Matthew’s Good News
An EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on Matthew’s *Gospel
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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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’.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.’
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.
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.)
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).
The secret arrest
The *trial before the authorities
How he lived again after death
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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).
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
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.
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
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).
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