Posts Tagged Jesus
Maybe it’s just me, but I love to read where Jesus shuts down the Pharisees. It’s just because of how their only goal is to silence or embarrass Jesus. It always backfires on them.
Here’s how it went in chapter 22:
34Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:
36″Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Makes it pretty simple, no?
If we’re loving our heavenly Father with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, then the rest comes naturally. We’ll be motivated to obey, inspired to share and honored to follow Him anywhere He may lead.
I will meditate on this today.
Here’s Matthew’s version:
18Early in the morning, as he was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. 19Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.
20When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked.
21Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 22If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
Matthew’s account is not my favorite, however, because it leaves out my five life-changing words, “It was out of season.” See Mark 11. Why are these words life changing for me?
Well, as I see it, the fig tree was doing exactly what it was supposed to be doing – what God had created it to do. It was not the season for it to have figs. It was “resting”.
At first, I thought about how unfair that was for Jesus to curse a tree for doing exactly what God had created it to do – or, to be more exact, not do what it was not supposed to be doing.
But then, I felt God teaching me through this internal debate. You see, I’ve grown up being taught to pray “God’s will”. I had come to understand that everything had to be preceded or followed up with “if it be Your will.” Yet, it was not “God’s will” for this tree to have fruit at this time of the year. Still, Jesus prayed that the tree would wither and die and that no one would eat fruit from it again. And it did.
Then, the next day when the DUHciples acted so astounded that the tree was dead (particularly my favorite, Peter), Jesus laughed and told them that if they told a nearby mountain to get up and throw itself into the sea, and DID NOT DOUBT, that it would be done for them.
Hardly God’s will for a centuries old mountain to suddenly vanish into the ocean, huh?
So – I took all this to mean that my watered-down, powerless prayers were due to my lack of faith – how I believed that a prayer I muttered would be answered only if God willed it to happen. If He didn’t will it to happen it wouldn’t. So, why be concerned about faith? I was told to pray, so I did. That was the end of it. And, as a result, I seldom saw answers to my petitions to God.
Yet, with these five words God rekindled my understanding of the power of belief. Doubt is just as powerful, and I started to finally understand that. I began to practice praying and not doubting. I prayed confidently, less concerned with this internal debate about God’s will. Amazingly, I started seeing answers to my prayers – some small but some rather big. This increased my faith even more.
I should include a disclaimer about how you shouldn’t test God with selfish motives and inappropriate requests, but I think we all understand that.
Something to think about …
It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t comment on verse 10:
10 The disciples said to him, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”
However, for some reason, I never noticed before that it was the DUHciples saying this, not Jesus. Hmmmm, that’s a game changer for me. I see Jesus response to their comment in verse 12b:
“The one who can accept this should accept it.”
One passage that I find myself continuously meditating on is the story of the rich, young ruler, found in this chapter in verses 16 – 24:
16Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
17″Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.”
18″Which ones?” the man inquired.
Jesus replied, ” ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, 19honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.'”
20″All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
21Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
I can’t get my brain around Jesus last comment about a rich man and the eye of a needle. I’ve had some people since tell me that “the eye of a needle” is a treacherous pass in the mountains somewhere in the Middle East, but I’m not buying that. I think Jesus is making a strong point – and from the rich people I’ve met, I think it might be true. Really rich people generally don’t realize their need for God because they can buy whatever it is they need. And, when you have too much to let go, like the man in our story here, it’s extremely difficult to recognize the need for God.
Of course, I don’t have this problem! My financial situation requires daily help from my Heavenly Father. The good news for all of us, rich or poor, is the hope that comes next out of Jesus mouth:
26Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
God be praised.
I find it interesting that Matthew presents the genealogy of Jesus in the fist part of his book. Matthew’s focus in writing was to reach those of Jewish background, specifically Jewish converts to Christianity.
I read in my study Bible about why this was important, and I’m sure some of you have heard this before. But, I thought it important enough to pass on this morning.
“Matthew is very concerned to present Jesus as the son of David…Moreover, he carefully arranges the generations in each of the three groups so that they number fourteen. Not only is this an especially sacred number, because it is twice seven or sabbath, but, more important, it is the numerical equivalent of the name of David, the Great King! That is, the Hebrew letters which spell the name of David (and which also stand for numbers in hebrew) add up to fourteen. this intricate arrangement of the genealogical table can hardly be accidental. It is matthew’s way of emphasizing that jesus is the promised Son of David, fulfilling the Messianic prophesies.”
Seems Matthew had a thing for special meanings, maps and numbers – as you may have seen in David Murrow’s book, “The Map“.
The message for me lies in how Matthew found his audience and presented his testimony in a language they could understand. It makes me rethink who is “my audience” for my testimony. What am I doing to present the gospel in a language they can understand? Am I even thinking about that? I am now!