We started a “Spoiler alert!” Bible study during our morning Study and Prayer times. We are reading Matthew ‘inside out’. We started with the last verses. In the gospel of John we read “if all the things Jesus said and did were written down all the books in the world could not contain them” so we know that each gospel writer selects what he includes and excludes. He does this in order to tell the story from a particular viewpoint with a particular conclusion in mind. This is much like a writer knowing the plot outline and where the story goes from the prologue on.
Matthew ends with: 1) a commission to “go into all the world” and as they go to make disciples everywhere from among all people and 2) a promise of God’s partnership in this endeavour.
Matthew is known as the most ‘Jewish’ of the Gospels. His choices of inclusion demonstrate the fulfillment of the promises of God to the People Israel. He makes clear Jesus is the long awaited Messiah. His knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures is clearly on display, but at the same time he has in view that the Messiah of Israel is also the Saviour of the Gentiles (the whole world).
After a genealogy that establishes Jesus’ bona fides as Messiah; a son of Abraham, a son of David and Son of God. He introduces the magi and so the good news is truly for the whole world. God’s promises to Abraham of a blessing to all nations is being fulfilled before Matthew’s very eyes.
Reading things in this inside out way can be helpful in many areas, not just in reading scripture. We have all heard the old saw “You can’t tell a book by its cover.” First appearances or initial superficial impressions can be very misleading. When I first naively began ministry in the inner-city, I thought I would be involved in much ‘primary evangelism’. I assumed people didn’t know God. I was mistaken! There is a keen awareness of God in our community. People have heard and many believe! As these folks were patient with me I learned that the need was not for primary evangelism but for a type of discipleship which would allow people to ‘live out their faith’ in the context of poverty, mental health issues and inner-city culture.
Getting past ‘the cover’ and reading from the inside out has shown me the depth of simple faith in my friends. Though I have sung “I’m desperate for you” I did not know of true desperation until my friends illustrated it for me. I have knowledge and communication skills which can bless these folks but they have profoundly blessed me. I am a blessed man!
I wish more people, like me, from privileged backgrounds, would engage with the poor, not by donating money (though I’ll never refuse this) but by investing themselves. It might seem at first to be a costly adventure but in fact you will be enriched. This has been my experience.