Sunday 24th March

Read Psalm 50

If you don’t have a bible at home you can find the readings on a website such as or an app such as YouVersion

Today is Palm Sunday when Jesus entered the Temple in Jerusalem, overturning the tables and chasing out the money lenders saying, “My House is to be a house of prayer and you have turned it into a den of thieves”.  Psalm 50 is about true worship of God and what God says it is and is not.   In v7 he addresses his people and says that he is not going to praise them but to testify against them.

He says that he doesn’t bring charges against them concerning their sacrifices or burnt offerings which are ever before him (v8), in other words he has no need of their visible acts of worship because he owns everything they might offer (v10), what he requires is that they fulfil their vows to him – i.e. do what they say, be the upright people he has called them to be which they aren’t.

This is a perennial challenge to the Church in all ages.  It isn’t attendances at Church, the services in its organisations, the money given, or the offices held, it is changed lives, worshiping in humility, and growing in the Holy Spirit – becoming like Christ.  Spiritual growth not physical performance is what true worship is all about.  May our Hosannas be such.

 A Prayer: Almighty God, may the words of our lips and the devotion of our hearts be acceptable to you, O Lord our God and our Sanctifier.  Amen.


Monday Matthew 14:1-12

Herod hears of the amazing things being done by Jesus and concludes that he is John the Baptist risen from the dead.  It is at this point that Mathew tells us what happened to John.

John was a fearless prophet of God and he had told Herod (the Greek text says ‘repeatedly’) that it was not lawful for him to have his brother’s wife, Herodias, and this angered Herod feeling that his nose was being rubbed in God’s law about sexual relations (Leviticus 20:10-21) and he didn’t like it.  It is still a sore point in modern life where sexual relations between one man and one woman for life is not liked.  Of course, we know that the mercy of God is gracious in forgiveness but there is often a desire not to want forgiveness but affirmation in our sexual practices.  This is what Herod wanted but was not getting it from John.

The desire to have one’s life and behaviour validated is what pride and rebellion are all about (isn’t it what the banner “Pride” is all about?).  We need to admit when our life and lifestyle is questionable before Almighty God to say the least, but when we get there, the grace of God in Christ can wash away our sins so that we sinners may be accepted by God.   Acceptance comes after acknowledgement and confession, not before.

The outcome for John was his beheading (v10) and his disciples took his body and buried it.

Tuesday Matthew 14:13-21

When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew to a solitary place.  There are times in life when we need ‘a solitary place’ to be still and to meet with God.  He went by boat because it was difficult to get away from the crowd but, nevertheless, they followed him by foot around the lake to a quiet place and when Jesus saw them he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

It is a most touching episode and shows the heart of Jesus for others.  Henry Twells took this episode to form the basis of his lovely evening hymn, “At even ere the sun was set” which I would encourage you to read.  It most wonderfully crystalizes the tenderness and care of Jesus.   At Even, Ere the Sun Was Set |

When it was getting late the disciples came to Jesus asking him to send the crowd away to get food but Jesus tells them to feed them themselves.  Their cry was that they only had five loaves and two fish, not anywhere enough to feed the crowd, upon which Jesus told them to settle the crowd down and after giving thanks he broke and started to distribute the pieces.  All were satisfied.

The message that always remains with the Church through all generations is not to see the sparseness of our resources but the poverty of the needy and with thanksgiving and faith to bring help to the hungry and needy through God’s help.

Wednesday Matthew 14:22-34

We see another instance of the tiredness of Jesus here.  He sends the disciples to cross the lake by boat while he sends the crowd away and then climbs up the mountainside to be by himself to pray.  Jesus took time out to pray and we should note that and find times to set aside from others and from other things to pray.

The night crept on and the position of the disciples was beginning to be precarious, Jesus came down from the mountain and went towards them over the water.  As he drew nearer and the disciples thought it was a ghost he spoke to calm them and it was then, impulsively, that Peter wanted to go out to meet him.  Why did he want to do this?  I suppose we will never know; Peter was an impetuous character, perhaps he wanted to see if Jesus power was available to him.  The event showed his faith at first followed by its weakness as he began to sink.  Have we had times when our faith has been strong and then we begin to collapse.  If that ever happens remember this story and how things ended with Peter, he weakened but Jesus didn’t let him drown.  Jesus doesn’t tell us that it serves us right when we begin to collapse, he saves us for other days and times to which we must say, “Hallelujah!”.

Thursday Matthew 15:1-20

 So what is this about hand washing which is surely a good thing?  It is, but the argument here was not about hygiene but about commandments from God.  In the Old Testament there were commandments about washings for the priests as they worked with sacrifices, and for the people when in contact with dead animals, and in toiletry and sexual matters, but the pharisees developed certain overall traditions which they declared were ceremonially necessary for ‘cleanness’ before God.

Jesus was intent on showing that the pharisees had elevated their traditions to a position that was more important than God’s actual commands and he wanted to say where spiritual defilement actually came from.  He told them that it was not what went into the mouth but what came out of the heart that defiled people (v19).  It can be very easy to change righteousness into our own traditions, e.g the way we do things in Church; people forget that the ‘aye been’ in the way we do things does not mean the ‘right’ way.   I well remember Brother Roland Walls of the Community of the Transfiguration in Roslin telling of refusing to serve communion to two men in his English Parish once because they wouldn’t get on with each other.  Well, what was the most important thing?  The ‘traditions of men’ are not the commands of God.

Friday Matthew 15:21-28

Jesus has spent the large part of his time in the North of Israel around the Lake of Galilee teaching and healing but with an expression of disappointment and sadness because of their lack of faith in him.  Remember, “The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here” (Chapter 12:41), and in Nazareth, “he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith. (Chapter 13:58).  Now, in the middle of Chapter 15, he leaves there and heads West, out of Israel into the region of Tyre and Sidon, and a Canaanite woman comes crying to him with a request for healing for her daughter.

Jesus ignores her.  The disciples are aggravated and urge him to “send her away” (v23).  This seems strange.  Jesus answers them by telling them that he was sent only to the “lost sheep of Israel” – and she wasn’t one of them.  However she is persistent only to hear Jesus words, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” (v26).  If ever there was a rebuff this was one.

The woman doesn’t leave it there though; she accepts the position Jesus puts her in but says that “even the dogs eat the crumbs off the master’s table”.  In other words she accepts that Jesus is for his people but others may crowd around to receive – even Gentiles – and it is to this that Jesus commends her and grants her wish.  It is an early glimpse that the work of Jesus is going to extend beyond the ancient people to peoples around the world of which the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 is the start.

Saturday Matthew 15:29-39

When we come to this passage people sometimes say, “Have we not read this before?” and indeed we have read about a feeding of a multitude in Mathew 14:13-20.  This has led many to speculate that this is just a repeat of the same event however there are notable differences.  Here it is Jesus who draws the Disciples attention to the crowd’s need, the food they have, although still of bread and fishes, is not numbered the same nor the baskets of left-overs, and the size of the crowd is put at four thousand not five.

Because Mathew puts them both down I am inclined to accept his accounts as separate and I wonder if there is a connection with Jesus visit to Gentile country and his crumbs to the woman and her child.  Jesus fed the 5000 multitude then he gave the scraps to the Syrophoenician woman, and here he comes back with bread and fish for the Israelite people again.  The two feedings sandwich the ‘crumbs’ given to the Gentile woman.  Was he challenging the Israelite people to believe?

Sometimes people need more than one sign to listen to what Jesus says.