Transfiguration of Jesus

(Matthew 17:1-8)

There is an important symbolism in this section of scripture about the transfiguration of Jesus. Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain, witnessed by the three disciples, Peter, James and John, is an important revelation of the New Covenant. There is an explanation of the New Covenant versus the Old Covenant contained in this event.

We see during the transfiguration of Jesus that his appearance was transformed. His face shone like the sun and his garments became white as light. (Verse 2) We see also that Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus and were talking to him. Needless to say the disciples were greatly astonished and did not know what to do. In his amazement, Peter offered to make three booths, one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah.

Now this is an interesting insight into the mind of Peter and the disciples. All of their lives they would have been taught about Moses and the prophets. The deeds of Moses and the prophets were part of their history, and were almost the stuff of legend. Through their works they received release from bondage in Egypt as well as the law that the Israelites cherished deeply. Seeing Moses and Elijah would have been even more profound for a Jew than it would for the average person today because of their learning and heritage.

Part of the symbolism of this event is in what each person represents. Moses was the giver of the law and represents the Old Covenant. Elijah was probably the greatest of the old prophets, and he was the only one of the prophets who never died but was taken by God. Elijah represents the prophets of old. And finally Jesus represents the New Covenant and the new way that was being introduced.

In Peter’s offer to make three booths for Moses, Elijah and Jesus he treats them as equals. But the intervention of God the Father at the transfiguration of Jesus sets a different path. The Father’s words are crucial to understanding the transfiguration of Jesus for he gives a powerful message in a few words.

A bright cloud overshadowed Peter and the disciples as he was speaking and the voice of the Father came from the cloud. He said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” (Verse 5) There are three messages in this statement for the disciples and for us.

First, God the Father identifies who Jesus is. He is the Son of God. If ever there was any doubt that Jesus is the Son of God and the Christ or the Messiah, it is done away with by the testimony of the Father himself.

Second, we see that the Father is well pleased with what the Son is doing. It is a pleasure to the Father for the Son is obedient to the word of the Father and the work he has been given to do. In another version of the transfiguration of Jesus we see that Moses and Elijah are talking with Jesus about his impending death and resurrection in Jerusalem. (Luke 9:28-36) It is this that the Father is well pleased about in this instance for it is by Jesus death and resurrection that the New Covenant would be established and sin dealt with.

Finally, we see the Father give instruction to the disciples directly. He tells them to, “Listen to him,” speaking of Jesus. He does not say to listen to all three of them, but to listen to Jesus only. This point is emphasised even more when we see the disciples fall to the ground in awe, but when they arose they see Jesus alone. Moses and Elijah were gone and they were left only in the presence of Jesus.

The allegory in this teaching is that with the advent of the New Covenant, the Old Covenant, which is the law and prophets, as represented here by Moses and Elijah, is done away with. The Old Covenant has been made obsolete and is superseded by the New Covenant. As the writer of Hebrews puts it, “In speaking of a new covenant he treats the first as obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” (Hebrews 8:13) This does not mean there is no value in the Old Covenant. There is great wisdom in the Old Covenant. But for Christians, we are to listen to Jesus, as instructed by the Father himself in this section on the transfiguration of Jesus.

To mix the two covenants is like mixing oil and water. The Old Covenant identifies sin and puts man under laws to attempt to control sin. But the New Covenant offers freedom from sin, freedom from law and the ability to transform the nature of man to be like the nature of God, so that we do not sin. We do not sin not because the law says not to, but because we are transformed into the nature of Jesus Christ and of God who cannot sin. The Old Covenant was incapable of doing this transformation for it dealt only with the flesh of man, not the spirit of man. It is only when we “listen to Him”, that is, when we take in the words of Christ that we can achieve the freedom on offer in the New Covenant. That is why the teaching of the transfiguration of Jesus is so important and fundamental to Christianity today.

Whoever Loses His Life for My Sake Will Find It

(Matthew 16:24-28)

What does Jesus mean by saying whoever loses his life for my sake will find it? Is he talking about dying for the sake of Jesus? And what about where he says whoever would save his life will lose it? How does this work?

In simple terms when Jesus says whoever loses his life for my sake will find he is talking about following him rather than following after your own desires. This is covered in verse 24 of this section saying, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” There are three distinct points to this verse. Firstly he says, “If any man would come after me,” meaning to follow Jesus. If they are to follow him they must be prepared to do what follows. The second point is to “deny himself.” By denying oneself a person puts the needs of the Lord before their own needs. There are times in following the Lord when we must put our own needs second to what the Lord may require of us. Which brings us to the third point, which is to “take up his cross.” This is a representation of the need to suffer and as Christians we will go through suffering from time to time for our walk with Christ. As Peter wrote, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:12-13) We must be prepared to suffer for Christ if that were needed in our endeavour to follow him.

Incidentally, there is some query over the translation of the Greek word rendered here as “cross.” the Greek word is “stauros,” which literally translates out as a stake, post or pole. This word was incorrectly translated into the Latin Vulgate bible as “crux” and for reasons unknown subsequently incorrectly translated into the English bibles as “cross.” Thus for the sake of accuracy it would appear that Jesus was put to death on a stake rather than a cross.

So we are to be prepared to lose the things of this life and to suffer if we are required in our walk with Christ. We see that Jesus shows the importance of this in the next scriptures saying, “For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?” (Verse 26) If a person is not prepared to give up everything in this life for the sake of the Lord, if that should be required of them, then they may stand the risk of losing everything of real value. You could gain the whole world and become the richest person on earth, but what is that compared to your life? Is anything worth more than keeping your life to eternity? That is the promise of the Lord. If we are prepared to suffer with him, then we too shall live with him.

There is an additional twist in this section too. Verse 27 states, “For the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay every man for what he has done.” When he speaks of what a person “has done,” he is not talking about doing great deeds or wondrous works. He is talking about what this whole section is speaking of, which is to follow him. That is the key to this whole section. We are called to follow him as the first and utmost priority. Great works will not ensure you receive life; only following Jesus can assure this.

As an example consider the scripture that says, “Not every one who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 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?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.'” (Matthew 7:21-23) These people will come to him proclaiming the works that they did in his name, but they did not follow him. They believed they would be saved for their works, but it is not through works that anyone is to be saved. Salvation is by faith in Jesus Christ alone. No other way is able to save a man from sin and death.

The principle of “whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” is bound up in the need to follow Jesus. Everything else a person can do is secondary to this requirement. As Jesus said to the rich young man, “Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21) Perfection in Christ is attainable only by following him. We must be prepared to give up everything for his sake if we are to achieve life, for all other things are distractions.

Jesus Foretells his Death and Resurrection

(Matthew 16:21-23)

Jesus regularly pre-warned the disciples of things to come. Jesus never leaves us completely in the dark, either then or now. Here we see Jesus foretells his death and resurrection to his disciples so they would understand what was coming and what would happen. He wanted to assure them that this was what was supposed to happen so they would not be surprised and shocked.

The very purpose of Jesus coming to the earth was to establish the New Covenant so that man could be set free from sin and death. However, to achieve a release from sin required a sacrifice to be made, as was ordained in the law. But there was no sacrifice adequate on this earth, and so Jesus came to become the perfect sacrifice. It was for our benefit that Jesus suffered so that we would not have to suffer also. It was the greatest gift ever given to man.

Naturally, Satan would oppose anything God would do for man. Here we see that Satan was at work opposing God and Jesus again. We have insight into Satan’s treachery in this passage for we see that he influenced even Peter, who in the previous section was blessed by Jesus for his faith. Satan influenced Peter to try to convince Jesus that such suffering and death as Jesus was describing to the disciples would or should never happen. Through Peter, Satan attempted to sway Jesus to escape such an end.

Jesus was aware of Satan’s malice and treachery. He recognised the hand of that devil immediately and thus warned him off saying, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men.” (Verse 23) Satan was attempting to hinder Jesus and using Peter to say the words. We note that Jesus did not accuse Peter of this treachery but went to the source of these words of hindrance, to Satan himself. Other translations of this verse, and the original Greek manuscript say, “…you are setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of men.” (ESV)

Satan was attempting to get Jesus to think like a man rather than to follow the path of God and think on the Spirit. He was appealing to the flesh of Jesus to lead him away from the things of the Spirit. When the flesh leads a man he is in opposition to God and cannot do what is pleasing to God. We see Paul cover this in Romans 8:5-8 saying;

5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.
6 To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, indeed it cannot;
8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Satan attempts to cause Jesus to set his mind on the flesh. He attempts to force him to think of the preservation of the flesh, self-preservation, by using Peter to say the words that this should never happen to Jesus. He was attempting to cause Jesus to walk in the flesh and set his mind on the flesh.

But the work of God is the work of the spirit, and to walk in the Spirit requires a person to set their minds on the things of the Spirit. This even included Jesus, who though he was the Son of God, was manifested in the flesh like any ordinary man. Jesus was tempted in all the same ways that any man is tempted, but without succumbing to temptation. This attempt by Satan was another of the temptations of Christ. Jesus walked in the Spirit and sent Satan packing. Walking in the flesh would have meant Jesus should seek to escape this upcoming death and suffering. But then how would the New Covenant appear and the word of God be fulfilled? Walking in the Spirit meant that Jesus would do as he was required by the Father to bring about the New Covenant for our sake, even though it meant death and suffering.

This scripture shows how great was Jesus’ love for us. Even though he was tempted and lured to swerve from the course that would lead to death, he did not waver. The Spirit prevailed and we are the more blessed for Jesus actions. In his actions we too have an example of walking in the Spirit. There may be times when the Lord’s course will cause us suffering too, so we need to be prepared to likewise walk in the Spirit.

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.”

Beware the Leaven of the Pharisees

(Matthew 16:5-12)

We see here that Jesus has just left the Pharisees and is warning his disciples to beware the leaven of the Pharisees. The disciples did not immediately understand this saying and were confused. They questioned amongst themselves saying, “We did not bring any bread.”

Jesus said to them did they not recall the times he fed the four thousand and fed the five thousand and how much bread was left over? It was only then they understood he was not talking about bread but by saying beware the leaven of the Pharisees he was telling them to beware the teachings of the Pharisees.

Let’s consider leaven for a moment. Leaven is yeast. A lump of leaven could also be a piece of dough that has had yeast added and is mixed in with a batch of dough. The purpose of leaven or yeast in bread making is threefold. Firstly, it causes the bread to rise. Yeast is a living substance with bacteria that give off carbon dioxide, which is the gas generated to cause the dough to rise. Secondly, it improves the taste and texture of the bread. Anyone who has had damper, which is an unleavened form of bread, will know that it is rougher in texture and tastes more floury or doughy than leavened bread. And finally it spreads and expands when put into flour. It gradually goes right through the bread and leavens it all.

Consider these aspects of leaven as they apply to the teachings of the Pharisees. First leaven causes bread to rise. In essence it puffs the bread up. The Pharisees were puffed up with pride and full of hypocrisy. They believed they had the knowledge of the kingdom and were the keepers of the kingdom of God, but they were wrong. As Jesus said in Matthew 23:14, “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in.” Paul also wrote of the puffery of knowledge saying, “We know that “all of us possess knowledge.” “Knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up.” (1 Corinthians 8:1) So the first warning Jesus was giving about the teachings of the Pharisees was that it leads to false pride and arrogance.

Now let us look at leaven in relation to the improvement of taste and texture. Often the false teachings that are offered are wrapped in a cloak of deceit. They sound good but they are destructive. Many New Age teachings are like this. As Paul wrote, “These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting rigor of devotion and self-abasement and severity to the body, but they are of no value in checking the indulgence of the flesh.” (Colossians 2:23) He also spoke of these false teachers and their leaven-like teachings that would lead people astray. “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4) People will look for teachings that justify themselves rather than lead to the glory of God. They will seek things that they like to hear and look for people teaching this false doctrine.

Finally the invasive nature of leaven is like these false teachings, and the most dangerous aspect of these teachings and teachers. It is Satanic for he was the author of deceit and deception, the master of the lie and the half-truth. Paul showed this insidious leaven-like aspect of false teaching like this; “Avoid such godless chatter, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will eat its way like gangrene. Among them are Hymenae’us and Phile’tus, who have swerved from the truth by holding that the resurrection is past already. They are upsetting the faith of some.” (2 Timothy 2:16-18) The greatest problem of the leaven-like teachings is that they are insidious. They will seep into a person and like leaven will colour all that a person believes, causing them to swerve from the truth as Paul wrote.

Jesus also showed this insidious nature of the false, hypocritical teachings of the Pharisees in the following parable. “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23) If we look for what is not good, the darkness, and allow it into our minds, how greatly will it darken our life? We must shun the teachings of darkness and seek the light of the Lord that comes through the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

There are many teachings that Jesus uses to warn his people of the false teachings that will come. Jesus constantly warns us about wolves in sheep clothing, false teachers, false prophets and the problems of accepting the lies from these people. Instead we must focus on the teachings of God and weigh all things up against the words in the Bible. When in doubt, seek his guidance in prayer and make no decision until you learn the right path.

Bible Signs of the Times

(Matthew 16:1-4)

In this section we see Jesus upbraiding the Pharisees and Sadducees who were looking for a sign from heaven to test Jesus. There are many Bible signs of the times throughout both Old & New Testaments relating to Jesus’ coming. The Pharisees and Sadducees were aware of them, but refused to accept this mere carpenter as the Messiah spoken of in the Bible signs of the times discussed in the old books of the prophets.

They wanted proof that Jesus was who he was, but even if they were to receive a sign, they would not have believed. As Jesus showed in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.” (Luke 16:31) The sign that Jesus offered to the Pharisees and Sadducees was exactly this. He said, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” (Matthew 16:4) In effect when Jonah was thrown overboard and swallowed by the great fish, spending three days in its belly, he was presumed dead. However when he was regurgitated he effectively rose from the dead. In Jesus’ case he would spend three days in the tomb and actually did rise from the dead. This is the parallel he was drawing by quoting the sign of Jonah.

But as we see, the Pharisees and Sadducees still would not believe even after he was raised from the dead. The chief priests of the time and elders of the temple paid off the guards and told them to spread the story that Jesus disciples came by night and stole the body away while the guards slept.

So Jesus upbraided them for although they could look at the signs in the sky to predict the weather, they were blind to the signs of the times. The Bible signs of the times have been given to us so that we may be aware of what is happening and what is to come. We can see from what is going on around us, and comparing this to the Bible and see the hand of the Lord. Let us look at some of the things occurring today and consider what they mean in the light of scripture and the Bible signs of the times.

2 Timothy 3:12 “Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” If you desire to follow Jesus and to live a godly life, you need to know that there will be persecutions and you will have trouble. This goes with your call to Christ. But you will also be strengthened by looking to Christ and be given the means to come through such persecutions. So as far as Bible signs of the times go, this is one at a personal level. When you are persecuted for the Lord, not if you do wrong, you are blessed and can take comfort that you are doing something right. If you were not, the devil would not persecute you.

Matthew 24:6 “And you will hear of wars and rumours of wars; see that you are not alarmed; for this must take place, but the end is not yet.” Consider the wars and skirmishes of recent times. The world or parts of it have been in constant war and fighting for the past century where nations have risen against nations. Look at the two world wars, Korea, Vietnam, two wars in Iraq, Bosnia, Afghanistan and the many crises in places like Uganda, Cuba, the Falklands, Yugoslavia, Georgia in the USSR, Timor, the middle east and many more that have occurred in recent years. These are pointers to the beginning of the end of this age; the birth pangs of the end as it is described.

Matthew 24:7 “…there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.” The seismic activity in recent years is unparalleled in the world’s history. There are more earthquakes occurring in more places than ever before. While there is some argument that we now have more and better equipment to identify and measure earthquakes, if we look only at the major quakes, i.e. greater than magnitude 8 on the Richter scale we see a definite increase. In the 1980’s there were 4 Mag 8+ quakes, in the 1990’s there were 6 Mag 8+ quakes and in the 2000’s there were 13 Mag 8+ quakes. This data is according to the US Geological Survey dep’t and can be seen graphically here.

Matthew 24:12 “And because wickedness is multiplied, most men’s love will grow cold.” Man’s inhumanity to man is beyond precedent today. Random acts of terror; random shootings and stabbings are daily news events. People lock themselves away for fear of violence on the streets.

Luke 21:25 “And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves.” We are seeing more damage caused by sea and tsunamis than ever before. Consider the tsunami that hit Indonesia on Boxing Day 2004. Nobody knows exactly how many people perished in that disaster, but they have accounted for at least 220,00 lives lost and possibly as many as 280,000. Recently in 2010 & 2011 there have been freak waves that hit Sydney and nearby beaches washing people out to sae with some lives lost. The common response to this freak weather was “Where did it come from? People and reporters were perplexed, as too were the weather experts. This is another manifestation of this sign in the Bible written several thousand years ago.

The prophet Daniel enquired of the Lord what some of the prophesies of the last days meant. He was told, “…Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” (Daniel 12:4) Was there ever a time in history like the one we are in today in respect of these matters? The Internet has made knowledge accessible to everyone and it is increasing at a rapid rate daily. Technological advance is such that sometimes gadgets are obsolete within months of their release. Consider the first IBM PC was released in 1981 and the change to the world in just 30 years since then as a result of that invention. And mankind is running to and fro all over the place. The pace of change is such that “busy-ness” is the norm for most people today and with global flights so cheap, people are on the move.

The upshot of all of these Bible signs of the times is that it is plain we are in the beginnings of the end times. Make no mistake, the Lord is returning in the not too distant future. We have not been given to know when that will be, but we have been given these and many other signs to help us understand what is happening, and to point to the approaching end of this age.

Jesus Feeds the Crowd

(Matthew 15:29-39)

Jesus feeds the crowd again in this section. This is the second miracle where Jesus feeds the crowd with just a few loaves and fishes.

The details of this miracle are similar to when Jesus feeds the crowd of five thousand. In this case we see there are four thousand men plus women and children, so it is a substantial crowd following him. Apart from the miracle itself, the lesson to be learned is strengthened by him doing this miracle twice. So what are the lessons to be taken from this?

1. The hand of the Lord is not shortened. He is able to provide for his people even being able to create food from nothing.
2. He is compassionate to his people. They had been following him for three days and he did not want to send them away hungry.
3. He shows we are to provide both spiritual food and physical food when the need is there.
4. It is hypocritical to say when someone is in need of food or clothing to, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled, without giving them the things needed for the body,” (James 2:16) That is, our faith is completed by our deeds and actions.

Now even today when Jesus is not walking the earth as he did two thousand odd years ago, we still see his miraculous power at work. His people who follow him are constantly watched over and guarded and do not suffer want. Testimonies abound of how people have sought the Lord for many things and received his blessing, sometimes in miraculous ways. As examples, here are a few instances from my own life and experience of the Lord’s provision and protection.

In all things we can come to him. There is no matter too great or too small that he cannot resolve. We need to firstly have the faith to bring our needs and concerns to him and then give him praise and glory to God when the prayers are answered. We also need to understand that sometimes the answer will be “No.” It is just like when our own children come to us for things that we know from experience is not good or right for them.

So if Jesus can feed the crowd on just a few loaves and fishes, he can do just about anything we may ask. The key is to ask and to believe that you will receive an answer.

Jesus Healing People

(Matthew 15:29-31)

Jesus healing people was a large part of why people followed him around. It would be no different today. When you consider the amount of sickness in the world today, and back in Jesus’ day, Jesus healing people was almost a full time job.

But the message he had to give was not just healing of the body. He also taught the people the good news of the New Covenant. There was a spiritual healing for the people too if they would listen and accept his word. That same offer of Jesus healing people spiritually is still available today. And the healing ministry along with all of the other miracles performed was done for the specific purpose of confirming the truth of the message. We see at the end of Mark that when the disciples were sent out to preach, there were miraculous signs performed to back up the message. The scripture says, “And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it.” (Mark 16:20)

Many people who first come to Christ do so when they have reached rock bottom. When they are completely down and out spiritually they begin to wonder if there is anything more to life, and start to seek in the spiritual dimension. Some go completely in the wrong direction and become spiritually ill, but those who seek the Lord find him or are found by him. When they come to the feet of Jesus in the spirit through prayer and repentance, they are healed as the people brought the sick and laid them at his feet for physical healing in this section of scripture. It says they brought the lame, the maimed, the blind, the dumb and many others and Jesus healed them all. None were missed. No sickness, deformity or issue was too hard or too great for him to overcome.

We see the people on seeing Jesus healing people were amazed and they were in wonder at the mighty power of God they were seeing in front of their eyes. They knew the source of this power for they glorified the God of Israel on seeing these miracles performed. And all the while Jesus continued to teach them the truth of the Kingdom of God.

Unfortunately many would reject his teachings at the time. The multitudes turned against him when he was brought before Pilate and put to death. But thereafter they recognised their error when Peter stood and preached to them on Pentecost day and they repented and turned once again to the Lord, this time for spiritual healing. Today this opportunity still exists to turn to Jesus for healing of the spirit. When we learn about the truth of the gospel, it is freedom and release that heals us in the spirit. In Jesus Christ we can find and receive his peace into our hearts and live in harmony with the Lord and one another.

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

What Comes Out Defiles a Man

(Matthew 15:10-20)

Jesus gave this parable about what comes out of a man and eating with unwashed hands after upbraiding the Pharisees and scribes about upholding traditions. He was concerned about matters of the spirit and not physical issues. Eating with unwashed hands was about a physical issue, but it is what comes out of a man that proceeds from the heart that is the real issue.

There are many things that man believes to be sin which are not. The Pharisees were so steeped in their human traditions that they took offence at the disciples for eating with unwashed hands. They considered this a transgression of the tradition of the elders and equated that with sin. But Jesus showed clearly this was not the case. It is what comes out of a man that will defile him. For all sin proceeds from the spirit of a man, from his heart and soul, and it is sin that defiles a person.

The disciples did not understand this parable so Peter asked the Lord to explain it to them. The Pharisees were focussed on what goes into a man, that is, food. They believed that it was unclean to eat with unwashed hands for the food would be contaminated in some way. While we know today about issues of bacteria, salmonella and the like, we do not wash before eating as a religious tradition like the Pharisees did, but for hygiene reasons. Even then, if we did not wash before eating in most circumstance we would not suffer any harm, and certainly it is not a sin.

So it is not what goes into a man that is an issue but what comes out defiles a man. Jesus listed all manner of evil, the primary concern being evil thoughts. Evil thoughts in particular are at the root of what comes out of a person and defiles them. In other scriptures when the Lord says, “You shall know them by their fruits,” he is saying to watch and see if what comes out defiles a man or if what comes out is good fruit.

In speaking of the false teaching that the Pharisees were promoting based upon their human traditions, Jesus counselled the disciples to “Leave them alone; they are blind guides. And if a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” (Verse 14) He was saying that they are spiritually blind for they put their traditions above the word of God. While there are some traditions that are harmless and some that were delivered to us to keep by the Lord himself, any time we put a tradition or any false teaching ahead of the word of God we are in peril of being a blind guide.

Spiritual blindness is worse than physical blindness for it clouds and darkens the spirit of a man and leads him astray. Succumbing to spiritual blindness will cause people to fall away from following the Lord and wandering into error. Thus as the writer of Hebrews counsels, “Therefore we must pay the closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” (Hebrews 2:1) Whatever we hear from other people we need to weigh against the scripture and the words of Jesus to see if it accords with the truth of the gospel of Christ. To do that we need to study the scriptures so that we are immersed in it and can more quickly pick the error from the truth. As Paul wrote, “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles.” (Ephesians 4:14) Only by doing this in combination with Christian fellowship and prayer are we able to ensure we are not swayed by false doctrine and the teachings of blind guides.