1 March 2017 Devotions Dear Members and Friends of Our Savior s Lutheran Church, Our devotions for the month of March continue with our studies in Matthew The stories that unfold before us, give us a glimpse of the latter months of Jesus ministry. Included in our study are the powerful parables that Jesus teaches. Chapter 13, include the parables of the Sower, Weeds, and short parables of the Mustard Seed, Yeast, Hidden Treasure, Pearl and Net. All of these parables teach about the kingdom of God and our participation within the kingdom on earth. Chapter 14, describes the impact of John the Baptist death upon our Lord and his ministry. Jesus moved by grief goes off to a place to be by himself. What follows is a sequence of miracles of the Feeding of the 5000 and walking on water and his interaction with his disciples in that event. Chapter 15 includes questions by the Jewish leaders; and new faith stories by members of the Gentile community and the Feeding of the In chapter 16, we hear Peter s confession of faith and Jesus first prediction of his suffering, death and resurrection. Soon the final journey to Jerusalem begins. We offer our prayers that the Holy Spirit may guide us in our studies and through them strengthen our faith. Blessings. Pastor Giese March 2017 Week 1 Matthew 13:1-17 Dear friends, may God s blessings be with you this day. Our passage for today is the familiar parable of the Sower. In Matthew s passage, we find Jesus besides the lake teaching in parables. Here in chapter 13, begins a large segment of parables in which Jesus discloses the secrets of the kingdom of God. What is so powerful about the use of parables? Parables were a common method of teaching. Not only did Jesus use this method, but there are parables in the Old Testament and it was common knowledge that many of the Jewish teachers used this method as well. In its use, the parable was a specific truth that uses an image borrowed from the world. The parable is an analogy and in each instance the point of comparison between the two must be grasped to fully understand its meaning. At the same time, the parable is not made into an allegory, where each detail has hidden meanings. Jesus took this method of using everyday life stories. It is this way that he communicated the hidden truths of the kingdom. Those who were open to the message of God understood and were able to grasp its depth of meaning. In this first parable in chapter 13, Jesus uses the common experience of a farmer planting seeds in the fields. This was a common occurrence for the people who were listening to him. They had either had sown seeds themselves or knew the process of sowing from observing it being done. Here in the story, the farmer spreads the seeds indiscriminately. The field is wide open. No patch of soil is left untouched. The farmer s desire is that there is every opportunity for a seed to sprout, grow and produce fruit. Some of the seed fell upon the path, some on rocky soil, some amongst the thorns and some of the seeds fell on good soil, rich and receptive to the seed s potential growth. As Jesus finished, he said, "He who has ears, let him hear". As we read the parable and tomorrow s explanation to his disciples, let us pray that we may be open to its meaning and from it grow in our understanding of the kingdom of God.
2 A. Matthew 13:18-23 Dear friends, may our Lord s gift of love be with you this day. Our passage for today is Jesus explanation of the parable of the Sower to his disciples. This passage follows the parable itself and it is a message about the reception of the word of God. In vs. 23 of the explanation, the one who receives the word, as the seed which fell on the good soil, is one who hears the Word and understands it. I think this is the key to understanding the whole parable and also the whole of scriptures. Throughout the gospels, there were clear examples in which the hearers did not understand or accept the message that Jesus was offering. He uses this parable after the questions of what he had earlier said were brought to his attention. These were shared with us in the previous chapters. Because the people did not understand, Jesus shared with them simple parables to help them understand. In the sequence of the parable itself, Jesus shared with his disciples and the crowd, that the farmer spread the seed on the ground indiscriminately. In the proclamation of the word, Jesus shares with the people of Israel the good news of salvation. This was done in the same manner as the farmer spreading the seed in his field. He proclaimed it amongst the people and did not discriminate against anyone. Everyone was called to the gospel message. He proclaimed to the Jewish community, to those who were outside the community and to the Gentile community as well. His message of the good news of salvation was and is for all people. This proclamation was received with joy by some the members of the community. They were the ones who heard and understood the message that he brought. Others heard it as well, but varying circumstances prevented them from understanding and accepting the message. They were like the seeds that fell outside the good soil. This parable also comes before us. We ask the question, how receptive to the good news are we? We sing, Lord, let my heart be good soil. Are we recognizing and accepting this message or are there conditions attached? Let us pray that our hearts and those in our community may be receptive to God s word and so be open to the kingdom of God. B. Matthew 13:24-30 Dear friends, may the assurances of our Lord s grace be with you this day. Our devotional for today is the parable of the wheat and the weeds. This parable of Jesus which only occurs here in Matthew is a passage which describes the interwoven relationships of the believers living in the spiritual kingdom of God and the people of the world. In this context, the "people of the world" is identified by their association to the evil one (enemy in verse 28). In the context of the passage, Jesus recognizes that his faithful followers will live side by side with those who are followers of the world and Satan. The scenery in which Jesus and the crowds resided perhaps had this familiar sight. In the surrounding fields, were the wheat plants and the weeds, a plant called darnel, which was a common weed in the ancient world. The similarity between the plants, made it impossible to distinguish in its early stages of growth. Only as the plants matured, were the distinctions
3 recognizable, especially when the heads of grain begin to appear. It is only natural for the servants to want to go out into the fields and uproot the weeds. While uprooting the weeds may indeed provide extra nutrients for the wheat, there lies the danger in uprooting the wheat as well. Whenever I read this parable, scenes of working in the garden always come to mind. Where do the weeds grow? Their roots seemingly are always interwoven with the tomatoes, or the poor fragile carrots or beets. Unless one is extremely careful in the uprooting of the weeds, the vegetable plants come right with them. I remember spraying weeds in the fields and dad always warning not to get the spray on the corn or beans, trying to rid the fields of the weeds, especially before they came to seed. Jesus uses this common illustration to share with his hearers, that the interwoven relationships of his followers and Satan s, live together in this world. He shares a couple of short parables and then privately meets with his disciples to explain it. We will do the same with our readings on the kingdom of God. God s blessings. C. Matthew 13:31-35 Dear friends, may the message of his hope bring assurances to you this day. Our devotional for today is the parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast. These two parables are placed side by side by Jesus and are used to give us an earthly glimpse of the kingdom of heaven. Let us today, look at the opening phrase, "the kingdom of heaven is like..." Do you have a picture in your mind what heaven is like, where there is peace and a life filled with hopefulness? The scriptures do provide for us a glimpse of the kingdom of heaven. In the book of Revelation, John describes different scenes in which the faithful will participate in worshipping God. The concept of hope and peace do come to us in Revelation 21, where John describes a place where, "God is with his people. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be more death, or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away". Jesus also uses parables such as these two short statements to describe that promise. The first statement is about the smallest of seeds, which grows into a significant bush. Large in size, it becomes a place where the birds of the air can find refuge and nest. There they can find shelter and can be protected from the elements of weather. In the gift of Holy Baptism, the faith of a newly baptized begins as a small seed within the community of faith. Within the community, there is refuge for the weary and protection from evil. The newly baptized is surrounded by the community, through its prayers and spiritual support. The kingdom is also like yeast, which serves as a catalyst for our faith. It enables us through the power of the Holy Spirit to grow within God s kingdom. So too, we grow in faith through the teachings of the church. Here, we ask, "Is this heaven"? ` In reality, within the kingdom, God s faithful people find refuge and grow in his promises. May we indeed pray, "thy kingdom come". D. Matthew 13:36-43 Dear friends, may God s message of peace be with you this day. Our passage for today, finds the disciples alone with Jesus and they ask him to explain the parable of the wheat and
4 weeds. The parable is full of contrasts. Wheat verses weeds. The Son of Man verses the evil one (which Jesus identifies as Satan); the sons of the kingdom verse the sons of the evil one. The Sower of the good seed is the Son of Man verses the sower of the weeds is the evil one. The harvest at the end of age is both good versus evil. The servants or harvesters are the angels of God. The wheat is gathered and placed into the granary which is God s kingdom and the weeds are thrown into the fiery furnace and burned. What is taking place in this parable? For his disciples, Jesus identifies the signs of the coming kingdom. He also identifies the characters and their specific roles. Before the last day comes, the faithful sons of the kingdom live within the world. They have been identified as the believers in Christ. They have received the promises of the good news of salvation. Yet in the world, also live the followers of the evil one. In the midst of the night, (the darkness of sin), the evil one plants the seeds of doubt, fear and unbelief into the lives of the people of the world. This becomes the great contrast within the world. Together, they live side by side. Jesus then teaches his disciples what will take place at the end of the age. In the parable, the time will come when our Lord will send his angels and they will harvest the fields. The first to be collected will be the weeds. The unbelievers and followers of the evil one will be harvested and bundled and through into the fiery furnace. There all evil and sin will be consumed by fire and destroyed. Everything that causes sin will be forever destroyed, including Satan himself. Revelation 20 describes this event. Then in a new order of creation, the righteous sons of the kingdom will be drawn into God s new kingdom. This is described in Revelation 21 and 22. There, we will worship God for all eternity. The fruitfulness of our faith will be fully revealed to God s glory, for the harvest of the wheat has been completed. E. Matthew 13:44-52 Dear friends, may the blessings which come to us from our Lord Jesus be with you this day. Our devotional for today is the parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl and the Net. These three parables are shared only here in Matthew s Gospel. They too are introduced with "the kingdom of heaven is like... and they share the same essential truth. Here, God s kingdom is of such great value, that one should be willing to give up all he has in order to gain it, for the Day of Judgment soon comes. Please remember that Jesus does not imply in these parables, that one can purchase the kingdom of God with monies or goods. He is attempting to show how valuable the kingdom is in human terms. Enough, that if the treasure or the pearl were waiting for you to be purchased, you would give up everything to possess it. How valuable is God s kingdom for you? These three statements raise an intriguing question. How much are you willing to give of yourself for possession of the kingdom of heaven? The lesson of the parable of the treasure shares with us is that it is worth any sacrifice to enter the kingdom. Difficult you say? Oh yes. Impossible? No. What does that mean? It may mean that we may give up certain elements and ambitions in life. It may mean to accept a discipline and self-denial. It may mean to pick up our cross and follow Jesus. It is indeed worth giving up everything to accept and to do the will of our Father and so enter his kingdom. The parable of the pearl suggests a long careful search. In life s journey, we are amongst a variety of pearls. There are many different choices in religious faiths for example. There are many different philosophies. However, there is one perfect pearl. The gospel message of
5 salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ is that perfect pearl. Can we give up "all that we have worked for", to possess the faith that brings us into the kingdom of heaven? The parable of the Net reminds us of pending judgment. Let us pray that God would so strengthen our faith and our relationship with him, so that we may be a part of that kingdom. F. Matthew 13:53-58 Dear friends, may the love of God be with you this day. Our devotional for today takes us to Jesus hometown of Nazareth. There Jesus teaches in the synagogue and the people were amazed at the powers he shared. Yet amongst them were some who took great offense at what he said and what he had done for them. What they observed about Jesus, was not his teaching, but their recognition of him as the carpenter s son, not as the Messiah. They could not move past the identity of this hometown boy. To their questions Jesus responded, "Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor". What would it mean for us, if Jesus claim was only that of a carpenter s son? Would it make a difference to us? Surely if only a carpenter s son, Jesus could not have fulfilled the Law of God for our sake. He could not have carried the cross for our salvation. The debt of sin would not have been paid. He could not be the Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the world. In essence, there would be no forgiveness, no cleansing from sin and no promise of life or salvation. Thank God Jesus is more than just the identification as the carpenter s son. The gospels declare that he is the Son of the Living God. As the Son of God, he fulfills all the promises given in the books of the prophets. Forgiveness, life and salvation are given through the Son of the Living God. In Nazareth, his people knew him only as the carpenter s son. This blocked their acceptance of him as the promised Messiah, God s Son. We acknowledge our faith in the gifts of salvation. It is a full acknowledgment of Jesus of Nazareth. Yes, the carpenter s son and the son of the Virgin Mary, is our Lord and Savior. Let us remember the words of proclamation our Lord gives to us as we learn about the kingdom of God. Let us remember the gift of the cross he bore for us and the gift of the resurrection. May this strengthen our faith and our relationship with him. s G & H. March 2017 Week 2 Matthew14:1-12 Dear friends, may our Lord s grace be with you this day. Our devotional for today is the tragic story of the beheading of John the Baptist. This is a tragic story. Any death is tragic, but perhaps more profound when death comes through the executioner s hands. The news of Jesus popularity as a great prophet reaches the ears of King Herod. Herod s fears are grounded in the possibility of this Jesus is John resurrected. John earlier had warned Herod of his adultery and through that warning, Herod imprisoned John. This passage tells the story as recounted by Herod s fears. At the hands of a merciless king, John was executed. Now the conscience of Herod raises the question, can this be John come alive to haunt him? Martyrs are individuals who have given their life for the truth of the gospel and for their faith. John proclaimed the message of preparation and becoming right with God. He proclaimed the promised Messiah was soon coming to usher in God s kingdom. He encountered Herod,
6 proclaimed that truth and was imprisoned. Later in a drunken state, Herod executed him. In the early church, the apostles (except for John who died a natural death) and many other Christians were martyred for their faith and the bold proclamation of the Gospel message of salvation. The church in the fourth century had established specific days to commemorate the saints who gave of themselves and their lives for the sake of the gospel. It was a time of remembrance of the great price they paid and gave for the church. November 1 st is All Saints Day. It is a day set aside to remember the saints and the martyrs of the church. We remember with thanksgiving these saints, as we remember John the Baptist and the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. s I & J. Matthew14:13-21 Dear friends, may God s hope be with you this day. Our devotional for today is Matthew s recording of the feeding of the This passage is a story that is recorded in all four gospels and is very familiar to us, and needs no additional explanation to its content. Perhaps we can look at the text in our setting as we begin our work of harvest in the fields, which in turn provide the food we eat. This passage draws attention to the providential care that our Lord gives to his people. After a long day, the crowd is obviously hungry and in a place where the availability of food is nowhere to be found. The disciples come to Jesus and he directs them to bring the bread and fish to him. Then he blesses the food and the miracle takes place. The people s needs are met. They are fed with the miracle of Jesus. How do we look at the providential care we receive from our God? Luther in his explanation to the First Article of the Apostles Creed says, "I believe that God has created me and all that exists. He has given me and still preserves my body and soul with all their powers. He provides me with food and clothing, home and family, daily work and all I need from day to day. God also protects me in time of danger and guards me from every evil. All this, he does out of fatherly and divine goodness and mercy, though I do not deserve it. Therefore, I surely ought to thank and praise, serve and obey him. This is most certainly true." In this passage, the simple gesture of the miracle of the feeding of the 5000 provides with us the care God gives to his people, whether small or great. The time has come. Spring has arrived. All the signs of God s creation are around us and soon the farmers go into the fields. Through the summer of growth our gardens and the fields become God s way of producing our food which nurtures our bodies. Then the season will come and we will enjoy the fruits of our gardens. Then fruit of the fields will come forth and harvest will begin. This is the cycle of God s creation. Let us be remindful of Luther s response to the providential care God has provided and give him our thanks and our praise. God bless. s K & L. Matthew 14:22-36 Dear friends, may the peace of God which comes to us from our Lord Jesus be with you this day. Our devotional for today is the story of Jesus walking on the water and the stilling of the stormy sea. Mark and John also include this story, which shows as Jesus appears before them, his disciples are filled with fear and all three gospels record the miraculous stilling of the sea. Only in Matthew, do we find the call of Jesus for Peter, after his request, to come to him and join him on the water. In that sequence, there is an element of truth that Matthew wishes to share
7 with his readers. In this passage, Jesus approaches his disciples. They are filled with fear and cry out to him. Jesus assures them that it is him. Peter speaks and says to Jesus, "Lord, if it is you, tell me to come out to you". Jesus responds, "Come!. Peter is on the water. He is walking toward Jesus and suddenly he sees the waves surrounding him and fear overcomes him and he begins to sink into the water. Fear became the obstacle in Peter s faith and trust. His fear overcame him. He took his eyes off of Jesus and he began to sink into the water. He cries out, "Lord, save me!" The element of truth here in this passage state, the faith which looks to Jesus only and obeys his word, dares and can do anything. But the faith which begins to doubt "sinks" and runs the risk of failing, if the merciful hand of the Lord were not extended to save. Through the impulsive character of Peter, this story describes one s own faith journey. In our journey, the wind storms vary. At times they appear as doubt. We like Peter, question the mercies of God. At times, some forgotten sins appear within our consciousness and we question, did God really forgive me and does he still love me? At times a serious sickness or tragic death occurs, misfortunes or failures appear and we begin to question, why? Jesus comes to us, to calls to us and extends out his hand, raises us up from our sinking into our muddled waters. "Come to me", he says. We like Peter, look up into his eyes, focusing our attention upon him and we clasp his outstretched hand and pulled out of the stormy seas. We pray, help us Lord to keep our attention focused upon you in our journey in life. M. March 2017 Week 3 Matthew 15:1-20 Dear friends, may the Lord s blessings be with you this day. Our devotional for today shares a passage about expectations of laws and rituals within the Jewish community. Because of a response by the Jewish leaders regarding the observance of these laws, Jesus issues a stern warning. He quotes Isaiah 29:13, "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men." Jesus uses Isaiah s passage to describe our age old problem. We naturally attempt to substitute our own natural religion for the revelations of God. We attempt to always make our salvation an accomplishment of our own hands and virtues. We do not want to admit that we are powerless to save ourselves. In this passage, our Lord gives several illustrations in the misuse of God s law. Here Jesus uses the example of a son who mistreats his parents and neglects the Fourth Commandment. Yet he goes to the temple to absolve his sin by offering a gift. Jesus tells us that we cannot receive assurances when we neglect one law and try to absolve through another. He also tells us, we cannot say, "Lord, Lord", while our minds and our hearts and our actions deceive us. We cannot offer ourselves in service and let our life contradict everything that we may profess. So we ask ourselves, "How can we be faithful in our response to our confession of faith?" Perhaps we can look at it this way. Our Lord became flesh, made under the law and fulfills it for our sake. What God had expected of us, Jesus has completed. The law and all its demands were kept by our Lord for our sake. Under the burdens of the law, Jesus became obedient even to the cross. Through his work of salvation, fulfilling the law and dying for our sake, we became right before our Father in heaven. This gift is ours. It comes to us through an act of love and grace through our Lord Jesus Christ. All that Jesus asks of us is to believe in him
8 and accept his gracious gifts of promise. May we pray this day that our hearts may know his promises. s N & O. Matthew 15:21-28 Dear friends, may the love of God be extended to you this day. Our devotional for today is the story of faith of a Canaanite woman. It is a story of the victory of faith in the face of adversity. Through her story, we can be strengthened in our faith, that when we face the moments of adversity, whatever they may be, we can be sustained by our faith and our trust in our Lord Jesus Christ. The setting brings us to a new region of ministry for Jesus. He moves to a region north of Galilee, which included many Gentile communities. Here he encounters this Canaanite woman, whose daughter was deeply possessed by a demon. Notice the cry of the woman, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession". Consider how far she had come, just to present her requests of healing for her daughter. She came for her daughter. She came, even though she was a Gentile woman, because she knew the power of healing that Jesus possessed. She came hoping and praying that her daughter would be freed from this possession of the demon. She came, begging. Jesus places the tests before her. She acknowledges her place, (she is a woman and a Gentile), but she continues to plead for her daughter. She responds to the Lord s questioning and the Lord uplifts her for all to see and declares, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted". And her daughter was healed. The greatest test in the face of adversity is for patience. A crisis comes upon us and the first response is a cry for help. In extreme emergencies we call 911. The response team comes immediately, even though it seems forever. Our cries to God come just as quickly and probably in our sub-consciousness simultaneously as we dial 911. In our human understanding of time, even moments seem to go on endlessly. The woman in our story was commended for her faith and her persistence in prayer. Her daughter was healed. May we be reminded in faith, of our prayer to God, is a petition for healing of body and spirit and to come to him unceasingly. P. Matthew 15:29-39 Dear friends, may God s gift of grace be with you this day. Our devotional for today is Matthew s story of the feeding of the This story in many respects is a parallel story to the feeding of the Yet, there are some distinct differences. The most obvious is the location of the event. Earlier at the feeding of the 5000, it was in the region of the Sea of Galilee and primarily among members of the Jewish communities of the area. Here in the feeding of the 4000, Jesus is significantly north of Galilee and in among Gentile communities. The message that Matthew shares with his readers is, Jesus is God s Son and he reaches out to all people, including members of the Gentile community. In fact, from the previous story of the Canaanite woman and into the next series of stories, Matthew incorporates Jesus ministry to the Gentile community, to show his Jewish- Christian readers that Jesus ministry was to all people. Just as Jesus in his ministry has broken down the barriers and welcomes the Gentile community into the faith community, so Matthew
9 further attempts to break down the barriers that co-exist between the Jewish-Christian and Gentile-Christian communities in that first century. His sole desire is to declare that this Jesus of Nazareth is God s Son. He is the promised Messiah and he has died and has been raised from the dead for all people. Matthew attempts then to draw the two communities together into one united faith community. All people, both Jew and Gentile Christians have one common bond, their faith in Jesus. The stories in Matthew s gospel, like the feeding of the 4000, are classic. They break through the human made barriers of separation. Just as Jesus was instrumental in the feeding of the 4000, so is he instrumental in providing for the needs of all people. He does this by breaking down the barriers that separate us and God. Through him, all people, us included, are now reconciled to God. This story shows that we too can be reconciled as one community of faith in the one who has redeemed us and now sustains us in all of our needs. Thanks be to God. s Q & R. March 2017 Week 4 Matthew 16:1-4 Dear friends, may our Lord s message of hope be with you this day. Our devotional for today finds Jesus being questioned once again by the Pharisees and Sadducees. In this passage, they ask Jesus for a sign from heaven. Their request was made simply for Jesus to "prove" to them that he was the promised Messiah. Jesus response was that there are signs all around them. Did they not understand? Why then ask of signs from him? We can only begin to imagine Jesus frustration and disappointment over them. This isn t the first time he was asked to prove himself, nor would it be the last. Time after time, Jesus taught and they were in among the crowds. Time after time, Jesus healed the sick and performed other miracles and they witnessed the events. His words and actions did proclaim he was the Messiah, yet they wanted more "proof". What was so difficult to interpret? These were learned men, leaders of the Jewish community, students of the prophet s writings, yet they did not understand. Isn t that true among us today as well? The gospel message is read, taught and proclaimed. The gospel message is also proclaimed through the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord s Supper. Yet, the question remains, "Where is God? I need proof of his existence. Then I will believe". Have you felt disappointment or frustration when you have heard these words? I know I have. I wonder how Jesus feels today, when these words are spoken? Could it be any different than what takes place in this passage? I don t think so. The message remains the same. The signs are there. In the passage, Jesus tells the Jewish leaders that the only miraculous sign to be given will the sign of Jonah. Now this sign is in reference to Jonah in the belly of the whale for three days, so shall the Son be in the grave for three days and rise again. This will be the great sign, the miracle of God. This will be the sign of salvation for all people. The question comes before all people and us, do you believe in the greatest miracle, the greatest sign, the resurrection of our Lord? Salvation depends upon your answer. S.
10 Matthew 16:5-12 Dear friends may our Lord gift of peace be with you this day. Our devotional for today finds Jesus giving a warning to his disciples about the teachings of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Jesus had just finished feeding the As we read in yesterday s devotion, they had asked Jesus for further signs to prove that he was the Messiah. After his response, he left them and with his disciples made their journey across the Sea of Galilee. Along the way, Jesus issues this statement of warning, specifically about the "yeast" of the leaders of the Jewish community. His disciples misunderstood him and Jesus explains what he means. In Jewish tradition, the leaven or yeast is an impure ferment. In the Old Testament, the leaven represented evil, corruption or sin, which causes impurity of life. Jesus uses this example to help the disciples understand what implications the teachings of the Pharisees and the Sadducees had on the people of Israel. Their teachings were impure. They placed hardships upon the people with their demands. They substituted human laws to show their own righteousness. They threatened people with expulsion from the faith community if the laws were not kept. Their laws built upon themselves rather than on the relationship with God. Their "yeast" destroyed the bread of faith, even within the community itself. Jesus words to his disciples are also words of warning to us. Around us are individuals, groups and institutions that evangelize a proclamation of the "gospel" which is not confessional with the teaching of the scriptures or of the church. These individuals produce volumes of material for their evangelistic efforts. Within their material are their own interpretations of scripture, often selected verses to support their beliefs. The way to evaluate the material you read, individuals or groups you may listen to through the media, is to know personally the message proclaimed in the scriptures. This becomes your safeguard. We pray for ourselves and those around us, that we may know the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. May our faith be strengthened and sustained through his word. s T & V. Matthew 16:13-20 Dear friends, may the gift of blessings from our Lord, be with you this day. Our devotional for today is Matthew s account of Peter s confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. In Matthew, there is the distinction of the naming of Peter as the rock upon which our Lord will build his church. In the verses following Peter s confession, Matthew includes the very role in which Peter and the other apostles would play in the establishment of the church. In this regard the church uses Peter s confession as an example in its own confessional statement, Jesus is the center of our faith. Paul in Ephesians 2:20 says, the church is "built upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. Luther also shares this confessional in his explanation to the Second Article of the Apostles Creed: "I believe that Jesus Christ - true God, Son of the Father from eternity, and true man, born of the Virgin Mary - is my Lord. At great cost he has saved and redeemed me, a lost and condemned person. He has freed me from sin, death and the power of the devil - not with silver or gold, but with his holy and precious blood and his innocent suffering and death. All this he has done that I may be his own, live under him in his kingdom, and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness, just as he is risen from the dead and lives and rules eternally. This is most certainly true."
11 These statements, here in this passage and in Luther s Catechism, also become our confession of faith. We declare that this Jesus is the Lord of the Church. He gave his life for us on the cross, declaring the forgiveness of sins. We declare that God raised him from the dead, promising we too shall live. This is our confession, this is what we preach, what we teach, what we believe and what we live. May we be strengthened in our faith, as we make our bold confession of faith in word and in deed. W. Matthew 16:21-28 Dear friends, may the gift of love and its assurances from our Lord, be with you this day. Our devotional for today is Jesus first prediction of his suffering, death and resurrection. Earlier, we see Jesus asking his disciples who the crowds were saying he was. They respond, some say he is John the Baptist, Elijah or one of the prophets come back from the dead. Then Peter made his confession, "You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God". Following his confession, Jesus explains to them his ultimate mission in which he was sent from God. He would travel to Jerusalem. There he would suffer and die, but on the third day rise again. One of the difficult things to hear in life is centered on suffering and pending death. It reminds us of our own mortality. When Jesus announced his suffering and death and resurrection, Peter took him aside and basically said, "Don t talk like that. Don t think about that. You have such a great future ahead of you. Speaking about suffering and death diminishes all of that which is to come". How many times have we heard those words, said or thought them ourselves? What did the disciples hear from Jesus in these opening verses? I believe they were like us, just suffering. Like us, when we hear those words, our world stops. We change directions quickly, daring to hope that what our ears have heard is not true. Are we not like Peter in this story? Jesus takes Peter aside, draws Satan out of him and explains to him and the rest of the disciples his mission. At first looking at Jesus response seems harsh. But Jesus recognizes who is responsible. Satan. Does that help us understand our human response to suffering and death as well? Satan s desire is death. God s desire is for us to move past death to the hope of resurrected life. Faith in the power of God to raise life from death, takes away the sting of death itself. It helps us to know that Jesus victory over death in the resurrection has done that. Let us take comfort in that promise. Z.