Completely Astonished

Matthew 8:14-34 and Mark 4-5

Jesus – how well do we really know him? It is easy to look at passages like today’s and quickly dismiss them as familiar. Oh, yeah, this is where he talks about the parables of the Kingdom of God for awhile, drives out a bunch of demons (whatever those are), calms the storm and heals some people. He was a pretty cool guy.

Indeed, but if we look at these stories more closely can we learn anything that we might not have caught back in our preschool Sunday School days when we may have first heard these amazing and true stories of the Son of God. I enjoyed reading the Wiersbe NT Bible Commentary that pointed out in these chapters of Mark we see that, “God’s servant, Jesus Christ, is the Master of every situation and the Conqueror of every enemy.” (p101). We see him provide victory over danger (the storm), demons, disease and even death! In a world that still has some very real issues with fear, anxiety and worry (and maybe even demons?) – we would do well to take a closer look at this man Jesus – as well as how people responded to him when they were face-to-face with this one-of-a-kind conquering hero servant.

To help me look at Jesus more deeply, I made a chart of what Jesus DID in these passages – his actions and how he responded to various people (and demons). And, then, as I am also interested in how I ought to respond to Jesus – I included how a broad range of people reacted to Jesus, his teachings and what they personally experienced.

My Jesus column included things like:

Jesus saw – both the crowd and then also individual needs

He touched – Peter’s mother-in-law and Jairus’ daughter

He taught – to the crowd in parables and with further explanations for his followers

He slept – in the boat, through the storm (even though we also know some nights he stayed up praying all night)

He spoke – and the demons obeyed

He went with Jairus

He knew power had gone out from him

He ignored what others said (regarding the girl being dead or asleep)

I love the presence of this man. Not shaken by a storm or by a legion of demons (in the Roman army a legion was a group of 6,000 men) or by sickness or even by the science of death or by those who would argue or laugh at him. He knew what they didn’t. He knew he was the Son of God and God would use him to display God’s greatness and power and compassion and wisdom.

And some people (and demons) of his day would see this – and react in different ways. So, on my chart of how others responded to Jesus I included things like:

Peter’s healed mother-in-law – Got up and began to wait on him

Those who heard of Jesus – Brought demon-possessed and sick to Jesus

Teacher of the law – Vowed to follow Jesus

Disciples – Followed him; amazed at Jesus; still terrified – even AFTER the winds and waves obeyed Jesus; questioned who Jesus was (needed to know!)

Demons – Begged Jesus; recognized Jesus as the Son of the Most High God; and had no choice but to obey him

Those who saw the changed life of the formerly possessed man – Scared of Jesus; pleaded with Jesus to leave the area

The man formerly possessed by “Legion” – Begged Jesus to let him go with Jesus – but followed Jesus’ direction to stay and tell others of what Jesus had done for him

Jairus (synagogue ruler with a very ill 12 year old daughter) – Fell at Jesus’ feet; pleaded earnestly for his sick daughter

Poor, sick, desperate woman who had been bleeding for 12 years and spent all she had on doctors who only made her worse – Found Jesus; secretly touched his clothes, confident this would heal her; when healed and Jesus questioned – she fell at his feet, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth

Mourners – Laughed at Jesus

Jairus’ 12 Year Old Daughter – Raised from the dead and walked around

Saw Jairus’ Daughter Raised – Completely astonished

Even though these events happened 2,000 years ago, there are still those who laugh at Jesus, and those who don’t understand and ask him to leave. I pray our eyes are opened and we spend more and more time, “completely astonished” at what he has done. May we turn to Jesus again and again when we are hurt, scared, fearful, spiritually unhealthy, haunted by demons, and in need of wisdom and hope. May we bring our friends and family to him for healing. May we be active and vocal in serving him and telling of what he has done. And, like the disciples who watched him calm the storm, may we remain a bit terrified at what he can and will do. His reign is not over, in many ways it has not even truly begun. The best is yet to come.

Obviously we can’t take just one passage (of which we still have only brushed the surface) and say we know all there is to know about Jesus. There is still so much more. The things we have already read, like how he told the healed paralyzed man to, “Go and sin no more.” and the stern warnings he had for the ‘holier than thou’ Pharisees. As well as all the exciting things we have yet to read in the coming months and days – washing the feet of his disciples, his prayer for those who will believe, the agony of his crucifixion, the victory of his resurrection, the mystery of his ascension and the completely astonishing coming return of Jesus. Now is the time to get to know him and share him. The best is yet to come!

– Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Matthew 8:14-34 and Mark 4-5.

Tomorrow we will read Matthew 9 & 10. Come follow along as we learn more and more about Jesus and how we can respond to him, on our Bible reading plan…

Be a tree!

Matthew 13 & Luke 8

There is something so beautiful about watching a plant grow from a little seed to a strong healthy plant. Christians are compared to plants in this way. A spiritually mature Christian should still continue to grow in their walk with God. 

Jesus often taught the crowds and his disciples using parables, which can be found all throughout the Synoptic Gospels. With seven parables in Matthew chapter 13, the parable of the sower is the only parable in this chapter that doesn’t start with “The Kingdom of heaven is like” because this parable is how the Kingdom of God is going to begin. In fact, it is already happening right now. 

There are four different scenarios of what becomes of the seeds that are sown that Jesus depicts here, being eaten by birds, scorched by the sun, choked by thorns, or producing a crop. Which respectively relate to being taken by the evil one, trouble and persecution, worries of life and the deceitfulness of wealth, or yielding a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown. Out of four scenarios there is only one that has roots, which leads to salvation. By having the deep roots, a foundation on God and his word, you will bear fruit. Fruit that can show God’s love and share the hope that we have with others and by doing so yield sixty or a hundred times what was sown. 

To go along with the analogy, John 15:1-8 adds on to it and explains the dire need of having deep roots in God and Jesus. 

John 15:5 says, “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” 

So how are you going to strengthen your foundation and bear fruits? Be a tree! Three out of the four groups are between a rock and a hard place. So defy the statistics. Commit your life as a living sacrifice for God bearing cherries, apples, bananas, and pears. Put in the effort to focus on your foundation. Make it a priority to spend quality time with God. Paul tells us that fruit will come as a result of our faith, so when they do, nurture them, prune, water, weed, do whatever it takes to help them grow. The parable of the sower shows the importance of how we are living our lives right now. So go, be a tree, rooted in God and overflowing with fruit!

-Makayla Railton

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway – Matthew 13 & Luke 8

Tomorrow we will read Matthew 8:14-34 and Mark 4-5.

The Great Debate

Matthew 12:22-50 and Luke 11

Do you know who I would love to see debate in a globally televised event? Jesus and the Pharisees. Sure, Jesus could take on the whole crew of them. For people who had so much in common, they sure were polar opposites.

What did Jesus and the Pharisees have in common? They were from the same family. They could trace their ancestry back to Abraham. They were Jews born at the same time in history. Both Jesus and the Pharisees knew well and deeply appreciated the Old Testament scriptures. They both knew the importance of the coming Messiah the Jews anticipated. They both spoke of how to please God and urged people to follow the way they laid out in order to be saved in the life to come. They had so much in common. Imagine what they could have done together for God’s work – if only the Pharisees hadn’t been so pharisaical.

The Pharisees loved the law of Moses so much (as well as the additions they added to the Law to make themselves look even more saintly) that they were blinded to the true Messiah in front of them. In the end they were much more interested in making themselves look good (and pointing out others’ shortcomings) than in doing what God actually desired – and that is a dangerous place to be.

In today’s reading we come across a few topics that would surely come up in our much anticipated debate between the Pharisees and Jesus.

The Pharisees felt threatened by Jesus’ growing popularity and his displays of God’s power. But, rather than accepting him for who he was showing himself to be – they preferred creating lies and rumors for something they didn’t fully understand. So, when the crowd was amazed at Jesus’ healing of a demon possessed man, the Pharisees tried to explain it away by saying Jesus must be working with Beelzebub, the prince of demons (Matthew 12:24 & Luke 11:15). I don’t think I would take that very well, but Jesus calmly rebuttals that if indeed Satan were working at driving out Satan, his house wouldn’t be standing for long. He goes on to say that from evil you can expect evil, but from good you can expect good – for what is stored up in a man overflows for all to see and hear. And, he reminds them that there is a day coming when all will be judged for “every careless word they have spoken.” (Matthew 12:36)

But, they fail to realize the wisdom and truth and warnings Jesus spoke. So, the debate topics continue. They notice Jesus didn’t wash his hands before he ate (this definitely sounds like a debate topic that could be used today against a political opponent – times never change). Jesus counters with a truth stinger – the Pharisees spend so much time making sure they look good on the outside, but they neglect the more important work of cleaning up their own greed and wickedness on the inside. They are so busy harping on the itty-bitty showing-off, do-good outside acts (like tithing on the produce from their herb garden) and expecting praise for their goodness – but they completely overlook the weighty matters of justice and God’s love. In trying to make themselves look holy, they have neglected to care for others. And Jesus was telling them that is a dangerous place to be. Judgment will also be coming for today’s Pharisees.

Thankfully, there is another option. Jesus laid it out. Be his family – accept who Jesus is – do the will and work of his Father in heaven – not your own selfish agenda, or what will make you look good in the eyes of today’s twisted Pharisees who try to tell us how to be godly but have totally missed the boat themselves. Draw closer to Jesus than you ever have been before so you can tell the difference between the truth that he offers and the lies of the Pharisees. Your life depends on it – as well as the lives of those who are watching you.

There will be a time coming when the whole world will see and know who is the clear winner of this debate.

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway – Matthew 12:22-50 and Luke 11

Tomorrow we will read Matthew 13 and Luke 8 as we continue on our…

Remind Me

Matthew 11

Where is the darkest place you have been? So dark, you were scared to take a step? The most difficult place you’ve been? So difficult, you doubted? When have your dark, difficult, trying circumstances caused you to doubt what you previously knew to be true?

You are not alone. John has been there, too. Sometimes referred to as John the Baptist or the Baptizer for his message of repentance and baptism, John had faithfully worked for years. Known for his simple lifestyle, his ministry was not about him – but about the one who was to come – the Messiah. He had prepared the way for Jesus’ entrance. He had not taken the easy road. He had not backed down from authority. He continually stood for what was right and true – even when it landed him in prison. The ruling Herod didn’t appreciate John pointing out Herod’s many sins.

With his ministry and freedom taken from him, and his future in question, John had a lot of time to think in the darkness of his circumstances. Why? What if…? Was it worth it? Was this supposed to happen? Had he been right? Or wrong? We don’t know all the questions John asked in his prison cell. But, we do know the most important one. The one he needed an answer to. He sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” (Matthew 11:3)

And Jesus answered. Restating the truth that John needed to hear again. Pulling up Old Testament scripture from Isaiah and giving evidence of how his own ministry lined up with what had been foretold: the blind see, the lame walk, the leper is cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the GOOD NEWS is preached to the poor (Matthew 11:5).

In our dark days and when we question what we knew to be true, we would do well to return to Jesus. Tell me again, Jesus. Give me proof of who you are. Read again who he is, what he has done, what he taught, what he did for me. The story of Jesus never gets old, but we do need to be reminded of what we know. And then we have the beautiful opportunity and mandate to tell others of what we have seen and heard.

In the rest of this chapter Jesus demonstrates that following him can be hard. People will criticize everything – our job is not to make people happy. There will be many unrepentant people (and cities) who do not accept the work that Jesus has done for them or the path that Jesus has laid out. Don’t be swayed, know that judgement will come and make sure you are on the right side. Stay close to the one who knows and reveals the Father. Jesus, the Son of God, is the only way. Work with him. Stay attached to Jesus. Take his yoke upon you (Matthew 11:29).

-Marcia Railton

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Matthew 11

Tomorrow we will read Matthew 12:22-50 & Luke 11 as we are reminded again of the saving work of Jesus – and how he calls us to be yoked to him.

His Touch

Matthew 8:1-13 & Luke 7- Jesus heals a man with Leprosy

Before we get into today’s story, we need to understand the Old Testament law dealing with leprosy.  Leviticus 13:1-46 talks in great detail about leprosy.  There, we find that leprosy is a skin disease that is more than skin deep, it’s highly infectious, it defiles a person, anyone with leprosy must cover their mouth (this sounds like a mask), be separated from other people (social distance), live outside the town (this sounds like isolation), wear torn clothes, and cry out, “Unclean! Unclean!”

In Matthew 8, we find the story of a man with leprosy.  Instead of staying away, we’re told, “A man with leprosy came and knelt before him [Jesus] and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”  I believe this man had great faith.  He knew Jesus could heal him, he just didn’t know if Jesus would be willing to.  And he violated the law so he could get close enough to Jesus to find out.

Matthew 8:3 says, “Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man.  “I am willing,” he said, “Be clean!”  Immediately he was cured of his leprosy.”  I find this very moving.  Jesus demonstrated how much he cared for this man by not just healing him – which was astounding enough.  Jesus also touched him.  By touching the man, Jesus would have become defiled – made unclean himself.  And remember, since no-one could touch a leaper, who knows how long it had been since this man had someone actually touch him.  I can’t imagine what that touch meant to the man.

Matthew 8:4 goes on to say that Jesus told the man, “See that you don’t tell anyone…”  We find this same story in Mark, and we’re told in Mark 1:45, “Instead, he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news.  As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places.  Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.”

In this story, I see that leprosy compares well with sin.  Sin runs more than skin deep, it is highly infectious, it defiles a person, and whether we admit it or not, it makes us unclean, and separates us from God.  When Jesus went to the cross, he took our sin on himself, causing him to be defiled.  But he demonstrated his obedience to God and his love for us by doing this anyway.  But Jesus’ sacrifice means nothing for us unless we each have faith in Jesus, come submit before him, and ask to be healed (forgiven).  Are you willing to get close enough to Jesus to find out what he can do for you?

Finally, at the end of the story, the man disobeyed Jesus’ direct command to him to tell no one.  Jesus commanded us to tell everyone.  How are you doing with that?

–Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Matthew 8:1-13, Luke 7

Tomorrow’s reading will be Matthew 11.

Who are You Imitating?

Matthew 5-7

Today’s reading comes from Matthew 5-7.  You may know this as “The Sermon on the Mount”, and this may be among the most well known passages in the Bible.  The Jews Jesus was teaching knew the Old Testament laws really well.  Jesus took this opportunity to focus on what God really requires – he focused on matters of the heart, not just following the letter of the law.

For example, the old law said, “Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.”  Jesus took it further and taught, “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.”  This is a difficult teaching, but wait – there’s more.  

Then, in Matt 5:42-45, Jesus tells us, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.  He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” – This is even harder to follow.

In this passage, Jesus is telling us more of the reason behind his new rules.  God loves even those who hate him, and he does them good – in spite of their hatred for Him.  And we should imitate this characteristic of God.  Jesus takes this even further in verse 48, where he said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  – Ok, now this isn’t possible to obey without some serious help from God.

In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus said, “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.”  Basically, this is asking God to forgive me only to the extent I forgive others.  Jesus then told us plainly in Matt 6: 14-15, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”  – This is a pretty good reason to forgive others! – But still not easy to do.

Then, Jesus tells us in Matt 7: 1-2, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  – Did you catch that?  I will be judged in the same way I judge others.  This is a pretty good reason for me to not condemn others!  This goes back to the old saying, “Hate the sin, but love the sinner.”

As I read these passages, a couple things jump out to me.  First, I need to imitate God as much as possible. Unfortunately, I’m not very good at doing this, so I need to beg for His forgiveness.  Fortunately, He is loving and extends grace.  From His example, I recognize I need to be loving, and extend grace too.

Second, once I recognize I am a worthless sinner, saved only by the grace of God, it’s suddenly easier for me to be less eager to condemn others.  Then, if I can see them through God’s eyes – as other sinners in need of grace – that makes it even easier for me to extend grace to others.  And that grace may take the form of forgiving them, or of not judging them, or even turning the other cheek if they hit me.  On our own, this isn’t possible, but we can do these things with God’s help.  Ultimately, we can (again with God’s help) come to the point of loving or enemies, and blessing those who persecute us.

Jesus closes this section talking about the wise builder (who built on a rock) and the foolish builder (who built on sand).  The wise man was likened to someone who listened to Jesus’ teaching, and put it into practice – building his life on the rock.  The foolish man was likened to someone who listened to Jesus’ teaching, and didn’t put it into practice – building his life without a foundation.  In both instances, storms come.  But only the house built on the rock survived.  By analogy, only the life founded on Jesus’ teachings will not be destroyed.

So again, we find that today’s reading has implications for us today, and for eternity.  And just knowing these truths isn’t enough, we must put them into practice.  Please join me in taking this seriously.  Apply this to your life.  Ask God’s help living up to these requirements that are impossible to accomplish on our own.  Become an imitator of God.  The reward is eternal.

–Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Matthew 5-7.

Tomorrow’s reading will be Matthew 8:1-13 and Luke 7 as we continue on our Bible reading plan. SeekGrowLove.

All Night Long

Matthew 12:1-21, Mark 3 & Luke 6

There were so many good topics from today’s reading, it was hard for me to pick just one for today’s devotion.  But I finally settled on discussing what Jesus did immediately before calling the 12 apostles.

Jesus had many disciples following him.  A disciple is a follower, an apprentice, someone who is learning.  From among these followers, Jesus was going to choose his apostles – his chosen messengers with a special commission. We’re told in Luke 6:12, that before choosing his 12 apostles, Jesus spent the whole night in prayer.  Did you catch that?  Jesus spent the whole night praying.

Why would Jesus need to spend the whole night praying? First, opposition to him was growing – immediately before this story, we’re told the religious leaders wanted to kill Jesus.  He knew this would eventually end in his crucifixion.  I’m guessing he was praying for strength for the task that lay before him.  Second, this was a turning point in his ministry.  Until how, he had just been a one man show – a traveling preacher and healer.  Now he was picking the men who would be the foundation of the church after he was gone.  I’m guessing he was praying for discernment.  Finally, according to John 6:64, Jesus knew from the beginning who was going to betray him, and He was going to pick him as one of His apostles.  I’m guessing Jesus was struggling with emotions at that prospect; it was through prayer that He made this difficult choice.

We find many instances of Jesus devoting lots of time to prayer.  Whether it was getting up before dawn to pray, or sending the apostles away in a boat so he could pray, or … You get the idea.  But wait, Jesus was the Son of GOD!  In John 3:34, we’re told that Jesus was given the Holy Spirit without measure.  And He still spent a tremendous amount of time in prayer!

What should this mean for me?  

For starters, I suspect I need God’s help far more than Jesus did.  For one thing, I’m a wretched sinner, and Jesus was perfectly sinless.  Also, Jesus had the Holy Spirit without measure, me – not so much.  

From Jesus’ example, I see that I need to spend far more time in prayer, whether asking for strength, or for discernment, or struggling with emotions, or… for dealing with everything life throws at me.  And that’s just the requests for my needs.  Then, there are prayers for confessing and asking forgiveness.  Then, all the prayer requests for people I care about.  Then, there is honoring, praising, and magnifying God in prayer.  And the list goes on.  Bottom line – I need to spend more time in prayer.

What about you?  Will you join me in committing to spending more time in prayer?

This will not only benefit me and you, it may benefit the whole nation.  I’m reminded of one of my many favorite Bible verses, 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

And God knows our nation needs healing.

— Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Matthew 12:1-21, Mark 3 and Luke 6

Tomorrow’s reading will be Matthew 14, Mark 6 and Luke 9:1-17 as we continue on our Bible reading plan.

Jesus’ Early Ministry

Matthew 4, Luke 4-5, and John 1:15-51

In Luke 5, we find the story of Jesus calling his first disciples. Jesus was at the Lake of Gennesaret (better known as the Sea of Galilee) teaching large crowds.  Peter had been fishing all night, without catching anything, and was washing his nets while Jesus was teaching.  In order to help the crowds hear better, Jesus got into Peter’s boat and asked Peter to push out from shore.  After Jesus finished teaching, he asked Peter to go into deeper water and let down his net.

Let’s think of this from Peter’s perspective. He was a professional fisherman and knew how to fish – fish at night in shallow water.  What did this stranger know about fishing?  And Peter had fished all night, and hadn’t caught anything.  If I had been Peter, I think I might have pointed out these facts and then might have dropped this uninvited guest at the shore.  Fortunately for Peter, and ultimately for us, Peter didn’t argue (much), he just obeyed – and caught so many fish the nets began to break.  After Peter called his partners in another boat, they loaded all the fish into both boats – but there were so many fish, both boats began to sink.

Peter finally recognized he was in the presence of a great prophet of God, and ashamed by his own sinfulness, asked Jesus to leave. Instead of leaving Peter, Jesus invited Peter to follow Him.  So Peter did something else irrational.  He pulled his boat up to shore, left everything, and followed Jesus.

You might be thinking, “This is an interesting story, but how could this apply to me?”  I’m glad you asked.  

First, we see that Peter obeyed Jesus in a very little thing – taking Jesus out a little from shore.  If Peter hadn’t obeyed this tiny command, he never would have witnessed a spectacular miracle.  Later, when Jesus asked Peter to do something that totally defied reason, Peter also obeyed.  I love the reason he gave in Luke 5:5, “but because you say so, I will let down the nets.”  Peter was willing to submit to authority, even though he didn’t understand the rationale – and remember, there may still have been a crowd watching from shore.  Because of his obedience, Peter was then able to witness an incredible miracle.  Finally, when Peter acknowledged he wasn’t worthy, Jesus invited Peter to join Him.  So, Peter left everything and followed Jesus.

I have found that God often builds our faith little by little.  It’s important to obey God in even the smallest of things.  God will then build on those experiences and obedience for the future.  Sometimes, this may take the form of trials.  1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

I believe no one starts as a giant in the faith.  We obey little by little.  We face trials little by little.  And at some point, you can look back on your life and realize, “Wow, God and I have come a long way together.”

So I challenge you to get into God’s word.  As you do, God will prick your conscience and guide your thoughts.  Follow God’s direction, even in the little things.  At some point, you will recognize, like Peter – “I’m not worthy.”  But the good news is, Jesus is still calling people to leave their former life behind and completely follow Him.  This includes me.  This includes you.

— Steve Mattison

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Matthew 4, Luke 4-5, and John 1:15-51

Tomorrow we will read John 2-4 as we continue to SeekGrowLove on our 2020 reading plan.

Jesus as a Child

Matthew 2, Luke 2:39-52

The Gospels describe only a few events associated with the childhood of Jesus. Considering the Greek word for “child” in Matthew 2:8, 11, and the fact that Herod sent to murder all the male children in Bethlehem that were 2 years old and younger, Jesus was months or even a year-old child when Gentile wise men came from the east to acknowledge the arrival of the King of the Jews.

What stands out in Matthew chapter 2 is the different reactions to the birth of the Messiah. The wise men asked, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” They came to honor the king. Most English translations have “worship” – but the word is often used in the Bible to designate proper respect and honor toward other human beings. These wise men represent Gentiles who acknowledge that Jesus is the Messiah, the King of the Jews, and by extension, their own king.

Herod “the Great”, on the other hand, when he heard that these Gentile wise men thought the king of the Jews had been born – Herod was troubled. Ironically enough, Herod was called the “King of Jews” at the time. But he had been given that title by the Imperial Roman Government. He wasn’t born as a descendent of David and given the title by God. His anti-Christ murderous deed is emblematic of the high and mighty humans who refuse to acknowledge that Jesus is God’s chosen king.

The persecution and attempted murder of the King Messiah by Herod also is a parallel to the persecution of God’s chosen people Israel. Matthew quotes a passage from the prophet Jeremiah to illustrate the parallel. The nations opposed God’s work through God’s firstborn servant-son Israel. Even so they opposed God’s work through God’s ideal Israel, God’s servant-son Jesus.

And like Israel God’s son, Jesus God’s Son went to Egypt and was brought out of Egypt by God into the land of Israel. Note that the land was called “Israel” in Jesus’s day, not Palestine (Matt. 2:20, 21). Evoking the ancient name “Philistine”, Palestine was the name given to the land by the Romans 100 years later.

When Joseph, Mary and Jesus returned from Egypt, they originally intended to return to Judea (Bethlehem) since Jesus was technically a Judean of the line of David. But because of the murderous nature of the new ruler in Judea, they went to Galilee instead (cf. Matt. 2:22-23 and Luke 2:39. Luke doesn’t record Herod’s murders or Jesus’s travel to and from Egypt).

Luke describes one other event in the childhood of Jesus. When Jesus was 12 years old, he stayed behind in Jerusalem after the Passover festival. We can see that by this time Jesus knew he was the Messiah, who would relate to God as Father, according to the promise of God to David (2 Sam. 7:14, Psalm 2:7, 89:26).

The humanity of Jesus stands out in these events. There is no declaration, as traditional Christianity claims, of God who was born a human. Rather, “the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him” (Luke 2:40). Jesus “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52).

-Bill Schlegel

Bill Schlegel is the author of the Satellite Bible Atlas and general editor of the One God Report podcast.

Bethlehem in Judah

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Matthew 2 & Luke 2:39-52

Tomorrow we will read Matthew 3, Mark 1 & Luke 3 as we continue on our Bible reading plan.

The Birth of the Messiah

Matthew 1 and Luke 2:1-38

The coming of the Messiah is one of the greatest desires of pious Jewish people. The desire for the Messiah to come is encapsulated in modern times by a statement of the 12th century Jewish teacher, Moses ben Maimon (Rambam): “I believe in perfect faith in the coming of the Messiah”. By the promise of God, the Messiah would be a descendant of King David.

Two Gospels, Matthew and Luke, record the birth of the Messiah (in Greek translation, “Christ”). As we saw in Luke 1, the birth of Messiah was proceeded by a visit from the angel Gabriel to a Jewish maiden, Mary (Miriam in Hebrew) in the Galilean town of Nazareth. Gabriel announced to Mary that her child would be the one to inherit the throne of David. Like Solomon, he would be called the Son of God. After the child was born, Mary was to name him Jesus, which is in Hebrew, Yeshua or Joshua, which means “Yahweh saves”.

The child was given this name on the day of his circumcision, the eighth day after his birth. The name Jesus is the name of the human being, the “man Christ Jesus”. “Jesus” is never the name of a pre-human divine being.

Matthew begins his Gospel by describing the genealogy, or in Greek the genesis or beginning or origin of Jesus the Messiah. Matthew traces Jesus’s origin especially to David and Abraham.

God had promised to Abraham that he would have many descendants, and that his descendants would inherit the Land of Canaan, that kings would come from him, and that he and his descendant(s) would be a blessing to all peoples on earth. God’s plan of redemption for the world was to come through a physical descendant of Abraham.

Some 800 years after Abraham, and 1000 years before Jesus was born, God chose a descendant of Abraham, David, and established the only perpetual divinely ordained monarchy on earth. God promised that one of David’s descendants would rule forever over God’s ordained monarchy. The genealogy of Jesus as recorded in Matthew’s Gospel declares that Jesus is descendent of Abraham and David in whom God fulfills His promise.

The birth of the Messiah Jesus was accompanied with miraculous signs that were evidence that Jesus is indeed the Messiah of God. Somewhat parallel to the first man Adam, who had no earthly father but whom God formed from the dust, the “second Adam” Jesus was formed by direct divine activity. Angelic beings appeared both before and after Jesus’s birth, to announce the coming of this divinely appointed human king.

Jesus’ mother came to the temple 40 days after Jesus’ birth for purification according to the Law of Moses (Luke 2:22, Lev. 12:2-6). His parents brought the baby Jesus along. There was a righteous man in Jerusalem, Simeon, to whom God revealed that he “would not see death until he had seen the LORD’s Messiah. Simeon took Jesus up in his arms and uttered a blessing and praise. He knew the child Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s promise to both Abraham and David:

“A light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel” (Luke 2:32).

-Bill Schlegel

Bill Schlegel is the author of the Satellite Bible Atlas and general editor of the One God Report podcast.

Bethlehem in Judah

Today’s Bible passage can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Matthew 1 & Luke 2:1-38

Tomorrow we will read the rest of Luke 2 and Matthew 2 as we SeekGrowLove and follow along on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan. Print your own copy, read along and finish out the year 2020 strong!

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