Archive for the ‘Matthew’ Category

Matthew 28

Matthew 28 tells the story of the resurrection.  “Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb”.  Jesus has been in there since Friday evening, and now it is Sunday morning, three days later.  The guards were still there watching the tomb.  A few women came to see the tomb, and as they approached there was a great earthquake and an angel of the Lord rolled back the stone and sat on it.  That had to e quite a sight.

“And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men”.   These were trained military men, but they had never seen anything like this before.  The angel tells the women “He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay”.  Jesus had proclaimed that on the third day He would rise from the dead, and indeed He did.  The angel sends them to go tell the disciples and on their way they see Jesus.  The guards go back to town and tell the religious leaders what had happened, and they buy them off and guarantee protection from the governor.  They couldn’t let the truth get out.

Jesus sent the message for His disciples to meet Him in Galilee so they took off to see Him there. As they meet Him, some struggle to believe.  But He gives them their marching orders (which are ours as well).  “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age”.  There we have it – a concise set of marching orders for Christ Followers.

Jesus wants us focused on making disciples.  That’s it.  A disciple is simply a learner.  So our job is to first become a disciple, then to become a disciple maker.  We are to live life as a Christ Follower in a way that others can follow us and end up as a Christ Follower themselves.  It’s about spiritual multiplication.  Jesus didn’t tell His disciples to go make baby Christians.  We are to baptize and teach them, not merely save them and get them into heaven.  The Christlike life is about following Him in a way that leads others to that same lifestyle.  It isn’t rocket science.  It means we have to study and know what that looks like and then discipline ourselves to live it every day in transparency before those in our patch.  Are you a disciple maker?  That is what Jesus has told us to go do.  He says ‘to all nations’ which is the eventual goal.  But it should start with us, then our family, then those in our patch.  He may call us to go further, but let’s start with that!

Matthew 27

Matthew 27 has Jesus arrested and in custody.  “When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death”.  Judas Iscariot has betrayed Him into their hands, and now they want to continue their mission to kill Him and take away His threat to their power.  They drag him before Pilate accusing Him of all sorts of lies.  “Are you  the King of the Jews”?  This was the area they focused on – trying to get Jesus to declare Himself a political rival to the governor.  But “he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed”.

The religious leaders focused on building a frenzy in the people that were there to kill Jesus.  And rather than do what was right, or even what his wife told him to do, Pilate gives Him over to be killed. The chapter describes the details of the crucifixion.  Jesus is put on a cross between two common criminals.  He chooses to give His life freely – not because He has to – but because He chooses to as a fulfillment of God’s plan to save mankind.  When He dies, “the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And  the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of  the saints who had fallen asleep were raised”.

The impact of His death was immediate.  “When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said. Truly this was the Son of God”!  The people couldn’t see that Jesus was God’s Son before, but as His death and the power it has are experienced, they realize that He was in fact not a criminal, but the Son of God.  “Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away”.

The religious leaders were afraid that killing Him wouldn’t end the impact of Jesus’ life. They acknowledged that Jesus had said “After three days I will rise. Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people”,  They were concerned that somehow the disciples would steal the body and create a problem where Jesus’ body was gone and thus He had done as He said.  So they go to Pilate and ask for soldiers to guard the tomb.  “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.  So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard”.  Jesus’ body is in the tomb, guarded by a group of soldiers.

Matthew 26

Matthew 26 tells the story of Jesus last few days before His crucifixion.  Jesus prepares the disciples for what is to come.  “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified”.  As much as He’s hinted about it up to this point, it now becomes very clear and very real.  For one of the twelve, it becomes an opportunity to line his own pockets.  “Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you”?  Judas was in it for his own good, and was going to capitalize on the coming events.

But before that, Jesus wants to spend an evening with His disciples.  Much as He had done with the donkey that carried him to town, He sends His disciples to prepare a place.  “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him”.  Not a lot of detail, but as before, it worked out.  As they sat together Jesus drops a bomb on the group.  “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me”.  Of course, everyone is taken aback.  They ask “Is it I, Lord” and Jesus subtly points out that it will be Judas.  But His main focus is preparing the twelve for the future and establishing the sacrament we know today as communion.  “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”.

They end their time around the table and Jesus takes them to the Mount of Olives to prepare for what comes next – His betrayal.  Jesus had told them earlier that they would fall away that very night.  But Peter, bold as ever, says “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you”!  We’ll find out soon enough that was an overstatement.  Jesus goes off to pray saying “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me”.  He asks Peter, James and John to go further with Him than the rest and to pray for Him.  “And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping”.

He challenges them and says “So, could you not watch with me one hour”?  He asks them to pray once again, “And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy”.  Jesus goes off a third time and when He returns they prepare to meet Judas who is bringing the religious leaders so he can betray the Christ.  The disciples want to fight to protect Jesus, but He tells them to stop.  “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels”?  This isn’t about power, but Jesus’ choice to give His life freely for the forgiveness of our sin.  This is where grace was born!

Jesus knew God’s plan for saving the world, or at least offering the means by which salvation can come.  He was aligned with what God was up to and says “all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled”.  This isn’t accidental or unplanned.  This is exactly as God had intended.  As Jesus is arrested and taken, Peter follows at a distance and then, as he watches from afar, three different people recognize him.  He denies each, more vehemently each time.  And as he denied Christ the third time, “immediately the rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly”.  All this happened to fulfill the prophecy that had been given throughout the Old Testament.  Jesus is the Christ, God’s plan for saving us from sin!

Matthew 25

Matthew 25 has Jesus teaching more about the end times.  He tells the story of the 10 virgins – how five took extra oil for their lamps and how the other five did not and ran out of light. There were three stages to a Jewish wedding in that day. The first was engagement – a formal agreement made by the fathers. The second was betrothal – the ceremony where mutual promises are made. The third was marriage – approximately one year later when the bridegroom came at an unexpected time for his bride.  The wedding party is waiting for the groom to show up but are caught unprepared when he came. Jesus tells them to “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour”.  We’ll not know when He is going to return, but we need to be ready for that return.

He goes on to tell the story of the three guys that were left to tend to the traveling master’s money.  He gave five talents to one, two to a second, and one to the third and asked them to take care of things.  The one with five doubled it to ten, the one with two doubled it to four, but the one with a single talent buried it and got no return.  To the first two, the master says “Well done, good and  faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into  the joy of your master”. Then the master comes to the third one.  The story isn’t as pretty then.

The master is furious that nothing was done.  Fear had paralyzed this person to the point they merely buried what they were given and had no return.  “So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away”. God gives each of us talents, skills, gifts and abilities.  But they are given to us with the intent that we’ll use them – we’ll take them and do something with them.  If we don’t, there is punishment.  Jesus says “And  cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”.  We can’t just sit on what we’ve been entrusted with.  We have to take them and use them for His Kingdom.

Jesus ends the chapter reminding us that we have to treat those around us with love.  After all, that was the second most important commandment – to love our neighbors.  He sets the expectation that whenever there is an opportunity to help others, we need to step up.  “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you  gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you  visited me, I was in prison and you came to me”.  The Christian life is not lived from the sidelines.  If we are a Christ Follower, we have to be in the game and on the field.  If not, we’ll experience this reality: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me”.  Jesus demands that we love those in our patch.  If we do, we truly love Him.  When we don’t, we face the outcome of that choice!

Matthew 24

Matthew 24 has Jesus talking with His disciples about the last days of the end times.  The details are sketchy in many ways, but the teaching is direct.  “See that no one leads you astray”.  We have to pay attention to what is happening around us to be sure we don’t miss the signs that His return is coming.  The time leading up to that will not be pretty.  “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and  put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another”.  When Jesus returns, it won’t be into a peaceful and loving world.

But He is coming again.  Before that happens though, His gospel must be proclaimed to all people everywhere.  “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come”.  Every people group will hear the gospel before Jesus comes.  That message is being accelerated with the technology available today, but there is still much to be done.  The data says there are over 16,000 distinct people groups on the planet today.  Of those, over 6,000 are still unreached.  So almost half the world’s population is in those groups, and there is much to be done before Christ will return.  But the speed at which these groups are being reached is accelerating.  Christ’s return is coming!

As we await that day, Jesus warns us what to expect.  “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect”.  There are some who will see this as an opportunity to grab power, position or possessions and turn it into a personal gain.  We have to remain diligent and make sure we don’t fall for these false teachings.  We’ll know whe Jesus returns.  “Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory”.  It won’t be a quiet entry.  We’ll know when Christ returns.

His mission will be clear: “they will gather his elect” and move them all to eternal life with God.  This isn’t a theory.  Jesus tells us “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away”.  The Bible is true, not just about this topic, but about every Word it contains. It won’t pass away.  The data on the uniqueness of that book is staggering. No book in history compares.  We need to study and know what scripture teaches.  Jesus tells us to “stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming”.  We need to be ready and prepared.  That means studying His Word and walking with Christ day by day.  Are you ready for His return?  Will He know you when He comes?  Today is the day to prepare if you aren’t!

Matthew 23

Jesus begins Matthew 23 in front of a crowd of His disciples and followers.  He spends the entire chapter pounding the religious leaders of the day.  “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you—but not what they do”.  Jesus is telling the people they need to break free from the legalism the leaders of the day were proclaiming.  They told the people that they needed to live a certain way, but they certainly did not follow their own direction.  “For they preach, but do not practice”.  This is ineffective leadership.  If anyone is going to lead well, it has to be done through example and practicing what they preach.  It isn’t words – it is action.

Barclay identifies seven kinds of Pharisees of that day – six of which were bad:

  • The Shoulder Pharisee, who wore all his good deeds and righteousness on his shoulder for everyone to see.
  • The Wait-a-Little Pharisee, who always intended to do good deeds, but could always find a reason for doing them later, not now.
  • The Bruised or Bleeding Pharisee, who was so holy that he would turn his head away from any woman seen in public – and was therefore constantly bumping into things and tripping, thus injuring himself.
  • The Hump-Backed Pharisee, who was so humble that he walked bent over and barely lifting his feet – so everyone could see just how humble he was.
  • The Always-Counting Pharisee, who was always counting up his good deeds and believed that he put God in debt to him for all the good he had done.
  • The Fearful Pharisee, who did good because he was terrified that God would strike him with judgment if he did not.
  • The God-Fearing Pharisee, who really loved God and did good deeds to please the God he loved.

Jesus tells the people that respect was due these leaders because they sit on Moses seat – which was the seat of the teacher in the synagogue and a God ordained place of authority.  But that was where the respect was to stop because their lives and actions were anything but godly.  “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others”. To these religious leaders, it was all about the show, not about the heart.  God cares about our heart.

Jesus gives us the greatest truth of all time about leadership.  Great leadership is servant leadership.  “The greatest among you shall be your servant”.  Leadership is not about sitting in a place of authority and telling people what to do.  Leadership is about serving people and being with them as they work.  Normally, people estimate greatness by how many people serve and honor them. Jesus reminded His followers that in His kingdom it should be different, and that we should estimate greatness by how we serve and honor others.  True leadership is about serving those in our patch, not telling people what to do.  It’s not about being a boss, it is about being a servant.

Jesus goes on a tirade and calls out the Pharisees and Scribes 10 times through the rest of the chapter.  He points out how hypocritical they are in most every area of life.  These are the power brokers of the day, yet Jesus gets in their faces and calls them what they are – hypocrites who say one thing but live in a very different way.  They talk a good talk, but they ignore God’s law and heart in how they live.  God cares about our heart first and foremost.  So Jesus let’s the have it.  “You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell”?  Strong words to give to the religious leaders of the day.  Jesus isn’t afraid – He speaks God’s truth.  And we too will stand before God and have to answer for how we live.  That’s why Jesus came – to give us a path of grace to cover our sin and put us in write standing with God.

Matthew 22

Matthew 22 begins with Jesus telling a parable about the king who invites a number of people to the wedding feast for his son.  They were all ‘too busy’ to attend, so since it was prepared, he sends his servants out to bring anyone who would to come fill the seats.  “The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find”.  They gathered a bunch of people, some good, some not.  But they accomplished their charge and filled the wedding hall.

The king is going around to greet his guests and comes across one who wasn’t wearing the ceremonial wedding garment he had been provided.  “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment”?  It was a requirement in those days to wear the appropriate attire that was usually provided.  This person chose not to do that, and the king promptly had him removed.  Jesus uses it to make the point “For many are called, but few are chosen”.  This is a picture of God’s offer to give us eternal life, but there are some requirements and standards.

Some refuse to come, and others who do come refuse to submit to the norms of the kingdom and are therefore rejected.  The truth is that not everyone will enter heaven.  And God’s not apologetic about that.  There are:

  • those indifferent to the gospel
  • those antagonistic against the gospel
  • those unchanged by the gospel

None of them enjoyed the king’s feast.  Lots of people struggle with that truth – that a loving God might possibly not let everyone into heaven.  That’s true even if they show up and want to enter.  God’s got a requirement – perfect obedience to His law or grace that will cover the sin of falling short.

Jesus goes on to answer one of the most important questions the Pharisees ever ask him.  “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law”?  Jesus summarizes the entire Old Testament in two statements: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And  a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets”.  There you have it – the entirety of the Old Testament law and prophecy summarized into two verses that define what we are to life like.  God first, others second, self…..sort of made the list at the very end.  We tend to get that backward.  Is God first in your life?  And those in your patch next?  By the way, who is your neighbor???   Another question for another day.

Matthew 21

Matthew 21 has preparation going on for Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem.  His disciples are in the dark, but Jesus tells them to go secure a donkey He can ride.  “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, The Lord needs them, and he will send them at once”. Seems like a crazy plan, but they follow His direction and things go exactly as Jesus said.  The owners asked, they told them why they were taking their donkey, and off they go.  God at work to prepare the way.

Jesus fulfills prophecy by riding this donkey into town.  The people lined the streets and places branches on the road He was traveling.  And they cried out “Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest”!  The religious leaders were in the dark about Jesus coming to town.  But they quickly found out.  “Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons”.  Jesus stirs up the status quo.  People had sold items for sacrifice and made change for people for many years.  Corrupt and self-focused as it was, the religious leaders allowed it since it supported their traditions.  But Jesus gets to the heart of it and demonstrates God’s wrath regarding people who take advantage of others in the name of religion.

As Jesus walks with the Twelve He becomes hungry and comes upon a fig tree with no fruit.  He curses it and it immediately withers and the disciples are amazed.  Then Jesus gives (again) a truth about prayer we need to understand and cling to.  “If you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, Be taken up and thrown into the sea, it will happen. And  whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith”.  Jesus gives us the secret to answered prayer – it has to be asked in faith.  Total, complete, with out doubt faith.  Prayer is limitless in its power when we ask it with faith.

The chapter ends with a showdown at the synagogue with the religious leaders.  They see Jesus infringing on their turf and undermining their power, so they want to get Him.  They attempt to trap Him with questions but He sees right through their efforts and turns the tables on them.  Then Jesus gives us the truth about God and His plan for mankind.  “The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits”.  God is not impressed by title or power or status.  God will bless those who bear fruit – His fruit which is bringing people to Him and helping people grow in their walk with Him.  That’s what God wants from us – to make Him known and to walk in obedience to His Word.  Lightbulbs finally go on.  “When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them”.  Now they will shift to a plot to get rid of Jesus.  Too much risk and competition to their way of life.  They have to get rid of Him.

Matthew 20

Matthew 20 begins with the story of a business owner who has need for laborers in his vineyard.  He goes out early to hire some and “after agreeing with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard”.  Throughout the day, he saw others in need of work and would tell them to head to his vineyard and join the work crew there.  That happened all day with the last being sent a mere hour before the day was to end.  When the evening came, the owner asked his foreman to “Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first”.

So the last to join the work crew came and were paid a denarius, which was what he offered to those who began at the start of the day.  “Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius”.  Can you see what’s coming?  Those famous words of ‘it’s not fair’.  “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and  the scorching heat”.  How can you do this to us.  They didn’t do nearly as much.  We have this mentality in society today that we get to define what fair is.  Life is not fair.  We have no right to expect fairness.

Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity? 16 So the last will be first, and the first last”.  The owner chose what to do with what was his.  That is his prerogative, not that of the workers.  Jesus again reminds us that in God’s plan, order and fairness are not determined by what man thinks.  This prepares the disciples for the reality that is coming.  “And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and  crucified, and he will be raised on the third day”.  There is nothing fair about what is coming to Jesus.  Here is God’s Son, about to be crucified.  A perfect man with no sin going to a sinners cross to pay for our sin.

Jesus goes on to remind them the real secret to effective leadership.  “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”.  If we want to lead like Jesus, we have to serve like He did.  Jesus never worried about status or position or possession or place or fairness.  Jesus was about serving people where they were dealing with the issues they were dealing with.  He was great because He chose to serve always.  That’s how we maximize our effectiveness as a leader – we serve!

Matthew 19

Matthew 19 has some strong words about marriage and following Christ.  It begins with the Pharisees coming to Him and asking questions about divorce.  Jesus reminds them that divorce was not God’s idea, but man’s.  It didn’t exist until Moses allowed it.  They pressed him further and Jesus gives a single statement about the topic.  “Whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery”.  There is a lot of ambiguity around the area of divorce.  And we can argue all day about what makes it allowable or the right outcome.

The focus needs to be on the sanctity of marriage and how much God wants that to be strong and secure, not what situations will allow us to end a marriage and move on to someone or something else.  God designed marriage.  He created man and woman and brought them together for a purpose in the garden.  We need to focus on the things that keep people together, not look for the things that will allow them to be separated.  It isn’t that divorce is not ever justified.  Jesus says it is.  But the first response to challenges or trials needs to focus on building marriage, not tearing it apart.  That’s harder work, and requires people to focus on what matters rather than their own interests first, but it is God’s design.

Jesus then teaches His disciples about priorities.  They were chasing parents and children away who were trying to come to Jesus.  He stops them in their tracks and says “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven”.  All people matter to Jesus – no matter their age or race or problems.  Sometimes we tend to think that Jesus only cares about the people like us.  But He loves all people of every shape, size, creed or other trait.  In fact, He died for each and every person that has or is or will ever be on the face of this planet.  He loves them all.  Jesus loves the little children – all the children of the world!

The chapter ends with a very important interaction between a man who comes with a simple question, and the Master who has the difficult answer.  “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life”?  It is a question many have asked.  Jesus gives a direct and simple answer: “If you would enter life, keep the commandments”.  Pretty straight forward.  All we have to do to have eternal life is live an obedient and perfect life obeying the commandments.  Which is where things break down for most of us.  This man felt he had followed those completely.  Most of us will have failed the test already.  But Jesus gives him the next requirement.

If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me”.  This man had gone through the motions of obedience but hadn’t given his life to following Christ.  That is the requirement that we need to cover our sins and give us access to the Father for eternity.  “When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions”.  The man was going through the external motions but his heart was not right with God.  He was missing the inward surrender to the Savior.

When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, Who then can be saved”?  It seems impossible to gain eternal life.  And left to our own efforts, quite frankly it is.  “But Jesus looked at them and said, With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible”.  This is the good news of the gospel.  We’re doomed left on our own.  We can’t possibly obey all that is required and we will miss the mark and fall short of God’s requirements to enter heaven.  But Jesus paid the price on the cross that gives us access through Him.  When we receive His gift of grace through confession, repentance and believing, we can confidently stand before God as one who has been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb!  That’s how we can do the impossible – put our faith in Jesus!

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