The Promise to Jesus Followers

(Matthew 19:27-30)

The previous sections discussed the things that may need to be given up in following Christ. But what about what we gain? Peter made the point that the disciples had given up everything to follow Jesus and so he asked what was in it for them.

Jesus said that nobody who gave up anything for the sake of the Lord would miss out. In fact they would receive even more abundantly both in this age and the age to come. He was not promising great wealth as some prosperity teachers preach, but he was promising an abundance in relationships with him and his people.

Every person who has had to forgo friends, family and property for the sake of God would receive these back in greater abundance than they had to give up. Whether in this life or in the eternity we will spend with him, our blessing will far outstrip our losses.

In this age there is nothing greater and more important than securing our life with Christ. The single most important thing we can do is to follow Jesus Christ. He has shown us here and in previous sections of this chapter that nothing must get in the way of following that goal.

Today unfortunately we live in an age and society seeking instant gratification. But in Christ we must learn patience. His timing is not like ours. Consider Abraham who was told by the Lord he would be the father of many nations. And all the while his wife Sarah was barren and past the age of bearing children. But Abraham knew nothing was impossible to God and he grew strong in his faith that the Lord could and would do what he had said. But it took another ten years before his son Isaac was born.

God’s timing is perfect and not like ours. He will keep his promises to us as he did the promise to Abraham. We too like Abraham must be patient and grow strong in our faith in God, knowing that he can and will deliver on his word. The promise is there for all of us if we will only hold to our faith in Jesus Christ, firm to the end.

The Power of a Prayer of Faith

(Matthew 17:14-21)

In this section a man came to Jesus seeking for his son to be healed. The boy was demon possessed and suffered often from the influence of the demon. The man had already made this request of the disciples, but they were unable to cast the demon out. Jesus says the demon could not be removed because it was of a particular type and because of the little faith. But whether it was the little faith of the disciples or the father is unclear. We see then that the power of prayer needed to come into play in this particular exorcism.

The detail of this event needs expansion, as the description here in Matthew does not provide the full evidence of the issues at hand. In the version of this event in Mark 9:14-29 we gain some additional insight. First we see that the father is lacking in faith, for he says, “…if you can do anything, have pity on us.” (Vs. 22) Jesus focuses on this statement saying, “If you can! All things are possible to him who believes.” (Vs. 23) The father then cries out, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Vs. 24)

So we see in this section that the father of the child doubted whether anything could be done for his child. He brought the boy to the disciples in desperation, but without sufficient faith that he would be healed until Jesus set him straight.

We then see also the disciples come to Jesus privately after the healing to ask why they could not cast the demon out. Jesus responds that, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” (Vs. 29 and some manuscripts suggest fasting also is required). Back in the Matthew version, verse 21 is included in some of the original manuscripts, but not all and as such is included as a footnote only in most modern translations. It too suggests that this kind of demon is removed only by prayer and fasting.

Now it is evident from this that there are different kinds of demons, some more persistent than others. That is also evident when we see that one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is, “… the ability to distinguish between spirits.” (1 Corinthians 12:10) When Jesus walked the earth there was no issue with removing any kind of demon. Jesus gave the authority to the disciples to remove demons, but at that time we must remember they had not yet received the gift of the Holy Spirit and so could not distinguish between demons. They were still being trained by the Lord on how to deal with matters of the spirit and their faith was not yet strong.

Even though the disciples had the authority to cast out demons, because of their lack of faith and this particular type of demon, they were unable to cast it out. But there is a lesson for us in this that applies to any situation, not just casting out demons. There is a message of faith and the power of prayer. Jesus showed the disciples that when we are unable to do anything ourselves, we need to use the power of prayer. We need to appeal to God himself through prayer. For even though we may be powerless over a situation, God is not. There is nothing he cannot do, and nothing he will not do is we ask in faith, including casting out stubborn demons.

If we have faith all things are possible. As Jesus said in a similar situation in Mark 11:22-24,

22 And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God.
23 Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him.
24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

So it is through faith in God and by asking in prayer with no doubting that our needs will be met. This was the method that Jesus was teaching to the disciples and which holds true today as well. James also attested to this matter saying, “…the prayer of faith will save the sick man.” (James 5:15) We will do well to remember this in our own times of need. To hold firm to our faith and to put all of our issues and matters before God in prayer, for there is nothing he cannot or will not do if we ask him.

On this Rock I will build my Church

(Matthew 16:13-20)

When Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi he asked the disciples who men thought that he was. They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” When he asked whom the disciples believed he was, Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus then said Peter was blessed for this knowledge does not come from man but is a revelation of God. It is a revelation based upon faith, and that is the key to this understanding and this scripture.

Jesus said, “On this rock I will build my church.” The rock to which he refers is twofold. Firstly, Jesus himself is the rock. He is the rock of ages and the foundation stone on which the church is built. In 1 Peter 2:4-8 we see him thus described as follows:

“4 Come to him, to that living stone, rejected by men but in God’s sight chosen and precious;
5 and like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
6 For it stands in scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and he who believes in him will not be put to shame.”
7 To you therefore who believe, he is precious, but for those who do not believe, “The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner,”
8 and “A stone that will make men stumble, a rock that will make them fall”; for they stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.”

Christ is the cornerstone and foundation of the church. We who believe in him are the living stones being built into this spiritual house of God.

Secondly, the rock is about faith. When Jesus said to Peter, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church,” he was using the Greek words “petros” and “petra.” The first of these is translated as “stone” and the second is “rock.” When Jesus called Peter a stone he was showing that he was one of the living stones that was being built into the house of God. But also when he said, “…on this rock,” he was speaking of the rock of Peter’s faith in believing that Jesus is the Son of God and the Christ.

Faith is the key to entering the kingdom of heaven. When Jesus said to Peter, “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven,” he is talking about faith. Furthermore, Jesus shows that the powers of death will not prevail against this rock and his church. In Jesus case, he could not be held by death. The true church similarly cannot be held by death for those who enter go from death into life through Jesus. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24) The key here is to hear Jesus’ words and believe in God. This is faith and through faith we have moved from death into life.

We see the power of faith described by Paul who talks about it as the “shield of faith.” “…besides all these, taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one.” (Ephesians 6:16) Through faith we overcome the devil and all of the powers he throws against the sons of God. It is only through faith that we stand. And it is only through faith that we can say of Jesus, as Peter did, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Crumbs from the Master’s Table – The Canaanite Woman’s Faith

(Matthew 15:21-28)

The teaching about the Canaanite woman’s faith, sometimes referred to as feeding on crumbs from the master’s table, is an unusual one. Some people argue that the Lord was being cold or unkind in his treatment of the Canaanite woman in this teaching. However that is not the case.

This woman was following Jesus and the disciples crying after them to seek healing for her daughter who was demon possessed. She clearly knew the Lord could do this for no doubt she had seen or heard about the healings he had already performed. It also appears that her constant crying to the Lord was annoying the disciples, for they said to Jesus to send her away. But Jesus didn’t send her packing, which in itself is a sign that he had compassion for her even before he did anything.

Jesus made the reply to the disciples when they said to send her away that he was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. The Canaanite woman was a Gentile and not of the tribes of Israel. Now some could argue there was inconsistency here. Jesus did not immediately grant her request, but we saw back in Matthew 8:5-12 that he did immediately assist the Gentile centurion, who came to him pleading for the healing of his servant. However in that case we can presume that the centurion’s servant may have been of the tribes of Israel and thus one of the lost sheep to whom Jesus referred.

In this case though the woman was pleading for her daughter who clearly would not have been an Israelite. She was not prepared to accept no for an answer either, which is a lesson we can all learn. For when she made her request Jesus responded, “It is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” (Verse 26) Most people would have given up at that point, but this Canaanite woman was not any ordinary person. She responded back saying, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” (Verse 27) Jesus recognised she had great faith and so granted her request. The crumbs from the masters table she referred to are evidence that she had been seeking the Lord and taking in the teachings. The Canaanite woman’s faith was strong, as she had clearly learned the principles of faith from listening to Jesus and taking in the good news of the gospel.

Although the initial ministry of Jesus was to the Israelites, it was prophesied by Isaiah that, “The root of Jesse shall come, he who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him shall the Gentiles hope.” (Romans 15:12) So there was no reason that Jesus should withhold healing other than that it was not time yet to reach out to the Gentiles. The ministry had to go to Israel first and spread from there.

There is a warning in here about being legalistic. Legalism is rigid and unbending. It says, “The law is the law and it cannot be changed.” But Jesus came to preach freedom from law, and although he was born under law, in his subsequent death he would remove all sin and the law so that we could be freed. The ministry of freedom too is a ministry of compassion, not rigid but open to reason and doing what is good and right and true.

The Canaanite woman’s faith was such that she deserved this healing she sought. We know that it is the children of faith who are children of Abraham, and thus children of Israel. For Paul wrote, “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his descendants; but “Through Isaac shall your descendants be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are reckoned as descendants.” (Romans 9:6-8) Through their faith in God the Gentiles are reckoned as descendants of Abraham.

They are children of promise through faith and are children of God through faith in the promises of God. As Paul also wrote, “For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of their faith and the uncircumcised through their faith.” (Romans 3:28-30) The uncircumcised are the Gentile nations and these are made righteous or justified through their faith. Thus we see the Canaanite woman receive her request because of her faith and through her faith became a descendant of Israel in a spiritual sense and thus one of the lost sheep of Israel.

So Jesus was not being cold or inconsistent. Since she was a descendant of Abraham through faith in the promises of God, she was entitled to the healing she sought. She proved herself to be a child of Abraham and a child of God through her faith.

You might also like:

Sheep Without A Shepherd
Jesus Feeds The Crowd
Forgiving Your Brother
The Parable Of The Two Debtors
Healing On The Sabbath
Crumbs From The Masters Table
The Woman Who Was A Sinner
The Woman Caught In Adultery Part 2
The Joy Of Jesus
Unlocking The Promises Of God To The Gentiles
Rise Peter Kill And Eat
Peter First Speaks To The Gentiles
Gentiles Reconciled
Opening Up Gods Mercy
Stumbling Forward
Hope For All

Walking on Water with Jesus

(Matthew 14:22-33)

After Jesus fed the five thousand we see the teaching where Peter came walking on water with Jesus. This teaching about walking on water with Jesus holds many good lessons. There are elements of faith, doubt, trust, comfort, power and authority contained in the lesson on walking on water with Jesus.

To begin with we see Jesus send the disciples off in a boat across the sea while he dismissed the crowds and sent them home. After this Jesus went up alone on the mountain to pray. It is important to understand that even Jesus, as the Son of God still needed time alone with God to pray. He still came to the Father for guidance and to put his thoughts and needs before him. He did this alone which aligns with the teaching he gave in Matthew 6:6 saying, “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Jesus followed this same principle of praying alone and away from others to the Father.

Then we see Jesus come walking on water to the boat, intending to pass them by, but when they saw him he came to them. The disciples were terrified thinking it was a ghost until Jesus called to them not to be afraid. Peter then said, “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.” Jesus said, “Come.”

Now here is an interesting situation when Peter came walking on water with Jesus. First we must understand that no man has the power or authority to walk on water. Peter could not do so until he was given permission and authority from the Lord. Once he had permission Pater came walking on water to Jesus. Any miraculous works that are done can only be done under the power and authority of the Lord. You cannot take the power of God and you cannot take or claim the gifts of God either. These things are given as gifts and if the Lord does not give us both the power, which comes through the Holy Spirit, and the authority to exercise that power, we will be able to do nothing.

So Peter received the power and authority to come walking on water with Jesus. When he stepped over the side of the boat, believing it was the Lord; he had put his full trust and faith in Jesus that he would be able to walk on water with Jesus. And that is exactly what happened. Peter walked to Jesus in the middle of the sea on the water. While Peter kept his eyes on Jesus and held to his faith, he could literally walk on water with Jesus, not alone but with Jesus.

But then Peter looked around himself and saw the raging wind and waves and he became afraid and began to sink. He took his eyes off Jesus and basically said to himself that this can’t be happening. How can a man walk on water? And so he began to doubt, and when he began to doubt, he began to sink.

How many times do we find ourselves surrounded by the storms of life? When we look to Jesus the storms do not affect us, but when we focus on the storms we too begin to sink. The analogy here is easy to see and understand. While our focus is on Jesus we too can figuratively walk on water with Jesus. When we are together with Jesus, anything is possible. But when we separate ourselves from Jesus through doubt or setting our minds on the problems and issues that we are surrounded with, we sink. Doubt is a lack of faith.

When Peter came walking on water with Jesus and doubted, he quickly refocussed and called out to Jesus to save him as he was sinking. Jesus reached out his hand and caught him saying, “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?” Then they got into the boat and we see a further interesting thing occur. After Jesus had assisted Peter, he calmed the wind and sea. In essence he removed the storms and the problems that were causing them to be battered and hard pressed to reach the other shore. Likewise when we call to Jesus for help in our storms, as we ask in faith and trust him, in due course he will calm the storms around us.

This is a wonderful teaching from which we can take heart and hope. There is comfort in knowing that through Jesus anything is possible if we will call to him to help us. He has the power and the authority over all things and there is nothing he cannot do to help us. All we need to do is ask.

The Revelation to the Babes in Christ

(Matthew 11:25-27)

When the Lord came to open up the word of the New Covenant, he intended for the message to be accessible and available to all mankind. The revelation of his word was such that any person would be able to understand it if they came to him seeking to understand.

Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 2:3-6, “This is good, and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” In this Paul showed that there was to be no intermediary between man and God apart from Jesus. This was unlike under the Old Covenant where there was a priesthood selected only from the tribe of Levi and the high priests were to be of the blood lineage from Aaron.

Again it was shown that access to God was no longer the domain only of the high priest, for when Jesus died the curtain of the temple was torn from top to bottom indicating every man had access to the Holy of Holies through Jesus. (Hebrews 9:1-12) Prior to this only the high priest was permitted to enter into the Holy of Holies and then only once each year. But when Jesus came and died, he entered on our behalf and now sits at the right hand of God to mediate the New Covenant on our behalf directly with the Father.

So if there was to be no intermediary apart from Christ as high priest, and the job of the priests was to teach the people the requirements of the religion, then it was important that the teachings of the New Covenant be accessible to all. It was necessary that it be simple enough that everyone could understand the Covenant and the teachings that would lead to life. To that end, after Christ died he said we would receive the Holy Spirit to teach us all things as we see in John 14:26, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

Simplicity is the key and we see this in many places. The basis of the New Covenant and receiving God’s gifts is faith and through faith to come to know the love of God. The reason it was based on faith is so that every person would be able to receive it and every person would be equal. Everyone has the capacity to believe and this is the one great equaliser.

But some men tried to seek God through other means, such as knowledge, and they missed the mark. For it is written that “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1) So here in Matthew 11:25-27 we see Jesus extolling the fact that God has seen fit to open up his word of faith and love in the New Covenant to those who were not of great standing with regards to wisdom and knowledge of this world, but to babes in such matters. Paul noted this too saying in 1 Corinthians 1:18-21

“18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will thwart.”
20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.”

To those who seek knowledge and wisdom of this world the teachings of Christ are like foolishness because they are based on faith. They cannot begin to understand how it works or can work because they do not understand the wisdom of God and matters of the Spirit. But to those who accept Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord, this same word is all-powerful and able to change a man’s life. And the Son of God reveals this to us when we are called and answer his call. He reveals to us all matters pertaining to life and the very nature of the Father, for the nature of God is love.

Your Faith has Made You Well

(Matthew 9:18-26)

At this point in the book of Matthew we begin to see Jesus teaching on the power of faith. In the next few scriptures Jesus performed several healings and miracles, and in each case pointed out that it was through the person’s faith that they were made well.

The first of these was when the woman suffering a haemorrhage came and touched the fringe of his garment. She believed and had faith that the power of Jesus was such that if she only touched him she would be made well. In another version of this section (Mark 5:25-34) we see that Jesus was not even aware who the woman was when she had touched his garment. He perceived that power had gone forth from him to do a healing, but did not know who it went forth to and asked, “Who touched me?” When the woman realised she could not hide she fell at his feet in fear and trembling, explaining her situation before him. Jesus again said, “Your faith has made you well,” showing that it was on the basis of her belief that she received this healing.

Likewise in this same scripture we see Jairus who was one of the rulers of the synagogue of the Jews who in desperation came to Jesus to heal his dying daughter. Now Jairus was taking quite a risk for the Jews had agreed that if anyone should confess that Jesus was the Christ they were to be put out of the synagogue (John 9:22). And yet here we see this ruler of the synagogue showing his faith in Jesus to be able to heal his daughter. It is evident from this and other scriptures that there were rulers of the synagogue who did believe Jesus in spite of the general opposition from the Pharisees and rulers (Note that Nicodemus in John 3:1-2 was also a ruler of the Jews and a Pharisee, but he too came to Jesus and confessed his faith to Jesus). Jairus’ daughter died and while others told him not to bother Jesus any further, Jesus said to Jairus to only have faith. When he had come to the house of Jairus he went into the girls room where she lay dead, and taking her hand he raised her back to life. Again this healing was performed because the father of the child had faith and called on the Lord to help.

Faith is fundamental to come to Jesus for anything, whether it be healing, learning or life. Without faith we cannot receive any of God’s gifts for they are all based upon faith. In order to receive anything from the Lord we must first believe and then go to him convinced that he can do what we desire. As it says in Hebrews 11:6, “Without faith it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” If we do not believe, how can we receive? The whole of that chapter in Hebrews 11 is devoted to the many men and women of God who through faith in God did and received many wonderful things. Faith is the key to coming to God as it was truly said by Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:7 that we, “Walk by faith, not by sight”