All posts by Gordon Nesbitt

Matthew 21

Matthew 21

Matthew 21:8-9 NIV

[8] A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. [9] 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

[12] 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. [13] “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

[21] 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. [22] 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. 

Matthew 20

Matthew 20

The parable of the landowner. 

Matthew 20:15-16 NIV

[15] Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ [16] “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

[34] 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

Matthew 19

Matthew 19:21 NIV

[21] 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

[24] 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.” [25] When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” [26] Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Matthew 19:26 NIV

[26] 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

[28] 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. [29] 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

Matthew 18

Matthew 18:2-5 NIV

[2] He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. [3] And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. [4] Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. [5] 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

Matthew 17

Matthew 17:7 NIV

[7] 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

[20] 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. 

Mathew 16

Matthew 16

Matthew 16:15-17 NIV

[15] “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” [16] Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” [17] 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

[22] Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” [23] 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

Matthew 15

Matthew 15:7-9 NIV

[7] You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: [8] “ ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. [9] 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

[16] “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

[22] 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.” [23] 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.” [24] He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” [25] The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. [26] He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” [27] “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” [28] 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?

Matthew 14

Matthew 14

Matthew 14:10-12 NIV

[10] and had John beheaded in the prison. [11] His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother. [12] John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.

Normally the eldest son would bury someone who died, but John’s disciples fulfill this role for him. Later on we see the Jesus’ disciples fail to fulfill this act for Jesus.   Would you have taken the risk of asking for Jesus’ body?

Matthew 14:13-14 NIV

[13] When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. [14] When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

Jesus withdrew to deal with his grief alone. There are times when it is good to be alone in our grief and times when we need to be with others. We need to allow others to grieve in ways that feel right to them and not force what feels right to us on them.   Jesus “had compassion on them.”  He cared about people as he cares about us to this day. How can I “have compassion” on people in the coming days?

Matthew 14:27 NIV

[27] But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

I am trying to imagine how I would react to seeing someone walking across the lake in the early morning hours. The disciples were terrified. Is it more terrifying to experience something supernatural like Jesus walking in water or to know what will happen to those who don’t believe in him?

Matthew 14:28-31 NIV

[28] “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” [29] “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. [30] But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” [31] Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

At first peter shows great faith and does the extraordinary. But, he loses sight of Jesus and begins to falter. How hard it is to persevere against the trials and tribulations of this fallen world when we lose sight of Jesus. By believing we have hope in the promises recorded in the Bible and can rest assured that we will one day live in heaven with god. It is this hope that separates believers from the rest of the world. 

Matthew 12

Matthew 12

Matthew 12:6-8 NIV

[6] I tell you that something greater than the temple is here. [7] If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. [8] For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

The temple was a place for the people to come to God. Jesus is claiming to be greater than the place where God resides and is available to the people. Through belief that Jesus is the Christ, God in the flesh, we have access to the living God and don’t need a priest or a temple as go betweens. 

Matthew 12:32 NIV

[32] Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

The notes in my bible indicate that the unpardonable sin is the deliberate refusal to acknowledge God’s power in Christ. It indicates a deliberate and irreversible hardness of the heart. Similar to the hardening of Pharoahs heart in exodus. 

Matthew 12:39-40 NIV

[39] He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. [40] For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Jesus is foretelling what will happen to him but the people, even the disciples, are looking for a military kingdom and they all miss the prophecy. What am I missing in spite of what I know?

Matthew 12:43-45 NIV

[43] “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, 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 person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”

Being saved is wonderful but if we are not filling ourselves up with God and Jesus we are just waiting for Satan to overcome us. 

Matthew 12:48-50 NIV

[48] He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” [49] Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. [50] For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

If we do the will of God then we are brothers with Christ. 

Matthew 13

Matthew 13

Matthew 13 is filled with parables that have deep meaning for those who delve into it.

Matthew 13:3 NIV

[3] Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed.

The seed is the word of god in the gospel of truth. There are many ways to sow the knowledge of the gospel – living it out, preaching, teaching or leading a bible study, or by sharing your own story with someone.   How can you share the joy of the gospel with someone this week?

Matthew 13:4 NIV

[4] As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.

 

Matthew 13:19 NIV

[19] When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path.

How often do we read or hear things that we don’t understand yet fail to ask questions or search deeper?  Do we go to church on Sunday and hear a sermon yet on Monday can’t remember what was said?  Whose fault is this? The pastor/preacher or yours?

Matthew 13:5,20-21 NIV

[5] Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 

[6] But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. [22] The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.

[20] The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. [21] But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.

Many people are willing to accept Christ when good things are happening but when bad times happen they are like Job’s wife who said “you should curse God and die.”  Jesus does not promise us an easy life. In fact Nero used many early Christians as torches setting them on fire to light the way into Rome.  Here in the US people might make fun of us or think badly of us for being believers but in many parts of the world believers are imprisoned, tortured and killed for following Christ. I wish my faith was as strong as these believers. 

Matthew 13:7,22 NIV

[7] Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. [22] The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.

One of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is peace. When we worry we don’t have peace. If we have faith that God has a plan for us then we don’t need to worry and we can have peace. 

Interesting interpretation here: “the deceitfulness of wealth.”  As I am writing this someone has won $1.6 billion in the lottery. Too many lottery winners end up broke and down on their luck or worse. We say “if only” rather than being thankful for what we have. There is always the illusion that if we just had a little more then things would be better. 

Matthew 13:8-9,23 NIV

[8] Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. [9] Whoever has ears, let them hear.” [23] But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

That big jump between hearing the word and understanding it. As a former pastor used to say “where the rubber hits the road!  We don’t truly understand scripture until it becomes woven into our daily life. Are we living out scripture? Does anyone see Christ through what we do?  If we truly understand and put it into action then we will be making disciples of all the nations.