Disciples: The Gospel of Matthew

Disciples: The Gospel of Matthew
Jesus called them to be his disciples. A disciple is more than a follower of a friend; a disciple is an imitator, someone who has been transformed into the image of their master. When Jesus was walking along the Sea of Galilee, he looked out and saw two brothers mending their nets. They were fishermen, but Jesus was about to call them to be fishers of men. He called out to them, "follow me!" And then they had a decision. Would they follow him or not? Would they leave their boats to become his disciples?

It’s no coincidence that the final lines of Matthew call us to go make disciples; the whole gospel is about transformation. That’s the call for every believer; learn to be like your teacher. We’ve been called to be like him, to live like him, and to help others find and follow him.

The Gospel of Matthew was the most popular among the early Christians with new converts. They would take new Christians through this book because it simply and clearly presented the path of discipleship. Organized around five sermons, Matthew’s gospel teaches discipleship through action, information, models, and exemplars. From beginning to end, the story includes people whose lives are changed by Jesus, and who respond by becoming like him. They listen to the teacher, live for the kingdom, and learn to make disciples just like he did.

The Organization of Matthew 
Matthew is famously organized around 5 large teaching blocks, the most famous being the Sermon on the Mount in chapters 5-7. The others include instructions to the disciples (Ch. 10), parables about the kingdom (Ch. 13), teaching about relationships in the kingdom (Ch. 18), and parables and teaching about judgment and the end times (Ch. 24-25). But in between these teaching blocks, Jesus is healing, casting out demons, bringing in the kingdom, and building a group of disciples who will carry on the mission when he dies, rises, and ascends.

The gospel can be seen as three acts; first, in Act 1, Jesus reveals himself and preaches about the kingdom (Ch. 1-8). In this section, he begins to gather disciples, establish the kingdom, and begins to teach his followers how to live in the kingdom.

In Act 2, Jesus begins to develop the kingdom (Ch. 9-18). After he calls his disciples, he begins to train them in ministry. The three central blocks of teaching develop the kingdom and show them how to live as evangelists, members of the body of Christ, and ultimately disciple-makers. Interestingly, these chapters contain the only two mentions of the church (the ekklesia) in the gospels; first, in 16:18 with the great confession, “on this rock I will build my church,” and second, in 18:17, during Jesus’s teaching on discipline and accountability.

In the final section, Act 3, Jesus points to the future of the kingdom (Ch. 19-28). He commissions his disciples to take up his ministry, to build the kingdom, and to await the consummation. In this final scene, Jesus lays his life down for his disciples. They learn that the way of the kingdom is the way of suffering and death, the way of slow God-guided growth, and the way of taking up the cross to follow Christ. In the final discourse about future judgment, Jesus tells us how the story ends; the righteous are those who obey him, true disciples who will spend eternity with him when he returns, and the unrighteous who do not follow or obey him will be cast out away from his presence forever.

The Themes of Matthew
Through this masterful re-presentation of Jesus’s life, Matthew highlights several themes for us. First, the gospel is about discipleship. We learn that it’s not enough to simply be around Jesus, know about him, or participate with the crowd. We have to give our lives to him and follow him. He died for our sins to bring us back to God, and now we live for him, seeking to be like him in every way.

Second, this gospel is about Jesus’s wise teaching. Matthew was transformed by Jesus’s teaching (9:9; 10:3), and he wants to ensure we are too. Jesus is not just a religious taskmaster, he is the wise guide to the good life. He teaches as one with authority and insight foreign to the world - the wisdom of God in the flesh. Jesus’s disciples don’t just learn his teaching, they do it. If we want to follow him, we must listen to what he says and put it into practice.

Third, this gospel is about action. One of the most famous passages in the gospel of Matthew is the great commission; “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.’” (28:18-20). These are the marching orders for the disciples of Jesus. We are to take action; go make disciples by evangelizing the lost and discipling the found. We are empowered by all the authority in heaven and on earth. Jesus Christ, our Savior, is with us every step of the way.

How to Get the Most Out of Matthew
As you can tell, Matthew is not just a book to sit back and think about. It’s a discipleship manual for us. Each week during the sermon, we’ll focus on the theme of discipleship, looking at Jesus’s teaching and examples of faithful disciples so that we too can follow him. Our goal is nothing less than adopting the great commission as our motto and learning how to fulfill it in our everyday lives. We’ll be talking about how to live as kingdom people, how to walk in a way that pleases God, how to share our faith, and how to make disciples.

On every page, there is an invitation from Jesus himself: Will you follow me? Will you spend your life for the kingdom? Once you’ve found the treasure in the field, will you leverage everything you have for it? Will you take part in the great family reunion of God, sharing your faith and making disciples of all the nations? Will you leave the boats behind and follow him?

This series will begin on January 8 and run through Easter Sunday, April 7. Listen to the sermons in this series here.

Next Steps:
  • Read: Start reading the “Jesus in All of Matthew” plan through the Bible App. 
  • Pray: Ask God each week to show you how to take the next step in being a disciple of Jesus Christ. 
  • Connect: Join one of our weekly small groups or Bible studies. 

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