Matthew 16, Pt. 1: Leaven and Truth

Tonight we will study just the first twelve verses in Matthew chapter 16. Within these verses we have Jesus teaching his disciples a valuable lesson about discernment. 

The Pharisees and Sadducees were the Jewish elite, the wealthy men of strong knowledge, reputable birth and affluent means. Ideally, these groups would have been first to recognize Jesus as the Christ and follow Him. However, their minds and attentions were not on the things of God, but rather were consistently on other more worldly matters such as social status and the like. In our passage tonight, these men ask Jesus to show them a sign from heaven, presumably to prove that He was the Son of God. 

But Jesus quickly reveals their hearts by telling them that they know how to read basic weather patterns in the sky, yet cannot see that the Son of God is standing before them. He then rebukes them by saying that the sign that they will end up seeing is the sign of the prophet Jonah. This is meaningful because Jonah’s prophecy to Nineveh was that God would destroy it because of its ungodliness. And indeed Jerusalem was destroyed around 70 a.d. by the Romans. Could this have been what Jesus was alluding to?

Jesus uses this interaction with the Pharisees and the Sadducees as an opportunity to teach His disciples. He warns the disciples to beware the leaven, or the influence of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Jesus’s meaning was that the disciples should avoid agreeing with them and to not take on their beliefs or be influenced by them. Because, as stated earlier, the hearts of the Pharisees and the Sadducees were not in the right place and their speech and actions showed it. 

However, this lesson was at first lost on the disciples. They thought that the leaven Jesus was talking about was the ingredient for bread which causes it to rise. Jesus was speaking figuratively, but they didn’t get it. They thought He was talking about actual bread. Jesus used leaven as an example to show that to absorb just some of the influence of these Pharisees and Sadducees would make a dramatic influence on the disciples’ beliefs and opinions. This influence on character can be compared to how leaven works in bread to make it grow and expand, it transforms it. Even just a very small bit of leaven can cause a great change while preparing bread. Jesus was telling them to beware this influence.

But the disciples thought they were supposed to avoid the actual bread from the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Jesus then becomes impatient with them for not getting it, especially in light of how the disciples had fed thousands with so little bread and fish in the recent past. (Remember feeding the 5,000, then the 4,000?) The disciples could have recognized that Jesus was not talking about actual leaven or bread, but that He meant the cumulative negative influence of the spiritual impostors that were the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

There are two separate things we can learn from this passage tonight. The first is that the negative influence of questionable values can have great consequences. For us today, this means truly examining the character of those we choose to spend our time with and ask, “Does this person have a godly character?” Sometimes we will find that even though entertaining and comfortable, the company of some people ends up affecting us negatively and actually distances us from God. Be aware.

The second application has to do with seeking. At the beginning of this passage, the Pharisees and the Sadducees were seeking a sign that Jesus was who He said He was. Do you think they were sincere? I think they probably were. But their problem was that their hearts were not oriented on the truth of that which they were seeking. Sometimes there thing that we seek is starting us right in the face.

Matthew 15, Pt. 2: Humility is the Key

Tonight we conclude our study of Matthew chapter 15. Jesus departs Gennesaret and goes to the region of Tyre and Sidon. The first section of tonight’s story takes place in verses 21-28. 

In this passage Jesus is beset upon by a woman from Canaan. She asks Him to make her daughter well, who has been possessed by demons. Jesus and His disciples resist her pleas at first, because she is not a Jew. As God’s chosen people, Jews were the rightful recipients of God’s blessings through Jesus Christ. The fact that Jesus denies her at first seems callous yet in the context of whom Jesus was trying to reach with His teachings, it makes sense. 

We know that later after Jesus had died and been resurrected that God gave Peter a vision that showed that the blessings of Jesus Christ were to be bestowed upon all people, not just Jews. The fact that Jesus notes the Cananite woman’s faith in verse 28 and heals her daughter is a precursor to the future (effective now) when God blesses all mankind through Christ.

Verses 29 through the end of the chapter reiterate a theme and occurrence we have seen happen before. Jesus heals the multitudes of various afflictions, ailments and maladies and the people glorify God because of it. Then Jesus once again performs the miracle of feeding thousands with just a few meager resources. 

Jesus was spreading the Word, teaching, preaching and healing. This is another step in His ministry to heal all of those who come to Him seeking salvation.

Jesus can see into your heart, just as He did the Canaanite woman. Will He see as great a faith there tonight as He saw in that woman, whom He compared to a little dog? Remember from verse 27, the statement of hers that convinced Him? It was her humility.

Matthew 15, Pt. 1: For This, Jesus Would Expose Us Too

Verses 1-9: Jesus is approached by the scribes and Pharisees, who are seeking to find fault in Him. Of course they always fail because Jesus had no fault in Him and in fact their attempts repeatedly backfire when Jesus exposes their hypocrisy.

The scribes and Pharisees think they have found error within Jesus’s disciples because they have observed that the disciples do not wash their hands when they eat bread. This “error” is not based on any scripture derived from heaven but is actually based on a tradition (vs. 2). What sin is there in failing to observe a tradition made by man? This was not a commandment made by God. 

Jesus exposes them immediately in verses 3-6 by explaining to them (and us!) how they conveniently avoid giving money to their needful parents. The scribes and Pharisees were giving money to God as they had been commanded, and this was undoubtedly good. However, they were using this expenditure as an excuse to avoid giving money to their parents, who were in need. By saying to their parents, “I can’t give you any money to help you with your needs because I am giving all of my extra money to God,” they were in actuality committing a sin because they were not following the commandment to honor their father and mother. Whether this was a trend among the scribes or the Pharisees or if Jesus saw into the hearts of the specific individuals questioning Him seems undetectable, but the sin is exposed nevertheless.

Jesus then quotes to them from Isaiah 29:13 and publicly declares they have fulfilled this prophecy because their words indicate that they love and worship God, but their hearts prove that they are actually very far from Him.

There are a couple of interesting applications we can take from Jesus’s lesson to the scribes and Pharisees tonight. First, know the importance of the difference between what God has said and what rules we simple humans have fashioned. And under no circumstances are we to place more importance on anything over what God has commanded. To be able to make judgments like these requires knowledge of God’s Word, does it not? And knowledge of God’s Word requires study and more than a surface understanding. 

In fact, we should be very careful with how we consider God’s Word. Because our own desires can creep into our reasoning and soon our own logic and reasoning is making decisions in our best interests at the expense of God’s commands. For this, Jesus would expose us, too. 

The second application is that the scribes and Pharisees were basically revealing their own lack of obedience and faith through their question. The words revealed the fallacy of their understanding of the import of God’s word and their challenge to Christ showed their lack of belief and trust in the Son of God. Had they not heard of all of the things He taught and the wonders and miracles He worked? And they were asking about the disciples washing their hands before eating? They were being absurd.

Verses 10-20: Lastly for tonight we have Christ’s sublime explanation about how what we say exposes us: “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.”” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭15:18-20

It is not necessarily surprising that the disciples require this explanation after Jesus first explains this profound spiritual truth. Because the first time we hear it, it doesn’t seem to immediately quite compute, does it? How can what I say corrupt me?

The main point is that what we say reveals our corruption because it originates from within our corrupt hearts. As we saw with the scribes and Pharisees, this can happen even when we are trying to be righteous. And that is why it is so important to remain steeped in the depth of the God’s Holy Word: we can’t trust ourselves. Satan will find an opening and he will spread corruption through sinful actions, creating shame, disgust and sorrow.

Tonight I urge you to renew your dedication to knowing God through your Bible. Knowing Him is the only way to remain truly righteous!

Matthew 14: Death & Miracles

Verses 1-12: John the Baptist is in prison because he had spoken out against King Herod’s sister-in-law, Herodias, saying that King Herod’s brother’s (Philip) marriage to her was unlawful. King Herod would have already killed John the Baptist but he feared retaliation from the many people who believed and followed him. King Herod mentions that John the Baptist was risen from the dead, meaning that he believed the miracles being performed were the work of a resurrected prophet. This is notable because it reveals Herod’s ignorance as to the true respective identities of John and Jesus Christ.

During Herod’s birthday celebration, his niece danced for him. This was Herodias’ and Philip’s daughter. Her dancing so pleased Herod that he gave his word that she could have whatever she wanted. Herodias prompted her to ask for John the Baptist’s head on a platter. Herodias obviously knew that John had condemned her marriage to the king’s brother and she wanted revenge. With reluctance for fear of the people, Herod orders that John’s head be removed and placed on a platter. The macabre presentation is made to the young girl, who gives it to her mother Herodias that had the original idea. Jesus was told of it, and went away to be alone and pray, most likely seeking strength and solace from God.

Verses 13-21: But Jesus cannot be alone and He is followed by many many people that believe in Him and that have needs. Jesus’s empathy moves Him to heal the sick.

When evening approached, the need to eat arose and the disciples suggest to Jesus that the people should be sent to the villages to buy food. Instead, Jesus miraculously changes five loaves of bread and two fish into enough food for five thousand men, plus women and children. A true miracle! 

Verses 22-36: In this passage Jesus is again seeking solitude, seeking to spend time with His Father in prayer. This time Jesus does get the time He needs and does not attempt to return to the disciples until late into the night. When He does return, He finds the disciples on a boat tossed by waves on a tumultuous sea. 

Jesus returns to them by walking on the water to them. Since there was a watch, they were able to notice Him coming and they were all very afraid. They did not recognize Jesus and thought that He was an apparition, a ghost. Amidst the stormy waters, Jesus calls out to them and tells them to not be scared but to cheer up. 

Peter, ever the faithful skeptic, wants to test whether it really is Jesus and asks that if it is truly Jesus, that He command Peter to join Him on the water. Christ complies and Peter walks out on the water to Him. But Peter’s faith vanishes as he fears the wind and the choppy sea and he begins to sink into the water. Peter cries out for help and Jesus chastises him for his lack of faith while bringing him safely to the boat. Once in the boat, the wind stops and all who were in the boat glorified in Jesus as the Son of God. 

This chapter ends with Jesus and His disciples successfully crossing the water over to Gennesaret. When they arrive, Jesus is recognized and again compelled to heal the sick. Jesus does so. The faith of these people was great, believing that they need only touch the edge of His clothing in order to be made well.

Are we not like Peter ourselves sometimes? There is a problem or obstacle before us that we cannot see a way out of and we despair. Everything we know as fact is telling us one thing but faith whispers to us the opposite. Too often we ignore that still, quiet voice of faith and heed the clamor of reason and words of the faithless. But God’s grace comes to us all when we realize that, after the storm has passed, that things were really quite manageable all along. With His help, I can do anything. 

“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”‭‭. Philippians‬ ‭4:11-13

Matthew 13 Pt. 3: Rejected at Home

Tonight we conclude our study of Matthew 13 with verses 44-58. Jesus has three more parables to share with His disciples before He resumes traveling.

The first two parables are very similar and carry the same meaning. These are the parable of the hidden treasure and the parable of the valuable pearl. In these parables, men find things of great value, then they sell all they have to obtain them. In these parables Jesus is teaching us that we need to be willing to forsake everything important to us so that we can follow Christ.

Sinful habits can be pleasurable, but we need to leave these behind and practice righteousness instead. There are also friendships, beliefs, practices and comforts that are in conflict with God’s Word. Even though denying ourselves certain things can be initially painful, in the long run of a life well-lived according to God’s Word, it is more than worth it. In fact it is a life that brings us more happiness, pleasure and a deep sense of calm serenity. These benefits all result in the knowledge and confidence we have in knowing that our God has received us and will care for us. These parables reflect that too; look at how happy the men in the parables were.

The third parable, concerning a dragnet, is similar to the parable of the wheat and the tares. This parable says that at the end of the age, the good will be divided from the wicked of the world and the wicked will be cast into hell. 

There is a mini-parable in verse 52: “Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old.” In this verse, Jesus is saying that when He teaches, the things that He teaches are known by the disciples because of their belief. In this sense, everyone that believed Christ held the esteemed position of a scribe, or one who knew God’s Word intimately. Jesus was revealing God’s mystery to the common people through His parables and teachings.

In the final verses of chapter 13, it is revealed to us that Jesus was rejected even in His hometown. It seems that despite His teachings and works, the people of Nazareth could not reconcile a divine presence with the carpenter’s boy they saw grow up as Jesus. Many things can cloud our faith, even familiarity.

Tonight, I urge you to not be afraid to leave everything behind for your belief in God and His Son Jesus Christ. God is true in every instance, not only when it is convenient or fitting. He deserves our complete loyalty and faith. Praise the Lord our God!

Matthew 13 Pt. 2: The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares

Tonight we continue our study of Matthew 13 with verses 24-43. Jesus continues teaching only in parables to his disciples.

He starts with a parable on wheat and tares. The story is that a man sows wheat seed in his field but when he is sleeping, another man comes and sows tare seed in his field as well. So when the seed grows, both wheat and tares come forth. We are familiar with wheat as a food source. Tares on the other hand are not such common knowledge. Tares look exactly like wheat until they mature. The difference in the fruit they bear is that the tares can cause dizziness and nausea when eaten whereas wheat has been a reliable food source for thousands of years and still is today.When the combination of wheat and tares in the crop is apparent, the man’s servants alert him to this. The man knows that an enemy has contaminated his crop with this wheat imposter. Rather than immediately uprooting the tares and risking destroying the wheat as well, the man instructs his servants to reap the whole crop once the harvest is ready and to separate the wheat from the tares. The tares are to be destroyed in fire while the wheat is kept for later use.

Later on in tonight’s passage (verses 36-43), Jesus explains the meaning of the parable of the wheat and the tares. Jesus explains the meaning very clearly and the parable ends up being a very effective way for us to understand what will happen when the world ends/on the day of judgment. God will not prematurely destroy those that heed the devil and the ways of the world but will rather wait until the end of the world to reward and punish people in accordance with their beliefs and obedience. The lesson here? We need to make sure that we are listening to and obeying the right voice. Is it God’s Holy Word? Or am I freely giving in to the desires and temptations that I encounter?

The second parable in this passage is the parable of the mustard seed in verses 31 & 32. Have you ever seen how small a mustard seed is compared with the tree it can produce? The seeds are tiny and the trees can become huge. This parable is told by Christ to show how the holy Word of God can spread to give life and love in our lives and in the lives of others. Take a moment to recall the things Jesus taught in Matthew chapter 5. The Beatitudes showed us meekness, purity and mercy. Later in that chapter we also learned how to love our enemies and freely give of our belongings. By doing such things and spreading the Word of salvation through Jesus Christ, we can become blessings to others. The kingdom of heaven is something that can grow to be a home for God’s people. This is how the Lord’s church is meant to function: a group of believers that love and support one another, all under the care of a loving and righteous God.

The third and final parable for tonight is the parable of the leaven. This is a companion parable to the parable of the mustard seed in that it illustrates how God’s providence serves to increase our faith, love and devotion. A little bit of leaven transforms the meal into bread. Just like that, God’s Word can transform you and me into new creatures when believed and obeyed.

We will conclude tonight’s study with a reaffirmation of prophecy that shows that Jesus was meant to fulfill the prophecy to teach using parables. In verses 34 & 35 the Word affirms that Christ is fulfilling the prophecy set forth in Psalm 78.

The primary application for tonight is to understand that the kingdom of heaven (the church) and the Holy Word of God (the Bible) are both in turn supreme blessings given to us by our amazing God. He has provided for us and has given us a way to increase our blessings. So why not turn to Him in good times and in bad? Why not lean on Him and on fellow Christians when things go wrong? Why not think to praise Him first when things go right?

Remember that God can do more for us than we can even comprehend: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” ‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭3:20-21‬

Please join me in praising Him! 

Matthew 13 Pt 1: The Parable of the Sower

There are numerous valuable parables in Matthew chapter 13. To give them their proper attention, we will study chapter 13 in three parts. Tonight we will start with the purpose of parables and the Parable of the Sower in verses 1-23. But before we begin, please understand and consider this: a parable is a spiritual truth revealed through the telling of a story using everyday, normal people and items.The passage (Matthew 13:1-23) starts with Jesus telling the parable, then providing an explanation of parables in general, then concluding with an explanation of the Parable of the Sower specifically. 

We will start tonight with the middle section where Jesus talks about why He uses parables.

In verses 10-17 Jesus is asked by His disciples why He spoke to the multitudes in parables. Jesus’s answer is that some who hear understand immediately the spiritual application of the practical principles found in the parables. Others though, willfully remain in disbelief and the message of the parables is completely lost on them. These listeners can be identified as the scribes and Pharisees which we have read about in other chapters who, in spite of already not knowing or believing in Jesus, were inclined to believe in Him even less when they heard His parables.

By listening to and having faith in the parables, those who had knowledge (Jesus’s disciples) were to be given more knowledge through the parables and those who did not have knowledge (scribes and Pharisees), were to be even more dumbfounded by Jesus’s teachings when they heard the parables.

Now let us look at the message of the Parable of the Sower in verses 1-9. A sower would have been one that planted seeds, for crops or otherwise. A sower went out to sow seeds and the seeds fell on four different types of ground, each producing a different result:

1) By the side of the road – birds came and ate the seeds

2) Among rocks and stones – plants sprung up and grew but soon withered away under the sun because they had no root 

3) Among thorns – thorns sprung up and choked out the plants

4) On good ground – the plants grew and were fruitful

In verse 9, Jesus admonishes honest listeners to pay attention. Moving down to verses 18-23, here we have Jesus’s explanation of the parable. All of the elements of the story are symbols: 

Seed = God’s message of salvation

Ground = People types 

Birds = Satan 

Sun = Challenges to faith

Thorns = Worries of the world & trust in money

Crop = An effort of contribution to God’s kingdom and the rewards of serving God.

Jesus’s explanation is clear and simple. If the reader did not understand the meaning of the Parable of the Sower before, they certainly do now. This parable, at its heart, explains how mankind will receive the good news of God’s plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. Most will not follow for various reasons; but a precious few will hear, believe, obey and work to spread the good news.

Take note of the variety in how people will receive the Word of God. Jesus provides four different types of people, four different possible ways to react to the Holy Word. If we boil it down to percentages, this means that roughly 25% of the people that hear God’s Word will respond with belief and obedience in God and a lasting change in their life. And even among this 25%, some of them will have more to contribute than others. 

It should be noted that Jesus does not say that there is an equal distribution among the different hearers, so we cannot really rely on the 25% as a definite percentage of believers. But we can infer from the parable that the majority of hearers will not be successful believers.

We can learn a few things from this passage tonight:

1) Do not be discouraged if we share Jesus with others but they do not believe

2) Our task is to share Jesus; the believing is up to the listener

3) There is value in knowing if we retain any of the qualities of the unsuccessful listeners Jesus describes: Do I tend to lose interest? Do I get distracted by material things? If so, I can pray to God about these shortcomings and work on seeking Him more decisively.

Jesus’s parables are a way to understand great spiritual truths using common stories. If we think about spirituality in these simple terms, we ingest the meaning more deeply and can begin operating with this godly knowledge. 

Matthew 12: Jesus Continues Disrupting the Status Quo

Verses 1-14:

The Pharisees challenge Jesus again, seemingly they are doing this at every opportunity. The Pharisees were the Jewish ruling high class and any change to their social and religious norms would have threatened their privileged way of life and social status. When Jesus arrived performing miracles and claiming He was the son of God, they did not believe Him. They attributed His powers as coming from Satan and they felt that they were right to challenge Him and stop His ministry. From their perspective, Jesus was a threat to their religious beliefs and way of life.

The examples of “labor” (if you can call plucking heads of grain to nibble on labor) and healing on the Sabbath were instances the Pharisees used to “prove” that Jesus was not from God because God had forbidden any type of labor on the Sabbath. Jesus refutes these charges by appealing to a sense of logic and using righteous judgment. 

For plucking grain, Jesus tells them that David had eaten the showbread in the temple once out of hunger and that this was permissible in the eyes of God. Jesus’s disciples were not harvesting the grain (which would have been labor and against the law of the Sabbath), but in fact they were gathering the grain for the purpose of eating, which was not considered labor of the type that was condemned on the Sabbath.

The Pharisees also asked Jesus whether healing on the Sabbath was also labor and therefore a sin. But Jesus easily shuts down this idea with the illustration of helping a sheep that has fallen into a pit. It is not work; it is saving, helping and healing.

Verses 15-21:

After these things, Jesus begins to withdraw himself from the formal Jewish leadership because of their opposition and lack of belief. Jesus’s withdrawal is in accordance with prophecy and verses 18-21 in Matthew 12 quote a passage in Isaiah 42:1-4. This prophecy indicated what has happened and what was to come: that Jesus would remove himself from the formal Jewish leadership and that the Gentiles (non-Jews) would benefit as a result. We see the result of this even today.

Verses 22-30:

In these verses Jesus is again charged of using the power of Satan and not of God to cast out demons. We saw Jesus accused of this same thing earlier in our studies in Matthew 9:34. In this instance, though Jesus provides a logical explanation on why it would be impossible for Him to cast out demons using the power of Satan. He could not use a power against itself or else Satan’s power would not last. Also, the Pharisees themselves cast out demons and they did not use the power of Satan. Lastly, the fact that Jesus was doing this indicated that the kingdom of God was near. This meant that Jesus would soon die for the sins of all mankind. 

Verses 31-32:

These two verses serve as a warning, for us as well as the Pharisees. God can forgive all sins through Jesus Christ but the one sin that God cannot forgive is if we were to come to know the truth yet deny it and speak out in blasphemy against it. The Pharisees had the prophecies telling them of Jesus’coming; they had the miracles and his teachings too, yet they still did not believe. Willful denial in the face of God’s truth in Jesus Christ would not be forgiven them. 

The Holy Spirit has given us the Bible, God’s Holy Word, and if we live in direct opposition to God’s Word, we, like the Pharisees, will not be forgiven either.

Verses 33-37:

This passage displays Jesus’s anger at the audacity of the Pharisees. They professed to be good and holy, yet Jesus knew their hearts were corrupted. A stern warning is given by the Son of God here, to the Pharisees as well as to us today: be careful of the words you speak, for they will be used to judge you and you will be required to explain them. 

Verses 38-45:

The scribes are mentioned here in tandem with the Pharisees and they had much in common with the Pharisees. Mostly, they were in charge of writing copies of the books of the Law and they held similar beliefs as well as nearly the same social status as the Pharisees. 

The scribes and the Pharisees ask Jesus for a sign, seemingly to confirm that Jesus was speaking the truth. Jesus rebukes them both with prophecy and logic. 

The prophecy Jesus brings is that the sign He will bring is of His own death on the cross, His burial for three days, then His resurrection. Jesus uses the story of Jonah as a parallel, for Jonah was three days in the belly of the whale before he was spit out and lived. 

Jesus also tells the scribes and Pharisees that the solace of their erroneous hearts will do them no good. Living in their own righteousness and not God’s is a wicked way to live and their end will not be pleasant. After all, if they have not believed that Jesus was the Christ in the midst of all of Jesus’s miracles and teachings by now, they were not going to believe at all.

These same ideas are true for us today: If we live by our own sense of right and wrong and not God’s, we are living in a fantasy, and not in the reality of true life that God has built for us. Only in Him can we have true righteousness.

Verses 46-50:

This chapter ends with Jesus’s appeal to who it is that is truly our family. Jesus wasn’t denying his blood relations with His words in verses 48-50, rather He was using the opportunity to promote unity and strengthen the bonds of love we have together when we are one in Jesus Christ.

Tonight as you study, I urge you to examine yourself and seek only God’s righteousness. There are still scribes and Pharisees in the world today, they just go by different names. Let us try to be more like Jesus and learn how to see through false charges and suppositions and to discern the truth. There are not many versions of the truth; there is only the truth as God has revealed it to us.

Matthew 11: Confirmation & Rejection & Rest

Verses 1-15 – Confirmation:

In the previous chapter Jesus sent out the apostles to teach and preach. John the Baptist at this time was in prison, probably put there because of what the Jews considered to be heretical teaching. But we know that John the Baptist was teaching others about the coming Savior Jesus Christ and that this was God’s truth, not heresy. When John hears about the works of Jesus while in prison, he is curious as to whether these acts are the ones of the Son of God that he had been proclaiming. So John sends messengers to Jesus to ask whether or not he is the Savior, or the Coming One. Jesus sends the messengers back to John with word of His miracles as evidence that Jesus was indeed the coming Savior. 

Jesus then confirms to his followers the truth of what John the Baptist had been teaching. Jesus confirming that John the Baptist spoke truth serves to combat the belief that John was rightfully placed in prison. In fact, John the Baptist being in prison was persecution and an injustice. Jesus confirms John the Baptist and thus all of John’s teachings are justified and supported by the Son of God. 

Verses 16-24 – Rejection:

The first part of this passage has Jesus explaining how John the Baptist and Jesus are being rejected. John was teaching the truth of Jesus’s coming and Jesus was teaching the truth of God’s kingdom, but their messages were rejected by the majority of those that heard them in the cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida. Both John and Jesus were condemned and judged so that John was accused of having a demon and Jesus was accused of associating with sinners.

Adversely, Jesus condemns the condemners, likening them to children who do not listen because of their willful ignorance. Their consequences are to be great, just as it is for those today that do not heed the gospel call. Jesus calls us all to Him. If we ignore Him, we too will suffer great consequences.

Verses 25-30 – Rest:

In this final passage of the chapter, Jesus offers the solution of willful ignorance and the solution is to hear and seek Jesus Himself. In Jesus we can have true rest. This rest is not for our tired bodies but rather for our broken and striving spirits. When we humble ourselves to believe and follow Christ, the load of life gets easier because we can cast our cares and worries upon Jesus. This means that things we worry about can be given to Him; instead of spending mental energy worrying about the outcome of one thing or another, we simply can pray about it and trust that Jesus Christ, who is in God the Father will oversee the outcome for us. 

The mystery of the relationship of God and Jesus is hinted at in this passage also. God and Jesus are one in another and everything Jesus says can be wholly trusted and believed because it was all given to Him by God. 

Join me in trusting in Jesus’s strength. Jesus offers true peace. As long as we are willing to humble ourselves and follow Christ, our burden will be light.

Matthew 10: Sheep Among Wolves

Verses 1-15:

Jesus identifies the twelve apostles, gives them power to remove unclean spirits and to heal sickness and disease. When the apostles are listed in this chapter, most of them are mentioned with details about their relations, name or occupation. The relations would have had more meaning to the 1st century reader in terms of context, but we can still garner some meaning from these clues. The apostles are listed in pairs, probably in accordance with how they were sent out. Brothers went with brothers for the strength of familiarity. Judas is mentioned last.

1. Simon (Peter)

2. Andrew (brother of Peter)

3. James (brother of John, son of Zebedee)

4. John (brother of James, son of Zebedee)

5. Philip

6. Bartholomew

7. Thomas

8. Matthew (tax collector and author of this book)

9. James (son of Alphaeus)

10. Thaddeus (first name was Lebbaeus)

11. Simon (the Cananite)

12. Judas Iscariot (the traitor)

Jesus’s primary command to the apostles was to go out and spread the word that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. To the apostles and their audience, the meaning of this statement, “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” was probably a mystery. They would have been able to tell that God was working through them because of the miracles but the idea that God’s Son had come in the form of a man to seek and save the lost was a concept that would take some time to be understood. Nevertheless, Jesus wanted to spread the word that God’s plan was coming to fruition. Here are the details of Jesus’s instructions to the apostles as they went out to send the message:

– Do not go to the Gentiles (non-Jews)

– Do not go to the Samaritans

– Go to the lost of Israel (Jews)

– Preach that “The kingdom of heaven is at hand”

– Perform miracles (heal, cleanse, raise, cast out)

– Do so freely

– Take no money, bag, extra clothes (they will be provided)

– Stay with people worthy to receive you

– Depart from the unworthy

The apostles had their work cut out for them. Through Jesus’ command we can see that they could have expected to be welcomed or shunned depending on their audience. We also know that the Jews (the primary audience for this excursion) had a leadership that resisted and thwarted Jesus at every turn. Add in that the apostles were going to be personally working miracles and the sense of adventure becomes overwhelming.

Verses 16-26:

In these verses Jesus provides comfort and warnings. Warnings come in the form of men that will persecute, including going before governors and kings. They will be scourged in synagogues and family divisions will also occur. Jesus comforts them with the knowledge that the Holy Spirit will direct their speech in times of trouble and also encourages them not to fear demons.

Verses 27-42:

These verses are some of the most important and profound of Jesus’s words in my opinion. Take special care with reading verses 30, 32, 33, and 39. Jesus explains the intimate care and love that God’s has for us and that love is contrasted with the absolute devotion that is required of us as children of God. 

Jesus brings words of truth and light and as such, our fear should not be for bodily harm or death but we should instead fear the doom of our soul. Are we ashamed of Jesus? Are we ashamed of our faith? If so, Jesus will deny us. But if we speak of and claim Him, He will claim us before God. 

Even though it is unpleasant, we should also be ready to abandon the closest family relationships for faith in Jesus. I need to be willing to sacrifice my life and the things most important to me for the sake of my faith in Jesus Christ. 

This inspiring and enlightening chapter concludes with the continuing admonition to be selfless, giving, true and kind.