Today's Bible Reading: Matthew 4
Selected Biblical Text
17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near...."
23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 24 News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. 25 Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him. (Matthew 4:17, 23-25 NIV)
Reflecting and Thinking
Matthew's Gospel has several interesting literary characteristics. Previously mentioned are the parallel ideas in 1:23 ("God with us") and 28:20 ("I will be with you always"). These two texts serve as bookends or parentheses in the book. Matthew contains five major discourses or teaching sections (Chapters 5-7, 10, 13, 18, and 24-25). We will explain these teaching sections in future devotionals. Matthew divides the ministry of Jesus into two sections with the repeated phrase, "from that time" (see 4:17 and 16:21). These two verses introduce two major textual sections. The first section describes how Jesus came teaching, preaching and healing; the second section focuses on the truth that Jesus came to die. These two verses provide a structural frame for Matthew's description of the Messiah. The Jews had certain Messianic expectations -- that Jesus came teaching, preaching, and healing was only slightly inconsistent with their expectation of a political and militant king; that the Messiah came to die was utterly impossible!
For disciples of Jesus, what is the importance of the statement that Jesus came teaching, preaching, and healing? What would we do if we wanted to be like him? (The basic meaning of "disciple" is one who is a learner and is becoming like the Master.) How are the actions of Jesus an indication of the presence of the kingdom? Based on today's reading, why does the good news of the kingdom, the gospel of Jesus, not spread more rapidly today? What causes the gospel to spread? What kind of false expectations do people in the world today have about Jesus? What kind of false expectations exist in the church? How would you personally explain why Jesus came, using his actions to explain why he came?
Heavenly Father, we seek you again this day, wanting to know you better, affirming your presence in this world and in our lives, seeking your power that we might serve others. Help us imitate Jesus as we share Good News and seek healing and help for the hurts of the world. Thank you for your word and its revelation of Jesus, in the name of the one who came teaching, preaching, and healing, Jesus the Christ, Amen.