Read Matt 5:21–48
Mat 5:43-48 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ (44) But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (45) so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (46) For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? (47) And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? (48) You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Yesterday’s reading ended with, Mat 5:20 “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Today’s reading goes into describing what that looks like and feels like. It’s bad enough when the commandments condemn me for my outward transgressions. While I like to think I keep them outwardly pretty good, I know I just don’t get caught most of the time by people. But now Jesus is condemning me because of what is going on in my heart. I can try to fool myself that I am good because I don’t get caught and what people do see me do isn’t all that bad, but when my conscience is lightened by God’s most holy law given by Jesus all I can see is darkness most of the time.
We know God is impartial. That is what verse forty-five is telling us. God bestows His gifts to all people regardless of whether they fear, love and trust in Him or not. We do our best to treat those who treat us well good. But to those who don’t treat us well, well, they’re in trouble. But that is not the Christian way. Jesus has baptized you into Himself. He has given you his life and his Holy Spirit. Jesus has given you a new heart and created you into a new creation. He has called us in baptism to be God’s children.
So what Jesus is describing and commanding here is the new life to rise out of our old one. Jesus is the perfect image of God and we are being conformed to that image. It is that image that Jesus is talking about that we may be lifted out of the mire that is this old dark life into his life. Jesus is the One who has lived these commands as he gives them in his life. We are baptized into Jesus. His life is our life now. We are children of the heavenly Father so we are called to be perfect, that is complete as the Father is. We are so in Jesus. Our faith in Jesus’ perfect work declares us to be perfect, holy and blameless. He is now living that life and work out in our lives. Where we see ourselves failing in this we confess our sins and trust in Christ’ saving work all the more.
Lord Jesus Christ, you have called us to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. Grant us such faith in your work for us that it is credited to our account and give us your Holy Spirit that we may make a beginning of your life in our lives to the people around us. Amen.
Read Matt 5:1–20
Mat 5:10-11 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (11) “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account… 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them…20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Oftentimes, well most of the time people read and interpret the Beatitudes as law. Probably because they do not see themselves as being blessed but rather they do not look anything like those being blessed. But the Beatitudes are not law. The law curses. Jesus is blessing here, just as he blessed creation at the beginning. We also probably see them as law because Jesus does follow them with teaching on the law of God.
But these are blessings! Just as Jesus called the Israelites to himself on Mt. Sinai and taught them from the cloud, now he speaks to them from the mount visibly with his mouth. His first words to them are blessing. Jesus continues to speak to us, his people with blessing because we are joined by faith to him and he to us. If we belong to Jesus, we will be doing these things that Jesus blesses. We will be doing them because Jesus did them. In Christ, it is no longer we that live but Christ who lives in us. So as Jesus lives out his life in us, we will be living a life of blessing. You may not be seeing it. We hardly do. But others will see it in our lives. Most importantly Jesus knows.
But Jesus does turn to the law eventually. He tells us he has come to fulfill the law. Until he fulfills the law not one iota of the law will be laid aside. But Jesus has fulfilled the law for us and he nailed it to the cross taking away its accusations at us. The Scribes and Pharisees were pretty meticulous about obeying the law outwardly. But they did it out of obligation and not our of faith. So Jesus tells us our righteousness has to exceed theirs if we are to enter the kingdom of heaven. Great! How are we going to do that?
Good news, we aren’t. Jesus’ life did. Jesus offers to us his righteousness. If we believe that he gives us his righteousness freely, it is ours. Jesus gives us his righteousness where he has taken on our iniquity, in baptism. As Jesus was baptized, he identified himself as one of us, a sinner. As we are baptized into Christ, we are identified as Christ and his righteousness. He gives us the Holy Spirit to believe this. His Holy Spirit lives out the Beatitudes in our lives. We are then blessed by Christ.
Lord Jesus Christ, continue always to give us the Holy Spirit and faith, that your righteousness may be our own so we may live out your life of blessedness now in this world and when you usher in your kingdom visibly on the day of your revelation. Amen.
Read Matt 4:12–25
Mat 4:12-17 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. (13) And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, (14) so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: (15) “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles– (16) the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” (17) From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Throughout the Gospels you will see how Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah such as this one. Now a main reason for doing this is so we can see that Jesus is indeed the Messiah, the promised seed of the Woman, the promised seed of Abraham and the promised seed of David. When taken all together these prophesies point to one man only, Jesus the son of Mary.
Today we see that Jesus begins his ministry in the North. Now north is already a place of darkness as the sun does not shine as bright there as it does the south. But north is darkness for another reason here as well. It is the place of the Gentiles who worship false gods. Now in the midst of this darkness the One who spoke light into darkness, the Uncreated Light, appears bringing light and life to men, his Light and his Life.
They were under the shadow of death. The Gentiles false worship of false gods and the false worship of the Jews cast a shadow upon the people. Jesus comes to reveal the true light and have people move beyond the elementary principles of this world. Now Jesus begins his ministry where John left off. His message, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Repent, to feel contrition, terror and horror at our sins. Our sins namely being not fearing, loving or trusting in God above all things nor have we loved our neighbor as ourselves. Now we are called to faith that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Where the kingdom of heaven is there is freedom from a guilty conscience. This kingdom brings life to men and frees us from the slavery of the fear of death. This kingdom frees us from bondage of sin and Satan.
The Scriptures point us to Jesus to enter this kingdom. It promises us that if we put our trust in Jesus and his work that the kingdom of heaven is ours and we possess it now by faith. Sin, death and the devil no longer have a hold on us and will not be counted to us at the resurrection. Here we have the righteousness, light and life of Jesus. Now is the second use of using the prophecies of the Old Testament. If God fulfilled his promises in Jesus from the past, we can be certain he will fulfill those which pertain to our future.
Lord Jesus Christ, grant us a greater faith that we may more properly repent and believe the good news of your kingdom so at your return we may receive in sight those things promised us through faith. Amen.
Read Matt. 4:12-25
Mat 4:17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Mat 4:23-24 And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. (24) So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them.
Interestingly enough, Jesus has the same message as John the Baptist. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Repent, have a change of mind, turn around. Here repent is taken in a narrow sense. We are to recognize our sins, faults, defects and errors of our ways. We are to confess them as they did before John. We claim them as our own and detest them. We are heartbroken over them and seek forgiveness.
“The kingdom of heaven is at hand” is the gospel. For if the kingdom of heaven is at hand then sin, death and the power of the devil and their power over us is on their way out. The Kingdom is taking the world by force. Not by strength of arms but by the power of the gospel. The Gospel being God for us in Jesus. Jesus is the Kingdom. It is in Jesus we have power from on high to turn away from the world and its ways to be conformed to the image of God’s Son Jesus.
It is interesting here to note that Jesus’ message has something different from what is reported of John. As far as we know, John performed no miracles. But here we see Jesus’ message being confirmed with signs, wonders and miracles. The miracles though do not create faith. In fact during Jesus’ ministry he will refuse to give signs or do any miracles so that people would believe in him. No the signs and wonders are to confirm the faith of those who would believe the message. It tells them and us we can have confidence in the message we already believe in. They strengthen and confirm the faith of those who believe.
If you don’t believe the message, no miracle will change your mind. Even after Jesus fed the 5000 with a few loaves a bread and fish and had leftovers, the unbelievers were still looking for a sign. Jesus even said, even if someone were to rise from the dead if they won’t listen to Moses neither would they believe in him.
But should some sign come from God that confirms your faith go ahead and be glad and rejoice and give thanks to God. Just don’t base your faith on those sign but rather the Word that is confirmed by the sign. No, we rely only on the promise given us, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand,” and we look to the one who is the kingdom, Jesus.
Grant us faith O Father in Heaven in your Word and Promise alone that we may repent of our sins and be received into your kingdom in Jesus Christ your Son who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.
Read Matt 3:1–17
Mat 3:13-17 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. (14) John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (15) But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. (16) And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; (17) and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
John came preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. He called both sinners and the religious establishment to this new rite. He warned that they should bear fruit in keeping with repentance meaning faith and good works. No longer would circumcision be enough. No longer would the temple rituals be enough. But they never were enough. Faith in God was always needed. While the establishment might not admit it, everyone was a sinner. Being baptized by John would confess that one is a sinner. Many resisted because of this.
Enter Jesus. Jesus is not a sinner. Yet Jesus seeks to be baptized into a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. John knows this. He knows he needs to be baptized by Jesus and he tries to prevent Jesus. But Jesus has come to fulfill a mission given him by his Father-to redeem mankind. Jesus is baptized by John. In doing so he is identifying himself as a sinner. Jesus has been baptized into our sin, into our death, into our hell.
This is well pleasing to the Father in heaven. It is why he sent the son, the Word of God. God loves the world and wants to save it. This is how he is doing it. As Jesus does this, the Father affirms the mission for which Jesus has been sent. He identifies Jesus as his only begotten son, his beloved Son.
The good news is what God the Father spoke to Jesus he speaks to you when you are baptized. Paul reminds us in Romans 6 that we are baptized into Christ’s crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection. In Galatians and Titus we are reminded the Father adopts us there, putting Christ’s righteousness upon us and giving us his name. We become his children in Christ as we put on Christ in baptism. As we are baptized into God’s name, the Father speaks from above to us, “This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.”
Lord God heavenly Father, as you spoke those words, this is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased at Jesus’ baptism, grant us faith to believe as we are baptized into Christ you speak these words over us as well. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Read 1 Tim 6:3–21
1Ti 6:6-12 Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, (7) for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. (8) But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. (9) But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. (10) For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (11) But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. (12) Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
Perhaps we Christians could pay more attention to this. It is hard because of the consumer culture in which we live. We had marketing experts whose sole job is to make you think you need stuff you don’t need so their bosses can make money off of selling you stuff. Yet we are called to godliness with contentment. Godliness, holdin the Christian faith in all purity. Contentment is being satisfied with what you have. Paul gives us a pretty narrow view of what we should be content with: Food and Clothing. Think about it as you stand frustrated in front of the refrigerator or pantry full of food yet you think you have nothing to eat. Or we’re standing in a walk in closet full of clothes yet we think we have nothing to wear.
We see what Paul warns about concerning the love of money. Every day we watch TV, pick up the newspaper or check the headlines on the internet. Examples of how running after riches have brought people to ruins are plastered everywhere, but no one pays attention. But you don’t have to want to be super rich to have a love of money. If money is what you think will bring you every good, you have the love of money. Wealth is your god. Watch out lest you lose your faith.
Instead of pursuing wealth, Paul encourages us to pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness and gentleness. It is for these things Jesus died for you on the cross. It is for these things you were brought from death to life and from darkness to light. With the faith and grace given us we are to fight against the desires of the flesh and the world which does not trust the Living God but wealth.
Continue to live in the eternal life and hold onto it faithfully. We confessed our faith before men. We are now to live out this confession in our lives demonstrating the love Christ has shown us.
Heavenly Father, grant us the grace needed that we may live in godliness with contentment with all the gifts you have bestowed on us and to live out our faith in devotion to you and service to our neighbor. In Jesus’ name. Amen.