New Testament Commentary- Matthew

January 1

 

For a visual portrayal of the history of the entire Bible see:

http://www.biblehistory.com

 

Matthew

 

Matthew (whose last name was “Levi”) was a Jewish tax collector (publican) for the Roman government.  Tax collectors were despised by the rest of the Jews because they collaborated with the Romans.  When Jesus called him to be one of His followers…he responded.  He held a banquet for his friends so that they might come and meet Jesus, as well (Luke 5:27-39).  The only other time he is mentioned in the Gospels is when he is included in the list of the Twelve Apostles (Matthew 10:3; see also Acts 1:13).  While it cannot be substantiated, tradition says that Matthew preached in Palestine for a dozen years after the resurrection of Christ and then went on to other lands, as well.

His Gospel is written to the Jews to answer their questions about Jesus and His claims to be the Messiah.  It is not certain when Matthew wrote…but most feel that it was sometime between 50-60 A.D.

He often refers to Jesus as the “Son of God” and the One who fulfills the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah.  To support his arguments, Matthew used more quotations from the Old Testament than any of the other Gospel writers (93 in Matthew, 80 in Luke, 49 in Mark, and 33 in John). The phrase “kingdom of Heaven” is used 35 times in Matthew, and nowhere else in the Gospels.  The word “kingdom” is used 55 times by Matthew…and this is the Gospel of the King.  This theme of Matthew is reflected in the following outline…

 

Outline:

The Birth of the King                                 Matthew 1:1-4:25

The Practices of the King                        Matthew 5:1-7:29

The Authority of the King                         Matthew 8:1-9:38

The Mission of the King                            Matthew 10:1-16:12

The Teaching of the King                         Matthew 16:13-20:34

The Preparation of the King                    Matthew 21:1-23:39

The Predictions of the King                     Matthew 24:1-25:46

The Rejection of the King                         Matthew 26:1-27:66

The Victory of the King                             Matthew 28:1-28:20

 

Matthew 1

 

The Birth of the King                                 Matthew 1:1-4:25

Matthew 1:1-The name “Jesus” is from the Greek word for the Hebrew “Jeshua” (Joshua)…it means, “the Lord is salvation”.  “Christ” is from the Greek word for the Hebrew “Meshiah” (Messiah)…and it means, “anointed one”.

Matthew 1:2-17-The genealogy given here is traced through Joseph, Jesus’ legal (though not natural) father.  Being of the lineage of Joseph makes Him a descendant of David (1:6) and establishes His rightful claim to His throne.  Most people agree that the genealogy in Luke 3:23-28, is that of Mary.

Matthew 1:18-“Mary had been betrothed to Joseph” (cf. Deut. 22:23-24).

 

For information on the procedure of Jewish engagement and marriage see:

http://www.bible.ca/marriage/ancient-jewish-three-stage-weddings-and-marriage-customs-ceremony-in-the-bible.htm

 

Matthew 1:18,23-“she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit…that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit”-It amazes me with what ease and simplicity Matthew declares that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit.  We make such a difficult issue of it…and yet, Matthew just states it as a matter of fact; or perhaps, as a matter faith.  Eventually, it became such a common, well-known fact among the followers of Jesus, that while they could not completely explain how it happened in terms of their own physical realm, knowledge, and experience…it was simply accepted as being so.  Matthew first stated the origin of Christ…then he stated the mission of Christ.  He tells us that these things had been previously revealed through prophecy.  The name “Jesus”, identified His mission…which was “to save His people from their sins”…and is the fulfillment of the prophet saying that His name would be “Immanuel…God with us”.  Matthew tells us that God came near…He entered our space, our realm, our lives…and suddenly we can know Him in a way that would otherwise be impossible.

Matthew 1:19-25-Imagine the derision and sarcasm that Joseph must have received over Mary being pregnant and him not being the father.  So little is said about him…but he must have been quite a godly man.  Notice that his concern for Mary’s reputation was stronger than his concern for his own…“being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her, desired to put her away secretly”.  This meant that he determined to help her discretely go through the process of childbirth without being married…instead of taking his legal rights to put her through a scandalous public divorce and possibly even having her stoned.  So much attention is given to Mary…but surely God had chosen Joseph, just as certainly.  He was obedient each time that God spoke to him.

Prayer: Lord, I can barely fathom that You…Almighty, Sovereign, Eternal, Omnipresent God…could become man.  Much less explain how You did it.  And yet, that reality is not dependent on me.  It is not necessary for me to understand it, in order for it to be so.  You are God…and all things are possible for You.  You have given me a brain, a mind that has incredible capacity.  But there are still some things that are simply beyond my comprehension.  At those times…don’t let my inabilities become false limitations that I impose on You.  Help me to accept by faith what I cannot attain through intelligence.  May I always be in wonder and awe of You!

 

January 2

 

Matthew 2

 

The Birth of the King         Matthew 1:1-4:25, cont’d.

Matthew 2:1-Bethlehem is about 5-6 miles south of Jerusalem.  King Herod the Great was nominally Jewish, even though he was actually an Edomite (descendants of Esau, they were constantly at odds with Israel, even helping to plunder Jerusalem and slaughter its inhabitants after Nebuchadnezzar conquered it)…who was kept in power by the Romans.  He built the temple in Jerusalem that existed during the life of Jesus.  The “magi” were wise men, astrologers (they “saw His star”), from the east.  Tradition says that there were three of them and that they were kings…but we do not know for certain.

Matthew 2:2-Notice that Jesus was not made, voted, or forced to be king of the Jews…but “born”.  This was God’s divine plan.

Matthew 2:2-3-8-Herod felt threatened by the birth of this king.  He was afraid of how the Jews might respond (since it had been prophesied, Micah 5:2) and how the Roman government might respond to what they would perceive to be an attempt to overthrow their control.

Matthew 2:9-12-The magi presented Joseph and Mary with gold, frankincense, and myrrh (tradition tells us that they represented Christ’s deity, purity and death).

Matthew 2:13-18-It is interesting that in the very next verse it tells us that Joseph had to make a hasty exit with his family to Egypt in order to keep Jesus from being killed.  This would have been an expensive trip…but perhaps God had provided for it through these valuable gifts.  When Herod found out that the magi had left without telling him where to find the child they had spoke of…he became so furious that he had all of the male children in Bethlehem from 2-years-old killed in order to make certain that no king would arise from them.  It is because of this mention of the age of the children that some people believe that the magi did not arrive at the birth of Jesus…but some time later.  Herod had them all killed up to that age to insure that the child died.

Matthew 2:19-23-Eventually, Joseph was told in a dream by an angel that Herod had died and they returned.  Initially, he returned to the area of Judea (Judah).  But when he found out that Herod’s son, Archelaus was now king (over Judah and Samaria)…he left and took his family to Nazareth in Galilee.  Again we see an Old Testament prophecy about the Messiah being fulfilled in Jesus…”He shall be called a Nazarene” (Isaiah 11:1).  Over and over again it is the practice of Matthew to point out how Jesus fulfilled all of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah.

Again I am impressed with Joseph.  He has been obedient when he didn’t understand all that was going on (the conception of the child), and he has been obedient when dangerous circumstances occurred that he was not responsible for (Herod’s attempt to kill the child).  So far, more has been said about him than about Mary.

Prayer: Lord, I pray that you would help me to have the same kind of obedient faith that Joseph had.  Help me to trust You and follow Your will when I don’t have all the facts, and even when I can’t understand why You are leading me to do something.  And also help me to be obedient when difficult, painful things happen that are not my fault, when life isn’t fair.  Don’t let me use those circumstances as an excuse to not follow You.

 

January 3

 

Matthew 3

 

The Birth of the King                                 Matthew 1:1-4:25, cont’d.

Matthew 3:1-4-Many years have passed (approx. 30) and Jesus is now a grown man.  At this time, John the Baptist (baptizer) appears on the scene and begins to preach a message of “repentance” (to repent means to have a change of mind and heart that result in a change of lifestyle and behavior).  He dressed and behaved in a manner that the Jews would associate with the prophets of the Old Testament.  The Jewish people were looking for the coming of the Messiah and John says that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” meaning that He is present.

Matthew 3:5-10-People from all over Israel and from all walks of life began to come to hear John preach…and many of them were baptized.  Baptism was a visual, outward portrayal of the inner change that God made in the lives of those who truly repented.  As they repented, “as they confessed their sins” (:6)…God forgave them and literally washed them clean.  What more vivid physical portrayal of this spiritual reality could there be than to see someone being immersed in the waters of the Jordan River…and being made clean as the waters washed over them.  The dirt that was on them would be washed downstream, completely gone…it could never come back and make them dirty, again.  Even so, when God forgives us of our sins we are made completely clean…our sins are washed away (downstream, so to speak)…and they will never be able to come back, again.

Matthew 3:7-Among those who were coming to John were some of the “Pharisees”.  They were the most powerful of the various sects (similar to denominations in the contemporary church, today) of Judaism.  They were extremely legalistic…believing that salvation (forgiveness from sins and a right relationship with God) came through adhering to a strict, orthodox set of laws that governed virtually every single aspect of life.  These laws were not just those found in Scripture, but also included their own interpretations and teaching about Scripture.  But the Pharisees had a problem: aside from the fact that no one will ever be saved through their own behavior (no matter how good they may appear to be, or how many good deeds they may perform), they were very hypocritical.  They interpreted the laws of Scripture (the Law of Moses) in manners that benefited them.  Through a vast array of interpretive processes they would twist and distort the real meaning of God’s laws to the extent that while by all appearances they were extremely religious and pious people…they were in fact, no longer following the meaning, or spirit of the law.  They held in contempt and judgment anyone who disagreed with their interpretations and practices.  This is one reason why they would later become among the most accusative and antagonistic enemies of Jesus.  His message was one of acceptance of God’s grace and mercy that results in the righteousness that comes from Him.  Theirs was one of legalism and self-attained righteousness that deserves the mercy of God.  The two messages are incompatible.

The other group mentioned here are the “Sadducees”.  Their members came primarily from those who were priests and the upper social class.  They did not believe in the supernatural…dismissing the resurrection of the body, future punishment and reward after death, and the existence of angels.  While they upheld the written law, they were opposed to the oral interpretation of the law that the Pharisees practiced.  They were as opposed to Christ as the Pharisees were…but they were not as frequently condemned by Him.

When members of these two groups started showing up when John preached…he condemned them as hypocrites.  They claimed that they were right with God because they were physical descendants of Abraham (the founder of the Jewish faith).  John said that their lives were not in keeping with the faith that they claimed to be a part of and that their birth lineage had nothing to do with it.  In fact, if God wanted to, He could turn stones into descendants of Abraham.  In other words, just because someone is a physical descendant of Abraham, that doesn’t mean that they are right with God.  Only those who are spiritual descendants of Abraham…those who practice their faith in God in the same manner as Abraham did…are truly right with God.  John tells them that if they fail to recognize the difference and repent…they will be judged and condemned (:10).

Matthew 3:11-12-John’s baptism was with water as a sign of repentance from sin (3:11).  Jesus’ baptism was with the Holy Spirit and fire for cleansing from sin (3:12).

Matthew 3:13-17-One day, Jesus showed up at the Jordan River where John was baptizing…and asked to be baptized by him.  John recognized Who Jesus was and was hesitant to do so…because he knew that Jesus had nothing to repent for.  But Jesus told him that it was the correct thing to do.  When Jesus was baptized by John it was not as an act of repentance, but of righteousness (3:15).  After Jesus was baptized a dove descended upon Him and God the Father spoke from Heaven.  This is the first recorded expression of the concept of the Trinity…that the Son, the Spirit, and the Father are one God…Who exist in three distinct personalities.

Prayer: Lord, I want to be a man like John the Baptist…who humbles himself before Jesus…and as a result, hears from Heaven!

 

January 4

 

Matthew 4

 

The Birth of the King                                 Matthew 1:1-4:25, cont’d.

Matthew 4:1-2-Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted.  He fasted there for 40 days and nights…and became hungry.

Matthew 4:3-4-Verse two says that Jesus became hungry…and immediately this verse says, “And the tempter came…”  Isn’t that the way it usually works.  Satan never hesitates for a moment when he has an opportunity.  Trying to use Jesus’ hunger to his advantage he tempts Him to be self-sufficient, independent of God the Father, by commanding stones to become bread.  It is an attempt to illicit pride…”If You are the Son of God…”  In other words, “Why should You have to ask permission?  You’re the Son of God!  You can do whatever You want to do!”  Satan was trying to get Jesus to sin.  He had come to earth and in so doing had made Himself submissive to the will of the Father…that in so doing, He could live a sinless life.  If He presumed upon His divine nature to accomplish this…He would be thwarting His mission, to fulfill the plan of salvation.  Jesus says that it is far more important to be obedient to the God’s Word than to satisfy His hunger.

How many times are we tempted to do things on our own, to take matters into our own hand, to act on our gut feelings…apart from submitting our will to the Father?  How many times have we justified breaking God’s law…because we felt that our personal interests or needs somehow suspends His law, or is more important than it is?

Matthew 4:5-7-The pinnacle of the Temple is 500 feet above the Kidron Valley.  Now, since he could not thwart Jesus from accomplishing His mission, Satan attempts to provoke Jesus to accomplish it…but in a method that is different from that of the Father.  Certainly, if Jesus was to jump off of the pinnacle and angels would appear and swoop down to His rescue…then the people would flock to follow Him.  Jesus says that it is wrong to “put the Lord your God to the test”.  In other words, don’t try to force God to do things your way (cf. Acts 15:7-10-they were trying to impose something on the Gentiles that God was not).  It actually means that we are fighting against God…by not accepting His will and having the nerve to think that our way would be better.

Matthew 4:8-10-Satan now tells Jesus that he will give Him what He wants…if He will just worship him.  However, Jesus knows two things: 1.-Only God is to be worshipped…period.  For no reason, under no circumstances are we to ever worship anyone or anything else.  2.-While as the ruler of this world (John 12:31) Satan did have authority to make such an offer…that offer had no eternal value, only temporal; and, to do so would mean that while the kingdoms of the world would become His, they would be so only under the jurisdiction of Satan because by worshipping him, Jesus would be submitting Himself to him.  Notice that Jesus speaks of this when He says, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.”  To worship means to serve.  So while Jesus would be granted the kingdoms…He would have submitted Himself to the authority of Satan!  What a double-cross.  This last temptation is the very worst because it involved false worship…so, Jesus tells Satan to leave.

Matthew 4:11-Jesus was now not only physically exhausted, but spiritually fatigued.  Remember, He was fully, 100% human…and this battle with Satan had been extremely intense.  Satan had tempted Jesus to prove Who He was (“If You are the Son of God”-4:3,6) in terms of power over the realm of earth (physical), power over the realm of angels (Heavenly), and power over the realm of God (spiritual).  He had spent Himself, totally.  So, the angels ministered (Greek word is “diakoneo” from which we also get the English words “serve, deacon”) to Him.

Matthew 4:12-17-Jesus knows that if John had been put into prison…there was a good chance that they would come after Him next…and it was not yet time for that to happen.  He had much work to do first.  So, He distanced Himself from Jerusalem and went to Capernaum (a fishing village on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee).  At the time He was staying in Nazareth, His hometown.  But the residents there attempted to kill Him when He openly announced Who He was in the synagogue (Luke 4:16-30).  From what Luke tell us, this contributed to His decision to move…and He went to Capernaum.

Matthew 4:17-Now Jesus had gone public.  He had begun to announce openly Who He was and why He had come.  His message was “Repent”…turn from your sins.  And the reason was “the kingdom of heaven is at hand”.  He was speaking of the fact that He was there, in their presence, at hand.  They needed to wait for the Messiah (“kingdom of Heaven”) no longer…when He arrived, it arrived.

Matt 4:18-22-Jesus is walking along the seashore of Capernaum.  He sees two men, two brothers, Simon Peter and Andrew.  He calls them to be His disciples…and they follow Him.  Further along, He sees two other brothers, James and John, sons of Zebedee.  He calls them to follow Him and they respond, as well.

Matthew 4:23-This verse gives us the three-fold approach to the ministry of Jesus:

  • “teaching in their synagogues”…discipling people through the teaching of the Word of God
  • “proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom”…evangelizing, proclaiming the good news of salvation to the lost
  • “healing every kind of diseases…”…meeting the physical and emotional needs of people for the glory of God.

A quick look ahead in Matthew.  Matthew 4:23 and 9:35 are almost identical.  They are like bookends…they each describe the three-fold approach to ministry by Jesus.  Sandwiched in-between are the principles of His teaching (Sermon on the Mount) and the authority for His teaching (various instances of healing).  Keep this in mind as you read the next chapters.

Matthew 4:24-25-As a result of His healing ministry, people from all over Israel were bringing their sick to Him.

Prayer: Lord, please help me to find who I am…not in my power, or what I can do…but in Who You are and my relationship with You.  Satan is so cunning and deceptive.  Please give me the spiritual discernment I need to know what is truly Your will.  Don’t let me be confused and attempt to accomplish Your will in my own means, or for my own purposes.

 

January 5

 

Matthew 5:1-26

 

The Practices of the King                        Matthew 5:1-7:29

Matthew 5-7             The Sermon on the Mount

Matthew 5:1-We learn an important principle of the ministry of Jesus here.  In the previous chapter (4:23-25) we found that because of His healing ministry many people were coming to Him.  Now here, we find that His healing ministry, while certainly a part of His work, had a yet greater purpose…to draw people to Him and to salvation.

Matthew 5:2-When Jesus saw all of the people coming to Him…He began to preach the gospel of the kingdom.  This message, which we call the “Sermon on the Mount”, is not a message of salvation.  As someone has said, “The Sermon on the Mount is not a message that tells us how to be saved; but, it is a message that tells the saved how they should be”.  This message tells us how we, as followers of Christ, should live our lives.

Matthew 5:3-11-Here are nine attitudes, nine spiritual qualities that should be in every believer.  They are called the Beatitudes.  The Beatitudes are characteristics of salt and light…they are evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit.  These characteristics are not meant to merely be a list for memorization…but they are to be operative in the life of the believer.  Their presence is observed in how we relate with other people and how we treat them.  The Beatitudes generate spiritual maturity in the life of the one who implements them, when they are applied.  The word “blessed” means “happy”.  Someone has called these the “Be Happy Attitudes”.  These attitudes are…

:3-“poor in spirit”…humble, not self-confident, but dependent on God

:4-“mourn”…to be convicted and sorrowful for sin

:5-“gentle”…not domineering, or overbearing towards other people…but aware of their needs

:6-“hunger and thirst after righteousness”…have a desire to be holy, as God is holy

:7-“merciful”…ready to extend mercy and grace to other people…this is to be one’s first response, instead of a response of judgment

:8-“pure in heart”…their devotion is not divided; they seek God first, before all else

:9-“peacemakers”…those who take the initiative to maintain healthy relationships among people

:10-“persecuted for the sake of righteousness”…those who faithfully stand with God regardless of the consequences

:11-“men cast insults…persecute you…on account of Me”

Matthew 5:13-16-When Christians live this kind of a life it has an affect on those around them.  Like salt and light have an affect on the world…Christians are to have an affect on their world.

Matthew 5:13-Christians are to be like salt in their world…helping people discover the real taste (meaning and purpose) of life; and, being the preservative of the morals within their society.

Matthew 5:14-16-Christians are to be like light…not hidden, but plainly visible…so that the darkness will be dispelled and people will be able to see what it means to be a follower of Christ as they watch the life of the believer.  This will bring glory to God.

Matthew 5:17-7:12-Jesus now expands on the principles of the Beatitudes by showing their application to some specific instances in life.

:17-20-these applications, instead of negating the law of Moses, exceed it.  Jesus is not telling the people that He is replacing the Law of Moses with something else.  Instead, He is correcting how the Law of Moses is to be applied.  The Pharisees had relegated the Law to its letter, but had missed its intent, its spirit.  Jesus is clarifying how the Law should be applied.

:21-22-It is not enough to just not murder someone.  You should also be aware of your attitude toward them.

:23-26-It is not enough to just try to be right with God by making a sacrifice.  That cost is only nominal and does not necessarily affect our life.  The true quality of our relationship with God is revealed by the quality of our relationship with other people.  So, if there is a problem with a relationship with someone, in particular if it is your fault (“your brother has something against you”, :23)…your relationship with God can get no better until you first try to be reconciled with that person.  This practice also has a very practical implication.  If you take the initiative to reconcile with someone…maybe they will be more forgiving and not seek to have you legally punished.

Prayer: Father, help me to practice the principles of Your Kingdom.  Don’t let me settle for the least that I can do.  Teach me how to live by the true spirit and intent of the Law that You have given us.  Let my life be salt and light as others see me serving You.

 

January 6

 

Matthew 5:27-48

 

The Practices of the King                        Matthew 5:1-7:29, cont’d.

Matthew 5-7             The Sermon on the Mount, cont’d.

:27-30-It is not enough to just not commit adultery.  You should not even allow thoughts that lead to lust to stay in your mind.  There is an act of adultery that is physical and there is also an act of adultery that is mental.  And often, the mental will lead to the physical.  So, get rid of the thought before it has time to develop further into lust.  Verses 29-30 give an extreme example of just how important this is.  It tell us that sometimes this thought process begins, or develops, as a result of things that we see, or touch.  We are told that if we cannot stop looking or touching in such a way…to gouge out your eye, or cut off your hand.  This is strong language.  It is not telling us to literally do these things.  But, it is showing us by way of comparison with the severity of such an action just how serious our preventive response should be.  Better to lose these body parts temporarily…than to participate in sin and lose ourselves eternally.

:31-32-It is not enough to divorce your wife and try to be cordial in doing so.  Unless she has committed adultery…don’t divorce her at all.  If you divorce her and she remarries, she and her new husband are committing adultery…and you have a level of responsibility as well because you caused it.

:33-37-It is not enough to think you only have to be truthful when you “swear to God” that it is so.  People had given such emphasis to taking oaths (because the Bible strongly condemns perjury-Exodus 2:7; Leviticus 19:12; Deuteronomy 19:16-19) that they had begun to see a distinction between things said under oath, and things that were said in ordinary conversation.  They wouldn’t lie under oath because that was forbidden, but, in their thinking, that didn’t necessarily apply at other times.  In fact, they had even developed a structure of oath giving…there were different levels of oaths that required different levels of truthfulness.  These levels went from swearing by Heaven, to earth, to Jerusalem, to your own head.  Jesus told them to stop playing these mind games.  Instead, your word should be truthful at all times…whether you are under oath, or not.  If you are not telling the truth it is evil…no matter what level of oath you take.

:38-42-It is not enough to just not retaliate to the same degree to which you were injured.  The law of “lex talionis” (law of retaliation, cf. February 17, Leviticus 24-25) allowed a person to demand satisfaction to a certain degree when they were injured (Exodus 21:23-25; Leviticus 24:19-21).  Originally, the intent was that this degree would be the maximum amount of retaliation that could be demanded.  Over time, this degree became the standard amount that would be automatically demanded.  No consideration was even given to not exacting retaliation.  Jesus said that instead of our first impulse being to retaliate back…be willing to suffer the injury without demanding satisfaction in return.  The intent is that the process of injury and retaliation be stopped, or at least the degree of retaliation be lessened.  There may even be times when you will have to suffer further injury in order to stop this process.  This does not mean that a person should never try to protect themselves from being harmed, or that there is never a time when a person who is being harmed could strike back.  There may come a time when this is necessary.  It takes wisdom to know how far to allow such abuse to continue.  As a country preacher once told me, “You’ve only got two cheeks.”  But, if given the opportunity, our first intention should be to attempt to stop the violence from escalating…by being willing to suffer.

:43-48-It is not enough to just love those who love you.  Jesus tells us that we should also love and pray for those who are our enemies, those who persecute us.  Don’t forget, God blesses those who are good and those who are evil.  As His children…we should have the same character and behavior of our Father.  Don’t treat one person one way and another person another way…based on what you think they can do for you.  Instead, treat people in a way that is based on what you can do for them.  If this is your pattern of behavior, then you are demonstrating that you are a mature child of the Father.

Prayer: Lord, I confess to You that there are times when I only see others for what they can give, or contribute to me.  Help me to be their blessing, instead.  I pray so often that You will send someone to witness to my friends and relatives who are lost.  I pray that You will use someone to meet their needs.  Maybe right now, there is a person who is praying for You to send someone to minister to the life of one of their friends, or relatives…and I am the someone You are sending.  Please let me be the answer to that person’s prayer.  Use me to touch the life of another person…for You and for Your glory.

 

January 7

 

Matthew 6

 

The Practices of the King                        Matthew 5:1-7:29, cont’d.

Matthew 5-7             The Sermon on the Mount, cont’d.

Matt 6:1-18-Jesus now identifies 3 specific practices of the Pharisees that are contrary to the principles He has given in the Beatitudes.  He identifies these practices and then shows how they should be done correctly.  In all three instances He is making the same basic point: It is not enough to practice spiritual disciplines for earthly rewards…we should look for the reward that comes from God.  In each instance He identifies a common spiritual discipline that we should all practice.  However, He shows how that each of these disciplines can be abused by making it a means to receive attention from other people.  The point is that these spiritual disciplines are meant to be practiced before God, not before men.  And, that the heart and intent of the one practicing them will ultimately determine their outcome and their reward.  The Pharisees were practicing these spiritual disciplines publicly so that other people would see them.  Jesus said that their plan worked perfectly.  Other people saw them…and the reward the Pharisees would receive would come from those people.  However, Jesus says that these spiritual disciplines are intended to be practiced privately and then God will be the one Who rewards them.  One thing to remember: there are times when we are in a public setting and we will be involved in these spiritual disciplines…it is not that we should never give our offerings, pray, or mourn over sin in public.  But, when we do so, whether it be in a public, or a private setting, our focus should always be on God, not on other people.

Verse one serves as a summary verse for verses 2-22…”Beware of practicing your righteousness before men, to be noticed by them; otherwise, you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.”  Here then are the three specific examples of how this can happen:

:2-4-It is not enough to give your money just to have the respect of men…because you will get what you expect.  Jesus says that we should not make our offerings in front of other people “to be noticed by them”.  If you do, you will “have their reward in full”…you get what you are after…no more…certainly you have “no reward with your Father who is in heaven.”  However, when you give your offerings out of love and for the glory and honor of the Father…”your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”

:5-15-It is not enough to pray just to receive the attention of men…because you will get what you expect. Jesus calls the Pharisees “hypocrites” because they stand in public when they pray…acting like they are praying to God, when in reality they want to be seen by men.  Have you ever heard someone pray and suddenly they begin to speak in the King James language, or they begin to quote Bible verses…as if they are trying to impress the people around them with their knowledge of the Bible.  Sometimes, people will even break into a sermon in their prayer. It is obvious that they are speaking to the people around them, and not to God…because God does not need to hear their sermon.  Jesus also warns us against allowing prayer to simply become a routine, something we do without thinking.  He gives us what we commonly refer to as the “Lord’s Prayer”, or “Disciples Prayer”.  There is a danger even here…because many people just recite this prayer without any thought, reflection, or contemplation.  They just want to say the prayer and get it over.  Perhaps we should personalize this prayer and give careful consideration to how it applies directly to our life.  Notice that Jesus says that when we pray we are to be aware of: His praise (:9), His Purpose (:10), His Provision (:11), His Promise (:12), His Protection (:13).  Maybe if we take these five thoughts about Him…and give careful consideration as to how they apply in our life…then talk with Him about them…we will be praying in the manner which He desires.  Someone has asked about verse 13…”Would God actually lead us into temptation?”  The answer is, “No.”  This verse should be properly read, “Lord, help me to know that You would never lead me into temptation; in fact, You do the exact opposite by delivering me from that very evil thing.”  It is intended to give the one praying an intensified sense of confidence in God’s faithfulness by stating something absurd (that God would tempt them) and then showing that the exact opposite to be the real truth (that God would save them from temptation).  Jesus ends this teaching on prayer with a warning: When it comes to forgiveness, the reality is that God forgives us 100%.  But our experience of that forgiveness will only be to the extent that we are willing to forgive others who have sinned against us.

:16-18-It is not enough to mourn over sin just to appear righteous to men…because you will get what you expect.   The purpose of fasting is to intentionally bring our entire being (physical, mental, spiritual), for a specific time, into a heightened level of awareness of spiritual realities.  One of those realities is the presence of sin in our life.  When this sin is identified we should indeed mourn over it.  However, the Pharisees were trying to give the appearance of mourning over sin without truly doing so.  They were simply looking for praise from other people, not for forgiveness from God.  Jesus tells us that mourning over sin and finding forgiveness for that sin is an exercise between the believer and God, not the believer and other people.

Matthew 6:19-7:12-Jesus now continues to elaborate on how the Beatitudes have practical application in our daily lives.  These spiritual attitudes, spiritual qualities will determine:

:19-24-What the final authority in our life will be…the treasures of this world (money, power, etc.), or the treasure of Heaven (God).  One of the two will ultimately become the final deciding factor of our life…and will make us who we are.  You cannot serve both at the same time; or, one, then the other.  Eventually one will become dominant.  You must choose God…it is an act of faith.  If you don’t, by default, the treasures of the world will take over.  Why?  Because you are by birth a worldling…under the domination of this domain.

:25-34-Your trust in the faithfulness of God.  If we practice them, “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness”…then we will trust God for all of the necessities of life…and not be stressed out and anxious about them.  We will believe that “your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.”

This chapter speaks repeatedly of God’s awareness of me, my life, and my circumstances: “Father who sees”-vv. 4,6,18; “Father knows”-vv. 8,32.  His awareness should give me…

  • conviction (correctly practicing my righteousness before men…in giving-vv. 1-4, in praying-vv. 5-6, in fasting-vv. 16-18; unwillingness to forgive others, vv. 14-15; where my values are, vv. 19-24)
  • comfort (He already knows what I need before I pray, v. 7-13; He already knows what I need so don’t be anxious, vv. 25-34).

Prayer: Lord, these verses remind me that You are aware of all things.  There is nothing, good or bad, that escapes Your knowledge.  Help me to sensitive to Your Holy Spirit when He convicts me of my sin.  He recognizes my sin even when I am unaware of it, or when I justify it.  And, give me comfort and confidence in the knowledge that You know everything that is happening in my life…and that You will protect me and provide for me when I trust You.  Help me to live by the principles of Your kingdom.  Show me how to practice the Beatitudes in every aspect of my life.

 

January 8

 

Matthew 7

 

The Practices of the King                        Matthew 5:1-7:29, cont’d.

Matthew 5-7             The Sermon on the Mount, cont’d.

Matthew 6:19-7:12 (cont’d)-Jesus elaborates on how the BeAtitudes have practical application in our daily lives.  These spiritual attitudes, spiritual qualities, will determine:

:1-5-How we judge other people.  Two principles are given here…one, we must be prepared to allow the same standard that we use to judge other people, to be used on us.  And two, before we judge other people, we should first make certain that our own life is innocent.  If it is not, then that could cloud our judgment.

:6-How we make our moral and ethical decisions.  Do not allow people who do not accept and live by the BeAtitudes to determine how you live.

:7-11-How we pray.  These verses give us great confidence in prayer and tell us God will give “what is good” to those who ask.  Humanly speaking, I will do the best I can to give what is good to my children.  How much more God will do for those who ask Him!

:12-How we treat other people.  This verse is generally called the Golden Rule…because its teaching is worth its weight in gold.  Imagine how life would be if people followed this teaching and actually treated each other in this manner.  Jesus says that this is a summary of everything that is taught in the Law and the Prophets concerning interpersonal relationships.

Matthew 7:13-27-These verses reveal the identifying characteristics of those who have “life” (v. 14), and are part of the “kingdom of heaven” (v. 21).

:13-14…they entered the right way (by faith in Jesus Christ as Savior)

:15-20…they produced the right fruit (their lives are lived in a manner that is consistent with what they say they believe)

:21-23…they obeyed the right will (many people know Him by name, but do not know Him in person…they act religious and try to attribute it to Jesus; while they want to be associated with Him for their glory, they are unwilling to submit to Him for His glory.  They are unwilling to submit their lives to His will.

:24-27-they built on the right foundation (their relationship with Christ will last no matter what happens…it is secure, not because of who they are or what they do…but because of Who they have trusted in, Jesus).

Matt 7:28-29-The people were amazed at the teaching of Jesus.  He didn’t teach like the Pharisees…simply repeating the teachings of their leaders and using intimidation to enforce it.  That being, if you don’t do as I say then I have the power to keep you out of the kingdom.  No.  Jesus had an authority all of His own.  His very words had authority.  And, His miracles authenticated His authority.  In chapters 8-9, Matthew will now provide examples, actual incidents in the ministry of Jesus, that authenticate His authority.

Prayer: Lord, please help me to live by the Golden Rule.  Help me first to be submissive to the conviction of Your Holy Spirit concerning my own life.  Clearly identify any sin that I am trying to justify or disguise.  My nature is such that I seem to be able to see the sin in other people’s lives much easier and quicker than I see the sin in my own life.  I need the Holy Spirit to point it out to me…and then, to quicken my spirit so that I will repent of it.  Then, Lord, help me to use a just and merciful standard when I judge others.  And help my judgment to always be intended to show them how to be reconciled to You…not just to convict them.

 

January 9

 

Matthew 8

 

The Authority of the King                         Matthew 8:1-9:38

The last words in chapter 7, verse 29 were, “for He was teaching them as one having authority.”  It is easy to allow the chapter division to stop our thought process at the end of chapter 7, and then start it again at chapter 8, as if there was no connection between the two.  Because this happens…it is important for us to remember that when the Bible was written there were no chapter and verse divisions.  These were added later, as this article explains…

 

Where did the chapter and verse numbers in our Bibles come from?

Chapter and verse numbers are such a familiar (and useful) part of Bible reading that we rarely give them much conscious thought. In fact, verse numbers are so integral to the way we talk about Scripture that it’s hard to imagine the Bible without them. But those numbers haven’t always been there.

The Old Testament has long been organized into sections and subsections; our modern chapter and verse divisions generally (but not always) correspond to the traditional Jewish organization of the text. While the Old and New Testaments have been roughly organized at least since the Bible canon was established, it wasn’t until 1,000 years later that something resembling our modern chapter and verse system was widely accepted.

The person credited with dividing the Bible into chapters is Stephen Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1207-1228. While Langton’s isn’t the only organizational scheme that was devised, it is his chapter breakdown that has survived.

But while chapters are a useful organizational tool, the ability to refer to specific phrases within those chapters would make the system even more usable. Robert Stephanus (aka Robert Estienne) created a verse numbering system in the mid-16th century and was the first person to print a Bible with verse numbers in each chapter.

The chapter and verse numbers we know and love today are direct descendants of these systems. Different languages and versions of the Bible occasionally make use of alternate systems, but our current chapter/verse system is almost universally understood.

The history of Bible reference numbers may be interesting in its own right (at least to Bible scholars and history geeks), but it’s also had an important influence on the ways that each of us reads the Bible today. Not everyone is happy with the chapter/verse numbering system—and in fact, it’s worth taking a moment to consider some of the implications of this familiar system.

For one thing, our chapter/verse numbering occasionally creates quirky or confusing situations. In your own Bible reading, you’ve probably noticed places where a sentence or train of thought is oddly interrupted by chapter or verse numbers. (See Acts 8, which opens with the final sentence of the previous chapter’s story.) Chapters and verses vary widely in length, and don’t necessarily correspond to the beginnings and ends of stories or sentences.

(Bible Gateway Blog, http://www.biblegateway.com/blog/2012/11/where-do-bible-chapter-and-verse-numbers-come-from/)

 

            Here are just a few interesting facts about the chapters and verses in the Bible…

 

Chapters

  • There are 929 chapters in the Old Testament and 260 chapters in the New Testament. This gives a total of 1,189 chapters (on average, 18 per book).
  • Psalm 117 is the middle chapter of the Bible, being the 595th Chapter.[16]
  • Psalm 117 is also the shortest chapter of the Bible.
  • Psalm 119 is the longest chapter of the Bible.
  • Five books are a single chapter: Obadiah, Philemon, 2 & 3 John, Jude. In many printed editions, the chapter number is omitted for these books, and references just use the verse numbers.

Verses

  • There are 23,145 verses in the Old Testament and 7,957 verses in the New Testament. This gives a total of 31,102 verses,[17] which is an average of a little more than 26 verses per chapter.
  • Contrary to popular belief, Psalm 118 does not contain the middle verse of the Bible. The King James Version has an even number of verses (31,102), with the two middle verses being Psalm 103:1–2.[18]
  • 1 Chronicles 1:25 (“Eber, Peleg, Reu”) is the shortest verse in the Old Testament.
  • The shortest verse in the Greek New Testament is Luke 20:30 (“και ο δευτερος”, “And the second”) with twelve letters, according to the Westcott and Hort In the Textus Receptus, the shortest verse is 1 Thessalonians 5:16 (“παντοτε χαιρετε”, “Rejoice always”) with fourteen letters,[19] since Stephanus‘ rendering of Luke 20:30 includes some additional words.[20]
  • Isaiah 10:8 (“Dicet enim“) is the shortest verse in the Latin Vulgate.[21]
  • John 11:35 (“Jesus wept“) is the shortest verse in most English translations. Some translations — including the New International Version, New Living Translation, New Life Version, Holman Christian Standard Bible and New International Reader’s Version — render Job 3:2 as “He said”. However, this is a translators’ condensation of the Hebrew which literally translated is “And Job answered and said.”
  • Esther 8:9 is the longest verse in the Masoretic Text. The discovery of several manuscripts at Qumran (in the Dead Sea Scrolls) has reopened what is considered the most original text of 1 Samuel 11; if one believes that those manuscripts better preserve the text, several verses in 1 Samuel 11 surpass Esther 8:9 in length.

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chapters_and_verses_of_the_Bible)

 

Chapter 7 ended speaking of the authority of Jesus.  Continuing with that thought, chapters 8-9 contain numerous incidents that display the authority of Jesus.  Don’t let the chapter divisions interrupt the thought process of Matthew.  He is identifying Jesus as the Messiah by showing us His authority over both the physical and spiritual realms of life.  8:17 clearly states this and says that the reason that Jesus performed these miracles of healing was to fulfill Isaiah 53:4…this fulfillment of prophecy would identify Him as the Messiah.

Matthew 8:1-4-His authority over sickness (a leper).

Matthew 8:5-13-His authority over the Gentile world (a Roman centurion’s servant.  This incident clearly shows us that Matthew is dealing with the matter of the authority of Jesus.  The centurion says, “For I, too, am a man under authority…”.) The Centurion had several obstacles to overcome: he was a gentile, he was a Roman soldier, it wasn’t even him who was sick.  But Jesus spoke of his “great faith”…such that Jesus, Himself “marveled” (in various contexts the word means “admiration, astonishment, wonder, uncommon).  Oh, that we would have faith that would even amaze Jesus!

Matthew 8:14-15-His authority over sickness (Peter’s mother-in-law had a fever).

Matthew 8:16-17-His authority over demons.

Matthew 8:18-22-His authority over His disciples (Ryrie)-“The title ‘Son of God’ is Jesus’ divine name. (Matthew 8:29); ‘Son of David,’ His Jewish name (Matthew 9:27); but ‘Son of Man,’ the name that links Him to the earth and to His mission.  It is His favorite designation of Himself (used over 80 times) and was based on Dan. 7:13-14.  It emphasizes: (1) His lowliness and humanity (Matthew 8:20); (2) His suffering and death (Luke 19:10); and (3) His future reign as King (Matthew 24:27).”

There seems to be a sharp contrast between the people who responded in faith to Jesus in verses 1-17, and those who wanted to place requirements on following Him in verses 18-22.  They didn’t have the faith to trust Him with their future…so, they decided to ask Him to agree to a contract of employment before beginning.  The next verse, 23, is interesting when we read it in its natural progression with what had just happened with these disciples who were unwilling to simply follow Him by faith.  It reads, “His disciples followed Him.”  This was an act of faith.  They didn’t have all of the answers to what would happen if they followed Him, or where it would lead them…they just followed.  However, immediately we find Jesus telling the disciples that they had “little faith”.  It is the same word that is used in 6:30.  Is He expressing the fact that their faith was limited…they had faith only in the realm of things they had already experienced (they had faith that He could heal because they had seen Him do it), or could explain, and thought possible?  They did not attribute absolute control, power to Him, yet.  Now the disciples “marveled”…same word as in verse 10.  My question is: When they called out to Him to save them, what were they expecting.  Because obviously when He rebuked the waves and the wind their response was, “Didn’t see that coming!”  These examples of the authority of Jesus are given to expand our faith.  We should not come away saying, “Okay, Jesus has authority over this, and this, and this.  I know it because of what I saw Him do.”  No!  The purpose of the miracles was to authenticate the authority of Jesus over everything…not just some things.

Matthew 8:23-27-His authority over nature.

Matthew 8:28-34-His authority over demons.

Prayer: Lord, give me the faith of the Centurion.  Give me faith that places no boundaries, or restrictions on what You can do.  Lord, give me “marvelous” faith!  Faith that marvels at You, and faith that is marvelous to You.

 

January 10

 

Matthew 9:1-17

 

The Authority of the King                         Matthew 8:1-9:38, cont’d.

Matthew 9:1-8-His authority over sin (and forgiveness).  I love the words, “seeing their faith”.  Is my faith in Christ lived out loud?  Do others see Him, in me?  Or, is it a silent, quiet, insignificant faith that doesn’t motivate and challenge other people.  The very fact that they brought their friend to Jesus revealed their faith in Him.  Jesus first pronounced his sins to be forgiven…then healed him physically.  The crowd was “filled with awe” that God had given this authority to “men”…plural.  They had not yet recognized the uniqueness and identity of Jesus.  The word “awe” (v. 8) is the same Greek word as in 8:10,27…”marveled”.  The Pharisees accused Jesus of “blasphemy”.  He had just proclaimed forgiveness of sin…and only God could forgive sin.  They must have thought, “Who does He think He is, God?”  And of course, they were right.  He did think that He was God…and that was the reason why He could forgive sin.  Jesus says, “But in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority…” (see v. 8).  Once again, it is patently evident that Matthew is using this incident in which Jesus uses His authority to establish Who He is.

Matthew 9:9-13-His authority over the teaching of the Pharisees. (His teaching was authoritative over theirs). 9:13-This quote is a reference to Hosea 6:6.  In that book God is judging Israel and Judah for forsaking Him.  They are still going through the motions of religion…bringing sacrifices, celebrating feasts, etc…but their religion is empty, without God at its core, or focus.  God speaks to the people and says, “For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.  But like Adam they have transgressed the covenant; there they have dealt treacherously against Me” (NASV).  Adam’s sin was not one of deception, but was intentional, knowing what he was doing.  Jesus is condemning the Pharisees of intentionally continuing to practice the outward appearances of religious ceremony without embracing the One that it worships.  They were maintaining the activities for the sake of appearance.  Could it be that they had become so caught up in the system, the process…that they feared that if they changed it, if they truly began to worship God and embrace Him, that the change would be so radical that they would lose what they had…their significance, their control?  And, that if they made the change and realized that what they had been doing was wrong…that it would require that they change, as well?

Matthew 9:14-17-His authority over the religious practices of the Pharisees.  The Pharisees fasted two times each week…and they were very public in doing so.  There were only three annual public fasts that were required: the Day of Atonement, the day before Purim, and the 9th of Ab (commemorating the fall of Jerusalem).  Jesus uses an illustration that seems simple enough…putting new wine into old wineskins…but what is the point.  Putting new wine into old wineskins just won’t work because as the wine ferments it gives off gases and stretches the wineskin.  An old wineskin has already been stretched to its limit and if new wine is placed into it, it will explode.  The point: the life that God requires of us (BeAtitudes) will not fit into the religion that the Pharisees practiced.  The two are incompatible.  The life that God gives cannot be contained by the skin of laws, and regulations.  When a person is filled with the Holy Spirit their life takes on dimensions and qualities and depth that so far exceed laws and regulations that they would explode.  The Pharisees were going through the motions of fasting…but missing the meaning and the spirit of fasting.

It is interesting, but I am convinced that this is the very thing that many lost, and un-churched people sense in their hearts about much of the church, today.  They see the church as merely being an institution that promotes religious activity and demands obedience…but does not truly offer any authentic connection to the spiritual realm, to God.  Are our churches and leaders in a similar position as the Pharisees?  Do we fear what we would lose if we made changes to bring the church full circle, away from the organizational and formal structure that seems to dominate so much of what it is, today…and back to an authentic body of believers?

Prayer: Lord, please keep me close to You.  Don’t allow me to fall into the trap of meaningless routine.  To just go through the motions of religion…and not truly live for You and worship You.  It is so easy for my flesh to be satisfied with the regularity and comfort that being a “Christian” can bring.  God, if I’m not careful, my job will be the ruin of me.  There is so much to do, so many people to care for…that I struggle to have time for You.  Protect me from the demands of the church.  Help me to keep my eyes and heart on You.

 

January 11

 

Matthew 9:18-38

 

The Authority of the King                         Matthew 8:1-9:38, cont’d.

Matthew 9:18-19,23-26-His authority over death (a child).

Matthew 9:20-22-His authority over sickness (an older woman with a long existing sickness).

Matthew 9:27-31-His authority over sickness (blindness).  Jesus told them to not tell anyone what had happened.  He had already begun to attract the attention of the Jewish leaders…and He knew what that would ultimately mean.  However, right now, it wasn’t time, yet.  So He tells these men to keep quiet about being healed.  But they just could not hold it in.  Oh, Lord, let me be like these men!  Help me to be so overwhelmed with joy over You that I just cannot hold it in.  It’s so sad that many Christians do not have this joy…and they never share their faith with anyone.  Give them overwhelming joy.

Matthew 9:32-34-His authority over demons (a man who could not speak).  The Pharisees are beginning to get desperate.  They cannot argue with His theology.  They cannot account for His miracles.  So they attack His personality.

Matthew 9:35-Here again we find the summary of the three-fold approach of the ministry of Jesus.  Notice that it is almost a direct restatement of what was said in 4:23

  • “teaching in their synagogues”…discipling people through the teaching of the Word of God
  • “proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom”…evangelizing…proclaiming the good news of salvation to the lost
  • “healing every kind of diseases…”…meeting the physical and emotional needs of people for the glory of God.

In 4:23, Matthew had already previously given us this three-fold approach of the ministry of Jesus.  Then, in chapters 5-7 he identified the principles (Sermon on the Mount) that would be the heart of His ministry.  Next, in chapters 8-9 he gave examples of the power of Jesus that would substantiate the authority for His ministry.  In 9:35, Matthew is showing us that the authority of Jesus which he has just illustrated and authenticated through the numerous incidents of its display (healing, casting out demons, etc.)…is not limited just to what He does, but also extends over into what He teaches and preaches.  Matthew 4:23 and 9:35 are like bookends…they each say the same thing about the ministry of Jesus.  Sandwiched in-between are the principles of His ministry and the authority for His ministry.

Prayer: Lord, please help my life to be sandwiched between Matthew 4:23 and 9:35.  Please help me to live Your teachings in the power of Your authority.  And Lord, help me to be like the formerly blind men…overwhelm me with the joy of Your salvation to such a degree that I am unable to hold it in.

 

January 12

 

Matthew 10:1-23

 

The Mission of the King                            Matthew 10:1-16:12

Matthew 10:1-The word “disciple” actually means “learner”…one who is taught by someone else.  The word is used frequently in the Gospels.  It is used in the book of Acts as a synonym for “believer”.  But, it is not used anywhere else in the New Testament.  Among the many disciples of Jesus there were 12 men that He specifically set apart as “Apostles”.  The word “Apostle” means “one who is sent forth” as an ambassador who bears a message and represents the one who sent it.  The qualifications for being an Apostle were (Ryrie): 1.-seeing the Lord Jesus personally and being an eye-witness of His resurrection (Acts 1:22; 1 Cor. 9:1); 2.-being invested with miraculous spiritual gifts (Acts 5:15-16; Heb. 2:3-4); 3.-being chosen by the Lord or the Holy Spirit (Matthew 10:1-2; Acts 1:26).  One of the Apostles is Simon the Zealot (cf. Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13).  He was probably a member of an extremist party of Zealots who sought to overthrow the Roman government by force.

Matthew 10:1,5-11:1-Jesus instructs His Apostles for the beginning of their ministry.  His instructions were to:

  • :5-6-only go to the Jews
  • :7-preach that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand”…meaning that He has arrived
  • :8-perform miracles by healing the sick, cleansing the leper, casting out the demons
  • :8-require nothing from anyone in order to do these things…after all, nothing had been required from them
  • :9-10-don’t take supplies on the journey, but depend on those that you serve to provide them
  • :11-15-when you arrive at a city inquire as to who is “worthy”, which means “deserving”. Upon arriving they would probably preach in the city square or in the synagogue.  As they did so they were to watch the responses and identify those who were receptive to what they were saying.  Then, they were to choose one of these people to stay with because they have demonstrated themselves to be worthy, deserving to be their host since they were receptive to their message.  If they came to a city and no one received them, they were to leave, shaking the dust off their feet…this was a manner of showing that they had attempted to present the Gospel of the Kingdom to them but that they were non-responsive and that the Apostles left them as accountable for their own decisions.  As they shook the dust off their feet, they were symbolically shaking off their responsibility for the people’s decisions.  The Apostles had done their job.  Now the accountability lay on the people.  And Jesus says that it will be a terrible accountability.

Matthew 10:17-18-He talks about those who will receive them, those who will not receive them, and those who will attack them.  He spends the most time talking about the last group.

Matthew 10:19-20-Jesus tells them that God’s Holy Spirit will give them the words they need in that dire hour.

Matthew 10:21-23-They will be persecuted by their own family and by people that they have never met.

Prayer: Lord, I want to be a “learner”…to follow You and learn from You.  Teach me Your truth.  There are so many people and philosophies that entice me…please give me the discernment to be able to distinguish what is from You.  Don’t let me be deceived.

 

January 13

 

Matthew 10:24-42

 

The Mission of the King                            Matthew 10:1-16:12, cont’d.

Matthew 10:1,5-11:1-Jesus instructs His Apostles for the beginning of their ministry.  His instructions were to (cont’d):

Matthew 10:24-25-They should not be surprised by this persecution…because if Jesus was persecuted, His followers will be, also.

Matthew 10:26-31-Jesus tells them to not fear because 1.-eventually the truth will be made known and they will be justified; 2.-they can only destroy the body, but God can destroy the soul…so it is more important to be obedient to Him, than to obey men; 3.-they are of inestimable value to the Father and He is completely aware of everything that will happen.

Matthew 10:32-33-Then Jesus gives them the promise that if they will confess (declare that they belong to Him) Him to men, He will do the same to the Father.

Matthew 10:34-37-Jesus warns them that if they choose to follow Him it does not mean that suddenly their difficult lives will be wonderfully changed to peace and calm.  Instead, it will cause divisions of friends and families.  They have to make a decision, now…who are they going to love the most…Him, or other people.

Matthew 10:38-39-With that thought in mind Jesus tells them that each of them must “take his cross and follow after me.”  Jesus was certainly not the first Jew that the Romans crucified.

 

How common was crucifixion in the ancient world? Quite common, at least among the Romans. Though Roman law usually spared Roman citizens from being crucified, they used crucifixion especially against rebellious foreigners, military enemies, violent criminals, robbers, and slaves. In fact slaves were so routinely crucified that crucifixion become known as the “slaves’ punishment” (servile supplicium; see Valerius Maximus 2:7.12). Appian tells us that when the slave rebellion of Spartacus was crushed, the Roman general Crassus had six thousand of the slave prisoners crucified along a stretch of the Appian Way, the main road leading into Rome (Bella Civilia 1:120). As an example of crucifying rebellious foreigners, Josephus tells us that when the Romans were besieging Jerusalem in 70 A.D. the Roman general Titus, at one point, crucified five hundred or more Jews a day. In fact, so many Jews were crucified outside of the walls that “there was not enough room for the crosses and not enough crosses for the bodies” (Wars of the Jews 5:11.1).

(http://www.orlutheran.com/html/crucify.html)

 

The followers of Jesus knew full well what it meant when He told them that they would have to take up their cross if they were going to follow Him.  It was a death sentence.  They had to make a decision now, at that moment, that whatever happened, they would be faithful and not turn back.  They were willing to die for Him. When they did this…when they gave up their life for Him…then in Him they would truly find life.  Notice that it says “take up his cross”, not “take up a cross,” or “take up the cross”.  Each person’s cross is individual, personal to his life…it is “his cross”.  My life may bring this challenge, that trial.  Another person’s life may bring different struggles.  I must never compare my challenges with those of another…lest I feel that it is not fair, they have not had it as bad as I have.  I must be willing to take up “my” cross…the life and the challenges that are particular to me.  Then, and only then, when I have taken up my cross…will I be able to follow Him.

Matthew 10:40-42-Jesus promises that whoever receives His disciples and treats them well shall in turn be blessed by God.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, please help me to be Your follower, Your disciple.  Please give me the strength and conviction to be faithful to You, to faithfully take up my cross, no matter what happens.

 

January 14

 

Matthew 11

 

The Mission of the King                            Matthew 10:1-16:12, cont’d.

Matthew 11:2-This is the first time that the term “Christ” has been used of Jesus since 1:18…which describes His birth.  The term “Christ” is the Greek translation of the Hebrew “Messiah”.

 

“The life and character of Jesus Christ,” says Dr. Schaff, “is the holy of holies in the history of the world.”

NAME.-The name Jesus signifies saviour. It is the Greek form of JEHOSHUA (Joshua.) The name Christ signifies anointed. Jesus was both priest and king. Among the Jews priests were anointed, as their inauguration to their office (1 Chronicles 16:22). In the New Testament the name Christ is used as equivalent to the Hebrew Messiah (anointed) (John 1:41) the name given to the long‐promised Prophet and King whom the Jews had been taught by their prophets to expect (Matthew 11:3; Acts 19:4). The use of this name, as applied to the Lord, has always a reference to the promises of the prophets. The name of Jesus is the proper name of our Lord, and that of Christ is added to identify him with the promised Messiah. Other names are sometimes added to the names Jesus Christ, thus, “Lord,” “a king,” “King of Israel,” “Emmanuel,” “Son of David,” “chosen of God.”

(Smith’s Bible Dictionary, http://www.blueletterbible.org/search/dictionary/viewTopic.cfm?topic=BT0002353)

 

Matthew 11:3-John the Baptist sends his disciples to Jesus to ask Him if He was the “Expected One”…this term is a reference to the Messiah (Psalm 118:26).  In response, Jesus tells the disciples of John to tell him what they had heard and seen about the ministry of Jesus.  Specifically, they were to tell him of six aspects: 1.-the blind receive sight; 2.-the lame walk; 3.-the lepers are cleansed; 4.-the deaf hear; 5.-the dead are raised to life; 6.-the poor have heard the Gospel preached.  He then says that those who understand who He is are blessed.  These six aspects that Jesus mentions were characteristics that were commonly attributed to the long-awaited Messiah.  They come from Isaiah 35:5-6 and Isaiah 61:1-3…both are prophetic passages concerning the Messiah.  Isaiah was the same prophet that John referred to when explaining his own ministry (Isaiah 40:3).

Matthew 11:10-Jesus refers to Malachi 3:1 to describe the ministry of John.  In doing so, He has identified John as the one that God will send to prepare the way for the Messiah…Jesus, Himself.  Jesus tells them that John is the most important prophet that has ever lived…because he is the one who is announcing that the Messiah has come.  And, that he is greater than anyone who had ever been born.  Jesus identified John with the Old Testament covenant.  And John was the greatest of all of that age, that dispensation.  However, the new covenant had arrived (Jesus)…and those that are the very least in this covenant are greater than John.  Jesus is making it clear that the new covenant of grace far exceeds the old covenant of law.

Just as the disciples of John the Baptist were about to leave, Jesus begins to make several comments about him.  They stop for a moment more, and listen intently.  Not only had Jesus verified John’s hopes in Him as the Messiah…but now He gives John an enormous compliment.  Imagine, John has been in Herod’s dark, dank prison for over a year.  During that time his faith had struggled.  Was he right about Jesus?  Was He the Messiah?  Jesus had settled those struggles by assuring John that he had been right in his determination concerning His being the Messiah.  But Jesus does something more.  Not only does He verify Who He is…but He verifies who John is.  And in so doing…John’s faith is restored.  Faith.  John is going to need faith only a short time later.  Herod, under pressure from his wife, would send his executioner to John’s cell.  John would realize that in just moments his life would end.  Faith.  How disappointing it would have been to end life with questions, uncertainties, doubts.  Faith.  But Jesus, in an incredible act of love, had reassured this great man of God that he had been right, he had interpreted the prophets correctly…he had been the one who had prepared the way for the coming of the Messiah.  Faith.  At that moment, it was his faith in Jesus that would not just sustain him…but would carry him upward…even as he faced death.  For, when the executioner’s sword cut though his neck…as his head would fall to the floor…his spirit would soar to Heaven.  Faith.  In our most dire moments…if we will but listen…we too will hear the voice of God speak to us and say, “Well, done, you’ve been a good and faithful servant.  Enter into the joy of your Master!”  Faith.

Matthew 11:14-Jesus does not mean that John is literally the same man as Elijah.  But, that John is fulfilling the prophetic role that Elijah was a type, or picture of (Malachi 3:1; 4:5; Matthew 17:9-13).

Matthew 11:13-19-Jesus tells the people to listen closely to what He is saying and give it careful consideration.  However, He knows that many of them will never be satisfied.  They were not satisfied with the message and life of John (he lived an extremely disciplined life as a Nazarite, Numbers 6:1-8; Luke 1:15).  And now, He knows, that they will not be satisfied with His life and message of grace, acceptance, and forgiveness…they would call Him a “friend of tax-gatherers and sinners”…meaning that He associated with the wrong people (people on the opposite end of the social spectrum from John).  And yet, He knows that in time, the truth will be revealed.  These verses sound like a critique of people today…they are never satisfied with what God has to say…no matter if it were to involve singing and dancing, or darkness and gloom…from one end of the spectrum to the other.

Matthew 11:20-24-Jesus then chastises the people for not repenting…no matter what message they heard.  He compares three Jewish cities (Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum) to three pagan cities (Tyre, Sidon, Sodom) and says that if the pagan cities had witnessed the miracles that He performed they would have recognized Who he was and would have repented of their sins.  And here are three Jewish cities that He has worked countless miracles in and they are still undecided.  Because they have had the benefit of having the prophets of God, and the pagan cities have not, they will have a greater degree of accountability for their denial of Jesus when they stand before God in judgment.

Matthew 11:25-30-Jesus says that those who have already made up their minds will not receive Him.  But those whose hearts are open to learning, like a baby, will receive the revelation of Him that God gives them.  Verse 27 tells us that the only way to know God, the Father…is through God, the Son.  And, the way to come to Jesus is to stop striving by our own will and will-power (v. 25-the wise and intelligent), but to come to Him and “rest” (v. 25-like babes).  “Rest” was a prominent theme in the OT…rest for Israel from their wanderings, rest in the Promised Land, rest under the reign of David, rest upon the return from Babylon.  Ultimately, rest represented life in the Kingdom, under the King.  Being yoked, joined to the Law, was a difficult task…being yoked to Jesus allows Him to fulfill the task for you…and is easy.  (Ryrie) –“This great invitation, extended to all, is threefold: (1) to come and receive salvation; (2) to learn in discipleship; and (3) to serve in yoke with the Lord. The yoke involves instruction under discipline. Yet, in contrast of the teaching of the scribes, Jesus’ yoke is easy.”

Prayer: Father, don’t let religion get in the way of my knowing You.  Many of the Jews were so steeped, so entrenched in their religion…that when Jesus came, they didn’t recognize Him.  Please give me eyes to see and ears to hear.  If there is anything that I am doing (any religious activity or doctrinal teaching) that is incorrect…please reveal it to me and help me to discontinue it…no matter what it may cost me.

 

January 15

 

Matthew 12:1-21

 

The Mission of the King                            Matthew 10:1-16:12, cont’d.

Matthew 12:1-8-Having just told them that His load was light…we are immediately given an example of how Jesus properly interpreted the Law and the teachings of the Pharisees (who weighed people down with regulations and laws, Luke 11:6).  Jesus gives examples of how David and the Priests broke the Sabbath Law…but this was not God’s Law, but the Pharisees interpretation of the Law.  According to God’s Law, it was legal to pick grain from another man’s field in order to satisfy hunger (Deut. 23:25), but not to do regular work on the Sabbath.  It was this second aspect that they were accusing the disciples of doing.  Jesus reminds them of an incident in the life of David when he ate the bread in the Temple that was reserved exclusively for the priests (This bread was actually 12 cakes, made from fine flour. They were placed in the Holy Place in the tabernacle each day on the table that stood on the opposite side from the candlestick. At the end of each day the bread was reserved to be eaten by the priests, and by the priests only. This is the bread that David was given by Ahimelech the priest for him and his men to eat.  In so doing, David broke a ceremonial law, in the same way that the disciples had done.  (Ryrie, 1 Samuel 21:6)-The priest recognized that his moral obligation to preserve David’s life by providing bread superseded the ceremonial regulation concerning who could eat the showbread (Lev. 24:5-9).”  Jesus supports this action by quoting Hosea 6:6, “I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice.”  Jesus was well aware that the Pharisees knew about this concept of the concession of the ceremonial law to the moral law (after all, were not the priests actually working on the Sabbath when they serve in the Temple?), and at times they even abused this concession to their own advantage (Mark 7:10-12).  His point: while the Pharisees may have an interpretation of the Law that allows them certain privileges, He Himself is the very Lord of the Sabbath, it is His Law to give and to uphold.  His relation to the Law is nothing like theirs.

Matthew 12:9-13-What immediately follows, the healing of the man with the withered hand, on the Sabbath…is yet another example of His rule over the Sabbath.  He also explains the hypocrisy of the Pharisees…in that, they would save a sheep on the Sabbath, but not this man.  In other words, as He had mentioned before, they were willing to make concessions when they thought it would help them…but not when it might help someone else.

Matthew 12:14-21-The Pharisees were not willing to listen to Him, they had already decided that they would have to get rid of Him.  Jesus was aware of this so He distanced Himself from them.  In the meantime, He continued to heal many people.  But in so doing, He warned them not to tell what had happened.  He knew that the more word spread about His healing ministry…the more intense the persecution from the Pharisees would be.  Verses 17-21 tell us that Jesus fulfilled Isaiah 42:1-4…by explaining the method of His ministry.  While He would confront the Pharisees with their theological errors, He was not combative, trying to rally an army to take over Israel.  Instead, He would proclaim justice, to all people, even to the Gentiles.  Isaiah said, “I will put my Spirit upon Him…”  This was a war of the spiritual realm, not the physical.

Prayer: Father, I truly believe that when we accept Jesus as our Savior, that our lives should take on a whole new moral quality and be in keeping with Jesus’ life…holy and righteous.  And You have shown us that this will bring about a substantive change in our behavior.  But sometimes I take things further than You do and I begin to set up my own rules of behavior, and dress, and speech, and other matters.  Then, if I’m not careful, I judge others by my set of standards…not necessarily by Yours.  Please forgive me.  Please help me to follow in the pattern of Jesus’ ministry…to live a godly, righteous life…and at the same time, to extend grace and mercy to those who don’t know You.

 

January 16

 

Matthew 12:22-50

 

The Mission of the King                            Matthew 10:1-16:12, cont’d.

Matthew 12:22-30-After Jesus heals a demon-possessed man the people begin to wonder if Jesus was the “Son of David” (referring to the one who would re-establish the Jewish nation).  When the Pharisees became aware of what they were thinking, they said He was the agent of Satan (:23-24; cf. 10:25-“Beelzebul” means “lord of flies”…referring to a guardian deity of the Ekronites-cf. 2 Kings 1:2…but the term was used by the Jews as a nickname for Satan).  This was the worst kind of blasphemy because it intentionally attributed the works of Jesus to Satan.  Jesus shows the absurdity of their thinking.  If He really was an agent of Satan, then Satan would be fighting against himself.  However, if He is working in the power of the Spirit of God…then Heaven has just arrived on earth.  In verse 29, Jesus reveals part of His mission…to bind Satan and destroy his attempt to control God’s kingdom.  Jesus now draws the line in the sand…no more playing around…”If you’re not with Me, you’re against Me.  If you’re not working alongside of Me, you’re working against Me.  There is no middle ground.”

Matthew 12:31-33-This is commonly referred to as “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit”.  (Ryrie)-“Technically, according to the scribes, blasphemy involved direct and explicit abuse of the divine name.  Jesus here teaches that it also may be the reviling of God by attributing the Spirit’s work to Satan.  The special circumstances involved in this blasphemy cannot be duplicated today.”  It’s not uncommon for someone to ask if we can commit the sin of “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit,” today.  As was just explained, this is not possible…because the circumstances in which that would be done cannot be duplicated…it would necessitate the presence of Jesus and his works being attributed to Satan.  This sin is unforgivable (:31) because in essence it is a denial of God since it attributes the works of God (Jesus) to Satan.  Verse 32 can be a little confusing.  It becomes clear when we correctly paraphrase it this way: “If someone speaks out against Jesus, there is still time for him to repent and be forgiven…because his heart is still sensitive to the conviction of the Holy Spirit.  But, someone who speaks against the Holy Spirit is clearly showing that he has crossed over the line (has irrefutably denied the true revelation of God) and will never repent (because his heart has become completely hardened to the conviction of the Holy Spirit).  Once that happens, there will be no repentance on their part and consequently no opportunity for forgiveness.”  Here again (:33), Jesus tells them that they have to make a decision about Him, because there will come a day when they will be judged…and there will be no mistake or confusion about what they had decided about Him…their “fruit” (life, works) will be all the evidence that is needed to make a determination.  They will testify against themselves.

Matthew 12:34-37-Jesus now directs His comments directly towards the Pharisees.  Continuing with the thought He has established about the power of words (blasphemy)…Jesus goes on to say that not just some, but all of our words are important because they reveal what is in our heart.  They will be held accountable for every single word that they ever speak.  Their words will either prove that they are a true follower of Christ, or prove that they are not.

Matthew 12:38-42-This is the first of two occasions that Matthew records the Pharisees requesting that Jesus perform a “sign” for them.  On both occasions, Jesus chastised them for doing so…and then said that the only sign that they would receive would be the “sign of Jonah the prophet”…that being His being buried for three days in the earth in a similar manner that Jonah was buried for three days in the belly of the great fish.  The men of Nineveh will bear witness against them…because while they repented when Jonah rose from his watery grave, the Jews (by and large) will not repent when Jesus rises from His grave.  In a like manner, the “Queen of the South” (“Queen of Sheba”, ruler of the Sabeans in the southern part of Arabia, 1 Kings 10:1-10) will be used in judgment against them because she came to learn from Solomon when she heard of his wisdom…but, the Jews ignore the teachings of Jesus, whose teaching is far greater.

Do people today demand proof (a sign) from Jesus?  Do they sometimes try to disguise their doubt by asking for a miracle?  The ultimate sign of Who Jesus is was the resurrection from the dead.  There is no other sign that could provide greater verification.

Matthew 12:43-45-Jesus explains that on occasion there are times when our heart is receptive to the Holy Spirit.  At such times, we must make a positive decision concerning Him.  If we don’t, then our heart becomes a little bit more negative and non-receptive towards Him, than it was before.  Eventually, if we do this too many times, we will reach a point where we no longer even recognize the conviction of the Holy Spirit and we become totally unresponsive to Him.

Matthew 12:46-50-While Jesus was speaking his family arrived and wanted to talk with him.  This included other siblings (Matthew 13:55-56; Mark 6:3).  After Mary gave birth to Jesus she and Joseph had other children, as well.  Someone told Him that they were there.  Jesus responded that His family were those who are related to Him spiritually…they have accepted Him as their Savior and are now His brothers and sisters.  This spiritual family took priority over His physical family.

Prayer: Lord, please let my heart to open and receptive to You.  Help me to hear Your voice and to see Your hand at work.

 

January 17

 

Matthew 13:1-32

 

The Mission of the King                            Matthew 10:1-16:12, cont’d.

      Matthew 13 consists of 7 parables that Jesus tells that illustrate the Kingdom of Heaven.  A “parable” is a figure of speech in which a moral or spiritual truth is illustrated.  Typically, Jesus would tell a story about something that his listeners were familiar with.  A truth, or truths inherent in the story would have a corresponding truth in spiritual matters.  Jesus was teaching the disciples matters about Heaven (spiritual) that they did not understand…by comparing them to matters about earth that they did understand.

Matthew 13:1-8-Jesus tells the Parable of the Sower

This parable teaches about the Response to the Kingdom of Heaven…Jesus called this the “Parable of the Sower”, :18.  As the sower throws out his seed it lands in several different places.  Notice the places the seed landed and what happened to it…

  • the seeds that landed beside the road (:4)-eaten by the birds…the evil one (those who reject the Gospel);
  • the seeds that landed on the rock places (:5-6)-no soil, grew up & not down, no root, withered by the sun…affliction and persecution because of the word…he falls away;
  • the seeds that landed in the thorns-choked by the thorns (:7)…worry of the world & deceitfulness of riches (other priorities choke it out) choke it out (those who only want the Gospel for what it will do for them);
  • the seeds that landed in the good soil (:8)-multiplied a crop….hears, understands, bears much fruit (those who truly accept the Gospel).

Matthew 13:9-Jesus says that it is important that we listen closely to what He has to say…everything depends on what we decide to do about it.

Matthew 13:10-17-The disciples of Jesus ask Him why He teaches in parables…because many people do not understand what he means…at times, even themselves.  The response of Jesus can be difficult to understand until we realize that there are two different groups of people that He is speaking about in His answer.  Group 1 is referred to as “you” (:11), “whoever has” (:12), “your eyes…ears” (:16).  Group 2 is referred to as “them” (:11), “whoever does not have” (:12), “their…You…they” (:14-15).  Group 1 are those that have received Jesus as Savior (this is what is meant by “For whoever has…” in verse 12…whoever has Jesus as Savior).  They are blessed because they have been given the ability to understand the “mysteries” (:11-the meaning of the parables of Jesus).  Their eyes and ears are blessed because since they have accepted Jesus as their Savior…God has now given them the ability to understand even deeper spiritual truths, such as those contained in the parables that Jesus teaches (:16).  Group 2 are those who have not accepted Jesus as their Savior (that is what is meant by “For whoever does not have…” in verse 12…whoever does not have Jesus as their Savior).  Jesus says that not only will those in Group 2 not be able to understand new spiritual truth…but they will lose whatever understanding they already may have.  How does that happen?  Jesus explains how by quoting a passage from Isaiah (6:9-10).  He says that even though they may hear the truth of the Gospel over and over, they will not understand it…because they don’t want to understand it.  Notice carefully that the word “lest” in verse 15 says that they have intentionally refused to see or hear (meaning to listen with acceptance) to the message “lest” (meaning “for fear that”) they should actually realize that it is the truth and repent of their sins and Jesus would save them.  The bottom line is…they are unwilling to repent of their sins and they know that is a requirement to be a follower of Jesus.  Since they are unwilling to respond to this most basic revelation of spiritual truth that God gives them (that being to accept Jesus as their Savior)…He will not give them the ability to understand the deeper spiritual truths of the Christian faith and life.  This is exactly what the Apostle Paul was speaking of when he wrote, “14. But people who aren’t spiritual (don’t have God’s Spirit in them through salvation) can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means.” (1 Corinthians 2:14, the whole chapter pertains to this matter).

Matthew 13:18-23-Jesus now explains the Parable of the Sower.  The seed represents the “word of the kingdom”…the message of Jesus and salvation.  The ground, or place where the seed lands, represents four different types of people (and how they each respond to the message).  These four different types of people are those who have…

  • No Understanding: Hard Heart…the seeds that landed beside the road…(:4,19)-just like the ground here is hard, so are their hearts. The seed (message) does not penetrate into the soil (heart)…because they do not “understand” it (“understand” means “to set or join together in the mind”),

http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G4920&t=NASB

If a person does not respond to the message of Christ, it isn’t long before “the evil one” (Satan) does something to keep the person from giving it any further consideration.  Satan may do this by distracting the person with other things, causing them to doubt what they have heard, or offering something that promises pleasure.

  • No Permanence: Hard Times…the seeds planted on the rocky places (:5-6,20-21)-this is the person who likes the idea of salvation, eternal life, Heaven…but only accepts it for its intellectual or emotional provisions. He doesn’t actually accept Jesus as Savior…just the idea of the benefits of being saved.  Then, when difficulty arises because of “the word” (their affiliation with Jesus)…they quickly change their mind…because the message had not truly taken root in their heart.
  • No Commitment: Hard Decisions…the seeds that were sown among the thorns (:7,22)-this is the person who hears about Jesus, but is so distracted and consumed by all that is going on in his life that there is not room for Jesus. There is no room for Jesus in their life…because if He comes in, something else will have to go out.  Jesus does not allow there to be anything in our lives that is in competition with our commitment to Him.
  • No Reservations: Hard Proof…the seeds that land on the good soil (:8,23)-this is the person who hears the message and responds in faith to it…the integrity of this faith is proven by the “fruit” (lifestyle, works) that are seen in his life.

Matthew 13:24-30-Jesus tells the parable of the Wheat and the Tares

This parable teaches about the Culmination of the Kingdom of Heaven…it follows the previous and explains that the proof of which person was what kind of seed in the first parable may not be known until the day of judgment.

Matthew 13:31-32-Jesus tells the parable of the Mustard Seed

This parable teaches about the Growth of the Kingdom of Heaven…again, it follows the first parable…and tells that while the ministry of Jesus may appear to be small at the time…there will be many people who are truly in the kingdom.

Prayer: Lord, I need for Your Holy Spirit to give me understanding.  There are things that You teach that only make sense when You explain them.  So, I pray that as I read and study that the Holy Spirit would be my Teacher.

 

January 18

 

Matthew 13:33-58

 

The Mission of the King                            Matthew 10:1-16:12, cont’d.

Matthew 13 consists of 7 parables that Jesus tells that illustrate the Kingdom of Heaven (cont’d)…

Matthew 13:33-Jesus tells the parable of the Leaven

This parable teaches about the Extent of the Kingdom of Heaven…Jesus says that it will eventually spread throughout the world.

Matthew 13:34-43-Jesus explains the parable of the Wheat and the Tares

This parable also teaches about the Result of the Kingdom of Heaven…judgment between those who are saved and not saved.

Matthew 13:44-Jesus tells the parable of the Hidden Treasure

This parable teaches about the Value of the Kingdom of Heaven…there is nothing on earth or in life that has more value…and we should be willing to do anything, or to give up anything that would stand in the way of our obtaining it.

Matthew 13:45-46-Jesus tells the parable of the Pearl of Great Price

This parable teaches about the Value of the Kingdom of Heaven…almost a repeat of the preceding parable.

Matthew 13:47-50-Jesus tells the parable of the Dragnet

This parable teaches about the Membership of the Kingdom of Heaven…not everyone will make it into Heaven…only those who have accepted Christ will go to Heaven…those who have not will go to Hell.

Matthew 13:51-52-Jesus tells the parable of the Householder

This parable teaches about the Revelation of the Kingdom of Heaven…the followers of Jesus were to take the old teachings of the Jews and reveal the new truths contained in them that they were taught by Jesus.

Matthew 13:53-57-Jesus returns to Nazareth and is not received well.  His mother, brothers, and sisters are mentioned.

Matthew 13:58-As a result of their “unbelief” He did not do many miracles.

Prayer: Father, help me to continue to move forward in the life and ministry that You have called me to…even in the face of difficulties and opposition (like Jesus did).  Help me, as You did Him, to see the bigger picture, the end and purpose of what You have in store…and to not allow my attitudes or perspective to be dominated, or my actions to be determined…by the present situation, circumstances, or people.

 

January 19

 

Matthew 14:1-21

 

The Mission of the King                            Matthew 10:1-16:12, cont’d.

Matthew 13 consists of 7 parables that Jesus tells that illustrate the Kingdom of Heaven (cont’d)…

Matthew 14:1-12-This is Herod Antipas…he ruled from 4 B.C.-39 A.D. (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herod_Antipas for a brief history of his life).  He was the son of Herod the Great, who was king at the birth of Jesus (2:1,22).  When Herod the Great died his kingdom was divided up between his sons…Antipas (Galilee and Perea), Philip (N.E. Palestine), and Archaleus (Judah and Samaria…he senselessly killed many people and was an ineffective king, so Caesar Augustus removed him from power in 6 A.D. and he was banished to Gaul).  Herod Antipas had arrested John the Baptist because he was publicly judging him for having married Philip’s (his half-brother) wife, Herodias.  This was incest (Lev. 18:16).  It greatly angered Herodias and when the opportunity came for her to have John silenced, she took advantage of it.

Matthew 14:13-When Jesus received the news of John’s death, He went off for a while by Himself.  John was not only the prophet that God had sent to proclaim the coming of Jesus, but he was also Jesus’ cousin.  So, his death probably had a profound affect on Him.

Matthew 14:14-When Jesus came back a large crowd had gathered.  “And when it was evening…”

 

“The Hebrew day, that is, the interval between dawn and darkness, was divided into three parts: morning, noon, and evening (Ps. 55:17).  The Jews distinguished two evenings in the day: the first begin at 3 p.m., and the second at sundown (see Ex. 12:6, lit., “between the evenings.”).  In this verse the first evening is meant; in v. 23, the second.” (Ryrie)

 

The disciples suggested that Jesus tell the crowd of people to go into the local villages for food.  But Jesus told the disciples to feed them.  They replied that they only had 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.  Jesus told them to bring the food to Him.  He then had the crowd sit down on the ground.  He prayed for the food and began dividing up the bread and fish among the disciples…who then began dividing it up among the people.  All of them ate, “and were satisfied” (:19).  After they had eaten they picked up the leftovers and they filled 12 baskets.  There were about 5,000 men in the crowd, plus women and children (:20).

Prayer: Lord, Jesus was moved with compassion because He loved the people.  Please help me to be a man of love.  One who acts on that love for the good of others.  And Father, help those people to realize that it is Your love that is flowing through me, to them.  Let it bring glory to You.

 

January 20

 

Matthew 14:22-36

 

The Mission of the King                            Matthew 10:1-16:12, cont’d.

Matthew 14:22-23-Jesus sends the disciples on ahead…across the lake…intending to join them, later.  He dismisses the crowds.  Then He goes alone “to the mountain by Himself to pray”.  Surely, if the Son of Man found it necessary to go aside and spend time with the Father in prayer…then we too should do the same.  Is it any wonder, due to the fact that so few Christians spend both quality and quantity time in prayer, that there seems to be so little of the power of God in the life of today’s church?

Matthew 14:24-Some time later Jesus decides to rejoin the disciples…it is the “fourth watch of the night” (between 3-6 a.m.).  The disciples are already “a long distance from the land”.  On top of that…”the boat was…battered by waves; for the wind was contrary”.  The word “battered” literally means to be “tortured, harassed, distressed”.  These were some serious waves that were crashing against the boat.  The wind was “contrary”…meaning that it was blowing them in the opposite direction that they were trying to go.  All of this gives the scene a feeling of panic, and fear, and uncertainty.

Matthew 14:25-26-Then, with an almost serene note, John simply writes of Jesus, “…He came to them, walking on the sea”.  But serenity is not what the disciples felt.  If it wasn’t bad enough that the physical world seemed to be determined to destroy them…now the spiritual world is attacking them as well.  They saw Jesus and said, “It is a ghost!  And they cried out for fear.”  The Greek word for “fear” is “phobos” (from which we get the English word “phobia”) and the word “ghost” is “fantasma”…it means “appearance, or apparition”.

Matthew 14:27-Jesus quickly speaks and tells them to not be afraid…but to have courage.

Matthew 14:28-31-Peter thought that he recognized Jesus and tells Him that if it really is Him…command him to come to Him on the water.  Why would Peter make this request?  Perhaps he thought that to do so Jesus would stop the storm…because once he started walking towards Jesus it was the “wind” (there are actually two words here in the Greek that are translated by one word “wind” in the English: the first word means “wind”, and the second means “forcible, strong, or mighty”) that captured his attention (the word “seeing” is a participle, meaning that his attention became focused on it…he couldn’t stop looking at it)…and it made him afraid.  Or, it could be that Peter thought that the safest place to be in this raging storm was not in the boat, but next to Jesus.  It was just getting there that proved to be difficult.  So, Peter began to sink.  He cried out for Jesus to save him…and immediately He did.  Notice that Peter made two requests of Jesus…call me to You…and, save me!

It was Peter, not Jesus, who initiated his walk on the water.  Jesus just agreed to Peter’s response.  Could it be that He was teaching the disciples a lesson?  Jesus was on His way to the boat and eventually, once He reached it the “wind stopped” (:32).  If Peter had just remained in the boat he would have been safe.  In verse 22, Jesus had put the disciples into the boat and told them to go ahead to the “other side” of the lake.  Would Jesus have told them to do that if He knew that it was not going to happen, that they wouldn’t make it…that they were going to sink in the storm.  No.  He was well aware that the storm was coming and that He would walk to them on the water and save them.  For the disciples, this was an exercise of faith.  Jesus had just shown them His power over nature by feeding 5,000 men (plus women and children) with five loaves and two fish.  Here is the lesson, the key: would their faith be transferable…would they recognize that His power was not limited to fish and chips…but extended over all of the natural world, as well?  We know this is what He intended for them to learn because not long after this incident (16:8-10), Jesus would refer back to it and ask the disciples if they remembered it and if it had made any difference in their faith.  Sadly, it must not have made much difference because in that conversation He would again say, “You men of little faith” (16:8).  Notice that Jesus says here, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (:31).  The word “doubt” comes from a root word that means “twice, again”…in other words, “you start to do something, but then stop and do it differently; you start to respond in faith, but then stop and waiver”…you do something twice, two different ways.  When Jesus says “little faith”…He is not speaking of the size of their faith…but, of their understanding of the size of that in which they placed their faith.  Their faith should have grown, increased through the miracle of the fish and bread…but it hadn’t.  Their faith was small…because their understanding of Him was still small.  The size (ability) of faith is not determined by our ability to have faith…but by the ability of the object of that faith, the One in whom we place faith. We tend to think of the quality of our faith as being determined by its origin…but God says the quality of our faith is determined by its object.  I could have incredible faith, huge faith, undeterred faith that my neighbor John could make me walk on water.  But I would sink, none-the-less.  Because John does not have that ability, no matter how much faith I put in him.  It’s not my faith that makes the difference.  It’s the one that I put my faith in.  For just a moment, Peter was focused solely on Jesus and His ability…to walk on the water.  And he did it.  Then, suddenly, his eyes were turned back to the wind and he began to question which was stronger (had more ability), the wind, or Jesus…and he began to sink.  Could it be that when Peter first started walking on the water it was because he trusted in Jesus to make it possible…faith in Him.  But then, when he began to see the waves he thought that it was not possible for him to walk on the water…his faith had now turned back to himself.  His faith had initially been placed in Jesus…then his faith turned back to his ability to be faithful.  And yet, he calls out to Jesus to save him.  His faith had grown…but only to a limited degree.  He had faith that Jesus could walk on the water and save him when he began to sink…he just wasn’t quite ready to fully believe that Jesus could make him walk on the water and be safe from the wind.

Matthew 14:32-33-Jesus pulls Peter into the boat and the wind stops.  Now the light begins to come on and the faith in Jesus of the disciples expands.  They say, “You are certainly God’s Son!”  Their understanding of just Who He is…has grown.  But they still have so much more to learn.

Matthew 14:34-36-“Gennesaret” was northwest of the Sea of Galilee.  When Jesus arrived the people began to bring their sick to Him from all over that area.  Their faith in Him was such that they believed if they just touched his coat they would be healed.

Prayer: Lord, help my faith in You to grow, and mature.  Help each experience of faith that I have with You to be added to the sum-total of the understanding that I have of You…and You will grow greater, and more powerful, and wonderful in my understanding each and every day.  Then, my faith will be in You and Your ability…not in faith, itself; not in my ability to be faithful.

 

January 21

 

Matthew 15:1-20

 

The Mission of the King                            Matthew 10:1-16:12, cont’d.

Matthew 15:1-9-The Pharisees and scribes had expanded on the law that God had given and added their own interpretations and practices.  These were not a part of God’s law…but they enforced them as if they were. These practices included washing of their hands at prescribed times, etc.  This is what they refer to here as the “tradition of the elders”.  Jesus tells them that they are the ones who transgress the law…not just their law, but God’s law.  He gives an example.  God’s law commands that children honor their parents.  However, they had prescribed a law of their own that allowed them to get around God’s law.  According to God’s law, they were to take care of their parents in times of financial need (perhaps when they are elderly).  But, their law allowed them to not be bound to do this if they had dedicated their money to God.  This sounds like a very righteous thing to do.  But in reality, the money that they had dedicated to God was still available to them be used for their own purposes since they saw themselves as being in service to God.  Jesus calls them “hypocrites” and says that they say that they honor God, but in their hearts they are not doing so…they are only doing it for themselves.  They elevate their own teachings above God’s.

Matthew 15:10-11-Jesus tells a one-line parable (:11) and then explains it (:15-20).  The Pharisees believed that what made a man righteous was the external obedience to their laws (“what enters into the mouth”)…what they eat, washing of the hands before eating, etc.  Jesus says that this is not what makes a man righteous…instead, it is the content and intent of his heart (“what proceeds out of the mouth”).  For a man to be righteous there must be more than just mere external conformity…there must be an internal transformation.  The former is the work of man, the latter is the work of God.  The Pharisees had it exactly backwards…from the outside, in, instead of from the inside, out.  To the Pharisee, he could cause the inner transformation to take place, himself…by being obedient to the law.  In order to assure this, they went to the extreme, adding additional laws (the traditions of the elders) to ensure that they went beyond what was expected in order to fulfill God’s law.  On the other hand, God’s law was not ever intended to make a man righteous through his own obedience; but, to serve as a guide to reveal his failure, that he was a sinner and was not righteous.  The only way that a man could ever be righteous is through the work of God in his heart…that would then be evidenced by obedience in his life.

To the average person, it was a love-hate relationship with the Pharisees.  Because the Pharisees were the ruling religious group among the Jews, because the average Jew had been taught his entire life that the Pharisees epitomized what it meant to be a righteous Jew, and because the Pharisees had the power to punish the average Jew for not holding to their teachings…the Jew on the street held to a kind of respect that bordered on fear.  And yet, because they didn’t know any different…this same respect had an element of admiration, because they thought that the Pharisees were truly living as God commanded in His law.  When Jesus called the Pharisees “hypocrites” His disciples were concerned that they had been “offended”.  Perhaps the disciples were a little bit offended…because to them, the Pharisees were the religious leaders.  Jesus quickly corrects them and tells them that God did not put them into their position as the religious leaders of the Jews (:12). He tells the disciples to not follow them (:14)…that they are like blind men telling other blind men where to walk.

Prayer: Lord, You know me better than I know myself.  Please help me to surrender my will, my desires, my plans, my ego, my emotions…all that I am, to You.  So that You will have complete freedom to guide and direct my life.  Make me into the man You desire and use me for Your glory…no matter what the cost.

 

January 22

 

Matthew 15:21-39

 

The Mission of the King                            Matthew 10:1-16:12, cont’d.

Matthew 15:21-28-This is in the area of Phoenicia (Tyre and Sidon were coastal cities of the Mediterranean in the northern part of Israel).  Canaanites were Gentiles.  She approached Jesus and began to “cry out” (cry out aloud, speak with a loud voice…she was desperate; v. 23-“shouting”) because her daughter was “cruelly” (causing her to be miserable, ill) demon-possessed.  Jesus did not initially acknowledger her.  Only when the disciples began to get embarrassed and ask Jesus to do something did He speak to her.  His response is that He had been sent only to the Jews…Israel.  But she continued to press Him for help…telling him that she wasn’t asking Him for much, something that for Him would require virtually no effort, at all.  Jesus responds that before you feed the dogs, you first feed the children.  This was not meant to be demeaning…only an illustration that He had a mission and a priority that could not be deterred.  Again, the woman will not stop.  Her answer is very intuitive…showing that she understood His mission.  She says that when the children are fed, a few crumbs are allowed to fall to the dogs that are at the child’s feet.  The master’s first concern was to feed his children…but he also cared for the dogs.  So, in the process of feeding the children, he would also feed the dogs.  This is the way that it is with God’s plan.  Jesus had come to fulfill God’s plan for the provision of salvation.  To do this, He had come first to the Jews (He was feeding the children first).  But, in the process of providing salvation for the Jews…salvation would also be provided for the Gentiles, as well (the crumbs would fall to the floor).  This encounter with the Canaanite woman initially makes Jesus appear to be uncompassionate, unconcerned for her.  However, His own words reveal that to not be true.  His intent was to not be drawn away from the primary purpose for which He was sent (:24).  There were numerous distractions, and opportunities that presented themselves to Jesus that, while having appeal and even perhaps some validity, they were not truly the primary purpose that God had sent Jesus.  Jesus says, “O woman, your faith is great…”  What a contrast between this woman and the disciples of Jesus.  Their faith was little…but hers was great.  As we found before…it wasn’t the size of her faith that Jesus was speaking of.  But, the size of the One in whom she placed her faith.  She believed with determination that would not quit that Jesus could heal her daughter…so, she pursued Him with faith.  Jesus healed her daughter…at once.  What a moment it must have been when this mother returned home and found her daughter cured and free of demonic possession.  It is interesting that the two times that Jesus speaks of people having great faith they are both Gentiles (15:28; 8:10-centurion).

Matthew 15:29-31-Jesus now returns to the Sea of Galilee.  He healed many people and they were glorifying God.

Matthew 15:32-39-Jesus tells the disciples that the people have been with Him for three days and are hungry…He feels “compassion” (to be moved in one’s bowels or stomach, hence to be moved with compassion, have compassion…the bowels were thought to be the seat of love and pity) for them.  The disciples realize that He is looking to them to do something about it.  They tell Him that there is nowhere for them to get food.  Jesus them asks them how many loaves of bread they have with them and they tell Him they have seven loaves and a few small fish.  As he had done previously, He takes what they have, prays, then begins to divide it up among the disciples.  The disciples then start handing it out to the people.  There are 4,000 men (plus women and children)…and they all eat their fill.  Afterwards, they pick up seven large baskets, full with leftovers.  Jesus sent the people away…then He and the disciples got into a boat and went to Magadan (the exact location of this city is uncertain, but it is thought to have been located on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, about 3 miles north of Tiberias).

How many times has God been leading His people to do something…and they failed to respond because all they could see were either their own resources, or abilities…and did not rely on God.  As has been often said, but seldom practiced: where God is leading, God will provide.

Prayer: Lord, help me to realize that just like You were aware and sympathetic towards the situation of the people that followed Jesus…You are totally aware and sympathetic with my life.  And, as in the case of Your disciples…help me to see beyond myself, what I have to offer, to what You are doing, how You would do it, and the resources You will provide.  Please…do not let me live by sight, but by faith!    And Lord, I have prayed so many times for You to heal and provide…and often have not seen any immediate results.  Could it be that my prayer is backwards?  Could it be that instead of my trying to convince You to do something that I want, my prayer should help me to discover what it is that You want and are doing…and to join You in that?  You tell us to pray for our needs.  You answered the prayer of the Canaanite woman because she had faith in You.  Are our needs a starting place…a place that You allow in our lives to motivate us to pray?  Sometimes what we pray is what You desire to do…and we realize that when You answer the prayer.  And sometimes what we pray is supposed to involve us in conversation with You, so that You might lead us to a different place, a different understanding.  Whichever it may be, please lead me to pray in such a way that I will discover Your desire and find the answer to my prayer, there.

 

January 23

Matthew 16

 

The Mission of the King                            Matthew 10:1-16:12, cont’d.

Matthew 16:1-4-The Pharisees want a sign for proof of Who Jesus claims to be.  He rebukes them for demanding a sign…saying that (1) it is evil.  There are several reasons why Jesus may have said this.  It could be that it was evil because they just wanted to see something miraculous for the sake of entertainment.  Or, it could be evil because they are trying to find an excuse to refuse to believe Who He is.  They are requiring another, and another, and another sign to authenticate Who He is.  Or, He could be saying that there are “signs of the times” all around them and because they are evil they cannot discern them.  What makes them think they would discern the truth of Who He is if He performed another sign?  Jesus also says that they their request (2) is adulterous…like a man who leaves his wife when he loses interest in her…though they may initially accept it they will soon turn away and leave Him.

The “sign of Jonah”…His death, burial and resurrection…would be the ultimate, conclusive sign that would reveal Who He is.  There would be no other sign that would be as comprehensive and irrefutable as that.

Matthew 16:5-12-The disciples are not spiritually attuned to Jesus and they misunderstand His comment about the Pharisees.  They are still only seeing Him from a human, earthly perspective.  Jesus chastises the disciples for not remembering the two previous miracles that He had performed…feeding the 5,000 and the 4,000…their is no transference of faith from one moment to the next…from one circumstance to another.  Their faith is “little”…limited.  This is not speaking of the quantity of their faith, but the quality of their faith.  Their faith is restrained to by the boundaries of each particular miraculous incident.  What they have learned on one occasion is not applied to the next occasion.  It’s like they have to start all over again each time.  Notice the words “understand” and “remember” in verses 9,11,12.  To have faith means to understand how it operates in our lives and to not be forgetful about it.  Then, apply what they learned previously to the current situation.

The incident with the Pharisees looking for a sign and Jesus’ comments about them are not separate incidents.  It was a teachable moment.  An opportunity for Jesus to teach the disciples something about themselves and about how faith in Him should operate in their lives.

How guilty I am of doing the same thing.  I constantly want God to replenish my faith.  I want another demonstration to remember that He is there.  And I often trust Him in one area of my life…but something else comes along and I begin to complain as if I never knew Him.

 

The Teaching of the King                         Matthew 16:13-20:34

Matthew 16:13-20-Caesarea Philippi was in Herod Philip’s tetrarchy (the area assigned for him to govern and control), about 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee.

 

Apparently known as Baal Hermon and Baal Gad in the Old Testament period, this site later was named Panias after the Greek god Pan who was worshiped here.

There is no record of Jesus entering the city, but the great confession and the transfiguration both occurred in the vicinity of the city (Matt 16:13), then known as Caesarea Philippi.

The spring emerged from the large cave which became the center of pagan worship.  Beginning in the 3rd century B.C., sacrifices were cast into the cave as offerings to the god Pan.

Pan, the half-man half-goat god of fright (thus “panic”), is often depicted playing the flute.  This city known as Panias has been corrupted in the Arabic language to its modern name of Banias.

(http://www.bibleplaces.com/banias.htm)

 

It is possible that Jesus and the disciples were passing by this area of pagan worship.  Their discussion turned towards the identity and origin of Pan.  As they looked at the cave and the other objects associated with worship to Pan, Jesus turned to His disciples and asked, “Who do the people say that the Son of Man is?”  Their responses were typical of the people.  But then He asks them specifically who they thought He was.  Simon’s confession was representative of the thinking of all of the disciples (to some degree, or another).  The content, or elements of this confession are the rock that the church is built upon (Ephesians 2:19-22).  Verse 20 makes this even clearer…because Jesus associates the content of the confession with the content of prophecy…that being the identify of Who Jesus is…He is the Christ, the Messiah.  Historically, there has been some confusion over this passage.  Some have understood Jesus to say that He was building His church on Peter.  But a closer look at the language that Jesus used and other New Testament references shows this to not be true.  In verse 18, Jesus makes a statement about the character of Peter when He says, “you are Peter”…meaning that he is a “rock-man”, strong, stable.  The word is masculine.  Then, in the next phrase, Jesus says “upon this rock”…this word is feminine.  He is making a play on words.  Jesus is not saying, “upon you, Peter,” or, “upon your successors,” I will build My church.  But, He is saying that “upon this rock”…upon this divine truth, revelation…that He is the Messiah (the content of the confession of Peter; what Peter had said, not Peter himself)…He was going to build His church.  The church is built on Jesus…and no one else.

Matthew 16:21-23-Did Peter get the bighead?  After Jesus gave this glowing report about Peter…did Peter suddenly think that he was now in a position to dictate to Jesus what He was going to do?  The word “rebuke” means to “criticize or reprimand sharply”, “to express emphatic disapproval of someone, to rebuke, denounce”.  This is a strong word…not just a suggestion…but more of a command.  Peter had taken Jesus aside from the other disciples to do this.  In the NASV, Peter says, “God forbid it, Lord.  This shall never happen to You”.  The word “God” is not actually in the text…though as this commentator shows, it is used in reference to God in the New Testament usage.

 

Merciful (Adjective, and Verb, to Be), Mercy (Noun, and Verb, to Have, Etc.):

“propitious, merciful” (akin to B, No. 3), was used in profane Greek just as in the case of the verb (which see). There is nothing of this in the use of the word in Scripture. The quality expressed by it there essentially appertains to God, though man is undeserving of it. It is used only of God, Hbr 8:12; in Mat 16:22, “Be it far from Thee” (Peter’s word to Christ) may have the meaning given in the RV marg., “(God) have mercy on Thee,” lit., “propitious to Thee” (AV marg., “Pity Thyself”).

(Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G2436&t=NASB)

 

Other versions translate it: “Be it far from Thee, Lord: this shall not be unto Thee.”; (KJV); “Never, Lord! He said.  This shall never happen to you!” (NIV); “Heaven forbid, Lord, he said. “This will never happen to you!” (NLT); “Oh no, Lord!  This will never happen to You.” (Holman); “Impossible, Master!  That can never be.” (Message).

Jesus certainly did not take Peter’s rebuke lightly…because as commending as His first report about Peter had been, this one is now equally condemning.  He isn’t saying that Peter is literally Satan…but that by trying to stop Him from doing what the Father intended, he was acting like Satan.  What was there about Peter’s behavior that was like the behavior of Satan?  The entire goal and stratagem of Satan is to disrupt the plan of God for Jesus to pay the price for the sins of man (salvation)…this being His sinless life, His substitutionary death, and His glorious resurrection.  Satan seeks to interrupt or stop Him at every point in this process.  He will use any and all methods available.  So, here is Peter, most assuredly speaking from a heart of love and devotion for Jesus, but without yet being fully aware of the mission of Jesus, he would bring it to a grinding halt before it ever reaches its necessary conclusion.  Nothing, absolutely nothing, even something done with the best of intentions…must be allowed to impede Jesus from fulfilling His mission.  Perhaps the reason why Jesus reprimanded Peter so strongly was because it was Peter.  This was not some unknown, insignificant individual.  This was Peter.  One of Jesus’ chosen followers, and closest friends.  If this kind of “take control” attitude existed in Peter…it could spread to others…and they too would seek to keep Him from fulfilling the Father’s will.  Humanly speaking, it was going to be hard enough for Jesus to fulfill His mission (cf. Matthew 36:38-42; Lk. 22:44).  He certainly did not need His closest companions to be a hindrance to Him.  So, with a demonstrative declaration…Jesus made it clear that this kind of thinking had no place among them.  He must fulfill His mission…and if they are going to follow Him…they must support Him, 100 percent.

This leads to the next verses and an additional thought.  It could be that Peter’s statement was not as altruistic as it initially sounds…and Jesus was well aware of it.  Peter could have been aware, maybe on a subconscious level, that what happened to Jesus would happen to them.  If Jesus went through the things He had mentioned…then certainly, the next in line for similar treatment would be His followers.  So, Peter decides to take steps to prevent it from ever happening to any of them.  This is why Jesus then turns to all of His disciples and gives the following demand of discipleship.

Matthew 16:24-26-Jesus quickly rejoined the disciples and gave them instruction…that basically says that in order to follow Him, you don’t tell Him what to do…you deny yourself and follow Him.  The word “deny” means to “disassociate yourself from something”.  Here, it means that you must deliberately, intentionally make the decision to sever ties with your own will (“himself”)…crucify, put to death yourself, your goals, your methods…and follow Him.  The word “follow” is a contraction of two words…”alpha” (the first letter of the Greek alphabet…Jesus is the alpha to indicate that he is the beginning, the only one leading) and “keleuthos” (road).  It gives us the picture of Jesus walking down a road with His disciples in line behind Him.  There is only one leader for the whole group…Jesus.  This entire verse is structured as a command.  Verse 25 gives us the result of obedience to this command.  The word “lose” means “to destroy, to render useless”.  If we combine verses 25 and 26 into one thought it might read, “Whoever tries to find life through what the world has to offer will ultimately lose it…because there is more to life than what this world can provide.  But, whoever gives his life to Me will ultimately receive it back…because only I can provide the true meaning of life.”

Matthew 16:27-Jesus says that every one of us must make a decision about our life…and who it belongs to…because one day we must stand before Him and give an account for what we have done.  He will do this because He will reign as king in the “glory of His Father”.

Is there ever a time when I try to weaken, or moderate Who Jesus is and what He said…in order to make my own life easier.  If I can make Jesus appear to be more palatable, more acceptable to the world…then maybe I can follow Him and it will not cause me any personal grief.  If I can just make the world more comfortable with Jesus…then maybe they will be more comfortable with me, as one of His followers.  “Get behind me, Satan!  If I am to follow Him…it is a cross I must bear…and crosses are never comfortable.”

Matthew 16:28-Some say that this was fulfilled at the transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8)…that was a preview of the Lord appearing in His glory (Daniel 7:9-14).  Only Peter, James, and John were with Him when this occurred.  Others say this is referring to the resurrection (a continuation of what Jesus had said in verse 21)…at which time His reign would begin. Some of those standing there would be present at the “coming” (beginning, inauguration) of His reign; but not all of them, He knew that Judas would not be there.

Prayer: Lord, please give me faith in You that will extend across the entire breadth of my life.  Keep me from constantly returning to the place where I have to be convinced and convicted all over again in order to have faith.

 

January 24

Matthew 17

 

The Teaching of the King                         Matthew 16:13-20:34, cont’d.

Matthew 17:1-8-Six days later, Jesus took Peter, James and John (the inner circle among the disciples) to the top of a high mountain.  There, He was “transfigured before them.”  Matthew explains this in part by adding that “His face shone and His garments became white as light.”  Christ’s appearance was changed and became brilliant with a brightness that revealed His divine nature.  As someone has said, “The form of God momentarily shined through the form of man.” (cf. Phil. 2:6-7).

 

Transfigure:

“to change into another form” (meta, implying change, and morphe, “form:” see FORM, No. 1), is used in the Passive Voice

(a) of Christ’s “transfiguration,” Mat 17:2; Mar 9:2; Luke (in Luk 9:29) avoids this term, which might have suggested to gentile readers the metamorphoses of heathen gods, and uses the phrase egeneto heteron, “was altered,” lit., “became (ginomai) different (heteros);”

(Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G3339&t=NASB)

 

The word “shone” comes from the Greek word “lampo”…sounds like our English word, “lamp” (cf. Matthew 5:15,16; 17:2,24).  The word “light” means “brilliant from whiteness, dazzling white”.  His clothing was so white that it seemed to have a dazzling glow, or brilliance.  Some have suggested that there is a connection and significance of “His face shone like the sun”…to Moses and his appearance (representative of the Law) when he came down off the mountain (Exod. 34:29), and “His garments became as white as light”…to Elijah (being representative of the prophets)…since they are the very ones who now make an appearance.  Peter is overwhelmed when he sees them.  But the Father speaks and elevates Jesus over Moses and Elijah.  His brightness (both person and revelation) is superior to theirs.  This is further emphasized after the disciples opened their eyes and the only one left standing is Jesus.  Moses and Elijah are gone…the time and purpose of their ministry is over…having served their function.

Matthew 17:10-13-The disciples are uncertain about the familiar teaching that Elijah must come before the Messiah arrives.  Jesus explained that Elijah was representative of several different prophetic matters…(1) he was the foreshadowing of the ministry of John the Baptist heralding in the coming of the Messiah (Mal. 4:5); (2) he was the voice that would proclaim the beginning of the end times, when all things will be restored to the state that God had originally intended; (3) he was the declaration of the fact that even as John the Baptist was not accepted for who he was, Jesus would not be accepted.  The disciples seemed to understand the first two concepts and how the ministry of John the Baptist related to Jesus…but they still struggled with the idea of Jesus not being accepted as the Messiah.  They could not figure out how He could be the Messiah, and yet be rejected by the Jews and not rule over Israel on Earth.

Matthew 17:14-21-A man brings his son to Jesus and tells him that he is a “lunatic” (the Greek word is “selanoeazomi”…from “selana” which means “moon”).

 

lunatic:

lit., “to be moon struck” (from selene, “the moon”), is used in the Passive Voice with Active significance, RV, “epileptic,” for AV, “lunatick,” Mat 4:24; 17:15; the corresponding English word is “lunatic.” Epilepsy was supposed to be influenced by the moon.

((Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?strongs=G4582&t=NASB)

 

A simple explanation could be that while the moon had no actual influence over the sickness…it was at night, when the family was together, that it appeared to be most active and prominent.  The sickness of this child and his resulting behavior are attributed to demonic possession.  The disciples had tried, but not been able to cure the demon-possessed boy.  Jesus says this generation (the people there at that time) was “unbelieving” (the Greek word is “apistos”…the “a” means “no, or not” and “pistos” is “faith”; so it literally means “having no faith”) and “perverted” (from the Greek “deastrepho”…meaning to go in another direction; i.e.-trying to do something in a manner other than by faith in God…and means that because they do not believe, do not trust in His power adequately, they have tried to accomplish it another way and are useless, they can not perform the miracle).

Do we ever try to do God’s work, ourselves. Is it because we begin to think that the spiritual things that have transpired previously were actually due to do our own ability…and now, we can manage on our own?  “It’s okay God, I’ve got this one.  I’ve got it covered.”  Or, is it more subtle?  Slowly, without making a conscious decision, we begin to slip away from having faith in Him…and perhaps without even noticing it, to operate on our own.  Then one day it doesn’t work.  And because we are human and never want to accept the blame…we assume that the failure must be on God’s part.

However it happened, this seems to have been the problem the disciples were experiencing.  They said, and notice the word “we”…”Why could we not cast it out?”  This suggests that they were trying to do the work of God in their own power, they were trying to make it happen.  Jesus reminds them of what we have found before, it is “because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed…nothing shall be impossible to you.”  Confused?  On one hand He says that their faith is too little…then turns right around and says that they only needed faith as little as a mustard seed.  The words “littleness of your faith” come from the Greek “olegopestea” (from the root words: “oligos” which means “little, small”, and “pistis” which means “faith”).  Here Jesus is referring to the fact that they were depending on their faith to make it happen, to cast out the demon.  But faith in faith itself, in and of itself, is too little, too inadequate to accomplish spiritual works.  On the other hand…don’t assume that what you need is greater faith, larger faith, more faith…and then try to increase your faith, to have more faith in faith, or to have faith in your ability to be faithful.  Why?  Because you would still be trusting in your own faith in order to accomplish it.  Neither little faith, nor great faith, is able to do this.  Jesus says you only need a little faith…faith as small as a mustard seed.

 

mustard seed:

mustard, the name of a plant which in oriental countries grows from a very small seed and attains to the height of a tree, 10 feet (3 m) and more; hence a very small quantity of a thing is likened to a mustard seed, and also a thing which grows to a remarkable size.

(http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G4615&t=NASB)

 

Faith must be placed in something that is capable of accomplishing what is needed.  It isn’t a matter of the size of your faith.  But, it is a matter of the size of the object of your faith.  You must have faith in God.  Faith must be placed in God, and God alone.  Only God is adequate to accomplish spiritual matters.

Here is the key: Faith is like a mustard seed…because while it is very small, it has the potential for great productivity.  The potential of the mustard seed is not in itself.  But, it is dependent on what it is planted in.  Faith is like the mustard seed…in that, it has great potential for productivity.  But, it is only as productive as that in which it is placed.  Plant your faith in God and it will be applicable and productive in every circumstance of life.

Faith is a prominent theme in Matthew.  It is referred to in 15 different instances…sometimes in a positive way, and sometimes negative.  The disciples ask Jesus why they could not heal the boy and He responds that it was because of the “littleness” of their faith…they only needed faith the size of a mustard seed and they could move “this mountain” (He was telling them that nothing, not even a mountain-sized problem, was too big).  The word “little” is applied to faith in several passages in Matthew (6:30; 8:26; 14:31; 16:8; 17:20).  Could the parallel between the mustard seed and faith be that while the seed itself is small…it grows and spreads to great length…the vine starts from just a small seed…but it spreads over a large area.  And faith operates in a similar manner.  Though it is only small, it is all that is necessary to cover every aspect of life.  The faith that a person has in Jesus in one area is the same faith that is necessary in all other areas…it doesn’t require anything new, or different, or more.  The faith that the disciples had developed in Jesus when He fed the 4,000, and the 5,000, and when He stilled the storm is applicable in all other areas, as well.  It is not the circumstance that determines His ability, but His ability that determines the circumstance.  We tend to look at the circumstance and it determines our thinking, our faith in Him.  Instead, we should look at Jesus and He should determine our thinking, our faith about the circumstance.  It is all about knowing and trusting Jesus…understanding and remembering Him (16:9).  The point here is that it is not the size of the faith that matters…but, the object (Jesus) in which that faith is placed; and then, the extent of the application of the faith that we already possess into other areas of life.  The sun, water, and the quantity and quality of nutrients in the soil activate and determine the productivity of the mustard seed.  How do we activate our faith in God?  What determines the productivity of our faith?  Obedience.  When we are obedient to God…our faith spreads from one area of life, to another.  We recall God’s faithfulness to us and to others…and apply that same faith into other areas of our life…and our faith becomes productive.

An important truth: the opposite of faith is not doubt…it is disobedience.  I can have questions, and concerns, and even doubts about something…and yet, if I am obedient, I have acted in faith in God.  In fact, it is indeed a marvelous act of faith when I am obedient to God…even when I don’t have answers that satisfy all of my intellectual inquiry (2 Cor. 5:6-8; Heb. 11:1-3).  I may not always have all the answers…and yet, I can always act in obedience.  It is not doubt that hinders the productivity of faith…it is disobedience.  As the old song says, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

Matthew 17:21-Many of the ancient manuscripts from which our modern Bibles are translated do not contain this verse.  That is the reason why it is in [brackets], as shown here.  However, the fact is that prayer and fasting are both indispensible disciplines of the spiritual life that God uses to help us know and understand Him better.  And our knowledge of God is the basis for our trust and faith in Him.

Matthew 17:22-23-Jesus once again addresses the topic of His death.  He wants them to be aware that this was all a part of God’s plan and to not become so distraught that when it happens they stop believing in Him.

Matthew 17:24-27-Jesus had been teaching the disciples that He was the Son of God.  Now, an incident occurs that could possibly cause confusion, and questions.  So, Jesus uses it as a teachable moment.  When they arrive in Capernaum, the tax collector approaches them and asks if Jesus intended to pay the annual Temple tax collected from every adult to support the expenses of the Temple…it was a half-stater, or half-shekel (the Hebrew currency)…this is equal to 2 drachmas (the Greek currency).  Jesus agreed to pay the tax.  They then went into a home.  The possible confusion can be worded this way: Jesus said that He was the Son of God.  God is the King.  The children of the King don’t pay taxes.  Why then, is Jesus paying a tax?  Jesus tells Peter that He is going to pay the tax, “lest we give them offense”.  There are two reasons why the Jews would be offended if Jesus did not pay the tax: 1.-all Jews did so, and if He didn’t, it would be an offense not only to the Jews, but to God, Himself since the Temple belonged to God; 2.-had Jesus said that the reason He was not going to pay the tax was because He was God’s Son, it would have stirred up a greater level and intensity of offense towards Him.  In either circumstance, there was still much that He had to do before it would be time for their offense to reach its climax and send Him to the cross.  Jesus directs Peter to go down to the seashore and throw in a fishing line and hook.  When he catches the first fish he is to look inside its mouth…inside will be a stater to pay for both of their taxes.  Two things to be aware of: First, we have an amazing miracle (not that a fisherman actually caught a fish!)…inside the fish (the specific fish which Jesus had identified) there would be a coin worth the exact amount of the tax that would be required for Jesus and Peter, together.  Second, Jesus had previously made Peter aware that the Son of the King did not pay taxes on the Temple…and now, though Peter had the money to do so, it had not come from Jesus.  The Father had provided for the work of His Temple through the Kingdom that He ruled (His creation)…because the Son did not have to pay taxes on His Father’s house.  This vividly demonstrates the unique relationship between Jesus and the Father.

Prayer: Lord, please extend my faith in You to every single area of life.  While I pray for more faith, please help me to apply the faith in You that I already have to the areas of my life that I have not yet done so.

 

January 25

 

Matthew 18:1-20

 

The Teaching of the King                         Matthew 16:13-20:34, cont’d.

Matthew 18:1-The disciples asked Jesus who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.  He responds with 5 examples where Greatness (evidence that a person is a member of God’s kingdom) in the Kingdom is seen:

Matthew 18:2-4-Greatness in the Kingdom is seen in submission to the King

Don’t miss the first words of verse 2, “He called a child to Himself…”  Jesus gives a Demonstration and then an Explanation.  Demonstration: when He called, the child responded and was submissive to Him.  It was almost as if Jesus was saying to His disciples, “Did you see how that child responded when I called?  That is what it means to be great in My Kingdom.”  Explanation: they must be “converted” (the Greek word “strepho” means “to turn, turn around; here it is in the passive voice which means that someone else is converting them, meaning…”to be turned, to be turned around”).  Then, Jesus says that they must “become like children”.  The word “become” is in the middle voice, meaning that it is something that they have to participate in, be a part of.  Put those thoughts together and Jesus is saying that the evidence that a person is a member of the Kingdom of Heaven is that he has deliberately submitted his life to the will of God.  As a child submits to the will of his father, so a member of the Kingdom of Heaven submits to the will of the Father.

Matthew 18:5-6-Greatness in the Kingdom is seen in caring for the children of the King

Jesus then gives a very intense warning…”whoever receives one such child receives Me”.  The word “receives” means “to take by the hand”…suggesting the idea of helping, or assisting someone.  When we help a member of the Kingdom of Heaven, we are helping Jesus to accomplish His work in them.  However, He then says, “whoever causes one of these little ones to stumble”.  The word “stumble” comes from the Greek word “scandalon” (from which we get our English word “scandal”)…and it means to cause a person to begin to distrust and desert one whom he ought to trust and obey.  For the person who hinders a follower of Jesus…the judgment will be so severe, that it would be better to just get it over quickly…that a “heavy millstone be hung around his neck, and that he be drowned in the depth of the sea”…the word “hung” comes from the word for “crucify”.

Matthew 18:7-9-Greateness in the Kingdom is seen in living for the King

Jesus then speaks of the “world”, those who have not believed in Him…and says that we shouldn’t expect them to live by the principles of God’s Kingdom.  However, believers should live by those principles.  And if we don’t…whatever is causing us to “stumble” (same word as in v. 6), whatever is leading us away from following Him, should be stopped immediately!  Jesus is not literally telling us to cut off body parts, or to gouge out eyes.  He is making a point through exaggeration.  He is showing us how important it is that those that claim to follow Him, really do follow Him…by using an extreme example.  But the point should be well taken.  It is that serious and should be taken with that much thoughtfulness.

Matthew 18:10-14-Greatness in the Kingdom is seen in having the love of the King

He then warns them to not “despise” (look at with scorn, or ridicule) the “little ones” (the Greek word is “micron”…meaning those who are little, or young in their faith).  We should not judge those who are new in their faith…they may not always act right…but that is no reason for us to show them any disrespect.  This might have a negative influence on them and cause them to stumble.  Then He gives a warning…angels are keeping watch over them and will report your actions to the Father…be aware that you are not getting away with anything that you might do to them.  Jesus then expands on this idea of the Father’s watchfulness by telling a parable about a shepherd watching over his sheep…one has “strayed” (this is a passive verb and suggests that someone, or something has caused them to stray) and the shepherd leaves everything else and goes after it.  If the Father has such love and care for his sheep, shouldn’t we have the same?

Prayer: Lord, please help me to worship You in and with the entire fabric of my life…from the simplest, most mundane aspects to the most important, life-changing decisions I will ever make.  Help me to serve, You…as a member of Your Kingdom.

 

January 26

 

Matthew 18:21-35

 

The Teaching of the King                         Matthew 16:13-20:34, cont’d.

Matthew 18:1-The disciples asked Jesus who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.  He responds with four examples where greatness is seen (cont’d):

Matthew 18:15-35-Greatness in the Kingdom is seen in having the forgiveness of the King

Matthew 18:15-20-Jesus then speaks of a believer who sins (this particular word for “sin” means “to miss the mark, to wander from the correct path”) and that fellow believers should go after him…to keep him from continuing in sin and to save him from its consequences.  If the person refuses to repent (after the process given in vv. 15-16…going individually, then going with two or more, and finally action by the entire church) then treat him as someone who is not part of the church.  The intent here is to impress on the person how serious sin is.  The church will not just turn a blind eye and pretend that nothing is going on.  For the good of the person (separation from other believers is a demonstration that sin causes separation from God), and for the good of the church (if sin is tolerated in the church it will spread and become even more destructive)…there must be an act of discipline.  Verses 18-20 are in reference to the decision of the church to “bind” (to hold someone accountable for their sin that they have not repented of), or “loose” (to forgive someone when they repent) someone as a result of the attempt to lead them to repent of their sin.  Whatever decision the church makes is in keeping with what has already been done in Heaven…it is not something which the church initiates, but something which God has done and the church follows in suit.  This is the only mention of the “local” church (18:17) in the Gospels.  In 16:18 it is referring to the “universal” church, all the followers of Christ.

Matthew 18:21-35-The conversation about a brother who sins (18:15) continues with a question from Peter.  What exactly was Peter’s purpose in asking the question?  On one hand, it’s as if he is asking, “How far do I have to let this go?  How many times do I have to forgive him?”  On the other hand, it could be that he is trying to look pious in front of his friends by suggesting that he would forgive as many as seven times…because the Rabbis had said three times (Ryrie).  Jesus basically responds that there is no limitation to be put on forgiveness.

18:22-35-Jesus tells a parable that illustrates the true nature of forgiveness. Forgiveness is characterized by a person who has been forgiven…being willing to forgive those that sin against him.  In other words, forgiveness is not based on a number of times that I am willing to forgive someone.  But rather, on the realization of the extent of the forgiveness that I myself have received.  A person who is unwilling to extend unlimited forgiveness has a limited understanding of the extent of the forgiveness he has received.  And consequently, probably does not realize the extent of his own sin.  The amount of money that the man owed was huge…as compared to the small amount that was owed to him.  He was forgiven his huge debt…but required that the small debt to him be paid.  The king withdrew his offer of forgiveness when he discovered what the man had done.

18:35-Jesus says that the realization, the experience of peace that accompanies forgiveness is dependent on the way that we forgive others (18:33).   While we are forgiven in Heaven, in a legal sense (the reality that the debt for our sin has been paid) when we ask God for forgiveness…if we are unwilling to forgive others, then our own forgiveness by God will not be translated into the peace, or contentment that it should produce in our own life.  As someone has said, “Unforgiveness tends to corrode the container in which it is carried.”  Notice that Jesus said the man was “handed over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him”.  The parable did not just end with the man being put into prison.  But, he was tortured so that he would pay what was owed.  Could it be that when we are unwilling to forgive…that God allows us to encounter circumstances (on our own and without His preventive and protective provisions) that would “torture” us until we learn and apply the lesson of forgiveness?

 

Tormentor:

properly, “a torturer” (akin to basanizo, see TORMENT, B), “one who elicits information by torture,” is used of jailors, Mat 18:34.

(http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G930&t=NASB)

 

How much easier it would be if we were just be obedient from the beginning!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for Your forgiveness of my debt.  I know that it is not possible for me to actually realize the extent of my sin…because my fallen nature cannot truly fathom what perfection and absolute righteousness really are…and so, my sin seems only sinful in light of my own estimation.  However, when I think about the price that You had to pay…it helps me to understand a little more the size of the debt that I had incurred.  Please, Lord, help me to extend forgiveness to others based on what I myself have received…and keep me ever aware of the amount of that forgiveness.

 

January 27

 

Matthew 19:1-15

 

The Teaching of the King                         Matthew 16:13-20:34, cont’d.

Matthew 19:1-“Judea beyond the Jordan”…This is the land of Perea (not actually a part of Judea, but within the territory ruled by Herod Antipas)…an area on the east side of the Jordan River (when looking at a map with north at the top it is on the right) that extends from the Sea of Galilee (in the north) almost to the Dead Sea (in the south).

Matthew 19:3-The Pharisees test Jesus on the laws concerning marriage and divorce.  The phrase “for any cause at all” was hotly debated between the two primary schools of Rabbis (the Jewish interpreters and teachers of theology).  The followers of Rabbi Shammai said that a man could only divorce his wife if he could prove that she was guilty of adultery…that was the only reason.  The followers of Rabbi Hillel were much more permissive…allowing divorce for almost any trivial reason (some have even said burning the toast was enough of a reason).

Matthew 19:4-9-First of all, notice that Jesus says that God created them as male and female…and then He proceeds to explain marriage in terms of the relationship between a male and a female.  This is a clear argument that God established the covenant of marriage and that He intended for it to exist only between a male and a female…and not between two individuals of the same sex.  And, it was God’s intention then (“from the beginning”, :4,8) and still is now that the marriage should last a lifetime.  Jesus then says that since God is the one that “joins” (the Greek word means “to yoke together”…a contraction of two words: “sun” means “with”, and “zugos” means “a yoke”) a man and a woman together, it is not up to men to separate them (His authority overrules theirs).  But the Pharisees press the point…asking, “Then why did Moses give a command that permitted divorce?”  Jesus chooses His words very carefully and says, “Because of your hardness of heart, Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way.”  Notice that Jesus makes it clear that this was not God’s choice (“from the beginning it has not been this way”…this is not what God intended).  But, “Moses permitted”…in other words, God has not changed His mind about the matter, but has allowed Moses to implement a procedure to deal with a marriage in which case adultery has already occurred.  In no way does this change the sanctity of marriage and God’s intention that it should last a lifetime.  But, in the occasion where a spouse has already committed adultery…divorce is allowed.  This is the only time identified in this passage when divorce is an acceptable practice.  If it happens for any other reason…it leads to adultery when the spouse marries, again.  The disciples are overwhelmed at the thought of being married and not being allowed to divorce for any other reason.  At this point, I see the humor of Jesus.  His next statement is, “Well, I have to admit that marriage can be difficult.  So, if you’re going to honor God…you’ve got to make one of two choices.  First, if you think that it would just be too much for you to commit to a life-long marriage…you can always choose to become a eunuch.  Some are born that way.  Some are made that way by their masters.  But neither of those apply to you.  So, it would have to be your choice to become a eunuch…for the kingdom of heaven, of course.  Or second, you could just make your marriage work, the way that God intends.  What’s it going to be, fellas’?”

Matthew 19:13-20:28-Teachings on the Kingdom of Heaven

Matthew 19:13-15-The Inhabitants of the Kingdom of Heaven

Matthew 19:13-15-The disciples probably thought that Jesus had far more important things to do than to sit down with these children.  But Jesus reminds them that His very purpose was to draw people to Himself…and that there are none who are not welcome.  In fact, children portray the kind of delight and openness that is required from those who would come to Him.

Prayer: Lord, help me to always be mindful of your power…and to never forget the great things You have done in the past…so that I will have faith to trust you when I encounter something new or different.  Help me to always pray…but also help me to know when it is time to stop praying and act on what You have already shown me.  And please, Lord…help me to always be faithful to You…no matter what may be said about me, good or bad.

 

January 28

 

 

The Teaching of the King                         Matthew 16:13-20:34, cont’d.

Matthew 19:16-30-The Decision to Choose Kingdom

Matthew 19:16-26-A man asks Jesus what good thing (work, deed) he has to do to obtain eternal life.  There were some Jews that felt that there could be one, singular act that would qualify them for Heaven.  Jesus responds with the part of the Law that speaks of our relationships to one another…plus, He adds “love your neighbor as yourself.”  The man says he has done all of these…it couldn’t be that simple…what else must he do?  Jesus knows his heart…it is full of greed…so He tells him to sell all that he owns and give the proceeds to the poor.  This takes the idea of relating to other people beyond just not doing bad to them…but doing good for them.  The man refused to do this, and left.  Jesus remarked that it is extremely hard for a rich man to have the right perspective between people and possessions…to value people above possessions.  It’s so hard that it would be easier to squeeze a man through the eye of a sewing needle…than for a rich man to give up all of his possessions for the poor.  This requires God’s help (:26).

Matthew 19:27-39-The Rewards of the Kingdom

Matthew 19:27-28-Peter says that they have left everything for Him.  Jesus says that in Heaven (“the regeneration”…it is clear this is the topic of Jesus’ teaching here because it continues in 20:1-“For the kingdom of heaven is like…”)…“you shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”  In other words, when you realize what Heaven is going to be like…the things that are given up in this earthly life pale in comparison into insignificance.

Matthew 19:29-Jesus says that we must see the things of our life on earth in light of what we will receive in Heaven.  Perhaps the greatest possession of all will be the fact that we are in Heaven (“eternal life”)!

Prayer: Lord, please help me to see the right value of the things that I possess…and don’t ever let me value them above people.  Give me an eternal view of my earthly existence.

 

January 29

 

Matthew 20:1-16

 

The Teaching of the King                         Matthew 16:13-20:34, cont’d.

Matthew 19:30-20:16-The Offer of Grace to Enter the Kingdom

Matthew 19:30-20:16-This parable begins and ends with the same phrase…just in the reverse order (19:30, 20:16).  Jesus tells a parable about a man who hires workers throughout the day…and at the end of the day he pays them all the same amount.  It is a parable about God’s grace.  He extends it equally to everyone…to those who are quick to receive it and to those who do so at the last minute.  Salvation is not a matter of us, or what we do…it is a matter of God’s grace that is extended to everyone equally.  “God’s grace and generosity know no bounds, and man’s ideas of merit and earned rewards are irrelevant” (Ryrie).  We should be pleased at any time, when anyone truly receives the grace of God.

There is another lesson to be learned from this parable.  Why do we serve God?  Is it only for the reward?  Or, do we do so out of the sheer joy of knowing Him, and as an act of thanksgiving to Him?  The rewards in Heaven will be great.  But, the greatest reward of all is to find oneself serving the Lord because in doing so we bring praise to Him.

There is one more lesson for us.  Recognize and accept the calling of God on your life.  Don’t be envious (:15) of others and the recognition that they receive.  The quickest way to kill your joy of serving the Lord, is to compare yourself to others.  Not only that, it reveals a basic distrust in God’s sovereignty.  God knows what is best suited for you, and what you are best suited for.  Wherever He chooses to have you serve is the place where you will receive the greatest blessing and bring Him the greatest praise.

Prayer:  Lord, thank You for allowing me to serve You.  It is such an incredible privilege to in Your service.  I pray that You would use me to bring You glory and honor.  Help me to keep my life pure so that there is nothing that would bring dishonor to Your name.

 

January 30

 

Matthew 20:17-34

 

The Teaching of the King                         Matthew 16:13-20:34, cont’d.

Matthew 20:17-28-Servanthood is a Sign of Greatness in the Kingdom of Heaven

Matthew 20:17-19-This is perhaps the clearest explanation of the death and resurrection that Jesus has given the disciples, so far.

Matthew 20:20-24-Jesus had previously spoken about greatness in the Kingdom (chapter 18).  Perhaps that had the mother of James and John thinking.  Did she remember what Jesus had said to Peter and she didn’t want her boys to be in a lesser position of leadership.  I wonder if the sons had her ask Jesus because they thought He would respond more positively to her request than if they made it, themselves?  Jesus makes it clear that the Father makes the decisions for such matters.  Now the rest of the disciples are upset that they requested such a thing.  Jesus was aware of what they were thinking so He decides to straighten the matter out.  He tells them that they are thinking like men of the world…that being, greatness is a matter of power and control over others.  Jesus tells them that it isn’t that way in the kingdom of heaven.  There, greatness comes from serving others.  He, Himself, is the perfect model of that truth.

Matthew 20:29-34-Leadership in the Kingdom

Matthew 20:29-34-It is amazing that the crowd told these blind men to be quiet!  Were they afraid that Jesus would run out of miraculous power if He healed them…and not have enough left over for the rest?  Or, were they trying to get in line ahead of them.  Or, could it be that they were embarrassed by them?  Whatever the reason…Jesus paid the crowd no attention and healed the men.  He was “moved with compassion” by their condition…while the crowd was disturbed by the commotion of their cries.  It interesting that this miracle follows right on the heels of Jesus teaching the disciples about greatness in the Kingdom of Heaven being characterized by being a servant.  Here is a wonderful principle of leadership.  People will follow you…when they know that you care about them enough to serve them…you’re not just trying to use them for yourself.  Notice that v. 34 says, “…Jesus touched their eyes; and immediately they regained their sight and followed Him.”

Prayer: Lord, we usually want to lead…teach us to serve.

 

January 31

 

Matthew 21:1-22

 

The Preparation of the King                    Matthew 21:1-23:39

Matthew 21:1-Bethpage was a small village on the opposite side (east side) of the Mount of Olives from Jerusalem…about 1/2 mile away.

Matthew 21:4-5-Matthew carefully explains that Jesus was intentionally acting in a manner that would demonstrate that He was fulfilling the prophecy of the Old Testament concerning the arrival of the king.

Matthew 21:9-“Hosanna” means “save now”.  The words of verse 9 come from Psalm 118:25-27.  It is extremely important to notice that Jesus did not stop the crowds from attributing this designation (of king).  Nor did He even correct them.  In fact, he was the one who initiated it by entering Jerusalem on a donkey (i.e.-as a King, 21:5,15-16).  Verse 16 says that God had prepared “praise for Thyself”…and yet, Jesus was the one receiving that praise.

Matthew 21:10-This is the question that everyone must answer…”Who is this?”  The multitudes had it only partially correct…”This is the prophet, Jesus…”

Matthew 21:12-13-When Jesus arrives at the Temple He finds that instead of it being a place of prayer and worship…it has become a place of business and commerce.  “Moneychangers” exchanged the Greek and Roman coinage that the people used in their daily commercial transactions for the standard Jewish half-shekel that was required for the Temple tax.  Part of the problem was that because the people had to use the shekel and because the moneychangers had positioned themselves in the Temple (this was the last opportunity for the people to exchange their money)…they were able to charge an excessive exchange rate.  The same problem existed with those who were selling the animals that were to be offered for sacrificial purposes (they had to be without blemish).  The passage that Jesus quotes is from Jeremiah 7:1-15.  There, Jeremiah is chastising the people for unacceptable worship.  They seemed to have no issue with living in a manner that was inconsistent with their religious teachings (Jer. 7:8-10, “abominations”) during their daily lives…and then bringing a sacrifice to the Temple, thinking that because of this one act they have been absolved of all of their sinful behavior.  They cried out, “We are delivered…”  But instead, God says, “I will cast you out of My sight…”.  So, while part of the problem was the presence of the moneychangers and those selling the animals for sacrifice…the greater problem that Jesus was confronting was the expectation that the people had when they came to the Temple…that by going through the motions of worship their sins would be absolved.  In a manner reminiscent of the words of Jeremiah, Jesus now casts them out of the Temple.  Someone has said, “The first-century merchants and moneychangers were in the temple, but they didn’t have the spirit of the temple.  The emphasis was on profit margin, not prayer meetings.  The priority had become financial transaction rather than spiritual transformation.” (Replenish, Lance Witt, pp. 142-143)

Matthew 21:14-17-The Pharisees are “indignant” (irritated, displeased) because the people were calling out to Jesus to save them…not just on the street corner, as before (:9)…but now, in the very Temple, itself.  A place where calls for salvation were to be directed towards God, and God, alone.  But instead of agreeing that it was an inappropriate behavior, Jesus says that it is acceptable because He deserves it and is worthy of it.  He admits that He had intentionally done things that elicited their praise.

Matthew 21:18-22-The fig tree, though having leaves, was barren, unproductive of fruit.  Normally, the leaves and fruit appear at the same time.  It had the appearance of being productive…but no fruit.  We shouldn’t become too caught up in the tree.  It is the visual aid for an object lesson…not the lesson, itself.  The lesson is on faith and prayer.  Jesus used the tree to illustrate this principle.  Mark 11 records this same incident.  The disciples see the tree the next day and ask Jesus about it.  He replies, “Have faith in God” (Mk. 11:22).  He tells them that if they have faith in God then not only will their prayers about small things (like the fig tree) be answered…but, even their prayers concerning large, huge matters (represented by the mountain) will be answered.  This is the second time (17:20) that Jesus has referenced moving a mountain by prayer.  Could both of these passages be telling us that faith is not something that I want and by an act of sheer will power cause to happen…but faith is knowing what God’s wants and agreeing with him and then seeing it happen?  This raises a number of legitimate questions.  Is faith an act of will power (not doubting myself)…or, is faith an acknowledgement of God’s power (not doubting Him)?  Do miracles happen because I decide to do something and I tap into God’s power to accomplish it?  Or, do they happen, and because I am in such close, constant communion with God I see what He is about to do, and I am simply the one who recognizes and announces it?  Or, is it a little of both?  Does God give me any room to initiate this process?  Would the fig tree have withered…if Jesus had not come by?  Perhaps the answer is that while God has a specific will in terms of the outcome…His will is more general in terms of the process.  God wants us to be involved in the process…not just robots that are hardwired to His decisions.  As we proceed through life, we make decisions that are based on God’s ultimate will for us to be holy and conformed to His image.  Those decisions are based on our knowledge and understanding of Who He is…and when we make them they are an act of faith in Him.  There may be more than one “right” choice…just as long as the choice we make is in keeping with His ultimate will.  God is then glorified because we have made a choice, a decision, that is a reflection of Him.  More so, than if He just pulled our chain and we reacted.  Just perhaps, God is most glorified, when His people make a choice of their will to have faith in Him.

Prayer:  Lord, all I know is that without faith…I can’t do anything.  Help me to have faith in You that directs my prayers, my decisions, and my life.

 

February 1

 

Matthew 21:23-46

 

The Preparation of the King                    Matthew 21:1-23:39, cont’d.

Matthew 21:23-27-The chief priests and elders want to know what “authority” gave Him the right to throw out the money changers in the Temple.  He refused to tell them…knowing that if He did so it would incite them further.  Instead, He said that He would respond to their question if they would first answer a question of His.  He used the popularity of John the Baptist with the common people to divert the attention from Himself, to them.

Matthew 21:28-32-Jesus tells a parable about two sons…at first, one was disobedient and the other obedient, then both changed their minds…the words “regretted” (:30) and “remorse” (:32) are the same Greek word…Jesus says that those who repent when they hear the message of salvation will enter into the “kingdom of God”.  He applies the message to the Pharisees…saying that because they have had no remorse over their sin they will not go to Heaven.

Matthew 21:33-46-Jesus tells a parable about a landowner who built a vineyard and rented it out to vine-growers.  When the harvest time came the landowner sent people to collect the produce, but the renters beat and killed each person he sent.  This parable is about Israel and the prophets.  God has sent many and yet they have not responded, therefore they will be judged.  Also, because of their rejection, the kingdom will be offered to others (Gentiles).  It is a parable about the Pharisees (Israel)…that says that the kingdom of God is not exclusively in their hands, their control…it will be taken from them and given to the church (1 Peter 2:9).  They understood this and it angered them.  Had it not been that the people thought that Jesus was a prophet they would have arrested Him, at that moment.

Prayer:  Lord, thank You for Jesus, my High Priest…who always carries my burdens on His shoulders, has my name on His heart, and makes my life acceptable to You as a living sacrifice.

 

February 2

 

Matthew 22:1-22

 

The Preparation of the King                    Matthew 21:1-23:39, cont’d.

Matthew 22:1-14-Jesus tells another parable.  This one explains that the kingdom of Heaven is offered to everyone (inclusive) who will come; but, there is only one way to enter (exclusive).  Notice the patience of the king (God).  Not just once, but two times He sends out an invitation to those invited.  Yet, both times they refuse to come.  Only those who come as He demands will be accepted…“many are called, but few are chosen” (22:14).  All of those who reject His invitation will be held accountable for their decision.  Notice why they rejected Him: indifference (:5), rebellion (:6), self-righteousness (:12-this man wanted to come to the wedding feast in his own chosen attire, not that which the king required and provided…he was rejected).  It is wonderful to realize that since most of those who are present would either not have had the time to acquire proper dress, attire, or, they could not have afforded it…it would have to have been provided by the king.  That is exactly what the Scripture teaches about Heaven.  None of us can provide what is necessary to enter by ourself, on our own.  So, the King provides it for us.

Matthew 22:15-22-The Pharisees and Herodians (Jewish leaders who supported the rule of Herod and were willing to pursue peace with Rome at any price) try to trick Jesus…concerning submitting to the government.  They posed a question concerning the Torah, Jewish sacred law…that on the surface seemed to position the Jewish people against the Roman government.  The question: Should Jews (who believe that the land they lived in belonged to God) pay a land tax to the Roman government…thus suggesting that it belonged to Rome?  If He said, “Yes,” then they would accuse Him of being disloyal to Judaism.  If He said, “No,” then they would accuse him of subversion against Rome.  Their error is that they thought it was an either-or answer.  Jesus explains to them that no matter what the answer, it would be wrong…because the question was wrong.  He explained that God had established government and that we are to recognize its purpose and support it.  This fact does not contradict our worship of God, but actually reinforces it because it shows that we are being submissive to Him through the agency that He has established to govern on earth.  So, we are to give to Caesar (government) what is necessary for it to fulfill its responsibilities.  And, we are to give worship to God, which ultimately surpasses and takes predominance over all other allegiances.  It is because of our commitment to God that we are the best citizens.

Prayer:  Lord, let me, my life be changed by the time that I spend in Your presence.  Such that, when I encounter other people…Your presence in me will be obvious to them.

 

February 3

 

Matthew 22:23-46

 

The Preparation of the King                    Matthew 21:1-23:39, cont’d.

Matthew 22:23-33-A group of Sadducees questioned Jesus concerning the resurrection.  They didn’t believe in the resurrection and they were trying to trick him by using a question that has a false premise.  Someone has jokingly said that they were called “Sadducees”, because they didn’t believe in the resurrection…so, they’re “sad…you…see”.  It may be corny, but I’ll bet that the next time you hear the word Sadducee you will remember that they didn’t believe in the resurrection.  The marriage law that they refer to is called “levirate marriage” (Deut. 25:5; from the Latin meaning “husband’s brother”).  Its purpose was prevent the extinction of the family name and lineage of the dead brother…thus keeping the inheritance and property within the family.  The Sadducees had concocted a fanciful story of a man who marries a woman, and then he dies.  Following the direction of this law…each successive brother then marries her and dies, as well.  Finally, she dies.  Their question then is: Which brother will she be married to in Heaven?  Remember, they don’t believe in Heaven…and yet, they try to use the reality of the resurrection as a trick question.  Jesus quickly corrects them on two points.  First, there is no marriage in Heaven.  So, it is not even a valid question.  And second, He corrects their misunderstanding about the reality of the resurrection.  To do so Jesus quotes an Old Testament passage (Exod. 3:6).  In this passage God is speaking to Moses and telling him of His eternal nature.  He would then tell Moses that His very name was a reminder of that fact.  Moses would ask God what His name is and God replied, “I AM WHO I AM”.  This is our English translation of the Hebrew word “YHWH”.  Initially, there were no vowels in written Hebrew.  Later, vowels were added to the Hebrew text of the Bible to clarify the meaning of words.

 

For an explanation of why, how, and when these vowels were added see:

http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Grammar/Unit_Two/Introduction/introduction.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niqqud; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hebrew_diacritics

 

In this case, “YHWH” became “Yahweh”.  Later again, the name “Yahweh” was transliterated into English as “Jehovah”.  “The inner meaning of Yahweh—“I am the One who is”—emphasizes God’s dynamic and active self-existence.” (Ryrie).  It speaks of His eternal nature.  When Jesus quotes this passage He isn’t saying that God was the God of Abraham, then Abraham died…and later, He was the God of Isaac, then Isaac died…then later, He was the God of Jacob.  Instead, He was telling them that even after they died, He continued to be their God…because death does not mean eradication, or obliteration.  Death is not an end to existence.  The spirit continues to live after the death of the body and one day the body itself will be raised (resurrection).  Jesus was not saying that God was their God consecutively, successively…one after the other.  But, He was their God concurrently…all at the same time (with the understanding of course that this occurred only after Jacob was alive…the spirit is not pre-existent).  His point is that this would not be possible…if there was no resurrection.  “God is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

Matthew 22:34-40-The Pharisees believed in the resurrection…but they had hoped that the Sadducees would do their dirty work for them.  When they were not successful, they tried to trick Jesus.  Their strategy was to ask Him which was the greatest commandment.  If Jesus had named any one of the 10 Commandments as being greater, having precedence over the others…then they would have accused Him of heresy for not holding to the authority of the others.  As if by elevating one, He was degrading the rest.  Jesus recognized their ploy and didn’t quote any of the 10 Commandments.  Instead, He combined two Old Testament passages that together summarized all of the Commandments.  Not only did they summarize all that the Law concerns, but they also summarized all that the Prophets had spoken of (from the need for holiness, to the responsibility for social concerns).  The first passage, Deut. 6:5, was part of the Shema, which was quoted by all Jews in their daily prayer.  The second part was from Lev. 19:18.  Deut. 6:5 establishes how we are to relate to God.  Lev. 19:18 is the natural result and extension of this relationship in regards to how we are to relate to other people.

Matthew 22:41-46-We can imagine that for just a moment there was a stunned silence.  Jesus had masterfully dismissed their attempt to trick Him, and at the same time had given an absolutely perfect and wonderful summation of the Law.  So, while they are standing there in bewilderment…Jesus goes on the offense and uses the Pharisees themselves to establish a theological foundation for the eternal existence of the Christ (the Greek translation of the Hebrew word “Messiah”).  Imagine, He turns to the Pharisees and says, “Listen guys, we’re all friends here, right?  As long as we’re having this little discussion, I have a question for you.”  He then asks the Pharisees whose “son” the Messiah was…in other words, whose ancestral lineage would the Messiah come through.  The correct answer, of course, was David…the Pharisees got that right.  They look around…pleased with themselves.  Little do they know, but Jesus is using the Pharisees to prove His point…even though they don’t realize it.  Whether they like the Pharisees, or not, the people recognize that they are the experts in Jewish theology.  Now, Jesus is asking them a theological question…and the people expect to receive an official, sanctioned answer.  What the Pharisees say will be in keeping with what is the correct teaching.  The crowd now listens with a sense of anticipation.  Jesus continues, “That presents something of a dilemma.  If the Messiah was a descendant of David (born after him), how could David, being led by the Spirit, refer to Him as his “Lord”?”  The point, is that in order for David to call the Messiah, Lord, then the Messiah would have to have existed at the same time as David.  The Scripture passage that Jesus is referring to is Psalm 110:1.  They did not understand it at the time…but the Pharisees had just been used as a pawn by Jesus to teach something concerning Himself as the Messiah.  He was establishing the ancestral lineage of the Messiah as being through David…and such, was Jesus.  But He was also establishing the fact that the Messiah existed at the time as David…meaning that He was eternal.  There is only One Who is eternal…God.  This logical conclusion that would later dawn on them was that Jesus was not only making claim to being the Messiah (by virtue of His ancestral lineage); but, that as such, He was also claiming to be God…eternal God, the one and only God (by virtue of the Messiah’s eternal existence).  They were dumfounded.  They, themselves, had just verified a doctrinal truth that they, themselves, would have immediately denied and attacked if Jesus had said the same thing.  The logic was too much for them to argue with.  They had learned a valuable lesson…you don’t debate with Jesus!  You’re going to lose, every time (:46).

Prayer:  Lord, thank You for the promise of the resurrection…that one day we will live in Your presence in Heaven for all of eternity.  Please help me to live now in light of Heaven.  To live as if I was already there.  Help me to live in a manner that is in keeping with the great commandment.

 

February 4

 

Matthew 23:1-22

 

The Preparation of the King                    Matthew 21:1-23:39, cont’d.

Matthew 23:1-2-Jesus now addresses the people who have been watching this scene unfold.  He tells them that the scribes and Pharisees have taken upon themselves the right to interpret and apply the Law (“seated themselves in the chair of Moses”, see Exod. 18:13).

Matthew 23:2-7-He tells them that as the Pharisees teach, they should keep the Law of God.  However, not in the manner which the Pharisees tell them to keep it.  He gives three reasons.  Because the Pharisees: 1.-require things of others that they don’t require of themselves (:3); 2.-are unwilling to help others in their attempts (:4); 3.-do what they do, not for the glory of God, but for the recognition of other people (:5-7).

 

phylacteries.  A phylactery was a square letter box which contained four strips of parchment on which were written Deuteronomy 11:13-21, Deuteronomy 6:4-9, Exodus 13:11-16, and Exodus 13 1-10. During prayer one was worn on the forehead between the eyebrows and another on the left arm close to the elbow.  They were held in place by leather bands, which the Pharisees made broad to attract more attention to themselves. The custom was based on Exodus 13:9, 16; Deuteronomy 6:8; 11:18, though phylacteries had only begun to be used by the ultra-pious in Christ’s day.  Christ criticizes not the custom itself but the spirit that corrupted it.  lengthen the tassels of their garments. A hem or fringe on a garment was placed there in accordance with Numbers 15:38, but the Pharisees made theirs unnecessarily wide.” (Ryrie)

 

Matthew 23:8-12-Jesus tells them to not follow the behavior of the Pharisees (cf. :3)…because it reveals a serious misunderstanding of what it means to be great in the eyes of God (:11).  The Pharisees thought that greatness was for other people to serve them (as is seen in their being exalted over others and being called “Rabbi, father, and leader”).  Jesus says that true greatness is seen in the person who is a servant to other people.  Jesus tells the people not to seek to be called “Rabbi” (23:8), or “father” (23:9), or “leaders” (23:10)…but to be a servant.  There is also the thought here that no one is to receive a special rank, or status that elevates them (23:12-“exalts himself”) authoritatively in spiritual matters above anyone else.

Matthew 23:13-36-Woe to the Pharisees

Jesus now expands on what He had said concerning how the Pharisees demanded things of other people that they did not demand of themselves.  Eight times He pronounces “woe” over the scribes and Pharisees (many manuscripts omit verse 14…there would then only be 7).  The word “woe” is a pronouncement of judgment…”You will be judged because…”

Matthew 23:13-22-Woe to the Pharisees because (#1-4)…

Matthew 23:13-they prevent others from entering the kingdom of heaven by telling people to follow them…when in reality, they themselves are not going to Heaven;

Matthew 23:14-they use their authoritative positions to manipulate widows into giving them their estates;

Matthew 23:15-they will do anything to make a proselyte (someone who converts from paganism to Judaism), and yet when someone does convert, they are not truly brought into the kingdom;

Matthew 23:16-22-they swear, make oaths to different things thinking that there are different levels of truth and integrity (see explanation of Matthew 5:33-37).

Prayer:  Lord, help me to be a servant.  Keep me from elevating myself over others.

 

February 5

Matthew 23:23-39

 

For an interesting paraphrase of the Gospels read, “The Cotton Patch Gospel—Matthew”, by Clarence Jordan.

(http://hopefaithprayer.com/scriptures/cotton-patch-gospel-matthew-clarence-jordan/)

 

The Preparation of the King                    Matthew 21:1-23:39, cont’d.

Matthew 23:23-36 Woe to the Pharisees because (cont’d, #5-8)…

Matthew 23:23-24-The Pharisees go to great lengths to do some things (the minutiae, the matters that give them the appearance of being radically devoted to the letter of their teachings and make the Law work in their behalf)…but completely fail to do the important things (those things which involve people and making the Law work in their behalf).  Jesus pictures them sitting at a table in total concentration as they count out the number of seeds they have so that they can tithe the exact amount that the Law requires.  And in the meantime, they are totally unaware (because they are distracted by meeting their own needs) that their preoccupation with themselves has become more important than extending justice and mercy and faithfulness to other people.  They are using people for their own benefit…instead of being a benefit to other people.  Is it possible that we can be so religious that we are of no value, no good, no help to other people?  Is that what God intended?  No.

Matthew 23:25-26-The Pharisees appear to be perfect on the outside, but neglect the inside, their heart.  The insinuation is that while they appear to have control because of how they present themselves to others, they are actually out of control because they are “full” (controlled) by “robbery” (their use of their position to take from others to provide for themselves) and “self-indulgence” (lack of strength, self-control…their desires control them).

Matthew 23:27-28-They appear to be righteous to those who see them, but their problem is that they are dead, spiritually dead.

Matthew 23:29-36-They claim that if they had been alive in the days of the prophets they would not have killed them…in fact, they build monuments to their memory.  But in reality, they are just like their ancestors.  Jesus says that their guilt will be even greater because they condemn the actions of their ancestors (agreeing that it was wrong) and then they turn right around and do the same thing to the prophets, and wise men, and scribes that are sent to them.

 

“Zechariah, the son of Berechiah.  This murder is recorded in 2 Chron. 24:20-22.  Berechiah was likely the father of Zechariah, while the famous Jehoiada was his grandfather.  This is not the prophet Zechariah (though his father was also named Berechiah).  Since Abel’s death is recorded in Genesis, and since 2 Chronicles is the last book in the Hebrew Bible (the books of the Old Testament are arranged in a different order in the Hebrew Bible than how they are arranged in the Christian Bible), Christ was saying, in effect, “from the first to the last murder in the Bible.”  See Luke 11:51.” (Ryrie-modified)

 

Matthew 23:37-38-Jesus says that it has been His desire for Jerusalem (the Jews) to come to Him so that He might care for them as a mother hen cares for her brood…but they have been unwilling to do so.  As a result…they will be unprotected when the enemy comes.

Matthew 23:39-Jesus declares that He will no longer teach publicly…and that they will no longer hear from Him until the day of the Second Coming.

Prayer:  Lord, don’t let me deceive myself.  Show me who I really am through Your eyes.  Don’t let me just have the appearance of righteousness, and goodness, and love…but help me to truly be those things.  Fill me throughout with Your Spirit.

 

February 6

 

Matthew 24:1-22

 

The Predictions of the King                     Matthew 24:1-25:46

Matthew 24:1-2-Jesus and the disciples leave the Temple area.  Herod the Great began building the Temple in 20 B.C. and it was finished in 64 A.D.  Huge stones 10-12 feet in length would have been plainly visible.  Even as they are being used for the construction of the Temple, Jesus says that they will be destroyed.

Matthew 24:3-Jesus and the disciples make their way out of the city gate, across the Kidron Valley, and up onto the Mount of Olives.  From there, they would have a clear view of the Temple area.  While they were sitting there, in response to Jesus saying that the Temple would be destroyed…the disciples ask Him: #1.-“when will these things be”; and, #2.-“what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age”.  He responds by answering only question #2.  He reverses the order of the question and speaks of the signs of the end of the age in 24:4-28 (vv. 4-14 deal with the first half of the tribulation period, while vv. 15-28 deal with the second half) and answers “what will be the sign of Your coming” in 24:29-25:30 (24:29-31 is the Sign of His coming, 24:32-35 is an Illustration of His coming, and 24:36-25:30 are Six Admonitions on How We Should Live Based on His Coming).

Matthew 24:4-14-this is a description of the first half of the Tribulation period (cf. Rev. 6:1-8).  He tells them: 1. don’t be misled…many false Christ’s will come; 2. don’t be afraid…many wars will come, along with natural disasters…these are the “birth pangs”.  3. Then…you will be attacked for following Jesus…and many will fall away (and even turn against those who don’t join along with them…out of hate).  Many will be led away by false prophets.  Lawlessness will be so prevalent that people will lose the ability to love…because they will be like animals and know nothing but the raw, unrestrained instinct to survive.  4. But regardless of all these things…the Gospel will continue to be proclaimed throughout the entire world.  Then…the end will come.

Matthew 24:15-28-Then, when you see the “abomination of desolation”…this is speaking of the Antichrist (“the man of sin”, 2 Thes. 2:4) when he stands in the Temple in Jerusalem and demands to be worshipped.  He had previously made a covenant with the Jewish people at the beginning of the Tribulation period (Dan. 9:27)…but now he breaks it.  It signifies the beginning of the second half of the Tribulation…”the great tribulation” (24:21), when many will be martyred.  That is the reason for the urgency that is conveyed in vv. 16-22.  There will be people saved during the Tribulation period (“the elect”, :22).  But because of the intensity of the persecution, especially during the second half of the Tribulation, it will become more and more difficult for people to make that decision.

Prayer:  Father, I believe that You are absolutely sovereign and despite whatever may happen in my life, or in the world around me…You are in control.  You not only know the past…but, You are in control of the future.  That includes my future.  So please Lord, help me to trust You with each day…the challenges, the decisions, the opportunities and the oppositions, the temptations, the struggles, the thoughts, the people, the joys…everything that I face.  Help me to be constantly aware that there is nothing that surprises You and that there is nothing that can overwhelm You.  Keep me strong in my faith in You.

 

February 7

 

Matthew 24:23-51

 

The Predictions of the King                     Matthew 24:1-25:46, cont’d.

Matthew 24:23-28-Strange enough, there will be many false Christ’s and false prophets on the scene during this time.  People who claim to have the answer for all that is happening…even performing miracles that seem to substantiate their claims.  But pay no attention to them.  There will be no mistaking it when Jesus returns…He will not rise up from among the people of the earth, but He will descend in His glory and power from Heaven.

Matthew 24:29-25:30-Jesus now answers the first half of the disciples’ question: “what will be the sign of Your coming” (24:3).

The Sign of His Coming (24:29-31)

This refers to the end of the 7 years of Tribulation…His second coming (return) to the earth.  There will be an astral sign that will announce His coming (cf. Isa. 13:9-10; Joel 2:31; 3:15).  He will literally, visibly come back (Rev. 1:7).  At this point, all those who are believers on the earth will be gathered to Him.

The Illustration of His Coming (24:32-35)

Matthew 24:32-35-The parable of the fig tree.

Jesus tells a parable about a fig tree to illustrate that in the same way that the fig tree shows signs that tell you that summer is near, these signs tell us that His coming is near.  The words, “this generation” are obviously not speaking of the people that Jesus was addressing that day (the disciples).  It could be speaking of the Jewish race (the word “generation” can mean “people, family, or race”); or, it could be speaking of those that would actually see those signs in the future, during the end of the Tribulation (the generation that will be alive during the Tribulation period…again this would be speaking of the immanence of His coming and the rapid conclusion of the events that would then transpire).  Jesus then tells His disciples that no matter what may happen in the near future (specifically referring to His crucifixion)…nothing would change concerning what He is telling them about the future.  Everything else may change…it may appear that the world has fallen apart (because they do not yet understand all that He is teaching them).  But God’s Word is absolute, final, conclusive, and unchangeable.  Ultimately, history will unfold exactly as He had told them it would.

Six Admonitions on How We Should Live Based on His Coming (24:36-25:30)

Here Jesus refers back to the time of His coming that disciples had asked about (24:3).  Again, He does not give any specific date.  In fact, He says that no one but the Father knows the date (24:36,42; 25:13).  However, He does give 6 admonitions concerning how we are to live a life of preparedness, and of readiness for the time of His coming.  Always be ready for His coming.

1.-Matthew 24:36-39-Don’t allow the pleasures of the world to distract you.

2.-Matthew 24:40-41-Don’t allow the daily routines (the regimen and requirements) of life to distract you.

3.-Matthew 24:42-44-Don’t allow the uncertainty of the time of His coming to distract you.

4.-Matthew 24:45-51-Don’t allow the lengthy delay of His coming to distract you.

Prayer:  Lord, help me to offer my life daily as a living sacrifice to You…always ready for Your coming.

 

February 8

 

Matthew 25:1-30

The Predictions of the King                     Matthew 24:1-25:46, cont’d.

Six Admonitions based on His Coming (24:36-25:30), cont’d.

5.-Matthew 25:1-13-Don’t allow your association with others to distract you (depending on them to provide what only you are supposed to do).

6.-Matthew 25:14-30-Don’t allow your presumptions about God (that He’s not going to judge and hold people accountable…that you can choose on your own what to do with your life) to distract you.

Prayer: Lord, it is so easy to get caught up in life and become distracted…to not always be conscious of Your coming.  Please, help me to live my life, to make my decisions, to give value to things…based on the reality that You are coming again.

 

February 9

 

Matthew 25:31-46

 

The Predictions of the King                     Matthew 24:1-25:46, cont’d.

Matthew 25:31-46-Now, Jesus gives 6 specific examples of how we are to live a life of being prepared, of readiness for His coming…it is a life spent in serving Him by serving others (daily, continually)…

  1. hungry-who do I know that needs food?
  2. thirsty-who do I know that needs drink?
  3. stranger-who do I know that doesn’t have a place to stay, shelter, lodging?
  4. naked-who do I know that needs clothing, the basics for life?
  5. sick-who do I know that is elderly, unable to work, hospitalized, homebound?
  6. prison-who do I know that is being unjustly persecuted for their faith?

 

least

“least,” is a superlative degree formed from the word elachus, “little,” the place of which was taken by mikros (the comparative degree being elasson, “less”); it is used of

(a) size, Jam 3:4;

(b) amount; of the management of affairs, Luk 16:10 (twice); 19:17, “very little;”

(c) importance, 1Cr 6:2, “smallest (matters);”

(d) authority: of commandments, Mat 5:19;

(e) estimation, as to persons, Mat 5:19 (2nd part); 25:40, 45; 1Cr 15:9; as to a town, Mat 2:6; as to activities or operations, Luk 12:26; 1Cr 4:3, “a very small thing.”

(http://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G1646&t=NASB, Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words)

 

When Jesus tells us that we are to do these things “to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them” (:40), He is telling us to not just stay within our normal circles, but in a sense to start with those that are most depressed (socially, physically, economically, etc.) and to work out from there.  Not to look around ourselves and see no one and stop at that point.  But to be conscious of everyone.  If we aren’t careful, we will only look at those who already have, who are already cared for…and think that there is nothing that we are capable of doing.  As someone has said, “There is always someone who is worse off than you are.”  Go, find that person, and meet their need in the name of Jesus.  Second, He is also telling us to serve those who cannot serve us back, who cannot give us anything in return.  Our convictions about God translate into our concern for others…our belief about God, affects our behavior towards people.  This is the evidence, the proof that He will find that will identify those that are His.

The distinguishing characteristic between those who will enter the kingdom and those who will not is what they have been doing prior to the time of His coming.  Have you been distracted by other things, ultimately unimportant things in light of His coming…or, has His coming guided and directed your life, day by day?

Notice the destinations of the two different groups:

  • those who are “blessed” (:34) and that of those who are “accursed” (:41) both go to a place that is eternal (:46);
  • those who are blessed are told to “come” (:34), to be where He is…but those who are accursed are told to “depart” (:41) from Him, to be where He is not;
  • the blessed will go to a “kingdom” that was prepared especially for them…but the accursed will go to a place of “fire” prepared for the devil (Greek: diabolos) and his angels (:41), a place of punishment (:46).

Prayer:  Lord, please show me how to serve You by serving others.  So often, I fail to see the needs of those right around me…and how I can help them.  I know of people who have problems…but I don’t know what to do, how I can help.  Please don’t let me be callous to others…but to have Your heart of compassion.  And Father, please help me to share the Gospel with them.  Lord, please save them.  Don’t allow my loved ones and friends to be eternally lost and separated from You.

 

February 10

 

Matthew 26:1-19

 

For a visual presentation of the order of the events that took place during the last week of the life of Jesus consult the following website (A Time Line of the Passion Week):

http://www.jesus.org/death-and-resurrection/holy-week-and-passion/a-time-line-of-the-passion-week.html

 

The Rejection of the King                         Matthew 26:1-27:66

Matthew 26:1-5-The events record here occurred on Wednesday.  Passover (began on Thursday) was the ancient Jewish event that commemorated the deliverance of the Hebrew people from Egypt during the days of Moses (Exod. 12).  It was followed by a seven day festival called the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  While they were two separate events…they were celebrated one immediately after the other and were often referred to together as the Passover.  Jesus makes it absolutely clear that He is about to be turned over to the Jewish authorities and crucified.  The authorities were already plotting their scheme and decided to wait until after Passover out of fear of the people rioting.  Caiaphas was the high priest (from A.D. 18-36, he was the son-in-law of Annas).

Matthew 26:6-13-Jesus is staying in the home of Simon the leper (we know nothing else of him) in Bethany.  A woman brings a vial of very expensive perfume and pours it over Jesus’ head.  Mark (14:5) says it was worth 300 denarii…approximate to a year’s salary for a rural worker (Ryrie).  John identifies this woman as Mary (12:3).  She evidently believed what Jesus had said about His upcoming death and burial…and was preparing Him for it.  The disciples thought that it was a waste of money that could have been used to feed the poor.  Jesus’ response is not to be taken as being callous or unconcerned about the poor.  In fact, He says that they will always have ample opportunities to help them.  But, they will never again have the opportunity to do what she has just done for Him…she is preparing Him for burial.  This woman will be remembered for what she has done as long as the gospel is preached.

Matthew 26:14-16-Could this have been the final breaking point for Judas…what he thought to be the wastefulness of something so valuable?  He now goes to the chief priests and cuts a deal to turn Jesus over to them for “30 pieces of silver” (The specific value of the coinage is not given.  If it was a denarius it was worth about five week’s of wages, but it could have been worth much more.).

Matthew 26:17-19-Jesus directs the disciples to go to Jerusalem and find a man that He identifies for them.  They are to tell him that Jesus wants to use his home as a place to celebrate the Passover with His disciples.

Prayer:  Lord, help me to see the real significance and value and meaning of life and the things that we have.  Help me to be like Mary…and not like Judas.  Help me to understand what You are saying (and keep me from being so caught up in the material world, in the flesh) and to see Your meaning and truth for my life.  Lord, sometimes it is easy to be caught up in the traffic and the flow of life…to be moving so quickly and to have so much going on…that I fear that I may completely miss something that You are trying to show me.  It isn’t that I am intentionally ignoring You.  It’s just that life seems to be so demanding and immediate that I get caught up in it…busy, trying to do the right thing, taking care of business…and without realizing it I have slipped away from You.  Please forgive me, Lord.  Draw me back, close to You.

 

February 11

 

Matthew 26:20-54

 

The Rejection of the King                         Matthew 26:1-27:66, cont’d.

Matthew 26:20-30-The Passover Celebration and the institution of The Lord’s Supper (Communion)

 

The order of events that night:

  1. Eating of the Passover meal
  2. Washing the disciples feet (John 13:1-20)
  3. Identification of Judas as the one who would betray Jesus and his leaving the home (Matthew 26:21-25; John 13:21-30)
  4. Institution of the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:26-29)
  5. Messages there in the Upper Room (John 14)
  6. They leave the home and proceed to the Garden of Gethsemane…Jesus continues to teach along the way (John 15-16).

For a map showing these locations see:

http://www.bible-history.com/map_jesus/MAPJESUSMap_of_the_Last_Passover_and_Dea.htm

  1. Christ’s great prayer (called the High Priestly Prayer) for His followers (John 17)
  2. Christ’s agony and suffering in the Garden (Matthew 26:36-46)
  3. The betrayal and arrest of Jesus (Matthew 26:47-56)

 

Matthew 26:21-25-Jesus reveals that one of the disciples was going to betray Him.  The disciples were “deeply grieved” (means “sorrowful”).  When they responded, were the disciples concerned that they might be the one to betray Him?  Or, were they trying to reassure Jesus that they wouldn’t do it?  Jesus identifies who the one is that will betray Him by giving him a piece of bread…it is Judas.  But Judas quickly contradicts Him…”No, not me, Rabbi!  You’re mistaken.”  Was Judas trying to cover his tracks.  Or, did Judas actually believe that what he was doing was not a betrayal of Jesus; but instead, it was his attempt to force Jesus to become the Messiah that he had anticipated…one who would revolt against the Romans and become an earthly king?  Does Jesus’ response to Judas mean that He is aware of what was said in verses 14-16?  Is this what Jesus means by “You have said it yourself”?  The Gospel of John tells us that Jesus then told Judas to go and do what he has planned (John 13:21-30).

Matthew 26:26-Jesus now institutes the Lord’s Supper (Communion).  For thousands of years the Jews had been celebrating the Passover, but had never understood its full and final significance.  Here, Jesus makes it clear that He is its fulfillment.

 

For a further explanation of the historical significance of the Passover for the Jews and its symbolism for Christians see:

http://www.zionshope.org/zionsfire/articles/spring_feasts.html (Israel’s Spring Feasts, Marv Rosenthal)

http://www.jewsforjesus.org/judaica/resources/passover-symbols

http://www.chosenpeople.com/main/resources/videos, Messiah in the Passover

 

Matthew 26:27-28-In Leviticus, the Hebrews were commanded to never drink the blood of an animal.  And yet here, Jesus tells them to drink His blood.  Why?  Because the blood represented the very life of the animal (Leviticus 17:11).  In this case, the blood represented the life of Jesus.  His provision of eternal life was accomplished by His giving His life in their behalf.  The drinking of the wine symbolically represented their receiving His blood, His life.  The question is often asked, “Did Jesus literally mean that the bread and the wine became His body?”  The answer is, “No, He was using these two elements in a figurative, symbolic manner.”

For a further explanation visit this website:

http://carm.org/transubstantiation.

 

Matthew 26:29-30-Jesus says that He will not sit down and drink with them again until they dine together in the future millennial kingdom.  They sang a song and then continued to the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives.

Matthew 26:31-32-Jesus predicts that the disciples will desert Him.  He knew and understood human nature.  He knew what was going to happen…that the threat made towards Him would become a threat towards them, as well.  They would run for their lives…and abandon Him.  And yet, He still loved them…and He still asked them to be by His side.  He never gave up on them.  Later, they would remember what may have been the most important words that He spoke that night, “after I have been raised.”  It was His prediction, His promise…that despite everything that was about to happen…there was nothing that would happen that He had not been previously aware of, and prepared for.  But, for the disciples in particular, these words were words of comfort and forgiveness.  He is telling them now, beforehand, that they will forsake Him, and abandon Him in His most desperate hour of need…that He would die…but, that He would be “raised”.  Then, listen to these next words…”I will go before you to Galilee.”  It’s an invitation, a summons.  When He says, “go before you,” it means that He will go, and then they will join Him.  Jesus is telling His disciples, “After this has happened…after I have been killed…after you have abandoned Me…I will come back…and I want you to meet Me in Galilee.”  At that moment the words probably did not resonate much with them.  But later, when the angel would speak with the women at His burial tomb, and then Jesus Himself spoke with them as they raced back to the disciples…they were reminded of these very words (Matthew 28:7,10; Mk. 16:7).  It would only be then, when they were grieving over the fact that they had abandoned Him…that the women would return from the empty tomb and repeat His words, “Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they shall see Me”…that they would realize that He had forgiven them, before they had ever abandoned Him.  He knew all along what they would do.  And yet, He had told them ahead of time…that He forgave them.  He was making it clear, that as bad as they felt, there was nothing that they had to do to deserve His forgiveness.  It was His choice, His decision…His gift to them.

Have you ever felt that you had been so bad, done something so wrong, forsaken Him so much…that there was nothing that you could ever do to deserve His forgiveness?  You were right…there is nothing that you can do to deserve His forgiveness.  But that’s where His grace comes in.  That’s why it is called grace.  Someone has said, “Justice is when you get what you deserve.  Mercy is when you don’t get what you deserve.  Grace is when you get what you don’t deserve!”  He gives grace to those who don’t deserve it and cannot earn it.  Maybe you need to leave behind your grief…and go to Jesus and His grace.

Matthew 26:33-Peter says he will never desert Him. Give him credit…when the moment came…while his method was wrong (he attacked a servant, not a soldier…with a sword), his heart was in the right place.  However, afterward…after all of his bravado before this gang…he would melt into lies when confronted by a servant girl.

Matthew 26:34-Jesus says that Peter will desert Him that very night.

Matthew 26:35-Peter again says he will not desert Him and the rest of the disciples agreed that they would not, either.

Matthew 26:36-51-The Garden of Gethsemane (“Gethsemane” means “oil press”).  Jesus had come to the time of His Gethsemane…the time when His very life would be pressed out of Him.

Matthew 26:36-46-Three times Jesus goes off alone to pray.  He prayed: that the Father would find another way to accomplish His purpose; that the Father’s will would be done; and, that He would not give in to temptation.

Notice the intensity of the emotional suffering of Jesus (:37-38; Luke 22:42-44-He sweat drops of blood…a medical condition called “hemahidrosis”, cf. https://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=11&article=1086).  This was not the cross, His suffering for the sins of the world…this was Gethsemane, His suffering for His own life, His struggling with events in His own life and what He knew they were leading to.  No wonder the author of Hebrews says that our Savior was “made perfect” (Hebrews 2:10; 5:8-9) through His experiences in His earthly life.

Jesus took His friends with Him to provide moral and spiritual support.  However, Peter, James and John kept falling asleep.  They had previously expressed such great intentions (26:33-35).  But now, when the moment had come, they didn’t have the physical stamina (or perhaps the spiritual discernment of what was about to happen) to even stay awake.  Great intentions are only that and nothing more…if they fall asleep when they are called upon.  How many times, desperate times, Gethsemane times…have you looked for people to stand up for you, hoped that people would stand beside you…friends, trusted friends that you knew cared for you…and yet, for any number of reasons, when you needed them, they weren’t there.  Good intentions do little good.

It’s amazing!  In the middle of all of this (Luke 22:49-51; John 18:10)…Peter swings wildly with his sword at the man standing perhaps closest to him and cuts off his ear (great aim!).  And Jesus, Who only moments before had felt so intensely the pain of the sword that was already piercing His own heart…reached down, gently touched the side of the wounded man’s face…and healed him.  He never, ever lost sight…of what He was there for.  No matter what the circumstances…no matter Gethsemane.

The prayers of Jesus while here in Gethsemane deserve our close attention (:39,42,44).  Notice that Jesus prayed that He would not have to go through the suffering that He knew lay ahead of Him…”My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me…” (:39).  Jesus knew full well what would happen in the hours to come…the physical agony, pain, and suffering that would be inflicted on His body and mind.  But, He was also aware of the sheer spiritual torment that He would face when the entirety of the sins of the world (all of history, all of mankind) were poured into Him on the cross…the totality of depravity, corruptness, and immorality…poured at once into the perfect, pure, chaste vessel of His body…on the cross.  ”My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me…”  This was the desire of the man, Jesus.  All that was human.  This was His prayer.  “Father, please, don’t let this happen!”  And yet, Jesus knew that His prayer could not be answered.  He must go to the cross…in order to pay the price for sin.  So, He continues, “…yet, not as I will, but as Thou wilt.”  Now, stop and think…Jesus offered a prayer that He knew was not the will of the Father.  And yet, it was not a sin to do so.  Scripture makes it absolutely clear that Jesus never sinned.  How could Jesus pray in this manner and it not be sinful to do so?  Because while Jesus was being completely transparent with the Father concerning what He was thinking and asking for…He none-the-less submitted His will to the will of the Father.  Of course, in all of His humanity, He did not want to suffer.  But, as the Son of God, He knew that He must suffer in order to pay the price for our sin, so He willingly submitted Himself to the Father’s will.  Here is the lesson for us.  Be honest and open with God about what you are feeling and what you desire.  Tell it all to Him, without any window dressing, or trying to word it in a way that you think would make it sound right.  Just tell God what is on your heart.  Then, submit it to Him for His correction and for His will to be done.  Don’t try to fool God.  Be honest about what is going on, what is bothering you, what you want to happen.  Start at that point.  Then, finish as Jesus finished.  Be willing to allow God to direct your prayer in such a way that you will come to a better understanding of His will…and submit yourself to Him.

Matthew 26:47-54-When Judas arrives with the soldiers to capture Jesus Peter jumps to His rescue.  Jesus tells him to put away his sword…if He desired He could call to His Father and He would send twelve legions of angels to His rescue (a Roman legion varied in number from 3,000-6,000).  Jesus explains that this was necessary…in order to fulfill what the Scripture said must be done to provide salvation.  All of the disciples ran away.

 

Here is an interesting opinion on why Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss, instead of just pointing Him out to the soldiers.

 

I’ve been reading a new book titled Pseudo-Cyril of Jerusalem “On the Life and the Passion of Christ”: A Coptic Apocryphon by the Dutch scholar Roelof van den Broek.1 In case it has escaped your attention, it provides a new translation of an eighth-century Gnostic gospel in Coptic from Egypt that has been in the Morgan Library in New York since 1908, a gift of J.P. Morgan.

This text explains why Judas Iscariot identified Jesus with a kiss so that the Roman soldiers could arrest him, as related in three canonical gospels (Matthew 26:48; Mark 14:44; Luke 22:47). According to this late Gnostic gospel, that was the only way the Roman soldiers could be sure they had the right man. The reason was that Jesus could change his features:

“How shall we arrest him,” the Jews ask, “for he does not have a single shape, but his appearance changes. Sometimes he is ruddy, sometimes he is white, sometimes he is red, sometimes he is wheat-colored, sometimes he is pallid like ascetics, sometimes he is a youth, sometimes an old man, sometimes his hair is straight and black, sometimes it is curled, sometimes he is tall, sometimes he is short.” They “have never seen him in one and the same appearance.”

Jesus could also become completely incorporeal. Jesus explains that, if he wished, he could escape crucifixion in this way. The idea of a shape-changing Jesus is not new. It goes back as far as Origen in the third century. According to Origen, Jesus would appear differently to people who saw him at the same time.

Van den Broek is careful to note that he is not suggesting that Jesus was in fact shape changing but only that some people in early Christian times may have thought he was.

(Biblical Archaeology Review, Why Did Jesus Identify Jesus with a Kiss?, Jan/Feb 2014, p. 6)

 

Prayer:  Lord, when I come to my “Gethsemane” help me to pray for Your will to be done, regardless of the cost.  Please help me by giving me some faithful friends…that I can depend upon…that will come alongside me.  Help me to be faithful to what You are accomplishing in and through my life…and not give in to the temptation to run away, to take a different, easier route.  Help me to not allow my own problems to keep me from continuing to serve You…by serving others.  And Lord, when others are in the midst of their “Gethsemane”…please, don’t let me fall asleep on them.  Help me to be there for them and to be a faithful, dependable, and true friend.

 

February 12

 

Matthew 26:55-75

 

The Rejection of the King                         Matthew 26:1-27:66, cont’d.

Matthew 26:55-56-Jesus makes it clear that what is happening is not a mistake, or out of His control…but, that it is all happening just as the Scripture had said it would.  The disciples fled.

The Order of the 5 Trials of Jesus (a compilation from the Gospels)

Trial #1-before Annas

John tells us that before He was brought before Caiaphas, He was brought before Annas (John 18:12-14,19-23), the retired High Priest.

Trial #2-before Caiaphas

(Matthew 26:57-68; 27:1) and the Sanhedrin (the Jewish High Council, or Court).  They try to find false witnesses to testify against Him…many came forward, but none could be confirmed…

Accusation #1: Finally, two came forward who said that they had heard Jesus say that He would destroy the temple…they question Him about this, but He remains silent (Matthew 26:60-63).

Accusation #2: Next, they question Him about His being the Christ…He tells them that they have said so correctly…the High Priest accuses Him of blasphemy and He is declared worthy of death…they began to beat Him (Matthew 26:63-68).

Peter had followed them into the courtyard of the high priest.  Three times he denies Christ…

Denial #1: A servant-girl in the courtyard.

Matthew 26:69-“You too were with Jesus the Galilean.”

Matthew 26:70-“But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.”

Denial #2: Another servant girl saw him and said to those who were there…

Matthew 26:71-“This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.”

Matthew 26:72-“And again he denied it with an oath, ‘I do not know the man.'”

Denial #3: Bystanders came up…

Matthew 26:73-“Surely you too are one of them; for the way you talk gives you away.”

Matthew 26:74-“Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know the man”

Matthew 26:74-75-a rooster crows and Peter remembers what Jesus had said about denying Him…“he went out and wept bitterly”

Trial #3-before Pilate…the first time (Matthew 27:2,11-14)

Trial #4-before Herod (Luke 23:6-12)

Trial #5-before Pilate…the second time (Matthew 27:15-26)

Prayer:  Lord, it is easy to sit here in my comfortable study and to be harsh towards Peter.  But the fact is, he was the only disciple to fight back in the Garden of Gethsemane.  And now, I find that he is one of only two (John was also there…John 18:15-16) to follow Jesus to His trial before Caiaphas.  Throughout his time with Jesus, Peter seemed to be among the most vocal, the most prominent, the quickest to respond.  It seemed to be a part of his very character to be ready and willing to jump first.  Now here, he again is risking himself to be beside Jesus.  I know that he fails, and fails terribly.  Perhaps it was because he was trying to do the right thing in the wrong way…in his own strength and determination.  But he tried…when others, in their own strength and determination ran away.  Lord, I want to be filled and led by Your Spirit…I don’t want to live in the flesh.  But Lord…even I were to live in my own strength…I would rather be at fault to have run to You, than to have run away from You.  So help me, Lord…to live in Your Spirit and to constantly be running to You.

 

February 13

 

Matthew 27:1-31

 

The Rejection of the King                         Matthew 26:1-27:66, cont’d.

The Order of the 5 Trials of Jesus (a compilation from the Gospels), cont’d.

Trial #1-before Annas

Trial #2-before Caiaphas

Matthew 27:1-The decision of the Sanhedrin (Council) to put Jesus to death.

Matthew 27:3-5-When Judas realizes that Jesus is going to be killed he feels “remorse” (cf. Acts 1:16-20).  He goes to the Sanhedrin to try to persuade them to take back the money and not kill Jesus…but they refuse.  Judas then goes out and hangs himself.  The money was used to buy a graveyard for strangers (Potter’s Field…a place where potters dug clay for making pottery vessels).  Some believe that this suggests (27:3) that because Judas tried to return the money when he saw that Jesus had been “condemned”, there is the possibility that he had not wanted him to die, but was trying to force Jesus’ hand to move forward with a political agenda, or to declare Himself to be the Messiah…but that he had not intended for Him to die.

Trial #3-before Pilate…the first time (Matthew 27:2,11-14)

Pilate’s headquarters were in Caesarea, the city that Herod had built on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in honor of Caesar Augustus.  He had a palace located in Jerusalem and was there during the Passover…anticipating that there would be large crowds present and that there could be trouble.

 

(Ryrie) “Pilate was the Roman prefect or governor of Judea (usually referred to as procurator), to which position he was appointed by Tiberius in A.D. 26.  He was in charge of the army of occupation, kept the taxes flowing to Rome, had power of life and death over his subjects, appointed the high priests, and decided cases involving capital punishment.  He was a capricious, weak governor who let personal and political considerations outweigh his awareness that justice was not being done in Jesus’ case.  He did not want another report to get to Rome that he had offended Jewish customs or could not control a situation—charges against him made to Tiberius earlier.”

 

Matthew 27:11-Pilate asks Jesus, “Are You the King of the Jews?”  Jesus responds directly, “It is as you say.”  However, He did not answer the accusations of the chief priests and elders.

Trial #4-before Herod (Luke 23:6-12)…Matthew does not mention that Pilate sent Jesus to Herod.

Trial #5-before Pilate…the second time (Matthew 27:15-26)…this occurs after Herod returned Jesus to Pilate.

Matthew 27:15-26-Pilate realizes that the Jews have brought Jesus to trial out of “envy” (:18), so he tries an alternate approach to the trial by offering to let them choose between Jesus and another man to be released.  The other man was a notorious criminal that he knew they would not want released.  However, his plan doesn’t work and they demand that Jesus be crucified.  He agrees to follow through on their decision, but makes it clear that he wants nothing to do with it by washing his hands…symbolically showing that he has nothing to do with what is about to take place and that the responsibility lies solely with the Jews.

Matthew 27:19-Pilate’s wife had a dream the night before that involved Jesus and she tells him to do nothing to Jesus…but he ignores her.

Matthew 27:27-31-The beating of Jesus prior to His crucifixion by the Roman soldiers.  The “cohort” (consisted of about one-tenth of a legion, 300-600 men) gathered in the “Praetorium” (Pilate’s residence in Jerusalem…probably the Castle of Antonia).

Prayer:  Lord, You were tried unjustly.  You were accused falsely.  And yet, You did not respond vindictively.  Lord, when I am attacked, when I am mistreated, when I am misrepresented…please help me to respond in a manner that is in keeping with Your character.  Help me to stand firm for what is true…and yet, keep me from striking back at those who against me.

 

February 14

 

Matthew 27:32-66

 

The Rejection of the King                         Matthew 26:1-27:66, cont’d.

Matthew 27:32-66-The Crucifixion on Golgotha

For a detailed medical examination of the crucifixion see:

http://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/terasaka_david/misc/crucify.cfm; http://www.cfpeople.org/Apologetics../page51a024.html.

Matthew 27:32-44-The crucifixion of Jesus.  As they were leaving, the Romans forced a man named Simon to carry the cross of Jesus.  He was from Cyrene, the capital of Cyrenaica in north Africa.  Many Jews lived there.  “Golgotha” is the Aramaic word for “skull”…suggesting that either the place of crucifixion had the appearance of a skull, or that it was a place were skulls lay scattered around as the result of people being crucified there.  The actual site is not known…but there is a site that is traditionally associated as being the place that Jesus was crucified.

For a picture of this site see:

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Garden_Tomb_Golgotha.jpg

The wine that they offered to Jesus was mixed with “gall”…intended to deaden the pain.  Jesus refused it…deliberately being willing to experience the full measure of the pain that resulted from the sins of mankind that He was paying for.

Matthew 27:45-50-The death of Jesus.  From the sixth to the ninth hour (noon until 3:00 p.m.) it became dark.  During this time all the sins of the world were being poured into His body (2 Corinthians 5:21).  The perfect, pure, holy, sinless Savior…being filled with all of the vile, depraved sins of humanity.  Perhaps God sent the darkness so that those standing around Him would not see the horrid consequences that sin was exacting on His physical features.  At 3:00 p.m., Jesus cried out, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” That is, My God, My God, why has Thou forsaken Me?”…quoting Psalm 22:1 in its Aramaic form.  At that moment, God the Son…bearing the consequences of the sins of all of humanity…being totally, 100% human…was experiencing the separation from God the Father that was caused by their sin.  At that moment, He literally bore all of the penalty, all of the punishment, all of the consequences of the sins of every person who will have ever lived on planet earth.  It was the destruction that resulted from their sin that He was experiencing.  It was their sense of the abandonment by God that He was encountering.  Jesus would cry out to the Father one more time (Luke 23:46; John 19:30).  His ministry of redemption is completed…and He yields up His spirit.

Matthew 27:51-56-At this point two miraculous events occurred.  First, the veil (curtain) that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple was torn in two, from the top to the bottom.  This meant that God had done it, not man…and, it signified that God had inaugurated the new covenant, His means of our coming into His presence through Jesus (Hebrews 10:20; Ephesians 2:11-22).  Second, there were a number of people who were raised from the dead.  It is suggested that this was either only a temporary appearance by these people who were raised in glorified bodies (and soon afterward would ascend into Heaven), or that they were actually raised in physical bodies and would die again, later.

Matthew 27:57-61-The burial of Jesus.  A man by the name of Joseph (from the city of Arimathea…a town north of Lydda and east of Joppa) went to Pilate and requested that he be allowed to remove the body of Jesus from the cross to be buried.  Pilate allowed him to do so.  He buried Jesus in his own tomb.  It was a quick, temporary burial since the Sabbath was about to begin.

Matthew 27:62-66-This is Saturday, the Sabbath (the Jews broke the Sabbath in order to meet about Jesus).  The chief priests and Pharisees met with Pilate.  They remembered that Jesus had said that He would rise from the dead and they wanted to take measures to prohibit this from happening.  Pilate told them to handle the matter and place a guard at the tomb to secure it.

Prayer:  Lord, it is a strange feeling that I have as I read this…I don’t want to read it…not just because it is so gruesome…but because I feel so guilty.  I know that at that moment, in these verses, I was standing on the side watching You suffer…and You were suffering for me.  Thank you, Lord.  Please, forgive me for my sin…my sin that caused You this pain.

 

February 15

 

Matthew 28

 

The Victory of the King                             Matthew 28:1-20

Matthew 28-The Resurrection

Matthew 28:1-10-It is early on Sunday morning.  Mary Magdalene and the other Mary arrive at the tomb.  An angel appears and tells them three things.  First, “Do not be afraid; for I know that you are looking for Jesus…”  It is interesting that the “guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men,” but he did not tell them to not be afraid.  For those who are looking for Jesus there is no fear…but for those that deny Him, there is fear.  Second, the angel told the women what had happened…”He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said…”  Third, he tells them to go tell the other disciples that He has risen and that they are to go to Galilee to meet Him.  Jesus met them along the way and tells them again to not be afraid.  He tells them to take word to the disciples to meet Him in Galilee.

Matthew 28:11-16-The chief priests and elders told the guards to lie about what had happened.  They were to say that the disciples of Jesus came during the night while they were sleeping and stole His body.  If they were asleep…how did they know what happened?  And, if they were sent there to secure the tomb…would they all be asleep at the same time?  Would soldiers risk incriminating themselves even for a large bribe?  The whole story is self-contradicting.

Matthew 28:17-The disciples came to Galilee and worshipped Him…“but some were doubtful”.  The word “doubtful” means “uncertain, hesitant”…not necessarily about seeing Jesus, but what to do.  Here He was alive, after death.  What do they do, now?

“Distazō refers more to hesitation than to unbelief. Perhaps, as elsewhere, something about Jesus’ appearance makes him hard to recognize at first. Perhaps they fear how he may respond to them. Perhaps their Jewish scruples are still questioning the propriety of full-fledged worship of anyone but Yahweh. Or (most likely?) they may simply continue to exhibit an understandable confusion about how to behave in the presence of a supernaturally manifested, exalted, and holy being.” (New American Commentary, Logos)

Matthew 28:18-20-These words, commonly known as the Great Commission are the first thing that Jesus says to them.  If they were doubtful about what to do as a result of His resurrection…He just made it perfectly clear.  Based on His resurrection, Jesus speaks of: His Complete Authority, His Worldwide Agenda, His Eternal Presence.

How do we fulfill the Great Commission?  By spreading the Gospel, the Good News.  This is the ministry of evangelism.  Evangelism has been defined as:

“Presenting the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit through Proclamation (the verbal expression…clearly explaining the message of salvation), Practice (the vicarious expression…meeting the needs of people in the name of Jesus), and Presence (the visual expression…the living witness of the believer) for the purpose of persuading people to become faithful followers of Jesus Christ.”

Prayer:  Lord, I’m basing my entire life on this chapter…that it is absolutely and completely true.  If it is not, if any part of it is not…then like Paul said, “we should be pitied more than any other person”, because we would have given our lives for a lie…a total waste.  But Lord, because it is true…there is no higher calling, no greater responsibility in all of life.  Please, help me to not just write, or say those words…but to live them.  Help the resurrection to permeate every single cell of my being.  Sometimes I am like the disciples…I stand there and look in wonder at You…but I’m not real sure just what to do.  Please help me to hear Your voice, Your command loud and clear…and to be faithful and obedient to You.

 

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