Matthew’s Good News

An EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on Matthew’s *Gospel

www.easyenglish.info

Hilda Bright

The translated Bible text has been through Advanced Checking.

Words in boxes are from the Bible.

A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.

 

About Matthew

The author was a *Jewish Christian who wrote especially for *Jews. One early Christian writer said, ‘Matthew collected what Jesus taught in the *Hebrew language.’ This book contains much of what Jesus taught. So the early Christians gave Matthew’s name to the whole book. Matthew collected taxes, but he became one of Jesus’ 12 special friends (Matthew 9:9). Matthew did not write the first book about Jesus’ life. Mark wrote about Jesus first. And Matthew uses much of what Mark wrote. The Christian *church put Matthew’s book first because Matthew often refers to the *Old Testament.

About Matthew’s Book

1. The author arranged what Jesus taught in five main sections:

            1. What Jesus taught on the mountain 5:1 - 7:29

            2. King Jesus sends his friends out with his message 10:5-42

            3. Stories about where God rules 13:1-52

            4. Relationships in the Christian society 18:1-35

            5. When Jesus returns to the earth 24:1-25:46.

Between these sections, the account emphasises what Jesus did.

2. The author arranges his material in groups of three and seven. This helps his readers to remember it. For example, there are three groups of three *miracles (Matthew 8:1-15; 8:23–9:8; 9:18-34). There are seven stories about where God rules in chapter 13. There are three stories about the time when Jesus returns to the earth in chapter 25.

3. Matthew shows that what God told his people in the *Old Testament came true in the life of Jesus. Therefore, Jesus was the *Messiah that they were waiting for. Matthew refers to words from the *Old Testament over 60 times. He often uses words from the book of Isaiah. He introduces important *Old Testament words in a special way 12 times. He says, ‘This shows that the *prophets’ words came true’. (See, for example, Matthew 1:22-23; 4:14-16.)

4. He emphasises that Jesus is the King.

            1. Jesus comes from David’s family (1:1).

            2. He was born in David’s city, which was called Bethlehem (2:5-6).

            3. The blind men and the woman from Canaan called him ‘Son of David’ (9:27; 15:22).

            4. Jesus is the king in the story about the sheep and the goats (25:24-46).

            5. He has ‘all authority in heaven and on earth’ (28:18).

5. Matthew shows that Jesus is the *Messiah. He was the special person that the *Jews had been waiting for. But Matthew does not leave out the rest of the world. There were also other people who recognised that Jesus came from God (2:11). Matthew records that Jesus healed the *Roman officer’s servant (8:5-13). Jesus said: ‘Many people will come from the east and from the west.’ They will join those people where God rules (8:11). People will tell the good news about Jesus to the whole world (24:14). Jesus’ final command was to ‘make *disciples in all the nations’ (28:19).

6. Four men wrote the Good News about Jesus. But Matthew is the only one who uses the word ‘*church’. At Caesarea Philippi, Jesus said that nothing would be able to destroy his *church (16:18). The local *church would settle arguments between Christians (18:15-17).

7. Matthew shows that he was interested in the end of the world. He writes a lot of what Jesus said about the end. Jesus will return to earth, and he will be the Judge (chapters 24 and 25).

Chapter 1

The *ancestors of Jesus 1:1-17

v1 This is the record of Jesus Christ’s family. His *ancestor long ago was David, and Abraham was an *ancestor before that. (Jesus is the son of Abraham.)

Verse 1 Jesus is the ‘Christ.’ ‘Christ’ is a *Greek word, and the same word in the *Hebrew language is ‘*Messiah’. Both words mean ‘the man that God chose’. Samuel poured a special oil on David’s head long ago. This showed that he was the king. It showed that God had chosen David to be king (1 Samuel 16:13). Jesus was the son of David. In other words, he was David’s *descendant who lived many hundreds of years after David. Therefore, Jesus was the king whom the *Jews were expecting. He would be a great king like David. But Jesus did not come to use military power to establish himself as king. He had to show by his life and death that he came to defeat the devil. He suffered as he defeated the devil. He did not come to rule a place or an area. When you accept Jesus as your king, then he rules your life. As king, Jesus invited people into the place where he rules.

Jesus is also the ‘son of Abraham’. That means that he was also Abraham’s *descendant. But he lived many hundreds of years later. God called Abraham to begin the *Jewish nation. And God promised Abraham that one of his grandsons in the future would bring good things to the whole world (Genesis 22:18). This promise came true when Jesus came to the world. Abraham was willing to obey God. He was even willing to kill his only son Isaac and offer him to God. He was willing, if God wanted him to do that. Jesus always obeyed God. He offered himself to God when he let people kill him. He died because the people of the world needed a *sacrifice for *sin. He died. And so, all people since then have the offer of life with God that will never end.

v2 Abraham was Isaac’s father. Isaac was Jacob’s father. Jacob had many sons and Judah was the first son. v3 Judah was Perez and Zera’s father, and Tamar was their mother. Perez was Hezron’s father, and Hezron was Ram’s father. v4 Ram was Amminadab’s father, and Amminadab was Nahshon’s father. Nahshon was Salmon’s father. v5 Salmon was Boaz’s father and Rahab was his mother. Boaz was Obed’s father and Ruth was his mother. Obed was Jesse’s father. v6 And Jesse was King David’s father. David was Solomon’s father, and his mother had been Uriah’s wife. v7 Solomon was Rehoboam’s father. Then Rehoboam was Abijah’s father, and Abijah was Asa’s father. v8 Asa was Jehoshaphat’s father, and Jehoshaphat was Jehoram’s father. Then Jehoram was Uzziah’s father. v9 Uzziah was Jotham’s father, and Jotham was Ahaz’s father. Then Ahaz was Hezekiah’s father. v10 Hezekiah was Mannaseh’s father, and Manasseh was Amon’s father. Then Amon was Josiah’s father. v11 Josiah had several sons and Jechoniah was the first son. At that time an enemy took the *Jewish people away to *Babylon.

v12 Then Jechoniah was Shealtiel’s father, and Shealtiel was Zerubbabel’s father. v13 Zerubbabel was Abiud’s father, and Abiud was Eliakim’s father. Then Eliakim was Azor’s father. v14 Azor was Zadok’s father, and Zadok was Akim’s father. Then Akim was Eliud’s father. v15 Eliud was Eleazar’s father, and Eleazar was Matthan’s father. Then Matthan was Jacob’s father. v16 And Jacob was Joseph’s father. Joseph was Mary’s husband. She gave birth to Jesus who is called the Christ.

v17 So there were 14 grandfathers from Abraham to David. Then there were 14 grandfathers from David until the time that the enemy took them to *Babylon. There were 14 more grandfathers from that time until Christ was born.

Verses 2-17 Matthew records Jesus’ *ancestors until Joseph. Jesus was Mary’s son, but he was not Joseph’s son. Matthew explains this in the next section. However, when Joseph married Mary, he became the legal father of Jesus.

Matthew divided the list of these *ancestors into three groups. This made it easy to remember. The first section reminds people of their history up to king David. He was Israel’s best king. The second section records later kings when the people did not obey God. Then they went as prisoners to *Babylon. The third section ends with Jesus Christ. He rescued people from the effect of all that they do wrong.

There are four women in the list: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Uriah’s wife. It was not usual to put the names of women in a family list. But Jesus showed that women are important to God also. Tamar (verse 3), Rahab (verse 5), Ruth (verse 5) and Uriah’s wife, whose name was Bathsheba, (verse 6) were not even *Jews. The good things that Jesus brought are for everyone. They are for *Jews and for everyone else as well. Three of these four women were guilty of bad behaviour. Tamar had sex with her father-in-law (Genesis 38). This was the only way that she could have a son. This son would continue his father’s family name. Judah had broken the law. He should have arranged for Tamar to marry one of his other sons. Judah says that Tamar is right (Genesis 38:26). Rahab sold herself for sex in the town called Jericho (Joshua 2:1-7). Bathsheba had sex with David before she became his wife (2 Samuel chapters 11 and 12). God can use people in his plans, even if they have done wrong things. Perhaps Matthew included these women to remind us about that. Jesus came to rescue people who have done bad things (Matthew 9:13).

The birth of Jesus 1:18-25

v18 This is how the birth of Jesus happened. His mother Mary had promised to marry Joseph. They had not yet had sex together. But it was clear that she was going to have a baby. She became *pregnant by the power of the *Holy Spirit. v19 Her husband Joseph was a good man. He did not want people to think bad things about her. So he decided to divorce her secretly. v20 But, as Joseph was thinking about this, the *Lord’s *messenger appeared to him in a dream. ‘Joseph, son of David’, the *Lord’s *messenger said, ‘do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife. The baby inside her is from the *Holy Spirit. v21 She will have a son. You must give him the name “Jesus”. That is because he will save his people from their *sins.’

v22 All this happened because of what the *Lord had said to the *prophet long ago. It came true.

v23 ‘The *virgin is going to have a baby. She will give birth to a son’, God had said. ‘They will call him “Immanuel”.’ This name means “God is with us”.

v24 Joseph woke up. Then he did what the *Lord’s *messenger had ordered. He took Mary home as his wife. v25 But he did not have sex with her until after her son was born. And Joseph gave him the name ‘Jesus’.

Verses 18-19 Joseph and Mary had promised to marry each other. But Joseph thought that Mary had not been loyal to him. They were *Jews. And the only way for *Jews to break this promise was to divorce each other. But Joseph was kind. He planned to protect her from public gossip. He wanted to divorce her in private. He himself would risk public gossip.

Verses 20-21 Matthew and Luke agree that Mary had the child ‘by the power of the *Holy Spirit’ (Luke 1:35; Matthew 1:20). God showed the truth to Joseph in a dream. ‘Jesus’ is the same as the *Old Testament name ‘Joshua’. The name means ‘the *Lord saves’.

Verses 22-23 ‘Immanuel’ means ‘God is with us’. God’s servant Isaiah lived about 700 years before Jesus. He gave the name ‘Immanuel’ to the son of a young woman. Isaiah wanted to encourage the king and the people to trust God. God would protect them from their enemies (Isaiah 7:14). Isaiah’s words came true in an even more wonderful way when Jesus came into the world. The whole *gospel describes how Jesus was ‘God with us’. Everything that he said and did showed the power of God. And he showed how much God loves people.

Verses 24-25 Joseph believed the *Lord’s *messenger and he obeyed God’s message.

Chapter 2

Wise men visit Jesus 2:1-12

v1 Jesus was born in the town called Bethlehem. This was in Judea district. At this time, Herod was the king there. Wise men came from the east to the capital city called Jerusalem. v2 ‘Where is the child who was born as the king of the *Jews?’ they asked. ‘We saw his star in the east. So we have come to *worship him.’

v3 When Herod heard this, he was very worried. Everyone in Jerusalem was worried as well. v4 Herod called together all the chief *priests and the men who taught the law. He asked them where the Christ would be born.

v5 ‘He will be born in Bethlehem, which is in Judea’, they replied. ‘This is what God’s servant wrote about long ago:

v6      “But you, Bethlehem in the land of Judah,

          you are certainly not the least important among Judah’s towns.

          Because a ruler will come out from you,

          and he will guide my people Israel.” ’

v7 Then Herod secretly called for the wise men. He found out from them the exact time that the star had appeared. v8 So he sent them to Bethlehem. ‘Go and search with great care for the child’, he said. ‘As soon as you find him, come and tell me. Then I shall be able to go and *worship him as well’, Herod said to them.

v9 After the wise men had listened to the king, they left. The star that they had seen in the east went ahead of them. Then it stopped over the place where the child was. v10 When they saw the star again, they were very happy. v11 The wise men went into the house. There they saw the child with his mother Mary. Then they *bowed down and *worshipped him. They had brought valuable gifts for him too. They gave him gold, *frankincense and *myrrh. v12 But God warned them in a dream that they must not go back to Herod. So they returned to their country by a different way.

Verses 1-2 ‘Bethlehem’ means ‘house of bread’. It is a small town six miles from Jerusalem. It was the home of David (1 Samuel 16). The *Jews were expecting a king who would come from David’s town. This king would be even greater than his *ancestor, King David.

The ‘wise men’ studied the stars. The *Greek word for them is ‘magi’. They probably came from Persia. Christians often call them ‘kings’. God’s servant Isaiah wrote about this long before this time. He said that other nations and ‘kings’ would come to give honour to God’s light in Jerusalem (Isaiah 60:3). Psalm 72:10-11 describes ‘kings’ who bring their gifts to a great ruler. The idea of ‘kings’ probably comes from these verses.

Verse 2 We do not know what the ‘star’ was.

Verse 3 The *Romans allowed Herod to rule as Judea’s king. But he was very afraid that he would lose his power. Herod suspected that some men wanted to be the ruler instead of him. So he killed anyone whom he suspected. He even murdered three of his own sons. He thought that they were plotting against him. The great *Roman king Augustus said that it was not safe to be Herod’s son. He said that it was safer to be Herod’s pig.

The people in Jerusalem were worried. They knew that Herod would remove the child. And they knew how he might do it.

Verses 4-6 The ‘chief *priests’ were those who had been high *priest. The chief *priests came from a few special families. The men who taught the law were experts. They explained the *Old Testament. They reminded Herod of what God’s servant Micah wrote long ago (Micah 5:2). God had promised that the ruler would come from Bethlehem. They gave the right answer, but they did not go to Bethlehem. They did not go to see whether Micah’s words had come true or not.

Verses 7-8 Herod pretended that he wanted to show respect to the new king. Instead, Herod was making plans to kill him. He wanted to know when the wise men first saw the star. Then he would know how old the child was.

Verses 9-11 The wise men arrived in Bethlehem a long time after the birth of Jesus. The men who look after sheep had seen the ‘baby’ at the beginning. He was in a box where they usually put animal food (Luke 2:16). Matthew says that the wise men went into the house. They saw the ‘child’ with his mother. The wise men may have travelled for nearly two years to find this new king. People think that there were three wise men because there were three gifts. ‘Gold’ showed that Jesus was a king. ‘*Frankincense’ showed that Jesus was a *priest. The *priests offered it to God when they *worshipped him in the *Temple. Because of Jesus, people would be able to come near to God. People used to put ‘*myrrh’ on dead bodies. This gift showed that Jesus would die. He would rescue people from their *sin.

Verse 12 The wise men did not tell King Herod where Jesus was.

Joseph, Mary and Jesus escaped into Egypt 2:13-18

v13 When the wise men had left, a *messenger from the *Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. ‘Get up! Take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt’, he said to Joseph. ‘Stay there until I tell you to return. Herod is going to search for the child because Herod wants to kill him.’

v14 Then Joseph got up. During the night, he took the child and his mother to Egypt. v15 They stayed there until king Herod died. So the words that God had spoken by means of his servant came true:

          ‘I called my son out of Egypt’, he had said.

v16 Herod realised that the wise men had not obeyed him. So he became very angry. He sent his soldiers to kill all the boys in and round Bethlehem. He remembered when the wise men had first seen the star. So he told the soldiers to kill all the boys who were two years old or younger. v17 In this way the words came true that Jeremiah had spoken long before.

v18    ‘People hear a voice in Ramah.

          Someone is crying and is very sad.

          Rachel is crying for her children.

          She refuses to let anyone comfort her.

          Her children are dead.’ (Jeremiah 31:15).

Verses 13-14 Many *Jews had gone to Egypt in the centuries before Christ. Egypt was far away from Judea. They found that they could live there safely. So there were many groups of *Jews in the towns there. In the city called Alexandria, there were more than a million *Jews. So Joseph and Mary would not be among strangers. They would find *Jews with whom they could live and work.

Verse 15 God called Israel’s people his ‘son’ (Exodus 4:22). God’s servant Hosea had said that God greatly loved his ‘son’. He had helped Moses to bring his son, all Israel’s people, out of Egypt (Hosea 11:1). Jesus, God’s Son, had the same experience as the people of Israel. God had called him to return from Egypt.

Verses 16-17 Herod did not know which little boy was the new king. So he killed all those boys that could have been the king. But Jesus had escaped.

Verse 18 Rachel lived long ago. She was the wife of Jacob, who was also called Israel. Therefore, she was the mother of Israel’s people. God’s servant Jeremiah imagined that she was sitting by her grave near Bethlehem (Genesis 35:19). She was weeping for her children as their enemies took them away to *Babylon (Jeremiah 31:15). Now Rachel was weeping for the children in Bethlehem whom Herod had killed.

The family returned to Nazareth 2:19-23

v19 When Herod died, Joseph had a dream. The *Lord’s *messenger appeared to him in Egypt. v20 ‘Get up’, the *messenger said. ‘Take the child and his mother, and go back to the land called Israel. The people who were trying to kill the child are dead now.’

v21 So Joseph got up and took the child and his mother with him. He returned to the country called Israel. v22 But then, he heard that Archelaus was ruling Judea. Archelaus was Herod’s son, so Joseph was afraid to go there. In another dream, God had warned Joseph about this. So he went back to the land called Galilee instead. v23 He went to live in a town called Nazareth. So what God had said about Jesus long ago came true.

          ‘People will call him a Nazarene’, God’s servants had said.

Verses 19-22 After Herod died, the *Romans divided his land among three of his sons. One of his sons was called Archelaus, and he became Judea’s ruler. He was like his father. He was a very cruel man. But God warned Joseph in a dream, so that he did not go back to Judea.

Verse 23 Herod Antipas was Galilee’s ruler. He was a better ruler than his brother Archelaus. So Joseph returned to Nazareth, where he and Mary had come from first. The town was near the main roads for trade. One road came from Africa and Egypt. Another road went to countries in the east. The word ‘Nazarene’ means ‘someone who comes from Nazareth’.

Chapter 3

The work of John the *Baptist 3:1-12

v1 In those days, John the *Baptist appeared in Judea’s wild country. v2 He taught the people who came there. ‘You must turn away from doing bad things! Where God rules in heaven is near now’, he said to them. v3 God’s servant Isaiah spoke about John long ago.

          ‘A voice is calling out in the wild country’, he had said.

          ‘ “Prepare the way for the *Lord. Make straight paths for him”, the voice says.’

v4 John wore clothes that he had made from camel’s hair. He had a leather belt round him. He ate insects and wild honey that came from another kind of insect. v5 People who lived in Jerusalem and all the country round about went to him. They came from the valley of the river Jordan too. v6 They confessed what they had done wrong. So John *baptised them in the river Jordan.

v7 Many *Pharisees and *Sadducees were coming to the place where John was *baptising people. ‘You are like a family of poisonous snakes!’ John said to them. ‘I do not know who warned you to run away from God’s anger. v8 You must do right and fair things. That will show that you have turned from your *sins. v9 Do not think that you can say to yourselves with satisfaction, “Abraham was our *ancestor long ago.” I tell you this: God can make children for Abraham from these stones if he wants to. v10 The axe is already lying at the root of the tree. Men cut down every tree that does not produce good fruit. They throw such trees into the fire. v11 I *baptise you with water now. It shows that you have turned away from your *sins. But there is someone more powerful than I am. He is coming later. I am not even good enough to carry his shoes! He will *baptise you with the *Holy Spirit and with fire. v12 He is like a farmer at harvest time. His harvest fork is in his hand to shake out the grain. He will clear the straw from his *threshing floor. He will gather his wheat and he will store it. But he will burn the rest that is no good. Nobody will be able to put out that fire.’

Verse 1 ‘In those days’. Matthew does not tell us exactly when John began his work. But Luke tells us the names of all the rulers at that time (Luke 3:1-2). It was about 30 years after Jesus was born.

Judea’s wild country was the desert area on the west side of the Dead Sea. John may have stayed in the desert with the Essenes. They were a group of *Jews who lived a very strict life together. They lived at Qumran, which was by the Dead Sea. Nobody had given the people a message from God for about four hundred years. Then John suddenly arrived in the desert.

Verse 2 John said that people must turn from their *sins. They must prepare themselves for God to rule as he does in heaven. The *Jews greatly respected God and his name. They would not use God’s name. Instead, they used the word ‘heaven’. God rules in heaven. But now God wants to rule in a person’s life. It is not a political idea. People should obey Jesus the king. Then they can become citizens of where God rules.

Verse 3 John made Isaiah’s words (Isaiah 40:3) come true. All four *gospels agree with that. In those days, people had to repair a road before a king travelled on it. John was like someone who gave orders to the people. He described himself as ‘a voice that is calling out in the desert’ (John 1:23). He was telling people to prepare for the *Messiah.

Verse 4 John had made rough clothes from camel’s hair. They were like the clothes that God’s servant Elijah wore long ago (2 Kings 1:8). The *Jews believed that Elijah would return. Then he would announce that the *Messiah was coming (Malachi 4:5). John’s food was simple. He ate a kind of insect that flies. These insects can cause trouble for farmers. They are called ‘locusts’. The *Jewish law allows people to eat these insects (Leviticus 11:22-23).

Verses 5-6 Sometimes people who were not *Jews wanted to become *Jews. Then they asked for *baptism. They did not usually *baptise people who were *Jews already. But John *baptised *Jews in water. They had confessed their *sins and they wanted to obey God. Water cleans a person’s body. In a similar way, *baptism shows that a person is ‘clean’ from their *sins. They would then be ready to meet the *Messiah.

Verse 7 The *Pharisees were *Jews who wanted to obey God’s Law. There were many good *Pharisees. One was called Gamaliel (Acts 5:33-39). But there were also many proud *Pharisees. They believed that they were the only people who obeyed God’s law. But they destroyed what the law really meant. Through the years, the official writers (called ‘scribes’) had introduced hundreds of extra rules. The *Pharisees said that people must also obey all those extra rules.

The *Sadducees came from the families of *priests. They were wealthy. They wanted to keep their political power. So they opposed any *religious ideas that might make them lose their authority.

John called the *Pharisees and the *Sadducees ‘a family of poisonous snakes’. Later, Jesus used the same words about the *Pharisees (Matthew 12:34; 23:33). They were dangerous. They were like poisonous snakes. John said that they were like snakes that were trying to escape from a fire in a forest. He meant that God was angry with them. They were trying to escape from him.

Verses 8-9 A person’s actions show whether they have sincerely changed their way of life. The *Jews believed that Abraham’s actions were good enough for himself and for all his children and their families always. So *Jews thought that they were safe after they died. But John said that that was not enough. A person may have Abraham as his *ancestor but each person must change his own actions.

Verse 10 A farmer cuts down trees that do not produce good fruit. He throws them into the fire. God is like a farmer. He will punish those people who do not live in the right way.

Verse 11 John knew that he was preparing the way for someone. That person was much greater than he himself was, John said. Only a slave carried other people’s shoes. John said that he was not good enough to do even this humble task for the *Messiah. John *baptised people with water. This showed that people desired to be free from *sin. The *Messiah would give the *Holy Spirit. The *Jews had looked forward to the time when the Spirit would come. ‘It shall happen that I will pour out my Spirit on everyone’, God’s servant had said long ago (Joel 2:28). The Spirit teaches people how to live in the true way. The Spirit also gives people the power to live in the right way. Fire is very powerful. Fire can also destroy. Therefore, it is picture language for God’s judgement.

Verse 12 At harvest-time, people used a tool like a large fork to throw dry plants into the air. The grain fell to the ground, and the wind blew the rest away. The farmer stored the grain. Then he burned the part of the plant that he could not use. In this picture, John showed that the *Messiah would separate people. The people who believed him would be like the grain. They would be his people. But some people did not accept the *Messiah. They were like the part of the plant that the farmer burned. God would judge them.

The *Baptism of Jesus 3:13-17

v13 Jesus came from Galilee to the river Jordan. He wanted John to *baptise him. v14 But John tried to refuse. ‘I need you to *baptise me’, John said to Jesus. ‘So why do you come to me?’ v15 Jesus replied to him. ‘Let it be this way now’, Jesus said. ‘It is right for us to do this. It carries out God’s good plan.’ Then John agreed to *baptise Jesus. v16 Jesus went up out of the water as soon as John had *baptised him. At that moment, heaven opened, and Jesus saw God’s Spirit. The Spirit came down like a gentle bird on Jesus. v17 Then a voice from heaven spoke. ‘This is my son whom I love. I am very pleased with him’, the voice said.

Verse 13 Jesus was perfect. He had no *sins to confess. Jesus did not need John’s *baptism. But he was showing that John’s work was right. Jesus had come to rescue people from their *sins. He wanted to show people that he was a real person too. His *baptism also showed that he was going to begin his own public work.

Verses 14-15 Only Matthew’s *gospel records that John protested. Jesus was greater than John was. So John thought that Jesus ought to *baptise him.

Verse 16 This gentle bird was the sign of peace. It is called a ‘dove’. Jesus would bring peace between people and God. He would also bring peace between different people. The gentle bird was also a sign of a new start. It would remind Matthew’s readers about Genesis 8:8-11. The same kind of gentle bird came back to Noah after the flood. This bird was a sign that Jesus would do his work in a gentle way. It was also a sign of the *Holy Spirit. The Spirit gave Jesus the power to do God’s work.

Verse 17 The voice from heaven links words from Psalm 2:7 and Isaiah 42:1. Psalm 2 describes God’s ‘son’. He is the king, and all the rulers on earth must serve him. Bible teachers call Isaiah 42 one of the ‘Servant Songs’. God was very pleased with this special Servant and he would have God’s Spirit. This Servant would then be able to do God’s work. The last of the ‘Servant Songs’ was in Isaiah 53. It spoke about a Servant who would suffer and die for other people.

Chapter 4

The Devil tests Jesus 4:1-11

v1 The *Holy Spirit led Jesus into the desert. The devil tested Jesus while he was there. v2 For 40 days and 40 nights, Jesus had no food. He was very hungry. v3 Then the devil came to him. ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread’, he said to Jesus. v4 Then Jesus replied to him.

          ‘The *Scriptures say, “A man does not live only on bread.

          He needs every word that God speaks” ’, Jesus told him.

v5 Then the devil took Jesus to Jerusalem, which is the holy city. He took Jesus to stand on the highest point of the *Temple. v6 ‘If you are the Son of God, jump off’, the devil said to him.

          ‘The *Scriptures say, “The *Lord will order his *messengers to look after you.

          They will carry you in their hands.

          Then your foot will not hit against a stone” ’, the devil reminded him.

v7 Then Jesus answered him again.

‘The *Scriptures also say, “Do not test the *Lord your God.” ’

v8 Next, the devil took Jesus to a very high mountain. He showed Jesus everywhere in the world that kings rule. He showed Jesus that all of it was very splendid. v9 ‘I will give you all this if you will *bow down and *worship me’, the devil said to him. v10 Then Jesus replied to him again. ‘Go away, *Satan!’ he said.

          ‘The *Scriptures say, “*Worship the *Lord who is your God.

          He is the only person that you should serve.” ’,

Jesus told him.

v11 Then the devil left him. God’s *messengers came and took care of Jesus.

Verse 1 Jesus was God’s servant, the *Messiah. He had to decide how he should do his work. The desert was a lonely place where Jesus could pray about his work. The devil wanted Jesus to use his power in the wrong way. So the devil tested Jesus in three different ways.

Verses 2-4 Forty (40) days and nights is a long time to be hungry. Because Jesus was very hungry, he could have used his power for his own benefit. The hot, flat stones there in the desert looked like bread. He could have made those stones fit to eat. Jesus could have given people bread so that they would follow him. But that would have been a mistake. Food satisfies a hungry body. But it does not help people to have a relationship with God. Jesus used words from the Bible (Deuteronomy 8:3) to answer the devil rather than his own words.

Verses 5-7 The highest point of the *Temple in Jerusalem was about 450 feet (137 metres) above the Kidron valley. Jesus could jump into the Kidron valley or into the *Temple court. That would astonish people. Then they would follow him. The devil used the promise in Psalm 91:11-12 that spoke about God’s protection. But Jesus knew that a sign like this had no use. He might attract people at first. But people soon forget about the things that had once astonished them.

Jesus would not take foolish risks. He knew that this was wrong. He would not try to prove that God cared. It would show that he did not trust God. Instead, Jesus used words from Deuteronomy 6:16.

Verses 8-10 The devil took Jesus to a mountain, from where he had a wide view. He could think about all the countries in the world. He could compare them to where God rules. He could use force to become a political ruler. He could free his people from the *Roman rulers. But Jesus came to free people from their *sin. He refused to use the devil’s methods. Jesus would show the world’s people that he is their king. He would do that, as he loved them. He also suffered for them. He answered the devil with words from Deuteronomy 6:13. He emphasised that people must give honour only to God.

Verse 11 Jesus defeated the devil. Then God gave Jesus all that he needed.

Jesus moves to Capernaum 4:12-17

v12 Herod had put John in prison. When Jesus heard about this, he returned to Galilee district. v13 Jesus did not remain in Nazareth. He went to live in the town called Capernaum. This town was by Lake Galilee, in the Zebulun and Naphtali area. v14 So God’s promise came true. God’s servant Isaiah had told the people this promise long ago.

v15    ‘Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, lands along the road to the sea and west of the river Jordan!

          Galilee, land where people who are not *Jews live!

v16    The people who live in darkness have seen a great light.

          That light has begun to shine upon them.

          It is like the sun when it rises at dawn’, Isaiah had said.

v17 From that time, Jesus began to tell his message to the people. ‘Be sorry and turn away from your *sins. Heaven is near now. Heaven is where God rules.’

Verse 12 Matthew does not explain here why Herod put John in prison. Matthew tells the whole story in Matthew 14:3-12. He did so because Herodias wanted it. She had been the wife of Herod’s brother Philip. Then Herod Antipas married her. John had said that Herod should not have married her. The details of what happened are in Matthew 14:3-12. John had finished his work. He had prepared the way for the *Messiah. So Jesus could begin his own work now.

Galilee was a very rich area for crops. An enormous number of people lived there. Josephus lived at that time and wrote history books. He said that there were 204 villages. Each village had thousands of inhabitants. It was an area with many foreigners. There were foreign lands that surrounded Galilee too. So people called it ‘Galilee of the non-*Jews’. (People who are not *Jews are called ‘Gentiles’.) Main roads for trade went through Galilee. The people in Galilee were more willing than the people in Judea to believe new ideas. The people in Judea did not meet many foreigners. So people in Judea were less ready to change their opinions. Therefore, Galilee was an ideal area in which Jesus chose to work.

Verse 13 Matthew does not give details of Jesus’ visit to his own town of Nazareth. Luke tells us about that (Luke 4:14-30). Jesus went there after he had already worked for a while in Capernaum.

Verses 14-16 In Isaiah’s time, soldiers from Assyria attacked the region called Galilee. They caused the people in Galilee to suffer. Galilee was the area of the two *tribes, Zebulun and Naphtali. Isaiah’s message promised good things to the people in the future. It was like the sun as it rises after the dark night (Isaiah 9:1-2). Jesus came to Galilee. That proved that Isaiah’s message was true. In the darkness, people cannot see the right way to go. To do wrong is like being in the dark. Jesus came to Galilee like a light. He was like the sun that rises at dawn. He would show people the right way to live. Jesus later described himself as the ‘light of the world’ (John 9:5).

Verse 17 Jesus brought the same message that John had brought to the people. Jesus spoke with authority. He ordered people to turn from their *sins. God’s rule was about to begin. Jesus the king would invite people to choose God’s rule.

Jesus chooses the first *disciples 4:18-22

v18 Jesus was walking next to lake Galilee, one day. He saw two brothers there. There was Simon, who was also called Peter. And there was his brother, called Andrew. They were throwing a net into the water because they were working. Their work was to catch fish. v19 Jesus spoke to them. ‘Come and follow me. I will show you how to fish for people’, he said. v20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. v21 Jesus went on from there. Then he saw two other brothers. They were the sons of Zebedee. They were called James and John. They were in their boat with their father, Zebedee. They were getting their nets ready for use. Then Jesus called to them. v22 At once they left the boat and their father, and they followed Jesus.

Verses 18 and 21 Simon and Andrew, James and John had not met Jesus before. John tells us in his *gospel that they had been *disciples of John the *Baptist. (See John 1:35-42.) They had already talked to Jesus and they had probably listened to him several times. Now Jesus was telling them to leave their work and their families. They would not catch fish any more. He wanted ordinary people to follow him and to learn from him. He wanted them to help him in his work.

Verse 19 People who catch fish have special qualities. Their work prepared them to bring men and women to God. They needed patience. When people fish, it is sometimes difficult to get quick results. It is like that when people talk to other people about God, too. The person who fishes is like the person who talks to people about God. They both need to continue their efforts, even if there are difficulties. Men who fish every day need courage. They often sail their boats on dangerous seas. Some people will want to teach the truth. But they may meet other people who oppose them. And men and women do not always want to hear the truth. The teachers will tell people that they need to change. And this may make people angry.

Verses 20 and 22 The words ‘immediately’ and ‘at once’ tell us that there should be no delay. We should follow Jesus when he calls. The four men had to leave their businesses and their families. Jesus became the most important person in their lives.

Jesus heals sick people 4:23-25

v23 Jesus went all over Galilee district. He taught the *Jewish people in the houses where they met. And he explained the Good News to them. He urged them to choose God’s rule. He also healed people who were suffering from every kind of illness and disease. v24 News about him spread over the entire country called Syria. So people brought everyone who was ill or in pain to him. They were suffering from every kind of illness and disease. Some suffered from evil *spirits which possessed them. Other people suffered from ‘*epilepsy’, and other people could not move at all. Jesus healed them all. v25 So great crowds of people followed him. They came from all over Galilee district and from the Ten Towns district. They also came from Jerusalem city and the rest of Judea district. And they came from the land across the Jordan river.

Verses 23-25 The news that Jesus could heal people spread quickly. And people with all kinds of illness came long distances to get his help, even from foreign countries. Many other people came just to listen to him. They wanted to see him heal people. And they wanted to hear what he was teaching. *Epilepsy is a terrible illness. It suddenly causes people to shake a lot and fall down without control over themselves.

Chapter 5

Jesus teaches 5:1–7:29

Introduction

This is the first of the five main sections that report what Jesus taught in Matthew’s *gospel. Chapters 5–7 are where Jesus taught his *disciples. He explained how they should live. He probably gave his instructions on more than one occasion. Luke also writes about this, but it appears in different parts of his *gospel. In these chapters, Matthew has collected together the things that Jesus probably taught at different times. Jesus expected his *disciples to have the same character and qualities that he had. Matthew includes the things that Jesus taught about the *Law and about *worship. Jesus wanted his *disciples to know about these things. They should know what these things really mean. Jesus wanted people to know the truth about God. They need to trust God and to serve him. Then they will know that God looks after them.

v1 Jesus saw the crowds. So he went up a mountain and sat down there. His *disciples gathered together there with him. v2 Then Jesus began to teach them.

Verse 1 A teacher ‘sat down’ when he was giving his *disciples official instruction.

Verse 2 He ‘began to teach’. The *Greek phrase here means that the words will be serious and important. They also mean that Jesus taught them more than once. Although Jesus was speaking first of all to his *disciples, other people were there. And they heard his message at the same time. Matthew tells us in Matthew 7:28 that ‘the people were astonished at his teaching’.

What makes people really happy 5:3-12

The Latin word for ‘really happy’ is ‘beatus’. So people often call these words the ‘Beatitudes’. Latin is the language that people spoke in Rome. People talk about God ‘blessing’ us. God’s blessing makes us really happy. People usually think of life as ‘happy’ when it is without difficulty. But ‘happy’ here means joy that no difficult circumstances can take away. The beatitudes are not talking about future happiness. They describe the present joy that Jesus’ *disciples can know. ‘Nobody can take your joy from you’ (John 16:22).

v3      ‘How happy are those people who are poor in their spirits.

          They know that they must depend only on God.

          They belong to the *kingdom of heaven.

v4      How happy are those people who are very sad.

          God will comfort them.

v5      How happy are those people who are humble.

          The earth will belong to them,

          because they will receive what God has promised.

v6      How happy are those people who want to do the right things.

          Their greatest desire is to do what is right.

          God will satisfy them.

v7      How happy are those people who pity other people.

          God will pity them too.

v8      How happy are those people whose thoughts are pure.

          They will see God.

v9      How happy are those people who work for peace.

          God will call them his children.

v10    Some people suffer because they do what is right.

          How happy are those people.

          They belong in the *kingdom of heaven.

v11 How happy you can be when people insult you because of me. People may hurt you. They may tell all kinds of evil lies about you because you follow me. v12 But you can be happy and you can be very glad. I tell you that your reward in heaven will be very great. In the same way, people hurt God’s servants who lived long ago.’

Verse 3 The ‘poor in their spirits’ refers to people who know that they need God. They need him to forgive them. They need him to help them. They depend on God for all that they need. Then they can live in the right way. They will be able to live as citizens where God rules.

Verse 4 People may be very sad because relatives or friends have died. People may be very sad because they are very sorry about their own *sins. They may be very sad about all the people who suffer in the world. All of them will find comfort because God loves them. He will forgive them. God will help them to change unfair situations.

Verse 5 Some people are humble. They know that they need God to forgive them. They need God to teach them. Then they can obey him. They trust God rather than trust themselves. Jesus reminds people about God’s promise (Psalm 37:11).

Verse 6 A man who is starving is desperate for food. A man might be dying because he has no water. He is desperate for a drink. A *disciple should be desperate to be good. He is like a starving man or a *thirsty man. His greatest desire is to obey God completely. He is eager to do what God wants. And he wants to see other people obey God too. Then he will find joy because God satisfies him.

Verse 7 A person who pities other people will forgive other people. He or she will forgive even when the other people do not deserve it. We expect God to forgive us. So we must forgive other people. God really loves everyone in the world. He pitied people, so he sent Jesus into the world (John 3:16). Someone who pities people will also understand another person’s problems. They will be kind like the foreigner who helped a *Jew in Jesus’ story (Luke 10:29-37).

Verse 8 ‘Pure’ means clean and sincere. People may think that a person’s actions are good. But he may have acted so that other people would praise him. Or perhaps he wanted to be proud of himself. God told Samuel, ‘The *Lord looks deep inside a person’ (1 Samuel 16:7). There are people whose thoughts are ‘pure’. And they will be able to ‘see God’ because they understand more and more about God all the time. When they die, they will be able to ‘see God’ very clearly. This is impossible for us to imagine now.

Verse 9 God is the ‘God of peace’ (Philippians 4:9). People who ‘work for peace’ are like God. He wants people to be without trouble with him and with each other. People who are at peace with God will be without trouble inside themselves. Then they can work and struggle to establish right relationships between other people and between nations.

Verse 10 The first Christians often suffered because sometimes people ordered them to *worship a false god. Sometimes it happened at their work or during social times and they refused to *worship false gods. Then the authorities punished them. Family life is important. But sometimes the family suffers too when a Christian is loyal to Christ.

Verse 11 Jesus explained the last beatitude more. He spoke directly to the *disciples: ‘How happy you can be...’, he said. He warned them about how difficult it may be to remain loyal to him. After Jesus returned to heaven, people told many evil lies about the Christians.

            a) People changed the meaning of the words about the ‘body and blood of Christ’ (Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). They accused Christians of terrible things. They said that Christians *sacrificed children and ate them.

            b) Christians greeted each other with the kiss of peace (Romans 16:16). So people said that Christians had lives that were not moral.

People said many other bad things about Christians too.

Verse 12 In the past, people hated God’s special servants. When Christians suffered, they were like those special servants long ago. The world’s people hated Christ (John 15:18-20). So *disciples are like their Master too. They can be glad because they will be with him for ever.

Salt and Light 5:13-16

v13 ‘You are like salt among all the people who live on the earth. But suppose that salt loses its taste. It can never become real salt again. It is no longer good for anything. People will throw out salt without taste and walk over it.

v14 You are like light in the world. Everyone can see a city that people have built on a hill. v15 And nobody lights a lamp and then puts it under a bowl. Instead, they put a lamp up in a high place. Then it can give light to everyone in the house. v16 In the same way, let your light shine so that people can see it. They should see the good things that you do. Then they will praise your Father who is in heaven.’

Verse 13 Salt gives flavour to food so that it tastes better. So, like salt, Christians should make the world a happier place. Salt is a good thing to add to food. Then the food does not go bad. Christians should make it easier for other people to be good. They should live as God wants them to live. If they live in a pure way, then they can be an example to other people. In Jesus’ time, salt was not as pure as it is today. It could lose its pure flavour. Sometimes Christians may not show that they are happy. Or other people may make them behave badly. They may become less pure and honest. Then they are like salt that has lost its proper flavour. Such salt is no longer any use.

Verses 14-16 Jesus said that he was the light of the world (John 8:12). So his *disciples must be light in the world too. It would be foolish to hide a lamp under a bowl. A lamp gives light to the people in a dark house. A light also shows the right way to go. So Christians should allow people to see their right actions. Christians should obey God because they believe him. People need to see that. Then the Christians’ light can show people the right way to live. They can warn other people who might make bad decisions.

A city on a hill is easy to see. Jesus’ *disciples are like such a city. They cannot hide the way that they live. A Christian’s good actions should be so attractive that other people will praise God.

Jesus’ attitude to the *Law 5:17-20

v17 ‘Do not think that I have come to destroy the *Law. I have not come to destroy all that God’s servants wrote long ago. But I have come to show that it is completely true. v18 I am telling you the truth. Heaven and earth will disappear before the smallest letter disappears from the *Law. Even the smallest detail will not disappear from the *Law. Everything will happen exactly as the *Law says. v19 A person should obey every command in the *Law. Some people think that some commands are less important. So they do not obey such less important commands. They might teach other people not to obey such commands either. But those people will be the least important where God rules. You should practise all these commands in the *Law and teach them. Then you will be important in the *kingdom of heaven. v20 So I am telling you that you must do better than the *Pharisees. And you must do better than the men who teach the *Law. If you are not better people, you will certainly not enter the *kingdom of heaven.’

Verses 17-18 Jesus said that he had come to teach the *Law more clearly. He showed that God’s messages from long ago were completely true. He would show by six examples in verses 21-48 what he meant. The smallest letter that God’s servants had written was the *Hebrew jodh (some translations call it a ‘jot’). It is like a very small mark. The ‘smallest detail’ is a tiny line that a pen makes (some translations call it a ‘tittle’). It shows the difference between two letters. Jesus says that the *Law is very important. Even the very smallest detail is important and will not change.

Verse 19 Everything that is in the *Law is important. It is easy to keep some parts of the *Law and to neglect other parts.

Verse 20 The *Pharisees were proud of themselves because they obeyed the *Law. The men who taught the *Law had many extra rules. They used these rules to explain the *Law. The *Pharisees were willing to obey these extra rules as well. They appeared to be good. But Jesus knew that the *Pharisees were not sincere. Instead, they worried about small things. They blamed Jesus when he healed people on God’s holy day. They blamed people if they carried something on God’s holy day. Or even if they just wrote something on that day. Jesus obeyed the true meaning of the *Law. He showed what it really meant to respect God and other people. He showed how we can really live in God’s way.

The authority of Jesus 5:21-48

Each of the examples that Jesus gave in these verses begins with the same words. ‘You have heard what God told people long ago…’ Then Jesus reminds them of one of the commands, and continues: ‘But this is what I tell you...’

When Jesus finished teaching the people, Matthew tells us: ‘His words astonished the crowds because he taught like someone with authority. He did not speak like the men who taught the *Law’ (Matthew 7:28).

Long ago, God’s special servants used to tell the people what God told them. ‘This is what the *Lord says...’, they said. In Jesus’ time, the men who taught the *Law would not give their own opinion. They would only refer to what other people had said in the past. Jesus did not argue about what the *Law meant. He spoke with his own authority and said what the true meaning was. It is not surprising that his words astonished people.

Murder 5:21-26

v21 ‘You have heard what God told people long ago. “Do not murder. They will bring anyone who murders to the judge. Then the judge will decide what punishment to give to that person.” v22 But this is what I tell you. Do not be angry with your brother. They will bring anyone who is angry with his brother to the judge. Angry people may say that their brother is worth nothing. They must appear in front of the *Jewish leaders. And angry people may say ‘You fool!’ to a brother. Then they will be in danger from hell’s fire.

v23 Suppose that you are in the *Temple and you are offering your gift to God. Then you remember that your brother is angry with you. You have done something to hurt him. v24 So leave your gift there. First go and become friendly with your brother again. Then come back to the *Temple and offer your gift to God.

v25 Suppose that someone wants to accuse you in the court. Become a friend with him quickly while you are still going to the court. If you do not settle the trouble, he will hand you over to the judge. Then the judge will hand you over to the police officer, and he will put you into prison. v26 I tell you the truth. You will not get out of prison until you have paid the very last penny!’

Verses 21-22 Murder is wrong (Exodus 20:13). However, a person might feel angry, and he might become more and more angry. Then he is guilty as well. People sometimes used the word ‘Raca’ which meant that a person was stupid. He had little worth. The word ‘fool’ has the same meaning as in Psalm 14:1, ‘The fool has said that there is no God’. The man denied that God exists. Such a person wants to go on living a bad life. So the word ‘fool’ means someone with a bad moral character. Someone might accuse such a person because they were not behaving well. But that is putting yourself in God’s place as judge. ‘Gehenna’ was another name for Hinnom valley. It was just outside Jerusalem city, and the *Jews threw out their rubbish there. They burned fires there all the time. So it became the name for God’s punishment place. People usually translate it as ‘hell’. God will judge people by the way that they think. He will also judge them by the way that they speak. And he will judge them by the way that they behave. God will judge anger. He says that evil insults are like murder. ‘Anyone who hates his brother is murdering him’ (1 John 3:15).

Verses 23-24 A person should only offer something to God when they are friends with everyone else. A sincere relationship with God is only possible if people forgive each other.

Verses 25-26 Advice to settle trouble quickly is very practical. Otherwise, the situation gets worse. A quarrel between two people could become a quarrel between two families. The quarrel could last for many years and cause greater trouble. Also, Jesus probably meant that we do not know the future. We do not know when life will end. So people should settle quarrels quickly. We all have to stand in front of God, as he is the judge.

Marriage 5:27-30

v27 ‘You have heard what God told people long ago. “You must not have sex with another man’s wife.” v28 But this is what I tell you. Do not even have wrong thoughts when you look at a woman. A man may look at a woman and want her. Then he is already guilty in his thoughts. v29 Suppose that your right eye makes you *sin like this. Pull it out and throw it away. Your eye is only one part of your body. It is better if you lose that one eye. Do not cause them to throw your whole body into hell. v30 And suppose that your right hand makes you *sin with a woman. Cut it off and throw it away. It is better if you lose that part of your body. Do not let your whole body go into hell.’

Verses 27-28 Everyone knows someone else who is already married. If they have sex with that person, they are both guilty. This is called *adultery. The act is wrong and they have not obeyed the seventh *commandment (Exodus 20:14). Jesus said that the thought is wrong as well. The tenth *commandment says that a man must not want his neighbour’s wife (Exodus 20:17). The thought can lead to a wrong act, and more wrong acts may follow. King Herod Antipas began to desire Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. Then Herod and Herodias were guilty because they lived together. John the *Baptist told them that they were wrong. And this led to John’s murder (Matthew 14:3-12).

Verses 29-30 Jesus did not mean that people should actually remove their eyes or hands. He was using a picture. People want to do wrong things. So they should remove anything that causes these *sins. Many things in the world cause people to do something wrong. Some books and pictures may excite wrong thoughts and desires. People might choose to go on looking at these things. But they would not be obeying God’s commands. It might be painful to remove these things from their lives. But that would be better than to destroy their whole life now and after death.

Divorce 5:31-32

v31 ‘You have heard what the teachers say. “Suppose that a man divorces his wife. He must write out divorce papers and give them to her.” v32 But this is what I tell you. A man may divorce his wife only if she has not been loyal to him. Otherwise, he will cause her to be guilty if she marries again. And the man who marries her will be guilty too.’

Verse 31 Divorce was common among *Greeks and *Romans in the time of Jesus. It was easy for a man to divorce his wife. People often thought that sex outside marriage as normal. God had said, ‘I hate divorce’ (Malachi 2:16). The *Jewish law allowed divorce if the husband found something ‘indecent’ or bad in his wife (Deuteronomy 24:1).

Verse 32 There was a difference of opinion about the word ‘indecent’ used here. Shammai was an important *Jewish teacher. He taught that it meant to have sex outside marriage. That was the reason for divorce. Hillel, another important *Jewish teacher, made divorce much easier for a man. A husband could find many reasons for divorcing his wife. She could have put too much salt in his dinner. Maybe she talked too much. Jesus told the *Pharisees that the *Law allowed divorce (Matthew 19:8-9). But God had intended that marriage should last for life (Genesis 2:24).

Promises 5:33-37

v33 ‘You have heard what God said to the people long ago. “You must obey the promises that you have made to the *Lord. You must do what you promise God to do. Especially when you use his name as you promise something” (Numbers 30:2). v34 But this is what I tell you. Do not make promises like that at all. Heaven is God’s special seat. So do not use the name ‘heaven’ when you promise something. v35 The earth is where God rests his feet. So do not use the name ‘earth’ either. And do not use the name ‘Jerusalem’, because that is the city of the Great King. v36 Do not use the name of your own head when you promise something. You cannot make even one hair turn black or white. v37 Just say: “Yes” and mean: “Yes”. Say “No” and mean: “No”. Anything more than this comes from the devil.’

Verse 33 A serious promise in front of God is often called an ‘oath’. Someone may require a person to tell the truth. Or the person may want to do something special. Then he will call on God to act as a witness to his promise. However, God will punish someone who does not keep such a promise. People must keep promises that they make in front of him.

Verses 34-35 The *Jewish teachers said that there were differences between promises. A person could make a promise in front of God, or they could appeal to a different witness. If they did not appeal to God, it was not such a serious promise. A person might promise ‘by heaven’ or ‘by earth’ or ‘by Jerusalem’. But Jesus said that God hears all these promises. He is in heaven. Earth belongs to him and Jerusalem is his city.

Verse 36 A person’s hair will always keep growing. It will change to white, as he gets older. But he cannot change it just because he wants to. A man’s life belongs to God.

Verse 37. A man’s good character should show that he is telling the truth. He should not need to promise something in a special way. He should say what he means honestly. People sometimes have to make serious promises in a court. This is necessary because there are evil things in human nature. Sometimes people think that it is difficult to tell the truth.

Do not hurt people who hurt you 5:38-42

v38 ‘You have heard what God said to the people long ago. “A person should lose an eye for someone’s eye that he hurts. He should lose a tooth for someone’s tooth that he hurts.” v39 But I tell you this. Do not fight with a person who has done something bad to you. Suppose someone hits you on the right cheek. Turn your other cheek to him and let him hit that also. v40 Someone may want to accuse you in court because he wants your shirt. Let him have your coat as well. v41 Someone may force you to carry his load for one mile. Then go two miles with him. v42 Give to the person who asks you for something. Another person might want you to lend him something. So lend it to him.’

Verses 38-39 People usually want to hurt the people who hurt them. Before they made this law (Deuteronomy 19-21), an injury to one person often led to fights between families. These fights could continue for years. The *Law wanted a limit to this. Punishment should be equal to the injury. However, the *Law came to mean something different. Perhaps a guilty person has hurt someone. Then he will need to pay them money. A judge decided how much money the guilty person should pay. Jesus said that his *disciples should not want to hurt people like this. Someone might insult them. People might hit them on the cheek. But they must not reply in an evil way or hit back. Jesus’ enemies often insulted him, but he did not answer back.

Verse 40 The shirt was a man’s inner clothing. The coat was large. A person wore it over the shirt and also used it as his blanket. Therefore, nobody must keep a man’s coat after sunset (Exodus 22:26-27). Jesus said that a Christian should not fight for his legal rights. Christians ought to think in a responsible way. This should be more important to them than their rights. Paul blamed the Christians in Corinth because they took legal action against each other (1 Corinthians 6:1-8).

Verse 41 The *Romans controlled the *Jews’ country. And a *Roman soldier could make a *Jew serve him. He might make the *Jew guide him or carry his load for a mile. The *Romans made Simon from Cyrene carry Jesus’ *cross. Someone might demand something that is not fair. But Christians should act in a cheerful way. A Christian should not think about his right to do as he likes. He should think of ways in which he can help other people. He must serve beyond what anyone expects.

Verse 42 Christians must not encourage other people to become lazy or greedy. But they must still love people. There are many people who need things. So Christians should help them. Christians must not be selfish with their possessions. They must be generous to other people.

Christian love 5:43-48

v43 ‘You have heard what God said to people long ago. “Love your neighbour. Hate your enemy.” v44 But this is what I tell you. Love your enemies. Pray for those who hurt you. v45 Then you will be like your Father who is in heaven. He causes the sun to shine on wicked people and on good people in the same way. He sends rain on people who do the right things. And he also sends rain on people who do wrong things. v46 You may love people who love you. But God will not reward you for that. Even the men who collect taxes do that. v47 Suppose that you greet only your own people. Then you are doing no more than any other person does. Even people who do not believe God do the same. v48 So you must be perfect, because your Father in heaven is perfect.’

Verse 43 The *Old Testament *Law said that people should love their neighbours (Leviticus 19:18). There was no command to hate their enemies. But the *Jews believed that they must hate God’s enemies. That would mean that they could hate their own personal enemies. To most *Jews, ‘neighbour’ meant another *Jew only.

Verse 44 People love in different ways. There are several different *Greek words to show this. Parents love their children in a particular way. This is because they are part of a natural family. Friends love each other in a different way. But the word here is another word. This word describes how a Christian should act. He should want to be kind to other people. He may not like them. He may not want to love them. But he should still decide to love them. It may be difficult to do this. Jesus also said that Christians should pray for their enemies. God wants to help everyone and he wants to forgive everyone. Christians recognise that their enemies need God. And Christians know that God loves them too.

Verse 45 God’s gifts are for everyone. Both good and bad people receive God’s kindness. To be a true child of God means that a person will act like God the Father.

Verses 46-47 If Christians love only their friends, they are not acting like God. They would be no better than the men who collected taxes for the *Romans. (People hated those men.) They would be no better than other people who do not believe God.

Verse 48 These words are like those in Leviticus 19:2: ‘You must be *holy because I am *holy. I am the *Lord your God and I am *holy.’ We should want to be like God. We need to please him in every part of our lives. To be ‘perfect’ means to have the same character that God has. If we want to become like God our Father, we must forgive people. We must forgive our enemies too. As Christians, we must love everyone.

Chapter 6

The right way to give gifts 6:1-4

v1 ‘Be careful not to show how good you are in front of other people. Do not do your good works so that other people can see them. If you do this, you will not receive a reward. Your Father who is in heaven gives these rewards.

v2 You give things to poor people. But do not let everyone else know about it. Do not be like those people who only pretend to be *holy. They announce their good works in the houses where people meet and on the streets. They say what good things they will do. They just want other people to give them honour. What I say is true. They have received their complete reward. v3 You should give to people who need help. But do not let anyone know about it. v4 Then your gift will be a secret. But your Father sees what you do secretly. And he will reward you.’

Verse 1 Jesus’ *disciples must be careful how they act. They may want other people to praise them. But they must try to please God alone. Jesus then gives three examples of what he means:

            1. The right way to give, verses 2-4

            2. The right way to pray, verses 5-15

            3. The right way to act when you are not eating, verses 16-18.

Verse 2 The *Jews taught that to give to the poor was a special duty. It was a duty that people did for God. Jesus showed that his *disciples should continue in this way. But they must give secretly, and they must not be proud about it. He used an example of the wrong way to give. Some *Jews made their gift very noticeable. It was like making a loud noise to announce it. They wanted people to look at them. They wanted other people to praise them. But that would be the only reward that they would receive. Jesus used a word that came from business. If someone bought something, they received a receipt. Other people may praise you when you do something good. That is like a ‘receipt’ for the good action. There will be no reward from God.

Verse 3 When we give things to people or to God, it should be a secret from other people. Some translations say: ‘One hand should not know what the other hand is doing’. This is a way to use a picture to say that. We must not even want to praise ourselves. God knows how we think. And he knows how we act. So he will reward us properly. And on the day of judgement, God will praise us (1 Corinthians 4:5).

The right way to pray 6:5-15

v5 ‘When you pray, do not be like proud, selfish people. They love to stand up and pray loudly in the houses where people meet and on the street corners. They want other people to see them. What I tell you is the truth. They have received their complete reward already. v6 But when you pray, go into your room alone. Close the door. And pray to your Father in heaven, although you cannot see him. Your Father sees what you do in private. He will reward you. v7 When you pray, do not be like the people who do not believe God. They continue to say many things that have no meaning. They think that they must talk a lot. Then their gods will hear them. v8 Do not be like them. Your Father knows what you need. He knows even before you ask him.

v9 This is how you should pray:

“Our Father in heaven, we pray that people will respect your *holy name.

v10 We want your *kingdom to come. The things that you want happen in heaven. We want the things that you want here on earth. v11 Give us the food that we need each day.

v12 Forgive us for the wrong things that we do. Other people do wrong things to us. But we know that we also must forgive those wrong things.

v13 Do not test us with very difficult things. And save us from the devil.”

v14 Forgive people when they do wrong things to you. If you forgive them, your Father in heaven will also forgive you. v15 But if you do not forgive them, your Father will not forgive you.’

Verses 5-6 *Jews usually stood up when they prayed. They prayed three times in the day. A *Jew might choose to be in the house where people meet. Or he might choose to be in the street when it was time to pray. Then people would notice him. They were selfish, proud people, sometimes called ‘hypocrites’. Jesus said that such people were not really praying to God. The *Pharisee in the story in Luke 18:9-14, prayed ‘to himself’. We should each pray to God in a private place. God can see what we do in secret. He will reward us. Jesus did not mean that nobody should join in public meetings with other people. But he wanted people to be sincere whenever they pray. Christians must not pray so that other people will admire them.

Verses 7-8 People who did not believe God also prayed. They wanted their gods to listen to them. They often repeated the same word or phrase many times. They were like Baal’s special servants who shouted to Baal. ‘Baal, hear us’, they shouted, for half a day (1 Kings 18:26). (Baal was a false god.) Such people also said as many names of the god as possible. They hoped that the god would reply to one of those names. God knows what we need. We do not have to persuade him to answer us. It is possible for Christians to repeat prayers. But they should not repeat the words without really thinking about them. They need to really mean those words.

Verse 9 Matthew introduces the ‘*Lord’s prayer’ here. It is as an example of the right way to pray. Jesus told them this prayer in Luke’s *gospel too. He was replying to a request from the *disciples. They wanted to learn how to pray (Luke 11:1). This is both a prayer by itself and it is a model for other prayers. The prayer is for *disciples to use. God and how he rules are the most important parts of the prayer. So Jesus mentions them in the first three parts of the prayer. The next three parts are about people’s needs. They are for the present, the past and the future.

‘Our Father in heaven’. The *Greek word ‘Abba’ is a special word for ‘father’. A child would use it to his father. It reminds us that God loves his children. ‘In heaven’ shows that we respect God. He is *holy and his name is *holy. A father may not always know everything about his child. He may not always know the best thing that he should do for the child. He may not be able to help him. He may not have the resources. But God has all the wisdom and the power. He can combine perfect love with perfect discipline. ‘Our’ reminds us that we are only one part of God’s family. We should think about other people as well as think about ourselves. ‘We pray that people will respect your *holy name.’ This means more than just to say the word ‘God’ in the right way. We need to think about who he is. In *Hebrew, a ‘name’ meant the whole character of a person. ‘The name of the *Lord is a strong *tower.’ The *Lord’s people can be safe with him (Proverbs 18:10). The writer knew that God is love. He is also a powerful God in whom we can trust. *Disciples should help other people to understand God’s character. People can think strange things about God. *Disciples should be careful what they say.

Verse 10 We want more and more people to accept Jesus as their king. God’s rule on earth extends as people obey him. There are people who live in heaven. And they do what God wants. So we pray that more people on earth will want to obey God too. We want God to rule completely.

Verse 11 People depend on God who made them. He gives them food for their bodies. Long ago, God gave the *Israelites their food each day in the desert (Exodus chapter 16). So we ask God to give us food for each day. The *Israelites had to go out and collect their food. God expects us to work. Then we can obtain our food. We need both to pray and to work. Then God will provide what we need. The writer in Proverbs 30:8-9 asks only for his ‘daily bread’. Give ‘us’ reminds us that we must not be selfish. Some people may be hungry because other people are greedy. Jesus also called himself ‘the bread of life’ (John 6:33-35). Bread is food that makes a person strong. Jesus can give strength to our characters so that we do good things. Jesus also said that we need the ‘word’ of God (Matthew 4:4). Therefore, we should also pray that we will learn the truth in the Bible. Then God will give us strength for our minds and for our spirits.

Verse 12 Everyone needs God to forgive them. We fail to love God. We fail to love other people. Jesus has died. And that made it possible for God to forgive us. But we also need to forgive other people. Otherwise, God cannot forgive us. Verses 14–15 repeat this truth.

Verse 13 It is never necessary for someone to do something wrong. God does not act in this way (James 1:13). But he allows situations that test us. We must ask God to help us. Then we can avoid situations that would be a very difficult test for us. We need God to protect us. We must not allow the devil to win. The *Holy Spirit’s work is to guide us. Then we will live in the right way that God wants.

The right way to act when you are not eating 6:16-18

v16 ‘When you do not eat, do not look miserable like the proud and selfish people. They make their faces look very pale. They want to show people that they are not eating. What I am going to tell you is true. They have received their complete reward already. v17 But you may choose not to eat. So do your hair as usual, and wash your face. v18 Then other people will not know that you are not eating. Only your Father, whom you cannot see, will know. He sees what happens in secret. And he will reward you.’

Verse 16 When we do not eat by choice, we are ‘fasting’. In Jesus’ time there was only one time in the year when *Jews had to stop eating. It was on the day of *Atonement (Leviticus 16:31). Some *Jews chose to ‘fast’ at other times. It was a sign that a *Jew did not want to do wrong things. He wanted to turn away from evil things. Sometimes the whole nation decided to not eat. The people recognised that they had not obeyed God (1 Samuel 7:6). Many *Jews chose to ‘fast’ twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays. Some wanted other people to see how good they were. So they let themselves look untidy, miserable and pale. Jesus said that this way to ‘fast’ was wrong. Such people got their reward when other people noticed them.

Verse 17 It was clear to Jesus that people would choose not to eat sometimes. It can be a valuable way to prepare yourself. Then you can wait for God to show you his plan. Jesus chose not to eat when he was in the desert (Matthew 4:2). The Christians at Antioch ‘fasted’ and prayed. Then they sent Barnabas and Saul on their journey and God *blessed them (Acts 13:2-3).

Valuable things in heaven 6:19-24

v19 ‘Do not store valuable things for yourselves on earth. Insects and *rust can destroy them. Thieves can break in and steal those things. v20 But store valuable things for yourselves in heaven. Insects and *rust do not destroy things there. Thieves cannot break in and steal things there. v21 Your heart will always be where your valuable things are.

v22 The eye is like a lamp for the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. v23 But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If there is only darkness inside you, how very dark it will be for you!

v24 Nobody can serve two masters at the same time. He will hate one of them and love the other one. Or he will be loyal to one and he will dislike the other one. You cannot serve God and serve money at the same time.’

Verse 19 A wealthy man can lose his wealth on earth. Jesus describes three ways in which this can happen.

            1. Beautiful clothes were valuable in the east. But small insects can destroy the clothes’ beauty and value. The insects are called ‘moths’.

            2. *Rust destroys metal things.

            3. Thieves can break into a house. Then they can steal a person’s money.

Verses 20-21 ‘Valuable things’ are completely safe in heaven. Nothing can attack them there. They are still there after a person’s life on earth ends. A relationship with God is more valuable than any riches on earth. God’s rewards are waiting for us in heaven. The rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16-22) was sad. But he was not willing for God to be first in his life. So he lost the joy that he could have had. His thoughts were about ‘valuable things’ that could not last for ever. But he could have had ‘valuable things in heaven’.

Verses 22-23 The way that we see things makes a difference. It changes the way that we speak. It changes the way that we act. Someone with a ‘good’ eye and light inside them is generous. A ‘bad’ eye means that a person can not see clearly. Someone is dark inside them if they are greedy or selfish. They will be like a person who is in the dark. He cannot see other people clearly as those that he should love. John writes: ‘Someone may say that he is in the light. But if he hates his brother, he is still in the darkness’ (1 John 2:11).

Verse 24 It was impossible for a slave to serve more than one master at the time when Jesus lived. A slave had no free time, as he was the property of his owner. The owner could do what he liked with his slave. ‘Mammon’ is the Aramaic word for money. Aramaic was the language that Jesus’ family spoke. God wants us to serve him. He does not want us to serve money. It is impossible to do both. God expects us to be completely loyal to him. If money is more important to us, then ‘things’ become more important than people. The desire to serve God can disappear. Paul writes: ‘To love money is the start of all kinds of evil’ (1 Timothy 6:10).

Do not worry 6:25-34

v25 ‘I tell you, do not worry about your life. Do not worry about what you will eat or drink. Do not worry about your body and what you will wear. Life is worth more than food. There are more important things for the body than clothes. v26 Look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow crops or gather them. They do not store crops. But your Father who is in heaven feeds the birds. And you are worth much more than they are. v27 Nobody can increase his life even one hour by worrying about it.

v28 You must not worry about clothes either. Look at how the wild flowers grow. They do not work or make clothes. v29 But I tell you that not even Solomon, with all his splendid wealth, had clothes like theirs. v30 God dresses the wild grass. Because he can do this, he will dress you even better. The grass is here only for today. Tomorrow people will throw it into a fire. You believe so little about God!

v31 So do not worry and ask yourselves these questions: “Will we have anything to eat? Will we have anything to drink? Will we have anything to wear?” v32 People who do not believe God worry about all these things. But your Father is in heaven. And he knows that you need such things. v33 Let God rule your life. Do what he wants you to do. Then you will receive all these things as well. v34 Do not worry about tomorrow. It is time to worry about it when tomorrow comes. Each day has enough trouble of its own.’

Verse 25 Jesus had spoken about the danger of wealth and possessions. Here he is speaking to *disciples who have few possessions. They may be quite poor. Life is more than the basic necessities of food and clothes. God gave us life. So he will give us the things that are necessary for us to live.

Verse 26 The birds do not worry. They do not store food for the future. They do not work to grow their food. And they do not work to make their clothes. But God provides for them. And people are more valuable than birds.

Verse 27 Worry is no use. Nobody can increase the length of his life by worrying. Worry will probably make his life shorter rather than longer. This verse can also mean that nobody can make himself taller by worrying.

Verses 28-30 Wild flowers have more beauty than the rich clothes that king Solomon wore. These flowers last only a short time. Then they can become fuel for a fire. Someone can use them to heat an oven. A flower may soon die, but God still gives it great beauty. God does this for flowers, so he will look after people even more.

Verse 32 Someone who does not believe God worries about things. They do not know what God is like. They may believe in a jealous god who can act sometimes with kindness and at other times with hate. A Christian knows that the *Lord God himself is different. He is a Father who always acts with love. He provides everything that his children need.

Verse 33 If God rules our life, worry will disappear. We will be able to trust God for everything.

Verse 34 One day at a time is enough to think about. Each day produces problems and difficulties. To worry about the future is foolish in two ways:

1. It will make it more difficult to deal with today’s problems.

2. The things that we worry about may never happen.

Chapter 7

Do not be judges of other people 7:1-6

v1 ‘Do not be judges of other people. If you do, God will be your judge. v2 In the same way that you act as judge over other people, God will act as judge over you. You measure by rules when you are the judge of other people. God will measure you with those same rules. v3 You look at the very tiny bit of dust that is in your brother’s eye. But you do not pay attention to the large piece of wood in your own eye. v4 You say to your brother, ‘Let me take the little bit of dust out of your eye.’ You should not say this when there is a large piece of wood in your own eye. v5 You have two different standards! First, take the piece of wood out of your own eye. Then you can see clearly to remove the bit of dust from your brother’s eye.

v6 Do not give *holy things to *dogs. Do not throw your valuable things to pigs. If you do that, the pigs will walk all over them. Then those pigs may turn round and tear you to pieces.’

Verses 1-2 Jesus does not forbid us to have an opinion about other people. But we must not make a judgement and blame them. God alone is the perfect judge. He knows the reasons why people do things. It is very easy to blame other people. We do not know a person’s circumstances or thoughts in the way that God knows them.

Verses 3-5 The word ‘brother’ here does not mean a close relative. It means another person who believes in Jesus. He is part of the same ‘family’ of God’s people. A man with a heavy piece of wood in his eye cannot see at all. His offer to remove a tiny bit of dust from another person’s eye is stupid. This humorous picture would make people laugh. So they would remember it. It is wrong to talk about other people’s faults if we refuse to recognise our own faults. Our own faults may be much worse than the faults that we notice in other people.

Verse 6 Pigs will walk all over anything that people throw to them. They cannot see the difference between what is valuable and what is not valuable. Wild *dogs will bite anyone who feeds them. They do not care if the meat is part of a special gift to God. Jesus used the words ‘pigs’ and ‘*dogs’ here to refer to certain people. They do not recognise the value of things. They do not recognise the value of what we offer them. The ‘*holy things’ and ‘valuable things’ probably refer to Christ’s message. Jesus told his *disciples not to continue to teach people who would not listen (Matthew 10:13-16). This picture can also mean something else. Perhaps we should be careful about teaching God’s truth. There are people who are not ready to appreciate it.

Prayer 7:7-11

v7 ‘Continue to ask, and God will answer you. Go on searching, and you will find the answer. Go on knocking, and the door will open. v8 Everyone who asks God will receive something from him. He who searches will find the answer. And the door will open when someone knocks on it.

v9 Suppose your son asks you for bread. None of you would give him a stone. v10 Or suppose he asks you for a fish. None of you would give him a snake. v11 You may not be good people. But you know how to give good gifts to your children. Your Father who is in heaven is good. And he gives good gifts to all those people who ask him!’

Verses 7-8 Jesus teaches that Christians should continue to pray. They must believe that God will answer their prayers. We do not have to persuade God to answer us. He is our Father. He wants us to ask him for things. We depend on God if we continue to pray. And our relationship with God grows stronger.

Verses 9-10 Bread and fish were the usual food in Jesus’ time. Sometimes human fathers can behave badly. But they would not give their children something that was of no use or dangerous.

Verse 11 God is much more willing to give than human fathers. He always wants to give good gifts to his children. He knows about what we have asked him for. He knows whether it would be a ‘good’ gift. So he will answer in the way that is best for us.

The best rule of behaviour 7:12

v12 ‘Always do to other people what you want them to do to you. This is what the *Law and all God’s special servants teach.’

Verse 12 Jesus gave many examples of this rule. We can express it in a negative way too: ‘You must not do to other people what you would not like them to do to you.’ This is not really a *religious rule. The law of the country would punish someone who hurts another person. A man may never hurt another person in any way. But he might not be a good and helpful citizen. We would like other people to do what is best for us. Jesus showed what the Christian attitude should be. Christians should act with generous love towards other people. The *Law and what God’s special servants wrote were the two main parts of the *Jewish Bible. (These special servants were called ‘prophets’.) In these two books, God gave rules to the people. They should always have the right attitude to other people (Deuteronomy 15:1-9; Isaiah 1:17). Jesus’ rule of behaviour here puts the *Old Testament rules all together in one brief statement.

The *Old Testament often speaks about the choice between two ways. Moses said that the *Israelites had to choose between life and death (Deuteronomy 30:19). Jeremiah told the people that the *Lord had shown them two ways to go: ‘the way of life and the way of death’ (Jeremiah 21:8). Psalm 1 shows that there is a difference between people. There is the person who obeys God. And there is the person who is wicked. Matthew 7:13-27 shows that people have a choice:

There are two ways that they can go.

There are two fruits that they can choose.

And there are two types of house that they can build.

The two ways 7:13-14

v13 ‘You should enter through the narrow gate. There is also a wide gate to a road that is broad. But it leads to ruin. But many people go in that way. v14 There is a small gate to a narrow road. This narrow road leads to life, but it is difficult. And only a few people find it.’

Verse 13 Many people like to choose their own way of life rather than to follow Jesus. But that easy road does not lead to true life.

Verse 14 Things may be difficult if we decide to follow Jesus. There are many people who oppose his *disciples. It will not be easy to obey Jesus. Matthew recorded some of what Jesus taught people (Matthew chapters 5-7). But the few people who choose this narrow road become his *disciples. And they will obtain *eternal life.

The two fruits 7:15-23

v15 ‘Watch out for false people. They say that they are God’s special servants. They come to you and they look like sheep. But really, they are like fierce animals that attack. v16 You will recognise these people by what they do. *Grapes do not come from sharp bushes. Neither do *figs come from sharp weeds. In the same way, good things do not come from bad people. v17 In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit. But a bad tree produces bad fruit. v18 A healthy tree cannot produce bad fruit. And a bad tree cannot produce healthy fruit. v19 Men cut down any tree that does not produce good fruit. They throw it into the fire. v20 You can recognise each tree by its fruit. In the same way, you can recognise these false people by what they do. v21 Not everyone who says to me, “*Lord, *Lord”, will enter God’s *kingdom. My Father is in heaven. And only the people who obey him will enter there. v22 Many will speak to me on that day. “*Lord, *Lord”, they will say, “you know that we spoke messages from God in your name. You know that we drove out evil *spirits in your name. You know that we did many wonderful things in your name!” v23 Then I will reply clearly. “I never knew you. Get away from me. You do only evil things!’’ I will say to them.’

Verses 15-20 In the *Old Testament, God’s special servants were true to him. Also, there were those people who were false and not true to him. Jeremiah said that the true ones told people to turn away from their *sins. The false ones pretended to say good things from God. They would say that they had a message from God. But then they encouraged people to do wrong things. The people continued to do wrong things, and the false teachers did not obey God’s laws themselves (Jeremiah 23:16-22). People recognise a tree by the fruit that it produces. In the same way, God’s good servants live a good life. The false ones show that they are false. They show it by their bad life.

Verses 21-23 Just to say “*Lord, *Lord” is not enough. Unless the speaker obeys God, the words mean nothing. God’s false servants performed wonderful things in the name of Jesus. Even this was possible. But God knew what they were really like. An early Christian book of rules was called the Didache. It told how to tell the difference between good and bad people. It showed who were really God’s special servants. A person who asked for money for himself was not true to God. He would be lazy and he would not want to work. He would expect other Christians to look after him for more than a few days. If a person is teaching the truth, he will show it. He will do the right things. Jesus showed that he had the authority to judge people. And he will deny that he ever knew false people. They are people who act without a sincere desire to please God. Jesus used words from Psalm 6:8: ‘Go away from me, all you who do evil’. To send someone away like that was a most serious punishment.

The two houses 7:24-27

v24 ‘Some people will hear my words and they will obey them. They are like a wise man who built his house on rock. v25 The rain poured down, and the rivers flooded. The winds blew strongly and they beat against that house. But the house did not fall because it was on the rock. v26 Other people will hear my words, but they will not obey them. They are like a foolish man who built his house on sand. v27 The rain poured down, and the rivers flooded. The winds blew strongly and beat against that house. Then it fell with a great crash.’

It is easy to build a house on the sand by a river. But a wise man makes sure that he builds his house in a strong place. When the rain comes, the river becomes a flood. That rush of water and the strong winds would destroy a house if someone built it on sand. A foolish man does not obey Jesus’ words. So he will not continue to believe Jesus when trouble comes. All kinds of problems are like storms that attack us. A person needs to obey Jesus’ words in order to stand strong in such problems.

The end of Jesus’ teaching on the mount 7:28-29

v28 Jesus finished saying all these things, and his words astonished the crowds. v29 He taught like someone with real authority. He did not speak like the men who taught the *Law.

Each section of teaching in Matthew’s *gospel ends with words like these. Jesus spoke with real authority. So the crowds said that he was surprising or astonishing. The men who taught the *Law usually referred to what other teachers had said. However, Jesus declared, ‘I say to you’.

Chapter 8

*Miracles when Jesus healed people 8:1–9:38

Matthew showed Jesus’ authority by what he taught in chapters 5-7. Now Matthew shows Jesus’ authority by his actions. There are nine incidents. We can divide these *miracles into three sets of three with some teaching in between.

The first set of three is:

            1. Jesus heals the man who had very bad skin disease 8:1-4

            2. Jesus heals the *Roman officer’s servant 8:5-13

            3. Jesus heals at the town called Capernaum 8:14-17.

The next set of three is:

            1. The storm on the lake 8:23-27

            2. The men with evil *spirits in Gadara 8:28-34

            3. The man who could not walk 9:1-8.

The next set of three is:

            1. Jesus raised a girl to life and he healed a woman 9:18-26

            2. He caused two blind men to see 9:27-31

            3. He healed a man who could not talk 9:32-34.

1. The man who had a very bad skin disease 8:1-4

v1 When Jesus came down from the mountain, large crowds followed him. v2 A man who had a very bad skin disease came to him then. He got down on his knees in front of Jesus. ‘*Lord, if you want to, you can make me clean’, he said.

v3 Then Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I do want to’, Jesus said. ‘Be clean!’ Immediately the disease left the man. v4 Then Jesus spoke to him again. ‘Make sure that you do not tell anyone. But go and show yourself to the *priest. There you must offer a gift to God exactly as Moses ordered. This will show people that you are better now. So you are able to come back into society.’

Verse 1 The word ‘leprosy’ appears in many Bibles and it can mean various skin diseases. It also means Hansen’s disease, which is the disease that we know as ‘leprosy’ nowadays. Anyone with ‘leprosy’ had to stay away from other people. These people with leprosy had to warn people by shouting ‘I am not clean!’ So the sick person suffered both from the disease and from the fact that people avoided him or her.

Verse 2 The man believed that Jesus could heal him. But he was not sure that Jesus wanted to heal him. He was humble in the way that he approached Jesus. He behaved as if he was *worshipping Jesus. He was humble as he requested help.

Verse 3 The *Law said that a person with ‘leprosy’ must not come closer than 6 feet (2 metres) to another person. They were ‘not clean’ so they might make the other person ‘not clean’ too. But Jesus is very kind. So he touched the man who had this bad skin disease. Then he caused the disease to leave the man.

Verse 4 Jesus ordered the man not to spread this news. Nobody should know that Jesus had healed him. The *Jews were already looking for someone to be their leader. They wanted to fight against the *Romans, who ruled them. The crowds wanted to make Jesus their king when they heard about these *miracles. Jesus had to prevent them. Jesus also ordered the man to go to the *priest. The *priest also acted as a medical officer at that time. He would examine the person who had been ill. Then that person had to offer certain gifts to God (Leviticus 14:1-32). The *priest needed to be sure that the patient was clean. Then that person could return to society. Jesus wanted to show that he respected the *Law. That is why he told the man to do this.

2. The *Roman officer’s servant 8:5-13

v5 When Jesus entered the town called Capernaum, a *Roman officer came to him. He asked Jesus to help him. v6 ‘*Lord’, he said, ‘my slave is lying at home. He cannot move. And he is really suffering.’

v7 ‘I will go and heal him’, Jesus told the man.

v8 ‘*Lord, it is an honour that you come into my house. I do not deserve it’, the officer replied. ‘But if you just say the word, I know that my servant will recover. v9 There are other officers who give orders to me. And I give orders to my soldiers. I tell this one to go, and he goes. I tell that one to come, and he comes. I say to my servant, “Do this” and he does it.’

v10 The officer’s words astonished Jesus. So he spoke to the people who were following him. ‘I am telling you the truth’, he said. ‘I have not found anyone in Israel who believes me like this man! v11 Many people will come from the east and from the west. They will take their places at the special meal in heaven. They will sit with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. v12 But God will throw out many people from their families. They must stay outside in the darkness. There they will weep and rub their teeth together.’ v13 Then Jesus spoke to the *Roman officer, ‘Go home! It will happen exactly as you believed that it would.’ And his slave recovered at that same hour.

Verses 5-7 This *Roman officer was a ‘centurion’. That means that he commanded a hundred soldiers. He was not a *Jew. He was in the *Roman army or the army of Herod Antipas. In Luke’s account, the *Jewish leaders asked Jesus to help this officer. Matthew records that the officer came for help himself. It was unusual for someone to care about his slave. Most people did not care if their slaves suffered. They owned the slaves, so they thought about them as ‘things’ rather than as people. And the slaves had no rights. Their master could easily get another slave if one died. But this officer cared about his slave. He did not want to see the slave suffer.

Verse 8. This man was an important army officer, but he was humble. He said that he was not good enough to have Jesus in his house. He may also have thought that Jesus would not want to enter his home. *Jews did not want to be with people who were not *Jews. They did not like to enter foreigners’ homes. They thought that it would make them not ‘clean’ for their religion.

Verse 9 It was usual for the officer to receive orders and to give orders. Superior officers had the authority to give orders to him. Also, he knew that his slave and his soldiers would obey him. He was able to order them to do things because someone had authority over him. He showed that he believed Jesus. He just wanted Jesus to use his power and to give an order. That order would heal the slave, because Jesus had God’s authority.

Verse 10 Jesus was astonished that this foreigner should believe him more than God’s own people, the *Jews.

Verses 11-12 The *Jews believed many things about the future. They believed that, when the *Messiah came, there would be a very special party. They would enjoy the special meal with those who began their nation - Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They never thought that any foreigners would be there. Jesus said that many other people would come to share this special meal. The ‘wise men from the east’ (also called ‘magi’) had already come to *worship him (Matthew 2:1-12). Many other people who were not *Jews would believe later. Jesus’ *disciples would go ‘to many places all over the world’ to tell people his message (Matthew 28:18-20). Many *Jews, who should have been in God’s house, will lose their place at the special meal. Although they belong to the families of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, they will be out in the darkness, To trust in being a member of the ‘nation that God chose’ is not enough. People can only enter where God rules when they believe Jesus.

Verse 13 Jesus was a long way from the slave when he healed him. The *Roman officer believed that Jesus could give such an order. So Jesus did it that way.

3. Jesus healed people at Capernaum 8:14-17

v14 Then Jesus came into Peter’s house. He saw Peter’s wife’s mother there. She was lying in bed because she was ill and very hot. v15 Jesus touched her hand and the illness left her. So she got up and began to get a meal for Jesus. v16 When evening came, people brought many sick people to Jesus. Evil *spirits controlled some of those sick people. But when Jesus spoke to them, the evil *spirits left them. He healed all the other people who were ill too. v17 Long ago God spoke through his special servant called Isaiah. Jesus now showed that Isaiah’s words were true:

          ‘He took away our weaknesses and carried our diseases.’

Verses 14-15 Peter’s home was in the town called Capernaum. Jesus may have used Peter’s house as his own home. Jesus healed Peter’s wife’s mother at once. Usually people feel weak after they have been ill like that. But she immediately got up and served a meal to Jesus.

Verse 16 We know that it was God’s rest day. Mark and Luke wrote that they left the synagogue that day (Mark 1:29; Luke 4:38). The synagogue was a building where *Jews gathered to pray. Nobody could go for a walk until the evening, when that special day ended. They could not travel very far. Also, they could not carry a sick person.

Verse 17 Matthew added the words from Isaiah’s poem about a servant (Isaiah 53:4). Jesus made these words come true. All his life, he sympathised with those who suffered. He healed those who were ill.

Other people wanted to go with Jesus 8:18-22

v18 Jesus saw the crowd that was round him. So he ordered his *disciples to cross the lake to the other side. v19 Just then a man who taught the *Law came to him. ‘Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go’, he said.

v20 Jesus replied to him. ‘Foxes have holes and birds have nests. But the Son of Man has no place to lie down and rest.’

v21 And another man, who was one of his *disciples, spoke to Jesus. ‘*Lord, first let me wait until I bury my father’, he said.

v22 But Jesus told him this. ‘Follow me. Let dead people bury their own dead people.’

Verses 19-20 Jesus attracted a man who taught the *Law. This man recognised that Jesus was teaching differently from himself and other teachers. Jesus was honest. He never taught that it was easy to be his *disciple. He wanted the man to think about the kind of life that he would have with Jesus. Jesus did use Peter’s home in Capernaum. Also, there were women who helped him. They provided many things that he needed (Luke 8:2-3). But it was true that he did not have his own home. Even animals and birds have their own place to live. But Jesus did not have such security.

Jesus used the words ‘Son of Man’ to describe himself. It is like the name ‘*Messiah’. This idea comes from the book of Daniel (Daniel 7:13-14). Someone who was ‘like a son of man’ came to God. He ‘received power and honour and he became a king’.

Verses 21-22 This man was already a *disciple, but he did not want to be completely loyal to Jesus. It was the duty of a son to bury his father. But this man’s father was probably still alive, so his funeral would not be soon. The man wanted to follow Jesus, but he wanted to postpone it too. He wanted to wait until his father had died. That might still be years later. Jesus knew that the man just wanted to delay. Jesus’ answer was, ‘Follow me’. It showed that a *disciple must make Jesus most important, even more important than family relationships.

‘Let the dead bury their own dead’ may mean that someone would be sure to bury the man’s father. Or it may refer to people who did not follow Jesus. They were the people who were *spiritually dead. The people who did not follow Jesus could carry out the funeral ceremonies.

In the second set of three *miracles, Matthew shows the power of Jesus over nature, over evil *spirits and over *sin.

1. The storm on the lake 8:23-27

v23 Then Jesus got into the boat and his *disciples went with him. v24 Suddenly a terrible storm came up on the lake. It was so terrible that the waves went right over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. v25 The *disciples went to him and woke him up. ‘*Lord, save us! We are going to drown!’ they said.

v26 ‘You hardly believe me at all! There is no reason for you to be so afraid.’ Jesus replied. Then he stood up in the boat. He ordered the wind and the waves to stop. And it became completely calm.

v27 They were all astonished. ‘What kind of man is this?’ they asked each other. ‘Even the wind and the waves obey him!’

Verse 23 The true *disciples went wherever Jesus went.

Verse 24 The lake is below the level of the sea and hills surround it. So storms can come up without warning. Matthew calls this storm a ‘seismos’, which means that the earth shook. So he is suggesting that there was unusual movement below the lake. This was as well as the sudden strong wind. The waves were so high that they were going right over the boat. But Jesus was very tired and he was asleep. Mark’s record (Mark 4:1, 35-36) shows that Jesus had been teaching from the boat.

Verse 26 It is possible for a wind to become less strong very quickly. But waves usually continue to be rough for some time. Jesus’ order showed his authority over nature.

Verse 27 These were the men who followed him. They called him ‘*Lord’. They probably thought about the Psalms, where God makes the waters calm (Psalm 89:9; 107:29).

Christians often remember this account when they meet ‘storms’ (problems) in life. They remind themselves not to be afraid. The problems may be sudden illness or danger. Perhaps something that is not good attracts them. Or there may be other problems. When Jesus is with us, there can be calm in our lives.

2. The men with evil *spirits in Gadara 8:28-34

v28 Jesus arrived at the other side of the lake, in the region where the Gadara people lived. Two men met him there, but evil *spirits controlled them. These men came from the caves where people buried the dead. They were so wild that nobody could travel along that road. v29 ‘You are God’s Son, so what do you want with us?’ they shouted. ‘Have you come to punish us before the time when God judges us?’

v30 Not far from them, a large group of pigs were eating. v31 The evil *spirits urged Jesus. ‘Send us into that group of pigs if you want to force us out!’

v32 Then Jesus replied to them. ‘Go!’ he said.

So they came out of the men and went into the pigs. The whole group of pigs rushed down the steep slope into the lake and they drowned in the water. v33 The people who looked after the pigs ran off into the town. They reported all this to everybody there. They included what had happened to the men with the evil *spirits. v34 Then everybody went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they appealed to him to leave their region.

Verse 28 Some Bibles say Gergesenes, or Gerasenes, which means ‘Gergasa people’ or ‘Gerasa people’. The right word is probably ‘Gadarenes’.

Mark gives many details about this event that Matthew leaves out. But Matthew writes about evil *spirits that possessed two men. Mark mentions only one man. The caves where they buried dead people were in the rocks. (The caves were also called ‘tombs’.) Men could find shelter there. People believed that evil *spirits lived among these ‘tombs’. The men were so wild and strong that other people were afraid to come near them.

Verse 29 But Jesus was not afraid. It was the evil *spirits who were afraid of him. They called Jesus ‘Son of God’. They knew that God would judge them one day. They knew that God would punish them then. These evil *spirits were afraid that Jesus would punish them immediately.

Verses 30-32 The pigs’ death convinced the men that the evil *spirits had gone for ever. People who tried to drive evil *spirits out of other people in those days used all kinds of special words and ceremonies. Jesus gave only a brief command and the evil *spirits obeyed him. People sometimes blame Jesus for the pigs’ death, but a human being is much more valuable than an animal.

Verse 34. The people from Gadara wanted Jesus to leave. They were afraid of someone with such great power. Jesus never forced people to listen to him. So he left that region.

Chapter 9

3. The man who could not walk 9:1-8

v1 Then Jesus stepped into a boat. He went back across the lake and arrived at his own town. v2 Some men brought a sick man to him. The man could not walk and he was lying on a mat. Jesus saw that these men believed him. So he spoke to the man who could not walk. ‘Cheer up, son’, he said to him. ‘God has forgiven your *sins.’

v3 Some men who taught the *Law were angry. ‘This person must think that he is God!’ they said to themselves.

v4 Jesus knew what they were thinking. So he spoke to them. ‘You should not have such evil thoughts in your minds. v5 Is it easier to say “God has forgiven your *sins?” Or is it easier to say “Stand up and walk”? v6 I want you to know that the Son of Man really has authority on earth to forgive *sins.’ Then he said to the man who could not walk, ‘Stand up. Take your mat and go home.’ v7 The man stood up and went home. v8 When the crowd saw this, they were afraid. They felt great respect for Jesus. So they praised God because he had given such authority to men.

Mark and Luke also record this *miracle (Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26). They give much more information, but Matthew has included the essential facts. He showed that the incident was very important.

Verse 1 We know that Jesus returned to Capernaum (Mark 2:1). Matthew also tells us that Jesus lived there (Matthew 4:13). This town was the main place where he taught. So it was his ‘own town’.

Verses 3-4 Jesus told the man that he had forgiven his *sins. But the teachers of God’s law thought that Jesus was insulting God. The teachers believed correctly that only God can forgive *sins. But Jesus was God’s Son. Therefore, he had the authority to forgive *sins. He had shown his authority over the wind and the waves already (Matthew 8:27).

Verses 5-8 Jesus could easily say that God had forgiven the man. But that was difficult to prove. The *Jews believed that the man was ill as the result of his *sin. So, Jesus showed his authority and healed the man. And that was how he proved that God had forgiven the man.

Jesus called himself ‘Son of Man’ again. (See Matthew 8:20.) He had many different names.

Jesus calls Matthew 9:9-13

v9 As Jesus continued on his journey, he saw a man called Matthew. Matthew was sitting in the office where he collected taxes. ‘Follow me’, Jesus told him. So Matthew stood up and followed him.

v10 Later Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house. Many other men who collected taxes were there. And many people who did not obey the law came too. They all ate with Jesus and with his *disciples. v11 The *Pharisees saw this, so they spoke to the *disciples. ‘Why does your teacher eat with people who collect taxes? And why does he eat with people who *sin?’ they asked. v12 Jesus heard this and he replied to them. ‘The people who are healthy do not need a doctor. Those who are ill do need a doctor’, he said. v13 ‘ “I want you to pity people. I do not just want you to give presents to me”, God said long ago. Go and learn what God meant. I have not come to call people who are good already. I have come to call bad people to follow me.’

Verse 9 Mark and Luke give Matthew’s other name, Levi (Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27). Only Matthew calls himself ‘Matthew’. Mark and Luke both have a list of the 12 *disciples. Matthew’s name is in these lists. But only Matthew calls himself: ‘Matthew, the man who collected taxes’. Matthew was probably collecting taxes on goods that people were importing. Or perhaps they were exporting the goods into Herod Antipas’ territory. Men who collected taxes were able to cheat other people. So they became rich. People hated them because they worked for the foreign authorities (the *Romans). Matthew may have heard about Jesus before this. He may even have listened to Jesus when he publicly talked to the people in Capernaum. Proud people who obeyed the law thought that they were ‘good’ people. And they refused to respect some people in their society. But Matthew knew that Jesus was everybody’s friend. So when Jesus called Matthew, he gave up his job immediately. And he followed Jesus.

Verses 10-11 Matthew invited his friends to meet Jesus. He invited them to have a meal with him. The *Pharisees saw them all there together. They would not eat with people like that. They believed that it was wrong. The *Pharisees said that people like Matthew’s friends did not obey God’s laws. But the *Pharisees also meant all the extra rules that the teachers had added through the years. The teachers had invented those extra rules. The *Pharisees did not come into Matthew’s house to ask their question. But Jesus heard them and he answered them publicly.

Verse 12 Sick people need a doctor. Jesus meant that bad people need help.

Verse 13 Jesus reminded them about a verse from the book of Hosea (Hosea 6:6). God wants people to love each other and to be kind to each other. God wants more than presents from people. These ‘presents’ were usually special animals that people brought to the *Temple. These presents were called ‘sacrifices’. The officials killed them and offered them to God. Sometimes people brought these presents because they were really sorry about their *sins. Sometimes they just wanted to pay God so that he would forgive them. True religion is not just about ceremonies. It is the right kind of life when people care about other people. Jesus said that he had come into the world to rescue people who needed his help (Matthew 18:11). Some people thought that they did not need God. Such people thought that God approved of them. The *Pharisees were like that and they did not recognise their own *sins. They were proud and they only saw faults in other people. So Jesus could not help them.

A question about not eating 9:14-17

v14 Then John’s *disciples came and spoke to Jesus, ‘Sometimes we do not eat because we want to obey the rules. Sometimes the *Pharisees do not eat. Why do your *disciples continue to eat every day?’ v15 Then Jesus answered them. ‘The bridegroom’s guests cannot be sad while he is still with them. The time will come when people will take the bridegroom away from them. Then they will be sad and they will stop eating.

v16 People do not sew a piece of new cloth on old clothes. When they wash the cloth, the new piece will pull away from the old cloth. That will make the hole much worse. v17 People do not pour new wine into old leather bottles. If they do, the leather bottles will burst. Then the wine will run out and the leather bottles will be of no use. No, people pour new wine into new leather bottles. Then both will be safe.’

Verse 14 Jesus had spoken about the right way to stop eating (Matthew 6:6-18). When people stop eating for a special purpose, this is also called a ‘fast’. Luke suggests that the *Pharisees also asked the question (Luke 5:32). They wanted another reason so that they could blame Jesus.

Verses 15-17 When Jesus replied, he gave three short *parables:

            1. The guests at a wedding are happy so they eat a lot. Jesus was like a bridegroom. John the *Baptist had described Jesus as the bridegroom (John 3:29). The *disciples were like the friends of the bridegroom, and Jesus was still with them. So they should be happy like guests at a wedding. Jesus knew that people would take him away to die soon. The *disciples would be sad, so then they would stop eating. That would show how sad they were.

            2. You cannot use a new strong piece of cloth to mend a hole in old clothes. Jesus came to offer something that was completely new. It was like new clothes to replace the old clothes completely. Jesus came to offer a new relationship with God, not just a set of *religious practices.

            3. People stored wine in leather bottles made from animal skins. Old skins, that had contained wine before, became hard. New wine, as it continues to mature, pushes against the old, hard skin. So the skin bursts and the wine spills out. Jesus offered a new way of life, like new wine. The *Pharisees’ way of life was like a hard, old leather bottle. It could not contain what Jesus taught. The *Pharisees emphasised rules, but Jesus emphasised love.

The third set of *miracles shows that Jesus has authority over death:

            1. He raised a girl to life and he healed a woman 9:18-26

            2. He made two blind men able to see 9:27-31

            3. He healed a man who could not talk 9:32-34.

1. Jesus raised a girl to life and he healed a woman 9:18-26

Matthew leaves out some details that are in Mark’s *gospel. But the main points are clear. The story about the woman who was bleeding comes in the middle of the account about the official’s daughter.

v18 While Jesus was saying this, an official came. He went down on his knees in front of Jesus. ‘My daughter has just died. But come and put your hand on her. Then she will live again.’ v19 Jesus got up and went with him. His *disciples went too.

v20 Just then, a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years came up behind Jesus. She touched the edge of his coat. v21 She said to herself, ‘If I only touch his coat, I shall be well again.’ v22 Jesus turned and he saw her. ‘Be happy, daughter’, he said, ‘God has healed you because you believe in him.’ And from that very moment, the woman stopped bleeding.

v23 When Jesus entered the official’s house, he saw the musicians and a noisy crowd. v24 ‘Go away. The girl is not dead. She is asleep’, he said. But they all laughed at him. v25 After he had sent out the crowd, Jesus went into the girl’s room. He held the girl’s hand, and she stood up. v26 News about what Jesus had done spread through all that region.

Verse 18 Matthew says only ‘an official’. Mark tells us that his name was Jairus. He was a ruler or official in the place where the *Jews met together. This place was where they *worshipped God. It was called a ‘synagogue’. Jairus was responsible for arranging the ceremonies there. So he was an important person in the town. *Religious leaders had already begun to oppose Jesus. So Jairus needed courage to ask Jesus for his help. He loved his daughter so much that he came to Jesus in a humble way. Jesus started to go with Jairus to his house.

Verse 20 Because of her illness, the woman could not go into the house where the *Jews’ met together. If she obeyed the *Jewish rules, she should not have been in a crowd. The rules said that anything or anyone that she touched would no longer be ‘clean’.

Verse 22 Jesus encouraged the woman. He called her ‘daughter’, and he did not consider her as ‘dirty’. He was not angry because she had touched his clothes. He respected her. But he did not want anybody to think wrongly about him. There was no magic in his clothes. He said that God had healed her. He had made her well because she believed him. So she would not feel guilty as she went away. She knew that Jesus had healed her permanently.

Verse 23 It was the custom to hire musicians for a funeral. They often played a flute (a kind of musical pipe). Even a poor family would hire two people to play musical instruments. They also hired one woman to cry loudly. Jairus was an important man. So many people would go to his house. Probably many professional people went to play and to cry at his daughter’s funeral. So there would have been a great noise and much confusion.

Verse 24 Jesus sometimes referred to death as ‘sleep’. In John’s *gospel (John 11:11-13) Lazarus had died. But Jesus went to ‘wake him up’. When Christians die, the *New Testament letters sometimes refer to this as ‘sleep’ also (1 Corinthians 15:6, 10).

Verse 25 Matthew says that Jesus sent the crowd out of the house. Mark tells us more detail. Jesus allowed Peter, James and John to go with him into the girl’s room. They were witnesses as well as her parents.

Verse 26 Jesus told the parents to say nothing (Mark 5:43). But this kind of news spreads quickly. Many people knew that the girl had died. And then she appeared alive again, so many people would soon know about this.

2. Two blind men can see 9:27-31

v27 As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him. They called out to him. ‘Son of David, pity us!’ they shouted. v28 When Jesus went into the house, the blind men came to him. Then Jesus spoke to them, ‘Do you believe that I can heal you?’ he asked them. ‘Yes *Lord’, they replied. v29 Then Jesus touched their eyes. ‘It will happen to you because you believed me’, he said. v30 Then they were able to see, so Jesus gave them a strict order. ‘Make sure that nobody knows about this’, he said. v31 But they went out and spread the news all over the region.

Verse 27 ‘Son of David’ was another name for the *Messiah. Long ago God’s servant, Isaiah, spoke about when the *Messiah would come. He had said that blind people would be able to see then (Isaiah 35:5). We see here that Isaiah’s message was true.

Verse 28 Jesus wanted to discover whether the men had really believed him. So they had to follow Jesus and go away from other people.

Verse 30 Jesus did not want the news about this *miracle to spread. He was not a political leader like the people wanted the ‘Son of David’ to be. He did not want to be just a doctor either. He had come to tell people God’s message. He wanted to forgive their *sin and to change them into God’s citizens. People had to learn what type of *Messiah he was.

3. Jesus heals a man who could not talk 9:32-34

v32 While the men were going out, some people brought another man to Jesus. The man could not talk because he had an evil *spirit in him. v33 Jesus sent the evil *spirit out of the dumb man, and then the man could speak. All the people were astonished. ‘Nobody has ever seen anything like this in Israel!’ they said.

v34 But the *Pharisees did not like it. ‘He sends out evil *spirits because the prince of the evil *spirits has given him power’, they said.

Verses 32-33 The crowds saw what Jesus did. They had not seen anything like this before. Jesus had freed the dumb man from an evil *spirit so that the dumb man could speak again. People often refer to such an evil *spirit as a ‘demon’. This news could not remain a secret.

Verse 34 The *Pharisees accused Jesus. They did not believe that his authority over evil *spirits came from God. They said that his authority came from the chief evil *spirit. The *Pharisees said this again in Matthew 12:24-28. But then, Jesus showed that this idea was very silly.

There are only a few workers 9:35-38

v35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages. He taught in the buildings where the *Jews met. He told them the good news about where God rules. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. v36 When he saw the crowds, he really pitied them. They worried a lot and they were very weak. They were like sheep without anyone to look after them. v37 Then Jesus spoke about this to his *disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but there are only a few workers. v38 Ask the *Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest field’, he said.

Verse 35 People usually refer to the buildings where the *Jews met as ‘synagogues’. Matthew repeats the words that he wrote in Matthew 4:23. From the end of chapter 4 to the end of chapter 9, Matthew shows how Jesus did that work.

Verse 36 In the *Old Testament, Israel’s people were often called ‘sheep’. The kings and the *religious leaders had the duty to look after their ‘sheep’ for God. They often failed. (See 1 Kings 22:17; Ezekiel 34:1-10.) In Jesus’ time, the people were weak and worried. They were like tired sheep that wanted to eat some grass. They wanted to know God. But the *religious leaders could not guide them. All the laws that they had made were like a great weight. That weight pushed people down so that they were more worried. Jesus cared deeply about these ‘sheep’. He wanted the *disciples to care about the people too.

Verse 37 Jesus could not speak to everyone himself. He needed other people to help him. The *disciples were like farm workers who harvest the grain. They must bring a harvest of people to God. Great crowds were ready to hear the good news. They were like a big field of ripe grain (John 4:35-38). But the people needed workers to tell them. Jesus told the *disciples to pray to God for more workers. Many people still pray to God for workers. Sometimes God calls them to become workers too.

These verses show that Jesus needed more workers. These verses also introduce what Jesus taught in the next section. This starts with chapter 10, when Jesus sends his *disciples on their journey. Matthew describes the instructions that Jesus gave to them.

Chapter 10

Jesus chooses 12 men and sends them as his workers 10:1-4

v1 Jesus called his 12 *disciples to come to him. Then he gave them authority to force evil *spirits out of people. He gave them authority to heal every disease and illness.

v2 Here are the names of the 12 men that he sent. First are Simon Peter and his brother Andrew. Next are Zebedee’s sons, James and his brother John. v3 Then there were Philip and Bartholomew. Also, there were Thomas and Matthew. Matthew collected taxes. Two more were James, who was Alphaeus’s son, and Thaddeus. v4 The last two were Simon whom they called the Eager Man, and Judas Iscariot. This Judas Iscariot later handed over Jesus to his enemies.

Verse 1 Jesus had many *disciples. He chose 12 of them as his special workers ‘to send out’ on his behalf. Another name for these *disciples that he sent out is ‘apostles’. He sent them out with his authority. It was better for these workers to go out in pairs. They told the good news about where God rules. And they showed that God did not want disease and illness. Long ago, Jacob had 12 sons and they began 12 *tribes. These 12 *tribes became the nation called Israel. Now 12 of Jesus’ *disciples were beginning new work for God.

Verses 2-4 The four men whose job was to catch fish are at the beginning of the list. Peter always comes first on the list. He, with his brother Andrew, and James with his brother John, had been *disciples of John the *Baptist first. Jesus wanted them to fish for people rather than for fish (Mark 1:16-20). Bartholomew is probably the same person as Nathanael (John 1:44-45). Philip and Nathanael came from Bethsaida. Thomas the *twin (John 11:16) is linked with Matthew, who collected taxes for the *Romans. Simon belonged to the group of *Jews who wanted to force the *Roman rulers out of their country. They were called ‘the Eager Men’. But Jesus could unite Matthew and Simon as they served him. James, Alphaeus’s son, has the same name in the three lists. But Thaddeus is probably Judas, James’s son, in Luke 6:16. And he is Judas, not Iscariot, in John 14:22. Judas Iscariot is always last on the list. Perhaps he was the only *disciple who did not come from Galilee district. Iscariot probably means ‘man from Kerioth’, and Kerioth was in Judea district. Jesus chose him to be an apostle (a special worker). But for some reason he stopped being loyal to Jesus. He was the man who handed Jesus over to his enemies.

We do not know much about most of these men that Jesus sent out as special workers. But it is the work that is important, not the workers. Paul had to explain this truth to the Christians in Corinth (1 Corinthians 3:5-7).

Jesus gives instructions to his 12 special workers 10:5-15

v5 So Jesus sent these 12 men. He gave them these orders. ‘Do not go among people who are not *Jews. Do not enter any town in the *Samaritans’ land. v6 Instead, go to Israel’s people. They are like sheep that have lost their way. v7 Go and tell them this message. “Heaven is near now. And that is where God rules.” v8 Heal the sick people. Cause dead people to be alive again. Heal those people with skin diseases so that they are clean again. Force evil *spirits to come out of people. You did not have to pay for all that you have received. So give to other people and do not make them pay. v9 Do not take any gold with you. Do not take any silver or copper in your belts. v10 Do not take a bag for the journey. Do not take extra clothes or extra shoes. Do not take a stick. The people should give a worker what he needs.’

v11 Enter a town or village. Then look for someone who will provide for you. Stay at that person’s house until you leave that place. v12 Enter their house. Greet the people who live there. ‘We pray that the people in this house will be at peace’, you should say. v13 If that family welcomes you, you should let God answer your prayer for them. But perhaps that family will not welcome you. Then, do not ask God for peace for them. v14 Some people may not listen to your words. In that case, leave that home or town. And shake the dust off your feet when you leave. v15 I am telling you the truth. On judgement day, it will be easier for the people from Sodom and Gomorrah than for the people from that town.

Verse 5 This order meant that the *disciples would only work in Galilee district. This was a wise decision. They would be more successful because they worked in just a small area. Probably the 12 workers were not yet ready to tell the good news about Jesus to foreigners. Later, God sent Paul to the people who were not *Jews. He had experience of them in the city of Tarsus where he had lived. Jesus did not give this order as a permanent order. Jesus gave his final order to his *disciples in Matthew 28:19-20. Then he told them to go everywhere in the world.

Verses 6-7 The special workers had to tell the good news to the *Jews. The *Jews could come into God’s rule. The king had arrived now. This king was Jesus and they could follow him. They would no longer be like sheep that have lost their way.

Verse 8 The *disciples had to do the same work as Jesus did (9:35). They had to heal people’s bodies and minds. They had to look after the whole person. A *Jewish teacher (called a ‘rabbi’) had to teach his *disciples but he could not charge them money. The *disciples did not have to pay Jesus when he taught them. So now, they had to go and teach other people. They had to teach what they had learned from Jesus.

Verses 9-10 Jesus said that they should not take any money with them. They should not take extra supplies. They had to trust God to provide for them. They could expect someone to be ready to help them. People usually provided food and shelter for a teacher. They considered that this was an honour. Paul too said that a worker deserves his pay. (See 1 Corinthians 9:14.)

Verses 11-13 The workers had to find someone who welcomed them. They had to stay in the same home all the time that they stayed in that place. They could not look for somewhere more comfortable. They could not look for someone who gave them better food. They had to ask for God’s peace on that home.

Verse 14 They were taking their message to *Jews. The *Jews were expecting God to do good things to them. If nobody welcomed the good news about Jesus, the *disciples were not responsible for those people. They showed this when they shook the dust off their feet. This was a *Jewish custom. The *Jews did this when they returned home from another country. Anything that the *Jews touched among foreigners made the *Jews ‘dirty’. So they shook off those things before they went into their home.

Verse 15 People knew that Sodom and Gomorrah had been two very wicked cities. The people there behaved very badly with Lot’s guests (Genesis 19:1-11). They had refused to accept the men with God’s message. So God destroyed them. But the people in Sodom and Gomorrah had no opportunity to refuse the message about Christ. The people in Galilee’s towns and villages now had that opportunity. So their punishment would be more severe.

Jesus warns his workers that people will oppose them 10:16-25

v16 ‘I am sending you out like sheep among fierce wild animals. So you must be wise like snakes, but you must also be like gentle birds. v17 Watch out! Men will hand you over to the local courts. They will whip you in their synagogues (buildings where *Jews meet). v18 They will take you to stand in front of rulers and kings because of me. You will be witnesses to them. You will also tell foreigners all about me. v19 When they arrest you, do not be afraid. Do not worry about what to say to them. Do not worry about how to say it. At that time, you will receive the right words to say to them. v20 You will not speak by yourself. Your Father’s *Holy Spirit will help you.

v21 Brothers will hand over their own brothers for people to kill them. Fathers will hand over their own children. Children will oppose their parents, and they will even let people kill their parents. v22 Everyone will hate you because you are my friends. But God will save you if you believe me until the end. v23 When people attack you in one place, escape to another place. I am telling you the truth. You will not finish your work in all the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

v24 A student is not more important than his teacher and a servant is not more important than his master. v25 It is enough for the student to be like his teacher. And it is enough for a servant to be like his master. They call the head of the family Beelzebub, which is the devil’s name. So the rest of the family can expect the same bad names.’

Verse 16 Fierce wild animals called ‘wolves’ attacked sheep. Jesus was honest. He told his workers that people would oppose them. The *disciples must be wise as they told people the good news. They must be gentle with people. And they must live in a good and honest way.

Verse 17 Jesus’ words came true in the future. The *Jewish authorities opposed the *disciples. They had to answer these authorities about their message in the local courts. They could receive 39 blows from a whip in the buildings where the *Jews met. Paul himself said that the *Jews had punished him in this way five times (2 Corinthians 11:24).

Verse 18 The state would oppose them. At that time, the rulers were *Roman officials. *Jewish kings like Herod Agrippa tried to please both the *Jewish authorities and the *Romans. So they attacked and opposed the Christians. Herod Agrippa ordered his men to kill Zebedee’s son, James. He also put Peter in prison (Acts 12:1-4).

Verses 19-20 Jesus said that the *disciples should not worry. People might arrest them because they were Christians. But the *Holy Spirit would give them the right words to say at such times. The men in the *Jewish *religious government were astonished at the way that Peter and John were able to speak to them (Acts 4:13).

Verses 21-22 Even the *disciples’ own family members might oppose them. The writer Tacitus was not a Christian, but he wrote books about Christians. He thought that they were ‘a group of people that behaved wickedly. People hated them’. He also said that Christians ‘hated all people’.

Christians considered that slaves were real people. They called slaves ‘brothers’ if they were Christians. The *Roman authorities thought that this was dangerous to their rule. The *Romans considered that slaves were just ‘things’. They bought and sold them. The Christians also upset people who made money from their religion. In Ephesus, there were people who made false gods from silver. They lost their trade when Paul told the good news about Jesus to the people there. People believed the message and God changed their lives (Acts 19:24-27).

Verse 23 *Disciples should be wise enough to escape from danger. They should not die if it is not necessary. After Stephen died, many Christians left Jerusalem. They went to safer places. And the result was that the good news about Jesus spread further (Acts 8:1-4). Paul and Barnabas also left places where they were in danger (Acts 14:5-7). It is plain that Jesus means himself when he says ‘Son of Man’. But the phrase: ‘before the Son of Man comes’ is not very clear. So people have explained these words in several different ways:

Idea 1. The *disciples were going ahead of Jesus to other places. He would follow later. This idea agrees with Luke 10:1. He says that Jesus sent *disciples ‘to every town and place where he would go later.’

Idea 2. Jesus was talking about after his death and when he would be alive again. Then he would return to help the *disciples. They would tell the good news about him in all the cities of Israel.

Idea 3. Perhaps he was referring to the future time when he will return to this earth. His *disciples did not finish their work before the *Romans attacked Jerusalem in *AD 70. In Matthew 24:15-30, Matthew records what Jesus said about this event. He connects it with what some of God’s servants had told the people long before. They told them about the time when Christ will return.

Verses 24-25 *Disciples would suffer in the same way as their teacher and master. The *Pharisees had accused Jesus. They said that he worked with Beelzebub, the chief evil *spirit. That means the devil or Satan (9:34). So people would insult the *disciples too. ‘Beelzebub’ means ‘the flies’ master’. *Jews had probably changed the name from ‘Beelzebul’, which means ‘the master of the house’. This was the name of a false god in the *Old Testament (2 Kings 1:1-6). Now it was another name for the chief evil *spirit.

Jesus encourages the *disciples 10:26-33

v26 ‘Do not be afraid of anyone. There are secrets now, but later everyone will know them. People cannot understand everything now, but later all things will become clear. v27 I tell you things in the dark, but you must speak them in the daylight. When someone whispers something in your ear, shout loudly about it. Then everyone will hear those words. v28 Do not be afraid of the people who can kill your body. They cannot kill the person that you are inside. God is able to destroy both your body and the person that you are inside in hell. You should only be afraid of him. v29 People sell two little birds for only a penny. But your Father knows when each one of those birds falls to the ground. v30 He even counts every hair on your head. v31 So do not be afraid. You are worth more than many little birds.

v32 Someone may say in public that he knows me. I will also say to my Father in heaven that I know that person. v33 But someone else may say in public that he does not know me. Then I will say to my Father in heaven that I do not know that person.’

Jesus gave four reasons why true *disciples should not be afraid of anyone:

            Reason 1. Verses 26-27. If the *disciples’ words and actions are right, later God will show that they are right. God will be the judge. He will recognise the people who have told lies about Christians. Nobody will be able to hide his true character. God will praise the Christians, so they can look forward to that time.

            They must listen carefully to what Jesus teaches in private. Then they must be bold as they teach other people in public.

            Reason 2. Verse 28. People can kill someone’s body. But they cannot damage the person that he or she is inside. We call the part of a person that lives for ever a ‘soul’. However, God can destroy both. God is very, very special, so people should respect him. They should give him honour. Then they will not be afraid of other people.

            Reason 3. Verses 29-31. God is the Father who cares about everything that he has made. The little birds were called ‘sparrows’. They were very cheap. Poor people would buy them to eat. Luke 12:6 says that people could buy five birds for two pennies. ‘Falls to the ground’ probably means ‘dies’. But it could also mean that a sparrow lands and jumps along the ground. God cares about these cheap and common little birds. Therefore, he certainly cares about people much more.

            Reason 4. Verses 32-33. Some people are not ashamed of Jesus. They declare in public that they know him. And Jesus will say that he knows those people. But some people will feel ashamed in public, and Jesus warns those people. He will refuse to say that he knows them. There are several ways that a Christian may not declare his *faith. Sometimes a Christian may remain silent when he should speak about Jesus. Sometimes he may speak against Jesus. Sometimes a Christian may behave in the wrong way. Then other people will have wrong ideas about the *Lord that we claim to obey.

Jesus tells them that trouble will come to families 10:34-39

v34 ‘Do not think that there will be peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace. I came to bring trouble.

v35 Because I have come,

          Sons will turn against their fathers.

          Daughters will refuse to obey their mothers.

          Daughters-in-law will fight against their mothers-in law.

v36    A person’s enemies will be the members of his own family.

v37 Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not fit to be my *disciple. And anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not fit to be my *disciple. v38 Anyone who does not pick up their *cross and follow me is not fit to be my *disciple. v39 If anyone tries to save their own life, they will lose it. If anyone loses their life for me, they will gain it again.’

Verse 34 Jesus came to give people peace with God. And he wanted them to have peace with each other. Some people accepted him, and he changed their lives. Other people opposed him and this caused trouble. This trouble divides some families. Family members do not always have the same attitude to Christ’s message.

Verses 35-37 Jesus taught that husbands and wives should be loyal to each other (Matthew 5:31-32). He taught that children should look after their parents (Matthew 15:3-6). But people should be loyal to Christ first. Sometimes this may cause fights in a family. In verses 35-36, Jesus used words that God’s servant Micah wrote long ago (Micah 7:6). Jesus himself knew what it was like to have his own family against him. They thought that he was mad (Mark 3:21). Also, his brothers tried to force him to make the wrong decision (John 7:1-5).

Verse 38 Everyone would have seen people who were carrying wooden *crosses. They were going to their deaths. When the *Roman authorities said that someone must die, they often fixed him to a wooden *cross with nails. The person had to carry his own *cross beam to the place where they killed him on it. Judas from Galilee attacked the *Romans in the year *AD 6. So the *Roman captain killed 2000 *Jews on *crosses in Galilee. This shows us what Jesus means here. ‘Pick up their *cross’ means that people must be prepared for hard times. They may not die on an actual *cross, but they must give up their own wishes and ideas. Instead, they must do what Christ wants them to do.

Verse 39 A person may live in a selfish way. Then their life will not have any real meaning or value. The way to a happy life is to serve God whether it is difficult to live like that or not. Then we will serve other people because that is what God wants.

The reward for people who welcome Christ’s workers 10:40-42

v40 ‘Anyone who says, ‘Welcome!’ to you, is saying ‘Welcome!’ to me. At the same time, that person is saying ‘Welcome!’ to him who sent me. v41 Someone may say ‘Welcome!’ to God’s servant because he is God’s servant. That person will receive the same reward as God’s servant receives. Or someone may say ‘Welcome!’ to a good man because he is a good man. That person will receive the same reward as the good man receives. v42 Someone may give just a cup of cold water to one of these little people because they are my *disciples. That person will certainly gain their reward.’

Verse 40 Jesus said that God had sent him into the world. Therefore, anyone who says ‘Welcome!’ to Jesus is saying ‘Welcome!’ to God at the same time.

Verse 41 God’s servant speaks God’s message. The good man shows what God’s message is by his example. People who say ‘Welcome!’ to one of God’s servants will receive the same reward as God’s servant receives. In the same way, God will reward the good man and the person who says ‘Welcome!’ to him.

Verse 42 ‘Little people’ can mean young children. It can also mean people who have believed Jesus for only a short time. Or it can mean humble people. Here it refers to the *disciples that Jesus is sending out. A person will receive a reward from God if he gives even a very little help to one of those *disciples. The best reward will come from God. He will say, ‘Well done. You are a good and loyal servant’ (Matthew 25:21).

In the next section, Matthew 11:1–12:50, Matthew shows how some people said ‘Welcome!’ to Jesus. They were glad to see him. But other people refused to accept him. The *religious leaders especially began to oppose him.

Chapter 11

John the *Baptist asked a question 11:1-6

v1 Jesus finished giving instructions to his 12 *disciples. Then he went on from there to other towns in the Galilee district. He taught the people and he told them God’s message. v2 John was in prison at that time. But he heard what Jesus was doing. So he sent his *disciples to talk to Jesus. v3 ‘John said that someone would come. Are you the person that John was talking about?’ they asked him. ‘Or should we expect someone else to come?’ v4 Jesus replied to them. ‘Go back to John’, he said. ‘Tell him what you hear now. Tell him what you see here. v5 Blind people came, and now they can see again. People who could not walk properly can now walk easily. People who had terrible skin diseases are well again. Deaf people came, and now they can hear. Some dead people are alive again. And poor people are hearing the good news about me. v6 The person who continues to trust me will be happy.’

Verse 1 Jesus finished what he had been teaching in chapter 10.

Verses 2-3 John was in prison. Matthew refers to this in Matthew 4:12 and explains more in Matthew 14:1-12. John had showed that Jesus was the *Messiah (John 1:29-33). But now, in prison, John was not so sure. ‘The person that John was talking about’ means ‘the *Messiah’. John had spoken about judgement and a powerful *Messiah (Matthew 3:10-12). But Jesus was being kind to people and helping them. Perhaps John thought that Jesus should have freed him from prison. Jesus did not announce that he was the *Messiah. John may have wondered why he did not announce himself.

Verses 4-5 God’s servant Isaiah had promised what the *Messiah would do (Isaiah 35:5-6; 61:1-3). Jesus showed by his actions and words that those promises were true. The *Messiah had come. Jesus wanted John’s *disciples to tell John about it. They were witnesses. Then John would know that he had not made a mistake about Jesus.

Verse 6 Jesus sent this message to John the *Baptist, but it is true for everyone who trusts Jesus.

Jesus praises John the *Baptist 11:7-15

v7 As John’s *disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John. ‘What kind of man did you go out into the desert to see? Did you see a man like tall grass that the wind blows from one side to the other? No! v8 What kind of man did you go out to see then? Did you see a man who wore expensive clothes? No! People who wear expensive clothes live in king’s palaces. v9 Then what did you go out to see? Did you see one of God’s servants? Yes! And I tell you that he is more than that. v10 The *Scripture spoke about him long ago:

          “I will send my *messenger ahead of you,

          He will prepare the way before you arrive”, God says.

v11 I am telling you the truth. John the *Baptist is more important than everyone else who has ever lived in the world. But the least important person where God rules in heaven is more important than John is. v12 Since the time that John the *Baptist came until now, the place where God rules has been strongly attacked. Eager people are forcing their way into it. v13 God’s Law and all the books that God’s servants wrote long ago told God’s message. They said what would happen until John came. v14 They said that Elijah would come. And if you will believe it, John himself is Elijah. v15 Anyone who wants to understand, must listen!’

Verse 7 John had begun to doubt that Jesus was the *Messiah. When the people heard John’s question, they might have doubted too. Also, Jesus’ words in verse 6 might seem to blame John. So now, Jesus praised John and told the truth about him to the people. Nobody would have gone into the desert to see a very ordinary man. Tall grasses were very common by the river Jordan. The wind blew the grass in one direction, and then it blew the grass in a different direction. In a similar way, weak people keep changing their opinions. But John had firm opinions. He had the courage to speak the truth for God. He even told king Herod Antipas that he had done something wrong (Matthew 14:1-12).

Verse 8 John wore clothes that were rough, and he ate simple food (Matthew 3:4). He did not live in luxury in a king’s palace. He did not have an easy life.

Verses 9-10 Jesus agreed that John was God’s servant. But he was even more important than every other one of God’s servants. He was God’s special *messenger. He prepared the way for the *Messiah. See Malachi 3:1.

Verse 11 John was most important. He announced that a new age was beginning. But he did not see what that new age meant to the world. He did not see all the evidence about how much God loved the world. John did not see Jesus die (John 3:16). So the most humble Christian has a much greater advantage than John had.

Verse 12 People have explained these words in several different ways:

            1. Fierce men had attacked the idea that God rules people. They started when John was in prison. They continued to attack it because they wanted to rule people’s thoughts.

            2. The words may refer to the ‘Eager Men’ (see Simon the Eager Man in Matthew 10:4). The Eager Men were *Jews who tried to establish only God’s rule in their land. They did this as they fought the *Romans. People wanted to force Jesus to become their king (John 6:15).

            3. People were eager to get the good things that God offers. But they wanted to take them with force. They were like people who are trying to force their way into a city.

Verses 13-14 Jesus was saying that John was like another Elijah. He spoke the words from the *Old Testament about Elijah’s return (Malachi 4:5). People believed that Elijah would announce that the *Messiah had arrived. Even today, *Jews leave an empty chair at their *Passover meal for Elijah. God’s *messenger from heaven spoke to John’s father before John was born. He promised Zechariah that John would be like God’s servant, Elijah. John would have the same kind of courage and power that Elijah had (Luke 1:17).

Verses 14-15 God can send his *messengers, but people may refuse to listen to them. So Jesus appealed to the people to listen.

People’s attitudes to John and to Jesus 11:16-19

v16 ‘I do not know what to say about the people in these days. They are like children who sit in the market place. They call out to another group of children. v17 “We played music for you, but you did not dance. We sang a funeral song, but you did not cry”, they say. v18 John came. He did not eat or drink as much as you do. So people say that he has an evil *spirit. v19 The Son of Man came. He ate and drank exactly as you do. And so people speak about him. “This man is always eating and drinking too much!” they say. “There are people who collect taxes and other people who *sin. They are his friends!” they say. But you can know what is really wise. Just look at the results. Then you will know.

Verses 16-17 Jesus said that the people round him were like children. One group of children complained that the other group would not play with them. They would not play happy games, and they would not play sad games. None of them could agree.

Verses 18-19 John the *Baptist lived a strict life, so people said that he was mad. Jesus joined in social events. He spent time with people that other people avoided. So people said that Jesus lived a wicked life. The people did not want to accept either John or Jesus. So those people behaved like selfish children. They made excuses and would not listen to God’s message. The results showed who was right. John had a strict life while he prepared for his work. He changed the attitude of many people. Jesus spent time with ordinary people. He showed them that God loved them. Both John and Jesus chose the way that was right for them. Wise people should be able to understand this.

Jesus warned some towns in Galilee 11:20-24

v20 Then Jesus began to warn the people in the towns where he had performed most of his *miracles. He was disappointed because they had not turned away from their *sins. v21 ‘How terrible it will be for you people in Chorazin!’ he said. ‘How terrible it will be for you people in Bethsaida! Suppose I had done the same *miracles in Tyre and Sidon that I did in your towns. The people there would have turned away from their *sins long ago. They would have worn rough clothes. They would have put ashes on their heads to show that they were sorry. v22 I tell you this. On judgement day, it will be easier for the people from Tyre and Sidon than it will be for you. v23 And as for you, Capernaum people! You think that you are on your way up to heaven. But no, you will go down to where the dead people go. Suppose that the Sodom people had seen the same *miracles that I have performed in your towns. Sodom would still be here today. v24 But I tell you this. On judgement day, it will be easier for the people from Sodom than it will be for you.’

Verses 21-22 The *gospels do not tell us everything that Jesus did (John 21:25). So we have no account of what Jesus did in Chorazin. Tyre and Sidon were two towns that were on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The people there were very wealthy because they had many merchant ships. But they were proud and cruel. So God’s servants had told them that God would judge them (Isaiah chapter 23; Ezekiel chapters 27, 28; Amos 1:9). These towns were in Galilee district. They heard what Jesus taught. But they did not change how they behaved. They had seen his *miracles, but they were not interested. They had seen what Jesus did. So they had an advantage over Tyre and Sidon. And God will judge them more severely than he will judge the people from those two non-*Jewish towns. Sometimes the *Jews deeply regretted that they had done wrong. So they wore very rough clothes called ‘sackcloth’. And they put ashes on their heads. That showed that they were very sorry.

Verses 23-24 The Capernaum people were very proud. They said that their city ‘reached up to heaven’. Isaiah had used this phrase to describe the proud king of *Babylon (Isaiah 14:13). Jesus had worked in Galilee district. He used Capernaum as the central town. So the people there had seen him do many *miracles. The Sodom people had been so wicked that God had destroyed their city long ago. But the people from Capernaum had less excuse than the people from Sodom had. In Capernaum, they had seen all that Jesus had done. So they would receive a more severe judgement from God.

Jesus shows people the Father and he offers an easy *yoke 11:25-30

v25 At that time, Jesus spoke to his Father. ‘I praise you Father’, he said. ‘You are the *Lord of heaven and earth. Thank you that you have hidden these things from wise people. And you have hidden these things from people who know a lot. But you have shown them to people who know very little. v26 Yes, Father. That was what you wanted.

v27 ‘My Father has given everything to me. The Father is the only person who knows the Son. And only the Son knows the Father, together with the people that the Son chooses to tell about him. v28 Come to me, if you are tired. And everyone who is carrying a heavy load should come to me. I will give you rest. v29 Take my *yoke and put it on your shoulders. Then you will learn what I teach you. My attitude is gentle and humble, so you will find rest. v30 The *yoke that I give you is easy. And the load that I give you is light.’

Verse 25 The people who taught God’s *Law, did not believe Jesus’ message. The people who thought that they were wise did not believe his message. Humble people knew that Jesus spoke the truth. They were like little children. Some people are proud that they know a lot about God. But they do not really understand him.

Verse 27 Jesus said that he is the Son. He is the only person who knows God, the Father. Only Jesus can show people what God is like. This statement is like the one in John’s *gospel, (John 14:9). ‘The person who has seen me has seen the Father’, it says.

Verse 28 In those days, the *Jewish religion had many laws. The leaders had made a big series of laws. People who tried to obey all of them became very tired. The laws were like a heavy load that people must carry.

Verses 29-30 A *yoke is a special piece of wood. The farmer puts one on the neck of his oxen (big cows) when they work for him. Jesus had worked with wood. So he knew how to make good *yokes. They fitted well, and they did not make the animal’s neck sore. The *Jews used the word ‘*yoke’ as picture language. They were talking about how they must obey the law. Peter spoke about the ‘*yoke’ that the *Jews had found difficult (Acts 15:10). In these verses, Jesus was referring to his own and their experience as *Jews. He invited people to follow him. They would find that their life with Jesus was ‘easy’. It is ‘easy’ because Jesus cares about his *disciples. They would find that his load is light. It is ‘light’ because a *disciple follows the example of Jesus. A *disciple does not need to obey hundreds of rules. Jesus is gentle and he is humble. He allows people to be free. Then they obey him because they love him.

Chapter 12

Questions about how to use God’s rest day 12:1-14

Matthew gives two examples of the ‘*yoke’ of the *Jewish law:

            1. The *disciples in the fields of corn 12:1-8

            2. The man with a hand that he could not use 12:9-14.

1. *Disciples in the fields of corn 12:1-8

v1 At that time, Jesus was going through the fields of corn on God’s rest day. His *disciples were with him and they were hungry. They began to pick some of the corn. They ate the grains. v2 Some *Pharisees saw them do this. So they spoke to Jesus. ‘Look! Your *disciples are breaking our Law!’ they said. ‘They are working on God’s rest day.’ v3 Jesus answered them. ‘Surely you have read what David did. He and his friends were hungry. v4 So they went into God’s house. And he and his friends ate the bread that people had offered to God. Our Law did not allow them to eat that bread. Only the *priests had the right to eat it. v5 You have read in the Law that the *priests in the *Temple work on God’s rest day. But they remain without blame. v6 I am telling you the truth. Someone who is greater than the *Temple is here now. v7 You should know what God’s words mean. ‘I want you to be kind’, God said. ‘I want this more than your presents.’ If you understood that, then you would not blame those people. They are not guilty, v8 because the Son of Man is *Lord of God’s rest day.’

Verses 1-2 The *disciples were not stealing corn. People could eat some of the corn as they passed a field of corn. The *Law allowed them to do that (Deuteronomy 23:25). God said that people should not work on his rest day (Exodus 20:8-11). But the men who taught the *Law had added hundreds of strict rules to this command. There were 39 basic extra rules, and the *disciples had broken some of these rules. So the *Pharisees said that they were ‘guilty’. They said that the *disciples had

harvested the corn;

separated the grain and the straw;

prepared a meal.

Jesus answered the *Pharisees in four ways:

            1. Verses 3-4 He reminded the *Pharisees about King David. He and his men had eaten the bread that only the *priests should eat (1 Samuel 21:1-6). This was special bread. It was a sign that God provided food. Because David and his men were hungry, they needed to eat the bread. So the *priest allowed them to break the law.

            2. Verses 5-6 The *priests had to work in the *Temple, even on God’s rest day. The *Law did not allow an ordinary person to light a fire on that day. But the *priests could light the fire on the *altar to burn the animals. That was part of the ceremony as they *worshipped God in the *Temple. Jesus said that he himself was greater than the *Temple.

            3. Verse 7 Jesus used God’s words to his servant, Hosea, long ago (Hosea 6:6). ‘I want you to be kind. I want this more than your presents.’ The *Pharisees had not understood what God meant. They had been wrong to blame the *disciples. They should have understood that the *disciples needed food. This was more important than the rules.

            4. Verse 8 Mark 2:27 has the words ‘God made his rest day for man. God did not make man for his rest day.’ God told people to rest on his rest day. But God did not try to control people’s freedom. Instead, he wants to help people. ‘Son of Man’ is another name for ‘the *Messiah’, and Jesus is the *Messiah. So he had the right to decide what should happen on God’s rest day.

2. The man with a hand that he could not use 12:9-14

v9 Jesus went on from that place. Then he went into the building where they met to *worship God. v10 A man with a hand that he could not use was there. The *Pharisees were there too. They were trying to find a reason to accuse Jesus. ‘Does the law allow people to heal someone on God’s rest day?’ they asked him. v11 And Jesus replied to them. ‘Suppose one of you has a sheep. And suppose that sheep falls into a deep hole on God’s rest day. You would grasp it and lift it out. v12 But a man is much more valuable than a sheep! Therefore the *Law allows us to help someone on God’s rest day.’ v13 Then Jesus spoke to the man with a hand that he could not use. ‘Reach out your hand’, he said to him. So the man reached out his hand, and it became well again. It was quite as good as his other hand.

v14 Then the *Pharisees went out. And they planned how to kill Jesus.

Verses 9-10 The *Pharisees met Jesus again in the building where they met. Then they asked Jesus a question, because they wanted to accuse him. They did not want Jesus to teach them.

Verses 11-13 Jesus showed that the *Pharisees were willing to rescue a valuable animal on God’s rest day. But they did not allow anyone to heal a sick person. But a person is worth much more than an animal. So their question is not right. The question should be, ‘Does the law allow people to help someone on God’s rest day?’

Verse 14 The *Pharisees were very angry because they could not answer Jesus. They had decided that Jesus was wrong. So they began to make plans, because they wanted to destroy him. Their ideas about what the law meant were very important to them. They thought that their ideas were more important than a person’s life. So they even made plans against God’s command. ‘You must not kill anyone’, God said.

Jesus is God’s servant 12:15-21

v15 Jesus heard about the *Pharisees’ wicked plans, so he went away from that place. Many people followed him. And he healed all of them who were ill. v16 But he warned them not to tell other people about him. v17 God had spoken by means of his servant Isaiah long ago. Jesus made his words come true.

v18    ‘Here is my servant whom I have chosen.

          I love him and I am very pleased with him.

          I will give my *Holy Spirit to him.

          He will announce my judgement to the people in all the nations.

v19    He will not quarrel and he will not shout.

          He will not talk loudly in the streets.

v20    He will not break a weak grass stem.

          He will not put out a flame that is burning low.

          He will continue his efforts until he has made everything fair and right.

v21    Then people in all the nations will trust him for their future.’

Verse 15 Jesus knew that he should not stay near those *Pharisees. So he went away from danger and people followed him. They wanted him to help them. So he healed everyone who asked him.

Verse 16 Jesus was the *Messiah, but people had wrong ideas about the *Messiah. They believed that the *Messiah would be a military ruler. They thought that he would be like King David long ago. But Jesus had not come to establish a political rule. He came to serve and to love people. So he did not want them to talk about him as the *Messiah yet.

Verses 17-21 This is part of one of the ‘servant’ poems that Isaiah wrote long before (Isaiah 42:1-4). It describes the character of God’s special servant.

Verse 18 Jesus heard some of these words at his *baptism when God gave him the *Holy Spirit. People should behave in the right way towards God and towards each other. Jesus taught us how to do that.

Verse 19 Jesus did not argue with people. He did not make loud speeches. He did not try to make people excited. He taught in a quiet way.

Verse 20 A ‘weak grass stem’ is a picture of a type of person. Bad things have happened which hurt that person.

‘A flame that is burning very low’: this means that someone does not believe very strongly. The *Pharisees thought that people like that were not worth much. So they did not notice or help such people. But Jesus was gentle and he was patient with people. When he encouraged people, then they believed more.

Verse 21 People from other nations would also believe Jesus later. They would know his character. Therefore, they can trust him for their future life.

Jesus has power over evil *spirits 12:22-32

v22 Then they brought a sick man to Jesus. The man was blind and dumb because he had an evil *spirit in him. Jesus healed him so that he could talk and see. v23 This astonished all the people. ‘Could this Jesus be the Son of David?’ they asked each other. v24 But the *Pharisees also heard about this. ‘Beelzebub, who rules the evil *spirits, gives this man power. That is why he can force evil *spirits out of people’, they said. v25 Jesus knew what they were thinking. So he spoke to them. ‘If two groups in a nation fight each other they will ruin that nation’, he said. ‘Any city or family that divides into groups will destroy itself. v26 So if *Satan forces *Satan out, he is fighting against himself. Then he will destroy himself and all that he rules. v27 You say that Beelzebub gives me power to force evil *spirits out of people. Then, who gives power to your people to force evil *spirits out? They can answer that question for you. v28 But I force evil *spirits out by the power that God’s Spirit gives to me. This proves that God’s rule has come to you.

v29 And suppose that someone wants to get into a strong man’s house to steal his property. That person must tie up the strong man first. Then he can rob the strong man’s house and steal everything. v30 If a person is not on my side, he is against me. The person who does not gather the harvest with me scatters it. v31 And so I tell you this. God can forgive every *sin or insult that people speak against him. But God will not forgive an insult that people speak against the *Holy Spirit. v32 God can forgive anyone who says wicked things about the Son of Man. But God will not forgive anyone who says wicked things about the *Holy Spirit. God will not forgive him now, or in the future age.’

Verses 22-23 The crowd began to wonder if Jesus was the *Messiah. They had expected the ‘Son of David’ to do other things for them. But Jesus was not doing all those things.

Verse 24 The *Pharisees were angry with Jesus because he did not obey their rules for God’s rest day. They were also jealous about his power. They knew that Jesus had done a *miracle. So they suggested that he was working with the chief evil *spirit himself. ‘Beelzebub’ was another name that they gave to *Satan.

Verses 25-26 Jesus showed that the *Pharisees’ idea was stupid. A war inside a nation destroys that nation. Divisions inside a family will ruin that family. *Satan rules the evil *spirits. So *Satan would be very foolish if he helped Jesus. *Satan would be fighting against himself.

Verse 27 Some of the *Pharisees’ *disciples also tried to force evil *spirits out of people. So Jesus asked who gave those *Jewish people their power. They used all kinds of magic and special words. Jesus needed only to give a command. But the *Pharisees did not accuse their own *disciples.

Verse 28 Jesus was sending out *demons because the *Holy Spirit’s power was in him. So God’s rule in heaven had begun to grow in this world.

Verse 29 *Satan is like a strong man. But Jesus is more powerful than *Satan. *Satan had made people into his slaves. They were *Satan’s property. But Jesus had gone into *Satan’s *kingdom and removed people from it. And *Satan could not stop Jesus.

Verse 30 People belong either to God’s rule in heaven or they belong to *Satan’s rule on earth. There are only two sides. If people are not on Jesus’ side, they are his enemies. A person who is on Jesus’ side gathers people to Jesus. A person who is against Jesus scatters people. He makes them turn away from Jesus.

Verses 31-32 Jesus gave a serious warning to the *Pharisees. They were in danger that they would *sin ‘against the *Holy Spirit’. God would never forgive that *sin. People said and did many things against Jesus. When Jesus was on the *cross, he asked God to forgive all those things. But the *Pharisees refused to understand what God wanted. For a long time, they had thought that their own ideas were right. They had even said that a good action was a wicked action. Isaiah had said, ‘Things will be bad for the people who say that evil things are ‘good’. And they say that good things are ‘evil’ (Isaiah 5:20). The *Pharisees would not understand that God worked through Jesus. The *Pharisees would not say that they had *sinned. They would not *repent. Therefore, God could not forgive them.

Sometimes a person is afraid that he has *sinned against the *Holy Spirit. But that person is not guilty. He is worried that he has *sinned. But he can *repent. He can ask God to forgive him. But the *Pharisees were not aware that they had *sinned. So they would not *repent.

Words show what a person’s character is like 12:33-37

v33 ‘You can tell what a tree is like when you see its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad. v34 You are a nest of poisonous snakes! You are evil. You can never say anything that is good. Your words come from everything that is in your spirit. v35 The good man says good things. These come from the good things that he has stored inside him. An evil man says evil things. These come from the evil things that he has stored inside him. v36 I tell you this. On the day of judgement, people will have to give an account for every careless word that they have spoken. v37 Your words will show that you are not guilty. Or your words will show that you are guilty.’

Verses 33-35 These verses emphasise what Jesus had said about the *Pharisees. They had accused Jesus. And they had said that he helped *Satan. Their words showed what kind of people they were. They were like a bad tree that produced bad fruit. Their words were as dangerous as the poison that comes from a snake.

Verses 36-37 Often we do not think carefully about what we say. Those words are not good or helpful. Instead, they may hurt other people’s feelings. Nobody can take back careless words. To say ‘I did not mean it’ does not free a person. He is still responsible. God knows what each person has said. And God will decide whether a person is guilty. Or whether a person is free from blame.

The *Pharisees and teachers ask Jesus for a sign 12:38-42

v38 Then some of the *Pharisees and some of the men who taught the law said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, we want to see some evidence from you that will astonish us.’ v39 Jesus answered, ‘People ask for evidence that will astonish them. But only wicked people who are not loyal to God ask for this. The only evidence that they will receive is that of the *prophet Jonah. v40 Jonah was in the stomach of a huge fish for three days and three nights. The Son of Man will be in the grave for three days and three nights. v41 The people from Nineveh and these people who are living now will stand up together on the day of judgement. The people from Nineveh will show that these people are guilty. Jonah *preached to the people from Nineveh. They turned away from their *sins. Now someone who is more important than Jonah is here. v42 The Queen of the South and the people who are living now will stand up together on judgement day. She will show that they are guilty. She travelled a long way to listen to Solomon’s wisdom. Now someone who is greater than Solomon is here.’

Verse 38 The *Pharisees wanted Jesus to do something extraordinary. This would prove his authority. *Satan had *tempted Jesus to jump off the *Temple roof (Matthew 4:5-6). Jesus had done *miracles and he healed people. This was evidence that God loved people. The *Pharisees did not believe that these *miracles showed Jesus’ authority.

Verse 39 The phrase ‘not loyal’ describes how a wife leaves her husband because she loves another man. Jesus said that the *Pharisees had not been loyal to God. The *prophet Jonah *preached to the *Gentile city called Nineveh.

Verse 40 Jesus said that he would be in his grave for three days and three nights. For *Jews, this meant any part of three days. He compared this to the time that Jonah stayed in the huge fish. The *Resurrection would be the final evidence.

Verses 41-42 When Jonah *preached to the wicked people in Nineveh, they changed their ways. Jesus had warned the *Jews many times, but they took no notice. The ‘Queen of the South’ was the queen from the country called Sheba. This was a place in South West Arabia. She made a long journey to listen to Solomon’s wise words. Jesus was present among the *Jews, but they refused to listen to his wise words. On the day of judgement, both the people of Nineveh and the Queen of Sheba will show how guilty the *Jews were. The *Jews could listen to the message that God gave through Jesus. But they had failed to take their greater opportunity.

The *parable about the empty house 12:43-45

v43 ‘When an evil *spirit comes out from a man, it goes through dry places. It is looking for somewhere to rest. But it does not find a place. v44 Then it says, ‘I will go back to the house that I left.’ When the evil *spirit arrives there, it finds an empty house. The house is clean and neat. v45 Then the evil *spirit goes out. It gets 7 other *spirits that are more wicked than itself. And they all go in to the house and live there. Then the man is worse off than he was before. That is what will happen to the wicked people who live today.’

Verse 43 People thought that evil *spirits lived in deserts.

Verses 44-45 People should send away evil thoughts and actions. But they have to do more than just this. They must replace the evil things with good things. They must think good thoughts. They must do good actions. The *Holy Spirit must live in a person to protect him.

The *Pharisees thought that they had made their religion morally ‘clean’. They had tried to remove evil things. The *Pharisees told people hundreds of things that they must not do. But the *Pharisees refused to accept the new life that Jesus offered. So they were making everyone’s lives worse.

The true family of Jesus 12:46-50

v46 While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside. They wanted to speak to him. v47 Someone told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside. They want to speak to you.’ v48 Jesus replied, ‘Who is my mother and who are my brothers?’ v49 He pointed to his *disciples. He said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers. v50 Because anyone who does what my Father in heaven wants is my brother and sister and mother.’

Verse 46 Jesus had four brothers and some sisters (Mark 6:3). Jesus was Mary’s ‘first’ son (Luke 2:7). This suggests that Mary and Joseph married and had children in the normal family relationship. Matthew does not say why Jesus’ family wanted to speak to him. Mark says that they came to look after him. Perhaps they thought that Jesus spent too much time with the crowds. Perhaps his family were worried. They heard that the *religious leaders were opposing him (Mark 3:21).

Verses 48-50 Jesus knew that family life was important. However, the *Pharisees changed the rules about families. It became possible for a son not to look after his parents (Mark 7:9-13). When Jesus was on the *cross, he still looked after his mother. He made sure that she had a home (John 19:27). But in these verses, he was emphasising that his work was very important. The people who become his *disciples are part of the Christian family. The Christian family has even closer relationships than a natural family. Jesus’ mother and brothers had stood ‘outside’. This shows that they did not join in his work at that time. Jesus’ *disciples were near to him. They wanted to join in his work.

Chapter 13

Stories about where God rules 13:1-52

Matthew wrote down a lot of the things that Jesus taught. This chapter is the third section like that. Jesus told these stories for three reasons:

            1. His stories were about things in ordinary people’s lives. Everyone could understand them. People did not need to be very intelligent to understand them.

            2. The stories made people think about their meaning. The *Pharisees knew that the story about the wicked *tenants described them (Matthew 21:33-46).

            3. People who wanted to obey God would understand these stories. People who did not want to obey God would not understand them.

Often, such stories are called *parables.

There are seven such stories. And Jesus explained two of them.

The story about the man who sowed some seeds 13:1-9

v1 That same day, Jesus went out of the house. He sat by the lake to teach the people. v2 Large crowds of people gathered round him. So he got into a boat on the lake. He sat down in the boat while all the people stood by the side of the lake. v3 Then he told them many things in *parables.

‘A farmer went out to sow seeds. v4 As he was scattering the seeds, some fell on the path. Then some birds came and ate all those seeds. v5 Some seeds fell on rocks, where there was not much earth. The seeds grew up quickly because the earth was shallow. v6 But when the sun shone, it burned the young plants. Then they dried up and died. They did not have deep roots. v7 Other seeds fell among weeds. The weeds grew faster and bigger, so that the good plants could not grow. v8 Still other seeds fell on good earth. They grew and produced a crop. Some seeds produced 100 times more than the farmer planted. Some produced 60 times more and some 30 times more than the farmer planted. v9 Those who have ears should listen and understand.’

Verse 2 The great crowds would be able to hear Jesus clearly as he spoke from the boat. A farmer may have been working near to them.

Verse 3 A farmer scattered the seeds by hand.

Verse 4 People walked on the paths and this made them very hard. So the seeds would lie on top and the birds could quickly eat these seeds.

Verses 5-6 In many places, there was only a very thin amount of earth on top of the rocks in that country. The seeds would begin to grow quickly. But their roots could not grow properly because of the rock. So the plant would soon die in the hot sun.

Verse 7 There were already weeds in this ground. Weeds grow quicker and use up all the space. The good seeds began to grow, but the light could not get to the young plants. So the plants could not last.

Verse 8 The good ground had plenty of earth. So the seeds could grow deep roots and find water. There were no weeds and the plants could continue to grow strongly. So there was a good harvest.

Verse 9 Jesus meant that people should think about this story. They should try to understand the extra meaning that he teaches.

The reason why Jesus taught with stories 13:10-17

v10 The *disciples came to Jesus. ‘Why do you speak to the people in *parables?’ they asked him. v11 Jesus replied, ‘You have had the opportunity to understand some of God’s secrets. You know about heaven where God rules. But the people who are not *disciples do not understand. v12 Everyone who understands will hear more. They will see and understand plenty. But not everyone really understands. And even if they understand a little, they will not remember. v13 This is why I speak to people in *parables. They look, but they do not really see. They hear, but they do not really listen and understand. v14 So these people show things about themselves. The things that the *prophet Isaiah said about them are true.

Isaiah wrote this:

          “You people will hear,

          but you will never understand.

          You will look and see.

          But you will never know what you are seeing.

v15    Deep inside these people, they do not want to understand.

          So they have shut their ears,

          and they have closed their eyes.

          Otherwise, they might see with their eyes,

          and they might hear with their ears.

          They might really understand.

          Then they might turn to me, and I would heal them.”

v16 But you are happy. This is because you have eyes that see. And you have ears that hear. v17 I am telling you the truth. Many of God’s servants and many of God’s people wanted to see what you are seeing. But they did not see it. They wanted to hear what you are hearing. But they did not hear it.’

Verses 10-11 The true things about God’s rule are ‘secrets’. People cannot discover them for themselves. God shows people that Jesus is king. He shows this to the people who are willing to believe him. People who do not want to learn do not understand.

Verse 12 Some people want to obey God’s authority. Those people will understand what Jesus teaches more and more. Other people hear what Jesus teaches, but do not obey Jesus. They will become less able to understand.

Verses 13-15 Stories can only show the truth to people who are willing to listen. But many people failed to understand because they did not want to obey God. Jesus reminded them of what Isaiah had said long ago. God called Isaiah to be his special servant. But God warned Isaiah that his work would be difficult (Isaiah 6:9-10). People had not obeyed God for a long time. So they did not want to listen to Isaiah’s message. They did not want to understand what he said. Isaiah’s words were true also about the people who would not accept Jesus. They did not want to leave their *sins. So Jesus could not give them his gift. His gift is life that never ends.

Verses 16-17 The *disciples had the opportunity to see and to hear the *Messiah. God had promised to send the *Messiah to the *Jewish nation. Many of God’s people had waited for the *Messiah to come. But he had not come during their lives. God gave the *disciples a gift because he let them meet Jesus, the *Messiah. They saw that God’s promise had come true.

Jesus explains the story about the man who sowed some seeds 13:18-23

v18 ‘Listen to what the story about the farmer means. v19 Some of his seeds fell on the hard path. The seed is like the message about where God rules. But some people do not understand it because they are like the hard path. Then *Satan comes and takes away the message from them. v20 Some of his seeds fell on the shallow earth on the rocks. This shallow earth is like some people who hear the message. They really listen to it and they are very happy. v21 But they do not believe it very strongly. They are like little plants with small roots. They have not thought about the difficulties, so they last only a short time. Trouble comes and they stop believing. Other people are against them because they believe the message. So they soon stop being loyal. v22 Some seeds fell on earth with weeds in it. That earth is like other people who listen to the message. But they worry about what will happen to them in this life. And they believe that money will make them happy. These things push the message out of their thoughts. Then the message cannot produce good things in their lives. v23 But some seeds fell on good soil. That soil produced a good crop. It was a 100, 60 or 30 times more than the farmer had planted. That soil is like people who really listen to the message. They understand it and believe. So they produce many good things in their lives.’

These verses show the different ways in which people believe the Christian message. God’s word is like seed and people are like soil in the field.

Verse 19 Some people hear the message, but they forget it immediately. A person may be very proud of his own opinions. He will not listen carefully. He has refused to obey God for a long time. He is like a hard path. God’s word cannot even begin to make a change in his life.

Verses 20-21 People may be eager to believe God’s message at first. But they have not thought seriously about the results. So they do not believe very strongly. They are like the thin soil on top of the rock that does not let the plants’ roots grow. These people do not understand that they may suffer. They will have the same problems as people who do not believe the message. Family difficulties, illness or other troubles may affect them. Also, people may insult and attack them because they have believed the message. But because they only believe a little, they do not last. Their belief dies like the plant in the hot sun.

Verse 22 Some people desire to possess money or goods. They think about them very often. They work very hard to earn a lot of money. Some people have many responsibilities and interests, which take much time. Then these things push out the Christian life. So those people become too busy to pray. There is no time for them to study the Bible. God is no longer first in their lives. They do not realise what they are doing.

Verse 23. There are people like the good ground that produces a crop. They are never too proud or too busy to listen to God’s message. They believe it, even when they expect trouble. They realise what might happen to them as a result. They believe the message. So they change the way that they live. Also, they tell the message about God’s rule to many other people. Isaiah said long ago that God’s word would be successful (Isaiah 55:10-11). *Disciples should ‘sow’ God’s message. There will certainly be a ‘harvest’ of people who believe it. They will understand and believe the message about Jesus.

The story about the weeds among the wheat 13:24-30

v24 Jesus told them another story.

‘Where God rules from heaven, it is like this. A man planted good seed in his field. v25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came there. The enemy sowed weeds among the wheat and then went away. v26 Then the wheat began to grow. When it began to produce seeds, they could see the weeds among the wheat. v27 The owner’s servants came to tell him. “Sir”, they said, “you sowed good seed in your field. So where did the weeds come from?” v28 “An enemy did this”, the owner replied. Then the servants asked him, “Do you want us to go and pull out the weeds?” v29 “No”, he answered. “While you are pulling out the weeds, you may pull out the wheat with them. v30 Let the weeds and the wheat grow together until the harvest. At that time, I will tell the workers what to do. I will say, ‘First collect the weeds. Tie them in bundles for burning. Then collect the wheat and bring it into my store.’ ” ’

Verses 24-27 Jesus referred to a particular type of weed. When it started to grow, this weed looked nearly the same as the wheat. Often people could not tell the difference between them. But when the plants had ripe seeds, it was possible to see the difference. The *Romans had a law against people who put weeds in other people’s fields. So everyone who was listening to Jesus would understand this story.

Verses 28-30 It was not possible to pull out the weeds without damaging the wheat plants. But at harvest-time, the servants could separate the weeds and burn them. They could then store the good wheat.

The stories about the tiniest seed and the *yeast 13:31-33

v31 Jesus told them another story.

‘Where God rules from heaven, it is like this. Someone took a mustard seed and planted it in a field. v32 It is the smallest of all your seeds. But when it grows, it becomes the largest of the plants in your garden. It becomes a tree. So birds come and sit in its branches.’

v33 Then Jesus told them yet another story.

‘Where God rules from heaven, it is like this. A woman mixed *yeast into a large amount of flour to make bread. The *yeast made the whole lot grow bigger.’

These two stories belong together because they are both about growth.

Verses 31-32 Although a mustard seed is very tiny, it can grow into a very large bush. The mustard bush is like a small tree, and birds can rest in it. God ruled only a few people’s lives when Jesus was alive. There were just a few *disciples who followed him. But their number grew until it spread through the whole world later.

In the *Old Testament, a tree was a powerful nation in picture language. The birds in its branches were the nations to whom it gave protection (Ezekiel 17:22-24). People from all nations will find their security when God rules them.

Verse 33 Jesus had watched his mother as she made bread. A very small amount of *yeast makes a large amount of bread mixture grow bigger. The mixture grows slowly. People cannot see how it happens. In the same way, when people become Christians, they slowly affect society in a good way. The people in Thessalonica city realised that the Christians were making a difference to their society. ‘These Christians have completely changed what happens in the world!’ they said (Acts 17:6). Christians trust Jesus. They believe that he is the king. When they believe this, it changes people’s characters for good. And then they change the character of their society in a good way.

The way that Jesus used stories 13:34-35

v34 Jesus told all these things to the crowd in stories. He did not say anything to them without using a story. v35 So the words that God’s special servant spoke long ago came true:

          ‘I will tell things to the people in stories.

          I will speak about things that people did not know.

          These things were secret since the world began.’

Verse 34 Jesus often used stories to teach the crowds. They would have to think about what those stories meant.

Verse 35 These words come from Psalm 78:1-2. The person who wrote the psalm spoke words from God. That is why Matthew calls him ‘God’s special servant’. Jesus used these stories to teach new things. Nobody had really known about where God rules before. The people who believed Jesus would understand their meaning. Many people in the crowds did not believe him. So they did not understand what his stories meant.

Jesus explains the story about the weeds among the wheat 13:36-43

v36 Then Jesus left the crowd and went into the house. And his *disciples came to talk to him. ‘Explain the story about the weeds in the field to us’, they said.

v37 So Jesus told them. ‘The person who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. v38 The field is the world. The good seed means all the people who accept God’s rule. The weeds are all the people who belong to the Evil Person (the devil). v39 The enemy who plants those weeds is the devil. The harvest means judgement day. The workers are God’s *messengers. v40 The harvest workers pull out the weeds and burn them. And it will be like that on judgement day. v41 The Son of Man will send out his special *messengers. They will not let anyone or anything remain that causes *sin. They will destroy all those who do evil things. v42 God’s *messengers will throw them into the fierce fire. And there, people will weep and bite their teeth together. v43 Then the people who belong to God will shine like the sun. They will live where God, their Father, rules. The person who really listens will understand this!’

Verses 36-39 Some people belong to God because they have accepted his rule. Other people belong to the devil. It may be very hard to tell the difference between them. But people must not try to be judges over other people. Judgement must wait until God decides the right time for it. Only God has the right to be the judge. He can decide because he can see the whole of a person’s life.

Verses 40-43 In the end, God will remove everything that is evil. He will not let anything bad stay where he rules. Jesus speaks about the judgement of wicked people. Jesus uses picture language when he speaks about fire. Fire means punishment.

Matthew uses the words ‘weep and bite their teeth together’ in several places (Matthew 8:12; 13:50; 22:13; 24:51). It means that people are very sad. Also, they suffer great pain. The wicked people will receive punishment, and it will be terrible for them. The people who belong to God will ‘shine like the sun’. This idea comes from Daniel 12:3.

The stories about the hidden *treasure and the *pearl that had great value 13:44-46

v44 ‘Where God rules from heaven, it is like something very valuable. Someone hid that valuable thing in a field. When another man found it, he was very happy. He hid it again and went home. Then he sold everything that he owned. And so he bought that field with the valuable thing in it.

v45 Where God rules from heaven, it is also like this. A merchant was looking for beautiful valuable stones. v46 Then he found one that was very valuable called a *pearl. So he went away from there. He sold everything that he owned. Then he bought that *pearl.’

Verse 44 In those days, people often kept money in the ground. Also, people buried their valuable possessions when they had to escape during a war. Sometimes they never returned to dig them up again. The man was working in a field. He found the valuable thing by accident. So he was willing to sell everything that he owned. He really wanted to gain this valuable thing more than anything else. We call something like this ‘treasure’.

Verse 45 The merchant was searching everywhere for beautiful stones or ‘*pearls’. At last, he discovered a very valuable one. So he sold everything so that he could possess that *pearl.

Both these stories compare where God rules to something that is valuable. It is more valuable than everything else. The first man discovered something that he had not expected. In the same way, a person may suddenly discover the truth about Jesus. That person may want to enter where God rules. The man sold everything so that he could buy the field. And if God rules people, they must give up their own wishes, relationships and habits. But they know that it is worth it. The merchant is like someone who searches for the valuable things in the world. He can find lovely things in art, music, books and human relationships. But he discovers that the most valuable thing of all is to become a servant of God. Then he does what God wants him to do. And he is very happy.

The story about the net with good and bad fish 13:47-50

v47 ‘Where God rules from heaven, it is also like a net for catching fish. The men threw their net into the lake, and it caught all kinds of fish. v48 When the net was full, the men pulled it to the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish into baskets. But they threw the bad fish away. v49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. God’s *messengers will come. They will separate the wicked people from the people who belong to God. v50 God’s *messengers will throw the wicked people into the fierce fire. There the wicked people will weep and they will bite their teeth.’

Verses 47-50 This story is like the story about the wheat and the weeds. It was natural for Jesus to talk about fishing. At least 4 of his *disciples had worked at fishing. And they were near the lake called Galilee. There are at least 24 kinds of fish in that lake. Some fish were good and useful. Other fish were not fit to eat. The net would draw a mixture of fish onto the shore. Jesus’ *disciples were like the men who were fishing. They drew all kinds of people into the ‘net’, which is where God rules. God’s rule includes people who really believe Jesus. It also includes people who do not really follow Christ. God will separate these people at the end of time.

The owner of a house who has both old and new valuable things 13:51-52

v51 Then Jesus asked them, ‘Do you understand all these things?’ ‘Yes’, they replied.

v52 So Jesus spoke to them again. ‘Some men who teach the *Law have entered where God rules from heaven. They are like a man who owns a house. That person has new things and old things that he has saved in the house. And that person brings out those new things and those old things.’

Verses 51-52 Jesus wanted the *disciples to understand him properly. Then they could teach other people about where God rules. They should be like good men who taught God’s law. They could use all that they already knew from the *Old Testament. This would be like the old things. Jesus had helped them to understand new things also. Matthew was himself like the owner of a house. In his *gospel, he used both the *Old Testament and the new stories that Jesus taught.

The next section of Matthew’s *gospel records mainly the actions of Jesus. Matthew records the way that some people believed Jesus. He also records how some people opposed him.

The people at Nazareth refuse to accept Jesus 13:53-58

v53 When Jesus had finished telling these stories, he moved on from there. v54 He came to his own town called Nazareth. He went to the building where they met to *worship God. And he began to teach the people there. He astonished them. ‘Where did this man get this wisdom? Where did he get the power to do *miracles?’ they asked each other. v55 ‘This is just the *carpenter’s son. His mother’s name is Mary. His brothers are James, Joseph, Simon and Judas. v56 And all his sisters are here with us. So where did this man learn all these things?’ they said. v57 And they were not happy about Jesus. So he spoke to them, ‘God’s special servants receive honour everywhere, except in their own towns or in their own homes’, Jesus said. v58 And he did not do many *miracles there, because they did not believe him.

Verses 53-56 The people in Nazareth thought that they knew all about Jesus. They had known him all his life. He was the *carpenter’s son, the man who made their wooden tools and furniture. They did not say Joseph’s name. This probably means that he was dead. They knew Jesus’ mother and the other members of his family. So they could not understand how an ordinary person from the country could speak so well. They could not believe that he could act in such a wonderful way.

Verse 57 Jesus used a phrase that people knew well. People do not believe someone that they know well. Other people may give honour to that person, but his own people do not give honour.

Verse 58 Luke also records this visit to Nazareth. Some people there did not like what Jesus said. So they tried to kill him (Luke 4:16-30). And Mark says that Jesus ‘could not’ do a *miracle in Nazareth (Mark 6:5). Jesus had the power to do *miracles anywhere. But people need to believe him before Jesus is able to help them.

Chapter 14

John the *Baptist dies 14:1-12

v1 At that time, the ruler called Herod heard reports about Jesus. v2 So he spoke to his servants. ‘This is John the *Baptist. He has risen from the dead! That is why he has the power to do *miracles’, he said. v3 Some time before this, Herod had arrested John because Herodias wanted this. Herodias was the wife of Herod’s brother Philip. Herod ordered his men to tie John up. Then they put him in prison. v4 John had been speaking to Herod, ‘It is against the law for you to have her as your wife’, John said to him. v5 So Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of the people. They thought that John was God’s special servant. v6 On Herod’s birthday, Herodias’s daughter danced for Herod and his guests. She pleased Herod very much. v7 So he made a promise. He promised to give her anything that she asked for. v8 Then her mother told her what to ask for. ‘Give me the head of John the *Baptist here on a big plate’, she said. v9 This upset the king, but he had promised in front of his dinner guests. So he ordered that she should have her desire. v10 Then they went to the prison and cut off John’s head. v11 They brought the head to Herod on a big plate and they gave it to the girl. And she carried it to her mother. v12 Later John’s *disciples came. They took away his body and they buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.

Verse 1 This Herod was Herod Antipas, who was a son of Herod the Great. He ruled the areas called Galilee and Perea after his father died. Sometimes people call him ‘the tetrarch’ which meant ‘ruler over a quarter of the land’. Later it meant just ‘ruler’.

Verse 2 The news about Jesus made Herod afraid. He had a guilty conscience. He had ordered someone to kill John the *Baptist. So Herod was afraid that Jesus might be John. Perhaps John was alive again. Herod thought that John had returned to punish him in some way.

Verses 3-11 describe why they killed John.

Verses 3-4 On a visit to Rome, Herod had seen Herodias. She was his brother Philip’s wife. This Philip had a private business in Rome city. He is a different Philip from the ruler that Luke mentioned (Luke 3:1). Herod divorced the Arab princess who was already his wife. Then Herod stole Herodias from his brother. John the *Baptist was not afraid of Herod. John told Herod that he had done something wrong. Herod was guilty because he already had a wife. And Herodias was his brother’s wife. It was wrong to marry his brother’s wife, unless he had died (Leviticus 18:16).

Verses 6-7 The daughter of Herodias was a princess. But she did not seem to feel shame that she danced in public. Then Herod made a foolish promise to her. She could have anything that she asked for.

Verses 8-9 Herodias hated John. She wanted him to die. And now she had the opportunity. Herod would have pleased Herodias before this, but he had been afraid of public opinion. He was more afraid of his guests’ opinion. So he did not change his decision about his foolish promise. He did not want his guests to think that he was a weak leader. He granted Herodias’s wicked request, and he broke the *Law. ‘You must not kill’, the *Law says. Many guests would not have enjoyed looking at someone’s head on a dish. But they had probably drunk too much wine, so they did not care.

Verses 10-12 John was in prison in the castle at Machaerus. Herod and his friends were probably there for his birthday party. John’s *disciples were able to bury John’s body. Then they went to Jesus. And they told him what had happened.

Jesus feeds 5000 people 14:13-21

v13 Jesus heard what had happened to John. Then Jesus wanted to be alone. So he went across the lake in a boat to a quiet place. But the crowds heard about this and they followed him. They walked from their towns and went round the lake on the land. v14 And when Jesus landed, he saw a large crowd of people. He felt great sympathy for them. So he healed the people who where ill.

v15 When it was nearly evening, the *disciples came to Jesus. ‘There is nothing here’, they said to him. ‘It is already getting late, so you must send the crowds away. Then they can go and buy some food in the villages.’

v16 But Jesus replied to them. ‘They do not need to go away’, he said. ‘You give them something to eat.’

v17 ‘We have only five loaves of bread and two fish’, they answered.

v18 ‘Bring them here to me’, Jesus said. v19 Then he directed the people to sit down on the grass. He took the five loaves and the two fish. He looked up to heaven and he thanked God. Then he broke the loaves into pieces and he gave them to the *disciples. Then the *disciples gave the food to the people. v20 All of them ate and had enough to eat. Afterwards, the *disciples picked up 12 baskets full of broken pieces that the people had left. v21 There were about 5000 men who ate the food. There were women and children who ate as well.

Verses 13-14 Matthew says that Jesus wanted to go away by himself. He was sad because John the *Baptist was dead. Also, Mark and Luke say that he wanted to take the 12 tired *disciples away from the crowds (Mark 6:30-31; Luke 9:10). But Jesus and his *disciples did not escape. The crowds of people saw where Jesus was going. So they walked round the top end of the lake and they arrived first. Jesus in the boat took longer to cross the lake. People in the crowd wanted Jesus to heal them. He was very sorry for them, so he healed them. He helped the people and he did not please himself.

Verses 15-17 The *Israelites had asked, ‘Can God provide food in the desert?’ (Psalm 78:19). God had answered. He sent special food from heaven for them. The people had to collect it each day (Exodus 16:13-18). The *disciples believed that the supply of food was far too small. They thought that there was not enough food for such a large crowd. Jesus saw what the crowd needed. Then he trusted God’s great power and provided plenty of food.

Verses 18-19 The *Jewish people thanked God before they ate a meal. Jesus also did this. He used what the *disciples had. Then he increased it. God uses whatever gifts we bring to him. And he increases them. Jesus asked the *disciples to give out the food. God helps people. But he also needs *disciples who will help him to do his work.

Verse 20 Everyone had enough to eat. Also, they filled 12 baskets with the extra pieces. Jesus had done a *miracle to satisfy the people’s hunger.

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all record this *miracle. Matthew leaves out some of the details that Mark and Luke write about. This *miracle reminds us about two things:

            1. It reminds us about God’s *miracle of the harvest. He provides enough food for everyone in the world. But some people and nations are greedy and selfish. They make some people hungry. God is generous, but people must not waste his gifts.

            2. The *Jews had many firm ideas about the *Messiah. They thought that he would feed them with ‘bread from heaven’. John tells us more (John 6:1-15). The crowd believed that Jesus was the *Messiah. So they wanted him to be their king. They wanted him to lead them against the *Romans (John 6:15).

Jesus walks on the lake 14:22-33

v22 Immediately afterwards, Jesus told the *disciples to get into the boat. He sent them ahead to the other side of the lake. But he stayed, and he sent the crowd away. v23 After he had sent the people away, he went up the hill by himself. He went there to pray. So when the evening came, he was there alone. v24 The boat with his *disciples was already a long way from land. The boat was in difficulty because a strong wind was blowing against it. And the waves were very high. v25 Very early the next morning, Jesus went out to the *disciples on the lake. He walked on the water. v26 The *disciples saw him walking on the lake. Then they were very afraid. ‘It’s a *ghost!’ they screamed. They cried out because they were very afraid.

v27 At once Jesus called out to them. ‘Be brave! It is I. Do not be afraid’, he said.

v28 ‘*Lord, if it is really you, talk to me. Tell me to come to you on the water’, Peter said to him. v29 ‘Come’, Jesus replied. So Peter got out of the boat and he walked on the water towards Jesus. v30 But when Peter saw the wind, he was afraid. He began to sink in the water and he cried out to Jesus. ‘*Lord save me!’ he called.

v31 Immediately, Jesus reached out his hand and caught Peter. ‘You do not really believe me!’ he said. ‘There was no reason for you to doubt.’

v32 When they climbed into the boat, the wind became less strong. v33 Then the *disciples who were in the boat *worshipped Jesus. ‘You really are the Son of God’, they said.

Verses 22-23 Jesus needed to continue his work and not cause political trouble. So he sent everyone away. Then he went and talked to God alone.

Verses 24-25 ‘Early the next morning’ was between 3 and 6 a.m. The *Jews called this the fourth period of the night. In Mark 6:39 we read that the people sat down on the ‘green’ grass. So the time of year was probably April. Jesus knew that the *disciples were in difficulty. They were trying to row against a strong wind. In the other storm that Matthew wrote about (Matthew 8:23-27), Jesus had been with them in the boat. That was during the daytime.

Verses 28-31 Only Matthew records Peter’s request. But Peter failed to keep watching Jesus. So he had trouble. He knew that only Jesus could save him then.

Verse 33. The *disciples may have known the words from Job 9:8. ‘God alone... walks on the waves of the sea.’ They knew that no ordinary man could walk on water like that. So they were afraid and they *worshipped Jesus. They would not understand completely that Jesus was the ‘Son of God’ until after the *Resurrection.

This account has encouraged Christians in times of difficulty. Jesus is always there when we are struggling with circumstances, *temptations or sad events. He tells us not to be afraid. He tells us to trust him. Peter failed when he looked at his situation. He should have kept looking at the power of Jesus. When Jesus got into the boat, the wind decreased. So, in any time of great difficulty, the company of Jesus can make our minds calm.

Jesus heals sick people at Gennesaret 14:34-36

v34 When they had crossed over the lake, they landed at Gennesaret. v35 The men who lived there recognised Jesus. So they sent a message about him to everyone who lived in the whole neighbourhood. Then they brought all the people who were ill to Jesus. v36 They asked Jesus to let the sick people just touch the edge of his clothes. And all the people who touched his clothes became well again.

Verse 34 Gennesaret was an area on the north west side of the lake.

Verses 35-36 Everyone who believed that Jesus could help them was welcome. Jesus did not refuse to help anyone who needed his help. There is no record here that he taught the people. He showed by his actions what God is like.

This short section contrasts with the beginning of chapter 15. The people of Gennesaret were glad to see Jesus, but the *religious leaders did not like him. The people who touched Jesus became well again. But the *Pharisees would not touch someone whom they considered ‘not clean’.

Chapter 15

The three sections of chapter 15 show Jesus’ attitude to people who were not *Jews. He wanted them to be happy with the good news in his message:

            1. Verses 1-20 Jesus taught about clean food, and food that is not clean. This removed the idea that people who are not *Jews are different.

            2. Verses 21-28 Jesus healed the daughter of a woman who was not a *Jew.

            3. Verses 29-39 Jesus fed the crowd of hungry people who were probably not *Jews.

God’s *Law and *Jewish *tradition 15:1-9

v1 Then some *Pharisees and some men who taught the *Law came to Jesus from Jerusalem. v2 ‘Why do your *disciples not obey the *traditions that our grandfathers gave to us?’ they asked. ‘Your *disciples do not wash their hands before they eat!’

v3 Jesus replied to them. ‘Why do you not obey God’s command?’ he asked. ‘Why do you only obey what you yourselves teach? v4 God has told us, “Give honour to your father and mother.” God also said, “Anyone who speaks evil against his father or mother must die.” v5 But you allow people to avoid these commands. “I was going to help you with a gift. But now I have given that gift to God”, people may say to their parents. v6 So then they need not help their parents, you say. They no longer give honour to their parents. In that way, you make God’s command mean nothing. You make your tradition more important. v7 You act as if you are good! Isaiah was right when he wrote God’s words about you long ago.

v8      “These people say that they give honour to me.

          But they never really think about me.

v9      They do not *worship me sincerely.

          Instead, they teach rules that men have made”, the *Lord said.’

Verses 1-2 Usually people wash their hands to remove dirt. That helps to prevent disease. But the *Pharisees’ question did not refer to this ordinary action. They had a tradition that they taught people. And this tradition said how people should wash in a special way. This was the only way to remove everything that was not clean. The *Pharisees considered that certain foods were not clean. And anyone who touched a foreigner would no longer be clean. Every day they might touch something or someone that would make them no longer clean.

Verses 3-6 Jesus spoke to the *Pharisees and to the men who taught the *Law. They considered that their *traditions were more important than God’s commands. Jesus reminded them about one command as an example. God said that people should give honour to their parents. When parents need something, their children have a responsibility to help them. But the *Pharisees had another *tradition. People could put things aside that their parents needed. Then they could say that they had given those things to God. Sometimes they only pretended to give these things to God. But this avoided the need to help their parents. The *Pharisees made serious promises in front of God that they must keep. But they were making a *tradition more important than their responsibility to their parents.

Verses 7-9 Jesus used words from Isaiah (Isaiah 29:13). He said that they did not *worship God sincerely. They were not saying what they were really thinking. They said that they served God, but they did not obey him.

Clean foods and things that are not clean 15:10-20

v10 Then Jesus called all the people together and spoke to them. ‘Listen and understand’, he said. v11 ‘A person will eat things. But these things will not make him wrong. A person will say things. These are the things that will make him wrong.’ v12 Then the *disciples came to Jesus. ‘The *Pharisees were angry when they heard this’, they told him. ‘Did you know that?’

v13 ‘There are plants that my Father in heaven has not planted’, Jesus replied. ‘God will pull up the roots of those plants. v14 Leave them! The *Pharisees are blind guides. And when a blind man leads another blind man, they both fall into a deep hole.’

v15 So Peter spoke to Jesus. ‘Explain this to us’, he said.

v16 ‘You are not any wiser than the other people!’ Jesus replied. v17 ‘Even you do not understand! Everything that enters the mouth goes into the stomach. Then it goes out from the body. v18 But the words that come out of the mouth come from deep inside the person. These are the things that make someone wrong. v19 Evil thoughts come from deep inside a person. These thoughts lead people to do wrong acts like murder. Or they may steal someone else’s wife or perform wrong sex acts. They may steal or tell lies. They may lie and gossip falsely about other people. v20 These are the things that make a person wrong. But someone may eat, even if they do not wash their hands first. This does not make a person wrong.’

Verses 10-11 Jesus continued to teach a crowd of people. A person might obey all the rules about food, but that does not make their thoughts good. What a person says shows what he is like deep inside himself. People could obey all the *Jewish rules about food, but still they might not please God in other ways. The people who have a good spirit will see God (Matthew 5:8).

Verse 12 The *Pharisees wanted to keep the *Jewish religion pure. Perhaps the *disciples respected them because they were the leaders of the *Jews. But the *disciples knew that Jesus had made the *Pharisees angry.

Verse 13 This verse is like the story that Jesus told about the wheat and the weeds (Matthew 13:24-30). It may mean that God had ‘planted’ his commands. But later the *Pharisees had ‘planted’ their *traditions as well. God will destroy the plants that are not really his. John the *Baptist had spoken about God’s judgement. He said that it would be like an axe. It would cut down a tree that did not produce fruit (Matthew 3:10). God’s special servant Jeremiah also said that God ‘planted’ in the world and that he ‘pulled up the roots of plants’ (Jeremiah 45:4).

Verse 14 Jesus told the *disciples to stay away from the *Pharisees. They should have showed the people the way to God. Instead, they led people away from God.

Verse 15 Matthew identifies Peter as the *disciple who asked Jesus to explain. Mark just says that the *disciples asked. Matthew has a special interest in Peter.

Verses 16-20 Jesus seemed surprised that the *disciples did not understand. To eat food is normal and natural. The food cannot change people. But evil thoughts come from deep inside a person’s spirit. And they cause a person to behave in a wicked way. They change a person, so that the person is no longer *clean. Matthew mentions four of God’s commands in the right order (Exodus 20:13-16). A person may not wash their hands before a meal in the way that the *Pharisees ordered. But that would not change a person if they are *clean deep inside (in their spirit).

Some of the laws about food in Leviticus 11 helped the people to stay healthy. They helped them to choose foods wisely. But Jesus had shown that *traditions about food may be wrong. What people eat does not affect their character. Jesus taught that all food is good to eat. This ended the *Pharisees’ food *traditions. We read this in Mark 7:19.

A woman believes Jesus 15:21-28

v21 Then Jesus left that place. He went away to the region round the towns called Tyre and Sidon. v22 A *Canaanite woman from that region came to Jesus. She cried out to him. ‘*Lord, you are David’s Son. Please pity me! Evil *spirits control my daughter and she is suffering greatly.’

v23 Jesus did not answer her. So his *disciples came and spoke to him urgently. ‘Send her away. She is following us and shouting at us all the time.’

v24 ‘I have come only to Israel’s people because they are like sheep. But those sheep have lost their way’, Jesus replied.

v25 Then the woman came closer and she fell down in front of him. ‘*Lord, help me!’ she said.

v26 ‘It is not right if someone takes away the children’s food. Then they just throw that food to their *dogs’, Jesus replied to her.

v27 ‘That is true, *Lord’, she said. ‘But even the little *dogs eat the small pieces that fall from the master’s table.’

v28 ‘Woman, you really believe me!’ Jesus answered. ‘I will give you what you have asked for.’ And her daughter became well from that time.

Verse 21 Jesus went away partly because the *Jewish *religious leaders were opposing him. People who were not *Jews lived in Tyre and Sidon. Also, the crowds in Judea were preventing him from teaching his *disciples. He did not have time to prepare them and himself for the future.

Verse 22 The woman was a *Canaanite. They had been the *Jews’ enemies ever since Joshua’s time long ago. Somehow, she had heard about Jesus and she called him ‘David’s Son’. David had been king over the nation when the *Jews had defeated the *Canaanites.

Verse 23 Jesus did not answer her at once. He was probably testing her. He wanted to know how strongly she believed him. God does not always answer people’s prayers immediately. But the *disciples thought that the woman was a nuisance. They wanted Jesus to send this foreigner away.

Verse 24 Jesus’ main work was with the *Jews. The *Old Testament’s writers had prepared them for when the *Messiah would come. His *disciples could then take Jesus’ message beyond the *Jews into the rest of the world. Jesus had already spoken about Israel’s people as sheep that had lost their way (Matthew 10:6).

Verses 25-26 Jesus had not sent the woman away. So she repeated her request to him very humbly. *Jews called foreigners ‘*dogs’ as an insult. They were referring to the wild, dirty *dogs that lived on the streets. But Jesus used a different word when he spoke to the woman. It meant the ‘little *dogs’ that people kept as pets. As he said this, Jesus may have smiled. He was not insulting her. He was just reminding her that she was a foreigner to him.

Verses 27-28 Jesus usually only helped Israel’s people. But the woman knew that Jesus had more power than that. He had enough extra power to help her too. Jesus knew that she believed him. In a similar way, he had recognised that the army officer believed. And that officer was not a *Jew either (Matthew 8:10-11). He had healed the officer’s slave without going there to see him. Jesus did not go to see the woman’s sick daughter either. But he still healed her.

Jesus heals many sick people 15:29-31

v29 Then Jesus left there. He went along by the sea called Galilee. Then he climbed a hill and sat down. v30 Great crowds came to him and they brought sick people with them. They brought people who could not walk, blind people and many other people. They brought people who had legs and arms that hurt. They laid them all down in front of Jesus, and he healed them. v31 This astonished everyone. They saw that the dumb people were speaking. He healed the people with bad arms and legs. The people with weak legs could walk and the blind people could see. So everyone thanked Israel’s great God.

Verse 29 In Mark 7:31-37, we read that Jesus travelled a long way north. Then he returned through Decapolis, which was the region of the Ten Towns. Most of the people who lived in that region were not *Jews.

Verses 30-31 Because Jesus healed all kinds of illness, people thanked ‘Israel’s great God’. So it seems that Jesus healed other people who were not *Jews. Jesus’ main work was for ‘Israel’s sheep that had lost their way’. But he did care about the other people as well.

Jesus feeds 4000 people 15:32-39

v32 Then Jesus called his *disciples to him. ‘I feel great sympathy for these people’, he said. ‘They have been with me for three days now and they have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away when they are hungry. If I do send them away, they will become too weak on the way home.’

v33 The *disciples answered Jesus. ‘Where could we get enough bread to feed such a crowd?’ they asked him. ‘There is nothing in this place and it is far from anywhere.’

v34 ‘How many loaves do you have?’ Jesus asked.

‘Seven’, they replied, ‘and a few small fish.’

v35 So Jesus told the crowd to sit down on the ground. v36 Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and he thanked God. He broke them and he gave the food to the *disciples. And then the *disciples gave it to the people. v37 All of them ate and they had enough to eat. After that, the *disciples picked up seven baskets full of extra pieces. v38 About 4000 men ate the food that day. And there were women and children who ate as well. v39 After Jesus had sent the crowd away, he got into a boat. And he went to the area near Magadan.

Some people think that Matthew told the same story twice. They think that this is the same event as the story he told in Matthew 14:13-21. But in Matthew 16:9-10 Jesus refers to both *miracles. The main facts are similar. But there are several differences in the details:

            1. That time there were 5000 men in the crowd. This time there were 4000.

            2. The crowd had been with Jesus for ‘three days’ this time.

            3. There are seven loaves this time, and there were only five before.

            4. These fish are ‘small’ and before there were just two fish.

            5. This account does not mention grass. The people sat down on the ‘ground’. This suggests a time of year later than April. So probably, the grass had dried up.

            6. The word for ‘baskets’ is different. In Matthew 14:20 the word means a small narrow basket. A *Jew might carry his food in such a basket when he travelled. The word in this account was a large basket that could be big enough to carry a man.

            7. The *disciples picked up enough pieces to fill 12 small baskets in the first account. In this account, they picked enough to fill 7 big baskets.

Jesus fed 5000 people in the first event. That showed that God is very kind to the *Jews. He fed 4000 people this time. And this showed that he cared about people who are not *Jews too.

Chapter 16

The *Jewish leaders ask for a *miracle 16:1-4

v1 Some *Pharisees and some *Sadducees came to Jesus. They wanted to test him. So they asked him to show them some evidence from heaven.

v2 Jesus replied to them. ‘When evening comes you say, “The sky is red, so the weather will be fair.” v3 In the morning you say, “The weather will be stormy, because the sky is red and cloudy.” You can interpret what you see in the sky. And then you know what the weather will be like. But you cannot interpret what you see now. v4 You are a wicked nation that does not believe God. So you look for an extraordinary sign. But the only *miracle that you will see is what happened to Jonah.’ Then Jesus left them and he went away.

Verse 1 Both the *Pharisees and the *Sadducees were important people, but they had different ideas. The *Pharisees believed God’s *Law, but they added many other rules from their own *traditions. But the *Sadducees refused to accept them. The *Pharisees believed that people would live again after death. But the *Sadducees denied any life after death. Many *Pharisees hated what Jesus taught. He was not a *Pharisee. So they thought that he should not be teaching the people. The *Sadducees did not like Jesus either, but they had a political reason. They saw Jesus’ actions and they knew that he was popular. The *Sadducees were afraid that this would cause trouble with the *Romans. Then they would lose their authority. They only had authority because they worked with the *Romans. So both the *Pharisees and the *Sadducees opposed Jesus. They wanted him to show them a sign. They wanted to see a *miracle. Perhaps they wanted to hear God speak from heaven. Or perhaps they wanted to see wonderful events connected with the sun or moon. Jesus had already refused to do something that would astonish people (Matthew 4:5-7).

Verses 2-3 Jesus said that they knew how to interpret the evidence in the sky for good and bad weather. But they could not interpret what they saw was happening now. This word ‘now’ is the *Greek word ‘kairos’. It means the ‘right time’. People had the opportunity to follow Jesus. They had seen his *miracles already. They did not need more evidence. But they had refused to see what the *miracles meant.

Verse 4 God sent Jonah with a message to the people who lived in Nineveh. He gave the message that saved Nineveh’s people from God’s judgement. When Jonah told the people God’s message, they believed him. So they changed the way that they behaved. And so God forgave them and he did not destroy them. The sign was in the way that Jesus behaved. His message was a sign too. Also, his *burial and *resurrection was like the time that Jonah spent in the huge fish. (See Matthew 12:39-40.) But the *religious leaders refused to believe this. They refused to believe Jesus’ message about heaven where God rules. So Israel’s people opposed the *Romans, and the *Romans destroyed their city, Jerusalem, in *AD 70.

What the *Pharisees and the *Sadducees taught 16:5-12

v5 The *disciples crossed over to the other side of the lake in a boat with Jesus. They had forgotten to take any bread with them. v6 ‘Be careful’, Jesus said to them. ‘Be careful about the *yeast of the *Pharisees and the *Sadducees.’

v7 The *disciples talked about this among themselves. ‘He said that because we did not bring any bread with us’, they said to each other.

v8 Jesus knew what they were saying. ‘You do not believe me very much’, he said to them. ‘You should not say to each other that you have no bread. v9 You do not understand about me yet. Remember the 5 loaves that fed 5000 people. Remember how many baskets full of pieces that you collected. v10 Remember the 7 loaves that fed 4000 people. And remember how many baskets full of pieces that you collected then. v11 You must understand now that I was not talking about bread. But be careful about the *yeast of the *Pharisees and the *Sadducees.’

v12 Then the *disciples understood. Jesus was not telling them to be careful about the *yeast in the bread. He was warning them about what the *Pharisees and the *Sadducees taught.

Verses 6-7 ‘*Yeast’ is something that grows. People put *yeast into flour and water to make bread. It makes the mixture grow bigger. Only a very small amount of *yeast is necessary. The *disciples immediately thought about bread when Jesus mentioned *yeast. So they were very worried that they had not brought any bread with them.

Verses 8-10 Jesus reminded them that he had fed 5000 men one day and 4000 men another day. He had started with very little bread, but there had been plenty. And there were lots of pieces of bread that they collected afterwards. So if they trusted him, they did not need to worry about bread.

Verses 11-12 The *disciples at last realised that Jesus was not talking about actual bread. In the local language, ‘*yeast’ sometimes referred to an evil way to persuade other people. Jesus was warning them not to listen to the *Pharisees and the *Sadducees. Their teaching could change the way that the *disciples thought.

The *Pharisees had the wrong idea about religion. They thought that people just had to obey a set of rules. But the *disciples must not think that God’s way was only rules and ceremonies.

The *Sadducees were rich. And they thought that political action would help God. They thought that God could rule through them. But Jesus did not want the *disciples to believe that possessions are very important. And they must not think that political effort would make God rule on the earth.

The *disciples should not be like either the *Pharisees or the *Sadducees. The *disciples should encourage people to change their inner attitudes to God and to other people. This was the most important thing.

Peter declares that Jesus is the *Messiah 16:13-20

v13 Jesus went to the Caesarea Philippi region. There he asked his *disciples, ‘I am the Son of Man. Who do people say that I am?’

v14 ‘Some people say that you are John the *Baptist’, they replied. ‘Other people say Elijah, or Jeremiah, or another one of God’s special servants that lived long ago.’

v15 ‘But what about you?’ Jesus asked them. ‘Who do you say that I am?’

v16 Simon Peter answered him. ‘You are the Christ. God is alive, and you are God’s Son’, he said.

v17 Then Jesus replied to him. ‘Simon, son of Jonah, you are a happy man!’ he said. ‘No person on earth could have showed this to you. It was my Father in heaven who showed this to you. v18 I tell you that you are Peter. And that name means ‘a rock’. On this rock I will build my *church. And the powers of death will never be strong enough to destroy it. v19 I will give you the keys to the *kingdom of heaven. And whatever you lock on earth, God will lock in heaven. And whatever you unlock on earth, God will unlock in heaven.

v20 Then Jesus warned his *disciples not to tell anyone that he was the *Messiah.

Verse 13 Caesarea Philippi was a town about 25 miles to the north-east from the sea of Galilee. It was in the area that Philip, Herod’s son, ruled. He named the place ‘Caesar’s town’ and added his own name. Philippi means ‘belongs to Philip’. This showed that this town was distinct from the town called Caesarea on the coast. The river Jordan began in the Caesarea Philippi region. And there were many places where people *worshipped their own gods in that area. Jesus asked whether his *disciples understood who he was. First, he asked them what other people were saying about him.

Verse 14 The *disciples gave four answers. They were all people who were dead.

            1. John the *Baptist. Herod had been afraid that Jesus was John. Herod had been responsible for John’s death (Matthew 14:2). But he thought that John had come back to life again.

            2. Elijah. The *Jews believed that Elijah would return. He would prepare the way for the *Messiah (Malachi 4:5-6).

            3. Jeremiah. He had suffered because he spoke God’s true message to the people. He had spoken of a new agreement that God would make with his people.

            4. Another one of God’s special servants from long ago.

Verse 15 Someone can know what other people think about Jesus. But this is not enough. Everyone must think about Jesus for themselves. So Jesus asked the *disciples, ‘What do you think about me?’ Jesus asks each person that same question today.

Verses 16-17 ‘Christ’ is the *Greek word for the *Hebrew word ‘*Messiah’. Before this, the *disciples may have thought that Jesus could be the *Messiah (John 1:41). Now they had heard what he taught. They had seen his *miracles. And Peter had become sure that Jesus was the *Messiah. But Peter did not understand this by himself. Jesus said that God had shown Peter the truth.

Verses 18 The name ‘Peter’ means ‘rock’. In the *Old Testament, the word ‘rock’ often describes the security that God gives to his people. For example, ‘The *Lord is my rock’ (2 Samuel 22:2). Jesus used the word ‘rock’ or Peter as a name for Simon (John 1:43). There are several ways to explain what Jesus may have meant here.

            1. The rock is Jesus himself. In Ephesians 2:20, Paul calls Jesus the ‘chief stone’ (the most important part) in God’s building.

            2. The ‘rock’ refers to what Peter said. He believed that Jesus is the Christ, God’s Son. Everyone who can say the same thing is like a stone in God’s building (1 Peter 2:4-8). They are the ‘*church’. The *Greek word for *church does not refer to a building or to a particular organisation. It refers to all the people who believe in Jesus. They realise that he is God’s Son.

            3. Peter himself is like the first rock in God’s building. Jesus is the true foundation. And God’s building is the *church. But Peter was the first person to declare that he believed Jesus. And Peter became a leader and teacher in the *church. He was the first to speak to the crowds at *Pentecost about Jesus, the *Messiah. 3000 people became Christians that day (Acts 2). Later, he had a dream when he was staying at Joppa. As a result, people who were not *Jews believed. And Peter gave them a welcome into the *church (Acts 10:1–11:18). He supported the believers who were not *Jews at the *Council in Jerusalem (Acts 15).

Peter’s authority was not his alone. God’s special servants and the men that Jesus sent out were also the foundation of the *church (Ephesians 2:20).

Nothing would be able to destroy the *church. The *Greek words here mean ‘the gates to Hades’. And ‘Hades’ was the place where dead people go. The *Jews thought that it was a place with gates. Death was not strong enough to shut Jesus in Hades (Acts 2:27; Psalm 16:9-10). The *church too is stronger than death, so nothing can destroy the *church. People may attack and kill Christians. But the whole *church does not die. Instead, it becomes stronger.

Verse 19 Keys are a sign of authority. Jesus said, ‘I am alive. I was dead, but now I am alive again. And I hold the keys to death and Hades’ (Revelation 1:18). In Isaiah’s time, Eliakim was a servant who had a responsible job. He had to open and shut the door (Isaiah 22:22). Peter was like that servant. He ‘opened the door’ to God for thousands of people. They became part of God’s stones in his building. Every Christian has the same duty. He or she must show people the way to God. Peter guided the *church. He taught Christians how to behave in the right way. This was an honour and a responsibility. Peter shared this authority with other members of the *church (Matthew 18:18).

Verse 20 The *disciples now knew that Jesus was the *Messiah. But he told them not to spread the news. He did not want people to begin a fight against the *Romans. He wanted to teach his *disciples that he would suffer. They needed to know that he would die.

Jesus speaks about his death 16:21-23

v21 From that time on, Jesus began to explain to his *disciples what would happen to him. ‘I must go to Jerusalem’, he told them. ‘There, our nation’s leaders, and the chief *priests and the men who teach the *Law will cause me to suffer many things. They will kill me. But on the third day I will be alive again.’

v22 Peter took Jesus to one side and began to talk to him. ‘Never, *Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you.’

v23 Jesus turned and spoke to Peter. ‘Get away from me, *Satan!’ Jesus said. ‘You are a like a block in my way because you are thinking only human thoughts. You do not understand how God’s thinks!’

Verse 21 Jesus had to suffer and to die. The word ‘must’ shows that Jesus knew that this was God’s purpose for him. But this was the first time that Jesus spoke clearly to his *disciples about it.

Verses 22-23 Peter replied in a very natural, human way. But Jesus realised that it was a test. He must not become this different kind of *Messiah. It was like the test that *Satan had used (Matthew 4:8-10). So he told *Satan to go away. But he said the words, ‘Get away from me, *Satan’ to Peter as well. Peter did not realise the meaning of what he said to Jesus. But he was trying to persuade Jesus to go *Satan’s way. So Peter must get away from Jesus for the moment. He must learn to follow what Jesus decided. Peter must not follow his own human ideas.

How to follow Jesus 16:24-28

v24 Then Jesus spoke to all the *disciples. ‘If anyone wants to follow me, he must say no to himself. He must carry his *cross and he must follow me. v25 If he wants to save his own life, he will lose it. But if he loses his life for me, he will find life. v26 Someone may gain everything that is in the whole world. But that is no good to him if he loses his life. There is nothing that anyone can exchange for his or her life. v27 The *Son of Man is going to come soon in the very bright light from his Father. His servants from heaven will come with him. And he will reward every person for what each one has done. v28 I tell you the truth. There are some people who are standing here. They will see the Son of Man as he comes in his *kingdom. They will not die before they see that.

Verse 24 A *disciple must refuse to obey his own selfish desires. The *Romans killed criminals by fixing them with nails onto wooden beams in the shape of a cross. They made the criminals carry their wooden beams. Then they fixed them on the *crosses so that they would die outside the town. Jesus used this picture to teach his *disciples. They must obey him, even if people punish them. They must be loyal to him, even when it is very difficult.

Verses 25-26 People must choose. They can live their lives in their own way, or they can give up their own ambitions. They may suffer and even die with Jesus. But those people will find real life. People may gain everything that the world offers. They may have great wealth, power or fame. But it all has no value if they lose their real life. Jesus means life that will continue for ever with God.

Verse 27 Everyone will have to give an account to God for the way that they have lived their life. They must do this when Jesus returns to earth in the bright light from his Father.

Verse 28 People understand this promise in three ways:

            1. Jesus would return with his servants from heaven while some of the original *disciples were still alive. But Jesus said that nobody knew when the end of the age would come. Only the Father knew when Jesus will return (Matthew 24:36).

            2. Jesus was speaking about when he would change his whole appearance. But this change happened only one week later (Matthew 17).

Many years afterwards, in 2 Peter 1:16-18, Peter wrote about the *Lord Jesus Christ, his power and the fact that he will return. Peter, James and John were there when Jesus’ appearance changed. They had seen him shine like the sun. But Peter was still expecting him to return to earth again.

            3. After Jesus died, he became alive again. Later he returned to his Father in heaven, and then the *disciples received the power of the *Holy Spirit. Very many people became Christians. Then the *disciples were able to see the change when Jesus is king in people’s lives. They saw God’s greatness and power at work in the world.

Chapter 17

Jesus changed his appearance 17:1-13

v1 Six days later Jesus took Peter, James and John (who was James’s brother) with him. He led them up a high mountain where they were alone. v2 Suddenly, Jesus looked completely different. His face shone like the sun. His clothes became as white as light. v3 Just then Moses and Elijah appeared in front of them. They were talking with Jesus.

v4 Then Peter spoke to Jesus. ‘*Lord, it is good for us to be here’, he said. ‘If you wish, I will put up three shelters - one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’

v5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them. A voice spoke to them from the cloud. ‘This is my Son, whom I love’, the voice said. ‘I am very pleased with him. And you must listen to him!’

v6 When the *disciples heard this, they were very frightened. They fell down with their faces on the ground. v7 But Jesus came and touched them. ‘Get up’, he said. ‘Do not be afraid.’ v8 And when they looked up, they saw nobody except Jesus.

v9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus spoke seriously to them. ‘Do not tell anyone what you have seen. Wait until the Son of Man has risen from death.’

v10 So the *disciples asked him about it. ‘The men who teach the *Law say that Elijah must come first. Why do they say this?’ they asked.

v11 Jesus replied to them. ‘That is right. Elijah will come first’, he said. ‘He will prepare everything. v12 But I tell you that Elijah has already come. People did not recognise him. And they have done everything that they wanted to do to him. In the same way, they are going to make the Son of Man suffer.’

v13 Then the *disciples understood that Jesus was talking to them about John the *Baptist.

Verse 1 Matthew does not tell us the mountain’s name. It is probably Mount Hermon, which is near the town called Caesarea Philippi.

Verse 2 For a short time, the *disciples were able to see Jesus as he really is. His face shone as Moses’ face had shone (Exodus 34:29-30). Mark and Luke find different ways to describe Jesus’ clothes at this time. They were shining and they were white. Mark says that nobody could make them whiter. Luke says that they were bright, like lightning.

Verse 3 Moses was God’s special servant. He received the *Law from God for the people. Elijah was the greatest of God’s special servants. Jesus was more important than both these men. He explained what the *Law meant. God gave his message to his special servants to deliver to the people. Jesus made that message come true. Both Moses and Elijah had left the earth in strange ways. Their appearance with Jesus now suggested that there is life after death. Luke says that they were talking with Jesus about his death in Jerusalem. Luke used the word ‘exodus’ for ‘death’, like the ‘exodus’ in Moses’ time. Moses rescued Israel’s people from Egypt (Exodus 12). When Jesus died, he rescued people from *sin.

Verse 4 Peter offered to make three temporary shelters. He did not know what to say. Perhaps he wanted to stay on the mountain. Perhaps he wanted this experience of Jesus’ power to last longer. Sometimes Peter spoke before he really thought about his words.

Verse 5 The bright cloud was a sign that God was present. It was called the ‘shekinah’. It had appeared on Mount Sinai when God gave the *Law to Moses long ago. God also spoke the same words when John *baptised Jesus.

Verses 6-8 The *disciples were very frightened. But Jesus came over to them and touched them. So they knew that he was real. He told them not to be afraid. Then they realised that what they had seen had gone. But they had heard words, so the experience had been real too. They must listen to whatever Jesus said to them. Peter later wrote about this experience. ‘We ourselves heard the voice that spoke from heaven’ (2 Peter 1:16-18).

Verse 9 Jesus warned his *disciples. They must not tell anyone at this time what they had just seen. He did not want people to think about him as the wrong kind of *Messiah. These three *disciples did not understand completely until after Jesus died and rose to life again. So they were not able to explain properly until then what they had seen.

Verses 10-12 They were confused because they had seen Elijah on the mountain with Jesus. The men who taught the *Law believed that Elijah would come back before the *Messiah arrived. They did not know how this could be true. They thought that Elijah had not come. But they wanted to believe that Jesus was the *Messiah. Jesus told them that ‘Elijah’ had already come. The new Elijah was John the *Baptist. He had come to prepare people to receive the *Messiah. Then there could be a new relationship between the people and God. There could be new relationships between people as well (Malachi 4:5-6). But John had suffered because people did not believe his message. So Jesus would suffer too. But Jesus also said that Elijah will come again to the *Jews one day.

Jesus heals a boy who has an evil *spirit 17:14-23

v14 When they came to the crowd of people, a man approached Jesus. He went down on his knees in front of Jesus. v15 ‘*Lord, pity my son’, he said. ‘He has terrible ‘*epilepsy’ and he suffers a great deal. He often falls into the fire or falls into water. v16 I brought him to your *disciples, but they could not heal him.’

v17 ‘You are difficult people who do not believe God!’ Jesus replied. ‘It is hard for me to stay with you. It is hard for me to be with you. Bring the boy here to me.’ v18 Then Jesus ordered the evil *spirit to come out of the boy. And it came out of him, so that he was well from that moment.

v19 Then the *disciples came to Jesus in private. ‘Why could we not send out the evil *spirit?’ they asked him.

v20 ‘Because you do not really believe me’, Jesus told them. ‘I am telling you the truth. If you really believe only a little, it is enough. A very small seed like a mustard seed can grow into a plant. If you believe, you can speak to this mountain. “Move from here and go to there”, you could say to it. And it would move. Nothing would be impossible to you.’ [v21 But this kind of evil *spirit does not go out, unless you pray. You have to keep on praying and not eat.’]

v22 When they were all together in the Galilee region, Jesus spoke to them again. ‘Someone will hand the *Son of Man over to the authorities. v23 They will kill him, but on the third day after that, he will rise from the dead.’ Then the *disciples became very sad.

Verses 14-16 The three *disciples returned to the crowd from their wonderful experience alone with Jesus. They found the other *disciples with a problem because someone was suffering. There was a lot of confusion at that place, and Mark gives us more details. There was a curious crowd of people including some men who taught the *Law. And they were arguing with the *disciples. The *disciples were probably ashamed and puzzled. They had been able to force out evil *spirits before (Matthew 10:8), but this time they could not do it. But the sick boy’s father believed Jesus. So he still came to him, even after the *disciples had failed to heal his son. The father called his son’s illness ‘*epilepsy’. This illness makes a person shake hard and fall down. The boy had fallen into dangerous places. He could burn himself, or he might even drown.

Verses 17-18 Jesus used the same words that described Israel’s people in the desert long ago (Deuteronomy 32:5). People did not believe God then either. In Mark’s account, the father asked Jesus to help him. He really wanted to believe more. Matthew emphasises that the *disciples had failed to heal the sick boy. Jesus healed the boy with a command.

Verses 19-20 The *disciples wanted to know why they had not succeeded. Jesus told them that they needed only to believe him a little. Then they could deal with the most difficult problems. The *Jews used picture language. To move a mountain meant to remove something very difficult.

Verse 21 is not in many of the old copies that people made from Matthew’s *gospel. So many modern translations leave it out. The same words are in Mark 9:29.

Verses 22-23 This is the second time that Jesus spoke about his death. He also spoke about the time after his death. He said that someone would ‘hand him over to the authorities’. We read that Judas handed Jesus over to the chief *priests (Matthew 26:15). The chief *priests handed Jesus over to Pilate (Matthew 27:2). Pilate handed Jesus over to the soldiers who killed him (Matthew 27:26). The *disciples did not understand how Jesus would rise from death ‘on the third day’. They only knew that God would be the judge on a terrible day after death.

The *Temple tax 17:24-27

v24 Then Jesus and his *disciples arrived in the town called Capernaum. And the men who collected the *Temple tax came to Peter. ‘Does your teacher pay the *Temple tax?’ they asked.

v25 ‘Yes, he does’, Peter replied.

When Peter came into the house, Jesus spoke first. ‘What do you think, Simon?’ he asked. ‘The kings in this world collect payment and taxes. Who do they collect this money from? Do they collect it from their own sons, or do they collect it from other people?’

v26 ‘From other people’, Peter answered.

‘Then their sons do not have to pay’, Jesus said to him. v27 ‘But we do not want to offend these men. So go to the lake and throw out your line to catch fish. Pull out the first fish that you catch. Open its mouth, and inside you will find a coin. Give this coin to the men who collect taxes. It will be enough to pay both my tax and your tax.’

This passage is only in Matthew’s *gospel. Peter is in this account. Matthew likes to write about Peter.

Verses 24-25 Every male *Jew who was over 20 years old had to pay an annual tax to the *Temple. The tax was half a ‘shekel’ coin (Exodus 30:13), and it was equal to two days’ wages. This tax provided the money that the *Temple in Jerusalem needed. The men usually collected it in the towns and villages from March 15th to March 25th. After that date, people had to go to the *Temple to pay the tax. The men who collected it probably thought that Peter was the *disciples’ leader. The men may have asked an ordinary question for information. But perhaps they wanted to know whether Jesus was a loyal *Jew. Jesus could have refused to pay since, as God, the *Temple belonged to him. But the people did not understand that. So they would think that he did not care about the *Temple. That is why Jesus asked Peter the question about the taxes.

Verses 26-27 Peter agreed that kings do not collect taxes from their own families. We do not know whether Peter understood Jesus. He probably realised years later what Jesus had meant. Jesus and his *disciples were citizens where God rules. They were part of the King’s family. So they did not have to pay the tax. But Jesus did not want to give wrong ideas to people about their financial duties. To ‘offend’ here means to put something in the way that makes people fall. So Jesus told Peter how to find the tax for them both. Christians sometimes have a responsibility to do something that limits their own freedom. They want to avoid offending other people. They do not want people to misunderstand what they believe.

There is a fish in the sea of Galilee that has a very large mouth. People call it ‘St Peter’s fish’.

Chapter 18

Chapter 18 is the fourth section of what Jesus taught. It ends in the same way as the other sections ‘Now when Jesus had finished saying these things...’ (Matthew 7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1). In this section, Jesus teaches about relationships among the *disciples. They should be humble. They should be responsible for people who have just begun to believe. And they should be willing to forgive each other.

People need to be humble 18:1-5

v1 At that time the *disciples came to Jesus. ‘Who is the greatest where God rules?’ they asked him.

v2 Jesus called a little child to him and the child stood among them. v3 ‘I am telling you the truth’, Jesus said to them. ‘You must change and become like little children. If you do not change, God cannot accept you. And you will never enter where God rules. v4 Anyone who becomes humble like this child is the greatest where God rules. v5 Anyone who welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.

Verse 1 Luke tells us that the *disciples were arguing (Luke 9:46). They were arguing about who was the greatest. They may have asked the question because Jesus chose only Peter, James and John to go up the mountain with him.

Verse 2 Children knew that Jesus was their friend, so they had no fear of him.

Verses 3-4 Children have to trust adults to provide for them. The *disciples needed to trust Jesus completely. At that time, children were not important. They may have had a family that loved them. But even the *disciples thought that the children were a nuisance to Jesus. So they tried to send them away (Matthew 19:13-15). Jesus told his *disciples that they must change their attitude. They must not try to become important. They must be humble if they wanted to become great in God’s *kingdom.

Verse 5 People like to think that they are friends with someone important. But Christians want to do what Jesus wants. So the person who loves Jesus will welcome a little child. Jesus said that it is the same as to welcome Jesus himself.

Do not cause other people to *sin 18:6-9

v6 ‘These little people believe me. But suppose a person causes one of them to stop believing me. It would be better to hang a large stone from the mill round that person’s neck. Then it would be better to drown that person in the deepest part of the sea.

v7 There will be trouble in the world because of the things that cause people to *sin. Things like that must come. They will stop people believing me. But how terrible for the person who causes such things to come!

v8 Your hand or your foot may cause you to *sin. Then cut it off and throw it away. It is better that you enter life with only one hand or one foot. It is worse to go into hell, even if you have two hands and two feet. v9 Your eye may cause you to *sin. Remove it and throw it away. It is better that you enter life with one eye. It is worse to have two eyes if you become rubbish on the fire of hell.

Verses 6-7 ‘Little people who believe me’ means children. It also refers to young Christians. They are like children as they begin to believe Jesus. There are many things in the world that are attractive. But they can cause people to *sin. These attractive things are like something in people’s way. Such things cause people to trip. Jesus gave a special warning against leading a child or a new Christian in the wrong way. It is very serious to cause someone to *sin. It would be better to lose one’s life. Jesus suggests a terrible death. They used a huge stone to make corn into flour. Also, the *Jews hated the sea. They did not usually drown people to punish them. To the *Jews, heaven would be a place where there was ‘no more sea’ (see Revelation 21:1). So they would have thought that to drown someone was a terrible punishment.

Verses 8-9 Jesus did not mean that *disciples should actually remove a hand, a foot or an eye. He was using picture language. He meant that they must move away from *sin. We use our hands and feet to do bad things. We use our eyes to look at wrong things. So we must control our hands, feet and eyes. Jesus had already used this picture when he taught about wrong sex (Matthew 5:28-30). It may be difficult to stop going to the wrong places. It is difficult to stop doing something that is not good. It may be hard to stop looking at the wrong kind of books or pictures. But the punishment is the fire of ‘Gehenna’. Gehenna was the valley outside Jerusalem that had become the city rubbish heap. There were always fires that were burning there. The word ‘Gehenna’ came to mean ‘Hell’. It described the place where God will send bad people. They will have no hope.

The sheep that the man lost 18:10-14

v10 ‘Do not think that any of these little people has no value. I tell you this. God’s servants in heaven who represent them are always near my Father in heaven. [v11 The Son of Man came to save people who are lost.]

v12 ‘Think about a man who owns 100 sheep. If one of them wanders away, he will leave the other 99 sheep on the hills. He will go to look for the sheep that wandered away. v13 I am telling you the truth. He will be very happy if he finds that sheep. He will be happier about that one sheep than about the 99 that did not wander away. v14 It is the same with your Father who is in heaven. He does not want any of these little people to be lost.

Verse 10 Jesus showed that little children and new believers are all precious to God. God’s servants in heaven are very important. They are always near to God. They are called ‘angels’. Jesus said that these servants were responsible for children.

[Verse 11] Someone may have copied this verse from Luke 19:10. The most important old copies of Matthew’s *gospel do not have these words. So most modern translations leave them out.

Verses 12-13 Luke has this story about the lost sheep as an answer to the *Pharisees. They blamed Jesus because he mixed with ‘*sinners’. He also mixed with men who collect taxes (Luke 15:1-7). Matthew uses the story to show how much God cares about ‘these little people’. He is like a man who searches for his one lost sheep. If this man found his sheep, he would be very happy. God searches for any person who has wandered away from the right way of life. God is happy when that person returns to the Christian family again. True *disciples will act like people who look after sheep. They will try to bring back any person who has wandered away from the right way of life. ‘If he finds that sheep’ suggests that they may not always be successful. But when they are successful, they will be happy to welcome the wanderer back. They will not try to make him feel foolish and miserable. Later on, Peter urged Christian leaders to be like people who look after sheep. They should serve their people and look after them (1 Peter 5:1-4).

When a *disciple hurts another *disciple 18:15-20

v15 ‘If another *disciple hurts you in some way, go to them. Tell them what they did wrong. You should talk together in private. If they listen to you, you have been successful. v16 But they may not listen to you. So then, take one or two other *disciples with you. God’s Word says that you must prove every matter. You must have the evidence from two or three witnesses when you accuse someone. v17 If they refuse to listen to these witnesses, tell the whole *church about it. But they may refuse to listen even to the whole *church. Then act towards them in the same way that you would act towards an unbeliever or a *tax-collector.

v18 ‘I am telling you the truth. Whatever you forbid on earth, God will forbid in heaven. Whatever you allow on earth, God will allow in heaven.

v19 ‘And I tell you more. Suppose that two of you on earth agree about something that you ask for. Then my Father in heaven will do it for you. v20 Where two or three come together in my name, I am there with them.’

Verses 15-17 These verses show what a Christian must do if another Christian has done something wrong to them. In the *Old Testament *Law, a person may be guilty because they have done wrong. But there had to be two or three witnesses to the crime (Deuteronomy 19:15). There is a series of actions that they can take:

1. First, they should go to the person alone. The person may agree that they have done something wrong. If they do, then the relationship between two Christians will be right again. But that person may refuse to apologise. Then the Christian who was hurt should try again to heal the relationship.

2. They should go again with two or three other Christians if necessary. Here, the ‘one or two other *disciples’ can help to persuade the person that they have done something wrong.

3. If the person still takes no notice, they should speak to the *church about it. The word ‘*church’ here means the local group of Christians. It is different in Matthew 16:18, where ‘*church’ means Christians everywhere and in all ages.

4. The guilty person may refuse to listen to all the *church members. Then the members must consider that the guilty person is now outside their group. But Jesus believed that unbelievers and *tax-collectors could come where God rules. So the guilty person might realise his fault in the end. But he must remain outside the Christian group unless he becomes really sorry about the problem. A group should not allow wrong relationships to continue. The Christian group would be weak if that happened. And then it would be a poor witness to the world.

Verse 18 The decision of the local group should agree with what Jesus taught. Then God will approve of their action.

Verses 19-20 ‘Two or three’ people who pray together have Jesus with them. This promise became true after Jesus died and rose to life again. Jesus wanted Christians to know this. He would be with them, even if they could not see him. When he was on earth, his body could be in only one place at a time. But God does not think about large groups only. A small group who are *worshipping together has Jesus there with them. A family at home will sometimes pray together. Then Jesus will be with them. God listens when ‘two or three’ people pray. When two people agree with Jesus about something, then they can pray with complete confidence. God will answer their prayers.

The question about forgiving other people 18:21-22

v21 Then Peter came to Jesus. ‘*Lord, if my brother keeps on hurting me, how many times should I forgive him?’ he asked. ‘Should I forgive him seven times?’

v22 ‘No, not just seven times, but forgive him seventy times seven times’, Jesus said.

Verse 21 The *Jewish teachers said that a person should forgive someone else up to three times. God had told Amos that he would punish the wicked nations ‘for three *sins and for four’ (Amos chapter 1). That is probably why the *Jewish teachers said just three times. Peter thought that he was being very generous when he said ‘seven times’.

Verse 22 It is not clear if Jesus said ‘seventy times seven’ or ‘77’ here. It is clear that he meant ‘without limit’. Long ago, Lamech said that he would pay back an injury seventy seven times (Genesis 4:23-24). But Jesus told Peter that he should always forgive. Nobody should count the times that they have forgiven anyone.

The story about the servant who would not forgive 18:23-35

v23 ‘Where God rules is like a king. The king wanted to collect all the money that his servants owed him. v24 So he began to do this. Then they brought a man to him who owed him millions of silver coins. v25 The man was not able to pay. So the master ordered them to sell the man, his wife, his children and all his possessions. The master would receive that money to pay the servant’s debt. v26 Then the servant kneeled in front of the king. “Be patient with me”, he said. “I will pay back everything that I owe you.” v27 And the master pitied him. So he forgave the servant for all that he owed. And he let the servant leave free.

v28 That servant went out then. But he found one of the other servants who owed him just a few silver coins. The first servant held the second servant firmly. He began to squeeze the second servant’s neck. “Pay back what you owe me!” he demanded.

v29 The second servant kneeled down in front of him. “Be patient with me and I will pay you back”, he said.

v30 But the first servant refused. Instead, he caused the authorities to throw the other servant into prison. And he had to stay there until he could pay back the debt. v31 The rest of the servants saw what had happened. And they were very upset about it. So they told their master everything that had happened.

v32 Then the master called the first servant to come back to him. “You wicked servant”, he said, “I forgave all your debt to me because you asked me to. v33 You should have pitied the other servant, exactly as I pitied you!” v34 His master was very angry. So he handed the servant over to the prison officers for punishment. He must stay in prison until he paid everything back to his master.

v35 You must forgive your brothers. My Father who is in heaven will act like this king towards each of you. So you must forgive them from deep inside yourselves.’

Only Matthew wrote this story down, but Jesus told it as an example. It shows why he answered Peter like that in verse 22. He told Peter that we must always forgive. It emphasises what Jesus taught earlier about the need to forgive (Matthew 6:12-15). People want God to forgive them. So people must forgive each other.

Verses 24-27 The first servant owed his master an enormous sum of money. The *Greek words say that he owed ‘10 000 talents’. 10 000 was the largest *Greek number, and a ‘talent’ was the largest coin. This is the same as the value of millions of coins today. The servant could never pay a debt that big. But his master forgave him and cancelled the debt.

The ‘debt’ that we owe to God refers to our *sins against God and against other people. We can never pay that debt. But God forgives those who trust Jesus. He has forgiven them all their *sins.

Verses 28-30 The second servant’s debt was a very small amount. The difference in value between the two debts was astonishing. But the first servant refused to forgive the second servant. He is like someone who refuses to forgive another person. They forget how much God has forgiven them. Paul wrote to Christians about this. ‘Be kind to each other. Forgive each other, exactly as God has forgiven you because of Christ’ (Ephesians 4:32).

Verse 35 People must forgive ‘from deep inside themselves’. It must be sincere. A person should not say, ‘I will forgive, but I will never forget.’ They are not really forgiving the other person, if they say that.

Matthew 19:1–22:46

The next main section is chapters 19 –23. It includes some of what Jesus taught his *disciples. It also includes how Jesus answered the authorities that opposed him.

Chapter 19

Marriage and Divorce 19:1-12

v1 When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left the Galilee region. He went to the other side of the river Jordan. This was part of the Judea region. v2 Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

v3 Some *Pharisees came to test him. ‘Does the *Law allow a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?’ they asked him.

v4 ‘Surely you have read that in the beginning God made everything. He made people, both a male and a female’, Jesus replied. v5 ‘That is why a man will leave his father and mother when he gets married. He will unite with his wife and the two people will become like one person. v6 They are no longer two people, but just one person in front of God. So anyone else must not separate what God has joined together’, Jesus told them.

v7 Then they asked another question. ‘Then why did Moses order that a man can give his wife a divorce letter? Then he can send her away’, they said.

v8 ‘Moses allowed you to divorce your wives because your spirits are hard. But it was not like that in the beginning. v9 And this is what I tell you. Unless his wife has had sex with someone else, a man must not divorce her and marry another woman. If he does do that, he is guilty of *adultery.’

v10 Then his *disciples spoke to him. ‘If that is the situation between a husband and wife, it is not worth getting married!’ they said.

v11 ‘Not everyone can believe that now’, Jesus replied. ‘Only those people to whom God has given it can believe this. v12 Some people have reasons from birth why they cannot marry. Other people have become unable to marry because people have made them like that. And other people have remained single so that they can serve God better. The person who can believe this should believe it.’

Verse 3 Two important *Jewish teachers had different opinions about divorce. The *Pharisees wanted Jesus to decide between those two opinions. One teacher had a strict opinion. He said that there was only one reason why a man could divorce his wife. It was only if she had sex with another man. The other teacher was not so strict with the husbands. He said that a man could divorce his wife if she did not please him in any way.

Verses 4-6 Jesus knew that they had read the *Old Testament. So he reminded them by saying, ‘ Surely you have read... .’ The rabbis (*Jewish teachers) often used these words too. Jesus did not speak directly about divorce. Instead, he spoke about God’s purpose for people who get married. God made people both male and female at the beginning (Genesis 1:27). So a man should leave his parents and unite with his wife. They will become like one body (Genesis 2:4). It was not God’s purpose for any person to break the marriage unity.

Verses 7:9 The *Pharisees then referred to Deuteronomy 24:1-4. They asked about what Moses had ordered. Should a man give his wife a divorce letter, and then send her away? Jesus did not agree with the word ‘order’. He said that Moses had ‘allowed’ divorce. And that was only because people do not know how really to love each other. They are weak and they fail. So their marriage unity does not last. God’s purpose was that marriage unity should be permanent. The only exception was if the wife was not loyal to her husband. A wife that is not loyal destroys the unity with her husband.

Verses 10-12 The *disciples thought that the married state seemed difficult. And divorce was impossible from what Jesus said. So it would be better not to marry. Jesus said that not everyone would be able to live like that. God gives some people a special gift. It is only these people who can do this. Jesus gives three examples of people who do not marry:

1. Some people are born with medical problems. It is impossible for them to have children.

2. Sometimes servants worked in a palace among the king’s women. So someone made them unable to have sex.

3. Some people choose to remain single. They think that they can serve God better alone. A man or woman may work in a difficult situation. They would not be able to look after a wife, husband or children properly. Paul says that a married man has to think about his wife. A married woman has to think about her husband. So they cannot think about God all the time. They may not be able to serve God all the time (1 Corinthians 7:1-10, 32-35). But not everyone who serves God has to remain single. It is for those people whom God wants to remain single.

Jesus and children 19:13-15

v13 Then some people brought little children to Jesus. They wanted him to place his hands on them. They wanted him to pray for them. But the *disciples told the people to take the children away. v14 ‘Let the little children come to me’, Jesus said. ‘Do not try to stop them. People like these belong where God rules!’ v15 So Jesus placed his hands on them, and then he went away.

Verse 13 In those days, people felt that children were not important. So the *disciples thought that Jesus would have no time for children. They tried to stop the parents as they were bringing the children to him. Perhaps the *disciples were trying to protect Jesus. They knew that he was tired. And they thought that the children were interrupting his work.

Verses 14-15 Jesus had already said that only people who are like children will enter where God rules (Matthew 18:2-4). People who humbly trust Jesus belong where God rules (also called ‘the kingdom of heaven’). Jesus welcomed the children. He placed his hands on them and prayed for them.

Matthew placed these verses immediately after the verses about marriage and divorce. When parents have a good relationship, their children feel safe. They can grow into responsible adults. Divorce makes children suffer. They can suffer in many different ways. But they are quite as important as adults. Often they cannot see both parents together any more. They may find it difficult to be loyal to both parents.

A rich young man comes to Jesus 19:16-22

v16 A man came to Jesus one day. ‘Teacher, what good thing must I do?’ he asked. ‘I want to receive life that lasts for ever.’

v17 ‘Why do you ask me about what is good?’ Jesus replied. ‘There is only one person who is good. If you want to enter life, obey God’s commands.’

v18 ‘Which of his commands?’ the man asked.

Jesus told him. ‘Do not murder. Do not have sex with another man’s wife. Do not steal. Do not give false witness. v19 Give honour to your father and mother. And love your neighbour as you love yourself.’

v20 ‘I have obeyed all these commands’, the young man said. ‘What else do I need to do?’ v21 ‘If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions’, Jesus answered. ‘Give the money to poor people, and come with me. Then you will be rich in heaven.’

v22 When the young man heard this, he went away. He was sad because he was very rich.

Verses 16-17 Mark, Luke and Matthew all say that this man was rich. Only Matthew calls him ‘young’ (verse 20). And only Luke says that he was a ‘ruler’ (Luke 18:18). The man wanted to have ‘life that lasts for ever’. He wanted to have God’s life, both on earth and after he died. But he thought that he must work to obtain that life. Many people have the same wrong idea. They think that they must earn their way into heaven. Jesus reminded the young man that only God is good. The young man should have thought about God’s character. Then he would have realised that he could never be good enough. Jesus said that God had said what people should do. The young man must obey those commands. Then the man asked which of those commands he must obey. He still did not understand.

Verses 18-19 Jesus reminded him about 5 of God’s 10 commands. These 5 all deal with relationships with other people. He put ‘give honour to your father and mother’ last. But it comes fifth in the order that we read in Exodus 20:1-17. Perhaps Jesus wanted to make the man think. Had he done everything that he should do for his parents? Jesus also added words from Leviticus 19:18. He said that a person should love other people as much as he loves himself.

Verse 20 The young man replied that he had obeyed these commands. In the legal sense, he had. He had not killed, stolen or lied. But he still felt that he had to do something more for God to accept him.

Verses 21-22 Jesus told him to sell all his possessions. Then he should give the money to poor people. So he would be rich in heaven. Jesus then invited him to come and be a *disciple. Jesus knew that the young man needed to put right his relationship with God and with other people. Money must not be so important to him. Money must not be like a god to him. And he should care about other people if he wanted to be good like God. But the young man could not accept this demand. He loved things and money more than he loved God or other people. He loved himself more than he loved God or other people.

Rich people and the place where God rules in heaven 19:23-26

v23 Then Jesus spoke to his *disciples. ‘What I am about to tell you is true. It is very hard for rich people to enter where God rules. v24 I repeat this. It is much harder for a rich man to enter where God rules. It is harder for him than for a camel to go through the hole in a needle.’

v25 When the *disciples heard this, they were astonished. ‘Then who can God save?’ they asked.

v26 Jesus looked straight at them. ‘With people, this is impossible. But with God, all things are possible’, he said.

Verse 23 Jesus explained about rich people. This was after his conversation with the rich young ruler. It is very difficult for rich people to enter where God rules for two reasons:

            1. Because of their wealth, they may not feel that they need God. This is because their money makes them feel safe. It allows them to buy anything that they want. They may believe that their money can rescue them from any problems.

            2. Rich people can easily forget that life on earth does not last for ever. They may be like the rich fool in the story that Jesus told (Luke 12:13-21). They may forget about life that lasts for ever in heaven.

Verse 24 People try to explain the picture language that Jesus uses here in different ways.

Some people say that there was a narrow gate in the city wall called a ‘needle hole’. If a camel had a load on its back, it could not get through that narrow gate.

But the words were probably a familiar way to describe a very difficult action. The camel was the largest animal in Israel. The hole in a needle is very tiny.

Verse 25 The *disciples were astonished about Jesus’ warning. They thought that rich people would always have a place in God’s *kingdom. They believed that God gave wealth to people that he approved of. Now they thought that nobody had a chance to enter where God rules.

Verse 26 Jesus did not say that it was ‘impossible’ for a rich man to be his *disciple. Rich people can become citizens where God rules. God will help them, but it is difficult for them to forget their money. Matthew himself left his good job to follow Jesus (Matthew 9:9). Zacchaeus promised to pay back all the money that he had taken from people. He also said that he would give half his money to help poor people (Luke 19:1-10). Also there were Joseph from Arimathea and Nicodemus who were *Jewish leaders (Matthew 27:57-60; John 19:38-40).

The rewards for the *disciples 19:27-30

v27 Then Peter spoke to Jesus. ‘We have left everything so that we can follow you. What will we get?’

v28 ‘What I am telling you is true’, Jesus told them all. God will make everything new again. The Son of Man will sit on his splendid royal seat. Then you who have followed me will also sit on 12 royal seats. You will rule the 12 groups of Israel’s people. v29 Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields because of me will receive one hundred times as much. They will also receive life that lasts for ever. v30 But many people who are first now will be last. And many people who are last now will be first.’

Verse 27 Peter thought that he and the other *disciples were very different from the rich man. The rich man had refused to go with Jesus. The *disciples had given up homes, families and possessions so that they could follow Jesus. Peter wanted to know what their reward would be.

Verse 28 Jesus told them that loyal *disciples would have three special rewards.

1. God will make everything new (Isaiah 65:17). ‘I will make new heavens and a new earth.’ John tells us in Revelation 21:1 that he saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth’. At that time the *disciples will share Christ’s splendid position. Jesus’ 12 special friends will have the right to rule the 12 groups of Israel’s people.

2. *Disciples may need to give up their own family life. But they will become part of God’s much larger family. Everywhere in the world, Christians have brothers and sisters who also believe Jesus. Christians sometimes love each other more strongly than they love their ordinary families.

3. They will have life that lasts for ever.

Verse 30 Jesus warned Peter and the other *disciples. God does not think in the same way that people think. People may decide that someone deserves a reward. They think that a person is really important. They may see them as they are serving God. But God knows whether a person is sincere or not sincere. God knows what a person is thinking. And God understands a person’s actions. So people who are humble on earth may become important in heaven. Those who are important on earth may become not important in heaven.

Chapter 20

The story about the land-owner’s workers 20:1-16

v1 ‘Where God rules, it is like this. A man who owned land went out early one morning. He employed men to work for him. v2 He decided to give them the usual pay for a day’s work. Then he sent them to work among his *grape bushes.

v3 About nine o’clock in the morning, he went out again. He saw other men who were standing in the market. They were doing nothing. v4 “You also go and work among my *grape bushes”, he said to them. “I will pay you whatever is right.” v5 So they went.

He went out again about noon and at three o’clock in the afternoon and he did the same thing. v6 Finally at about five o’clock he went out again. He found still other men who were standing there. So he spoke to them. “Why have you been standing here all day and have been doing nothing?” he asked.

v7 “Because nobody has employed us”, they answered.

“You also go and work among my *grape bushes”, he said to them.

v8 The evening came. Then the owner spoke to the man who was responsible for his workers. “Call the workers”, he said. “Pay them their wages. Begin with the last ones that I hired. Then go on to the first ones that I hired.”

v9 So first he paid the workers whom the owner had hired at about five o’clock. Each man received a day’s wage. v10 Then those whom the owner had hired first came for their wages. They expected to receive more. But each one of them received the same amount. v11 When they received it, they began to complain to the owner. v12 “You employed these men last. They worked only one hour”, they said. “You have paid them the same as you paid us. But we have done most of the work and we have been in the hot sun all day!”

v13 Then the owner answered one of them. “Friend, I am not being unfair to you”, he said. “You agreed to work for the usual day’s wage. v14 Take your pay and go. I wanted to give the last man the same wage as I gave you. v15 I have the right to do what I like with my own money. You should not be jealous because I am generous.” ’

v16 Then Jesus added, ‘So the last people will be first, and the first people will be last.’

This story is only in Matthew’s *gospel. It describes a situation that could have happened in Jesus’ time. Jesus’ purpose here was not to teach about how people should receive wages. He was teaching about where God rules. So this story was about the way that God deals with people.

Verses 1-7 When the owner harvested his fruit, called ‘grapes’, he needed many workers. Men who had no work would wait in the market place. They waited for someone to employ them. This owner hired the first workers early in the morning. He decided what he would pay them. Then he hired more workers later. He promised to pay the second group what was ‘right’. Finally, he hired the men who had been waiting for work all day. He just told them to go and work for him.

Verses 8-10 Workers had to receive their wages each evening (Deuteronomy 24:14-15). The owner spoke to his manager and told him to pay everyone the same wage. He must begin with the men who started work last. And finally, he paid the men who started work first.

Verses 11-15 Those first workers thought that the owner had not been fair to them. So they complained. The owner replied to the man who was probably complaining the loudest. He said that he had kept the promise that he made to them. He had a right to use his money as he chose. They were jealous because he was generous. The men who came last needed the money as much as the other men.

Verse 16 This verse shows that this story is partly an answer to Peter’s question in verse 27 of chapter 19. Jesus repeats the words that he used there in Matthew 19:30: ‘Many people who are last now will be first. And the people who are first now will be last.’ Peter’s question about what they should get was not a good question. God invites people to live where he rules. He invites people because he is generous. They can work for God there. God is always generous when he deals with people. Nobody deserves God’s gifts. Nobody can earn a reward where God rules. God welcomes everyone, whether they come early or late to where he rules.

Jesus speaks the third time about his death and afterwards 20:17-19

v17 As Jesus was going up towards Jerusalem, he took the 12 *disciples aside. Then he spoke to them in private. v18 ‘We are going up to Jerusalem’, he said. ‘Someone will hand over the Son of Man to the chief *priests and to the men who teach the *Law. They will order that he must die. v19 They will hand him over to the foreigners. Those foreigners will laugh at him. They will beat him with a whip. Then they will fix him to a wooden *cross to die. But on the third day after that, he will become alive again!’

Verses 17-18 Jesus knew that he would suffer and die. This was the third occasion on which he warned his *disciples about this. Matthew emphasises that they were going up into the hills towards Jerusalem. This was their capital city, and the *Jewish place to *worship. There the *Jewish leaders would demand that Jesus should die.

Verse 19 Jesus gives more details about what will happen there. He knew that he would suffer severe mental and *physical pain. But he also knew that ‘he would become alive again on the third day’.

The request about James and John 20:20-28

v20 Then Zebedee’s wife came to Jesus with her sons. She kneeled down in front of him and asked him to do something kind for her.

v21 ‘What do you want?’ Jesus asked her.

‘Promise me that one of my two sons will sit at your right hand side when you become king’, she replied. ‘Promise that the other son will sit at your left hand side.’

v22 ‘You do not know what you are asking for’, Jesus said to them. ‘Can you suffer in the same way that I am going to suffer?’ he said to her sons.

‘We can’, they replied.

v23 ‘You will certainly suffer like I am going to suffer’, Jesus told them. ‘But I cannot say who will sit at my right side or at my left side in the future. These places belong to the people for whom my Father has prepared them.’

v24 When the other ten *disciples heard about this, they became angry with the two brothers. v25 So Jesus called them all together. ‘You know about the men who rule the foreign nations’, he said. ‘They have complete power over their people. Their important officials proudly order people to obey. v26 Do not be like that. Instead, anyone who wants to be great among you must serve all the rest. v27 And anyone who wants to be first and important must be your slave. v28 Be like the Son of Man. He did not come to this earth so that other people would serve him. He came to give his life and to die. That was the price to make people free.’

Verses 20-21 Mark’s *gospel says that James and John made the request (Mark 10:35-45). Their mother had the same ambition as her sons, but they were responsible. Jesus spoke directly to them when he replied. James and John were probably Jesus’ cousins. Their mother was Salome, who was Mary’s sister. And Mary was Jesus’ mother. So they may have felt that this close relationship ought to give them a special place. They believed that Jesus would become king. And Jesus had chosen them, together with Peter, to be witnesses when he changed his appearance (Matthew 17:1-2). They also saw Jesus make Jairus’ daughter become alive again. But Jesus said that he would suffer. And they failed to understand why the king should suffer.

Verses 22-23 Jesus asked if they could share what he was going to suffer. They said that they could. But they probably did not understand what that really meant. James died early in the history of the *church because he believed Jesus. King Herod Agrippa ordered his men to kill James (Acts 12:1-2). John lived until he was very old. But he probably had a difficult life in prison, so he may have suffered a lot too.

Verses 24-27 The other *disciples did not like it that James and John were asking for special places. But they had the same ambition. Luke says that even at the Last Supper they were arguing among themselves. They argued about who was the greatest and most important among them (Luke 22:24). Jesus told them that in foreign nations important people tell their servants what to do. They expect their servants to obey their orders. But where God rules, it is different. People who want to be great must serve other people. They must even be prepared to act as a slave.

Verse 28 Jesus then spoke about why he came into the world. He is our example, because he came to serve. He would give his life to make people free from their *sin. Then they could enter where God rules. It was Jesus who would give his life for many people (Isaiah 53:11). Jesus made a way back to God for people. But to do this he had to live in this world. Then he had to die in a terrible way.

The blind men at Jericho town 20:29-34

v29 Jesus and his *disciples were leaving Jericho now and a large crowd was following him. v30 Two blind men were sitting by the side of the road. And they heard that Jesus was going by. So they shouted out to him. ‘*Lord, David’s Son, pity us!’ they shouted.

v31 The crowd told them to stop shouting. They wanted them to be quiet. But the two men shouted even louder. ‘*Lord, David’s Son, pity us!’

v32 Then Jesus stopped and called out to them. ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ he asked. v33 ‘*Lord’, they answered, ‘we want to be able to see.’

v34 Jesus really pitied them, so he touched their eyes. Immediately they could see and they followed him.

Verses 30-31 Mark describes how Jesus healed blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:42-52). Matthew says that there were two blind men. He did not know or he did not record their names. The blind men called Jesus ‘David’s Son’, which was a name for the *Messiah. The crowd tried to stop the blind men from shouting. They were a nuisance because they were interrupting people’s journey to Jerusalem. And they were using the name ‘David’s Son’, which might have been dangerous. It was just before the time for the special *Jewish ceremony called ‘Passover’. At that time the *Jews remembered that God had rescued their people from Egypt long ago. It was not wise to shout the name of the *Messiah. It might seem that people were demanding their freedom from their *Roman rulers. But the blind men believed that Jesus could help them. So they continued to shout for his attention.

Verses 32-34 Jesus would have noticed that they were blind. But he wanted them to say what they needed. God knows what we need. But he wants us to pray to him. He wants us to show that we trust him. Matthew, Mark and Luke all record this event, but only Matthew writes that Jesus touched their eyes.

This is the last *miracle that the *gospels record. After this, Jesus went on his final journey to Jerusalem. This incident is a contrast to the story about James and John. They had been like blind men because they did not realise the truth about Jesus. To be a *disciple meant that they would suffer. They were ‘blind’ in a different way from the *physical way that the two men suffered. There is a link with the next story about Jesus as he entered into Jerusalem. The crowd there called Jesus ‘David’s Son’, exactly as the blind men had done.

Chapter 21

Jesus enters Jerusalem 21:1-11

v1 As they came nearer to Jerusalem, they reached the town called Bethphage. It was on the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus sent two *disciples ahead. v2 ‘Go to the village there ahead of you’, he told them. ‘As soon as you get there, you will find a *donkey. They have tied her to a post and her young *donkey will be with her. Free them and bring them to me. v3 If anyone says anything to you about them, say that the *Lord needs them. The owner will send them to me at once.’

v4 This happened so that what God had said long ago through his special servant would come true.

v5      ‘Say to Zion city,

          “Look, your king is coming to you.

          He is gentle and humble. He is riding on a *donkey.

          He is riding on a *donkey’s *colt” ’, God said.

v6 The *disciples did what Jesus had told them to do. v7 They brought the *donkey and the *colt to him. Then the *disciples placed their coats on the animals and Jesus mounted them. v8 A very large crowd of people spread their coats on the road in front of him. And some other people cut branches from trees to put on the road. v9 Some of the people went ahead of Jesus. Some people followed him. And they were all shouting:

          ‘Praise David’s Son!

          We pray that God will *bless the man who comes in the *Lord’s name!

          Praise him in the highest heaven!’

v10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem city, everyone there became very excited. ‘Who is this?’ they asked.

v11 Then the crowds with Jesus answered. ‘This is Jesus’, they said. ‘He is God’s special servant who comes from Nazareth town in Galilee district.’

Verses 1-3 Bethphage was a village near Bethany. Both villages were on the Mount of Olives. It was only about two miles from Jerusalem. A ‘*donkey’ is like a small horse that people ride. Jesus had probably arranged this with the animals’ owner some time before. The words, ‘the *Lord needs them’ would show that the *disciples were not stealing the animals.

Verses 4-5 Jesus was making what God’s special servant said in Zechariah 9:9 come true. Jesus chose a *donkey. It was a sign that he came with peace. A military leader always rode a horse. But Jesus was not a king who rode a horse. He was everyone’s servant.

Verses 7-8 The *disciples used their coats to make a saddle for Jesus. Then the crowd spread their coats over the road. In the *Old Testament, the officers had put their coats under Jehu when they made him king (2 Kings 9:13). It was a way to show his authority as king. John tells us that what they cut down were branches from trees called palm trees (John 12:13).

Verse 9 When *Jews went to Jerusalem for their great *religious meetings, they sang Psalm 118. The people use verses 25-26 of that psalm here to praise Jesus. ‘Praise’ or ‘Hosanna’ means ‘You save us’. The *Jews usually gave this welcome to travellers coming into Jerusalem. Now they gave the welcome to Jesus. ‘In the highest heaven’ is the *Jewish way to say ‘God’, who lives in heaven. ‘He who comes’ and ‘David’s Son’ were both ways to describe the *Messiah. The people sang ‘Hosanna’ or ‘Praise’ to Jesus. They were thinking that Jesus the *Messiah would ‘save’ them from the *Roman rulers. Probably some of the same crowd shouted ‘Fix him to a *cross!’ later (Matthew 27:22), because Jesus disappointed them. They hoped that he would bring political freedom to their nation.

Verses 10-11 People in Jerusalem did not know why there was so much excitement. The crowds with Jesus happily told them who he was.

Jesus’ actions in the *Temple 21:12-17

v12 Jesus entered the yard of the *Temple. He forced out all the people who were buying and selling there. People were there who were exchanging money. Other people were selling birds called ‘doves’. So he turned over their tables and seats. v13 And he spoke to them. ‘God says in his book: “My house shall be called a house where people can pray”, he said. ‘But you are making this house into a “place where thieves hide”.’

v14 Blind people and people who could not walk well came to Jesus in the *Temple. And he healed them there. v15 The chief *priests and *scribes saw the wonderful things that Jesus did. They also saw the children who were shouting in the yard of the *Temple. ‘Praise David’s Son’, they shouted.

So those important men were angry. v16 ‘Do you hear what these children are saying?’ they asked him.

‘Yes’, replied Jesus. ‘Perhaps you have never read these words:

          “You have made sure that children and babies offer perfect praise to you.” ’

v17 Jesus left them then, and went out of the city to Bethany. He stayed there that night.

Verses 12-13 The yard of the *Temple contained several sections. The foreigners’ part was the only place where non-*Jews and women could *worship. But it had become like a noisy market. People were trying to pay their *Temple tax. But they could pay it only with a special coin. So they were exchanging their other money for these special coins. Often men charged too much for the special coins, so people may have argued about this. Everyone had to give perfect animals and birds for the *priests to offer to God. So it was better to buy these animals in the yard of the *Temple where a *priest examined them. But the *priests made a profit from selling these animals and birds. Often the *priests were not honest. They said that other animals and birds were not good enough. So people had to buy different birds from them. Jesus used words from Isaiah 56:7. Isaiah said that the *Temple was a place where all people could pray. Jesus also used words from Jeremiah 7:11. Jeremiah had accused the *Jews. He said that they used the *Temple like a place where thieves hide. So Jesus was angry for two reasons:

1. The place where people *worshipped God had become a noisy market. Therefore, nobody could pray there.

2. The *priests encouraged people to cheat as they traded. People had to pay too much money for animals to offer to God and for the special coins.

Verse 14 The *Jews believed that ‘blind people and people who cannot walk’ must not go into the *Temple. King David said this (2 Samuel 5:8). A man who could not walk sat outside the Beautiful Gate to the *Temple (Acts 3:2). But Jesus was a greater king than David. He let such people come to him there and he healed them.

Verses 15-16 The leaders did not like it when Jesus healed people in the *Temple. The children were copying what the crowd had said. ‘Praise David’s Son’, they shouted. The authorities had allowed all the noisy traders and animals to be there. But they thought that children should not be shouting in a holy place. Nor did they want people to call Jesus ‘David’s Son’. So they wanted Jesus to stop the children. But Jesus refused. He referred to Psalm 8:1 to show that God wanted children to praise him.

Verse 17 Jesus had friends in Bethany, including Martha, Mary and Lazarus. He may have stayed with them that night.

Jesus and the *fig tree 21:18-22

v18 Early the next morning Jesus was returning to Jerusalem. He was hungry. v19 He saw a *fig tree near the road. He went up to it, but he found no fruit on it, only leaves. ‘You will never produce fruit again!’ he said to the tree. At once, the tree dried up.

v20 The *disciples saw this happen and it astonished them. ‘How did this fruit tree dry up so quickly?’ they asked.

v21 ‘I am telling you the truth’, Jesus replied to them. ‘You must believe and you must not doubt. Then you can do what I have done to this fruit tree. Also, you can say to this mountain, “Go and throw yourself into the sea.” And it will happen. v22 You should believe when you pray. Then you will receive whatever you ask for.’

Matthew wrote a shorter account of this incident than Mark (Mark 11:12-25). Mark tells the story about the *fig tree in two parts. He records the incident in the *Temple between the parts.

Verse 19 *Fig trees are very common fruit trees in Israel. This *fig tree had not produced fruit because it was not the right season. It seems strange that Jesus destroyed it because it had no fruit. But Jesus was probably acting in the same dramatic way that God’s special servants acted long ago. For example, Jeremiah threw a pot down so that it broke into pieces. Jeremiah had destroyed the pot. He was showing that God would destroy Jerusalem (Jeremiah 19:10-11). Luke tells Jesus’ story about a *fig tree that had no fruit (Luke 13:6-9). The owner kept it for a while. He waited to see whether it would produce fruit. Matthew’s story showed that the tree had failed. So it was the right time to destroy it. The *fig tree represented the nation called Israel. A *fig tree produces small green fruits before the leaves appear. This tree had produced only leaves. This showed that it would have no fruit. The incident represented God’s judgement on the *Jews who were Israel’s people. They had refused to listen to Jesus. The *worship in the *Temple was impressive, but it was not sincere. In this story, to ‘produce fruit’ means ‘to obey God’. Israel’s *Jews were a nation which had not produced this ‘fruit’.

Verses 21-22 Jesus said that when people really believe him, the results can astonish other people. ‘To remove mountains’ was the *Jewish way to say ‘to remove great difficulties’. Jesus was encouraging his *disciples to believe him when they prayed. Jesus said ‘this’ mountain. He probably meant the Mount of Olives. Zechariah had spoken about the Mount of Olives in Zechariah 14:4. He said that it would split in two halves. This would happen when God’s new age arrives. So perhaps Jesus meant that they really needed to believe him more. Then God’s new age would come sooner.

The question about Jesus’ authority 21:23-27

v23 Jesus entered the *Temple area. While he was teaching, the chief *priests and other leaders came to him. ‘What right do you have to do these things?’ they asked. ‘Who gave you this authority?’

v24 ‘I will also ask you one question’, Jesus replied. ‘If you answer me, I will answer your question. And I will tell you who gave me this authority to do these things. v25 Where did John’s authority to *baptise people come from? Did it come from heaven or did it come from men?’

They talked to each other about it. ‘We could say that it came from heaven. But then he will ask us why we did not believe John. v26 We could say that it came from men. But then we are afraid of the people. They all believe that John was one of God’s special servants.’ v27 So they answered Jesus. ‘We do not know’, they said.

So Jesus replied to them. ‘Then I will not tell you who gave me the authority to do these things, either.’

Verse 23 The *religious leaders were responsible for what happened in the *Temple. But Jesus had forced out the traders. He had also taught there. So he was claiming that he had more authority than them.

Verses 24-25 Jesus taught in the usual *Jewish way. The people asked teachers to answer a question. The teachers often asked another question when they replied. Jesus wanted to know what they thought. Had John *baptised with God’s authority? Or did they think that John’s work was only a man’s action?

Verses 25-26 The *Jewish authorities had the duty to tell the difference between true and false teachers. They must say if someone was really God’s special servant or not. But the *religious leaders could not agree that John was doing God’s work. Jesus was the man that John identified. But they would not believe that Jesus was the *Messiah. However, they could not say that John’s work was just a man’s work. They were afraid of the crowds. The people believed that John was God’s special servant. So the *religious leaders were ashamed. They had to say, ‘We do not know.’

Verse 27 The leaders could not decide about John. But John had announced who Jesus was. So Jesus was not prepared to say any more about his own authority.

The story about the two sons 21:28-32

v28 ‘What do you think about this?’ Jesus continued. ‘There was a man who had two sons. He went and spoke to the oldest. “Son, go and work among our *grape bushes today”, he said. v29 “I do not want to”, the son answered. But later he changed his decision. And he went to work. v30 Then the father went to the other son and he said the same thing to him. The son answered, “I will go, sir.” But he did not go. v31 Which of the two sons did what the father wanted them to do?’

‘The first son’, the leaders answered.

Then Jesus spoke again. ‘What I am about to tell you is true’, he said to them. ‘*Tax-collectors and *prostitutes will enter where God rules ahead of you. v32 For John came to show the right way to live. And you did not believe him. But the *tax-collectors and *prostitutes believed John. But even when you saw their example, you did not turn away from your *sins. And you did not believe him.

Verse 28 The *religious leaders had not been able to answer Jesus. Now he was going to tell them a story and ask for their opinion.

Verses 28-31 The first son refused to obey his father. But he changed his decision. Then he went to work as his father had asked him to do. The second son was polite. He emphasised that he would go. But he was not sincere and he did not go.

Verses 31-32 Neither son was perfect, but the older son obeyed later. He was better than his brother. The younger one only said that he would obey. The *tax-collectors and women who received money for sex (prostitutes) were like the first son. When they listened to John the *Baptist, they changed their ways. The *religious leaders did not follow that example. Their religion was only about words and rules. They claimed to be God’s servants, but they did not really obey God. They did not do what John said.

The story about the wicked farmers who rented property 21:33-46

v33 ‘Listen to another story’, Jesus continued. ‘A man who owned land planted *grape bushes in a *vineyard. He put a wall round the bushes and dug a big hole. They pressed the ripe *grapes in the hole to make wine. He also built a tall place to watch over his land. Then he rented this *vineyard to some farmers, and he went away on a journey. v34 When harvest time came, the owner sent his servants to the *vineyard. He told the servants to collect his share of the crop. v35 But the farmers seized his servants. They beat one servant and they killed another servant. Then they threw stones at a third servant and they killed him. v36 So the owner sent other servants to the farmers the next time. And this time, he sent more servants than he sent the first time. But the farmers acted in the same way towards them. v37 Finally, the owner sent his son to them. “They will respect my son”, he said.

v38 But the farmers saw the son coming towards them. “This is the person who will receive his father’s property one day”, they said to each other. “Let us kill him. Then the property will be ours.” v39 So they seized the son. They threw him out of the *vineyard and they killed him.

v40 ‘When the land-owner returns, what will he do to those farmers?’ Jesus asked.

v41 ‘He will certainly kill those evil people’, they replied. ‘Then he will rent the *vineyard to other farmers who will give him his share at harvest time.’

v42 Jesus spoke to the leaders again. ‘Have you never read what God caused people to write long ago?

          “There is a stone that the builders refused to use.

          That stone has become the most important stone of all.

          The *Lord has done this,

          and what a wonderful sight it is.”

v43 So this is what I tell you. God will not allow you to be where he rules. He will give places there to people who will produce fruit for him. v44 Everyone who trips over this stone will break into pieces. But the stone will destroy completely anyone that it falls onto.’

v45 The chief *priests and the *Pharisees heard Jesus’ stories. They knew that he was talking about them. v46 So they looked for a way to arrest him. But the people all believed that Jesus was God’s special servant. So the *Pharisees were afraid of the crowd.

Verse 33 Long ago, God’s servant Isaiah referred to Israel as God’s *vineyard (Isaiah 5:1-7). A *vineyard is a field where people grow bushes with fruit called *grapes. Isaiah spoke about the way that God protected his *vineyard with a wall. The ‘tall place to watch over the land’ was a small shelter that had a flat roof. Someone could go up onto its roof. He could look over the *vineyard and see any animals or thieves. He could guard the *grapes. He could also store *grapes in the building. The big hole was in two sections. In the top part of the hole, the workers pressed the *grapes with their feet. The juice then flowed into the lower section to make wine. Isaiah’s picture meant that God was expecting a good harvest in Israel. He was not expecting the fruit called *grapes. But he was expecting Israel’s people to obey him. He wanted them to live good lives. But God was disappointed because Israel’s people did not produce that kind of ‘fruit’. In Jesus’ story also, God is like the owner and Israel is like his *vineyard.

Verse 33 An owner often rented his *vineyard to other farmers. Then he would receive a share of the *grapes at harvest time. The *Jewish leaders were like the farmers. God had given responsibility to them. God expected them to look after the people. They should be a good example.

Verses 34-36 The servants who went to collect the *grapes were like God’s special servants long ago. God is very patient. He sent his servants to Israel’s people many times. They reminded the people that God wanted ‘fruit’ from his ‘*vineyard’. God wanted them to obey him. Then they would live good lives. God gives us every opportunity so that we can obey him. But Israel’s leaders took no notice. Instead, they made God’s servants suffer. For example:

They insulted Amos (Amos 7:12).

They beat Jeremiah and they put him in prison (Jeremiah 37:14-15). The king destroyed the book in which Jeremiah had recorded his message (Jeremiah 36:20-26).

They killed Zechariah (2 Chronicles 24:20-21).

Stephen spoke to Israel’s leaders later about all God’s special servants. He said that their relatives who lived long ago had caused God’s servants to suffer (Acts 7:52).

Verses 37-39 Finally, God sent his own Son. Jesus knew that he was different from God’s special servants. They were servants, but he was the Son. Jesus knew that the *Jewish leaders would plan to kill him. The farmers threw the son out of the *vineyard. The soldiers killed Jesus outside Jerusalem.

Verses 40-41 The farmers thought that the owner was far away. They thought that he did not know what they had done. Many people today behave like that. They think that God does not know what they are doing. Some of the *Jewish leaders were listening to Jesus’ story. They agreed that the owner would return. And he would punish the wicked farmers. He would certainly kill them. This came true for the *Jews in *AD 70, when the *Romans destroyed Jerusalem city.

The owner would rent his *vineyard to other people, they agreed. But they did not like the idea that God would *bless other people. They could not accept the idea of a new *kingdom, where people believe Jesus.

Verses 42-44 Jesus used verses 22-23 from Psalm 118. He spoke about himself as a stone that builders use. But the builders thought that the stone was of no use. Then that stone became the most important stone in the building. It became the stone that unites the two parts at the top of a curve. Or it became the stone that unites two walls at the base of the building. This stone makes a strong base, and Jesus is the strong base of the Christian *church. Peter used the same verse to describe Jesus (Acts 4:11; 1 Peter 2:7).

Jesus also spoke about himself as a stone that men would trip over. These words from Isaiah 8:14-15 speak about what happens to people who oppose Jesus. The second word-picture speaks about a stone that falls on to someone. This picture comes from Daniel 2:34-35. A stone destroyed an image in the king’s dream, and the image broke into pieces. In both pictures, Jesus is like the stone.

Verses 45-46 Jesus had told these stories about the two sons and about the wicked farmers. The chief *priests and the *Pharisees realised that these stories were about themselves. They were so angry that they wanted to arrest Jesus. But they were afraid of the crowds of people. The people believed that Jesus was one of God’s special servants. Because it was *Passover time, these *Jewish leaders did not want any crowd to cause problems. The *Roman rulers were watching and would punish the *Jews.

Chapter 22

The story about the wedding meal 22:1-14

v1 Jesus told them some more stories. v2 ‘Where God rules, it is like this’, he said. ‘A king prepared a wedding meal for his son. v3 The king had invited people to the special meal. When it was ready, he sent his servants to those people. They went to tell them to come. But the people refused to come. v4 Then the king sent some more servants. “Speak to the people that I have invited”, he said. “Tell them that I have prepared my dinner. I have killed my cows and my fattest young cows. Everything is ready. Come to the wedding meal.”

v5 But the people paid no attention and continued with their own work. One person went away to his field. Another person went away to his business. v6 Other people seized the king’s servants. They hurt the servants and then they killed them. v7 So the king became very angry. He sent his army to destroy those people. The army killed the people who had murdered the king’s servants. Then they burned their city.

v8 Then the king spoke to his servants again. “The wedding meal is ready”, he said. “But the people that I invited did not deserve to eat it. v9 Go out into the streets. And invite anyone that you can find there.”

v10 So the servants went out into the streets. They gathered all the people that they could find. They gathered both good people and bad people. Then the wedding hall became full of guests. v11 The king came into the hall to see the guests. And he noticed a man who was not wearing proper clothes for the wedding. v12 “Friend”, he asked him, “how did you get in here without wearing wedding clothes?” The man could not answer. v13 Then the king told his servants, “Tie up his hands and his feet. Throw him out into the darkness. Out there, people will weep. And they will bite their teeth together.”

v14 Many people receive an invitation. But God chooses only a few people’, Jesus said.

Verse 2 The *Jews thought that there would be a special meal when the *Messiah came. Jesus spoke about a king who invited guests to his son’s wedding meal. God was inviting the *Jews. He wanted them to receive his Son Jesus. Then they could be very happy.

Verses 3-4 At that time it was the custom to send out two invitations. The first invitation told the guests about the special meal. Then when the meal was ready, the guests received a second invitation. It was time for them to go to eat the special meal.

Verses 5-6 In Jesus’ story, the guests refused to go to eat the meal. They acted as if the king’s invitation did not matter. They went off to look after their own business first. The business itself was not bad. But they put their own business before the king’s invitation. This seriously insulted the king. In the same way the *Jewish leaders were insulting God. They refused the opportunity to come where he rules.

Verses 7-8 The king punished those people who had killed his servants. And he burned their city. These details seem to refer to the events in *AD 70. That was when the *Romans destroyed Jerusalem.

Verses 9-10 None of the people in the streets expected an invitation to be the king’s guests. They were both ‘good and bad’ ordinary people. Jesus welcomed *sinners as well. The new guests were both *Jews and foreigners. They gained a place where God rules.

Verses 11-14 These verses have a special meaning. The *Jewish teachers told similar stories about a king and wedding clothes.

It does not seem fair that the king blamed the man. The man had come in from the street, so he was not wearing special clothes. But the king may have provided wedding clothes for his guests, as that was the custom. The man had come in to the wedding meal without suitable clothes. But he had no excuse because he knew the customs. He had insulted his host. Isaiah says that people try to make themselves good. However, to God, all their efforts are like very dirty clothes (Isaiah 64:6). But God gave Isaiah special clothes because he saved him. So Isaiah praises and thanks God (Isaiah 61:10). Paul urged the Christians at Ephesus to ‘take off’ or leave the old way that they lived. They must ‘put on’ or change to the new way to live. They must obey God (Ephesians 4:22-24).

In this story, the special wedding clothes are picture language. They show that God had saved the person. The man’s clothes were not suitable for a wedding. They are picture language for the bad way that he lived. The other guests had taken off their own clothes and put on the special wedding clothes. This means that God had forgiven them. He had saved them.

Verse 13 God offers to save people. The story refers to the time when God will be the judge. He will punish all the people who have refused his offer. The darkness was something that they should be afraid of. So Jesus warns them about it. The people who are out in the darkness will be very unhappy. They will probably be hurting and angry with themselves. That is why they will be biting their teeth together.

Verse 14 The story shows that God invites many people. But few people completely accept the invitation to enjoy a place where he rules.

The question about taxes 22:15-22

v15 Then the *Pharisees went away and met together. They made plans to make Jesus say something bad. v16 So they sent some of their *disciples to him along with some people called *Herodians. ‘Teacher’, they said, ‘we know that you are an honest man. The things that you teach about God’s way are true. You respect everybody. You do not take notice of how important they are. v17 Tell us then, what do you think? Is it right for us to pay taxes to the *Roman king called Caesar. Or is it not right?’

v18 But Jesus knew their evil plan. ‘You are not being honest’, he replied. ‘You are trying to test me. v19 Show me the coin that people use to pay the tax.’ So they brought him a silver coin. v20 ‘Whose picture and name are on this coin?’ he asked them.

v21 ‘It is Caesar’s’, they replied.

‘Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar’, Jesus told them. ‘And give to God what belongs to God.’

v22 When they heard this, they were astonished. So they left him and they went away.

Verses 15-17 The *Herodians were friends with King Herod’s family. They did not usually join with the *Pharisees. They did not want to obey all the rules that the *Pharisees obeyed. What they said about Jesus was true. He always said what God wanted. He did not allow other people to change what he taught. The *Pharisees praised Jesus. But they only wanted to make their question sound sincere. They thought that they could test Jesus. They thought that their plan was very clever. And they thought that they would succeed. Whatever answer Jesus gave would cause people to be angry. The *Jews hated to pay taxes to their *Roman rulers. It reminded them that they were not a free nation. Some *Jews thought that it was against God’s commands. They were paying money to people who did not believe God, they said. Jesus might agree with them. Then he would say that it was not right to pay the tax. That would cause trouble with the *Romans. Jesus might say that they should pay the tax. Then the people would be angry. And they would stop listening to him.

Verses 18-19 But Jesus realised what the *Pharisees were trying to do. The coin that he asked for was called a ‘denarius’. It was a silver coin. It was equal to a man’s wage for one day’s work. There was a picture of Tiberius Caesar’s head on one side. On the other side words described him as high *priest for the *Roman religion.

Verses 20-21 The *Pharisees had to say that the picture and name were Caesar’s on the coin. So Jesus told them to pay to Caesar what belonged to him. It was the payment that they owed him. The state provided security, good roads and other public services. So a Christian has a duty to pay his taxes. He is a citizen of the country in which he lives. But a Christian is also a citizen of heaven. He has a duty to God as well. A good citizen where God rules will be a good citizen in their own country on earth too. They will pay what they owe to both God and to other people.

Verse 22 The plan had failed. So the *Pharisees went away.

The question about life after death 22:23-33

v23 On that same day, some *Sadducees came to Jesus to ask him a question. The *Sadducees say that there is no life after death. v24 ‘Teacher’, they said, ‘this is what Moses told us about a married man who dies. If he has no children, his brother must marry the widow. Then the brother can have children on behalf of the dead man. v25 Now there were 7 brothers among us. The first one married, but then he died. Since he had no children, his brother married the dead man’s wife. v26 But the same thing happened to the man’s brother. The same thing happened seven times as each brother married the woman. v27 At the end, the woman died. v28 Now then, whose wife will she be when they all live again after death? All 7 of the brothers married her.’

v29 Jesus replied to them. ‘You are wrong’, he said. ‘You do not know the *scriptures. And you do not know God’s power. v30 When people live again after death, they will not marry. And parents will not give their sons or daughters for marriage. People will be like God’s *messengers in heaven. v31 But God has spoken about the life after death. Surely, you have read what God said to you. v32 “I am Abraham’s God. I am Isaac’s God and I am Jacob’s God.” He is not the dead people’s God. He is the living people’s God.’

v33 The crowds heard what Jesus taught. And what he taught astonished them.

Verse 23 The *Sadducees were the rich *Jewish leaders. Many of them were *priests. They worked with the *Roman rulers in order to keep their own power. And they were afraid that Jesus might cause a difficult political situation. Then the *Romans would be angry, and the *Sadducees might lose their power. They did not believe that people would live again after death. And they did not believe that God has *angels (see Acts 23:8). They hoped that Jesus would not be able to answer their question. Then he would look foolish, and so the crowd would lose interest in him. They would no longer listen to what he taught.

Verses 24-28 They told a story about marriage and the *Jewish *Law (see Deuteronomy 25:5-6). A husband may die. But if he has no children, his brother or a close relative must marry his widow. The first son of the widow and her new husband would continue the dead man’s family name. People would also consider that he was the first husband’s son. The *Sadducees told a story about a woman who had married seven brothers in turn. But none of them had children. Whose wife would she be when they all lived again after death? They thought that such a situation would be impossible to solve. They thought that Jesus could never give a satisfactory answer.

Verses 29-30 Jesus showed that their question had no meaning. The *Sadducees thought that life in heaven would be the same as life on earth. They did not know God’s power. God is able to give people a new life. There will be no marriage in heaven and people will not need to continue the human race. People will be like God’s *messengers, who do not die. In heaven, God will give people a new life. And he will provide bodies that are suitable.

Verses 31-32 The *Old Testament tells us about life after death. But the *Sadducees denied it. Jesus said that they did not know what God has said. The *Sadducees thought that the five books about the *Law were the most important part (the first five books in the Bible). Jesus reminded them about a statement in Exodus, which was one of these books. God spoke to Moses. “I am the God that Abraham *worships. I am Isaac’s God and Jacob’s God” (Exodus 3:6). *Jews who lived long ago are alive with God. He said, “I am”. He did not say, “I was”. Nothing can end the relationship with God. It begins on earth and it continues after *physical death. (The *Pharisees believed about God’s *messengers and life after death.)

Verse 33 The *Sadducees tried to make Jesus less popular, but they failed. The people in the crowd were astonished at the clever way that Jesus had answered the question.

The greatest command 22:34-40

v34 Jesus had shown that the *Sadducees were wrong. The *Pharisees heard about it, so they gathered together. v35 One of them was an expert about the *Law and he tested Jesus with a question. v36 ‘Teacher, which is the greatest command in the *Law?’ he asked.

v37 Jesus replied to him. ‘ “Love God with your whole person – all of your heart, all of your inner person and all of your mind.” v38 This is the first and most important command. v39 And the second important command is like it. “Love your neighbour as much as you love yourself.” v40 Everything that God’s special servants have written in the *Law and in their other books depends on these two commands.’

Verses 34-36 Jesus had answered the *Sadducees. Now the *Pharisees (the other *Jewish leaders) prepared to test Jesus. The *Jewish teachers said that the *Law contained 613 commands from God. Some of these laws were more important than other laws. The expert about the *Law asked Jesus which was the most important command.

Verses 37-38 Jesus used words from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. The most important command is part of what the *Jews call the Shema. It is their statement of what they believe. So *Jews say the Shema every day. The most important of God’s commands is that people should love him. They should love him with their whole *soul - the whole of their thoughts, all of their feelings and their entire life.

Verse 39 Jesus added a second command. When people really love God, then they love other people. We should love other people as much as we love ourselves, Jesus said.

Verse 40 The man had asked about the *Law and Jesus had replied from the *Law books. But he added the other books that God’s special servants wrote. The *Law and these other books are the two great divisions in the *Old Testament which is the *Jewish Bible. So these two commands are the sum of all that the *Old Testament taught.

The question about David’s son 22:41-46

v41 While the *Pharisees were there together, Jesus asked them a question. v42 ‘What do you think about the Christ? Whose family does he belong to?’

‘He is David’s son’, they replied.

v43 Jesus spoke to them again. But David called him “*Lord”, because the *Holy Spirit spoke through David long ago.

v44    “The *Lord spoke to my *Lord:

          Sit by my right side,

          until I put your enemies under your feet”, he said.

v45 So if David calls him “*Lord”, how can he be David’s son?’

v46 Nobody could answer Jesus. And from that day on, nobody dared to ask him any more questions.

Verses 41-42 Jesus asked this question after the *Pharisees had been asking him questions. He wanted them to think more about Christ, their *Messiah. They should be thinking about the kind of Christ (*Messiah) that they were expecting. They believed that he would belong to King David’s family. But the popular idea was that he would be a soldier like David. The *Messiah would free Israel’s people from their *Roman rulers and he would defeat other nations. Then Israel would have great political power in the world.

Verses 43-45 Jesus agreed that he belonged to David’s family. But he reminded them about Psalm 110:1. This psalm showed that Jesus was more important than David. The *Jews knew that David wrote many psalms. And Psalm 110 was about the *Messiah. The first words, ‘The *Lord’, refer to God. So God is inviting the man whom David called ‘my *Lord’. David’s *Lord is the *Messiah, Christ, and God is giving him the most important place next to him. He would remain with God until God had defeated all his enemies.

Verse 45 David called the *Messiah “*Lord”. So Jesus wanted to know how the *Messiah could be David’s son. Jesus wanted to show that the *Messiah was not a military hero like David. He was a different kind of king who had come to rule with peace. He would invite people to enter where he rules. He was someone much greater than David, so he received a place of honour in heaven with God.

Peter also used the message from Psalm 110:1 when he spoke to the crowd on the day of *Pentecost (Acts 2:34-35). He said that Jesus was ‘both *Lord and Christ’, like the words from Psalm 110.

And Paul used this message when he wrote to the Christians at Corinth. Christ will destroy all his enemies, including the last enemy, which is death (1 Corinthians 15:25-26).

Verse 46 The people who opposed Jesus had asked him many questions. He answered them all with great wisdom. They had not been able to win this battle of words. And now they had no answer to his question. So they could not ask him any more questions and they went away.

Where God rules and his judgement 23:1-25:46

These chapters are the last section about what Jesus taught. Jesus is warning the crowds and his *disciples. First, Jesus warns them about the *Pharisees.

Chapter 23

Jesus accuses the *Pharisees 23:1-12

v1 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to his *disciples. v2 ‘The men who teach the *Law and the *Pharisees speak with Moses’ authority’, he said. v3 ‘So you must obey them. Do everything that they tell you to do. But do not follow their example. They do not practise what they teach you. v4 They tie up heavy loads and they put those loads on other people’s shoulders. But they themselves are not willing to use even one of their fingers to help carry the loads. v5 They do everything for other people to see. They write down verses from God’s Word and put them into little boxes. Look at how many of those boxes they wear on their arms and heads! And they want you to admire the very long corners on their prayer coats! v6 They love to sit in the most important places when they are at parties. And they love to sit in the most important seats in the building where they meet to *worship God. v7 They are very happy when people greet them with respect in the market places. And they love to hear people call them ‘Teacher’.

v8 But you should not let people call you ‘Teacher’. You have only one teacher, and you are all brothers and sisters. v9 Also, do not call anyone on earth ‘father’. You have one Father, and he is in heaven. v10 Nobody should call any of you ‘teacher’ because you all have just one teacher. And he is the Christ. v11 The most important person among you will be your servant. v12 If anyone tries to make himself important, God will make him unimportant. And God will give honour to anyone who is humble.

Verse 1 Jesus is talking to everyone round him.

Verses 2-3 God had given the *Law to Moses long ago. The *Jews had to obey God’s laws. The men who taught the *Law and the *Pharisees were responsible to teach the *Law to the people. They taught that people should respect God and respect other people. So all the *Jews should obey them. But the *Pharisees had hundreds of their own rules to explain God’s *Law. They said that people should obey all these rules. But they often avoided their own rules. Jesus did not want people to copy this bad behaviour. These teachers tried to appear good, but they wanted honour for themselves rather than for God.

Verse 4 All their rules were like a great load that people had to carry. For example, there were many rules about how to keep God’s day special. It should have been a day when people rested and were happy. But it became a day when people were anxious about all the rules. So these rules had become a very heavy load. But the *Pharisees did not make the smallest effort to help with the load.

Verse 5 The *Pharisees liked people to think that they were very *holy. They wore little leather boxes that contained tiny paper rolls. They called these little boxes ‘phylacteries’ and they wrote four passages from God’s Word on each little roll. *Jews wore one or more on their arms and one on the front of their heads. They reminded people about God’s commands. The *Pharisees wore very large ‘phylacteries’. They wanted to make people notice them. People could see how well they obeyed God’s laws. The man wore his special coat with corners when he prayed to God. These coats also reminded people about God’s laws. But the *Pharisees would make the corners extra long so that people would notice them.

Verse 6 The *Pharisees liked people to think that they were important. So they wanted the seats that were next to their hosts at parties. They liked to sit on the seats in front of everybody in the building where they met to *worship God. Then they could look at everyone who was there. And everyone would notice who was sitting on the front seats.

Verses 7-10 They liked people to give them the greatest respect. They liked titles that gave them honour. Some translations use the word ‘Rabbi’ which means ‘My teacher’. They even liked people to call them ‘father’. Jesus said that Christians have only one teacher. And that teacher is Christ. Christians have only one father who made them. That Father is God. And with God as their father, Christians are all brothers and sisters.

Verses 11-12 Jesus emphasised that a Christian should serve other people. And he or she should be humble. God gives honour to people who deserve it. Proud people do not really praise God. Instead, they just praise themselves. But God will destroy their pride. He will also know which people are really humble. He will reward them and give them honour.

Jesus warns the *scribes and *Pharisees 23:13-36

Verse 14 is not in most old copies of Matthew. It is extra. Perhaps someone copied it from Mark 12:40 and Luke 20:47 long ago. Without verse 14, there are seven times that Jesus warns the *Pharisees and *scribes. Jesus accused them of having double standards. Many translations use the word ‘hypocrites’ here. This means that they are like actors who are hiding their true character.

v13 ‘How terrible for you men who teach the *Law and for you *Pharisees! You have double standards! You shut the door to where God rules. You shut it in people’s faces so that they cannot enter. But you do not go in yourselves. People are trying to get in, but you prevent them.

[v14 How terrible for you men who teach the *Law and for you *Pharisees! You have double standards! You rob widows by taking away their homes. Then you say long prayers in public! Your punishment will be very severe!]

v15 How terrible for you, men who teach the *Law and for you *Pharisees! You have double standards! You travel to other countries everywhere, even across the sea. You do it to gain one person more who believes like you. Then you make him twice as ready for hell as you are.

v16 How terrible for you, blind guides! You teach wrong things! “Someone may refer to the *Temple when they make a promise. That means nothing”, you say. “Someone else may refer to the gold in the *Temple when they make a promise. Then he must keep his promise”, you say. v17 You are blind and foolish. Perhaps you think that the gold is more important than the *Temple. Surely, the *Temple is more important because it makes the gold holy. v18 You also teach this. “Someone may refer to the holy table in the *Temple when they make a promise. That means nothing. But someone else may refer to the gift that is on the holy table. Then he must keep his promise”, you say. v19 You blind people! Perhaps you think that the gift is more important than the holy table. Surely, the holy table is greater because it makes the gift holy. v20 Therefore, someone may refer to the holy table when they make a promise. Then they will also make a promise with everything that people offer on that table. v21 And someone may refer to the *Temple when they make a promise. They will also promise with God’s name because he lives there. v22 Someone may refer to heaven when they make a promise. They will also make a promise with God’s royal seat there. That person is promising with God’s name because he sits on that seat.

v23 How terrible for you men who teach the *Law and for you *Pharisees! You have double standards! When you have ten small garden plants like mint, anise and cummin, you give one to God. But you neglect the more important matters in the *Law. You have not been fair to people nor pitied them. You have not been honest with people. You should have practised the last things without neglecting the first things. v24 You blind guides! You make sure that there is no tiny insect in your drink. But you are ready to swallow a camel!

v25 How terrible for you men who teach the *Law and for you *Pharisees. You have double standards! You clean the outside of cups and dishes. But inside they contain all that you have obtained wrongly. You are greedy and you only want to satisfy yourselves. v26 Blind *Pharisees! First, you must clean the inside of the cups and dishes. Then the outside will be clean as well.

v27 How terrible for you men who teach the *Law and for you *Pharisees. You have double standards! You are like the graves in rock that people paint white. They look beautiful on the outside. But the inside is full of dead people’s bones and other things that are not clean. v28 It is the same with you. You want people to look at you. You always seem to do what is right. But inside you are just pretending to be good. You are full of what is wrong.

v29 How terrible for you men who teach the *Law and for you *Pharisees. You have double standards! You build magnificent rock graves for God’s special servants from long ago. You also make the graves of good people look more beautiful. v30 “If we had lived long ago, we would not have done bad things like the first people in our families did”, you say. “We would not have helped them to kill God’s special servants”, you say. v31 So you are witnesses against yourselves. You say that you belong to those people’s families. And they killed God’s special servants. v32 So go and finish the wicked things that those people began long ago!

v33 You are like poisonous snakes in a nest! But you expect to escape the punishment in hell! v34 So I am sending more of God’s special servants to you, and wise men and teachers. I know that you will kill some of them. And you will fix some onto *crosses so that they die. You will whip other servants in the buildings where you meet to *worship God. And you will chase them from one town to another town. v35 You have caused good people’s blood to spill out on the earth. God will call you guilty because of those murders. It started with the blood from Abel, who obeyed God. The murders continued till Zechariah, who was the son of Berekiah. You murdered him between the *Temple and the holy table. v36 I am telling you the truth. God will punish the people who are living now for all these murders.’

Jesus warned the *religious leaders seven times:

1. Verse 13 Most of the men who taught the *Law and the *Pharisees opposed Jesus. He wanted people to enter where God rules. But these leaders refused to listen to Jesus. Also, they tried to stop other people from listening to him. They did not want anyone else to accept Jesus’ invitation. This was like shutting a door to keep people out, Jesus said. When Jesus healed a blind man, the man’s parents were afraid to answer questions about their son (John 9:20-23). Some people accepted Jesus as the *Messiah. But the *religious leaders refused to let such people stay in the buildings where they met to *worship God (John 9:22).

2. Verse 15 The *Pharisees made every effort to teach foreigners. They wanted them to believe like the *Jews believed. But the *Pharisees did not really help them to know God. They only tried to make people accept all their rules. They tried to make people follow their example. When someone changes his religion, he is usually very eager to obey the new religion’s rules. So this was the danger for other people who believed the *Pharisees. They could become worse than the *Pharisees themselves.

3. Verses 16-22 Jesus had already spoken about serious promises (Matthew 5:33-37). There were different kinds of promises. The *Pharisees thought that they only had to keep certain promises. They did not have to keep other promises. If they did not promise with the name of the *Temple, or the holy table or heaven, then they could break that promise. But Jesus said that everything belongs to God. And it should not be necessary to make promises with the names of holy things at all. Jesus said that they should be honest. They should mean what they said.

4. Verses 23-24 The *Levites worked in the *Temple. They did not own any land. The other *Jews had a duty to provide for the *Levites. So from all their grain, oil and wine the *Jews had to give them one part out of ten. But the *Pharisees also gave one out of ten, even from the small plants in their gardens. These tiny plants were their medicines and gave extra flavour to food. Jesus showed that the *Pharisees were emphasising the wrong things. It is far more important to be fair to other people. It is better to help people who need help. It is better to be loyal to God and honest with each other. The *Pharisees wanted to avoid everything that they thought was not ‘clean’. So Jesus suggested an impossible word picture. They were careful to take any tiny insect out of their drink. But they were prepared to swallow something as large as a camel! This funny picture showed that the *Pharisees were stupid. Some things are important and other things are less important. The *Pharisees could not see the difference.

5. Verses 25-26 The *Pharisees’ many rules included how to wash dishes. They had to make sure that the outside of a cup or a dish was clean enough for God. It may not have looked dirty. But nothing that their rules considered ‘not clean’ must touch the outside. That touch would make it ‘not clean’. They did not worry much about more important wrong things. When someone had cheated, it did not worry them. When someone had stolen food and drink, it did not worry them. So the *Pharisees were like their own cups and dishes. They made sure that they seemed pure on the outside. But they were greedy inside, where it did not show. They wanted to please themselves rather than to please God.

6. Verses 27-28 *Jews believed that a person must not touch a dead body. It would make the person ‘not clean’ (Numbers 19:16). In some places, there were graves by the road. Someone might touch a grave by accident. So then they would no longer be ‘clean’. If this happened at *Passover time, that person could not be part of the *Passover ceremonies. So in the spring, *Jews painted the graves white. They looked beautiful, but inside they were full of dead bodies or just bones. Jesus said that the *Pharisees were like the white graves. They looked so good on the outside. But deep inside, the *Pharisees were as awful as it was inside the graves.

7. Verses 29-32 The *Pharisees pretended to give honour to God’s special servants who died long ago. They made their graves look beautiful. Sometimes they even built new rock graves for them. The *Pharisees said that they would not have killed God’s servants. But Jesus was bringing God’s message, and they were planning to kill him. He had shown that he knew their thoughts in his story about the wicked farmers (Matthew 21:33-41). All through *Jewish history men had killed God’s special servants and refused to listen to their message. The *Pharisees were the same.

Verses 33-36 Jesus used words that John the *Baptist had also used. He warned the *Pharisees about the punishment in hell. God had sent his special servants with messages in the past, and he would send more in the future. But they would all suffer because they were doing God’s work. And Jesus knew that they would fix him on a *cross to die as well. The entire *Jewish history showed how the *Jews had murdered God’s servants. Abel was the first. His brother Cain murdered him (Genesis 4:8). Zechariah was the last because Chronicles is the last book in the *Jewish *Old Testament. He told the people that God would punish them for their bad behaviour. But king Joash encouraged the people to throw stones at Zechariah. And those stones killed him (2 Chronicles 24:20-22). In Genesis, Abel’s murder meant that God would judge Cain (Genesis 4:10). Before he died, Zechariah prayed to God. He asked God to judge his murderers (2 Chronicles 24:22). Jesus said that the people living then would suffer because of the murders in their history. Jesus gave a very serious warning to them. He knew what would happen. The nation had always refused to believe God’s message and soon God would punish them. The *Pharisees were among those who opposed Jesus. But Jesus was God’s final message to them.

Jesus weeps about Jerusalem’s people 23:37-39

v37 ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem! Your people kill God’s special servants. They throw stones to kill people when God sends them to you. Many times, I have wanted to gather your people together. I have wanted to be like a chicken that gathers her little chickens under her wings. But you would not let me. v38 Look, your *Temple will become empty and alone. v39 I am telling you the truth. You will not see me again until you say, “We pray that God will *bless the man who comes in the *Lord’s name.” ’

Verse 37 Jesus greatly loved Jerusalem city, and he greatly loved his own people, the *Jews. Luke says (Luke 19:41-44) that Jesus wept as he came near to the city. He had wanted the people to enter where God rules and become safe. Because he loved them, he wanted to protect them. This was like a chicken that protects her little chickens under her wings. Matthew, Mark and Luke record only one *Passover visit to Jerusalem. This visit happened after Jesus began his public work. Jesus says ‘Many times’, which shows that he had visited Jerusalem many times. And John’s *gospel records some of these other visits.

Verse 38 Jesus was giving a last, sad warning to his people. But he knew that they would not listen. And foreigners would destroy God’s house, their *Temple.

Verse 39 The crowd had shouted, ‘We pray that God will *bless the man who comes in the *Lord’s name!’ when Jesus rode into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:9). One day Jesus will return. Then the words that welcome him will be sincere.

Chapter 24

Jesus tells what will happen to the *Temple 24:1-2

v1 Then Jesus left the *Temple. He was walking away when his *disciples came up to him. They wanted him to notice all the *Temple buildings. v2 But Jesus replied to them. ‘Yes, you see all these buildings. And I am telling you the truth. Not one stone here will remain in its place in the building. Soldiers will throw down every stone.’

Verses 1-2 The *disciples admired the *Temple. They thought that it was very beautiful. They were astonished at what Jesus said because the stones were enormous (Mark 13:1; Luke 21:5). Jesus could see that the *Temple was beautiful. But it had no value unless sincere people went there to *worship God. Jesus knew that the *Jews would oppose the *Romans later. And the *Romans would deal with the *Jews then. There would be war and the *Romans would destroy Jerusalem. They would destroy the *Temple itself completely. Jesus’ words came true in *AD 70.

Troubles will come in the future 24:3-8

v3 Later, Jesus was sitting on the hill called the Mount of Olives. His *disciples came to him in private. ‘Tell us’, they said, ‘when will all this happen? What will be the evidence that you will return? What will be the evidence that this age is ending?’

v4 Jesus answered them. ‘Be careful! Do not let anyone make you believe lies. v5 Many men will say that they have come on my behalf. “I am the *Messiah!” they will say. So, many people will think that is true. v6 You will hear about wars. And you will hear news about other wars. Make sure that you do not become worried. These things must happen. But they do not mean that the end has come. v7 Nations will fight each other. One king’s men will fight against another king’s men. People will be hungry and the earth will tremble in many places. v8 Pain comes before a child is born. And all these events are like those pains.’

Verses 3-4 The *disciples wanted to know when the *Temple would end in that way. They also asked Jesus about when he would return. Matthew used the *Greek word ‘parousia’ for when Jesus will return. It became a special word. It referred to the time when Jesus would return to earth. And that would happen when ‘this age is ending’.

Jesus answered both questions in the next verses (verses 5-44).

Verse 5 Jesus warned the *disciples that there would be many false *Messiahs in the future. They would tell people that God had sent them. Many people said that they were the *Messiah after Jesus died. And there are false *Messiahs even today.

Verses 6-8 Jesus spoke about wars and terrible natural events. Such events might make people think that the world’s end was near. But Jesus said that these troubles were only like the beginning of the new age. They are like the pains that happen before a baby’s birth.

Jesus warns that people will suffer 24:9-14

v9 ‘Then people will hand you over to the authorities’, Jesus continued. ‘They will punish you and they may kill you. People in every nation will hate you because you trust me. v10 At that time many people will turn away from believing me. They will hand each other over to their enemies and they will hate each other. v11 Many false teachers will tell you lies about the future. They will make many people think that they really have a message from God. v12 Because evil things will increase, many people will stop loving me. v13 But God will save anyone who believes him to the end. v14 *Disciples will teach people all over the world about where God rules. They will tell this good news to people in all the nations. Then the end will come.’

Jesus warns his *disciples about four things:

1. Verse 9 *Disciples must expect that people will hate them. The *disciples will suffer wherever they go to tell the good news. They will suffer because they belong to Christ. People will oppose them and they will attack them. People will really hurt them and they may even kill them.

2. Verse 10 There will be confusion in society. People will stop believing God. They will not be able to trust each other, so they will help each other’s enemies.

3. Verse 11 False teachers will say that they are giving God’s messages. But they will only teach their own ideas, because they want to make themselves important.

4. Verse 12 Many people will love God less and less. They will see all the evil things that are happening in the world. And they will allow those evil things to destroy the good in their lives. Then they will stop believing God.

Jesus made two important promises:

1. Verse 13 God will say, ‘Welcome!’ to people when they enter where he rules. But those people must believe him until the end of their lives (Revelation 2:10). ‘To the end’ may also mean until God has finished his work here on earth. Some people will still be alive when Jesus returns.

2. Verse 14 The good news about where God rules will spread through the whole world. *Disciples should share this good news in all nations and then the world’s end will come.

People will suffer in Jerusalem 24:15-22

v15 Jesus continued to speak to them. ‘Long ago God’s special servant Daniel spoke about “the thing that people hate which destroys everything. You will see it standing in the holy place”, he said. (The reader should understand what this means.) v16 You people live here in Judea. When you see this, you should escape to the mountains immediately. v17 If anyone is outside their house at that time, they should not take time to go back inside. They should not take anything from the house. v18 If anyone is in the field, they should not go home to get their coat. v19 In those days it will be terrible for women who are expecting babies! And it will be terrible for mothers who are feeding young babies! v20 Pray that you will not have to escape in winter. And pray that you will not have to escape on God’s rest day. v21 People will suffer terrible things in those days. It will be worse than anything that has ever happened before. And there will never be anything like it again. v22 If God does not make the time shorter, nobody will be alive afterwards. But God has decided to make the time shorter. That is because he pities the people that he has chosen.’

Verse 15 ‘The thing that people hate which destroys everything’ is a description from Daniel 9:27. Everywhere people recognised that the *Temple was the *Jews’ most *holy place. So rulers who defeated the *Jews put something there to represent their own gods in God’s holy place.

‘The reader should understand what this means.’ Matthew probably wanted his readers to think about the reference from Daniel. It described a dangerous situation. So, people should be prepared for a bad time like that. Foreign kings had tried to destroy the *Jewish religion. And by the time when Matthew wrote, the *Romans were already fighting a war with the *Jews.

Verses 16-18 When the first signs of trouble come, people must escape quickly. They must not spend time to try to collect any goods. They must escape as fast as possible. Jesus advised them to escape to the mountains. This was practical advice because the caves there could provide shelter for the people.

Eusebius, a writer, said that Christians left Jerusalem when the *Romans attacked it later. Christians crossed the River Jordan, and they found safety in a city called Pella. The *Jewish writer called Josephus describes other people’s actions. They thought that they would be safe. So they stayed in Jerusalem because the city had strong walls. The *Jews believed that the *Temple would protect them. But Titus, the *Roman leader, camped outside the city for five months. He waited for the people to starve and die.

Verse 19 When this happened, some women would be expecting babies. Other women would have very small children. Jesus warned that it would be terrible for them. Mothers would suffer when they could not feed their children. Josephus said that people in Jerusalem were very hungry during the *Roman attack. One mother even killed her baby and ate it.

Verse 20 In the winter, it was difficult to travel. The weather was bad and the paths were muddy. The river would have filled with water. People could escape only slowly. And *Jews believed that they should travel only a short distance on God’s rest day.

Verse 21 The *Jewish writer Josephus tells how terribly people suffered in Jerusalem. Thousands of *Jews died while the *Romans were fighting them. Their dead bodies were all still in Jerusalem when the *Romans entered the city. (This was 70 years after Christ was born. It happened in the year *AD 70). And they hated the sight of all the dead bodies. Thousands more *Jews became slaves when the *Romans took them as prisoners. The *Romans took many prisoners to other countries.

Verse 22 God controls the events in the world. He does not want people to suffer for a long time. He will not allow anyone to destroy the people that he has chosen. The *Jews were the people that he had chosen. So these words may refer to when the *Romans defeated the *Jews in Jerusalem. But Christians are the people whom God has chosen also. So the words may refer to other times when people suffer too. Many such bad times will happen before the world ends.

Jesus warns about false *Messiahs 24:23-28

v23 ‘At that time someone may speak to you’, Jesus said. ‘ “Look! Here is the Christ!” he might say. “There he is!” someone else might say. Do not believe them. v24 False Christs and false teachers who announce events will appear. They will do great signs and *miracles. They would persuade God’s people to believe wrong ideas, if they could. v25 Take notice! I have told you this before it happens.

v26 Someone may tell you, “He is far out in the desert.” But do not go out there. Or someone may say, “He is hiding inside the house.” But do not believe them. v27 When lightning flashes in the east, people in the west can see it. It will be very bright like that when the Son of Man comes. v28 The vultures (large birds) will always go to the place where there is a dead body.’

Verses 23-24 In verse 5 and verse 11, Jesus warned the *disciples about false *Messiahs and false teachers who announce future events. Many people with false messages came and said that God had sent them. That was before the *Romans defeated the *Jews in Jerusalem. Now Jesus is talking about events that are further still in the future. One day, Jesus, also called the Son of Man, will return to this earth. He will return to earth with power and authority. He will arrive like a king. But people will try to make Christians believe wrong things about him. Before Jesus returns, false teachers and false *Messiahs will even perform ‘signs and *miracles’. False *Messiahs can be people who oppose Jesus the Christ. Sometimes they say that they are Christians. But they teach false things. Christians must be very careful. They must not believe false teachers.

Verse 25 Jesus told his *disciples about this so that they will be prepared. They will be able to guard themselves against what is false.

Verse 26 They must not believe that Christ is out in the desert away from people. But some Christians went there to avoid the evil things in society. Christ is not hiding in the inner room in a house. There are no secrets about him that only special people can discover.

Verse 27 Jesus, the *Son of Man, will come suddenly and with a great light, exactly as a flash of lightning comes. People everywhere will be able to see him.

Verse 28 Vultures are big, black birds that eat dead things. They always gather round a dead animal. They give clear evidence that a dead animal is there. This verse probably means that there will be clear evidence when Jesus returns. Nobody will miss him. Everyone will see him.

The *Son of Man will return 24:29-31

These verses describe how history will end. And how the *Son of Man will come. The language is similar to words in the *Old Testament (Isaiah 13:10; 34:4; Ezekiel 32:7; Joel 2:31; Zephaniah 1:14-15 and other verses). They describe how God controls everything in human history.

v29 ‘Immediately after those days finish, the days when people need to suffer,

          “The sun will become dark

          and the moon will not shine.

          The stars will fall from the sky,

          and the powers in the sky will shake.”

v30 At that time the *Son of Man’s sign will appear in the sky. The people who belong to all the nations on the earth will be sad and weep then. They will see the *Son of Man as he comes on wonderful bright clouds in the sky. He will come with great power and light. v31 He will cause a loud *trumpet to sound and he will send out his servants from heaven. They will gather together the people that he has chosen. They will bring them from one end of the earth to the other.’

Verse 29 The words in this verse come from Isaiah 13:10 and Isaiah 34:4. These signs refer to God’s judgement on *Babylon’s people at first, and on people from all the nations.

Verse 30 In Daniel 7:13-14, we read about when the *Son of Man will come. He will come with great power and wonderful bright light. Jesus used these words about himself when he was answering the high *priest (Matthew 26:64). Zechariah wrote about the *Jews. They would look at the man that they had killed. Then they would be sad (Zechariah 12:10).

Verse 31 *Trumpets are metal musical instruments that you blow into. People used them to call everyone together. They also warned people about danger. When God gave the *Law on *Mount Sinai, the people heard a loud *trumpet. And Jesus said that the loud *trumpet call would be part of this event too. The *Lord will come with a great pure light so that everyone gives him honour. The *Old Testament speaks about a time when God will bring the *Jews together. He will bring them from all the places where he has scattered them. In the same way, the *Son of Man will send his servants from heaven with his message. They will call Christians together from every part of the world. Then they will all be with him.

The lesson from a fruit tree 24:32-35

v32 ‘Learn a lesson from the *fig tree. When its branches become soft and green, the leaves appear. Then you know that summer is near. v33 In the same way, you will see all these things happening. Then you will know that the time is near. God is ready to begin. v34 I am telling you the truth. Some people who are living will not have died until all this has happened. v35 Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear.’

Verse 32 Everybody who was listening to Jesus recognised this common fruit tree. They were always glad to see the new leaves because summer was surely coming.

Verses 32-34 These verses may be a warning about the time when the *Romans would defeat the *Jews in Jerusalem. This would happen in less than 40 years. But Jesus had described different things in verses 29-31. In them, he referred to the time just before he would return to earth at the world’s end. And he spoke about the signs that people will see when the world is ending.

Verse 34 Many of Jesus’ *disciples believed that Jesus would return to earth soon. They thought that they would still be alive then. Christians at Thessalonica did not continue with their normal work because they were waiting for him. Paul had to correct their ideas. They should work in the usual way while they waited, he told them (2 Thessalonians 3:6). Jesus had promised his *disciples that he would return to them (John 14:18). This promise came true when he lived again after he died. And it came true when the *Holy Spirit came at *Pentecost. But Jesus will return to earth with power and wonderful light at some time in the future. The people who are still alive then will see that event.

Verse 35 Everything will end. The sky and the earth will disappear because they are of no more use. But the authority of Jesus will never change. He is always the same (Hebrews 2:17).

Jesus will return, so be ready 24:36-44

v36 ‘Nobody knows when that day or that time will be. Not even God’s servants in heaven know and neither does the Son know. Only the Father knows. v37 You remember how it was in the days of Noah. It will be like that when the *Son of Man comes. v38 In the days before the flood, people were eating and they were drinking. They were marrying. And they were giving their daughters to marry young men. They did all these things until the day that Noah entered the big boat. v39 They did not know what was happening. Then the flood came. And the flood swept them all away. And it will be like that when the *Son of Man comes. v40 Two men will be working in a field. Jesus will take one man, but he will leave the other man. v41 Two women will be making flour with a hand mill. And Jesus will take one woman, but he will leave the other woman.

v42 So always be ready. You do not know which day your *Lord will come. v43 You must understand this. Suppose a house owner knew what time in the night a thief was coming. Then he would be awake and ready. He would not let the thief break into his house. v44 So you also must be ready. The *Son of Man will come when you are not expecting him.’

Verse 36 Some people try to work out when the world will end. Sometimes, people say that they know the actual date. Jesus said that the Son would return to earth with power and in that wonderful bright light. But he said that only God the Father knew when that would happen. Jesus was God’s Son. But as a human person, he did not know the date.

Verses 37-39 Jesus gave the example about the people who lived during Noah’s time. While he was preparing the big boat, other people were living ordinary lives. Noah was prepared, but the other people were not prepared. Noah was safe in the big boat, but the other people died in the flood.

Verses 40-41 Jesus explained that he would come and bring judgement. One man who was at work would be ready for Jesus. The other man would not be ready. Two women would be making flour. But only one woman would be ready for Jesus. The other woman would not be ready.

Verses 42-44 The *Son of Man will return. People do not expect a thief to come during the night. And people would not expect Jesus to return. Later, Paul wrote to the Christians at Thessalonica. He repeated what Jesus had said (1 Thessalonians 5:2).

The story about the wise and the wicked servants 24:45-51

v45 ‘Think about a loyal and wise servant. His master has put him in command of the other servants in his house. This chief servant should give food to the other servants at the right time. v46 Their master will return home later. If the chief servant is doing his work properly, then it will be very good for him. v47 I am telling you the truth. The master will make that servant head of everything that he owns. v48 But suppose the chief servant is wicked. Suppose he says to himself, “My master is staying away a long time!” v49 So then he begins to beat the other servants. And he eats and drinks with drunks. v50 The master will come back one day when his servant is not expecting him. He will return. But the servant does not know the time when he will return. v51 Then his master will cut that servant into pieces. He will send him to join other bad servants. They only pretended to serve their master. In that place they will weep and bite their teeth together in pain.’

Verses 45-47 The servant did his work well while his master was absent. The master rewarded him with more responsibility. Christ wants his servants to be loyal like that. They should work for Christ until he returns.

Verses 48-51 This servant thought only about his own happiness. He did not care about the other servants or about his master. But his master would give him a severe punishment when he returned. In the end, the servant would join those who only pretended to serve the master. This is a picture of people who only pretend to live good lives. But they do not please God. ‘Weep and bite their teeth together in pain’ was a way to say ‘They were sad and they regretted past actions.’

Chapter 25

The story about the ten young women 25:1-13

v1 ‘At that time, it will be like this where God rules: Ten young women took their lamps to a wedding. They went out to meet the bridegroom. v2 Five of the young women were foolish and the other five were wise. v3 The foolish girls took their lamps, but they did not take any extra oil with them. v4 The wise girls, however, took some jars of oil with them. v5 The bridegroom did not come for a long time. The girls all became tired as they waited. So they fell asleep.

v6 At midnight someone shouted. “Here comes the bridegroom. Come out to meet him!”

v7 So all the girls woke up. They made sure that their lamps were burning properly. v8 Then the foolish girls spoke to the wise girls. “Give us some of your oil. Our lamps are going out”, they said.

v9 “No”, the wise girls replied. “There may not be enough oil for all of us! You must go to the people who sell oil. And you must buy some oil for yourselves.”

v10 But while they went to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The five girls who were ready went in to eat the wedding meal with him. And they shut the door.

v11 Later, the other girls also arrived. “Sir! Sir!” they called. “Open the door for us!”

v12 But the bridegroom replied to them. “I tell you the truth. I do not know you”, he said.

v13 So be prepared. You do not know the day or the time when the bridegroom will come.’

Verse 1 The young women would be waiting with the bride. The bridegroom would come to fetch his bride. He would take her to their new home. In the *Old Testament, the writers often call God the ‘husband’ or the ‘bridegroom’. Israel’s whole nation is called the ‘wife’ or the ‘bride’ (Hosea 2:16; Isaiah 62:5). In the *New Testament, the whole *church is called Christ’s bride (Ephesians 5:23).

Verse 5 The bridegroom did not come for a long time. Christians thought at first that Christ would return very soon. But Jesus still has not come back to earth. He has not yet claimed his bride, which is the *church.

Verses 2-13 This story warns us that Jesus will return. People have the opportunity to be ready for him. He is the bridegroom. The wise girls had prepared their lamps for the bridegroom, so they were ready. However, all the girls went to sleep.

The foolish girls could not get any more oil. Perhaps this shows that people must have their own relationship with God. They cannot depend on the experience that other people have. In the Bible, oil is sometimes picture language for the *Holy Spirit. People must have their lamps burning well. That means that they have prepared themselves (Luke 12:35-36). *Disciples must always be ready to give a welcome to Jesus.

Once a wedding meal began, they shut the door. Nobody else could enter the room. So this story warns us that someone can be too late.

The story about three servants 25:14-30

v14 ‘This is another story about what it is like where God rules. A man wanted to go on a journey, so he sent for his servants. He told them to be responsible for his property. v15 The man knew what each servant could do. So he gave five thousand gold coins to one servant. Then he gave two thousand coins to another servant. And he gave one thousand coins to the third servant. Then the man left to go on his journey. v16 The servant who had received five thousand gold coins went out. He used the money so that it made a profit. He earned five thousand more coins. v17 The servant who had two thousand coins did the same. And he earned two thousand more coins. v18 The servant who had received one thousand coins also went out. But he just dug a hole in the ground, and he hid his master’s money in the hole.

v19 After a long time, their master returned. He wanted to know what they had done with his money. v20 So the man who had received five thousand gold coins brought them to him together with the extra five thousand coins. “Master”, he said, “You have trusted me with five thousand coins and I have gained five thousand more coins.”

v21 “You have done very well”, the master replied. “You are a good and loyal servant! You have been loyal with a few things, so I will make you responsible for many things. Come in and be happy with me!”

v22 Then the man who had received two thousand coins also came to him. “Master”, he said, “you trusted me with two thousand gold coins. See, I have earned two thousand more coins.”

v23 “You have done well”, his master replied. “You are a good and loyal servant! You have been loyal with a few things, so I will make you responsible for many things. Come in and be happy with me!”

v24 Then the man who had received one thousand coins came to him. “Master”, he said, “I know that you are a severe man. You harvest crops where you have not planted them. You gather crops where you have not scattered seed. v25 So I was afraid. I went out and I hid your money in the ground. Here is all that belongs to you.”

v26 “You wicked and lazy servant!” the master replied. “You knew what kind of man I am! I harvest crops where I have not planted them. I gather crops where I have not scattered seed. v27 Well then, you should have put my money in the bank. When I returned, I would have received it back. In addition, I would have received the extra money that the bank gives.”

v28 Then his master ordered the servants. “Take the money away from him. Give it to the servant who has ten thousand coins. v29 Everyone who has something will receive more. Then they will have plenty. But the person who does not have much of anything will lose whatever they have. v30 This servant is worth nothing! Throw him out into the darkness.” People will weep and bite their teeth together with pain there’, Jesus said.

Verses 14-15 The master gave out very large sums of money. Each servant had as much as he could work with.

Verses 16-17 Two servants used their money wisely. The story does not tell us how they used the money. But they were able to increase the amount.

Verse 18 In those days, it was difficult to look after something that was valuable. People would hide the object in the ground.

Verses 19-23 The master praised the two servants in the same way. As a reward, they received greater responsibility. To ‘be happy’ with their master may refer to a special meal with him. The *Jews often thought about the *Messiah’s special meal.

Verses 24-27 The servant with one thousand coins tried to make excuses because he had not worked with the money. He even insulted his master. So the master called him ‘wicked and lazy’. Sometimes people do something that is wrong. At other times, people do not do what is right. But this is wrong too. ‘We all know the good things that we ought to do. If we do not do them, we are *sinning’ (James 4:17).

Verses 28-30 People should use what God gives to them. They will find that these gifts increase. But people will lose their gifts and opportunities if they fail to use them. This happens all through life. But one day God will judge people and how they have used their gifts. The punishment will be the same as the punishment of the bad servants in these stories. (See verse 30 at the end of this story, and Matthew 24:51 at the end of the previous story about the servants.)

The story about the sheep and the goats 25:31-46

v31 ‘The *Son of Man will come and he will shine very brightly. All the *angels will come with him. Then he will sit on his royal seat as King in heaven. v32 All the nations will gather in front of him. He will separate the people into two groups. He will be like a man who separates his sheep from his goats. v33 He will put the sheep by his right side, and he will put the goats by his left side.

v34 Then the king will speak to those by his right side. “Come near. My Father has *blessed you”, he will say. “Take the place that belongs to you. Come where God rules. God prepared this place for you when he made the world at the beginning. v35 When I was hungry, you gave me something to eat. When I was *thirsty, you gave me something to drink. When I was a stranger, you made me welcome. v36 When I needed clothes, you gave me clothes. When I was ill, you looked after me. When I was in prison, you visited me.”

v37 Then the people who had done what is right will answer him. “*Lord, when did we give food to you because you were hungry? When did we give you something to drink because you were *thirsty? v38 When did we see you as a stranger and invite you in? When did we give you clothes because you needed them? v39 When did we visit you because you were ill or in prison?”

v40 The King will reply to them. “I tell you the truth”, he will say. “You did it for these least important people who belong to me. Therefore, you also did it for me.”

v41 Then the King will speak to those by his left side. “You must receive God’s punishment. Go away from me. Go into the fire that burns for ever. God has prepared it for the devil and his *messengers. v42 When I was hungry, you gave me nothing to eat. When I was *thirsty, you gave me nothing to drink. v43 When I was a stranger, you did not invite me into your houses. When I needed clothes, you did not give me any. When I was ill and in prison, you did not look after me.”

v44 Then those people will ask him: “*Lord, when were you hungry, or *thirsty, or you needed clothes? When were you ill or in prison and we did not help you?”

v45 He will reply to them. “I tell you the truth”, he will say. “You did not do it for any of these least important people who belong to me. Therefore, you did not do it for me.” v46 Then they will go away and their punishment will never end. But those people who have done right things will live with God for ever.’

Verses 31-33 In Israel, sheep and goats mixed together. They looked very similar. The man who looked after them sometimes needed to separate them.

Verses 34-40 The ‘*Son of Man’ is the King. So Jesus is the King. At the end of time, Jesus will be the judge. He knows the way that people have behaved here on earth. Some people may not seem very important. But everyone should be willing to help such people, even in small ways. If you want to help the King himself, then you should help poor people. Some people had acted in the right way. They did not realise that they were helping the King.

Verses 40 and 45 ‘These least important people that belong to me’. Jesus was probably referring to the people who were present. The people who follow the *Son of Man are with him as he judges. Paul wrote ‘Surely you know that the saints will judge the world’ (1 Corinthians 6:2). The saints are people who believe Christ and have a relationship with him.

Verses 41-45 Those people by his left side were astonished when the king blamed them. They had not noticed the people who needed help. So they had failed to help the king himself.

Verse 46 ‘live with God for ever’ refers to the future age. So ‘punishment that will never end’ means that people cannot share that life with God. The ‘fire that burns for ever’ (verse 41) probably refers to Gehenna. That was a valley outside Jerusalem where people threw all their rubbish. Fires were burning there all the time. Jesus used this picture to compare life with God and life without God in hell.

This story increases the Christians’ sense of responsibility. They should serve people who need help. But it also shows that it is good to serve other people. The story does not mean that a person’s good actions will save them. God saves a person who believes him. Because of his great kindness, he saves people who trust him. We cannot earn a place in heaven by what we do. But we must show that we really believe him. If we love people, then we are obeying God (James 2:14-26).

Matthew 26:1–28:20 describes the end of Jesus’ life.

          The secret arrest

            The *trial before the authorities

            His death

            How he lived again after death

Chapter 26

Plans to kill Jesus 26:1-5

v1 When Jesus had finished teaching those things, he spoke again to his *disciples. v2 ‘As you know, the *Passover is two days from now’, he said. ‘At that time people will hand over the *Son of Man to die. They will fix him on a wooden *cross with nails.’

v3 Then the chief *priests and the other leaders of the people met together. They met in the palace of the chief *priest, whose name was Caiaphas. v4 They made plans to arrest Jesus in a clever, secret way. They wanted to kill him. v5 ‘But we must not arrest him during the *feast’, they said. ‘The people might cause trouble.’

Verse 1 The story about the sheep and the goats ended the last teaching section in Matthew’s *gospel. Each section finished with similar words. (See Matthew 7:28; 13:53; 19:1.)

Verse 2 Jesus warned his *disciples again. He said that he would die during the *Passover. The *Jews kept this important ceremony each year. During the ceremony, they remembered how God had rescued their people from Egypt long ago.

Verses 3-5 The *Romans controlled the *Jews, so they appointed the chief *priest. The *priest called Caiaphas was chief *priest for 18 years. This was a long time that he remained friends with the *Roman rulers. So Caiaphas must have been very skilled while he worked with them. He would have lost his job if there was any form of trouble in the city. There were thousands of *Jews in Jerusalem for the *Passover ceremony. And many came from Galilee, where Jesus was popular. So Caiaphas decided to wait. They could arrest Jesus later when it would cause less trouble.

A woman poured *perfume on Jesus at Bethany 26:6-13

v6 Jesus was eating at Simon’s house in the village called Bethany. Simon had a skin disease, so he was called Simon the Leper. v7 A woman came to where Jesus was at the table. She was carrying a special jar of very expensive *perfume. Then she poured the *perfume on Jesus’ head.

v8 When the *disciples saw this, they became annoyed. ‘Why did she waste this *perfume?’ they asked each other. v9 ‘She could have sold this *perfume for a large sum of money. Then that money could have helped poor people.’

v10 Jesus knew what they were saying. So he spoke to them. ‘Do not bother this woman.’ he said. ‘She has done a beautiful thing to me. v11 You will always have poor people with you, but I will not always be here. v12 She has poured this *perfume on me to prepare my body because they are going to bury my body. v13 What I tell you is true. People will tell about her action everywhere in the whole world. When they tell the good news about me, people will tell this story. They will always remember her.’

Verse 6 Simon would not have been with other people if he actually had a skin disease at that time. Perhaps he used to have a skin disease and he had recovered. Maybe Jesus had healed him. Or he may have become ill later, but before Matthew wrote this.

Verses 7-9 The woman’s expensive gift showed how much she loved Jesus. The *disciples could not understand this.

Verses 10-11 Jesus used words from Deuteronomy 15:11. There would always be poor people and they could be generous to such people. But Jesus would not always be with them. The woman had used this opportunity. She had shown that she loved Jesus in this special way. Sometimes there are many opportunities to do something good. But sometimes there is only one opportunity.

Verse 12 Jesus was called the *Messiah, which means that God had chosen him for this special job. When God chose someone in Israel, their custom was to pour oil or *perfume on that person’s head. God sent Samuel to do this for king David long ago (1 Samuel 16:1-13) and for other men. This was called ‘anointing’ a person. Nobody had ‘anointed’ Jesus during his life. This woman had shown by her action that he was the *Messiah. Jesus said that she had ‘anointed’ his body. She had done this even before he died. Usually women ‘anointed’ a dead body by rubbing it with special *perfumes. Some women wanted to do this for Jesus after he died. So they went to the place where the men had buried him. But they could not ‘anoint’ Jesus’ body because Jesus had already come back to life (Mark 16:1-6: Luke 24:1-3).

Verse 13 Jesus knew that Christians would tell the good news about him everywhere in the world. What the woman had done for him was part of the good news. She had shown that Jesus was the *Messiah. He was a king who would die. People would always remember her action. They would remember how much she loved Jesus.

Judas plans to hand over Jesus to his enemies 26:14-16

v14 Then one of the 12 *disciples went to the chief *priests. That *disciple’s name was Judas Iscariot. v15 ‘What will you give me if I hand over Jesus to you?’ he asked them. So they counted out 30 silver coins and they gave the coins to him. v16 After that, Judas watched for the right time, so that he could hand over Jesus to them.

Verse 14 Judas and the *priests made a plan. Their actions contrast with the woman who ‘anointed’ Jesus (see note about verse 12). She acted because she loved Jesus. They acted because they hated Jesus. Judas belonged to the 12 *disciples. Jesus had taught Judas for three years. And Jesus had trusted him as a friend. This emphasises how wicked Judas’s action was. He was not loyal to Jesus. Judas knew where Jesus went to get away from the crowds. So he went to tell the *priests where they could arrest Jesus. Nobody knows why Judas agreed to help the *priests. Some possible reasons for his action are:

·           He was greedy to get more money. John says that Judas looked after the *apostles’ money. He used to steal small amounts for himself (John 12:6). He may have expected more than the 30 silver coins. He asked how the *priests would reward him (verse 15).

·           His name ‘Iscariot’ may mean that he was a ‘man from Kerioth’. The village called Kerioth was in the Judea region. The other *disciples came from the Galilee region. Perhaps Judas thought that he was more important than them. Perhaps he thought that he deserved special honour. But Jesus had not given him that honour. Instead, Peter, James and John had been with Jesus on some special occasions.

·           He may have been a secret member of the ‘Zealots’. They were a *Jewish group who wanted to free the nation from the *Roman rulers. And they were prepared to use force. Perhaps Judas thought that Jesus would become a political king or ruler on earth. Judas wanted to be important. He may have hoped that he would have an important position in Jesus’ government. But then he saw that Jesus did not intend to make himself king. So Judas would have been disappointed. Perhaps that was why he turned against Jesus. Or he may have wanted to force Jesus to show his power. He thought that he knew what Jesus should do.

·           Judas realised that Jesus would soon be in serious trouble. He wanted to protect himself, so he helped the *priests.

Verse 15 A slave cost 30 pieces of silver (Exodus 21:32). That was also the amount that they paid to God’s special servant (Zechariah 11:12). He worked for God and looked after Israel’s people. But they only paid him 30 pieces of silver as an insult.

Preparations for the *Passover meal 26:17-19

v17 It was the first day of the ceremony when they ate bread without *yeast. The *disciples came to talk to Jesus. ‘Where do you want to eat the *Passover meal?’ they asked him. ‘Where shall we prepare it for you?’

v18 ‘Go into the city and talk to a certain man for me’, Jesus said. ‘Tell him that the teacher says, “My time is near. I and my *disciples will eat the *Passover meal at your house.” ’ v19 So the *disciples did what Jesus had told them to do. And they prepared the *Passover meal at the man’s house.

Verse 17 The ceremony when they ate bread without *yeast’ is also called the ‘*feast of *unleavened bread’. It reminded the *Jews about the past. Long ago, their people had escaped from the country called Egypt. God had rescued them, but they had to leave very quickly. So they had no time to make proper bread with *yeast in it (Exodus 12:17-20). Usually they put *yeast in the mixture to make it grow. On the first day of the *Passover ceremony, the *Jews removed all the *yeast from their houses.

Verse 18 Jesus had made plans already. Matthew speaks only of a ‘certain man’. He does not give the details. Mark and Luke write about a man who was carrying a jar of water (Mark 14:13; Luke 22:10). But Matthew includes an important detail. Jesus said, ‘My time is near.’ In the *Greek language, there are two different words for ‘time’. ‘Chronos’ refers to the hours, days and years. ‘Kairos’ means the special time when something important happens. Jesus used ‘kairos’ because the special time had come for him. It was right for him to end his work on earth.

Verse 19 The *disciples had to obtain everything necessary for the meal. They needed the special leaves that tasted unpleasant. The *Jews had suffered as slaves in Egypt and these leaves reminded them about this. They had to make a mixture of fruit and nuts to remind them about the ground in Egypt. The *Jewish slaves had made bricks for their masters from the mud there. The *disciples also had to provide wine. They had to fill four cups and pass them round during the meal. They had to eat a young sheep for the main part of the *Passover meal.

Jesus says that someone will hand him over to his enemies 26:20-25

v20 Jesus was eating with his 12 *disciples that evening. v21 While they were eating, he spoke to them. ‘I tell you the truth. One of you will certainly hand me over to my enemies’, he said

v22 The *disciples became very sad. One after the other, they asked him this question. ‘Surely you do not mean me, *Lord?’

v23 Jesus replied to them. ‘One of you men who has put his hand into the dish with me will hand me over. v24 The *Son of Man will die exactly as they wrote about me long ago. But how terrible for that man who hands over the *Son of Man to his enemies. It would be better for that man if he had never lived.’

v25 Judas was the man who would hand over Jesus to his enemies. Then he said, ‘Surely you do not mean me, Teacher?’

And Jesus answered him. ‘Yes, it is you.’

Verses 20-21 To share a meal was a mark of friendship. To hand over a friend to their enemies is especially wicked. Jesus probably remembered the words in Psalm 41:9. ‘Even my close friend has turned against me. He was the man that I trusted. He shared my food.’

Verse 22 The *disciples could not believe that one of them would hand over Jesus like this. Nobody suspected that Judas would do such a thing. Their question to Jesus meant, ‘I cannot believe that I would hand you over to the enemy!’

Verse 23 There was a dish that contained the mixture of fruit and nuts. People usually put their bread into it to eat it.

Verses 24-25 Jesus’ words were a last appeal to Judas to change his decision. Jesus also warned them about the terrible fate that was waiting for his enemies. That fate would also happen to the person who handed him over to them. Jesus could have stopped Judas. The other *disciples would have helped him at once, if they had known about Judas. But Jesus knew that his death was in God’s plan. At the same time, Judas was responsible for his own actions. God did not force him to help Jesus’ enemies. Jesus knew what Judas had planned. But Judas was free to make his own decisions. To know that something will happen does not make it happen.

Judas asked the same question as the other *disciples asked Jesus. They would have noticed if he had said nothing. Jesus did not allow the other *disciples to suspect Judas. So Jesus probably replied quietly, so that only Judas could hear.

The *Lord’s Supper 26:26-30

v26 While they were eating, Jesus took some bread. He thanked God and he broke the bread in pieces. Then he gave it to his *disciples. ‘Take this and eat it’, he said to them. ‘This is my body.’

v27 Then he took the cup of wine. He thanked God and he offered the cup to them. ‘All of you, drink from this’, he said. v28 ‘This is my blood to represent your new agreement with God. I will pour out my blood so that he can forgive the *sins of many people. v29 I am telling you the truth. I shall not drink wine again until I drink it with you where my Father rules.’

v30 Then they sang a song to God and they went out to the *Mount of Olives.

Verse 26 The head of a family thanked God before a meal. Jesus would probably have said the same prayer. ‘Thank you, *Lord our God. You are King of the world, and you bring food from the earth.’ Jesus broke the bread in pieces and called it his body. This was a picture way to tell them about his death. He was telling them that he was going to die for them. He told them to take the bread. They must eat it. This showed that they accepted God’s agreement. They were free to do so. God would forgive their *sins because Jesus died.

Verse 27 They used four cups of wine at the *Passover meal. These drinks reminded the *Jews about the promises that God had made long ago. He had promised to rescue them from the country called Egypt. And he promised to make them his special people (Exodus 6:6-7). Jesus probably spoke at the time of the last cup of wine because they drank it at the end. Paul also wrote about this in 1 Corinthians 11:23-25. He said that Jesus took the cup ‘after supper’. ‘All’ the *disciples had to drink from the same cup of wine. That was to show their unity.

Verse 28 Jesus said that the wine represented his blood. It poured out from his body when he was on the *cross. The relationship between God and Israel’s people depended on how much they obeyed God’s *Law (Exodus 24:3-8). But Israel’s people had broken that relationship. Jeremiah spoke about a new agreement (Jeremiah 31:31-34). An animal’s blood represented ‘the old agreement’. When Jesus gave his life, he represented the new agreement. He made it possible for God to forgive people’s *sins. And that mends their relationship with God. Then people want to obey God. They realise how much he loves them. The old agreement had been just between God and the *Jews. The new agreement is for ‘many’ people.

The Christian *Church has always remembered what Jesus did at this special supper. They use bread and wine too. Different churches call it different names like: the *Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, Holy Communion, the Breaking of Bread.

Verse 29 Jesus spoke about his death. But he knew that it was not the end. He spoke about the time when he would drink wine with his *disciples in the future. That would be where his Father rules. He knew that he would come to life again. At the *Passover, *Jews thanked God that he had made wine. So Jesus was using the picture language about the *Messiah’s special meal.

Verse 30 This song was one of the Psalms that they sang at special events. It may have been Psalm 118. Then they ‘went out’ from their *worship. They went outside the city to the hill where *olive trees grew. This was called the Mount of Olives. Jesus knew that he would soon be suffering.

Jesus warned Peter 26:31-35

v31 Then Jesus spoke to his *disciples. ‘Tonight you will all turn away from me’, he said. ‘Someone wrote about this night long ago. “I will strike the man who looks after the sheep. Then all his sheep will scatter”, they wrote. v32 But after I have died, I will come back to life. Then I will go ahead of you into the Galilee region.’

v33 Peter replied to him. ‘All the other *disciples may turn away from you, but I will never turn away’, he said.

v34 ‘I am telling you the truth’, Jesus said to Peter. ‘Tonight, you will say three times that you do not know me. You will say it before the male chicken calls.’

v35 But Peter answered him. ‘I will never say that I do not know you. I may even have to die with you, but I will not deny you.’

And all the other *disciples said the same thing.

Verse 31 Jesus knew how easily the *disciples would lose their courage. They would say that they did not know him. He had looked after them carefully exactly as if they were his sheep. A man who looks after sheep is called a ‘shepherd’. When he is not there, the sheep scatter. Jesus used this sheep and shepherd picture from Zechariah (Zechariah 13:7).

Verse 32 Jesus was confident because he knew the future. He would die, but he would become alive again. He said that he would go ‘ahead’ of them. A ‘shepherd’ in that country always walked in front of his sheep. Matthew records that Jesus met his *disciples later in the Galilee region (Matthew 28:10, 16). They were still his ‘sheep’, even after they had failed him.

Verses 33-35 Peter believed that he was strong like a rock. He was confident that he would always remain loyal to Jesus. It was easy to say that he would die with Jesus. But when it became a really dangerous situation, he was afraid. The male chicken calls very early in the morning. But this ‘chicken’ might refer to the *Roman soldiers’ *trumpet call. It sounded at the end of the third period while they were on guard during the night. That was at 3 o’clock in the morning. Before the night was over, Peter would have broken his promise. The other *disciples agreed with Peter that they would not run away from Jesus.

Jesus’ prayer 26:36-46

v36 Then Jesus went with his *disciples to a place called Gethsemane. He spoke to them there. ‘Sit here. I will go over there and pray’, he said.

v37 He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons with him. He began to be very sad and anxious. v38 Then he spoke to them about it. ‘I am very sad deep inside me. I feel as if I am dying now. Stay here and stay awake with me.’

v39 Then he went a little way further. He fell down with his face on the ground and he prayed. ‘My Father, if it is possible, do not make me suffer like this. But do not do what I want. Do what you want to do.’

v40 Then he returned to his *disciples. He saw that they were asleep. ‘You men, surely you could stay awake with me for one hour’, he said to Peter. v41 ‘Stay awake and pray now. Then you will not fail when you are tested. I know that you want to do the right thing. But your bodies are weak.’

v42 Jesus went away a second time to pray. ‘My Father, is it possible that I would not have to suffer like this?’ he said. ‘But if there is no other way, I am willing. I want what you want to happen.’

v43 Then he came back to the three *disciples. He saw that they were asleep again. They could not keep their eyes open. v44 So he left them and he went away once more. He prayed to his Father for the third time and he prayed the same thing. v45 Then he returned to the *disciples. ‘You should not still be sleeping and resting’, he said. ‘Look, the time has come now. The bad people are coming to arrest the *Son of Man. v46 Get up! Let us go! Here comes the man who will hand me over to them.’

Verse 36 Gethsemane was a place on the hill called the Mount of Olives. The name Gethsemane means that there was special equipment there. It was a place where they squeezed the oil from the *olive fruit. John said that Jesus often went there with his *disciples (John 18:2).

Verses 37-39 Jesus took his three closest friends with him. He knew that he must die. When they fixed people on a *cross with nails, they caused the person to suffer in terrible ways. Jesus’ body will hurt. But he will suffer in other ways. In the *Old Testament, the *prophets wrote about God’s judgement ‘cup’ as punishment for *sin (Isaiah 51:17). As the *Messiah, Jesus was the ‘Servant who Suffered’. Jesus knew the words in Isaiah chapter 53. There the servant suffered and died because other people *sinned. Jesus had deep mental pain. He knew that he would carry the responsibility for other people’s *sins. He was the only person who never *sinned. But he knew that he would be responsible for everyone’s *sin. That caused his great mental struggle. But he was willing to die in this painful way in order to do what his Father wanted.

Verses 40-41 Jesus’ warned them that there was going to be a test. He was thinking especially about Peter. The only way to be strong was to pray. Jesus knew that they were willing to help him. But they were very tired. So they had not been able to control their desire to sleep.

Verses 42-45 Jesus was disappointed three times that his friends had not stayed awake with him. And they had not prayed for him or for themselves. Later that night, Peter denied that he knew Jesus three times. Perhaps he remembered the three times that he had not prayed for strength.

‘The time has come now’ meant that the special time had arrived. Jesus would complete his work for his Father. He knew that Judas was coming. And Judas was going to hand over Jesus to his enemies.

The men arrest Jesus 26:47-56

v47 While Jesus was still speaking, Judas arrived. He was one of the 12 *disciples. A large crowd came with him and they were carrying swords and heavy sticks. The chief *priests and the people’s other leaders had sent them. v48 Judas, who was going to hand over Jesus, had arranged a signal with them. ‘The person that I kiss is the man’, he had said. ‘Arrest him.’

v49 So Judas went to Jesus at once. ‘Greetings, Teacher!’ Judas said as he kissed him.

v50 ‘Friend, do what you came to do’, Jesus replied.

Then the men stepped forward. They seized Jesus and they arrested him. v51 So one of Jesus’ companions grasped his sword and he struck the high *priest’s servant with it. He cut off the servant’s ear. v52 ‘Put your sword back in its place’, Jesus said to him. ‘Many people use the sword to fight. And they will die by the sword. v53 You know that I can call to my Father for help. He would send a huge army of his *messengers to help me. v54 But then all that they wrote about me in the *scriptures long ago would not come true. They said that this must happen.’

v55 Then Jesus spoke to the crowd. ‘I am not leading a band of dangerous criminals. You do not need to come with swords and heavy sticks when you arrest me. Every day I sat in the *Temple and I taught people there. You did not arrest me there. v56 But all this has happened exactly as God’s special servants wrote about it long ago. Now their words have come true.’

Then all the *disciples left him and they ran away.

Verse 47 Matthew identifies Judas as ‘one of the 12 *disciples’. This again emphasises how wicked Judas was. He handed Jesus over to his enemies. But the *religious leaders expected that Jesus would fight. They thought that his *disciples might defend him. So they had sent their soldiers ready to fight them. People were saying that Jesus was the *Messiah. So the leaders were afraid that he might try to establish himself as a political king by force.

Verses 48-50 Judas had arranged to kiss Jesus. Then the soldiers would know who was the right person. Then they could arrest him. It was probably dark among the *olive trees. So it was difficult to identify Jesus. Judas did not appear at Jesus’ *trial, and soon after this he killed himself.

Verses 51-52 John tells us more details (John 18:10-11). It was Peter who attacked the servant. The servant was Malchus, and the high *priest was Caiaphas. Luke tells us also that Jesus healed the servant’s ear (Luke 22:51). Jesus did not want his *disciples to defend him. It was not like a war. That only leads to more war. Jesus had chosen to show how much he loved people.

Verses 53-54 In the *Old Testament *scriptures, God spoke about his purpose. Jesus knew that it must come true. He spoke about God’s special servants from long ago (also verse 56) whose words must come true. He could have asked God for thousands of his *messengers to protect him. But in Gethsemane, he had accepted his Father’s purpose for him.

Verses 55-56 Jesus said that they could have arrested him on any day in the *Temple. He had been teaching there every day. But they had come secretly when it was dark. And they came ready to fight. He told them that he was not a criminal like the Zealots. (The Zealots were *Jews. They wanted to use force to remove the *Romans from their country. Their actions caused war.) The *disciples had all said that they would remain loyal to Jesus (verse 35). But Jesus’ words of warning came true (verse 31). The *disciples all ran away.

They took Jesus to Caiaphas 26:57-68

v57 The people who had arrested Jesus took him to the high *priest’s house. This high *priest’s name was Caiaphas. The men who taught the *Law and the other leaders had come together at his house. v58 But Peter followed Jesus at a distance as far as the high *priest’s yard. Then he went into the yard and he sat down with the guards. He wanted to see what would happen.

v59 The chief *priests and the whole *Jewish government wanted to kill Jesus. So they were looking for false evidence against him. v60 Many false witnesses came to them and lied about him. But the leaders could not find any real evidence against him. At last, two more witnesses came and spoke to them. v61 ‘This person said, “I am able to destroy God’s *Temple, and I can build it again in three days” ’, the men told them.

v62 Then the high *priest stood up and he spoke to Jesus, ‘Are you not going to answer these men? What can you say about this?’ he asked him.

v63 But Jesus remained silent. So the high *priest spoke to him again. ‘I order you to answer me. God, who is alive, is watching! So tell us the truth! Tell us whether you are the Christ or not. Are you God’s Son?’

v64 ‘Yes, what you say is true’, Jesus replied. ‘But I say this to all of you. In the future, you will see the *Son of Man. He will be sitting in the important place at the right side of the powerful God. And he will be coming on the clouds from heaven.’

v65 Then the high *priest tore his clothes. ‘This man has spoken evil words against God!’ he said. ‘We do not need any more witnesses. You have heard him claim to be God. v66 What do you think now?’

‘He is guilty and he ought to die’, they answered.

v67 Then they *spat in his face. Some men hit him with their fists and other men slapped him. v68 ‘*Prophesy to us, Christ! Who hit you?’ they said to him.

Verse 57 The *Jewish government was called the ‘Sanhedrin’. That was the chief *Jewish court and it had the power to deal with *religious matters. But the court broke many of the rules when they made their judgement that night. They were meeting in the high *priest’s house, but they should have been meeting in a special hall in the *Temple. It was night and an official *trial should not have happened at night.

Verse 58 Peter had the courage to follow. He wanted to know what would happen to Jesus. Peter did not realise that he was in a dangerous place. It would be very hard for him to admit that he was one of Jesus’ *disciples.

Verse 60 The witnesses told lies about Jesus. But they did not agree because they all told different lies. And the law said that one witness could not make a person guilty by himself. Two or three witnesses had to agree with each other in every detail (Deuteronomy 17:6).

Verses 60-61 Finally, two witnesses accused Jesus about a serious crime. Jesus had warned the people that someone would destroy the *Temple (Matthew 24:1-2). Also he had spoken to the *Pharisees. ‘Something greater than the *Temple is here’, he had said (Matthew 12:6). The *Jews did not understand what he meant. ‘Destroy this *temple and in three days I will build it up again’, he had said (John 2:19-22). Jesus had said ‘*temple’, but he was referring to his own body. The *Jews could kill his body, but he would come alive again. The *Jews thought that he meant to do a wicked thing. They thought that he would destroy their *Temple.

Verses 62-63 Jesus did not answer the high *priest’s question. He knew that no reply would be of any use. The *Sanhedrin had decided to kill him. Long ago Isaiah had written a poem about God’s special servant:

            ‘A sheep makes no sound when people are cutting its wool.

            So he did not open his mouth’ (Isaiah 53:7).

Jesus was God’s special servant and he was like the sheep.

Verse 63 The high *priest was guilty because he broke their law again. He should not have ordered Jesus to answer while God was watching. This is called ‘under oath’. Jesus told them the truth. But they said that he was guilty.

Verse 64 Jesus agreed that he was the *Messiah. He used the name ‘*Son of Man’ when he referred to himself. Then he used words about his important position. He would be with God, who is powerful. He would sit at God’s right side. This is the place that has honour. He said that he would come in the clouds and with power. He was using words from Psalm 110:1 and from Daniel 7:13 to refer to himself. Jesus knew that the *Jewish authorities could judge him now. But in the future, he would have the power to judge them.

Verse 65 The high *priest chose to describe Jesus’ words as ‘evil words against God’, which are also called ‘blasphemy’. Then the high *priest tore his clothes. This showed that he was both angry and sad. He thought that Jesus had insulted God.

Verses 66 They said that Jesus was guilty. But they should have waited until the next day before they gave their decision. Again, they did not behave in the correct legal way towards Jesus.

Verses 67-68 Mark tells us that they covered Jesus’ eyes. So he could not see when they hit him (Mark 14:65). Then they asked him, ‘Who hit you?’ He had said that he was God’s special servant. So he should know the answer, they thought.

Peter denies Jesus 26:69-75

v69 While Peter was sitting outside in the yard, a servant girl came to him. ‘You also were with Jesus who comes from Galilee’, she said.

v70 But in front of them all Peter said that he was not with Jesus. ‘I do not know what you are talking about’, he said.

v71 Then he moved over to the gate that led to the yard. And another woman servant saw him there. So she said to the people, ‘This man was with Jesus who comes from Nazareth.’

v72 Again Peter said that he was not with Jesus. ‘God is my witness that I am telling you the truth. I do not know the man!’ he said to them.

v73 After a little time, the people standing there went up to Peter. ‘You must be one of them’, they said. ‘We know that from the way that you talk.’

v74 Then Peter told them. ‘I want God to punish me if I do not tell the truth to you. God is my witness! And I say that I do not know the man!’

Immediately a male chicken called. v75 Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said earlier. ‘You will say three times that you do not know me. You will say it before the male chicken calls.’

So Peter went outside. And he wept as if he could never stop crying.

The record about Peter’s failure is in all four *gospels. Matthew’s account is very similar to Mark’s account. But Mark’s *gospel has even more details (Mark 14:66-72). Many people think that Mark wrote what Peter told him. So Peter was honest about his failure.

Verses 69-70 Peter had the courage to follow Jesus into the yard of the high *priest’s house. But the servant girl said that he was with Jesus from Galilee. Then Peter lost his courage. The girl may not have been accusing Peter. She may have just been curious about him. But Peter told his first lie and he denied his master.

Verses 71-72 He did not leave the yard, but moved away to the gate. Perhaps he thought that people would not notice him there so much. He told his second lie with the knowledge that God was watching him. He might have said ‘by heaven’ or ‘by the *Temple’ to support his answer (Matthew 5:34-37).

Verses 73-74 The people who lived in the *Judea region spoke with a particular accent. The people who came from the Galilee region spoke with a different accent. So Peter’s accent showed that he came from Galilee. Jesus came from Galilee too. When they asked him for a third time, Peter was very afraid. So he asked God to punish him if he was lying.

Verse 75 The bird cried out or the *Roman *trumpet sounded. Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said to him. His tears showed that he was very sad. He had said that he did not know his close friend and master.

This incident warns us how easy it is to fail to be loyal to Jesus. Peter may have told it to show that even a close *disciple can fail. But Peter was very sorry. And Jesus promises to forgive everyone who is really sorry. So this incident is a promise too.

Chapter 27

Judas kills himself 27:1-10

v1 It was very early in the morning. All the chief *priests and the other leaders decided that Jesus should die. v2 So they tied him up and they led him away. Then they handed him over to Pilate, who was the *Roman ruler. v3 Judas had handed Jesus over to them. Now he saw that Jesus was going to die. And he felt guilty and ashamed. So he returned the 30 silver coins to the chief *priests and the other leaders. v4 ‘I have *sinned’, he said. ‘I handed over a man who is not guilty.’

‘We do not care’, they replied. ‘That is your responsibility.’

v5 So Judas threw the money into the *Temple and he left. Then he went away and he hanged himself.

v6 The chief *priests took the money. ‘It is against the law to put this money into the *Temple funds’, they said to each other. ‘It is money that paid for a man’s life.’

v7 So they decided that they would buy a field with the money. Then foreigners would have a place to bury their dead people. This field belonged to a man who made earth pots. v8 And people have called it ‘the Field of Blood’ up to this very day. v9 Then the words came true that God’s servant Jeremiah spoke long ago. ‘They took the 30 silver coins’, he had said. ‘Israel’s people had agreed to pay this price for him. v10 Then they used the coins to buy a field. The field belonged to a man who made earth pots. This happened exactly as the *Lord had ordered me.’

Verses 1-2 The *Jewish government (called the Sanhedrin) had the power to decide *religious matters. But the *Romans did not allow them to kill anyone as punishment. Only the *Roman ruler could decide to do that. The name of the *Roman ruler was Pontius Pilate. He ruled the *Judea region from the year *AD 26 to *AD 36. He ruled from the town called Caesarea. But he had come to Jerusalem city with his soldiers for the *Passover. Crowds of *Jews were in Jerusalem city at *Passover time. They remembered how Moses had led their people out from Egypt long ago. Moses led them to freedom. These crowds could easily cause trouble for their *Roman rulers. They might even attack them to get freedom again. The soldiers were there to prevent such an attack.

Verses 3-4 Judas saw that the *priests had handed over Jesus to Pilate. Then Judas realised how serious his action had been. He tried to return the 30 silver coins to the *priests that had paid him. But they did not care that he was sorry now.

Verse 5 Only Matthew records that Judas killed himself. But Acts 1:18-19 says that he bought a field with the money. And he died because he fell in the field. Both Matthew and in Acts they say that people called the field ‘Akeldama’. That means the ‘Field of Blood’. They had paid the money as the price of a man’s life. Also, Judas died there.

Verses 6-8 The *priests were guilty because they acted against the law. They did not worry about that. But they thought that it was wrong to use the money in the *Temple funds. So they used it to buy a field for a good purpose. This field was for foreigners to bury their dead people.

Verses 9-10 Matthew used a verse from Zechariah 11:13. There, God’s special servant’s wages were only 30 pieces of silver. So he threw them to the man who made earth pots in God’s house. This was a picture of what would happen later. Matthew said that this had come true. Judas’ wages had bought the field from the man who made pots. Matthew says that these were Jeremiah’s words. Perhaps this is because Zechariah’s book was in the same bigger *scroll as Jeremiah’s book. The Jews called this big *scroll ‘Jeremiah’.

Pilate questions Jesus 27:11-14

v11 Meanwhile, Jesus stood in front of the *Roman ruler. And the ruler asked him. ‘Are you the *Jews’ king?’

‘Yes, what you say is true’, Jesus replied.

v12 Then the chief *priests and the other leaders accused Jesus, but he did not answer them. v13 So Pilate asked him. ‘Do you not hear them? They are accusing you of all these crimes.’ v14 But Jesus did not answer anything. And his attitude really astonished the *Roman ruler.

Verse 11 The *Sanhedrin had to accuse Jesus of a political crime. They had accused Jesus of ‘speaking evil words against God’. But they knew that Pilate did not care about that. So they said that Jesus had caused trouble for the *Romans. He said that he was the *Jews’ *Messiah, a king (Luke 23:1-2). But *Roman law did not allow the *Jews to have a king. Pilate’s question to Jesus emphasised the word ‘you’. ‘Are you the king of the *Jews?’ He could not believe that Jesus was a king. Jesus did not look like someone who was trying to win political power. Pilate realised that the *Jewish authorities hated Jesus. They had accused him to a *Roman ruler. Jesus replied that he was a king. But ‘what you say’ depended on how Pilate understood the word ‘king’. Jesus was not trying to rule a territory. He was a king. But he wanted to rule the people’s hearts because he loved them.

Verses 12-14 Most people would protest that they were innocent. Especially if the soldiers might fix them on a *cross to die. So it astonished Pilate that Jesus remained silent. *Roman law said that a person who refused to answer was guilty. The chief *priests wanted Jesus to die. They wanted Pilate to order his soldiers to kill him on a *cross. So Jesus knew that a reply to them was no use at all. He was also aware of what God wanted. He knew that he was obeying God, his Father.

Pilate offers the choice between Jesus and Barabbas 27:15-26

v15 It was the *Roman ruler’s custom at *Passover time to free one *Jewish person from prison. The people could choose the man that he freed. v16 At that time they had a well-known man in the prison called Barabbas. v17 So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them. ‘Which man do you want me to free? Do you want Barabbas to be free? Or do you want Jesus, who is called Christ?’ v18 Pilate knew that the *religious leaders were jealous of Jesus. That was why they had handed him over.

v19 While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: ‘Do not have anything to do with that man. He is not guilty. I have suffered a great deal today because I had a dream about him.’

v20 But the chief *priests and the other leaders persuaded the crowd to ask for freedom for Barabbas. And they asked for Jesus' death.

v21 ‘Which of these two men do you want me to free?’ the *Roman ruler asked them. ‘Barabbas’, they answered.

v22 ‘So what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?’ Pilate asked. ‘Fix him to a *cross with nails!’ they all replied.

v23 ‘Why? What crime has he done?’ Pilate asked them.

But they shouted even louder. ‘Fix him to a *cross with nails!’

v24 Pilate saw that he could do nothing more. Instead, the crowd would soon disturb the peace. So he took some water, and he washed his hands in front of the crowd. ‘I am innocent of this man’s death’, he said. ‘It is your responsibility.’

v25 All the crowd answered him. ‘We and our children will be responsible for his death!’

v26 Then Pilate freed Barabbas. But he told the soldiers to beat Jesus with whips. Then they should take him away and fix him with nails to a *cross.

Verses 16-17 Pilate thought that he could escape from his problem. It was the custom to free one prisoner as a sign of *Roman kindness. He would offer a choice to the crowd. Barabbas was in prison because he had attacked the *Romans. He had murdered people during the attack. But the *Jewish people probably thought that he was a hero. He had opposed the *Romans. Barabbas means ‘a father’s son’, so he may have come from a good family. Perhaps not to use the father’s name protected the family from their son’s wrong actions. Or his character may have been similar to his father’s character. Jesus was the ‘the Father’s Son’. He was like his Father because he loved other people. Some writers record Barabbas’s first name as ‘Jesus’. Other writers may have left the name out on purpose.

Verses 17-18 So Pilate offered the choice between Jesus and Barabbas. Pilate knew that Jesus was innocent. He should have freed him at once, but he was afraid of the *Jewish people. They had complained to his superior officers about his actions several times:

1. When he first went to the *Judea region, he brought the *Roman flags into Jerusalem. But they had the image of the great king in Rome on them. The *Romans considered their king to be a god. So this was against what the *Jews believed. Pilate had to remove the flags. The *Jews were prepared to die rather than to allow pictures of any other god in their city.

2. Pilate improved the water supply to Jerusalem. But he used money that the *Jews had given for the *Temple.

3. He had ordered his soldiers to kill some people from Galilee in the *Temple (Luke 13:1-4). It was against *Jewish *Law for foreigners to enter the *Temple. It was also against the *Law to kill people like that, especially in that holy place.

4. Pilate wanted to free Jesus. But the *Jews accused him of not being loyal to Caesar, the great king (John 19:12).

Verse 19 Pilate’s wife may have come from an important family. She may have been interested in what the *Jews believed. She may even have heard Jesus when he was teaching. *Romans believed that dreams could warn people about bad events. So Pilate may have tried to persuade the crowd even more when he received her message. He may have thought that the people really would choose Jesus.

Verses 20-23 A crowd can be dangerous. Someone can easily encourage them to cause trouble. The *priests and other *Jewish leaders may have found ways to make the crowd excited. Some of Barabbas’s friends could have been in the crowd to cause trouble. Some people would have supported anyone who opposed the *Romans.

Verses 24-25 It was a *Jewish custom for someone to wash his hands in that way. It showed that he was not responsible for a crime or for a *sin. And the *Jews said that they would accept responsibility for Jesus’ death. They and their children did suffer because they had refused to accept Jesus. The *Romans attacked Jerusalem city and destroyed it in the year *AD 70. Since that time, some people have said that all *Jews are responsible for Jesus’ death. Because of this, some people have been cruel to the *Jews. And they have been glad when *Jews suffer. But it is wrong to blame only the *Jews. The *sins of every person caused Jesus’ death. So, all people everywhere share the responsibility.

Verse 26 Pilate wanted to protect his job. So he freed the guilty man called Barabbas. And he ordered his soldiers to kill Jesus. They beat him before they fixed him on the *cross with the nails. It was a terrible punishment. They made the whips from long pieces of leather and they tied pieces of sharp bone or metal to them. The men in the prison suffered terrible injuries from these whips. Even strong men went mad sometimes. Some men even died before the soldiers could fix them to a *cross.

The soldiers insulted Jesus 27:27-31

v27 Then the *Roman ruler’s soldiers took Jesus into the ruler’s palace. All the rest of the soldiers gathered round him as well. v28 They took off his clothes and put a bright red coat on him. v29 Then they wound *thorns together to make a crown. They placed the crown on his head, and they put a stick in his right hand. Then they bent down on their knees in front of him and they laughed at him. ‘Welcome, king of the *Jews!’ they said. v30 They *spat on him. They took the stick and they hit him on the head many times. v31 After they had finished laughing at him, they took off the coat. They put his own clothes on him again. Then they led him away to fix him on a *cross.

Verse 27 The soldiers who belonged to Pilate lived in the ruler’s palace with him.

Verses 28-29 The *Jews had accused Jesus of being a king. The soldiers knew that, so they laughed at him. They pretended to give him honour as a king. A soldier wore a red coat that looked like the king’s clothes. So they put a red coat on Jesus. They made the crown from ‘*thorns’, which were the very sharp small branches of a tree. The *Roman rulers wore crowns. Perhaps the soldiers wanted their crown to look like the *Roman crown. The pictures on *Roman coins show crowns. They had beams of light like the sun. Instead of light, Jesus’ crown had sharp *thorns which hurt him. The stick looked like the special stick that a king carried. It showed that he had authority. The soldiers would have given a welcome to the great king in Rome. So they pretended to give Jesus a welcome in the same way. People bent down on their knees to show respect to important officials. The soldiers knew that the *Jews did not have a king. So they insulted and joked about both Jesus and the *Jews.

Verse 30 Then the soldiers became more cruel. They *spat at Jesus and they hit him with the stick.

They kill Jesus on a *cross 27:32-44

v32 As they were going along, they met a man. He came from the place called Cyrene. And his name was Simon. The soldiers forced him to carry the *cross for Jesus. v33 They came to a place called Golgotha. (Golgotha means ‘the Place of the *Skull’). v34 There, they offered Jesus a mixture of some wine and a drug for the pain. But after he had tasted it, Jesus refused to drink it. v35 Then the soldiers fixed Jesus to the *cross. The authorities allowed the soldiers to keep the clothes from people on the *cross. So they played a game to see who would win Jesus’ clothes as the prizes. v36 Then they sat down to guard him. v37 Above his head they placed a sign. It said why they had fixed him to the *cross. ‘This is Jesus, the King of the *Jews’, they had written on it. v38 They killed two criminals on *cross at the same time as Jesus. One was on a *cross at his right side and the other one was on a *cross at his left side.

v39 The people who passed by the *cross shouted insults at Jesus. They shook their heads at him. v40 ‘So, you are going to destroy the *Temple! And you said that you would build it again in three days! Then save yourself! Come down from the *cross, if you are the Son of God!’

v41 In the same way, the chief *priests, the men who taught the *Law and the other leaders insulted him. v42 ‘He saved other people’, they said, ‘but he cannot save himself! If he is Israel’s king, let him come down now from that *cross! Then we will believe him. v43 He trusts God. “I am the Son of God”, he said. So let God rescue him now, if God really wants him.’

v44 The criminals, who were dying on *cross next to him, also insulted him in the same way.

Verse 32 Jesus was on his way to die on a *cross. So he had to carry the *cross himself. Jesus had spent the night with the *Jewish leaders and then with Pilate. The soldiers had beaten him so much that his back was very painful. For these reasons, he was too weak to continue to carry his *cross. So the soldiers forced Simon to carry it for him. Simon was a foreigner. He came from Cyrene, which is in North Africa. Mark tells us that Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus (Mark 15:21).

Paul mentions someone called Rufus in Romans 6:13. This may be the same person as Simon’s son. So, in later years, people in Rome may have known these men who had become Christians after Jesus died. And Simon may be the same person as Simon Niger that Luke mentions in Acts 13:1. He had seen Jesus die. So perhaps he had become a Christian then. He was a leader in the church at Antioch.

Verse 34 Some women in Jerusalem provided a drink for the men who were going to die. It was wine that contained a drug. It would make the pain a little less terrible. They offered it to a person before the soldiers fixed him to a *cross with nails. But Jesus refused it. He wanted to be aware of what was happening to the very end. He needed to show how much he loved other people.

Verses 35-36 The soldiers kept the dying men’s clothes. Matthew’s readers would remember the words in Psalm 22:18, ‘They shared my clothes among them. They played a game to win my clothes.’ The soldiers had to stay there to guard the *cross. They waited until the person on the *cross had died. They prevented any friends from trying to rescue him from the *cross.

Verse 37 The notice over Jesus’ *cross said, ‘This is Jesus, the King of the *Jews.’ The *priests complained to Pilate about this. They wanted to change the words. They did not like, ‘the King of the *Jews’. Instead, they wanted the words, ‘He said that he was the King of the *Jews’ (John 19:21-22). Pilate refused to change the words. So the sign remained, and it showed the truth. Jesus was really a king. The *Jews were his own people, although they had refused to accept him.

Verse 38 Jesus had always been a friend to *sinners. Now he was with two *sinners, two criminals. This made the words of Isaiah come true. He had said that God’s Suffering Servant would be among those who were criminals (Isaiah 53:12). James and John had asked for places of honour next to Jesus (Matthew 20:20-23). Now the thieves were in those places, but nobody gave honour to those thieves.

Verses 39-44 record the different ways in which people insulted Jesus. The cruel insults show how wicked people can be. But they also show what was true about Jesus.

1. Verses 39-40 The people who were passing by accused him. He had said that people would destroy the *temple. They thought that he himself would destroy the *Temple. And he had said that he could build it again. If he could do that, he could certainly save himself, they said. If he was the Son of God, he could come down from the *cross. Their insults remind readers about Psalm 22:7-8. But Jesus was really God’s Son. He talked about his body as the *temple. And he would build it again after the *Jews had destroyed it. They did not understand what he meant. He built his body again when he became alive again.

2. Verses 41-43 The *religious leaders spoke the truth, but they did not believe it. ‘He saved other people’, they said. Jesus had rescued people from disease, from *sin and from death. They also said that Jesus could not save himself, which was not true. Jesus could have saved himself, but he refused to do that. It was because of his painful death that he was able to save other people. The *priests said that a *miracle would make them believe him. They would even believe that he was the *Messiah. Because Jesus did not come down from the *cross, those important people threw away their opportunity to believe him. But many people have believed him since then and have become Christians. Jesus suffered. But this showed how much God loves everyone.

3. Verse 44 The two criminals next to Jesus also insulted him. Luke records that one man changed. He asked Jesus to remember him later. He believed that Jesus was the King (Luke 23:39-43). So even when Jesus was suffering painfully, he cared about the people with him. He promised a believer life for ever with him. So he separated the believer from someone who refused to accept him.

Jesus dies 27:45-56

v45 From noon until three o’clock, darkness came over the whole land. v46 At about three o’clock, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ This means, ‘My God, my God, why have you left me completely alone?’

v47 Some of the people who were standing there heard this. ‘He is calling Elijah’, they said.

v48 Immediately, one of them ran and got a *sponge. He filled it with sour wine and he put it on a stick. Then he offered it to Jesus to drink. v49 But the rest of the people did not help. ‘Leave him alone. We want to see if Elijah will come to save him’, they said.

v50 Jesus cried out again with a loud voice. Then he died. v51 At that moment, the big curtain in the *Temple tore from the top to the bottom. Then it was in two parts. The earth shook, and the rocks split apart too. v52 Graves broke open. And many *holy people who had died became alive again. v53 They came out of their graves. And after Jesus became alive again, they went into the holy city. Many people saw them there.

v54 The *Roman officer and the men with him were guarding Jesus. They saw the *earthquake and all that happened. So they were very frightened. ‘He really was the God’s Son!’ they said.

v55 Not very far away, many women were watching. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to take care of him. v56 Mary Magdalene was among them, and also Mary, who was James’s and Joseph’s mother. And Zebedee’s wife was there too.

Verse 45 The darkness may have had a natural cause. It may have been a sudden dust storm. But it could not have been the moon hiding the sun. That could not happen at *Passover time because there was a full moon at night. In the *Old Testament, darkness was a sign to show God’s judgement. In Egypt, the ruler would not let the *Israelites leave his country. There was darkness for three days (Exodus 10:22). Amos also wrote about God’s judgement. ‘At that time I will make the sun go down at noon. The earth will become dark in the middle of the day’, (Amos 8:9).

Jesus had said that he was the Light of the World (John 8:12). The darkness was a sign of God’s judgement because people *sinned. So Jesus had taken our place. Paul explains this in 2 Corinthians 5:21. ‘Christ never *sinned. But for our benefit, God punished him as if he had *sinned’, Paul wrote.

Verses 46-49 Jesus cried out from the *cross in Aramaic. (This was the language that his family spoke.) He was saying the first verse of Psalm 22. Jesus had lost the sense that God was with him. He still said ‘my’ God. But he felt completely alone and in despair. Jesus understands every emotion that people feel. His *disciples had run away and left him alone. Now he felt that God was not with him any more. The people who heard Jesus’ words did not understand them. The *Jews thought that he was calling Elijah. They believed that God’s servant from long ago would come to them. He would come to help people in trouble. The *Roman soldiers may have thought that he was calling out to the sun god, called Helios. Then someone brought him some sour wine in a *sponge. Perhaps Matthew thought about the words from Psalm 69:21. ‘I was *thirsty. So they gave me sour wine to drink’, the psalm says. Other people were curious. They wanted to know whether Elijah really would return to help Jesus.

Verse 50 The loud cry was probably the cry, ‘It is finished!’ John recorded it in his *gospel, (John 19:30). See Psalm 22:24. The psalm says that God heard Jesus. God heard him when he cried for help. God had given Jesus work to do. And Jesus knew that he had finished that work. So he cried out because he was glad that it was complete. Luke records that Jesus gave his spirit to his Father (Luke 23:46).

Verse 51 The curtain in the *Temple separated the main room (the *Holy Place) from the special room (the Most *Holy Place). Only the chief *priest could go into the Most *Holy Place. He went in once a year to pray. He asked God to forgive him together with all the *Jewish people (Leviticus 16:11-19). Jesus died for people’s *sin. So there was no more need for people to offer dead animals to God. The curtain tore ‘from the top to the bottom’. God tore it. A person would have torn it from the bottom to the top. That was a sign that, from now, everyone could go directly to God. A *priest on earth no longer needed to act between the people and God. Now Jesus himself is the people’s *priest (Hebrews 10:11-12). After Jesus became alive again, some of the *Jewish *priests believed and trusted him. Those *priests probably gave the information about the curtain (Acts 6:7).

Verses 52-53 The *earthquake broke open the *holy people’s graves. They had died in the past. And this was a sign that Jesus had defeated death. After Jesus became alive again, these *holy people appeared in the city. Perhaps this emphasised that people should believe that there is life after death. Jesus was the first person to rise from death for ever. Jesus made some people live again but they died later. Jesus will never die again. Because he lived again, people no longer need to fear death (1 Corinthians 15:20).

Verse 54 What happened astonished the *Roman officer and the soldiers with him. And they were very frightened. They said, ‘This really is God’s Son.’

Jesus had spoken about this (John 12:32). ‘When they lift me up on the *cross, I will draw all men to myself’, he had said. Their statement was a sign. It meant that many other people who were not *Jews would believe Jesus in the future.

Verses 55-56 The women from Galilee had courage, so they stayed near the *cross. They watched Jesus die. They may have had less to fear from the authorities because they were women. The 12 *disciples were all men. People did not consider women important in that society. The rulers would not think that women were dangerous. But those women followed Jesus to the end, because they loved him.

Mary Magdalene came from Magdala. It was a town on the west coast of the Sea of Galilee.

James’s and Joseph’s mother, Mary, was either Cleopas’s wife (John 19:25), or Jesus’ mother, Mary (Matthew 13:55).

Zebedee’s wife was Salome (Mark 16:1). She was probably Jesus’ mother’s sister.

They buried Jesus 27:57-61

v57 In the evening, a rich man called Joseph arrived. He came from the town called Arimathea, and he had become one of Jesus’ *disciples too. v58 He went to Pilate and he asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate ordered the soldiers to give it to him. v59 Joseph took the body, and he wrapped it in a clean *linen cloth. v60 He placed the body in his own new grave. He had already dug this grave in the rock like a cave. Then he rolled a big stone across the entrance to close it. And he went away. v61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting there opposite the grave as they watched him.

Verse 57 Joseph’s home was in a town north west of Jerusalem. Mark and Luke both say that he was a member of the *Jewish government (the *Sanhedrin). Luke also says that Joseph had not agreed with the decision to kill Jesus (Luke 23:51). John wrote that Joseph was a secret *disciple (John 19:38). The *Jewish holy day each week begins at six o’clock on Friday evening. They could not work on the holy day, so there was little time. It was now evening. Also, the *Jews believed that someone must bury a dead person before sunset the same day. Especially if they had hung the person on a tree (Deuteronomy 21:22-23). A *Roman *cross was wood like a tree.

Verses 58-60 Joseph risked danger to himself. People might think that he was Jesus’ friend. Pilate might have refused his request. Pilate allowed him to have Jesus’ body. But Mark tells us more about this (Mark 15:44-45). Pilate was surprised that Jesus was already dead. He waited until the *Roman officer reported to him. It was true, so he agreed to Joseph’s request. Joseph used a ‘clean *linen cloth’ to wrap the body. *Linen is usually white cloth, and this cloth was probably new. The grave (also called ‘the tomb’) was a large cave. He had dug it out of the rock. This grave belonged to Joseph, and it had never had a body in it before. Matthew describes Joseph as a ‘rich’ man. This reminds us that the Suffering Servant had his grave with rich people (Isaiah 53:9).

Verse 61 Matthew notes that the women were sitting near the grave. They saw where Joseph had put the body.

The guard at the grave 27:62-66

v62 The next day was the holy day after the Preparation Day. And the chief *priests and the *Pharisees went to talk to Pilate. v63 ‘Sir’, they said, ‘this man told lies while he was still alive. We remember what he said. “After three days I will become alive again”, he told people. v64 So please give the order to your men to guard the grave until the third day. If they do not guard it, his *disciples might come there. They might steal his body. Then they will tell the people that he has become alive again. This last lie will be worse than the first lie that he told.’

v65 ‘Take some soldiers’, Pilate told them. ‘Go and make the grave as safe as you can.’

v66 So they went and made the grave safe. They fastened the stone across the front with the ruler’s *seal. Then they left the soldiers there to guard the grave.

Verses 62-63 The time for Preparation was between three and six o’clock on Friday. The next day was the *Jews’ holy day (called the *Sabbath). The *priests and the *Pharisees probably went to Pilate on that day. If they went then, they broke the *Law. They had opposed Jesus because he healed people on the *Sabbath. They said that he broke the *Law. So they had plotted to kill him (Matthew 12:9-14). Now they wanted to be sure that Jesus was out of their way. So they broke the *Law themselves. They knew what Jesus had said. He had said that he would become alive again after three days. Jesus had told this to his *disciples on several occasions. But his words were more public when he spoke about Jonah. And some *Pharisees were present on that day (Matthew 12:40).

The *priests spoke to Pilate with respect. But they referred to Jesus as a man who told lies.

Verse 64 They said that the *disciples might steal the body. Then the *disciples could say that Jesus had become alive again. That would disturb the public. So there would be worse trouble than when he was alive.

Verse 65 Pilate’s words to them can mean:

·           ‘You have a guard.’ This would mean that they could use their own *Temple police.

·           ‘Take a guard.’ This would mean a guard from Pilate’s soldiers. He was then allowing *Roman soldiers to guard the grave.

Verse 66 They used some soft stuff to stick the stones together. Then they made the ruler’s mark in it and let it get hard. Anyone who broke the ruler’s mark (also called a ‘seal’) would suffer.

Chapter 28

Jesus becomes alive again 28:1-10

v1 The holy day had finished. Now it was dawn on the first day of the week. So Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the grave. v2 Then the earth trembled very greatly and one of the *Lord’s *angels came down from heaven. The *angel went to the front of the grave. Then he rolled back the stone there and he sat on it. v3 He shone like lightning and his clothes were as white as snow. v4 The guards were so afraid of him that they shook. Then they fell down and became like dead men.

v5 But the *angel spoke to the women. ‘Do not be afraid’, he said. ‘I know that you are looking for Jesus. Men killed him on a *cross. v6 But he is not here now. God has caused him to become alive again. Jesus said that he would do that. Come here and see the place where he was lying. v7 Then go quickly and tell his *disciples about it. “He has become alive again”, tell them. “He is going ahead of you to Galilee district and you will see him there.” That is the message that I came to tell you.’

v8 So the women hurried away from the grave. They were afraid, but they were very happy. And they ran to tell his *disciples.

v9 Suddenly Jesus met them. ‘Greetings!’ he said and they came close to him. They held his feet and they *worshipped him. v10 Then Jesus spoke to them again. ‘Do not be afraid’, he said. ‘Go and tell my brothers and friends to go to Galilee district. They will see me there.’

Verses 1-4 The *Sabbath ended at six o’clock on Saturday evening. Very early on Sunday morning, the two women called Mary came to the grave. They had seen the men bury Jesus in the cave. Mark 16:1-2 and Luke 24:1 say that the women brought ‘spices’. They had prepared these ‘spices’ from plants that have a beautiful smell. And they were going to put them on Jesus’ body. The reports about this day have different details in each of the four *gospels. But they all agree that women received the news first. Nobody saw Jesus at the moment when he became alive again. But the stone had rolled away and the grave was empty. It is only Matthew who records that an *angel rolled the stone away.

Verses 5-7 The *angel said that he knew why the women were there. God knows all about us. ‘Jesus said that he would do that’ reminds us that God always keeps his promises. The man who wrote Psalm 145 knew this. ‘The *Lord does everything that he has promised to do’ (Psalm 145:13). The women had to tell the *disciples that Jesus would ‘go ahead of’ them to Galilee district. Jesus ‘goes ahead of’ his people in every situation. He guides and he comforts them.

Verses 8-10 Jesus told the women to tell his ‘brothers and friends’. The *angel had told them to ‘tell his *disciples’. Jesus perhaps used the word ‘brothers’ to include his own family. His own family did not believe him during his public work. But after he went back to heaven, they were with the other *disciples (Acts 1:14). Paul records that Jesus appeared later to his brother James (1 Corinthians 15:7).

The report from the guards 28:11-15

v11 While the women went on their way, some of the guards went into the city. They reported to the chief *priests. They reported everything that had happened. v12 Then the chief *priests met with the other leaders and they made a plan. They gave a lot of money to the soldiers, v13 and they gave orders to them. ‘You must say that his *disciples came during the night. And they stole his body while you were asleep’, they told the soldiers. v14 ‘If the *Roman ruler hears about this, we will explain to him. We will see that you do not get into trouble.’

v15 So the soldiers took the money. They did what the chief *priests had told them to do. And this same story has spread among the *Jews to this very day.

Verses 11-14 The *priests were desperate. They did not want anyone to know the true story. They wanted the soldiers to tell lies about Jesus’ body. So they had to pay a lot of money to the soldiers. This was a very serious matter. A *Roman soldier should never have slept while he was on duty. The *priests promised that they would deal with the ruler. There would be no trouble for the soldiers.

Verse 15 The story was a weak story because it was a lie. But people still heard it at the time when Matthew was writing this *gospel. Nobody could deny that the grave was empty. It is strange that the *priests did not search for the *disciples. The *priests probably knew that they would not find Jesus’ body. And some *priests later believed that Jesus was alive again (Acts 6:7).

Jesus gives his last instructions 28:16-20

v16 Then the 11 *disciples went to Galilee. They went to the mountain that Jesus had told them about. v17 When they saw Jesus there, they *worshipped him. But some of them doubted that it really was Jesus. v18 Then he came close and spoke to them. ‘God has given me all authority in heaven and on earth’, he said. v19 ‘So you must go to the people in all the nations and make them my *disciples. *Baptise them in the name of the Father, the Son and the *Holy Spirit.’ v20 Teach them to obey everything that I have told you. And you can be sure that I will be with you always. I will be with you until the world ends.’

Verse 16 Jesus had called his first *disciples in Galilee district. Now it was the place where he gave his last instructions to them. He had promised to go to Galilee ahead of his *disciples (Matthew 26:32). The *angel and Jesus had both repeated this message (Matthew 28:7, 10).

Verse 17 It is not clear who doubted him. There may have been more than the 11 *disciples present. Some people could not believe that Jesus was really alive again after his death.

Verses 18-20 Matthew records how Jesus had shown his authority. He showed it by all that he did. And he showed it by all that he taught. Jesus has universal authority. So therefore he can order his *disciples to obey him. Jesus’ authority is more powerful than that of any ruler or official in this world. So his*disciples serve a powerful master. His instructions were clear.

1. His *disciples had to go to ‘the people in all nations’. Jesus meant that both *Jews and other people should hear the *gospel. Jesus had trained his *disciples. He had told them that all of the people in the world would hear the *gospel message (Matthew 24:14).

2. The book called Acts tells us about the first Christians. From the very beginning, Christians *baptised people. And Peter declared that *baptism was a sign. It showed that people trusted Jesus (Acts 2:38). It showed that God had forgiven people. Water washes people’s bodies clean. In a similar way, *baptism shows other people that new *disciples are ‘clean’ from their *sins. Jesus said that they should use God’s complete name during the *baptism. Believers trust that God is their Father. They believe that Jesus has saved them. They know that the *Holy Spirit will give them power. With the *Holy Spirit they can live a new life.

3. ‘Teach them to obey everything that I have told you’, Jesus said. The *disciples needed to teach new Christians how to behave as believers. They had to think about new things. *Jews may have learned from the *Old Testament. But they needed to understand completely what the *Law meant. *Gentiles used to behave badly. So they had to learn how to behave in a different way. Matthew wrote in five sections what Jesus had taught. And new *disciples would be able to learn from this. Many of them came from places where nobody knew the truth about God. Later Paul wrote his letters because it was necessary to teach these people.

4. Jesus had given his *disciples an enormous task. He had warned them that people would hate them. People would oppose them. But he did not want them to be afraid. So he promised that he would be with them always. Then they could obey his commands. He will be with his *disciples every single day. When the ‘end of the world’ comes, they will have finished their work for him.

Jesus told some stories that we can read only in Matthew’s *gospel. See:

The weeds among the wheat                                     13:24-30; 36-43

The hidden *treasure                                                  13:44

The *pearl that had great value                                   13:45-46

The net with good and bad fish                                   13:47-50

The owner of a house                                                 13:52

The story about the servant who would not forgive    18:23-34

The story about the land-owner’s workers                 20:1-16

The story about two sons                                           21:28-32

The story about a wedding meal                                22:1-14

The story about ten young women                             25:1-13

The story about three servants                                   25:14-30

The story about the sheep and the goats                   25:31-46

Word List

AD ~ after the date when Jesus was born.

adultery ~ to steal someone's wife or husband.

altar ~ a table on which people placed *sacrifices.

ancestors ~ people in the past from whom one's parents came.

angels ~ God's special *messengers.

apostle ~ one of the 12 special men that Jesus sent out.

Atonement ~ the special day when *Jews ask God to forgive them.

Babylon ~ a country in the *Old Testament. Today it is part of Iraq.

baptise ~ to put a person under water or put water on a person to show that they want to follow Christ.

baptism ~ when they put a person under water or put water on a person to show that they want to follow Christ.

Baptist ~ someone who *baptises people.

being ~ a person or animal that is alive.

bless ~ to say or do much good to a person; to call something *holy; to ask for good things to happen; to keep from bad things.

bow ~ lean your body forward, as a mark of respect to someone.

burial ~ when you put a dead body in a grave.

Canaanites ~ people who lived in Canaan. This was the land that God gave to Israel.

carpenter ~ a person who works skilfully with wood.

church ~ a group of Christians who meet together. A church is not just the building that they meet in. It can also mean all the Christians in the world.

clean ~ when someone does good things and thinks good thoughts.

colt ~ young animal.

commandments ~ God's rules.

Council ~ important men who meet together to discuss and decide events.

cross ~ two pieces of wood that someone has fixed together in the shape of a cross.

demons ~ evil *spirits.

descendant ~ a child, grandchild, and so on; a person in your family who lives after you are dead.

disciples ~ those who follow another person to learn from him.

dog ~ an animal that some people have in their houses.

donkey ~ animal with large ears related to a horse. People use it to carry people and goods.

earthquake ~ when the earth shakes.

epilepsy ~ a disease that makes the person fall to the ground, sometimes with strange movements of the muscles.

eternal ~ with no beginning or end.

faith ~ belief in someone or something; things that people believe about Jesus.

feast ~ a special meal; a *religious ceremony.

fig ~ small soft fruit full of tiny seeds, people eat it fresh or dried.

frankincense ~ a substance that people burnt in *religious ceremonies to give a nice smell.

Gentiles ~ people who are not *Jews.

ghost ~ a *spirit; when someone thinks that they have seen the spirit of a dead person.

gospel ~ 1. good news; 2. one of the first four books in the *New Testament.

grape ~ a small, sweet fruit that people make wine from.

Greek ~ the language in which the authors wrote the *New Testament.

Hebrew ~ the language that the *Jews wrote the *Old Testament in.

Herodians ~ a political group. They supported the *Roman government.

holy ~ all good with no bad in it; separate from *sin.

Holy Spirit ~ one person of the three persons who are God. He comes to help Christians to become more like God. We cannot see him. He comes to give people the power to do what God wants.

Israelite ~ a *Jewish person.

Jew ~ a person who is from the family of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; a person who believes the *faith of the Jews, called Judaism.

Jewish ~ a word that describes a *Jew or anything to do with a *Jew.

Judea ~ a part of the country where the *Jews lived.

kingdom ~ people or place that a king rules; or people that God rules.

kingdom of heaven ~ where God rules.

Law ~ the rules that God gave to Moses for the *Jews.

Levite ~ a person from the *tribe of Levi. God chose them to work for him in his *temple.

linen ~ a type of material that is like cotton. Linen is a very good quality material.

Lord ~ master; a name that we call God or Jesus; we call God or Jesus Lord when we obey them.

messenger ~ a person who gives a message.

Messiah ~ the *Jews' word for the king who would come and rescue them.

miracle ~ a great thing that only God can do.

Mount ~ a short word for mountain; small mountain.

myrrh ~ oil with a pleasant smell.

New Testament ~ the last part of the Bible, which the writers wrote after the life of Jesus.

Old Testament ~ the first part of the Bible, which the writers wrote before the life of Jesus.

olive ~ a tree with small fruits (or the fruits themselves) that people use to make oil. They use the oil to cook food.

parable ~ a story with a hidden meaning.

Passover ~ the time when the *Jews remember that God freed them from Egypt.

pearl ~ a little white ball of hard material that shines. It is very valuable. A small, soft animal that lives inside a shell (a hard thing round it) makes pearls. This animal lives in the sea.

Pentecost ~ 1. the time when the *Jews thank God for their food; 2. the time when God gave the *Holy Spirit to the *church.

perfume ~ something that smells nice to put on the skin.

Pharisee ~ one of a group of *Jews who thought that they obeyed all God’s rules. They did not like the things that Jesus taught. They thought that they did not do any wrong things. So, they thought that they were very important and clever.

physical ~ about the body.

preach ~ tell and explain the good news about Jesus.

pregnant ~ when a woman is carrying a child inside the body before birth.

priest ~ a man whom God chose to do a special work for him. The *priests worked in the *Temple.

prophesy ~ tell people what God thinks and will do; to tell about things before they happen; to speak with God’s (or a false god’s) help and on God’s (or a false god’s) behalf.

prophet ~ a person who told people what God wanted.

prostitute ~ a person who has sex with another person for money.

religious ~ something that people do as part of the *worship of God.

repent ~ change from doing wrong things to obey God.

resurrection ~ when someone comes back to life again.

Roman ~ Rome was the capital city of the rulers at that time. That which belonged to Rome was Roman.

rust ~ the material that comes on wet metal.

sabbath ~ the seventh day, *Jewish day of rest.

sacrifice ~ a gift to God to ask him to forgive sins; or to thank him for something. A gift to God, often an animal or bird, by the *Jews to ask God to forgive their *sins. Jesus gave himself to die as a sacrifice for our *sins.

Sadducee ~ one of a group of *Jews who did not believe in heaven and *resurrection; an important group of Jews at the time of Jesus. They only used the five books at the beginning of the *Old Testament. They believed that people would not live again after death.

Samaritan ~ a person from Samaria.

Sanhedrin ~ the group of *Jewish *priests and other leaders.

Satan ~ the chief evil *spirit.

scribes ~ writers, especially the *Jews who taught the *Law.

scriptures ~ the books in the *Old Testament or in the Bible.

scroll ~ a long piece of paper or animal’s skin; people fixed it round two pieces of wood; it usually had writing on it.

seal ~ a sign that something is genuine.

sin ~ when we do not obey God's commands.

sinners ~ those who do wrong things.

skull ~ the bone of the head.

Son of Man ~ a name that Jesus called himself. See Daniel 8:17.

soul ~ the part of a person that we cannot see. It lives on after we die.

spirit ~ the part of us that lives when our body dies; a *being that is alive, even without a body; the part of a person that will always be alive, even after their body is dead. There are good spirits, like God’s Spirit and his *angels. And there are bad spirits, like *Satan and his *angels.

spiritual ~ belonging to the spirit or *soul.

spit, spat ~ to make water come out of your mouth very quickly.

sponge ~ soft material that holds liquid.

tax-collector ~ a man who collected taxes for the *Romans.

Temple ~ the special building in Jerusalem where the *Jews *worshipped God.

tempt ~ try to make someone do wrong things.

temptations ~ testing; efforts to make someone do wrong things.

tenants ~ people who pay rent to use someone's property.

thirsty ~ when someone wants or needs a drink.

thorn ~ sharp, hard point on a plant or bush.

thresh ~ to beat wheat or other plants so that the grains fall out; to separate grain from straw.

tower ~ a very high building.

traditions ~ usual beliefs that pass from person to person.

treasure ~ anything of great value.

trial ~ a legal examination by which a judge decides if a person is guilty of a crime; the examination of a person in a court of law to discover whether he is guilty or not of a crime.

tribe ~ the whole family of one of Jacob’s 12 sons; a family from the same father.

trumpet ~ musical instrument; you blow into a tube.

twin ~ someone born about the same time as a brother or sister; one of two children born together, of the same mother.

unleavened ~ without *yeast.

vineyard ~ a place where people grow *grapes.

virgin ~ a woman who has never had sex with a man.

worship ~ show honour to God, usually with other people.

yeast ~ people put yeast into flour and water in order to make bread. The yeast grows in the bread and it makes the bread bigger. It spreads through all the bread, so Jesus compared it with other things that spread.

yoke ~ 1. a bar of wood that joins two animals together; 2. something which unites people in a common task.

Book List

William Barclay ~ The Gospel of Matthew ~ Daily Study Bible revised edition, 1975

F. F. Bruce ~ St Matthew in the Daily Commentary, 1974

Francis Foulkes ~ A Guide to St Matthew's Gospel ~ SPCK International Study Guide 37, 2001

Craig S. Keener ~ Matthew ~ IVP *New Testament Series, 1997

Alfred Plummer ~ An Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel according to St Matthew, 1909

Chamber's 21st Century Dictionary, 1996

English Thesaurus ~ Geddes and Grosset, 1999

Bibles

New International Version

New Light Bible (New International Readers Version)

 

© 1997-2005, Wycliffe Associates (UK)

This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).

May 2005

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