Monday, January 13, 2014

January 13, 2014 – Matthew 9 – Taking on your Critics

Below are my thoughts from the daily Bible reading of the West Side Church of Christ. Before reading I invite you to pray and asked God to speak to you as you read his word. Also above in the tabs is a link to the Bible reading plan.

Thank you to everyone who kept our trip to TCTC in your prayers. We returned with everyone healthy and safe. We thank you for the prayers that God would move and work as He challenged our students. Please continue to keep them in your prayers as they continue to grow closer to God.

What Does this Passage Say?
  • Jesus returns from His travels back to Capernaum. This is where He has made His home base for His first year of ministry. It is here we assume He has stayed in the home of Peter. For the first time in Jesus ministry He is about to be met with critics.
  • Jesus is widely popular. He has attracted a great number of crowds to Him. No doubt the news of Jesus has spread all throughout Israel. The religious leaders have gathered to hear Jesus talk. It is early in His ministry. At his point they really do not have issue with Jesus. But that is about to change.
  • Jesus is brought a paralytic man and instead of just healing him, Jesus first forgives the man’s sins. This was a blasphemous act for Jesus to preform. Only God Himself can forgive sins. What the accusers do not get is the fact that Jesus is God in the flesh. Not understanding who it is Jesus is makes their response to Jesus act completely reasonable.
  • This is not the end of the road for Jesus and controversy. Immediately after this Matthew has inserted his own calling to be a disciple into the narrative. Is this the chronological place Matthew was called? Probably not, but in the narrative it fits. Here Jesus is meeting opposition for forgiving a man’s sins. Now Jesus will find opposition for the company He keeps. Matthew, also known as Levi, is a tax collector. He is a Jew who has gotten into bed with the Roman government, collecting taxes, often unfairly, for an empire that oppressed Israel. He was hated, despised, and seen as a sinner by his fellow country men. Now Jesus is calling him to discipleship and even eating in His home.
  • Through all of this opposition and question Jesus is met with humility. A synagogue ruler came to Jesus in need of His healing ability. His daughter has died. The funeral has begun … Jewish funerals began within hours of death since they did not embalm a body. Whether this ruler criticized Jesus for his blasphemous acts we do not know. Regardless, he comes to Jesus seeking His power. Jesus not only heals this man’s daughter but also a woman who has been bleeding for over a decade. Jesus has compassion on the hurting.
  • Jesus has the ability to amaze people. His healing of the deaf and mute, the blind and cripple, and even the demon possessed has amazed the communities around Him. They are astonished. But their amazement is not the reaction of the Pharisees. For the first time they are beginning to be doubtful of who he is. They have no answer so they immediately think it is the work of Satan. Sadly they are wrong and unwilling to remove the blinders they have put over their eyes.  
  • The opposition and the hurting people Jesus encounter causes Him to realize just how messed up the human race is. Maybe for a moment Jesus encounters the reality of His mission and the great need for grace. Jesus does not look at the glass half empty but half full. He knows that the harvest can be plentiful if the right numbers of workers are at work.

What is this passage teaching?
  • I think in many regards we attack the Pharisees and other religious leaders too much. Many times their reaction to Jesus is due to their ego and their fear of a loss of power if He becomes King. But at other times I believe they struggle with the idea of change. They struggle to understand that even though what Jesus is doing is different it is still right. They struggle sometimes not because of ego and sin in their lives but because of a lack of knowledge and understanding of who the Messiah is to be. At times, I believe they are acting in full confidence that they are serving God. Unfortunately they are serving God in a wrong way.

How can I apply this passage to my life?
  • So how do you respond to your critics? How do you handle those who believe you are living wrongly for God when in reality all you are doing is honoring Him in a different way? I believe the first step is looking at their life and mindset trying to understand where they are coming from. Maybe they feel they are doing everything in their power to honor God with the choices they have made and criticism they have shared.  Maybe instead of being frustrated and hurtful, it is time to turn and show love and understanding to their struggle over change. If we were to do that, then maybe more and more we could have civil edifying conversations.
  • Maybe you are the one that is struggling with change. Maybe you feel that others are doing things that are blasphemous for a true follower of Jesus to do. Instead of being like the Pharisees and allowing hate to brew in your heart; have an open, honest, and love filled discussion with those you struggle with. 

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