Saturday, March 3, 2018

Reflections on the New Testament: Mark

 “And He said to them, ‘Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?’” Mark 4:13, NKJV.

It is essential that we, as Christians, understand the Word of the Lord in its entirety—it is essential that we continually learn. We are not to feed solely on the milk of the Word, for then we are but moderately strengthened; we are not familiar with the full context and implications and are therefore incapable of accurate application. Rather, we must proceed to the meat of the Word, and pursue a full and accurate understanding of “all the parables.” The Lord has fully equipped us for this task—He has sent us the Helper and opened the avenue of prayer. We are without excuse. Jesus’ question to His disciples in Mark 4:13 has the tone of a reprimand, as though He genuinely expected His disciples to have understood the parable and was rather disappointed that they did not. It is as though He said to them: “Children, you ought to understand this, for it is simple, and there are a great many deeper things I am eager to teach you.” How many blessings of wisdom we miss when we neglect study and prayer, and choose, rather, to cling to a few basic concepts we ought to have understood and built upon long ago! The Lord is, indeed, eager to reveal many things to us—let us not prefer ignorance.


“And He said, ‘The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.’ Then He said, ‘To what shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or with what parable shall we picture it? It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth; but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all the herbs, and shoots out large branches, so that the birds of the air may nest under its shade,” Mark 4:26-32, NKJV.
The kingdom of God flourishes by the power of the Holy Spirit—“we ourselves do not know how.” It is our immense privilege, as sinners saved by grace, to plant the mustard seed—a task which may seem small and ordinary enough at first—but the Holy Spirit shall see that the seed sprouts and grows, flourishes and yields a crop. We shall awake one day and find a harvest ready to be gathered in, or a great tree sprung up from, as we thought, bare earth—if we do not despise the labor, however menial, God has assigned to us, but rejoice in it, knowing that the Holy Spirit will make much of it.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Reflections on the New Testament: Matthew

“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from you Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let you left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly,” Matt. 6:1-4, NKJV.

Why does the Lord urge us to such secrecy in this regard? In essence, because the righteousness of the children of God is not attained by works, but by the grace of God. The children of God must understand this and be humbled before God and man as mere servants—from this understanding shall inevitably come the good works the Lord desires. Not a vain attempt to prove to God or man a worthiness that does not exist, but a genuine, humble desire “not to be served, but to serve.” Such a desire does not seek recognition. Nevertheless, to those who thus serve secretly, the Lord promises open reward. That this reward is to be material is doubtful, and that it refers to our eternal reward is impossible, since that is not attained by works. Rather, it is likely that this reward refers to a refinement of character, a more marked visibility of the Holy Spirit within you, which is at once more spiritually attractive and more spiritually fruitful than any showy charity. In this way, the unbeliever is struck not by the Christian’s open display of good works, which can be easily imitated and is insufficient for salvation, but by the mark of character and unfeigned faith of a humble servant of God. Indeed, what reward could be sweeter than to see the eternal destinies of loved ones secured by the power of the Holy Spirit?

“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly,” Matt. 6:5-6, NKJV.

Similarly, to the humble believer, prayer is not a vain show of superiority to be performed before men, but an intimate, sacred communion with God to be performed appropriately in a secret place. The open reward spoken of here could well be the fruition of the believer’s prayer, but more likely, it is the shining countenance characteristic of one who has communed with God.


“When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, ‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.’ Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, ‘See that you tell no one; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them,’” Matt. 8:1-4, NKJV.

To begin with, note the humility and sincerity of the leper’s faith! “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” He is confident in the Lord’s cleansing power, but acknowledges his own inferiority and complete dependence on the Lord’s will. Overall, his statement has the air of “Who am I, that Thou art mindful of me?” which ought to be present in the supplications of every Christian.

In a different vein, note Jesus’s final statement: “…Go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” Why does the Lord thus deem it necessary for the cleanse leper to undergo this formality? What is this “testimony” He speaks of? In delivering this commandment, Jesus presents the Law of Moses as it was intended by God to be interpreted: a mere picture of the cleansing that has already taken place, the sacrifice that has already been made, and the gift that has already been given. The law cannot cleanse, but can only condemn, for it is merely external. The priest, upon examining a leper, pronounces him either clean or unclean according to what God has already determined. If the leper is cleansed, it is of God, not of the Law. If, indeed, a leper is found to be healed, the priest then guides him through a sort of cleansing ritual as an external show of the internal work God has already done (Lev.14:2-9). The Law itself has no true power. In the case at hand, Jesus, having heard the leper’s humble but deeply sincere request, cleanses him with a word. The writer then expressly states: “Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.” Jesus then commands that he show himself to the priest and undergo the usual formalities by no mean as a necessity, but as a testimony.


“He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But He said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn,’” Matt. 13:28-30, NKJV.

Before the harvest is ripe, it is difficult to distinguish between the tares and the wheat, therefore it is necessary to allow them to fully mature, that the reapers may know where each must go. While even at the beginning, the wheat is wheat and the tares are tares, a certain growth and inner work is necessary to visibly distinguish them as such. In similar fashion, we, as Christians, were set apart as children of God before the foundations of the earth, but were not distinguished as such until the Holy Spirit moved within us. Before this movement, we are indistinguishable from the world to all but God, and should the reapers come at that unfortunate moment, we would surely be uprooted with the tares. Rather, the movement of the Holy Spirit matures us as children of God, that when harvest time comes, we may be gathered to Him.
“Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn,’” Matt. 13:30.