Matthew 28 – 11/15/17

 Third Day – Wednesday of Eighth Week
 
Matthew 28 – You can’t always find Jesus where you left him.  But don’t worry – he’ll find you.
 
          The tomb in which Jesus was laid, and which was sealed and guarded, and which the women had left shut and secure just a day or so before – the tomb was empty.  Jesus wasn’t where they left him.  But he showed up where they were and simply said, “Hi.”  Then he told them to go tell his disciples to meet him up north in Galilee.
 
They did.  Even when they saw Jesus alive, some still had questions about all of this (I would). Jesus still included them in his instructions.  As if they needed telling, he told them that everything God had – authority over all creation, heaven and earth – was his also.  “So,” he said, “go tell everybody.  Everybody, in every nation and among every ethnic group – everybody.  Invite them to follow me, just like you did.  Initiate them into our family when they do.  And then teach them what I’ve taught you.  And don’t worry or panic, even when you think you’ve lost me – I will never lose you.  I’ll be there.  I will always be there until the Father makes everything new.”                                                       
 
Reflection:  Thank you, Father, that you’ve never left your broken and rebellious creation.  Thank you for inviting anyone and everyone to come to you.  Thank you for forgiving us, at your great expense.  And, now that I Include Jesus in my life, thank you for the promise that you will never leave me.  Oh, Father – help me to never leave you!  Help me read this story about Jesus again and again and again.  Help me, now and forever, to Include Jesus on every area of my life.
         
            And, Father, when the day comes in which you make all things new, because of Jesus – please include me.


Matthew 27 – 11/14/17

Second Day – Tuesday of Eighth Week
 
Matthew 27 – Could the story get any darker and more sinister?  Yes.
 
Judas the betrayer hangs himself.  The Jewish leadership hands Jesus over to Pilate, the Roman governor, and insists that Jesus be executed.  Pilate’s cynicism about this stubborn, nationalistic people is only reinforced when the leadership persuades the masses to exchange Jesus’ life for that of a known rebel and killer.  The Roman soldiers, enduring the frustration of deployment to this dusty land with its volatile people, take out their frustration on Jesus as they mock and beat him.  Then he is led away to be crucified.  The sky grows dark, the earth convulses, the temple is rattled to its core, tombs shake loose their dead – and Jesus dies.  
 
Someone loans Jesus’ family a tomb and a large platter-like stone is rolled across its entrance.  For good measure, the Jewish leaders persuade Pilate to post a guard to protect the tomb from vandals – or disciples.  It’s over.  It is finished.  
 
A story about any other person would end here.                          
 
Reflection:  On the darkest, bleakest days of your life – Include Jesus.  No matter how dark it is, the story is not over.


Matthew 26 – 11/13/17

Learning to Include Jesus: Reading through Matthew’s Gospel

EIGHTH WEEK

First Day – Monday of Eighth Week

Matthew 26 – The intensity of the last hours of Jesus’ life is nail-biting.  Matthew tells the story with a tightening spiral of events.  He circles from one extreme to the other, good to bad, positive to negative:

the leaders of the Jews agree to kill Jesus (3-5)

+ Jesus is anointed by a woman in Bethany (6-13)

Judas agrees to betray Jesus (14-16); yet Jesus still invites him to repent (17-25)

+ Jesus shapes his last Passover into a reminder of the New Covenant in his coming sacrifice (26-30)

Jesus predicts Peter’s denial (31-35)

+ Jesus takes three disciples with him to pray (they sleep)(36-46)

Jesus is arrested and deserted by his followers (47-56)    

Jesus is unjustly tried by his own religious leaders, who sentence him to death (57-68)         

Just as Jesus said he would, Peter denies Jesus three times (69-75)

The story spirals down into depths of injustice, betrayal, aloneness.                          

 

Reflection:  Oh, Lord – may I learn to Include You in all of my life.  And, most importantly, Lord — may I never exclude you to your hurt and my shame.



Matthew 25 – 11/12/17

 

Seventh Day – Sunday of Seventh Week
 

Matthew 25 – Two parables that teach us to be ready for the Lord’s return.  We are warned to be faithful to what we should be doing as we wait for Jesus.  I find myself at the same place I was in chapter 22: “Jesus, give me a clear list of what you expect me to do!”  I think the last parable of this chapter tells me.  In this well-known parable about separating sheep and goats at the end of time, the list of expectations is repeated four times.  No one with any sense at all could miss it.  

Feed the hungry.
Include the stranger.
Clothe those without clothes.
Keep close to the sick and to those in prison.      
 
          Jesus simply repeats what he said about the most important commandment in chapter 22: Love God.  Love other people.  Love even the hungry, the outsider, the naked, the sick, and the prisoner.  Love God by loving them.  Jesus never said people had to deserve it.


Matthew 24 – 11/11/17

 Sixth Day – Saturday of Seventh Week

Matthew 24 – This chapter has some familiar phrases often heard in discussions of Jesus’ return: “wars and rumors of wars;” “famines and earthquakes;” “this gospel . . . will be preached in the whole       world . . . and then the end will come;” “learn this lesson from the fig tree.”  Among committed Christians, detailed interpretations of this chapter have varied since the chapter was written.  The one part agreed upon by most all is this: “Keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come” (42).  So be faithful in what God has taught you to do.  Live ready to give an account of what you’ve done with your life.  Live in such a way that you don’t have to worry about signs and pointers to the Lord’s return.  Live in a way that frees you to be excited at his return because you have nothing to fear or be ashamed of.             

 

Reflection:  If you knew that Jesus would return tomorrow, how would that change what you are doing today?  Why not make that change now?  



Matthew 23 – 11/10/17

 Fifth Day – Friday of Seventh Week
 
Matthew 23 – At this point, reflect on our reading so far from Luke and Matthew.  As you have followed, watched, and listened to Jesus, when have you seen him angry?  What kinds of things did he get angry about?  Is there a pattern to Jesus’ “boiling points”?
 
          This entire chapter is given to Jesus’ anger at the most popular religious leaders of his day.  Is the anger expressed here consistent with what we’ve seen in other scenes from Jesus’ ministry? What seems to provoke Jesus’ anger most?  That may be a clue for us about what truly angers God.    
 
Reflection: As you Include Jesus in your life, how would watching him affect what angers you?


Matthew 22 – 11/9/17

Fourth Day – Thursday of Seventh Week
 

Matthew 22 – If you could talk with Jesus face to face, what question would you most want to ask him?  From the scenes in this chapter, I don’t think you could ask any question he couldn’t handle.  But Jesus always seemed to see past the simple “yes/no” and “either/or” answers and deep into the core principles beneath the questions.  

 
          Government or God? Both – in proper order.
 
          Marriage and eternal life?  Eternal life is a vastly from this life.  Some very important structures now will be very different then.
 
         Which of all the 613 commandments that the Jews found in the scripture were the most important?  Give up counting – just love God with everything you are and love the people around you with the same concern you have for yourself.
 
Personally, most days, I’d rather simply have a book of “Kingdom Laws” to consult.  It would relieve me.  I wouldn’t have to struggle with my attitudes and motives about God and other people.
 
Reflection: In the last scene in the chapter, Jesus asks a question about who the people think he really is.  From how you Include Jesus in your life today, what’s your answer?


Matthew 21 – 11/8/17

Third Day – Wednesday of Seventh Week

Matthew 21 – The King is coming!  Jesus rides into Jerusalem where he is greeted by the common people as their long-awaited king (1-11).  And the first thing King Jesus does is clean house (12-17).  Three of the remaining four scenes speak warning to those who should have kept the king’s house in order.  There are three questions that come from those warnings: (1) Do you bear fruit? (18-22) (2) Do you talk a better game than you play? (28-32) (3) Do you think you can operate the king’s business without him?  (33-46)  

          Could the same warnings apply to those who claim to know the King today? As Christians: do we bear fruit?  Do we live our promises or do we merely speak our praise?  Do we think we can operate our churches without the Lord?                                                                       

Reflection: Where does the cleaning need to begin in my life if I truly Include Jesus?  Why would I praise him or even claim to know him if I don’t really trust him as my King?



Matthew 20 – 11/7/17

Learning to Include Jesus: Reading through Matthew’s Gospel

SEVENTH WEEK

Second Day – Tuesday of Seventh Week

Matthew 20 – Grace is unfair to those who keep score and insist that everyone get only what they’ve earned (1-16).

Jesus certainly didn’t earn what he got! (17-19)

And those who keep score don’t mind pointing out how far ahead of everyone else they are.  Even their own mothers can tell you what they’ve earned! (20-23).

The big advantage blind men have is – they know they can’t see (29-34).

 

Reflection: Include Jesus in your scorekeeping.  And ask to see what he’s given you that you didn’t earn.

 



Matthew 19 – 11/6/17

Learning to Include Jesus: Reading through Matthew’s Gospel

SEVENTH WEEK

First Day – Monday of Seventh Week

Matthew 19 – Upside down again!   The people of Jesus’ day could be as cavalier about marriage as many are today.  And, like many people today, folks of Jesus’ day thought wealth proved a person’s superiority – especially their spiritual superiority.  Since so few people had any money at all – surely God loved the ones with a lot of money more than others!   

           But, once again, Jesus turns human assumptions on their heads.  Jesus says that marriage is not trivial.  It is a lasting commitment created and consecrated by God.  Wealth, however, is not lasting – but it can keep a person committed to it from the only thing that is lasting – the Kingdom of God.   In between these two reversals of common human values, Matthew records Jesus – once again – pointing to children as embodying the primary characteristic of citizens of the Kingdom: humility.  It takes humility to live in a lasting marriage.  It takes humility to trust your security, status, and safety to God rather than money.                      

           Reflection:  Today, Include Jesus, in your marriage and in your money.  He can help you keep both in proper perspective.