Category Archives: Matthew

Of God and Birds

Passer_iagoensis_maleI’ve been thinking a lot about God’s care for his people. I get in a rush sometimes and forget just how important his care is to us. Nothing happens secretly. He knows our every care and struggle. That means volumes to me.

As I write this morning I am sitting in our front room looking out onto two bird feeders. It’s still early morning, the shadows are slowly retreating, and I expect the arrival of the birds soon. They are so small and delicate. Yet they weather every storm without harm. For them, food never seems to be an issue. Even when I let the feeders empty they still seem to find food somewhere. The neighborhood cat patrols the area, but I have never seen him with one in his mouth. God takes good care of these seemingly insignificant creatures.

God takes care of me too.

Jesus talked about birds.

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Matthew 6:26)

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. (Matthew 10:29).

With over 10,000 species of birds worldwide it would be impossible to count their actual numbers. They are everywhere. Yet, God knows when one falls or is injured. That’s incredible. But here’s the kicker:

Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:31)

What is Jesus saying? He is saying that if God takes note of the small bird falling to the ground, he will surely take note when you struggle. Even before you beg in prayer, God knows your pain. Before the first tear falls he is already weeping with you.

God truly cares.

Sometimes, in the majesty of his great will, we still must walk through dark places. It is part of the sanctifying process that every Christian goes through. But when we walk in darkness, God is there.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)

Today, look for the birds in your life. They fly through for a reason. They remind you of just how much God really cares.

The Sermon of Sermons

Longman MountJesus was beginning to preach and teach. He went to a nearby mountainside and his disciples began to flock after him. Rumors swirled around Jesus. Although he had not said so, many thought him to be the promised deliverer. At the very least, Jesus was a new and fresh Rabbi come to reach his followers. They were eager to hear his message.

The Sermon on the Mount in chapters 5 – 7 of Matthew is the longest sermon recorded in Scripture. It is one of several sermons of Jesus but it is probably the best known. It is a message for the masses. It is an ethical lesson which carries the disciples to a higher plain of conduct. It is a transition from the physical, earthy Law of Moses to a law of the heart.

Jesus begins by reminding his disciples that here are blessings even in struggle. He speaks of the poor in spirit, those who grieve, those who are meek and those who seek righteousness. He speaks to the merciful, the pure, the peacemakers and even those persecuted for their faith. In all of these struggles, there are blessings ahead (Matthew 5:1-11). It is a beautiful reminder for today. The struggles we face are only temporary; they are only here for a few years and then the blessings come. The Jews struggled under a system led by uncaring and selfish priests. Theirs was a law that cared most about the things you did and less about why you did them. These people needed to know something better was coming.

These hearers are the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13) and a light (Matthew 5:14). What they do will impact others. This is the same message for today. You and I are also salt and light in our culture. While it may seem that men are moving farther and farther from God, and they are, you and I are tasked with calling them back. Remember, it takes very little salt to flavor a meal and very little light in a dark room to illuminate stumbling blocks.

The Sermon on the Mount is made up of several short lessons all combined into a wonderful discourse. Jesus speaks of anger, lust, divorce, anxiety, enemies and serving the poor. But notice a phrase that recurs several times: “You have heard it said…but I say… Jesus is not simply repeating things said by Moses or the prophets. He is speaking new truths. At the very end of the sermon Matthew will record that Jesus spoke “as one having authority” (Matthew 7:29). What the people did not understand at the time was that Jesus was gently moving them from Sinai to Calvary.

One cannot but be impressed at the loving message of Jesus. It was no longer acceptable to carry a grudge and be angry. Nor what it acceptable to ignore someone who was angry towards you. Make it right and find peace (Matthew 5:21-25). Jesus rejects hypocritical judgments in Matthew 7:1-5 and lays forth the beautiful Golden Rule of Matthew 7:12.

As he brings the sermon to an end he reminds people that their conduct (fruit) will follow them. Some today talk about “bad karma.”  Jesus said that you will be known by the fruit of your lives. A good man is known by the fruit he leaves behind. Finally, Jesus speaks of coming judgment. About 40 years later Jesus would bring devastating judgment upon Israel. In years ahead, he will bring judgment on the world. Because we have been warned, Jesus call upon us to act wisely and be prepared.

What would the world be like if we applied the teachings of the Sermon today? What of the Golden Rule was the core of our behavior? If we simply accepted the promises of the Beatitudes and applied the teachings from the Mountain we would all be better people. I am thankful for what Jesus said. How about you?

Bryant Evans may be reached at bryant at You can follow Bryant on Twitter @jbevans.

Judging Others

3D_Judges_GavelA friend recently posted to Facebook that she was unhappy with some who suggest that gay church leaders are living right. Within about an hour someone rebuked her saying  “…you have no right to decide what he does and does not see as ‘living correct’. You are in no place to judge.”  As of this writing, everyone else has encouraged my friend and supported her comments but this is not the first time I have seen people condemn judging. Let’s examine the rebuke above and we will see the flawed logic and imprecise reasoning.

Here is the passage  that is often misunderstood:

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1-5)


Is Judging Wrong?

Judging is not wrong. There is not a verse in Scripture that condemns judging others including those above. Quite the contrary, Christians must judge if they are to carry out the Lord’s commands.

“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness” (Galatians 6:1).

My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back,  let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19-20).

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone” (Matthew 18:15).

Is it not also true that to comply with the Great Commission we must judge?

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-19).

How would it be possible to know who to teach if we did not make a judgement about their present condition?

It is not judging that is wrong; it is the way we judge that may be improper (whoops, did I just judge about judging?).

How We Judge

If we read past t he first 7 or 8 words of Jesus’ teaching we will see that he is speaking of the nature of our judgments. When we judge we must know that we will judge with a similar harshness or gentleness as we have portrayed toward others. In reality, this is just an application of the Golden Rule found a few verses down the page.

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

We are to judge others according to the Golden Rule. Treat others like you would want to be treated yourself. Since you will be judged, how do you want to be judged?

  • Honestly – with true facts, not suppositions or assumptions.
  • Fairly – with all the facts taken in their proper context.
  • Lovingly – with a desire to help me, not destroy me.

We could add more to the list easily but you get the point. These things we desire should be freely given to the person we are called to judge.

We must not overlook the later parts of the Matthew passage. Here Jesus warns of dangerous judgments with blurry vision. Everyone brings their own shortcomings and failures to the table. It is certain that as sinful people we will sometimes be biased or prejudiced in those judgments. But before judging, let us remove sin from our own lives. An awareness of our own spiritual frailty will go far in preventing false judgments.

For what it may be worth, my Facebook friend was fully on point in her judgment.

You can follow Bryant on Twitter @jbevans.
Photo Credit: Chris Potter at Wikipedia Commons




Jesus and Legion

The meeting between Jesus and Legion is fascinating. Jesus converses with the demon and then banishes him into a herd of pigs. The story is exciting and curious, and there are important lessons to be learned. The account is found in Matthew 8:28-34; Mark 5:1-20 and Luke 8:26-39.

Jesus is preaching in Galilee and has just crossed the Sea of Galilee in a boat. During the crossing a terrible storm frightened his disciples into fearing for their lives. Jesus rebuked the winds and waves, the storm ended and calm descended on the waters. Jesus had demonstrated his authority over the elements of nature. Now, stepping onto the rocky bank of the eastern shore of the sea, Jesus is confronted by a man of some local notoriety. The man was possessed. His life was a miserable existence. He wore no clothes and lived among the tombs perhaps sheltering in them during inclement weather. The man immediately confronts Jesus and the disciples. Within minutes, the demons are cast out into nearby pigs which rush headlong into the sea and drown. The narrative provides important learning for us.

Demons are real.

The story is recorded  here by all three of the synoptic writers. The Bible describes them as demons and notes Jesus interaction with them. Demons were objects of worship in the Bible (Leviticus 17:7; Deuteronomy 32:17; Psalm 106:37; 1 Corinthians 10:20-21; 1 Timothy 4:1). The New Testament also records the existence of demons with the word occurring in 68 verses. In most cases, the demons are objects of God’s power to be cast out of men for God’s own glory. Some would wish to ignore the existence of demons and think only on good things. But Satan and his underlings are real.

Demons are not all powerful.

Hollywood, from the days of The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby, have given us the impression that Satan and his demons are as powerful as God himself. But here we see otherwise. In Luke 8:28, the demons came before Jesus and “fell down before him.” This is an act of contrition; it is an act of submission. The demon then begged Jesus not to torment him. The word “beg” translates the Greek, deomai, which means to ask with urgency and with an implied need. The demon knew he needed Jesus’ help and submitted to him.

Demons know and worship the Lord.

It is striking to see a demon bowing before Jesus. We are also caught a bit off-guard when the demon speaks to Jesus and calls him by name. Knowing who Jesus is and even feigning worship to him is simply not sufficient. This echoes James’ statement from James 2:19: “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe and shudder!” Mere believe, apart from obedience is useless (James 2:20).

Jesus wins!

This small story really sums up the entirety of the book of Revelation. Despite the trouble Satan causes, despite the pain he brings, Jesus always wins. When the demons asked Jesus to send them into the nearby swine, Luke simply says Jesus “gave them permission´(Luke 8:32). The demons entered the pigs and they rushed into the sea and were destroyed. The man is next seen sitting clothed at the feet of Jesus and in his right mind. This event was so powerful that the people asked Jesus to leave the region because they feared his great power.

While this is an interesting story, it has a purpose. Like all miraculous acts, the purpose was to build faith in Christ, confirm his words and teachings, and to make more disciples. The formerly possessed man begs Jesus to allow him to travel with him but the Lord says no.  “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.

What a joy to serve a Lord that can command demons to depart! There is none greater than our Lord!

Blurry Vision

Many years ago a former boss was traveling to a football game in Mobile, Alabama. A decorated World War II veteran he  suffered serious vision troubles because of his time in a prisoner of war camp. He was driving and chatting with a notable football coach who rode along with him.

Suddenly, and without slowing the car: “Hey, that traffic light…is it red or green?”

“What?”  the coach asked.

“The light. Is it red or green, I can’t tell.”

“Stop! “ He shrieked. “It’s red!

As he retold this story to me many years later he chuckled. “Coach made me pull over right then. He never let me drive again.”

Impaired vision is serious. It’s serious when driving but also very serious when navigating through life. Jesus warned that we need to have clear vision so we can help others who sometimes stumble.

Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your own? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye,’ while there is a beam in your own?  You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.  (Matthew 7:3-5; The NET translation)


Sometimes we are blinded by our own clouded view.  We see problems in the lives of others but are blinded to our own shortcomings. Jesus teaches us to first check our own vision and make it clear. Only then will we find ourselves in a position to help others.

Jesus does not teach us, however, that we are to be paralyzed. He does not teach us to do nothing until we are perfect for  that would mean that no one could teach, encourage or even rebuke. None are perfect, all are sinful (Romans 3:23). After all, the apostle did teach that we are to “…reprove, rebuke and exhort…” (2 Timothy 4:2).

In the context of Matthew 7, Jesus teaches us to use righteous judgment and to understand that the kind of judgment we apply to others will also be applied to us. “For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:2).

Think of it as a kind of Golden Rule of judging. Judge others the way you would have them judge you.

Knowing that we will be judged, how would you want to be judged? Righteously. Truthfully. Accurately. With love. With compassion. These are the qualities of true Godly judgment. But they are powerfully difficult to attain.

Nevertheless, let us strive to clear our own field of vision so we can apply these qualities to our daily interactions with others.

Baptism of Fire

Many people earnestly seek for the baptism of fire as part of the salvation process. They read the statement of John the baptist who said Jesus would come and baptize with fire and  the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11). They trust that this baptism of fire is synonymous with the reception of the Holy Spirit mentioned by Jesus  and by Peter on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:38. ((c.f. Acts 2:3)) ((These two “receptions” of the Holy Spirit are not necessarily the same inasmuch as the measure of the Holy Spirit received by the apostles was far greater than that others would receive.)) I think they are terribly mistaken.

Here’s the entire passage:

I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

Stopping here we might think that being baptized by fire is a good thing and much to be desired. But we cannot stop. As with all Bible study we must consider the full context of the passage.

In Matthew 3, “fire” is mentioned three times. We find it in Matthew 3:10, Matthew 3:11 and Matthew 3:12. In verses 10 and 12 the reference is undeniably to judgment or punishment. Verse 11, which is the key verse for our particular interest, is not so clear. At least not until you look at the other two verses.

Does it make sense that the middle occurrence of the word means something good when the other two immediately surrounding verses mean something else.

Jesus will judge his people (2 Timothy 4:1) and some will be cast into a lake of fire (Revelation 21:8; c.f. Revelation 20:10). There is far too much linkage between fire and judgment for this passage to mean something desirable.

There is a good study on this subject at I do not endorse everything on the site but his study is especially powerful as he is a pentecostal. Many who hold to the idea of the baptism of fire are pentecostal in their view.

Thank you for reading. Please leave a comment here on the blog.

Through the Eye of a Needle

Camels are big – really big. Standing over 7 feet tall these interesting creatures inhabit the dry desert regions of the Middle East. They have been used in combat for millenia and were even used experimentally in the American Civil War. The camel has an ability to frighten horses and so they have proven useful on the cavalry battlefield.

Jesus spoke of the camel in the synoptic Gospels just after speaking with the rich young ruler who was told to sell all that he had. Matthew records the words similar to Mark and Luke:

Again, I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 19:24).

Such a comment was astonishing to the listeners who concluded that no one could be saved.  Jesus corrects their misunderstanding in verse 26 when he says that “with men this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.”

It is indeed an odd, even cryptic saying of our Lord. What exactly does he mean and what should present day hearers take from this passage?

An Attempt to Explain How A Camel Can Pass Through A Needle’s Eye

Some time ago, a teacher hit upon a way to explain this passage. The story is that the needle’s eye in the Gospels is not the same needle we think of today. Instead, the needle’s eye was a small passageway built into t he side of a walled city. The passage was so low that a camel would have to pass through by crawling and not walking. This would prove very difficult but possible.

An interesting suggestion but wholly unacceptable when one considers the facts.

A Camel Cannot Go Through the Eye of a Needle

Let us begin by taking the Scripture in their simplest interpretation. Using Occam’s Razor we make the fewest assumptions possible about what Jesus means and just take it at its face value. We know what a camle is and we know a camel cannot pass through the eye of a needle.

  • We observe that there are no other Bible passages which are contradicted or compromised by this interpretation.
  • We observe the ease with which a hearer would have understood Jesus’ comment.
  • We note the smooth flow of the text and context to verse 26 where Jesus offers a fuller explanation of his intention.
  • We also mention that the idea of a gate called the Needle’s Eye was never even thought of until the 11th century by Theophylact. So far as we know such a gate was just a fabrication!

The Beauty of Jesus’ Words

What Jesus speaks of is impossible (Matthew 19:26). The word Jesus uses is a derivative of the dunamis in Romans 1:16 where Paul declares his faith in the Gospel as the power of God unto salvation. However in Matthew 19:26 the Greek word is prefixed by the letter alpha – a – which creates an opposite word. Instead of man have power to do something he has no power. Therefore, in this context of wealthy people, thy have no power to reach heaven within themselves. The power Jesus says, is with God!

While Jesus was speaking of the wealthy in these passages, the same idea – the impossibility of self salvation – is prevalent in other passages. Most notably Paul’s comment in Romans 3:28  and Galatians 2:16 that no man can be justified through works and Romans 5:23 that salvation is a free gift of God and not earned by men.

Jesus is saying that just as a camel cannot pass through the eye of a needle and man cannot earn or pay his way into heaven.

We ought use care not to move too far in one direction. Jesus is not declaring that man does nothing. Man must be obedient and faithful to Christ.  Just as the young ruler was instructed to do certain things, so too we have been commanded to do certain things. Jesus says in Luke 17:10 that when a servant has done what he has been told, then he has done nothing remarkable, just what he was supposed to do. Our actions and work are what we are supposed to do. Nothing more and nothing less.

Now when studying this passage, I hope you recall our discussion here. As always, this post is open for your comments.

Can Two or Three Have Church?

Every Lord’s Day, Christians assemble together to worship. The purpose of that worship is, first and foremost, to honor God through praise, devotion and thanksgiving and the joining together around the Lord’s table in commemoration of his death. It was, and is, God’s plan that his people join together weekly to worship him and encourage one another.

Sometimes a brother or sister will fail to assemble with the Christians. Perhaps they are tired from the evening before or maybe they are traveling and have not prepared by finding a church assembly near their vacation destination. When asked, they may respond thusly: “We just had church at the hotel. You know, where ‘two are three are gathered together’ the Lord is with them.”

Sadly, this is a misunderstanding of what Jesus was saying in Matthew 18:20. In fact, the passage actually argues for a regular assembly together of the body and not for a quickie method of worship.

This passage occurs in the context not of worship, but of church discipline. Two chapters earlier, Jesus foretold the coming of his church. These to whom he speaks will see the coming of the church very soon. Aware that problems arise among followers, Jesus has given a formula for retrieving the erring brother from sin (Matthew 18:5). He directs his followers to use a four-pronged method. First we approach directly involving no one else. If that fails, we take along one or two with us thus confirming what is said. Finally, the problem is discussed with the church generally in hope of regaining the lost soul. Fourth, the impenitent person is excluded from the assembly and treated as a “Gentile and a tax collector (Matthew 18:17).

It is this fourth and final task – the exclusion of the impenitent brother or sister – that Jesus is speaking of when he declares that “where two or three have gathered together in my name, I am in their midst” (Matthew 18:20). The text here is similar to that in Matthew 16:13-20 when Jesus promises that he will establish his church and promises that doctrine taught through the apostles and in the church will have already been made in heaven. In our text, Jesus is simply saying that when making the decision to withdraw from a member, he is present in their decisions – it is not simply a human decision. The passage is meaningless unless there is a regular assembly together of the saints and thus argues for the regular gathering together. If there is no regular assembly together there can be nothing to be withdrawn from and nowhere to make that decision.

What is more important from our perspective, Jesus is not discussing the gathering together of the church for worship. There is nothing here to suggest that Jesus desires anything other than attendance together with the body for worship.

Consider what normally happens when someone does not attend and uses Matthew 18:20 for justification:

1. The so-called worship is abbreviated – it is hasty and usually skimps on some aspect.
2. There is little or no preparation for worship from the one leading the “service.”
3. The gathering about the Lord’s table, if done at all, is very brief and with minimal meaning.
4. There is usually no attempt to lay by in store a contribution to the work of the church.
5. There is no spiritual oversight by elders who are the Lord’s appointed ones.
6. There is no allowance for an invitation, which, while not required, points to the lackadaisical attitude inherent in such a “worship service.”

Our intention is not to lambaste some brother or sister. In fact, we have no recollection of any specific member making this claim to us. Our goal is guide and teach and avoid the dangers of seeking to make worship soft and meaningless. Ample resources are available to locate and investigate churches before leaving town on vacation. Find and assemble with your brethren. You will encourage them and yourself.


Romans 5:6, 15-17

Matthew 18:21-35

Independence Day is upon us and we celebrate the founding of our great nation. Marked by outdoor parties with mounds of ribs, beans and potato salad we will stuff ourselves immensely and then settle down to watch a sky-show of fireworks. Many will hardly consider the cost of our Declaration of Independence in 1776. It’s was the ever wise Benjamin Franklin who warned his fellow freedom seekers “We must hang together , gentlemen…else, we shall most assuredly hang separately.” Freedom always comes with a steep price.

As followers of Christ, we are bought with a steep price: Continue reading Freedom