How to Read Matthew

Part 1: Matthew 1–13


Planting a garden requires the right tools. And so does interpreting the Bible. But instead of shovels, rakes, and weeders, we use observation, interpretation, contextualization, and application. 

Matthew tells the story of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. These videos from The Bible Project provide an overview of the books. The goal of this post is not to replace your personal study of the Bible. Rather, it is to help you navigate the story of Matthew, discover what it teaches us, dive into how it fits into the rest of the Bible, and look at how it applies to your life. Use the questions below as a guide as you watch this first video about Matthew 1–13. 




Observation asks the basic question: who, what, where, and when. It examines the book at a surface level—the characters, events, themes, culture, and genre. Observations may seem obvious at first, but they open the door to the meaning of any part of the Bible. Be careful to not jump ahead to interpreting the observations, or assigning them meaning. Just list them. 

Example: Jesus’ genealogy traces back to Abraham.


Observe: As you watched the video, what observations did you make about Matthew 1–13? (Consider the major characters, plot points, locations, cities, landmarks, time period, background information, cultural aspects, genre, themes, and actions of the characters.)
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Where an observation determines what the book says, interpretation takes the next step to find out what the book means. We’ve asked what the book says about God and humanity, and now we ask what that means. Look at the themes and ask what they mean as well.

Example: (Observation) Jesus’ genealogy traces back to Abraham. (Interpretation) God did not forget His promise to Abraham and fulfilled it through Jesus. God remembers and fulfills His promises. 


Interpret: What is significant about each of the observations you made above? What is the main message of Matthew 1–13? (Think about what this book teaches about God and humanity and what that teaching means, as well as the meaning of the themes.)
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Contextualization looks at how the book fits into the story of the Bible. It connects the themes that pop up throughout the story of Scripture and sees how the book fits into the biblical narrative. 

Example: God made a promise to Abraham back in Genesis 12. He renewed this promise throughout the Old Testament to people like Moses and David. Jesus fulfilled the promise by coming and establishing His kingdom on earth. Now, the church exists as part of Abraham’s promised family through Christ.


Contextualize: What themes does Matthew 1–13 seem to establish? What themes would you say have potential to carry forward into other books of the Bible? What themes connect back to the Old Testament?
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Application asks, “So what?” It considers how the meaning of this book applies to our day-to-day lives. The point of reading Scripture isn’t to become puffed up with knowledge, but to be transformed. Ask God to show you how you can specifically put the truths from this book into practice. Brainstorm ways you can live out what you learned throughout your day.

Example: Through Christ, I live as a part of God’s covenant family and I can see how He stayed true to His promise to Abraham. Jesus promised He would return one day and I can put my hope in Him because He keeps His promises. While I await His return, I can actively obey Him by witnessing to nonbelievers, caring for the poor, and investing in other Christians.


Apply: How does the truth from Matthew 1–13 affect you and your relationship with God and others? What are some specific actions you could take to live out the truths found in this book this week?
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As you finish this first section on Matthew 1–13, thank God for how He’s speaking to you so far. Ask Him to continue to teach you as you dive into the next part of the story in Matthew 14–28.


 
Part 2: Matthew 14–28


The previous section of this post focused on Matthew 1–13. This final session covers Matthew 14–28. As with the last section, the goal of this post is to help you navigate the story of Matthew, see what it teaches us and how it fits into the rest of the Bible, and, finally, to apply it to our lives. 




Now that you have an overview of  Matthew in mind, you can apply what you know to interpret specific passages in Matthew. Read Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Messiah in Matthew 16:13–23. Utilize observation, interpretation, contextualization, and application to dissect the meaning of this passage. Use the ideas from the videos to inform your answers to the following questions about Matthew 16:13–23. 


Matthew 16:13-23 (ESV)

Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ

13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”14And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”15He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”16Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”17And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.18And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection

21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.22And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”23But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.



Remember that observation asks the basic who, what, where, and when questions. It examines the passage at a surface level—the characters, events, themes, culture, and genre. 

Observe: As you read the passage, what observations did you make about Matthew 16:13–23? (Consider the major characters, plot points, locations, cities, landmarks, time period, background information, cultural aspects, genre, themes, and actions of the characters. Also, take note of any information offered in the video.)
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We've asked what these verses say about God and humanity, and now we ask what that means. Look at the themes and ask what they mean as well.


Interpret: What is significant about each of the observations you made above? What do they mean? What is the main message of Matthew 16:13–23? How does it connect with the main message of Matthew? (Think about what this book teaches about God and humanity and what that teaching means, as well as the meaning of the themes. Consider insights from the video as well.)
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Contextualization looks at how the passage fits into the rest of the book and into the story of the Bible. It connects the themes that pop up throughout the story of Scripture and sees how the book fits into the biblical narrative. 


Contextualize: What themes does Matthew 16:13–23 seem to establish? How do those themes connect with the rest of Matthew? What themes would you say have potential to carry forward into other books of the Bible? What themes connect back to the Old Testament?
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Application considers how the meaning of this passage applies to our day-to-day lives. Ask God to show you how you can specifically put the truths from this book into practice. Brainstorm ways you can live out what you learned throughout your day.


Apply: How does the truth from this passage affect you and your relationship with God and others? What are some practical ways you can live out the truths found in these verses this week?
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The last step in reading the Bible helps wrap everything up. We take the time to summarize the main message and implications of the book. As you summarize what you learned, it solidifies what God taught you through this video. 


Share: Now that you’ve spent time learning about Matthew, how would you explain the main points of this book to a friend? If you were going to explain what you learned to a friend, what would you say? What would you be sure to include? Why?
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Reading the Bible doesn’t have to be like weeding a garden. You can find great joy in learning about God through His Word. Read through Matthew this week. As you study, use observation, interpretation, contextualization, and application as a guide. Take the next step and put what you learn into practice.



To learn more about The Bible Project, click here.