Read Matthew 11:1-6: Show and Tell

Read Matthew 11:1-6

When asked by John’s disciples about who he was, Jesus doesn’t directly answer their question, rather he gives a more cryptic answer as Jesus would typically do. Here, he alludes to many scriptures that point to his coming. (Isaiah 29:18, Isaiah 35:4-6, Isaiah 43:6-7, Isaiah 43:8, Isaiah 61:1-3, Isaiah 66:2, Zechariah 11:7). There’s two things that are remarkable here: the declaration of miracles and the declaration of the good news being preached.

These two prongs of Jesus’ ministry where quintessential.  While Jesus was a miracle worker, he made no apology about preaching a message of sin, repentance, and salvation for those who would believe. For some, however, this message was offensive and they didn’t want to hear it. If Jesus would have been merely a miracle worker, it’s likely that he would have not offended anyone, but he did manage to get the religious elite stirred up because of what he preached.

Today’s Christians are empowered by the Holy Spirit and commanded by to do great deeds in Jesus’ name. Jesus declares later in Matthew that the ones who do so do it unto Jesus (Matthew 25:45). Given this though, good deeds to the world is not a substitute for declaring the Gospel. The gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16) and faith comes by hearing (Romans 10:17). Yes, the gospel will offend some, but to others it will be the best news they ever hear because it means forgiveness and eternal life!

Lord, help me to show others your love and declare the truth of your gospel!

 

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!

Luke 6:17-19: Preparing to Preach

Read: Luke 6:17-19

Jesus’ fame had spread throughout the region. People were coming from cities in Phoenicia (Type and Sidon) and Judea (Jerusalem) to hear him preach and with hopes that they might have and opportunity to be healed of demon possession and medical infirmities. The archetype for these kinds of healing were setup by Luke (Luke 4:31-42). Luke separates exorcisms from physical healing to note the difference in the nature of the miracle in that Jesus has power over demons and power over disease. The great multitudes wanted to merely touch him because power.

In keeping with his emphasis to show that Jesus was the savior of all peoples, Jesus’ mission was to preach (Luke 4:43), which he does when the multitudes come. But many of those who came to him came to be healed. Jesus was compassionate, and he did take time to heal those that needed it regardless of their standing as Jew or Gentile. Luke shows this by including Gentile and Jewish cities alike.

The healings set the stage for what Jesus does next, which is to deliver a discourse that includes many of the famous teachings and sayings of Jesus. A similar sermon recorded in Matthew 5-7, known as “Sermon on the Mount”. This shorter sermon is called “Sermon on the Plain”. Whether these are both referring to the same event or separate events is not certain, but nevertheless there are many similarities between the two.

The specifics of the teachings will be unpacked over the next few devotions, but here, Christians can be reminded of the greater need that people have than their infirmities, which is the truth of the gospel. Good deeds without the gospel is empty, but likewise one should also put into practice what he or she preaches too with good deeds alike. Deeds don’t save a person (Ephesians 2:8-9), but they do demonstrate faith corroborate a message that is good news for all the world (James 2:14-26).

Lord, help me to teach and heal as you did!

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!

Luke 4:14-30: Receiving Good News

Read: Luke 4:14-30

As Jesus went about preaching in Galilee, many received his message and glorified Jesus because of his message, but Jesus’ hometown spurned him when he preached in their synagogue. In the customary manner of synagogue, they would read from a scroll. On this day, Jesus read from Isaiah 61 which is a prophecy relating to how the prophet would preach good news that would be for the foreigner, poor, sick, captives, and brokenhearted. It notes how the one receiving the prophecy would be seen as a blessed people among the nations.

What Jesus says next though raised eyebrows – he claimed that the prophecy was being fulfilled “in their hearing”. There are two reason why. First, Jesus was the one preaching and the one’s hearing the message that was for the poor, captive, blind, oppressed among other traits listed in Isaiah. They took offense because they perceived that Jesus was indicating people of Nazareth were among these undesirable states. Second, they marveled at the “gracious words” coming from his mouth, but questioned his authority, saying he was merely “Joseph’s son” – not a prophet or anyone special for that matter that could fulfill this messianic prophecy. So they demanded a sign. They wanted Jesus to vindicate himself when they said “Physician, heal yourself”.

Jesus replies to their demand for a sign by noting that a prophet is without honor in his hometown, yet is well received by foreigners. He illustrates this from 2 Old Testament examples. The first he gives is from 1 Kings 17:8-16 where Elijah goes and lives in Sidon, which was in Pheonecia. The second was from 2 Kings 5, where Naaman the Syrian is healed from leprosy. In both cases, the prophets preached to foreigners, and in both cases the foreigners received the word from the prophet. In doing so, Jesus implicates Nazareth as being like a hard-hearted Israel, and they were enraged so much so that they wanted to kill by running him off a cliff.

Luke’s emphasis on social outcasts, women, and foreigners is evident here. But at the same time, Jesus’ message was for all that would receive it, even the Jews. The problem with the Jews though is they did not perceive themselves to be in need of a message for the downtrodden because they believed they had it all together. The ones that did receive it though were not from Jesus’ people, rather precisely the ones that Isaiah 61 speaks of. The truth of the matter is that everyone even today needs Jesus’ message because of sin (Romans 3:21-25). The question though is whether or not one will acknowledge that. One can be like the people of Nazareth and outright reject it or be like those from other towns and receive it gladly.

Lord, you bring good news! Let me receive it with arms wide open!

Luke 2:8-20: Good News For All People

Read: Luke 2:8-20

When Jesus was born, his circumstances were less than ideal. While swaddling a baby wasn’t particularly unusually, laying a baby in a manger for a crib was. But God had plans for this. God sent an angel to some shepherds who were just doing their job, which was nothing unusual. Shepherds basically lived with the sheep day and night to protect them from danger. But when the angels showed up. They were afraid. But the news that God revealed through the angels was astounding: the Savior had been born basically right around the corner. The sight and sound of angels proclaiming the “good news” and singing was enough to cause the shepherds to leave their flocks and seek out the baby that the angel told them would be laying in a manger.

When the Shepherds went to Bethlehem, everything was exactly as the angel had told them. So they spread the news around: The news about baby being born laying in a manger, the news about angels singing, the news about them finding the baby as they angel had told them, and the greatest news that the Savior had been born. While they were certainly frightened by the sight of an angel, they were overcome with joy when they found everything as they were told.

In the midst of all this, Luke makes note of Mary “pondering” these things in her heart. She had been told by and angel herself that she would give birth to Jesus who was the Lord and the Son of God (Luke 1:26-38). The shepherds report vindicated what she had already experienced in a new and fresh way now that Jesus was born.

Good news was first delivered to Mary, then to shepherds, who then relayed to numerous other people, all who were amazed at what they heard. God intended this good news to be for all the people so that they too would be amazed when they heard it. This good news is still going out to all the world even today that the Savior was born into the world. Christians should be like the shepherds and proclaim this news so all can meet Jesus and be amazed!

Lord, Your coming is Good News. Help me share it!

Luke 1:1-4: “Exact Truth”

Read: Luke 1:1-4

Luke when writing his gospel wanted to give an orderly and accurate account about Jesus in the form of a gospel/letter of sort. Luke addresses his gospel to man named “Theophilus” that means in Greek, “lover of God”. Luke also holds Theophilus in high esteem because addresses him as “most excellent” — a title that Paul used to address Festus and Felix when he was on his way to Rome to be tried (Acts 24:3, Acts 26:25). Theophilus could have been a high ranking Roman citizen or something to that extent. Regardless though, Luke’s purpose was to show this man who loved God and was esteemed by Luke just who Jesus was.

Luke tells how he accomplished this task too. First, he “compiled accounts” about the things accomplished among “us”. Because Luke and Acts are probably a two volume set, Luke is including himself in the “us” – that is build a story of things in the present. He dovetails from these present tense accounts to the traditions that they had received “since the beginning”. He’s talking about the testimonies about Jesus’ life by those who walked, talked, and lived with Jesus while he was on earth — the eyewitnesses — many of who were probably still alive when Paul was writing Luke and Acts. Luke states that he was careful in his investigation so that he could accurately reflect the life and ministry of Jesus and the history of the early church.

The veracity of Luke’s account has been corroborated by archaeology. He names people, places, and events that many thought were fictional, but when a few discoveries were made in the 1800’s archaeology started taking Luke more seriously. Sense that time, many more discoveries have been made corroborating Luke’s gospel. From a historical perspective, this vindicates his assertion that he “investigated everything carefully”. The historical corroboration along with the high quality of the source materials used by Luke such as eyewitnesses show that the content of Luke isn’t merely mythological account of a a Jewish rabbi from Galilee, it is an accurate and historical account of the Savior of the World, Jesus.

Christians can trust the content of Luke’s gospel and the reality of their faith like Theophilus, knowing they have the “exact truth” about Jesus written in the pages of the of the Bible. Jesus was no fake, and for this reason, Christians can speak honestly about the gospel and hold to their convictions.

Lord, You have given me the exact truth! Help me to know it well!

Luke 1:1-4: Good News for Everyone

Read: Luke 1:1-4
Jesus’ coming into the world was good news for all people – he wasn’t merely the messiah for the Jews, rather the whole world. While all the gospels present Jesus in such a light, Luke’s gospel is perhaps the one that would resonates the most with a Gentile audience for a number of reasons:

  • The Gospel of Luke was probably written by the same author of the book of Acts. They were probably a two volume set, as the prologues of each book seem to indicate, written to a man named “Theophilus” which literally means “lover of God”. Theophilus is otherwise an unknown character in the scriptures, but the name is of Greek origin.
  • Luke himself was a traveling companion of Paul, a doctor by trade, and probably a Greek by birth (Colossians 4:14, 2 Timothy 4:11, Philemon 1:24). Luke was himself not an eyewitness to the accounts given in Luke, nevertheless he probably interviewed and gather information concerning the events contained in his gospel from eyewitnesses and other source material to write his gospel (Luke 1:1-4).
  • The Greek language employed in Luke’s gospel is much more advanced than other Greek used in the New Testament save that of maybe Hebrews and some of Peter’s epistles.
  • Luke focuses on the universality of salvation in that he deals with not only Jews, but the marginalized in society, Samaritans, and Gentiles as well. Acts carries on this same convention.

The focus on the Gentiles and the marginalized in the book of Luke is one way of communicating the importance of the gospel for all people everywhere no matter who they are or what they have done. Jesus relates and forgives people at all levels. Jesus’ willingness to associate with those that others considered to be lesser people serves as an example, and Christians ought to be willing to do the same even if it means that one may be ridiculed for doing so as Jesus was.

Lord, you came to seek and save everyone, not just some.
Teach me to be universal in my vision for the lost!

2 Timothy 4:10-22: Legacy

Read: 2 Timothy 4:10-22

After telling Timothy to fulfill his own ministry and talking about how his end was near, Paul addresses a number of personal matters, but in the process lists people who have slighted him and those to whom he praises for their assistance. Paul expresses that he wants Timothy to come to him soon, because he knows that he is nearing death. Only Luke the doctor (Colossians 4:14), remains with Paul, perhaps to look after him because Paul is dying. Paul mentions those who have left or abandoned him. Some had left or were not present apparently for good reason, such as Titus, Crescens, Tychicus, Erastus, Mark, and Trophimus who were going about the work of spreading the gospel. Prisca, Aquilla, Carpus, and Onesiphorus had lent their aid to Paul in his work. Other “brethren” greet Timothy: Eubulus, Puden, Claudia, and Linus. There are undoubtedly nameless brethren too. Paul lists two people that had caused him grief: Demas and Alexander. Demas loved the world and abandoned Paul and the gospel ministry for it. Alexander the coppersmith “vigorously” opposed the teachings of Paul. Paul warns Timothy against Alexander because of the harm Alexander had caused him. He is listed with Hymenaeus (1 Timothy 1:20) who is mentioned in 2 Timothy 2:17 with Philetus. They are all accused of teaching unsound doctrine and blasphemy. Paul says that Timothy should be on guard against Alexander.

Between the names that Paul mentions Paul talks about his trial; his first hearing. He had appealed to Caesar concerning the gospel in Jerusalem (Acts 25:11). Paul was apparently on his way to Rome and was undergoing a series of preliminary trials before his case was brought before the emperor.  Paul says that all had abandoned him here, but he says the Lord stood with him. He was proclaiming the gospel to all the Gentiles, and Paul had made this his goal. Paul had been selected has God’s instrument for the proclamation of the gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15, Acts 13:47). Paul also credits the Lord for rescuing him “from the Lion’s mouth”, perhaps a reference to Daniel 6 where God rescues Daniel from the lions because he had remained faithful to the Lord even though there were laws prohibiting his worship of the Lord. Paul is hoping that through such suffering, the glory of God will be made known to all the Gentiles. This is Paul’s life mission (Romans 15:20) and he had accomplished much. The long list of names given in 2 Timothy are just a few of them. Paul calls such people “letters of commendation” that testify to the confidence of the work that Paul was doing as he spread the gospel to the Gentiles (2 Corinthians 3:1-4). Ultimately, Paul is looking forward to the ultimate rescue when he will be taken to be with God in heaven where he would receive the crowns that await him.

Christians today owe their salvation to God, but God used people like Paul for the purpose of the prorogation of the gospel to the gentiles. Many Christians can probably pinpoint who it was that shared the gospel with them such that that sharing resulted in repentance and salvation.  The gospel has been passed down from generation to generation from the first Christians until now and it is still going forward into the entire world. Paul outlines the pattern for this propagation in 2 Timothy 2:2 – taking what has been taught, teaching others who will be able to teach others. At the end of one’s life, hopefully one will be able to look back and recall those whose lives had been touched because of one’s faithfulness to the mission of Jesus. Paul even though he felt abandoned, could still recall the names of many who he shared with that he calls “brethren”. The legacy of Paul is the gospel, so should it be for all those who make it their life’s purpose to preach the word!

Lord, help my legacy be the gospel!

John 21:24-25: Scratching the Surface

Read: John 21:24-25

The purpose of John writing his gospel is found in John 20:29-30 where John states that he wrote the gospel so that its reader might believe in the name of Jesus. Here, in the last two verses John makes two final remarks concerning the veracity of the testimony that he had just written down. First, John says that the disciples testified and wrote these things, and that “we” know that his testimony is true. This seems to be a peculiar statement in some ways in that a John is self-validating. In other words, he’s saying that his statement is true because he said so. But rather than this, John is probably appealing to what others have said concerning Jesus as a witness of Jesus. When John says that they know his testimony to be true, he’s saying if you don’t believe him, just ask others. Second, John says that there were numerous other things that Jesus did that are not recorded. He supposes that there are not enough books in the world to contain all that Jesus did. John in a way then is only a highlights reel of what Jesus did. He’s just scratching the surface, as there are details that are not recorded concerning Jesus life. His hope is that what he has shown is sufficient to convince his readers to believe.

The eyewitnesses to Jesus have all passed away, but they did not leave their spiritual progeny empty handed concerning the works of Jesus. A few of them recorded what they saw themselves (as in parts of Matthew and John), and others reported it so that those collating these source could record it as in other parts of Matthew and the books of Mark and Luke. But the gospels are not the only records. In the Bible, there are the four gospels, Acts, and numerous letters by Paul, John, James, Peter, and the writer of Hebrews that all testify to Jesus and what he did. Outside the Bible are historians that account for Jesus as well. The biblical and extrabiblical accounts are corroborated with political history, social history and archaeology among other sources.

Skeptics today like to illustrate two problems they see with the Bible: the reliability of the documents that exist concerning the Bible and the historical accuracy. The Old Testament as delivered to the world today came by way of the work of the Masoretes. They meticulously copied the texts with a great deal of accuracy and attention to detail. When the Dead Sea Scrolls were found and compared to the Masoretic texts, the Dead Sea scrolls vindicated the reputation of the Masoretes reputation as the scrolls were almost exactly the same as the much later Hebrew texts available before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The New Testament is a different story in that there are over 5000 documents that make up the body of available texts, making it the most well preserved ancient document known to exist. From these available texts, scholars have been able to produce what they believe to be an accurate representation of the original manuscripts through careful study of the texts. The historical reliability of both Old Testament and the New Testament are vindicated in a number of ways. First, the writers themselves do not seem to be reporting what they witnessed about Jesus as something that was fictional, rather they believed what they were reporting was true. They paid attention to details concerning people, places, and events such that the events of Jesus’ unfolded in the context of real history. Second, and in part of the attention to details, the history of the Bible is corroborated by archaeology. And third, as mentioned, the extrabiblical evidence, and social history, and political history vindicate this as well.

The witness of John is a part of the whole of the testimony concerning Jesus. At the end of the book, John wants to make known the way of salvation and way to abundant life that can only be found in Jesus. Christians today have this testimony in hand and can use to understand the way of salvation and also give it to others to use so they too can have eternal life that is only found in Jesus. Jesus is the light of the world, the way, the truth, and the life, the good shepherd, the bread of life, the source of living water, the lamb of God, the savior of the world, and ultimately God himself! Believe in Jesus and be saved!

Lord, your truth is revealed! Help all to know it and believe!

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