The gospel revelation (Matthew 16:16-18)

The “gospel of the kingdom” expects God to reveal who is king.

The biggest reason we struggle to understand what Jesus meant by “the kingdom of God” was the way he presented it. He kept on about the kingdom, without claiming to be king. And if you don’t see Jesus as the king, you don’t see the kingdom. Continue reading “The gospel revelation (Matthew 16:16-18)”

The gospel of God (Matthew 17:5)

Recognize God’s gospel?

Did God announce the gospel? What does it sound like when he proclaims it? God’s gospel is a thing (Mark 1:14; Romans 1:1; 15:16; 2 Corinthians 11:7; 1 Thessalonians 2:2, 8-9; 1 Peter 4:17).

If you think the gospel is God making a statement about you (“I forgive your personal sins” or “I justify you”), then God didn’t. But if the good news is God’s appointment of Jesus as Lord, this is God proclaiming the gospel:

Matthew 17 5 And a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (NIV)

This is God’s gospel, his joyful announcement of rescuing the world from oppression under sin and death to be his kingdom, formed in the Son he loves, a world reunified in the leader God was pleased to appoint. Continue reading “The gospel of God (Matthew 17:5)”

The Moses connection (Matthew 17:2-8)

Why was Moses present at Jesus’ transfiguration? How would the disciples have understood the conversation between Jesus and Moses?

Moses was Israel’s founder, the servant of the Lord who brought the first kingdom of God to birth among the kingdoms of the world. Continue reading “The Moses connection (Matthew 17:2-8)”

See a glorious king? (Matthew 17:1-8)

Dress for the job you want, they say. But Jesus didn’t. Except for this one time. Far from the cities of power, three trusted friends glimpsed him dressed in regal glory.

They had just declared him as God’s anointed ruler (16:16), and he said they would see him rise to power in his Father’s glory (16:27-28). For a brief moment they saw it: Continue reading “See a glorious king? (Matthew 17:1-8)”

Hope for the world (John 1:29)

Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

Prophets see things. When John the Baptizer saw Jesus approaching, he saw “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Did you see that? If I hear Scripture as a story about me, I may substitute a message that Jesus takes away my sins. That’s not what John said.

Imagine a world where sin has gone — where the Lamb has taken away the sin of the world. What’s it like? What do you see? Continue reading “Hope for the world (John 1:29)”

Jesus’ paradoxical path to power (Matthew 16:27-28)

“Some standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

What do you think Jesus meant by this?

Matthew 16:27-28 (my translation, compare NIV)
27 For the son of man is about to “come in the splendour of his Father with his angels”, and then “he will repay each according to their actions.” 28 I tell you the truth: there are some standing here who will not experience death until they see “the son of man coming in his kingdom.”

We’re expecting Jesus to return in glory to judge the world. That sounds like verse 27, but then verse 28 doesn’t make sense: did Jesus really expect to return while some of his disciples were still alive? Whole books have been written to answer that question.

As every photographer knows, what you see depends where you stand. Come with me back to the first century to stand with the disciples and hear what they heard. Continue reading “Jesus’ paradoxical path to power (Matthew 16:27-28)”

What are you living for? (Matthew 16:24-26)

A real win isn’t when you crush everyone; it’s when we all win.

Competition is the core of our culture. From politics to commerce to art and sport, it’s about being hungry enough to win. Katniss portrayed it in The Hunger Games: only those who deserve to win survive. Empires practiced it throughout history: only those who can assert their superiority deserve to be in power.

By that measure, Jesus does not deserve to be our Lord. A “crucified Christ” is a contradiction. The Roman procurator of Judea mocked the “King of the Jews.” Recently I saw a placard, “If Jesus returns, kill him again!” Continue reading “What are you living for? (Matthew 16:24-26)”

Binding and loosing (Matthew 16:19)

What did Jesus mean by giving us keys to bind and loose?

Attend a Pentecostal prayer meeting, and you may hear someone using the language of binding and loosing. They’re talking about believers taking authority over the devil. Some churches have a prayer team on this task when they meet, to bind evil spirits from interfering.

The language comes from Jesus’ statement:
Matthew 16 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)

Catholics think Jesus meant forgiving sins or excommunicating people. Charismatics think Jesus was talking about binding and loosing demons. The Reformers thought it was the gospel message that looses people or leaves them bound. What do you think?

Continue reading “Binding and loosing (Matthew 16:19)”

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.

 

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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’ 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.

 

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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)”