Matthew 10:9-15: Persons of Peace

Read: Matthew 10:9-15

Jesus after commissioning the 12 to proclaim the kingdom in Israel, he gives them some specific instructions on how to do it: go into a town and find a person who welcomes them and stay there, and “peace” shall fall upon that house. Jesus tells them not to take anything along, rather to find their way entirely based upon the generosity of those who hosted them. This method insured that the disciples wouldn’t trust in anything other than the providence of God as they went about preaching the gospel. And Jesus says that sometimes they wouldn’t be accepted – in this case they would go to the next town, but before leaving they would shake the dust from their feet as sign of judgment on the that.

This principle of going into a town and finding a “person of peace” was certainly practiced by the early missionaries and apostles as they went about proclaiming the gospel.

  • Acts 10 tells the story of Peter going to the house of Cornelius who was a Roman centurion who heard the gospel and believed it. He and his entire household were baptized.
  • Acts 16:11-15, 40 tells of Paul and Silas going into Philippi and preaching the gospel to Lydia who was converted. Her whole household came to faith.
  • Acts 16:22-24 tells the story of the Philippian jailer who too was converted, he and his entire household because of the gospel.

On all of these cases, there was a single person of influence in a community who was found to be open to the gospel and then received it. As a result, numerous others came to known Christ. In the cases in Acts 16, a church grew out of these conversions, to whom Paul later wrote the letter of Philippians to.

There is, however, one occasion in Acts 13:13-52 where no person of peace is found. Granted, there were some people who believed the gospel and were saved, nevertheless because there was great hostility toward Paul and company, they left shaking the dust from their feet in as a pronouncement of judgement on that town.

The person of peace principle still holds as cornerstone in most any disciple-making strategy. Missionaries all over the world use the model that Jesus gave as a way of extending the gospel into villages, towns, college campuses, cities, communities, and even places of work. Missionaries will find a person of peace in these settings and partner with that individual to help establish a lasting presence in which churches can be started and disciples can be made of all those who will hear the gospel. Applying this principle in one’s own disciple making context will help spread the gospel to places it would not otherwise go and create a lasting presence so that the effort multiplies.

Lord, help me to find a person of peace in my context!

Matthew 10:1-8: Disciple Making

Read: Matthew 10:1-8: Disciple Making

Jesus’ discipleship model was not unlike that which is used today in many fields of study. As when a person begins to study a field, he or she starts with the basic and exercises basic skills in a laboratory environment. As skills grow, so do the task to the point where one is ready to start exercising skills outside the laboratory, but still in a controlled setting under the tutelage of a master. Jesus Matthew 10 is doing just this: he’s sending the disciples out on a mission to do the things that they had seen him doing all through the book of Matthew – teaching (Matthew 5, 6, and 7) and performing signs and wonders to show authority authenticate the message (Matthew 8,9). But here in Matthew Jesus puts parameters on it: he tells them not to go to the nations or into Samaria, rather to go to the people of Israel and do the work among their own, as all the disciples were Jews.

Also of note, this is the only place in the book if Matthew that the disciples are actually called “apostles”. The word literally means “sent one”, which is precisely what Jesus is doing here in the text. The command that Jesus gives them to “go” is the same command given in Matthew 28:19 in the Great Commission. In sending them out, Jesus is appointing them to be apostles to preach the good news of the Kingdom of God.

The command that Jesus gives here and in Matthew 28:18-20 are all about the process of making disciples. The command being carried out here in Matthew and also in the book of Acts reflects a similar discipleship model – a more mature believer will teach and train up new believers and then at some point commission them to do the same thing: go and make disciples. It has been passed on from generation to generation up into the present. Paul expressed this principle to one of his own disciples, Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2 where he commands Timothy to teach what he was taught to those who can teach it to others. There are at least 5 generations implied here: Paul’s teachers, Paul, Timothy, Timothy’s students, and Timothy’s student’s students.

Every believer today does well to be both a disciple and a disciple maker. Having another to teach one’s self and also having some one to teach will help bring everyone to spiritual maturity and also propagate the gospel to the next generation. God wants his gospel to go out and he’s given the means to do it!

Lord, help me to be a disciple and make disciples too!

Matthew 9:35-38: Prayer for the Harvest

Read: Matthew 9:35-38

Israel during the first century was time of political and religious uncertainty with many competing religious and political factions. For the common person, knowing where to lend ones allegiance was daunting task. Did they give it to the Pharisees? Sadducees? Romans? Zealots? None of the above? When Jesus surveyed the landscape though, he saw this and had compassion – the people were lost “like a sheep without a shepherd”. At some point in the midst of all this, the leaders of the community had lost their influence over the people and had become concerned with other things other than leading the people in godliness and right living. Ezekiel warned of such a time in Ezekiel 34, where God stands against the shepherd, yet promises that he himself will come and seek out the his sheep.

In light of this, Jesus declares that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few and that one should pray that the Lord of the Harvest – Jesus – send out more workers. This motif is typically associated with a grain harvest, but here in the context it is probably talking about the time of year when the sheep would be gather for shearing, which required a lot of extra hired hands above and beyond the role of the shepherd to accomplish.

The motif of Jesus as shepherd is common in the New Testament. John 10 uses the same kind of metaphors talking about sheep, and therein Jesus declares that he us the “Good Shepherd”. Hebrews 13:20 calls him the “Great Shepherd” and 1 Peter 5:4 calls him the “Chief Shepherd”. This motif was obviously something that Jesus taught his disciples concerning the nature of those that lead and those that follow. In his disciple-making model, Jesus follows his exhortation to pray with the command to go in Matthew 10:1-5, wherein the disciples who had seen Jesus demonstrate his authority over all matters in chapters 7,8, and 9 are given the same authority, which culminates in the Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 when he declares that he has all authority, and he sends them out.

Christians today are among the workers that Jesus is sending. Like he said to the disciples, Christians are to be about the work of both praying and going. They pray to the Lord to send out workers and in some cases become workers themselves. In all cases though, every Christian plays a part in the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

Lord, send more workers into your harvest!

Matthew 5:14-16: Light of the World

Read: Matthew 5:14-16

The use of light to describe truth and righteousness in is a common thought among virtually all ancient cultures. For his hearers, Jesus is declaring that they were the light bearers that bring light to the world. He uses two metaphors to describe the positions of such people, one being a light on a stand in the middle of the room and one being a city on a hill. Lamps were placed on lamp stands in the middle of a room or house to illuminate the whole room, as most houses in that day and time were one room homes, one lamp was sufficient for the entire home. Likewise, a city was placed on a hill usually because it was easier to defend from an attack, but also gave it high visibility. In ancient Israel, building were made from white limestone that was highly reflective. A city could be seen from miles away even at night because of this. Both of these communicate the idea of high visibility.

Throughout the Old Testament, God wanted to bless Israel so that they would be the light bearers on earth. His purpose was to use Israel to draw all nations to himself. Deuteronomy 28:1 declares that if Israel would obey God’s law, that they would be set high above the nations of the earth. Psalm 67, often times called the “Missionary Psalm”, makes a similar declaration where God would shine on Israel so that the nations would know the ways and salvation of God. This theme is also found in the prophets too. Isaiah on multiple occasions uses the same metaphor of light to talk about God’s salvation being brought to the earth (Isaiah 42:6, Isaiah 49:6, Isaiah 60:3). Ezekiel 36:16-37 describes how God wanted to bless Israel so that his name would be made known among the nations.

For the Christian, the same is true. God wants to use Christians a way of making himself known among the nations. Jesus also calls himself the light of the world (John 8:12). While Christians are not the Christ, they are like him in that they bear his image and spread his truth. The call to actions is twofold then: Christians are not to hide rather to be seen by the world. This is not for the purpose of self-promotion, rather for pointing people to God. Jesus says that the purpose of good deeds was so that people would praise God in heaven, not the man performing the deeds. By doing what is right and good, the world can see God and give him the praise for it.

Lord, help my light shine before all men!

Matthew 4:12-25: Only One Gospel

Read: Matthew 4:12-25

Matthew invokes Isaiah 9:1-2 as being fulfilled by Jesus’ itinerant preaching ministry. Jesus travels through the regions that were historically occupied by the tribes of Zebulon and Naphtali and adds how Jesus will honor the “Way of the Sea”, the gentile Galilee, and beyond the Jordan – all places that Jesus had been. Matthew 4:25 lists the first century names of the places that the Isaiah prophecy lists. Jesus’ fame spread the more broadly he traveled and the people, both Jews and gentiles, came from all over to hear him preach and be healed of their infirmities.

Matthew notes that Jesus preaches the same gospel as John: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:2). This message is what Matthew also calls the “gospel of the kingdom” in verse 23. In a manner of speaking, this is showing that Jesus’ message and John were preaching about the same thing, which was about the coming Messiah. The main difference was that Jesus is the Messiah and John was his prophet. Interestingly, interspersed between summary statements about the message that Jesus was preaching is the calling of the first disciples. Here, Jesus calls Peter, Andrew, James (John’s brother), and John to be his followers, and he declares that he will make them “fishers of men”. They too would become evangelists in the same manner as Jesus and John were. The fulfillment of this is seen in the book of Acts and even beyond Acts as the gospel has been carried to the ends of the earth.

The unity of the message that John and Jesus preached is also underscored by the message that Paul preached too. In Galatians 1:6-24, Paul says there is but one gospel, and Paul himself claims to have received this gospel by direct revelation from Jesus himself before he started to preach. He later came in contact with Peter and James (Jesus’ brother), two of the leaders in the church in Jerusalem. Paul preached this gospel for 14 years then went back to Jerusalem where Peter, James, and John all affirmed the gospel that Paul preached and appointed him as the apostle to the Gentiles. Peter and John were both present that day when Jesus called them from fishing and heard him preach the same gospel John did (Galatians 2:1-10).

The biggest difference between what John preached, what Jesus preached, and what the apostles went out and preached was tense: John was looking forward to the Messiah, Jesus is the Messiah, and the apostles were looking back Jesus. In all cases though, they were all looking forward to the second coming of Christ when Jesus will come in glory, as Isaiah proclaims in Isaiah 9. He will be on David’s throne and will be given titles of honor and praise like “Prince of Peace” and “Wonderful Counselor”. Christians today are in the same boat as the apostles were, looking back to Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. If one is a Christian, then one is a “fisher of men” who is a gospel proclaimer sharing the same message that has been passed down through the ages and the future of hope eternal life. Christians thereby should be about the task of fishing for men so that even more can come to know the one gospel Jesus proclaimed and be saved!

Lord, make me a fisher of men!

Matthew 3:13-17: “To Fulfill All Righteousness”

Read: Matthew 3:13-17

Up to this point in his Gospel, Matthew has been building a case for Jesus based on who he was and where he came from with a particular emphasis on prophecies. Here, Matthew switches to Jesus’ adult ministry and life with his baptism being the first episode in the gospel with Jesus as an adult. It serves as a bookend to Jesus’ ministry, with the other bookend being the Great Commission. The connection between Jesus’ baptism and the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20) is uncanny. In both texts we see a reference to obedience, all members of the Trinity, and a reference to baptism. When Jesus starts his ministry, he comes to John asking for baptism of repentance, rather so he could “fulfill all righteousness”. Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth was to save people from their sins, but in order to do so he had to do what they could not: live a perfect life in obedience to the law. The first act of obedience that is recorded in Matthew is baptism. Jesus had nothing to repent of, but it serves to show that he was in submission to the will of the father willing to do deeds in accordance with righteousness.

A key difference here though is that all the members of the Trinity are present at the event. Jesus is being baptized, the Spirit is descending like a dove, and the Father is speaking from heaven. The Father’s statement by themselves underscore Jesus ministry if nothing else won’t. These same words are spoken in Matthew 17 at the transfiguration of Christ which Peter also recalls in his 2 epistle (2 Peter 1:17). The transfiguration account however tags the remarks with “Listen to him”. In both instances though, the Father is acknowledging the Son before people so that they too will listen to Jesus and his message of salvation.

When Jesus ended his ministry on earth, he was not one under authority, rather one with all authority. He acknowledges this fact in verse 16 in the Great Commission, then offers a command for his disciples to make disciples of all nations. Jesus is commanding the disciples to teach others to obey the commands that he had them to follow. The same commission goes out to all those that followed too. Paul in 2 Timothy 2:2 tells Timothy to teach what he had learned to others who could teach it. By implication, there are 5 generations: Those that taught Paul, Paul himself, Timothy, those that Timothy would teach, then those who who be taught by Timothy’s learners. Christians today stand on the authority of Christ and are commanded to do no less than the disciples did: make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey the things God commanded, and baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!

Lord, all authority has been given to you so help me to obey you by making disciples of all nations!

Luke 5:27-32: A Call to Repentance

Read: Luke 5:27-32

Right after Jesus demonstrates his authority to forgive sin, Jesus does something else rather alarming: Jesus calls a “sinner” as one of his followers and then participates in a feast in his honor that is attended by more of these so called “sinners”. Jesus’ propensity for breaking social taboos was already known when he touched a leper (Luke 5:13). Tax collectors in the day of Jesus were one of the most despised members of society for a number of reasons. First, they were seen as traitors because often times they were indigenous members of a conquered who were hired by the conquering Romans to collect taxes for Rome. Second, tax collectors were also extortionist, wringing more money out of taxpayers than the taxpayer owed. Tax collectors got to pocket this extra as profit.

Levi, also known as Matthew (Matthew 9:9), was one of these, nevertheless Jesus saw it fit to call Levi as his disciple. Levi would go on to write the Gospel of Matthew. Levi abandoned everything and followed Jesus when Jesus called him, just like Peter, James, and John (Luke 5:9-11). He had almost certainly heard of Jesus and was nearby at the healing of the lame man. By implication, Levi like Peter was confronted with the awesomeness and holiness of God and repented of his sins. His natural response was obedience, so that when Jesus did call him he obeyed and obeyed immediately just as Peter did.

The Pharisees grumbled against Jesus because he, being a righteous man, associated with sinner which is something that a Pharisee would never do. Jesus replies with a metaphor pertaining to a physician coming to heel the sick, and he relates to his mission to calling the sinner to repentance. The Pharisees were zealous about following the law and for that reason did not, at least outwardly, appear as one of the “sinner”. Jesus on other occasions though does point out their sin (Matthew 6:1-2, Matthew 22:18, Matthew 23:11-31).

Later, Jesus would commission Levi and the rest of the disciples to make disciples of all nations as Jesus had done with them in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). The first step in making disciples though is to find sinners and present them with the gospel. Part of the gospel is telling people about the reality of their sin (Romans 3:23) and the call to repentance as Jesus did in verse 32. To those that do repent, they are called to obey, as Levi did. In the Great Commission tells his disciples to teach others to obey. The same commandment goes out to all who call themselves Christians too. Associating with sinners is not an endorsement of their action. Christians shouldn’t be be afraid to be seen with sinners. In fact, it is necessary if one is to be about the work of making disciples, which starts calling people to repentance and obedience to Jesus’ commands.

Lord, I believe!
Help me to proclaim repentance and obedience to the world!

Luke 5:12-16: True Healing

Read: Luke 5:12-16

Jesus did some things in his ministry that raised eyebrows, and healing the man with leprosy was one of them. Leprosy is a contagious skin disease. During the time of Jesus, there was no cure. Lepers were isolated from the community and considered ceremonially unclean. Lepers had to dress in rags and wear there hair down, and cry out “unclean, unclean” as they made their way about (Leviticus 13:45-46). While there was no law pertaining to touching a leper, doing so was certainly taboo and reviled. Nevertheless, Jesus reaches out his hand and touches the leper and heals him.

The leper himself exhibited great faith and humility when he came to Jesus. When he came to Jesus, he fell on his face, begging Jesus for healing and believing that Jesus was able. He doesn’t specifically ask for healing per se, rather to be “made clean” which is an interesting request. He wanted not to just be free of the disease, but free of the stigma associated with it – ceremonial uncleanliness. After Jesus heals him, Jesus tells him to present himself to the priest which was part of the requirement of the law to be pronounced clean after a leper was healed from the disease (Leviticus 14).

Jesus’ compassion is evidenced throughout the gospels by his miracles of healing, but Jesus didn’t want his message to be overshadowed by his miracles. This is why he charged the man not to say anything about the healing. In spite of this though, the word about Jesus’ ability to heal spread throughout the region but not where it overshadowed the message because people came both to hear him preach and to be healed, but Jesus says his mission was to preach (Luke 4:43). Jesus though would always take the time to withdraw and pray, because he desired communion with his father.

The human race is inflicted with all sorts of infirmities and diseases. Some are curable, but many are not. While God can and does still miraculously heal people today, inevitably some other infirmity will creep up and ultimately claim one’s life. The ultimate infirmity that people have to deal with though is their sin. Romans 6:23 says that the wages of sin is death, but eternal life comes Jesus. For those that believe in Jesus, they will one day receive an immortal, imperishable body that is free from disease (1 Corinthians 51-54, Revelation 21:4). In today’s culture though, there are charlatans who claim to be “faith healers” that put on a spectacle to “demonstrate power”. God’s word doesn’t need demonstration, it needs proclamation. Jesus in his day attempted to minimize his miracles and maximize his message to that the emphasis would be on one’s eternal healing, not their temporal healing. This is how world will be reconciled to God.

Lord, you healed me!
Help me to proclaim the gospel so others can be healed!

Luke 5:1-11: Here am I! Send Me!

Read: Luke 5:1-11

Virtually everywhere Jesus went, people wanted to here the word of God because this word had the power to heal the sick and command demons (Luke 4:36. Luke 4:39). This also made Jesus’ fame spread throughout the region of Galilee. Undoubtedly, all that lived in that area had heard of Jesus by now and the wonders he performed. When Jesus came to the edge of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Lake of Gennesaret he met fishermen who were mending their nets after a long night of fishing. Jesus told them to put down their nets again, and they agreed to do so at his word. When they did, they caught so many fish they couldn’t contain them and had to call for help. His gospel was one to call people to repentance.

Peter’s response to Jesus is one of awe and wonder, and in doing so he comes face to face with his sin. He asks Jesus to leave his presence because he immediately recognizes that Jesus is the Holy One of God. Peter’s response was not unlike Isaiah’s response when he encountered God (Isaiah 6:1-8). Isaiah saw God seated on a throne, exalted. The mere sight seeing God was enough overwhelm someone to the point of death (Exodus 33:20). God cleansed Isaiah and made him his messenger to proclaim the word of God. In much the same manner, Jesus did this with Peter. He tells him from that point on that he would “catch men” – a reference to his new occupation as a disciple and apostle of Jesus. At this, James and John along with Peter left everything and followed Jesus.

God’s word is powerful indeed in how it transforms lives. Romans 10:11-15 outlines this process: faith comes by hearing the word. In order for this to happen they have to have the word preached to them, which means that some one has to be sent. Paul saw himself as one of these “sent ones” (Romans 1:1, Romans 11:13), the literal translation of the Greek word “apostolos” from where the word apostle comes from. While there was a special office of capital “A” Apostles in the New Testament which included the original 12 (Mark 10:2-4), Mathias who replaced Judas (Acts 1:26), and lastly Paul, there were little “a” apostles that were also “sent ones” who were sent out to proclaimed the gospel (Romans 16:7, Philippians 2:25, 2 Corinthians 8:23). In the modern vernacular, little “a” apostles would be called missionaries – ones who are sent out from a church to preach the gospel to that others may hear the word of God and believe. One of the main missions of the church as a whole is to make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). The natural response to salvation is obedience, as Isaiah and Peter did – they left everything to follow God’s commands. This applies to every believer. But from among the church, God calls some out to be special envoys to be his “sent ones” to take the gospel to places and preach to those who have never heard the name of Jesus so those that have not heard can hear, believe, and proclaim themselves. Whether one is a sender or a sent one, it requires both to accomplish the task the God has set before the church to make disciples. Everyone therefore should be involved in whatever role he or she is in.

Lord, here am I! Send Me!

Luke 4:31-44: Authority and the Gospel

Read: Luke 4:31-44

Wherever Jesus went, word about him spread quickly – and it was usually a good word. While Jesus was rejected in his home town of Nazareth, virtually everywhere else that Jesus went he was glorified by those he met because his authority in both his teaching and in his deeds. Verses 31 and 32 note that Jesus was teaching on the Sabbath, as was the custom of an itinerant rabbi and people were amazed by it. Matthew 7:28-29 compare Jesus’ teachings to those of the scribes without really expounding how it was different, but the traditional way of teaching in that day was to read a text and quote commentary from a respected religious authority either past or present. Jesus, however, would say “you have heard….” but then follow it with “but I say to you….”. In speaking this way, Jesus was drawing on his own authority, not the that of another.

In addition to authority in teaching, Jesus also demonstrates authority over demons too. The demons knew exactly who Jesus was, and they acknowledge him as such. But rather than let the demon clamor on, Jesus commands the demon to be silent and come out of the man as well. These two commands also cause people to be amazed, and word about him spread throughout the region concerning his authority. Jesus follows this exorcisms at the synagogue with the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law. Jesus in the same manner as casting out the demon, verbally rebukes the fever and it leaves her. These two miracles along with the authority of Jesus’ and serve as the archetype of a summary of many more miracles that Jesus performed in the same vein as these. He performed many more healing and exorcisms that definitively established his authority.

Interestingly, the people of Capernaum got what Nazareth asked for: a sign from God (Luke 4:20-30). The difference though is that Nazareth scoffed at his message rather than accepting his message. The demand for a sign was for the vindication of his authority, not the corroboration his authority. Jesus freely demonstrated his power, but not as a defense to prove he was the who he claimed to be, rather to support who he claimed to be. The people of Capernaum though wanted Jesus to stay and continue, but Jesus notes that he cannot, because his mission was to preach. Consequentially, he did not say his mission was to come to be a miracle worker, although he did do this.

When Jesus left the earth, he acknowledged that all authority had been given to him, and he then commands his disciples to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey the words that Jesus had commanded them to do (Matthew 28:19-20). Later on, the Holy Spirit came on the disciples and they went about preaching the gospel with authority (1 Thesolonians 1:5) and occasionally performing signs and wonders. In all things though, the emphasis was always on the message and they drew on the authority of the words of God. For Christians today, the command to make disciples still goes out and the command to preach the gospel still goes out (2 Timothy 2:2). While miracles may happen, the authority rests in preaching the word of God, not in miracles (2 Timothy 3:16-17, Titus 2:15).

Lord, authority comes from the power of your word!
Help me to boldly proclaim it!

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