Usually an “encounter” with something or someone is unexpected, possibly sudden or brief. Yet, even though it is unexpected or brief, it is in some way impactful. We may even be changed by it, or feel our life is interrupted in some way as a result of the “encounter.” And so it is with Jesus. Meeting Jesus is by far the most meaningful encounter we can have. And often He seems to interrupt “life as usual.” And if we look reflectively at the gospel of Matthew we will find this to be true for many others– who walked on the same roads, shared everyday meals, listened to His words, or were even touched by Him.
This devotional study is designed for having encounters with Jesus and with the people who interacted with Him. The reason I call it a “devotional” study is because I hope the study of scripture will lead our minds and hearts to Christ. Also, “devotional” sounds less “academic” and more approachable. I really think if you read a gospel in the simple way I will describe below you will have continual encounters with Jesus. Hopefully, you will observe Jesus and say, “This is why I follow Him!” Or, you will watch the people who converse with Him and think, “How can I not love this Jesus?” This isn’t something new that I came up with, but I do hope it is refreshing for you and for me.
Before we start
We need fresh “encounters” with Jesus. Why is that? What do you think? I can think of a few good reasons, but let me share first an analogy with you.
Our furnace is out. And I sit here cold. I remember the heat. I love the heat when it is cold. Fortunately, I have sweaters, and hats and a toasty fireplace to keep me warm. But the cold slowly tries to push back the heat that once filled the house. Each day without the furnace the cold penetrates the walls and seizes more and more space. In my mind I can have warm thoughts and remember “toastiness.” But the warmth has been depleted and now it is plain cold. I need new heat (actually a new furnace). The heat the furnace produced a few weeks ago– well, that heat is gone. Now it isn’t a perfect analogy (and you can think of all the ways it breaks down). But the point is this– and you have probably heard it said, “You can’t live on yesterday’s bread” (or yesterday’s heat). Bread goes stale. A house grows dim and cold. Our stomachs get hungry. In the same way we need the Bread of Life today. We need the Light of Life daily. So it is in a relationship with Jesus. We need Jesus each day. He is the bread and light for each day.
Connected to this, fresh encounters with Jesus kindle our love and affections. It brings newness to our faith and hope in a conflicted world. These are the seeds for growth and maturity in our life. Without fresh encounters, our faith becomes stagnant. Our hope grows dim.
Lastly, how will we influence this world, our family, our children, and the next generation of disciples unless we have fresh encounters with Jesus? We don’t want to just tell stories of what we knew to be true (even though it is vital to recall what God has done in the past), but we want to share in a new way who He is today. This is key for being people who overflow Jesus to the next generation. We must continue to encounter Jesus anew.
When we truly encounter Jesus again and again, we wonder, “Who wouldn’t want to know this Jesus?” Fresh encounters are needed to keep our affections kindled, our faith vibrant, and the gospel overflowing.
Starting with the Question
There are so many ways to read the bible, study it, etc. But when you pick it up and start reading, what do you look for? Normally, our first thought (with or without knowing it) is to look for the, “What.” We wonder,
“What does it say?” “What do I learn?” Or, “What does it mean?”
Instead, in this study we are going to start with the, “Who.” It is a simple, transformative way to read a gospel. In this devotional study we are going to read it with one main question in mind,
“Who is Jesus?”
As we ask this question we will observe all sorts of things about Jesus. We will see what He is like and how He treated people. We will notice His words, actions and many, many other things. We will also look at the other players in the story and observe their encounters with Jesus. So we will ask:
“Who are these players and how do they encounter Jesus?”
I think we discover much by looking at Jesus through the eyes of those who encountered Him for the first time. What things we discover about Him!
Simple. Sweet. Satisfying.
- Who is Jesus?
- What is He like?
- Who encounters Jesus in this gospel?
- And how do they respond?
It is Simple, Sweet and Satisfying
Who to do this with?
- Are you looking for something to do with a small group? This is great to do with others, covering about two chapters of Matthew each week.
- Or, maybe you want something for your own personal time? This is how I like to spend time in a gospel.
- This would also be a great way to spend time in the word with a disciple.
Let’s get started!
There are two approaches
1- You can do the study guide below with one to two chapters at a time. This would take 14 weeks if you do two chapters a week.
For example: For the first week do Matthew 1 and 2 and follow the guide below. The next week do Matthew 3 and 4, also with the guide below. The same two page guide is used through all 28 chapters.
2- For a more inductive and thorough bible study use an inductive guide alongside it.
Go to this link, scroll down to “Matthew” and download both together!
For each week:
Read some of Matthew each day, even if it is for 5-10 minutes.
Day 1— Read through the assigned chapters for the week (possibly two chapters a week).
Day 2— Pause and prayerfully ask God to still your heart and then re-read the passage. This time read through slowly, reflectively and expectantly.
Day 3 — Now read with a pencil in hand, answering the questions below.
Day 4 — Stand back and look at the big picture. What strikes you? What overall stands out? Do you notice repetition of who is Jesus and what He is like?
Day 5 — Read any parts again that strike you. How are you encountering Jesus? What would you share with another?
Questions to consider as your read:
How is Jesus introduced (specifically in the first four chapters)?
Who is Jesus? (This is our main question.)
- What do you learn about Jesus?
- What does the text and others say about Him?
- What does He say about Himself?
What is one thing that stands out to you?
How does Jesus interact with others? How do they respond to Him?
What is my response to what I have observed?
What or how can I share something from these chapters with someone else?
… in introducing spiritual things?
… for sharing Christ with someone?
… with a disciple?
… with a friend?
Remember the main focus is looking at Jesus and what He is like, and observing those who encounter Him: the “Who.”
Simple. Sweet. Satisfying.