Matthew 24:4-8 NIV
 Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you.  For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many.  You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.  Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these are the beginning of birth pains.
From these verses it sure seems like the end of times are here but theses things have been happening since Jesus’ death. In fact, statistics show the generally the world is the most peaceful it has ever been. I was approached I Boston by some young men who told me that Christ has indeed risen again and was a Korean man. I remembered verse 4 & 5 and ended the conversation there. I later did an internet search and there is indeed a movement claiming that this man is Jesus come back to earth. It is unfortunate that many are deceived in this way by this man and others who also claim to be the Messiah come back to earth. How easily we are led astray.
Matthew 24:9 NIV
 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.
Christians around the world are facing this type of persecution. How lucky we are that we currently live in a nation that does not persecute believers in this way.
Matthew 23:11-12 NIV
 The greatest among you will be your servant.  For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
The Bible mentions in many places that we should be humble and serve others. The latest style of leadership, “Servant Leadership,” probably comes from this. This is the opposite of Western culture where meek is seen as weak and few are humble. Yet Jesus humbled himself so much that he died a criminals death on the cross to redeem us from our sins.
Matthew 23:23 NIV
 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.
It seems like many in society today are also neglecting justice, mercy, and faithfulness.
Matthew 23:28 NIV
 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.
Beware those that pretend to be followers of Christ but are not filled with his love.
Matthew 21:8-9 NIV
 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.  The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
The people welcome the king and are excited. Days later the crowd will be begging Pilate to crucify the one they are now cheering for. How fickle we are when things don’t meet our desires. The people wanted a military king to throw off the yoke of Roman oppression. When Jesus did not meet this expectation the crowd turned on him. This was done so that scripture would be fulfilled and the lamb sacrificed for the forgiveness for everyone.
Matthew 21:12-13 NIV
 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.  “It is written,” he said to them, “ ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’ ”
What have we turned God’s house of worship into? In the book “The Heavenly Man,” the author,a Chinese pastor who has faced great persecution but also seen fantastic miracles, marvels at the size of churches in the west. His comment is that we spend so much money on buildings where in China they meet in houses and spend what little money they have on bibles and equipping missionaries. Maybe we ought to rethink our priorities.
Matthew 21:21-22 NIV
 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.  If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
Sermons discussing these versus sometimes focus on the mountains that we are facing and how prayer can help us overcome the mountains. I am struck by the planeness of it and the thought that I either don’t have enough faith or I have too much doubt. I continue to pray for healing for the afflicted and for hearts of stone to be broken and hope that my little faith is enough. I have also read that bringing just one heart to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior is more of a miracle than moving many mountains.
The parable of the landowner.
Matthew 20:15-16 NIV
 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’  “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
It is easy to be jealous of others. There is always someone that has more or bigger or newer. On the other hand there will always be someone that has less. In the parable of the land owner we see people that are angry because those that don’t believe as long and aren’t as involved with the church get the same grace. We should be glad that they are saved and will be with us in heaven. I read somewhere that being able to bring someone to Christ is the biggest miracle that we are ever likely to see.
Matthew 20:34 NIV
 Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.
The first part of this verse sums up one the reasons I am a believer; “Jesus had compassion on them…”. And we are to do likewise. Jesus had compassion for the marginalized. And we are called to do likewise. Who is in the marginalized that would say you had compassion on them?
Matthew 19:21 NIV
 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
The rich young man could not let go of his wealth to follow Jesus. What are we afraid to give up in order to follow Jesus?
Matthew 19:24-26 NIV
 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”  When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”  Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Matthew 19:26 NIV
 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
With God all things are possible. How are we limiting God? What are we thinking is impossible and therefore limiting God and ourselves?
Matthew 19:28-29 NIV
 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.
This promise, and many others, give us hope that there is something better. This reminds me of the story of the woman who wanted to buried with a fork. A church functions they always reminded people to keep their fork after the meal because something better was coming.
Matthew 18:2-5 NIV
 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them.  And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
Watching my grandchildren grow I get to see how curious and trusting they are. My grandson climbs everything and just that’s that someone will be there to catch him when he falls. Too bad that many people lose that wonder and trust in God and become jaded and cynical. No wonder we get stuck in religion with its rules and intolerance and forget the love and mercy shown us by the gift of the baby Jesus.
The parable of the unforgiving debtor
In Matthew 18-23:35 Jesus tells a parable about a servant who owes him a tremendous debt which the king forgives. The servant then goes and has another servant who owes him a little debt thrown in jail because of this tiny debt. We are like this unforgiving servant when we don’t forgive those that wrong us. God has forgiven our debt of sin, which we could never hope to redeem, and we cannot forgive the tiny sins against us.
Matthew 17:7 NIV
 But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.”
There are many instances in the Bible where people are told not to be afraid. If we truly have faith in God, and hope in the resurrection, then there should be nothing to fear. And yet, I still fear and worry.
Matthew 17:20 NIV
 He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
At least I am in good company as it appears that the disciples were lacking faith as well.
Matthew 16:15-17 NIV
 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”  Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.
There is no confusion in this text, Jesus is indicating that he indeed is the Son of God. Unbelievers May say that Jesus never proclaimed that he is the Son of God but it is clear here that he is affirming that Peter is correct in saying this. The one question we will all face is whether we believe that Jesus is the Son of God.
Matthew 16:22-23 NIV
 Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”  Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
Peter is praises for recognizing that Jesus is the Son of God and then is rebuked when he tells Jesus that he won’t fulfill his purpose. As Satan tempted Jesus early in his ministry, he is tempting him again with not having to suffer.
Matthew 15:7-9 NIV
 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:  “ ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.  They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules. ‘
How many people attend church but don’t actually connect with God? They go to church on Sunday but are far from God the rest of the week. Jesus tells us to love our enemies but our hearts are filled with hate and fear. We don’t welcome strangers in we lock them out and keep them away.
Matthew 15:16 NIV
 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them.
The disciples spent roughly three years with Jesus but were still clueless about the bees for him to be crucified. I have spent years listening to sermons and studying the Bible and I feel just as clueless about what god really wants from me. A friend recommended the book God Is Stranger: Finding God in Unexpected Places by Krish Kandiah which talks about the passages in the Bible that seem really strange and I am really thinking long and hard about what it means to be in relationship with god.
Matthew 15:22-28 NIV
 A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.”  Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”  He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”  The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said.  He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”  “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”  Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.
The disciples show no compassion for the woman asking Jesus to send her away. At first it seems that Jesus will do just that. But, the woman has the audacity to rebuke Jesus’ statements and he responds by saying what great faith she has. He ultimately has compassion on her. During these times when so many are trying to enter the US illegally should we be showing compassion? During this tome of thanksgiving should we show more compassion to those less fortunate?