Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Seventh Grade Bible Study: Matthew Chapters 12-13

Chapter 12

V. 1-8: The first thing to note is that Jesus’s disciples are still hungry, even though they’re traveling with God himself. Being a Christian doesn’t mean that our bodily needs and desires will suddenly go away. We still get hungry, thirsty, angry, fall in love, etc. Jesus is lord of our bodies. Sometimes he provides exactly what we need, unexpectedly. Sometimes he calls us to discipline ourselves to remove obstacles to loving him. But always, he desires mercy.

Here, Jesus talks about truly honoring the Sabbath, which is to say, giving God in justice the gratitude we owe him. What the disciples are doing is not actually breaking the law, but breaking the social rules put in place so that people didn’t get close to breaking the law against work on the Sabbath. The Pharisees don’t really care so much about those rules, or about worshipping God correctly, as they do about catching Jesus out. Jesus knows this, which is why he teaches about God’s desire for mercy, not sacrifice.

V 9-14: The Pharisees here are like those videos where someone “demolishes!” someone else. But they don’t care much about the man with the withered hand except as a way to score a point off of Jesus. Jesus does care, very much, for the man, seeing him as a full person worthy of healing. No one is just an opportunity to Jesus. 

V 15-21: The prophecy from Isaiah shows Jesus as being the opposite of the Pharisees, always trying to trip people up publicly to enhance their own reputations. Jesus does not “contend or cry out”. He does not make his voice heard in the streets. He does not take advantage of our weakness. He is meek and humble of heart, and God delights in him.

V 22-32: Jesus does all these remarkable signs and healings, and there are still people who refuse to be convinced, who are hard of heart. Jesus uses logic and parables to try to break through to them, but in the end he tells them a serious thing: this willful refusal to let anything break through their hard shell of arrogance is a sin against the Holy Spirit of God, and can lead to eternal damnation.

V 33-37: Our words reveal our hearts, no matter how carefully we try to craft our image. That’s why Jesus keeps coming back to the necessity for repentance – interior conversion. It doesn’t matter what kind of game we talk if our hearts are not constantly being converted through repentance to become more like Jesus’s heart. Then Jesus gives us a warning that should make us all shiver: on the judgment day we will have to account for every careless word we speak. Or maybe that’s a mercy: what if our careless words come from the store of goodness in our hearts, and have been the means of spreading God’s grace without our realizing it? 

V 38-42: Do you think that these scribes and Pharisees would be convinced even if they did see a sign right then? Jesus doesn’t think so. And he tells us something astonishing, something that we need to grapple with every day: Jesus is his own sign. There is no sign that can possibly reveal God’s love and power more than God become man, even without the outwardly impressive miracles. Those miracles don’t add anything to Jesus’s greatness. They are simply nature responding to what he already is: God.

V 43-45: Lots of people responded to the sweeping changes of the pandemic by making sweeping changes in their lives. They dumped many of the things that were cluttering up their hearts. But our hearts aren’t meant to sit bare and empty. They must be filled, and they will be filled with whatever we treat as most important (consciously or unconsciously). If we are not allowing Jesus to fill the vacuum of our heart, we open ourselves to be swept away again by the bad habits and sins we thought we’d mastered.

V 46-50: It’s easy to dwell on how individual we are, with our particular gifts and excellences and flaws and needs. And that’s fine, because we are each unique facets of God’s creative love. But God is also a great unity. Jesus doesn’t privilege his biological relatives over the rest of humanity, because he shows us a new way to be united: by being united to God, through him. Then we become Jesus’s true relatives, no less so than his own Blessed Mother. And we also are united through love with those who are not naturally close to us, either personally, geographically, or chronologically.

Chapter 13

V 1-9: My favorite parable! Imagine that, like the crowd, you didn’t hear Jesus’s explanation to the disciples (and, as preserved by the disciples, to us). Would you have ears to hear? What ideas would start percolating in your heart?

V 10-17: Before Jesus tells what the parable means, he tells why he speaks in parables. These stories, because they are stories, slip in under our defenses. They take root in our hearts, despite our determination not to hear or to see. Good stories do just that, and Jesus is a very good storyteller indeed. 

But we are fortunate enough to have not just Jesus the storyteller, but Jesus the teacher as well, and so we are those who have been given much, from whom much is expected. 

V 18-23: Jesus’s interpretation of the sower and the seeds. Do any of these match your life? Are there times when you are good soil? When you’re so full of worries and anxiety that you choke the word? When you’re too busy to pay attention?

In the rest of the chapter, Jesus tells many short parables about the Kingdom of Heaven. Can you start to get a feel for what the Kingdom of Heaven is? What do all the parables have in common? Something tiny, something almost invisible, which expands into far more than anyone could imagine.

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