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Matthew chapter 17

DAILY DEVOTION

FOR

FRIDAY, JULY 24

 
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 17
Author:  Jeremy Witt
 
Reread from yesterday verses 27 and 28 from chapter 16.  This will be partially fulfilled with the Mount of Transfiguration.  This was a brief glimpse into the glory of Jesus.  This is what scholars would call a “special revelation” of Jesus’ divinity for Peter, James, and John.  This was an affirmation of Jesus, His ministry, and His role/relationship to the LORD God that only the disciples got to see. 
 
This moment was a quick snapshot of heaven, of Jesus in His Kingdom, and a blending between the physical world and the spiritual world that had not been seen before.  The fact that Moses and Elijah showed up only helped to confirm to the disciples who Jesus was and would shape their faith for the days ahead.  Why Moses and Elijah?  Moses brought the Law from God to the Jewish people.  Moses was the symbolic representation of the old covenant as He wrote down the Pentateuch (first 5 books of the OT) and predicted the coming of the Great Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15-19.  Elijah represented the prophets who foretold of the coming Messiah (Malachi 4:5-6)  Jesus meeting with them connected the Law, the prophetic message of the coming (or presenting Jesus as the Messiah.)  When Moses was given the Law, the LORD God spoke to confirm the authority to the Law and to Moses before the people.  The LORD God speaking to Jesus confirmed that Jesus was the Messiah and fulfillment of the Law and the prophets.
 
Then Peter speaks and does what only Peter could do.  He knew that this was a significant moment.  He wanted to make a shelter (possibly like during the Feast of Shelters in the OT) or a memorial for this moment.  He wanted to “DO” something.  However, Peter was missing the point of the moment until the LORD God spoke as in verses 5-6.  The moment was meant for worship to Jesus and had nothing to do with Moses or Elijah. 
 
The things that they saw were most certainly divine, but words could not contain all that they saw.  If you notice once the LORD God spoke, the disciples said nothing.  Only Jesus spoke until verse 10.  I imagine the walk down the mountain was a time of processing and going over what happened on the mountain.  When Jesus speaks in verse 9, He tells them not to speak of this “until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”  Again, the disciples have no clue what Jesus is talking about, so they ask a question based upon their understanding which was so completely off-base.  Because they had seen Elijah, they were focused on him rather than what God said about Jesus. 
 
Reality sat in as soon as they neared the bottom of the mountain.  People were waiting to have Jesus heal their sick.  A father begged Jesus to heal his son after the disciples tried and failed.  (verses 14-21)  When they asked Jesus as to why they were unsuccessful, Jesus said that it was a result of a lack of faith.  Was it because they tried to do it in their own power?  Was it because they were trying to understand how or what they were doing rather than trusting and working in the Name of the LORD?  Ultimately, we do not know specifically what they did wrong other than not have enough faith. 
 
Was Jesus condemning them for the lack of faith?  Or was Jesus preparing them for the days ahead when they would have to rely on their faith even more?  When Jesus is arrested and the immediate days afterward, their faith would be tested greatly.  Jesus predicts His upcoming death again in verses 22-23 which only brought more doubt, confusion, and grief in the disciples. 
The story of the coin in the fish’s mouth in order to pay the temple tax is one that indicates to us the age of the disciples.  It was paid by Jewish men over the age of 20.  Notice that the collectors asked if Jesus paid it, not the disciples.  A rabbi would pay for those younger males.  You can read more on the temple tax 2 Kings 12:5–17 and Nehemiah 10:32–33
 
Jesus used the question about the temple tax to teach a lesson to the disciples. As Christ-followers, we are free, but we will yield our rights in order to show others our faith and not cause others to stumble. True Christian freedom is not serving ourselves or our rights but to serve others (see Galatians 5:13).

Posted by Jeremy Witt with

Matthew chapter 16 part two

DAILY DEVOTION

FOR

THURSDAY, JULY 23

 

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 16 PART TWO

Author:  Jeremy Witt

 

Today we will deal with verses 17-28.  Peter just declared Jesus as the Messiah in verse 16.

 First, notice in verse 17 that Jesus declared that God revealed this to Peter.  God is the One who opens our eyes.  God is the One who pursues us.  God is the One who sent Jesus to us.  We may realize that there is something bigger than us (see Romans 1:19-23).  Also, note that Jesus says “You did not learn from any human being.”  It was not made up by man despite the skeptic’s claims! 

 Verse 18 is one that is highly debated by scholars and even denominations or other faiths.  Some interpret that Jesus was saying that “upon Peter, I will be my church.”  This view is held by the Roman Catholic Church who calls Peter the first pope.  Because Petros in Greek means rock, and Jesus says, “upon this rock, I will build my church ('ecclesia'-Greek word for church), they claim Peter is whom the church was built upon.  However, what did Peter do to save?  What did Peter do for the church? He called people to believe in Jesus and what Jesus did on the Cross?  The church was built upon Christ and what He did!  Peter merely proclaimed Jesus Christ as the Messiah, which is who saves us.  This rock upon which the Church was built is Jesus Himself. 

Peter’s confession is what we confess when we declare that Jesus is the Son of God, the Savior of the World.  Is Peter important?  Absolutely!  What Peter did was important, but what Jesus did was to defeat sin and death!  A church built on a man would crumble when that man died. (By the way, we see this happen today)  Peter will later declare in 1 Peter 2:4-6  that the church is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Jesus Christ as the cornerstone. 

 At the end of verse 17, Jesus said, “the gates of hell (or powers of hell) shall not prevail (or conquer) against” the church.  This is ultimately a declaration that God wins.  His Kingdom and His Church will ultimately win.  Pay careful attention that Jesus didn’t say that hell or Satan wouldn’t attack the church or that hell couldn’t invade the church.  We know that this happens today and has happened in the past.  To summarize what Jesus said is that when the church rises up and moves forward with the Gospel, nothing can stop her – not even the gates of hell.  The church Jesus built is designed to be an unstoppable force.  However, we do not always see this.  In fact, the biggest thing that keeps the church from being what Jesus declared is when the church refuses to be the church that Jesus built.

 In verses 21-28 we read of the first time that Jesus predicts His death.  We also see Peter responding in emotion and trying to control Jesus.  Have you ever tried to do that?  Unfortunately, I have.  Verse 22, Peter responds to Jesus based upon his understanding rather than the will of God.  Yep, I have done that too!  Peter had his own expectations of the Messiah, and Jesus's suffering and death were not in Peter’s mind.  However, Isaiah 53 speaks specifically to what the Messiah would do.  Daniel 7:13-14 and 9:-26-27 speak towards a period of trouble and that the Messiah would be cut off.  Moment of application for us.  We, as Americans, look at suffering as punishment.  Yet throughout Scripture, we are told that we are blessed when we suffer on Jesus’ account.  We are told throughout the New Testament that we will suffer and face persecution.  As Americans, we avoid it all cost/  We say things like, “surely God does not want you to go through this.”  We act like Peter when we say these things.  The Church has always thrived under suffering and persecution.  It is when she has grown the most. 

 Also, notice that Jesus called Peter a specific name.  “Get behind me, Satan!  You are a stumbling block.”  Was Peter demon-possessed?  No!  How can I say that?  Peter had just declared Jesus as the Messiah.  Satan cannot possess that which is not his.  However, he can use a Christ-follower as an instrument when we are living in our flesh.  I realize this is a much bigger topic that for what our space allows, but here in verse 23, Peter was used by Satan and Jesus plainly calls him out.  We must be careful not to “see things merely from a human point of view” (NLT) or “you are not setting your mind on God’s interest, but man’s.” (NASB)

 Finally, in the last set of verses (24-28), we read of the cost of following Jesus.  We must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. (verse 24)  We must be willing to lose our life for His sake (verse 25).  We can’t be focused on this world (verse 26).  How are we doing in these ways?  This is so much more difficult than space allows, but we all can improve in doing these things.  May we follow and become more like our Savior!

Posted by Jeremy Witt with

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