6th April: Matthew 16:5-23
What a contrast there is between Jesus Christ and the religious leaders of His day. Three times, we are told to ‘guard against…the Pharisees and Sadducees’ (6,11-12). These men had religion without salvation. They claimed to have faith in God, yet they despised Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Saviour of sinners. We are to guard against the ‘Pharisees and Sadducees’. We are to glory in Christ, God’s Son, our Saviour. In Christ, ‘the Son of the living God’ (16), we have a Saviour against whom ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail’ (18). Our faith is like Peter’s – sometimes strong (16-17), often weak (22-23). Our Saviour is always strong. We ‘are weak, but He is strong’ – may we never ‘outgrow’ this simple testimony, as we confess our sin and glory in our Saviour who forgives sin.
7th April: Matthew 16:24-17:13
There will come a time when the glory of God will be fully revealed – ‘the Son of man is going to come in His Father’s glory’ (27). Here on earth, there are ‘foretastes of glory divine’: verse 28 may be understood in connection with the transfiguration (2) – the divine glory of heaven breaking through into our human life on earth. Revelations of glory prepared these men for discipleship. They turned their eyes upon Jesus (8). They looked full in His wonderful face (2). The things of earth grew strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace (Mission Praise, 59,712) – ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here’ (4). The ‘mountain top’ experience could not be preserved – no ‘three shelters’ (4)! We can continue to worship, hear Jesus’ words and look to Him (6-8), rejoicing in His suffering for us (12) and awaiting His return to ‘restore all things’ (11).
8th April: Matthew 17:14-27
Epilepsy is an illness. In this case, there was something more – demonic involvement (18). The disciples failed and were called to greater faith (16, 20). They were ‘greatly distressed’. Troubled by talk of His death, they failed to hear this: ‘He will be raised on the third day’ (23). Jesus paid the annual temple ‘tax’ (24-27). His first allegiance was to God, yet He did not ignore His other responsibilities. There is a lesson for today’s Church here. We are to be one body of Christ – not two groups, ‘spiritual’ and ‘social’, each looking down on the other: ‘too earthly-minded to be any heavenly good’, ‘too heavenly-minded to be any earthly good’. We need the high spiritual principles: ‘we will devote ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word’ (Acts 6:4), but we must not forget the ordinary things that need to be done!
9th April: Matthew 18:1-14
From Jesus’ reply to the question: ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ (1), we learn much about the valued place children are to have among us. Our attitude to children is to be marked by humility, respect, responsibility and – above all – love. (a) humility: We teach the children. We can learn from them (2-4). (b) respect: Physically, we may look down on them. Spiritually, we must ‘not look down’ on them (10). They are to be highly valued. (c) responsibility: What kind of influence do we have on the children? – This is a question of the greatest importance (6). (d) love: Our ‘Father in heaven’ loves the children (14). The kind of welcome we give to children shows the kind of welcome we give to ‘Jesus’ who ‘loves the little children’ (5). May God help us not to fail the rising generation.
10th April: Matthew 18:15-19:2
Discipline and forgiveness are not opposites. They belong together. Discipline is to be part of our caring. If it is not carried out in a caring way, it is not the discipline of the Lord. It is the expression of human arrogance. Where there is a genuine desire to honour God and do His will, we have more than some human beings imposing their own will upon others. We have God at work, purifying His Church. The link between discipline (15-17) and forgiveness (21-35) is prayer (18-20). Without prayer, we will never achieve a true balance between discipline and forgiveness. We must avoid a harsh legalism which knows nothing of God’s love. We dare not soft-pedal the moral demands of discipleship. God is holy. God is love. We need both holiness and love – for the sake of the ‘large crowds’ who need the Saviour (2).
11th April: Psalm 5:1-12
This is a morning prayer: ‘morning by morning’, we are to come before the Lord ‘in expectation’ of His blessing (3). The Psalmist prays with great earnestness. His prayer is a ‘sighing’ before God, a ‘cry for help’ (1-2). He acknowledges the holiness of God: ‘You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil, with you the wicked cannot dwell’ (4). The words of verse 9 apply to every one of us. Paul quotes this verse in support of the conclusion that ‘all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:13, 23). There is, however, a way of coming to God. It is ‘by His mercy’ (7). Each of us has been declared guilty by God (10; Romans 3:19-20). For the fallen, God has provided a way of forgiveness. For the guilty, He has provided a way to gladness (11; Luke 2:10-11). ‘Hallelujah! What a Saviour!’ (Church Hymnary, 380).