Matthew 9:9-17: God Desires Mercy

Matthew 9:9-17: God Desires Mercy

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. 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. Matthew was a tax collector, nevertheless Jesus saw it fit to call Matthew as his disciple. Matthew would go on to write the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew abandoned everything and followed Jesus when Jesus called him, just like Peter, James, and John (Matthew 4:18-22). He had almost certainly heard of Jesus and was nearby at the healing of the lame man. By implication, Matthew 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). But Jesus and the disciples were not breaking any part of the law. The fast of John his disciples was entire voluntary. The Pharisees though were not ones to be out done by another in terms of piety, and any one who they saw as less pious than themselves – especially one that was seen righteous such as Jesus or John. Jesus, however, tells a parable about a wedding feast and a bridegroom, and saying that people don’t fast when they are at a wedding feast. Jesus describes himself as the bridegroom, saying that while he was with his disciples, they would feast and that a time for fasting was coming. This was partially prophetic, knowing that that one day Jesus would be taken away from them and during that time they would fast. He adds another parable describing how old things and new things do not mix. An new patch cannot be sown on old clothes because the new patch will shrink making the tear worse. New wine cannot be put into old wineskin because wine causes wineskins to expand and stretch as it releases gas. New wine would cause old wineskin to burst. Lastly, no one drinks new wine when they desire old wine, because it is perceived to be better.

When Jesus quotes from Micah 6:8-9, he is getting at the heart of the matter. God isn’t concerned about pious acts themselves, rather the heart in which pious acts were done. The Pharisees wanted to add more religion on top of the already religious system to make them look even more pious than the law required. Likewise, they saw religion as a means of penitence too. When Jesus came on the scene though, he did not preach a message that compelled people to layer on more religion than they already had, rather he came preaching a message of repentance, wanting people to change their hearts. The job of Christians is to call the world to repentance, not to more religion. In doing so, sinners can experience the mercy of God and be saved by it.

Lord, help me to desire mercy, not sacrifice!

Matthew 9:1-8: Authority Over Sin

Read: Matthew 9:1-8

There are many unequivocal declaration of the deity of Jesus in scripture, and the healing of the paralytic would be among them. When Jesus came across the Sea of Galilee, they brought him to the paralytic. The text doesn’t say that the man ask for healing or otherwise, but the first thing that Jesus does forgive his sins. Immediately, Jesus is accuse of blasphemy man could not forgive sin. Nevertheless, Jesus uses the opportunity to do a physical demonstration of power to show that he indeed had authority to forgive sin, and when he did people were amazed by him.

The penalty for a blasphemer was death (Leviticus 24:10-16) , and ultimately this is what they accused Jesus of before he was crucified (Matthew 26:65). The Pharisees accuse Jesus of blasphemy because they rightfully point out that only God can forgive sins (Luke 5:21). What they didn’t understand though was that Jesus is God. But Jesus asks a rhetorical question in response. The reality is that both saying “Your sins are forgiven” and “Rise up and walk” were both impossible for any mere man to say – only God could do these things. One was not easier than the other, and the Pharisees and scribes knew this. The difference is that they could not see that his sins were forgiven, but they could see a man get up and walk, so again, Jesus speaks and the man is healed.

Jesus, however, tags his demonstration of his authority to forgive sins with the title “Son of Man”. This is the first of 25 times that this title appears in the gospel of Luke. Why Jesus used this title is not certain, but it could be because of its twofold significance from the Old Testament that affairs his humanity and his divinity, which is the case here in Luke 5 where Jesus as a man is doing things that only God can do. “Son of man” as a reference to humanity is found all over the Old Testament, but a few examples are Psalm 8:4, Psalm 80:17, and 90 times in the book of Ezekiel. The reference to “son of man” as divine is found in Daniel 7:13-14, which was one “like a son of man” that was given kingship over the world. Jesus alludes to this text in Matthew 26:64 and Matthew 24:30. Both if these verses and the surrounding texts points to Jesus being the Son of Man that is spoken of in Daniel.

Often times, Christians come wanting something from God knows that they need most. God though, in his providence supplies what people need because he is able. The one universal thing that every person needs is forgiveness from sin, which Jesus is able to forgive because he is God. For this reason, no matter what one asks God for, he or she can always ask God for forgiveness. 1 John 1:9 says that God is faithful and will forgive all unrighteousness for that reason.

Lord, I need forgiveness!

Forgive me from my sins!

Luke 5:17-26: Jesus Can Forgive Sins

Read: Luke 5:17-26

Jesus’ teaching ministry not only drew the common people, it also attracted a large number of Pharisees and “teachers of the law” too. Both these groups were zealous about the the Law of Moses so they knew it well and had no tolerance for blasphemers. Jesus was teaching while these experts were looking on when a group of men brought a friend of theirs to be healed. The house was crowded, so they went up top, moved away the roofing tiles and lowered him in right in front of Jesus. This undoubtedly made quite a raucous, nevertheless Jesus was impressed by their faith that he could heal the man and how it drove them to unconventional means just to get a chance.

But Jesus doesn’t heal the man right away. Instead, he tells the man that his sins are forgiven, which causes quite a stir in an event that has already been in spectacle. The Pharisees accuse Jesus of blasphemy because they rightfully point out that only God can forgive sins. What they didn’t understand though was that Jesus is God. But Jesus asks a rhetorical question in response. The reality is that both saying “Your sins are forgiven” and “Rise up and walk” were both impossible for any mere man to say – only God could do these things. One was not easier than the other, and the Pharisees and scribes knew this. The difference is that they could not see that his sins were forgiven, but they could see a man get up and walk, so again, Jesus speaks and the man is healed.

Jesus, however, tags his demonstration of his authority to forgive sins with the title “Son of Man”. This is the first of 25 times that this title appears in the gospel of Luke. Why Jesus used this title is not certain, but it could be because of its twofold significance from the Old Testament that affairs his humanity and his divinity, which is the case here in Luke 5 where Jesus as a man is doing things that only God can do. “Son of man” as a reference to humanity is found all over the Old Testament, but a few examples are Psalm 8:4, Psalm 80:17, and 90 times in the book of Ezekiel. The reference to “son of man” as divine is found in Daniel 7:13-14, which was one “like a son of man” that was given kingship over the world. Jesus alludes to this text in Matthew 26:64 and Matthew 24:30. Both if these verses and the surrounding texts points to Jesus being the Son of Man that is spoken of in Daniel.

Often times, Christians come wanting something from God knows that they need most. God though, in his providence supplies what people need because he is able. The one universal thing that every person needs is forgiveness from sin, which Jesus is able to forgive because he is God. For this reason, no matter what one asks God for, he or she can always ask God for forgiveness. 1 John 1:9 says that God is faithful and will forgive all unrighteousness for that reason.

Lord, I need forgiveness!

Forgive me from my sins!

Joshua 8:1-29: Getting Back in the Game

Read: Joshua 8:1-29

Israel had just suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the people of Ai. They were presumptuous  about God working on their behalf and attacked the city without seeking God. When they suffered a defeat, Joshua was dejected and sought God. They then found Achan who had had kept something forbidden by the ban. Joshua and Israel then dealt decisively with the sin. God told Joshua to not be “dismayed” – that is defeated and broken. Joshua picked himself up and God told him to take Ai as he had Jericho. They used ambush tactics, but God gave Joshua a command: to raise his javelin toward Ai. At this, Joshua did as God commanded and Ai fell and all its inhabitants fell under the ban, just as Jericho did.

Even though Israel had sin among it, they dealt with the sin and felt its remorse. After this though, Israel got right with God and got back on the track of doing as God commanded them to do. A similar story of one failing but getting a second chance happened with Peter. Peter denied Jesus three times, even after saying that he would never do such a thing. And when Peter did deny Jesus, he remembered what Jesus had spoken to him concerning this and wept bitterly. Without a doubt, Peter felt like an athlete who had been ejected from the game and felt like his career was over (John 18:25-27, Luke 22:62). But quite the contrary was true. Even though Peter had denied Jesus, Jesus was not finished with Peter. In fact, this gave Jesus and opportunity to model one of the things he had taught Peter: love and forgiveness. Jesus, after Peter denied him three times, asks Peter if he loved him three times. Peter in all cases answers that he does indeed love Jesus. Jesus in response to these answers commands Peter then to “Tend his lambs”, “Feed his sheep”, and “Tend his sheep”. Jesus was metaphorically telling Peter to not feel down in the dumps, but get back in the game and do what he had been commissioned to do (John 21:15-23). God was telling Joshua to not feel down in the dumps, but get back to the business of carrying out God’s commands and leading the people of Israel in the commands of God.

The command to follow Jesus went out to the original disciples at the beginning of his ministry and at the end of his ministry on earth. Like Peter though, faltering in one’s walk with God does not cast him or her out of God’s presence forever. What God wanted from Israel and Joshua was not a prideful heart that denied what they did, rather a contrite heart and a broken spirit (Psalm 51:17), and Joshua had this. God does not give up on people; rather people give up on God. But when one does falter, one need only confess it to God and God is faithful to restore (1 John 1:9) and give someone a second chance. And one can continue to walk in the ways of God all the more, following his commands!

Lord, help me not to wallow in the mire, but get back to following you after I fall!

Joshua 7: The Weight of Sin

Read: Joshua 7

Achan went down in history has the man that disobeyed the ban that God had given Israel concerning the city of Jericho (Joshua 6:17-21). He kept for himself some of the things that he was not supposed to keep, and this ended up costing the life of him, his family, and all he owned. Among the things were gold, silver, and the “mantle of Shinar” – perhaps an elaborate robe of Babylonian origin. The significance of the robe is not explained, but it was perhaps a mantle used by priests during the occult worship of the Canaanite gods. Achan’s misdeeds caused the death of some of the men who went up to take Ai as well. When the spies went out from the Israelite camp, they came back confident that it would only take part of the men to take Ai. They apparently assumed that God was working in their favor when they took the city of Jericho, but he was not with them when they sent men to Ai. Instead of a complete route like they had seen at Jericho, the men were sent high-tailing it back to the Israelite camp. That, and God did not hold just one person accountable for the sins of Achan, rather the whole nation. The gravity of the ban was made apparent by how God dealt with Jericho, but Achan for some reason did not take it seriously and fell to the temptation God had warned them against in light of the ban. In response to this, Israel destroyed Achan in the Valley of Achor which was named after Achan and Achan’s name came to synonymous with the word “trouble” in the Hebrew language.

It is difficult for modern readers of Joshua to fully understand why God would “burn” against an entire nation because of one man’s sins. Achan’s sin seems rather private, but the effects of sin are hardly ever contained to an individual. Sin has a ripple effect that touches all areas of a person’s life and community. God wanted Israel to understand this, and even more so consider what would happen if even a little sin were allowed to germinate and take root among the people of Israel. James 1:13-15 describes sin in these terms – temptation gives rise to lust, lust gives birth to sin, and sin leads to death. Romans 5:12 describes how sin entered the world through one man and spread to every other man. Sin is like a disease: a small infection usually is harmless, but unless the infection is treated immediately, it can grow and become untreatable or even fatal. Jesus talks about maiming one’s self when something causes one to stumble in Matthew 18:7-8 and Matthew 5:29-30. The point here is that a small part can drag down the whole of an individual or even a corporate body.

Sin is as serious an issue today as it was for the Israelites. Christians can learn many things from the Israelites concerning sin and its implications. God was doing mighty works among them – so much so it seems they were getting pretentious about how God was going to act. But the sins of a one man brought God’s action to a screeching halt and instead Israel was humiliated and Joshua was grieved by this. God told Joshua to act decisively and deliberately concerning sin and he purged sin from Israel. Rather than assume that God will work mightily, Christians ought to be humble and seek God’s face at every turn. And in this humility, Christians should also remember to constantly confess sin and purge sin from their own lives to that it does not have a chance to germinate and spread like a ravenous disease. God is faithful to forgive sin and cleanse one from unrighteousness!

Lord, I am a sinner! Please forgive me and cleanse me from unrighteousness!