A Prayer Prompted by Matthew 22

Heavenly Father,

We say yes to your invitation to come to marriage supper of the Lamb, our Lord Jesus Christ. As we do, however, we admit that it is only by your grace and his shed blood that we can come.  It is not on the basis of our own righteousness.

We then confess our belief in Jesus as both our human Savior and our divine Lord.

We acknowledge our belief in the resurrection of the dead, and to that end we cry, “Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus,” as we await his soon return.

We also pray that you would help us to be model citizens while here on this earth, obeying those in authority and faithfully paying what we owe. At the same time help us to remember that all earthly authority is still subject to you.

Finally, we ask your help in doing all that we do in love, first of all in love for you, but also in love for others – a love that no one could deny in both our attitudes and our behavior.

And we pray all of this in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Amen.

A Prayer Prompted by the Triumphal Entry of Matthew 21:1-10

Heavenly Father,

When Jesus came into Jerusalem that day, the crowds hailed him as their coming king.  In a few days, however, it is likely that some of these same people were crying out against him, which resulted in Christ being crucified.

I have already contributed to the sin for which Christ died.  From now on, by your grace, I hope to hail him and serve him as king.

Let me always be among those who worship and honor Jesus.  Help me to give him his rightful place in my life, my priorities and my desires.  Let me know more what it means that Jesus saves, even as the crowds cried “Hosanna!” or “Save now!”

Whether they imagined their Messiah’s ministry properly or not, this Palm Sunday crowd had one thing right.  Jesus was their king and their Savior.  He was worthy of heir worship and praise.  Help me to continuously bring glory to Jesus.  He is worthy of all the praises that have ever been uttered or will ever be uttered by every worshiper in all of eternity.

It is him that we serve, that we worship and that we will praise forever.

Amen!!

The benefit of a little guilt – Matthew 21:28-32

After entering Jerusalem, Jesus told a parable about two sons.

28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go.31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.”

Jesus was speaking here to the chief priests and elders of the people who had just questioned his authority (v.23).  He explained this parable without any request to do so, making sure that his audience knew exactly what he was saying by it.

The lesson has to do with doing God’s will in the end, as a final outcome.  Many people express good intentions.  The chief priests and elders would have been perceived as just the kind of people who were known for doing God’s will.  If that were the case, they should have been the first in line expressing their repentance and receiving the baptism of John. 

When we understand the nature of sin, we realize that we are all in need of repentance.  That sense of guilt would be even more pronounced when coming face-to-face with the likes of John the Baptist.  Yet these guys are so numb that they even question the authority of Christ.  Their relationship with God was little more than a nice show, having no humility or sense of need.

On the other hand, tax collectors like Matthew our author and prostitutes saw their sin.  Like the first son in the parable, they did not do the will of the Father from the beginning, but later changed their mind.  They repented at John’s preaching and followed Jesus with transformed lives.  In a culture obsessed as ours is with not making anyone feel bad, let’s take note that as far as Jesus is concerned a little guilt can be a good thing.  There is no repentance without it.

 

Matthew 20 Verse by Verse

Matt photoJesus tells a parable about rewards which leads to some surprises.  Then he once again foretells his death and resurrection.  He also gives his disciples a lesson on greatness.

Matthew 20.mp3     (Kenny Washington)

A Prayer Prompted by the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard – Matthew 20:1-16

Heavenly Father,

I count it as a privilege to serve you, so help me always to be content in my service.  Help me also to be content with what you bless me with in the way of wages or rewards.  I know that all that you give me, especially that which will come my way in eternity is completely undeserved.

Help me not to look at the service or the wages of others in such a way as to make me envious of them.  I can easily forget that you are always fair and even generous when I fall into improper comparisons.

In the deepest sense it is really not possible for me to see what others experience as they serve you.  I cannot see their inner conflicts or background struggles, nor can they fully see mine.  In the end, all of us truly need to trust you and know that all that we have from you is all of grace.

Keep us ever mindful of your goodness and grace toward us.

In Christ,
Amen

Seeking positions – Matthew 20:20-28

20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. 21 And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” 22 Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” 23 He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” 24 And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. 25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, 28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

There may be a proper motive and a right way to seek desired positions within the church, but it isn’t easy.  Whatever it is, James and John still had to learn how to do it and so did their mother.

To refuse a position of responsibility, should it be offered to us, is to risk sounding like Moses.  He argued with God at the burning bush over his calling to lead Israel out of Egypt.  At the same time, to seek the position is risk looking like Zebedee’s family in the passage above.

God calls people to take positions of responsibility.  We don’t call ourselves.  The most balanced attitude toward this service/greatness tension might have been both expressed and lived out by Archbishop William Temple, who said, “I have never sought and never refused a position of greater responsibility,”*

The key might be in the love of the service itself, rather than the position.  Paul put it like this in 1 Timothy 3:1, “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.”  The task, not the office, is the motivator.  Jesus uses terms like “servant,” “slave,” “to serve,” and “to give his life,” to describe his own mission.  Ours may look similar to his.

If we focus on service, we won’t get derailed by seeking positions.  It may be that a higher position of some sort will come our way.  If it doesn’t, we still get to serve right where we already are.

*Quoted in Green, M. (2001). The message of Matthew: the kingdom of heaven (p. 191). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.