9:1–6 Jesus sends out the 12 apostles to preach the Gospel, heal diseases, and cast out evil spirits. When modern-day Christians hear of such wondrous power and consider how few miracles they have experienced, they easily begin to feel inadequate for the service to which God calls them. However, we possess the same hope and eternal life through Christ crucified. We know that wherever that Gospel is delivered and received, the greatest healing follows. • “May God bestow on us His grace, With blessings rich provide us; And may the brightness of His face To life eternal guide us, That we His saving health may know, His gracious will and pleasure, And also to the nations show Christ’s riches without measure And unto God convert them.” Amen. (LSB 823:1)
9:7–9 After the Twelve are sent out to preach and heal, there is such an outburst of prophetic activity that even Herod takes notice. Unfortunately, many people today have the same kind of puzzled but faithless reaction when the Gospel reaches their ears. By God’s Spirit and grace, our hearing of the Gospel will bear different fruit, that is, faithful commitment and the eager expectation of Jesus’ life-giving blessings. • Lord, open my heart to the blessings of Your Gospel. Grant me Your Spirit, that I never fail to appreciate the privilege of knowing You rightly and of being Your child and heir. Amen.
9:10–17 In a miracle reminiscent of the manna in the wilderness, Jesus feeds the multitude that have come out to the wilderness to hear Him. Like the confused apostles, we often face life’s challenges armed only with our sin-starved wisdom and resources. Yet, Jesus stands ready to help. Just as He miraculously fed the 5,000, He is willing also and able to provide for us in time of need. • Lord, teach me to turn to You in every time of need, for I can do all things through You, as You strengthen me. Amen.
9:18–20 For the first time in the Gospel, Peter makes a clear confession of Jesus as the Messiah. All of our words and actions should similarly confess the One who is the only life and hope of the world, though we often fail in this regard. When we fail—indeed even when we deny our Lord—Jesus treats us just as He did Peter. He faithfully calls us to repent, and He forgives our weaknesses. • Lord Jesus, grant us grace to believe Your promise that if we confess You before men, You will confess us before the Father in heaven. Amen.
9:21–22 Now identified as the Christ, Jesus challenges His disciples’ understanding of that role by revealing His impending suffering and death. It is painful to admit that we need a Messiah who would suffer and die for us—to make up for our failures and rebellions. Thankfully, Jesus was willing to be born under the Law, to fulfill all righteousness, and then pay the full price of our redemption on Calvary’s cross. • “Come to Calv’ry’s holy mountain, Sinners, ruined by the fall; Here a pure and healing fountain Flows for you, for me, for all, In a full, perpetual tide, Opened when our Savior died.” Amen. (LSB 435:1)
9:23–27 Because Jesus is the only way to eternal life, following Him demands that we reorder our priorities, putting Him in first place and setting aside whatever does not accord with His way. This proves impossible for us but not for our Lord, who embraces and bears our crosses and shame that He might present us righteous before His dear Father. • “ ‘Take up your cross,’ the Savior said, ‘If you would My disciple be; Forsake the past, and come this day, And humbly follow after Me.’ ” Amen. (LW 382:1)
9:28–36 Through the transfiguration, Jesus allows His disciples to catch a glimpse of the glory that will again be His after His resurrection. Like Peter, we, too, like to prolong “mountaintop experiences,” leaving the toil and trouble of the world behind. However, Jesus has not called us out of the world, but rather to overcome it. Accordingly, He lifts us up and strengthens us when we are challenged, reminding us that He has already overcome the world for us. • “ ’Tis good, Lord, to be here! Yet we may not remain; But since Thou bidst us leave the mount, Come with us to the plain.” Amen. (LSB 414:5)
9:37–42 On the way down from the transfiguration, Jesus rescues a demon-possessed boy. Like the disciples who appear in this episode, we, too, exhibit weakness of faith. Thankfully, Jesus does not simply rebuke such failures and then fall silent. Rather, He responds in compassion and forgiveness as well, and so rescues us from unbelief and the menacing power of Satan. • Lord Jesus, keep me strong in faith, that neither fear of death nor the threats of the adversary divert my eyes from You and the glories of Your Gospel promises. Amen.
9:43–45 Jesus once more predicts His suffering and death, and once more the disciples fail to understand Him. Blinded by our own misplaced priorities, we may likewise fail to discern God’s ways and plans for our lives. But Jesus remains with us every step of the way. With Him as our guide, we cannot be lost. • “Jesus, lead Thou on Till our rest is won. Heav’nly leader, still direct us, Still support, console, protect us, Till we safely stand In our fatherland.” Amen. (LSB 718:5)
9:46–48 Jesus corrects a misunderstanding about the nature of His kingdom, clarifying that true greatness comes from faith and service. We are just as mistaken when we think, as the disciples did, that our value comes from social position or material abundance. Instead, the grace manifested in Jesus’ sacrificial death establishes our value. By the power of God’s Spirit, our humble service produces things great in His eyes. • O Lord, grant me humility, that, being strengthened by Your Word and following the example of Your service to others, I might please You in all that I do and say. Amen.
9:49–50 Jesus admonishes His disciples for poor attitudes about ministry. Like the apostles, we may keep certain privileges and opportunities for ourselves. That impulse, however, runs contrary to God’s mercy, which He would share with all people, not just those in our preferred circle. Thankfully, Jesus left the comfort of heaven to stand with us, bear our burdens, and deliver us from evil. • Lord, preserve us from that selfish impulse that would inhibit Your mercy and the proclamation of Your name. Help us to see that You desire the salvation of all people, that we acknowledge and put to appropriate use the gifts of others. Amen.
9:51–56 When Jesus’ overture to the Samaritans is rejected, His apostles imagine that harsh retribution is in order. Such thinking is typical, unfortunately, as age-old conflicts die hard. We may easily resort to similar bad judgment. Yet, Jesus makes peace, not only with God but also between people. In Christ, all who repent are fully reconciled to the Father. • Lord, remove all sinful division and enmity from Your Church, that we love just as You have loved us. Amen.
9:57–62 In three brief exchanges with would-be disciples, Jesus shows that the cost of discipleship is high. Obviously, were it up to us to achieve our place in the kingdom of God, we would never make it. Thankfully, then, Jesus invites us and by grace makes it possible for us to become members of His eternal communion. • “O Lord, rescue us from the captivity of the sins which have oppressed us, so that we may attain the dwellings of the heavenly Jerusalem; through Jesus Christ. Amen.” (Sarum Breviary, TLWA, p 228)
10:1–12 Having previously sent out the Twelve (9:1–6), Jesus expands the breadth of His Gospel outreach by sending out 72 more workers. Then and now, many people who hear of Jesus’ kingdom end up rejecting it. Much as we hate to admit it, we, too, have responded indifferently and, at times, have rejected God’s will for our lives. How heartening to know that Jesus continues to reach out with compassion through the Gospel ministry He has established. • Lord, even as You have called me to faith and hope in the Gospel, keep me steadfast in the same. Amen.
10:13–16 As Jesus sends out the Seventy-two, He warns that whoever rejects Him will be in danger of eternal condemnation. Such warnings continue in force today and apply especially to those who have heard the Gospel frequently. However, the fact that our familiarity with God sometimes breeds contempt does not mean that He acts likewise. He is faithful and just and forgives all who repent. • Give me a grateful heart, O Lord, ever ready to serve You and Your people. Amen.
10:17–20 Empowered by Jesus, the Seventy-two advance into Satan’s territory as people believe the Gospel. Until Christ’s return, we, too, remain in this war zone, where Satan does everything he can to destroy us and halt the Gospel’s advance. In Christ, however, we are protected. In Him, we cannot lose, even though put to death, for in the end Christ grants us eternal life. • “Lord, be our light when worldly darkness veils us; Lord, be our shield when earthly armor fails us; And in the day when hell itself assails us, Grant us Your peace, Lord.” Amen. (LSB 659:3)
10:21–24 While rejoicing that His disciples have received the gift of life-saving faith, Jesus stresses that He is the chief content and unique mediator of the Gospel revelation. Oh, that we would have the grace to rejoice with Him and to appreciate fully the great privilege that is ours in the Gospel! • “In Thee is gladness Amid all sadness, Jesus, sunshine of my heart. By Thee are given The gifts of heaven, Thou the true Redeemer art.” Amen. (LSB 818:1)
10:25–37 Jesus tells the famous parable of the Good Samaritan to clarify that He expects His followers to do good to all people. However, His concluding exhortation, “Go, and do likewise,” reminds us just how far we are from the loving, self-sacrificing behaviors the Lord expects. So it was that Jesus became the Good Samaritan for us. He laid down His life, befriended us while we were yet His enemies. He promises us full restoration and life everlasting. • Lord, make me more like You, that I grow in faith and love for my neighbor. May people see You in my actions as I reach out to them with Your love. Amen.
10:38–42 In contrast with Jesus’ demand for great works in the previous parable (vv 25–37), the story of Mary and Martha shows the importance of faith and rest in Jesus and His Word. Today, we are often so distracted that we neglect what matters most: God’s Word and Sacraments. What we can never earn for ourselves, no matter how much we scramble, God freely provides through faith in Jesus Christ. • O Savior, bear my anxieties and remove my distractions, that I may receive Your good portion for me. Amen.
11:1–13 Jesus teaches that Christian prayers are unfailingly heard because God has promised to hear us, and He always keeps His promises. Were prayer to depend on us, we could never be sure of God’s response, because sin corrupts completely. We can depend on God to keep His promise to hear us and answer us because He never breaks His word. Prayer is a blessed opportunity granted by the Gospel. • “What a friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry Ev’rything to God in prayer! Oh, what peace we often forfeit; Oh, what needless pain we bear—All because we do not carry Ev’rything to God in prayer!” Amen. (LSB 770:1)
11:14–23 Jesus responds to accusations that He performs exorcisms by Satan’s power. He points out just how self-defeating that would be. Sadly, however, people continue to misunderstand Jesus. They place themselves in an equally self-defeating position when they listen to and follow Satan. What good news, then, to hear that Jesus has overcome the devil and opened God’s kingdom to all who hear His Word and follow Him. • Lord, Your Son has overcome even sin, death, and the devil for us. Lead us to abide in Him steadfastly until the end. Amen.
11:24–26 A person healed of demon possession could fall into such trouble again. Thus, it is a grave mistake to imagine that we can receive the Gospel, come to Jesus, and yet continue in destructive ways and return to our sins. Thankfully, God promises to fill those who repent with His own Spirit and bless us through His Word and Sacraments, that we may be whole. • “Come, Holy Ghost, Creator blest, And make our hearts Your place of rest; Come with Your grace and heav’nly aid, And fill the hearts which You have made.” Amen. (LSB 499:1)
11:27–28 Jesus teaches that hearing His Word and faithfully putting it into practice heaps praise on Him. He continually extends His Word and unfailingly delivers the blessings it promises. • Lord, help me not only to hear Your Word but also to keep it in a pure heart and thereby produce a fruitful life of service. Amen.
11:29–32 Jesus contrasts the stubborn unbelief of His own people with Gentiles who believed God’s Word and turned to Him in repentance. Such unfavorable comparisons remind us that, though we enjoy the privilege of being called God’s people today, we can certainly lose our salvation by turning away from the Lord. Happily, the One who called us is faithful. He will lead us to repentance and see us through to life eternal. • “O blessed Jesus, by Your own blood You have purchased for Yourself a church here upon earth. Make me truly sensible of the honor You have done me, in making me a member of Your church, and admitting me by my Baptism into the participation of all those blessings You have bestowed upon it. Amen.” (Ger, TLWA, p 275)
11:33–36 Jesus equates the Gospel with light and faith with a healthy eye. Some people remain in darkness because they reject the Gospel and will not allow the message of salvation to penetrate and dispel the darkness of their souls. The Lord moves us to appreciate that it is God Himself, through His Spirit, who illumines souls and preserves faith in hearts. • “Lord, who once came to bring, On Your redeeming wing, Healing and sight, Health to the sick in mind, Sight to the inly blind: Oh, now to humankind Let there be light!” Amen. (LSB Accompaniment for the Hymns 979:2)
11:37–54 Jesus’ harshest criticisms are directed at those religious leaders and experts in Scripture who place their traditions above God’s Word and refuse God’s call to repentance. Measure all traditions against God’s Word, especially the standards of mercy Jesus emphasized. Give thanks to God for faithful traditions that agree with His Gospel, which alone grants us salvation in Christ. • “Not what I feel or do Can give me peace with God; Not all my prayers and sighs and tears Can bear my awful load. Thy work alone, O Christ, Can ease this weight of sin; Thy blood alone, O Lamb of God, Can give me peace within.” Amen. (LSB 567:2–3)
12:1–3 Jesus warns His disciples about the pitfalls of religious hypocrisy. Though justified by faith, Christians still have a sinful nature and so struggle daily with the challenge of living the faith sincerely. Because we are frequently tempted to hypocrisy and sometimes fail in the struggle, it is comforting to hear that God knows us as we truly are, yet remains committed to our repentance and our salvation. • Lord, You know me better than I know myself. Though aware of my many failures, You still love me and continue to forgive me. Receive my heartfelt thanks. Amen.
12:4–7 Jesus identifies fear as the root cause of hypocrisy. He assures us that His Father’s children have nothing to fear from others. Today, if we are honest about the things that trouble us most, we will have to admit that fear and worry are near the top of the list. This leads us to see all the more clearly the benefit of the Gospel, which assures us of God’s victory over everyone and everything threatening us. • “O little flock, fear not the foe Who madly seeks your overthrow; Dread not his rage and pow’r. And though your courage sometimes faints, His seeming triumph o’er God’s saints Lasts but a little hour.” Amen. (LSB 666:1)
12:8–12 Jesus teaches about the blessedness of confessing Him and the great dangers in denying Him and resisting His grace. In a culture increasingly hostile to traditional Christian belief, such warnings are timely, as the temptation to compromise our confession becomes more intense every day. Thank God for His Holy Spirit, who strives all the more for us and for the integrity of our faith. • Lord Jesus, give us a rich measure of Your Holy Spirit, that we boldly confess Your name before an increasingly faithless and hostile world. Turn the hearts of our enemies, that they receive Your salvation. Amen.
12:13–21 Jesus underlines the great danger of being rich in earthly things but poor toward God. In a consumer culture, the dangers of covetousness are often downplayed; in fact, some even try to make greed a virtue. In love for us, however, Jesus warns us against the self-destructive nature of covetousness and gives us new hearts, which He, the very source of life and goodness, fills with joyful satisfaction through the Gospel. • Heavenly Father, keep my eyes from becoming envious and my heart from self-destructive greed. Move me to find satisfaction in Your promises and to trust that You will more than provide for me and my loved ones. Amen.
12:22–34 Jesus encourages His disciples to trust in God, their heavenly Father, since He will provide for all their needs. We need to take this exhortation to heart, because our fallen nature makes it difficult to look past ourselves and depend on another. But God’s faithfulness far exceeds our needs. He provides as He sees fit, giving us an abundance that we may share with others. • “Grant us hearts, dear Lord, to give You Gladly, freely of Your own. With the sunshine of Your goodness Melt our thankless hearts of stone Till our cold and selfish natures, Warmed by You, at length believe That more happy and more blessed ’Tis to give than to receive.” Amen. (LSB 851:2)
12:35–48 Jesus urges those in positions of leadership to faithfully discharge their duties. Following worldly examples, Christian leaders sometimes see their positions more in terms of privilege than responsibility. Jesus’ example of self-sacrifice, however, underscores the shallowness of such attitudes. We are moved to emulate His way of humble service because He was willing to endure all things for us, that we might share in His privileges. • “Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast Save in the death of Christ, my God; All the vain things that charm me most, I sacrifice them to His blood.” Amen. (LSB 425:2)
12:49–53 Jesus expresses a deep desire to fulfill God’s plan of salvation once for all, even though it means going to the cross. The depth of His commitment naturally forces His followers to decide what is most important for them, as well. As you wrestle with so great a challenge, take comfort in the One who calls you. He is faithful. • Lord Jesus, when earthly relations cause me to make You and Your kingdom anything less than my first priority, strengthen me and lead me back into the way of life everlasting. Amen.
12:54–56 Jesus condemns the unbelief of those beholding His miraculous signs who yet reject the obvious implications. Satan blinds the hearts of unbelievers even to this day. Only by God’s grace can we see clearly, as the Spirit opens our eyes through faith in Jesus Christ. • “Amazing grace—how sweet the sound—That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost but now am found, Was blind but now I see!” Amen. (LSB 744:1)
12:57–59 Jesus encourages His followers to repent and make peace quickly, lest a budding conflict escalate and spin out of control. His disciples are called not only to sacrifice possessions and relationships that hinder their way in the kingdom but also to avoid entangling disputes. Though hard feelings are often hard to let go, Jesus promises mercy and blessings for those who repent and receive His peace. • Lord, free me from any lingering resentment, ill will, or hatred toward another. Teach me to owe no one anything save the debt to love as You have loved us. Amen.
13:1–5 Jesus points out tragedies as occasions for self-examination and reflection on our sinful frailty. Contrary to popular thought, tragedy does not always strike people because they somehow deserve it. Rather, in His wisdom God allows and uses even tragic events to warn of judgment, that He might bring us to repentance and eternal life through faith in Jesus. • Lord, increase my faith in what You have given me to know. Grant me humility before those mysteries that surpass my understanding. Amen.
13:6–9 Jesus warns that His audience needs to begin producing works consistent with the Gospel. Today, many fail to live their lives according to God’s will. The One who commands us to such works also bestows His Spirit. He enables us to repent and to produce the fruit that flow from His salvation. • Lord, show me the shortness of my time and the nearness of eternity, so I do not fail to redeem the time. Amen.
13:10–17 Though Jesus’ critics saw His miracle as a clear violation of the Sabbath, Jesus’ work, in fact, fulfilled the Sabbath Day’s purpose: to provide blessing for God’s people. He still calls us to keep the Sabbath by gladly receiving God’s Word, which delivers to us the blessings of Jesus’ victory over sin and death. How great a privilege to enter His presence in worship. • “Open now thy gates of beauty; Zion, let me enter there, Where my soul in joyful duty Waits for Him who answers prayer. Oh, how blessed is this place, Filled with solace, light, and grace!” Amen. (LSB 901:1)
13:18–21 Though the kingdom of God has humble beginnings, it grows to embrace all creation. Like Jesus’ first hearers, we, too, tend to wish for a more powerful kingdom and more rapid growth. But this kingdom is God’s, not ours. He extends His realm in His way with His timing. • Lord, give us wholeheartedly to the task of extending Your reign, even though we may never see the growth that we would like. Keep us focused instead on the final consummation. Amen.
13:22–30 People can enter God’s kingdom only through Jesus Christ. Moreover, the time for every human being—and indeed the world—is quickly slipping away, and soon the door will slam shut. Accordingly, the Lord beseeches one and all to come into the great wedding banquet of His Son, without cost and without delay. • “Today Your gate is open, And all who enter in Shall find a Father’s welcome And pardon for their sin. The past shall be forgotten, A present joy be giv’n, A future grace be promised, A glorious crown in heav’n.” Amen. (LSB 915:2)
13:31–35 Jesus repeats His determination to press toward Jerusalem and God’s will for Him there. Unfortunately, the impenitence mentioned in this passage continues today, keeping people out of God’s kingdom. That makes the imagery of this episode all the more poignant, for the Lord still reaches out to His wayward children, earnestly seeking to gather them under His protective wing. • “Delay not, delay not! Why longer abuse The love and compassion of Jesus, your God? A fountain is opened; how can you refuse To wash and be cleansed in His pardoning blood?” Amen. (LW 349:5)
14:1–6 Jesus exposes His enemies’ inconsistencies and cruelty. Today, we are also tempted to build our religion on human tradition (rather than on God’s Word) and then to condemn others on the basis of our traditions. Jesus holds the well-being of God’s children above all. Still, He reaches out to us in mercy, despite the indifference or rejection of others. • Jesus, look upon us in our need, heal us, and dismiss us with Your blessing. Amen.
14:7–11 Jesus illustrates how pride leads to humiliation. Let others praise you or promote you rather than praise and promote yourself. No matter what others say or do, your greatest promotion is when the heavenly Father calls you His beloved child, through Christ. • Grant me a humble and steadfast heart, O Lord, to see myself as You see me. Amen.
14:12–24 God’s invitations overcome people’s rejections. Too often God’s gifts are more important to us than He, the giver, is. But God is persistent. He reaches out again and again wherever His servants carry the Good News, so that all may receive His gracious invitation. • O Lord, by grace move us to treasure most the invitation to fill Your house and love those despised by the world. Amen.
14:25–33 Jesus illustrates the unconditional nature of discipleship. Consider well the radical demands of following Jesus, and be ready to meet them. Yet, count also the demands our salvation placed on the Son of God, who gave up all things for us. He is your tower and refuge of strength. • “Take myself, and I will be Ever, only, all for Thee.” Amen. (LSB 783:6)
14:34–35 Christ’s people are “the salt of the earth” (Mt 5:13), purifying and seasoning it, because Christ is within them. He makes us Christians through God’s Word. • Spare us, O Christ, from a weak and insipid faith, that the world may taste and see that You are good. Amen.
15:1–7 In the first of three similar parables, Jesus uses the devotion of a shepherd to illustrate God’s willingness to find the wayward sinner. God does not abandon us to our foolishness but seeks us out, calling us to repentance and to faith in the Gospel. • Bring us home, dear Lord, and let there be joy in heaven. Grant us daily repentance. Amen.
15:8–10 The unrepentant sinner is like a coin lost in the darkness. Once lost, we have no more ability to find the Lord than the coin has to find its owner. Yet, the good news of Christ gives “light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death” (1:79). • Thank You, merciful Lord, for seeking us when we had no power to seek You. Amen.
15:11–32 God found us when we were far from Him. We are in no position to begrudge His grace similarly given to others, no matter how unworthy they appear to us. How meagerly we celebrate Baptism and public declarations of faith! God calls us to a joyful celebration, not only of our own salvation, but also for the salvation of our brothers and sisters. • Father, as You welcome me, grant me joy in welcoming others. Amen.
16:1–13 Guard against becoming enslaved to the pursuit of wealth. Instead, use money for godly and eternal purposes. God offers us lasting treasure in Christ, and so a true perspective on money and goods. • Deliver us, Father, from the love of money, but increase our love for You and for one another. Amen.
16:14–17 It is tempting to lay aside the inconvenient portions of God’s Law. Yet, every Word of God is precious and for our edification. Praise God, we do not need to justify ourselves. The good news of His kingdom releases us from sin and gives new life. • Lord, teach us to treasure the Law and the Gospel as Your good gifts, fulfilled for us in Christ Jesus. Amen.
16:18 Marital fidelity is to be preserved, for marriage is the blessing of a lifelong partnership. Pray for your spouse in the love of the heavenly Bridegroom, Jesus. His faithfulness avails for our forgiveness and salvation. • Sanctify our marriages, O blessed Savior. Amen.
16:19–31 Jesus challenges the belief that earthly blessings are a sign of God’s eternal favor. He teaches us to heed the Word of God now while faithful mercy can be shown, for this is God’s good and gracious will. • Lord, teach me to read and trust in Your gift of Moses, the Prophets, and all faithful witnesses to the Gospel. May my tongue speak now of Your grace for all who have ears to hear. Amen.