Please read Matthew 23:1-12
Background: After delivering His people at the Red Sea, God told His people to remember the event and celebrate it in years to come. It would be like a “sign on your hand and a reminder on your forehead”. That celebration was to affect their thoughts (“head”) and actions (“hands”). (Exodus 13:9) Later the LORD indicated that He wanted His law also to be imprinted on their minds and to affect their behavior. (Deuteronomy 6:8; 11:18) For this purpose the Jews later made “phylacteries”, little leather boxes to be worn on their forehead and forearm. Inside those boxes would be passages from the Scriptures like those above along with the “shema”, the passage that says “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is One.” (Deuteronomy 6:4). (Strict Jews still wear such “boxes” during their morning devotion time.
Questions for personal consideration or family discussion: With respect to the official leadership of the teachers of the law and the Pharisees, what does Jesus expect of His disciples? What is the heart of Jesus’ criticism of the Pharisees? Does Jesus mean that you can’t call your dad father or that we can’t call someone working in our school teacher?
Possible answers: Jesus expects His disciples to be respectful to the authorities that God permits to be in authority in society, including in the church. We are to obey them as long as they do not ask us to believe or do something God has forbidden or to not believe or do something God has commanded. (See Acts 5:29) The heart of the problem with the Pharisees was their religious behavior was done to incur the favor and praise of men rather than to honor and serve God. God uses leaders in our home or church to lead us to Christ. They are not to be viewed as our spiritual fathers or the supreme teacher. God is our Father and our supreme Teacher is Christ.
Prayer: By Your Spirit, O LORD, give us sincere hearts that recognize we are Your children through faith in Christ and that seek to live to honor You alone.
Please read Matthew 23:13-22
Background: These verses begin the “seven woes” that Jesus pronounces upon the Pharisees for the evil they promote. Jesus is speaking the truth in love to them to blast them out of their self-righteousness. He is calling them to repentance. Notice how Jesus here exposes the foolish rationalizations and unreasonable self-made rules of the Pharisees.
Questions for personal consideration or family discussion: How did the Pharisees “shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces”? What happened to all who followed the Pharisees’ teaching?
Possible answers: The Pharisees refused to enter the kingdom of God through faith in the Messiah the God of Israel had sent. They would continue to try to storm heaven’s entrance on their own merit. People who followed their foolishness would end up deserving a double dose of hell for compounding their sin with self-righteousness.
Prayer: LORD, keep me always basing my relationship with You only upon the merits of Jesus Christ who was crucified and raised to life again for me. Awesome God, You alone are worthy of praise
Please read Matthew 23:23-28
Background: The Phraisees would strain their wine before they drank it to make certain that no speck of some unclean matter was in it. (“You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel” verse 24)
Questions for personal consideration or family discussion: What are the tell-tale signs of a true child of God? How does Jesus here reinforce what His Spirit said through David: “Create in me a pure heart, O God…” (Psalm 51:10).
Possible answers: A true child of God will be seen not in their self-focused fussiness but in their pursuit of godly concerns for “justice, mercy, and faithfulness”. When the heart is pure through sincere confession of sin, sorrow over one’s failures, and faith in God’s mercy – then, one’s outward life will also be “clean”, pursuing godliness from a sincere heart.
Prayer: Indeed LORD, create in me a pure heart and renew a steadfast spirit within me every day!
Please read Matthew 23:29-39
Questions for personal consideration or family discussion: How would these teachers of the law and Pharisees fill up the measure of the sin of their fathers”? Of what awful consequence was Jesus warning them? What does verse 37 reveal about the heart of Jesus which spoke these harsh woes of warning? Can you seen any hope that some at least heard and repented?
Possible answers: Their ancestors persecuted and put to death the prophets of God; this generation would seek the death of His Son! If they continued in their murderous opposition to the God they claimed to serve, His righteous wrath would bring upon them the recompense for what they had done. All of Jesus’ words and actions came from a pure heart, a heart of love for God and for these undeserving sinners. They were not willing to be gathered to Him; yet, on the last day some of them would say, “blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD”. That sounds not like the begrudged confession that “Jesus is LORD” that even the devil and unbelievers will utter on that day, but a confession that comes from faith.
Prayer: Savior, we know that the same sinful seed of unbelief is found in our old self too. Always keep our heart soft and receptive to You and Your loving words. Give me the desire to daily read Your Word. Help me to understand what I read and to live according to it.
Please read Matthew 24:1-14
Background: It is imperative that we understand the context of this entire chapter. These words of Jesus are in response to a double question from His disciples: “when will this (the destruction of the temple) happen , and what will be the sign of Your coming and of the end of the age?” As Jesus answers, some times He is talking about the destruction of Jerusalem and sometimes about the end of the world. Sometimes it applies to both. It is also important to know that they destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, which would happen in 70 A.D., was a picture or type of the final judgment.
Questions for personal consideration or family discussion: With what were the disciples impressed? What will happen to the greatest works of the human race, the ones that really impress us? What is truly impressive and lasts? There are many signs of the return of Christ. Can you determine three general categories under which those signs can be found?
Possible answers: The disciples were impressed by what people had done with their own hands, the temple, a triumph of human engineering. Like all works of man it would be eventually destroyed. Some wise Christian said: “Just one life; ‘tis soon past; only what’s done for Christ will last!” How true! The glorious thing was not the temple man had made, but that the true and living God permitted Himself to be found with His grace and mercy at that place! Those who receive that grace and mercy and rely on it; such people do works that glorify God. Those works endure for eternity and will receive a gracious reward. Wow! The signs of Christ can be found under three types: signs in nature; signs in society; signs in the church.
Prayer: Jesus, may we not be impressed by anything we or other humans have done. Instead, let us be awed by Your work, especially Your work of salvation! Empowered by Your Spirit, do awesome things through us – things that glorify You and bless others.
Please read Matthew 24:15-35
Background: The Bible speaks of only one return of our LORD, Jesus Christ. That return will come on the last day. It will be visible everywhere on the planet (see verses 27,28). That day is also judgment day. On that day believers will be separated from unbelievers. Many Christians today accept the foolishness and falsehood of a teaching called “the Rapture”; a supposed event a thousand years before Christ’s return when Christians would supposedly be taken from the earth while everyone else is “left behind”.
Questions for personal consideration or family discussion: With respect to the readings from yesterday and today, did you notice something about the signs of the end that Jesus gave? How do these verses impact the lives of Christians today? What will be the response when Jesus’ returns?
Possible answers: All the signs of Christ’s return, except the ones that occur momentarily before that return (verse 29) have already been fulfilled. We should be expecting Christ at every moment while we live lives of repentant faith. When He returns the response will be one of two extremes – extreme mourning or extreme joy. Those responses will be perpetuated for eternity.
Prayer: Savior, keep me watching anticipating Your return with eager faith. Holy Spirit, awaken in me a new desire to hear and learn the Word.
Please read Matthew 24:36-51
Questions for personal consideration or family discussion: How can it be that the Son doesn’t know what day will be judgment day? (verse 36) What is the Christian’s perspective on life and Christ’s return? What will earthly life be like immediately prior to the return of Jesus?
Possible answers: During His state of humiliation the Godman chose not to make continuous full use of the power and glory He had inherited through the union of His human nature with His divine nature. Therefore, He didn’t know the day or hour of His return. He will certainly come suddenly and it may be soon – I need to always be living in repentant faith. Life just before He returns will be disarmingly “normal” everybody busy with doing their own thing; many people unmindful of the possibility of His return let alone its imminence.
Prayer: Today LORD? Tonight LORD? Keep me watching, waiting and meanwhile, working for You. You have served us through your Son Jesus Christ and won for us the gift of our salvation. Now You give us opportunities to serve You, and Your faithful people are quick to respond. Thank You, Lord, for your service and for the gift of those whom You have moved to serve. Continue to use such people in service to the glory of Your name and the benefit of Your children.