EasyEnglish Study Unit 3 (Level B) on the Gospel (Good News) of Matthew 9-12
translation into EasyEnglish by Mary Read
(Based on the Crossway Bible Guide, used by permission of Crossway Books, Leicester, LE1 7GP, England.)
A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.
WYCLIFFE ASSOCIATES (UK)
EasyEnglish Ó TRANSLATION (Level B)...................................................................... Mary Read
LINGUISTIC CHECKER............................................................................................... Sue Hunter
Crossway Bible Guide
(Used By Permission of Crossway Books
Leicester LE1 7GP, England.)
A Study of the Gospel (Good News) of Matthew
For personal study,
and for study by a group.
By Stephen Dray
(Note: Each Section will be in a box, so that you can
easily find a particular passage.
It will look like this: .)
There is a Word List at the end of this book.
This gives the meanings of difficult words.
These words have a star like *this in front of them in the text.
There may be other words that you do not understand.
If so, please tell us.
*OT means Old Testament. It is the first part of our Bible.
*NT means New Testament. It is the second part of our Bible.
In the Bible, verses are the divisions of a chapter.
God can forgive everyone
Jesus showed that he can forgive *sins. He does not send anybody away.
This was the last in the set of three stories about *miracles.
• In 8:23–27, Jesus had authority over everything that God created.
• In 8:28–34, Jesus had authority over all of the *spirits.
• Now, in 9:1–8, Jesus showed his authority to forgive *sins. The Bible tells us that only God can forgive *sin. (Read Psalm 103:12; Isaiah 1:18; 43:25; 55:6–7; Jeremiah 31:34 and Micah 7:19.) This was an important subject for Matthew (1:21). So, he put this story here on purpose. He wanted to emphasise that Jesus is ‘the Son of God’ (8:29).
Pick up your bed! (Verses 1–8)
Jesus now began a new part of his work. Before this time, people could think that he was just a teacher. He could even do *miracles. But this was different. He forgave *sins. No ordinary teacher could do that.
The teachers of the *Law and the *Pharisees could choose. They could agree with Jesus’ claims. Or they could refuse to accept him. They made the wrong choice. Their started to oppose him when he did this *miracle. They were against Jesus until he died on the cross.
In the next verses, we read about how they opposed him. The teachers of the *Law said things against Jesus:
· He speaks against God (verses 1–8). This would be a very serious *sin.
· His morals are bad (verses 9–13).
· His religious practices are not good (verses 14–17).
· He is a friend of the devil (31–34).
They accused Jesus of all these things. This would lead to his death.
Sometimes, illness can be the result of personal *sin. (Read 8:17.) The man here seemed to believe that this was true about him. But his friends tried very hard to get him to Jesus. The man was lying on his bed. This was because he could not move. Many people wanted to get near to Jesus. And this meant that his friends could not get into the house. So, they took away part of the roof. Then they put him in front of Jesus.
Jesus saw the man’s greatest need. Jesus was very gentle with the man. He called him ‘son’ (verse 2). Then he told the man that he forgave his *sins. Jesus may have meant to teach the man that he was now a child of God too.
Only God can forgive *sin. The teachers of the *Law and the *Pharisees knew this. They realised that Jesus was claiming to be God. To them, this was a most serious *sin. They never even thought that Jesus’ claim might be right. They just accused him. Jesus showed them how wrong they were. He asked them a question (verse 5). Is it easier to heal, or is it easier to forgive someone? They would think that it was harder to heal this man. So, Jesus healed him. He just spoke and the man was completely well. (Compare 8:15. Jesus healed by a touch.)
The ordinary people who were in the room saw this *miracle. Matthew tells us about their reactions in verse 8. They knew that they had seen God’s great power. They praised God for what he had done.
The call of Matthew (verses 9–13)
Jesus came to forgive *sins. Matthew had made this clear. But this must lead to two more questions. First, whom will Jesus forgive? Second, how will he forgive? In these 5 verses, Matthew spoke about himself. He recorded how Jesus called him to be his *disciple. Then Matthew told about a meal that he had for his friends. He wanted them to meet Jesus too. (Read Mark 2:13–17 and Luke 5:27–32.)
Matthew was a tax official. Tax officials were called ‘tax collectors’. There was a main route for trade. It was from the country called Syria to Egypt. This route went through the district called Galilee. The city called Capernaum was a tax station. It was the boundary between two districts. There would be a tax as goods went from one district to another. The leaders of the two districts were Philip and Herod Antipas. Matthew worked for Herod.
The *Jews did not like these tax officials.
• The tax officials often took extra money from other *Jews. In this way, they became rich.
• They were working for the people who had defeated the *Jews.
• They did not obey the laws of the *Jews. This was why the *Pharisees called them ‘*sinners’ (verse 11). They did not follow the *Pharisees’ ideas of the *Law. Many tax collectors did not care about God. But this was not always true.
Jesus and his *disciples were at Matthew’s meal. This was why the *Pharisees accused Jesus. They said that his religious practices were wrong. (Read 9:1–8.) The *Pharisees believed that any link with a bad person made them bad too. They did not understand how Jesus could have a meal with bad people. Jesus heard their remarks and gave his answer. He showed them that they had made two mistakes. First, they had not understood what the *Messiah’s work would be. Second, they had the wrong idea about how God could forgive them. They thought that to please God depended on ceremonies. They thought that they must work to please God too. (Read 5:17–6:18.)
Jesus gave an answer to the *Pharisees’ wrong idea. He told them that:
► He had come like a doctor. A doctor cares about sick people and those in need. Jesus had come to help *sinners. The *Pharisees thought that they did not have any needs. And they had no interest in people who did have needs. Jesus meant that they were neglecting their duty.
► He used one of the religious leaders’ phrases. Jesus said: ‘Go and learn what it means.’ He used the phrase against them. Jesus repeated Hosea 6:6. Real religion must have spiritual attitudes. The *Pharisees knew the *OT well. But they had never understood this basic truth.
Jesus’ final words were a test. *Salvation is an invitation. Some people think that they are good. So, *salvation is not for them. It is for those whose needs are desperate. Jesus came to help people who have no hope or help. (Note: Everybody needs *salvation. But Jesus cannot help anyone who does not want his help.)
1. Jesus died so that he could forgive your *sins. How can you be sure that your *sin has gone?
2. The church is a place for *sinners. What does this mean about our churches? Do we expect a standard that is too high from each other?
3. The church exists for those who are not its members. No other organisation is like this. Think about Jesus’ work in this passage. How could we copy him as we try to bring people to Jesus today?
(Note: ‘Church’ refers to the people, not to the building.)
A marriage is not a funeral!
The fact that Jesus is present should make people happy.
In 9:9–13, Jesus offended the *Pharisees. Here, a group of men became confused. These men were *disciples of John. They were not against Jesus. But they could not understand him. John was a *prophet. His special work was before that of Jesus. (Read 3:13–1.) John had taught his *disciples to fast (verse 14). God’s people often fasted (went without food) in *OT times too. But Jesus and his *disciples did not fast. People did not understand why it was like this. (Note: Read the section on Matthew 6:12–24. It explains the word ‘fast’.)
Jesus answered them with three word pictures.
First, he spoke about marriage. After the wedding, a couple would stay at home. They would be like a king and queen for a week. Special guests would serve them. These people had a special name. They were called the ‘children of the bride’s room’. During that week, there would be many meals and much joy. This was the custom in ancient Israel.
The *OT *prophets believed that the *Messiah would come. They wrote about the time when this would happen. They spoke about him as the bridegroom. (This refers to a man who is to marry soon.) Read Isaiah 54:5–6 and 62:4–5. The *Jews used the same description for the *Messiah. They are still waiting for him to come today.
Jesus’ answer to John’s *disciples used all of these beliefs. Jesus was the *Messiah. So, it was not a time to go without food (fast). (Read verse 15.)
Now Jesus gave two more word pictures.
There is new cloth and old cloth. Nobody would sew new cloth on to a hole that was in an old coat. To wash the coat would make the new cloth get smaller. So, the hole would get worse.
Also, there is wine. In Israel, new wine went into new leather skins. The skins were still soft. So, as the wine became mature, the skin would stretch. Old skins could not do this. They would split.
Jesus seemed to be comparing two systems. There was the old system of ceremonies in the *OT. Now, he was introducing a new system. His good news brought life and power. It just would not fit in with the old system. God did not mean the *OT ceremonies to last for ever. He appointed them to end when Jesus came. They would be unnecessary. The life and power of the new age would make them unnecessary.
The *Jews fasted often. (They chose to go without food for a time.) It was part of their religious life. Jesus seemed to be ending this practice. But, a person or groups of people can fast, if they choose. (Compare verse 15 and 6:16–18.) Jesus did not deny this. (Read Acts 13:2 too.) To fast may:
• show that we are serious about our promise to obey God.
• help us to realise that we need more than food to live.
• help us to concentrate on prayer. This is the most important benefit.
1. Does what you believe make you very happy? Are there parts of your Christian life that make you anxious? How can they change into joy? (Read James 1:2–4.)
2. What part should celebration (happy times) have in a church? How should members have celebrations?
3. How can we show our joy to sad people? What is the best way to do this?
‘Death, your power to hurt has ended’ (Hosea 13:14 and 1 Corinthians 15:55)
Jesus healed someone who was nearly dead. He brought back to life someone who was dead. Jesus has defeated death.
Another series of *miracles began here. First, Jesus healed two people. There was a woman who had been ill for many years. Second, there was a sick girl. (Read verses 18–26.) Next, he healed two blind men. (Read verses 27–31.) Then Jesus healed a dumb man. He was dumb because he had a demon (evil *spirit). Read verses 32–34.) These were great *miracles. They help us to understand about Jesus’ *kingdom.
There was a reason why Matthew included these stories. Maybe, he was thinking about Isaiah 35:4–6. There, illness was a sign. Death was a sign too. These things showed the state of certain men and women. It was about all those who were outside of God’s *kingdom. *Salvation had a special meaning too. Those who had *salvation were part of God’s *kingdom.
A ‘ruler’ or ‘elder’ came to Jesus. His name was Jairus. A group of ‘elders’ ruled a synagogue. (This was the *Jews’ special building in which they *worshipped God.) They were responsible for its daily management. They must also keep order in the meetings. These rulers were usually enemies of Jesus. But Jairus was different. Maybe he was just desperate. His little girl was dying. But he was probably a secret *disciple. He came and *worshipped Jesus. (Read 2:11.) He believed that Jesus could bring his daughter back to life. This was the first record of a *miracle like this.
Jesus said immediately that he would go with Jairus. (Read verse 19.) But something happened on his way to Jairus’s home. A woman had been losing blood for 12 years. In the *OT, blood was the source of life. The woman would be ‘dirty’. People must not touch her. If they did, they would be ‘dirty’ too. Then they would not be able to take part in religious ceremonies either. This was probably why she came to Jesus in secret.
The woman thought that Jesus’ power was a sort of magic. She must just touch him. Then she would be well. It was not necessary for Jesus even to know about it. But Jesus knew her need. He healed her. Then he told her that it was trust, not magic, that had healed her. (Read verse 22.)
This woman was like the man in verses 1–9. Her illness made her aware of her *sin. Jesus told the woman that he had saved (or healed) her. He comforted her when he called her ‘daughter’. (Compare 9:2.) Now Jesus had healed her completely.
Jesus emphasised her trust. He did this for three reasons. He wanted to:
► give her a reward. She expected him to heal her. She expected it to happen immediately. She expected him to heal her completely.
► show that he was dealing with her personally. She had personal trust in him. And that was what healed her.
► encourage her. He wanted her to take part in the religious life again. He wanted her to join with God’s people.
Jesus then went on to Jairus’s house. There was much noise. This was usual for a funeral in ancient Israel. (Read verse 23.) Jesus stopped the noise with some words. ‘The girl is not dead. She is asleep’, he said. [Note: He said this about Lazarus too. (Read John 11, especially verse 11.) Yet, Lazarus had been dead for 4 days!] Maybe Jesus was emphasising that death would not ‘win’. The people laughed at Jesus (verse 24). But Jesus did bring the little girl (and Lazarus) back to life again. This was something that only God could do. And, of course, everyone would hear the news.
For Matthew, there was a reason for illness and death. They were the results of *sin that had entered the world. (Read Genesis 3:16–19.) The *prophets had waited. They had waited for the time when these things would be gone. God would save men and women from *sin’s results. They could then enjoy God’s new heaven and new earth. (Compare Revelation 21:1–4) We still wait for this to happen. But Jesus has the power. He showed that he could make it all happen.
1. Is your prayer free from ideas of ‘magic’? When you pray, do you expect something to happen as if ‘by magic’? (Perhaps you think that you must be good. If you are not good enough, it will not happen. Perhaps you have another idea. Maybe it will happen if you pray hard enough. These are ideas of ‘magic’ in prayer.)
2. Do we have confidence in what Jesus can do? Or do we have confidence in our prayer? We prayed for it. So something must happen. Discuss examples and experiences. (Read Hebrews 11 too.)
3. This passage records some wonderful events. Would the same things convince non-believers (non-Christians) today that God is real? Should we expect such things to happen? Think of some examples.
Wonderful things happen!
Israel was a country where God had done wonderful things. But Jesus did even greater things. He was not trying to show how great he was. His reason was love.
The *miracles in:
• 8:1–17. They showed God’s truths. They were living lessons.
• 8:23–9:8. They showed who Jesus really was.
• 9:18–26. They showed that Jesus defeated illness and death.
• 9:27–34. Here we learn that Jesus was ‘great David’s greater son’.
Two blind men (verses 27–34)
In 2 Samuel 7, God promised to send a great king. He would rule for ever. This king was called the ‘son of David’. The *Jews believed that this would happen. These two blind men were sure that Jesus was this king. Yet they had not seen any of his *miracles.
Jesus tested the two blind men’s trust. First, he ignored them. Then, he helped them not to trust just anything. He showed them that it was important to trust him. They showed Jesus that they did trust him. Then he healed them by his word (verse 29–30a). Jesus warned them ‘very strongly’ not to tell anyone about it. Probably this was to stop people following him for the wrong reason. They might see him just as a worker of ‘magic’. The men did not obey him. This was wrong. But, it is easy to understand why they did not obey him. They wanted everyone to know.
There is a final *miracle. We have a brief account of it in 9:32–34. There was a man who had a demon (evil *spirit) that made him dumb. (This means that he could not speak.) Jesus completely healed him.
Matthew showed the importance of these events. They caused two reactions. He described them in verses 33 and 34.
The first reaction was from the crowd. It was all wonderful to them. ‘We have never seen anything like this in Israel’, they said. The *OT does not record a blind person who was able to see again. It is not in the *NT either, except for Jesus’ *miracles. (Paul’s experience was different. Read Acts 9:1–19.) The *Jews were expecting things like this to happen. It would be when the *Messiah came. They had been waiting and hoping for so long. Now, the time seemed to have come!
There was another reaction too. (Read verse 34.) This was sad. The religious leaders could not deny the facts. (Compare Acts 4:16.) But they did not want to believe the real meaning of the facts. They knew Isaiah 35:3–5. They could see these events happening now. But they refused to believe. They thought that God ought to act in a certain way. They knew what they wanted him to do. What was happening just did not fit with their ideas.
Kind Jesus (verses 35–38)
This is a new section of Matthew’s *Gospel. The section is 9:35–10:42. The subject is about how to be a *disciple. There were three parts to Jesus’ special work. He taught every day. He preached. (This means that he declared God’s word in public.) He healed the people. (Read verse 35. Read 4:23 too.)
Jesus saw the needs of those who came to him. He had a lot of pity and sympathy for them. Five things caused this feeling:
• People’s pain. (Read Matthew 14:14; 20:34 and Mark 9:22.)
• People are often very sad. (Read Luke 7:13.)
• Hunger. (Read Matthew 15:32.)
• Some people are lonely. (Read Mark 1:40, 41.)
• The crowds (Matthew 9:36).
The crowds of people were ‘worried and helpless’ (verse 36). There is a *Greek word for this state. It has several meanings. It can mean an animal that is without its skin. It could be when someone is extremely tired. That person could be lying down and alone with nobody to help them. Also, there are the words ‘to scatter’ and ‘to throw about’. These words all give an idea about how Jesus saw the crowd. Jesus knew that those who should look after them were neglecting them. He saw the spiritual needs of the people who were in the crowds too.
Jesus had great pity for them. He saw how urgent and how great their needs were. He also saw the lack of resources (verse 37). Jesus described a field of corn that is ripe. It required immediate action. Otherwise, it would spoil. The harvest also needed many workers. Jesus felt very sad as he looked at the crowd. They were like the field. There were very few people to work among them.
So he gave his *disciples an important task. He told them to pray (verse 38).
• There are no excuses for not praying.
• Only God can give people the desire to help with the ‘harvest’ of men and women.
• Prayer is the best way to make us feel pity and sympathy. This prepares us for God’s call.
1. What lessons can we learn from the accounts of Jesus’ *miracles?
2. How can you learn more about the ‘harvest’ of men and women? How can you pray more successfully?
3. Do non-Christians think that people in the church are kind? What could we do to make this happen?
The first members of the church
Jesus had chosen his *disciples. Now he appointed them as apostles. They would be the first members of the church.
Jesus had already chosen the 12 *disciples. (Read Mark 3:13–19 and Luke 6:12–16.) They had spent time with him. Now they were ready to begin their special task. (Compare verses 5–15 with Mark 6:7–13 and Luke 9:1–6.) Here, Matthew called them apostles for the first time. (Note: The section ‘More Explanation’ below describes the word ‘apostle’.)
Verses 2–4 gives a list of Jesus’ apostles. There are 4 lists in the *NT. (Compare Mark 3:16–19; Luke 6:14–16 and Acts 1:13.) The name of Judas is not in Acts 1:13. This is because he was dead by that time. And he had not been loyal to Jesus. So, he could no longer be called an apostle.
The last name on the list was Thaddaeus. This was his name in Matthew and Mark. But it was different in Luke and Acts. There he was called ‘Jude the son of James’. It probably just meant that he had several names. This was common in Bible times. It is true for us today too. Also, there was Bartholomew. His name was probably also Nathanael. (Read John 1:45–51.)
The people whom Jesus called did not seem to be special. They were very ordinary men. Later, they would change the world. Now, they were a strange group in many ways. We would probably never choose them. But Jesus did. One thing united them. It was their love for Jesus.
The *disciples were people like us. They were strong in some ways. But they were weak in other ways. Yet, Jesus used all the *disciples.
► Peter was the natural leader. He was an exciting kind of man. He had much energy and excitement. But, he was not calm. Often, people could not trust him completely. He pretended to be brave. But he often felt afraid. But Jesus changed Peter. Jesus said that Peter would be like a rock. Peter became leader in the first church. (Note: ‘church’ refers to the group of believers, not to a building.)
► Andrew was Peter’s brother. He had been waiting for the *Messiah whom God had promised. Andrew was one of the first men to join Jesus’ group. (Read John 1:37–40.) He brought Peter to Jesus. But Andrew did not want to be a leader. He did not care if people did not notice him. (Read John 1:40–42.) Andrew’s home was in Capernaum city. This was the home where Jesus lived. (Read Mark 1:29.) Andrew was a friendly man. His trust was weak. But the *Lord Jesus was able to increase it. (Read John 6:8–9.)
► James and John were brothers. Their job was to catch fish. They probably had an important relative. We think this because the High Priest knew John. (Read John 18:16.) James and John were men with strong emotions. They could get very angry (Mark 3:17). They could have too much excitement. (Read Luke 9:54–56.) But John was a man who also thought about things. He was a special friend to Jesus. (Read John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20.) Stephen was the first Christian who died for Jesus (Acts 7). James was the next one (Acts 12:2). John was probably the last of the apostles to die. (Read John 21:22–24.)
► Philip came from Bethsaida. Peter and Andrew came from the same town. (Read John 1:44.) Philip did not want to be a leader. He could not understand all that Jesus said. (Read John 14:8.) It was the same for the other *disciples too. But, he was willing to learn, as Andrew was. (Read John 6:5–7.) He was a friendly man too. (Read John 12:21–22.)
► We do not know much about Bartholomew. (We think that he was the same man as Nathanael.) John 1:45–49 and 21:2 are the only passages about him. Bartholomew was a sincere student of the *OT. He had doubts. But when someone explained the truth to him, he understood it.
► We have all heard of Thomas. (Read John 11:16; 14:5; 20:24–28; and 21:2.) He seemed to feel miserable quite easily. But he was also very loyal to his friends. Thomas was not sure about Jesus, like Nathanael was. But Thomas, too, could understand great truths.
► Matthew was a man who collected taxes. When Jesus called him, he left his job immediately. (Read Luke 5:27–32.) He did not think that he was clever. He was a humble man. He did not tell us much about himself. None of the *Gospels recorded any words that he spoke. But he had probably had the most education of all the *disciples. He cared about his friends too. (Read Luke 5:29.)
► Simon was probably a brave patriot. (This is someone who loves his country. He supports it. He is ready to defend it.)
► We know very little about James and Thaddaeus.
► Also there was Judas Iscariot. He did not benefit from his friendship with Jesus. He saw and heard about the things of God for three years. But he did not learn from them.
1. Study the list of people whom Jesus chose. How can they encourage us all? How are they strong? How are they weak? In what ways am I like them?
2. Should we choose our church leaders in the same way as Jesus did? Perhaps you do not think that we should. Give your reasons for this opinion. Should members of the church vote for their leaders? Or should the members accept all the leaders who offer themselves?
3. Think of the qualities that a Christian leader needs. Are they different from the qualities that a political leader needs? Are they different from the qualities that a manager of a business needs? What are the differences?
This is a *NT word. Many people were called ‘apostles’.
• The 12 *disciples were sometimes called apostles. Two other main people were called apostles. They were:
• Matthias (Acts 1:26) and
Other men were also called apostles sometimes. They were:
• Barnabas (Acts 14:14)
• James, the brother of Jesus (Galatians 1:19 and 1 Corinthians 15:7)
• perhaps Andronicus and Junias (Romans 16:7)
• men whom the church leaders sent out. They took messages from the church. Or they went to help someone. (Read 2 Corinthians 8:23 and Philippians 2:25.)
However, the 12 *disciples seemed to be special in the *NT. (Read Acts 1:26; 1 Corinthians 15:7 and Revelation 21:14.) These men were with Jesus while he worked on earth. (Read Acts 1:21–22.) They knew that he had died. They were witnesses to the fact that he came back to life. (Read Acts 1:22.) Later, the *NT says that Paul was an apostle. He knew that he was the last of the apostles. (Read 1 Corinthians 15:8.)
Apostles received a personal call from God. (Read Romans 1:1.) He called them to declare God’s word in public. (Read Mark 3:14.) They could use Jesus’ authority in a special way. (Compare Matthew 10:1 with 7:23 and 9:6.) They healed people. They used wonderful signs too. (Read 2 Corinthians 12:12.) Later, these signs were called clear evidence. They showed that God approved of these apostles. (Read Hebrews 2:3–4.)
God also gave a special understanding of God’s word to these men. (Read Acts 2:42; John 15:26–27 and 14:26.) The words that they wrote down were called ‘scripture’. (People used this word for the *OT too. Read 2 Peter 3:15–16.) What the apostles wrote is the main part of our *NT.
Some people work just to gain things for themselves. Jesus does not want *disciples who are like this
Jesus sent out the 12 *disciples. They would do more together than he could do alone.
Jesus now gave instructions to the 12 *disciples. The instructions were about a special task that he had for them to do. The rest of chapter 10 described this.
• Verses 5–15 referred to an immediate task.
• Verses 16–25 referred to a task that was for the future. The *disciples would be working among Gentiles (people who are not *Jews). This would be after Jesus had died and come back to life.
• Verses 26–42 gave some general teaching about how to be a *disciple. This teaching is for everyone, in every age, who follows Jesus.
In verse 5, Matthew referred to a special task. Jesus wanted his *disciples to go to Galilee. (Compare Matthew 28:18–20.) There were probably two reasons for this. First, God had a plan for all the nations. The *Jews had a special place in this plan. Jesus was born into a *Jewish home. So, God was giving *Jews the first chance to accept Jesus. Then, they would take God’s good news to the other nations. (Compare Romans 1:16; 2:9–10 and Acts 13:46.) There was another reason. The *disciples were not ready yet to declare God’s word to non-*Jews.
Verse 6 described *Jews. They were like sheep that had no leader. This may refer to a special group of *Jews. But it probably referred to all *Jews. It seemed to refer back to 9:36 and to Ezekiel chapter 34.
The 12 *disciples had a message that they must declare. It was the same message as that of John and Jesus. (Read 3:2 and 4:17.) But there was more. Verse 8 described all that the *disciples must do. Read 9:35. This verse is about two main things that Jesus did. He declared God’s word and he healed people. In a very special way, they must work for Jesus and do what he would do. (Read 10:1–2.)
There are some commands in verses 9–10. They probably showed the practice of *Jews at that time. Then, *disciples of other *Jewish teachers lived in this way. Jesus’ *disciples must have the right attitude to physical things. The things of God must come first in their lives. The way that they lived should show this.
God gave freely to them. So, they must give freely to other people (verse 8). They had something that was very precious. They should not keep it to themselves. They should not demand payment for it either. They should give it freely. The *disciples must trust God completely.
Jesus’ words showed something else too. The *disciples’ work helped other people. And these people should work for God too (verse 10. Compare Deuteronomy 25:4; 1 Corinthians 9:7–14 and 1 Timothy 5:8.)
Jesus meant that some of his teaching would be for that time only. But, there are principles that are for all ages. The principles apply to a person who does Christian work today. He or she must not be anxious about things. But God’s people have a responsibility for these workers too. They must make sure that workers have what they need.
Verses 11–15 show the times in which Jesus lived. Ancient Israel did not have many hotels. It was not easy for travellers. So, it was important to look after them. (Compare Matthew 9:10; Luke 5:29; 19:5, 10; John 12:1–2; Acts 16:14–15; 18:26; Romans 16:1–2; Philemon 7, 22; 2 Timothy 1:16 and 3 John 8.) This sort of care is still important today. It is evidence that a person is a real *disciple. (Read Romans 12:13; 1 Timothy 3:2; 5:10; Titus 1:8 and Hebrews 13:2.)
The *disciples must avoid places that might spoil their work. They must stay in one place in each town. They must not give people the wrong impression. So money, possessions or comforts must not be important to them.
In Israel, there was a usual practice. A person would greet the people of the house as he entered. The *disciples must do the same. But, people would not always welcome them. The *Pharisees had a custom. It was when they returned to Israel from a foreign land. They would shake the ‘foreign’ dust off their feet. This showed that they were separate from the bad people who were not *Jews.
Here, Jesus referred to *Jews. Some of them would refuse to believe the *disciples’ message. The *disciples must behave towards these people as if they were not *Jews. They had lost their rights to the benefits of God’s *kingdom. They would have God’s *judgement. They had had great advantages. So their *judgement would be worse.
1. We should obey Jesus completely. What things could stop you from doing this?
2. People in many countries have heard the Good News (the gospel). This is a great honour. What meaning does this passage have for them?
3. We must tell the Good News about Jesus. This is our responsibility. What methods should we be using today?
Jesus wants people who will be strong when times are hard
Jesus described hard things that would happen. They would happen to those who were real *disciples
Hard things will happen to those who are real *disciples. Jesus made this clear. This is not the usual way to win *disciples. Some people would expect to have an easy time. But Jesus did not want *disciples who were like this. He wanted those who would be strong. When people opposed him, they would stay with him.
The people were like sheep (9:36). They were always in danger. This was because they had enemies. Their enemies were like wolves (wild dogs). They were ready to attack. They wanted to kill the sheep. (Read 10:16–17.)
Three different groups that were like wolves (wild dogs)
► False religion. Some people have always been against the real religion of Jesus. This was especially true of false Christians. Here, Jesus was speaking about the local synagogues. (These were the *Jews ‘special buildings in which they *worshipped God.) There were also *Jewish councils (groups of important men who meet together to discuss and decide events) that were in the regions. Jesus was speaking about them too. (Read 10:17.) This was the first problem that the *disciples had. The book of Acts showed this.
► The state. (Note: This referred to the leaders of the state.) Here, there were *Roman rulers. (These were people from the capital city of Rome. They ruled many countries.) There were local kings too. Jesus mentioned them in verse 18. But, again, his words had more meaning. The state often wanted to rule people’s consciences. It hated those who claimed to have a greater authority. In the *OT, the *prophets were always in danger. This was because they declared God’s words to kings and rulers.
► The family. The worst trouble is often in the family. Sometimes, there can even be murder. (Read verse 21.)
Jesus told his *disciples that people would hate them. This was because they were following him. (Read verse 22.) In some way, this happens to all real *disciples. People who refuse to follow Jesus often hate him. So, they will often hate Jesus’ workers too. (Read verses 24–25.)
Jesus’ *disciples would have many difficulties. They would want to know how they could deal with them. Jesus answered this with an example. (Read verse 16.) To the *Jews, a snake was a sign. It was a sign of someone who was clever and wise. So, the *disciples must be careful. They must be wise in all their actions. They must notice things that were round them. They must not trust people too much. They must be careful how they behaved. People who were not Christians would want them to fail. So, they should speak and act wisely. Even today, *disciples must not deserve the things that people say against them.
Jesus used another example. He said that they must be ‘as innocent as doves’. (A dove is a bird.) This was a popular word picture then. So, *Jews would understand it.
Jesus had one other important thing to say here. It was this. *Disciples must not choose to suffer if it was not necessary. People might not accept them in one place. Then they must just go somewhere else. (Read verse 23.) If they stayed, they would suffer. But it would be unnecessary to suffer like this. To have courage does not mean to be foolish.
Jesus promised to help. (Read verses 19–20.) His promise is for us too. He does not promise to save us from troubles. He does not promise to make things easier. The first Christians did not ask for these things. They were not afraid of what they would suffer. They were afraid that they would not be able to speak about Jesus. They did not want to spoil the message about trust in Jesus. So, Jesus promised to tell them what to say. Jesus suffered. Real *disciples will suffer too. Only then can they share in Jesus’ *glory. Some *disciples try to avoid hard things in the Christian life. If they do, Jesus will refuse to share the rewards of the battle with them.
1. Do people oppose you because you are a Christian? In what ways do these verses encourage you? You may suffer because you are a Christian. When you suffer, you may accept it in a Christian way. Think about these last two sentences. What is the difference between them?
2. Some people describe the church as an army. Its members are like soldiers. They choose to join. Nobody forces them to join. But some of these soldiers run away at the first difficulty. Is this like your church? If so, what could you do about it?
3. People say that they will kill Christians today. In which countries does this happen? Pray for these people.
Jesus encouraged people to be loyal always. They can show this in their words and in their actions.
Jesus gave reasons for *disciples to be loyal. He asked that they obey him completely.
Jesus accepted reality. He knew that birds die. He knew that his *disciples could die too (verse 28). So Jesus’ *disciples might suffer. They might even die. But Jesus showed them a way to deal with hard things. This would help to remove fear. This was most important. Otherwise, fear could make them not accept Jesus. Then, he must refuse to accept them.
Here, Jesus said 6 things to encourage them and us. It should help them and us to be loyal.
► God knows everything now. One day, nothing will be secret (verse 26). All will know who are God’s children. So, Jesus’ *disciples must not be afraid. They must speak boldly about Jesus (verse 27). (Note: In ancient Israel, people would announce things for everyone to hear. They would do this from the roof of a house.)
► When he speaks boldly, a *disciple’s life could be in danger. (Read verse 28.) Jesus does not pretend about this. A *disciple may suffer and die when he is on earth. But something would be worse than this. That would be to suffer God’s punishment in hell.
► Nothing can happen unless God allows it. (Read verse 29. Compare Romans 8:28–29.) In ancient Israel, small birds were very cheap. (Read Luke 12:26.) But, God cared for them at every moment of their lives. So God would always look after his *disciples. They might still suffer. They might still die. But all that happened would bring honour to God. There would be many good things for God’s people too.
► God gives his very special care and his love to his children. (Read verses 30–31.) God may allow hard times in life. But, he gives his great love too. This may not make things easy. But his love makes it possible to continue in hard times.
► There are rewards for those who are loyal to Jesus. (Read verses 32–33.) Some people are loyal to Jesus in this life. Then Jesus will be loyal to them in the life that is future.
► Anything that we do for Jesus will have a reward. It is the same for anything that we do for a *disciple of his. It will have a reward too. (Read verses 40–42.) The *disciple may be an important person. Or he may not be important at all. We should still welcome him or her. We should be ready to help any *disciple of Jesus. There will be a reward for this.
Each *disciple of Jesus must be completely sincere. They must obey Jesus. And they must be completely loyal to him. To Jesus, there are two sorts of people. First, there are those who are his *disciples. Second, there are those who are not his *disciples. Nothing else is possible.
1. Consider each part of this section. How should I apply each lesson to my own life?
2. Think about your church. Is there a famous *disciple in it? Is there an unknown *disciple? Is their value in the church the same? If it is not, what could the members of the church do about it? Think about practical examples.
3. Think about Christians whom non-Christians opposed. Yet, these Christians did not deny their love for Jesus. They continued to follow him. What effect did these Christians have?
Doubts and fears
Jesus dealt with the doubts of John the *Baptist. John expected the *Messiah to do certain things. He thought that Jesus was the *Messiah. So, John could not understand why Jesus did not do these things.
These verses begin a new section in Matthew’s book. In the next two chapters, there is much teaching. It is teaching about trust. It is teaching about people who do not trust God too.
We learn much about Jesus.
• He is the Christ (*Messiah, 11:2).
• He came after John the *Baptist. The *OT spoke about John as ‘Elijah’. (Read 11:13, 14 and Malachi 4:5–6.)
• He is the Son of Man. (Read 11:19 and 12:8–32, 40.)
• He is the Servant of the *Lord (12:18).
• He is the Son of David (12:23).
• The Spirit of God came on him. (Read 12:18, 28, 32.)
• His *miracles were signs. They showed that God’s *kingdom had come. (Read 11:20; 12:28.)
God had hidden these things from those who did not believe. They were:
• the people of this age (11:16; 12:39, 41, 42, 45).
• people who were wise and clever (11:25).
• the *Pharisees and the teachers of the *Law (12:2, 14, 24, 38).
• the mother and the brothers of Jesus (12:46).
But, God had shown the things about trust and belief too. He had shown them to certain other people. They were:
• the poor (11:5).
• those who had no doubts about Jesus (11:6).
• those who wanted to listen to Jesus (11:15).
• those who were like little children (11:25).
• those to whom God chose to show these things (11:26).
• those who were tired. They might have hard problems or troubles. They might be worried (11:28).
• the Gentiles (people who are not *Jews; 12:18–21).
• his *disciples (12:49).
• anyone who does what the Father wants (12:50).
First, the *Jews had heard about the *kingdom.
1. John the *Baptist announced it. (Read chapter 3.)
2. Jesus’ words announced it. (Read chapter 5–7.)
3. Jesus’ deeds announced it. (Read chapters 8 and 9.)
4. The *disciples announced the *kingdom. They did this by their words and by their deeds. (Read chapter 10.)
But the *Jews refused to believe the gospel (good news). They did not believe that Jesus was the *Messiah. They had doubts about him. So, the message could now go to the Gentiles (people who are not *Jews). They could hear God’s way of *salvation. So, the *prophecy in Isaiah 42:1–4 came true in Jesus. (Read Matthew 12:18–21.) This is an important section. It begins to show how God included the Gentiles. It is a major change in the way that Matthew is writing his book.
Verse 1 links chapters 10 and 11. John’s question was because of the report of Jesus’ actions. John was in prison (4:12). It seemed that he could have visitors. They told him all that Jesus was doing. When he heard the reports, John was very surprised. Jesus was not doing what John expected him to do. John had taught that the *Messiah would come as a judge. This was why John asked the question that is in verse 3.
Jesus did not give a direct answer to John. Jesus reminded him of some *OT *prophecies. He was probably thinking about some words of Isaiah. (Read 29:18–19; 35:5–6 and 61:1–2.) Isaiah had said that *miracles would happen. Jesus reminded John about this. Then Jesus named the things that he was doing. The *prophets had told about some good news too. Jesus was now teaching that good news.
John was not wrong. (Read the notes on verses 7–17. They are in the next section.) But John was missing an important part. It was true that Jesus would come as a judge one day. But he had something else to do first. Jesus must declare the good news. Then he must die. His death would be like a strong promise. It would show the truth of the things that he was teaching.
We can all learn from this:
► Real *disciples will have doubts sometimes. Like John, we must all use what we believe. We must use it to live as we should. So, we will not always understand things. We may hope for something. But it does not always happen. We can make mistakes. We can expect the wrong things. We can have problems that we never expected. So, *faith (what we believe) sometimes produces doubts. It does this because it is *faith. This was why Jesus did not tell John that he was wrong. Doubt is not a *sin. In fact, Jesus then praised him!
► A person with doubts should go to Jesus for an answer. This was what John did. And Jesus did help John. Jesus showed him that he had not understood God’s truth. He showed this to him from the *OT. Then Jesus showed John the answer to his doubts. In the same way, our doubts should lead us to Jesus. He will help us to understand the Bible in a new way. This will make our *faith stronger. It will help to remove our doubts.
► There is a very great difference between doubt and *unbelief. A lack of belief can use difficulties. It uses them as an excuse for a lack of *faith. But doubts help real *disciples to go to Jesus. They go to Jesus in *faith. They ask Jesus for an answer.
1. How can this passage help me with any doubts that I may have? What causes most doubts in my life?
2. Think about life in a modern church. Is there help in the church for a person who has doubts? How can we improve the situation?
3. *Prophecies had come true in Jesus and in his work. Jesus showed these things to John. Could we do this with people today? What other *prophecies could we show them?
*Faith and *unbelief
Jesus emphasised something. It can happen when people hear the word of God. They can be very foolish. They can have no understanding.
In verses 7–9, Jesus reminded those who were listening to him about something. They had recognised that John was a *prophet. They were right about this. He dressed like a *prophet. He did not want people to deal with him in a special way. If he did, he would have dressed differently. He would have worn clothes that were fit for the palace. John spoke like a *prophet too.
The *Jews had a belief. It was this. One day God would start something that was new with his people. No new *prophet would come until then. Then a final *prophet would appear. After that, God would appear. He would begin to develop his *kingdom. (Read Malachi 3:1 and 4:5–6.) They were sure that John was a *prophet. So, they expected God to establish his *kingdom then.
Then Jesus said another wonderful thing. God had spoken to Malachi. In Malachi 3:1 he said, ‘I will send someone with a message that is from me. He will prepare the way before me.’ Malachi spoke about the final *prophet. This *prophet would announce the appearance of God. The people thought that John was that final *prophet. John had pointed to Jesus. Jesus said that this was exactly what Malachi had taught. So, Jesus was claiming to be God. He was claiming too that God had become a Man! He confirmed that John was that final *prophet.
The *Jews expected something else. God would establish his *kingdom when he came. But most of them did not understand what it would be like. Jesus had begun to establish that *kingdom. He showed this clearly. (Read verses 11–12.)
Verse 12 is hard to understand. There is much discussion about it today. Jesus could be referring to the start of his work. The *kingdom began to appear then. But people still opposed his work.
Jesus reminded those who listened to him of something important. All of the *OT was pointing forward. It was pointing to John and to his message. God would come soon. (Read verses 13–14.) People who listened to Jesus now had that evidence. But they might not have the courage to recognise it. (Read verse 15.)
Now Jesus described a different group of people. (Read verses 16–19.) They were people who refused to believe. They had heard all of the same evidence. But their reactions were not the same. Jesus compared them to children. Whatever the game was, they refused to play it. Whatever people offered, it was never right. John and Jesus lived in different ways. But people refused to accept either of them. Both of them brought God’s word. But people refused to accept it.
There was, and still is, a sad result of *unbelief. The end of verse 19 describes it. People like this achieve nothing. But the messages of John and Jesus will prove to be true. People will see that their messages are right in this life. They will see that they are right in the next age too.
1.Think about people who refuse to believe the message about Jesus. What is the best way to deal with them?
2. Jesus spoke about people who are ‘the least in the *kingdom of heaven’. This could refer to ordinary members of the church. Jesus then said that they were ‘greater’ than John the *Baptist. But John was the greatest man who had ever lived. (Read verse 11.) In what way could this be true? What does it mean for your church?
3. Why does the *kingdom of God cause such people to oppose it so strongly?
John denied that he was Elijah. Jesus seemed to say that he was. (Read 11:14 and 17:12.) But that is not what Jesus meant. The *Jews were expecting Elijah to return to earth. John denied that he was Elijah. This was right.
But the *OT *prophets often spoke about the future in a certain way. They used names or events that were from the past. But they were not speaking in an exact way. The words had another meaning. Something would happen. Or someone would come in the future. That event would be like the first event. Or that person would be like the first person. John was a *prophet like Elijah. (Compare Mark 1:6 with 2 Kings 1:8.) Jesus understood this. So, this was what he taught. John was the Elijah of whom the *prophets spoke.
People miss great opportunities. People who are tired can rest.
Many people heard the good news. But they chose to not to believe it. Jesus felt very sad about this. He gave a gentle invitation. It is for all people who need to rest.
People can miss great chances. This is very sad. (Read verses 20–24.)
Jesus’ work was to teach and to heal. He did most of this work in Galilee. Jesus mentioned three towns here. They were Korazin, Bethsaida and Capernaum. They were all in the district of Galilee. Capernaum was the centre for Jesus’ work.
Tyre and Sidon were two ports. They were on the Mediterranean Sea. Now, the ports are in Lebanon. Then, they were in Phoenicia. They were not *Jewish. The *OT *prophets had often spoken of these two towns. To them, the people who lived there seemed especially wicked. (Read Isaiah 23; Ezekiel 26–28; Amos 1:9 and Joel 3:6.)
We first hear about Sodom in Genesis 19. Later in the *OT, the word Sodom described very wicked men. Matthew 11:23 repeated some words from the *OT. Some of the words are in Isaiah 14:12–14. There, we read about the king of Babylon. *OT writers sometimes used the name Babylon as a sign. It was a sign of the great enemy of God. Here, Jesus applied those words to Capernaum.
Verse 21 mentioned ‘sackcloth’. It was a black piece of clothing. People would wear it when someone died. There was another tradition in the ancient world. People would put ashes on their heads. This was a sign that they were very sad.
These facts may help us to understand Jesus’ words. He could see that certain events were happening. He felt very sad about it all. Perhaps he was appealing to the people too. They were refusing to accept him. His great desire was that they should accept him.
These people had heard Jesus speak many times. They had seen the great things that he did. They had had many chances to accept him. Instead, most of them refused to accept him. Jesus described some difficult children. Jesus said that the people were like them. (Read verses 16 and 17.) The people had many benefits. But these meant that they had a responsibility. They must believe in him. But they failed to do this. They did not care about Jesus’ words. Jesus made claims on them. But they did nothing about them.
Here, Jesus especially mentioned his *miracles. Maybe his words were not enough. But, surely, his *miracles were enough. They should have made the people aware of their need. They needed to *repent. But they refused to change their attitude. They were as bad as some people who were in the *OT. Jesus spoke about the people in Sodom. They were terrible *sinners. Everyone knew about their evil ways. Also, there were the men in Tyre and Sidon. Everyone knew that these people were very cruel. But these groups of men had not seen the same *miracles. Jesus said something interesting about this. If they had seen the *miracles, then they would have *repented.
Come and welcome Jesus! (verses 25–30)
There is much truth to learn about Jesus. Often, clever people just cannot understand it. But God shows his truth to those who are like children. (Read verses 25–26.) Events affect older people. Ideas affect them. Clever arguments can affect them too. But young children can usually judge a person correctly. So, people who are ‘like children’ receive from God. Other people cannot receive from God.
Verse 27 is a most important truth. Jesus had just taught the way to *salvation. To receive this *salvation, people must accept him. They must have the same sort of trust that a child has. Jesus can supply what the *sinner needs. Men and women need to know God. Jesus said that the person who had seen him had seen God. This was because Jesus is the Son of God. There is still no other way for anyone to know God. (Read John 14:6 and Acts 4:12.)
The chapter ends with a great invitation. (Read verses 28–30.) They are the gentle words of a kind Saviour. (This means ‘someone who saves’.) Jesus wants to save everyone.
Jesus described the people who were listening to him. They were ‘tired’. They were like people who are carrying ‘heavy weights’. Maybe Jesus was thinking about Genesis 3:16–19. There we read about the results of *sin. These things can be like heavy weights. We live in a world that is God’s world. But *sin has affected it. So, we have much trouble. There are many things to make us sad too.
But Jesus may have been thinking about something else too. All the *Jewish rules and laws could seem like a heavy weight. To know God seemed to be very difficult. The *Jews thought that this must be true. So, they made it hard for everyone! Many religions are like this today.
Jesus spoke to these people. He said, ‘I will give you rest.’ Rest would mean two things to the *Jews who lived in Jesus’ time. First, it would mean life as God meant it to be. Second, it would mean spiritual rest. (This is to be at peace with God. It would result in peace of mind and heart.) This is the good news that Jesus still offers!
With Jesus, we can enjoy a great quality of life. This makes our life without Jesus seem very dull. With Jesus, one day we will enjoy even more. Our lives will be free from every ‘weight’ of *sin. (Read Revelation 21:1–4.) But even now, we can be free. We are not trying to make God like us. This can cause great worry to men and women. When we belong to Jesus, we can be sure about God’s love. We can be at peace in our minds!
We can have this great experience. Jesus does not have any hard standards. He does not ask us to do anything. He only asks us to come to him (11:28). He wants us to come as we are. Then he asks us to obey him. We are *sinners. But he is ‘gentle and humble’. He is so kind. His *mercy is so great.
Jesus seemed to be thinking about Isaiah 42:3. The verse has a lovely picture in words. It described the Person who was coming. He would not be angry with anyone who was weak. Someone’s *faith in him may be very small. But Jesus will not send that person away. People in the world can be very unkind. They can behave in a cruel way. But Jesus is not like that. He is a gentle Saviour (someone who saves).
Jesus now encouraged those who listened to him even more. He asked them to accept him. He wanted them to learn from him. He did not ask them to do something that was difficult. It was ‘easy’. Religions that come from men are not like this. These religions often have strict methods. Their rules seem like heavy loads. But to obey Jesus is very different. He says, ‘The load that I give you to carry is not heavy.’
Then Jesus gave them a promise. He said, ‘You will find rest.’ That promise is for us too. We can find ‘rest’ in Christ. This means that our consciences will be at peace. We will know that God forgives our *sin. We do not have to feel guilty. We will be ‘at rest’ in ourselves. This is because we have peace with God. Even this is not all. Also, we have the certain hope that this rest will last for ever.
1. What do you imagine God to be like? Is he like someone who has a big stick? Do you feel that he will hit you if you do anything wrong? Or, do you think that he is a Father who loves you? How can you change wrong ideas about God? What might you learn from this passage?
2. Think about your church. Is religion like a weight to its members? Do they feel that they could never obey all its rules? What could you do about it?
3. What Jesus asks us to do is ‘easy’. But the Christian life can be very hard. We may have to refuse things that we want. We may have to suffer too. (Read 16:24–26.) So, what does Jesus mean in 11:30?
When Jesus came, the *OT came true.
Jesus is greater than the greatest people who lived in *OT days. The *OT points to him.
The *Pharisees opposed Jesus more. Chapter 12 shows how it got worse. It began to show something else that was definite. Jesus was on his way to die on the cross. There were 4 phases:
• The doubts of the *Jews increased (verses 1–8).
• There was an unfriendly question (verse 10).
• Evil people opposed Jesus (verse 14).
• The *Pharisees refused on purpose to believe that he was the *Messiah (verses 22–32).
Jesus answered the *Pharisees bravely. (Read verses 9–14.) He warned them (verses 22–23). Then he made some wonderful claims.
• He is greater than the *Temple (verse 6. This was the most special place for the *Jews.)
• He is greater than Jonah was (verse 41).
• He is greater than Solomon was (verse 42).
• Nobody in history is greater than Jesus. This was what he claimed. Jesus asks us to receive these same truths today.
Arguments about the Sabbath
(Note: The Sabbath is the *Jews’ special day of rest. They meet together to *worship God too. It is on a Saturday.)
Verses 1–14 need some explanation. Read what God said in Deuteronomy 23:25. People might be walking through another person’s field. They could eat all the grain that they could pick with their hands. But they must not take it home. So, they must not cut it down.
Here, in Matthew’s book, the event happened on the Sabbath. Those same laws of God forbade people to work on that special day. (Read Exodus 20:8–11; 34:21 and Deuteronomy 5:12–15.) The *Pharisees decided to explain these laws. So, they described exactly what ‘work’ meant. Then nobody should fail to obey these laws.
The *Pharisees thought that the *disciples were guilty. They picked the grain. This was what happened at harvest time. They rubbed it in their hands. This was the same as beating the grain. They separated the grain from its cover. This was another job for harvest time. The whole process was to prepare a meal. They must not do this on the Sabbath. This explains the *Pharisees’ reaction in verse 2.
Jesus’ reply was in two parts. In verses 3–5, he referred to the *OT. He showed that the *Pharisees’ traditions were wrong. God may have appointed a ceremony. But human need can make it right to ignore the ceremony. The *OT taught this.
Jesus referred to 1 Samuel. There was some special bread in the *Temple. This was for the priests only. But the priest gave it to David when he was very hungry. Some people have an idea. The *Pharisees would read the *OT in their religious meetings. Jesus and his *disciples went through the fields of grain on a Sabbath. Some people think that they read this *OT passage on that particular day. If so, Jesus’ answer was especially good.
Many people were listening to Jesus. Jesus reminded them about something else. The *Law told priests to work on the Sabbath. (Read Leviticus 24:8–9; 1 Chronicles 9:32 and 23:31.) So, Jesus showed that it could be right not to obey a law. This might be necessary for people who are serving God. The *disciples were in the service of God. They were serving the *Lord on the Sabbath!
There was something more. The *disciples were not just serving in the *Temple. (The *Temple was a sign that God was present.) They were serving the God-man (the man who was God). He was much greater than a building. The Sabbath was a day that reminded people about rest. Jesus, the man who was God, had that same rest. He was offering it to all who would come to him. (Compare verse 8 with 11:29–30.)
Jesus explained one more thing. He repeated words from Hosea 6:6. This verse taught that God is kind. So, we should be kind in everything that we do. It should come before we obey every detail of a tradition.
The *Pharisees’ religion was not like this at all. They did not care about those who were suffering. (Read verses 9–14.) There was only one time when anyone could help on the Sabbath. This was if someone was in danger of death. Their teaching explained the question that was in verse 10.
Jesus used the *Pharisees’ own rules in his reply. (Read verse 11.) A sheep might have an accident. The *Pharisees’ tradition allowed them to rescue it. They could do this even on the Sabbath. Jesus reminded them that people are more important than sheep. (The *Pharisees would agree with that.) So, Jesus could heal sick people on the Sabbath! It must be right to do that. Then, Jesus healed a man (verse 13).
The *Pharisees did not like this. They did not even want to listen to what the Bible taught. They had already decided that their ideas were right. They were not going to change their opinions. This was very sad. Then they even became friends with their greatest enemies. They were a *Jewish political group. Their name was the Herodians. (Read Mark 3:6.) The *Pharisees were opposing Jesus. They wanted this other group to help them.
1. Jesus said things about himself in this passage. Think about these things. What difference should they make to you, today?
2. Think about your church’s customs. Think about its principles and the way that its members do things. They should be things that are important to all the members. Make a list of them. Would you be ready to cancel these things if God told you to cancel them? (Read Acts 10:9–16.)
3. Sunday is the Christian’s special day of the week. Should we try to keep it special? If so, why should we do this? If not, give a reason for this opinion. Should we try to change what non-Christians do in this matter? Have we any right to try to change what they do? Give the reasons for your opinion.
Let us think about why this passage is important for us today. First, it tells us that Jesus is our ‘Sabbath rest’. In the *OT, the Sabbath was a special day. It reminded people that God had created a perfect world. But it reminded people about the future too. God would remake heaven and earth. Then all God’s people would rest together.
The *NT teaches us more. For Christians, the ‘Sabbath rest’ has arrived with Jesus. He is the ‘rest’ for all real *disciples. (Read Hebrews 4.) In Jesus, the real *disciple can enjoy the good things of heaven now. (Read Ephesians 1:3.) He or she does not belong to this earth. (Read 1 Peter 2:11.) He or she is a citizen of heaven. (Read Philippians 3:20.)
Here, Jesus was teaching the same truth. The Sabbath showed people that someone special would come. That ‘someone’ was Jesus. Now he had come. So the purpose of the Sabbath had ended. Paul said the same thing in Colossians 2:16–17. This means something special for a real *disciple. His whole life can be like a ‘Sabbath rest’. We are not enjoying just a special day. We are enjoying Jesus!
So Jesus, not Sunday, is our Sabbath today. Regular periods of work and rest are good for us. It is right to have special times to meet with God’s people. But we should never think of Sunday as if it were a Sabbath. The Sabbath was a day of things that people must not do. This would be like living in the time before Jesus came. But, Sunday should be a happy day. We are happy about everything that Jesus means to us.
Jesus brings hope to everyone in the world
The *OT promised that the *Messiah would come. Jesus is the *Messiah. He gently offered *salvation to the whole world.
Jesus offered rest. (Read 11:28–30.) Jesus showed that he is the real rest. (Read 12:1–14.) The *Jewish religious leaders refused to accept that rest. So, he had to leave them. (Read 12:15.)
But, some people did follow him. Many of them were not *Jews. This seemed to be very important to Matthew, who was the author. The *Jews refused to accept Jesus. Now, all people could become real people of God. They must just do two things. First, they must make a decision about Jesus’ invitation. Then, they must follow him.
Matthew now repeated some words from the *OT. (Read verses 18–21.) The passage is Isaiah 42:1–4. This is the longest passage that Matthew repeated. So he must have thought that it was very important. The *Jews thought that this *OT passage referred to the *Messiah. Matthew showed how it came true in Jesus.
Verse 18 reminds us about what God said at Jesus’ *baptism. Verses 19 and 20 described the way that Jesus behaved. He was gentle. (Read verses 13 and 15.) He did not want attention for himself either (verse 16). Then verse 21 reminds us of something great. The *Messiah would be the joy of all people. He would not be just for the *Jews.
1. Read verses 16 and 19–20 again. Think about the way that Jesus worked. How much should Christians use large meetings? We want people to know the Good News about Jesus. But should we have large meetings?
2. The *Jews thought that God’s *kingdom was only for them. But Jesus was ready to help people from all groups. What should this mean for our churches? Are we trying to reach all types of people with the Good News?
3. ‘All people will hope in him.’ But how can they do this, if nobody goes to tell them? Make a list of ways to share the Good News. (Here are some ideas. We can share it by:
• sending people;
• giving money;
• the radio;
What can your group do?
A *faith in Jesus that became stronger. A lack of belief in Jesus that got worse.
Jesus’ work made people think and act. Now some people could understand him more. But other people did not believe him at all.
There was a contrast in chapters 11 and 12. There were two ideas. They were next to each other. First, there was *faith in Jesus. Second, there was a lack of belief in him. The most important part came in 12:22–37. This explained what ordinary people thought about Jesus. (This is in verses 22–23.) Then there was the reaction of the *Pharisees. (This was in verses 24–27.)
The *Jews could force evil *spirits to leave people (verse 27). But it was clear that Jesus had great authority. The evil *spirits left the man completely. They also left him immediately. This explained the reaction of the people. Jesus had healed so many of them.
It made them think about what the *OT taught. Perhaps they remembered Isaiah 35:5. Things like this would happen when God established his *kingdom. The *Jews expected the son of the great King David to rule God’s *kingdom. This was right. Ezekiel also spoke about this time. (Read Ezekiel 35:23 and 37:25.)
Jesus forced evil *spirits to go out of the man. The people saw the way that he did this. ‘Could this be the Son of David?’ they asked (verse 23). Their understanding of Jesus began to increase. But they still doubted. They had ideas about what the Son of David would be like. They had learned these ideas from their childhood.
A terrible blasphemy
(Blasphemy is evil things that a person may say about God or about holy things. He or she is showing a total lack of respect for God.) Read verses 24–37. The *Pharisees did not want to change any of their ideas. They wanted to keep their own system of religion. They had just seen a wonderful *miracle. There must be an explanation for it. They decided that the *miracle was not from God. So, it must be from *Satan (the devil). What a terrible ‘blasphemy’ this was (verse 24).
Jesus replied to the *Pharisees. He made 5 points:
• It was a stupid claim against him. (Read verses 25–26.)
• One part did not agree with another part (verse 27).
• It confused people about the truth. (Read verses 28–30.)
• God would not forgive it. (Read verses 31–32.)
• It showed how wicked they were. (Read verses 33–37.)
► Jesus showed the *Pharisees how stupid their claim was (verse 24). They were suggesting that *Satan (the devil) would oppose *Satan. Jesus said that that would be silly. If *Satan opposed himself, he would be destroying his own work. (Read verses 25–26.)
► Part of the *Pharisees’ claim did not agree with another part. The *Jews forced evil *spirits to go out of people. The *Jews claimed that this was God’s work. Jesus also forced evil *spirits to go out of people. But he showed greater power than the *Jews showed. But the *Jews said that he was using *Satan’s power. So, they were saying that *Satan’s power was greater than God’s power!
► Jesus explained that he has power over *Satan. (Read verses 28–30.) So, he had answered the people’s question that was in verse 23. He was establishing God’s *kingdom (verse 28). Jesus could have been thinking about Genesis 3:15. The devil had tempted Adam and Eve. They, and all people who came after them, had *sinned. But God made a promise. One day, someone would come. He would be from Adam’s family. He would defeat the devil. Jesus was that person. Men and women must recognise this fact. They could refuse to accept him. Then they would be the enemies of Jesus and of God (verse 30).
► God could not forgive the *Pharisees’ attitude. (Read verses 31–32.) They were not just speaking against Jesus. The Spirit of God was working in Jesus. So they were speaking against God’s Spirit too. God would forgive the *sin against Jesus. Jesus did not declare clearly who he really was. So this could be why they did not understand. Here, the Holy Spirit was working in a way that everybody could see. So the *Pharisees had no excuse for their *sin.
► Jesus showed the reason for the *Pharisees’ attitude. (Read verses 33–37.) It was because they were wicked.
This section has two important lessons. The first is for those who come to Jesus. They must want to know more about him. Then, he will help them to understand more about his work. They will know more about him too. The next lesson is about those who refuse to come to Jesus. They do not want to obey him. The reasons why they do not believe in him are silly. (Humans usually think that they are clever reasons!) The evidence is clear. They just refuse to believe it.
1. Every day we should learn more about Jesus. How can we make sure that we do this?
2. Some people think that they have done the terrible *sin. (See below.) They think that God cannot forgive it. So, they are afraid. How should we help these people?
3. People today often refuse the Good News about Jesus. How does this passage help to explain their attitude?
Some Christians get very worried. Perhaps they have done this terrible *sin. So, let us think about what this ‘blasphemy against the Holy Spirit’ is. William Hendriksen described it well. He said:
The Holy Spirit was achieving great things. He was doing these things by Christ. But the *Pharisees said that it was *Satan who was doing them. The *Pharisees chose to have this attitude. All the evidence showed that it must be God’s work. But they refused to change their opinion. They said that Jesus forced out evil *spirits by the devil’s power.
Their *sin was getting worse too. (Compare 9:11 and 12:2, 4.) A *sinner may want God to forgive him or her. But he or she must be really sorry first. (Read Mark 3:28 and Luke 12:10.) These *Pharisees were not sorry about their *sin at all. Instead, their attitude became more strongly against God. Instead of confessing their *sin, they made plots against Jesus. So, they condemned themselves. They refused God’s way to forgive them. So, God could not forgive them.
God can forgive a thief or a murderer. God can forgive someone who has sex with a married person. These people may hear the message of the gospel (Good News). They may say, ‘God, have *mercy on me. I am a *sinner.’ (Read Luke 18:13.)
But a man may decide something. He will not take any notice of the Holy Spirit’s advice. He will never listen when the Holy Spirit appeals to him. He will ignore the Holy Spirit when he warns him. This man has chosen a way of life that will bring him to hell. (Read 1 John 5:16.) Note: ‘man’ or ‘he’ refers to male and female.
However, a person may really *repent. His or her *sin may have been terrible. But there is no need for despair. (Read Psalm 103:12; Isaiah 1:18; 44:22; 55:6, 7; Micah 7:18–20 and 1 John 1:9.)
This does not mean that we can be careless. We might think that this *sin has nothing to do with us. We might think that it could not apply to most members of the church. But the blasphemy against the Spirit does not happen suddenly. It happens slowly. Perhaps you make the Holy Spirit sad. (Read Ephesians 4:30.) This happens when you do not *repent. (Note: Christians must *repent every time that they *sin.) If we do not *repent, then we will work against the Holy Spirit. (Read Acts 7:51.) We may continue to do this. If we do, we will stop the Holy Spirit’s work. (Read 1 Thessalonians 5:19.)
The real solution is in Psalm 95:7–8.
(W. Hendriksen ~ the *Gospel of Matthew ~ Banner of Truth, 1974 ~ page 575 ~ an EasyEnglish translation).
Note: Psalm 95:7–8 says: ‘Listen today to what God says. Do not refuse to obey me as your ancestors did.’ Hebrews 3:7–8 repeats these words. (Note: Ancestors are family members who died long ago.)
People who did not believe made demands
Jesus’ work made people think about their attitudes. The *Jewish leaders did not like this. But they tried to hide that fact. They used arguments that they thought were clever. But they were foolish arguments.
The *Pharisees accused Jesus (verse 24). They did not like Jesus’ reply (verses 25–37). So they met with the teachers of the *Law. These men were the religious experts. They explained the meaning of the *OT. These two groups thought of a very clever argument.
They did not ask for just a *miracle. They asked for a ‘sign’ from Jesus. In the *OT, this word had a special meaning. It referred to particular events. These events would announce that God’s *kingdom was coming. In fact, they asked for a ‘sign’ that would also be a *miracle.
There is a probable reason for this. Moses wrote down their *Law. God showed that Moses was his *prophet. God sent a storm to show this. (Read Exodus 20:18–19.) God also sent special food (manna) from heaven. (Read Exodus 16:4–5.) Moses spoke about a greater *prophet. If Jesus was this *prophet, surely he would have the same sort of ‘signs’.
Jesus refused to give them a sign. There was a reason for this. The *Pharisees did not believe that he was the *Messiah. That was why they asked for a sign. In the *OT, God’s relationship with his people was called a marriage. The *Jews broke that relationship with him. It was the same as adultery. (This is when one partner in a marriage has sex with another person’s husband or wife.) Jesus said that the teachers of the *Law had done this. They had gone away from God.
Those people who really studied the *OT would believe in Jesus. They would hear his teaching. They would see his work. But nothing would change the attitudes of the *Pharisees. So, a sign would be of no use to them.
Jesus explained his meaning some more (verses 41–42). He made a contrast between the *Pharisees and two *OT events. First, he spoke about the people from Nineveh. They were the ones who lived in the time of Jonah. The people in this city had no spiritual advantages. They were very wicked. But they *repented when Jonah warned them. Jonah was only a minor *prophet. He did no *miracles. He was actually a stupid man. He even refused to obey God at first. But the people still *repented. Second, there was the Queen from the country called Sheba. She travelled a great distance to meet king Solomon. (Read 1 Kings 10:1–13.) And she realised that his wisdom came from God.
The teachers of the *Law and the *Pharisees were not like them. Their advantages were much greater. They had much more evidence than the people in *OT times. But they were refusing to accept Jesus. They were making plots against him.
So, extra evidence would be of no value. Jesus did actually give them one great sign. He would come back to life again. (He suggested this in verses 39 and 40.) But even this would not persuade his enemies. (Read Luke 16:19–31.)
Jesus warned and encouraged
Some people refused to welcome Jesus. He emphasised that this was very serious. But he would welcome all those who followed him. *Jewish history helps to explain verses 43–45. At one time the *Jews *worshipped many idols (false gods). This was before the *Jews had to go far away from their own country. Their enemies took them to the country called Babylon. This time in a foreign country was God’s *judgement on them.
After that, the people gave up all idols. (Note: An idol is anything that takes God’s place in a person’s life. But many people make images. They can use wood or metal. Then they say that it is a god.) But, by Jesus’ time, the *Jews had developed a religion that was even worse. It could not recognise Jesus when he came.
Jesus’ *parable showed that their state was very bad. *Satan now ruled them. He ruled them even more than he had before. There may be a reference here to John the *Baptist too. Many people listened carefully to what John taught. Then Jesus came. But they did not understand that John had been speaking about Jesus. So, they were opposing Jesus now.
Then members of Jesus’ family came to see him. (Read verses 46–50. Read Mark 3:21–22 too.) Jesus used their visit. He explained an important point to his listeners. It was this. The real family of God are the people who follow Jesus.
1. Think about friends who have explained why they are not Christians. What clever but foolish arguments have they used? What should you say to them?
2. Many people say that they are Christians. But their *faith does not seem to last. What is the reason for this?
3. Can a whole country or a group of people become evil (verse 39a)? Can they all refuse to accept God? How would this affect the way that we declare the gospel (Good News)?
AD ~ AD is any date after the birth of Jesus.
baptise ~ a *Greek word; it refers to a ceremony; it means to put someone in or under water for a brief time; Mark 1:4–11; Romans 6:3–8; Jesus baptises with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11); Jesus baptises with fire (Matthew 3:12).
baptism ~ the name for the ceremony when someone *baptises another person.
Baptist ~ a person who *baptises people (John the Baptist).
disciple ~ a person who follows a leader; a student; one of the 12 men whom Jesus chose; a person who obeys Jesus today.
empire ~ very big *kingdom.
faith ~ to believe in someone or something; to be really sure about the things of God and Jesus his Son.
glory ~ the power and greatness of God; his great beauty; in the *OT, people saw it as a very bright light or fire; in the *NT, we see it especially in Jesus (John 1:14); Christians can show God’s glory (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Gospel ~ one of the 4 books at the beginning of the *New Testament - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Greek ~ the language in which the authors wrote the *New Testament.
Hebrew ~ the language that the *Jews spoke when they wrote the first part of our Bible.
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.
judgement ~ when God or a person says what is right or wrong; he tests behaviour; he decides if it is right or wrong; then he acts on the decision; judgement can be about legal or moral matters; judgement can mean when God punishes people.
kingdom ~ a kingdom is where a king rules. God is the King of all Christians and all Christians are in his Kingdom.
Law ~ the Law usually refers to the first 5 books in our Bible; Moses wrote them.
Lord ~ a name that we call God or Jesus; we call God or Jesus Lord when we obey them.
mercy ~ kindness to someone who does not deserve it; it is a very strong word; there are several meanings in it; there is love and pity; to have mercy means to forgive *sins; there is more information about this word; it is in the section for 5:7–9.
Messiah ~ the *Lord Jesus Christ; it is a *Hebrew word, ‘meshiah’; the same word in *Greek is ‘christos’, Christ. God promised the *Jews that the Messiah would save them; we read about him in the *OT; then Jesus came; but the *Jews did not believe in him (John 1:11). Many *Jews are still waiting for Messiah to come.
miracle ~ a wonderful thing that only God could do; it could not happen in a natural way.
NT ~ New Testament; the last part of the Bible, which the writers wrote after the life of Jesus.
New Testament ~ the last part of the Bible.
OT ~ Old Testament; the first part of the Bible, which the writers wrote before the life of Jesus.
parable ~ a story; it uses ordinary, familiar things to teach truths about God.
Pharisee ~ a member of a *Jewish religious group; they claimed to obey all *Jewish religious laws and customs; there is more information about them; it is in the section for 3:4–10.
prophecy ~ a special message from God; it could tell about the future; it is one of the special gifts of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians chapters 12–14).
prophet ~ a person who hears God’s words and tells them to other people; in *OT days, a prophet often wrote books; these books were called ‘The Prophets’.
repent ~ to turn away from evil and towards God; this choice will mean a complete change of life; in the *NT, the *Greek word is ‘metanoia’; this means a change of mind.
Roman ~ a person from Rome; the Roman *Empire consisted of the many countries that the Romans ruled.
salvation ~ rescue from *sin or danger; the *Hebrew word is ‘yasha’; the *OT uses it 353 times; people may be in trouble or danger; someone rescues or saves them; this may be God or a person; the *NT speaks about salvation in three ways; it is past, present and future (2 Corinthians 1:10).
Satan ~ the devil; the enemy of God.
sin ~ when we do not obey God’s rules.
spirit ~ spirits are alive, but we cannot see them. There are good spirits usually called angels. Bad spirits (also called evil spirits, or demons) live in the air round us. Their leader is called Satan.
Temple ~ the *Jews’ special large building for God; it was in Jerusalem. The enemy destroyed it in *AD 70; since that time, *Jews’ special buildings for *worship are called synagogues; other groups build temples too; they *worship false gods in them.
unbelief ~ lack of *faith.
worship ~ the word can be a verb or a noun; to honour God with words of prayer and praise; it is a way to appreciate God for himself; we are also being grateful for all that he has done; we can worship God together; each person can worship God too. (Important note: people can worship false gods; they give to a false god what belongs to God only.)
Wycliffe Associates (UK) EasyEnglish© Translation (Level B)
WYCLIFFE ASSOCIATES (UK)
EasyEnglishÓ TRANSLATION (Level B)................................... Mary Read
LINGUISTIC CHECKER........................................................... Sue Hunter
© 1997–2004, Wycliffe Associates (UK)
This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words – new lexicon).
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