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Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth

Psalm 37; Matthew 5:5 In The Life of Brian we join the outskirts of Christ’s audience for the sermon on the mount.  “The meek shall inherit the earth” filters through to one listener: “Oh that’s nice innit, I’m glad they get something cos they have a hell of a time.” It’s a brilliant line.  But Jesus […]

Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted

Psalm 55; Matthew 5:4 What could be more nonsensical than this?  Or insensitive?  “Blessed are they that mourn”? In my Greek lexicons the word that invariably appears next to “Blessed” is “Happy”.  It’s a word denoting a prosperous and favourable condition.  Some dictionaries list “blissful” as a synonym!  So how on earth can Jesus call […]

Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

Isaiah 61; Matthew 5:3 According to Matthew, Jesus comes as King to bring the true end to exile (Matthew 1:1-17).   He is named as “Saviour” and “God with us” (Matthew 1:18-25).  He is the desire of all nations (Matthew 2:1-12) who is also the true Israel – going down into Egypt and rising back up […]

Verily, verily I say unto thee

John 1:35-51 It’s a phrase that sounds quintessentially “King James” – quintessentially 17th century.  But, as with so many “King James” phrases, it originates with Tyndale in the 16th century. “Verily” (meaning truly) translates the word “Amen” which is a Hebrew word left untranslated in the Greek New Testament.  So, most literally, Jesus says “Amen, […]

Physician, heal thyself

Luke 4:14-30 – The chain-smoker, warning her son about cigarettes… – The bankrupt, lecturing on good business practices… – The divorce-riven church, preaching ‘family values’ to the culture… In all these situations we might use this saying: “Physician heal thyself.”  We expect that those promoting healing powers should be the best advertisements for their cure. […]

Fishers of men

Matthew 4:12-22 What images spring to mind when you picture an evangelist? Sometimes we think of an adrenaline junkie, who could sell ice to the eskimos.  Yet when we consider the people who helped us to faith – we are reminded of very different character traits! Simon Peter can be thought of as an arch […]

It is written

Matthew 4:1-11 After His baptism, Christ is driven by the Spirit into the desert. (Matthew 4:1-11) In His battle with Satan, Christ is like Adam, like Israel and like David. Like Adam, the devil tempts Him to doubt God’s word and eat.  And like Adam the fate of humanity rests on His shoulders. Like Israel, He […]

The heavens opened

Matthew 3:13-17 For us it’s a description of rain (cf Genesis 7:11).  For Ezekiel it enabled him to see “visions of God” (Ezekiel 1:1).  In the Gospels, the heavens open for Jesus in order that He sees the Spirit descend: Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened […]

Baptism of fire

Matthew 3:1-12 When the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps were decimated at Gallipoli, it was said to be a baptism of fire.  Much less tragically, a baptism of fire might refer to a stormy first year of marriage or a difficult first match for a football manager.  It is the birthing of something new through […]

Turning water into wine

John 2:1-11 Here’s a phrase, like “David and Goliath” or “the writing is on the wall“.  It doesn’t strictly occur in the Bible.  Instead it arises as a short-hand to describe a famous story. It’s the first of Jesus’ miracles as recorded by John.  And verse 11 tells us the purpose of it: Jesus “manifested […]