Archive for the ‘Matthew’ Category

Servitude and Obedience

Posted: Monday, November 9, 2009 in Matthew, New Testament
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Matthew 21:6-11

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt, placed their cloaks on them, and Jesus sat on  them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest!” When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”

 

In the last many days, we have been warned, corrected and led in tough teaching and that was good for our souls. However today, the passage that stood out to me in this very trying part of Jesus’ life is one of sorrow, yet great joy for Jesus. What joy can come out of knowing you are going to be publicly shamed, denounced, rebuked and executed based on false allegations? Christ just spoke of all of this because he knew what was about to happen and yet walked into it with purpose which is totally contrary to what any reasonable man would do.

It is ridiculous in our eyes because we run from death and hurt and therefore what Jesus was doing is considered a suicide wish because there was no way out of death for us. However for Jesus, there was purpose in his death because it was a fulfillment of scripture that the final sacrifice was made and man could once again be reconnected to God not by our own broken sacrifices but by the perfect sacrifice for us by God’s own son. However, the joy that I am referring to is not just this but the fact that the disciples obeyed Jesus’s instructions regarding getting the donkey and colt without too many questions and the crowd that spread their cloaks did so in recognition of the arriving messiah. After a long time, it must’ve been wonderful for Jesus to note that some people were obeying and serving him rather than themselves. As we approach the commercial season of Christmas, I pray that God would help us obey him and serve him in a way fitting for a savior and not in a manner fitting the world.

In His Loving Service,
Vineet


Matthew 20:9-11, 13-16, 25-28

“The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner…“But he answered one of them, ‘Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”…Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

 

When I read this chapter, I wondered why the disciples didn’t get it? Why were they so thick that they failed to realize what the Lord was teaching them? What was preventing them from understanding Jesus? Each parable seems complex when we try to understand it in its parts but sensible when we look at it in its whole. It’s not the specifics but the larger thought that matters. However, as I read more and reflect on it, I realize that we today are not very different from the disciples and Christ’s followers of that time. We, even though much advanced in our way of life and scientific thinking suffer from the same problems as them!

In God’s universe, everything revolves around him whereas in our paradigm, we want everything to revolve around us. It’s about us and nothing more. Our needs, wants, desires, achievements, objectives, and whatnots. Even when we walk with Christ, we tend to measure our effectiveness, our success and worth by our standards and this is when we are taking away from serving God. Today, God is reminding us that we are called to serve Him and when we accept His yoke, everything changes from us to God’s wants, needs and desires and success is not for us to measure but for God to relish. We should be grateful for having been given a chance of eternity and being looked at by God the father as worthy of inclusion only by the shed blood of his son, Jesus Christ. Our privilege is to serve God, not God serve us.

In His Loving Service,
Vineet


Matthew 19:11-12, 14-15, 23-24

Jesus replied, “Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.”…Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there…Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

 

Jesus seems to contradict everything known to the men of those times, even the wise and learned ones, and the passages above are a reflection of some of his statements that puzzled everyone, even his own disciples. It seems like he was getting them to unlearn all of Moses’ teachings, the traditions followed by the Israelites for 1,000s of years and the rules set to help people follow God diligently. What was the problem? Is this something we face today also? What is Jesus teaching us today?

One of the things we notice is that Jesus’ corrections were to do with the blindness of our beliefs. In those times, it was unthinkable for children to be given any importance in society and they were the outcast until they became adults, just like women always were. Divorce became a thing of convenience and was no longer a taboo like it is not today. Religiosity and religious fervor was determined by acts and deeds and not by a change of heart and faith. Jesus was trying to awaken their dead hearts which were living in their version of the present rather than what God wanted for them and this was the reason for conflicts. Are you fixated on your version of God’s will for you or can you hear what the Lord is speaking to you through his word today? For me, it’s going to be a lifetime of undoing what I thought and think about living and all I pray is that God would patiently love and lead me each day to make me more like his son Jesus and to change my heart to love and serve him in everything I do.

In His Loving Service,
Vineet


Matthew 18:23-34

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talentsg was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. “The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii.h He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt….“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

 

Sometimes I think of myself as a Pharisee in the way I act. By the grace of God, I was saved when I was 18 and have had a rocky walk with the Lord because I was always caught up by trying to live and not living for God. Oftentimes when difficult people came my way, I would judge them and mock them without thinking once that I’m just as difficult as them but saved by God’s grace alone. This is a reality I live with today as much as back then when Jesus related this parable 2,000 years ago. The reality that once we know we have the assurance of salvation and God’s renewed mercy every morning, we tend to slip back into our old ways and become Pharisees in our self righteousness and ways.

I hope I’m an exception and you feel like I’m weird but in reality, this is what the Lord has spoken and reminded us of. He wants us to remember that we are not special because of anything we did, because of the holy lives we lead, because of our good works and deeds, because of our charitable giving or hospitality, but that we are mere sinners saved by grace like the 1st servant in the passage above. And when we realize what we are and what God has done for us, we will change our attitude to difficult people and situations because we will then realize that these people are as special to the Lord as us. It sounds like me preaching but this reminder is loud in my head and I hope in yours too?

In His Loving Service,
Vineet

PS: Sorry for the break I took yesterday. It was my daughter’s 2nd birthday and I got busy with chores 😦


Matthew 17:14-20

…a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.” “O unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment. Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” He replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

Matthew 17:21 (NAS)

“But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”

 

Today there were 3 major events in the chapter including the transfiguration of Jesus, the healing of the demon possessed boy and the payment of the temple tax. All 3 teach us key learning but this healing and the faith required is what caught my attention. It seems like Jesus was frustrated and this prompted me to read it again. Yes, he certainly was frustrated but not at the boy’s father who approached him. His frustration was focused on his disciples whom he felt did not exercise faith, even faith the size of a mustard seed. Now that is really hard for us to understand because we are dealing with the spiritual world and not the physical and to understand this faith, what would it take us?

Interestingly enough, the NIV did not have verse 21 and when I looked around, I found that it was available in most other versions like the NAS given above. Jesus said clearly that we need to exercise faith but this is possible only through prayer and fasting and therefore we needed to draw from God and not from our own selves. This is not something we would attain sitting under a tree and meditating on our inner self but rather, something we would need to ask God for by focusing our attention on Him. Also, we need to remember that this faith is not for our personal gain but for the extension of God’s kingdom here on Earth. It is spoken in a spiritual realm and we should not misconstrue it. Have you exercised your faith in recent times? Is that what the Lord wants us to do?

In His Loving Service,
Vineet


Matthew 16:6-12

“Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” They discussed this among themselves and said, “It is because we didn’t bring any bread.” Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.


Because of sinfulness, we are blinded to see what God is saying and doing in our lives and this is probably the biggest challenge to our walk with God. I find it such a challenge to prepare myself to sit before the Lord because before I do, I reflect on my life and have to first weed through the sin that covers my heart and mind and blocks my full view of what the Lord is teaching me. This morning more so than others and so when I read today’s chapter, I realized that even the disciples had a hard time figuring out what our Lord was speaking to them through the parables because they were still being pruned.

Again it seems the Lord is warning about following the Pharisees and Sadducees and I’m certain this was no mistake. Even though these were men of God who took care of the temple, taught God’s word and instructed people in God’s ways, Jesus was telling us off about them. This makes leadership such a challenge because when we lead, if our humanness comes before God’s holiness, we start to serve ourselves before God. The Pharisees and Sadducees were stuck in a spot where they were serving God in the way they felt right and therefore were blinded to the truth of the messiah’s arrival and their religious fervor and rituals had gripped their hearts. I encourage us to seek the Lord today and ask him to weed out such strongholds in our lives that prevent us from full and total submission to the Lord and to ask Jesus to always reign supreme in our lives and reduce our significance because our lives are to be lived for his glory.

In His Loving Service,
Vineet


Matthew 15:7-10

“You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’” Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.’”

The relationship between Jesus and the Pharisees was always thin and the words mentioned above from the chapter show how the Lord felt. The Pharisees lived a life of religious tradition and tried to fulfill laws because that is what they were taught and that is what they would do. They did it because of the traditions linked to them without realizing whether it was God honoring or not. However, with Christ came an awareness of what glorifying God meant. The Pharisees were expecting a ruler for a messiah who would come and overthrow their rulers and establish them as the ones whom the messiah sought to glorify. They were not willing to submit to Jesus who came from humble beginnings, claimed to be the Son of God and had a following that took away from the Pharisees fan following and earnings.

We have to be very careful of how we walk with God because if we are not, our lives will quickly reflect the lives of the Pharisees. We will start going to Church because we are supposed to, we will pray mundane prayers because it is expected of us, our hearts will be cold and hardened and our lives will be pointless. This will also show in our lives, the words of our mouth and in every aspect of our life because God is not being glorified. In Christ, we have a new life and the walk is not easy because the evil one is going to torment us for our belief but we can be at peace knowing that our Lord Jesus has won the victory over death and sin and so can we through God’s help. We don’t have to lead meaningless lives but instead can invite Jesus to teach us how to live.

In His Loving Service,
Vineet