Continuing on from the previous post, we see verse 31-32 continues the theme of the previous section where Jesus is teaching the elements of the higher call under the New Covenant. In this section he speaks of divorce and it is evident that this is not something to be taken lightly. Unchastity, that is, sexual relations with someone other than the marriage partner, is clear grounds for divorce. However he likens divorce for other reasons as being like adultery. Adultery under the old covenant law was punishable by death, so it is clear that the Lord had a dim view of divorce. Elsewhere the bible shows that if a couple are to separate then they should either be reconciled if possible, or remain single. Divorce was certainly accepted under the law, & even in this section it talks about a certificate of divorce being given. In some cases divorce may be a necessary option to gain freedom from a violent or destructive relationship, but it is not carte blanche to run off and marry someone else if a person is just tired or bored in the relationship as happens too often in today’s society.
We see in verse 13 it says, “You are the salt of the earth.” How often do we hear this said as a description of someone who is considered a good person in some way? And yet today salt is often condemned as causing high blood pressure and other cardio-vascular problems. However this is due to the excesses of salt used in our modern highly over-processed foods. But this was not so in the Lord’s day and it would not be an issue today if salt were used sparingly. At one time salt was very precious, and indeed it was sometimes used to pay people for their work, which is where the word “salary” is derived. Salt was precious and highly regarded. Even under the old covenant they spoke of a “covenant of salt” which was an eternal covenant and binding. Jesus was saying in this section that those people who followed him were like salt. As a light sprinkling of salt can turn some food from dull and bland to a taste sensation, so too those who hear and do Gods will “season” mankind and bring life in God’s eyes where there is none. In God’s eyes those who follow Jesus are like salt as it was viewed in Christ’s time: they are both valuable and precious to Him.
It occurred to me that there is an order to the preaching of the word by Jesus that I had not seen before. In the previous chapter we saw the beginning of his preaching which starts with repentance. Repentance was the focus of John the Baptist’s ministry and also the starting point of the disciples ministry after Jesus had been put to death. The essence of repentance is that it is a state of preparation. Repentance is meant to prepare a person so that they turn away from an old life of sin, ready to commence a new life with Christ. In essence it is like “turning over a new leaf” to start afresh. So we see that in each case the three key ministries of the New Testament begin by teaching the people to come to a state of preparation for what is to come. In particular we note that John the Baptist’s primary ministry was to fulfil the prophecy that said he was to prepare the way for the Christ and his focus was repentance from sin.
This chapter is interesting for we see in it the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and this is interesting because we also see that before he began he was attacked by Satan and tempted in the wilderness. Also note that the devil mocked Jesus for he began his first two temptations with the words, “If you are the Son of God…” The devil knew full well that Jesus was the Son of God and that there was no “if” about it. But using such mockery was an attempt to goad Jesus into doing the devil’s will rather than the will of God. We see this same thing as Christians. People will say, “…and you call yourself a Christian…” when they mock or stand opposed to us. As the devil sought proof’s from Jesus with his mockery so too the devils servants do the same thing to the servants of the Lord. Don’t fall into that trap for that is what it is. Jesus was tempted and attacked at other times too, but this first occasion is interesting as it was to test his faith in a number of key areas.
(Matthew Chapter 3)
Here we see the beginning of John the Baptists ministry. John came to do two things. He came to prepare the way for the Lord and to bear witness to Jesus as being the Christ. Was it necessary for him to do this? Probably not, but under the law a matter was considered true if two or more people witnessed it. And besides, it was prophesied that John would appear and do this work. He was the prophet that came in the spirit of Elijah as spoken of elsewhere.
Now we see John preach baptism as a sign for the repentance of sins, and this was very important. He introduced this process that was later carried forward into the New Covenant. John also made the point that it is not enough just to be baptised for repentance but you needed to be live a repentant life. He told the Jews that they could not simply rely on their genealogy to save them; they needed to “…bear fruit that befits repentance.” It is the same today. You cannot go through the motions and expect salvation; you need to live in accordance with the word.
Now the New Covenant did not exist in John’s time because it was not ratified and could not come into existence until after Jesus had died. The Old Covenant required the sacrifice of goats and bulls and the blood of these animals sufficed to do two things. Firstly they brought the covenant into existence & secondly they were the offering for sin. Jesus death was similar in that His blood brought the New Covenant into effect, but it was not an offering for sin but took away mans sin. To enter the New Covenant then we need to enter into Jesus’ death, which is done through baptism.
Now John also recognised Jesus was mightier than himself for he said when Jesus came for baptism that he (John) needed to be baptised by Christ. But we see in Jesus’ answer a very interesting response. Jesus said he needed to be baptised by John, “…for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.” Baptism is necessary to meet the requirements to fulfil all righteousness and without baptism this cannot be achieved. In Jesus’ case he did not need to be baptised, as John knew, but by being baptised Jesus provided an example for us all to follow. No person can say they do not need to be baptised because Jesus was not baptised. That is how important baptism is in the new covenant. Indeed baptism is the mechanism by which we enter the New Covenant through Christ Jesus. He said elsewhere that, “I am the door” and we need to enter by the door. We do that through being baptised into his death.
We also see that God the Father was pleased with Jesus and this process because God the Father gave his seal of approval saying from heaven, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.”
The whole book of Matthew focuses quite heavily on the fulfillment of prophecy. This is very clear in this second chapter. We see that in all aspects of his life Jesus fulfilled all of the prophecies pertaining to him beginning with his birth in Bethlehem.
There is another interesting aspect to this sequence of events as well. We saw that when Moses was alive he said that the Lord would raise up another prophet like him, from amongst their brethren (Deut 18:15-16, Acts 3:22-23). What we see is that there are many parallels between the lives of Moses & Jesus. For example, the rulers at the times of both their childhoods sought to kill all male children under the age of two. They were also both brought up out of Egypt. Moses was given the Old Covenant law to teach Israel and Jesus brought the New Covenant into effect to save the spiritual Israel. There are many other interesting similarities in their lives and again this strengthens the fulfillment of scripture and proof that Jesus is the Christ.
(Matthew Chapter 1)
It seemed like a good idea to capture the things I am learning as I read the Bible, and that is the purpose of this blog.
Anyone who has read the New Testament knows that the first chapter of Matthew is a lot of long and sometimes difficult to pronounce names. But it is an important piece of scripture as it shows the genealogy of Jesus. The Old Testament said that one of the descendants of Abraham, Judah and David the King would come as the Messiah. Matthew 1:1-16 shows that lineage and is evidence of who Christ is from a prphetic perspective.
Verses 18-19 show some interesting things too. It occurred to me that after the initial mentioning of Joseph, he hardly gets mentioned again in the Bible. And yet it stands to reason that he was around for he was a carpenter & Jesus too must have learned that trade from his supposed father. Also we see that Joseph was a good and just man for the scripture says that he was unwilling to put Mary to shame and was going to divorce her quietly. When you consider that he had discovered she was pregnant the first thought any rational person would make is that she had been unfaithful. Yet in spite of that Joseph was prepared to keep a lid on the matter and not make a big fuss, not for his own sake, but for hers. This is a sign of a just and reasonable man.
Of course what we see then is angel of the Lord coming to Joseph to explain what the situation is and that he should continue to take Mary as his wife.
Now what is also interesting in what the angel said to Joseph is the reason why Jesus was coming to the world. In verse 21 we see that Jesus was being born, “…to save his people from their sins.” This is the primary reason why Jesus came and we see this same purpose repeated in many places throughout the gospels. The very reason that Jesus was born, lived and died was to save us from our sins. This is a significant part of Jesus’ ministry and one that will unfold in future posts.