Tag Archives: Matthew

Passion Week – Cleansing the Temple: Matthew 21:12-17

The image above is from Revealed: A Storybook Bible for Grown-Ups by Ned Bustard. The image was created by Albrecht Durer and is called “Christ Driving the Moneylenders from the Temple.”

Matthew 21:12-17

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, “‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?” And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there.

Dear God, I’ve read this story and heard about this story so many times that it can be hard to come at it fresh. But this image from Mr. Durer helps a little. There are some striking things about it:

  • Jesus is holding a whip. It’s different than the one that will be used on him later in the week, but it’s interesting to see a violent Jesus. Is there a time and a place for violence?
  • The man on the ground seems to be knocked out or incapacitated in some way. I know this is just the artist’s rendition, but it’s an interesting thought as to what extent of physical damage Jesus did.
  • There is a man holding a lamb. People were there to get what they needed for the Passover. Jesus would become their lamb. In fact, in reality, there would become no need for these things again. It makes me wonder what the disciples did for the Passover in the y ears to come. Did they still follow all of the Jewish rituals? I’ll be they did.
  • I think I see a Pharisee’s hat way in the background on the right.
  • Jesus is very heavily clothed. I don’t normally picture him with that much clothing.
  • The artist decided that Jesus was right-handed. I wonder if he really was.

Here i what the author of the book had to say about this image:

in contrast to Late Gothic depictions of a delicate or fragile Christ, in this piece, Durer created an intense, militant, and manly Christ. A modern Jesus would politely ask the money changers to leave. But that is not the Jesus of Scripture. He forcefully drives the money changers out, overturning tables and throwing seats. Jesus acts in this audacious manner because he knows he owns the temple. He is defending his place in the same way a home owner would defend his own house. Jesus is violent, defiant, and takes into his own hands the removal of those who desecrate the temple. This work was part of a larger series of prints called The Small Passion, and was quite relevant to the time. A Christ who as fighting for holiness rang true with young Reformers.

I guess the thing that I would also add is that this is the beginning of a violent week. Jesus is very intense in his emotion and his passion (little “p”). He only has a little bit of time left and there isn’t any to waste.

Father, help me to not grieve you the way these moneychangers grieved you. As I raise money for a nonprofit, help me to aspire to the best parts of philanthropy and not manipulate people for my own purposes. During this Passion Week, help me to be very mindful of who you are, what you did, and what that means to me today. Help me to worship you well and follow your leading.

In Jesus’s name I pray,



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Matthew 20:17-19

Matthew 20:17-19 [NLT]
17 As Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside privately and told them what was going to happen to him. 18 “Listen,” he said, “we’re going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man[a] will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die. 19 Then they will hand him over to the Romans to be mocked, flogged with a whip, and crucified. But on the third day he will be raised from the dead.”

Dear God, the biggest thing I think of when it comes to passages like this is that, on the rare occasions when you give us insights into the future (and they are very rare), they are more about comforting and reassuring us than they are about letting us in on the secret. In this case, the disciples didn’t have to know this information in order for it to all happen. In fact, their response to this knowledge might have gotten in the way. But the reason you NEEDED them to know was that you knew that they would need to be able to remember back to these moments and realize that this was part of the plan all along. Twenty or 30 years down the road, as Matthew thought back on this and put pen to paper, he could be assured that this was all okay.

I can’t say that I’ve gotten a lot of words of prophecy from you. One of my many one-liners is that you keep me on a need-to-know basis and I very rarely need to know. But I can almost always look back on events in my life and see your providence, even when, at the time, I felt like all was lost. I have had some trials (no worse than anyone else’s to be sure), but I can almost always look back on them after a good amount of time and see what you were doing for me, for those I love, or within me to grow me into a place where you need me to be.

Father, thank you for your patience with me. There’s a Keith and Melody Green song called “Make My Life A Prayer To You.” In it, there’s a line that says, “I want to thank you now for being patient with me. It’s so hard to see when my eyes are on me. So I guess I’ll have to trust and just believe what you say. Lord, you’re coming again. Coming to take me away.” So to finish this prayer with the chorus of that song, “Make my life a prayer to you. I want to do what you want me to . No empty words and no white lies. No token prayers. No compromise. I want to shine the light you gave through your son you sent to save us from our self and our despair. It comforts me to know you’re really there.”

In Jesus’ name I pray,


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Posted by on April 2, 2019 in Hymns and Songs, Matthew


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Peter & John — Matthew 24:1-3

As Jesus was leaving the Temple grounds, his disciples pointed out to him the various Temple buildings. But he responded, “Do you see all these buildings? I tell you the truth, they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!” Later, Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives. His disciples came to him privately and said, “Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will signal your return and the end of the world? ”

Matthew 24:1-3

Dead God, I’d love to know more specifically who was talking when “the disciples” ask Jesus questions. It seems Matthew likes to tell us when it’s Peter speaking, but other than that we rarely get an insight into who is speaking. So I’ll just assume that, for the purposes of looking at Peter and John, that they were both thinking what “the disciples” were thinking in this story.

I’ve been in places before where I’ve told the person I’m with, “Wow, look at that building (or mountain, or valley, etc.).” I’ve been impressed with what I’m seeing. In this case, it seems that Jesus was trying to keep them dialed in and focused for this week. It’s almost as if to say, “Hey guys, we’re not here this week to take in the sites. We have work to do. I have work to do.” It’s like the coach of a small football team that takes his team to a big stadium to play. He’s trying to keep a team focused on the game and not let them get distracted by the beauty that, at the end of the day, doesn’t matter to how the team will perform.

Father, help me to keep my eye on the ball and stay focused. There is a lot of stuff going on. In fact, today is a huge day at work. I ask for your blessing upon this day. Make this work for your glory. And help me to see what’s important and what isn’t.

In Jesus’ name I pray,


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Posted by on September 11, 2018 in Matthew, Peter and John


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Peter & John — Matthew 20:20-28

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him. And He said to her, “What do you wish?” She *said to Him, “Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left.” But Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” They *said to Him, “We are able.” He *said to them, “My cup you shall drink; but to sit on My right and on My left, this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father.” And hearing this, the ten became indignant with the two brothers. But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. 26 It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, 27 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Matthew 20:20-28

Dear God, I’m this series in learning more about how John and Peter compare with each other, this is one of the few we’ve gotten so far that specifically mentions John.

I guess what I’m thinking about here is John’s family of origin. Did John (and James) grow up with a sense of entitlement? In Mark, when Jesus first called them while they were fishing with their father, it’s says they left him with the hired men. So while they were fishermen, they were the boss’ kids and presumably the heirs apparent. Did they leave behind more wealth to follow Jesus than Andrew and Peter did? Did something in them hope for more financial reward for following Jesus? Did their parents see them as having irresponsibly run off to join the circus, or were the believers? I’m sure they had seen the miracles. Maybe their mom was a believer as well, but she could help trying to give her boys an advantage over the others. It’s also interesting to consider given the passage before when Peter says that they gave up everything to follow Jesus. Did James and John give up just a little more because they had it to give?

We don’t think much about the disciples’ families being around because we are only given very small snippets about them. But here we have John’s and James’ mother talking to Jesus. And she dragging her boys along and making them bow to him. I don’t know how many times in the Bible people feel compelled to bow down to Jesus, but it wasn’t many. He wasn’t that kind of leader. But they were putting him into that category during this interaction probably because they were looking for that kind of power for themselves. In other words, in the pecking order, we bow down to him, but then the others will bow down to us.

I don’t know how old John was at this point, but the one thing we know from this story is that he didn’t stop his mother from doing this. Did he agree with her or not? We don’t know. But we know that he went along with it.

As a privileged white male in our society, I have a lot of advantages over others. Some I have chosen to use for my own gain and some I have intentionally not used in response to your call. But I confess that there are times when I would love to live a wealthier, more powerful, more influential life. I would love to insulate myself from the harder parts of our society and built a tight cocoon around my me and my wife. I have certainly not purged all of the worldly desires in me.

Father, I come to you this morning mindful of my selfishness and my desire to be in control of my life. I am no better than John or James. Help me to get one step closer to turning loose of all of that and embracing your kingdom.

In Jesus’ name I pray,


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Posted by on September 8, 2018 in Matthew, Peter and John


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Peter and John — Matthew 17:24-27

After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?” “Yes, he does,” he replied. When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?” “From others,” Peter answered. “Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. 27 “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”

Matthew 17:24-27

Dear God, it’s so interesting to come back and focus on Peter and John in these stories and think about the role each played. In this case, it’s apparently Peter who stood out to the temple tax collectors as the point person among the disciples.

I’ve never noticed this before, but I think he B.S.’d them when he answered their question. They put him on the spot and he found the easy way out. “Does you teacher pay the temple tax?” “Oh, yeah. You bet he does.”

Two things make me think this. Matthew refers to Peter as Peter, but when Jesus addresses him, Matthew is careful to show that Jesus called him Simon. Now maybe Jesus called him Simon a lot. I’ll look for that as I finish Mathew.

The other thing is that Jesus takes the time to talk through the paying of the tax with him. This is apparently something they haven’t done before. Jesus doesn’t rebuke Peter, per se, but he calls him Simon and he sends him out to find the money in the fish. And Jesus’ miracle covers both of their tax (I wonder how the other 11 paid theirs).

Father, give me wisdom and discernment when I come upon traps and tricks. And it doesn’t need to be something done with bad intent. It might just be a tricky situation. Please help me to be wise, deliberate, and to think carefully so that the words of my mouth and the desires of my heart might build your kingdom and the hearts around me.

In Jesus’ name I pray,


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Posted by on September 4, 2018 in Matthew, Peter and John


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Peter and John — Matthew 16:21-23

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Matthew 16:21-23

Dear God, wow. That last part of verse 23 will preach. I think I could build a whole sermon on this. We usually stop with the line, “Get behind me, Satan!” But it’s really all about that last line: “you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

First, since I’m focusing on all things Peter and John and what their motivations are, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out a couple of things. Yes, he had the wrong thoughts and said the wrong thing, but, to his credit, he took Jesus aside privately. That was the right way to handle it. Jesus is the one who chose to make the rebuke public. Why? Probably because he knew that at least similar thoughts were in everyone else’s mind, and he wanted to address them.

The big thing, however, is what this last part of verse 23 tells us about how we should pray. When I ask for healing for a loved one, financial provision, or even a safe trip somewhere, is my mind more on human concerns than focused on your concerns? If things aren’t playing out the way I think they should, will I get mad at you.

And everything, up to and including death, is on the table. After all, Jesus was talking about his own death, and, like us, Peter didn’t think that accepting death or seeing death as part of the plan was a good thing. Jesus gave us this lesson and the church has largely missed it because we focused to much on enjoying the first part of the rebuke: “Get behind me, Satan!” We’ve focused on the idea that people will cause us to stumble when we want to do right—to tempt us. But there’s such a deeper meaning here.

I’ll be the first to admit that there have been times when I’ve complained to you about your plan and your timing. I like it when things are good and easy for me, and I don’t like it when things are difficult. I prefer the smooth path. There are times when I hope that if I can embrace enough self-discipline and pursue you in the good times then you won’t need to use trials to shape me. And while there might be some truth to that, even if I pull it off and keep myself completely disciplined, you might need my trials to shape someone else. And you might also need them to teach me a lesson I simply cannot learn any other way.

Father, thank you that you are teaching me through Peter and his mistakes almost 2,000 years later. Thank you that I find my life only after I lose it. Thank you for the blessings you have, indeed, brought my way. Thank you also for the trials. I pray that every path my children follow, my wife follows, my loved ones follow, and that I follow will lead to the “concerns of God” and not my own concerns.

In Jesus’ name I pray,


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Posted by on September 2, 2018 in Matthew, Peter and John


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Emails to God – Too Much Vulnerability? (Matthew 6:5-8)

5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. 7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Dear God, I think one of the areas where I get myself into difficulty is that I don’t like to put a gloss on how things are going. When people ask me how things are going at work, I never want to just give a nice, “Oh, just great,” unless things are going great. Same thing for my personal life. My experience is that people get more out of my vulnerability and confessions of weakness as opposed to me trying to make everything look perfect.

So why does that get me into difficulty? Well, there are times when I think I might make things sound worse than they really are. There are also times when the people around me are expecting me to lead them through a difficult time and they need me to display confidence and a positive attitude. I know there have been times when I shared too much of my fears with my children—such as when I was unemployed back in 2003 and 2005. They needed to feel a little more security through those times than I gave them. In an effort to be vulnerable and transparent, I think I shared too much.

How does that fit with this passage? Because the way I can justify praying to you through this blog and sharing it with the readers even though this verse discourages it is because I am not trying to impress anyone with what a grand prayer or Christian I am. I try to mention my faults in here. I try to mention my fears and vulnerabilities. But then I think people sometimes read it and start to get worried about me. I had a friend one time stop and ask me if I was okay. I said, “Yes. I’m really doing well. It is actually very therapeutic to journal prayers this way.” I then said, “You should try it some time. You’d be surprised by what comes out.”

Father, I don’t want to be a babbling pagan. I just want to have a life that is open to you in prayer. I want to find time in my day to stop and listen to your still small voice. I want you to use this blog to let others know that they are not alone. There is a fellow sojourner who struggles, questions, cries out, overcomes, and lives in victory with you. I want people to see something in Scripture that they might not have seen before. And I want others to have a look inside me and see beneath any veneer that I might intentionally or unintentionally put up around me. Be glorified through me in this process. Help me to decrease as you increase.


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Emails to God – Matthew’s Wrap-Up (Matthew 28:16-20)

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Dear God, this ending seems so abrupt, especially considering some of the details we get in the other Gospels. Was Matthew just trying to get this story wrapped up? Also, it is interesting that in verse 17 it says that “some doubted.” What did they doubt? What did they see while they were there? For such a long book that gives us such great details (including all of the genealogy stuff at the beginning) it seems that this ending just doesn’t make sense.

Of course, the big thing that all evangelicals quote from this is verse 19. It’s an important thing for all of us to remember that we are to be about making disciples of Jesus. For all that Matthew lacks in his wrap up, he and Mark are the only ones who talk about the disciples being charged with preaching the Gospel. In fact, it is interesting to go and look at each Gospel to see how they end. Each one is certainly unique.

Father, help me to be a person who is about, above all else, making disciples. I feel like I fail often in that way. In fact, now that I think about it, I had an opportunity yesterday with a friend that I missed. He is suffering a bit, and we had lunch together. Hmm. Somehow, I didn’t even think to bring you up. How awful is that? Please forgive me and make me more sensitive to the still, small voice that you are speaking to me at any given time.

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Posted by on May 25, 2012 in Matthew


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Emails to God – Hard Hearts (Matthew 28:11-15)

11 While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. 12 When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, 13 telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.

Dear God, the idea of one person’s word against the other is interesting here. Assuming that verses 12 and 13 are true (and I do), then at what point did the chief priests not stop in their tracks and ask, “Oh my. Did we kill the Messiah?”

I think a hard heart is one of the hardest things to avoid for any human. We get so wrapped up in our agenda and in self-preservation that we can miss the basic facts. I can see instances in my work where I continually have to remind myself to step back and look at the facts rather than try to make the facts fit my own agenda (like the chief priests did here).

I am a Rotarian, and every week we recite the “Four-Way Test”:

  1. Is it the truth?
  2. Is it fair to all concerned?
  3. Will it bring good will and better friendships?
  4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

Father, there is a particular conflict in my life right now, and I end up asking these questions of myself a lot as I go through this process. I don’t want to lose sight of truth in the midst of the struggle. I don’t want to be so bent on my own agenda that I can’t live within the confines of these four questions. So far, I am at peace that I’ve been able to do this. I pray that you will help me and all who are involved in this struggle with me to be able to do the same.

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Posted by on May 24, 2012 in Matthew


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Emails to God – The Resurrection (Matthew 28:1-10)

1After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.

2 There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

5 The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6 He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”

8 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

Dear God, there are different tellings of this story in the Gospels, and it is interesting to see the different details that each write shares. Matthew seems to be more nuts and bolts about the story. Perhaps it’s the accountant in him. He doesn’t tell us the story about Jesus appearing as a gardener. He doesn’t tell us about Peter and John running to the tomb to check it out for themselves. But I just looked at the other four stories and I think this is the only one that mentions the earthquake.

In times like this I always try to take the story’s details and try to figure out what the author’s message to me is. What is it that Matthew wants me to take away from this? In this case, I think he wants me to know that:

  1. It was the women who were out working to ensure Jesus was buried correctly. In fact, the disciples didn’t do anything to take care of Jesus’ body after the crucifixion (that was left to a couple of Jewish church leaders) and they were apparently not going to do anything to ensure his body was buried correctly (perhaps this was considered “women’s work” at that time, but it’s still interesting).
  2. The women felt God move supernaturally. They felt the earthquake. They saw the angel. They saw the stone had been moved. They saw the guards “like dead men.”
  3. The angel told them that Jesus was alive, “just as he said,” he was going to Galilee, and that they needed to tell the disciples to meet him there.
  4. The women actually saw Jesus himself, and He also told them to tell the disciples about meeting Him in Galilee.

Father, I guess my overall take away from this story is that this wasn’t a vague, mysterious resurrection. You demonstrated your power. You communicated with the women who were trying to care for Jesus. You reminded them that this had all been predicted before. Then Jesus actually appeared to them. There was no room left for interpretation. Thank you for this story. Thank you for the resurrection. There is a gentleness about this story that is sweet. It seems to be about reassurance (to the women) and forgiveness (of the disciples). There is no vengeance here for the terrible death of Jesus. There is only a continued execution of the plan. How great is that?

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Posted by on May 22, 2012 in Matthew


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