Tag Archives: Matthew

Week Four Bible Reading Introduction

Week 4: Jesus’ Ministry—Mark

July 22-28

         This week’s reading will move from Matthew to Mark.  We will also use two of the Supplemental Reading days (29th & 30th) to complete our reading of this Gospel.

While Matthew’s original audience was Jewish, Mark’s appears to be Gentile.  This is evident as Mark provides interpretations and meanings of Hebrew and Aramaic words (languages familiar to Jews but not to Greek-speaking Gentiles; see 3:17 as one instance).  He also explains Jewish customs (see 7:3-4).

The gospel of Mark is the shortest of the four.  Hence the individual accounts of the events recorded are typically much briefer in Mark as compared to the others (where the same event is recorded).  Additionally, Mark frequently uses the word “immediately”.  It’s found eleven times in chapter one, 29 times in the first 11 chapters, and 39 times overall.  This in itself creates a sense of urgency in reading this Gospel. Thus, Mark has been described as a “fast-paced” account of Jesus life and ministry.

Through the Bible, July 21

Reading: no scheduled reading

Thoughts and reflections: With no scheduled reading for today, this is a good time to catch up if you have fallen behind. Otherwise, here are some thoughts drawn from this past week’s readings.

  1. Matthew’s Gospel, as we’ve noted previously, is primarily for a Jewish audience. One of the key themes for this account of Jesus’ life and ministry is God’s interest in and love for all mankind.  This counters one of the strongest Jewish beliefs that they above all others, even to the exclusion of others, are God’s chosen people.

Notice how the Gospel begins and ends.  It starts with Jesus’ genealogy where He is identified as the “son of David, the son of Abraham” (1:1).  Abraham, remember, is the one to whom God promised that “in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3).  Jesus, obviously, is the means by which that would be accomplished.  At the Gospel’s end, Jesus commissions His apostles to “make disciples of all nations” (28:19).  These two are not unrelated.

  1. An interesting study is a contrast and comparison of the Gospels to each other, finding the areas of similarity, as well as contrasts and uniqueness. One point of Matthew’s uniqueness is his use of the phrase “kingdom of heaven”.  Though the idea of “kingdom” is found in all four Gospels, this particular phrase is used only by Matthew.  Though the phrase is unique it is used in two primary ways; as a reference to heaven itself (the eternal kingdom) and of the believers present citizenship in God’s kingdom (thus as synonymous with “church”).

Devotional Thought:

Jesus Failed?

Jesus had at the beginning of His public ministry affirmed that the kingdom is “at hand” (Matt. 4:17).  As He traveled and preached, He proclaimed the “gospel of the kingdom” (Matt. 9:35).  He also promised to give Peter the “keys of the kingdom” (Matt. 16:19).  What is more, the kingdom was a very frequent theme both in His private discussions with the apostles as well as public teaching (see 18:1, 4; 19:12, 23; 20:1; 21:31; etc.).

Here’s the question we’re forced to ask based on the ideas taught and promoted by too many today; did Jesus succeed in ushering in this kingdom?  Some, incredibly, would have us to say, “No”.  They would have us believe that His death was not planned and effectively thwarted His intention of setting up His kingdom.  To put it another way, He failed.

Even without going through all the effort of addressing each Bible reference related to this, to suggest that all that Jesus preached, proclaimed, prepared for, and promised did not come to pass is a major affront to our Lord.

So much of Christianity’s clamoring for an earthly kingdom, yet to be established, notwithstanding, Jesus did succeed and that kingdom does now stand.  This kingdom is one in which we now have our place and over which Christ now reigns (Col. 1:13, Rev. 1:6; 1 Cor. 15:24-25).

Through the Bible, July 20

Reading: Matthew 26-28

Summary: These chapters, of course, tell the final climactic events of Jesus’ life.  The plot to secretly apprehend Jesus and kill Him is set.  He’s anointed by a grateful disciple in Bethany, which Jesus says is actually in anticipation of His burial.  He celebrates the Passover with the disciples in the upper room and also institutes the Lord’s Supper. He goes to Gethsemane to pray and there is also betrayed and arrested.  His trial commences (illegally) through the night time hours.  Judas hangs himself. Pilates efforts to free Jesus fail and so He is crucified, then buried.

On the third day, Jesus raised from the dead and showed Himself alive to the disciples.  The last words of Matthew’s Gospel are Jesus’ final charge to make disciples of all nations.

Devotional Thought:

All Authority

Jesus was once questioned by the religious authorities about His actions. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they wanted to know (Matt. 21:23).

Good question.  They were unwilling to know and accept the answer, but still, a good question.

Now, at the very end of His earthly time, Jesus lays it all out—all authority belongs to Him (Matt. 28:18).

Have you thought about the implications of that claim?  Think about yourself and how limited your own authority is.  There are places you cannot go, things you cannot do, people—many, many people—over which you have no sway or control, all due to the lack of authority.

Jesus has no such limitations.  And having been raised from the dead, death itself is under His power.

Some don’t believe this because, they say, “I can reject and deny Jesus if I choose.”  The statement is true but the conclusion is not.  The fact that I can disregard Jesus now is no indication that all authority is not His.  The time will come when at His voice all of the dead will rise, including myself (John 5:28-29).  Everyone will stand before His judgment throne (Matt. 25:31-32).  Every tongue will confess that He is Lord (Php. 2:11).  And every person will be assigned their eternal destiny (Matt. 25:34, 41).

Just because Jesus is not wielding His power and control over me at this moment, does not mean all authority is not His.

Through the Bible, July 19

Reading: Matthew 24-25

Summary: Chapters 24 and 25 constitute a rather lengthy, continuous teaching relative to Jesus ultimate return and judgment.  It’s all initiated by the disciples drawing attention to the temple and all of its buildings.  Jesus responded by saying the day is coming in which one stone would not be left on another.  Incredulous at such a suggestion, they believe such a catastrophic event could only happen at the end of time, Jesus’ return, and the destruction of all things.  Jesus’ response is to tell them about two coming days.  One would come in their life times and should be prepared for by watching for the signs to warn of its arrival. This day, the destruction of Jerusalem would result in the temple’s ruin.  The other day, however, would not be accompanied by signs and no one, not even the Son, knows when it will be. This day is the day of Jesus return.  The only thing to do is be prepared.

To further drive home the point Jesus told two parables, that of the ten virgins and the talents in order to emphasize the need to be ready because one does not know when Christ will return.  That is followed by His famous picture of judgment and Christ separating all the nations gathered before His throne to the right and the left as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

Devotional Thought:

Ready

Are you ready?  Are you prepared?

Not, are you getting ready?  Not, are you aware of the need to be ready?  Not, do you wish you were ready?

A person is either ready or they are not.  There’s not really any middle ground in there.  You may argue there is a process to becoming ready, and there is.  But what happens if that for which your are preparing happens prior to being ready.  Then you aren’t ready, are you?  So, again, you are either ready or you are not.

Jesus said that because of what He had just taught, “you also must be ready” (Matt. 24:44).  And what had He taught?  That He would be returning one day.  That return, as He will go on to teach in 25:31-46 will bring eternal judgment.  Eternal destinies will be assigned.  A person will either be received and accepted by God or denied and rejected (25:34, 41).

So, for that, we must be ready.  Add to that the fact that we do not know when that day will be.  Again—we do not know.  No matter what we may hear people say about all the reasons they know that this event is impending, Jesus says we do not.  As a matter of fact, He says it will happen at a time we do not expect (v. 44).  Not even the angels or even Himself knows; only God (24:36).

Jesus is emphatic; it’s a “must”.  Are you now ready?

Through the Bible, July 18

Reading: Matthew 22-23

Summary: Jesus’ interaction with the multitudes in Jerusalem and the religious leaders continue. The leaders plot their efforts to discredit Jesus (remember, His popularity makes apprehending Him difficult, see 21:45-46), but to no avail.  Questions had been posed to Jesus and He returned them as well.  Finally, realizing their efforts were in vain, they asked Him no more.

In chapter 23 Jesus becomes very direct in His confrontation with the scribes and Pharisees, pronouncing on them seven woes.

Devotional Thought:

Is Anybody Ever Wrong?

In these days of PC (political correctness) gone to seed, nobody is ever wrong anymore.  For someone to be wrong would demand a universal standard to which all people are accountable.  But, a cardinal tenant of post modern philosophy (know it or not, like it or not, this is the dominant attitude and philosophy of our day) is that there are no such absolutes.  Every idea, according to this way of thinking, is equally valid.

The implications of this philosophy are wide spread, devastating, and anti-biblical—not just unbiblical.  What is more, Jesus knew nothing of it.  He told the Sadducees, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matthew 22:29).

That’s a loaded statement.  It’s loaded with contradictions to the modern, common way of thinking.  First of all Jesus said someone was wrong.  There was a standard or measure of reality and truth about which they were mistaken.  What is more their misunderstanding was regarding Scripture and God.  The Bible was something to which they were accountable and God was not some being according to their own liking or making.  He was not just whatever they wanted Him to be.

No, it’s not PC and it doesn’t mesh with today’s philosophy but as these have come, they will also go.  Meanwhile Jesus has always been, and will always be; and in the end will be my judge.  As out-of-touch as it might seem, I’ll stick with Jesus on this one.

Through the Bible, July 17

Reading: Matthew 20-21

Summary: Prior to His arrival in Jerusalem, Jesus continues with more of the same; miracles and teaching.  His teaching involves parables—as usual—and instruction elicited by interaction and discussion with His followers.  His miracle is another healing, this time of two blind men.

Finally, in chapter 21, Jesus arrives at Jerusalem for the final time.  This marks the beginning of the final week leading up to His crucifixion.  It is ironic that this week begins with crowds lining the roads as Jesus entered town riding on the colt of a donkey as they shouted out praise to Him; then, at the week’s close crowds are shouting out again, this time demanding His crucifixion.

Jesus’ days in Jerusalem were eventful, filled with opportunities to teach both the crowds that gathered and His disciples privately, as well as several confrontations with religious leaders.  This created a tension between His popularity with the masses and the leaders’ desire to apprehend Him (21:45-46).

Devotional Thought:

Do You Want Grace or Fair?

We tend to have a fairly fine-tuned sense of fairness.  When that get’s violated we get upset.  That’s not a bad thing.  God calls us to be fair and just, repeatedly.

But in God’s kingdom, it’s all about grace, not fairness.  Right?  Do I really want from God what is fair?  Not me.  If I understand anything about God and me—and I think I do—what is fair is that He would punish me for my sin.  Actually, if God gave me what is fair, I wouldn’t be around to write these words.  I need, and I desperately want, mercy and grace.

This is what’s behind Jesus’ parable of the laborers in Matthew 21.  The ones hired at the very end of the day received the same pay as those who had worked all day.  That violates our sense of fairness, doesn’t it?  We relate to those full-day workers who complained about this.

But Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is like the scenario of this parable (see v. 1). This challenges me because of my sense of fairness.  If I’m going to be a part of this kingdom, what I need is a sense of grace that is as finely tuned as my sense of fairness.

Through the Bible, July 16

Reading: Matthew 18-19

Summary: Though no miracles of Jesus are found in these two chapters, several great and challenging teachings are.  Jesus addresses the question of greatness in His kingdom—a topic frequently under discussion by the apostles, temptation to sin, forgiveness of sin, divorce, and wealth.  Two parables are also here as well as the Savior’s poignant plea, “Let the children come to me” (19:14).

Devotional Thought:

Greatness and Me

We tend to reserve the appellation “great” for, well, the really, really good ones. Muhammad Ali took it upon himself, as was his arrogant way; “I am the greatest!”  Others bestowed it on hockey legend    Wayne Gretzky as “the Great One.”  That generation of Americans who brought America through the second World War has been heralded as “The Greatest Generation.”

Whether deserved or not is open for debate, but this is not—greatness is not only in reach for us all, but is expected of us all.  Now instead of causing us anxiety, this reality should comfort and encourage us.

Jesus said, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:4). Just prior to this He said turning and becoming like children were necessary for entrance into the kingdom of heaven (v. 3).  Yes, greatness is not only within reach, it is expected.  Or, to say it another way, humbling ourselves as a child is what Jesus equates with greatness.

That should tell us a couple of things immediately, one is that greatness in God’s kingdom isn’t measured like greatness in the world.  Obviously.  We may hesitate to embrace this measure of greatness, but remember, it’s God’s.  What is great to Him is the willing, trusting, submissiveness that we see exhibited in children.

Instead of somehow foisting our measure of greatness on God and His kingdom—you know the kind that is limited to the exceedingly few exceptional people—we must embrace the greatness measured by humility—the kind within our reach and expected of us all.

Through the Bible, July 15

Reading: Matthew 16-17

Summary: Two crucial events dominate chapters 16 and 17.  First is Peter’s confession of Jesus as being the Son of God.  This event plays a critical role in this Gospel as Matthew shows that people thought quite highly of Jesus, yet of critical importance was his true identity as the very Son of God, not just a prophet or some great spiritual leader. Equally vital was that His disciples come to grips with the fact that Jesus would indeed die.  His work on earth involved His death, though at this time the disciples did not understand.

The second crucial event is the transfiguration of chapter 17.  So much needed to be shaped and corrected about the disciples’ understanding of Jesus as the Messiah and the role He must play.  That certainly involved knowing the correct relationship between Him and the Law and the Prophets—as represented by the presence of Moses and Elijah.  The importance of this event is emphasized by the interjection of the audible voice of God.

Devotional Thought:

God Is Not Obliged

I like God, no, I love God.  To say I’m impressed with Him and His Son would be a huge understatement.  Consequently, I want to show my admiration and appreciation for Him and to Him.  I want to honor Him and praise Him.  I want Him to know not only what I feel about Him, but how strongly I feel that way.

What should I do?

Maybe I think it does not matter what I do as long as I do something and do it sincerely. Maybe I think that God is just happy with my attitude and knows how I feel and whatever I wish to offer to Him as a means of giving expression to my strong feelings is wonderful to Him.

I would probably think that if it weren’t for Peter’s experience on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17).  He was so overwhelmed by what He saw: the brilliantly transformed Jesus shining as bright as the sun and the appearance of two of the foremost figures in Israel’s history—Moses and Elijah.  He could hardly contain himself and suggested three tabernacles be constructed right on that spot, not only to commemorate these great men, but the event he, James, and John had just witnessed.  What a marvelous idea!

That’s when God spoke up.  That in itself should arrest our attention—any time God spoke audibly for men to hear is a highly noteworthy occasion.  He stopped Peter dead in his tracks.  No doubt the impetuous apostle’s sentiment was appreciated, but it was misdirected.  A physical monument was not the kind of thing God was interested in.  What would most appropriately express adoration and praise would be to listen to Jesus above all others and above all else.

God is not obliged to receive our self-devised, tradition bound, innovative means of honoring Him.  We are, however, obliged to listen to His Son.

Through the Bible, July Week 3 Introduction

Week 3: Jesus’ Ministry—Matthew 16-28

July 15-21

         This week will complete the Gospel account as recorded by Matthew.  This portion of Matthew focuses primarily on Jesus journey to Jerusalem and, of course, His climactic death there by crucifixion.

Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem comes in chapter 21.  The last large section of teaching takes place during this final week and ends at 26:1.

An important transition takes place following Peter’s great confession of the identity of Jesus as God’s Son (16:16).  After this time, Jesus began to explain to His disciples the fate that awaited Him in Jerusalem (16:21).  Understandably, they had difficulty grasping this idea. But difficult or not, these events unfold precisely as Jesus said.

Through the Bible, July 14

Reading: No scheduled reading

Thoughts and Reflections: With no reading scheduled for today you might want to catch up on reading if you’ve fallen behind. Otherwise, here are some thoughts taken from this previous weeks readings.

  1. Readily recognized is the fact that Matthew along with Mark and Luke are very similar in their approach to telling the story of Jesus. Much of the material regarding His life and ministry is repeated among these three yet also with definite differences.  Due to this fact, these three are referred to as the “Synoptic Gospels” (synoptic being a term meaning similar or “see together”).   Some people have seen this as problematic and hence a discussion of the “synoptic problem.”

I like to think of it this way: think of a large building with three individuals standing on three different sides of the building and each one is writing a description of it from their vantage point.  While each would describe many of the very same things (height, colors, textures, architectural styles, etc.), each would also have some different things to say than the others (lighting and shadows, relationship to other buildings on each side, perhaps features unique to that side of the structure, etc.).  In the same way three writers describing the same life and ministry but with unique audiences, emphases, and purposes in mind would result with many similarities yet some distinct differences.  I fail to see a problem.

  1. Modern readers of Matthew’s Gospel sometimes wonder at the arrangement of the material he presents. One possibility is the fact that the first recipients of this likely did not read it, but rather heard it being read.  Unlike our own times when written copies—and now even digital copies—are readily available, one of the writer’s goals was to be memorable, literally.  Grouping Jesus teachings together (as with the parables in chapter 13) and miracle accounts together and opposition accounts together aided in memory.

Devotional Thought:

Sometimes Association with Jesus Just Isn’t Right

Does it not seem that it would be right that when God worked in this world—the world He designed and made, the world over which He rules as sovereign Lord—that everything would go just right?  It would go smoothly, good and right would always prevail; you know, the good guys would always win?

It doesn’t work that way, does it?  Even with the life and ministry of Jesus, things did not always go well for those associated with Jesus.

Think about John the Baptist, the great forerunner of Jesus.  Here’s the man who fulfilled prophecy, the one who came in the spirit of Elijah, the one to whom throngs of people gathered in the wilderness to hear him preach and be baptized by him, the one who would “make ready for the Lord a people prepared” (Lk. 1:17). What happened to him?  Herod had him beheaded in prison (Matt. 14:10).

That hardly seems right.  And that’s because it’s not.  Remember when Jesus was born and Herod the Great (the father of the one who had John beheaded) in an effort eliminate this supposed threat (the one born “king of the Jews”) had the all the male children two-years-old and younger in the district of Bethlehem killed (Matt. 2:16)?  There’s nothing right about that either.

Yes, God is in control and He is Lord of heaven and earth, but He has allowed Satan to function in this world.  He has allowed for sin and wickedness to have their affect.  “We know that…the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19).

God is right.  His way is right.  His will and word and Son are right.  This world—the one in which we live, the one that serves as our home in this physical, temporal life—is not right, nor should we expect it to be.

The time will come, though, when God will make all things right.