Matthew 11:20-24: A False Facade

Read: Matthew 11:20-24
A common objection to belief often used to create a façade of credulity often goes, “If God would only show me a miracle, I would believe.” The problem with this is that even in the day of Jesus, those who witnessed miracles abundantly still did not repent and believe the gospel. This is precisely why Jesus starts pronouncing judgement on cities in Israel where he had performed miracles. Jesus mentions three cities all relatively close to one another on the north side of the Sea of Galilee: Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. Chorazin is only mentioned here and in the parallel passage in Luke, so what miracles were performed there is unknown. But Jesus did perform miracles near Bethsaida such as feed the 5,000 (Luke 9:10) and healing a blind man (Mark 8:22). In Capernaum, he healed the centurion’s daughter (Mathew 8:5) a paralyzed man (Mark 2:1) an official’s son (John 4:46), and many others (Luke 4:38-44). All in all, the miracles that Jesus had performed in the area would have been well known.

Even with the miracles though the people did not believe. Jesus says that there will be more mercy on Tyre and Sidon, two cities north of Israel in Phoenicia, that were known for paganism. Jesus had ministered in this region when he healed a Canaanite woman’s daughter (Matthew 15:21–28). There he says that he was sent to the children of Israel, but nevertheless heals the woman because of her faith. Moreover, Jesus likens Capernaum to Sodom. Sodom was an Old Testament city that was destroyed in Genesis 19 for their sin, and even so Jesus says that they will receive more mercy than Capernaum because Capernaum did not believe. These harsh pronouncements against the cities comes on the heels where Jesus talks about John’s message not being received and before Jesus calls those who are not “wise” to rest.  Jesus himself was not accepted in his home town as a prophet either (Luke 4:14-30).

Miracles in Jesus’ day were given as way to vindicate his message, yet even with the miracles people did not believe. Even today though, people will still not believe. It’s not for lack of evidence though. God has made himself known in history (Hebrews 1:1), through creation (Romans 1:2), and through conscience (Romans 2:14-15).  All in all, the myriad of was God is revealed makes his existence plain and the need for repentance clear. If this is so then, whatever objections one might give to not believe and repent are largely a façade for a deeper problem, a sin problem that keeps one from acknowledging sin, repenting of it, and receiving Jesus’ forgiveness. Christians should not lose heart though. Even when many won’t believe, some will. And odds are, it will be the least expected ones who will come to faith when they do!

Lord, you have made yourself known

Help the lost to so they can believe!

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 9:27-34: Authority

Read: Matthew 9:27-34

The last two miracles Matthew records again demonstrate Jesus’ authority over matters of life when he heals blindness and authority over demons when he exorcises yet another demon. Jesus’ spreading fame had undoubtedly reached the ears of all the sick who could hear about him. The blind men that Jesus encountered after he raised the young girl back to life were certainly two of them. Blindness was incurable, and if these men wanted to receive their sight Jesus was their only hope. They cry out for the “Son of David” to have mercy on them, and Jesus does. But first be asks them if they are willing, and they said “yes” and Jesus heals according to their faith. Jesus however tells them not to tell anyone, but they did anyways.

The scribes and Pharisees criticized Jesus at every turn, but in every case the criticism fell on deaf ears because there was simply nothing they could say or do to discredit. Towards the end of Matthew though, their attempts start to get desperate – they accuse him of casting out demons in the name of the prince of demons. This same accusation was later leveled at Jesus later on when some people ask whether or not he is the “Son of David” (Matthew 12:22-28). The “prince of demons” line something that they continued to use. Jesus in chapter 12 point out the logical absurdity of this claim though – he notes that if he casts out a demons in the name of a demon, then his house is divided, and it cannot stand. In other words, if the prince of demons was trying to establish his authority by casting out demons, his methods are self-defeating. However if he casts out demons in the Spirit of God, then it vindicates that he is of God and the kingdom of God had come. The Pharisees did not want to accept this truth.

It’s peculiar that Jesus wouldn’t want people to spread the news about the miracles that he was performing. The people obviously wanted to tell everyone because it was truly amazing. There are a couple of reasons why: Jesus did not want to miracles to distract people from his message, which was to proclaim the kingdom of God, he wanted the priests to declare a person healed so that the Jews would believe rather than demonize the priests, and lastly too much fame made it difficult for Jesus to move about freely in the villages proclaiming the gospel (Mark 1:45). Yet in even so, Jesus still had compassion on people had healed them anyways. All in all, the people still managed to see Jesus as someone of significance: the Son of David. This was a title that was given to the one they believed to be the Messiah – a theme in Matthew. With Jesus position firmly established as the “Son of David” and with authority over all things, he is able to do what he does next, which is send out the disciples to do the same. For Christians today, Jesus still has the same authority. It is up to those that claim Jesus to act in his authority to boldly proclaim his truth and do so in a way that puts the emphasis on the message and show that Jesus does have authority over all things!

Lord, you reign! Help me to proclaim this to everyone everywhere!

Matthew 8:23-34: Lord of All

Read: Matthew 8:23-34

The miracles at the end of Matthew 8 further establish Jesus’ authority. When Jesus pushes out into the boat, a storm arises on the Sea of Galilee, which wasn’t all that uncommon. The geography of the region causes the weather to shift rapidly and sometimes without much warning . This particular storm was rather violent and was pitching the boat up and down, yet Jesus was sleep. When the disciples wake Jesus, Jesus speaks to the storm and it stops, and the disciples were amazed even the storm “obeyed” him.

The second miracle puts Jesus among some of the most foul things that any Jew could encounter that would certainly make that Jew unclean. First, the man that Jesus heals is hanging out around tombs – the place of the dead. Jews typically avoided places such as this because encountering the dead made them ceremonially unclean. Second, this particular miracle happened in a region far outside the bounds of where the Jews lived in a place primarily inhabited by Gentiles, who the Jews avoided. Third, these Gentiles herded pigs which were unclean animals. There was herd of them nearby that the demons went into after Jesus cast them out of the man. Also of note, the particular man that was inhabited was not inhabited by one, rather by man demons that gave the man supernatural strength but also drove the man mad. This place to a Jew would have been a pagan, God forsaken land and a stronghold for evil and full of demonic influence. The demons however immediately recognize Jesus – they call him the “Son of God” and know that their judgment is coming. Jesus drove them out into the herd of swine which caused a great fear to come over the Gentiles in that reason. Gentiles in that day though were generally skeptical of miracle works and saw them as a bad omen while the Jews welcomed the miracles as a sign from God. This is why they asked Jesus to leave when he did come. The second miracle shows that Jesus has authority over demons even in their own strongholds like this man.

Jesus’ authority over natural and supernatural can only point to one truth: he commands the same kind of authority that only God has. The next incident that Matthew records also implies the same truth when Jesus forgives sins. Regardless though of clear demonstrations of power that Jesus had put on display, his own disciples lacked faith. This faith stands in contrast to the faith of the centurion whose servant was healed. For Christian today, faith the means to please God. Submitting to him in faith and believing that he has the power to do mighty acts demonstrates the not only the faith of the believer, but also the authority of God in all things. There is nothing in the natural or supernatural that can stand between God and his purposes!

Lord, you reign supreme! Help me trust you ways and will in all I do!

Matthew 8:1-4: “I am willing!”

Read: Matthew 8:1-4

Jesus’ following was at this point growing. There is no indication of how many people followed him off the mountain, nevertheless upon leaving the mountain the people followed him and were watching him. Matthew shifts from the teachings of Jesus – which he did on his own authority – to a focus on establishing Jesus’ authority my the miracles he performed which demonstrate his power over various things in the world such as disease, demons, nature, sin, and even death. The Greek word for “authority” or “power” first appears in the book of Matthew in 7:29. In the following two chapters, it appears numerous times (Matthew 8:9, Matthew 9:6, Matthew 9:8) leading up to chapter 10:1 where Jesus give authority to his disciples to do just as he had done: cast out demons and heal the sick. Note, Jesus doesn’t give them authority to raise the dead or forgive sins.

In the midst of his miracles, 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).

There are no details concerning the account, but given the nature of leprosy in that it was not curable, the ritual that was performed at the temple was certainly rare. The priests would have certainly be amazed to see this man free of the disease. For the leper, he was out of options. With leprosy though, he really didn’t have any options at all. He went to the one place he might find a cure – in Jesus. It demonstrates the mans faith in calling out to Jesus and he is made well for it. In the Christian faith, there seems to be a dissonance between believing that God can do miracles and being surprised when they do occur. Hebrews 11:6 says that without faith it is impossible to please God. What if Christians expected miracles in faith rather than being surprised by them? This would certainly change the way Christians pray and act. And who knows – maybe miracles might start happening!

Lord, you are willing to do miracles, so help me to ask and believe in faith!

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 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!

Joshua 12: God’s Hall of Fame

Read: Joshua 12

Chapter 12 is almost a hall of fame recounting the deeds of God on behalf of the Israelites. The first 12 chapters of Joshua were the story of the how Israel entered the land and obeyed God and God is the real hero of the story because he is the one who did all the fighting for Israel – they were more or less along for the ride. Early on, God tells Joshua and the people of Israel to obey and bold and courageous. Throughout the book, God constantly reminds Joshua to not be dismayed and to not be afraid. He then gives Joshua instruction and Joshua relays these to the people. And through all this process of they were able to conquer the land. After having conquered the land, they received the inheritance because of their obedience.

The New Testament has what has been called the “Hall of Fame of Faith” in Hebrews 11. Hebrews walks through the history of Israel citing examples of people who were believed God and followed his commands. Hebrews notes that the world was not worthy of such people. The promise that was revealed was found in the person of Jesus. Hebrews 5:7-9 explains that Jesus came to the earth and fulfilled the law and became salvation for those who obey. Jesus became obedient unto death (Philippians 2:5-8). The obedience of Jesus provided the way to eternal life and the redemption of man – even more feats that God accomplished through those who obey him.

Recounting the feats of God in one’s own life can serve as a means of encouragement to the believer and as evidence for the faith that one has. It also shows the pattern through which God works in his people: a commitment of faith, a reception of instructions, and then execution of instruction in conjunction with the workings of God. At the end of the day, one can really only look back and give God the credit for what was accomplished because the results are often times larger than anything any human being to accomplish. God conquered Canaan for Israel and did countless other deeds through and for people through the ages and is still working through and for his people today!

Lord, help me have the faith and the obedience so you can work mightily through me!

Joshua 9:1-15: “Do Not Fear”

Read: Joshua 9:1-15

Gibeon had made peace with Israel by deceiving them, but Joshua nevertheless upheld their mutual defense pact even though they Israel had been deceived. Shortly thereafter, the other Amorite kings heard that Gibeon had made peace with Israel and formed an alliance to destroy Gibeon. Israel came to Gibeon’s aid, and the Lord fought for Israel and Gibeon by giving them an extended day, sending hail upon the Amorites, and confusing the Amorite armies when Israel attacked. The battle was a complete route by God on behalf of the Israelites.

The battle with the Amorite kings is but another example of how God doing the fighting on behalf of Israel. The day was full of miracles such that Joshua notes that there was never a day like it before and hadn’t been one since. The confused army and the hailstones are easily fathomed, but the unfathomable was the sun stopping in the sky and Joshua makes special note of this miracle. There have been explanations offered up throughout the ages to explain this phenomenon, but the only one that really makes sense from the text is that God deed indeed stop the sun in the sky. The scope of this miracle however is not so hard to grasp if one considers that God created the universe and all that it contains by merely speaking it into existence!

When God told Joshua, “do not fear,” God was telling him that he was going to be with him in the battle and the people Joshua was going against were already given to Joshua. Joshua was being reminded of the promises God had given to them before they entered the land in Deuteronomy 20:1-4. Here, God tells Israel to not be afraid because he was going to be fighting on their behalf. God fought for Israel, and is still fighting for his people today. When Jesus left the earth, he promised that he would be with them even until the end of the age (Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus explains in John 14:18-23 that he would be with them by means of the Holy Spirit. Paul in Romans 8:31-39 makes some strong remarks concerning the nature of God. He says, “If God is for us, who is against us?”, that Christians are “overwhelmingly conquerors,” and that nothing can separate Christians from the love of Christ. The ultimate victory of Jesus is when he conquered death which Jesus did on behalf of those who believe (1 Corinthians 15:54-58). Christians have no reason to fear anything in life or in death for that matter because God is fighting on behalf of those who believe. God is the most awesome, powerful force in the entire universe. This unstoppable, unmovable force is still telling his people, “do not fear” because he will win the day!

God, you do the fighting for me! Help me not to fear!

John 21:1-14: Telltale Signs

Read: John 21:1-14

The disciples had been out fishing all night. Apparently, they had returned to Galilee after the Passover and returned to fishing for a time. They had seen the risen Lord on two other occasions before this one according to the Gospel of John. John records the other in appearances in John 20 after the resurrection. Jesus had made his way up to Galilee and had a fire going on the shore. The disciples did not know who it was at first, but recognized it was Jesus after they pulled in 153 large fish after following the strangers instructions. They knew immediately that it was Jesus then, and none of them dare asked, “Who are you?” The disciples recognized Jesus by the telltale sign of a miraculous catch of fish. This catch certainly sparked a memory of many of the other miracles that Jesus had performed before this time.

John up to this point had recorded seven other miracles.

  • Turning water in wine (John 2:1-11)
  • Healing the officials son a distance (John 4:43-53)
  • The healing of the man by the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-9)
  • The feeding of the 5000 (John 6:1-5)
  • Walking on water (John 6:16-25)
  • Healing the man born blind (John 9:1-41)
  • Raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-44)

Jesus had also raised from the dead and had already appeared to the disciples. There could be no doubt in the mind of the disciples that this miracle was from Jesus too. The purpose of miracles though was to establish that Jesus was one sent from God. These demonstrations of power were among the works that Jesus says was one of the witnesses to his authenticity (John 3:2, John 5:36, John 9:33, John 10:25-38). Elsewhere, Peter affirms these works as a means to authenticate the message he was preaching(Acts 2:22). The case for Jesus’ authenticity had been made and the disciples were well equipped with these accounts to testify about Jesus.

Miracles, however, are not the way that God primarily reveals himself to people today. Jesus performed miracles to authenticate himself. The disciples did perform miracles too, but they did so in the name of Jesus. But even so, the principal way that the disciples talked about Jesus was by going into all the world testifying about what Jesus had done. Many more believed because of the testimonies than they did from the miracles. When Jesus gave the Great Commission, he told the disciples to “teach” (Matthew 28:19-20). Mark says go and “preach” (Mark 16:15-16). Luke says that this will be “proclaimed” in all nations (Luke 24:47). Acts 1:8 says that they will be Jesus’ witnesses – that is they will testify about him. 2 Timothy 2:2 says that Timothy should teach what he received from Paul to others who will be able to teach it to even more. The proclamation of the gospel is a verbal event, not by acts of power. Paul said in Romans 10:17 that faith comes by hearing. If God wants to demonstrate his power, he can, and sometimes he does. But as a mode of operation, Christians are to be about the business of proclaiming the resurrected Christ to all nations rather than looking for signs and wonders or trying to do such things themselves. Besides, Jesus said the telltale sign of Christians will be their love for one another (John 13:35), not the signs and wonders they perform. In this form, the world will see the love of Christ and hear the witness of Christ!

Lord, help me to represent you well by loving others and proclaim your truth to the world too!

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