Matthew 28

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Greetings,

The Resurrection

 1After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. 2There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

 5The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

 8So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

This is the central point of human history.  If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead then his death on the cross wouldn’t have mattered. 

It is interesting that women were the first witnesses.  Women couldn’t even testify in court in that culture, so if the Disciples made up this story they did a pretty lousy job of it. 

The Guards’ Report

 11While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.

The lie of the Guards and the Jews just doesn’t make sense.  The Disciples were obviously not courageous enough to come steal Jesus’ body, especially if they were convinced that He was still dead.  And if the Guards were asleep, how did they know what had happened?  It was a major issue to fall asleep while on duty, as a soldier could be killed for that.

Other fanciful explanations have been offered, such as that Jesus wasn’t really dead on the cross.  But the Romans were skilled at executions and they wouldn’t have overlooked such a highly visible one as this.  And a “resurrected” Jesus in such a state wouldn’t have inspired the changes in the Disciples that we see.

The only explanation that logically fits the facts is that Jesus really rose from the dead as promised.

The Great Commission

 16Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Consider Jesus final words before ascending into Heaven: “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”  That is what we should be doing as Christians.  He is with us always. 

What stood out to you, and why?

Matthew 27

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Greetings,

Judas Hangs Himself

 1Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people came to the decision to put Jesus to death. 2They bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate, the governor.

 3When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. 4“I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”
      “What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”

 5So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

 6The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.” 7So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. 8That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day. 9Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: “They took the thirty silver coins, the price set on him by the people of Israel, 10and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.”

The leaders’ hypocrisy was raging.  They didn’t deny that Jesus was innocent.  They broke their own laws with their farce of a trial and payment of blood money to catch Jesus.  But then they decided to follow their little rules and not put the money in the treasury!  Again, they fulfilled an Old Testament prophecy (written hundreds of years earlier) without realizing it. 

Judas was full of worldly repentence but wasn’t truly repentent.  He could have asked for forgiveness and been reconciled with Jesus, just as Peter did after denying Jesus three times.

Jesus Before Pilate

 11Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
      “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied.

 12When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. 13Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” 14But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.

 15Now it was the governor’s custom at the Feast to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. 16At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas. 17So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18For he knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over to him.

 19While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”

 20But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.

 21“Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.
      “Barabbas,” they answered.

 22“What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?” Pilate asked.
      They all answered, “Crucify him!”

 23“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
      But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

 24When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”

 25All the people answered, “Let his blood be on us and on our children!”

 26Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

Democracy’s not-so-finest moment – choosing Barabbas instead of Jesus.  I wonder if and when Barabbas realized he was the first one saved by Jesus’ death on the cross? 

The Soldiers Mock Jesus

 27Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. 31After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

Jesus endured these taunting and beatings even though He is the God of the universe and could have walked away from an ungrateful humanity at any time.  May we as Christians be as graceful and obedient when the world mocks and curses us.

The Crucifixion

 32As they were going out, they met a man from Cyrene, named Simon, and they forced him to carry the cross. 33They came to a place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). 34There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. 35When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. 36And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. 37Above his head they placed the written charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS. 38Two robbers were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!”

 41In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. 42“He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’ ” 44In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

Psalm 22 contains many prophecies of the crucifixion, such as v. 18: “They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.”

The Death of Jesus

 45From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. 46About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

 47When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”

 48Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

 50And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

Jesus was in control to the end – He gave up his spirit.

 51At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.

There was a curtain in the “most holy place” in the temple that only the chief priest could pass through, and even then only once per year.  He did it to atone for the sins of the nation.  God tore the curtain from top to bottom to signify that we could now approach him directly through the sacrifice of Jesus.

The earth shook and the rocks split. 52The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

 54When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

 55Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. 56Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

The Burial of Jesus

 57As evening approached, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus. 58Going to Pilate, he asked for Jesus’ body, and Pilate ordered that it be given to him. 59Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away. 61Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the tomb.

This was a very brave thing for Joseph to do, displaying his loyaly after Jesus was dead.

The Guard at the Tomb

 62The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63“Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”

 65“Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” 66So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

What passages stood out to you, and why?

Matthew 26

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Greetings!

The Plot Against Jesus

 1When Jesus had finished saying all these things, he said to his disciples, 2“As you know, the Passover is two days away—and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.”

 3Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, 4and they plotted to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him. 5“But not during the Feast,” they said, “or there may be a riot among the people.”

These religious leaders – who knew the law better than anyone – were willing to commit premeditated murder to save their positions.

Jesus Anointed at Bethany

 6While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, 7a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.

 8When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. 9“This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.”

 10Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. 12When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 13I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

As noted in the Gospel of John, the one who commented about giving the money to the poor was Judas Iscariot, who would betray Jesus.  He was responsible for the group’s money. 

Jesus wasn’t soft on poverty (“The poor you will always have with you . . .”).  He was just stating a fact.  It must be amazing for the people in the Bible (at least those who became believers) to know their stories have been told billions of times. 

Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus

 14Then one of the Twelve—the one called Judas Iscariot—went to the chief priests 15and asked, “What are you willing to give me if I hand him over to you?” So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. 16From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

The leaders unwittingly fulfilled a prophecy written 500 years earlier in the book of Zechariah.  Ironically, thirty silver coins was the price of a slave in the Old Testament

The Lord’s Supper

 17On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Where do you want us to make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

 18He replied, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house.’ ” 19So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover.

 20When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. 21And while they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.”

 22They were very sad and began to say to him one after the other, “Surely not I, Lord?”

 23Jesus replied, “The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. 24The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

 25Then Judas, the one who would betray him, said, “Surely not I, Rabbi?”
      Jesus answered, “Yes, it is you.”

Presumably the exchange between Judas and Jesus was made quietly so that the others couldn’t hear it.

 26While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

 27Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

 30When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

This was the first Lord’s supper, the sacrement of communion celebrated around the world.

Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial

 31Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written:
   ” ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ 32But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”

 33Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.”

 34“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”

 35But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.

Jesus was very clear in his predictions of his death and resurrection, but the Disciples just weren’t equipped to fully understand this.

Gethsemane

 36Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

 39Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Verse 39 is packed with meaning.  First of all, here is Jesus asking God the Father if there is another way for the salvation of humanity.  What was the answer?  No.  There is no other way.  Many Christians are quick to say that other religions offer a path to Heaven, but that is simply un-Biblical.  Jesus is the only way.  Really.  There are at least 100 direct and indirect indications in the Bible that Jesus is the only way to forgiveness of sins, salvation and eternal life.  It is the position that Christians, by definition, must hold.  Preaching a different Gospel is a profoundly bad idea.

Next, consider the obedience.  Do I submit to God’s will in such a devoted and humble way?

 40Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”

 42He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

 43When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

I have read the Gospels many times but just noticed that He prayed about the cup to be taking away (i.e., the crucifixion) three times, not just one.

 45Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

Jesus Arrested

 47While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. 48Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.” 49Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.

 50Jesus replied, “Friend, do what you came for.”

   Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. 51With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

 52“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. 53Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? 54But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”

 55At that time Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. 56But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.

Jesus was in complete control of the situation at all times.  He could have stopped the proceedings whenever He wanted and disintegrated the universe that He created.  He was God and He was going to be unfairly tried and horribly punished for trying to help these people.  But He willingly suffered all these things for you and me. 

Jesus was human, also, so it must have been very painful to have his friends desert him in his hour of need.  Regardless of what has happened to you in life, know that Jesus suffered pain and rejection as well and can related to your suffering.

Before the Sanhedrin

 57Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. 58But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.

 59The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. 60But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward.

   Finally two came forward 61and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’ ”

 62Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 63But Jesus remained silent.
      The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”

 64“Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

 65Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. 66What do you think?”
      “He is worthy of death,” they answered.

 67Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him 68and said, “Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit you?”

Note how they accused him of blasphemy.  Jesus claimed to be God and they realized it.  They just didn’t believe He was right.

Peter Disowns Jesus

 69Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said.

 70But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.

 71Then he went out to the gateway, where another girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.”

 72He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!”

 73After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away.”

 74Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!”

   Immediately a rooster crowed. 75Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.

Peter denied Jesus even after Jesus told him that is what he would do.  How many times have I denied Jesus with my lifestyle or my words?

What passages stood out to you, and why?

Matthew 25

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Greetings,

The Parable of the Ten Virgins

 1“At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep. 6“At midnight the cry rang out: ‘Here’s the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’

 7“Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.’

 9” ‘No,’ they replied, ‘there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.’

 10“But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

 11“Later the others also came. ‘Sir! Sir!’ they said. ‘Open the door for us!’

 12“But he replied, ‘I tell you the truth, I don’t know you.’

 13“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.

That is a sobering message.  It shows that our relationship with God is an individual one.  We can’t borrow or buy it, and we need to be ready. 

The Parable of the Talents

 14“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. 15To one he gave five talents of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. 17So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. 18But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. 19“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’

 21“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

 22“The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’

 23“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

 24“Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

 26“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

 28” ‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

Jesus didn’t reward the servants based on the total returns, but on the percentage.  The first servant gained five more talents (a talent was 60-80 lbs. of silver) and the second gained just two, yet they received the commendation all Christians hope to hear one day: ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Am I faithful with what God has entrusted me?  If I died today, which servant would I be?

The Sheep and the Goats

 31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. 32All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. 34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

 37“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

 40“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

 41“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

 44“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

 45“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

 46“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Are we saved by doing these good deeds or condemned by not doing them?  No, that wouldn’t make sense with the rest of scripture. 

This is also a challenging passage as we are called not just to write checks but to get involved in ministering to people.  We all have limits to what we can do and preferences as to how we can best serve, but I encourage everyone to find some way to serve others.  I recently started participating in Kairos Prison Ministry and can attest to how rewarding it is and how life changing it is for the prisoners. 

What passages stood out to you, and why?

Matthew 24

jesus6.jpgGreetings!

Roughly 40 years after Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, the city of Jerusalem was completely demolished by the Romans.  They had put up with rebellion from the Jews for a long time and finally had enough.  Jesus predicted the destruction in this passage. 

The destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. is not mentioned in the Bible, so it is virtually certain that nearly all the books were written before that time.  Matthew lists many prophecies and how they were fulfilled.  It is almost unthinkable that he wouldn’t note the fulfillment of Jesus’ prediction about the temple destruction if it had occurred before this book was written.  Also see When was the New Testament written?  This is an important issue because the more closely something is written to the date of the actual events the more reliable it tends to be. 

Signs of the End of the Age

 1Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. 2“Do you see all these things?” he asked. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”

 3As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

 4Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. 6You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8All these are the beginning of birth pains.

 9“Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

 15“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— 16then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. 18Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. 19How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 20Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. 21For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. 22If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. 23At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible. 25See, I have told you ahead of time.

 26“So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.

 29“Immediately after the distress of those days
   ” ‘the sun will be darkened,
      and the moon will not give its light;
   the stars will fall from the sky,
      and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’

 30“At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. 31And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

 32“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 33Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. 34I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 35Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

The Day and Hour Unknown

Jesus didn’t tell them the specific time of his return.  He had willingly given up that knowledge.   This led some people to think He would be coming back soon.  People have made many predictions about when He will come back, but so far they have been wrong 100% of the time.  If someone claims He is coming back at a specific time then I encourage you to be skeptical.  I always remind people that if I get run over by a bus tomorrow then that will be may own personal “rapture,” so to speak, and I will be judged based on my life and commitment (or lack of commitment) to Jesus.

 36“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

 42“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

 45“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. 47I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. 48But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ 49and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. 50The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. 51He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The short version of this is be ready.  Don’t put off deciding whom you will commit your life to.

What passages stood out to you, and why?

Matthew 23

jerusalem2.jpg

Greetings,

The “Seven Woes” denounce false religion in the strongest possible terms.  Jesus hammers the Jewish leaders relentlessly.

Seven Woes

 1Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: 2“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. 5“Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’

 8“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. 9And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ.[ 11The greatest among you will be your servant. 12For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

This is a classic case of someone saying, “Do as I say, not as I do.”  The Pharisees acted in grossly  hypocritical fashion.  As He often did, Jesus turns things upside down and says that if you exalt yourself you will be humbled, but if you humble yourself you will be exalted.

 13“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

 15“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.

Teaching false doctrines is a sin because it leads people away from the truth.  There are many verses in the Bible emphasizing the importance of sound doctrine

 16“Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ 17You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.’ 19You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22And he who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.

These leaders focused on the details so much that they even tithed on the spices from their gardens!  However, they ignored major issues such as justice, mercy and faithfulness. 

 23“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

It is much easier to clean up our “outside” – that is, our public behavior – than it is to change our hearts.  But if our hearts change then the behavior will follow. 

 25“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

 27“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. 28In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

 29“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. 30And you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ 31So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!

 33“You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? 34Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation.

Jerusalem was the capital city of Israel, the land of God’s chosen people.  It should have been the place where people got it right.  But the leaders put their own interests first and committed all sorts of sins. 

 37“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. 38Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'”

What passages stood out to you, and why?

Matthew 22

caesar.jpgGreetings!

The Parable of the Wedding Banquet

It was customary at that time to send two invitations to a wedding – one to request someone’s attendance and another to announce that it was ready.  In this story, there are three invitations sent.  Not only do the invitees ignore the extra invitation but they even kill the servants!  This was more than a great insult to the host. 

1Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2“The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.

 4“Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’

 5“But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. 6The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.

 8“Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

 11“But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 12‘Friend,’ he asked, ‘how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless.

 13“Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

 14“For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

So what is the application?  God is generous in his invitations to us, but one day the opportunities will be gone.  As Hebrews 4:7 says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”  You never know which day will be your last.

The wedding clothes were often provided to guests.  Refusing to wear them would be arrogant and rude.  In this parable, these people are trying to come to God on their terms (bad idea).

Paying Taxes to Caesar

Once again, the Pharisees are foiled in their attempt to trick Jesus.   

 15Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. 16They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are. 17Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

 18But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? 19Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, 20and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”

 21“Caesar’s,” they replied.
      Then he said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

 22When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

Marriage at the Resurrection

 23That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 24“Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and have children for him. 25Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. 26The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. 27Finally, the woman died. 28Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?”

 29Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 31But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, 32‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

 33When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.

The Sadducees were another ruling group of Jews along with the Pharisees.  Jesus showed the error of their thinking and He corrected their false doctrine about there not being a resurrection. 

Jesus did not say we’ll be angels in Heaven, just that we’ll be like them in the sense of not marrying.

The Greatest Commandment

 34Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:

 36“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

If people were expecting an easy shortcut as to which commands they really needed to follow then this answer must have disappointed them.  Saying to “Love the Lord with all your heart . . .” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” makes it harder, not easier.  Everything we do must be out of genuine love for God and others.  When you realize how hard it is do that perfectly for even 10 consecutive minutes it helps you realize how much you need Jesus’ sacrifice in your place.  Should we aim at keeping those commands?  Yes.  Do we have any hope of doing it?  No way.

Whose Son Is the Christ

 41While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42“What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?”
      “The son of David,” they replied.

 43He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says,
 44” ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.” ‘ 45If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” 46No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.

This passage makes more sense when understanding that the word Lord is a term of deity in the original Hebrew.  Jesus was turning the tables and asking them questions now and they had no answers.  Also note how Jesus claims that David was speaking by the (Holy) Spirit when he wrote Psalm 110.

What passages stood out to you, and why?