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)”

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)”

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)”

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)”