Last week we looked at the birth of Jesus in Luke’s Gospel and the hope the incarnation brings to the marginalized. While Luke’s Gospel focuses on Mary’s perspective of Jesus’ birth, Matthew approaches it from Joseph’s perspective. This week, I want to focus on what incarnational living means for the world around us, specifically for the powers of the world. I want to approach Matthew in a different way this week by first looking at Paul’s understanding of the Church in Ephesians.
When Paul says we were predestined, he isn’t talking about one individual being chosen over another but that God’s plan from the beginning was that we (humanity) would be adopted as His Children.
- What is the mystery of God’s will, which he purposed in Christ?
- Who is excluded from adoption into the Family of God?
- How does one come into the Family of God?
- Knowing that we have the same entry point into the Family, how does this change how we approach diversity amongst people in the church?
- What does it look like for the Church to be “God’s handiwork”?
- What does it mean the Christ preached peace to those who were both far away and near?
- What message does this new Temple and new Citizenship proclaim to the powers of this world?
- What is the “manifold wisdom of God”?
- How does the church demonstrate the “manifold wisdom of God” to the rulers and authorities?
Matthew’s Gospel begins with a genealogy that we mostly skip. There are four women referenced in this list. Each of them are gentiles and had questions of sexual purity surrounding them. Tamar slept with her father in law to provide a son. Rahab was a prostitute. Ruth “laid at the feet of Boaz,” (a common innuendo of that time) to convince him to take her in. Finally, Bathsheba’s name isn’t even mentioned which highlights David’s sinfulness in that event. What message(s) of hope do the women of Jesus’ genealogy give? How does this set up the story of Jesus’ birth and the controversy surrounding Mary? God works in incredible ways and uses messy situations to bring about glory and redemption.
- Matthew frames his Gospel with calling Jesus “Immanuel,” God with us (1:23), and Jesus’ farewell to the Apostles in the Great Commission, “…I am wit you always…” (28:20) What hope and power does God’s presence give us in this world? Do you believe Jesus is with you? How would that belief/conviction change the way you live in community with others?
- Why does Matthew highlight this story that these foreigners travel a great distance to come and worship Jesus? How does this set up the ministry of Jesus? What does this say for the ministry of the church?
- Why is a baby such a threat to Herod that he kills so many children? Should the presence of Jesus be a threat to world power? Why?
- In what ways should the church be problematic for powers of this world? This question comes across a little odd. In what ways does/should the church live out the presence of God in this world that it subverts the “order” of the world around it? If Christ were to re-order society, what would it look like?