As you read each passage, pray for God’s help. Ask yourself:
- What does God reveal about Himself?
- How is your own heart revealed?
- How does this passage underline the wonder of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ, and your own need of Christ as Saviour and Lord?
- Turn these truths into prayer and praise.
25 December Mt 4:12-17
The arrest of John the Baptist (v.12) marks the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry and also hints at the hostility that surrounds their proclamation of the kingdom of heaven (v.17, compare 3:2). Yet Jesus’ withdrawal to Galilee (v.12) is not simply a retreat from danger. By announcing the kingdom in an area of mixed population, Jesus signals that the good news He brings is for all people, Gentiles as well as Jews, as foretold by Isaiah (vv.14-16 = Isa 9:1-2). Thank God that His Christmas gift includes us!
26 December Mt 4:18-25
Jesus’ calling of these fishermen to “fish for people” meets with an immediate response (vv.20,22). Surely we are meant to learn that the life-and-death nature of Jesus’ call on our life will permit no delay. Does our obedience show that we’ve grasped this lesson? The brief summary of His Galilean ministry (vv.23-25) shows the goodness and kindness of our King’s rule. When King Jesus returns, all His children will experience this complete healing (Rev 21:4).
27 December Mt 5:1-16
The Sermon on the Mount (chs.5-7) has been well described as spoken into the ears of the disciples, but overheard by the world (5:1-2; 7:28). It contains teaching, challenge and summons – are you ready to respond? Vv.3-16 point to the distinctive life of Jesus’ followers. People who display the God-approved qualities of vv.3-12 will be noticed, like salt, light and a city on a hill (vv.13-15). The result? Glory to God (v.16). Come as a spiritual pauper (v.3), and let God make you rich in good deeds.
28 December Mt 5:17-20
This is an immensely important passage of Scripture for understanding how the Bible is put together, and for understanding the role of the Old Testament in the Christian life. Jesus does not abolish the OT Scriptures – He fulfils them (vv.17-18), by bringing to completion everything they promised. Therefore Christians do not abandon the OT Scriptures – we live by them (v.19). We don’t settle for a righteousness which is skin-deep, but hunger for the reality of a pure heart (v.20). Is that you?
29 December Mt 5:21-30
God calls us to inward purity, not simply outward or ritual observance. Thus “do not kill” refers not just to guns and knives, but to looks and words. It obliges us to seek reconciliation where relationships are strained (vv.21-26). “Do not commit adultery” speaks to what we do with our eyes as much as our bodies (vv.27-30). Outward conformity may impress others, but God’s children hunger and thirst after a deeper righteousness. Pray for a heart like God’s: filled with self-giving love.
30 December Mt 5:31-37
The word of the Lord is true (Ps 33:4) and ours should be too, if we really are His children. Negatively, this rules out divorce (vv.31-32: we’ll come to the “sexual immorality” exception when we reach 19:9). It also makes swearing unnecessary (vv.33-37: oaths, foul or otherwise, aren’t needed to confirm the word of those who mirror God’s faithfulness). Positively, our word as Christians is our bond, whether given in marriage, business, or simple conversation. Thank God He keeps His promises. Do you?
31 December Mt 5:38-48
“Revenge is a dish best served cold,” says the world. “Hellish nonsense,” says Jesus, “it’s a poisonous dish and you need to bin it.” But surely we’re not surprised? “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Ro 5:8). We were rescued by a God who loved us though we were His enemies, and now His love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Ro 5:5). We grow to maturity (Mt 5:48) by loving the unlovely, just as our Father loved unlovely us. Which “enemy” needs your love today?