Daily Reading: October 18

Read Matt 14:1–21
Mat 14:14-21 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. (15) Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” (16) But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” (17) They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” (18) And he said, “Bring them here to me.” (19) Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. (20) And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. (21) And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Talk about a rough week. Jesus hears his cousin John has been beheaded. Of course being fully human as well as divine, he is filled with grief and needs some alone time. Does (John) get it? Nope. He has about the time to cross from one side of the lake to the other and then he is confronted with people who are in all sorts of needs-they’re sick, demon possessed and the like. We see the heart of God in Jesus as he has compassion on them and heals their sick even though he himself is worn out. It’s getting dark and the disciples decide the people need to go home and eat. It is at that moment that Jesus decides to show in a more precise way who he is.

This is not an account to teach us we can do a lot with a little if we just have faith. This is told to us so we may know who Jesus is and put our faith in him. Jesus tells them to feed the people. Of course they are thinking, “What?!” They don’t have the supplies or the money to do so. They take some kids dinner of five loaves and two fish and bring it to Jesus as to show what little they have. Jesus has them bring it to him. Jesus blesses the food and has them distribute it to the people. Five thousand men not including the women and the children are fed, which means at least fifteen thousand people had dinner on such a meager meal and they were all satisfied. They had twelve baskets left over.

Now when you see some guy in the desert performing this kind of meal someone else should come to mind. You got it, Moses and the people of Israel. When they left Egypt, Moses prayed and the Lord rained down manna in the morning and quail in the evening. The same Lord who did that is the one multiplying the bread and the fish in the wilderness. Jesus is the same Lord who provided for Moses and Israel. Because Jesus is the Lord, as we see in this sign, we should place our trust in him that he will give us the true manna, himself, who is the bread of life. Indeed, all over the world he does give us this bread which is his body in his supper, the Lord’s Supper and keeps us alive more than just a day, it gives us eternal life and raises our bodies from the dead.

Lord Jesus Christ, as we partake of your body and blood in the sacrament, grant us a greater faith in you and preserve us until to raise from the dead to everlasting life. Amen.

Daily Reading: October 17

Read Matt 13:44–58
Mat 13:44-50 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (45) “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, (46) who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. (47) “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. (48) When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into containers but threw away the bad. (49) So it will be at the close of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous (50) and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

As we ponder these parables we may want to focus in on verses 49 and 50 as they are not parables but an explanation of what precedes it. Many translations start with “so it will be” but perhaps a better translation is “in this fashion” or “in this way.” Now some may only fix it to the third parable, but Jesus often gives a number of parables, each one teaching mostly the same thing but from different aspects. If we read them carefully we see a similar theme coming up.

The first tells us the man buys the whole field, not just the part with the treasure and he sells all he has. The second the man sells all he has to buy the pearl of great value. The third the net catches fish of every kind. All, all, all, every. This is describing the kingdom of heaven. The king of the kingdom sells everything he has to acquire the treasure. Jesus is that king. St. Paul tells us Jesus emptied himself to ransom all men. Jesus buys the whole world, good and bad, unbeliever and believer with his blood.

Humanity is that great pearl which Jesus again gives up everything to acquire. He empties himself, humbles himself to death, even death upon the cross to save all mankind, whether they would believe in him and be righteous or reject his salvation and remain evil. Yet he believes you are worth the price, his very life.

And so the final parable Jesus swoops mankind in the net of the good news, men of every kind. Of every race, nation, tongue and tribe, the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection brings everything to himself on the cross. At the end of the age, his angels will gather everything or everyone who rejects him to the valley of decision where they are wiped out and become food for birds. They are resurrection to everlasting perdition because they did not want him. Then they will gather the righteous, those who trusted in his good news of salvation and resurrect them to life everlasting. This life everlasting was won for you. It is a free gift from the Author of Life, the man, the merchant. If you believe it, it is yours. It is worth more than any pearl, any field, any suffering, any death because of the price paid to give it to you.

Lord Jesus Christ, you gave up everything to win all of us into your kingdom. Grant us such faith in you and your promise of salvation that we in kind will be willing to give up all things, material and immaterial that we may be found desiring only you as you do us. Amen.

Daily Reading: October 16

Read Matt 13:24–43
Mat 13:36-43 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” (37) He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. (38) The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, (39) and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels. (40) Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. (41) The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, (42) and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (43) Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

All three parables have one thing in common and that is the hiddeness or the mystery of the kingdom of God. In the first, the people of God are hidden by the sons of the evil one. You cannot outwardly tell the difference until judgment day. In the second, it is the size of its beginning which is Jesus being buried in a tomb, unknown to the world, and risen from the dead with just his disciples as witnesses. In the third, it is much like the first where you can see the effects of God’s people in the world and they spread throughout the world, yet they cannot be discerned from the world.

Which gives us probably the main point of hope from the parable-God’s kingdom and the gospel will not fail. It will spread throughout the world and many will believe it being made sons of God through it. It’s hard to see sometimes because in some places it is growing and in other places shrinking. But the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Sometimes Satan has planted his chapel not only next to the Church but smack dab in the middle of it.

So we go by people’s confession of their mouth. Because we cannot tell who is a believer and who isn’t just by looking at them or watching their good or bad behavior. There is a judgment day and on that day the angels will separate all that out. On a side note, we see the unbelievers are gathered first and then the believers. This goes very well together later in chapter 24 where one is taken and one is left. Where are the one who are taken to? To where the vultures gathers. Read Revelation 19 about the birds. Those who taken are taken to judgment while those who are left behind are God’s children.

Lord God, Heavenly Father, let me see by faith your kingdom working in this world. May I be part of that leaven, the good seed and a sprig of that mustard plant during my time on earth that on the harvest day I may be left behind to be gathered into your divine barns. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Daily Reading: October 15

Read Matt 13:1–23
Mat 13:18-23 “Hear then the parable of the sower: (19) When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. (20) As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, (21) yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. (22) As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. (23) As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

Of the three who have negative aspects the first is probably the least culpable. Never the less, he’s not going to be in good shape on the last day. What a horrible thing to have had the possibility for eternal life yet to have it snatched away by Satan because it isn’t understood. It isn’t understood because the heart of such a person is still worldly. It judges things based on karma. It knows nothing of grace. Everything comes with a price. While the Word has been placed on that persons heart, it goes against everything they believe. You probably know a lot of people like this. You need to pray God will open their hearts to understanding the good news.

The rocky ground represents Christians who are persecuted. It could be in the terrors of physical persecution. Christians today are raped, sold into slavery, even beheaded because of their faith. Then there are those who suffer ridicule for their faith. Many remain faithful to the Lord and remain trusting in his mercy and kindness. Some though will leave and abandon the faith. Their value temporary life more than the gift of eternal life.

Then there are those Christians, many of whom I run into. They believe the good news with joy, but life happens. There are soccer games and football games to bring the kids to. There’s the reason that Sunday is your only day off and you deserve to sleep in. You can find all sorts of things to do on Sunday morning rather than gather with the people of God and receive Christ’s gifts. Eventually their faith grows cold and dies.

Finally there are those Christians who hear the Word of Promise, believe and live in it. They understand the great gift they have been given. They understand everything in this life is temporary and fading. The gift of God is eternal and enduring. It is worth more than anything else. Such a one bears good fruit for God and Christ. You will find such a ones gathered around God’s Word and Christ’ sacrament bearing much fruit. But it isn’t as if Satan hasn’t tried steal the Word from them. They don’t let him but humble themselves before the Word. It’s not as if they aren’t persecuted but they love the Lord more than their lives. It’s not as if they don’t live in the real world, they just value eternity with Jesus to be of more value.

What kind of soil are you?

Lord Jesus Christ, grant us your Holy Spirit, that we may bear all things and remain faithful to your promise and bear much fruit in faith. Amen.

Daily Reading: October 14

Read Matt 12:38–50
Mat 12:39-42 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. (40) For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (41) The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. (42) The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.

Signs, signs, everywhere a sign… so the song goes, but the Jews were looking for a different sign. If they had been paying attention the last twelve chapters they would have seen plenty of signs. Their unbelief kept them from recognizing them for what they were. Indeed, they were an evil and adulterous generation. Like their fathers before them, they did not believe and trust the Word of God. They could not see their Lord was standing before them.

So Jesus tells them they will be given a sign, a sure and certain sign that he is who he says he is. He will give them the sign of Jonah. He will be dead and on the third day rise from the dead. Indeed they, the unbelieving Jews, will put a guard on his tomb to keep his disciples from stealing his body and yet the body was no longer there on the third day. Yet they would not believe the Scriptures that Jesus is the messiah, the very Son of God. For they would have to believe the witnesses who saw him alive as their own eyes bear witness of the empty tomb. They refused to believe with their own eyes while he was on this side of the resurrection or the other side. They refused to believe his word. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus tells us, “If we don’t believe Moses and the prophets, we won’t repent even if someone rises from the dead.”

We are in a similar state as the Jews. Sure we’d love to see some signs from heaven. We’d like to see a miracle or two. Yet we have Moses and the prophets. We are called to believe what they have written for us. On top of that, we have witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus and what they wrote. We have the promises of our Lord Jesus Christ through their hands. We too are called to believe what has been written. God is not going to provide us anything more. If we won’t believe what was written we’re certainly not going to believe the sign of Jonah.

But look, we have 500 witnesses of the resurrection. If Jesus is risen from the dead then you are forgiven of your sins. Eternal life and the resurrection to glory is being given to you. God is a peace with you because of the sacrifice on the cross by Jesus. God loves you so much he sent Jesus to bear your punishment there and Jesus’ resurrection is proof that He accepted that offering. It’s all yours. You just have to believe it.

Lord God, heavenly Father, grant us your Holy Spirit that our hearts may be converted, repent of our sins and believe in the sign of Jonah, Jesus provided. Amen.

Daily Reading: October 13

Read Matt 12:22–37
Mat 12:32-37 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him. But whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this world or in the world to come. (33) Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree corrupt and its fruit corrupt; for the tree is known by its fruit. (34) Offspring of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. (35) A good man out of the good treasure of the heart brings out good things; and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings out evil things. (36) But I say to you that every idle word, whatever men may speak, they shall give account of it in the day of judgment. (37) For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned.

In this passage Jesus is casting out demons and the Pharisees attribute his power to the devil. Indeed, instead of giving glory to the Holy Spirit who is operating in Jesus (this does not detract from his own innate divine power) they are saying it is Satan. It is in this context we get Jesus discussion about the unforgivable sin. You will hear a lot of pastors say it is unbelief. But unbelief can be overcome by the Holy Spirit, indeed it is the only way any of us are saved. In the context given here, the unforgivable sin is attributing the work of the Holy Spirit to the devil himself. It is directly opposing and speaking ill of the Holy Spirit.

Now comes the not so quite nice words of Jesus about the Pharisees. “Brood of vipers!” that is what Jesus calls them. This isn’t the nice, purple dinosaur Jesus speaking here. Jesus’ harsh words are calling them to repentance before their hearts are permanently hardened. It also speaks to original sin and the necessity to be born again of the Spirit. Unless we are born again through the Water and the Word, we are bad trees. We will only produce bad fruit. We will have an evil, wicked confession of our faith because that is what is in our hearts.

But once we are born from above by the Water and the Spirit (did you catch that Word=Spirit) we are now made good trees by the Holy Spirit. As good trees, we will confess good things namely Jesus is our one and only savior from sin, death and the power of the devil. We will thank God for the gift of the Holy Spirit and we will proclaim the Spirit’s work in the life of Jesus and in our own lives. If your words confess Jesus as savior you will be justified, because the Holy Spirit has made you a good tree which bears good fruit. If you have resisted the Holy Spirit, you remain a bad tree which can only produce bad fruit namely that Jesus is not your savior; you want to be judged by your own works—which are bad.

Lord Jesus Christ, ever fill us with your Holy Spirit that we may bear good fruit, confessing you as the savior of the world and always recognize the Spirit’s work in your life, our life and the lives of those around us. Amen.

Daily Reading: October 12

Read Matt 12:1–21
Mat 12:7-8 And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. (8) For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”
Mat 12:11-12 He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? (12) Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”
Mat 12:18 “Behold, my servant whom I have chosen, my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.

In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount he said he come to do away with the Law but to fulfill it. He then makes the Law seem impossible to do as he explains the Law such as, even if you look lustfully upon someone you have committed adultery or being angry is murder.

But now it seems like Jesus is going in the opposite direction with the Sabbath. He seems to be making it easier than the way it had been taught or was being taught, particularly by the Pharisees. On the one hand, the Pharisees and those before them seemed to have placed restrictions on the Sabbath that God never gave. It became burdensome. Jesus here is showing the true meaning of the Sabbath.

But Jesus also goes above the Sabbath as well. He was teaching that the Sabbath was for man and not man for the Sabbath. It was day of mercy worked into Creation. It was a day to cease from our works and look to see how we may serve our neighbor with good. As we read what Jesus said, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” and “it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath” we should remember that while the Sabbath no longer applies to us under the New Covenant, it doesn’t apply because Jesus has become our Sabbath. We have rested from all our works knowing we are pleasing to God because of our faith in Jesus.

As we go about our day, as we have opportunity to do good, let us be about doing good knowing we are free to do so. Whenever we may think we have to obey a law of God yet an opportunity is there to do good to someone else, we should take the opportunity to do good for our neighbor. God does not need our sacrifices but our neighbor does.

And on top of that, we are children of God. Jesus has told us to be holy as our Father in heaven in holy and to be merciful as our Father in heaven has been merciful. In other words, we have been saved by and in mercy so we may be like our Father to others. Being merciful to others is more important to God than our making sacrifices to him.

Heavenly Father, we thank you for being merciful to us by sacrificing your son Jesus Christ so we may enter into his rest. Give us your Holy Spirit that we may be merciful to our fellow man even as you have been merciful to us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Daily Reading: October 11

Read Matt 11:20–30
Mat 11:25-30 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; (26) yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. (27) All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. (28) Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (29) Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (30) For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Jesus has said this a number of times. We must become like little children if we are to enter the kingdom of heaven. To be like a little child is to be totally dependent upon our parents and in this case upon our Heavenly Father. If we think we can get eternal life by our works or machinations we are terribly wrong. There is nothing we can do or contribute to enter into eternal life. If we really wanted to know the truth of it, there is nothing we do or have which isn’t given to us by God our Father, whether we believe in him or not.

It is through faith in Jesus that we know the Father. This faith is given to us as a gift through hearing the good news. Yes faith is not something that we work up in ourselves. Jesus alone through Holy Spirit preaching the good news reveals the Father to us. Jesus tells us in John’s gospel, you did not choose me but I chose you. So such is the case, if we have faith in Christ and the Father it is because Jesus has revealed himself and the Father to our hearts and created faith within us.

In the midst of this revelation Jesus invites us to come to him. Do your sins and guilt weigh you down? Is your shame too much to bear? Is life itself just to hard to handle? Jesus will give you rest. Jesus has take your yoke upon himself on the cross. He has plowed the field ahead of you already. Jesus is gentle and will not cast aside anyone who comes to him broken of heart and spirit. Jesus makes you acceptable to God in the throne room of grace. His yoke is easy and light because it is his yoke. He is bearing the load. We simply must trust his promise that it is so and we will feel the relief in our souls.

We can cast our cares upon God because he cares for us, he cares for you.

Lord Jesus Christ, reveal yourself and the Father to us in your Gospel Promise that faith may be created in us that we may trust your promises and come to you and be lifted from our cares and burdens of our souls and find rest in the arms of your cross. Amen.

Daily Reading: October 10

Read Matt. 11:1-19
Mat 11:16-19 “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, (17) “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ (18) For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ (19) The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”

So are you still demanding that God and Jesus (who is God) must meet your expectations as to what God and Jesus should be and do? It’s pretty arrogant of us sometimes to be telling God how to be God. We try to tell Jesus what sort of savior he must be. We have expectations of God and Christ which God has never told us he is like or is going to be doing or has done.

Get over yourself. Who are you to tell God what he should be doing or how he should be doing it? You can’t even dictate your own life and the lives of those around you. Yet we keep trying and our expectations are continually cast aside and then we’re disappointed because of unrealistic expectations of God.

If you really want to know what you can expect from God and Jesus (who is God) then you have to submit your expectations according to his revealed will which happens to be written down for us in what we normally call the Bible. Really, read through the whole thing 7 or 8 or even 10 times before you start telling God what sort of God he ought to be. He tells you what sort of God he is right there in the text and what you can expect from him.

And what sort of God and Jesus do we get? We get one that likes to get dirty and play in the mud. (Gen. 1 and 2) We get one who isn’t ashamed to call us brothers. (Heb. 2) We get one who associates with all sorts of people good and bad, up and down and a bunch of riff raff in the middle. Some even call him a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners. God and Jesus just are unrespectable. Because if he were respectable, then none of unrespectable people, who really need him, would ever approach him and be saved.

So if you want to be with the Father and with the Son, you too recognize your own unrespectability. It’s the only way you’ll ever accept the only God and Jesus there ever was, is and will be forever.

Heavenly Father, help us to have a right understanding of you and your Christ as it is revealed in your Word and give us faith that we might believe and trust in it. In Jesus Name we pray. Amen.