Irritated at Children: Matthew 21:12-17

Focus Passage: Matthew 21:12-17 (GW)

12 Jesus went into the temple courtyard and threw out everyone who was buying and selling there. He overturned the moneychangers’ tables and the chairs of those who sold pigeons. 13 He told them, “Scripture says, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you’re turning it into a gathering place for thieves!”

14 Blind and lame people came to him in the temple courtyard, and he healed them.

15 When the chief priests and the experts in Moses’ Teachings saw the amazing miracles he performed and the children shouting in the temple courtyard, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were irritated. 16 They said to him, “Do you hear what these children are saying?”

Jesus replied, “Yes, I do. Have you never read, ‘From the mouths of little children and infants, you have created praise’?”

17 He left them and went out of the city to Bethany and spent the night there.

Read Matthew 21:12-17 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

When reading about events in Jesus’ life on earth, occasionally I am surprised by some of the details that a gospel writer chose to include. It is this way with Matthew’s version of this event.

In our passage, Jesus has just chased all the moneychangers and merchants out of the temple, and He has sat down to heal, teach, and point people to God. But while He is teaching, the religious leaders show up. Matthew tells us what happened, “When the chief priests and the experts in Moses’ Teachings saw the amazing miracles he performed and the children shouting in the temple courtyard, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ they were irritated. They said to him, ‘Do you hear what these children are saying?’” (v. 15-16)

In my mind’s eye, the leaders have approached on the sidelines and are watching what is going on. They see Jesus healing people and performing miracles, and they realize that they cannot challenge Jesus on this – especially because the crowd is benefiting from this. But they also notice the children giving praise to Jesus, and in their minds, this was clearly unacceptable. They know they cannot challenge Jesus’ actions, but they can challenge others who were present.

But Jesus has a response for even this challenge: “Have you never read, ‘From the mouths of little children and infants, you have created praise’?” The religious leaders did not like children being heard in church, but Jesus says God creates praise in their mouths.

This event brings out an interesting idea: The Pharisees and religious leaders focus on “cannot”, while Jesus focuses on “can”.

Focusing on what is not allowed and unacceptable is a defensive way of thinking. It leads to rules that protect people from breaking the rules, and it always is looking for why people cannot, or should not, do a certain thing.

But Jesus counters the religious leader’s position by focusing on helping people know what they could and should do. Instead of looking for reasons why something was unacceptable, He looked for reasons why an action was okay. Jesus answers the question, “How can we allow this?”

Jesus always appears to be one step ahead of the religious leaders – and that is because looking at the world from a “can” perspective places one on an offensive, forward thinking train of thought. The religious leaders, with their “cannot” perspective, were solidly seeing life as a defensive exercise, and instead of looking at possibilities, they were looking for reasons why things shouldn’t be done.

Jesus didn’t clear out the temple because money was unacceptable there. He cleared out the temple for a can – which was allowing people to more clearly see and worship God!

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!

Subscribe to this blog and never miss an insight.

Flashback Episode — The Wedding Miracle: John 2:1-12


Read the Transcript

In our last episode, we started talking about Jesus’ famous first-miracle at the wedding of Cana. However, our last episode focused on the faith of those present before and after the miracle, and not on the miracle itself. For this episode, we’ll look again at this miracle, but focus in on another huge idea we can learn from it.

Let’s read the whole passage surrounding this miracle then dive into what we can discover from it. Our passage is found in John’s gospel, chapter 2, and we will read it from the New American Standard Bible translation. Starting in verse 1, John tells us that:

1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; 2 and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” 6 Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” So they filled them up to the brim. 8 And He said to them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it to him. 9 When the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom, 10 and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.

12 After this He went down to Capernaum, He and His mother and His brothers and His disciples; and they stayed there a few days.

While the faith of Mary and the disciples is very present in this passage, there was faith present among the servants too. I probably should have pulled this detail out last week when putting that episode together.

However, what really stands out to me is that the bridegroom receives credit for something he had no direct part in. It’s a little humoring that we don’t have any response from the bridegroom himself, and it’s possible the bridegroom was speechless not having known exactly what happened. John points out that only the servants, and the early disciples, knew where the wine came from, and that it was merely water minutes before.

But what really stands out in my mind when reading this is the statement the headwaiter tells the bridegroom. In verse 10, the headwaiter tells the bridegroom, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.

This statement is as profound in the headwaiter’s eyes as it is symbolic in our own. Too many people alive today think that what we see in this life is all there is to see. Culture pressures people to live by the philosophy “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die”—which is ultimately a recipe for living hopeless lives. The implication is that we have the good in life first, but then it just goes downhill from here. The implication is also that there is nothing to look forward to after death. The implication in the headwaiter’s statement is that after those present eat and drink freely, then those involved don’t realize that the quality of their drink is poorer than before, and in a symbolic sense, their lives begin to slide downhill as well.

But the symbolic counter-cultural message here is that Jesus flips this idea upside down. When Jesus is involved, what we thought was good wine served first is really poorer quality because what comes next is infinitely better. While those living without Jesus live hopeless lives believing that times are good then worse, when we live with Jesus, we can face the good and bad times in this life knowing that the best is still to come.

However, this isn’t the only amazing thing that stands out in my mind with this miracle and what it foreshadows.

When discovering that this miracle was Jesus’ first miracle, we see that it was at a wedding, and Jesus is responsible for resupplying the wine. Once you see this parallel, it is hard to unsee it, because during the last supper, Jesus parallels the wine with His blood which is poured out for the forgiveness of sins, and Jesus promises to wait to drink it until the great wedding feast when the church comes as a bride to meet Jesus, her groom.

At the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, and the very first miracle designed to prompt people to pay attention, Jesus is at a wedding feast, and in my mind’s eye, the first thing the church will do when we have been joined with Jesus Christ is have a great wedding feast celebrating Jesus’ sacrifice and His victory for all of us!

Both the truth we see in the headwaiter’s statement and the truth we see foreshadowed in Jesus’ presence at a wedding point us to look forward to what God is preparing for us. While this life has its ups and downs, and its positives and negatives, when we live with God, we have hope. We look forward to the wedding feast, and we look forward to our future, eternal life with God forever!

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

Always intentionally seek God first and remember that with whatever we face in this life, our future with Jesus will be better than our life in our current sin-filled world.

Also, be sure to intentionally pray and study the Bible for yourself and grow personally closer to Jesus each and every day. Don’t assume or take for granted what the Bible teaches. Choose to study God’s truth out for yourself to discover what He wants you to learn from His Story and His plan of redemption.

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

Flashback Episode: Year of Miracles – Episode 3: When Jesus turns water into wine as His first miracle, discover how this event foreshadows what we can look forward to when this life is over.

Join the discussion on the original episode's page: Click Here.

The Promise in the Warning: Mark 13:14-23

Focus Passage: Mark 13:14-23 (GW)

14 “When you see the disgusting thing that will cause destruction standing where it should not (let the reader take note), those of you in Judea should flee to the mountains. 15 Those who are on the roof should not come down to get anything out of their houses. 16 Those who are in the field should not turn back to get their coats.

17 “How horrible it will be for the women who are pregnant or who are nursing babies in those days. 18 Pray that it will not be in winter. 19 It will be a time of misery that has not happened from the beginning of God’s creation until now, and will certainly never happen again. 20 If the Lord does not reduce that time, no one will be saved. But those days will be reduced because of those whom God has chosen.

21 “At that time don’t believe anyone who tells you, ‘Here is the Messiah!’ or ‘There he is!’ 22 False messiahs and false prophets will appear. They will work miraculous signs and do wonderful things to deceive, if possible, those whom God has chosen. 23 Be on your guard! I have told you everything before it happens.

Read Mark 13:14-23 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

If we ever wondered or questioned God’s love for His people, this a portion of our passage for this entry helps us see how God loves us. While this passage is an excerpt from a much larger message to Jesus’ followers about remaining faithful to Him regardless of what comes our way through history, and while the majority of our excerpt is also warning, a phrase is present that shines of God’s love and His protection: “If the Lord does not reduce that time, no one will be saved. But those days will be reduced because of those whom God has chosen.” (v. 20)

This verse shouts of God’s love for us, and that no matter what happens, He is in control.

However, before you begin to question God’s love during this time when followers of His are being killed, one big key to understanding this verse is found in the phrase, “no one will be saved”. This says that there is something bigger at play here than simply one or two individuals. In this phrase, Jesus points forward to the ripple effect that our lives and relationships can have.

This phrase speaks of God ending the persecution before it has ended those who God has chosen, which gives us hope that regardless of what we face and how we might mess up, God will not let His message – His “Good News” – die.

However, slightly under the surface of this verse is another message of hope. For those who are killed, their lives still held a purpose. Some of the greatest testimonies are of those who willingly faced death because of their faith. For those who were killed, they have the promise Jesus gave that people can only kill the body; people cannot kill their whole being. God has the power to reverse bodily death and He has promised to do so for those who have died believing in Jesus.

Jesus promises to reduce the time His people are persecuted because they are His people. The persecution helps create character and resolve, but it was not ever meant to destroy. The persecution that Jesus’ followers face is like a fire that is meant to refine and not consume.

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!

Subscribe to this blog and never miss an insight.

Speaking with Authority: Mark 1:14-28


Read the Transcript

Continuing forward in Mark’s gospel, Mark describes how Jesus starts His ministry off strong by teaching, healing, and calling some people to follow Him. In the next verses we will focus in on, we see both an overview for the message of Jesus’ ministry, and the impact this message has on the people listening.

Our passage is found in Mark, chapter 1, and we will read from the New International Reader’s Version. Starting in verse 14, Mark tells us that:

14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee. He preached the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Turn away from your sins and believe the good news!”

Pausing briefly, whenever I read these two verses, I am impressed that Jesus’ message about God’s kingdom being near is both amazing because Jesus Himself said this, and it is amazing because I believe this is a message for every time and every generation since Jesus shared it. With every day that passes, we come one day closer to Jesus returning, and we are called to get ready for Jesus’ return by turning away from our sins and believing the good news.

Looking at this one verse gives us a good overview of Jesus’ message – especially Jesus’ message at the start of His ministry. But our passage isn’t finished yet. Continuing in verse 16, Mark tells us:

16 One day Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee. There he saw Simon and his brother Andrew. They were throwing a net into the lake. They were fishermen. 17 “Come and follow me,” Jesus said. “I will send you out to fish for people.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him.

19 Then Jesus walked a little farther. As he did, he saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat preparing their nets. 20 Right away he called out to them. They left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men. Then they followed Jesus.

Pausing briefly again, when reading Matthew or Mark’s gospel, we might get the impression that Simon, Andrew, James, and John abandoned everything to follow a complete stranger. While this isn’t too far from the truth, Luke and John describe a little more details around how these first disciples were a little more familiar with Jesus’ message and ministry before Jesus calls them specifically, and Luke specifically includes a miracle that prompts these men to pay attention.

But Mark doesn’t include any of the back-story for these disciples. Instead, Mark emphasizes how these men dropped everything and followed Jesus when they were invited. When God calls us, we might not be called to drop everything and everyone, but it is possible we will be called to leave something we have been focusing energy and attention on. Depending on where we are in life, we might be called to end friendships that aren’t positive, or distance ourselves from toxic people, or we may be challenged to give up something that had been important in our lives before the point God invited us to follow. However, as Mark will share later in his gospel, when we leave something for Jesus because He has called us to, Jesus has much better things in our future and we will be blessed with significantly more than what we have given up. And above all of that, the blessings God gives us are positive things in our lives, and not negatives like the things God has called us to give up.

Continuing our passage, after summarizing Jesus’ early messages and introducing us to the early small group of disciples, Mark then tells us in verse 21 that:

21 Jesus and those with him went to Capernaum. When the Sabbath day came, he went into the synagogue. There he began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching. That’s because he taught them like one who had authority. He did not talk like the teachers of the law. 23 Just then a man in their synagogue cried out. He was controlled by an evil spirit. He said, 24 “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are. You are the Holy One of God!”

25 “Be quiet!” said Jesus firmly. “Come out of him!” 26 The evil spirit shook the man wildly. Then it came out of him with a scream.

27 All the people were amazed. So they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching! And with so much authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits, and they obey him.” 28 News about Jesus spread quickly all over Galilee.

During one of the first Sabbath’s Jesus spoke at the synagogue in Capernaum, we discover that Jesus had a different way of teaching God’s Word. Mark describes Jesus’ method of teaching in verse 22 when he tells us Jesus “taught them like one who had authority. He did not talk like the teachers of the law.

I’m not sure if you caught that little distinction or not, but Jesus did not talk like the teachers of the law and Jesus taught the people like One who had authority. With these two details present, this prompts me to conclude that prior to this point, the teachers and synagogue leaders all spoke in ways that did not sound authoritative or perhaps even confident. At the very least, the people had not heard an authoritative message in their synagogue for a very long time.

However, what happened after Jesus’ preaching amazed the people helped solidify Jesus’ authority. Whether Satan was trying to derail Jesus or whether God held Satan back until this point, a man controlled by an evil spirit shouts out in the synagogue and oddly enough identifies Jesus as the Holy One of God.

Jesus tells the spirit to be quiet and to leave the man.

If Jesus’ message and words did not sound authoritative to some of those present before this point, they definitely sounded authoritative after seeing the evil spirit leave this man. With just a few words, Jesus’ command is obeyed by evil spirits, even if these commands were obeyed unwillingly.

However, why would Jesus command the evil spirit to be silent, especially if the evil spirit actually was speaking the truth?

I believe there are two reasons. First, while the evil spirit technically was speaking truth, evil spirits have a way of twisting truth and lies and it is never safe or wise to even listen to the arguments of evil spirits. One fraction of a lie in a whole set of truth is just as dangerous as a drop of poison in a cup of clean water. The best way to discern whether a message is worth listening to, or even paying attention to, is whether it is approved or condemned by the clear message of the Bible. The Bible is clear there are some messages that are never okay to entertain, and listening to evil spirits is one of these messages we should always avoid and reject.

The other big reason is that while the evil spirit was technically speaking the truth, the message that the evil spirit shared did not mean the same thing to the people present as it did to Jesus’ understanding of scripture. The people were expecting a military leader messiah to overthrow the Romans, Jesus came as a suffering Messiah to take the sin of the world to the cross. If the people rallied together believing Jesus to be the Messiah they expected Him to be, it had the power to derail the Messiah Jesus came to be, and it would have stopped the cross from happening in the way God had planned for it to happen.

This misunderstanding of the role of the Messiah was one of the biggest challenges Jesus faced in His ministry, and it was something that even His own disciples didn’t fully understand until after the cross and the resurrection. Jesus was tempted and challenged on every angle imaginable, and Jesus pushed back the temptation and avoided the challenges throughout His ministry leading to the cross.

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

As always, intentionally seek God first and place Jesus first in your life. Choose to place your faith, your hope, your belief, and your trust in Jesus and lean on Him for your salvation. Understand that Jesus came to take our sins and our punishment on Himself and He did this to make the way available for us to accept His life and His reward for a perfect life. This is the great news of the gospel message, and it is a gift we are called to accept.

Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself, to learn and grow closer to God each day. Through prayer and studying the Bible, fall in love with the God who loves you enough to give up Himself for you on the cross, and the God who was willing to take your punishment on Himself to redeem you from the sins and mistakes you made.

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 Mark – Episode 2: As Mark begins telling us about Jesus’ ministry, discover some details Mark uses to lay the foundation of his focus on Jesus’ life in how those who listened to Him reacted to His style of speaking.

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.