How to Get Eternal Life

Matthew 19

January 19

“And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”(Matt.19:26)

This is a verse we hear as encouragement incredibly often. From hearing someone reference it, to seeing it posted on social media. But until recently, I hadn’t dug into the meaning behind this verse. 

This verse comes from the story of the rich young ruler- a story I had heard before, but never knew it’s correlation to Matt. 19:26. A young man approached Jesus and asked him what he must do to be saved. Jesus responds with, “Keep the Commandments”. After this, he asked Jesus which ones are the most important and Jesus responds with, “You shall not commit murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness. Honor your father and mother and you shall love your neighbor as yourself”(Matt.19:18, 19)

The man says he’s done all these things but he is still lacking, and asks what he must do, and Jesus responds to him by saying, “Give up your wealth.”

The man is much grieved by this, and Jesus tell his disciples that it is nearly impossible for a rich man to enter the kingdom. They ask, “Then how can one enter?”  To which Jesus responded,

  “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

I believe this deeper understanding in context gives the verse a completely different connotation. It is that we are sinners, we are broken , and we are not worthy of the kingdom; but with God, and his amazing glory, we may enter.

-Julia Simon

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. How does wealth and material possessions get in the way of our relationship with God and even our salvation, or entrance into eternal life? What did the rich young ruler love most? What does Jesus say we ought to love? (in this passage and any others)
  2. Besides wealth and things money buys, what else can get in the way? Is there anything you are holding onto too tightly, making it more important to you than entering the Kingdom of God?
  3. What is impossible for people? Does this mean we should give up and not try to follow the commandments? What is possible for God? Does this mean everyone will enter eternal life regardless of what they have loved? Why or why not?
  4. The disciples had given up much to follow Jesus and Jesus said they would be rewarded. What have you already given up? What might God be asking you to give up?

Like a Child

Matthew 18

January 18

Sometimes, looking at today’s world it is apparent that people work so hard to gain acceptance, money, and higher position in jobs or in social groups.

I have experienced this when I was younger in middle school and high school. Let’s be honest, when we were all young teens, we all strived to achieve something like this. Whether that be within sports, a club, or our friend group. I have seen this today as an adult. We all want to have a good job, get good pay, and have a great reputation. We all want to grow up and be great in this world, to have our name remembered by society.

But look even further back. Look back to when we were young children. Young kids playing on the playground, digging in the dirt, or catching butterflies. That is what God wants us to be like still! Not that he wants us to dig in the dirt and catch butterflies, but he wants us to live life care free. He wants us to live life to the fullest, to have an almost childlike faith, full of wonder and love!

This weekend I had attended Refuel as a young adult and I experienced this concept. During our recreational time we went out to the lake behind Sarah Major where we had our worship sessions. I was out there with a few friends and we were just in awe of the beauty of the ice on the lake. We sat by the lake while talking and laughing, but it felt like we were children again reveling at the beauty of God’s amazing work. This is how life should feel everyday. It should feel exciting, beautiful, and full of love.

When Jesus’s disciples asked him who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, they were asking him about how they would be viewed in the kingdom. They wanted to know what positions they would have in the kingdom. Jesus responded saying, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3).

Jesus did not come to set up a political order, or put anyone first. He came to suffer and die for our sins because of his love for us.

To be like a child is not about being mature, and wise. To be a child is to know that we are not in control of our own lives. To be a child in Jesus’s eyes is to depend on him and receive everything through him and his Father.

So, the greatest is to be the one who is a child. To be humble, aware that we all lack power, and depend on God to provide what we need. Love one another and live as children loved by God.

-Hannah Eldred

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Is there a place in your life where you are trying to control your circumstances? What is it, and have you talked to God about it? How can you let go of that thing or circumstance? How might humility play a part?
  2. What is your favorite memory from your childhood? Focus on that throughout the day and remember what it was like back then. Are there any qualities you had back then which Jesus would commend that you have since “grown-out-of”? How can you bring some of that back?
  3. In the Parable of the Lost Sheep Jesus shows the Father’s love and concern for the little lost sheep that has strayed from the shepherd’s care. Who do you know who has strayed and how can you pursue them with God’s love this week?

A Mountain Top Experience

Matthew 17

January 17

When I was growing up our youth group would take a hiking trip up a mountain in the fall each year. The owner of the mountain was a member of our church so we were the only ones there. When we reached the top we would take in the views and have a picnic. I also remember our descent (which was so much easier and faster than our hike to the top). 

That experience reminds me of our reading today. Just imagine what was going through the minds of Peter, James and John as they came down the mountain with Jesus after witnessing the transfiguration.

Jesus had told them six days earlier that some standing there would not taste death before they saw the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. The experience of the transfiguration accomplished that.

On that mountain, Jesus was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. There appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

What an amazing confirmation that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah. The appearance of Moses representing the Law, Elijah representing the Prophets and God’s voice confirming that Jesus is the beloved Son of God. God confirmed that Jesus’ message is true and should be heard and followed.  

The disciples were terrified and fell facedown. But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

Christ later explains that he will be killed and on the third day he will be raised to life. These men were about to experience the horrific trial of their lifetimes. Just hearing that it was going to happen filled them with grief, but they had also witnessed Jesus Christ as he will be when He is “Coming in His Kingdom.” This life may throw some awful situations at us. Just like the disciples, we need to remember who Jesus Christ truly is. No matter what is happening in our world, we must Keep Seeking, Keep Growing and Keep Loving God and Others. Remember that with our very own eyes we will “see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom”. 

-Rebecca Dauksas

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. The Transfiguration allowed Peter, James and John to experience a bit of what it will be like to, “see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom”. (Matthew 16:28) How do you think they felt during and after this event? How might it have changed or added to their understanding of who Jesus is and what will take place? Do you think seeing what they saw will change their actions, is so how?
  2. Jesus told Peter, James and John to not tell anyone what they had seen until what event took place? Why do you think, were they to keep the secret of the Transfiguration at first? Why do you think, were they free (and expected) to share it later?
  3. The Bible contains many descriptions of the return of Christ and the Kingdom of God it will initiate, most notably Revelation 19-22. What are you most looking forward to seeing and experiencing? What do you feel when you read about or talk about the coming Kingdom? What parts are hardest for you to imagine and picture in your mind or describe to others? How might knowing what you know about the Kingdom affect your actions?
  4. Matthew 17 includes the beautiful mountaintop experience and also the revealing of a very difficult “valley” experience to come – the betrayal and death of Jesus – followed by another mountaintop- the resurrection of Jesus three days after his death. What are some spiritual mountaintop and valley experiences you have faced? What benefit could be found in each?

Who is the Son of Man?

Matthew 16

January 16

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

They told Jesus that some people believed He was John the Baptist, some Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. At that time there was a lot of speculation and incorrect information about who Jesus was.

But Jesus cuts through all those wrong assumptions of his identity to ask the disciples a couple of important questions. Questions that they personally needed to answer with what they knew to be true of Jesus. Questions we need to ask ourselves. “But what about you? Who do you say I am?”

Peter answered “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”

Peter was certain. His understanding of Jesus had been established beyond doubt. Christ then provides Peter with His new identity. He blesses him, confirms that his beliefs are from God, and gives him a new name. Who wouldn’t want to be named the Rock? Jesus established his church. Jesus also gives them authority to carry out spiritual work. They were to continue Jesus’ work of making disciples, baptizing, and teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded. Opening up the Kingdom for generations of followers of Jesus Christ.  

So with all this in their grasp, what could possibly lead the disciples to later desert and turn away from Jesus (Matt. 26:31, 56)? An angry mob armed with swords and clubs. We are often faced with a similar dilemma. It may not be an angry mob, but when we stand for Jesus Christ we may face rejection. We may face trials and temptations and we need to hold on to the truth of who Jesus Christ is. We need to remember who we are because of our relationship with Christ.  It is easy to speak boldly about the truth of Jesus when we are not in dire circumstances, but we need to learn from the disciples’ situation. No matter what circumstances this life throws in our way, we are representatives of Jesus Christ. As we are promised in verse 27, when Jesus returns He will reward each person according to what they have done. You can be at peace knowing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

-Rebecca Dauksas

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. If Jesus were to give you a new name that represented what you do for the church now what might it be? What would you like your new name from Jesus to be if it were based upon what you could and would do for the church? What steps do you need to take to earn that name? How will you continue the work of Jesus?
  2. Jesus says, “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (vs 11). And in Matthew 13:33 he said, “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.” What is the purpose of yeast? What are some examples of negative yeast in your life? What are some examples of positive yeast?
  3. How would you describe who Jesus is? Who do you know who needs to know who Jesus is? How can you share what you know?

Love and Truth

Matthew 15

January 15

We have used the word love to describe Jesus and his ministry many times in the last few days. And that is certainly true. But we would be creating a grievous error if we thought love was all that mattered to Jesus. Jesus’ ministry was about love and truth. Truth and love.

In Matthew 15 (and throughout the gospels) we don’t see a soft and cuddly pushover full of love and open arms. Indeed, Jesus is still love, but that includes love for the truth and love for those being led astray by deceit and human traditions. And sometimes love looks a little harsh when it is armed with truth.

The teachers of the law in Jerusalem were so curious about this Jesus. A delegation was sent to find him and question him. It would have been an 80-90 mile hike, or a 4-7 day journey from Jerusalem to the Gennesaret valley west of the Sea of Galilee. They were committed to this search for answers. How will they be received by Jesus?

There were a lot of Jewish laws and traditions about what to eat and not eat and what needed to be done surrounding the meal (like ceremonial washing of hands). The disciples and Pharisees were shocked to hear Jesus say that it wasn’t what goes into a mouth that makes you unclean, but what comes out of it. The disciples were also a bit surprised, I think, that Jesus answered the Pharisees the way he did, asking him, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?” (Matthew 15:12). It is certainly NOT our purpose to try to be as offensive as possible when in religious discussion. And, it is wise to remember we don’t have all the wisdom of the Son of God. But, neither ought we be willing to keep the saving truth from those that might disagree with us, just because it would be more polite – or loving – to be silent.

How will you mix love and truth as Jesus did?

-Marcia Railton

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Jesus warned against following traditions of men that lead you to break the commands of God. What are some examples of how this could happen today? What are the benefits and drawbacks to following the traditions of men? What are the benefits and drawbacks to following the commands of God? Which would you rather follow? What will that look like this week?
  2. When is tradition a good thing? When is it a bad thing? Are there any traditions you are currently following that are not helpful in drawing you closer to what Jesus wants to see in your life?
  3. How can you bring truth and love into the lives of your family and those you are closest to? How can you bring truth and love into the lives of those who may not understand you or may outright oppose you?

When Evil Wins

Matthew 14

January 14

What do you do when tragedy strikes? How do you respond when it looks like evil has triumphed? How do you handle great loss?

In Matthew 14 we get to see how Jesus reacted. He had just heard about the fate of his relative and fellow worker, the man who had prepared the crowd for his own arrival – John the Baptist. John must have been such a blessing to Jesus. John was the one who knew and believed and spoke for Jesus first. He had performed the baptism in which the dove and the voice of God announced that Jesus was the loved son of God. I am sure that had been an incredible bonding moment for both of them. And now John was dead. Too young to die, he was just a few months older than Jesus. He still had more work to do. He had been so faithful.

To compound emotions, John’s death had been a violent, vengeful, plotted beheading at the hands of Herod the tetrarch (which means he was a ruler of one quarter of the region formerly ruled by his father Herod the Great). Herod the Great had been the one who had ordered the death of all baby boys 2 years old and younger in the vicinity of Bethlehem, trying to assassinate young Jesus because the Magi had told him the star they were following signaled the birth of a new King of the Jews. Jesus had escaped the grasp of Herod the Great. But, now Herod’s son, with assistance from his twisted family tree, had murdered Jesus’ kin, John, who had boldly told Herod he had sinned by marrying his living brother’s wife. Evil had triumphed in this round. The righteous man John was dead while Herod, Herodias and her daughter lived and celebrated the death.

Jesus’ first reaction is to get away – alone. “When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place.” (Matthew 14:13). There may have been some tears. There may have even been some angry outbursts, perhaps. Or maybe not. We don’t know exactly. But he was wise in seeking a moment of stillness and quiet – just him and God. It doesn’t say he prayed – but we know Jesus. For example, see what he does next time he is able to be alone (Matthew 14:23).

The crowds aren’t sensitive to Jesus’ needs, but they know they need Jesus so they seek him out and disrupt his quiet time. Rather than rebuking them or running away, Jesus compassionately makes time for them and meets their needs. In fact, the next 24 hours are going to see some of the most amazing ministry and miracles Jesus has with the crowd and with his disciples. Many more sick are healed, thousands are fed with one small lunch, and Jesus and Peter walk on the water! And, between it all, Jesus gets in some more quiet time with his Father.

When faced with tragedy, loss, heartache and evil it is easy to be tempted to give up or give in. Jesus shows us how to give it to God (again and again) and continue the fight. Jesus knew the war was not over. This round went to Herod, but there was more to prepare for. There would be more battles. There would be more sick, hurting, hungry, and scared to care for. The victor has not yet been crowned. We look forward to that day! Until then, give it to God and continue the fight.

-Marcia Railton

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. What loss have you faced? During your lifetime when has it looked like evil has won a round? What was your first response? Were you able to get back in the game? Do you benefit from quiet alone time with God? If so, how? If not, what’s missing?
  2. Jesus invited Peter to get out of the safe boat and come join Jesus ON the water in the middle of the lake in the middle of the night. And Peter got out of the boat! What would you have done? What would Peter have missed if he had stayed in the boat? Can you think of a time you courageously tried something new for Jesus? What could you do with Jesus if you were willing to step out of the boat?
  3. Peter was walking on the water with Jesus!! He began to sink when he saw the wind and was afraid. What fears are you sinking in? What could you do with Jesus if fears didn’t hold you down? How can you keep your eyes on Jesus instead of on your fears?
  4. Jesus rescued Peter and said, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” What tone of voice do you think Jesus used? How do your own doubts affect your relationship with Jesus? Did John the Baptist ever doubt? What did he do? What evidence can you find to counter your doubts?

Master Storyteller

Matthew 13

January 13

I was excited to see that Matthew 13 begins with the Parable of the Sower because that is definitely one of my favorite parables. And then there was the Parable of the Weeds – oh that’s a great one, too. And, the Mustard Seed and Yeast. As well as the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl and finally, the Fishing Net. I believe Matthew 13 is the home of more parables than any other chapter of the Bible -but please correct me if I am wrong. It’s been a long time since I was in junior high, but I still remember Joyce Knapp, my junior high class Sunday School teacher, describing parables as earthly stories with heavenly meaning. Jesus was a master at telling stories about common, everyday things everyone listening would know about (fields, farming, seeds, yeast, weeds, fishing nets), and creating out of it a deeper spiritual, godly lesson. He didn’t give long confusing lectures filled with mile long words that you need a masters level degree to understand. He wanted to make it as simple as he could so that anyone willing to listen with an open mind could learn, even while knowing that many would not get it because they didn’t want to change or didn’t think they needed what Jesus had to offer.

What was it Jesus was offering? What was the point of all these earthly stories with “heavenly” meaning? It is interesting that Matthew is the only gospel writer who uses the phrase “The kingdom of heaven is like…” to introduce many of Jesus’ parables. In fact the term “kingdom of heaven” is only found in the book of Matthew (31 times – and 8 of those are in Matthew 13). The other gospel writers, as well as Paul in his letters, refer instead to the kingdom of God (even Matthew uses this term 5 times). When Matthew was writing with the Jews in mind he knew they took very seriously the commandment to, “Not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” (Exodus 20:7) So, in order to remain guiltless it might be better to not use his name at all. So, when speaking of God and godly things, Matthew often replaced the word God with heaven as that is the throne of God and it would be understood that he was speaking of godly, holy matters belonging to God, without having to risk misusing his name or offending a Jewish listener. These parables are not about being whisked away to heaven when you die. Indeed, they are very much grounded in what is happening on earth both now and in the future judgment. These parables of the kingdom of heaven/God are down-to-earth stories illustrating spiritual/Godly matters.

Take some time today reading and even rereading these parables. Each one has a gem hidden for those who will listen and seek. Each one reveals a little more about what Jesus found most important, what God is preparing, what is required, what is most valuable, what the evil one is up to, what is promised, what are dangerous challenges, what is worthy of sacrifice, what judgment will look like, what is to come, what will be. It’s a treasure hunt in Jesus’ parables. What does the Master want you to find in his stories?

There is one verse that really struck me as I read and re-read Matthew 13. It seems to say perfectly what discussed earlier this week about not throwing away the Old Testament but adding to it the love and beauty of Jesus and what he taught and what he has done and will do. After telling 7 parables Jesus asks his disciples if they are getting it. They reply yes. Then, “He (Jesus) said to them, ‘Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.'” (Matthew 13:52 – NIV) The teacher of the (Old Testament) law who learns and lives by these (New Testament) principles spoken by Jesus and recorded by Matthew as the kingdom of heaven parables and teachings has double the treasure – both old and new.

What treasure in His Word will you find today? How will you use these treasures to make a difference in your life? How will you use these treasures to make a difference in someone else’s life?

-Marcia Railton

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Which of the Matthew 13 parables is your favorite today? Why? What is the lesson Jesus was teaching? Why is this important? How can you apply it or put it into action today?
  2. Jesus chose perfect illustrations for his parables. Even 2,000 years later, even if you are not a farmer, you know what happens when a seed is planted. Even if you have never been fishing, you understand how a net works. But consider how you would create a parable with one of these same teachings using a modern day illustration.
  3. Consider the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-9 and 18-23). What 4 types of soil did Jesus mention and what do they stand for? What happened to each of the seeds? Have you seen these 4 instances occur to others? What kind of soil best describes you right now, and in the past? What lessons can you learn for evangelism from this parable?

Add Love to the Sabbath

Matthew 12

January 12

Jesus is at it again. Back in Matthew 5 we discussed how Jesus didn’t abolish the Old Testament but he breathed new life into the old laws with his teachings. The most important thing wasn’t following the letter of the law but having the heart of Jesus – adding love. Here in Matthew 12 the Pharisees are upset that Jesus’ disciples picked some heads of grain to eat when they were hungry on the Sabbath. Picking some grains is a lot like harvesting and harvesting is work and work is not allowed on the Sabbath. The Pharisees loved nit-picking the law, making it really hard for anyone to succeed in following the law, thus finding fault in everyone else, which they thought made themselves look better. Their microscopic vision into the smallest detail of the law took the focus off of the big picture – how are you doing at being God’s people. The law had been given by God to create a healthy, righteous people devoted to God and kind to others. But this extreme fascination with catching everyone’s slightest mistake was not healthy, righteous, kind, or pleasing to God. Instead of the law being used to make a holy people for God, it was being used to divide and tear down and pull people further from their love for God. The law was good. Their use of it was not. It wasn’t time to throw away the law. It was time to add love.

The purpose of the Sabbath was to put time (a whole day) aside to stop busyness and focus on rest, worship and loving God. It was given as a gift by a gracious and loving God who knew what people would do if they didn’t take time to rest and refocus. He knew all healthy relationships take time and this was the perfect opportunity to add a date day with God on the calendar – every week. A mini-vacation with God and family every 7th day. It’s a great way to create a spiritually, mentally, physically healthy people for God. But the benefits dwindled when the Pharisees turned it into a legalistic checklist of don’t do this and don’t do that.

Jesus wisely gave the Old-Testament-loving Pharisees two examples from the Scriptures of cases where the Sabbath regulations were broken by Godly people doing Godly things, and God didn’t strike them down dead. In fact, He seemed to approve of the exceptions to the rule. Likewise, Jesus is confident God also approved of him healing, doing good and helping others on the Sabbath.

In calling himself the Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus wasn’t saying he was the Lord of something that ought to be thrown out because it had outlived its usefulness. No. He recognized the worth of the Sabbath AND the good that could be done during a day devoted to God. It wasn’t about a checklist and Sabbath day spies making sure you aren’t breaking the law. It is about a day to focus on God, your relationship with Him and the good that He wants you to do for Him. It is a day devoted to loving God and loving others to help us refocus and build our spiritual muscles to take us through the next 6 days doing His will in love.

-Marcia Railton

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. Does your week generally include a Sabbath day of rest and devotion to God? If so, what does it usually look like? What do you appreciate most about it? Do you do it more for what you gain from it, or to please God? (either answer is legitimate). If you don’t normally include a Sabbath rest on your calendar, do you see value in trying a Sabbath rest? How might it look different from your typical day? What would be challenging about making this change? What benefits might you expect to see?
  2. Re-read Matthew 12:33-37. This week have you been producing good fruit or bad fruit? How so? What about your words? Why do you think your words are so important – at least one of the things you will be judged by? Do you find it easier to say the right thing or do the right thing? Were there any words you said recently that you wouldn’t want Jesus to repeat to you on judgment day? How can we stop careless words which will get us into trouble?
  3. Jesus welcomes us as a part of his family, if we do what? (Matthew 12:50) On a scale of 1-10 how are you doing in this area? What could you do today to boost your score? What benefits are there for those who are in Jesus’ family?

Jesus Has A Job for You

Matthew 10

January 10

One result of the covid pandemic that we find ourselves struggling with is the shortage of workers. Packages may take longer to be delivered, restaurants are slower and have shorter open hours (if they aren’t closed up altogether), hospitals and emergency crews are operating on a skeleton workforce. It makes life – and saving lives – hard. There is another life-giving job that also seems to have run into a worker shortage, beginning at least two thousand years ago.

In the final two verses of Matthew chapter 9, Jesus tells his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:37, 38 – NIV) Immediately after this statement, we have the whole passage of Matthew chapter 10 in which Jesus is giving final instructions before sending 12 new recruits out into that harvest field. He’s preparing his disciples for what they will face in this new job. And, it’s a tough picture he paints.

First of all, let’s look at the job description given by Jesus. Their mission is to go to the lost sheep of Israel, preaching that the kingdom of heaven is near (which should be sounding familiar now as we have already heard this from both John the Baptist and Jesus). And, when they aren’t preaching they will, “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.” (Matthew 10:8) Simple enough – just doing a little raising of the dead in their spare time in between sermons. We may be starting to see why there’s a worker shortage. Much is expected and it is far from an easy job.

Before you start any job – easy or hard – it is important to know what the employer will provide to help you do the job well. Does the position come with a company car? What does the training look like? Did you catch the opening line in Matthew 10:1? “He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.” They were going to be well-outfitted to do this difficult job. These men weren’t acting on their own power alone. They had participated in an amazing on-the-job training program and they were stepping out armed with the authority of Jesus. They had been changed from their time with Jesus and now they were empowered to go and do likewise – to tell others about the coming kingdom and change lives. As Jesus said so well, “Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:8)

A good employer will warn his new hires of the difficulties they will face on the job. Jesus certainly did. Isn’t it better to know what to expect, even if it’s not what you wanted. He warns his disciples of rejection, trouble with the local authorities, being beat up and arrested, deep family division and rebellion, hatred, persecution, and the sword. This is what it may look like to carry your cross on the narrow road. Preaching Jesus and the kingdom saves lives, occasionally at the cost of the preacher’s life. It’s a job hazard. That helps further explain the worker shortage. Even when the difficulties are not to the point of physical pain and death, being hated is hard.

But what about the benefits of the job? Surely it has some good ones to make anyone willing to take this job. Yes, let me tell you about the benefits! How about life, eternal life, salvation. Picture standing before God with Jesus at His Father’s side and Jesus introduces you as one of his faithful workers. The pain will all be worth it.

On the flip side, imagine the one who gave up on the job (or never started), the one who decided it was too hard, the job demanded too much, the one who turned his back on Jesus’ job and went the other way on the wide road, through the wide gate. Whoever disowns Jesus before men, will be disowned by Jesus in front of the Father. (Matthew 10:33)

There is a job to do. And, the worker shortage continues. Will you work for him? Will you tell others what he has done for you? Will you step up and be one of the faithful, regardless of the difficulties? In the end, it will be worth it.

“All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:22)

-Marcia Railton

Questions for Reflection & Discussion

  1. If you have served as a worker for Jesus in the harvest field (carrying your cross and following him), what was the hardest situation you have been in? What did you learn from the experience? What do you think Jesus would say to you after this experience?
  2. Create a poster, advertisement or commercial for more workers in the harvest field. Don’t forget to include the great benefits and job training.
  3. What job can you do for Jesus today? How will you “preach”? How will you change lives? How will you take up his cross and follow him? What might you run into? What might it cost you? How have you been prepared and equipped? Pray before taking on today’s job for him.
  4. At the time of Matthew 10 the disciples were just to go to the lost sheep of Israel, not to the Samaritans or Gentiles. Why do you think these were the original directions? Did it change? If so when and how and why? (Hint: Matthew 28:16-20)

The Heart of Christ

Matthew 9

January 9

I believe Matthew 9 gives us an excellent glimpse into the heart of Christ.  Let’s start at the end of the chapter.  Matthew 9:36 tells us, “When he [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

Remember these crowds were filled with tax collectors and sinners – people rejected by polite society – people rejected by the religious leaders of the day.  And yet Jesus’ first instinct was that of compassion.  To understand the significance of this, let’s remember that Jesus was the only sinless person ever to walk the face of the earth.  One would naturally think that whatever sins cause us (sinful people) to cringe, would cause Jesus to be horrified.  And yet Jesus had compassion because the people coming to him were harassed and helpless.

If we now back up to Matthew 9:35, we see what he did because of his compassion, “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.”  Jesus was interested in helping these people who were helpless in and of themselves.  He first met their most basic need – their spiritual need – the need to be reconciled with God – by preaching the good news of the kingdom of God.  If all Jesus cared about was people’s salvation, I suspect he would have stopped there.  But in addition to preaching and teaching, he healed every disease and sickness.  This again points out that Jesus was deeply concerned with the people themselves, and cared about what the people cared about – and solved the problems they faced.  The only explanation is that Jesus genuinely loved these “unlovable” people.

Let’s look at some of the other stories in this chapter.  The chapter begins with some men bringing a paralytic to Jesus.  Jesus was so eager to help the man, he didn’t wait for anyone else to even speak, and just jumped in with, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” – almost as if Jesus just couldn’t wait to help the man.  Jesus jumped right to the most important problem – reconciling this man to God.  Then, to prove he had authority to forgive sins, he demonstrated his power again by completely healing the man.  The crowds were in awe, and praised God.

The next section talks about Jesus’ calling Matthew, a tax collector, to follow him.  Jesus didn’t only tolerate those society rejected, he actively sought them out.  It was at Matthew’s house that Jesus’ enemies accused him of eating (coming in close fellowship with) tax collectors and sinners.  Jesus’ response, in Matthew 9:12-13 was, “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.”  Mercy.  God desires mercy, and Jesus was demonstrating it.  And I would argue that one cannot really demonstrate mercy without first loving the target of that mercy.

The chapter goes on to detail other miracles, including raising a dead girl back to life, healing a woman who had been subject to bleeding for 12 years, and healing two blind men.  All in addition to the summary at the end, saying that he healed every disease and sickness throughout all their towns and villages.

For me, if I had to define Jesus with a single word, based on this chapter, that word would be Love.  Love we can’t even fully comprehend.  God-like love.  

1 John 4:16 says, “… God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in Him.”

John 5:19 tells us, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees his father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”

-Steve Mattison

Questions for reflection & Discussion

  1. Does Jesus care about the things that concern you?  (Hint:  read Matthew 11:28-30)
  2. If Jesus loved the people of his day, how much must he love you?  
  3. How has he demonstrated his love to you?  
  4. What is your response?
  5. If Christians are supposed to “imitate Christ” what would that look like in your life? (Hint: read John 13:34, Philippians 2:3-8, 1 John 2:6)
  6. How are you measuring up?
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