Do It For Him

Read This Week: Matthew 25

For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger, and you invited me in, I needed clothes, and you clothed me, I was sick, and you looked after me, I was in prison, and you came to visit me. Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. – Matthew 25:35-36, 40 NIV

Inherent to the Christian life is the service of other people. It is one of the indications and outward expressions of our faith. As we have already seen in the gospel of Matthew loving and serving others is directly correlated to the love and passion we have for Jesus. Doing unto others as we would have them do unto us is an earmark of the presence of God in our lives. Chapter 25 once again reinforces the truth and teaching of being a good steward of God’s resources, truth, and love.

We see here that the treatment of people and especially other Christians is the basis of determining the relationship an individual or group has to Christ. Jesus makes it clear in these parables within the chapter what we do to His followers and the world at large is done to him. The words of Jesus in these passages communicate to us that Christianity cannot merely be just a social connection, a spiritual construct, or a way to do charity. It is the transference of the love of Christ through the follower of Jesus to other believers, our neighbors, and those in the margin who are less fortunate. Jesus says in verse 40:

Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.

In the stewardship of our lifestyles, activities, words, and freedoms, we often fail to be mindful of, regard and love others, especially those suffering. But when we love others as if we are doing it for Jesus, we will humble ourselves and serve for the sake of other people and their wellness. Doing life with God will change our understanding and make us aware of needs, injustice, and the responsibility we have to fight for the least of these. The strong should look out for the weak. The privileged should advocate for the less fortunate. The safe should stand in the gap for the endangered. We cannot do what we want as Christians without stopping to consider others. That approach can expressly lead to marginalization and, even worse, painful indifference.

Jesus directly addresses indifference in this chapter. The charges against the lost ones (vv.41-43) do not concern obvious moral issues but are focused on their indifferent attitude toward Jesus and His people. Their indifference is what led to their fate, not their direct violations. Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel once said, “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.” Christ taught this first, and verses, 35-36 shows what the opposite of indifference looks like:

For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger, and you invited me in, I needed clothes, and you clothed me, I was sick, and you looked after me, I was in prison, and you came to visit me.

God’s love is the opposite of indifference, and the things done in His name will emulate that. Followers of Christ are not indifferent towards Jesus and His mission. We are not indifferent towards the Holy Spirit that empowers us to do life for Him every day. We are not indifferent towards the resources that God gives us, or towards needy people all around us. Followers of Christ are not indifferent towards a world that is lost. What we do to others, we do to Jesus. When it is done for others, it is done for Him.

Just Be Ready

Read This Week: Matthew 24

“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. – Matthew 24:36 & 42-46 NIV

James Clear, the author of the best-selling book, Atomic Habits, said this about how important daily growth and consistency can be to a successful life. He wrote, “It is so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making small improvements on a daily basis.” Clear’s assertion is that we are better served by daily faithfulness to doing things the right way versus looking for and trying to take advantage of one big moment. Christ was ahead of the curve on this idea in Matthew 24 by stressing a readiness for the big God moment by being vigilant, wise, and faithful every day.  

Earlier in the passage, Jesus was speaking about the destruction of the temple and the signs of the end. His teaching builds a sense of understanding about the kingdom and the urgency and priority of the mission. The apocalyptic and revelatory language that Jesus uses in verses 1-32 serves to point his followers and listeners to increase their faith not only when things get big or challenging but at all times. He desires for Christians to use wisdom and be mindful of the will of God every day as they wait on the end of their life or the return of the Lord. He says in verse 35: Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

Constant readiness and daily wisdom, faith, and preparation are at the crux of the message. Readiness is the operative word as the believer does not know when their time is up. So they should always be ready to serve God, steward their talents and gifts, love and care for others, and make a difference for the gospel in the world.

The word servant in verse 45 also means steward or one who properly takes care of or uses something that belongs to another. While we are here on earth serving Jesus and waiting for our appointed time, we are to be faithful and watchful stewards of what God has given us. Christians do not have to possess all the answers or know what will specifically happen at the end. But we must be ready each day to be faithful and wise as we grow in our devotion, build our character, communicate the gospel, and make an impact on a lost world. 

The servants of God in this passage are watchful, prepared, and ready consistently to be found faithful in the work of the Lord. The same expectation is there for us today. Our concern should not be with the seemingly big moments, what will happen in them, or what we are doing in comparison to others. Instead, we must be wise to faithfully take care of our life and use it for the glory of Christ, to be ready to let our light shine in the Holy Spirit’s power in our homes, neighborhoods, and workplaces each day.

Jesus said it will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. When a new morning dawns for the follower of Christ, no matter what lies ahead, the message is to just be ready.

Burden of Proof

Read This Week: Matthew 23

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. – Matthew 23:1-4 & 11-12 NIV

Hypocrisy is often used as one of the biggest reverse apologetics for the movement of Christianity. For centuries, skeptics and those who reject the Christian faith point to hypocrisies in the lives and actions of those who call themselves followers of Jesus as evidence that the message is not authentic. The unbelieving culture sees the incongruencies between the teachings of Scripture and its devout followers as proof that salvation in Christ is nothing more than a construct of people.

These arguments and assertions lack two logical realities. One, the hypocrisies of fallible, finite, and imperfect human beings does not and cannot logically negate the existence and truth of an eternal and immutable God. Secondly, just because someone believes something does not mean they embody it. Paul David Tripp once wrote that “just because you believe a thing does not mean you are that thing.” Therefore, devotion to God or lack thereof does not disprove that He exists or that the Church is not the Body of Christ sent to preach good news to the world. Hypocrisy is about flaws in the heart of man and not about the character of God.   

Jesus addresses hypocrisy (specifically religious hypocrisy) in Matthew 23. Jesus says the Scribes and Pharisees are hypocrites seven times. The word in Greek described actors who placed a mask over their faces as they played their part. It means someone who pretends to be something they are not, pretending to be someone better than they are. Someone who appears to be virtuous and of a good reputation but in private is corrupt and immoral. Jesus said this is what the Pharisees and others like them are. He said their hypocrisy creates and puts a burden on other people. The end of verses 3 through 4 says:

But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

The scribes and Pharisees were hypocrites and poor examples because they expected more of others than they did of themselves. They set heavy burdens on others yet did not even live up to those standards. They also created a burden and barrier for people to see and worship God.

But Jesus does not say that their actions and hypocrisies negate the existence and preeminence of God, nor will it prevent the kingdom from advancing. Instead, he rebukes, warns, and speaks to their hearts so they will turn from their sin and behavior. He wants them to stop causing others to be burdened by something that should give them joy, peace, hope, and expansion. Jesus desires the same thing from us.

The same directive and correction given to the Scribes and Pharisees are there for the follower of Jesus today. Our failures, shortcomings, and inabilities to live up to a Christ-like standard are not a reason for disobedience from other Christians or denial from the world. The truth does not derive from the righteous life of the Christian but from the authority of God himself.

The proof of integrity and right living among believers is simply an encouragement to follow Jesus and obey God without the extra burden of duplicity. Consistent, Scripturally-based, and Holy Spirit-fueled living of Christians dispels the notion that following Christ is a burden or unnecessary. Instead, it attracts people to the immediate and eternal benefits of a life with God.

First Love

Read This Week: Matthew 22

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:34-40 NIV

Jesus demonstrated His love to us and for us to emulate. He showed us how to operate in the power of the Holy Spirit and love others in the way that God designed. Jesus set the tone for us to love so that we could be a beacon of life and hope to a world in despair. He taught and showed us that love empowers and nurtures while providing safety and security within communities. The love Jesus desires for us embodies supernatural tenderness and compassion that draws people to His heart. 

But this type of love is impossible toward our fellow man if we do not first love God. It all starts with passionately and wholistically loving God and knowing Him. Jesus taught here that loving God is the catalyst of all other love. Loving God with our whole life – our emotions (heart), our volition (soul), and intellect (mind) is the greatest thing we can do because everything else flows from it. It is at the center of meaning and truth in this life. God is our first love. Jesus says in verses 37-38 of Matthew 22:

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.”

Jesus leaves no room for doubt about what should be the most important pursuit in our lives. The consistent, daily love for God fuels, informs, and empowers the believer to operate spiritually, be on mission, and love other people in the way He loves them. Loving God lays the groundwork for the thing Jesus said was like loving the Lord. The word like is strategically used because it means that the love for our neighbor should be similar to and even resemble the intense, passionate, devoted, and faithful love we have for God. Verse 39 says:

And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Jesus says that our horizontal love for others should look like the love we have for God. Our love for people should include our entire being and come as a direct result of our love relationship with the Lord. Therefore, we cannot say that we love God but do not love the people. This contradiction exposes our improper, misguided love for God. To rightly love God is to love the things He loves, and He most certainly loves people. He sent His Son, Jesus, to die for them. That is how much he loves people, and we should too.

Loving people the way God wants us to can be hard sometimes. We are all fallible, sinful people, who fail, behave poorly at times, hurt each other, and do not often live up to a Christ-like standard. We can be unlovable. But this passage makes it clear that no one is unloveable for those who have a relationship with Christ and who love God the way they are supposed to. His love in our hearts overcomes the habits, hang-ups, disappointments, hypocrisies, and mechanisms created by people.

Showing love to others can be painfully frustrating at times. It can get tiresome and redundant when we see self-centeredness instead of unity. It can be exhausting when gossip trumps honor, harmony gives way to division, and pride ravenously consumes humility. It hurts when people tear us down, ridicule us, and are hardly ever encouraging. But these realities do not negate the original intent for the love of God displayed through His people. Jesus said it is the greatest thing we can do not because it is easy but because it is impossible without the love of God. That is what makes it great. 

There is so much beauty and power in the response of Jesus to the Sadducees and Pharisees. They aimed to trip Him up and cause Him to say something that would blaspheme the law so they could arrest Him and put Him to death. But Christ uses it to teach about love. His answer is love – the love of God and the love of our fellow man. Love is first. It is the greatest, noblest, and most impactful thing human beings can do on earth.

Save Us

Read This Week: Matthew 21

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’” The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” – Matthew 21:1-11 NIV

In Matthew 16:21, Jesus begins his journey towards Jerusalem. Now, finally, in Matthew 21 Jesus arrives and enters the city. This whole scene and situation is the fulfillment of Scriptural promises about Him found in Zechariah chapter 9 verse 9 where it says:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.  

Matthew quotes Zechariah to prove the identity of Jesus. He establishes again that Christ has the authority, credibility, and power to be called the Messiah King. But he is also careful to present Jesus as the humble, unexpected, and non-military Messiah King. He does so by emphasizing only part of the passage in Zechariah.

Matthew even omits the words of the prophet that speak of the approaching king as triumphant and victorious. Instead of arriving on a war horse or in a golden chariot, the gospel writer presents the humility, meekness, and servanthood of this Messiah arriving on a lowly donkey. The nature of his transport into the city is not one of conquest by force but one of salvation through divinity and grace.                         

Mentioning these prophetic details also allows Matthew to stress that Jesus fulfilled every possible nuance of the Scriptural prophecy including the accolades that the crowd shouted from Psalm 118:26, Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord. But the first cry he records is the exuberant chant of Hosanna to the Son of David. These two names indicate two things: save us now, and Messiah King, save us forever. The first name, Hosanna, reveals the desire for salvation, and the second identifies who is worthy of doing the saving:

The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” 

Hosanna means a special honor to the one who saves. It is a shout of joy to the one who can save us now and for all time. This passage also includes one of Matthew’s favorite messianic titles for Jesus, Son of David. Throughout this gospel, we see that Son of David applies in situations where Jesus is involved in healing and saving (9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30). It shows Jesus as the healer, the one who cares for and serves the needs of others both physically and spiritually. Son of David spotlights Jesus as a humble servant figure, offering healing and wholeness, not the strong warrior king others may have been looking for as their Messiah. 

Essentially, the people in Jerusalem that day shouted, “Save us now and forever, divine Messiah, our Healer!” This cry to God has not changed throughout the ages. Seasons and times have changed; societies have grown and advanced; technology has increased our awareness. Philosophy has heightened our skepticism, and religious pluralism has diluted the true gospel. But the cry of the human heart in the 21st century is the same as the one in the 1st. We want healing and salvation even when we are unaware of what it all means.

God, in His goodness, mercy, love, and grace, gives us Jesus as the answer. He was the promised Messiah that the people praised that day, and He remains the One we need now. May we look to Him alone for salvation and proclaim Him to others so that they may be saved and follow Him.

Just Mercy

Read This Week: Matthew 20

As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. “Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.” Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him. – Matthew 20:29-34 NIV

Mercy is an alluring yet complex emotion for all of us. We love the idea of mercy, especially when we are the recipients of it. We can have an indifferent view of it when it applies to others in general, and we can struggle to give it when someone has done us wrong. But mercy is a powerful thing to observe, feel, apply, and experience. Nothing touches the heart and soul more than when kindness or forgiveness is expressed to someone who does not deserve it or when mercy is shown to people in difficult or even desperate situations. Just mercy alone can change a life, a situation, or an entire community and restore faith in God and humanity.

This reality is on full display in Matthew chapter 20 verses 29-34. Jesus has been teaching his disciples and followers about humility, lowliness, and servanthood. He continues this same teaching with the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard and follows it up with a prediction of his death for the third time. He even reinforces our position in the economy of God by telling a mother that her sons must be servants to assume their place in the kingdom. Then, we see this beautiful story of two blind men sitting on the street just begging for someone to see them and have mercy on them. Verse 30 says, Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”

The two men were sitting on the perimeter of Jericho, where the rich and mighty lived. Many beggars out there hoped that some wealthy person would have pity and give them a handout. But these men wanted something else; they wanted mercy and wanted to see. They did not seek arbitrary provision or pity. The first thing they called out after recognizing Jesus as Lord was to receive His mercy. They were blind, but they had the spiritual sense to see the heart of God and to desire His character and person and not just his provision. They heard what Jesus had done and said, and they believed that He was God, the promised Savior. Many who had heard and seen yet were too blind to recognize the Messiah. These two blind men, however, were among the few who could see Jesus and welcome him into their hearts. 

Jesus hears them, stops, and asks this question, “What do you want me to do for you?” It seems obvious what they want Jesus to do for them, but He asks them anyway. He offered them whatever they wanted and cut to the heart. God often asks these questions of us too. Out of His grace and mercy, He questions us in a way that tests our faith and tests the content and desires of our lives. The Lord wants us to pursue Him the most and to have hearts that reflect the will of God, rather than the fleshly and selfish inclinations in our hearts.

The two blind me just said what was on their heart and mind. The men wanted their sight and wanted the eyes to open, but ultimately, they wanted Jesus. There was no greed in their hearts, no corruption, and no deception. They saw Jesus for who He was, and the motive of their heart was right with God. Their purity of heart and faith was met by God’s mercy, just like He meets us. 

God promises that if we cry out that He will hear and respond. If we seek Him, we will find Him because He is eternally gracious and merciful. The two blind men give us a template of desire and faith as we seek God in our daily lives. Their prayer was simple: mercy, their sight, and for their eyes to be opened. And God answered! Verse 34 says, Immediately they received their sight and followed him. May we go and do likewise.

Being Rich

Read This Week: Matthew 19

Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” 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. – Matthew 19:16-26 NIV

In Matthew 19, we find a pretty famous story of the rich, young ruler. This account is a microcosm of a modern-day struggle. Struggles that we all have with personal pride, self-righteousness, and sufficiency. We do not have to conduct a deep examination of our hearts to see the similarities we share with the young man. Like him, our greatest challenge can be the desire to follow God our way while relying on our accomplishments to enter the kingdom of heaven. Removing this obstruction to true richness is why the Lord said this in verse 21:

“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.”

Jesus was making a statement to the disciples, the crowd, and to us today that the things of this world present the highest barriers to truly following and loving God. But it was not an indictment on wealth or possessions in and of themselves but a reflection of the heart’s posture toward those things. The teaching and true takeaway from this passage is not to place them above a relationship with Christ as the rich, young ruler did. Instead, the treasures in heaven should be valued or invested in with greater love, passion, energy, and pursuit than the treasures on earth. It is the one thing we often lack in life, yet it is the most important.

Our hearts are the issue, not our bank accounts. We are not broke financially as much as we are broke spiritually. Jesus is saying that when we are like the rich, young ruler, we are broken in our allegiance and devotion to the Lord. We are broke on faith and gratitude, broke on trust and healthy risk. We are broke on the stewardship of our resources and blessings. We are broke on confidence in a sovereign God who can take care of us. Our priorities and vision are broken, and therefore, our hearts can be misguided.

However, we do not have to stay broke. We can adopt a kingdom and eternal mindset that puts our hearts and eyes on the transcendent purposes of Christ. We can place our focus, not on the temporal things that will fade away, cause us to be fearful and greedy, and ultimately stand in the way of an intimate relationship with Jesus, but on the pursuit of God and his righteousness that lasts forever.

Of all the people who came to the feet of Jesus, the rich, young ruler was the only person who went away unchanged. That is why he went away sad. He failed to realize the most vital thing was not doing for God his way but being a passionate, pursuing child of God. He missed the greatest joy and fulfillment that we can experience on earth, and that is a vibrant, intimate relationship with Jesus. That is being truly rich. As Jesus said, with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Because of what Christ did on the cross, we do not have to earn a single penny or own a single thing to be rich.

That Is Great

Read This Week: Matthew 18

At that time, the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child to him and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 18:1-4 NIV

Peter, James, and John had just been on the mountain with Jesus during the Transfiguration. They had seen the glory of God and been through something few human beings had ever encountered. They had an experience that should have infused passion, joy, and harmony into their community, yet the Bible tells us that it led to rank, file, and posturing about who was the greatest among them.

They got pulled into the human hierarchical view of life. This view asserts that the higher you are will translate into the most influence, significance, and greatness. The world’s philosophy is you are great if others are working for you, but the message of Christ is that greatness comes from serving others.

This brings us to Matthew 18. It is packed full of theological and practical teaching that can inform our lives at all levels. Not least of which is Jesus addressing the question of who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? The answer to this particular question cuts to the heart of so many issues we face in life. The assertion that lowliness or humility makes a person great underwrites all the principles taught in the passages that succeed it. This statement from Jesus in verse 4 sets the tone for the rest of the chapter:

“Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Servanthood and humility are the prerequisites for a life that honors God on this earth. To take the position of a servant as Jesus did and be humble as a small child is to navigate all the nuances of the Christian life that expresses the heart of God to the world. These postures can prevent us from stumbling and causing others to be damaged by our choices (v. 6-9). These spiritual heart attitudes can empower us to stay in the pursuit of God and not wander away, but if another person wanders, humility will cause us to pursue them as the Lord pursued us (v. 10-14). 

Servanthood to Christ and the humility of a child pave the way for dealing with sin in the church, resolving conflict and disputes in a Goldy manner (v. 15-20). These attributes lead to restorative justice and reconciliation among people who have erred and bring people back together in community. The lowly position tunes our hearts to compassion, forgiveness, and mercy for others lost on the wicked servant in verses 21-35. This idea of true greatness through assuming and aspiring to the lowest place in the kingdom is what the Lord wants.  

May we not be concerned with the questions that preoccupied the disciples. May we be so intent on and interested in serving others and doing so from a position of humility that we forget the idea of status altogether. And may the Holy Spirit inspire and empower us to be involved in great things for the glory of God and know that it probably won’t have anything to do with the world’s standards of greatness. But as Jesus instructed, that is what will make it great.

Mountain Experience

Read This Week: Matthew 17

After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
– Matthew 17:1-3 NIV

The Scriptures are filled with mountain experiences. The Ark came to rest on the top of a mountain after The Flood. Abraham’s ultimate test of faith with his Son, Isaac, took place on a mountain. God gave Moses the Ten Commandments on a mountain. Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, and Isaiah assured Israel that Mount Zion would be the site of a feast unlike any in the history of the world. Jesus’ teaching of The Be-Attitudes happened on a mountain; He died for the sin of the world on Golgotha, a mountain outside the city gate, and in Matthew 17, He revealed Himself as the Son of God to Peter, James, and John high up on a mountain. Mountains are significant to how God speaks.

In the previous chapter, Jesus establishes Himself as the One over and among all by the disciples’ confession. He was no ordinary man or even a great prophet or leader like Elijah or Moses, but He was indeed the Son of God. Jesus confirmed the words of Peter and that his declaration was revealed to him by the Lord. Now, he would show that He was the Son of God in a spectacular demonstration of His glory upon a mountain. He takes three disciples with Him, and verses 2-3 tell us of this incredible scene:

There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

The transfiguration was a statement about Jesus’ authority and power. This revelation demanded that people receive Jesus as transcendent and One who had the divine credibility to speak to them. It revealed that Jesus alone is supreme over all men and that Moses and Elijah were vessels and servants that fulfilled a temporary purpose in God’s ultimate plan. Jesus establishing Himself as the High Priest and prophet caused so much division in the early church, yet God had already instituted this.

The transfiguration also confirmed the glory of God, and that the mission of the gospel and the advancement of the kingdom would reveal that same glory. The three selected disciples saw a preview of this and it encouraged and emboldened them with the truth of Jesus. They could trust His identity and place their faith in His promises, provision, and power just as we can today for the same reason.

This mountaintop experience was not random. It was a precisely timed event within the will of God to show the disciples and us what kind of Messiah Jesus was and is. It demonstrates the greatness of the Lord and helps us tear down our limited and human notions of Jesus and how he relates to us. Our mountain experiences are not random either. God uses them to show us who He is and what our potential is in Him. He meets us there, teaches us, changes our lives, and sends us back into the world with faith, hope, and joy to be on mission with Him.

The One

Read This Week: Matthew 16

When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. – Matthew 16:13-17 NIV

No one in the history of the world of note has endured mistaken identity and misconception quite like Jesus Christ. This misinterpretation of who He was and what His mission entailed began while He was still on earth, and it persists today. People have a hard time fully understanding the person of Christ – His divinity, His humanity, and His ultimate purpose and glory. Because of this, incorrect assertions, characterizations, and truth claims are made about Jesus in multiple ways. The late author and philosopher, C.S. Lewis summed this up perfectly in his classic book, Mere Christianity:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Christ: ‘I am ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I do not accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg, or else he would be the Devil. You have to make a choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him, or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

Jesus himself knew this was prevalent even while He was in the flesh, performing miracles, teaching, and revealing the glory of God. So he decides to stop in the middle of His ministry in Matthew 16 and ask his closest followers about His identity and who they and the world thought He was. In verse 13, he asks about the macro perspective of his identity, and then He makes it personal in verse 15 and asks the disciples themselves. He says, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” and “Who do you say I am?” It is helpful for us to address the same questions in our lives. Who do people in our day say Jesus is and who do we as His followers say He is in our hearts, with our mouths, and our actions.

We need to be aware and in tune with how our friends, neighbors, co-workers, and culture see and perceive Jesus. This knowledge is important as we seek to love people, minister to them, and address their doubts and skepticism while showing them grace and compassion. We cannot do this to the glory of God if we’re not dialed into their beliefs. This is why the Lord asked His followers who people said He was. He wanted them to know the intellectual, spiritual, and cultural barriers that stood between them and knowing Jesus.

He then turns to the disciples for the most important question: Who do you say I am? The same question that is still most vital to us, and one that we must know with the same confidence and faith as Peter in verse 16: You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God. We must know this Christ and his attributes, supremacy, and the reality of His current and future glory. Knowing Jesus informs our beliefs, galvanizes our worldview, strengthens our faith, and gives us hope and joy. It also empowers us to witness to others the true identity of Christ and present the truth of His salvation and gospel. 

Jesus is as Peter expressed. He is The One. He was not just a good teacher, a wise sage, a prophet like Jeremiah, or a religious icon. He was not a cosmic genie or just God’s nice son that interceded for His judgmental father. He wasn’t a liar or lunatic in the tradition of cult leaders or a martyr to incite a revolution. He was and is who Peter said he was. He is Lord. He was in the beginning with God, and He was God, and He still is. He is The One for all time, and He reigns above all other opinions about Him. May we live this truth out in front of a skeptical world and proclaim it in faith so that all may know and experience life with Him.