Showing posts with label Matthew. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Matthew. Show all posts

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Matthew 28

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany went to check on Jesus' tomb. There was a violent earthquake and an angel of the Lord rolled away the stone, and sat on top of it. His appearance was like lightning and his clothes were as white as snow. The guards who were watching the tomb were so afraid of him. The angel told the women that Christ has risen, and instructed them to tell the disciples. The risen Jesus Himself appeared to them, and told them to tell the disciples.
Matthew 28:9-10 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
When the chief priests heard the account of those guards, they tried to cover up the resurrection, maintaining that Jesus’ body was stolen. The guards were bribed to lie by and told to circulate this version of the story - which is widely circulated among the Jews to this day.

The eleven disciples went to Galilee as directed. When they met him, they worshiped him, but some doubted.

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Jesus gave them The Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20 “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

"In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" became a standard expression in the liturgy of the early church.

The idea of Jesus being ‘with us’ picks up on the meaning of ‘Immanuel’ mentioned in Matthew 1:23.

This chapter concludes the Book of Matthew - the first Gospel. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Matthew 27

After scheming and planning on how Jesus should be executed, the Sanhedrin delivered Jesus to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor.

Matthew records traitor Judas' remorse. When Judas saw that Jesus was condemned, he flinged back those thirty pieces of silver to the treasury. However they refused, as it was against the law to put blood money back into the treasury. The elders instead bought a potter’s field with that money. This was in fulfillment of Zechariah, although Matthew wrongly cites Jeremiah. Judas hanged himself.

When the chief priests and elders accused Jesus, he stood silent before Pilate. He did not speak a single word against the charges that were brought over him. This amazed the governor. It was a custom to release a prisoner during Passover. The two possibilities were in front of them:
(a) Jesus, who is called the Messiah,
(b) Jesus Barabbas, a notorious murderer.

While Pilate was sitting on the judgement seat, his wife sent him a note about a disturbing dream she had on account of Jesus of Nazareth. The crowd insisted that Barabbas be released, and Jesus crucified. Pilate then washed his hands symbolizing he has no part in it.

Jesus was scourged. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.

Simon from Cyrene was compelled to carry Jesus’ cross. Jesus was crucified on three nails. He was given sour wine and gall to drink - which has a numbing effect on mind and body. Jesus refused it.

Soldiers cast lots for his garments. Then, Jesus was mocked on the cross by those scribes and elders. Those crucified with Jesus reviled him. From the sixth to the ninth hour, there was darkness across the land.
Matthew 27:46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).
Some thought he was calling for Elijah.

When Jesus cried out in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that instant, the veil in the temple, separating the holy from the most holy place was torn into two. Earth shook, rocks split, and tombs broke open. Dead saints were raised from the dead and appeared to many.

A centurion present there at the scene said, "Surely, he was the Son of God.’

Many women were there, watching from a distance. They followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

Joseph of Armithea went to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body to be buried. He buried Jesus in his own tomb. Mary Magdalene and other Mary waited on the other side of the tomb. The tomb was sealed, so that the disciples could not steal his body and claim he had risen from the dead.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Matthew 26

Jesus reminded his disciples of his forthcoming suffering and crucifixion. Those who were plotting schemes against Jesus held a secret meeting at the house of the high priest, Caiaphas. In that meeting, they decided not to act in a haste during Passover, to avoid riots among people.

While at Bethany, a woman anointed Jesus with an expensive oil on his head, as he was reclining at a table. The disciples were indignant and griped at this waste. Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial."

Meanwhile, Judas Iscariot approached the chief priests and agreed to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.

Jesus picked a certain man's house to celebrate the Passover meal. During the Passover meal, he shared that one of his disciples will betray him. He said, "Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me.”

Judas asked him, “It isn’t me, is it, Rabbi?”

Jesus told Judas not to play games with him.
Matthew 26:26 - 28 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Jesus prophesied that Peter will betray him tree times.

Later at the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

His disciples were sleeping while Jesus was going through agony. He rebuked his disciples for sleeping. Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss. Jesus was arrested and brought to Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin. Among many false witnesses, one of them said that Jesus claimed he was able to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days. Jesus kept silent throughout all these false allegations.

He told Caiaphas that he is indeed the Christ, and that Caiaphas will see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of the Father, and coming in glory. Caiaphas tore his clothes and called it blasphemy. Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him and mocked him.

Peter denied knowing or having any association with Jesus three times, before the the cock crowed that morning. He then went out and cried bitterly, for saying so.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Matthew 25

In another parable, Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven like ten virgins (bridesmaids), who conducted the groom into the house with lamps. The groom was delayed, and five foolish virgins do not take sufficient oil with them. When the groom actually arrived, these five foolish virgins had gone off to buy some oil. By the time they returned, the doors were shut up against them, and they were denied entry.
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Jesus then narrated the parable of the bag of gold, which was about investment. A man going into a far away land distributed his wealth to his servants - few bags of gold, depending on their ability.
Matthew 25:16-18 The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
After some time, the man returned from his journey. He complimented those who traded and invested the wealth and appreciated them being able to multiply it. In return, he was going to give them more responsibilities. The servant who buried his share in the ground was rebuked and asked to give his share to others who were able to multiply it.
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When the Son of Man comes in glory, nations will be separated like sheep and goats, and judged accordingly. Those of us, who feed and clothe the poor and sick will be at his right hand; those who did not will be reviled. What people did or did not do to the least of their brethren, they did to Jesus.
Matthew 25:34-36 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’"
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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Matthew 24

Matthew writes about Jesus predicting the destruction of Jerusalem temple. At Mount Olive, his disciples asked him privately about the end times. He warned them about the appearances of false Messiahs, wars, pestilences, persecutions and false prophets who shall come to pass before the second coming.

Jesus advised them when they noticed the ‘abomination of desolation’ in the temple, alluding to the book of Daniel, they should flee to the mountains. The phrase "abomination of desolation" is found in three places in the Book of Daniel, all within the literary context of apocalyptic visions.

(1) Daniel 9:27
(2) Daniel 11:31
(3) Daniel 12:11

Matthew leads us to the study of Revelation.

There is going to be a great tribulation – a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome in 70 AD. Later, the Son of Man will return with honor and glory from heaven. This generation will not pass away till all things take place: heaven and earth shall pass away, but Jesus’ words will not.

Jesus said that His second coming will be when the world is as it was in the days of Noah – full of debauchery and sin. The second coming will be unexpected, and we must therefore live in a state of constant anticipation.
Matthew 24:36-41 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left."
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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Matthew 23

Here in this chapter, we read about religious fashion shows. Jesus is advising the crowd who follows him to listen to those teachers of law. He said, “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach."

Essentially, Jesus warned the crowd not to follow those leaders. Those teachers package the law with a heavy yoke and place it on the shoulders of people. Whatever they do, they put on a big show for people to be seen. They loved to be treated with respect.
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Jesus called the teachers and pharisees 'frauds.' He made seven woes upon them:
1. for shutting the kingdom of heaven.
2. for converting someone and then making that convert a child of hell.
3. for splitting the hair when it comes to how oaths were taken.
4. for neglecting those important matters of law - justice, mercy and faithfulness.
5. for having a clean outside and an unclean inside.
6. for being filled with hypocrisy and wickedness.
7. for testifying against themselves as the descendants of those who murdered the prophets.

Jesus used some harsh language against the Pharisees and also wept for Jerusalem, and its unwillingness.
Matthew 23: 33-36 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Truly I tell you, all this will come on this generation."
Matthew 23: 37-39 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Friday, March 7, 2014

Matthew 22

Jesus told them a parable:
Matthew 22:2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come."
A certain king invited people to a wedding feast, but they do not come. Instead, they abused and killed those servants who came with the invitation. The king avenged himself, then made a broader invitation to all, those who were good and bad. A certain guest came in, without wearing a wedding garment. The king told his servants to bind his hands and legs and throw him into the outer darkness, where there was wailing and gnashing of teeth.
Matthew 22:14 “For many are invited, but few are chosen.” 
In short, Jesus is saying, "Many get invited into the Kingdom of Heaven, but only a few make it.
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Pharisees asked Jesus a tricky question whether it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar. Jesus told them to pay Ceasar what was Ceaser's and pay God what is God's.

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Sadducees, who denied resurrection asked Jesus whose wife a woman who has married seven brothers would be, during resurrection. Jesus replied that during resurrection people do not marry, but will be like angels of God in heaven.
Matthew 22:29 Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.
30 At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven." 
Noticing that Jesus silenced the Sadducees, a Pharisee lawyer stepped in and asked Jesus which was the greatest commandment. Jesus quoted the shema, and summarized the rest of the law and the prophets by saying. ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’.
Matthew 22:37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
38 This is the first and greatest commandment.
39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
In return, Jesus asked them a question.

Jesus: “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose son is he?”

Pharisees: “The son of David.”

Jesus: “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says, in Psalm 110:1 “‘The Lord says to my Lord:
    “Sit at my right hand
until I put your enemies
    under your feet.”’

If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?”

Nobody could answer this question, and from that day onward, no one dared to ask Jesus any more questions.

The Messiah is not only David’s son, but also his Lord.
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Additional Info:
In olden days, the king used to go out into the midst of people and throw coins into the crowd. This was with the understanding that once the king was in need, people will return the favor. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Matthew 21

While approaching Jerusalem, at Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus instructed a disciple to fetch a tied donkey and colt. The did precisely as Jesus said. Then, they placed their cloak on the donkey for Jesus to sit on it. A large crowd spread their cloak on the road, while others cut branches of palm leaves. Jesus was received as the son of David.
Matthew 21:9 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 heaven!”
10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?”
11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
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Jesus drove out the sellers in the market, the money changers and all those who were conducting business there.
Matthew 21:13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”
At Jerusalem temple, the children praised Jesus. Later when Jesus was hungry,  he cursed a fig tree that has only leaves on it. Seeing the fig tree withering immediately, his disciples asked him how he did this, and Jesus replied that he did it with faith.
Matthew 21:21 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done.
22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.
The chief priests and elders then questioned the authority of Jesus. Rather than answering them, he said he will answer them if they told him whether John’s baptism was from heaven or earth. The elders reasoned: if they answered ‘from heaven’, Jesus will say, ‘Why did you not then believe him?’ They do not answer ‘from earth’, because people held John to be a prophet. They then safely replied that they did not know the answer. Jesus refused to tell them by whose authority he acted as well.

Next, Jesus narrated the parable of two sons. Both were instructed to go work in their father’s vineyard. The first one, equated with harlots and tax-collectors initially refused, but then he went and worked. The other presumably equated with the elders said he will go, but do not go at all.
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Another parable Jesus told was that of the wicked servants. A landowner leases out his vineyard to certain people. He sent his servants to receive its fruit, but they were either killed or abused. The owner sent his son to receive the fruit. The tenants killed the son so they could have his inheritance. Hearing all these, the landowner will come and destroy those wicked men.

Jesus quoted psalm 118 and spoke about the Kingdom of Heaven.
Psalm 118:22 The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;
23 the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.
Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit."

The chief priest and elders knew Jesus was speaking about them, and they looked for ways to arrest him.
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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Matthew 20

Jesus told the parable of the workers in the vineyard - a vineyard owner paid workers one denarius for a day’s work. Later, other workers were added to his workforce, at different times of the day. All of them, regardless of what time they began their work received the same amount of pay, despite the protest of those employer who worked all day.

The reply the owner gave was, "Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?"

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Jesus predicted his death a third time, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!”

The mother of James and John asked Jesus for her sons to be seated on either side of Jesus in His kingdom. Jesus said that such a place was not His to give.

Jesus spoke about servant ministry, "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.” True greatness lies in service, and not in being served.

While at Jericho, Jesus healed two blind men, who called Him, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy upon us." 

Matthew 19

Jesus was heading towards Jerusalem, while some Pharisees came and asked him a tough question regarding divorce.

They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?”

Jesus responded, "Haven't you read (your Bible)?" He said let no man separate what God has joined. He then repeated what he said about divorce and adultery on the sermon on the mount. Many are not mature enough to lead a married life, which requires certain aptitude and grace. Celibacy is fine for those who can lead such a life.

Next, Jesus blessed little children, despite the attempts of his disciples rebuking them.
Matthew 19:14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Note that throughout his ministry, Jesus was speaking about the "Kingdom of Heaven."

Hearing the emphasis on "Kingdom of Heaven," a rich man approached Jesus and asked him what he should do in order to have eternal life in the "Kingdom of Heaven."
Matthew 19:21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
The rich man went back disappointed.
Matthew 19:23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.
24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
Upon hearing this, the disciples were astonished.
Matthew 19:26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 
The disciples wondered what their fate would be, as they had left everything and followed Jesus. To them, he said that when the Son of Man sits in glory, the disciples will sit on twelve thrones, judging the tribes of Israel. Those who have abandoned everything for the sake of Jesus will find their returns to be 100 times plus they will gain eternal life. Many who are first will be last, and the last first.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Matthew 18

The disciples wanted to know from Jesus, who is considered greatest in heaven. To their dismay, Jesus told them that unless their minds became like little children, they would not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus warns anyone who takes advantage of the simple trust of his followers - it is doomsday for them. It would be better for such leaders to have a millstone tied around his neck and drowned in the sea that cause a child who believes in Jesus to be misled.

The next warning Jesus issued was not to despise those childlike believers as their guardian angels in Heaven are constantly in touch with the Heavenly Father. The discovery of one lost sheep is more rejoiced when compared to the ninety nine which are never lost.

If one among the church is adamantly unrepentant, they are to be removed from fellowship. Jesus issued a step by step process:
- speak to that individual in private.
- if no change, then take two or three witness and speak again.
- if there is still no repentance, take the matter to the church to practice community discipline.

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It need not be a large church, just the presence of two or three individuals is sufficient. Here, Jesus is referring to the spiritual fellowship of His presence in such a church setting. He said, "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them." A man is supposed to forgive his brother seventy seven times.

Jesus then narrated the parable of unmerciful servant. A king forgave his servant a debt of 10,000 talents when the servant begged for more time to repay his debt. However, the servant did not forgive another person who owed him far lesser amount. When the king heard this, he became angry and delivered the servant for punishment.

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We can expect our Heavenly father to act like the king towards each one of us, who doesn't forgive unconditionally anyone who asks for mercy.

My Thoughts
Speaking of 'taking advantage of God's believers,' it really gets my blood boiling. 

Have you ever wondered why it is so difficult for God's children to stay together and get along well? Don't we expect church leaders to be honest in their church dealings and foster such relationship in a church setting - are we foolish in expecting such behavior? 

Don't know about you, but I am tired of church leaders sowing so much dissension and causing division among the crowd - for selfish cause. Leaders are not the only ones to be blamed - scores of devout followers are behind such leaders to improvise the teachings of Jesus and transform the so called church into religious country clubs. I wonder if these leaders are legitimately shepherding their flock, wearing the robes of Jesus Christ. Do their followers get to taste Jesus? 

When Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother, there was a reason if seven was sufficient. At that time, the Pharisees used to prescribe the number of times to be forgiven, and the going number was three. Peter doubled that number to six, and added one extra. Peter expected Jesus to say, "Good man - nice thinking." However, he was disappointed to hear his Teacher's answer. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Matthew 17

Transfiguration by Andrey Ivanov, 1807

The theme of this chapter is Jesus Christ.

Jesus lead Peter, James and John up a high mountain, and is transfigured: his face shone like the sun, his clothes become as white as the light. Moses and Elijah appeared, and talked to Jesus. Peter, who enjoyed the feeling of being surrounded by such superstars, suggested he could make three memorials on top of the mountain - one each for Jesus, Moses and Elijah.
Matthew 17:5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”
The disciples filled with Holy fear, fell face-down on the ground. When they looked up, only Jesus was present there. Jesus told these disciples not to reveal their vision until after the Resurrection. Quoting Malachi 4:5, Jesus said that Elijah came in the form of John the Baptist to restore everything, but he was not honored. In a similar fashion, the Son of Man would suffer at the others' hand - Jesus predicted.

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At the bottom of the mountain, they met a large crowd. A father approached Jesus to heal his son, who had seizures and fell frequently into fire and water. The disciples tried healing the child, but could not. Jesus then stepped in, and healed the boy.

The disciples inquired with Jesus as to why they could not heal the boy, with the power Jesus had given them. "You are not yet taking God seriously," was the reply Jesus gave. Additionally, he said that anyone who has faith as small as a mustard seed could move mountains.

Once again, Jesus prophesied his death and Resurrection. Hearing this, the disciples were terrified.

While at Capernaum, the temple tax collectors approached Peter. Jesus explained that He was not liable to pay the temple tax, because kings demanded taxes out of strangers; not from their children. In order not to upset them, Jesus told Peter to go cast a line in the lake and take out a coin from that first fish's mouth to pay the temple tax.

My Thoughts
The disciples were unable to heal the boy due to their lack of:
- faith
- prayer &
- discipline
Apparently, they went out to perform the healing without realizing that their power had drained out due to those above three ingredients.

Matthew being an ex-tax collector is the only one who recorded the miracle related to temple tax.

Unlike other miracles, this miracle does not record the results, as to what happened later on. All we know is that Jesus asked Peter to go cast a hook in the sea (not a net). Those who know Jesus by now can be well assured that the first fish that bit the hook had a coin in it's mouth.

Remember that God had given Adam the dominion over birds, animals and fish. Jesus was able to exercise his dominion over the fish and command it to find that coin.

Apparently, this is the only miracle that Jesus did with money, and he did it for both Peter and himself. Though Jesus did not have to pay taxes, he did it for the sake of not offending the sentiments of people.

Other info
Money was well managed by Jesus. In fact, the only named position within his disciples was that of a treasurer. In those days, coins were the only acceptable form of payment in a temple. The coins of Tyre had higher percentage of precious metals in it, compared to other currency.

Typical spending of a working class family during New Testament time:
30% Clothing
20% Food
11% Religious tithe including temple tax
10% Religious festivals
10% Charitable donations
5% Illegal taxes and bribes
4% Roman tax & local tax
10% Miscellaneous including entertainment, medical, travel etc.

Mount Tabor
The traditional site of transfiguration of Jesus is identified as Mount Tabor. Here is how it looks today.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Matthew 16

In this chapter, Jesus mentions for the first time about the Church, and he prepares his disciples for his arrest and crucifixion.

The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and  seek a sign from him. Apart from all what Jesus told and did, they still wanted a sign. Jesus told them they could draw conclusions on their own, if they had examined the evidence. The only evidence he was going to give was that of Prophet Jonah.

The disciples forgot to take bread with them. Using this occasion of embarrassment, Jesus taught an important spiritual truth - beware of the false teachings of Pharisees and Sadducees. The disciples were slow to understand the metaphor.

While at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

During that poll, many answers came up. The decision of the crowd, in this context turned out to be false. Peter had the right response - he declared that he thought Jesus was the Christ, the son of the living God. Jesus said that it was revealed to Peter by His Father in Heaven. This revelation was a gracious act of the Lord.
Matthew 16:17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.
18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.
19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
20 Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
Next, Jesus revealed to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem, suffer, die and rise again on the third day. Peter rebuked Jesus and said this shall not happen to Him. Jesus replied to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan!"

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Those of us, who desire to follow Jesus must be ready to take up our cross (see below). Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Jesus’ sake will find it. Some of those who were standing there wold witness the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.

My Thoughts
Notice how those Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and sought for a sign. In our own circles and community, we can notice this simple phenomenon - where there is faith, miracles will give confirmation; on the other hand, willful unbelief force many to be stubborn and act blind. 

Speaking of Prophet Jonah, today the 3 day lent, commemorating the memory of Jonah being swallowed by a whale is supposed to come to an end!

Those false teachings of Pharisees and Sadducees are very much around us today. Legions of people attend church in hopes of learning the word of God. What they discover there is alarming. The church leaders mislead and exploit the faithful for their own benefit - all in the name of Lord and Jesus Christ. 

Lord did not reveal the true identity of Jesus to those Pharisees and Sadducees - but He did it to Peter. 

Keys of the Kingdom - they are essentially a badge of authority. Peter was given the privilage to open "the door of faith." 

One misconception among Christians is that Peter was given some special privilege in the church. Just like others, he was an apostle. Jesus later clarified this concept of servant ministry when they asked him who among them was great. 

To deny self does not mean to deny all those things in the world. It means to submit ourselves wholly to Jesus. 

To take up the cross - does not mean in a literal sense to carry all those burdens and have too many problems. It simply means to be identified with Jesus in his rejection, shame, sufferings, and death. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Matthew 15

The opening part of this chapter is interesting. I am very particular in washing my hands prior to eating food. I also ask my family members to do so, before sitting down for a meal. Several years ago, one day my wife started an argument that it was not necessary to wash hands before meals. She then quoted Jesus saying so in the Bible. Those days, I used to be a stranger to the Bible - did not know what it actually contained.

While the disciples of Jesus were not washing their hands prior to a meal, the Pharisees pointed it out, as they were critical about Jesus and his team.
Matthew 15:2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”
Jesus rebuked them for not following God's commands. He rejected the Jewish tradition because the oral law they were practicing broke God's law. It had nothing to do with the cleanliness of Jesus.
Matthew 15:10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand.
11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” 
Peter told Jesus that he did not get it, and asked Jesus to explain it in plain language.
Matthew 15:17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body.
18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.
19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts - murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.
20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.
Jesus then met a Canaanite woman with tremendous faith, who approached him to heal her daughter. Jesus tried to turn her away saying He did not come to save the Canaanites. She kept on requesting and her faith surprised Jesus. He then healed her daughter.

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Sitting on a mountainside beside the Sea of Galilee, Jesus healed many.
Matthew 15:31 The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.
He then performed the miracle of feeding over four thousand with seven loaves of bread and few fish.

My Thoughts
Washing hands prior to meals is a best practice. As Jesus pointed out, there are several other factors that defile our bodies - He is concerned about them.

In a way, Jesus broke the Jewish tradition by not washing his hands. Today, unfortunately, we have several man made traditions in our churches, that violate and contradict the teachings of Jesus. The list is too long and we have too many to list here. Regardless of what our church authorities think and teach, I have decided to follow my own consciousness along with what Jesus said in the Bible.

Notice the patience and persistence of this mother. She did not care being treated badly by the disciples and even Jesus calling her a dog. Godly mothers are like that - they would go extremes to save their children.

Jesus was impressed by observing the faith of the woman. It seems to me that having tremendous faith is one surefire way impress Jesus. On the same note, I keep asking myself, "How can I improve my faith in the Lord?" The answer I get is, "By studying the word of God." It is not by doing anything else such as praying, fasting or so. Speaking about fasting, the 3 day lent started yesterday! Apparently, hearing the word of God improves faith in God. One other aspect is the blessing of Holy Spirit.

Ten Reasons Not to Wash
1. I was forced to wash as a child.
2. People who wash are hypocrites - They think they’re cleaner than others.
3. There are so many kinds of soap, I could never decide which was right.
4. I used to wash, but it got boring.
5. I wash only on Christmas and Easter.
6. None of my friends wash.
7. I’ll start washing when I’m older.
8. I really don’t have time.
9. The bathroom isn't warm enough.
10. People who make soap are only after your money.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Matthew 14

The beheading of St. John the Baptist Michelangelo Caravaggio, 1608

Herod Antipas imprisoned John the Baptist because he reproved Herod for divorcing his wife (Phasaelis) and unlawfully taking Herodias, the wife of his brother Herod Philip I. John the Baptist used to say, “It is not lawful for you to have her.”

Herod was however afraid to kill John because he was considered a prophet by the people.

On the day of Herod Antipas' birthday, Herodias' daughter, Salome performed a seductive dance before the king and his guests. Salomi's lascivious moves aroused Herod Antipas so much that in his drunkenness he promised to give her anything she desired, up to half of his kingdom. When Salomi asked her mother what she should request, she was told to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Herod reluctantly agreed and had John executed in the prison.

John's disciples claimed the body and buried him.

They then told Jesus about what happened. Hearing this, Jesus withdrew to a solitary place. The people followed him and he healed them. They were at a remote place and Jesus being compassionate, asked his disciples to feed them. All they had was five loaves of bread and two fish. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. About five thousand men, besides women and children were fed. They also collected twelve baskets of leftovers.

Then Jesus dismissed the crowd immediately and got into the boat to go to the other side of the mountain all by himself. That night he spent it all by himself. During the wee hours, Jesus came walking on the water. Seeing this, disciples were terrified and Jesus calmed them down. Peter wanted to try that himself. He walked a bit, and when he saw the wind, he became afraid and began to sink. Jesus helped Peter and the team went to Gennasaret.

People brought several sick people to Jesus in large numbers and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.

Additional Info:
Salome's dance of the 7 veils - performed by the step-daughter of Herod, on his birthday. Herod's manipulative wife used her beautiful daughter's dance skills to trap her husband into agreeing to execute John the Baptist.

We read about the Herod family in our four gospels, and in the Book of Acts. The Herods were Edomites - descendants of Easu, and were filled with hatred towards the Jews. There are four Herod's we read in the Holy Bible. 

1. Herod the Great - we read about him during the birth of Jesus. He had about 9 wives and killed some of them and was the same one who ordered the infant slaying. 

2. Herod Antipas - the son of Herod the Great, who was deceptive and selfish. He divorced his own wife and sent her to her father's house in order to elope with Herodias, the wife of his half brother, Philip I. He was the one who ordered the beheading of John the Baptist, and was the one in power during the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. 

3. Herod Agrippa - the grandson of Herod the great, who imprisoned Peter and killed James. 

4. Herod Agrippa II - the son of Herod Agrippa, the one who tried Paul. 

My Thoughts:
Herodias was tired of John the Baptist openly criticizing the union of Herod Antipas and Herodias. She therefore manipulated Herod Antipas using the seductive charm of her daughter. It tells us more about the weakness of Herod and the corruption that existed at that time. Further, note that Herod was in a state of drunkenness. 

After seeing the miracle and being fed, those 5,000 men and children wanted to make Jesus the king. Jesus immediately dismissed the crowd. We will read this in John 6:14 -15. 

Touching the edge of the cloak and getting healed was a lesson people learned from the bleeding woman's story. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Matthew 10

With the authority to heal diseases and drive out evil spirits, Jesus sent out his twelve disciples and gave them a set of instructions in the form of a short speech.

He begins by explaining the boundaries to operate within, which happens to be the Jewish community. He said, "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give."

Further, he instructed them not to put up any sort of fundraising campaign to get started. They did not need any equipment either - they were the equipment. To keep going, all they needed was three square meals a day - which the Lord would provide.

A word of caution to them was that he was sending them as a sheep among wolves. They were to think like a snake and behave like an innocent dove. They had a the blessings from above, and the Holy Spirit would be speaking on their behalf.

They were told not to be naive - especially of those who would smear them of their reputation. When people understand the fact that they were presenting the True God, and not any idols, even those in their own family would turn against them. The irony is that those who proclaim the message of love will be hated by other.

The Great teacher taught his students that a student does not get any better than his/her teacher. He shared that suffering is to be expected.

On the bright side, he told not to fear anyone except God - the one who can destroy both the body and soul. Lord is in charge and He knows everything that goes on in the world.
Matthew 10:30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
That is the amount of care and attention our God gives us.
Agnus Day appears with the permission of

God cares for His own children. In the words of Jesus:
Matthew 10:32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven."
We are supposed to love Jesus more than anyone in this world - more than our father, mother, son or daughter.

Once we have been identified with Jesus Christ, we are part of a war - the spiritual war, which started in the Garden of Eden and is currently going on between God and Satan.

In this war, we are given two choices:
(1) spare our life
(2) sacrifice our life

This is complicated stuff - there is no middle ground. Living for our own self will bring us death. Living for God and willing to die for Him will bring us life. We, as good citizens should do everything in our capacity to let Jesus Christ win the battle on our behalf. Those two options in front of us are:

(1) selfishness
(2) sacrifice

Jesus concluded that we are indeed a blessing to others. It is not like everyone will reject God's word. There will be few good people in the world who will welcome God's ambassadors. Those blessings will depend upon the attitude with which the host treats the ambassadors.

This concludes the part where Matthew speaks about the 'Revelation of the King.'

My Thoughts
If anyone told me that I was going to be a sheep among wolves, I would have felt extremely demotivated. Here in this case, it is the Master of the Universe, who is guaranteeing safety - so why fear, or doubt.

Jesus packs in so much philosophy into this chapter.
One example is Matthew 10:36 A man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.
Another one is Matthew 10:39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.

When we look at this chapter as a speech or instructions to disciples, notice how Jesus gradually builds up the subject. He first gave them the authority, then defined the target audience. Next he mentioned what to carry and what not to take. Then he spoke about the dangers to expect, by narrating examples. He then moves into a positive note saying, "Not be afraid because of the Father's care." He then told them about his mission and what they are supposed to do. In conclusion, he said how they will be a blessing to many.

The numbering of our hair is something we ourselves have no clue about - but God knows the exact count of them. He keeps track of every single hair, and whatever happens to them!

God's Ambassador - I love that title. Essentially it means representative of the God the King. I should think about growing up to become one.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Matthew 9

Jesus healed a paralyzed man who was brought to him by four friends. Interestingly, Jesus tells him, "Take heart son, your sins are forgiven."

A question that remains unanswered is whether we can conclude that a man's sickness is caused by sin.

We then read the calling of Matthew - he was a tax collector, hated by everyone. While having dinner at Matthew's house, Pharisees asked the disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

The response Jesus gave was, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Speaking about fasting, the message Jesus gave was that it was not yet time for doing so. He gave examples such as that of the bridegroom, patching of clothes and new wine in old wineskin.

A synagogue leader came running to him and informed him that his daughter had just died. He requested Jesus to come put his hand over her.

A woman who was bleeding for twelve years came and touched the edge of Jesus' cloak with faith that by the touch she would be healed. Jesus told her, "Your faith has healed you." The woman was healed instantly.

Jesus went to the synagogue leader's house and told the noisy crowd playing pipes to stay away. He then went inside and raised the dead girl.

Two blind men followed Jesus with the request to be healed. Jesus asked them whether they had faith in Jesus and they said, "Yes." Based on their faith, he restored their sight. Another man possessed with demon was brought near Jesus and he was healed. The pharisees who witnessed all these commented that Jesus was doing all these with the help of Satan.

Jesus traveled extensively through those towns and villages, teaching at their synagogues, healing people of every disease and proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom. He was compassionate towards them and his heart broke - because they were confused and aimless. Nobody was there to guide them in the proper direction.

Looking at the crowd, Jesus said to the disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

My Thoughts
The coming of Jesus into this world is a good news for sinners like myself. He holds the keys to the 'Kingdom of Heaven,' knows how to get there, and is willing to take those who are ready to follow him. Yes, Jesus is trustworthy and it is worth following him.

How differently Matthew documents the story of Jairus and his daughter.

We have a similar situation with vast numbers of confused and aimless people today. The shepherds wearing the clothes of Jesus Christ instead of leading, are misleading the crowd. How pitiful, and how heart-broken would Jesus be, witnessing these events. He won't keep quiet for long.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Matthew 8:18-34

When people wanted to be the disciples of Jesus, they wondered if they could follow him.

To one he said the Son of Man has no particular place and he keeps moving on.
Matthew 8:21 Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
22 But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
Here Jesus was not being disrespectful to the man's father. His father was not yet dead, but must be in his old age. Jesus told him to have right priorities in his life.

Matthew records the storm on the sea of Galilee. He calmed the sea and rebuked the disciples saying they had very little faith (in him).

We then read that two demon possessed men coming towards Jesus from the cemetery. Jesus drove those evil spirits from those men. The entire town became nervous when they saw this episode and wanted Jesus to leave their town.
Matthew 8:34 Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.

Other Info
Writings say that over 2,000 pigs were destroyed in the process of saving those two men.

My Thoughts
Many people have strong faith in the Lord. Being a weak human, that is one area where I stumble at times. I think in order for me to be a better person, I should hold on to that faith strongly. I have learned through experience that one way to advance towards the Lord is to have immense faith in Him.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Matthew 13

It is almost certain that Jesus is going to be punished by the Pharisees because of his fearless talk. The disciples wonder what will happen to the Kingdom that Jesus has been preaching about. The answer is given by Jesus in a series of parables. 

On this particular day, Jesus fave a series of seven inter-related parables, and finally added one more. 

1. The Sower and the Soils (13:1-9)
2. The Tares (13:24-30)
3. The Mustard Seed (13:31-32)
4. The Leaven (13:33)
5. The Hidden Treasure (13:44)
6. The Costly Pearl (13:45-46)
7. The Dragnet (13:47-50)
8. The Householder (13:52)

All these start with the words “The kingdom of heaven is like... 

Without going into the details of these parable, Here is how the meanings are classified:

The Sower and the Soils (1-9) ---- Planting ----  Planting truth
The Tares (13:24-30) ---- Planting ----  Planting of counterfeit by Satan

The Mustard Seed (13:31-32) ---- Growth ---- Extent of Growth - rapid
The Leaven (13:33) ---- Growth ---- Cause of Growth - internal dynamic

The Hidden Treasure (13:44) ---- Value ---- Not searching
The Costly Pearl (13:45-46) ---- Value ---- Searching

The Dragnet (13:47-50) ---- Responsibility ---- Evangelism
The Householder (13:52) ---- Responsibility ---- Edification

Additional Info
A parable is a story or comparison cast alongside a lesson to make the lesson clear. Jesus taught in parables due to 
(a) sluggishness of people
(b) those earlier prophecies
One reason for telling the parables was to excite and arouse the interest within people. The other was to hide the truth from those whose hard hearts did not want to hear the truth and did not accept Jesus as their Messiah.

My Thoughts
This is the chapter that we should be acquainted with, to familiarize ourselves with the Kingdom of Heaven.


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Matthew 12: 22-50

Jesus has landed in the midst of various controversies, and this time it is related to exorcism.

When Jesus healed a who was blind and mute, he was able to see and speak. While everyone was astonished, the Pharisees saw Jesus as devil's emissary and called him diabolical. Jesus knew their thoughts and clarified if that was the case, then Satan would be on a suicide mission. This calling of names hurts Jesus and he says there are only two sides:
Matthew 12:30 “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
31 And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 
People gathered around Jesus to see him perform miracles. When they asked him for a sign, he told them the story of Jonah, and related his own story.
Matthew 12:40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 
He further said that Queen of Sheba came from the farthest part of the world to hear the wisdom of King Solomon, and now someone greater that King Solomon was right there in front on them - whom they failed to see. Jesus also called the current generation 'wicked.'

Jesus' mother and brothers were outside and they called him. At that point, Jesus said that whoever did the will of his father was his brother, sister and mother.

Additional Info
Life of Pi - did you get a chance to watch that movie? If not, then I would encourage you to watch it once. We did that as part of our family outing on big screen - it was cool! My son was happy he understood the Malayalam words they spoke!

The movie "Life of Pi" is a deeply religious film. The story opens with a discussion between a writer and a man from India who shares a fascinating story. The man has come to Pi because a friend told him that "Pi has a story that will make you believe in God." Pi tells the story of his life, and a terrible tragedy that happens to him.

His parents are zoo-keepers. They board a freighter with all the animals to transporting them to Canada. While at sea, the cargo ship sinks and Pi escapes alone on a raft with four of the animals, including an adult Bengal tiger. He vividly tells the story of surviving on the raft, and that the Tiger was ultimately responsible for keeping him alive.

The story ends with Pi describing how officials from the shipping came to his hospital room to find out what happened and how the ship sunk. The officials didn't believe his story of the tiger and animals stranded with him on the raft. Pi then offers them a different version of what happened.

The second version that he tells them is much more believable. In this version, four people made it off the sinking ship and onto the raft. One of them died horribly from his injuries and his flesh used for fishing bait. Another was killed by a mean cook. Pi's mother was also killed by the cook and then Pi killed the cook and remained on the raft until he was rescued.

Pi then tells the writer the meaning of the story. Pi states, "I've told you two stories. Neither explains the reason for our horrible suffering. No one can prove either story. In both stories the results are the same. So which STORY do you believe?

"Life of PI" is not a movie made to tell you the story of a boy stranded on a boat with a tiger. It is not a movie made to tell you the story of how a boy coped with the horrible experience of being shipwrecked. It is a story to tell you why people believe in God.

To the world, people believe in God because believing makes their lives better. But do not come to Jesus because believing makes you feel better or makes you a better person! Believe in Jesus because you are a sinner and Jesus came here to die for you. He wanted you to know for sure that he died for you by being buried for three days!

So, who is Jesus to you?

Credits: Paul Barreca

My Thoughts
If I am not with Jesus, then I am against Jesus - Whoa! There is no neutral ground!

Jesus Christ is the one and only One who is wiser than King Solomon.

Jesus speaks about expelling a spirit from a person and it returning along with seven other spirits to the same body if the person was not careful.