“Peace In the Midst of the Storm” (Luke 8; Mark 4)

Scripture reading – Luke 8; Mark 4

Luke 8

Our study of the Gospels continues, and you will notice parallel accounts of the same events in today’s Scripture reading. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke are referred to as the “Synoptic Gospels.” Synoptic suggests the same or similar; thus, the “synoptic gospels” record the same events, albeit from each human author’s perspective. Together, Matthew, Mark, and Luke give us a greater depth and broader perspective on the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.

Briefly, as we read in our study of Matthew 13:1-23, we find the Parable of the Sower and Soils recorded in Luke 8:5-15 and Mark 4:3-20. Luke 8:16-18 and Mark 4:21-25 records the Parable of the Candlelight. Remember, not all events recorded in the Gospels are in chronological order. For example, Luke places in chapter 8 when Mary, the mother of Jesus and His half-brothers (sons born to Joseph) came to Jesus requesting a word with Him (8:19-21). The same incidence was recorded earlier in Matthew (12:46-50) and Mark (3:31-35).

Mark 4 – A Storm and a Revelation

As already noted, Mark 4 reprises the Parable of the Sower and Soils (4:3-20). Mark also gives us the record of the Parable of the Candlelight (4:21-25), Parable of the Growing Seed (4:26-29), and the Parable of the Mustard Seed(4:30-32).

Christ’s Authority Over Nature (Mark 4:35-41)

Jesus was exhausted from teaching (for though He was Divine, He was human with the physical challenges of hunger, thirst, and fatigue), Jesus urged His disciples, “Let us pass over unto the other side” (4:35). Knowing the far shore was seven miles away, Jesus laid down in the “hinder part of the ship” (meaning the stern or the latter part of the boat), and went to sleep (4:38).

The Sea of Galilee, 14 miles long and 7 miles wide, lies 700 feet below sea level, and has a sub-tropical climate that is warm and pleasant year-round.  Surrounded by the Galilean mountains and the Golan Heights, the area is part of the Jordan rift.  When cold winds from the snow-covered mountain peaks to the north, funnel through the hillsides, the cold air collides with the warm sub-tropical air and can produce sudden, violent storms on the waters of the Sea of Galilee.

On this occasion, the disciples found themselves caught in a violent storm so intense, the waves of the sea filled the ship (4:37). Matthew writes concerning the occasion in his Gospel: “there arose a great tempest in the sea,insomuch that the ship was covered with the waves: but He was asleep” (Matthew 8:24).

Though four of the disciples were experienced fisherman (James, John, Peter, and Andrew), those veteran seamen were unable to salvage the desperate situation. With cold winds whipping, and waves crashing, the exhausted disciples cried out to Jesus, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” (Mark 4:38).

Such a question was a faithless affront to their Master, and He “arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?” (4:39-40).

Jesus knew the weakness of His disciples’ faith, and their failure to place their trust in Him (Luke 8:23-24). The sudden stillness of the winds and waves left the disciples wondering among themselves, “What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” (4:41). They were struck by a sense of fear, awe, and respect. The disciples had heard Him teach, but they had not understood His person. They had witnessed His miracles, but had not recognized His power.

Closing thoughts and observations – The psalmist writes, “O Lord God of host…Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them” (Psalm 89:8a, 9). Storms in life are inevitable, though they often take us by surprise. Yet, all storms (troubles, trials) come as part of God’s plan for growing our faith and dependence on Him. The Lord knew the disciples would face a storm when He commanded them to launch out into the sea. It was His plan to challenge their faith, that He might prove He was Sovereign and LORD of creation.

Another lesson concerns our response to trials and troubles, for they evidence our faith, or lack of faith, in God and His plan for our lives.  The disciples did not fully know Who Jesus was, and when He commanded the wind and the waves to cease, “they feared [and asked], What manner of man is this?” (Mark 4:41).

Finally, I don’t know what storms or troubles you may be facing, but I encourage you to see them as opportunities to know and trust God personally and intimately. You must learn to accept that God’s plan for your life will lead you into trials that will test your faith. The storms of life challenge us to assess our priorities, and also reveal our limitations apart from Him.

Remember: The safest place in the world is in the will of God, even in the midst of a storm.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Parable of the Soils: How is Your Heart? (Matthew 13)

Scripture reading – Matthew 13

Jesus taught eight parables in our Scripture reading (Matthew 13). The Parable of the Soils, usually identified as the “Parable of the Sower” (13:3-23); the Parable of the Wheat and Tares (13:24-30, 36-43); the Parable of the Mustard Seed (13:31-32); the Parable of the Leaven (13:33); the Parable of the Hidden Treasure (13:44); the Parable of the Pearl (13:45-46), the Parable of the Net (13:47-50), and the Parable of the Householder (13:51-52).

The Parable of the Soils (13:3-23) is the focus of today’s devotional, and you are invited to consider four types of soil in the parable: The wayside (13:4, 19), the stony places (13:5-6, 20-21), the thorny ground (13:7, 22), and the good ground (13:8, 23).

Three familiar elements are cited in the Parable: Sower; Soils; Seed

The first, the Sower, “went forth to sow” (13:3). Unlike modern farmers who utilize tractors and plows, the work of a first century farmer was physically demanding. Before farming was mechanized, a farmer would labor in the fields from sunrise to sunset.

With callused hands and crude farm implements, the farmer prepared the second element of the parable – Soil. Breaking up the ground with his plow, the farmer would follow with a tool and form furrows in the soil for the third element – the Seed. With the soil prepared, the farmer would take a bag containing precious seed, and with measured strides and simple flicks of his wrist, he began scattering seed across the field. Each seed was precious, containing the potential of life and eventually harvest. Yet, in spite of the farmer’s careful labor, some seed would come to rest upon inadequate soils that brought no benefit to sustain life or bear fruit.

In the Parable of the Soils (a metaphor for the heart of man), Jesus identified four soil-types, but only one would accept seed and bear fruit. The ground described as the “wayside” was a footpath the farmer and his neighbors took as they passed by adjoining fields. Wayside soil was hardened, and unacceptable for growth. Seed that fell along this path was either crushed under foot, or snatched away by birds (13:4).

Like the hardened wayside soil, “stony” ground was equally undesirable. Seed falling on rocks and stones in such a field had little opportunity for growth, as rocks and stones blocked and obstructed growth of any kind (13:5-6). Farmers were also forced to contend with “thorny ground.” Thorns and weeds were a constant menace in such fields, and no doubt, were a present reminder of Adam’s sin.  Thorny ground represented an unending challenge, as the thorns and weeds constantly robbed good seed of the moisture and sun necessary for plants to take root (13:7). Finally, there was the “good ground.” Soft and fertile, seeds that fell upon good ground would sprout, set root, and eventually bear much fruit: “some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold” (13:8).

What point was Jesus making in the Parable of the Sower and the Soils? (13:10-13)

The disciples asked Jesus, “Why speakest thou unto them in parables?” (13:10) Why teach spiritual truths and veil them in simple narratives? Jesus answered, “Because it is given [committed] unto you [His disciples] to know[understand] the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven [knowledge known only by divine revelation], but to them[others not of their number] it is not given” (13:11).

True followers of Christ are genuine in their desire to hear and understand spiritual truths (13:11). Nevertheless, there were many who followed Jesus, but were not sincere and continued in spiritual darkness (13:11). They could see, but they refused to believe (13:13). They could hear, but they refused to accept what Jesus taught (13:13).

An Interpretation and Application of the Parable of the Sower and the Soils (13:18-23, 37)

Christ identified Himself as the “sower” in the parables, for we read, “He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man” (13:37). The seed was identified as “the word of the kingdom” (13:19) and in a parallel passage, the Gospel of Luke states that it was “the word of God” (Luke 8:11).

The four soil types were symbolic of the hearts of sinners, and their response to the Word of God (13:19-23; Luke 8:12-15). The “wayside” heart, like its namesake, is hardpacked, callused, insensitive, and unresponsive to the Word of God (13:19). The “stony” ground heart is impulsive and spiritually shallow (13:21). When troubles and trials come, the Word of God withers in a stony heart. Like a seedling without roots, it withers in the sun. The “thorny” ground heart is one that is preoccupied with sin and worldly pleasures (13:22), and beguiled by riches and worldly possessions (13:22).

Closing thoughts – Jesus commended the “good ground” heart as being both fertile and fruitful (13:23). He described the “good ground” heart as “an honest [noble; moral; virtuous] and good [morally good; pleasing to God] heart(Luke 8:15). Such a heart is tender and thirsty. It hears, and receives “the word” and keeps it (for truth sets its roots in the mind and thoughts of such a heart). When the seed of God’s Word is planted in a ”good heart” (Luke 8:15), it will “bring forth fruit [bear fruit] with patience [endurance]” (Luke 8:15).

Which of the four soils describes the spiritual condition of your heart? Is your heart soft, and longing for God’s Word? Open your heart to the LORD before it is too late.

Romans 10:9-10 – “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.  [10] For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Character of a True Disciple (Matthew 11; Luke 11)

Scripture reading – Matthew 11; Luke 11

Our Scripture reading is Matthew 11 and Luke 11. Our devotional will be taken from Matthew 11.

Matthew 11

Coming to Matthew 11, Jesus commanded His disciples to depart “and teach and preach” in the cities and villages of Galilee (11:1). Jesus continued alone and great crowds followed Him. Many listened to Him teach, witnessed His miracles, and were preoccupied with wondering: Is Jesus the long-awaited Messiah? Would He deliver Israel from Roman occupation and restore the nation to her glory? Even John the Baptist, imprisoned by Herod, questioned and “sent two of his disciples, who asked, “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another? (11:2-3)

Blessed like no other region in all history, the cities and villages about Galilee were privileged to have Christ living in their midst. Though they heard Jesus teach, and witnessed miracles of healing no man could do apart from God’s power, yet, there were many who rejected Him. Like discontented children (11:16-17), they were never satisfied and were harsh in their criticisms of John the Baptist for not eating and drinking as they (11:18). Yet, those same critics would turn about and condemn Jesus, saying, He was “gluttonous…a winebibber…[and] a friend of publican and sinners” (11:19).

Jesus condemned the cities and villages of Galilee, for they had benefited from His presence and ministry, though many lacked faith (11:20-24). Comparing Chorazin and Bethsaida to Tyre and Sidon (two Phoenician cities of ancient days known for their wickedness), Jesus warned, “I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you” (11:22). Even Capernaum did not escape Jesus’ admonishment, for He likened that city to the wickedness of Sodom, warning, “it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee” (11:24).

“Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required” (Luke 12:48) was the spiritual principle Jesus illustrated when He compared Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum with ancient cities known for notorious wickedness. In the day of God’s judgment, Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom and Gomorrah will fare better than self-righteous Capernaum (11:21-24). Imagine how much worse God’s judgment might be upon our generation that has multiple copies of Scripture in our homes, and the freedom to gather and hear the Word of God preached and taught.

Closing thoughts (11:25-30) – The Pharisees and scribes oppressed the people with their harsh, onerous traditions and interpretations of the Law. Yet, the salvation Jesus offered was simple and good (11:25-27). Matthew 11 concluded with an invitation to those who bear the weight of sin: Come to Christ by faith and obtain that which works can never attain (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5). His invitation was a simple, threefold command.

Matthew 11:28–3028Come [follow] unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden [physically and spiritually weary], and I will give you rest. 29Take [take up] my yoke upon you [be my disciple], and learn of me [submit; obey]; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

What a contrast to the harsh, demanding legalist of Jesus’ day, for He was “meek and lowly in heart,” and promised rest (11:29-30). Submissive followers of Christ do not find the Laws and Commandments of the LORD burdensome and legalistic!  Sincere believers will love, obey, and find “His commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:2-3), and find rest for their souls in His eternal Truth.

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

When Fears and Doubts Assail (Luke 7; Matthew 9)

Scripture reading – Matthew 9; Luke 7

This is the second of two devotionals for today, and is focused on the Gospel of Luke, chapter 7.

Luke 7

Some of Jesus’ greatest miracles are recorded in Luke 7. He healed a dying servant in response to a Roman centurion’s faith (Luke 7:1-10; note also Matthew 8:5-13). He also raised the son of a poor widow from the dead (7:11-17).

John Questioned: Was Jesus the Messiah? (7:18-23)

We are made privy to an intriguing conversation when the followers of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, came to Jesus. On behalf of John, his disciples asked if Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah (7:18-35).

Lest we be hard on John the Baptist, remember he had been imprisoned several months for confronting king Herod’s adultery with his brother’s wife (3:19-20). The hardships of prison, his isolation from the people, and knowing his life and ministry were nearing the end, John wanted assurance Jesus was the promised One, Israel’s Messiah.

Rather than give a rebuke to John, Jesus responded to the questions posed by John’s followers with reassurances. In ancient times, miraculous works were considered a proof text of one’s power from God. Scripture says, “in that same hour [Jesus] cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind He gave sight”, in essence showing the people He was who He said He was (7:21). Having performed miracles no man could explain apart from God, Jesus commanded John’s followers, “Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached” (7:22).

Who was John the Baptist? (7:24-34)

As John’s disciples departed, Jesus turned to the people and affirmed the ministry of His forerunner (7:24-28). He hailed John’s character saying, “Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Luke 7:28).

Closing thoughts – We do not know the number of disciples who followed John the Baptist. Yet, in his most vulnerable hour we find there were “two of his disciples” (7:19) to whom he expressed his earnest longings and desires. John “sent them to Jesus saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?” (Luke 7:19b).

Application – If there was never a greater prophet than John “born of women,” and he struggled with doubts, surely, we should be prepared when the same affliction befalls us. Providential for John, there were two men in whom he could confide and express his doubts. What a comfort to see Jesus was patient when John’s disciples questioned Him, and His opinion of John the Baptist was not diminished. What a wonderful, caring, understanding, compassionate Lord we serve!

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

Calling All Sinners (Matthew 9, Luke 7)

Scripture reading – Matthew 9; Luke 7

We continue our study of the Gospels and the early ministry of Jesus. In Matthew 9, Jesus not only established His authority to forgive sins, but also demonstrated His compassion for the physical suffering and hurting of His day. Among the objects of His compassion was a paralyzed man “sick of the palsy” (9:2-7).

A Miracle of Forgiveness and Healing (9:1-8)

Like Mark (2:2-12) and Luke (5:17-26), Matthew recorded the account of Jesus forgiving a paralytic man his sins, and raising him from his bed (9:1-8). Matthew took notice how the scribes whispered among themselves, saying, “This man blasphemeth” (9:3). Jesus, exercising His divine omniscience, knew “their thoughts” and asked, “Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?” (9:4)

What a bold rebuke of those proud, religious experts in the Law! Jesus proposed to them a question, and asked: “Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk?” (9:5) To prove His divine authority to forgive sins, Jesus commanded the paralytic to do what no other man could: “Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house” (9:6). Jesus not only stated the man’s sins were forgiven, He proved He had authority over sickness and disease to make the man’s body whole. The paralytic, obeying Jesus’ command, rose from his bed and walked home (9:7). What an incredible moment! All who witnessed the miracle “marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men” (9:8)!

A Friend of Sinners (9:9-13)

Matthew recorded the day Jesus invited him to be a disciple (the same was recorded in Mark 2:14 and Luke 4:27-28). That same evening, Matthew hosted supper in his home and invited his fellow publicans and sinners to dine with Jesus (9:10). “When the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?” (9:11)

Why eat with publicans and sinners? (9:11-13)

For the same reason the sick, not the strong and healthy, seek a physician (9:12). You see, men who are too proud to see their sin, are too blind to see their need of a Savior. Jesus came into the world to save sinners, and not to persuade self-righteous scribes and Pharisees to repent. The LORD had compassion for sinners who were humbled under the weight of their sin, and willing to repent (9:13).

Closing thoughts – In addition to the paralytic whom He healed (9:2-7), Jesus raised the daughter of a leader of the synagogue from the dead (9:18-19, 23-25), healed a woman that had “an issue of blood” (9:20-22), gave sight to two blind men (9:27-30), delivered a man from a demon (9:32-33), and healed “every sickness and every disease among the people” (9:35).

With multitudes following Him, Jesus was “moved with compassion” (9:36-38), for He saw they were weary, scattered, and like “sheep having no shepherd” (9:36). He saw the potential (for “the harvest…[was] plenteous”, 9:37a). He saw the need, for “the labouers are few” (9:37b). He called upon believers to “pray…that He [would]send forth labourers into his harvest” (9:38).

In the words of Paul, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Sermon on the Mount – Judge Not (Matthew 7)

Scripture reading – Matthew 7

Matthew 7 continues Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. Moving beyond the spiritual character and attitudes of the followers of Christ (Matthew 5-6), chapter 7 presents us with a spiritual portrait of a believer’s relationship with others, and draws a contrast to the pride and sinful attitudes of the Pharisees. Matthew 7:1-5 is the focus of the devotional.

A Call for Righteous Judgment (7:1-5)

The mantra of 21st century society is, “Don’t judge me!” Under the guise of inclusivism and political correctness, sinners not only demand tolerance, but acceptance for their deviant practices and behavior. Some quote Matthew 7:1 to support their assertion to be above judgments. Yet, what judgments was Jesus condemning when He said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged?” (7:1)

Surely, Jesus was not condemning all judgments, after all, He reserved some of His harshest judgments for the Pharisees (for example, in Matthew 23:13-36, He pronounced eight condemnations of the Pharisees, calling them “hypocrites…false prophets…wolves in sheep’s clothing…and blind men.” Matthew 7:1-5 was not a condemnation of all judgments, but an exhortation to not be a hypocrite like the Pharisees when judging.

The Pharisees were guilty of passing judgment upon others, without first examining themselves. Jesus asked, “And why beholdest [stare; point out] thou the mote [speck; splinter] that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam [timber] that is in thine own eye?” (7:3) The Pharisees were also guilty of glossing over their sins, but being critical of others. The LORD questioned them, “How wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote [speck] out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam [of timber] is in thine own eye?” (7:4)

How can believers make moral judgments, and avoid being like the Pharisees?

I suggest the answer is twofold: 1) We should understand the consequences of harboring a critical spirit, lest we fall under harsh criticisms from others. Jesus warned, “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete [criticize], it shall be measured [dealt] to you again” (7:2)

A second principle is an exhortation for self-examination. Before being critical of others, we should examine ourselves. Jesus admonished, “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (7:5). In his letter to the Corinthian church, Paul exhorted believers, “let a man examine himself…For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged” (1 Corinthians 11:28a, 31).

Closing thought – By first judging ourselves, we recognize our own sinfulness. Such self-examination will give cause for humility and meekness when we criticize others. In other words, the goal of our criticism should fulfill Galatians 6:1 – “if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Sermon on the Mount – part 1 (Matthew 5; Matthew 6)

Scripture reading – Matthew 5; Matthew 6

Considered as Christ’s inaugural address to His followers, the “Sermon on the Mount” is an exposition of the heart of Christ the King (Matthew 5-7). It is a declaration of the character of those who would be citizens in His kingdom. Like God’s Laws and Commandments, I believe the Sermon on the Mount embodies some of the greatest truths known to man. Our Scripture reading is Matthew 5 and 6, but the focus of today’s devotional is Matthew 5:3-12.

Matthew 5:1-12 – The Beatitudes

Sitting down on a hillside that overlooked the Sea of Galilee (5:1), Jesus taught the people a series of eight inspiring truths we identify as the Beatitudes (5:3-12). In essence, the Beatitudes are an exposition of the attitudes and character of believers (5:3-12). They are the sum of Christ’s declaration regarding the actions and attitudes of the citizens of heaven.

Each Beatitude began with the word “Blessed” (5:3-12). A brief definition of what it means to be blessed is: A state of settled joy and contentment that is not dependent upon one’s circumstances. 

Briefly, I invite you to consider the Beatitudes in two parts: The Person and The Promise.

Matthew 5:3 is the foundation of the eight Beatitudes, and reads: “3Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (5:3). The “Poor in Spirit” recognizes the extremity of his spiritual poverty apart from Christ. The promise is, “the kingdom of heaven” (5:3b). The second Beatitude is, “4Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted” (5:4). The righteous mourn because they are sensitive to sin (i.e., “poor in spirit”), and are comforted because their sins are forgiven (5:4).

Thirdly, the blessed are “meek,” and are promised, “they shall inherit the earth” (5:5). The meek accept God’s dealings as good, with unquestioning submission. The blessed also “hunger and thirst after righteousness” (they have an appetite for righteousness), and are promised, “they shall be filled” (satisfied, wanting for nothing, 5:6).

The fifth Beatitude states, “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” (5:7). The merciful do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult. They are not vindictive, nor seek revenge. What is the promise to those who show mercy to others? They will be the recipient of mercy, undeserved and forgiving (5:7).

The “pure in heart” are promised, “they shall see God” (5:8). By definition, the “pure in heart” are sincere, free from hypocrisy and doublemindedness (James 1:8). They are single in heart and desire. The promise to the “pure in heart” is, they will “see God” (5:8b). (Fanny Crosby, the blind poet and gospel songwriter was asked what she looked forward to most about heaven. She answered, “I shall see Him [Christ] face to face, and tell the story – Saved by Grace.”)

The seventh Beatitude is the peacemaker: “9Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (5:9). The world says, “Be a peacekeeper,” and be willing to compromise. Yet, Christ taught His followers, “Be a peacemaker,” (5:9) and you will be identified as a child of God (5:9b). What does a peacemaker do? He introduces others to the peace that can only be found in Christ.

Finally, the Blessed will suffer persecution, and are promised the kingdom of heaven (5:10). Jesus taught, “10Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake” (Matthew 5:10–11).

Closing thoughts Notice the righteous face three forms of persecution (5:11).  1) They are reviled (mocked, and have disparaging things said about their character and motives). 2) They are “persecuted,” (suffering personal confrontations that are physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual in nature). 3) Lastly, persecutions are also verbal, for the wicked will “say all manner of evil against [the believers] falsely, for [Christ’s] sake” (5:11). Verbal persecutions come as lies, innuendoes, and sowing questions concerning one’s motive or sincerity.

As difficult as it may seem (and it is), the attitude of the persecuted is to be this: “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad[jumping and leaping for joy]: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:12). How can the “Blessed” rejoice when they are persecuted? They recognize troubles and trial have their purpose in the providence of God (James 1:2-4).

The “Blessed” know, “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

The Sermon on the Plain: The Nature and Character of Biblical Love (Mark 3, Luke 6)

Scripture reading – Mark 3, Luke 6

Mark 3

Continuing our study of the Gospels, notice Matthew’s account (Matthew 12:3-10) of Jesus healing a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath is repeated in the Gospel of Mark (3:1-5). As Jesus’ fame and following grew, so did the animosity of the religious leaders. Mark reminded his readers that the Pharisees and Herodians [Jews loyal to Herod and Caesar], “took counsel against [Jesus], how they might destroy Him” (3:6).

Withdrawing from the crowds, Christ went “up into a mountain” and there He called and “ordained the Twelve,” among them “Judas Iscariot, which also betrayed Him” (3:13-19). While multitudes followed Him, we find Jesus’ own family sought to “lay hold on Him,” saying among themselves, “He is beside Himself” (3:20-21).

Though 1,000’s followed Jesus and benefited from His power to heal and have authority over demons, His own siblings believed he was crazy, a lunatic (3:21, 31-32). We also find religious leaders of the day were numbered among Christ’s enemies (3:22-30). Mark mentions a delegation of scribes (experts in the law), who came from Jerusalem, and accused Jesus of serving Beelzebub, saying, “by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils” (3:22).

Jesus, in a brilliant, but simple reproof of those proud hypocrites, pointed out the absurdity of their accusation, that Satan would “rise up against himself” (3:26). With a stinging rebuke, Jesus warned, 28Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: 29But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation” (3:28-29).

Closing thoughts – Mark 3 concluded with Jesus’ siblings coming again, but this time with His mother Mary (3:31-32). Hearing Mary and his brothers were desiring to see Him (3:32), the LORD gave His followers a lesson in the treasure of spiritual relationships, saying, “Behold my mother and my brethren! 35For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother” (3:34-35).

Luke 6

You will find Luke 6:1-12 to be a parallel chronicle of the same events we studied in both Matthew 12 and Mark 3 (the disciples plucking grain and eating on the Sabbath, and Jesus healing the man with a withered hand). Luke also gives record of Jesus calling the Twelve to be His disciples (6:13-16; Matthew 10:1-2; Mark 3:13-14).

Followers of Heart of a Shepherd are no doubt familiar with the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), but here Luke gives us what I might describe as the Sermon on the Plain (6:17-49). Having called and commissioned His disciples, Jesus “came down with them, and stood in the plain” (6:17). There, He began to teach and heal those who came to Him. In fact, Luke states, “the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all” (6:19).

Closing thoughts (6:20-49) – I close today’s devotional with a brief summary of the balance of Luke 6. Here we find Jesus described the spiritual character of sincere believers in Luke 6:20-23 (poor, and dependent on the LORD, hungering for righteousness, a sorrow for sin, and persecuted). He warned His disciples about the dangers of materialism (6:24-26). The LORD also defined how believers should act toward enemies (love, do good, bless, and pray for them, 6:27-28), and react when mistreated (6:29-30).

Finally, consider how the love expressed by believers should exceed the love of sinners. Is your love for others self-sacrificing, good, giving, loving those who are not so loveable, merciful (6:31-36)? Such is the character of Biblical love!

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

They Would Have Destroyed Him (Matthew 12)

Scripture reading – Matthew 12

Today’s Scripture reading is Matthew 12, and is filled with exciting events from the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. While I exhort you to read Matthew 12 in its entirety, I limit my devotional commentary to Matthew 12:1-21.

Matthew 12

At this time, Jesus’ public ministry was in its infancy, nevertheless, His enemies feared and plotted against Him. The common Jews followed the LORD throughout His journeys, for they recognized He fulfilled the signs foretold by the prophet Isaiah, who wrote: “The eyes of the blind shall be opened, And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. 6Then shall the lame man leap as an hart [deer], And the tongue of the dumb sing” (Isaiah 35:5-6).

In spite of the miracles, the religious leaders of Israel [priests, Pharisees, and Sadducees], viewed Jesus as a threat to their position and influence among the people. The Pharisees were Christ’s principal adversaries, and they plotted to discredit and destroy Him. It was their antagonism and hatred for the LORD that was the catalyst of the confrontation we find in Matthew 12.

The Sabbath Day

The fourth commandment of the Law is, “Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8), and the interpretation and observance of that commandment would be a point of conflict with the LORD throughout His earthly ministry. Some of the Jews had been riled when they learned Jesus healed the man at the pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath (John 5:5-9). Indeed, it was from that day they determined to “persecute [Him], and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day” (John 5:16).

The observance of the Sabbath was again an issue the Pharisees raised against Jesus in Matthew 12, when they came and accused Him and His disciples of breaking the Law of the Sabbath according to their interpretation (12:1-2).

Enroute to the synagogue on the Sabbath, Jesus and His disciples were hungry, and as they passed through a farmer’s field, they “began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat” (12:1). The Pharisees, ever looking for an occasion to accuse the LORD of wrong doing, seized upon the opportunity to accuse Him and the disciples of breaking the Sabbath Day commandment based on their oral tradition (12:2).

Rather than bow to his critics, Jesus reminded His critics, the issue was not the fourth commandment, but their rigid interpretation of the Sabbath Day commandment.  Jesus contended the fourth commandment did not prohibit a man from satisfying his physical hunger on the Sabbath, and gave two examples: David had taken bread from the Temple and ate that which was dedicated to God (12:3-4), and the priests ministered on sabbath days as their service to the LORD, (12:5-6; Numbers 28:9-10; Leviticus 24:8-9). Jesus then stated His authority, and declared, Himself “greater than the Temple…For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day” (12:6-8).

Departing from the Pharisees, Jesus entered the synagogue, and encountered a man whose hand was paralyzed (12:9-10). Rather than show compassion for the man, the Pharisees demanded of Jesus, “Is it lawful to heal on the sabbath days? That they might accuse him” (12:10b).

Jesus answered their question with a question, and cited a common practice in that rural setting: “What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out?” (12:11) Jesus rightly questioned, would they not save a sheep that had fallen into a pit on the sabbath? Is a man not better than a sheep? (12:11-12) Jesus declared, “it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days” (12:12b). He then spoke to the man with the withered hand, “Stretch forth thine hand,” and his hand was healed completely (12:13).

On that Sabbath day, Jesus declared He was “LORD even of the Sabbath” (12:8), and defended His authority to heal the man with the paralyzed hand (12:13). How did His enemies respond to His doctrine? “The Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him” (Matthew 12:14; Mark 3:5-6; Luke 6:11). Oh, the hypocrisy!

 Closing thoughts – On one hand the Pharisees demanded their interpretation of the Sabbath Law should usurp the will of God. In the other, they plotted to destroy Jesus and kill Him (a clear violation of the Sixth Commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13).

How did Jesus respond to the wicked, malicious intent of His enemies? He “withdrew himself” from them, and yet, “great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all” (12:15). I find the decision to withdraw oneself to be a difficult one, especially when an enemy is unrelenting in his plot to “destroy” you. Certainly, the manner of Christ is one we should emulate – after all, the Spirit of God is gentle, not brazen.

Romans 12:18–19 – “18If it be possible [knowing it is not always possible], as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. 19Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath [God’s anger]: for it is written, Vengeance is mine (Deuteronomy 32:35); I will repay, saith the Lord.”

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.

“Sir, I Have No Man” (Mark 2, John 5)

Scripture reading – Mark 2, John 5

Today’s Scripture reading is Mark 2 and John 5. The focus of the devotional will be John 5:1-16.

John 5

We find Jesus and His disciples returning to Jerusalem for the Passover, as was their custom (5:1). Making His way to the Temple, the LORD passed through the sheep gate (notice the word “market” is in italics and was added by translators). The setting of the Scripture was a pool of water (5:2), located near the “sheep gate” (the same through which sheep were led into the city and to the Temple Mount to be sacrificed). The pool was called, “Bethesda,” meaning “House of Mercy” (5:2), and was shaded by five porches. As He passed the pool, Jesus gazed upon a “a great multitude of impotent folk [sick; feeble], of blind, halt [lame], withered [shrunken limb]” (5:3).

Why was this crowd of suffering souls waiting at the pool of water called Bethesda?

John wrote, they were “waiting for the moving of the water. 4For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had” (5:4).

In the midst of this great crowd of needy souls was a man afflicted with an ailment for 38 years (5:5). He was described as having an “infirmity,” and was suffering from a chronic, debilitating disease (some suggest a stroke). Remembering the LORD knows all men, and what lies within the hearts of men (2:24-25), He took pity on him and asked, Wilt thou be made whole [sound]?

The man answered the LORD, saying, “Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me” (5:7). Thirty-eight years he had been afflicted, and I presume his family, loved ones, and friends had no hope of his recovery. There was none who waited to assist him to the healing waters when they were stirred. Those who shared similar afflictions showed him no mercy, and would not defer their distress, to prefer the man who had suffered so long.

I invite you to consider three divine attributes Jesus displayed on that Sabbath day. The first, His Omniscience: He “saw” the man and knew not only how long he had been afflicted, but the reason for his suffering (the LORD later warned him, “sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee,” 5:14).

Consider also the Grace of God Jesus demonstrated for the man. When the LORD asked, “Wilt thou be made whole?” (5:6c), the man answered with a despairing grievance, “I have no man” (5:7). Yet, the LORD had compassion for him, though there were many others who suffered. He was no more deserving than others, yet, it was grace, not merit that moved Jesus to heal him.

Jesus also displayed Omnipotence and divine authority over sickness and disease. When He commanded the man, “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk” (5:8), “immediately [he] was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked” (5:9). Thirty-eight years he had suffered, and with the power of Jesus’ spoken Word, he was made whole.

Closing thoughts (5:9-16) – There is much more to this story, and events that occurred that Sabbath day (5:9). As the man who was healed passed through the Temple grounds, he was accosted by some Jews for carrying his bed on the Sabbath (the same bed on which he had lain for 38 years). Wonder how many times those men passed that poor man when he waited at the pool of Bethesda? Adding to their hypocrisy, rather than rejoice with the man’s healing, they set their hearts to persecute Jesus when they learned it was He who had healed the man. They “sought to slay Him,” because He healed him “on the Sabbath day” (5:16).

Lest we be hypocritical ourselves, consider how many hurting people we pass in a day. How many do we walk pass and show no pity or compassion for their sorrows? Are we sensitive to the troubles borne by others? Are there some who know us, and would say, “I have no man who cares for my soul?”

* You can become a regular subscriber of the Heart of a Shepherd daily devotionals, and have them sent directly to your email address. Please email your request to HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2022 – Travis D. Smith

Heart of A Shepherd Inc is recognized by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501c3, and is a public charitable organization. Mailing address: Heart of A Shepherd Inc, 6201 Ehrlich Rd., Tampa, FL 33625. You can email HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com for more information on this daily devotional ministry.