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I think John was speaking for all of the Gospel writers when he penned these words, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name” (John 20.30-31).
Space did not permit the Gospel writers to include every act and lesson that Jesus taught. They selected events from his life and message to help us trust our lives to Jesus and to find abundant life in the process.
As we are reading the Gospel of Matthew to learn more about living our lives like Jesus, I have been intrigued by how Matthew arranged his telling of the events in Jesus’ life to make a powerful impact on his readers. Like John, his purpose was to help us find life by living like Jesus.
Arranged to Challenge
A careful reading of Matthew’s Gospel will show that it was arranged to challenge people like us to evaluate what is really important in our lives. Here is a quick survey of what I have discovered.
— Jesus began the Sermon on the Mount with a description of who God considers fortunate. The first three mentioned are the poor in spirit, mourners, and those who have been humbled by life (Matthew 5.3-5).
Jesus turned upside down the values of contemporary culture. If he did this, should we not re-evaluate what we consider to be a fortunate or blessed life?
— Jesus stated what should be the ultimate concern of all people when he taught, “Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6.33).
Let’s ask ourselves if giving our best to join God in the effective reach of his power is what is the biggest concern of our lives? Or is it the “things” of this earth?
— A Roman army officer was said to have greater faith than the customary religious crowd of Jesus’ day (Matthew 8.5-13).
Are we willing to look for faith among those who are not the usual suspects? Are we willing to see God’s activity in people who are quite different from us?
— Jesus healed two bling men (Matthew 9.27-31). Shortly following this, the religious leaders said, “By the ruler of the demons he casts out the demons” (Matthew 9.34). In Matthew, the physically blind are always contrasted with the spiritually blind. This time, the spiritually blind are religious leaders, who should have been able to recognize the activity of God in the actions of Jesus.
Are we able to see God at work, even if it is different from our preconceived ideas of how we think he should be acting?
— A woman from an outcast people group continued to pursue Jesus in spite of being rebuffed by Jesus and his disciples. Jesus said this about her, “Woman, great is your faith!” (Matthew 15.28). Similar to the Roman army officer, this woman was lauded by Jesus. This is the only place in the Gospel where a person is said to have “great faith.”
When I read this story, I thought of Mark Baker’s friend in a homeless camp, who is leading a Bible study. What would Jesus say about his faith? What would Jesus say about our faith in comparison to his?
— Jesus foretold his death and resurrection three times (Matthew 16.21-23; 17.33-34; 20.17-19). On two of those occasions, his close followers seemed to be more concerned with their own status rather than his upcoming death (Matthew 18.1; 20.20-23).
E. Stanley Jones, a great Methodist missionary, spent the night in the Garden of Gethsemane and meditated on the agony of Jesus as he faced the cross. When was the last time we meditated on the cross? When was the last time we worried about our status or what people think about us?
Two Blind Men Healed
In contrast to the spiritual blindness of Jesus’ close followers, Matthew recorded the healing of two physically blind men. He wrote,
As they were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. There were two blind men sitting by the roadside. When they heard that Jesus was passing by, they shouted, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!”
The crowd sternly ordered them to be quiet; but they shouted even more loudly, “Have mercy on us, Lord, Son of David!”
Jesus stood still and called them, saying, “What do you want me to do for you?”
They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.”
Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they regained their sight and followed him (Matthew 20.29-34).
This is a familiar scene in the life and ministry Jesus. People who need his help are often discouraged by others from seeking his help. We should all make a note and be aware of any way that our actions may keep people from coming to Jesus.
These men received their sight from Jesus and began following Jesus. They become part of a crowd, who traveled with Jesus on his way to Jerusalem. Let’s not forget the rich young man, who walked away from Jesus (Matthew 19.16-22), as we consider contrasts in Matthew’s Gospel.
Think About It
I hope we all will think about these contrasts in the Gospel. Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to us any spiritual blindness in our lives. Let’s ask the Spirit to show us any ways that our words or actions may be discouraging people from following Jesus. Let’s ask the Spirit to make the cross of Jesus more important to us than our status.
Dear Jesus, we join the blind men and pray for you to have mercy on us. Please help us to see your way of life. Please help us to think and to live like you.