Partnering with the King: Study the Gospel of Matthew and Become a Disciple of Jesus by John L. Hiigel
This new study of Matthew’s Gospel by John Hiigel, Professor of Biblical Studies at University of Sioux Falls is a penetrating analysis of the narrative with practical bits of wisdom throughout the text. John takes us through Matthew in 31 readings introducing us to many of the key themes of the text. I really enjoyed the format that John provided us with the Scripture text, background commentary, theological points, and application. I think anyone who reads this book will find great encouragement and be challenged by the Gospel and its call to follow Jesus as a disciple.
John carefully brings out the theological message of the Gospel of Matthew in a profound way. After giving us the genealogy in Matthew 1, John writes, “This leads to the genealogy’s second contribution: the idea that something long hoped for is being fulfilled. The technical term for this idea is eschatology, time arriving at its destination. Jesus’ coming marks the decisive moment when God dramatically intervenes to fulfill his plans.” (14) We usually skim past the genealogy because it is either boring or we don’t quite understand what all the family names mean. Yet, as John points out, there is a grand story that signals the arrival of new state of affairs that is centered around the coming of the Messiah and his fulfillment of Israel’s hopes. The beauty of this history is also on offer for us, as John writes, “…every disciple is part of this grand unfolding story that is much bigger than our own individual life story.” (14) Though we don’t recognize the immensity of the story we are involved in, the grand narrative of following Jesus stretches through families, neighbors, friends, and beyond. No, we are not the only ones following Jesus in the midst of a broken world, because we have a long story of faithful followers enmeshed into our own narrative.
Speaking of Jesus’ words “whoever loses their life for me,” John writes, “As we do it, we discover in due time that no accumulation of benefits can hold a candle to the life we find in him. Many times, we let go of those things without actually losing them, because Jesus retains or increases them in our lives for his purposes and our benefit.” (157) The nuance here that John provides is important, especially the phrase ‘in due time,’ because we often want change to happen overnight. However, our release on possessions and notoriety often take time to let go, each day releasing our firm grasp on the things that strangle our hearts. John points out that when we live with self-denial, the good gifts God gives and takes away will be a sign to us that we can love God in want and plenty because he is our portion.
This was a wonderful study of the Gospel of Matthew in all its challenging words. John carefully weaves explanation, theology, and practical wisdom into these pages to produce a wonderful resource for the church.
Thanks to Paraclete Press for the copy of this book in exchange for review.