Category Archives: Ministry

Nothing is Impossible (Matthew 17; Mark 9)

Scripture reading – Matthew 17; Mark 9

Today’s chronological Scripture reading brings us to within six months of Christ’s appointment with the cross. The crowds following Jesus throughout Israel are growing, while the anxiety and fear of His enemies are inflamed. The Pharisees, Sadducees, and High Priest plot His arrest, as His disciples debate among themselves who would be the greatest in His earthly kingdom.

Matthew 17 and Mark 9 record the transfiguration of Christ when He unveiled His heavenly glory.

Words and imagination fail me to describe the transformative moment when Peter, James, and his brother John (Matthew 17:1-13; Mark 9:1-13) witnessed Christ’s transfiguration. Those three disciples, identified as Christ’s inner circle, gazed upon Jesus, “and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light” (17:2). As the disciples looked on, suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus “talking with Him” (17:3). It has been suggested by many, and I believe the same, that Moses was representative of the Law and Elijah the prophets.

Peter, never one to be at a loss for words, interrupted the moment and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias [i.e. Elijah]” (17:4). Even as the words were in Peter’s mouth, he was interrupted by a sight and sound that silenced him and struck fear in the three disciples.

Matthew 17:5–6 – “5While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. 6And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.”

With a touch of compassion (17:7), Jesus bid the disciples to rise, and challenged them to tell no man what they had seen, “until the Son of man be risen again from the dead” (17:9). Peter would write later of this experience on the mount: “[We] were eyewitnesses of his [Christ’s] majesty. 17For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 18And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him [Christ] in the holy mount” (2 Peter 1:16–18).

After He had descended the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus found His other disciples embroiled in a controversy with scribes (experts in the Law of Moses), who were “questioning,” and mocking the disciples’ failure to cast a demon out of a father’s son (Mark 9:14; Matthew 17:14-16). Rebuking His disciples for their lack of faith (Matthew 17:17), Jesus commanded the demon to depart from the son, “and the child was cured from that very hour” (17:18).

The disciples, embarrassed by their failure and humbled by Jesus’ rebuke (Mark 9:19), later questioned why they had been unable to cast the demon out of the child (Mark 9:28).  Christ’s answer revealed the power and necessity of faith and prayer (Mark 9:29; Matthew 17:20-21).

Matthew 17:20–2120And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. 21Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.

The disciples had failed to cast the demon out of the child because they had faltered in both the matter of faith and prayer.

Jesus taught, even a small amount of faith can grow and overcome obstacles as great as a mountain (I believe the idea of moving a mountain was figurative or symbolic of great obstacles, and not literal mountains). To overcome a great obstacle, like that of the possession and influence of a demon, required both faith (believing “nothing shall be impossible” – Matthew 17:20) and “prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:21; Mark 9:29).

Are you facing obstacles that seem to tower over you like mountains? Are you struggling to believe and trust God?

Set your heart to seek the LORD in prayer. Desire Him more than you crave food!

Hebrews 11:6 – “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Whose Doctrine Are You Following? (Matthew 16; Mark 8)

Scripture reading – Matthew 16; Mark 8

There are times when I read and study the Scriptures that I feel overwhelmed by the necessity to choose one truth from a passage that is rich in content. Today’s Scripture reading in Matthew 16 and Mark 8 presents us with that challenge: Mining one truth in a passage of Scripture arrayed with diamonds of truth too numerous to be counted.

Mark 8:1-9 begins with the account of the Feeding of the Four Thousand. Immediately after, Jesus and the disciples departed by ship to an area known as “Dalmanutha,” which was located on the western short of the Sea of Galilee near Magdala (8:10). It was in Dalmanutha that the LORD had a confrontation with the Pharisees, the religious legalists of His day. The Pharisees came to Jesus and demanded that He prove Himself with a “sign [i.e. a miraculous sight] from heaven” (8:11). Mark declares that the purpose of the Pharisees was to tempt Jesus, meaning to put Him to the test in hopes that He would fail (8:11).

Understanding Jesus knew the hearts of men, He rebuked the Pharisees saying, “There shall no sign be given unto this generation” (8:12b). Jesus then departed, setting sail for Bethsaida (8:13-22), a village located on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, that was the home of Peter, Andrew, and Philip (John 1:44-45).

As they crossed the sea, Jesus charged His disciples, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod” (8:15). “Leaven,” like yeast, was used in dough to induce bread to rise when baked. The disciples, hearing Jesus speak of leaven, assumed He was speaking of bread, because they had neglected to bring bread on their journey (8:14, 16).

The irony of the moment was summed up when Jesus asked the disciples, “Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened? 18Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?” (8:17-18).

What was the irony? That the disciples would have been concerned with what they would eat at their next meal (8:19-20)! After twice witnessing Jesus take the lunch of a boy and feed 5,000 men, and seven loaves of bread and feed 4,000 men, and have leftovers on each occasion: Why would they be concerned about their next meal? “How is it that ye do not understand?” (8:21)

Matthew sums up the same narrative, concluding that the disciples then understood “how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees” (Matthew 16:12).

What was the “leaven (i.e. doctrine) of the Pharisees, and of the leaven (i.e. doctrine) of Herod”? (8:15)

It was a religious hypocrisy (Luke 12:1) that was rooted in their legalism (Matthew 23:27-29), traditionalism, doctrine of works for salvation, and other errors and departures from the Truth. I close asking,

Is the 21st century Church any different? How much of what we believe, and the Church observes, is rooted in traditionalism and not in the Truth?

As Bible believers, our doctrine and practice is to be solely based upon the Truth of God’s Word, and not traditionalism or the philosophies and interpretations of men.

John 17:17 17Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

God Uses Simple Things (Matthew 15; Mark 7)

Scripture reading – Matthew 15; Mark 7

We noted in an earlier devotional the Feeding of the Five Thousand (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-43; John 6:1-14); and we find a similar miracle in today’s Scripture reading that is known as the Feeding of the Four Thousandor The Miracle of the Seven Loaves and Fish (Matthew 15:29-39; Mark 8:1-21).

The setting was a hillside that overlooked the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 15:29), at a place Mark identifies as Decapolis (Mark 8:31). Whereas the feeding of the 5,000 had taken place in Galilee at Bethsaida (Luke 9:10) and was attended by Jewish people; Decapolis would have had a population that was predominately Gentile. In other words, the feeding of the 4,000 not only put the faith of the disciples to the test, but also challenged their prejudices towards Gentiles.

Now, the fame of Jesus had reached Decapolis and there “great multitudes” came seeking Jesus, and bringing their loved ones who were “lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others” (Matthew 15:30, 38). Believing Jesus could, and would heal their family and friends, the people “cast them at Jesus’ feet; and he healed them, “31Insomuch that the multitude wondered [marveled], when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see: and they glorified the God of Israel” (15:31).

After ministering, and healing the sick and afflicted for three days, Jesus was sensitive that the people had “nothing to eat” (15:32). It was at the close of the third day when Jesus declared to His disciples, “I have compassion on the multitude…I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way” (15:32).

When Jesus fed the five thousand, He had questioned Philip how they might feed so many. On this occasion, the disciples questioned Jesus, Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude?” (15:33)

The disciples, perhaps expecting Jesus would perform a miracle, stated the obvious: They lacked the means to feed the people. The disciples knew it was not a question of whether or not Jesus could perform a miracle. The question was, “Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness?” (15:33)

Jesus saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven, and a few little fishes” (15:34).

Taking the resources, the disciples had available, Jesus “commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. 36And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude” (15:35-36). There was not only enough to feed the multitude, there were leftovers that “left seven baskets full” (15:37; Mark 8:8).

There are several lessons we might take from this event.

The first: The challenge to look past our prejudices, and see the need of lost souls around us. When Jesus fed the 5,000, the disciples were among their own people, the Jews of Galilee. In Decapolis, however, the population was mostly Gentile, and a people the Jews would have disdained. Nevertheless, the people were hurting and hungry and Jesus had compassion on them (15:32).

A second lesson: God uses for His work and ministry, the resources we have at hand, no matter how little or humble.

The question for the disciples was not, “What would Jesus do to feed so many?” The question was, Would the disciples give what they had to the LORD, so that He might minister to others through them and their offering?”

I fear many believers go through life without ever grasping that simple truth:

Your ministry is dependent, not on your ability, but on your availability.     

1 Corinthians 1:26-27, 29 – “26 For ye see your calling [invitation to accept the benefits of salvation], brethren, how that not many wise men [wise in the estimation of man] after the flesh [nature of man], not many mighty [powerful; strong], not many noble [noble birth; high in rank; i.e. king, price or ruler], are called: 27  But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound [make ashamed; dishonor; confuse] the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things [feeble; impotent] of the world to confound the things which are mighty… 29  That no flesh [no mortal man] should glory [boast; rejoice] in His presence [the Presence of God].”

Will you dedicate to the LORD all that you are and have, whether little or much?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Divine Omnipotence Provides, Where Human Resourcefulness Fails (John 6)

Scripture reading – John 6

Today’s Scripture reading brings us to the Gospel of John, chapter six, and what is often referred to as, the “Feeding of the Five Thousand” (John 6:1-15). We read in John 6:1, “After these things Jesus went over [lit. “other side”; farther side; across] the sea of Galilee, which is the sea of Tiberias.”

The Gospels of Matthew and Luke reveal the “things” that preceded Jesus crossing the Sea of Galilee and seeking the solitude of the wilderness. Luke records it was after the disciples returned from preaching the Gospel in towns and villages (Luke 9:10-17). Matthew writes it was after the disciples of John the Baptist came to Jesus and reported how John the Baptist had been beheaded by King Herod (Matthew 14:6-12). After receiving news of John’s death, Jesus departed by ship with His disciples and went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee that was identified as the “Sea of Tiberias” (John 6:1).

Knowing it was the custom of Jesus to go up to Jerusalem for the Passover (John 6:4), we should consider why Jesus did not go up to Jerusalem. John the Baptist having been martyred by Herod Antipas, and the Pharisees and Sanhedrin harboring a growing hostility toward Him, I believe Jesus was avoiding a premature confrontation with those who a year later would require He be crucified.

John 6

We read in John’s Gospel that there was a “great multitude” who followed Jesus, “because they saw [experienced; beheld] his miracles [supernatural signs that authenticated Jesus had divine power and authority] which he did on them that were diseased [weak; feeble; i.e. blind, lame, crippled]. 3  And Jesus went up [ascended] into [unto] a mountain [hill; ascending  from the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee], and there he sat with his disciples” (6:2-3).

Ever manifesting compassion on the people, Jesus asked Philip, “Whence [what source or place] shall we buy bread, that these [the “great company”] may eat?” (6:5). Notice the question was not, “Philip, what are you going to do about feeding the people?” No, the question posed to Philip was, “Whence shall we buy bread?” (6:5).

What was the purpose of the question Jesus posed to Philip? John would write later, “this He [Jesus] said to prove [examine or test] him [Philip]: for He [Jesus] himself knew [looking ahead, knew with certainty] what He would do [was purposed to do]” (6:6).

Philip surmised, “Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little” (John 6:7). Assuming a “pennyworth” was probably a denarius and was a day laborer’s pay, Philip calculated the expense to feed so many would be nearly equal to eight month’s wages, and that only “a little” (6:7).

Another disciple, Andrew, identified as “Simon Peter’s brother” (6:8), came with news that there was a boy, “which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes;” however, he recognized the obvious stating, “but what are they among so many?’ (6:9)

With a prayer of thanksgiving (6:11), Jesus took up the small boy’s lunch and directed His disciples to distribute the fish and loaves of bread. By divine blessing and omnipotence, Jesus fed five thousand men (6:10), and in addition, “women and children” (Matthew 14:21). How many were fed that day would be conjecture on my part, but suffice it to say there were thousands more besides the five thousand men who represented that many households.

Not only was there enough to feed a great multitude, there was more than enough as the disciples took up leftovers that were enough to fill twelve lunch baskets (6:12-13), no doubt providing for the disciples next meal.

What can be learned from this miracle of feeding so many from so little?

For the multitude that had been fed and were aware that they had witnessed a great miracle, they confessed: “This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world” (6:14). Riding the emotions of the hour, but also revealing how little has changed in man since that day, we read: “They would come and take him by force, to make him a king” (6:15). Knowing it was not yet time for Him to present Himself as the Messiah King, Jesus withdrew “into a mountain Himself alone” (6:15b).

That day, Philip, Andrew, and the other disciples learned a great lesson that we should all heed:

Where human potential fails, divine omnipotence fulfills.

Jesus would later remind His disciples, “for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“The Fearless, Fearful and Foolish” (Matthew 14; Mark 6; Luke 9)

Scripture reading – Matthew 14; Mark 6; Luke 9

History gives abundant testimony of the tension, conflict, and hostility the world holds toward God, His Word, and His people. In today’s Scripture reading (Matthew 14, Mark 6, and Luke 9), the animosity of human authority toward God and His prophet takes center stage.

The ministry of John the Baptist had been powerful, and the prophet had not minced words when confronting the sins of his day. Not even the most prominent politician in Israel had been spared the prophet’s condemnation (Matthew 14:4).

Herod Antipas, the son of King Herod the Great, was “the tetrarch” of Galilee, a tetrarch being a ruler of one-fourth of a Roman province (Matthew 14:1). Herod had divorced his wife and married Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife (Matthew 14:3-4; Mark 6:17). Their incestuous marriage had not only been an affront to God (Leviticus 18:16), but also to the Jewish people.

John the Baptist had tenaciously condemned such wickedness in Israel and said to Herod, “It is not lawful for thee to have her” (Matthew 14:4). Herod became so exasperated with John’s public rebukes that he had the prophet bound and imprisoned (14:3). Though he wished to put him to death, Herod “feared the multitude, because they counted him [John] as a prophet” (14:5). Herodias, on the other hand, had no political qualms and she “would have killed him; but she could not” (Mark 6:19), “for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy” (Mark 6:20).

Now a great banquet was held for Herod’s birthday, and the daughter of Herodias, after being instructed by her mother to dance before Herod and his guests, had instructed her to ask for the head of John the Baptist when the king offered to reward her (Matthew 14:6-7). Following her mother’s instructions, the daughter of Herodias, demanded, “Give me here John Baptist’s head in a charger” (Matthew 14:8). Too proud to confess his error, Herod complied with the daughter’s wicked request, and “sent, and beheaded John in the prison” (Matthew 14:10).

The news of Christ’s ministry and His miracles had reached the ears of the king (Mark 6:14) and Herod “said, That John the Baptist was risen from the dead, and therefore mighty works do shew forth themselves in him…he said, It is John [the Baptist], whom I beheaded: he is risen from the dead (Mark 6:14–16).

Herod’s alarm, that Jesus was John the Baptist, struck fear in the heart of the wicked king. He was haunted by guilt knowing he had murdered an innocent man, and a prophet of God. Rather than confessing his sin; however, Herod wrestled with guilt, and was troubled by fear (Proverbs 29:25). He feared John when he was alive (Mark 6:20), and he was terrified when he heard of the miracles of Jesus, believing John the Baptist was raised from the dead. The king had silenced John’s tongue, but he could not quiet his own guilty conscience.

Later on, when Jesus was arrested, He would have one meeting with Herod (Luke 23:6-11); however, at that time the LORD “answered him nothing” (Luke 23:9). The blood of John the Baptist was on his hands, and the soul of the king was damned by his wickedness.

Let us take a spiritual lesson from Herod: We might find temporal solace in the diagnosis of a psychologist or psychiatrist, and even salve our conscience with prescription drugs or other enhancers; however, if the root problem is sin, there is only one answer:

“Submit [subdue; yield] …to God. Resist the [temptations] devil”…acknowledge your sins, and let the tears of mourning pave the way to God’s forgiveness and joy (James 4:7-10).

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

When in Doubt, Believe the Word! (Matthew 11)

Scripture reading – Matthew 11

A great multitude was following Jesus as we come to Matthew 11. Jesus’ ministry had begun in the countryside of Galilee, and He was followed by great crowds who came to hear Him teach, perform miracles, and ponder if He was the long-awaited Messiah of Israel. The people had been watching and waiting for a Messiah-King who would cast off the oppression of Rome; however, they would learn too late that Jesus had come to be their Savior, Messiah-Redeemer.

Matthew 11 – The Disciples of John the Baptist

Jesus had finished commanding and commissioning His disciples, and appears to have sent them out to minister while He began “to teach and to preach in their cities” (11:1). It was in that hour that John the Baptist, now in prison, sent two of his disciples who came to Jesus and asked, Art thou He that should come, or do we look for another?” (11:3)

Why the question, “Art thou He that should come?” (11:3) Why this wondering? Was John doubting that Jesus was the promised Messiah? When he had baptized Jesus, John had witnessed the anointing of the of the Holy Spirit (3:16) and heard the voice of God the Father affirming, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (3:17).

Perhaps it was the darkness of the dungeon and his uncertain future. Maybe the isolation from those to whom he ministered, and the sudden end of his public ministry that left John seeking assurance that Jesus was the promised Messiah.

John’s disciples had brought him word of a spiritual stirring in Israel, and the people saying, “That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people” (Luke 7:16b). The news of Jesus’ ministry had reached John through his disciples (Luke 7:18). He had faith that God would send His Messiah, and he wanted reassurance, “Art thou He that should come?” (11:3) Jesus answered John’s disciples with love and grace saying,

Matthew 11:4b–6 – “4 …Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: 5The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.”

Two Proofs Validated Jesus’ Messiahship: His Works and His Words (11:4-5)

Jesus commanded John’s disciples to go to him and declare what they had witnessed, His works.

Languishing in a Roman dungeon, John sought reassurance that Jesus was the Messiah, and it came in the outward, visible, undeniable evidence of miracles: “The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up.” (11:5)

The miracles Jesus performed, and later His physical bodily resurrection from the dead, give us undeniable proof that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Christ declared to His disciples, “11Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake” (John 14:11).

Are there times you need reassurance? Times when you find your faith weak? Remember, John the Baptist needed his faith strengthened, thou he was a man of whom Jesus said, “Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist” (11:11).

The second validating proof Jesus was the Promised One, the long-awaited Messiah, were His words(11:5b)

Jesus commanded John’s disciples to go and tell him what they had heard, His words: “The poor have the gospel preached to them” (11:5b). Unlike men who are given to rhetoric and take pride in their oral arguments and powers of persuasion, Jesus’ words were divinely inspired and delivered with authority.

Luke 4:32 – “They were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power.

John 12:48–5048He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. 49For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. 50And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.

John 14:1010Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.

We conclude with Peter’s assertion of his faith in Jesus Christ: “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. 69And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:68b-69).

The works of Christ were essential signs that validated His person and ministry before His generation; however, it is the hearing and preaching of the WORD that was and is essential for men to be saved.

Romans 10:17 17So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

Calling All Sinners (Matthew 9; Luke 7)

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Scripture reading – Matthew 9; Luke 7

Christ’s authority as the Messiah King was demonstrated throughout Matthew 8.

He healed the leper (Matthew 8:3), and the paralytic servant of a Roman Centurion (Matthew 8:5-13), and established His authority over physical illness. When He stilled a storm, and the winds and waves bowed to His will, Jesus demonstrated His authority over nature (Matthew 8:23-27). He had cast out demons with a command to “Go,” and the devils departed, proving Christ has authority over Satan and his evil minions (Matthew 8:16, 28-33).

Today’s devotional study reveals Christ has authority to forgive sin.

Matthew 9 – Consider what a difference faith came make!

In Matthew 9 we see once again that it was the faith of some friends, and their compassion for one who was “sick of the palsy [paralyzed], lying on a bed,” that moved Jesus to heal the man (9:2).

Jesus had returned to Capernaum, his home base of ministry in Galilee, and a man who was “sick of the palsy [paralyzed], lying on a bed” was brought to Jesus (9:2). We are not told how this man came to be paralyzed, but it is revealed why he was the victim of paralysis, his sin. Jesus observed the faith of his friends and said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee” (9:2).

Matthew records that there were scribes present, men who were experts in the Law of Moses. Hearing Jesus pardon the sins of the paralytic, the scribes whispered among themselves, “This man blasphemeth” (9:3).

Once again evidencing divine omniscience, we read, “4And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?” (9:4) What a powerful rebuke of proud, unbelieving experts in the Law!

Jesus, confronting their murmuring and evil thoughts, said, “Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?” (9:4b) and then proposed, a question: Is it easier to say to a man his sins are forgiven, or command a paralytic to, “Arise, and walk?” (9:5)

To prove He had divine authority to forgive a man’s sins, Jesus commanded the paralytic to do what no other man could; “Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house” (9:6). His sins forgiven and body made whole, the paralytic man rose from his bed and walked home (9:7). What an incredible moment, not only for the man who had been healed, but for those who “marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men” (9:8)!

The LORD proved He was a friend of sinners when he called Matthew, a despised publican (i.e. tax collector) to be His disciple (9:9-10). Revealing divine grace, Jesus said to Matthew, “Follow me,” and that evening dined in his home with “many publicans (tax collectors) and sinners” (9:10). We read, “11And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?” (9:11)

Publicans were among the most despised men of Jewish ancestry in the first century. They were the ones who exacted taxes for Rome on their own, and were often guilty of skimming money off the top to enrich themselves. In the estimation of the Pharisees, Jesus eating with publicans was a brazen act of compromise. For Jesus; however, it was a demonstration of abundant grace.

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

For the same reason the sick, not the strong and healthy, seek a physician (9:12). Men who are too proud to see their sin, are too blind to see their need of a Savior. Jesus did not come into the world to persuade self-righteous scribes and Pharisees to repent (after all, they are unwilling to confess their sin). His burden was for sinners, humbled under the weight of their sin, and ready and willing to repent (9:13).

I close with the words of the apostle Paul, who once boasted of his self-righteousness until he was confronted by Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus:

1 Timothy 1:15 – “15This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“Sir, I Have No Man” (John 5)

Scripture reading – John 5

The title of today’s devotional commentary is haunting. “Sir, I have no man” (5:7), are words spoken by a man whom the Scriptures described as having “had an infirmity thirty and eight years” (5:5)!

John 5

Jesus and His disciples had returned to Jerusalem for the Passover (5:1). Making His way to the Temple, Jesus passed through the sheep gate (notice the word “market” is in italics in your Bible and was added by translators). The pool of water (5:2) in our story was located near the “sheep gate” 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), was shaded by five porches. As Jesus passed by, He gazed upon a miserable lot of souls who had gathered there, “a great multitude of impotent folk [sick; feeble], of blind, halt [lame], withered [shrunken limb], waiting for the moving [stirring] of the water (5:3).

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

John writes, 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 multitude of needy souls, there was one man who had been afflicted with an ailment for thirty-eight years (5:5). Described as having an “infirmity,” he was suffering from a chronic, debilitating disease, perhaps a stroke. John 5:7 describes the same man as “impotent.”

An earlier devotion revealed that Jesus “knew what was in man” (John 2:25). John 5:6 reveals that Jesus knew the man and his suffering: “Jesus saw [beheld; lit. knowing the man and understanding his need] him lie, and knew [perceived; understood] that he had been now a long time [much time] in that case.” Taking pity on the man, Jesus asked, Wilt thou [Do you wish] be made whole [sound]?

Though his outward affliction was obvious, it was the anguish of the man’s soul that I find troubling: He had “no man” (5:7).

There was no one who looked upon his helpless state, and waited with him at the pool, eager to assist him to the healing waters when they were stirred. No man had mercy. None who were suffering were willing to defer their distress, and prefer the man who had suffered thirty-eight years.

I invite you to consider with me three divine attributes Jesus exhibited on that day. The first, Jesus was Omniscient: He “saw” the man and knew not only how long he had been afflicted, but also the reason for his suffering (“sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee” – 5:14).

A second divine attribute is Grace. Only one man was the object of Jesus’ grace that day. Though Jesus knew the man, and his sin, He took pity on the man and asked, “Wilt thou be made whole?” (5:6c, 8) Why this man, when there were so many who were suffering? He was no more deserving than any other, but it was grace, not merit that moved Jesus to heal the man. An interesting side note, when asked if he wished to be healed, he answered with a despairing grievance: “I have no man!” (5:7)

Thirdly, Jesus displayed authority over disease and divine Omnipotence when He commanded, “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk” (5:8). “Immediately the man 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 instantaneously made whole.

There is much more to this story, especially the scene that follows when the religious hypocrites of that day, rebuked the man who had been healed for carrying his bed on the Sabbath (5:10). I wonder, how many times those religious leaders had passed Bethesda, and never took pity on the multitude of souls gathered there?

How many hurting souls do you and I pass every day, but never take pity on their sorrows? They may not be sick, maimed, blind, or crippled; but do we pass by being insensitive to their troubles?

How many might say, “I have no man who cares for my soul?”

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

The Cost of Being a Disciple (Matthew 8; Mark 2)

Scripture reading – Matthew 8; Mark 2

We pick up our reading in the Gospel of Matthew with Jesus having completed His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).  From now to His death on the cross, a throng of people will follow Jesus as He preaches and performs miracles throughout Galilee, Samaria, and Judea.

Matthew 8 – Three healing miracles are recorded in Matthew 8 that attest to Jesus’ divine power and authority over nature. 

The first miracle was the healing of a leper (8:2-4) who came to Jesus expressing his faith saying, “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean” (8:2).  Down through history, leprosy has been a dreaded skin disease, one that eventually eats away at the flesh and appendages. Leprosy was an incurable disease and a leper’s life was that of an outcast. Alienated from his family and society, the leper was a miserable, hopeless soul (Isaiah 1:5-6). The leperous man, coming with faith and seeking compassion, was immediately cleansed and made whole (8:3).

The second miracle was the healing of a Roman centurion’s slave (8:5-13).  A centurion was the commander of one hundred soldiers, and he was no doubt living in Capernaum as a peacekeeper of Rome. Unlike a typical, battle-hardened Roman soldier, the Centurion had become sympathetic to, if not a proselyte of, Judaism.   The Jews said of him, “he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue” (Luke 7:5); thus endearing himself to the Jews of Capernaum.

While the Centurion’s position and good works were commendable, they were not the essential qualities we find concerning his character in this passage. Notice the Centurion was a man of humility. In spite of his position, he came to Jesus confessing, “I am not worthy” (8:8-9).  Humility is rare in the world, especially among the rich and powerful; however, knowing his servant was dying, the Centurion humbled himself and came to Jesus.

Consider also the evidence of the Centurion’s faith that was demonstrated in his request: “Speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed” (8:8). His was a remarkable faith that Jesus commended as superior to the faith He had found among His own people (8:10b). Predicting the Gospel would be received by many Gentiles, Jesus foretold the Centurion was one of many who would become citizens of heaven (“many shall come from the east and west” – 8:11), while many Jews (“children of the kingdom”) would reject Jesus and be sentenced to “outer darkness: [where] there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (8:12).  Confirming his faith in Jesus, the Centurion’s servant was healed (8:13).

I close with what I will describe as a First Claim Principle (8:19-22).

Two men came to Jesus and proposed to become His disciples.  One man turned back when he was told a disciple must be willing to sacrifice earthly possessions and comforts (8:19-20).  A second man came, desiring to be numbered among Jesus’ disciples, he proposed to wait for his father to die before following Jesus.

First Claim Principle: No man can be a disciple, a true follower of Christ, unless he is willing to sacrifice his personal ambitions and plans to follow Him (8:18-22). 

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

“He Knew What Was in Man” (John 2-4)

Scripture Reading – John 2-4

Our chronological reading of the Scriptures continues today with the Gospel of John 2-4. The focus of today’s devotional commentary is John 2.

John 2

Our Scripture reading begins with a statement that connects us with recent events in the previous chapter: “And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there” (John 2:1).

Jesus had arrived in Cana of Galilee and joined His mother Mary. Together they attended a wedding celebration (2:1), one to which Jesus and His disciples were invited (2:2). The wedding feast was the setting for Jesus’ first public miracle when He turned water into wine (2:1-11), and in doing so “manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him” (2:11). With this first miracle, the faith of the disciples grew from Philip’s confession that Jesus was “the son of Joseph” (1:45), to them seeing His miracle and believing He was the Messiah (2:11).

Jesus had then gone up to Jerusalem to observe the Passover, and the Feast of Unleavened Bread that followed (2:13-23). As He entered the Temple, He was appalled at the sight of the corruption He found there. The Temple had become a house of commercialism and exploitation (2:14) of those who came there to worship.

With righteous indignation, Jesus took in hand a “scourge of small cords” (2:15a), and drove them all out of the Temple, the sheep and oxen, and over turned the tables of the money changers (2:15b). The commotion was so great, that Temple officials demanded, “What sign [i.e. sign of authority] shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things?” (2:18) In other words, what right do you have to take upon yourself the purging of this Temple.

The LORD answered with a sign, but not one that would be recognized until His death, burial, and resurrection: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (2:19). The Jews were incredulous by the absurdity of one who could raise up the Temple in three days, citing the fact the edifice where they worshipped had taken forty-six years to build (2:20).

Interjecting His own explanation, the apostle John confessed that neither He nor the disciples realized Jesus was speaking of His own bodily resurrection, “the Temple of His body” (2:21-22).

Jesus began to perform miracles in Jerusalem and there were “many who believed in His name when they saw the miracles which He did” (2:23). Jesus, however, “did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, 25And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man” (2:24-25). You see, there were many who believed Jesus, for they had observed His miracles; however, Jesus knew their hearts, and He did not believe in them (2:24-25).

God knows your heart better than you know yourself!

The prophet Jeremiah declared, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). The LORD declared to Jeremiah, “I the LORD search the heart, try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” (Jeremiah 17:10).

The LORD admonished His prophet Samuel, “for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

What is in your heart?

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith