Get Connected

As we arrive at Matthew 16, we come to a pivotal passage where Jesus is about to make a life shift. This is the second shift we have witnessed. The Bible calls it a from that time moment. Matthew 4:17~From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (ESV) With Jesus moving into ministry we witness the greatest miracles as He moves throughout the region. Now here in Matthew 16, He moves toward the cross. Matthew 16:21~From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. (ESV) Later in Matthew 26:16, we will see the final turn towards His death in our stead as Judas seeks to betray Him.

Christ Jesus has just warned His disciples about the corrupting influence of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Still somewhere on the Gentile side of the Sea, the move towards Caesarea. Matthew 16:13~Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, Who do people say that the Son of Man is? (ESV) Who do you say Christ Jesus is? About 25 miles northeast of the Galilean Sea, Jesus gives the disciples another test. Though this one is not wet from a storm on the high seas, nor does it come from a lack of substance where the people are hungry. No, this one comes in the form of a question. 

Answering life’s toughest questions are some of the most difficult tests we face in our faith life. So, to prepare, we need to Get Connected with Christ by praying, listening, and responding to the Holy Spirit. Join me this week for a self-help seminar as we discover 3 essentials for getting the most out of life. So let’s prepare ourselves today by embracing a from that time moment. Start by asking God what is it that you want me to do, be, change. Then say to yourself, from today on I am going to _________. Proverbs 3:5-6~Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (NIV) With the Lord’s help, you got this.



Beware

What are your corruptions (Matthew 16:1-12). Do you know what corrupts you? To be clear I am asking you what is your Achilles heel? Each person has a weakness, a tender area where we can be exploited. In Greek mythology it was a weak ankle, for others, it may be a weak spot in our character, or perhaps it is a propensity of desire. In each case, the enemy of our soul knows how to exploit us. Back in Jewish territory, Jesus is faced with another attack—this time it is at the hands of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Which is remarkable because these two groups are politically and theologically, enemies. Pharisees are conservatives who believe in angels and the resurrection of the dead. Sadducees are liberals and do not believe in either of those things. (Acts 23:8)

Sorry Trekkies, it was Gabriel Manigault who first penned the phrase the enemy of my enemy is my friend. (1884 Political Creed) We sit and read as witnesses to this very event as these diametrically opposed groups mount a unified front to assault Christ. Jews believe demons can do signs on earth, this is why they mock Jesus as the son of God, yet they also believe that only God can produce a sign from heaven. So they ask for a sign. Jesus responds in Matthew 16:2-3~When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. (ESV) It is an adage that still holds validity today. Red skies have meaning according to the time of day.

During sunrise and sunset, the sun is low in the sky, and it transmits light through the thickest part of the atmosphere. When the sky is red at night, the setting sun sends its light through a high concentration of dust particles. This usually indicates high pressure and stable conditions coming from the west. Usually, good weather follows. A red sunrise reflects the dust particles of a system that has just passed from the west. This indicates a storm system may be moving to the east. 

Jesus’ critics do not need another sign from heaven since many things have already been done prove He is the Messiah. Therefore, Christ Jesus says in Matthew 16:4~An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. So he left them and departed. (ESV) Jesus says I Am done. You get Jonah’s sign. This means the sign will come in Jesus’ own timing. If you know the story this references to His death and resurrection. Later in this very chapter 16 of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus will shift again in His life. The first shift was Matthew 4, where Jesus shifted into ministry, this next shift, from that time, will have Him move towards the cross. 

The disciples have gotten all turned around. They think Christ Jesus talking about bread and leaven process, which frustrates Jesus. Matthew 16:11-12~How is it that you fail to understand…Beware of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (ESV) Christ Jesus is teaching us that we need to be cautious in our learning process of faith. There are some who desire to skew our learning. They share their own thoughts and are light in the scripture, while Jesus teaches us the Word of God and not the traditions of men. Take Passover that God institutes just before leading the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery, listen to what He has Ole Mo tells the people in Exodus 12:15~For seven days you are to eat bread made without yeast. On the first day remove the yeast from your houses, for whoever eats anything with yeast in it from the first day through the seventh must be cut off from Israel. (NIV) 

This symbolically represents God’s intention for the people to not take any corrupting influence of Egypt with them into the Promised Land. Today, Jesus says. Beware of the leaven. What is there in your life, that acts as leaven? For you, it might be the internet, social media, texting, a relationship, a habit, a career, an addiction, pornography, idle chitchat, caffeine or confections. I want each of us to take time today to fill in the blank. ________ is leaven in my life. Over the remainder of our 21-Days, let’s reform our lives into what Jesus Christ desires them to be. Learning to listen better, to the Holy Spirit, removing the leaven and filling us with the Word, and His Way forward.



The Call to Remember

In Matthew 15, Jesus has just asked the disciples to feed a crowd. No, not your average holiday crowd this is a group of 4000 hungry men, then there are the women and children. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that they have not eaten in at least three days? Matthew 15:33~And the disciples said to him, Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd? (ESV) It really is true for us in our humanity, that we can be so short-sighted. Christ Jesus has already fed 5,000 men, plus women and children, with only 2 sardines and 5 pancakes (Matthew 14:13-21). In the disciples’ ailing defense, perhaps they thought since this crowd is predominantly Gentile, Jesus would not feed them as He did the Jews. 

But really, He healed them, taught them and now He won’t feed them? It just doesn’t hold water. Jesus once again asks how many loaves they have. They tell Him 7, and a few sardines. Christ Jesus instructs the people to sit on the ground, as He takes the 7 loaves and fish and says the best blessing we never heard. Sometimes we need to be broken and blessed so we can go and minister. That is part of 21-Days. Breaking off the hold of so much that we are blessed to minister freely. What has been holding you back from ministering to those that Christ has placed in your life? Are you tired, busy, overlooked?

As I read this passage, I am always struck that after the meal, they will collect seven baskets of leftovers. I always wonder, Why 7? Is it that this is one of perfection’s number, or could it be something altogether different. At the feeding of 5000, they had 12 baskets that were collected, and perhaps there were still 7 disciples who were more like me, or you, still struggling to believe: 7 baskets for 7 struggling believers. I believe the biggest obstacle to our spiritual growth is a short memory. 

Do you have a short memory? If so, I want to encourage you today, to commit to memory, Psalm 77:11~I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. (NIV) To Fortify our faith we need to hold on to our victories. I—Will—Remember!