New Testament Reading Plan: Week 4

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.

Day 1:   Matthew 15; Mark 7
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.

Day 2:    Matthew 16; Mark 8; Luke9:18-27
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.

Day 3:    Matthew 17; Mark 9; Luke9:28-62
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.

Day 5:    John 7-8, Exodus 3:14
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

New Testament Reading Plan: Week 3

Week 3 summary:

This week, we will read several stories from Jesus' life from different gospels.  Matthew, Mark and Luke are referred to as the synoptic gospels because there are a lot of similarities in the stories that each author shares.  In fact, one theory is that Mark was written first and that the authors of Matthew and Luke used a lot of stories from Mark, plus additional information.
Through some of the stories we will read this week, Jesus starts to “draw the line in the sand” in terms of what it means to follow Jesus as a member of God's Kingdom.

Day 1:   Matthew 12:22-50; Luke 11
Jesus has been performing many signs and wonders (miracles) that should prove that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah (which means Savior).  However, the people ask for more signs to which Jesus replies that they won't get another sign except the sign of Jonah.  (Jonah 1:17 says that Jonah was in the belly of the fish for 3 days.  Jesus was predicting that He would be in the grave 3 days and that would be their sign.)  But people of His generation – His people the Israelites –  were not believing.  In the book of Jonah, Jonah goes to Nineveh (Gentile country) to get them to repent, which by the way they do.  Jesus says that it will be much better for the people of Nineveh because they did repent and believe than for the Israelites of His time that saw the signs and wonders and did not believe.

Day 2:    Matthew 13; Luke 8; Isaiah 6:9-10
Today we will learn about parables.  A parable is a simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson.  Jesus teaches in parables on purpose.  (See Matthew 13:10-15 which includes the reference to Isaiah 6.)  Why?  Given Jesus' mission to convey the message of the Kingdom to everyone, starting with Israel, He was not intentionally hiding the truth from sincere seekers.  But to those that really did not want to follow, they would not get the meaning of the parables directly.

Day 3:    Matthew 8:14-34; Mark 4-5
In the passage from Matthew, Jesus starts to explain what it means to truly follow Him.  Bottom line – for a true follower of Jesus, Jesus needs to be not only your first priority but your only priority.

Day 4:    Matthew 9-10, Hosea 6:6
Another line in the sand...Jesus calls Matthew, a tax collector as one of His disciples.  (Tax collectors were Jews but collected taxes for the Romans.  Therefore, you might classify them as a traitor.  To make matters worse, the tax collectors would not only collect what they were told by the Romans to collect, but they would collect whatever amount they wanted, so that they could line their own pockets.  So not only were they traitors, but they cheated and stole from their own people.  Tax collectors were hated by their own people.  And yet, Jesus called Matthew, this “sinner” as one of His disciples.)  After calling Matthew, Jesus went to a party at Matthew's house with other “sinners.”  This was not liked by the Jewish religious leaders.  Jesus wasn't worried about that.  He came not to the religious leaders but to those that were spiritually ill – the “sinners.”  See Hosea 6:6.  The letter of the law may say “sacrifice” but the spirit of the law is “mercy.”

Day 5:    Matthew 14; Mark 6; Luke 9:1-17
No special comments today.

Day 6:    Exodus 16, John 6
John 6 is an incredibly important passage.  Jesus continues performing miracles.  One miracle is feeding over 5,000 people with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.  Because of the miracles, the crowds are constantly following Him – but why are they searching Jesus out?  Jesus says (in John 6:26) that they are not searching for Him because of the miracles but because they had all that they needed to eat and were filled up.  In other words, Jesus satisfied their physical needs.  Even though they had seen miracles, they wanted more miracles and compared what they wanted to see with what their ancestors had seen when God provided manna from heaven to feed the Israelites during the Exodus as they waited to enter the promised land.  (See passage from Exodus 16 and also Psalm 78:23-24.)  Manna was given to sustain the Israelites in the desert.  But now, Jesus says that He is the bread of life from heaven, sent to sustain/feed His followers as they (and we now) wait for the ultimate promised land (eternity with Jesus).  The people of the day were clamoring to satisfy their physical needs but Jesus is the answer to their spiritual needs.

Day 7:  rest

New Testament Reading Plan: Week 2

Week 2 summary:

In this week's readings we see Jesus performing miracles as He heals and teaches.  And as He goes about His mission, we see Jesus “rocking the boat,” especially with the religious leaders.  He teaches about what the Law really means which is frequently different than the way the religious leaders interpreted it and attempted to enforce it.  And as He “rocks the boat,” the religious leaders are already out to trap and “destroy” Him.

Jesus' ministry gets started as He continues healing.  He also has started to make some people mad as:  1) He openly says that He “forgives sins,” something only God can do;  2) as He is seen eating with sinners; 3) as He teaches differently regarding fasting and the Sabbath laws.  In other words, Jesus is bringing something new that contradicts what the religious leaders of the day were communicating.  Note:  the Sabbath was the 7th day of the week set aside for rest and worship.  For Jews, the Sabbath was sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday.  For the Jews, no work could be done on the Sabbath.  For Christians, we typically celebrate this day of rest and worship on Sundays.  We celebrate this day of rest and worship on the 7th day to remember that God created in 6 days and He rested on the 7th day.

Day 2:   John 5
The healing that occurred on the Sabbath in this passage caused the leaders to want to kill Jesus.  (The question is whether healing someone on the Sabbath, the day of rest and worship, violated God's law.)  In addition, Jesus in this passage calls God His “father.”
Jesus is clearly claiming to be God in this passage.  However, in Jewish law, testimony about oneself was not valid.  So Jesus indicates (starting in verse 31) that there are others who testify about His identity for Him:  1)  John the Baptist;  2) God the Father;  3) the Scriptures;  4) Moses.

In the passage from Matthew, Jesus raises the issues that the Jewish leaders might be able to quote the law but they really don't understand the spirit of the law.  Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6, a verse from the Old Testament Scripture that the Jewish people of that time would have known.
Several times in the gospels (Mark 3 being an example), Jesus warns people (and demons) not to reveal His true identity, at least not yet.  Jesus wanted to make sure that people did not think He was a Messiah that had come to conquer.  As Messiah, Jesus came to be a suffering servant.
C.S. Lewis said that Jesus could not be just a good moral teacher.  Because of what Jesus said, you would either have to believe Him to be a lunatic (crazy), a liar, or Lord.  In Mark 3:21, Mark tells us that even Jesus' own family thought Him to be a lunatic (crazy).  We all have to decide for ourselves:  is Jesus a lunatic or a liar; and if He is neither, then He deserves to be Lord of our life.

Day 4:   Matthew 5-7
Matthew 5-7 is what we call the Sermon on the Mount.  (We read yesterday Luke's version of this event which is called the Sermon on the Plain and is basically the same teaching.)  There are various interpretations of what this teaching means.  However we can safely assume that Jesus wants us to follow this teaching.  He tells us to “ perfect...” and also says put His words into practice – if we do, we will build our house on solid rock.  We don't start out our Christian life doing what Jesus teaches here.  But He calls us to continually move in that direction – toward Christlikeness.  (Jesus teaches what He did, does and always will do!  Jesus says in Matthew 5:17 that He has come to fulfill the Law and the Prophets.)  The good news is that when we fail to be “perfect,” we can run back to Jesus for His grace.  In other words, this continues to underscore the point that we NEED saving.  And Jesus is our Savior!
Jesus continues teaching that there is a difference between the letter of the Law and the spirit of the Law when He says “ have heard that it was said...but I say to you...”  And all of this boils down to loving God and loving neighbor.

In Luke 7, John the Baptist asks if Jesus is the one who is prophesied to come (i.e., the Savior referenced in the Old Testament).  Jesus tells John's disciples to go report to John what has been seen (the blind can see, the lame can walk, the skin diseases have been healed, …).  Jesus is referring to Isaiah 35 and referring to what will happen as God's Kingdom comes.  Isaiah 35 is talking about transformation and concludes by saying that there will be something like a Holy Highway that only those ransomed by the Lord will travel.

Day 6:   Matthew 11
Why did Jesus perform the miracles He did?  We get a clue in Matthew 11 starting in verse 20.  Jesus' main reason for His miracles is so that people would change their hearts and lives.  We refer to that as transformation and transformation is part of our mission as Christ's church.  The transformation Jesus was talking about was not of unbelievers so-to-speak, but He was speaking about His own people.  We don't get to see the miracles of Jesus first-hand, but we have the opportunity to read about them.  This can happen to us as we study God's Word.  Our hearts and lives can change – we can be transformed.

Day 7:  rest

New Testament Reading Plan: Week 1


As we start reading the New Testament, we will be reading it in chronological order.  Remember that the gospel story was originally told verbally in story form.  The first books written were some of Paul’s letters.  One source indicates that 1 Timothy and Galatians were probably among the first written, about 2 decades after Jesus’ death.  The last book written is considered to be Revelation, thought to have been written 50 – 60 years after Jesus’ death.

When the books that would make up what we call the New Testament were determined, they were not put in chronological order.  They are organized by type of literature:  the gospels, history (the book of Acts), the epistles (or letters – organized somewhat by length) and finally Revelation.

The authors of the books in the New Testament frequently referred to the Scriptures, which at their time, meant what we call the Old Testament.  It was important for at least the Jewish people to draw a connection between what was written in the Old Testament and how that was fulfilled in Jesus.  As we read the New Testament over the next 3 months we will refer to some key passages in the Old Testament, so that we can also connect the Old Testament to the New Testament.  After all, the entire Bible, the Old and New Testaments, are one seamless story – God’s story.  And our goal is to understand how our story is part of God’s story.

Week 1 summary:

In the first week of our reading, we will begin by reading a few chapters from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  These are the first four books of the New Testament and are referred to as the gospels.  The word gospel means “good news.”  These four books tell the story of the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus.  And the story of Jesus is good news for us!

These early chapters in the gospels recount the story of God’s chosen people who at this stage, were the Jews.  Jesus is the culmination of the promises God made in the Old Testament to His people.  They also tell of John the Baptist, the prophesied forerunner of Jesus, of the birth of Jesus, His early life (of which we know very little), the baptism of Jesus, the temptation of Jesus, and the very beginning of His ministry which started at about the age of 30.

Day 1: Isaiah 9:4, 7 (read verses 4 and 7 of Isaiah), Luke 1 read chapter 1 of Luke; John 1:1-14 (read verses 1-14)
Luke was a doctor and given that, he did thorough investigation as he documented the story of Jesus.  After his research he wanted to document the results for Theophilus so that he would have confidence in what he believed.  It is generally believed that Luke was writing to the Gentiles – i.e., everyone other than the Jews.
John was interested in communicating the deity of Jesus (i.e., Jesus being God in the flesh) so you may see his communication style is different than that of Luke.

Day 2:  2 Samuel 7:11b-16, Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1; Luke 2:1-38,
Matthew is thought to have been writing primarily to the Jewish people. As you read the genealogy of Jesus from Matthew, look for the following;   1) Matthew starts his genealogy by stating that Jesus is a descendant of Abraham and David; 2) Matthew ends with Joseph, a male (who was the husband of Mary who is the mother of the Christ); 3) Matthew names 4 females, all who have interesting stories.
Also in this passage, we see the first of many references to prophecies from the Old Testament that are being fulfilled in Jesus.

Day 3:  Micah 5:2, Matthew 2; Luke 2:39-52
There is little that we know of the time between Jesus’ birth and when His ministry started at age 30.  We read one story of His childhood in today’s passage from Luke.

Day 4:  Isaiah 40:1-5, Matthew 3; Mark 1; Luke 3
Today we read various accounts of John the Baptist, the one called to prepare the way for Jesus’ coming.  There are two interesting points in the accounts of the baptism of Jesus:  1) we see the trinity (God in 3 persons) in this passage; 2) even though Jesus was sinless, He was baptized so that He could identify with the people and their sins (since He would die for the sins of the people).
In the Luke passage we see Luke’s version of the genealogy of Jesus.  Note that Luke traces Jesus lineage back past Abraham, all the way to Adam, signifying that Jesus is for all nations, not just the Jewish people.

Day 5:  Deuteronomy 8:3, 6:16, 6:13, Matthew 4; Luke 4-5; John 1:15-51
In these passages we see the accounts of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness.  Note that this occurs prior to Jesus starting His ministry.  Note also that in countering the attacks of Satan, Jesus quotes Scripture.  Satan tries to quote Scripture in tempting Jesus (see Psalm 91:11-12) but Satan didn’t take into account the bigger story of Scripture so Jesus had a quick answer (also from Scripture).
As Jesus officially starts His ministry (as recorded in Luke 4:16-21) in a synagogue in His hometown of Nazareth, He quoted Scripture (see Isaiah 61:1-2).
As we start to see the miracles Jesus performed, we see Him casting out demons.  Here is an interesting fact:  the demons seemed to know that Jesus was the Son of God and yet humans couldn’t grasp that, at least not yet.

Day 6:  John 2-4 (read chaptes 2 – 4 of John)
See John 3:14-17 and read the story from Numbers 21:4-9 (related to the Israelite's 40 year wilderness journey).  See a connection?

Day 7:  rest