Scripture reading for October 10th: Matthew 16-19
The Pharisees and Sadducees are two groups of religious people that were often in conflict with Jesus. They often came to Jesus to test Him and to try to make themselves look good by discrediting Him. (Matthew 16:1-4) One day, they came asking Jesus for a sign from heaven to confirm that He was Messiah. Jesus had just fed the 5000 with the loaves and fishes and had been doing many other miracles. (Matthew 14:16-21) He had offended the Pharisees earlier by warning the people about the hypocrisy of those religious leaders. He called them blind guides that if someone would follow them, they would both fall into a pit! (Matthew 15:12-14) Now they were testing Him again!
Jesus’ response was to rebuke them and leave them quickly. He told them that a wicked and adulterous generation would seek a sign. They would only be given the sign of Jonah, the prophet. He then warned his followers to watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees. They didn’t understand. Jesus explained that the yeast was their teaching that would lead them and others away from the truth He was sharing.
They then traveled to Caesarea Philippi, an area at the mouth of the Jordan River at the foot of Mount Herman. There Jesus asked His disciples two key questions. Jesus asked them, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (Matthew 16:13) They told him various answers that were common among the people of that day. Jesus then asked them the most important question, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15) Simon Peter immediately answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16) Jesus commended him for his answer. He had come to the right conclusion, but not by man’s opinion or his own reasoning and mental ability. The Father had revealed this truth to him!
How have you answered Jesus’ question? What conclusion have you come to regarding the identity of Jesus Christ? Is He someone who must show you one more “sign” before you will believe? Are you skeptical that He is the Son of God? Do you just feel that He is a prophet sent from God or someone famous who has come back from the dead? Do people’s opinions shape your thoughts on Jesus Christ? All of these responses were present when Jesus walked the earth and was doing miraculous signs. Human reasoning and visual proof are well and good, but truth comes by revelation from God the Father. Revelation comes when we are humble and teachable enough to believe. Faith is the key ingredient, and that is a gift from God! (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Jesus concluded his remarks to Peter and the disciples after this discussion with a promise to build His church on ‘this rock’ and told them that the gates of hell would not prevail against that church. The “rock” was Peter’s confession of who Christ was, not Peter himself. Jesus is still building His church on that rock! It is a secure foundation for eternal life!
Scripture reading for October 9th: Matthew 12-15
Jesus used parables to speak to multitudes of people. The knowledge of the kingdom of heaven is hidden from those with hard hearts and closed ears. Their attitudes blind them to truth that God wants to reveal to them. (Proverbs 14:6) (Matthew 13:11-15) Parables are stories that speak of something common that all would know about and be able to understand naturally, but with additional meaning that applies to the kingdom of heaven and our own relationship to it. Jesus ended many of these stories with something like: ‘if you have ears, listen!”. (Matthew 13:8) Almost everyone has ears, but the listening that Jesus encouraged was spiritual and revealed truth.
As a former Iowa farmer, the parable of the sower always fascinated me. I raised corn one year for a Master Corn Grower’s contest. I took the pounds of seed planted and then after harvest the pounds of seed harvested off of this contest plot of nearly 200 bushels per acre. The return was over 1100 to 1! This parable talks about a thirty, sixty, or hundred fold return! Now that was good seed and good ground and God’s amazing grace! By the way, I got third place in the contest!
In this parable, the farmer scattered his seed and it fell on different types of soil. Some fell on the path and birds ate it up immediately. Some fell on rocky soil, and sprouted quickly but died out. Some fell among the weeds and was choked out. Most of the seed went to the good ground and it yielded a crop of various multiplication. This simple story that would have been very familiar to everyone in that culture held some spiritual understanding for those with ears to hear!
Jesus went on to explain the meaning to his followers. (Matthew 13:19-23) Those who heard the word but did not understand it were like the seed on the path. The evil one comes along and eats it before it can produce or even sprout. The rocky soil represents those who initially hear the word but have no depth of heart desire so the word dies out before a crop can come. The seed among the weeds represents those who receive the word, but the cares of this life and deceitfulness of riches choke it out before it can produce. Finally, those who hear the word and understand it and put it into practice are like the good soil, producing a crop that multiplies! The parable is simple and easy to understand, if you are teachable!
God is the farmer and He has commissioned us to sow His word in the soils of hearts. We can’t control what kind of soil the seed falls on but we have good seed! The Gospel seed will grow when conditions are right. Do an inventory of the condition of your heart today. Is the crop of eternal life growing in you? If so, are you deepening your heart’s soil so the roots go down? Are you keeping the weeds out? Is the crop bringing an increase? Could it be greater? God has blessed the seed and wants to multiply it through you!
Scripture reading for October 8th: Matthew 8-11
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
This portion of Matthew is one I have preached on often and love to return to on a regular basis. It seems that I have a tendency to love to work and take on lots of projects, speaking engagements, and commitments. It is like there is a subtle underlying need to find my worth in what I do or how much I can do. This is hard to admit and even harder to detect the true motives sometimes. I need to come to Jesus and remember that He is able to handle the loads of life’s problems and I must walk with Him under His authority in all I do. My work earns me nothing because salvation is all grace.
In the time of Jesus, a rabbi was a master teacher who usually gathered disciples who would train to be like their teacher. In fact, when a student was fully trained, he would be like his teacher and could also become a rabbi and have disciples. (Luke 6:40) It was an honor to be invited to follow a rabbi and only the brightest and best were usually asked. However, Jesus the “rabbi”, went among the common people and called out those who appeared to be the unqualified. They were often considered the least qualified but Jesus looked at the heart and took those who were willing to leave all and follow!
The ‘yoke’ of the rabbi was his authority and his teachings. A disciple would learn to follow the master so closely that it is said that the dust of the rabbi was on their clothes as they walked closely behind him. Jesus called all to come to him! He asked them to come under His authority, which had been given Him by the Father. (Matthew 11:27) Everything was under His authority and he had demonstrated that earlier in our reading today by many miracles. Sickness departed at His word! (Matthew 8:2-3) Demons in people left at His command! (Matthew 8:28-34) Sins were forgiven and a paralytic healed. (Matthew 9:1-8) A dead girl was raised to life at His word! (Matthew 9:23-25) Blind men received their sight at His touch. (Matthew 9:27-31) At His command, the disciples were sent out and miracles were done through their hands! (Matthew 10:1-8)
Following Jesus requires a complete surrender to Him and becoming a learner of His teachings and character. His ‘yoke’ of authority is easy and His ‘burden’ is light because He travels with you and me wherever we are. He has all authority and has given authority to us to do His work! Even greater works will we do because He has gone to the Father! (John 14:12-13) We can rest in Him today and follow closely! We are promised to be like Him one day, enjoying a heavenly body and knowing Him fully!
Scripture reading for October 7th: Matthew 5-7
Matthew is writing his Gospel primarily to the Jews who knew the Old Testament law and prophets. That’s why he quotes so many passages of the Old Testament and tries to speak to them in ways that relate to their background and heritage. Matthew records one of the longest discourses of Jesus in the Bible. It is also one of the most famous and contains a rich wealth of teaching for those who are followers of the great Rabbi and teacher who is the Son of God. It is hard to pick out just one area for our devotion today but I have chosen to focus on the blessedness of those who embrace the King and His kingdom!
The kingdom of heaven was the subject of this great teaching and this term is used several times. A kingdom implies a king. God was to be King over the nation of Israel and they were to be His loyal subjects. Jesus begins with an opening to this message that we know as the “beatitudes”. This section speaks of the blessedness of those who will be subjects of the King. They are blessed when they are poor in spirit because theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:3) Kingdom people are not proud and boastful and self-sufficient. Their sufficiency comes from their King in their midst.
Kingdom people are meek and merciful. They are humbly under their merciful King’s authority and guided by His Spirit. They hunger and thirst for righteousness and are satisfied by their King with a banquet of bread and wine. Kingdom kids are pure in heart because they have a new heart given as a gift from their King! They are peacemakers for they are sons of their Father who gives peace that the world can’t understand! These kids are blessed when they are persecuted for their righteousness because they have heavenly vision and know that the best is yet to come! They have a reward in heaven that no one can steal or destroy. (Matthew 5:7-12) They will see their King’s face one day and bask in His glory!
Kingdom kids are blessed to be the light of the world. They reflect the glory of their King everywhere they go. They are the salt of the earth! They bring out the “God-flavors” of this world according to the Message Bible! (Matthew 5:13-16) They help stop the corruption of sin and bring out God’s saving and preserving message of Gospel hope. They are a people who live out the law by loving God and loving their neighbors from their hearts. God’s law is written there and His Spirit empowers them to live righteously in a wicked world.
God’s kingdom kids do not have to worry about tomorrow or fret over provisions. They know how to talk to God in prayer and trust Him for everything. He is their provider and protector. They are blessed with all they need as they seek their King and His righteousness! (Matthew 6:33) They have built their houses on a Rock, their King and God! Storms may come, but they will be secure and safe in Him! What a blessed life! I’m so glad to be a “Kingdom Kid”!
Scripture reading for October 6th: Matthew 1-4
Wow! We are finally in the New Testament! Four hundred years of silence have passed and God is speaking again! He is fulfilling a number of prophesies that He gave over the years concerning His Son. A virgin, named Mary, gives birth to a son. (Matthew 1:22-23) This virgin and her betrothed husband, Joseph, are descendants of King David and their genealogy is traced back to Abraham. (Matthew 1:1-16) This “Son” was born in Bethlehem, fulfilling what the prophet Micah had predicted nearly 700 years earlier. (Matthew 2:6)
Gentile wise men came to worship Him who was born “king of the Jews.” Gentiles would also be blessed and come to this “king of the Jews” for salvation! They came to Judea and visited King Herod. Herod became jealous and ordered the destruction of all boys 2 years and younger. God had already intervened and warned Joseph and Mary to depart for Egypt. This fulfilled two other prophesies about Rachel weeping for her children and God calling His Son out of Egypt. (Matthew 2:15-18) When Joseph and Mary returned to Israel after Herod’s threat had passed, they settled in Nazareth. Jesus was called a “Nazarene” in fulfillment of prophetic word!
The Book of Malachi had ended with a promise from God that He would send Elijah the prophet before the great and terrible day of the Lord. (Malachi 4:5-6) Elijah’s message would seek to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers. Matthew records the ministry of John the Baptist preaching in the Desert of Judea and calling God’s people to repentance and water baptism. John was Jesus’ cousin and had a special call from God to prepare the way for His Son in ministry. Repentance was and is a basic requirement to prepare a heart to receive the truth in Jesus. (Matthew 3:1-3) This also fulfilled a prophesy given by Isaiah!
John the Baptist spoke plainly to the religious leaders who came to ridicule him. He warned them that one was coming who would not just baptize with water, but with the Holy Spirit and fire! (Matthew 3:7-11) When Jesus came to the Jordan River to be baptized by John, John tried to reverse the situation. Jesus insisted on his need to be baptized to fulfill “all righteousness.” (Matthew 3:15) Jesus was baptized by John and John, along with the crowd, witnessed an amazing confirmation of Jesus Christ the Son of God! Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together with joy and hope and salvation for the world!
“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went out of the water. At that moment heaven opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on Him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:16-17