Thursday, August 15, 2013

August 15 - Matthew 17

Today's reading in our daily plan is Matthew 17. Take a moment to pray, asking God to speak to you from this passage. Then read, using the following notes and questions to help you get everything out of the passage.

SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
  • In the previous chapter, Jesus said, ”some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” The "Son of Man" was a way Jesus referred to himself. In today’s reading we see that Jesus brought Peter, James and John with him up a mountain. On that mountain Jesus was "transfigured" before them, appearing brighter to the others. Then he somehow met with Moses and Elijah, two important figures from Israel’s past. The significance is that God’s promises in the Law and Prophets, represented by Moses and Elijah, are fulfilled in Jesus.
  • After descending the mountain, Jesus is met by a man whose son suffers from seizures. Apparently Jesus’ followers attempted to heal the boy with no success. Jesus then cast out the demon, thereby healing the boy. Later the disciples asked why they couldn’t do what Jesus did. Jesus responds by focusing on faith: even a small bit of faith, the size of a tiny mustard seed, can "move mountains."
  • Mark also records the story of the disciples failure to heal the boy, and Jesus coming to the rescue to heal him. Whereas Matthew here has Jesus explaining that the disciples efforts were unsuccessful because they lacked faith, in Mark we see Jesus explaining that they couldn't heal the boy because they didn't pray. Jesus must have said both things, and Matthew and Mark each focused on a different part of the answer Jesus gave the disciples that day.
  • The chapter finishes with Jesus providing an explanation to Peter as to why he should pay the Temple tax. Jesus explains that he technically isn’t required to pay the tax but he also doesn’t want to cause problems for the sake of causing problems.

SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Jesus is supreme. He is the fulfillment of everything God put in the Old Testament, and the fulfillment of all things to come. He is above all. And we need to make him supreme in our lives.
  • It's easy to think of faith as a very vague thing we feel, or maybe some ideas we believe, but faith acts. It takes action. In the case of trying to heal the boy, faith should have led to prayer. The disciples should have had faith that God (not they) could heal the boy, and then prayed so that they would be doing it God's power, not their own. But apparently, and incredulously, they tried to perform a healing without praying. It should seem absurd to us that the disciples tried to do something difficult and important without praying, but how often is that the case with us? Think about what you do without praying. Your job? Volunteering at church? Having an important conversation with your spouse or child? Trying to show your co-workers the love of God, talk to them about Jesus, or invite them to church? We need to live with a real sense of our limitations, and of God's infinite power, and in faith pray for his help with whatever we're doing.

NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • What will you be doing today? At home? At work? Other? Take time to pray through your day, asking God to help you with each task and interaction. And make it a habit. Start every day with faith, by praying through your day.