I am working with Celia Kellett at BBC Radio Nottingham on an idea to present most of the books of the Bible, one a week, during 2011 as part of the celebrations of the King James Bible. The plan is to read some verses from the book, to give a one-and-a-half minute summary, to hear a human interest story which relates, and then include a short discussion making the connections.
Verses: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. [Matt 5.3–5]
You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. [Matt 5.39]
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. [Matt 5.43–44]
it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God [Matt 19.24]
Matthew is the first of four gospels, which each give their account of Jesus’ life and teaching. He begins his version in the most extraordinary way—with a genealogy. Most people find the list of ‘Abraham begat Isaac, and Isaac begat Jacob’ and so on… very dull—but Matthew is deliberately echoing the Genesis account of the origins of humanity. The arrival of Jesus means a new start for all people.
Key to this is Jesus’ teaching. Matthew organises Jesus’ sayings into five blocks, starting with the verses we heard from the Sermon on the Mount. Here is not just a man from Nazareth, but a new Moses, bring new commandments down from the mountain—a new start for God’s people, a new teaching, and one (everyone exclaims) that comes ‘with authority.’
Even those who don’t agree with the church’s view of Jesus still find his teaching inspiring—life changing even. You don’t have to look very far in contemporary culture to hear people asking ‘How can I make sense of my life?’ ‘How can I tell the difference between right and wrong?’ ‘Is there more to life than shopping?’
When Jesus saw the people of his day asking these questions, looking (the gospels tell us) like ‘sheep without a shepherd’, his response was…to teach them. Teach them how to find meaning and purpose, how to be free from fear, how to find a still centre in this turning—and very confusing—world.
We are planning to contrast this with the lyrics from Lily Allen’s The Fear, which includes these words: