A tale of two kings (Matthew 14:1-21)

How do we present Jesus as king, when he’s so different to the rulers appointed by this world?

Open Matthew 14:1-21.

Jesus’ regal authority can frighten people. We’ve all experienced power being abused. So how do we announce a king who cares for his people?

We’ll need to explain the contrast. Matthew shows us how by juxtaposing the stories of two kings. Continue reading “A tale of two kings (Matthew 14:1-21)”

Feeding the multitude (Matthew 14:13-21)

What are we to learn from unusual miracles like the feeding of the 5000?

Open Matthew 14:13-21.

Feeding the 5000, or walking on water. They’re favourites that capture our imagination, but why did Jesus do these things? If they were signs, what were they pointing to? Was he showing off? Was he telling the crowds he was God? What was Jesus doing? Continue reading “Feeding the multitude (Matthew 14:13-21)”

What power do the rulers of this world have over God’s people? (Matthew 14:1-12)

Are we safe from harm? Or can God’s people be hurt by the evil in the world?

Open Matthew 14:1-12.

As you read the Bible, do you notice how the stories fit together? Why would Matthew stop talking about Jesus and tell a story about Herod instead? What’s his point?

Continue reading “What power do the rulers of this world have over God’s people? (Matthew 14:1-12)”

How does Jesus become king? (Matthew 13:53-58)

How does Jesus receive the kingship if people don’t give it to him?

Open Matthew 13:53-58.

Jesus taught like an artist. His word pictures lift us above the human conflicts to a plateau where we can see what the earth was meant to be — a place of peace, responsive to heaven’s government.

This is future, yet it’s already here in the present. Jesus has re-sowed God’s world, and some seeds are heading toward harvest. Sure, there are weeds in God’s field, but there’s wheat as well. The mustard seed is growing. The leaven is permeating the dough. People trade other dreams for God’s reign. The net is in the water, and God will sort the good from the bad.

God’s reign is here. Only the good that God intended will last.

Jesus’ kingdom vision was inspiring, but was it credible? Compared to Herod or Caesar, what kind of king was Jesus of Nazareth?

Continue reading “How does Jesus become king? (Matthew 13:53-58)”

Trained for kingdom business (Matthew 13:51-52)

Can Jesus teach us to present his kingdom in our setting?

Open Matthew 13:51-52.

The final parable of Matthew 13 would be the most relevant and practical of all, if we understood it. It’s the final application, the “so what” of the kingdom parables. Jesus commissions us to do something with the kingdom.

But what is he asking us to do by telling a story about a householder laying out his new and old treasures? Continue reading “Trained for kingdom business (Matthew 13:51-52)”

Why doesn’t God sort it out? (Matthew 13:47-50)

If God is all-powerful and all-loving, why doesn’t he sort out injustice now?

Open Matthew 13:47-50.

Why is the world such a mess if it’s God’s kingdom? How can so much evil and injustice exist in the kingdom of God?

Why doesn’t our heavenly king sort out his earthly realm? Is this really the best God can do?

That’s no theoretical question. Ask the people in pain. Ask the parents of the 17 killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in February. Why doesn’t God act? Philip Yancey calls it, “the question that never goes away.”

Megaphones blare, “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!Continue reading “Why doesn’t God sort it out? (Matthew 13:47-50)”

What’s the value of God’s reign? (Matthew 13:45-46)

What would it be worth to have God reigning over us?

Open Matthew 13:45-46.

Did you hear the one about the art lover who found an original by someone she and her husband admired? She texted the details to get his opinion. Between meetings, he rushed back a reply, “No. Price too high.” But his fumbling fingers missed the full stop. The text she received read, “No price too high.”

Did you hear the one Jesus told about the pearl merchant? He found the one he’d been waiting for, the elusive pearl with flawless shape, glistening tone, and perfect lustre. He traded everything away to have the thing he’d been waiting his whole life to find.

For Jesus, God’s reign over the world is that one thing worth trading everything for. Like the pearl merchant you might recognize it as the thing you’ve been searching for. Or you may not have been searching; perhaps you just stumbled on it, like treasure buried in a field. Either way, when you see it for what it is — the possibility of everything on earth functioning as beautifully as it was designed to do — what value do you place on it? Continue reading “What’s the value of God’s reign? (Matthew 13:45-46)”

Discovering what counts (Matthew 13:44)

What’s your dream? And what will you do to get there?

Open Matthew 13:44.

What’s your dream? And what would you do to get it? Your honest answers to those questions reveal more about you than you realize.

Someone caught up in the first euphoria of love dreams of a beautiful life with that special someone, whatever it costs. The entrepreneur dreams of owning the Monopoly board, driven by a plan that just might give it to him.

But our best dreams are bigger than ourselves. Dreams like clean drinking water for Africa, empowering locals to transform Cambodia, or A21’s audacious vision to end modern slavery. Syrians dream of living in a country where they need not fear being shot, and some young Americans do too. Martin Luther King Jr still speaks, “I have a dream …”

The trouble with dreams is that the how is more difficult than the what. Continue reading “Discovering what counts (Matthew 13:44)”

Parables help us get our bearings (Matthew 13:34-35)

Wisdom: learning from where we’ve been, to end up in a better place.

Open Matthew 3:34-35.

So why did Jesus speak in parables? He was revealing divine plans that had been confidential since the world was founded.

That’s how Matthew’s community understood him, based on Psalm 78:2:
I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world (quoted in Matthew 13:35).

But why did they think that Psalm was about Jesus? Was it just because the Psalm used the word parable? Continue reading “Parables help us get our bearings (Matthew 13:34-35)”

Infecting the world with good (Matthew 13:33)

How is the kingdom of heaven like a woman baking bread?

Open Matthew 13:33.

There’s nothing like the smell of fresh bread in the morning. Flour, water, and yeast go in the bread maker in the evening, and in the morning the aroma of fresh bread helps you rise to a new day.

We have it so easy. Back in Jesus’ day they kneaded the dough by hand, kept aside some sourdough as leaven for tomorrow, waited for it to rise, punched it down again, waited some more, and then built a fire to bake it.

Jesus told a story about a woman who must have been baking for a party. She took her leaven and hid it in three big 8 kilogram batches of flour. How on earth is the heaven’s kingdom like that? Continue reading “Infecting the world with good (Matthew 13:33)”

The little seed that filled the world (Matthew 13:31-32)

Open Matthew 13:31-32.

A few years back, our film crew sent this email from Israel:

Dear Allen. We’re trying to film a mustard tree, but our guide says mustard seeds only grow to be shrubs. We got some great shots of the mustard seeds, but now we’re stuck. Any ideas?

They were talking about these words from Jesus: Continue reading “The little seed that filled the world (Matthew 13:31-32)”

What about the weeds in God’s world? (Matthew 13:24-43)

How can God allow good and evil to coexist and not sort it out?

Open Matthew 13:24-43.

Jesus told some funny stories. The farmhands find weeds in the wheat field, so they ask if they should pull out the weeds. The farmer says, “I sowed good seed, so our enemy must have come and planted the weeds while we were all asleep.” Never in my life have I met a farmer who would jump to that conclusion!

Even funnier is the farmer’s response, “Nah! Leave all the plants growing in the field. We’ll sort them out at harvest time. If I let you lot pull out the weeds, you’ll pull out some of my wheat as well.”

There is no way Jesus could get a position at agricultural college if he gives that advice to his students. Why would he dream up such a story?

Continue reading “What about the weeds in God’s world? (Matthew 13:24-43)”