In Jesus’ Words: By what authority? (Matthew 21:23-27)

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The average church sermon is probably only remembered for about twenty minutes after it has ended, or until we get to lunch.  But the words of Jesus have been remembered and recited for over 2000 years after he spoke them.

Jesus only directly answered three of the 183 questions he was asked, according to gospel accounts.  Sometimes he would put the question back on the person and sometimes he stayed silent.

Jesus asked more questions than he answered.  His own questions were intentional, to make people think or challenge their view.  He often asked people what they wanted or what they believed.  “Who do you say I am?’’  “Who do you seek?’’  

Jesus may not have regularly answered their questions, but he always spoke right to their heart. He asked though he already knew their answer.  And when they doubted, he would simply say, “Come and see.”  Jesus’ logic could not be undone then, and it still stands today.

~ Matthew 21:23-27  Jesus’ Authority Questioned ~

When Jesus entered the temple complex, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to Him as He was teaching and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? Who gave You this authority?” 

Jesus answered them, “I will also ask you one question, and if you answer it for Me, then I will tell you by what authority I do these things.  Where did John’s baptism come from? From heaven or from men?”

They began to argue among themselves, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’  But if we say, ‘From men,’ we’re afraid of the crowd, because everyone thought John was a prophet.”  So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”

And He said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

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31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 18 – Joseph is engaged to Mary

mary_tells_josephOur Christmas story now switches to the book of Matthew for more details about Mary’s engagement to Joseph.  The author Matthew was originally a tax collector (considered to be one of the lowest class of sinners in those days).  Yet after Jesus dines with him and his rebellious friends in his home (also considered improper to associate with such sinners), Matthew gives up everything to follow Jesus and becomes one of his twelve disciples.

In the beginning of the book, Matthew lists the genealogy from Abraham to King David, and from David to the Babylonian exile, and from the exile to Joseph, the husband of Mary.  Joseph was a legal heir to the throne through King David’s son Solomon but neither he or his children could be the physical heir because of his ancestor Jehoiakim’s curse from God, which states that none of Jehoiakim’s descendants would ever sit on the throne.  In addition, Joseph is now told the news that Mary is carrying a holy child.  Joseph’s story is no small detail.

We are not told exactly how Mary told Joseph (can you imagine that conversation?), but Matthew does give us an account.

Matthew 1:18-19
“This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.”

Joseph could have had Mary stoned, and saved his own reputation by making a public example of her.  Joseph was a carpenter by trade, and this might possibly have affected his business too.  Mary, knowing the possibilities that awaited her, still continued on.  Joseph must have been a man of great restraint, mercy and humility.  He was chosen by God to be Jesus’ earthly father – to provide for him and protect him.  That was no insignificant thing.

I pray that you will reach out to our Heavenly Father, who shows us the way for mercy, love and unending forgiveness.

* Merry Christmas *

31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 19 – an angel visits Joseph

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Joseph considered divorcing Mary from their engagement when he heard the news that she was with child. But that was not God’s plan. This becomes the third time an angel appears announcing the baby Jesus – first to Zecharia, father of John the Baptist, then to Mary, and now Joseph. And the angels are not finished yet with this Heavenly celebration!

Matthew 1:20-22,24
But after Joseph had considered these things, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to name Him Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”

When Joseph got up from sleeping, he did as the Lord’s angel had commanded him. He married her but did not know her intimately until she gave birth to a son. And he named Him Jesus.

I pray that you will know the God of joy and celebration this Christmas season.

* Merry Christmas *

In Jesus’ Words: How to be Blessed (Matthew 4-5)

beatitudes“From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”  Matthew 4:17

What did Jesus mean by that?  What had happened from that time on?

I hope you will spend a few minutes with me on my journey of reading through Jesus’ spoken words in the New Testament; to block out all the noise of our society and just listen to what Jesus has to say.  If Jesus is who he said he was, then the only thing that truly matters are his words.

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The gospel of Matthew records one of Jesus’ most famous sermons, called The Sermon on the Mount.  Matthew had been a despised tax collector of his time, but he had changed.  He gave away his wealth, relinquished his power, and even went so far as to pay back those he had cheated, all to follow this man Jesus, who at that time was not yet even fully known for all that he would later become.

Jesus first announced his ministry through his baptism by John the Baptist in Matthew 3.  As his ministry grew, he began to be known throughout the regions for healing the sick and the poor, and teaching in the synagogues.  People were amazed at his words and large crowds followed him everywhere.  But there were also those who were opposed to what he had to say.

“When Jesus had heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee.” (Matthew 4:12).  Jesus was burdened for John, who was the one who had come before him, preparing the way and preaching of the Messiah to come.  Now, Jesus begins to call his first disciples, Peter and Andrew, and starts to preach.

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”
At once they left their nets and followed him.
 Matthew 4:19-20

Not since Moses’ time had people seen anyone like Jesus.  The crowds and disciples gathered on the mountainside while Jesus began to talk to them.  He taught them a new way to live; how to be blessed.  The first eight statements in his Sermon on the Mount are known as The Beatitudes, or declarations of blessedness.  Being “blessed” means much more than being happy in the moment.  It reaches beyond our current situations, beyond our pain and hurt, and gives us an eternal joy and hope; the big picture; the faith we cling to when everything else fails us.  In today’s society, we don’t hear as much about the Beatitudes.  Most of us are familiar with The Ten Commandments given to Moses from God.  But now, Jesus had come to complete the law and show us how to live a blessed, eternal life.

I did not take it lightly, while reading through Jesus’ opening words of his sermon.  I meditated on the words for awhile, letting them sink in and thinking about what it means to us today.  It’s easy sometimes to skim over words like “poor in spirit” or “blessed are the meek”.  So, along with the help of my study Bible, I provided further understandings in parenthesis.  I also found it interesting that the very first and last beatitudes from Jesus tell us how to receive the kingdom of heaven.  Here is what Jesus said:

~ Matthew 5:3-12  The Beatitudes ~

“Blessed are the poor in spirit (not prideful, depending on God instead of ourselves), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn (caring for others beyond ourselves), for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek (not after worldly power), for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (pursue God), for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful (kindness to others), for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart (not deceiving others), for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers 
(concern for the peace of the world instead of concern for self), for they will be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness (stand firm in their faith), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me (for Christ is with you). Rejoice and be glad because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

I imagine when Matthew heard Jesus’ sermon, he probably thought, “I’ve got to write this down!”  It was the voice of God speaking.  Just like God gave Moses the Ten Commandments to guide us in how to conduct our life, Jesus came from heaven, as the voice of God, to show us how to live our lives joyfully, fully, and eternally.