This is Jeffrey Leath’s second book, and with it he continues demonstrating the valuable contribution diligent laypersons make in the biblical and theological education of our congregations. As with his first book, Solid Food: A Layman’s Study of Hebrews, this study of Matthew was first presented to the Sunday School class he teaches at Pine Grove Church in Bowmansville, Pennsylvania.
Christians generally understand the four gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – to present four pictures of Jesus.
Matthew – Jesus as the King
Mark – Jesus as a servant
Luke – Jesus as the perfect human
John – Jesus as God incarnate
While Leath says he also studied the gospels through these four pictures, he now believes Matthew’s purpose is more extensive than simply presenting him as Israel’s King.
… I find that Matthew is being led by the Holy Spirit to reveal more than merely Jesus’ position as King and Messiah. Matthew is sharing with us the message of the Messiah and His message to the early church is still relevant today.
Through twenty-seven chapters, Leath unpacks the man and the message of this one who came as Israel’s Messiah and the Savior of all who believe in him.
Leath carefully puts readers into the context of the first century world of Jesus – both in terms of the occupying Roman government and the Jewish cultural and religious world in which Jesus lived. I hope readers won’t miss the way Leath willingly draws from all the resources available to him: his daughter’s knowledge of Jewish history and culture, received from an International Jewish Studies education through Friends of Israel and Cairn University, and from several classic texts focused on life in first century Israel. The background and color Jeffrey Leath brings to his study is available to any serious student of Scripture who is willing to invest to the time to research the sources available to North American Christians.
They study moves consecutively through Matthew’s gospel, unpacking the high points of the text, never losing sight of the imperative to apply the principles of Messiah’s message to our own lives.
In Matthew 24, when answering the disciple’s questions about the destruction of the Temple and the end of the world, Jesus outlines a number of significant eschatological events:
The destruction of the temple
Wars and rumors of wars
Famines and earthquakes
Persecution of Christians (“account of my name”)
Increase in lawlessness
Abomination of desolation
A great tribulation
Loss of power from the heavens (sun, moon, stars)
Return of the Son of Man
Leath doesn’t succumb to the temptation to dwell solely on dates and timing of events, but rather emphasizes the spirit of Christ’s teaching to be ready and watchful. He writes:
These things will happen, and some have already happened. Jesus’ message to the disciples, however, was more than just to satisfy their curiosity. His message was:
know the signs,
be faithful and prudent,
know the signs, be ready,
be faithful and prudent,
keep watch, and be prepared because you do not know the day or hour, and
administer what has been entrusted to you until the day of reckoning.
There is a lot of good teaching on how to live today in light of Christ’s return to this world. Leath quotes Michael Green:
Prophecy is not intended to give us a detailed picture of the future, but to lift up our hearts in expectancy so that we make ourselves ready for what is to come. … Jesus did not tell us to get out our calculators and polish our crystal balls, but to live a holy life in preparation for meeting Him.
If you are looking for a devotional study of Matthew’s gospel for personal study or a small-group setting, give Jeffrey Leath’s study guide consideration. He reads easily, is warmly evangelical, and consistently reminds us that good Bible study leads to changed lives.