Matthew Brief Summary

My quick summary of Matthew is: God’s son attempted to fix the world, only a few listened, he got disillusioned by the people’s intense negativity and rejection of his message — so he left.

The problem he tried to fix was a widespread bad-attitude — people seemed to think the world was a horrible place designed to inflict suffering upon its inhabitants. His message was that the world isn’t a bad place, in fact it’s great.

He tried to demonstrate that whatever you believe the world to be, it becomes. He healed sick people left and right. But with such dour attitudes, people kept manifesting the worst things they could imagine.

Eventually people got fed up with the light he shined in their faces, they booted him out so they could keep their sourpusses. They requested him to leave, and like a dutiful servant of the people, he departed.

I think the story shines a light on our own pessimism and tendency to reject life’s awesomeness in favor of focusing on all the things we don’t prefer. Just as they rejected Jesus, we do too when we refuse to cultivate an appreciation for how great life really is.

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Matthew Commentary 02

If we take the book of Matthew as it is, then the world as described by Jesus does not support the idea that humans are fragile creatures struggling for survival within a chance-based physical reality. Instead, the world as described by Jesus is dreamlike. Whatever we wish, we can have. Resources are readily provided for us. Money is available wherever we look. Sickness can be cured instantly. People can get along. All the goodness of life is at hand — we need only grasp it.

Jesus said that whatever we seek, we find — but if all we perceive is negativity, we’ll find it in abundance. Time and time again Jesus was confronted and confounded by those that refused to see the goodness of life, instead they reverted to a pessimistic outlook, believing existence to be a miserable experience filled with suffering. Eventually Jesus gave the people what they wanted, what they asked for — his departure. Apparently they couldn’t take his sunny disposition, they’d rather disparage and hate than appreciate and love.

I’m as guilty as the rest of them — I’m a hard-core naysaying pessimist — a hater extraordinaire. But I’m starting to appreciate how wrong I was. Any gift I’ve been given, I’d scrutinize, criticize, and let my suspicions run wild — never just a simple “thanks”. If I’m given something, it stirs feelings of anger and frustration and disappointment. Perhaps that’s why I never give things to other people, I’d just expect the same unappreciative attitude that I have.

And the same goes for the gift of life of course, I’ve done sooooooo much complaining about it. How could I be provided anything good in life, I’d simply rip it apart and remain paranoid about why I received it. Just as the crowd did, I choose Barabbas every damn day. “Torture the caring guy trying to help everyone!! Yeah! Get him outta my sight! Haha that pansy-ass! Free the bad-dude! Hell Yeah!” Every time I choose a bad attitude, adopt a pessimistic perspective, use an unkind word, focus on the worst aspects of a situation, ignore the great things around me, I choose Barabbas.

I guess I’m starting to feel ashamed about what a crappy guest I’ve been — I was graciously invited to the party, but I stood in the corner sulking while the host provided the best food and entertainment possible. At any attempt to coax me out, I hissed and cursed and held my ground. But I was never thrown out for my bad attitude. I was never denied the nourishment I needed, the clothes and shelter, nor even the slight companionship I’d accept into my tiny corner — I’ve always been looked after.

I recognize that I must drop my defensiveness. Life isn’t out to get me. And I realize that this isn’t the first time I’ve realized this — but I must make it a priority and make it stick this time. I thank Jesus for illustrating the importance of maintaining an appreciative and loving attitude. I also thank Jesus for explaining that the fundamental nature of the universe isn’t a crapshoot — I’m cared for, and I should care. And of course I thank the Creator for putting up with my nonsense and maintaining patience with me.

Jesus said that love-of-God and love-of-each-other are the greatest commandments — so in that vein, I love you, one and all. And I in return must receive love graciously. After Ebenezer Scrooge realized his lesson when the spirits visited him, he found out that Christmas wasn’t over yet, it wasn’t too late, he could right his wrongs and live out the rest of his life spreading Christmas cheer. I should be as ol’ Ebenezer, ready to spread the cheer, as well as receive it. As Tiny Tim said, “God Bless Us, Every One!”

Matthew Commentary 01

I just spent some time putting together a factual summation of Matthew. I think the biggest take-away is that the writer is not the best storyteller — pretty bad actually. My favorite part is the Sermon on the Mount near the beginning, but the end of the book is weak and paints Jesus in a negative light.

To characterize Jesus as he’s depicted in the first third of the book, he’s a guy that’s excited to get out there and help people and change the world. He truly cares about the common man and he wants the system to care too. He’s all about changing everyone’s perception of the world, helping them to experience existence without sickness and suffering. He wants everyone to get along and appreciate the world that’s been provided for them. He’s like a proud son that wants people to understand the great thing his dad made, and he’s doing what he can to fix any problems he sees along the way.

To characterize Jesus as he’s depicted in the last two-thirds, he’s a guy that’s disillusioned by the people he’s trying to save. He’s surrounded by incompetent followers that can’t understand him. He’s bordering on petulant at some points. Plus he constantly argues with, and outright insults, the religious leaders of his day — they may be wrong, but his methodology runs counter to his earlier message. Instead of a proud son, he seems like he’s given up and just wants to head home. It sounds like he had the highest of hopes when he arrived but the people’s rejection of all that’s good in life just sent him reeling.

Overall, way too little time is spent on his actual message and frankly it gets overshadowed by the dour ending. The final scenes are undramatic and anticlimactic, they’re over too quickly and lack significance. If I had to recommend the best section to read, I’d say chapters 4 through 9.

Addendum:

Although, the more I think about it, perhaps that’s the author’s point: the dejection Jesus feels because of the people’s unrelenting negativity. We the people blatantly choose negativity despite the available alternative. Jesus tried and tried to make people see the light before them, but they kept turning again and again toward darkness. People aren’t necessarily choosing evil, but they’re choosing pessimism and hopelessness.

Jesus kept saying that the kingdom of heaven is at hand — which can only mean that it’s literally within our grasp right here and now — it’s not a fantasy realm that awaits us in death — THIS is the fantasy realm, the one we’re experiencing right now. And when we realize that, the world can fulfill every wish we have if we simply allow it, all we need is faith the size of a mustard-seed.

But no, what do we choose? Barabbas, the notorious prisoner — again and again. Yet by choosing so, we imprison ourselves within bars of our own negativity. A gift given yet we reject it, criticize it, look for the worst in every crevice. Yet this gift-giver doesn’t give up, no, but provides us another chance — His son, His messenger comes to make us aware of our error. This world IS the garden He created, we’ve been in paradise the entire time, yet our perspective has poisoned the perfection that surrounds.

And all that is required of us, is to receive — graciously and with appreciation of course. When we read Matthew we should be shaken-awake by the sight of a light so bright extinguished unceremoniously by mankind’s pessimism. The message Matthew brings is that it’s not too late… Christmas isn’t over yet! We’ve received the greatest gift imaginable and we still have time to enjoy it.

Matthew – Factual Summation 01

Foretold by prophesy, Jesus descended directly from God. Seeing the underlying foundation of this world, he was not tempted by materialistic trappings. He told others of this foundation, relieving their confusion and healing their ailments. He said, the kingdom of heaven is at hand, they need only grasp it. The hopeless and the sad, the weak and the wronged, the caring and the good, the peaceful and the abused — all can experience the heaven they seek — comfort and satisfaction are theirs when they shine their light into the dark world.

But to enter this state, one must excel beyond the ways of mortal justice. Anger, impatience, cruelty, carnality, treachery, blame, vengeance, and intolerance — these are the evils that plague men’s minds, injustices that must be eradicated by those seeking the abode of God. Be warned though, that this perfect path should not be used as a means to impress other men.

Know this: that God already knows what you need — and God provides. By God we are forgiven, thus we must forgive as He does — God’s ways should become our ways.

Whatever you treasure, wherever you focus, that is what defines you. Therefore, put no faith in the physical world, but have faith in God the provider. Whatever nourishment and care you require, trust that God supplies it. Worry, only shows your lack of faith. Seek closeness to God, for by Him all things are given.

This world is not for you to judge and criticize. If by a condemning eye you see the world, then you shall find the negativity you seek. For whatever it is you ask, you’ll get. Knock, and it’ll open! Or do you believe God so inept that He would give less than your heart’s desire? To have others see the good in you, see the good in them.

This is not an effortless path without dangers. Beware those that claim closeness to God yet truly hunger to catch prey by trickery — differentiate them by their results — the wholesome produce what is wholesome, the rotten produce what is rotten. Know those that simply say they are holy, are not so — only those that follow God’s ways enter into his abode.

Let these words be the foundation upon which you build your life and you will weather any storm. Whereas those that fail to act upon these words will lack strength, crumbling under the storm. And so it was that Jesus spoke, having an insight beyond that of mortal men.

By their faith in what he said, many were healed of their afflictions. The diseased, the disabled, those tormented by darkness, and even the recently deceased — it took but a word to heal them all. Jesus regularly demonstrated the immaterial nature of the world — that which exists in the physical, doesn’t have to be — belief makes it so. Even the wind and waves obeyed his command. While others trembled, he calmed the surrounding turbulence.

The religious leaders of the day looked to undermine him and accused Jesus of wrongdoing, but he saw through their wickedness. What Jesus taught was a new way to perceive the world, an outlook where forgiveness and compassion prevail. Jesus was concerned for the people, as they were so lost to the world, and he wanted workers in great numbers to help them all.

But what he had were twelve, twelve disciples he told to travel by faith, relying not on their own considered preparations, but on what God provides along the way. Jesus told them to cast God’s light, healing those in need, those lost within a darkened world. Yet he warned them of the persecution they’d face by predators holding power in this world. But he told them to be fearless against these foes. That although this is truly a battle in which lives will be lost, lives will surely be won. That their service is of the utmost importance, and the reward great for such dedication and faith.

As Jesus spoke, the people as a whole did not listen. Despite the miracles performed, they could not grasp that the goodness of life, heaven itself, was within their reach. And as he predicted, the predators sought ways to convict him and his followers of wrongdoing. Yet he continued to tangle with these religious leaders, debating the supremacy of mercy and compassion over the law, and whether it was he or they with the best intentions.

Jesus explained to his closest followers that heaven is hidden from those that do not seek it, and so he spoke to the crowds with analogies that were difficult to decipher. The goodness of life, God’s kingdom, is entered into by a dedicated faith — a trust in its presence. And those that ignore these directions, give up easily, or succumb to negativity, will never see it. All these types of people exist together, but only those with faith truly see. And truly, the kingdom of God is worth more than anything already owned.

Jesus continued speaking to crowds and healing their sick. And at one point, in a remote location, having only a few loaves and a couple fish to feed them, Jesus blessed the food and all were fed until satisfied. Later on while he was praying near the shore, his boat-bound disciples found themselves tossed about by waves — seeing his form walking on water, they were afraid, yet he reassured them. One even attempted to walk to Jesus, until his faith faltered.

Jesus continued debating the religious leaders about their hypocrisy and how they teach the laws of man as if they come from God. He warned his disciples that those leaders were like blindmen leading blind followers into a pit with their dangerous teachings. Oftentimes Jesus would rebuke his closest followers for their lack of faith and inability to understand what he meant by his words.

Jesus then warned his disciples that he would soon suffer at the hands of the religious hierarchy — and if they continued following, they too would suffer. But if they continue, great will be their reward. Soon after, Jesus took a few followers up a mountain where he glowed like the sun before them. God himself spoke and confirmed that He is pleased with His son.

A man with an unwell son came before Jesus and said he first went to the disciples but they were unable to cure the illness. Jesus rebuked the entire generation for their unbelief and proceeded to cure the boy. He told his disciples that they were unable to offer a cure because their faith was so minuscule, yet if they had but a little bit more they could move mountains — nothing would be impossible.

At one time when Jesus was asked to pay a particular tax, he told his disciple to go and catch a fish — within its mouth was found the necessary payment.

Jesus spoke with his disciples about the supremacy of children, about attempting to win over those that sin, and forgiving those that sin against you. He told them of the difficulty in seeing God’s kingdom for those so heavily invested in earthly treasures. He also debated religious leaders about divorce, proclaiming a couple that joins together becomes one flesh through God and should not be separated by man.

Jesus warns that those seeking power and position in the kingdom of heaven come in last, whereas those that serve others come in first. And as Jesus went on his journey to Jerusalem, he healed two blind men with only a touch. Once there, he flipped tables and cleared the temple of those using the house of worship as a means to make a profit. And upon returning to the city the next day, a hungry Jesus permanently withered a tree for its lack of fruit and told his disciples that such powers are possible through faith, and that those lacking doubt have the power to cast even mountains into the sea. With belief, all things asked for are received.

In the temple, Jesus debated the religious leaders that challenged him. They tried to trick him into admitting fault but he saw through their wickedness — and with analogies, he rebuked them for their poor stewardship over the people. He told them their preeminence over others is coming to an end. When asked which was the greatest commandment, Jesus said it is to love God completely — and the second greatest is to love your neighbor — these form the foundation of God’s law.

Jesus then told the crowds that those leaders were nothing but hypocrites that held their positions for the esteem given them by men. He told the crowds not to seek status and titles, placing themselves above other men — you are all brothers and there is but one father, teacher, and leader above all. The greatest among you is he who humbles himself and serves others.

Jesus says the religious leaders prevent the people from entering into the kingdom of heaven, nor do they go in themselves. He calls them blind fools that care more about the superficial aspects of religion rather than the deeper meaning. They appear well kept on the outside but inwardly are full of uncleanliness. They willingly persecute and even murder God’s messengers.

Jesus then went out and spoke with his disciples warning them not to be misled, but hang-on till the end despite the suffering they may endure. He said they should remain alert for his return, ever faithful. They must do good with what they’ve already been given and by their stewardship they’ll be given even more. For when you care for and comfort those in need, you care for me. Yet woe to him that cares not for those in need.

As the religious leaders plotted to kill Jesus, he warned his followers of his impending crucifixion. One follower went to the religious leaders and offered to betray Jesus if they would pay him. During his last supper, Jesus made mention of this betrayal. Afterwards, he became troubled while awaiting the appointed hour. Eventually his betrayer came with an armed group ready to seize Jesus who offered no resistance because he knew what had to be done.

Jesus was brought before the religious leaders and asked whether he was the Christ, son of God. When he answered, they convicted him for blasphemy. And as Jesus had earlier predicted, one of his disciples denied even knowing Jesus when he was asked by a bystander.

Jesus was bound and delivered to the civil authority. The disciple that betrayed Jesus felt remorse and returned the money he was paid and hanged himself. Due to a tradition, the crowds were given the choice to release Jesus or a known criminal — the crowd chose to crucify Jesus. Prior to crucifixion, Jesus was whipped and mocked by the soldiers.

While hanging, those that passed-by mocked and insulted Jesus. Even those hanging next to him hurled insults. Eventually, after hours past, Jesus let go. A wealthy follower of Jesus came and asked for the body and had it placed within a rocky tomb. Because Jesus had said he’d rise again after three days, the religious leaders demanded a guard be placed upon the tomb so that disciples couldn’t steal the body and claim it had risen.

On the third day an angel came and removed the rock from the tomb and frightened the soldiers. The soldiers were paid hush money by the religious leaders to claim that disciples actually stole the body while the soldiers slept. But in truth, Jesus had returned just as he said and appeared before the remaining disciples. He tasked them with making disciples of all nations and said he’d be with them always.

Hitting Targets

Just for the fun of target-practice, I have a dart-board as well as some Nerf and Airsoft guns. Something I’ve noticed is: the more accurate the gun, the lesser the fun. What’s the point if I hit the bullseye every time the trigger’s pulled? It’s the intermittent reward that seems most rewarding.

For me, the activity with the most longevity in terms of target-practice has been darts. This is probably because it’s the most inaccurate. I can be off by a lot, only to get two darts in a row within the bullseye on the very next round. It feels like a real accomplishment when I get a double-bulls-eye — I’ve never gotten all three in the bullseye within a single round for instance.

The point being, whatever we attempt in life, we should expect to miss. What adds fun to our activites, is the inaccuracy of our aim. We’re supposed to be clumsy clods meandering our way through life. There’s even a Twilight Zone episode called “A Nice Place to Visit” (S01, E28) in which the main-character is provided everything he wants, in fact he can’t lose no matter what he tries — every spin’s a winner. Spoiler Alert! It turns out he was in Hell.

The outcomes of games are meaningless — there’s no actual prize at the end, it’s “Game Over” for everyone. The only significance to playing is whether you enjoy yourself while doing it. And the only way to enjoy yourself is to lose a lot, creating some tension, building-up anticipation for winning.

If you ever find yourself feeling like a loser, it means you’re taking things way too seriously and lacking perspective. Complete mastery is not something you want — you want to be able to lose, you want to stumble on your way to the finish-line feeling like you might not make it — it’s the only way to feel the thrill of triumph.

Origins of Reality

From where does reality originate? From outside-in or inside-out? Are we but ignorant creatures exploring a mysterious world that gradually reveals its truths as we laboriously decipher them? Or are we literally creating our reality as we live it, a dreamlike experience that manifests for our ever-observing consciousness?

If an external reality existed, we’d expect our observations to align with those of every other observer — yet they don’t — interpretations of life often vary. Are our senses so flawed that they allow for analyses that are so different? Therefore, even if an external reality exists, we clearly lack the mechanism to accurately analyze it.

We can reason then, that even if an external reality exists, we’re incapable of obtaining a factual picture of it. Instead, everything we experience is an interpretation based on limited and likely-flawed data. So even from a physical-world standpoint, the reality we know essentially originates from the inside-out.

But is it more than that? Could it be that reality actually begins within the consciousness and projects outward onto a canvas we call the world? The concept isn’t so far fetched of course, as we regularly experience something similar in the form of sleep-based dreams. Yet who’s to say that what we perceive while awake isn’t also a dreamlike experience?

The point being, how much does our attitude and what we project affect the world we see? Does a turbulent mind cause us to experience turbulent circumstances? Do we always find exactly what we seek? And if we tame the turbulence, do the stormy seas subside, allowing us to smoothly walk upon the still water?

Implanted Dreams

What about wishing, manifesting, asking-prayer, goal-setting, etc? Isn’t that free-will?

Where does the inspiration to want come from? Why do you want that particular thing in the first place? The desire is implanted as a prelude for what’s to come. Life is leading you down a specific path by implanting these attractions.

Some dreams are so grand and change-inducing that they can overwhelm the dreamer, causing him to retract and disbelieve the dream. Without trust in life and faith in a grand narrative, he’ll sit stalled and unfulfilled.

The free-will we have is our consent to follow-through with each step along the path. We have no skill but that which is provided for our character-type, our vehicle does all the work, the consciousness mostly watches.

But at critical junctures, the consciousness must choose to move on, accepting each goal. Fear must be rejected and replaced with faith. Immature adherence to any ideals must also be rejected, as life moves on and circumstances broaden.

Your job in life (you the consciousness, the ever-present observer) is as an accepting audience member allowing the scenes to flow uninterrupted from one to the next. Yes, you can invoke manual-control, but try to leave the autopilot on, it makes things much smoother.