Matthew 10

Read Matthew 10.

Christ sent the Twelve disciples on a brief preaching mission in this chapter. The first 15 verses describe the call and commission of these Apostles as well as the specific instructions Christ had for this mission.

After verse 16, Jesus described aspects of discipleship that could apply to anyone who witnesses for him. He told the disciples they would be forced to choose either to love family or to love Christ (vv. 34-39).

Not everyone disciples know or meet will reject them. At the end of the chapter Jesus indicated that some will welcome the disciples because they welcome Jesus (v. 40). This alludes to the fellowship that believers have with one another because of our fellowship with Christ.

But Christ went further than just alluding to the fact that some people will receive us. He promised a great reward for those who receive us. Verse 41 says, “Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward” (vv. 41-42). Think about that: the person who “welcomes a prophet as a prophet” receives the SAME level of reward as the prophet himself: “…will receive a prophet’s reward” (v. 41).

And even if someone gives you “a cup of cold water to a disciple” that person receives a reward.

So even beyond the fellowship we have as believers in Christ, we have the promise of rewards from the Lord for helping and serving those who witness for Christ.

I think Christ is describing here the reward that comes for supporting people who serve the Lord full time in ministry. If you welcome missionaries or other servants of the Lord into your home for a meal or for lodging, Christ promises rewards for you. If you give monthly financial support to missionaries and other servants of Christ, Jesus says you will be rewarded.

You may not be able to give much. “A cup of cold water” (v. 42) is not much. But the gift is an expression of the heart that loves God and his people.

Do you give financially to support missionaries? If you think that you have too little to give to make a difference, reconsider that based on this passage. God rewards those who love him and show it by supporting and providing for his servants.

Matthew 9

Read Matthew 9.

The opening paragraph of this chapter told us about five men. One of them was paralyzed; the other four carried him to Jesus (v. 2). We’re not told if the men said anything to Jesus but it was obvious to anyone that they wanted Jesus to heal the man.

Instead of immediately healing the man as he had done with so many others, Jesus instead assured him that his sins were forgiven based on their faith (v. 2).

You know from our reading that Jesus did heal the man shortly after forgiving him (v. 6). His purpose in giving him assurance first and then healing him was to prove his authority to forgive sins (v. 6a).

But I think we should give some thought to what Jesus did. Most of us–most people, that is–would care most about being healed of paralysis. “Get me walking first, Lord, and then we can talk about my spiritual needs.”

But by forgiving his sins first, Jesus demonstrated what was important to him. Although he did care about the man’s infirmity (see Matt 8:17), Jesus cared first and most importantly about his spiritual life.

But what matters most to us when we request prayer for someone else?

I can’t tell you how often people ask me to pray for someone’s medical problems and, when I asked if that person knows the Lord, the answer I get is, “I don’t know.”

There is everything right with praying for other people’s problems–their diseases, needs, and cares. But even if they get healing now, eventually they will die and meet God. It is far more important to intercede with God for the salvation of others than it is to ask for them to be healed in their bodies.

Wouldn’t it be better–both more glorifying to God and better for the sick or injured person–if we used the occasion of their human problem to talk with someone about their spiritual need?

In other words, we could say, “I will ask God to heal you. But, do you know God? Have you come to believe in Jesus Christ to have your sins forgiven?”

Is there anyone in your life that you could pray for and witness to today?

Matthew 8

Read Matthew 8.

Here in the first half of Matthew 8 we have several stories about Jesus healing people. Each of these stories serves a purpose, but the one that always gets me thinking is the story of the centurion’s servant in verses 5-13. 

The first thing that stands out about this story is the man’s humility. A centurion is a Roman soldier who is in charge of 100 other Roman soldiers. That is a very powerful man. He was certainly feared and, probably, deeply respected by everyone who met him or knew him. Of all the people Jesus was willing to visit at home, he was by far the most prestigious.

Despite all of that, the centurion didn’t want Jesus to come to his home because, he said, “I do not deserve to have you come under my roof” (v. 8). He sized up Jesus and had great respect and maybe even some fear of him.

The next impressive thing about this centurion is his faith. That’s what impressed Jesus (v. 10). Consider why Jesus said that he had the greatest faith: Not only does the Centurion believe that Jesus can heal his servant, but he believes that Jesus can do it remotely “But just say the word, and my servant will be healed” he told Jesus in verse 8.

What’s even more interesting, to me, is the centurion’s reason for believing that Jesus can heal remotely. He told us that reason in verse 9: “For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

That’s it! That was all he said!

So what was his point?

His point was that he understood where Jesus ranked in the spiritual hierarchy.

A centurion does not accomplish things by showing up anywhere there is an issue. No, a centurion gets things done through the soldiers that report to him. If he wants something done, a centurion DOESN’T do it himself; he orders one of his soldiers to do it. That’s the only efficient and effective way to lead 100 people.

What the Centurion was implying was that Jesus was so powerful and so high-ranking spiritually that he can issue orders and stuff will get done.

Did the centurion think that angels would do it? Who knows and it doesn’t matter. What he knew is that Christ can accomplish anything he wants merely by issuing orders. He didn’t even need to know the servant’s name, or his GPS coordinates, or anything. He has the power just to speak and it will happen.

Jesus found his faith amazing. “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith” he said in verse 10.

What was so great about his faith?

In order for Jesus to heal someone remotely without knowing who the person is or where he resides, Jesus must be God. He must know all things to know who the sick servant is and where he is. He must have God’s authority to be able to accomplish things by issuing commands. Since all creation is under his authority, Jesus can use his authority to accomplish anything he wants.

What amazed Jesus was the centurion’s recognition of who Jesus was and the centurion’s faith in Jesus, not that he believed Jesus could heal. Tons of people believed Jesus could heal, but they were so focused on getting better that the missed what his healing power revealed about Jesus. 

Christ remarked on the implications of this in verses 11-12. This Gentile had greater faith than any of Christ’s other followers. He had greater faith than any of the 12 apostles. He had greater faith than Jesus’ closest friends, Peter, James, and John.

To Christ, he was an example of what was to come. The “many [who] will come from the east and the west” are Gentiles, just like this Roman soldier was. Jesus said that these Gentiles will feast with “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (verse 11).

But many Jewish people who knew Messiah was coming, who were waiting for his kingdom, who saw Christ’s miracles and heard his words “will be thrown outside, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Why? Because they failed to recognize and believe that in that human body named Jesus resided the almighty God.

Have you put your faith in the powerful lordship of Jesus Christ? Do you believe that he can and will do whatever you ask for in faith if it is also God’s will?

Do you ask him in faith to give you what you want and need in his will?

Matthew 7

Read Matthew 7.

In verse 13, Jesus urged his listeners to “Enter through the narrow gate.” That phrase compares the life and destiny of everyone to two very different roads leading to two very different destinations.

One gate is wide and the road beyond it is broad and there are a lot of people on it. However, Jesus said it “leads to destruction” (v. 13).

The alternative gate is small and the road it leads to is “narrow” but it “leads to life” (v. 14). But, Jesus said, “only a few find it” (v. 14).

Eternal life is hard to find and, comparatively speaking, very few people find it. That’s the obvious teaching of Matthew 7:13-14.

But verses 15-23 go into more detail. They tell us the implications of the fact that very few people find the road to eternal life. Jesus called out two implications of the narrow road to eternal life in verses 15-23:

  1. First, believers should beware of false prophets (vv. 15-19).
  2. Second, believers should beware of false professions of faith (vv. 21-23).

Let’s focus on the first of those two implications, namely, that believers should beware of false prophets (vv. 15-19).

We think of “prophets” as people who receive revelation from God to either predict the future or to rebuke people who are in sin. Those are both valid descriptions of what prophets in the Bible did. But prophets, generally speaking, were teachers and appliers of God’s word. They brought messages from God either from direct revelation or from scripture. Second Peter 2:16 equates “false prophets” with “false teachers” and I think that’s what Jesus has in mind here in Matthew 7:15.

The command, then, is for believers in Christ, who are on the narrow road to eternal life, to be cautious about anyone who claims to have a message from God.

Being cautious goes against the instincts of most of us. We’re so accustomed to unbelief and even hostility to our faith in the world that we happily receive anyone and everyone who comes in the name of Christ.

But Jesus told us to watch out. False teachers look like true believers. Jesus said “they come to you in sheep’s clothing” in verse 15b. But, despite how they look, they’re in disguise because they want to eat you alive. Jesus said “inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (v. 15c).

So we should be very cautious about every new professing believer we meet. We shouldn’t immediately accept or reject them. Rather, we should look at the product of their lives. Jesus said, “By their fruit you will recognize them” (v. 16a, 20). This changes the image from sheep and wolves to good and bad trees. Bad trees don’t produce good fruit (v. 16b, 17b) and good trees produce good fruit not bad fruit (v. 17a, 18).

Do professing believers that we meet demonstrate a life that is obedient to Jesus Christ?

  • Are they obedient to his words (vv. 24-27)?
  • Do they hunger for his righteousness (5:6) and for his truth (5:17-20)?
  • Do they strive to treat people right (5:21-22, 7:12) and do everything they can to repair broken relationships when they do treat people wrong (5:21-26)?
  • Do they judge themselves before they try to help others (7:1-6)?
  • Do they go to God to ask for what they need (7:7-12) or do they only apply human effort to get what they want?

And so on…. Do you see Christian growth, Christian desires, and Christian instincts in the lives of people who purport to be Christian leaders and teachers? If not, beware!

Ultimately, you should expect God to expose and remove every false teacher. Verses 19-20 says, “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”

But the point of this teaching by Jesus is to get you to be more suspicious and more discerning about the supposed “Christian” influencers in your life. The Christian life is a narrow road, found by few (again, vv. 13-14) so there are more false teachers who come in Christ’s name than genuine believers who are also bringing God’s truth.

Because we have media that can broadcast one person’s ministry to millions, it is harder than ever to get a close look at how someone else lives. The less you can see about a person’s life, the more skeptical you should be about that person’s teaching.

Who are the major influences in your Christian life? Do you know anything about how they actually live as a Christian?

Matthew 6

Read Matthew 6.

In verses 19-21 Jesus talked about materialism. He concluded that section in verse 21 by saying, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

In verse 24, he talked about money and concluded that verse by saying, “You cannot serve both God and money.”

Money and materialism are related ideas. So, when we read verses 22-23 about the eye being the lamp of the body, it seems clear that Jesus is still talking about money and materialism.

So what are verses 22-23 telling us about money/materialism?

Like windows, your eyes let inside whatever light or darkness is outside. If your eyes work properly, your whole body benefits because your eyes will tell you when to duck before you hit your head or when to step over a shoe that was left in the floor.

Without working eyesight, your whole body “will be full of darkness” (v. 23). You will stumble over everything and bang your noggin on anything that is hanging too low.

What determines “where your heart is” (v. 21) or whether you hate one master or love another? The answer is, whatever your eyes focus on.

The point of verses 22-23, then, is to be careful what holds your concentration. If you spend your time looking at catalogs of expensive watches, browsing elegant homes online that are for sale, looking at the pay scale for jobs LinkedIn for a job that will pay more than yours does, or test-driving new cars all the time, you will start to treasure money and material things.

If you focus on material things and money, that focus both shows what you love but also feeds that love.

If you focus on Jesus, however, your love will change, too. You will think less about expensive new shoes and more about how to serve the Lord.

So, watch what you watch–that’s the message of Matthew 6:19-24.

Matthew 5

Read Matthew 5.

Who is responsible:

  • to obey God’s word? (vv. 17-20)?
  • to release anger toward others (vv. 21-22)?
  • to go try to fix a relationship with someone who is angry with you (vv. 23-24)?
  • to settle out of court (vv. 25-26)?
  • to have a pure heart toward people of the opposite (and same) sex (vv. 27-30)?
  • to keep a troubled marriage together as long as your spouse hasn’t crossed the line with another person (vv. 31-32)?
  • to be honest–so honest that you keep your word and don’t even need to “swear to God” (vv. 33-37)?
  • to be taken advantage of by others and even love others who treat you poorly (vv. 38-47)?

The answer to this quiz is the same for every question–you are.

Why? Because God created you. He’s perfect so you should be perfect like he is (v. 48).

That’s an impossible standard, I know. Jesus knew it, too. That’s why he began by telling us that happiness and prosperity come from being “poor in spirit” (v. 30), hungry and thirsty for righteousness (v. 6) and so on. We need the grace of God to save us from our many failures to obey the commands in that list above.

And, in Christ, we have that grace. He died to atone for every failure we’ve ever had in living up to God’s perfection.

But, having been saved by Christ’s death for us, we have a new power and a new resolve to do all the hard things on that list. We want to shift the blame to people who sin against us to justify our anger but Jesus commands us to deal with our anger in a Christ like way. The same is true for fixing broken relationships, settling with those who want to sue us, being sexually pure in our thoughts and actions, being committed to our marriages, being honest, and loving our enemies.

Nobody else can walk with God for you and you can’t make anyone else do the right thing. You are responsible before God to do what is right and, because of righteousness and power of Christ, you can do it if you trust him and obey what his word commands.

Is there anything on that list that you need to change your mind (repent) about? What is one action you need to do today based on what Christ taught and commanded in this chapter?

Matthew 4

Read Matthew 4.

Frank Sinatra’s famous song, “New York, New York,” contains the lyrics, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.” If success in someone’s line of work requires finding a really big audience, then this line of lyrics is true. Get famous and successful in New York (or Hollywood) and you’ll be famous and successful anywhere else on earth because New York and LA are trend setters for the rest of the nation and for most of the world.

Here in Matthew 4:12, Jesus began the public phase of his life and ministry. He had been living in Nazareth, a small town southwest of the Sea of Galilee, where his mother, Mary, and Joseph were from (Lu 2:4). When he heard that John the Baptist was put into prison (Matt 4:12), Jesus moved.

But he didn’t move to Jerusalem–Israel’s equivalent of New York, New York. Instead, he moved to Galilee (v. 12); specifically, he moved to Capernaum (v. 13b).Capernaum was probably a bigger town than Nazareth but not much bigger or more influential than Nazareth. So this move to Capernaum wasn’t about seeking the largest possible audience.

Jesus also didn’t seek out the most influential audience or team members either. In verses 18-22 we read about call of Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John. They were hardworking Galilean fishermen but they weren’t anything like Frank Sinatra in terms of influence or fame (or singing skill, probably).

Jesus also didn’t go minister to the wealthy and powerful. Instead, he went the the neediest, most neglected group of people there were–sick people (vv. 23-24).

So there you have it. When Jesus wanted to build a ministry he moved to a small town far way from the bright lights of Jerusalem, he called average guys to help him and they went to serve the least influential people possible.

Nobody would try to build a career this way–nobody but Jesus, that is.

But it worked. Verse 25 told us that “large crowds” from all over Israel–Jerusalem included–came to follow Christ. This is because Jesus’s ministry was about the power and grace of God, not the power of talent or networking or one’s hometown.

Are you relying on these things–talent, your network, or your place of ministry–for success?

Jesus did go to Jerusalem and he did minister there. I’m not saying it is wrong to go where the population and power is. I’m just wondering if we really trust God as we build lives and ministries for him or our confidence is in our cunning decisions.