Friday, May 30, 2008

Matthew, Chapter 27 part 2

As mentioned yesterday, we are dealing with the most depressing moment in human history in chapter 27 with the death of Jesus. Today we will see that actual death, but in it there is a ton of symbolism. Anyone who has seen Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ has an idea of what the suffering and actual crucifixion was like. That movie was generally panned for its gore, but in reality what Christ had to endure was pretty close to that, if not worse. Flogging and then hanging someone on a Cross is certainly not a pretty picture, or a pleasant way to die, yet Jesus handled it with just about as much grace as one could handle it.

The small group from my church recently completed a study on the life of Jesus. When we came to the crucifixion I posed the question of what was more important: the actual death on the Cross or the Resurrection. Both were necessary, and I think both carry equal weight. The actual death is the pinnacle. It is the necessary sacrifice in order to fully eradicate human sin. At the moment of Jesus' death we see physical signs on earth that the bondage has been broken. The Resurrection, however, is also important in that it shows that death no longer held power over mankind because of the sacrifice.

50And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

 51At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. 52The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus' resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people. – Matthew 27:50-53

The curtain being torn in two from top to bottom is one of the most symbolic acts in human history. In Jewish culture, the curtain in the temple separated the Holy place from the Most Holy Place. Only the chief priest, on one day per year, could enter the Most Holy Place. Even then, he had to be purified through a series of sacrifices and rituals. A rope was tied around his waist and bells were hung from his robe. If he was not pure, God struck the priest dead. The bells let the other priests know if he was still alive, and the rope allowed him to be pulled out if he died in the presence of God. The curtain was a physical reminder of sin separating us from God, but Jesus' death broke that separation. The tearing of curtain meant that mankind could now speak directly to God.

57As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. 58Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus' body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. 59Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. 61Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb. – Matthew 27:57-61

My pastor once said during a sermon, concerning this part of the story of Jesus, that Mary Magdalene and the rest didn't know they were living in the Bible. Despite being with Jesus for several years, they doubted the resurrection. Therefore, at this time they were going through one of the worst days of their lives. There are several schools of thought as to where Jesus' spirit was at this time, either in heaven or in hell, but on earth the situation seemed utterly hopeless. Matthew writes here to show that hopelessness, with the tomb being sealed and the guards being placed near it to set up coming events. He even goes as far to say that they are there to make sure the body is stolen and the Resurrection isn't faked. To me, this is where the crux of our faith comes in. We must believe that this is true and the Resurrection happened as it did. If it didn't, then there is no hope for humanity at all.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Matthew, Chapter 27 part 1

Chapter 27 of the book of Matthew represents the absolute worst day in the history of mankind. Throughout human history there have been some bad days, but nothing compares to this day when mankind rejected the very Son of God and put Him to death on the cross. Jesus' crucifixion is the result of anger, cowardice, jealousy, and human greed. All three elements are seen here as we have the greed of Judas, the jealousy of Caiaphas, the cowardice of Pilate, and the anger of the Jews. Today we will look only at the first half of this chapter, dealing with the trial and flogging of Jesus.

3When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned; he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. 4"I have sinned," he said, "for I have betrayed innocent blood."
      "What is that to us?" they replied. "That's your responsibility."

 5So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

 6The chief priests picked up the coins and said, "It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money." 7So they decided to use the money to buy the potter's field as a burial place for foreigners. - -Matthew 27:3-7

I wanted to highlight this section because it points out the absurdity of those responsible for condemning Jesus. The very money they had paid Judas was taken from the temple treasury. It was plenty good enough to give to him in order to condemn an innocent man, yet now they didn't want it back. They followed the law that they treasured so highly in this instance by not accepting blood money. What they conveniently ignored, however, was the part of the law that said murder was wrong. Apparently to them the law could be broken as long as it served their needs.

24When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. "I am innocent of this man's blood," he said. "It is your responsibility!" – Matthew 27:24

While the Jews could be condemned for their jealousy, greed, and anger, Pilate had a chance to save Jesus. As the Roman governor, Pilate was the highest local authority. He had the power to stop this trial, but took the cowards way out by not getting involved. His role is expanded in the other four gospels, but here his authority is plainly ignored. The Jews refused to answer his questions concerning the nature of this trial, and he even ignored his own wife. Speaking frankly, he disobeyed the first rule of marriage: always listen to your wife.

It is also earlier in this section that we jealousy and envy come into play. The Pharisees and Caiaphas in particular were jealous of the power and following Jesus had gained. These are the people that had waited for centuries for the Messiah to come. They had studied the prophesies and should have recognized Him instantly. When Jesus finally came, He began fulfilling these prophesies, but not in the way the Pharisees wanted Him to. The Pharisees had a certain view of what the Messiah should be. They felt He would elevate them on His way to becoming a conquering king. When Jesus spoke against them, they became enraged. Their own human perception got in the way of what Jesus was trying to accomplish. Essentially, Jesus was killed because He wasn't quite what they were looking for in a Savior.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Matthew, Chapter 26 part 2

I love the image of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. I think it is an image that projects Jesus in His truest form. To this point we have seen Him exhibit both knowledge and power that illustrate Him as the Son of God. Sometimes it is easy to forget Him as anything else. One of His most important aspects, and indeed the aspect that gave His sacrifice on the Cross value, is the fact htat He is fully human as well as fully God. There have been glimpses of this throughout the book of Matthew, but it truly comes out in the garden.

36Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, "Sit here while I go over there and pray." 37He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38Then he said to them, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me."

 39Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." – Matthew 26:36-39

Here is a man that was perfect in every sense of the word. Just a few verses later we see that He had the power to call down the armies of heaven. He literally had absolutely no reason to fear any man. Still, Jesus was afraid and crushed by His burdens in this moment. I cannot imagine being in His shoes, but in my humanity I can't think of how burdensome the weight of not only every sin committed in history to that point, but the weight of every sin that would be committed until the end of time would be. Personally, I am currently having a day like many days recently where I feel crushed by the weight of my own sins and mistakes over the course of my life. I can't imagine what dealing with this weight amplified trillions of times.

This passage also shows Jesus' love for humanity, as well as His humility. He recognized that even He needed help with this burden. He therefore first seeks the company of his companions in his disciples to pray with him. They fall short, but He also seeks strength from the Father just as we seek strength from the Father. This makes Jesus, on His human side, no different than us! In the end Jesus somehow finds this strength, and is ready once He is confronted by Judas.

69Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. "You also were with Jesus of Galilee," she said.

 70But he denied it before them all. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said.

 71Then he went out to the gateway, where another girl saw him and said to the people there, "This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth."

 72He denied it again, with an oath: "I don't know the man!"

 73After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, "Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away."

 74Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, "I don't know the man!"

   Immediately a rooster crowed. 75Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: "Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times." And he went outside and wept bitterly. – Matthew 26:69-75

This is another lesson on the dangers of relying on our own strength. A mere few hours had passed since Peter had boasted he would never fail Jesus. In this section he fails miserably because of his lack of faith and conviction. This is a man that would go on to become the cornerstone of Christ's church in the first century. If someone like Peter can fail miserably, what chance do we have? The long term lesson is seen in his life after this moment. He was able to recover and, through Christ, accomplish great things. I take encouragement from this because it shows that all things are indeed possible through Christ.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Matthew, Chapter 26 part 1

Chapter 26 of Matthew takes an abrupt tone shift as we are brought back into the historical account of Jesus' final week on earth. It is almost as if the previous chapters have been Him pleading His case and leaving His most important instructions behind. Today we will see the beginnings of the plot to kill Jesus as well as the historical account of the Last Supper. Some of the most beautiful pieces of Scripture are found here because of Jesus' determination to face what He knew He had to face. We also see the most despicable side of man in Judas betraying Jesus for a mere 30 pieces of silver.

10Aware of this, Jesus said to them, "Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. 12When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 13I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her." – Matthew 26:10-13

This passage of Scripture is beautiful in its simplicity and serves as a powerful lesson that the disciples were far from perfect. This woman, who is unnamed, understood the sacrifice that Christ had to make on the Cross. Therefore, she took something that had incredible earthly value and gave it to Christ in order to honor Him for this sacrifice. The disciples, who had been traveling with Jesus for some time, were unwilling to believe yet that the Cross was necessary. They could not see past the earthly value of the perfume. Judas himself was blinded by greed at this point and disillusioned that Christ was not living up to his ideals of a Messiah. This would lead to his act of betrayal.

26While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body."

 27Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. 28This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom." – Matthew 26:26-29

For anyone who has ever attended a church regularly in their lives this is a very familiar piece of Scripture. I think that sometimes the symbolism of the Last Supper and subsequent Communion gets taken for granted. We go through the motions of accepting the body and the blood without giving much thought to what they mean. It is here that Jesus blends the old ceremony of the Passover, which signified God's covenant with the Jews, with the new covenant that he would lay down his own life to create.

This is something I haven't given much thought to every time I take Communion. I think it is difficult to truly grasp what this means. Not even the disciples truly understood it at the time, because less than 24 hours later all but one of them would desert Jesus at the time He needed them most. The original Passover was done as a sign of protection from almighty God. The Jews in Egypt followed explicit instructions knowing that by doing so God would intervene on their behalf. The symbolism of losing the firstborn in that judgment would carry over to Christ as He is the first and only son of God. The original covenant was no longer good enough, and in reality never was because it came from man. Only the sacrifice of the Son of God could intervene on our behalf. When we take Communion we must remember this.


  1. What role did greed play in Judas' betrayal?
  2. Were the other disciples aware that Judas was going to betray Jesus?
  3. Does Peter denying Jesus show a lack of faith?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Matthew, Chapter 25 part 2

Today we will conclude chapter 25 with the sheep and goats judgment. This is a section of Scripture that has long been confusing to many people. It is a section that almost makes it sounds like our salvation based on our works rather than by grace through faith. In truth, it outlines what our response to our salvation should be. It is still based on believe that Christ died for our sins, but instead we are to respond with service and obedience out of the joy in our hearts. To simplify, once we accept Christ our hearts are changed so that we want to do these things.

37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

 40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' – Matthew 25:37-40

I think there are obvious and less than obvious ways of doing this. For example: if you give $12 million to a mission or an orphanage that is a pretty obvious way of taking care of other people. What makes me know that our salvation is not based on works, however, is that these grandiose gestures are not requires. Jesus did not establish a hierarchy of actions here. These great gestures carry the same weight as simply visiting a sick friend in the hospital or quietly listening as someone describes their problems. These types of things, done out of love, are exactly what Jesus is referring to here.

41"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

 44"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

 45"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' – Matthew 25:41-45

I must admit that this is difficult for me to explain. To me, it is as if Christ is explaining the selfish nature of turning away from Him. If you do not accept the free gift of salvation given through His death on the cross, then it means you selfishly love yourself and your sin too much. In that case, Jesus views it as impossible to perform these acts with a pure heart. If you're performing these acts in order to gain salvation you are missing the point. Performing those acts in that regard is also done out a selfish nature because you're trying to earn something that cannot be earned. To me, it establishes Jesus' point even more clearly that the only way to the Father is through Him.


  1. Why are works important?
  2. Why would works be forgotten without knowing Christ?
  3. Are works then required once we accept salvation?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Matthew, Chapter 25 part 1

Yesterday's lesson is a very confusing one because of its context. It spoke of things that we do not know about for two reasons. First, they haven't happened yet. Second, they rest in the mind of God and God alone. Chapter 24 serves as basically a warning against delaying our decision to follow Christ. It is a warning that is carried over to today's lesson in the first part of chapter 25. Today we will touch on this warning as well as another warning to make the most of every opportunity we are given. Both have strong relations to chapter 24 because of the warning about not knowing the hour and the day.

10"But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

 11"Later the others also came. 'Sir! Sir!' they said. 'Open the door for us!'

 12"But he replied, 'I tell you the truth, I don't know you.'

 13"Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour – Matthew 25:10-13

Jesus has always tried to make his points clear through His parables, which is what He is trying to accomplish with this one. Since I was a boy scout growing up, the motto of Be Prepared has long been a part of my life. In this parable we see the difference between being prepared and not. Those that did not bring oil with them showed a lack of faith. This carries over to today in that we show a lack of faith if we are not ready for His return at all times. Those that didn't bring enough oil were warned just as we are warned. As we see at the end of the parable, there is little sympathy for those that have not heeded such warnings.

24"Then the man who had received the one talent came. 'Master,' he said, 'I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.'

     26"His master replied, 'You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

 28" 'Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' – Matthew 25:24-30

The second part of this chapter that I wanted to touch on today takes on a much different tone. It is about making the most of everything we are given in this life. It is an area where I have sadly fallen short time and again. It is an area where we all fall short because of our imperfections. There are times when I look back over the course of my life so far and I see nothing but missed opportunities. I have seen that a lot lately because of the current state of affairs with me at the moment. I see times where I have had great potential in many areas, but years later that is still potential and nothing solid. There are other times where I see areas of accomplishment. One of the greatest honors of my life is that I helped lead my wife to Christ. It is moments like that which give me a purpose and a reason to go on. I feel like it is in these moments that we do make the most of what God has given us. Just like writing this blog and my other blog. I feel God has given me this great talent, yet I let it lay dormant and misdirected for years. Now I am pursuing it with everything I have and He is opening doors I didn't even know were there.


  1. How is it that we must always be ready?
  2. How do you make the most of what is given to you?
  3. What does this passage say about taking risks?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Matthew, Chapter 24

I have never given much serious thought to the end of the world. I have read the entire Left Behind series and I lived through Y2K without incident, but I have never seriously sat down and thought the world was going to end short of in 2003 when the Chicago Cubs came within five outs of actually going to the World Series. I recognize that it is something that is going to happen eventually, maybe even within my lifetime. It has been prophesized for years, however, from people as serious as biblical scholars to the World Weekly News. Still, it has not happened.

That brings us to chapter 24 of the book of Matthew. In this book, Jesus outlines His second coming in cryptic tales that have been studied for centuries. Just what can we take away from this section? It is quite complex in that the disciples are told that their generation would not pass away before these things will happen, but obviously all the disciples have been long dead. This section of Scripture is both beautiful and confusing at the same time. Let's take a look at some of the more important sections of this chapter.

4Jesus answered: "Watch out that no one deceives you. 5For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many. 6You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8All these are the beginning of birth pains. – Matthew 24:4-8

Regardless of what this states, the inexorable march of time means we are closer to the return of Christ than ever before. We can see many of these events by looking at the news today. There is constant rumor of war and strife. The 20th century saw more war and bloodshed than any other time in human history, and as a world society we certainly have the capability of topping that number through the use of modern weapons and warfare. Just last week we saw a devastating earthquake in China. Even here in Indiana, where earthquakes are very rare, my wife and I were awoken one morning a few weeks ago by a stunningly strong temblor.

Does this mean the end is near? Should we stand on street corners with placards proclaiming this? It is possible, but it is also possible Christ could be awaiting His Second Coming for a thousand years yet. It is clear from this chapter that there will be a Second Coming, if only because Christ's promises always come to pass. There is a certain amount of futility in looking for it because we don't know the date and time. Not even Christ knows the date and time.

36"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. – Matthew 24:36-41

We must always be ready for the Second Coming, even if we are not actively looking for it. This is clearly a warning to accept the gift of Christ's salvation through His sacrifice on the Cross simply because we don't know when He will return. There could be plenty of time to make this decision. We could all be long dead when the event finally happens. It is also entirely possible it could happen before you even finish writing these words. There are dozens of schools of thought on what will happen in that moment, but it is best to be prepared before instead of after.


  1. How does this support the pre-Tribulation (Left Behind theory) of the Second Coming?
  2. What other signs are present today from this chapter?
  3. Is there a chance this isn't all true?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Matthew, Chapter 23

Rarely do we see Jesus on the attack, but in Chapter 23 of Matthew he basically lays into the Pharisees with both barrels. The Seven Woes that are mentioned in this chapter is essentially an attack on the hypocrisy that the Pharisees practiced in governing the people. Jesus calls this out for their crimes, trying to get them to open their eyes to what they were denying not only themselves, but the people of Israel they were responsible for. Basically, he calls them out for practicing what they were supposed to practice, but doing so without any real purpose or meaning.

16"Woe to you, blind guides! You say, 'If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.' 17You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18You also say, 'If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.' 19You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22And he who swears by heaven swears by God's throne and by the one who sits on it. – Matthew 23:16-22

This example shows the difference in perspective that Jesus held apart from the Pharisees. Jesus knew that the power of the Temple and the sacrifices made on the alter lied in the hands of God. God is hat made these things sacred according to the laws of Moses. Allegedly, it was this law that the Pharisees were trying to follow. Their greed and human nature distracted them from this noble path, however. They were placing the value in things man can place value in. Gold only has value to man. The sacred nature of the temple made of the gold had value based on God. When the Pharisees placed value on the materials they were putting themselves ahead of God.

25"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. – Matthew 23:25-26

This woe refers to those that refuse to look at their own faults while pointing out the faults of others. This is something the Pharisees were more than guilty of. They thought their position made them above reproach, when in reality ALL men have sinned and fallen short of the glory. By cleaning the outside they were merely putting a shine on something that was infected from the inside. They could not see past their own sin to properly cleanse the sins of others. Their own righteousness was the outside. It appear clean to men but in reality it was filthy.


  1. Why did Jesus choose this time to mention these woes?
  2. How did this help His ministry?
  3. What role did this play in the Pharisees turning on Him?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Matthew, Chapter 22

One of my favorite parables of Jesus is the parable of the wedding feast. To me, it is a wonderful illustration of Christ’s entire ministry as well as an unfortunate picture for those that reject the gift of His salvation. The banquet itself is supposed to represent the kingdom of Heaven. This is something the Father has worked painstakingly hard for his followers. It is a gift to us. It is a celebration of our lives and a sign of His eternal covenant with us. Those that reject the invitation to the feast here are those that reject God, so he destroys them. By sending the invitation out to basically anyone at the end of the parable, we see that God is not willing that anyone should miss out on the kingdom of Heaven.

8"Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.' 10So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. – Matthew 22:8-10

In this parable we also see a prelude to the Great Commission, given at the end of the book of Matthew. As followers of Christ, we are the servants that He refers to in this parable. Therefore, it is our responsibility to go forth and bring more guests to this wedding banquet. Not only is the wedding banquet then a celebration for us, it is a celebration for those that we bring to the kingdom. It is our responsibility to make sure others don’t miss out on this.

29Jesus replied, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 31But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, 32'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not the God of the dead but of the living." – Matthew 22:29-32

Chapter 22 takes a dramatic turn here. Jesus was speaking to the Sadducees in the temple as they were trying to make fun of the idea of the Resurrection. They did not believe that such a thing could occur, but as usual, Jesus was there to correct them. This is an allusion to what will occur after Christ Himself rises from the dead a week later. Because He rose and conquered the grave, there is no longer true death. There is only life in Christ if we accept the gift of salvation. This is why Christ says here that God is the God of the living, not the dead. By saying that He was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, he is implying that it is a current, ongoing relationship.


1. Why would some still reject the gift of this wedding feast?
2. Why did the Pharisees try to trap Jesus on the tax issue?
3. Why are the two commandments in verses 38-39 the greatest?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Matthew, Chapter 21 part 2

In the second half of Matthew 21 we see more parables from Jesus as He spoke in the temple courts after His triumphal entry. The chief priests were questioning His authority to teach, and they certainly did not help themselves in their arguments. When posed with a simple question in order to be able to ask Christ a question, They refused to answer. They chose the easy way out, saying "I don't know" because they feared a response. Jesus merely asked them where the authority of John the Baptist's baptism came from. If they answered that it came from heaven, the priests feared they would be asked why they didn't believe John. If they said it came from man, they would then be afraid of the people. They instead took the non-committal answer, so Jesus refused to answer them.

This is really a lesson in facing something we don't want to face. The priests generally agreed there would be negative consequences regardless of what they answered, so they chose not to answer. Because of this, Jesus felt He did not need to answer their question. Sometimes we have to face unpleasant things in life if we are going to get what we want.

Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him. – Matthew 21:31-32

It is an amazing sign that people such as prostitutes and tax collectors, who we truly the bottom of society at the time, were able to enter the kingdom of heaven because of Christ. The lessons that Christ is teaching here is that our station in life is unimportant. The most important thing is that we understand the message of His sacrifice and accept the gift. It is not by what we say, but how we respond to the Father's call on our lives. The priests did not understand this. They felt their position in the temple gave them authority and privilege. This blinded them to the truth of Christ. It is, therefore, impossible to enter the kingdom of God if you reject the Son.

43"Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. 44He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed." – Matthew 21:43-44

The parable of the tenants is a clear allusion to Christ's death. Jesus represents the son of the owner, who, in the parable, is rejected and killed by the tenants. The priests and the Pharisees are the ones that have been entrusted to care of the vineyard, in this case humanity. They would reject Christ and cast him out, so, in turn, Christ would turn over the care of the vineyard to others. This would become the charge of His disciples as they built His church.


  1. What was so bad about the priests answering with either of their answers?
  2. Why would the priests be offended that others could enter the kingdom in a different way than they believed?
  3. How do you see Christ being rejected today?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Matthew, Chapter 21 part 1

Chapter 21 of Matthew is another chapter that needs to be split into two parts because of the information in it. Today we will be dealing with verses 1 through 22. This primarily concerns Jesus' triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem one week before His death. The chapter begins with this story, which is the origin of Palm Sunday. Jesus enters the city with His disciples as the conquering king. Those that followed Him believe that He was finally going to take the throne properly as the king of Israel. To them it was a big day. They didn't believe Jesus' pronouncements of His impending death. Instead they viewed Him as a one man conquering army. This began the climax of Jesus' public ministry, but only He knew what truly lied ahead.

8A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,
   "Hosanna to the Son of David!"
   "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!"
   "Hosanna in the highest!"

 10When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, "Who is this?"

 11The crowds answered, "This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee." – Matthew 21:8-11

I admit that this seems a little over the top for Jesus, but He was making a statement. It almost comes off like He is a professional wrestler entering the ring to much fanfare. It is certainly a stark contrast to the events we will see a week later when many of these same people were calling for His death. Jesus needed to make this statement, however. He further ingratiated the people when He immediately went to the temple and cleared it. The money changers and vendors in the temple had defiled the scared place by selling the animals needed for sacrifices at exorbitant prices. The closest thing I can compare this to is if a fee was charged every time someone confessed at a Catholic church. In this, Jesus was controlled in His anger. This was not a tantrum, but a task He had to perform in order to clean His Father's house for its intended use.

19Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, "May you never bear fruit again!" Immediately the tree withered.

 20When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. "How did the fig tree wither so quickly?" they asked.

 21Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done. 22If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." – Matthew 21:19-22

This final section is both encouragement for His disciples before they were sent out to spread the gospel and a message for us today. The fig tree parable is a message that reminds the disciples that they can overcome anything with the power of God behind them. Since they were soon going to be commissioned to spread the Word of Christ to the world, they would need this. It is also a message for us to keep our own faith built up through prayer.

I must admit there are times, like now, where this seems like a stretch. Sometimes it even seems like there is a certain futility when it comes to prayer. We all struggle with this at one time or another. Even when we are given the promises that God is listening and answers all prayer, we must accept that sometimes that answer can be a no. This doesn't mean God is mean. It just means He has a better plan in mind. WE at least have the confidence to know from this parable that all things are possible through prayer.


  1. Why did Jesus have such an over the top entry?
  2. How did the clearing of the Temple both help and hurt Jesus?
  3. What is your opinion on the power of prayer?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Matthew, Chapter 20

I am staring at a blank screen this morning. I am humbled by the beginning of Matthew chapter 20, which promises equality in the sight of God. The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard carries that centralized theme that all are equal regardless of when we enter the kingdom of God. The workers that begin working at the beginning of the day are the people that know the message early in life and fully devote themselves to it. Those that begin working at the 11th hour are those that finally come to know Christ only very late in life. It is something I can live with. It shows that there are no favorites and we all get the same reward. The reward itself, eternal life and peace, is certainly worth more than anything on this earth anyway.

13"But he answered one of them, 'Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? 14Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?'
16"So the last will be first, and the first will be last." – Matthew 20:13-16

In our human nature we don’t like this idea. This almost shows that hard work does not pay off if the reward is the same in the end. Still, it carries over strongly into Jesus’ next point when he refers to James and John. James and John were brothers that worked incredibly hard as disciples. In this chapter, we see that their mother asks for a special place for them within the kingdom of God because of their work. We saw in yesterday’s message that the Twelve were already promised to sit on twelve thrones and judge the twelve tribes of Israel. This request, however, is for an even more special honor, one that was not Christ’s to give.

23Jesus said to them, "You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father."
24When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." – Matthew 20:23-28

This is such a gentle rebuke that you almost miss it. Jesus is saying here that we do not serve in order to gain glory in the kingdom of God. We serve merely because we are called to serve. We serve because of the example set before us in Christ. Here is someone that had no need to serve. He could have ruled and been served throughout His ministry, yet instead He set for the ultimate example of humility.

I have had this tumbling over inside my head for most of the morning. I am wondering if writing this blog even is serving anymore. I don’t receive any feedback and don’t know if anyone even reads it, yet I know in my heart I am called to serve in this way. This is true with my entire life right now. Mentally, I can barely move forward. I am so depressed most days that it hurts to even breathe. I am lost, directionless, and I am forced to trust God will come through even when there appears to be nothing on the horizon but horrible things because I can’t find work. My plans for my life are totally on hold right now. That makes me frustrated because I can’t fulfill them, and angry because I feel robbed of the joy that others have when they are allowed to move forward in their life.

But still I serve.


1. Are you serving a purpose, or purposely serving?
2. Do you think the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard is fair?
3. Why would James and John seek such honor?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Matthew, Chapter 19

Today's message in chapter 19 of the book of Matthew touches on the difficult subject of divorce. This is something that, sadly, effects way too many families in this day and age. I consider myself lucky in that I am pretty much the only one in my close family that has not been affected directly by divorce. My sister is only my half sister because of divorce. My father had to go through it with his parents. My mother had to go through with it in her first marriage, thereby affect my maternal grandparents as well. I was the lucky one in that all of this happened before I was born. Still, it has played a large role in my family's history, and I am not the only one.

Personally, I don't believe in divorce. I don't believe in it because of the teachings of Jesus and the way that the Bible outlines the guidelines of marriage. My personal thoughts on the matter are this: if you believe divorce is an option for you some day, then you shouldn't be getting married. I told my wife before we got married that the only way one of us was getting out of the marriage was to put the other in the ground. This may be a crass and even old-fashioned method of thinking, but I still believe firmly in the "to death do us part" section of the vows. In more than three years of marriage there have been some incredibly tough times for sure, but I am more than too stubborn to quit. God has never quit on me, so I won't be quitting on this.

4"Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' 5and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? 6So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." – Matthew 19:4-6

I firmly believe that God brought my wife and me together. How else do you explain two people from completely different backgrounds meeting and falling for each other? Therefore, it would be the height of arrogance to say I can separate this union if I were to divorce her. The teachings of Jesus in these verses state that divorce is only acceptable in the case of adultery, but even then God can salvage the marriage if the person committing adultery recognizes the sin and seeks reconciliation. In that case, it is truly the work of God binding something together that cannot be separated by man.

21Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

 22When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

 23Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." – Matthew 19:21-24

Becoming a follower of Christ is not without its sacrifices. The very nature of the relationship is based on the sacrifice that Christ made for us on the cross. Therefore, there is often much we give up in order to follow Him. This is not an admonishing against wealth. It is instead Christ's way of telling us that we must give up that which prevents us from giving our all to Him. This can be different for different people. For some, specific relationships with other people can get in the way. For others, it could be some type of sin or vice. In this case, the wealthy young man showed that he valued his wealth more than he valued the rewards that Christ has promised through a relationship with him. We don't necessarily have to give up our wealth to follow Christ, but we are instead asked to be ready to give it up if it gets in that way of that relationship.


  1. Why does Jesus chose this passage to speak out against divorce?
  2. What gets in your way of serving Christ?
  3. How can Christ heal a marriage even in the case of adultery?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Matthew, Chapter 18

In today’s lesson we see both the power of sin and the power of forgiveness. Spiritually, they are the two most powerful forces in the universe. They are not equal, however. Sin has the power to condemn us. It is prevalent in every single human being that has ever lived. While it is all-encompassing, it is not all-powerful. Forgiveness is not all –encompassing because it still must be asked for. It is, however, all-powerful in that it breaks the power of sin. Thanks to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, it is available to everyone, but it must be asked for. It seems like such a small step, but amazingly it is an incredibly difficult one for many people to make.

The overlying theme of chapter 18 of Matthew is this premise. We see that it takes childlike faith and humility to enter the kingdom of heaven. We see that God is not willing that anyone should miss this wonderful gift of salvation, but it must be accepted. We see the importance of forgiveness not just from a spiritual perspective, but from a human perspective as well. This final point is one that I, as well as many others, have struggled with repeatedly.

12"What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost. – Matthew 18:12-14

This parable perfectly illustrates God’s grace and mercy. There are many things I have done in my life that negate me from deserving this type of treatment. My anger has destroyed relationships. My lies have mislead those I love. My sheer humanity in itself means I have fallen short of the glory of God. Still, God has pursued me like a lost sheep and rejoiced when I was found. I love this about God’s character. There is no hierarchy when it comes to saving the lost. We do not have to get in line and wait for our turn to be processed through the salvation line. The grace of God is more than enough.

21Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?"
22Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. – Matthew 18:21-22

This illustrates another critically important point about forgiveness. As we know, God has infinite patience when it comes to forgiveness. We continue to screw up even after we have accepted the gift of salvation simply because we are human. In that, Jesus continues to forgive us time and again. Therefore, we are asked to share that same amount of grace when we are wronged. I don’t know about you, but this is incredibly difficult. For much of my life revenge against those who have wronged me has motivated my moods to the point of where I was a mere shell of myself. It has been the fuel for my anger, but that fire has a tendency to burn out much too quickly and leave me with nothing in the end. What’s worse, there have been many times that that anger has been directed at myself, thereby making it even more counter-productive.

What does this all accomplish? I liken it to something I used to use my anger for with my workout regimen. When I would work out, I used to concentrate my anger to get the most out of my workouts. I used to think of it as preparation for any confrontation with the object of my anger, therefore I would imagine how the confrontation would go down as a boost to my workouts. Over time, however, this burned out my heart. It was only through the forgiveness that Christ asks us to practice here that I finally began to get around this hindrance to my personal growth. He merely asks us to show the same consideration to others that He has shown us.


1. Does God abandon others when He recklessly seeks the lost?
2. Why does it take the faith of a child?
3. What spirit of unforgiveness is holding you back?

Friday, May 9, 2008

Matthew, Chapter 17

One of the gifts my wife and I got for our wedding was a spice rack. We got married almost three and a half years ago, and one of the 16 spices in that rack has been pretty much untouched in that time. It is a canister of mustard, one in which we have a running joke about when it comes to discussing recipes. Basically, we have no idea what we would use mustard seed in, so we say that its only use is for Biblical allegory. Other than that, we can't find a use for it.

What does this have to do with chapter 17 of Matthew? Well, it is here in chapter 17 where that specific allegory is mentioned. A mustard seed is very tiny. It is smaller than one of the ball bearings in my rollerblades. It is so small that if it were to spill on the floor, there is no way we would ever be able to clean up all of them. Jesus uses the size of the mustard seed in chapter 17 as an illustration of faith. It does not take a great amount of faith to accomplish what God wants, just as it takes just one mustard seed to grow a very large tree.

17"O unbelieving and perverse generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me." 18Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment.

 19Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, "Why couldn't we drive it out?"

 20He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." – Matthew 17:17-20

Even for the disciples faith was a struggle. We have seen this in previous chapters, and there will be further examples of this throughout the gospels. Peter is famous for his lack of faith, yet he is the rock upon which Jesus built His church. In this passage we see that even a small amount of faith can accomplish great things. Even now, when I am struggling with an extreme lack of faith, I am not completely dry faith-wise. It is my hope that what little faith I have can still accomplish what I need to do for the Lord.

So how do we grow our faith? I have often seen faith as something that is easy to grow when things are going well, but quickly goes away when things get rough. It is when things get rough that we need faith the most. The allegory with the mustard seed comes into play here, because sometimes the smallest amount of faith, that is, simply reaching out to God when we need Him, can be enough. In that, it is a choice to reach out and have faith that He is there and can do something about it. I feel I reached that point yesterday, because I don't have much else left.


  1. What is your definition of faith of a mustard seed?
  2. How do we grow faith when things are rough?
  3. How does grown faith help us when things are rough?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Matthew, Chapter 16

I must begin with a warning today. Today's entry will be highly personal. This is because I needed the Word of God this morning to truly speak to my heart, and it did just that. My personal entry seem to come off much better, anyway, because They allow me to really relate the Scriptures that were written 2,000 ago to something that is happening right now. That just makes God's power that much more personal and awe-inspiring. It also proves to me that the Bible is truly the living Word of God even today.

Today we are in chapter 16 of Matthew. There are four different things going on in this chapter. We have Jesus denouncing the Pharisees who have asked for a miraculous sign. We have a warning against avoiding the Pharisees. We have Peter's confession of Christ in which he receives the name Peter. Finally, we have Jesus predicting His death. It was the first two aspects that truly spoke to me this morning. We see the Pharisees asking for a miraculous sign so that Jesus might prove His divinity. Because of this, Jesus warns His disciples against being infected by their yeast. He uses another parable to illustrate this point, and this morning Christ's words seemed to be etched on my heart.

5When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread. 6"Be careful," Jesus said to them. "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees."

 7They discussed this among themselves and said, "It is because we didn't bring any bread."

 8Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, "You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? 9Do you still not understand? Don't you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 10Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? 11How is it you don't understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." 12Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. – Matthew 16:5-12

Lately I feel as if I have been crushed by depression. It is almost a physical weight I have been carrying around on my shoulders and chest. Because of the circumstances of life, I am faced with a time where nothing seems to get better. I am unemployed, but I have been able to substitute teach. God has provided this way, but it feels like all the work I have done has already been spent because of getting hammered by unexpected bills and such. To top it off, two weeks from now the school year will be over and I can no longer teach. At that point I am totally on god's grace to find a new job, and my temp agency has been less than accommodating with finding me a new position. Most days it feels like I am moving forward only out of sheer inertia.

I am of little faith, however. In this passage Jesus reminds the disciples of something he had recently accomplished with the feeding of 5,000 and 4,000 people on two separate occasions. We don't know how long it had been since these miracles, but they were in the last two chapters and Jesus' public ministry lasted only about 3 years. Because of that, it had to have been fairly recent. This hits home this morning because in the past God has come through for me even when it seemed hopeless. I was in a similar situation last July, and God came through with an assignment at the NCAA that last nine months and bailed us out in a very similar situation. Though I have not had a permanent full-time job in over three years he has delivered, like feeding the thousands, time and again. Still, this morning I struggle with a lack of faith.

Through it all, I am more than thankful that God has the patience to smile and still love me though I am lacking faith. Both my wife and I are struggling severely at the moment when it comes to trusting god. He seems to be silent while our wants seem to be at odds with His wants for us. I have the promise of the Scriptures, however, that he still loves us through this. That is bringing me to tears this morning. God sees past my shortcomings and still loves me. I know I am His regardless because I have placed my trust in him through the death of His Son on the Cross. As bad as things are, they could be infinitely worse, but God would still be there and He would still love me. Right now I want to rage and scream against him, acting like a spoiled child, but He would still love me.

Though I don't even want to go on right now and I feel absolutely worthless in the eyes of men, He still loves me and treasures me as if I am the greatest treasure in the universe. How can I not give Him praise for all that? I don't even have questions for you today, just praise for a God that can accept me and my eccentricities simply because he made me.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Matthew, Chapter 15

One of the many things that I admire in Jesus is His lack of fear when it comes to speaking out against those in authority. Most people, when they are chastised by one in authority, tend to cower away. Jesus, however, was not most men. Here in chapter 15 of Matthew we see Him speaking out against the Pharisees once again when they called him on His disciples being unclean. As usual, the Pharisees were trying to make a point and defend their own traditions in the face of God. They felt it was more important to hold on to one tradition than to change because God wanted them to change their hearts. In the discussion about being unclean, Jesus sets them straight.

10Jesus called the crowd to him and said, "Listen and understand. 11What goes into a man's mouth does not make him 'unclean,' but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him 'unclean.' "

 12Then the disciples came to him and asked, "Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?"

 13He replied, "Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. 14Leave them; they are blind guides. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit."

 15Peter said, "Explain the parable to us."

 16"Are you still so dull?" Jesus asked them. 17"Don't you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man 'unclean.' 19For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20These are what make a man 'unclean'; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him 'unclean.' " – Matthew 15:10-20

This is another parable, but it is a very important one because of its message. It was a radical idea at the time that nothing consumed could make one unclean. Jewish law had literally hundreds of things that were condemned as "unclean", but Jesus came to change the law and set up a new covenant in Him. Because of that covenant, it is what is in our hearts that determines our cleanliness in regards to God. Our hearts are a reflection of our character. Therefore, whatever comes out of our mouths is what is on our heart. If we have Christ in our hearts, we have nothing to fear because we are clean. If not, however, we are lost and fallen.

The rest of the chapter deals with another miracle of faith and with Jesus feeding more people miraculously. These are both lessons that we touched on in chapter 14, so they are here as reinforcement of the previous message. This reinforcement is not only for our case, but for the people Jesus was preaching to as well. The important part of this chapter is the parable on uncleanliness. It is what is in the heart that matters most.


  1. Is it still possible to have an unclean heart and mouth even with Jesus in your heart?
  2. Is it possible to not be tainted by what we consume?
  3. How does the consumption of popular culture play in this?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Matthew, Chapter 14

Today in Matthew 14 we see Jesus continue to teach about the lessons and power of faith. To me, faith is the most important aspect of our relationship with Christ. It is the entire basis behind our salvation, as we must have faith that we are saved by grace. During our study of the book of Hebrews we saw the great feats that were accomplished simply by acts of faith. This is illustrated in Hebrews 11 and that passage pretty much covers only Old Testament acts of faith and not the works of Jesus. We are asked by Christ to simply have faith, and we see in this chapter that event eh disciples didn't have enough faith at times.

So why is faith important? Let's face it, if Christ wanted to, He simply could reveal Himself powerfully to each and every person on the planet, leaving little doubt to His power and glory. This would be easy for Him, and if it was done to every person there would be no need for hell and damnation. It would be the simple way to save everyone, because if Christ simply chose to, He could do so. Faith, however, comes from free will. Much like the impetus behind this blog, Jesus merely presents the facts and leaves each person to make up their own minds when it comes to the gift of salvation. Christ makes sure that we actively take part in the process of saving ourselves. His life is meant to erase all doubt, but we still must learn about Him and accept this gift of faith.

19And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. 20They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 21The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children. – Matthew 14:19-21

There is often a misconception when it comes to this particular miracle performed by Jesus. It is labeled as Jesus feeding the 5,000, but in actuality He fed many more on this day. As we see in the final verse, the number actually mentioned was 5,000 men. There were a number of women and children there with these 5,000 men, and they too were fed by the miracle that Jesus performed. It is mentioned here because it is an instance when He chose to teach the disciples more about faith. We will see, however, that they still had doubt even after this.

25During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear.

 27But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."

 28"Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water."

 29"Come," he said.

   Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"

 31Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?" – Matthew 14:25-31

This is another important lesson, especially for Peter. We know that Peter eventually went on to become a strong pillar of the early church. He is an interesting character simply because he often had moments of great faith mixed with moments of great doubt. This is one of them. We see that he was impulsive enough to hop out of the boat and walk on water, but quickly lost his faith and began to sink. Our own faith is like this when things go wrong. It is easy to have faith when things are going well and it seems like we are walking on water. It takes strength to continue having that faith when we are sinking.


  1. How did the disciples gain faith by the feeding of the 5,000?
  2. What significance does the martyrdom of John the Baptist carry?
  3. How does Jesus save us when we are drowning?

Monday, May 5, 2008

Matthew, Chapter 13 part 2

Sometimes parables are hard to understand. In Friday's lesson we saw Jesus speak in parables for the first time as He spoke to the crowd on the shore. The reason that Jesus often spoke in parables is that they are easy ways to give examples that the people can relate to. What we see in the second part of Matthew 13 is that he often spoke to the crowds, but he would give further explanation of the parables to His disciples in private. The crowds, however, were left to search for the deeper meaning on their own. This was Jesus' way of getting them involved with the gospel instead of spoon-feeding it to them. Jesus knew that if people would get involved in leaning His message would have a greater effect. Those that had ears to hear would pursue this deeper meaning, but those that did not would ignore the message.

In the second part of Matthew 13 we see speaking in further parables through the Parables of the Hidden Treasure, Net, and by explaining the deeper meaning of the Parable of the Weeds to His disciples. Each lesson carries with it a strong message about the coming Kingdom of Christ. The underlying message is that we must constantly work at expanding the Kingdom because it is the most precious treasure we can receive in this life.

 44"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

 45"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. – Matthew 14:44-46

This is not a message that we have to sell of everything we own. Instead, it is an illustration of how we should value our salvation and the kingdom of heaven. The message that Christ is teaching us here is that we should hold the kingdom of heaven in high regard above all earthly things. We must be willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to keep the Kingdom of Heaven. It is the least we can do after the sacrifice that Christ made for us. The Kingdom of Heaven hold immeasurable value, while anything we can have on this earth can have its value measured.

47"Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 49This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. – Matthew 13:47-49

This is another perfect illustration of the world. There are certainly good fish and bad fish, but sometimes it is hard to tell which is which. Only God knows the true hearts of men, however, and that is why we see the illustration of throwing the bad fish away. We each have our chance to give ourselves to God. We will be held accountable for our own actions, and that is something that, sadly, society today does not promote. When we accept the gift of Christ's salvation through His death on the Cross we assure ourselves that we will be lumped in with the good fish.


  1. Why would Jesus not explain the parables in greater detail to the crowds?
  2. How do you value the Kingdom of Heaven?
  3. What do you see in your life that you may value more than the Kingdom of Heaven?

Friday, May 2, 2008

Matthew, Chapter 13 part 1

The Parable of the Sower is one of my favorite pieces of Scripture. To me, it is incredibly powerful and perfectly illustrates how the Message of Christ and Salvation is spread. I have decided today to separate it out with the Parable of the Weeds today in its own section apart From the rest of the chapter. Since our most important task in this life is to spread the Message it is important to know how that message is received. Ultimately, it is simply our task to plant seeds. At that point, we cannot control where they will fall or how they will grow.

3Then he told them many things in parables, saying: "A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. – Matthew 13:3-8

This may seem like a hit or miss style of preaching, but because of the nature of the human heart it is a very truthful message. Take a look around the congregation of your church the next time you are there. You'll likely see a couple of hundred people paying attention to the same message. It is very difficult to know the heart of any one of them except your own, however. There may be people that day that are fully focused on the message. There may also be people there that look focused, but they are distracted by the pace of life. This pace of life is preventing them from getting everything they need to get. There may also be people there that are discouraged and distracted by the enemy, therefore they too aren't getting what they need out of the message.

18"Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. 22The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. 23But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown." – Matthew 13:18-23

As I read this I see how much the Holy Spirit is involved in spreading the gospel. I try to live my life in a way that I am constantly planting seeds through either my words or my actions. I am not the type to go preach on a street corner, but I view this very blog as part of my ministry. This section of Scripture shows that we are all called to ministry in some form. I feel my role is to simply make it clear where I stand and why I stand there. At that point, it is up to god to change hearts and make sure the plant grows. It is because of the nature of the human heart that I don't know what type of ground these seeds are landing on, but God does. The amazing thing is that with technology as it is today, someone on the other side of the planet whom I will never meet could stumble across these very words and be changed by them. This is the seed, and it is up to God to cultivate the plant wherever it may fall.


  1. How do you plant seeds?
  2. Does this make it easier or harder for you to plant seeds?
  3. How does this build your own faith?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Matthew, Chapter 12 part 2

Yesterday we saw the absurdity of the Pharisees. I call it absurdity because there is no way you can explain their hatred for Christ other than absurd, filthy, sinful nature based on the fear of losing power. This is why I am not Christ. I would not have had Jesus' patience in the same situation. Instead of calmly explaining my actions in a parable as Jesus did, I would have been tempted to say, "You have got to be kidding me, right? I just healed a guy, and you're upset because I happened to perform a freaking miracle on the Sabbath?"

Thus we see the power, majesty, and infinite patience of Christ. That patience continues today in the second part of Matthew 12. First we see a long rebuttal by Jesus on being compared to Beelzebub. In it, Jesus systematically takes apart the argument of the Pharisees and attempts to show them their error in judgment. Unfortunately, the Pharisees continued to ignore the evidence presented to them. Because they continued to oppose Jesus, the Pharisees were guilty of committing blasphemy against the Spirit. That is a sin that cannot be forgiven.

30"He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. 31And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. -- Matthew 12:30-32

Blasphemy against the Spirit is not some unconscious error that can be easily forgiven. It is a blatant and constant rebellious attitude that rejects the Spirit of God in one's life. It is done deliberately without remorse. The fact that it is done without remorse is what makes it stand out. If we realize our error and ask for forgiveness Christ has promised that we will be forgiven. This is true because we know that God is love. We only need to show a willingness to repent and we will be forgiven. It is when we continue to rebel against God, as the Pharisees did by rejecting Christ in the face of overwhelming evidence, that we run into trouble. Doing so causes a permanent separation from that love.

39He answered, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here. 42The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon's wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here. -- Matthew 12: 39-42

Jesus quickly shifts gears in this chapter to answer a question about miraculous signs. Throughout His ministry Jesus provided many miraculous signs. He refused to perform miracles just for show, however. Once again, the Pharisees refused to accept Him because He did not operate on their terms. They were well aware of His miracles, but they wanted to be the ones who dictated His miracles. Obviously, Jesus answered to a higher power in this way. Jesus felt that what He had done should be more than enough and clarified that through His teachings.


  1. What do you think about Jesus' argument against Beelzebub?
  2. How do you see blasphemy against the Spirit today?
  3. Do we still need miraculous signs today?