SOURCE FOR QUESTIONS
Matthew 1:1 through 4:11
KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)
Some twenty or thirty years after Jesus ascended to Heaven, one of His chosen disciples, Matthew, was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write a book that would introduce the New Testament. The special emphasis of Matthew was that Jesus was indeed the Messiah (“anointed one”) and King who had been foretold by the Old Testament prophets centuries before. Matthew quoted often from the Old Testament. In this Gospel, there are about sixty references to the Jewish prophecies and about forty quotations from the Old Testament, a clear indication that Matthew had a Jewish audience in mind. Christ’s mission to the Jews was especially emphasized.
Matthew (also called Levi) never spoke of himself, so we have little personal information about him. We know that he was once a despised publican [tax collector] who made a great feast for Christ and then followed Him. From that moment on, his life was changed. We know that Matthew was a companion of Jesus, so he would have seen firsthand the wonderful miracles and heard with his own ears the teachings of the Son of God. He is named as being one of the disciples in the upper room before Pentecost.
Being accustomed to keeping systematic records, Matthew gave a beautifully organized account of the Lord’s life and ministry. The book opens with a careful record of the birth of Jesus Christ and the events that accompanied it. In chapter 1 of Matthew, we find the genealogy of Christ (Joseph’s line; Luke’s genealogy gives Mary’s line). Chapter 2 details three key points about Jesus as King: the homage paid to the King (the visit of the Wise Men), the hostility against the King (Herod’s anger and attempt to destroy Him), and the humility of the King (the circumstances of His humble birth).
Some thirty years pass between the events of chapter 2, and the beginning of chapter 3 of Matthew. Chapters 3 and 4 detail John the Baptist’s proclamation of Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and the temptation of Christ in the wilderness. These both led to the beginning of His public ministry.
SUGGESTED RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS
- What was Joseph’s concern in Matthew 1:18-19? What is revealed about Joseph’s character in how he handled the situation?
Mary was found with child before she and Joseph were married. The Child was conceived of the Holy Ghost, but Joseph did not know that at first. God’s truth had not yet been revealed to Joseph.
Discuss what this portion of text reveals about Joseph’s character. While he did not understand what was happening, he did not want to make Mary a public example or expose her. He was searching for a way to begin the divorcement process privately, for Mary’s sake — a process that normally would be expected and was allowed by law in this circumstance. One can imagine the weight of the situation upon him, and no doubt he experienced a great range of emotions. Yet, from Scripture, we can conclude he was very careful and considerate as to how he would handle this situation, all the while caring for Mary’s reputation.
- According to verses 20-25, how did Joseph respond to the message from the angel in his dream? What did his action reveal about his character?
Joseph was immediate in his obedience. This was no small thing, as this was the first and last time a virgin woman would be selected by God to bear His only Son, and conceive of the Holy Ghost. There could have been many questions, fears, and uncertainties. Joseph could have felt he needed answers or proof. Ask your class to consider what could have gone through his mind. Possibly there were questions like: Why was Mary chosen? Why didn’t anyone ask me first, since I am to be her husband? Why is God’s Son coming now? Can I really be sure this is true? How will one Man save all people from their sins?
Joseph could have offered any number of responses, but he not only willingly, but also immediately obeyed. Take some time to reflect on the certainty God puts in our hearts when He calls us to a task. He calls in such a way that many times He answers our questions before we can ask them. After his dream, instead of having fear and doubts, Joseph must have felt honored at being chosen to be the earthly father of God’s Son. Verse 25 reveals Joseph’s respect for the holy process that was taking place. How wonderful it is to be in a position to willingly answer God’s call!
- The Wise Men who went in search of the Holy Child may have been from the Parthian Empire, located in present day northern Iran. These religious leaders, called Magi, had great power over their realm, even to choosing their own king. Why would these men of influence travel over 2000 miles from their homeland to bring gifts and to worship a Child?
They had seen His star in the east. The Bible does not say how they knew it was Jesus’ star. They would never have traveled so far to worship a king of Rome, for the Romans and the Parthians had been enemies for generations. Their worship was appropriate for the Son of God, who had come to save a dying world.
The point of this question is that God reaches out to all, and He may find someone far away who will appreciate the truth when others much nearer the truth never see it. Most of the Jewish people failed to see Christ as their Savior, yet these men from another nation, with no prophet of their own to reveal God’s truth, came to worship the Son of God. The Jewish people, who had the Law and the prophets of God in their history, had missed the greatest revelation of all.
- From verses 9-11, we can see that the Lord very carefully led the Wise Men to Christ, where they worshiped Him. What method did He use to lead them? Perhaps there have been times when you stepped out to follow the Lord, only to wonder if He was still leading you. How did He encourage you?
God used a star to guide the Wise Men on their journey. That star was apparently the reason they had set out in the first place (Matthew 2:2). It not only led them to the town and general neighborhood where the Child would be found, but to the exact location where they “saw the young child with Mary his mother.”
As you discuss the second question, bring out that when we start out to follow God, He will be faithful to lead us specifically, and not leave us to our own understanding. The Wise Men were dependant upon the star to guide them. When King Herod had no answer as to where Christ was, their only hope was the star. The Lord provided specific guidance for them, and they rejoiced when they saw the star again after talking with Herod. We can learn from this that all we must do is take the step the Lord shows us and then He will reveal the next step. Give your own example.
- In our Matthew text, several Old Testament prophecies are mentioned as being fulfilled. (See Matthew 1:23, 2:6, 15, 17-18, 23.) Think of the years of waiting that took place before those prophecies were fulfilled! While we may be tempted to help God work out His plan for our lives, what can we do to stay focused and to ensure success in the Gospel?
God’s plan for us will not come about any sooner by our trying to help things along or by forcing what we feel God may have in mind. We can actually make matters worse and ruin God’s plan for us by interfering. Discuss the difference between forcing open a door and letting God open the door for us. How does it feel? What is the result? Share some examples.
We must simply take action when God speaks, just as Mary and Joseph did. Our focus must be on Christ, and not on ourselves. We must realize that God is the only One who really knows what He wants to do with us, and He will open doors when the timing is right. By worrying about how God will instigate his plan, we can lose sight of the sweet daily fellowship with Him, and miss many blessings along the way. The best part of our journey towards Heaven is the sweet day-by-day fellowship with our Savior. By focusing daily on Him and surrendering our hearts, we will find that we are following His perfect plan for our lives, and wonderful doors will open up for us along the way.
- What was John the Baptist’s main purpose in life? What can we learn from this regarding our purpose? See Matthew 3:2-3.
John’s purpose was to prepare the way for Jesus Christ. John was not at all concerned about his reputation from his preaching, nor caught up with self-importance regarding his unique calling of being the forerunner of Jesus Christ. He was content to be “a voice crying in the wilderness,” his only passion that of proclaiming Christ’s truth, and preparing hearts to receive Him. We are not called to be important in the Gospel, but faithful. We are not called to make a name for ourselves, but to make Christ’s name known. Discuss the importance of losing ourselves in Christ so that others might see only Him through our lives. There is a joy that can be found no other way than by laying ourselves down and being committed to the cause of the Gospel.
- Matthew 4:1-11 describes Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. Why is it important to us that Jesus was tempted as a man?
Christ became flesh and accepted all the weaknesses of it, which meant that He could be tempted as we are. That is the reason He is able to understand our feelings, concerns, and weaknesses. That is the reason He is able to succor and strengthen us when we are tempted — because He has been tempted as we are tempted, and knows from experience exactly what we are going through. Discuss how everything would be different if Christ had not taken on the flesh and walked through life as we do.
- What can we learn about the devil’s tactics from this account? What can we learn from Christ’s example about how to withstand temptation?
In each temptation, Jesus used Scripture to defeat Satan. He did not engage in an argument with the devil, but appealed to the commands and promises of God. The Word of God is sufficient to overcome any tactic of the enemy, and as we stand on God’s Word faithfully, there will be comfort and rest coming to us from Heaven (Matthew 4:11).
In response to the second question, discussion should bring out that Satan is sly. He did not directly tell Jesus He wasn’t the Son of God. Twice he said, “if you are the Son of God,” thereby tempting Him not only to satisfy His hunger, but to stoop to following the devil’s suggestion in order to prove that He was God’s Son. Satan will challenge us in the same way. He will say, “if” God answered your prayer . . . or, “if” you are saved . . . Discuss several ways the devil slyly puts questions into our minds, bringing out that his point is always to inject doubt. It is important to realize that we don’t need to prove anything to him, nor do we need anything that he promises to give us. We must remember that he is a liar and the father of lies (see John 8:44). Would he really have given all the kingdoms of the world to Christ? Were they really his to give? The devil may tempt us with things that he cannot possibly give, such as peace, joy, or satisfaction.
Because Jesus came as a man, suffered, and triumphed over temptation, we have Someone to go to who understands us. He is a comforting Friend who feels our pain, weaknesses, and joys. Even more importantly, He is able to give us strength and help, so that we too can have real victory in any circumstance.