The Life and Teachings of Jesus – Week 11 – March 16-20:
Monday – Matt. 7:7-11 (cf. Luke 11:9-13): When you pray, do you make your petitions with timidity as if you’re requesting something from a grudging giver or with impudence as if you’re requesting something from a generous giver? In our reading today, Jesus calls for us to approach the throne of our Father with boldness. Now, carte blanche approach to prayer taught by prosperity preachers is not supported from scripture. Perhaps it is wise to read the unqualified offer of vv. 7-8 against the backdrop of Matt. 6:11, 16-24, 25-34. But for all the necessary caution, there is a sense that Jesus invites not merely a resigned acceptance of what the Father gives, but a willingness to prayerfully explore the extent of His generosity. The point Jesus is making is not that human persistence wins out in the end, but that the heavenly Father who loves His children will certainly answer their prayer… if only they would ask, seek, and knock.
What encouragement does Jesus give those who ask, seek and knock? How can we be assured of these promises?
Tuesday – Matt. 7:12 (cf. Luke 6:31): “Therefore, whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” For ninety-one verses Jesus has been teaching us what He expects from His disciples. Yet, in one verse He summarizes His whole sermon, not to mention all of the Old Testament. In these few words, our Lord gives us a guide to how unselfish love should work itself out in our relationships with others. Our actions, He teaches, are not supposed to be dictated by the actions of others. If a person is mean to us, then we’re to be good to them because that’s how we want to be treated. The person who consistently lives according to this rule is totally excluding selfishness and replacing it with love and care for others. An ancient Jewish teaching stated in the negative, “What is hateful to you, do not do to anyone else.”
How does Jesus’ positive rule go beyond this command? In what ways would your life change if you followed Jesus’ teaching from this verse?
Wednesday – Matt. 7:13-14: The concluding section of the sermon is taken up with impressing upon hearers the difference between real and nominal discipleship. In four short warnings (vv. 13-14, 15-20, 21-23, and 24-27) Jesus calls for wholehearted commitment to Himself and the Father’s kingdom. To start, Jesus makes it clear that there are only two paths in life that are set before people; therefore it is important that the right choice be made. He presents a scene where a broad road leading to a splendid gate is obvious and easy to be seen, whereas a way that brings a traveler to the unimposing gate is inconspicuous and is perceived only by those who look for it carefully. The first road “leads to destruction,” a fact that doesn’t alter its popularity. While the second road is “narrow” (or “difficult” NKJV) and few find the way “to life.” (We must not press “few” too hard, for elsewhere in Matthew Jesus speaks of “many” that are saved cf. 8:11; 20:28.) The contrast is stark and clear between the two roads in their character, popularity, and in their destination. Without using the words, this saying sets before us the alternatives of heaven or hell. Those are our only two choices, choose wisely.
In what sense is “the gate wide and the way easy” that leads to destruction? Conversely, in what sense is “the gate narrow and the way hard” for those who follow Jesus? Which road are you on?
Thursday – Matt. 7:15-20 (cf. Luke 6:43-45): The second warning focuses on the danger posed by false prophets, who are, by implication, contrasted with true prophets who may be trusted. How can followers of Jesus recognize false teachers? From their fruits; their fruits will in the end betray them. It is not outward appearance that is important (ravenous wolves may be dressed in sheep’s clothing) but the things that the false prophets teach and the manner of their life. For their teaching and lifestyle proceed from what they are in their hearts. The fruit is the test of the tree; if there is no good fruit, there is no good reason for the tree to exist. And the fruit is the test of one who claims to be a prophet (or in modern terms, preacher, pastor, etc.). “Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?” Jesus asks. Obviously not, if there is no fruit there, then there’s no good reason for the person to be treated as a prophet worthy of an audience.
List several “fruits” a false teacher would produce and several “fruits” a true teacher would produce.
Friday – Matt. 7:21-23 (cf. Luke 6:46): In the third warning, we’re confronted with a profoundly searching and disturbing scene for all professing disciples. Here we meet people who confess their allegiance to Jesus as “Lord” and who can back up that claim with impressive spiritual achievements, all carried out explicitly in the name of the Lord. Nevertheless, Jesus says to them, “I never knew you, depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness” (v. 23). Even good works by themselves are not enough. There are good people who claim to follow Jesus as “Lord” and who do good works, nonetheless they are on the broad way leading to destruction. Despite their good deeds, they were carried out by people who still lacked the relationship with Jesus which is the essential basis for belonging in the kingdom of heaven. While the words and actions may be good, their lives were lawless denying Him in their hearts. Since they didn’t really know Him, He didn’t know them.
In spite of their admirable statements or actions, why does Jesus condemn these people? Why do you think people so often confuse religious activity with knowing and doing the will of the Father?