The perils of prosperity

Throughout history people seem to have had the idea that those who were rich would get to heaven and those who were poor would struggle to get there. This seems to have been backed by this idea: the wealth of the rich was evidence that God was blessing them; the poverty of the poor was proof that God was not with them. As attractive as that philosophy has been, it doesn’t take much reading in the Bible to discover that, more often than not, it is the poor who are faithful to God.

This brings us to the young man who came to Jesus who was quite rich. He asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to gain eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16 NET). He had the idea that if he did something good he would be given eternal life. And since he was wealthy, he could afford to do whatever it was that this teacher asked of him. Continue reading “The perils of prosperity”

What did you go to see?

John the Immerser was imprisoned by Herod Antipas about 70 miles from where Jesus was preaching.

John sent some of his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the coming one or not. No one is sure why John did this, but it is understandable since he was about to lose his head for telling the king the truth about his marriage to his brother’s wife.

After answering John’s disciples, Jesus turned to the other people and asked them a question. When they went out to the wilderness, what did they go to see (Luke 7:24-26)? Continue reading “What did you go to see?”

Make time for God

“Now when Jesus heard this he went away from there privately in a boat to an isolated place. But when the crowd heard about it, they followed him on foot from the towns” (Matthew 14:13 NET).

Jesus had just received news of the death of John. We know from Luke 1:36 that their mothers were related, so it may not be speculating too much to suggest that Jesus and John may have known each other as children. Being close in age, if there had been family gatherings they would probably have ended up together. Continue reading “Make time for God”

Jesus did what was right

My wife watches me when we cut grass together. She watches closely. If I start mowing in a way she doesn’t like, she will stop her mower and make hand signals to correct me. I don’t mind. She’s only trying to help.

Jesus was at the synagogue one day and the Scribes and Pharisees were watching him closely. They weren’t watching Jesus to help him. Their motives were darker. Dr. Luke wrote they were watching to see if Jesus would heal someone on the Sabbath. They wanted to accuse him of doing something wrong (Luke 6:7). Continue reading “Jesus did what was right”

Accepting who Jesus is

“When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’ Jesus replied, ‘Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me’” (Matthew 11:2-6 NIV).

Can you imagine what John must have been going through? When Jesus came to him at the Jordan to be immersed he had seen the Spirit descend on Jesus like a dove, identifying him as the promised Messiah. Yet if Jesus was the Messiah, why was John in prison? And why was Jesus doing nothing about it? So he sent his followers to ask Jesus if he really was the Messiah. Continue reading “Accepting who Jesus is”

The ancestry of Jesus

“This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham…” (Matthew 1:1 NIV).

Genealogies. Most do not find these the most exciting part of scripture to read. When the Reader’s Digest, known for publishing condensed versions of books, brought out their Condensed Version of the Bible, guess what they left out? One of the obvious was the genealogies – after all, who wants to read these? Yet these serve a purpose, both in life and in scripture. Continue reading “The ancestry of Jesus”

Under the magnifying glass

It’s time to look for my magnifying glass again.

Someone keeps taking my magnifying glass from my desk because she needs to see something small up close. Magnifying glasses come in handy when we need to enlarge something so details can be seen.

The mother of Jesus placed the Lord under a glass in a passage called “the Magnificat.” In her praise of God in Luke 1:46-56, she zoomed in on the greatness of God so others could see him.

Let’s take a close-up look of God through Mary’s magnifying glass. Each statement begins with the personal pronoun, “he.” Continue reading “Under the magnifying glass”

What is our verdict?

“A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offence that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established” (Deuteronomy 19:15 ESV).

As the nation of Israel approached the Promised Land, God insured that they would have a fair system of justice. One aspect of this was that eye-witness testimony was only good if it could be corroborated. It wasn’t enough just to have one person testify against someone else.

There was a good reason for this. One person might give false evidence because he did not like the person. There was even a part of the law to deal with this. Continue reading “What is our verdict?”

Rest for your souls

Weekends, holidays, vacation time — we want rest! Today we have more time off than people of any age. But some still think that the time they have for rest is little for so much work and responsibility.

Our problem is that the rest we need is for the soul.

In the greater context of chapters 11-12 of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus condemns the Jews for not accepting God’s emissaries (John the Immerser and himself) and for creating and imposing upon others their religious rules. To those willing to accept it, Jesus offers rest for the soul, with these conditions: Continue reading “Rest for your souls”