Category Archives: Matthew

New Wine

Matthew 9:17
17 Neither is new wine put into old wineskins. If it is, the skins burst and the wine is spilled and the skins are destroyed. But new wine is put into fresh wineskins, and so both are preserved.”
Mark 2:22
And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.”
Luke 5:37-38
37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. 

— When I began to study for this parable it seemed like it was only a short add-on to the more important idea from last Wednesday’s parable, the Wedding Guest.  Many were looking for a long expected savior.  Jesus spoke this parable to identify Himself as something new God was doing. There were “old” expectations way back in Genesis 49:11 and Deuteronomy 32:14, describing the coming of one who’s investment would be in “the blood of grapes.” 

Those were old words made new by Jesus identifying Himself as this “new” way God was going redeem and preserve His people…IF they could accept what He was doing and that this “new wine” could not be contained in old expectations and regulations.  There was an odd word in the ESV version of Deuteronomy 32 that described the wine as “foaming.”  The ancient process of wine making seemed like it’s own verification of this parable to me. There was a personal involvement in making new wine.  It took the whole body’s weight for the feet to press the grapes by gently breaking their skins but not destroying the seeds.  Those seeds were a vital part of the flavor of the resulting juice as the process continued foaming and fermenting to finally become the “new wine” that makes those old words from Deuteronomy the reality that today it’s Jesus that “nourishes and sustains its branches while they[we] develop their[our] fruit.”

The “More”

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” ESV

Jesus is telling this story about people.  In this case it’s pretty obvious the good choice would be building on the rock but it’s “more” than a story about good/bad options.  It’s a story for everyone whether they’re wise or foolish.  Each hears these words…each built his house and on each the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house.   There’s “more” to consider here if the two builder’s circumstances were not what made the difference in their outcome.

This parable is not a story about the danger of circumstances. The danger Jesus is warning about is our destiny if we trust more in our belief rather than the truth of His Words.  Recently I’ve discovered something new about how the Bible can tell me “more.”  It was a surprise to me to discover if I’d been doing a word or topical search and copying the verses I found I could then read those verses as a story of their own without the references and Voila! I found “more” from His Word.  So here’s “more” for today.

“The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice.  A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.a  So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, ‘the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,’ and ‘a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.’  They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.”b

a Deut 32:4
b 1 Peter 2:7

I Am/You Are

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. ESV

This parable from Matthew is from the same Lord who said “I am the light of the world.a” It’s a big deal!  Light and sight were God’s #1 priority at creation and now Jesus says “You are the light of the world.” Light is still His priority and “I Am/You Are” is His #1 way to share it with a world, a city and all in the house that are having trouble seeing…
Direction: Where the light is coming from
Intensity: the impact light has on what is seen
Contrast: what is hidden by darkness

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.  You are the light of the world… so that they may see your [light] good works and
give glory to your Father who is in heaven.  

a John 8:12

The Parable of Salt

Who, What, Where, When, Why and How?  I’m guessing anyone of “an age” learned those are questions to ask if you want to learn more.  I want to find the “moral” behind the simplicity of Jesus’s Words.

Who? You!
What? Salt
Where? Earth
When? Saltiness is lost
Why? To make it salty again.
How? Have salt in yourself

The Words Jesus spoke are clear and simple but there is that warning about salt losing its saltiness that’s curious.  Salt was more than a seasoning for food.  It was rubbed on newborns to cleanse them after birth. It was a means of cleansing and preserving all things.  Salt was required as part of every offering made to God.  It was included in the recipe of the Temple incense that was thrown onto the burnt offerings.  To share the “covenant of salt” in the Bible created a lasting obligation of a shared relationship.  All good, right?  

BUT there’s that warning about salt losing its saltiness.  The same salt that preserves and cleanses can lose its effectiveness when contaminated and actually become destructive.  Salt was sometimes sowed in the earth of a defeated city to contaminate it and insure it would always remain a barren place.  It seems like the moral of Jesus story is this: The external application of salt can lose its ability to preserve if contamination occurs.  You wouldn’t expect contaminated salt to preserve your food or make it taste better, or use it to cleanse a newborn or become a gift for God.  Jesus has an answer for the question about that tasteless salt — “how will you make it salty again?”  This time it’s His internal application of the “covenant of salt” that becomes the lasting obligation of His shared relationship with “you” to season and preserve your life: “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”


Isaiah wrote about restoring the sight of the blind as part of the Messiah’s ability…And the Lord said:
— Isaiah 29:18 In that day the deaf will hear words read from a book,
and the blind will see through the gloom and darkness.
— 35:5 And when he comes, he will open the eyes of the blind and unplug the ears of the deaf.
— 42:7 You will open the eyes of the blind.  You will free the captives from prison, releasing those who sit in dark dungeons.   

 Jesus speaks to his disciples in a third party-like conversation about the cause of blindness and Him being the Light of the world.  That’s a Messianic claim!  Then He physically takes direct action by coating over the man’s eyes with clay he’s just made.  The mixing of the mud is evidence of “violation” of working on the Sabbath!  He never tells the blind man his sight is going to miraculously be restored.  The blind man must choose to risk responding to Jesus and go to the pool to wash.  That’s a step of faith!

The sticking point for the Pharisees was complicated. Twice Jesus had confronted the Pharisees hypocrisy [John 7:23 and Matthew 12:5].  Jewish rules had legitimate provisions for violating the Sabbath in specific cases like circumcision in order to obey Mosaic law, temple service or the birth of a baby.  Isaiah’s words, a broken rule, the eyes of a blind man being opened and an itinerant rabbi who claimed to be the Light of the world became their sticking point. Isaiah’s words were a trusted part of the Pharisees Messianic history and according to their own rules denying a miracle of God was unbelief.  The evidence of acknowledging this miracle might prove Jesus to be the Lord Isaiah wrote about.  That didn’t mesh with what they’d carefully mapped out for the coming Messiah. They couldn’t risk choosing to take that next step of faith. 

There was Light…Again

And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons [appointed times], and for days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. [Genesis 1:14-15 ESV] “

read an interesting question recently: “Which comes first, the day or the night?” The answer was in Genesis 1 — “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.”  I read through all those days of creation again and it was clear that everything that happened in those first six days became visible because of that first light.  Light was a critical part of God’s order of creation.  “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” [a]

“And it was so.” But why did only six days have that sequence ?  And why didn’t the seventh day end with it?  “…God blessed the seventh day and made it holy.”[b]   God rested, but His creative authority was unending!  He’d blessed the order of those early days but on a particular night, at an appointed time, in a wilderness field long after those first six days, God’s confirmation of His truth about that seventh day was revealed.   Jesus became the visible reality of His unending blessing — a Sabbath that was forever!  

There were shepherds staying in the fields nearby and darkness was lifted, again, and there was light”…again!  Mankind would forever be required to order their lives around creation’s cycle of days but Jesus was coming as the new Light of the World “for signs and for seasons, and for days and years”…forever!  He would be the unending personal promise of an internal Sabbath, a Light that would make those who were guided by it, a visible reflection of God’s Holiness that would never end.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”
[Matthew 5:14 ESV]

“It is written, ‘There was evening, and then there was morning…The world moves from day to night. But in God, it is the opposite. It goes from night to day…from darkness to light. The children of this world live from day to night. But the children of God live from night to day. They are born again in the darkness and move to the day. And if you belong to God, then that is the order of your life. You are to go from darkness to light, from weakness to strength, from despair to hope, from guilt to innocence, from tears to joy, and from death to life. And every night in your life will lead to the dawn. So live according to God’s sacred order of time…that your entire life be always moving away from the darkness and to the light.” [c]  

[a] Genesis 1:31
[b] Genesis 2:3
[c] Book of Mysteries by Jonathan Cahn

Second Sunday of Advent


The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:35 NLT

…Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit.”  Matthew 1:20 NLT

ou’ve heard it before; there is far more to Christmas than decorations and beautifully wrapped gifts. The Bible has given me a vivid picture of the glorious outcome of the journey to Bethlehem of the pregnant virgin and that ordinary carpenter.   Their journey has  become the “more” of my Christmas this year. I’ve found myself thinking of the less-considered details of the birth of the Son of God, Jesus. There’s the reality of two people who’ve each had to accept the word of an angel about their relationship and marriage despite improbable truths.  In addition to a surprise pregnancy, there was inconvenient timing that required them to obey the law of their heritage and go to the City of David to register.

Did they realize the birth was that close? How far could they go in a day? Did they sleep outside? How did they cook? How did they manage the required ritual cleansing? What about sanitation?  Weren’t there crowds of other people traveling that same road?  What about privacy?  I can imagine those needs might easily have challenged them on that journey of multiple days on dusty and bumpy roads…but they went.  I can also imagine the thankfulness they might have felt to finally have a pile of smelly straw, inside a stable, to sink into at the end of that hard journey.  They chose to be obedient even when their lives were filled with legitimate reasons to say “no.”  This year I’m grateful I spent some time imagining their journey.  It’s easy to celebrate the story of Mary and Joseph on the way to “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and the birth of a promised holy baby Away in a Manger and forget the harsh realities and risks involved in their circumstances.  Imagining just how real those less-considered details were, has made me realize my own thankfulness for the choices they made, and the impact of them on my identity in Christ today — because they said “yes” to God.

Wednesday with John — Eyes to See

John 19…So they took Jesus, 17 and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. 19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. 21 So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”  ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
The chief priests of the Jews have their victory!  Pilate has agreed to the purposeful destruction of Jesus. In this place of death there are three men being crucified but Pilate chooses an inscription for only one — “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” The Jews object to the wording but Pilate will not change what he has written in Aramaic [Hebrew], Latin and Greek.

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
The Sovereignty of God allows Him to select anyone He chooses to complete His plan to identify Jesus.

What does it say about people?
God choses those who complete His plan to identify Jesus even if they happens to be someone who is only a powerful, pragmatic pawn of providence.[a]  

Is there truth here for me?
There’s a repeated pattern of “three” in the Bible that relates to God’s own identity; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  It begins in the book of Genesis.  God had completed a perfect creation as He spoke the life of man into being, “let us make man in our image, after our likeness”…and it was good…for a brief time.  Remember some of the other threes?  The iconic three of faith, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Jesus’s three temptations, and Peter’s three denials?  Three times Pilate saw something in Jesus that made him unable to declare Jesus’s guilt but still he accepted the crowd’s hysterical condemnation of Him.  Pilate put that controversial sign the Jews objected to on Jesus’s cross — “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” — but is unwilling to defy them to save Jesus’s life.  People would read what Pilate had written in three languages; words that would either cause them to mock the man they saw pinned there or shock them into the realization that the sin of mankind had once again ruined any hopes they might have pinned on Jesus.  But there is another three to this story!  In three days Jesus will be the visible evidence of God’s miraculous intervention to restore people to His perfect creation. 

[a] Pilate


Sunday with John — Self Preservation

John 19:12 From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” 13 So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. 14 Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour [noon].  He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” 15 They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” 16 So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.  ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
The Jews have cleverly manipulated Pilate into a terrible spot with their charge that Jesus has called Himself a king.  Pilate’s job is to preserve Caesar’s absolute authority.  There must not be a king who opposes Caesar!  The truth is he’s found Jesus to be innocent of any political intent and rebellion against Rome but the longer this situation goes on the more likely it is Caesar will hear about it and that will be trouble.  The only evidence the Jews have produced to support their charge against Jesus is a loud and demanding crowd repeatedly calling for Jesus to be crucified.  Pilate brings Jesus before the mob one more time and demands “Behold your King!…Shall I crucify your King?”   And then the real truth of the evidence against Jesus came to him: the chief priests were just like him…willing to sacrifice Jesus for self-preservation.  They answered “we have no king but Caesar.  So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.”

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus did not need to speak to preserve His life.

What does it say about people?
Angry people create mobs to protect themselves.

Is there truth here for me?
Self-preservation is an instinctual defense mechanism that can be good or bad.  It can result in protection or become self-justification. Self-justification for self-preservation is the sad part of this story.  Pilate justified his part in the killing of Jesus because he wanted to protect his loyalty to Caesar alone.  The Jews justified their part in the killing of Jesus because they wanted to protect God’s loyalty to them alone.

Wednesday with John —

John 19:1 Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. 2 And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. 3 They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. 4 Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” 5 So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” 6 When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” 7 The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” 8 When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. 9 He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”  ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
Jesus’s brutally beaten body has been clothed as a grisly parody of a king to be brought before the crowd again.  Pilate asks a troublesome question; is this your king?  But the Jews have finally made a real charge against Jesus that frightens him: “He has made himself the Son of God.”  Pilate pleads with Jesus to defend Himself.

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
When Jesus finally speaks, His words seem more like assurance to Pilate than a defense of Himself.  “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.  Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”

What does it say about people?
The only person in this story that isn’t trying to manipulate this situation is Jesus.

Is there truth here for me
Pilate is “even more afraid” and hoping the crowd will release both Jesus, and him, from this death sentence because “every Roman of that day knew of stories of the gods or their offspring appearing in human guise.”[a]  

[a] Leon Lamb Morris