1465.) Matthew 20

December 12, 2014


“The late comers” from Vie de Jesus MAFA

Matthew 20   (NRSV)

The Labourers in the Vineyard

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.

Like many of Jesus’ parables, this story is about an employer and those who work for him. Jesus will use this story to answer a question from Matthew 19:27 — See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?

3“When he went out about nine o”clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; 4and he said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.

5“When he went out again about noon and about three o”clock, he did the same. 6And about five o”clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, ‘Why are you standing here idle all day?’ 7They said to him, ‘Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard.’

Evidently the landowner has plenty of work.  He seems surprised to find workers standing idle — he would have hired them earlier, it seems, had they been there.

8“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, ‘Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’

9“When those hired about five o”clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 10Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. 11And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, 12saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’

13“But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? 14Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. 15Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ 16So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

We who are working in God’s vineyard here on earth ought not be jealous of the gifts or rewards belonging to others.  The Lord will do as he sees fit and we can only say “Thank you.”

“My last word to God’s children is this: what does it matter, after all, whether we are first or whether we are last? Do not let us dwell too much upon it, for we all share the honor given to each. When we are converted, we become members of Christ’s living body; and as we grow in grace, and get the true spirit that permeates that body, we shall say, when any member of it is honored, ‘This is honor for us’ . . . If any brother shall be greatly honored of God, I feel honored in his honor. If God shall bless your brother, and make him ten times more useful than you are, then you see that he is blessing you — not only blessing him, but you. If my hand has something in it, my foot does not say, ‘Oh, I have not got it!’ No, for if my hand has it, my foot has it; it belongs to the whole of my body.”

–Charles Haddon Spurgeon



HERE  is “Make Me A Servant” — sung here by the Maranatha Singers, but I remember more clearly my mother singing it around the house.


A Third Time Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection

“Let me not boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Galatians 6:14

17While Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and said to them on the way, 18“See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death; 19then they will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified; and on the third day he will be raised.”

The Request of the Mother of James and John

20Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling before him, she asked a favor of him. 21And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Declare that these two sons of mine will sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.”

M20 brothers

Jewish mother humor:

A Jewish mother put her two young sons in a double stroller and went to the park.  There an older woman approached her and admired the two boys.  “How old are they?” she asked.

“Well,” the Jewish mother replied, “the lawyer is three and the doctor is one.”

(told to me by a real Jewish mother)

22But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” 23He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left, this is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”

24When the ten heard it, they were angry with the two brothers.

Here is jealousy at work.  Jesus has warned us about this.

25But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 26It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, 27and whoever wishes to be first among you must be your slave; 28just as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

M20 do you love me heart


What makes the temptation of power so seemingly irresistible?

Maybe it is that power offers an easy substitute for the hard task of love. It seems easier to be God than to love God, easier to control people than to love people, easier to own life than to love life.

Jesus asks, “Do you love me?” We ask, “Can we sit at your right hand and your left hand in your Kingdom?”

–from Reflections, Christianity Today, February 8, 1999

Jesus Heals Two Blind Men

“Two Blind Men Receive Sight” by Ian Pollock, contemporary British illustrator.

29As they were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. 30There were two blind men sitting by the roadside. When they heard that Jesus was passing by, they shouted, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” 31The crowd sternly ordered them to be quiet; but they shouted even more loudly, “Have mercy on us, Lord, Son of David!” 32Jesus stood still and called them, saying, “What do you want me to do for you?” 33They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” 34Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they regained their sight and followed him.

1 John 1:1-4 (The Message)

From the very first day, we were there, taking it all in—we heard it with our own ears, saw it with our own eyes, verified it with our own hands. The Word of Life appeared right before our eyes; we saw it happen! And now we’re telling you in most sober prose that what we witnessed was, incredibly, this: The infinite Life of God himself took shape before us.

We saw it, we heard it, and now we’re telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy!


The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
MAFA.    http://www.jesusmafa.com/wp-content/themes/dt-nimble/timthumb.php?src=/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/421.jpg&zc=1&w=710
vineyard workers.    http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2009/06/30/article-1196663-058C936B000005DC-639_468x286.jpg
boys in stroller.    http://lifeasoflate.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/10562125_10100226798117097_432991689_o.jpg
Pollock.   http://www.eichgallery.org/ianpollock/ipfinal/m34.html

1464.) Matthew 19

December 11, 2014

“With God All Things Are Possible” by American artist Mark Lawrence, 2008.

Matthew 19   (NRSV)

Teaching about Divorce

When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went to the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. 2Large crowds followed him, and he cured them there.

3Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him they asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?”

Divorce was a controversial topic in Jesus’ day, with two main schools of thought, centered around two of its most famous proponents. The first was the school of Rabbi Shammai (a strict and unpopular view) and second was the school of Rabbi Hillel (a lax and popular view).  The school of Rabbi Shammai understood that uncleanness meant sexual immorality, and said this was the only valid reason for divorce. The school of Rabbi Hillel understood uncleanness to mean any sort of indiscretion; even to the point where for some rabbis, burning a husband’s breakfast was considered valid grounds for divorce.

–David Guzik

4He answered, “Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ 5and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

7They said to him, “Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her?”

8He said to them, “It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery.”

In every marriage more than a week old, there are grounds for divorce.  The trick is to find, and continue to find, grounds for marriage.

–Robert Anderson

10His disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.”

11But he said to them, “Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. 12For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”

Jesus Blesses Little Children

"Let The Children Come,"  by Liz Lemon Swindle

“Let The Children Come,” by
Liz Lemon Swindle

13Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; 14but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” 15And he laid his hands on them and went on his way.

We Pray for Children

We pray for children
Who put chocolate fingers everywhere,
Who like to be tickled,
Who stomp in puddles and ruin their new pants,
Who sneak Popsicles before supper,
Who erase holes in math workbooks,
Who can never find their shoes.

And we pray for those
Who stare at photographers from behind barbed wire,
Who can’t bound down the street in new sneakers,
Who never “counted potatoes,”
Who are born in places we wouldn’t be caught dead  in,
Who never go to the circus,
Who live in an X-rated world.

We pray for children
Who bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions,
Who sleep with the cat and bury goldfish,
Who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money,
Who squeeze toothpaste all over the sink,
Who slurp their soup.

And we pray for those
Who never get dessert,
Who have no safe blanket to drag behind them,
Who can’t find any bread to steal,
Who don’t have any rooms to clean up,
Whose pictures aren’t on anybody’s dresser,
Whose monsters are real.

We pray for children
Who spend all their allowance before Tuesday,
Who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their food,
Who like ghost stories,
Who shove dirty clothes under the bed,
Who get visits from the tooth fairy,
Who don’t like to be kissed in front of the car pool,
Who squirm in church and scream on the phone,
Whose tears we sometimes laugh at and whose smiles can make us cry.

And we pray for those
Whose nightmares come in the daytime,
Who will eat anything,
Who have never seen a dentist,
Who are never spoiled by anyone,
Who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep,
Who live and move, but have no being.

We pray for children
Who want to be carried
And for those who must,
For those we never give up on
And for those who never get a second chance,
For those we smother.
And for those who will grab the hand of anybody kind
enough to offer it.

We pray for children. Amen.

–Ina Hughes

The Rich Young Man

16Then someone came to him and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”

17And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”

18He said to him, “Which ones?”

And Jesus said, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; 19Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

20The young man said to him, “I have kept all these; what do I still lack?”

21Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”

We may make two mistakes here. The one is to believe this applies to everyone, when Jesus never made this a general command to all who would follow Him, but especially to this one rich man whose riches were clearly an obstacle to his discipleship. Instead, many rich people can do more good in the world by continuing to make money and using those resources for the glory of God and the good of others. The second mistake is to believe this applies to no one, when there are clearly those today for whom the best thing they could do for themselves spiritually is to radically forsake the materialism that is ruining them.

–David Guzik

22When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

“For he had great possessions” by George Frederic Watts, 1894 (Tate Gallery, London)

23Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”

One of Jesus’ best metaphors!  I have read that the “Eye of the Needle” was actually a small gate in Jerusalem, or that the word for “camel” is mistranslated and should be “cable.”  Either may be true, but I choose to take the sentence at face value.  I think Jesus just meant it to be outrageous, to get us thinking how useless riches are when it comes to us trying to seek God.

1 Timothy 6:17-19   (ESV)

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

25When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astounded and said, “Then who can be saved?” 26But Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”

27Then Peter said in reply, “Look, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?”

28Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man is seated on the throne of his glory, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and will inherit eternal life. 30But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”



HERE  is “One Life to Love”  by the group 33 Miles, a contemporary Christian band  with country music influences, from Franklin, Tennessee.

The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Lawrence.    http://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0008/5612/products/Matthew_19_23-24_sm_1024x1024.jpeg?103601
heart of divorce.  http://www.thechangeblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/06/windowslivewriterwhatmotivatesme-b104divorce4.jpg
Swindle.    http://www.foundationarts.com/p-9040-let-the-children-come.aspx?affiliateid=10199
Watts.   http://www.wattsgallery.org.uk/sites/default/files/Assets/500/GFW_For_He_Had_Great_Possession.jpg
camel and needle.    http://up-link.org/images/CamelNeedle.jpg

1463.) Matthew 18

December 10, 2014

Matthew 18   (NRSV)

Today is my birthday; I am now (100 – 70 x 2 + 5 – 3) years old.  :)  And yet, with lo these many years behind me, I still need to be reminded of the importance of the basic features of a positive witness for Christ — humility, faithfulness, kindness, obedience, forgiveness.  And this chapter is just the one to make it all clear. 

Print Thine image, pure and holy,
On my heart, O Lord of Grace;
So that nothing, high or lowly,
Thy blest likeness can efface.
Let the clear inscription be:
Jesus, crucified for me,
And the Lord of all creation,
Be my Refuge and Salvation.

True Greatness

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2He called a child, whom he put among them, 3and said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

Jesus said, “Whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.”

Temptations to Sin

6“If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.

“It is a wicked thing to sin, and it is a far greater evil to lead others into sin. But leading one of Jesus’ little ones into sin is far worse, because you then initiate someone into an instance or a pattern of sin that corrupts whatever innocence they had.” 

–David Guzik

7Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling block comes! 8“If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than to have two hands or two feet and to be thrown into the eternal fire. 9And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into the hell of fire.

We are certainly grateful that God can work ALL THINGS together for good, even our sins; the old hymn has it “Greater good because of evil, larger mercy through the Fall.”  But if we cause the evil, if we cause someone else to sin by our words or example — Jesus says, This is serious.  Deal with your sin ruthlessly.  Don’t accommodate it in any way. 

And lest we soon be blind and limbless, let us turn to Jesus to make us a new creation, with his own spirit that will lead us to walk in righteousness rather than wickedness.

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

10“Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven. 12What do you think? If a shepherd has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.

Reproving Another Who Sins

Proverbs 15:32

He who ignores discipline despises himself,
but whoever heeds correction gains understanding.

15“If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. 16But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

from Praying in the Wesleyan Spirit,
by Paul Chilcote

God of Reconciliation,

You have called us to be ambassadors of healing and understanding in Christ.  Yet it is easy for us to make ourselves feel good by pointing out failures in others.  We talk about others behind their back.  We are so frequently unfair.  Forgive us, we pray. 

Plant a spirit of reconciliation within us. 

Lord, we need to help one another in our journey of faith, and all of us make many mistakes and get lost along the way.  All of us need to learn gentleness, patience, and kindness from one another.  Love ought to determine how we deal with our brothers and sisters in your family.  Everyone needs to be understood, and often we need the counsel of others who see what we are doing better than we see for ourselves.  We need to be accountable to one another because that is the only way we can continue to grow in your love.  Forgive us, we pray.

Plant a spirit of reconciliation within us.

We are part of your community, the Church.  Help us to be honest with one another but always to speak the truth in love.  We want to be your faithful family of healing and of love.  Forgive us, we pray. 

Plant a spirit of reconciliation within us

Heal our broken relationships and makes us one in Christ our Lord.  Amen.

18Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. 19Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”


21Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.”


Is there someone, alive or dead, against whom you are holding a grudge — someone you should forgive?

Can you choose to forgive him or her from your heart, right now?

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

23“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. 24When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents (note:  a huge, unpayable debt) was brought to him; 25and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made.

26So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt.

28But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii (note: one denarius was the wage for a day of labor); and seizing him by the throat, he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’

29Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’

30But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. 31When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place.

32Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ 34And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt.

35So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

The principle is clear.  God has forgiven such a great debt, that any debt owed to us is absolutely insignificant in comparison.  No one can possibly offend me to the extent that my sins have offended God.  This principle must be applied in the things done to us, great and small offenses alike.

“We incur greater wrath by refusing to forgive than by all the rest of our indebtedness.”

–Charles Haddon Spurgeon



HERE  is “Forgive Me’  sung by Rebecca St. James.  The video tells its own story.


Quotes on forgiveness:

Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.
— Mark Twain

Forgiveness is the giving, and so the receiving, of life.
— George MacDonald

Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.
— Lily Tomlin


18. forgive-shopping cartoon


The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Colossians.   http://www.walk-by-faith.com/PrayerSeries/desertsinourlives/colossians%203%2013.jpg
children.    http://www.ccccl.org/children5.jpg
lost sheep.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/m18-lost-sheep.gif
Forgive me tulips.  http://rlv.zcache.com/poem_card_yellow_tulips-p1371876097931439573v24_400.jpg
cartoon.  http://www.cartoonstock.com/lowres/ear0989l.jpg


1462.) Matthew 17

December 9, 2014

“Transfiguration of Christ” by Raphael, 1519 (The Vatican). Two stories are painted: the Transfiguration, above, and the healing of the demon-possessed boy, below.

Matthew 17   (NRSV)

The Transfiguration

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. 2And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. 3Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.

Moses and Elijah were the two greatest prophets in the Old Testament.  Moses represents the law, or the old covenant.  He wrote the Pentateuch, and he predicted the coming of a great prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15-19 – The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.  For this is what you asked of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, “Let us not hear the voice of the LORD our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.”  The LORD said to me: “What they say is good.  I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him.  If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account.”).

Elijah represents the prophets who foretold the coming of the Messiah (Malachi 4:5-6 — “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes.  He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”).

Moses’ and Elijah’s presence with Jesus confirmed Jesus’ Messianic mission — to fulfill God’s law and the words of God’s prophets.

–from the notes of the Life Application Bible

4Then Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

5While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!”

M17 how
How good, Lord, to be here!
Your glory fills the night;
Your face and garments, like the sun,
Shine with unborrowed light.

How good, Lord, to be here!
Your beauty to behold
Where Moses and Elijah stood,
Your messengers of old.

Fulfiller of the past
And hope of things to be,
We hail your body glorified
And our redemption see!

–Joseph A. Robinson, 1858-1933

6When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. 7But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Get up and do not be afraid.” 8And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.



HERE  is “Beautiful Savior” sung by Deborah Liv Johnson.


9As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

10And the disciples asked him, “Why, then, do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?”

11He replied, “Elijah is indeed coming and will restore all things; 12but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but they did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of Man is about to suffer at their hands.” 13Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them about John the Baptist.

Jesus Cures a Boy with a Demon

14When they came to the crowd, a man came to him, knelt before him, 15and said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly; he often falls into the fire and often into the water. 16And I brought him to your disciples, but they could not cure him.”

17Jesus answered, “You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him here to me.”

Mat17 come to Jesus

from Whispers of His Power,
by Amy Carmichael


Have you a “him” about whom you are anxious?  Bring him to Me.  Have you a “her”?  Bring her to Me.  We can even turn the pronoun to “it” — this crushing burden of the state of the world, the grief and misery that overwhelms us if we think at all — Bring it to Me.  We can turn the word to “all” — the problems of our work with its cares and its questions, and more personal cares and anxieties, too — Bring all to Me.

And there are joys, too.  Don’t let us bring only griefs and anxieties, but also thanks and praises.

Bring him to Me.

Bring her to Me.

Bring it to Me.

Bring all to Me.

18And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was cured instantly.

Acts 10:38 (New Living Translation)

And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.

19Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?”

20He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.”

Jesus Again Foretells His Death and Resurrection

“Let me not boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Galatians 6:14

22As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands, 23and they will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised.” And they were greatly distressed.

Jesus and the Temple Tax

“Temple Tax” wall painting by Bertrand Bahuet, 1995 (St. Peter’s Chapel at Curbans in the southern French Alps)

24When they reached Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax came to Peter and said, “Does your teacher not pay the temple tax?”

25He said, “Yes, he does.” And when he came home, Jesus spoke of it first, asking, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their children or from others?”

26When Peter said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the children are free. 27However, so that we do not give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook; take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a coin; take that and give it to them for you and me.”

Lunch of St. Peter’s fish at the Ein Gev kibbutz restaurant, Israel. The fish I ate was delicious — but no coin in its mouth for me!


The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Raphael.     http://arthistoryfacts.com/TransfigurationByRaphael.jpg
Transfiguration circle.   http://revtucher.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/b-28-transfiguration-mk-9-2-9.png
Come to Jesus.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/607a4-jesus.jpg
Bahuet.    https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/17-temple-tax.jpg?w=450
St. Peter’s fish.     http://travelerfolio.com/tf3/photos/2012/08/st-peter-fish-redbelly-tilapia-israel.jpg

1461.) Matthew 16

December 8, 2014

Caesarea Philippi, north of the Jordan River, where Peter acclaimed Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God

Matthew 16   (NRSV)

The Demand for a Sign

The Pharisees and Sadducees came to test Jesus.

Their working together showed a deep fear among the religious leaders. The Sadducees and Pharisees were long-standing enemies, and the fact that they came together against Jesus shows they regarded Him as a serious threat.

  • The Pharisees lived according to the smallest points of the oral and scribal law; the Sadducees received only the written words of the Hebrew Scriptures.
  • The Pharisees believed in angels and the resurrection of the dead; the Sadducees did not (Paul made use of this division in Acts 23:6-10).
  • The Pharisees were not a political party and were prepared to live under any government that would leave them alone to practice their religion the way they wanted to; the Sadducees were aristocrats and collaborated with the Romans to keep their wealth and power.
  • The Pharisees looked for and longed for the Messiah; the Sadducees did not.

–David Guzik

They asked him to show them a sign from heaven. 2He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ 3And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 4An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” Then he left them and went away.

“Red sky at morning, sailors take warning. Red sky at night, sailors delight.”

The Yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees

5When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. 6Jesus said to them, “Watch out, and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

7They said to one another, “It is because we have brought no bread.”

8And becoming aware of it, Jesus said, “You of little faith, why are you talking about having no bread? 9Do you still not perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 10Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? 11How could you fail to perceive that I was not speaking about bread? Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees!” 12Then they understood that he had not told them to beware of the yeast of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Peter’s Declaration about Jesus

13Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi,

“The area was scattered with temples of the ancient Syrian Baal worship. . . . Hard by Caesarea Philippi there rose a great hill, in which was a deep cavern; and that cavern was said to be the birthplace of the great god Pan, the god of nature. . . . In Caesarea Philippi there was a great temple of white marble built to the godhead of Caesar. . . . It is as if Jesus deliberately set himself against the background of the world’s religions in all their history and splendour, and demanded to be compared to them and to have the verdict given in his favour.”

–William Barclay

he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

14And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”


Imagine that Jesus comes to you and says, “Who do you say that I am?”

Tell him now what your answer would be.

16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection

“Let me not boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Galatians 6:14

21From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

22And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.”

23But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

The Cross and Self-Denial

“Take up your cross, and follow Me.”

24Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? 27“For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. 28Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”



HERE  is that old gem “I have decided to follow Jesus”  sung by Jadon Lavik.


The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Caesarea Philippi.   http://ferrelljenkins.files.wordpress.com/2009/02/caesarea-philippi_266t.jpg
red sky.    http://www.blissbomb.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/ibiza-red-sky.jpg
keys of the kingdom.  http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2087/1562646057_e17d51b1cc.jpg
cross.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2009/05/161720-cross-predict-death2.jpg?w=450
take up your cross.      https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/6a0120a78b51de970b0133ecda0ff9970b-800wi.jpg

1460.) Matthew 15

December 5, 2014
"Christ and the Canaanite Woman"  by Germain-Jean  Drouais, c.1784

“Christ and the Canaanite Woman” by Germain-Jean Drouais, 1784 (The Louvre)

Matthew 15  (NRSV)

The Tradition of the Elders

Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem

Up to this point, most of Jesus’ ministry had been in the region of Galilee. Galilee was north of Judea, where Jerusalem is. These scribes and Pharisees were an official delegation from Jerusalem, coming to investigate and assess the words and work of this man Jesus.

and said, 2“Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands before they eat.”

Many ancient Jews took this tradition of the elders very seriously.  One Bible commentator has written, “The Jewish Rabbi Jose saith, He sinneth as much who eateth with unwashen hands, as he that lieth with a harlot.

3He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4For God said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.’ 5But you say that whoever tells father or mother, ‘Whatever support you might have had from me is given to God,’ then that person need not honor the father. 6So, for the sake of your tradition, you make void the word of God. 7You hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied rightly about you when he said:

8‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching human precepts as doctrines.’”

How very convenient!  A person could appear quite righteous by declaring that all his goods were devoted to God (while still himself retaining control of them) — and thereby deprive his parents of any access to them.

Things That Defile

10Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand: 11it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles.”

Psalm 19:14 (English Standard Version)

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

12Then the disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?”

Now the Pharisees here were offended because their customs and preferences had been called into question.  They were so sure they were right!

Ahh, the old matter of taking offense.  How easily we become defensive when our fur has been rubbed the wrong way, when we have been caught in an act which does not reflect well upon us, when we speak harshly to others before we think of their perspective.  Then, because we are offended, we offend others.  Such a poor way to live!  I have said it before and I will keep reminding myself until I die — the answer is simple — Choose NOT to be offended.  Die to self.  Keep your eyes on Jesus, be obedient to him,  and show his grace to your world.

13He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. 14Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.”

15But Peter said to him, “Explain this parable to us.”

16Then he said, “Are you also still without understanding? 17Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer? 18But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles. 19For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander. 20These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.”

Unfortunately, the emphasis of the religious leader’s in Jesus’ day – and often in our own – is often only on these external things, not the internal things that make for true righteousness.

–David Guzik

The Canaanite Woman’s Faith

“Christ and the Canaanite Woman” by Rembrandt, 1650 (The Getty Museum, Los Angeles)

21Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.”

23But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” 24He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

25But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.”

“Herein she reads us all a lesson. If we have had no answer to our pleading, do not give up, but go nearer to Christ.”

–Charles Haddon Spurgeon

26He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”

27She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”

28Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

From Morning and Evening,
by Charles Haddon Spurgeon


This woman gained comfort in her misery by thinking great thoughts of Christ.

The Master had talked about the children’s bread. “Now,” she argued, “since You are the Master of the table of grace, I know that You are a generous housekeeper, and there is sure to be plenty of bread on Your table. There will be such an abundance for the children that there will be crumbs to throw on the floor for the dogs, and the children will fare none the worse because the dogs are fed.” She thought Him one who kept so fine a table that all that she needed would only be a crumb in comparison; yet remember, what she wanted was to have the devil cast out of her daughter. It was a very great thing to her, but she had such a high esteem of Christ that she said, “It is nothing to Him; it is but a crumb for Christ to give.”

This is the royal road to comfort. Great thoughts of your sin alone will drive you to despair; but great thoughts of Christ will guide you into the haven of peace. “My sins are many, but oh, it is nothing to Jesus to take them all away. The weight of my guilt presses me down as a giant’s foot would crush a worm, but it is no more than a grain of dust to Him, because He has already borne its curse in His own body on the tree. It will be only a small thing for Him to give me full remission, although it will be an infinite blessing for me to receive it.” The woman opens her needy soul very wide, expecting great things of Jesus, and He fills it with His love.

Dear reader, do the same. She won the victory by believing in Him. Her case is an instance of prevailing faith; and if we would conquer like her, we must imitate her tactics.

It would have been easy for this woman to give up. But she kept persisting, and finally Jesus told her, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs” (15:26), referring to Israel’s priority over Gentiles. I find her response amazing: “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table” (15:27). She was saying, “Jesus, if we’re talking about the power of heaven, then even a scrap is sufficient.”

She was right: The scraps that fall from God’s table are sufficient to meet any need on this earth. And she had faith that even the smallest measure would deliver her daughter completely. Friend, that is true faith! This woman didn’t ask timidly. She asked believing in God’s goodness, knowing that even the smallest scrap of His glory was enough to perform a miraculous deliverance.

–Gary Wilkerson

Jesus Cures Many People

29After Jesus had left that place, he passed along the Sea of Galilee, and he went up the mountain, where he sat down. 30Great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the maimed, the blind, the mute, and many others. They put them at his feet, and he cured them, 31so that the crowd was amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the maimed whole, the lame walking, and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.


“A miracle is a sign of the love of Jesus
who yearns to heal each one of us
so that we can become truly alive and grow in love.”

–Jean Vanier, Drawn into the Mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John.

What miracle(s) have you seen?  How, then, have you grown in love?

Feeding the Four Thousand

“Jesus Multiplies the Loaves” from Vie de Jesus, MAFA.

32Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.”

33The disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in the desert to feed so great a crowd?”

34Jesus asked them, “How many loaves have you?”

They said, “Seven, and a few small fish.”

35Then ordering the crowd to sit down on the ground, 36he took the seven loaves and the fish; and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 37And all of them ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. 38Those who had eaten were four thousand men, besides women and children. 39After sending away the crowds, he got into the boat and went to the region of Magadan.



Back to verse 27, which teaches us the proper response to all of of Christ’s dealings in our lives:  YES, LORD!  We join the Canaanite woman  HERE  and say, “Yes, Lord” in the song  “Trading My Sorrows.”


The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Drouais.   http://rethor.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/canaanitewoman_drouais.jpg
washing hands.   http://www.rch.org.au/emplibrary/washup/005.jpg
Rembrandt.   http://www.getty.edu/art/collections/images/m/00002301.jpg
dog cartoon.   http://www.cartoonstock.com/newscartoons/cartoonists/mba/lowres/mban1746l.jpg
MAFA.   http://ncronline.org/sites/default/files/styles/article_slideshow/public/stories/images/Soul%20Seeing.jpg?itok=PyUsoCfs

1459.) Matthew 14

December 4, 2014

The Ichthys, or fish symbol, was used by early Christians to identify themselves as followers of Jesus Christ. Ichthys is the Ancient Greek word for “fish.” The word also forms the acronym “Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior.”

Matthew 14   (NRSV)

The Death of John the Baptist

At that time Herod the ruler heard reports about Jesus; 2and he said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist; he has been raised from the dead, and for this reason these powers are at work in him.”

Barclay cites the ancient Christian writer Origen, who said that Jesus and John the Baptist closely resembled each other in appearance. If this were true, it would give more reason for Herod Antipas to believe that Jesus was John come back from the dead.

–David Guzik

3For Herod had arrested John, bound him, and put him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, 4because John had been telling him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.”

John spoke out against Herod’s marriage because he had illegally divorced his previous wife and then seduced and married his brother Philip’s wife, Herodias.

5Though Herod wanted to put him to death, he feared the crowd, because they regarded him as a prophet.

6But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company, and she pleased Herod 7so much that he promised on oath to grant her whatever she might ask. 8Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.” 9The king was grieved, yet out of regard for his oaths and for the guests, he commanded it to be given; 10he sent and had John beheaded in the prison. 11The head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, who brought it to her mother. 12His disciples came and took the body and buried it; then they went and told Jesus.

“John the Baptist” by contemporary Brazilian sculptor Ana Maria Pacheco.

Feeding the Five Thousand

13Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.

The kindness of our Lord!  He had gone to a remote place to find some peace and quiet, but is met by a demanding crowd — and lovingly ministers to them.

15When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.”

16Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”

17They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.”

18And he said, “Bring them here to me.”

“Loaves and Fishes” by John August Swanson, 2003.

19Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

What can we learn from this story?

  • Thank God for and wisely use what we have.
  • Trust God’s unlimited resources.
  • Don’t waste what He gives us.



HERE  is “I Am the Bread of Life” sung by John Michael Talbot.


At the Lord’s table:

First, as you come to the table know that Jesus takes whatever you bring.  He takes our bread, our wine, our gifts, our talents, our sins, our failures, our guilt, our shame, our weakness, our thirst, our hunger, our “not enoughs” – whatever we are.  When you sit at this table Jesus takes you just as you are.

Second, Jesus blesses and gives thanks for what we bring – for the offering of ourselves.   Whatever is on the table is received with thanks by Christ who lifts it all up by the Holy Spirit to our Father in Heaven.  Jesus never condemns or criticizes your offering.  Can you imagine Jesus saying, “Two fish is all you can come up with?”

Third, Jesus breaks what we bring him.  Often we come to the table with our church smiles, best manners and all the right motions.  At this table we come naked, exposed and vulnerable before our God who sees through all our masks and our attempts to be self-sufficient.   Here we are taken into the crucifixion.  We enact this by out eating the bread and drinking the cup, but what it means is as we are being broken we are being opened to new life and new action.  We exchange ourselves for the life Christ offers.

Fourth and finally Jesus gives back to us what we bring to him but it is no longer what we brought.  Who we are, this person that we offer to God at this table, is changed into something else that God gives, something transformed by what we sing of as Amazing Grace.  The gift returned to us is not to be hoarded but shared – and it is always enough.  Yes, Jesus takes you and me just as we are but he never leaves us just as we were.

–Chad Holtz  

I am not worthy to receive you,
but only say the word,
and I shall be healed.”

Jesus Walks on the Water

“Walking on Water” by James B. Janknegt, 1991.

22Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them.

“Whilst the disciples were periling, and well-nigh perishing, Christ was praying for them: so he still is for us, at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

-Puritan Bible commentator John Trapp

25And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear.

27But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

28Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”

29He said, “Come.”

So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

“What a sight! Jesus and Peter, hand in hand, walking upon the sea!”

–Charles Haddon Spurgeon

32When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Jesus Heals the Sick in Gennesaret

34When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. 35After the people of that place recognized him, they sent word throughout the region and brought all who were sick to him, 36and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.


The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Jesus fish.  http://z.about.com/d/christianity/1/0/f/2/Christian_Fish.png
Pacheco.   https://dwellingintheword.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/m14-john-the-baptist.jpg
Swanson.   http://www.johnaugustswanson.com/ImagesUpload/Loaves800.jpg
five loaves and two fish.   http://5l2f.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/5000_loaves_fish_432x4322.jpg
Janknegt.  http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~janknegt/r0228.html


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