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Matthew 1

In Matthew 1 we read the genealogy of Christ traced through the lineage of Joseph, followed by the background of Jesus’ virgin-birth through the lenses of His human step-father. Since Matthew presents Jesus as King of the Jews, he traces his lineage back to Abraham and he immediately identifies Him with His Messianic and Kingly title, “the Son of David.”

Immediately we’re gripped by the grace in Jesus’ genealogy! Besides all the sinful men, Matthew mentions women in the genealogy, which was unheard of in those days, and not just any women –  Tamar posed as a prostitute and slept with her father-in-law; Rahab was a former prostitute and Canaanite of all people; Ruth was a Moabite, a cursed people (Deuteronomy 23:3-4); and Bathsheba was a wife David should have never ever had, the one David lusted after, committed adultery with, and murdered her husband for; how could either of them possibly be given a second-chance? Grace, grace, what amazing grace. There’s hope for us.

Wiersbe said, “What may be to some readers a boring list of difficult names is actually the record of God’s working throughout the ages to bring His Son to earth. God ruled and overruled and fulfilled His great promises. In the same way, He will keep His promises and send Jesus back again.”

After the genealogy, the narrative begins – this is how it went down, from Joseph’s perspective. He finds out his beautiful betrothed is with child. She claims it’s miraculous (yea right). Joseph doesn’t want her stoned to death, so he’s thinking about divorcing her quietly (for betrothal was legally binding). But then the angel appears to him in a dream commanding him to go forward with the marriage, for the Child is conceived by the Holy Spirit…and then comes one of my favorite passage in the entire Bible, Matthew 1:21, “And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.”

In Hebrew it’s Yeshuah, and His very name means “Yahweh is salvation.” This is the one who saves us from our sins, from the power, penalty, and one day presence of sin!

God is now with us (Matthew 1:23). Another prophecy, this time from Isaiah 7:14 written 700 years before Christ. Not only is God with us, always, He’s like us, He took upon Himself our human nature, but being born of a virgin He was conceived without sin in order to save us, to help us, to be with us, forever (see also Matthew 28:20 and Hebrews 13:5).

God did His part and Joseph did his, he kept Mary as his betrothed wife, he didn’t consummate the marriage until after the baby was born, and just as he was commanded, he named the baby Jesus. Oh the beauty of deity and humanity.

Matthew 2

In Matthew 2 we read about the wise men from the east who came to worship Him who had been born “King of the Jews.” As we read Matthew’s Gospel it’s helpful to know that he wrote to the Jews as His primary audience, presenting Jesus as their King.  Since the Jews held to the Scriptures you’ll notice that Matthew speaks frequently of it’s fulfillment in the life of Christ (three times in this chapter, fifteen times in the Gospel of Matthew).

The issue of worship is very prevalent in this account. The wise men have come to worship Jesus. Herod asks them to inform him of the child’s whereabouts that he might worship Him as well. When the wise men do find Jesus, they follow through in their worship of Him – and yet, worship is only to be directed to God (see Matthew 4:10 and Revelation 19:10 where the same Greek word is used). This is another proof of the deity of Christ, that Jesus is God, the second Person of the Holy Trinity.

Herod pretends to be interested and speaks to the Jewish students of the Scriptures to see if they could determine where the King had been born. When they determine from Micah 5:2 that He is to be born in Bethlehem, Herod speaks to the wise men to determine not just where – but when the Star had appeared and sends them away with the request that when they find the child, to inform him as well (but he planned to kill the King).

Warren Wiersbe said something interesting, “The chief priests and scribes gave the right information but the wrong response. They were only five miles away from the Messiah, yet they refused to go see Him! What good is it to understand Bible prophecy if it doesn’t make a difference in your life?”

Pastor Chuck described Herod perfectly and gives us a heavy warning, “Selfishness destroys clear thinking, and pride and insecurity always end in disgrace.”

The whole issue of the wise men is a fascinating one as well, who were these guys? The most logical explanation seems to be that they were magi who followed the teachings of Daniel who had spent most of his life in Babylon and then in Persia. They knew the Messiah was coming, they studied the stars, they had Daniel’s writings, and no doubt some of the other Old Testament scrolls, so here they are searching for the Savior.

Warren Wiersbe said this, “The wise men were astrologer-scientists who studied the heavens. The star led them to the Scriptures, and the Scriptures led them to the Savior. (See Ps. 19.) God speaks to us in ways we can understand.”

When the star reappears, the seekers are filled with joy, they found the house, fell down before Jesus who is probably one or two years old, and worshipped Him, presenting Him with gifts, Gold (the King – deity), Frankincense (the Priest – purity – see Exodus 30:34), and Myrrh (the Savior – Mortality – see John 19:39-40).

Matthew 3

In Matthew 3 John the Baptist bursts onto the scene. What an amazing ministry he would have as the prophesied forerunner to the Messiah Himself. Matthew points to John as the fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3, and don’t forget we also have John’s miraculous birth and the prophecy of his calling, close to 30 years earlier, in Luke 1:5-25, 57-80.

After 400 years of “silence” God speaks once again through the prophet to mankind that simple, vital word, “repent!” Turn from your sins, come to God and let Him make that change in your life. “The full Biblical definition of repentance is a change of mind that results in a change of action,”–

John had a simple message, it made perfect sense, because he was a simple man. We read about the fact that he had a simple wardrobe, a simple diet, and how he was simply bold. He was clear and courageous in his warning to sinners, it didn’t matter who they were.

I fully agree with what Warren Wiersbe wrote about John, “John the Baptist was a model preacher. He was a road builder who prepared the way for the Lord (v. 3; Isaiah 40:3), and an axman who got to the root of sin and exposed it (v. 10). He was not intimidated by people, nor was he afraid to preach about judgment (v. 12).”

I also appreciate the words of Sandy Adams on John the Baptist, “Without gimmicks or gadgets, without a mailing list or even a miracle, the crowds flocked to John. What he did possess was a dedicated life, a humble attitude, a message from God, and the power of the Holy Spirit. The church today could learn from John’s example.”

John was primarily called to point people to Jesus; to prepare their hearts for the coming of the King, but another part of his message that we must not miss is found in Matthew 3:11, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”John baptized with water, Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit for power and purity. Have you been baptized by Jesus with the Personal power of the Holy Spirit? (see Acts 1:8; Luke 11:13; and Ephesians 5:18).

Eventually the day came when Jesus was baptized by John. Jesus had no sin to repent of, but in being baptized He identified with the ministry of John, and Jesus set the example for us to follow, He fulfilled all righteousness, after which He was anointed for ministry by the Holy Spirit, and the Father gives His public approval upon His Son. Isn’t that what we all long for? To be pleasing to our Father.

O Lord, please help me to be content with my clothes and simple in my diet. Please anoint me to be a “prophet” in the simple sense that I would speak Your word, Your message with courage and clarity.

Matthew 4

In Matthew 4 Jesus is led by the Spirit – interestingly enough – to be tempted by the Devil. Jesus would defeat the enemy by talking to God in prayer and fasting (Luke 3:21), by the Spirit of God (Matthew 3:16), and as He clung to and swung His Sword, the Word of God. Did you notice how Jesus quoted the Bible three times as he defeated the Devil?

We must always be ready to rumble, but especially after spiritual victories, or right before ministry. Another thing to keep in mind is that it was, in one sense, one-on-one. Many, if not most of our battles will be personal, deep, and internal. It’s important to win those battles that no one sees but God and the devil.

To eat bread would have been a sin for Jesus, because it wasn’t His Father’s will yet, timing is critical (He was on a forty-day fast). O Lord, this is my struggle. I feed my flesh, I’m beaten by bread; please Jesus, give me Your heart. Please forgive me, help me, change me. Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3, refused to feed the flesh, and shows us the importance of hiding God’s Word in our hearts (Psalm 119:11).

The devil then took Jesus to the top of the Temple and tempted Him to throw Himself down – what a great way to start ministry that would have been! Satan even used Scripture to toughen his temptation (Psalm 91:11-12). But the devil didn’t apply the Word properly, he twisted the Scriptures. God does promise to protect His people, but there’s a big difference between trusting God and testing God. Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 6:16.

The third temptation would have been sort of a shortcut to the throne. Satan tempted Jesus to wear the crown without ever having to bear the cross, but it was a clear violation of Deuteronomy 6:13 and 10:20. How important it is to remember that there are no shortcuts to the crowns of life, we must be willing to suffer according to God’s will and Word.

After His temptation Jesus began His public ministry with the same word and words John the Baptist spoke, “REPENT, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.” He started recruiting His team, calling His men to be fishers of men – and they left everything behind – from now on good money and precious family would take a distant second to Jesus.  The three-fold ministry was born, as Jesus was teaching, preaching, and healing the people. Pastor Chuck, “These three areas represent a balanced church today. In some churches there is a lot of preaching, but no teaching. In other churches there is a lot of teaching, but no reaching out to the lost. Still in other churches there’s an emphasis on meeting the material and emotional needs of the people, but they neglect teaching the Word. We need to balance these three elements in our ministries so the people can grow.”

Matthew 5

This chapter begins the great Sermon on the Mount, which very well may be the greatest words ever spoken, some have even called this the “Christian Manifesto.” Jesus begins with the Beatitudes and throughout His sermon calls His disciples to a much higher standard. In some ways they had been taught incorrectly, so throughout this Sermon Jesus teaches them a lifestyle and discipleship, that is radically different.

We all want to be blessed, but we need to know that we’ll miss out on those blessings if we harbor wrong attitudes – did you notice the list of attitudes in the beatitudes? The poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and those who are persecuted for righteousness sake. I encourage you to go back and review those descriptions one-by-one, do any of those describe you? We are to be the salt of the earth, preservatives who stop decay in our society, we are to be the light of the world, those who defeat and dispel darkness, but how can we be salt and light if we’re not radically different than the world? Don’t lose your saltiness and don’t hide your light.

Jesus goes on to teach lessons that are clarifications of God’s Law, you’ll notice the phrase, “You have heard it said…but I say to you…” five times (v. 21, 27, 33, 38, 43). Jesus didn’t destroy the Law, He fulfilled it with His life and lips, every jot and tittle (the smallest Hebrew letter and the smallest Hebrew stroke or grammar mark).

Jesus clarifies many issues with the fundamental teaching that God doesn’t see as man sees, man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). If you harbor hatred for someone, God sees it as murder; beware of anger and name-calling, it only invites God’s serious and severe discipline or judgment!

When we examine the heart we find that adultery is the look of lust. How radical and yet real this is, and we realize that without Jesus’ warning, most of us would look and lust, and feed our flesh, many of us would lose our families, and some would even lose their souls to lust, porn, sex, fornication, and adultery. On Matthew 5:27-30 Warren Wiersbe commented by saying, “Obviously Jesus is not suggesting literal surgery, for the real problem is in the heart (v. 28). This is a vivid reminder that sin is terrible, and we are better off “maimed” than whole and going to hell. Deal drastically with sin!”

Jesus corrects their casual view of marriage which is to be sacred and binding. Jesus forbids oaths – O how important it is to be people of our word, may our yes be yes, and our no, be no, may we come to a place where people trust our word without a promise. We are to go the “second-mile” – above and beyond the norm. Matthew 5:39stands out to me, “But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.”This is speaking of insults – don’t resist, don’t lash back, true disciples turn the other cheek. And then there’s the epic issue of love. If you simply love those who love you, you lack true love, for even the pagans do that. We are to love our enemies, we are to bless them, and even pray for those who spitefully use and persecute us, it’s then that we can assure ourselves that we are disciples of Christ, children of God, who’ve grown up to be just like our Father.

Matthew 6

In Matthew 6 Jesus continues to challenge us on the importance of having a heart that’s right in God’s sight. Why do I give, why do I pray, why do I fast? Is it to be seen, recognized, or esteemed by men, or is it truly and totally for the Lord?

In those days there were men who would blow trumpets when they gave to charity. It sounds crazy, but even nowadays we read or see the stories on the news about the large sums of money from various donors, or perhaps a building named after men and women who gave. Jesus commands us to keep it completely secret in order to avoid hypocrisy, and if we do this right, we’ll receive a full reward from our Father – openly!

The same principle is true in prayer so let’s make sure we don’t advertise our prayer life. Jesus then adds some details on the practice of prayer. For starters, make sure it’s not mindless mantras. I remember when I used to pray the rosary as a Catholic, not only was it wrong and sinful to pray to Mary, but I used to pray five Our Fathers and fifty Hail Marys! It was vain repetitions. In verses 9-13 Jesus gives us what I would call the “Model Prayer.” We don’t have to say or pray this verbatim, it’s more of a pattern to follow. We begin by addressing our Heavenly Father – we remember who we’re talking to; He’s so holy and loving, let’s glorify Him, esteem Him, ask for His will to be done. As our prayer progresses we enter into supplication (daily bread could be food for the body or food for the soul), we should spend some time in confession, asking God to forgive us of our sins (1 John 1:9) and at the same time we need to make sure we’ve forgiven others. It’s good to pray for guidance, especially not to be led into temptation, and how we need to ask God to protect us from the enemy!

We have a serious warning in Matthew 5:14-15, if we refuse to forgive others, God will not forgive us! That’s heavy!

And then there’s the practice of fasting. This is another spiritual discipline God expects us to be engaged in. Did you notice that Jesus didn’t say, “IF you give,” or “IF you pray,” or “IF you fast,” no, He said “WHEN you give, pray, and fast.” No need to let others know, but when we fast for the right reasons (not just to lose weight), God will move mightily in our lives. (For more on fasting see Mark 2:19-20; 9:29; Acts 13:3; 2 Corinthians 11:27) (One of the best books I’ve read on fasting is entitled, “God’s Chosen Fast,” by Arthur Wallis).

Jesus moves on with a message on treasures, but He takes us back to the principle of giving. It’s okay to have a savings account, personal property, and possessions, but when is enough enough? He’s blessed us financially here in the United States of America to be a blessing to others, to give, not just to get; to invest in God’s Kingdom, not to indulge in our own (see Luke 12:15-21). If our eye is good (the things we look at) everything else will follow. We can’t serve God and money equally, eventually the two will conflict and we’ll have to make a choice.

And let’s not worry about our lives. The living loving God is our Father, let’s just seek Him first and then watch how everything else falls into place (Matthew 6:33).

Matthew 7

Matthew 7 is the final chapter in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus warns us not to judge harshly or hypocritically, and to keep in mind that if we are to help others spiritually, we need to check our own lives first. Sandy Adams put it this way, “Optical surgery and confronting a brother are both sensitive operations. Be careful before you barge into another person’s life with a stain on your own.”

The Greek verbs in verse 7 refer to a continuous action, therefore when we pray, we are to keep on asking, keep on seeking, and keep on knocking. We’re not to be lazy or lethargic in our prayers but passionate and persistent. Ask for the desires of your spiritual heart, seek God, if you do, you’ll find Him, and keep knocking on those doors of ministry opportunity, God is able to open what no man can shut (1 Corinthians 16:9; Revelation 3:7).

Beware of just going with the flow of the world’s popular opinion, Jesus said that the vast majority of people are on the broad road that leads to destruction. Are you on the narrow road?

Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing, they say they’re Christians but they’re not. Jesus said you’ll know them by their fruits. Profession or position are not points of validation, it’s the character of Christ we’re looking for, it’s a life that’s lived according to Biblical principles.

We even need to check our own lives, we must make absolutely surethat we know the Lord – and it’s way ok to double check from time to time (see 2 Corinthians 13:5). Heavy words from J.C. Ryle, “We may depend upon it as a certainty that where there is no holy living there is no Holy Ghost.”

Friend, one day the storm will come, and the question is, “Will we stand?” It all depends on whether or not we’ve built our life on the rock, the firm foundation of Jesus Christ. Have we loved Him? He said if we love Him we’ll obey Him (John 14:15, 24). It’s not enough to hear the message, or even like the message, we must live the message of God’s Word. If we’re saved our life will show it, the fruit reveals the root of righteousness or rottenness, as Spurgeon said, “A faith that doesn’t change my behavior, will never change my destiny.”Are we different than we used to be?

Pastor Chuck comments so aptly on the final 2 verses of chapter 7, “The people were amazed at the teaching of Jesus. He was different from the scribes who weren’t sure of anything. They endlessly tossed ideas back and forth, never coming to authoritative conclusions. Jesus taught with authority because He is the ultimate authority. He is God.”

Matthew 8

When we study the words and works of Jesus Christ, it doesn’t take long to see He’s unparalleled in human history. There is no one like Him. He spoke the greatest words ever spoken and performed the greatest works ever done.

In Matthew chapter 8 Jesus heals a leper with His touch, He heals a servant at a distance; Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever, and then heals many more at the end of the evening (8:16). This fulfilled the prophecy of (Isaiah 53:4).

Next, Matthew writes about the way the wind and waves obeyed Jesus’ Word, wow…he then closes the chapter by demonstrating Jesus’ absolute authority over the demonic realm. We should have the same response the disciples had in Matthew 8:27 after Jesus stilled the storm by the power of His Word, “So the men marveled, saying, ‘Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?’”Answer? God!

It’s interesting to me, not only whatJesus did, but howHe did it. As we’ve seen with the Centurion’s servant, Jesus didn’t have to touch anyone in order to heal them, but He chose to touch the leper (8:3). Why? I believe it’s because they were never touched by anyone, people were afraid to be contaminated, so lepers were isolated. Jesus communicated to the leper a million wonderful words with that simple touch. Pastor Chuck commented on this by saying, “No one touched lepers. If a leper came within 150 feet of anyone, he was required to cry out, ‘Unclean, unclean!’ But Jesus reached out to touch this man with compassion, love, and concern. Jesus was always interested in those who needed Him most.”

And then there’s the account of the two demon-possessed men; did you notice that Jesus traveled across the sea in order to reach them? Did you notice that the storm tried to stop Him, but Jesus rebuked the winds and the sea? The Greek language seems to indicate that this storm was demonically induced (yes Satan can cause storms, see Job 1:12, 19). But Jesus traveled the sea, even though He was tired, and He was vigorously opposed, it didn’t matter, He did it because of His love for these two men. The rest of the city didn’t want Him, they asked Him to leave (probably because their money-making pigs were gone), but that’s the type of love our Lord has for us, He’s willing to leave the 99 and go after the 1 or 2, just you (Luke 15:4).

In Matthew 8:18-22 we have the account of two men expressing their desire to follow the Lord. Jesus lets them know up-front, that there’s a cost to discipleship. As Jesus traveled He was virtually homeless, it’s not always easy and comfortable, to be a disciple are you okay with that? And then there’s the way the ministry affects our human relationships – sacrifices must be made, are you okay with that? Are you willing to pay that price? Jesus calls us to count the cost, and be willing to pay the price, the man wanted to stay home until his father died, who knows how long that would have been, so Jesus says, put Me first, let there be no rival thrones…and follow Me!

Matthew 9

I’ve always been blessed and impressed by the way these men displayed what I would call a “determined love,” by bringing their friend to Jesus. Mark 2 and Luke 5 tell us that when they came to the house it was so packed out that they couldn’t get in, so they went up on the roof, tore it open and let their friend down for Jesus to heal him – wow! “Lord, make me this kind of friend, who would show such ‘determined love.’”

Of course, Jesus not only heals the man physically, but more importantly, He does so spiritually, he forgives his sins. The scribes heard Jesus’ declaration of forgiveness and thought within themselves that this was blasphemy, after all, only God can forgive sins. But Jesus knew their thoughts (v. 4) and proved to them that He WAS God!

In those days the tax collectors were considered to be the worst, they were traitors to their nation, they were crooks who got rich off the people, but Jesus not only calls Matthew the tax collector to follow Him, Jesus hangs out with him at his house and eventually appoints Matthew as one of His twelve Apostles! The Gospel we’re reading was written by this Matthew. The message is clear, if God can cleanse and call a tax collector like Matthew, there’s hope for any of us!

The Pharisees criticized Jesus for eating with tax collectors and sinners, but Jesus explained to them that these are the very people who need God. As Christians, we need to be careful that we don’t isolate ourselves from the rest of the world and cover ourselves us in a Christian cubby hole. In John 17 Jesus prayed that we’d be IN the world, but not OF the world. Pray about who you can reach out to.

Next the Pharisees question the disciples of Jesus for not fasting like them or the disciples of John the Baptist. Jesus explains to them that it wasn’t time for His Apostles to fast, but eventually they would. We read back in chapter 6:16-18 that Jesus expects us to fast, but we’re not to advertise it to get glory from men. I’ve learned over the years that the Holy Spirit must lead us in fasting, it can’t be rut, or routine, after all, here were a bunch of Pharisees who fasted frequently, but they were so far from the heart of God – here they were leading the resistance against God.

The rest of the chapter records Jesus healing many people. Do you need healing today? Does your heart need to be mended? (Psalm 147:3) Is there a heavy situation that needs God’s intervention? As you read the remainder of this chapter notice the way Jesus acknowledged and drew out their faith. He told the woman, “…your faith has made you well.”He told the blind men, “According to your faith let it be to you.”Marktells us in 5:36of his Gospel, that Jesus told Jairus, this Ruler, this father, “Do not be afraid, only believe.”Maybe it’s time to fast, and pray by faith, to believe and receive, to be like this father who went to Jesus, like these blind men, who cried out to Jesus, or like this beautiful woman who made her way through all the clutter, and all the crowd, to just touch the hem of His garment – she instantly received the healing that she could find nowhere else. Friend, go to Him, He really is a compassionate Savior (9:36)…and then pray, for God to raise up laborers to serve in this harvest of hurting souls (9:37-38).

Matthew 10

In Matthew 10 Jesus calls His 12 Apostles by name, gives them power, and sends them out; but before they go He teaches them (and us) many things about this type of ministry.

We don’t simply go anywhere, to anyone, we go where Jesus sends us; the Apostles were sent first to the Jews. This was God’s order (Romans 1:16) for many reasons. Jesus wanted to identify with Judaism because He was the coming Messiah they should have been looking for and the whole world needed to know that. This was not some new religion, this was rooted in the monotheistic beliefs of Abraham and Moses. The Jews held to the Scriptures and under the old covenant, they should have been in right relationship with God, ready for the Gospel, so Jesus sent the guys to them first.

Jesus taught His Apostles to trust God for provision and to be aware of the fact that in all reality, they were sheep among wolves, so they would always need the Shepherd, His wisdom, and a heart to be harmless as a dove, which speaks of being holy/blameless/innocent.

Jesus warned of coming persecutions from authorities and even division among families. Jesus told them in advance because He didn’t want them (or us) to lose heart, as I always tell people, “don’t split or quit – that’s the only way you lose,” remember, “…he who endures to the end will be saved.” (22b)

If we truly long to be like our Lord, to really be His disciple, then get ready to be hated as He was, because a disciple eventually becomes like his teacher, a servant like his master, and Jesus was accused of being under the influence of Beelzebub, who they called the ruler of the demons (Matthew 10:24-25; see also Matthew 12:24). Nowadays, people call Christians evil because we hold to the Scriptures and believe such passages as John 14:6 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. I can’t help but think of Isaiah 5:20a,“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil…”

Many of the twelve would be put to death, as a matter of fact, history tells us that all the Apostles died a martyr’s death with the exception of John the Beloved and Judas Iscariot…but until that day when we finish our race, God will protect us. If He watches over every single sparrow, and not one hits the ground without our Father’s permission, how much more will He watch over us? He even knows the number of our hairs! Fear God, not death!

Be bold.

Confess Christ here, and He will confess you there in heaven; deny Christ here, and He will deny you there; and don’t be surprised if even your own family comes against you – don’t leave the Lord because you love your family more than Him. Cling to the cross, deny yourself, follow Him and His marching orders and just know, that God sees everything you do for Him, even a cup of cold water given to a little one, with the right heart, will be rewarded by God one day.

Matthew 11

Even the great John the Baptist had his struggles. There he is waiting in prison and the day comes when those doubts began to rise, was Jesus the Coming One, or should we look for another? John sends delegates to question Christ and the Lord answers with the witness of His works – the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. All this is a fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies out of Isaiah 29:18; 35:4-6; and 61:1. His works proved He was indeed the One.

Jesus closes his message to John with a mild rebuke, “Blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”John had known – it had been vividly shown, that Jesus was the One, but life has a way of making us doubt, doesn’t it? When things don’t go according to our timetable, or the way we envisioned it; if we as God’s people suffer, when all we ever wanted to do was to please Him, we can easily have doubts. Some teachers believe that John wanted Jesus to act swiftly as Judge, to come down hard, after all that was part of John’s message! But all Jesus did was loving acts, there was no ax chopping down trees (Matthew 3:10). May we not be offended, stumble, or fall away if things don’t go our way. God has already shown us who Jesus is, and that’s all that matters.

When the disciples of John returned to him with the answer, Jesus then speaks very highly of him – he really was an amazing prophet. He was clothed with boldness – unmoved or even shaken by the wind. He was the fulfillment of the prophecy in Malachi 3:10, the forerunner to the Christ. Up to that point he was the greatest prophet ever born, probably because of Who he pointed to, but Jesus then says something fascinating, “…but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” Some say that this is due to the fact that Christians are part of the New Covenant, what a great blessing we enjoy! Others say it’s because of the revelation we have in Christ and they point to Matthew 13:16-17, “But blessed areyour eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous mendesired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”(it fits the context rather well).

If the latter is true, then even we who are “least” in the Kingdom of Heaven have a greater revelation of the words and works of Jesus Christ, of God’s beautiful plan of Salvation for mankind, than John the Baptist did. How accountable we are!

Jesus goes on to teach that we need to be passionate about giving and receiving the Gospel (not lazy or lackadaisical). That some hearts are so hard that no matter what approach God sends their way, the “fasters” or “feasters,” they’re just not open. How they need to be so careful, for the more one knows, or hears, or sees from God, the greater the judgment will be if that person rejects the Son of God.

I’ve always loved Matthew 11:28-30. When we come to Jesus He gives us rest. We don’t have to work for our salvation, or worry, or wonder if we’re saved, we just rest in Him, connect to Him, and learn from Him…for the “rest” of our lives.

Matthew 12

The Pharisees had heaped up a plethora of rules and regulations in their human attempt to keep the Law. They appeared to be “holy,” but the vast majority of them did not know the Lord. They confronted Jesus for allowing His disciples to pluck heads of grain on the Sabbath Day, they even plotted to destroy Him for actually healing a man on the Sabbath Day. This group may have been sincere when they first started, back in the second century B.C., but my how they’d drifted away. Not all false prophets had a false start!

The disciples were hungry; the man had a withered hand – a hand he could not use (how hard that must have been). And here were these Pharisees claiming to be godly men without any mercy or compassion for the hungry or the handicapped. They had elevated their distorted interpretation of the Bible, their traditions, over truth (see also Mark 7:1-13).

Jesus gave them Scriptural examples of how there may be times when human need supersedes the letter of the Law, and more importantly Who He is – He is greater than the Temple, He is Lord even of the Sabbath.

Later, Jesus healed a man who was demon-possessed, and the Pharisees accused Christ of casting out demons by the ruler of the demons, Beelzebub. Jesus explained to them that a house divided against itself cannot stand, if Satan fought himself, he would be foolish. No, this is the Spirit of God, this is the Kingdom of God, this is the Son of God who is binding the enemy that He might plunder his goods.  The truth is, Satan has kidnapped mankind, the people are in his house. What Jesus is doing is binding him, tying him up and rescuing those who were kidnapped, one-by-one.

O Lord, help us, empower us to do the same; please help us to rescue those who are held captive by Satan.

Jesus warned the Pharisees that they were on the verge of committing the unpardonable sin. They were resisting the Holy Spirit who testifies of Christ. How important it is that we listen intently to the voice of the Holy Spirit. These men were against the Christ, they were bad trees with rotten fruit, their words were wrong and wicked because their hearts were dark and dirty, “…for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” But one day, they (and all of us) will give an account for every idle word we speak (Matthew 12:36). Heavy!

The Scribes and the Pharisees ask Jesus for a sign (as Jesus hadn’t already shown them enough), but Jesus taught them, and us, that it’s evil to seek after signs. All we need to see in order to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ are His words and works, culminating in the resurrection from the dead – that’s the Sign of signs!

Jesus reveals that when He cleans a person up, they need to fill their hearts with His Spirit, or things will get worse; and His true family is revealed to be those who do His Father’s will – that’s the family DNA. (No, we are not to pray to Mary!)

Matthew 13

A parable has been defined as, “An earthly story with a heavenly meaning.” Jesus taught in parables because the people weren’t able to receive the straightforward Scriptures, so He added illustrations. Matthew points out that the failure of the people was a fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah 6:9-10. They heard, but they didn’t understand, they were able to see, but not perceive, they had hard hearts, deaf ears, and closed their eyes, it wasn’t the preacher’s fault, the people just weren’t open. So, Jesus goes a different route, He preaches in parables.

Pastor Chuck Smith offered some wise counsel; he suggested that we shouldn’t teach on the parables until we’ve been a Christian for 20 years. Some parables might be a little easier to understand (especially the ones Jesus interprets for us) but some aren’t that clear – for those it takes a complete grid of theology to make an educated evaluation.

The first parable is one of my favorites. The Sower is Jesus, the seed is the Word of God, and the soil is the condition of each heart. Some hearts are hard, and the Word doesn’t penetrate; this person does not (cannot) understand the Word and the enemy comes and snatches it away. Other hearts are shallow, symbolic of the “believer” who is excited for a season, but when difficulties arise because of the Word, they wither away. The third heart is the crowded heart, so the seed finds a heart that prefers wealth and worldliness over the Word – no fruit is produced – proving that more than likely this person is not a Christian. But the fourth and final seed falls on good ground, it’s soft soil, an open heart, and they produce fruit to different degrees (O Lord, please help me to bear hundred-fold fruit).

It’s tough to swallow but in every church, there are counterfeit Christians (tares). In the early stages they look exactly the same, but eventually we discover their true identity.

The parable of the mustard seed that grows big enough for the birds of the air to come and nest in its branches, may teach the same truth as the previous and subsequent parable, because the birds are bad in the parable Jesus interpreted for us, and leaven is usually symbolic of sin.

The parable of the hidden treasure and pearl of great price are two more of my favorites. My personal belief is that these parables illustrate how Jesus left His throne, and laid down His life, how He “sold everything” in order to come down and purchase the field, for the treasure within. Natural Pearls form when an irritant – usually a parasite and not the proverbial grain of sand – works its way into an oyster, mussel, or clam. As a defense mechanism, a fluid is used to coat the irritant. Layer upon layer of this coating, called ‘nacre’, is deposited until a beautiful pearl is formed. Isn’t that a perfect picture of us – sinners – irritants, parasites, and yet covered with the righteousness of Christ!

How sad to see the people reject Jesus in His own town. “Familiarity breeds contempt.”

Matthew 14

What a tragedy to see the way the great prophet, John the Baptist died. He was arrested because he was bold enough to call the king out for his sin. He was then beheaded because of a sensual dance from Herodius’ daughter and a prideful vow from Herod – combine that with the hatred of the king’s wife who resented the righteous correction, and it led to what appeared to be a withering defeat and death of the man who at one time was the Lord’s leader in Israel. But we need to be careful not to view things through human lenses only. John had finished his race – and he won. He prevailed in victory, was welcomed home to glory, undoubtedly hearing those words we all long to hear, “well done, good and faithful servant.” May we never forget, it’s not really how we die, it’s how we live to the very end; and death for the Christian is not really death, it’s only a departure to glory.

On this side of time, however, we grieve. Even Jesus felt the weight of John’s passing and He wanted to get away, He wanted to have some time alone – but the people wouldn’t let Him. They followed Him, they thronged Him, they needed Him…and Christ knew it and was moved with compassion.

O Lord, please help me as an under-shepherd to learn from the You the Great Shepherd of the sheep, to always be ready and willing to serve and minister and tend to Your people You’ve entrusted into my care, faithfully, compassionately – to be obedient, even when it’s inconvenient.

Throughout the Gospels we hear the greatest words ever spoken and see the greatest works ever done, He fed 5,000 men, plus women and children (14:21)! He walked on water and gave Peter the power to do the same. There’s no doubt about it, v. 33 tells us that they “…worshipped Him, saying, ‘Truly You are the Son of God.’” Make no mistake about it, Jesus proved He was God the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, worthy of worship and willing to receive it.

Before we leave this chapter, I thought it would be good to make mention of a few more things: Did you notice Jesus sending the multitudes away, even the disciples, so that He Himself could get away and pray? (v. 23; see also John 6:15) The people were speaking of making Him King, so He wanted to be alone with His Father; to be King was a good thing, but it wasn’t time yet…so Jesus prays, our perfect example in this.

Another thing that’s interesting about that night is found in Mark’s account – we read in Mark 6:48 that the disciples were, “straining at rowing” and Jesus saw them. So he came to them at the fourth watch of the night (between 3 and 6AM). It’s comforting to know that Jesus sees us struggling and straining, and He comes to us at just the right time, putting all forms of opposition under His feet, even under our feet if we let Him.

One last thing is found in v. 36 – a beautiful picture of prayer, as many as touched the hem of His garment, were made perfectly well. O the power of faithful prayer that aligns with His will! (Matthew 9:20-21; Mark 9:23; 1 John 5:14)

Matthew 15

The Scribes and Pharisees criticized the disciples of Christ for not washing their hands before eating; it wasn’t an issue of health or sanitation, it was an issue of holiness and sanctification. Over the years they had developed a way of washing their hands so that in step-one, the water ran down their fingertips, and in step-two, it ran down their elbows. They were convinced that if they didn’t wash in such a way after being out and about in the marketplace (where perhaps they had touched something ceremonially unclean) and proceeded to eat food with such hands, they would be defiled in God’s sight. They taught this tradition as truth. Jesus tries to teach them that it’s not the “germs” that go into the man that defiles him, it’s what comes out of the man – it’s not our diets, it’s our deeds.

Jesus calls them out, explaining that in these commandments of men, they were transgressing the Word of God. For example, the Jews taught that as one’s parents got older, children could bypass any assistance to their parents financially, if they gave that money to the temple instead – they called it Corban. But this was a clear-cut violation of God’s commandment to Honor your father or mother. How we need to beware of creating our own laws that would nullify God’s laws. I must search my heart honestly and personally ask God if in any way I’m guilt of this type of hypocrisy. Have I elevated any tradition over truth?

After Jesus rebuked the Jewish leaders, the disciples approached the Lord, informing Him that these guys were offended. Our hearts ache at Christ’s response, because these leaders were so set in their ways, that Jesus’ response was to leave them alone, they were tares, not planted by the Father; they were blind leaders of the blind, unable to see, because they were unwilling to see. What a terrible place to be, when God leaves us alone, leaves us to ourselves, when God gives someone up (Romans 1:24, 26).

As Jesus departs to a Gentile area we’re surprised to find a Canaanite woman who believes in Jesus so much, that she becomes a marvelous model of prayer. Her daughter was demon-possessed, and she was desperate. Initially Jesus didn’t respond, but she didn’t give up. The disciples tried to send her away, but she didn’t give up. Jesus eventually told her, “Not now,” He had been sent to Israel, but she didn’t give up. Jesus likens her to a little puppy trying to take the food of the children, but she refuses to be discouraged and turns Jesus own words around to work on her behalf by saying that all this little puppy needed was the crumbs from the Master’s table. Jesus commended her for her great faith, and her daughter was healed from that very hour! What a great lesson for all of us, especially praying parents!

As Jesus continues to teach, preach, and heal, He once again meets the physical needs by feeding 4,000 men (plus women and children). Proving His compassion (v. 32) and proving He is God (imagine how good those fish tacos must have been!).

Matthew 16

The Pharisees and Sadducees doubted and even defied Jesus, demanding a sign from Him (as if He hadn’t already given them a million). Jesus called them out on this, pointing to the fact that they were good at predicting the weather whenever they saw the clues and clouds, but not the Christ; even though the evidence was overwhelming! I was thinking about this – how much more can we predict the weather nowadays? We’re all aware of the storm when it’s coming aren’t we? But most people are not aware of the Christ who is coming to rapture His church and judge the world. If only we’d stop to see the signs of the times!

Jesus followed up with a warning to His disciples, “…beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Unfortunately, the disciples’ view of Jesus hadn’t grown, when He fed the thousands of people with a few loaves and fish, and so they mistakenly thought Jesus was short on bread when He mentioned the leaven. Jesus was grieved at their lack of faith and understanding. God help us to learn the lessons along the way – it’ll never be an issue of provision – God will always provide, in this case it was an issue of doctrine. In v. 12 Jesus warns about the leaven of false doctrine, that all it takes is a little leaven, to permeate all the people (Galatians 5:9). The Pharisees were legalists and the Sadducees were materialists in that they didn’t believe in spirits, angels, or life after death. Both were sign-seekers, when in all reality at the end of the day, the only sign we will ever need to see is the resurrection of Jesus Christ (the sign of the prophet Jonah – see Matthew 12:39-40). Friend beware of their leaven.

The most important question anyone will ever ask, or answer is “Who is Jesus Christ?” Some say He was a good man, or teacher; others refer to Him as one of many prophets, and some even foolishly deny His existence (they’re burying their heads in the sand). Peter receives a supernatural revelation in identifying Jesus as the Christ (the Anointed One) the Son of the living God – Bingo! Bullseye! Perfect answer! Jesus is the One who fulfilled over 300 prophecies in His first coming, He’s the Anointed Prophet, Priest, and King, and He’s not just the Son of Man, He’s also the Son of God, or more accurately put, “God the Son.” It’s a personal question, who do yousay that He is?

Jesus commends Peter for His correct answer, and proceeds to prophesy that He would build His church on this profession of faith in Christ. Jesus didn’t build the church on Peter (1 Corinthians 3:11) but He would use Peter and the other living stones (1 Peter 2:5) to build up His church – and since He’s the one building, the gates of Hell will never, ever prevail against it!

One-minute Peter receives a supernatural revelation (God speaks to-and-through him) the next minute the devil is the one speaking through Peter (ouch). It can happen, when we don’t understand the cross as Christians. We must be mindful of the things of God, not the things of men. So, you say you want to follow Jesus? If so, we must deny ourselves. Whenever my will, my feelings, my thoughts, my heart, my ambitions, possessions, or relations conflict with the will of God – I must say “No” to me, and “Yes” to Him. I have a feeling the cross doesn’t feel too good, but it does a lot of good, and eventually that temporary cross leads to an everlasting crown.

Matthew 17

As you harmonize the Synoptic Gospels (Mark 9:1-13; Luke 9:27-36) you’ll find that Jesus took Peter, James, and John up the mountain to pray. As usual, the disciples fell asleep, but Jesus continued in prayer, and as He prayed His appearance was altered. Can you imagine His face shining like the sun? His clothes glowing, glistening, white like the snow? A portion of His shekinah glory was revealed, and this would be the fulfillment of Jesus’ words in (Mark 9:1) (see also 2 Peter 1:16-18).

When Peter finally wakes up, he sees Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. Luke tells us that they were talking about Jesus’ impending death. Why Moses and Elijah? Some point to the fact that Moses represents the Law and Elijah the prophets. Others (like me) hold also to the belief that Moses and Elijah are the two witnesses spoken of in Revelation 11.

Mark tells us Peter didn’t know what to say, and Luke tells us Peter didn’t even know what he said, he just blurted out the suggestion to make 3 tabernacles, one for Jesus, one for Moses, one for Elijah – he was inadvertently putting Moses and Elijah on the same plane as Jesus. While he was talking he was interrupted by the voice of the Father who pointed them to Jesus, His beloved Son in whom He was well pleased. They fell to their face fearfully, but we read in Matthew 17:8, “When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.” I love that – Jesus only…how we need to be so careful never to elevate any man to the place that Jesus holds in our hearts.

As they head down the mountain, Jesus instructs His disciples not to tell anyone about the vision until after His death and resurrection. There’s a timetable for everything, the Day Jesus would reveal Himself as Messiah would be Palm Sunday, and the Day He returns as King is in the near future – but not yet.

The disciples then ask Jesus about the prophecy of Elijah’s return in Malachi 4:5. Jesus explains to them that the fulfillment would be two-fold. Elijah would come literally and physically during the Tribulation Period (see Revelation 11) and in one sense the prophecy pointed to John the Baptist, who came in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17).

Usually when we come down from a mountain-top experience the enemy is ready to meet us in the valley – and sure enough – they were met by a father, whose son was demon-possessed. The disciples couldn’t cast out the demon, this grieved Jesus. After all they’d been able to defeat this demon, but apparently this was a different type of evil spirit that required both prayer and fasting. May the Lord lead us intimately and personally to fast obediently – our spiritual senses will be heightened, and we’ll have the faith and power necessary to deal with demons.

Every Jew 20 years-old and above was required to pay the Temple Tax each year. Jesus and His “sons” should have been exempted from this tax, but in order not to offend, He sent Peter to do something he loved doing – Peter went fishing. God is so good and so sovereign that He had a fish swallow a 4-drachma coin, to pay their taxes and Peter would learn, “Where God guides, God provides.”

Matthew 18

I’m always fascinated that the Lord chose 12 guys who were always arguing about who would be the greatest. Why are we so concerned with being better than the “others?” Christianity should never be us competing with each other, we’re on the same team and we should be happy when our brothers and sisters are blessed. They were concerned about who would be the greatest in the Kingdom, but Jesus sets them straight and tells them that they wouldn’t even ENTER the Kingdom, unless they humbled themselves and were converted with a childlike faith in Him.

Jesus then teaches even further on the importance of the children, valuing them, receiving them, and making sure we don’t cause them to stumble. It’s unfortunate that back in that day children were not esteemed. We’ll see later that the disciple didn’t listen to the Lord and they turned the children away, but Jesus rebuked them in, Matthew 19:14, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”We are to value the children, and make sure we don’t make them stumble, offend, or neglect (despise) them. Jesus issues a heavy, heavy warning in Matthew 18:6-10 to anyone who would hurt children. We are to deal severely with sin, not that we literally cut off our foot, or hand, or gouge out our eye, but that we repent in a real and radical way, lest such a person spend eternity in hell-fire.

Matthew 18:10 seems to indicate that children have guardian angels; maybe we all do. Angels are here to minister to those who will inherit salvation (Hebrews 1:14), of course all of them under the marching orders of the Lord Jesus Christ who came to save the lost (18:11) even to the point of “leaving” the 99 to go after that 1 sinner – that’s how much He loves you!

If your brother clearly sins against you, go to him (don’t talk about him behind his back), no, go to him and try to work it out. If that doesn’t resolve the situation, take a mature believer with you, and try again to work it out. If your brother continues in that sin, inform someone from the church (one of the pastors) with the hopes of working it out. If that person still doesn’t want to repent, then the leaders must exercise church discipline – excommunication (see 1 Corinthians 5:5-7 where Paul had to do that in the Church at Corinth).

Peter thought he was being generous with his willingness to forgive his brother up to 7 times. But Jesus corrects him and tells him (and us) we don’t put a number on it; that we are to forgive others just as God has forgiven us (see Ephesians 4:32). Jesus goes on to share a parable where one man owes his master millions of dollars – the law said that he and his family should be thrown into prison, but the man begged for, and received mercy and forgiveness. Tragically that same man went and found another who owed him a few thousand dollars, grabbed him by the throat, and threw him into prison. When the Master found out, he arrested the first man and delivered him to the torturers. Please…read v. 35 again and make sure you’ve forgiven anyone who has sinned against you! As George Herbert said, “He who cannot forgive breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass.”

Matthew 19

As Jesus continues to minister and heal lives, the Pharisees came to Him, testing Him with a huge question about marriage. “Is it Scriptural for a man to get a divorce for just any reason?” This was a very controversial issue back then, there were two schools of thought. Some were very liberal and said, “Yes, if she disappoints you in any way – if she burns the food, speaks too loud, or if you find someone prettier, Moses permitted us to issue her a certificate of divorce” (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). Much like today, men and women divorce for just any reason; they cite irreconcilable differences, they find someone else, they file what’s called a “no fault divorce,” it’s not anyone’s fault they say. Instead of keeping their vows for better or worse, they replace the words, “I do,” with “I’m done.”

But Jesus gives us the correct perspective. Jesus goes back to the origin of marriage, the original marriage (Genesis 2:18-25), before the civil law there was the Sacred law, and what God has joined together, let not man separate. The only exception Jesus cites is that of adultery, where often times a marriage is dealt a death blow by such an act (but not always). Marriage is binding in the eyes of God and divorce is not permitted unless there has been adultery or if one of the spouses completely abandons the other (1 Corinthians 7:15). As a pastor I think I need to mention that if your husband is physically abusing you, you don’t have to stay in that situation – please let someone know, get Christian help immediately.

As Jesus teaches on the lifetime commitment required in marriage, the disciples respond by saying, “It is betternotto marry.” But Jesus tells them that celibacy is not normal or natural, it must be a gift. Some are born with that inclination, others throughout history were castrated to be single, and then there are those who were given that gift when they became a Christian and have chosen to exercise their singleness; Paul, in time had that gift (1 Corinthians 7:7). Tragically, the Catholic church has taken this passage, twisted it, and mandated it for their priests – but clearly Jesus wasn’t requiring it for His apostles, and nowhere do we read this requirement for Pastors and leaders. Paul even wrote to Timothy, that if anyone desired the office of a Bishop (Pastor), he was to be the husband of one wife (1 Timothy 3:2).

I love the way Jesus loves the children and blesses them; and then the way Jesus loved this rich young ruler (see Mark 10:21). The young man knew something was missing in his life, he was a ruler, with riches, and religion, but those things are never enough, so He comes to Jesus and asks about eternal life. The statement Jesus made in v. 17 was not a denial of His deity, He was actually trying to bring this young man to an awareness of who He was. Jesus called Himself “Good” in Matthew 20:15 and John 10:14, and if this young ruler would have realized that, he would have chosen to follow  Christ. But he didn’t; he chose the god of gold, over the true and living God. Jesus teaches us, it’s hard for a rich man to be saved, but with God, all things are possible.

Peter wasn’t ashamed to ask the Lord about this, for in one sense they had done what the rich man was unwilling to do, and Jesus prophecies to them, and us, that if we follow the Lord obediently, sacrificially, we will be rewarded with responsibility and opportunities to serve Him – in this life, and in the one to come.

Matthew 20

In Matthew 19 Peter had asked Jesus about the rewards they would receive for the sacrifices they had made in serving in the ministry. Jesus promised rich rewards in the future, including greater responsibilities to serve in the coming Kingdom. Jesus now in Matthew 20 shares a parable in this same context about a landowner who went out early to hire laborers for His vineyard. When he hired the first round of workers the landowner agreed to give them a denarius a day (a fair day’s wages) so they began the work with their “contractual agreement.” But then the landowner found others throughout the day who were just standing around idly in the market place and He chose them, He offered them work as well. The second round of workers were hired at 9AM, the third at 12NOON, the fourth at 3PM, and he even hired some at 5PM – an hour before quitting time! As the landowner gave compensation to his workers he began with those who were hired last (the last shall be first), who had worked the least amount of hours – and he gave them a denarius for their labor. When the first set of workers saw this, they assumed they would receive more than a denarius, after all, they had worked more hours than everyone else, but they received a denarius as well. They complained about the compensation, but the landowner corrected them, pointing out the “contract” they had agreed on – and herein lies the lesson. Am I serving the Lord for what I will get out of it? For the pay? If that’s the case, then I’m just a hireling. But if I’m serving the Lord because He has so graciously chosen me, and not concerned for what I’m going to get out of it (there’s no contract), then now I’m beginning to cultivate a servant’s heart.

Jesus predicts his betrayal, death, and resurrection for the third time in verses 17-19, if only the disciples had been listening to the Lord, if only they didn’t get bogged down with their preconceived ideas for the King to rule now, politically, what a difference it would have made.

It should turn our stomach in disgust, to read how the mother of James and John, approached Jesus and asked Him to give her sons prominent positions in the Kingdom. Jesus responded by teaching us that it’s the Father who prepares and puts people where they belong, and the ministry is not easy, it has nothing to do with powerful positions – that’s the mentality of the world. For us in the church – leadership is connected to the cross of self-denial, sacrifice, and servanthood. Jesus set the example, He did the will of His Father, He washed feet, He gave His life, He had no agenda of His own, He led through love, and we are to do the same.

In v. 26 Jesus said if you want to be GREAT, become the SERVANT of God and others. And in v. 27 Jesus said if you want to be FIRST, become the SLAVE of God and others. Wow, how inverted the Kingdom is!

I’ve always loved the story of the blind men crying out for mercy. Everyone else told them to be quiet; our enemies relentlessly oppose our prayer – trying to stop us, silence us. But they cried out even more, so Jesus then heard them, stood still, and worked the very miracle they needed. What miracle do you need? Keep praying and maybe even raise the volume, for God is rich in mercy.

Matthew 21

Palm Sunday is one of the most amazing days in the history of the world. This prophecy goes back to Zechariah 9:9, Daniel 9:25, and Psalm 118:24. The Bible is filled with hundreds of prophecies, but this one predicted the very day the Messiah would enter into Jerusalem, on a donkey, 173,880 days before it happened! We read the prophecy in Daniel 9:25,“Know therefore and understand, thatfrom the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall beseven weeks and sixty-two weeks…”So, on March 14, 445 BC the command to restore went forth and 483 years later (69 7-year periods) Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and presented Himself to the people; it was April 6, AD 32, the exact day the Bible had predicted! Wow!

Matthew then tells us how Jesus cleansed the Temple; imagine that, gentle Jesus, driving out the merchants, turning the tables of the money-changers over. Can you visualize His anger? History tells us that they were gouging the people, charging exorbitant prices, they had turned the Temple God intended to be a house of prayer for all nations (Isaiah 56:7) into a place for profit.

Jesus goes on to heal the blind and lame – the children were rightfully praising Him, but the religious leaders were indignant, even questioning Jesus about this. Jesus gave them Scriptural support from Psalms 8:2. Don’t you just love it when the children show us how it’s done? Perfect praise.

The nation of Israel was likened to this fig tree that should have borne fruit, but they didn’t. Jesus would use this visual to teach two truths. First of all, the nation of Israel would be judged as the fig tree was. This judgment would take place in AD 70 when the Roman general Titus surrounded and leveled Jerusalem, 1.2 million Jews died. Secondly, Jesus taught the disciples the power of prayer. We read in Matthew 21:22, “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”

The chief priests and elders questioned Jesus, challenging His authority to do these things – who did He think He was? How dare He come in and drive people out of the Temple! But Jesus questioned them, asking them what they thought of John the Baptist. Deep down inside they knew John was sent from God, but they didn’t like that he called even them to repentance, they didn’t like the way he pointed people to Jesus. They were prideful cowards and crooks. Jesus didn’t answer them, He knew they wouldn’t believe, He wanted them to think this through. How important it is to respond to what God has already shown us, otherwise He won’t show us anything new!

Jesus goes on to share two parables that indicted the religious leaders. Imagine – tax-collectors and harlots entering the kingdom of God before them! They thought the vineyard was theirs and they could do with it as they wished. They thought they could seize the land and get away with killing God’s prophets and Son, but they couldn’t. Just as the Scriptures foresaw, they rejected the most important Stone of all, Jesus (predicted in Psalms 118:22-23) and they would pay a heavy, heavy price.

Matthew 22

The Kingdom of God is very much like a wedding feast that the Father is having for His Son and His Son’s bride, and the Jews were invited (actually, everyone is invited). In a general sense, Jesus is indicting Israel because they cared nothing about this wedding. They were not willing to come (see also Matthew 23:37). Even though the King sent numerous invitations out, even though it would be glorious, they made light of it, they didn’t have time for God, they had their own lives to live, so they brought judgment upon themselves. Since Israel was not willing to come, the invitation went out to the Gentiles. I’ve always loved Matthew 22:9, it’s an encouragement for us all to “go out” and invite people to church, to Christ, to the “Wedding.” The Father is willing to provide the clothes of righteousness in Christ, but we must be sure to wear the gracious garment He has provided.

It’s tragic to see the way the religious leaders thought they could trap Jesus by testing Him – what arrogance, what ignorance; Jesus was here to save them, but they were completely caught up in building their own kingdom on earth. They test Him with the question of taxes, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” It was one of those polarizing issues. If Jesus simply said “Yes,” He would ostracize the Jews; if Jesus simply said, “No,” He could be accused and convicted of sedition. Jesus went deep, He asked for a denarius (He probably didn’t have one) it bore the image of Caesar, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, but render to God the things that are God’s.” The Bible teaches we are to pay our taxes (Romans 13:1-6) but it also teaches that weare created in the image of God, let’s pay our taxes and give God our lives.

The Sadducees were the liberals of the day and they did not believe in the resurrection (they didn’t believe in life after death). They come to Jesus with a question of a woman who married 7 different brothers because of the Levirate law; their question was, whose wife would she be in heaven? Jesus identified their problem as not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. In heaven there is no marriage, we’ll be like the angels in that sense. It doesn’t mean you won’t know your spouse there, as a matter of fact I always tell my wife, “We’ll still be best friends forever.” Jesus goes on to quote Exodus 3:6, 15 – the Lord identifies Himself to Moses as the God ofAbraham, Isaac, and Jacob – even in Moses’ day. God wasn’t speaking in the past tense…no, He’s stilltheir God. There is a resurrection, there is life after death, we all know it deep down in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11; John 5:29).

From what I understand there are over 800 commandments in the New Testament, but they can all be summarized in the 2 great commandments which are intertwined, in this call to love the Lord our God, and to love our neighbor (everyone else) as we love ourselves.

The people of the day saw the Messiah only as the descendant of David. Jesus corrects them with truth of the Scriptures, if David calls the Messiah “Lord,” how can the Messiah simply be his descendant, merely his son? No, He’s the King of kings, the Lord of lords, He’s God in the flesh!

Matthew 23

This is a heavy, heavy chapter! I wonder if these religious leaders were under the impression that they were okay because they were Jewish, or because of the religious position they held. Jesus doesn’t hold back in His stinging rebuke, as He calls them to the carpet, attempting to rattle their cage and save their souls.

Jesus tells the people to do what the Pharisees say, but not to follow their example, for they did not practice what they preached. It was all a show for these guys – they wanted everyone to think they were holy, when they really weren’t. They wanted honor before men. The Phylacteries were leather strips, and little boxes where Scriptures were inscribed and held to the foreheads or wrists in their attempt to obey Deuteronomy 6:8 where the Lord had commanded the people to lay up His Word on their hands and between the eyes. They missed the point. God doesn’t want us to wear the Scriptures on the outside, He wants us to have the Scriptures on the inside, in our minds and hearts; He wants us then to obey the Scriptures – God doesn’t want mere lip service He wants us to live this life – beyond the superficial or artificial.

These men loved the best seats at the various gatherings, they loved the titles, the honorable greetings, and the esteem of men. In verses 8-10 Jesus teaches us that we are only to exalt God, not men, we are not to put men on a pedestal, we’re all brothers – leaders are to be servants, and if a person exalts himself, he will one day be humbled by God. The Scribes and Pharisees were actually keeping people out of heaven, they were on their way to hell and taking people with them; they were greedy, even to the point of stealing widow’s houses – their long prayers were just a show. I can’t help but think of some of these guys on television nowadays who are getting filthy rich by soliciting money from the people and fleecing the flock. Jesus said they would receive a greater condemnation (v. 14).

Imagine being a blind guide, but that’s exactly what they were; they valued gold over God, they tithed from their herb gardens, but neglected the more important things like justice and mercy – they had no faith! If they accidentally had a gnat fly into their mouths, they would strain it out because they considered it unclean, but Jesus said they swallowed a camel (v. 24) in other words they were willing to sin in ways that were unheard of.

They looked good on the outside, but on the inside, they were filled with greed and self-indulgence, like the tombs that were whitewashed, looking good on the inside, but on the outside filled with dead men’s bones. He told them they were spiritually dead, their lives, their hypocrisy proved they were dead, if only they would listen – just because you’re Jewish, or just because you have a religious position or title – it doesn’t mean you’re saved, we need to bear fruits worthy of repentance (see Matthew 3:7-10).

They would be judged in A.D. 70 (1.2 million Jews died); Jesus wept over this…God wanted them, just as He does all of us…if only they’d been willing to come to Him.

Matthew 24

Matthew 24 is often referred to as the Olivet Discourse, for it is here at the Mount of Olives, overlooking the city of Jerusalem and the Temple, that Jesus spoke these words of prophecy. If you cross reference Mark 13 and Luke 21 you get the full picture. The disciples pointed out the beauty of the Temple and the size of the stones. The temple itself stood 90 feet high – there was gold everywhere. Josephus, a Jewish historian said the temple was so magnificent that it was visible from 30 miles away. Some of the stones weighed 180 tons (modern day cranes can lift only 5 tons)! It seemed indestructible…but Jesus spoke an absolutely amazing prophecy – that the day would come when not one stone would be left upon another (in reference to the Temple).

When they reached the Mount of Olives, Mark tells us that Peter, James, John and Andrew asked Jesus privately this 3-fold question we have in Matthew. (1) When will the Temple be destroyed? (2) What will be the signs of Your coming? (3) What are the signs of the end of the age?

As we read through the prophecies of Matthew, we must make the distinction between 1st century fulfillment (when the disciples were persecuted, and the Temple destroyed) the Rapture of the Church (that’s the one that will catch us by surprise if we’re not watching and working) and then there’s the Tribulation Period, which ushers in the end of the age.

False Messiah’s, wars, racial tension, famines, pestilences, earthquakes have all increased in frequency and intensity. In the 20thcentury alone, over 1,100 people of international notoriety have publicly proclaimed to be the Messiah, and in that one century there were more casualties of war than all others combined. Today, even with all our technology and ability to communicate globally, well over 10% of the world is malnourished, millions starving. In other words, the signs are here.

The Abomination of Desolation (v. 15) is when the Antichrist goes into the temple, claiming to be God and demands worship (see Daniel 9:27 and 2 Thessalonians 2:4). This will take place half-way through the 7-year Tribulation period (often referred to as the Great Tribulation). We believe that the Antichrist will come onto the scene peacefully, the world will embrace him, he will bring peace in the Middle East allowing the Jews to rebuild their temple – but then his true colors will show, and he will persecute the Jews (verses 15-22) and the world will see judgment like never before (Revelation chapters 6-19). After the Tribulation Period, Jesus will come and set up His Kingdom (the Millennial Kingdom) for 1,000 years.

Prior to the Tribulation Period Jesus will rapture His church (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52). In Matthew we read that some will be taken, some left behind (36-41). How about you, are you ready for the Rapture. A life that’s watching and working for Jesus demonstrates a life that believes in Jesus. Those who mistreat people and are only concerned with eating and drinking – do not have true faith in Christ, will not only be left behind, but they will be judged for their sin. The Temple was destroyed in A.D. 70, just as Jesus said, and He is indeed coming again!

Matthew 25

Continuing the context of His return, Jesus shares two dextremely insightful parables concerning the Kingdom of Heaven.

The first parable likens His return to a wedding feast. In those days the groom would gather His bride and bring her to His home for a 7-day celebration. In the parable, Jesus shows that five virgins (perhaps bridesmaids) were ready for His coming, and five were not. The difference between them was the oil – and oil is symbolic of the Holy Spirit. There are many who profess to be Christians, they might even attend church, but they’re not truly born-again. These people do not have the Holy Spirit and when Jesus comes, they will be left behind; even though they think they have the right to enter-in, they don’t, that “door” will be closed. In that day Jesus will speak the most horrible words they will ever hear, “Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.”

The second parable has to do with stewardship. We’ve all been given life, money, gifts, talents, things that God has blessed us with, things that we might use for His Kingdom and His glory. Some people are faithful and industrious; they realize that ultimately it all belongs to the Lord, and they work hard and responsibly with what He’s entrusted to them. Such people will be rewarded. Others, however, are wicked and lazy – they show by their life that they really don’t know the Lord and will be cast into outer darkness. Such a heavy warning!

At the end of the Tribulation Period, Jesus will return to judge the nations and separate the sheep from the goats. This judgment is for those who have survived the Tribulation Period – the righteous “sheep” on His right hand, will enter into the Millennial Kingdom. The cursed “goats” on His left hand, will be cast into the “everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

Prior to His final judgement, Jesus gives some very practical reasons for judgments and rewards. Most teachers believe it has to do with the treatment of the Jews during the Great Tribulation Period. How they treated the Jews when they were hungry, thirsty, homeless, naked, sick, or in prison – Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” (v. 40) O how I need to be so careful not to lose the practicality of my faith! James also tells us that we show our faith, by our works (James 2:18).

Matthew 26

Once again Jesus predicts His horrible death, but due to the preconceived ideas of the Disciples, they just don’t understand His words. Even the enemy knew it was inevitable, and the plot thickens as the religious leaders have that conversation to kill Christ.

Mary of Bethany, however, is different than the disciples; she seems to be the only one in their circle who understood Jesus’ words, and she therefore anoints Him with a flask of very costly oil (it was worth $40,000) the house was filled with the fragrance of her worship. Of course, we know the enemy hates it when we worship the Lord, and Judas was indignant, he was the one who led the charge against Mary, but Jesus defended her. I’ve always loved and appreciated what Mary of Bethany did for our Lord. As Warren Wiersbe said, “Other women came to anoint Him after His burial, but Mary did it when He could be encouraged by her love.”

That was the last straw for Judas, for he was a thief, he used to steal from the money box, and he, no doubt wanted some of that money (John 12:4-6). Judas therefore went out and agreed to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. Jesus, however, didn’t give up on Judas, He reached out to him at the Passover meal, by saying in essence, “I know you’re planning to betray Me, Judas, don’t do it, there will be the worst of all judgments if you do this” (26:24). If only the world would heed the warnings of God – motivated by love.

Jesus goes on to institute communion. We as Christians have only two “institutions.” One is baptism, which we are to do once, when we’re old enough to understand what we’re doing. The other is communion, which we are to observe repeatedly and frequently. In doing so we remember Christ, we remember His cross, we remember His body that was broken, demonstrating His love, and His blood that cleanses us, granting us life.

After communion Jesus informs His disciples of the prophecy in Zechariah 13:7, the sheep would be made to stumble, when the Shepherd is struck. He was informing them of this prophecy so they would regather later in Galilee, but Peter’s pride got the best of him and He essentially said, “Jesus You’re wrong! These other guys might deny You, but I’ll never deny You!” So Jesus speaks to Him directly (I hear it like this) “Well Peter, I wasn’t going to say anything, but now that you bring it up, not only will you stumble and scatter, but you will deny Me three times before the rooster crows.”

Sure enough, Peter ends up denying the Lord. He was overconfident. He slept when he should have been praying, he followed at a distance, and he warmed Himself by the enemy’s fire. What important lessons of warning for all of us. Jesus, on the other hand, prayed earnestly in the Garden. He surrendered Himself to His Father’s will. Although He was betrayed by His friend (with a kiss), He simply laid down His life. They denied Him, arrested Him, spat in His face, struck Him, mocked Him, sentenced Him to death, even the death of the cross – it didn’t matter; it was the greatest expression of love in all of eternity – love demonstrated and directed by God for you and me. (Romans 5:8)

Matthew 27

The religious leaders had come to a final, formal decision – Jesus was to be put to death. Since the Jews didn’t have the authority to administer the death sentence they led Jesus away to Pontius Pilate.

The enemy did what he usually does, with Judas. First, he vigorously tempts us to sin, and then when we do, he overwhelms us with condemnation. That’s what happened to Judas, the blinders were lifted just enough for him to see the horror of his sin, he had betrayed an innocent man who was now about to die. He thought his way out was to give the money back, but the religious leaders told him, there’s no turning back, there’s no hope for you…and so, Judas did what 125 people do every day in the USA, he killed himself, this is the agenda of the adversary (John 10:10).

When Jesus stood before Pilate, it was clear to the Roman Governor that He was completely innocent; Pilate knew they had handed Him over because of envy. What a horrible sin envy is! They simply hated the way Jesus was so wise, so wonderful, so loving, so beautiful, so gifted; how the people were blessed, and impressed and began to follow Him. Jesus did nothing wrong, Pilate knew it, His wife knew it, the leaders knew it, everyone did, but the crowd was swayed by the religious leaders; Pilate caved, and Jesus was sentenced to die.

They mocked Him with the scarlet robe, the crown of thorns, bowing before Him; they spat on Him, struck Him, and led Him away to be crucified. He had already been beaten and scourged with the cat of 9-tails (leather strands with bones and rocks that would tear away the flesh). Many men didn’t even survive the scourging, but Jesus was a man’s man. The cross beam He would be carrying would weigh close to 75 pounds, and after all He’d been through, it’s understandable that He needed help. It wasn’t the Roman soldiers – it was God who chose Simon to help Jesus carry His cross, no doubt this would lead to his salvation, seeing His Savior suffer, and Simon’s boys would be saved as well (see Mark 15:21; Romans 16:13). I can’t think of any greater privilege in the history of the world – imagine being chosen to help Jesus carry His cross!

He was led up to Calvary where they laid Him down, and we read in v. 35, “Then they crucified Him.”Four words that we will never fully understand. In the Old Covenant the priest would lay his hands upon the sacrifice, symbolizing the transfer of sins, and the lamb would be slain, but here it is our sins, transferred to the Son of God, the true Lamb of God (John 1:29) who died in our place. He bore our sins, He suffered the wrath, He was separated from His Father (v. 46) imagine the pain, but then in v. 50 when He cried out loud, it was a cry of victory, “It is finished”(John 19:30) and our salvation was secured!

They laid Him in a borrowed grave, but it would only be for the weekend. They set a guard to keep Him down, but nothing could stop Christ from conquering death.

O Lord, how can I thank You for such love? Please help me to live for You…to die for you, to truly and totally give You my heart.

Matthew 28

The resurrection story never gets old – this is the capstone of our faith, the only “sign” we’ll ever need. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead proves to mankind beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there is no one like Him; who else has gutted the grave, conquered the coffin, or defeated death? When the Jewish leaders asked Jesus for a sign, He simply pointed to His resurrection. If you think about it, it’s all that’s necessary, I want to follow the One who gives life after death (Matthew 12:39-40; Luke 11:29; John 2:18-22).

Isn’t it a blessing how these lovely ladies were the first to witness the empty tomb? That they were the first to find out that Jesus had risen from the dead – and that they were the one’s commissioned to go and tell the disciples? I’m so blessed by this and I’ve seen this to be true in my walk as a Christian, how God blesses faithfulness. They were courageously coming to anoint the body of Christ, so faithful, so loving, not even sure how the stone would be rolled away, but they took those steps of faith, and God took care of all the details. He sent angels to move the stone, tell the message, and send the ladies with the greatest news in the history of the world – HE IS RISEN!

Because He lives, we who believe in Christ will also live in heaven! Remember what Jesus said to Martha? John 11:25, “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.’”

On their way to the tell the disciples, Jesus appears to some of the ladies, and they worship Him (v. 9). The soldiers also told the story to the Chief Priests, the appearance of the angels, the disappearance of the body, and how they were paralyzed with fear (v. 4), but money talks, and they were bribed…along with the Governor himself.

O Lord, guard my heart from the horrible power of power (the Chief Priest’s problem) and the misery of money(the soldier’s downfall – the soldiers, in the same spirit, joined the ranks of Judas).

The chapter closes with the Great Commission. Jesus tells them (and us) that all authority in heaven and earth has been given to Him, and He just happens to be with us – always – even to the end of the age! So let’s get at it, let’s get the gospel out into all nations, beginning in our hometown, our Jerusalem, then Judea, on to Samaria, and even to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8). I know it sounds like a lofty task, but if Jesus is with us, it changes everything, the impossible becomes possible.

You may not be a formal missionary, but I believe we’re all missionaries in one way or another. To our immediate family, our extended family, our friends, at our school, our workplace, all those who God brings into our path – let’s shine and share, let’s witness with our lives and our lips, let’s tell people all about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (the Trinity) it’s the Great Commission (Jesus is with us) may it never be reduced to the great Omission…thank You Lord for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I want to know Christ more, and make Him known…

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