Note: These articles are going to vary slightly from the weekly readings. They will address all the content but the chapters discussed will be grouped in a different manner.
Throughout the Old Testament, the phrase, “Thus says the Lord” precedes the important message God wants His people to hear and understand. In the Gospels, Jesus uses a similar proclamation. Twenty-six times He states, “I say to you” to call special attention to what He is about to teach. Twenty-three times He expresses even greater urgency by stating, “Truly, I say to you.” While every word spoken by Jesus was given to Him directly by His heavenly father, focusing on these passages with special emphasis is important.
The first time this phrase appears is in reference to the Law of God: “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished (5:18). Some people teach that the Law is not applicable to us today. However, the two greatest commandments – as identified by Jesus, are to love God and to love our neighbor. It is precisely the Law ow God that teaches how to do these things. Far from being obsolete, the instructions in the Law and the prophets is needed to fulfill what Jesus expects of us.
Next, insincere and wrongly motivated giving, praying and fasting are condemned. They are rejected by God and will only be rewarded by the human audience to which they are directed (6:2, 5, 16). Such empty religious practices are condemned throughout both the Old and New Testaments.
After being accused of driving out demons by the power of Satan, Jesus begins to teach in parables rather than in explicit details. We are often taught that parables were used because they are an effective teaching device – and they are. But Jesus quoting Isaiah explains they were also used to express truth to those that God would give understanding of the parable but to hide the truth from those that rejected God’s truth (13:10-17).