, Have the Daily Scriptures Delivered Directly to Your Inbox! Sign up to receive each day's post as it gets posted to our website.
We return to our occasional reading from beginning to end through the Gospel of Matthew, which emphasizes Jesus' divine nature and his status as the Messiah—as the Son of David, the Son of Man, and the Son of God.
Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!"
This is the third of four predictions that Jesus makes to his disciples about his upcoming death and resurrection. Here he gives a few more details: He'll be betrayed. The Jewish leaders will hand him over to the Gentiles. His excruciating death will come after mocking, flogging, and crucifixion. And he'll then be raised to life. How heavily must it have weighed on Jesus' heart and mind to know how inevitable these fast-approaching events were?
Knowing and dreading the pain that's awaiting him, Jesus nevertheless goes up to Jerusalem. What a Savior. Let this picture of Jesus deepen your love for him today.
"For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
"About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.' So they went.
"He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, 'Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?'
"'Because no one has hired us,' they answered.
"He said to them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard.'
"When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.'
"The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 'These who were hired last worked only one hour,' they said, 'and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.'
"But he answered one of them, 'I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?'
"So the last will be first, and the first will be last."
What a hard-hitting parable. After putting in a 12-hour day, most of us would also be upset to get the same denarius—a typical day’s wage—as those who had worked only an hour. Two lessons emerge from the story: the surprising generosity of the Lord, and our need to focus on his generosity to us without comparing ourselves to others.
How have you experienced the surprising generosity of the Lord in your life? Have you adequately thanked him for it? Take some time to do that now.
Peter answered him, "We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?"
Jesus said to them, "Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first."
Discipleship can be costly, as Jesus is quick to acknowledge here. He mentions homes, families, and careers, which many of our sisters and brothers in Christ around the world have sacrificed to follow Jesus. Most of those hearing Jesus' words that day—and many in the world today—have paid with their lives to be known as believers in Jesus. What has it cost you follow Christ?
Grace is free, but it's not cheap. Thank God that we inherit eternal life; we cannot buy it. But also pray for courage to willingly give whatever may be required of you.
Then Jesus said to his disciples, "Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God."
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, "Who then can be saved?"
Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
Few things are more intoxicating and alluring than wealth. Jesus uses an impossibility to illustrate what's possible only with God. (And contrary to the belief of some, there's no evidence of a small, ancient gate in Jerusalem called the "Eye of the Needle.") Then, as now, wealth was often seen as a sign of God's favor, yet wealth can pull our primary allegiance and dependence away from God.
Are there things in your life that are otherwise good—like resources, talents, relationships, or reputation—that, if unchecked, could too easily pull your own focus away from Jesus? Good things go bad when we give them first place in our hearts.
Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"
"Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments."
"Which ones?" he inquired.
Jesus replied, "'You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,' and 'love your neighbor as yourself.'"
"All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?"
Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
This man had rule-keeping and living by the book down to a T. He knew all the religious facts and wanted Jesus' confirmation that there wasn't one more thing he needed to mark off his eternal-life guarantee checklist. But Jesus knew something was still standing between this man and a personal relationship with God.
Father, please help us become aware of anything that's gotten in the way of our complete trust in and full obedience to you. Give us courage and strength necessary to let go and give away whatever that is, in exchange for a deeper relationship with you. Amen.
Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.
Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.
We can easily think of little kids as a distraction from what's really important, but Jesus clearly doesn't see them that way. Instead he welcomes them with open arms and gives them his undivided and special attention.
Childlike faith is an amazing and beautiful thing, demonstrating a willingness to believe in and listen to Jesus and a desire to live life God's way. Father, renew in us a vibrant childlike faith that provides fresh enthusiasm as we live for you today. Amen.
The disciples said to him, "If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry."
Jesus replied, "Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it."
If it's so difficult, why get married in the first place? Jesus acknowledges some potential good reasons not to marry, but he ends by saying this decision needs to come from each individual's circumstances and convictions.
The same question arises today, about whether a single person can serve God more effectively than someone who's married. Since God equips each of us to serve him in the unique ways he's created and gifted us, that question has less to do with marital status than it does with committing all of who we are to the calling we've been given.
When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.
Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?"
"Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate."
"Why then," they asked, "did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?"
Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery."
God's plan from the beginning was for marriage to be a lasting, committed relationship between a man and a woman. But because of our flawed nature, that bond is sometimes broken. The Sadducees of Jesus' time go so far as to say that a man could divorce his wife for something as trivial as burning his food. The Pharisees want Jesus to jump into the fray with their rivals, but he simply affirms what Scripture says about marriage's importance and sacredness.
Though God's pattern for marriage hasn't changed, we've sometimes also trivialized or even eliminated its importance. In light of that challenge, consider how we can uphold and model marriage for next generations.
"But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded.
"His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.'
"But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
"Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
"This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart."
Talk about someone who refuses to pay it forward or even pretend to follow the Golden Rule! It's natural to think this unforgiving servant gets just what he deserves for his hard-hearted attitude and actions. It serves him right…, right? But if we're honest, have we treated someone else this same way?
As you think about ways that you've been wronged or hurt, ask God to grow in you the ability to forgive. Forgiveness not only clears the slate for the one forgiven, but it also frees the forgiver from resentfulness and from the trap of dredging up painful old memories.
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?"
Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
"Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
"At this the servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go."
Peter's question may very well be one you've had yourself. Just how often do we have to forgive someone who keeps on doing the wrong thing or keeps on hurting us? Even when it's not what we want to hear, Jesus' answer is quite simple: every time. The key is never to forget how completely and repeatedly God has forgiven us.
Father, forgiveness is hard, especially when we find ourselves having to do it again and again. Please help us remember the way you've forgiven our sins, and give us what we need to offer genuine forgiveness to others. Amen.
View Daily Scriptures Archives