Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
At least twice during his ministry Jesus’ opponents requested a sign from him (Matt. 12:38 ff., 16:1-4). Specifically they requested a sign from heaven. In both instances Jesus had worked a miracle that demonstrated God’s mercy and power. In the first he cast out a devil from a man and healed him. The Pharisees accused him of witchcraft (casting out devils by the power of the devil). In Matt. 16:1, Jesus is being “tempted” by his distractors. The Pharisees and Sadducees had no intention of being convinced of Jesus’ Messiahship. They wanted to entrap him.
Jesus refuses both requests. In fact, he gives the same answer: he would only give them the sign of Jonah. The sign of Jonah refers to his resurrection (Jonah was resurrected from the fish’s belly, as it were). In John 2:18-22, Jesus gives the same sign in substance though with no reference to Jonah. So the sign that Jesus leaves the world is his death and resurrection.
This is important for us to note. We often look for signs from heaven. We wonder why our Lord allows his name to be slandered. We wish that we could be relieved of the doubts the world raises in regards to the faith. But Jesus will not give us a sign from heaven. Our faith is trusting him.
The fact is that the gospel is sufficiently suited to rescue sinners and prepare them for heavenly glory. The fact that the enfleshed Son of God suffered on behalf of sinners, and that he calls us out of our sin (not waiting for us to make ourselves worthy), and that the all glorious God has committed himself to us should be all that the failing heart should want. Victory over sin and victory over the grave are signs enough for those who know their sin, and more than enough. There is no need to look for the spectacular, let the Pharisees and Sadducees do that.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Both Matthew and Mark record an additional miraculous feeding of large crowds. All four Gospels record the feeding of the 5,000 (Mat. 14:15-21), only the first two record the feeding of the 4,000 (Mat. 15:32-39). Some suppose that a literary doubling has taken place, but there are differences. For one, the numbers are different. Not only is the size of the crowd different, the number of loaves and fishes are different. The first miracles feeds 5,000+ with five loaves of bread and two fish, the second feeds 4,000+ with seven loaves of bread and “a few” fish. He feeds less with more. The number of baskets that are left over are also different, but as the types of baskets are different I am not sure what the quantitative difference actually is. But it is not these differences that I want to look at in this post, it is the difference in the disciples themselves.
Now at first glance there is no difference. How can the disciples be so stupid in not seeing that Jesus can feed these 4,000 after he has already fed the 5,000? But is that a fair reading of the disciples? In the first feeding the disciples approach Jesus before the first day was over, in the second feeding Jesus calls the disciples to himself after the third day. I think the Lutheran commentator R. L. Lenski is correct in seeing this as an indication that they trusted Jesus to take care of the situation.
But what about their answer to Jesus? Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude? Well, where indeed would they get the bread? From Christ? Yes indeed, they put the provision of the crowd back into the hands of Jesus Christ. Jesus takes the seven loaves of bread and few fish and proceeds to feed the 4,000 men plus women and children. Instead of seeing the disciples as stupid and faithless, we should acknowledge that this time they remember to put the whole affair in the hands of their Lord. In the span of two chapters Matthew has painted a picture of maturing faith in the apostolic band. Certainly Jesus will have many more opportunities to rebuke their little faith, but this time their faith gives all the glory to Christ, and there in nothing in that to rebuke.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
And Jesus departed from thence, and came nigh unto the sea of Galilee, and went up into a mountain, and sat down there. And great multitudes came unto him, having with them those that were lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and cast them down at Jesus’ feet; and he healed them: insomuch that the multitude wondered, when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see: and they glorified the God of Israel. Matthew 15:29-30.
Ask, and it shall be given you: seek, and ye shall find: knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth: and he that seeketh findeth: and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? Matthew 7:7-11.
Monday, August 17, 2009
‘For behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven, and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up,’ saith the Lord of hosts, that shall leave them neither root nor branch. But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings, and [ye] shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.’ Malachi 4:1,2.
For we [the preachers of the gospel] are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish. To the one we are the the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life: and who is sufficient for these things? 2 Cor. 2:15,16.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Genesis 32:24-32, records the odd way in which Jacob becomes Israel. After sending his family ahead of him he finds himself alone. Then he is met with a mysterious opponent. They wrestle together all night long. Interestingly, though the man is identified as God (see the implication of the name Peniel in verse 30), the man must injure Jacob to try to get Jacob to let him go. What is more, Jacob refuses to let the man go until he wins a blessing from the man that Jacob obviously recognizes as God. In verse 28, Jacob receives the Lord’s blessing: “Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.” Jacob becomes a prince of God (Israel) by his refusal to lose out on the Lord’s mercy.
Matthew 15:21-28, we get another picture of our Lord that seems strange. Jesus retires to the region of Tyre and Sidon (Mark 7:24 makes it clear that Jesus did not intend his visit to be a part of his public ministry). He is met with a local Canaanite woman who desperately wants him to cast a devil out of her daughter. Strangely, he ignores her. The disciples just want Jesus to get rid of the woman. Instead of saying no, Jesus explains that his ministry is to be among the lost sheep of Israel. She is not deterred, “Lord, help me.” Shockingly, Jesus answers, “It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.” Her faith catches the opportunity, “Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” Jesus commends her faith and grants her desire; her daughter was made whole from that very hour.
The woman’s faith is commendable for a number of reasons: it is humble and modest. She has no sense of entitlement to the Lord’s blessing, and she is content with what he will give. Yet she will not let off until she gets that blessing. She knows that he is the Lord of mercy, and she will not be put off any appearances to the contrary. In this she is also Israel, a princess of God.
The Lord often acts in such ways that his gracious nature is hid from us. To us sinners, trusting God is not a self-evident thing. In a general sense we acknowledge that God is trustworthy. It’s in the specific promises that we find faith hard. Nonetheless faith, if it is truly faith, perseveres, especially when it looks as if the Lord has forgotten his promises. Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Heb. 11:1).
These are not isolated incidences. Job experiences the Lord in exactly the same way. So too, did the Hebrews during the exile. It is the reason why Christ, in illustrating the persevering prayer of faith, uses the picture of a persistent woman before an unjust judge (Luke 18:1-8). In none of these events is the Lord’s mercy denied. The lesson is faith.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
Thursday, August 6, 2009
It strikes me as a preacher how simple Jesus' teaching is presented, and how profound it is at the same time. As a confessional Christian I am wary of many modern over simplifications, the tendency to reduce our faith and practice to bumper sticker catch phrases. The simplicity of Jesus is not that. In Matthew 15: 11, Jesus says, "Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man, but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man." This was given to the crowds to counter the Pharisees' insistence on the washing of hands before one ate. The disciples balk at at this and ask him to explain, which is given by Matthew in verses 16-20.
Jesus' explanation boils down to this: Our sin is not due to the corruption of the world outside (food goes in the mouth and out into the pot, so to speak), but sin comes from our own corrupt heart. Sin originates from within. That's it, complete simplicity. But that simplicity has depth.
Let's look at our natural habits. We shift our sin onto the evil influences of the world: we blame TV, video games, the internet; we point our finger at schools and universities; we condemn upcoming generation's youth culture. But we don't sin because we are corrupted, we sin because we are corrupt. And, of course, that means when we want to assign guilt to the corruptions of our world we need to turn the finger to ourselves.
But this also has profound consequences for our salvation. If the heart is the source of corruption, then we cannot look there for our salvation. We cannot look there for righteousness. We cannot look to the heart of men for the reconciliation of the world. We must look outside ourselves. We must look unto Christ, the one given for the reconciliation of the world, the Holy One of Israel, the LORD our Righteousness. This is the good tidings of the gospel, that God has come to help those who cannot help themselves.