1:1-20 - This is a new ‘beginning’. The prophets had spoken. Now, the Saviour has come. This is Good News. John has prepared the way. Now, he stands aside to make way for Jesus Christ, the Son of God’ (1,11). Following Jesus’ baptism, there was temptation. This was Kingdom against kingdom. Satan’s kingdom was under threat. The Kingdom of God had come. Christ triumphed over Satan. In Him, we triumph when, hearing the Gospel declaration - ‘the Kingdom of God is at hand’ - , we obey the Gospel command - ‘repent and believe the gospel’ (15). With the command, ‘Follow Me’, there is the promise, ‘I will make you...’ (17). Christ’s call is ‘full of grace and truth’ (John 1:14). It is truth - a call to discipleship. It is grace - a call from Jesus. In Christ, we become ‘a new creation’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). We become ‘fishers of men’ (17).
1:21-2:12 - Great things were happening. God was moving in power. In all this, we could easily overlook something very important: Jesus prayed (35). He made time for prayer. This was not wasted time. This was time well spent. Jesus was mighty before men - the power of God was flowing freely. Jesus knew where the power comes from - He was humble before God. We long for this - ‘they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”’ (12). We must pray in faith, bringing people before the Lord, convinced that such prayer ‘is powerful and effective’ (2:5; James 5:16). “If my people... pray..., I will... forgive their sin and heal their land’ (2 Chronicles 7:14). “O Holy Ghost, revival comes from Thee. Send a revival. Start the work in me. Thy Word declares Thou wilt supply our need. For blessing now, O Lord, I humbly plead' (Mission Praise, 587).
2:13-3:12 - Jesus changes people. Levi became Matthew (14). He became ‘a new creation’ (2 Corinthians 5:17). The change of name marked his new birth (John 3:6). To be changed by Jesus you must recognize yourself as a sinner (17). There is a world of difference between legal obedience - ‘old wine’ - and Gospel obedience - ‘new wine’ (21-22). There is an eternity of difference between belonging to God’s Kingdom and remaining outside of His Kingdom (John 3:3,5,7). The religion of the Pharisees was legalistic. The obedience of Jesus was spiritual. Will we follow Jesus, or will we be like these ‘religious’ men who planned ‘to destroy Him’ (6)? It is sadly possible to participate in ‘religion’, professing faith in ‘the Son of God’, in an ‘unclean spirit’ (11). Prompted by the Holy Spirit, let us truly confess that ‘Jesus is Lord’ (1 Corinthians 12:3).
3:13-35 - The conflict intensifies. The ‘twelve’ are ‘sent... to cast out demons’ (14-15). Jesus is accused of being demon-possessed (22). Jesus warns against ‘an eternal sin’ - blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (28-30). With the offer of forgiveness - ‘the blood of Jesus... cleanses us from all sin’ - , there is the call to ‘confess our sins’ (1 John 1:7,9). ‘If we say we have no sin’ (1 John 1:8,10) and no need of Jesus Christ as our Saviour, we resist the Holy Spirit who seeks to convict us of our sin and lead us to the Saviour (John 16:8-9,14). Are you anxious about ‘an unpardonable sin’ ? Let the Holy Spirit lead you to the Saviour. Take your sin to Jesus, and let His ‘perfect love cast out your fear’ (1 John 4:18). Do you think you cannot be forgiven ? God’s thoughts are ‘higher’: ‘Return to the Lord... He will abundantly pardon’ (Isaiah 55:6-9).
4:1-34 - God’s Word carries this message: ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit says...’ (9; Revelation 2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22). We must listen for the voice of the Spirit. Grace has been ‘given’ to us (11). It is God's gift. To God be the glory! Sadly, some refuse to listen. Think about your response to God's Word (15-20). Let your light shine (21-23; Matthew 5:16). Use your gifts, or lose them (24-25). We preach the Word. God gives the growth (26-29; 1 Corinthians 3:6-7). A small child can count the seeds in an apple. Only God knows how many apples there are in a single seed! God’s Word is a ‘seed’ which bears much fruit (30-32; 1 Peter 1:23-25). Parables whet the appetite - for more! They were given to people ‘as they were able to hear it’ - ‘a starter’ (33-34)! May we be ‘visual aids’ to whet people’s appetite - for God!
4:35-5:20 - Jesus was sleeping because He was tired - not because He didn't care (38)! He does care. Everything was under control. Faith was being tested. Fear and faith are opposites (40). ‘Awe’ (41) is very different from unbelieving fear. Awe leads to worship. Fear destroys faith. The man was filled with 'unclean spirits' (13). He was a ‘demoniac’ (15-16). No one could do anything for him (3) - except Jesus! They tried to ‘subdue’ him (4). Jesus saved him! He is able to lift from the guttermost... and ‘save to the uttermost’ (Hebrews 7:25). The human situation is hopeless (Ephesians 4:18-19; 2 Corinthians 4:4) - without Christ! With Him, everything changes (2 Corinthians 4:6; Ephesians 4:22-24). ‘'The gates of hell prevail against’ us. They do not prevail against Christ (Matthew 16:18). Tell others what the ‘Lord has done for you’ - God will use your words to bring blessing (19-20).
5:21-6:13 - The story begins with Jairus (21-24). Then, there is an ‘interruption’ - which brought healing to a woman (25-34). The woman had nowhere else to go (25-26). She came to Jesus (27). She was healed - not because she touched His garment (many others were brushing against Him), but because she had ‘faith’ (28,31,34). Jesus brought her out into the open - so that she might confess Him (30,32-33). The new birth can take place in very quiet circumstances - by faith in Christ. Jesus wants us to ‘come out’ - to confess Him. Back to Jairus’ daughter - People thought there was no hope. Jesus said, ‘Do not fear, only believe’ (35-36). Not everyone believes. We can limit the power of Christ among us - by our unbelief (5-6)! We can, however, be called, sent and given authority... (7) - Never forget: The power and glory belongs to God (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).
6:14-44 - They were great men of God - ‘John the baptiser... Elijah... the prophets of old’ (14-15). None of them can compare with the Lord Jesus Christ. These men directed attention to the Lord (1 Kings 18:36-39; Isaiah 52:13-53:12; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27). Of Christ alone, we say, ‘There is salvation in no one else...’ (Acts 4:12). Christ saves - and satisfies: We feed on Him and we are ‘satisfied’ (42). Apart from Him, the human search ends in this: ‘I can't get no satisfaction’. In Him, there is satisfaction - He is the Saviour. Saved, satisfied and sharing - this is what we are to be. To His disciples, He still says, 'You give them something...' (37). We say, ‘We don’t have enough’. He says, ‘I am more than enough’ (2 Corinthians 3:5). Many are ‘like sheep without a shepherd’. We must not fail them. We must ‘teach them many things’ (34).
6:45-7:23 - The storm is raging: ‘they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them’ (48). Jesus draws near, and there is peace: ‘the wind ceased’ (51). Another ‘storm’ continues to rage: ‘Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders...?’ (5). How did Jesus respond to this ‘storm’ of criticism? - He exposed the hypocrisy of those who made the tradition of men more important than the Word of God (7-9,13). He invited ‘the people’ to come ‘to Him’, to ‘hear’, to ‘understand’. His Word was addressed to ‘all’ of them (14). Jesus emphasizes this point: ‘man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart’ (1 Samuel 16:7). The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. Which will it be? - ‘Their hearts were hardened’ (52) or ‘Loving the Lord your God with all your heart’ (12:30).
7:24-8:26 - Verse 27: The Gospel is for all - Jews and Gentiles (John 3:16). It seems like a ‘refusal’. It is not. In love, Jesus says, ‘Show me that your faith is real’. First things ‘first’: Do you really want to be blessed by the Lord ? Or, are you content with ‘going through the motions’ of religious ritual? Is God's Word going in one ear and out the other (deaf)? Are you ashamed of the Lord (dumb)? Jesus ‘makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak’ (37). Jesus feeds those who are hungry - for Him. To those who say, “‘Yes, Lord, even the crumbs’, so long as it comes from You”, Jesus gives much - and we are ‘satisfied’ (28;8). Don’t settle for ‘the leaven of the Pharisees’ (15) - second best (by a long way!) - when you can have Jesus, the very best! ‘Open our eyes, Lord. We want to see Jesus’ (22-26; Mission Praise, 545).
8:27-9:13 - ‘Who do you say that I am ?’: Jesus puts this question to all of us. Some believe He is the Christ. Others do not. Some try to 'sit on the fence'. Everyone makes their response to Him. God is not deceived by outward observance of religion, when it masks an inward refusal to receive Christ as Saviour, to submit to Him as Lord. On the day of judgment, God will not be looking for respectability. He will be looking for faith (Luke 18:8). Peter confessed Christ (29). Then, he was overcome by Satan (33). He became ‘puffed up’ with pride (1 Corinthians 8:1). He forgot that faith comes from divine revelation (Matthew 16:17). We are not ‘to rebuke’ the Lord (32). Looking to ‘Jesus only’ (8; Romans 4:5), we are to live as His disciples (34) - not of this world, as He is not of this world (John 17:14,16; 1 Corinthians 2:12; 2 Peter 1:3-4).
9:14-50 - ‘Our God is able’ (Daniel 3:17). Do we believe this? There is no doubt about God’s power. What about our faith? We come to Jesus, saying, ‘If you can’. Jesus turns things around: ‘If you can! All things are possible to him who believes’ (22-23). This is not so much an appeal for positive thinking. It is a call to prayer (29). Less self-confidence and more confidence in God - This is what we need. God’s greatness is more important than our ‘greatness’ (33-35). Are there things that you don’t understand? Don’t be afraid to ask (32). You may even learn from those who ‘don’t belong to our group’ (38-40). They don’t belong to our group? So what? Do they belong to Christ? That’s what matters. ‘It is better’ (43,45,47) to be Christ’s - than anything else! May our faith, though ‘tested by fire’, grow strong - to God’s glory (49-50; 1 Peter 1: 6-7).
10:1-31 - The Pharisees came to Jesus - ‘to test Him’ (2). They asked Him about divorce (2). He spoke to them about marriage (6-9). We need to be positive, well grounded in the basic principles of God’s Word. When the thorny problems come - as they surely will - we will face them with maturity, and not as ‘children, tossed to fro and and carried about with every wind of doctrine’ (Ephesians 4:14). Jesus loved the little children (13-16). Do we? Some say ‘No’ to the love of Jesus (21-22). Say ‘Yes’ to Him. We cannot save ourselves. Salvation is God’s doing, not ours (26-27). Don’t let ‘self’ take the place of Christ: ‘we have left everything...’ (28). Don’t say, ‘I have given so much to God, done so much for Him, given up so much for Him’. God has given you more! God has done more for you! God has given up more for you! John 3:16.
10:32-52 - Jesus was ‘going up to Jerusalem’ - to the Cross (32). He came to die, ‘to give His life as a ransom for many’ (45). The death of Christ lies at the very heart of the Gospel (1 Peter 1:10-12; 1 Corinthians 1:23 & 2 Corinthians 5:18-21; 1 John 1:7, 2:2; Hebrews 2:9). Don’t think, ‘Glory for me’ (37). Think, ‘Glory to God’ (43-44): ‘God forbid that I should glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Galatians 6:14). Bartimaeus cried out to the Lord for mercy (47). ‘How embarrassing’, some people thought - ‘how undignified’ (48). When God is at work, some people don't like it! They like everything to be dignified - dull and dead! When God is at work, people get converted. This may not please the 'critics', but it pleases God - and that’s what matters. Cry to God for mercy. Your prayer will be heard - and answered.
11:1-33 - Here we learn of the authority of Christ. Calling the ‘colt’ into His service, He says, with authority, ‘The Lord has need of it’ (3). With authority, He speaks to the fig tree (14) - a ‘visual aid’ of His teaching: ‘Every branch of Mine that bears no fruit, He takes away’ (John 15:2). In the temple, He speaks with authority, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer...’ (17). He speaks of authority in prayer: ‘whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours’ (24). The religious leaders did not understand Jesus (27-33). Why? - They didn’t love Him. We can experience His authority: His Word spoken to us ‘in power...’ (1 Thessalonians 1:5). We can exercise His authority: Through prayer, setting His Word free to do His mighty work (Ephesians 6: 18-20) - if we are learning to love Him!
12:1-44 - Jesus - God’s ‘beloved Son’ (6): Rejected by men, raised by God (10-11). Jesus’ enemies tried ‘to trap Him in His talk’ (13). He spoke with wisdom - and so can we. Anointed by the Holy One, we have the mind of Christ (1 John 2:19-20; 1 Corinthians 2:14-16). Christ’s enemies knew ‘neither the Scripture nor the power of God’ (24). We are to speak as those who know the living God (27). Our ‘first’ priority is love for God (29-30). Jesus says, ‘Love your neighbour’ (31). This is not, however, ‘the be-all and end-all’ of our life. There is more. We must not forget God. Jesus is ‘Lord’ (35-37). Let it be: Jesus is my Lord. The scribes had all the external trappings of religion - and nothing else (38-40)! The ‘poor widow’ had very little, yet she had everything that really matters: she loved the Lord (41-44)!
13:1-37 - We are not to be a people whose ‘faith’ is locked in the past! We are to be a people of hope. We look to the future. We ‘see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory’ (26). There may be ‘wars and rumours of wars’ (7). When Christ returns, only one thing will matter: ‘he who endures to the end will be saved’ (13). ‘This day - the noise of battle’: Look beyond all that to ‘the victor’s song’ (Church Hymnary, 481). In human conflict, there is so much of self - ‘We are the people’. When Christ returns, nothing will matter but this: ‘When the roll is called up yonder, I'll be there’ (Mission Praise, 759). We hear of ‘wars and rumours of wars’. Do we say, ‘This is part of our history. It’s always been this way’?. We must remember: Preaching Christ's Gospel is far more important than ‘defending’ our ways (10)!
14:1-25 - Jesus was surrounded by enemies, ‘seeking to kill Him’ (1). There was also a hypocrite, preparing ‘to betray Him’ (10-11). What a joy it was to find a woman with such heartfelt love for Him (3-9). Her love for Christ must never be forgotten (9). There is something else which must never be forgotten - His love for us. Our love for Him can never begin to compare with His love for us. When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper (22-24; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26), we rejoice in His love. Think little of your love for Him. Think much of His love for you. ‘Who His love will not remember? Who can cease to sing His praise? He can never be forgotten throughout heaven’s eternal days' (Songs of Fellowship, 168). Remember Christ, and let your remembering be filled with worship (25; Ephesians 5:19-20; Colossians 3:16-17).
14:26-52 - After ‘they had sung a hymn’ (26), Peter showed that there was a great deal of ‘self’ in him (29). All of us can be like this - ‘they all said the same’ (31). We attend Communion (22-24), we sing hymns (26) - yet still the wrong attitudes persist! We ‘enjoy’ praise, prayer, and preaching - Remember: God is concerned with the whole of life, not just the ‘spiritual’ activities! Christ looked ahead to the Cross - ‘the hour’, ‘this cup’ (35-36). He was far removed from an ‘enjoyable atmosphere’ within which prayer is ‘easy’. Sorely tempted, He prayed, ‘not what I will but what You will’ (36). This was no easy road - the ‘betrayer’ was waiting for Him (42). It was a lonely road - ‘they all forsook Him, and fled’ (50). ‘The gate is narrow, the way is hard’ (Matthew 7:14). May God help us to follow Jesus.
14:53-15:5 - Jesus is ‘the Christ, the Son of the Blessed’. He is ‘seated at the right hand of Power’. He is ‘coming with the clouds of heaven’ (61-62). He is ‘the King of the Jews’: His Kingdom is greater than Herod imagined - it is ‘not of this world’ (2; John 18:36). Why, then, did He remain silent when false charges were brought against Him? He was bearing our sin - That is why ‘He did not open His mouth’ (Isaiah 53:4-7; 1 Peter 2:22-24; 3:18; 2 Corinthians 5:21). He knew that He was going to the Cross - for us (John 10:11,15,17-18). Jesus did not deny us: His silence was a godly silence - ‘He bore the sin of many’, making ‘Himself an offering for sin’ (Isaiah 53:12,10). Will we deny Him? Our silence is a guilty silence (66-71). May Christ’s Word, and His look of love, cause us to weep - and repent (72; Luke 22:61-62; 2 Corinthians 7:10).
15:6-41 - Jesus did not ‘save Himself’. ‘He saved others’ (31). He sacrificed Himself for our salvation. His was the sacrifice. Ours is the salvation. He ‘put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself’ (Hebrews 9:26). Barabbas was ‘released’. Jesus was ‘crucified’ (15). This is the Gospel - He took my place, He died for me. He was ‘forsaken’ by God (34). We are reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:19,21). We rejoice that Christ ignored the mocking call from ‘the chief priests’ and ‘scribes’: ‘come down now from the Cross’ (32). He paid the full price of our salvation. For us now, there is full salvation. His suffering was complete: ‘It is finished’ (John 19:30) was not a whimper of defeat. It was the declaration of victory. All that was needed - He has done for us. Now, He invites us to receive salvation: ‘Come; for all is now ready’ (Luke 14:17).
15:42-16:20 - Dead and buried (44-46) - ‘The End’? No! There is more. An ‘Appendix’? No! A whole new beginning - For Jesus, for us! He is ‘the first fruits’ (1 Corinthians 15:20,23). The full glory is still to come (1 Corinthians 15:24). He has risen (6). ‘At His coming, those who belong to Christ’ will be raised - with Him and by Him - to everlasting life (1 Corinthians 15:23). This is the glory of the resurrection. It is not simply a thing of the past. It is our glorious future - we ‘will be raised imperishable’ (1 Corinthians 15:52). There is a Gospel to be preached - the Gospel of salvation (15-16). May God help us to preach the Gospel ‘everywhere’ - This will involve all of us, not just a few of us! May He give us the joy of seeing Him at work, confirming the message by the signs that attend it (20).