First sentence: WHEN VAN HALEN’S album 1984 hit the record stores, many a young lad, myself included, signed up for piano lessons.
I definitely enjoyed reading Douglas Sean O'Donnell's commentary on the gospel of Matthew. Yes, it is over a thousand pages. Yes, it's at least twice the length of the whole New Testament. But it's worth reading.
In eighty-nine chapters, O'Donnell covers all twenty-eight chapters of Matthew. The commentary isn't written with a verse-by-verse approach, but, a section by section approach. Each chapter is a sermon essentially that unpacks that section of Scripture.
There are eleven chapters on the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7.
- A Sermon on THE Sermon, Matthew 5-7
- A Broken Blessedness, Matthew 5:3-10
- Unworldly for the World, Matthew 5:11-16
- "I Say to You," Part 1, Matthew 5:17-48
- "I Say to You," Part 2, Matthew 5:21-48
- God-Rewarded Righteousness, Matthew 6:1-18
- How Not to Pray, Matthew 6:5-8
- How to Pray, Matthew 6:9-15
- Treasure and Trust, Matthew 6:19-34
- The Loving Art of Speck Removal, Matthew 7:1-12
- The Narrow Gate to Life, Matthew 7:13-29
There are fourteen chapters on the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ which covers Matthew 26 through 28.
Every verse gets covered some way, some how. But not every verse gets equal amount of attention.
O'Donnell begins by talking about all four gospels. He points out that, "They have the same bass line. Yet each Gospel has a distinct melody of its own." So what is Matthew's melody line?
"Jesus is King. Jesus is the King of Jews and Gentiles. Therefore, this King Jesus is to be worshipped. Like a fine symphony, Matthew’s melodic line resurfaces time and again through each chapter, oftentimes like a cello quietly playing in the background, until finally we come to the finale, where the whole orchestra, chorus, and even the audience stand up, play, and sing in one voice! This happens in the last three verses—the Great Commission. Listen for yourself. Listen for the culmination of all the subtle and strong sounds."
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
"If you understand the Great Commission in its context, you will very well understand the Gospel of Matthew."
"Nobody talks the way Jesus talked. Those today who have great authority, even if they overestimate their power and over-esteem themselves, do not talk like Jesus talked. They do not claim to be the king of Heaven and earth. They do not claim, as they sit on their glorious throne no less(!), that every person from every time and everywhere will one day come before them to be judged. They do not claim to have authority to forgive sins. They do not claim to be greater than the temple and the Torah or to be the fulfillment and embodiment of the Hebrew Scriptures. They do not claim that their rule will spread to every corner of the world. They do not claim to establish an unconquerable church and institute new sacraments that have themselves as the foundation and focus. They do not claim that all their commandments are to be obeyed. Matthew has a certain logic about him. He gives us various reasonable proofs for Jesus’ crazy claims. But such proofs are not like a mathematical equation. Rather, they are like the burning bush that Moses encountered, a bush that burns but never burns out. You have to come close enough to feel its heat to know it’s true. Logic on fire! Think of Matthew’s case for Christ and his absolute authority like one of those metal fire pits. In the fire pit itself are these burning but not burning-out claims of Christ—“I have authority over all things,” etc. Then there are those four sturdy, cast-iron legs that hold the pit up and in place. Each leg by itself would not necessarily hold up the claims, but together they make a pretty solid base. Let’s briefly examine the legs that hold up his claims. The first leg is fulfillment. Matthew will repeatedly use the word “fulfilled” and phrases like “This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet” to show that what was promised in the Old Testament is now being fulfilled in Jesus. He highlights general characteristics of what to expect in the Messiah as well as specific prophecies—e.g., “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son” (1:23) or “Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey” (21:5). Near the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus will say of himself, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (5:17). The idea is this: check what the Old Testament says. Check what Jesus does and says. Then you might very well say, “By golly, the shoe fits!” The second leg is teaching. If you have one of those Bibles that has all the words of Jesus in red, in Matthew you will see a lot of red. But the point is not simply that Jesus taught a lot. It is that he taught with authority. That is what the crowds noticed. He taught them “as one who had authority” (7:29). This will be the constant criticism of his critics, who will ask, “By what authority” he does this or says that (cf. 21:23–27). Jesus taught with authority, but an authority unlike any other. The third leg is character. A wise person can say some wise things, and some of those wise things can be remembered, even many years later. We still quote Socrates. But nobody worships Socrates. Why? Well, because he never claimed to be God, and because his character never had to fit his claims. The fourth leg is his miracles. By themselves, the miracles are not what is unique about him. But as the last and final leg, his miracles hold everything in place perfectly. The healing of the blind men, the lepers, the multiplication of the fishes and loaves, and the resurrection itself all point beyond themselves to Jesus’ identity. They point to his authority—his authority to forgive sins, his authority over disease, and his authority to conquer even death, of which there is nothing so powerful and prevalent in this world. If you can conquer death, you have a lot of power! All authority is the first and key note in Matthew’s Gospel. Tragically it is the most disregarded thought in the world today."
He challenges you to take your faith seriously, to hold to the truth, to live out what you say you believe.
"Christianity is not a pick-n-save religion: you pick whatever teachings you like and you still get saved. Oh no! If that’s how you think, you have it all wrong. Just listen to Jesus if you won’t listen to me. He stated it straightforwardly: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (7:21)."
God has given us creation—what Calvin called the theatre of his glory—and Scripture, what I’ll call the evidence of his faithfulness, and yet how many humans want a DNA test before they will call him, “Abba, Father.”
Who is the King of the Jews? Who is your king? Whose voice are you going to heed? Will you be indifferent to Jesus? Will you be hostile? Or will you bow low, with whatever gifts you have in hand, adoringly worshipping him?
This is the message the world needs, but it is also the message the church needs. This is why we find this theme of repentance in all the letters of the New Testament. Christians who have repented must continue to live lives of repentance (e.g., 2 Corinthians 7:9, 10; 12:21; 2 Peter 3:9).
Is Jesus Lord? If so, is he Lord over your life so much that in his presence you recognize the spiritual difference that exists between you and him—he is holy, you are not? In light of this difference, do you repent of your sins? And more than understanding and embracing repentance in this first sense—repenting of sin—do you also repent from following anyone or anything more than Jesus? That is the real point pressed on us here, and it will be pressed on us again and again in Matthew, especially at the end of chapter 10.
We serve a Lord who does not ask his followers to follow any road he himself has not traveled, a Lord who selflessly entered into the brokenness of this world to give all who would believe in him a future, the blessings of the kingdom of heaven.
Let’s be perfectly honest. We live in a prayerless world and in a prayerless church. I can say with confidence that the good majority of us are not disciplined when it comes to prayer. We can blame our negligence on the recent advances in science and technology, which seek to unveil all mysteries and free us from dependence on supernatural forces beyond our control. Or we can blame the great influence of entertainment, which takes our attention from the sublime and the divine and focuses it on the trite and the trivial. But the real blame must fall on us. We don’t pray because we don’t understand God. Or worse, we don’t pray because we don’t love, trust, or need God. Since God doesn’t matter to us as much as we think or say, prayer doesn’t matter much either.
The narrow gate is more of a who than a what. The narrow gate is Jesus. I say this because of what Jesus himself teaches in John 10:9, where he calls himself “the door” (cf. v. 3 “gatekeeper”) or “the gate” (NIV). In a context similar to what we have here in Matthew (as Jesus is talking about false teachers who try to steal and harm the sheep), he says in John 10:9, “I am the door [i.e., the gate through which the sheep enter safely]. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved.” This same sort of imagery and language in John 10:9 is used in 7:21, where Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.” Enter what? The kingdom of heaven. How? Through the narrow gate (i.e., Jesus). Jesus teaches, “Not everyone who says to me . . .” He is the gate into Heaven, the way into life, the way into eternal fellowship with God (cf. John 14:6).
Our felt needs or physical needs may be great, but they will never be as great as our need for forgiveness.
Our ultimate hope is not to escape death. Who escapes death? This twelve-year-old girl would one day die again, just as Lazarus, who was also raised from the dead, also eventually died again. This miracle story is not about how we should trust that Jesus will save us from an early death or from death itself. Jesus is not some mystical, magical, mythical Fountain of Youth. No. He is our resurrected Savior! This story before us is really just a miniature version of the great story of our salvation: in the death of Christ is the death of death. He takes on the curse of death that Adam brought into the world. Specifically, in the death of Christ is the death of our spiritual death (we will be forgiven our sin), and in the resurrection of Christ is the death of our physical death (we will rise again bodily). Since Christ died and rose again, we who are united to him, though we may die, will also rise again to a better life. In the words of Horatio Spafford, the hymn-writer who lost his four daughters at sea, we will rise to a life where Satan does not buffet, where trials do not come, where sea billows do not roll, and where all is finally well with our souls. That is our hope. It is a hope based on the reality of the resurrection and a hope that I hope brings encouragement to you today. Hammer away! Hammer away . . . for on the last day we shall rise again.
Disbelief? Is that the worst sin in the world? Everyone ranks sins differently—murder, adultery, stealing, parking in a handicap space without a sticker, eating trans fats. But disbelief—failure to trust in Jesus? That’s not even on some people’s lists. Well, it’s on Jesus’ list, at the very top!
If you want God as your Father, pride cannot be your mother. Pride cannot be the ruling principle in your life. Pride cannot be the authority over all your actions. Pride cannot be the voice telling you what to do.
Don’t call yourself a Christian if you don’t believe Jesus ever existed. Don’t call yourself a Christian if you believe only half of the red letters in your Bible have any connection to the historical Jesus. Don’t call yourself a Christian if you think Jesus didn’t die for your sins and rise for your justification. Don’t call yourself a Christian if you think obeying Christ’s commands are optional. And don’t call yourself a Christian if you think there are many ways to God. To be a Christian is, at the very least, to take Jesus at his word. “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (v. 30). Thus saith the Lord. The claims of Jesus are the claims of Jesus. We either believe them or we don’t. What he said in verse 30 is either true or false.
Gospel growth, gospel judgment, and gospel gain are the three themes of these seven parables. Gospel growth says to us, “Don’t be discouraged. The gospel has grown, it is growing, and it will continue to growth until harvesttime.” Gospel judgment says to us, “Don’t be less gracious than God. God will eradicate evil, but first he wants people to repent, find the kingdom, and embrace the King.” Gospel gain says to us, “The kingdom of heaven is worth infinitely more than the cost of discipleship.”13 Such sacrifice is worth it, for it will bring eternal blessedness (shining-like-the-sun blessedness!) when the King of the kingdom comes again to gather the good fish, the fruitful wheat, and all those beautiful birds nesting on the branches of that once tiny mustard seed.
To come to Christ is to deny self—to admit that we’re sinful, that we need a Savior. And to live for Christ is to deny self—to abide in him, pray to him, walk in his power. God’s plan of salvation and sanctification has one summary command: deny yourself!
My brothers and sisters in Christ, God is to be first in our lives. That’s what this first great commandment teaches us. He can’t be second or third or fourth of fifth or fiftieth. The sum of the whole Old Testament (and New Testament) is the command to love God and to love him before all others, more than anything and anyone else. And in a world that lacks a God-consciousness (let alone a God-centeredness), and in churches where preachers refuse to preach straightly and forthrightly the need for Christians to love God, we need to pray doubly hard to set the Lord God before our eyes and to see him (as Jesus did) towering “in sovereignty above the state (22:15–22), above death (vv. 23–33), and . . . above all other human responsibilities (vv. 34–40).”
The Christian life is not a ten-yard dash—such a short sprint that we can get the prize after the first five steps. Rather it is a grueling marathon that we must run all the way to the finish line. The gospel demands distance runners, those who run toward Heaven with hardship burning on our heels, those who patiently pace themselves, knowing that “momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
The most neglected theme in the modern church is the theme of judgment. The second most neglected theme is the theme that the church shall be judged: “judgment [will] . . begin [with] the household of God” (1 Peter 4:17). The third most neglected theme is the theme that the individual Christian shall stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ to give an account for what he has done (16:27; cf. Romans 14:12).
Without Jesus there is no gospel. Without the Old Testament there is no gospel. Without Jesus fulfilling the Old Testament there is no gospel. What good news do we herald? What light do we bring to the dark world? That Jesus died for our sins, rose again from the dead to grant us eternal life, and will come again in power to make everything right . . . just like the Hebrew Bible said. Our gospel is “the saving Story of Israel . . . lived out by [true Israel,] Jesus, who lived, died, was buried, and was exalted to God’s right hand” and who will soon come in glory to establish his forever kingdom.
For the sins of abortion, adultery, anxiety, arrogance, backbiting, bearing false witness, bitterness, blasphemy, boasting, bribery, complaining, coveting, contention, coarse joking, deceit, defrauding others, despising the poor, dishonoring the government, disregarding the Lord’s people on the Lord’s Day, disrespecting your parents and elders, envy, evil thoughts, fornication, fortune-telling, fraud, gambling, giving grudgingly (or not giving at all), gluttony, gossip, greed, harsh words, hating your brother, holding a grudge, idleness, idolatry, immodesty, losing your temper, lust, lying, malice, murder, prayerlessness, racism, rage, rape, resisting the Holy Spirit, returning insult for insult, rioting, scoffing, selfish ambition, showing favoritism, slander, sloth, speaking idle words, stealing, unlawful divorce, violence, witchcraft, and loving the world, loving yourself, not loving your neighbor or enemy or fellow Christian or God . . . to name a few sins. For all those and more, Behold your crucified king! Give thanks to him. Give thanks. Give thanks. Give thanks. Just imagine what the weight of the sins of the world felt like. Just imagine the one man “who knew no sin” being “made . . . to be sin . . . so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). It is one thing to have a thorn pushing into your skull when a Roman soldier hits you in the head;16 it is quite another thing—an unfathomable thing—for God the Father to charge/impute/bestow upon his only Son all of our sins. You see, nothing reveals the weight of our sins like the sufferings of Jesus. Nothing reveals the mercy of God like the sufferings of Jesus. Nothing reveals our absolute inability to save ourselves like the sufferings of Jesus. And thus something of our heartfelt thanks offered up to him is more than appropriate, don’t you think?
However, let’s be careful to hold high and hold out the Great Commission’s “go.” There must be some movement to our mission. And the movement in our text is not the movement from sitting in our pews to standing to sing. Neither is the movement from the sanctuary to the fellowship hall. Rather, it is the movement out the front door to take the gospel to lost people.
Jesus’ teaching ministry is to be our teaching ministry. Christian churches are only Christian if they center on Christ’s commands. Our mission is not to make Buddhists better Buddhists or Muslims better Muslims or atheists better atheists or witches better witches, but rather to invite all people from all other “faiths” into the one true faith under the commandments of the one true Lord. The Great Commission is exclusively inclusive—it is one Lord for all nations! So I ask you, do you know all that the Lord has commanded?
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible