Background: “After six days”, this is one of the very few times that Matthew includes a chronological reference. He is looking back to Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Christ and to Jesus’ explanation of His ultimate task as the true Christ, “…He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things…He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life”. Matthew is also looking forward to the event we are contemplating in today’s reading – the Father’s declaration of just Who this Christ is.
Question(s) for personal consideration or family discussion: How many connections with the Old Testament revelation and prophecy of God do you find in this event? How does God dispel the fear of the disciples? The glory was seen for a time on the mountain; then, it was “back to work”. What parallel can we find in this life of Christ with our own lives as disciples of Christ?
Possible answer(s): There is a clear connection with the Old Testament in this New Testament transfiguration event, some examples: the appearance of Moses and Elijah; the bright cloud like the one that led Israel on their way from Egypt to the promised land; the voice of God like the one heard at Mount Sinai; the declaration of the Messiah as “My Son”, reminiscent of Psalm 2; the instruction to “Listen to Him!”, like the prophecy of Deuteronomy 18:15. God dispels the disciples’ fear by letting them see only Jesus. Fortified by the Word of God in this glorious moment, Jesus boldly stepped forward to the last and fiercest struggle in His mission to rescue the world. The glory of the crown would come, but only after the conflict. The crown of glory awaits us too – “we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is”. (I John 3:2b) Until that time we “take up our cross and follow Him”!
Prayer: Dear Jesus, we praise You for the glory You share with the Father and the Holy Spirit. We especially give You thanks for the glory of Your grace displayed in Your humbling of Yourself for our salvation! Keep us strong and faithful as we take up our cross and follow You home.
Question(s) for personal consideration or family discussion: What was missing in the father? What was missing in the disciples? Why is even a little faith, “as small as a mustard seed” so powerful?
Possible answer(s): Faith! Aware of the fact that we have limitations, yet unaware of our weakness of faith, we set limitations for God too. Our faith is really small! Yet, even small faith when it has the right Object, has awesome power – “nothing will be impossible for you”.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, keep my eyes of faith focused only on You. Then, I will be strong and victorious no matter how impossible my circumstances may seem.
Question(s) for personal consideration or family discussion: Why didn’t Jesus have to pay the temple tax? Why did Jesus pay the temple tax? What was Jesus teaching Peter and us when He chose such a remarkable way of getting the funds He needed to pay the tax?
Possible answer(s): God’s people brought their temple taxes to honor God and take care of the needs of His temple. As God, Jesus was to be the recipient of the taxes. Yet, as our humble Savior, Jesus paid the tax instead of creating a situation that was beyond the tax collectors’ ability to understand. This is another simple example of what God inspired Paul to write in Philippians 2 – “Although being in very nature God, He didn’t consider equality with God something to be grasped but made Himself nothing…” We work so hard for money and it may seem that we will never have enough. We need to understand how small money really is and how easily God can supply what we need. “Go to the lake and throw out your line…” Turn to Him. Trust Him.
Prayer: Thank You Jesus for Your humble service which has saved us. May we in turn humbly but boldly trust in You to provide what we need as we faithfully use what You provide.
Please read Matthew 18:1-9
Background: Notice the contrast from the humility of Christ (witnessed yesterday and continually in the gospels) and the concern of Christ’s disciples for personal greatness!
Question(s) for personal consideration or family discussion: Jesus says if we hope to find entrance into the kingdom of God, we need to “change and become like little children”. What is this “change”? And, what are little children like? What view are we to take of children? What stern warnings does Jesus give to us?
Possible answer(s): The change that is needed is repentance. Humility comes with such repentance. Appreciation of God’s grace and an abandonment of our quest for greatness comes with that change. Simple childlike trust that takes God at His Word is what we need to be like. Seeing ourselves as valued children of God in Christ, we need to see the high value Jesus places on “these little ones who believe in me”!! We need to be examples of faith and godly living that encourage them instead of persons who cause them to lose their childlike trust in and love for God!! Let us each take a hard look at ourselves (“change!”) to see and to stop whatever may be causing others to sin and to doubt.
Prayer: Dear Savior, by Your Holy Spirit help me to see myself as a precious child of God. Then, help me to see other believers – especially children who believe! – for how precious they are too.
Please read Matthew 18:10-14
Question(s) for personal consideration or family discussion: What value did the Father give to children? What does “our Father in heaven” not want to happen? What view do you have of children – how valuable are they to you? What could you do because you recognize that value?
Possible answer(s): Little children, especially the ones who now belong to their Savior through infant/child faith, are precious to our Father in heaven!! They are covered with the precious blood of Jesus. They are temples in whom the LORD lives. Their angels don’t have to stand in line to get the Father’s attention if they are in need – they go to the head of the line! He doesn’t want any of them to lose their faith relationship with Him, their membership in His family. I need to value these children with the same high value. I need to be a good example of faith and love for them. I need to pray for them. I need to work with others to train them.
Prayer: Help me to be Your instrument in keeping Your children close to You and in winning other children – and adults – for Your kingdom! Lead us to be in Your Word daily, to worship frequently, and to willingly work to build up Your Kingdom.
Please read Matthew 18:15-20
Background: Anyone who confesses faith in Christ becomes our sister or brother in Christ. Any sin they commit or sinful behavior they continue in is a sin against God and the members of His family. It is therefore a sin against me even if I wasn’t the person in the direct path of their sin. (See David’s confession in Psalm 51:3,4 where he talks about his sin of adultery and murder. Even though Bathsheba and Uriah were the persons against whom he sinned, first and foremost his sin was against God!)
Question(s) for personal consideration or family discussion: What should motivate me that I should “go and show him his fault”? How soon should I do this? How many times should I try to talk to him about it? What steps can I follow? What will this all take?
Possible answer(s): Respect for God’s command and concern for my neighbor’s well being should motivate me to go to him when he has sinned. I shouldn’t go with my own feelings about what his sin has done to me as my main concern. I need to do this ASAP! Until he repents and as long as I think he is listening to me I need to try to talk to him. But, if it is clear that he is not listening to me, then I need to get other Christians, and finally the congregation itself, involved in this loving call to repentance. Among other things, this will take prayer, humility, love, courage, effort, and time.
Prayer: LORD Jesus, Lover of my soul, keep me in a godly path and penitent to the degree I stray from it. Help me to humbly accept my brother’s loving approach to me when I am guilty of sin. Forgive me for not loving my brother enough to go to him when it is clear sin is endangering his eternal relationship with You. Help me to love my sisters and brothers in this way too as You have loved me.
Please read Matthew 18:21-35
Question(s) for personal consideration or family discussion: What would you say is the main subject of this story? Who is the central, most important person in the story? Are you in the story?
Possible answer(s): Forgiveness is the subject. God, the Forgiver - as always - is the main Person in the story. I am in the story – so are you. I am there as the one who has sinned against God. I am there as the one who could never make payment to God for what I have done. I am there as the one who has hurt others (most of all those closest to me!) and can never undo the hurt that my sin has caused them. I am there as the one who has had his complete debt cancelled by the precious blood of Jesus. I am there as the one against whom others (most of all those closest to me) have sinned. I am there as the one who is tempted to forget my own sins and my own forgiveness but to remember what others have done to me. I am there as the one who is tempted to not forgive but to remember what others have done to me. YES I AM THERE! Now the questions are: seeing myself there, will I go on – believing that I have been forgiven? Seeing how small others’ sins against me are compared to my debt to God? Forgiving my brother from the heart as God has forgiven me?
Prayer: Dear Jesus, how much I need Your simple prayer: forgive me my sins as I forgive those who sin against me!!