August 27 – Acts 25:1 – 28:31. Paul deals with the opposition he faces, even using his Roman citizenship to protect himself. After surviving a terrible shipwreck, the Acts ends with Paul in Rome, freely preaching the Gospel. The Word of God cannot be bound.
As you begin reading the Gospel according to St. Matthew, looking for two major themes will be most helpful: (a) who Jesus is; and (b) what it means to follow Him. The Gospel has a powerful prolog, 1:1 – 4:17 and a powerful climax, 26:1 – 28:20. In between are five major sections, each of which begins with deeds of Jesus and concludes with a discourse (speech). The deeds prepare for the discourse and the discourse interprets the deeds. (For example, Matt. 4:18-25 [deeds], 5:1- 7:29 [Sermon on the Mount]; Matt. 8:1-10:4 [10 mighty deeds] followed by 10:5 – 11:1 [Missionary Discourse].
August 28 – Matthew 1:1 – 4:17. The genealogy identifies Jesus as the “son of David, the son of Abraham.” What do the story of Jesus’ birth and the visit of the wise men highlight about Jesus? How about the flight into Egypt, the slaughter of the innocents, and the return to Nazareth (2:13-25)? What does John the Baptist tell us about Jesus’ identity? and Jesus’ baptism? What does Jesus’ rejection of the devil’s temptations tell us about Jesus? Finally, how does 4:12-17 help us learn who Jesus is?
August 29 – Matthew 4:18- 7:29. Our reading begins with Jesus calling four fishermen to be his disciples (“Follow me”), and with Jesus proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease. In the discourse that follows, Jesus teaches the disciples what it means to follow Him. They are blessed, the salt of the earth and the light of the world. How does Jesus describe what that means for those who follow Him? (5:17 – 7:27) Also what can motivate you to try to follow Jesus’ instructions? (See especially 5:45; 6:25-34; 7:7-11, 24-27.)
August 30 – Matthew 8:1 – 9:35. The concluding summary of the Sermon on the Mount noted the authority with which Jesus spoke. In these two chapters Jesus demonstrates His authority by doing 10 deeds of power. What do those deeds reveal about the scope of Jesus’ power? In between the first three and the second three, and the second three and the last four, the evangelist inserts incidents highlighting discipleship. What do we learn about following Jesus from these “interludes.”
August 31 – Matthew 10:1 – 11:30. 10:1 – 11:1 provides the missionary discourse that follows Jesus’ 10 mighty deeds. Notice how Matthew calls the disciples (v. 1) apostles (v. 2), which means “sent out ones” and gives them authority for their mission. What does their mission consist of doing? What can they expect as they go? What can motivate them to carry out this mission? Chapter 11:2-30 reflects the doubts John experienced about Jesus (11:2-3), the crowd’s reactions to both John and Jesus (11:7-19) and the cities where Jesus did His mighty works (11:20-24). But it also highlights the way Jesus demonstrated who He was (11:4-6, 25-30). What claim does Jesus make for Himself and what invitation does He extend? How can chapters 10 and 11 encourage us for our part in God’s mission?
September 1 – Matthew 12:1 – 13:52. Chapter 12 continues with opposition to Jesus. How does Jesus counter the opposition from the Pharisees in 12:1-14, 22-32? How does Matthew’s quotation of the first servant song of Isaiah (42:1-4) in 12:17-21 really describe Jesus’ mission? Note how 12:33-45 is a powerful call to repent, because He wants people in His family (12:46-50). As you read chapter 13, reflect on how its parables provide a picture of the responses people make to Jesus. What in them can help us be faithful witnesses?
September 2 – Matthew 13:53 – 15:39. Jesus meets with skepticism from the local people (13:53-58), a case of “familiarity breeding contempt”? The beheading of John the Baptist leads Jesus to withdraw (14:1-13), but when the crowds pursue Him, His compassion for them overpowers His with-drawal. He overrules His disciples and challenges them to respond to the people’s needs, which He Himself then meets (14:13-21) and demonstrates His commitment to them and their dependence on Him (14:22-36). In Jesus’ conflict with the Pharisees and scribes, what is Jesus teaching about discipleship in 15:1-20? What does Jesus’ healing of the Canaanite daughter’s demon-possession reveal about the reach of His mercy, a truth re-enforced by the healing of many and the feeding of the 4,000 (15:21-39)?