Thursday 29 August 2013

Matthew 8:1-17 - Dealing with sickness

< Previous | Index | Next >

Jesus handles sickness in a very straightforward way. Here in Matthew 8:1-17 we have three examples, a leper, a centurion, and Peter's mother-in-law.

I'll just point out some things that occurred to me as I read this passage.

First, people treated Jesus with great respect. The leper knelt before him, and the centurion felt unworthy. They already knew that he was special in some way, unusual. People had been talking about the authority of his teaching 'unlike the scribes'.

Jesus sends the leper to the priest, as evidence, but evidence for what? Evidence of healing, clearly, but is there more to this? Would the priest have wanted to know how the leper was healed?

The centurion has real faith and Jesus is, frankly, amazed. Jesus was willing to heal this man's servant. A Roman military man, one of the 'enemy' in Jewish eyes. "Love your enemies" in action.

And it's interesting that it's not Peter's mother, but his mother-in-law. So Peter is clearly married even though he spends three years away from home, on the road with Jesus and the other disciples. Perhaps his wife was travelling with them too, that's entirely possible, even likely.

Finally, notice the fulfilment of prophecy. This is a constant theme, Jesus came as a fulfiller of prophecy, law, and the promises of his Father.

< Previous

< Previous | Index | Next >

Saturday 24 August 2013

Matthew 7:15-29 - Closing remarks

< Previous | Index | Next >

The verses in Matthew 7:15-19 bring us to the end of Jesus' teaching on the hillside. We don't know whether all of these sayings come from a single occasion; perhaps it's more likely they were collected and written down by various authors and combined later by Matthew or someone else.

Today's reading includes an assortment of good advice which we, as Jesus' followers, should put into action.

How wary are we of people who come like prophets but demonstrate poor character through fruits such as impatience or unkindness? They're not hard to spot, but it's easy to allow an impressive manner and performance to fool us into thinking they are genuine.

Read through the passage carefully and let Jesus' words sink in. Then pay attention to what is going on around you with opened eyes and an alert mind.

Why do you suppose Jesus want us to distinguish between what is true and what is false?

And notice in verse 28 and 29 how Jesus' authority is unlike that of the scribes. The scribes carefully and faithfully copied the word, but they didn't always understand it. Jesus, on the other hand, is the Word.

< Previous | Index | Next >

Friday 23 August 2013

Matthew 7:1-14 - Judging and asking

< Previous | Index | Next >

Jesus continues teaching, now approaching the end of what he has to say.

In Matthew 7:1-14 he deals with judging and making requests in prayer. We lack the authority to judge and doing so lays us open to judgement. We will be treated as we treat others. The saying about the sawdust and the plank emphasises the same point.

And in verse 12 he makes the astonishing statement that treating others right is a way of summarising the law. The rule of love is actually the only rule we need.

And it's also the key to reaching the people around us - just love them! The old and new commandments summed up in one word - love. Only Jesus ever spoke like this, no wonder he was popular with the people!

< Previous | Index | Next >

Thursday 22 August 2013

Matthew 6:19-34 - Anxieties

< Previous | Index | Next >

Moving on again from giving, prayer and fasting, Jesus now deals with anxiety in Matthew 6:19-34.

Verses 19-24 tell us how he views wealth. This doesn't seem like good news to most of us, it seems we are not to be wealthy. But the good news is that we can be wealthy in heaven. Jesus says that if the things we deem precious are in heaven, our heart will be there too.

Money (and lots of it) is a kind of treasure. But can you think of other things that might be precious to us and divert us from finding treasure in heaven? What else feels vitally important in life? A career? A comfortable home? Safety? Loving anything other than Jesus is a kind of idolatry. I should ask myself, "What are my idols"?

Am I devoted to the Almighty or do I despise him? That is what verse 24 implies.

And this is why we should not be anxious about anything at all - life, food, drink, the body, clothes. So seek first the kingdom and don't worry about tomorrow.

What stands our for you in this passage? How will your life be affected by Jesus' teaching? Will things be different tomorrow from the way they were yesterday as a result of reading and digesting his words? If not - why not? Pray about it. Talk about it.

< Previous | Index | Next >

Wednesday 21 August 2013

Matthew 6:1-18 - Giving, praying, fasting

< Previous | Index | Next >

Jesus continues teaching his disciples, this is all part of the teaching that began in chapter 5. He moves on from showing how we must go beyond the Law.

In Matthew 6:1-18 we have teaching on giving, on prayer, and on fasting. Notice how it's not about what other people think of us, showing off is inappropriate. Instead our Father sees the secret things we do and will reward us accordingly. Verses 4, 6 and 18 make this explicit.

As you read the famous prayer in verses 9-13 pay attention to its simplicity. Read the prayer slowly and think about it line by line. Jesus is telling us what he considers to be most important.

When you pray aloud in a meeting or silently out in the busy world, remember what Jesus demonstrated here. It's not at all about fancy words.

If we are to make an impact in this world we need to hear Jesus on this. Look after people in need, pray simply and quietly, don't make a big deal out of fasting.

< Previous | Index | Next >

Tuesday 20 August 2013

Matthew 5:21-48 - Sin and love

< Previous | Index | Next >

After beginning to teach the disciples on the mountainside in a general way, now Jesus gets much more specific in Matthew 5:21-48, dealing with anger, lust, divorce, swearing, retaliation and love.

Teaching, at which Jesus excelled (as he did in all things), is an essential component of church life. When we teach we have a great responsibility, but teach we must if we are to follow Jesus. He said that we were to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to do everything that he taught us to do.

So study Jesus' teachings in this passage and learn from him. He is the Master.

He shows that the Old Testament teaching on each topic is to be respected but that in all ways we must go further. Our anger is as bad as murder. A lustful glance is as bad as adultery. Divorce is more serious than handing out a note of dismissal. All swearing is evil. We are not to resist an evil person. And we are to love everyone, not just those who are like us.

Read through this passage carefully. How does your own life match up against these exacting standards Jesus is setting?

And when you teach, do it like Jesus did. Teach from a humble heart, pray for wisdom and love and mercy, demand more than people expect. Expect the Holy Spirit to lead and guide you.

Teaching is not necessarily a matter of standing in front of a bunch of students; that was not Jesus' way. Rather, it's a matter of living alongside others and injecting observations and questions into the conversations that you have. This very practical kind of teaching bears useful fruit that will last.

< Previous | Index | Next >

Monday 19 August 2013

Matthew 5:1-20 - Teaching the disciples

< Previous | Index | Next >

Matthew 5:1-11 is the famous 'Sermon on the Mount' while in Matthew 5:12-20 Jesus begins explaining his upside-down commands. And it is upside-down and back-to-front in terms of the way many people think.

But first, notice in verse one that Jesus saw the crowds, climbed high into the hills, and spoke to those who were prepared to follow him there.

It seems to me that the pithy statements in verses two to eleven would have contradicted the normal wisdom of Jesus' day (and our own as well). I considered them in more detail in a post on 'Journeys of Heart and Mind' - you might like to read it.

And then Jesus explains that we are to have a useful flavour in the world and are to throw the light we have into a dark world. This is our highest purpose, changing the way people feel and think and dispelling darkness. And notice the reason for it in verse sixteen - 'That [the world] may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven'. This is not about what we do, it's about what Jesus does. Through us he touches the world around us and gives light to the lost. Perhaps it's the consequent harvest that glorifies the Father.

Finally, he explains how he came to fulfill the Old Testament (the Law and the Prophets). He doesn't set them aside but meets their demands and brings them to fruition.

Are you flavouring the world? If so, how?

Are you a source of light, is your light 'shining before others'? If so, how?

How do you think your righteousness matches up against that of the scribes and Pharisees? And how do you think the righteousness of Jesus within you matches up?

< Previous | Index | Next >

Monday 12 August 2013

Matthew 4:12-25 - The first disciples

< Previous | Index | Next >

Matthew's account begins to describe Jesus' ministry in Matthew 4:12-25. There are three elements to his work, the same things that he later called his followers to continue, the same three things we are therefore also called to do.

The first is proclaiming the nearness of the kingdom of heaven (verses 12-17). The second is making disciples (verses 18-22). And the third is bringing healing (verses 23-25).

How seriously do we take these things in terms of how we live our own lives?

Jesus left Nazareth where he had an established business in the building trade. He settled instead in Capernaum on the shore of Galilee, fulfilling prophecy and telling people to repent because the kingdom had come near.

Notice how his first disciples responded to his call. They dropped what they were doing, left their old lives behind, and followed him immediately. How do we compare with this level of dedication?

And pay attention to what he did as he travelled. There are several verbs to notice - went, taught, proclaimed, healed. And also note the impact this had. News spread, people came, large crowds followed. And his new disciples saw it all.

< Previous | Index | Next >

Sunday 11 August 2013

Matthew 4:1-11 - Temptations

< Previous | Index | Next >

We are all tempted from time to time and in a variety of ways. So was Jesus and in Matthew 4:1-11 we read about three specific examples. These are temptations about bodily needs (food), about impressing people with the miraculous (falling safely from a great height), and worldly power (through worshipping the enemy).

Jesus responds to each temptation by quoting from the Old Testament writings.

How do we handle temptations of various kinds? Do we use the Bible as a source of truth and authority as Jesus did? Or do we try to deal with them in our own strength? Or do we sometimes just give in willingly?

Why do you suppose these temptations are included in Matthew's account? We have already seen that Jesus is holy and came supernaturally from his Father in heaven, that his birth was extraordinary and the Father is well pleased with him. Now we see that he is also truly human and not immune to temptation. He has truly come to live as a part of his own creation.

< Previous | Index | Next >

Saturday 10 August 2013

Matthew 3 - Jesus is baptised

< Previous | Index | Next >

Here in Matthew 3 we read about John the Baptist and what happened when Jesus came to him for baptism.

John preached repentance 'because the kingdom of heaven is at hand'. John fulfils Isaiah's prophecy (Isaiah 40:3) and that of Malachi (Malachi 3:1). John lived as a nomad in terms of his dress and his food sources and he was directly critical of the religious elite in Israel. He points forward to someone greater, someone who will baptise with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Acts 2:16-21).

So when this 'greater One', Jesus, asks for baptism, John is understandably unsure. Notice especially how Jesus is confirmed in what he does by the Spirit and by the voice from heaven.

How do you view Jesus in the light of what happens in this chapter? Like John, although we're unworthy it's important that we do whatever Jesus tells us. He knows our hearts and he knows the Father's purpose for us. Is my life a life of obedience? Is yours?

Notice that already, so early in Matthew, we see clearly that Jesus is central in our own lives and must be at the heart of all we do and say and are. And now he is ready to make a start.

< Previous | Index | Next >

Friday 9 August 2013

Matthew 2:13-23 - in Egypt

< Previous | Index | Next >

After the eastern mystics had left, it was unsafe for the infant Jesus to remain in the region ruled by Herod the Great, so the family left for Egypt. Herod duly killed all boys under the age of two in the area around Bethlehem.

After Herod's death the family returned and settled in Galilee in the town of Nazareth. All of these events are covered in Matthew 2:13-23.

It's striking that Joseph was informed by a messenger in a dream not once, but three times (the word 'angel' means 'messenger'). It seems he was obedient without hesitation each time. Notice that Matthew points out how Old Testament prophecy was being fulfilled.

At this early stage in his human life Jesus depended completely on his parents, just like any other person. As he grew through childhood and his teens did he become gradually aware of who his real father was? One clue (Luke 2:49) is that at twelve-years-old he already knew that the Jerusalem temple was 'my Father's house'.

Do you hear from the Almighty? If so, how? Are you as obedient as Joseph was? Is it possible to be obedient without hearing?

< Previous | Index | Next >

Thursday 8 August 2013

Matthew 2:1-12 - visitors from the east

< Previous | Index | Next >

Jesus has been born and there's more detail in Matthew 2:1-12. He was born in Bethlehem in Judaea and was visited by some mystics from the east. We read about their quest to find the new-born king, the thoughts of the Jewish religious leaders, their discussions with an alarmed Herod, their meeting with the child and Mary, and how they returned home by a different route.

Why do you think they travelled so far to find Jesus? Who did they think he was? (Bear in mind they came to worship him.) They were aware of spiritual guidance and willing to act according to what they were shown. How would Herod have felt when they failed to return?

It's likely Jesus heard about these events from his parents as he grew up. Perhaps they helped to form his own understanding of who he was. He must have realised at some point that he was different from all the other village boys.

Leave a comment with your own thoughts on this.

More information...

< Previous | Index | Next >

Wednesday 7 August 2013

Matthew 1:18-25 - Jesus is born

< Previous | Index | Next >

Today we're looking at Matthew 1:18-25.

The child's name is important enough for the angel to specify it to Joseph. Jesus comes from Latin 'IESUS' (yesoos) which in turn is from the Greek 'Ἰησοῦς' (eeyesoos) from the Aramaic Yeshua or Yahshua (ye-sh-ooa) or Hebrew Yahoshua (ya-hosh-ooa). The 'Yah' part is a shortened form of Yahweh or Jehovah, the ending means 'saves', so 'Yahweh saves'. An appropriate name indeed!

And in order to save us, he had to begin by coming to live among us (Immanu-El, 'El with us') where El is the short form of Elohim which is actually a plural form and means 'Mighty Ones'. The singular Eloh 'Mighty One' is cognate with the Arabic term 'Allah'.

The huge significance of this name and title really strike me in this passage. But these verses also tell us that despite being the Almighty in person, Jesus was willing to be born into an ordinary (and quite humble) human family. Immanuel.

Right here in his name we see that the Almighty has come in human form to be among us and that his purpose is to save us.

What does this passage say to you? What stands out as especially important or significant?

< Previous | Index | Next >

Matthew 1:1-17 - genealogy

< Previous | Index | Next >

Today we are starting our journey through Matthew's Gospel. Matthew begins with an account of the male line of descent from Abraham right down to Jesus. It seems a little strange that so much care is taken as Joseph was not Jesus' father, in a sense he was a step-father. But Jesus is King of Kings and was known as 'Son of David', and the genealogy seems to explain that.

Read through Matthew 1:1-17 and consider the genealogy. Why do you think it's here?

The genealogy is carefully divided into three sections, each with fourteen generations. Most of the names are male though a few women are mentioned. Verse one clearly picks out the most important characters, Jesus himself, King David, and Abraham.

What does this passage teach us about Jesus? Why doesn't it go right back to Adam (compare with Luke 3:23-38)?

How important were these details in Jesus' day? To Jews? To Greeks or Romans? How important are they to Western readers today? Or to modern Jews?

More information...

< Previous | Index | Next >

Tuesday 6 August 2013


I'm posting notes on short passages from the gospels. Come and join me in reading the passages and leaving thoughts and comments. These notes can be used individually, or they can be used to systematically work through a whole book, or all four gospels. A few of the notes are now also on my JHM site, and more will follow. There are links to jump between the two versions, the text is identical but this site (CTG) is designed to make serial study easier.

I've made a start in MatthewMark, and now John; it will be an interesting journey. You can start from any point, all the old posts remain and new ones will appear once a week or so.

Alan Hirsch has developed a model for vibrant, missional church life and at the heart of the model is the idea that Christ should be central in all that we do. Few people would argue with that! One habit that he recommends to help us keep Jesus at the heart of our lives is to cycle through the gospels as part of our Bible reading. Not only that, he recommends reading all of the Bible 'through the lens of the gospels'.

I agree with that; and it's where this blog comes in.

See also: Index of posts

Thursday 1 August 2013

Index of posts

For convenience, you can jump to any book or chapter by clicking the links below, or skip to the current post.

Read the introduction, or dive right in...

Matthew 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28
Mark 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
Luke ...
John 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14...
Web Analytics