Week 4 summary:
In the readings from this week, Jesus continues “drawing lines in the sand,” explaining clearly what it means to follow Him. He challenges the religious leaders, His disciples and the crowds. Jesus also knows that His mission will end in His crucifixion (although His disciples don't want to believe it). So knowing that, Jesus is off to Jerusalem to complete His mission.
There are two interesting passages in today's readings, recorded both in Matthew and Mark.
1. In Matthew 15:1-20 and Mark 7:1-16, bottom line is that Jesus calls the Jewish leaders hypocrites. They are following their own interpretation of God's law instead of following the intent of God's law. They are more concerned about externals (washing their hands) than they are about cleansing their heart. They had replaced the true religion of the heart with a religion of form.
2. Matthew 15:21-28 and Mark 7:24-30 record a Gentile woman coming up to Jesus, wanting Him to heal her daughter from demon possession. Jesus responds that He has come only to the lost sheep, the people of Israel. However, Jesus ministered to Gentile people and in fact, when this occurred, He was on His mission in a Gentile area. He was telling the woman that He came first to the Jewish people so that those that accepted Him could help in presenting His message to the rest of the world. He might have also been proving a point to those watching as He tested the faith of the woman (which she proved she had great faith). Jesus did heal the woman's daughter from being possessed by a demon.
If you want to follow Jesus, you must “take up your cross,” and “lose your life” to save it. In other words, say “no” to yourself and “yes” to Jesus.
A little yeast goes a long way. Jesus refers to the “yeast” of the religious leaders. Jesus was referring to the incorrect teachings of the leaders. Be careful not to let that “evil” spread. A little “yeast” (evil) will go a long way toward affecting the whole batch.
All three readings for today tell us of what is referred to as the transfiguration. Jesus was transformed “in front of” Peter, James and John, His closest friends. This occurred shortly after Jesus asks them who they think He is to which Peter responds, “You are the Christ.” Because this occurred “in front of them,” it was for their benefit that they saw this, confirming Jesus' identity. Moses and Elijah were there with Jesus. Moses represented the Law (from the Old Testament) and Elijah represented the prophets and therefore, Moses and Elijah appearing together confirmed that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets (i.e., the Old Testament).
Day 4: Matthew 18
Matthew 18:15-17 are Jesus' guidelines for dealing with people who sin against us, or in other words, dealing with conflict in the church. 1) Jesus is talking about using these guidelines within the church, not the community at large. 2) These are guidelines for sins or offenses against YOU, not others. These guidelines are to be used to keep harmony within the Body of Christ (the church). Therefore, these guidelines are to help us from doing the opposite of what we sometimes do in these situations: turn away in hatred; seek revenge, and/or; engage in gossip. In contrast, we should go to the person first, directly, and attempt to resolve the differences we have. This is the best way to restore a damaged relationship among believers.
Several times in the reading for today we hear Jesus say, “the time has not come yet.” Jesus was living by a divine calendar, not by chance.
Another interesting part of today's reading is the end of John 8. As you read, pay attention to verse 58. Jesus makes a very strong statement about who He is and His divine nature. He says that He existed before Abraham who lived about 2000 years before Jesus. In this conversation with the Jewish opposition, Jesus even uses the term to refer to Himself that God used when God told Moses His name – I AM! Obviously, this made the leaders mad enough to want to stone Jesus right then. After all, the punishment for blasphemy (which is what the leaders thought Jesus was doing) was death.
Day 6: John 9:1-10:21 (read starting in chapter 9 verse 1 through chapter 10 stopping after reading verse 21)
More teaching by Jesus and more confrontations with the Jewish leaders – this time related to healing a blind man on the Sabbath.
There is an interesting question posed by His disciples at the beginning of chapter 9. When encountering the blind man, the disciples asked “who sinned,” the man or his parents that would have caused the blindness. During the day, it was a belief that sin was punished by some ailment (like being blind). Jesus looked at the blind man as a way to do God's work, not as a punishment for a past sin (of the man or his parents) or as some irrational chance happening. Through this man's blindness, Jesus was able to demonstrate the Kingdom of God through a miracle (sign) and making Him see. (Remember week 2, day 5, we read Matthew 8 and Luke 7 that both referred to Isaiah 35. God's Kingdom will be represented by “the blind can see, the lame can walk, the skin diseases have been healed, …” Jesus was demonstrating that God's Kingdom was breaking into the world.)
Day 7: rest