Category Archives: Sin

“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

“Are You Listening?” (Matthew 13; Luke 8)

Scripture reading – Matthew 13; Luke 8

We identify eight parables taught by Jesus recorded in 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), the Parable of the Householder (13:51-52).

The focus of today’s devotional is the Parable of the Soils (13:3-23), of which you will notice that Christ identified four types of soil: The “wayside” (13:4, 19), the “stony places” (13:5-6, 20-21), the thorny ground (13:7, 22), and the “the good ground” (13:8, 23).

We find three familiar elements in the Parable of the Soils (Sower).

The first, the Sower, who “went forth to sow” (13:3). Unlike modern-day farmers who utilize tractor and plow, the work of a first century farmer was difficult. Laboring under the sun from sun up to sun down, his hands callused from working with a crude hoe, preparing furrows in the soil for planting, a farmer would come to the close of a day exhausted. Once the soil was prepared, the farmer would take up a leather bag that contained precious seed, and with measured strides begin to scatter seed across the field with simple flicks of his wrist. Each seed, whether wheat or barley, was precious, containing the potential of life and eventually harvest.

In spite of the farmer’s careful labor, some seed would invariably come to rest upon four soil types that Jesus identified in his parable. The “wayside” described the footpath a farmer and his neighbors would take through a field. The “wayside” ground was hardpacked and the seed would eventually be crushed under foot, or snatched up by birds (13:4). “Stony” was ground often worked by poor farmers. Such ground was less than desirable, and with rain, erosion, and the turn of a plow, required the farmer to be constantly removing rocks and stones from his fields (13:5-6). Thorns are a menace to every farmer, and good seed that fell among thorns was robbed of the moisture and sun that is necessary for good seed to take root and bear fruit (13:7). The “good ground,” was fertile and seeds that were planted in it would bear much fruit: “some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold” (13:8).

What was the point of the Parable of the Sower and the Soils upon which he scattered seed? The disciples asked Jesus somewhat this question when they came to Him and asked, “Why speakest thou unto them in parables?” (13:10) Why did the LORD 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).

The followers of Christ were sincere in their desire to hear and understand spiritual truths (13:11); however, those who were not genuine believers were left in spiritual darkness (13:11). They could see, but they refused to believe (13:13). They could hear, but they refused to hear what Jesus taught (13:13).

I close with an interpretation of the Parable of the Soil (Sower).

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

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

The “good ground” heart is commended by Jesus for being both fertile and fruitful (13:23). The “good ground” heart is described in Luke 8:15 as “an honest [noble; moral; virtuous] and good [morally good; pleasing to God] heart, havingheard [understood] the word [the Word of God], keep it [holds fast; sets roots], and bring forth fruit [bear fruit] with patience[endurance].”

Friend, what is the spiritual condition of your heart? Does your heart evidence a sincere, honest, longing desire 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 heartthat 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.

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

Are You Blessed? If so, You Will Be Persecuted! (Matthew 5-7)

Scripture reading – Matthew 5-7

Considered as Christ’s inaugural address to His followers, the “Sermon on the Mount” is an exposition of the heart of Christ the King, and a declaration of the character of those who would be citizens in His kingdom.

I do not believe it is an overstatement to declare, that, apart from the Law and Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount embodies some of the greatest truths ever known to man.

The Sermon on the Mount is not the means of salvation, but an exposition of the attitudes and character of believers who are spiritual citizens of the “Kingdom of heaven” (5:3). The sermon is Christ the King’s declaration of His will regarding the actions and attitudes of the citizens of heaven.

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 that we identify as the Beatitudes (5:3-12). In essence, the Beatitudes define the character of those who are sincere followers of the LORD Jesus Christ. Each Beatitude begins with the word, “Blessed,” which I suggest is a state of settled joy and contentment; a promise of joy and peace that surpasses one’s circumstances.

The Beatitudes are heavenly attitudes that are not only contradictory to society, they are in direct conflictwith the spirit of the world.

Christ taught, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (5:3); however, the world says, “believe in yourself.” We read, “Blessed are they that mourn” (5:4); however, the world says, “don’t let them see you weep.”

Christ encouraged His followers, “Blessed are the meek” (5:4); but society advises, “stand up for yourself!” “Thirst for Truth, hunger for righteousness” (5:6) was the example Christ gave His disciples, but the world cheers, “eat, drink, and be merry.”

Jesus taught, “Blessed are the merciful,” (5:7); however, society dares, “Do it to them, before they do it to you!” Christ urged, “Blessed are the pure in heart” (5:8), who seek only Him; but the worldly crowd warns, “You only go through life once.”

The world says, “Be a peacekeeper,” and be willing to compromise; however, Christ taught His followers, “Be a peacemaker,” (5:9) and seek to bring others to the Prince of Peace.

Finally, Jesus assured His followers who would find themselves as the object of derision and persecution:

Matthew 5:10–11 – “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.”

The righteous face three forms of persecution (5:11).

To be reviled, is to be mocked and have disparaging things said about your character and motive.

The word “persecute” is indicative of personal attacks. Persecution may come as physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual confrontations. Persecution is often relentless and is intended to drive the believer from his home, family, friends, and work. Persecution can come as threats to the believer or his loved ones.

The third form of persecution is verbal: “and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake” (5:11). The arsenal of this form of persecution comes as lies, innuendoes, and sowing questions on one’s motive or sincerity. As difficult as it may seem (and it is), the attitude of the persecuted is declared in this:

Matthew 5:12Rejoice, 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.

How can a believer rejoice when he is persecuted? He can rejoice in this confidence: Troubles and trial have their purpose in the providence of God.

James 1:2-4 – “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into [encounter] divers temptations [various sorts of troubles and trials]; [3] Knowing this [understanding], that the trying [proving & testing] of your faith worketh patience [steadfastness]. [4] But let patience have her perfect [complete & thorough] work, that ye may be perfect and entire [without defects], wanting [lacking] nothing.”

As much as persecution may hurt (and it does), a believer must remember that persecution is the training ground for spiritual maturity and broader spiritual opportunities. Paul challenged his spiritual son in the faith: Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).

Believers who are committed to living out the Beatitudes will experience persecution.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

You Are Invited to Hillsdale’s Wednesday Evening Dinner and Bible Studies

You are invited to Hillsdale’s Wednesday Evening Family Ministries beginning with Family Dinner (5-6pm; $4\ea), Teen Bible Study and Activity at 6pm, and AWANA Clubs at 6:15pm.

Adult Classes begin with a time of Prayer at 6:15pm.

Following prayer, Bible Study Classes begin around 6:35pm.

Pastor Smith is continuing his Character Study Series in the Book of Proverbs with tonight’s study focusing on Proverbs 7. Pastor’s class will be broadcast live on Hillsdale’s Facebook Page and at www.HillsdaleBaptist.org. Tonight’s Student handout is available here: A Cancer Called Adultery – Proverbs 7 student blank without verses

“Ancient Paths,” a study of Bible Covenants, is a ladies’ class taught by Mrs. Sheilah Smith in the Friendship Hall.

Travis and Tanya Henry are teaching a Family\Parenting\Marriage Class that is practical in its focus on Scriptural principles

For more information, call the church office at 813-884-8250, ext. 0.

With the heart of a shepherd,

Pastor Travis D. Smith

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

They Would Have Destroyed Him (Matthew 12; Mark 3; Luke 6)

Scripture reading – Matthew 12; Mark 3; Luke 6

Today’s Scripture reading entails parallel readings of the same events. Each Gospel account gives us an individual record of the life and ministry of Christ from the perspective of its human author, but as a whole, they evidence the inspiration of the Holy Spirit presenting us with a harmonious view of what appears to be a three-dimensional portrait. Today’s devotional commentary is from Matthew 12:1-21.

Matthew 12

Though the public ministry of Jesus was still in its infancy, nevertheless, the enemies of the LORD were present from the beginning. Performing miracles as a sign that He was the long-awaited Messiah foretold by the prophets of Israel, Jesus was enjoying a great following of the people. There was, however, antagonists who viewed Him as a threat to their position and influence among the people.

The Pharisees were Christ’s principal adversaries, and they would plot to discredit and destroy Him throughout His earthly ministry, up to His divine appointment with the Cross. It was their antagonism and hatred for Jesus that was the catalyst of the confrontation we find in Matthew 12.

The LORD’s fourth commandment to Israel, “Remember the Sabbath, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8), was the issue the Pharisees raised against Jesus when they accused Him and His disciples of breaking the Law (12:1-2) according to their standards. Passing through a farmer’s field enroute to the synagogue on the Sabbath, Jesus’ disciples were hungry and “began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat” (12:1). Ever looking for an occasion to accuse Jesus of wrong doing, the Pharisees seized upon the opportunity to accuse His disciples of breaking the Sabbath Day commandment based on their oral tradition.

Rather than bow to his critics, Jesus reminded the Pharisees that the issue was not the fourth commandment, but their stringent interpretation of the Sabbath Day commandment.  The fourth commandment did not prohibit a man from providing for his physical hunger (after all, 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) as outlined in the Levitical standards in the Torah.

Entering into the synagogue on the same day, Jesus 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).

Citing a common practice in that rural culture, Jesus demanded of His critics, would you 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 then 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).

And how did the enemies of Jesus respond not only to His teaching, He being “LORD even of the Sabbath” (12:8), but also the healing of the man with the paralyzed hand? (12:13)

Matthew 12:1414Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him. (note – Mark 3:5-6; Luke 6:11)

Oh, the hypocrisy! On one hand they demanded their interpretation of the Sabbath Law should usurp the will of God; and in the other they plotted to destroy Jesus and violate 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 (12:15).

I have found the decision to withdraw oneself is a difficult one, especially when an enemy is unrelenting in his plot to “destroy” you. 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 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.”

Note from the author: For those following the chronological Scripture reading schedule, remember that some events in the Gospel accounts are not in chronological order. Also, chapter and verse numbers have been added by editors to assist us in studying the Scriptures, but sometimes those helpful numbers break up the flow of events. For instance, the Sermon on the Mount is recorded in the Gospel of Matthew 5-7; however, the Gospel of Luke records a portion of that same sermon in Luke 6:20-49. None of those facts take away from the inspiration and infallibility of the Scriptures; however, I hope my explanation might give you some rationale for the reading schedule.

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

Passing the Test: Overcoming Temptation (Matthew 4; Luke 4-5)

Scripture Reading – Matthew 4; Luke 4-5

Matthew 4 – Overcoming Temptation

Having been baptized by John the Baptist, and confirmed by the voice of God the Father, Who said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (3:17), we read: “Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness [desert] to be tempted of the devil” (Matthew 4:1)

Jesus was isolated in the wilderness for the next forty days where He was “tempted,” meaning tried and tested, by the devil (4:2-11).  Notice that Jesus faced three tests or temptations.

The first test was an attempt by the devil to tempt Jesus to question God’s providential care for His Son. The devil tempted Jesus to satisfy His hunger by performing a miracle and turning stones to bread, apart from God’s will (4:3-4). Jesus answered the temptation with Scriptures saying, “man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live” (Deuteronomy 8:3).

The second temptation questioned the divinity of Jesus as the Son of God. Daring to provoke sinful pride in Jesus, the devil demanded, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down” (4:6). Notice that the devil quoted Scripture saying, “for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone” (Psalm 91:11, 12). Like sinners who know enough Scripture to be a stumbling stone to others, the devil left out the phrase, “He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all Thy ways” (Ps. 91:11b).

Jesus once again answered the devil’s temptation, quoting Deuteronomy 6:16, “Ye shall not tempt the LORD your God.”

The devil came to Jesus a third and final time, and endeavored to entice Him, offering Him the “kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them” (4:8). Jesus answered the temptation, remembering the Law, “Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God; him shalt thou serve” (Deuteronomy 10:20a).

I close with a couple of insights. The first, notice the devil tempted Jesus with things that were common: Hunger and physical desires (4:3-4), pride, by distorting the Scriptures (4:6), and lusts for possessions (4:8). When you face temptations, you may well find they rise from the mundane choices of every day life.

Finally, notice that a knowledge of Scripture and an ability to quote relevant verses is the way to overcome temptation. Jesus responded to each temptation with a Bible principle founded upon the Law and Commandments.

I close with an exhortation you and I would do well to heed:

Psalm 119:9–119Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word. 10With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments. 11Thy word have I hid in mine heart, That I might not sin against thee.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith