September 3 – Matthew 16:1 – 18:35. The Gospel reaches a high point as Jesus elicits from His disciples who He is (16:13-20). The Transfiguration also makes this clear (17:1-8). But, what does that identity mean for Jesus? and for His disciples? (See esp. 16:21-26; 17:22-23.) Chapter 18 records Jesus’ discourse on the fellowship into which Jesus draws us by faith. What does He teach us here about life in the church?
September 4 – Matthew 19:1 – 20:34. What does Jesus’ response to the Pharisees’ “test” question about divorce “for any cause” reveal? What does Jesus’ response to the rich young man’s question asking what he had to do to have eternal life reveal? How do Jesus’ comments to the disciples clarify His answer? (19:16-30) How does Jesus blessing the children reinforce the same truth (19:13-15)? Against what does the parable of the workers in the vineyard warn us (20:1-16; note its frame, 19:30 and 20:16)? Because Jesus’ mission is leading to suffering and death before resurrection, what is out of place for Jesus’ followers (20:17-28)? How does 20:29-34 wonderfully illustrate the nature of Jesus’ Messiahship?
September 5 – Matthew 21:1 – 23:39. How does Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem manifest the nature of His Messiahship–especially His riding on a donkey, His cleansing the temple, and His defense of the children’s praise? In this section (21:23 – 22:46), Jesus’ authority is challenged ( See esp. 21:23, 45-46; 22: 15-17; 22:23-28; 22:34-36.)? How does Jesus not only demonstrate that He truly has authority but uses parables to draw His critics under that authority to be blessed? Note also how Jesus shows that His identity is in keeping with God’s revelation to Israel of old. In Matthew 23, Jesus directs 7 woes (the number of fullness) against the scribes and the Pharisees not only to warn them but to alert us not to fall into their way of thinking!
September 6 – Matthew 24:1 – 25:46. Here we have the last major discourse in this Gospel. It is often called the “eschatological discourse,” because it deals with “the last things.” In response to the disciples’ question, “Tell us, when will these things be [He had just predicted the destruction of the temple.] and what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?” What did Jesus predict? As you read this, how much of it is prediction and how much of it is advice? What is Jesus’ advice for us, His disciples, to be ready for the “unknown hour” (24:36,42,44,50; 25:13)? What do each of the four parables (24:45-25:46) teach to assist us in being ready?
September 7 – Matthew 26:1 – 28:20. These three chapters present the climax of the Gospel. Throughout the Gospel we have seen signposts that indicate that Jesus’ coming was in keeping with the Scriptures. Here that accent is underscored: “the Son of Man goes as it is written of Him” (26:24; see also 26:54,56.), a “going” which did not end with death but an empty tomb, and a worldwide mission for His followers (28:5-7, 18-20). What has impressed you personally for your discipleship in this Gospel and especially in these last three chapters? How is the Jesus Matthew has presented encouraged you to follow Him?
Introducing the Letter of James. Although Luther called this little letter “an epistle of straw,” because it did not highlight “salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ,” a critical need in his day–it is not an epistle of straw. In chapter one it clearly testifies that our new birth to be “firstfruits of his creatures” was effected by God’s will through “the Word of truth.” That’s another way of saying our new life as children of God is due to God’s doing, not ours. This is an excellent letter, presented in the format of Jewish wisdom, urging Christians not to be lax but to put their faith into action.
September 8 – James 1:1 – 2:26. As you read the opening chapter, note what James has to say about (a) trials and testing; (b) prayer and faith; (c) pride and humility; (d) speaking and listening; and (e) hearing and doing. As you look at 1:21, why does James urge us “to receive with meekness the implanted word”? Chapter 2 confronts us with an all too common tendency–to play favorites, to be partial. What resources do we have to combat that tendency? How does one show that his or her faith is living according to the second chapter?
September 9 – James 3:1 – 5:20. An area of our lives that is hard to control is our speech. What makes it so difficult? (3:1-12) In 3:13-18, James contrasts two types of wisdom–from above and from below. What difference does each kind make in our lives? In the opening of chapter 4, what does James highlight as the root of the quarrels and conflicts we encounter? How does one overcome these negative desires? How about James 4:13-17–is that not guidance which matches us and our world today? As you read James 5:1-6, what’s the author’s point–are riches bad? In our world of instant gratification, the advice to be patient seems to be very timely. Finally note the corporate dimension of the Christian faith in the final paragraphs.