Tag Archives: Gospel of Matthew

18. Jesus Calls Matthew

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As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.

While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:9-13)

I love Jesus’ style. He comes from the splendor of heaven to be born in a barn, raised by a common family and then hangs out with sinners and the like. And this is where we find Jesus, once again. These events follow Jesus’ healing of the paralytic. Mark indicates that he’s back by the Sea of Galilee (2:13), probably in Capernaum, when he spots Matthew at a tax collector’s booth. Some scholars think that Matthew was there collecting taxes on fish since his booth was right by the water. Let’s take a minute to talk about tax collectors back in the day. With as bad a rap as modern day tax collectors have, the collectors of Jesus’ day had it even worse… and for good reason. The office of tax collector was purchased by the highest bidder. The winning bid won the seat of collector. There were many different kinds of tax collectors and Matthew was probably in charge of fishing for the area. The way tax collection usually worked was this- the Roman government set a certain amount that had to be charged for taxes and the tax collector added to that amount whatever he wanted. This portion was his salary. If you had a fair tax collector (which apparently were few and very far between) you were charged a reasonable amount. Greedy collectors could charge exorbitant amounts and you had no choice but to pay it. It is because of this corruption and because they were employed by the Roman government that Jewish tax collectors were viewed as traitors.

Yes, Matthew was viewed as a traitor by his fellow Jews yet Jesus walks right up to him and asks Matthew to join him. Up to this point Jesus has called Philip and Nathaniel, Peter, Andrew, James and John. Now we see him inviting Matthew to join the ranks. What is interesting about this line up? The majority of them had jobs that would have made them unclean. We don’t know what Philip and Nathaniel did but we know the other four were fishermen. Because they would not have access to ceremonial water for washing they would not have been able to keep the Mosaic laws about being clean. They would have been considered sinners by the Pharisees and other teachers of the law. Matthew, viewed as a traitor to the Jewish faith, was also considered a sinner. That was just the way Jesus worked. And Matthew responds to Jesus by getting up, leaving behind his lucrative career. We can assume that this was not the first time that Matthew had heard of Jesus. He was after all pretty famous in those parts. How much Matthew knew about Jesus is not known however.

An interesting thing to note about how Jesus calls his disciples is that he tells them to follow himself. Traditionally when a rabbi would take on a new student he would require the student to bind himself to the law. Jesus, being the fulfillment of the laws, requires his students to follow him.

The next scene involves a dinner at Matthew’s house with “many tax collectors and sinners,” (v. 10). I don’t know for a fact but I’d be willing to guess that Matthew, upon dedicating his life to following Jesus, invited his friends and colleagues over to tell them the good news. Dinners in Jesus’ time were a little different than dinner’s we know in modern day America. Women ate separate and served the men. Men reclined at a table, leaning on their left elbows and using their right hand to eat. Also, there were no coverings on the windows so passersby would often lean through the window and join in the dinner conversation. Also, an open front door was a sign that anyone was welcome to come in. It is because of these customs that we see Pharisees watching the “sinner dinner”. Being “righteous” Jews, they were appalled that Jesus was dining with notoriously, “unrighteous” people. Let’s chat about these sinners. I’ll bet when you read that you are thinking prostitutes, thieves and the like. And it could have been that was the case. More than likely though it was people, like the fishermen we talked about earlier, who simply couldn’t maintain the Mosaic laws due to their jobs. People like tanners, fishermen, hunters, and shepherds were unable to do all the washing that was required to stay ceremonially clean. These people were therefore “sinners” in the eyes of the Pharisees. In fact the Pharisees were so put off by Jesus’ association with such riff raff that they said something about it to his disciples. Jesus hears the Pharisees and speaks up, “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners,” (Matthew 9:12-13). When Jesus says, “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor,” he does not mean that the Pharisees are ‘healthy’. Jesus came for them too although they clearly think they don’t need a Savior. They are too busy keeping laws to recognize their own need. I think Jesus is being a little sarcastic here. He is playing on their self-righteousness. Then he hits the Pharisees with a sucker punch by telling the learned Pharisees to go learn the real meaning of Hosea 6:6. This had to be an epic slap in the face for the Pharisees. Jesus was teaching the teachers? Just who did he think he was? And the verse he quoted was meant to really drive home a point with the law-blinded Pharisees: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” the rest of the verse says, “and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings.” In other words, you can keep every blessed law Moses ever uttered, but if you heart is hardened against others you are still lost. It makes me wonder about the modern church. Do we ever overlook someone because we think they don’t fit into our mold? Of course we do. I’m not just talking about race either, I’m talking about social status, economic status, marital status, age, sexual orientation (yes, Jesus loves them too!), mental status and personality. These are all things that I know I have been guilty of looking down on at some point or another. A quick word on the sexual orientation thing… We can totally love a person while disagreeing with how they live their life. It happens all the time just not over something so polarizing as this. All I know is that I know of several divorced people whom God has richly blessed even though divorce is condemned in the Bible. If God can work despite the sin of divorce then he can work despite all sin, even my and your sin.

Now that I probably lost most of my small readership…

Father God, Thank you for loving us despite our ugliness and sins. “You see the depths of my heart and you love me the same. You are amazing, God!” Help us, help me to seek out the least of these and show them the love that you have shown to me- a love without end. May our actions touch not only the ones we show your love to but also be an example to others about how you love us. “By this everyone will know that [we] are [your] disciples, if [we] love one another.” Amen!

The End.

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15. Jesus Heals Peter’s Mother-in-law

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Today, let’s look at the time Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law. Once again, I am combining three separate books to get a more comprehensive reading:

As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them. (Mark 1:29-31)

At sunset, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one,he healed them. Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Messiah. (Luke 4:40-41)

 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

“He took up our infirmities
and bore our diseases.” (Matthew 8:17)

Remember from our last study, Jesus was in the synagogue teaching when a demon possessed man interrupted his teaching. You can read about it here. Now the service is over and Jesus and his disciples head to the home of Peter’s mother-in-law for a traditional Sabbath meal. You can insert your jokes about going from a demon possessed man to your mother-in-law here if you’d like, lol. But for Peter this was no laughing matter because his mother-in-law was sick. Really sick. It says she, “was in bed with a fever.” It is important to note several things here. First, Luke (who was a physician and would know about such things) says in his version of events that she had a “high fever.” Second, the verb “was” in bed indicates that this was an ongoing thing, that she had been sick for some time. Keep in mind a high fever is dangerous, especially without the use of modern medicine to control it. As soon as Peter learns that his mother-in-law is sick, he told Jesus about her. I love how Mark captures the healing. he simply says, “So [Jesus] went to her, took her hand and helped her up.” We see that Jesus’ touch is enough to heal. It doesn’t say he prayed, it doesn’t say he needed to anoint with oil, He simply touched her. I’m not saying these things are bad, I’m just observing how Jesus did it. I find something else interesting about how he healed her. He didn’t say, “Your sins are forgiven,” meaning that sometimes sin makes people ill. When this happens the sin must be forgiven before healing can happen. This is the case in the story of the paralyzed man found in Luke 5:17-26. But we see in the case of Peter’s mother-in-law that sometimes people get sick for reasons other than sin and demon-possession. I believe that all pain and suffering, that is not the result of demon-posession and sin itself, is caused by the effect of sin in the world. Once sin entered the world there was a huge rift in the normal order of things and both the physical world and the spiritual world suffered from it. That’s a whole separate Bible study though. Anyway, back to Peter’s mother-in-law… after Jesus heals her she isn’t just better, she is fully restored to her former strength. We see this in that she gets up and begins to get dinner ready.

We are going to continue by looking at the passage that immediately follows the one we just discussed. Jesus and his disciples have eaten their Sabbath meal and the sun has set. This is an important detail that Mark mentions. Sabbath ran from sundown Friday night to sun down Saturday night. When Luke says, “At sunset” he is telling us that the Sabbath is over and the people begin coming to Jesus. Why is this important? Because healing on the Sabbath was breaking Pharisaical laws. No one, no matter how sick, wanted to break the laws. All that ceremonial washing and stuff you had to go through to be considered righteous was a pain in the butt. Most of the healed were already going to have to undergo purification by the priests as it was.

Let’s see how Jesus heals the people. Once again we see Jesus laying his hands on the sick and once again it is important to notice what he doesn’t do. It’s also worth noting that not everyone who is sick is sick because of demons. It says, “demons came out of many people,” not all people, yet all were healed. And once again it doesn’t say anything about Jesus forgiving sins. So we learned earlier that not all illness is a direct effect of a person’s sin and we learn here that not all illness is a result of demon-possession. We also see that once again the demons tried to speak and we can assume they tried to call his name because it says Jesus “would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.” Just like the last study we did, Jesus Drives Out a Demon, the demons are not trying to tell people who Jesus is to evangelize. They are instead trying to stir the people into a frenzy so that they would make Jesus their physical king by force. The demons know that is not part of the plan.

Let’s jump to Matthew’s Gospel. Often Matthew will show how Jesus is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesy because the audience he was writing to was primarily Jewish. They were looking for someone to fulfill prophesy and Matthew wants to show that Jesus is that person. This prophesy is from Isaiah 53:4 and it says that Messiah would be able to heal people. I feel it is important for us Gentiles to know about these prophesies as well as understand how Jesus is the fulfillment of them. It’s not fortune telling. It’s not hocus pocus magic. It is God given prophesy about our Savior. I think it’s important to know it because it is cold hard fact. It’s not something we have to take on faith. Someone uttered these prophesies hundreds of years before Christ and he is the answer to every single on of them and we can see it with our own eyes.

Father, thank you for your power over Satan. We pray that you would not lead us into temptation but would deliver us from the evil one.  Give us the strength to act or run or whatever it is that you might tell us to do when faced with Satan.Help us to recognize the difference between illness and demon-posession. I pray that you protect us. I also pray for those of us with illness, Lord. We ask that you would heal us but even if you choose not to, we ask that you be glorified in the situation. Amen.

The End.

4. The Temptation of Christ

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4. The Temptation of Christ

The Temptation of Christ… Now there’s a juicy topic! Seriously, though, it may not be as exciting as the Hollywood flick, The Last Temptation of Christ, but it is still an interesting topic of study. It’s got drama, it’s got the struggle between Good and Evil, between God and Satan. I don’t know about you but there is something very calming and at the same time frightening about the whole thing. I love that Jesus understands the struggle I face when I am tempted. It is also horrifying to me that in a single instant, Jesus could’ve blown his mission (and my salvation) for all eternity.

Matthew, Mark and Luke all record this incident in their Gospels. Matthew and Luke are almost identical. The only real difference is the order in which the temptations occur. Mark barely mentions it all so I am opting for a version that gives details. Last time I picked Matthew’s account so this time I’ll pick Luke.

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.

The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”

The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.”

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”

The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you
to guard you carefully;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

The first lesson that comes to mind is that right after we make a life change toward God, Satan often steps in to try and wreak havoc in our spiritual lives. Do you want to know what Jesus did right before he was tempted? He was baptized. He made a public commitment to God and the next thing you know he is being tempted by the devil. Isn’t that the way it seems to go? I don’t think it’s by chance that the Gospels are ordered this way. I think it’s actually how it happened, Jesus was baptized, then he was tempted.

Here’s something that can be troubling if we don’t understand what it means. Notice Jesus didn’t just accidentally wander into the desert. “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.” (v. 1) The Holy Spirit led him there! Does this mean that God leads us into temptation? I thought he was supposed to, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one,” (Matthew 6:13), not deliver us to the evil one. In Matthew’s account it says that Jesus was, “led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil,” (Matthew 4:1) So what’s that all about? Well, the answer I believe is in the word that is translated “tempted”. In Greek, the word for tempted also means tested. My Bible adds a footnote to this effect and I’m not sure why they just don’t have it written as he was led to be tested. It makes more sense that way in my opinion. Especially in light of James 1:13, “When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.” So I think it means that the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tested.  This test was God allowing Satan to tempt him in his humanity.

Something else that bothers me is the boldness of Satan to confront Jesus himself. Simply put, that took balls. Did Satan really expect Jesus to cave in and commit sin against himself or was he just having a bit of fun trying to frustrate Jesus with something he knew he had the power to do but not the authority to do? I don’t think Satan really expected Jesus to sin but it points out something quite obvious: if Satan is bold enough to tempt Jesus, what makes us think that he isn’t going to tempt us? In fact, it’s when we are at our weakest, that he uses our weaknesses against us. That’s dirty pool! But no one ever said Satan is fair.

The first temptation

There is lots of fascinating stuff going on in this passage. Not the least of these is the first temptation of hunger. Is it a sin to be hungry and want to eat something? No. But it would’ve been sin for Jesus to eat something while he was supposed to be fasting. It’s not clear if Jesus fasted for a literal forty days or if the number is symbolic. Regardless, the idea here is that Jesus had been in the desert practicing the spiritual discipline of fasting for a long time and he was hungry and his time of fasting was not over. In simplest terms, if God is telling you to fast for a period of time and you eat during that time, you are sinning. And so this is what we see here. Satan comes to a hungry Jesus and says, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread,” (v. 3). Note, he never says, “If you are hungry…” He’s not calling into question Jesus’ hunger; of course, he’s hungry. Satan is instead questioning Jesus’ authority to turn the stone into bread. There is a difference. I don’t know about you but when I am tempted it is almost always an issue of authority. In other words, it’s my decision to control what I do, not God’s. In Jesus’ temptation Satan basically says, “Since you are the Son of God (and have the authority) you have the ability to eat, so eat.” It’s a compelling statement and I’m not sure that Jesus did have the authority to sin. I think that’s how Satan is trying to trick him into sinning.

So how does Jesus resist the devil? He doesn’t pray for help. He doesn’t even tell the devil no. He quotes Scripture. Jesus uses God’s own word to refute the devil. This is why studying and knowing the Scriptures is so vitally important! Not only does it tell us how to live and love; it gives us power over Satan… but only if we know it. There is a reason why we are told to meditate on Scripture. Read this passage from Psalm 1:

Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night. (NIV)

You could read it like this,

You will be blessed by not sinning when you delight in the law of the Lord, when you meditate on it day and night. (My Version)

So let’s take a look at what Jesus says to Satan. Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy 8:2-3: “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Ok. So he only quoted the last part of verse 3 but I wanted you to see the context of his answer. Yes, physical needs are important but not as important as spiritual needs. We need God, and we should hunger and thirst after Him. Instead we find all kinds of stuff to try to replace God. We decide that we know what’s best for us and we forget God.

Next time, we will look at the next two temptations. In the next two the devil raises the stakes and we will see how Jesus responds. Spoiler alert: Jesus wins!

The End.

Go!

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At the risk of offending a lot of people, I have to say that I am sick of ‘mature’ Christians who are only concerned with their own salvation and spiritual comforts. Before I go any further, I need to confess that I am speaking to myself here as well. It just seems to me that I am very lax in the command Jesus gave, “Go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you,” (Matthew 28:20) Most of us Christians tend to take this as a suggestion. But Jesus didn’t preface this command (and it is a command) with if you feel like it or if it’s convenient or if you are having a good day or if you have all your stuff together.  He simply said go and make disciples.

I don’t know about you but I can come up with a million excuses for why I don’t have to go and make. I have two small children and and a husband so I’m busy with my family. When I was working full time I used the excuse that I worked full-time and needed to spend my free time with my family, or working around the house, or any other number of things. Here’s one that really hurts… I’m already doing a lot at church. Ouch. Yes, church-work can be a bad excuse and one that I also confess I have used.

Excuse-makers to Disciple-makers

How do we go from being excuse-makers to disciple-makers? I think the answer is easy- we must put God’s priorities ahead of our own. Putting that into practice is difficult though. First, we must want to know what God’s priorities are and discover them. This takes work, and we tend to shy away from stuff that takes work especially if it’s not something we have not 100% bought into. We might make a good start of it but the our effort peters out as our interest wanes or other things come up. Second, we must believe that God’s priorities are more important than our own. Believing this is more than just saying God’s priorities are important just because it’s the right answer. A great plague of Christians is their ability to give the right answers and confusing that with doing God’s will. Third, we must actively pursue God’s priorities God’s way. We are creatures that like to put ourselves and our priorities first no matter how altruistic we may like to think ourselves to be. Therefore, even if we desire to do God’s will, we will tend to put our own spin on it and dumb it down. God can and will do amazing things through us if we get ourselves and our agendas out of the way. It also boils down to this principle I heard in church: If you truly believe that God is who he says he is and did what he says he did, then you will live your life dramatically different than you ever did before. It’s the transforming power of Jesus and you will want to share that transformation with others because it made such a positive difference in your life that you want others to experience the same. If you are not living that way I would suggest you don’t really know Jesus the way he intended for us to know him. No, I’m not saying that you are not a Christian. I am saying you are a Christian that has forgotten your purpose or never discovered it in the first place. Those are harsh words but remember, I am speaking to myself as well. I am not idly putting down others while building myself up or at the very least pretending I don’t have problems.

The excuse-ridden Christian is a cancer-ridden Christian and I don’t use that term lightly. Excuses can gradually or quickly overtake our intentions if our intentions don’t become actions. I heard a story that goes like this: two frogs sat on a lily pad. One decided to jump off. How many frogs remained on the lily pad? The answer is two. Just because the frog decided to jump doesn’t mean he actually jumped. I decide to do lots of things and then never follow through on them. The adage, “actions speak louder than words” really speaks volumes here. Remember Jesus didn’t say decide to go and make disciples or think about doing it. He used action words! Here is an aside for the Christian Church as a whole. In my humble opinion, way too many Christians think that this “go and make” principle is the Church’s job. Or they think that non-Christians will just come to church on their own. Wake up! Jesus didn’t say, “Wait for the people to come and then make disciples.” HE SAID GO!  I know I keep repeating myself but it is an important principle. He said go, go, GO!

Here’s another excuse I have used myself, and the more I think about the obvious command Jesus gave, the more ashamed I am I thought this way. “I don’t know any non-Christians.” GET OFF YOUR BUTT AND GO! Go find some. They are all around us, our co-workers, our family members, our neighbors, our doctors, our dentists, the mail lady, the Starbucks barista. Just get up and GO!

Disciple-makers Are Relational Missionaries

You don’t need to be a preacher or a crazy religious zealot to be a disciple-maker. You don’t need to go to a third world country. You don’t even need to leave your city. You do need to be a friend. A lot of the time this is very uncomfortable. Period. It can be a messy business getting to know someone. Especially if you get to the point where you go beyond the small talk of life and really get to know a person. But do you want to know why disciple-makers should be relational? Because that’s the model that Jesus set for us. He was constantly going and I’m not talking about to the bathroom or to the synagogue. He was going to the people: He talked with them, he ate with them, he visited their homes, he prayed for them, he mourned for them, he celebrated with them, he loved them, he died for them. I know what some of you are saying… “I’m not a people person.” Some of you are called to go to the masses and some of you are called to go to only a few. But we are all called to GO. And if you truly buy into the idea that we must actively pursue God’s priorities God’s way and get ourselves out of God’s way, then you may find that God will transform your heart about this subject. If you really want to see what God can do, ask him to send you. Don’t put any exclusions or conditions on the end of it. Just ask him to send you and see what God does, see who God leads you to, see how God uses you. Is it uncomfortable at times? Yes, but so was hanging on that cross… When you put it in that perspective, God asking us to Go doesn’t seem so bad does it.

The End