Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Matthew 16

Matthew 16:1-4 - Pharisees Demand A Sign

The Pharisees and Sadducees had seen Jesus' miracles already.  They didn't need more evidence, but they came to Jesus and asked for Him to give them a sign.  It was not because they were interested and had a desire to know Him, but to test and manipulate Him and put Him on the spot.  Jesus pointed them to the ordinary heavenly signs that predicted the weather.  Anyone could see the sky and see what it revealed.  God gave signs that clearly pointed to His Son, which was much more important than the weather.  They chose not to believe that Jesus was the Son of God.  They were blinded by the signs of His coming.  Jesus knew exactly what they were doing and told them they should already be familiar with the prophecies.  "You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.  A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, and none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah." - Matt. 16:3-4. 

What is the sign of Jonah?  Jonah was swallowed by a great fish and remained in its belly for 3 days before he was released.  This foreshadows the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Jesus was killed and stayed in the tomb for 3 days before God resurrected Him.

We should not rely on signs and miracles for proof of God our Creator.  Even Satan can do miracles.  We can interpret the signs of the times today.  Just look around at God's creation.  We can see His awesome power.  "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." - Rom. 1:20.

Are you stubborn in your unbelief?
Can you recognize the signs of God's blessings and warnings?

Matthew 16:5-12 - The Yeast of the Pharisees

Jesus then warned the disciples. "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." - Matt. 16:6.   In bread yeast is used to rise or puff up the bread.  Jesus did not want the disciples to be puffed up thinking themselves better than others.  The Pharisees did just that.  They thought they were holier than the people.  This includes us.  The yeast of the Pharisees is legalism, selfishness, counterfeit, and hypocrisy.  We are not to be self-centered.  We are not to glorify ourselves, but God.

The disciple didn't understand what Jesus meant by the yeast.  They were preoccupied and worried about trivial matters like what they were going to eat.  They were still focused on material things and not eternal things.  We are like them.  We focus on our jobs, food, clothing, etc. instead of God and His Kingdom.  Jesus questioned their faith.  They had forgotten the miracles of Jesus feeding the 5,000 and the 4,000 with small amounts of food.  Did they not have faith that Jesus would provide for them?  They just didn't get it.  This slow understanding of His words can be an encouragement to us.  Sometimes we are slow to understand and have a lot to learn as well.

Do you sometime find Scripture hard to understand? 
If so, what can you do to understand it better?

Matthew 16:13-20 - Peter Confesses Jesus is Christ

You can know what others think about Jesus, but that isn't enough.  You must think about Jesus for yourself.  So Jesus asked the disciples who do the people say He is.  Jesus needed them to openly confess that He was both the Messiah and Son of God in order to prepare them for the next step - the cross.  Jesus asks each person that same thing today.    

The disciples answered that some say Jesus was John the Baptist, some Elijah, others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.  Then Jesus asked Peter, "Who do you say I am?" - Matt. 16:15.   Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." - Matt. 16:16.  Peter realized that Jesus was truly God.  Peter's understanding of the identity of Jesus came by divine revelation (Matt. 16:17).  Then Jesus gives authority to the disciples to admit believers to the Kingdom and to bind the nonbelievers for judgment. "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." - Matt. 16:19.

Who do you say Jesus is?  The Holy Spirit speaks to us revealing to us that Jesus is Lord.  It is important for us to answer this question truthfully with belief in our hearts and our confession needs to be public.  We need to be ready to give a firm answer when asked who Jesus is and what we believe. 

Christ means "the Anointed One."  He is the fulfillment of God's promise and the mediator between God and man.  Christ is the Great Prophet, Only High Priest, Eternal King or Lord, Savior, and True Shepherd.  Jesus is God's Son.  He is the Almighty Lord God of the Bible.  Jesus as God is the Creator, the giver of life and forgiver of sin.  Jesus is over angles, demons, mankind, nature, death, health and illness.  He is the final authority and His Words are God's Words.

Jesus called Peter a rock and that His church will be built on this rock.  The rock is actually Jesus Himself.  Peter is like the first rock in God's building.  Jesus is the true foundation.  God's building is the church and Peter was the first person to declare that he believed Jesus.  Peter became a leader and teacher in the church and was the first to speak to the crowds at Pentecost.  In Acts 2 at Pentecost  Peter spoke boldly to the crowd teaching and preaching.  He explained the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus and told the people what to do to be saved.  On that day the Holy Spirit was poured out on the people and 3,000 were saved.  It was the beginning of the Christ's Church. 

Have you confessed Christ as Savior?
Do you have assurance that you died with Christ and He carried your sins in your place?

Matthew 21-28 - Jesus Predicts His Death

From that time on Jesus starts to explain to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer on the cross, but that He will be raised on the third day.  Peter said, "Never, Lord!...This shall never happen to you!" - Matt. 16:22.  Jesus said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan!  You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." - Matt. 16:22-23.  Peter didn't want His beloved friend to die and suffer.  He was thinking selfishly.  He wasn't thinking of God's purpose that Jesus was sent to earth to save the people from their sins.  He was yielding to his emotions and reasoning like that of Satan.  According to Jesus when you reject or ignore the cross, Satan is using your mind and tongue (Matt. 16:23).

How do you selfishly reject or ignore the cross?
Are a stumbling block to the work of Christ?
Do your words and actions point others the Christ?

"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.  What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?" - Matt. 16:24-26.  To deny yourself and take up your cross means that you share His rejection by the world.  You yield to God and what He stands for even if it involves suffering and humiliation.  It means giving your life in sacrifice for others.  When you come to the cross for salvation and follow Jesus, you cannot avoid "losing your life".  To lose your life means to die to your sin, your wants and desires, and surrender to Jesus.  Then you will live to do what He desires.  Jesus promises eternal life to all who lose their lives for Him.  You can gain what pleasures the world has to offer, but when you die they will mean nothing.  You can't take it with you.  Only faith, hope and love will survive.  Jesus gave His disciples glorious hope in Matt. 16:27-28 - "For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.  I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom." 

"In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." - John 14:2-3.

Matt. 16:28 is hard to understand just what Jesus is talking about.  If you read the next to verses in the next chapter, you see He was talking to Peter, James, and John.  They witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus.  So I think Matt. 16:28 is referring to the future event of the transfiguration.

How can you deny yourself ant take up your cross?
Do you sacrifice for others?
Are you ready for Jesus to return?
If not, will you repent right now and ask Him into your heart?

Great lesson!  Thanks be to God!!  See you next week for Matthew 17.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Matthew 15

Last week we learned that Jesus provides for His own in every situation. 

Matthew 15:1-20 - Jesus Condemns Hypocrisy and Defines Uncleanness 

The Pharisees and the teachers of the law wanted to know where Jesus stood on the basic religious traditions.  They asked Him why His disciples broke the tradition of the elders, which was to do a ceremonial washing of their hand before they ate.  Of course the Bible gives no law concerning this.  They were offended that the disciples didn't observe the rigid rituals they had made up.   

Jesus saw their self-righteousness, desires to maintain power, and no love for people.    Jesus turned their question into a challenge for them to examine themselves.  The question was a tradition where the Pharisees had directly contradicted Old Testament teaching of honoring your father and mother.  They were to give their aged parents financial support, but they had dedicated their money to God or the temple.  This was called "Corban" leaving it up to the temple to take care of their aged parents.  This way they washed their hands of any financial support.  Jesus called them "hypocrites" and said that Isaiah's prophesy was right.  "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  They worship me in vain; their teaching are but rules taught my men." - Matt. 15:8-9.  They focused on outward cleanliness instead of inward cleanliness.  They put their man-made traditions above the teachings of Scripture. 

Are you religious, but not truly worshipping God?
Do you twist the Scripture to suit your circumstances?
How are you a hypocrite about God and religion?

Then Jesus turned to the people to explain true defilement.  He said, "What goes into a man's mouth does not make him unclean, but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him unclean." - Matt. 15:11.  Peter did not understand and Jesus called him, dull, which means "do you still not understand".  So Jesus explains.  "Don't you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body?  But the things that come out of the mouth came from the heart, and these make a man unclean.  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.  These are what make a man unclean; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him unclean." - Matt. 15:19-20.  To eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.  It's all about what's in your heart.  

Principle:  God's Word is more important that mankind's traditions. 

Is your heart clean?
Have you confessed your unclean things to God?
Do your words show others you are a follower of Jesus? 

Matthew 15:21-28 - Jesus Heals The Canaanite Woman's Daughter 

The disciples warned Jesus that He had offended the Pharisees and there could be consequences.  So Jesus took them outside the boundaries of Israel.  Probably because of danger from the Pharisees and also they needed to be alone in a quiet place so He could teach without interruption from the crowds.  They went to the region of Tyre and Sidon, which was Gentile country. 

A Canaanite woman approached Jesus crying and pleading with Him to have mercy on her and her daughter who was suffering from demon-possession.  She called Jesus "Lord, Son of David".  Jesus didn't answer her.  This wasn't because He wasn't interested in her, but because He knew that His silence would lead her to a greater faith.  He said, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." - Matt. 15:24.  I am sure He spoke with gentleness to her telling her His ministry was confined to Jews.  Then the woman knelt in humility before Him and called Him "Lord" again.  She was persistent and Jesus said "Woman, you have great faith!  Your request is granted." - Matt. 15:28.  Jesus gave her much more than she asked for.  He awoke in her great faith giving her a deeper relationship with Him as well as healed her daughter. 

God's purpose was that the gospel should first be presented to the Jews and then to the world.  It was only after the cross that the Holy Spirit at Pentecost were the Jews able and equipped to give the gospel to the world.  Then at that time the world would be prepared to receive it. 

Are you persistent in your prayer to God?
What rewards have you receive from persistent prayer?
How can you show Jesus that you have faith in Him?
God rewards those who seek Him.
God usually has more for us than what's on the surface. 

Matthew 15:29-39 - Jesus Feeds the 4,000 

Jesus left and went along the Sea of Galilee and then up on a mountain.  Again great crowds of people came to Him with their sick for healing.  He healed the lame, the blind, the cripple, the mute.  This is a picture of eternity - no more sickness.  We will have perfect bodies.  

The people were with Jesus for three days and were hungry.  Jesus had compassion on them and again He provided food for them as He did the 5,000 in chapter 14.  There were really more than 4,000, if you include the women and children.  There were probably about 15,000 total.  Here are the differences between the two events:
they were to sit on grass in groups of  50
there were 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread
there were 12 baskets of leftovers
they were mostly Jews
they were 1 day without food
they were to sit on ground
there were a few fish and 7 loaves of bread
there were 7 baskets of leftovers
there were more Gentiles than Jews
there were 3 days without food 

There are lessons to learn from these two miracles:  God 's always aware of our needs.  He always provides.  He desires to feed us and then for us to feed others.  There is nothing impossible for God.  We should give thanks to God as Jesus did.  Jesus is the Bread of Life for the world. 

Are you sharing with Him the feeding of others?
Will you ask God to show you how to help others know Him?

Principle:  Jesus is the Bread of Life for the world. 

This chapter teaches many lessons.  It shows Jesus' compassion for those in need.  He sees our hearts and never turns anyone away.  It teaches us that our motives comes out of our thinking and what is in our heart is either clean or unclean.  One example of being unclean is gossip.  It comes out as being judgmental.  We need to humbly and earnestly seek Him and worship Him before we ask Him for something. 

Hope to see you next week for Chapter 16.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Matthew 14

Last week we learned that there is nothing more important that God's Kingdom.

Matthew 14:1-12 - Persecution

Herod had arrested John the Baptist and held him in prison because he had accused Herod and his new wife, Herodias for adultery.  She was married to Herod's brother, Philip, a woman of loose moral, and unfaithful to Philip.  Herod feared John and protected him knowing John was a righteous and holy man.  He even liked listening to John preach, but he was afraid of the people since they considered John a prophet.  Herodias resented John for calling her out on her sin and held a grudge and planned to murder him for revenge.  She used her daughter to carry out her crime and caused her to sin.

On Herod's birthday Herodias' daughter, Salome danced for Herod.  He was so pleased that he promised her anything she wanted.  Her mother involved her in her revenge against John and said to ask for John's head on a platter.  All the people heard Herod make this promise.  Herod knew it was wrong, but was weak and didn't want to go against his wife.  He also wanted to please the people and didn't want to be laughed at for not keeping a promise so he beheaded John.  Rash promises are no excuse for doing wrong things.  Herod had a terrible end.  He later would be accused of treason against Rome and would be banished where he and his wife committed suicide.

Wow!  This sounds like a soap opera.

What are you teaching your daughter?  It's a privilege to train our children.  Our children are exposed to a lot today - the internet, TV, video games.  It's our responsibility to protect our house and families and to set a good example.  They learn a lot through direct teaching, but they lean much more by watching us.  A parent’s job description – Deu. 6:7“Impress them on your children.  Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”  Wisdom starts with God.  We’re teaching all the time whether we realize it or not.  We need to teach them about Jesus and who He is.  This is your job not the church or Sunday the school teacher.  This goes for grandparents, too.

Are you setting a good example for your children?
Do you hold a grudge against someone?  Holding grudges will give into sin.
Have you ever been laughed at or mistreated for being a follower of Jesus?
Have you ever given in to the pressure of sin when you know it was wrong?
Will you ask God to give you strength to make the right decision and not give in?

Holding a grudge can lead to sin.
God gives strength in times of sorrow.

Matthew 14:13-21 - Provision

The disciples took John's body and buried it and told Jesus.  When Jesus heard this, He called Herod a fox (Mark 6:26).  After hearing of John's death Jesus and His disciples withdrew needing rest and time to grieve.  The crowds still followed, but Jesus did not turn them away.  He had great compassion on them.  He saw their helplessness and need for Him.  Like a loving shepherd He puts aside His own needs.  He continued to teach and heal their sick. 

Evening approached and the disciples asked Jesus to send them away because there was not food and they needed to eat.  Jesus challenged both the compassion and the faith of His disciples.  He said, "They do not need to go away.  You will give them something to eat." - Matt. 14:16.  "We have only five loaves of bread and two fish, they answered." - Matt. 14:17.  Jesus directed the crowd of 5,000 to sit down and took the five loaves and two fish and gave thanks to God.  He then gave them to the disciple to give to the people.  They all ate and were satisfied with pieces left over.  The people were hungry and needed food and the bread of life.  "I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty." - John 6. 

Do you have something small, but important to give to help others?
What talents and gifts do you have that might help others?
What about your time, your money, your love?

Jesus teaches His disciples to be compassionate, that God has resources we know nothing about, and that God will always provide.

Jesus provides for His own in every situation.
God has resources we know nothing about.

Matthew 14:22-36 - Protection

Jesus made His disciples get into the boat while He went to be alone to pray.  He must have been going to use this scene as a teaching moment since it said he "made" them get into the boat.  During the night the boat drifted out way beyond the shore.  A storm came up and tossed the boat around.  Jesus in His tender love for His faithful followers and their distress, walked across the lake to meet them.  When the disciples saw Him, they were terrified and said, "It's a ghost." - Matt. 14:26.  Jesus said to them, "Take courage!  It is I.  Don't be afraid." - Matt. 14:26. 

Peter as usual as a leader said, "Lord, if it's you, tell me to come to you on the water." - Matt.14:28.  Jesus told him to come.  Peter then got out of the boat, but became distracted and turned his eyes from Jesus and began to sink.  He cried for Jesus to save him.  Jesus took his hand and they walked on the water together.  Jesus said, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" - Matt. 14:31.  Then they all worshiped Jesus and said, "Truly you are the Son of God." - Matt. 14:33.

They had forgotten the miracle that had just happened when Jesus fed the 5,000.  If they had truly responded by faith, they would not doubted so quickly.  When Peter focused on Jesus, he was safe.  When he looked at the circumstances around him, he became fearful.  When we look in fear to what future danger there may be, that is unbelief.  We need to keep our eyes on Jesus and trust Him.  Jesus will never let you sink in your situation.  God's timing is always perfect.  He is there when we need Him.  He appears just when we need comfort and reassurance.  His hand is always there for you to take hold of.

Can you relate to Peter?  It's hard sometimes to step out in faith.
Have you ever heard Jesus say "Come and trust me to do the impossible?"
Will you take His hand to do the impossible?"

Jesus can do the impossible.God will help us in storms of life when we focus our eyes on Him.

For the first time they really knew who Jesus was and worshiped Him.  "Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, say, 'Truly you are the Son of God.'". - Matt. 14:33.  When we know who Jesus really is, our life will change.  When you are in the storms of life, He will teach you something new.

I hope you saw Jesus' love and compassion in these passages, how he put the needs of others before His own, and how He used each situation to train His disciples.  He shows us how to have compassion for others, how we are to thank God as He did for the fish and bread, how He always provides what we need when we need it, and how is He is always there to protect us in the storms of life.  We can see ourselves in Peter and the other disciples.  At times we get distracted and take our eyes off of Jesus.  We let doubt and we fear take over.  We need to keep looking to Jesus.  He knows our situations and is always there, if we call on Him.  Gaze at Jesus and glance at everything else.

See you next week for Matthew 15

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Matthew 13 - Part 2

Last time in Matthew Part 1 we learned that when Jesus returns counterfeit Christians will be recognized and removed from Christ's church. 

Where is your value?  Is it Christ and eternity?  Nothing is more important than that.  The Kingdom of Heaven is used six times in these parables.  What is the Kingdom of Heaven?  Jesus is the King and through His grace we can be part of His Kingdom.  Through the Holy Spirit we show the world the Kingdom of God.  In the future Jesus will reign here on earth.  One day we will all understand what it all truly means. 

Jesus continues His teaching in parables.  In these parables He did not explain to the disciples what they meant as He did with the previous parables.  In verse 51 Jesus asked them if they understood the parables and they answered, "yes".  It could have been because they would not have understood anyway. He had not gone to the cross and given up everything yet.  Jesus knew they would truly understand these prophetic mysteries when they entered their ministry after His death and ascension. 

Matthew 13:31-35 - The Parable of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast 

The parables of the mustard seed and the yeast seem to have the same meaning.  I will give you my interpretation.  Jesus compared the mustard seed as the Kingdom of Heaven.  Jesus planted the seed of the gospel and some people believed.  The seed is so powerful that as time passes it influences more and more people to believe and spreads over the whole earth.  The mustard seed becomes the largest tree in the garden.  The birds who come to perch in the tree represent evil.  These are those who are counterfeit Christians, take advantage of true Christians, and hinder the gospel.   

To me the Parable of the Yeast has the same meaning.  The yeast is like the Kingdom of Heaven which influences the world.  The flour represents the world.  Yeast is powerful and a little bit goes a long way and influences the whole batch of flour. Both parables prophesy the tremendous expansion of the Kingdom of Heaven to come. 

God's Kingdom will spread according to his plan and purpose.
The work and purposes of God are often underestimated, but are unstoppable. 

What are you doing to help spread the gospel and grow God's Kingdom? 

Matthew 13:44-46 - The Parable of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl 

Here Jesus again does not explain the parables.  There are two ways to look at these: 

One is that our treasure is Jesus Christ Himself and to have Him we must give up everything to follow Him.  The other is that we are His treasure.  What a great feeling to know we are His treasure.  He loves us and gave up everything for us.  Thank you Jesus!  

One meaning of the Parable of the Pearl is that Pearl is Jesus and the merchant is us.  In the story we (the merchant) seek God (the Pearl) and when we finds Him, we give all we have to acquire Him.  Another meaning is the man or merchant is Jesus and the church is the Pearl.  Jesus paid the price of death for us, the church. 

Jesus shows His great value and sacrificial love for His own.  He gave up everything for us and we need to give up everything to follow Him.  He loves us and we should love Him as much.  He is our treasure and we are His.  What a comfort for those who belong to Him.  

Are you His treasure?
What specific treasure has God given you?
How faithful are you in sharing your treasure of Jesus with others?
How does your life truly show He has died for you?

The Church and believers are special treasures to Jesus.
Nothing is more valuable than God's kingdom.

One day Jesus and His Kingdom will be revealed to all.  Are you prepared for that day?  There is nothing more valuable that Christ and His Kingdom.  Is He your treasure?

Matthew 13:47-50 - The Parable of the Net 

"Once again the Kingdom of God is like a net.." - Matt. 13:47.  The Net is the Word of God.  The good fish are true believers.  The bad fish are unbelievers and counterfeit Christians.  The fisherman are angels.  At the end of the age there are two outcomes for the two types.  These are similar to the Parable of the Weeds in Matthew 13:39-43.  When Jesus returns the angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous.  The righteous will be with Jesus in heaven and the wicked will be thrown in the fiery furnace.  This parable prophesies the judgment to come. 

At judgment God will separate the wicked from the righteous.
God's promises and power are real and our appropriate response is to believe and share them with others. 

What is your responsibility to Jesus' repeated warning? 
Will you share the gospel with someone before it's too late? 

Matthew 13:53-58 - The Rejection 

After Jesus finished the parables He went to His home town.  He preached in the synagogue and the people were amazed at His wisdom, but instead of accepting Him as the Son of God they took offense and rejected Him.  "Isn't this the carpenter's son?  Isn't his mother's name Mary, and aren't his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?" - Matt. 13:55.  Rejection of Him continues even today.  Jesus did not do any miracles in His hometown.  Perhaps because the people had no faith in Him and would not have listened or believed anyway.  He did not waste His time.  

One who believes and serves is often rejected by family and others.

Have you ever tried to be a witness and experienced others would not listen to the Word of God?
What can you do in this situation?
What is it He's showing you again and again?  Ask Him to show you His truths.
How will you let these truths be a priority in you day?
Will you let God help you see what really matters?
How do you respond to God's Word?  Every time you read the Word you are responding to Him in some way.  If you resist His Word, you are resisting Him.  If you received His Word, you are receiving Him. 

All these parables are prophetic and relate to the God's kingdom, which is the church all through the ages.  They show the different reactions to the preaching of the gospel; they tell of the expansion of the kingdom of God to come; they reveal there are counterfeit Christians in the church; they tell us that we are the Lord's treasure and how important we are to Him; they tell of the judgment to come with the separation of the righteous and the wicked. 

I hope everyone had a blessed Christmas and you are now ready to get back on track with the study of Matthew.  See you next week for Matthew 14.