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Matthew Chapter 8

Jesus’ power over sickness

When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. A leper came and bowed before him to worship him, saying, “Lord, if you are willing, [I believe] you can make me clean.” And Jesus put out his hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing. Be cleansed!” [Jesus was never afraid of being made sick or unclean even though the Law said that touching an unclean person made you unclean. He knew that “life” inside him would always be more powerful than “death” in the world.] Immediately his leprosy was cleansed away.

Jesus said to him, “Make sure that you tell no one [what just happened], except go and show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses instructed [Leviticus 14:1-9] as a testimony [that you have been healed].” [By sending the man to the priest, Jesus was not only restoring the healed man to society, he was also submitting his own claim to be the Anointed One, since the Jews believed that only the Anointed One could heal a leper.] 

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion [leader of one hundred soldiers] came to him, asking him, “Lord, my servant is laid up at home, paralyzed, in terrible pain.” Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” The centurion answered, “Lord, I am not worthy for you to come under my roof, but only speak the word [give the order] and my servant will be healed. For I am a man under authority. [As a soldier I obey authority], having soldiers under me. [So I exercise authority,] and I say to this man, ‘Go’, and he goes, and to another, ‘Come’, and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this’, and he does it. [Jesus, I can tell it is through your authority, not your proximity, that healing happens. I am confident that you don’t have to go somewhere to heal, all you have to do is command it to happen, even at a distance, and your order will be carried out.]”

10 When Jesus heard what the man said, he was amazed, and said, “I have not heard faith this great in all of Israel! 12 I tell you that many from the east and west [who are not Jews] will come and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven [after the Day of Judgment]. 12 But the sons of the kingdom [even though they have the advantage and heritage of being born into the Jewish people where God first demonstrated his kingdom] will be put forth into the darkness outside, where they will weep and grind their teeth [because they will be excluded from the kingdom due to their lack of faith].”

13 And Jesus said to the centurion, “Go ahead on your way. Exactly as you have believed, it will be accomplished for you.” [When Jesus said this, it was like a judicial decree, carrying the authority to make it happen.] And the man’s servant was healed that very same hour.

14 When Jesus went into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law stricken by sickness and a fever. 15 And Jesus took her hand and the fever left her. She got up [feeling completely well] and served them. 16 After this, they brought to him many who were demonized, and he cast out the spirits with his word and healed all that were sick, 17  fulfilling what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah, “He took away all our weaknesses and removed all our sicknesses.” [As Isaiah 53:4 prophesies concerning the Anointed One, Jesus had authority and power to destroy sickness and remove it from people’s bodies. However, Isaiah 53:5 takes this one step farther, saying that the pain and sacrifice of Jesus’ punishment and death brought healing. In other words, Jesus took our sin, sickness, generational iniquity as our substitute, and gave us his righteousness, health, and purity.]

18 When Jesus looked around and saw the crowds, he gave the order that he and his disciples cross over to the other side [of the lake]. [The crowds indicated that he had been successful in touching the people near Capernaum with the teaching and demonstration of the kingdom. But he was ready to go on the next assignment he had already heard from the Father.]

Jesus tests followers

19 [Jesus’ teaching was so powerful that it awakened a desire among some of the hearers to sign up as disciples and follow Jesus. For instance,] an interpreter of the Law came and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 And Jesus said back to him, “Foxes have burrows and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head [and make his home. Are you sure that you are ready to follow the sacrifices of this kind of life?] 21 And another one of his followers said to him, “Lord, let me go [home] and bury my father first. [I will come follow you after my father has died and I have taken care of his affairs.]22 But Jesus said, “Follow me, and let the dead bury the dead. [There are others who can look after your father’s needs. If you come with me, seeking after the kingdom, God will take care of all other obligations you have (Matthew 6:33).] [These two men were examples of those who wanted to follow Jesus but had not yet fully counted the cost.]

Calming the wind and waves

23 At this point, Jesus got into the boat, and his disciples followed him. 24 A great disturbance rose on the sea to the point where the waves threatened to engulf the boat. But Jesus was asleep, 25 and they came and awakened him, saying, “Lord, save us. We will be destroyed!” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” Then he got up and commanded the wind and sea to stop, and there was a great calm. 27 But the men were astounded, saying, “What kind of man is this, that even the wind and waves obey him?”

Two demoniacs

28 And he [and his disciples] came to the other side, into the region of the Gergesenes, where he was met by two demonized men who came out of the area where the tombs are. [Mark describes it as the region of the Gerasenes and Luke describes this as the region of the Gadarenes, and different manuscripts for each of the authors have variations of these names. The modern city of Kursi on the shore of the Sea of Galilee is where Christians have commemorated this event. Mark and Luke describe only one demonized man but give us more detail. What seems the most likely explanation of the discrepancies between accounts is that there were two such men but one of them was the leader and did almost all the talking. In the other two accounts the writers did not consider the second man worth mentioning.]

Discussion questions

1. Why would the centurion not want Jesus to come to his home? Why was Jesus so excited about the man’s faith?

2. There are several examples in this chapter where Jesus healed without obviously praying. What does this tell you about what are the necessary ingredients for healing to happen?

3. Why would Jesus leave the crowds at the height of his popularity? Couldn’t he have accomplished more by staying?

These men were so filled with violence that no one else would venture into this area. 29 And right away they cried out, “Why have you come to us, Jesus, Son of God? Have you come to torture us before the appointed time [the Day of Judgment]?” [It was known to both the religious world of the Jews and to the demonic world as well that there is an appointed Day of Judgment, after which Satan and all demons and all men who are not lovers of God will receive the final judgment of being thrown into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:10).]

30 In the distance, there was a large herd of pigs feeding. 31 So the demons pleaded with him, “If you are going to cast us out [of the two men], then send us into the herd of pigs.” 32 And he said to them, “Go!”, and when they had gone out [of the men], they went into the herd of pigs, and the entire herd stampeded down the hill and over a cliff into the sea, where they died in the waters.

33 And the keepers of the pigs ran away and went into the city, where they told everything that happened with the two men who had been demonized. 34 And the populace of the city came out to meet Jesus and after they saw him, they requested that he leave their area. [They were afraid of the power he held, and of how he might overturn everything that they believed in and the way they lived.]

Matthew Chapter 8
Jesus' power over sickness
Jesus tests followers
Caling the wind and waves
Two demoniacs
Matthew Chapter 8 discussion questions

4. Why did the people want Jesus to leave after he cast the demons out of the two men? Have you ever witnessed Jesus shaking up your life or the life of people around you? Did you think that was good? Or not?

Matthew Chapter 9
Authority to forgive
Reaching sinners
Power over sickness, demons, and death

Matthew Chapter 9

Authority to forgive

Jesus stepped into a boat, crossing back over the lake, and he arrived at his own city [Capernaum, where he now lived]. They brought him a paralyzed man [for him to heal], lying on a mat. Jesus took note of their faith and said to the paralyzed man, “Raise your expectations, son, for your sins have been forgiven.” [Jesus was stepping out on a limb and declaring forgiveness to heal a man, which he knew would be controversial, but since there were people present who had faith in him, he felt this would counteract any shock in the room.] And particular ones among the teachers of the Law said to themselves, “This man is overstepping his bounds. [Only God can forgive sins!]

And knowing their thoughts, Jesus said to them, “Why come to such a negative conclusion? [The Father is merciful and therefore I have announced this man is forgiven, which I know because I listen to the Father.  Also, since you believe that sin causes sickness, why don’t you wait and see if the man’s sins being forgiven results in his being healed?] For which is easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven’, or ‘Rise and walk’? [For when I say, “Rise and walk”, you’ll know right away whether there is power behind it or not, whereas you may think it’s harder to tell if forgiveness has been effective.]

“But, so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on the earth to pronounce forgiveness of sins ….”  [Jesus’ using the phrase “Son of Man” was purposely ambiguous – it was the title he gave to himself to remind himself and others he was serving as an anointed man rather than as God. He also was indicating that any believer would be given the authority to forgive sins. In fact, this was the first gift he gave to the disciples after his Resurrection (John 20:23).] He now said to the paralyzed man, “Rise, take your mat and go to your home.” And the man got up and went home [carrying his mat]. [This proved that Jesus’ forgiveness was effective, since the man was now healed.] And when the crowd saw this, they were awestruck and gave praise to God that he had given such authority to men. [None of them had ever seen a man declare forgiveness of sins or heal someone.]

Reaching sinners

As Jesus walked on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth, and Jesus said to him, “Follow me [and become my disciple].” And Matthew followed him. 10 Soon after, Jesus came to eat at Matthew’s house, and there were many tax collectors and [known] sinners who came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples. [When Matthew responded to Jesus’ invitation, it opened the door to Matthew’s social group.]

11 When the Pharisees saw it, they said to his disciples, “Why is your teacher eating with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when Jesus heard this, he said, “It’s not those who are strong who need a physician, but rather those who are sick. 13 Go and find out what it means, ‘I prefer mercy over sacrifice’ [Hosea 6:6]. For I have not come to call the righteous but sinners.” [Religious leaders interpreted the Law as commanding men to avoid sin by not associating with sinners. Jesus rightly interpreted the Law as commanding men to reach out in mercy and love to help others out of sin.]

14 Then, the disciples of John came to Jesus and asked him, “We often fast [refrain from eating food to get closer to God] and so do the Pharisees, but why don’t your disciples fast?” 15 And Jesus said, “How can the friends of the bridegroom be sad while the bridegroom is with them? [I am the bridegroom and the whole world is invited to the wedding, but my disciples are the ones who have chosen to come.] But the day will come when the bridegroom is taken away, and then they shall fast. [Jesus is not implying that after he was crucified, the disciples would then follow the same religious practices as the Pharisees. He’s only saying that between Jesus’ death and resurrection, the disciples would be so sad that they would not be hungry. Fasting overcomes the flesh to get you closer to God, but no one could be closer to God than walking daily with Jesus.]

16 [Let me further explain.] No one patches an old article of clothing with a new [unshrunk] piece of cloth, for [with repeated washings] the new cloth will pull away from the old and make the tear worse than before. 17 Neither do men put new wine in old wineskins, or else the new wine [still fermenting] will break the wineskin and the wine will run out, ruining the container. Instead they put new wine in new wineskins [which are pliable enough to stretch as the wine continues to ferment], and both the wine and wineskin are preserved. [My teaching and way of life are completely new, like the new cloth or new wine. Don’t expect the old disciplines and interpretations of Law to work for this new radical lifestyle. In fact, I and my disciples are sacrificing every single day, not on fast days only, and yet we are joyful as we sacrifice, because we are seeing God’s kingdom advance.]

Power over sickness, demons, and death

18 While he was speaking, a certain leader came and bowed before him, saying, “[I expect that] by now my daughter is dead, but come and lay your hands on her, and she will live.” 19 Jesus got up and followed him, and so did Jesus’ disciples.

20 [Meanwhile,] there was a woman with a hemorrhage of blood for the past twelve years, who came behind Jesus and touched the fringe of his garment. 21 For she had said to herself, if I can only touch his garment, I will be healed. 22 But Jesus looked around and when he saw her he said, “Daughter, be confident, for your faith has made you whole.” And the woman was healed from the very moment [she touched Jesus’ garment].

23 When Jesus came to the leader’s house, he saw the flute players and all the people making a lot of noise [for they were already mourning the girl’s death]. 24 He told them, “Stop, for she is not dead, but only asleep.” [Jesus knew that her soul was still close to her body and he could restore her.] But they laughed at him [because they were sure the girl had died]. 25 But when the mourners were sent away, he went in, took the girl by the hand, and the young girl rose [alive and healed]. 26And Jesus’ fame spread all through the land.

Healing blindness, deafness and muteness

27 When Jesus left there, two blind men followed him, crying out to him and saying, “Have mercy on us [and heal us], Son of David!” 28 When he went into the house [where he was staying], the blind men came to him. He said to them, “Do you believe I am able to do this [and heal you]?” They said back to him, “Yes, Lord!” 29 Then he touched their eyes, saying, “Let it be done for you according to your faith.” 30 And their eyes were opened [and they could see], and he strongly commanded them, “Make sure no one knows about it”. 31 But when they left, they continued to spread his fame through the land. [Obviously, they were not able to stay quiet. It would be very hard to keep from talking about it if you were blind and then you could see!]

32 As he was leaving, they brought to him a [deaf and] mute man who was demonized. 33 And when Jesus had cast out the demon, the deaf [and mute] man spoke, and the crowds were amazed, saying, “No one has ever seen such a thing in Israel.” 34 The Pharisees said, “It’s through the prince of demons he is able to cast out demons.” [There are shamans, medicine men, and witches throughout the world who appear to heal diseases and cast out demons but in fact are themselves worshipping demons. People “healed” by these practitioners end up more in bondage than ever. This was never the case with Jesus, and the Pharisees should have known better. They saw Jesus as a rival whom they desired to discredit and put out of business.]

35 But Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in the synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and disease. 36 When he saw the crowds, he was moved with compassion for them, for they were confused and had lost their way, like sheep without a shepherd. [The people did not understand God’s design for their lives. They needed first to believe that God was powerful and that he loved them, and then turn their lives over to God. Jesus was amazing, and both taught and demonstrated God’s love and power, which are the qualifications he wanted all his followers to have.]

37 Then he said to his disciples, “Truly the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. 38 So pray that the Lord of the Harvest will send forth workers into the harvest field.” [At this point, the disciples had been only helpers to Jesus, but he was about to make them skilled workers with the harvest. Even so, it seems there are never enough workers for how many people need to be helped into the kingdom. As workers bring forth the harvest, people become enthusiastic followers of God, and therefore become workers for the harvest themselves.]

Discussion questions

1. What was the relationship between Jesus declaring the man forgiven and healing the man? Was Jesus acting as God or a man when he forgave the man?

2. In what ways did Jesus bring a new wineskin, a new way of living? In what ways was it different from that of religious leaders of his time, or even from the church of today?

3. How was faith involved in each of the healings Jesus did, as recorded in this chapter?

Healing blindness, deafness and muteness
Matthew Chapter 9 discussion questions
Matthew Chapter 10

Matthew Chapter 10

Appointing the twelve

Appointing the twelve

Jesus called together his twelve disciples and he gave them authority to cast out unclean spirits [demons who were attached to specific people and harassed them] and to heal every bodily problem and every kind of sickness. [Jesus gained this authority at the time of his baptism, when the Holy Spirit came upon him and filled him, and his Father spoke the words of blessing over him. He then demonstrated that authority over demons, sickness, and even nature. Here he showed that he fully possessed that authority by deputizing his disciples to walk in the same authority. He expected the disciples to do what they had watched him do and that the Father would provide the power to complete whatever the disciples set out to do. Later Jesus would deputize seventy others and at the end of his earthly ministry he would deputize all current and future followers of his.]

These are the names of the twelve apostles [disciples who were commissioned to be sent out and announce and enforce the rule of God’s kingdom]. First, Simon who is called Peter [which means “rock”] and Andrew his brother, James son of Zebedee and John his brother, Philip and Bartholomew [also called Nathaniel], Thomas [also called Didymus meaning “the twin”] and Matthew [also called Levi] the tax collector, James the son of Alphaeus [also called James the Less or younger] and Thaddeus [also called Lebbaeus or Judas Thaddeus], Simon the Canaanite [also called Simon the Zealot], and Judas Iscariot the one who [later] betrayed Jesus. These are the twelve Jesus sent out.

He commanded them, “Don’t go in the direction of non-Jewish territories or enter the city of the Samaritans. Instead, go to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim to them that the kingdom of heaven is right here. [As you make that proclamation, out of the authority I have given you, God himself will bring the spiritual atmosphere of the kingdom.] Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You paid nothing for what you received. Now give it away for free as well.”

“Don’t keep any gold, or silver, or copper [money] in your pouch, 10 or pack to carry an extra shirt, or shoes, or a rod [as a weapon]. The worker is worth his rations. [Whatever you need will be provided by those you serve because of the tremendous value you are bringing them.]

11 “Whatever town you enter, find out who is a worthy person there, and go and stay with them until you leave that town. [Ask people you meet, or let God guide you to a worthy person’s home.] 12 When you enter a household, bless [all who are in] the household. 13 And if the household is worthy, let the peace [of your blessing settle] upon it. [Part of blessing the household is healing and helping those who are in that house and perhaps the neighbors as well. Those who are open to God and living a moral life will receive the blessing. When you bless people, this will help them open more to God.]

”But if the household isn’t worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And if anyone will not receive you or hear your words, when you leave that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. 15 It will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Day of Judgment than for that city [because they rejected God and his kingdom].

Handling persecution

Handling persecution

16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. [There will be those who oppose you or try to take advantage of you.] So be as wise as serpents [in avoiding trouble] and as harmless as doves [by never being rude or argumentative].

17 “Be on your guard with men, for they will turn you over to councils [for judgment] and beat you with whips in synagogues [because your message will seem threatening to the leaders of the people]. 18 You will be brought before governors and kings because of [your devotion to] me, to testify before them, both Jews and non-Jews. 19 But when you are turned over to them, don’t even think about how or what you will say to them, for it will be given to you [from heaven] at the very time you will speak. 20 For it is not you who will be speaking, but the Spirit of your Father who will speak in you.

21 “And brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father [will deliver up] his own child, and children will rise against their parents and have them put to death. 22 And you will be hated by all men for the sake of my name [because of your devotion and trust in me]. But if you will bear all this until the end, you will be saved. [When you have gone through every difficulty, you will find I was helping you through them all, and even if you should lose your life, you will be safe with me through all eternity.]

23 “But when they persecute you in one town, get out and go to another. For, I am telling you the truth, you will not have reached all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. [Mark 13:9-13 and Luke 21:12-18 appear to be describing the same speech of Jesus. Since both Mark and Luke then describe the prediction of the fall of Jerusalem which would take place in 70 AD, it is likely that the words “the Son of Man comes” in the current passage in Matthew is describing Jesus coming with judgment for Jerusalem. This also fits the timing since the disciples would likely not visit all the towns of Israel by 70 AD.]

24 “A disciple is not [regarded] above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. If they called the master of the household ‘Baalzebul’, then how much more [might they say evil things about] the members of the household [those who follow Jesus]? [Baalzebul means “God of the high places”, which is one of the names the Jewish people used informally for Satan, or a high-ranking demonic principality.] It’s [good] enough for the disciple to be [regarded] just like his teacher, or the servant just like his master. [Consider it an honor if they treat you as poorly as they treat me.] If they call the master of the house ‘Baalzebul’, how much more will they call the members of the household [the same or similar things].

26 “So don’t be afraid of them [who hate you and persecute you]. For anything veiled will have the veil removed, and anything hidden will become known. 27 What I tell you in the darkness [privately], speak in the light [publicly], and the things that you alone have heard from me, shout them from the rooftops [so the whole world knows]. [Your job is to explain to the world all the things I have told you and shown you about the kingdom, that have all been hidden until now. It is up to you to reveal them, even if it results in your experiencing great opposition.]

28 “Don’t fear those who can kill the body but can’t kill the soul. Instead, fear him who can destroy both the body and soul in Gehenna [, the place of burning destined for those who turn away from God]. [Since you know that your soul will live forever, do the work of spreading the kingdom even if they will kill you, because you know that the body and soul will be destroyed in hell of all those who don’t hear the truth and turn to God. Be willing to give up your own life to save theirs.]

Cost and value of serving Jesus

29 [However, don’t think God is not caring for you during this difficult task he has given you.] Two sparrows are sold for only a penny, but not one will fall to the ground without your Father [knowing]. 30 [God knows you so well that] the very hairs of your head are numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid [that your heavenly Father is not looking after you] for you are of greater value [in God’s eyes] than many sparrows.  [The Father sees everything you are going through, cares about your suffering, and is especially appreciative when you are doing it in service of Him.]

Cost and value of serving Jesus

32 “Whoever will acknowledge me before men [as the one they are living for], I will also acknowledge that one before my heavenly Father [as the one I have died for]. 33 But whoever will deny me before men, I will also deny that one before my heavenly Father. [Our life on the earth is a test. Will we remain faithful or not? When we stay close to our Lord, this allows him to intercede as our attorney before God our judge.]

34 “Don’t think that I’ve come to bring about peace on the earth. I came not to bring about peace, but [rather] a sword [of division]. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household. [The kingdom can’t spread without division. One person in a family or group comes to God first, and others resist. But like a fire, the kingdom spreads, and others come to believe.]

37 [When you follow me and others resist, will you continue with me or will you cave into pressure from the one who is resisting?] The person who loves his father or mother more than me is not deserving of me, and likewise the person who loves his son or daughter more than me, is not deserving of me. 38 And the person who will not take up his own cross and follow me is not deserving of me. [Follow me even to death.] 39 He that [seeks to] save his life shall lose it, and he that loses his life for my sake shall find it. [If you try to manage your own life, you are no longer following me. But if you are willing to follow me wherever I take you, then I will support you in all you do, and you will have eternal life as well.]

40 “The one who accepts you accepts me, and the one who accepts me accepts the one who sent me. 41 Whoever accepts a prophet as a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. [People thought of a prophet as a holy man who heard from God and spoke words that came true and performed miraculous works. Those who greeted Jesus with faith in him as a prophet got their prayers answered and their needs met. When you receive a word of truth from a prophet, it must be received as from God, and as you cooperate with that word, then you will see it come to pass.]

Whoever accepts a righteous man as a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. [A righteous man is one who knows God and obeys him. If you accept that man and follow what he says, your life will go well. The disciples were being sent out as righteous men who eventually would be seen by the people as prophets – doers of miracles. But the important principle is that, whoever trusted them, at least as righteous men, would be greatly benefitted by their visit.] 42 And whoever gives a drink to even the least of these [ones who I am sending out] as a follower [of mine] shall never lose your reward. [While there will be many who persecute Jesus’s followers, anyone who serves them, even in the smallest way, will be rewarded both on earth and in heaven.]

Discussion questions

Matthew Chapte 10 discussion question

1. Why did Jesus send out the disciples in such a “dependent” mode – no extra clothes or money? What was the importance of finding a “worthy” person or family to visit?

2. Jesus made some dire predictions about what persecutions would happen as they demonstrated the Good News. Why is it important to spread the news of the kingdom even if people highly resist it?

3. What attitude causes someone to receive the most from God when those who are sent out minister?

Matthew Chapter 11

Matthew Chapter 11

Evidence Jesus is the Anointed One

When Jesus had finished sending out his twelve disciples, he left from there to preach and teach in the cities. When John [the Baptist] had heard in prison about the things the Anointed One was doing, he sent two of his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who was to come[, the Anointed One who was prophesied], or are we still waiting for someone else?”

[John had believed Jesus was the one. At the time John baptized Jesus, the Spirit had come upon Jesus and remained, just as John had been told would be true of the Anointed One (John 1:32-33). And Jesus was doing abundant miracles. But Jesus was not yet baptizing people with the Holy Spirit and with fire, as John had been told would also be true of the Anointed One. John was confused and questioning. He did not understand that Jesus had to first die in our place and remove the penalty of sin before the Spirit could come on all who followed the Anointed One.] 

And Jesus said to them, “Go and report to John the things you are hearing and seeing. Blind men see, lame men walk, lepers are cleansed, deaf men hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are receiving the good news. And happy is the man who doesn’t stop believing in me. [I am fulfilling what Isaiah spoke concerning the Anointed One (Isaiah 35:5-6, Isaiah 61:1). Even if there are other things you were expecting the Anointed One to be doing, don’t be offended. God has his own timetable.]

Greatness of John the Baptist

And as John’s disciples departed, Jesus began to say to the crowds concerning John, [When you went out to see John the Baptist,] what did you go out into the wilderness to see? A tall blade of grass shaking in the wind? [Was it just to see what everyone else was excited about?] Really, why did you go there? Was it to see a man dressed in fine clothes? [Many others would have gone to see an impressively powerful and rich man, but that wasn’t John.] I don’t think so! Men in fine clothes live in kings’ houses. What did you go out to see? A prophet! Yes, and more than a prophet. 10 For this is the one of whom it was written [Malachi 3:1], ‘Behold, I send my messenger before I send you [the Anointed One], and he [the messenger] will prepare the way for you.’

11 “I tell you the truth, of all those born of a woman [born physically], no one is greater than John the Baptist. Even so, the least who is in the kingdom of heaven [born spiritually] is greater than John. [John prepared the way for the kingdom, but those who are entering it by trusting in me and our Father, and who are doing the same works as me, like my disciples, are advancing the kingdom beyond what John could see and do.]

12 “From the days of John the Baptist [coming on the scene] until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it. [Both John and I have told you what to do to enter the kingdom. It requires giving everything you’ve got. And some are pursuing it wholeheartedly and grabbing hold of it.] 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John[, but now is the time when the truth about the kingdom is being fulfilled]. 14 But if you will accept it, he [John the Baptist] is the Elijah who was [prophesied by Malachi 4:5-6] to come [before the Anointed One and before the Judgment Day]. 15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear! [You may not fully understand, but if you are open to the truth, you will see that God planned what is now occurring – the coming of both John and I was foretold by scripture.]

16 [But this generation was resistant to John’s message and it’s resistant to mine as well.] To what can I compare this generation? It’s like children sitting in the marketplace calling to their friends, saying, 17 ‘We played a happy song for you and you didn’t dance. We played a sad song for you and you didn’t cry.’ 18 For John [the Baptist] came, neither eating or drinking [that is, he frequently fasted], and they say, ‘He has a demon [in him]’. 19 The Son of Man [Jesus] came, eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ [John the Baptist, inspired by God, preached a message of repentance, which many of the current generation thought was too serious. Jesus, also inspired by God, preached a happy message of love and trust in God and reaching out to sinners without judging them, and people thought he didn’t separate himself from sin.] But Wisdom is vindicated by all her children. [Both John and Jesus received wisdom from heaven and both brought people closer to God. But those who criticized rather than following them missed out on finding God.]

Judgment for unresponsiveness to miracles

20 [But people and even cities will be judged for how they respond to the opportunities God gives them.] Then Jesus spoke words of judgment against the cities where he had done his most powerful miracles because they had not repented[, recognizing their sinful attitudes and changing their ways of thought and action], 1“How terrible for you, Chorazin! How terrible for you, Bethsaida! 22 For if the miracles that were done for you had been done in Tyre and Sidon [non-Jewish cities in modern day Lebanon who were known for their idol worship and evil], they would long ago have shown their repentance in sackcloth and ashes [as ones who mourned their bad attitude and sinfulness]. It will be easier for them on the Judgment Day than for you.

[Surprisingly the Gospels don’t otherwise mention Chorazin, but it was close to Capernaum and Jesus would have easily traveled there and performed miracles and healings. Bethsaida was the location Jesus healed a blind man (Mark 8:22-26) and fed the five thousand (Luke 9:12-17).] 23 And you, Capernaum, who have been raised into heaven [by the many miracles and healings done in your city] shall be brought down to hell. 24 For if the miracles had been done in Sodom that were done in you, Sodom would remain to this day. [It was destroyed by the judgment of God for its wickedness and unwillingness to repent (Genesis 19:24-29).]

Discussion questions

1. Are you born again of the Spirit? Do you believe Jesus when he says you are greater than all the prophets of the Old Testament and even John the Baptist?

2. Have you seen any miracles? If so, have you changed your thinking and become a follower of Jesus? Do you expect miracles in your life?

3. According to Jesus, is it any handicap to be inexperienced or young in spiritual matters?

Power of working with Jesus and the Father

25 Then Jesus declared, “I thank you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to the young children [those who lack experience and education]. 26 Yes, it was your good pleasure to do exactly that [, just as I also desired]. 27 Everything [I ask for] is delivered to me by my Father. No one knows the Son but the Father, and no one knows the Father but the Son, and the one to whom the Son reveals him.

[The Father understands what pleases his son Jesus – seeing his followers doing the same work as him and with the same success – and the Father gives Jesus his desire. But only Jesus knows this is the same thing the Father desires. Jesus is letting his followers in on the secret, and they are beginning to understand the close fellowship Jesus and his Father have and how they please each other through the work of the kingdom.]

28 [Disciples, in the same way my Father and I work together, come and work together with me.] Come to me, everyone who is working too hard and feels burdened, and I will refresh you. 29 Join yourself in service with me [like two oxen yoked together] and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and the burden of the load you will carry is light. [When you try to do things on your own, you wear yourself out, but when you team up with me, everything works much better, the work is easier, and I will take away your weariness and discouragement.]

Evidence Jesus is the Anointed One
Greatness of John the Baptist
Judgment for unresponsiveness to miracles
Power of working with Jesus and the Father
Matthew Chapter 11 discussion questions
Matthew Chapter 12

Matthew Chapter 12

Jesus and the Sabbath

Around this time, Jesus was walking through a grain field on the Sabbath day, and his disciples were hungry and began plucking the heads of grain and eating. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what’s not allowed on the Sabbath!” [They were working by harvesting the grain.] But Jesus replied to them, “Haven’t you read [1 Samuel 21:1-6] what David did when he and those with him were hungry? How he entered the house of God and ate the shewbread, which was not permitted [Leviticus 24:5-9] for him or those with him to eat but was only for the priests. Or haven’t you read in the Law, how on Sabbath days the priests in the Temple violate the Sabbath [by performing their duties, “working”, as described in the same Leviticus passage] and yet are held blameless?

Jesus and the Sabbath

“But I tell you, something greater than the Temple is here. [Jesus is referring to himself and the disciples bringing the kingdom.] If you had understood what this means – ‘I prefer mercy to sacrifice’ [Hosea 6:6] – you would not have judged those who truly are not guilty. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

[Despite what the Pharisees claimed, it was a common argument among the rabbis that eating to sustain life had a higher priority than not working on the Sabbath day. Besides, Jesus and the disciples were on the way to the synagogue to celebrate the Sabbath. Though they may have violated the man-defined rules of the Pharisees, they were trusting in the supply of God, which is the point of the Sabbath. When Jesus says the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath, he is saying two things. One is that he is in fact the Anointed One, who has the authority to restore God's original plan. Second, we are all "sons of man" and therefore we have the authority to make use of the Sabbath for God’s purpose rather than be ruled by it.]

He went from there into the local synagogue [where the Pharisees attended who had criticized his disciples for eating on the Sabbath]. 10 There was a man present who had a paralyzed hand. And they [the Pharisees] asked Jesus, “Is [the work of] healing allowed on the Sabbath?”, for they wanted to accuse him. 11 And he said to them, “Which one of you having sheep, if one of them fell into a pit on a Sabbath day, would not grab hold of it and lift it out [thus “working”]? 12 And how much more valuable is a man than a sheep?” 13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And it was restored completely well, just like his other hand. [Jesus healed the man without either him or the man “working” on the Sabbath, even though Jesus firmly established the legitimacy of such work.]

Humble savior

14 But the Pharisees left and gathered together to plot how they might destroy him. 15 But Jesus, aware of this, departed from there. Great crowds followed him, and he healed all [who needed healing]. 16 And he ordered them not to tell others about him. [Many likely were coming to the belief that he must be the Anointed One, but he wished for each person to reach their own conclusions about him.]

Humble savior

17 This fulfilled what was spoken by Isaiah the prophet [Isaiah 42:1-4], 18 “See my chosen servant, my loved one who pleases me greatly. I will put my Spirit on him. He will bring justice to the nations. 19 But he won’t fight, he won’t yell, and he won’t make a commotion in the streets. 20 He won’t break a bruised reed or quench a smoldering wick. [He won’t hurt or dominate people] but he will lead justice to victory. 21 And in his name, the nations will trust.” [Matthew sees Jesus as fulfilling Isaiah’s description of the Anointed One as a different kind of leader who is humble and does not dominate but brings about justice.]

Confusing evil and good

22 Then they brought to him a man with a demon [that made him] blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that the man both spoke and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed and said, “Isn’t this the Son of David [another name for the Anointed One]?” 24 But the Pharisees who heard this said, “It’s true he casts out demons, but [he does it] by [the power] of Baalzebul, the ruler of the demons!” 25 And Jesus knew their thoughts and said, “Every kingdom that’s divided against itself is destroyed, and every city divided against itself falls down. 26 [Likewise,] if [a servant of] Satan casts out [another servant of] Satan, then Satan is divided against himself, and how will his kingdom stand?

Confusing evil and good

27 “And if I am using [the power of] Baalzebul to cast out demons, by what power are your sons [people you approve] casting them out? [There were Jews who sought to use the power of God to remove demons from people’s lives.] Therefore, they [the Jewish exorcists] will be your judges [since you are implying that anyone casting out demons must be using evil power to do so]. 28 But if I am casting out demons using the Spirit of God [as I am claiming], then God’s rule [not Satan’s rule] has come upon you [through me].

29 [In fact, I am at war with Satan for he has put many in bondage.]  Yet how can [I or] someone [else] enter a strong man’s [Satan’s] house and steal his goods, except by first making the strong man harmless. And then we will take back all that in his house. [When I am healing people and setting them free, if a sickness or infirmity is caused by a demon, I use the power of the Holy Spirit to bind that demon and break its power over the person and make it leave. When the evil leaves, the healing comes.]

30 [If you don’t believe that I am doing God’s work then you are not on my side.] Whoever is not on my side is helping the opposing side. And whoever is not [helping me by] drawing people [to God] is driving people away [from God]. [When you call the work of freeing men from demons evil you are driving people away rather than drawing them to God.]

31 “For this reason, let me tell you, all sin and speaking evil can be forgiven against men, except speaking evil against the Holy Spirit. 32 And if someone speaks against the Son of Man it shall be forgiven, but if you speak against the Holy Spirit, it won’t be forgiven, either in this world or in the one to come. [If you have trouble trusting me as a person, that’s one thing, but if you reject as bad a work inspired by the Holy Spirit that obviously helps a person then you are rejecting God, to your own judgment.]

33 “Isn’t it the case that a tree is good if it’s fruit is good, or that a tree is bad if it’s fruit is bad, for a tree is known by its fruit? 34 You generation of snakes, how can you, who are evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. [You are only out to help yourself, and you don’t even know how to speak good about someone else! You can’t help speaking evil because your thoughts are evil.] 35 A good person out of his good treasure brings forth good things, and a bad person out of the storehouse of his heart speaks bad things. 36 I tell you that every harmful word men speak they will need to account for on the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you will be declared innocent [Romans 10:9-10] and by your words you will be declared guilty.”

38 Then some of the interpreters of the Law and the Pharisees spoke up, “We would like to see a sign from you. [Since you keep talking authoritatively and contradict us, what can you show us that proves you are the Anointed One, whom we can trust has the right to say these things.]39 But Jesus answered them, “An evil and unfaithful generation requires a sign [to believe]. [You have already been given sign after sign that I am the Anointed One and yet because you have already ceased following God, you refuse to believe in me.] No sign will be given to you except that of Jonah the prophet. 40 For Jonah was in the sea creature’s belly three days and three nights [Jonah 1:17]. Likewise, the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. [This is a figure of speech – neither Jonah nor Jesus was “buried” for an entire 72 hours but rather parts of three days, long enough to be counted dead following the customs of the times. Jesus’ resurrection would be the greatest of all signs but still would not be believed by many.]

41 “The men of Nineveh will rise up [to testify] in condemnation of this generation [when it is brought before the Judge] because they repented at the preaching of Jonah [Jonah 3:4-10], and look, a greater one than Jonah is here. 42 [Likewise,] the Queen of the South [Sheba] shall rise [to testify against] this generation and will condemn it, for she came a long distance to hear the wisdom of Solomon [1 Kings 10:1-9], and a greater one than Solomon is here.

[On the Day of Judgment, those who are judged will be put on trial for how they lived, and punishment given based on their degree of resistance to following God as well as their evil actions (Revelation 20:11-15, 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10). That’s why the cities where Jesus spoke and healed and the Jewish leaders who had every opportunity to embrace the Anointed One were destined for a judgment which included a fiery punishment for rejecting God. Those who have believed in Jesus will totally escape this judgment (John 5:24) but will still have their behaviors judged to determine reward (1 Corinthians 3:9-15).]

43 [Since we were talking about what is involved in deliverance, let me tell you why this is especially relevant to this entire generation.] When an unclean spirit [demon] has gone out of a man, it travels through dry places seeking [an adequate place to] rest and finds none. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to my house that I left’, and when he arrives, it finds the house empty, cleaned up, and decorated. 45 Then it goes back out and associates himself with seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter in and make their home there. And the man ends up worse than he was in the beginning. That’s the way it will be with this wicked generation.”

[Jesus came to deliver this generation from the bondage of the evil one. Their persistent refusal to believe in him is like a demonized man being set free but not becoming filled with belief in God. As the leaders and many of the people of this generation continued to resist belief, their bondage to sin and future judgment become worse.]

Jesus evaluates family on obedience to God

46 While he was still talking to the people, his mother and brothers were standing outside, wanting to talk with him. And someone told him, “Look, your mother and brothers are standing outside wanting to talk to you.” 48 But Jesus answered, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” 49 And he stretched out his hand toward his followers and said, “Look! Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever will follow the will of my heavenly Father is who [I consider] is my brother, or sister, or mother.” [Jesus says that the ones deserving his investment of time and energy, are those who want to find out more about God.]

Jesus evaluates family on obedience to God

Discussion questions

1. Is Jesus speaking against rules as having any value? What does he say should guide our behavior and our judgment of others’ behavior?

Matthew Chapter 12 dicussion questions

2. Do you think that it is ever questionable whether the works someone claims as being done for God really are? How could you follow Jesus’ criteria to judge quality based on the fruits?

3. Jesus talks a lot about Judgment Day. Why do you suppose it’s so important to him?

Matthew Chapter 13

Matthew Chapter 13

Story of the sower

That same day, after Jesus left the house, he went down and sat at the seashore [Lake Galilee] to speak to the people. But the crowds that came to him were so large that he sat in a boat while the crowd stood on the shore. He spoke to them many things using story illustrations. He said, “A man went out to sow seed. As he sowed, some seeds fell near the path and birds came and ate them. Some fell on rocky earth where they didn’t have much soil and they quickly sprouted because of the lack of soil. And when the sun came up they were scorched, and because they had no root, they dried up. And some fell among thorn bushes, which choked them. But some fell into good soil and were fruitful, some a hundred-fold, some sixty-fold, and some thirty-fold. He who has ears to hear, let him listen [and understand].”

Story of the sower

10 The disciples came to Jesus and said, “Why do you speak to the people using story illustrations?” 11 And he answered them, “Because it’s a gift to you to understand the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but it hasn’t been given to them. [You are seekers and have already found a measure of belief, so you respond to the investment of explaining the truths. Most of the Jewish people can’t hear because they have resisted the truth for so long. I tell them stories to increase their hunger for the truth.] 12 For to him who has, more will be added, and he will have an abundance. [Because you are a good investment, you will be trusted with more.] And to him who lacks, even what he has will be taken away. [The Pharisees take what little they know and use it for their own advantage rather than for seeking God, so they will lose what little understanding of the truth they already have.]

Why Jesus used stories

13 “That’s why I speak to them using stories with illustrations, because when they are looking, they don’t see, and when they are listening they don’t hear or understand. 14 This fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah [Isaiah 6:9-10] which says, ‘When you listen, you will hear and not understand. When you are looking, you will see but not perceive. 15 For this people’s heart has become insensitive, their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes have become closed. If they would see with their eyes and hear with their ears or understand with their hearts and change their ways, then I would heal them.’

Why Jesus used stories

16 “But blessed are your eyes for they see and your ears for they hear. 17 For I tell you the truth, many of the prophets and righteous ones have desired to see what you are seeing, and they haven’t seen it, and to hear what you have heard. 18 Therefore, hear [and understand] the story of the man who sowed. 19 When someone hears the word concerning the kingdom and doesn’t understand it, the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the one [from the story] who received the seed which was scattered on the path.

20 “As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and receives it with joy. 21 When tribulation or persecution comes because of the word, though he endures for a while, because he has no root, he quickly falls away. 22 The one who receives the seed on thorny ground, is the person who hears the word and the worries of this world and the love of riches choke the word and cause it to become unproductive. 23 But the one who receives the seed in good soil is the one who hears the word and understands it and bears fruit, some bringing forth a hundred-fold, some sixty-fold and some thirty-fold.” [Part of bearing fruit is sharing the word. When believers share the truth with others, those come to faith and learn to share also. This is how the fruit gets multiplied.]

More kingdom illustrations

24 He gave them another story illustration, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who planted good seed [to grow wheat] in his field. 25 While everyone was sleeping, an enemy came and planted darnel [a grain that looks like wheat during early stages of growing but is poisonous to eat] among the wheat. 26 When the blades came up and brought forth grain, the darnel grew right alongside the wheat. 27 The servants of the owner came up to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you plant good seed in your field? Where did the darnel come from?’ 28 The owner replied, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said, ‘Do you want us to go out and pull up the darnel?’ 29 The owner said, ‘No, for when you pull up the darnel you might uproot the wheat at the same time. 30 Let them both grow together until the harvest. I will tell the reapers, “First gather the darnel and bind it in bundles to burn. Then gather the wheat into my barn.”’” [Jesus explains the story to the disciples a little later.]

More kingdom illustrations

31 Jesus gave the people another story illustration, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed which a man took and planted in his field. 32 This seed is the smallest of all seeds, but when it is grown, it is the largest of all garden plants. It actually becomes a tree, where the birds of the air come and make their homes in its branches.” [One act of faith may seem very small, like the mustard seed. But whomever is affected will increase in faith and the faith will spread to many others, like the mustard plant. Eventually it will become a community of faith like a tree and others will come to shelter in it.]

33 And he spoke to them another story illustration, “The kingdom of heaven is like a woman who took some yeast and mixed it into about fifty pounds of flour until the whole loaf was leavened and had risen.” [Faith is like yeast. It doesn’t take much to begin to spread faith all around a very sizable community just like a small amount of yeast can be kneaded in to a rather large amount, even fifty pounds, of flour, to make the entire batch rise.]

34 Jesus spoke all these things to the crowds in story illustrations, and he didn’t speak anything to them which wasn’t in a story illustration. 35 This fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet [Asaph in Psalms 78:2.  Asaph was a singer in the Temple worship during the time after David, and he wrote twelve of the Psalms]. The psalm says, “I will open my mouth [and speak] in parables. I will pronounce what has been hidden from the foundation of the world.” [Matthew continues to be impressed with the many ways the scriptures spoke of the one who would come and accomplish many things, and how Jesus fulfilled all those predicted accomplishments.]

36 Then Jesus sent away the crowds and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the story illustration about the darnel in the field.” 37 Jesus answered, “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man [myself]. 38 The field is the world. The good seed is the children of the kingdom, but the darnel is the children of the wicked one. 39 The enemy who sowed them is the devil [the word means adversary or slanderer]. The harvest is the end of this age. And the reapers are the angels. 40 Just as the darnel is gathered for the fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send forth the angels and they will gather together all those who cause others to stumble and who do evil, 42 and will throw them into the furnace of fire where men will weep and grind their teeth [because of the pain and the knowledge of what they missed out on due to their own selfishness]. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear let them hear!

[Jesus described the cast of characters in the story but left his hearers to figure out some of the details. Jesus is the owner or the master of the world. As his followers come to faith and become his disciples, he plants them as good seed into the world to bear fruit. To counter him, the devil places his followers – liars, cheaters, murderers – into the world but makes them look nearly indistinguishable from his followers until you see the fruit they produce, which is poisonous. God doesn’t remove the adversary’s followers too soon because their roots may be entangled with his followers. He waits patiently for the time of the harvest, the judgment at the end of the age. Then the angels gather the followers of the devil for their destiny of burning, and the followers of Jesus for their destiny of glory with him.]

44 [Jesus continued describing the kingdom of heaven.] “The kingdom of heaven is like something of great value that was hidden in a field, which a man had found but then covered up again. He was so joyful [about his discovery], that he sold everything he had and bought that field. [This story focuses on how valuable and joyful it is to belong to God. When we find out that God really loves us and will do anything for us, that becomes more valuable to us than everything else in our life, even to the point where we will get rid of every other interest to pursue what God has for us to do.]

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for valuable pearls, 46 who found one of surpassing value, and went and sold everything else he had and bought it. [This story is like the previous. When you’ve been looking your whole life to find something of great value and now it’s within grasp, you will sell everything else you possess to make sure you get the thing of great value. That’s what people find when they realize how much God loves them.]

47“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was cast into the sea, where fish of every kind were caught in it. 48 When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. [The net is the spreading of the good news of the kingdom. Many are touched and drawn in but not all will turn out to be true believers. Some in every crowd will either resist or fake their way. At the Judgment Day, those who are followers of Jesus will be preserved for eternal life and the fakers and resisters will be destined for destruction.]

49 “So will it be at the completion of this age [the Day of Judgment]. The angels will come and divide the evil from the righteous. 50 Those who are evil will be cast into the furnace of fire where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth [because those who chose wrong will experience the results of their bad choice].

51 [Now that you have heard many story illustrations of the kingdom, let me ask you,] ‘Have you understood all these things [that I have described in illustrations]?’” They replied, “Yes, Lord.” 52 He said to them, [Then I expect you disciples to become excellent teachers of the Law.] Every teacher of the Law who has been [properly] instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like a man who owns a house and brings forth out of his wealth new and old.” [A homeowner best entertains his guests by giving them both things that are familiar and things they have never seen before. To illustrate the kingdom, Jesus used examples that were familiar to everyone (‘old’) but added twists and interpretations that were ‘new’. Furthermore, some of the concepts that truly conveyed how God’s kingdom works, like ‘sowing and reaping’, were old – but others, like that the enemy has sown bad seed among the good, were less familiar.]

Jesus’ rejection at Nazareth

53 When Jesus had finished [presenting] these parables, he left there 54 and came to his own hometown [Nazareth]. He taught them in their synagogue, and they were astonished [at his teaching], saying, “Where did this man gain such wisdom and these works of power? 55 Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother named Mary, and his brothers, James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas? 56 And aren’t his sisters here among us? Where has this man acquired these things [he has taught and demonstrated to us]?” 57 And so they talked themselves out of believing in him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is respected everywhere except in his own home.” 58 He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.

Jesus' rejection at Nazareth

[When there is an atmosphere of belief, people’s faith not only increases what’s possible, but also draws crowds of people with all kinds of needs. Skepticism and unbelief restrict what can be accomplished and who is likely to come.]

Discussion questions

1. How do you feel when you read or hear Jesus’ story illustrations? Do you feel you fully understand them even when they are explained? Do you sometimes feel there could be more than one valuable meaning?

Matthew Chapter 13 discussion questions

2. Why do you think Jesus speaks so much about the kingdom of heaven? How would you summarize what you’ve learned about God’s rule and reign through Jesus’ illustrations in this chapter?

3. Is Jesus expecting us to become teachers through telling stories? Ask the Holy Spirit to give you a story illustration that would help explain why you are a follower of Jesus to your family or friends.

Matthew Chapter 14

Matthew Chapter 14

Execution of John the Baptist

At that time, Herod [Antipas], the tetrarch, heard the news about Jesus’ [miracles]. [Herod the Great had ruled when Jesus was born, and Herod Antipas was the youngest of his six sons by four wives. When Herod the Great died, his rule over greater Judea was divided by the Romans between his sons. A tetrarch ruled one of four parts of a land. In this case Herod Antipas was given the provinces of Galilee and Perea (parts of lower Syria and Jordan today) to rule. His older brother Archelaus ruled Judea, Samaria (west bank of Jordan River between Judea and Galilee), and Idumea (west bank of lower Dead Sea), which constituted one-half the kingdom. And his half-brother Philip ruled Gaulanitis (current day Golan Heights and Syria). Two other half-brothers (Alexander and Aristobulus) had been assassinated by their own father. And another half-brother Herod II was disqualified from ruling because his mother had been involved in an unsuccessful plot to kill his father.]

Executon of John the Baptist

Herod Antipas said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist, who is risen from the dead, [we are hearing about,] and therefore he is capable of these works of power.” [It is interesting that the people of the time so easily embraced that someone might rise from the dead since this was to be a key mark of Jesus as the Anointed One.]

For Herod Antipas had captured John the Baptist, bound him, and put him in prison, for the sake of Herodias, [who previously had been] Herod Antipas’ [half] brother Philip’s wife. [According to the historian Josephus, Herodias had been the wife of Herod II rather than Philip and had divorced him to marry Herod Antipas. It is possible Herod II was also known as Philip, or that Matthew heard this from an erroneous source.] And John the Baptist had said to Herod Antipas, “It’s not lawful for you to have her. [Leviticus 18:16 says you cannot marry your brother’s wife unless he has died, and you are willing to produce children for his family line (Deuteronomy 25:5).]And though Herod Antipas wanted to put John the Baptist to death, he feared [an uprising of] the people, because they considered John the Baptist to be a prophet.

But when Herod Antipas’ birthday was celebrated, the daughter of Herodias [Salome] danced before them [those who came to celebrate], and pleased Herod, and he made an oath, promising to give her whatever she would ask. Receiving instructions from her mother, she said, “Give me John the Baptist’s head on a platter.” The king regretted [his promise], but because of his oath in front of those who had sat with him in his celebration, he commanded what she had asked for be done. 10 He sent and had John beheaded in the prison, 11 and John’s head was brought to the girl on a platter, which she brought to her mother.

12 John’s disciples took John’s body and buried it and went to tell Jesus [what had happened to John]. 13 When Jesus heard, he left by boat to go to an out-of-the-way location [probably to grieve and pray]. And when the people heard [that Jesus was leaving], they followed him on foot out from their towns.

Feeding of five thousand

14 [Once Jesus arrived at his destination], he came forth and saw a large crowd. He was moved with compassion toward them, so he healed their sick. 15 But when it was late in the day, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s now getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go into the towns and buy themselves food.” 16 But Jesus said to them, “Why do they need to leave? You give them something to eat.” 17 But they said to him, “All we have here is five loaves and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them to me.”

Feeding of five thousand

19 He told the crowds to sit down on the grass, took the five loaves and the two fish and, looking up, he blessed the food. He broke the bread and gave it to his disciples, and they in turn gave it to the people. 20 They all ate and were satisfied. The fragments were gathered up and filled twelve small baskets. 21 Those who had eaten numbered around five thousand men, as well as women and children.

Walking on water

22 Immediately after, Jesus ordered the disciples to get into the boat and go in advance of him across the lake, while he sent away the crowds. [Jesus had not had a chance to mourn John the Baptist and needed time alone with his Father. Likely the disciples would not have wanted to leave Jesus alone and did not see how he would be able to follow them back home.] 23 And when Jesus had sent away the crowds, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there by himself, 24 but the boat, now some distance away from the land, was tossed by waves since the wind was against them. [There are locations in the hills above the lake where a person can see far across the lake.]

Walking on water

25 In the fourth watch of the night [between 3 and 6 am], Jesus came to them, walking on the water. 26 And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were disturbed, saying, “It’s a ghost!”, and they cried out in fear. 27 But right away Jesus said to them, “Have courage! It’s me. Don’t be afraid.”

28 And Peter said to Jesus, “If it is you, then command me to come to you on the water.” 29 And Jesus said, “Come!” And when Peter got out of the boat, he walked on the water to get to Jesus. 30 But when he saw how strong the wind was, he was afraid and began to sink, and he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 And immediately, Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said, [Peter, you were doing it!] You of little faith, why did you [let go of the faith you had and] doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind stopped. [This was the second time Jesus had quieted a storm.] 33 And those that were in the boat bowed down before him, saying, “It’s true you are the son of God!”

[The story illustrated what’s possible because of faith. Jesus was demonstrating complete command over all the natural world, first multiplying the bread and fish, now walking on top of the water. In this, the disciples understood that Jesus had access to power that only God has, attributing his ability to having come from God. But Peter understood and demonstrated what Jesus was teaching them, that these things are possible to any who believe, as he walked on the water himself. Jesus tells us in John 14:12-13 that we are to do the same works or even greater than him.]

Many touch the hem of Jesus’ garment

34 And when they had crossed over, they came to the area of Gennesaret [a town farther west on the shore of Lake Galilee but not far from Capernaum]. 35 When the people of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding countryside, and those places sent all who needed healing. 36 And all they wanted was to touch the edge of his clothes, and all who touched him were healed. [The story of the woman who had been healed of the issue of blood by touching the hem of his garment must have spread.]

Many touch the hem of Jesus' garment

Discussion questions

1. John the Baptist had a major role, based on how much of the narrative is devoted to him. Why do you think he was so important both to Jesus and the Gospel writers?

Matthew Chapter 14 discussion questions

2. Do you think Jesus knew in advance he could multiply food and walk on water? Why do you think he performed these miracles?

3. What was special about Peter that seeing Jesus walk on water, he thought he could do it too? Do you think he ever tried it again? What would cause you to attempt the miraculous?

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