Monthly Archives: February 2016

Matthew 10:40-11:1

40He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives the One Who sent Me. 41He who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will have a prophet’s reward, and he who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. 42And whoever gives a drink of cold water to one of these little one because he is My disciple, I truly say to you, he will not lose his reward.” 11 1And when Jesus had finished giving these instructions to His twelve disciples, He left there to teach and preach in their cities.

 

As Jesus finished out the commissioning instructions to His disciples, He reminds them that they are not going in their own power or name. They are going on His behalf, and the people who receive or reject them will receive or reject Christ. The person who listens to them, feeds them, and accepts their words is accepting them in the name of Jesus. They are truly accepting Jesus. The person who doesn’t listen to them, couldn’t care less for them and rejects their words is doing these things to Jesus.

 

I see two applications for us here today: first, let us remember that all we do today, we do in the name of Christ. This isn’t a mere incantation—we represent Christ. He has sent us. When you teach and disciple others today, it is Christ Who is doing that through you by the power of the Holy Spirit. When you are conscious of this, you are less likely to behave selfishly. For this reason, I challenge you to be deliberate and intentional and conscious every hour of the day regarding Whom you represent.

 

Second, remember that you are not responsible for the results. When God sends people your way to disciple and they reject you, they are rejecting Him. Don’t forget this. You do not have the power to save souls. You do not have the power to lift others out of darkness. It is for you to reach out to them in the power of the Holy Spirit—and He is responsible for the results, not you.

 

Pride gets in the way of both of these challenges. Choosing to live in our own desires is caused by our own selfish desires, the chief of which is pride. And pride makes us think of ourselves as the Savior when we invest in someone. Kill pride today by reminding yourself that you are His emissary, not your own. The response to the message you’ve been given is a response to God, and God alone is responsible for the results.

Advertisements

Matthew 10:34-39

34Do not think that I came to bring peace to the earth; I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35For I came to turn a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, 36and a man’s enemies will be in his household. 37Whoever loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. 38And whoever does not take up his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.

 

Continuing His commissioning of the disciples, Jesus reminds them that they will face a permanent test of loyalty. They will have to decide which relationship is more important: the one they have with Him or any others. He is commissioning them to prioritize Him above all else—and therefore trust that He loves those other relationships as much as they, and will provide what is necessary for them. Jesus pulls no punches in explaining the difficulty of a life spent following Him and His words. It will be very hard, indeed…for many, it will cost them their very lives. Ultimately, it costs all of them their lives, in the sense that it costs everyone their autonomy. The unwillingness to accept such difficulty indicate an unworthiness.

 

He still demands our loyalty. We have fooled ourselves into believing that simply calling ourselves by His name is enough. We have lulled ourselves into a deep sleep, lethargically reminding ourselves that our pubic profession of faith is all that is necessary. We believe that our jobs are more important than His mission. We believe that our acceptance in society is more important than His calling. We live as though we can compromise our loyalty to the Savior free from consequence. But in doing so, we lose everything. By clinging to our autonomy, we lose the freedom we were called to have in Him. By clinging to our divided loyalties, we lose the exhilaration of a life lived by faith. By compromising our loyalty for the sake of family, friends or job, we lose the opportunity for Him to provide better for us than we can for ourselves. By selling out to ourselves, we lose the life of being sold out for Him.

 

Where is your loyalty today? Whose mission is more important? Yours, or His? Your loyalty will be put to the test in order to strengthen it. Make Him your priority. Sell out to Him. Only then can you find the life you were meant to live.

Matthew 10:26-33

26Do not fear them; for nothing is hidden that will not be revealed, and nothing is secret that will not be made known. 27What I say to you in darkness, you say in the light, and what you have heard whispered, proclaim from the rooftops. 28And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul. Fear, rather, him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell. 29Are not two sparrows sold for an assarion? And not one of them falls to the earth apart from the knowledge of your Father. 30Even the hairs on your head are numbered. 31Do not fear; you are worth more than many sparrows. 32Everyone who confesses me before men, him I will confess before My Father in heaven. 33But whoever disowns me before men, him I will disown before My Father in heaven.

 

In this section, Jesus encourages the disciples to remember that they have nothing to fear. The Bible is full of exhortations to not fear; it is one of man’s chief temptations. Fear is the opposite of faith; when one is truly dependent on God, one does not fear or stress. The disciples are to go forth and proclaim publically what they have heard the Teacher say privately, and they are not to fear those who can kill the body, but rather to fear Him Who is able to “destroy both body and soul in hell” (10.28). This verse is somewhat disturbing, as it appears to imply a doctrine of annihilationism—that is, the belief that the wicked will ultimately be destroyed and will thus be nonexistent. Since this is in contradiction with Jesus’ teaching that hell is a place of eternal punishment, this seems to set up a problem for some expositors. Barclay, for example, sees this as a distinct possibility. McGee doesn’t touch it at all. The expositors for the New Illustrated Bible Commentary correctly recognized, however, that the lexical definition for the verb Jesus employs here (ἀπολυμι) can mean both “destroy” and “ruin.” It is being used in this ruination sense in this verse, similar to its usage with regard to the ruined wineskins in 9.17. Ultimately, Jesus’ lesson here is that there are worse things than death: put bluntly, disloyalty to God is far worse. He reminds the disciples that the death of a single sparrow—two of which are sold for an assarion (a penny)—does not happen apart from the knowledge and will of God. Being made in the image of God, these disciples are worth more than many sparrows. God loves them and cares for them more than they understand. Therefore, fear is a dangerous distraction.

 

Fear is an element of pride—the belief that I am responsible for my well-being, provision, and success. I believe that this is one of the most important lessons that Jesus could have taught His disciples on the cusp of their being sent forth; the one who proclaims Christ is frequently tempted to judge his success on the results. This is pride, plain and simple. We have been given both a great privilege and a great mission: to proclaim publically and habitually the gospel of the kingdom. What stops us from doing this? Fear of losing our jobs? Fear of losing our friends or sphere of influence? Fear of death? Fear of ridicule? Laziness? When God gave us this task, He empowered us to do it successfully. Therefore, when we proclaim it to someone who rejects it, we must develop a calming faith that gives such people up to His providence; after all, we are not the ones responsible.

 

Today, I will proclaim Him. I will go out of my way to find a stranger and proclaim the gospel to him or her. I will not be afraid, but I will be motivated by the same love that Christ had for me. Moreover, I will not take it personally if that person rejects it. When I reach out in love to someone in the name of Christ and he or she rejects that, I am not responsible. This seems a simple truth, but it is sometimes difficult for the proclaimer to grasp. But today I will be loyal to my Savior, and will behave in faith rather than fear.

Matthew 10:16-25

16Behold: I send you out as sheep among wolves; therefore be wise as snakes and innocent as doves. 17Watch out for men, for they will hand you over to the Sanhedrin and flog you in their synagogues. 18And you will be brought before rulers and kings because of Me, to bear witness to them and the Gentiles. 19When you are arrested, do not worry about what you will say; for it will be given you I that hour what to say. 20For it is not you who speaks but the Spirit of your Father Who speaks through you. 21Brother will betray brother unto death and a father the child, and children will turn against their parents and have them put to death. 22And you will be hated of all men for My name’s sake; but he who remains to the end will be saved. 23When you are persecuted in that city, run to another; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going to the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes. 24A disciple is not above his teacher; neither is a servant above his master. 25It is enough for a disciple to be like his teacher and a servant his master. If they called the head of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they malign His household!

 

Jesus is continuing the commission of His disciples. The section of Matthew that records the miracles heralding the coming of the King is over, and now we begin a section in which the apostles (or “after-runners”) are being sent to announce that He has come. They are to be wise as snakes and innocent as doves—intelligent, wise, knowledgeable, yet free from the taint of the world. Jesus predicts that the socio-political power structures will be their opponents; indeed, the rulers of this world have the most to lose by having to acknowledge the sovereignty and majesty of the King of Kings. He tells them not to worry terribly much about their spoken defense in such situations; the Spirit of God the Father will speak through them. This, by the way, is not a textual rationale for a preacher of the gospel to fail to prepare for ministry; it is specifically a prediction that the Holy Spirit will speak through apostles who are arrested. The disciples will be hated of all men for the sake of His name, He says….they will not be invited to cocktail parties or be popular or have glowing pieces written of them in Newsweek or Salon.com or the Huffington Post. Verse 23 is troubling to some: it appears to predict, on its face, the coming of Christ before these apostles finish their tour of Israel. This is not the case, though. Barclay interprets the phrase “Son of Man” as “kingdom of God,” based on comparable uses in Matthew 16.28, mark 9.1, and Luke 9.27. I feel that this is somewhat thin and largely unwarranted by the text itself. Vernon McGee interprets the text as referencing the context of persecution: everywhere they go, there will be persecution—and that persecution will not even come to all the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes. It is also possible that Jesus is making this comment to this group of disciples for a smaller mission that He’s sending them on at the moment, and He’ll gather them later in Matthew. These last two interpretations are perfectly plausible. Either way, the disciples will be like Jesus in the persecution they face; they will be as hated as He.

 

We, too, are to be wise as snakes and innocent as doves. Unspoiled by the world, we are to increase in learning and knowledge and proclaim the King’s coming. In the same context of the preceding passages in which the central challenge was for us to love others the way Christ loves them, surely this commission is rooted in His love for them. The mission we’ve been given is one that is grounded in His love for the lost. Meanwhile, they’re not planning on loving us back. They will persecute us, make fun of us, reject us, and ultimately get around to arresting and killing us. Elsewhere in the world, that’s exactly what they’re doing. If we keep reading Matthew, we’ll see what they did to Jesus. How can we expect anything less? It’s one thing to learn to exegete our culture so that we may speak to it…it’s quite another to crave their love and acceptance to the extent that it compromises our central mission. That mission is Christ’s, and we are empowered to fulfill it. It’s His mission, His words, and His power—all rooted in His love.

 

Are you fulfilling this mission today? You should pray for your eyes to be opened to the possibilities and opportunities to proclaim Him to others in your sphere of influence today. If you don’t know exactly what to say, invite them to church—where people are trained to proclaim the Word to them.

Matthew 10:1-15

1And He called to Himself his twelve disciples and gave to them authority over unclean spirits to cast them out, and to heal all diseases and sicknesses. 2And these are the names of the twelve apostles: Simon called Peter and Andrew his brother and James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, 3Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the tax collector, James the son of Alphaeus and Thaddeus, 4Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him. 5These twelve Jesus sent, after commanding them, saying, “Do not go among the Gentiles and the Samaritan cities, 6but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7And while going, proclaim, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons; freely you have received—freely give. 9Do not take gold or silver or copper for your money belts; 10nor a bag for your journey or two shirts or sandals or staff, for the worker is deserving of his support. 11And whatever city or village you enter, find in it someone worthy, and remain there until you depart. 12When you enter a house, greet it: 13and if the house is worthy, let your peace come to rest on it, and if it is not worthy, let your peace come back to you. 14And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, as you exit from that house and city shake off the dust from your feet. 15Truly I say to you: it will be easier for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city.

 

The commissioning of the twelve apostles is a culmination of the adventures they had shared with Jesus. No, there were no seminaries or Bible colleges in those days—but traveling with Jesus and learning from the ultimate Teacher WAS seminary. It is noteworthy that we acknowledge that these guys were trained and prepared before they were sent out. This simple truth escapes many evangelical Christians. The command He gives them as they leave is important, as well, for He gives them the same authority with which He has been working. Our cessationist friends are quick to point out that He’s only talking to these twelve apostles, and that we should not interpret His words to be relevant, specifically, to us. I disagree: the same world needs the same power today, and if we have been properly prepared and discipled like these guys, we too have power over unclean spirits. We, too, have been instructed to do the work of the gospel—heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. We have been given everything we have; how dare we not give it to others? Jesus makes the case in this speech that preachers of the gospel are not to weigh themselves down with monetary concerns, but are to trust in God’s provision—which comes through His obedient people. He reminds the disciples that, as heavily invested in people as they are, some will reject them. When they do so, they are rejecting Him—not them. All will be evened out in the great Day of Reckoning that is coming.

 

What are we doing in church? We are being prepared for evangelism. We are learning how to witness, how to love, how to invest in others. We are being taught in His community to do His work.

 

What are we doing OUTSIDE of church? Hopefully, this is the work we’re doing. If we’re not doing this work, then we should refer back to our training. It is definitely true that we need a Holy Ghost revival in this postmodern land; God’s transformative word can penetrate our bleak reality and change it just as powerfully as it did in the first century.

 

And what attitude should we have toward our fellow image-bearers? We should love them enough to be invested in them. And if they should reject it, we should not allow that rejection to color our attitudes. God will judge. This is the hardest for me: I take the work I do very seriously, and I apply myself to it diligently. Occasionally, I run across someone who just refuses the work that the Lord is doing in his or her life. When that happens, I admit I get pretty frustrated. But Jesus commanded me to take it in stride, and to remember that this rejection is of Him, not me. Hard words to follow, but important.

 

Are you doing the work of the gospel today? Are you investing in people and proclaiming the nearness of the kingdom of heaven?

Matthew 9:27-38

27And when Jesus left from there, two blind men cried out and said to Him, “Have mercy on us, son of David.” 28When He had entered the house, the blind men came to Him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” Then said to Him, “Yes, Lord.” 29Then He touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith, let it be done to you.” 30And their eyes were opened. And Jesus strictly warned them, saying, “See that no one knows.” 31But they left and spread His fame through the whole region.32As they were going out, behold: someone brought to Him a demon-possessed mute. 33And after the demon had been cast out, the mute spoke. And the crowd marveled, saying, “Never has this been seen in Israel.” 34But the Pharisees said, “By the prince of demons He casts out demons.” 35Then Jesus went around all the cities and village, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing all diseases and sicknesses. 36When He saw the crowds, He had pity on them, for they were dispirited and helpless [thrown down], like sheep without a shepherd. 37Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is full, but the workers are few. 38Pray, therefore, for the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into the harvest.”

 

These are actually three pericopes, but they go together thematically. They all deal with the compassion that Jesus had on the people. They were the reason He came. Moved by love and pity toward them, He loved them with His life. He asks the blind men about their level of belief in Him, and they were already convinced before He ever healed them. They were unable to keep their mouths shut about the transformative experience they had with the Lord. The mute man who had been attacked and taken over by a demon was still the image-bearer of the living God, and Jesus wasn’t about to let the enemy have him. The crowds knew that something powerful was taking place in Israel that had never happened before—something that did battle with the forces of darkness and won. He was moved with compassion for them, seeing them as rightfully belonging to God, but dispirited and helpless. The Greek ἐρριμμενοι carries the connotation of being “thrown down.” Jesus was there to pick them up and take care of them.

 

Do we see others as image-bearers of God—rightfully belonging to Him, but in need of light to pierce the darkness? Do we love them? Are we moved with compassion for them? Does their well-being motivate us? If you’re wondering why we don’t see more demons being cast out and blind people seeing, let’s start with having the love for them that Jesus had. Let’s start with being motivated by a compassion and pity for our fell image-bearers that consumes us and drives us to love them with our lives. When we are empowered by the Spirit, we will be empowered to love—and He will do the rest.

Matthew 9:18-26

18While He was saying these things, a ruler came and fell down before Him and said, “My daughter has just died, but come lay Your hand on her and she will live.” 19And Jesus rose to follow him, along with His disciples. 20And behold: a woman who had suffered bleeding for twelve years came behind and touched the edge of His garment. 21For she said to herself, “If only I can touch His garment, I will be made well.” 22Then Jesus turned and saw her, and said, “Cheer up, daughter: your faith has made you well.” And the woman was made well from that hour. 23When Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd in an uproar, He said, “Go—for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at Him. 25And when the crowd had been sent out, He came in and took her by the hand, the girl rose up. 26And news of this spread throughout the whole region.

 

Jesus has just finished His answer on fasting—His observation that room must be made for the new things God is doing. It is at that moment that a ruler came to Him and reported the death of his daughter. Note his faith: “come lay Your hand on her and she will live.” On the way, the woman who had suffered bleeding for twelve years went to the effort to touch His clothes, believing that she could be healed. Jesus saw and knew everything. It is noteworthy that Jesus addresses her as “daughter.” While He is on His way to go heal one man’s daughter, another daughter is in need. Both receive miracles.

 

It was for this purpose that Jesus came into the world—to interact with the sons and daughters of God and heal them and deliver them from unrighteousness. His love for them was so great that He would ultimately give His life for them. As we have been sent to them as well, how shall we have any different attitude toward these sons and daughters of the living God than He? How can we fail to see them with His eyes? His concern for a ruler’s daughter led Him along a path where He met another daughter—His willingness to go forward with His mission brought Him into contact with more of His mission.

 

Are we willing to go forth and love others as He has today? He promised that we would do greater things than He. We have been empowered by the Holy Spirit to love them. For some of us, this is more difficult than others. My challenge to myself is to see the people with whom I come into contact today as sons and daughters of the living God, and to love them as He loves them. Can you do this too?