jesus, truth will out, fruit will reveal the root, the storm will expose a false and foolish footing. As we encounter Jesus’ teaching today we’re likewise challenged to consider our response to him. Have we embraced Christ? Have we rooted our life in him, taking him at his word and so bearing the fruit of the ‘family’ way? Let us rest on him, the foundation that holds.
Reading: Matthew 7:13-29
Sunday 9th April: Kingdom conviction
“Christ is risen – he is risen indeed, alleluia.” Church services up and down the land will begin with this bold acclamation this Easter Sunday. He is risen – the tomb was empty, many eyewitnesses testified to seeing Jesus alive, indeed as the apostle Paul argued: ‘these things were not done in a corner,’ this was a public event, in history, that caused the Church to explode into life. Resurrection is not the stuff of unicorns and fairies, it is credible. He is risen. Here is the heart of our hope: a risen Jesus declares the triumph of the cross, the resurrection demonstrates that it really is ‘finished,’ justice done, sin atoned for; therefore the jailer of death has lost all right to hold all those for whom Jesus paid. His resurrection guarantees his follower’s resurrection, this is the ‘living hope’ of which the apostle Peter writes, into an inheritance that can never perish nor fade. If this is true, whatever life holds, it means the best is yet to come, we are secure, Jesus will bring us through to himself forever, to enjoy His reign. If this is true, there is no better news to hear, no better Saviour to trust, no better news to share. He is risen!
Reading: John 20:1-18 & 1 Peter 1:3-5