Monday, January 13, 2014

Rest for the Weary

[Read]  25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.  27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.  28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:25-30)


25  Luke's account reads "At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, "I praise you..."  (Luke 10:21)

Jesus says God has hidden 'these things' (spiritual wisdom, salvation) from the 'wise and learned' and revealed them to 'little children.'  So who are the 'wise and learned' and who are the 'little children'?

The 'wise and learned' are those who are wise in their own eyes (Isaiah 5:21; 1 Corinthians 1:20, 8:2; Galatians 6:3).

The 'little children' are representative of those who will enter the kingdom (Matthew 18:4, 19:13-15).  They are those who 'humble themselves' and take the 'lowly position.'  These are his disciples and those who receive Him.

From Matthew 18:4, we know that "whoever humbles themself" or "takes the lowly position" like a child is greatest in the kingdom.  He speaks of the value in being humble (God have mercy on me, a sinner) and contrasts it with pride in Luke 14:11 (taking the seat of honor, the best seat for yourself) and Luke 18:14 (God, thank you I'm not like these wicked people).  Jesus taught blessed are the poor in spirit and the meek (Matthew 5:3, 5).  He said that whoever wants to be first must be a servant and a slave (Matthew 20:26-27, 23:11; Luke 22:25-27).  (His contrasts include the disciples arguing about who would be the greatest and take over after Jesus left and the Pharisees who were desiring the seat of honor at the banquet.)  And of course Jesus demonstrated this by washing the feet of his disciples (John 13:14).

26  Why would God be pleased to hide Spiritual things from the wise and learned yet reveal them to the 'humble' and those who take the 'lowly position'?

27  "All things"- probably authority of all knowledge of 'these things' (v. 25) necessary for repentance and acceptance of Jesus/his disciples.  Jesus chooses (v. 27).

See Matthew 13:11, Mark 4:11-12.

Jesus words that 'no one knows the Son except the Father' is hard for me.  Looking at the context, perhaps Jesus is saying 'the wisdom of this world doesn't give man wisdom of the Father or the Son.  All things, all wisdom was given to the Son from the Father; and nobody knows the Son or the Father whom the Son has not chosen to reveal them to.'

After verse 27, Luke adds the following:  "Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.  For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.” (Luke 10:23-24)

28-30  Jesus offers rest.  Matthew 23:4; Revelation 14:13; Hebrews 3:11, 18, 4:6-11.  Spiritual rest (v 29).

Come to me, Jesus.  I am the one who has the words of eternal life.  You will receive rest for your souls.  Rest is the idea of peace with God and contrasting with toil:  "Through painful toil you will eat of it [the ground] all the days of your life."  (Genesis 3:17).

Also physical rest in this life.  The people were weary and burdened by the heavy loads the Pharisees and teachers of the law were placing on the people (Matthew 23:4).  They ask the people to obey them and do everything they tell them to do (Matthew 23:3).  But they don't need to do these things; heck, the Pharisees don't even do them (Matthew 23:3)!  It's useless, burdensome work that God doesn't require.  Jesus requires no such things.  Jeremiah 6:16:  Jesus knows the good way to walk in.  This will provide rest.

"It has been said by biblical scholars that the Pharisees had added over 600 regulations regarding what qualified as ‘working’ on the Sabbath. That is a heavy burden!"  (Got Questions)
"...the contrast is between the burden of submission to the OT in terms of Pharisaic regulation and the relief of coming under Jesus' tutelage as under the authority of gentle revealer to whom the OT, the ancient paths, truly pointed."  (Carson, 278-279)

[Live]  None.

D.A. Carson, The Expositor's Bible Commentary: Matthew, Volume 8 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984).
Got Questions:

Friday, January 10, 2014

Woe on Unrepentant Cities

[Read]  20 Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades.  For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”  (Matthew 11:20-24)

[Meditate]  This passage appears also in Luke 10:12-15.  Here, Luke places the teaching after instructing the disciples when sending them out.  Jesus says this to those cities who would not welcome his sent out disciples.

20  Repentance was what Jesus was looking for when he was performing miracles.

21  "The Bethsaida in question was probably the home of Andrew, Peter, and Philip (John 1:44; 12:21) on the west side of Galilee..." (Carson, 273)

"Tyre and Sidon were... often denounced by OT prophets for their Baal worship (Isaiah 23; Ezekiel 26-28; Joel 3:4; Amos 1:9-10; Zechariah 9:2-4)."  (Carson, 273)

" 'Sackcloth' is a rough fabric made from the short hairs of camels and usually worn next to the skin to express grief or sorrow (2 Samuel 3:31; 1 Kings 21:27; 2 Kings 6:30; Joel 1:8; Jonah 3:5-8).  Ashes were added in cases of deep emotion (Job 42:6; Daniel 9:3), whether one put them on the head (2 Samuel 13:19; Lamentations 2:10), sat in them (Jonah 3:6), lay on them (Esther 4:3), or even rolled in them (Jeremiah 6:26; Micah 1:10)."  (Carson, 273)

22  "...punishment on the Day of Judgment takes into account opportunity.  There are degrees of felicity in paradise and degrees of torment in hell (Luke 12:47-48)."  (Carson, 273)

More importantly, I think Jesus is trying to say that their refusal to repent is egregious.  When you get compared with Sodom and Gomorrah (which they are about to be compared to in verses 23-24) you know God is not pleased.

In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire. (Jude 1:7)
More Sodom and Gomorrah comparisons:  Isaiah 1:9-10, Jeremiah 23:14, Ezekiel 16:48, Matthew 10:15.

23  "The city [Capernaum] was not only Jesus' base (4:13), but he performed many specific miracles there."  (Carson, 273)

Sodom would have repented if it saw the miracles Capernaum saw, Jesus says.  This is the same argument Jesus gives in verse 21.

24  It would be more tolerable because they didn't have the light they had.

[Pray]  God, I can see in this passage that repentance is important to you, and that salvation depends on it.  In Jesus name, Amen.

[Live]  Repent and be saved.

D.A. Carson, The Expositor's Bible Commentary: Matthew, Volume 8 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984)

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Jesus and John the Baptist

[Read]  After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee.  2 When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples 3 to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”  4 Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 6 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”  7 As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 8 If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. 9 Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written:  “‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’  11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. 15 Whoever has ears, let them hear.  16 “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:  17 “‘We played the pipe 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, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.” (Matthew 11:1-19)


2  Luke's account says that John sent two of his disciples (Luke 7:18).

In Matthew 4:12 we first learned John was in prison.

John is in prison because Herod Antipas sent him there.  John had been saying, "It is not lawful for you to have her," because Herod had married his brother Philip's wife (Matthew 14:3-5).

"According to Josephus (Antiq XVIII, 119 v2), Herod imprisoned John the Baptist in the fortress of Machaerus, east of the Dead Sea."  (Carson, 262)

3  Why does John ask this?  Isn't he a prophet?  Doesn't he already know this?

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God,who takes away the sin of the world!  This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’  I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”  Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him.  And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’  I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.” (John 1:29:34)

“I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.  His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”  Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John.  But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”  Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented.  As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.  And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”  (Matthew 2:11-3:17)

Perhaps John believed Jesus was 'God's Chosen One' (John 1:34), then heard about all Jesus had done but wondered if Jesus fit his Messianic expectations- so he thought he would ask Jesus himself...?  Scholars have suggested multiple possibilities (see

4  Before the words in verse 4, Luke records this:  "At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind.  So he replied..."  (Luke 7:21)

5  "Jesus' answer briefly summarized his own miracles and preaching, but in the language of Isaiah 35:5-6; 61:1... At one level the answer was straightforward:  Isaiah 61:1 is an explicit messianic passage, and Isaiah 35:5-6... describes the return of God's people to Zion with accompanying blessings (e.g., restoration of sight).  Jesus definitely claimed that these messianic visions were being fulfilled in the miracles he was performing and that his preaching the Good News to the poor (5:3) was as explicit a fulfillment of the messianic promises of Isaiah 61:1-2 as Luke 4:17-21.  The powers of darkness were being undermined; the kingdom was advancing (v. 12)."  (Carson, 262)

Good news is proclaimed to the poor:

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism.  Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in.  If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?   Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?  But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court?  Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong? (James 2:1-7)

6  "...the beatitude in this form assumes the questioner has begun well and now must avoid stumbling."  (Carson, 262)

What is the meaning of this phrase?  The ESV translates the phrase as, "And blessed is the one who is not offended by me."

When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there.  Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed.  “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked.  “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?  Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?”  And they took offense at him. (Matthew 13:53-57)

Jesus says those who do not take offense at (reject) him are blessed.  Perhaps Jesus was speaking to John and his disciples here; maybe he was saying, 'You see the work I have been doing; it's not what you expected; but you will be blessed if you don't reject me.'

7  "A reed is probably cane grass, found in abundance along the Jordan."  (Carson, 263)

"A reed...'swayed by the wind' suggests a fickle person, tossed about in his judgment by the winds of public opinion or private misfortune."  (Carson, 263)

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. (Ephesians 4:14)

8  Luke's account says "No, those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury are in palaces." (Luke 7:25).

9  Here Jesus confirms that John is a prophet.  John's father, Zecharias, predicted this also (Luke 1:76).

10  This is a quote from Malachi 3:1.

  "...he himself was also the subject of prophecy- the one who, according to Scripture, would announce the Day of Yahweh."  (Carson, 264)

11  Jesus speaks of John's greatness to setup up his teaching- he wants to speak about greatness in the kingdom being tied to the least.

From Matthew 18:4, we know that "whoever humbles themself" or "takes the lowly position" like a child is greatest in the kingdom.  He speaks of the value in being humble (God have mercy on me, a sinner) and contrasts it with pride in Luke 14:11 (taking the seat of honor, the best seat for yourself) and Luke 18:14 (God, thank you I'm not like these wicked people).  Jesus taught blessed are the poor in spirit and the meek (Matthew 5:3, 5).  He said that whoever wants to be first must be a servant and a slave (Matthew 20:26-27, 23:11; Luke 22:25-27).  (His contrasts include the disciples arguing about who would be the greatest and take over after Jesus left and the Pharisees who were desiring the seat of honor at the banquet.)  And of course Jesus demonstrated this by washing the feet of his disciples (John 13:14).

Andrew Murray has a great teaching on this:

Luke's account has this note after verse 11:  "(All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John.  But the Pharisees and the experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.)  (Luke 7:29-30)

12   Luke has slightly different wording:

“The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it. (Luke 16:16)

"The kingdom has come with holy power and magnificent energy that has been pushing back the frontiers of darkness.  This is especially manifest in Jesus' miracles and ties in with Jesus' response to the Baptist (v. 5)."  (Carson, 266)

"...from the days of the Baptist... the kingdom has been forcefully advancing.  But it has not swept all opposition away, as John expected.  Simultaneous with the kingdom's advance have been the attacks of violent men on it...  It includes Herod's imprisonment of John, the attacks by Jewish leaders now intensifying (9:34; 12:22-24)... Already Jesus warned his disciples of persecution and suffering (10:16-42)..."  (Carson, 267-268)

13  " 'The Prophets' precedes 'the Law,' an unusual order (5:17; 7:12)...both 'Prophets' and 'Law' prophecy.. a powerful way of saying that the entire OT has a prophetic function..."  (Carson, 268)

Combined with verse 10, Jesus is trying to say that the prophecies of the OT and John have now culminated in this: the Messiah has now come.

14  John already acknowledged he is not Elijah (John 1:21).  But he was "the Elijah who was to come," as Malachi said (Malachi 4:5).  The angel Gabriel said that John would "go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah" (Luke 1:17).  And John did look like Elijah too (2 Kings 1:8).

15  Whoever can receive it (understand this), let them receive it.

16  He's referring to the Pharisees here as they criticized Jesus for eating with tax collectors and sinners (Matthew 9:10-11, Luke 15:1-2).

17  Luke 7:32 says 'did not cry' instead of 'mourn' here.

These are two different kinds of games: a wedding game, then a funeral game.  Jesus is saying, 'we wanted you, Jesus, to dance and you didn't, we expected you to cry and mourn and you didn't... c'mon, Jesus!'

18  Luke specifies that it was 'eating bread and drinking wine.'  (Luke 7:33)

This fits with Luke's description of John: "for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born" (Luke 1:15).

19  I thought this was an interesting take:

"...reading Deuteronomy 21 this morning, it struck me that there is a darker undercurrent to this accusation thrown at Jesus by the self-righteous. Deuteronomy 21 includes the following passage...:

If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father and mother, who does not heed them when they discipline him, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his town at the gate of that place. They shall say to the elders of his town, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.‘ Then all the men of the town shall stone him to death. So you shall purge the evil from your midst; and all Israel will hear, and be afraid. (Deuteronomy 21:18-21)

In other words, those describing Jesus as “a glutton and a drunkard” were not making a random accusation: they were implying that he was a “rebellious son” who deserved to be stoned to death." (John Halton)

Luke 7:35 says, "But wisdom is proved right by all her children" instead of  'by her deeds'.
Wisdom is proved right by her actions- Jesus' actions and John's actions prove they are wisdom or living rightly.

[Pray]  God, being least in the kingdom is important to you.  You desire that I am a servant and humble; willing to wash others' dirty feet and associate with lowly people, not seeking to be honored by men.  Help me to walk in this.  In Jesus name, Amen.

[Live]  Serve others humbly.  Don't think too highly of myself.  Associate with those in low positions.

D.A. Carson, The Expositor's Bible Commentary: Matthew, Volume 8 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984).
John Halton, "A Glutton and a Drunkard?" (from

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Jesus Heals the Blind and Mute

[Read]  As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!”  28 When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?”  “Yes, Lord,” they replied.  29 Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you”; 30 and their sight was restored. Jesus warned them sternly, “See that no one knows about this.” 31 But they went out and spread the news about him all over that region.  32 While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. 33 And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”  34 But the Pharisees said, “It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.”  (Matthew 9:27-34)


27  "Matthew uses this designation, Son of David, for Jesus most frequently of the evangelists." (Van Elderen, 8)

"Seventeen verses in the New Testament describe Jesus as the "son of David." But the question arises, how could Jesus be the son of David if David lived approximately 1000 years before Jesus? The answer is that Christ (the Messiah) was the fulfillment of the prophecy of the seed of David (2 Samuel 7:14-16). Jesus was the promised Messiah, which meant He was of the seed of David.  Matthew 1 gives the genealogical proof that Jesus, in His humanity, was a direct descendant of Abraham and David through Joseph, Jesus' legal father. The genealogy in Luke chapter 3 gives Jesus' lineage through His mother, Mary. Jesus is a descendant of David, by adoption through Joseph, and by blood through Mary.  Primarily though, when Christ was referred to as the Son of David, it was meant to refer to His Messianic title as the Old Testament prophesied concerning Him.  Jesus was addressed as “Lord, thou son of David” several times by people who, by faith, were seeking mercy or healing. The woman whose daughter was being tormented by a demon (Matthew 15:22), the two blind men by the wayside (Matthew 20:30), and blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:47), all cried out to the son of David for help. The titles of honor they gave Him declared their faith in Him. Calling Him Lord expressed their sense of His deity, dominion, and power, and by calling Him “son of David,” they were professing Him to be the Messiah.  The Pharisees, too, understood what was meant when they heard the people calling Jesus “son of David.” But unlike those who cried out in faith, they were so blinded by their own pride and lack of understanding of the Scriptures that they couldn’t see what the blind beggars could see – that here was the Messiah they had supposedly been waiting for all their lives. They hated Jesus because He wouldn’t give them the honor they thought they deserved, so when they heard the people hailing Jesus as the Savior, they became enraged (Matthew 21:15) and plotted to destroy Him (Luke 19:47)... Jesus Christ... the son of David, both in a physical sense and a spiritual sense." (

28  The blind men are now following Jesus indoors.

"Apparently Jesus was returning from the ruler's house [Jairus' house] (v. 23) either to his own house (4:13) or to that of Matthew (v. 10, 28- the article in Greek implies it was either his own dwelling or the one previously mentioned)."  (Carson, 232)

29  "In this case, and the case of Bartimaeus, he merely touched their eyes, and they were cured (20:34). When he healed the blind man at Bethsaida, he used saliva (Mark 8:22-26). With the man born blind in John 9:1-12, he used saliva to make mud, and put in on the man’s eyes." (Bradford, "Matthew 9:27-34")

" 'According to your faith' does not mean 'in proportion to your faith' (so much faith, so much sight) but rather 'since you believe, your request is granted'- "your faith has healed you" (v. 22)."  (Carson, 233)

30  Jesus had previously told someone else he healed not to tell anyone else what had happened and he would do it again (Matthew 8:4, 12:16, 16:20, 17:9).  The time was not yet.

32  "The word kophos (could not talk) in classical, Hellenistic, and biblical Greek means 'deaf' or 'dumb' or 'deaf mute'; the two ailments are commonly linked, especially if deafness is congenital.  Perhaps the man here (v. 32) was not only mute but a deaf mute."  (Carson, 234)

33  "Within the Judaism of Jesus’ day, as tradition had been passed down over the centuries, a system had been developed to cast out demons from people who had been possessed. This system was made up of a three-part ritual. First, the exorcist would have to make verbal contact with the demon, which would speak through its victim. Second, the exorcist would demand to know the name of the demon. Third, the exorcist would then command the demon to leave the body of its victim. This was the ritual used by the rabbis in Jesus’ day, and it even survives today in this basic form within the Roman Catholic Church.  Jesus used this system when He was confronted by the demon-possessed man in the area of the Gerasenes.  Before Jesus cast out the demon He demanded to know its name. The demon responded by saying, "My name is Legion, for we are many." Then Jesus cast these demons into the pigs, which then ran off a cliff and drowned (Mark 5)."  (Red Moon Rising, "Who Was Jesus?")

What was unusual was not that there was demon exorcism:

"The casting out of demons was not a terribly unusual miracle. However, there was a certain type of demon that was beyond the reach of the traditional rabbinic system. In some cases a demon would possess a mute person or cause its victim to go mute. In this way the exorcist would not be able to make verbal contact with the demon and could not command it to leave."  (Red Moon Rising, "Who Was Jesus?")

The unusual part was that the demon was cast out of a mute person.

"The belief in that culture was that you could only cast a demon out by knowing its true name. Therefore, a demon that caused muteness could not be cast out because its name could not be learned. That’s why the crowd was amazed, because Jesus was able to drive out a demon from a man who could not speak... It may have seemed logical to some [the Pharisees that accuse him here] that Jesus knew the demon’s name without being told because he was in league with them."  (Bradford, "Matthew 9:27-34")

34  In Matthew 12:24 also the Pharisees accuse Jesus of driving out demons by the prince of demons.

This verse is curiously missing from the Western textual tradition.  Some scholars believe it's an intrusion from 12:24.  I don't see an issue; in this case the demon-possessed man is said to be mute; in Matthew 12 the man is mute and also blind (12:22).

[Pray]  God, would I have faith like these three men who came in their need and asked of Jesus.  In Jesus name, Amen.

[Live]  Walk in faith.

Mark Bradford, "Matthew 9:27-34" (
D.A. Carson, The Expositor's Bible Commentary: Matthew, Volume 8 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984).
Got Questions:
Red Moon Rising:
Bastiaan Van Elderen, "The Significance of the Structure of Matthew 1," found in Chronos, Kairos, Christos (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1989).

Thursday, December 05, 2013

A Dead Girl and a Sick Woman

[Read]  18 While he was saying this, a synagogue leader came and knelt before him and said, “My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her, and she will live.” 19 Jesus got up and went with him, and so did his disciples. 20 Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. 21 She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”  22 Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment. 23 When Jesus entered the synagogue leader’s house and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes, 24 he said, “Go away. The girl is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. 25 After the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took the girl by the hand, and she got up. 26 News of this spread through all that region.  (Matthew 9:18-26)


18  Mark says, "When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake" (Mark 5:21).  "Luke's account tells us "Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him" (Luke 8:40).  Luke and Mark say the synagogue leader's name was Jairus (Luke 8:41, Mark 5:22) and that when he saw Jesus, he fell at Jesus' feet (Luke 8:40, Mark 5:22) pleading with him to come to his house (Luke 8:41).  Luke says Jairus' only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying (Luke 8:42, Mark 5:23).

They must have been in the synagogue in Capernaum (Matthew 9:1), where Jesus lived.

Matthew links this account with the previous discussion Jesus has with John's disciples and the Pharisees about fasting.

This was not a small thing that the ruler of a synagogue was kneeling/bowing before Jesus.

It should be noted:  "Jairus thought Jesus needed to be there in person to heal his daughter. The synagogue ruler had less faith than a Gentile [the centurion, Matthew 8]. That’s why Jesus was so astonished at the centurion’s faith, and said he had not found anyone in Israel with such great faith."  (Bradford, "Matthew 9:18-26")

20  Luke adds the following:  "As Jesus was on his way [with Jairus], the crowds almost crushed him.  And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her." (Luke 8:42-43)  Mark says the large crowd followed Jesus (Mark 5:24).  About the woman, Mark says "She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse" (Mark 5:26).

Perhaps the nature of her disease (unclean, Leviticus 15:26) was reason that she touched him from behind.

"Strictly speaking, she should not have been in this crowd, where she could be contaminating many others; and most certainly she should not have been touching Jesus."  (Carson, 229)

21  Mark says her bleeding stopped immediately and "she was freed from her suffering" once she touched Jesus' cloak (Mark 5:29).

22  Luke provides a fuller account here.  After the woman touches Jesus' cloak, Jesus asks, "Who touched me?" (8:45).  Then, "When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”  (Mark's account says " “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”  But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it.  But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”  Mark 5:31-32) Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling (Mark says "trembling with fear", Mark 5:33) and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed.  Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.” " (8:45-48)  Mark says Jesus realized the power had gone out from him at once (Mark 5:30) and then turned around in the crowd to ask who touched his clothes.

The reason she was trembling with fear:  "Because being unclean, any rabbi would have rebuked her severely for touching him."  (BibleStudyTools)

23-24  Again, Luke provides more to the story:  "While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher anymore.”  Hearing this (Mark says Jesus overheard), Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.”  When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother.  Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.”  They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead.  (Luke 8:49-53)

Why the pipes or flutes?:  "Even to this day Oriental funerals are characterized by noisy uproar and frantic demonstrations of sorrow, made by real and hired mourners. Flute-players, then as now, mingle the plaintive strains of their instruments with the piercing cries of those females who made mourning a profession."  (BibleStudyTools)

Jesus makes a similar comment about Lazarus (who had been dead for four days) being asleep in John 11:11.

"The least that Jesus meant by this contrast between sleep and death was that in this instance the real death of the girl was not as final as the mourners thought."  (Carson, 229)

25-26  Mark 5:40 says that after the crowd was put outside, Jesus "took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was."  Luke's account:  "But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” 55 Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up (Mark 5:42 adds that she also immediately began to walk around). Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. 56 Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened."  (Luke 8:54-56)

"Talitha cumi" (Aramaic), as Mark says.

[Pray]  God, would I live by faith while there's still time.  Here in your word we see examples of people who lived by faith, and I am reminded of the centurion who had "great faith".  Would I have that kind of faith.  In Jesus name, Amen.

[Live]  Live by faith while there's still time.

Mark Bradford, "Matthew 9:18-26" (
D.A. Carson, Jesus' Sermon on the Mount and his Confrontation with the World (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1987).

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Jesus Questioned About Fasting

[Read]  14 Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”  15 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.  16 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17 Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined.  No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.” (Matthew 9:14-17)


14  Both Mark and Luke's accounts tell us that John's disciples and also the Pharisees were fasting at this time (Mark 2:18, Luke 5:33). Luke's account says the claim is they both fast and pray often.

Who is speaking to Jesus here?  Luke says "They said to him..." leaving the question unanswered.  Matthew says it was John's disciples, while Mark says it was "some people" (Mark 2:18).

The fasting was from "eating and drinking" as Luke 5:33 explains.  Many Christians today believe fasting can include things such as television and entertainment.  Fine.  Originally it was food and drink.

15  Mark and Luke use the word 'fast' (Mark 2:19, Luke 5:34) instead of 'mourn'.  He also answers the question here by saying, "They cannot, so long as they have him with them." (Mark 2:19)

"Fasting, in Jewish culture at that time, was associated with mourning. John and his disciples fasted as a sign of mourning over their sin, and the sin of Israel."  (Bradford, "Matthew 9:14-17")

"In the Old Testament God had pictured himself as the husband [or bridegroom] of his people Israel (Isaiah 62:4-5.; Jeremiah 2:2; 3:20; Ezekiel 16:8; Hosea 2:19-20).  Now his Son, the Messiah, the long hoped-for one, has come and he claims to be the Bridegroom—that is, the husband of his people, who will be the true Israel (cf. John 3:29). This is the kind of partially veiled claim Jesus made about his identity with God. If you had ears to hear, you could hear it."  (Piper, "When the Bridegroom is Taken Away")

"After a thousand years of dreaming and longing and hoping and waiting, he is here! The absence of fasting in the band of disciples was a witness to the presence of God in their midst."  (Piper, "When the Bridegroom is Taken Away")

"Jesus replies to them that his disciples were not mourning for the same reason that wedding guests don’t mourn during the wedding. The time for mourning would come soon enough for Jesus’ disciples. It would come sooner than they thought. And Jesus was certainly not against fasting. He had just taught his disciples on the subject of fasting (6:16-18)."  (Bradford, "Matthew 9:14-17")

And when the bridegroom (Jesus) was taken from them, they did fast:

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.  (Acts 13:2-3)

Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.   (Acts 14:23)

The Didache (written before the year AD 120) on fasting:

"Let not your fasts be with the hypocrites, for they fast on Mondays and Thursdays, but do your fast on Wednesdays and Fridays." (7:1)

Calvin (16th century) on fasting:

"Let us say something about fasting, because many, for want of knowing its usefulness, undervalue its necessity, and some reject it as almost superfluous; while, on the other hand where the use of it is not well understood, it easily degenerates into superstition. Holy and legitimate fasting is directed to three ends; for we practice it either as a restraint on the flesh, to preserve it from licentiousness, or as a preparation for prayers and pious meditations, or as a testimony of our humiliation in the presence of God when we are desirous of confessing our guilt before him."  (Institutes, IV.12, 14, 15)

16  Luke has an interesting reading:  "He told them this parable: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old." (Luke 5:36)

"To repair a large rent in an old and well-shrunk cloth, it is necessary to use a patch that is similarly well-shrunk.  The two parts must be compatible."  (Carson, 215)

17  At the end of Luke's passage, he adds the following:  "And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.’” (Luke 5:39)

"Skin bottles for carrying various fluids were normally made by killing and skinning an animal, sewing up all orifices, fur side out, after tanning the skin with special care to reduce the possibility of disagreeable taste in the liquid to be stored.  Eventually such a skin bottle became brittle.  If new wine, still fermenting, were stored there, the fermentation gases could easily exert enough pressure to split the bottle.  New wine was therefore placed in new wineskins, if at all possible, because they would still be pliable and somewhat elastic, and therefore less likely to split open."  (Carson, 215)

"New wine that is still fermenting expands and will cause old skins to burst if new wine is poured into them."  (Wilkins, 369)

There are three comparisons Jesus gives between something old and something new:  1, garment (old vs. new).  2, wineskins (old vs. new).  3, wine (old vs. new).  Something new or different is going on here.  The bridegroom has come.  We can't put it in the old contents.  You can't take the bridegroom and celebration and try to mix that with mourning and fasting.  Yet there are some (the Pharisees and perhaps John the Baptist's disciples) that want to see the disciples of the bridegroom mourn and fast, claiming the old is better (c'mon, Jesus- your disciples should be fasting and mourning!).

[Pray]  God, would I not ignore fasting.  And when I do fast, would it be for the right reasons- in seeking you and remembering that I don't live on food alone.  In Jesus name, Amen.

[Live]  Fast as either as a discipline for controlling the body, or as part of seeking the Lord in prayer, or as part of confessing and grieving sins.

Mark Bradford, "Matthew 9:14-17" (
D.A. Carson, Jesus' Sermon on the Mount and his Confrontation with the World (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1987).
John Piper, "When the Bridegroom is Taken Away They Will Fast With New Wineskins" (
Michael J. Wilkins, Matthew: From Biblical Text- to Contemporary Life, NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004)

Monday, December 02, 2013


What is required for salvation?

The most common thing discussed along with salvation is faith:

This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:4-5)

For you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:9)

What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal.  Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone. (Romans 9:30-32)

Paul seems to explain what he means by saving faith here:

But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim:  If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (Romans 10:8-10)

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.  (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Grace and salvation are again wed in Acts 15:11 and 2 Timothy 1:9, and Titus 3:4-7.

Believing in Christ is also tied to salvation:

The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas.  He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”  Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house.  At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized.  The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household. (Acts 16:29-34)

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.  (Romans 1:16)

For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. (1 Corinthians 1:21)

Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.  For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.  Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.  Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.  (Romans 10:1-4)

Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.   (Luke 8:12)

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.  (John 1:12)

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life...  (John 3:36)

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  (John 3:16)

Acts 4:12 says that salvation is found only in Jesus.

Repentance (change your mind) is also required:

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.  Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?  I tell you, no!  But unless you repent, you too will all perish.  Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them- do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?  I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”  Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any.  So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’  “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it.  If it bears fruit next year, fine!  If not, then cut it down.’” (Luke 13:1-9)

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.  (2 Cor 7:10)

In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.  For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.  (Acts 17:30-31)

Salvation is a work of the Spirit:

But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters loved by the Lord, because God chose you as firstfruits to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.  He called you to this through our gospel, that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14)

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:4-7)

Salvation is the forgiveness of sins:

And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins... (Luke 1:76-77).

For those who are saved, they seem to be described as:

(1)  Having a love for God.

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8-9)

The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.  (2 Thessalonians 2:9-10)

(2)  An obedience to Christ.

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.  Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.  (Hebrews 5:7-10)

(3)  A joy of salvation.  

See again, 1 Peter 1:8-9.

(4)  Those who hold firmly to the truth:

By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:2)

(5)  Fruit or a particular life evidence:

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”  Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:8-10)

See again Luke 13:1-9.

Does this contradict 1 Corinthians 3, thought by some to be saying that you can be saved but do nothing else "profitable" or have no fruit?:

The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.  By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work.14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames. (1 Corinthians 3:8-15)

The context here is that Paul is saying he laid a foundation as a wise builder with his teaching about Jesus Christ.  If another teacher (he previously mentions Apollos, but he is really meaning to be general at this point) builds on this foundation (teaches something on top of this or perhaps he could mean builds another foundation?), he will be rewarded for it on "the Day," if what he teaches is from the Lord. Otherwise, he will not be rewarded for it.  This builder (teacher) will still be saved, however.  The Bible has strong words about false teachers (see 2 Peter 2), namely that they will be sent to hell.  This group must be different; either they are just mislead or are preaching Christ but nothing profitable in addition to this.

Despite salvation, the New Testament writers still encourage believers to follow the Spirit and not the flesh:

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would. But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law. (Galatians 5:16-18)
Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.  Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.  (1 Peter 2:11-12)

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.  (1 Peter 2:1)

So despite having the Holy Spirit, the believer is still tempted or "warred" against by sin.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Jesus Heals a Paralyzed Man

[Read]  1 Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. 2 Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”  3 At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!”  4 Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?  5 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?  6 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” 7 Then the man got up and went home. 8 When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to man.   (Matthew 9:1-8)


1  Mark 2:1 says the town was Capernaum, which fits because Capernaum was Jesus' home town.  Mark also adds:

"...the people heard that he [Jesus] had come home.  They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them."  (Mark 2:1-2)

So Jesus was teaching inside a home.  Some think the home was that of Simon Peter and Andrew because their home in Capernaum is mentioned previously (Mark 1:29).

The home was probably one story (and not two) as Mark mentions there was no room even outside the door.  This would make sense if the home was that of a poorer family like Simon Peter and Andrew's.

Luke adds that Jesus was teaching on this day, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there (Luke 5:17a).  He also says:

"They [the people and the teachers of the law?] had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick (Luke 5:17b)."

2  Mark 2:3 says the paralyzed man was being carried by four men.  Also this:

Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on.  When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”  (Mark 2:4-5)

"They went up by means of the stairs in the porch, or by ascending to the roof of an adjoining house, and stepping across to the roof of Simon's house [or whomever's house it was].  Many commentators assert that they went up by an outside stairway, erroneously believing that such stairs are common in Palestine; but they are almost unknown there, and their presence would only expose the inmates of the house to violence and pillage."  (
Luke 5:19 adds they "lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus."  Luke 5:20 says that Jesus called him 'friend'.

3  “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”  (Mark 2:7).  Luke 5:21 says something very similar.

"...blasphemies may be divided into three general heads, thus: 1. To attribute the unworthy to God.  2. To deny the worthy to God.  3. To arrogate or claim any attribute, power, authority, etc., which belongs exclusively to God.  It was under this third head that Jesus seemed to lay himself open to accusation--an accusation entirely just if he [is the] Son of God."  (

5  In Mark 2:9 Jesus says "which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man...".

"The rabbis, after their first shock of surprise, thought that Jesus feared to attempt the fraud of a so-called miracle in the presence of learned men, lest he should be detected and exposed; and hence looked upon his present action as an attempt to bear himself safely off before the public, and to maintain his standing by the use of high-sounding words. They felt that he used words of unseen effect, because he dared not use those of seen effect."  (

It's easier to tell the man his sins are forgiven because the words cannot be verified.  It's harder to heal him.  But so that they believe he has the authority to forgive sins, Jesus heals the man.

“As it is not easier to quicken by a word a body which is nearly dead than to forgive sins, there is no reason to wonder that he forgives sins, when he has accomplished the other.” -John Calvin

6  "...He could say the easier, "Your sins are forgiven," by performing the harder, healing the paralyzed man."  (Mack, "The Three Messianic Miracles")

7  Mark 2:12 says "He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all."  Luke 5:25 records that the man "immediately" stood up in front of them, took his mat, and went home "praising God."

8  The crowd says in Mark 2:12, "We have never seen anything like this!"

[Live]  None.

Bible Study Tools (
Jay Mack, "The Three Messianic Miracles" from

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Calling of the First Disciples

[Read]  18 As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 19 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 20 At once they left their nets and followed him.  21 Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, 22 and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.  (Matthew 4:18-22)


18  Luke gives a longer account of these events, including the story of the 'miraculous catch' which follows from Jesus teaching on Andrew and Simon Peter's boat:

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God.  He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets.  He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.  When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”  Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”  When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.  So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.  When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”  For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.  (Luke 5:1-10a)

Noteworthy is that James and John were called over to Andrew and Simon Peter's boat to help with all the fish in the nets.

John records an encounter between Jesus and Andrew and Simon Peter, who were originally disciples of John the Baptist:

The next day John [the Baptist] was there again with two of his disciples.  When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”  When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.  Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”  “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.”  So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.  Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus.  The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ).  And he brought him to Jesus.  Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter).  (John 1:35-42)

This must have happened before the events Matthew and Luke described here.

19  Luke adds that Jesus told Peter, "Don't be afraid"  (Luke 5:10b).

Jesus said, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men."  He did not say, "Believe in me so that you can go to heaven."  In fact, he laid down extraordinary criteria.  He said, "Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me" [Matthew 16:24].  He expands by saying, "Unless you hate your father and mother, your brothers and sisters, your wife and children, yes even your own life, you cannot be my disciple" [Luke 14:26].  He is emphatic in the condition that unless we deny ourselves, we cannot be his disciples." (McManus, 202)

20  Luke adds that they pulled their boats up on shore (Luke 5:11) then left everything and followed him.

Matthew uses the phrase "at once" here and in verse 22 "immediately."  While this was not their first encounter with Jesus, there came a definite point in time where they decided to leave "everything behind" (Matthew 4:20, 22; Luke 5:11) and follow him.

22  Mark's account adds only that James and John left their father and the hired men in the boat and followed him (Mark 1:20).

John records an encounter between Jesus and Philip and Nathanael not recorded by Matthew:

The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”  Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida.  Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."  “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.  “Come and see,” said Philip.  When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”  “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.  Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”  Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”  Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”  (John 1:43-51)

Matthew will recount the calling of himself in Matthew 9:9-13.

[Pray]  God, Jesus has also called us to follow him.  Beyond the initial calling, would I daily make the choice to follow in his ways and listen to his voice through the Holy Spirit.  In Jesus name, Amen.

[Live]  Follow him.

Erwin McManus, An Unstoppable Force: Daring to Become the Church God Had in Mind (Loveland: Group Publishing, 2001).

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Jesus Begins to Preach

[Read]  12 When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— 14 to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah:  15 “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” 17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”  (Matthew 4:12-17)


John says Jesus had disciples before John the Baptist was put in prison:

"After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. 23 Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were coming and being baptized. 24 (This was before John was put in prison.) 25 An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. 26 They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”  (John 3:22-26)

The (supposed) sequence of events:
  • Jesus comes from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John (Matt 3:13), then went into the desert for 40 days and was tempted by the devil (Matt 4:1-11).
  • After the temptation, he returned to where John was baptizing (John 1:29-34). 
  • John pointed Jesus out to Andrew, who brought Peter to him (John 1:35-42).  They spend the day with Jesus (John 1:39) but apparently don't follow him yet because this happens in Matt 4:18-20.
  • The next day, Jesus leaves for Galilee (John 1:43).  Perhaps here Jesus encounters Peter and Andrew once more fishing beside the Sea of Galilee.  Jesus tells them to follow him and they leave their nets at once (Matt 4:18-20).  Then James and his brother John do the same (Matt 4:21-22).  Also in Galilee, Jesus calls Philip and Nathanael and they follow him (John 1:43-51).
  • Jesus then performs his first miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee (John 2:1-11).  The account says Jesus' disciples were invited and came with him to the wedding (John 2:2).
  • Jesus then traveled to Capernaum (John 2:12), Jerusalem for the Passover Festival (John 2:13), the Judean countryside (John 3:22) and Galilee once more (John 4:2).
  • John has not yet been imprisoned because he is still baptizing when Jesus is in the Judean countryside (John 3:22-30).
  • Then Jesus goes to Samaria (John 4:4) and speaks with the Samaritan woman before returning to Galilee (John 4:43-45) and even Cana, where he turned water into wine (John 4:46).
  • When was John imprisoned (Matt 4:12)?  It had to have happened after he visited John in the Judean countryside (John 3:22).  Jesus hears about it when he is in Nazareth (Matt 4:13).  He then returns to Galilee/Capernaum, so this could have been the time in John 4:2, or after speaking with the Samaritan woman in John 4:43-45, or another later time altogether.
  • Jesus then begins to preach 'repent, for the kingdom is near' (Matt 4:17).

12  John was put in prison by Herod Antipas because John disapproved of his marriage to his half-brother Philip's wife, Herodias, and Herod feared a rebellion by the people because they listened to John and John might ask him to repent of this when it's already too late.

"Galilee was a very fertile area in Jesus’ time. Though small, only 30 by 60 miles, Josephus says that in Jesus’ time it had some 204 villages, each with no fewer than 15,000 people. That gave Galilee a population of around 3 million. It was divided into Upper and Lower Galilee, Upper Galilee being a mainly Gentile region, where Tyre and Sidon were. That’s where the phrase Galilee of the Gentiles comes from.  Lower Galilee, where Jesus lived, while still mixed, was more Jewish than Gentile. The mixed population of the region was part of why it had a poor reputation among the more sophisticated crowd in Jerusalem. Galileans had a thick accent that made them sound like hicks to city people. That dynamic still holds today. Is there an accent that, when you hear it, makes you think less of the person who speaks with that accent? The point is, Jesus began his ministry among people who were not well thought of, in an area with a bad reputation. Jesus, during his upbringing, had no social status. It wasn’t until he became a famous rabbi that he started getting dinner invitations from the upper classes. Jesus began his ministry among the lowest social classes, those with no status at all."  (Bradford, "Matthew 4:12-17")

13  "Capernaum was the main city in Galilee at that time. It was where Peter, Andrew, James and John lived. The main industry in Capernaum was fishing, being on the Sea of Galilee. Capernaum was also where Matthew lived. He had the tax collecting “franchise” for that area. I think the main reason that Jesus chose to live there for most of his ministry was that, as many scholars believe, he stayed with Peter and Andrew, in their family home, after they became his disciples."  (Bradford, "Matthew 4:12-17")

14-16  Matthew quotes Isaiah 9:1-2 here.  Notice the contrast of darkness and light.

15  It was called 'Galilee of the Gentiles' because in the history of Israel, it was more of a gentile area than in the south.

17  Mark's account of Jesus' words: “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

"John's imprisonment- which foreshadows Jesus' own suffering- becomes the signal for Jesus to begin public ministry... The forerunner has completed his mission of preparing the way."  (Keener, 95)

"When John was put in prison, Jesus picked right up where John left off. He started off preaching the same message that John preached: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” [See Matthew 3:2]"  (Bradford, "Matthew 4:12-17")

Matthew is the only New Testament author that uses the phrase 'kingdom of heaven' (and he almost exclusively uses this phrase; exceptions are Matthew 12:28, 19:24, 21:31, 43).  Almost all other references to the kingdom in the New Testament refer to it as the 'kingdom of God.'  Bradford explains:

"There is no difference between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of heaven. The only reason for the difference in wording is that Jews in Biblical times avoided using God’s name, as a sign of reverence."  (Bradford, "Matthew 4:12-17")

"When the King of kings lives in your city, the kingdom of God is very near indeed."  (Bradford, "Matthew 4:12-17")

[Live]  None.

Mark Bradford, "Matthew 4:12-17" (
Craig S. Keener, Matthew: The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1997)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Baptism of Jesus

[Read]  Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. 16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”  (Matthew 3:13-17)


13  Mark 1:9 adds that Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and that he was baptized by John in the Jordan.  Luke 3:21 says "When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too."

14-15  "Why did Jesus come to be baptized, since John's baptism was a "baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins" (Luke 3:3), and Jesus was without sin (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15)? ... The answer he gives is that it is fitting for him to do everything that is right. There was enough in John's baptism for Jesus to affirm that the event was not meaningless: negatively it meant turning from sin, and positively it meant trusting God. Jesus could affirm both: he resolved not to sin but always to turn from it, and he committed himself always to trust God.  Probably then... Jesus' coming to be baptized was a decisive step of commitment to begin his public ministry. Thus he aligns himself with the people who turn from sin and trust God and resolves to fulfill his calling in that spirit."  (Piper, "The Baptism and Genealogy of Jesus")

16  John gives this account:  "Then John [the Baptist] gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him.  And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’  I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One."  (John 1:32-34)

Like a dove.  'Dove-like.'

Why did the Holy Spirit descend on Jesus... did he not have it already?  Perhaps it is done for the crowd.  Jesus was fully God but also fully man.  His life was an example for us.  Maybe this is in view here.

17  God's words echo Isaiah 42:1-4.

"What is the significance of the Spirit's descending in the form of a dove and God's declaration of his love? God answers Jesus' prayer by sending his Spirit in a visible form and then declaring verbally his delight in his Son: "You are my beloved Son; in you I delight." This is a green light for Jesus. And not just a green light, but a powerful enablement and directive.  The way the Spirit comes gives a direction for how its power is to be used. The word "dove" occurs on Jesus' lips one time in the gospels, namely, Matthew 10:16: "Behold I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves." The dove suggests to Jesus purity, meekness, innocence. It was not majestic like the eagle or fierce like the hawk or flamboyant like the cardinal. It was simple, common, innocent, the kind of bird poor people could offer for a sacrifice (Luke 2:24; Leviticus 12:8). This was a directive to Jesus from the Father: the Spirit with which I anoint you is not for ostentation or for earthly battle. What is it for?  An answer comes from Isaiah 42:1–4. This text is relevant because this is where the words of God the Father come from which follow the giving of the Spirit: "Behold my servant whom I uphold, my chosen in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him, he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not fail or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law." The beauty of this picture is that he has the power to bring forth justice to the nations, but he will not use it to "break a bruised reed or quench a dimly burning wick." That is, he will be tender with the weak and failing. He will be dove-like not hawk-like. So when God anoints Jesus with the Spirit in the form of a dove, he directs him to use his power in meekness and tenderness and love. Which Jesus does: "Come to me all you who labor and are heavy-laden and I will give you rest . . . for I am meek and lowly"—I have the Spirit of a dove not a hawk. He says in Luke 4:18, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor"—the bruised reeds of the world and the smoldering wicks. To these he comes with his dove-like Spirit and heals and fans into flame."  (Piper, "The Baptism and Genealogy of Jesus")

[Live]  None.

John Piper, "The Baptism and Genealogy of Jesus" (

Monday, November 11, 2013

John the Baptist Prepares the Way

[Read]  In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:  “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”  4 John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5 People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6 Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.  7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.  11 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”  (Matthew 3:1-12)

[Meditate]  "The Book of Malachi [the last book of the Old Testament] ends with words that directly link this prophecy with the appearance of John the Baptist in the Gospels:

“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes.  He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”  (Malachi 4:5-6)

We know that there were 400 years of silence from the time of Malachi’s prophecy to the time when that silence was broken by the declaration of John: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 3:2)."  (Deffinbaugh, "Hope in the Gospels")

1  What else do we know about John the Baptist?
  • Matthew 11:9 and Luke 7:26 say John was a prophet.
  • Luke 1:13 tells us he was the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth.
  • Luke 1:36 says John was related to Jesus, as their mothers were cousins.
  • Luke 1:15 says he would be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth.
  • Luke 1:80 says John lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel.
Luke gives a very specific date to when John the Baptist began preaching in the wilderness: "In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene- during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas..." (Luke 3:1-2)

Why was John in the wilderness?  Both the Life of John the Baptist (by Serapion) and the Infancy Gospel of James both say John the Baptist went into the wilderness (initially with Elizabeth) to escape Herod when he was killing the children two years of age and under.  Although I assume John was in Jerusalem and not Bethlehem, so I'm not sure why he would have needed to flee as well.  Perhaps there was also concern about John the infant becoming a threat down the line also (Luke 1:15)...?

John's gospel says this all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan (John 1:28).  Luke says this happened in "all the country around the Jordan." (Luke 3:3).

2  The repentance was for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 3:3).

3  Matthew quotes Isaiah 40:3 here.

John's father, Zechariah, prophesied in Luke 1:76 that John would go before the Lord and prepare the way for him when his son was born.

The gospel of John gives more details: "(John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”)... Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was.  He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.”  They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?”  He said, “I am not.”  “Are you the Prophet?”  He answered, “No.”  Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”  John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness,‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” (John 1:15, 19-23)

John (the writer of the gospel of John) says of John the Baptist, "He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe.  He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. (John 1:7-8)

4  Some argue that John ate locusts- a plant and not a bug (grasshopper)- but the Greek word here (akrides) supports 'bug'.

6  John was not the first to baptize.

"It is well know that oblation or bathing was common in most ancient nations as a preparation for their prayers and sacrifice, or as expiratory of sin" (Smith, Unabridged Bible Dictionary, Vol. I, p. 233). The ancient Jews, before John, also had their ceremonial washings. Rabbi Maimonides (1135-1204) wrote, "Israel was admitted into covenant by three things, namely by circumcision, baptism and sacrifice" (Issure Biah cap. 13).  One of the earliest of those traditional customs was the baptizing of proselytes" (Smith, Ibid.). The Targum of Jonathan on Ex. 12:44 states, "Thus shalt circumcise him and baptize him" (Smith, p. 233-234). Jewish baptism included "men, women and children" (Ibid. p. 234). The writer of the book of Hebrews refers to the "divers washings (baptismois) of Judaism. The Essenes had their water of purification (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 2:8,6).  Alfred Edersheim describes the Jewish rite thusly, "The person to be baptized, having cut his hair and nails, undressed completely, made fresh profession of his faith before what were designated ‘the fathers of the baptism'... and then immersed completely, so that every part of the body as touched by the water" (Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Vol 2, p 746). He rightly argues that the information "must be regarded as proving that at that time (previous to Christ) the baptism of proselytes was customary" (Ibid. p. 747)."  (First Century Christian)

Flavius Josephus (AD 37?-101?, a Jewish historian) in Antiquities, 18.116-117 says of John the Baptist, "...[He] was a good man, and commanded the Jews to exercise virtue, both as to righteousness towards one another, and piety towards God, and so to come to baptism; for that the washing [with water] would be acceptable to him, if they made use of it, not in order to the putting away [or the remission] of some sins [only], but for the purification of the body; supposing still that the soul was thoroughly purified beforehand by righteousness."

7  According to Sanhedrin law, if there was any kind of messianic movement, the Sanhedrin had to investigate the situation in two stages: observation and (if the movement was significant) interrogation.  "This time they would ask questions and raise objections to discover whether the claims should be accepted or rejected" (Jay Mack, "The Three Messianic Miracles").  This may be what was going on here- the Pharisees and Sadducees were coming out to observe/interrogate what was going on with John the Baptist.  Later they would do similar things with Jesus.

9  John the Baptist's audience was Jewish and they wrongly assumed they were almost automatically going to be included in the kingdom of God because of their relationship with Abraham.

"No one has ever been saved by virtue of their natural birth. This is why Jesus told Nicodemus, a well-known Jewish religious teacher, that he must be born again (John 3:3). Neither has anyone ever been saved by an association with Jesus or the Bible, but only by a personal identification with Jesus Christ in His death, burial, and resurrection."  -Bob Deffinbaugh, "Striving to Enter the Narrow Door," from

"So when John warns the crowds not to rely on their Jewishness and says, "God can raise up from these stones sons of Abraham," he meant God's mercy is so pure that he can make out of anybody a son of Abraham.  Jewishness is no guarantee, and non-Jewishness is no hindrance.  The way to forgiveness of sins is open to all, Jew and Gentile, by the same road—the road of repentance."  (Piper)

"Raising up stones" is likely a figure of speech.

10  'Fire' is a common metaphor for judgment.

At the end of Matthew 3:10, Luke 3 has the following before the story picks up again in Matthew 3:11:
...thrown into the fire.  10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked.  11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”  12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”  13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.  14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”  He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”  15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. 16 John answered them all, I baptize you with water...
So this is what John was talking about in verse 8 when he speaks of producing fruit in keeping with repentance.

Here comes the ax.  You don't have much time.  The kingdom is near/at hand.

11  John's gospel says here:  "Now the Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”  “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know.  He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” (John 1:24-27)

"In ancient Mediterranean thought, a household servant's basest tasks involved the master's feet, such as washing his feet, carrying his sandals or unfastening the thongs of his sandals (see, for example, Diog. Laert. 6.2.44; b. Baba Batra 53b). Although ancient teachers usually expected disciples to function as servants (as in Diog. Laert. 7.1.12; 7.5.170; t. Baba Mesi`a 2:30), later rabbis made one exception explicit: disciples did not tend to the teacher's sandals (b. Ketubot96a). John thus claims to be unworthy to even be the Coming One's slave. Indeed, the One whose way John prepares is none other than the Lord himself (Is 40:3; Mt 3:3). Matthew's readers would not need to know Hebrew to realize that John was preparing the way for "God with us" (1:23). No wonder John is nervous about baptizing Jesus (3:14)!"  (Keener, 83)

Two baptisms of Jesus:  Holy Spirit and fire.

One way to look at it:  The first coming is with the Holy Spirit, the second coming is with fire.  Or it could be characteristic of those who believe in and those who reject Jesus:

Holy Spirit - believe - wheat
fire - reject -chaff

12  A winnowing fork is like a shovel and is used for separating the wheat from the chaff.

John speaks of Jesus and the judgment to come using the illustration of wheat and chaff.  This is similar to what Jesus himself will say in his parable of the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:24-30).  It's also similar to what we read in Psalm 1.  There the wicked are compared to chaff that the wind drives away.  The psalmist says the wicked will not stand in the day of judgment (verse 5) but instead will perish (verse 6).

After verse 12 here, Luke adds "And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them." (Luke 3:18)  What was this "good news" John was proclaiming?  Bearing fruit in keeping with repentance?  That one more powerful is coming after him (Christ)?  The coming judgment?

[Pray]  God, would I bear fruit in keeping with repentance.  Salvation is through faith in Christ, and not of works.  But I pray that my repentance that led to salvation will bear fruit now that I am in Christ.  Would it be fruit evident of generosity, contentment, and fairness and not a hard heart toward you.  In Jesus name, Amen.

[Live]  John teaches about what God desires as the fruit of repentance:  Share with those who don't have, don't cheat others.  Be content with what God has given me.

Bob Deffinbaugh, "Hope in the Gospels" (
First Century Christian:
Craig S. Keener, Matthew: The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1997).
Jay Mack, "The Three Messianic Miracles" from
John Piper (