The Heavens Will Be Shaken

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Reading the Word

Matthew 24:29–31 (ESV)

29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

Parallel Texts: Mark 13:24-27; Luke 21:25-28

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus described what it will be like when he returns. The heavens will be shaken and when the Son of Man appears in power and glory, the nations will mourn. Why will they mourn? The world will realize that the gospel that has been proclaimed and denied is true and that the opportunity for salvation has passed. Jesus will send out his angels to gather those who are his.

We must realize that time is running out. As Christians, we have to understand the urgency in preaching the message of salvation and the coming kingdom. Our families’, friends’, and neighbors’ eternities depend on hearing the gospel from us. If you do not know the Lord, today is the day to reconcile with God while there is still opportunity. He sent his Son to pay the price for our sin. We must repent and turn to Christ for forgiveness and life. God has shown us his love and grace in Christ. Turn to him today.

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A Wedding Feast

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Reading the Word

Matthew 22:1–14 (ESV)

1 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.” ’ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Parallel Text: Luke 14:15-24

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus continues to address the religious leaders in this parable. Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a wedding feast where a king has sent out invitations, but the guests would not come. Instead, the guests killed the servants of the king who had been sent to remind them of the feast. In response to such wickedness, the king sent troops to destroy the murderers and he also sent other servants to gather other gusts, both bad and good, who would come to the feast. The wedding hall was filled. When the king saw his guests that were gathered, he noticed that one had come with no wedding garment. He had failed to properly prepare for the occasion and was cast out of the wedding feast into the darkness.

The Parable of the Tenants (yesterday’s reading) focused on the failure of the religious leadership in Israel. This parable, the Parable of the Wedding Feast, continues the same theme, but addresses more broadly the lack of response to God’s word from the whole nation. God, in his grace and abundant love, had chosen Israel as his own and had invited them into communion with him. The people had rejected God’s grace and gone their own way. They had even killed some of the prophets who had been sent by God and would soon kill the Son.

The privileged position that Israel had once occupied as the people of God was coming to an end. God’s plan would now include people both bad and good. All who responded to the word of God, whether Jew or Gentile, would enter into the kingdom. However, there is proper attire for the kingdom. One does not enter in any way they might want. It is only through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ that one can truly be a part of the wedding feast. All others will be cast out into the darkness.

There is a great deal to think about in this parable, but the primary message is clear. God has graciously invited all, whether bad or good, to be a part of the kingdom of heaven. We accept the invitation by turning to Jesus for forgiveness of our sin and trusting him for our future hope. There is no other way into this feast.

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The Resurrection and the Life

John 1125–26 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

John 11:17–27 (ESV)

17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

By the time Jesus arrived, Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Jewish custom was to bury the dead on the same day the person died. We were told in yesterday’s reading that Jesus waited two days before he set out to go to Lazarus. The reason for the delay and the mention of Lazarus having been in the tomb for four days seems to be in order to make the upcoming miracle unquestionable. There would be no way to say that Lazarus was only sleeping or not really dead.

As Jesus arrived in the area, Martha rushed to meet him. Her words tell us that she believed Jesus could have saved Lazarus had he been there sooner. Jesus told her that Lazarus would rise, but Martha assumed he meant in the last days when all believers would rise. Jesus had something more immediate in mind and replied to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”

“Do you believe this?” These are the concluding words of Jesus to Martha and they are the words that we must answer as well. Jesus promises resurrection and eternal life to all who believe in him. Do you believe? Jesus went on to raise a man from his tomb who had been dead for four days to prove that he had the power to fulfill his promises. Yet, his greatest miracle was still to come. Soon Jesus would be in the tomb after being put to death on a cross and, on the third day, he would rise from the dead. The One who promises resurrection to all who believe is the resurrected One who has power over death and the authority to give life. Do you believe?

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When You Do Not See Results

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Reading the Word

John 10:40–42 (ESV)

40 He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. 41 And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” 42 And many believed in him there.

Understanding and Applying the Word

Have you ever felt like your service to the Lord was accomplishing nothing? Perhaps you have shared the gospel with many people, but have not known any who have actually come to trust in Jesus.

When Jesus escaped the people who wanted to seize him (see yesterday’s post), he went across the Jordan to where John the Baptist had ministered. John’s ministry took place before Jesus’ and he served as a forerunner to tell people of the coming Messiah. However, many did not believe John. Then he was arrested and later killed. When Jesus arrived, the people saw that everything that John had told them was true. As a result, many believed in Jesus. John never saw the fruit of his labor, but his faithfulness had a profound impact on the lives of many.

We too must remember that God has called us to be faithful to proclaim the Good News. We may not see the results, but we may be laying a foundation for someone else to continue building. Let us not lose heart, but instead let us pray for those who need the Lord and continue to trust in the One who gives new life.

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A Man Willing To Give It All Back

Luke 1910 [widescreen]

Reading the Word

Luke 19:1–10 (ESV)

1 He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

If you grew up going to church, you are probably familiar with this story. You may have even learned a catchy little song about this incident. Zacchaeus was a tax collector. They were despised by the Jewish people and thought of as traitors and thieves. They both worked for the Romans and cheated their own people out of money to line their own pockets. This is why we often read of the “tax collectors and sinners” listed together. They were thought of as the lowest of the low.

Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowds. To get a better view, he climbed a tree. While he was in his tree, Jesus passed by and called up to Zacchaeus to climb down because he desired to go to his house with him. Zacchaeus immediately got down and welcomed Jesus. Of course, many grumbled that Jesus would spend time with someone so unworthy!

When Zacchaeus came to face to face with Jesus, he promised to give back all of the money he had cheated from people and to give back four times what he had taken! In response to Zacchaeus’ words and willingness to do what was right, Jesus declared, “Today salvation has come to this house.”

This account comes after a series of passages where Jesus addresses money, possessions, and coveting. In the previous chapter (cf. Luke 18:18-30), we read of the rich young ruler who was unwilling to give up his possessions to gain eternal life. Zacchaeus serves as the contrast to that mindset. Zacchaeus was willing to give up all that he had to receive what truly mattered: salvation and eternal life. Through his words and actions, Zacchaeus showed where his heart was and what he truly valued. He desired Jesus and the things of God. He wanted to do what was right and turn from what was wrong. In short, he was repentant and trusting in the words of Jesus and it changed his life.

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Are You Ready?

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Reading the Word

Luke 17:22–37 (ESV)

22 And he said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. 23 And they will say to you, ‘Look, there!’ or ‘Look, here!’ Do not go out or follow them. 24 For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. 25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. 26 Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. 27 They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, 29 but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all— 30 so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. 32 Remember Lot’s wife. 33 Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. 34 I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. 35 There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.” 37 And they said to him, “Where, Lord?” He said to them, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus told his disciples that a day was coming when he would not be with them, but they would long to see him again. However, he warns them not to believe false teachers who claim that Jesus had returned in a secret or hidden way. His return will be known and visible to all, just as lightning that lights up the sky.

Jesus’ return will be open and known, but it will come suddenly and unexpectedly. Just as in Noah’s day before the floods came, the people of the earth were living life as usual and suddenly they were swept away. In Lot’s day, they were going about their normal lives until fire and sulfur destroyed them all. At Jesus’ return, it will catch many unprepared. Two will be in bed. One will be taken and one left. Two will be grinding at the mill. One will be taken and the other left.

The point of Jesus’ teaching here is to teach us that we must be prepared for Jesus’ return. He could return at any moment and when he does, some will be ready and others will not. We ready ourselves by repenting of our sin and trusting in Jesus Christ, the one who died as a sacrifice for sin and rose again victorious over death. When we repent and trust in Jesus our sins are forgiven, we are reconciled to God by grace, and we are promised eternal life in the presence of our Lord and gathered with the people of God.

Are you ready? What if Jesus returned today?

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The Kingdom through Jesus

The Pharisees Question Jesus

The Pharisees Question Jesus (Public Domain)

Reading the Word

Luke 17:20–21 (ESV)

20 Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

The Pharisees asked Jesus when the kingdom would come. His response was that the kingdom was not coming in a visual way, as they were expecting. The were likely expecting some type of apocalyptic events surrounding the kingdom’s arrival. Instead, Jesus said, “[T]he kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”

The phrase “the kingdom of God is in the midst of you” can also be translated “is within you.” If you compare the most popular Bible translations you will find both translations represented. What did Jesus mean by this statement? Some take the phrase “is within you” to mean that the kingdom is within your heart. However, that makes no sense since Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees who have rejected him. They do not have the kingdom within their hearts. Also, nowhere in the rest of Scripture is the kingdom spoken of as something that is internalized. It seems better to translate the phrase as “in the midst of you.” In this sense, Jesus is saying that the kingdom has come and is present in his teaching and works. Jesus made the same point in Luke 11:20.

By telling the Pharisees that the kingdom had arrived with his coming, Jesus was emphasizing that belonging to the kingdom would be dependent on how one responded to him. Would the Pharisees accept Jesus or would they continue to reject and resist him? We have the same choice before us today. Jesus presents the kingdom to all who will repent and believe. What will we do?

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Seeking a Lost Coin

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Reading the Word

Luke 15:8–10 (ESV)

8 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? 9 And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

In Luke 15, Jesus presents three parables that are addressed to the scribes and Pharisees (see Luke 15:1-3). These religious leaders were calling into question why Jesus would spend his time with undeserving “tax collectors and sinners.” If Jesus was truly the Messiah, he should only be giving his time to the righteous!

The first parable was about a lost sheep and taught the Pharisees that every sheep is important to the shepherd. God, of course, is represented by the shepherd and the people (tax collectors, sinners, scribes, and Pharisees) are the lost sheep. Heaven rejoices when one of the lost is found.

The parable in today’s passage is about a lost coin. The woman searches diligently until she finds the coin and then she rejoices. While this parable is similar to the one about the lost sheep, the emphasis is different. The parable of the sheep was on the value of every sheep. The parable of the coin focuses us on the nature of the search. The woman, who represents God, searched diligently. In the same way, the Lord searches out those who are lost and rejoices when they are found.

In these opening parable of Luke 15 we learn that God values every lost person and that he desires every one to come to repentance, including the tax collectors and sinners and scribes and Pharisees. He also cares about you and me. If you have not already, will you turn to Christ in repentance today? Heaven will celebrate when you do!

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The King’s Feast

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Reading the Word

Matthew 22:1–14 (ESV)

1 And again Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying, 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, 3 and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.” ’ 5 But they paid no attention and went off, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his servants, treated them shamefully, and killed them. 7 The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10 And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 “But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Today’s passage shares some similarities with yesterday’s reading from Luke 14:15-24. Both parables speak of a host inviting guests to a celebration and both describe guests who are unwilling to come. In Luke, the reason some declined their invitation was because they had misplaced priorities. In Matthew, the rejections are much more aggressive, even resulting in the death of some of the king’s servants. In response, the king sent his armies to destroy the murderers and also invited others to fill his wedding feast. The king’s orders to gather other guests included both the “good and the bad.” This may be a reference to God’s kingdom invitation to both sinner and religious leader. At the feast, the king notices someone not dressed in proper attire and has him removed from the party.

This parable, as in Luke, deals with God’s invitation to mankind to enter into his kingdom. Matthew’s parable teaches us those who reject the Lord’s invitation do so in rebellion and will be judged for their response to the gospel. We also learn that entrance into the kingdom is on God’s terms, not our own. We must be in the proper attire.

God, in his love and grace, has invited us all to be a part of his kingdom. There is one, and only one, way we can do that. We must repent of our sins and turn to Jesus Christ in faith, believing that his sacrificial death paid the price for our sins and that his resurrection is the assurance that we have eternal life through him. What will you do with God’s invitation?

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A Banquet Invitation

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Reading the Word

Luke 14:15–24 (ESV)

15 When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” 16 But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17 And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ 20 And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’ ”

Understanding and Applying the Word

Jesus told another parable concerning the kingdom of God. He compared it to a banquet where those who were invited put other things as priorities over being a part of the party. One had to check on his field, another had to inspect the oxen he just purchased, and another was just married. The master of the house then instructed his servants to go to the “streets and lanes of the city” and invite the poor and crippled and blind and lame. When the banquet was still not full, the servants were sent to gather others from the “highways and hedges” until the house was filled.

The point of Jesus’ parable is that those who prioritize other things over the kingdom and the invitation to enter, they are not worthy to be a part. God’s kingdom is not for only the Jewish religious leaders, but will include the outcasts of society (i.e. the poor and crippled and blind and lame) and also non-Jews from outside the city on the highways and hedges. God’s kingdom will be full of those who understand its value and place it above all other things.

Is there anything that is keeping you from responding to the invitation to be a part of the kingdom? Jesus says that we must “repent, for the kingdom is at hand.” Do not let the things of this world distract you from the most important thing.

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