Reading 1, Matthew 11:1-30
John the Baptist Sends Messengers to Jesus
Now it came to pass, when Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples, that He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities.
2 And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he [a]sent two of his disciples 3 and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”
4 Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: 5 The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”
7 As they departed, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses.9 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. 10 For this is he of whom it is written:
‘Behold, I send
My messenger before Your face,
Who will prepare Your way before You.’
11 “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come.15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear!
1. Question: How are the least in the kingdom of heaven greater than John the Baptist (Hint, Jesus is comparing things in two different realms, earthly and heavenly)?
16 “But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their companions, 17 and saying:
‘We played the
flute for you,
And you did not dance;
We mourned to you,
And you did not [b]lament.’
18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a [c]winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her [d]children.”
Woe to the Impenitent Cities
20 Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent: 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, who[e] are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.”
2. Question: When it says, “He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent,” What do you think they did not turn from that earned them this rebuke and kept them from the kingdom of God?
Jesus Gives True Rest
25 At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. 26 Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. 27 All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him. 28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am[f]gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Note: The yoke in this context is the teaching of the rabbi, teacher or master. To take on their teaching would be to fully believe and put into practice everything the master taught and demonstrated.
3. Question: How can we practice taking on Jesus’ teachings, and what blessing comes from doing this?
Jesus Is Lord of the Sabbath
At that time Jesus went through the grain fields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. 2 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, “Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!”
3 But He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? 5 Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple [g]profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? 6 Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple. 7 But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord [h]even of the Sabbath.”
Notes: Jesus again references Hosea 6:6 in verse 7. In the Gospel’s, when Jesus talks about knowing something, He generally means knowing by practice or doing. On one occasion, Jesus said to the Pharisees, “why call me Lord, Lord and do not do what I say. If you practice doing what Jesus says, then you “know” Him as Lord. If you practice turning to God and putting your trust in Him to Supply all that you need, then you know Him as Jehovah Jireh, the Lord your provider. In our western world influenced by Greek culture, when we speak of knowing something, we are saying that we know about it or have information on it. Here, when Jesus says to the Pharisees, “if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.” He was saying that they don’t know mercy because they don’t practice mercy. If they had really understood that it was by the sacrifices that their sins were being atoned for and they were receiving mercy from God rather than being “spiritual” and being self-righteous for doing a religious rite, they would have been merciful to others rather than judging them.
4. Question: How can we grow in being merciful to others as God has been merciful to us in the way we think and act?
Healing on the Sabbath
9 Now when He had departed from there, He went into their synagogue. 10 And behold, there was a man who had a withered hand. And they asked Him, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—that they might accuse Him.
11 Then He said to them, “What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and it was restored as whole as the other. 14 Then the Pharisees went out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him.
Note: A spirit of religion cares about rules rather than about pleasing God or about people whom God loves and seeks to redeem. It is also very judgmental and condemning (i.e., woman caught in adultery or the Pharisees condemning Jesus to death).
5. Question: What evidence do you see in verses 9-14 of the spirit of religion at work?
Behold, My Servant
15 But when Jesus knew it, He withdrew from there. And great [i]multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all. 16 Yet He warned them not to make Him known, 17 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:
18 “Behold! My Servant whom I
My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased!
I will put My Spirit upon Him,
And He will declare justice to the Gentiles.
19 He will not quarrel nor cry out,
Nor will anyone hear His voice in the streets.
20 A bruised reed He will not break,
And smoking flax He will not quench,
Till He sends forth justice to victory;
21 And in His name Gentiles will trust.”
A House Divided Cannot Stand
22 Then one was brought to Him who was demon-possessed, blind and mute; and He healed him, so that the [j]blind and mute man both spoke and saw. 23 And all the multitudes were amazed and said, “Could this be the Son of David?”
24 Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, “This fellow does not cast out demons except by [k]Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.”
25 But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. 28 But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house. 30 He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.
6. Question: Jesus said, “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.” How can we be with Him?
Reading 3, Matthew 12:1-30
Blasphemy against the Spirit not forgiven
31 “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men.32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.
7. Question: Based on the context of verses 22-30, what is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.
A Tree Known by Its Fruit
33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. 34 Brood[l] of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 A good man out of the good treasure [m]of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. 36 But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
8. Question: If you were to summarize verses 33 – 37 into one sentence, what would it be?
The Scribes and Pharisees Ask for a Sign
38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.”
39 But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. 42 The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here.
9. Question: What do you think was the problem them looking for a sign (38-42)?
An Unclean Spirit Returns
43 “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. 44 Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. 45 Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.”
Jesus’ Mother and Brothers Send for Him
46 While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him. 47 Then one said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.”
48 But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” 49 And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers!50 For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”
Question: What do you think Jesus was talking about when He said, “For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” (see also John 1:11-13, John 6:29, John 10:27-28).
The Parable of the Sower
On the same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the sea. 2 And great multitudes were gathered together to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore.
3 Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. 6 But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. 8 But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
The Purpose of Parables
10 And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?”
11 He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the [n]mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. 13 Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says:
‘Hearing you will
hear and shall not understand,
And seeing you will see and not perceive;
15 For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I [o]should heal them.’
16 But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear;17 for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.
The Parable of the Sower Explained
18 “Therefore hear the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. 20 But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. 22 Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. 23 But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”
10. Question: What do you think Jesus is talking about in verse 23 in the context of verses 18-23?
The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares
24 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way.26 But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. 27 So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’ 28 He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ 29 But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.” ’ ”
Reading 5, Matthew 13:31-58
The Parable of the Mustard Seed
31 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, 32 which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”
The Parable of the Leaven
33 Another parable He spoke to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three [p]measures of meal till it was all leavened.”
Prophecy and the Parables
34 All these things Jesus spoke to the multitude in parables; and without a parable He did not speak to them, 35 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying:
“I will open My
mouth in parables;
I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world.”
The Parable of the Tares Explained
36 Then Jesus sent the multitude away and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.”
37 He answered and said to them: “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, the good seeds are the sons of the kingdom, but the tares are the sons of the wicked one. 39 The enemy who sowed them is the devil, the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are the angels. 40 Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age. 41 The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, 42 and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!
11. Question: Where is the first place we need to concern ourselves with lawlessness and why (see Matthew 23:27-28)? How do we deal with lawlessness on the inside?
The Parable of the Hidden Treasure
44 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, 46 who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
The Parable of the Dragnet
47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea and gathered some of every kind, 48 which, when it was full, they drew to shore; and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come forth, separate the wicked from among the just, 50 and cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
51 [q]Jesus said to them, “Have you understood all these things?”
They said to Him, “Yes, [r]Lord.”
Jesus Rejected at Nazareth
53 Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these parables, that He departed from there. 54 When He had come to His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, “Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works? 55 Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, [u]Joses, Simon, and Judas? 56 And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?” 57 So they were offended at Him.
But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.” 58 Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.
12. Question: Based on what we read in 53-58, why did Jesus not do many mighty works or miracles in His own area? What can we learn from this?