Monday, April 27, 2009

[Bread of Life – The Confession of Peter]

After Jesus fed the 5000, I still wondered why he did it? Why this miracle at this time? Then I kept reading and found the answer. It turns out that those who were fed followed after Jesus.]

John 6 (after feeding 5000 and walking on the water)

25 And when they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, "Rabbi, when did You come here?"
26 Jesus answered them and said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. 27 Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him."

[Jesus saw they followed for earthly blessings, but he wanted to provide what they needed for eternal life.]


28 Then they said to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?"
29 Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent."
30 Therefore they said to Him, "What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'"

[Just when it seemed like they were beginning to understand Jesus, they went right back to thinking with their stomachs. They said Moses gave us manna from heaven, what sign will you give (food) that that we may believe you.]


32 Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."
34 Then they said to Him, "Lord, give us this bread always."

[First Jesus says Moses gave you no bread but my Father, and he has true bread for you now. They hear the word bread and think, "Hey he's going to feed us again. Give us this bread". But Jesus was talking about redemption.]


35 And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. 37
All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.

[If you remember Jesus with the Samaritan woman these words will sound familiar. Notice the involvement of God the father in bringing people to Jesus "All the Father gives Me, will come to Me".]


No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.

[This is why we always need to pray for the ones we will witness to, that the Father will draw them to the son. He went on to teach the sacrifice of his flesh and blood, just like he did at the last supper.]


65 And He said, "Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father."
66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.


[Jesus is the bread of life, the only way of salvation to those who receive him. But always remember it is God the Father who rings the dinner bell, drawing sinners to repentance. Even in providing food, Jesus was working for redemption, always desiring to give believers eternal life. Most of Jesus' followers were fine with the miracles, and they desired him to be the conquering king who would take the throne of David and cast out the Roman occupiers from their land. But few were ready for the sacrificial Christ, who would personally atone for the sins of mankind. So after he used this graphic description similar to the words he would use at the last supper, many left and followed him no more.]


67 Then Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also want to go away?"
68 But Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

[I call this Peter's Richard Gere moment. Remember the movie "An Office and a Gentleman"? (anybody want to confess that sin right now). Richard Gere is in Navy flight school and is caught in an honors violation by paying an enlisted men to keep extra sets his his brass and his shoes polished. The drill instructor is putting him through tortuous physical training where he has to hold the crunch position with his rifle extended singing an obscene cadence while the sergeant shoots water in his face with a garden hose almost drowning him. Finally the sergeant say "Why don't you just quit" and Richard Gere screams "I got nowhere else to go". Peter facing a similar choice say "Where will we go, you have the words of eternal life" and "You are the Christ the son of the living God", some translations will say the Holy one of God. I like that to because only God is holy, so it identifies Jesus as God.]


Matthew 16

5 Now when His disciples had come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. 6 Then Jesus said to them, "Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees."
7 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, "It is because we have taken no bread."
8 But Jesus, being aware of it, said to them, "O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread?[c]
9 Do you not yet understand, or remember the five loaves of the five thousand and how many baskets you took up? 10 Nor the seven loaves of the four thousand and how many large baskets you took up? 11 How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread?—but to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." 12 Then they understood that He did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

[After feeding the 5000 and teaching about the bread of life, he fed 4000 in another place in a similar manner. Two of the Gospels, Matthew and Mark record both if these miracles so it's not confusion or somebody's bad memory these were two different miracles. But when Jesus talks about the leaven of the Pharisees they think maybe he's warning them not to eat the local bread, because they forgot to bring their own. And Jesus kind of scolds them because they saw him feed thousands, yet they think he's talking about physical bread. But he says no, I'm talking about doctrine. So what is wrong with the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees? Well certainly they had legalism which they used to make themselves superior to others. They also suffered from doubt, even seeing his miracles they did not believe in Jesus as Messiah. But I think the metaphor of leaven is a strong hint. Just as leaven puffs up the bread to make it rise, so too does pride in the heart of a man.]


13 When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?"
14 So they said, "Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."


[Israel has a great tradition of prophets. And when people heard his teaching and saw the miracles they usually believed he was a great teacher or even a prophet. After John the Baptist was killed some (including Harod) thought John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and that's who Jesus was. Yet even though all these people believed in Jesus, thought he was a great man of God, this was not a saving faith.


Look back to end of John 2

23 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. 24 But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men,
25 and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.

{This is one of those passages I never really understood, because it says people believed on his name, but he did not commit himself to them. So I always wondered what was wrong with their belief. Well you find the answer when you keep reading in Chapter 3}

John 3

1 There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him."
3 Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

{You see Nicodemus was one of those people who believed in Jesus because of the miracles. But as soon as he starts talking Jesus cuts him off and says "you must me born again", because Nicodemus did not yet believe he was the Messiah he was not trusting Jesus as his savior. What we believe about Jesus matters very much to God.]

Now turn back to Matthew 16]


15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"
16 Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

17 Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.

[Do you see the difference? This is one of those verses I memorized in the original King James so to me Peter will forever say "Thou art the Christ". So why did Peter have the right belief the right faith? Jesus answered in verse 17 "blessed are you because my Father in heaven has revealed it to you". Sound familiar? We read the same thing in John 6 when Jesus said no one comes to the Son without the Father, but once the Father draws them to Jesus, he never turns them away. ]


18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed[d] in heaven."
20 Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ.

[In the Greek, Peter is petros a small stone or rock fragment, and rock is Petra a mass of rock. So people argue is Peter the rock, the reason why Catholics call him the first Pope, because it certainly talks about the authority Christ granted to the apostles. But as the foundation of the church the rock only be, the revelation from the Father "though art the Christ, the Son of the living God." For every Christian, every member of God's church, has shared in this same revelation for 2000 years. Jesus is the Christ, God's salvation, the only one who can take away my sins. You see what we believe about Jesus really does matter.]

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Jesus – Feeding the 5000

Verses:     Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17; John 6:1-15

Mark 6

7 And He called the twelve to Himself, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them power over unclean spirits. 8 He commanded them to take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bag, no bread, no copper in their money belts— 9 but to wear sandals, and not to put on two tunics.
10 Also He said to them, "In whatever place you enter a house, stay there till you depart from that place. 11 And whoever will not receive you nor hear you, when you depart from there, shake off the dust under your feet as a testimony against them. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!"
12 So they went out and preached that people should repent. 13 And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick, and healed them.

[Throughout the early stages of Jesus' public ministry he avoids fame, seeking time to train is disciples for the work they should do, once his own work on earth was done. Here in Mark's Gospel we see a training mission for these new apostles. He gives them power to heal and cast our spirits, but forbids them from making material preparations for the journey. No money, no food, no extra clothing. To preach in Jesus' name they would have to rely on the Lord, and those they minister to, for their daily provision.]


30 Then the apostles gathered to Jesus and told Him all things, both what they had done and what they had taught. 31 And He said to them, "Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while." For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.

[So his disciples return with much to tell Jesus, but the journey and the excitement, left them tired and hungry. So Jesus, seeking to restore them, directed them away from the crowds, until their strength was recovered.]

John 6

1 After these things Jesus went over the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. 2 Then a great multitude followed Him, because they saw His signs which He performed on those who were diseased. 3 And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples.

[The miracles of Jesus caused his fame to spread, and the people were eager to see more, as the number of those needing his healing was seemingly endless, so time for rest quickly passed.]

4 Now the Passover, a feast of the Jews, was near. 5 Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, "Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?" 6 But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do.
7 Philip answered Him, "Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little."

[John is the only Gospel which records in detail this conversation and the name of the apostles who answered him. 200 denarii or 200 penny-worth would be the wages for 200 days of common labor. I don't know if they had this much money, or if Philip just used it to illustrate how ridiculous it would be for them to try and feed the multitude. Either way he concludes that such a sum would only buy enough for each to have a little.]


8 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to Him, 9 "There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?"

[Andrew's motivation is also in question for as soon as he offers what food they could find he quickly dismisses it as inadequate. But often I have thought about the boy who gave up his food. How he had no way of knowing what would come of his small gift. For in this crowd of newly empowered Apostles, is seems this boy was the only one to act in faith.

So we have to ask, does God do food?

Genesis 1:29 Herb bearing seed and tree bearing fruit were given to man as meat (food)

Exodus 16 manna and quail provided in the wilderness

1 Kings 17 Ravens feed Elijah, oil and meal for the widow of Zarepath

2 Kings 4 A childless woman feeds Elisha, 100 men fed with an offering 20 loaves

Matthew 6:25-30 Don't worry about food and clothing

Luke 8 Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna provide food for Jesus

Mark 6 Disciples sent out to preach but commanded to take no bread


I think from scripture we can clearly answer, God does food.]

10 Then Jesus said, "Make the people sit down." Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples[a] to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.

[The bread was made of barley and probably looked much like these. Under normal circumstances you would feed one or two, with a single loaf of bread. But they also had fish. I always imagined this was a nice baked fish, but the Greek word here is opsarion which sometimes refers to fish salted and dried so it was preserved and required no additional preparation. So Jesus gave thanks then broke the bread and gave it to his disciples. One translation I read said he kept giving it, as though it were multiplying in his hands as he broke it. However the miracle occurred, he gave them all as much as they wanted.]


12 So when they were filled, He said to His disciples, "Gather up the fragments that remain, so that nothing is lost." 13 Therefore they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. 14 Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, "This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world."

[After the meal they collected the leftovers and filled 12 baskets. Now when I was a kid I imagined these were big bushel baskets, but all translations and commentaries somehow agreed that these were small baskets. But the food he started with would barely fill 1 basket, and now it filled 12 after feeding 5000 men plus the women and children, and all had eaten their fill. It does not say what they did with the leftovers but I always hoped they gave them to the boy who donated his lunch. It is clear that many were persuaded that Jesus was a prophet of God, still not understanding that he was much more. If Andrew could inventory their resources again maybe this time he would say they had "5 loaves, two fish, and one God."]

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Doubt of John the Baptist

Matthew 11

 1 Now it came to pass, when Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples, that He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities.

[Commissioning them to heal and to teach]
2 And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples 3 and said to Him, "Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?"

[What did John hear about the works of Christ.

Luke 7 11 Now it happened, the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and a large crowd. 12 And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, "Do not weep." 14 Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, "Young man, I say to you, arise." 15 So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother.
16 Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, "A great prophet has risen up among us"; and, "God has visited His people." 17 And this report about Him went throughout all Judea and all the surrounding region. 18 Then the disciples of John reported to him concerning all these things. 19 And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to Jesus, saying, "Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?"
20 When the men had come to Him, they said, "John the Baptist has sent us to You, saying, 'Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?'" 21 And that very hour He cured many of infirmities, afflictions, and evil spirits; and to many blind He gave sight.

So here again we see Luke giving us more of a chronology, the sequence of events, to help us understand. So if John had experienced such great things in his life, and he heard about the great things Jesus was doing, then why did he doubt, why was he asking for confirmation?

  • John was a miracle Baby his mother Elizabeth was past the age of child bearing
  • An angel appeared to his father Zacharias in the temple to foretell John's birth
  • His father was struck dumb when he doubted
  • John received the Holy Spirit when he was still in the womb
  • He lived his live as a Nazarite.
  • He Baptized Jesus and saw him anointed with God's spirit


But then John was arrested for telling Harod it was unlawful for him to take his brother's wife (his brother was not dead). So Harod had him put in jail. Some of his disciples had begun to follow Jesus but a few stayed with John to care for his needs. But Jesus was not taking the throne of David as some expected. He just kept teaching, and healing, and training his disciples. So circumstances opened the door to doubt.]

4 Jesus answered and said to them, "Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: 5
The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6 And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me."

[ If you have a chain reference or study Bible verse 5 will refer to Isaiah

Isaiah 35:5-6

       5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
      And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.
Then the lame shall leap like a deer,
      And the tongue of the dumb sing.
      For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness,
      And streams in the desert.

Isaiah 61

 1 "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me,
      Because the LORD has anointed Me
      To preach good tidings to the poor;
      He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
      To proclaim liberty to the captives,
      And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

Jesus answers this way so that John's confidence would be in the word of the Lord, not in the circumstance of the day. Remember Christ means anointed one, this is prophecy about him]

7 As they departed, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings' houses. 9 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. 10 For this is he of whom it is written:

      ' Behold, I send My messenger before Your face,
      Who will prepare Your way before You.'
(Malachi 3:1)

11 "Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come. 15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear!
16 "But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their companions, 17 and saying:

      ' We played the flute for you,
And you did not dance;
      We mourned to you,
And you did not lament.'

 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon.' 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' But wisdom is justified by her children."

[Jesus refused to play their religious games. So many people are like this today. They want Jesus to conform to their desires. Liberation Theology says Jesus must conform to my political goals. Prosperity Theology says Jesus must make me healthy, wealthy, and happy. But these both ignore the sovereignty of God. They use a half truth that "Jesus wants to bless you", but forget what that might look like in a fallen world. Let me give you an example:

READ – Set yourself free

This represents a religion I call Opraism, where what matters most is how you feel about the circumstances in your life. But the Bible teaches us that the treasure of heaven is God himself, not your material desires. Contrast that with what Jesus said.

Luke 6 22 Blessed are you when men hate you, And when they exclude you,
And revile you, and cast out your name as evil, For the Son of Man's sake.

23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven,
For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets.  24 " But woe to you who are rich,
For you have received your consolation. 25 Woe to you who are full, For you shall hunger.
Woe to you who laugh now, For you shall mourn and weep.

26 Woe to you when all men speak well of you, For so did their fathers to the false prophets.

Do you see the difference? If we equate God's blessing with life's circumstances, then Satan can use that to create doubt. "Life is hard, does that mean God doesn't care about me?"

Matthew 14 tells us that at Herod's wine soaked birthday party, his step daughter did an erotic dance that so excited him he promised to give her anything. Her mother Herodias
told her to ask for John's head. So Herod beheaded John the Baptist and put his head on a platter.]

John 16

32 Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. 33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

Modern example of doubt:

Darwinian evolution, the idea that all species of animal evolve from a common ancestor, is also called macro evolution. Micro evolution is just speciation, removing variability from an animal family to yield a new species, this is how you make different breeds of dog, yet they all came from a wolf like ancestor that was still canine, just another kind of dog. No matter how much variability you remove, you can never make a dog into a cat, a horse, a bird, or anything that is not obviously of the same kind as the Bible teaches. The reason is they simply don't have the DNA, the genetic code, to make anything other than a dog, this is genetic science.

In 1980, Anthropologist Roger Lewin attended a conference in Chicago. He was quoted in the Journal Science saying "The central question of the Chicago conference was whether the mechanism's of micro evolution could be extrapolated to explain the phenomenon of macro evolution – The answer can be given as a clear no.

Yet for 50 years this is exactly the deception that that schools have been teaching, to make people doubt the Genesis account of God as the creator of man, woman, and each animal kind. For if God is not the creator, then he has no authority over our lives. Men can decide their own morality. There is no moral absolute, and most of all there is no judgment. Doubt is still one of Satan's favorite tools.

Genesis says that life began by the word of God. Natural science says everything must be explained by what we observe today. Well genetic science is the best thing to happen to creationist since the Bible.

What are all living things made of – from collections of proteins.

How do you get proteins – assembled from amino acids as instructed by DNA.

How do you get DNA – chain of small 3 part units (gene pairs) linked by enzymes

How do you get enzymes – folded structure of proteins


So how does science explain the simultaneous evolution of protein, DNA, and enzymes? None of these 3 can exist without the other 2, and life cannot exist without all 3.


Dr. Paul Davies, professor of Astro-Biology (origin of life) at Az. St. University says

"How did stupid atoms, spontaneously write their own software, and where did the very peculiar form of information needed to get the first living cell up and running come from? Nobody knows." Translation – the origin of life is supernatural, created by God.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Faith of the Centurion

Matthew 8

Jesus Heals a Centurion's Servant

5 Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, 6 saying, "Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented."

7 And Jesus said to him, "I will come and heal him."
8 The centurion answered and said, "Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and to another, 'Come,' and he comes; and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it."
10 When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, "Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! 11 And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." 13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, "Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you." And his servant was healed that same hour.

[This story is found in Matthew 8, and Luke 7 and represent two eyewitness accounts of these events. Matthew 8 is more of a summary just giving the significant parts of the story; who were the key players, what was said, and what happened as a result. Luke gives a little more detail, more of the how and why. Now some skeptics have looked at these accounts, and said there are enough differences to prove the Bible is not inspired and infallible as we believe. But I hope to show you why that is not the case, and as such not only teach this story of faith, but increase your confidence in the word of God, to strengthen your faith. To understand Luke's perspective I want to read his introduction to the Gospel of Luke.

Luke 1

 1 Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.

So Luke is not only an eyewitness, but he is also aware of the other narratives written about the ministry of Jesus Christ. What will distinguish his work from the others will be the careful order, the chronology if you will. He will provide insights that others thought less significant.]

Luke 7

Jesus Heals a Centurion's Servant

 1 Now when He concluded all His sayings in the hearing of the people, He entered Capernaum.

[Some of the teachings Luke is referring to here are the beatitudes. Hard teachings like love your enemy, turn the other cheek, don't be quick to judge others, and remove the beam from your eye before you try to take the speck out of your brother's. He mentions also that there were many witnesses to these teachings, so that they are reliable. Jesus has disciples from Capernaum so it was a familiar place, a place he visited often, sort of a 2nd home.]

2 And a certain centurion's servant, who was dear to him, was sick and ready to die. 3 So when he heard about Jesus, he sent elders of the Jews to Him, pleading with Him to come and heal his servant.

[A centurion is of course a Roman soldier, as officer commanding 100 men. But unlike many Roman officers this fellow does not have disdain for the Jews. It seems that he has friends among the Jews in Capernaum, and he chose some of the elders that he knew to help plead for Jesus to heal his sick servant. Matthew 8 tells us that this sickness included paralysis and torment so this was something serious like polio. Also here we have one of the supposed differences between Matthew and Luke. Luke 7 says "sent unto him" (apostello pros autos) apostello means set apart , Matthew 8 "came to Him" (pros-erchomai autos) erchomai means accompany or go with. So both gospels tell us others went to Jesus. Luke focuses on who those others were, and Matthew points out that the centurion also went with them, so there is no contradiction. What is clearly in both accounts is that this servant was important to the centurion, not just a piece of property, but more than likely a friend, and certainly also a Jew. And the centurion's compassion is such that he makes a great effort to reach out to the Jewish Rabbi called Jesus to come and heal his friend.]

4 And when they came to Jesus, they begged Him earnestly, saying that the one for whom He should do this was deserving, 5 "for he loves our nation, and has built us a synagogue."

[As the elders are speaking with Jesus they tell him this centurion is a friend, and he used his authority with Rome to build them a synagogue for their worship. They say this in hope that Jesus will respond to their request.]

6 Then Jesus went with them. And when He was already not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to Him, saying to Him, "Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof. 7 Therefore I did not even think myself worthy to come to You. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8 For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes; and to another, 'Come,' and he comes; and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it."

[So Jesus agrees to go to the centurion's home, and the centurion apparently goes on ahead probably on a horse, while Jesus walks with the elders. And at some point the centurion realizes either who Jesus was, or that entering a gentiles house would render Jesus unclean for ritual worship. Maybe even his own servant told him it was asking too much for Jesus to enter his house. So feeling unworthy but still wanting his servant healed, the centurion has another idea. Send word to Jesus that if he would just say the word his servant could be healed, and Jesus would not have to enter the gentile's home. So Luke tells us friends brought the centurion's message, Matthew in summary fashion, just tells us what his words were, but the message is the same "Lord I, and my house are not worthy". He goes on to explain, that is why he didn't come alone in the beginning, but had the elders to ask for him, "But if you just say the word, my servant will be healed." The centurion understood authority, and he was convinced Jesus had the authority to heal, even with a word.]

9 When Jesus heard these things, He marveled at him, and turned around and said to the crowd that followed Him, "I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!" 10 And those who were sent, returning to the house, found the servant well who had been sick.

[Jesus was not easily impressed, but here was a gentile soldier, and Roman officer he had never met, that had full confidence in the power, authority, and word of the Lord. Jesus said this was greater faith than he had seen in all the people of Israel. Matthew tells us Jesus said - "as you have believed, so let it be done for you". Jew or gentile Jesus always responds to faith. While many believed after seeing miracles, this man believed before. And those who returned to the centurion's house found his servant healed.

Isaiah 49:6 says "I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles,
      That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth."

That day Jesus showed he was the light and salvation to all people, just as the prophet foretold.

Isn't it ironic that the story of one man's faith in the word of Jesus, is used by skeptics to tell people they should have no confidence in the Bible, God's word. As it was in the Garden of Eden, so it is today. Satan twists the words God has given, and deceives people to sin. But the children of God know his word, we read it, study it, and lead by his Spirit we use it to overcome the world, by faith, just like the centurion.]

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Sermon on the Mount – Part 2

Matthew 6 (beginning in verse 19)

[Back in 1933 Congress identified one of the causes of the great depression was the failure of the banking system, cause by banks having too much of their reserve capital invested in stocks, so that when the stock market crashed in 1929, many banks lacked the resources to honor the withdrawal request of depositors, resulting in a run-on-the-banks and a loss of confidence in the banking system. To correct this Congress passed the Glass-Steagall act which separated credit risk, investment risk, and insurance risk, and forced banks to decide what kind of business they wanted to be, to choose a category of risk, then barred them from other types of risk so big losses in one area of the economy would not bleed over to the others, protecting against another financial failure.

In 1999 Citibank, the nation's largest commercial bank came to Washington with lobbyist and campaign contributions and got the act repealed with huge majorities in the House and the Senate. They went on to buy Travelers Insurance and Smith Barney Investments. This sparked a decade of mergers between commercial banks, investment banks, and insurance companies, which resulted in a handful of huge financial services firms and virtually eliminated regional banks and stock brokers. As banks and brokers became more distant people no longer did business with people they knew. Banking became a numbers game where the goal was just to get the most customers then leverage those customers into all your other businesses. Subprime mortgages (those are mortgages for people who don't always path their bills) grew from 5 to 30 percent of the mortgage market. Politicians bragged about record levels of home ownership, but most of those new owners, owned nothing but a large mortgage debt, with little or no equity. Pools of mortgages were bought and sold like stocks, and insurance contracts called credit-default-swaps were written to guard against any corporate bond defaults, and all forms of risk were mixed and mingled in exotic financial arrangements, all of which would have been illegal under Glass-Steagall, but no one cared because real-estate prices kept going up, fueled by low interest rates and easy credit. Until 2008, when it all fell apart.

I heard people on the news saying they lost half of their investments, when they were just years away from retirement. I believe this whole crisis was fueled by greed. Thieves bought keys to the vault from Congress, and stole the savings of millions, and now the government borrows trillions to try and stop another depression now, but in doing so they guarantee high inflation rates for decades to come. So one way or the other the earthly treasure you have left will be eaten away by the moths and rust of a cheap dollar, huge national debt, and higher taxes, all fed by corruption and greed. ]

19 "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

[Now I'm not telling anyone not to have savings, the Bible gives us several examples where reserves are a part of good stewardship. I Tim 5:8 insists men provide for their families, Prov. 6 says store up for the uncertain future, I Tim. 6 tells the rich to enjoy God's blessing, but don't trust in your riches. Jesus constantly challenges us with two questions: What do you love, and Who do you trust? Earthly wealth is temporary, God is eternal. Heavenly treasure cannot be lost or stolen, and earthly treasure will never give you peace. You can still tell what someone loves, by watching where they put their treasure.]

22 "The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

[The eye gives sight to the whole body. A good eye can observe potential danger, protecting the rest of the body. But a bad eye leaves you in darkness. As darkness is a symbol of sin, we are talking about spiritual sight. Any soul too focused on the things of the world, will be blind to the things of God, resulting in great spiritual darkness. What do you love, and Who do you trust?]

24 "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

[As we see in the present recession, debt can be cruel master, people are learning the hard way payments are not optional even if you lose your job. At least as a bond servant you worked for the one you owed, now you still owe the debt but you have to find your own job to work and repay the debt. I see more and more foreclosed houses as many lose their homes when they fail to repay the master. Mammon is Wealth personified, if that is who you serve then you will fail to serve God. My own parents got out of church when I was a kid as Dad pursued business contacts by playing golf every Saturday and Sunday at Ridglea Country Club. When my oldest son Austin was born we brought him to Church the next week and dedicated him to the Lord. A week later my Dad said they wanted to come to church when we had Austin's dedication. When I told him it was already done, he was surprised and a little offended. But the unspoken message was clear. If you want to be a part of our spiritual lives, you know where to find us. The next Sunday my parents came, and attended faithfully from then until Dad, passed away, and Mom is still here every week. I remember right after we moved back from California, our first observance of the Lord's supper in the old building, we had 3 generations all sitting together sharing God's blessing. That was very special to me. No one can serve two masters. It's crazy for people to think they will spend eternity with God in heaven, when they don't care to spend any time with Him here on earth. What do you love, and Who do you trust? ]

25 "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
28 "So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

[Who gave you life? Do we really think we can extend our lives by worrying about our basic needs? We should ask God to provide, and work in the best way we can as we have been commanded. But if God provides for all His creation does it not seem reasonable that we are included. Gen. 1:27 says were are created in his image, a mirror perfectly shaped to reflect His glory. If we trust God for eternal life, I doubt that food and clothing for Today is too much to ask. What do you love, and Who do you trust?]

31 "Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

[A 2nd time he commands us "do not worry". By gentiles he means unbelievers. If our day is consumed with a quest to satisfy our own desires, then how are we different from unbelievers? If you are consumed with the cares of this world, then Jesus says you are focused on the wrong things. But he offers a cure for your worry, change your focus, seek first the Kingdom of God. Make seeking after God, finding his will, enjoying his presence, a focus of your daily lives. God knows what we need, but worry and fear are sinful evidence of too little faith. Each day will come regardless of how much, or how little we worry. God's righteousness is only available to us who live by faith. Jesus continues to challenge us to answer these questions: What do you love, and Who do you trust? The truthful answer is not revealed by what you think. It is revealed by where your treasure is, what your eye is focused on, who you serve, and what you think about daily, and whether or not you worry. The Sermon on the Mount teaches the essential attitudes of Christians, and these determine if we will have good works that will glorify God and draw the lost to Jesus.]