Category: Devotionals

Read Matthew 10

Key Verse: Matthew 10:34 “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

In this chapter, Jesus sends out His twelve disciples. It’s the first time He has invested them with a ministry responsibility and it’s not difficult to see that He recognizes their greenness, their newness at this huge task of world evangelization. This is nowhere more evident than in the very first things He says to them, “Do not got among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Rather, go to the lost sheep of Israel.” Jesus recognized that the challenge of the kingdom was to the Jew first, then to the Gentile. But I’m sure He was also very aware that His disciples were in no condition at this point, in terms of their spiritual maturity, to tackle the awesome challenge of ministering a Jewish message, indeed a Jewish messiah, to a Gentile people, There would be a communication gap to say the least.

So Jesus challenged them to preach the Kingdom to the lost sheep of Israel. In that context they’re to heal, to raise the dead, cleanse the leper, drive out demons. And they’re to do it in a way that doesn’t expect any financial reward. As you read the chapter, you can see the tremendously high view that Jesus had of His disciples. You also get a remarkable insight into His own self-limitation.

You’ll remember on another occasion, recorded in Mark 13:32, Jesus says that no one including the angels and Himself, the Son, knows the time of the Day of the Lord. The only one who knows is the Father. This perhaps would help us to understand verse 23 where He says, “You will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.” I think it’s entirely possible that Jesus, in His self-confessed ignorance, thought it was entirely possible that the culmination of history would occur very soon.

Nevertheless, He saw the commissioning of the disciples as the giving of a sword to His men. He recognized that they would, with their message, turn a man against his father, a mother against her daughter. In other words, divide families. And looking at them, He says, “If you love your father or mother or anything else or anyone else more than me, you’re not worthy to be my disciple. ” He’s really impressing upon them the urgency of the hour and the message they are to bring.

Read Matthew 9

Key Verse: Matthew 9:11 “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

Matthew, as we all know, was one of Jesus’ disciples. In fact, he is the writer of the book we’re now studying. But Matthew was one of the undesirables in Israelite society. He was a Jew, yes, but he was a tax collector for the Romans. In this position, he could demand whatever he thought a person was capable of paying, give the Romans whatever percentage they wanted, and keep the rest for himself.

A tax collector was seen as getting rich from the sorrow and oppression of his own people. To say he was despised was an understatement. He was down there with the prostitutes, drunks and criminals, the down-and-outers. So you would think it a bit of a public relations disaster that Jesus would call a tax collector to be one of His key followers, one of the twelve disciples. Yet that’s exactly what He did. Jesus called this despised person to be one of His men. He goes to his house to have dinner to seal the bargain, and many of Matthew’s friends are there–tax collectors and sinners–eating with Him and His disciples. Of course this was the stuff the teachers of the law and Pharisees loved to see to further emphasize their hatred of this teacher from Galilee. So they asked a question of His disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus’ response was, “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick.”

It’s reminiscent of the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus came to those who recognized their spiritual poverty. Self-righteousness and pride are always the effective blocks in any work of the kingdom of heaven in our lives.

Read Matthew 7

Key Verse: Matthew 7:2 “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged…”

He knows that it’s as natural for humans to judge one another as it is to breathe. And every one of us is guilty. Every one of us is making judgments of others, as hard as it may be sometimes for us to admit it.

Jesus simply reminds us that when we are judging others we are, in a very interesting way, judging ourselves. Or at least He suggests that the intensity, the zeal, the inflexibility of our judgements will somehow be used against us. He is also suggesting that we often judge people for the very things of which we ourselves are guilty. So, in a sense, when we are judging others, we are judging ourselves. May that in itself lends some intensity to our words. He reminds us that relative to other people’s faults, our own faults are much larger, or at least appear to be much larger. Whereas a speck is simply a speck in someone else’s eye, that same speck looks and feels like a plank in our own. And so as we scrupulously attempt to help our brother to improve, not only is our judgment thrown off by the fact that we can’t see clearly due to the imperfection in our own eye, but we are also acting hypocritically if we don’t remove that plank first.

Now it may seem rather strange that in this context Jesus then says, “Do not give dogs what is sacred. Do not throw your pearls to pigs.” It seems like He is making some judgments or encouraging us to make some judgments right there, in calling some people dogs and pigs. I’d like to think that at this point in time, some little stray mutt came walking among the disciples and Jesus just keyed in on that by saying, “Hey, in this area of judging others, discerning. Don’t bare your heart to everyone. Don’t give your treasure to everyone because not everyone can understand or appreciate where you’re coming from or what it is you’re giving them. Be discerning, be wise, be gentle.”

Sometimes, in attempting to show our magnanimity and vulnerability, we merely invite hurt and misunderstanding. So, rather than being torn to pieces, be discerning in whom, and with whom, you share your heart, and save yourself a lot of sorrow.

Read Matthew 5

Key Verse: Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

This beatitude not only sets the tone for Jesus’ “sermon on the mount”, but it’s also the bedrock of Jesus’ ministry. He came to bring men and women into the kingdom. It wasn’t just a case of coming and announcing the kingdom; the hearers of that announcement had to willingly embrace the kingdom. There were requirements, repentances, commitments and obediences which were part and parcel of the meaning of embracing the kingdom. So, when Jesus says, “blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” He’s telling us that spiritual poverty is the general qualification for entry into the kingdom of heaven.

I think you and I might put it differently. We might say, “Blessed are the successful, the victorious, the pious, the religious and the spiritual giants, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” We’d say this because all of us are guilty, to a greater or lesser degree, of the sin of pride. Pride is the antithesis of what Jesus is talking about here. Proud people tend to compare themselves with others and put down either the other person, or themselves. Putting yourself down, by the way, is not virtuous. Sometimes an inferiority complex is an inverted form of pride. We compare ourselves with others positively or negatively and then we compete with others. This can happen in fairly subtle ways. We attempt to rise above the other guy–to put him down if we can’t rise above him–but in some way, to push ourselves ahead.

We also have this longing for unrestrained independence. We don’t want to be dependent on anyone, God included. We try as much as possible to be self-sufficient. Well, poverty of spirit is antithetical to pride. To admit that one is poor in spirit is a humiliating and painful experience. We’re not talking here about putting oneself down, rather we’re talking about seeing oneself in the light of the kingdom of heaven, totally undeserving, totally dirty, totally incapable of entry because our garments are so unworthy. Jesus looks on those who acknowledge their poverty of spirit and says, “You are the ones I am looking for. I didn’t come to call the healthy, I came to call the sick.”

Perhaps the most important lesson of all for us to learn is that, even though we’re made for the kingdom, the kingdom will never be ours until the day we honestly confess to God our unworthiness.