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A Moment with the Bible

Matthew 10:21-23

It is amazing that the teaching of the gospel would illicit such strong reactions, even to the point that a man’s enemies would be those of his own household. Could a brother really betray a brother or a father his own child? It not only could happen, it did happen during the Roman persecution of the church in the first and second centuries. There are times, when a person’s own life is at stake, that they feel justified in betraying others in order to save themselves. The apostles needed to be aware of these possible reactions so that they were not taken by surprise and respond sinfully. Thus in verse 16 Jesus said, “Be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” Though they were not to react to persecution sinfully nor fight back physically (innocent as doves), they were to be smart in how they dealt with the world they were teaching. Paul repeatedly used wisdom to avoid persecution. A Christian must be willing to accept persecution without denying the Lord, but that does not mean he goes looking for it or in any way encourages it.

 

In the midst of this kind of severe trial, who will be saved? Only those who “endure to the end.” Endurance implies a struggle. In other words, it will not be easy to be in the minority so that even close family members are betraying you. It is as those times especially that a Christian tends to question his commitment and wonder if this is what the Lord actually expects of him. But the only person who will be saved is the person who does not give in to the pressure. There may be a desire to bend to the crowd, but think of where that crowd is going on the Day of Judgment. In a parallel passage Jesus warned against being ashamed of Him (Mk. 8:38).

 

Thus, when persecuted, the disciples were urged to flee to the next city. No reason to stay and be killed, but do not quit telling the good news. The phrase, “until the Son of Man comes” most likely refers to Jesus’ “coming” to destroy the nation of Israel for their rejection. Jesus talks more about this “coming” when He speaks of the destruction of Jerusalem (Mt. 24:3; Mk. 14:61-62). We will discuss this in more detail when we come to Matthew 24.


A Moment with the Bible

Matthew 10:16-20

As Jesus readied the apostles for their journey in what has been called the Limited Commission, He continued His discourse to include challenges they would face even beyond their immediate mission. What Jesus says after verse 15 has to do with the rest of their lives as apostles.

 

The apostles are about to bring the good news of salvation to the whole world. What could be better than that? Who could possibly object to such a message? It would seem that the world would readily accept the apostles and anyone else bringing the gospel. At the very least, we would think that a person who was not interested would simply be indifferent. But Jesus shocks us by saying that His message will be received with violence. The apostles would be as sheep (physically helpless to defend themselves) in the midst of wolves (people who were bent on destroying them). But how could people possibly have such a violent reaction to something that is so good? The answer is that we are in the midst of two kingdoms at war. Satan reigns over a powerful kingdom that is bent on destroying the efforts of the Lord to save mankind. This is the reason we do not generally find people or governments indifferent to spiritual truth. The gospel is certainly not a threat to humanity. True Christianity does not force its way on anyone. But that is not Satan’s concern. His concern is the salvation of man and the victory of the kingdom of heaven.

 

The Lord gave the apostles a special promise in verses 19-20, that is not given to any other disciple. When they faced persecution and stood indicted for preaching the gospel, the Lord would give them the words to speak by the power of the Holy Spirit. You will see this same promise given to them in Mark 13:11. The fact that the Holy Spirit would be their “defense attorney” would be critical to their boldness and success. Though today we do not have that same promise, when we know the words of the Holy Spirit in the scriptures we can be as prepared as the apostles to give an answer to everyone who asks (1 Peter 3:15).


A Moment with the Bible

Matthew 10:8-15

In this text, Jesus prepares the apostles for how they should go about their work of bringing back the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As they preach that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, they are to use the powers Jesus gave them to heal those suffering from infirmities. Such use of miraculous powers would not only show the compassion of the Lord but also confirm the teaching of the apostles to be from God. We must remember that the use of the miraculous in the first century was critical to spreading the gospel. Without miracles to authenticate the teaching, no Jew would have given up following the Law of Moses and no Gentile would have been convinced to leave paganism. Notice that Jesus encourages the apostles to freely use these gifts since they had been freely given to them. In other words, these gifts were not for their own personal encouragement or as proof to themselves that God was with them. The gifts were to be used for the benefit of others and as proof of apostolic authority. Those today who claim miraculous powers neither demonstrate such by authentic gifts (“heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers”, vs. 8), nor do they do it for the benefit of others but instead to draw people to themselves and line their pockets with their money.

 

There is a significant difference in how the apostles were to go on this limited commission to Israel and how they would later go to the whole world in the Great Commission. Since Israel was considered within the covenant relationship of God, the Lord expected worthy Jewish people to provide for the apostles as they did their work: “for a worker is worthy of his food” (vs. 10). However, when the apostles took the gospel to the whole world they would either provide for themselves by their own labor or churches/Christians would take care of their support. They did not attempt to take money from those to whom they were bringing the gospel. This is one of the critical differences between a true teacher of God and a false teacher. False teachers are constantly trying to make money off those they teach (2 Peter 2:1-3). True teachers do not exploit the lost people they teach but instead rely on their own brethren for support (1 Cor. 9:14) or the labor of their own hands (Acts 20:33-34).


A Moment with the Bible

Matthew 10:1-7

The text before us is the second of the five major discourses of Jesus that Matthew records. In this discourse, Jesus gives instructions to His apostles as He sends them out on the Limited Commission. This commission has been called “limited” because He sent them only to Israel and forbid them to go to the Gentiles. Later, in 28:19, Jesus will give the Great Commission in which He will send His disciples into all the world. This pattern of spreading the gospel was followed later in the book of Acts. The first nine chapters of Acts records the spread of the gospel to the Jews only. When Paul (who was sent to the Gentiles) would enter a city, he would first go to the Jews and then to the Gentiles. The Jews had been prepared for the coming of the kingdom and thus it was only fitting that they be given the first opportunity.

 

The key to this first mission by the apostles was their message. Israel had been looking for the coming kingdom and therefore Jesus tells them to go and announce that the kingdom is at hand. We need to stop and ask ourselves a question: “Was Jesus right about that? Was the kingdom about to begin?” Surely, you would think, no one would suggest Jesus was in error. But you would be wrong. Most of the religious world believes that though the Lord intended to establish the kingdom, it did not work out because the Jews rejected Jesus and therefore the perfect earthly kingdom He would have started had to be postponed. Instead, as the theory goes, Jesus established the “church age.” This doctrine is utterly false. Jesus never intended to establish an earthly kingdom (John 18:36) and the church was not an afterthought. His kingdom is heavenly, as Matthew states 37 times in his book (“Kingdom of heaven”). Jesus’ kingdom did begin and Jesus is reigning on His throne (Acts 2:34-36), and will reign until death is destroyed (1 Cor. 15:24-26). As for the “church” (that is, the saved), they are the ones who are citizens of this great kingdom. Everything happened just as God planned. If the kingdom did not come (as those who follow Tim LaHaye and the “Left Behind” series believe), then Jesus lied, the prophets who foretold it were false prophets, and God who planned it to take place in the first century is not sovereign.


A Moment with the Bible

Matthew 9:32-38

After Matthew records nine miracles he offers two reactions. The first is the reaction of the multitudes. They are amazed and say, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.” That is the honest and truthful reaction. But more important is the reaction of those who did not believe Jesus was the Messiah. For anyone who is interested in examining the evidence of whether or not Jesus is the Christ, the testimony of His detractors is critical. So, what will they say? Will they deny that He ever did anything miraculous? Will they talk about how His miracles were done by slight of hand? Will they suggest that those He purported to heal were really not ill at all? No, they will not say any of these things. Instead, they will admit that He has done the miracles, but deny that the source is from God. “He casts out demons by the ruler of demons.” That is an admission that the demons were cast out! Jesus will later expose the foolishness of such an argument. Why would the Satan destroy his own kingdom?

 

The final verses of this chapter give us a most important picture. How did Jesus see the multitudes? When He looked at the common people, what was His reaction? In John 7:49, we read of how the Pharisees viewed the people: “This multitude who knows not the Law is accursed.” But Jesus saw them differently. Jesus saw them from God’s point of view. He saw them the same way we should see the people around us today. Jesus pictured people as sheep, wounded, fainting, and scattered. They were not in that condition completely on their own accord. They had no shepherd, no guidance, no one to take care of them. But what do we see when we look at those around us? Do we simply think of their sinfulness, shrink back from contact with them, and condemn them from afar? When we do, we are in the same category as the Pharisees.

“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” The Lord is looking for those who have His heart, who see people with a heart of compassion and are willing to go and help them. Unfortunately, those kinds of people are few in number. Most simply condemn and count others unworthy of the Lord’s mercy. Therefore, pray that the Lord will send laborers into His harvest, and as you do, think about yourself.


A Moment with the Bible

Matthew 9:27-31

Matthew records nine miracles in chapters eight and nine proving the authority with which He spoke in His sermon on the mountain. However, we must not simply be awed by the power of Jesus, we must look beyond and see His character; we must see in Him the true nature of the God we serve. Our God is compassionate, seeking those who are seeking Him.

 

Look at the scene. Two blind men followed Jesus. They are blind but they see more than many. “Son of David” denotes that they recognized Him as the Messiah. Jesus did not immediately respond, but that did not discourage them from continuing to follow and cry out. Do not miss this point. The faith of these men was not casual; it was persistent and unwavering. That is exactly the kind of faith we must have. Too many are casual seekers, giving up easily at the first sign of difficulty. But Jesus’ demand is that we strive diligently to enter the kingdom; casual seekers will not enter (Luke 13:24).

 

One touch and their eyes were opened. The next words of Jesus are, “See that no one knows it.” Interesting, isn’t it? He told them to say nothing, but not even the command of Jesus could stop them from spreading His fame. Indeed, who could keep from sharing with others how their eyes were opened? And yet, every Christian has been given more than these two men. Every Christian has been given sight. We know the future. We know the Judgment that is coming. We know the great mercy we have been given. But do we feel the same burning desire to share with others the salvation the Lord has given us? Two blind men are commanded to tell no one, but they spread His fame abroad. We are told to tell everyone, but too often we remain silent.


A Moment with the Bible

Matthew 9:18-26

We noted earlier that chapters eight and nine record nine miracles of Jesus divided into three groups with the reaction of the people given at the conclusion of each grouping. We now come to the final group of three. The first incident is actually two miracles combined into one story. Jesus is on His way to raise a twelve-year-old girl and in the midst of the press of the multitude a woman who has suffered for those same twelve years comes behind Him and touches the hem of His garment. Matthew abbreviates the account while Mark and Luke fill us with the details (Mark 5:22-43; Luke 8:41-56).

 

First, there is a ruler of a synagogue whose only child lies near death and in fact dies as Jesus agrees to come to his home to heal her. It is important for us to feel what this man felt. Mark tells us that he “earnestly begged” Jesus to help him. Remember a similar incident with the centurion at the beginning of chapter eight? The Gentile believed Jesus could heal without coming to his house. But the Jewish ruler bids Him to come. In both cases we see the compassion of Jesus. It is this compassion we also must learn. In the midst of the busy schedules we keep, there are needs of people around us, lost people, suffering people, dying people. Will we stop what we are doing and show compassion?

 

The second picture is fascinating. The crowd is thronging Jesus, but somewhere standing on that street is a woman who has suffered for twelve years with a constant flow of blood. She had spent all she had on doctors and was no better. But there is a greater tragedy. Under the law, she has been unclean for all those years. Everything she touched and every person who touched her would have to be cleansed. But now, within reach, is the Great Physician. “If only I can touch His garment,” she thought. Weaving through the crowd she came within reach, and with that one touch twelve years of misery was wiped out. When an unclean leper came to Jesus, He touched him. And when an unclean woman touches Him, the result is the same. Do we really see what has happened here? These have touched God and the result is healing and cleanness. We need that. Every one of us needs that. Today, we can still come to Him and the suffering from spiritual illness will be healed, the separation from heaven’s realm will be mended.


A Moment with the Bible

Matthew 9:14-17

The Pharisees normally fasted twice a week. According to Jesus in Matthew 6, they used fasting as a badge of honor to prove their righteousness. There were very few fast days specifically commanded in the Old Testament, the Day of Atonement on the tenth day of the seventh month being the most notable. Generally speaking, the purpose of fasting is to be an individual matter, to draw a person closer to God. By making a commitment to forego food, a person is able to give himself to meditation without the constant interruption of fulfilling the needs of the flesh. The ability to focus on spiritual needs and one’s relationship with God is more easily accomplished. As a side benefit, the body is taught that it will not die by going without food for 24 hours. This gives a person more self-control, not only over food, but in all areas of life.

 

Jesus gives three brief parables to teach the disciples of John that fasting was not appropriate while He was on the earth. First, fasting is certainly not done during a wedding. Weddings were a time of feasting and rejoicing, not a time to “afflict” one’s soul (Lev. 23:29-32). Once Jesus left the earth, fasting would be appropriate because the Bridegroom would no longer be present.

The second and third parables teach a similar principle. Putting an unshrunk patch on an old garment is simply something that is not done. It would not be appropriate because it would only make the tear worse. Putting new wine into old wineskins is the same. Old wineskins have the residue of old wine, which would immediately cause the fresh juice to ferment and explode the already stretched wineskin. No one would do such a thing. Therefore, fasting was to be occasional in nature. There were appropriate and inappropriate occasions to fast and simply choosing certain days of the week to fast may not fit the occasion of that day.

Is Jesus, as so many say, trying to teach something about putting Old Testament principles into New Testament containers? I think such reasoning is stretching the context. It has nothing to do with the point at hand.


A Moment with the Bible

Matthew 9:11-13

When Jesus attended a feast at Matthew’s house and ate with a group of tax collectors and sinners, the Pharisees were appalled. They believed that touching or eating with sinners made them unclean. “Pharisee” meant “the separated one.” They prided themselves on maintaining a distance from all “defilements of the flesh,” and this included people who did not meet up to their standards of righteousness. However, Jesus answers that it is the only way a physician can help those who are sick. The Pharisees had missed the whole point of service to God. If we are not going to help others come to the Lord, then how do we have the love of God within us?

Jesus challenges these Jews to learn the meaning of Hosea 6:6, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” This is the first of two times that Jesus will quote this passage to the Jews. For Jesus to continue to challenge them with this verse tells us that we also need to learn its meaning. The intent of the text is, I desire mercy, not simply sacrifices. It is too often typical of religious people to think they have satisfied the demands  of service to God when they have participated in some act of worship. For the Jews, as long as the sacrifices and outward rituals of worship were offered, they believed their duty was done. But worship is to lead us to learn to have a heart like God. If we have not become more God-like, worship has lost its purpose.

“Mercy” refers to our relationships with others. We must live with a heart of compassion for those who are lost and in need around us. It is sad that religion has become something only done in a church building. James said, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” Religion has to do both with our own inner life and how we love our fellowman.


A Moment with the Bible

Matthew 9:9-10

In chapters eight and nine, Matthew emphasized how Jesus had gone to the outcasts of society. His miracles included a leper, a woman, a Gentile and two demon-possessed men. In the midst of this, Matthew now records his own call to follow Jesus. Matthew was a tax collector and also considered an outcast among the Jews. The Romans allowed the tax collectors to collect more than the required tax in order to pay their own wage. This led to corruption as tax collectors typically over-charged. Jewish tax collectors were also hated because they were seen as traitors among their own people who bristled under the yoke of Roman rule.

 

The presence of Matthew among Jesus’ disciples makes an interesting group of men. Most of them are Galilean fishermen who were certainly not highly respected since they were uneducated men. Now we see Matthew in the group, and later, Simon the Zealot (Acts 1:13). The Zealots were a small sect of Jews bent on the violent overthrow of the Roman government. Only in Christ could a Zealot and a tax collector be united. Just imagine how amazing it is that this rag-tag group of men were able to trigger a spiritual revolution that would turn the world upside down. It is only by the power of God that it is possible.

 

Luke’s account tells us that after Jesus’ call, Matthew held a feast at his house and invited a large group of his tax collector and sinner friends. Matthew leaves us a wonderful example of how to reach lost people – invite them into your home where they can mingle with Christians. Matthew gave his friends an opportunity to be around Jesus. If we are going to save a lost world, we must use our homes to make connections with those who will respond to the gospel.


A Moment with the Bible

Matthew 9:1-8

In this chapter, Matthew will present six more miracles of Jesus in two groups of three. However, we will also see that that opposition arises to challenge Jesus because of His popularity. There is first a challenge of who He is, then a challenge to His purpose and mission, and finally a challenge concerning the character of His disciples.

 

The text before us presents a unique way in which Jesus healed a paralyzed man. Instead of simply raising him up, Jesus says, “Your sins are forgiven.” Put yourself in the position of those who were listening. Such a proclamation would catch the attention of any man. When Jesus pronounces a man’s sins as forgiven, He at the same time issues a challenge to every person to make a choice concerning Him. He is either God with the power to forgive sins or He is delusional. There is no middle ground. One cannot say that He is just a good person who did wonderful things, but not the Son of God. If He was not the Son of God, He was crazy!

 

Obviously, the scribes immediately understood the implications of Jesus’ claim to be able to forgive sins. Jesus’ answer is, “Which is easier to say…?” The easier thing to say was, “Your sins are forgiven,” since it was not something that needed visual proof. The more difficult statement would be to say, “Arise and walk,” because then if the man did not get up, Jesus was proven a fraud. Therefore, Jesus proved He had to power to forgive sins by telling the man to arise and walk. It is amazing that the Jewish leaders still question Him as to who He was and where He got His authority. This incident makes it obvious. Jesus pronounced a man’s sins forgiven and then healed his paralysis. He is God. He could not be anyone else.

 

What is your choice? Is Jesus of Nazareth delusional, or is He the Son of God?

Matthew 9:1-8

In this chapter, Matthew will present six more miracles of Jesus in two groups of three. However, we will also see that that opposition arises to challenge Jesus because of His popularity. There is first a challenge of who He is, then a challenge to His purpose and mission, and finally a challenge concerning the character of His disciples.

 

The text before us presents a unique way in which Jesus healed a paralyzed man. Instead of simply raising him up, Jesus says, “Your sins are forgiven.” Put yourself in the position of those who were listening. Such a proclamation would catch the attention of any man. When Jesus pronounces a man’s sins as forgiven, He at the same time issues a challenge to every person to make a choice concerning Him. He is either God with the power to forgive sins or He is delusional. There is no middle ground. One cannot say that He is just a good person who did wonderful things, but not the Son of God. If He was not the Son of God, He was crazy!

 

Obviously, the scribes immediately understood the implications of Jesus’ claim to be able to forgive sins. Jesus’ answer is, “Which is easier to say…?” The easier thing to say was, “Your sins are forgiven,” since it was not something that needed visual proof. The more difficult statement would be to say, “Arise and walk,” because then if the man did not get up, Jesus was proven a fraud. Therefore, Jesus proved He had to power to forgive sins by telling the man to arise and walk. It is amazing that the Jewish leaders still question Him as to who He was and where He got His authority. This incident makes it obvious. Jesus pronounced a man’s sins forgiven and then healed his paralysis. He is God. He could not be anyone else.

 

What is your choice? Is Jesus of Nazareth delusional, or is He the Son of God?


A Moment With The Bible

Matthew 8:28-34

This text immediately causes us to ask a number questions. (1) What is “demon possession,” and why are some demons more violent than others? (2) What do the demons mean when they ask Jesus if He has come to torment them before the time? (3) Why would the demons desire to go into the swine and why would Jesus send them knowing that it would destroy the herd? (4) Why did the whole city ask Jesus to leave?

 

As to the first question, demons were apparently spirit beings who had rebelled from God somewhere back in eternity. We draw this conclusion because God would have made all beings good but also with a freewill. Satan and his angels at some point chose to go their own way and establish their own kingdom with the intent to destroy all the good intentions of the Lord. These beings were also made with varying amounts of power and this power was not taken away from them just because of their rebellion. Therefore, we see them using their powers in different ways and with different amounts of strength. Demons, along with the devil’s angels (possibly two different types of spirits), were given a “time” period after which they would be cast into “tartarus” (apparently the punishment side of Hades, 2 Pet. 2:4). These demons feared that Jesus had come to torment them before their time was up. Apparently, the demons desired to go into the swine because they hated to be left without an inhabitable home (Mt. 12:43-45). Why this is and why Jesus allowed them to go into the swine, we do not know. However, if the swine herders were Jews, they would have been in violation of the Law to use unclean animals as food. Finally, it is interesting to see the city ask Jesus to leave. In every other place, the common people were glad to have Him in their midst. Possibly in this case it is because of their sinfulness. When people are unwilling to repent of their sins, it is difficult to have the “Light” expose them.

What is the lesson for us? Jesus was destroying Satan’s kingdom. Demon possession was a visual symbol of all that Satan was doing to God’s creation. Satan had started this battle and now Jesus was beginning the movement that would conquer Him and free mankind from his tyranny.


A Moment with the Bible

Matthew 8:23-27

There would have been no place these disciples would have felt more comfortable than on the Sea of Galilee. Most of them had made their living from this sea and had spent most of their lives navigating its waters. It is therefore fascinating to picture them struggling to keep the boat afloat in this storm. It is evident that they had never before faced such a dire situation. On the other hand, it is somewhat comical to see that Jesus is fast asleep. He is not concerned. The rocking of the boat is only giving Him a better nap. Consider this, will the ship go down with the Master in it? Is it possible that the waters would engulf the Creator of the universe?

 

Finally, after these experienced seamen have done all they know to do, they turn to Jesus. In a panic they awaken Him pleading with Him to save them. At least they knew where to turn, but it is evident they had no idea the extent of His ability to save them. It is an amazing picture that Matthew gives us of Jesus rising and literally rebuking the wind and the sea. Do you see that word? Jesus speaks to the wind and the sea as if they are unruly children. Mark’s account tells us that He said, “Peace! Be still!” And like whimpering, scolded children, the wind immediately ceased and there was a great calm on the sea. The disciples marveled, “Who is this that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” Who else but the Creator in the flesh!

 

Now think of the words of Jesus, “Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” The lesson is as powerful for today as it was then. The boat will not go down with Jesus in it. How many times in your life have you found yourself in the same panic as these men? The trials of life have tossed you until it has taken all the fight out of you and you are convinced the cause is hopeless. That is when we must remember this story. If you are serving the Lord, the boat will not go down. It cannot; not when the Master of ocean and seas is in it with you.


A Moment with the Bible

Matthew 8:18-22

In this text Matthew gives a sample reaction to the first three miracles in the nine he will present in chapters eight and nine. Just as Jesus is about to depart to the other side of the sea, a scribe impetuously tells Jesus that he will follow Him wherever He goes. Jesus seems to understand that the man has not completely considered the cost in following Him wherever. At the moment, the popularity of Jesus was riding high, but that did not mean He was living a comfortable lifestyle. He had no place to call home, not even a place to lay his head. There is a profound lesson we Christians need to learn from this simple text. Following Jesus is not a pastime, nor does it fit well in a “country-club” atmosphere. Discipleship is challenging and constantly demands a sacrifice of self and of the comfortable lifestyle to which we are so often accustomed.

Another disciple is also eager to follow Jesus, but he asks if Jesus would first allow him to go and bury his father. Jesus’ reply is shocking:  “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” It is possible that this man’s father was not yet dead and that this was the Jewish way of saying, “I will follow you once my father is dead.” If this is the case, this man is clearly procrastinating. It could be years before his father was dead. But even if his father was now dead, there was nothing further he could do for him and his request to do something first before following Jesus was unacceptable.

Again, every Christian must take these words to heart. Serving Christ cannot be done when life is convenient. It is not only a matter of priorities, it is a matter of urgency. The fact that Jesus bids him to let the spiritually dead bury the physically dead indicates that there is a pressing need to spread the gospel since others are still alive that may soon be dead. We need to learn to serve Christ with this same urgency. There are lost souls all around us who have no promise of tomorrow. An eternity without the Lord is awaiting them. If we do not do share the gospel with them, who will?


A Moment with the Bible

Matthew 8:14-17

The healing of Peter’s mother-in-law is the third miracle in this beginning group of miracles. It was first a leper, then a Gentile, and now a woman. Jesus has begun His ministry among those who are ordinary. That is comforting, isn’t it? How often we stand back and watch as the talented, the beautiful, and the rich seem to have it all. As we scan the magazine covers in grocery store aisles we realize that millions live out their fantasies and dreams through the lives of the famous. But those dreams are empty and the fantasies a waste of time. How wonderful to know that the ordinary person is sought out by Jesus. One day we will not be ordinary. One day we will sit on the throne with the King of kings and the Lord of lords, the Creator of the universe.

 

When evening came, the multitudes brought both the demon possessed and those who were ill and Jesus healed them all. Matthew takes this occasion to quote from Isaiah 53, the great chapter on the Messiah as the suffering servant. In the context of Isaiah, it is evident that physical healing is not exactly what the prophet had in mind. In fact, Peter quotes from this same text and makes it clear that the healing is spiritual; a healing that takes away our sins (1 Pet. 2:24). Certainly Jesus did not die on a cross to heal us of physical infirmities. Indeed, if that is so, He was a failure, for our illnesses remain.

 

Instead, we learn from this text the method of Jesus and the purpose of His ministry and His church. His miracles in the physical realm were given to teach us eternal truths. Healing physical infirmities proved His ability to heal the greater spiritual infirmities. This ought to also redirect the mission the Lord left for His church. God did not give us the local church to care for the physical needs of the world. Again, if that is so, it is a failure. No, our mission is the spiritual needs of the world and when a church forgets this, they have missed their whole reason for existing.


A Moment with the Bible

Matthew 8:5-13

As we read about this centurion, keep in mind that Matthew’s gospel is specifically written to the Jews. In spite of this, Matthew persists in bringing up the Gentiles. There were at least four references to Gentiles in the first four chapters, and now, immediately following the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew again presents a Gentile worshiper. We are reminded of Paul’s statement in Romans 11:13-14, “For I speak to you Gentiles…if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh and save some of them.” It seems that Matthew is also provoking his own people with the faith of the Gentiles.

 

This is one of the few occasions when Jesus marveled. But what about the centurion was so amazing? Notice in the text that Jesus was willing to come to the man’s house and heal his servant. However, the centurion would not allow him saying he understood Jesus’ authority. With the authority of Jesus, the distance between Him and the home of the centurion was insignificant. The centurion believed Jesus could say the word and his servant would be healed. This is an excellent lesson on the meaning of authority. Jesus later says, “All authority is given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Mt. 28:18). What then does it mean to be under His authority? To use the centurion’s words, when Jesus says, “Do this,” we must do it or else we are rebelling against His authority.

 

Jesus immediately uses the faith of the centurion to foretell the disbelief and eventual judgment of the Jewish nation. The Gentiles, who will come from “east and west,” will sit down in the kingdom with the fathers of the Jewish nation. But the Jews, who longed for such a position, would be cast out into outer darkness. The “weeping and gnashing of teeth” is significant here. This agony is not a result of some kind of pain inflicted in hell, but of the knowledge of what was lost. There will be more than the Jews who will feel this agony. How sad for a person to get to the day of judgment and agonize over the knowledge of what was lost because of putting this world before service to the Lord.


A Moment with the Bible

Matthew 8:4

There are three things in the incident with the leper that we cannot overlook. Each has to do with the words of Jesus to the leper. First, there are the words, “I am willing, be cleansed.” In Leviticus 13 & 14, leprosy is used as one of the symbols of sin and uncleanness. No one was allowed to approach the Lord while unclean. Thus, the key verse in Leviticus is, “You shall be holy, for I am holy”(Lev. 11:44). God’s intention is that we be set apart from worldly sin and defilements. Therefore, we must see ourselves in connection with this leper. Spiritually speaking, we are no different. Sin eats away at us, keeps us from being in fellowship with the Father, and eventually destroys us eternally. Our only hope is to be cleansed by Jesus. Fortunately, He is willing just as He was willing to cleanse the leper.

 

The second statement that is notable is, “See that you tell no man…” In making a decision about the authenticity of Jesus, we cannot overlook this statement. A fraud would have desired the popularity of this miracle. A fraud would have encouraged the publicity. But instead, Jesus was concerned about the popularity. In the parallel account (Mk. 1:45), the result of this man telling everyone of his healing made it so Jesus could no longer enter the cities. Jesus did not want to lose contact with the individual. This is a critical key to evangelism. Our success is not based on grand publicity schemes, but on each person telling a friend or neighbor about the Lord. This is how the gospel was spread in the first century. Indeed, it was the only way it could be spread.

 

The third statement is, “Show yourself to the priest as a testimony to them.” According to the law, the diagnosis of leprosy would first come from the priest. For the healed man to return to the priest and show himself would be a testimony to the Jewish leaders that the Messiah had arrived. No one could cleanse such a disease but God. The miracle still stands today as a testimony to us. He is the Christ; He is God who came in the flesh to cleanse mankind of their sins.


A Moment with the Bible

Matthew 7:28-29

“And when Jesus finished these words,” is a phrase Matthew uses five times in his book. Though Matthew records nine discourses of Jesus altogether, he uses this phrase at the conclusion of the five largest discourses. Possibly Matthew intends to set these five sermons apart from the rest as the ones that significantly define the new kingdom. The following is a list of the five major discourses of Jesus recorded in Matthew:

  1. The Sermon on the Mount, chapters 5-7
  2. Discourse on Sacrifices of a Kingdom Citizen, chapter 10
  3. The Parables of the Kingdom, chapter 13
  4. Discourse on Brotherly Love in the Kingdom, chapter 18
  5. Discourse on the Destruction of Jerusalem & End Times, chapters 24-25

When Jesus completed this sermon, we are told that the multitudes were “amazed” (NASB), “astonished” (NKJV). The people had never heard teaching like this. The scribes typically taught by citing the conclusions of well-known rabbis. Therefore, they taught by appealing to the authority of others. Jesus taught by saying that He is the authority. “I say unto you” was the repeated statement of Jesus. And even when He did not use that phrase, it was inferred by the force of His commands. No ordinary human could have spoken in such a way. Jesus spoke as one having authority because He is the ultimate authority.

As we conclude this great sermon, we must reflect on ourselves lest the words of Jesus become merely academic. Each of us must ask ourselves, “Am I poor in spirit, mourning over sins, hungering and thirsting for righteousness? Do I just keep the ‘letter of the law’ without practicing its full intent? When I worship, is my overriding concern how the Father sees my effort? Have I used worship to touch the thoughts and intents of my heart? How am I doing with material possessions? Am I trying to serve two masters? Is His kingdom and His righteousness first in my life? How do I treat my brother? Am I judgmental and picky, or do I love him as myself? Finally, am I just calling Him Lord, or am I really obeying Him as my Lord?”


A Moment with the Bible

Matthew 7:24-27

The final illustration of Jesus sermon is in the form of a parable. This will be the climactic point of His lesson. The conclusion of any man’s sermon is always the point that summarizes the whole of what he has said previously. In 7:13-14, Jesus had said that every man enters one of two gates and travels one of two roads. Now He states that every man builds a house on one of two foundations. A man’s house is his life, but there are two foundations upon which to build it.

 

It is interesting that Jesus does not comment on the structure of the building or the kind of building materials that are used. Upon completion, both buildings look the same; they look beautiful and solid. But it is not winter yet. It is summer and the rains have not come. We may look at our own life and say, “It looks good. I’m doing fine!” But the winds and the rain have not yet come; the trials have not tested your work. The psalmist said, “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build it” (Psalm 127:1).

 

Which foundation is which? “Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.” The foundation that is solid, the house that will stand, is the one who builds his life on the word of God and acts upon it. In contrast, the one who does not hear or do His word, will be like a house built on sand. It will not stand when Judgment comes. Upon what is your life built?


A Moment with the Bible

Matthew 7:21-23

In this text Jesus reveals that there will be some shocking surprises on the Day of Judgment. There will be people who are confident of their salvation but will instead be lost. Not only that, but these people will have worked diligently in this life in the hope of going to heaven. They will be religious people. They will be people who claim to follow the Lord and who are doing many wonderful works in the name of the Lord. They claim that the Lord is their Master and they will call on Him, pray to Him, and teach others about Him.

How could such be lost? How could the Lord say to these people that He “never knew them?” Listen to the words, “Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” These people were “lawless.” That is, they claimed to follow the Lord, but they did not obey His laws. These people are a dime a dozen. They are all around us. They talk about how they love the Lord and that He is the number one joy of their lives, but they do not do what He says. In a parallel passage, Jesus asked, “Why do you call Me Lord, Lord, and do not do the things that I say?” (Luke 6:46).

Denominations are filled with man-made creeds and traditions of men. They think nothing of gathering a convention and voting on what belief system they will accept or reject or what accepted immorality they will allow. A church can talk all it wants about how it is following God, but that does not make it so. Only those who stay within the confines of the written will of God in the New Testament are truly His disciples (John 8:31-32). Listen to Jesus, “I never knew you.” It is not that He does not know who they are or was not aware of their works. There is no fellowship with them and never was. How sad that many go placidly through life confident of their intimacy with the Savior, yet do not obey Him. And on that Day, what a surprise!  We must beware that we are not surprised on the Day of Judgment.


A Moment with the Bible

Matthew 7:15-20

Immediately after the warning that there are two gates and two ways, Jesus cautions that there are those who will try to take you down the wrong road. The disciple of Christ must be discriminating in how he esteems and evaluates those who teach. Can it possibly be that there are ministers of the gospel who are actually false teachers? Absolutely. For many, that is a shocking truth. Paul states, “For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness” (2 Cor. 11:14-15).

 

So what do these false teachers look like? They look like sheep. They look like followers of Christ. Here is the danger. Most people think that a minister of Satan will appear evil. No, they will appear to be righteous; they appear as sheep. One cannot determine their truthfulness or their character simply by their personality and their fair speeches. They are only known by their fruit. Is the lifestyle of this teacher upright and good? Is what this person teaches in accordance with the word of God? It may take diligent effort to search the scriptures to know the difference, but one’s eternity is at stake.

 

The fierceness of these false teachers is indicated by the fact that inwardly they are ravening wolves. They are interested in satisfying their appetites and think nothing of destroying the flock in order to obtain their goal. Notice that Jesus uses the word “beware.” The implication is that most are not aware and that the danger is serious. None of us would casually walk through a jungle filled with wild animals. But most refuse to acknowledge that there are wolves all around us.

 

However, some love to be deceived. The truth is difficult and hard to swallow because it is narrow and restrictive. Error is much more pleasant because it allows us to do as we please; it is the broad way that leads to destruction.


A Moment with the Bible

Matthew 7:13-14

Look carefully at this text. You will notice a series of alternatives. In each case the alternatives are choices between one of two. In the old game show, Let’s Make a Deal, contestants could choose between what was behind door number one, door number two, or door number three. Jesus does not give three alternatives. There are only two. Notice in this text that there are two gates, two ways, two destinies, and two groups of people – one group “few” and the other group “many.” Between these two groups all of humanity is pictured. No one is left out. Every person passes through one of two gates, travels one of two ways, and will eventually arrive at one of two destinations.

 

Jesus’ command is to “enter” by the narrow gate, which implies that effort is required. The fact that Jesus uses the word “narrow” implies that it is not easily entered. The gate does not allow just anyone to come in. A person must strip himself of sin and worldly entanglements in order to enter. A narrow gate makes heaven more attractive because a wider gate would let in those who are evil. But not only is the gate narrow, the way is difficult. The road to heaven is not a big wide interstate allowing the traveler to use cruise control. The road to heaven is challenging and filled with sacrifices.

 

We must be impressed with the end of each journey. One can take a wide gate and a broad way, but the end is restrictive; the end is destruction. Take the easy way, and the end will be hard. The contrast is that one can enter the narrow gate and travel the difficult road, but the end is wide open; the end is eternal life. The man who is only looking at the gate and the road without seeing what is ahead, is a fool.

 

Finally, notice the words “few” and “many.” Mankind has an inexplicable tendency of believing that the majority is right. Sometimes they are. But in spiritual matters the majority is wrong. Most do not want to take the more difficult path. Most do not want to strictly follow the Bible or deny themselves the pleasures of sin. Most will not be saved. Only the few will “find it.”


A Moment with the Bible

Matthew 7:7-12

Let’s begin with the question, “How does this text fit in within the context of the sermon, specifically in this location of the sermon?” The answer is that Jesus has just warned against disciples being critical toward one another. The Lord is the opposite. God is a liberal giver who does to others as He would have them do to Him. God is a caring God. He gives to those who ask, He makes it so those who seek will find, and He opens to those who knock. A critical speck-finder will do none of these things. Notice that verse 12 begins with “therefore.” The “golden rule,” as it is called, is the conclusion of verses 1-11. The conclusion is based on the character of God. Since God is wonderful to give when we ask and open when we knock, we should be the same to our fellow man. To do otherwise is not to be God-like.

 

Notice, “ask,” “seek,” and “knock.” These are present tense verbs that mean, “Ask, and keep asking, seek, and keep seeking, knock, and keep knocking.” Each command grows in intensity. “Ask,” implies recognition of our dependence. “Seek,” indicates an urgency and desire to obtain. “Knock,” shows a diligent effort to enter where blessings can be found. Only God is able to give these “good gifts” and we should be trying to obtain them.

 

However, the implication is that most disciples do not seek God’s good gifts as they should. Why not? Because they lack the confidence that God will give. How foolish! What father would do any less? Even earthly fathers do not give evil things to their children who ask for that which is good. Would not our heavenly Father do far more than an earthly father? Consider also, if we ask for good things, our Father will give us good things. But if we ask for that which would not be good for us, will not our Father still give us that which is good? That is the blessing of having a perfect heavenly Father.


A Moment with the Bible

Matthew 7:1-6

This text is one of the most misused in the Bible. It is said that Jesus is forbidding His disciples from ever correcting a person who is in error or who has a sin in his life. If this interpretation is true, then Jesus repeatedly violated His own rule and the apostles were equally bad offenders. Even in this text (vs. 5), Jesus commanded that we remove a speck from a brother’s eye once the log has been removed from our own eye. In verse 6, Jesus warned against giving that which is holy to dogs or pearls to swine. In order to obey that command, we must judge as to whether a person falls into the category of a hog or a dog. In John 7:24, Jesus commanded His disciples to “judge righteous judgment” but not to “judge according to appearance.”

 

What then is the meaning of Jesus’ words? Jesus is warning against harsh, nitpicking, speck-finding judgment. Imagine the lack of care that would be taken by a person trying to remove a speck while a log was in his own eye. Those who are always trying to examine every detail of another person’s life are not spending adequate time looking into their own lives. Only the person who is acutely aware of his own shortcomings and who diligently works to correct his sins, is qualified to help a brother with his faults. Thus, Jesus is warning against hypocritical judgment. Some pick on the tiniest flaw in another, but disregard major issues in themselves. Such judgmental people will end up getting the same kind of treatment in return, both in this life and the one to come.

 

But who might be a “hog” and a “dog?” These are people who show no regard for that which is holy and good. We cannot determine this until we have actually presented the gospel to a person. When their reaction is to despise what has been offered, go to others and leave these alone. Further efforts with people like this will only end violence and trouble.


A Moment with the Bible

Matthew 2:19-23

The fourth reference to prophecy in chapter two is unusual because there is no direct quote. Instead, Matthew says that Jesus dwelt in Nazareth “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets....” Matthew does not refer to any one prophecy but tells us that this was something of which many prophets spoke. Is there a specific prophecy that refers to Jesus as a “Nazarene?” No, but that does not mean we cannot understand Matthew’s reference.

In the first place, one from Nazareth was considered a “nobody.” In John 1:46, Nathaniel said to Philip, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Thus, it is interesting that Jesus was not known as a “Bethlehemite,” which would have connected Him with David and a messianic lineage. He is known as a Nazarene and therefore as Isaiah said, “despised and rejected” (Isa. 53:3).

Some also suggest that the background of the word “Nazarene” comes from the Hebrew “netzer,” meaning “sprout.” It is the idea of a tree being cut down and left for dead. But at some point a green sprout comes up where the tree once was. It seems to be of no use and such a sprout is despised. But this is exactly how both Isaiah and Zechariah referred to the coming messiah: “There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots” (Isa. 11:1). "Then speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, saying: "Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, And He shall build the temple of the LORD” (Zech. 6:12).

Possibly there is even another picture that can be suggested. Nazareth was a city off the main highways. Important people did not go there; they stayed on the big roads going to their personal destinations. But for those who are looking for a hope beyond the pursuits of this world, that hope is found in this rejected city. There we can find the Nazarene, the sprout of hope when all else seems to be lost. There the despised and rejected will go to find One who lighten their burdens and give them a yoke that is easy (Mt. 11:29-30). “He shall be called a Nazarene,” but God exalted Him above every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come” (Eph. 1:20-22).


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