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The Kingdom of HeavenMatthew
By Edward (Les) Middleton
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2006 Thomas Nelson, Inc.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Birth Of Christ
Before We Begin ...
What major biblical prophet (or prophets) prophesied the birth of Jesus centuries before it happened?
In what town in Israel did Jesus spend most of His boyhood?
The Genealogy of Jesus Christ
The first sixteen verses of the Gospel of Matthew present the genealogy of Christ by way of David's son Solomon. Thus, this genealogy is somewhat different from the one we are given in the Gospel of Luke, which traces Christ through another son of David, Nathan. Various commentators have written extensively on these two approaches to the ancestry of Jesus. Generally they agree that Luke's genealogy traces Christ through His physical mother, Mary, while Matthew traces Him through His legal father, Joseph.
Perhaps the divine intent for these two genealogies was for them to supplement and reinforce each other. In tandem they prove that Christ was unmistakably qualified as the true inheritor of the throne of David and as the true Jewish Messiah, no matter how his ancestry might be traced.
In 1:16 Matthew also indicates, via a feminine form of the Greek words translated "of whom," that Christ was born "of Mary" and thus that Mary was His physical mother. But this makes it even plainer, in contrast, that Joseph was not His physical father, further reinforcing Matthew's explanation of Christ's divine conception.
As a fascinating side note, Matthew lists four women in Christ's ancestry in addition to Mary, three of whom were not exactly "pristine pure" in moral terms, and one of whom was not born an Israelite.
Please read chapters 1 and 2 of Matthew and respond to the following questions.
Who were the four women included in Jesus' ancestry? What was it about these four that made each of them an unusual choice for that honor?
According to verse 17, how many generations passed between Abraham and David? How many between the captivity in Babylon and Christ Himself? What would therefore be the total?
Note that a Hebrew genealogy did not necessarily have to include all the generations. Can you think of any reason Matthew might have chosen two sets of fourteen ancestors?
In verse 21, what did the angel who appeared to Joseph say that the child who would be born to Mary, to be named Jesus, would do?
What was Joseph's reaction (v. 24)?
Matthew 2 Wise Men from the East
Chapter 2 of Matthew tells the story of the wise men from the East, who followed the star (commonly depicted as above the stable Christ was born in) and came to worship Him. This story is probably so familiar that you could answer the most likely questions about it, so let us focus on some of the other details!
According to the sequence of events here in Matthew, to what city did the wise men first come, asking where the "King of the Jews" had been born?
What famous ruler heard them, was troubled, and asked his own counselors what was going on? What did they tell him?
That ruler then called the wise men in for a secret meeting (v. 7). What did he ask them to do (vv. 7–8)? In an attempt to deceive them, what did he say he wanted to do?
What did the wise men do next (v. 9)?
To where were they led after that? By what means?
What did they do when they found the "young Child" and His mother (v. 11)? What three gifts did they present to Jesus?
What happened next to the wise men? Where did they go, and why?
The Flight into Egypt
As soon as the wise men had departed, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph one more time.
What did the angel tell Joseph and Mary to do this time?
What did Herod do then (v. 16)?
Verses 17–18 tell us of a prophecy from Jeremiah, included in the "allusions" table on the next page. What was the gist of that prophecy—and did it come true?
The Home In Nazareth
The last four verses of chapter 2 tell of the return of Joseph and his family to Israel. What was the name of the king who succeeded Herod as ruler?
In what region of Israel did the family settle? In what city?
Pulling It All Together ...
The legal father of Jesus Christ, Joseph, was a direct descendant of Abraham through David.
Matthew does not tell us much about Christ's birth itself, but he makes it clear that Christ was born in Bethlehem.
The wise men from the East followed a star to Jerusalem, were heard inquiring about someone who had just been born "King of the Jews," and were instructed by Herod to go from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, find the one they sought, and tell him of the baby's whereabouts.
The wise men found Jesus and gave Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. But they did not return to Jerusalem to answer Herod's questions; they traveled home by another route.
Joseph received four separate directions from God. The first told him that it was honorable to make Mary his wife, because the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit and would save His people from their sins. The second told him to take the baby out of Herod's reach, down into Egypt. The third told him that it was safe to come back to Israel, but the fourth told him to turn aside from Judea into Galilee, where he and his family then settled in Nazareth.
Chapter TwoPreparing for Ministry 2
Before We Begin ...
In chapter 3, John the Baptist had some strong words for certain people who came to see him in the wilderness. Without reading the chapter first, can you remember what he called them?
Can you remember what God said of His Son when Jesus was baptized?
Matthew 3 John the Baptist Prepares the Way
Chapter 3 begins with John the Baptist, surely one of the most fascinating characters in the Bible. The Gospel of Luke tells us more about him and his parents, Elizabeth and Zechariah—and the story of his own birth—so we'll save some of our discussion of John himself for that study guide.
George Frederic Handel must have found John the Baptist fascinating, too, for he used a quotation of Isaiah 40:3 to conclude the very first recitative (i.e., half-sung, half-spoken, mostly unaccompanied introductory lines) in his much-loved Messiah. Matthew included that same quotation from Isaiah in his Gospel; here are the words as Matthew wrote them:
"The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight.' " (Matt. 3:3)
Do you recognize the above passage in terms of its Messiah connection?
Please read the remainder of chapter 3 and respond to the following questions.
What did John the Baptist wear (v. 4)? What did he eat?
Where did those whom he baptized come from?
What does verse 6 suggest that they were required to do before he would baptize them?
Whom did John the Baptist call a "brood of vipers" (v. 7)? Based on what you already know of the Bible, why do you think he said this?
To further familiarize yourself with John's message, fill in the blanks in the following extract:
"And even now the ax is laid to the _______ of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the _______. I indeed baptize you with water unto _______, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose _______ I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His _______ fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His _______ floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with _______ fire." (Matt. 3:10–12 NKJV)
John Baptizes Jesus
Why did John the Baptist hesitate to baptize Christ (vv. 13–15)? What was Christ's response—and why?
What happened when Jesus came up out of the water (vv. 16–17)?
Matthew 4 Satan Tempts Jesus
The next forty days involved the well-known "temptation of Christ," as Christ's direct confrontation with the devil is often called.
Why do you suppose God required Jesus to undergo such a rigorous test?
Who else from the Bible went without food and water for forty days? (Note: Jesus was actually the third person to do this, not the second!)
What was the main thrust of Jesus' response to Satan's temptations (vv. 2–10)? What did He do?
Could we use the same technique today? If so, what would we need to do first?
In passing, please note that several verses from Matthew 4 are included in the "allusions" table elsewhere in this chapter, for they refer directly to passages from the Old Testament.
Verse 12 tells us that Jesus moved to Capernaum when He heard that John had been put in prison. Matthew does not tell us why, although the Gospel of Luke does—but that's another story!
Four Men Called as Disciples
Matthew 4:18–22 tells how Jesus called some of His disciples. Who were the first four, and what was their profession up to that point?
What was the immediate response of all four?
The last three verses of chapter 4 tell us of the very beginning of Jesus' ministry. In addition to teaching in the synagogues and preaching the "gospel of the kingdom," what else did Jesus do (v. 23)?
What were some of the physical conditions Jesus corrected (v. 24)?
Pulling It All Together ...
John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus by preaching and baptizing new believers in the wilderness of Judea. He also baptized Christ Himself, even though he objected at first and called himself unworthy.
When Jesus came up out of the river Jordan after His baptism, the Spirit of God descended as a dove and alighted on Him.
Jesus fasted for forty days and nights in the wilderness and was then tempted by the devil, who advised Him (among other things) to change the stones into bread. But Jesus achieved victory by quoting Scripture.
He then called His first four disciples and began His ministry.
Chapter ThreeThe Sermon On The Mount 3
Before We Begin ...
Have you ever memorized any of the Sermon on the Mount? If so (or even if you have not), what portion do you think might be most familiar to most people?
How do you believe Jesus might have defined adultery?
Chapters 5–7 of Matthew contain the well-known Sermon on the Mount. We use the words "well-known" because, for several generations, many youngsters who were raised in the church prior to the last portion of the twentieth century were expected to memorize major portions of these chapters. For this reason alone at least some of Christ's immortal words are familiar to many older believers and perhaps to many younger ones as well.
Without question the most memorized (and possibly the most often cited) portion of the Sermon on the Mount would be what we call the Beatitudes, from Matthew 5:3–11. To refresh your memory (if you memorized these!), or to help you fix them in your mind for the first time, please read all three chapters, then begin your response by filling in the right-hand blanks in the table below. Note that only the last one does not follow exactly the same pattern. However, verse 12 clearly provides a "because" element, following the words "Rejoice and be exceedingly glad."
Verse 13 calls us the "salt of the earth." What potential problem does it then point out?
What did Jesus say we should do with our "lights" (v. 16)?
Christ Fulfills the Law
In His discourse on the law, in verses 17–20, whom does Christ identify as examples of false righteousness? Based on what you already know, why do you think He says this?
According to verses 21–22, where within ourselves would it be reasonable to say that murder begins?
Verses 23–24 are often considered a reference to the ten days between the Jewish year-ending feast days, Rosh Hashanah (perhaps better known as Feast of Trumpets) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). During these ten days (which were preceded by thirty days of self-examination), ancient Jews were expected to do whatever they could to make restitution for their sins during the preceding year. Here is what Christ said: "Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift" (Matt. 5:23–24 NKJV).
With reference to verse 25, do you think Christ meant that we should "agree with our adversaries" by simply accepting whatever they say as true? Or is there a deeper meaning here—some other way of agreeing that might not involve total acceptance (or endorsement) of someone else's viewpoint?
What modern phenomenon, which most non-lawyers consider a problem, did Jesus anticipate (vv. 25–26)?
Adultery in the Heart
Verse 27 parallels previous verses on murder and other forms of physical assault and abuse, which is a way of referring back to murder and related sins. Ironically, the unwillingness of much of modern society to agree with verse 27 was brought into sharp focus by a United States president of the late 1970s. He confessed to feeling "lust in [his] heart" in a published interview, a statement he never quite lived down even though it was biblically sound. The principle Christ speaks of in verse 27 is still absolutely valid.
Verses 29–30, about plucking out eyes and cutting off hands, seem a little extreme, yet they certainly speak a valid truth. Truly it would be better to lose any part of your body than to miss heaven. Better some temporary pain than eternal agony.
Verse 32 also can seem a bit extreme in the modern age. For what single reason does Christ say divorce should be tolerated?
What do you believe Christ meant in the discussion of oaths in verses 33–37? What do you believe is the main message here?
Go the Second Mile and Love Your Enemies
Verses 38–42 introduce another concept that some find difficult to accept. Various commentators have even confused the message of these verses with the "eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth" verses of Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. These Old Testament verses were not intended literally; they were illustrating the concept of equal restitution (that is, a payment in money or goods) for a loss caused to an innocent person. Ironically, equal restitution is usually thought of as a modern, far more enlightened concept that we honor in our legal system today. Unfortunately, the Old Testament verses have often been misunderstood and even misquoted to make God seem like an ogre.
What do you think about Christ's words in verses 38–42? What do you believe was His true meaning?
Finally, chapter 5 ends with a short discourse on loving our enemies. Verses 43–48 actually contain several messages that complement one another.
How many of these messages can you identify?
What, then, is the main message of these six verses?
Matthew 6 Do Good to Please God
In verse 1, Christ says we might have no reward from our Father in heaven. Why?
What are we told not to do (v. 2)? Who does the wrong thing, according to Jesus, and why?
How does Christ instruct us to do charitable deeds (v. 3)? How would His words translate into modern English?
The Model Prayer
Verses 5–7 instruct us in how we should pray. What is the main concept Christ is expressing here?
The model prayer Christ gives us in verses 9–13, usually called the Lord's Prayer, has been repeated perhaps millions of times since He first gave it as an example. The Lord's Prayer in the King James Version, in fact, has been set to music seemingly countless times, paired up with languages from all over the world. But the most familiar setting, with corresponding English words, would probably be the one composed by Alfred Hay Malotte in 1939 and heard at countless weddings ever since. Here are the familiar words of that version, absent the unsingable phrase "and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us" that is often substituted in public recitations:
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. (Matt. 6:9–13 KJV)
Excerpted from The Kingdom of Heaven by Edward (Les) Middleton Copyright © 2006 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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