We have a shepherd, so you have a place to belong.
Open Matthew 9:35-38.
Matthew 9:36 (my translation)
Seeing the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and thrown down like sheep with no shepherd.
What do we mean when we call Jesus our shepherd? Do you imagine yourself as a fuzzy little lamb being stroked by the shepherd? If so, you’ve missed the powerful metaphor.
For Israel, shepherd was a metaphor for a ruler, a leader of the nation. Occasionally a priest or prophet could be called a shepherd, but it was usually the king. David literally was a shepherd until God chose him to shepherd Israel: “You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler” (2 Samuel 5:2).
Sheep without a shepherd is therefore a picture of a nation that’s lost its ruler. As Moses reached the end of his life, he asked God to appoint a successor “so the Lord’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd” (Numbers 27:17). When the prophet Micaiah saw a vision of Ahab dying in battle, he said, “I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd” (1 Kings 22:17).
The last king of Judah was Zedekiah. The Babylonian invaders slaughtered his sons in front of him and then gouged out his eyes. From that moment in 586 BC, Israel had been sheep without a shepherd.
Among the scattered sheep in exile, Ezekiel explained that God had to remove the bad kings; yet he also promised that God would raise up a son of David to rule over them again: Continue reading “Jesus our shepherd (Matthew 9:35-38)”
Don’t miss the authority of the servant king.
Open Matthew 9:32-34.
Jesus is doing something unique. He’s demonstrating his kingship before his people even acknowledge him as king. That’s not how it’s usually done.
Politicians work the other way around. “Put us in power,” they say, “and we’ll fix everything.” It’s an ancient technique. 3000 years ago, David’s son Absalom wanted to be king, and this is how he went about it:
2 Samuel 15:3–4 (ESV)
3 Absalom would say to him, “See, your claims are good and right, but there is no man designated by the king to hear you.” 4 Then Absalom would say, “Oh that I were judge in the land! Then every man with a dispute or cause might come to me, and I would give him justice.”
Jesus isn’t seeking people’s approval so he can become their king. He sees himself as the divinely appointed king, so he uses his regal authority to remove every form of oppression from his people. Just look at his track record: Continue reading “Do you recognize the king’s authority? (Matthew 9:32-34)”
Are there other ways to talk about the kingdom that will communicate better in our time and culture? Here’s a lead to get us started thinking that way.
Jesus chose particular language to describe his identity (son of man) and his mission (kingdom of God). Yet his followers don’t use these terms as frequently as Jesus did. Why?
The first step is to analyse the distribution of the word kingdom in the New Testament. Todd Scacewater posted that survey on Logos Academic. Check it out: Why the Apostles Rarely Mention the Kingdom.
Armed with that information, we can then proceed to uncover the language Paul and Peter and the others do use to proclaim the kingship of Messiah Jesus is gentile territory. Understanding what they did could prove invaluable for us as we seek relevant and appropriate ways to communicate Jesus’ kingship in our time and in our culture where “kingdom” language can sound archaic. Continue reading “Why do the apostles rarely mention the kingdom?”
How do you think the story will end?
Riverview Church runs a few Hot Topic nights each year, evenings when people can text in questions on a topic that churches tend to avoid as controversial of difficult. His Kingdom Come: Preparing for the End of the World was the topic — appropriate for the date (9/11).
Graham Irvine and I (Allen Browne) began by providing some background (15–20 minutes each), while the audience texted in their questions. You can listen to the audio: Continue reading “Q & A — end of the world”
Do you think of Jesus primarily as your personal saviour or our global sovereign?
Open Matthew 9:27-31.
Guide dogs are amazing: a constant companion, willing to take a blind person where they want to go. The dog is trained for you personally, so it’s expensive to train one, and it really does become your own personal guide.
We make a huge mistake when we apply the same language to Jesus — calling him “my personal Saviour.” That’s a term Scripture never uses, because it could suggest that we think Jesus belongs to us, and he will take us where we want to go. That’s a completely corrupt way to understand Jesus, as if he was our personal servant and guide. And yet that attitude is widespread in the church today. We’re proclaiming that selfish arrogance each time we tell people, “Invite Jesus into your life; he’ll make it so much better for you.”
If you ever meet Queen Elizabeth, please do not invite her to be your personal queen. You’d be insulting her, as if she did not have that authority already. Please don’t invite her to sit on the throne of your heart! She already has the throne! What you must do is to acknowledge her authority, bow before her in recognition of her regal status, and follow her commands.
Continue reading “Personal Saviour or Son of David? (Matthew 9:27-31)”
Jesus knew how to care for people who were socially sensitive and people who didn’t understand the social niceties. Worth following?
Open Matthew 9:18-26.
The Synoptic Gospels intertwine the stories of two very different people. One is an influential ruler who loses his daughter; the other is a woman whose only influence is making everything she touches ritually unclean due to her menorrhagia. Jesus understood the different responses of powerful and powerless people.
Continue reading “The king understands his people (Matthew 9:18-26)”
How do you cope with criticism from people who don’t understand where you’re leading them? Could we learn from the Master?
Open Matthew 9:14-17.
What do you do when you’re criticized? It’s easy to get angry and sound off, or to cave in and give up. I’m interested in how Jesus, the king of the kingdom, handled criticism.
He copped it from the scribes (9:3). He copped it from the Pharisees (9:11). Now he cops it from friends: John the Baptist’s disciples:
Mathew 9:14 (my translation) Then John’s students came to him saying, “How come we and the Pharisees fast often, but your students don’t fast?” Continue reading “Managing criticism (Matthew 9:14-17)”
Download a good commentary on the Gospel of Mark, free.
Free book of the month from Logos for September 2017 is David Garland’s commentary on Mark. It’s an Application Commentary on the NIV translation (NIVAC). For each passage, it gives you the original meaning, the bridging context to our time, and the contemporary significance. At over 600 pages, it’s worth around $30 as an ebook or $44 as a hard back. If you’ll ever study the Gospel of Mark, grab it now. Continue reading “Free commentary on Mark’s Gospel”
Why did Jesus accept people when other leaders of his day wanted to cut them off?
Open Matthew 9:13.
One evening after work, a bunch of disreputable people were laughing and drinking shamelessly over their evening meal. It was exactly the kind of influence Israel didn’t need, so some Pharisees approached to name and shame them. Normally that would have broken up their unholy dinner party and send them slinking off into the darkness, but tonight one of these “disreputables” rises to his feet to defend his friends. It’s Jesus!
Continue reading “Where did Jesus learn mercy? (Matthew 9:13)”
“I want mercy…” What does that mean?
Open Matthew 9:13 and Hosea 6:1-6.
“Go and learn,” Jesus said.
Perhaps we should:
Matthew 9:13 (my translation)
Go and learn what this is:
“I want mercy, not sacrifice.”
I didn’t come to call those in the right,
but sinners. Continue reading “Meditating on mercy (Matthew 9:13)”