Category Archives: Matthew

Risk

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

Sunday with John — What is Truth?

John 18:33 So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” 35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” 37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”  After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him. 39 But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” 40 They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber [g]or an insurrectionist. ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
Jesus didn’t say yes or no when Pilate asked “Are you the King of the Jews?”  Instead He tells Pilate His defense for His Kingship.  His kingdom is “not OF this world” and “not FROM the world.”  It’s a truth Pilate can’t comprehend but he does recognize Jesus is not guilty of trying to overthrow either the Roman political system, or the Jewish system of religious governance.  Pilate goes back outside “to the Jews” to recommend Jesus be released.  The secret judgement of Jesus has now become the public judgment of a crowd that cries out “again” to save the wrong condemned man.

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus answers Pilate’s question about whether He’s the King of the Jews with a question of His own.  “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?…You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth.

What does it say about people?
They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” 

Is there truth here for me?
It’s always seemed like this crowd,”the Jews,” were in a frenzy to chose to punish Jesus.  That certainly was the outcome but I wonder if they were all caught up in the same question Pilate had, “What is truth?”  Maybe in this awful moment the only “truth” they cared about was a way to get their revenge against Roman authority by forcing them to release Barabbas, a notorious criminal they’d already condemned to be crucified for murder and insurrection against the Roman Empire.  Maybe they just didn’t care about defending “truth,” OR Jesus…but thanks be to God He did “bear witness to the truth.”

Wednesday with John – Only One Reason

John 18:28 Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” 30 They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” 31 Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” 32 This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die. ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
The two sides of this evil intrigue continue their back and forth debate about Jesus.    The Romans want evidence to prove Jesus’s guilt but the Jews want Jesus’s death to prove His guilt.  Pilate challenges the action and the timing of these leaders.  “The Romans allowed them [the Jews] a good deal of self-government, but they had not the right to carry out the death penalty. The ius gladii, as it was called, the right of the sword, belonged only to the Romans.” [a]   Neither of these two sides will win. No matter how cleverly debated, their actions are going “to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.”

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Jesus is the only one who understands the purpose of this struggle.  God is not fooled into having to work around the deceit and guile of human beings.  No matter what these two power groups do or how they may protest in the future, history will be written to record how man’s evidence, intrigues, manipulations, and laws may effectively fool each other but God is always going to be the winner.

What does it say about people?
The Jews main concern is to get rid of Jesus and not be defiled by entering a gentile house when they are busy defiling themselves by their intent to kill Him.  Pilate is no fool.  He knows guilt is not the reason Jesus has been brought before him.  It’s an attempt to manipulate the law so the Romans will be guilty of Jesus’s death, not them.

Is there truth here for me?
Pilate certainly knows of many good things Jesus has done and is well aware that he’s being manipulated to murder by proxy.  The Jews have no evidence to give other than Jesus is “doing evil.” Jesus is an uncomfortable inconvenience neither side wants to deal with.   Everyone involved has missed a night’s sleep and that may be part of the Jew’s plan.  They know many people who might have stood up for Jesus are still in bed.   Pilate recognizes he’s being manipulated for only one reason: if he kills Jesus it will lessen the backlash for the Chief Priests and judges from the growing crowd of Jesus’s followers. 

[a] William Barclay

Sunday with John — Betrayal

John 18:25 Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You also are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” 26 One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” 27 Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed.  ESV.

What is the general theme of the passage?
What has kept Peter there?  The words John records only support Peter’s choice to stay.   When he’ questioned a second time about being one of Jesus’s disciples he once again he denies it.  Then he’s recognized by a relative of the man whose ear he cut off in the garden.  Even standing face to face with someone who actually knows the truth, he lies a third time…”and at once a rooster crowed.”

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Nothing…John has successfully created a powerful mental picture of Peter’s betrayal of Jesus by doing just what Peter did, leaving Jesus out.

What does it say about people?
It’s easier for people to fool themselves than it is for them to fool others.

Is there truth here for me?
Peter has stayed, out of some sense of loyalty, but he doesn’t realize the only one he’s fooling is himself.  There’s several people there who have suspected Peter IS loyal to Jesus but all he’s done this night is prove them wrong three times.  And then there’s the wake-up-call.a

a John 13:38 Jesus answered [Peter], “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.

Wednesday with John — Verify

John 18:19 The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. 20 Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. 21 Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said.” 22 When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” 23 Jesus answered him, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?” 24 Annas then sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest. ESV

What is the general theme of the passage?
These priests fear Jesus.  They’ve built their system of power and authority on their ability to verify the truth of God; how it’s to be taught and the proper ways to honor it. People are openly responding to what Jesus is teaching; God’s truth alone has the power and authority to the teach people the proper way to respond and honor Him.  The priest’s only hope is to expose Jesus and his disciples as dangerous deceivers determined to destroy their honor, and the authority of what they have built.

What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit?)
Why do you ask me to defend myself?  “Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said…I have said nothing in secret. ” 

What does it say about people?
People understand the need to respect authority, the problem is choosing which authority matters most.  “…one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?”

Is there truth here for me?
How often have I depended on learning the truth of God from someone who’s authority I respect?  The answer is a lot, of course.  Respect is a good thing but it’s not the only part of the system created by God himself to teach us His truth.  These are Jesus’s words from John 14:26  “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”  You might be thinking, ‘but those respected people are educated.’ Think a little more about that.  Ask yourself where they’re getting the truth you’re putting your trust in?  Even respect requires verification.  Or you may be thinking ‘what if I don’t get the truth right?’  What makes you think that even the most respected human source always gets it right?  The beauty of the system Jesus has put it place is the Holy Spirit teaches you to verify your thinking.  He’s the one infallibly right source of truth that promises to confirm OR correct what you’re learning no matter where it’s from as long as you keep checking in for updates.