Please read Matthew 15:1-9

Background: The Pharisees set up elaborate schemes to get around obeying God’s laws. For example: you could declare your property to be Korban, that is, devoted to God. Then, you could say to the poor - even to your parents in their need – “I don’t have anything to give you, I promised it to God.” (Even though you never intended and never actually did give it to God!)

Question(s) for personal consideration or family discussion: What status did the Pharisees give to their own traditions? What attitude did they show for God’s commands? What is God’s judgment about their lives? On the other hand, what spirit does God look for in His disciples today?

Possible answers: The Pharisees elevated their own traditions valuing them even more than God’s Word. They made themselves judges of others – condemning others and justifying themselves – and all this on the basis of their own standards, not God’s standard. God called them hypocrites! People who were not truly His own. God wants us to have humble hearts that worship Him with lives of obedience that flows from authentic faith in His mercy. Such worship will not be in vain.

Prayer: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a right spirit of worship within me. Amen.

 

Please read Matthew 15:10-20

Question(s) for personal consideration or family discussion: Why would Pharisaic teaching, and the lifestyle that resulted from it, lead to hypocrisy?  What did the Pharisees and disciples of Jesus then, and we His followers today, need to learn about “uncleaness”?  What is to be done with our “uncleaness”?

Possible answer(s): The teaching of the Pharisees consisted primarily of outward, superficial, rituals and laws.  Their teaching led them to believe that such an outward superficial piety would suffice for purity before God.  They forgot about the fundamental importance of the heart, the inner attitude that influences outward behaviors. Those who want to be part of the family of God need the pure heart that David asked God to create in him (Psalm 51:10).  It is a heart that understands the total uncleaness of its inherited nature. A heart that finds cleansing in God’s forgiveness of its sinfulness and sins.  A heart that leads to a life of outward purity that comes from an inner attitude of faith and love.

Prayer: Indeed!  LORD JESUS, “create in me a pure heart, and renew in me a steadfast spirit”! Awesome God, You are worthy of praise.

 

Please read Matthew 15:21-28

Background:  The title “Son of David” was a title referring to the promised Messiah (Christ) whom God promised to send as a descendant of David. 

Question(s) for personal consideration or family discussion:  Does Jesus seemingly distant and cold treatment of the woman surprise you?  What does Jesus mean when He says: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel?” Can you think of at least two vital spiritual qualities that the Canaanite woman possessed that we should seek from the LORD?

Possible answer(s): Jesus knew the woman’s God-given faith.  He tested it knowing it would not fail but grow stronger through the test. Jesus makes it clear to the Canaanite woman, His disciples, and everyone since, that He is fully committed to accomplishing God’s salvation plan in God’s way and time. That plan was for Him to be descended from Israel and to accomplish His salvation within the nation of Israel. Of course, it did not limit His salvation to Israel either then or now! The woman had been gifted by God with complete humility. She understood her total unworthiness. She was also gifted with great faith! She knew the totality of her need. She believed that the mercy of God would graciously meet that need. Jesus made clear to His disciples and us what that woman already knew – God’s help and salvation is totally a matter of grace, undeserved love. We don’t deserve and cannot merit His help and forgiveness. Equally important, His action – which He knew from the very beginning He would do – would show that it is God’s will and desire to give people the help and forgiveness they need.

Prayer: LORD, give us true humility that admits its total unworthiness by nature. Then, give us faith in Your forgiveness that lifts up the humble and restores them as Your beloved children in Christ.

 

Please read Matthew 15:29-39

Question(s) for personal consideration or family discussion:  Take note of the actions of the people in verses 29-31! What did they do?  How could such behavior be imitated by us today?  Why do you think Jesus asked the disciples to take stock of their supplies? Look at the actions of Jesus in verses 35,36. What is there to imitate? Don’t just pass by this well-known story!  What difference could it make in your life today?

Possible answer(s): The people who know Him and what He can do want to be with Him. They bring others to Him. They continue to be amazed at Him and what He does. They praise God for it all! Do you joyfully seek fellowship with Him in this devotion time? In public worship time? When was the last time you invited someone to come or come back to Him? How can you give Him glory in your daily life? Jesus asked the disciples to “check the inventory” so that they would humbly be aware of their poverty in the face of such great need. He would then teach them not to despair of their lack but to seek from God’s bounty. In faith Jesus looked to the Father for what was needed. He was confident that the need would be met.  \He gave thanks for God’s goodness as He enjoyed and shared it. God richly and daily meets our needs, often giving us far more than we need! May we honor Him by facing our challenges without worry, confident that His grace will supply our need.

Prayer:  LORD, I am so ashamed of my slowness to lead others to you; of my failure to really “get it” that Your grace is sufficient to meet my needs. Thanks for Your forgiveness and for everything else I have which also comes from You. Forgiven and refreshed I go forth to serve You.

 

Please read Matthew 16:1-4

Question(s) for personal consideration or family discussion: What made these Pharisees and Sadducees a “wicked and adulterous generation”? What was the result of their unbelief? 

Possible answer(s):  They didn’t trust God; they tested God! They approached Him from a spirit of unbelief that wanted to make Him prove His worthiness to be trusted by them. The signs of His love were all around them! The proof of Jesus having been sent by Him was overwhelming!  They refused to see it. So, He would direct them to the greatest sign of all – His resurrection from the dead. All of this is easy for us to see; BUT! While seeing their behavior, which was worthy of condemnation, do I see how I too test God and fail to trust Him?!  

Prayer: Savior, thank You for my faith and for Your forgiveness of my slowness to believe.  Help me to always see the signs of Your love, especially the “sign of the cross”. Seeing, may I go forth to serve.

 

Please read Matthew 16:5-12

Question(s) for personal consideration or family discussion: What kind of things tended to dominate the thoughts and time of Jesus’ disciples?  What would Jesus have them think about instead?

Possible answer(s): Like us in our weakness and foolishness, Jesus’ disciples then tended to think most about temporal physical things. They worried and fussed over those things often forgetting what God had promised and had done for them with respect to their “daily bread”.  Jesus wanted them to ponder spiritual eternal things – things about their soul – with the freedom that comes from knowing that their bodily needs would be met and with the proper sense of what’s most important. Ask yourself:  do I “follow” the political news, the stock market and sports more than the Spirit’s words? Remember Matthew 6:33: “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to you!”

Prayer: Jesus You have met the needs of my soul and You have promised to meet the needs of my body. Please help me to be most concerned about my soul and to satisfy its needs by spending time with You.  All the while keep me confident that the very real needs of my body will also graciously be given me by You! AND THANKS FOR IT ALL!!

 

Please read Matthew 16:13-20

Background: In verse 17 there is a “play on words” which is not obvious in our English translations.  Jesus calls Simon - “Peter”.  The Greek word is “petros” – it means rock.  Then Jesus proceeds to talk about “petra”, which means foundation stone. He is NOT saying His church will be built upon “petros”, Peter; but upon “petra”, the foundation stone of what Peter just confessed – that Jesus is the Christ, the Promised Savior. Jesus describes His church’s giving or withholding of forgiveness as either lifting or retaining a burden on someone’s back. Sin and guilt is lifted from the back (the conscience) of those who confess their sin and believe in Christ.  It remains on the back of those who are impenitent or who do not believe.

Question(s) for personal consideration or family discussion: Peter sees clearly who Jesus is.  How did He get that 20/20 vision? The confession that Jesus is the Christ, the promised Savior, is the rock upon which Jesus builds His church. How does this construction get done? What about the project – its activity and its completion (see verse 18b)?

Possible answer(s): God the Father, through the work of His Holy Spirit, opened Peter’s eyes to see who Jesus really was. God builds His church out of “living stones”, people. This construction takes place as His people confess the truth about Jesus and share the forgiveness of sins which He purchased for all by His death on the cross. As the church builds on that foundation, it will be opposed by the devil but will not be overcome. In fact, Satan’s kingdom – “the gates of Hades” – will not be able to withstand the church as it carries out its mission! Souls will be won from Satan’s kingdom, rescued for the kingdom of Christ!

Prayer: Savior, keep me solidly built upon You and what You have done.  Use me to share what You have done with others so that they too may be built upon You

 

Please read Matthew 16:21-28  

Background: Peter’s confession on behalf of the disciples showed that they clearly knew who Jesus was, the Promised Messiah – their Savior. Now they would also have to learn and accept(!) the painful facts about how He would earn salvation for them.  It would be costly!! 

Question(s) for personal consideration or family discussion: What would prompt Peter to say “Never LORD!  This shall never happen to You!”? Peter may have thought his words were good and would be pleasing to Jesus, in fact, what were his words? By God’s will, what would there have to be in the life of Christ? In the lives of His followers?  What would they need to be willing to do if they would follow this One they knew to be the Christ?

Possible answer(s): Peter was driven by emotion not knowledge. He was trying to proudly assert his will instead of humbly accepting God’s will. That made Peter’s will “Satanic”, that is, opposition to God’s will and a hindrance to Jesus instead of a help. that is why Jesus, for the sake of the disciples then and now, so emphatically rebuked Peter. The cross was decreed for Jesus. It would pay for our sins. There will be crosses too for those who follow the Crucified. Such followers need to rely upon what He did for them on His cross. They also need to accept in faith the crosses that will come as they follow Him to the home which He has purchased for them.

Prayer:  Dear Jesus, I am eternally grateful that when You knew the Father’s will You perfectly accepted it. Joyfully and resolutely You went to the cross accepting and following the Father’s plan for our salvation. As I trust in You, may I in faith also find and follow the Father’s will for my life.