Questions and Answers:

1] In Matthew 8;12 Who are the subjects that Jesus is talking about?

"The subjects of the kingdom" are the Jews who do not receive Jesus.  One can generalize this to include anyone who has been saved but later chooses to ignore his own calling, but in the context, Jesus is telling his Jewish audience that because they choose to reject God sending the Messiah to them, he will go out to the Gentiles "from the east and the west" to take their place in the Kingdom.

2] The Bible says if your brother refuse to repent after following the steps of reconciliation,treat him as pagan.How do you treat your brother as a pagan?

An excellent question.  We often assume that this means you refuse to have anything to do with this person or treat him as some sort of unclean person.  Not true.  How did Jesus treat "pagans and tax collectors.?"  He loved them.  He reached out to them.   However, he did not treat them as someone who was saved.  He treated them as someone who was "lost," who needed to be reached out to.  If there is a brother of sister who refuses to take the advice of the church, we should treat them as someone who we need to reach out to in order to bring them back into fellowship with God and with his people.  To summarize, how do we treat such people?  We love them and reach out to them, but as a person in need of being brought into the fellowship.

3] Why did Jesus speak in parables?

Jesus answered this very question.  He said in Mark 4:12 that he spoke in parables so that, for those who are not open and ready to hear the gospel, "they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven."  In other words, the gospel message was "hidden" in parables so that those with spiritual insight could understand, but those who did not did not have "pearls thrown before swine."   The parables separated between the open and closed hearers. 

I do not believe this was the only purpose.   The parables make some of the central teachings of Jesus unforgettable.  Stories such as the Prodigal Son are an absolutely beautiful picture of God’s relationship with us.  Parables can make concrete some abstract ideas such as God’s patience, his love, his vengeance and so forth.

4]  What is the meaning of this statement`The least in the kingdom is greater than John the Baptist.

I am not absolutely sure, but let me give you some thoughts.  Any Christian is "greater" than John the Baptist because we are saved and he was not.  We are forgiven by the blood of Jesus and he was not.  We have the indwelling Holy Spirit and he did not.  Although he was a prophet of God, he still lived (and died) before the sending of the Kingdom at Pentecost.  We have a more complete insight into the Kingdom of God than did John the Baptist.

5] In Matthew 8,is there any contradiction?Matthew says there were two men demon possessed while Mark 5 says one man?

A very common question (believe it or not).  No, of course there is not a contradiction.  We have two different accounts by two different witnesses; Peter (Mark) and Matthew.  It is very common for two different eye witnesses to an event to notice or to point out different details.  This is how the gospels are.  If the accounts were identical, what value would there be in having parallel accounts.  This is my view of the story.  I assume that there were two demon-possessed men, but one of them was by far more violent and out of control.  He was the one who had multiple demons and who was dangerously violent.  The other demon-possessed man played a relatively small part in the story so Mark does not mention him.  This is how I think about the two accounts.  Not mentioning a detail (Mark) does not mean it did not happen (Matthew)

6]  In chapter 8`bury the dead`,Was Jesus insensitive to family?  Was Jesus contradicting his own teaching on family?

Of course Jesus was not insensitive to the needs of family.  There are an innumerable number of examples of Jesus being very loving and sensitive to the needs of families.  Matthew 9:18-26 is one example.  There is a good reason Jesus has this somewhat surprising response.  Basically, this man said to Jesus.  "I am ready to follow you, but…."   When we come to follow Jesus as his disciples, there are no "buts."  If we are not ready to give up everything and follow him as a disciple–if we are not ready to fully count the cost, then we are better off going home and waiting until we are ready.  Those who do not give up everything are not ready to be disciples.  Jesus is making this very clear.  He is using hyperbole here.  This is a technical term for when a person purposefully uses exaggeration to make a point.  It is like when Jesus said "if you hand causes you to sin, cut it off."  Obviously, Jesus has no intention for us to cut off our hands.  It is obvioius that he wants us to repent without cutting off our hands.  Similarly, when Jesus says "let the dead (ie the lost) bury the dead (ie the other lost non-disciples)" he is using hyperbole.   He is not saying, for example, that a disciple cannot help with the funeral of a family member.  OF COURSE he is not saying that.  He is making an exaggerated point in order the emphasize the teaching.  The teaching is that we must give up everything to follow Jesus.


7]  In Matt 21,why did Jesus curse the fig tree?  Was he impatient or harsh?

Now, it is obvious that Jesus does not really care much one way or another about a fig tree.  However, he is making a rather strong point here.  I am sure he got the attention of his disciples.  Probably they were shocked, but they got the point.  When God gives us a gift/talent he expects us to bear fruit with it.  That is the lesson of Matthew 25:14-30, and it is the lesson of the living parable Jesus told with the fig tree.  The tree did not produce fruit in keeping with its nature and with the gift God gave it.  Jesus was tempted to be impatient.  He was tempted in every way we are, yet he was without sin.  Jesus did this miracle for a definite purpose.  It fits the context of the passage.  The parable of the tenants is about those who do not correctly deal with the responsibility given them.  In Matthew 21:43, Jesus says of the Jews who do not accept him, "the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit."  This, too, is the message of the fig tree which was withered by Jesus.  No, he was not harsh.  This is, after all, just a fig tree.  Harshness does not apply to a plant!


8]  John baptized Jesus.In chapter 10 John was in prison and John send his disciple to Jesus to find out about Jesus.  Why did John doubt?

I do not know why John doubted.  He was a sinner and a human being.  All of us doubt at times.  I do not think we need a justification for John to doubt.  Mary doubted.  Peter doubted.  All the apostles doubted.  In my opinion, John knew the answer to his question, but just needed some personal assurance from his cousin Jesus.  He got the encouragement he needed.


9]  Jesus did not visit John in prison[his cousin].  Was Jesus scared,insensitive or contradicting his own teaching[`i was in prison you did not visit me].

When the Bible does not answer a question, we are well advised to sometimes leave it at that. We do not know the reason Jesus did not visit.  Maybe it was a several day journey out of his way?   I believe that Jesus felt the feeling of fear, but he never gave in to it.  Jesus taught us to help the poor, to encourage the weak, to show justice and mercy, to go the extra mile and so forth.  Jesus did all those things.  Obviously, he could not heal every single disease in the world at that time, or visit every single person in jail.  He healed and encouraged as he went.   He did not normally veer from his spiritual path or purpose to take care of a need, but normally met needs as he went along.   I assume (but I may be wrong) that Jesus was not in the area and was off in other directions doing exactly what he told us to do–serve the down trodden.  Sometimes we in the churches think the "minister" has to visit every single member in a hospital or in a jail.  This is a poor assumption.  None of us can meet every need.  We must use wisdom and rely on one another to meet needs.  I assume that it simply did not fit Jesus plan.  I hope that other disciples did what Jesus was not able to do at that time–visit John in prison.

10] In chapter 26,Jesus was arrested,Peter drew the sword and cut the ear of a soldier.  Does Jesus encourage his disciples to walk around with sword?  Could it be for self defence?  How do we reconcile it to today where Pastors carry guns and body guards for protection?

I believe whoever asked this question knows the answer to their own question.  Jesus was a pacifist.  He taught that we should turn our cheek, that we should walk the extra mile.  Like Isaiah said about him, "a bruised reed he will not break."  It is foolishness to take a single passage and use it to overturn the overwhelming teaching of Jesus.  No, Jesus did not encourage his disciples to carry swords as a general rule.  There is absolutely not a shred of evidence that the apostles or other disciples every carried weapons as a rule.  To use this passage in Matthew for a "pastor?" to carry a gun is blatant abuse of the scripture.  Jesus had his apostles carry a sword for this one single, unique situation to make a point.  Obviously, having a sword was useless in this situation.  Jesus pointed out the uselessness of using a sword to achieve spiritual purposes.  Far from being justification for carrying a sword, this incident is proof of the foolishness from a spiritual perspective of using a sword to defend the gospel.

Now, it is a separate question whether a Christian has the right of self-defense.  Perhaps so, but that is not what this passage is about.

11] Jesus and John agreed and work in humility.  Is it possible for our leaders in the kingdom to function the same way today.

I assume so.  I hope it is so already!!!  We are all humans.  Leaders are no different.  Obviously, all disciples of Jesus, including leaders, ought to be willing and able to deal with one another in humility.  Equally obviously, we will not do so perfectly.  However, if anyone in the church ought to demonstrate the quality of humility, it is the leaders.  This is the clear teaching of Jesus. (John 13:13-17).  Your question seems to imply this has not been so in your local situation.  There may be some need to repent.  Please, at the same time, be sure that your humility is where it ought to be.  Be sure to take the plank out of your own eye first!

12]  Why did Jesus who just handed the who just handed the keys of the kingdom to Peter,still call him Satan in chapter 15?

This is an easy question.  Peter was not perfect.  Peter still suffered from pride and a hard head about certain teachings of Jesus.  Jesus did not choose Peter because he was perfect, but because he had a strong character and a good heart.  Clearly, Peter did not have in mind the things of God when he tried to stop Jesus from going to the cross, so Jesus rebuked him.

13] Is there any way we can deal with sins among us without causing the person embarassment,considering the fact that Joseph wanted to  divorce Mary quietly in order not to cause her public embarassment like we do presently in our church?

I believe public marking and publicly mentioning the sins of disciples ought to be done as an absolute last desperate measure.  It ought to be extremely rare in our churches.  I have known many situations in which churches have used this treatment too easily.  The Bible teaches about marking people for dangerous divisiveness (Titus 3:9-11) or for blatant, public sins (1 Cor 5).  I believe that this ought to be done very reluctantly and it ought to be a truly rare occurrance.  Each case is different, so I obviously cannot comment on any particular example, but we ought to deal with one another with grace and with very great patience.  Having said all this, there is a time and a place for letting the church know about certain kinds of sin.  I do not know how to do this without causing some embarrassment.  That is the nature of such things.  We can hope that in these extremely rare events the "embarrassment" may help the person come to repentance.  The situation with Joseph and Mary really has nothing to do with bringing someone’s sin before the church.  Mary did not sin.  It would have been inexcusable for Joseph to shame Mary in this case.  I believe your example does not really apply to the question of church discipline.

14]  Was that a set up by against Judas by Jesus,having known from the beginning that it was Judas that will betray him?

I do not know what you mean by a set-up.  Jesus knew that Judas was going to betray him.  When he figured this out, I do not know, but Jesus knew the heart of Judas.  How this is a "set-up" I do not know.

15]   What did Jesus mean in Matt 15;25-28 by asking,is it right to take the children’s bread to the dogs?

I will admit that this does sound a bit harsh!!!   Jesus is saying that his ministry on earth was to the Jews.  Of course, he fully intended to bring the gospel to the Gentiles as well after he died, but during his earthly ministry, he came to the Jews.  To the Jews, the Gentiles were "dogs."  Jesus was using the Jewish description for the Gentiles as a way to test the faith of the woman.  He wanted to know how strong her faith was, and he found out!!!  This woman truly believed in Jesus.  I will admit referring to her (or Gentiles in general) as "dogs" does seem a bit over the top, but perhaps if we knew the context or the tone used by Jesus, it might make it more understandable.

16] Why did God allow innocent children to be killed by Herod?

We humans have always had free will.  God has allowed humans to sin.  Sinners do evil things like stealing and lying and sexual immorality and even murder all the time.  This should not shock us.  The problem is not God, it is the sin of people.  I believe that innocent children are in heaven with God.  Death is not the issue with God.  The issue with God is whether people put their faith in Jesus.  Like I said, I believe these children are with God.

17]  Why is God not speaking to us in dreams today like he did to Joseph,Marys husband?

God does not just do miracles any time.  He does so for a particular purpose.  In most of Jewish history, God worked few if any miracles.  In general, God worked miracles only when new revelation was being revealed.  This should not surprise us.  This is what God said in Hebrews 2:4.  We have the completed revelation of God in the Bible.  There is no reason to expect God to use public miracles at this time.  I am not trying to limit God.  He can do what he wants, when he wants to, but my expectation is that God gives dreams, visions and miracles only when there is a very special purpose.


18]  Why did Jesus allowed himself to be led by Satan to be tempted?

This was part of God’s plan.  Jesus won!!!!   Through this encounter we have a fantastic example of how to deal with Satan.  Wow!  Satan really lost this one.  What a great plan on the part of Jesus!  It remindes me of Jesus being killed on the cross.  This sounded like a great plan to Satan, but it turned out the opposite of what he planned.

 John Oakes, PhD

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