Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral virtue, and in your moral virtue,
knowledge ;

Monday, March 26, 2012

Matthew Chapter 17

Where is the 3rd disciple?
I can't help myself. I'm such a visual thinker that I found all of these renditions of the transfiguration, very interesting. I hope you don't mind if I include some of the pictures that I found. 

So six days after He spoke to His disciples about  dying on a cross, He takes John, James and Peter to a high mountain. Verse 17:2 tells us that He was "transfigured".  He was changed some how and His face shone and His garments shined like light. 
As I was looking through the pictures on line I found myself trying to compare each one to what the scripture says about this event. I rejected some of the pictures I found because they did not resemble the description that was written at all.

Matthew tells us in verse 17:3 that Moses and Elijah appeared with Him. We actually get more details to this story in Luke 9 and Mark 9. Luke tells us that they went up on the mountain to pray and while they were there, the disciples became sleepy and fell asleep. It was some time during this catnap that Elijah and Moses appeared and were talking to Jesus. Luke tells us that they were speaking of His "departure" which he was about to accomplish. I find this amazing. They were not speaking of His glory, or His majesty. They were speaking of the cross. They were speaking of the suffering that was ahead of Him on this earth and what He was to accomplish.

I don't think E. and M. look glorious enough,Luke 9:31.
I find this account very embarrassing for the disciples. They were praying with Jesus and struggling to stay awake. They were so human. I think we can all relate to that.

I think that Jesus and these two, once earthly beings, were speaking of the cross and Jesus's plan of departure from this earth, as a way to show the disciples that the cross was the divine plan.  And also, it was a way of showing them that He was Lord of all. In this one event, he showed them that He wasn't just a prophet but that He had command over life and death and command over the world seen and unseen.

It felt to me as I read this chapter, that the disciples woke to hear them talking as a child may wake to hear the grown ups talking late at night. Luke 9 tells us that, Elijah and Moses had started to leave, so at this point, Peter says; Master it is good that we are here. Let us make sacred tents for You, Moses and Elijah. Eerdman speculates that possibly Peter was trying to  keep Elijah and Moses from leaving. It is possible that he felt that he had missed the bulk of this amazing event by drifting off and was trying to make this incredible experience last a little longer. We know that Peter knew that Elijah was to precede the Messiah because he asks about it later (17:10). Maybe he thought that this was it. Time for Jesus to be revealed and take His rightful place as King.
As they were traveling down the mountain, Jesus tells them to tell no one about what they saw until He was raised from the dead.  Mark 9:10 tells us that after He told them to keep silent, they debated about what He meant by "raised from the dead". They still did not understand what had to take place.
I included this one because of the man down below with his ailing son.Even though the scriptures are clear that the two events did not happen at the same time
For the next passages, I want to use Matthew 17, Luke 9 and Mark 9, to get a better understanding of the actual event. The next day , when Jesus and the disciples came down the mountain, they saw a large crowd gathered. The 9 disciples, who remained down at the bottom of the mountain, were in an argument with a group of scribes. They were surrounded by a large crowd. When the crowd saw Jesus, they ran to meet Him. One in that crowd, was a man who fell down at the feet of Jesus asking Him to heal his demon possesd   son.  We are given an incredible description of what this boy suffered in Mark, Luke and Matthew. His father said he was a lunatic, (which in those days meant that he was affected by the cycles of the moon) he was unable to speak or hear. He was possessed by a demon which caused him to have seizures, convulsions, to foam at the mouth and to throw himself into fire and water in an attempt to destroy himself.  When Jesus was approaching . His father begs Jesus to help them "if He can". Remember, He had just seen Jesus's disciples fail at healing his son of this terrible demon possession. The demon throws the boy to the ground as Jesus approaches and the boy cries out in his suffering. 
Passages like this give us an insight into the spiritual world. We see Moses and Elijah with Jesus  obviously existing in a spiritual state. We also see how a demon seems to be able to randomly select a small child to torment. I think all of us agree that Moses and Elijah are not dead anymore than the Devil and demons are  dead. It is important that we read these passages and  see the reality of what we are reading about. We should not be living as if the spiritual world does not exist. We see in Matt. 22:31-32, Mark 12:26-27 and Luke 20:37-38, Jesus says that God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and then He says that He is the God of the living not the dead.  Ephes. 6:12 says that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 
There is a constant struggle going on for good and evil in our lives and the lives of our families and our loved ones.

In Matthew, Jesus goes on to tell the disciples that they could not cast out the demon because of the littleness of their faith. I have prayed over this passage to help understand what about their faith was little? What were they missing? I wanted to understand. I wanted to know, what about my faith is little? What am I missing?
I believe the answer is in how we view eternity. Do we understand the reality of the spiritual world we cannot see?  Do we give importance to the things that will build our closeness to God and our faith in the future He has promised us?
Once we understand, we have to pray to apply this understanding to our lives, our thoughts and our actions. We have to pray for an eternal perspective in how we live our lives everyday. We have to start living from God's perspective.  
It can be done. Ask God to show you how to live out everyday by considering everything in the scope of eternity.
Since I started praying for understanding, I have seen many of my faults with glaring clarity. I have seen many areas where I was considering how a situation impacted me and not really considering how it was impacting the other humans I come in contact with everyday. I have been able to see that my reactions, words and thoughts can have eternal consequences in the lives of other people.
I think the most important question I have learned to ask is : How will my thoughts, words and actions reflect on my Precious Savior in this situation? This question can be applied to every area of our lives.
Our mothering, our marriages, our friendships. Our shopping at the grocery store, eating out, driving down the street. How we spend our spare time. 
Pray that our precious, almighty, amazing God, would give you His eternal perspective.
Ok, so enough.

I'm not sure about this one.
Read, read read.... remember to read your chapters over and over again before you try to remember your memory tools and before you move to the next chapter. This will help you to cement the content in your mind. ALSO, REMEMBER TO PRACTICE YOUR MEMORY TOOLS EVERYDAY!!! I like to practice as I'm falling asleep at night. It may cure insomnia. If it doesn't, you will know the Book of Matthew very well.

Much love,
I am praying for all of you,

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Matthew chapter 16

Because Chapter 16 starts with the word "And", we have to assume that the Pharisees and Sadducees were waiting for Jesus when he exited the boat from verse 15:39. This is the first time we see the Pharisees and Sadducees challenge Him together. Many times we have seen the Pharisees and the teachers, or, Scribes come and challenge Him or ask for a "sign" but never before, in this Gospel, have we seen these two groups together. 
There is a good reason for that. The Pharisees and the Sadducees had fundamental differences in their beliefs.  Please forgive if you already know this, but the Pharisees and Sadducees were different sects of Judaism. Much like Charismatics and Southern Baptists are different sects of Christianity.

 According to Unger's Bible dictionary ;The Sadducee were the wealthy, ruling aristocrats that did not believe in using the Talmud as a guide. They adhered strictly to the teachings of Moses. They did not believe in the resurrection of the body or  angels or spiritual beings except God Himself. The Pharisees held to the Talmud as law and believed that the law was open to interpretation through the Talmud. 
The two groups did not agree on much, so it was very unusual that they would team up to confront Jesus.
 In verse 16:1 They ask Him for a sign. According to Erdman's commentaries, they were not asking for a miracle. They had seen and heard of many of those. They wanted the sign that would put an end to all doubt. They wanted a defining moment. They wanted to see the vision spoken of in Daniel 
7:13-14, where the Messiah comes and presents Himself to God for all eternity  as the almighty ruler of all peoples. The "Son of Man". 
This was a favorite sign of the Jews. They eagerly awaited the return of Elijah and this vision of the Messiah. Jesus knew this well, he often called Himself the Son of Man.
He answers them in verses 16: 2-3, and says that they knew how to look at the sky to figure out the weather (red sky in the morning, sailor take warning ect...) but that they could not discern the spiritual things by looking at what was happening all around them. In verse 16: 4, he calls them evil and adulterous and tells them that no sign except Jonah would be given. 
The next passage, verses 16:5-12, is a marvelous example of the work of the Holy Spirit in the scriptures. We are told that the disciples had forgotten to bring bread on their journey, so when Jesus said to them  "beware the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees" they immediately think that He is saying this because they forgot to bring bread. Jesus calls them "men of little faith" and asks them didn't they remember the five thousand He fed or the four thousand He fed and how much was left over?  He asks them how is it that they can think that He is talking about bread when he is talking about the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Verse 16:12, says, they then understood that He was talking about the teachings of the Pharisees and Saducees being able to permeate everything like leaven in bread dough, not physical bread.

What makes this a marvelous example of the Holy Spirit at work in the scriptures, is the fact that most people do not want to expose their  shortcomings  to the world. The disciples would probably have rather left out the parts of the story where they let Jesus down or fell short in their spiritual understanding. Instead, their mistakes, lack of faith and shortcomings are here for us to see. I am convinced that Matthew wrote these verses only by the prompting of the Holy Spirit.  

Verses 16:13-20 are long debated, and commented on by everyone so I will skip those verses. The assumption I make, is that you, on your own, are reading these chapters over and over again. Make sure you read these verses if you haven't already.

As we finish the chapter starting with verse 16: 21, something very interesting happens. In verse 21 Jesus starts to show His disciples the Messiah described in Isaiah 53. He wants to show them that this prophesy of the suffering servant must be fulfilled by the Son of Man, before He can come in His Glory and fulfill the vision asked for by the Pharisees and Sadducees. There is no doubt that the disciples were waiting for Him to reveal Himself and fulfill the prophesies in Daniel just as the Pharisees and Saducees were. He takes the time to explain what will happen to Him. He tells them plainly that He will be tortured and killed at the hands of the rulers, scribes and even the Priests and He will be raised up on the third day.
 (In verse 16:22-23, we take a little detour here, where we have the famous verse that Jesus said to Peter that Christians and non-Christians alike are familiar with. "Get thee behind Me Satan" We will use this to remember the chapter because it is such a familiar verse.  However, we need to remove the "thee" and use 'GET BEHIND ME SATAN' because this phrase without "thee",  has  sixteen letters. ) OK, So we need to regather our thoughts to get the point. 
Jesus goes on , starting in verse 16:24, to show them that the way to the glorious kingdom age that they were all waiting for, was going to be through the cross. He makes this amazing statement to them "if any man wishes to follow Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me". Remember, Jesus had not gone to the cross yet. We have the benefit of hindsight, the disciples did not. It is not clear whether they even understood what He was really saying to them. 
In verse 16:25, He says:" For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it". He is explaining to them that they must be willing to lose their lives in their decision to follow Him. In verse 16:26, He speaks in general terms here and makes it clear that not only are their souls at stake, but every mans soul. 

He then finishes right where the chapter began. In verses 16:27-28, He speaks of just what the Pharisees and Sadducee are asking to see. "For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels and will recompense everyman according to his deeds" He was making it clear to them that , it is going to happen. He is coming, He will fulfill the prophecies and will be seen in His glorious kingdom. 
He also tells them that some from their group would be able to see this happen before their death. John was the only one, that we know of, that got this opportunity. You can read about it in the book of Revelation.

I know that this is hard work. I know that it is time consuming, but keep going. The Lord will use it in your conversations with everyone. You will be able to find topics easily in the Book of Matthew. You will know your Bible better than you ever have before and the Lord will bless as you think and pray to remember His word.
I am praying for all of you.
God Bless