How can we know Jesus? The best way is by checking eyewitness accounts. This simple guide to chapters 8-12 of Matthew's Gospel does just that, introducing us to the early years of Jesus' public ministry. Jesus is revealed as a man of authority and compassion—yet not just a man, for he speaks and acts with the power of God. Follow Jesus from fear to freedom.
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A good way to get to know the true character of someone famous is to find out more about their early years. Seeing what people were like before they became famous reveals a great deal about their true identity. It is exciting, too, going back to where everything began for them. You are transported back to the early days, recognizing the greatness that one day others will also see.
This is true in the case of Jesus.
Looking at the early days of Jesus’ ministry gives us a sense of what lies ahead for him, and gives us a powerful insight into his character and appeal. This early glimpse is what we find in Matthew 8-12. These chapters provide us with an authentic opportunity to get to know Jesus and to understand who he is, what he did and what he demands of his followers. In these chapters, we see Jesus’ fearsome authority and his tender compassion. We see him living up to the extraordinary Old Testament expectations, all based on God’s promises about the coming Messiah. We see opposition beginning and hardening against him, and we witness his courageous response. We see his faultless integrity and hear him teaching his disciples. In short: we meet the real Jesus in his early ministry in a biography he authorized.
The other thing we find in Matthew 8-12 is a vast array of different responses to Jesus. He is loved, hated, feared, labelled, pleaded with, questioned. People leave their jobs because of him; people stake their reputations on opposing him. No-one can sit on the fence. This examination of Jesus’ early years is confronting for us too, for Jesus always demands a response. A right fear of Jesus’ power and authority will lead, paradoxically, to true freedom.
It is my prayer that your examination of Jesus in these chapters will be genuine, and that your response to Jesus will be worthy of him.
— Peter Collier, October 2008