Nothing Changed!

It seems Peter is always trying to impress the Teacher. Why not? That’s what good students should do.

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?

Forgiving seven times must have seemed pleasingly extravagant to Peter. The religious teaching of the day called for a maximum of three times. Peter doubles it and adds one!

Surely, the Teacher will give him special recognition for this!

But He isn’t impressed - I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times!

The story that follows is about a man who simply doesn’t get this lesson at all! The king forgives this man’s enormous debt, but what does he do?

But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded.

The king reacts - You wicked servant! Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you? The king then revokes his forgiveness. Reinstates the debt!

What’s the problem? Why couldn’t he forgive just a little, after being forgiven so much?

Perhaps, because he never really received the king’s forgiveness in the first place! Oh, technically his debt was cancelled but his heart was unchanged.

He didn’t receive the king’s grace at all. If he had, there would have been a degree of graciousness in his own heart.

So how do we know if the King has truly forgiven us?

We too forgive. If we can’t, nothing changed!


Untapped Resource

I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it
will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come
together in my name, there am I with them.

Here is an untapped resource! Perhaps, not many take Jesus seriously about this. Actually, I don’t know how many sit down with one or two others and agree in prayer about something they hope to change?

If not many, then perhaps it’s because we fail to see why it should work this way. What’s so special about prayers in agreement?

Maybe it taps into a principle related to the very nature of God Himself.

The Father, Son and Spirit are in perfect relationship. Complete harmony! In everything, agreement!

Unity, harmony, agreement! These are eternal principles, for God is in them. They are as real in the spiritual realm as gravity in the physical world. Perhaps even more enduring.

Maybe this is why there is special power in prayers born out of agreement. This is how things work – have always worked – in the kingdom of heaven!


Guardian Angel

What about it? Did you have one when you were a kid? I didn’t! One wasn’t enough to keep me out of trouble!

Probably had several working in shifts!

Yes, there are ministering angels – for kids and adults. Although I don’t pretend to know their complete job description!

Anyway, here the Teacher is focusing on children. He’s calling attention to the one of their natural attributes - Humility.

He’s right. Ever hear a four-year-old brag? Hope not. It usually takes a few more years hanging around adults before kids learn how.

Of course, that’s the Teacher’s point. Adults are silly when they seek greatness other than through humility. They miss the kingdom!

I think the Teacher also wants us to think about how adults get that way. They were humble children once. What happened? Some proud grown-ups in their world impacted their lives and not in a good way.

Jesus is saying, look out! Pay attention to what you are doing to these impressionable little children. Be careful not to lead them in the wrong way!

Cut off your hand, gouge out your eyes! Whatever it takes to be a good influence on the children in your life! They are that significant!

Because their angels always behold the face of my Father!


Mountain Movers

The Teacher says - A little faith can move a mountain. He even says - Nothing will be impossible for you.

I confess sometimes I don’t get what the Teacher is talking about. Mustard seeds and moving mountains!

Doesn’t describe my life! My faith! I guess I’m not much of a Mountain-Mover! Maybe I could start with mole-hills and work up!

The words of an old song express my weaker faith –

Lord don’t move that mountain. Give me strength to climb it. Please don’t
move that troublesome mount. Lead me Lord around it!

The lyrics of the song make sense to me. Instead of asking to move the mountain, I ask God to help me deal with it, overcome it, get around it. What’s wrong with that?

Maybe it shows a lack of faith. And a waste of effort if a little faith would move it right out of the way!

I have a question: Does the Teacher really believe a little mustard-seed-kind-of-faith will move a mountain?

Sorry. I know they say there are no dumb questions, but that was close! Of course! Jesus has that kind of faith and He seems to think His students should too.

So here’s the real question: Is mustard seed faith possible for us?
Maybe not if we haven’t even begun to believe what the Teacher says about it!


Glimpse of Glory

That’s what happened to three of Jesus’ students that day on the mountain top…

They looked over at their friend - their teacher – and saw his clothes began to glow.

They looked at his face - a face they had seen a hundred times before. Now they had to blink to catch a glint of His glory.

His face was shining as bright as the sun on a cloudless day.

Jesus told them this would happen. He said that if they denied themselves, picked up their crosses and followed him, they would not be disappointed.

Six days later they got a glimpse of glory!

Just a peek and then off the mountain and back into the valley!

In old age, Peter still remembered…

We were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to Him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well-pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with Him on the sacred mountain.


My Cross

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whosoever loses his life for me will find it.
I’ve got one. So do you. According to Jesus, everyone does.

Identifying our cross and bearing it? Now that’s another question altogether!
What is our cross? We begin by asking about Jesus’ cross.

His cross was a literal one. Rough timbers of wood and nails of iron! Simply stated His cross is what stood between Him and fulfilling His destiny. He had to carry it and suffer on it to do God’s Will.

Our cross is also very real. It is whatever stands between us and fulfilling our destiny. What we have to bear, give up, sacrifice in order to do God’s Will in our lives.

Our destiny is to become like our Teacher. Our cross is whatever stands in our way.

Jesus cross cost His life. So does ours. When we deny ourselves whatever worldly pleasure or gain that stands in our way, it costs us.

But the Teacher says this is the way to truly find our life. That’s what He knows…from experience!


Aha Moment!

It’s a turning point in Peter’s life. In an Aha! moment the truth about Jesus finally sinks in - You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!

This change of heart leads to a turning point in Jesus’ relationship with his students. From this point forward, Jesus talks frankly with them about His impending death and resurrection.

Of course, they don’t comprehend what He means until – in another Aha! moment - Jesus appears to them after His resurrection.

For now, He says - I will build my church.

Google it! Thousands of pages about the church! What is it? How can we identify it?

I still like the explanation contained in the little Sunday School rhyme, complete with hand movements:

Here’s the Church, Here’s the Steeple

Open the doors, See all the People!

The church is people! The ones who’ve had an Aha! moment – Jesus is the Son of God!

This is the Rock Jesus is talking about. A foundation of faith in the heart! The turning point that changes everything!

So the church Jesus is building is neither a building nor a set of teachings! It’s His students!

Later He will tell them, Go make students of all nations, baptizing them…



Sit up and take notice! That’s what everyone should do when the smartest man in the world warns about something. Teacher, we’re listening…

Be careful…Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

Oh, is that all? We expected something really menacing. Ok, relax everybody! It’s just a little yeast.

Nothing serious, is it? Yeast is just a microbial fungi that gets into something and then... gradually takes over THE WHOLE THING!

Uh oh! Jesus is warning against something that permeates and totally spoils everything it touches. The teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees!

Ok, I’m on the edge of my seat again. What’s their poison? Pride, self-righteousness, arrogance, a narrow condemning spirit? Probably not! These are results of their yeast or maybe the condition of heart that predisposed them to its work.

Then what’s the specific teaching?

It doesn’t matter. The Teacher doesn’t say. Because it’s any teaching that doesn’t change hearts, focuses instead on outward piety and performance. Ends up as evil in a religious costume!

Notice the Teacher called them wicked! There’s the key! The yeast is any system of teaching or approach to God that – in the end – doesn’t make a better person.

Danger! Beware there is religion that makes people worse. By their fruits you will know them!

Only the Teacher can change hearts. Make bad men good.


Another 4,000

I’m a little surprised Matthew includes this story. He just wrote about Jesus feeding 5,000 with five loaves and two fishes.

Matthew certainly can’t include everything Jesus said or did. He has to pick and choose. So why repeat a similar story so close to the first?

I’m guessing Matthew isn’t trying to overwhelm us. Rack up the numbers – 5,000 to 9,000! I suspect he understood most people would be convinced of Jesus’ power over the elements after the 5,000 miracle.

Look closer. Maybe the story isn’t about the miracle so much as the disciples’ reaction. Did you notice their question – Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?

Did we hear them right? Did they really ask - Where?

Hmmm… on second thought, maybe we do need another miracle dinner to remind us Jesus can take care of anything. The disciples seem to have temporarily forgotten. Or did they?

Let’s be fair to them. Jesus’ first option for dinner every night wasn’t to call in a miracle. By definition, a miracle is not something that happens all the time. It’s unusual!

So perhaps it’s understandable for Jesus’ students to think as they usually did - Where could we get enough bread to feed such a crowd?

But this is an unusual circumstance. The people hadn’t eaten in three days and Jesus is worried they will faint from hunger on the way home. This calls for another life-saver!

What’s your best guess why Matthew included these two similar stories so close together?


Foreign Classic

This is not an easy storyline. It doesn’t seem to fit in with all the others. Starting with the fact Jesus is in Phoenicia!

It’s still about another desperate person! But this woman seems to be all wrong for the part - wrong ethnically and religiously!

And even Jesus seems cast differently at first. Uncharacteristically, He seems to be playing along with the prevailing cultural stereotypes as He interacts with this Canaanite woman.

But don’t forget. Jesus purposely went into her country. He’s directing this foreign classic on purpose and for a purpose.

I’m no critic, but I think the Teacher wants to explore some familiar themes in a new context. Permit us see something from a different angle in the interplay between Himself and this foreigner - her and the disciples.

It’s about persistence in over-coming barriers. It is also about being patient in ministry with difficult people.

The main topic?

Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.
In fact, we absolutely must see it now. Anyone anywhere can come to Jesus by faith!


Squeaky Clean

Growing up, this was always the rule for hands before eating and faces and ears before school. My room was given up as a lost cause!

But cleanliness is also a religious question – the question really!

How can we who are unclean come near to God?

Not hand-washing for sure! Here Jesus trivializes it along with the religious leaders who promoted it. Called them – Blind Guides!

Their hands were squeaky clean, but their hearts remained untouched.

The Teacher says our journey to God starts from the inside!

He begins with a brilliant diagnosis of the root cause of our problems –

For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.

Today, much of what passes for religion is still just hand-washing. Ritual, religious ceremony, it's all about how things look on the outside! Almost by habit we go to church, but our hearts remain the same.

The Teacher always focuses attention inward – to our hearts. It’s there He wants to begin His work of cleansing and life transformation.


Lip Service

These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules made by man.

The Teacher is judging a religion that looks and sounds right, but has no heart - no real concern - for what God wants.

Jesus accuses them of paying lip service to the command to honor their parents. By a clever legal maneuver – dedicating all their money to God - they evaded responsibility for aged parents.

Conveniently, under the terms of the gift, they could still freely spend money on themselves. They were only forbidden to aid anyone else.

Thus, in the name of religion, they set aside God’s command to honor parents. And all the while appearing very religious. You can almost hear them – All our money is going to God’s temple after we die!

Why do such things happen? Perhaps, because not everything God asks of us is easy. Some things require sacrifice, effort, or even pain.

No problem! Create a loop-hole! A little theological slight of hand and all the difficult things magically disappear.

Unfortunately, what’s left is only a pretense of pleasing God.

The Teacher says - That’s lip service.


Out Of The Boat

The wind was fierce! But Peter and the other students were in the safety of the boat when Jesus comes…walking on the Water!

This is what we remember about this incident. This and the part where Peter sinks beneath the waves and Jesus saves Him.

But don’t miss this!

For a while at least, Peter walked on water too!

Why does Peter even think it’s possible?

The answer to this question is the essence of what it means to be a serious Student of Jesus. Peter actually believes he can become like his Teacher! Do what He sees Him doing.

He wants to be like his Teacher in every way – even water walking! That’s why Peter says - Lord, if it's you, tell me to come to you on the water.

Jesus must have been pleased when he saw His student step out of the boat.

Here we see into the heart of the Teacher. He has faith in His students. In fact, He believes in us more than we do in Him!

Jesus has no doubt Peter can walk on water. And for one brief and sterling moment, Peter believes it too!

Jesus is still calling us to leave the safety of the boat! Do what we see Him doing! That’s what being His student is all about…

What’s that He’s saying?

Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.


You Feed Them

When Jesus heard about John’s death, He tried to be alone. Not a chance! Yet, He had compassion on the crowds that found Him and He healed their sick.

Soon it was late and they were all hungry. Jesus’ students had a solution – Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.

A reasonable suggestion which Jesus promptly rejected with these words - They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat!

My first thought would have been - Impossible!

But when Jesus said the people didn’t need to go away, it was another way of saying - with God all things are possible!

And yet, here’s our problem. There’s a big difference between believing God can do something and trusting that God will do it.

One is purely hypothetical! The other is living faith. Such a faith tells 5,000 people to sit down on the grass and get ready to eat when there are only five loaves and two fishes!

And isn’t it remarkable Jesus tells his students – You feed them! How does that work? What did the Teacher want them to learn?

It started with giving Jesus what they had. In this case a few loaves and fishes. It ended with food for 5000 in their hands.

Did you notice the students actually fed the people just as the Teacher commanded?

When it seems impossible, trust God will, and place what you have into Jesus’ hands.


Requiem For John

Matthew doesn’t record what Jesus said when He heard the news of John’s death. Only that He withdrew to a solitary place.

We aren’t privy to Jesus’ thoughts. We don’t have the eulogy John’s disciples gave at his burial. Nor do we know John’s final wishes.

We suspect a man who wore camel’s hair and leather wouldn’t care much for a big funeral. And as blunt as John was, we’re fairly certain he wouldn’t want a lot of flowery speeches. But we might safely say:

The angel Gabriel announced his birth! John was a miracle baby, the son of a priest. His mother Elizabeth and Jesus’ mother were cousins. He was filled with the Holy Spirit from birth. He was a prophet. His special mission was to prepare the people for the coming of Jesus! He had a very successful ministry. His name became a household word. Thousands repented at his preaching! He baptized our Lord! Jesus once alleged that nobody who ever lived was greater than John! He was fearless! He confronted religious leaders and called them to repentance. He preached repentance to a king. Yet, he was human. He had his moments of doubt. But he took his questions to Jesus and died in faith and for his faith. John has gone to his well-deserved reward!

Maybe these thoughts were in Jesus’ mind as He reflected on the wonderful and impactful life of His boyhood friend - this Elijah of God!

Lives of great men all remind us we can make our lives sublime, And, departing, leave behind us footprints in the sands of time…


Nazareth Syndrome

Jesus comes back to his hometown! At first everyone is amazed at His wisdom and wowed by the miracles. No tickertape parade but it sure looks like everyone in Nazareth will soon believe in Him.

Then something strange happens - They took offense at Him!

To them, things just didn’t add up. They were asking, isn’t this the carpenter’s son? We know His mother Mary. In fact, we know all His brothers and sisters.

How did they get sidetracked on their way to faith? Jesus seems to express dismay more than offer explanation - Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor!

Let’s just call it a syndrome, since it still doesn’t make sense today when people reject Jesus...get off on a detour of doubt!

Overlook the Teacher’s marvelous insight! Ignore the miracles! Focus instead on some distracting questions and then make no effort to follow the trail of evidence that leads to faith.

Well, whatever the causes of doubt and disbelief, here’s the result - And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith!

The Nazareth Syndrome!

The symptoms that converge are lack of faith in Jesus and the absence of His power.

It’s not a good town in which to live.


Sell Everything

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

At first glance, both of these little parables seem to be saying the same thing - the kingdom of heaven is worth everything we have. The men in both stories sell everything, right?

But take a closer look! Maybe the Teacher isn’t just repeating Himself.

In the first parable - the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure…

In the second - the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking...

Interesting! In the first parable the kingdom is the valuable find – a treasure! In the second, the kingdom is searching for value – a merchant looking!

There’s a sense in which the kingdom came looking for us. Right? We surely didn’t have the power to bring the kingdom down from heaven. That’s God’s initiative! Jesus brings the kingdom to earth!

Maybe, Jesus is the searching merchant and we the pearl of great price in His eyes. He comes looking for us and gives everything to purchase us.

If so, could we be the one in the first parable who finds what was formerly hidden? Willing to joyfully sell out to possess the treasure of the kingdom of heaven!


Covert Operation

It’s happening again! The Teacher is speaking to the crowds only in parables. Another covert operation! Code name - Hidden Truth!

He spoke all these things to the crowd in parables, and he did not say anything to them without using a parable!

As before, the Teacher reserves full disclosure of the truth for His students alone. Why? They’re the only ones who really want to know!!!

Then He left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to Him and said, “Explain to us the parable…”
Pardon me, if I suspect things aren’t much different today - even among those who claim to believe in Jesus!

A recent Barna Group poll surveyed Christians in American with shocking results: Half don’t believe Satan exists. A third think Jesus sinned while on earth. Twenty five percent reject the Bible as accurate in all the principles it teaches.

Americans are increasingly comfortable picking and choosing what they deem to be helpful and accurate…and have become comfortable discarding the rest of the teachings in the Bible. (George Barna)
One more example of this from the parables: Jesus taught the kingdom would spread almost imperceptively, like yeast in bread, and mature gradually as a small mustard seed develops into a larger plant.

But have you noticed how often we selectively ignore the Teacher’s principles and opt instead for more sophisticated worldly marketing techniques to promote Christianity?

Elaborate campaigns, showy displays, militant political action and in-your-face public advertisement, to name a few.

To be good students of Jesus we must not only seek the Teacher’s answers, but trust them enough to be guided by them.


Spiritual Horticulture

Remember what happened after Jesus gave the parable about a farmer sowing seeds into different kinds of soil? The crowds went home. His students stayed on - seeking answers.

Now they alone receive the truth hidden in the parable. To them - and no one else - the Teacher says, Listen then to what the parable of the sower means.

They find out the parable wasn’t a class on Agricultural Science. If anything it was Spiritual Horticulture 101! They learn the farmer's seed was the message of the kingdom and the soil types were human hearts!

In fact, in this parable the Teacher displays an amazing ability to reduce the human response to God’s message to four soil types: pathway, rocky, thorny, and good.

Pathway Soil - those who don’t receive the message at all.

Rocky Soil – people who quickly accept it but without a survivable commitment.

Thorny Soil – a degree of allegiance but are too focused on things of this world.

Good Soil – people for whom the message of Jesus is a priority.

Which soil type describes a good student of Jesus? One whose main concern is producing the fruit of Christ likeness?

The one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.


Good Students

The disciples came to him and asked, "Why do you speak to the people in parables?"

Did you notice who’s still with the Teacher after the crowd leaves? Asking for more information? Seeking clarification?

Only His students! That’s what the word disciple means – a student, a learner, a pupil, an apprentice, a follower!

Matthew says large crowds heard Jesus teaching in parables. Where are they now? No questions for the Teacher?

For them class is over. The bell rang. They went home!

But His students did what good students do. They sought to remain in the presence of the Teacher. This decision put them in the perfect position to receive His blessing and wisdom.

He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them…This is why I speak to them in parables…But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.”

The Teacher only shares the secrets of the kingdom with His students! Those who really want to know and grow in His presence.

We see here what it takes to be a good student in the University of Jesus. Never leave the company of the Teacher! Relentlessly seek His counsel and guidance. Ask questions!

The decisive question?

Am I a good student, staying close and paying attention to the Teacher or largely going about my life without Him?


Genius At Work

This is the genius of Jesus! First, He has incomparable power to discern spiritual truth. Second, He possesses a unique ability to observe and analyze human behavior.

And most important to His students, the Teacher has the intellect to organize and communicate His wisdom in easily understandable ways.

This is the genius of His parables! They brilliantly unite spiritual insights with everyday things. Truths are memorable as the Teacher ties them to common things already firmly embedded in our minds.

Uncomplicated little parables, yet there is truth concealed in them. Hidden to all but real students who rely on the Teacher for their meaning!

Marvel! This is Genius at work! That’s why He’s the Teacher!

Jesus taught many parables that day, but Matthew records only one of them. It is a simple story about a farmer. But for inquiring students there’s more to the story, as we shall see later.

Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore.

Then he told them many things in parables, saying: "A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.

Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.

Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.

He who has ears, let him hear."


Our Forever Family

While Jesus was still talking to the crowd…someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”

He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers? Pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Jesus loved His physical family.

No doubt. Even during His agony on the cross, His thoughts focused on the care and welfare of His mother. He asked John to take her home with him.

As wonderful and permanent as family seems to be, a time comes when physical kinship is interrupted. Death comes.

Jesus’ death severed His family ties too. Yet, His death created the possibility of a more enduring spiritual family! One encompassing more than blood relatives! Open to everyone!

This more permanent family is what Jesus is talking about here. It is God’s forever family, because it continues for all eternity. Our relation to Jesus never ends!

So, how do we get related to Jesus?

The Teacher says this family circle is reserved for whoever does the will of my Father in heaven. According to Matthew, Jesus pointed to His disciples – His spiritual relatives - as He spoke about this.

If being a member of God’s Forever Family is our goal, then becoming a good student of the Teacher must be our primary objective. Because following Him leads home!


Heart Talk

For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.

Jesus’ enemies had some very harsh words for Him. But their condemning words didn't indict Jesus as much as they exposed their own heart trouble.

Jesus didn’t need an echocardiogram to diagnose the condition of their hearts. He simply listened to them. Their own words provided a perfect diagnostic!

The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.

Many times we are reluctant to go to the doctor for fear of what we’ll find out. There is an uneasy comfort in not knowing what might be wrong with us.

But the Teacher insists on a checkup! He demands we pay attention to our words, because they are indicators of our spiritual health. The lips may be moving but it’s really the heart talking!

Thankfully, our Teacher can heal and transform our hearts. But first we need to spend some time listening to ourselves. A self-administered heart examination!

As we pinpoint specific areas of weakness, we turn to Jesus for treatment. Then we continue to monitor the progress of our recovery by simply checking our words.

Don’t be afraid to get a checkup. Early detection and proper treatment can save lives.

For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.


Time Out!

Sometimes, it’s a game changer! In a fast-paced game, the coach observes something from the sidelines his players don’t see. He calls a time out, huddles up to make sure they understand what’s going on.

Here Matthew signals a time out and huddles up with his readers.

He wants to make absolutely certain we aren’t so caught up in the fast pace of his storyline - brilliant teaching and dazzling miracles – we fail to see into the heart of Jesus.

Time Out!!!

Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out...

Ok, so what do we see as we join Matthew for a sideline view of our Star Player? Let’s make sure we’re all on the same page here.

Jesus has the Spirit of God. Check, me too!
Jesus has the love of God. Check!
Jesus has the approval of God. Check!
Jesus is proclaiming the truth. Check!

Coach, you wasted a time out. We already know all that!

Now listen up, team! Our Teacher didn’t quarrel. Was so gentle and kind he wouldn’t break a bruised reed or snuff out a smoking wick.


Didn’t see that! Thanks for the heads up. Now we can get back into the game with a new approach…

We’ll try to respond to every desperately broken and damaged heart, every down and out life, with the gentle compassion and hopefulness of our Team Leader!



Oddly enough, it was the religious leaders who were constantly trying to trap Jesus in some scriptural inconsistency. They were masters of the Gotcha Religion!

Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, they asked him, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?"

In their traditional but twisted view of things, healing a man would be a violation of the rule against working on the Sabbath. So, they must have secretly hoped Jesus would heal the man.

Then… Gotcha!

Jesus didn’t disappoint them…

"Stretch out your hand." So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other.

What was their reaction?

A careful and open-minded re-thinking of their understanding of the Sabbath! Respect for the power of God displayed in Jesus’ act! Happiness for the man who was healed!


But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.

What were they thinking? I’m not sure, except to say they were absolutely certain they were right and Jesus was wrong.

Respect for truth is important. But it isn’t possible to see the truth – even when it’s standing right in front of us - unless we first allow God to fill our hearts with love, mercy and humility.

In the name of truth, these leaders remained blind to greater truth. This is the problem with a Gotcha Religion.


Simple Christianity

Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

I’m sorry, but much of what passes for Christianity today doesn’t seem at all restful. And yet, the Teacher says if we come directly to Him we will find rest for our souls.

How? The Teacher only says, Learn from me!

Isn’t He is describing the work of a student?

The Teacher is not asking us to move mountains, part the sea or make everything right with the world. Or even in our own lives. He simply says, Learn from me!

We can do this.

He encourages us by reminding that He is a Teacher who is gentle and humble in heart.

A friend of mine says Jesus grades on the curve. That’s good. We don’t have to make a perfect score on every test in life in order to make a passing grade with this Teacher.

This is because He already made the grade for us - did something for us we couldn’t do for ourselves. He passed the tests of life with flying colors. Lived a perfect life, died on the cross and rose from the dead for His students.

So coming to Him we find rest. And in this freedom from anxiety about our eternal destiny we simply learn from Him.

We enter the University of Jesus. Become His attentive student. As we learn, we change – He changes us - to become more like Him.

Progressively, we experience simple Christianity.

And we find rest for our souls.


Repent Anyone?

Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent.

I don’t get it! How could they fail to repent? Jesus was teaching and working miracles right there in their own hometowns!

Jesus mentions three towns by name - Korazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. Why did Jesus single them out?

The people of Korazin probably heard the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus healed a blind man and fed the 5,000 at Bethsaida. Capernaum saw Jesus perform many miracles.

In the very presence and power of Jesus and still they didn’t repent!

Jesus says the people of Sodom will be better off in the Judgment than they will be!

What would Jesus say about this generation? My hometown! Me?

Sobering really, because we have some advantages they didn’t. We know much more about Jesus!
What was it about them He condemned?
Oh yeah, they didn't repent.


I Doubt It

Things are not working out like he planned. John is in serious trouble. In fact, he’s in prison.

Is it any wonder doubt creeps into his mind?

So he sends two of his friends to Jesus with a question: Are you really the One?

I don’t blame John. I’ve been there. Perhaps, we all have.

Jesus doesn’t blame him either.

He doesn’t say - John, how can you possibly doubt me? Remember what God told you about me? Remember when you baptized me? You were so sure then. What’s wrong with you now?

No, the teacher understands it’s our nature to doubt when things aren’t going well in our lives. In fact, He goes on to say that as far as He’s concerned nobody is greater than John!

Jesus doesn’t condemn him for his doubts. Instead, He gives a gentle message of assurance - simply go tell John everything you have heard and seen me do. The evidence will speak for itself.

Is Jesus really our Savior? In the bad times we may be tempted to doubt it.

That’s ok with Jesus, I think. At least as long as we do what John did. Seek the answer to our questions from the Teacher Himself.

When we do, like John, we will receive the gentle answer we need to renew our trust in Him.