“Then astonishment seized them all, and they glorified God. They were filled with awe, saying, ‘We have seen incredible things today.’”
Luke 5:26 NET
When Jesus forgave the sins of the paralitic man, he was criticized. But when the crowd saw Jesus cure the man, and the man walking and carrying his stretcher, the witnesses glorified God and exclaimed that they had seen something extraordinary.
Afterwards, Jesus calls Levi to follow him, and criticisms rain down on him again, No praises.
The verse above concludes the passage about the paralytic, but do you reckon that Luke isn’t wishing that the reader would make a similar exclamation about Levi’s calling?
For what is more incredible: forgiving sins, reclaiming a soul, inspiring a fat cat to leave his riches in order to follow the Lord, or restoring a man’s body? Is it not the former?
Today, things haven’t changed much. We are impressed with the material, while the spiritual passes unnoticed. Or criticized.
What impresses you?
You have your opinion, I have mine. Usually, opinions, being what they are, don’t matter much. Some of us prefer Apple, others a PC. In the end, both get the job done. But at times an opinion matters and means the difference between life and death, between right and wrong.
Text: Matthew 22
Memorize: “While the Pharisees were assembled, Jesus asked them a question: ‘What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?’ They said, ‘The son of David.'” Matthew 22:41-42 NET
Usually, Jesus’ enemies asked him questions, attempting to test him and make him stumble. Sometimes he answered them, sometimes not. This time, however, our Lord challenges the Pharisees with a question, which deals with the central issue of his identity. No matter of personal opinion, the answer was Continue reading
Text: Matthew 20
Memorize: “He said to her, ‘What do you want?'” Matthew 20:21 NET
In two stories in sequence, Jesus asks people what they want. In the first, he asks “the mother of the sons of Zebedee [who] came to him with her sons, and kneeling down she asked him for a favor” (v. 20). And no small favor at that! In the second, two blind men cry for mercy, so he asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” (v. 32), as if he didn’t know already.
He denies the first, while he grants the blind men’s desires. With his questions about what they want, he shows both his willingness to consider the requests, at the same time indicating that he doesn’t fill in blank checks. Continue reading
Text: Matthew 18
Memorize: “But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a huge millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the open sea.” Matthew 18:6 NET
Eternal life matters more than any other thing in this life (verse 8). Whoever causes another, more spiritually fragile and weaker in faith, to lose eternal life will be held responsible and will suffer dire consequences.
It is possible to make someone sin by arrogance (verses 1-5) and, in a way, by omission (verses 10-14) that fails to confront and admonish (verses 15-17). Continue reading
Text: Matthew 15
Memorize: And he replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father did not plant will be uprooted. Leave them! They are blind guides. If someone who is blind leads another who is blind, both will fall into a pit.” Matthew 15:13-14 NET
The subject: tradition above God’s commandments. The targets: Pharisees and scribes. The issue: breaking God’s commandments.
When this Jerusalem commission charged Jesus with breaking the ancient traditions, Jesus turned the tables on them and charged them with breaking God’s commandment because of their traditions. In the ensuing explanation and Jesus’ announcement to the crowds that contamination occurred from what came out of a man’s mouth and not what went into it, the disciples saw how deeply the Pharisees and scribes were offended. Continue reading
Text: Matthew 14
Memorize: “Now when Jesus heard this he went away from there privately in a boat to an isolated place. But when the crowd heard about it, they followed him on foot from the towns.” Matthew 14:13 NET
With the sad news of John the Immersor’s death at King Herod’s hands, Jesus seeks to get away to an isolated place. The text doesn’t explain the motive behind his action. Mark and Luke connect it with the Twelve’s return from the limited commission. Some see him removing himself from any possible confrontation with or provocation of Herod. Without taking away from the merits of those explanations, it may also be that Jesus seeks time away to be strengthened in company with the Father. Continue reading
Text: Matthew 11:25-30
Memorize: “At that time Jesus said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your gracious will.'” Matthew 11:25-26 NET
Not everyone can see it. Those who think they see are the most blind. The learned, bless their hearts, tout their studies and cite their sources as proof of why it can’t be this way. All the while, the humble little people get it. Continue reading
Text: Matthew 10
Memorize: “I am sending you out like sheep surrounded by wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Matthew 10:16 NET
We know the action of sending. We used to send letters written with mechanical instruments that scratched ink upon paper, stuffed into envelopes and sent by truck and plane. Now we hit “Send” to put an electronic message in someone’s inbox. We send, or ought to, on occasion, flowers to loved ones. Continue reading
Text: Matthew 9:9-13
Memorize: “As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax booth. ‘Follow me,’ he said to him. And he got up and followed him.” Matthew 9:9
Jesus made disciples by eyeballing them and calling them to a radical relationship which meant denial and abandonment in order to follow him. On the road, in a house, Jesus sought out people with a sense of need, and showed them the cure for their real malady. Continue reading
Text: Matthew 8:5-13
Memorize: “For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I say to this one, ‘Go’ and he goes, and to another ‘Come’ and he comes, and to my slave ‘Do this’ and he does it.” Matthew 8:9 NET
Read the soldier’s oath upon enlistment in the American military:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
The military is a hierarchy. Boot camp ensures that the recruit obeys his superiors immediately, without question. Continue reading