We put Matthew’s Gospel into an Excel spreadsheet to see what Jesus talked about most.
You can buy copies of our analysis so you can discuss it with your friends, but here are some questions to get your started. It is not an exam where you have to answer them all!
If your job is to get everybody started and then make sure everybody contributes, you need to know the individuals and what fires them up.
From this you can chose the right questions to suit your friends and the way they interact with each other. Make sure in the first five minutes that each person opens their mouth to say something worthwhile, and if one or two talk too much, shut them up politely, and make sure you encourage the quieter ones to contribute equally.
Study 1: What is the ‘Gospel’, the ‘Good News’, according to Matthew?
1. Jesus’ story is described by many as “the greatest story ever told,” and we can see that many popular books and films (like Harry Potter, Titanic, Lord of the Rings, Iron Man), borrow elements from “the Jesus Story”. Themes like the idea of a ‘chosen one’, death and resurrection, and self-sacrifice for love or a hope of a better future. Why do you think these story elements appeal to so many of us?
2. Why did Jesus use stories to teach people? Are there any of these stories in particular that help you to understand Jesus’s teachings and help you build your faith and belief in him?
3. Looking at the ‘Sermon on the Mount’, which you find in Matthew Chapters 5-7, how would you list out the characteristics of someone who wants to be a follower of Jesus? Which ones are you going to have to do some work on?
4. If we only had Matthew’s Gospel, how would you explain the message of Jesus to somebody of another faith, or an atheist or an agnostic? Why do you think the folk who put the New Testament together decided to use accounts of the life of Jesus from four completely different people?
5. It is interesting that Matthew says that ordinary people like us thought Jesus ‘taught as one who had authority’ (7:29) and he contrasts this unfavorably with the politicians and religious leaders of his time. Why are some people more credible than others, and what gives them that credibility?
6. How does Jesus address the issue of ‘suffering’ in Matthew’s account? Do you think Jesus really understands the human suffering we see around us in the 21st century? What sayings or incidents would you point to, and how do you feel about them?
7. Jesus was Jewish, and saw himself as the focal point of Jewish history, and Matthew agreed with him. Many of his contemporaries who studied the same religious texts did not agree, as Jesus was not what they expected the ‘Messiah’ to be. How important is it for us to know the Jewish story? How does it help us make sense of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, as it did for those early followers who were in turn willing to die for what they believed about him?
Study 2: What does it mean to be a follower or ‘disciple’ of Jesus?
1. Being a follower of Jesus means living life differently from many other people around you. How do you feel about that? How would you describe it to an interested friend? How do you experience God’s presence during the rough and tumble of life, especially the tumbles?
2. Why do you think sex is so low down the list of topics Jesus talked about most? He talked about money more than twice as much as sex. What does a ‘balanced’ life look like, according to the words of Jesus that Matthew recorded?