ABC Oct. 16-22

October 16 — Matthew 9-10 — Chronological Hiccups.  Since we are reading through the Bible chronologically, you have probably noticed that we often read a story in one of the Gospels and several days later we read about the same story from another Gospel.  One of the reasons for this disjointed experience is that not all the Gospels are written chronologically.  Especially Matthew seems to have been organized more with themes in mind rather than time.  Today, we see the story of the healing of the paralytic, but we have already read more detailed descriptions in Mark 2 (9 days ago) and Luke 5 (11 days ago).  Where to position Matthew’s chapters was a problem for those who organized the reading schedule we are following.  A better way to do it is to read through the Gospels in a much more parallel way, keeping each story in its chronological place so they can be compared in more detail.  That is often called a Gospel Harmony.

October 17 — Matt. 14; Mark 6; Luke 9:1-17 — Getting Away.  Life can get stressful and ministry can get tiring.  Sometimes we just need to get away.  This happened three times in our reading for today.  The first time was after Jesus heard about the death of his relative, John the Baptist: “Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew … to a desolate place by himself” (Matt. 14:13).  Dealing with grief often requires us to spend time alone.  The second get-away occurred after preaching for hours to a huge crowd and then filling them with physical food from the five loaves and two fish: “And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray” (v. 23).  Ministering to others can get exhausting and one needs to get alone to spend time with God in fellowship and for strengthening.  The third retreat was for the twelve apostles after they returned from being sent out two by two to preach, cast out demons, and heal.  Jesus said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31).  Rest after ministry.  This is probably why so many pastors take Monday as their day off, resting after a packed and stressful Sunday.  Times for getting away are necessary to plan into our lives.

October 18 — John 6 — Sign?  What Sign?!  The biggest draw about Jesus for the large crowd following him was, “because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick” (John 6:2).  It was a miracle-seeking crowd.  They recognized that only God could do these things, so when the people saw the sign of the feeding of the 5,000, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” (v. 14) and they wanted to make him king (v. 15).  That same belly-filled crowd got into boats and “went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus” (v. 24).  Jesus revealed their basic motive by saying, “you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves” (v. 26).  They were a food-following crowd.  Three times it was said that they “saw the signs” but four verses later, the same people asked, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you?” (v. 30).  The signs they saw of Jesus healing the sick were not enough for them, nor the feeding of the 5,000, nor miraculously showing up on the other side of the lake.  Do you have friends who say they would believe if they could see some physical evidence of God?  No, they probably wouldn’t believe!  It is all around them in creation but they will not believe.  The problem is not evidence but attitude.

October 19 — Matt. 15; Mark 7 — Rubbing the Wrong Way.  It was almost as if Jesus intentionally irritated the Pharisees and scribes from Jerusalem.  He called them hypocrites (Matt. 15:7), which they were because they preferred following their manmade rules of tradition rather than the commands of God.  Culture is a powerful force that guides conduct because it applies peer pressure.  Follow the crowd!  But God’s ways are not man’s ways (Isa. 55:8).  The question about Jesus’ disciples not washing their hands was not a hygiene issue but a manmade ceremonial one, and Jesus refused to follow it.  The second event in our reading also seemed like Jesus was intentionally back-rubbing the fur of the Gentile Canaanite woman.  She was in desperate need with a daughter who was possessed by a demon but Jesus refused to respond to her plea, telling His disciples that “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 15:24).  It sounds like prejudice but He was only following the command of His Father.  The woman got what she wanted, however, partly because of her persistence, but mostly because of her faith.  Jesus responds to faith then and now, to Jew and to Gentile.

October 20 — Matt. 16; Mark 8; Luke 9:18-27 — From Blessed to Blasted.  Probably Peter’s highest and lowest points are only six verses apart in Matthew’s account.  When Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matt. 16:15), Peter responded with this wonderful declaration: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (v. 16).  Jesus then praised him for his spiritual sensitivity.  Then, Jesus began to tell them that He “must go to Jerusalem … and be killed” (v. 21).  But this “spiritually-sensitive” Peter rebuked Jesus for saying that, and insisted, “This shall never happen to you” (v. 22).  This information, however, was not revealed to him by the Father, as was true with his previous statement (v. 17), but it came because he was “setting [his] mind … on the things of man” (v. 23).  Even having the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, we suffer from the same tendency—being sensitive to God but also relying on our own human understanding.  As sons of God, we are not to “walk … according to the flesh” (Rom. 8:4) but are to be “led by the Spirit of God” (v. 14).  We need to make sure we are listening to the right voice.

October 21 — Matt. 17; Mark 9; Luke 9:28-62 — Help My Unbelief.  I can identify with the man whose only child (Luke 9:38) was possessed by the destructive evil spirit but not because any of my children have experienced that.  In Jesus’ absence, the man brought his son to nine of the apostles for healing but “they could not heal him” (Matt. 17:16).  The reasons had to do with prayer and faith.  Mark’s account focused on the lack of faith of this “faithless generation” (Mark 9:19).  The man brought his son to the disciples because he had faith that they could help him.  When they could not, by faith he brought the boy to Jesus.  He had faith but it wasn’t pure—he had doubts as well.  He asked Jesus, “If you can do anything … help us” (v. 22).  When Jesus told him that anything is “possible for one who believes” (v. 23), the man confessed and pleaded, “I believe, help my unbelief!” (v. 24).  Here is where I can identify with the man—I find myself in that position a lot.  My faith is not pure; I believe but I doubt.  I want to believe and try to believe but am hampered by the reservation of circumstances in the past when my prayers were apparently not answered.  It is important to note that the man received what he requested from Jesus.  The limited faith that he had was enough and Jesus recognized and honored it.

October 22 — Matt. 18 — Hard Lessons.  In this chapter, Matthew grouped together two important difficult principles to accept and apply: humility and forgiveness.  They are hard lessons to learn because they go against our sinful tendencies of pride and accusation.  The disciples were interested in who would be “greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (v. 1) but, in contrast, Jesus presented a little child as a model of humility, saying that we must “turn and become like children” (v. 3).  We must learn to “turn” because the pride of wanting to be “great” is our default desire.  Turning is part of repenting; it recognizes the wrongness of one focus and the value of another and acts to shift that focus.  The second lesson is about forgiveness.  Jesus gave the classic procedure for handling the situation when one believer sins against another in vv. 15-17.  Peter then personalized and quantified it in vs. 21 by asking how many times one must forgive another.  He thought seven times would be generous, but Jesus greatly multiplied that number.  We need to be forgiving way more than we want to and we also need to be much humbler than what feels comfortable. 

Published by abibleread

This website honors the Bible as the inspired Word of God through which God speaks to us as we read and study it.

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