The Gospel of Matthew: Teaching, Proclaiming and Healing.

23 And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.” (Matthew 4:23 ESV)

Jesus’ initial ministry occurred within the Galilean area of Palestine. He began preaching the kingdom of heaven in Galilee of the Gentiles (Matt. 4:12-17). During this time, Jesus was not only traveling throughout Galilee, but He was also involved in three particular ministries: teaching, proclaiming and healing. An examination of each is appropriate. Today, we examine Jesus teaching ministry.

Matthew records that Jesus was teaching in the Galilean synagogues. Teaching (διδάσκω; didasko) refers to providing instruction (Matt. 11:1; Luke 11:1; Rom. 2:21; Col.1:28; 3:16; 1 Tim. 2:12; 4:11; 2 Tim. 2:2; Heb. 5:12; 1 John 2:27). This instruction would have been from God’s Word (Luke 4:16-30). Jesus’ teaching took place in synagogues.

A synagogue (συναγωγή; synagoge) means an assembly, a meeting (James 2:2; Rev. 2:9), and/or a congregation of Jews (Acts 9:2; 13:42). It can also refer to a place (Luke 7:5; James 2:2). We do not read of actual synagogues existing in the Old Testament.

“It is unknown just how or when the synagogue as an institution first began. One can imagine the situation in Jerusalem after the destruction of the temple by the Babylonians in 586 bc. The people who remained in and around the city who wanted to keep true to their faith would have felt the need to meet for worship, where they would continue to teach the law and the message of the prophets. Some think, therefore, that synagogues may have had their origin in such a situation. Jewish people in the various places of the Dispersion would have been aware of a similar need. Jewish elders met together with Ezekiel in exile in Babylon (Ezra 8:1; 14:1; 20:1),” explains Walter Elwell in the Tyndale Bible Dictionary.

The Gospels imply that synagogues existed throughout Palestine. Jesus taught in synagogues (e.g., Matt 4:23; 9:35), during his Galilean ministry, but also in Judea. Before the high priest, Jesus said, in John 18:20, “I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together.”

“The Acts of the Apostles refers to synagogues in Jerusalem (Acts 6:9), Damascus (9:2), Cyprus (13:5), the Roman province of Galatia (13:14; 14:1), Macedonia and Greece (17:1, 10, 17; 18:4), and Ephesus in the Roman province of Asia (19:8). Paul made it his practice to go directly to the synagogue and to preach there as long as he was given freedom to do so,” states Elwell.

People gathered in the synagogues on the second and fifth days of the week. A synagogue service included the following: (1) The confession of faith, the Shema (which included reciting Deuteronomy 6:4–9; 11:13–21; Numbers 15:37–41); (2) Prayer; (3) Scripture reading (the reading of the Law was basic, see Acts 15:21, and was read according to a three-year cycle; the Prophets were also read, but randomly); (4) Interpretation; (5) Address (following the reading, anyone suitably qualified might address the people, as Jesus and the Apostle Paul often did); and (6) The blessing or benediction.

The early church’s worship services paralleled the synagogue services (Acts 2:42). This should not be surprising because the early church was composed primarily of converted Jews. Worship services today are wise to follow the pattern of not only the synagogues, but also the early church. The truth from God’s Word was central.

More to come. Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!     

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