27th March: Matthew 14:1-14
John the Baptist was ‘arrested’ and ‘put in prison’ (3). Shortly after this, he was ‘beheaded’ (10). John was a faithful man. He was ‘faithful unto death’ (Revelation 2:10). His death arose directly from his faithfulness to God. He died as a ‘martyr’. Following the death of John, news came to Jesus, who was to die as our Saviour. How did Jesus react to this news? – First, ‘he withdrew…privately to a solitary place (13). Then, having renewed His strength in the presence of His Father (Isaiah 40:31), He stepped out again into the sphere of public ministry. He continued on His way, the Way that would lead Him to the Cross. What are we to learn from John, the faithful martyr, and Jesus, the faithful Saviour, who gave Himself in death for us? We are to be faithful to God. If suffering lies ahead of us, He will make us strong.
28th March: Matthew 14:15-36
We read of the feeding of the five thousand (15-21) and the walking on water (25-33), and our thoughts go to Calvary. From the feeding with bread and fish, we move to the bread and wine, symbols of Jesus’ body broken for us and His blood shed for us (26:26-28). From the confession of faith – ‘Truly You are the Son of God’ (33), we move to the Cross to hear the centurion’s words of faith; ‘Surely He was the Son of God!’ (27:54). We see Jesus, the Man of prayer (23), the Healer (35-36), and we look to the Cross, where we experience the healing influence of His prayer for us; ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’ (Luke 23:34). ‘Thank You for the Cross, The price you paid for us, How You gave Yourself, So completely, Precious Lord, Now our sins are gone, All forgiven, Covered by your blood, All forgotten, Thank You, Lord’ (Mission Praise, 632).
29th March: Matthew 15:1-20
The Pharisees were preoccupied with washing the hands (2), yet they missed out on the most important thing – the cleansing of the heart. They were obsessed with ‘correct’ religious ritual, yet they sent Christ to the Cross. They honoured God with their words, yet in their hearts they were far from Him (8). We must pray for the cleansing of the heart: ‘Purify my heart, Cleanse me from within And make me holy. Purify my heart, Cleanse me from my sin, Deep within’ (Songs of Fellowship, 475). When Jesus was buried, He was wrapped in a ‘clean linen cloth’ (27:59). This was followed by His mighty resurrection. Without lapsing into hypocritical obsession with outward appearances, we make this simple comment: the ‘resurrection’ of God’s work among us will come as we pray earnestly for the cleansing of our hearts.
30th March: Matthew 15: 21-16:4
Above all Jesus’ miracles, we celebrate His mighty resurrection from the dead (28:5-7). This miracle is referred to in 16:4 – ‘the sign of Jonah’: Jonah was raised from ‘the belly of a huge fish’, Jesus has been raised from ‘the heart of the earth’ (12:40). We are to ‘remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead’ (2 Timothy 2:8). In the girl’s healing (21-28), we see the risen Lord’s great triumph over evil – evil men tried to put Him down, but He did not stay down (Acts 2: 23-24). In the feeding of the crowd (36-37), we see the risen Lord’s ongoing ministry of feeding His people. Here, we compare verses 36-37 with the Lord’s Supper: (a) He took bread; (b) He gave thanks; (c) He broke it; (d) He gave it to the disciples; (e) The bread is shared with the people; (f) All are satisfied. All glory to the risen Lord !
31st March: Proverbs 2:1-15
There is a real call for spiritual growth here. We are to accept God’s words, storing up His commands, turning our ears to wisdom and our hearts to understanding (1-2). If we are to grow in the fear and knowledge of God, we must pray for insight and understanding. These blessings are greater than silver and hidden treasure (3-5). In the Christian life, there is both promise and warning. There is God’s promise – you will be led in a way that ‘will be pleasant to your soul’ (10). There is His warning – make sure that you do not ‘leave the straight paths to walk in dark ways’ (13). It is very important that we take time to read God’s Word, since it is ‘the Lord’ who ‘gives wisdom’. We must listen for God’s Voice, speaking to us through Scripture (6). As we listen to Him, we will be led in ‘every good path’ – protected and victorious (7-9).