Matthew 14:1-21

Despite the unbelief in Jesus’ hometown (13:53-58), his fame continued to spread throughout the area. After a brief (and cringe-worthy) flashback in 14:3-12, we find Jesus attempting to withdraw “to a desolate place by himself,” only to be followed by crowds of townspeople, thus setting the scene for one of the most well-known and memorable scenes in all of Jesus’ ministry.

Thousands of men, women, and children had gathered to witness Jesus’ compassion and healing touch. As the day was coming to an end, the disciples encouraged Jesus to send the crowds away for some food, but Jesus catches them off-guard with his response: “They need not go away; you give them something to eat” (v. 16). Huh? The disciples are perplexed—how will they feed the crowd with a couple fish and a few loaves of bread? You probably know how the story goes. Jesus takes their meager rations and multiplies them to feed the crowd until they are “satisfied” (v. 20).

So, what do we do with a crowd of full bellies? What’s the takeaway? As one pastor has said, Jesus was teaching his disciples this point: “What you need for them you get from me.” The disciples were limited in their ability, power, and resources—but Jesus was not. The same is true for us some 2,000 years later. We are finite, limited beings—but Jesus isn’t. The ability, courage, power, resources, strength, etc. that we need to minister to others ultimately comes from Jesus—“for apart from [him we] can do nothing” (John 15:5).

Matthew 12:15-37

I’m an avid fan of the University of Kentucky athletic programs. While I support all the teams of my beloved alma mater, my allegiances are most deeply tied to the football and men’s basketball teams (and yes, those are listed in order of importance to me). As much as I am pro-Wildcats, I am almost equally anti-Cardinals. In fact, one of the more mind-boggling things to me is when someone insists they cheer for both the Cats and the Cards. Brothers and sisters, these things ought not to be so! It’s UK or UofL. It’s Cats or Cards. It’s blue or red. It’s right or wrong, respectively. To be for one is to be against the other. When it comes to this rivalry, there is no room for neutral ground!

In the grand scheme of things, sports rivalries are trivial—all in good fun, as they say. But today’s text presents us with a rivalry that isn’t trivial at all. It’s a rivalry of epic and eternal proportions. It’s the rivalry between good and evil, between light and darkness, between God and Satan. To set the scene, Jesus delivers a man from physical and spiritual bondage and is immediately confronted by the Pharisees, who reject the notion that Jesus is operating with any sort of divine authority and power. Instead, they attribute his supernatural healing and power to works of evil. After breaking down the faulty logic of their accusation, Jesus lays before them an ultimatum: you’re either with me or you’re against me.

The point is clear: with Jesus, there is no neutral ground. To reject any part of Jesus—his commands, his teachings, his perfect life, his substitutionary death in our place for our sin—is to be against him. And while being against a sports team is mere fun and games (typed with one hand while throwing the “L’s down” hand gesture with the other), Scripture would testify with clarity, frequency, and urgency that we do not want to find ourselves pitted against Jesus, God incarnate on the day of judgment.

The Pharisees were put on notice, and so are we. We are for Jesus, or we are against him. There is no third option, no riding the fence, no room for indecision. In Jesus’ ultimatum, the words of Joshua reverberate powerfully onto the pages of the New Testament: “choose this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15).

Matthew 10:1-15

Having spoken with authority (Matthew 5-7) and acted with authority (Matthew 8-9), Jesus now entrusts his twelve disciples with some measure of that authority, sending them out to minister to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But notice the additional qualifiers of those the disciples are sent to—the sick, the dead or dying, the lepers, the demon-possessed. Jesus is sending his disciples to preach the good news of the kingdom of heaven to the least likely of recipients—those who have lost all hope and have nothing to offer in return.

It may be tempting to look upon these unlikely recipients with pity. However, let us remember that this is essentially what God the Father has done for us in sending his son. We, too, were sick, dead, and cut off without hope. We were infected with sin, dead in our trespasses (Ephesians 2:1), the least likely to be recipients of God’s favor. And yet, at just the right time, Jesus was sent to die for the ungodly (Romans 5:6).

Oh, what grace! What, then, is our response? Quite simply, to go and do likewise—to follow the disciples’ lead in preaching the good news of the kingdom—not merely to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” but to “all nations” (Matthew 28:18). As the saying goes, “saved people are sent people.” To whom is the Lord sending you?

Matthew 7:13-29

All good sermons bring the listener to a point of reflection and response—and the Sermon of the Mount is no different. In today’s passage, Jesus brings the Sermon on the Mount to its conclusion with a series of alternatives.

Wide vs. Narrow
Will you choose the wide, well-traveled path that leads to destruction? Or will you choose the more difficult and narrow way—the way of Jesus that leads to eternal life (John 14:6)?

Good vs. Bad
Reflect on your life—what type of fruit does your life bear most consistently? Good fruit that is evident of a heart transformed by the work of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)? Or bad fruit, worthy of being thrown into the fire?

Rock vs. Sand
Re-read the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and compare your life to Jesus’ teaching. Are Jesus’ words the secure foundation your life is built on? Or have you built your life on something less stable and sure?

Scripture tells us that it is a good thing to assess our lives to make sure we are “in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5). I would encourage you to consider and genuinely reflect on Jesus’ words at the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount. Have you genuinely repented of your sin and placed your trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation? Are you living in glad obedience to the words of Jesus as a response to what he has done for you? Let us pause here for a moment of somber reflection and repentance where necessary—let us be sure that one day we will hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:23) rather than, “I never knew you; depart from me” (Matthew 7:23).

Matthew 5:27-37

As a family dealing with multiple food allergies and dietary restrictions, we are constantly checking labels and ingredients to make sure the food we’re putting on the table is safe for consumption. Have you ever looked at the list of ingredients on the label of some of your favorite food items? Some of the food items we know and love that look so appetizing often include ingredients that are unappealing if not downright unhealthy. We would do well to take a closer look at what’s really on the inside.

In a way, this is what Jesus is doing in this section of the Sermon on the Mount. While he’s not concerned with the ingredients of our food, he is concerned with the ingredients of our hearts. Jesus is contradicting the Pharisaical approach to the Law, which was primarily “outside-in.” Put another way, the Pharisees were more concerned with their outward appearance of law-keeping than the innermost attitudes, desires, and thoughts that drove their external behaviors.

Not so with Jesus. In Matthew 5:27-37, Jesus is getting “under the hood” to the heart of the matter. On the surface, as long as you’re not committing adultery, not divorcing your wife, and not swearing falsely you would appear to be living righteously. But Jesus calls his followers, the citizens of God’s Kingdom, to a greater righteousness (Matthew 5:20). The righteousness Jesus is calling his followers to gets underneath the outward appearance of law-keeping to our hearts’ motivations for law-keeping.

Not committing adultery is good; but putting lustful desire to death is a greater righteousness.

Saying no to divorce is good; but committing to a life of faithfulness and purity with your spouse is a greater righteousness.

Refusing to swear falsely is good; but being a person of integrity in all your conversations and dealings is a greater righteousness.

Each of these topics is certainly worthy of deeper, more nuanced discussion. But at the heart of the matter is the matter of our hearts—the attitudes, desires, and motivations that drive our external behaviors. So, how’s your heart?

At the end of the day, the reality is our hearts are marred by sin (Jeremiah 17:9). In and of ourselves, we don’t have the quality of righteousness that “exceeds that of the Pharisees” (Isaiah 64:6; Matthew 5:20). Thankfully, the good news of the gospel is that the same Jesus that calls us to a greater righteousness also supplies us with that righteousness: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Matthew 1:18-25

The late Tom Petty once sang that “the waiting is the hardest part.” I find that to be generally true. Most of us do not like waiting—whether it be in the line at the fast-food drive through, waiting on a response to your last text message, or waiting for the test results from your last doctor’s appointment. Be it just a few minutes, a few hours, or a few weeks, waiting really is the hardest part.

With that in mind, let’s visit Bethlehem the night of Jesus’s birth. After Matthew’s gospel makes a brief stop at Ancestry.com to fill us in on the geneology of Jesus, we are introduced to Mary and Joseph, a young couple that, by all accounts, have been waiting patiently for their wedding day to arrive. But there was a small bump in the road—or more accurately, a growing bump in Mary’s belly, as she is found to be with a child from the Holy Spirit.

It’s here that Matthew’s gospel narrows in on Joseph—what did he think about the matter? What would his response be? Understandably, Joseph is confused. But as the text points out, he was committed to handling the issue “in-house” rather than bringing public shame and humiliation on Mary—that is, until, an angel shows up in a dream with an important announcement (side note: maybe we should take more naps to make sure we don’t miss anything important).

What’s the announcement to Joseph? First, the angel tells Joseph to marry Mary, that it will be worth the wait. Second, the angel points out to Joseph that the child that Mary is carrying is actually the one that the whole world has been waiting for!

You see, the world had been waiting for this moment—and not just for minutes, hours, or weeks, but for hundreds and thousands of years. In Genesis 3 we see the entrance of sin into the world (vv. 7-13), followed by God’s physical separation from man (vv. 23-24). But between those two moments, there is a brief glimmer of hope—a promise that one day a child would be born to crush Satan, sin, and death (v. 15).

Which brings us back to Matthew 1:18-25. After hundreds and thousands of years of waiting, the promised child had arrived! Jesus had finally come to save his people from the sin that Adam and Even ushered in. Immanuel (“God with us”) had finally come to restore God’s presence with his people that was broken long ago when Adam and Eve were sent out of the garden. The waiting was over—and the waiting was worth it.

If nothing else, let Matthew 1:18-25 remind you that God is at work in your waiting. You might not be able to see it. You might not be able to feel it. You might have a lot of questions. But rest assured that, whether it’s days, months, or years, God is at work as you wait.