|What I Read
|What I Saw||Despite Jesus’ best attempts to get away by Himself to a desolate place so that He could mourn the death of John the Baptist, He ends up surrounded by crowds of people. Rather than being angry and frustrated as I would, Jesus is filled with compassion for the people.
After a long day of ministering and healing the sick, the disciples ask Jesus to send everyone away so the people can make it to a town in time to eat. Jesus suggests that rather than sending them away, the disciples should just feed the people. Their response is that they don’t have enough food for everyone. In fact, they only have five loaves of bread and two fish.
Jesus requests that they bring Him what they have and proceeds to look up to heaven, say a blessing and break the loaves of bread. He then has the disciples distribute the food and everyone has their fill; all 5,000+ people. In fact, there was even 12 baskets full of leftovers after everyone had eaten.
|What I Think
||One thing that becomes clear throughout all of the gospels is that Jesus is very compassionate. He never perceives people to be an inconvenience and is always willing to meet their needs. This is because He is so adept at seeing their needs. And His common response is to be filled and moved with compassion.
I’m not sure if this story is meant to be an allusion to God’s provision of manna for the Israelites as they wandered through the wilderness but it’s something that came to mind as I read through this account. It also brought to mind earlier in the book of Matthew when Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “give us this day our daily bread”.
When Jesus took the five loaves and two fish and looked to heaven and said a blessing, He was acknowledging that God the father provides for the needs of His children.This passage has me thinking about how when God asks us to serve, He provides us with everything we need to be obedient. In this case, He told His disciples to feed the people. Rather than just obey, they took the time to evaluate their ability to provide; their ability to be successful.
From a practical perspective, the disciples were correct; they didn’t have enough to serve everyone. But that’s the point. When called to serve, we are called to obey and to walk by faith, trusting that the Lord will provide. God is not dependent on what we bring to the table. Only that we come to the table when called. It is not about what we – in and of our own strength – can accomplish. It is about what He can accomplish through us.
We are to have the same perspective about our relationship with Jesus as Stacy King had about his relationship with Michael Jordan.
|What I’ll Do
||My personal application is to not evaluate my ability or worthiness to serve the purposes of God’s kingdom based on my resume. Far too often I remove myself from opportunities to have a positive impact for God’s kingdom because I don’t think I am capable, equipped or worthy. I need to believe that if God does the calling, He will also do the equipping. And it will all be for His glory.
My prayer is that I will be more concerned about obedience than success. That I will be sensitive to the call of the Lord on my life and that I will respond in obedience and walk by faith. That I would be willing to be a fool in the eyes of the world if it means that the name of Jesus is glorified.
I am thankful that Jesus provides so graciously for us a that He is so merciful in His work through us. May He continue to multiply all that we bring to the table for His glory alone.
Category: Matthew (page 1 of 3)
Dark foreboding skies that are only illuminated by the frequent flashes of lightning. Wind howling so loud you can’t hear the cries of your fellow shipmates, the faces of whom are etched with terror. Waves crashing over the deck threatening to sink the boat at any moment. You have lived your entire life on this sea and have spent more time on it than you have on dry land. And yet, never in your life have you been so terrified. Never have you seen a storm like this. Never have you been more sure that you were about to die.
This is what I imagine the disciples where thinking and feeling and it is what I imagine was their motivation when they woke Jesus and said, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” (see Matthew 8:23-27 for reference).
In response, Jesus asks a question. It’s a question that after reading it this morning I have purposed to keep in my back pocket as a question to ask myself from time to time. A question that can serve as a great diagnostic tool during times of trouble, distress or doubt. A question that perhaps will help reveal the thoughts and attitudes of my heart or highlight areas of my life that I have not yet fully yielded to Christ or maybe areas where I am struggling to trust Him.
“Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?”
That’s it. That’s the question. Why are you afraid?
Simple and yet profound. A question that, if answered honestly, can be very helpful with the potential of leading to confession, repentance and a whole-hearted worship of the One who asked the same questions of His disciples on that stormy night on the Sea of Galilee.
I am thankful that the perfect love of a perfect Savior drives out fear. And so I ask myself, why am I afraid? Why am I afraid when I am loved by a God who is all-knowing, all-powerful and ever-present? Why am I afraid when I know that His grace is sufficient and His power is made perfect in weakness? Why am I afraid when I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me? Why am I afraid when I know that the Lord is my light and my salvation and the stronghold of my life?
Why are you afraid?
You don’t have to answer that question for me. But I do encourage you to get honest with God. Allow Him to minister to you through the Holy Spirit as He leads you and guides you into the truth of His word that you might be bolstered in your faith and your trust in Him might increase.
When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment.
I love this interaction between Jesus and the centurion. I love it because of the graciousness, mercy and power displayed by Jesus and I love it because the centurion gets so many things right. In particular, here is what I saw as I read this passage today.
The centurion acknowledged his problem
Notice the first thing that happens in this story is the centurion comes forward and states his problem. Very simple and yet so profound. We would do well to follow his example when faced with problems and difficulties in our life. To acknowledge when help is needed and to make our requests known to God. The best place to start when we are at the end of ourself is to come forward and make our appeal to the Lord Jesus.
The centurion acknowledged his position
After he stated his problem Jesus proactively offers a solution; to come and heal the servant. But I love how the centurion responds. He acknowledges a very profound truth when he says, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof…”. How very true. None of us are worthy and yet God has poured out His love and extended His mercy and grace to a people in desperate need of it; surely as a blessing to us but even more importantly, for His own glory and renown.
The centurion acknowledged Jesus’ power
By coming forward and seeking the help of the Lord in the first place the centurion acknowledged his belief that Jesus was able to offer him help. But the depth of his faith is further demonstrated when the centurion says to Jesus, “but only say the word, and my servant will be healed.”
The centurion believes Jesus can heal his servant just by uttering a word. He believes that time, space and physical presence do not constrain the power and authority of Jesus. He believes the word of the Lord is powerful and indeed it is.
But the centurion is not the main point
Although the centurion provides us with an example that might influence some of the applications I might take from this text and despite the fact that Jesus commends the centurion for his faith, he is not the primary focus here. Jesus is always the staring attraction. So, as I walk away from this passage what does it having me believing about Jesus?
Divinity – I see divine power on display in Jesus as He heals the paralyzed servant from afar by simply saying the word. It’s a reminder that the words of the Lord are powerful. They are words that create and heal and restore. They are words that teach, reprove, correct, rebuke and train.
Faith Alone – I see Jesus offering grace and mercy to someone who is not worthy and has done nothing in return for this favor other than believing that Jesus was capable. It’s not even that the centurion believed Jesus would heal the servant but the centurion believed Jesus could heal the servant if He willed. The centurion’s faith was not placed in the desired outcome but rather his faith rested squarely on Jesus and His power and authority.
Jesus’ parting words to the centurion are, “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.”
Gentiles Welcome – I see Jesus extending His ministry beyond the Jewish people to a roman, gentile soldier. And in response to this man’s faith Jesus issues the following warning:
“Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Even before the Apostle Paul and even before Peter was told to “kill and eat” we see a pointer to the fact that even gentiles will be invited to recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.
So, the next time you are faced with difficulties or trails of any kind, acknowledge your trouble but even more importantly acknowledge that there is a God in heaven who is aware of your trouble and is powerful enough to either resolve your situation or to give you grace that is sufficient enough to endure and persevere. And because of His great mercy and steadfast love, He no longer sees your unworthiness but rather He sees the righteousness of His son.
After being baptized by John in the Jordan River we are told the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted. Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights and then the devil showed up to tempt him.
What’s interesting to note in the back and forth between Jesus and the devil is that they both quote scripture. At one point we’re told, the devil took Jesus to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him,
“If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
“‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus responded by quoting from Isaiah 7:12 and said, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
One application I see reinforced in Matthew 4:1-11 is how important it is to know and understand God’s word. It’s not just good enough to have some verses committed to memory that can be quoted every now and then whenever it is convenient. After all, we see the devil do this in Matthew 4:5-6 when he quotes (and distorts) Psalm 91. We would do well to take note of Paul’s encouragement in 2 Timothy 2:15:
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”
Rightly handling the word of truth. Surely a requirement for any teacher of God’s word but I believe it is also a mandate for all believers. To be exposed to the whole counsel of God as illuminated by the Holy Spirit that it might be analyzed, interpreted and understood correctly. Allowing scripture to interpret scripture. Ensuring that God’s word is faithfully and accurately proclaimed from our pulpits and that our flocks are protected from erroneous and false teaching.
If there is a way to “rightly handle” God’s word, that tells me there is also a wrong way to handle God’s word. So, in line with my goal for 2015, I want to spend this year growing and improving in my ability to rightly handle the word of truth; for God’s glory and my joy.
There is no need for me to reinvent the wheel so if you are looking for some additional helps as it relates to rightly handling God’s word, allow me to point you to John Samson’s article titled, Playing Marbles with Diamonds offers twelve rules of Biblical interpretation.
If you are more of a visual learner, be sure to check out the Look at the Book lab on the Desiring God website. You can watch a series of videos that will walk you through how to approach select Biblical texts. I’ve included the introduction video below.
During our church service this morning my pastor made an interesting distinction that really resonated with me and seems to make a lot of sense. The context was his teaching on Matthew 2 and the contrasting of those who accept the newborn King and those who reject the newborn King. One thing that came up was this idea that left to our own, none of us really seek God. In fact, this is something that is reinforced in the book of Romans.
as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
But, the good news is that there is a God in Heaven who is doing the seeking and there are many who are sought after. So, in light of that truth, our pastor made a passing reference to the fact that we are not a seeker sensitive church as much as we are a “sought after” sensitive church.
To me this jumped out as an important distinctive in approach but I also realize that to others this may seem to simply be a nuanced way of saying the same thing.
What are your thoughts? Is there really a big difference between being a seeker-sensitive church as opposed to being a sought-after sensitive church? If so, what are the key differences?
Yesterday at church one of our elders delivered a message focused on the fact that Jesus pursues sinners and invites them into a personal relationship with Him. One of the points he made as he taught through Luke 5:27-32 (the story of how Jesus calls Levi) was that people who have been invited into relationship with Jesus desire to invite other people to meet Jesus.
This morning I read through Matthew 28 and the account of Mary Magdalene and “the other Mary” going out to see Jesus’ tomb. Here’s how their visit plays out:
And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.”
After all this happened, we are told that Mary and Mary “departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.” With fear and great joy. That’s the line that grabs me. Is there any other way to share the good news about Jesus? With fear and great joy.
Now, given that there had just been a great earthquake and they had just seen an angel of the Lord, there was good reason to be scared. After all, the big burly guards were so scared they “became like dead men”. So there is certainly reason to expect that the Marys were scared. But even more so, I think the fear that is being referenced here was more about a reverent fear. Just as easy as it is to believe they were scared, it is equally easy to believe that they were in awe of what they had just witnessed and what they had been told. It was all too wonderful to comprehend.
Their response was to hurry up and leave. They obediently responded to the charge of the angel to go and tell the disciples of Jesus what they have heard. And they were happy to do it. They were filled with joy. Despite the fact that it was all too wonderful to comprehend, they couldn’t wait to share it with others. With fear and great joy, they ran to tell the disciples.
What a nice reinforcement to yesterday’s message. As a follower of Christ, I have received a message of hope and grace that is far too wonderful for me to fully comprehend. But despite the fact that I don’t necessarily have all the answers or have it all figured out, I am excited to share with others what I know. With fear and great joy I desire to tell others about Jesus and live my life as a testimony to His grace. And, by the power of the Holy Spirit, I pray that as I do, many will come to know and follow Jesus.
I finished up my reading this morning in Matthew 27 and quite frankly it’s one of those days where I’m left not really knowing what to think. Do you ever have those days where you read God’s word and when you’re done you just kind of feel “blah”? You end up wondering if you should have paid more attention or if you should have prayed more before you read? You just feel like maybe you missed out on something? That’s kind of what I feel like this morning. But I probably shouldn’t be looking for a particular feeling when reading God’s word. I should just receive it as the living word of God – the word that is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness so that I (the servant of God) might be equipped for every good work.
That being said, I find that I’m really just pondering hypotheticals this morning. I’m considering how a crowd of people who have been ministered to – prayed over, instructed, released from demons and healed – could choose a murderer over a Messiah. I’m not talking about pondering this from a prophetic or theological perspective. This side of the crucifixion, with the benefit of God’s written word and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I get it. But as much as I try to think through how the Jews at that time could have made that choice, I realize that even today people are still choosing Barabbus over Jesus.
Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” And he said, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”
Pilate had already determined that there was no charge against Jesus. He had also been warned by his wife (based on some visions she had received) to have nothing to do with condemning an innocent man. But he also had a mob in front of him demanding that something be done. He thought he had a perfect out though. It had become his custom to release one prisoner every passover as a way to maintain good relations with the Jews. So, he thought he would manipulate the crowd and create the outcome that he desired by offering them an easy choice to make. He could release Jesus or Barabbus (thinking it would be a no-brainer for them to choose Jesus). This is the equivalent of me giving my kids a choice of either going to Disneyland or the dentist. But the Jews surprise Pilate. They choose Barabbus. They choose to have a murderer and political insurrectionist set free that a Messiah might be crucified.
It says that Pilate knew that it was out of envy that Jesus had been delivered to him for judgement. Jesus didn’t fit into the plans of the religious leaders. In fact, He was getting in the way of their plans. He was making life difficult for them. He was threatening the comfortable life of privilege, honor, and respect they had carved out for themselves. He was questioning their motives. He was a problem they had to deal with. They had a decision to make. They chose Barabbus.
There are many people today making the same choice. They are choosing Barabbus – at least a representative form of him. And, for the most part, they are fueled by the same motivation that caused the Jews to reject Jesus. Jesus is causing them to feel uncomfortable. He is causing them to feel convicted over some of the things they do, think and say. They are worried about what He’s asking them to give up for Him. He’s challenging them for authority over their life. They are becoming wearied in their search for peace. They have a decision to make.
I’m thankful that God chose me. I’m grateful that by the grace of God, I responded to His calling on my life and have decided to follow Him. Just like the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbus, I pray that I might be even more compelling as I encourage others to choose Jesus.
Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
While reading through Matthew 26 this morning and meditating on the significance of the Lord’s supper, I realized something. You see, my church family comes to the Lord’s table the first Sunday of each month and breaks bread and drinks from the cup as a way to remember His work in our salvation – His broken body and His shed bled. The bread and cup is passed out to each person first and then we take it together. I always use that time to pray; remembering what God has done and giving Him thanks. But what I realized is that my focus is always on that which He has already done (not a bad thing to think about). I was reminded this morning about what Jesus says in verse 29:
“I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
While it is good to remember what Jesus has done (after all, that is why we are commanded to “do this in remembrance of me”) it is also important to remember what Jesus has promised to do. In addition to having my prayers focused on the past events of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection, it is also important to focus on the future hope and promise of enjoying a heavenly banquet with Jesus in His Father’s kingdom.
Mind you, I don’t think I’ve been doing anything wrong as I’ve taken communion and given Him praise and thanks for submitting Himself to death on a cross for the forgiveness of sins. I just think that perhaps I’ve been missing out on the joy of also considering what lies ahead.
I don’t know about you but I’m looking forward to enjoying a drink with Jesus in His Father’s kingdom. I think the next time I take the bread and the cup, I’ll be thinking about that.
Today I read the story of Jesus healing two blind men oustide of Jericho.
And as they went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed him. And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.
I have to admit, every time I read this I always find myself wondering why the crowd rebuked the two men and told them to be silent. Was it because they didn’t think that Jesus, the great teacher and prophet, should be bothered by these lowly men? Was it because the cries of the blind men were drowning out their own voices and they feared that Jesus wouldn’t hear their own selfish requests?
The next thing I always find myself considering is what these two men knew and believed about Jesus. Although the Bible doesn’t explicitly answer this question, I can infer the answer based on the actions these men take and the fact that they use a Messianic title when addressing Jesus.
But really, more important than understanding the mindset of the crowd, more important than acknowledging that the two blind men recognized Jesus as Messiah, and more important than admiring their perseverance to appeal to Jesus for mercy, is that I consider what this passage tells me about Jesus.
And what it tells me is best seen in light of the context that immediately preceeded this story. In verses 20-28 Jesus is approached by the mother of the sons of Zebedee and she requests that her sons sit at at the left and right hand of Jesus when He comes into His kingdom. After pointing out that they don’t really understand what they are asking for and admitting that it is not for Him to make that decision anyway (rather it is for the Father to decide), Jesus tells His disciples that “whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (emphasis mine)
Jesus humbled Himself and came to serve and that is what I see here in the story of Him healing the two blind men. Jesus’ word in verse 28 is demonstrated, brought to life and reinforced in deed in verse 34. By healing these blind men, Jesus affirmed Himself as Messiah, He displayed His authority, He demonstrated His servanthood, and He extended His mercy.
In light of all this, what is an appropriate response? The blind men decided to follow Him. That is also what I’ve decided. No turning back.
“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you today, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it.
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”
I always enjoy the fact that my reading plan puts me in both the Old and New Testaments each day. I especially enjoy it when the readings seem to reinforce the same ideas. Today the theme was how obedience to God leads to blessing.
In Deuteronomy, the Israelites are told that they will be blessed in the promised land if they obey the commandments of the Lord. In Matthew, Jesus tells His listeners that the wise obey the commands of God and in turn, are set on a solid foundation.
Moses gave the Israelites a picture of what it meant to obey the commandments of God. It meant to love the Lord, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments and His statutes and rules. I think the key thing here is that it all starts with love. The active obedience of walking in His ways and keeping His commandments and rules are simply demonstrations of love for God. This is in line with John 14:15 when Jesus said, ““If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Obedience is a (super)natural response to God’s love for us and a demonstration of our love for Him.
My big idea: if you want to more faithfully obey the Lord, don’t try harder to behave well. Instead, humble yourself under God’s mighty hand and fall more and more in love with Him. Do this by coming to a better understanding of just how much He loves you.
In Matthew, we learn that just knowing or simply agreeing with Jesus’ words are not enough. Jesus tells us that “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock”. If we desire to be like that wise man we are to “do” the words of Jesus. So, what does it mean to “do” Jesus’ words? It means to act on them. It means to listen, hear, believe and respond to the words of Jesus.
My big idea: if you want to be like the wise builder who does Jesus’ words and establishes himself on a firm foundation, don’t exert more effort in trying to make the sand under your feet feel more firm. Instead, spend more time getting into the word of God that the word of God might get into you. Allow your heart and mind to be transformed by the living word of God that you might walk by faith and allow the Holy Spirit to empower you to step out in obedience.
Both Moses and Jesus made it clear that there is a choice to be made. Life or death. Good or evil. Wise or unwise. Rock or sand.
My prayer is that, by God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, I am continually filled with a willingness, desire and strength to obey the Lord – regardless of the temporary costs or consequences. I pray that my obedience would be motivated by love and not fear. I pray that I will always be grateful for the fact that God loved me first, despite my disobedience. I pray that my life will always be built upon Christ the solid rock and foundation of truth. For His glory and my joy.