Matthew 1 Sunday School
Have you ever noticed how often in life what needs to be said is not really what you want to hear?
· Your son comes off the basketball court after a very physical, very tough, very unfair game against a team that gets away with cheap shots. And you watched him play that game. And you saw him lose his cool and start taking cheap shots back. Now, what does he really want to hear? He wants sympathy and approval. He wants to be told that he did a good job and that he was right to take the cheap shots. But what does he need to be told?
· A close friend wants to lose weight and starts an exercise regimen to do so. Every day she walks 3 miles—power walking them the whole way. But she also eats two whoppers and a large fry while washing it down with Dr. Pepper—NOT the diet kind. Over lunch she tells you how puzzled she is that she isn’t losing any weight. What does she want to hear? Encouragement! She wants to be told that she really doesn’t have to change anything, she really just needs to give it more time. But what does she need to be told?
· It’s Christmas time and we all love that time of year. We are shopping like mad and having a good time spending money we don’t have. And what do we want to hear? We want to hear that this is what we should be doing. We want to be told that we are only doing what we have to in the modern world. We want to be told that our card has 0% interest until August! But what do we need to be told?
· What about you? Have you ever noticed how often in life what needs to be said is not really what you want to hear? . . . .
Today we come to the gospel of Matthew. And immediately we are reminded, how often in life what needs to be said is not really what you want to hear?
· We open our NT and we want to see one simple gospel that answers all our questions and presents us with no problems. But what do we get instead? We get four gospels.
Why? There have been all kinds of suggestions over the years. Maybe it is just a matter of the HS knowing what we need. One preacher asked, If you were investigating a crime and trying to find out what really happened, would you rather have one good witness or four? If you were being investigated for a crime, would you rather have one person provide you with an alibi, or four?
· Eventually we get over the fact that there are four gospels and we get used to the idea. But what happens then? Someone like a Dan Brown comes along and says that there were more than eighty gospels and that the early church just picked these four. What we would like to be told is that there is a lot more material out there about the life of Jesus. We can know many more details of his life. But what do we find instead? The other “gospels” (and BTW, there are not 80 of them) are mostly a combination of false teaching and pure garbage (unbridled imagination).
· At some point we decide to read the NT, we open it up and begin with Matthew. Now what we want to hear is the sweet story of baby Jesus in the manger, but what do we actually get? A genealogy! Karl Barth once wrote an essay, “The Strange New World within the Bible.” If this doesn’t prove his point that the Bible is a different world for modern man, nothing can.
· Now, once we get over the fact that Matthew begins his gospel not with a captivating quotation, or a humorous story, or relevant illustration—all the traditional ways to begin an address in our own time—but with a genealogy, what do we expect to find in the pedigree of Jesus? Only the very finest. What do we discover though? Well, they are . . . famous, aren’t they!
How many of you have ever heard of Oscar Wilde’s book, The Importance of Being Earnest?
If you are like most folks, many of these names will not mean anything to you. But which ones stand out?
· What do you see in the story that supports the idea that Joseph was a “righteous man” (vs. 19)? Marrying Mary was not an option; in that culture, to marry one pregnant before a wedding would have been considered an affront to God. That left Joseph with two choices – to divorce Mary publicly in court, stigmatizing her as an adulteress for the rest of her life; or to do so privately before two witnesses, offering no explanation and risking the potential for this child to be seen as his. What does Joseph’s choice reveal about his love for Mary and for this child?
· Note in vs. 20 that it is not until after Joseph had wrestled with the decision to divorce Mary that the angel came to him. Why do you think God’s timing is sometimes different from what we would consider convenient? How do you work with his dynamic of God’s timing in your own faith journey?
· Reflect on the name Jesus – “He will save his people from their sins.” (vs. 21). What does this remind us to keep in mind as we celebrate the beginning of Jesus’ life?
· The second name mentioned here is “Immanuel” – meaning “God with us” (vs. 23). Read Isaiah 43: 1-5a and reflect on the “with us” God there. What do you cherish most about God’s presence? What if we can’t sense God’s presence – is God still there?
· Notice Joseph’s steps of obedience in vs. 24-25. What can make obedience to our Lord difficult? What makes it easier to embrace?
· What did it mean personally to Matthew, the former tax collector, that Jesus was Immanuel God?(Mt 9:9-13; 6:33) What does it mean that Immanuel God came into this world as a baby? (Isa 9:6) What does Immanuel God mean to you?