Daily Devotional – 28 Days in the Gospel according to Matthew

Matthew 28:

Matthew’s account of the life of Jesus Christ culminates in His resurrection.  There is angelic proclamation, just as there was at the beginning of Jesus’ life (Matthew 1:20-21).  And also, not just one woman, but two named Mary!  Bribery again interrupts the narrative, as it did with Judas’ betrayal.  And finally, three of the most powerful verses in the Bible!  The Great Commission is given as a gift to the disciples, just as the great gift of Jesus Christ was given to the whole world.

Prayer:

We thank you, Lord Jesus, for the past 28 days of scripture and prayer.  We are so grateful to be Your disciples and to have been given the gift of eternal life, through Your resurrection.  Now Lord, give Your church the power and grace to carry Your word to the entire world!  Amen.

Matthew 27:

Jesus’ identity is the most important question of history.  Notice the identification of Jesus throughout this chapter.  To the chief priests and elders , He was a heretic.  To Judas Iscariot, an innocent victim.  To the crowd, a less desirable prisoner than Barabbas.  To Pilate’s wife, a righteous man.  To Pilate and the Roman soldiers, a mock “King of the Jews.”  To the witnesses of the crucifixion, an object of revilement.  To the centurion (possibly with faith, or possibly not), “a son of God.”  To Joseph of Arimathea, a teacher worthy of burial in his own tomb.  To the Pharisees, an imposter and a threat even in death.

Prayer:

We pray to You as crucified Lord.  Forgive us for those times when we failed to correctly identify You, both before our conversion to Christianity and after.  Forgive us when our words cause You pain, as these words surely did.  Grant us, by Your Spirit, the great gift of clear sight – our Messiah, our Redeemer, our Friend!  Amen.

Matthew 26:

Jesus’ disciples become indignant when His head is anointed with oil, react with shock when He foretells their betrayal, fall asleep when He asks them to remain vigilant, and scatter when He is arrested.  The Sanhedrin arrest Him at night to avoid the crowds, imprison Him, place Him on trial, spit in His face and slap Him.  Worst of all, Judas Iscariot sells Him for 30 coins.  In this chapter, only one person does what is right: the woman with the alabaster flask.  She is the only one to act righteously and truly sees the holy occasion – eating with the Savior of the world.

Prayer:

Oh Lord, may we be less like the Sanhedrin and the scattered disciples, and more like this woman!  May we see You at work in the world, recognizing holy occasions in our own lives, when You have acted in our midst.  Give us eyes to see and ears to hear.  Amen.

Matthew 25:

The two parables in this chapter have a common theme.  The church is to be like well-prepared wedding guests, ready to welcome the bridegroom by bringing plenty of oil for their lamps.  The church is also to be like servants who invest wisely, multiplying the gifts bestowed upon them by their Master, to return a bounty to Him upon His arrival.  The church is not to be unprepared nor is it to hide the gifts given by our Master.  If we receive this parable and believe it, and go do likewise, we shall hear those blessed words, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, we are tempted to dismiss Your coming and put off preparation, and we are also tempted to hold on to Your blessings without sharing them.  We sometimes become stuck in a “me first” religion, grateful for Your gift of salvation for us but not caring if others receive the gift.  Grant us the desire and the will to multiply Your church and to prepare well for Your coming.  Amen!

Matthew 24:

Jesus connects the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem with the end of the age and the signs of the coming of the Son of Man.  His ability to accurately predict the future is unparalleled.  About 40 years after Jesus spoke these words, the Jewish people revolted against the Roman Empire.  This rebellion included the near-complete destruction of Jerusalem, including the temple, which was melted down by fire.  For the people who remained in the city, it was surely an apocalypse, the end of days.

Prayer:

Lord, we may rightly fear You, and many of us fear the future.  We wait with dread upon Your return.  Allow Your children to see redemption rather than dread in Your words – to see Your unending love for all creation, and the need for its complete renewal.  Amen.

Matthew 23:

Jesus delivers seven woes to the scribes and the Pharisees.  Specifically: their rules separate people from God, trapping new believers in their rules.  They value the gold of the offering above God’s house itself, and give from their earthly wealth but neglect justice and mercy (godly values).  They make good outward appearances but neglect their inner cleanliness.  Jesus even accuses them of persecuting prophets in the Lord’s name.  Jesus levels words of conviction and condemnation.  In this chapter, they offer up no reply.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, may we see You as our living Lord, who has high standards for His disciples.  Forgive us if we have erred as the Pharisees did, and allow us to learn from their poor decisions.  Grow Your church in faith and love.  Amen.

Matthew 22:

Jesus’ adversaries take one last stab at defeating him in a war of words.  The Pharisees, Herodians, and Saducees all show up to trick the Son of God.  Jesus responds with deep wisdom – about worldly taxation, about marriage in the resurrection, and about the greatest commandment.  It is no coincidence that Jesus tells a parable about a wedding feast (v. 2-10), to which many ignore their invitation.  These Jewish leaders, who are very wise and earnest in their faith, are missing out on communion with the Christ!  They are the ones refusing the invitation.

Prayer:

Oh Lord, forgive us when our earthly wisdom costs us kingdom opportunities!  May we learn from the Pharisees and humble ourselves.  May we be available to learn from the Master, and may we be ready to take a seat at His table.  Amen!

Matthew 21:

After entering the holy city of Jerusalem, and being greeted as the new King, what does Jesus do next?  His first act within the city is to head to the temple and cleanse it of money lenders, heal the blind and the lame, and receive the praises of children.  After years of ministry in far-off Galilee, Jesus now heals and teaches in parables (v. 28-44) in the capital of Judaism.  If His adversaries had not believed in His works before, Jesus now gives them an up-close demonstration that the kingdom of God is upon them.

Prayer:

Jesus, You are our King.  We cry loud “Hosannas” to You, King of Kings and Lord of Lords!  We believe in Your miracles, we hear Your teachings, and we celebrate the new kingdom which is coming into the world!  Amen.

Matthew 20:

The parable of the laborers in the vineyard (v. 1-16) reveals to us a remarkably unfair quality of God’s kingdom: every laborer receives the same wage.  Similarly, the gift bestowed upon those who enter the kingdom is identical: the gift of eternal life!  When faced with our own greed and desire for more “fair” treatment, what bargaining power do we have?  We may turn down Christ’s offer and risk our souls in the process, or we may accept the higher “fairness” of God’s gifting, that all souls in the kingdom are equally blessed with eternal life, gift beyond measure!

Prayer:

Lord, may we be grateful for the good gifts You give to us, and not jealous of others who also receive these gifts.  Let us rejoice as You do when anyone enters Your kingdom and celebrate with them in Your free gifts!  Amen.

Matthew 19:

Jesus gives us two hard teachings here!  First, He demonstrates the seriousness of marriage by declaring the Mosaic laws of divorce a reaction to “hard hearts” (v. 8).  Second, He warns that rich people will have a difficult time entering the kingdom of heaven.  Those who enter the covenant of marriage should not presume that they may break that bond whenever it suits them, nor should rich people assume that their earthly status earns them extra credit with our God.  Instead, disciples of Christ should adhere to their marriages except in extreme circumstances, and they should not place too high a value on earthly treasure which will not follow us into the new kingdom.

Prayer:

Share Your wisdom and discernment with us, O Lord, that we may make decisions in keeping with Your will.  Bless our marriages, that our attitudes and actions toward our spouses may reflect Your glory.  Also remind us of the frailty of earthly treasure and the everlasting quality of Your gifts!  Amen.

Matthew 18:

God is always concerned for His “little ones.”  The place of honor in God’s kingdom is reserved for those who have child-like humility.  The one sheep that is lost (or a person who has become lost) is precious to Him.  The discovery of a lost “little one” is worth more rejoicing that ninety-nine who were never lost (or people who have been deeper rooted in the faith).  And in the final parable of this chapter, mercy shown to the lesser servant (who owed less debt) was expected, and punishment came to the “greater” servant who refused to forgive the small debt.

Prayer:

Holy God, we recognize that Your will and Your mercy are with Your “little ones.”  May we rejoice as Your people for the participation of children in our churches.  May we rejoice with You in the recovery of one who is lost.  And may we also be quick to forgive others, as You have offered us great forgiveness!  Amen.

Matthew 17:

The time for Jesus to be offered up is drawing closer.  In the presence of His disciples , He is transfigured, He worries about their lack of faith, reminds them that His death and resurrection are coming, and performs a simple miracle to provide for their taxes.  Each of these things point to the resurrection and the week before it – His transfigured form is like His resurrected form, the disciples flee as He is arrested (they lack faith), and His payment of the tax in Capernaum points to the cleansing of the temple (at the start of Holy Week).

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, we often lack faith just as Your first disciples did.  How rarely do we command the mountains to move?  How often do we shrink back from the power of our enemies?  Yet You are powerful, and You are perfect, and You continue to work through the members of Your church!  May we live into the blessing, the promise, that You offer.  Amen.

Matthew 16:

This chapter includes several “reversals” – statements or actions that go in the opposite direction from what we expect. Peter declares, “You are the Christ!” but just a few verses later Jesus calls him “Satan.”  Jesus also said, “whoever would save his life will lose it.” The disciples are focused on normal bread, when Jesus is teaching them to avoid the lessons of the Pharisees (v. 12). As Jesus’ modern-day disciples, who have taken up his cross (v. 24), we see the world differently, and God may reveal deeper wisdom to us if we care to pay attention.

Prayer:

Lord, allow us to be taught and to continue learning, no matter our actual age.  May we declare You as Christ of our lives, and present ourselves ready to follow wherever You shall lead us.  Amen!

Matthew 15:

Jesus makes a controversial statement to a Canaanite woman – “it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs” (v. 26).  In this statement, He compares the woman (and all Gentiles) to the dogs!  But His remark creates an opportunity for her to demonstrate her faith.  Although her act of falling at His feet and begging could be seen as “defilement,” it instead results in her blessing – her daughter is healed!  This is contrasted to the defilement of the Pharisees and the scribes (v. 7-9), who are too concerned with outward holiness and neglect the inward kind.

Prayer:

All sinners are unworthy of the scraps of Your blessing, and yet You have welcomed us in – not as dogs, not as beggars, but as beloved children!  May we pause and bask in Your blessing today.  Thank you for forgiving us and cleanse us from defilement.  Amen.

Matthew 14:

Jesus receives terrible news about his cousin John (v. 13) and tries repeatedly to find solitude in which to properly mourn for John’s death.  But the crowd presses in to receive healing from Him (v. 14); later the disciples are in distress in a storm-rocked boat (v. 24).  So as usual, out of His compassion, Jesus acts on behalf of the people rather than remaining aloof from their troubles.  His power is contrasted to Herod’s lack of power despite his title (v. 9).

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, your watch over us never fails.  We know that when we cry out, You are there!  Come in power, Lord Jesus, and rescue those in need.  Amen.

Matthew 13:

Jesus gives the people glimpses of the coming kingdom of heaven through seven distinct parables: the sower, the weeds, a mustard seed, leaven, the hidden treasure, the pearl of great value, and the net.  Several themes emerge: the ground as incubator of faith, the division between the good and the bad, the blessing beyond value for those who receive it.  The kingdom of heaven may be welcoming, but Jesus’ hometown was not (v. 13:57-58).

Prayer:

May we have ears to hear You, oh Christ.  Let us have clear understanding of your kingdom’s boundaries and seek to be well-rooted, as good soil.  Remind us to stay close to You as our Source and our Redeemer.  Amen.

Matthew 12:

In verse 24, Jesus’ adversaries accuse him of using the devil’s power to cast out demons.  They have unwittingly stepped into a logical trap: can the one who casts out demons do so by the power of demons?  Jesus uses this opportunity to put that wild rumor to rest – he is not Beelzebub, he is the Son of God!  The entire chapter is about choosing whose side we are on, and we cannot straddle the fence.  If Jesus is Lord, then it follows: He may pick grain on the Sabbath, He may heal on the Sabbath, He may not be approached to make a sign, and His fruit is unmistakably good!

Prayer:

Oh God of Heaven, allow us to be completely aligned with you and to completely reject the temptations of this world!  We know the One who holds the power to save us, and yet we sometimes try our own hand, and inevitably we fail.  Forgive us and welcome us back to your fold, oh God of Heaven!  Amen.

Matthew 11:

In this chapter, the author recognizes the importance of sight to us.  As the saying goes, “seeing is believing”!  In verse 3, John the Baptist sends word to Jesus and asks if they should look for another.  Jesus responds to John’s disciples by saying, “Go and tell John what you hear and see.”  The people had heard the words of John, that a greater one was coming.  Now, by Jesus’ actions, they were witnessing the works of the Greater One with their own eyes.  And yet, many still failed to believe (v. 20).

Prayer:

Lord, you know that we are a people who are quick to judge by sight, and slow to believe by faith.  Teach us the value of patience and preparation for Your kingdom.  May we recognize the works that You still do in this world, oh Greater One!  Amen.

Matthew 10:

The word “apostle” translates as “one who is sent out.”  It is because they were chosen by Jesus to go out, as described in this chapter, that these twelve were called apostles – not by any virtue of their own.  As they are sent, Jesus sends them with multiple warnings: against acquiring personal wealth (v. 9-10), to prepare for persecution(v. 17-19), and to be set against close relatives (v. 35-39).  As Christians living today, are we against being “sent out” by Jesus specifically because the sending is hard?

Prayer:

Forgive us, O Lord, for being quicker to move our mouths than our feet!  Inspire and encourage us to once again be sent out by You to change the world around us.  Equip us to be missionaries to our own neighborhoods and families, no matter the cost.  Amen.

Matthew 9:

Jesus administers multiple types of healing in this chapter.  One woman needs healing from bleeding; two men need restored vision; one man is unable to speak.  The Great Physician is able to heal all!  And after all these years, healing is still one of our greatest needs as human beings today.  We need physical healing from cancer and other diseases; healing from our own lofty ego; healing from selfishness across our land.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, you have the cure for every ailment.  May we trust in you more and more to apply the medication we need.  Seek out the sick, Great Healer, and bring life-restoring power as only You can!  Amen.

Matthew 8:

Having spent three chapters on Jesus’ teaching, Matthew now gives his readers a chapter that is focused on Christ’s acts.  He demonstrates power over leprosy, paralysis, fever, evil spirits, and stormy weather.  Yet this man of great power feels compassion for the leper (v. 2), a Centurion, Gentiles (v. 11), and two disowned men possessed by demons (v. 28).  The most powerful One was watching out for the least among us.

Prayer:

Lord God, remind us that actions flow from beliefs.  As we hold your scripture dear to us, as we honor and celebrate your word this month, help us to see ways in which we can live out our beliefs.  May your word haunt us and inspire us to deeper changes in our lives.  Amen.

Matthew 7:

At first glance, this final section of the Sermon on the Mount seems focused on the negative: don’t judge, don’t listen to false prophets, don’t build your house on the sand.  But look instead at all the positive things that Jesus names.  Remove the log from your eye, to assist in your own growth.  Treat others the same way that you wish to be treated.  Build your house upon the Rock.  By giving us these words, Christ demonstrates his love for us and his trust in us!

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, we thank you for the Sermon on the Mount.  Let us not forget your role as our great Teacher.  Continue to educate us and enable your church to continue growing, seeking, and learning.  Amen.

Matthew 6:

The central chapter of the Sermon on the Mount scolds Jesus’ listeners for trying to please others when we should be trying to please God!  Charitable giving, prayer, fasting – these spiritual disciplines will gain us no benefit unless they are fixated upon the Holy One.  How often have we tried to please or impress others by these very things!  And yet, true satisfaction and peace come only when we release our worries to God.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, remind us that you are in complete control of each day, and that we don’t need to fear the future and what it holds.  Remind us that You are the only proper object of our worship, which we send out to You.  Amen!

Matthew 5:

In the first chapter of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus grabs hold of what his audience already knows as their starting point for understanding the new kingdom that was coming into the world – and for understanding the church.  “You have heard that it was said . . . You have heard that it was said . . .” etc.  Jesus had high standards and difficult truths to share with his listeners, so he began with common ground, Jewish laws that were familiar at that time, and then set about rediscovering the original intent of these laws.  In each case, Jesus expects his followers to go beyond a literal application of what they were taught.

Prayer:

Lord, may we be brave enough to step beyond what we already know, and seek after deeper knowledge and new understandings.  Give us adventurous spirits, that we may whole-heartedly seek after the foundations of wisdom from your Word.  Amen.

Matthew 4:

In the previous chapter, we saw Jesus’ cousin John preaching the exact same message – “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (verse 4:17) – and also ministering to people near a prominent body of water.  Jesus began to draw large crowds, just as John had (verse 25).  Verse 12 seems to make it clear that Jesus was intentionally taking over the ministry of the imprisoned John, and like John he would gather disciples to be close followers under him.  One key difference: while John’s enemies were Pharisees and Sadducees, Jesus is challenged by the Adversary of God himself – the name “Satan” literally means “adversary.”

Prayer:

We praise you, Jesus, for coming to bring light to a dark world.  We praise you for your victory over the evil one in the desert.  And we praise you for calling each of us to come and follow you, that we might be your disciples!  Amen.

Matthew 3:

John strikes us as the antithesis of the “typical” preacher: wearing home-spun clothing, eating off the land, holding church out by the river rather than in a finely constructed building.  He has also rubbed the establishment, the Pharisees and Sadducees, the wrong way.  John seems ready to see the temple system overthrown (verse 10).  Yet the heart of his teaching, nine simple words – “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” – remain words of power for God’s church, more than two thousand years after John spoke them.

Prayer:

Oh God, restore in us the urgency of the gospel!  Make us thirsty for Your justice and hungry to see Your kingdom grow.  May we see boundless opportunities to spread the word.  Amen! 

Matthew 2:

Joseph seems to have become accustomed to listening to angels in dreams!  The angels approach him in this way three times, each time to avoid danger to the infant Jesus.  (The angels also speak to the magi by a dream.)  It has been speculated that Bethlehem, being a small town in Judea, and the surrounding region may have been home to fewer than 25 boys under the age of 2 for Herod’s soldiers to kill (verse 16).  In the grand history of human tragedies, their deaths are overshadowed by worse horrors.  Yet what terror, what heartache, for the people of this place!

Prayer:

May we be like Joseph, straining to hear Your voice to warn us of coming danger.  May we be a people who listen when You speak!  Make us attentive to the voices of pain in our communities also, that we may increase in empathy and caring.  Amen.

Matthew 1:

The course of Jesus’ life hangs in the balance as Joseph ponders his choices: dismiss Mary quietly, so as to avoid the shame of her pregnancy before their marriage; or keep her and love her (and her son) anyway.  By listening to the angel of the Lord, and believing the truths told to him, Joseph preserves God’s plan of salvation which began 42 generations previously with Abraham.  14 generations from Abraham to David, 14 generations from David to the exile, and 14 from the exile to the Christ.  And in Matthew’s gospel, this lineage goes through Joseph, who is not Jesus’ biological father.  Yet his role in the unfolding drama is crucial.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, teach us the value that we all hold in Your kingdom.  None is superior, none are insignificant.  Forgive us for those times when we have dismissed the importance of ourselves and the importance of others.  Remind us of our precious worth in Your sight!  Amen.