February 1, 2017
The chief priests and elders were the recognized religious authority in Israel. Yet, Jesus taught without their stamp of approval. Their authority came from men, but Christ’s came from God. If only they would have listened to His teaching, they would have recognized God’s approval upon it. But to listen and believe would have required them to humble themselves and accept His authority as Lord. Isn’t this the real problem for most?
January 31, 2017
Why did Jesus curse the fig tree?
The morning after Jesus had overturned the tables of the money changers in the Temple, reminding them that God’s house was to be a house of prayer, he was hungry and saw a fig tree along the way. Yet, even though it was green with leaves, it had no fruit. So, Jesus cursed the tree because of its lack of fruit. Was this the action of impatience or frustration because of His hunger? No. The fig tree is a symbol of fruitless Israel. They had the Law and the Prophets and the beautiful Temple with all of its sacrifices, yet they had filled the outer court, which was meant for the Gentiles’ prayer, with booths for commerce. And more than that, they had rejected the very Messiah for Whom all of these were given. Their leaves were green, but they did not bear fruit. By the end of the week, they would crucify Jesus. And before that generation passed, the Temple would be destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.
But Jesus was raised and the gospel has gone out to the nations. And one day, the fig tree, which is Israel, will recognize Christ as Lord and be withered no more.
January 29, 2017
After a rich young ruler came to Jesus asking what good thing he must do to have eternal life, the Lord told him to sell his possessions, give them to the poor and come follow Him. But the young man went away sorrowful, for he was very wealthy. As the rich young ruler walked away, Jesus told His disciples that it was hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom. He then used a greater to lesser hyperbole to illustrate the problem. The camel represents the rich man, oversized and burdened with a load, while the eye of a needle represents the narrow gate that leads to the kingdom of God. Some have suggested that the “eye of the needle” referred to the small, narrow door within a city gate used for foot passengers, which even a man would need to bow low to enter. However, the metaphor still holds true. A large camel cannot enter through a small door nor a needle’s eye. It would need to shrink to enter either.
Riches have a way of owning us, rather than us owning them. To rely on worldly wealth, rather than God’s provision is idolatry. The rich young ruler who claimed to be a keeper of the commandments had actually failed to keep the first, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”
January 26, 2017
This was Christ’s response to the disciples when they asked why they had been unable to cast the demon out from the epileptic boy. He told them it was because of their unbelief. They lacked faith in God’s power to heal. Yet, Christ immediately taught them a principle of faith to avoid any possible misunderstanding. He wanted them to stop doubting and believe. They didn’t need faith the size of a mountain, but faith the size of a mustard seed, a seed so small as to make it difficult to see. He used a hyperbole of lesser to greater to illustrate this principle. The phrase “as a mustard seed” shows His use of simile to introduce the lesser (“mustard seed”) to greater (“mountain”) hyperbole. The apostle Paul knew this teaching from Jesus and used it in his list of hyperboles: “If I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing” (1 Cor. 13:2). It is not the size of your faith, but that you have stopped doubting and started believing. In other words, it is not GREAT faith in God, but faith in a GREAT God. Do you have faith as a mustard seed?
January 25, 2017
Lose to win? Jesus gave this paradoxical teaching after rebuking Peter for his insistence that Jesus should not suffer, die and be raised as He predicted. Jesus warned Peter and His disciples that if they tried in their own wisdom and strength to preserve their lives, they would instead be lost. But if they would surrender their lives to Christ, depending on Him for life, they would be saved. This same life choice is set before us. If you would choose to avoid the persecutions and troubles that the world will throw at you for following Christ, then be aware that you are choosing to gain the world at the expense of your own soul. Yet, if you would choose to follow Christ and be willing to suffer with Him for the sake of the gospel, you will find the very life you desire and more.
January 23, 2017
Christ was sent first as Shepherd to the lost sheep of Israel and then as Redeemer for the whole world. As the apostle Paul wrote, “Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers” (Rom.15:8). Jesus died on the cross and was raised, so that both believing Jews and Gentiles might be saved. Yet, His earthly ministry was entirely focused in Israel. However, when a Roman centurion or even a Canaanite mother asked for help, Jesus answered them according to their faith. So, the demon-possessed daughter of a Canaanite woman was healed. After Christ’s resurrection, He commissioned His disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). The good news was given first to the Jew, but then was to be carried to all the peoples of the world by Christ’s disciples. We are those who are still called to carry out the Great Commission of our Redeemer. As the Father sent the Son, so the Son sends us (John 20:21).
Where have you been sent?
January 21, 2017
I don’t know what you believe about heaven and hell, but Jesus taught that they were real places of eternal existence. In this parable of Jesus, He compared the kingdom of heaven to a fishing net that caught both good and bad fish. The good fish represented those who truly believed in Christ as Lord. And the bad represented those who were hypocrites.
The kingdom of heaven is to be populated by those who have made Christ king. However, there are those who pay lip service to Jesus outwardly, yet inwardly their hearts remain unchanged. They still have “self” on the throne. They have not made Christ the Lord of their lives. They are hypocrites. As the gospel “dragnet” gathers people into the church, both the saved and the hypocrite are present. Yet, at the “end of the age” (Matt.13:49), they will be separated. The “just” to everlasting life and the “wicked” to a place of everlasting torment called Hell.
This is why we must continually preach the gospel to the church. For we do not know who there is among us that has yet to truly confess Christ as King. And this is why each of us must examine our own hearts to be sure that we have truly submitted our lives to Jesus. Have you confessed Jesus as Lord and believed that God raised Him from the dead? Are you truly among the redeemed? The end of the age is coming. Are you ready?
January 14, 2017
It was Jesus who sent out the disciples. The Greek for “I send” is emphatic. It is Christ Himself who is sending them out. It is by His authority and command. In this sending, Jesus used the attributes of four animals to describe the way He was sending them:
1) “As sheep” – Meek and without apparent physical defense.
2) “Amidst wolves” – Wolves harm sheep. They represent those who will persecute and kill the disciples.
3) “As serpents” – Serpents were seen to move with wisdom and subtlety. Move like serpents, but strike as…
4) “As doves” – “Harmless.” Be wise like serpents, but don’t strike as they do. Be harmless as doves.
Jesus is still sending out His disciples with the same authority and in the same manner.
January 13, 2017
When Jesus healed two blind men, he instructed them not to tell anyone. Why He forbade them is not explained, for certainly He later commands His followers to go into all the world preaching the gospel (Mark 16:15). Perhaps He did not want the fame of His miracles to obscure His message. Or perhaps He didn’t want the news to limit His ability to move about freely until the appointed day of His crucifixion. Regardless, the men went throughout the country sharing the news of how Jesus had restored their sight, in spite of His warning. Isn’t it ironic that these men couldn’t be stopped from sharing what Christ had done for them, while many believers today cannot be urged to obey Christ’s clear command to witness.
January 10, 2017
This was the centurion according to Luke’s gospel that had built the synagogue in Capernaum (Luke 7:5). He was probably the commander of the Roman garrison in Capernaum and was very familiar with the Jewish religion and culture. He came to Jesus asking Him to heal his servant. Jesus immediately agreed to go to the centurion’s home and heal his servant. But the Roman commander insisted that he was “not worthy” of having the Lord enter his home and that if only He would “speak a word” he knew that his servant would be healed. This expressed both his awareness of Jewish reluctance to enter a Gentile’s home (Not specifically forbidden by Moses, but had become a Pharisaic practice), and his faith that Jesus had the authority to heal. The centurion went on the explain his understanding of Christ’s authority, saying it was similar to how he could command his soldiers and they obeyed. Christ commended the centurion’s faith and sent him on his way, having healed the servant according to the centurion’s request. When the centurion returned home he found that his servant had been healed at the very “same hour” that Jesus had spoke.
Oh, to have such faith! To believe that Christ has authority over all things and that His Word has the power to command all things to obey.