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The Gospel of the Kingdom

Marcus introduces our new series about the gospel of the Kingdom from the book of Matthew and talks about what the gospel is.

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The Gospels

An introduction to the Gospels might prove fruitful for you. As you will have seen by now, context is very important when reading the Bible. If we don’t know what it meant to those at the time it was written, we don’t know what it meant at all! It is a very recent idea that we should read the Bible and then come to the conclusion of ‘what it means to me’. There is nothing wrong with that if you know ‘what it means’ first. Whatever it means is then what it means to you as well. This is most important. The Bible will never mean what we think it means. It means something outside of us and it’s our job to find out what as best we can.

The gospels are the first four books of the New Testament. They’re not called the ‘gospels’ by themselves but were given that name, which means ‘good news’. They are four witnesses of the truth about Jesus. There are differences in them and similarities. In court, if all the witness’s stories were identical, their authenticity would be questioned. Each author tells the bios of Jesus in their own way, emphasising specific details.Matthew, Mark and Luke are strikingly similar. They are referred to as the Synoptic gospels (a view together). John’s gospel stands by itself as rather different in focus.

Before the Gospels were written the accounts were all oral and the most important stories were spoken over and over again preserving their accuracy. Once written down from their own angle they tell us the eyewitness account of what Jesus said and did. Matthew tells us about Jesus Christ as the King. Mark tells us about Jesus Christ as the servant. Luke zooms in on Jesus’ humanity and John tells us plainly – Jesus is the Son of God. All of them put us into the context, revealing all the most important information about the life of Jesus Christ. The Gospels are God’s presentation of what we need to know about His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

There are many good background books out there with plenty of detail on the gospels. This introduction won’t go into such detail. Below are a few details and hints that will help you as you are reading the gospels. The inter-testamental detail about who the Pharisees are etc. will also make the text come alive in a richer way.

What we are reading is actual history

Lately there are attacks on the authenticity of the Gospels. But Jesus was a real man. He lived in the history of the world. Other historians (Tacitus, Suetonius and more) attest to this fact. Make no mistake, these are historical, real facts we are reading here.

The gospels are full of teaching and narrative

At times we are being told what Jesus and the other characters did. The teaching from these situations is inferred. Then at other times the teaching is direct – we are told exactly what we are to know as though Jesus were teaching us directly. A helpful hint in this regard is to make sure that you are aware of ‘who is talking to who’. You will notice sometimes Jesus is talking to the Pharisees, at times the disciples alone, other times the crowd. This context does make a big difference to the reading and understanding.

How to deal with the parables

Jesus was famous for talking in parables. They are very simple stories and generally the meaning is very easy to understand. People tend to read more into parables than is necessary and warranted. The parables can mean only one thing, or at most two teachings come from a parable.

For example, the complicated story of the virgins in Matthew 25 has been taken to mean all sorts of things about the Holy Spirit. The teaching of the parable is most probably only one thing – to be ready. Just like the bride had to be ready because she didn’t know when the groom would arrive according to custom, be ready at all times for Jesus’ coming! You will be tempted to sleep and get lazy. Don’t! Be ready! And that’s it!

A brief overview of Jesus’ life and ministry

If you put the Gospels together this is the basic story of the life of Jesus:

  • The Birth and childhood of Jesus

The gospels detail all that is necessary to know about his birth and upbringing. Jesus was born in obscurity – a little town called Bethlehem. There are only a handful of events recorded about his early life. Shepherds and wise men visited him. Herod tries to take his life and at a young age Jesus is found in the temple learning the Scriptures and talking with leaders about the Father. This period is about 30 years long.

  • Jesus’ preparation for ministry

Just before he started his public ministry, Jesus is baptised by John. The Holy Spirit anoints him and he is tempted in the wilderness. All three synoptic gospels record these events.

  • Jesus’ first year in ministry

The early part of Jesus’ first year of ministry is exclusively covered by the gospel of John and can be found in John 1:19 – 4:42. After Jesus’ temptation he made initial contact with five of his disciples in the area of the desert of Judea. They then went to Cana where they attended a wedding where Jesus turns water into wine – his first miracle.

They then travelled back to Jerusalem to attend the Passover. This would be the first Passover of his public ministry and it would also mark the beginning of the first year of his ministry. There Jesus presented himself to the Jews. He did it by clearing the temple, performing miracles, and teaching. After the Passover he returned to Galilee and on the way witnessed to a Samaritan woman and to her town.

Jesus leaves Nazareth (where he grew up) because he was rejected there when he claimed himself to be the Messiah. Capernaum, a poor town, becomes his base, and for the remainder of His first year of ministry we find Jesus here, enlisting disciples, engaging in preaching tours and performing miracles. This period ends with the second Passover festival mentioned in Luke 6:1-5.

  • The second year of his ministry

Jesus’ second year was particularly fruitful and busy. It ends with his feeding of the five thousand. He designated twelve apostles and sent them out, continued extensive teaching, performed many miracles in and around Galilee.

  • His third year

In the first six months Jesus concluded his Galilean ministry before setting out to minister in Judea for the last six months of his life. A significant turning point in his ministry comes when Jesus challenges the Galilean crowd after feeding the five thousand about their real motives for following and listening to him. The crowd and many followers reject him. His strategy changes from crowd ministry to house to house.

The last six months show Jesus changing his ministry area to Judea and Perea. He visits Jerusalem for the feast of Tabernacles and spends time in and around Jerusalem until his last week.

  • The last week

Six days before the Passover Jesus arrived in Bethany. This would have been on the Saturday, seeing that the Passover and Jesus’ crucifixion was on the Friday. On Sunday morning Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey where a large crowd shouting his praise met him. On Tuesday, Jesus disputed with the Jewish religious leaders for the last time. He openly refuted their objections and therefore sent them away silenced. There’s no reference to anything happening on the Wednesday in the Gospels. On Thursday, Jesus ate the Passover meal with his disciples, known as the “Last Supper”. A lot happened that night. After the dinner Jesus went to the garden of Gethsemane to pray. He was arrested there that night. After some illegal trials in front of the Jewish Sanhedrin, Pilate finally succumbed to the pressure exercised on him by the Jews and sentences Jesus to be crucified. Jesus hung on the cross for about six hours before he cried out, “It is finished” and he breathed his last.

Sermon on the Mount Part 6

By RT Kendall
23 May 2014
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Sermon on the Mount Part 5

By RT Kendall
23 May 2014
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Sermon on the Mount Part 4

By RT Kendall
22 May 2014
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Sermon on the Mount Part 3

By RT Kendall & Michael Eaton
21 May 2014
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Sermon on the Mount Part 2

By RT Kendall
20 May 2014
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RT Kendall & Michael Eaton (19 – 23 May)

It was amazing having RT Kendall and Michael Eaton, renowned Bible teachers, with us at Cornerstone Church Bedfordview for the week of 19 – 23 May 2014.

RT Kendall and Michael Eaton are excellent at making theology accessible and stimulating for everyone.

“R.T. Kendall… is a man of deep commitment to the Bible and wants others to know it, love it and understand it as he does.” – Billy Graham

On the right are the freely available recordings of all the sessions. RT Kendall spoke on the Sermon on the Mount while Michael Eaton expounded on 1 Peter.

The Whole Counsel of God

You can also download The Whole Counsel of God series by Dr Michael Eaton. This is an excellent 45 hours of preaching and teaching as Michael takes us through some of the following topics:

  • What is “the whole counsel of God” and what do we do with it?
  • The teaching about God
  • Creation
  • The teaching about man
  • The person of Jesus Christ
  • Salvation
  • Working out your salvation
  • The doctrine of the Holy Spirit
  • The doctrine of scripture
  • The doctrine of the church
  • The doctrine of last things

The Twelve: Simon and Matthew

TITLE: The Twelve: Simon and Matthew
PREACHER: Mark Meeske
DATE: 23 FEBRUARY 2014 – Sunday AM at Bedfordview

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Bio: Matthew the tax collector

There is not much information we have on Matthew from reliable sources, outside of a few biblical references.

Name: Levi, then Matthew, after he was called to be a disciple
Marital Status: Unknown
Home town: Galilee
Profession: Tax collector (publican). The tax collectors were as a class, detested not only by the Jews, but by other nations also, both on account of their employment and of the harshness, greed, and deception, with which they did their job. They paid the taxes to the Roman authorities up front, and then extorted from the people way more than was due to them. Rightly so, they were especially despised by their own nation!

Age: 20-30 years old
Relatives: Son of Alpheus (Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27)
Social status: A tax collector, despised by his own nation, the Jews, but had a standing amongst the Roman authorities because of his ill-gained wealth
Personality: Because of his profession as a tax collector, Matthew was probably an accurate record keeper and keen observer of people. In today’s terms he was a ‘bean counter’ with sly tendencies. But he became a Christ-follower!
General facts: Matthew left everything to follow Jesus, and threw a party to celebrate his new life. (Matthew 9:9-13)
Position amongst the 12: There are no mentions of Matthew in the Gospels outside of his call and on the list of Jesus’ disciples. But from Jesus choosing opposites on His team, a tax collector and zealot, we infer that there must have been a need to work out their relationships.

Ministry and death: Tradition has Matthew spreading the Gospel in Persia and Ethiopia. Unconfirmed historical sources disagree about Matthew’s martyrdom. One source has him stabbed to death somewhere in Ethiopia, while preaching the Gospel there.

Bio: Simon the zealot

There is even less information about Simon the zealot, except for his mention in the list of apostles.

Name: Simon the zealot
Marital Status: Unknown
Home town: he is referred to as Simon the zealot (Luke 6:15; Act1:13), or Simon the Canaanite (Matthew 10; Mark3:18). He probably stayed somewhere in Galilee, because the Zealot movement was based there.

Profession: Unknown, but he was a political activist, wanting to see Israel restored to its own rule. This obviously ceased after he was called by Jesus.
Age: Upper teens or lower twenties
Relatives: None mentioned.
Social status: According to traditional accounts and drawing inference from his name, we believe he was probably a member of the Zealot sect which was alive in Galilee and Judea around the time of Christ. The Zealots were a fanatical religious sect, very similar to the Pharisees (religiously conservative and literal) but absolutely radical in their opposition to Roman rule to the point of terrorism. Therefore, there was potential for conflict between him and Matthew! He probably initially had a fairly conservative and literal religious outlook, having been a member of the Zealots – Pharisaical in nature. He would have been a ‘Pharisee’ in his religious views before coming to follow Jesus.

Personality: Presumably radical and an extremist – zealous. His name, ‘Zealot’ possibly referred to both his personality and his membership in the Zealot sect.
General facts: We know nothing of Simon’s interaction with Jesus or the other disciples. We infer certain things, and rely heavily on inaccurate history!
Position amongst the 12: No significance. He is mentioned 11th in the Matthew and Mark lists of the apostles, and 10th in Luke and Acts. It’s not clear whether the order of these lists have any significance although they are very similar in all accounts.

Ministry and death: Initially in Jerusalem and then we have no sure Biblical account. Tradition puts him in various places, including having traveled north to reach the British Isles, in Egypt, in Asia Minor (Turkey), and in Persia. It is unlikely that any of these accounts are probable. There are no reliable accounts of his death. He possibly died in Pella, Armenia or Suanir, Persia or Edessa, Caistor or Babylon, Iraq. Probably martyred, possibly crucified.

MEET MATTHEW THE TAX COLLECTOR AND SIMON THE ZEALOT

We’ve put Simon and Matthew together because they couldn’t be more different. They were at opposite ends of the spectrum in their ideologies, value systems, and much more.

Matthew was a tax-collector and therefore worked for Rome, Simon was a zealot and therefore hated Rome. Matthew was hated by the Jews and Pharisees, Simon was loved by the Jews and Pharisees. Simon was a political freedom fighter (that’s what the zealots were) while Matthew was seen as a traitor – so much so that the words “tax-collector” and “sinner” were synonymous terms. Simon wouldn’t mind putting a dagger into someone’s back while Matthew was sneaky and underhanded.

So, knowing this, how could two men from such opposite dispositions and loyalties be found serving and working on the same team? In our modern day scenario, you could think of one being a hardcore socialist and the other a hardcore capitalist. How is it possible that they could work together? Read more