The greatest among you shall be your servant.

The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

In the context of the bad examples that religious leaders set, Jesus switches gears and tells his disciples what they should be doing. Much has been made in recent years about being a "servant leader". Interesting to note that Jesus does not tell them to be leaders at all. He tells them to simply be servants. Wanting to be a leader can sometimes cause you to be the exact opposite of a servant. And when you serve to become 'something' you become more like a Pharisee than a servant. Better to serve with no ulterior motive.

Jesus tells his disciples, and us, that the path to leadership is humility. Being a servant is all about humility. Brother Lawrence, a 17th century lay monk who worked in a monastery's kitchen, is reported to have said in The Practice of the Presence of God:
Is it not quicker and easier just to do our common business wholly for the love of him?
I think that the words 'common business' speak a bit to what it means to be a humble servant. Many of us want our works to be special and extraordinary. But Brother Lawrence says that our work is special and extraordinary when it is done unto the Lord. Hence it does not matter what we do but how we do it - and Whom we do it unto.

Help me Lord to remember to do all I do with humility knowing I do it for your glory.

Call no man your father

They love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ.

We evangelical flavored Christians seem to not understand why the more liturgical traditions address their ministers as “Father” and yet are very comfortable addressing our ministers as Pastor (with a capital ‘P’). I have often said that the Protestant translation of Pope is "Senior Pastor". When I worked on the pastoral staff of a church a few years ago people sometimes addressed me as Pastor Bob - it kind of creeped me out. Yet, sadly, I did get a bit of a religious buzz (another word for pride?) when they did it.

I guess the religious buzz is a part of the problem. The focus on titles, be they religious or secular, is a bit of a dark flavor of pride. Five years ago a person disagreed with me on this and said that titles are simply a sign of respect. Here is how I responded to her comment:
Regarding titles, I guess I'm just a little less formal than you are. I think that titles such as doctor or judge (i.e. your honor) may be appropriate in the hospital or courtroom but in a friendly discussion among friends it gets pretty weird. Likewise in a church setting it may be appropriate to address a person in a formal way but in a non-professional setting it is a bit weird to me. First names are much warmer and friendlier ... and can be communicated with absolutely no disrespect.
For me the issue gets to the heart of what Jesus is teaching in the above passage. It goes back to motive - both in those who have titles and those who talk to them.

Lord help us to know how to be respectful and not feed the pride in others.

They preach, but do not practice.

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you—but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others.

The phrases "Practice what you preach" and "Do as I say, not as I do" have their roots in this passage. The phrase expounds a bit on what Jesus means when he often calls these scribes and Pharisees hypocrites. For example, it is hypocritical for a religious leader to instruct their followers to give sacrificially and then live lavish lives that seem to fly in the face of what they say. So often these folks embrace a sense of entitlement and feel that they are not obligated to live by many of the words they preach.

This sort of flagrant entitlement has its roots in the dark motives of these elders. They do things that attract attention to themselves - they want to be seen by men. Such is the darkness that seduces many who are drawn to public ministry. Sadly, many of these are drawn to pastoral ministry not to minister to hurting people but to stand in pulpits and be seen by others. Much of their schedules are filled with activities that draw attention to themselves. Jesus tells his listeners, and us, to not do what they do.

Help me Lord to be invisible and to not do things to be seen by others.

What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’?

If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.


I think that some answers to deep questions are fairly simple unless you are predisposed to reject the obvious answers. Such is the case in this question that Jesus asks the Pharisees. The son of David and the Son of God stood before some of the greatest biblical scholars of that day and not one of them had a clue concerning the answer. One might think that these who knew the scriptures might have known that the Messiah was not a mere mortal.

I have to admit that, like the Pharisees, my biblical predispositions have caused me to be blind towards the workings of the Holy Spirit. Because of my rigid belief system I once could not see people in 'liberal' churches as people indwelt by the Spirit of God. Interesting to note that I now attend one of those churches and have been blessed by the way that my eyes have been opened to biblical truth there. And my eyes are a bit clearer these days.

Open my eyes again today Lord that I might see Jesus.

On these two ... depend all the Law and the Prophets.

But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Court is in session and the Son of God is on trial. Lawyers from one religious sect have unsuccessfully cross examined Jesus and now another comes forth. I wonder what answer this lawyer expected to hear? I imagine that the first part of Jesus' answer did not surprise him. Maybe he thought Jesus would stop at loving God? Yet Jesus did not stop there but made it clear that loving God was not enough. To follow the teaching of the ten commandments one must have a love for people as well.

Interesting how Jesus describes love in this passage. Quoting the command in Deuteronomy he reminds them, and us, that our love for God must be an all encompassing and all consuming love. It is not enough to love with just a part of us. It is not enough to love God when things are going well. He requires all of our love all of the time. And he requires that we love all of his human creation - beginning with ourselves. We are made in his image and we must love those whom he loves. It is what we were created to do.

Thank you Father that I was created to love! Help me to express love today.

You know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God

But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.

Jesus is responding to a nonsensical question about a woman who had multiple husbands in this life - the Sadducees, who do not believe in the resurrection, could not get their head around who would be her husband in heaven. Their theological predisposition blinded them to what the scriptures said about the resurrection. In like manner I have also been blinded to biblical truth because I esteemed my theology more than God's word.

In a few sentences Jesus speaks to the Sadducees, and us, about the nature of the afterlife. He indicates that the patriarchs are alive. These who followed God transcended death when their bodies gave out. There is such hope in the resurrection! I am not afraid of death because God said "I am". My life will transcend death and I will see God. It is the glorious message of Easter. Even if some do not believe it.

Help me Lord to get past my theology and embrace your word and your power.

Render to Caesar .. and to God

Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone's opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar's.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.

Often questions tell us quite a bit about the one who is asking them. Such is the case in this passage. The question is preceded by patronization - they really did not believe what they were saying about Jesus. And their question was not aimed at the answer but the supposed lack of one. But Jesus would not play their game and called out their malicious hypocrisy. And his answer? Oh my! Small wonder that they marveled at it.

I think that there will always be a real mistrust of the government. Whether it be a harsh dictatorship, as in Jesus' day or a representative democracy, there are people who simply do not want to support governmental activities by paying taxes. Even so Jesus did not give his listeners, or us, and excuse for tax evasion. By saying "render to Caesar" he validated lawful taxation. By telling them to 'render to God' he put the paying of taxes in perspective.

I ask you to help the leaders in our governments Lord. Give them grace to acknowledge you in their lives. Give them wisdom to understand how to lead cities, states and nations.

Many are called but few are chosen.

Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called, but few are chosen.”


When we read parables like this we sometimes forget that these are stories that are given to teach us about the Kingdom of God. A few teaching points that I think are worth mentioning:
  • Two groups of people are called and invited to be a part of God's kingdom. This is an obvious reference to Jews and Gentiles.
  • No one from the first group came to the feast. Throughout the Old Testament we read that the Jews were God's Chosen people. Even so, these rejected God's call to kingdom life when they rejected His Son.
  • Some from the second group were rejected because they were not prepared. Even though they were called to kingdom living they were not clothed with Christ.
  • There is a mixture in the groups. Not all Jews rejected Jesus and many Gentiles rejected Him. The focus in the story is those who had hearts clothed with Christ.
I so wish that Jesus said 'many' instead of 'few'. I want many to be prepared. It is a sober teaching about the Kingdom of God. It is an admonition to be clothed with Christ.

I have nothing but ragged clothes to offer Lord. Thank you for clothing me in Christ. 

The stone that the builders rejected

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
“‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

The Lord has just shared a parable with the crowd. In it he speaks about how the tenants of a vineyard repeatedly mistreated and killed servants of the vineyard owner. The parable ends when the tenants murder the owner's son. Such is the picture that Jesus paints of the religious leaders of his day. For years God sent prophets to their forefathers and they rejected their message. And in like manner these elders rejected John the Baptist. And sadly they were now rejecting the Son of God.

Is there a more chilling passage in all of scripture than this one that speaks of a stone that breaks and crushes? When I think about that cornerstone I go back to the day I fell on it and my life was broken to pieces. My pride was broken. My attitude was broken. My sin was broken. Falling on that rock was the best thing that has ever happened to me. Yet to those who reject the Cornerstone, and do not fall on it, Jesus speaks of a terrifying expectation of crushing as the stone falls on them.

Again I fall at your feet Lord Jesus. Break me and mold me in your image.

Which of the two did the will of his father?

“What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.

Can you imagine the reactions of the religious leaders when Jesus tells them that hated tax collectors and prostitutes would go into the kingdom of God before them. In the story he likens them to people who merely give lip service to God and the 'sinners' as those who have a change of mind and repent. He chides them implying that their hearts should have been softened at the sight of 'sinners' repenting in baptism. He speaks to them, and to us, about going past lip service.. about loving the unlovable.

And such is the challenge before us today. Loving hurting souls who appear so unlovable. Caring for those who have been abused and mistreated. Embracing people who are so different than we are. The opportunity is before us to be, like Jesus, and embodiment of a different sort of person. A person whose heart breaks when others suffer. A person who, with the angels, rejoice when people repent. A person who goes past mere lip service and compassionately does the will of our Father.

Open my eyes to those who are hurting Lord. Help me to pray for and encourage them.

From heaven or from man?

And when he entered the temple, 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, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.

That phrase, "From heaven or from man?", hits at the heart of this issue of authority. And, to be sure, the authority Jesus is speaking of is not merely religious authority - although the religious leaders of his day wanted to frame the discussion in that light. Their challenge to Jesus basically asked the question "Why did you not get our permission to do these things?" Their issues were all earthly. Their concerns were fleshly. They feared losing their authority.

In contrast Jesus magnificently showed them, and us, what heavenly authority looks like. His authority was a blend of spiritual power, wisdom and love. The power was displayed in miracles and demonic exorcism. Wisdom emanated from his teachings. He was moved by compassion when He healed or performed a miracle. Unlike the religious elders His authority had a basis in love. And so it is with us. Our authority is heavenly when we love.

Forgive me for not loving Lord. Help me to love.

You will receive - if you have faith.

In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once. When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”

This is certainly one of the oddest passages in the gospels. It is hard to explain why Jesus spoke to the fig tree in such a fashion. Even so, the Lord uses this to speak to the disciples about faith. Speaking in hyperbolic language he tells them of how faith can move mountains. Some misunderstand these verses and interpret them literally implying that faith is all about 'speaking' to the mountains in our lives.

Jesus clarifies the mountain moving passage and puts it in the context of prayer. Interesting how he connects faith and prayer. One might think that prayer itself is an evidence of prayer - why would some one pray if they did not have faith? I think that some pray with a motive of fear or worry instead of faith - their heart cannot see or embrace an answer. To these Jesus says you will receive - if you have faith.

I lay down my cares, fears and worries Lord. I hope in you. Help my heart to believe.

Out of the mouth of Infants

And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read,
“‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?”
And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there.


The narrative of the gospels present us with a stark contrast between darkness and light. The light is shining - Jesus is healing and doing miraculous things. Even the youngest in the crowd is singing praises to the Son of God. Yet the darkness is indignantly sniping at the heels of the healer. How blind must a person be to not see divinity in a worker of miracles? How hard and callous must a heart be to reject compassion.

I think that there is a darkness in humanity that sometimes enters when a child transitions into adulthood. Sometimes the darkness resembles bitterness.. often it is angry. I can relate to it. When I was around twenty I rejected the hypocrisy that I saw in the church I was raised in. And in much pain I stopped praying. Yet in my mid-twenties the light broke through my darkness. With childlike faith I embraced the healer and sang praises to him.

Hosanna to the Son of David! Lord, help me to praise like a child.

My House shall be called a House of Prayer

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”

"Zeal for your house consumes me." That sentiment from Psalm 69 gives us a peek into what motivated Jesus to act the way that he did. He saw people making money from those who had come to seek the Lord and it angered him. I wonder if people like this still anger the Lord. Most of us are aware of modern day money-changers who focus on profit and hinder those who come seeking the Lord. I suspect the Lord would react with a similar zeal if he lived today. Perhaps He would start with those who preach a give to get theology?

When I think of a house of prayer my mind does not go to the asking kind of prayer so much as the seeking kind. It is why I believe that it is good to gather with other believers. Something happens to us when we gather together and seek the Lord with song, sharing and prayer. Many times I have walked into settings like this and came away transformed. And that is why Jesus calls this "my house".. a place where those can seek him.. a house that one can enter with heavy burdens and leave refreshed.

Draw us together to seek you in prayer Lord.

The Lord needs Them

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
“Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’”
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them.

A few things strike me about this passage that we often read on Palm Sunday. Firstly, the disciples were instructed to fetch a donkey and a colt. I had not seen that before. Here is the way that theologian John Gill explains it:
Very probably, Christ rode; first on one, and then on the other, as the prophecy hereby fulfilled seems to require, and as the sequel of the account shows. The ancient allegorical sense of the ass and colt is not to be despised: that the ass may signify the Jews, who had been used to bear the burdensome rites and ceremonies of the law; and the colt, the wild and untamed Gentiles, and the coming of Christ, first to the one, and then to the other.
So interesting! Can you see Jesus dismounting one animal to ride the other as people shouted praises? I believe that there was something significant about this.

Secondly, the passage reminds me that Jesus was a king who came in absolute humility. The animals he rode was not a mere acquiescent adherence to the prophecy but a picture of how God comes to each of us. He comes to us meekly.. patiently.. humbly. He does not shout in our face and blow us away with his power but He whispers to us and invites us to follow him. And our response should be like those who watched him that day - those who welcomed his entrance and worshiped him.

Hosanna to the King! All praise to you Messiah Jesus! Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!

What do you want me to do for you?

And as they went out of Jericho, a great crowd followed him. And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” And stopping, Jesus called them and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” And Jesus in pity touched their eyes, and immediately they recovered their sight and followed him.

Whenever I read about blindness I am transported back in time to 1972. Standing in my parents home in New Jersey, my wife told me that she had gone to the eye doctor and he told her that she was going blind. For the next three years I became intimately acquainted with the desperation voiced by the two blind men in this story. I helplessly watched as my wife descended into physical and emotional darkness. And such is the setting for two helpless and desperate men sitting beside a dusty road crying for mercy.

Can you imagine the reaction of those two when Jesus stopped and touched their eyes. I can. In August 1975 I came home again to news concerning my wife and her eyesight. My desperate wife had been to church with neighbors and Jesus touched her left eye [read about it here]. And a week later this healing began to take root in my heart when she passed the eye test and got her drivers license. Like the two in the story our lives had been turned upside down. And like them we began to follow Jesus.

Lord, have mercy on me, Son of David!

Whoever would be great ... must be your servant.

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” ... And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The desire for power and authority can be a dark force in our lives. For many years my ambition for such position created such a dissatisfaction in my life. And in the end when I had such authority I found that I was really not suited for it. I remember coming to grips with that and thinking about how much energy I wasted wanting a position that I was not good at. Such is the seduction of power. We long to have it and are not happy when we get it. And in seeking such power our pride is exposed and on display for all to see.

Jesus speaks to this desire and tells us of the difference between earthy and heavenly power. When we look at his life we see a gentle authority that has its roots in compassion. We see in Jesus a humility beyond comprehension. The night before his death, at the Last Supper, Jesus tries to drive home the idea of servant leadership as he stoops down and washes filthy feet. In his life we get a picture of what it is like to lead.. in his actions we see one who serves.. and on the cross we understand the cost of such leadership.

I again repent of my desire for earthly power. Give me the heart of a servant.

Do you begrudge my generosity?

And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’

But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last.


Jesus continues his conversation with the disciples about wealth by telling them a story about vineyard workers who received the same daily pay even though they worked different hours. I think that many of us can relate to this seemingly unfair action by the owner of the vineyard. Anyone who has lived for a while can relate to the feelings of unfairness when another gets a raise or a promotion. Many of us would react in similar ways if we had worked all day and received the same wage as those who worked for one hour.

It is interesting how the master responds to their disappointment with the word generosity. When it comes to eternal matters and everlasting fairness it is good to pause for a moment and understand that it is all about the generosity of God. Whether we have followed Him all of our lives, or only in our very last days, it is all about His generosity. If we are gifted or blessed in any way it is because God is generous. How much more should we live in ways that reflect His generosity in our lives?

There is no philanthropist like you Lord! Help me to live and give in generous ways.

The Son of Man will be ... mocked and flogged

And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”

Once again Jesus stops along the way to Jerusalem to give a reality check to his disciples. Can you imagine the disbelief evident on the faces of his disciples? They have been walking with the Lord for three years and have watched him do unimaginable things.. they have watched him open blind eyes.. heard him call Lazarus back to life.. ate the multiplied fish and bread with the five thousand. In their wildest imaginations they have never dreamed of an ending to Jesus' ministry that involved floggings and crucifixions.

What is so impressive is how Jesus, knowing his fate to be one of beatings and crucifixion, set his face towards suffering. I think that he embraced this thought I shared a few days ago from Joni Eareckson Tada:
"Trials are not just assaults to be withstood. No, trials are opportunities to be seized!"
Jesus inspires me as I read of him walking towards his suffering. He did not back down from pain. He saw his trials to be an opportunity to show the world that God is no stranger to pain. When he forgave those who were inflicting the pain of nails piercing his skin he was giving us each an example of amazing grace under trial. He was teaching us about how to persevere in trials. He was showing us how to glorify God in suffering.

You are worthy of my worship Lord Jesus. Help me to glorify you in my trials.

Many who are First will be Last

Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

Sometimes it seems so difficult to follow Jesus. Sometimes, when life seems so unfair, we simply need to hear the Holy Spirit whisper in our hearts that we will inherit eternal life. And to be sure, life is unfair - people who do bad things do not always get caught and people who consistently do good things do not get rewarded. To these Jesus speaks of the consequences of our deeds after we die.

Do you ever wonder what Jesus means when he speaks of his followers sitting on thrones and judging? Some might think that the twelve thrones are reserved for the apostles but I imagine them to simply be metaphors that speak to the way that the unfairness of this life will be made fair. In that day the pecking order of this age will expire.. things first in this world will be last and things last will be first.

I long for heaven Lord. I long for a day when things will be made right.

With God all things are Possible.

And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person 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 person to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

I had to laugh when I read this and was reminded that the context of "all things are possible" was a rich person entering the kingdom of God. Many of us hear the phrase "all things are possible" and our minds imagine great masses being healed or some of other miraculous event. Yet the sobering context of Jesus' assertion was a wealthy man.. a man who had many possessions.. a man who chose his wealth over the kingdom of God.

Using hyperbolic language Jesus explains how hard it is for a rich man to accept the invitation to eternal life. Many of us can relate to the ways that things can so captivate our thinkings - even good things can distract us from the call of the kingdom. Even so, I love the way that Jesus indicates that even the most hardened amongst us.. the most materialistic.. the one we never thought would kneel in prayer.. may one day respond to God's invitation.

Lord, I lift my family and friends to you. Draw them to you and cause them to kneel.

If you would be Perfect

And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

Questions about the relationship of faith to wealth, possessions and materialism persist to this day. I wonder if this man who came to Jesus was known for his wealth and possessions or if Jesus discerned this as he spoke with him. I find it interesting how the man came to Jesus with a question about eternal life - it is true that money cannot give you peace concerning these matters. Also find it relative that the man thought eternal life was earned by doing something instead of believing something.

I know people like this man. People who are very moral. People who keep the ten commandments. People who are materialistic. I think that many of us (yes, I include myself) have an idolatrous attachment to our things. And I guess that idolatry is the issue. If we desire to be perfect or mature we must put 'things' in the proper perspective - especially when you consider how things often lose their appeal over time. Jesus sets eternal life before us.. a life that is not captivated by things.

Lord, help me to let go of the things that draw my attention away from you.

To such belongs the Kingdom of Heaven

Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” And he laid his hands on them and went away.

I love these scenes! They show such a tender side of our Lord as he makes room and time for children. Can't you see them climbing up on his lap and embracing him. Children know how to love like no others can love. Their hearts are so tender and their love so genuine.
I think that these boys and girls caused Jesus to smile as he held and blessed them.

Jesus says that the kingdom belongs to such as these. It cause me to wonder about how I, unlike children, often choose to take such an analytical approach to kingdom life. My focus is so often so very 'adult'. It is a good reminder to live life: believing the best in others; rejoicing with friends; honoring each other; and loving God and others with all of our hearts.

Help me to be more childlike Lord.

Whoever divorces his Wife

And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery. The disciples said to him, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But he said to them, “Not everyone can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let the one who is able to receive this receive it.”

What do you think the marriage vows would look like for a man who says..
“If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.”
..when Jesus tells them that marriage is basically for life? That said, I do find the candid response of the disciples to be a bit refreshing. Sadly some today enter marriage with this mindset but are not so candid about their marital attitude. Even so, I think mental duplicity like this is always tested by trials. It is why our vows often include things such as staying faithful to each other in sickness and in poverty.

To men who find it difficult to commit to such marital vows Jesus offers an alternative.
Jesus tells these men that the life of a eunuch is an option for those who cannot commit to marriage for life. I do not believe that Jesus is instructing them to make themselves eunuchs.. as he often did, he is using hyperbolic language to make the point that the alternative to marriage is not sex outside of marriage but abstinence from sex. It was not a popular message then and it is not one now - but it is the command of Christ.

Thank you for my wife Lord. Help my life to be an encouraging force in her life.

Because of your hardness of Heart

Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so

Have you ever had a conversation like this one where someone adamantly points to Old Testament law saying that God has spoken and has settled a matter? Such is the place that Jesus finds himself in this passage. The religious leaders, of all people, are defending a man's (interesting to note that a woman did not have this right) right to divorce his wife. Jesus points them back to the garden and the way that marriage is meant to be.

Does this passage cause you to wonder if other things were allowed because of the hardness of people's hearts? Jesus describes this idea in more detail in the sermon on the mount when he speaks of hard hearts that hate, lust and covet. In that sermon, and here, Jesus appeals to the heart of issues. He speaks to us about hard hearts that run to the letter of the law instead of the heart of it. And maybe the heart is the real issue when it comes to divorce and like matters?

Help me Lord to keep my heart soft and tender.

Seventy times Seven

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.

Following his answer to Peter Jesus tells a story that illustrates his point. The story is about a man who is forgiven a great debt by the king and then refuses to forgive a man who owes him a smaller debt. Jesus concludes the story with these words from the king:
‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’
The heart of forgiveness is mercy - God's unconditional mercy that always forgives. One who keeps an account of forgiveness (seven times) does not understand the heart of forgiveness (seventy times seven). Jesus wraps up the story with this lesson from it:
And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.
I think that there is no greater spiritual bondage than that of unforgiveness. When we refuse to forgive we imprison our soul in a dark dungeon. Such is the reason that Jesus tells us to forgive others from our heart whenever they ask us.. and even when they do not.

Lord, I forgive all that have offended me. Wash me clean of any bitterness.

You will be my Witnesses

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Can you imagine the shock on the disciples' faces as they watched Jesus lifted up and disappear into a cloud. This totally took them by surprise because they were expecting Jesus to restore the Kingdom to Israel. Their minds were on earthly answers and physical kingdoms. The dreams of a restored Israel disappeared with Jesus in the clouds. To these Jesus spoke of a heavenly kingdom and of spiritual power.

Jesus also speaks about how they will be his witnesses when the Holy Spirit comes upon them. Over the years I have got the impression from some folks that the word witness is a verb rather than a noun.. it is something you do rather than the person who you are. In truth our lives witness to the influence that the Holy Spirit has in our lives. When his influence is weak we witness a life of worry and fear. When it is strong we witness to something else.

I need you Lord. Help my life witness to the power of the Holy Spirit.

You will be baptized with the Holy Spirit

He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

The word "baptism' has been a hotly disputed term in church circles for many years. Some dogmatically adhere to an immersion only formula.. others ascribe to a pouring or sprinkling methodology. It seems to me that those who do that miss the heart of the idea - that a new soul has responded to Christ's invitation. Baptism reminds me of the many who came with repentant hearts to John in the Jordan River. And in response John symbolized God's forgiveness with an act of cleansing with water.

The idea of being baptized with the Holy Spirit seems to be a bit different, but somewhat similar, concept. Jesus spoke these words to his disciples and those who had already been baptized with water. In speaking this promise Jesus tells us two things: 1) Christians have an ongoing need for forgiveness and empowering; 2) God is present to respond to those needs. What seems odd however is how some feel that such a baptism is a one-time ecstatic event instead of an ongoing process of cleansing and filling.

I repent Lord. Baptism me afresh in your Spirit. Fill me Lord. I so need you.

I am with you always, to the end of the age.

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Interesting how Jesus includes heaven in his declaration. It is a reminder to all of us of the divinity of Christ. Also precarious is the mention that some worshiped but some doubted. I just love the honesty in that statement. The writer, Matthew, wanted us to know that even some who saw Jesus after the resurrection doubted. The statement helps me to understand that believing in Jesus is not a matter of brainy logic but one of a humble heart of worship.

In the context of "all authority" Jesus commissions those present, and those to come, to go and make disciples. Much of his own mission was spent discipling. Now he says "do what I did".. reach out to the poor.. go to the harlots.. welcome tax collectors.. baptize them and watch their lives change as you share my teachings with them. And he tells them that they will not "go" alone.. the Holy Spirit will go with them giving them lessons to teach. Amazing.

With all of my heart I confess that Jesus is Lord. Give me words Lord as I go.

Where you do not want to go

Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who had been reclining at table close to him and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”


It is so easy when you hurt so bad, or hear something you do not like, to look at others and ask the 'why' questions. Why do others, like John, seem to have easier journeys.. why is my journey so often a painful one? To these questions Jesus answers our 'why' questions with another question: "what is that to you?" I think that the 'why' questions are unfruitful ones that cause us to obsess and wallow in our pain rather than process it and move through it.

Jesus ends by telling Peter "You follow Me!" He makes no apology.. offers no excuse.. He simply says that.. even in difficult places "where you do not want to go".. our focus must not be on our pain.. not on our circumstances.. not on other people.. but on following Him in the good times and the bad. Our challenge is to look up and not look around.

Help me Lord to keep my focus on you today.