Devotions and Lessons
Scripture of the Week:
Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.
Devotions and Lessons
Scripture of the Week:
Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.
Judas Iscariot, the traitor, was the son of Simon who lived in Kerioth of Judah. He was the only Judean of the 12 and was considered to being the closest to Jesus outside of those who saw the transfiguration. He was the group’s treasurer and one of the more outspoken. Judas’ downfall was that of greed. This led to his being a covetous man and at times pilfered from the common purse. The cause of his betrayal is considered to be greed and the false hope of an audience to the Roman Prefect which would lead to a more civilized end to the occupation or at least would lessen the Roman grip on the religious aspects of Judean life.
Jesus was given to the Pharisees for 30 pieces of silver. This was the recompense price for a gored slave. That was about 5 weeks of wages in Jesus time which today the silver would be about $600.00. So our Lord and Savior was given for recompense of $600.
The betrayer could have been any of the twelve; but since Judas still cared more for the world and was greedy for money, he was the most logical choice. His lust for money and desire for a material change in the current society drove him into the darkness which made the Plan possible. One thing we must remember here. It wasn’t Judas who truly put Jesus on the cross, it was and is our sins.
What can we learn for him?
1. Do not devalue our relationship with Christ.
Judas took what he could from the treasury of the Sanhedrin to hand Jesus over. He put a price on a life that has more value than he would ever know. When we care more for the world and less for the Father, we are placing an unwarranted discount on our love and trust in Christ. There is no price that we could pay that equals what God has done for us. He gives us His grace freely, and His Mercy through blood. All we have to do is accept, believe, have faith, and trust in God that we are going to share in the inheritance thanks to Jesus. Of course we still are bound to obeying the 10 Commandments and living a Christ-like life. When we are disobedient and lose faith, we devalue our relationship with Jesus.
2. It is better to listen closely than to just hear things because ears are deceiving.
Judas did not hear the right things because he truly did not listen. There are six recorded times between Matthew, Mark, and Luke, where Jesus is recorded saying, “He who has ears to hear, let him”, in one fashion or another. Hearing is an audible function that is used to translate sound vibrations into words. When God speaks to us, the vibrations react with our very souls and cause us to listen and act in an obedient manner. Listening is the response to hearing and acting in obedience is the response to listening properly. When we do not hear things correctly, the message gets misinterpreted in our minds. That is the Adversary tugging at us so we lose sight of God’s intentions.
Reading Scripture involves hearing then listening in order to be obedient to God’s Word. Paying attention to that still small voice that resonates through our heart when we are in the right frame of mind is God speaking to us through the Holy Spirit. What we do with it is determined by how well we listen and how strong is our faith that it is God.
We can learn a lot from a betrayal, these are just the tip of the iceberg. This ends the discussion on the 12 Apostles. Next month we begin to look at life lessons from Paul and his teammates.
And God said,"I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak..". God knew what He was going to have to do to save the world and He is a deity who keeps His promises. "And they shall know that I am the Lord their God with them." He was preparing the way for Jesus, His Son, God in the Flesh, Immanuel.
Today as we celebrate with giving and receiving let us remember the greatest gift of all, Jesus. God sacrificed time with part of Himself to be with His creation knowing that the only way for His return would be through the pain and suffering of the death on the cross. God kept His promise. He fed His sheep, sought the lost and returned them to His loving arms. God gave the Israelites Hope of a Messiah, Joy of redemption from Sin, knowledge of the Peace He would bring through the Loving Sacrifice of Giving us the thing He loves. It was out of His Unconditional Love for us that He did these things and by His Grace He freely gave it so that we could receive the greatest gift anyone can receive, Life.
Jesus renews us with His love and Mercy. Jesus Gives us Hope where there is none, Peace in a ravaged world, Joy where there is suffering, and Love Everlasting. He is the King of Kingd, Lord of Lords, The Light in the everpresent darkness. His are the arms that lift us up and carry us though the roughest times. He is our friend, brother, master, Savior.
There are two major types of people in the stories of the Bible, you have the hero and the architype (or villain if you will). Sometimes the person whose heart is turned cold to a situation is also warmed just enough to fulfill prophesy. That is what happened to the Innkeeper in the birth story of our Lord and Savior. He was a good businessman, both kindhearted and shrewd depending on the situation at hand. Little did he realize that his home would be the last pivotal point in the birth prophesy giving the child the humblest of beginnings, in a cold dark cave (FYI most stables at the time were holes dug into the sides of hills just outside of town). The only source of light and warmth were the lanterns, hay, and whatever blankets (usually of poor quality) were supplied to the animals.
Let’s get back to the Innkeeper. The call for the census had come and people from all over Judea and the surrounding areas occupied whose lineage were of certain tribes or royalty returned to their homelands to be counted. The Innkeeper was probably very happy that he had a decent turnover for the people as the census was going on for a good bit, but the overcrowding when Mary and Joseph arrived was just too much. Not a single spot was available. People sleeping wherever they could find a place. Being out on the streets and resting was highly discouraged but not unseen and finding enough food, well let’s just say that the people suffered and Rome did not care. According to tradition and translations, his was the last Inn in town that had even the smallest spots, barely enough for a child and he was not about to put anyone in the stable although the other places had done so. When Mary and Joseph came to him, the Innkeeper’s wife convinced him that they had to be placed there. She showed compassion where he had lost it. The wife was even willing to give up her own spot but the boss said no and placed them in the stable. Imagine the joy when the child was born and the Innkeeper coming out to see the child and realizing later that the one who was born in his stable was called Immanuel.
A question has to be raised here even though we should never question God’s plan. How was it that this Innkeeper would, by divine design, have the coldest of hearts yet just enough sense to place a pregnant woman who was in labor into a stable? Did he get visited too and it was just not revealed? The stable was actually the best place, more sterile than any room, a perfect area for warming a child in a feeding trough filled with hay which became His manger.
Joseph, being the carpenter that he was probably was able to take surrounding materials and build a better shelter and a bed (with the Innkeepers permission of course) for Mary and Jesus. Remember, they had little money to begin with so this was the best and easiest place for them to be. Joseph’s skills probably earned him enough to repay the Innkeeper but I am sure there were other means granted.
The Innkeeper in the birth story played a very important role in bringing Jesus into the world humbly, being surrounded by all creatures’ great and small. The perfect location for shepherds to find. Hidden away perfectly not to be disturbed by the local populous except those who quickly were informed (in the Inn) of the birth. Rest assured the Innkeeper was also probably informed to keep the birth as best a secret until the eighth day when he Jesus would be presented at the local synagogue names and circumcised. Think of the testimony this man and his wife would be giving today if they were invited to share their side of the story and the impact it had on their lives? Would it be filled with disharmony due to the Roman census? Would it be filled with joy at the witnessing of the birth? Would it be filled with a forgiving and giving heart? Would it be filled with joy? I for one believe so.
What is your testimony when you first met Jesus? Do you have a "Christmas Story" on how Jesus came into your life? How long have you kept it silent until you spread it, or have you even opened up? Keeping the joy of Christ in your heart without sharing it is not in the rule book. We are required to speak of the Good News loud and clear as the angels did that holiest of nights. Do you know someone who has not heard about how Jesus has changed you? Don't you think it is time you did something about that?
People all over the world need to hear the Good News right now. There are folks who try to ruin Christmas by saying it is a Pagan Holiday (well, it is just after the Solcist so I can understand that). Do not let that get you down. This year do not just share the birth story, share your story of when you met Jesus. Let your light shine on this season.
Jude, Thaddeus, or Lebbeus, a “man with three names” as he was called by Jerome. Here we have another Nationalist who would be transformed into a warrior for Christ. New Testament states that he asked Jesus at the Last Supper, "But Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world? (John 14:22 NIV) “Judas Thaddeus was interested in making Christ known to all nations as an earthly king, not as Servant Savior.
1. To share Jesus with the world you must know Him personally yourself.
Jesus came to redeem those who truly believe in God from the sins of the world. He desires a personal relationship with us in order to share His Word with the rest of the world. With this relationship there will be trials and temptations because the Adversary is constantly trying to get us away from salvation.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
The Psalms gives us this tidbit about God’s knowledge of us:
O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. (Psalm 139: 1-6)
We are incapable of knowing God as well as He knows us so He sent Jesus to relate with us in human form. The Disciples saw Him, knew Him as a brother, followed Him, and became as close as humanly possible like Him. To have a personal relationship with our redeemer is to believe in Him, Trust Him, Love Him as He loves us.
2. Release your heart from the knowledge of the world and Live for Christ.
One of the hardest things for a person who is deep in the ways of the world, is to give it up. That means not being transformed or molded into believing that certain ways of worldly living are the best and only way to get along in the world. It means not to be so concentrated on worldly idealisms while trying to keep friends and family who cannot escape the world that you get caught up in their sins and transgressions. Releasing yourself from the world does not mean you cannot live in the world without knowing what is going on. We have to know the Adversary and be able to recognize when he is tempting the world with false idols and idealisms which lead us to the path of death.
Give up control of the things you cannot and you will do well. Let God have control of the situations in your life while going about your daily business. Keep God’s Word on your heart and in your mind so that your very soul sings praises to His name and you know the right way of living. These are just some of the ways to release your heart from the world.
Today is the fourth Sunday in Advent. The Season of Advent has been shared in many different orders and it used to be that this Sunday we would light the Pink candle. Time and traditions seem to adjust to new times. We have never needed to show and share GOD's LOVE now more than ever to get people back on track with the truth of Love.
Mary and Joseph were almost in Bethlehem and they had to take things real slow. Joseph, deeply in love with Mary took great care and compassion in the travel so as to not harm the child or Mary. When they arrived in Bethlehem, Jesus was ready because this was where He would be born. There was nowhere to stay until the kindness of the Innkeeper's wife placed them in a safe and secluded stable. In a time of great anxiety (the census) love was shining through.
“…I bring you good tidings of great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” ~
The Shepherds guiding their flock by night were the first to hear these wonderful words. This profession as well as that of the fisherman would be the great examples on how Jesus would explain and have the Disciples share the Word with the world. Chosen leaders to shepherd the flock and fishermen to share the Word and make disciples. Shepherds have a great love for their flocks, they guide the sheep to the good food and water to keep them nourished and healthy. Jesus as the Great Shepherd guides us to the food and drink of the Spirit. He is the Way after all. Jesus showed love to all mankind even tough love to some as needed. It is this loving kindness and sharing of the power of love that captures the hearts of man.
For God so Loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son, That Whosoever Believes in Him Shall NOT Perish but have Everlasting Life. (Emphasis added)
Powerful words of Truth written in the Gospel of John. It was written as the truth in prophesy that God would send a Messiah, a Savior, who would be the one that has mercy on us as we are judged. God’s great love and compassion for His creation meant that He needed to send us a shepherd to guide us back to Him because of the straying away looking for ways to care for ourselves and seeking other deities when there were none. We show God’s love today through sharing and caring for others, friends, neighbors, even strangers.
1 John 4:19
We love because He first loved us.
There is no love stronger than God’s love which we are to emulate. Do not confuse this with the human definition because we are no longer part of this world and belong to God. He has shown us the diffrence between love and compassion, love and lust, love and deep friendship. God’s Love is called Ahava in Hebrew which is even stronger than agape. It is an all encompasing, compassionate, love which is everlasting. God’s Ahava love for us was given so that we could understand what true love is. Man’s love for man is nothing compared to God’s love for us but we are getting there.
Greater love has no man that this; that he would lay his life down for his friends.
Finally, Jesus shared this with the Disciples to help them understand what He had to do and what He asked of them. It is what He asks of us. We are to lay our lives down for the sake of His love and show others that our love is so strong for the will of God that we are willing to die in order that they may live and understand.
Think of what pain God had to go through, coming down to earth and giving up part of Himself to physically be with His creation as He was in the time of Adam and Eve. He suffered ridicule, shed tears, showed tough love on many occasions all for love. Then finally giving over His Son to death so that His creation could live. That is Love.
Remember this week to love. Share and show people that Love is not just a word, it is living a right life in Jesus.
While gathering from the garden I am reminded that not all fruits and vegetables are going to look like perfection. Understanding that God does not look outside but sees us from within our hearts and minds should encourage us to look deeper into the hearts of others because you never know the true design of a person just by the clothes they wear, the hair, tattoos, etc. It is the mind and heart that shows the truth. God grants discernment to those He calls when reaching others to find those who truly need Him. Fruits can deceive and taste awesome. People can look worse for wear and have the kindest of hearts. Trust God, love others.
As much as I would love to write volumes on one they called less, I cannot. This is mainly because there is honestly not a lot written of this young man except that he was brother to either Jude (Thaddeus) or Matthew.
James the Less (I will just say James from here on) must have done something in Jesus’ eyes for him to be chosen as one of the twelve but not all great and revered men such as James had to be remembered as doing great deeds, he was chosen and that should be enough. It is said that a man does not need to do great things for him to be remembered. Sometimes the greatest thing in one’s life is just being there.
How many of us just sit by a lonely person holding a hand or laying a hand on a shoulder and that be enough for that person to know that someone cares. So if there is one lesson we can learn:
1. Just being there as a Christian when another just needs someone who cares IS (sometimes) ENOUGH.
A Chaplain’s job is just that. The stranger’s shoulder, the short but kind words, the presence of a faithful believer. But one does not have to have the title to do that. Giving that last dollar so someone can get a morsel to eat. Taking food or clothing to one who is need. Sharing the Gospel with someone who cannot read it or understand it for themselves. Building that home and just knowing that it will be supporting those less fortunate. That is being there for another.
2. Being a Silent Witness is not the best thing but sometimes the only thing we can do.
When a person sees your actions and just wants to talk, we become the ear for Christ. Hearing and listening to the pain and suffering and knowing when it is the right time to say something is a great characteristic that not all Christians are born with but God enables us to be the listener and guide to the right person. Knowing that you brought the person to one who can help in whatever capacity is needed.
James the Less, the Silent Apostle who did nothing spectacular but is still seated at the table with Jesus because he followed, listened, shared, and loved.
We will be looking into 1 John in January. Why 1 John? It is very enlightening with today's world
Simon was not from Canaan but Galilee, he is also called Zealot. The word used to describe this Simon was actually a derivative of the Hebrew word, Kana which means, “To be ardent or zealous”. This Simon was a champion for the Judean cause, a fanatical Nationalist who hoped that the Messiah would bring war to Rome. Zealots were reckless and had disregard for the suffering involved in the struggle for independence from Rome and the desire for purity of faith.
Simon Zelotes was devoted to the Law and the prophets and would not hesitate to kill or be killed for the faith. He was literally a man filled with hatred for anything non-Jewish especially those who compromised and were loyal to Rome. His was a story of the social conditions of the time, a rebel with a religious cause. The Zealots can trace their origins to the Maccabean Revolt who wanted the land restored to the old theocracy with a strict understanding of the Mosaic Law. So why did Jesus have Simon on board as one of the twelve? One can assume it was to help change the outlook of people who wanted change through violence. Sounds familiar with today’s circumstance, doesn’t it.
Simon’s zeal would change when he followed Christ but it was not instantaneous. One can guess that Simon heard Jesus and when He would speak of the Kingdom, Simon jumped right in thinking that this would be the warrior king they were waiting for. Boy was he a little early on that one. Simon exchanged his worldly weapons for those of a more spiritual nature but the willingness to face danger or death for the cause would make him one of the boldest and strongest Disciples of Christ.
While doing my research I need to point out that when we view the twelve Disciples as one unit, we can understand that there is formed a practical exposition of the function of the church, the only qualification to enter in the fellowship is the ability to consent to the appeal of Christ and to be obedient to the requirement of self-surrender. So Simon’s passion was not eradicated, it was enhanced, and redirected towards the greater Spiritual cause of Christ.
1. Simon’s transformation teaches that the most zealous of hearts can be transformed to the will of God.
The enthusiasm that Simon shows for Christ’s coming kingdom is proof of that. Simon’s whole outlook was changed and he became a warrior in the love and compassion of Jesus. Those who came to Simon learned of God’s love and the reasons for following. Since he was inherently a man of the Law, Simon also understood the need for full devotion to the cause of Christ.
2. A man of war can be transformed into a man of peace.
When we seek out others for the kingdom, we do not need to seek someone who is like us but different. Remember, God is a God of all people so He favors the challenge of seeking diversity in order to transform all to have one similar goal. To be part of God’s inheritance. Besides, if we were all the same it would get pretty boring wouldn’t it.
Simon did not change overnight but his desire to follow a cause for the good of the nation, of the world never changed.
Are you Zealous for Christ?? Would you give your life for the cause? Are you willing to stand up for Jesus and be counted?
Did you answer those truthfully to yourself or just playing lip-service as a twice a year Christian? The choice is yours. Can you truly say, “As for Me and My Household, We Serve the Lord”.
Isaiah 9:6-7 (ESV)
6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
Oh what a joyful time this is. Isaiah was given this knowledge to provide a hopefulness to the people who would be held captive. It gave them something to look forward to, a savior that will bring peace and love into the dark world filled with sin and hate.
They were looking forward to the eternal kingdom which would provide sanctuary and rest from the bonds of sin and death. The timing of His coming would not be known nor did they realize the process He would have to go through to accomplish the mission. All they knew was that this child would come and bring about the eternal kingdom on earth.
Philippians 2:1-11 (ESV)
2 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Why is this week Joy? Well, as this is the 3rd Sunday, we are in grateful yet humble anticipation of the day we celebrate the coming of the King. Waiting for the moment when the Angels will announce His birth to the world while He sleeps in a manger. He came to us, Word in the Flesh, in the most humble of ways. Not a castle nor an expensive hotel. Not surrounded by family except Mary and Joseph. Witnessed by the Innkeepers wife and the animals (God’s creation prior to man to receive first jubilation) and made known to the most humble, yet extremely important, shepherds. We should feel the joy of the heart this week as we reflect on how Jesus has affected our lives. God cares so much for us that He was willing to leave His throne without Word and Truth for a short time so that the Word and Truth could enter the world and defeat sin and death. The Word/Truth (Jesus) has set us free from the bonds of sin.
We celebrate in joyful adoration. Praise Be to God All Glory and Honor is His.
This is the season of giving, yet there is still this attitude from some that they are owed something because they were handed stuff without working for it. Without conditions they received and there were no thank you notes, no hugs, no extension of gratitude whatsoever. Christmas is a time where it is better to give of the self and not wish for anything in return. It is a time where the greatest gift to all mankind is celebrated. But, we still have people who want, want, want.
Entitlement is when people feel that the world owes them something without having to do anything to earn it.
That is the mentality that has infected society especially the youth. The entitlement is in many forms and has even spread to some immigrants (legal and illegal) who believe because they are in this country they are entitled to things that we cannot even provide our own citizens without someone having to pay for it.
This is the result of the “Me” culture where God isn’t even in the picture. Many of these “entitlement” people have a history of making poor life choices which lead to bad consequences. Think of the possible consequences: mental and physical disabilities, diseases from drug and alcohol abuses, immoral lifestyles which lead to sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies, and poor choices regarding education just to name a few. Somehow, with the help of a liberal government, we have developed the attitude that it is our (taxpayers) responsibility to take care of the basic needs of these people. Ultimately we have created a society who lives off Government subsidies, welfare, etc. where people lose their desire to work to provide but is dependent on another. This dependency is very dangerous.
Some Christians think that they are entitled something from God. Here is what “we” are entitled from God, DEATH. Remember we have sinned so we deserve death; we deserve to be apart from God. Listen to this Proverb:
Proverbs 13:1-25 ESV
A wise son hears his father's instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke. From the fruit of his mouth a man eats what is good, but the desire of the treacherous is for violence. Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin. The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied. The righteous hates falsehood, but the wicked brings shame and disgrace. ...
How about James
James 4:1-12 ESV
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? ...
In this section he expresses in verse 6:
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
Or what about these
2 Thessalonians 3:12 ESV
Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.
2 Thessalonians 3:10 ESV
For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.
HAVE YOU GOTTEN THE PICTURE YET
1 Timothy 5:16 ESV
If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows.
Relying on the government places a tax burden on the country. Our taxes to Caesar are not given to pay for your laziness or unwillingness to help yourself.
1 Timothy 5:8 ESV
But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
The person who cannot physically provide (unless due to honest disability) because of laziness is looked upon poorly. This result of Entitlement idealism is summed up in Galatians.
Galatians 6:7-8 (NKJV)
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man sows that shall he also reap. For he that sows to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that sows to the Spirit shall reap life everlasting.
So if this generation believes they are entitled, what will the next generation think? When the economy collapses and the government fails, they will have nothing. If the lack of biblical teachings and understandings persist, the country will be in chaos. We will be raising a nation of completely ungodly people as in the days of Noah (of which we are almost completely there). The Bible teaches all the basic tenants of life with the most important being this: God’s Grace gives us forgiveness and His mercy gives us life! He gives us freedom, hope, love, and truth. God is Awesome!
A wealthy tax collector of Capharnaum (Capernaum) also known as Levi was a public servant and possible brother of James the Less as both were sons of Alphaeus. He was hated by the Jews because he collected taxes for Rome while also pocketing some for his family.
9 As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. Matthew 9:9 (ESV)
14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. Mark 2:14 (ESV)
27 After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” 28 And leaving everything, he rose and followed him. Luke 5:27-28 (ESV)
He left the tax booth without hesitation. Remember the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus said, “You cannot serve God and mammon”. Think of the impact on the sinner’s life where Matthew was trying to be a good Jew but at the same time held captive by the need to support his family no matter what. He compromised his principles of godly living to live richly in the world.
Matthew's names mean "a gift of God." Why Jesus would have taken this particular tax collector is not known but as the stories continue we see the transformation of a greedy tax collector turn into one of the first Apologists for Christ.
Since Matthew could write, as he was a publican (civil servant) for Rome, it seems planned that he would be the writer of the first gospel. His writing of the life and teachings of Jesus was brought to the Sanhedrin in his (and Christianity’s) defense. It is his message that would reverberate through the ages. How this man was reformed and blessed through living and learning with Christ is definitely a God thing. But it proves that God has an ultimate plan and can change the lives of whom He chooses to make the Word known.
So what can we learn from Matthew’s life?
1. Even the greediest person can be reformed and become a believer. Here we can use the analogy of a Scrooge-like person. All Jesus had to do was come into Matthew’s life. Today it is a little bit harder and may take drastic measures to humble the greedy, but if God ordains it, He will make a way for it to come to pass.
2. Defending the Gospel is a life-long effort. Through heartache, pain, and suffering, Matthew served God and shred the Gospel even and the point of death. We must not fear those who we are serving and sharing the Gospel with because that is our commission in life.
After the Pentecost and dealing with the Sanhedrin, Matthew preached in Ethiopia where he died a martyr's death by beheading.
We are living in much troubled times so the message of peace is a little late but necessary. This Week in Advent we discuss the peace that the Lord will bring us. We know that Micha and Isaiah spoke of the future king who would bring peace (the everlasting part was misunderstood), but did you know that Ezekiel was given the Word saying that God Himself would come.
11 “For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 13 And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. 14 I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. 16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.
17 “As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord God: Behold, I judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and male goats. 18 Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet? 19 And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet?
20 “Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: Behold, I, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. 21 Because you push with side and shoulder, and thrust at all the weak with your horns, till you have scattered them abroad, 22 I will rescue my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. And I will judge between sheep and sheep. 23 And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24 And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the Lord; I have spoken. Ezekiel 33:11-24
Let’s focus for a minute on two verses here Ezekiel 33:15-16 states, 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. 16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.
Did you hear the strength in what God was telling Ezekiel here? God will come Himself and bring comfort and peace to those who are weary and lost. He would come down and defeat sin. WOW! And He is a God of His Word. He came as He said He would and brought those who desperately needed Him what they desired most, a Savior, Comforter, and Peacemaker. In this, Ezekiel records that God will bring a ruler from David’s line in later days. We know this man, Jesus.
Before He could wage the war on sin against the Adversary, Jesus had to show the world what it is to be a righteous, loving person. He brought peace through instruction.
11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Matthew 9:11 (NKJV)
We are all waiting for the future peace that is awaiting us when Jesus returns. Isaiah and Ezekiel both talk of this peace:
The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. 2 Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it.
3 Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 4 He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. 5 O house of Jacob, come and let us walk in the light of the Lord. Isaiah 2:1-5
God will bring peace to the earth
25 “I will make with them a covenant of peace and banish wild beasts from the land, so that they may dwell securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods. 26 And I will make them and the places all around my hill a blessing, and I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing. 27 And the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield its increase, and they shall be secure in their land. And they shall know that I am the Lord, when I break the bars of their yoke, and deliver them from the hand of those who enslaved them. 28 They shall no more be a prey to the nations, nor shall the beasts of the land devour them. They shall dwell securely, and none shall make them afraid. 29 And I will provide for them, renowned plantations so that they shall no more be consumed with hunger in the land, and no longer suffer the reproach of the nations. 30 And they shall know that I am the Lord their God with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, declares the Lord God. 31 And you are my sheep, human sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Lord God.” Ezekiel 33:25-31
They (at the time) desired a mortal peace and the end of the captivity of Rome. But what they did not understand that in order to have physical peace we must first be at peace in the Spirit and be restored to God before lasting peace could ever be lived. The peace on earth that Jesus showed was a peace in the Spirit. This is the peace we need to desire, a peace where all will be held in the loving arms of God.
Jesus came to us in a humble, peaceful manner in a time when the Jews were enduring pain and suffering under the captive rule of Rome. He showed peace. It is up to us to show the world His peace. Are you willing to do that?
The Apostle Thomas was an analytical man with a very critical mind. He was also a loyal follower of Christ. Seems like the two would contradict each other but Thomas, while in Christ’s presence, knew Jesus was the Messiah. Thomas saw and believed. The inquisitive mind of Thomas was a driving factor in his doubtful nature. On the flip side, the same mind would encourage the pursuit of answers which would lead him to a greater faith. Thomas was even ready to die with him until the last minute in the garden when they all fled except John who stood by Mary. There are many different stories and ideas of who he was prior to leaving everything and following Jesus. Franco Zeffirelli characterized him as a servant. Extra biblical texts note that he was a leader in his community, a fisherman, even a carpenter. No matter his past, Thomas became a driving force in spreading the Gospel. What lessons can we learn from this man?
1. We do not have to see to believe.
We all know that individual who needs to use his or her senses to fully understand and believe something. Most people like that need physical proof. They need to witness miracles to have faith. How many in ancient times did not see Him but heard God’s voice then in fearful respect and trust, believed in God who is greater than themselves. The creation of idols assisted those who needed to see their god in order to believe it would help them. Thomas needed to see Jesus, to feel the wounds.
We do not have the same opportunity as the Disciples and other followers who saw Jesus first hand but we have the Holy Spirit with us. Jesus gave us the constant companion who helps guide us in the Word and is that little voice to remind us right from wrong. Something we know for certain, Jesus is Alive and Well within our hearts.
Jesus lovingly chided Thomas while giving him a lesson in faith right after the incident by saying,
"Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (NIV) John 20:29
This is a blessing for us who can believe and have faith in what we know we cannot see with our mortal eyes but have the sight of God in the eyes of our hearts.
2. Being inquisitive of God is not a bad thing, just be careful and don’t make it a habit.
Thomas, like Peter, questioned Jesus as He spoke of going to Heaven and making a place for the Apostles. Thomas was confused and asked for clarity and direction. He gave a straight forward answer and that was exactly what Thomas needed to hear.
Asking questions is never a bad thing but we should not ask the question, “Why?” for anything because we already know the answer. Because He is God. Not always an acceptable answer but it is truth. Asking for proof is a no/no because the proof (9 times out of 10) is right in front of you.
Thomas was a good man who spread the Gospel to India and a few other places. His martyrdom came in the form of a spear. He was killed in India after being a driving force in the conversion of the queen.
The messages on the blogs written on this page are within biblical adherence. Though the Scriptures listed in the blogs are directly from the Bible and other related religious writings the explanations and interpretations are in line with Biblical thinking as it relates to today’s world. The use of historical facts are to assist in the validity of the writings. The main writer of this blog site is an Ordained minister in one denomination though the views are related to all denominations so if something is said that does not fall in line with your denominational background, pray for personal discernment and understanding.