Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Matthew 2

This Sunday I am going to be preaching on Matthew 2. I would love to hear what God is saying to you when you read this story.
One thing that stood out to me is the way that people responded to Jesus - even as an infant. On the one hand we have Herod going all crazy and trying to kill Jesus. In fact Herod willingly kills all the baby boys in Bethlehem in his attempt. On the other hand we have the wise men who willingly travel thousands of miles (in a time without cars or planes). In fact it may have taken them two years to reach Bethlehem. They come to worship and give gifts to Jesus.
How do we respond? At times I find myself trying to kill Jesus in my life. I do this by ignoring him, pretending to be super holy, filling my life with all sorts of distracting things...
Then at times by the grace of God I find myself worshiping him. Caught up in some praise song, hearing him speak as I read his word, praying with friends....

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A child of promise

Jesus is the ultimate promised child. The Old Testament is filled with prophecies about him. The people were waiting and expecting the coming messiah, the one promised by God. Being the child of a promise got me thinking about the partiarchs - Abraham, Issac and Jacob.
Issac was specifically a child of promise - God promised Abraham a son and in his old age he had Issac. However all three of the patriarchs had wives who were barren. It was only a special act of God that allowed them to have children.
Now God once again acts in a special way, there is an even more miraculous birth. We have moved from birth in old age to virgin birth. This is an indication that God is doing something new and amazing in Jesus.
As Christians we believe that Jesus was God's ultimate act of redemption. All of history is summed up in Jesus. Jesus is the center of everything.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What's your name?

Names in the bible are often very significant. In our culture the most common custom is to name a child something that sounds nice, with little or no thought going into the meaning of the name. In the bible the meaning of the name is very important.
In reading Matthew 1:18-25 we see that the child Mary is going to have is given two names, Jesus and Emmanuel.
Jesus, which is a variation of Joshua, means "God will save".
Emmanuel means "God is with us".
These names give us a picture of the ministry that Jesus has. As the angel says he saves us from our sins. And he is the God who invaded earth, he is truly God with us.
I found interesting that Jesus is never again called Emmanuel. Though looking at his life we see that he fulfilled the calling of that name.

What does your name mean?
My name Benjamin means "son of my right hand".
Now some might not like the meaning of their name or their name may have no meaning at all. This is just fine. As I said our culture often names people for the sound of the word instead of its meaning - this is not wrong.
But I want to ask "do we have two names?" We have the one that is given to us by our parents. But can we allow God to also name us? Can we allow God to give us a name that defines us, a name that will shape the rest of our lives? Honestly I don't know. But I am going spend sometime this week asking God to name me, to define me.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Matthew 1:18-25

This coming Sunday I will be preaching on Matthew 1:18-25. I encourage you to read this passage and let me know what God is saying to you.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Uriah's wife

The fourth woman listed in Jesus' genealogy is Uriah's wife. Her name is Bathsheba. Her story is recorded in 2 Samuel 11-12.
What happens is: King David is hanging out on the roof of his palace. He sees Bathsheba - who is married to Uriah - bathing. Lusts after her. And ends up committing adultery with her. David eventually has Uriah killed (trying to cover up his other sins).

What reason could Matthew have for including Bathsheba in the genealogy? Well it is interesting to note that she is not named. Matthew seems to be highlighting the adultery and murder. Could it be a subtle way that Matthew declares that God has grace even on the sinful? That even though we do wicked and evil things God is still able to accomplish his purpose? Not that God would ever condone sin, but that God is so great that in spite of our wickedness he can still bring good?


Ruth is another woman who is listed in Jesus' genealogy. You can read her story in the book of Ruth.
The basic outline of the story is: Ruth, who is not Jewish, marries a Jewish man when he lives in Moab. This man dies. His mother Naomi decides to go back to Israel. Ruth goes with Naomi instead of staying in Moab and takes care of her. Eventually Ruth ends up marring Boaz and becomes the great grandmother of King David.

Why would Matthew list Ruth in the genealogy? It could be because she was so faithful. However could she have been included because she was not Jewish? In fact if you look at the list of women we know that at least three of the women were not Jewish (Tamar, Rahab and Ruth). And the fourth was Uriah's wife, we don't know if she was Jewish but we do know that Uriah was a Hittite (not Jewish). So could Matthew be hinting already that Jesus' message was going to be for more than just Jews?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Rahab is the next woman listed in Jesus' genealogy.
Read her story in Joshua 2, 6:15-25.
Lets summarize her story. The Jewish people had been rescued by God out of Egypt. They were now about to invade the promise land. Jericho was the first city that they were going to attack. Rahab was a prostitute in Jericho. The Jewish people sent two spies to check out the area. These men visited Rahab. The king of Jericho found out about the two spies and obviously wanted to arresst them. Rahab hid the spies. She then made a deal that they would spare her and her familie's life when they invaded. They spies agreed and Rahab's family were the only surviors from Jericho.

Why would Matthew include a prostitute in Jesus' genealogy? Could he already be giving a hint that Jesus would be welcoming the morally questionable, like prostitutes? Could Matthew be highlighting that what matters is how we respond today when we see God moving, not our past (regardless if that past is good or bad - read Ezekiel 33:10-16)?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


There are four woman that Matthew lists in the genealogy of Jesus (five if you count his mother Mary). It is very unusual for woman to be listed in a biblical genealogy. So why include women in the list if that is not custom? And why these women? Well let's explore each woman.

The first woman listed is Tamar. Read her story in Genesis 38.
To quickly summarize Tamar marries Judah's son Er. Er is bad so God puts him to death. Er's brother, Onan, is suppose to take Tamar as a wife and raise sons on behalf of Er (this is common custom at that time). Onan is also bad and God puts him to death. Judah thinks Tamar, who has no kids yet, is cursed and does not give her to his youngest son. So Tamar dresses up like a hooker and get Judah to sleep with her. He does not realize who she is. Tamar gets pregnant. When Judah finds out he is the father he says that Tamar was more righteous than he was.

What could Matthew be saying by including this woman in Jesus' genealogy? Could it be that God loves and cares for the oppressed? Tamar was oppressed in this story. Er and Onan were evil. Judah refused to do what he should have done as a father-in-law. Even though she used morally questionable means (to say the least) could Matthew be saying that God still loved her and blessed her?

Monday, September 14, 2009

In the genealogy of Jesus that Matthew lists at the beginning of his book there are three names that are very important. Jesus the Christ, Abraham and David.
Abraham and David are very important figures in Jewish history and theology because God made specific promises to them. Promises that the Jewish people were still waiting for God to fulfill. By listing Abraham and David with Jesus, and making these names the most important names in the genealogy, Matthew links Jesus directly with these promises.

Read the promises that God made to Abraham and David.
  • Genesis 12:2-3: the promise made to Abraham
  • 2 Samuel 7:16: the promise made to David
In what way is Jesus linked to these promises?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Matthew in History

In preparing for the sermon series on Matthew I have been reading a book called Matthew in History by Ulrich Luz. At one point he says:
to understand a New Testament text does not mean to understand the words of the text only but to understand the living Christ to whom it testifies and the life situation that was shaped by him, and to understand both as a gift, a question, and a challenge for our own lives.
Ulrich is saying that to understand the bible we need to move beyond simply understanding the words. The bible should lead us into an encounter with Jesus. An encounter with Jesus is gift. It will cause us to ask new questions. It will challenge our very lives.
Makes me wonder how many passages in bible I have truly understood?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

In a few weeks my church will be starting a new sermon series on the book of Matthew. Now one of the things that I believe in is interpreting scripture in community. So I would love to hear what God is saying to you as you read the book of Matthew.
Here are a couple of questions that apply specifically to the beginning of Matthew:
  1. What is the main purpose of the gospel of Matthew? What was Matthew trying to accomplish?
  2. On September 20 the sermon will be on the genealogies in chapter 1. Why did Matthew include these? What do you think is there purpose and significance?
Please don't be limited by these questions. If you come across anything interesting about the gospel of Matthew I would really love to hear about it.