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February 10, 2017: King Jesus

Today’s Bible Reading: Exodus 27-29, Psalm 33, Matthew 14:1-21, Acts 20:1-12 Matthew 14:1-21: John the Baptist, the greatest prophet, the one who made straight the path leading to Christ and prepared the way for him, is dead. As Jesus’ fame grows, King Herod begins to think that somehow John the Baptist has returned from the dead and is imbuing his spirit in Jesus, and that is why Jesus is doing all these miracles. The association in Herod’s mind between John the Baptist and Jesus Christ was a dangerous one: John had been beheaded. Matthew steps back to give the backstory. John had been imprisoned for calling King Herod to account for his relationship with his brother’s wife. Speaking truth to power is seldom a safe thing to do, especially when the man in power is Herod. Unable to countenance such opposition from an evidently holy man, calling him to a higher standard, Herod does what dictators...

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February 9, 2017: The Pearl of Great Price

Today’s Bible Reading: Exodus 24-26, Psalm 32, Matthew 13:44-58, Acts 19:23-41 Matthew 13:44-58: More parables, with a final description of what took place after them—“A prophet is not without honor except in his own hometown” (13:57). The first parable is of a treasure hidden in a field (13:44). A man discovers it and then sells everything he has to buy the field. The point is that this treasure, this kingdom, is so valuable that it is worth everything to get it. The second parable, the pearl of great value (13:45-46), makes the same point in a different way: the pearl, the treasure, is worth everything to get. The parable of the net (13:47-50) is of fishing—the picture is of someone, after fishing, sorting out the good fish into one set of containers, and throwing out the bad. The point is that at the end of the age, there will be a separation of the evil...

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February 8, 2017: He Who Has Ears, Let Him Hear

Today’s Bible Reading: Exodus 21-23, Psalm 31, Matthew 13:24-43, Acts 19:1-22 Matthew 13:24-43: More parables, and each of them about the kingdom of heaven, and each with great meaning. The first is the parable of the weeds (13:24-30). A right interpretation of this parable rests on Jesus’ own interpretation given in verses 36-43. Critically, it is important to note that the “field” is not equivalent to “the church,” but to “the world” (13:38). Doubtless, within even the best managed, most holy, and godly of churches, there are weeds as well as wheat, but Jesus’ parable here is not to be interpreted as an excuse for laziness or acceptance of unreformed doctrine or un-revitalized experience of the Christian life. He is considering “the world” and arguing that, as we do not now see as God sees at the final judgment, it is unwise for us to try to “gather” (13:28) before that final day—or determine with...

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February 7, 2017: Seed and Sower

Today’s Bible Reading: Exodus 19-20, Psalm 30, Matthew 13:1-23, Acts 18:18-28 Matthew 13:1-23: One of the most well-known stories that Jesus ever told is this parable of the sower (13:3-8). It is so familiar to many of us as it is such good material for children’s teaching. It is imbibed from such an early age if we grew up in church that it is easy to miss the forest for the trees and fail to see the point. First of all, the great crowds coming to Jesus means that he grabs an impromptu pulpit—in this case a boat—and preaches from it (13:2). They can see him, they can hear him, behind him is no distraction, and the setting (we must presume) was reasonably peaceful. Into this ambience Jesus drops a “parable.” A parable, literally, is something that is thrown along side something else; it is a comparison. It is saying, “This, that you are talking about, is...

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February 6, 2017: Greater Than Jonah

Today’s Bible Reading: Exodus 16-18, Psalm 29, Matthew 12:38-50, Acts 18:1-17 Matthew 12:38-50: “Signs” function sometimes in a positive way in the New Testament—John’s Gospel is structured around signs that are given that we may believe, for instance (John 20:30-31). But here the Pharisees are asking for a sign (12:38), really demanding for a sign; it was another way to attempt to put Jesus through a series of tests. Behind it was not an openness to believe, but a rebellious spirit seeking to find ways to trap Jesus, or at least avoid believing. Sometimes today, too, people will say, “If only God did such-and-such for me, then I would believe.” Likely as not, with that attitude, even if “such-and-such” occurred, that individual would find another condition that was necessary that God meet before they would follow him. In other words, the real issue is the heart, which is what Jesus now diagnoses. They are an...

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February 5, 2017: A Good Tree

Today’s Bible Reading: Exodus 13-15, Psalm 28, Matthew 12:22-37, Acts 17:16-34 Matthew 12:22-37: This passage contains a teaching of Jesus that has troubled the consciences of many sensitive souls down through the years of Christian history. Have I committed the sin against the Holy Spirit, they wonder? Well, it is important, as always, to read these words in context in order to grasp what Jesus is saying, and not simply be scared (or repulsed or turned off or disappointed by) the most “bumper-sticker” worthy or most memorable aspect of these verses. Jesus heals another man (12:22). The people are amazed—could this be the Son of David (12:23)? That is, they are wondering (finally) whether Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the King to come in David’s line. The Pharisees are unable and unwilling to accept such an idea, and being unable to deny the miracles that Jesus is doing, take the only course left open...

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February 4, 2017: A Bruised Reed He Will Not Break

Today’s Bible Reading: Exodus 10-12, Psalm 27, Matthew 12:1-21, Acts 17:1-15 Matthew 12:1-21: Jesus and his disciples are going for a Sunday afternoon stroll. It’s the Sabbath, literally, and the disciples are hungry. They are walking through grain fields, and so the disciples start to pick the heads of the grain and start to chew it—a simple way to get some sustenance, cause no damage, and generally make the most of what is around you. However, the “Pharisees”—those Pharisees—they say that by doing this, the disciples are breaking God’s law: Exodus 20:10 said you should do no work on the Sabbath. And so they interpreted this innocent activity of the disciples as doing “work.” How picky, how precious in a negative sense, now small minded and straining at a gnat to swallow a camel! Astonishingly, Jesus actually takes the time to engage with them and attempt to reason with them from Scripture. He provides two counter...

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February 3, 2017: Come to Me, and I Will Give You Rest

Today’s Bible Reading: Exodus 7-9, Psalm 26, Matthew 11:20-30, Acts 16:16-40 Matthew 11:20-30: Now comes some uncomfortable hearing for those who had been following Jesus’ career so far, listened to his teaching, and even witnessed his miracles. These towns in Galilee—Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum—had not repented at Jesus’ presence, teaching or miracles (11:20). How could such a thing be! How could the Son of God walk and his people not follow where he walked? He came to his own and his own received him not (John 1:11). By contrast, says Jesus, those Gentile, pagan towns of Tyre and Sidon, and even that city of ill-repute, Sodom, would have repented if they had heard Jesus preach and seen Jesus do miracles (11:21). The application of this series of startling “woes” is quite readily apparent with a moment’s thought. What is our response to all that we have heard? It is easy to let familiarity breed contempt, and sneer...

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February 2: Wisdom Justified by Her Deeds

Today’s Bible Reading: Exodus 4-6, Psalm 25, Matthew 11:1-19, Acts 16:1-15 Matthew 11:1-19: After giving these instructions to his disciples, Jesus himself goes from there to teach and preach in their cities. If we want to train others to do ministry, we need to do ministry ourselves. You cannot sit in an ivory tower telling people what to do unless you also are willing to wash dishes, get your feet wet, roll up your sleeves, and do discipleship and teaching and preaching, and serve too. John the Baptist has a question. Is this the Christ, or is he still to come (11:3)? John was now in prison and hearing of all that Jesus was doing (11:2). On the one hand, he was encouraged by the apparent fulfillment of so many prophecies, but on the other hand, John’s suffering and the lack of an immediate and total kingdom establishment may have led John to wonder what was...

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February 1, 2017: I Have Not Come to Bring Peace

Today’s Bible Reading: Exodus 1-3, Psalm 24, Matthew 10:21-42, Acts 15:22-41 Matthew 10:21-42: A passage of stern warnings, but given with strong reasons not to fear nonetheless. First of all, Jesus is a realist. “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master” (10:24). If they treated Jesus like this, then surely we should not expect that they will treat us any better. Not for Jesus the saccharine sentimentality of the “everything is always going to get better.” Nor for Jesus the fake kind of religiosity which says that Christ’s goal was to bring peace on earth in a worldly or human sense. No, that is not at all the case. Think of how they treated Jesus. Expect then, disciple, that your life will not always be treated well. How could it be? Well, given this stern warning, we would naturally feel some temerity—in which case, Jesus then brings in reasons not to...

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