January 19, 2017

Today you should read: Matthew 21:28-46

You might have heard the Kingdom of God referred to as the “upside down kingdom” before. Basically, this statement means that the Kingdom of God goes against what we would normally expect. The passage we are looking at today shows us an example of this.

In verses 28-32, Jesus is sharing a parable about a father who asked his two sons to do something; one son said he would not do what his father asked, but actually ended up doing what his father asked in the end; the other said he would, but ended up NOT doing what his father asked. The crowd easily got the answer to Jesus’ question about who the father was more pleased with—the son who actually did what the father asked, of course! But then Jesus dropped the bomb—this same principal applies to those who were considered “sinners” by the Pharisees being forgiven by God. Jesus is telling them that the tax collectors and prostitutes, two of the most despised people groups of the day, were more likely to enter into the Kingdom because they believed in Jesus than the religious leaders who were outwardly righteous but inwardly just as sinful as everyone else.

Verses 33-44 mainly show us two things: (1) that Jesus is the Son of God and (2) that through Christ and because of the hardness of Jewish hearts, God had come to save Gentiles as well as Jews. The servants that the master sent most likely refer to the prophets that God sent to the Jewish people, and even specifically to John the Baptist who had come to prepare the way of Jesus. They did not listen to the servants, and killed the son. He was revealing the blindness of the Jewish leaders.

How does this apply to us?

The forgiveness that God gives sinners can be confusing. Many times we might question how God could forgive people for committing truly heinous sins. Other times, we might struggle with accepting forgiveness for sins that we struggle with (i.e. pornography use, adultery, anger, pride, etc.). In what ways do you struggle to accept God’s forgiveness? Reflect on the gospel today: that you have been saved by GRACE, and nothing else! (Ephesians 2:8-9) It can be very easy for us to forget that our standing before God is no better on our good days than it is worse on our bad ones. Our standing before God is ONLY a result of the grace of God, and nothing that we have done to earn God’s favor.

Be encouraged in the gospel, that you have been saved by grace for good works, not by good works.

By: Graham Withers — Pastoral Ministry Apprentice

January 18, 2017

Today you should read: Matthew 21:12-27

Our culture has done this thing where we have made Jesus seem weak and even feminine. However, what we see here is very different. Jesus asserts his Authority and his power, and expresses that He is not of this World.

Jesus, our God is not some delicate flower. He is the Lord of the universe and he holds that power and authority. When Jesus enters the temple He was incredibly displeased with how the people were using the temple for their gain and their greed. The temple was a place of the Lord and was to be respected. Jesus took great offence at this. His reaction was not to talk through this or tell them about how He was feeling. Jesus with the authority of God (important to remember) started flipping tables and kicking people out. He had zero tolerance for what was happening.

Then he retreats to be alone. Now I don’t know if you have ever had that moment when you go to the fridge or the pantry because you are hungry and you know you have something you really want in there, but when you open the door or cabinet it is gone… someone has eaten it or maybe it expired. Jesus has a similar moment to this when he sees a fig tree, but when He goes to get a fig there was none. So Jesus causes the tree to wither and die. The disciples are really impressed at the power of Jesus.  

Lastly we see the priests and elders questioning the authority of Jesus. The result is that they have to answer Jesus’ rebuttal with “we do not know.” The bottom line is that the wisdom and knowledge and authority, and power is greater than our own.

Too often we as finite humans decide that we know more, or we have the ability to be more, or that we have control over everything. The bottom line is that Jesus is greater and bigger, and smarter, and wiser, and has ultimate authority that should not be questioned.

Have you given God the adoration He deserves lately?

Have you gotten to a place where you have removed Him from control?

Will you give Him back control today and respond to His authority with praise and proper fear?

By: Dakota Gragg

January 17, 2017

Today you should read: Matthew 21:1-11

We are hitting the home stretch in the book of Matthew. We have seen how Jesus’ teaching ministry laid the foundation for his ministry with people. Both his teaching and personal ministry were always pointing in one direction, and that is the cross. This passage sees what those in the church normally refer to as “Palm Sunday”, and what the ESV titles as the “Triumphal Entry”. The main takeaway from this passage is that Jesus is making a claim on his kingship.

In verses 2-5, Jesus claims his kingship through what the Old Testament said about the Messiah. John Piper breaks it down like this:

  1. Jesus Declares His Kingship by Riding on a Donkey (Zech. 9:9)
  2. Jesus Declares His Kingship by Cleansing the Temple (Isa. 56:7)
  3. Jesus Declares His Kingship by Healing (Isa. 35:4-6)
  4. Jesus Declares His Kingship by His Response to Children (Psa. 8)

Then you see the response of the crowds. They spread their cloaks on the road and spread palm branches as well. They shouted “Hosanna!” There’s no way to know this for sure, but it’s within the realm of possibility that many of these people praising Jesus in his entry to the city were the same people that were condemning him to the cross just a few days later. What led them to this point? This is something we will see in the next few chapters of Matthew.

The way we should respond to this passage today is to ask yourself how you are responding to Jesus. Does Jesus truly have Kingship over every area of your life? Or do you only respond to His Kingship only when it is in line with your own kingship of your life?

By: Graham Withers

January 16, 2017

Today you should read: Matthew 20:20-34

As we walk through this life following our Savior, we may quickly discover that the Christian life calls us more often to suffering than it does to fame. This was the rude awakening that James and John received upon their mother’s request. What a humbling response from Jesus!

You do not know what you are asking, Jesus answered in reference to His suffering. Are you able to drink the cup that I am going to drink?

Perhaps we have forgotten that suffering was an inherent aspect of Jesus’s life. In Luke 9:58, after someone (perhaps too confidently) reassured Jesus that “I will follow you wherever you go,” Jesus responded by saying, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” John 1:11 reminds us that Jesus “came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” We worship a Savior who suffered in His life and in His death. As Jesus approached His gruesome and undeserving death and cried out His prayers, His most intimate friends could not even stay awake to pray with Him. How quickly we forget the sufferings of our Savior.

Going back to the passage, it is evident that these two brothers were more concerned with sharing in the glory of Jesus than sharing in the sufferings of Jesus. How often do we do the same thing? 1 Peter 4:13 tells us that we are to “rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” For the Christian, suffering like Christ is a reason to rejoice! What an opportunity we have to share in the life of Christ in our sufferings!

How is God calling you today to share in the sufferings of Christ? Is it turning the other cheek? Forgiving your close friend (or perhaps even spouse) when there is no glory in it for yourself? Putting others before yourself even when it hurts and goes unnoticed? Or have we settled for a lukewarm Christianity that only wants to live like Jesus when it’s comfortable? Or perhaps we have settled for too small a view of the love of God, who suffered in such ways in His pursuit of undeserving us.

Take heart in your sufferings, friends. Recognize them as tremendous opportunities to live like Jesus. See them as a testament to the love of Jesus, who considered our redemption worth the enormously high cost to Himself. As you do so, rest in the promise of 2 Corinthians 1:5 – “For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.”

By: Logan West