Sunday 31st March

Read Psalm 118

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 Easter Day and we take a break from our usual walk through the Psalms to read Psalm 118.  Why this Psalm?  At Passover it was Psalms 113-118, called the Hallel songs, that were sung at the close of the Passover meal.   In Matthew 26:30 after the Passover Supper Matthew says, “When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives”.  This, the last of the Hallel Psalms, would be what they sang.

It contains verse 24 which has been turned into song, “This is the Day that the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it”.  I remember our Muslim friend who stayed with us for some years as a student asking why the Friday of Easter was called Good, because that was the day that Jesus was crucified?

The truth of it lies in the great paradox of the suffering and death of Jesus.  He gave his life as a sacrifice for our sins bringing about our redemption and giving hope for the world.  On that glorious week-end the Lion of Judah enters the gates of Hell facing the Adversary, breaking his power, and emerging victorious on Easter Day.

 No wonder shouts of joy ring through the Psalm for Christ is victor and we are his Easter people singing, “Hallelujah, our Lord Christ has risen”.  Amen.


Monday Matthew 16:1-12

Once again we find the Jewish religious leaders testing Jesus asking him to show them a sign from heaven. Jesus will not give them one telling them that if they can read simple things like the weather from a red sky they ought to be able to see signs of the times.   Before he leaves, he says that the only sign that will be given is that of Jonah, referring to his three nights inside the great fish which is a reference to Jesus’ death and resurrection.  That sign remains for all who would open their eyes to see.

Jesus follows this meeting with a warning to his disciples about the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees but in a symbolic way using the metaphor of yeast in bread.  The disciples show their obtuseness in not grasping what he was warning them about, that it was nothing to do with bread – or their lack of it or running low on it.    Jesus was saying that he could meet all their needs but they should watch teachings which would not be food for their souls. Leaven is almost always used in scripture as a metaphor for sin, which spreads and infects what it is placed in, and is a good warning for all Christians.  Ask, “is this teaching good food for my soul or just a spreading an infection in my life or the life of the congregation or community?”

In Acts chapter 17 we find Paul preaching in the synagogue in Berea and the people there went and searched to scriptures to see whether what Paul was preaching was true.  They became known for studying the scriptures themselves and not merely accepting what they were taught.  An example for all congregations everywhere.

Tuesday Matthew 16:13-20

This next passage is a key passage in all four gospels. Jesus travelled to Ceasarea Philippi, North West of the Lake of Galilee.  The narrative is a centre point in his teaching.  Caesarea Philippi was famed for a number of things; in the Old Testament it was a centre of Baal Worship, in the Greek period it became the centre of worship of the Greek God Pan, Herod rebuilt it and named it after himself.  All in all it was a place where you would meet all the gods and philosophies of the ancient world.

In the midst of all these religious facets, Jesus took time to ask his disciples who people said he was.  They replied variously, saying that some said he was John the Baptist, others that he was Elijah, others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.  The fact that they said these things showed that they were thinking in Messianic terms because these figures were precursors of the Messiah whom God said he would send to deliver his people.  Jesus then turned to them and asked them, “Who do you say I am?”.  All that Jesus had done so far was leading up to this moment and Peter replied, “You are the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the living God”.

This, said Jesus, was the rock upon which he would build his Church, this was the truth about him.  Up until this point Jesus has been unfolding his presence before them, seeking to bring them to this confession and from now on he would begin to teach what this means, what he has come to do, and it centres on his death.  He hasn’t come to be a roving preacher and healer, he has come to die, and the rest of the gospel leads up to this.

Wednesday Matthew 16:21-28

Here comes the shock as far as the disciples are concerned.  So far they have heard him teach in the synagogues, in the towns and villages, by the sea shore, and to heal people far and wide, even Gentiles, and all has been amazing but now he tells them he is going to Jerusalem to be rejected, to suffer many things, and to be killed.  The “raised to life” bit doesn’t really stick with them, it is almost as though what he said first dominates their thinking and it immediately leads on to Peter’s outburst, “Never, Lord!  This shall never happen to you!”.

Although this feels natural to Peter, Jesus knows that behind this man’s mouth, there lurks the Enemy, Satan himself, who seeks to deflect from the whole mention of death – and of RESURRECTION!  The latter part scares him for it means his weapon of death is wrest from his hands, it means his power removed …. And what then!!

Jesus severely rebukes Pater and then turns to his disciples and begins to teach them what following him really means.  They wouldn’t be sitting aside him in a great palace, ruling over the nations of the world, at least not in the way that they were thinking.  Their lives were to be lost, their earthly lives, to gain a heavenly existence.  When they understand that, they will be on their way to heaven.  V27 & 28 need to be seen as referring to two different parts of the Kingdom, v27 is clearly about the end time and the final judgement, whereas v28 cannot refer to that time as that time did not happen during the earthy lifetime of any of the disciples, it appears therefore to be more a reference to the Day of Pentecost where the Kingdom of God is seen to come in the arrival of the Holy Spirit inaugurating the new time.

Thursday Matthew 17:1-13

Six days later Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a high mountain to deliberately see something of the coming Kingdom, an episode which becomes known as the Transfiguration.   As the Messiah, Jesus meets with the two key characters of the Old Testament who would be linked with the Messiah, first Moses who told the people about the prophet like him who was to follow and who they must hear and obey (Deuteronomy 18:15).  Elijah came to the mountain where God had a appeared to Moses and where he met with God in the still small voice (1 Kings 18).  Both Moses and Elijah were taken to have been taken from this Earth but would be involved in the coming of the Messiah.  Here Jesus is transfigured before their eyes and although Peter jumps up with the suggestion of making three tents for the figures, God calls from heaven saying of Jesus, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him am well pleased.  Listen to him.” (v5).

On the way down Jesus told them not to tell anyone until he had been raised from the dead. They also ask about the common belief about the prophet Elijah coming first and this is where Jesus identifies John the Baptist as the figure referred to under Elijah.  John was opposed and died and Jesus says so it would be with him.


Having reached this point in Matthew’s gospel we are going to move away for now.  We have reached the point in his account where his intention was to bring his hearers (particularly Jews) to see Jesus as the Messiah.  From this point he would go on to show that Messiah must be rejected, crucified and raised and that this will be preached across the world. 

We will move on to look at what the apostles had to say about Jesus in the days and years to come, and to do that we will look at the most detailed spelling out of that gospel which is Paul’s letter to the Romans.

Friday Romans 1:1-8

This letter was written by Paul to the Church at Rome, who were predominately Gentiles with a smattering of Jews, probably around 57 A.D. before he had been to Rome.  If the substance of it could be said to lie in a word, it would be “righteousness”, principally the righteousness of and from God.   He says in vs17,18 it is about the Gospel of Jesus Christ which is “the power of God which brings salvation to everyone who believes ……. for in it the righteousness of God is revealed (v16,17)

He says that he was called to be an apostle or messenger of this gospel which had been promised through the prophets of the Old Testament.  Like Matthew he wanted people to know that the message about Jesus was promised in the Old Testament and was not some ‘new thing’.  He was descended from David but also the Son of God, seen in his resurrection from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit, and Paul’s apostolic role was to call for people’s obedience to him through faith.

About the gospel it is worthwhile noting, as D.W. Dale said, that Jesus did not come to preach the gospel but that there might be a gospel to preach.  The idea that Jesus was a teacher of some message misses the mark; it is He himself who is the message.  Paul and the apostles were preachers of Jesus Christ as gospel.

Saturday Romans 1:8-17

Paul hadn’t been to Rome, though was hoping at some time to see them, but he does pray regularly for them, hoping to strengthen them through his apostolic ministry and that they may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.  We ought to take this as an example for ourselves remembering to pray for one another.

Paul says he is eager to preach the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles saying he is obligated to do so as an apostle.  He introduces the gospel by saying that he is not ashamed of it because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.  In the gospel he says, “the righteousness of God is revealed”.

If that is so, and this gospel is about righteousness, we ought to ask “what is righteousness?”.  The English word comes from old English “right-wise” and is similar to our word “clockwise”.  We know what clockwise means; in the Southern hemisphere we know that water going down a plug-hole swirls in an clockwise direction, in the Northern hemisphere it does the opposite.  If you stir the water clockwise in our part of the world it will seek to revert to what it ‘sees’ as the ‘right’ way which is anti-clockwise.  It’s called the Coriolis effect and is to do with the rotation of the Earth. The righteousness of God therefore becomes understandable to us if we use this illustration because righteousness means the ‘direction’ or ‘way’ of God, and righteousness applied to us means that which agrees with and matches the righteousness of God.

Paul is going to show that naturally speaking we are not ‘God-wise’, in fact we are ‘un-god-wise’ (unrighteous).   It is as though we live in a different hemisphere from God and the tendency of our lives is the wrong way.    It doesn’t look good news (Gospel) for us but Paul is going to show that the Gospel changes us through faith and can put us in ‘God’s hemisphere,’ he will unfold how this happens in this letter (v17,18)