Matthew 21-22

In today’s chapters, we read over and over again about the Pharisees trying to trap Jesus contradicting himself and the Bible. Jesus keeps his cool, effortlessly tossing heart-piercing responses over his shoulder. He doesn’t engage in arguments with them, he doesn’t get flustered when he’s ganged up on, he doesn’t jockey for power or authority among them. Most of the time he just asks them a pointed question.

The one time the Bible records Jesus losing it is when people are being spiritually abusive. The people outside the temple are misrepresenting God and taking advantage of the vulnerable in the name of personal gain. (My commentary notes that often travelers would be passing through and wouldn’t have the animal they needed to make a sacrifice, so instead of serving them to God’s people, these people were trying to turn a profit.)

What a perfect example Jesus is to us. He never asks us to fight his battles for him, even among other believers. He wants us to understand the gospel and be ready to give an answer, but I don’t read anything here about endlessly arguing on social media about gun laws and bathrooms.

I’ve made a couple rules that help me behave myself, you’re welcome to borrow them:

  1. Don’t argue with someone simply to advance myself. I broke this rule just last night, in a casual conversation with a good friend where I just wanted her to know I was right about a really non-important topic. Sigh.
  2. Speak up when God is being misrepresented; not questioned. It’s okay, and actually really healthy, to wonder things about God aloud. Leave space for that in conversations. I pipe up when people claim blatantly wrong things about God. (My triggers are prosperity gospel and shaming, watch out.)
  3. Allow people to disagree with you. This is the mark of immense health and maturity. My friend Alan does this perfectly. His opinions are coated in humility, held with an open palm, yet unwavering to social pressure. Most importantly, he isn’t quick to offer his opinion, he often waits until someone asks. This is beautiful! (And goes against everything in my nature.)

“..and if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way.” 1 Peter 3:15 

As Christians, we are to represent God to the world. We are pretty exclusively called to do this with our actions, yet be prepared to give an answer if someone asks. 

Is it just me, or is that really hard?

 

-Carly

 

Matthew 19-20

We are in the thick of Jesus demonstrating how upside down His kingdom is:

Monogamy, the value of children in spiritual arenas, heaven not reserved for the rich, generosity toward the undeserving, the greatest being servants…

These are all revolutionary ideas, albeit, unpopular.

I think this is why it’s so important to saturate ourselves in God’s Word. The answer is rarely our impulse. Truth is nearly drowned out in society and everyone’s got their own opinions.

If Jesus is Lord of my life, I submit to His will and designs, right? My heroes become the people described in 19:29 who have abandoned everything for the Name of Jesus. 

And why not!? This is The LORD we’re talking about! He welcomes children onto His lap! He’s not like detestable Molek who requires his followers to throw their babies on the furnace of his belly. 

Jesus is SO GOOD!! His designs are GOOD. We do well to study and apply them. No matter how upside down they feel.

Which of these feel contrary to you?

-Bethany

Matthew 17-18

I like this weird side story in chapter 17 about Peter fetching a coin out of a fish’s mouth to pay tax. Jesus was providing what they needed, but put them to work a little. He didn’t just pull a coin out from behind someone’s ear. Peter still had to get out in a boat, prep his hook and line and then wait to catch the fish.

I think you get where I’m going. God is the provider of our resources, but he includes us in the process. Sometimes we have to put in a little work and wait. (Sometimes the process is unconventional or weird and you wonder if God knows what he’s doing.)

Do you want a new job? Start job hunting. Do you want to be in a relationship? Put yourself in a position where you can meet (good) people. Do you want to be in community? Invite your neighbors over for dinner. I’m not implying that God is a vending machine and you’ll always get what you want, nor am I implying that you need to fend for yourself out there. I think it’s somewhere in the middle. Bring your desires and needs to the Lord first and foremost, but also remember that God is a big advocate for work. He puts Adam to work immediately after creating him. My lazy self does not particularly enjoy this about God’s design, but it’s there! He includes us in the process because there’s something beautiful about it. The process is important. It’s where God reveals things about himself and about us.

What are you asking God for? What’s your part? What does your heart look like while you wait?

 

-Carly

Matthew 15-16

We’ve made it halfway through the book and now it’s time for part 2 of The Bible Project’s Matthew:

I’m going to start off by saying, Thank God for the Holy Spirit, or the church would have never gotten off the ground. It’s a real struggle watching the disciples try to understand what Jesus is talking about. “Do we have to wash our hands before we eat this bread? Where are we going to find enough bread for all these people? Is he mad we forgot the bread?” These are pretty simple guys, painfully literal, uneducated and trying to wrap their minds around a new kingdom, but totally getting caught up on bread.

We, too, are completely lost without the gift of the Holy Spirit helping us understand. As Paul says later in his letters: now we have the mind of Christ. What a crazy switch! A heart of stone turns in to a heart of flesh, blind eyes are made to see, deaf ears are made to hear and lame feet are made to walk. Don’t forget to pray as you read and ask the Holy Spirit to help you understand!

Right when your fearless leader should be storming the castle, showing everyone who’s boss, He announces the bad guys will kill Him. This puts Peter over the edge, resulting in rebuke immediately following his first pat on the head for a correct answer. Oy vey!

We, like the disciples, filter everything Jesus says through the lense of our cultural frame of reference. I can only see things through the glasses of someone who has lived from 1985-2016. Jesus is talking as one who has been watching since forever. He sees things completely different. It’s not about splitting hairs over washing rituals, doctrines or prophesies, it’s about reconciling all humanity to God, teaching them to discover His perfect original designs: Loving Him and loving each other.

Pray for fresh perspective and understanding today.

-Bethany

Matthew 13-14

Today you’re going to hear from our guest blogger, Ashby Kidd. We love her insight on today’s chapters and we think you will too:

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I love when Jesus hangs out with his disciples. Look at chapter 13 verse 11: “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom…” He cares for his disciples, and us, enough to share the truth over and over, until we really get it. The kingdom is not like we think it is. Hold onto that thought, and keep reading.

Look at the contrast of the first two stories in chapter 14. (Full disclosure: I heard this idea in a sermon last year, and it stuck with me.) Let’s call this “A Tale of Two Dinner Parties.”

Herod throws a huge celebration for his birthday. Drinking, dancing- this was the party of the year. And as a grand finale, a head on a platter. Herod agrees to have John the Baptist beheaded, because he’s afraid to back down in front of his friends. Look at verse 9. Come ON. Drinking, dancing, and foolish promises? Not my idea of a good time, but it was the kind of thing you would hope to be invited to- dinner with the king? Dinner with the king, and a murder? Somehow the party of the year went horribly, horribly wrong.

Immediately following the news that his cousin has been murdered, Jesus went away by himself. And everyone followed him. Poor Jesus. He never gets a break. (And here I am feeling sorry for myself because my toddler follows me into the bathroom.) Instead of getting to mourn, pray, or just relax, Jesus gets another ministry opportunity. Does he get angry? No. In verse 14 it says he had compassion on the crowds, and then he heals them. In Mark it says he taught them as well. And then at the end of the day, he feeds them.

No silver platters, no wine goblets, no dancing. No ‘who’s who’ on the guest list. Seated on the grass, picnic style, eating the simplest of meals. The kingdom is not like we think it is.

One dinner was ornate, impressive, and ended in death. The other dinner was simple, casual, and from the giver of life.

Which dinner would you choose? It seems like an easy answer, but we make this choice every day.

Which kingdom are you pining after?

Matthew 11-12

It seems a little strange that John the Baptist would ask Jesus if He’s really the Messiah. John was the first to proclaim it! But the poor guy is in prison and things are looking bleek.

Instead of responding with, “Duh John, of course I’m the Messiah! You, of all people, should know!” Jesus sends encouraging words then makes a speech about how great John is. He is beautifully gentle with our doubts.

Chapter 12 can feel a little tricky, but I want to focus on Jesus’ love and pursuit of the nations. Sometimes it feels grossly unfair that Israel got all God’s attention for so many years, but here we’re  reminded that the whole world has always been His. He wanted to use Israel to get to everyone. He will get to everyone anyway. Through Him (Jesus, seed of Abraham) all the nations of the world will be blessed. Hooray! That’s us!! 

His people are identified by their fruit, not their race (12:33). What does your fruit say about you?

-Bethany

Matthew 9-10

I’m overwhelmed right now. Maybe you are too. People I know are being diagnosed with cancer left and right, the world is a violent place, Christians are turning on each other in public formats, our bodies are fragile and for the love of God THE ELECTION. This is when faith comes in. Faith by definition is the complete trust or confidence in someone or something. My faith is not anchored by the expectation that everything will be perfect, it is anchored by Jesus being who he says he is: the son of God who intercedes on my behalf by conquering death and sin.

When I read the stories in today’s chapters, I wondered if it would be easier to have unwavering faith in him if I saw him performing miracles with my own eyes.

But I have. I’ve seen him soften hardened hearts, answer prayers in the eleventh hour and dissolve incurable diseases. I hear stories of him comforting the mourning, appearing to people in dreams and audibly speaking to the stubborn. My own life is marked by stories of his goodness; my journals overflowing with my personal evidence.

We’re called to have faith in him. Sometimes I’m not sure what that is suppose to look like. Am I suppose to believe he will always cure the ill and raise the dead? He won’t. But I think we’re suppose to have faith that he will always be with us, that his timing is perfect, his plan for our lives is good and that we shouldn’t be afraid.

I love at the end of chapter 10 when Jesus says “don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God..” Fear only God. God never puts emphasis on our earthly well-being. He instead emphasizes that we’re not promised it.

Today, take a minute and reflect on your faith in Jesus. When is it strong? When is it weak? What is it based on? How would you describe it to someone? I think it’s good to think through these things once in a while; our relationship with God should be active.

Share your answers belong if you’d like!

-Carly