By ending his Gospel with the commission to ‘make disciples’ Matthew (Matthew 28:19) seems to indicate that he had written a discipleship manual. What hints can we glean from his unique introduction (Matthew 1:1– 2:23) and its echoing conclusion (Matthew 27:57, 28:20)?
- Recognise God’s active overseeing of your life
Joseph of Nazareth is named five times prior to Jesus’ birth. Only Luke also names him, just twice, almost in passing. While the Son of God was unable to act on his own behalf as his body was forming in the womb and into his infancy, Joseph of Nazareth was his agent. As was Joseph of Arimathea while his body lay in the tomb. And when unable to speak for himself, an angel spoke for him in dreams to Joseph the carpenter. Dreams are beyond the control of the mind; it is when we are ‘tuned out’ of our mental reasoning that heaven can ‘tune us in’ to things we could never deduce naturally. And an angel spoke for him at his tomb Matthew 28:6-7).
In quoting Jesus’ famous three predictions of his death and resurrection, Mark has him say ‘he will rise [again]’ (Matthew 8:31; 9:30-31; 10:32-34), but Matthew uses a passive verb: ‘he will be raised’ (Matthew 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:17-19). All this accords, in the nativity narrative, with the fact that Jesus was ‘conceived … from the Holy Spirit’ – begotten of no man (Matthew 1:20). Discipleship starts with an acknowledgement of our own spiritual helplessness.
- Respond to God’s overeeing with initiative
The crew of a sailboat cannot control the wind but still must set their sails to harness it. The women uniquely mentioned in Jesus family tree were each naturally alienated.
(1) Tamar, twice denied the privilege of conceiving a son, took initiative with her father-in-law (not a pretty story! See Genesis 38:1-30).
(2) Rahab lived on the fringe of her city and country, a Canaanite foe of Israel, yet she took initiative with God’s spies (Joshua 2:1-24; 6:21-25).
(3) Ruth, a foreigner descended from Lot, clung to Naomi (Ruth 1:1-18).
(4) Bathsheba, not even named (‘her of Uriah’ – suggesting she was complicit in David’s adultery), showed initiative in David’s final days of life to get their son Solomon crowned king (1 Kings 1:1-53).
(5) Mary was ‘none of the above’ but actively trusted righteous Joseph to obey God fully. And when everyone had left Jesus tomb it was the women – including more than one Mary! – who stayed longer, and returned ahead of the men before Sunday’s dawn.
- Reach towards the completion of the ultimate generation
Matthew’s accountancy brain surely did not desert him when he repeated Jechoniah’s name (Matthew 1:11-12) to round up his 14+14+14 generations! He knew that Jesus was the 41st generation but ‘the Christ’ (Matthew 1:17; 1 Corinthians 12:12) would be the final ‘generation’ (a noun he uses eleven times) ‘to the end of the age’ (2 Matthew 8:20).
- Realise God’s purposes will be viciously opposed
Herod at his birth and ‘the chief priests and elders’ at his burial tried their hardest to rid the world of the presence of Jesus and of his message. This is still the case worldwide.