This may be the beginning of the New Testament, but it is not the beginning of God’s revelation. It is not the beginning of His redemption. The birth of Christ is a fulfilment of prophecy: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a Son, and they will call Him Immanuel’ (1:23; Isaiah 7:14). Where is the child to be born (2:4)? The answer to this question (2:5-6) comes to us from the Scriptures (Micah 5:2). Read the Scriptures. Find the Saviour. This is still God’s Word to us today. The wise men worship Jesus – then they return to their own country. We know nothing about their return journey, their destination or their life in their own country. Their whole purpose was to point away from themselves to Jesus.The story unfolds according to God’s saving purpose and not Herod’s Satanic schemes. Herod dies. Jesus lives. The purpose of man is defeated. The purpose of God prevails.
John pointed away from himself to the Lord Jesus Christ – then he retreated into the background. With John, we must learn to say, ‘Christ must increase, I must decrease’ (John 3:30). Jesus’ baptism directs us to Pentecost – the descent of the Spirit (3:16; Acts 2:1-4). In Jesus’ victory over the devil, we see the importance of Scripture – ‘It is written’ (4:4,7,10). When the tempter comes, we must stand on God’s Word: ‘every Word that comes from… God’ (4:4). ‘When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left until an opportune time’ (4:12). Satan will try again, but – for now – he has failed to stop Jesus setting out on His ministry. Jesus’ ministry reached ‘great crowds’ through His ‘teaching… preaching… and healing’ (4:23-25). Here, we see the Word of the Lord triumphant over Satan, fulfilled in Christ, and effective in the lives of the disciples and the crowds.
The way to happiness is the way of holiness. The truly happy life is the Christ-centered life. Our lives are to be centred on Christ – ‘it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me’ (Galatians 2:20). We must build on Christ. We must build on God’s Word. Living for Christ is very different from worldly living. The heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. Jesus asks us, ‘What’s going on in your heart?’ We are not to pray one thing and do another. We are to live the Lord’s Prayer. Holiness is to be seen. Happiness is to be shared. As we learn from Christ, we must ask ourselves these important questions: Do we read God’s Word solely for our own benefit? Are we learning to share His Word with others? Don’t let your light grow dim. Let it shine brightly. Remember – all the glory belongs to God (5:16; Psalm 115:1).
Christ calls us to decision. Some say ‘Yes’ to Him – and they are blessed. Some say ‘No’ – and they miss out on the blessing. Let there be no half-heartedness: ‘I will follow you, Lord, but…’ (Luke 9:61). May it always be, ‚Yes, Lord!’ Jesus said, ‘Follow me’. Matthew ‘rose and followed Him’ (9:9). Where does the desire to follow Christ come from? Does it come from our own sinful hearts? No! It comes from the Word of Christ, spoken in power and love: ‘He drew me and I followed on, charmed to confess the Voice Divine.’ Jesus was sent to preach the Gospel. We are to bring the Gospel to other people. Jesus was ‚teaching, preaching and healing’ (9:35). What opportunities there are to bring the love of Christ to many people! These opportunities will be missed if ‘the labourers’ remain ‘few’ (9:37). Many are ‘harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd’ (9:36). We must not fail them!
Jesus gave authority to His disciples (10:1). He gives authority to us – the authority of the Word and the Spirit: ‚you will be given what to say’ by ‘the Spirit of your Father speaking through you’ (10:20). We are to live in the power of the Spirit: ‚Be filled with the Spirit’ (Ephesians 5:18). We are to live in accordance with the Scriptures: ‚Let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly’ (Colossians 3:16). ‘A student is not above his teacher nor a servant above his master’ (10:24). Christ is our Teacher. He is our Master. We are to be like Him. Pleasing God is more important than pleasing people. May God help us to lead people of this generation to Christ, the ‘Friend of sinners’ (11:19). Before there can be conversion, there needs to be conviction of sin. None of us can come to the Saviour of sinners without first seeing ourselves as sinners who need the Saviour.
‘Here is My Servant whom I have chosen, the One I love, in whom I delight’ (12:18; 3:17; 17:5). As we read of Jesus, let us give thanks for all that God has done for us in Christ (Ephesians 1:4-6). Let us commit ourselves afresh to His service (1 Corinthians 15:58). Jesus ‘drove out demons by the Spirit of God.’ In Him ‘the Kingdom of God had come’ (12:28). In Him, we are victorious (Romans 8:37; Revelation 12:11). Jesus teaches us the real meaning of being related to Him: ‚Whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother ‚ (12:50). ‘He who has ears, let him hear’ (13:10): Receive God’s Word in obedient faith, and your knowledge of God will increase (13:12). The seed of God’s Word is growing – even where it doesn’t appear to be bearing much fruit. What a difference even a few believers can make to a whole community!
‘Jesus withdrew privately to a solitary place (14:13). Strengthened by His Father, He continued on His way – the way that would lead Him to the Cross. If suffering lies ahead of us, God will give us His strength. We read of the feeding of the five thousand (14:15-21). We think of the Lord’s Supper – the bread and wine, symbols of Jesus’ body broken for us and His blood shed for us (26:26-28). The Pharisees were preoccupied with washing the hands (15:2). They missed out on the most important thing – the cleansing of the heart. We must pray for the cleansing of the heart. We read of ‚the sign of Jonah’ (16:4). Jonah was raised from ‚the belly of a huge fish’ (12:40). We ‘remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead’ (2 Timothy 2:8). In Christ, ‘the Son of the living God’ (16:16), we have a Saviour against whom ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail’ (16:18).
Peter, James and John They turned their eyes upon Jesus (17:8), they looked full in His wonderful face (17:2) – and the things of earth grew strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace. The disciples failed and were called to greater faith (17:16,20). The kind of welcome we give to children shows the kind of welcome we give to ‘Jesus’ who ‘loves the little children’ (18:5). May God help us not to fail the rising generation. God is holy. God is love. We need both holiness and love – for the sake of the ‘large crowds’ who need the Saviour (19:2). What we cannot do for ourselves, God does for us (19:23-26). The Gospel humbles us and exalts God. Before we can be exalted by God and with Him, we must be humbled by God and before Him. ‘Eternal life’ (19:16) begins when, conscious of our sin – ‘Who then can be saved?’ (19:25) – we look to Christ alone for salvation.
The workers served for different lengths of time (20:1-7). They received equal payment (20:8-16). Some have served the Lord a long time. Some have served Him a short time. The length of time is not the most important thing. More important is this: each one of us has been saved by grace. Pray that the spirit of praise will overcome the spirit of pride (21:15). We will encounter unbelief – even in the place of worship (21:23). Let there be no more ‘I will not’ – let there be repentance, entering God’s Kingdom and doing His will (21:29- 31). One man was ‘not wearing wedding clothes’ (22:11). Without Christ’s righteousness we are naked and ashamed. Do you want to enter God’s Kingdom? Make sure you are clothed in Christ’s righteousness. The Pharisees tried ‘to entangle Jesus in His talk’ (22:15). Let there be no more trick questions. Give the answer of faith: ‘You are the Son of the living God’ (16:16).
Jesus loves us. He longs for us to return to Him and be forgiven. Many times we refuse His appeal of love: ‘you would not’ (23:37). In love, He waits for us to say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord’ (23:39). Jesus speaks of ‘the sign of His coming and of the end of the age’ (24:3). There will be times of testing (24:9,21). Beyond the time of testing, there will be the return of the Lord (24:29-30). When He returns need not concern us: ‘the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect’ (24:44). We are to be ready at all times (25:13) – doing the Lord’s will (24:46). We are to be faithful to God (25:21). There is a reward for faithfulness (25:29; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15). Our ‘reward’ is not to get more glory for ourselves. Bringing glory to God – this is to be our greatest joy.
Jesus wanted everyone to know about the woman’s great love for Him (26:13). Jesus loves us so much (26:28). How can we say ‘No’ to His love? ‘All the disciples forsook Him and fled’ (26:56). The fleeing disciples became men ‘on fire’ (Acts 2:3). No more ‘fleeing’. Now it was ‘flowing’ – ‘rivers of living water’ (John 7:38). Three times Peter denied the Lord (26:69-75). Three times Jesus asked him, ‘Do you love Me?’, three times Peter answered Jesus, ‘I love You’ (John 21:15-17), three thousand souls won for Christ (Acts 2:41). We are invited to ask ourselves, ‘What shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?’ (27:22). The sinless Saviour takes the place of the guilty sinner (27:26; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Salvation comes from above, from God – ‘The curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom’ (51). He has risen (28:6) – the fact stands, even when many doubt and few worship (28:17).