In the beginning of verse 24 it sounds a lot like me when I’m in trouble. “The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”” In the beginning of verse 25 I’m sure Jesus says the same thing to me that He says to the disciples, “Where is your faith?”. Then in the final part of verse 25 where the disciples seem surprised and say “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.” It sounds a lot like me again where I seem surprised at His capabilities. I can be a real knucklehead sometimes (ok, often…). God may seem like he’s asleep a lot of times and that He really doesn’t care about what is going on in my life. The truth is God is very much an active participant; I just need to acknowledge His presence and be more expectant of Him.
In this chapter Jesus spends a lot of time going through a bunch of parables. The one that stood out in my mind was the parable of the Four Soils. The part of that parable that caught my eye was in verse 13 where it says, “13 This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.” I find it amazing how much this verse applies to our current world. How many people choose to ignore God in our present age. When Jesus was talking to the people at that time, I’m sure He already had in mind that our current world would reject Him as well. I praise God that He has blessed me with the knowledge of His existence and the importance of who He is in my life. I don’t know what I would do without Him.
In verses 33-36 it says, “No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead he puts it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are bad, your body also is full of darkness. See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be completely lighted, as when the light of a lamp shines on you.” The example of light is very good at explaining our ability to not only see Christ, but also to reflect His light. It is important to remember that my relationship with Him has a direct correlation with my ability to see Him. When I am close to God and have the ability to see Him in the right perspective, I can then accept His leading more easily.
We are finishing up Chapter 12 of Matthew, which you will recall we started on January 19th. Today, when I read verses 43-45, it really convicted me of the contrast in time I spend clearing my life of evil versus the amount of time I spend building an authentic relationship with God. The passage says, “43 When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. 45 Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.” Jesus was addressing the religious leaders and saying it does them no good to live clean and pure lives without filling it with God. Likewise, the passage could easily be written directly to us. If we simply try to be good and follow all the rules and do not fill it with God in our lives, we are destined to fill it with something that is not of God. Instead, we must continuously seek to attain a fulfilling relationship with God.
One of my favorite passages in the Bible comes straight from Jesus’ mouth in verses 28-30, “28 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” The notes in my Bible are really good. They say that the “rest” that Jesus promises is love, healing, and peace with God. It doesn’t end work for us; we still need to work, but we can work with the peace and understanding that we are working for God’s glory and are a reflection and example of Him. A true relationship with God can turn meaningless and tiring work into a spiritual and productive purpose in this life. We need to accept this as an opportunity to bring glory to Him.
Picture Jesus talking in verses 33-35, “33 For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.” ’ 35 But wisdom is proved right by all her children.” As Jesus talks to the people He is describing how both He and John the Baptist are received and judged for how they act and who they hang out with. They reject John even though he is righteous and they reject Jesus because He hangs out with sinners, but the point Jesus makes in verse 35 where He says “wisdom is proved right by her children” is that they should be able to see who John and Jesus are by the changed lives in those who followed them. This is a powerful statement and challenge to me because people should know I am a Jesus follower because of the change in my life.
I am humbled by verses 44-47. I read it and put myself in Simon’s shoes because in this context Jesus is probably talking to me, “44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” This woman came and unashamedly loved and served Jesus in front of people who knew who she was and knew the sin in her life. It must have been humiliating for her to put herself out there, but she did it because of the love she had for Jesus. As I read this I am humbled because there are times when I am ashamed to worship and love Jesus in front of others and get self-conscious about worshipping Jesus even in front of others at church. I should be willing to do whatever it takes to give Him the glory He deserves every chance I get under any circumstance.
There are many great stories in today’s reading, but the one that always gets me is the story of the Centurion. The way he displays his faith to Jesus is a great example of how we should carry out our faith. In verse 8 it says “The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.” There are many times when I ask Jesus for help, only to keep second guessing whether He has the will to help me. The faith of the Centurion shows his understanding of Jesus’ power and willingness to heal. Why can’t I be more like the Centurion who asks and knows that Jesus is more than capable? More importantly, why can’t I simply trust Him with the answer He gives me when it not the one I really wanted? His plan is perfect! I need to know He has a much better perspective than me!
Today we complete the Sermon on the Mount. This is such a powerful section of teaching coming directly out of the mouth of Jesus and shows a very clear blueprint for how we should live our lives in order to be truly Christ-like. There is nowhere in this teaching that says anything about following the law or specific rules, but it does talk a lot about our attitude and our willingness to serve and sacrifice for others. Specifically in today’s reading I love the way verses 7 and 8 paint a picture, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Jesus is the key in what He teaches us. He is the missing piece that allows us to be all that He wants us to be. It is a guarantee that Jesus will be there if we just knock. He will answer us if we ask. He will never leave us alone no matter what. When I look back at all the times I’ve felt alone it is never because He left me, it’s because I turned from Him. But every time I’ve turned to Him, He was right there waiting for me and asked me, “where have you been??“.
For me, there are two main areas in today’s reading. The first area was a great reminder that it is so easy to get caught up in wanting to be recognized for the good we do. Especially in the world we live in today where everyone loves to point out the flaws in others. So, when we get the chance to do something good, we want others to know about it. The problem is that Jesus is saying if we seek out recognition from those around us for the good we do, we receive our reward in full from them and not from the Father. Further, by seeking recognition here on earth, our motivation makes us hypocrites because we are doing it for the recognition and not for the love or service of others.
The second part of today’s reading deals with worry. I love verse 27 where it say “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” It’s a great question. If I worry about every aspect of my future, does it add anything to it? It is an act of obedience to trust in God and in His perfect plan for our lives. That does not mean we need to sit on the couch and wait, it means we need to get up and move and trust that He is at work in guiding us. The other great passage in today’s reading is verse 34 where it says “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” We need to deal with the present and be in the present. I am so guilty of this! I tend to do things based on where I see the future state of a situation. I need to be in the present and act based on the current state of the issue at hand and trust that God is guiding me towards tomorrow.
We have arrived at one of the most precious sections of the New Testament, “The Sermon on the Mount”. I love reading Jesus’ words because they flow from one thought to the other guiding us to know how He views us and what are His expectations. The key lessons in the Sermon are found in the Beatitudes which basically tell us how to be blessed and many times are in direct contrast to how the world wants us to be.
Poor in spirit contrasts with pride and personal achievement, but God’s reward is that we will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.
Mourning contrasts with having happiness at all cost, but God’s reward is that He will comfort us.
Meekness contrasts with the desire for power, but God’s reward is that we will inherit the earth.
Thirst for Righteousness contrasts with pursuing our own selfish desires, but God’s reward is that He will be the one to fill us with all our needs and we will be satisfied.
Mercy contrasts with the need to show strength without caring for others, but God’s reward is that He will show us mercy.
Pure in Heart contrasts with a desire to deceive in order to get what we want, but God’s reward is that we will truly be able to see and feel God’s presence.
Peacemaker contrasts with our desire for personal peace while shutting out the chaos of the world around us, but God’s reward is that we will be “called sons of God” (daughters implied).
And finally, Persecuted which contrasts with a weak commitment to avoid persecution, but God’s reward is that we will inherit the “kingdom of heaven”.
There is so much promise and so much truth in this sermon. Hearing it directly from Jesus’ mouth allows me to know what is truly important to him and what is expected of me.