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.
19 February Mt 17:22-27
Even though Jesus had been glorified on the mountain (17:2-5), the disciples continued to misunderstand Him and His mission. He speaks of His death and resurrection, but their grief suggests they heard only the first part (v.23). Nor has Peter grasped that Jesus is the Son of the God of the temple in a unique sense, and therefore exempt from the temple tax (vv.24-26). Yet despite their failures of faith – and ours – Jesus continues to supply every need (v.27). Such is His grace!
20 February Mt 18:1-5
Aren’t you glad you didn’t ask the question in v.1? How embarrassing it now seems. Plainly the disciples were motivated by more than just theological curiosity. They were arguing about their own importance – something that’s destructive in any family, including the church. So Jesus reminds us that the rule of His new family is humility (vv.2-5). To enter His kingdom we must stoop low (Mt 5:3). The one God counts great is the one who willingly accepts the lowly position (v.4) – as Jesus did (Php 2:8).
21 February Mt 18:6-9
Jesus continues to show us how to treat those who become like little children by believing in Him (vv.3,6). We are to understand that other Christians, so precious to the Lord, are vulnerable, and we are to protect them. Our life influences others, for better or for worse. If we turn others away from Christ, His judgement on us will be terrible indeed (vv.6-7). So let us take drastic action before we cause others to sin and are ourselves condemned (vv.8-9). Act now!
22 February Mt 18:10-14
Jesus underlines how precious every one of His followers is to Him, and how they must be dear to us too. They have great importance to God (v.10), so much so that no matter how many sheep in His flock, He goes after the one that strays (vv.12-14). How, then, can we be carelessly indifferent when another Christian falls into sin and wanders from the church? Surely we must seek to bring them back, not simply write them off. Whom is Jesus asking you to help restore?
23 February Mt 18:15-20
Jesus tells us how to restore one who strays (vv.15-17), beginning privately but ending publicly in excommunication by the church if the warning is not heeded. Church discipline is not alien to the spirit of Jesus, for it is He who commands it in love. The goal is not punishment, but restoration, and as we work to this end Jesus is with us and working through us (vv.18-20). Do we practice what our Lord teaches here? A church with no discipline does not care for the flock as Jesus does.
24 February Mt 18:21-35
But what do we do if the straying one repents? We forgive! And if it happens time and again? More forgiveness! Peter’s attempt to put a limit on forgiveness (v.21) is embarrassing in the light of how much God has forgiven us (v.24). Jesus’ parable makes one big point: since God has forgiven us so much, we must be ready to forgive one another. Forgiving grace transforms us, so that we can and must forgive others. An unforgiving spirit warns us of our own need to repent and seek grace.
25 February Mt 19:1-12
The Pharisees’ question about divorce reflects their whole difficulty with Jesus: they are not truly seeking God’s purposes. Grounds for divorce were much debated in Jesus’ day. However, Jesus rejects their starting point (“How much freedom do we have to divorce?” v.3) and speaks instead about God’s purpose in marriage (lifelong union vv.4-6). Consider this carefully, if you are not yet married (vv.10-12); commit yourself fully, if you are. Remember: Jesus, not our broken culture, is Lord.