Jesus and His Kingdom

The Sermon of the Beatitudes

The Sermon of the Beatitudes (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Matthew 4:23–5:2 (ESV)

23 And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. 24 So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them. 25 And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.

1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

Parallel Text: Luke 6:17-19

Understanding and Applying the Word

This passage marks the beginning of what is often referred to as “The Sermon on the Mount.” Jesus’ fame had spread, he had been preaching, performing miracles, and calling disciples to himself. Now, in a long sermon, Jesus the Messiah tells the people what will define his kingdom. The people had been waiting all of these years for the Messiah to come. They were about to find out that the kingdom that Jesus was establishing was far different than what they were expecting.

Many people want Jesus if they can have him on their own terms. However, that is not how we enter the kingdom of God. We must come humbly, acknowledging our sins and need of forgiveness. We must cast ourselves at the Savior’s feet and trust in him to save us, as only he can. And we must turn our lives over to him. He is Lord and he intends to completely change our lives from the inside out. The kingdom is one of holiness and righteousness and love for God and our neighbor. Come hear the words of the Lord!

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Choosing Twelve

Ordaining of the Twelve Apostles

Ordaining of the Twelve Apostles (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Mark 3:13–19 (ESV)

13 And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons. 16 He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17 James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); 18 Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

Parallel Text: Luke 6:12-16

Understanding and Applying the Word

So far, throughout Jesus’ ministry in Israel, he has been rejected by the Jewish leadership. Now Jesus chooses twelve men that will go out to the people and proclaim the message of the kingdom to the people. The number twelve represents the number of tribes in Israel. The apostles are chosen as replacements by Jesus for the failed religious leaders that were already in place. Jesus’ rejection of the established Jewish leadership is a major theme in the Gospel accounts.

Jesus did not reject Israel. To the contrary, he staked his claim on Israel by selecting and empowering twelve apostles to go throughout the nation and preach his word. Jesus will later send the Apostle Paul to the Gentiles showing that he also came for non-Jews. Jesus may have been rejected by many, but his arms are open to all who will turn to him, no matter place of origin. And his authority is not subject to the leadership of this world, no matter how great the resistance.

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In the Face of Opposition

The Pharisees Question Jesus

The Pharisees Question Jesus (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Matthew 12:15–21 (ESV)

15 Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed him, and he healed them all 16 and ordered them not to make him known. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah:

18 “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
19 He will not quarrel or cry aloud,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets;
20 a bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory;
21 and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”

Parallel Text: Mark 3:7-12

Understanding and Applying the Word

As Jesus has been moving around, teaching, and performing miracles before the people, two things have happened. First, He has become more and more popular. And second, he has met greater and greater resistance from the Jewish religious establishment. We saw in yesterday’s reading that the Pharisees wanted to destroy Jesus (Matthew 12:14).

In today’s passage, we are told that Jesus was aware of the desire to kill him, so he left there and went somewhere else. Matthew tells us that this fulfilled the words of Isaiah, who prophesied that the servant of the Lord would have a ministry among the Gentiles (i.e. non-Jews). Mark’s account of these things tells us that Jesus’ crowds were not only coming from Israel, but the land beyond the Jordan, which was predominantly Gentile.

There is much we can learn from Jesus in these verses. The one thing I want us think about is how Jesus handled the opposition because we all have and will face opposition to the gospel message and to living according to God’s word. We are told that Jesus proclaimed the word, but he did not get involved in quarrels and loud arguments. He remained gentle while still speaking the truth. Matthew, quoting Isaiah, said, “He will not quarrel or cry aloud, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets; a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory.”

Jesus preached the word and refused to engage in fruitless arguments with those who did not accept him. Let us be known for our gentleness as we proclaim the word of God in a world that is often at odds with our message. May we guard our tongues, our attitudes, and our social media interactions for the glory of the Lord.

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Doing Good on the Sabbath

The Man with the Withered Hand

The Man with the Withered Hand (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Matthew 12:9–14 (ESV)

9 He went on from there and entered their synagogue. 10 And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse him. 11 He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

Parallel Texts: Mark 3:1-6; Luke 6:6-11

Understanding and Applying the Word

Once again, the religious leaders are looking for a reason to accuse Jesus. In this passage, they are waiting for him to heal someone on the Sabbath. In response to their question, Jesus asks if they would rescue their sheep from a well on the Sabbath if it fell in. Of course they would! Well, if a person is of more value than an animal, why would it be wrong to heal someone on the Sabbath? Then Jesus healed the man with a withered hand. The religious leaders were not happy with Jesus and they sought how to destroy him.

Legalism is a dangerous mindset towards God’s word. Those who live this way may follow the letter of the word, but they often fail at the weightier matters that the law intends to address. What good is it to obey the letter of the law and fail to exercise love and compassion towards others? This is why Jesus said, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice,” in verse 7. Such “obedience” does not please God and can often become an excuse for selfishness and pride. Let us hear the words of Jesus and seek to love our neighbors by doing what is good and right.

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The Lord of the Sabbath

The Disciples Eat Wheat on the Sabbath

The Disciples Eat Wheat on the Sabbath (Public Domain)

Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I do not publish supplemental materials on Sundays, but I do include a suggested Scripture reading. Please be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along each day. We are reading through the life of Christ in 2019.

Reading the Word

Matthew 12:1–8 (ESV)

1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” 3 He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 5 Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? 6 I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. 7 And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

Parallel Texts: Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5

 

From Death to Life

John 524 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 5:1–47 (ESV)

1 After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. 3 In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. 5 One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” 7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” 9 And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.

Now that day was the Sabbath. 10 So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” 11 But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’ ” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. 14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. 16 And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”

18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

19 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. 22 For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

30 “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me. 31 If I alone bear witness about myself, my testimony is not true. 32 There is another who bears witness about me, and I know that the testimony that he bears about me is true. 33 You sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34 Not that the testimony that I receive is from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 He was a burning and shining lamp, and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. 36 But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. 41 I do not receive glory from people. 42 But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Once again we read of Jesus’ confrontation with the religious leaders. This time, they were upset because Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath. When they confronted Jesus, his words were, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” This was blasphemous to the religious leaders. Jesus was claiming equality with God. This deserved death and they sought to kill him.

Jesus went even further. He explained how he and the Father were not opposed to each other, but together. Jesus had the authority to grant life to whomever he chose (verse 21). And it was Jesus who had the authority to judge all people (verse 22). So, if one wanted life rather than judgment, he needed to hear Jesus and believe what he was teaching (verse 24). Jesus’ miracles served as signs that he truly had the authority he spoke of.

Unfortunately, we read that many refused to turn to Jesus that they might have life (verse 40).  Many refused to believe him then and many refuse to believe him now. Jesus came into the world to save sinners by teaching us about God’s great love and grace and then by going to the cross to pay the penalty we all deserve. He has done everything he can to save us, yet many refuse to turn to Christ. May we find renewed wonder at what Christ has done for us, but also may we find a renewed zeal to share the gospel with those who are lost and to pray that their hearts may be open to the word of God.

**Read through the Life of Christ in 2019 by following along with Shaped by the Word. Just subscribe to this page and be sure to read along every day!

I Came Not To Call the Righteous

The Meal in the House of Matthew

The Meal in the House of Matthew (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Mark 2:13–17 (ESV)

13 He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. 14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

15 And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Parallel Texts: Matthew 9:9-13; Luke 5:27-32

Understanding and Applying the Word

In this passage we read that Jesus called a tax collector named Levi (aka Matthew) to come and follow him. This means that Jesus was calling him to be his disciple. Tax collectors were despised by the Jewish people because they collected taxes for the Roman authorities and often collected a dishonest amount. Tax collectors were thought of as traitors and the worst kind of sinners. It would have amazed many and offended others that Jesus would call a tax collector as a disciple and even share a meal with such a scoundrel!

The scribes and Pharisees, religious leaders of the time, were especially ready to condemn such behavior. Jesus’ response to these religious folks is that he had come to save the sick, not the healthy. He had come to call sinners to himself, not the righteous.

What did Jesus mean with his response to the scribes and Pharisees? The religious leaders were self-righteous and looked down on the sins of others, while ignoring or denying their own sin. The tax collectors and sinners were listening to Jesus preach about repentance and forgiveness of sin and they were responding to Jesus’ message. The religious leaders did not feel a need for such a response of their own. They were righteous already, in their own minds. So, Jesus’ response is one of condemnation towards the scribes and Pharisees. They too needed to understand their own sinfulness and respond to the message of repentance that Jesus was preaching.

Jesus’ message is still the same today. All of us are sinners and need forgiveness. When we repent of our sin and call on Christ to forgive us, he will. Take a moment and call out to him now.

**Read through the Life of Christ in 2019 by following along with Shaped by the Word. Just subscribe to this page and be sure to read along every day!

Authority to Forgive Sins

The Man Let Down through the Roof

The Man Let Down through the Roof (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Mark 2:1–12 (ESV)

1 And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. 3 And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4 And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

Parallel Texts: Matthew 9:1-8; Luke 5:17-26

Understanding and Applying the Word

When Jesus returned to Capernaum, word got out that he was home. Many showed up to see and hear him. One group went taking a man who was paralyzed. They wanted Jesus to heal him. When they could not get to Jesus because of the crowd, they made a hole through the roof and lowered the man down to Jesus. They would not be stopped!

The determination of these men was a reflection of their faith in Jesus. When Jesus saw this, he declared, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” This proclamation did not sit well with the scribes, who were also in attendance. They wondered how Jesus could claim to forgive sins. After all, only God had that authority! So to address their questions, Jesus performed a miracle to show he had the authority to forgive sins. He told the paralytic to “rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And the man did so.

Jesus’ miracle showed that his words of forgiveness were not just words, but were backed with authority and power. Jesus would tell the people that they too could have their sins forgiven and be reconciled to God. All they had to do was trust in him. All who would believe Jesus and trust in him would find forgiveness and eternal life. Later, Jesus went to the cross as a sacrifice for sin and then rose from the dead victorious over sin and death, once again proving that he had all power and authority to do all that he had said.

**Read through the Life of Christ in 2019 by following along with Shaped by the Word. Just subscribe to this page and be sure to read along every day!

From Unclean to Clean

Healing of the Lepers at Capernaum

Healing of the Lepers at Capernaum (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Mark 1:40–45 (ESV)

40 And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, 44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” 45 But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.

Parallel Texts: Matthew 8:2-4; Luke 5:12-16

Understanding and Applying the Word

As Jesus continued to grow in popularity because of his ability to perform signs, a man went to him to be healed of leprosy. The man begged Jesus to heal him, saying, “If you will, you can make me clean.” He had no doubt that Jesus could heal him, but would Jesus do it? We read that Jesus was moved with pity, reached out and touched him, and healed him.

Afterward, Jesus instructed the man to tell no one of what had happened, but to go to the priest to go through what is outlined in Leviticus 14:1-20 for cases of leprosy. The man was so excited about what had taken place, he went out and spoke freely about it. This caused Jesus’ growing fame to become even greater as people rushed out to see him.

Leprosy was a term used for many skin diseases in the Ancient Near East. One who had leprosy was isolated from the community and labeled “unclean.” There were strict laws concerning leprosy, including laws about what happened when one came into contact with a leprous person. If a “clean” person touched a person with leprosy, the clean person also became unclean out of fear of spreading the disease. However, when Jesus touched this man, Jesus did not become unclean. The man with leprosy became clean. This is such an amazing thing to understand. Jesus has the power to make the unclean clean! This is what he does for every sinner who will call on him in faith. He removes the stain of sin from our lives and presents us before the Father as spotless and clean.

**Read through the Life of Christ in 2019 by following along with Shaped by the Word. Just subscribe to this page and be sure to read along every day!

Time Alone

Bible Study Woman

Reading the Word

Luke 4:42–44 (ESV)

42 And when it was day, he departed and went into a desolate place. And the people sought him and came to him, and would have kept him from leaving them, 43 but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” 44 And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea.

Parallel Text: Mark 1:35-39

Understanding and Applying the Word

With the word of Jesus’ ability to heal and perform miracles spreading, the people have been flooding to him and bringing those who are in need of healing. Even in the midst of the people’s needs, Jesus is sure to care for his own needs as well. We are told that he withdrew to a desolate place. Mark’s account tells us that the reason was to spend time in prayer.

It can be easy to pour everything you have into serving and helping others. However, there is also a very real need to take care of your own needs, which include spiritual needs. Jesus took time to himself to spend in prayer with the Father. We need to learn from his example and make time to spend in private devotion and prayer of our own, so that we can continue to find the nourishment we need, which will enable us to serve others in an even greater way.

**Read through the Life of Christ in 2019 by following along with Shaped by the Word. Just subscribe to this page and be sure to read along every day!