Through The New Testament: January 11, 2016






Jesus’ ministry begins 4:18-7:28 continued

The Sermon on the Mount continues in chapter 6. After the six examples of “greater righteousness” in chapter 5, verses 1-18 of chapter 6 offers three further examples: giving to others in need, praying and fasting.

Jesus is objecting to the common self-regarding practice of patronage in the Roman world that impresses people and promotes one’s status and reputation. Jesus calls for practices that benefit others and serve God. What we are learning is that you can tell what persons believe, not by what they say in church, but by the assumptions on which they habitually act. One assumption made in these verses is that Christ’s disciples pray. The text is not a command to pray or a scolding for not praying; it assumes that we do pray.

The remainder of chapter six through 7:12 is about just economic and social practices. The teaching begins through the end of chapter 6 by exhorting trust in God rather than pursuit of wealth, It calls into question misplaced human focus, greedy accumulation, dependence on wealth for status, and anxious distraction that comes from anxiety about material things. God’s kingdom, not the quest for stuff, is to shape the identity and lifestyle of disciples.   The teaching does not forbid providing for essentials. It focuses on what monopolizes our goals, identity, and efforts. What is it that shapes our lives? If it is anything other than our faith in God and our devotion to His mission, then this passage condemns us.

Chapter 7:1-12 focuses on community. For a minority community living an alternative way of life, community relations provide support and focus in a hostile society. This is the situation for us today. Disciples are part of a merciful community that compassionately corrects, not condemns, members. They do not force the character-forming work of God’s kingdom on those who will not receive it.  The remainder of the chapter contains final exhortations. The goal of discipleship is participation in the future completion of God’s purposes. Disciples know what God requires. They are motivated by the consequences of reward or punishment. The goal helps them discern ways of living appropriately in God’s kingdom.


Miracles and Discipleship 8:1-9:38

After Jesus’ teachings, we have Jesus in action. Miracle stories, especially healings, dominate the section, but there are also other actions and dialogues about discipleship. While some modern people balk at miracles, many ancients expected them from prophetic religious teachers. His actions manifest God’s powerful and merciful kingdom. They anticipate the wholeness that completion of God’s purposes will bring, something Rome cannot accomplish. Unlike Rome, God’s kingdom especially benefits the nobodies who people this section. There was one healing, however, that involved a somebody. A Roman officer came to Jesus to seek help for his ill servant. If we went out seeking people of faith, would we have passed by this Roman soldier? He is a Gentile, part of the oppressive establishment. Yet Matthew speaks of him as a model of faith.

Starting in 8:18 we see Jesus calling his disciples to follow him through a storm to a hostile country. Some follow but others find excuses to stay behind. In the foreign land they are rejected for their miracle and when they journey to Jesus’ home town where many praised God for his works, but the leaders and even John the Baptist has doubts.   Jesus has a mission in the world. It involves crossing traditional boundaries. It will continue, for he calls us to follow.




The Disciples Authorized and Sent Chapter 10

Chapter 10 is the second of 5 major teachings of Jesus in Matthew. The mission Jesus sets out for his disciples assumes that the Roman imperial world is not as God wants it. They are to challenge the status quo and enact God’s alternative, just and merciful kingdom. Mission is not optional, but the very reason that disciples, or the church, exist. Their mission continues Jesus’ mission. This chapter reveals in concentrated form what the Christian life essentially is: confession of Jesus, living toward the fulfillment of the kingdom with a concern for mission in the world. It is a letting go of material possessions and fear of what others might think about us or do to us. It is placing loyalty to the God revealed in Christ above all other loyalties, even the deepest ones of home and family.   It is a life of non-resistance to violence, trust in God and God’s future. The call to this life of mission is not directed to the Twelve only. For Matthew, all disciples are apostles; all of us participate in the apostolic mission.


Find the 2016 Scripture Schedule and our reading guides here






Through The New Testament January 4, 2016: Matthew 1-5

Read the scripture for this lesson:  Matthew 1-5

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Matthew was the favorite Gospel of early catholic Christianity. It was always placed first in early manuscripts and it was the most quoted by the Church Fathers.   Jesus is portrayed as the Messianic King, Son of David and Son of God. Because of this focus, we do not see a lowly stable or shepherds, but wise men bringing kingly gifts.

In Matthew the conflict between worldly powers– Rome and Jewish leaders—and the ways of Christ the king is highlighted. As you read, look for ways Jesus is guiding us to live godly lives in a sinful world.


Jesus as Messianic King 1:1-25

The opening genealogy is meant to set the story of Jesus into the context of the ongoing story of God’s acts in history that will eventuate in the coming of God’s kingdom, and the one who is God with us. God’s purposes for the world are displayed in God’s covenant relationship with Israel, and those purposes continue through Israel and Jesus, not Rome.

The Messiah does not just wander onto the stage of history as a newcomer to the drama, but in continuity with God’s saving history in the past. Matthew arranged the genealogy to show the movement that began with Abraham, moved to David at the apex, then down to apparent defeat in the dissolution of David’s kingdom; but then, in a surprising reversal, up again to Jesus Christ, the greater “Son of David” Despite Israel’s sin in breaking the covenant, God held fast to the divine promises and directed history toward its fulfillment in Christ.

As we consider the opening scene of Matthew’s story, we may be struck by the similarity between Joseph’s quandary and our own. We want to “do the right thing” and we believe that somehow it is revealed in the Bible. Sometimes we sense that the “Christian thing to do” does not follow the letter of the Bible. Matthew is writing to such Christians. As Jewish Christians who had always reverenced the Law, they found themselves torn between strict adherence to the letter of the Torah and the supreme demand of love to which their new faith called them. Matthew wants his readers to be righteous in a way that respects both the Law of the Bible and the Christian orientation to love, even if it seems to violate the law


Conflict with the Kingdom of this age 2:1-23

The birth of Jesus, God’s agent, into the sinful imperial world brings two responses. The powerful center rejects him. The empire strikes back as Herod tries to murder King Jesus. But the magi, who tradition tells us destabilized power with threatening predictions based on signs and astrology, worshiped Jesus.

Verses 13-23 is a story of a miracle, of divine intervention in the normal course of events. It raises an ethical question: was is right to save one child and allow the rest to be murdered because of that one? Should Mary and Joseph have warned the others?


Jesus and John the Baptist 3:1-4:17

As this section opens, John is preaching, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” John remains the major speaker through Jesus’ baptism. The baptism is a sign of Jesus’ faithfulness to accomplish God’s purposes and commission. Once baptized, Jesus becomes the focus of attention. The tempter tests Jesus’ faithfulness to God. Then John is arrested, and Jesus takes up the call to repentance.

Verse 3:17 reflects the first Servant Song of Isaiah 42:1. Matthew will cite the entire song in chapter 12. Jesus’ obedience, which leads to his self-giving on the cross is already apparent at his baptism. Christian baptism is also a matter of obedience, but as children of God we must remain obedient—as did Jesus–throughout our lives.

As we read of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, how do we feel about the depiction of Satan? How should we interpret this encounter? We can see Jesus as a model for resisting temptation. He quotes Scripture, refuses to use his power selfishly, and prefers the Word of God to material things. More deeply, we can understand the story as an expression of how Christians should think of Jesus as the Son of God. He stands firm. He rejects performing miracles simply for his own glorification. He is obedient to his Father,


Jesus’ ministry begins 4:18-7:28

Jesus begins his ministry by assembling disciples. Fishermen were despised in the social order of the time, but God’s empire welcomes them with a new focus—fishers of people. The story models Jesus’ call, their instant response, and the communal nature of discipleship as a new household based not on genes but on doing God’s will. In his call the disciples encounter God’s rule, presence, and salvation. In this text Jesus appears disruptively in our midst and calls us, not to admire him or accept his principles, but to follow him.

The remainder of chapter 4 chronicles Jesus’ growing recognition as he preached the good news of the kingdom and healed the sick. Matthew is full of sick people, despite Roman claims to have blessed the world with good health. The elite supported itself on the backs of the poor. Hunger, malnutrition poor hygiene, hard work, and anxiety created poor health. In healing, Jesus counters the sinful effects of the imperial system, and anticipates the promised time when God’s empire ensures blessings of plenty and health for all.

Chapter 5 begins Matthew’s rendition of Jesus’ first great discourse: the Sermon on the Mount. It starts with 9 blessings through verse 16. The beatitudes are addressed to the whole faith community. In every authentic Christian congregation there are persons of meekness, ministers of mercy, and workers for peace. Their presence and activity among us is a sign of God’s blessing and a call to all of us to conform our common life more and more to these kingdom values.

Verses 17-48 comprise six interpretations of scripture. He concludes this section by telling his disciples, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” The core principle in this section is the rule of love. God’s perfection, then, is to judge all interactions based on the principle of love.

In the sayings about salt and light, the readers/disciples are not challenged to try harder to be salt and light, but are told that as followers of Jesus they are salt and light for the world. The text calls the reader not to more self-exertion, but to believe Jesus’ word and to accept and live out the new reality it has already created in the call to discipleship.

Jesus “rules” express the inherent rule of the kingdom of God: they are God’s ultimate way of dealing with humanity exhibited in the life and death of Jesus, who went to the cross. They are not to be made “reasonable,” for they violate the “common sense” of this world and point to another reality. They ask us whether we are oriented to the God who has redefined power and kingship in the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus.



Find the 2016 Scripture Schedule and our reading guides here



You’re Invited

Christmas Eve front pic croppedWe invite you for scripture and song, Communion and candlelight, all at our Christmas Eve service.  The service will be at 5:30pm, December 24, 2015.  We are located at 315 E Shawnee St in Tahlequah, OK.  We hope to see you there.



Take a look at the bulletin for our Christmas Eve program below.  Please note the bar below where you can turn the page by clicking on the arrow, you can download a pdf of the bulletin, increase or decrease the size, and other options.