Sometimes when an argument erupts and there appears to be no solution, a mediator is brought into the equation. We stop and wonder why the disciples are arguing about greatness when the greatest sits before them and three of them having just experienced his transfiguration! We want to say why are you even thinking about this question! [see Luke 9 ]And so it boils down this; “Let’s let Jesus settle this.” Jesus reveals that is not “who” is the greatest but “the one” who lives and acts by the principles and attitudes that reflect the character of God. Thus true kingdom people are humble as a child and/or welcomes a child in the name of Jesus; are not a stumbling block, pray and seek those who are the lost sheep; demonstrate true justice and compassion for others even if they have harmed you; forgive as God has forgiven you from your heart.
In a nutshell we might say to be great in God’s kingdom is to mirror God in all we think, say and do otherwise we are like the evil slave who being forgiven refused to forgive another who owed a debt to him. Perhaps that is why James wrote: “By his sovereign plan he gave us birth through the message of truth, that we would be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.” [James 1] Perhaps we should stop in the hallway of God’s Word; look into His mirror and see what is reflected back to us. Then when we know what do, follow his words “go and do likewise” making decisions based upon that reflection. James warns us that there will be those who look, see and purposefully walk away forgetting what God has revealed to them. The warning is given: ‘So whoever knows what is good to do and does not do it is guilty of sin.’ [James 4]
What is your mirror showing today? Can you say you are one of the “greatest” in the kingdom? Dr. Luke reminds us: Luk 22:26 the one who is greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the one who serves.
One of the longest chapters in the marvelous gospel of Matthew is before us this day. Wading through all 42 verses we come away with one note: Jesus did not believe in a static ministry but one that kept moving so that all of the lost sheep of Israel would be without excuse. They would see, hear, experience and have to make a decision: would they choose his message of peace which would mean commitment and perhaps a sword that would divide? If Christ is not first then we are not committed to Him.
Meet the men who would move to minister: the 12 disciples he would name and now call apostles. In Matthew, Mark, Luke and Acts the apostles are noted but only here do we find the author revealing his profession “the tax collector.” In this we see his humility and his note that although unworthy Jesus called and Jesus equipped him for ministry that we might see the same call is upon us. The apostles were to move about all of Israel to carry his message beyond Capernaum. They were to live and work among those in cities all around the nation so that they would be available to preach the good news: the kingdom of heaven is at hand. They were to offer the cup of healing and minister to the needs of those around, bless those who offered hospitality to them and go without any provisions trusting God alone.
All of these steps are ours today. We have His authority; we have His instructions to go and make disciples, [Matt 28] and we have His warning. We will meet unsavory characters, the enemy’s servants, and those who would persecute us for the message we bring and lifestyle we live. As the apostles so we too must be as wise as a serpent, that is prudent and shrewd, and yet innocent or inoffensive as a dove. Our character must have both sides of the coin to meet all and any situation we will meet. But this is not all: we have His reward for faithful service. Matt 10:42 “whoever gives only a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple, I tell you the truth, he will never lose his reward.”
Are you satisfied in to stay in one location or are you ready to step out and move so that you may be His ministering servant? Freely you have received therefore freely give trusting in this fact: Our God will supply all we need for the work that He has planned for us. [Phil 4] If He calls, He will equip.
In our present day society we have those we consider outcasts. These are the lonely, the homeless, the ones rejected or excluded. They have neither the tender touch of a loved one or the soft spoken word to alleviate their loneliness. These are the ones the Polish novelist, Joseph Conrad, described as hugging a memory or some illusion of what life used to be or should be. Meet four individuals who fit this description. Walk with Jesus as He interacts with each one and see how Jesus transforms their lives.
Vs 1-4: The leper, examined by the priest and considered unclean has been banished from society lest he infect others. As we read we see ourselves, unclean not due to leprosy but due to sin and we ask is He willing to cleanse me?
Vs 5-13 The gentile centurion seeks healing for his servant having learned of the power of this Jesus and notes with humility that he is unworthy. We like the centurion are unworthy of Jesus yet He only requires that we like the centurion believe. Jesus speaks and the servant whom he has not met is healed. Do we have the faith of the centurion?
Vs 14-17 Peter’s mother in law is sick with the fever. Jesus touches her and instantly she is healed and begins serving. Is this our response to the healing touch of Jesus?
Vs 24-28 The demoniac answers the question the disciples asked: Who is this man and from the lips of the one controlled by the evil Satan hear “Son of God leave us alone!” As we share Jesus our listeners may respond like the demoniac, the herdsmen or Felix: “Go away for now, and when I have an opportunity, I will send for you.” [Acts 24] Yet Jesus speaks and the demons obey. Do we let the words of Jesus bring power to those in need?
Perhaps you are the leper, the centurion seeking healing for another, a family member, or even one bound by the evil one. Do you believe these words: “With God all things are possible?” You cannot but He can. Do you have faith to allow Him to transform you from the inside out so that you may serve Him?
Today’s generation are enamored by the selfies they take using their cell phones with exaggerated poses, faces and what not. The commercial showing someone taking a selfie in front of a mirror reminds us of the counsel of James. Be careful of just looking in the mirror and walking away forgetting the image before you. Paul wrote that Moses, after his meetings with Yahweh, wore a veil lest the shine blind the eyes of his audience but it would fade between his times with the Lord. Perhaps that is a good reason for us to be in His presence daily so that we will radiate His glory to all we meet.
In today’s reading it is as if the author of Proverbs is taking a selfie of himself and perhaps strangers who come across his path. He then reviews his selfies and draws some conclusions. Who is staring back at him? One image is of the heir but he acts shamefully which probably means he reveals his snobbiness or pout if his way is unrequited. And then there is the one who acts wickedly whose desire is to pervert the ways of justice; he refuses wise counsel. His selfie image shows one with a countenance of arrogance. And then there is the gossip who slyly says I won’t repeat a word but once out of sight, out of mind that false humility turns to undoing the most precious commodity one can have: a friend. But these are not the only self-images before us. There is the one image that reveals a transformed life in the clay jar in which God has hidden his treasure of the new life and our veil/mask is removed just as Moses removed his veil. We now radiate the transformed life and “are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another, which is from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
Today will you take a true selfie? Will you not walk away but choose to allow the Lord who tests the hearts to test yours and correct that image by transforming you from the inside out? As you spend time in the presence of the Lord much as Moses did and returned with a God-radiance, will you choose to spend time in His presence? What if we could see what Christ sees? Would it change our selfie?
Sitting on the hillside Jesus continues to masterfully teach his disciples and other listeners that they might be prepared for the work of the kingdom. Solomon gave principles but not necessarily the “why” nor an illustration but Jesus moves to the higher level by giving a principle, followed by its biblical truth and lastly illustrates it from life. We would be wise to heed and to do much like James reminds us in his letter: “be sure you live out the message and do not merely listen to it and so deceive yourselves.” Living out is the demonstrative action to prove to not only others but to ourselves of the truth that lies within us.
Pigs and Pearls: Do not judge as God would for eternal judgment belongs to him alone. However, we are to be discerning regarding truth and error. [see Heb 5] Jesus uses the illustration to reveal the crux of the matter: As we share the holy Word of God is it falling upon hearts that are tender (they get the pearls, the truths of God) or hearts that mock (these are the pigs who grovel in the garbage)?
Fish and Snakes: To illustrate the principle of prayer and gifts, Jesus uses the illustration of Fish and Snakes, earthly parents vs the Heavenly Father. If we want wisdom and answers to our questions, then we must like James says “ask God, who gives to all generously and without reprimand, and it will be given to him.” But, there is a catch: one must ask without doubting for he that doubts is just like the waves of the sea ebbing and flowing back and forth.
In a nutshell this chapter teaches us that we are to be wise [as serpents, harmless as doves] yet we are to take heed, consider before judging another but instead err on the side of mercy, “if a person is discovered in some sin, [pray for them] and seek restoration in a spirit of gentleness:”[Gal 6], seek wisdom and discernment from God, treat others the way you would want to be treated.
Jesus saw and then acted. He saw the crowds and went up the mountain, sat down and began to teach. No one had a Bible, no one had their laptop or their iPad to take notes. All they had were their ears and eyes, a mind to take in the teaching and they would then be expected to act upon that teaching. Today we carry our electronics with us to worship, we mull over passages, look up cross references but do we take time to really listen? Over and over through Matthew we will come across this phrase: “he who has ears better listen.” So how are your listening skills today?
Jesus began by saying “Blessed are.. followed by.. then you are.” It is because of this transformation we become His followers and can share these truths with others. That is the measure of being a disciple of Christ. Jesus also said: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.’ If we want to be a true disciple we must look inwardly to our heart and then observe our actions. Matt Skinner wrote: Jesus “greater point is that righteousness encompasses the focus and state of mind that motivates and sustains one’s actions.” Perhaps that is why Jesus said “be careful” in how you reveal your inner righteousness because the world is watching. We ask: What do they see? What do they hear? What do they then surmise? The better question is what does God see, what does God hear, what then does God know about our heart?
Temptation began in the Garden and was finished in the Wilderness! It was in both places that the schemes of the devil, the tempter, our archenemy or foe Satan were revealed and it was this: worship that is rightly due the Lord God Almighty was his main desire. Just as Adam and Jesus we face these struggles but they are not against flesh and blood but against the spiritual forces of evil. As we learned from the author of Hebrews, our anointed authenticated Christ is superior and is thus the one to teach us how to wield the weapons of spiritual warfare that we might be victorious over the temptations our foe offers to us. One thing we can learn from this encounter is that Satan is the master of lies and deception and will come to us in our garden or our wilderness. No matter where, Jesus teaches us the path which is this: “I AM the Way, I AM the Truth, I AM the Life.” The key to overcoming temptation is as James teaches and Jesus modeled: “resist [withstand, strive against, or oppose] the devil and he will flee from you…draw near to God and he will draw near to you.”
Again turning to Ephesians we see that we are to be clothed with the full armor of God so that we can withstand against the tempter’s schemes. Jesus was clothed and drew the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God which became his provision for the body, mind and spirit. Jesus was clothed that he might discern truth from error when the tempter misquoted the scripture from Ps 99. Jesus was clothed so that he might unclothe the true heart of Satan who sought worship more than all the earthly kingdoms that Adam bequeathed to him when he sinned in the Garden.
If we are to resist the tempter we must be clothed in the full armor of God so we can rightly divide the Word of God and able to discern truth from error. We can only do this by hiding the word in our hearts that we might not sin against him and by being a Berean to examine the scriptures carefully to see if these things are so.
Beloved, know thy enemy and his ways that you may resist him. Beloved, know thy Savior and His ways that you may be victorious.