What “church” did Jesus expect? (Matthew 16:18)

There was no church at the time, so what did Jesus anticipate we would be? How does church relate to kingdom?

What did Jesus have in mind when he declared he would build his church (Matthew 16:18)?

Catholic hierarchy? Protestant associations? Street-corner buildings with good music? Organizations doing good in the community? A temple to replace the one Rome would destroy in Jerusalem?

Continue reading “What “church” did Jesus expect? (Matthew 16:18)”

Peter as pope? (Matthew 16:18-19)

Did Jesus make Peter pope, with power to justify people?

Matthew 16 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. (NIV)

To understand Jesus’ words, we must deal with the elephant in the room, the superstructure Catholics have built on them. These verses are central to Catholicism. Visit Capernaum today and you’ll see a larger-than-life statue of Peter with the keys (above). Visit the Vatican, and it’s a crucial image in the Sistine Chapel. Continue reading “Peter as pope? (Matthew 16:18-19)”

Jesus as global leader (Matthew 16:13-17)

The good news is a person.

“You are the king, the elect heir of the living God!” Is that the declaration you ask people to make when you share the gospel?

We explained this was Peter’s declaration. Understanding what he said will move us from theology about Jesus into his regal mission for global restoration.

Continue reading “Jesus as global leader (Matthew 16:13-17)”

Declaring Jesus king (Matthew 16:13-16)

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” — Apostle Peter, first century

“Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God?” It’s the question I often ask when baptizing believers. Our faith is in a person, and Peter nailed it with his declaration. So, what did Peter mean by this great confession?

There’s a temptation to invest Peter’s words with later theological meaning and miss what he said. His phrases have snowballed with significant theological freight:

  • Christology is the study of the person and work of Christ. His person embodied two natures (fully God and fully human), so his work reconciled God and humans (atonement).
  • Son of God is a term we associate with trinitarian theology: the relationship between Father and Son who, with the Spirit, exist eternally as one God (trinity).

All of that is true and important, but this developed theology was not in Peter’s mind. Rather than treat his words anachronistically, let’s hear them in their context.

Continue reading “Declaring Jesus king (Matthew 16:13-16)”

How the kingdom rises (Matthew 16:5-12)

Our role: kneading or feeding?

Matthew 16 6 “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (NIV)

If you want dough to rise, why punch it down? Who figured out you could aerate a loaf by punching the air out of it? Continue reading “How the kingdom rises (Matthew 16:5-12)”

Israel’s king as cosmic king? (Matthew 8:21-39)

Who can receive from his table?

Open Matthew 15:21-39.

The intriguing twist in Matthew’s Gospel is watching the king of Israel become king of the world.

Matthew’s opening situates Jesus in Israel’s story. The anointed Davidic ruler (1:1) is born into the derailed story of Israel’s kings (1:16-17), to save his people and fulfil what God decreed (1:21-23).

In Matthew’s closing paragraph, this king has authority to reign over the whole earth with heaven’s power. The nations are learning to live under his command, in his present and enduring reign (28:18-20).

Is this just a surprise ending? Or are there moves in Matthew’s story towards this goal? Continue reading “Israel’s king as cosmic king? (Matthew 8:21-39)”

What is faith? (podcast) (Matthew 8:5-13)

Jesus marvelled at the faith of one person, describing it as “a great faith.” Who was this guy, and what can he teach us about faith?

This podcast (19 minutes) examines the essence of our faith — who we believe, and what we’re believing for.

 

Related posts

 


Matthew 8:5–13 (NIV)
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.”

10 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. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.

 

What the heart speaks (Matthew 15:10-20)

Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth tweets. (@LPtrckBrwn)

Open Matthew 15:10-20.

I grew up in a family with rules to keep us safe. To keep us from addictions, we didn’t drink, smoke, or gamble. To keep us from sexual temptation, we didn’t dance or go to movies. We were to read our Bibles and pray every day, with no work or sport on Sundays. To be holy meant to be separate from “the world.”

To be honest, I didn’t feel I was missing out. It was a rural setting, already socially isolated. It was a happy home, with parents who genuinely loved God and lived that love in our family. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

But as I grew up, I began to understand that, for adults, our rules didn’t live up to what they advertised. The rules tried to shelter us from outside influences, when the problem is within.

This is how Jesus saw it: Continue reading “What the heart speaks (Matthew 15:10-20)”

Jesus’ relational intelligence (Matthew 15:10-20)

Who’s managing the garden?

Open Matthew 15:10-20.

I’m blown away by the relational intelligence Jesus used in managing people, even those who threatened his leadership. He’d upset some locals through table fellowship with sinners, but a whole new threat level arrives when Pharisees and Bible teachers from Jerusalem come to undermine him (Matthew 15:1-2). To anyone who knows where the story is headed, this feels ominous.

Continue reading “Jesus’ relational intelligence (Matthew 15:10-20)”

Jesus’ authority as King (podcast) (Matthew 7:21-29)

When Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount, the crowds were amazed at his authority. What authority? What was the king expecting of his people? What is he expecting of us?

This podcast (25-minutes) covers the final statements of his most famous sermon, introduced in last week’s podcast.

 

Related posts

 

Matthew 7:21–29 (NIV)
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

Freed, or in fear? (Matthew 15:1-9)

There is a king who frees us from superstitious rituals and enslaving fears.

“Can we shower yet, or do we just keep washing our hands?” We need humour this year. We fear an unhealthy person infecting our community, and fear can keep us from community.

Only in the last 130 years have we seen germs, but people back in Bible times knew it was healthy to wash. Washing was already a symbol of ritual cleansing in the first books of the Bible (Torah).

Ritual washing became a point of contention between Jesus and the leaders of his culture:

Continue reading “Freed, or in fear? (Matthew 15:1-9)”

His healing presence (Matthew 14:33-36)

Can a king sort out what’s wrong by healing rather than jailing people?

Open Matthew 14:33-36

Jesus’ kingship is Matthew’s dominant theme. From the introductory sentence (“anointed ruler, son of David”) to the culminating declaration (“all authority in heaven and earth”), the kingdom of God is here because the king is here.

Matthew contrasts the world’s true king with our existing rulers. Herod built fortresses to defend his kingship and armies to enforce his decrees. He used prisons to silence critics like John the Baptist. Yet, Matthew shows remarkable empathy for Herod: Herod didn’t want to kill John; he was trapped by forces beyond himself (Matthew 14:9).

I love the way Matthew juxtaposes the earthly ruler’s party for himself in his palace (14:1-12) with the heavenly king’s provision for his people in the wilderness (14:13-21). Jesus is the Son who listens to his Father (14:23). That’s why he has authority to calm not only the earth but the unruly sea (14:24-32). His followers see him as the Son with the eternal sovereign’s authority (14:33).

The crowds also recognized Jesus as he returned to Gennesaret on the northwest shore of Galilee. The men in charge of this town sent messengers to notify everyone of his arrival. They honoured him as a person of significance, the reaction appropriate for a royal visitor or a representative of God.

Continue reading “His healing presence (Matthew 14:33-36)”

Beatitudes: blessings from the king (podcast)

Who benefits from Jesus’ kingship? (No, it’s not “everyone.”)

Jesus launched his most famous sermon with promises of blessing. Who were they for? What was he promising?

Was he telling those of us who are privileged and blessed how to be our best selves, how to be more blessing? Or was he promising that the world under his kingship would be different, that those who had missed out would finally be blessed?

Me and my blessings? Or Jesus and his kingship?

Have a listen (23 minutes).

 

Related posts

Previous podcast

 

Tyrants or tempests? From what does Jesus save? (Matthew 14:22-33)

“Jesus saves” from what? Tyrants (systemic injustice)? Tempests (natural disasters)? Transgressions (personal guilt)?

Open Matthew 14:22-33

Some disasters are manmade. We hurt each other in our families, businesses, and communities. We’re harmed by war, racism, the injustices of power. We also face disasters beyond human control: cyclones, earthquakes, pandemics. Which kind does Jesus save us from?

Matthew 14 answers that question.

Continue reading “Tyrants or tempests? From what does Jesus save? (Matthew 14:22-33)”

Is God angry with us?

God feels anger, because God is love.

It was the perfect site for a wedding: a quaint old church, perhaps the oldest in our state. Two nights before, the couple arrived for a practice. The chapel was open but unattended, so they went in and began arranging things. They didn’t know what the baptismal font was, so they were just moving it out of the way when the aged priest stormed in. To this day I can still hear the angry crescendo of his livid voice.

A priest is a representative of God. This priest was the image of an angry God waiting in the wings for you to do something wrong so he could pounce. Is God like that?

The Bible does speak of God’s anger. This week a small group leader asked about Ephesians 2:3b: Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. Is God angry with us?

Continue reading “Is God angry with us?”

Daniel: Who’s running the world? (podcast)

It could have been today’s news: Daniel describes superpowers mistreating people of Jewish ethnicity. But he saw a higher power running the world.

What is the message of the Book of Daniel? It’s not disconnected stories of lion’s dens and fiery furnaces. It’s not a mysterious code for dating the end of the world.

Daniel wrestles with, “Who runs the world?” This was no theoretical question, given that Babylon had taken over Jerusalem. Could the kingdoms of this world implement God’s rule? Or would the restoration of God’s reign require divine intervention? And how do God’s people cope in dark times?

This podcast (32 minutes) surveys the message of Daniel — the restoration of God’s kingship in a world gone wrong.

 

How to approach the Book of Revelation (podcast)

Where do you even start with a book like this? Look for Jesus: it’s all about him.

Revelation is the most puzzling and tantalizing book of the Bible. What’s it about?

This 30-minute podcast explains how John’s visions are about Jesus. The whole sweep of the Bible’s narrative comes together in this final episode, in the person who is good news for the world.

 

Previous podcast series on Genesis:

Joseph: servant of the king (podcast) (Genesis 37–50)

How did the patriarch Joseph contribute to the story of the kingdom of God? This podcast (20 minutes) shows us how to hear the story of Joseph as the story of God.

We’ve now surveyed Genesis in four podcasts. The previous three:

The Scripture Index contains 75 articles on Genesis if you’d like more detail.

 


Image: Egyptian throne, Tutankhamun exhibition.

Why did Paul never speak of Jacob?

If Jewish people find their identity in Jacob, why do Christians focus on Abraham?

Conversations make you think, especially conversations with people who see things differently to you.

Last year, I was chatting with a Rabbi about Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. She knew Christians emphasize Abraham, but for Jewish people the emphasis falls on the third person of the patriarchal triad. Jewish identity is children of Israel — literally, descendants of Jacob. The man Jacob was Israel in the first generation.

That’s why the name Jacob regularly referred to the nation of Israel in later generations, especially in poetic passages. The nation is not Abraham, but it is Jacob. Examples:
Psalm 53 … let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!
Isaiah 43 1 … he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel …

In the Psalms and latter prophets (Psalms – Malachi), Abraham’s name appears only 11 times, while Jacob’s name appears 127 times. The nation’s identity was primarily in Jacob, not Abraham.

So, why are Christians more focused on Abraham? Continue reading “Why did Paul never speak of Jacob?”

Jacob and the kingdom of God (podcast) (Genesis 25–36)

This podcast (27 minutes) discusses the significance of Jacob for the kingdom of God.

Jacob was Israel in the first generation. His life story is told in Genesis 25–36 in a way that his descendants could relate to, for the promises he received were being fulfilled through them.

 

Previous podcasts