Sunday, March 30, 2008

Matthew 13:3-23


The shift from miracles to parables all revolves around the happenings of chapter 12-the miracle of healing the deaf mute man and the response to it. The response was to say that Jesus' works were driven by the Devil and therefore to be rejected. Jesus came to present Himself as the King and to offer the promised Kingdom to the Jewish people. Now, they reject the King and the Kingdom offer and Jesus, in turn, pulls back the offer.

Now, the question in the minds of the disciples was "What will happen to the Kingdom now?" And Jesus answers this question about what the Kingdom is going to look like since the rejection by the use of 7 parables. I think this is one of the most remarkable sections of Scripture and most instructive for us today as we seek to follow King Jesus and function in the Kingdom. Through the study of these 7 parables we will discover that there is only one parable that indicates what we must do in the Kingdom and the rest are basically descriptive of the nature of the Kingdom. Jesus begins with the parable of the sower.

1-THE SOWER-(Invitation) 3 And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, ``Behold, the sower went out to sow; 4 and as he sowed, some, seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. 5 ``Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. 6 ``But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. 7 ``Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. 8 ``And others fell on the good soil and yielded a crop, some, a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. 9 ``He who has ears, let him hear.''

Jesus illustrates receptivity (ears to hear) by the use of four soils-by the side of the road, the rocky places, among the thorns and the good soil. These represent what kind of receptivity you might expect as you participate in the sowing of the seed of the Gospel and these soils also illustrate the various degrees of receptivity we each experience in our own lives.

Now note the interpretation of these soils. (1) Beside the road-no root-no shoot-no fruit. 18 ``Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 ``When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road.

(2) Rocky places-no root-shoot-no fruit. 20 ``The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away."

(3) Among the thorns-root-shoot-no fruit. 22 ``And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful."

(4) Good soil-root-shoot-fruit. 23 ``And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some, a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.'' NOTE that the entire goal has to do with fruitfulness.

Can you remember the times you were one or more of these soils over your life? Which soil are you now? Beside the road? In rocky places? In the thorns? Or, good soil?

Matthew 13:1-17


1 That day Jesus went out of the house and was sitting by the sea. 2 And large crowds gathered to Him, so He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole crowd was standing on the beach. 3 And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying,

``Behold, the sower went out to sow; 4 and as he sowed, some, seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. 5 ``Others fell on the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. 6 ``But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. 7 ``Others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. 8 ``And others fell on the good soil and yielded* a crop, some, a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. 9 ``He who has ears, let him hear.''

10 And the disciples came and said to Him, ``Why do You speak to them in parables?'' 11 Jesus answered them, ``To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. 12 ``For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. 13 ``Therefore, I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.

14 ``In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, `YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND; YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE; 15 FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL, WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR, AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES, OTHERWISE THEY WOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES, HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN, AND I WOULD HEAL THEM.' 16 ``But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. 17 ``For truly I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it."

After the Jewish leadership rejects Jesus as God's Messiah, Jesus shifts His method of teaching. Jesus begins speaking in parables.

Parables are the simplest of narratives: they sketch a setting, describe an action and its result; they often involve a character facing a particular moral dilemma, or making a questionable decision and then suffering the consequences of that choice. Though not every moral narrative is a parable, many fairy tales would be viewed as extended parables, except for their magical settings. In the Biblical sense, a parable is simply "an earthly story with a heavenly meaning."

Jesus has been clearly presenting Himself and performing the appropriate miracles as the Messiah, but now He is going to move into using the method of teaching by parables. The disciples quickly notice the difference and ask Jesus why He is doing this. His answer was twofold: First, He is using parables in order to conceal and second, He is using them to reveal. They are used to conceal the truth of God from those who are not interested. No matter what Jesus does, these people will not be able to truly see and hear the message Jesus came to give. I see this as an act of grace on His part to not heap up more condemnation upon those who are actively rejecting Him. And secondly, to reveal truth to those who are interested.

NOTE that what is most important to Jesus is that you and I be interested. Well, are you?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Matthew 12:46-50


46 While He was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. 47 Someone said to Him, ``Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.'' 48 But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, ``Who is My mother and who are My brothers?'' 49 And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, ``Behold My mother and My brothers! 50 ``For whoever, does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.''

For whatever reason Mary and the brothers of Jesus showed up and interrupted His speech to the crowds. Jesus took this opportunity to turn the situation into a most amazing teaching moment.

This is one of those moments in Jesus' ministry that sizzles with intensity, drama, and significance. Jesus words would clearly be hurtful to his physical family that was already struggling to know how to understand his ministry. Also, these words would be freeing and empowering to those who had always felt left out of the political order, pushed aside by the religious elite and disenfranchised by the social structure of their day. Jesus was promising that his family would be determined by faith and obedience-not blood, not genealogy, not politics, not power, and not money. That offer still stands today and the promise is just as true for us as it was for those who first heard Jesus' words.

So, we who trust Jesus and follow Him (do the will of My Father) are family to Him. We are the brothers and sisters of Jesus! Now wait just a minute! That means then that we are also related to one another. You see, this was the shock the disciples faced in the Upper Room experience when Jesus said that He had a new commandment for them that they should love one another as He loved them. The disciples had eagerly signed on to love and be loved by Jesus, the Messiah, but to love one another was altogether different! The disciples must have felt in their hearts, "Jesus, do you mean that I must love this former tax-collector, these fishing industry execs and workers, this one who not only puts his foot in his mouth but changes feet while talking, this doubter who can't seem to make up his mind, this radical zealot who is filled with such anger toward the government, these brothers who are so impatient that they are continually bringing up suggestions for God to strike others with lightning, these New Testament 'nobodies'? You want me to love them?"

In the kingdom we are family members with all of the similarities, differences and peculiarities of family. Jesus wants us to act like it! This fits in so well with what we keep teaching about hanging out with one another-eating, praying, studying and fellowshipping together-AS FAMILY!

Matthew 12:38-45


In Matthew 12, Jesus confronts the Pharisees who couldn't believe that Jesus was the Messiah. This entire chapter describes the mounting hatred that the religious leaders had against Jesus. These Pharisees were hard-hearted legalists who thought that Jesus was a Satanic Sabbath-breaker. Jesus is saying some very hard things to these people. Several weeks ago we studied the text where Jesus called the Pharisees an evil "brood of vipers" (verse 34). In today's text, Jesus calls them "an evil and adulterous generation" (verse 39). Some would say that Jesus wasn't being too Christ-like in His response to these people. Jesus was hard with them, because hard hearts need hard truth.

Jesus reserved His hardest words for those who had been exposed to the most evidence and yet had refused to believe in Him. Jesus was gentle, loving, and kind towards those people who knew little of God's truth such as the sinning tax-collector or harlots. These people loved Jesus for His compassion. But Jesus dealt very harshly with the Pharisees who knew much but remained unrepentant. The worst of all these was Judas of whom Jesus spoke very condemningly. Judas had walked with Jesus and ate with Jesus and learned one-on-one from Jesus. But Jesus said, "It would have been good for that man if he had not been born" (Matt. 26:24). Why? Because despite all the light that Judas experienced, he ultimately ended in unbelief and betrayal.

This is all about unbelief! NOTE the various dimensions of unbelief. 38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, ``Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.'' 39 But He answered and said to them, ``An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; 1. UNBELIEF ALWAYS WANTS MORE PROOF. This kind of unbelief is certainly prevalent today!

and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; 40 for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 2. UNBELIEF TENDS TO NEGLECT REAL PROOF.

41 ``The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. 42 ``The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. 3. UNBELIEF ALWAYS HAS ADDITIONAL TESTIMONY THAT WILL VERIFY. Jesus brings up two historical events-Jonah's preaching to the Ninevites and the Queen of Sheba's visit to Solomon. They will give condemning testimony in the last day.

43 ``Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. 44 ``Then it says, `I will return to my house from which I came'; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. 45 ``Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.'' 4. UNBELIEF LEFT UNCHECKED WILL MULTIPLY. Even those who heard John's teaching and accepted it somewhat didn't embrace it for themselves and receive this teaching into their heart of belief. And because they did not genuinely receive the truth by faith, they become vulnerable for a multiple of unclean spirits to fill up the void that is left by UNBELIEF.

NOTE that Jesus isn't concerned about "church" or "synagogue" membership or participation in a religious program or organization, but His primary concern is all about faith. He wants you to be interested and follow that interest with personal faith. Personal faith has 3 dimensions:

1-Knowledge of the facts. 2-Agreement with the truth about those facts. 3-Personal trust in that knowledge and agreement. It's the personal trust that makes all the difference.

Matthew 12:22-37


22 Then a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute was brought to Jesus and He healed him, so that the mute man spoke and saw. 23 All the crowds were amazed and were saying, ``This man cannot be the Son of David, can he?'' 24 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, ``This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.''

25 And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, ``Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand. 26 ``If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? 27 ``If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? For this reason, they will be your judges. 28 ``But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 ``Or how can anyone enter the strong man's house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house. 30 ``He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.

We come now to the pivotal point of the Gospel of Matthew and of Jesus' ministry! Jesus has presented Himself flawlessly as the promised Messiah of God, the One Who was pictured throughout history as God's Deliverer, the longed for Messiah of the Jewish people, found in every feast they celebrated, the fulfillment of the masses of prophecies, the hope of Israel. YET the leadership of the Jews flatly reject Him to the point of relegating Jesus as being empowered by the Devil (Beelzebul). This rejection is at the end of the miracle section of Matthew (8-12) and with this ultimate rejection Jesus, in turn, pulls Himself back from the leadership. This was the last straw!

31 ``Therefore, I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. 32 ``Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come. 33 ``Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 ``You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. 35 ``The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. 36 ``But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. 37 ``For by your words you will be justified and by your words you will be condemned.''

Maybe the most important issue of this passage is what is called the blasphemy of the Spirit. This blasphemy cannot be forgiven. There are two frightening statements in Scripture that have stirred up attention. One is the "sin unto death" and the other is the "blasphemy of the Holy Spirit." Both strike great fear in the hearts of people when they begin to wonder if they have ever committed one or the other or both. I believe the Devil uses this fear to his advantage by getting people to think of the worst thing you've ever done and then accusing you of one of these two sins. (His specialty is personal condemnation and tearing you down in any way he can!)

The "sin unto death" is basically refusing to believe in Jesus right up to the point of death. Once you have heard the message of Jesus and continue to reject Him, you have committed the "sin unto death" and this cannot be forgiven. And, since you have chosen to have nothing to do with God's Messiah, Jesus, you won't have to for all of eternity, for you will be separated from Him forever.

The "blasphemy of the Spirit" is not the time you cussed God out or openly rejected Him or committed a most heinous sin. This sin could only be committed during a certain time in history so far. It is when you reject the most full expression of God's Messiah-fully empowered by the Spirit of God and approved by God, the Father. When Jesus walked the planet, filled with the Holy Spirit so that He performed and spoke so powerfully and effectively and was rejected, this was the "blasphemy of the Spirit" that cannot be forgiven. This is why Jesus frequently says that His generation will suffer the greatest condemnation, worse than Sodom and Gomorrah.

NOTE that this miracle of healing the man who couldn't hear or speak is one of the three miracles that the Messiah was to perform, when He comes. This was not prophetic, but was carried about by tradition. The three miracles were (1) healing a leper, (2) healing a man blind from birth and (3) healing a man who could not hear or speak. Generation after generation was told that "When the Messiah comes, He will actually heal a leper, open the eyes of the person born blind and will someday be able to make a deaf mute hear and speak." In the first century there were Jewish exorcists who did perform successful exorcisms among the people. They would get the demon to speak and they would then cast it out of a person. But in the case of the deaf mute, the person couldn't speak so they were stymied as to how to perform their exorcism. So, the tradition was that when the Messiah comes, He'll actually be able to do this.

Although Jesus didn't have to fulfill these traditions, He did so in order to reach these people. He accommodated Himself to their wishes and dreams of what the Messiah might do and these miracles became most convicting to those who saw and heard. Jesus was relentless in reaching out to the last, lost one to bring people back into a relationship with God. He is still relentlessly doing everything He can do to win your heart and get your attention today. He only requires that you be interested and seek Him out. HE WILL SHOW UP!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Matthew 12:9-21


8 ``For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.'' After saying this about Himself, Jesus heads directly into the synagogue.

9 Departing from there, He went into their synagogue. 10 And a man was there whose hand was withered. And they questioned Jesus, asking, ``Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?''-so that they might accuse Him. 11 And He said to them, ``What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 ``How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.'' 13 Then He said* to the man, ``Stretch out your hand!'' He stretched it out, and it was restored to normal, like the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired, against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.

He first teaches the logic of doing some work on the Sabbath if necessary, then He performs a miracle right in front of everyone! They had misapplied the Sabbath and turned it into a religious rule rather than a relational covenant with the Lord.


When you set aside a day for a Sabbath, you set up Jesus as your Lord!

What is a Sabbath? To the Jews it was an identifying mark that they ceased from all normal work for one day to focus on their God. It was to stop everything and focus on their God and their relationship with Him. Although this was in the Law of Moses and we are no longer under that Law, the Sabbath doesn't really go away! Under the Law of Moses you were in a "have-to" mode. Now, you are under the Law of Christ which supersedes and embraces the Mosaic Law and you are in a "want-to" mode. We do everything we can to keep the Sabbath, not because we have to but because we want to. It's the most wonderful day of rest-a time out that is much appreciated! Sabbath is for man to enjoy. Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath! Here are some ways to look at this Sabbath principle.


Check it out for yourself! Don't make it religious. Remember God wants your heart (compassion) and your personal relationship with Him (knowledge of Him) rather than your religiosities (sacrifices). And when you set aside a day of rest like this, you set up Jesus as your Lord. HE IS THE LORD OF THE SABBATH, so He can say what is right and wrong for that special day of rest. In fact, in a very real sense, Jesus is your Sabbath-He is your rest! Come to Me and I will give you rest! This Sabbath rest in Him is your salvation. So, stop from your normal work day for one day (we do it on the actual Sabbath of the bible-Saturday, not the "Christian" one-Sunday) and really rest!

Come apart for awhile or you'll come apart! Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath (the religious) and the Lover of the sinners (the non-religious). He wants to be your Lord and Lover, too.

Matthew 12:1-8


1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath, and His disciples became hungry and began to pick the heads of grain and eat. 2 But when the Pharisees saw this, they said to Him, ``Look, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath.'' 3 But He said to them, ``Have you not read what David did when he became hungry, he and his companions,, 4 how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but for the priests alone? 5 ``Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent? 6 ``But I say to you that something greater than the temple is here. 7 ``But if you had known what this means, `I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT A SACRIFICE,' you would not have condemned the innocent. 8 ``For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.''

The Jewish religious scene of the 1st century that was ruffled most by the Jesus revolution was twofold:

1. Sabbath-breaking-In this incident it was "working on the Sabbath." Plucking was equivalent to reaping and rubbing to threshing and that these were prohibited works on the Sabbath. But Jesus says, hungry people should be fed and sick people should be healed no matter the religious regulations.

2. Fraternizing with sinners-When Matthew, the sinner, was called, he threw a party full of sinners!

SABBATH MIRACLES a. Demoniac in synagogue-Luke 4:31-37 b. Peter's mother-in-law-Luke 4:38-39-on Sabbath afternoon c. Withered Hand-Matthew 12:1-14-Mark 2:23-28; 3:1-6 d. Woman doubled over-Luke 13:10-17 (curvature of the spine) e. Dropsy Healed-Luke 14:1-6 (liver disease-retaining water) f. Man at the pool-John 5 g. Man born blind-John 9

I DESIRE COMPASSION AND NOT SACRIFICE. According to God's reckoning, compassion matters more than ceremonial rules and regulations, people more than things, applied to 2 practices They could not allow the Messiah into their lives, because in their substitution of things man-made (laws) for things divine (grace), they excluded the possibility of Jesus being the Son of God.

Jesus came to communicate a REVOLUTIONARY MESSAGE that all people everywhere need, that many people find attractive, but that most people find offensive to their natural sensitivities. His revolutionary message is summed up at the end of chapter 11-COME TO ME AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST. He now quotes the prophet, Hosea: 6 For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice (your heart) and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings (a personal relationship) Hosea 6:6.

DON'T MISS THIS! This is the heart of Messiah Jesus' message to the world-especially to those who want to follow Him. He is saying that SOME THINGS JUST DON'T MATTER as they are compared to other things. Now get this, the God of gods who developed a most elaborate sacrificial system is saying that these sacrifices and religiosities do not matter in comparison to your heart bent toward God and your personal relationship with Him.

IT DOESN'T MATTER: That you are "right". That you "go to church". That you "read your bible". That you "do your prayers". That you "join a group". When you "go to church". (what day, what time, what place) Whether you "like the music" or not. COMPARED TO God owning your heart, your head, your life to the point that you are willing to follow His truth rather than your convenient traditions!

The point of the Jesus revolution is that you learn to walk with Him, walk with others and wait on Him to lead out on all your decisions-no matter what! It's not "I think I want to do this or that", but "Jesus, what is it that you want me to do, where do you want me to go, how do you want me to do this or that?" It's getting to the point that "I don't know", but "He does" and I'm going to listen.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Matthew 11:20-30


20 Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. 21 ``Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 ``Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. 23 ``And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You will descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day. 24 ``Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.''

This cursing of 3 primary cities contains a remarkable prophecy. Jesus is condemning them to obliteration! It was in these three prominent fishing villages that Jesus performed most of His miracles, yet they rejected Him as the Messiah sent to deliver them. Since they had more light than most anywhere else and chose to reject this light from God, they will never be rebuilt again! Throughout history, although there have been serious attempts to rebuild these cities, they remain desolate today. Capernaum is a fascinating ruins that we visit, right on the Sea of Galilee. Bethsaida and Chorazin are up the hill away from the Sea a bit. Bethsaida is virtually unvisited and Chorazin is becoming more visible with some interesting ruins of people's houses from the 1st century.

25 At that time Jesus said, ``I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. 26 ``Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. 27 ``All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

Jesus offers up a quick prayer, speaking of how the wise and intelligent (those who think they know and have it all) have not connected with the revelation of Jesus, yet the infants (those who have little, but are trusting) receive it freely. The key is how anyone receives the person of Jesus.

28 ``Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 ``Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. 30 ``For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.''

Jesus now offers the most simple explanation of what it means to believe in Jesus' way versus the ways of the religious. Remember the call of Matthew that illustrated how it works? The whole world is out to try to make themselves right before God by jumping through all sorts of hoops. That's religion-trying to avoid going to hell-conduct life in such a way so as to be accepted by God. Jesus only requires a personal relationship with Him-"Come to Me." It's a relationship-been to hell and don't want to go back. Much of the hell we experience in life is trying to conduct our lives in such a way so as to be accepted before God.

Jesus invites all who are sick and tired and weighed down by all of the do's and don'ts of trying to be acceptable to God, to simply come to Him. Just come to Jesus and He will give you rest. He gives you rest in two ways-salvation rest (you are accepted by God just the way you are) and rest for your soul (stop the treadmill of stress). This is the most amazing thing ever! Jesus is the only one who can make you acceptable, simply by coming to Him. He'll do the rest!

You see, when you are called to be a disciple, you are called to rest. I am just now understanding this. Although I have known the grace of God, I have been frantically "doing" everything I could do to prove that I am acceptable. I have acted more like a human "doing" rather than a human "being." Jesus wants me to simply come to Him, take on His yoke and learn from Him, so that I will find REST for my soul. This blows my mind!

Yokes were made of wood with two hollowed out sections on the bottom portion that rested on the necks of oxen, which used to plow or to draw a cart. Figuratively, a yoke symbolized servitude or submission. Jesus is admonishing us to submit ourselves to Him, for true rest comes from serving Him, not ourselves. A new ox was often trained for plowing or drawing a cart by yoking him with an experienced ox. The yoke kept the young ox from "doing his own thing" and he soon learned obedience to his master. In like manner, we are to commit ourselves to being yoked to Jesus (with another ox or two). Unlike the sometimes harsh treatment oxen are given to bring them into subjection, Jesus is "gentle and humble in heart," and wins us by His love. Jesus pulls more than His "share" of the load; therefore our burden is light. COME UNTO ME, all of you who are weary and burdened down and I will give you REST.

Matthew 11:7-19


7 As these men were going away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, ``What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 ``But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Those who wear soft clothing are in kings' palaces! 9 ``But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and one who is more than a prophet. 10 ``This is the one about whom it is written, `BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER AHEAD OF YOU, WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY BEFORE YOU.' 11 ``Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 ``From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and violent men take it by force. 13 ``For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14 ``And if you are willing to accept it, John himself is Elijah who was to come. 15 ``He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

16 ``But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places, who call out to the other children, 17 and say, `We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.' 18 ``For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, `He has a demon!' 19 ``The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, `Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.''

Jesus began to speak to the multitudes about John the Baptist in Matt. 11:7-19. Notice Jesus said in verse 14, "If you care to accept it, he himself is Elijah, who was to come." Later, after the transfiguration of Jesus, the disciples asked Him, saying, "Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?" (Mat.17:10). Jesus answered, "Elijah is coming and will restore all things; but I say unto you, that Elijah already came, and they did not recognize him." Then the disciples understood that He had spoken to them about John the Baptist (Matt. 17:11-13). If Jesus said, "Elijah is to come" then it means there will be a coming of Elijah in the future, but He did not say that. Remember Jesus is the Son of God and the Prophet. The reason why the Jews were confused is because they thought there will be a literal Elijah who is to come. Read in John 1:19-34 about the Jewish leaders who were questioning John the Baptist if he is the Christ or Elijah (Mal 4:5-6) or the Prophet (Deut 18:15). John answered "no" to all of those questions. You might say, "But John said he is not Elijah." Yes, he is Elijah-like but not a literal Elijah. John the Baptist was sent by God from the Old Testament prophecies in Isaiah 40:3 and also in Malachi 3:1 as Jesus said.

The world conditions were ready for something different to catch their attention and turn their hearts toward God. There was much religiosity and secularism thriving at that time, but "authenticity" was woefully lacking. John's attractiveness was that he was authentic-the real deal. He took on a pose that was almost the opposite of the religious setting of the day and people were hungry for it. He didn't wear the flowing robes of the priestly or religious class, didn't operate in or around the beautiful Temple, didn't have a religious air to him, and was not playing games any longer. This authentic message of turning back to God (repentance) and looking for the Messiah was most refreshing, even if they had to travel out into the country to hear it.

NOTE that John came with a serious tone like singing a dirge at a funeral to catch the attention of those who were playing games with their faith. Jesus, on the other hand, came with more of a tone of a wedding party where music was being played for dancing. Yet, Jesus says that this generation responded negatively to both! To John they claimed he had a demon. To Jesus they were critical of His partying, calling Him a drunkard, gluttonous and a friend of sinners. "Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds" means that the actions of those who respond will speak most clearly and loudly.

One more interesting note here. Jesus says, ``Truly I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist! Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. There is no one greater than John the Baptist born of women, yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. In the earthly sense, John is the greatest with the greatest human mission-to introduce the Messiah to the world. However, when it comes to the kingdom, even the least enjoys a greater positioning than John. John was preparing the way for the King. Those in the kingdom enjoy the king and all of its riches.

It seems we live in a very similar context today in our world-filled with religiosity, spiritualism and secularism. We are in need of a breath of authenticity like never before. In a day when the mega-church is easily made into a distant show to watch and enjoy without personal engagement and where the small church can easily be so boring with the predictable program and needs, where personal engagement leads to certain burnout. We desperately need authenticity! I believe that authenticity is to be found among those who are interested in walking with Jesus, walking with others and waiting for Jesus to lead out. In other words, authenticity today must come from many Elijah-like followers of Jesus who are preparing the way for the Messiah to show up, "where two or three gather in My name, there I will be in their midst."

Matthew 11:1-6


1 When Jesus had finished giving instructions to His twelve disciples, He departed from there to teach and preach in their cities.

2 Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to Him, ``Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?'' 4 Jesus answered and said to them, ``Go and report to John what you hear and see: 5 the BLIND RECEIVE SIGHT and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the POOR HAVE THE GOSPEL PREACHED TO THEM. 6 ``And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.''

What is going on here? John has already pronounced Jesus as Messiah, so why the question through his disciples here? He was well aware that Jesus was the Messiah (John 1:29; Luke 3:22) and had heard from prison the things Jesus was doing among the people-miracle after miracle that could only come from God, even raising the dead back to life!

There are three thoughts for your consideration: John must have been terribly disappointed with Jesus. Jesus didn't fit the mold of what John was expecting entirely. Some were saying that Jesus had a demon (Matthew 12:24; John 8:48). Others reported that Jesus was a drunkard and glutton (Matthew 11:19). Still others said that He was crazy (Mark 3:21, 31-35). We always try to fit Jesus into a mold-our mold. It doesn't matter whether God is fulfilling what He claims to be and to do, we still have our images and caricatures. Every time I think I have God figured out, He surprises me BIG TIME. It's not that He acts out of character, but that He is the God of gods and supersedes most every expectation I can muster!

John was also confused by Jesus' message. It was not quite the same approach as John. John's message was filled with truth and destruction. Jesus' message was filled with truth and love. He was filled with grace and truth. This was a powerful difference!

NOTE that John is not asking whether or not Jesus is the Messiah as much as he is asking is there another Messiah. One of the great opinions of first-century Judaism concerning the Messiah, was the idea of there being two Messiahs. The two Messiah concept was prevalent among the Jews. There was to be Messiah ben Joseph (son of Joseph)-the suffering Messiah who would fulfill the duties of priest and would be killed for the sins of the world. The other was Messiah ben David (son of David)-the victorious Messiah who would bring Israel to glory, fulfilling the role of king and would live forever. So, in keeping with the two Messiah concept, yet a bit confused about the manner in which Jesus appeared, John asks if they are to be seeking another Messiah as well. You see, when you are in a Roman prison, this is a great time to have Messiah ben David to show up-to kick the tuchus of the Romans and bring Israel to its kingdom glory. This is no time for Messiah ben Joseph-the Messiah who will be killed as a sacrifice.

Jesus does something that is fascinating to me. He quotes the prophet Isaiah as He answers the question by quoting the passage that might best be attributed to the victorious Messiah ben David and Jesus adds a curious act to the list of what the Messiah will do-the raising of the dead. There are not two Messiahs! Both of these concepts of Messiah are all wrapped up into one-His name is Jesus. The only possible way for the two messiahs to be brought into one is the resurrection of the dead. "Messiah ben Joseph" must come, be sacrificed and die as the Lamb of God for the sins of the world and "Messiah ben David" must come and reign as king forever on planet earth. The only possible way for that to happen is to have the Messiah come to be sacrificed for the sins of the world (the first coming of Jesus), be resurrected by God and some come again to reign forever (the second coming of Jesus).

So Jesus' answer here is listen to what I am saying and watch what I am doing and then you'll know the Messiah completely! The same is true for us today! Jesus is the Messiah-our Deliverer from the sin that separates us from ourselves, others and God-and He is the only way we will ever make it out of here alive!

Matthew 10:40-42


40 ``He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. 41 ``He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward; and he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man's reward. 42 ``And whoever, in the name of a disciple gives to one of these little ones even a cup of cold water to drink, truly I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.''

In this fresh and direct passage regarding being a disciple of Jesus and what it is going to cost, Jesus turns the subject toward the great reward that will come to those who receive or welcome these disciples into their lives and homes. He uses "receives" (welcomes) 8 times and speaks of "reward" 3 times.

"When Jesus said this, he was using a way of speaking which the Jews regularly used. The Jew always felt that to receive a person's envoy or messenger was the same as to receive the person himself. To pay respect to an ambassador was the same as to pay respect to the king who had sent him. To welcome with love the messenger of a friend was the same as to welcome the friend himself. The Jew always felt that to honor a person's representative was the same as to honor the person whose representative he was. This was particularly so in regard to wise men and to those who taught God's truth.

NOTE that all 4 players in salvation are present in this scenario: 1-There is God out of whose love the whole process of salvation began. 2-There is Jesus who brought the message to men. 3-There is the human messenger-the prophet who speaks, the good (righteous) man who is an example & the disciple who is the learner-who passes it on. 4-There is the believer who welcomes God's message and messengers and therefore find life for their souls.

NOTE: FIRST-We cannot all be prophets, but the one who gives God's messenger the simple gift of hospitality will receive the same reward as the prophet he blesses! SECOND-We cannot all be shining examples of goodness and righteousness, but the one who helps a good man to be good receives a good man's reward! THIRD-We cannot all teach the child or learner (young believer), but we can all serve the child.

NOTE it is the simplest of things that will be rewarded with great reward! To simply give a cup of cold water only to a little one is noticed and rewarded by God!

Although it is often downplayed, there are many who give of their time, service or money to keep a ministry going or keep a prophet, a teacher, a righteous man or keep a young one in the faith who is learning toward continuing this process. Jesus is saying that within the kingdom there are many roles to play and they will not go unnoticed, but will be specifically and specially rewarded. You will be rewarded with the same reward by which you received the messengers of Jesus!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Matthew 10:24-39


Here we come to the "fine print" of discipleship! These are the toughest words about the cost of being a disciple of Jesus. This is boot camp, pure and simple! The drill sergeant is Jesus.

I see this section as revolving around one question-"Who controls your life?"

1. Does fear control your life? 24 ``A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. 25 ``It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household! 26 ``Therefore do not fear them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 ``What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim upon the housetops. 28 ``Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 ``Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 ``But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 ``So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.

The prophet Micah spoke of this in His day: Micah 7:6 - For the son dishonors the father, the daughter rises up against her mother, the daughter in law against her mother in law; a man's enemies are the men of his own house.

The Jewish Talmud (commentary on the Scriptures) connects such family disloyalty to the time of Messiah: (Soncino Talmud 49b) - In the footsteps of the messiah, insolence will increase and honor dwindle; the vine will yield its fruit [abundantly] but wine will be dear; the government will turn to heresy and there will be none [to offer them] reproof; the meeting-place [of scholars] will be used for immorality; Galilee will be destroyed, Gablan desolated, and the dwellers on the frontier will go about [begging] from place to place without anyone to take pity on them; the wisdom of the learned will degenerate, fearers of sin will be despised, and the truth will be lacking; youths will put old men to shame, the old will stand up in the presence of the young, a son will revile his father, a daughter will rise against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man's enemies will be the members of his household; the face of the generation will be like the face of a dog, a son will not feel ashamed before his father. So upon whom is it for us to rely? Upon our father who is in heaven.

This is an amazing observation from the Jewish point of view! YOU ONLY HAVE THE GOD OF GODS WHO CARES MOST FOR YOU TO FEAR!

2. Does your lifestyle control you? 32 ``Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. 33 ``But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.

To confess is literally to "say the same thing" about something. Here it is to confess Jesus-to say the same things as Jesus-to love, think, act and live like Jesus throughout your life. Your lifestyle is all about your identification with Jesus!


3. Do your family members and friends control you? 34 ``Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 ``For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; 36 and A MAN'S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD. 37 ``He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.


4. Does owning and directing your own life control you? 38 ``And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 ``He who has found his life will lose it and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.

Here we are back to a familiar issue-TRUST. Am I willing to lose my life-dreams, aspirations, comforts, in order to find my life in Jesus? We're back to "ruthless trust" as Brennan Manning defines it. It's coming to the understanding that we are created to be dependent people. If we place our dependence upon our Creator, then we will experience the most fulfilling life we could ever live. Everything works best when we are plugged into the original intent of our lives-to be like Jesus!


Matthew 10:26-33


REMEMBER, this is a special time in history in which you have the long-awaited presence of Messiah Jesus, filled with the Spirit, approved by the Father, bearing direct witness to the people of Israel. The Messiah was being presented to the Jewish people as the One Who was promised. They only had a prophecy and a promise before (Sodom and Gomorrah), but now is the real deal.

The ancient Jewish writings about the time of the Messiah all included this thinking of difficult times-persecution, division of friends and family-all over a person's response to this powerful, personal witness. Jesus warns this first round of direct witnesses what they will face and what they must do. [I personally believe that this same context of trouble and therefore the same required response from His disciples will happen again just prior to the Messiah's return.]

16 ``Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 ``But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; 18 and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. 19 ``But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. 20 ``For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.

We are to be as "shrewd as serpents and harmless as doves". "Shrewd" has the idea of a wisdom that sees through all that might be deceptive. "Harmless" is a unique word meaning to be unmixed, pure as with metal or wine-no mixture of deviousness. This is the same term Paul uses in his letter to the Philippians.

Philippians 2:12-16 - Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain.

I love the balance! We are to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling"-work out into your behavior the salvation that is in your heart. But he doesn't leave you all on your own. "For it is God which is at work in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure." So, be "harmless", unmixed, pure and single-minded as you can be as you walk among the people who respond poorly or negatively to the presence of Messiah Jesus. "Shine as lights in the world" of darkness, "holding forth the word of life".

NOTE that Jesus says not to worry about what you will say when dragged into a difficult situation, but the Spirit of your Father will give you what you must say, when you need it. I am finding this to be a more useful principle than I had thought. I think I have prepared too much many times what I am going to say and not relied upon the Spirit of my Father to "speak in me." And as I have been practicing this principle, the words that I have been speaking are so powerful, appropriate, timely and pointed at the need of the moment!

21 ``Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22 ``You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved. 23 ``But whenever they persecute you in one city, flee to the next; for truly I say to you, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel until the Son of Man comes.

You may not have experienced a great physical persecution, but there will be a sorts of verbal persecution and false accusations against you. This will be found among those who are followers of the Messiah to discredit the witness of His existence and presence.

The intent here is that all of Israel will be faced with the witness of the longed-for Messiah by the time He would be clearly revealed to them. This is why Jesus sent these disciples only to the house of Israel in this opening mission. All others will come later, as we will see.

Salvation is not seen as a one-time, fix and you're in! Although I believe that your salvation is secure, I also know that there are situations where people turn away from God, never to return to Him. This is not a fear tactic, but a proof of genuineness. Salvation does not come to you so much because of your faith, but because of His grace-undeserved favor from God. No one will get into heaven except through the grace of God. Jesus wants us to be faithful in our response to this great grace.

Matthew 10:5-15


Picture yourself sitting in a room with Jesus as He gives you the following instructions. NOTE what His instructions are:

5 These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: ``Do not go in the way of the Gentiles and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; 6 but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 1. Jesus gives His disciples clear direction as to their ministry target-the house of Israel.

7 ``And as you go, preach, saying, `The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' 2. Jesus wants you to communicate the principles of the presence of the kingdom.

8 ``Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. 3. Jesus gives authority and power to make a supernatural difference in the lives of those who are hurting-the sick, the dead and dying, lepers and freeing those bound by evil spirits.

Freely you received, freely give. 9 ``Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, 10 or a bag for your journey, or even two coats, or sandals, or a staff; for the worker is worthy of his support. 4. Jesus wants you to have no agenda whatsoever, but to give of yourself freely. Don't look to get rich by doing the ministry of the kingdom. You will be taken care of while freely giving of yourself in ministering to those hurting around you.

11 ``And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it and stay at his house until you leave that city. 12 ``As you enter the house, give it your greeting. 13 ``If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace. 14 ``Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet. 15 ``Truly I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city. 5. Jesus wants His disciples to be channels of His peace.

6. Jesus only requires one thing-that people be interested!

You, as a disciple of Jesus, are to be empowered by Jesus Himself. Proclaim the presence of the kingdom. Bring a healing touch to the hurting. Freely serve everyone, everywhere with the peace of Jesus--only to those who are interested!

Matthew 10:1-4


1 Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.

2 Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Him.

Here they are, the motley crew Jesus called to be with Him. There are three sets of brothers, fishermen, a tax collector, two men who were called the "sons of thunder" and a radical zealot. All of these men had been rabbinical rejects, not selected by any rabbi to continue in religious education and therefore sent back home to take up the profession of their families. And now, these men have been personally selected to follow in the steps of Rabbi Jesus. These men give each of us hope!

This chapter gives us some terrific insight into the beginnings of the Jesus movement. This summoning triggers a line in my thinking. "Leaders are not made or born, but summoned." Jesus summoned these unlikely men into leadership that would change the world! Note what happened a few years later, when a couple of these leaders were on their own.

Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. 14 And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply. Acts 4:13-14

NOTE 4 things. 1-These men were unlikely people-uneducated and untrained. 2-These men were unusually amazing and attractive to the people. 3-These men had been hanging out with Jesus and it was noticeable. 4-These men were instrumental (used by God) in bringing about supernatural healing.

The fact that the lame man was really healed shut the mouths of their potential critics. I call this the "lame man principle". I'm learning that the most important evidence that draws people to consider Jesus has to do with the "lame men" in my life. Who are the broken, hurting, addicted and damaged people in my life that I have been summoned by Jesus to touch with His healing? And where are they? How are they doing? Do others see their healing? In other words, the only really important thing in life is how I get out of the way and introduce others to Jesus.

But enough about me. Where are the "lame men" in your life? How is it going?

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Matthew 9:36-38


36 Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then He said to His disciples, ``The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 38 ``Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.''

This is one of the most powerful and insightful statements Jesus ever made. It is challenging to me! Jesus wants us to allow Him to lead out, especially when it comes to fulfilling the primary mission of spreading the message of the kingdom.

Check out the words of Oswald Chambers on this matter as it relates to a "missionary": 'The key to the missionary's difficult task is in the hand of God, and that key is prayer, not work- that is, not work as the word is commonly used today, which often results in the shifting of our focus away from God. The key to the missionary's difficult task is also not the key of common sense, nor is it the key of medicine, civilization, education, or even evangelization. The key is in following the Master's orders- the key is prayer.

"Pray the Lord of the harvest." In the natural realm, prayer is not practical but absurd. We have to realize that prayer is foolish from the commonsense point of view.

From Jesus' perspective, there are no nations, but only the world. How many of us pray without regard to the persons, but with regard to only one Person- Jesus? He owns the harvest that is produced through distress and through conviction of sin. This is the harvest for which we have to pray that laborers be sent out to reap. We stay busy at work, while people all around us are ripe and ready to be harvested; we do not reap even one of them, but simply waste our Lord's time in over-energized activities and programs. Suppose a crisis were to come into your father's or your brother's life- are you there as a laborer to reap the harvest for Jesus Christ? Is your response, "Oh, but I have a special work to do!" No 'believer' has a special work to do. A 'believer' is called to be Jesus Christ's own, "a servant [who] is not greater than his master" ( John 13:16 ), and someone who does not dictate to Jesus Christ what he intends to do. Our Lord calls us to no special work- He calls us to Himself. "Pray the Lord of the harvest," and He will engineer your circumstances to send you out as His laborer.'

So our primary responsibility is to pray-to be fully aware and to follow the direction of Jesus-to get our orders from Him. This is what it means to trust Him.

Matthew 9:27-35


27 As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out, ``Have mercy on us, Son of David!'' 28 When He entered the house, the blind men came up to Him, and Jesus said* to them, ``Do you believe that I am able to do this?'' They said* to Him, ``Yes, Lord.'' 29 Then He touched their eyes, saying, ``It shall be done to you according to your faith.'' 30 And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them: ``See that no one knows about this!'' 31 But they went out and spread the news about Him throughout all that land.

32 As they were going out, a mute, demon-possessed man was brought to Him. 33 After the demon was cast out, the mute man spoke; and the crowds were amazed, and were saying, ``Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.'' 34 But the Pharisees were saying, ``He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons.''

35 Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.

Each incident offers an additional picture of faith, simple, yet real faith-personal trust in Jesus and what He can do.

TWO BLIND MEN. It's interesting to note that these blind men came to Jesus with an obvious request-to be able to see again! Jesus directly asks them if they really believe He is able to make them see. As soon as He got their answer, He immediately touched their eyes saying, "It shall be done to you according to your faith."

I wonder how much of our blindness has to do with our lack of belief-faith and trust. I must admit that I have not been one who ruthlessly trusts in Jesus. My spiritual stance has been to trust Jesus and do all I can do to make things happen. We are learning-slowly-to trust Jesus with everything. I want to be able to see again. How about you?

A MUTE MAN-DEMON-POSSESSED. Then a mute man (caused that way by demonic oppression) was brought to Jesus. Jesus immediately went to work and healed the man so that he could talk again.

There are two definite responses regarding this particular miracle. 1. Never seen anything like this before. They were amazed!

2. His power is from the ruler of the demons. They were annoyed!

This is one of the 3 miracles the Jewish people had always believed the Messiah would be able to perform when He showed up. The 3 miracles were: 1-The healing of a leper. 2-The healing of a man born blind. 3-The healing of a man who was not able to hear and speak.

To be amazed by this miracle was to be receptive to the possibility that Jesus might indeed be the Messiah. To be annoyed by this miracle was to be threatened by the possibility that this radical Jesus might indeed be the Messiah.

What if Jesus were to do something outside your box of expectations? How might you respond? Would you be threatened or would you simply trust Him.