A miracle is an event that cannot be explained by natural or scientific laws. Such an event may be attributed to a supernatural being (a deity), magic, a miracle worker, a saint or a religious leader.
In a blog, “Are Miracles Real?” Craig S. Keener writes, “Many people today are familiar with miracle stories in the Bible — the parting of a sea, water turned to wine, and, most frequently in the New Testament, healings, even of blindness, leprosy, and the reversal of recent death. Yet it is not just people in the first century who have believed in miracles. Various polls peg U.S. belief in miracles at roughly 80 percent. One survey suggested that 73 percent of U.S. physicians believe in miracles, and 55 percent claim to have personally witnessed treatment results they consider miraculous.”
Jesus the Miracle Worker: Jesus of Nazareth performed many miracles, demonstrating his power over nature and spirits, and thus confirming that the Kingdom of God is at hand. One notes that only three miracles appear in all four Gospels: his own Resurrection (Matthew 28, Mark 16, Luke 24, and John 20), the greatest miracle of them all; the feeding of the 5000 through the multiplication of the loaves, found in Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:10-17, and John 6:1-14; and, while different individuals are involved, Jesus heals the blind (Matthew 9:27-31, Mark 8:22-26, Luke 18:35-43, and John 9).
A Common Denominator of Miracles: When we consider the miracles perfumed in Matthew and the other Gospel, we see “Faith” being the common denominator. It is quite true that faith is an important aspect in healing, and that the healing is often required to demonstrate it. But it is not only the faith of the person being prayed for that is necessary—the faith of the “pray-ers” have also produced miraculous faith healing results.
The Faith of the Centurion: ‘“When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.” Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?” The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith”’ (Matthew 8:5-10)
The Woman Sick from Bleeding: ‘“Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.” Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment. (Matthew 9:20-22).
The Gospel of Matthew: READING OUTLINE for February 27- March 5, 2017
The Commissioning of the 12 Apostles ( ch. 10)
Ministry throughout Galilee ( chapters 11-12)
The Parables of the Kingdom ( ch. 13)
Herod’s Reaction to Jesus’ Ministry (ch. 14:1-12)
The Sermon on the Mount is a collection of sayings and teachings of Jesus, which emphasizes his moral teaching found in the Gospel of Matthew (chapters 5, 6, and 7).
When Jesus ascends a mountain, and begins to address the crowds (verses 1-2), the reader is expected to make the connection to another teacher (Moses), and another mountain (Sinai). And soon enough, Jesus will complete that picture by offering instruction in righteousness — the Sermon on the Mount will have plenty to say about what we, as kingdom people, should and should not do.
But that’s not how his famous sermon begins. It begins with a list, but not with a list of “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots.” The list we find here is in the indicative mood, not the imperative. It is description, not prescription. Jesus is not insisting that we become people who starve to see justice done (verse 6) — I suppose you either do or you don’t. What he is saying is that such people are blessed of God. God looks upon such people with favor. God’s eye is on them; they will be happy in the end. This, says Jesus, is the way things are.
The Beatitudes are eight blessings in the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew. Each is a proverb-like proclamation, without narrative, “cryptic, precise, and full of meaning. Each one includes a topic that forms a major biblical theme”. The Beatitudes begins with the word “Blessed.” The word means more than “happy,” because happiness is an emotion often dependent on outward circumstances. “Blessed” here refers to the ultimate well-being and distinctive spiritual joy of those who share in the salvation of the kingdom of God.
The Beatitudes begins at verse 3 thru verse 12, but Jesus, the great teacher, continues to teach through chapters 5-7. Read these chapters slowly and learn from Jesus’ Words. Following are a few highlights:
Salt and Light: “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (verses 13-16).
Love for Enemies: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[i] and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (verses 43-44).
Ask, Seek, Knock: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (chapter 7:7-8).
Judging Others: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (chapter 7:1-2).
Remember, the Word of God is “A lamp unto our feet and a light unto our pathway.”
The Beginning of the Galilean Campaign – Jesus Begins to Preach:
‘“When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”’ (v. 12-17)
Verses 15-16: We read another Messianic prophecy from Isaiah. Jesus spent most of his public ministry “in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali” (v.13), which is north and west of the Sea of Galilee.
Unlike the Gospel of John, Matthew does not identify Jesus as the light of the world. Nonetheless, the prophecy from Isaiah makes clear that Jesus’ return to Galilee will be the occasion for those who sit in darkness to see “a great light” (Matthew 4:16-17). No doubt Jesus’ ministry of teaching and healing is the basis for that light.
Verse 17: Repent! Jesus began his public ministry with the same message as that of John the Baptist (3:2). The people must repent because God’s reign was drawing near in the person of Jesus.
The Calling of the First Disciples – Jesus calls people as they are, from where they are, being who they are: As Jesus walks beside the water, the soon-to-be-disciples are engaged in their everyday jobs: earning a living for themselves and their families by fishing in the Sea of Galilee. They are probably at the lower end of the socio-economic ladder; their work is dirty and physically challenging, and it demands their attention from sunup to sundown.
Jesus does not seem to be bothered by their grimy fingernails, their wet and dirty clothing, not even by their low social status or lack of political power. The One with the kingly pedigree (see the birth narrative) does not demand that they shower up before joining his mission, nor does he ask questions about their education, their abilities, nor their availability for an extended time away from home.
To Simon and Andrew, Jesus promises to expand their skills: these men who cast nets for fish will one day catch people, instead. As for the sons of Zebedee, James and John, they receive only a call: no hints about what follows, no details about the mission, no promises of success. Remarkably, all four of these people, just as they are, follow after this stranger who interrupts their daily routine. All that is asked of them at this point is simply that they follow: as they are, from where they are, being who they are. As is true for the followers of Jesus who come after them, the meaning of their choice will unfold only over time.
Verse 23: Teaching…Preaching…Healing – This is the beginning of Jesus’ threefold ministry. The synagogues provided a place for him to teach on the Sabbath. During the week, he preached to larger crowds in the open air.
“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” (v. 4:1-3).
Temptation is a fundamental desire to engage in short-term urges for enjoyment, that threatens long-term goals. In the context of some religion, temptation is the inclination to sin. Temptation also describes the coaxing or inducing a person into committing such an act, by manipulation or otherwise of curiosity, desire or fear of loss.
The significance of Jesus’ temptations, especially because they occurred at the outset of his public ministry, seems best understood in terms of the kind of Messiah he was to be. He would not accomplish his mission by using his supernatural power for his own needs (first temptations), by using his power to win a large following by miracles or magic (second temptation) or by compromising with Satan (third temptation).
Jesus had no inward desire or inclination to sin, for these in themselves are sin. Because he was God he did not sin in any way, whether by actions or word or inner desire (2Co 5:21; Heb 7:26); 1Pe 2:22; 1Jn 3:5). Yet Jesus’ temptation was real, not merely symbolic. He was “tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin” (Heb 4:15).
Jesus’ forty days in the desert echo Israel’s forty years there. Like the people of Israel in their exodus from Egypt, Jesus is out in the wilderness, hungry and tempted. “If you are the son of God,” the devil says, “command these stones to become bread.” In other words, if you really are either royal or divine, prove it by using your power to your own benefit. What kind of god sits around listening to his stomach growl instead of showing off his power and feeding himself? What kind of king ever goes hungry?
In the final temptation, the devil promises to give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if only Jesus will worship him. The implications are stunning. The devil assumes that all authority in the world belongs to him, to give to others as he chooses. But Jesus orders Satan to leave, saying, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him” (Deuteronomy 6:13).
Jesus has come not to rule Satan’s kingdom, but to proclaim and to bring the reign of God. After the resurrection, Jesus will receive all authority in heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18), but it will be God’s gift, not Satan’s.
“Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him” (v.11). The wilderness tests of the Temptation account are not a one-time ordeal to get through, but they are tests of preparation for the choices Jesus makes in his earthly ministry. Finally, Jesus as the one who remained faithful in temptation became the model for all believers when they are tempted. God surely tests his people, but it is the devil who surely tempts to evil.
John the Baptist the Forerunner (3:1-12): In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him’” (verses 1-3).
John the Baptist Prepares the Way: John the Baptist was born 7 B.C. to Zechariah, a priest, and his wife Elizabeth (see Lk 1:5-80). John the Baptizer is a colorful prophetic figure who introduces the story of Jesus in all four Gospels. He dresses like Elijah, and he sounds like Isaiah or Amos. In both the Matthew and Mark accounts, John is introduced to us as the fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3. All three Synoptic Gospels quote Isaiah 40:3 (Luke quotes two additional verses) and apply it to John the Baptist.
John the Baptist message is one of repentance, or metanoia, to use the Greek word. It refers to far more than saying one is sorry for past sins, far more than mere regret or remorse for such sins. It refers to a turning away from the past way of life and the inauguration of a new one, in this case initialized by an act of baptism.
The Baptism of Jesus (3:13–17): “Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us, to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.”
This occasion marked the beginning of Christ’s Messianic ministry. There were several reasons for Jesus’ baptism: 1) The first, mentioned here, was “to fulfill all righteousness.” The baptism indicated that he was consecrated to God and officially approved by God, as especially shown in the descent of the Holy Spirit (v. 16) and the words of the Father (v.17; c.f. Ps. 2:7; Isa 42:1). All of God’s righteous requirements for the Messiah were fully met in Jesus. 2) At Jesus’ baptism John publicly announced the arrival of the Messiah and the inception of Jesus’ ministry (Jn 1:31-34).
OUTLINE – Monday, February 20- February 26, 2017
His Temptation (4:1–11)
Jesus’ Ministry in Galilee:
The Beginning of the Galilean Campaign (4:12–25)
The Sermon on the Mount (chs. 5–7)
A Collection of Miracles (chs. 8–9)