“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”
DAY 31: AUGUST 22
MATTHEW 13 – MARK 6:56
Still can’t shake the feeling that we’ve gone from dark woods into a bright clearing, now that we’ve left the Old Testament behind and are in the new one. Don’t get me wrong – I love the OT. I love everything that has God’s Word in it. But there’s a whole different feeling in the New Testament compared to the old. Maybe it’s just because Jesus is in the building and gives God a reason to be happy for a while. Poor God! He gives us everything, and we still let him down! We should be grateful that at least Jesus gets it right: “Here is my beloved son, in whom I am well-pleased…. Listen to him.”
I’m going to do the reflections slightly differently for the last ten days of our read-through. The material is just too all-over-the-map to do a summary and it also repeats (in the Gospels). So instead of doing an overall impression, I’ll be cherry-picking chapters and verses here and there from the readings and doing a commentary on them. My focus will remain highlighting scripture that will be useful for us in the difficult months to come.
- The reading starts with the parable of the seeds. We’re all in that parable, whether we want to see ourselves in it or not. There are four options of who we could be. We’re either 1) the ones who have no time for God’s Word at all, or 2) the ones who accept God’s Word until it tries to push us past our comfort zone and then we let it go, or 3) the ones who would love to spend more time getting to know God and Jesus and putting the Word to work in our lives, but we’re just so slammed by our jobs and studies and family obligations and other things that keep getting in the way, that all we have time for is an hour on Sunday (though maybe not every Sunday….), or 4) the ones who give everything we’ve got to God, making mistakes and falling down but getting back up and keeping on going, and doing our best to do what’s right in God’s eyes, regardless of the personal cost.
- We’re all one of those four options. Let’s hope we’re the fourth one, and if we’re not, let’s aim to be the fourth. Because if you don’t give God and Jesus everything you have now, you’re not going to make it through the months and years to come. That’s just a spiritual fact of life that we all need to face and get right, before it’s too late.
- Jesus’ rejection in Nazareth must have been hard for him. These were people he grew up with and had lived among until he’d started his ministry work. His family was there, too. In fact, he was so familiar to these people, that they were blinded by him being the son of Mary and Joseph and couldn’t conceive that he just might also be the son of God. Their inability to make that leap of faith meant that Jesus could not do much beyond heal a few of them. The greater the faith, the greater the miracle.
- Is your faith strong enough for God to work through? If you suspect it might not be, you need to build your faith. How do you do that? The same way you build your muscles. Step out in faith, and your faith muscles get exercised and grow bigger. Wait for the witness of your eyes to confirm something, and your faith muscles will shrink and grow flabby. I don’t know about you, but I want to be spiritually buff and have six-pack faith abs, like Jesus. We can all have those. We just have to work our spiritual muscles whenever and wherever we can by doing what is right in God’s eyes, not necessarily in ours.
- The next sections of our reading today form a parade of miracles showing that Jesus was anything but just another prophet. He even outdid the miracles performed by Elijah and Moses, feeding thousands from just a few loaves and fishes and walking on top of the sea rather than having to part it to walk on dry land. I always find it amusing when unbelievers or even so-called Christians try to find a scientific basis for the miracles – that is, they try to explain the supernatural by using laws of nature. It can’t be done. These were miracles – they were beyond the laws of nature.
- The supernatural realm is the one that God operates in. He can also move things naturally, but moving them supernaturally is his specialty. Everything done supernaturally is done by his power and permission, and nothing can be done supernaturally without his power and permission. All supernatural beings are under his control, and every supernatural act that occurs on Earth has God as its source. The supernatural power may go through different beings (including humans), but there is only one source: God.
- I’ve had so many miracles happen in my own life that I’ve lost count. The biggest one, of course, was my spiritual rebirth. After I was born-again, God took me on a tour of my life and showed me all the things that had happened to me over the years that I couldn’t explain, and he said to me “I did that”. It all made sense then. Without knowing God, life on Earth doesn’t make much sense. We try to cobble together meanings, but they eventually contradict one another or fail to explain something altogether. When you know God, everything clicks into place. He is the one thread that you pull to unravel all of life’s mysteries.
- Poor Peter! He was the first of the disciples to be called by Jesus, and also the most headstrong. He assumed a kind of co-pilot position with Jesus, not only because of his strong personality and the fact that he was the first to be called, but also because Jesus was grooming him to take on the leadership role. Peter did, in fact, become the leader after Jesus went home to Heaven. In this reading, we see Jesus, in one verse, commending Peter for knowing by God’s grace that he was the Messiah, and then in the next verse, chewing Peter out for “thinking as man thinks, not as God thinks”. Peter was being groomed to lead, and leaders have a tougher training regime than non-leaders. Think about that the next time you’re going through something you know is straight from God. “Those to whom more is given, more will be expected.”
- The parable of the rich young ruler continues our theme today of what it takes and what it costs to be a genuine follower of Jesus. You need to follow the Commandments, yes. You need to treat others as you want to be treated, yes. You need to love your enemies, yes. But you also need to be willing to walk away from everything and everyone you love, cherish and value and not look back. This is the one that makes most Christians squirm and go “but, but, but”, like the rich young ruler.
- It’s all well and good to say “I’m a Christian”, when the only thing that demarcates you from everyone else in the world is that you wear a cross or go to church on Sunday. I’m not telling you that you need to be willing to leave everything and everyone you love; JESUS is telling you that you need to be willing to leave everything and everyone you love, including your spouse and kids. All the disciples left their jobs and houses and families when they were called to follow Jesus. Following Jesus became their full-time occupation. In fact, it was a training time for them, so that when Jesus went home to Heaven, they could take his place and teach others how to follow him. If you’re not either full-time following Jesus or full-time teaching others how to follow Jesus, you need to realign your priorities or you’ll be stuck in the same hole as the rich young ruler.
- Jesus’ take on marriage, divorce, and adultery is crystal clear. Even so, I have heard preachers defend divorce and remarriage (while the divorced spouse is still alive) by changing the meaning of the terms. Jesus says that fornication is the sole grounds for divorce (an example of this is when his mother fell pregnant prior to the consummation of her marriage). No other reason is considered justified in God’s eyes. And yet, most allegedly Christian households are now remarriages with the divorced spouses still alive. This goes 100% against Jesus’ teachings on marriage and divorce.
- If you’re in a situation where you’re living in violation of Jesus’ teachings, you need to take a good hard look at your priorities. You need to consider whether you’re going to continue violating those teachings or do the right thing and follow Jesus’ advice. It’s up to you, but doing the right thing and following Jesus is obviously the better choice. Jesus says those who love husband or wife more than they love him are not worthy of him. Those who are not worthy of him won’t have a shot at Heaven. If you’re in this situation, please choose Jesus. Now is not the time to put things off until later.
- The parable of the two sons is the story of most born-again believers. We said no to God at first, but were reborn and have since said yes, whereas many who were “born into the faith” said yes as a matter of course, but ended up doing nothing beyond showing up in church every now and then. That’s not to say that all those who grew up as Christians fell away, but many did, and the rest tend only to do the bare minimum (church once a week). It’s the born-agains who started out a mess, but who then ended up saying yes and continue to say yes. That’s the main reason why Jesus said you need to be born-again to enter the Kingdom. If you’re not born-again, Christianity doesn’t make much sense beyond being nice to people (and you don’t need to be a Christian to be nice to people).
- The marriage dinner of the king, with the invited guests who made excuses, one after the other, of why they couldn’t attend, continues our theme today. What excuse have you made not to do what’s right in God’s eyes, not to give up everything you have in order to follow Jesus? We’ve all made excuses. I don’t stand here separate from you; I’ve made excuses, too. But it’s not what we’ve done before; it’s what we’re willing to do now, knowing what’s right.
- “Many are called; few are chosen.” If you’ve been called (and if you’re reading this, you likely have been), then you need to be doing everything in your power to be chosen. It’s not enough to be called; you also need to be chosen. The guy who got into the wedding feast but wasn’t wearing the right robe got the boot. You can call yourself a Christian and do “Christian things” (like go to church, wear a cross, feed the poor, go to Bible study, etc.), but if you don’t keep the Commandments as Jesus taught us to keep them (including the one about marriage and divorce), and if you don’t treat others as you want to be treated, and if you don’t love your enemies, and if you’re not genuinely born-again – your chances of being chosen are not great. That doesn’t mean that you can’t up your odds by starting to do today what you know is right in God’s eyes. But if you know you’re doing something that isn’t right and you persist in doing it, good luck being chosen.
- Heaven is not something so cheap that just anyone gets in. Jesus says it’s for those who are willing to walk away from everything in their lives to follow him. There’s no mystery there; Jesus means exactly what he’s saying. And if you need an example, look at the disciples. Every one of them walked away from who they were to become who they needed to be in order to be chosen. They were called, but they weren’t yet chosen. They had to be proved before they could be chosen. Judas Iscariot was called like the rest of them were called, but he clearly wasn’t chosen.
- Jesus’ head-buttings with the religious powers-that-be must have been a sight to behold! Remember that the Sadducees and Pharisees, etc., were the highly educated, well-to-do, and well-connected class, and Jesus was (in their eyes) just the son of a carpenter from a have-not part of the country. Their open disdain for him must have been intense. But Jesus not only gave as good as he got, he bested them every time, even up to and including during his mock trial when his silence in the face of their accusations caused them to contradict themselves. I can imagine God looking down on the battles and saying “Good one, son!” whenever Jesus scored a point.
- We’re all going to have run-ins with the religious ptb (some of us have already had them) if we’re genuinely born-again and genuinely following Jesus, because the religious ptb are as much our enemies as they were Jesus’. Some of the ptb are now openly anti-christ, teaching doctrines that violate every Commandment. The religious ptb today and all their adherents in the worldly church are exactly like those in Jesus’ day, so we can expect the same head-buttings that Jesus experienced and likely the same death as he and his followers endured. This is the price of being not only called, but proved and chosen.
- The rest of today’s reading concerns the end of the world and Jesus’ crucifixion. The descriptions of these events are more or less the same as those in tomorrow’s reading, so I’m going to end my Sunday sermon (lol) here and pick up tomorrow at Mark’s end-times chapter.
Hope you’re enjoying the read-through as much as I am and seeing all kinds of new things you hadn’t seen before. God loves feeding his children when they’re hungry!
The schedule for the BIBLE READ-THROUGH is directly below.