October 2, 2013

Scripture and Commentary, Wednesday through Friday, Week of Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity

Wednesday

Morning – Psalm 44, 1 Kings 18:25-46, James 2:1-13
Evening – Psalm 50, Job 18:5-21, Mt. 14:22

Commentary, Matthew 14:22-36

If, as John Chrysostom asserted around 388 A.D., the purpose of the feeding of the five thousand was to teach us to seek the heavenly bread, surely the stilling of the sea teaches us more than simply to rely upon Christ in the storms of our lives.  Rather, as Tertullian wrote in De Baptismo more than 1,800 years ago, “That little ship did present a figure of the Church, in that she is disquieted ‘in the sea,’ that is, in the world, ‘by the waves, that is, by persecutions and temptations.”  The trials and storm will continue until the Lord’s Return, When, “He checks the storm and restores tranquility to His own.”

Stilling the sea brings a confession from the disciples in verse 33.  They are moved with gratitude for their physical safety, but they are also moved with a holy awe for this One whose word the wind and sea obey.  They worship Him.  They accord Him equality and unity with the Father. “Of a truth,” they cry, “thou art the Son of God.”  So the stilling of the sea in one sense is a sign to the disciples.  These men will become the Apostles soon.  It will be their job to establish and organize the Church according to the teachings of Christ.  Like Him, they will face severe persecution. Most will die a martyr’s death.  They need to know who they follow.  They have seen that He can heal the sick and drive away evil spirits.  They have seen that He can multiply the fish and bread as He desires.  They have even seen that He claims authority to declare to true meaning of Scripture and to forgive sins.  Now they see He has power over the wind and the sea.  He can make them do His bidding.  Who can do these things but God alone?  If Jesus can do them, He must be who He says He is; God in the flesh.

If Christ can still the sea, then He can be relied on in times of danger.  If He can deliver the disciples from the waves, He can deliver the Apostles and His Church from the prisons and swords of their oppressors.  That doesn’t mean He will always deliver them.  At some point He will allow them to die in the flesh that they may rest from their labours and be with Him in Paradise.  But these men have seen enough to know that nothing can ultimately harm them. Christ is able to protect them, and He will.  In other words, if He controls the winds and sea, He can get them to Heaven.  So it is with us.  The storm continues, terrible and frightening.  But He is with us.  He can get us through the storm, and when He is ready, He can take us through the storm to Heaven.

Tertullian’s view that the “little ship did present a figure [symbol] of the Church” is absolutely correct.  The Church is tossed and tried, often afraid, and small of faith.  The waves [the world, the flesh, and the devil] are large and powerful.  Yet this small Ship has Christ within it, and He will preserve it until the day He returns to still the waves forever.

We are still in that Ship, and still in that storm.  If you expected an easy passage to Heaven, you were mistaken.  Even in peaceful times, the world, the flesh and the devil try to discourage and defeat us.  In many eras the sea grows red with the blood of the saints.    Fear not, the Son of God is with us.

Thursday

Morning – Psalm 49, 1 Kings 19:1-8, James 2:14
Evening – Psalm 73, Job 21:17-33, Mt. 15:1-20

Commentary, Matthew 15:1-20

It is the dirt on your soul, not the dirt on your hands, that makes you unclean to God.  We humans have a problem with that sometimes.  We see external dirt.  Sometimes, we are even forced to smell it, much to our distaste.  Odious as a really filthy body is to us, a filthy soul is countless times more odious to God.  The Pharisees did not believe they had dirt on their souls.  They were sure they were pure because they kept the ceremonial law, and the ceremonies of that law cleansed their souls.  But the ceremonies, and even the blood sacrifices of the Old Testament ceremonial law, never could and never did atone for sin.  They covered symbolic uncleanness, but they never atoned for idolatry, theft, or any of the sins committed in breaking the Moral Law as it is summarized in the Ten Commandments.  This is part of the point Christ is making in verses 3-9.  Only God can cleanse the soul of that kind of dirt.

This brings up an important point.  The Bible does not teach two ways of being “saved.”  Some erroneously teach that Old Testament people were saved by keeping the ceremonial law and sacrifices, while New Testament people are saved by the atoning sacrifice of Christ.  Actually, all who are saved, whether they live in Old Testament or New Testament times, are saved through the sacrifice of Christ.  Those in the Old Testament era were saved by faith in what God would do to forgive them; those in the New Testament era are saved by faith in what God has done to forgive them.  Thus, all who are saved are saved by Christ, not their own works.  They are saved by grace, not law.  

Friday

Morning – Psalm 51, 1 Kings 19:9, James 3
Evening – Psalm 85, 86, Job 24:4-20, Mt. 15:21

Commentary, Matthew 15:21-39

The woman of Canaan is an important element in the Gospel of Christ.  At one time the Hebrews were told to destroy the Canaanites.  The hatred between the two peoples still existed in the time of Christ.  Yet Christ receives this woman and delivers her daughter from the devil.  In Him, the animosity and differences between people disappear.  All are shown to be sinners.  All are shown to be dogs, unworthy to gather the crumbs under His table.  Yet His mercy is for Jew and Gentile alike.  Canaanites and Roman Centurions, Babylonian wise men, and Samaritans are all welcomed into His Church. His blood covers the sins of all who will believe, and unites them in one Family of Faith for all time.


Verses 29-39 record more of the miraculous power and grace of Christ.  He has compassion on the multitudes (vs. 32).  This compassion leads Him to give them their daily bread.  It also leads Him to lay down His life for them that they may eat of the Bread of Heaven.