Friday, October 15, 2021

The Vision (10.15.21): The Call of Matthew the Publican


Image: Matthew window, Littlefield Presbyterian Church, Dearborn, Michigan,
courtesy of Google images.

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 9:9-13.

And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him (Matthew 9:9).

The account of Matthew’s call begins with a subtle emphasis upon the initiative of Christ. The conversion of every believer, we might say could start with the phrase, “And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man….” In John 1, we read that Christ told Nathanael, “when thou was under the fig tree, I saw thee” (v. 48b). We might well paraphrase 1 John 4:19 as, “We saw him, because he first saw us.”

The man’s name was Matthew. This name was taken from the Hebrew meaning, “Gift of Jehovah.” This would be the equivalent to the English name “Theodore.” Like many Jews of the first century, we know Matthew had more than one name, as he was also called Levi (cf. Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27).

Mark 2:14 adds that he was “the son of Alpheus” (literally “of Alpheus”). This means he was likely the brother of another disciple, “James the son of Alpheus” (Matt 10:3), and we have yet another set of brothers among the twelve (with Simon and Andrew, and James and John).

Next, the evangelist records that Matthew was “sitting at the receipt of custom” when Christ encountered him. Some modern translations (like the NKJV) render it as “sitting at the tax office.” This means that Matthew was a publican or tax collector.

One commentary observes, “Tax collectors were among the most despised persons in this society.” This was true for at least three reasons:

First, it was common for those who collected taxes to practice extortion. They overcharged and enriched themselves (cf. Zacchaeus in Luke 19:2, 8).

Second, they were also despised because in collecting taxes, they were also seen as collaborators with the occupying Romans.

Third, they were looked down upon because their profession was deemed to be one that led them to sin by transgressing the law of God, making them unclean sinners (cf. Matthew (10-11).

The Lord Jesus approached such as man as this and said to him two words, “Follow me.” This is the classic call to discipleship (cf. Matt 4:19; 8:22). Christ not only sees a man, but he summons a man to come after him.

Finally, at the end of v. 9 we see Matthew’s response: “And he arose, and followed him.” Immediate and glad obedience to the command of Christ is a mark of genuine and authentic discipleship (cf. Matt 4:20, 22). Every parent knows that delayed obedience is disobedience. We show that we love Christ by our obedience (cf. John 14:15; 15:14).

One last interesting fact. When Matthew lists the twelve in Matthew 10, he adds in v. 3 this identification to his own name: “Matthew the publican.” He is the only Gospel writer to include that detail when listing the twelve (cf. Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13). Matthew was not ashamed that he had been a publican when called to follow Christ. In fact, he gloried in it, because he knew it exalted the glory of Christ.

As has been said of Paul, we might say of Matthew: He never got over the fact that he was saved. So is every sinner saved by God’s free grace.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Friday, October 08, 2021

The Vision (10.8.21): Christ and the Paralytic


Image: Roses, October 2021, North Garden, Virginia

Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 9:1-8.

And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee (Mathew 9:2).

Matthew says, “they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed.” Under the English expression “sick of the palsy” is just one Greek word paralytikos, from which we get the English word “paralytic.” One commentator observed, “Here, we must assume, the text is talking about a completely paralyzed man, who is supine without the ability to move at all” (Alfeyev, Miracles, 123).

We are not told how this sickness came about. This paralysis might have been caused by many things. Maybe it was something that could be easily treated and cured today, but it could not then. It had completely immobilized this man, and he was entirely dependent upon the care of others for everything.

Think about this. He had to depend on others to be fed, to be given drink, to be dressed, to take care of natural necessities, to be washed, to move from point a to point b. Maybe he had once been a perfectly healthy man, a strong and able man. Can you imagine moving from that kind of state to the state in which this man was? Can you imagine what this might have done to him emotionally and spiritually? Even what it might have done to him theologically? Had he questioned the wisdom and goodness of God in this providence?

Notice now what Christ says to this poor man as he initially addresses him: “Son, be of good cheer….” In Greek the word for “son” here is actually the word for “child.” This was apparently a grown man, but with this address Christ extends a fatherly care to him. He is not patient X to Christ, but he is his “child.”

He also tells him, “be of good cheer” (which means, “be confident” or “have courage”). Sometimes if you are really sick, it can be very encouraging if someone merely says to you, “Take courage.” How much more when it is Christ himself who says these words to you!

Finally, Christ says to this completely disabled man, “thy sins be forgiven thee.” Christ makes this declaration not because this man or anyone else asked for it. At this point his paralysis might have included his mouth and tongue, so that he could not even speak. Christ gives this man what he did not and likely could not even ask for!

The man’s presenting need was his physical paralysis, but Christ saw that he had a greater need. He was a sinner, and the wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23).

The man’s paralysis is a picture of human inability. He could not speak for himself. He could not act for himself. He was a sinner, frozen in a state, as it were, that did not allow him to do anything for himself.

Christ had to do it all for him. And by grace he did!

No sinner is able to help himself. Everyone whom Christ saves by his free grace is like that paralytic. Christ calls us his child, admonishes us to have courage, and forgives our sin.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Friday, October 01, 2021

WM 212: A Statement from Dr. J. P. Blurry, Ph.D.


A listener sends in his frank response to my last podcast episode. Helpful.


The Vision (10.1.21): Liberation for those who live among the tombs


Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 8:28-34.

Matthew 8:28: And when he was come to the other side into the country of the Gergesenes, there met him two possessed with devils, coming out of the tombs, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way.

Christ arrives in “the country of the Gergasenes.” The geography of this place has some uncertainty among modern historians. In Mark and Luke it is referred to as the country of the Gadarenes (Mark 5:1; Luke 8:27). At least one Study Bible suggested the site to be near a modern village called Khersa, because ancient tombs are still found there, and the shoreline descends steeply into the sea (MacAthur’s Study Bible).

Matthew alone tells us that Christ met in this place two men there who were possessed with devils. Mark and Luke only mention Christ’s dialogue with one of these. Some have suggested that one of them was dominant over the other and served as the spokesmen for the two.

Notice three things about these men:

First: They were “coming out of the tombs.” Not only had they likely been ostracized, but they had also gravitated toward this place, probably because of their fascination with death and with the dead. They were, in fact, spiritually dead. Cf. Paul’s description of the Ephesian believers before their conversion: “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1).

Second: They were “exceeding fierce.” The word for “fierce” is chalepos, meaning “hard to deal with, violent, dangerous.”

Third: Matthew says, “so that no man passed by that way.” This tells us they were so intimidating that no one wanted to be anywhere near them. These are the type of guys you would not want to run into while walking down a dark alley.

These descriptions tell us the personal and social degradation of these men brought about by their spiritual deadness and oppression. Though I believe that demonic possession was an extra-ordinary phenomenon permitted by the Lord at the time of Christ and the apostles in order for Christ to demonstrate his power, ordinary sin has these effects even in typical circumstances.

Sin sends men to the tombs and often results in a morbid fascination with death. This is often evident in those who turn to the occult. It makes men angry, fierce, and unsociable. It makes men hostile and intimidating to others. Sin isolates, endangers, and threatens.

Both Mark and Luke describe the change that takes place in these men once Christ liberated them. The townsmen found the spokesman “sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind” (Mark 5:15; cf. Luke 8:35). Just as Christ could still the storm on the Sea of Galilee and brings about “great calm” (Mark 8:26), so he brings peace to troubled sinners. There is hope for those who dwell among the tombs.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

2021 Keach Conference: Of Saving Faith: Images, Audio, Video


Audio from 2021 Keach Conference sessions @ Redeeming Grace Baptist Church, Gloucester, Virginia, Saturday, September 25, 2021:

Message 1:

Message 2:

Message 3:

Conference Leadership and Keynote Speaker (L to R): Van Loomis, Jeff Riddle, Jim Renihan, Ryan Davidson, Steve Clevenger

More pics: Lectures, Singing, Fellowship, Lunch:

Links to FB videos of full sessions:


Particular Baptist Podcast: Reflections on the 2021 Keach Conference