When the religious experts slander Jesus, Jesus turns the situation into an object lesson. The Pharisees define for us what Jesus means when he says God will judge us for every "careless word" we speak. This helps disciples test ourselves to make sure we continue to make progress in growing to be like Jesus.
Living the Christian life requires knowing the word of God well. In two encounters with some Bible experts, Jesus teaches us that there is something more to knowing God's word than just mastering the details of the words in the Bible. In the course of these encounters, Matthew shows us that Jesus is the One who has come to establish justice on the earth. His way is not through coercive force, but through the gentle and beautiful heart of God.
Jesus's invitation to discipleship is to let him rule our lives as our Lord and Teacher. He promises that if we do, he will save us. Further, the lessons he teaches, the way he guides us to live in righteousness brings rest to our souls rather than weariness.
When Jesus tells the crowds that John the Baptist is "the Elijah" prophesied by Malachi, he was not repairing a prisoner's reputation. Jesus sounded the trumpet call of his gospel message, "The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe the good news." Malachi's prophecy of "Elijah" coming to announce the arrival of the Christ is the tell-tale sign that God is about to bring the fire of judgment against all enemies of his kingdom. For the moment, there is opportunity to join God's side by being joined to Christ Jesus. No one knows how long that moment of opportunity will last.
John the Baptist experiences some doubts about whether Jesus is the Christ. Jesus' answer offers John wisdom to avoid the hazard of unfilled expectations when it comes to God. We are wise to learn that lesson, too.
Naturally, we all wish we could live in a place like the Garden of Eden. This is at the heart of much of our progress and civilization. Still, crime rates and constant wars around the world remind us that modern civilization is far from Eden. Jesus teaches his disciples how to live the life of Eden now, even while we are still so far away.
Jesus warns the twelve apostles about the persecution they will suffer because of Jesus' name. We can relate to some extent to the pressure they felt to compromise or deny faith in Jesus' name. In this passage, Jesus teaches four habits to help us be effective as his disciples. Following this way we can overcome the pressures of persecution.
Though there is much to fear in the world today, Christians will overcome by trusting Jesus to lead us in wisdom and innocence.
Jesus sees crowds of people coming to him. He says this is a "harvest." Jesus sees the crowds as "sheep without a shepherd." In this way, Jesus reveals to us a crucial element of reaching people with the good news.
In the light of three stories in Matthew 9:18-31 we learn that acts upon much more than it can see. These insights challenge Christians to raise the bar in how we pray.