Discovering the Truth: Matthew 16:13-20

Focus Passage: Matthew 16:13-20 (NIV)

13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

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.

Read Matthew 16:13-20 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

During one of the many trips Jesus took with His disciples, one stands out as significant because of something Jesus asked the disciples. While Jesus leads with a question about who the crowd believes Him to be, I think this question is more of a setup question for what He really wants to ask the disciples.

After the disciples respond to Jesus’ first question by sharing all the rumors about Him, Jesus then draws them into His real question: “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” (v. 15)

Jesus had just received what the general belief about Him was, and now He wants to know what His closest followers think. Do they believe similarly to the crowd, or are they closer to the truth?

I would love to know if there was a long awkward pause before Peter speaks up or if Peter’s reply was instant and without hesitation. My imagination could go either way with this one, and I don’t see any clues given in the passage to help point me to how quickly Peter responded.

But when Peter does respond, he answers by saying, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (v. 16)

This response appears to be the one Jesus is looking for, because Jesus replies to Peter saying, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.” (v. 17)

While Jesus continues with a thought provoking teaching, it is easy to miss the profoundness of this first statement in His response. Jesus tells Peter and all of us that only God the Father in heaven can reveal who Jesus is to someone. While the truth about Jesus can be shared (which is something Jesus tells the disciples not to do yet), the only way for Simon Peter to have known the correct answer is because God the Father, through the Holy Spirit, revealed this truth to him.

It is the same with us today. While we can share with others what Jesus has done for us and who we believe Him to be, only God and the Holy Spirit can take the knowledge about Jesus and turn it into real faith. Only the Holy Spirit can take Jesus from being a significant historical figure in one’s mind and turn Him into the Personal Saviour who lives in our hearts.

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Responding with Apathy: Matthew 27:1-10

Focus Passage: Matthew 27:1-10 (GW)

Early in the morning all the chief priests and the leaders of the people decided to execute Jesus. They tied him up, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate, the governor.

Then Judas, who had betrayed Jesus, regretted what had happened when he saw that Jesus was condemned. He brought the 30 silver coins back to the chief priests and leaders. He said, “I’ve sinned by betraying an innocent man.”

They replied, “What do we care? That’s your problem.”

So he threw the money into the temple, went away, and hanged himself.

The chief priests took the money and said, “It’s not right to put it into the temple treasury, because it’s blood money.” So they decided to use it to buy a potter’s field for the burial of strangers. That’s why that field has been called the Field of Blood ever since. Then what the prophet Jeremiah had said came true, “They took the 30 silver coins, the price the people of Israel had placed on him, 10 and used the coins to buy a potter’s field, as the Lord had directed me.”

Read Matthew 27:1-10 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

When reading in Matthew’s gospel about the fate of Judas Iscariot, I am startled by what actually happens. Only Matthew includes the fate of Jesus’ betrayer and in what Matthew tells us is a brief, but also amazing, conversation between Judas Iscariot and the chief priests and religious leaders.

Matthew transitions onto Judas’ story by telling us: “Then Judas, who had betrayed Jesus, regretted what had happened when he saw that Jesus was condemned. He brought the 30 silver coins back to the chief priests and leaders. He said, ‘I’ve sinned by betraying an innocent man.’” (v. 3-4a)

On realizing that he had sinned, Judas tries to undo what had been done. However, the response he receives is amazing. The chief priests and leaders replied, “What do we care? That’s your problem.” (v. 4b)

In the end, Judas Iscariot realized what he did was wrong and he regretted what happened. In contrast, the chief priests and leaders – who were at least just as guilty as Judas was – are completely indifferent to the fact that they have sent an innocent man to die.

These people were supposed to be God’s representatives on earth, but while God’s character is one of love, nothing in the chief priests’ and leaders’ actions demonstrate a God that loves humanity. The chief priests and leaders statement of apathy towards Jesus’ condemnation reveals how far they had fallen away from knowing God.

In contrast, every action Jesus did throughout His ministry demonstrated God’s love. Even through the events surrounding the crucifixion, Jesus demonstrated God’s character more accurately than any of the religious leaders did.

Jesus chose to enter the world during a time when God’s character was the most misrepresented in all of history. He chose to enter the world at a time when He would ultimately be rejected and condemned without committing a crime. He chose to enter the world when the world needed to really see a clear picture of God in a time of apathy and indifference.

Jesus entered the world when He did for you and for me! His sacrifice opens the way for our salvation – even if the leaders that weekend were apathetic towards the life they had condemned to die.

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Limiting Miracles: Mark 8:22-26

Focus Passage: Mark 8:22-26 (GNT)

22 They came to Bethsaida, where some people brought a blind man to Jesus and begged him to touch him. 23 Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village. After spitting on the man’s eyes, Jesus placed his hands on him and asked him,
         Can you see anything?

24 The man looked up and said,
         Yes, I can see people, but they look like trees walking around.

25 Jesus again placed his hands on the man’s eyes. This time the man looked intently, his eyesight returned, and he saw everything clearly. 26 Jesus then sent him home with the order,
         Don’t go back into the village.

Read Mark 8:22-26 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

The big idea I see in this passage, and in this unique healing miracle is this: My lack of faith may limit Jesus’ ability to work miracles in my life.

We can see this idea played out in a few details within Mark’s retelling of this event.

First, other people bring the blind man to Jesus. We can assume they are more interested in seeing a miracle than on seeing this disabled man be healed. We see this idea played out (and perhaps a collective groan/sigh) when Jesus takes the blind man out of the village and away from them.

Next, since other people brought the blind man to Jesus, we may conclude that the man wasn’t all that confident in Jesus’ ability to heal him. Other blind people made a much bigger deal when getting near Jesus than this man did. This man likely had lots of doubts about Jesus.

Thirdly, this is one of the only times where Jesus performs a healing that doesn’t “work” entirely the first time around. He has to try again. The big takeaway I have from this two-times approach is that the man needed a little evidence in Jesus’ ability to assure him that Jesus really could heal him. We might call him the “Thomas” (John 20:24-29) of those who Jesus healed.

The now formerly blind man has faith and evidence to believe in Jesus, and it was the partial evidence that he allowed to strengthen his faith that gave him the ability to experience the complete healing miracle.

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Nothing Left to Chance: Mark 15:21-24

Focus Passage: Mark 15:21-24 (NCV)

21 A man named Simon from Cyrene, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was coming from the fields to the city. The soldiers forced Simon to carry the cross for Jesus. 22 They led Jesus to the place called Golgotha, which means the Place of the Skull. 23 The soldiers tried to give Jesus wine mixed with myrrh to drink, but he refused. 24 The soldiers crucified Jesus and divided his clothes among themselves, throwing lots to decide what each soldier would get.

Read Mark 15:21-24 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

While Jesus was hanging on the cross, Matthew and Mark describe how Jesus refused a drink offered to Him by the soldiers. Part of me wonders if the wine and myrrh was to help deaden the pain of the cross, or if it was given to help prolong the life of the one being crucified. Perhaps it could have been given as a way of dulling the mind of the person being crucified, which may have resulted in them not having a filter on their last words while alive.

All of these ideas might be accurate, but it is interesting that both of these gospel writers include Jesus refusing to drink it. Mark describes in his gospel that “The soldiers tried to give Jesus wine mixed with myrrh to drink, but he refused.” (v. 23)

Matthew’s gospel says something similar, but he is a little more descriptive: “The soldiers gave Jesus wine mixed with gall to drink. He tasted the wine but refused to drink it.” (Matthew 27:34)

I am curious if Jesus refused this drink because He wanted His mind to be clear for the duration of His death. I wonder if Jesus knew that there was still more to do. Even in His last hours alive, Jesus may have known that there was one more person who would turn to Him – and it would be one of the least likely people possible: a thief being crucified next to Him.

I also wonder if Jesus refused to drink as a way of fulfilling His dedication to God – similar to the vow of a Nazarite in the Old Testament. While Jesus associated with people who drank, He had a reputation for socializing with those who did, and He turned water into wine early on in His ministry, we don’t see any direct record of Him drinking wine or vinegar-based drinks. The juice at the last supper that symbolized His blood is about the closest reference I can think of which would describe Jesus drinking. I wonder if Jesus had dedicated Himself to God in a similar way to how a Nazarite would have in the Old Testament – or if Jesus’ life was a fulfillment in some way of the Nazarite vows those in the Old Testament took.

The last thing I wonder is whether Jesus wanted us to know He was in as sane of a state of mind as one could be during an event like this. If Jesus had taken a drink, we might wonder if what He said to the thief or to anyone at any point during His time on the cross was really Him talking, or some type of alcoholic delusion. By refusing to drink what was offered, we can believe the words Jesus said while on the cross.

I may have to wait until heaven to get all these questions answered, but one thing I do realize in this decision not to drink is this: Even in death, Jesus was very intentional about the choices and decisions He made. Nothing was left to chance, and nothing happened that was not part of God’s great plan of salvation!

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