by David Groendyk
I think it’s fair to say that Matthew 24 is a confusing chapter. Jesus is weaving together in one sermon different facets of what the world will look like as his second coming draws nearer. Many scholars, theologians, and pastors have spent lots of energy and spilled lots of ink debating some of the difficulties of this chapter. I’ll do my best to give you all some clarity in this devotional, but not just for the sake of making theological arguments. How we understand this chapter theologically actually has a huge impact on us practically and pastorally.
Jesus is simultaneously talking about three different time periods in this one chapter: 1) the year 70 AD when the temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed by the Romans, 2) Jesus’s own second coming, and 3) the general time period between those two events. Here’s how we could break down this chapter (you can see how it might cause some confusion!):
• Verses 1–3 = 70 AD destruction of temple
• Verses 4–14 = the whole time between Jesus’s two comings
• Verses 15–22 = 70 AD destruction of temple
• Verses 23–28 = the whole time between Jesus’s two comings
• Verses 29–31 = Jesus’s second coming
• Verses 32–35 = the whole time between Jesus’s two comings
• Verses 36–41 = Jesus’s second coming
• Verses 42–51 = the whole time between Jesus’s two comings
Being clear about these divisions helps us understand what to expect in this life as believers, and it helps us know how we ought to live in light of those expectations. Here are some applications for us:
1. We ought to be prepared for persecution and suffering being the norm for the church. The norm is that we will be tempted to fall away (v. 24), lawlessness will increase (v. 12), we will be hated for our religion (v. 10), and believers will be put to death for their faith (v. 9). We must be prepared accordingly. Now, living in America where we have freedom of religion and a history that is generally tolerant of Christianity is a tremendous blessing, and we shouldn’t take it for granted. But the recent ban on public gatherings due to COVID-19 gives us an opportunity to think about what it might look like if our churches weren’t allowed to meet together in public due to persecution. Would your faith survive if our government banned Christianity? Would you still be a Christian if you weren’t allowed to go to church? I don’t mean to downplay the importance of Sunday worship; I mean to say that there are people in America (and all over the world) that are only Christians because they don’t face persecution. Jesus himself warned in Matthew 13:20–21 that many Christians are still Christians only because they haven’t yet faced persecution. The COVID-19 pandemic will certainly test some of us—do you call yourself a Christian merely because you go to church on Sundays? Let’s join together in prayer that the gospel will truly and deeply take root in each one of our hearts.
2. Jesus’s second coming will be a surprise; therefore, don’t look for signs or try to predict when he will come. There can be a temptation when we read verses 6–7 to think that when a pandemic like COVID-19 hits the globe or when rumors of World War III swirl about (remember when those rumors swirled just a few months ago?), that Jesus must be awfully close to coming back. Jesus is clear that even while he was on earth he didn’t know when he would come back (v. 36)! We play a dangerous and fruitless game when we think we know when Jesus is coming.
3. Jesus’s second coming will be a surprise; therefore, stay awake (v. 42). This is the main application Jesus gives. We may not be able to predict when Jesus will come, but we are to live as though he could come back any minute. “Stay awake” is the same Greek word as when Jesus tells his disciples to “watch” in the garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:38). Do you want to see a bad example of staying awake? Look at how the disciples fall asleep. Don’t fall asleep spiritually. In other words, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials, don’t get lulled to sleep by the riches and pleasures of this earth and forget about Christ, don’t stop making God’s glory your number one priority in life, keep actively exercising your faith, keep persevering and enduring (v. 13), keep proclaiming and living the gospel (v. 14), and steward your resources in a way that honors God and proclaims his good news (vv. 45–51). Strive to stay awake and to live like this all the time, and let’s pray for the Spirit’s help as we do so.
by Pastor Mark Hudson
Remember to read the passage and reflect and make your observations on the text first.
At the end of the gospels, the tension is rising. Jesus cleanses the temple in Matt 21:12. In verses 23 the following, the chief priests and elders directly challenge Jesus authority and because Jesus sees through their hypocrisy, He exposes them and refuses to answer their question.
His parables are directed to them and they know it, “. . . they (Chief Priests and Pharisees) perceived that he (Jesus) was speaking about them. Jesus calls them “hypocrites” in 22:18.
Jesus tells them they are wrong in 22:29.
Now in chapter 23, Jesus directs his strongest rebukes to the scribes and Pharisees. If you ever thought it is not right to publicly rebuke someone, Jesus shows there is a time and a place to name names and expose others. These are blistering words but truthful.
These castigating rebukes go to the heart of the differences between Jesus and the Pharisees. But notice how Jesus transitions from stern, full-throated exposures to the most tender loving lament. Jesus is not out of control in his rebuke. He is not shaking with anger spewing anger and shaking his finger at them. Rather, his stern words are full of love and rebuke. Jesus compares himself to a mother hen who gathers her chicks under her wings. Jesus is still in love with his people who reject Him.
Instead of recounting the meaning of his words which are rather plain and hard to misunderstand, I can’t help but ask, what if? What if the Pharisees (or even one) questioned Jesus by asking, “Do you mean that we are actually opposing God? Do you mean that we, as religious leaders, are actually leading people away from God? Please forgive me. Forgive us.”
Have you ever though what would have happened if an Ezra 9-10 (radical repentance) or a Jonah 3 (city-wide repentance) would have happened? It is hypothetical but doesn’t it make you wonder? What about when the Holy Spirit puts His finger on your sin? Do you act like the Pharisees? Do you work harder at covering up your sin, accusing others, going to whatever extreme as long as you are not admitting any guilt? The religious leaders took this to such an extreme they did not just get angry with Jesus, didn’t merely disagree with him, nor did they want him silenced. They actually succeeded in killing him.
When you read the Bible, do you picture yourself as the innocent one or the guilty one in his stories or parables? It might help you to grow closer to Christ to see yourself as the Pharisee rather than the most saintly person in the parables. It may help you to realize that you have the same tendencies, motives, and desires as Pharisees. Not that you are a Pharisees at all times and in all places, but we are closer to the Pharisees than Jesus. This is exactly why we need Jesus.
by David Groendyk
In all of God’s wisdom and sovereignty (and possibly Pastor Lawrence’s careful planning?), we read of Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem on this Palm Sunday. As Jesus mounts his donkey, the crowds lay their cloaks and palm branches down on the road, and the crowd begins to shout, this is clearly an entrance fit for a king (vv. 1–11). As Zechariah prophesied, and as Matthew confirms for us, Jesus is our king. He is the rightful king of his people who has come to be their savior. In fact, whether or not the people realize it, that’s exactly what they’re crying out for. I had to do some research, but do you know what “hosanna” means? It means “save me!” That is exactly what king is supposed to do. Westminster Shorter Catechism question 26 asks, “How does Christ execute the office of a king?” The answer: “In subduing us to his will, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.” Christ has come to free us from our tyrannical bondage to sin. He defeats death itself and conquers the power of hell. We’ve been freed! And he continues to rule and defend us still. What areas in your life do you need to learn to submit to Christ’s rule even more?
King Jesus comes to bring salvation. The problem is that it’s a different kind of salvation and a different kind of rule than many of the crowds in Jerusalem thought it was. That caused an uproar. All along, Jesus has been preaching what his kingdom is like—one that brings spiritual salvation and obedience in the heart of his people—while the crowds were expecting a physical kingdom with Jesus sitting on a throne in Jerusalem. Some listened to Jesus; some didn’t. As Charles Spurgeon once said, “The same sun that melts wax hardens clay.” It seems like the more Jesus preaches the salvation he brings, the more irritated and aggravated the Pharisees get. They can’t stand Jesus. That’s what we see in verses 15–16, 23, 32, and 33–46. The more Jesus proclaims his salvation, the harder their hearts get. How do you respond when God’s Word challenges you, when it tells you something contrary to what you previously thought, or challenges the way you live your life? Is your heart soft?
The response we ought to have to our coming King is to bear fruit. Notice how many of these narratives involve someone bearing correct or incorrect fruit. The money-changers in the temple are bearing bad fruit by taking advantage of the temple sacrifices to make a profit (vv. 12–13). One son is praised as having borne good fruit despite not originally wanting to in contrast to the other son who says he will but actually doesn’t (vv. 28–32; a story I’m sure all you parents can relate to!). The evil tenants are killed because of the way the mishandled the master’s property and people, and the kingdom of God is given to those who produce fruit (v. 43). And, of course, the most explicit example of the fig tree, which Jesus curses because it has no fruit (vv. 18–19). Those who are described as bearing fruit in this passage are the blind and lame (v. 14) and the tax collectors and prostitutes (v. 31)—those whom you wouldn’t ordinarily identify as religious people. Those who don’t bear fruit are the Pharisees, chief priests, and scribes—those whom you would think are definitely believers.
The kingdom of God turns the world upside-down. Jesus is not looking for you to look good. What he wants is faith and repentance. You can obey every law of God perfectly, you can pray long high-falutin prayers, you can give away every penny you own, you could have sat in the church service every Sunday for eighty years, you could have led dozens of Bible studies, but if it does not come from a heart that’s been broken by the misery of your sin and overwhelmed at the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ, it’s just a show. Jesus doesn’t want a show. He wants faith and repentance, and only the good works that flow out of faith and repentance truly are good fruit. That’s what makes the tax collectors and the prostitutes such great examples. They have seen how serious their sins are and have desperately cried out to Christ for mercy. Have you been broken by your sin? Do you cling to Christ for salvation?
Matthew 20 Devotional
by Pastor Lawrence Bowlin
It has sometimes been said that mercy is not getting what we deserve, whereas grace is getting what we don’t deserve. Two days ago we read about the importance of giving mercy to others in forgiving them of their sins just as the Lord has been merciful to us in forgiving us of our many sins. Today, our text shows how the Lord gives an abundance of grace to those who don’t deserve it.
In the first sixteen verses of this chapter, Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a vineyard owner trying to find laborers to work in his vineyard. Early in the morning he finds a group of men who agree to work in his vineyard for a denarius a day. It seems that they laid out the terms for their service and the owner agreed to their terms. Of course, we learned the other day that a denarius was a common wage for a day laborer, so this seemed to be the proper and expected amount of pay for their time working in the vineyard.
About three hours later, the owner goes out seeking more laborers and upon finding some he promises to give them whatever is right, and they agree to work for him. Then another three hours pass and the owner contracts some more laborers giving that same promise, and still another three hours pass and the same conversation takes place. Then, finally, at the eleventh hour, he finds still more men standing by who agree to work for him in his vineyard, and they put in an hour’s worth of work before the sun begins to set and it’s time to call it a day.
When the foreman begins to pay the men at the end of the day, those who had only worked an hour received a denarius, so too did those who only worked three hours, and six hours and nine hours. Lastly, those who had worked all day long also received the denarius that they had agreed upon for their labor. But after seeing those who had only worked one hour receive a denarius, those first men on the job began to think that they should receive much more for their labor, and when they didn’t, they begin to complain to the master of the house that they bore the brunt of the labor and the heat throughout the day and deserved to paid more.
This parable is meant to represent some of the Jews, particularly the Pharisees and Sadducees complaining of the entrance of sinners and gentiles into the good graces of Christ and his kingdom. They had the long history with God; they had the law and the prophets; they had given up so much to try and walk with God, but now, here come these ignorant pagans calling upon the name of the Lord. It just didn’t seem right that these newbies were getting what they didn’t deserve. But what the Jews had forgotten, and what we sometimes forget as Christians, is that none of us deserves God’s grace. None of us deserves his favor; none of us deserves His reward. We all deserve the wages of our sin, which is death and hell forever. We must be foolish to continue insisting that we ought to get what we deserve when what we deserve is far from good and profitable to us.
Instead, we ought to continually stand amazed that we have received a payment or reward at all, that the Lord has found us when we were standing idly by and placed us in his honorable service, and that he has been so generous with us to show us such kindness and grace in the land of the living, and that his generosity extends well beyond this life in the life to come with all the plans he has in store for us. If we really understood and believed these things even a little, we would not be so quick to begrudge our brothers and sisters when the Lord smiles upon them in love. Indeed, in this regard, ‘the last shall be first, and the first shall be last.’
Matthew 18 Devotional
by Pastor Lawrence Bowlin
Spending more time at home with our family can be a great blessing, but it can also be a great challenge, for while we are trying to keep a certain type of physical sickness out of our homes, we can’t quite keep the spiritual sickness out of our hearts. The problem is: all of us are already sick with sin, and when sick sinners gather together for any lengthy period of time, we have a tendency to share our sickness with each other. With others, in public settings, we may be able to mask our sickness, somewhat, but at home, our family members hear us coughing up evil words; they smell our foul, sinful breath and they see our sick hypocrisy for what it really is. And we see the same sickness in our family members as well, and it appears so vile and rank to us. To us their sin is so obvious, petty and ridiculous, while ours seems so sophisticated, acceptable and even justified.
It is in close quarters, though, that we begin to get a clearer perspective of just how dirty we really are as sinners. In our text this morning, Peter asks Jesus a simple question in v.21, saying, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” But Jesus says to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.’ Now, if that seems like a lot, you should consider the parable that Jesus shares afterward to prove his point. In the story Jesus shares how one man owed the king 10,000 talents and how the king was going to sell him and his family into slavery because he could not pay the debt. But the man pleaded with the king to give him some time to repay the debt. And out of pity for him, the king releases him and forgives him of his debt entirely. But that same servant then went out and found a fellow servant who owed him 100 denari and demanded that he pay him what he owed. But when the second servant pleaded with the first for more time, the latter refused to have pity upon him, and threw him into prison until he could pay back every penny.
This acts seems even more outrageous to us when we understand the difference between a talent and a denarius. A denarius was equal to one day’s labor for an average workman, so the second debt in the story was worth about 100 days labor that the servant could easily have worked off in a little over three months. But a talent is worth a whole lot more than a denarius. A talent was worth about twenty years of wages as a laborer. And in the story, the servant owes ten thousand talents or about 200,000 years of labor to the king, a number he can never really repay, but the king freely forgives him of all his debt.
Oh, if we only saw our sin rightly, what a difference it would make in how we treat our fellow believers and our family members. Yes, they may owe us a great deal of love that they have defaulted on in numerous ways, but their debt is nothing in comparison to the debt that we owe to a holy God, who has loved us with an everlasting love. How could we possibly hold on to grudges against others, when the Lord so freely forgives us for a much greater debt, that we can never repay Him? This is what Jesus meant when he taught his disciples to pray, “Lord, forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” The Lord will not forgive us the multitude of our sins, if we are not willing to forgive our brother for his sins that are a lot less. May we remember this parable whenever we are tempted to call in the loan on our neighbor’s debt. It is foolishness to think this way, when we don’t see our sin aright and understand just how much we really owe to God.
by David Groendyk
Besides Matthew 27 and 28 which tell us about Jesus’s death and resurrection, perhaps no other chapters in this Gospel are as profound or important as Matthew 16 and 17.
Matthew 16 is the turning point of the whole book. Verses 15–19 detail for us Peter’s famous confession. We see that Jesus had accrued quite the diverse reputation amongst the masses. Many people saw Jesus as one of a long line of prophets that God had sent. They thought he might be John the Baptist reincarnated, the second Elijah promised in Malachi 4, or even the prophet in Deuteronomy 18 that was promised to Israel. But none of those answers are sufficient. As Peter confesses, what we must believe about Jesus is that he is the promised Christ, come to save his people from their sins, and that he is the Son of God. All other worldly estimations of Jesus being a masterful teacher, a prophet, or a good example do not do him or his words justice. He is no less than God himself whose mission is to be killed and raised again so that his people might have eternal life (v. 21). Everything hinges on your response to the question, “Who do you say that I am?” (v. 15).
Remember that Jesus looked like an ordinary man. There was nothing about him that would make you think he was God; in fact, quite the opposite (see Isaiah 53:2). All along, these disciples are taking this man at his word and seeing the miracles he performs and trusting that what he has said about him being God was true. Then, in chapter 17, Jesus takes a moment to reveal himself in his full glory. For a brief moment, Peter, James, and John saw Christ’s divinity (v. 2). We don’t know exactly what happened, but when it says “he was transfigured”, somehow, some way, his outward appearance changed. He shone with glory in such a way that his disciples knew he was God. What an amazing sight that would have been! What a grand confirmation of everything they’d believed so far! And someday, you and I will behold Christ in all his glory too. Every doubt you may have had about whether or not this was all real, every hesitation about whether or not this Christianity business was all worth it, will be dispelled the second you close your eyes in death and behold the face of God. What a day that will be! Let that be the fuel to keep you going in life.
Unsurprisingly, though, we will all act in ways that contradict our great hope. The disciples three times are rebuked in these two chapters (16:8; 16:23; 17:20). Peter, who beholds Christ’s glory, will eventually deny Jesus three times (Matt. 26:69–75); James and John will abandon Jesus when he is arrested just like all the others (Matt. 26:56). As plainly as Jesus can lay out for us who he is (16:16–19; 17:1–8) and what he’s done (16:21; 17:9–13; 17:22–23), we are so prone to doubt and wander. What contradictory lives we all tend to live.
Let’s all pray for greater faith. I know that as I’ve written these devotionals, I’ve probably sounded like a broken record. But this is the note that gets played over and over again. Believe! Because this testimony about Jesus is true. And because we so often forget and live like it doesn’t matter. And because it has eternal consequences whether or not we hold fast to Christ (16:24–28). Pray over and over like the man in Mark 9: I believe, but help my unbelief. We will all have to take up our crosses, which means not just having to endure inconveniences in this life, but having to leave behind this world and march to our deaths, like Jesus himself did. Faith, whether great or small, will keep you united to Christ and connected to the God who can accomplish anything for you (v. 20). Behold Christ and believe.
Matthew 14 Devotional
by Pastor Lawrence Bowlin
This chapter opens by revealing the inner thoughts of one of the wicked rulers over Israel. When Herod the Tetrarch hears about some of the miracles that Jesus had been performing, he believed that Jesus was John the Baptist returned from the dead. And there is obviously some sense of fear and remorse that Herod is exhibiting here as Matthew gives us the back story of how he killed John.
Truly, John died in a very inglorious manner at the hands of a corrupt and perverted fool. It all began when John had the audacity to confront the king for unlawfully taking his brother’s wife. This greatly enraged Herod motivating him to put John to death immediately for publicly shaming him, but Herod feared the people’s reaction to the killing of a prophet, so he bound him in prison instead. At some point his step daughter dances before him and his entourage, pleasing the king greatly. More than likely, Herod is in a lustful, drunken stupor at this point and makes a rash oath, promising to give his new daughter whatever she asked. Then prompted by her mother, who probably coaxed her daughter into dancing provocatively in the first place, the young girl says to Herod, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.” And Herod, realizing the foolhardiness of his vow, but also wanting to maintain his good name before his guests, grants her request, has John beheaded in prison and orders a servant to bring John’s head on a platter to give to the girl that she might give it to her mother. Who knows what the mother then did with his head. All we know is that disciples came and buried the rest of his body.
Apparently, Herod wasn’t the only one offended by the public rebuke of John the Baptist. Herodias was just as distraught. And in this case, the statement holds true, that ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” But what are we to make of this? If we were to put ourselves in the shoes of King Herod, then we would see clearly how much we hate rebuke and are willing to hurt the one rebuking us and reward the one who seeks to lead us astray. If we put ourselves in the shoes of John the Baptist, we are confronted with the real fear of the consequences of telling others the truth and then wondering if God will help resolve the dilemma we’ve find ourselves in.
If we consider just how fickle political leaders can be it can cause us even more uneasiness. To think that many do not make their decisions based upon the law of God but rather on their own whims, lusts and fears, can lead to great bitterness on our part. Even as my family and the Kaniarz’ wait upon our government to help us to get out of Peru, we see some of the underpinnings of the political machinery and the motivations behind whether someone in government wants to help us or not. Do they want to help us because Trump didn’t? Do they merely want exposure? Are some merely trying to get reelected? We really don’t know the answers to these questions, nor do we want to know all the nitty-gritty details.
I’ve been reading a biography on Martin Luther recently and it shows much of the dirty motivations behind both the Roman Catholic prelates in turning against Luther because he was hurting their purse strings, and how some of the German leaders wanted to help Luther because they wanted to solidify their power in within their own region. Neither party was necessarily seeking to do the right thing but merely trying to get ahead by either killing or elevating Luther. But, somehow, God worked through the evil schemes of men to bring about his good purpose. And he did the same in the life of John the Baptist. We might find ourselves reluctant to say that at first, since John was prisoned and later beheaded, but it is still true. God was still working out his good purpose even through the wicked mechanizations of King Herod, his wife, and even his step-daughter. And somehow, I have to believe he is working out his good purpose through the conflicts between the Peruvian and American governments and even through the various politicians within our own government to hopefully do what is right for us as citizens, but more importantly, to act according to God’s sovereign purpose, even if they don’t know that they are being used in that way, and even if their evil acts are used by God for our good. It’s certainly something to think about as we go to the Lord in prayer once again placing our lives in His hands.
This year’s Vacation Bible School is scheduled for July 27-30.
Time: 6:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Details and registration coming in March!
Seniors Bible Study (55 years and older)
We meet every Friday at 10:00 am for fellowship, study, and prayer. Please check the calendar for cancellations due to weather. Study will be postponed until April 10th.
Men and Women Alone with God-March Luncheon is cancelled.
This ministry seeks to encourage men and women living alone to connect spiritually, socially, and emotionally. For more information regarding this ministry and winter-spring luncheon schedule, click here.
Tyrone Discipleship groups are using the Navigators2:7 Series®.
We began Book 2 “Deepening Your Roots” in January. Please contact the church office to connect with a group.
The name is taken from Colossians 2:7 where Paul encourages the believers in Colossae to walk in Christ “rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”
The purpose of the study is to teach God’s people to walk with Christ, to learn to walk with one another in the Spirit of Christ, and to welcome those outside of the Church into the fellowship of God.
We will seek to do that by equipping each individual in how to
have a quiet time,
how to read the Bible devotionally,
how to pray individually and in groups,
how to memorize Scripture,
how to share our faith with unbelievers.
This is not a lecture series, but an interactive study in small groups where each individual is both encouraged and held accountable by the group. There are three books in the 2:7 series. Each book takes eleven weeks to cover. We will meet every Sunday night except for those weeks that we have shepherding groups. So we should be finished with the first book the week before Christmas. Then we will begin the second book in January and should complete it right before Easter. And then the third book should be completed by the end of June.
Don’t worry if you have to miss a few Sundays throughout the year. The commitment that you make to the group is that you will keep up with the devotional work even on the weeks that you are out of town, so that you can join in on the discussion when you come back.
For more information on our Discipleship Groups, please contact the church office at email@example.com