Rejecting Jesus as Messiah: Matthew 13:53-58

Focus Passage: Matthew 13:53-58 (GNT)

53 When Jesus finished telling these parables, he left that place 54 and went back to his hometown. He taught in the synagogue, and those who heard him were amazed. “Where did he get such wisdom?” they asked. “And what about his miracles? 55 Isn’t he the carpenter’s son? Isn’t Mary his mother, and aren’t James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas his brothers? 56 Aren’t all his sisters living here? Where did he get all this?” 57 And so they rejected him.

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is respected everywhere except in his hometown and by his own family.” 58 Because they did not have faith, he did not perform many miracles there.

Read Matthew 13:53-58 in context and/or in other translations on!

One thing I find amazing in the Bible is how we learn about prejudices people had at that time. On one hand, there were people who rejected Jesus because He grew up in Nazareth, but in this passage from the gospel of Matthew, it seems that a great number of people living in Nazareth also rejected Jesus.

In this passage, Jesus returns home to Nazareth and He visits the synagogue. The people present were impressed by His preaching, but it seems they “knew too much”. Many of these people watched Jesus grow up, and while that shouldn’t make a difference, it would seem that Jesus’ developing years were not spectacular enough to have made an impression of divinity on these people.

“When Jesus finished telling these parables, he left that place and went back to his hometown. He taught in the synagogue, and those who heard him were amazed. ‘Where did he get such wisdom?’ they asked. ‘And what about his miracles? Isn’t he the carpenter’s son? Isn’t Mary his mother, and aren’t James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas his brothers? Aren’t all his sisters living here? Where did he get all this?’ And so they rejected him.” (v. 53-57a)

Seeing Jesus grow up actually seemed to hurt His reputation in the people of Nazareth’s minds. While they were among the closest to His family, these acquaintances were not open to the idea that God’s Messiah would have been chosen to grow up in their midst. While Jesus needed to mature somewhere, they had written off the possibility that it would be in their small town.

And by writing this possibility off, they chose to reject the amazing gift God sent them. They had the opportunity to know Jesus before He was famous, and before He was the celebrity. But as it turns out, knowing Jesus and just thinking He was a good person with some good things to say doesn’t lead people into a life-transforming faith. Those living in Nazareth were stuck in their belief of Jesus being a carpenter’s son and nothing more.

There are people living today who believe like those living in Nazareth. These people believe Jesus was a great preacher, and He was famous, but His life 2000 years ago is not important or relevant to us today. Don’t let your preconceived ideas about who Jesus was impact who the Holy Spirit inspires Him to be to you. The people of Nazareth rejected Jesus because they thought they knew who He was, but in their rejection, they gave up the amazing gift God had given them that millions of people living afterwards would have loved to have: They got the chance to know Jesus before the fame and the ministry.

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Another Set of Challenges: Matthew 10:24-42

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A little less than half-way through Matthew’s gospel, we come to a passage where Jesus is again teaching. While Jesus’ message in this portion of Matthew’s gospel isn’t as famous as the long Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ words to those present in our passage for this episode are no less challenging. In some ways, what Jesus challenges us with in this passage is even more challenging than before.

Let’s read what Jesus shared, and discover how we can apply Jesus’ challenges in our own lives. Our passage is found in Matthew’s gospel, chapter 10, and we will read from the Good News Translation. Starting in verse 24, and jumping into Jesus’ teaching, we read:

24 “No pupil is greater than his teacher; no slave is greater than his master. 25 So a pupil should be satisfied to become like his teacher, and a slave like his master. If the head of the family is called Beelzebul, the members of the family will be called even worse names!

Quick note: in the context of this message, Beelzebul would be another name for Satan or the devil. In other words, we shouldn’t be surprised if others call us names or accuse us of being agents of Satan. We should be satisfied simply being and living like Jesus, our Teacher.

Continuing in verse 26:

26 “So do not be afraid of people. Whatever is now covered up will be uncovered, and every secret will be made known. 27 What I am telling you in the dark you must repeat in broad daylight, and what you have heard in private you must announce from the housetops. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather be afraid of God, who can destroy both body and soul in hell. 29 For only a penny you can buy two sparrows, yet not one sparrow falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. 30 As for you, even the hairs of your head have all been counted. 31 So do not be afraid; you are worth much more than many sparrows!

32 “Those who declare publicly that they belong to me, I will do the same for them before my Father in heaven. 33 But those who reject me publicly, I will reject before my Father in heaven.

34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the world. No, I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 I came to set sons against their fathers, daughters against their mothers, daughters-in-law against their mothers-in-law; 36 your worst enemies will be the members of your own family.

37 “Those who love their father or mother more than me are not fit to be my disciples; those who love their son or daughter more than me are not fit to be my disciples. 38 Those who do not take up their cross and follow in my steps are not fit to be my disciples. 39 Those who try to gain their own life will lose it; but those who lose their life for my sake will gain it.

40 “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes God’s messenger because he is God’s messenger, will share in his reward. And whoever welcomes a good man because he is good, will share in his reward. 42 You can be sure that whoever gives even a drink of cold water to one of the least of these my followers because he is my follower, will certainly receive a reward.”

Let’s stop reading here. This passage has a bunch of really strong challenges in it. Jesus challenges us to make His messages public and to broadcast what He has shared with us as we have studied. Jesus tells us that we shouldn’t fear people because our souls cannot be touched or hurt by humans. Instead, we should fear God, who has the power to destroy both our body and our soul. Jesus tells us we are valuable in God’s eyes, and while this passage doesn’t directly say how valuable, the biggest reason Jesus came to this earth was to show us how much God values us!

Jesus challenges us with the truth that we must publicly declare that we are allied with Jesus if we want Jesus to acknowledge us before the Father in heaven. If we try to live a life of secret faith, where we are privately disciples of Jesus but publicly against Him or on the fence, then Jesus tells us that He will reject us before the Father. This sounds harsh and challenging, but it also draws our attention to an interesting truth that a secret disciple isn’t a valuable disciple. A disciple of Jesus must at some point declare that they are with Jesus. While the point in time they choose to do this might vary, they cannot stay hidden for their entire lives.

Some people believe that Jesus came to bring peace into the world, but Jesus challenges this idea with His next statement. Jesus tells us that Jesus came to bring division and debate. Because of Jesus, families would be split up and divided. I don’t believe that this is Jesus’ goal for coming into this world, but it is a reality as individuals wrestle in their minds and hearts about who Jesus really is. Some of the family might realize and believe Jesus to be God’s Son, while others believe Him to be an imposter. Jesus knows His coming would cause division, but His coming is too important for God’s people to let the fear of dividing people stop Him.

Jesus challenges us that if we are to be His disciples, we are to love Him over anyone and everyone else. We are to place Jesus first in our lives and to lay our goals and ambitions aside for what God’s goals and ambitions for us are. By losing our own lives, we are able to gain Jesus’ life, and His life in our lives brings us eternal life!

While most of Jesus’ message is bleak and challenging, Jesus finishes with an amazing promise. Those who welcome Jesus’ messengers are really welcoming Jesus, and whoever welcomes Jesus is welcoming God as well. Everyone who welcomes those God has sent will share in God’s rewards. When we are kind to those who follow God and when we are kind simply because we are God’s followers, Jesus promises us that God will reward us.

While Jesus’ arrival in this world causes a huge split between people of every background as we all must make the choice regarding who Jesus is for us, we can know and trust that when we choose Jesus in this life, and when we live for Him, we will be rewarded by God in the next life. While our current life will have challenges and trials because we chose to publicly follow Jesus, we can know and trust that our future lives are safe in God’s hands.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, be sure you are intentionally seeking God first in your life. Choose to publicly ally yourself with Jesus and let Him lead and guide your life. Live a life filled with God’s love and a life that is focused on helping the least of those in society and those who cannot help you back. Live your faith in a way that honors God, that honors Jesus, and that uplifts humanity. When we show God’s love in the world today, our lives become the greatest witness for our faith.

Also, as I always challenge you to do, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself to grow a personal relationship with God. Through personal study, God will teach us through His Holy Spirit what we should speak and share with others, and with God’s Holy Spirit, we can live the life God has called us to live.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or abandon where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year in Matthew – Episode 19: Part way through Matthew’s gospel, Jesus again challenges His followers with some very direct, difficult ideas, but He finishes this message with a promise. In this message, discover what it means to truly follow Jesus and to be one of His disciples.

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.

The Only Thing that Matters: John 6:60-71

Focus Passage: John 6:60-71 (NIV)

60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”

61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”

66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.

68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

70 Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” 71 (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.)

Read John 6:60-71 in context and/or in other translations on!

In what may have been one of the most heartbreaking events during Jesus’ ministry, after being challenged by Jesus, we read that many of His followers left Him. It seemed that while Jesus drew a crowd, if that crowd became too large, He would challenge them with something very difficult, and many would give up and walk away.

However, in this passage, while the crowd of followers are gathering their things to leave, Jesus says a very profound statement: “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.” (v. 63)

Whether the crowd of followers didn’t grasp this, or they were too offended by Jesus’ metaphor-challenge about eating His flesh and drinking His blood, we read that “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” (v. 66)

But not all of Jesus followers left.

Perhaps seeing confusion in the eyes of the twelve disciples, Jesus turns and asks them, “You do not want to leave too, do you?” (v. 67)

In one of his few moments of inspiration, Peter breaks the silence hanging in the air following Jesus’ question by answering, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” (v. 68-69)

Whether Peter fully grasped the words he was saying, or whether Peter was simply echoing Jesus’ statement about His words being full of Spirit and life, it seemed that these closest disciples saw something in Jesus worth following.

In a way they might not understand until later, they believed Jesus’ statement in verse 63 that “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.” It is the intangible aspects of life, like our focus and our character that matter the most. Focusing on the tangible parts of life, such as on our clothes, our bodies, our hairstyle, and what we eat each day will only leave us chasing after things that don’t really matter in the long term. What does it matter what we wore two or three years ago on this day, or what we made for supper? These topics consume too much thought in our present lives when Jesus wants us instead to focus on more important matters, like our focus on God, our relationship with Him, and on the character we are developing through our habits.

Peter gets this key idea: Peter knows that the more time he spends with Jesus, the more like Jesus he will become and the stronger their relationship will be. The more time we spend with Jesus, the more like Jesus we can be as well – and the more life we will be given through the Holy Spirit and the truth Jesus spoke.

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God the Redeemer: Matthew 1:1-17

Focus Passage: Matthew 1:1-17 (NASB)

Of all the portions of the gospels that we might call boring, topping the list for most people would be the two genealogies of Jesus. Both Matthew and Luke include a record of Jesus’ ancestry, and while many of us might gloss over Jesus’ family tree, if we push ourselves to look for interesting details, we are able to find them – even in these boring lists of names.

For instance, if we push ourselves while reading Matthew’s version of Jesus’ genealogy, we might be surprised when we see a number of Old Testament women show up. Matthew includes Tamar, who was Judah’s wife (v. 3); Rahab, who was the wife of Salmon and who may have possibly even been the same Rahab who helped the spies in Jericho (v. 5a); Ruth was the wife of Boaz (v. 5b); Bathsheba was originally Uriah’s wife but then became David’s wife after Uriah’s death (v. 6); and last but far from least, Mary was Joseph’s wife and the mother of Jesus.

The interesting thing about these women comes when we ask ourselves the question: Why did Matthew include these women in a type of list that was usually limited to males?

Some of these women were born Jewish, while others left their own people and joined the nation of Israel. Each of these women lived in different time periods, and each woman came from a different background and a different social class. But with all this uniqueness, is there something that unifies all these women’s stories?

When I stop and think about it, one big unifying factor is that each of these women (except for Mary) was not in their first relationship:

  • Judah and Tamar’s story is far from ideal – or even within the realm of God’s original plan (Genesis 38).

  • If the Rahab that is included in this list is the same Rahab that helped the spies, then she becomes the only person (plus some members of her family) who was spared from Jericho when the Israelites entered the Promised Land. She was a prostitute, and also would have had a less than ideal past. (Joshua 6:22-25)

  • Ruth, who was Boaz’s wife, did not start with that as her first marriage. She was first married to one of Naomi’s sons while Naomi was living outside of Israel, and she was the only daughter-in-law who returned with Naomi when she came back. Her marriage to Boaz was a second marriage, and her story is one that emphasizes the woman pursuing the man. (The short book of Ruth includes her story.)

  • Bathsheba started out as Uriah’s wife, that is, until David took a liking to her. This was one of the biggest failures in David’s entire life, and one that God called him out on. (2 Samuel 11)

  • Mary, Jesus’ mother, had the opposite issue. Everything appeared as though she became pregnant because she was unfaithful to Joseph, and while Joseph understood after the visit from an angel, the situation still didn’t look good to those who were close to this young couple.

All these women, and the men they are connected with, had less than ideal circumstances. They all had had relationships with men prior to their relationships with the men that they were connected with (except Mary), and for some reason, Matthew chose to include them in his genealogy for Jesus.

However, even more amazing is this: God took these four women with non-ideal pasts, and He draws them into His story, and into key places within Jesus’ family tree. This tells us that God redeems sinners, and that even with our failures, He still has a place for us in His story!

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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