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…

What’s in a Name?

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MATTHEW 2

 

In the Bible, there is be a great deal of naming done for the sake of conveying a purpose or message.  It could tell the story of a birth (Samuel: God has Heard), a unique physical trait (Esau: Covered- with hair), to make a theological point (Abraham: Father of Many), or a prophecy (Yeshua: Saving One); nonetheless, these men and women (Ruth; Companion) are born-to or given to testify of the the glorious God we serve.

 

In the first two chapters of Matthew, a name that appears in equal amounts to the name of Jesus is Joseph.  As discussed yesterday, Matthew 1 is the genealogy of the line of Joseph, but equally important to note is Joseph’s role in the early part of Christ’s story – the announcement, advent, and escape.  This man entrusted with the care of Jesus was named, whether coincidentally or purposefully, for his famous great (great, great, great…) uncle Joseph, who was the famous dreamer and interpreter. It is then fitting that Joseph is given the word of God, not by messengers or a family member as we see with Mary (Luke 1), but in a dream.

 

Between Matthew 1:18 and Matthew 2:23, or a span of a couple of years, Joseph is recorded as spoken to by God in a dream on four different occasions. He is told not to be afraid to take Mary as a wife (1:20), move to Egypt (2:13), move to Israel (2:19-20), and finally, specific guidance to stay away from Judea, and go to Nazareth (2:22). Joseph, who may have initially been filled with doubt, becomes incredibly faithful to the will of God.  Just like his liked-name predecessor, He goes hither and yon to follow the will of God. At times, he looks incredibly foolish. He goes from the comforts of home to the foreign land of Egypt, yet ultimately, he brings glory to his father, for OT Joseph, Jacob, and for NT Joseph, YHWH.  In so doing this, he lives up to his name – not Joseph – but the one carried by his Son he so carefully protected.

 

While our name is not Joseph, (well, most of us), each one of us also have a calling on our name too (Rom 8:28).  We are not all named for the same reason – some have the name of a biblical figure (like me), and others are named for a special relative, and even a few are named for a Fleetwood Mac song, but God has purposed and fashioned us all (Psalm 139:13-17) to be faithful to him.  Joseph played his part in making sure there is one name that supersedes them all. We might seem foolish to some, we may be called to go hither and yon, leaving behind the comforts of this life, but ultimately we are bringing glory, not to our name, but to our Father in heaven. Does it matter what others call us? Or even what we think of ourselves? In the words of Shakespeare, “What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” How much more does your Father in heaven know this? He has a plan for you. He wants a relationship with you, and truly, it began long before you were ever named. No matter the expectation, or lack thereof, attached to our name, there is truly only one name that matters under heaven: The name of Jesus Christ (Acts 4:10-12) because it is the only name by which we are saved. Like Joseph, it is now our time to play our part, hold onto Jesus, and carry the Son wherever we’re called to go.

-Aaron Winner

 

Aaron Winner is a worship leader and a middle school teacher in Upstate South Carolina.  He has been married to his wife Jennifer for 13 years today – yay!  Aaron is also a songwriter, currently working on his fourth album, “Wonderful”.  Additionally, he hosts his own blog at elattruthfillintheblank.weebly.com, which combines thoughts from his work at school and church; however, he is happy to write for us this week at the start of our 2019 Bible study!

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Mark 14-16

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Friday, May 12

As we started our journey through the book of Mark on Monday we saw that Jesus was all about the gospel of the Kingdom of God. Now as we come to the end of Mark we see Jesus is still about the same work. He is seated with his disciples and tells them in 14:25, “Truly I say to you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the Kingdom of God.”

 

We see later in chapter 14 that he was “deeply grieved” and asked that God would “remove this cup.” Death was not what he wanted even in this situation, knowing what was coming, he still said, “not what I will, but what you will.” Jesus knew the prophesies, he knew the suffering he was about to face, yet still he sought the Kingdom of God. Jesus, along with his passion for the Kingdom to be fulfilled, is our inspiration to follow the will of God. We must “seek first the Kingdom of God”(Matt 6:33). It is of utmost importance.

 

Even after Jesus was crucified and was raised from the dead He still focused on the Kingdom. He told his disciples to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”(Mark 16:15) We are to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God to all around us no matter how popular the message is or isn’t.

 

-Bill Dunn

 

(Photo Credit: http://dailybiblememe.com/tag/mark-1615/)