Read Matt 7:13–29
Mat 7:13-14 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. (14) For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few… 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. (18) A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. (19) Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (20) Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. (21) “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. (22) On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ (23) And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.(Jn. 14:16) Jesus is the narrow gate which we enter through by faith in him. Obviously it is not good works which is the narrow way. The world is full of people of doing works which men declare as being good. But they are not good in God’s eyes. Paul reminds us, “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” Rom. 14:23 and Heb 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please him,…” In order to bear good fruit you must be a good tree. Yet in our natural state we are not good nor do we do good. Rom. 3:9-19 But in Christ we have become new creations; we are made good trees.
When we look at verses 21-23 we note something that seems to elude those who say good actions make good people not right beliefs. What might that be? Look at what those good works people are saying. Lord did we not do this in your name. Lord did we not do that in your name. They did a lot of good works in the name of Jesus. Doing good works and even doing them in the name of Jesus does not get you right with God. Look what Jesus says, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” All there works were lawlessness, sin and rebellion because they did not proceed from faith in Jesus. They were depending on what they DID in Jesus’ name not in Jesus’ name or Jesus.
So you be on the straight and narrow path. That path is faith in Jesus. Only by trust in what Jesus has done for you will allow you to enter into eternal life. This faith is a gift given us by God. (Eph. 2) It is received when we hear the good news that God has forgiven us for Christ’ sake and has given us salvation as a gift. Then good works approved by God will certainly follow.
Lord Jesus Christ, on the day of your return may we be found trusting only in your name and not on our works to enter into the eternal dwellings you have prepared for us. Amen.
Read Matt 7:1–12
Mat 7:1-5 “Judge not, that you be not judged. (2) For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. (3) Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? (4) Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? (5) You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Mat 7:12 “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
Well here are some well misused passages of Scripture that you’ll ever run across. What is Jesus actually saying here? What is Jesus not saying here? Many people will use this passage of Scripture to say you can never correct someone else behavior, that you cannot tell them they are doing anything wrong. That is not what Jesus is saying. Otherwise St. Paul would be contradicting Jesus when he says, 1Co 5:12 “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?”
So what is Jesus getting at? We should not place ourselves above other people. We should not judge them as be less than ourselves because we are committing the sins they are committing. If you place yourself above another person and make a judgment of them then what will be the comparison upon which you are judged? Will it not be Christ? How do you measure up to him?
Verse 5 is key here. First take out the log out your own eye, then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s. You see, we are called to look into the affairs of our fellow Christians. We are called to point out the darkness to the world and call it to repentance. Yet before we can anything like that we must first humble ourselves before God. Unless you realize the enormity of your own sin how can you approach someone else in love concerning theirs? You cannot. We cannot go to someone to correct them in a spirit of judgment but of love and helpfulness recognizing our own weakness. If you try to correct someone you might even lead with your chin, that is confessing your own sins to the person you’re trying to help.
This section concludes with the Royal Law, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.” Jesus came, took our sins upon himself and gave up his life for us that we may not face the judgment of God. In the same manner, we should make our brother’s sin upon ourselves and die to it. That is what we’d like others to do for us, no?
Lord Jesus Christ, you came into the world not to judge the world but to save the world. Help us to truly die to sins of others, to judge ourselves correctly that we may approach others in all humility and love that we may bring them to you so they may escape from the judgment to come. Amen.
Read Matt 6:16–34
Mat 6:25-34 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?… (27) And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? …(30) But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? (31) Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ (32) For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. (33) But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (34) “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Earlier in the chapter on prayer Jesus told us that God our Father knows what we need before we ask him. Jesus now picks up on that theme again. If we believe that, then why are we worried about our life, that is the things of our life, food, clothing, shelter? We have a Father in heaven who knows that we need such things. To be anxious is to sin. It is to sin because anxiety is born from unbelief or bad beliefs. How can we be anxious if we believe the Almighty, the Living God, is our Father who loves us and cares for us? But we sin in that we believe instead God is an angry judge seeking to punish and destroy us. It is a lie of the devil.
Your heavenly Father knows what you need and wants to supply it. He will supply it. There are things though that come before earthly needs such as His will, His kingdom and His name. Seeking these things should come first in our life. It generally amazes me that those who come to the Church seeking physical aid 99% of the time are not seeking God’s righteousness or His kingdom. They do not come to Church on a regular if ever basis looking for the greater things, spiritual things. Yet these are the things the Church is never lacking and gives away freely.
Jesus promises if we seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, all these things (food, clothing, shelter) will be added to us. How and where do we seek this? We seek this by faith where He promises to give it, in the Church. In the Church, God’s holy minister gives us forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. In baptism he clothes us with the righteousness of Christ and he gives us the kingdom. In His Word, Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit who strengthens our faith and guides us in the path of righteousness. All this, he does freely. So don’t be anxious about tomorrow. Tomorrow can take care of itself. Today has enough trouble and today we are to trust God’s love for us in Christ Jesus and that he’ll take care of us today. He told us to pray, “Give us today our daily bread.”
Lord Jesus Christ, help us to cast all our cares on our heavenly Father trusting that He cares for us and grant us faith that we may always be seeking your kingdom and righteousness in the Word and Sacraments you freely give us. Amen.
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.