Reading and Preaching Emmanuel in Matthew
This book persuaded me to re-read Matthew and to preach through it in one go.
Listen to Him is a collection of papers delivered at the Annual Moore College School of Theology, and divides into two main parts. The first, theological, part whets the appetite to read and study Matthew’s Gospel. Bill Salier on the World in Matthew’s Gospel; Paul Williamson on Matthew’s use of the OT; Michael Stead on Matthew’s use of Zechariah; Ben Cooper on the curse-bearing death of the Messiah; and Michael Jensen on Israel and the church. Some of us will be more familiar with how Matthew uses the OT, others better at preaching the atonement from Matthew. I think all would benefit from these papers. This section of the book encouraged me to read Matthew’s Gospel afresh.
It was the second part that persuaded me not only to preach Matthew’s Gospel, but to do it non-stop. Jeff Read’s chapter tells how he did it in his context, and the unexpected benefits that he and his congregation reaped. Also striking was Jane Tooher’s analysis not only of the four women in Jesus' genealogy, but her survey of how men have preached about these women and their inclusion in the Messiah’s line. In another welcome spur to bring preaching beyond the merely intellectual, Peter Bolt examines Matthew’s use of the senses while Keith Birchley leads us through Bach’s St Matthew Passion.
The tangible fruit for me of reading this book was to preach Matthew non-stop. Would I do it again? I would gladly preach through Matthew again! I loved getting to know this gospel and feel I have only just scratched the surface. I divided the gospel into about 45 sections, intending to cover this in a year. I had not reckoned with two factors: the first is that chunks of about 40 verses in Matthew equate to two normal preaching portions for me. Partly that is to do with the sheer length of Matthew’s Gospel; but I also noticed that Matthew is densely packed because he strips out detail in order to maximise the teaching payload. Matthew’s gospel is rich fare! Preaching longer passages was a good discipline and forced me to keep my eye on the overall flow; but I must admit that after a year of this we longed for time to dig into the detail. The second surprise (D’oh) was that it takes more than a year for this local Anglican church to cover 45 sermons. That is because in addition to pausing for Christmas, Easter, Remembrance and other important evangelistic seasons, we also have a monthly all-age service. We also spent four weeks dwelling on how Matthew 19.1-10 is pertinent to contemporary questions of human sexuality and gender. Would I preach through Matthew non-stop again? Probably not; I would take a break, but probably only one break. and preach through this gospel in just two long stretches if I could get away with it. Jeff Read’s points are still valid (you’ll have to read them for yourself, of course!)
Anyway, get the book and judge for yourself.
Ed Moll is senior minister of St George’s Wembdon, UK and a trustee of Latimer Trust.