More Than A Teacher

Jesus is the Teacher, but He’s much more! This Teacher dies for His students! This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

During the Last Supper, Jesus tells His students about a new covenant. A union with God in which His life is the basis of an unbroken relationship!

His perfect sacrifice, not our imperfect performance!

There can be no enduring accord with God that depends on our performance alone. There must be a covenant filled with grace! Didn’t we see that from the very beginning?

Adam and Eve’s relationship with God depended on their performance. And actually not much was required to maintain their part of the bargain. Just don’t eat the fruit of one tree!

How hard could that be? Apparently, difficult enough because they did not – could not - live up to it!

Next came the Law of Moses, with not one command but over 600 of them. Quite expectedly, nobody could keep all those either.

Surely, we are supposed to understand an entirely new kind of arrangement is needed. One that recognizes our inherent weakness! One that accounts for the fact we always break our side of any pact!

The prophets predicted and longed for such a relation with God. And now Jesus announces – It’s here! I’m here!

Jesus offers a relationship with God that is sustainable because He takes the punishment for our failures in advance. Now there is constant forgiveness even as we fail.

Finally! A covenant we can keep. Even energizes us to do our very best to please this Teacher!


What's He Worth?

It’s a fair question, I think. What is a relationship with Jesus worth?

Judas has an answer. 30 pieces of silver!

He trades three years of friendship for some shiny metal.

Only good for a few months of bread! Perhaps a week’s cruise on the Mediterranean or a few days of luxury on the beaches of the Red Sea!

We don’t know what he planned to do with the money.

But we know where it was eventually spent - on a cemetery plot! His own! That’s all he got out of it, as it turned out.

Judas didn’t trade his friendship with the Teacher for 30 coins. He was deceived. He traded his own life for it!

That’s what a relationship with Jesus is worth. It’s worth our life. We shouldn’t be deceived. Our life depends on our connection to Him.

Poor Judas didn’t understand that until it was too late.

It’s still a good question to ask. What’s He worth?

The answer is the same for us as it was for Judas, isn’t it?

If we betray our association with Jesus, like Judas, we betray ourselves.

Judas’ story is a sad one. Like the other apostles, he could have done great things. The saddest words of tongue or pen, it might have been!

What is a relationship with Jesus worth? The story of Judas answers the question for all of us. It’s worth our lives.


Something Beautiful

Jesus is only a few days from the cross. The wheels are spinning faster now. His enemies are ramping up their plan to kill Him.

The Teacher knows and informs His students that He will soon be crucified. They seem oblivious. There is only one who understands!

A woman came to Him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table.

The disciples object to this extravagance! Jesus doesn’t.

When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.

There, it’s happened again! Just as the Teacher said it would! Her lavish display of love has been told once more in memory of her!

What is more important this woman saw into the future and her love for the Teacher led her to devoted action. She led with her heart!

Does Jesus still notice when we do something beautiful for Him? When we listen – believe what He says – and then our love and affection for Him moves us to extravagance?

We know how Jesus was touched by her attention and love - She has done a beautiful thing to me!


Looking For Jesus

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

Some think of the final judgment as a kind of trial. The judge will decide who is good and who is not! But here the Teacher refutes that concept.

Notice carefully. Here Jesus is not pictured as deciding who is a sheep and who is a goat. Everyone is already one or the other! He is merely separating them for final sentencing.

The sentence? To the righteous on His right hand, He says - Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. Those on the left are not so fortunate!

The righteous are surprised by His reason for their acceptance:

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

The cursed are equally surprised when they are told of their failure to help Jesus when He was in need. So, both the righteous and the cursed ask essentially the same question – When did we see you hungry or thirsty or sick or in prison?
I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me! And, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.

If this is how it will be – how it is - should we start looking for Jesus every day?


Lost Interest

In these uncertain economic times, we certainly indentify with one of the classic observations of American humorist, Will Rogers. The return of my money concerns me more than the return on my money!

Here, however, the Teacher seems vitally concerned with the return on His money. The one talent man faithfully returns all the money His master entrusted to Him. But the master is not pleased!

Why? Because of the lost interest!
Of course this parable is not really about money. The Teacher is talking about how it is in the kingdom of heaven. And the main idea is that we are all trustees of everything God has given us and we will one day be called to account.

Everything we have - our talents, our time, our opportunities to do good, our money, indeed our very lives – are on loan from God. And the Master expects us to turn this into some eternal profit!

The one talent man is condemned because he is a lousy trustee. He buries the talent, squanders the potential for making any increase for the Master.

Why did he do it? He says because he was afraid. The Master says he was wicked and lazy.

Who do you think is right? Could they both be right?

And how do we reconcile the fact we are saved by grace with the idea that as trustees we must give an account for lost interest on gifts entrusted to us?


What Now?

Jesus is our Savior. This means we have a hope of heaven one day!

But…what now? What are we to do in the meantime?

This is the question the Teacher begins to answer in this parable. And His answer involves using what God has entrusted to us in His service.

Here, the approved servants were motivated to be diligent in their service because they believed the Master would show up some day to settle accounts. And he did!

They believed the quality of their service mattered. And they were right again! What difference did it make? They received the Master’s approval and increased opportunity for service!

Of course, we understand it is only through Jesus’ sacrifice that anyone can be saved. It by His grace, not by our works! No room for boasting!

But clearly what we do with what God has entrusted to us really does matter. And it answers the question, What Now?

Serious students know their progress in becoming more like the Teacher counts for something, both now and then! They want to use their lives to do what He thinks is important today!

Of course, we understand good service doesn’t save us. Only what Jesus did on the cross can do that. But clearly becoming better students now will make a significant difference for us in the final coming of the kingdom of heaven.

Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!


They Won't Share

The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

Even as a child this parable seemed clear to me. Jesus is the expected but seemingly late bridegroom. The ten virgins are Christians preparing and waiting for His Second Coming.

Five were actually prepared and expectant. Five were foolish. As the bridegroom delayed His coming, some of them became drowsy. Stopped watching for Him and fell asleep!

Suddenly the bridegroom comes. The unprepared ones can’t go forth to meet Him. Their lights have gone out! They don’t have oil for their lamps.

They desperately attempt to borrow some from the others who have extra oil. However, they won’t share!

As a child I remember feeling sorry for these foolish ones. And it really bothered me that these supposedly wise virgins were too selfish to share their oil!

If they won’t share, how wise is that? I know, they said there wasn’t enough oil to go around. Ok, but they can still fix this problem, can’t they? Why not offer to share their light, walk out together to meet the bridegroom!

Only later, I understood. There are some things that simply cannot be borrowed or shared. A prepared character is one such thing!

If you’ve been paying attention to the Teacher and I haven’t, I won’t be able to borrow the oil of your prepared heart! A watchful, prepared Christian character is not something others can provide for us.

'Sir! Sir!' they said. 'Open the door for us!' But he replied, 'I tell you the truth, I don't know you.' Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.


Bad Timing

The Teacher contrasts two lifestyles. One servant is paying attention to the priorities of his Master. The other is thinking – My Master is staying away a long time!

Although neither knows when, both of them believe their Master is going to return sometime. But only one is busy trying to please his Master every day. The other one Jesus calls ‘wicked.’

A recent survey revealed that over 65% of all Americans believe in the Second Coming of Jesus - someday. Does anyone think 65% are living a life prepared for His return?

Here Jesus says some who believe in Him - know He’s coming back one day – will have put Him on the back burner. Take a gamble that they have a lifetime to change.

But surprise! Jesus shows up. Bad Timing!

When Jesus comes again some will be leaving on a mission trip they’ll never finish. Others will have just won the lottery, yet never spend a dime of it.

Some will have just passed the bar exam to practice law. Others will be staggering out of a bar. Bad Timing!

It’s all a matter of timing…for one day time will be up!

Right now, are most of us busy doing our own thing? Or are we serious students of the Teacher, seeking to please Him every day?

Who then is the faithful and wise servant...? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.


Build An Ark

No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.

All attempts to predict the time of Jesus’ return are futile. Here the Teacher says nobody knows. Only the Father!

This hasn’t prevented many from trying though. The Christian era has seen more than a few red-faced prognosticators, embarrassed by their miscalculations.

Jesus only says when it finally comes it will be like the days of Noah. People will be going about their business as usual. Just like the day when the rain started to fall and turned into the great flood.

Nobody expected it! Only Noah and his family were prepared! Every plank and timber they placed in the ark structure was a testimony to their faith in God's warning about what was going to happen.

Now, if Jesus might come at any time, what should we be doing? Luther was once asked what he would do if he knew the world would end today. He answered that he would plow his field.

We know what he meant. He would go about his business as usual because Jesus was always a part of everything he did. Even in plowing, he would be paying attention to His Teacher.

Real students of Jesus include the Teacher in every moment of life. On the job, at home, at play, not just at church services!

The real business of the student of Jesus is to pay attention to the Teacher all the time. Become a little more like Him. In this way we are always preparing our hearts for His return.

And in this way, we too are building an ark of our own – plank by plank!

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come!


Like Lighting

For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.

There are many ideas about Jesus’ second coming. Differing theories about what will happen. Some think they know exactly how it will be.

Some say we will ride horses into a monumental battle between good and evil. Others talk about a seven-year tribulation. Pardon me; is that before or after the 1000 years? Did someone say, ‘rapture?’

Excuse me, please. The noise you hear is my chair pushing back as I excuse myself from the table of all these discussions.

Not because I know everything about the Lord’s second coming. It’s just that for now it seems better to focus energy on getting ready for that Day – regardless of what happens then!

Of course, I have my own conclusions based on Scripture. But if it turns out I’m wrong – as so often happens – then the best course of action is to simply be ready! Get ready for whatever our Lord has in store.

This is what the Teacher always emphasizes about His return, isn’t it? Be prepared. Get ready. Be vigilant. Watch!

Then let’s listen to our Teacher. Rather than focusing our attention on all the details of what will happen, students of the Teacher prepare their hearts for the event itself – The Lord’s return!

This is the every day work of a student of Jesus - becoming more like the Teacher – and exactly how we prepare for the Day. If it will come like lightning, we must always be ready!


Get Out of Dodge

This phrase was popularized a few years ago by the television show, Gunsmoke. Marshal Dillon regularly told misfits and troublemakers it was time to get out of Dodge!

Here Jesus warns His students that the time is coming when they will need to get out of town. He gives them a sign:

So when you see standing in the holy place 'the abomination that causes desolation,' spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.

Christians would have understood the Roman army coming to take Jerusalem by force would be the beginning. By listening to the Teacher’s advanced warning, Christians avoided the slaughter.

Eusebius, an early Christian writer, says that not one Christian was killed in the destruction of Jerusalem. By A.D. 69, the Jerusalem church was gone entirely, having removed itself because of the Lord’s word.

And what a time of trouble it was! Jesus had warned - For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again…See, I have told you ahead of time.

The Jewish historian, Josephus, recorded the gory details of the long and terrible siege of the Roman army. You have to read his account to fully appreciate the reality of the unmatched horrors Jesus predicted.

Everyone thought the Jerusalem walls could never be breached. Jesus knew better. The unthinkable happened!

I wonder what it is today everyone thinks can never happen, but Jesus knows better…in fact, has already warned us will happen?


Signs Of The End

Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. "Do you see all these things?" he asked. "I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down."

Here Jesus predicts the destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem. Naturally His students want to know when it will happen.

In fact, thoughts of such a cataclysmic event move them to ask the Teacher about the end of the world also - …when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?

Jesus answers both questions. So it is up the student to decipher when He is talking about the destruction of Jerusalem and when He is speaking about the end of the world.

We know the destruction of Jerusalem happened in A.D. 70 when Titus and the Roman army destroyed the city as Jesus foretold.

Quite naturally what the Teacher says about the signs of the end of the age interests us more than what already happened nearly 2,000 years ago.

Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

So how close are we to the end?

Jesus says that in the end wickedness will have increased and most who claim to love the Lord will have cooled in their fervor. What will this look like? Do you think we are there yet?

He also says the gospel will be preached to the whole world and then the end comes? With modern communication, television, satellites, and increased mission activity, we may be close.

Of course nobody knows, but you’ve heard the Teacher. What do you think?


Sheltering Wing

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.
Jesus sees their catastrophic future! In a few short years a Roman army will surround this city and the suffering will be monumental!
Here we see into the heart of the Teacher. His love and tender compassion for people! He would rescue them...

But religion opposes Him!

Now we understand why Jesus spoke such blistering words of condemnation to the religious leaders. They didn’t love the people. They only sought to control them for their own advantages.

Their false-hearted religion could offer nothing but a false hope. So now Jesus speaks the most scathing indictment yet – How will you escape being condemned to hell?

But Jesus looks out on a city of more than a million souls and feels the futility of their situation. They’re misled and His heart goes out to them - even as they say no to Him!

In a few days, these people will join their leaders’ call for His death!

And yet even then, He will be dying for them!

It’s just as He said. He longs to gather them together under His sheltering wing. Lead them to God!

Here is heart and purpose of the Teacher we will follow! He would rescue!



Dead on arrival!

That’s the only way to describe a religion that claims to speak for God and yet is completely godless. Jesus simply doesn’t give them a chance.

He doesn’t even call for repentance. He just says - Woe to you! And He says it perfectly – seven times!

When religion isn’t interested in justice, mercy and faithfulness, it’s DOA!

If instead, religion focuses on insignificant things – strains out the gnats but swallows a camel – it’s beyond resuscitation!

When religious leaders are greedy and self-indulgent, it’s over!

When everything is calculated to look good but the reality is hypocrisy and wicked lives, CPR is futile!

When everything is put on for show and public consumption, it’s dead!

Where is this spiritual point of no return?

For sure, when Jesus is present and the heart is unmoved by His love and wisdom!

That’s DOA!


He Blasts Them!

Matthew 23:13-22

Woe to you, teachers of the law…you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are. Woe to you, blind guides!

Why does the Teacher unleash this ruthless attack on the religious leaders? He is never this hard even on the worst sinners!

Perhaps because sinners don’t claim to speak for God! Appoint themselves as guardians of God’s truth. Then present to the world a distorted picture of God.

No wonder Jesus condemns them. They’re misrepresenting God! Running roughshod where even angels fear to tread!

Today, many people might be surprised to discover the Jesus they know – the Jesus presented by religion – only partially resembles the real Person and His teaching.

This is because what people know about Jesus still often comes through the filters of religious leaders. And they tend to interpret Jesus in a way that justifies their own practices.

Rather than allowing Jesus to shape the church, the church sometimes markets a re-packaged Jesus to the world.

Paradoxically, it may be the modern church that most obscures the effective genius and power of Jesus as Teacher. Ignores His more inconvenient teachings!

For example: When was the last time in church you heard anyone pray for their enemies, sincerely asking God to bless them? Where are the practical lessons on how to love our enemies?

Bypass the false gatekeepers! Listen to the voice of Jesus! Don’t settle for less than a personal relationship with the Teacher who can change hearts to be more like His.


Hotdog Religion

This actually happened several years ago in a post-season baseball telecast. The announcers were talking about the grandstanding tendencies of one of the star Yankee players.

The dialogue went something like this:
Are you trying to say he’s a big ‘hotdog?’
Yes well, let’s put it this way. There’s not enough mustard in New York City to cover him!

This is exactly Jesus’ assessment of the religious leaders of His day. And He even points out a few of their self-promoting, self-aggrandizing ways:

1.Everything they do is for men to see.
2.They use fancy religious dress to distinguish themselves.
3.They seek the places of honor.
4.They like to be called ‘Teacher.’
5.They don’t practice what they preach.

Are you saying this is hotdog religion? Let’s put it this way: there’s not enough mustard in Jerusalem to cover them!

Today things really haven’t changed that much. You know why? Because people haven’t changed that much!

Be sure about this one thing though. Hotdog religion can’t change us for the better. Only hurt us.

You have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Jesus is the only Teacher who ever practiced everything He preached!


The Last Word

Ultimately Jesus will have the last word. He's the smartest person alive. That’s why He’s the Teacher!

So they’ve come to the right person with a great question - Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the…greatest commandment.

This is as brilliant as it is simple: Loving God is what life is about. Because ultimately everything is all about God!

But Jesus is more than brilliant. He’s the Lord! They don’t get that though. They’re looking for an earthly king like David to come, not God Himself.

So Jesus asks them a loaded question - What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?

The son of David, they replied.
He said to them, "How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him 'Lord?”

You know, they simply couldn’t answer Jesus’ question. It never occurred to them that the Christ would also be God Himself! Not only David’s descendant, but David’s Lord! The Lord God of Heaven come to earth!

No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions.

The Teacher will always have the last word!

Sooner or later, everyone will be silent and listen to this Teacher. For He is the Christ of God!


They're Just Wrong

They’re absolutely certain there is no resurrection. They have it all figured out. The problem is they figured wrong!

These Sadducees remind us of many religious people today who are equally certain they have all the answers.

Sometimes we may even find ourselves speaking with excessive bravado. It never occurs to us our impeccable arguments, just like theirs, may be based on faulty premises.

Here these religious experts present Jesus with a logically conceived but outlandish hypothetical question. It is about a woman who married again after each of her husbands died. Seven times!

Hoping to embarrass Jesus over His belief in the resurrection, they spring the trap. Jesus, if you believe in the resurrection we have a question for you – Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?

The Teacher’s answer never even occurred to them.

Jesus replied, "You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.

You know, a little humility wears well when it comes to spiritual things. Things associated with God! None of us has a perfect understanding. And sometimes what we think we know is the greatest impediment to what we need to know!

This is the essence of spiritual growth. There is always more to learn – a deeper understanding – especially when it comes to anything related to an infinite God.

In fact, a red flag should go up when people give the impression they have it all figured out! Because, sometimes they’re just wrong!


A Tax Question

At first it seems Jesus’ enemies are asking a simple tax question?

Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?

The Teacher isn’t fooled. He knows they don’t really care about his opinion. Ever been there?

“Show me the coin used for paying the tax." They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, "Whose portrait is this?

"Caesar's," they replied. Then he said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."

Ok, simple enough. We should give Caesar his coin back because it belongs to him. His image is on it.

But the Teacher turns their tricky tax question into a lesson about God. He says we are to give to God what is God’s!

So what belongs to God’s?

Logically, wouldn’t it also be whatever has God’s image on it?

But that’s us! We are all made in the image of God?

The Teacher is saying we are to give ourselves to God! We belong to Him!

Then just one last question…

Owe any back taxes?



The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son…Come to the wedding banquet. But they paid no attention…

Apparently many are too busy with their own agenda, their own business to even RSVP. This is no way to treat a King and His Son!

Here the Teacher continues the theme of recent parables: If we aren’t interested in preparing ourselves to be a part of what God is doing, He will seek those who are!

Those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find!

How many times have we turned down an invitation because of the effort required to get ready to go? Remember what you were thinking?

This party isn’t worth my time! I really don’t feel like making the effort. I don’t have anything to wear!

Even here, at least one guest showed up for the king’s banquet without any preparation at all. The king noticed! How did you get in here without wedding clothes? Throw him outside!

It’s obvious to be a part of God’s kingdom requires more than a polite RSVP and showing up. No this banquet is a full-dress deal!

Of course, we understand the Teacher isn’t talking about clothes – cotton shirts, silk blouses or blended wool suits. He’s talking about spiritual dress for the kingdom – the adornment of our hearts.

Get dressed! A place is reserved at the table for those who say yes to the Teacher’s invitation to become His student. He alone can make us ready!

For many are invited, but few are chosen!


Stealing From God

That’s exactly what these tenants in the parable were doing.

True enough – their biggest sin was mistreating and even killing those who came representing the vineyard owner. They even murder the owner’s son!

But the essential sin is that they desire to take what rightfully belongs to the owner. They claim to be His servants but are not producing fruit for Him.

The Teacher concludes - the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit!

The key to the parable is that God's people are called to produce the fruit of the kingdom. This is what God wants from us!

The kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

This may seem harsh. If we claim to be servants of God but do not produce this fruit, we too are stealing from God.

This makes it personal. Is my life bearing the fruits of the kingdom? Do I have Jesus' love, joy, peace, patience…in my heart?

This is what the kingdom of God is all about. And this is what being a student of Jesus means - seeking to become more like our Teacher!


When Yes Means No

The parable is about two sons. Their Father tells them both to go work in his vineyard. The first says he won’t, but does. The second says he will, but doesn’t.

It looks bad for the first son when he says no. But he changes his mind and goes to work!

The second son sounds ok. But his yes really means no. He never goes!

Now the Teacher asks – Which of the two did what the father wanted?

Ok, where do we fit in this parable?

In fact, we may be a little like both of these sons.

When we confessed faith in Jesus, we all said to Him - Yes, I will do what you ask of me. I will go.

But the question is did we ever make it to the vineyard? Are we laboring to follow the Teacher? Become His serious student – grow to be more like Him?

Or have we just said yes to get what Jesus offers. Then substituted nominal church membership for any real effort to become Christ like?

If so, we are like the second son. Our yes really means no!

However, if we repent of this, we are more like the first son who said no, but later changed his mind! Went to work!

Which of the two did what his father wanted?

“The first,” they answered.


It's Fruitless

Why does the Teacher curse the fig tree?

Was it because it had no fruit or because it appeared to have fruit, when in fact it did not?

Jesus came to the fig tree – but found nothing on it except leaves.

This is not we expect. If a fig tree has leaves, it should have fruit!

This is a metaphor for a religion that looks promising. People are attracted at first. It looks like a place where you could find spiritual nourishment.

But, it’s just leaves!

It represents a faith that leaves us as empty as when we first came to it. It only looked good on the outside.

A genuine faith is not all leaves, but also produces the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

This is the character of Christ reproduced in His students’ lives!

Only in a vital relationship with the Teacher can we satisfy our desire to be more like Him.

Otherwise, it’s fruitless!


House of Prayer

Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. "It is written," he said to them, “My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers."

Why is Jesus so upset? These merchants provided a valuable service for the people. Pilgrims coming to Jerusalem must purchase an offering and exchange their currency for a coin acceptable to the temple – one without an image on it.
Perhaps part of the problem was over-charging in the currency exchange rate or in their prices. Jesus called them robbers!

But what really caused Jesus to react so powerfully was they set up shop in the temple courts, interfering with those who came to pray. Their behavior did not reverence God’s presence there.

This is why Jesus forcibly reminded them that God intended the temple to be a house of prayer!

Today we wonder how those people could have been so callous to the presence of God. But wait! Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? God’s temple is sacred and you are that temple!

We are the House of God today. So the question must be asked – Is there something Jesus wants to drive out of our lives?

What’s disrespecting God in His Own House? Interfering? Keeping us from being a living House of Prayer to Him!


Royal Arrival

Jesus’ approach to Jerusalem isn’t what one would expect from royalty. The enthusiastic, adoring crowds, yes! But donkey riding?

This unorthodox royal arrival should have alerted people to the fact they weren’t going to get what they expected from this King. And they didn’t!

But for now they were shouting – Hosanna to the Son of David!Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!

In a few short days, some of them would be standing in another crowd nearby, shouting – Crucify Him, crucify Him!

What happened? Jesus won't assume control of the city. Throw off Roman occupation. Usher in a golden era of peace and economic prosperity!

No, Jesus has another agenda. One more compatible with his humble arrival to the city! Instead of gold, His crown will be thorns. In place of a throne, He will rule from a cross!

Today many are still only welcoming Jesus on their own terms. Filled with false expectations that He will fulfill their earth-centered dreams of success!

Today the world still cheers Jesus when He is presented as Savior like that. Churches are filled by this method! But tell them what Jesus really desires to do in their hearts...

Don’t get caught up in the crowd! The crowd always misses the meaning of the Royal Arrival – Jesus comes to rule and reign in our hearts!

The student when fully trained will be like his Teacher.


What Do You Want?

What do you want me to do for you?

They won’t shut up about it. The crowd tries to quiet them, but they keep shouting - Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!

Isn’t it fairly obvious what two blind men would want Jesus to do for them? Yes, but the “why” isn’t as obvious at first.

I believe Matthew records this simple story as a sign with spiritual implications for everyone.

Jesus stops. Asks them what they want. Lord, they answered, ‘We want our sight!’ .

So, what would we ask if Jesus came to our town? What is a need so pressing we won’t shut up about it? Such zeal that Jesus stops and answers!

Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.

What are we passionately asking of Jesus today? Students of the Teacher might be crying out for sight to be able to follow Him with greater clarity!

Did you notice what these two blind men did when they received their sight?

Was this the passion of their hearts that only Jesus could hear?


Unholy Alliance

Frankly, I never saw it before. This unholy alliance between worry and pride! I know they hang out together, but didn’t realize they're so cozy!

Here James, John and their mother come to Jesus with a request. They want the two top positions in His kingdom. The power of authority!

Sounds like pride! But what fuels pride?

Could it be worry and anxiety? If so, what is this family worried about?

Perhaps if they occupy powerful positions, they won’t be anxious about their future economic security. Or maybe, they think once in the top spot everyone will be forced to recognize their valuable contributions to the cause.

Anxiety and pride work together. Anxiety motivates our fears and pride answers.

Are we worried people won’t give us the credit we deserve? Make sure they know - boast!

Anxious about the future? Make sure we are in control – assume supremacy!

Have anxiety about some inadequacy? Put up a false bravado to mask it!

Worry and anxiety usually spur us to prideful thoughts and actions, calculated to get what we fear will elude us.

It’s amazing how often anxiety and pride conspire in our hearts to keep us from relying on God for security.

How do we break up this unholy alliance?

By humbly choosing a greater trust in God to provide everything we truly need.


It Isn't Fair!

When the Oklahoma Territory opened for settlement, some Sooners staked their claim before the appointed time.

It’s not a fair way to start a land rush. And according the Teacher, it’s no way to stake a claim in the kingdom of God either!

Actually, He says it’s the other way around - So the last will be first, and the first will be last.

In this parable, the Teacher attacks the seniority system of work-based religion.

The landowner in the story does a scandalous thing. He pays the same wage to all His workers, whether they worked twelve hours or one hour!

Those who worked all day began to grumble. It isn’t fair!

No. No it isn’t! It’s grace!

The landowner asks – Are you envious because I am generous?

Here is the occupational hazard of work-based religion. We are tempted to think spiritual seniority has its perks. Priority goes to rank, and rank is earned by time and quality of service.

Some evidently think they are going to heaven on the installment plan. Mostly by their own merit and a little of God's grace added in to make up the difference! This is why they become envious of those who appear to need more grace because they seem to have less merit.

The grace of God sweeps away all such human convention. All works-oriented boasting passes away as we freely enter God’s Kingdom. Or at least they should.

But they don’t seem to go gently into that good night, do they?


Hard To Believe

Who then can be saved?

Jesus standards are extremely high. In fact they represent perfection!

Thus the constant temptation of religion is to lower Jesus’ requirements to accommodate our actual performance.

If we manage to avoid this fraud, we find ourselves stuck in the inconsistency between what Jesus says and what we actually do.

No wonder students who take the Teacher seriously are sometimes tempted to question their salvation? Based solely on the standards of Jesus we are in trouble. It’s hard to believe we can make it!

The Teacher even says it - With man this is impossible!

He sets the bar as high as heaven itself. Nobody can approach God on the basis of performance.

So, like these first students, we throw up our hands in futility - Who then can be saved?

I love Jesus’ answer - But with God all things are possible!

What we can’t do, God doesn’t require of us. Rather, He does for us!

Jesus accomplished perfection. Therefore, He was qualified to pay for the sins of others. When He died on the cross, He wasn’t paying for any sins of His own.

So what are students to do with the high standards the Teacher has revealed?
Honestly acknowledge them! For He promises wonderful rewards to those who struggle with them as they imperfectly follow Him!
In the struggle, we must rest in His grace.


He Asked For It!

I stopped giving advice years ago. Went out of the business! Nobody seemed to appreciate my unsolicited two cents worth! Not even the few who actually asked for it!

It finally dawned on me. Most of us only ask for advice hoping to confirm what we already plan to do!

That’s ok, but here we learn not to come to the Teacher for guidance without a willingness to do what He suggests.

We see an eager young man coming to Jesus for counsel. He probably has some plan of his own already worked out, but he gets more than he bargained for. Remember, he asked for it!

He began by asking what good thing he could do to inherit eternal life. Jesus told him to keep the commandments. No problem so far! Why? Because that advice conformed to his own idea about it!

Why didn’t he accept Jesus’ answer and be content? I’m not sure. Perhaps he hoped to impress Jesus. Or maybe he genuinely wanted to better himself in his own way, by adding to his merit badge collection!

For whatever reason, the young man presses! Teacher, I already do all that! What more can I do?

Jesus lets him have it right between the eyes – If you would be perfect - sell your possessions and give to the poor! Oh my!

I think the young man was stunned. We know he went away sorrowfully. He wasn’t expecting anything like that. Who said anything about perfect!

What happened? The young man asked for it. And he got it! But he didn’t get the message!

Do you think he ever figured it out? His need for grace, I mean?


No Fault Divorce

The Gotcha Guys are at it again. Setting a trap for the Teacher! This time on the subject of marriage and divorce!

These Pharisees permitted divorce for just about any reason. Much like the recent No Fault divorce laws! Here they hope to entangle Jesus in this sticky web.

Jesus is having none of it. He simply states the truth. God joins husband and wife in marriage and the union should not be broken by man.

Ouch! Just quote the Scripture when we’re looking for commentary – exceptions, loopholes!

They have one more appeal. Why then did Moses allow divorce? Jesus says because you’re too hard-hearted to keep the law.

Jesus then lays down some law of His own. He says marriage can be broken for one reason – fornication.

This is a very strict standard. Yes, the disciples thought so too - if this is the way it is, maybe it’s not a good idea to get married at all!

Jesus doesn’t back up. He simply says, not everyone can remain single. Some can. They are eunuchs from birth and some choose celibacy for the sake of the kingdom.

The Scripture is plain. So are our failures to keep God’s marriage laws perfectly. So what are we to do?

We may be tempted to lower the standard to make our choices legally acceptable.

But it’s better to humbly rely on the mercy of God for our failings in this regard. Just as we must do in all other areas where we fall short!
Remember, if we didn't need a Savior...Jesus needn't have come!