A Christian Is Always Prepared – Matthew 25:1-30

Boyscouts aren’t the only ones who should be prepared…

  • V1 – I’ve been including a lot of the notes from my ESV lately because this section is so tricky, and it is helpful to get a little bit of historical background.  Like in this parable, which made very little sense to me before I read this note: “As God referred to himself as the “husband” of Israel in the OT (e.g., Isa. 54:4-6), so Jesus pictures himself here as a bridegroom.  It was the Jewish marriage custom for the groom and his friends to leave his home and proceed to the home of the bride, where the marriage ceremony was conducted, often at night.  After this, the entire wedding party returned to the groom’s home for a celebratory banquet.
  • V1-12 – I think part of the point of this and the previous parable of the servant is that these are people who think they’re participating in the kingdom of God.  We see servants of the master gone bad, bridesmaids in the wedding party being lazy/stupid.  This reminds me of Matthew 7:21-23. “21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’(A) will enter the kingdom of heaven,(B) but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.(C) 22 Many will say to me on that day,(D) ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’(E) 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’(F)

◊ What am I doing to stay prepared?  To remain a good servant?

Does anyone know what the oil represents?  Am I trying to over-interpret this parable?

  • V5 – In this parable, everyone is caught off guard but some were prepared ahead of time.
  • V8-9 – I don’t feel like I have a good grasp on this parable.  I’m assuming this means you can’t “borrow” salvation from someone else.  Any other ideas?
  • V13 – The moral is the same as the other parable.  Was the point of this parable mainly to introduce the idea of Jesus as bridegroom?
  • V14 – Again, these are all servants working for the master, not outsiders.
  • V14 – “Entrusted his property” – My Study Bible reminds us that “our time, abilities, and money aren’t ours in the first place – we are caretakers, not owners.”
  • V15 – “To each one according to his own ability.”- That bit is important.  The One who made me knows what I’m capable of.  He doesn’t ask more or less of me than I can give.  Sometimes I want more responsibility, but chances are, I’m not ready for it because I’m not being faithful with what I’ve been given.  (Or maybe I want it for the wrong reasons…)

◊ I need to thoroughly examine what I’ve been given.  Some of the things might not be obvious.  I may be completely ignoring some things God’s asked me to care for.  Look ahead to the next parable in 25:31-46.  Do I have any needy neighbors?  Any unreconciled relationships?

  • V16 – FYI, the ESV says a talent wasn’t a coin, but a unit of monetary reckoning worth about 20 years wages for a laborer.  Receiving five of those (or even one) is no joke.  This first guy got right to business even though he knew his master would be away for a while.
  • V18 – This guy hid it so he wouldn’t lose it, but it was given to him, not to keep, but to advance the kingdom.

◊ What “talents” am I hiding?  Anything I keep to myself that I could be using to advance God’s kingdom could count: anything from my time and talents to my ladder and lawnmower.

  • V21 – Whoa.  If 100 years’ wages is a little, how much is much?!
  • V24 – It seems like maybe this guy didn’t know his master very well.  They certainly didn’t seem to have a good relationship.
  • V25 – “I was afraid” – His fear of his own failure outweighed his fear of his master’s response to his bad decisions.
  • V26 – The master returns what he said as a question, so it’s not even necessarily true.  But the master points out that, even if the servant was genuinely mistaken in his perception of the master, he still didn’t do the logical and responsible thing.  His fear was just an excuse.  If the servant honestly believed what he said, he would have made a different choice.

◊ What are my excuses for why I’m hiding those talents I listed a minute ago?

  • V27 – It’s interesting that the master didn’t just give his property to the “professionals”, but gave his servants an opportunity to be involved in his business.
  • V28 – That man has already proven his ability to handle the responsibility.
  • V29 – He’s said this exact same thing before (Matthew 13:12) only the first time it was in reference to understanding.
  • V30 – So someone who thought he was “in” ends up “out.”

Wrap up your quiet time by praying through the following questions:

  • Based on this passage of Scripture, what can I thank God for?
  • What do these verses tell me about God and His character?
  • Based on this passage, is there anything I need to confess to God and ask forgiveness for?
  • What do these verses remind me to pray for others?
  • What do these verses move me to pray for myself?
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Jesus the Sequel: The King Returns – Matthew 24:29-51

I’ve never really slowed down enough while reading this passage to soak in all the details and implications of what it says will happen before and after Jesus returns.  This is some crazy stuff.

  • V29 – Whoa.  Here’s what the ESV notes have to say about this: “It is possible that this is entirely literal language (with “stars” perhaps referring to a large meteor shower).  Others take it as a mixture of literal and figurative language, and still others take it as entirely figurative, pointing to political judgment on nations and governments.  The argument in favor of a figurative interpretation is that this verse echoes possibly figurative language about heavenly disturbances in the OT prophets, such as Isa 13:10, 34:4; Ezek. 32:7; Joel 2:10; and Amos 8:9.  Those arguing for a literal interpretation point to biblical accounts of actual darkness: Ex 10:21-23 and Matt 27:45.  The idea of the stars falling and the heavens being rolled up is mentioned elsewhere in the NT as well (see Heb. 1:12; 2 Pet. 3:7, 10, 12; Rev. 6:13-14).  Whether these events are to be understood as being primarily literal or figurative, it is clear that these will be “earth-shattering” events, through which all creation will be radically transformed at the return of Christ.  (Regarding the “new heavens and the new earth,” see Isa 65:27; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1.)
  • V30 – At first I didn’t get why everyone would be mourning, because I though that everyone would be excited to see Jesus, but the ESV note cleared up my confusion.  Their mourning would be “Either a sorrow that produces repentance, or a great sadness of regret in light of the coming judgment.”

◊ Will I regret my current actions and decisions when Jesus returns  Do I mourn for my sins?

  • V31 – This is mind-boggling and overwhelming to try to think about and understand.  I wonder what the disciples thought of all this.
  • V34 – This is tricky.  I’m going to stick to the ESV note on this one.  “Several interpretations have been offered for this difficult passage: (1) Some think “this generation” refers to the disciples who were alive when Jesus was speaking, and “all these things” refers to the beginning but not the completion of the sufferings described in vv.4-25.  (2) Others see in “all these things” a prediction with multiple fulfillments, so that Jesus’ disciples will be both “this generation” that sees the destruction of the temple in AD 70 and also those at the end of the age who see the events surrounding the “abomination of desolation” (v15).  (3) Since “the generation of…” in the OT can mean people who have a certain quality (cf. PS14:5; 24:6; cf. Gk. genea in Luke 16:8), others understand “this generation” to refer either (a) to “this generation of believers” throughout the entire present age, or (b) to “this evil generation” that will remain until Christ returns to establish his kingdom (Matt. 12:45; Luke 11:29).  (4) Others, particularly some dispensational interpreters, understand “generation” to mean “race” (this is another sense of Gk. genea) and think it refers to the Jewish people, who will not pass away until Christ returns.  (5) Others understand “this generation” to mean the generation that sees “all these things”, namely, the generation alive when the final period of great tribulation begins.  According to this view, the illustration of the fig tree show that when the final events begin, Christ will come soon…”

◊ Why would Jesus use such vague language?  Because He wants us to be ready at all times!  He wants all of us to think we’re “the generation.”  The disciples had an urgency about the way they spread the gospel.  We should too!

  • V35 – This world is not going to be forever.  Only God is eternal so when this universe “passes away” God and His Word (John 1:1) will remain.
  • V36 – I think it’s really interesting that Jesus and His Father God have a relational dynamic where, even though they are one, Jesus submits to His Father’s will and doesn’t even always know all the details of His Father’s plan.  As a wife who is commanded to submit to my husband, this helps me understand what that word (that has such ugly connotations) really means.

◊ Do I submit to the authority in my life willingly and obediently like Jesus submits to His Father?

  • V37-39 – In Noah’s time the people chose to ignore the crazy old guy building a boat in the desert and the mysterious animal activity in the area.  That’s why they were surprised by the flood.  It will be the same during the end times.  Jesus just listed several things to watch out for, so yes, people will go about their business until the last minute – not because there will be no warnings, but because they will choose to ignore them.

◊ Am I choosing to ignore something I sense God is trying to tell me?

  • V40-41 – The order of the end times has always been a little dicey for me.  I thought in v21-31 it seemed pretty clear “the elect” would be taken at the end of the tribulation, but this seems like it could be before.  I don’t think it really matters and the take-home should be v42-44.

◊ Am I “awake” or am I on spiritual auto-pilot?  Am I confident that I am doing the work of God to the best of my ability?

  • V45-46 – We’re all servants and God has given each of us a responsibility to manage.

◊ What has God given me to manage?  (This could be other people, things, and/or my own talents and abilities.)  Am I managing my “household” well?

  • V45 – “…to give the other servants their allowance of food at the proper time.” – I think it’s very interesting that Jesus stuck this little phrase in here.  He talks so much about feeding the hungry and also compares God’s Word (and Himself!) to bread.  Hmmm…
  • V47 – Being faithful with our earthly responsibilities will earn us heavenly responsibilities.

◊ V48-49 – How could I (or do I) mis-manage my responsibilities?  Am I suing my responsibilities/household for my own gain or to advance the kingdom of God?

  • V50-51 – Pretending to be a servant of God while acting in an ungodly way (hypocrites) will get you nowhere but hell.  Being eternally separated from God and His light and love will be very, very sad.

Wrap up your quiet time by praying through the following questions:

  • Based on this passage of Scripture, what can I thank God for?
  • What do these verses tell me about God and His character?
  • Based on this passage, is there anything I need to confess to God and ask forgiveness for?
  • What do these verses remind me to pray for others?
  • What do these verses move me to pray for myself?
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The End of the World As We Know It – Matthew 24:1-28

In this section, Jesus answers the disciples’ question about when the end is coming in the most vague way possbile.

  • V1 – The temple was really magnificent to behold.  Picture lots of marble and lots of gold catching the rays of the setting sun.  My ESV says “The road from Jerusalem to Bethany, where Jesus and his disciples stay each evening, takes one alongside the Mount of Olives, which affords a spectacular view of the temple in the distance.”
  • V2 – More ESV notes on the fulfillment of this prophecy: “Jesus’ prophecy of the destruction of the temple was fulfilled in AD 70 when the Roman army under Titus destroyed Jerusalem and the temple.  Not…one stone upon another may be intended as a metaphor for total destruction, or it may be understood as something that was literally fulfilled in the destruction of the temple building itself (but not the entire Temple Mount, some of which remains to this day).”
  • V3 – “The sign of Your coming…” – At this point I don’t think the disciples are thinking Jesus is going to leave earth and come back, I think they’re asking when Jesus is planning on coming into power.

◊ When I ask God when He’s going to do something I expect or want, the answer (and reality) may be waaaay different than my expectations.

  • V4-14 – Here’s another tidbit from the ESV notes: “Jesus’ answer to the disciples questions apparently intertwines prophecy concerning the destruction of Jerusalem and his second coming.  The near event (the destruction of Jerusalem) serves as a symbol and foreshadowing of the more distant event (the second coming).”
  • V5-8 – All these things have happened and will happen from basically the beginning of man until Christ’s return.  They’re just part of what’s broken about earth and humankind will have to suffer them until Jesus returns and there is a new heaven and new earth without them.  This makes for a long labor (rolling with Jesus’ childbirth metaphor) but we’re on God’s time which is completely different than ours.
  • V9-11 – These things have all happened as a result of Christ on earth, the message He preached, and people’s response to it.  It has also been happening since He left for heaven and will happen until He returns.
  • V9-11 – Here’s an interesting note from the Life Application Study Bible: “You may not be facing intense persecution now, but Christians in other parts of the world are.  As you hear about Christians suffering for their faith, remember that they are your brothers and sisters in Christ.  Pray for them.  Ask God what you can do to help them in their troubles.  When one part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers.  But when all the parts join together to ease the suffering, the whole body benefits (1 Cor. 12:26).”
  • V12 – Whoa!  Stop and think about this one for a minute!  This is us.  We have become callous and numb to what should break our hearts because of our culture’s slipping moral code and our increased isolation form each other’s need, among other things.

◊ Father, warm my love!  Help me to see people as You see them.

  • V13 – To the end of the world or the end of your life, whichever comes first.
  • V14 – So here’s the actual answer to the disciples’ question, vague though it may be.

◊ Am I doing my part in spreading the gospel to all nations?

  • V15 – Here’s what the ESV has to say about this one: “Daniel 9:27 tells of the abomination of desolation.  SEveral times in Jewish history it was thought that this prophecy was being fulfilled – most notably during the days of the Maccabees when Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Seleucid king, ordered that an altar to the Greek god Zeus be constructed in the temple (167 B.C.)…  But Jesus clarifies that the complete fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy will be found in (1) the Roman destruction of the temple in A.D. 70 and (2) the image of the Antichrist being set up in the last days (cf. 2 Thess. 2:4; Rev. 13:14).
  • V16-20 – Point is, wehn you see the image of the Antichrist in the temple, get the heck out of dodge and find a place to hide because things are going to get miserable.

◊ Am I taking this seriously?

  • V21 – This is bad.  Thnk of how many awful things people have endured from the beginning of time until now: in Jerusalem, in Germany, in Somalia, in Eastern Europe, in the Middle East, the list could go on and on – every country, every continent where there are people has a history of people doing horrific things to other people.  The things that are going to go down in the end times will be worse than all of that.  Check out the first sentence in v22!

◊ This is serious.  I should take this seriously.

  • V23 – We should always watch out for people trying to teach us the wrong things, but especially during this time of tribulation (if we’re still around) we should not trust anyone who says they are Christ returned.  It will be obvious to everyone on the face of the planet when Christ has returned (Mark 13:26) so if not everyone agrees that an individual who claims to be Jesus is Jesus, then it’s not Jesus!
  • V25 – This warning is not only for the disciples, but for us.
  • V28 – Here’s what the ESV has to say about this one: “It seems best not to “over-interpret” this striking proberbial expression.  It probably means simply that, just as people from far away can see vultures circling high in the air, Christ’s return in judgment will be visible and predictable.  A similar view is that the vultures suggest the widespread death that will accompany the return of Christ to judge those who have rejected his kingdom.  In either case, it will be impossible for people not to see adn recognize the return of Christ.”  But here’s how The Message translates it: 26-28 “So if they say, ‘Run to the country and see him arrive!’ or, ‘Quick, get downtown, see him come!’ don’t give them the time of day. The Arrival of the Son of Man isn’t something you go to see. He comes like swift lightning to you! Whenever you see crowds gathering, think of carrion vultures circling, moving in, hovering over a rotting carcass. You can be quite sure that it’s not the living Son of Man pulling in those crowds.”

Wrap up your quiet time by praying through the following questions:

  • Based on this passage of Scripture, what can I thank God for?
  • What do these verses tell me about God and His character?
  • Based on this passage, is there anything I need to confess to God and ask forgiveness for?
  • What do these verses remind me to pray for others?
  • What do these verses move me to pray for myself?
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Woe is Me – Mattthew 23:1-39

I highly recommend you also read this chapter in The Message.

  • V3 – Ouch.  Father please don’t let me be like this toward my kids or neighbors.
  • V4 – This makes “my yoke is easy” (11:30) so much more meaningful.
  • V5 – “They do all their deeds to be seen by others.”  What motivates my actions?

◊ Do I just hear and know the Word of God or do I let it change my life?  Do I claim to follow Jesus without living by His standards of love?  (These questions were from my study Bible.)

  • V8-10 – Is He being literal here?  I don’t think so.  I think the point is that we recognize Jesus is the ultimate teacher (Rabbi) and instructor and God is our first Father and therefore they have the ultimate authority and all our knowledge/wisdom in the roles of teacher/father/instructor will come from them.  If giving yourself those titles gives you pride that takes glory away from God, you should get rid of the title.

◊ What title/role is a source of pride for me?  Do I give God the glory for my success in that area or do I credit my success in that area to myself?

  • V11-12 – This is the third time He’s said this.

◊ Am I exalting or humbling myself, or both?  Continue to purify my motives Father.  Take away my pride and give me a humble heart.

  • V13 – Merciful God, help me to never be a roadblock to someone who is seeking to enter Your kingdom.
  • V15 – Teacher Jesus, help me to disciple new converts to Your kingdom in a way that glorifies You and teaches them to know and serve You better.
  • V16-22 – Infinite Father, You see the big picture but it is so easy for me to get caught up in the minutia.  Help me to see the big picture and not be hypocritical in the way I condemn some issues (like abortion and gay marriage) while committing the sin of omission by ignoring other issues (like caring for the poor and social justice for the needy and the foreigner.  Prov 29:7, Isaiah 1:17, Luke 3:10-11, Deut 15:4, 7-11, Prov 14:31, Prov 21:13, Prov 28:27, Luke 14:13-14, Matt 25:34-40, 1 John 3:17-18, to name just a few.)
  • V23 – Father in heaven, You are just, merciful, and faithful.  You have taught me these things by the way You have treated me and by what You have done for me.  Help me to make justice, mercy, and faithfulness to the people You created my top priority.
  • V24 – Bwah-ha!  Even when He’s angry, Jesus is hilarious.
  • V25-26 – God who makes things right, clean out my insides, transform my heart.  Clear out the greed, pride, and self-indulgence that motivates me and purify my motives so that my outward actions can be beautiful because they come from a place of beauty inside me.
  • V27-28 – Healing Father, help me to let go of my old life and all the ways it made me less alive – dying inside as I tried to appear put together on the outside.  You have given me new life – true life and freedom.  Help me to embrace this life of bringing You glory and advancing Your kingdom.  For I was created to do these things.
  • V29 – Merciful Father, I am a sinner just like my parents and grandparents and everyone who has come before me.  While I wish and hope that if I lived when You were on earth, I would not have yelled “crucify Him” or if I were Eve I would not have given in to the temptation to disobey You, the reality is, I am no better than the most wretched of sinners and it is only by the blood of Your son Jesus, spilled for me and all of humanity, that I can be made right and come before You today.  Thank You for Your mercy.  Thank You for Your grace.  Thank You for Your faithfulness!   It is only through the influence of Your Holy Spirit and by Your strength that I can keep from becoming like these hypocritical Scribes and Pharisees.  Forgive me Father, for the times I’ve been like them.  Change my insides.  Turn my heart toward You.
  • V37-39 – This is so sad.  His desire to comfort and protect His people is met by their rejection of Him.  As a mom, this breaks my heart.

◊ Do I run to Jesus when I need comfort?  Have I rejected His advances of love?

Wrap up your quiet time by praying through the following questions:

  • Based on this passage of Scripture, what can I thank God for?
  • What do these verses tell me about God and His character?
  • Based on this passage, is there anything I need to confess to God and ask forgiveness for?
  • What do these verses remind me to pray for others?
  • What do these verses move me to pray for myself?
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Trick Questions – Matthew 22:15-46

This is exactly what my face looks like when someone asks me about something I don’t know.  I didn’t realize this until my son started making this same face when someone asks him something difficult.  Jesus can just rattle off the perfect answer without the eyebrows and eye rolls and stroke victim mouth.  I’d like to get to the point where I can imitate Jesus’ confidence instead of tugging at my collar and sweating profusely.

  • V15 – Rather than make any bold moves they’re going to try to make Jesus incriminate Himself.  The irony is, these are questions the Pharisees have been debating and haven’t been able to answer for years.
  • V16 – The ESV Study Bible says Herodians were “a loosely organized group that sought to advance the political and economic influence of the Herodian family.  Although the Herodians and the Pharisees were adversaries in regard to many political and religious issues, they join forces here to combat the perceived threat to their power and status.”

◊ Do Jesus and His message threaten anything that I hold dear?

  • V16 – If they thought He was true and taught God’s truth, why didn’t they believe Him?!  In a true feat of dizzying hypocrisy, they are lying their heads off but somehow manage to tell the truth.
  • V17 – This is a major hot button issue in Israel.
  • V18 – The ESV notes say that “Jesus’ questioners reasoned that if he answered that it was right to pay taxes, he would lose favor with the tax-burdened people, but if he answered that it was wrong, they could accuse him of insurrection.”
  •  V21 – “Caesar’s” image is on money and I am made in the image of God.  I must give to God what is His (me!)

◊ Am I more concerned with “Caesar’s” kingdom or God’s kingdom?  Is my time consumed with things eternal or things temporary?

  • V23-28 – Oh great, here comes Round Two.  The Sadducees come asking a hypothetical question that isn’t even relevant to what they believe!  They thought it proved their belief that there is no resurrection.

◊ Do I pose hypotheticals to God to justify my (often wrong) action?

  • V28 – The assume everything will be as it is in this life, but Jesus reveals some new information.

◊ Father, help me not to cling to what’s familiar when You have so much more in store for us – something more wonderful than we could ever imagine!

  • V29 – The Sadducees weren’t familiar enough with Scripture to know what it taught.

◊ Do I know the Scriptures and the power of God?

  • V30-32 – Jesus is making it clear He’s from God and is the Messiah.  He knows what the resurrection will be like and He has intimate knowledge of God’s Word and power.
  • V32 – The Sadducees only believed the first five books of the Bible (the Pentateuch) to be Scripture, so Jesus took a verse from the Pentateuch and proved there is resurrection.  He shut down an entire cult with one simple argument!  The Bible is living and active and doesn’t contradict itself!
  • V23-32 – My Study Bible points out that Jesus was considerate to answer their question – even though it was hypothetical and difficult – but then answered their root issues as well.  We can do the same for others when they ask us difficult questions.

◊ Loving Jesus, give me this kind of discernment.

  • V36 – The ESV says rabbis had been debating for ages which laws were “light” and which “weighty.”   They can’t trap Him so they decide to filibuster Him with and endless debate.  Jesus sums up all the laws in the entire Old Testament in two commandments, case closed.  They can’t think of one single law that doesn’t fall under these two.

◊ Are all my actions motivated by these two laws?

  • These are both “shalls” not “shall nots”.
  • V41 – Ooh, now it’s Jesus’ turn to ask a question.  Here’s what the ESV notes have to say about it: “”The son of David reflected the common understanding that the Messiah would be a royal descendant of David.  Jesus then quotes from Psalm 110:1, one of the most important messianic texts in the OT and the one most quoted in the NT.  The Pharisees would have recognized this psalm of David as a divinely inspired messianic prophecy… Because the Pharisees acknowledged the messianic import of the psalm, they did not dare to ask Jesus any more questions.  The fact that David’s descendant (Jesus) would have a more prominent role and title that the ancestor (David) further indicates the uniqueness of the Messiah and the greater honor that is due him as the Son of God…”
  • V45 – The Israelites didn’t realize the Messiah would be God Himself!
  • V46 – Finally!

Wrap up your quiet time by praying through the following questions:

  • Based on this passage of Scripture, what can I thank God for?
  • What do these verses tell me about God and His character?
  • Based on this passage, is there anything I need to confess to God and ask forgiveness for?
  • What do these verses remind me to pray for others?
  • What do these verses move me to pray for myself?
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The Story’s About Me But I’m Not The Hero – Matthew 21:33-22:14

There’s nothing like hearing someone tell a story and realizing you’re the villain…

  • V33 – “Hear another parable” – Jesus is just plowing forward, confronting them over and over with their hypocrisy and sin.  First He sidestepped their question (21:27), then He hits them with these three parables where it’s obvious they’re the bad guys.  There must have been smoke coming out their ears by the time He finished with them.

◊ When God or one of His people confronts me in sin, do I respond with repentance or a hard heart and closed ears?

  • V33 – The master of the house is God and the vineyard is the nation of Israel.  The tenants are the religious/political leaders.
  • V34 – The servants are the prophets God has sent to His people along the way.  A prophet’s job was to turn people’s hearts back toward God and advance God’s kingdom, but they were often abused or killed for their faithfulness to God.
  • V38 – Jesus says in barely veiled terms that He’s the Son of God and they are going to kill Him so they can run Israel the way they want.  In the parable, the tenants recognized the son as the heir.  Is Jesus insinuating that the leaders know He’s God’s Son and are choosing to do away with Him out of selfish motives so they can continue to control God’s kingdom?
  • One can have a little sympathy for the Pharisees if you imagine that they’re trying to protect what God had given them (even though they had twisted the truth and had a poor grip on the reality of what God was asking of them) but if they saw that Jesus was the Messiah and rejected Him because He was calling them out – well that’s a whole ‘nother bucket of worms.

◊ Am I keeping the Gospel and the advancement of God’s Kingdom the main thing or am I getting caught up in trivial matters that aren’t the point?

  • V41 – Their answer suggests that they don’t realize yet that they’re the “tenants” in the parable.
  • V43 – If they didn’t realize they were the tenants before, they do now!  Jesus calls them out on their bad leadership and says the kingdom is going to be given to a whole new people or nation – Gentiles – because the nation of Israel didn’t faithfully produce the fruit of obedience and advance God’s kingdom.
  • V44 – He’s referring back to the cornerstone mentioned in v42.  My study Bibles didn’t really explain what this means, but I assume it means when we encounter Christ, we are broken – we can no longer be the same.  Either we become whole and complete by building our lives on this cornerstone or we remain incomplete and broken by rejecting Him.  When Jesus comes back to bring us to the new Heaven and Earth, He will crush out all evil.
  • V45 – Yep, they got it!
  • V46 – They feared people more than they feared God.
  • V2-3 – This is a parable for us right now!  We have been invited to God’s banquet of mercy and grace.  The One who created and has authority over all things is inviting each of us to sit at His table and feast.
  • V4-5 – To refuse this magnificent gift is not only foolish, it shows extreme disrespect to the generous King.

◊ Have I accepted the King’s invitation or am I just going about my business?

  • V6 – When you read about it in a parable like this it really highlights how sad it is that Christians would be abused and/or killed for their faith.  Not only are they killing the messenger, they’re killing the messenger who’s bringing them an invitation to a generous banquet.
  • V7 – This is an allusion to the coming destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.
  • V8-10 – The kingdom of heaven is about to expand from just Jews to any who will accept the invitation.
  • V11 – We can come as we are to the kingdom of heaven, but we don’t stay as we were.  (Colossians 3:1-14, 2 Corinthians 5:17)

◊ Am I trying to wear my “old life” when I should be putting on a new life?

  • V14 – The ESV note on this verse says “Many are called means that many have been invited to the wedding feast.  But not all those invited are actually the ones who are supposed to be there, because few are chosen.  This has been described as the doctrine of a “general calling”: the gospel is proclaimed to all people everywhere, both those who will believe and those who will not.  However, Paul also mentions another kind of calling, an effective calling from God that comes powerfully to individuals and brings a positive response.  When the gospel is proclaimed, only some are effectively called…(1 Cor. 1:24, 26-28).”

Wrap up your quiet time by praying through the following questions:

  • Based on this passage of Scripture, what can I thank God for?
  • What do these verses tell me about God and His character?
  • Based on this passage, is there anything I need to confess to God and ask forgiveness for?
  • What do these verses remind me to pray for others?
  • What do these verses move me to pray for myself?
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Looks Can Be Deceiving – Matthew 21:18-32

The incident with the fig tree seems to be less about food and more of a real life parable about the people Jesus was about to be confronted by.

  • V19 – The note in the ESV Bible says “Since the fruit of the fig tree begins to appear about the same time as the leaves (or a little thereafter), the appearance of leaves in full bloom should have indicated that fruit (in the form of green figs) was already growing.  Jesus’ actions here have symbolic importance, signifying the hypocrisy of all who have the appearance that they are bearing fruit but in fact are not (Hos 9:10-17).

◊ Do I look like I am or should be bearing fruit for God’s kingdom when really I am not?

  • V20 – They really shouldn’t be surprised by anything now since Jesus has already proven at least twice (8:23-27), 14:22-33) that He has authority over nature.  However, their wonder at His authority shows that they’re not taking Him for granted.

◊ Am I moved and in awe when Jesus works miracles in my life or do I expect them and think I’m entitled to them?  Where’s the line between confidence that we have been give authority through the Spirit, with God all things are possible, and that we have a good Father who pours His love out on us in surprising ways and a sense of entitlement and lack of awe?  It boils down to who is getting the glory, I guess.

  • V21-22 – This is a repeated statement (17:20).  He really means it!  Was it directed specifically to the disciples only or meant for all believers?

◊ Help us to understand the authority given through Your Spirit and help us to use it to bring You glory.  Give us more faith!

  • V23 – The ESV note says “These things most likely refers to Jesus’ disrupting of the commercial activities of the temple the previous day, and also to His authority to heal and to teach in the temple, because He is neither an official priestly nor scribal authority.”
  • V24 – Everything is always on His terms.

◊ Some people ask questions about the Bible because they sincerely want to understand, some just to be argumentative or to try to trap me or shake my own faith.  How can I respond to the latter in a Christlike way?

  • V25-27 – The elders were less interested in considering what they actually believed and what was truth than they were in giving the “right answer.”

◊ Do I approach my Bible study time with a fill-in-the-blanks-and-get-the-right-answer attitude or do I actually stop and think about what the implications of what I just read might be for me?

  • V27 – He knows the answer will just make them mad and they won’t believe Him anyway.
  • F28 – He’s still talking to the elders but the crowds are also still listening.
  • V28-31 – He’s so good at telling these short parables that make His point so clear.  There’s only one way the elders can answer without looking like idiots.

◊ Am I obeying with just my mouth or also with my actions?

  • V31-32 – Ouch.  That had to have made them see red!
  • V31 – The Father’s will was active obedience, not verbal promises.
  • V32 – Of course, they wouldn’t still be prostitutes or crooked tax collectors if they had received John’s message and started following Jesus.  That’s just what they started out as.

Wrap up your quiet time by praying through the following questions:

  • Based on this passage of Scripture, what can I thank God for?
  • What do these verses tell me about God and His character?
  • Based on this passage, is there anything I need to confess to God and ask forgiveness for?
  • What do these verses remind me to pray for others?
  • What do these verses move me to pray for myself?
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Donkey King – Matthew 21:1-17

Don’t forget, Jesus is bringing a big ol’ crowd with Him (20:29)

  • V2-3 – Jesus makes it unquestionably clear that He is in control of all that’s happening.  Everything is going according to plan.

◊ Sometimes God’s instructions are explicitly clear and detailed, sometimes not so much.

  • V4-5 – I wonder how Israel felt about this prophecy.  A humble king isn’t usually what we hope for.
Say to the people of America,
Behold your president is coming to you
Humble and driving a Nova
A Chevy Nova that he borrowed from his neighbor.

◊ Am I proud to follow this humble King?  Do I emulate His humility or exalt myself?

  • V6 – For all their faults, the disciples do obey quickly every time.

◊ Do I obey quickly and cheerfully?

  • V5-7 – By fulfilling this prophecy, He’s openly claiming to be the Messiah.
  • V8-9 – The crowd is eagerly welcoming Him as Messiah.  Throwing their coats before Him seems like an act of submission.  Calling Him “Son of David” is acknowledging Him as Messiah.  The palm branches were equivalent to waving their national flag.

◊ Have I ever demonstrated my love, adoration, and submission to Jesus in such a physical and tangible way?

  • V10 – The other time Matthew mentions the whole city being stirred up is when the magi were there (2:3).  “Who is this?” – Gentiles from way up north knew who Jesus was.  Even King Herod had heard of Him (14:1).  Apparently the people of Jerusalem hadn’t caught the buzz yet.
  • V11 – Now they have!  They call Him “prophet.”  I wonder if they were too nervous to overtly call Him Messiah.

◊ Do I boldly say who I believe Jesus to be?

  • V12 – For those waiting  for a conquering Messiah, this would have been a reassuring display of power and wrath – although they were probably surprised that He started in the temple with the Jews and not with the Romans.

◊ How do I feel when God disciplines me and not those who I think really “deserve it”?

  • V12 – My study Bible note says “This is the second time Jesus cleared the Temple (see John 2:13-17).  Merchants and money changers set up their booths in the Court of the Gentiles in the Temple, crowding ut the Gentiles who had come from all over the civilized world to worship God.  The merchants sold sacrificial animals at high prices, taking advantage of those who had come long distances.  The money changers exchanged all international currency for the special Temple coins – the only money the merchants would accept.  They often deceived foreigners who didn’t know the exchange rates.  Their commercialism in God’s house frustrated people’s attempts at worship.  This, of course, greatly angered Jesus.  Any practice that interferes with worshiping God should be stopped.”

◊ V13 – Is my church a house of prayer?

  • V12-15 – I can’t imagine the chaos of all this going on at once with Jesus at the center of it.
  • V15 – Perhaps these were the kids He blessed earlier.  Maybe they’re just kids that are still chanting the parade chant (21:9).
  • V16 – What a great verse!  The priests wade out into the thick of this raucous chaos, irate that kids are shouting and running, and there are newly healed people everywhere trying out their legs for the first time and blind people telling everyone what they can see and the priests pick on the kids and Jesus says “Of course they’re calling me Messiah, haven’t you ever read the Scriptures?!  It says right there in Psalms that’s their job.”  And of course this would probably make the priests so mad they couldn’t see straight because that’s kind of like saying “Haven’t you ever read the Odyssey?!” to an English teacher.  But all these people clearly adore Him so the chief priests can’t say or do anything to Him but wait until He leaves.

Wrap up your quiet time by praying through the following questions:

  • Based on this passage of Scripture, what can I thank God for?
  • What do these verses tell me about God and His character?
  • Based on this passage, is there anything I need to confess to God and ask forgiveness for?
  • What do these verses remind me to pray for others?
  • What do these verses move me to pray for myself?
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From the Bottom to the Top – Matthew 20:1-34

Jesus’ explanation about how to get ahead in His upside-down kingdom is dizzying.

  • V1-16 – Don’t forget this parable is in response to Peter’s “What do we get?” (19:27)
  • V1 – Another analogy to help us understand a little more about God’s kingdom.
  • V2 – This is a typical, fair wage.
  • V6-7 – The weren’t working, but at least they were still looking for work, even though it was late in the day.
  • V10-12 – I have to admit, I’ve always felt that this was a valid argument.  Then again, I’ve also always related to the older brother of the prodigal son.  I guess I need to work on my grace and generosity.
  • V13-15 – This is a genius answer.  He’s highlighting that the kingdom of heaven isn’t about “fairness.”  The “fair” thing to do would be to make us all pay for our sin, but that’s not what happened.

◊ Am I grateful and content?

  • V16 – In this case, the last were first because all but the very first received more than they deserved.  When He said it before (19:30), He may have been referring to the disciples who were not picked by other rabbis to study Scripture and live a “religious” life, but who end up with the “keys to heaven” (16:19), judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  Or, He may have been trying to warn Peter that rather than being concerned about what he’s going to “get out of it” (18:27), he should worry about himself last and the salvation of others first so that his reward in Heaven will be great.

◊ Do I side with the argument of the early workers or do I rejoice that those who come late to God’s kingdom get to share in the generosity that God showed me?  Am I allowing jealousy or pettiness to harden my heart towards God’s children?

  • V17-19 – Every time He says this (this is the third time), He gets more specific about the details.  This time He confirms the information while they’re literally on their way to the city where it will all take place.  For us with hindsight, it’s a vivid picture to show that this was part of God’s plan.  For the disciples, it was apparently going in one ear and out the other or it was too traumatic for them to process.

◊ Am I confident that God is working out His plan in my life, my church, and even on earth?  Do I doubt God’s control and sovereignty?

  • V20-21 – I’m trying to decide if James and John put their mom up to this or if they were a little embarrassed that she came and asked Jesus for this.  These guys are quite the characters.  Jesus calls them the Sons of Thunder (Mark 3:17), they offered to call down fire from heaven on the Samaritans (Luke 9:54), and they’re two of Jesus’ best friends (Matthew 17:1).  You’ve got to wonder if the arguments about who’s the greatest (18:1) originated with them and now they’re trying to pull a fast one on the other disciples by pulling their mom into the argument.  I’d like to have seen the look on the other disciples’ faces at this.  Those were the two places of honor.

◊ Am I trying to get to the top in God’s kingdom?  Do I even know where the top is?  In God’s kingdom should I be trying to take glory away from God? (Lucifer did that and things turned out very badly for him.)

  • V22 – He just told them what “the cup” was full of (v17-19).  I wonder if they remembered or made that connection.
  • V23 – The note in my ESV Bible says “James became the first apostolic martyr (Acts 12:2) and John suffered persecution and exile (Rev. 1:9).  They must submit to the Father’s will for their future, just as Jesus does.”
  • V24 – There seems to be growing disunity among the disciples as they draw closer to the time when Jesus needs them to be unified the most.

◊ I’ve experienced rifts in relationships among fellow Christians several times when the body of Christ was advancing God’s kingdom in our area.  When this happens do I desperately pray that God would protect us from Satan’s attempts to sabotage our fruitfulness?

  • V25-27 – This is a major upside-down kingdom moment.  In God’s kingdom, leadership doesn’t mean authority to make people do whatever you want, but instead means you must be a servant to those you’re leading.  He has already told them about His backward kingdom twice before (19:30, 20:16); this time He’s explicitly clear about what He means.

◊ Do I seek to serve others in God’s kingdom?  If others follow me into service, I’ll be a leader.  If I direct attention to myself, I’m pulling their attention away from God.

  • V28 – Jesus has been a great example of this.  His leadership of people has come through compassion and service.
  • V28 – “Give His life…” – Another reference to His death and why He must die.

◊ Thank You Jesus!

  • V29-34 – Here is a quick example of service after a lesson on service.

◊ Do I practice what I preach?

  • V29 – There’s still a great crowd.  They just had a semi-private moment (v17) but it didn’t last long.
  • V30 – They are confident Jesus can help them and they acknowledge Jesus as king and Messiah (Son of David).

◊ Do I share their confidence?

  • V31 – Since Jesus is known for healing, it’s crazy the crowd didn’t just help the blind men get to Jesus.

◊ Do I consider myself more worthy of God’s attention and assistance than others?

  • V34 – The ESV note says “In the face of rejection by his own people, and impending betrayal as he enters Jerusalem, Jesus continues to show compassion for those in great need.”

◊ After we experience healing, we must follow in obedience.  Am I grateful for the healing God has done in me?

Wrap up your quiet time by praying through the following questions:

  • Based on this passage of Scripture, what can I thank God for?
  • What do these verses tell me about God and His character?
  • Based on this passage, is there anything I need to confess to God and ask forgiveness for?
  • What do these verses remind me to pray for others?
  • What do these verses move me to pray for myself?
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It’s Just Stuff – Matthew 19:19-30

There are some days more than others I’d like to sell all our stuff and give it to the poor.

  • V16 – This fellow wants to earn his way to heaven!

◊ Do I try to earn my way to heaven?  Do I make other’s feel like they have to earn their way to heaven?

  • V17 – Jesus answers a “what” question with a “who” answer.  Only God is good.  Since only God is good, you can’t “earn” eternal life by being good.
  • V18 – Only one of my Bible’s uses the words “eternal life” in Jesus’ response.  The other 2 just say “life.”  Jesus isn’t giving the man a way to earn his way to heaven – we know from other scriptures that’s impossible (Ephesians 2:8-9) – but He is telling him how to live kingdom life on earth.  Anyway, His answer, “Keep the commandments”, is a trick answer because that’s impossible.  Only God is good.  We’re sinners and it is only by God’s grace and through His strength and Spirit that we can live up to His standards which are impossibly high.  (See Setting The Bar.)
  • V18 – What a hilarious question!  He’s essentially asking “Which laws are the important ones and which ones can I ignore?”  On the other hand, if he’s aware of how many laws the Pharisees have added…maybe it’s a legitimate question.

◊ Do I like to pick and choose which bits of God’s law I prefer to obey?

  • V18-19 – Jesus chooses an interesting selection of commandments: the last 5 of the 10 Commandments and the second of the 2 greatest commandments.  Noticeably missing are the ones about loving God.
  • V20 – The man thinks he’s kept all these commandments.  Given Jesus’ previous clarification (Matthew 5:21-48), that’s doubtful.  But he still knows he’s lacking something.  Why?  Unless instead of thinking he’s lacking something, he’s coming to Jesus like I came to my mom when I was 12 checking chores off a list after spending approximately 90 seconds on each one and asking for more since I was trying to rake in the moolah.

◊ Am I haughty and prideful, thinking I can check off my list of commandments I’ve kept, or humble.  Makes me think of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14)

  • V21 – Jesus knew the man was outwardly obeying the laws but inwardly worshipping his money and status.  He reminds him that there is eternal reward worth pursuing over his earthly wealth.  Then He answers the man’s original question (What good thing must I do to have eternal life?) with “Come, follow me.”

◊ Is there something I am worshipping above God?

  • “Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect…” (the man leans in eagerly – “He’s going to reveal the secret to human perfection!” he thinks.)  “Go and sell…” (His face falls, shoulders droop, head hangs down.  Apparently, perfection is unattainable.)  BTW, “perfect” in this verse means whole, complete – not sinless.

◊ What am I reluctant to give up?  (See the story of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22:1-18 for an interesting OT connection to this story.)

  • V22 – He didn’t consider the reward worth the cost.  (Ice Cream Houses.)  He was sad because he knew he had to choose to give something up: eternal life or his worship of worldly wealth.  Unfortunately, he picked the thing that was not going to last.

◊ Is the reward worth the cost?  Am I paying the cost (giving up all to follow Christ) or am I trying to get into heaven on a discount without offering every bit of my self/life to God?

  • V23-24 – That does sound difficult!  The more we have, the more we must give up.  The more we have, the easier it is to rely on self rather than God.
  • V25 – My ESV says “Wealth was often equated with God’s favor and blessing.  Deuteronomy 28:1-14.”
  • V26 – AWESOME!  In Luke 19:1-10 Luke follows this story up with the story of the conversion of Zacchaeus, proving that God can change anyone’s heart, even the very rich.

◊ Do I believe this and pray for those I think are “beyond hope” like I believe it?

  • V26 –  I love the Message translation of this verse: Jesus looked hard at them and said, “No chance at all if you think you can pull it off yourself. Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it.”
  • V27 – Peter’s still about the wrong bottom line.

◊ Am I more concerned about what’s in it for me or how can I bring God glory?

  • V28 – Jesus ignores Peter’s selfishness (for now – He’ll address it in chapter 20) and encourages him and appreciates his sacrifice with an amazing promise of heavenly reward.

◊ Thank You Jesus for Your grace and for accepting our sacrifices, mixed motives and all!

  • V29 – There is promise of great reward for everyone who leaves what is dearest to them to follow Jesus.  “Inherit” is a family term for those losing earthly family, but gaining kingdom of heaven family.
  • V30 – I wonder if this was aimed at Peter.  He’s going to go into this in greater depth in the next chapter.

◊ Am I trying to be first (a leader, top of the pile, most noticed and important) or last (a servant, not above anyone, the least)?

Wrap up your quiet time by praying through the following questions:

  • Based on this passage of Scripture, what can I thank God for?
  • What do these verses tell me about God and His character?
  • Based on this passage, is there anything I need to confess to God and ask forgiveness for?
  • What do these verses remind me to pray for others?
  • What do these verses move me to pray for myself?
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