Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Matthew 26 - Preparation, Passover, Betrayal, Trial and Denial

by Katrina

LINK: Matthew 26

Preparation (vs 1-16)

An unidentified woman came with an alabaster vial of very expensive perfume and poured it over Jesus's head. When the disciples complained of the waste, Jesus praised her for doing good. She was preparing Jesus for his soon-coming burial. Then Judas joined the chief priests in their plot against Jesus and agreed to betray him.

Passover (vs 17-30)
The Passover was a day to commemorate Israel's exodus from Egypt. It was immediately followed by the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which lasted seven days. The entire eight days was often referred to as the "Passover Feast." We usually refer to this meal that Jesus had with his disciples as "The Last Supper." A lot more details of the Last Supper are given in John's gospel (John 13-17). Here, in Matthew's account, we see that Jesus knew that Judas had already made arrangements to betray him.

Betrayal (vs 31-56)
Jesus went outside to pray and took Peter, James, and John with him. He asked them to pray too, but they kept falling asleep instead. Jesus wrestled with the agony he was about to suffer. He was looking at a very unpleasant physical death. But more than that, he knew he would experience an even more painful separation from the Father while he bore the sin of mankind on the cross. After he prayed, Judas arrived with a great number of armed men and betrayed Jesus with a kiss. The men seized Jesus and took him to the high priest.

Trial and Denial (vs 57-75)
While Jesus was being questioned by the priests, Peter (and John, we learn from John's gospel) hung around the courtyard. Peter was identified three times as a follower of Jesus and denied it three times.

At the Last Supper, Jesus broke bread, blessed it, broke it, gave it to his disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is My body." He blessed and shared the cup as well, saying, "Drink from it, all of you; for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins . . ." He was giving the disciples a vivid picture of what was about to happen and the significance of his death. This passage is a great one to meditate on today.

Peter was so sure he would never deny Jesus (vs 31-35). Even if everyone else left Jesus, Peter was sure he would not. Even if he had to die with Jesus, he would not deny him. His confidence was entirely in himself, though, and he fell. We can learn a lesson from Peter. We can not put our trust in ourselves for those difficult times. We must draw our confidence from God. Peter eventually learned this lesson himself.

Peter wrote to Christians who were being persecuted for their faith, "[believers] are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Peter 1:5), and "Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:13). No longer was Peter trusting in himself; he was fixing his hope entirely on Jesus.

When times are tough, do you rely on yourself when you should rely on God? When your faith could get you in trouble or bring ridicule, do you deny Jesus out of fear? Let's take these circumstances to God and put our trust in him, rather than depending on ourselves to get us through the difficult situations.

Lord, teach us to boldly proclaim your name. Help us not to buckle under fear but to turn to you for strength and trust in you for the outcome. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Matthew 25 - Blessed to Be a Blessing

by Katrina

LINK: Matthew 25

Please read the scripture passage before continuing. It will make a lot more sense that way. =)

This chapter continues the Olivet Discourse we began yesterday.

First, in the story of the ten virgins, we have one more illustration of being (vs 1-13). Becky discussed this pretty well yesterday, so if you missed yesterday's post, scroll down and take a look. I know I want to be ready and waiting when Jesus comes back!

Second, Jesus tells us to use what God has given us for God's increase and glory (vs 14-30).

Third, There will be judgment in the end (vs 31-46). At least part of that judgment will be on what we did to help those in need.

Let's consider the last two sections of the chapter. God has given each of us "talents" to be used for him. He does not want us to "sit on them" and keep them to ourselves. Whatever he gave us, he intends for us to use for his service just like the man in the story expected of his servants.

Take some time to consider what "talents" God has given to you.
  • spiritual gifts
  • physical abilities
  • creative talents
  • education
  • job skills
  • family heritage
  • life-changing experiences
  • relationships that have formed you
How can you use these things in service to God?

Let's take it one step further. How can you use what you have to help mankind? Can you offer comfort, support, compassion, food and drink, clothing, shelter? Those in the story did not help in order to gain recognition for themselves. They just helped because there was a need and they could meet it.

Father, help us to see the ways you have equipped us to serve you. May we use all you have given us for your glory and for the benefit of others. Let us not hide what you have intended for us to use. Rather, let us use the blessings you have given us to be a blessing to you and to others. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Matthew 24 - Watch and Be Faithful!

by Becky

LINK: Matthew 24


Seeing Jesus' lament over Jerusalem and the temple (23: 37 - 38), the disciples call His attention to the temple's buildings - well-kept and sturdy and thriving - probably wondering why He called the place desolate. Jesus makes His point clearer. The temple will be completely destroyed (24:2).

Jesus is sitting on the Mount of Olives when His disciples come to Him with a question prompted by what He said about the temple. He answers them, though perhaps not as straightforwardly as they wished, and He gives them instruction and warning as He does so. Because they're on the Mount of Olives this is often called the Olivet Discourse.

Here is what the disciples asked:

"Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and the close of the age?" (v 3, English Standard Version)

They asked two questions. Jesus begins a long discourse and in the process He does answer them, but He says a whole bunch more, too! This is a passage of prophecy, and prophecy often weaves multiple events together and is easier to understand in hindsight than beforehand!

Let's deal with the answer to their questions first. Jesus' answer to the first question (When will these things - the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem's suffering - be?) is this: "Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until these things take place." Jesus says that the temple will be destroyed before that current generation passes away. The temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD and at least one of the disciples (John) and lived to see it. The disciples also understandably want to know how they will know when Jesus will come back to close the age. Jesus answers that question this way: "Concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only."

This seems to me to be the best explanation for Jesus' statement about that generation not passing away. Throughout the discourse He interweaves what will happen when the temple is destroyed (70 AD) with what will happen when He returns a second time (still unknown). It makes sense to me that His answer would include both as well.

The rest of His discourse about what will happen between His first and second comings can be summed up in five sentences:

  • Don't be surprised or deceived!
  • The earth will suffer many wars and natural disasters.
  • Jesus' followers will be hated and persecuted.
  • Jesus' return will be very obvious (like the presence of an animal's carcass is from the vultures that circle it).
  • Keep watch and be faithful!


We live in that time between Jesus' first coming and His return so I think it's important for us to take this to heart. Jesus told His disciples what to expect. We here in the U.S. have lived in a very comfortable era, but that isn't something we should plan on. If there are wars and disasters in the world, we shouldn't be surprised - though we should meet them with compassion and care as Jesus did those who suffered. If we are hated and persecuted we shouldn't be taken aback or wonder what is wrong. Finally, we shouldn't be deceived by those who tell us that Jesus has returned.

There are some things we don't (and won't) know. We don't know exactly which parts of the chapter apply to the fall of Jerusalem and destruction of the temple and which parts refer to Jesus' return (though we have a better idea than the disciples did at that time). We won't know exactly when Jesus is going to come back. We will know when He does!

What is our attitude to be in the meantime? The stories Jesus tells in this and the following chapter tell us. We are to be watching and serving faithfully. We don't know when it will be (just as the owner of the house doesn't know when the thief is coming), so we must be watchful and always ready. We are to continue serving Him faithfully like the servant who was left in charge of the master's household while the master went away. That faithful servant continued to serve and carry out his tasks while waiting for his master's return.


Jesus knows our hearts. He knows our tendency to have short attention spans, to give up hope. I think that's why He spoke the words in this chapter. He wants us to understand that there will be suffering - both for the whole earth and for believers. He doesn't want us to give up in the face of hard times while waiting for His return.

Let's encourage each other to continue to be alert and faithful.

I want to be found serving my master, Jesus, when He returns! What about you?


We shouldn't be surprised by wars and natural disasters, Lord, but please give us compassion and a love that reaches out to those people who suffer from them. I think especially of the people of Haiti right now. Help us to help them. Please also help us to keep on watching and to continue to serve you faithfully in obedience no matter what.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Matthew 19 - Marriage, Children, and Wealth

by Katrina

LINK: Matthew 19

Parallel Passages:
Matthew 19:1-12 -- Mark 10:1-12
Matthew 19:13-15 -- Mark 10:13-16 -- Luke 18:15-17
Matthew 19:16-30 -- Mark 10:17-31 -- Luke 18:18-30

Jesus touches on three major topics in this chapter.

1) Marriage and Divorce - When the Pharisees asked Jesus if it's okay for a man to divorce his wife, they were asking a loaded question. The Pharisees of the time were divided on this issue, with one faction not allowing a man to divorce his wife unless she had committed adultery and the other faction allowing a man to divorce his wife for any (or no) reason. They wanted Jesus to choose sides. Jesus cut right to the chase, though, and simply addressed the issue of marriage and divorce. God never intended for divorce to exist but for marriage to be permanent in all cases. However, because of the sinfulness of man, divorce happens. So God commanded Moses that when it does happen, the woman should be provided for and protected through an official certificate of divorce. She could not simply be abandoned.

The disciples understood that Jesus was disallowing divorce and responded, with "Wow! Maybe it's better not to marry at all then!" (Katrina's paraphrase) Jesus answered that, yes, for some that is the better option.

2) Children - Some people were bringing children to Jesus that he might pray for them. The disciples didn't want Jesus to be bothered with children. But Jesus said to let them come. He valued the children and wanted to bless them.

3) Wealth - In the final section, a rich man came to Jesus and asked what one thing he should do to obtain eternal life. He was a man who kept the law but knew something was missing. Jesus, knowing the man's attachment to his wealth, told him to give up his wealth and follow him. But the man didn't feel he could part with his wealth and walked away. Jesus told his disciples that it is very difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. I think this is for two reasons. One, we tend to become very attached to our possessions and are afraid to give them up in order to serve God. And two, the wealthy don't readily see their need for Christ.

Peter asked Jesus if there was any reward for giving up material possessions to follow Christ. Jesus assured him that there will be reward enough. But if his focus is on getting rewards, there will be little reward. The one who gives up thinking of rewards and just follows Jesus will receive the most abundant rewards in the end.

This is a rich chapter with much to think about. Depending on where you are in life, one section may hit you more than the others. Carefully read what Jesus has to say here and meditate on it.

Ultimately our willingness to truly follow Jesus is the most important thing. If we do that, everything else falls into place. Let's examine our hearts today and weed out anything that hinders us from obeying Jesus.

Lord, you are truly the only one worth following. You have the only offer of forgiveness and salvation. You promise to meet all our needs. You don't promise that it will always be easy, but you do promise that you will never forsake us. Help us today to consider our discipleship and be willing to give up all to follow you. Amen.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Matthew 18 - Relationships

by Katrina

LINK: Matthew 18

Parallel Passages - Mark 9 and Luke 9

This chapter is about our relationships with others, especially within the kingdom.

First (vs 1-6), we need to have an attitude of humility rather than think, "I am better than so-and-so and should be treated better." We have to learn not to think of ourselves, but to put others first.

Next (vs 7-14), Jesus tells us to do "spiritual surgery" to remove those things in our lives that hinder us from complete discipleship. Cut out the areas of sin. We also must keep from causing others to sin. Beyond that, we should be like Jesus and seek to bring those who stray back to where they belong.

In verses 15-20 we have a pattern for dealing with a sinful offense. Read this section carefully. I think Jesus has a plan that is much better than our human tendency toward gossip and grudges.

The rest of the chapter (vs 21-35) deals with our forgiveness and mercy toward one another.

Any of the above sections are great food for meditation. Try to take some time today to meditate on each one. I'm going to focus here on the last one. As believers, we often don't realize how much we have been forgiven. We had a ginormous debt that we could never, ever pay no matter what we did. And Jesus paid for it himself and forgave us our debt. When others offend us, we should remember the forgiveness we have received and extend it to them. This is so much harder than it sounds, because we have that tendency to focus on ourselves (as illustrated in the beginning of the chapter). When we focus on ourselves, we highlight the offenses against us. If we focus on the forgiveness and mercy we have received from God, I think we would get better at extending forgiveness and mercy to others.

Lord, thank you for your great mercy and for forgiving my sin. My sin against you is much greater than any sin anyone commits against me. Help me learn to show mercy and forgive others. Teach me to live in an attitude of humility and to learn to align my heart with yours. I want to be your servant and obey you and become who you want me to be. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Matthew 17 - The King Revealed

by Becky

LINK: Matthew 17


About six days after Jesus made clear to his disciples that God's plan was that He suffer and die, He took the three disciples closest to him - James, John, and Peter - to a mountain where they saw Him changed, or transfigured. We are told that Jesus' face shone like the sun and His clothes became white, like light. The three disciples also saw two other men conversing with Jesus, whom they recognized as Moses, the giver of the Law, and Elijah, the prophet.

Peter, impulsive as always, wanted to build shelters for the three - still mentally equating Jesus with Moses and Elijah! I imagine that what happened as he spoke shook that assumption! "... a bright cloud overshadowed them and a voice from the cloud said, "This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am delighted; listen to Him." (New Berkeley version) The response of the three disciples is typical of those who encountered the presence of God - absolute terror! But Jesus touched them and told them to stand up and not be afraid. They obeyed and when they stood up the only one with them was Jesus.

I have always found "The Transfiguration" (that's what we call this event) mystifying and hard to grasp. I wasn't sure of the point of it. So I've spent some time thinking about it this week.

I find the timing of the event significant. It happened quite shortly after Jesus made clear to His followers that He was going to suffer and die. It seems to me that talking with Elijah and Moses, and being audibly blessed by God the Father must have provided comfort and encouragement for Jesus - who continued to be obedient even when He knew it meant great suffering.

The event also illustrated the supremacy of Jesus over two men the Jews revered - Moses and Elijah. God singled out Jesus when He spoke from heaven.

And this event also gave Peter, James, and John (and the other disciples upon hearing of it) something to hang onto as they followed Jesus in obedience. Peter, after exhorting believers to continue to grow in the Lord and to be obedient, refers to "The Transfiguration" in 2 Peter 1:16 - 18: "... For when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, we were not following cleverly devised fables. On the contrary, we were eyewitnesses of His majesty; for when He received honor and glory from God the Father, a voice was borne to Him from the supreme Glory, 'This is My Son, My Beloved, in whom I am delighted." And we heard this voice borne to us from heaven, when we were with Him on the sacred mountain."

Accepting that Jesus is God is foundational to being a Christian. I have had people tell me that it's not made clear in the gospels that Jesus is God. This passage in Matthew is one place where it's made abundantly clear. Peter, who was there, states it as a reason to keep on keeping on as a believer. He makes clear that this event which highlighted Jesus' majesty isn't some fable that was made up, but an actual historical event that he witnessed.

The chapter focuses on two other miracles. The first is a miracle with some instruction; the second is some instruction with a miracle.

First, a man brings his demon possessed son to Jesus for healing. It's not clear if that meant the boy had epilepsy or some sort of mental illness. What is clear is that the disciples tried to cast the demon out, but couldn't. So Jesus casts the demon out of the boy.

Later on the disciples ask Jesus privately why they couldn't expel the demon. Jesus puts it down to little faith. They didn't trust God enough. Evidently they didn't even have as much faith as a tiny mustard seed. Jesus had given them power and a task earlier - to cast out depraved spirits and to heal illness (Ch. 10) . This isn't something they decided to do on a whim or on their own. They'd been commissioned by Jesus. So what was the problem? They wondered themselves. Jesus told them that it was because of their "little faith." Faith is based on something; it's not something we conjure up magically. When people say, "Have a little faith." I always wonder what they mean. Faith in what? Faith in who? It is tremendously important what and who our faith is based on. Is it possible to have faith in the Lord without being submissive to Him?

The final portion of this passage deals with paying the temple tax. Peter had been asked by those who collected it if Jesus didn't pay it. You've got to love Peter! Did he know? Did he give an answer anyway? He told them, "Yes." So when Peter came back into the house where Jesus was, Jesus used it as a moment of teaching, not rebuke. He made clear that just as kings' sons don't have to pay taxes, neither did He. Why? Because He was God's son! BUT... He was going to pay it anyway, so that no one would be offended. And then he told Peter to go fishing and that he'd find a coin in the mouth of the fish that came up first. Amazing, huh?

There's much, much more that could be said about this passage: more questions, more lessons. But I've filled up too much white space already.


Are you wondering if Jesus truly is God? Read this passage and then turn to 2 Peter 1.

Who is your faith in? What is it grounded on? Is it grounded in submissiveness to the Lord?

Do you insist sometimes on making a point about something you know is right? Seems to me that sometimes Jesus chose not to give offense rather than insist on His rights.


Father, thank you that you make clear Jesus' majesty in this chapter. I love that you told Him that you delighted in Him. What comfort that must have been! Help my faith to be grounded in submissiveness to you. And I have to say, thank you for Peter! Thank you for showing us, through him, how you work in people. Reading Matthew and then reading 2 Peter, I realize again how much you worked in him, how far he came. Seeing that encourages me.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Matthew 12 - Confrontation with the Pharisees

by Katrina

LINK: Matthew 12
Parallel Passages:
Matthew 12:1-8 -- Mark 2:23-28 -- Luke 6:1-5
Matthew 12:9-14 -- Mark 3:1-6 -- Luke 6:6-11
Matthew 12:15-21 -- Mark 3:7-12
Matthew 12:22-37 -- Mark 3:20-30
Matthew 12:46-50 -- Mark 3:31-35 -- Luke 8:19-21

My intention here is not to replace your reading of the scripture, but to summarize the content and flow of the chapter. It's a long chapter, and that makes it easy to lose the context.

Matthew 12 is mostly a confrontation between the Pharisees and Jesus. First they accused Jesus and his disciples of two counts of Sabbath-breaking -- picking grain and healing. Jesus defended both his disciples and himself and demonstrated to them that he was not breaking the Sabbath. He was not really breaking any law that God had given about the Sabbath. However, the Pharisees had added to that law and were accusing Jesus of breaking their traditional interpretation of the Sabbath law.

So, Jesus healed the man with the withered hand, despite the protests of the Pharisees. This, of course, angered the Pharisees, and they left to hold a little conference among themselves to plot against Jesus. While they held their meeting, Jesus withdrew to another area and healed many more people. The Pharisees found where Jesus was after their conference and accused him of working miracles by the power of Satan. Jesus refuted this accusation as well and told them that they were walking on very thin ice by attributing the work of the Holy Spirit to Satan.

Jesus very directly pointed out to the Pharisees that their hearts were evil, not good. They needed a total heart makeover. He expanded the application to say that everyone's words and actions are the fruit of the heart.

Then the Pharisees had the audacity to ask Jesus for a sign. In essence they were saying, "Who do you think you are?" They had already seen him do plenty of miracles, but they wanted him to "prove" his authority to them. Jesus refused to do a sign just for them, and the only sign he gave them was the sign of Jonah -- a prophecy of his death, burial, and resurrection. Jesus went on to tell the Pharisees that those they think are condemned will come out ahead of them on the judgment day. The Pharisees will not fare well because they have refuse to repent of their sin. Whereas many "sinners" will be cleared because they repented.

One final point Jesus made in this chapter is that anyone who obeys God is his relative. In other words, the spiritual relationship supersedes the relationships of bloodlines. This was probably disturbing to many who thought they were "in" with God simply because they were born Jews.

Let's look at the fruit principle that Jesus told the Pharisees in verses 33-35. What we do and say is a result of what is in our hearts, whether it be good or evil. The source of our outward behavior is our hearts. So often, when we don't like our own (or someone else's) behavior, we attempt to change it from the outside. We address the foul language or harsh words,  the cruelty or violence, etc. What we really must address is the heart. As humans, our hearts are evil with sin and can not produce good. Only if our hearts are changed by God can we speak and do what is good.

Think about your own life - your attitudes, behavior, words. What areas of outward sin do you struggle with? Now consider the heart behind those things. Take your heart to the Lord and ask him to make it new. As long as we persist in addressing only the outward behavior, we will make little or no progress toward real change. Caution: I am not suggesting that you evaluate anyone but yourself. :-) I am also not suggesting that you are condemned before God. But in those areas of life where you tend to sin, it will help you if you examine your heart and deal with the "heart of the matter" rather than just the surface problem.

For me, personally, I have observed that when I sin, it almost always goes back to the issues of pride or selfishness. My prayer is that God will continue to work in my heart to weed out the pride and selfishness that dwells there. I used to make attempts only to change my outward behavior, but that resulted only in immense frustration. Once I learned to examine the source of my sin - my heart - and to take it before God, I began to see progress. I'm not "there," by any means, but I'm on board with God in the process of changing my heart. And the fruit is increasingly good fruit.

Father, only you can change our hearts. We can't do it ourselves! Thank you for beginning with cleansing us completely through the blood of Jesus. As we go through our day to day lives, though, we get dirty with sin and need continual cleansing for it. Help us to examine our own lives and see the source of sin in our hearts. May we allow you to prune our hearts in order to change us from the inside out. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Matthew 11 - When in Doubt

by Katrina
My pastor preached on this passage recently, and since his sermon is fresh in my mind, I'm sure it contributed greatly to this post. Thanks, Pastor Fenton!

LINK: Matthew 11
Matthew 11:1-19 has a parallel passage in Luke 7:18-35

John had been proclaiming the coming of the kingdom and telling everyone to repent. He introduced Jesus to the world when he baptized him. He was the "Elijah" promised in Malachi 4:5. He knew who Jesus was. But John was put in prison for preaching the truth. His ideas of a political messiah didn't seem to be coming true in Jesus. So now he wasn't so sure. He began to doubt his own message from God. Had he wasted his life on a false message? John was confused, so he sent some of his disciples to Jesus to ask and make sure Jesus was really the Messiah.

Jesus sent a message back to John. "See the miracles I perform as evidence of my divinity." Then he turned to the crowd and reminded them who John was. In general, people scoffed at John because he preached in his unique way and didn't drink or go to parties. Then they scoffed at Jesus because he did eat and drink with people. It didn't matter who God's messenger was or what he did, the people didn't believe. And because they didn't believe who Jesus was, they would be condemned.

There were some, though, who believed Jesus was from God. They believed because God revealed it to them. Jesus calls these people to himself where he would give rest to their souls.

When John had doubts, he went to Jesus. Notice that Jesus didn't condemn John but answered his question. Jesus reminded John of who he was and pointed to his miracles as evidence of his claim.

Sometimes we have doubts. Jesus doesn't condemn us for our doubts. But he reminds us who he is and promises us rest for our souls.

Doubts tend to rise in our hearts whenever things aren't going quite like we think they should. (We're a lot like John.) When we face tragedy or serious illness, we tend to lose our clear thinking for a while. I think we often condemn ourselves (or others) for having doubts, and rather than dealing with those questions in our hearts, we try to bury or ignore them. All believers have doubts at times. We will see later in the gospels how the disciples closest to Jesus even did. But Jesus draws us to himself, calms our hearts, and reminds us of who he is.

Do you sometimes wonder what God is doing? Do you have doubts in your heart? Take them to Jesus in prayer. Search his word and be reminded of who Jesus is and what he has done, and is still doing, and will do for you. He is the only source of rest for your searching soul.

Lord, thank you that you know our hearts. You are gentle when we come to you with confused or doubting hearts. Thank you for demonstrating who you are and giving us your written word. You often confirm yourself to me in my heart, and I thank you for that. May we always seek to know you better and draw closer to you. Amen.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Matthew 10 - Whose Life?

by Becky

Matthew 10


Please read the chapter before you read my comments. One danger in devotionals is that they often substitute for God’s Word. God’s Word is special, inspired by Him and given to us. My words are my words. I meditate and pray before I write them. I try to write what is true. But my perspective is limited. So if you don’t have much time and you can only read part, please click on the link and read the passage from the Bible before going any farther here.

This passage names the twelve men that Jesus chose as his closest disciples – men who learned from Him. These men are also called “apostles” in verse 2, which means that they were designated messengers, chosen and charged to carry Jesus’ message to others. There is no indication that any of them were powerful or rich. They were all Jews. The New Testament follows the Old Testament and God came through the people He’d chosen and worked in and warned for centuries.

The rest of the chapter is the charge that was given to them. It seems to me to be divided into three sections, each closing with “Truly, I say to you.”

Vv. 5 – 16 give an immediate charge, something the twelve were to do right then. They are told not to go to the Gentiles or to Samaria. That was a temporary charge for this one instance. Jesus himself went Samaria and ministered to Gentiles. At the end of Matthew Jesus charges his disciples to go into the whole word to all cultures. And in Acts 1:8 Jesus’ disciples are told that they will be his witnesses to the ends of the world. These instructions here are for a specific time and place, though principles here can be applied to those of us who follow Jesus. Can you see any principles?

Vv. 17 – 23 instruct the disciples about the near future and what they will face. Again, there are principles here for us.

Vv. 24 – 42 seem to be for anyone who has decided to follow and learn from Jesus.


This chapter is so full of instruction that there’s no way I can deal with it all here, so I’m just going to reflect on a couple of things that stood out to me as I read and meditated on the passage this time.

It hit me that Jesus tells his disciples to try to avoid conflict and persecution, in so far as they can do it without rejecting Him. Jesus said to the twelve in v. 16: “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men…” Look at the metaphors there! They are helpless (like sheep) being sent out among people compared to wolves, the very predators of sheep. They will need to keep their wits! Ancient people characterized the serpent as cunning and wise. The word translated shrewd here could also be translated prudent, which means to look ahead and practice common sense. Jesus also tells the disciples to be “innocent as doves,” without deceit and guile. The disciples were going into danger, and they would need to be alert and wary and careful and free of impure motives or actions. Jesus also tells them that they will be persecuted, and when they are able they are to flee to the next town (v 23). Persecution will come, but they are to try to avoid it, while still remaining true to Jesus.

The whole point of this chapter is that Jesus’ disciples are to be like Jesus. We can expect to be treated as He was and we should respond as He did. He had to leave his family. (That sword in v34 is a metaphor for being divided. Jesus didn’t come to give peace at all cost. He came to glorify His Father. When we follow Him, we may have to be divided from family members who don’t in order to glorify our Father.)

The verses that hit me most are vv. 38 – 39. “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

Following Jesus means self-denial. It is not possible to follow Him and still keep the rights to your own life. This is hard. Every day I am faced with a choice to either follow Him or do what I want. Sometimes it does feel like dying. I have to say no to myself and yes to Him. Being a Christian is not about self-actualization. It’s not about “me” at all. It’s all about Him. I’m not just losing my life for some generic purpose. It’s not enough to be nice and unselfish so that others will be that way to me, or good as long as it doesn’t hurt too much or for what it will get me. Motivation matters. The reason I am to lose my life is FOR JESUS’ SAKE. He gave His life for me. He bought me with His blood. I am His.

I wish we were sitting around in my living room talking about this passage. I’m trying to think of specific examples from my own life and all the ones I’m thinking of are either too difficult to explain or seem too glib. There are times when I KNOW what God says is the way, but I want to do it my way because God’s way seems too hard. Everything in me cries out that this is too much to ask. That’s exactly when I need to lose my life for Jesus’ sake.

In losing my life, I will find it. A paradox, but true.


Can you think of ways you’re trying to “find” your life rather than lose it for Jesus’ sake? Is there something you know He wants you to do, but you feel like it’s too hard and is asking too much? It could be something like forgiving someone or making a choice to obey Him in hard circumstances. Whatever it is, chose to” lose your life” for His sake. He gave His for you.


Thank you LORD, that Jesus shows us the way to life. What seems like death to us is really life. Thank you that Jesus died for us and then rose again. We can rest in His love for us, even as we love Him back imperfectly. Please remind us that we are not our own. Help us to die to ourselves and live for Jesus.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Matthew 5 - Sermon on the Mount Part I

by Katrina

LINK: Matthew 5

Matthew 5-7 contains what is commonly referred to as the "Sermon on the Mount," and chapter 5 contains the often quoted "Beatitudes." Although we are going to break this sermon down over three days, remember that it is all one sermon with a unifying theme -- what a righteous life looks like.

The Pharisees of the day taught that righteousness was a form, a list of strict rules, a detailed keeping of the law of Moses (and the many additional rules the Pharisees added), all outward performance. In this sermon, Jesus explains that righteousness is more closely tied to the attitude of the heart, and that righteous behavior then flows from the heart. The sermon is not explaining God's plan of salvation but is illustrating the fruit of a right relationship with God. "Kingdom living" is the way of life for those who are part of God's kingdom.

Jesus didn't start his sermon by condemning the Pharisees. Instead he pointed out the blessings of attitudes that they (and we) should have. Then Jesus addressed specific laws and explained how it's really the heart that matters more than the outward behavior.

Read through this chapter carefully meditate on it. Think "attitude" as you ponder this passage. How can you improve your own attitude in any of the areas covered in this chapter? Is there a sin of which you need to repent? Is there an offense you need to forgive? Is your "Christianity" a matter of form and behavior that needs to be replaced with a heart that follows after God?

Heavenly Father, thank you that Jesus preached and clarified your word to his audience at that time and that his words are preserved for us today. Give us hearts that truly seek after you. Help us not to get caught up in performance-driven lives that seek to impress others. Rather, help us put aside our own desires and seek to fulfill your desires for us. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Matthew 4 - Temptation & Early Ministry

by Katrina

LINK: Matthew 4

There are several things to observe as you read through this chapter of Matthew.

First of all, notice that it was God's intention that Jesus be tempted by Satan. The Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness for that very purpose. God's purpose was to demonstrate that Jesus was sinless and therefore worthy to be the savior who would redeem mankind. Satan's purpose, on the other hand, was to thwart God's plan by disqualifying Jesus as savior.

Jesus did not have a sin nature like we do, so he had no internal temptation to sin. The only temptations he would experience had to be external. In this account Satan tempted Jesus in three areas:

(1) Satan tried to get Jesus to use his divine power to meet his own physical needs. Jesus could have turned stones into bread, but that was not what he was there to do. He answered Satan with scripture (Deut 8:3), "Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God."

(2) In the second temptation, Satan quoted scripture that said God would protect his own to suit his own purpose. Jesus answered with another scripture (Deut 6:16), "You shall not put the Lord your God to the test." Satan isolated one passage of scripture to make it communicate what he wanted. Jesus knew to consider all of scripture, not just a single passage and refused to use scripture to try to "make" God do what he wanted.

(3) The third temptation was for Jesus to bow down and worship Satan and be rewarded with all the kingdoms of the world. This was a temptation to bypass the crucifixion yet still be ruler over all. Once again, Jesus replied with scripture (Deut 6:13), "You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only." There is no wiggle room in this command. Note that God's word links our worship and our service together here. We will serve the one we worship; and will worship who/what we serve.

Satan lost the battle of temptation!

Matthew then jumps ahead to the time when John (the baptizer) had been thrown in jail. This event did not occur immediately after Jesus was tempted in the wilderness. During that time, Jesus lived in Capernaum. This fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 9:1-2. Many Gentiles made their homes in this area. They lived in spiritual darkness, but Jesus brought a great light when he preached to them.

There were also Jews in the area, and Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James, and John (all Jewish men) to leave their fishing business and follow him. Jesus traveled about, preaching in the synagogues, healing all kinds of diseases, and casting out demons. Large numbers of people followed him as he traveled both sides of the Jordan River.

Oh, what to do when we are tempted! Whether the temptation we face is internal or external, the best defense is scripture. We need to be regularly reading and meditating on God's word so that it becomes a part of us. You are well on your way by joining us here with daily Bible reading. Just about every sin imaginable will be addressed in this year's reading of the New Testament. Keep your eyes and heart open to what God has to say, and especially to those areas where you personally struggle. God gives us the means to live lives that are victorious over sin! I'm very excited about this year's journey, chapter by chapter, through the rest of the Bible! And I'm glad each of you is joining us!

Father, thank you for the wonderful blessing of your word! You reveal yourself to us and also help us understand ourselves. May we seek to know you and to grow in our relationship with you as we journey through your word this year. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Matthew 1 - Jesus is Born

Welcome to the homestretch of the Three Year Bible Book Club!

Jesus has come! Rejoice!

Some of you may be new to the club, and I encourage you to jump right in and start reading. Our pace is slower and deeper than a typical one year reading program. Each day I (or my two helpers, Becky and Katrina) will lead you through a background of the passage, reflection, application, and prayer. Don't get bogged down in reading the blog, just enjoy reading the Bible! There will be a link to a bookmark posted on the left side of this page that gives you a schedule of the readings.

LINK: Matthew 1


Matthew was a Jewish tax collector, and he wrote this gospel for a Jewish audience that awaited the Messiah who was to be the "son of David, the son of Abraham." That is why this genealogy is the first thing you read in the book of Matthew.

This genealogy reviews so many of the people we have read about in the last two years! See how many names are familiar to you. One example is Ruth, Our family read the book of Ruth yesterday for our Jesse Tree devotional, and we reviewed that Ruth, a Gentile, was the great grandmother of King David and King David was Jesus' grandfather times 28 greats!

Here are the names in the genealogy. How many do you remember? Try to find them in the Old Testament:

Perez (by Tamar)
Ram (Aram)
Admin (Luke 3)
Boaz (by Rahab)
Obed (by Ruth)
Solomon (by Bathsheba)
Joram (Jehoram)
Jotham (Joatham)
Amon (Amos)
Jeconiah (Jehoiachin)
Shealtiel (Salathiel)
Abihud (Abioud)
Joseph (husband of Mary)

Bask in praise today as you start you new year off with Jesus. Pray that you have an adventure of a lifetime!