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Matthew chapter 15

JULY 21, 2020

Scripture:  Matthew 15
Author:  Jeremy Witt

Have you ever been in a room or at an event and the tension was so thick that you could feel it?  Imagine this as you begin reading chapter 15.  The religious leaders of the country have come into the room.  They come in and ask a question that puts your spiritual hero into a difficult spot.  Then the hero answers and essentially does the “body slam from the top of the corner buckle.”  This is the scenario Jesus does to the Pharisees.  He did not just slam them, but Jesus takes them and draws the entire crowd into a standing ovation, jaws dropped, “I can’t believe that just happened” moment. 

The disciples even ask Jesus in verse 12, “do you realize that you just offended the Pharisees?”  But this was so much more than offended.  Jesus made them look like a fool.  They came asking about a man-made rule or tradition, and Jesus used the Law given by God to Moses to condemn their tradition.  Jesus replies in verse 13 by quoting Isaiah 60:21 and 61:3. 

Peter then asks in verse 15 for Jesus to explain again.  This is a foreshadowing of something critical that will come later in Peter’s dream in Acts 10:9-29.  This is an example of how the disciples remembered what Jesus had taught before the Resurrection and then understood after the Resurrection of what He meant. 

Ironically enough, Matthew places this story of a Gentile mother begging Jesus to heal her daughter of a demon in verses 21-28.  We see Jesus not respond to her at first which led the disciples to tell Jesus to send her away because she was bothering them.  Why was Jesus silent?  I think it was to see how the disciples would respond.  Granted, Jesus is the Son of God and all-knowing, but even in knowing how they would respond, their response led to a teaching moment. 

In this passage, there is a racial issue.  There is a gender issue.  There is the cultural Jewish view of Gentiles, and it appears for a moment that Jesus is responding to those issues until we get to verse 25.  This mother is persistent.  This mother is seeking help.  She is begging or we might call her humbled.  She will not take, “No” for an answer.  When Jesus spoke these phrases to her, He was responding as the Jews did.  Remember that Jesus knew her heart and knew her faith, so He brought it out in front of His disciples to show them her faith.  Jesus healed a Gentile woman’s daughter.  He went against the Jewish norm and used their own words ("Dog" was used to refer to a Gentile by the Jews) to teach the disciples a lesson that would lead to Gentiles being included in the Church. 

We come to the lesser-known feeding of the 4000 men found in verses 32-39.  This is also told in Mark 8:1-10.  As I read this, I am shocked that the disciples almost responded exactly the same as in the 5000 feeding.  You would think that they would have learned, right!  For those of you who have read devotions, I have written known what is coming.  We do the same thing!   We have seen God move, heard God speak, learned of ways that God has healed, and yet we doubt or do not believe.  How are we any different?  Will we ever learn?  I truly hope that I learn, but sometimes I wonder. 

Posted by Jeremy Witt with

Matthew chapter 14

JULY 20, 2020

Scripture:  Matthew 14
Author:  Jeremy Witt

Just 3 chapters earlier, John the Baptist sent some of his followers to ask Jesus questions due to some doubts that John was having.  We read of John’s beheading today by Herod.  This is Herod Antipas the son of Herod the Great.  Herod was one of 3 rulers who governed over the 4 districts of Palestine (the Roman name for Israel.)  Herod governed over Galilee and Perea.  Herod the Great was the one ruling when Jesus was born and ordered the killing of the boys under 2 in Bethlehem found in Matthew 2:16.  Herod Antipas will be the one who will hear Jesus’ case before the Crucifixion found in Luke 23:6-12.  Herod’s brother, Philip governed Iturea and Traconitis which is northeast of Galilee.  Philip’s wife, Herodias, left Philip to live with Herod Antipas and John condemned them for living immorally in verse 4 and also in Mark 6:17-18.

Notice verse 13 and Jesus’ response to the news.  We see Jesus’ humanity and emotions.  Remembering Matthew 11 and the things that Jesus said about John, His cousin, helps us to see the loss that Jesus felt.  Jesus sought to mourn and be alone, but the crowds showed up.   We see the heart of Jesus who sought some “alone time” but gave us His own desires for the needs of the people.  Skip ahead to after the feeding of the 5000 men, and read verse 23.  Jesus sent the people away and then was finally alone.  He needed to pray and spend time with His Father. 

I have missed this in prior readings and just focused on the big event.  If we pay attention, Jesus will spend time in prayer before and/or after a major miraculous event.  He does this before the Cross in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus needed to recharge.  He needed to refuel.  He needed to prepare for what was next.  I see this clearly as part of Jesus’ humanity and something we need to remember for ourselves and our spiritual leaders.  When we pour ourselves out, we need time with the Father to be filled again by Him and His Word. 

This chapter is full of depth and miracles.  Jesus felt the loss of a family member, a ministry partner with the loss of John.  He healed people and then feed over 5000 men with mere scraps of food.  He walked on water in the middle of a storm.  Peter joined Him briefly on the water doing the impossible.

If we were able to have seen the events of this chapter, I wonder how it might change us.  Would our faith be stronger?  How might our lives be changed?  Then I look at the lives of those who did see these things.  Peter still denied Jesus.  Judas betrayed Jesus.  James and John sought to be the highest in heaven.  The disciples fled in fear upon Jesus’ arrest.  It was not until Jesus rose from the dead that their lives truly changed.  There is a distinct change of those who followed Jesus after the Resurrection and Ascension.  They were different.  They were no longer people who doubted or lived in fear, but they became people of faith and trust that were willing to die for their faith because of the personal experience with Jesus that changed everything.

Posted by Jeremy Witt with

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