Showing posts from August, 2023

A Life of Significance

Answering the Call Matthew 10:1-15 “And when you go, preach, saying, ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’”               What is your goal in life?  At the end of your life, what do you desire to accomplish?  These are no idle questions to ponder and dismiss.  They are the hard questions we need to ask so that our life has genuine purpose and meaning. Tim Kizziar wrote, “Our greatest fear as individuals and as a church should not be the fear of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”  Too often, we spend our lives in pursuit of the things that, in the end, are insignificant and temporary rather than meaningful and eternal.             In response to the spiritual needs around them, Jesus sent out his disciples to proclaim the kingdom's message.  In 9:38, he challenges his disciples to pray for workers to be sent into the harvest.  We are to pray for people who are willing to become participants in Christ's redemptive program by proclaiming his mes

Seeing as Jesus Sees

Seeing as Jesus Sees Matthew 9:35-38 “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.”               “Seeing” is a significant thread woven throughout the chapter, focusing on what Jesus sees in contrast to what others see.  Throughout the chapter, we find Jesus seeing people, not from a physical but spiritual perspective.  In verse 2, He saw the faith of the men who brought the Paralytic.  In verse 9, while people saw a despised tax collector, Jesus saw someone who would be a disciple and writer.  In verse 22, Jesus did not see an unclean woman but a woman who was desperate and in need of healing and had faith in his ability to provide for her needs.  In verse 23, Jesus enters a room of mourners, and he sees a hopeless crowd in the face of death.  In verse 30, Jesus give physical and spiritual sight to men who were both physically and spiritually blind.               What Jesus saw stands in contrast to what ot

The God of Hope

The God of Hope Matthew 10:20-22, 27-34 “Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well.”               When we face unrelenting adversity, we lose hope, and despair grips the soul.  After contrasting the new order of faith versus the old order of religious ritual, Matthew gives examples of how the old brought despair but the new brought hope.   The first individual was a woman suffering from a continuous menstrual flow.  In the Old Testament, the period of a woman’s monthly cycle rendered her ritually unclean.  Because of this, anything she touched would also be unclean. Consequently, for the past 12 years, she was regarded as unclean and unable to participate in any temple worship. While the physical ailment was not life-threatening, it was untreatable and life-changing.  As one unclean, she was limited in her contact with people and would have been looked down upon by others as unclean.  In her hopelessness, she was desperate to find hope.              The second miracle invol

The Powerlessness of the Old and the Power of the New

The Old versus the New:  Death versus Life Matthew 9:18-34 “He entered and took her by the hand, and the girl got up.”               Having compared the old religious order with the new order of faith, Matthew now gives us a series of miracles highlighting and contrasting the Old and the New.  The old order operated based on a religious system in which works attained salvation and reason explained life.  The old was powerless to overcome death. But the new order operates by faith, allowing God to transform us supernaturally. The new order brings victory over sin and its effects by giving us victory over death.               As Jesus contrasts the hopelessness of the old religious system and the hope of the new, we surprisingly find a religious leader (identified by Mark and Luke as Jairus) who comes to Jesus with a desperate cry. The timing is important, and the person coming with a request is equally relevant. This religious leader, who represented the old order, was desperate: His da

Outward Conformity VS Inward Transformation

Outward Conformity vs. Inward Transformation Matthew 9:14-17 “But no one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch pulls away from the garment, and a worse tear results.”                 The disciples of John were troubled. This was not the first time that the disciples of John had conflicts with the disciples of Christ.  While John readily and wholeheartedly supported the rising ministry of Jesus, his disciples were more reluctant.  For them, John represented the maintenance and advancement of the Jewish faith, while the disciples of Jesus seemed to be undermining the rituals and practices of the Jews.  In their eyes, the criticism of the Pharisees that Jesus and his disciples were not rigidly upholding the Law and Traditions of the Jews seemed valid.  Even though the Old Testament law did not specifically command fasting (except on the Day of Atonement), it was a familiar ritual of the Jewish leaders.  For those who upheld the traditions as part of the expressio

The Unlikely Disciple

The Unlikely Disciple Matthew 9:9-13 “He saw a man called Matthew sitting in the tax collector’s booth, and he said to him, ‘Follow Me!’”               With God, it does not matter where you have been; it only matters where you are going.  For the Christian, what defines us as a person is not the past but the future.  Matthew illustrates this principle in his life and calling to be a disciple.             Of all the 12 disciples of Jesus, Matthew was the least likely.  We know little of Matthew's background besides that he was formerly a tax collector. Apart from his mention in the gospel, we find no other mention of him in the church's history after the gospel.  It was enough that Matthew was formerly a tax collector.  Tax collectors were private subcontractors who would collect tools and taxes on behalf of the Roman government.  When travelers shipped merchandise on certain Roman-built and maintained roads, the people were required to pay a tax to Romans.  Because the governm

The Power to Forgive

  The Authority of Jesus Matthew 9:1-8 “So that you many know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”               The religious leaders were shocked and enraged.  After his brief respite from the crowds, Jesus again returns to his adopted hometown of Capernaum.  When news of his arrival spread, people gathered to hear his teaching. One group of people who heard of Jesus’ presence was a group of men with a paralyzed friend.  In this story, we discover three important lessons.  First, we find out that some accidents or illnesses directly result from sin. While we do not know the exact cause of his accident, Christ reveals that it was connected to the sinful actions of the individual.  While illness and accidents often result from a broken world in which disease and injury stem from the fall of Adam and Eve rather than the judgment upon an individual for their sin.  But in this case, it directly resulted from the individual's sin.  Sometimes, the consequences of

Fearing Divine Interruptions

Fearing Divine Interruption Matthew 8:21-34 “And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw Him, they implored Him to leave their region.”               When Jesus crossed over to the eastern shores of the Sea of Galilee, he entered the region of the Gadarenes.  When they arrive, they immediately encounter two individuals who were possessed by two demoniacs who were extremely violent and had superhuman strength.  Even when the local leaders tried to bind them with chains and shackles and stop their reign of terror in the region, they would break free.  As a result, they were both feared and ostracized by the rest of society.  Ironically, these individuals under the control of demons readily acknowledged that Jesus was the son of God. They admitted Christ’s authority over them. But even in their recognition of Jesus as God, they showed their contempt for God in recognizing that they faced judgment for their rebellion.  They are fully aware of their ultimate destina

When Fear Grips the Heart and Mind

When Fear Grips the Heart and Mind Matthew 9:23-27 “’Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?’  Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm.”               It had been a busy and exhausting day for Jesus and the disciples.   It was a day filled with ministering to the needs of people, and they needed rest.  To get away from the throngs of people, Jesus had his disciples get into the boat so they might cross the Sea of Galilee to a quiet and remote place where they could get emotionally, physically, and spiritually recharged.              For Peter, James, John, and Andrew, this was a task they could quickly achieve.  They grew up on these waters, spending their life fishing and making a living traversing across the lake.  They knew all the safe inlets and how to navigate the shifting winds that blew off the mountains.  They were fishermen by trade and unintimidated.  Perhaps some other disciples, who were not used to the water, were reluctant to g

The Convenient Disciple

The Lure of Convenience.  Matthew 8:18-22 “Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”                 It is easy to follow Jesus when he aligns with what we want.  We follow Jesus because He gives us the promise of his forgiveness and his providential care.  But what happens when the cost of being a disciple exceeds the benefit?  What happens when the demands of being a follower require us to give up our dreams and aspirations to conform to his will?  What happens when his truth conflicts with our perception of reality?               Christ has previously warned against the dangers of shallow followers, people who give lip service but continue to refuse to obey him unconditionally.  Now he addresses those who follow him because of the blessings he promises but quickly fade away when it becomes costly.             Matthew records individuals who came to Jesus and desired to follow him.  From our perspec

The Healing

The Compassion of Christ Matthew 8:14-17 “He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases.”               After the healing of the leper and the centurion’s servant, Jesus came to Peter’s home in Capernaum.  It is one of the few occasions we get a glimpse into the personal lives of the disciples, for we find that Peter was married.  In 1 Corinthians 9:5, we see a reference that suggests many of the disciples had wives.  There are several things unique about the events that will unfold.  First, in contrast to the other healings, Matthew recorded the only healing without any request for Christ to act.  Second, unlike the other healings of Christ, this sickness did not appear to be life-threatening.  Her sickness was a very run-of-the-mill illness, one that everyone suffers from.  When he entered the home, he noticed she was not feeling well.  He could have quickly passed it off as some 24-hour bug that the body’s immune system would naturally heal itself of it.  Despite the

Amazing Faith

Amazing Faith  Matthew 8:5-13  “Truly, I say to you; I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel.”               After finishing his message in the sermon on the mount, Jesus walked a short distance to the fishing village of Capernaum. It was a small village with an estimated population of 1500 during the period of the New Testament.  It was in this village that Jesus took up residence after leaving Nazareth and served as his home base as he ministered in the region. It stood near Bethsaida, where Peter, Andrew, and Philip lived before becoming disciples.  After they followed Jesus, they, too, moved, along with their families, to Capernaum.  It was also the home village of Matthew.              When Jesus entered the city, he was met by a surprising individual, a centurion.  A centurion was an officer in the Roman army and commanded a unit consisting of approximately 80 soldiers.  For the Jews, they were despised pagans who symbolized the control that Rome exerted over Isra

The God who is Willing

The God who Is Willing Matthew 8:1-4 Jesus stretched His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.”               Of all the circumstances a person might encounter during the time of Christ, one of the gravest was Leprosy.  The disease not only wreaked havoc upon a person’s health and body, it would isolate them from all family and loved ones.   While there is some debate regarding the specific diagnosis of the disease, it seems that leprosy mentioned in the Bible was related to Hansen’s disease.  Leprosy often began with the appearance of white specs on the eyelids and palms and would gradually spread over the whole body.  As the infection grew, it would cause the flesh to become rotten and would destroy the nerves so that the individual could no longer feel pain.  As a result, the lepers often lose the tips of their fingers and toes.  But the most devastating part of the disease was the isolation that it caused.  A person with leprosy was to live outside the city and

The Real and the Knockoff Pt 4: The Two Foundations

The real and the knockoff Pt 4 The Two Foundations Mt. 7:24-29 “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.”               A house without a proper foundation becomes a crypt, ready to collapse and bring death to its occupants.    As Jesus concludes his sermon, he provides the final test of authentic faith.  He challenges people now to make a choice.  There are two gates, two trees, and two confessions. And now two foundations for life.             The first foundation is the one who hears and acts upon his words. He points to two critical tasks of living by faith.  The first is a desire to listen to the words of God. The wise person, who demonstrates authentic faith, becomes a learner who desires to know what God has communicated to us.   The verb suggests an ongoing process of listening rather than just a one-and-done response.  The wise person continually hungers to understand the words of Christ. 

The Real and the Knock Off Pt 3

The real and the knockoff, Pt 3 The Test of Obedience. Matthew 7:21-23, “No, everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My father who is in heaven will enter.”               In the third analogy, Christ draws a contrast between what we say and what we do. Jesus is not condemning those who proclaim him to be Lord, nor is he condemning the importance of our confession.  In Romans 10:9. We find that an essential step in genuine faith is the confession that Jesus is Lord.  To reject the deity of Christ is paramount to unbelief.  However, merely giving intellectual assent to his divinity is not enough.  James makes the same point when he states, “You believe that God is one, you do well; the demons also believe and shudder.” If your faith only affirms the triune God and the divine nature of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, then your confidence is no greater than the demons themselves, for they recognize the deity of Christ. 

The Real and the Knockoff Pt 2: the Fruit

The Real and the Knockoff PT 2: The Test of Fruit Matthew 7:15-21 “So then, you will know them by their fruits.”               The people we listen to influence who we become.  In today’s media/information-saturated world, we are inundated with countless voices.  Anyone can become an “expert” on anything.  A person becomes a social Influencer by developing a following via social media platforms.  So why do people follow them, because they have a following. Today universities now have degrees in social media to teach students how to develop a social platform and gain a following. It does not matter who they are or what they have done; what matters is how people perceive them and how they gain a following. Forbes magazine estimates that there are now 50 million people who consider themselves some sort of “influencer.”  There are about 40,000 influencers with at least a million followers and close to 2 million with 100,000 followers or more.  While racking up likes, no one stops to ask, “

The Real and the Knockoff: Pt 1: The Two Choices

What is Real and What is a Knockoff Part 1: The Real Gate and the Knockoff Gate Matthew 7:13-29               Sometimes it is almost impossible to distinguish a knockoff product from a genuine article. At first glance, they look identical.  However, delve deeper and look beyond the external appearance, and you will quickly discover that the difference is more than just price.  The real is built to last, possessing the qualities of master workmanship.  The other is quickly made with cheap parts that do not hold up with any use. As Christ comes to the end of his sermon, he now focuses upon the difference between a genuine disciple and those who merely appear to be a disciple.  To do so, he uses four different methods to compare the real with the replica, the pretender from the authentic (The two paths, the two trees, the two confessions, the two foundations).  The four are merely to illustrate one truth but four different tests to examine four qualities that distinguish a genuine discipl

Avoiding a Double Standard

Avoiding a Double Standard Matthew 7:13 “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”               Matthew 7:13 is a verse that provides a succinct statement of value and the treatment of others.  It is a verse frequently quoted, especially by parents to their children to teach them the importance of reacting to others.  However, while the proverb is widespread and often repeated, in reality, it is much more challenging to implement in our lives.             The verse begins with a connection with the previous discussion.  The statement starts with the word “therefore,” which points us back to the preceding discussion and gives the results of the prior action.  We often see the Sermon on the Mount as a series of independent statements and principles rather than an interrelated sermon.  To understand this proverbial “golden rule,” we must place it in the overall context.  In 7:1-6 Christ warns us of the danger of

The Divine Invitation

Persistence in Prayer Matthew 7:7-11 “Ask, and it will be given to you.”               It is easy to pray, but it is difficult to persist.  It is easy to pray with persistence but hard to pray with absolute confidence in God’s response. In verse 7, we discover the divine invitation.  The God of the universe, the one who created all things merely by a spoken word and sustained the universe with his infinite providential power, invites us to pray.  However, the offer is not simply an invitation; it is an imperative in which the verse has the idea of “Keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking.”  This divine invitation is a call to live in persistent and complete reliance upon our heavenly Father, who provides for all our needs.  We are not just to pray; we are to live with the recognition that our whole life is grounded in the providential care of God.  Too often, we see prayer as an act to perform in times of desperation when confronted with circumstances beyond our ability t

Judging Ourselves

Judging Ourselves Rather than Judging Others Matthew 7:1-6 “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your eye?                 Our natural tendency is to see the faults of others while overlooking our own.  Having addressed our attitudes towards wealth, Christ turns to our inward attitudes and character.  7:1-6 is often given the title of “Judging Others,” but it could also be given the title of “Judge Yourself.” In verse 1, Jesus warns against judging others, for our natural tendency is to judge people for their actions. The sense of the command is “Don’t make it a habit of judging.”  It is easy for us to elevate ourselves and condemn others for their slightest sins, especially when we perceive that we have been slighted and offended by their actions.  When people wrong us, we quickly denounce them for their actions.  However, our judgment is inherently flawed, often based upon our standards rather than God’s. The only one genuin