Words, Works, and Ways

words works ways
Over the last week in our bible reading plan (encounterbc.org), we have continued on from Matthew 5-7 and read Matthew 8-9.  This section includes accounts of Jesus healing people, casting out demons, calming a storm, demonstrating his authority to forgive sins, and calling Matthew to follow him.  They demonstrate Jesus' remarkable power and authority and are designed to cause us to think with the disciples 'What kind of man is this?' (Matt 8:27).  

These are companion passages.  Whereas Matthew 5-7 focuses on the Words of Jesus,  Matt 8-9 focuses on the Works of Jesus. In fact Matthew 5-9 is like a book within a book.  

You can tell this because it is in an 'inclusio'.  An inclusio is a way of bracketing or marking the start and end of a section.  For example a fairy tale often begins with 'Once upon a time' and ends with 'and they all lived happily ever after'.  The part in between is the story.  In the bible, repeated phrases or sentences often perform this same function.  The repeated phrases that mark this section are Matt 4:23 'Jesus went throughout teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people'  and Matt 9:35 ' Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness'.  This means that we should regard Matt 5-9 as a discrete section this Gospel.

So Matthew 5-9 covers the Words of Jesus and the Works of Jesus.  But if we look carefully it also covers the Ways of Jesus.  Jesus wants us to follow his Words and to grow in our capacity to follow his Works - however challenging we might find that to be.  He also wants us to follow the Ways He did things.  If we do, it will help us greatly as we seek to be disciples and to disciple others.

Here are some observations on the Ways of Jesus from these chapters:

  • There is an important place for formal teaching - like in a classroom (Matt 5-7)

  • Jesus sought to make his teaching memorable with dramatic pictures like 'if your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away'

  • Jesus teaching was insightful and constructed in a logical sequence (see the previous post)

  • Jesus disciples were with him - he was sharing his life with them (Matt 8:23)

  • Because the disciples were with him, they benefited from when he taught in the moments of life, for example explaining to those around him the significance of the faith of the centurion (Matt 8:10-12), challenging the disciples lack of faith in the storm (Matt 8:26), and responding to the questions of John's disciples (Matt 9:14-17).  These were unplanned and the disciples would have missed out on them if they weren't with Him.

  • But Jesus also intentionally took disciples with him on specific occasions.  For example he took disciples with him to the synagogue leader's house to raise his daughter  (Matt 9:19).  Acts 9:36-41shows that Peter learned from this occasion.

  • Jesus had space in His life to be interrupted by people and on each occasion he ministered to them in the power of the Kingdom - the Leper (Matt 8:2), the Centurion (Matt 8:5), the demon possessed (Matt 8:28), the paralysed man (Matt 9:2), the synagogue ruler (Matt 9:18), the sick woman (Matt 9:20), and the blind men (Matt 9:27) 

  • Jesus could see potential disciples in the most unlikely places, for example the calling of Matthew a tax collector!! (Matt 9:9)

  • Jesus demonstrated a key part of his mission strategy of going and eating with people (this is outlined in Matt 10), by going and eating with Matthew and people who knew him (Matt 9:10)


Matthew 5-9 is a fantastically rich passage that covers the three areas we need to grow in as Christians:

  • Content - knowledge of God and his Word

  • Character - being like Jesus

  • Competency - able to do the things Jesus did (discipleship, mission, healing etc.) 

There is great benefit from coming back to it on a regular basis to read it, meditate on it, and to respond to what God teaches us.

David Wanstall, 27/01/2016