The produce defines the tree (Matthew 7:15-20)

Jesus’ words are so relevant in a world where media gives rise to hero worship.

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Open Matthew 7:15-20.

Matthew 7:15-20 (my translation)
15 Watch out for those who claim to speak for God but don’t. They present themselves as sheep following God, but they’re viscous wolves inside. 16 You’ll recognize them by what they produce. People can’t get grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles. 17 Every good tree makes good fruit; but a worthless tree makes degenerate fruit. 18 A good tree cannot make degenerate fruit, and a worthless tree cannot make good fruit.
19 Every tree that doesn’t make good fruit is cut down for firewood. 20 You can certainly recognize them by their fruit.

What does this have to do with Jesus’ kingdom message? Because we treat religion and politics as unrelated categories, we miss what Jesus meant about false prophets. Jesus’ kingdom message is a threat to those who want power. Conversely, those who want power want to conscript God to affirm their leadership. False prophets are those who affirm false powers — rulers other than Jesus.

Continue reading “The produce defines the tree (Matthew 7:15-20)”

Matthew 1–5 reveals Jesus fulfilling Torah

Matthew’s opening chapters show Jesus as the fulfilment of Israel’s Torah.

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Deuteronomy (Dead Sea Scroll 4Q41)

Open Matthew 1–5.

Here’s an intriguing possibility.

Matthew keeps focusing on Jesus fulfilling Scripture. He’s told us that six times already (1:22; 2:15, 17, 23, 3:15; 4:14). Does this motif define the way Matthew tells Jesus’ story? Continue reading “Matthew 1–5 reveals Jesus fulfilling Torah”

A voice in the wild (Matthew 3:1-6)

There’s a fascinating story behind John the Baptist’s life in the wilderness.

Open Matthew 3:1-6 and Isaiah 40.

He wasn’t a Baptist. Or a Protestant. But John the Baptizer certainly was a protester.

John shunned the benefits that human rulers provided to their towns: streets, markets, wells, walls, peace and security. He wouldn’t trade with them. His clothes were an anti-fashion statement, fashioned from whatever he scavenged — like hair from a dead camel. He survived on bush tucker — like grasshoppers and wild honey (3:4). Who knows where he took shelter from rain and wind. Continue reading “A voice in the wild (Matthew 3:1-6)”

Jesus fulfils what? (Matthew 2:13-15)

How can Matthew say that Jesus’ flight to Egypt fulfils Hosea 11:1? Hosea was talking about Israel’s exodus.

Open Matthew 2:13-15 and Hosea 11.

Matthew says Jesus fulfilled many Scriptures (1:22; 2:15,17, 23; 4:14; 5:17; 8:17; 12:17; 13:14, 35; 21:4; 26:54, 56; 27:9). But please read these before you claim that this proves Jesus was the Messiah. Some of these seem odd to us. Matthew 2:15 might be the most problematic:

Matthew 2:14–15 (NIV)
14
He got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Matthew seems to say that Jesus went to Egypt to escape Herod, and then returned because Hosea predicted it. But when Hosea spoke of God’s son, he meant the nation of Israel: Continue reading “Jesus fulfils what? (Matthew 2:13-15)”

Trump and the kingdom of God

Were the prophets who predicted Trump’s victory right?

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Now that the American presidential election is over, I’m writing to beg my friends not to confuse your allegiance to Jesus with your allegiance to a political party or to your nation. I’m an Aussie. I’m neither pro-Trump nor pro-Clinton. I am pro-Jesus. I’m writing this because 4 out of 5 white Evangelicals voted for Trump, and some (not all) of you confused support for Trump and support for Jesus. I beg you to listen, because that’s really dangerous to your faith. Continue reading “Trump and the kingdom of God”

God stands with his flawed people (Genesis 20)

When the people on your team cause a problem for others, whose side do you take? Which matters more: loyalty or justice? There may be a hint in the way God handles us.

We’re reading Genesis as the story of the kingdom of God. As people rebelled against God’s kingship they grasped power for themselves, turning violent. The heavenly sovereign permitted earthly government to avoid anarchy, resulting in nations. To bring the nations back under his authority, God established his own nation through Abraham. But he still takes responsibility for the nations: we just saw him act against the injustice of Sodom, and now we see it again as he acts against a Philistine king. Continue reading “God stands with his flawed people (Genesis 20)”