Matthew 11:25-30: The Easy Way

Read: Matthew 11:25:-30

After pronouncing woes on cities, Jesus makes some interesting remarks that read in isolation might seem confusing. He starts by praising the Father for not revealing things to the who are “wise” and with “understanding”. It would seem as if Jesus was praising God for only revealing himself to a simpleton. But these words are used pejoratively. What Jesus was getting at make perfect sense in context, namely that there were those among the Jews who were puffed up with “understanding” and “wisdom” and saw themselves as self-righteous according to the law. These were the individuals who rejected John and Jesus as prophecy and the ones that brought woes upon the cities in Galilee. What these individuals had done is take the Jewish law and turned it into a long list of do’s and don’ts and religion ceremonialism such that it had created an impossibly complex religion that was more of a burden than a blessing as it was meant to be. This is why Jesus encourages those who are heavy burdened to come to him and he will give them rest. Jesus did not come to layer on more religiosity, rather he came to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17-20).

Between the praise to the Father and the invitation to come, Jesus reveals something about revelation. He shows that the Father and the Son know one another, but the Father is revealed through the Son, and only to those the Son chooses to reveal the him too. This begs the question, who are these chosen ones? In context, the answer seems to be those who come to Jesus without pretext or an agenda. Those who are willing to submit humbly admit that they are sinners and in need of cleansing are the ones that Jesus reveals himself to. And to these, Jesus takes on the burden of sin for them and shows them that the law was never about trying to get people to follow a bunch of complicated rules, rather it was intended to show them that they couldn’t do it (Galatians 3:21-24).

Jesus is still revealing truth to those who are willing to hear it. Those who come to Jesus humbly and honestly seeking answers with an open heart and open mind can be taught the things of God from his word through the illumination of the Holy Spirit who imparts true wisdom and understanding (1 Corinthians 2:6-16). The call then is to not be a know-it-all, rather to be a disciple of Christ always wanting to learn more and grow into a deeper relationship with Christ. In this, one finds freedom from the bondage of religiosity.

Lord, keep me humble so that I may receive true wisdom and understanding!

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!

Matthew 11:7-19: A Self-Righteousness that Deafens

Read: Matthew 11:7-19

One of the popular things to do with movies is to prefix the title with “The Last” then append some word. A few popular examples are The Last Samurai or The Last Jedi. The motif of being “the last” of anything in these movies shows the last of a long lineage that has come to its end. If someone was to make a movie about John the Baptist, they could call it “The Last Prophet” for the same reasons. John was the last prophet in the vein of the Old Testament prophets. The Old Testament prophets gave warnings of doom should Israel not repent, but also foretold of redemption or blessing should they repent.  John came with the same message where he proclaimed the kingdom of God and offered a baptism of repentance. Jesus calls John a prophet and even more.

Matthew 11:10 quotes from Malachi 3:1, which is the promise of one that is coming to prepare the way. Immediately following the verse in Malachi is a commentary on those who would “stand” when he appears. The question it asks is rhetorical, as the answer to this is only the righteous who will be cleansed. But to those who do not will receive justice.

Jesus draws on this imagery pointing out two kinds of people: those who hear him and those that do not. The imagery of the piper playing a happy tune and the hearers not dancing or the dirge and the people not morning is precisely the conditions of those that don’t here, rather they are apt to accuse the messenger of things he is not guilty of rather because he associates with those who are less than righteous in the eyes of those who believe themselves to be righteous.

Self-righteousness even today can blind one from hearing the message that they need to hear. The antidote to self-righteousness though is a constant reminder of one’s own sin and ones need for repentance and cleansing. Jesus offers this to whomever is willing to humbly come to him and ask for it. May it be as John 1:9 says – repentance so that God will forgive and cleanse all unrighteousness.

Lord, keep me humble so that I can hear you and see my sin!

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 5:27-32: 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 5:17-26: 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!

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 3:15-20: Minimize Me

Read: Luke 3:15-20

John the Baptist knew his place when it came to Jesus. He was well respected and revered as a prophet by the people that were coming to be baptized, and many thought that he may be the Messiah. In spite of all this, John humbled himself and used whatever authority and influence he had to point people to Jesus. John says of Jesus that he is not worthy to undo the thong of his sandal, which was considered a lowly task generally performed for the lowliest servant when guests came to one’s house.

John’s message was called “good news” yet Luke depicts Jesus as one with a winnowing fork. The winnowing fork was an instrument used to separate the wheat from the chaff, and the chaff was carried away by the wind and burned in fire. John speaks of Jesus baptizing by the Holy Spirit and my fire. Baptism of the Holy Spirit – that is receiving the Holy Spirit – is something that happens to all who believe when they become Christians. The Holy Spirit indwells all believers (John 2:20; 1 Corinthians 12:13). The allusion to fire though is not clear. It could either be a prophetic statement about what happened at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4) or a reference judgment that will come. In the context, the latter makes more sense because John is talking about Jesus separating the wheat from the chaff, and burning the chaff.

To illustrate how the gospel is offensive to some, Luke uses John’s encounter with Herod. John was bold enough to call out Herod, a strong and power ruler, on the adultery that he had with his sister-in-law, Herodias. Matthew 14:1-12 gives more details on the matter, where Herodias prompted her daughter, who had danced for Herod pleased him, to ask for the head of John the Baptist. Herod had John arrested and beheaded to fulfill her wishes. John made no special provisions for anyone and did not really care about his safety either, rather he was concerned about proclaiming good news and pointing people to Jesus.

The word “gospel” means “good news”. The coming of Jesus is good news for those that will accept it. For those that will not, it is offensive because it confronts people with their sin. But John the Baptist was embolden to preach this good news of Jesus rather than live in fear of what might happen to him. John’s martyrdom, zeal, and humility for the sake of gospel of Jesus serves as a reminder of the the attitude and priorities Christians ought to have concerning Jesus. Christians ought to get the good news of Jesus out and put Jesus in the spotlight so that he can be exalted.

Lord, help me to minimize myself and maximize Jesus in all things!

Luke 2:21-24: Significance in Symbols

Read: Luke 2:21-24

Mary and Joseph were devout Jews that not only kept traditions of the their people, but also kept the instructions that were given to them by angels.

  • Jesus was circumcised and named on the 8th day. This was done in accordance with the Law given to Moses and Abraham (Genesis 17:12, Leviticus 12:3).
  • Mary and Joseph were told to name their child Jesus independent of one another by angels on two separate occasion (Matthew 1:21, Luke 1:31).
  • Mary and Joseph presented Jesus at the temple according to the law (Leviticus 12:6).
  • Mary and Joseph also made sacrifices according to the law (Exodus 13:2)
  • Mary and Joseph also sacrificed two doves or pigeons according to the law (Leviticus 12:8). It is apparent that they could not afford a lamb, but the law made provisions for that.

While naming a baby and following traditions may not seem that remarkable, there is great symbolism in what they were doing in naming Jesus and presenting him as first born. The name “Jesus” in English is comes from the Hebrew name that means “God saves”. Matthew 1:21 makes note of this, saying that Jesus would be the one to save people from their sins. Also in this, the consecration of the firstborn male in a family was to remind the people when the Lord brought them out of slavery in Egypt – another motif of salvation. God spared the firstborn of everyone who sacrificed a lamb and put the blood on the doorposts of their homes (Exodus 13:12-15).

Christians don’t follow the laws like the Jews did because Jesus became the sacrifice for sin. Nevertheless there are some symbols that Christians have to remember what Christ did. First, Christ ordained what is known as communion or the “Lord’s Supper” as a memorial to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. This sacrifice was the payment for the sins committed by man (1 Corinthians 11:23-26, Luke 22:17-20). Second, Jesus gave Christians baptism, which notes both the cleansing of sins and the resurrection of Jesus and ultimately all believers (Romans 6:3-5, Colossians 2:12).

Rather than get caught up in rote religion, Christians ought to reflect on the reasons that symbols and signs exists. Usually these serve as a reminder of some work that God has done or a promise that God will fulfill as wit communion does for Jesus’ blood being spilled and baptism does a reminder of the resurrection of Jesus and the future resurrection of all men. These symbols and tradition can help draw us into a deeper relationship with the one who gave them.

Lord help me to remember what you have done and will do!

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