This part of Matthew begins with lots of parables and lessons that Jesus teaches during his life and then diverges to the ending of this world and the passing/resurrection of Jesus. It's definitely a mixture of aspects that is difficult to take in one chunk and slightly overwhelming.
The first thing I want to reflect upon is the parables. There is a parable of the sower and the weeds, very closely placed. The parable of the sower has always fascinated me. Originally, hearing this in Sunday school, I simply thought it was fascinating that we could use objects such as plants to explain our faith. Now I think it is fascinating that we take plants and explain our faith and can explain how others' faith is. We as Christians go through phases similar to plants, and it can start with something as tiny as a mustard seed. The mustard seed parable always reminds me of the story of Jack and the Bean Stalk-selling the cow and everything for a few beans. This is kind of a weird comparison, but continually Jesus tells us to drop everything and follow him-and it only takes a mustard seed of faith to move a mountain. Jack did this-he sold everything for a few beans. Fascinates me.
The next thing I would like to focus on is the Jesus walking on water section. Peter begins to sink because of doubt. This seems to be a parallel in some people's faith. You doubt God and you begin to sink, yet He stands tall. I think this is much more appropriate than Joseph or the fisher of men simply dropping what they are doing and following without any doubt. Mean, we are humans and taught to question-so there will be some doubt.
I also really like the theme of forgiveness that seems to run through this book. In Matthew 18:3 it discusses how we have to approach faith in a childlike manner. Awe. Amazement. Complete Trust. Asking questions, but accepting answers. All of these things are aspects children possess and are aspects that help someone grow in faith. Children are very forgiving too, and although Matthew talks a lot about an eye for an eye and other bodily harm, I don't think this is literal. If we could learn to forgive not only ourselves but others, the world would be more the way Christ is.
Moving on to the end part of Matthew-I am always breathe taken. The fact that Jesus would simply submit to God's will and be crucified for nothing, knowing who would betray him, and eating the last super with Judas-his betrayer: simply amazing. There is so much hype these days about predictions of the Messiah and we can try desperately to predict the day-but we can't. Jesus tells us this continuously to simply be on guard because we do not know when it is. If this was the focus-simply being prepared for Jesus, faith would be so much stronger. Instead we focus on other aspects of life and struggle with faith. (or maybe this is just me) The whole concept of Jesus being willing to eat with the one who will betray Him fascinates me. We as humans tend to desert those who betray us and avoid them at all possible costs. This just goes to show how perfect He lived.
Lastly, the actual crucifixion gives me goosebumps. Leading up to being nailed on the cross-Jesus simply states that Yes, it is as you say-to the question of if He is the King of the Jews. Anyone else would sit and defend themselves to avoid death. Jesus was different because He knew He would be resurrected and He would conquer death. Then the whole earthquake making people exclaim that He was the Son of God simply amazes me...I will never forget a cantata my Dad was a Roman Centurion in one Easter. Growing up my parents were more involved in my softball life than in the church. I came home one Easter and my dad had told me he was acting in the cantata and had a couple of lines-turned out he was the main character. The cantata was done from the perspective of the Roman Centurion. The chills that ran through my spine at the sound and sight of "Jesus" being nailed to the cross was unforgettable. Then the remorse that the Roman Centurion felt later and the turn around of his faith-being forgiven by the same one he helped crucify was truly moving. Sometimes you believe that the things you do can never be forgiven, but being shown that even the one who helped nail him to the cross could be forgiven gave the whole forgiveness through crucifixion and resurrection a new light.
It's been awhile since I have read the story of Jesus. And this time, looking at it from both a spiritual and academic view was very good for me. Refreshing. Rejuvenating.