Day 17 Monday 24th March 2014
Matthew 4:14-25 Jesus Begins His Ministry
Matthew, one of Jesus’ twelve disciples writes his gospel to prove that Jesus is the Messiah, the eternal King. Matthew was once a despised tax collector, but his life was changed when he met with Jesus.
Jesus started His ministry with the very words people had heard John the Baptist say, ‘Repent’ and this message is still the same today, as when Jesus and John gave it. Becoming a follower of Jesus means turning away from our self-centeredness and ‘self’ control and turning our lives over to Christ’s direction and control, (17).
If we practice Christ’s teachings and share the gospel with others, we will be able to draw those around us to Christ like a fisherman who pulls fish into his boat with nets, (18-20). James and his brother John, along with Peter and Andrew were the first disciples that Jesus called to work with Him. Jesus’ call motivated these men to get up and leave their jobs immediately. They didn’t make excuses about why it wasn’t a good time; they left at once and followed, ( 21,22). Jesus calls each of us to follow Him, to serve Him and we too should respond like the disciples did.
Jesus was preaching, teaching and healing. These were the three main aspects of His ministry. Jesus preached the gospel, the Good News to everyone who wanted to hear it. The gospel is that the Kingdom of Heaven has come, that God is with us and that He cares for us, (23, 24). Christ Jesus can heal us, not just physical sickness, but spiritual sickness also. There is no sin or problem too great or too small for Jesus to handle. Jesus’ words are good news because they offer freedom, hope, peace of heart and eternal life with God.
Day 18 Tuesday 25th March
Matthew 5–6 The Core of Jesus’ Teaching
Jesus begins with the Sermon on the Mount, directions for living in His Kingdom. He also told many parables about the difference between His Kingdom and the kingdoms of earth. Forgiveness, peace and putting others first are some of the characteristics that make one great in the future Kingdom of God. And to be great in God’s Kingdom, we must live by God’s standards right now. Jesus came to show us how to live as faithful children in His Kingdom.
Jesus taught the people through sermons, illustrations and parables. Through His teaching, He showed the true ingredients of faith and how to guard against a fruitless and hypocritical life. Jesus’ teachings show us how to prepare for life in His eternal Kingdom, by living properly now. Jesus lived what He taught, and we too must practice what we preach. Jesus began His sermon with words that seems to contradict each other. But God’s way of living usually contradicts the world’s. If we want to live for God we must be ready to say and do what seems strange to the world. We must be willing to give when others take, to love when others hate, to help when others abuse. By giving up our own rights in order to serve others we will one day receive everything God has in store for us, (5: 3-5).
There are at least four ways to understand the Beatitudes (1) they are a code of ethics for the disciples and a standard of conduct for all believers. (2) They contrast the Kingdom values (what is eternal) with worldly values (what is temporary). (3) They contrast the superficial ‘faith’ of the Pharisees with the real faith Christ wants. (4) They show how the Old Testament expectations will be fulfilled in the new Kingdom and describe what we should be like as Christ’s followers.
Jesus teaches about salt and light, if a seasoning has no flavour, it has no value. Christians should not blend in with everyone else; instead they should affect others positively, just as seasoning brings out the best flavour in food, (5: 13). Can we hide a city that is sitting on top of a hill? It’s light at night can be seen for miles. If we live for Christ we will glow like lights, showing others what Christ is like. We hide our light by being quite when we should speak, going along with the crowd, denying the light, letting sin dim our light, not explaining our light to others, ignoring the needs of others. We should be a beacon of truth (5: 14-16).
Day 19 Wednesday 26th March
John 3 God’s Love for the World.
God specialises in finding and changing people we consider out of reach. It took a while for Nicodemus to come out of the dark, but God was patient with this ‘undercover’ believer. The lessons we learn here, unless we are born again we can never be part of the Kingdom of God, (1-12). 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 (16). This is probably the best-known verse in the bible, and has been called ‘ the gospel in a nutshell’. The entire gospel comes to a focus in this verse, God’s love is not static or self-entered, and it reaches out and draws others in. Here God set the pattern of true love, the basis for all love relationships. God paid dearly with the life of His Son, the highest price He could pay. Jesus accepted our punishment, paid the price of our sins, then offered us the new life that He had bought for us.
When we share the gospel with others, our love must be like Jesus, willingly giving up our own comfort and security so that others might join us in receiving God’s love. Eternal life is not an extension of a person’s mortal life, eternal life is God’s life embodied in Christ and given to all believers now as a guarantee that they will live forever. When we don’t know Christ we make choices as though this life is all we have, in reality this life is just the introduction to eternity. To ‘believe’ is more than intellectual agreement that Jesus is God. It means to put our trust and confidence in Him that He alone can save us. It is to put Christ in charge of our present plans and eternal destiny. Believing is both trusting in His words as reliable and relying on Him for the power to change. If you have never trusted Christ, let this promise of everlasting life be yours and believe (3: 16).
Jesus was deeply interested in people and relationships. He showed warm concern for His followers and friends. men, women and children. Jesus’ love for people is good news for everyone. His message is for all people in every nation. And each one of us has an opportunity to respond to Him in faith. As a perfect human Jesus showed tender sympathy to the poor, the despised, the hurt and the sinful. No one was rejected or ignored by Him. Jesus is more than an idea or teacher, he cares for you. Only this kind of deep love can satisfy your needs.
Day 20 Thursday 27th March
John 5 Jesus’ Miracles and Authority
Here we read of Jesus healing a man who had been paralysed for thirty-eight years and His clash with the religious authorities over healing this man on the Sabbath. These petty restrictions imposed by the religious authorities often went against God’s purpose in giving people a weekly day of rest. Here Jesus is accused of two accounts, Sabbath breaking and blasphemy because He put His own work on the same level as God’s (17).
In this chapter Jesus claims to have, knowledge of God’s plan (20), God’s authorization for all He says and does (19,30), power to give eternal life (21,24,40), the right and authority to judge all people living and dead (25-29). Now a man who makes these claims must be mad, bad or God.
So what support does Jesus give them and give to us today? Well the word God spoke at Jesus’ baptism (37), the testimonial given by John the Baptist (33-35), the evidence of His own miracles (36), the words of the Old Testament Scripture (39).
From an infant who could do nothing on his own Jesus grew to become completely able to fulfil his mission on earth. He was fully human, developing in all ways like us. Yet He remained faithful to God. He took no short cuts and was not isolated from the pressures and temptations of life.
There are no short cuts for us either as we prepare for a life of service to God.
Day 21 Friday 28th March
John 11 Jesus’ Power Over Death
Here we read how Lazarus returns from the dead. Time and time again we see how Jesus’ miracles back up the claims He made. It’s no wonder He often referred His critics to the work He was doing. Jesus claims He can give new spiritual life and what clearer assurance than Lazarus returning from the dead after four days in the grave. Neither the disciples or the two sisters could understand Jesus’ behaviour but the result for all of them was renewed trust in our Lord Jesus (15,27,42). So we too can take Jesus at His word. This event is decisive for faith and life on one hand (45); for hatred and death on the other (53).
Jesus loved this family and often stayed with them, he knew their pain but didn’t respond to them immediately. His delay had a special purpose, God’s timing. If Jesus had have been there when Lazarus was sick then maybe Jesus would have healed him rather than let him die. But Lazarus died so that Jesus’ power over death could be shown to His disciples and friends.
When Jesus told Martha that Lazarus will rise again, she thinks Jesus is talking about the resurrection in the last days, but Jesus reveals that anyone believing in Him now receives a new resurrection life and will never suffer eternal death. And then Martha confirms her belief in Jesus as Christ, the Son of God.
This raising of Lazarus was an essential display of His power, and the resurrection from the dead is a crucial belief of Christian faith. Jesus not only raised Himself from the dead (10: 18) but He has the power to raise others. Jesus has power over life and death as well as power to forgive sins. This is because He is the creator of life (John 14: 16) and He who is life, can surely restore life.
Those who believe in Jesus has a spiritual life that death cannot conquer or diminish. When we realise His power and how wonderful His offer to us really is, how can we help but commit our lives to Him? To those of us who believe, what wonderful assurance and certainty we have. ‘Because I live, you also will live’ (John 14: 19). Do you have this assurance in your life?
Day 22 Saturday 29th March
John chapter 15 The Christian Life Defined
In this chapter Jesus refers to himself as being the true vine as we know a vine produces fruit. If looked after well by a gardener it produces many grapes. Christ is the vine, and God is the gardener who cares for the branches to make them fruitful. The branches are those who claim to be followers of Christ. The fruitful branches are those who are true believers in Christ and produce much fruit by being at one with him.
Those who become unproductive are those who try to go it alone and try living without the life of the vine. Without the life of Christ they discover they are useless so wither and die, and are good only for the fire to be burned.
The branches that remain in the vine and submit to be pruned when necessary live and produce much fruit. The pruning is God’s discipline in our lives to strengthen our character and faith. Fruit is not limited to soul wining, but prayer, joy and love is mentioned in this chapter. It is reassuring that we are Christ chosen friends, “You did not choose me I chose you and appointed you to bear fruit- fruit that will last” Jesus offers hope by the Holy Spirit who Jesus will send from the Father who gives us strength to endure the hatred and evil in our world. This is comforting for those facing persecution. The Holy Spirit is called by two names the word Counsellor this conveys the helping encouraging and strengthening work of the Spirit. The Spirit of Truth points to the teaching that tells us of God’s standards of righteousness remaining in him brings this about.
How do we continue to remain in him?
We must remain with those who know and love Christ and acknowledge him as Lord. There is no such thing as a solitary Christian. We must also remain as people of prayer in our own intimate and private lives. Reading his word helps us to know Christ better this helps us to keep in touch with him and develop our relationship.
The 40 days of Lent for 2014 begin on Ash Wednesday (5th March) and conclude on Holy Saturday (17th April). The quick mathematician will notice that is more than 40 days. Sundays are not included. As a team of clergy and readers we have provided short devotional comments for each of the 40 days and encourage you to read our Sunday lectionary readings in preparation for church to maintain a rhythm of daily readings. It is our hope and prayer that our journey through the Scriptures this Lent will help us grow in faith and understanding of God’s big story.
Sunday 30th March Mothering Sunday
Readings: Exodus 2:1-10 & Luke 2:33-35.