Matthew 15

Read Matthew 15.

When I was a kid, all the kids in my neighborhood used to gather and play guns. In my memory*, this game was as vague as “play guns” sounds. We all grabbed toy guns and hid, then tried to sneak up on each other and “shoot” everyone else before they sneaked up and shot us. There were no teams and no real object to the game. After you got “shot” you just kept playing.

Looking for a place to hide, I jumped down into the window well of my neighbor’s house. A window well allows some natural light into a basement that would otherwise be totally underground. Click here to see a picture if you don’t know what I’m talking about.

Anyway, I jumped down there to hide but I accidentally broke the window with my foot. When my neighbor, Mrs. Curtis, came out of the house to bust me, she said, “How many times have I told you kids not to jump down into the window well?”

You’ve heard people say, “How many times have I…” before and, probably, you’ve said those words more than once yourself. It gets frustrating to repeat yourself but, the truth is, most of the lessons we really learn are learned because they are repeated.

Yesterday, we read about how Jesus fed (a lot more than) 5000 people and I suggested to you that the lesson of that miracle and Peter’s walking on water was that we can do the impossible in God’s will by Jesus’s power.

Here in Matthew 14, Jesus fed over 4000 people (vv. 29-38). Before he did so, he told the disciples that he did not want to send the people away hungry (v. 32) suggesting more subtly than yesterday that Jesus wanted the disciples to feed them.

In other words, Jesus repeated the same lesson here in Matthew 15 that he taught in Matthew 14. He could have said, “How many times do I have to tell you that, through my power, you can do whatever I want you to do?”

We need lessons repeated for us before we get the message.

So, let me just repeat yesterday’s application question for us all again today, “Where in your life should you be acting in faith–because you believe in Jesus’s power–instead of standing idly by waiting for… something?”


* My memory could very well be wrong. We moved to a new neighborhood when I was 6 so I was very young when this story happened.

Matthew 14

Read Matthew 14.

Jesus performed miracles for one main reason: to prove his claims to be the Son of Man, the Messiah (v. 32, Acts 2:22).

Here in Matthew 14, Jesus did two extraordinary miracles: He fed over 5000 people using seven small items of food (vv. 13-21) and he walked on water (vv. 22-32). Although a huge crowd benefited from the way Jesus miraculously multiplied the food, the text indicates that really only the disciples knew that a miracle had happened. I say that because verse 19 says, “he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.” That suggests to me that only the disciples were aware of what was going on.

If Jesus did miracles to prove his identity as Messiah and if the disciples had already believed in him, why did he do these incredible miracles that ONLY the disciples witnessed?

The answer is suggested in verse 16 when Jesus said, “You give them something to eat.”

And, the answer was actualized in verse 28-31 when Peter walked on the water, began to sink, and was asked by Jesus, “why did you doubt?” (v. 31).

Jesus did these miracles for the disciples who already believed in him because he wanted them to know that he would work powerfully THROUGH them not just FOR them. To be his servants and to do his will, the disciples needed to believe that Jesus would use them powerfully and that, by his power, they could do anything God called them to do.

Primarily, that meant evangelism. The disciples did some miracles in Acts. But they seem to have done far fewer over many years than Jesus did in three years. God’s will was not for the disciples to fix the world’s problems by working miracles but to make disciples by his power (Acts 1:8).

The same is true for us:

  • Could Peter walk on water before he met Jesus? No. [That would have made fishing easier, but no.]
  • Did Peter walk on water when he believed in Jesus? Yes.

Could you:

  • Talk about your faith in Christ with a non-believer before you became a believer? Of course not.
  • Can you talk about your faith in Christ now? Yes, you can. But if you focus on the obstacles and objections and fears you have like Peter focused on the wind and waves

What if Andrew, the disciple who found the five loaves and two fish (Jn 6:8), had asked Jesus to help him multiply the food when Jesus said, “You give them something to eat” in verse 16? Do you think Jesus would have honored that prayer of faith? Do you think he could have multiplied the bread and fish in Jesus’s name just as Simon walked on the water when believed Jesus?

Where in your life should you be acting in faith–because you believe in Jesus’s power–instead of standing idly by waiting for… something?

Matthew 13

Read Matthew 13.

This chapter contains several important parables about the kingdom of God. One sub-theme that recurs in this chapter is the truth that mundane things of life often crowd out what is really important:

  • In the parable of the soils, one of the people who heard the gospel did not receive it because “the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful” (v. 22).
  • In the parable of the hidden treasure, the man who found it had to sell “all that he had” to buy the field (v. 44). He was willing to do that; however, there are some people who would not do it because it is too much trouble to sell your stuff or what if the owner of the field refused to sell it?
  • Likewise, in the parable of the pearl (v. 45), the merchant had to sell everything to buy the pearl. I wonder what his wife and children thought when they saw the pearl after he sold their house, their clothes and toys? THIS is what we became homeless and poor for? What are going to eat tonight?
  • Finally, in the story at the end, which was not a parable, the people who lived in Nazareth, where Jesus grew up, couldn’t believe in him despite his “wisdom and these miraculous powers” (v. 54). Why not? Because they knew his family and there was nothing remarkable about them.

One human reason why people don’t come to Christ is that they are too preoccupied with the stuff of life–making a living, advancing in their career, raising children or dealing with a difficult marriage, getting infatuated with a hobby, or doing recreational activities.

But these things tempt those of us who are believers, too. Giving to God’s work seems less worthwhile than saving for a downpayment on a new house, new car, or new boat. Reading scripture seems less interesting than watching television and texting a friend is more gratifying than praying.

When you make time for human things but have no time to cultivate your spiritual life, you’re like the person who decided to go to the movies instead of selling everything to buy that field with the buried treasure in it. You’re trading valuable things for things that are worthless.

Where in your life do you need your priorities realigned? What worthless things (or things that are just worth less) are you filling your life up with instead of living for God’s kingdom?

Matthew 12

Read Matthew 12.

Does it really matter what you say?

How often do we say things that are mean, unkind, and hurtful and then follow those words with, “I didn’t really mean it”?

How often do people use words that are crass, crude, rude, condescending, demeaning, and/or untruthful? But we give them (or ourselves) a pass by saying, “I/He was just letting off steam” or “S/he’s really a nice person but just has a temper.”

I think that many Christians today think sins of speech are less of a problem than other kinds of sin.

Jesus said otherwise. Words were very important to him because they reveal what is in a person’s heart.

“For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him” (vv. 34c-35).

In context, Jesus is addressing the sin of the Pharisees in saying that Jesus “drives out demons… by Beelzebul, the prince of demons” (v. 24). In our culture, someone who heard that might say, “They’re just jealous” or give some other excuse for what the Pharisees said.

To Jesus, however, the way the Pharisees tried to explain away Jesus’s miracles was a statement of faith, an expression of their beliefs about Jesus. Or, rather, their unbelief about who Jesus is.

Words are not empty in God’s sight at all. They are the basis on which either you will be acquitted or condemned when you stand before God in judgment (vv. 36-37). Evil words, untruthful words, harsh words, unkind or unbelieving words all reveal what you really think, the ideas that you mull over in your heart. Your words and mine let us see inside the mind; they reveal what conclusions you’ve come to in your heart. They show what is important and valuable to you. They demonstrate how little (or much) you value God and other people.

Each human being with will be judged by his or her words. Yet Jesus’s prescription for an evil mouth was not to watch what you say.

Instead, Jesus said, “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good” (v. 33a). Since what you say comes from your heart, the only way to clean up your speech is to cleanse your heart.

Jesus came not only to atone for and forgive our sins of speech; he also came to change our hearts so that the words we speak are true, kind, loving, gentle, and good. As you grow in your faith in Christ, your words should reflect it.

How are your speech patterns? Do your words fit with your profession of faith as a Christian or do they reveal a heart that is filled with–or still struggling with sin?

Ask God for the grace to speak words that are pleasing to him. Ask him to help you grow and to cleanse your heart so that whether a believer or an unbeliever speaks with you, he will see the life-transforming work that God’s Holy Spirit is doing in your life.

And, fill your heart with good things, with godly truth and the word of God itself. As your heart is purified, your words will be better for, “the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (v. 34).

One more thing: Some of the most powerful words in the English language are, “I’m sorry. Will you forgive me for what I said to you and/or about you?” Is there someone you need to say those words to today?

Matthew 11

Read Matthew 11.

Can you prove the existence of God?

Can you prove that the Bible is true–that it is God’s Word, as we claim it is, not just a human book?

These seem like reasonable questions, don’t they?

But, they are not reasonable questions at all. They are expressions of unbelief, not genuine inquires from open hearts that want to know God.

How do I know? Jesus said so here in Matthew 11:12-19.

The greatest evangelist in history, other than Christ himself, is not Billy Graham, or John Calvin, or Charles Haddon Spurgeon, or anyone else. It is John the Baptist, according to verse 11.

Yet despite his witness and the testimony of “all the Prophets and the Law” (v. 13), God’s kingdom “has been subjected to violence” (v. 12b). In other words, “violent people” (v. 12c) have been attacking God, his authority, Lordship, dominion, and truth.

That assault continues today. One way unbelievers attack the Lord and his kingdom is by setting new standards: “Do this” or “prove that,” says the unbeliever, “and then I will consider believing in Jesus.” In verses 17-19, Jesus pointed out the ever-shifting requirements for faith that unbelievers set up for us. The point of Jesus’s proverb, “We played the pipe for you and you did not dance,” is that people want to be in control of the conditions under which they will believe:

  • If they demand proof of the resurrection, you’d better provide it to them or they will continue to scoff at our faith.
  • If they think the Bible is full of errors, you could answer every problem verse they mention and they’ll just come up with more.

Jesus gave John and himself as the perfect set of examples (vv. 18-19). John and Jesus were totally on the same page in their faith and mission but they couldn’t have been more different as Jewish men. John was strict, austere, and took no prisoners in his life and approach to others. But unbelievers said, “He’s demon possessed!” (v. 18). By contrast, Jesus flouted the conventional wisdom about how you had to live to please God. He didn’t live in disobedience to God’s law but he did willfully disobey many of the false “standards” that Pharisees and others tried to get him to live by. Yet, unbelievers in his world said he was “‘a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’” So neither Jesus nor John could satisfy the objections of those who rejected the gospel.

Why?

Because they were not genuine objections; they were excuses for unbelief.

Unbelief remains the same today. Can you prove the existence of God? Yes, creation and conscience prove it daily. Unbelievers, however, reject that proof because they want dance music, not funeral dirges (v. 17).

Can you prove that the Bible is true? Yes. Your life and mine daily prove the truth, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). But this isn’t good enough for the fallen.

Believers should not dance to the music of unbelief. People don’t genuinely come to Christ when we dance to their tune. They need a spiritual transformation–a new birth–not better answers or arguments. Those who become believers do so because “the Son chooses to reveal” the Father (v. 25) not to “the wise and learned” (v. 25) but to those who believe like “little children” (v. 25).

Like Jesus and John, our job is to faithfully explain the message and call people to repent. Our job is to extend the invitation that Jesus gave to “Come to me… and I will give you rest” (v. 28).

Is there someone you can share this message of hope with today?

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?