Managing criticism (Matthew 9:14-17)

How do you cope with criticism from people who don’t understand where you’re leading them? Could we learn from the Master?

Open Matthew 9:14-17.

What do you do when you’re criticized? It’s easy to get angry and sound off, or to cave in and give up. I’m interested in how Jesus, the king of the kingdom, handled criticism.

He copped it from the scribes (9:3). He copped it from the Pharisees (9:11). Now he cops it from friends: John the Baptist’s disciples:

Mathew 9:14 (my translation) Then John’s students came to him saying, “How come we and the Pharisees fast often, but your students don’t fast?” Continue reading “Managing criticism (Matthew 9:14-17)”

Free commentary on Mark’s Gospel

Download a good commentary on the Gospel of Mark, free.

Free book of the month from Logos for September 2017 is David Garland’s commentary on Mark. It’s an Application Commentary on the NIV translation (NIVAC). For each passage, it gives you the original meaning, the bridging context to our time, and the contemporary significance. At over 600 pages, it’s worth around $30 as an ebook or $44 as a hard back. If you’ll ever study the Gospel of Mark, grab it now. Continue reading “Free commentary on Mark’s Gospel”

Where did Jesus learn mercy? (Matthew 9:13)

Why did Jesus accept people when other leaders of his day wanted to cut them off?

Open Matthew 9:13.

One evening after work, a bunch of disreputable people were laughing and drinking shamelessly over their evening meal. It was exactly the kind of influence Israel didn’t need, so some Pharisees approached to name and shame them. Normally that would have broken up their unholy dinner party and send them slinking off into the darkness, but tonight one of these “disreputables” rises to his feet to defend his friends. It’s Jesus!

Continue reading “Where did Jesus learn mercy? (Matthew 9:13)”

Meditating on mercy (Matthew 9:13)

“I want mercy…” What does that mean?

Open Matthew 9:13 and Hosea 6:1-6.

“Go and learn,” Jesus said.
Perhaps we should:

Matthew 9:13 (my translation)
Go and learn what this is:
“I want mercy, not sacrifice.”
I didn’t come to call those in the right,
but sinners.
Continue reading “Meditating on mercy (Matthew 9:13)”

On gospel and guilt

Do we need to make people feel guilty to proclaim the gospel?

Guilt was an important message of the Medieval church. The church declared people’s guilt. You had to confess your sins to the church, and the church had the power to give absolution. The church would determine the penance you needed to perform as an expression of your repentance. The church decided your eternal destiny (heaven or hell) because it held the keys to kingdom. Paying money to the church may even shorten the after-life purification needed before a relative could be accepted into heaven (via purgatory). A cynic could describe the church was a large corporate entity that traded in guilt.

In October 1517, a priest named Martin Luther challenged the authority to the church to determine people’s guilt. That was central to his 95 Theses, e.g.: Continue reading “On gospel and guilt”

When did Jesus label people “sinners”?

Christians are far too quick to label people as “sinners.” Do you know how Jesus applied this label?

When we label people as sinners, they feel insulted. We’re calling them a dirty name. Why do we do it? Typically it’s because we want them to feel guilty, so we can offer them forgiveness. Is that good news? Or is it trading in guilt? What did Jesus do?

Let’s find out. There are only 7 or 8 occasions where Jesus used the word sinner. A survey of when and how he used this label is very revealing. Continue reading “When did Jesus label people “sinners”?”

What’s with tax collectors? (Matthew 9:9-12)

Why did the poor old tax collectors get such a bad rap in the New Testament?

Open Matthew 9:9-12.

Remember when you faced that tax bill? How did you feel? It wasn’t like, “Wonderful. Now I can contribute to educating children, providing health services, enabling law enforcement, building roads and infrastructure and a bunch of other things to help our community.” Not likely.

Now imagine taxes are being levied by an occupying force. Your taxes are paying the army that killed some of your family and is crushing your people. How would the Dutch have felt under Nazi occupation during World War II? How do Iraqis feel under American occupation today? How would Jewish people have felt under Roman occupation in Jesus’ time? Continue reading “What’s with tax collectors? (Matthew 9:9-12)”