January 27 – Gospel Readthrough – Matthew 28

Read Matthew 28:1-20

Did you ever wonder why when Jesus was arrested all of His disciples fled?  He was the one who they left everything for.  The person who they gave up their livelihood to follow.  He gets arrested and they bolt!  He is tried by the Jewish leaders and then is crucified and only one disciple we are told was present. 

But something happened.  Something life changing.  As a matter of fact, it is the greatest event in the history of the world!  You see, these same disciples who fled Jesus when He was arrested had experienced something so amazing that they ended up taking the gospel to the ends of the earth,suffering greatly and dying violent deaths.

They saw the risen Jesus Christ!

Three days after being crucified, dying an excruciating death and being buried, Jesus rose from the grave.  Their leader had been killed so one would think that those who wanted Jesus dead would expect the entire following to cease to exist. 

This would have been a good time to go in to retirement or go in to hiding for the fear of their lives.  After taking the gospel, the Good News of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the ends of the earth, this is what happened to the disciples of Jesus:

  • Peter:  crucified upside down in Rome
  • Andrew:  scourged and crucified
  • Thomas:  pierced the spears of soldiers
  • Philip:  hung to death
  • Matthew:  stabbed to death beheaded
  • Bartholomew:  severely whipped to death
  • James:  stabbed to death
  • Jude:  shot to death with arrows
  • James (the Lesser):  crucified
  • Matthais (who replaced Judas):  burned to death
  • John:   exiled to the island of Patmos after escaping being cast into boiling oil

Had the resurrection not occurred, do you think they would have faced such persecution to share the Gospel? 

But they witnessed the resurrected Jesus.  For 40 days following the resurrection Jesus appeared to His followers and proved He was risen.  They saw Him and walked with Him and spoke with Him.  They saw the nail pierced hands and feet. 

The resurrection of Jesus is the very cornerstone of our faith. 

Without the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we would have no hope in our future resurrection. We would have no salvation from sin.  The resurrection validates that Jesus was who He claimed to be.  It was proof that the testimony of Jesus and the prophets before Him were true. And for those who witnessed the resurrected Christ…

Their lives would never be the same. 

Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He gave them a final charge.  If the gospel was going to be taken to the world it was going to take action on behalf of the followers of Jesus.  And He said:

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.”

It’s our time.  It’s time to rise up and take the gospel to those around us and beyond.  It is time for us to tell the world. 

HE IS RISEN!

Nate Mills

January 26 – Gospel Readthrough – Matthew 27

Read Matthew 27:1-66

This chapter is heavy. It’s raw. It’s humbling. In these 66 verses, we have a front row seat to read exactly how much we are loved by Jesus and the sacrifice He made for us. Before reading ahead, take the next couple of minutes to pause and read Matthew 27 to yourself. 

I rarely make it through this chapter without tears in my eyes. It is sobering to read the final accounts of what everyone thought was the end of Jesus’ life. In just 66 verses, He was betrayed by a follower, arrested unjustly, denied by a friend, put on trial by enemies, mocked by the masses, bruised and beaten, pierced by nails in His hands and feet, killed on the same cross He carried, and buried in a tomb that was closed off to His mourning friends and family.

The emotional and physical pain that Jesus felt in just a mere 24 hours is unimaginable. 

These pages in our Bibles, from start to finish, scream of suffering and heartbreak. The darkest day in history is recorded right here in this chapter. But, friends, don’t miss it. Intertwined through every hurt that Jesus felt in these moments…

He was thinking of you. 

Let that sink in. 

As He breathed His final breath, you were on His mind. 

Not only were you on His mind, but you were His motive to endure what He did so that you could experience eternity with the Father. Christ’s purpose – His life and death and resurrection – has always been to make a way for us to know our Creator. 

Isaiah 53:5 – ‘He was pierced for our transgressions.’

Romans 5:8 – ‘While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’

1 Peter 3:18 – ‘For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous…’

There was never once a moment that Jesus didn’t know what He was doing or the why behind it. He was in this to save our broken world.

He was in it for you.

Take a moment to fix your mind on Jesus. Thank Him for the selfless, unconditional love that He has for you!

Becca Harbaugh

January 25 – Gospel Readthrough – Matthew 26

Read Matthew 26:1-75

Today (the day of this writing) was a great weather day. It was in the upper 60’s, breezy, sunny… the first day like that in months.  I enjoyed God’s creation today, even the little things like music in my car, a nice walking path, delicious food from the grill. It was perfect. God wants us to enjoy these common graces, but momentary pleasures can easily distract us from enjoying Jesus Himself.  If you’ve ever missed something of God due to being focused on present circumstances, know that you’re in good company… Jesus’ disciples did it too!    

In Matthew 26, Jesus’ disciples; the CHOSEN twelve who heard EVERY WORD Jesus spoke, witnessed EVERY miracle He performed, missed the eternal (in spite of being DIRECTLY told by Jesus what would happen) because they were blinded by temptations, pressures and thoughts of the present moments they were experiencing. Let’s take a closer look.  

At a dinner, a woman pours oil on Jesus’ head as an anointing. The disciples judge this as wasteful; the wealth represented by the oil would have been better used to feed hungry people.  The twelve would have chosen temporary alleviation of hunger over preparing Jesus’ body for burial, a burial that was necessary for His coming resurrection.   

Judas struggled with his faith, and betrayed Jesus, in spite of Jesus foretelling Judas’ betrayal at the Last Supper.  Not even Jesus predicting this could dissuade Judas from his chosen course of action.  Jesus allowed Judas his choice, because Jesus had an eternal perspective.  Judas chose thirty pieces of silver.   

Peter was proud, and full of bravado, willing to stand for Jesus in the face of persecution, not believing he could fail. Peter’s machismo even swayed the other disciples. By admitting he knew Jesus, Peter had nothing to gain and everything to lose.  Instead of choosing the Savior of the world, Peter chose pride in one moment by arguing with Jesus, and self-preservation in the next by openly denying Jesus.  Jesus chose to forgive Peter in spite of his momentary weakness, because, for the future of Jesus’ eternal church, Peter would play a crucial role. 

Simon Peter, in a seemingly righteous display of anger and protective friendship, cut the ear of one of the priests’ servants with his sword as the servant approached Jesus.  In that moment, he chose anger, violence and earthly brotherhood instead of an eternal future with Jesus.  The New Covenant was at hand, which required the coming crucifixion in order to be obtained.  

We should be careful of judging the disciples here, as it’s easier to see it all now, post-resurrection.  In these moments, the disciples simply didn’t understand what was happening from an eternal perspective.  They reacted the best way they knew how, and from the only perspective they had.  Oh Lord, let us learn from this.  Ask God to show you HIS perspective on your circumstances.  Ask for godly men and women to speak into your life so that you might see how God is working things for your eternal good. God’s always working in your life and answering your prayers…just not always in the way you expect.

Craig French

January 24 – Gospel Readthrough – Matthew 25

Read Matthew 25:1-46

How do you invest your time? How about your money and your abilities? In the amazing book SO THE NEXT GENERATION WILL KNOW by Sean McDowell, the author says many young people of today are impatient, fluid (blurring of lines between fact and fiction in areas of sex, gender and family), think that there is no such thing as a normal family, are overwhelmed, lonely and religiously unaffiliated. Many are seeking relationships with older people who can be a Christian role-model. Can you be a Christian role-model to at least one young person?

In the “Parable of the Talents” Jesus uses a story to encourage His followers to be ready for His return at all times. “Be on the alert,” He said, “for you do not know which day your Lord is coming” (24:42).

A “talent” is a spiritual gift or a natural ability. In A.D. 50 – the approximate time that Matthew was written – the word meant a large amount of money.

So, Jesus describes a man who goes on a journey, entrusting his servants with his wealth in his absence. To one servant, the master gives five talents, to a second servant he gives two talents, and to a third servant he gives one talent.

The parable goes on to say that two of the servants, the one given five talents and the one given two, were good stewards of their master’s money, investing it in such a way that, when the master returned, they handed back double what he had originally given them.

But the third servant dug a hole in the ground and fearfully hid his master’s money.

When the master eventually did return, the servants who were faithful were praised and entrusted with more of the master’s wealth. “Well done, good and faithful servant,” the master said to each of them. “You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things.” (25:21). The servant who was fearful and negligent, however, was swiftly reprimanded by his master, who called him “wicked, lazy, and worthless.” His talent was taken and given to the one with ten talents, and he himself was thrown out of his master’s presence (25:30).

The master in this parable represents Jesus. The servants are Christ-followers. Similar to the parable, Jesus has also given responsibility to His followers, and similar to the parable, He, the master, has promised to one day return.

Jesus has entrusted His servants to:

Spread the gospel (28:16-20),

Forgive (6:14-15),

Love others (5:43),

Be a role-model to the world (14:13-16),

Feed the hungry and thirsty (25:25).

Care for the poor, the prisoner, and the sick (25:36),

Be hospitable (25:35).

Are we good stewards of what belongs to God?

Consider investing your talent in someone. Or do we bury our time, talent, and opportunities? It’s up to us to decide.

The Master is planning His return.

Tom Weckesser

January 23 – Gospel Readthrough – Matthew 19-24 Review

The day after Christmas, Jeff Walter challenged us to draw closer to God by reading through the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John leading up to Easter.

This week, you read Matthew 19-24.

We thought that it would be important, as we continue to make our way through the gospels, more specifically Matthew, to pause once a week to reflect over what we have read so far.

A huge part of reading the Bible, or internalizing any kind of biblical truth for that matter, is application. How are you aiming to apply what you’ve read to your life? In what way are you going to become a more fully devoted follower of Christ as a result of your reading?

So, whenever you are reading this Sunday, January 23rd, what lessons are you taking away from Matthew 19-24? What stood out to you? What do you have questions about? I know there are a lot of takeaways from these chapters, but I challenge you to focus on even just one.

Take today to reflect on this past weeks’ readings and pray for God to open your heart and ideas to the principles you will receive this next week as we read chapters 25-28 and begin Mark.

Thanks for taking on this challenge!

FYI, we have a private Facebook group for this challenge where people can interact with others and share what they’re learning. If you are interested in joining this group, email Sharon (skarhan@woostergrace.org) to receive an invite!

Jake Lawson

January 22 – Gospel Readthrough – Matthew 24

Read Matthew 24:1-51

“When will all this happen? What sign will signal your return and the end of the world?”Matthew 24:3 NLT

In my lifetime there have been numerous predictions that the earth was about to end and on the exact return of Jesus. If we know the word of God, it is easier to respond to predictions like these.

In 1954, a cult called Brotherhood of the Seven Rays predicted that the world would be destroyed by flooding on December 21.

Jesus said, “Watch out that no one deceives you” in verse 4. There are people who want to deceive others as you see in verse 5.

In 1962 Jeane Dixon predicted destruction to the world due to a planetary alignment on Feb 4. I recall that many Americans were alarmed at this prediction, including my family.

Then in 1967 George Van Tassel predicted the beginning of the third woe of the Apocalypse during which the southeastern USA would be destroyed by Soviet nuclear missiles.

“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. (verse 6a)

In 1967 Jimmy Jones, founder of the People’s Temple, announced that a nuclear holocaust was to take place. Then in 1969, Charles Manson predicted that Helter Skelter, an apocalyptic race war, would occur.

“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.”(verse 7a).

There were many more of these predictions over the past 60 years or more. There have actually been many predictions in the past 2000 years!

Jeane Dixon also predicted that Armageddon would take place in 2020. She made many predictions in her newspaper column and they appeared to be based on Astrology. We now know that these predictions were all inaccurate.

Jesus talks about the signs of His return but not specifically. Is Chapter 24 about the return of Christ at the end of history? Or could it be a prediction of events of AD 70, when Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed by the Romans? Could it be both?

We all know that lightning is quick. If you blink, you could miss lightning. When Jesus returns, it will be like lightning (see verse 27).

But the day of Christ’s return is unknown. In fact, only the Father knows when Christ will be returning (see verse 36).  Jesus said that His return will be like the flood (verse 39).

“So, keep watch because you don’t know when the Lord will come and you must be ready because he’s coming in an hour we do not expect him.”(verse 44)

So, live the Christian life on a daily basis – stay with it and know the word of God! With the end in mind, what are some ways that you need to be better prepared? In what way do you need to change the way you are living/acting?

“Staying with it—that’s what God requires. Stay with it to the end. You won’t be sorry…”(verse 13 MSB)

Tom Weckesser

 

January 21 – Gospel Readthrough – Matthew 23

Read Matthew 23:1-39

If you have ever had the “pleasure” of teaching a teenager how to drive, the word “whoa” with lots of exclamation points after it might have slipped out of your mouth.  Everyone knows that the word W-H-O-A means to stop! 

However, instead of W-H-O-A, Jesus used W-O-E in this verse which means way more than just to stop.  The word “woe” in the Greek is “ouai” and is often used to express grief, regret, misfortune or grievous distress, impending doom, condemnation and/or the wrath of God!

We are talking serious business here!

Jesus was not just telling the teachers of the law and Pharisees to stop what they were doing but warning them of the coming condemnation and possible wrath of God.  They needed to repent and turn from their wicked ways ASAP!

Seven times Jesus said “Woe” to them! They had been put in their positions in the temple to bring people closer to God but, because of their pride, greed, or their own sin, they were making the gap between God and His people wider, not narrower.

You might say, “But I am not a Pharisee. Why should I be concerned about this chapter in the Bible?”

However, Jesus wasn’t only talking to the leaders who were in His immediate presence ;He was talking to us as well.

Think of Matthew 23 as a mirror on your own life and motives.

Jesus will say “woe” to me…

  1. If I preach, but do not practice what I tell others to do. (Careful parents on this one) (Matthew 23:3)
  2. If I expect more of others than I am willing to do, especially my kids. (Matthew 23:4)
  3. If I do all my deeds to be seen by others and to get their praise and applause, not just because it is the right thing to do. (Matthew 23:5).
  4. If I exalt myself lifting myself above others, or putting others down who might not be as wealthy or well educated as myself.  (Matthew 23:5-12).
  5. If I serve as a hindrance at the entrance of the kingdom of heaven, twisting the true words of Jesus to justify what I want to do and therefore leading others away from God. (Matthew 23:13-15).
  6. If I am blinded by human tradition and worldly reasoning, dismissing God’s laws as being out of date to fit with modern thinking to be in the “in crowd” (Matthew 23:16-22).
  7. If I neglect the weightier matters of God’s expectation, not wanting to deal with the heart of the issue, letting things I know to be against God’s word go without pointing it out just because I don’t want to get involved or face possible conflict. (Matthew 23:23-24).
  8. If I am filthy and hypocritical on the inside.  Does my “Sunday persona” match my “weekly actions, language and attitude?  Or is it all for show?  (Matthew 23:25-28).
  9. If I am confronted with truth and refuse to respond. (Matthew 23:29-36).

The “good news” is that it is not too late (Matthew 23:37-39).  For those who are willing to respond to God’s offer of grace, the opportunity for redemption still stands (1 Peter 3:18-22).

How about taking a serious look into the mirror of the words in Matthew 23, repent of what you see that would cause Jesus to say “Woe” to you, and start afresh with a new relationship with Him?

It’s not too late to start anew today!

Pat Arnold

January 20 – Gospel Readthrough – Matthew 22

Read Matthew 22:1-46

Have you ever questioned something someone says? Of course you have! Haven’t we all?

In today’s chapter, Jesus answers a lot of questions. For us, what He says isn’t profound or out of the ordinary because we didn’t live in the times when Jesus walked the earth. In those days, however, what Jesus said was like a continual mic drop every time He was questioned. 

He knew just what to say and just how to answer. 

As we read a couple of days ago from Jake’s blog on Matthew 12, a relationship with Jesus is not the same as a religion. The Pharisees and Sadducees were two groups of religious men in Jesus’ time. The Pharisees lived by the Mosaic law, written in Moses’ day but also read, learned and studied the prophets and most of the Old Testament whereas the Sadducees lived only by the Mosaic law. They did not believe in resurrection or the spiritual realm. 

So, when looking at their arguments, it makes a little more sense as to why they were questioning Jesus in the subjects they were. However, He is the Son of God. He does not believe in a “religion” but cares about the relationship between the people. 

We see Jesus answer with grace and straightforwardness but in a way that makes them realize He knows just as much as they do. 

When I think of religion, I think of how knowledge is what elevates it. Whereas, a relationship with Jesus is elevated by the relationship itself. 

It’s okay to question and to search out the truth. However, remember that it isn’t about what you know that will elevate your walk with the Lord but about the time you spend within the relationship to elevate Jesus more. 

I was having a conversation with a mentor and friend of mine recently about a paragraph in Charles Swindall’s book “So You Want to Be Like Christ”:

“Guess what churchgoing men and women: religion won’t cut it! We live in a spiritual hothouse where we talk religiously and send religious letters and write religious pamphlets and do religious Bible study guides and answer religious phones and deal with religious concerns. It’s so easy to get religious instead of godly…Don’t suspect for a moment that our environment makes us deep…Hanging out at church hoping it will transform you into a deep Christian is only slightly less foolish than expecting enough time in a garage to turn you into a car”.

That’s both powerful and convicting! Something I had to reflect on is a fact that I have to remember: just because I have knowledge and an understanding of God’s Word doesn’t mean that I can’t glean more from it. It doesn’t mean that the depth of my relationship with Jesus has reached its limit. There is no limit. Religion comes to play when you rely on your knowledge and action to deepen your relationship instead of Jesus. 

I urge you, I encourage you, reflect on whether you are operating out of religion or your relationship with Jesus.

Only one can deepen.

Kelly Lawson 

January 19 – Gospel Readthrough – Matthew 21

Read Matthew 21:1-46

As we approach the Easter season, we will find ourselves contemplating the many events leading up to Christ’s death and resurrection at the hands of the Roman state and Jewish religious leaders.  Matthew 21 begins with Jesus’ “triumphal” entry into Jerusalem. “Triumphal” is in quotes because it was absolutely triumphal in eternal ways, particularly when looking back on it from the perspective of 2021.  In many other ways though, it could have easily been viewed as anything BUT triumphal, and examining some of these small details in Matthew 21 reveals an eternal truth: God despises the proud and exalts the humble.  

The beginning of the chapter fulfills a prophecy from Zechariah 9:9; foretelling the coming of a king “righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Jesus riding on a donkey was also a key demonstration of His coming in peace. A donkey (which was usually used for agricultural purposes) likely connected with poor people, and signified a servant King, one coming to give hope, and to save and serve the oppressed, poor and sick.  Jewish people of the day would have expected their king to arrive with much fanfare and circumstance, in a more regal fashion. Jesus turned that idea on its head.  Instead, people celebrate His arrival with simple palm branches, shouting “Hosanna!”, meaning “save, rescue, savior”.  ‘Hosanna’ was used as an exclamation of praise, agreement, or adoration to God. God exalts the humble.   

Other stories show us the same thing; Jesus turning tables over, clearly rebuking those seeking to profit from the temple’s important role in Jewish society. It begs the question, ‘If God despised that practice so much, why would the Jewish religious leaders allow it in the first place?’ God despises the proud.   

We see Jewish leaders challenging Jesus’ sovereignty, but Jesus defies the religious leaders’ demands and self-proclaimed “authority”. He refuses to answer their question, then tells them two parables.  The first was designed to show them that, in spite of their ‘expertise’, they had failed to see John the Baptist as sent from God.  He tells them “the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you”. 

Ouch.

The second parable results in Jesus telling them that “The stone that the builders rejected” (Jesus) will be the stone that crushes anyone on whom it falls. Matthew tells us that the leaders knew that Jesus was talking about them. God despises the proud.

What does this mean for us?  Let us embrace the heart of a servant leader, one who comes in peace.  Pray for God to reveal areas in your life where you are proud.  Is your pride causing you to miss the work Jesus is doing around you?  Will you join Him?  Let’s BE the church that follows Jesus’ example of SERVING the broken and sick, and to lead those around us with LOVE.

“Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

Craig French

January 18 – Gospel Readthrough – Matthew 20

Read Matthew 20:1-34

Track and Field is a great sport and our oldest sport, in fact. It is an individual sport but it is also a team sport. The sportsmanship, respect and attitude among competitors is admirable. Go to a track meet sometime and you will see enthusiasm, commitment, hard work, victory and disappointment.

Just like life.

The most exciting aspect in all of sports is the state championships in Ohio, boys or girls. I recently was watching the state championship in the sport of Track and Field – the 400-meter hurdle event. A young man was winning the race, running to cross the finish line as the winner and then he tripped on the last hurdle and landed on his face. By the time he got up and crossed the finish line, he finished last. He went from first to last in several heartbeats.

Just like life.

When you participate in a sport, there are no guarantees. Sometimes games and events go well and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes it just isn’t fair. I’ve seen it many times in many sports.

A parable is a heavenly story with an earthly meaning. Matthew 20 and the parable of the workers in the vineyard is a relevant parable. People say life isn’t fair. I’ve heard it many times. We have to accept the fact that life sometimes isn’t fair here on earth. The consequences of the Covid pandemic have been really unfair to a lot of people. 

“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”Matthew 20:16

The Kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who started his day by hiring men to work for him for a denarius (the usual daily wage). Around 9:00 AM he hired some people to work. At about noon he hired more people to work. About 3:00 PM he hired some more people to work. At 5:00 PM he hired even more people to work.

In the evening when the day was done, he paid everybody for the work they had done. He paid everybody the exact same amount of money. Then some people began to grumble to the landowner because they worked more hours than the other people and they all were paid the same amount of money. They could have said, “That’s not fair.”

‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’

But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius?’”Matthew 20:12-13

These verses also refer to salvation. The extraordinary generosity and grace of God, who gives to those who enter the kingdom last the same blessings that He gives to everybody else.

What are some ways in which you are thankful for the generous gift God has given you? What are some ways that you can spread that gift to others?

Tom Weckesser