Personal discipleship has been a lifeline for me between what had become a comfortable and complacent Christian experience, and one that became vibrant, exciting, and very real. As we embark on this new Lenten series, I invite you to take a fresh approach to your devotional life.
Personal discipleship is the process in which a believer or seeker takes personal responsibility for investigating the claims and content of the Bible. While we all appreciate hearing a well-turned sermon in a moving worship service, sitting in a pew is a passive experience. None of us would get very far academically if all we ever did was attend lectures. We have to read, study, work some problems through, write, engage others in discussion, apply ourselves, and prepare to be tested. And so it is with our faith.
Matthew’s Gospel invites that kind of approach. His is a ‘synoptic’ Gospel, recorded by a much-hated tax collector. As Travis mentioned in his introduction to this series, the Gospel of Matthew features five discourses of Jesus. It’s linear—starting with the genealogy of Joseph (not Jesus), and ending with the Great Commission. In the text, we see the identity of our triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—revealed, and we see that God has a purpose for our lives and wants a personal relationship with us. Matthew was a meticulous note taker. It’s quite a book.
So…other than reading Matthew’s text, how would we apply personal discipleship to our studies? Let’s look beyond the sacred page and see what modern scholarship has to offer.
For example, did you know that we can date the Crucifixion? It took place on Friday, April 3rd, 33 A.D. I first heard that bold claim in Ken Petzinger’s Vine Life Class. I didn’t think that kind of precision was possible in ancient history, but it turns out that by taking data from astronomy (verified by NASA) and historical accounts of Pontius Pilate, and applying a working knowledge of the Jewish calendar, we can make a compelling case for that exact date. Please bear with me; I’ll put the details in a forthcoming post. Let’s just say for now that Peter offered the blood red moon as evidence of the fulfillment of Joel’s centuries-old prophesy about the Crucifixion at Pentecost (in Acts 2), and that NASA can verify there was a lunar eclipse (blood red moon) visible in Jerusalem on April 3rd, 33 A.D. Oh…this date also lines up with Pontius Pilate’s term as Roman Prefect of Judea, and falls on a Friday before the beginning of Passover. Suddenly, the Crucifixion is not so “long ago and far away.”
Likewise, did you know that archaeologists believe they know the precise location of the trial of Jesus before Pilate? And you can still see it today. We’ll look at that evidence in a future post as well.
The events recorded in the Gospel of Matthew actually happened. Through personal discipleship, you can see for yourself how the dots are connected.