February 14, 2015: Daily Bible Reading with Commentary for Matthew 17-19
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Context: The transfigurations showed the present disciples a glimpse of Jesus' true self. Matthew also points out to Jewish readers another prophecy that was fulfilled: Elijah coming before the Son of God. Even though the disciples had acknowledged Jesus as the Son of God, their faith was still weak. In attempting to heal the boy possessed by a demon, they relied on the earlier commission given to them by Jesus (10:8), instead of relying on where the power came from, God. Jesus reiterates that although believers in Him are no longer bound by the Old Covenant, they are still to represent Godly character. In chapter 18, we see that the disciples lack understanding of how "status" is achieved in God's eyes. We must have a humble attitude, pure belief, and show mercy to others. We are too assist other believers who have strayed away from the Lord and bring them back. We are to be kind and merciful to them, only bringing in outside assistance if necessary. We should be willing to easily forgive. In chapter 19, the Pharisees present Jesus with a dangerous question about divorce, for it was this subject which led to John the Baptist's arrest and eventual death. Jesus took a very strict stand on marriage and divorce. Marriage was made to last a lifetime. Divorce was only permitted under the law of Moses because the Israelites hearts were hardened. The guidelines for divorce were established to protect the victims of divorce, since the people were going to disobey God and get divorced anyway. God is to be put above all else. We are to believe as children believe and be willing to sacrifice everything for the Lord.
World History: Many have heard that the when Jesus said "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to ender the kingdom of God" (Matthew 19:24, ESV), He was referring to a gateway into Jerusalem that was tremendously difficult for camels to pass through. Allegedly, this passage opened a night after the main gate had closed and required the camel to be unloaded and to essentially crawl through. References to such a passage are extremely limited so we do not know if it did indeed exist, however, much of history remains a mystery to us today.